So… how’d you do? Did you cross the finish line yet?
I made it on the 25th with 50001 words, no kidding. The story is… I don’t know yet. I have half a mind to redraft it with a different concept, and half a mind to finish it as-is. There are bits I *really* like. There are bits I can’t stand. So, pretty much all first drafts, heh.
Today I’m pleased to host my friend Bella Leone for a Can’t Talk, Reading post. She has a new book out herself, one with boys and kissing. No down side. Enjoy!
Why haven’t I been writing?
Well part of it is because I’m making a human, and that shit is some serious energy suck. My baby will be a ten pounder if my exhaustion has anything to do with it.
The other reason I’m not writing?
The Bloggess to most people.
She has an amazingly hysterical blog at www.thebloggess.com. I read her posts and snicker at my desk trying to pretend I’m working hard when in all actuality I’m reading about taxidermied rodents, wine-slushies, and sloth hugs. I also follow her on Twitter to see what her daily shenanigans entail, usually medication and robots.
I’d like to be Jenny Lawson when I grow up. She’s delightfully fucked up in a charming and adorable way. She makes me feel…not as crazy.
And she now has a book of her childhood and young adulthood adventures!
I thought her blog posts about giant roosters named Beyonce and all the other fabulous ways she’s causing her husband grey hair would be just enough funny to kill the average person, but then I bought Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.
Holy crap. I laughed so hard at the first chapter, I thought I was going to scramble my unborn child. I’ve giggle-snorted so hard I’ve had to take pee breaks. I haven’t been this entertained, second-hand embarrassed, and delightfully delirious about a book in a very long time. Maybe ever.
Jenny has a way of stating things so plainly and simply and with just enough sarcasm that you have a hard time believing her “mostly true” memoir, but you also can’t help but imagine it all. No one could make this shit up! It has to be true! There are some poignant moments, especially when she was writing about her infertility. That struck very close to home, but she also dealt with it with humor and grace or ungraceful spazzing, but it worked and it, again, made me feel less crazy. I really recommend you read this book.
In Jenny’s own words, why you should buy her book:
I wrote a book and it only took me 11 years. (Shut up, Stephen King.)
You should probably go buy it right now, because it’s filled with awesomeness. And cocaine. But only if you hollow it out and fill it with your own cocaine. I’m not buying you cocaine. Because I love you.
And that’s why you should buy my book. Because I’m saving you from yourself. And from cocaine.
And you will be glad you read it, I promise! And I won’t buy you cocaine either, but I did just give you a great book rec, so it’s kind of the same thing!
Check out Bella’s new release from Loose Id, Downpour:
It’s a fascinating look at what happens to us after we die. Not the parts of us that may or may not travel on to other things, but the parts of us that are left behind. Our cadavers.
So far, she’s visited a gross anatomy class, a refresher course in face lifts (heads in roasting pans, people), a body farm and an embalming school. She’s described all of this in great, personal detail. Her reactions, the smells, the fluids. I’ve just entered the “crash test cadaver” section of the book.
I am LOVING THIS BOOK. It’s fascinating, and viscerally disgusting. I know what happens to the brain when we decompose (spoiler alert: it liquefies). The author is forthright and honest about the things that bother her and the things that don’t, and very open about what we all can expect to happen to our bodies.
Life is temporary, and our mortality scares the everloving shit out of us. What, after all, are most of our greatest stories about if not the fear of death or the love of sex? Often both!
There’s something both voyeuristic and also brave about reading Mary Roach’s book. She’s pulling back the curtain on what we all worry about in the dead of night (HAR HAR). I find the experience calming, to be honest. I’d rather be fully informed, because information takes away fear. When we pull out what we’re scared of and examine it, know it intimately, we become less afraid. Well, I do, anyway.
I realized a while ago that I worry about things a lot. I’m a natural worrier. I can tell you the worst-case option of any scenario. I started writing in part to explore that. I like to write about things I’m afraid of. The story Worse Things is in part a story of being completely out of control of one’s self. Of watching yourself hurt people and having no power to change it. That is a fear of mine, deep seeded. Death is another–the extinguishing of my life is a scary prospect. I kind of like me, and I’ll be sad to see me go. The loss of others is also terrifying. I hate to see other people I love disappear. Reading this book is a great way to look at that fear head on. We just die. The rest is unknown. What we do know is that our bodies can go on to save many other lives, and then will simply vanish themselves back into the nothingness they came from. I’m comforted by the cyclical nature of it.
I might be a bit Ood. But that’s okay. If you’re a bit Ood too, I think you’ll like this book. Just don’t talk about it at the dinner table. Your family, like mine, may be irritated with you. Now quit bothering me! I’m reading.
So, I’ve been travelling and doing a bit of working on Caroline’s edits (not enough, by far). I’ve also been making a concerted effort to read more. Here’s a quick run down of my Can’t Talk, Reading list for the last couple months, with mini-reviews:
On audio (audible hates me and wants my children to starve, btw. Their sale emails are bad.)
I want to talk about Supernatural though. Supernatural, as defined by my friend Bella Leone, is basically boy Buffy. Brothers hunt supernatural things. Snark and silliness interspersed with serious and tender moments ensue. There are monsters of the week and big bads. Not screwing around, they go with the biggest of big bads–demons, angels, even Lucifer. Stakes are high, like end of the world high. Each season outdoes the last until I can’t imagine how season six and seven go (I’m only halfway through season five right now).
I watched the first episode of Supernatural when it originally aired, years ago. I wasn’t impressed. It seemed derivative of Buffy without adding anything new. It was sort of hack and, if I’m honest, boring. I felt the same way about the show the second time I watched it. Now though, I had the perspective of about a million screaming fans to keep me watching past episode one. I’m glad I did. I think the show hits its stride somewhere halfway through the first season, and then just keeps on going until you can’t quit those Winchester boys.
The best part of the show isn’t the story lines although they’re good enough to keep you guessing (the last episode of season 4 totally blew my mind, for example). The best part is the brothers themselves, the actors that bring them alive and the amazing writing that gives them character. Dean and Sam are consistently written, believable and changing as the series progresses. We’re not talking one note characters who will make the same decisions each time. I hate that. Sam’s the smart one and Dean’s the bad boy so each time Sam is cautious and Dean is reckless, right? SO NOT TRUE. They are well developed, powerful and evolving characters with intricate relationships and personality quirks.
In short, they are characters I love to love. I’m a character-driven writer, and reader too. I like to see how people change, I like to get to know them and when bad things happen to them I want to feel as terrible as they do. I rarely project myself into a story because I want to see how the character in the story will do things. I know how I would do them! The writers of Supernatural focus as much on character as on story, even spending whole scenes on character building rather than plot advancement. I love this.
One other thing I absolutely love about this show. The men cry. This seems ridiculous to even have to talk about, but I do because in so much media things are stereotyped, even to this day (although it isn’t as bad. Someday I’m going to talk about Stargate’s antiquated feminist character.) We’ve seen advancements in the way women are portrayed, but I don’t think men have come as far. They’re still either super strong alphas or super laughable fat dudes in sitcoms. The Winchesters are neither. They are strong, both of them in different ways. They are also loving–they love each other and their family. When something bad happens, when they hurt, they cry. Like normal people. I’m talking the pain of broken hearts, of self-betrayal, of shame, of loss. They feel things as people should feel them. They also get angry and punch each other. They tease each other mercilessly. Their relationship is powerfully bonded and when it comes apart, it comes apart hard. The emotional depth of the show is very believable, and very real. This is NOT something you see in male leads, and it pleases me very much.
The heart of Supernatural beats strong, the humor and the sadness and the excitement and even the scare factor. I highly recommend a watch of the show, now available on Netflix instant streaming. Until you can get to it, here’s one of my favorite Dean moments to entice you (I’ve started asking myself What Would Dean Winchester Do?):
Now quit bothering me, I’m slaying demons with the Winchesters!
If you read enough of my blather, you’ll know I’m a die hard King fan. But the truth is, lately, I’ve been lukewarm on King. I didn’t love Cell (I liked it, I didn’t love it.) I liked Lisey’s Story but didn’t love it, either. The real disappointment, though, was Under the Dome.
I couldn’t finish it, people. A King book I can’t finish? Unheard of. But it was… I don’t know. Boring? Predictable, certainly. I felt as though I’d read the entire thing before, and I could predict the move of each character. By a third of the way through, I gave up caring about any of the characters. I can’t say exactly why, I wish I could pin it down to one thing or another, but the book just bored me. I was very disappointed.
I did love Full Dark, No Stars. King’s short stories are unbelievable. So many people skip them and they are missing out on some of the most amazing writing there is to be read. Amazing, captivating, intense. He tells a tale as skillfully (and as weirdly) as Bradbury, but in the singular King voice. Go. Read. I recommend Everything’s Eventual and Nightmares and Dreamscapes, but any of them will do. My excitement about this novel can wait until you’re finished.
Back? Mind blown? Great. Anyway, the point of all that preamble is that I was nervous approaching 11/22/63. I didn’t preorder it or run out as soon as it was published. I waited to see what other people said. I wasn’t sure I would read it at all. I’m glad I changed my mind.
11/22/63 was fantastic. Character driven spec fic with that tinge of WTF that King has perfected. I’m struggling to write a review without spoilers, but he gives you a take on the early sixties that is rich and full. Diving into the book feels like being there with Jake Epping as he embarks on a mad quest to stop the assassination of JFK. The past, though, doesn’t want to be changed.
King’s skills lie in writing characters you give a fuck about. Even the smallest of side characters, you root for. Or against, depending. This book is no different, with a main character so achingly “every man” that you can easily put yourself in his shoes. His struggles are yours, his questions are yours. You’re there, in his shoes, driving his Sunliner. I jumped into this book and in 14 pages I knew I was going to like it a lot. I did.
Bottom line is, go read this book. And stop bothering me, I’m reading.
Today’s edition of CTR is brought to you* by Santa Olivia, by Jacqueline Carey.
Carey writes a series of books that I lovingly call the “Kushiel” books, although I’m not sure that’s what they’re actually called. There are nine of them set in the same world, a vast fantasy alt-earth. The most recent installment took us to a fantasy version of Central America that left me very disturbed whenever I pass an ant colony. But I digress. I love these books. They are the first fantasy novels I can recall enjoying since Mercedes Lackey’s Fate series when I was a youngster. There are parts of her world that I believe in so strongly I’ve found myself sending prayers to her gods. That’s good world building.
Santa Olivia has nothing to do with this world, these novels. So I was a bit nervous going in, as you can imagine if you’ve ever had a passion for a series of books.
I was wrong to be worried. Carey is an amazingly talented author. She has a lot of strengths, but her female characters might be at the top of that list. She creates women I want to be, to hang out with, who are realistically flawed and full of depth. Carmen and Loup Garron are no exception to that rule. Strength, grim resolve, powerful emotional resonance but not in the “drama queen” sense at all. Amazing women.
You might have guessed from the name “Loup” that there are wolves in the mix. Werewolves. Kind of. Put the ablicious kind out of your head and consider–if we tampered with human DNA, added… things, what would we get? We get Loup. We get a dystopian future US where some kind of superflu (captain tripps anyone?) has wiped out a lot of folk. We get a fascinating, believable situation wherein people are hurting and dying but not as much from the flu anymore as from a government with too much power and too many secrets.
I am loving this book. I was reading in the hot tub** and turned into a giant prune yesterday because I couldn’t tear myself away from it. I love the way she takes tired mythology and turns it into something utterly new (in these and the other books she’s written). I love her voices, her worlds. This is a good one, highly recommended!
This reminds me–feel free to friend me on Good Reads. I’d love to see your reviews of Santa Olivia, or other books. I’m always up for a recommendation!
*not with actual money. More like in the Sesame Street style of”brought to you by.”
**world’s tiniest violin, I know. Trust me, the hot tub is a luxury I NEVER take for granted.
Today’s edition of can’t talk, reading is brought to you by Megan Hart’s Order of Solace series. I just picked up Selfish is the Heart.
Let’s be honest. There are a lot of crappy novels out there. Somehow, if you add in explicit sex, the number of crappy novels seems to explode. Sex isn’t all I need to dive into a story. This novel is not one like that.
There’s sex, sure, and there’s a very sensual world built up around the idea of service–all forms–as an aspect of faith. It feels genuine and interesting. It’s fun to read, and sexy too.
Hart is a talented author, and I can only hope to approach her level of intricate storytelling and engaging characterization. I highly recommend any of her stories, but I have a particular passion for the Solace novels.
(also, I’ve crossed the 8K line in Worse Things, and the next scene has lots of violence, so that will be fun. Woot!)
Hey! Quit bothering me. I’m reading.
Many of my dearest didn’t have the best childhoods. I seem to collect people who have spotty or downright abusive families. I also seem to collect people who read. Voraciously. It’s a writer’s occupational hazard I suppose.
We all have the same tale. We might not have had the best or most consistent moral compasses to follow, but we all had stories. All of us can point to many books and worlds that shepherded us from damaged or lost children into a whole adulthood (wholeish, anyway). We have memories of the teacher that picked us out of class and handed us a book on the sly, or told us to check in the scifi section of the library, or simply encouraged us to think critically about what we were fed, rather than accepting it without question. Where there was a dearth in our home lives, fiction and storytelling and passion for the written word stepped in to surrogate.
I’m not trying to bag on my own parents, or really any parents. Being a parent is a hard fucking job, and even the best of intentions can go awry when faced with the realities of the daily struggle to nurture and grow tiny people. If anything, my parents encouraged me to read and often provided me with trips to the library and books as gifts. That alone is a blessing.
I can tell you that I had parents of the normal sort, and I had spiritual parents too. Gene Roddenberry, Stephen King, Wendy and Richard Pini, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, Dr. Seuss… All these and more had a hand in my upbringing. Stories to this day govern the way I believe the world should look, how I conduct myself, how I treat others.
With the disappearance of Borders and the defunding of arts and libraries everywhere, I’m afraid for the lost children of the generations to come. I can only hope that they will find stories of their own to fill in their missing pieces. I’m a child of the digital age, and I don’t begrudge the shift toward ethings (I love my Kindle. Srsly.) I just hope that we remember to provide access to those who might not be able to afford high speed internet and an ereader. Because the lost children need stories–they need someone to help them find their way.
Today’s version of Can’t Talk, Reading is brought to you by The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly. About a 12 year old boy on the cusp of adulthood, his tragedies, and the fairy tales that form his moral compass and guide him through. (I told you this keeps coming up for me! Total coincidence, I had this post half written when I bought the book. I think the universe is trying to tell me something.) Great read, just picks you up and carries you along until the end. I recommend it if you are waxing nostalgic about your own storied upbringing.