SFWA Reading in Portland!

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Last night’s  reading was wonderful! I always have so much anxiety leading up to any sort of writing event that my brain convinces me that I will have a terrible time. Surely, I will embarrass myself beyond any hope of repair. I will somehow literally drool on someone. I will trip and/or fall, breaking something (inanimate or otherwise) and drawing every eye in the building. I will, once face to face with the author I like, be suddenly incapable of forming a coherent sentence as simple as “Hi, I really like your book. Will you sign it for me?” That, in my nervousness, I will gulp alcohol and get tipsy and then be forever remembered as “That drunk chick at the reading.”

I am proud to report that I did not drool on anyone. I did not get drunk, although I did enjoy three very delicious beers from Lucky Labrador Brewing, where the reading took place. Though my hands were basically made of lava thanks to how anxious I was, I was able to introduce myself to all three readers (and Caitlin Starling who was in attendance as a fan!), and shake their hands. I said my name to all of them, I complimented their readings, spoke about their work and thanked them for coming to see us in Portland.

I had normal human interactions with four writers I respect very much!

SFWA swagAnd, I won a bag of ARCs via the SFWA’s raffle! I maybe hit a pretty high pitch when I raised my hand and said, “That’s ME!” But I NEVER win anything and I’d had such a wonderful time that I was understandably pumped.

Sam J. Miller, author of The Art of Starving and Blackfish City, read first. He read his short story “Kenneth: A User’s Manual” and an excerpt from Blackfish City. He did a wonderful job, and the short story was pretty funny. It was nice to hear one of his stories I hadn’t read yet. I bought a copy of Blackfish City while we were there and got Sam to sign the book! And guys, I’m striving for transparency here, mortifying as it is, and I really love Sam’s writing. So, when he asked my name I told him to just write BZ, and then he looked up at me and said, “do we interact on twitter?”Sam J Miller autograph.jpg

Y’all. I about died. While every cell in my body screamed with joy, I smiled and said, “Yeah!” Cool as as a cucumber you left out on the counter. He shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me, and then finished signing the book. I walked back to my seat ready to just float away. It was such a brief, delightful interaction. AND I WASN’T A WEIRDO!

Kari Maaren went next and she gave an outstanding reading from her YA novel Weave a Circle Round. Her performance was really wonderful, so vibrant and real. I felt those characters, from an entire beer hall away. I made a point to tell her how much I loved her reading, and she confessed she has a background in performance, so that’s why she was so delightful!

Note to self: start practicing reading now! If I wait until I actually have one booked, I’ll be a complete doofus in front of a crowd.

Last came Rebecca Roanhorse. If you don’t know, she wrote Trail of Lightning, which has been nominated for this year’s Hugo for best novela slew of short stories, and her sequel Storm of Locusts just released this week! GO BUY IT! I’d planned to buy her books at the event, but they were already sold out once we got there. Wah-wah.

She read the first half of her story “Harvest” which is in the new anthology New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl, and an excerpt from her multiple award winning story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience”. Her voice is fantastic. I don’t know how to describe it. She speaks with clarity and strength, her voice carried through the room and commanded attention, even when it was soft and whispering of the Deer Woman. She has range when she reads, her voice moving up and down, hitting the beats of her stories with precision.

Contents from my bag of swag! See anything you like?

It was spectacular. Even Trevor, my notoriously non-reader husband was blown away by her reading. He closed his eyes and absorbed her words, let them wash over and through him, and I was blessed with being able to watch him experience her work in a way I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I maybe teared up a little. Shhhhhusssssh. Don’t tell him. He’ll never go to a reading with me again.

When she was done, he turned to me and said, “we need to buy her books. If we buy them, I’ll read them.” So yeah, I’d say he was impressed.

Next was a Q&A session which I always loathe. I never have a question. I can never think of anything I want to know badly enough to single myself out and ask someone I admire to talk to me. I don’t want the attention. I don’t want the focus of not only the authors, but the whole crowd. So, I sit and I listen and generally smile a lot because I’m happy to be surrounded by book people.

But, last night I asked a question. It was a meaty one, about how to twist and mold existing places into dystopian or post-apocalyptic settings. I apologized afterward because it was a large ask, but they all did such a great job answering! And Sam even said it was a “great question”! So there, self-conscious, anxiety-ridden self! You asked a question and you didn’t die!

After the reading, Trev and I stayed to have dinner with Kat and Obadiah (of The Audient Void) who were also in attendance. It was a really nice evening, one that I’m eager to repeat. Hopefully I won’t be a nervous wreck next time.

Or, at least less of one.

Until Monday, Bloggos!

 

BZ

 

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Book Review – Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse

This book sideswiped me. I like to think of myself as pretty up to date on SFF publishing. I check the Locus website for upcoming publications. I read articles about the most anticipated releases of the year. I follow burgeoning authors on twitter. I use all of this information to recommend purchases at the library, helping to do some legwork for our Fiction Selector, since she’s in charge of developing the entire collection (over 500,000 circulating materials).

But, with all of that, I still managed to miss the announcements and hype for Trail of Lightning before it was published. In fact, I didn’t hear about it until a couple months after it was out and there were murmurs of its pending awards nominations. Even then, I didn’t get it added to my TBR for another couple months, and only just now finally made time to read it.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

trail of lightning

Y’all. Buds. This book? This book is relentless. The main character, Maggie, is at once familiar and incredibly original. She’s a badass, through and through, but she’s also dealing with a lot of trauma and doesn’t know how to cope. I love her in all her stubborn glory. It’s rare for me to read an Urban Fantasy, which this loosely qualifies as, and read female characters that aren’t sexualized. Even female POV books tend to do this, and I’ve yet to figure out why. But, Maggie? Sure, Maggie’s sexy but not just for sexy’s sake. She feels real. Important. She can be sexy, but it isn’t her only trait. She’s not defined by it.

I loved that.

There’s also a huge world to explore and a ton of secondary characters I want to know more about. Basically, all my basic requirements for a binge-worthy Urban Fantasy series were there, and then some. For instance, this book is set after what’s known as the Big Water, aka post-climate change. The world is redrawn into the protected zone of Dinétah (land of the People, basically) and not. And while Dinétah is relatively safe from the carnage of unchecked climate change, there’s still plenty that’s gone wrong within the walls.

Also, this book balances the macabre and humor very, very well. Plus, the pacing is out of control. I mentioned in my Goodreads review that this book grabs you and doesn’t let go. Now, a lot of reviews say that about books, but rarely do I actually feel like a book dragged me through the mud with it, in a good way of course, and left me out of breath by the end.

Other great things about this book:

  • Really cool magic linked to the family clans of the book’s Indigenous People, particularly the Navajo in this book.
  • Navajo mythology! Coyote, as in the Trickster, is in this book and it is incredibly cool. It’s really wonderful to see non-European mythology in an Urban Fantasy(ish) book. As much as I love different takes on Faerie Courts and Vampires, I could really get behind some more variety in Fantasy fiction.
  • Characters! So many wonderful ones. Maggie, of course, Grandpa Tah, his grandson Kai, Grace and her three badass kids. Oh man. So many. Roanhorse does a wonderful job of fleshing them all out while maintaining her, terse, stacatto prose.
  • Speaking of which. I LOVED the prose of this book. There were so many sentence fragments, and it felt so natural that I often didn’t realize it until my editor brain pumped the breaks and made me reread some lines. Think about it. People don’t speak in complete sentences. We don’t. But so frequently we write in them that we can forget how to use them in a first person narrative. but Rebecca Roanhorse sure as hell knows how to wield a sentence fragment, which only makes her longer, more complex sentences stand out and carry that much more weight. *chef’s kiss*
  • It’s an incredibly quick read. At under 300 pages, told at breakneck speed, you could conceivably rad this book in a day. I read it in four.
  • Um. The cover art? Did you see it? It’s freaking gorgeous! I can’t look away from Maggie, except I want to look at all the other details too! The truck, the lightning, Kai and his spiky hair and cigarette. The subtle metallic shimmer of the gold background. I love it all. Image result for pitter patter gif

So, yeah. What are you waiting for? Go read this book! Plus, this is the perfect time because the sequel, Storm of Locusts, comes out NEXT WEEK! Whaaaaaat?

See, now you have no excuse not to read this book! So what are you waiting for?

I’ll be back later this week to scream at you about the second Shades of Magic book. Barring any other news (fingers crossed) you won’t hear from me until then. Have a good middle of the week, Blogland.

 

BZ