Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Beginning of an Era

A friend pointed out, and it finally sunk in, that the end of 2009 isn't just a much needed clean slate—it's the end of a decade. I look back over the past ten years, and I'm so grateful. Rendered somewhat speechless. I have done and accomplished so much.

As I graduated high school in 1999, one could say I spent the decade after trying to find what it was that I wanted to do with my life. I went to college. Switched majors. Taught English in Japan. Graduated from college. Moved to Los Angeles. Lived three different lives there. Learned how to grieve. Got published. Learned how to celebrate. Saw Paris. Spent time in England. Returned to Japan. Got discovered via blogging. Got an agent. Completed my first work-for-hire. Got paid to write. Saw not one, but two different manuscripts go out on submission. Learned how to deal with 'No Thank You.' Moved back to Canada. Became a barista. Learned how to make jewelry. Did book-signings and readings. Went to author events—including meeting Aunty Melissa and Neil. Became a bookseller. Started a teen book club. Met the CEO of Chapters/Indigo and hand-sold her Beautiful Creatures.

And the truth is, I did get what I needed. Always. Even if what I needed was what I didn't want. I've learned what makes me happy and leaves me feeling fulfilled. I know what I can't tolorate—and what I actually can.

Maybe I don't quite know what I want to do when I grow up, but I know what will help me be a healthy and productive adult. There is always more to do. More to see and experience. Life is really just getting started as this decade pulls into its destination.

Part of what draws me to speculative fiction is an optomstic hope that we can make a better future. I firmly believe we have the ingenuity to solve our present problems. We'll never have a utopia, because I don't think human beings are built to be happy on a plateau. We're climbers. Survivors.

I suppose what I mean is that I look at my life and I choose hope. You can remind me of that if I seem to forget. (I know I do sometimes.)

Hello 2010, come on in. Sit down and make yourself at home. I can't wait to see what you've brought your hosts.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Tale

Being that I have to work on the Solstice, I am unable to participate in lighting the candles and playing music to frighten away the darkness. I do trust the sun is going to return, but the gesture is what's important, isn't it?

So here it is. I have a gift. It's a story, of course, because that is what I do. I tell tales. If you'd like one to keep you company this holiday season, it's yours. The story is about 5000 words. It is connected to a world I'm developing, but it's one separate from the manuscripts that are out on submission.

Drop a comment with your email address before December 25th (2009), and I'll send the tale to you. All I ask in return is that you respect it's being given for your personal use. It is a typeset PDF that you can read onscreen or print with Acrobat. If you need—or want—to reformat it for use with an e-reader, consider this your written permission to do so.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

2009 Top Ten Teen Reads

Notes before we begin:
(1) Trilogies (proper ones) count as a single item if all books were available.
(2) This is complied from all the teen books I've read this year, not the ones released this year.
(3) I will tell you why the book got on the list—which may or may not tell you what it was about.
(4) The number ranking correlates to the order I thought of them in, not necessarily meant as a reflection of quality.

1) Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

This book, for me, came out of nowhere. Grabbed me and refused to let me go. It made a home in my heart—as all of these books have. It did this by being refreshing: Set in a small town; narrated by a boy; great concept, and so much fun.

Most importantly: the romantic relationship in this novel betters the characters. They treat each other with respect. They are braver for each other. They have a realistic and healthy relationship. "Cursed love" in this novel is shown for what it is, a fear and intolerance of those who are different.

2) Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

This book is amazing because, again, it's different. It's written in third person! A sweet, funny, light-hearted story that is still dramatic and emotionally moving. When I read this book, I feel proud to be a writer.

3) Going Bovine by Libba Bray

This is the closest thing I've seen to the ambition of American Gods in years. Going Bovine is one of those insanely brilliant books that should have fallen apart and been absolutely terrible. It isn't. It's magnificent. Cameron's voice is so, so real. The book is hilarious. It stands apart from the rest of the books on the shelf.

4) The Mortal Instruments Trilogy by Cassandra Clare

The only reason this isn't the best thing I've read this year, is because I really didn't care if Clary and Jace got to make kissy faces and have babies. That was the least interesting part of the trilogy to me. (And most of what City of Bones was surface-level about.) But it still is so much fun. Like Buffy fun. Most teens probably don't understand what a compliment that is. TMI is Good and Clever. A complex, wonderful story that seeds clues well and rewards a close read.

5) Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I am pissed off Cory did not win an Aurora—or was even nominated—for this teen novel. It's one of the most important books on the teen shelves. In the years to come, people are going be required to read this novel in school (on their eReaders.) Privacy, Civil Liberties, and Alternate Reality Games? Come on, this is real science fiction. Both terrifying and inspiring.

6) My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

Proving books don't always have to have explosions to get my attention, this paranormal romance is so sweet and delightfully grounded in reality. Rachel has really accomplished something in this novel. It's well written, I care about the characters, and it's suspenseful and conflicted without being melodramatic.

7) The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray

I was so thrilled to read Victorian-era novels that did not bore me. Quite the opposite, I found this trilogy empowering. I liked the characters. I adored the voice. It's first person present tense done well—and not a romance. Anyone who pulls off the ending that Libba Bray did in The Sweet Far Thing deserves epic recognition.

8) Liar by Justine Larbalestier

This book is incredible. An unrelaible first person narrator in the teen department? Shut up! Fabulous. Wonderfully written, expertly crafted, and you can choose which book-reality is the truth. I love a great psychological thriller, and this is best one I've read all year.

9) The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

I don't like zombies. I don't like post-apocalyptic. Yet, this hauntingly beautiful and deceptively bleak book is so amazing. Oh the voice of this novel! It was heart-wrenching to read. You want to know why Hunger Games isn't on this list? Read The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Its cliffhanger ending still gets under my skin.

10) Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr

Not matter what my feelings on Ash or the ending of this book, I still love Seth and Sorcha. I love them and their character arcs enough to happily put Aunty Melissa's third novel on this list. (Now give me RADIANT SHADOWS.)

Honorable mention that aren't found on the teen shelves:

1) Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & The Olympians: A 9–12/MG series that combines Greek mythology, mayhem, and heroic quests. Way too much fun. I was so sad to say goodbye at the end of The Last Olympian.

2) Robert J Sawyer's Wake: Accessable to teens, but found in the adult sci fi section. This combines the internet, a blind girl undergoing an operation that allows her to see in an unexpected way, and the evolution of human consciousness. Easily my favorite of Sawyer's novels and the start of a promising new trilogy.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two press bits

The interviews I did earlier this fall have been turned into articles.

This is a profile piece, mostly about The Tarot Cafe Novel.

This is a larger article about Banned Book Week, Challenged Books, and Censorship in children's fiction.

The second one was a bit easier to do, as the interview was conducted via email. In the first, the journalism student was trying to write as we spoke. (Her recorder decided not to work.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Magicians & Hush Hush review

Here are the next two of my borrowed from work reads. I would have been happy if I had bought Hunger Games and Beautiful Creatures. This time around, I'm feeling happy to see the following books go back on the shelf.

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

I liked a lot of things about this book. I loved Fitzpatrick's take on angel mythology. Plus, I laughed out loud at parts where I was supposed to. Hush Hush is a fast, easy read. (I finished it in a single sitting.)

But I never quite got over the bad taste the relationship dynamic between Patch and Nora left in my mouth. Patch is a complete asshat. Now, you can argue that's the kind of character he has to be. Ok. I'm not asking for a debate about whether bad people deserve to be loved. My concern is what their relationship dynamic in this novel idealizes. Especially to readers still formulating their models of what a healthy relationship is.

Verdict: If you want to date Edward Cullen, you'll love Hush Hush. (But you shouldn't want to date Edward Cullen.)

The Magicians
by Lev Grossman

I am certain this is a good book. It's certainly well-written. I, however, am not in the right headspace to read it at this time. It's a great "what if" for an adult version of Harry Potter, but I grew impatient and flipped to see if it was going anywhere. From the bits and bobs and I scanned, that where was Narnia.

I could have kept reading to find out the how and the why, but I decided I was more interested in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series.

Verdict: Didn't get past Chapter 5, but would still recommend it for someone looking for a well-written, slower-paced fantasy standalone. Or an older teen seeking a potential entry point for the general fiction section.