OtherLife world premiere

Here’s the biggest news I’ve had for a while: OtherLife will premiere at the Sydney Film Festival in June.

OtherLife stars Jessica De Gouw, TJ Power, Thomas Cocquerel, Clarence Ryan, Tiriel Mora, and Adriane Daff. They are all brilliant – every one of them brought dimensions to the characters that I didn’t imagine, and now cannot imagine doing without. Jess, Tom, Adriane and Clarence were absolutely lovely to me when I visited the set in Perth, in spite of late nights and so much hard work during the shoot. I missed meeting TJ and Tiriel by days, and look forward to someday telling them in person how much I enjoyed their work.

Directed by Ben C. Lucas. Also brilliant. Ben brought vision and rigor and insight to the script. Plus he is wonderful and fun and smart. This movie has Ben all over it.

Cinematography by Dan Freene. Who is genius, I’m just saying. Dan made the film look gorgeous and feel powerful, intimate and thrilling.

Edited by Leanne Cole. Wow. I was fortunate enough to have Leanne show me some of the dailies, and to hear her, Ben, Dan and the producers talk about how the story might take shape. Leanne can hold a hundred permutations in her head.

Written by Gregory Widen, Ben C. Lucas & Kelley Eskridge. And this, my friends, is an amazing moment for me. This is my first professional screenwriting credit. It comes after a long, exciting, terrifying, often very hard journey from option to screenplay development to production. Real live audiences will see the film. From head and heart to screen, via so many other heads and hearts.

Here’s the summary description of the film, which should make clear that the film story and the book story are different in terms of plot. But they are deeply connected in core concepts and in the emotional exploration of loneliness and connection.

You can find OtherLife on Facebook and on Twitter. Read about the wild ride of indie filmmaking at the OtherLife Journals. And if you’re in Sydney for the festival, do please go see the film on June 16 or June 18, and let me know what you think!

Thomas Cocquerel as Danny and Jessica De Gouw as Ren
TJ Power as Sam and Clarence Ryan as Byron
Jessica De Gouw in OtherLife
Jessica De Gouw as Ren
Jessica De Gouw in OtherLife


But a girl who goes into battle

One of my desert island books is In the Woods by Tana French. Sometimes I wake in the night and think of writing, and find myself lost in the memory of this passage; the rush of reading something I believed to my core but had never heard anyone say before. Which for me is one of the most powerful things that writers do.

…but above all that, and underlying everything we did, she was my partner. I don’t know how to tell you what that word, even now, does to me; what it means. I could tell you about going room by room, guns two-handed at arms’s length, through silent houses where a suspect could be armed and waiting behind any door; or about long nights on surveillance, sitting in a dark car drinking black coffee from a thermos and trying to play gin rummy by the light of a streetlamp. Once we chased two hit-and-run joyriders through their own territory — graffiti and rubbish-dump wastelands whipping past the windows, sixty miles per hour, seventy, I floored it and stopped looking at the speedometer — until they spun into a wall, and then we held the sobbing fifteen-year-old driver between us, promising him that his mother and the ambulance would be there soon, while he died our arms. In a notorious block tower that would redraw the outlines of your image of humanity, a junkie pulled a syringe on me — we weren’t even interested in him, it was his brother we were after, and the conversation had seemed to be proceeding along normal lines until his hand moved too fast and suddenly there was a needle against my throat. While I stood frozen and sweating and praying wildly that neither of us would sneeze, Cassie sat down cross-legged on the reeking carpet, offered the guy a cigarette and talked to him for an hour and twenty minutes (in the course of which he demanded, variously, our wallets, a car, a fix, a Sprite and to be left alone); talked to him so matter of factly and with such frank interest that finally he dropped the syringe and slid down the wall to sit across from her, and he was starting to tell her his life story when I got my hands under control enough the slap the cuffs on him.

The girls I dream of are the gentle ones, wistful by high windows or singing sweet old songs at a piano, long hair drifting, tender as apple blossom. But a girl who goes into battle beside you and keeps your back is a different thing, a thing to make you shiver. Think of the first time you slept with someone, or the first time you fell in love: that blinking explosion that left you crackling to the fingertips with electricity, initiated and transformed. I tell you that was nothing, nothing at all, beside the power of putting your lives, simply and daily, into each other’s hands.

— Tana French, In the Woods

Echo is back! Regeneration by Stacey Berg

Her muscles ached from too long an effort with no fuel and insufficient water, and her head pounded without mercy. Even the movement of air in and out of her lungs hurt, as if she had inhaled fire. But that pain meant she was breathing, and if she was breathing, she still had to fight.
Regeneration by Stacey Berg

Echo Hunter 367, the woman who learned how to have faith in something different in Dissension, has returned in Regeneration to learn new lessons and bang her head even harder against her own fears and hopes.

It’s no secret that I love this character. She speaks to me in lots of ways: she’s stubborn, she’s brave, she’s not always doing the smart thing, she finds herself having to be more than she thinks she is. I write about identity and choice, and I look for them in the stories I watch or read. And also fighting and yearning and love, because yes I am a smoodgy romantic too. So it goes. Lovely thing about stories: room for so many things.

Congratulations to Stacey on the publication today of Regeneration. You can read an excerpt here, and I’ll also point you to this post about the book at the Harper Voyager site that considers choice and consequence as the shaper of stories in books and real life. I like big choices in stories, whether “big” means that things explode or that someone puts down her tea without drinking and thus ends a conversation and a relationship and closes a door in her life. I like stories in which people make choices, try hard, give up, stand up, try again. I also like it when they dance.

Full disclosure: I’ve worked with Stacey as an editor on both Dissension and Regeneration, so I am in no way unbiased. Oh well (smile). I love the characters and their story, and I hope you love them too.

Enjoy your day. Dance if you want to. Read something wonderful, whatever that may be for you.

Site rescue by Wordfence

A shoutout to the folks at Wordfence who cleaned up my site files after an insidious malware attack that has kept this space blank for more than a month.

You know when the Old People settle in around the fire and nod sagely as they tell the Young Folk to always keep a carbon copy of their story before they send it out in the mail? Or always make a backup file? Or don’t get all exuberant about adding plugins to your self-hosted site and inadvertently invite some Bad Scripts in? All those things, kids.

So Wordfence cleaned up the mess and I’m now running their security plugin and I will Never Fail To Update My Damn Files Again. They are great to work with if you should ever find yourself in a similar situation, which I hope you never do. Thanks oodles to the people who send out malicious code for this learning opportunity. I sincerely hope that this ends the lesson.

Down through the wood, where the primroses

…he woke to realize that there was a rabbit lying quietly beside him–no doubt some young buck who had come to ask his advice. The sentry in the run outside should not really have let him in without asking first. Never mind, thought Hazel. He raised his head and said, “Do you want to talk to me?”

“Yes, that’s what I’ve come for,” replied the other. “You know me, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course,” said Hazel, hoping he would be able to remember his name in a moment. Then he saw that in the darkness of the burrow the stranger’s ears were shining with a faint silver light. “Yes, my lord,” he said. “Yes, I know you.”

“You’ve been feeling tired,” said the stranger, “but I can do something about that. I’ve come to ask whether you’d care to join my Owsla. We shall be glad to have you and you’ll enjoy it. If you’re ready, we might go along now.”

They went out past the young sentry, who paid the visitor no attention. The sun was shining and in spite of the cold there were a few bucks and does at silflay, keeping out of the wind as they nibbled the shoots of spring grass. It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.

“You needn’t worry about them,” said his companion. “They’ll be all right–and thousands like them. If you’ll come along, I’ll show you what I mean.”

He reached the top of the bank in a single, powerful leap. Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom.

— Richard Adams, Watership Down

Safe travels to all the writers and musicians and actors and everyone who has gone into the woods. Primroses for everyone. Thanks to them for the joy and wonder and sorrow and hope and exultation and all the other extraordinary feelings of being human that flowed out of them before they leapt to the top of the bank and away.

Faking it is a bullshit way to become a pro writer

I'm just as real as everyone else! (image from about a million Pinterest sites)
I’m just as real as everyone else! (image from about a million Pinterest sites)

(Hey, guess what? You can now find The OtherLife Journals on Medium!)

One of the biggest mistakes I made as a brand-new screenwriter with a real project at stake was that I was afraid to ask questions about my craft and my role. What did Real Movie People expect from a professional writer? I had no idea. I knew it was my job to write the script, but that’s like knowing your job is to wash the car. What do real car-washers do? Where do they start? What are the best tools? What are the most important parts to get right? Where’s the gruff-but-kindly gum-chewing grey-haired woman in greasy overalls who gives me a bucket and tells me Kid, make sure you close the windows tight, don’t use a stiff brush, and remember who owns the car?

I got instructions on proper screenplay formatting from books. I found lots of internet posts about the importance of pithy, active, visual storytelling, which were inspiring but not by themselves terribly useful. What I badly needed was specific writing advice on structuring screen stories, sequences and scenes driven by clear externalized goals.

Hard-won pro tip #1 to character-driven-novelists-turning-screenwriters: Feelings are not plot. You need both. I’m sorry. You actually need both in novels too, but you can get away with, for example, a single plot event engendering a whole chapter of feelz. This prose strategy, like so many, is not directly transferrable to scripts, and will not create a selling screenplay for you. Ask me how I know. ←

I also badly needed specific working-writer advice on attitude and approach. Who gets to decide what the story is? As the writer, was I supposed to fiercely defend the movie in my head against all challenges? Or was I supposed to change things up every time someone said boo? Were some people’s notes more important than others? If people didn’t understand the story, or didn’t like it, or wanted to change it, did that mean I was a bad writer? Wouldn’t everyone love it if it were good enough?

I needed to learn everything. But I was afraid to slow down and ask anyone. So I dove in and learned by doing, as I have done with most everything in my life. This is a great skill to have when you need it, when you have to make a wild-ass leap and take your best shot before you are ready. It is a bullshit way to become a professional.

I flailed my way into a place where people began responding to parts of the script with enthusiasm, and I didn’t feel so panicked all the time. What I should have done right then, the very first non-panicked minute, was find the best screenwriting workshop I could (I highly recommend this one), read the hundreds of scripts I should already have read by that point, hunt down writing analysis of scripts online, and et cetera. But I didn’t. Instead I started figuring out by myself what parts of my script people were liking, and how to apply those same principles to the parts that they didn’t.

As I continued to write version after version of OtherLife, I did learn some good craft from notes, from conversations, from blog posts, from sheer stubbornness. Unfortunately, I also learned a bunch of bad craft from those same sources. Most people who gave me specific notes were not working writers themselves, and didn’t know jack shit about how to fix what was troubling them. That didn’t stop them from giving me specific writing instructions, which I did my best to execute because they were producers and managers and agents: they knew what successful films looked like, and I assumed, hoped, clung to the belief that this meant they knew what worked in scripts.

Well, sometimes they did, and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes they were simply chasing money: a distributor was looking for a film that did x, and if we did x with our film they would read it. So off I went and did x to the best of my ability, often without the right tools. I wrote a lot of perfectly mediocre scenes — good story ideas uninterestingly executed, or over-explained, or too tightly packed because my developmental producer recoiled at anything that smacked to him of exposition.

Hard-won pro tip #2: Explaining is necessary in movies. We need context. We can’t read the minds of characters on screen like we can in novels. And showing — action without words — is important but not usually emotionally sufficient. At some point someone has to explain themselves, or the situation, or the other person, plainly enough that we get it. This is exposition. The skill is in doing it so that it becomes integral to the film moment we are in: the “visitor’s hall/science exhibit” of Jurassic Park is brilliant exposition, pure infodump wrapped in the skin of a theme park thrill ride. Context revealed through conflict — another excellent strategy for exposition, for great examples see every episode of Firefly — is something I understood intuitively early on, but had no vocabulary or conscious tools for. Understanding is good, but having conscious tools and knowing when to use them is what makes you a pro. ←

Other times, when told to do x, I had to stand my my ground and explain that x would completely derail the film because of the changes we would need in the rest of the script to support x if they wanted x make any fucking sense to the audience. Have you seen those movies where things just suddenly…happen? Those Wait, what? moments — that’s someone’s x, right there.

Hard-won pro tip #3: Even small changes to plot and character ripple forward and backwards through the script. This is just the same as short stories and novels, so stick to your guns and be super-specific about what Big Thing will break if this little thing is wodged into the script to make the distributor happy. Because when that Big Thing doesn’t make sense on the screen, no one will blame the distributor. They may not blame you either, but if you didn’t fight for it you will blame yourself. If they insist on the wodging, then do your best to handle the ripples, no matter how inclined you are to let them hang themselves with their own stupid choice. Because it’s your script until they take it away from you; and when they do, don’t you want it to be as strong as it can be even with its fractures? Because that’s your job. ←

Sometimes the people giving notes were absolutely right about the problem, but didn’t offer solutions. They were respecting my role as the writer: they expected me to go away and fix it. That was scary. I could handle trying to implement someone else’s ideas, and I could handle sticking to my guns when I knew an idea was fundamentally broken. But I didn’t know how to do pro-level diagnosis and identify the best solutions, because I hadn’t learned enough and I wouldn’t stop to get that help. Instead I went back to flailing. Sometimes I stumbled onto the right path, and I’m pretty proud overall of the script that made the Australian producers and director want to take on the film. But I could have gotten there much faster.

What was I so afraid of? Well, the surface-level fear was that I had to appear totally professional or I would be replaced. This fear is not unfounded: professionalism is a real thing, especially in a process-oriented creative industry. People making production decisions want a team they believe will do the job without babysitting or personal drama. This belief is based on some combination of credits, reputation, and previous working relationship. That’s one reason it’s such a hard business to break into (for anyone in any creative and/or technical role), and why I was afraid of shooting myself in the foot.

I spent two years terrified on a regular basis of being fired from the project. I didn’t realize until much later that the producers weren’t likely to hire a more professional writer unless another studio, mini-major, or distributor with deep pockets came along, because there would be no more development money until then. Even so, they had the right to replace me: and I knew that anyone bankrolling the film would replace me as part of the deal unless I could be That Perfect. So I continued to wrestle through on my own, with all the big mistakes and stress that any reasonable person except me would have seen coming like a mile-high train down five miles of straight track. Every time I got critical feedback about all the things that were wrong, I felt sad and angry and afraid, and sometimes I made dumb writing choices out of those feelings. Every time I got positive feedback about how someone loved the script, it reinforced my belief that my approach was the the right one: look, I was a better writer! Until the next round of criticism or rejection.

And I didn’t understand that all I had to do was to learn from others. It astonishes me now. I’m good at learning, and I’m good at helping other people learn. It’s one of my great strengths, and for years I turned it inside out and made it into a great weakness. I bought into the idea that in order to survive, I had to “just know” what I was doing. I believed that “acting as if” would magically transmute into “being real” someday. I believed that if I couldn’t do it all by myself, I wasn’t really a writer. And so I couldn’t be vulnerable: not to OtherLife people, not to other writers, not to anyone.

I cannot overstate how abysmally stupid this is. And I have lately come to understand that I have done it before, and that it has been the single biggest slowdown to my learning and growth as a writer and as a human being.

Hard-won pro tip #4: Do not make this choice. ←

I know where a lot of this “need to do it myself” comes from. I don’t think the underlying psychology is special or particular to me. I do think it’s frighteningly counterproductive. It is based in fear, and fear does not help us grow and improve as humans or writers or anything else. Ever. There are better ways to learn, in which we must be brave enough to reach out to others for help; to make mistakes; to practice until we get it right, however long it takes; to deal with how fucking long it takes sometimes; to keep going. We have to do our own work: but we do not need to be driven by fear off the nearest cliff just to prove that we can fly all by ourselves — or to prove that at least we know how to take a landing.

So I’m learning.

The OtherLife Journals are a series of chronologically-random posts about writing, selling, and making the film OTHERLIFE. One woman’s view of the wild ride of indie filmmaking. Find them on this blog or on Medium.

Development hell

Aha, you’re fucking with me now, aren’t you? (image from The Breakfast Club)

Think of development hell as an infinite spin cycle. You are going to the Best Party Ever as soon as your laundry is done. Your amazingly cool shirt is too damp to wear but if you can just wait another 15 minutes… Oh good, it’s dry! But the wash cycle has left a spot on it, so you have to run it through again. It only takes 45 minutes: there’s still plenty of time to get to the party. Then the cat hoiks up a bile-yellow hairball on your jeans. That’s okay, you have another pair! Then your shoe breaks. But your hobby is cobbling (I think I said a really true thing about the entire indie film industry right there). You fix your shoe with a leather needle you had squirreled away in your junk drawer. You feel triumphant because you knew that needle would come in handy someday, no matter that it pokes you in the finger and makes you bleed all over your shoes.

And you dress and you’re sweaty and hopeful and excited, and you arrive at the Best Party Ever — and no one else is there. They all met another script that is throwing an Even Better Party than yours. You are not invited.

This happened for about eight years with OTHERLIFE.


My experience of indie development hell is:

Hell is other people’s checkbooks.

Hell is other people’s schedules.

Hell is other people’s need to attach themselves to 57,000 projects, thereby ensuring from their perspective that they will not miss whatever turns out to be the best party. This means you get two seconds of their attention per year, but because they are attached, you have to run things by them. Bonus points when they promise to read the script this weekend and get back to you on Monday, which ensures that you are too anxious on Monday to get any meaningful work done. About a year later you realize that “Monday” means “no.”

Hell is other people’s belief that female-driven films don’t interest men and therefore will not make any money. Apparently women do not go to the movies or have any desire to see realistic, complex women characters in films. Apparently all men who go to the movies are 15 years old, straight, and interested only in breasts and blowjobs. And if any grownup men did go to the movies, they would want to see movies about themselves because men are more interesting than women. Don’t believe it? When’s the last time you saw an interesting movie about a woman? The people who tell you these things are some of the same people who complain with no apparent irony that there are no interesting movies being made anymore.

Hell is other people’s egos.

Hell is your ego.

Hell is your belief that you will never write a film that will interest anyone because you are an unproven untrained middle-aged woman who wants to write about women, and we know how well that usually turns out.

Hell is your disbelief that you have to justify the reality of your women characters to so many producers, managers, executives and readers. When you get notes about the character not being likable because she raises her voice to a man, you have a vertiginous moment of feeling like you in are in a movie yourself.

Hell is your lack of experience which makes it very hard to separate good notes from bad ones. When you try to hide this lack of experience by treating all notes as equally important, your script becomes what is technically known as a giant spaghetti mess. You are the writer. This is your fault. In all seriousness, it is.

The hard part of development hell is knowing that if I were a better writer, my script would make people put aside their other 56,999 projects, stop tweaking, dive in and get this fucker made. But development hell happens a lot in indie productions because the script is almost there, has a good concept or a compelling character, and with a little work…It’s almost dry. It just needs a little spin.

There are plenty of reasons movies go off the development rails. OTHERLIFE was set up at a major studio and then put into turnaround, meaning that the studio decided so firmly not to make the film that they wrote off the costs and sent the script home from the party. Turnaround is bad because it sends a signal that the script may not be strong enough to engender confident financing: even if the script is not the real problem, the signal of unconfidence is still a real signal.

Also, if someone else wants to make the script, they now have to take on those sunk development costs. In spite of this, OTHERLIFE was nearly financed multiple times by multiple people with big checkbooks who would have signed off on all those zeros if only we could get (insert Big Famous Name) to direct or star. We showed the script to a lot of those Big Names. We had a lot of conversations about notes, about improvements, about tweaking this or that element of the script to make it better.

Development hell happens because people have faith in your script. It happens because people commit and work hard and keep trying. It happens because an amazing director (I’ve had four) with one or two films under their belt sees your film as a great opportunity to actually get something interesting made… with a little work. It happens because a producer (the count of OTHERLIFE producers is in the double digits) who wants to make great films finds something in yours that they think could be worth investing months or years of their lives in trying to realize. We had a couple of people who were just slipstreaming on the script, attaching themselves because someone at a party mentioned it and they thought they might be missing out on an opportunity (this is a true story). Those people directly contributed to slowdowns in development. Development demons, if you will. But most of the people who have crossed paths with OTHERLIFE have been good, smart, creative, passionate folks who want to make movies because it’s hard and meaningful and fun. Those people are goddesses and gods to me, every single one of them who ever touched this script or believed in the project.

We were close-but-no-cigar so many times, and some of those people who believed in the script stopped believing, and moved on. Sometimes that was my fault: I was the writer who couldn’t make the script better. That’s a special hell.

But I’m learning (more about which soon). That’s part of what these journals are for: to figure out what I’ve learned, to get better, and to share those lessons so that maybe other writers can benefit. Today I will say that development hell brings its own set of lessons. One of the biggest is that as a writer, so much of development is outside your zone of control — those schedules, those egos, those dollars. So the part that’s in your control — the writing — had better be fucking perfect. No excuses. No matter what. Sometimes all you can be in charge of is whether you suck it up and do it again and learn. So be the great big boss of that.

The OtherLife Journals (OLJ) are a series of chronologically-random posts about writing, selling, and making the film OTHERLIFE. One woman’s view of the wild ride of indie filmmaking.

The 4 AM Blind Panic Just Keep Swimming Blues

The Abyss
The Abyss. Perfect metaphor.

I knew that SOLITAIRE-the-script would be different from the book, although during the first year that the script was in development, I (predictably) indulged in the fantasy that the differences would be superficial. I wanted Ko. I wanted Solitaire-the-club. I wanted Jackal and Snow and Estar and Crichton and Scully and Razorboy and pink-haired Drake. Just writing their names here evokes them for me; all these years later, they are so real to me. But none of them were in the draft of SOLITAIRE that I read, or in the OTHERLIFE that you’ll see on screen. I’m truly good with that. They live in my heart and head (and also, I hope, in some of yours). And it turns out film scripts are difficult enough without putting them under the impossible burden of an un-filmable story.

If I had known how hard screenwriting is, I’m not sure I would have given Tommaso such a strong pitch to let me do the rewrite. And yet, one of the patterns of my life has been that sometimes the universe opens an unexpected door and invites me to walk through. I get to choose, but it’s a real choice: no door stays open forever, and they all lead to places of change that are not predictable in outcome. Those doors have led to my greatest joys, and my greatest failures, and my greatest tests. They have been the making of me.

I think this happens to a lot of people. I think most lives are tales of what happened when we were expecting other things. It’s not the door itself that is the story: it’s whether we walk through, and what we find. I don’t know about you, but often my initial thoughts are Oh wow this is going to be so cool WAIT WAIT SHIT what’s that over there? OMG that thing I’ve been so scared of for so long? That thing is what I just signed up for. I am SO FUCKED. It’s like walking out your front door and dropping into the Mariana Trench. Time to swim like hell.

I’m a good prose writer. My particular skills are in character, relationship, psychological nuance, the big impact of small choices. I can parse those things and write them down in 1,000 or 25,000 or 100,000 words. I basically swim in character soup when I’m writing. And characters are the heart of a good script: but making their stories come alive demands a different kind of writing excellence. I didn’t know this when I started the rewrite. I didn’t know how to construct a screen story. I didn’t know how to build visual narrative grammar. I didn’t yet know that Act 2 would long be a vast desert of Okay, Now What? I wasn’t just ignorant: I had the special self-assured ignorance of the expert who thinks that her tools will fit any situation.

The self-assurance lasted one day and one page into the rewrite. The second morning, I got up at 4 AM, made tea, put on my headphones, stared in blind panic at the terrible awfulness of the previous day’s work, and started swimming like hell. I worked every day for six weeks from 4AM to 6PM, stopping only when Nicola made highly unreasonable demands on my time and energy (you know, things like We should eat lunch now.) I was exhausted and scared and the only thing I knew how to do was keep going.

And you know what? I also had so much fun. I wrote things that I thought were pretty good. They weren’t, not really, but they were on the path to good. The experience of that script was like the swimming lessons I had when I was little, where the Nice Teacher opens her arms and says Swim to me! The terror when she steps back farther every time and you know you will never close the distance. The exhilaration when you do.

I met my deadline. I sent the script to Tommaso. He responded with a very polite version of What an interesting mess you’ve made! Which I was rationally expecting, and which still gutted me. He gave me notes. I made changes. Notes. Changes. Notes. Changes. The baby writer out in the deep, swimming like hell for an unseen shore.

The OtherLife Journals (OLJ) are a series of chronologically-random posts about writing, selling, and making the film OTHERLIFE. One woman’s view of the wild ride of indie filmmaking.

Read this book: Dissension by Stacey Berg

Stacey Berg Dissension CoverIt’s been ages since I’ve talked about a book or film or TV series I love. I want to start doing more of it, as I find them.

Let’s start with Dissension by Stacey Berg.

For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.

When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt. For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill.

Full disclosure: I had the pleasure of editing this book in an earlier draft before it was acquired by HarperCollins. I loved it then, and I love it even more after the work that Stacey did with her terrific team at Voyager Impulse to bring the book home. This is a book that pushes all my happy buttons as a reader. A novel driven by people making high-stakes choices and experiencing the consequences. A woman finding her identity. A human being diving deep into challenges of loyalty, love, trust, and survival. Lovely writing, big feelings, small joys, humor, grief, persistence. A compelling cast of characters.

If you liked Solitaire or Dangerous Space, I think you’ll like Dissension. I feel like Stacey is a sister explorer of the same human territory that fascinates me. This book has made me laugh, and weep, every time I’ve read it.

You can read the first chapter hereDissension is available Tuesday, March 15 on Kindle, and in paperback on Tuesday, April 12. I hope you read it, and I hope you love it as much as I do.

Enjoy your day.