In Response to Critics of “Black Bead”

what-if

Every author receives negative reviews from time to time. Although I don’t take them personally (every reader has different tastes), I do want to respond to a couple of criticisms in particular of the first book in The Black Bead Chronicles – Black Bead. “It’s too short.” “I wanted more.” “I don’t understand why ____ did that.”

Oh, my impatient readers. Why? What? How? So many questions. No one wants to hear that you will have to read all five books to get all your questions answered. So here are some spoilers.

I am first and foremost, a lover of the art form of short story writing. It is an exercise in the magic of words. Tell a story in under 5,000 words, under 1,000 words, under 100 words, without losing the emotional impact of good story telling. Scifi short stories are a particularly awesome form of the art. Setting? Who cares. It might be Earth. It might be an alien planet. You will only realize you are somewhere else when the alien monsters leap out at you from the shadows.

For example, in Harlan Ellison’s novella “A Boy and His Dog” you know in the first paragraph that you aren’t in Kansas anymore. “I was out with Blood, my dog. It was his week for annoying me; he kept calling me Albert” In the second paragraph he mentions hunting green and ocher rats for food. Well, maybe you are in Kansas but it is a post-apocalyptic Kansas. In the third sentence you find out just how bad things have gotten.

SPOILER ALERT!

In the first sentence of Black Bead, you know that Cheobawn is a psychic. In the first page you know she lives in a safe and well ordered village run by the industrious Mothers. The first scenes were carefully crafted. Nothing that is mentioned is without significance. You learn of leopards and an innocuous game of Dancing Molly that is later played for real outside the dome under another name. By the third page you know that the children, both male and female, are trained to control their thoughts and guard their emotions from a very early age, thus revealing that though the boys are not Ears, they have psi abilities that are trained and focused elsewhere.

By the third page Cheobawn refers to herself as a witch. It does not mean what you think it means. It is the first clue to the history of the domes and why they live isolated and cut-off from the rest of the planet. This is a matriarchy. Words are tools with double-edged blades. They are anchors in the past. They are reminders of where you have come from. In their rebellion, they took the language of the patriarchy of old and re-wrote their definitions. This causes Cheobawn no end of problems when she meets people from outside the land of the Domes. (If you are wondering at the source of a lot of words, I have to admit I borrowed heavily from the language of my Irish ancestors.)

By the fourth page of Black Bead you know they live inside a dome, protected from the fierce world outside. Why would they want to leave this safety? Why risk death playing outside the dome? Because, as you will learn in the ensuing books, from birth they are taught that they must prove that they deserve to live. It may be a matriarchy but it is more importantly a warrior cult. They are judged at every turn. The Birthing Ceremony. The Choosingday. Foray. Cheobawn knows this and accepts this version of reality. It all makes sense to her. In a fierce world, only the fierce survive.

With intent and purpose, I wrote all five books so that the reader only knows what Cheobawn knows. You learn what she learns as she learns it. She views the world through the lenses of innocence and inexperience and oft times misinterprets what is going on in the adult world. The black bead around her neck insulates her while it isolates her. It is intentional, this isolation. The Coven, Mora especially, have dark plans for her. Joining a Pack saves her from that fate and sets her on the path to becoming who she wants to be.

Why is the first book, Black Bead, only a novella? Because I needed to set Cheobawn in a place and establish her character without muddying the waters with tons of exposition. The story is complete in those few pages and needs no further explanation. Black Bead is the benchmark. You will refer back to it in your minds as she goes out into the world and meets her destiny. You will remember fondly when all she had to do was beat a mountain full of predators and keep her Pack alive until the sunset.

Do you need to keep reading? No. But are you not a little curious? Black Bead contains the threads of all the other story-lines in their very nascent beginnings and each book builds upon that tapestry. The books must be read in order. You can stop whenever you want but the questions you will have will nag at you until you read on.

Why does the Coven hate her? They don’t. They fear her and fear for her, all at the same time. Zeff explains it at the end of “Spider Wars”. Not wanting to ruin her, they neglect her in hopes that she will find her own way. If you want something to grow up limitless, you remove the rules and see what happens.

The belief in Luck is not superstitious mumbo-jumbo – this is a dome full of highly educated technicians who live simple lives through choice, not circumstances. We come back to the play of language in a society of psychic women. Language becomes a toy, to be played with, when all the important stuff is going on inside their minds – stuff that does not require language. For example, Luck describes a very complicated sort of quantum entanglement. In Cheobawn words, her Luck is magic and magic is merely science undefined.

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