Category Archives: Books

Books by others; whatever I’m reading.

Cover Reveal: Child of a Hidden Sea

Here it is–the cover of my upcoming June novel, Child of a Hidden Sea. The artist’s name is Karla Ortiz and her blog’s here.

Ready? Okaygo!!

The text from the book jacket reads:

One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles.
The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language Sophie has never heard.

Sophie doesn’t know it yet, but she has just stepped into a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered…her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.

But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don’t know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a new-found sister, and a ship’s captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world…or is doomed to exile.

Establishing horror in five paragraphs or less… #amreading

DSCN0555One of the exercises I run past my “Creating Universes, Building Worlds” group is to start a piece and, within five paragraphs, establish the speculative subgenre–fantasy, horror, cyberpunk, hardSF, whatever.

Then I have them rewrite the same fragment in a different genre.

It always yields interesting results, and something that’s pretty consistent, from class to class, is that few people tackle horror and many of those submissions are less in your face, less out-and-out unabashedly horror, less easy to identify than the fantasy, the dystopian near-future SF, the time travel, and the space opera.

I was reminded of this today when I read “each thing I show you is a piece of my death,” by Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer, because by the time I hit the word canker, I’m not in any doubt. And from there the authors just dial it up:

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
–The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, William Shakespeare.

Somewhere, out beyond the too-often-unmapped intersection of known and forgotten, there’s a hole through which the dead crawl back up to this world: A crack, a crevasse, a deep, dark cave. It splits the earth’s crust like a canker, sore lips thrust wide to divulge some even sorer mouth beneath–tongueless, toothless, depthless.

The hole gapes, always open. It has no proper sense of proportion. It is rude and rough, rank and raw. When it breathes out it exhales nothing but poison, pure decay, so bad that people can smell it for miles around, even in their dreams.

Especially there.

Through this hole, the dead come out face-first and down, crawling like worms. They grind their mouths into cold dirt, forcing a lifetime’s unsaid words back inside again. As though the one thing their long, arduous journey home has taught them is that they have nothing left worth saying, after all.

Because the dead come up naked, they are always cold. Because they come up empty, they are always hungry. Because they come up lost, they are always angry. Because they come up blind, eyes shut tight against the light that hurts them so, they are difficult to see, unless sought by those who–for one reason, or another–already have a fairly good idea of where to start looking.

It’s a great story, if you’re looking for a creepy read.

2013 Books Read

keep readingHere’s the annual list of everything I read last year. It’s a new low, numerically–between the move and a couple other things, I wasn’t in the right headspace. I did read a fair number of short stories, but I often forgot to record them. A few made it to their own list, though, at the bottom. Of those, my favorite was the John Chu story

The best novel for me, this year, was Hild, by Nicola Griffith. You probably remember that I reviewed it, here.

1. Best American Science and Nature Writing, edited by Dan Ariely and Tim Folger
2. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
3. The Cat’s Table, by Michael Ondatje
4. The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
5. Suspect Identities: A history of fingerprinting and criminal identification by Simon A. Cole
6. The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars, by Paul Collins
7. Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World, by Matthew Goodman
8. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
9. Black Rubber Dress, by Lauren Henderson
10. The Given Sacrifice, by S.M. Stirling
11. The Summer of Dead Toys, by Antonio Hill
12. Hild, by Nicola Griffith
13. The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, by John M. Barry
14. The Voices In-Between, by Charlene Challenger
15. Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn
16. The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes
17. Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
2 student novels, plus partials

Short Stories
About Fairies,” Pat Murphy
The Water that Falls on You from Nowhere,” John Chu

Running of the Bulls” by Harry Turtledove
Brimstone and Marmalade,” by Aaron Corwin,
Dormanna,” by Gene Wolfe
House of Dreams“, by Michael Swanwick

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Vacation looms, and with it the reading of lighter fare…

In my case, having finished Nicola Griffith’s excellent Hild
(here’s my review) and Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel, I think I will be going with a thriller, Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places. Here’s the cover.

Vacation is a relative term. I want to finish some substantial revision on Daughter of a Pirate by the end of the calendar year, and I have a couple one-on-one students I’m doing things for, or with. But my Novel 1 class is about to wind down, and there will be some loafing. And with loafing, for me, comes crime.

Edited to add: Having read the Gillian Flynn book, and having found it just okay, I am thinking of moving on to a book Barb recommended: Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America

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Where does all the awesome come from? Jack Womack and the #BuffyRewatch

fangirlTor.com has a new feature called That Was Awesome: Writers on Writing. The inaugural post is one by me, on Jack Womack’s uber-fantastic coming of age diary, Random Acts of Senseless Violence
. The essay is called: Surprise, Fear, and an almost Fanatical Devotion to the Womack.

This essay–and there will be others–owes a debt to Favorite Thing Ever, where I got to go squee about Veronica Mars and Tana French and many other wonderful things.

Meanwhile in Sunnydale, season seven needed a catchy refrain, and has chosen blogs/2013/11/buffy-the-vampire-slayer-rewatch-did-you-turn-this-ladys-ex-into-a-giant-worm-monster”>From Beneath You, It Devours.” Won’t that make a great theme for Dawn’s first prom?

Reading, Riting, Rithmatik

Tor Shorts2I have begun Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall
this week, having finished The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History and Hild, but I have only just scratched the surface. The bulk of my readerbrain is engaged with my Novel 1 students at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. They turned in their first chapters this week, and are deep in the workshop process. The group of them have some delightful books on the go; it’s always incredibly cool to see novels just sprouting, in this very new stage. I’m a fan of beginnings: many of my all-time favorite TV episodes are pilots. But I do need to pick myself another history or science book. I find it easier to read non-fiction when I’m reading student submissions. Hmmm, this probably means it’s time to crack The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2013.

Next quarter I will be teaching Creating Universes, Building Worlds, and in the spring I will be running the more advanced Writing the Fantastic. Both classes will be open to new and returning students–I’ve had people take CUBW more than once, just for the chance to workshop again. Both have filled fast the last few times they’ve been offered.

Speaking of books, my very fun day-counting app now has an entry for the release of Child of a Hidden Sea; it’ll be out in 223 days.

The #BuffyRewatch also got to review #Hild this week on @tordotcom

keep readingI have two new essays up on Tor this week. The Buffy rewatch is up to “Lessons.” (Meanwhile, I have only just finished submitting the essay on “Help,” and I see I gave them very similar titles. Sigh.)

I also had the great good fortune to get an advance peek at Nicola Griffith’s fantastic new novel Hild, and to write the following review.

Hild’s story begins when she is three and her father is poisoned. Her mother, Breguswith, moves their household to Edwin’s court for safety. Mom immediately begins some high-end scheming. She has already laid the groundwork for Hild to have a very special place within the court, because when she was pregnant, she revealed a vision that predicted Hild would be “the light of the world.”

Hild is out now and I can’t recommend it enough. If you buy one book in hardcover this week, let it be this one. Go! Read! Enjoy!

Toronto, Day 129

Last week was full of petty frustrations and upheavals, nothing huge, but enough to put a glower on my face, from time to time, and shadow my attention to the many things, big and small, that were lovely and delightful about the week.

Some of the things that were, at times, overshadowed by the grump: The launch for Priscilla Uppal’s new book Projection: Encounters With My Runaway Mother was really fun, and the book is, in part, about movies. Each chapter is named for a film: it starts with Blade Runner and there’s a Throw Momma from the Train chapter. Very promising!

On Saturday we went with Linda Carson to check out Hop Day before making and devouring a delicious fall feast together.

Here’s one of the Hop Day attendees confronting a painting I really liked; it’s called Orphan:

A fellow Art Hop attendee confronts a painting card Orphan.

I finished a story, and am quite pleased with it. The construction dudes seem to be on the verge of finishing our courtyard, and have not only turned on the water feature but have added gorgeous blue lights to it. And Bird TV is back on the air–the sparrows have found our suet feeder and the cats are wildly attentive.

Even the iO7 upgrade offered a bit of fun and entertainment.