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

 

The Recap – February 2019

February, as per usual, came and went without hardly pausing to say hello. It’s always a mercurial month here in Oregon, bringing rain, snow, ice, and sunshine in unpredictable turns. You learn to take a coat with you everywhere pretty quick in the Pacific Northwest. And maybe gloves, if you’ve got the nice water resistant kind.

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The Homestead looking Wondrously Wintry.

February Goals

  • Write 8k on Tavi
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Write 1k on Sanctuary
  • Keep reading!

How’d I Do?

  • Write 8k on Tavi
    • Nope. I wrote a total of 3,628 words on the novel this month. Much less than I wanted, but I’m not wholly unhappy with it.
  • Continue short story submissions
    • Sure did. The stories sat in queue for the majority of the month. I’m still waiting to hear about two of them, though That Which Illuminates Heaven received a rejection yesterday. It went out to the next market before I sat down to write this.
  • Write 1k on Sanctuary
    • Narp. Not even a little bit. I think I read a little bit of Sanctuary, but that’s it.
  • Keep reading!
    • Yes! I read five titles this month, which is a little insane when I think about it. It’s the shortest month of the year, but I put the time to good use, despite my Anthem addiction.

Total Monthly Word Count: 8,273

I wrote about 4500 words for a Valentine’s Day fanfic exchange. Not pertinent to my goals, but still incredibly fun and it allowed me to flex my writing muscles a little as I explored a very complex character from the Mass Effect universe. I’m pretty proud of how it turned out, and I wrote it in two days, so I’m not going to feel bad about it.

Anthem continues to be absolutely addicting, but I’m almost done with the main story and so my time spent playing should slow a bit soon. Another hurdle to this month was a head cold that walloped me this week. This whole working-two-jobs thing has left me tired and vulnerable to illness and stress, which really puts a damper on my personal and writing goals.

My reading is progressing nicely, though I’m barely keeping up with the Reading Challenge goal I set for myself. This may be the first year I don’t reach my goal, but I love the challenge! Which is the whole point, so yeah.

What else happened in February? I attended an author event at the library, spent way too much time on twitter, and rollercoastered along my work weeks with more emotions than I knew what to do with. I won’t be able to do this for much longer. I need to find a better solution to the library’s unreliable hours.

But, that’s a conversation for another day. For now, let’s talk about what’s to come. Let’s talk about MARCH!

March Goals

  • Write 500 words/day on Tavi
  • Read one short story/day
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Keep reading!

Here’s the deal. I love video games, but they are HIGHLY addictive for me. I get trapped in them for months. In the case of Dragon Age, sometimes even years. I cannot let that happen with Anthem; I have too much that needs to get done. I need to get this habit under control and set firm boundaries. Which is something I am good at. So, here goes:

I CANNOT PLAY ANTHEM UNTIL THE FOLLOWING HAS OCCURRED:

  1. I have written at least 500 words on my novel
  2. I have read one (1) short story

This is a deal I’ve made with myself. I’ve thought on it a bit and I think it’s not only doable, but necessary. This is a contract, a binding agreement between my gamer self and my writer self. The gamer self will recede to the background until the above is completed, at which point the writer self will cease guilting the gamer self and allow unshackled joy to commence.

That’s the rule. So it is written, shared on social media, and so it will be done.

Why short stories you ask? Well, I’m writing a Library Picks column about Speculative Fiction Anthologies, and I want to at least be able to recommend a story or two out of each one. Plus, I like short stories. I like writing them and reading them, and I’ve been neglecting that part of the market for too long. So I’m taking inspiration from Sam J. Miller, who is reading a short story a day in 2019, and reading a story a day in March.  I am a little worried that this might impact my reading goal for the year, but I still have some titles queued up and waiting, and with travel plans in March I should have some extra reading time.

As always, the short story submissions continue until something sticks. I had a moment at the beginning of the month where I began to feel claustrophobic about the whole process. You know, that feeling where the stress churns in your chest and you’re compelled to pace the room or fiddle with your hair or your nails just can’t seem to avoid the magnetic pull of your teeth. Or some combination of all three. That was me on February first.

wasteland babyToday I’m listening to the new Hozier album, the snow has almost all been washed away by a steady drizzle, and my head cold seems to be on its way out. I feel alert and peaceful, with a mug of hot coffee and the promise of some breakfast after this. February was a big breath that stemmed the tide of burnout, and no I’m ready to move on and get some work done.

I’m sure I’ll have some more ups and downs this month, that I’ll find something new to stress about in the weeks to come. But right now? Right now I am chill as fuck. And I’m going to ride that feeling for as long as I can.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the book review for Lies Sleeping, and then next week will have the usual Goals Summary and the Reading Round Up for February.

Until then, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Bloggos!

After a brutal migraine derailed my plans last weekend, I am finally here to talk about Blackfish City!

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

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I absolutely love this cover, and it glows in the dark!

Blackfish City is Miller’s first adult novel, and it sets the bar quite high for his subsequent works. There is so much to love in this book. An extremely diverse cast in a wildly imaginative setting face horribly realistic challenges in world ravished by climate change.

Qaanaaq is a floating city anchored to a geothermal vent in the arctic circle. All its heat and energy are siphoned from the vent below the city’s eight arms. I pictured it like a giant floating, eight-pointed, star-shaped steel dock. Each arm is a neighborhood, distinct from the others in wealth, culture, and populace. The city is very vibrant and alive, very much its own character in the story, as shown in the City without a Map segments of the narrative.

Technology plays a very vital role in the city, and Miller’s leaps in tech uses and ability are at once incredibly original and wonderfully plausible. Implants that act as smartphones, podcasts delivered direct to your ear via vibrations from the implant, etc. I’d love to get my hands on some of that!

I was extremely impressed by how much I loved Qaanaaq. And how quickly. It’s a gritty, visceral place full of despair and hope, and that’s established within the first few pages of this book.

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Alternate cover

Some ratings and reviews I’ve read complain about the early pages of the book, citing that it was too slow and the learning curve too steep. I, personally, disagree. The pace is purposefully meandering, showing the full breadth of Qaanaaq as the reader follows the characters through their ever day lives. The book is very atmospheric in tone early on, and then shifts to a more plot-driven pace once all the pieces are set in place.

Speaking of characters, there are several. The first we meet is Fill, a young, wealthy gay man who has just been diagnosed with the breaks, a sexually transmitted psychological disease. More on that in a minute. He’s also the only point of view character who is white. Everyone else is Inuit or part-Inuit.

Then there’s Ankit, an assistant to Arm Six’s political representative. She hates her job, but she worked hard to get it, and it gives her a slim opportunity to actually help the people around her.

Kaev is a journeyman fighter, owned by the a crime syndicate and paid to convincingly throw fights in the syndicate’s favor. Fighting is all he knows, all he lives for, and all he’s good for. Kaev shows us what the breaks can do to a person, shattering their consciousness with interruptions of memories that aren’t theirs until eventually they “break free from their body”. Their minds snap and their bodies die. And there is no cure.

And then there’s my personal favorite, Soq. Soq’s a messenger who uses magnetic boots to basically skate around the city at breakneck speeds to deliver anything and everything, legal and… not so much. They are genderfluid, use they/them pronouns, and are beyond pissed off at Qaanaaq. They can’t decide if they want to watch it burn or bring it to heel, but all they know is that someday, they’ll have the power to make that choice.

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Sketch by the author

And of course, there’s the Orcamancer, the woman whose arrival sets the story of Blackfish City into motion. Masaaraq, the woman who came to the city on a skiff pulled by a killer whale, accompanied by a polar bear.

Miller does a wonderful job of weaving the various character narratives into one another, in subtle and very interesting ways. My only complaint, and I hesitate to even call it such, is that the ending did feel a bit abrupt.

I wanted more. I want to spend so much more time in Qaanaaq. I’m satisfied, mostly, with the ending as far as the characters are concerned, but the world? Nah. I don’t want to leave Blackfish City just yet.

Sam J. Miller tackles a lot of themes in this book. Capitalism, deregulation, climate change, revenge, regret, what it means to be a family, and the lengths people will go to in order to save the ones they love. All of these come up and are explored within the relatively short span of 336 pages. And they are handled well.

Honestly, I loved this book. I’m going to buy a copy, and I sincerely hope that Sam J. Miller will find his way back to Qaanaaq eventually, so that I can too. I’m going to find his short story Calved, his first adventure in this setting, simply because I can’t get enough.

Oh! It’s also worth mentioning that Miller’s first novel The Art of Starving (which I’ve yet to read) is nominated for a Hugo Award, the first year for the Best Young Adult Book category!

So hurry up and read his stuff already!

 

BZ