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Book Review: Lifeform Three, By Roz Morris

I’m not a big fan of dystopian fiction, but I’m an admirer of author and blogger Roz Morris. When I received an Advance Review Copy of this book, I was willing to give it a chance. I’m glad I did.

Lifeform Three” takes place in a future time at a theme park called The Lost Lands of Harkaway Hall. Picture a dystopian Disneyworld where “intrepid guests” ride around in pod cars taking pictures with their “pebbles” (smart phones) . The story is told through the eyes of Paftoo, a “redo bod” who works with a team of fellow bods to clean up animal dung, leaves and other debris from the park. The park is one of the few pristine tracts of land left in this future world, ravaged by environmental degradation that has laid waste to the seashore and other bucolic vistas.

The bods are programmed to perform menial tasks and they receive points for the amount of waste they can clear in a day. “Shovel the leaves; don’t think. Hum a tune. That’s the way to make it easier,” Morris writes, through the prism of Paftoo. “A bod’s life is redoing. Because all the time, the Lost Lands are being undone. By the lifeforms, the rain, the wind, the seasons that strip the trees in autumn and make them grow like nonsense in the spring. And by the Intrepid Guests, who drive where they shouldn’t, break the fences, spread litter and set fire to the barn.”

When the bods finish their daily work, they power off at night into a sleep mode, all except for Paftoo. In the opening scene, Paftoo is struck by lightning while trying to coax a huge horse into a lorry (truck) during a thunderstorm. At night, Paftoo dreams of riding horses and finding a lost door in the woods, but his memories are fragmented. While the other bods sleep, Paftoo roams the grounds and discovers a secret world. He tames one of the horses that roam the pasture at night in an effort to piece together his past.

He dares not disclose his nocturnal experiences with the other bods for fear of being “shared,” a process by which a bod’s mind is wiped clean of all past experiences. “A trouble shared is a trouble deleted,” is the oft-repeated phrase used to explain the benefits of sharing.

Morris raises questions about the issues of the day, from climate change to social media. The visitors to this theme park rarely exit their vehicles to enjoy the natural beauty; instead they snap pictures with their phones. The bods entertain the arriving visitors with dances and performances designed to sell products.

The author gives readers a glimpse of how the planet might look and feel in a future age when rampant consumerism ravages the environment and people don’t talk to each other and don’t care about their own memories or their planet’s storied past.

 

 

 

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Platform in Perspective

Platform, platform, platform. The blogosphere is filled with that word. An unpublished writer must have a platform to get an agent or a publisher. Your blog doesn’t have ten thousand followers? Don’t even talk to an agent or a publisher. You can’t write.

In late December I received an Annual Report from WordPress (another reason why I love WordPress). Let me share my stats. I had 8,300 views in 2012. I posted 89 new essays (for a total of 140 in the 15 months since I started my blog). My busiest day was October 17, 2012, with 117 views. My most popular post was titled, “What Drives Your Main Character?” My most commented-upon post was, “Are You NaNoing This Year.”

My posts have been viewed by people in 102 countries, with the U.S., the United Kingdom and Canada showing the most views.

What do all these stats mean? Judging by the numbers, I am a rank amateur who has no right to call myself an author. That’s the trouble with numbers. I don’t spend my day promoting my blog posts on social media. I don’t have the time. There are only two numbers that mean anything to me: my word count on my Work in Progress and the number of blog posts (I try to blog every three days) I generate. My expectations are low, but realistic. I’d rather spend my energy writing the best book I can and sharing what I’ve learned with the good people who are kind enough to read my blog. The big platform benchmarks touted on blogs mean little to me. They’re not worth the price.

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Should I Read or Write?

I have a confession to make. I read more than I write. I don’t write each day (except during National Novel Writing Month), but I cannot go a day without reading. Writers should read widely across all genres and read nonfiction as well as fiction. Most writers do just that, but many struggle to keep up their reading.

In a guest post on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog on Writer’s Digest, author Dayna Lorentz made a persuasive case for why writers should read.

In summary, Lorentz gave four reasons: reading nourishes your writing, it builds confidence, it enables revision and it helps the writer to sell by allowing the writer to see where her work fits in among popular novels and genres.

Read Dayna Lorentz’s Writer’s Digest blog post

Writers know they should read, but it’s another activity the writer must fit in amidst writing, keeping up with social media, blogging and marketing.

My best advice is to carve out separate blocks of time for writing and reading. Generally, I write during the late evening and I read right before I go to sleep. Reading helps me to unwind and decompress from my writing session.

Reading can help your writing. By focusing on how writers develop stories and scenes, a writer can unlock her creativity. I find when I am reading a particularly good book, I get energized about my writing.

Stephen King reads 80 books a year. He brings books with him everywhere he goes. If he has a few minutes of down time while waiting on a line, King cracks open a book. I even saw a shot of him reading a book on TV during a Red Sox game at Fenway Park.

I’m currently plowing my way through Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series. I’m probably spending too much time reading them, but my writing hasn’t suffered.

Reading, like writing, is a habit that is woven into our daily lives. Let’s always take the time to read.

How much do you read? Do you find it difficult to read and keep up with your writing?

 

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