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13 posts from January 2010

January 29, 2010

Reading Update

Just read a manuscript submitted to a publisher I'm working for. It's YA. That's all I'm gonna say about it. I suspect I'll be listing a number of MS submissions here over the next few months, as well as accepted but unpublished MSS. That's going to be a big part of my reading diet this year. It'll be a drag not being able to comment on them, but whatever.

Reading Update

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

This one was a bit of a slog. Definitely not one of his best. I kept getting the feeling that I was missing the joke (including the one in the title.) Wasn't sure if that was because my brain is mush from being sick for so long or because Pratchett wasn't getting the jokes across with his usual efficiency.


January 27, 2010

Reading and Interview

Hey all, quick self-promo here:

This Saturday afternoon I'll be doing a reading at the Oakland Library as part of the kickoff for the Oakland Word project, a series of free writing classes at the library. (I'll be one of the instructors.)

Here's the website with info on the program. And here's the event info:

Saturday, January 30, 2010; 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Oakland Public Library (Main) Auditorium
125 14th St
With words and music by:

  • Award-winning novelist DANIEL ALARCÓN, author of Lost City Radio and War by Candlelight
  • Poet and writer TENNESSEE REED, author of Spell Albuquerque: Memoir of a "Difficult" Student and multiple poetry collections
  • Our exceptional Oakland Word instructors, LINDA GONZÁLEZ, CLAIRE LIGHT, CARRIE LEILAM LOVE and BISOLA MARIGNAY
  • Beats provided by DJ MAX CHAMP
Also, Bryan Thao Worra just posted an interview he did with me on Asian American Press, which you can read here.

January 26, 2010

Reading Update

Canyon Sam's Sky Train: Tibetan Women on the Edge of History, which I will review in the next issue of Hyphen.

Jane Yolen Wizard's Hall: a middle-grade Harry Potter lite, except that it preceded HP. Fun and cute.

January 20, 2010


I'm on Amazon! Look! I even have a sales rank 'n' everything! (663,210 ... strangely that means nothing to me.)

January 19, 2010

Clinton/Bush Summit

Wow. I have no words.

(Except that White House embed code is five thousand times longer than YouTube's)

January 17, 2010

Show Of Hands

Which of youse writers actually wad up paper and toss it away as you write? How many of you actually write a few lines on a piece of paper, sigh, tear it out of your notebook, wad it up, and toss it on the floor?

Anyone? Anyone?

January 11, 2010

Has Chuck Jumped the Shark?

I'm worried that "Chuck" has jumped it. At the end of last season, the Intersect 2.0 downloaded kung fu and other spy skillz into Chuck's brain. This clearly threw off the balance of the show, in which Sarah had all the spy skillz and looked good and always saved Chuck's ass, and Chuck had the brain, and came up with last minute clever solutions as well as having all the intel. It worked.

Now that it seemed Chuck wouldn't need Sarah to save him anymore, the whole balance would be thrown off. So instead, they made him "more emotional" so that his emotions would get in the way of the Intersect working. In practice, this means that his personality, always right on the edge of whiny, goes right over the cliff into fully annoying. Whereas before he would almost mess up and then pull it out when things got tough, in the first two episodes of the new season, he keeps fucking up by injecting his emotions into the situation at the most inappropriate times. It's not funny. It's annoying. And it's inconsistent with his character.

I could barely make it through those two episodes. I'll keep watching, but they're going to have to come up with a better way to keep balance. They want to have their cake (Chuck gets to kick ass) and eat it too (but he still stays nerdy.) But the point of that proverb, or whatever it is, is that you can't have both.

Also, Zachary Levi looks as insanely toothy and handsome as ever in interviews, but he doesn't look that great on the show. Is it the cheezy smile he keeps displaying? Bring the handsome, helpless nerd back!

January 10, 2010

Peeved Reading Update with SPOILERS

Things That Drive Me Mad In Fiction, Episode 56,902:

I can't stand it when the stakes are really high, and a character makes a totally obvious rookie mistake, just because the author doesn't want to have to write an extra few pages to get them through it. Like when their enemy serves them food or drink and they hesitate, thinking it might be drugged, and the enemy says, "It's not drugged," and they just take their word for it.

Right now the one that made me put the book down for a while in sheer frustration is in Cinda Williams Chima's The Dragon Heir. The heroine has her younger brother and sister taken hostage by an evil wizard, who wants her to do something for him. He says he's stashed them someplace she'll never find if she kills him. She asks him how she's supposed to know that they're still alive and he says he's keeping them alive for leverage. And she just takes his word for it.

Of course, later they'll turn out to be still alive, because this is that kind of book, but it'll be too late for me because I've already lost my respect for her and for the author. Argh!

I also hate when there's a simple explanation that can prevent all kinds of trouble and misunderstandings and the character doesn't make it. SOOOO unrealistic. Real people spend all their time explaining; they'll shout you down to give you their explanation. We're all excuse-givers. But there's a part in the book where one of the many bad guys is trying to seduce this heroine's family by enticing the brother and sister with horseback riding. The heroine says no, they can't go horseback riding, but for some inexplicable reason, utterly fails to tell her younger siblings that the guy offering them the rides is the same one who has been causing their family serious trouble for over a year now. Instead, she just weakly gives in to their pleading. Why? There's no reason not to just tell them! There's no reason to give in on this one! It makes no sense!

In other bad news, the bad wizard puts a slave collar that only he can take off around the neck of a girl wizard, forcing her to do stuff for him. She goes into a sanctuary area, where he can't use the collar to hurt or kill her, but still does stuff for him! And she, again, utterly fails to tell anybody inside the sanctuary that the reason she's working for the bad wizard is that she has a slave collar on, even though they all know she's working for the bad guys. What the hell? Everyone knows that as long as she stays inside the sanctuary she's safe. So why wouldn't she tell them she has it on? If they help her while she's in the sanctuary, then there's nothing the bad wizard can do. Totally stupid and pointless! Argh!

Also! Everybody in this one family is magical except the mom ... SO THEY DON'T TELL HER ABOUT THE MAGIC! FOR NO REASON! UNTIL THE VERY END!

But the worst thing is that Chima invented a really interesting character in book two, who's interesting because he has strength of character, but not any strength of magic. So in book three he's useless, having no strong magic, and runs around the entire book being annoying because he feels useless. Then! Then! Chima proves to us that he's useless by killing him off! Damn! If your own creator thinks you're useless ...

Okay, wrap up to the trilogy: first book (The Warrior Heir) good, second book (The Wizard Heir) less good but more interesting, third book (The Dragon Heir) too many characters, too little common sense, a hot mess. Overall: a decent fantasy, but a little too cartoony. The bad guys are just bad. They have no real reason for being so. The magical world doesn't intersect at all with the real world in any way, even though they keep saying it does. And pretty much everybody's white. Yak.

January 09, 2010

Today's Photo


Barb has a call for submissions up, for pieces about Paul Celan. 

Made me think of the time in Berlin that Angelika called me at five in the morning because she'd stayed up all night reading, and just found out that Celan and Ingeborg Bachmann, jeweils my and her favorite poets, had had an affair.

There they are, the two to the left, sigh, to the other left, i.e. to the right.

January 03, 2010

Reading Update

I started Sherri Smith's Flygirl in 2009 and finished it in 2010, so I put it in 2009. It was the first book I read on MY NEW KINDLESQEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

Love my new Kindle.

And I just finished Cinda Chima's Warrior Heir, which sounds like, and is, a basic YA with white people discovering they are the last of the magical whatevers and decrying their fate, etc. But it's really well done. I picked it up in Michigan when I was sick and needed something lightweight to read, but ended up reading the Tamora Pierces instead, because the kids I was going to give them to didn't show up for Christmas. It's complicated.

Loved Flygirl, which was a fictionalized account of the real WASP, a women's air force that was created during WWII to do testing and ferrying stateside so that the male pilots could all go fight overseas. The fictional protagonist is an African American, but can pass for white and decides to do so so that she can join the (oh irony!) WASP. Really well written with lots of nuance and complexity.

But I was disappointed that the novel ended where it did: with the war ending. It meant that the story ended before any hard decisions needed to be made, and before any of the serious repercussions could set in. The protagonist has fallen in love with a white man, who has invited her to join him in California, but she hasn't responded yet. Will she tell him? Will she ignore him? Will she continue lying to him? The protag is also in the middle of a big fight with her darker skinned best friend. How will she make it up? We also have no idea what she'll do now: will she finally go get that pilot's license and run her daddy's crop duster? Will she go to Chicago and become a pilot? What? And how hard is it for her now that the war is over and the need for her is gone? Felt cheated of all of these answers.

January 02, 2010

What To Get Me: Geographical Shot Glasses

This is the first Christmas that my parents haven't tried to buy me either clothing or jewelry. I trained them out of it, and it only took just under 40 years!

But while I'm thinking of this subject: if you are a good enough friend that you feel you need to give me a Christmas, birthday, or traveling present, here's a tip:

I collect "geographical" shot glasses, i.e. shot glasses with place names on them. I have them from several states and American cities. I have one from a Mexican McDonald's (sort of). I have one from the Korean demilitarized zone (thanks, Kristina!) I used to have one from the Panama Canal Zone before my cat broke it. I have some cool ones from Graceland.

I like old-fashioned souvenir styles, or extreme tackiness. I don't like the attempts at class tourist trap designers keep trying to impose: I spent waaaaay too much time in Graceland shops looking for tacky Elvis and finding only "classy" Elvis. Boo!

So try to remember to pick up a cheap shot glass for me on your travels and put it someplace you won't forget to wait for my birthday or something.

This message is brought to you by my reading of Scroogenomics, which I got for a friend for Christmas, but haven't given to her yet. The book talks about how Christmas gift giving destroys value, since the recipients so often get gifts they don't value.

And please feel free to email me with your own tips, if you're a good enough friend to get presents from ME.

January 01, 2010

What I Read in 2009

  1. Knockout Mouse by James Calder
  2. Happy Hour at Casa Dracula by Marta Acosta
  3. Nisi Shawl Filter House
  4. Ernest J. Eitel What is Feng Shui?: The Classic Nineteenth-Century Interpretation
  5. Midnight Brunch Marta Acosta (2nd Casa Dracula novel)
  6. Bride of Casa Dracula Marta Acosta (3rd Casa Dracula novel)
  7. About Face James Calder (2nd Bill Damen mystery)
  8. In A Family Way James Calder (3rd Bill Damen mystery)
  9. The Plain Janes Cecil Castelucci and Jim Rugg
  10. Jonathan Lethem's The Disappointment Artist
  11. The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher Koch
  12. Type O Negative by Joel Tan
  13. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
  14. Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper series, Bloodhound
  15. The Borribles by Michael de Larrabeiti
  16. Gifts by Ursula Le Guin
  17. Voices by Ursula Le Guin
  18. Powers by Ursula Le Guin
  19. The Night Wanderer by Drew Hayden Taylor
  20. Distances: A Novella by Vandana Singh
  21. The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor
  22. Dilek Güngör Unter Uns
  23. L. Timmel Duchamp's De Secretis Mulierum: A Novella
  24. L. Timmel Duchamp's Alanya to Alanya
  25. Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth
  26. Pratchett and Gaiman's Good Omens
  27. Epileptic by David B
  28. Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible
  29. China Miéville's The City and the City
  30. the first Buffy comics omnibus
  31. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  32. We3 by Grant Morrison
  33. Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey
  34. Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede  
  35. the fourth Buffy Season 8 Omnibus.
  36. Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen by Marilyn Chin
  37. Friend's MS
  38. (re)Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin
  39. Girl in the Arena Lise Haines
  40. Liar Justine Larbalestier
  41. Exclusively Chloe J.A. Yang
  42. The Child Garden Geoff Ryman
  43. Neil Gaiman's Marvel 1602
  44. Cory Doctorow's Little Brother
  45. His Majesty's Dragon Naomi Novik
  46. Throne of Jade Naomi Novik
  47. Black Powder War Naomi Novik
  48. Empire of Ivory Naomi Novik
  49. Victory of Eagles Naomi Novik
  50. Circle of Magic: Sandry's Book Tamora Pierce
  51. Circle of Magic: Tris' Book Tamora Pierce
  52. Circle of Magic: Daja's Book Tamora Pierce
  53. Circle of Magic: Briar's Book Tamora Pierce
  54. Magic Steps Tamora Pierce
  55. Street Magic  Tamora Pierce
  56. Cold Fire  Tamora Pierce
  57. Shatterglass Tamora Pierce
  58. The Will of the Empress Tamora Pierce 
  59. Slumberland Paul Beatty
  60. Flygirl Sherri L. Smith

So this year I've conveniently color-coded these books so I can see myself what I've read:

  • YA books
  • Genre books (any genre)
  • Lit fic or mainstream fic, can have speculative elements, but more likely to be taken seriously by snobs

So. The stats:

  • 60 books total. That's 1.15 books per week or 0.16 books per day.
  • 27 YA (nearly half)
  • 20 authors were women and 20 were men (!)
  • 10 authors of color (out of 40)
  • 45 had speculative elements or were outright speculative fiction
  • 4 were outright mysteries (among other things)
  • 6 graphic novels
  • Only 6 were re-reads (for a change)
  • 24 had been published in the past two years.
  • 1 book in a foreign language

In addition, as usual, there were a number of books I didn't complete. I don't count fiction/narrative that I don't complete, since you haven't really read a narrative until you've read the whole thing. But I do have a strong tendency, since I left college, to never read a book a poetry all the way through unless I'm reviewing it. So I have a couple of poetry books that I've been walzing around and digging through without, probably, having read the whole things. I'll consider whether or not to include those in 2010.

As usual, the books from the beginning of the year feel like I read them decades ago. And even though slightly less than half of my reading was YA, a good three quarters of it was SF, and most of the YA was SF, so I feel a continuum there, and I feel like 3/4 of what I read was YA. Funny that I still feel guilty about that, as if I should be reading "more serious" books. Fuck that. One thing to go on my resolutions list: stop taking YA not seriously.

I went and underlined the books I felt were really good or from which I learned a positive writing lesson (as opposed to books that were so bad that I learned what not to do from them.) Nothing this year really blew me away, but as you can see, I didn't hit pretty much ANY "lit fic" this year AT ALL, not that lit fic would necessarily blow my mind. I don't know. I guess I wasn't going for my mind to be blown. I think I should do that in 2010 as well: look for books that will blow my mind.

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