Entries in short genres (34)

Wednesday
Jun192019

The Geek Feminist Revolution

While there isn't a single author who is an insta-buy for me (mostly because so many authors write in a variety of genres, some of which are genres I'm "meh" about), Kameron Hurley is one of the few who's pretty close. And while non-fiction is a genre I'm "meh" about, I've always enjoyed reading Kameron's essays.

So this book is a collection of essays on geekery, being a woman in hostile geek spaces, revolution/resistance, and the intersection of all three. Most of it is preaching to the choir and sometimes she's a little on the nose, but all of these essays are excellent and worth reading. Even if I was just nodding my head through the whole thing. I've been audience to a lot of what she talks about.

But there's a lot of great writing advice and publishing advice and a few things that were new to me. It was really interesting to see her talking about how her day job has influenced her fiction writing and made her a better writer. My favourite part, though, was how she took apart shitty old tropes and offered so many fascinating ways to make them fresh and new.

How to tell the same stories about new people.

And it's made me excited to start some new projects, to deconstruct the same old tropes and assumptions that get written into stories and to try something new. To make sure I'm not spreading bad stories about llamas.

I'm sure it will have plenty of inspiration and learning opportunities for others, even if you're not a writer. Highly recommend this book!

Thursday
Feb212019

No Man of Woman Born

As I understand it from what the author, Ana Mardoll, has tweeted about this collection, it was a response to/inspired by Eowyn from LotR and her slaying of the Witch King who no man could kill. This is a collection of short stories full of similar tales with trans and non-binary people as the main characters.

The stories overall are delightful and the characters are often precious cinnamon buns too pure for this world. Some of them fall pretty flat, but some of them are incredible and I love them (so par for the course with most short story collections).

I loved a lot of these stories, some of them original and some of them giving a fun, queer twist to classics like Sleeping Beauty and The Sword in the Stone. It was great to see such a queerly diverse array of characters out living their best lives and saving the day.

I especially liked seeing the gender fluid character and another questioning his gender and where he fits on the binary. The stories gave me a greater understanding of just what gender fluid means. And it was also nice to see someone going through the process of questioning gender, even if he didn't quite get to any decisions (most of us never do anyway).

My only real problem with this collection is the writing itself. There's often too much telling and too much backstory, often delivered in the form of lengthy flashbacks that honestly got distracting and killed the momentum of many of the stories. But they're also really short, so it wasn't that hard to push through and get to the end. And the end of each story was absolutely worth it.

This is a great collection for allies looking for a deeper understanding, people who like fantasy and aren't squicky about queer content, and for anyone trans, non-binary or questioning who are tired of the Bury Your Gays trope and just need to see someone like them be the hero.

Saturday
Dec292018

Hope at the End of the Longest Year

Like in 2017, this year was hard fought and draining. Trying to get things done amidst creeping fascism has been incredibly hard. And because having fascists loose everywhere else in the world wasn't bad enough, the greedy idiots here in Ontario had to go and elect Thug Fraud to premier. I truly, deeply hope that horrible man goes the way of his equally horrible brother VERY soon.

Anyway, when I'm not wishing death on The Worst people in power, I'm probably reading a book. Maybe writing one. I still hit a lot of my writing goals, though I've been lagging behind all of December because of severe depression.

Heh, you want your favourite creators to keep creating? STOP ELECTING FASCISTS

Anyway, here's the breakdown of how I did this year, despite all the bullshit.

Writing
I hit most of my writing goals this year, and the ones I didn't hit were because I swapped them for something else. I've done a lot of work on Blueshift 1, revised book 2 and rewrote book 3 for NaNoWriMo. Books 2 and 3 still need work, but I'll get to them later. I'm happy with the trilogy as it is right now and look forward to polishing the rest. I've been querying book 1 and getting some good feedback from agents, though no contracts yet.

I got Fireborn polished and out into the world and it's also had some positive feedback from agents. I will continue to query both books in the new year.

I wrote and submitted three short stories but, while one of my stories got shortlisted for an anthology, ultimately nothing has gone into print this year. It's a tough industry, but I'll keep working to improve my craft until I can wriggle my way in.

I've looked into novellas and have read plenty of what Tor puts out. I haven't attempted to write a novella yet, but I've started to outline one.

I didn't end up outlining the next two books in the Fireborn series for a few reasons. One is that I'm just not as interested in the series as I was, though I'm sure that will change once I deal with the fact that I'm not entirely sure where I want the next two books to go. And finally, there are a lot of compelling reasons not to work on the rest of a series until the first book is published. So instead of working on books I can't sell/publish right now, I plotted and started writing something different: The Spider's Eye, a stand-alone epic fantasy.

I'd wanted to get a good portion of Spider's Eye written by now, but I was sick for most of November so my NaNo goals fell short, and then I've been severely depressed all of December and didn't get anymore writing done. I've done some more research and some planning on Spider's Eye, but that's it.

And my shiny (not so new) idea is still percolating in the back of my mind. I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do with it, though I'm leaning toward the novella format. And then I've got to do an epic amount of research and... I just really hate research.

Anyway, I've learned now to keep my writing goals flexible because I'm inevitably going to be more interested in certain projects than I think I will be and less interested in others. And I've got enough ideas to work on that I don't have to force myself to finish one thing if I (temporarily) stop loving it. So I didn't necessarily hit the things on my list, but I still did about the same amount of work.

Reading
So I hit this one out of the park this year. I've read 66 books! If I finish the one I'm currently reading over the weekend, it'll be 67! About a third of that has been the children's books I've read to my daughter (chapter books only, not counting any picture books). I've read a lot of novellas this year too, including a double-read of the Murderbot diaries because I love them so much.

I've read loads of books from the library and the vast majority of the books I read this year were by white women. I'd like to keep reading more diversely and I'm still not reading as many books by people of colour as I could.

Family
I've gotten really bad at family stuff, and a lot of it is the stress of the current political climate. I just don't have a lot of energy for things. What energy I do have goes more toward time for my daughter than to my spouse and the extended family. So we still did plenty of family activities, but my spouse and I have spent another year not having many date nights. We're both just so tired. Not sure what to do about it other than just keep trying.

Health
Hey, this one was a smashing success! I did all the walking until the weather got cold. I did plenty of kickboxing. And I even lost weight! I lost and have kept off 10 lbs! Now that I've found something that works (I'm using the MyFitnessPal app), I'm hoping to keep up this trend until my knees stop hurting. We'll see how it goes.

Travel
So this year was all about the travelling. I suspect that travel is partially my midlife crisis? It's also my creeping-fascism coping mechanism. So I went to more than two new (to me) national parks in both Canada and the US, including Yoho NP in BC and Volcanoes NP in Hawaii. I went to a lot of new places this year, and it was magnificent. I went back to the national parks in Tobermory as well, and returned to Sequoia NP with my daughter for a week before we went to WorldCon76. I am now out of money, but it was well worth it!

2019 Goals

Writing
Submit 3 short stories
Write Blueshift short story "Making Waves"
Plot & write Mage War novella
Plot Mage War novel
Finish, revise, and polish Spider's Eye
Do NaNoWriMo
Look into writing a MG series
Keep querying Blueshift 1 and Fireborn
bonus/swap in:
Research and planning for shiny idea
Start writing shiny idea
Start querying Spider's Eye

Reading
Read 30 books
Read 15 books from my shelves
Read 15 books by POC

Family
One family event per month
One date night per month
Continue after school activities

Health
Regular kickboxing
Regular walks in warm months
Lose some weight (any amount will do)

Travel
One mother/daughter trip
One family vacation
Anniversary vacation

Anyway, 2018 has been the longest decade of my life. Congrats for surviving! We all deserve cookies just for that alone. If you managed to actually accomplish anything this hellscape of a year, bonus! Here's hoping we're all still here and kicking ass at the end of 2019.

Wednesday
Jul252018

2018 Hugo Reading Round-Up

Okay, I have finally (with a week to spare!) finished my Hugo reading. Below are the major prose categories, with my choices in bold. I've included links to my reviews of the novels and the longer novellas, but will give a quick summary of what I thought of the shorter formats.

Best Novel

  • The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi (Tor)
  • New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson (Orbit); note: DNF so no review, I really didn't like the author's style and the story just didn't grab me
  • Provenance, by Ann Leckie (Orbit)
  • Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris)
  • Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty (Orbit)
  • The Stone Sky, by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)

Best Novella

  • All Systems Red, by Martha Wells (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “And Then There Were (N-One),” by Sarah Pinsker (Uncanny, March/April 2017); note: really cool idea but still not really doing it for me
  • Binti: Home, by Nnedi Okorafor (Tor.com Publishing)
  • The Black Tides of Heaven, by JY Yang (Tor.com Publishing); note: DNF (for now), the world-building is really fascinating but the characters and story weren't grabbing me, but I'll likely go back to it when I have more time/patience
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing)
  • River of Teeth, by Sarah Gailey (Tor.com Publishing)

Best Novelette

  • “Children of Thorns, Children of Water,” by Aliette de Bodard (Uncanny, July-August 2017); note: this was a neat story set in a world I'm familiar with, but it didn't quite have the teeth to compete with my top pick
  • “Extracurricular Activities,” by Yoon Ha Lee (Tor.com, February 15, 2017); note: also set in a world I'm familiar with, and a lot of fun, but lacking "teeth"
  • “The Secret Life of Bots,” by Suzanne Palmer (Clarkesworld, September 2017); note: one of many fun stories on this ballot about the life and humanity of bots, this one had all the stakes but also a hopeful ending that I needed
  • “A Series of Steaks,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Clarkesworld, January 2017); note: this story was a lot of fun, but really felt like it should have been written from the assistant's POV since she was the real hero anyway
  • “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time,” by K.M. Szpara (Uncanny, May/June2017); note: This was a gut punch of a story and I really really liked it, but it was a little bleaker than I like, even if the ending was hopeful. Also, I dislike vampire stories in general.
  • “Wind Will Rove,” by Sarah Pinsker (Asimov’s, September/October 2017); note: Cool concept but it really felt like a slog to read.

Best Short Story

  • “Carnival Nine,” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, May 2017); note: This story was way too bleak for me.
  • “Clearly Lettered in a Mostly Steady Hand,” by Fran Wilde (Uncanny, September/October 2017); note: I wanted to like this one but it just wasn't for me.
  • “Fandom for Robots,” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad (Uncanny, September/October 2017); note: This one was a lot of fun, just didn't hold up against the fierce competition.
  • “The Martian Obelisk,” by Linda Nagata (Tor.com, July 19, 2017); note: This story was so bleak I was depressed for days, even if the ending had a smidge of hope
  • “Sun, Moon, Dust” by Ursula Vernon, (Uncanny, May/June 2017); note: This was a bit of a gut punch, but in a good way. It's still making me happy and it's been weeks since I read it.
  • “Welcome to your Authentic Indian Experience™,” by Rebecca Roanhorse (Apex, August 2017); note: It was hard to choose between this and Vernon's story, but in the end this one just left me feeling absolutely gutted and I'm just so done with bleak stories right now.

As a side note, Tor.com is really kicking ass and taking names with its novella publishing line. I'm actually looking at writing a novella to send in to them, since they're kind of on fire right now. I love the novella format! A little more meat than a short story or novelette, without the time sink of a novel.

There was a lot of great SFF released last year! Some of which didn't make it onto the final ballot and choosing favourites in some of these categories was really difficult, to the point I was often deciding on the subjective principle of "it made me happy" because all of these stories are just so damn good.

I hope you'll go out and find the stories on this list. They're well worth the time! And I leave for California in exactly 2 weeks! (Even if it's nearly a month until the actual Hugos, which I'm going to miss anyway because the award ceremony is on Sunday night... who does that?)

Friday
Dec292017

Surviving and Thriving in 2018

So 2017, like 2016, was a year that was great for me personally and a fucking nightmare in general. I've stopped reading the news and muted everything that has anything to do with American politics. I still see my American friends losing their shit on a daily basis, which is hard, so my mental health has continued to suffer this year (which is basically par for the course for anyone who isn't a garbage person). But I did better than I expected, mostly due to ramping up the self-care. I also got WAY more politically active than I've ever been and donated way more money than I should have to causes fighting the nightmare.

Anyway, here's the recap of how I did hitting my goals this year:

Writing
Okay, so I smashed my writing goals. The only ones I didn't hit were outlines for Fireborn 3 & 4 and writing 6 new short stories to self-publish. I stuck with publishing a short story a month like I wanted, but that venture hasn't shown the ROI I was hoping for, so I'm setting it aside for now and concentrating on my novels again. Which I did awesome with.

Both Fireborn 1 & 2 have been revised/rewritten and sent to betas. FB 1 is getting trunked. I like it, but it's more a bridge for me between Dragon Whisperer and the Fireborn YA series that kicks off with FB 2. I've revised and polished and queried Blueshift 1 (which has led to more revisions that are almost complete so I can submit it to Angry Robot's open call this weekend). I restructured, re-outlined and rewrote Blueshift 2 for NaNoWriMo and I've started the outline for Blueshift 3. I'm really happy with how it's turning out and the first book has had decent reception from agents. Now it's just a matter of finding the right one.

And I even took a writing course! I managed to get into the course Kelley Armstrong teaches every summer at U of T. It was excellent.

Reading
So this year has been one requiring intense escapism. And in an attempt to cultivate better sleep hygiene, I also started reading at least 30 minutes before going to bed. This resulted in me exceeding my goal by 50%. Yes, I read 45 books this year! I don't think I read quite as many books from my shelves as I'd like, but roughly half the books I read were by women or POC. I expect to continue this trend indefinitely, because frankly it makes for better reading.

Health
I feel like things on the health front were an utter failure because I GAINED 15 lbs as opposed to losing anything at all. But I did keep up walks and kickboxing until November when a combination of illness and ill-timed meetings meant I haven't gotten any exercise in a couple of months. And I feel like garbage and can't wait for kickboxing classes to reopen next week! But overall my health wasn't terrible. I had a lot of stamina until recently and I plan on getting it back.

Finances
I could have done a little better with this. But I kept going only to the cons that were free to attend or I had a vendor's table/spot on panels. Most of what I bought for clothing was necessary stuff, though I did have two really awesome dresses custom made (with pockets!) One is a Nightmare Before Christmas design and the other is Star Wars. I spoiled my kid way less than normal. At any rate, I'm doing fine financially and finding it easier and easier to cut back on expenses when and if I need to.

Family
So we did more family activities this year than last year, but that somehow resulted in me and my husband going on less date nights. I still need to be more consistent with after school activities for my kiddo, but she and I have done a lot of trips together which has been really cool.

2018 Goals

Writing
Outline Fireborn 3 & 4
3 short stories (write and query)
Start preliminary research and planning for shiny new idea
Revise Blueshift 2
Finish detailed outline of Blueshift 3
Do NaNoWriMo
Write Fireborn 3
Rewrite Blueshift 3
Query Fireborn 2
bonus:
Start writing shiny new idea
Look into writing novellas and check out the sort tor.com publishes

Reading
Read at least 30 books
Read 15 books from my shelves
Read 15 books by women or POC
Read 3 books from library

Family
One family event per month
One date night per month
Resurrect after school activities w/kiddo
At least 4 mother-daughter trips

Health
Continue kickboxing 3 times a week
Walk at least 2 times a week in warm months
Lose weight, any at all

Travel
Visit 2 new (to me) national parks
Revisit 2 national parks
Attend WorldCon76

If you're reading this, congrats you survived 2017! Here's hoping we all make it through 2018. What are your goals? Find me on Twitter or Facebook and let me know!