Category Archives: books

A Breath of Relief

Guys. I did it. I wrote a book in eight months with an infant and a job and very little sleep.

I have frequently bemoaned how lonely I’ve been in MI, but that had a lot to do with Getting This Done. I spent every morning and evening and any free time on the weekends working on this. If you’d asked me in January or February or March or April or even May, I wasn’t sure I’d make it.

But I really, really wanted to. I knew it wouldn’t take too much to ask for an extension, but I wanted to prove I could meet a deadline. Because if I could do it now, while sleep-deprived, taking care of a newborn then infant then baby, handling Everything when both baby and Dr Lady were often sick, work 3 days a week, and also somehow find time to eat and shower and exercise – then I would 100% know I could do it and no excuses would ever be enough.

I wanted – no – needed to prove to myself I could do this. And to handle all the daily stress and panic while still enjoying the process. And yes, I didn’t enjoy the process the entire time. Sometimes I just wanted to cry. Sometimes I did. Sometimes I wanted to sleep in, instead of crawling out of bed to the sound of my alarm only an hour after I’d been up with Lady Jr. Sometimes I did. Usually, though – I didn’t.

But I did it. I’m not 100% sure how, not even now, but I’m even a week early. What.

Anyway – I just really needed to get that out. I’m still a little shell-shocked. And now I have another book to write, and there will be edits, and I’m sure new and different and familiar challenges. And – this is my life now. I get to write books! If it sells well when it comes out in 18(ish) months, I’ll get to write more books!

;;.;;

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The Thing I’ve Been Hinting At

Two and a half years ago I started writing a book. I wrote and then rewrote and then edited and then re-edited it much I had several others before.

One and a half years ago I signed with an agent based on that book.

Six months ago I heard an editor was looking to get a second read.

Three months ago I heard the editor was taking the book before their editorial board to see if she could get approval for an offer.

Two months ago – literally a week after giving birth – I heard the editor was taking the book to marketing – the last hurdle.

Then things started happening quickly. Could I write two more books? What would that look like? I talked on the phone with the editor and my agent and laid out my thoughts, my plan. That evening I heard from my agent – we had an offer.

Three agonizing days later I got details. One agonizing week later, my agent officially accepted the offer. Lots more back and forth, then silence as we all waited for the slow gears of publishing to churn out the official word. But. But!

It’s officially official. From Publisher’s Weekly:

Tor Takes Debut Fantasy Trilogy by Doore

Diana Pho, an editor at Tor, acquired world rights for K.A. Doore’s debut fantasy trilogy, Assassins of Ghadid, in a deal brokered by Kurestin Armada of P.S. Literary. According to Armada, the trilogy centers on a desert city “where control over water means control over both life and magic itself.” Pho added that Doore’s work draws on “the cultures of sub-Saharan Africa and ancient Egypt” as well as queer romance. The publisher expects to begin publishing the books in winter 2019.

The fun! part is that the book they have, the one that’s done, is going to be the second book in the trilogy. Which means I have a whole ‘nother book to write ASAP, which is what I’ve been trying to do while juggling a newborn and postpartum recovery. Let me just be the first to say that it’s not easy. But anything worth doing, especially a dream I’ve had and worked towards for such a long time, is going to be hard.

So whew, phew, and yay! I can finally talk about this.

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We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

 

*fangirlish squealing*

I don’t know about you, but Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is one of my absolute favorite books of all time. It might be the favorite, but that would take too much soul searching to really confirm. It’s snarky and British and hilarious and there are so many footnotes and it’s a shame the author hasn’t really written anything since, but that novel is perfect by itself and now there’s going to be a TV series and *hyperventilates*

If you’re remotely into fantasy and haven’t read this book yet, now’s the time. Then we should all watch this together. 😀

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Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett, author of a hundred million bazillion Discworld novels and more, passed away today.

I don’t usually remark on things like this, but Pratchett was a huuuuge influence in my personal and literary and writing life. This man’s books are a mixture of hilarious, poignant, social commentary, bizarre, and comforting and I have never read – nor ever will read – anything like them. I came across them when I needed them most and they have been with me through many hard years, both being an escape from – and a compass to – life.

I can’t begin to imagine what my life would look like, who I would look like, if I had never had these books in my life.

Thank you, Sir Pratchett, for all your years and all your words. The world is a better place for having had you in it.

 

(I’m not crying you’re crying)

 

(You should read some of his stuff. Start with Guards, Guards! Thank me and go from there.)

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2014 Books in Review, Part Two

A few weeks ago I wrote up the first part of my 2014 Books Of Awesome. I thought I might have a chance to finish a few more books before the end of the year, but even on an airplane I haven’t had enough time to finish more than one. So without delay (but in an airport, which I feel is somewhat appropriate), here are my 2014 Books of Awesome, Part Two:
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2014 Books in Review, Part One

I originally started this blog – way back when – to review books. Obviously, the blog has since morphed into something else entirely, something more about my own day to day life and TTC and writing and trying to be healthy. At first I tried to keep up with all the books I read, post by post and review by review, but last year I realized I was tired of wasting my time not just reading, but even reviewing bad books, and that overall it would be better to focus on the ones I really liked. My end of year favorite books round-up last year worked really well, so I’m doing it again.

Goodreads says I’ve read 76 books so far this year, but alas, a lot of them either were too bland or didn’t catch my interest and I didn’t even really finish them. But I still read some good ones, ones I am confident passing on to others as recommendations.
Here are my 2014 Books of Awesome, Part One:

 


Brilliance
by Marcus Sakey

“Since 1980, one percent of people have been born as one of the “brilliants,” a class of human with extraordinary abilities. Nick Cooper is among them; a federal agent, Cooper has gifts rendering him exceptional at hunting terrorists. His latest target may be the most dangerous man alive, a brilliant drenched in blood and intent on provoking civil war. But to catch him, Cooper will have to violate everything he believes in – and betray his own kind.”

This book was neither original (see: any story with superpowers) nor exceptionally written, but it was still fun, engaging, and fast. The women characters weren’t completely flat and you’re never quite sure who is on which side, plus I feel like it did a good job of updating the traditional mutant/superpowers story to the present, terrorist-filled day and post 9/11 world. So maybe not awesome, but a good read for the airplane or bus.

 

Parasite by Mira Grant

“A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease. We owe our good health to a humble parasite – a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them. But these parasites are getting restless.”

Mira Grant did her research and it shows. If you read and liked her first series, Newsflesh, you will like this. It’s sci-fi horror with more science and less jump scares and even if you can spot the ending from three miles away, it is still satisfying to watch the narrator realize – and then try really hard to ignore – the truth for herself. I also especially loved the MC for being complex and amazing and just… she’s just really well written, acts believably, and doesn’t fling herself unnecessarily into danger. I could just see her being a real human being all around – which, in a way, is even more frightening.

Another thing to note about this author: her cast of characters are not just all white & straight and I love her so much for that. It’s so refreshing to see a lesbian couple as just part of the world and Mira (or should I say Seanan McGuire, because Mira is an alter ego) does this in all her books. Love love love.

 

 

After the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn

“Most people dream of having superheroes for parents, but not Celia West. The only daughter of Captain Olympus and Spark, the world’s greatest champions, she has no powers of her own, and the most exciting thing she’s ever done is win a silver medal in a high school swim meet. Meanwhile, she’s the favorite hostage of every crime boss and supervillain in Commerce City. She doesn’t have a code name, but if she did, it would probably be Bait Girl, the Captive Wonder.”

Another really fun, fast read. I’ve come to appreciate these more as I get older because I’ve come to realize how difficult it is to write something that is both fun and interesting and fast without being also incredibly shallow and/or otherwise problematic. Apparently I was on a superhero kick early in the year.

 

The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells

“Nicholas is a passionate, embittered nobleman consumed by thoughts of vengeance. But at night he assumes the guise of a master criminal, stealing jewels from wealthy nobles to finance his quest for vengeance the murder of Count Montesq, the man who orchestrated the wrongful execution of Nicholas’s godfather on false charges of necromancy. But now a series of eerie, unexplainable, even fatal events have interrupted Nicholas’ murderous mission.”

I don’t know how to explain this one. I picked it up on a lark and even though it was the second in a series I’d never heard of, it was still really good. It’s a high fantasy set in some weird, not-quite-Victorian place that also has underground elves (?? I think that was from the previous book), but the characters were ridiculously fun and the plot never stopped and I cared about everyone and no one was particularly tropey or flat and even though the Real Plot wasn’t revealed until nearly the end, I never felt cheated. If you like high fantasy and are tired of how dull and manpain-centric most of them are, you’d probably like this.

 

 

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

“More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles. Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery.”

Sanderson. Oh, Sanderson. I have waxed poetic about this man in the past and I will continue to do so forever. He can not only write complex characters and well-paced plots, but his world building is excruciatingly beautiful. I will read anything he writes at this point, and I know I will like it.

Rithmatist was no exception. It’s YA (I think?), but that doesn’t matter. How does he come up with all these magic systems? I just. I don’t even.

 

Cress by Marissa Meyer

“In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder. “

This is the 3rd in basically what is a fairytale retelling merged with a Sailor Moon fanfic series. It’s good and fun and surprisingly dark. I’ve enjoyed picking out all the little nods to the original stories and Cress was by far the darkest and – unsurprisingly – my favorite. I want Winter to come out now.

 

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

“Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind, who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t, then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. “

Ah, so ridiculous! So delightful! Valente has a way with words, and by that I mean she can spin ridiculously beautiful sentence after beautiful sentence and you just want to eat it up. Paired with a fun, occasionally dark, story set in Fairy and you have a winner.

 

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

“When her master dies during the voyage, the golem Chava is unmoored and adrift as her ship arrives in New York in 1899. The jinni Ahmad, born in the ancient Syrian desert but trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, is released by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. A powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice. “

Technically, this is “literary” fiction and not just ye olde fantasy, but it’s still good. It took a while to get into and really get going, but once it does it’s a gorgeously written story and I couldn’t stop. It’s the kind of story that gets into your brain and lingers there, whispering, for days after you finish and put it down. Just warning you.

 

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell

“An Atlantic correspondent uncovers the true cost-in economic, political, and psychic terms-of our penchant for making and buying things as cheaply as possible.”

Don’t read this if you really, really like cheap shit. In short: There Ain’t No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. I’ve always had a basic understanding that cheap things are cheap for a reason – and usually a bad reason – but never fully grasped how deeply the notion that things should be cheaper than they are – and fuck the consequences – has become an Ideal in our culture and economy. I would make this required reading for any Economics class.

 

Farm City by Novella Carpenter

“Urban and rural collide in this wry, inspiring memoir of a woman who turned a vacant lot in downtown Oakland into a thriving farm”

I also went through an Everything Farming!! phase earlier this year, and of the handful of books I read, this was my favorite. The author was a seriously-no-kidding urban farmer who raised bees and geese and chickens and grew all sorts of plants in a not-so-pleasant urban setting. It’s a cute, honest memoir that really just reinforces the notion that farming is for everywhere and everybody.

 

To be continued!

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2013 Books in Review, Part Two

I started you off a few days ago with part one of my favorite books from this year. Here’s part two!

The Final Descent by Rick Yancey
“Will Henry has been on the brink of death on more than one occasion, he has gazed into hell — and hell has stared back, and known his face. But through it all, Dr. Warthrop has been at his side. But on one day, Will’s life — and Pellinor Warthrop’s destiny — will lie in balance. In the terrifying depths of the Monstrumarium, they will face a monster more terrible than any they could have imagined.”

This is YA? How is this remotely YA? I still don’t understand, but I’m glad it exists. Yancey hooked us with the Monstrumologist and now, four books later, finally brings us back to the beginning.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the last in this series – it could have gone a hundred different ways – but it could only really have gone one. I loved the darkness in the other books and I appreciate that Yancey didn’t shy away from that, even when it must have been profoundly tempting. That said, I was left dissatisfied. There was just something… missing. But that, too, that eerie, inexplicable emptiness, that moment of quiet unease after the last page, was in keeping with the series’ greater themes.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Kami Glass has a boy in her head. Quite literally. Although they’ve talked since she can remember, she’s never met him. But all that changes when the Lynburns, a powerful local family, return. Between the bloody deaths in the woods and her own mother’s secrets, Kami comes face to face with the boy in her head.

More YA! More fun! Although this got a little angsty at times – and I could’ve sworn up and down that they were all going to turn out to be werewolves – the characters were fun and there was a bonus!lesbian whose arc didn’t derail the story and ended up adding quite a lot of incidental humor.

The Collector by John Fowles
“Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. Obsessed with a beautiful stranger, Miranda, he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts her, believing she will grow to love him in time. Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to overcome her contempt if she is to understand her captor and gain her freedom.”

This was recommended to me when I began asking for horror novels in October, and for good reason. It starts off a little dull, a little dusty, then quickly becomes unsettling and disquieting. And it’s all the worst for the quiet, semi-sane rationalizing the main character does throughout, turning his horrid little acts into something sane, even sublime. But it’s not until the very end that you fully realize the monster he’s become.

The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum
“Blum follows New York City’s first forensic scientists to discover a fascinating Jazz Age story of chemistry and detection, poison and murder.”

Thank goodness for FDA regulation – otherwise we’d still be brushing our teeth with radioactive materials. I learned a lot about early chemistry and poison, but even more about government and the lengths to which people will go just for a drink. If you have a libertarian friend, I suggest you gently gift them this book – or strongly hint they should read. Maybe then they’ll shut up about the self-governance of an unregulated market.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
“The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.
It wants the truth.”

This was a timely book as a family member was in his last weeks when I read it. It’s a young book – I’d guess middle grade – but it’s exquisitely well done. It handles the severe and sometimes ugly emotions of grief very well, while bringing them to a level a kid could understand, but without dumbing them down. I might have cried. Okay. I definitely cried.

Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler
“For any woman unhappy with her current method of birth control; demoralized by her quest to have a baby; or experiencing confusing symptoms in her cycle, this book provides answers to all these questions, plus amazing insights into a woman’s body.”

Since being a lesbian means a little more intention is needed to get pregnant, I’ve been reading up on any and everything about the subject. This book is by far the most widely recommended for a reason. It’s very thorough – to the point of redundant redundancy – and very detailed. It even has charts! Lots and lots – and lots (and lots) – of charts. I learned way more than in any high school bio class, and I’d advise any lady (or curious dude) to at least skim through for a better understanding of how their bodies work, even if you’re not remotely interested in having children.
Spoiler: hormones!

Zealot by Reza Aslan
“Sifting thru centuries of mythmaking, Aslan sheds light on one of history’s most influential and enigmatic characters by examining Jesus thru the lens of the tumultuous era in which he lived: 1st-century Palestine, an age of apocalyptic fervor. “

Although I absorbed some early CE & late BCE history through my Classics courses, they largely skimmed over the turmoil raging in modern-day Israel around that time. Although the author argues against the book’s own title within the first chapter, the overall narrative is interesting, well-researched, and compelling. Considering my dearth of knowledge of that era, I can only speak to this book as a good introduction and starting point. I’d be really interested to know what other scholars thought, although I got the feeling that none of this was remotely groundbreaking or out there in that field.

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
“Ten years ago, ordinary men and women inexplicably gained extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will. It’s nigh impossible to stand against the super powered, but David plans to – and he plans to win.”
Sanderson, Sanderson, Sanderson. You keep doing this. This – this writing thing. And I love you for it. But maybe can you finish a trilogy or series first before starting us on another? Good god, man, how do you even do it? Come up with all these new magic systems and worlds? I don’t even.
Steelheart is a lot like a YA version of Mistborn, but it’s still fairly dark and complex.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

If you need an introduction to Allie Brosh, then it may already be too late for you. But if it’s not too late, I suggest getting caught up. Allie has captured the reality of depression, anxiety, and childhood trauma with amazing accuracy and humor and MSPaint drawings. If nothing else, her stories are painfully hilarious.

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
“Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable, or to dare greatly. Whether the arena is a new relationship, an important meeting, our creative process, or a difficult family conversation, we must find the courage to walk into vulnerability and engage with our whole hearts.”

Oh goodness, this book. There are so many good things and ideas in this book, and all of it was what I needed right now. I’ve already pushed it on my wife, and I’m keen to push it on quite a few of my friends. It really helps to break down the differences between shame and guilt, only one of which we really have control over, and to focus on changing what we can control, not who we are. I can’t even really begin to talk about this book yet, since I’m still processing so much of it, but I promise there will be an entire post on this topic in the future.

What were some of your favorite books that you read this year?

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