WEP June 2019 – Caged Bird

This story about Dinara and her pet shop, Rendezvous Pets, on the Rendezvous Space Station is my entry for the June 2019 WEP Challenge. Dinara’s shop offers pet daycare and grooming for the citizens of Rendezvous and its many visitors, humans and aliens.
Coco molted overnight; his brilliant lilac plumage all strewn across the floor of his cage. Instead, dull brown down covered him from his tall fuzzy crest to his scaled feet. Even his voice changed: from the high-pitched melodic song to a low croak. He croaked now, demanding food.

“What am I going to tell your owner?” Dinara asked aloud, eyeing the bird with dismay. “She’s coming for you today. She didn’t tell me you’re going to molt. Are you sick?” She didn’t know enough about the species, and the owner’s instructions were sketchy at best. She poured seeds into his feeder, but Coco just screeched louder and ignored his food.

Cursing under her breath, Dinara searched the station net on her com-link for the information about Rubius native birds. It appeared, Rubius parrots always molted when they entered the third stage of their life cycles, the fusion stage. Coco was going to grow to three times its current size and develop horns. He was also going to need fresh protein, a kilo of meat every day. The fusion parrots were carnivorous predators and fierce hunters, one of the biggest avian species on Rubius.

“Drat!” Dinara stared at the com-link screen in horror. Her emotion was well-justified. When the owner came for Coco later and learned about the bird’s new fusion state, she refused to take him back.

“I’m a vegetarian,” the woman cried. “I can’t have a carnivore as a pet. And he is so ugly now.”

Coco screamed at her and mantled his wings. Then he attacked the metal bars of the cage with his formidable beak. The cage held, but the woman flinched and bolted.

“You can have him,” she tossed from the doorway before disappearing into the station corridor.

“Can’t you force her to take him back,” Manie asked from the aquarium she was cleaning. Manie was Dinara’s cousin, a designer at the local theatre, but she worked part-time for Dinara’s business, Rendezvous Pets. “Some legal action, maybe.”

“No,” Dinara said gloomily. “My contract doesn’t specify it. But it will. From now on. What am I going to do with Coco? I don’t have a cage as big as he is going to need. He’ll be the size of a five-year-old child. He needs to fly.”

“Oh-oh.” Manie ducked back behind the aquarium, but Dinara heard her sniggering. “Send him back to Rubius.”

“Argh!” Dinara said, which prompted another indignant cackling from Coco. “Oh, shut up, you overgrown chicken,” she muttered and hit the station net again, looking for a solution. “I don’t have enough money to send a live cargo all the way to Rubius.”

Two hours later, she had a plan. “We are going to submit Coco to an art contest on Rubius.” she announced.

“What?” Manie said. “I’m done with the aquarium. Do you need me anymore?”

“Yes. I want  you to make an art installation out of Coco and his cage. I just fed him vat protein laced with sedative. He should be asleep soon, and it will last for twelve hours. The ship is leaving for Rubius tonight. Could you go and get some art supplies?”

Manie stared at Dinara. Then she transferred her gaze to the parrot’s cage. “Ye-e-es,” she said slowly. “I suppose. But what will happen, when he wakes up?”

“He’ll start screaming and demanding food, but that won’t be my problem. It will be his owner’s problem.”

“But she is not here to submit her art,” Manie argued.

“I have all her contact info and her payment info. And her visual print. It’s all in my files, and she hasn’t cancelled it yet. I’m going to submit the art online on her behalf, in her name, and deliver the cage to the ship by a drone.”

“The ship crew would be furious, when Coco wakes up.”

“Not with me,” Dinara said. “That woman shouldn’t have left him with me. It’s her bird. It’s her cage. It’ll be her account to pay the contest fee. With her visual print for confirmation. Please, make art, Manie. You’re the designer here. I’ll just fill out the submission forms.”

She opened the contest page and started carefully transferring all the information from Coco’s owner’s contract with her to the contest’s application.

Manie wasn’t done with her objections. “When Coco wakes up, the ship will charge the living cargo rates.”

“Not me. Not my problem,” Dinara repeated firmly.

“Okay,” Manie said at last. “I need to go home to bring my supplies.”

“Hurry,” Dinara said absently.

She liked Manie’s masterpiece. With one ugly sleeping bird, one snatch of golden cloth, and all the feathers Coco had shed this morning, Manie created a true work of art. The cage glittered with a multitude of tiny stars encrusted with mirror fragments.

“Excellent!” she commended her cousin. “You’re so talented.”

“I know.” Manie grinned, as she took one snapshot after another of the Coco’s transformed cage. “I really like what I’ve done. Unfortunately, when Coco wakes up, he’ll ruin it all.”

“Har!” Dinara said darkly. She packed the cage into a padded transport box. With air holes. “Let’s go to the central drone station,” she said and lugged the heavy box after her on a floating pallet. “I don’t want to call a drone to the shop’s address.”

“You know, Coco’s owner might sue you,” Manie remarked, while they waited for the drone.

“How?” Dinara shrugged. “By her contract with me, Coco was in my shop until tonight. If after that, she took him, made an art installation, and sent him to the contest, I had nothing to do with it. She’ll have trouble proving otherwise, and even if she does, I’m not responsible for this bird. She is. Coco’s pet license is in her name.”

“You’re devious,” Manie said. They both watched the drone speeding away. “I guess she deserves it. For abandoning him like that.”

“I guess she does,” Dinara said. “Poor Coco. I hope they’ll release him to the wild on Rubius.”

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Fantasy is for me

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
OPTIONAL QUESTION: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

MY ANSWER: Fantasy. Or to put it in a wider perspective, I should say speculative fiction, because I like to read and write in many sub-genres of speculative fiction, including sci-fi and magic realism, but fantasy remains my favorite, bar none. Here are the reasons why:

1. Fantasy is an escape from reality. Most fantasy stories have magic, in one way or another. As magic is thoroughly lacking in my own life, I like to read or write about the worlds where magic holds sway, where it is available for solving problems. I like to immerse myself in the fantastic doings of angels and werewolves and heroes, because I’ve never met such a bunch of fascinating characters in my life and never will. Fantasy characters, my own or those written by other writers, are my best friends, and occasionally, they help me deal with the real-life problems. If they could do it, I tell myself, so can I.

Picture by Bubulina65 on Pixabay

2. Fantasy presents us with its own set of rules. Sometimes, they are quirky or idiosyncratic, and they fluctuate wildly from story to story, but they are all different from the real world, where the rules are based on science and never negotiable. Even better, when I write a fantasy story, I make all the rules myself. I don’t need to fact-check. I don’t need to research or conform to the rigid scientific parameters. If I say that magic comes from frogs, and the more frogs a magician collects in his private aquarium, the more power he can command, it is true in the realm of my story. Nobody could gainsay me, even if no other fantasy writer ever collected magic from frogs. Or maybe someone did? Anyway, my story – my rules.

3. Most fiction is fantasy, if you stop and think about it. All the mythological systems and folk tales – from Greek and Indian to Russian and Japanese – are in their core fantasy stories, where gods walk the earth, and magic runs unchecked. Where talking animals help the virtuous, and demons punish the villains. Even the current trend of darkness in fantasy books has its roots in mythology and fairy tales. Have you noticed that many of those are pretty dark too, bloody and ruthless?

4. Fantasy worlds are frequently populated by non-human characters. I love reading (and occasionally writing) about elves and werewolves, intelligent badgers and amnesiac dragons, benevolent dryads and vicious toothy clouds. Their ‘otherness’ makes me feel safe, makes me feel that I belong, but too often, the difference between us and them is only skin-deep. Like us, those fantastic creatures go about their adventures while trying to fit in, to find their place in the world, just as we do in our not-so-fantastic lives. Perhaps fantasy is not as unrealistic as one might think.

5. My second favorite genre is M&F romance, but in my opinion, romance is pure fantasy as well, even though it doesn’t have magic or elves. It has something better. In the best romance stories, the male lover is an absolute invention, a figment of female dreams. A guy you encounter in a romance novel – sensitive, selfless, understanding, ready to sacrifice anything for the woman he loves, but still an alpha male – doesn’t exist in real life. Real marriage, I mean a successful marriage, where the couple truly love each other, is often 80% compromise and only 20% affection. At least that’s what I see around me. The ratio is usually reversed in romance, allowing the writer’s imagination to soar. Romance has its own set of rules and its own make-believe characters. If that is not fantasy, what is?

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New interview with me

I haven’t given an interview in a while, but here is a new one, on Sammi Cox’s website, Afternoon Tea with Olga Godim, where Sammi asked me ten questions about my reading and writing.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay


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Translating with the right words

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
OPTIONAL QUESTION: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

MY ANSWER: When I was a schoolgirl and still lived in Russia, I read a lot of poetry. Of course, every poem of a foreign author was in translation. Once I read a lovely poem by Theophile Gautier, something about a pretty gypsy dancer. I liked it and noted the translator, and even recorded it in my poetry journal. Then I forgot about it.

A couple years later, I read a poem by Theophile Gauthier again. It was also about a dancer, and it reminded me about that poem I read before and liked so much, but it was totally different. I didn’t like it as much. It didn’t touch my heartstrings the way the first one did.

I started leafing through my journal, trying to find the first poem. When I found and re-read it, I recognized it as the same poem, translated by a different translator. They had the same meter, the same theme, the exact same source, but not nearly the same impact. Not nearly the same beauty.

That was when it dawned in me how important it was to select the right words, the right turn of phrase, the right adjectives, both for translations and for the original writing as well. That was when I realized that every word counted. I’m a long way now from that young, poetry-loving girl, and I write fiction myself, but that youthful realization is still with me.

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WEP Apr 2019 – Jewel Box

This is the second story about Dinara and her pet shop, Rendezvous Pets. I wrote it in response to the April 2019 WEP Challenge. The action takes place on the space station Rendezvous, one of the biggest space stations in the galaxy. The shop provides pet care and grooming for the citizens of Rendezvous, as well as the station visitors.
“Dinara?” Corby, a lieutenant of the Rendezvous Station security and Dinara’s on-and-off boyfriend, stomped into her pet shop, Rendezvous Pets. His expression was murderous.

“Did you find him?” Dinara frowned. Her other current boarders—a big yellow dog, a small feline from Verga, and a bright lilac bird native to Rubius—didn’t give her any trouble, but Filo, the monkey, was a troublemaker. He had been lodging with her for a week, since his owner departed on a month-long work rotation on a mining outpost. All week, Filo had pulled one prank after another, and he did it so charmingly, Dinara didn’t know whether to curse or laugh.

She wasn’t laughing now. Yesterday, Filo had escaped her shop. He was cavorting somewhere on the station, doing something illegal… probably. Hungry and thirsty, definitely. And obviously in deep shit. Dinara didn’t like Corby’s expression at all.

“No,” Corby growled. “But he has been seen. He stole a jewelry box from the Mars Ambassador’s quarters.”

“What?” Dinara gasped. Filo liked shiny toys, but a jewelry box? Who was going to pay for the jewels, if the security didn’t recover them? Her palms turned clammy. “Expensive jewelry?” she croaked.

“Yep,” Corby bit out. “He hasn’t come back?”

Dinara shook her head.

“Crap! The Ambassador is furious. How did this hooligan escape his cage anyway? The cages are locked, aren’t they?”

“I was cleaning his cage,” Dinara said in a small voice. “He was playing in the pen in the back.” She pointed to the large fenced area studded with colorful playpen equipment: swings, ladders, monkey bars. “Will they hold me responsible for the cost of the jewels?” She couldn’t keep the tremors out of her voice. This Filo’s escapade might ruin her financially as well as professionally.

Corby swore viciously. She guessed that was a Yes.

“He was last seen near the docking bays,” he said.

Dinara covered her face with her hands. “If he gets on a ship, nobody would see him or the jewels again.”

“We issued an alert,” Corby said, sounding bitter. “All the ship captains had us repeat it. Some twice. They couldn’t believe we issued an alert on a monkey. Rendezvous Station will be the laughing stock throughout the galaxy for the next decade.”

Dinara moaned. Then she started laughing. “Station-wide monkey hunt,” she managed through her giggles.

“I might just strangle you and be done with it. Unless you come up with something. The entire security force is laughing at me right now. I’m the chief monkey wrangler. Crap!”

Finally, Dinara brought her hysterical laughter under control and gazed at Corby through her lashes. “If Filo hasn’t managed to get aboard any ship,” she said slowly, trying to visualize the schematics of the station, “he might fetch up in one of the warehouses. Maybe I could lure him out.”

“With what? More jewelry?”


She almost saw question marks forming in his eyes.

“It’s a monkey treat from Earth,” she explained. “A fruit, I guess. Expensive. I ordered them as soon as the owner left Filo with me, but the box only just arrived. I haven’t opened it yet.”

She heaved the battered plastic postal box from one of the office shelves and pried the lid open. Inside, clusters of yellow crescent-shaped objects, covered with waxy skin, nestled among the packing cooling nuggets.

“Are they edible?’ Corby asked doubtfully, then poked at one of the crescents.

“The owner said so.” Dinara picked up one cluster. “If you show me where Filo was last seen, maybe I could tempt him out. He ought to be starving by now.” She thrust a monkey carrier into Corby’s hands.

He took her down to the warehouse section. Cargo drones of all sizes, some empty, others buzzing under heavy loads, flitted along the dimly lit corridor.

“Filo!” she called, feeling like a fool as she swung the cluster of five yellow crescents clutched in her hand. “Filo, come out. I have a yummy for you.”

A passing technician in green coveralls regarded them with a smirk. Fortunately, he didn’t ask anything. When she heard the familiar chittering coming out of a hatch in the wall, she almost swooned with relief. The little monkey shot out straight into her arms, making her stagger. He grabbed the bananas, but Dinara held fast.

“Open the carrier,” she hissed at Corby.

He did. She shoved the monkey and the bananas inside and hastily locked the door. “We got him. Phew!”

“Yeah. Now go get the jewels,” Corby ordered.


“This damn monkey thief is your responsibility. Besides, I won’t fit into the hatch. It’s too small for me.”

Dinara glared at him. Then she glared at the hatch. It was too small for him. It would be a tight fit even for her, and she was half his width.

“Fine,” she grumbled. “Give me a boost.”

“Take a torch.” He thrust a flashlight at her and lifted her effortlessly, so she could crawl into the hatch’s narrow, dark passage at the level of his shoulders.

Two thin parallel metal rails ran along the bottom, bruising her knees. She muttered obscenities and soldiered on. It took her a while to reach Filo’s nest and more time to collect the box and the jewels scattered along the passage. Unfortunately, she couldn’t turn in the narrow space. She had to crawl out backwards, cursing all the way.

“I hope that’s all there is.” She rubbed her aching knees. “I’m not going back in.”

Corby was checking the jewels against a list on his com-link. “It seems so,” he said absently. Then he sniffed at the inside of the ornate jewelry box. “Did your accursed monkey pee in it?”

“Argh!” Dinara said. She lifted the carrier. Inside, Filo chomped enthusiastically on the white inner fibers of a banana. The neat strips of the peeled yellow skin fanned out over his tiny paw like a star.

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25 years of English

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
OPTIONAL QUESTION: If you could use a wish to help you write just one scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be?

MY ANSWER: Oh, I do have a wish that could help me write, but first, a slice of my personal history. A few days ago, on March 29th, I celebrated 25 years since I came to Canada, as an immigrant from the Soviet Union. So many significant changes have occurred in my life since that day. The most important two: my children grew up, and I started writing.

I never wrote in Russian, my mother’s tongue, except some essays in high school. I learned creative writing in English, my second language. By now, I’ve written several novels and got three of them published by small publishers. One even received an award. I’ve written a number of short stories, most of which were published in magazines or anthologies. I’ve been writing for a professional newspaper since 2007, and the number of my published articles is well over 300. One of my novellas on wattpad, a Regency romance Fibs in the Family, has topped 41K readers. But none of my editors ever remarked that I make grammatical mistakes like an immigrant, or at least they didn’t do it to my face.

My English – grammar, vocabulary, metaphors – must be adequate, BUT… Here comes my wish. I wish English was my first language. I wish I grew up in Canada. Because I didn’t, I missed up on some cultural references, and that deficiency occasionally seeps into my writing, makes it a tad less authentic.

For example, I don’t know any popular music names that Americans and Canadians of my generation grew up with. I’ve never read English nursery rhymes or super-famous children’s authors, like Dr. Seuss. Some of the dreaded clichés of the English language – I would never use them, not because I’m a better writer, but because they don’t make sense to me. As a result – I feel somewhat insecure in my writing. Every time I finish a piece, I think: is it good enough? Does my immigrant’s past leak through?

On the other hand, my growing up in another culture informed my writing in a different way. I think it added originality to my thinking, which also reflects in my stories. Which is good, right?

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Why J.T.?

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
I recently read a book, an excellent book I must add, and its male protagonist was called J.T. Wilder. In the entire book, more than 350 pages, his name wasn’t mentioned once.

It started me thinking: why would a man call himself J.T.? Why not John or Jeremy or whatever his name is? Does he hate his name so much? Why doesn’t he change it then, go the legal route? Or was it his parents who called him J.T.? Why? Or maybe he can’t decide which one of his names he wants to use: his first name or his middle name.

In my whole life, and I’m close to a retirement age, I’ve never encountered anyone who would substitute their name with their initials, unless it is fiction. Obviously, it is not a common occurrence in real life. Of course, there is O.J. Simpson, but he seems almost a fictional character too.

For me, J.T.  or O.J. feels less like a human name and more like a robot designation. I mean, you all know C3PO from Star Wars, but it was an android. A computer could be J.T. with a number, like JT-71. I wouldn’t blink. But a man? A man should have a name.

Where does this odd naming convention originate? Is it an American phenomenon or has it drifted here from Britain? When did it start? 20th century? 19th century? Before? Is it an English language quirk, or would French or German people use such a naming practice? Does it depend on the letters of the initials? J.T. sounds okay, I guess, but my son’s initials, for example, are I.Y. Would anyone use those instead of a name? It sounds funny.

What do you think about this naming approach? Could you answer any of my questions? Have you ever met anyone outside of books or television who would call himself by his initials? Would you name your character or introduce yourself in such a way? If yes, why?

My writing news:
I’m participating in a drabble competition on the Writing Writers website. For your information, a drabble is a short-short story in exactly 100 words. They even give a monetary price to the winner, the one who gets the highest number of votes. If you’re interested in drabbles, here is a link to mine. Go there and read my story. Vote if you like it. The voting will be open until March 10th.

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WEP Feb 2019 – 28 Days

This year, my contributions to the WEP challenges will be a series of connected sci-fi flash stories about a pet care shop on the Rendezvous Space Station and its owner Dinara. Every story will feature one animal and Dinara’s troubles with it.
Dinara gazed at the tiny sad creature in the cage. Jean, the buka, lifted her round eyes at Dinara and whined softly, her ears huge and limp, piling on the floor on both sides of her miniature fluffy body like a blanket.

“Why don’t you eat, you stupid little mug?” Dinara muttered. “Your master only left yesterday. It will be 28 days before he comes back. You’ll die if you don’t eat, and then he’ll have my license.”

Jean didn’t respond, just put her head on her paws and closed her eyes. The food bowl stayed untouched.

“No luck?” Dinara’s cousin Manie asked from the far corner. Manie worked part-time for Dinara’s business, Rendezvous Pets. The rest of the time, Manie was a designer at the local theater. Unfortunately, a theater designer on a space station, even as large a station as Rendezvous, couldn’t earn enough. All the theater people had part time jobs.

“She drinks, but she doesn’t eat. I don’t know what to do. She misses her master,” Dinara said.

“Try art,” Manie suggested.

Dinara snorted. “What do you mean?”

“Are there any… I don’t know… documentaries about other bukas?”

“Tons.” Dinara perked up. “That’s a great idea. Thanks, Manie.” Perhaps she could bribe the small animal with the images of other bukas. She settled in front of her com-link and typed ‘buka’ in the search box.

The list of documentaries from Simel, the bukas’ native planet, was impressive. Dinara programmed a large holo screen in front of Jean’s cage and directed the longest documentary towards it.

Jean yipped, as the other bukas on the screen climbed the cliffs and frolicked in the grass. She sprang to her feet and bounced to the food bowl. Her ears flapped like velvety wings. When the bukas in the documentary started pulling nuts from the shrubbery and crunching them, Jean in her cage crunched contentedly on her own nuts.

Dinara smiled in satisfaction. Mission accomplished. To her consternation, Jean, like every buka, was intelligent and had a good memory. Two weeks later, when Dinara ran out of the new documentaries and started replaying them, Jean lost interest in her food again.

“What are you going to do now?” Manie asked with concern. “You have another two weeks before her owner’s ship is back.”

“This little bugger is blackmailing me for a new entertainment,” Dinara replied crossly. They were having lunch together in Dinara’s office. “Do you know why they are called bukas?” She ladled more dumplings than she needed into her bowl. She was tired from her food war with the sneaky buka. She pitied the creature, of course, but she suspected that Jean only declared a hunger strike when she was bored.

Manie shook her head. “Why?”

“When the colonists first arrived on Simel and discovered them, they called the buka species Cheburashka, after an obscure cartoon character from the ancient animated movies. Because they looked like that character. Later, the people shortened that mouthful of a name to buka. I ordered all three cartoons from Earth. Our net didn’t carry them. Paid a bundle too. Want to watch, before I show them to Jean? They just arrived. I hope they’ll do the trick.”

After the first cartoon ended, Manie wrinkled her nose. “What is the other animal?”

“A crocodile, from the translation,” Dinara said absently. “I’m not sure Jean will like it. It’s so primitive. Although Cheburashka looks exactly like her.”

“Crocodiles on Earth are huge. Bigger than men,” Manie objected. “I read about them. This one is… small.”

“He wears a jacket and plays harmonica too. It’s a cartoon, Manie.” Dinara shook her head. “Let’s see if my big-eared manipulator likes it.”

Jean loved it. She finished her food in record time. She also sang along with the crocodile and his harmonica, a high-pitched whine that sounded surprisingly in tune with the melody.”

“Who knew bukas are musical,” Manie commented.

Jean’s fascination with the three short cartoons about Cheburashka and Crocodile didn’t last long.

“She stopped eating again,” Dinara complained, when Manie arrived for her shift a week later. “Darn! That, perverse little schemer! Her ugly ears will be the death of me. I’ll feed her to the fusion reactor.” She pointed an accusing finger into Jean’s cage, and the upset buka chirped distressingly. “She is acting out. She is a theater junkie, like you.”

Manie grinned. “Yeah. Kindred spirits. What are you going to do?”

“I have an idea,” Dinara growled, grabbed her com-link, and stomped out. She went to a printer shop and ordered one Cheburashka and one crocodile exactly like in the cartoon, both the size of her palm, like Jean. It took an hour to print both toys.

“I’m going to charge your owner with all my extra expenses,” she grumbled on the way back. “From Earth! I had to order from Earth, you furry exploiter.”

She flew into the shop and thrust the toys into Jean’s cage. “If you don’t start eating, you, plushy rascal, I’m going to skin you for a rug,” she threatened.

Jean twittered happily and pounced on the toys. She gobbled her food right away and wasn’t interested in videos anymore. She abandoned Cheburashka an hour later, but she kept the crocodile with her at all times, gnawing and crooning to it.

When her owner came for her, he didn’t want the saliva-encrusted crocodile at first, but Jean complained so loudly, he took the chewed-up toy. He reluctantly paid for the toys, and the Earth cartoons, and the documentaries.

“Next time, I’m taking you with me,” he said grumpily to Jean as he left Dinara’s shop. “You’re too expensive otherwise.”

“Yeah,” Dinara said smugly and fed his credit chip into her accounting software. “Next time, I’ll only take her with a ready crocodile.”
For those of you interested in bukas from Simel and how to entertain them, here is a song from the Russian cartoon Jean liked:

The crocodile sings in Russian, but I have translated his song for the curious.

Let them wade through the puddles,
Rubber boots stirring muddles,
Water running along like a brook.
Passersby cannot gather
Why in this rainy weather
I would happily carp like a rook.

When I sing my merry ditty
No one would venture near.
Alas birthday, what a pity,
Happens only once a year.

Wizard with a silver mane
Flying in a magic plane
With a movie as gay as a dream.
He will bring cake and gifts,
Yummy, wonderful treats,
And a pile of delicious ice-cream.


Posted in Olga Godim, science fiction, WEP | Tagged , , , | 26 Comments

Book covers and badges

It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
OPTIONAL QUESTION: Besides writing, what other creative outlets do you have?

MY ANSWER: I don’t always answer the optional IWSG questions, but this one struck me as extremely relevant. Most artistic people I know have more than one creative outlet. It is as if the creativity bubbles inside them and wouldn’t be consigned to one single stream. As I discovered recently, I’m no different.

I’ve always made up stories, since I was a little kid, so it was a logical progression for me to start writing down my stories. But I haven’t ever considered myself an artist, couldn’t draw a straight line to save my life. Surprisingly, few years ago, I started designing book covers from the existing free images available on the internet, and I found it such a satisfying activity, I can’t stop.

Most of my pre-made book covers are in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. Each one is almost a visual story in itself, with a protagonist and her complex milieu. Sometimes it is a witch with her pixie helpers. Sometimes it is a princess who befriended a dragon. I use people 3D rendering made by other artists in DAZ studio or Poser and backgrounds offered by wonderful photographers and artists on Pixabay and other similar free websites.

My pre-made book covers are like an assembly line, with 2 to 20 different elements in every cover. The sample cover below includes 9 elements. You can see all my pre-made book covers on my DeviantArt page, and I often add new ones. I would be very happy if someone liked my covers and used one of them for their book.

The book covers I made for wattpad, for all my stories and for other writers’ stories as well, are a bit different. For them, I used predominantly photographs as the basic images, not DAZ renders. You could see the examples on my wattpad page. It is not my favorite approach; too many cover artists use realistic photographs these days, and the images seem to blend into each other, with nothing to distinguish one author from the next, on Amazon or any other book retail site. At least, my DAZ and Poser based covers are unique.

I also make badges for the WEP challenges, have been making them since 2016. It started with a casual request from Denise Covey, the WEP founder, and it is very different from my book covers endeavor. With the book covers, I make them mostly for myself, to satisfy my artistic itch. With the badges, it starts with a theme.

After I find an appropriate image for the theme, I design a badge and ask the other WEP team members for their feedback. Sometimes, my first attempt is approved right away; everyone likes it. Other times, I don’t get so lucky. I might go through a half-dozen or more different images for one challenge, before it is accepted by all the hosts of WEP. We swap ideas and discuss possibilities. I found it especially hard with challenges leaning towards abstract concepts, but so far, I’ve always come out the winner with a final badge everyone likes. And it’s such a giddy feeling, when I finally get an ‘okay’ for a badge from everyone, I always feel like celebrating.

Perversely, until I do get an ‘okay’, I feel like I’m an imposter, a failure. Like I’d never get another badge right in my life. Like many artistic personalities, I’m very sensitive to my friends’ critique, and each time they dislike my first draft, I would sulk and think something along the lines of “oh, they don’t understand…” But then, I would search again, listen to their suggestions, find a better image or a better composition, and the final badge is always, without exceptions, the best of all my attempts. Obviously, my friends do understand.

One of the examples of my hard-won badges is the one for the upcoming WEP challenge in February, 28 DAYS. I went through several different images before I found this one, the one everyone approved. The process wasn’t easy, but the result was all the more satisfying because of it. Come and join us in this challenge. What could you write about 28 days?

What other creative outlets do you have, in addition to writing? Tell me in the comments.

Posted in art, book cover, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Olga Godim, WEP | Tagged , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Crystal Song, final chapter published

The finale chapter of my science fiction novelette Crystal Song is live on wattpad.

The story protagonist, Ulira, doesn’t trust anyone. When she was 17, she had been betrayed by the person she trusted most – her brother. She had almost lost her life then, and she had lost her trust in people. Fortunately, she had escaped her home on the Hanumah Space Station and created a life for herself elsewhere.
Now, thirteen years later, her brother found her again. He asks her to come back, because Hanumah and its people need her help.

You could read the full story here.

Posted in Novella, Olga Godim, science fiction, wattpad | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment