inasmuch as it concerns Book Reviews:
I read a lot and I have opinions.
this fictionette missed its usual bus out of the garden of eden
- 1,120 wds. long
Ahoy, I got yer Friday Fictionette right here. The one I was supposed to have out on the 14th. It's called "In the Infinite Shadows of Eden" and it's the inevitable Adam-and-Eve pastiche. Don't most writers eventually write one? (Please don't tell me otherwise.) Mine features a reluctant Eve and a mission-driven Adam. It also includes a brief but significant cameo by Lilith. (Subscriber links: ebook | audiobook)
Today went to plan in that, hey look, the overdue Fictionette has arrived, and I got to have dinner-anna-movie with John. Not one or the other! Both. Today did not go to plan, however, in that I missed my usual bus to Longmont (bad), ran into an old friend at a cafe (good), very much did not enjoy the movie (bad), and wound up ranting with John about how bad the movie was and how good it could have been (fun).
(The movie was Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I expected a mediocre book adaptation mitigated by that fantastic Burtonesque surreality to which I had been accustomed since a childhood viewing of Beetlejuice. I honestly did not expect an all-around painfully bad movie that failed on every single point you might name. I want to reread the books now. They were better. You say, "Of course the books were better," but frankly, as books go, they weren't particularly stunning. Still, they were better.)
Tomorrow involves no appointments and no buses. No doctor's offices. No work being done on the car. Just me, here at home, doing the writing thing. Just that until go-time for Tuesday roller derby practice. A NORMAL TUESDAY, Y'ALL. *hugs the normal* I expect good things.
advice to alternate universe me
Note to self: Do not begin Frances Hardinge's Cuckoo Song as bedtime reading because you WILL NOT be able to put the book down (it was almost every bit as good as advertised) unfinished, and a night of only four hours of sleep is not conducive to getting anything productive done the next morning.
Possibly this is a note to an alternate universe version of myself for whom the advice does not yet come too late.
It really was a very good book.
scaling Mt. Overdue while appreciating the scenery
- 1,046 wds. long
- 978 wds. long
- 100 wds. long
As promised, the Friday Fictionette report. First off, it's a new month, which means not just a new Seal o' Piracy (see previous blog post) but also a new Fictionette Freebie. The freebie for May is "A Week in the Life of a Simple Houseplant" (that's the PDF; download the audio here). I have only just now released it, I'm afraid.
I have also only just now this morning released the Friday Fictionette for the first week of June, "Father Frank's Peaceable Kingdom," which slots in somewhere between the world with Spreading Sentience Syndrome and the world of "Priesthood Has Its Privileges." It's kind of a fairy tale (things must happen three times; Goldilocks must find things Too Big and then Too Small before she encounters Just Right) and it's kind of a satire and, if you read the full text, you might note that it is firmly ignoring the semi-recent changes to the Catholic liturgy. Author's privilege. Nyah.
Fictionette Artifacts for May will be produced and mailed over the first half of this week. Next week. Whatever you call the week that starts with the Monday that's two days from now.
Last week (the week beginning with the Monday that was five days ago) wasn't exactly great for me, I'm afraid. A lot of nothing got done, which means I'm now, and have been for some time, in catch-up mode. But not scrambling catch-up mode, if that makes sense. If I think about it as a week of being not lazy, not hopeless, but rather mildly ill, then it follows that I shouldn't punish myself over having been unproductive or getting things done late. Nor does it make sense to expect myself to get all the overdue things done now now now. Oddly, as a result, I am getting the overdue stuff done about as quickly as when I scramble, but there's a lot less stress and self-loathing involved. Funny how that works.
In other news, or at least other thoughts...
I have just finished rereading the Welcome to Night Vale book, which is gorgeous and funny and gorgeous. If you already like the podcast, you will undoubtedly like the book. I do, and I expected I would, and I did. If you don't care for the podcast, you might still like the book, depending on why you don't like the podcast. The book is not in Cecil's voice nor from Cecil's point of view--Cecil isn't even an active character in the book, just an intermittent voice in the background commenting on the goings-on. He's just a voice on the radio, about which the other characters think, and not always in complimentary terms. So if you're not fond of listening to Cecil on the podcast, you might still like the book.
But if you're really not fond of the sense of the absurd that is the main stand-out feature of the podcast, then you probably won't like the book. If anything, the weirdness is even more front and center, as the narrator of the book isn't constrained, as Cecil is constrained on the podcast, by the fiction of talking to an audience of Night Vale residents who presumably already know about hot milk drawers, the process for pawning an item, or why a cell phone might occasionally cause you to bleed, and thus don't need a radio show host telling them about it.
It's a book about time, and how time is weird. But it's also a book about motherhood, with its anguished uncertainties and its hopeless yearnings and its joys. It's about families, and memories, and growing up. It's about taking responsibility. (All of these are, really, subcategories under the larger heading "Time is weird.") The book quietly blossoms into poetic observations about love and life and loss and the human condition which can just sucker-punch you right in the feels. Like...
Yesterday, she had called the Sheriff's Secret Police and reported her car and her son missing. When asked for a description of the car, she described colors and shapes. This matched the police's understanding of what a missing burgundy Ford hatchback looked like. When asked for a description of Josh, she cried. That matched their understanding of what a missing teenage son looks like.
That was when I had to set the book down and sort of stare at the wall for a few seconds. The wall was unaccountably blurry.
Another thing about the book is, it ends gloriously. Just the most beautiful last two pages, and the most upliftingly gorgeous last line ever.
So. I'm not going to tell you you should read it, but I'm going to quietly sit here and think that you really, really should read it.
there is a sound of electric feedback and footsteps walking across a darken
- 1,085 wds. long
[insert tapping noise and cliched quip about microphone testing here]
Er. Hi. So... writing! How about it? I hear this blog is supposed to be all about actually doing that thing.
Haven't touched the new short story in some time. It keeps falling off the back of the priority list while Other Things take over. I've been thinking about it, though--and while they say (and they say true) that "thinking about writing isn't writing," thinking can help prepare the way for the writing. Hopefully when I finally get to finishing the draft (this week! Maybe?) some of that thinking will show up on the page.
I did get last week's Friday Fictionette out on time, more or less. It's called "How Fetches Become Real" and it's sort of like the first act of The Unlikely Ones (Mary Brown) meets the last act of The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams). So that's fine. What I'm embarrassed about is how late I am at getting the Fictionette Artifacts ("fictionettes in your mailbox, typewritten and illustrated by me!") into the mail. This is something that matters to exactly two people in the world so far; to them, my apologies. Tomorrow! The mail will go out... tomorrow, betcher bottom dollar that tomorrow... there'll be mail... *ahem*
So, with very little to report on the writing front, how about a book review? Semi-review? A book report, maybe? I just finished reading T. Kingfisher's The Raven and the Reindeer. In fact, I've been on a bit of a T. Kingfisher binge, because why haven't I read everything by her yet? Well, get on that! So I am. It is now my absolute favorite retelling of "The Snow Queen," and it had Kelly Link's "Travels with the Snow Queen" ("Ladies. Has it ever occurred to you that fairy tales are hard on the feet?") to contend with for that title. So very much is right about it. From the start, Gerta is introduced as a young girl with a crush on her oldest friend, with all the uncertainties and squirming insides and embarrassment and worry that comes with. Not to mention that naive blindness to Kay's faults, the willingness to explain away the ways he's careless with her feelings because he is everything she always wanted and without wanting him who would she be? My heart went out to her and stayed with her the whole way through.
Kingfisher's treatment of the robber girl, here named Janna, was superb. I can't get over how much depth and complexity she's given. Plus she and the protagonist are my OTP, y'all, I have shipped them in my little fannish heart forever, and here Kingfisher has put their romance right on the page, growing from tiny seeds of discovery into an engine of courage that drives both characters to suffer any hardship necessary out of love for each other. (Speaking of which--there is no nonsense on these pages about Gerta's greatest strength being her "purity" and "innocent heart", thank you very much Hans Christian Andersen. What a burden of expectation to put on a child! Kingfisher's Gerta is no angelic paragon, thank goodness. She's a teenage girl full of emotions and insecurities and desires, some of which desires are unashamedly sexual.
Gerta's journey has the explicit purpose of rescuing Kay, but that's not the most important thing it accomplishes. Gerta's journey is about Gerta growing up and discovering who she might choose to be.
And then there's the titular raven and reindeer, and what the latter gives to Gerta, and lessons learned about death and life, and there's a whole troupe of otters who are utterly adorable, and and and everything is fantastic. And I was having a tough day, the day I finished reading it, and the book made me cry happy tears at the end, which is always a good remedy for a day that involved crying not-happy tears. It sort of transmutes the weepiness into beauty, detaches the tears from the hurtful experience and reattaches them to a transcendently enjoyable one.
TL;DR: I really liked this book and heartily recommend it.
springing forward and marching ahead
- 995 wds. long
Things are getting back on track around here, and not a moment too soon. Daily writing things got done throughout the weekend and right up through today. I'm getting ready to send all the recently rejected short stories right back out into the fray, and I'm wrapping up the end-of-month fictionette tasks. On that note, I've designated "It's That Little Something Extra" as the Fictionette Freebie for the month of February 2016; follow that link to the full text in HTML, and follow links you will find there for the PDF and MP3 options. (I make one fictionette free for everyone at the end of every month, but it's subscribers only who get to download all four per month the moment each comes out. And now you know.)
On that note, I've spent much of today's afternoon shift typing up two of the February fictionettes on my typewriter, getting them ready to mail to my two Patrons at the fictionettes-in-your-mailbox level, and I have to say that there's nothing like manually typing up a piece of fiction to become painfully aware of all the "favorite words" (continue, achieve... what else? I forget now) and the places where I probably could have phrased things more compactly. And then there's the times where I misanticipate the next phrase and end up just going with it because I don't want to spend time and corrective tape fixing it. All of which just goes to show that these typewritten Fictionette Artifacts are entirely limited edition specimens with unique typographical features all their own. *ahem*
In other news, I finally read The Interior Life by Katherine Blake (Dorothy Heydt). It was my first Perk purchase--which is to say, I redeemed Perk (née Viggle) points for a gift card, and I used the gift card to buy the book. Winning! But that's not the point. The point is that this is a dang good book. It's a book the likes of which you don't see every day. Jo Walton wrote a lovely review of it at Tor.com about six years ago, about the way it's really two stories that move along side-by-side, and one of those stories is entirely in the domestic "housewife" domain--Painting the walls! Doing laundry! Trying out recipes in advance of hosting parties!--and that is honored just as much as the other story's domain of adventure, sorcery, warfare, and derring-do.
When the fantasy quest story cuts into the narrative, it's signaled by a change of font so subtle that the author herself had trouble distinguishing it in the published copy. I noticed it--at least, I got the impression that the type had gotten more compact and slightly "pointy" in the way of serifed calligraphy, but I kept questioning whether I'd really seen it. (A comparison of the letter "e" dispelled any doubts.) Thing is, I love that. The subtlety feels right, echoing the main character's having slid from household chores into a fantasy life without realizing it for maybe a page and a half before she goes "Woah, where did that come from?"
Anyway, I love this book with all my heart. Also, reading it made me suddenly quite eager to clean the frickin' house already. Which is convenient. John started his new job this week, such that instead of working from home as he has for the past couple years, he'll now be working from an office nearby in Boulder. Which means the division of household chores will shift a bit towards me, since he won't be able to do a bit here and a bit there between day job tasks anymore. But I was home and I did do a bit here and a bit there between my work-a-day tasks, and now laundry is done and the compost has been taken out and so have the recyclables and I also did large portion of the weekend dishes.
I am bad-ass, y'all.
Also I will be rereading The Interior Life all over again shortly because I need to fortify myself against spring cleaning.
(Spring! Can we call it spring yet? Is it safe to call it spring? Pleeeeeeease? It's March!)
this fictionette got distracted by an audiobook, sorry
- 997 wds. long
It's ridiculously late, but it's out now: "Mala's Desert Muse," your Friday Fictionette for the second week of December 2015. That link will take you to a brief excerpt of the fictionette, followed by links to download the full-length piece if you're already a subscriber, and links to become a subscriber if you're not one yet and would like to be.
The weekend was extremely full of roller derby, what with the two-day clinic down at the Glitterdome. I learned a lot! It was awesome! And I had no energy for just about anything else all weekend except visiting some friends on the way home from Denver. They were nice visits. They are very nice friends who don't mind me arriving somewhat sweaty and also vague from exhaustion.
I took advantage of the long-ish drive to begin listening to an audiobook of Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Then I just sort of kept listening through my post-derby bath and on my way to sleep. I'm midway through Chapter 15 as of last night. The Overdrive download chops it up into "parts" that don't actually correspond with chapter headings; I've listened through Part 7. I have had people describe this book to me as "another take on Beauty and the Beast," which I suppose is accurate insofar as it goes. It doesn't go nearly far enough. I'm also hearing very strong echoes of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (Goethe, not Disney--or, if Disney, Fantasia, not Nicolas Cage) only not so much the plot thereof as the premise and emotional conflict therein. But there's a lot more going on in Novik's novel than in either tale. I am hooked. I'm desperately looking forward to Part 8 tonight at bedtime.
I downloaded the audiobook, by the way, from the Viggle Store. It is the second thing I've purchased from Viggle, the first being an ebook of Dreams of Shreds and Tatters. (I'm about two-thirds through reading it. It's OK. It could be better. But I do appreciate me some King in Yellow fan fiction.) I've finally gotten the hang of using Viggle efficiently. It involves clicking on bonus ads during my writing stints, playing the Viggle Football game, and using the resources made available by this web site here. (Ssh! Don't tell.) By the time I've listened through all of Uprooted I will probably have enough points to purchase some other wonderful thing. In fact I'm only about 2,000 points away from downloading this wonderful thing, the link to which I include mainly to remind me that I'm interested in purchasing it.
someday i'll be taking the blame for someone else's productivity loss
This is another one of those unfortunate weeks where the Friday Fictionette will have to be a Weekend Fictionette. I could blame yesterday's scrimmage, which was fantastic but left me exhausted enough to use "roller derby recovery" as an excuse to sleep late the next day. I could blame that, but I won't, because that's not the problem. The problem was, when I finally got up, I rolled over, grabbed my library copy of The Bone Clocks, and didn't put it down again until I'd reached the end.
My problem is, I have very little self-discipline around books.
Now, this weekend is a weekend containing no less than eight hours of roller derby doings and a good friend's birthday party, so I'm going to have to be clever about eking out enough time to get the fictionette up while we can still sort of kind of call it December: Week 2. Clever and also somewhat strict with myself. (Alas. It is no fun whatsoever to be strict with myself.) But not so strict that I don't let myself get enough sleep, because, well, roller derby. Athletes need sleep!
But at least I finished the library book, so that temptation is behind me.
The Bone Clocks is by David Mitchell, who also wrote that Cloud Atlas whose movie adaptation everyone was raving about not so long ago. In this book, he's created a huge sort of puzzle box that solves itself for you slowly, piece by piece, over the course of one woman's lifetime. In many ways it felt like a more mature and nuanced version of what Sheri Tepper was trying to do with Beauty. It's got a very similar story structure--at least, superficially so--and it voices very similar concerns. But it strikes a much more convincing balance between "Some things are just wrong, mmkay?" and "It's always more complicated than you think." And when it was over I not only cried a little at the end, but I found myself more prone to crying over other things, both happy and sad, for some time after I'd closed the book. It was as though the book stayed not so much in my conscious thoughts as in my emotional circuitry, magnifying everything else I felt for the rest of the afternoon.
It's either science fiction or fantasy depending on your point of view. Maybe a little of both. It has a science fictional tendency towards exploring future outcomes of present day action. It has a fantastical approach to psionic powers, reincarnation, and the afterlife. It has a terribly realistic viewpoint on disasters both past and present, but it never quite robs the reader of hope. It dangles what feel like hundreds of loose threads over the course of the story, and all but I think two of them get woven back into a satisfying resulotion. (One of those unresolved threads is a real humdinger, though, I gotta say. [ROT13]Pevfcva'f zheqre jnf fhccbfrq gb znxr gur cbrzf trg angvbany nggragvba, ohg gurl ner va snpg arire zragvbarq ntnva.[/ROT13] This bugs. But by the end of the book I wasn't thinking about that. I didn't actually think about it until hours after I'd finished, because everything else about the book was so good.)
It wouldn't be fair to give me all of the blame for my unfortunate binge-reading. I think Mitchell has to shoulder some of the responsibility. He wrote a book that was very, very hard to put down. I'm going to have to wait some time before checking out Cloud Atlas. Purely out of self-defense, you understand. Can't afford to have days like this every day.