Hey all! One of my absolute favorite stories got picked up for a YA Collection called Paradoxical Pets, which features stories about weird and unusual pets, with a definite sci-fi or fantasy setting. My story is Redgie’s origin story, a super smart octopus sidekick in a longer work I’ve been puttering around for a long time. Right now, they’re doing a pre-order of the collection through Kickstarter, and you should totally order your copy now! Don’t worry, the collection gets published whether they reach their goal or not, this just helps defray the cost of the brilliant illustrator they got who put together wonderful images of our pets. I can’t wait to see mine!
And look at this cover! How can you say no to that…
Want to try National Novel Writing Month for the first time? Dooooo it! I’m here for you! What is NaNoWriMo you ask? It’s a chance for writers around the globe to try and write 50,000 words in one month. And if you didn’t know it, Seattle’s NaNoWriMo mascot is the Rubber Duck! I may have way too many ducks, and not enough all at the same time, so you’ll find me at write-ins around the city giving out ducks and competing in word sprints for new ones!
In an effort to help folks get set for the big months, here is a page I wrote ages ago with some pointers for world-building, plotting, and character creation. And if you want to connect with folks, here are some events I’m teaching/facilitating leading up to and during the big month!
- I’m teaching a workshop called “A Scream is worth a 1,000 Words” with the Continuing Ed department at Shoreline Community College in person on the 29th. While it bills itself as horror, it is really focusing a lot on metaphors and usage of emotion and message in your stories, so it’s pretty useful across the board.
- The Shoreline CC Library and I are doing a free “PrepTober” session in person on 10/28 from 5-6 to talk about how to NaNoWriMo!
- Through November, we’ll be doing free in-person Write In Wednesdays at the library where you can come work on your NaNo story! (there will be rubber ducks)
- I’ll also be hosting virtual write-ins through the Neverending Bookshop on Saturdays and Thursdays. You can follow them on facebook for the links!
As always, I’ll be keeping you updated on my progress. I’ve got two big projects in the works for this month, one in cooperation with SETI (yes, alien searching SETI) and a sci-fi novel based around a delightful ship’s mechanic and a ring of unusual properties. (No. Not that kind of ring.)
So! Fun news first: for the first time in a year and a half, I have a day job again. Yay! Trust me, the nonprofit world is BRUTAL right now for trying to get a gig in Seattle specifically. Don’t bother. There were 600 applicants for every 1 position in some cases. So. I went back to the corporate world (boo!) but for a truly cutting edge sci-fi company (yay!) doing people-y things (I understand the first few sentences of the theory before my brain goes to mush.)
With that said, my writing may slow down a bit, I won’t be quite as available to teach or coach, but I think this is the right move for me in this time. It’s a great team, at a really darn cool place, and we’ll see how long I can ride that wave. I HAVE sold 6 new stories, have a bunch that are in second round reading right now, and at last count…2 plays, 8 novels, and 5 novellas in the works, so don’t count me out just yet!
But now you want to know what I’ve been reading over the long silence since my last post. Well:
I recently read all of Charlie Jane Anders’ work, even the ARC of the sequel of her YA, and let me tell you…I’m working on a whole post just about her. For now, the rest of what I’ve been reading and enjoying is below. As always, any books I read and can’t stand go quietly into the night…
- Lady Killers by Tori Telfer
- Never Say You Can’t Survive by Charlie Jane Anders
- Writer to Writer by Gail Carson Levine
- The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maas
- Spellbound by Beauty by Donald Spoto
- The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger
- The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss
- The Awesome by Eva Darrows
- S by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst
- Warlock Holmes by G.S. Denning
- Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger
- Waypoint Kangaroo by Curtis C. Chen
- Killing Floor by Lee Child
- Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
- Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys
- An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
- Victories Greater than Death and Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak by Charlie Jane Anders
- A Dead Djinn in Cairo and the sequels by P. Djeli Clark
- You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo
- The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders
- The Hearts we Sold by Emily Lloyd Jones
- Prime Deceptions by Valerie Valdes
- Ring Shout by P. Djeli Clark
- Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones
- Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey
- Rocks Fall Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar
- Curses by Lish McBride
- Stephen King’s The Shining
- Oil and Dust by Jami Fairleigh
- The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
I know I owe you some book recommendations (and I have a LOT pending right now) but it still needs to wait as I have been dealing with house-hunting, starting a new job, my husband starting a new job, closing on a house, fixing said house so it’s not a fire trap, packing to move into said house, and keeping up with edits from the SIX, that’s right, six stories that have been purchased recently.
The first one out is “Marinel” with Starry-Eyed Press’ new anthology Cosmic Convocation.
To put a cherry on top, I’m first up in the collection! I’ve also got an interview on their blog talking about my writing process and a little bit about the story if you are so inclined to read.
I’ll keep you posted about the other stories and when they go up. And as soon as we’ve moved, I’ll get this next round of book suggestions posted!
Hello again, fellow readers! Welcome back to Rebecca Reads a Thing and Tells You To Read It, Too! It’s been a fun adventure the last few months and I haven’t been able to read quite as much as I might otherwise have liked, but here’s a selection of books I think you should add to your list.
First off, there is Oil and Dust: The Elemental Artist by Jami Fairleigh. I want to call this one out especially, as Jami is a good friend of mine and I had the chance to read the ARC of Oil and Dust before it hit the market. I have since purchased a copy, but want to lay my prejudice out right up front. I’ve known Jami for almost a year now, we met last NaNoWriMo when she attended the write-ins I was hosting on behalf of the Neverending Bookshop, and we just keep doing events together! Not only is she an incredibly pleasant human being, she is also a great writer, and it shows in this debut novel. Oil and Dust is a post-apocalypse story wherein the world (well, the American continent at least) has somewhat recovered into a society of loosely interconnected small towns. Our main character, Matthew Sugiyama, is an Artist, which, in this reality, means he can bend physics to his will with the stroke of his paintbrush. Freshly graduated from the Abbey where he was trained, he sets off into the world to figure out who his family is and find answers to the questions that have plagued him his whole life.
Fairleigh does a fantastic job in this novel with worldbuilding and description. She definitely has an artist’s eye and sensibility when it comes to scene-setting, and she makes the act of painting exciting and intriguing. The artistic bent of the magic system is unique, and very well executed. I get testy if magic systems aren’t fully fleshed out and internally consistent, but Fairleigh does a masterful job of creating and utilizing the art=magic equation. Matthew is a sympathetic character, and though he at times is as self-centered as any 19 year old young man would be, it only adds to the realistic portrait she paints. My only qualm with the protagonist is that he at times seems too aware of his own emotions and analyzes his mental state and motivations better than most therapists. I personally like a bit more of that left up to the reader. Regardless, the struggle and adventure Matthew and his compatriots embark upon is delightful, a true page-turner that left me asking what on alternaEarth was going to happen next. Definitely worth the read!
Now, on to the other books I’ve read recently…
- Domesticating Dragons by Dan Koboldt was a hilarious novel where Jurassic Park meets West World. Definitely a popcorn read, but very enjoyable.
- The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark was a fantastic novella in an alternate history New Orleans with a steampunk flair. Read this. Right now.
- Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir was a different read for me. Felt like Dune meets Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Super far flung post-apocalyptic sci-fi with a predominant necromantic society. It was weird, but awesome. At one point I told my husband it mostly just had the fun bits of Necromancy in it and his response was, “What the **** are the fun bits?!”
- The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune was the best darn middle-aged gay romance story I’ve ever read. I know there is a lot of discussion out there around how the author handled commenting on their inspiration for the story, but, regardless, it’s a gosh darn good book. I have no right to comment on the trauma of the folks who have the problem with book, but I will say that the situations which are fictionalized in the story were happening all over the world at various times, and not just in one place and time. Yes, Klune’s imagination was sparked off of a particularly horrid example of these institutions, but he was also informed by many, many more situations.
- I picked up Banned by the BBC! by Arnold M.D. Levine as research for the new direction my radio play is taking, and was pleasantly surprised by how delightful this book is. I’m usually not one for memoirs, but Levine has a hilarious way with words that had me laughing out loud multiple times. This book takes a look at Levine’s experiences as a land-based pirate radio operator in 1970s London, and how Radio Concord was formed, functioned, and finally, dissipated, through the eyes of the people that loved and nurtured its illegal endeavors. It is clever, and witty, and eye-opening into a sub-culture of London that I was only peripherally aware of prior to reading. Definitely worth the time!
- Blackwing War by K.B. Spangler is a sequel to Stoneskin the only two books Spangler has published that are outside their “Girl and her Fed” storyverse. And not gonna lie, I would read anything by Spangler, it’s always delightful, and I loved Blackwing War as much as all the rest of her writing!
- Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvie Moreno-Garcia is a supernatural romp with Mayan Gods through 1920s Mexico. The lens into Mayan mythology was fantastic, but I did find it a little slow. Could have used more agency on the part of the protagonist, but I still think it’s worth it.
- Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor was great, I always love Okorafor’s work, but this was not her strongest story. Good, enjoyable, but she’s also done better. Start with Binti if you haven’t read her work yet.
- The Ruthless Ladies Guide to Wizardry and Unnatural Magic by C.M. Waggoner are Waggoner’s first two books. They are hilarious, and are in the same vein as Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. A fantastically tongue-in-cheek fantasy world that pokes at our culture’s beliefs and actions through the lens of trolls and magic. I can’t wait for the next!
- Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes came to me by way of Ada Technical Books’ Feminist Science Fiction Book Subscription, which has been sending me amazing books all year. So worth the cost. But back to Chilling Effect. This is an absolutely hilarious romp in space, put me in mind a lot of Firefly/Serenity, if the captain was a Latinx woman who accidentally ends up with a ship full of psychic cats. Yeah. That. It’s a beaut.
But that’s all for now! Go get these books, give them a read, and let me know what you think!
So, if you haven’t found bookshop.org yet, you absolutely should. You get to support your favorite local bookstores (mine is the Neverending Bookstore) while still shopping online. Yeah, it’s not as cheap as Amazon sometimes, but I feel a whole lot better about using it! You can either shop by stores’ curated lists, or you can just buy individual books and attribute the sale to the bookstore. I’m working on curating some lists of my own on it to share with y’all so when you’re in the mood for something new to read, you’ll have my suggestions front and center! (full disclosure, if you buy off one of my lists, I get a small percentage of the sale)
But on to the books I have recently found awesome!
On the Nonfiction side:
- Putting the Science in Science Fiction – a collection of very short essays about various subgenres of science to help you get a handle on those particular fields for writing science fiction.
- Puget Sounds; A nostalgic Review of Radio and TV in the Great Northwest – out of print, but a great historical review of the history.
- Story Craft; The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction – This guide is geared towards helping reporters make the transition to narrative nonfiction, but is super useful for anyone looking to hone that genre.
Plays, since I’m studying up on that form:
- Maize by Judith Pratt
- Smoke & Dust as well as Blood, Water, Paint by Joy McCullough
- Ada & the Engine as well as Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson
- The Female of the Species by Joanna Murray-Smith – make sure you get the right playwright! There’s a few different ones floating out there.
- I’m in love. I have a new absolute favorite author, and her name is Rebecca Roanhorse. Rebecca, if you read this, I totes want to take you out for drinks anytime you’re in Seattle! A native creative, she has two different series up and running, one based in a post-apocalyptic, mad-maxish Navajo nation (Trail of Lightning), and another that uses native mythologies to write far-reaching fantasy epics the same way Tolkein used British (Black Sun). SO FRIGGIN GOOD! I need the next ones, pretty please!
- A Dream So Dark – second in the series, just as good as the first!
- Fledgling – Finally getting around to reading all that Octavia Butler goodness, all thanks to Ada’s Feminist Science Fiction Book Subscription.
- Time Pieces – a collection of poetry by Michael Bishop, currently out of print, but most of them will be appearing in his upcoming collection from Fairwood Press!
- The Relic – a blast from the past that surprisingly is still a really good read.
- Nevermoor and The Wundersmith – A trippy YA alternate world that is just a hoot to read.
- White is for Witching – my first Helen Oyeyemi, so wonderful
Otherwise, I’ve been working on several projects, the Seattle Prohibition project has take a sharp left and split into two very different beasts, so I’m working on both of those, I applied for a grant for one of them. I’ve got an anthology idea I’m shopping around (watch for a call!) and the illustrations for the last two Oz novellas are almost done, woo!! On top of all that, I’m getting a certificate in non-profit management so I can actually start making the differences I want to see in this world. TTFN!
You have to admit, there’s something wonderful about walking into a small local bookstore with a hand curated selection that is simply delightful. And that’s why I love Indie Bookstore Day, it gives you a reason to go out of your way and visit some new stores you maybe weren’t familiar with before. That’s also why I love the comic book passport for Emerald City ComiCon. Well…anything where I can gather stamps and there are prizes, I’m absolutely in, especially when we budget to buy books!
Of course, what would this whole *gestures outside* be without a hitch in the giddyap? Last year, we restricted our visiting to just one new shop: Annie Carl’s Neverending Bookshop. Annie and I hit it off like gas and a match and we’ve not stopped talking since. She’s my go-to for amazeballs books and we’ve recently started talking about a super-secret hush-hush project we’re going in on together. This year, at least for the Seattle challenge, it’s gone virtual! Yeah, I love the actual going to the store, but with the advent of Bookshop.org booksellers can create those wonderfully curated lists and still reap the benefit of sales even while you’re buying your books online. Which means: the challenge is back on!
Seattle’s franchise of Indie Bookstore Day laid out the gauntlet to see who could complete a 10-10-10 challenge. Buy 10 books, from 10 different local bookstores, over the course of 10 days, turn in your receipts, and get a free tote bag! Being ever the over-achiever with a LONG list of books I want to buy, I dove right in and wrapped it up in one long 3 hour internet dive. Because, of course, I’m not going to all these stores’ websites WITHOUT checking out their curated lists. Which is where I pulled seven of my ten titles from, I might add. Well, from Annie’s lists for the Neverending Bookshop and from Ada’s Technical Books sci-fi and fantasy section mostly.
So who were my 10-10 in 1 picks you ask? I thought you’d never get there!
- Ada’s Technical Books where I bought Domesticating Dragons
- Eagle Harbor Book Co. where I bought Cybertext (this relates to that super secret project with Annie!)
- Edmonds Bookshop where I bought House in the Cerulean Sea (I’ve had FIVE people recommend this one to me)
- Elliot Bay Book Company where I bought Gods of Jade and Shadow
- Island Books where I bought Induction (the one by Teshelle Combs, because I am learning to write speculative poetry)
- Neverending Bookshop where I bought The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry
- Phinney Books where I bought Remote Control (I do love me some Nnedi Okorafor)
- Queen Anne Book Company where I bought Unnatural Magic
- Third Place Books where I bought Paprika (the one by Yatsuka Tsutsui)
- aaaand University Bookstore where I bought The Black God’s Drum
I tried to focus on books I wanted to learn from or women creators or creators of color, but added a few others on just because they looked like too much fun not to. And now I need to finish the three books I’m in the middle of at the moment before these start arriving! BTWs, one of those is Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, who is my new favorite, so check her out!
Alright, here we are, back for more reading recommendations from the long months between last May and now. I may or may not have been reading a LOT. And writing a lot. NaNoWriMo was in there somewhere, along with a move, starting a new career as a full time writer and educator, and so so so much more. Who knew staying home during a pandemic could be this busy?!
If you can’t find these in a library and want to buy a copy, I highly recommend ordering through Bookshop.org to help support independent booksellers during this time. It’s where I’m getting most of my physical copies of books now, though I’m reading more and more virtually (easier to read laying down for bed).
All of these books I found riveting, inspiring, and/or nerve-wracking. I’ve grouped them into categories roughly around where you’d find them in a library, but don’t let that stop you from picking any of these up. I enjoyed all of them immensely. Presented in no particular order:
- Pocket Workshop from Clarion West edited by Tod McCoy and M. Huw Evans – a series of essays from Clarion West instructors past
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont – About the writing life, and exactly what I needed in the moment
- The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass – Talking about emotion in writing, beautifully done
- Monster She Wrote by Lisa Kroger – the history of female horror/speculative fiction authors
- The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery – about working with octopuses and a lot of their biology; I may be on an octopus kick
- Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty – about the cremation and funeral industry, absolutely fascinating
YA Speculative Fiction
- Updraft by Fran Wilde – truly unique fantasy
- Wilder Girls by Rory Power – fair warning, this is terrifying, at least for me
- A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow – about Black sirens, super fun
- A Dream So Dark by L.L. McKinney – a modern Black Alice in Wonderland gone punk
- The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud and Andrew Donkin – If Robert Aspirin had written his MYTH series for kids
Other Speculative Fiction
- Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – high fantasy, without the elves and Tolkien influence
- Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb – and sequels, high fantasy
- All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders – Almost surreal modern high fantasy (?) Hard to describe other than excellent
- Shadowrun Novellas by Jennifer Brozek – set in the TTRPG setting of Shadowrun and very fun
- Ordinary Magic series by Devon Monk – Lovely, light hearted urban fantasy
- Putting the Fun in Funeral by Diana Pharaoh Francis – slightly darker urban fantasy
Series I always return to
- Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs – I always pre-order these urban fantasy shifter books
- The Thief Knot and Bluecrowne by Kate Milford (of Greenglass House series) – I just adore these books set in the same magically-real smugglers town
- Come Tumbling Down and Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire – I never get tired of McGuire’s breadth and depth of skill; something for everyone in her various series
- Most recent in the Lizzie Grace series by Keri Arthur – fluffy popcorn urban fantasy, the best kind!
- Most recent in the Blood Trails series by Jennifer Blackstream – I am so invested in this witch urban fantasy series; I always preorder them
- The most recent in the Miss Fortune Mysteries series by Jana DeLeon – Okay, so, EVERYONE I recommend these to adores the crap out of them. 18 strong and counting. If you don’t pick up any other books from this list, go get Louisiana Longshot. I cry laughing reading them, and they are universally excellent. My husband was super skeptical. It took him a grand total of two weeks to read the first 17. Fluffy, funny, exciting, sexy, all of it, with a main character I can really connect with and two old ladies who I wish were my neighbors. Well, maybe a street over so when Gertie burns down her shed, again, I can enjoy the amusement, but not worry about property damage.
That’s it for now folks! I’ll come back with a roundup again sometime when I have the wherewithal to catalog my reading again. TTFN!
Luckily or not, I was sick for the first part of the Seattle social distancing. Probably the unmentionable, but not enough tests. So it goes. But once I’m almost upright again, I ask myself how I am going to entertain myself through the copious hours cooped up with husband and dogs. Catching up on art projects, sewing projects, writing (HAH, like i have the emotional energy for THAT right now), reading…and, oh yeah, my gathered list of things to read just passed 200 on the Amazon wishlist I keep specifically for that. So off to the Libby app to see what I can borrow from my library virtually. Turns out, most of the list. The expensive text books and out of print antiques I’ll save for another day. For now, I’m keeping my holds list maxed out and burning through as many of the list as possible.
Where does this list come from? I know you want to know. Mostly it comes from folks I teach writing to. I have several exercises that asks students–child, teen, and adult–what their favorite books are. And I write them down, or keep the post-its, or however I need to save them from class and then they get added to the list. Also topics I have a passing interest in, I’ll add a handful of “best representations.” Or authors I needed to catch up on Which meant my list to read had grown to absolutely absurd lengths and it was time to do something about it.
Thankfully, I already have a very specific process in place for allowing myself to stop reading a book when I am not enjoying it. I can stop reading at any point, BUT I must be able to explicitly state what it is about the book that just isn’t working for me. Reasons I have stopped reading books from this list so far:
- Choking on the toxic-masculine male gaze
- Very poor copy-editing
- Very poor writing ability
- Was trying to give a genre I don’t normally like a go, but find that it still puts me to sleep as its pacing and content is just not engaging for me
- Unintentional and unaddressed problematic content due to the author’s point of view
- And one notable book that gave me severe anxiety due to the way I identified with it, too much to handle right now
But for every three or four (or ten) books I return to the library started, but not finished, I find there’s one that draws me in and delights me. Those have been, in the reverse order to which I’ve encountered them as I scroll backwards through Libby:
- Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
- Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
- Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine (good book about writing for younger writers)
- Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
- The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopikinson
- Greenglass House by Kate Milford
- The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
- Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy
- A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
- In An Absent Dream and That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire
- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
- Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress
Okay, that was more than I had realized. Some of them, Like Greenglass House and The New Moon’s Arms I immediately went and placed a hold on more of their work, I enjoyed it that much. I currently have a maxed out holds list for ebooks ranging from “Available Soon” to “Available after 9 weeks,” 15 more on my “put on hold when I can” list, and 35 that aren’t available through ebook lending and I’ll either need to wait for the library to open, and yet more that I will have to purchase since the library doesn’t have them in physical form either. I’d say one day I’ll reach the end of this list but I just added 15 from the students I’m working with this week so…probably not!
Oh…wait…I forgot to count the 20+ physical books waiting for me on my to-read shelf out in the living room, too…
I have participated in NaNoWriMo six years now, and of those six, I’ve only “won” three times. 50% sure isn’t a bad finish rate, better than the average participant by a long shot, but there comes a time in November when you either know you’re going to make it, or you are not.
Today, I’m here to tell you that I’m not going to win NaNoWriMo, and that’s totally okay. The other years I’ve failed to hit the 50,000 word goal have been because I’ve had to move in the middle of November (never again!) but this year was a whole other string of unforeseen hurdles. Gremlins might be a more appropriate word.
Work went wahoonie shaped in a big way, requiring much more time and effort and stress than it normally does. I am headed to GeekGirl Con this weekend, and as a one-woman publishing house tabling AND moderating a panel requiring data crunching and a PowerPoint, and included a lot of interpersonal stress around people supposed to be around at the booth. And to top it all off, I am now hunting and pecking this post out on my keyboard because someone didn’t clean up after their dog and guess who fell in it. *Raises my sprained left wrist with wry defeat* Doesn’t help that this is the second time this has happened at my apartment complex…
So there’s no way on earth I’m able to type fast enough, think fast enough, breath well enough to power a story this November. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped writing though, far from it. It just means that this NaNoWriMo instead of coming out with 50k words of story, I’ll come out with maybe 25k words and some good coping mechanisms and a better idea of how to allocate my time…and how to delegate better. And just how much pressure I can handle in one autumn before I want to curl up into the fetal position. For now, I’ll sit here with my left arm in my sling and try to finish getting ready for the Con (thankfully I’m almost there!) and be glad my wonderful husband-creature will be available to lift the heavy boxes during set-up tomorrow.
If you happen to be around Seattle, you should stop by GeekGirl Con! It’s an amazing and wonderfully inclusive con for geeks of all kinds from science to science fiction and the maths of crafts to fantasy cosplay. We’ll be running the Mneme Press booth at booth number 620, and we’ll have lots of games, books for sale, and space for you to write if you’re doing NaNoWriMo.
Happy Writing! (or not!)