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Showing posts from January, 2015

Cephalopod Coffee House

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c3/The_Martian_2014.jpgGood Day to All.

Last Friday of the month means another meeting of the Cephalopod Coffee House. This meetup is hosted by the Armchair Squid, and its purpose is to write about the best book we’ve read this month.

This month I read The Martian by Andy Weir. The first line of the novel should go down in history as one of the greatest lines in literary history:

“I’m pretty much fucked”

More from Amazon:

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first.


The first line of the novel perfectly encapsulates the predicament the protagonist finds himself in. The Martian is a story of survival in a place where humans weren’t meant to survive. On Mars, Mark Watney must feed himself, shelter himself, and figure out how many ways Mars will try to kill him before it happens. Mark is both a botanist and a mechanical engineer, two skills that combined seem awfully convenient for someone trying to survive on an inhospitable planet with an even more convenient sack of potatoes. I understand that in real life astronauts wear many hats, and anyone sent to Mars would have to have at least three jobs, but it really did seem a little too convenient. Why not a geologist/communications expert? Probably because he would die too quickly to sustain a full length novel.

Those complaints aside, one of the best things about the book is the science. The author, Andy Weir, is the son of a particle physicist and has a background in computer science. He set out to write a novel that was as scientifically accurate as possible. The Martian takes place in the near future and relies on technology that already exists, or could conceivable exist in the next couple of decades: no warp drives, no food replicators, no light weight spacesuits, no indestructible hulls. When he’s marooned, Mark must figure out a way to survive for four years on one year’s worth of rations and equipment that was designed for a two month long mission. He’s basically living in an airtight geodesic dome. That certainly helps to raise the tension, since pretty much anything can (and does) go wrong. The one thing that keeps Mark going (and kept me reading) is his wit and humor, and his absolute refusal to just lie down and die.

All right, that's my review. Feel free to stop by and visit our other readers:


IWSG: Free Book and Insecurity

Time for the Insecure Writers Support Group. This not so little meet-up allows us to express our insecurities and offer support to other writers. Click here to see a full list of participants.

Before I start on my insecurity, I guess I should make a quick introduction (I'm editing this post sixteen hours after original posting, because I didn't know we were doing this): My name is Jennifer Ellis, I have self published a novel under the name JA Ellis, and I'm trying to get myself settled down enough to write another. I was born on Guam, grew up on several different Navy bases until the age of ten, then spent the next 13 years in Michigan. I now live in Kentucky (although I hope to one day run away from here as fast as my giant feet will take me), where I work, raise my son, serve my cats, and go to school. And sometimes I write.

I would like to take a moment to say that my novel Weaver is free on Amazon Kindle from January 7th through the 11th. Please stop on by and pick up copy. :)

Ok. Insecurity:

Last month, I submitted two short stories to The Drabblecast. The submissions editor actually contacted me after reading Snowbound to tell me he enjoyed the story, and suggesting that if I had anything to offer them, to send it his way for consideration. 
He sent me this email in July. And I waited until December to respond. Stupid on my part, because he did respond to me (very nicely) to let me know that unfortunately, they are full for the next several months. However, what I sent in was the type of stuff they were looking for and he would be interested in seeing more in the future.

So, why did I wait so long?

Because, I didn’t think I had anything that was fit for publication by anyone other than myself. I felt like what I thought was worthy of a reader wouldn’t be accepted by anyone else. Why did I think that? Why do I still think that?  I’m still working on the answer to that.

Here’s the thing about self-publishing: it’s easy. It’s too easy. While it certainly allows for great stories that would never find an audience through traditional publishing, it also allows for a lot of mediocre - or straight up bad - writing to be tossed out into the world. I don’t want to put out bad writing, or trope-tastic plot devices, or one dimensional characters, or derivative stories. I try to avoid as much of that as possible. It’s not what I like to read, and I’ve always wanted to write the type of things I’d want to read, but I always have the feeling that I'm not succeeding.

Obviously, I need to get over that. It's really my biggest hurdle towards any measure of success.