Tag Archive | books

A post about women science fiction writers… eventually.

Mary Shelley, arguably the first Science Fiction Writer. (This is relevant to this post.)

Mary Shelley, arguably the first Science Fiction Writer. (This is relevant to this post.)

I love when the premium channels like HBO and Showtime run free preview weekends, because it reassures me that I’m not missing much not subscribing to them. Even if it does mean I have to wait until the DVDs come out to catch up on Game of Thrones. Or read the series of books full of spoilers that bearded guy is writing. Whatever—

Cue record scratch thought derailment sound effect. That (above) was the start of  a Movie Monday post, because my mother has started reading blogs, which is a blog post in itself, and she has been nagging encouraging me to blog more often. It goes like this: “That other blog has a theme for every day of the week. Why don’t you do that? You’re so smart and funny, you should write that in your blog. You would have a lot more followers if you posted more often. This guy has way more followers than you, and he’s a monk.” (I am not even making that up.)

So I sit down to write a Movie Monday post. I’ll write about Ender’s Game, which I watched during the HBO free preview this weekend. Only I went looking for that faux article about George RR Martin writing spoilers for the GOT TV show, and then I found the picture below.


Photo taken (and tweeted) by the amazing artist/photographer Sarah Allegra (@sallegra). It is only tangentially related to this post.

Here follows my exact thought process from that moment until this:

1. Aw, that’s cute! GRRM has a little stuffed dire wolf.  Oh hey, that other guy has a little stuffed unicorn. Oh HEY, that’s Peter S. Beagle author of The Last Unicorn which is an amazing book (and an animated movie, so I guess this is still Movie Monday.) OMG The animals from their books are totally kissing noses! That’s so adorable!

2. Why is that funny? Two venerable old guys being dorks with toys from their books. That sort of makes them cooler. Authors! They’re just like us! Then I’m like, oh yeah, Ender’s Game.

3. Ender’s Game is kind of a venerable book itself, a military science fiction novel that explores the psychology of war and society, pretty much just like Starship Troopers (the novel) did, which also had giant bug-like aliens. I wonder why that is? Is it because the insectoid shape makes them seem true alien and icky, where a more mammalian thing might look like you could have it for a pet?

4. But Starship Troopers (the movie) was more action-y. It also had a lot more decapitations and impalements and also some brain sucking, if you like that sort of thing. Much more than the book.

5. This whole blog has become about venerable white guys who write science fiction and fantasy.  That’s just not right. I need to talk about some women science fiction writers.

6. Which women science fiction writers should I recommend? There’s Anne McCaffrey and Madeline L’Engle of course. Ursula L’Guin and Connie Willis. Would my blog readers be interested in them? I should go look up who are recent women science fiction writers (other than Suzanne Collins).

Literally the first line of A Wrinkle in Time. (This is the book that made me want to write books.)

Literally the first line of A Wrinkle in Time. (This is the book that made me want to write books.)

7. This first Google hit is a list of science fiction FOR girls, which is not the same thing, especially since half these books are by men.

8. THIS list starts with The Handmaiden’s Tale?  Ugh.  Well, there’s Willis and L’Guin. Oh yeah! Octavia Butler. A woman AND an African American. Yes, there’s Andre Norton, C.J. Cherryh, Lois McMaster Bujold. Also Elizabeth Moon. Well, there’s Kristine Kathryn Rusch, those are a little less dusty, more space opera-y. Tanya Huff!  I love her books.

9. These are great books, but kind of… old fashioned. Well, not all of them. I should still recommend them. They’re awesome, and my readers aren’t intimidated by big books.

10. But, still, I should look at YA science fiction and find some contemporary things to talk about, too. Oh, here’s Kirkus’s list of the Best Teen SFF books of 2013. Excellent!

11. Wow, these sound really good. I should put this on my Goodreads list so I remember them.

12. And maybe read a sample chapter…

13: Or two.

14. THREE HOURS LATER, I still haven’t written anything about Ender’s Game.

15. And it’s not even Monday any more.

Friday Faves – The Twisted, The Pretty, and the Yummy

Here’s what’s floating my boat this week. Why? Because “Friday Faves” sounds cool.

1. Gillian Flynn. This is not a YA author. (Not by any stretch of the imagination.) Banner for Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnShe writes books about grisly murders and really twisted up characters. Her book Gone Girl is a best seller, and deservedly so. Her books keep me riveted, not just with the plot twist, but because she’s got this astounding facility with voice.

Also, it is really hard to knock me to a place where I’m staring at the book going “Holy $%^&! I did NOT see that coming.”

[YA disclaimer: I'd rate her books almost an R, not for any graphic sex but for disturbing psychology... in both the killers and the protagonists.]

2. The Immaculate Baking Company.  Oh my GAWD these chocolate rolls are so good.  I literally reward myself for getting up early and going to mass by baking them when I get home. (Appropriate, given the name, I guess.)  Only today is Friday and I’m eating one just because. (They also promote Folk Artists and they have a blog with delicious start-with-our-products-and-make-them-even-more-awesome recipes.)



3. The cheerfulness of Vera Bradley’s Ribbons pattern… and their Pinterest board full of inspiration.


4. These floats, covered entirely in flowers (like the Tournament of Roses parade), from Holland’s Bloemencorso.

Look at that little guy on the bottom, helping out with the grooming. So. Cute.

Look at that little guy on the bottom, helping out with the grooming. So. Cute.

What a cutie.

Speaking of cute. This is. 


5. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. First off, I LOVED that movie. JGL did an incredible job playing young Bruce Willis. His mannerisms and line delivery were dead on.  But I feel like I just discovered this guy. I know he was in Inception (and really great in that, too). But when did he go from being “Wow, that kid from Third Rock From The Sun can really act!” to “Wow, he’s kinda hot as well. A little skinny, but… day-um.”


That’s it for this Friday. I guess I’ll have to pull my head out of my book long enough to find new things to be obsessed with next week. Please make suggestions in the comments. Seriously.

New Year, New Look for Spirit and Dust!

So, guess what?  Spirit and Dust has a new cover!




Here’s the book description:

  Speaking to the dead is nothing for Daisy Goodnight. The living, on the other hand, can occasionally be a problem. Especially when they knock you out, kidnap you, and force you to be their magical police dog. 

   Devlin Maguire—mob boss extraordinaire—has a missing daughter, and Daisy is his first choice to track her down. But he didn’t actually ask her for help. When she woke up in his guest bedroom, she was told. But why her? And who—or what—in the world is the Black Jackal?

I  love this new cover!  The original one was beautiful, but this is fresh and exciting and gets more of the modern supernatural mystery feel.

If you can’t wait for Sprit and Dust to come out (in only four months!) then you can meet Daisy Goodnight in Texas Gothic, where she makes herself indispensable (at least she likes to think so) in her cousin Amy’s investigation of the Mad Monk of McCullough Ranch. (As for whether Amy shows up in S&D… you just have to wait and find out!)


Bookanistas Review: Alien Invasion & Other Inconveniences

FINALLY a Thursday book post. Yes, it’s been that long since I read a YA book. It was a crazy summer y’all. (Yes, we broke the hottest summer on record for the entire country EVER. That crazy.)
You know what else is crazy? A crazy good read, that is?  
Alien Invasion & Other Inconveniences
by Brian Yansky
Summary: It takes ten seconds for the aliens to take over the world. Most humans simply fall asleep and never wake up. In moments, everyone Jesse knows and loves is gone, and he is now a slave to an inept alien leader. On the bright side, Jesse discovers he’s developing telepathic powers, and he’s not the only one. Soon he’s forging new friendships and thinking the aliens may not be invincible after all. But if Jesse and his friends succeed, is there anywhere left to go if the whole world has been conquered?
What I say: This is a slim book and a rocking good story. I’d actually seen this book when it came out (in October last year), and loved the first line: 
It takes less time for them to conquer the world the tit takes me to brush my teeth. That’s pretty disappointing. 
But then I went, eh, present tense, and it went on that permanent ‘maybe when I get to it’ list. Then I met Brian Yansky in Austin a few weeks ago, and he was funny and nice, and I thought, I should read his book. But I was (am) finishing MY book, so it went on the less-permanent ‘definitely when I get to it’ list. And THEN I found out I was moderating a panel at the Austin Teen Book Festival one which Brian Yansky (among others) will be a panelist, and I thought… I hope this is a decent book since I’m going to have to read it now. 
It was. I slurped this down like an extra-coffee caramel frappuchino. It’s got a little bite, a lot of levity, a sweet character, and it’s suitable for kids who don’t think they like coffee… er, books. 
Jesse is a great narrator. He’s likable and resilient, enough of a smart-mouth to be interesting, but not so much that you want to smack him. He’s got a good heart, and apart from the whole “human survival against the alien overlords” thing, I wanted this guy to succeed. Also his narration is spot on–funny and realistic, touching in an understated way. It also keeps things moving a good clip. There’s not a lot of detailed descriptions–either of settings or of deeper feelings–but I didn’t feel cheated. Yansky describes what needs to be described and zips past extraneous details. 
This is a book that will reward a reluctant reader. By which I mean it’s a pretty easy read, full of action and funny dialogue and scary monsters who can kill you with their brains. But it was also a rewarding read for this avid reader, because between the clean simplicity of the storytelling voice, there were real and satisfying emotions. Yansky hits the beats where they count. 
If I have a complaint, it’s that I think the ending could have been a smidge longer. That was the only part I felt a little rushed. But maybe that’s just because I was enjoying the book so much. 
What else are the Bookanistas talking about today? 
Elana Johnson is in a tizzy over Texas Gothic
LiLa Roecker  celebrates Something Like Hope
Christine Fonseca  is transformed by Shifting
Shannon Whitney Messenger takes a shine to So Silver Bright – with giveaway
Scott Tracey is on board for Starship Academy
Beth Revis shouts about The Name of the Star
Shana Silver loves Lola and the Boy Next Door
Sarah Frances Hardy adores Birdie’s Big Girl Dress
Stasia Ward Kehoe takes a fancy to Fracture
Carolina Valdez Miller goes gaga for Glow and Shifting – with giveaway 

New Dawn (New book!)

Now updated through Breaking Dawn…

A New Dawn: Your Favorite Authors on Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Series

Which favorite authors, you may ask?

  • Robin Brande
  • Rachel Caine
  • Cassandra Clare
  • Rosemary Clement-Moore
  • Linda Gerber
  • Cara Lockwood
  • Megan McCafferty
  • K. A. Nuzum
  • James Owen
  • Janette Rallison
  • Ellen Steiber
  • Anne Usru

Wait? What? Yes, THIS favorite author. (More on that in a minute.)

Though “completely unauthorized” (sounds so illicit!), the book is full of some really interesting (and some really funny) critical essays about the series. (Updated because, as you can imagine, many of us had much to say about Breaking Dawn.) Seriously, my mother hasn’t even read the books, and I caught her laughing hysterically over Rachel Caine’s piece.

Linda Gerber explores the real wolf myths, including those of the (real) Quillete Tribe. Megan McCafferty has an interesting essay on the attractions of the bad boy, and whether those are lasting, or passing. Anne Ursu writes a piece that I love about the fantasy of a perfect love. And I write about what Bella Swann has in common with Antigone, Juliet, Ellen Ripley, and Jim Carey. (No. Really.) It’s a purely literary analysis, geeky in the extreme. In other words, it’s still me.

This is for fans of the Twilight series, but I also recommend it for people who want to talk to fans of the series. (Teachers, librarians, moms.) Many of the authors do an admirable job (seriously) of bringing up good points about the characters and relationships while still being respectful of the author, her work, and her fans.

SO, pick it up, or order it from the links at the Smart Pop website.

This entry was posted on October 21, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , .

Book review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I LOVED this book. Let me count the ways.

1) It’s an epistolary novel–that is, written as a series of letters. I don’t know why I love this way of telling a story, but I do. It’s deliciously like eavesdropping, and has such a cozy, familiar voice.

2) The characters are delightful and engaging. They make you want to visit them on Guernsey, and it definitely feels like you could. They seem very real, but with not much description. The best character sketches, I think, are like that iconic Picasso sketch of Don Quixote: the lines give you a perfect picture of the character, but there’s no cluttering extraneous detail. Very clean, all show, no tell.

Anyway, the characters are the selling point on this one. I put down this book and felt like I could hop on a plane and go see them.

3) The vivid picture of a particular moment in time. The story is set just after WWII, and concerns the Nazi occupation of the Isle Guernsey. I knew that England was under constant threat of invasion, but I didn’t realize that the channel islands had been occupied. They had a horrible time of it, and the story centers around how the characters survived with their sanity intact, and how they recover, and are still recovering, from this.

Books play a large part in this. An important theme is how literature helps us relate to the world, to know, when you read something, that someone has experienced what you have, and put it into words. This is a booklover’s book. :)

4) This book made people look at me funny. I was reading this in a restaurant in Vicksburg, MS, and I laughed out loud, and then I cried, and tried to hide it behind my napkin, but the waitress asked me if I was okay anyway. These characters really got to me.

I do wonder if some of my connection with this book is my own family history. My mother was born in Holland, during the Nazi occupation, and some of the stories in this book remind me of some things my Oma has said. Which isn’t much.

I loved this book, and it stayed with me long after I finished it. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews.

Love of Writing… and Prizes!

I spent the weekend at the DFW Writer’s Conference, and it was a good one. I can say that because, except for teaching classes and lending my shining, celebrity presence, I didn’t have anything to do with organizing the thing. The conference committee worked extremely hard to pull off an excellent conference. Multiple tracks of programing from a wide range of authors and other professionals, six agents taking one-on-one pitches, two lunches with entertaining speakers, a wealth of information, smoothly run, despite inevitable hiccups… Kudos to those guys.

The next conference, by the way, is set for April 9-11, 2010. Mark your calendars.

I spoke on Writing for Teens (Even if you Aren’t One). I joked on Twitter that this meant I had to pretend I know what I’m doing. As people have asked me to speak on this subject, I’ve had to retroactively figure out what it is that makes Prom Dates From Hell (et al.) a good *YA* book. Because I just wrote a book *I* wanted to read. So it’s only the ‘writing for teens’ part that I feel like a bit of a fraud. But not really, beause I *have* done a lot of research into it. Just after the fact. I *do* know what I’m doing as far as writing a good book is concerned.

I hope Mom doesn’t read that. There’s a Dutch word for the curse you give yourself when you say that you’re good at something. I really did grow up being told by my mother that I was brilliant and could do anything, but I should never compliment myself, or I would curse myself and lose whatever I’d just been bragging about. No wonder I’m so neurotic. Which is why I joke about these things. Because promotion is all about telling people how great you/your books are, and I guess I’m trying to dodge the curse by equaling things out!

Yes, promotion is hell for me. Though I’m not special. The keynote speaker at the conference was Bob Mayer, who mentioned in his speech that on the Myers-Briggs Personality test the "writer" type is the polar opposite from the "marketer" type. One more reason why writing is something of a masochistic profession.

Seriously. The other irony is that a lot of writers tend to be Type A control freaks. We like to write because on the page we have complete and utter control of the universe. It’s like being God and Dungeon Master combined. But if course where the *business* is concerned, once you have turned in the best book possible… you really have zero control. You can do promo, and Twitter, and do blog tours and build buzz–which, don’t get me wrong, does help–but ultimately, you have no control over whether Meg Cabot or Stephanie Meyer (or both) are going to release a book with your *same title* the week after your book comes out. :-)

Writers have to LOVE to write. Otherwise, it’s not worth it. Very few of us get paid enough to make it worth all the stress, angst and hassle. But most of us would do it for our own pleasure even if we weren’t getting paid. (Which is why I respect writers who write only for themselves or their friends.)

But of course, if you do want to be published professionally, there’s a whole other level of stuff you’ve got to do. Join a critique and/or professional education group. Go to workshops and conferences. Read books about writing and selling your book. Pay attention to what’s on the market, and how books are selling.

Though ultimately, it comes down to the craft. What you write. DO you write? Or do you just talk about writing and go to workshops and read books about writing.

Writers love to write. I guess that what *I* got out of the conference this weekend, being around such good energy from other writers is just that reminder. It’s not just about being hungry to sell. It’s about loving what we do.

So answer in the comments: What are YOU good at? It can be some part of the writing craft you do well, or some other hobby or sport. Go on. If someone asks, it’s a curse loophole. I checked. Tell me something YOU do well.

I’ll draw a name from the comments to win a copy of the latest book I loved: Going Too Far, by Jennifer Echols.

October Catch up

I missed my Monday update due to a severe attack of lazy yesterday. Though to be honest, I really feel like I’ve missed the first part of this month, since I had my head down working on The Rewrites. So here’s the catch up post.

1) Law of diminishing returns. Speaking of my re-write-a-thon last week, there’s a point at which you’re better served sleeping than typing stuff that sounds great to your euphoric brain only to discover later that you weren’t actually writing in English.

2) FenCon. I hit "send" on The Rewrites at 2:30 PM, then got in the shower (you’re welcome) and was on my way to Dallas for the con by 3:30. I had a great time, but Friday afternoon/evening I was so tired (see above, re: Rewrites and Diminishing Returns), not to mention elated, that I was sort of punch-drunk. At one point, this involved a giggle-fit of such epic proportions that I just had to give up on coherency.

3) Relaxation. So I’m taking this week off, in theory. Of course, what I’m really doing is reading this ginormous stack of books that I’ve accumulated, ditto the beginning of the new television season. I also have this idea I might get back on track with my exercise regimen (heh). But mostly I’m sitting on the couch reading and watching TV. (It doesn’t help that I have had this sinus thing going on for weeks, and now that I’m not powering through, it’s sort of catching up with me. Yay for drugs, I guess.)

4) The New Book…. has a title! The Splendor Falls. It’s from a Tennyson poem. Probably a very obscure reference, so I will provide an handy link to the poem. It’s quite different from the Maggie books, but also sort of not. I mean, it’s still an RCM book, so it’s going to be smart and droll and there’s going to be magic and mystery. There’s even more romance, which was fun to do, and it’s not quite as LOL funny, though I think there’s still a lot of humor in it. You’ll be hearing more about it in the future.

5) Scotland. And oh yeah! I’m leaving for Scotland in 18 days. I’ve been so involved in getting the book done, it totally snuck up on me!

This entry was posted on October 7, 2008, in Uncategorized and tagged , .

What a week.

I have done nothing this week but write, edit, rewrite, delete, move, rewrite again…

And that includes sleep! I’m off to FenCon as soon as I throw some clothes in a suitcase. I don’t even know what’s clean. If I’m dressed in nice clothes, it’s because I have nothing else to wear.

I’m clean, though. I did take a shower. Um, finally.

Ah, it’s such a glamorous life.

This entry was posted on October 3, 2008, in Uncategorized and tagged , .