Tag Archives: book addiction

I Accidentally a Whole Stack of Research Books

When I finally knew for sure where I would be moving to, I started looking into Local Stuff. Restaurants and grocery stores and movie theaters and museums. If you’re on the mailing list, you’ll know how I feel about museums. (Just imagine me with heart eyes and a misty filter and animated glitter on the edges of the frame. That’s how I feel about museums.) So when I have a chance to go to an air and automotive show at a museum, yeah, I’m there.

Which is how I ended up with a slight sunburn, brain freeze from a shave ice, and a whole stack of research books.

WWII Research Books

They’re second hand from the museum library’s collection of duplicate books. They only wanted a small donation for a whole set. It’s eight Time Life books from 1977, with titles like “The Battle of Britain” and “Russia Besieged,” and I’m in love.

WWII history is my secret passion. I grew up with the occasional story from grandparents about coastlines without a single light at night and about sailors who had battleships blown out from under them. Mostly, though, it was the Pacific theater and I could never quite cope with the politics of it. The internment of Japanese-Americans makes smoke come out my ears when I think about it. Having virulently racist grandparents telling these stories did not help. So it was always safer to focus on the European front. My love of the home front stories, though, keeps dragging me back to those ugly social politics. This is what I get for taking a special interest in war, of all things.

Someday, I’m going to feel confident enough in my knowledge base to start writing historicals. I’ve got a few ideas rattling around, of course, but I haven’t gotten up the guts to do anything about it. My experience is in writing either the mostly-right-now or the never-happened-at-all. Those are easy. Historicals, though? How can I ever sink deep enough to feel ready? It’s the perfectionist in me and maybe it’s just that someday, I’ll want to write badly enough that I’ll say to hell with one more day of research.

For now, I’ve got Pandora serenading me with Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller. I’ve got the rumble of engines and the whirr of props still in my ears. I’ve got the smell of old books and the dusty feel of paper and the gleam of restored chrome. For now, I’ll spend another day letting half-forgotten slang and tales of heroism burrow under my skin. For now, I’ll give my heart to history.

Share

Hunger Games unseats Harry Potter

Over at The Mary Sue, they have an interesting article on Amazon’s report that The Hunger Games has overtaken Harry Potter as their best-selling series ever. They ask what we might attribute this success to, beyond the simple popularity of the books. Much is being made about the ascendancy of ebooks. Harry Potter lagged on that front, in part because, as one comment pointed out, it first appeared on the market in 1997. Ebooks were not yet a thing. (For that matter, Amazon itself wasn’t much of a thing yet.) J.K. Rowling did not release digital versions of the book until her launch of Pottermore this year. That being said, The Hunger Games have also overtaken HP on print sales. The madcap midnight release parties were such visible markers of HP’s popularity. They were also a bit of a last hurrah for brick and mortar bookstores before the die-offs that came with the increasing popularity of online shopping regardless of medium.

Though I’m sure these issues of medium availability and online purchasing are influential, I think a bigger point is being missed: the success of Harry Potter may well have been the necessary groundwork for the series that followed it, including but not limited to The Hunger Games. One of the credits given to Rowling, quite correctly in my opinion, is that she made reading cool again. Forget digital formats for a moment; reading itself became a thing again.

Rowling managed to draw in an enormous audience of all ages, create an international fandom, and make the release of new books something that was announced during news programs on television and radio. When was the last time that was true? Who was the last author to so catch the imagination of youth? In particular, who else could contend for the title of official author to that generation, coming of age in the new millennium? Rowling became that touchstone author of my generation, I think. Even if you were not a fan (I was a latecomer to the books on account of being a sneering prat during junior high and high school), you knew who she was. You probably knew something about the plot, even if you wished you didn’t. Rowling ruled.

I’m not suggesting that subsequent books have simply ridden in on the coattails of Harry Potter. There have been excellent books and there have been appealing books (not always the same thing). There have been pretenders to the throne as well, books lauded as “the next Harry Potter,” which failed to hold up under such oversize expectations. However, all of them received, at the very least, the boost of having an audience already waiting, hungry for the next world in which they could get lost.

I think the next question is not simply “who will unseat the current top seller?” but “just how high can authors reach?” However good the numbers may be, The Hunger Games has not yet reached the same level of international, fanatical popularity that Harry Potter enjoyed. What book will manage to reach or surpass that level, where it takes root in the storytelling heart of the world? Who will be the next icon?

Share

WonderCon 2012 Experience

I spent the weekend at WonderCon and, like everything else, my con-going experience consisted of equal parts self-improvement and self-indulgence.

I attended Wonder Con for the first time this year largely because it was free. As part of the Comic-Con triumvirate, WonderCon offered me free passes as a professional and, seeing as it was taking place in the far more convenient Anaheim area, rather than San Francisco, I figured, what the hell. Between the first proper rainstorm of the California winter and unusually onerous work schedules, it ended up being perhaps the least convenient weekend I’ve ever experienced. That being said, my experience of the so-called “Comic-Con lite” was both positive and informative.

I have a strategy when I attend conventions. I love going to them, but I can usually only manage two or three a year, in terms of finances, scheduling, and physical tolerance. I’m an obsessive pre-planner and nothing distresses me more than when a convention only releases the schedule a few days or a week in advance of the event itself. I’m not kidding about the preplanning. There are spreadsheets involved. The only thing separating me from a level of work normally reserved for the people actually running the convention is that I know precisely what I’m looking for.

Writing Craft:

The first thing I always look for are panels for writers and about writing. These conventions always have programming intended to help people make the transition from fan to professional. That was the concept behind the Goal Setting for Creative Types panel. Put on by Douglas Neff and Toucan Learning Systems, the panel was heavy on audience participation and had a light, fun feel. The material on goal-setting itself–make it specific and measurable, primarily–I had heard before. What I found most helpful was his breakdown on your support team. This is the first time someone explained the importance of having each role (coach, cheerleader, and scorekeeper) filled by different person. It explained the love-hate relationship I had with telling my mother about my projects: what I needed most was a cheerleader and so unanticipated criticisms were unusually debilitating.

I also love panels in which writers talk about their own storytelling process. In Monsters Anonymous, Amber Benson, Mike Mignola, and Christopher Farnsworth talked about world-building choices as they related to public awareness of the monstrous in their respective worlds. Rewriting History featured Naomi Novik, Todd McCaffrey, Rob Reid, and Ernest Cline using and abusing history for their own purposes. I’ve written futuristic fiction and even reimagined the 80s, like Cline, to create an alternate present, but what I’m really hungry to do is follow in Novik’s footsteps. Rather than Napoleonic Wars plus dragons, I’m keen to World War II plus fairies. Finally, Shivers, Shakes, and Swoon gave me another look at my favorite genre I’m not writing in (yet): Young Adult.

I branched out a little more this year, now that I’m getting more heavily involved in self-publishing. Cover Story was a chance to listen to comic book professionals talk about what made good cover art. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll be attempting to make my own covers or hiring someone, but I want to understand either way. Mike Mignola, in particular, was very helpful. While he was mostly willing to write off his own covers as hopeless, he offered concrete commentary on the strengths and weaknesses of others’. To round things out, I attended the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s panel on the history of censorship and comics, which was at once sobering and inspiring.

Research:

Arguably my favorite part of any con are the research panels. Conventions are fantastic place to get a primer in subjects about which I know nothing. I saw several fantastic science panels this year. Iron Man, Robopocalypse, and the Future of Humanity and Science in Science Fiction both focused on a combination of physical enhancements and mental integrations through technology. E. Paul Zehr and Daniel H. Wilson presented a delightful image of future Olympic and professional sports enhanced by superhuman prostheses (and the possibility of deliberate-amputation-as-competitive-edge). Kyle Kurpinski and Terry Johnson were great fun to listen to, though I kept spacing out as my Muse started playing with ideas about duplicating human minds as programming and being in two places at once with robotic body doubles. Also, their book, How to Defeat Your Own Clone, is funny enough to injure the unprepared. (Also also, Terry looks smashing in Dr. Who cosplay.) The panels were particularly well-suited to my research for Incognito. Does it worry anyone else that phrases like “Robopocalypse” fill me less with dread and more with giddy anticipation?

Fan:

Of course, it’s not all business. Sometimes I’m just there because OMG! The people. The things. The other people. Squee! Both the Monsters and History panels were also happy excuses to see people like Amber Benson and Naomi Novik, who make my heart do flip-flops. The Young Adult panel was an excuse to find more people like that. (I didn’t realize it beforehand, but I had previously seen Gretchen McNeil in her other life as a singer in Cirque Berzerk.) Maybe it’s strange to go to panels with authors you’ve never read, but this is one of my favorite ways of finding new books. Listening to authors talk about their books, their inspirations, and their interests, I get a window into who they are as people and how much that might overlap with who I am. A good panel can get me to take the plunge on books outside my normal genres and interests just because I want to spend more time with authors I got to know at a convention. The ultimate indulgence, for me, was the Steampunk 101 panel. The costumes on display all weekend were fantastic and have me itching to get sewing again.

Buying:

I was more conservative with my spending this time, so I have a little less booty to show off than usual. I’m currently being given the dubious look by Laurie, my disapproving Squid Kid. I have costuming goodies from Crimson Chain Leatherworks and Legendary Costume Works. I bought a few books, including How to Defeat Your Own Clone, from Mysterious Galaxy, the best independent bookstore, period. My favorite thing, by far, is the Transmetropolitan art book, All Around the World, from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund booth. The book, like the whole comic series, is the perfect combination of gorgeous and appalling.

I make conventions work for me. Each one is a long weekend’s glut of information and inspiration. I might be there for odd reasons, but I leave more with my head filled up than with my wallet emptied.

And like the chocolate-flavored broccoli of the future, I know with every fannish squeal that I’m helping myself get closer to being on the other side of that microphone.

(P.S. Wherever possible, I’ve linked to the artists, writers, and craftspeople in question. However, a few people don’t seem to have websites, which left me scratching my head. Really, folks? Just…nothing? Not an electronic sausage?)

Share

Comic-Con => Zombie!Joyce

Five days, way too many lines, and one lost bracelet (dammit!) later and I’m home from San Diego Comic-Con 2010. Even after twelve hours of sleep last night, I’m still reeling, unsure if I had a good time and why. Friday, the day of suck, saw the lost bracelet (dammit!), a three and one half hour line to get into a room, and the resulting one and a half missed panels. I really, really didn’t like that day.

But on either side of the day of suck, I got to see: the cast of Castle, plus extra Nathan Fillion at another panel; some writers I’ve read and a lot I haven’t but now want to; previews of excellent-looking shows, including Nikita; James Marsters at a table in the exhibit hall; Anthony Stewart Head, who laughs like he’s dying ALL THE TIME, wiping tears from his eyes and giggling; and a panel on zombie fiction that actually makes me want to read it, despite my utter loathing and the not-fun kind of creeping horrors for zombies.

I got books signed by Naomi Novik, both the writer and artist of Leviathan, and a bunch more whom I’ve never read, but who were awesome to listen to on panels. I started reading a book I had never heard of but now LOVE (Blood and Ice, by Robert Masello). I stocked up on comic books. I chatted with vendors about books I like and authors and the whole con experience.

So even though I lost a bracelet (dammit!), got lost–rather a lot really, because my e-nav hates me–around San Diego, stood in so many lines my grandchildren will be having sore knees, and spent the days starving at the con until going out for dinner (oh, how I long for home-cooked food now), I think I had a good time. Whether or not I enjoyed it enough to attend for a third time next year remains a subject of some debate. But I’m pretty sure I’m happy I went this time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have books to read, swag to sort, and joints to ice.

Share

The End is Seriously Nigh

This is it, kids. House of Cats is less than a week away from being completely written. The rough draft of #19 is finished and I’ll be writing #20 over what remains of the long weekend. Monday, I’ll write the June working review. Then Tuesday and Wednesday, I’ll edit both episodes together.

It was essential to me that I write both parts (indeed, I will be subjecting you to a two-part finale) at the same time and have them finished before #19 went up. I’m all out of wiggle room, so I want to know that when I commit to what happens in #19, I won’t have written myself into a corner for #20.

The scenes are coming slower these days and I think I know why. Each one brings me, word by word, closer to the end of this project. And I’m not quite ready to let go. I hope that writing the ending will get me there. If I get the ending right, I imagine that part of me that is holding on tight will relax, satisfied that I gave the story an ending befitting ten months of work.

I may be getting  a treadmill tomorrow. I’m sort of excited, which is rather pathetic. In grade school, my best friend’s parents had a treadmill in the family room where we played computer games. I thought the thing was fascinating, but we weren’t allowed to use it.

Thing is, Joyce here needs to get in better shape (and stop referring to herself in the third person). So tomorrow I’m going to see what kind of treadmill I can get for a reasonable amount of money. Hint: it won’t involve any $1,500 Bowflex job like I found on Amazon.com. I feel a little foolish getting one at all, seeing as I have an abundance of land on which to walk. But I also have an abundance of self-conscious discomfort, so the perk of being able to walk in my own tiny home is a big deal to me.

I’m currently collecting various recommendations for books to read. The list is getting rather long and I need to make an effort to get as many as possible at the library, at least until I know if I like a particular book. Yes, I’m cheap. But I also go out and buy copies of books I enjoy. And then I tend to buy everything else the author has ever written. Hey, I know how it goes; I’ll do my part to support the community. I just also have to keep the book addiction under control.

Speaking of books, I’ve not heard anything more from Goodreads on the status of Tiny Charms. I’m pretty much ready to give it up as lost. Which narks me off. But it does mean that I need to start thinking about what I’m going to do now. I’m inclined to start up a new section for book reviews here. But that’s going to have to wait until at least July, when I’ve had a chance to get my schedule under control again. June is threatening to eat me alive.

Share