When the world goes dark, a doctor embarks on a perilous journey. Doctor Anna Hastings is no stranger to disasters, having spent much of her career as an aid worker in conflict zones around the world. Yet when an electrical phenomenon known as an EMP brings down the power grid, Anna faces catastrophe on a scale she never imagined. She must learn what it means to be a doctor in a world deprived of almost all technology.
As the blackout causes planes to fall from the sky, Anna crosses paths with devoted father Mark Ryan in the chaos at the airport. Mark convinces Anna to travel with him and his seven-year-old daughter Lily to their family’s cabin in remote Maine. There Mark hopes to reunite with his wife, and find a safe refuge from a society on the brink of collapse.
Journeying across a thousand miles of backcountry trails, they will face a daily struggle against nature. Their biggest peril, though, may come from their fellow survivors. As Anna grows closer to Mark and Lily, she resolves to see them safely home. But can she hold onto her humanity in a world gone mad?
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I had just enough time to scoop Lily up and pull her to my chest before the wall of water hit us. I’d been knocked flat by ocean waves countless times before, but this was different. The wave hit low, sweeping my legs out from under me and then carrying us downstream. The shoreline zoomed by, branches and debris swirling all around us.
“Daddy!” Lily cried, squirming in search of Mark. I tightened my grip, fearful of seeing her swept away by the churning torrent of water. I couldn’t see him either. Hopefully he was just upstream from us, in my blind spot.
The creek didn’t seem that deep; I felt my leg smack against the rocky creek bed a few times. I tried to stand up, but I couldn’t get my feet planted. The fast-moving current just bowled me right over every time. Once, we went under and came up sputtering. I worried that our backpacks would sink us, but Lily’s was small and mine surprisingly buoyant.
Over the roaring of the creek, I heard Lily cry out in terror. It was a heart-wrenching sound, but at least it told me she wasn’t drowning. I scanned the shore for something that we might be able to grab onto, but nothing came within reach.
“Anna!” Lily’s shrill cry caused me to snap my eyes forward. A tree had fallen across the stream, and we hurtled towards it.
“Hold on!” Her arms wrapped around my neck so tightly it almost choked me. When we were nearly upon the tree, I twisted my body sideways, trying to shield Lily from the impact.
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The Bad Review Blues
Even the best books get bad reviews. Here are a few zingers from Amazon for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, often regarded as one of the greatest novels in American literature:
“like reading a dictionary; barely any plot”
“unbelievably trite and plodding story”
“each page was a curse”
I wondered what Melville would have thought of modern audiences panning his book. Then I learned it wasn’t much different in his own time. Moby Dick was a commercial flop, receiving decidedly mixed reviews. One brutal one came from the Boston Post in 1851, “[The book] is not worth the money asked for it, either as a literary work or as a mass of printed paper.” Ouch.
It’s natural for creatives to enjoy validation. It’s hard-wired into the reward system of our brains. But we also have to be realistic. No piece of fiction in history has ever pleased everyone. No matter what we write, somebody somewhere is probably going to hate it.
One thing that helps me to deal with negative feedback is to remember that people leave reviews for many reasons:
• It wasn’t what they expected.
• It bent their suspension of disbelief too much.
• It had some element they found objectionable.
• The characters just didn’t resonate with them.
• The themes of the story didn’t interest them.
These are all very subjective, and pop culture is riddled with examples of people being passionately divided over such things. Some people prefer the gritty space opera of Star Wars; others prefer the high-tech utopian values of Star Trek (and a few oddballs like me like both). As much as people tout their rationales, ultimately it’s no different from some people liking chocolate while others like vanilla.
It’s vital to resist the urge to respond to a negative review. This can seem counter-intuitive, since businesses and content creators regularly respond to feedback. However, the publishing industry has different expectations. Nothing will put an author on blast in social media faster than arguing with or complaining about a reviewer.
I’ve heard it said that, “reviews are for readers, not authors.” I don’t think that’s entirely true. Reviews drive the sales algorithms, which impact an author’s business. Some bring up objective issues like plot holes or poor editing that are useful for the author to know. And I think we have a right to care what people say about our work.
The key, though, is to keep our perspective. Just because somebody hated a book, that doesn’t mean it was bad. It just means it was bad for them. Keep at it, and our stories might just become someone’s favorite.
Linda Naughton has been writing stories for as long as she can remember. She is the author of several novels, children’s books, and the blog Self-Rescuing Princesses. A proud geek and gamer girl, she enjoys sci-fi, disaster movies, and role-playing games. She is a software engineer, paramedic, and mother of two.