megwrites: A picture of a colorful spiral galaxy in space. (galaxy)
So, today I went to the library and found a really interesting book called Thanks, But This isn't For Us: A (Sort Of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected.

I haven't read all of it, but I did find an interesting exercise that I'd love to see other people on my f-list try. Which is:

Come up with five opening lines for books you never intend to write. Use different techniques and try out different genres than you usually would. Just make them as interesting and compelling in one line as you can.

So my five were:

1. "Why won't you let me drive?" Allie asked on the way to their next murder.

"Because you're the only person under seventy I've ever seen leave their blinker on for five exits." (murder mystery)

2. When Sierra was ten she got her first job, kissed her first girl, and got in her first fight all in the space of three hours on the first day of school. (Romance)

3. His queen would be dead by noon if he didn't find a new, less worn out horse. (Historical romance)

4. The President's eyes seemed bright but rheumy that day as he leaned on the podium in the sweltering August heat of Washington. (Political thriller)

5. Hades laid his head down in the gloom and let the dead babble around him, then he raised his eyes to the black vaulted ceiling of the cave and suddenly, the dead went silent. (Mythological fantasy)


So, hopefully others will choose to play along. It's an interesting exercise in how to sculpt a first line and it actually got me thinking of new ideas. Let me know what you thought of my first five lines and feel free to leave your own first five (or try just one!) lines in comments if you want.
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (many books)
So, I'm collecting the books that are listed in the #ThoroughlyGoodBooksbyPoC hashtag on twitter, because well, I myself want to keep up with such a list and others might, too.

Caveat: I haven't read all of these books, and I'm taking it on good faith that the authors identify themselves as PoC or are not White-Western authors, and that they are thoroughly good. However, no book is ever thoroughly perfect, especially when it comes to intersections. Discussion of what's good (or bad or problematic) about these titles is more than welcome in comments.

Also, if I spell or get someone's name wrong (or in the wrong order, though I've tried to double check so that it doesn't happen), please correct me! I want to make sure I accurately name these authors not only because it's respectful, but so that readers can find them and their books quicker! This list is accurate as of 13:00EST in the U.S. I'll keep updating it as long as Twitter does.

ETA 1: List updated! Accurate and complete (to my knowledge) as of 17:00EST in the U.S. First round of errors corrected as well. Please let me know if there are any more, and as always, feel free to add on with books and authors that meet the criteria.

That said, onto the list, which is in two sections. The first is authors and books recommended. The second is short story authors that are being recommended. Where just an author has been recommended in the book section, I've put "all titles". If you want to add a specific one, feel free to leave a comment.

The #ThoroughlyGoodBooksbyPoC Hash Tag List o' Books and Authors. )

Short Story PoC authors in the hash tag )
megwrites: Grace Park. Because yeah, she IS that awesome. (grace park)
1. A six year old guesses the plots of classic novels based on their covers. Well, classic Western literature. Favorite reinterpretation? The Great Gatsby.

2. Now your e-reader is reading you. A fairly scary prospect that makes me want to only ever read paper books and also invest in tinfoil and perhaps think about going off the grid with my paper books. The thing is? It's not that I consider how and what and the manner in which I read so secret and sacred. I'll gladly give that info out, I'll tell you all about it. It's just that I want to be asked up front about it.

What I don't trust about this is that these companies are going to do anything useful or even good for consumers and that they can be trusted at all to gather any data in this sneaky kind of manner.

Especially since it seems like they're willing to invest more in getting data like a kid trying to sneak a cookie from the jar rather than just, yanno, asking readers what they want and then fucking listening. I find the "well TV and movies have focus groups" statement disingenuous. Yes, they have focus groups, but the people in the focus groups know they're in the focus group and are aware that they're there specifically to be a data point for producers.

3. Brave from a trans man's point of view. I really like this reading of it, and it had occurred to me a few times during the film.

However, what bothers me (about movies in general, not this article) is that while we have films about women doing masculine things and wanting to be less "princess-y", we don't have a lot of films or movies about boys (or at least AMAB people) wanting to be less masculine and wanting to be very princess-y. Or about a princess who has been wrongly called a boy and a prince her whole life. Not to take away from this very good reading of it, it's just, well. I think it's not just about having more women but more types of women. There are plenty of women filled TV shows and movies. It's just they're all filled with white cis straight ladies.

4. In case your blood pressure needed to be raised (TW: blackface, dire racism and bigotry and white supremacy, and all around fail): Save the Pearls. It's just...yeah. It's as bad as you think and worse. And there's some very good commentary here about why even calling white people "pearls" while referring to PoC in the book as Coal, Tiger-Eye, Amber, etc is problematic as hell. Feel free to use Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook to register just how disgusted you are. Also, keep in mind the press is a vanity press and the awards are all bought.

5. I definitely want to pick up Salsa Nocturna the minute I get the chance. It's gotten praise from people I trust (like N.K. Jemisin) and I like what I'm hearing. So, quick book rec there.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (Default)
Book covers promote Orientalism.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the last few years have seen a deluge of such covers premiering in the U.S. (and other Euro/Western countries) at a time when France is blatantly becoming an anti-Islamic state bent on depriving French Muslims of as many rights as possible and when France's allies (like the US, UK, etc) have shit all to say about such obvious wrongness.

I just wanted to post this for all those who feel the need to ask why it matters what the cover looks like.
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (green hills)
1. I'm trying out the Pheonix client for Dreamwidth, so let me know if anything about this entry has turned out wonky or otherwise not as it should be.

2. My husband put the finished draft of my novel into .mobi format and loaded it on our shared Kindle. It was like it was a really real book. I'm tempted to now to just give it away and let people throw money into some kind of tip jar because, eeeee! It looked really nicely formatted and like a real book and everything.

3. I'm still figuring out how to organize that inclusive SF/F writer's group/writer's support and critique comm thing type dealie place majigger. Right now I'm thinking of drawing up a basic statement of beliefs and goals and letting people see if they like it.

A rough list of what the basic statement's tenents would be. I welcome and encourage feedback. Seriously. Talk to me, DW-verse! )

4. I am now consumed by the need to start researching ALL THE FLOWERS AND PLANTS because there's a story somewhere in my head. Not sure where it is, and it's not ready to come out yet, but like a seed opening underground, I know something is going to pop up soon with some sunshine, some rain, and some time.

5. I mentioned this on Twitter and Tumblr, but it's that season again. My birthday is in April and when I get my inevitable gift cards/birthday money, I'm gonna need book recs. My criteria (copied from Tumblr) are:

- Really awesome SF/F or urban fantasy/paranormal romance by authors of color and/or about protagonists of color. The less fail-y the better. God, but I need some good speculative literature right now.

- Steampunk that doesn’t fail.

- Ditto the above for authors who are queer, trans, have a disability, etc.

- Any awesome history books about non-European, non-White people centric history.

- Any books about journaling, drawing, or painting that have been helpful, especially for beginners who don’t have a lot of nifty tools at their disposal.

- Hot, steamy, queeralicious romance, erotica, etc. Will try out heterosexual pairings or situations where it breaks through norms and tropes or otherwise is something besides the same old, same old. Kink is a plus.

- Any good social sciences/culture books about topics relevant to my interests.

- Any good pop science books, particularly on physics, astronomy, astrophysics, biology, or chemistry. ETA: Botany and other natural sciences are good, too.

- Any other books that seem like they’d be right up my alley.

6. This is my dog on Youtube. This is her tail of adventure, action, and whirlwind passion. She is absurd in every possible way and extremely sweet and inordinately fond of citrus and eating cloth. I just wanted to brag about her because she's really cute and sleeping next to me. Yes, she is named after the book/movie but only because she was named "Cora" at the animal control place we adopted her from and we didn't like that. I wanted to name her Sharptooth.

7. I'm on Goodreads. Go add me so I won't be lonely? *sad woe face*.
megwrites: Shakespeared! Don't be afraid to talk Elizabethan, or Kimberlian, or Meredithian! (shakespeared!)
Author Jim C. Hines replicates poses from fantasy book covers. Proof that you CAN laugh and cry from utter joy at the same time.

Oh god, it's like finally someone understand why I hate those covers so much and gets why they're utterly ridiculous.
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (many books)
I know I haven't been around much in the last part of 2011. That's due to a lot of things, including some mental health issues that I'll talk about some time, but not now.

For now, it's time for the annual "how many and what kind of books did Meg read?" total. I didn't get as many read as I wanted to this year (I aim for 50 every year, haven't gotten there yet). But here it is:

Reading Stats
Books Attempted: 28
Books Completed: 24
Average Time to Read A Book: 10 days
Most Read Author: Alison Weir
Longest Book Read: The Broken Crown - Michelle West
Shortest Book Read: Sex With Kings - Eleanor Herman
PoC Authors Read: 14
Female Authors Read: 21
GLBT Authors Read: 1 for sure, but probably more

History/Biography: 6
Science Fiction: 5
Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance: 9
Fantasy: 2
Mainstream/General Fiction: 1
Non-Fiction: 1

5 Favorite Books I Read In 2011:

5. Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir - A really wonderful and impeccably researched (as always) biography done by Alison Weir who has a talent for well balanced and carefully considered histories. Not only is Eleanor herself a fascinating subject for study, but the ways in which Weir makes sure to frame the history to show that even if she wasn't given credit for the things she accomplished or help accomplished, she certainly deserved it. I want to give this book to anyone who thinks women somehow become useless after 40. This woman rocked Europe well into her seventies.

4. The Broken Kingdoms by NK Jemisin - I love Jemisin's writing, I love how she's taken the fantasy genre into a new direction and I love that she gets characters so right. She understands how to build drama and delicious chemistry between her characters, both in love and conflict. A compelling and sympathetic narrator and impressive worldbuilding made this a book that set the bar high for books I read in 2011.

3. Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone - I simply devoured this history, partly because it's something I never got taught even in classes focusing on European history in that period and partly because Goldstone knows how to infuse her histories with a sense of humor and a human warmth in the writing. The book very much reads like a very smart, witty friend teaching you history. The topic of the four sisters from one family who all eventually gained the title of "queen" (of England, France, the Romans [which is actually Germany] and Sicily respectively) is complex and fascinating, but even though there are a lot of intersecting lines and things to keep straight, the author painted riveting portraits of the women who shaped Europe and both the high and low points of their royal lives.

2. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - This is one of those books that when a writer reads it, they go into a spiral of "why bother, I could never be better than this!". The God of Small Things is as close to a perfect novel as I think it's possible for a human being to write. Lyrical, wrenching, multilayered, heartbreaking, searing and whimsical by turns, it lays out a story that is both microscopic and epic in scope. Each time I left this book, I found myself surprised to be back home instead of there with Estha and Rahel and all the others.

1. Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson - It's no secret I love Hopkinson as an author. So when I scored this book in a bookstore by total accident, I was over the moon. And deservedly so. This book is sheer magic and everything that science fiction can be and should be, as far as I'm concerned. A story about all stories and their power, an exploration of a world where human and person aren't the same thing, a tale of just one young woman and of an entire world at the same time, it sings and whispers and bellows out beautiful things while being a damn good read and a very solid science-fiction novel that explores a lot of what the mainstream tech-obsessed canon in this genre neglects as being unimportant.

5 Least Favorite Books I Read in 2011:

5. Kingmaker by Maurice Broaddus - I wanted to like this novel badly and it isn't necessarily a horrible book or terribly written. There are a lot of deeply impressive elements. The worldbuilding, the marriage of mythology to a thoroughly believable modern setting and the interpretation of the King Arthur story in a way that sets aside the Disneyfied versions and gets to a truth. However, the plot, structure and pacing of the story were a hot mess. The real plot doesn't begin until halfway through, lots of threads are left hanging in ways that I'm not sure were deliberate, and while many of the scenes and characters were fascinating, their importance to the plot seemed flimsy at best.

4. Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh - I liked this much less than Singh's Guild Hunter novels. By an order of magnitude, really. The writing felt like it came straight off the Paranormal Fantasy Template and while the worldbuilding was uniquely Singh's, the writing could've come from any paranormal romance with a half naked guy on the cover. The romance isn't even romance, the entire society is problematic as hell and there are so many misogynistic alpha male shenanigans here that I debated not finishing. The sex honestly bored me. The best I can say about it is that it was at least paced logically and I didn't need to read any of the other books in the series.

3. Kiss of Crimson by Lara Adrian - The misogyny and creepiness just drip off of this book. An entire species that has no women in it, because The Breed can only be men. Women are "Breedmates" only and though they have powers of their own. Those names alone had me ready to check out and forget this book. I wish I had. While Breedmates have powers of their own, they don't get to do much. they tend to just sit around needing saving and being mystically bonded to guys. The Breed even has their misogyny enshrined in law. Breed men are permitted by law to order around Breedmates they're related to! Even the relative uniqueness of the vampires-as-alien hybrids couldn't save this book. At ever chance, the book takes the most predictable and boring path when so many interesting ones are available. The characters might as well be cut and pasted from other books, minus any trace of real personality or presence.

2. Gideon by Jacquelyn Frank - I rooted for the villains and wanted to set the heroes on fire. The book appropriates Jewish names/theology for Celtic-based demons for no reason I could discern. I've never read such weak and terrible writing. The dialogue was so stiff you could've ironed your shirt and the book meandered between couples, not even focusing fully on the main characters (not that there was anything to miss out on). The romances here are bland and sometimes worrying. The relationship between Jacob and Bella (yes, I laughed hard) goes down the checklist of things abusers do to control their partners. Throw in the constant misogyny and "women should leave politics and fighting to the men" nonsense and you have a recipe for disaster.

1. Seduced by Shadows by Jessa Slade - Where do I start? Problematic and appropriative as all hell, it not only abuses the Jewish religion, but doesn't even do it well. The entire world is based on a writer using the concept of teshuva wrongly and for no reason. As a side dish, there's Islamobigotry because the villains are all djinn while the angels are all Christian. The characters drip with self-pity and whine about their souls and salvation a lot. There wasn't even really a romance here. The hero's past owning of enslaved people on a plantation is handled atrociously and the heroine starting the book with a disability isn't done much better. For those reasons, the book landed dead last on this list.
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (things read)
In my ever optimistic quest for a perfect, or at least better paranormal romance/urban fantasy I ran across a short story that was the beginning point for a paranormal romance series.

Being the naive little optimist I am, I dived in. And what did I discover? The heroine of the piece was the Goddess of Oppression, Kadence. (I'm not making a single bit of this up).

Kadence is a gorgeous white woman with long flowing blonde locks, more beautiful than Aphrodite herself (this is literally said), who has the power to take people's free will away from them and make them do what she wants but never seems to think that maybe this power is something she ought to work on CONTROLLING rather than feeling sad that she's stuck in the underworld where she can't suck the life out of people. And her great heroic act is to buy the love of her life from the devil. Yes. Because buying people without their consent and not telling them about it until 3/4ths through the story is a completely an okay thing to do that should make the reader think you're an inherently angelic person.

The Goddess of Oppression, y'all. *nods*.

I read the entire thing, but I did not keep a straight face at all. Because there's just too much unintentional truthiness and irony (in the layman's sense) and all the rest. I just wanted to ask if someone, somewhere was even aware that but for a change in the tone of the piece and a few edits here and there, it could've been the most brilliant satire ever and a scathing, hilarious commentary on the genre.

I think I've officially been broken of my optimism. Anybody have any paranormal romance recs that will restore my faith? Anyone?
megwrites: A pair of brown glasses on a worn wooden table with a shadowed white wall in the background. (glasses)
1. Something awesome: [personal profile] ephemere is taking preorders for a book of calligraphy and art entitled Kandila. If you've ever seen the breath taking work that she's posted before, then you already know that this is definitely a worthy addition to any library. Plus, the more you pay, the more extras you get. The basic package starts out at $25US, which I think is more than reasonable for something this beautiful and obviously made with great talent, love, and dedication.

2. Re: The #YesGayinYA thing, [personal profile] deepad has a really, really great post asking for critiques of the books on the list here in her post: "In which I am derailing and contrary and also unsupportive of the Market".

A lot of what she says were things that were really front and center in my mind when I compiling the books for the #buyabiggaynovelforscottcardday list from Twitter and comments. And things that I think are essential to this conversation. And other conversations, frankly. Especially about the US-centrism of the discussion, and about the work that goes into critiques and reviews of books.

I also highly recommend you check out: this post about it from [personal profile] colorblue, who says:

More often than not, I find representation unaccompanied by critical analysis (that takes into account underlying hierarchies) worse than the alternative. The representation of minorities that most often gets past gatekeepers is the representation least challenging and most flattering to the status quo, and I don't see how this will change if it isn't even acknowledged.

And, on a personal note: I'd rather not see myself represented at all than see myself represented in that fashion by major publishing houses, because it hits too close to home, leaves me in the most awful headspace. That said, I've always had access to stories about people somewhat like me, and my privileges have ensured that there are quite a few stories like this (outside the big name US publishers, that is).

The fact is that we don't need to create a glut of literature that is rubber stamped by the establishment and then act like we've done a favor to either GLBT+ youth or the world in general.

Thus, I urge anyone who was checking the Big Gay Book List for recs to immediately head over to deepad's entry and look at the comments and see what people (especially people who are talking from their lived experiences and actual identities) are saying about books that you might think are good - but remaining willfully unaware helps nothing.
megwrites: Shakespeared! Don't be afraid to talk Elizabethan, or Kimberlian, or Meredithian! (shakespeared!)
If you don't know, Orson Scott Card is a well known, long standing queer hater who thinks that gay folks should be locked away if they dare to show their horrible queerness in public. Recently he rewrote a very nasty, and hateful version of Hamlet which revolves around the idea that gay = evil.

But this is the internet and at least in my section of it, we don't hold with those kind of shenanigans from people who are (not to put too fine a point on it) howling bigoted douchemonkeys.

The response, at least on Twitter, was the #buyabiggaynovelforscottcardday hashtag in which people from all over threw in their recommendation for queer/LGBT+ novels, books, even short stories and comics and graphic novels that would put any reader on the top of OSC's "Evil Queer" List.

And being the person I am, I have tried to compile that list by following the hashtag.

A very long, dubiously complete but completely alphabetized list of recommendations from the #buyabiggaynovelforscottcardday hashtag )
megwrites: A vertical stack of books, spines facing out leaning against a horizontal stack of books. (many books)
I had something of an illuminating experience at the Borders "going out of business" sale this weekend.

For those who don't know, Borders is (was) one of the major brick and mortar retailers here in the U.S. They've been fighting bankruptcy and financial woes for years, but it's finally caught up to them. They're going under and individual locations are going out like light bulbs.

Here have a link about it from the Wall Street Journal.

This is very bad for the employees who are losing jobs. I feel genuine and deep sympathy for them, especially with the way job markets are right now.

But as a person who buys books and is deeply interested in book retail and the publishing industry, it was something of an instructive experience.

Discussion of book buying habits, stores, economies and other things that might not be interesting. Also, very U.S.-centric, with my apologies! )
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (rainbow books)

Title: The Broken Crown (The Sun Sword, Book 1)
Author: (Michelle West (aka Michelle Sagara); [ profile] msagara; @msagara)
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 764
Publisher: DAW

Review: The Broken Crown by Michelle West )
megwrites: Reading girl by Renoir.  (rainbow books)
The book(s) I am reading: The Broken Crown (Sun Sword #1), Michelle West (aka Michelle Sagara), The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen, and The Tyrannicide Brief by Geoffrey Robertson

The book I am writing (or would like to write or see written): I'm bouncing between the sequel to the book I'm editing and a space-romance threesome book.

The book I love most: The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkison. That book seriously blew me away, changed what I thought I knew about how books should even be structured, completely took a sledgehammer to the notion that genre classifications can be helpful, and so many other things.

The last book I received as a gift: None. I don't think anyone's ever given me a book as a gift. I borrowed a few, but never been given one. I stand corrected! Here I was trying to think of x-mas, birthdays, etc and it turns out that [ profile] nwhyte actually very generously gave me the gift of King Rat by China Mieville (which, btw, is the sole Mieville novel I've ever finished or enjoyed). I feel like kind of a jerk for forgetting that!

The last book I gave as a gift: None. This may explain my above answer.

The nearest book on my desk: The Rise of Modern China by Immanuel C.Y. Hsu.

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags