On the Shoulders of Giants

The first and last time I read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, I was in college, in the early 1970s.  I loved it then, and now that I’ve just re-read it almost 50 years later, I still love and admire it.  

This science fiction classic is older than I am, but it still holds a wealth of truth and meaning, even though many outward things have changed in my lifetime.  When I was born, man hadn’t been beyond our planet’s atmosphere, there were no cordless phones, let alone cell phones.  Scientists were just beginning to understand the mysteries of the atom.  The stars were fuzzy shapes seen through earth’s atmosphere.  Computers were rooms full of reels, tubes, and wires.  The whole control room at NASA’s Johnson Space Center hadn’t been developed yet, and when it was, it carried the same capacity that we can fit in our pockets now, or on our wrists.

So how can it be that books written before 1950 still have something to say to our modern age?  Because I believe Asimov in this series has dealt with the fundamentals of human thought and behavior.  And he’s done it the way only a very skillful and well-educated scientist/author can.

For me it boils down to the truth that human nature doesn’t really change.  We can be in a setting far in the past, such as The Clan of the Cave Bear, the less-distant past of the European Middle Ages, in books by Sharon K. Penman, the more contemporary settings of most modern fiction set in the twentieth century, or the far distant future that most sci-fi writers use.  Human beings, no matter when they are living, all have the same mental processes, emotions, foibles, faults, and all.

As an author of fiction (mostly science fiction, I confess), I am seeking in my own small way to emulate great thinkers and writers like Asimov.  Perhaps I’m hoping to catch a better glimpse of some far-off truth by attempting to stand on the shoulders of these giants who came before me.  (I know there’s a quote to that effect somewhere, but I can’t remember who said it.)  And I’ll keep on looking for this “Great Beyond” until my dying day, I suppose.

A New Venue – Amazon’s KDP Vella


Recently, KDP announced a new story platform, named Vella, for writers to reach mobile readers. The concept couples simplicity with ease of vetted publishing. It also allows the writer to experiment in unknown territories, gather in new audiences, and release some of those forgotten writing projects left for so long on a back burner.

Rules of Vella’s Platform

To take advantage of this interesting new opportunity, it’s easiest to read the rules. There aren’t that many.

  1.  All stories are episodic. Short bursts of story, published on a regular schedule until the story ends.
  2.  All episodes must range from no less than 600 to no more than 5000 words.
  3.  Fiction genres are all-inclusive. Non-fiction and creative non-fiction are also allowed.
  4.  It’s recommended that the writer have four to five episodes ready to go before uploading the first one. (I read this to mean that by doing so, the writer isn’t scrambling to have an episode ready on the next scheduled upload day.)
  5.  The writer chooses the publishing schedule that suits her//him. For instance, for my present story, “Devil’s in the Details”, I chose to upload an episode every other day. On my calendar, it means every odd-numbered day of the month.

I chose this knowing each episode would be short (600-1500 words on average). I didn’t want to give any reader too much time between episodes to find something different to read and forget mine.

  •  The number of episodes or length of story is at the writer’s discretion. Only the writer knows when a story is finished.
  •  A description of the story is required. One must choose keywords from the story and choose categories of genre for placement of story.
  •  An image possessing some relation to the story is highly-recommended in the development of the story’s platform profile. The writer will be asked to upload that image. Think of it as a visual bookmark, both for you when looking in your Vella library of stories, and for the mobile reader when she/he’s looking for your next episode on a mobile device.
  •  There is no rule that states a writer can only run one story at a time. If you want to run two or more stories simultaneously, I’ve found no rule that prohibits it. If one chooses to do that, know that your writing time must be rigorously monitored and scheduled for uploading. Otherwise, you’ll exhaust yourself unduly. (This is my advice—not stated in rules.)
  •  At the end of each episode is a space for author’s note. This is where you can talk directly to the reader. Share tid-bits about the story’s origin, a character’s backstory or provide a teaser about an upcoming episode. Ask for feedback and comments. What did the reader like/dislike? Did something confuse them? Whatever. Share a bit about yourself. It’s up to the author. You have only so much space to use, but it’s valuable acreage.
  • Also, if down the line you choose to edit an episode, you can do that. Feel free.
  • Not in rules but my own take on things. Use this opportunity to enlarge your existing audience and to engage a new one. Experiment. Have fun. While you will earn a bit of money with each episode downloaded, you gain much more in exposure and freedom of expression. Enjoy it. Tip: for all those memoirists out there. Here’s a platform for all those funny stories from your childhood that still crack you up. Surely you have at least ten or more of those. Plant one out there in Vella’s garden a couple times a week and see what grows.  Just a thought.

Payment and Reward

Payment is best described as interesting. Like all writing it depends on readership and downloads. Readers buy bundles of tokens. Each episode (after the compulsory first free three) is given a token price by Vella. All such values are based solely on word count. Token values and word count go through an algorithm which computes the royalty shared with the writer. The process is explained fully by the Learn More button.

Afterthoughts and Conclusions

Will you get rich? Well, that depends on things such as how many readers you can attract with your writing and how often you upload episodes.

I didn’t do this for money. I did it to rid myself of all those haunting stories lying fallow in the recesses of my hard drive. Now, I can share them, enjoy the process of getting them out, and make a few dollars from things left unread for too long.

That will satisfy me.

I hope everyone will at least look at the venue and gauge whether it will benefit them in some way. Advertising is advised. Me? I’m going to post to my website, my blog, my media outlets and all the write’s groups in which I’m a member.

For those who wish to discover more, here’s a link to the KDP Vella main page.


And if you’d like to check out my first episode, it’s free.   https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/product/B098XGD7VX

Happy writing, everyone.



Last October, I was invited to my first Montana Women Writers meeting in Kalispell by Betty Kuffel. The speaker would be talking about Flash Fiction, so Betty’s email suggested we “…bring a piece of flash fiction you’d like to share or Haiku, or a few pages of manuscript for peer input.” 

Haiku? The idea of writing a very short structured poem grabbed my attention. Since I had never written one before, it didn’t need to be perfect, or even good; it just needed to be a haiku: 

My First Haiku (10/31/19):

(5) Fawn strolls through snowy yard

(7) as kids dress up as animals. 

(5) Whitefish Halloween!

In haiku, less is literally more. The 5-7-5 indicates the number of syllables allowed for each line. Every word must be carefully chosen to fit the 17-syllable 3-line form. 

I quickly realized writing haikus is excellent training for all types of writing. As a book editor and screenwriting coach, I saw how haiku practice would improve my clients’ writing skills as well as mine – and it was fun!

When I researched “how to write haiku,” I discovered other syllable-dependent poetic structures like sestina, villanelle, dodoitsu and paradelle. Some of these use repeating words or rhythms. But haiku is the shortest and simplest form to learn. 

Here’s a haiku I recently wrote to remind me how to write one:

Five syllables plus

seven and five more create

a haiku for you!

Haiku began as a Japanese poetic form honoring nature and the world around us. Some people write haikus as a diary of their daily experiences, like author Jack Keroac. Others create fanciful, humorous or literary haikus. Check out “Suburban Haiku” by Peyton Price (www.suburbanhaiku.com) or “Haiku U “(100 great books in 17 syllables) by David M. Bader.

To begin writing your own haiku, use the basic 5-7-5 syllable structure. I find a starting point within the three lines, then work forward or backward from there. Once my theme and rhythm are clear, refining the words and sometimes shuffling the top and bottom lines follows. 

For practice, you can find Haiku sites and Facebook groups online:

At the Global Haiku Project (www.haiku.baronfig.com), you can add to or finish a three-author haiku.

For help going haiku, try Haiku Generator (www.poem-generator.org.uk/haiku/).

Facebook’s Haiku for a Global Pandemic group inspired my first Covid-19 haiku:

Despite Covid, how

can we all move through this day?

One breath at a time…


If you’re inspired to write your first haiku (or your hundredth), I’d love to read it. Email me at LiteraSee@gmail.com.

By Barbara Schiffman

Barbara will be presenting Haiku to You, Too! at our Zoom Montana Women Writers meeting September 24th for details how to join in the discussion contact her at the email address above.

Excerpt All Too Human

Karen's author photo apr 2019   By Karen Wills

Gentle readers,

Here’s an excerpt from my historical novel, All Too Human: A Saga of Deadly Deceptions and Dark Desires. Lucinda Cale is writing a post-Civil War diary of her journey from St. Louis to the wilds of Northwest Montana as a newlywed married to wealthy and difficult Garrett Cale. Her life will take unexpected turns as will that of Rebecca Bryan, the novice attorney who, in 1905, finds Lucinda’s diaries. Enjoy.

Garrett hired five men at Fort Benton to ride alongside us as armed protectors all the way to Eagle Mountain, along with Louis the cook and our young driver and packer. The protectors are hard men. I’ve never seen even one of them smile. None have spoken to me or Peggy. I’m accustomed to men flitting like moths to my flame so this indifferent behavior unsettles me.

I admit it. Male lack of interest is new, and it stings my vanity. Did the war burn away any ability they once had to appreciate womanly charms? Did it leave their emotions hard as metal? Cold as ashes? Peggy declares herself insulted by their unconcern for her flirtatious approaches. She protested today, “How can they protect me if they can’t see me?”

Garrett made sure when he hired them that all five fought for the Union. I’m wary of them even as they fascinate me. In the circles I frequented back home I seldom conversed with or met any lower-ranking enlisted men. Plain to see, these hard souls who ride with us withstood merciless use in horror-filled battles.

I study them when I suppose they aren’t looking, but suspect they note my artless spying. They’re ever alert. Their eyes must miss nothing.

When one of them does flick a rare glance at me, sadness rests in his blear eyes. Each carries a brace of revolvers and long knives in their boots as well as his own rifle. Although their clothes are shabby and often carry several days’ worth of dust, they keep their weapons spotless and shining from well-oiled care.

Thoughts of my brother’s death in the horrors of battle haunt me like Mr. Poe’s raven haunted him. I think my grief will never leave me. Nevermore. Was it possible that cheerful Peter would have returned volatile as Garrett, or dour as these bitter men, their faces lined before their time? Would my own brother have been a stranger to me after being seared in the heat of bloody conflicts? I pray not. I hope Peter is with God and at peace.

The This and That of a Writer’s Life by Marie F Martin

My Sis who has reached the ripe age of eighty has finally learned something she’s been searching for her whole life. Norma is a hefty strong gal who was a nurse in a major hospital for years called me and said, “Guess what? After all these years of searching for a twiggy body, I was just told by the ear doctor I have skinny ear channels. It’s the first skinny thing I’ve ever had.”


I was sitting in the doctor’s office waiting room with my cute mask on when an older gentleman came in. His eyes lit up a little above his mask and he said, “I’m smiling.” I said back, “I have lipstick on.” The other people in the waiting room cracked up. What a fun moment.

I try to take a thirty minute walk most days and I always wind myself through the the residential area near my house under shady maple trees. I usually pass a school about half way through my walk and have always sat on a bench there for a minute to rest. benchNow I just look at it wondering who has sat there, and if they were healthy, or a carrier of the Covid virus. I pause a little, but don’t sit down, just walk on by.

First harvest of green peas. Yummy in my tummy.