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Sale and Giveaway

Reading Bella’s Rebellion is like savoring the delicate taste of a few longed-for bonbons and then realizing, toward the end, she’s made an entire cake for you. – Lee Tyler

Whether she’s writing about a mirror world, vengeful goddess, or a grown child confronting past wrongs, expect her unique fingerprint on each tale Ann Stanley spins.  – S. J. Henderson, author of the Daniel The Draw-er series.

Contemporary women's fiction phoneOn sale for $0.99 for a limited time only! May 8-14, 2016 only. Enter the giveaway here.

A book for women, about women dealing with difficult mothers, hoarding, mothers they never knew, unfulfilling careers, and hard times.

Bella’s Rebellion

In compiling this book, I picked the stories which seemed to best fit the theme of women learning from tough situations: conflicts with their mothers; unfulfilling lives; conflicts between ethics and romantic desire; and a zephyr nursemaid trying to keep alive her young charge (a fire). Except for this loose concept, the stories are quite varied. Some stories are short, some are long. Some are contemporary, some speculative. I even threw in a dash of magic and a science fiction story.

Here’s an excerpt from Photo Shoot:

The camera, so much a part of her that she hasn’t even realized she’s lifted it to her eye, is clicking. This is good stuff. She can’t ask Zelda to stop; she could never capture all this energy and madness in a pose. Zelda is still on point, falling and catching herself. Her hair loosens out of her bun, covering her shoulders with thick black curls; she rips her bodice off to reveal a black tank top, a tattoo painted on her upper back. The running shorts come off, leaving her in tight black lycra shorts. She’s a pop star now, still in pink point shoes, still throwing in a ballet move or two.
Sweat pouring off of her, Belinda doesn’t let herself think, she has to become one with this dazzling creature if she wants to capture her on film. She runs, chasing Zelda and the light.
It’s over. Zelda, like some creature of the night, prances off the stage, except it wasn’t the stage, only the dance studio. She returns, panting, to where Belinda holds her cramped stomach, trying to catch her breath.
“You okay?” Zelda asks.
Belinda moans. She promises herself that she will start working out. Tomorrow.

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Cover Reveal & Publication date

It’s here! Big thanks go to Margie Deeb for the design. Margie is an author and visual artist, as well as a teacher, who has two short pieces in our free anthology, Mosaic. Thanks, Margie!

Bella cover 350

I’ll be doing a big launch April 26 to send this compilation on its way into the world. Join me for that!

In the meantime, I’m busy getting this ready for publication. Lots of details still to take care of, from formatting and double-checking it for errors, to writing up newsletters and asking people to be on my launch team.

For something fun, while you’re waiting for this, go over to http://shortfictionbreak.com and read the first few installments of our serial novel, The Time Traveler’s Scheme – it’s a fun romp through time as Melina figures out what Daeva is up to, and how to get to her, and Daeva continues to build her empire.

If you’re interested in being on my launch team (you’ll get a free copy of the book two weeks before it’s published, in exchange for telling your social media buddies about it on launch day, and leaving an honest review over at Amazon; if I can figure out how to do it, you’ll also be entered in a drawing for something to be determined), leave me a comment below.

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Exciting News

Hey guys, I have three exciting things happening, which I thought I’d better tell you about.

  1. First of all, this blog will be moving over to a self-hosted site pretty soon: annstanleywrites.com

While there’s still a lot to do to get it finished, I invite you to go over there and check it out. If you sign up for my newsletter, you can get a free copy of a short story which won’t even appear anywhere else.

2. Second, my book of short stories is almost finished. I have a cover design, a title, and, while all of the stories have been through my critique groups, and most have been professionally edited, I decided to run it all past some beta readers before sending it out into the wacky world of Amazon. Perhaps they will find some changes which still need to be done. But then, it should be ready to go sometime in March, 2016. That’s this year!

I wish that I could show you the beautiful cover, but I will as soon as the final touches are on it. Still, I can tell you the Title: Bella’s Rebellion. If you’ve read my stories over at shortfictionbreak.com, you’ll know where that comes from; it’s the title of a flash fiction piece which first appeared over there.

Because I have such a common name, I strongly considered publishing under a pseudonym, but, in the end decided against it. It’s just too complicated and strange.

And last, but not least, a speculative fiction/sci-fi story I’m co-writing will begin appearing over at shortfictionbreak.com at the beginning of March. Look for it! It’s going to be a ton of fun.

I hope all is well with each of you. Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

-Ann

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The Only Woman in The Room

Recently, I picked up The Only Woman in The Room; Why Science is Still a Boys Club, by Eileen Pollack. Just reading the preface brought back a flood of memories from the days when I was a scientist and often the only woman in the room. Literally. Her words rang so true, and helped me realize that I wasn’t alone in my experience. Today I want to talk about just one of them, one I hadn’t thought about in a long, long time.

red cliffs

I was a postdoctoral research fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the ink barely dried on my diploma, and a group of us were sitting in the Cafeteria, having lunch. It was summer, because my thesis advisor was there, along with Phillip, both applied mathematicians who spent time at the lab, usually in the summers. The cafeteria at LANL is a beautiful room, with huge plate glass windows that look out onto a stunning view of red cliffs, pine trees, and the snow-covered peaks of the Sangre De Cristos  mountains in the distance. I often enjoyed going there for lunch; they had a huge salad bar and a wide variety of hot food.

This particular day, I’d been pleased to be invited to sit with these senior scientists. My then-husband and a few other men were at the table with us, and the older men started telling jokes. The talk grew raunchier by the minute, until Phillip made a particularly sexist remark. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but many of the men laughed.

I was and am pretty good about pretending that dirty jokes are funny, and ignoring their implications, but this conversation upset me. I couldn’t believe they would say these things with me sitting there. I got so upset that I felt sick to my stomach. I said something and stood. My husband stood with me. Everyone else tried to calm me down and tell me to be a good sport, but I decided those scientists might have great reputations, but they were all assholes.

What’s interesting about this to me, looking back on it, is that this sort of experience happened to me many times, even if this is the worst one I remember. I had been told all my school years to be a good sport. Don’t rock the boat. Laugh along with the boys. It wasn’t until I read that this is a universal experience for women in science, technology, engineer and math that I realized how much damage it caused me.

Sure, one instance doesn’t mean that much, but when it happens over and over, it leaves a legacy. You might brush it off, like I usually did, but deep down, you sense you don’t belong. Deep down, you feel a little less than the men around you. You feel a little dirtied, and a little disrespected, and it’s a little less exciting and pleasant to be doing your job. It makes it a little less easy to reach out and collaborate and ask for help, and you feel just a little more isolated. Or a lot more isolated. And you might do some strange and perhaps unhelpful things, to deal with those feelings, especially if you weren’t brought up to deal well with your feelings. I sure did.

woman with book

If you’re a young woman dreaming of a career in a STEM field, or a mentor, perhaps a parent or a friend or counselor, or even an older woman in a STEM field, or a man in a STEM field, know this will happen, and consider how you’re going to handle it. I didn’t have any idea what to do. Perhaps if I’d reached out to someone, or had someone to reach out to, I’d have learned to speak up for myself and heal the thousand little cuts as they happened.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from becoming a researcher. It’s a wonderful life. There are things about it I miss keenly. In other posts I’ll talk about some of those.

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Only two more days!

Mosaic-HR_author_namesOver the past three days, I’ve brought you to the point where the stories were finished. Margie Deeb took these and created a beautiful .pdf for us, which you’ll be able to download for free (yes, FREE!) on Wednesday. She chose an elegant style, with black and white graphics for each story, sort of a wood-block look, times new roman font for the text, and a modern font for the story titles. She also set up a table of contents, to ease moving around in the .pdf. We each wrote bios for the end of the book. I can’t even imagine all of the hours which she put into this. She caught typos, and sent our chapters to us for proof-reading, link-checking, etc. This was all volunteer, guys!

James Lee Schmidt, with our input (and a lot of that!) wrote an introduction. He helped Angie with the cover, and Margie put it all together into the document. Finally, we proofed it, and we had a product!!! Yippee! But we weren’t done, yet. I’ll talk about that tomorrow. Right now, though, it’s time for you to meet James.

James Lee Schmidt

https://i1.wp.com/thecartelcollaborative.com/home/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Picture-18-300x225.jpg

He looks awfully serious, doesn’t he? This photo could be a Rembrandt, or some other Dutch Master, like Vermeer, especially with that hat….

Anyway, Mosaic was James’ idea. We were all enrolled in The Story Cartel Course, sending stories back and forth, and chatting, when he asked if anyone wanted to put together a compilation. A few of us signed on, and the book was born. He took the lead in setting up ground rules and making decisions. He was also a great cheerleader and techie support.

James is the author of Strange Tales of the Oskaloosa Oddities Society. He wrote a story for Mosaic about re-finding one’s inner child and understanding that succeeding at work isn’t everything. The story centers around an uncle taking his niece to a theme park, when he doesn’t want to. You can find him at jamesleeschmidt.com

As James says “it takes a village to raise a writer.”

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Computer craziness

What do you do when a computer crashes? Do you call the local computer guy, replace the machine, or start trying to fix the problem yourself?

This time around, I went with the latter. The crash was my fault, so I suppose that I felt guilty and responsible. I had done something almost embarrassingly stupid (so stupid that I’m not going to tell you what it was because, well, would you tell me if you wanted to download a free episode of a TV show and the site insisted you click on a suspicious link before it would let you and you knew it was a bad idea but you did it anyway and seconds later you knew for sure that it was a mistake but by then it was too late?)  which led to a virus or some other dastardly creature on our hard drive. Before we knew it, the windows system was corrupt and the machine wouldn’t load the operating system. I know, I know, for most of us this is already speaking a foreign language, so I apologize in advance. But this explains why I haven’t gotten much of anything else done for the past several weeks.cpu fan - good place to blow dust out

Anyway, after the machine wouldn’t do what it’s supposed to do and bring up that lovely blue screen, like an idiot – or rather a fool who has no idea what might happen – I dove in. As the laptop started up, it displayed an error message. I looked it up. Oh, I needed a certain file, did I? And I could create it on another computer, use that computer’s start-up disk (it actually came with one, unlike the messed up laptop). That file didn’t do the trick, though, so I started reading more stuff on the internet. I spent hours, trying one thing after another with no luck.

And then, hurrah! A friend said that her boyfriend, who lives halfway across the US from me, could help. I struck gold. Kind of. He sure knows his way around a computer, being an IT guy and having repaired many a sick machine like ours. He came up with a strategy. I don’t even want to tell you what he’s helped me go through, all from a distance. I made a few mistakes, he misunderstood a few things I said, I ordered a hard drive which turned out to be bad (I am returning it), and on and on.

Oh, yes, along the way I managed to disconnect the laptop’s power switch. It took two or three days just to figure out why the machine wouldn’t power up and then to come up with a fix for THAT mistake. I was so totally tempted to use the machine as a frisbee, but it’s a little too hard for my dogs to catch. So maybe it could be of some use out in the garden, perhaps holding the gate closed, or as something to kneel on while I weed?

We’re not done yet, but we’re closer. Close your eyes, because I’m going to speak geek for the rest of the paragraph. I figure that I’ve earned the right. I’ve moved all the photos and text files of note over to my Mac, and we’ve reinstalled not only an operating system which Steve put on an IOS file in dropbox for me to retrieve, but also all of the drivers for all of the little devices which the computer needs to run and they work. Every single one. Eek! Steve pretty well figured it all out from photos I took of the insides of the computer.

Okay, done with geek. You can read now. Steve deserves to receive a pile of gold, say about $10,000 worth, for all of the time he’s patiently spent leading me through the process. I wish it was finished, but I probably have to spend another day on the booger. But, as he says, we’re keeping it out of the landfill and saving money, if not time.

I’ve learned enough I could probably fix your computer, but please don’t ask.

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Book review: The Opposite of Everything by David Kalish

9252ad_e4d93c7261eb40529562a220e1d6eeaa.jpg_srz_p_728_739_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzWhen Brooklyn journalist Daniel Plotnick learns he has cancer, his fortunes fall faster than you can say Ten Plagues of Egypt. His wife can’t cope, his marriage ends in a showdown with police, and his father accidentally pushes him off the George Washington Bridge.

Plotnick miraculously survives his terrifying plunge, and comes up with a zany plan to turn his life around: by doing the opposite of everything he did before.

In the darkly comedic tradition of Philip Roth and Lorrie Moore comes a new novel from author David Kalish, who draws us into a hilarious, off-kilter world where cancer tears apart relationships…and builds new ones.

The Opposite of Everything is loosely based on David Kalish’s own experience with medullary thyroid cancer, although he has fictionalized many things, trying to draw away the poison, I imagine, with humor. The story opens with Plotnick’s happy newlywed life. We get the sense that, despite being a newspaper reporter, he’s just a guy living in New York City. A guy who spends little time in introspection. Within a few paragraphs, he discovers the lump, has surgery to remove it, and finds out that his cancer is incurable, but very slow-growing.

That’s where the ‘fun’ begins. His new bride wants to save him through health food, but he resists. We meet his best friend, Steve, a telephone repair man who also bartenders and acts as Plotnick’s sounding-board. We learn about his deplorable parents. Soon, he and his wife are at loggerheads. He behaves like a spoiled child, but she isn’t much better.

Kalish does a good job of showing us this world of dysfunctional people. Sometimes his prose feels stiff, but he has some beautiful phrases. When Daniel Plotnick meets his wife-to-be:

“Had he been a more expressive person, Plotnick might have shared a couple of things. About how he already missed what might no longer be. How he’d hoped to pen a novel, in the not-too-distant future. Perhaps become a foreign correspondent, searching for adventure in exotic lands.”

Plotnick resists change. He tries hard not to share his true self with anyone, not even himself. I suppose that many readers will find the early scenes with his father particularly funny (especially the dance hall). However, I’ve never been a fan of slapstick or characters who don’t appear to have feelings, so it took me a long time to get into the story. I’m also not sure that Plotnick’s plan to do everything the opposite of what he did before his divorce quite makes sense.

I became truly engaged about halfway through when Sonia arrives on the scene. She is Plotnick’s opposite. She’s warm, open, and self-aware. I loved her, and wished she occupied more of the novel. After she appeared, I began to chuckle and then to laugh a little. The interplay between her, Daniel, and Steve grows more and more rich and nuanced towards the end.

This is a solid first novel. I give it three stars out of five. It’ll make a great movie. I see Ben Stiller as Daniel Plotnick, doing one thing wrong after another. Perhaps it would have been better if Kalish had allowed himself to dive deep into his emotions, and give us more of the reality, instead of trying to make it funny by taking it over-the-top. Maybe that’s too emotionally difficult. And maybe I just don’t understand comedy. You’ll have to see for yourself.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Opposite of Everything in exchange for my honest review.

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David Kalish writes about writing at http://www.davidkalishwriter.com/

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