Pipsqueak Articles

Posts written by Olga Werby or Christopher Werby

Cool books, peril loops, tech talk, and other sci-fi reading traps

Paris in the future from 1905

Rock? Or classical? Sometimes, good content is difficult to classify. But once you find someone good, it almost always works out (well, except for the last chord–what happened there?). I’ve mentioned before–when I find an author I like, I read everything they’ve ever written. This works for music, too. It’s a safe strategy, for the most part. But it does send me searching on a regular basis for someone new to love. Writers simply can’t write as fast as I can read. It’s one of the reasons that as a writer I don’t feel like I’m in competition with others in my genre–writing is a slow, slow process. So for the last year, I’ve gone on an adventure of searching for new authors to love. I’ve read multiple collections of short stories, old and new. And I also read a few biographies, notably Isaac Asimov’s last book, where he describes not only his life but also the history of the science fiction as it became its own literary category. [A bit of an aside: I met Isaac Asimov in New York many years ago at a science fiction convention. I thought he was a total *ss in person. His autobiography…

Fantastical Halloween

Books are good for the Soul

We are quickly falling into Fall. Warm sweaters, blankets, and books. But why bother with books when there is so much other entertainment around? Netflicks, HBOs, Amazons of the world are eager to grab hold of our eyeballs and never let go. It’s great for their bottom line. In 2017, the American Time Use Survey (Bureau of Labor Statistics) said that according to their survey, the number of Americans who read for pleasure had dropped by 30% since 2003. Who has the time, right? I hear that a lot too. “I’d read, but I have kids…I commute…I work long hours…I read at work…” There are many excuses. The one that most people don’t typically mention is that it is much easier to plump on a couch and watch something on TV or to simply play on one’s cell phone (for those who no longer own a TV). But reading is an active activity, while watching videos is passive. Cognitively, that makes a huge difference. Consider a piano. About 100 years ago, most households in America (middle class) had a piano in their parlor. Everyone learned to play a little bit. People could read music and play it off a sheet.…

Protagonist Speaks, a Police Interview with Alex Orlov

Alex doing research

Sometimes, when we finish reading or writing a story, the story is not done with us. Some characters linger in our thoughts and speak up and give rise to some other content and revelations. Mostly, such content remains private — I have tons of illustration, pages of story, and folders of research ideas that never made it into the final novel. But occasionally, I discover places on the Web where a bit of that background material can leak out and find an audience. The Protagonist Speaks is one such website. It allows authors to share interviews with their fictional characters, adding depth and dimensionality to those people who otherwise would be stuck on pages between the beginning and the end. Since my book “Twin Time” is currently part of the SPFBO 2019 competition (yes, as of today, it still stands!), I got to meet another competitor, Assaph Mehr. He runs The Protogonist Speaks, an award-winning fantasy blog that features these interviews. Here’s Alex Orlov interview with the police after the fire: “From the closed files relating to the Ms. Orlova’s house fire and the disappearance of Sasha Orlov: Transcript of Alex Orlov interview with Hillsborough police department’s Detective Hendle. (Additional…

Strange, Slightly Creepy, Mystery SciFi: My New Book is Out Today!

Art by Sophie Prestigiacomo

The paperback version of “God of Small Affairs” is out everywhere (well, mostly in online stores) today! Here’s a link to “God of Small Affairs” on Amazon. In about two weeks, the ebook version will come out as well. The story already earned three 5-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite! You can read the first few chapters here. Like for all of my books, I’ve created a Pinterest mood board for this story. Check it out. I think illustrations really help the readers to see inside my head…a little. The illustrations for this particular story are more evocative than most. Something about gods that walk among us and help guide humanity into the future… And while there, look at my other mood boards, for other stories. I find that “collecting” imagery while writing is very inspiring. Some writing is very visual, and some art is very lyrical and story-driven. As you might have guessed, I am not a big fan of an empty canvas or flat, one color artboards. I want details. Descriptions. Illustrations. I like that in art as well as literature. SPFBO 5 Competition As I’ve mentioned last time, this year, I am also participating in a little friendly…

Summer Writing and Reading and Editing

Girl Reading

Writing In July, I finally finished editing my latest book: God of Small Affairs (first three chapters are available here). It will be a while before it gets published, but it is nice to move into the next stage of this story’s life. I have a cover that I like…I have several! Here are two: Here is a book description that will definitely NOT appear on the cover of this book: Time is made out of threads. Pull one and someplace somewhere things unravel. We know how to pull on the right thread because we see the whole tapestry of life’s possibilities. That’s why we are so good at finding a good path into the future. I say a future because there is no such thing as the future. We are made of time threads — thick bundles of knots that can pull and twist and change the course of history. It’s all about connections — pull one strand, and the others twist with it. Like Newton’s second law, for every action, there is an equal an opposite reaction. But humans are small in relation to civilized time, planetary time, cosmological time. To make a big change requires a course…

Jew-ish Sci-Fi

Jew-ish Universe

This month, I’ve jumped in head first into dark and cold waters of book marketing. I’ve learned a lot that was new to me but was probably obvious to any salesperson — other people (unlike me) like to read very specific genres of books. For example, if you are into a billionaire werewolf romances, you are NOT into werebear billionaire romances. Yes, people like what they like and there are many authors who are happy to write for very niche audiences. But I read lots of different things, fiction AND non-fiction. I read WWII spy novels AND science fiction. I like action adventure AND historical fantasy. My taste in books is as broad as the stories I like to write. But apparently, that’s not good for marketing. My books are all so different that I’ve been having a hard time zeroing in on a unifying theme for my stories. And then it hit me — I write Jewish Science Fiction…or Jew-ish Sci-Fi. So what’s Jew-ish Sci-Fi? It’s a hero journey to save the world, where the hero belongs to a tight group of outsiders forced to make their way in the world by their talents and smarts and who are…

Forty Years of Cultural Dissonance

Pastrami Sandwich

This May was the fortieth anniversary of my family’s arrival in America. We came as refugees. My husband and I celebrated this momentous event (this marks over two-thirds of my life here) by visiting the Tenement Museum in downtown New York City. The biggest takeaway was the strong sense of “strangers in a strange land” mentality. People arrived not knowing the language or customs, not having a place to sleep or an ability to source work. It was scary. It took a very strong impetus to leave all that one knew and understood behind, to leave family and friends, to leave familiar food and places…to leave behind the mother tongue. (Did you know that the word “cow” is not under K in a dictionary? How are people supposed to find words when they don’t even start with the letter that they sound? Back then, I ended up drawing a cow in the middle of a sentence to finish my homework.) Without a language in common, it is very difficult to forge social ties. It is the main reason people “bunch up” by their cultural heritage into neighborhoods like “Little Italy,” “China Town,” “Little Russia,” “Jewishberg,” “Japantown,” “La Pequeña Habana,” “Little…