manifesta: (Default)
Just FYI, I'm pushing the contest entry date back to Friday the 14th (instead of the 13th) to give myself more time to write a fourth book analysis. That post will remain open for entries until 11:59PM PST on Monday the 17th and I'll draw 2 random winners ASAP after that.

I'll be out of town (on a wonderfully remote island without any internet connection) this weekend so after Friday I won't be able to answer questions until late Sunday at the very earliest. Please look over the rules and ask any questions before Friday, if possible.


A quick recap: I'm giving away 2 books for three-weeks-for-dw [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw (aka 3W4D). 2 winning participants will get to choose from a selection of books that I'll be analyzing over the course of the 3 weeks. Chosen books will range from romance to fantasy to YA. Here is the introductory post and giveaway rules, and all giveaway-related posts will be filed under the book giveaway and three weeks for dreamwidth tags.

I really love this one: Hawkspar by Holly Lisle.

 
Genre: Epic fantasy
Release: June 2008

So, as irrelevant but nonethless interesting background information, I remember back when Holly Lisle was still writing Hawkspar. She endured quite a bit in her struggle publish it in a way that did the book justice, and so to see it in its 600-page glory is cheering. Hawkspar a pseudo-standalone, pseudo-sequel to her other book set in the same world, Talyn (which is also very good). I've always been a huge fan of Lisle's worldbuilding abilities, but her novels prior to Talyn fell a little flat. They were okay. Not amazing, but decent. I feel like Talyn and especially Hawkspar are the height of Lisle's writing ability, the two books that went above and beyond all her previous works.

Hawkspar is a slave in a religious cult. Her eyes are replaced with the stones that goes by her name, and thus she becomes the new goddess of war, one of several goddesses whose eye are likewise replaced. She can no longer see what's in front of her, but she can slip into the streams of time and see the past, present, and future. The book is split into two POVs--Hawkspar's and Aaran's--but because Hawkspar's is written in first person, the reader is intimately connected with her every thought, and I think this may be why Lisle was so successful in writing about a character that is blind.

Humans are very visual creatures, and we depend on sight more than any other sense. A lot of the narrative in any book consists of visual descriptions of people, places, things. Because Hawkspar couldn't describe any of these things, Lisle was forced to focus on Hawkspar's thoughts, feelings. Her actions, others' actions. Lisle wrote this so fluidly that I was almost to the end of the book before I realized that, in the majority of Hawkspar's scenes, nothing visual had been described. She relied on other senses to describe the tangible: sounds, smells, texture. Hawkspar's sensory perception enhanced the overal feel of and my connection with the story.

There is at least one gritty scene that made me go, "It's not gonna go there. It wouldn't go there. ...holy cheesecake IT JUST WENT THERE." It was one of those moments where I knew that things would have to work out, because the story was no where near over, but I couldn't figure out how they could.

Hawkspar herself is calm and collected, but vengeful. She has insecurities, and feels incompetent at times, but she remains strong in times of crisis. I liked her a lot, if that says anything. She uses her Eyes to her advantage, but being able to see the future is only useful if the seer is able to make the appropriate decisions that would turn at least one possibility to her advantage. Hawkspar does just that, and plays a mental chess game with opponents that don't even recognize there's a gameboard.

[SPOILER ALERT]

spoiler alert: discussion of Hawkspar's status as disabled )
[/SPOILER ALERT]

Warnings: Trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault against tertiary characters. There's also a decent amount of violence, but oddly enough a lot of it's off-screen.


Want to win Hawkspar? Hang around until Friday, May 14th when I open a post for contest entries!
manifesta: (Default)
A quick recap: I'm giving away 2 books for [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw (aka 3W4D). 2 winning participants will get to choose from a selection of books that I'll be analyzing over the course of the 3 weeks (though really now it's closer to 2 weeks... oops). Chosen books will range from romance to fantasy to YA. Here is the introductory post and giveaway rules, and all giveaway-related posts will be filed under the book giveaway and three weeks for dreamwidth tags.

First up: The Drowning City by Amanda Downum.


Genre: Political fantasy
Release date: September 2009

Downum has a lush writing style full of description. Her setting draws on South Asian culture, placing The Drowning City, and the quickly flooding city of Symir, apart from other European/Victorian political fantasies. I'll admit up front that as a White American still working on deconstructing my own privilege, the finer points that distinguish between what is the appropriation of a culture and what is not still elude me at times. I've scoured the web trying to find reviews that mention any form of cultural appropriation within the book and found none. If there is, it is beyond my current ability to identify. If anyone who has read the book feels comfortable chiming in, I would appreciate it. I suppose you could say this is my "I think it's okay, but I acknowledge that I may not be seeing everything I should be" warning flag.

While courts and royalty are mentioned, they do not seem to play a primary role; the focus is on lower-class characters, the mercenaries, activists, and of course Isyllt, a necromancy/spy sent to fund Symir's revolutionaries. What I like about TDC is its use of subterfuge as a plot device and the edgier character archetypes. Isyllt knows she's being sent to secretly topple a city as well as its government to the advantage of her own benefactor and she doesn't shy away from that. She also doesn't hold any illusions that a revolution will occur without a high price, but at the same time is willing to do what needs to be done. I think this mental neutrality comes in part from her personality and her role as a necromancer (which I suppose could interconnected). The closer she gets to the revolutionaries, the more she feels the conflict and the consequences, illustrating a form of character growth that challenges her previous ways of thinking. 
 
I get the feeling that she's a little jaded, and while her reasons for being so are fleshed out, they are explained in a seemingly random infodump and then for the most part dropped. This made her seem a little whiny in the beginning, which is a startling trait to see in a necromancer.

I also wish she would use her necromancy skills more frequently, but the fact that she doesn't renders it all that more significant when she does. Her reluctance also forces her to base her choices on what she can and can't do without the aid of magic--choices that she sometimes, with bitter humor, later regrets. Her flaws are apparent, and she's far from perfect; you could perhaps even say that she's a little fucked up. There's a brief sex scene with a character who may or may not be on her side (but it's consensual, so woohoo!). I appreciated their casual simplicity, a no-strings approach that's outlawed in romances and doesn't make frequent appearances in fantasy. Downum didn't try to force an emotional relationship that wasn't there while still making it relevant and meaningful.

Two secondary characters and Isyllt's bodyguards, Adam and Xinai, have some of my favorite moments. Xinai is decidely badass, a competent, merciless assassin. But she is also a native to Symir, and when she comes home, she's welcomed by a bloody reunion that shakes her world up again. It takes all her strength to confront her past and her future, to sacrifice parts of herself to support her family and the survival of her culture. Adam and Xinai have some of the sexiest, endearing interactions in the book, and I really hope they show up again in the forthcoming sequel, The Bone Palace.


Want to win The Drowning City? Hang around until May 13th, when I open a post for entries (and don't forget to read the rules!).

manifesta: (Coffee Shop)
I swear that post on the portrayal of women's strength and sexuality in paranormal romance and modern urban fantasy is forthcoming. I even have a decent chunk of it written. Unfortunately I have an exam and two papers due next week, and we're finalizing the script for the main experiment I'm working on. It's a design I've in been helping build from the ground up, so I'm super excited to see it go live by the end of March.

Salsa performance group also started last month. My partner and I have dreamed up some amazing moves for part of the choreography. This also means I hurt on a regular basis.

Black Widow's Walk is moving along. I adore the book but loathe writing middles. I'm pushing it forward out of sheer stubborness right now. I just finished a scene where some of the Spinners are busking on the street (stringed instruments + rain = bad) and in the next scene I return to the High Court, where one villian manipulates another villian. There will be deception involved, and someone is going to get Spun into oblivion.

This weekend I intend on studying, writing BWW, writing papers, studying, eating chocolate, seeing Valentine's Day, studying, making brownies, and celebrating a friend's birthday. Hopefully my next weekend will be more restful.

I recently reread Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith and Exiles: The Ruins of Ambrai by Melanie Rawn. I haven't reread Exiles in some years, so until recently I'd forgotten how utterly amazing it is. It's a complex, heartbreaking political fantasy that plays with gender roles. As always, I love love love Rawn's heroes and heroines.

Next quarter I'm going to host a giveaway contest for a book or two that I've read or reread recently that feature strong heroines. Why? Because I wish there were more books like Exiles and Skin Game and The Raven Prince, and I think the only way to change people's standards of what isn't acceptable characterization of women is to provide examples of what is.

Stay tuned.
manifesta: (Kahlan)

Tamora Pierce speaks out on sexual harassment and rape in the military:
 

"Representative Jane Harman of California visited a Veterans' Administration hospital, where she was told by doctors that 41 percent of the women veterans seen there were victims of sexual assault during their time of active duty. Harman went on to say, "We have an epidemic here ... Women serving in the U.S. military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq."

[...] And it's not just a woman's issue--it's a GLBT issue, and a man's issue. Why has the military been allowed to get away with encouraging this behavior, even if it's only to turn a blind eye? Why are they not educating about this problem at the boot camp level, and the officer training level? Are they, and no one is mentioning it? "It's getting better" isn't good enough; we shouldn't have "friendly rape" as part of the issues leading to PTSD (as compared to "friendly fire," when one of our people is killed by our own troops or artillery)."
One of the many reasons why I love Tamora Pierce.

Related: a post on the reality of women in the military:
"11% of women have experienced rape. 1.2% of men have experienced rape. These are only reported numbers. The Veterans service exit polls show that 28% of all female service members were raped during their time in service. Reports must be made to chaplains, predominantly male chaplains, and in order for an investigation to be launched against the attacker the victim must make a public statement. Yet while the investigation goes on the victim must remain at their post, interacting every day with their attacker, who may be their superior in their job, and his "buddies". The military's answer to this problem is to create a method for women to report rape and get help anonymously, but there can still be no investigation without a public statement."
manifesta: (Luxurious)
Drive-by update, seeing as I have class at 8:30AM.

A few days ago I was in a rush to get to some friends' apartment and I wanted a book to read (they're gamer guys; they game, I read, it works out wonderfully) so I grabbed Blood & Chocolate off the shelf. I've read it dozens of times and it's still as amazing as it was when I was 12. Vivian is one of my favorite heroines because she's strong and beautiful and she knows it. She's not torn up about being a werewolf; she loves it.

I won't lie, the ending pissed me off the first time I read it. Eventually I came to appreciate it, and now I wouldn't have it any other way

I'm in the final stretch of reading Skin Game by Ava Gray. It's a paranormal romance that's light on the paranormal (is there such a thing as 'low paranormal fantasy'?) and the dialogue between the two protags is snappy. Kyra is a stong heroine without the help of her powers or a gun, and Reyes is adorable. I seem to be on a streak lately for picking good books from categories that I normally take issue with.

******
 
Alexandra Bracken has an extensive list of current publishing trends. Most fall somewhere along the line of what I had anticipated. I hope to see more post-apocalyptics in fantasy sometime soon (instead of YA for a change). If Guild Wars can combine a post-apocalyptic setting with fantasy elements, so can books.

I have some rambles about BWW stewing in the back of my mind, but it's getting late, so I'll leave those for another time.
manifesta: (Kahlan)
I finished reading The Onion Girl the other day and simply sat there in awe of how amazing it is. I love all of de Lint's works, but it is by far my favorite.

After winter break, I moved two dozen of my favorite books to my apartment. One wonderful thing about having them all here is that I can reread them at any time. Melanie Rawn and Anne Bishop dominate the top shelf, alongside Holly Lisle's Talyn and Hawkspar, Michael A. Stackpole's Dark Glory War (the rest of the DragonCrown War Cycle are there in spirit), and Amanda Downum's The Drowning City. On the second shelf are Jacqueline Carey's collective works, Mindy L. Klasky's Glasswrights' series, Trudi Canavan's Age of Five trilogy, M. J. Rose's Butterfly Institute trilogy, Blood & Chocolate, Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, and a gilded tomb of Jane Austen's works. The last shelf if a motley assortment of feminist books, including Malalai Joya's A Woman Among Warlords; Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith and The Secrets of the Jin-Shei by Alma Alexander; various traditional urban fantasies or faerie tales like Palimpsest, Midnight Never Come, Holly Black's books, Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely series; and random other books I have on hand or haven't read.

Random observations: I wish I had brought more books by Marjorie M Liu and Lynn Viehl, as well as some S&S or high fantasies. (I've noticed when browsing through Barnes & Noble that very few epic fantasies capture my attention these days. Having been raised on Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and their ilk, this makes me sad.)

I also noticed that 95% of the authors are female. About half are ones that I read in high school or younger. Most were marketed and shelved as adult fantasy.

These are just the ones that resonate the most with me. Others that I would add, if I had room, would include Sarah Dessan (particularly Dreamland and Just Listen), Nora Roberts' Chesapeake Bay quartet, Memoirs of a Geisha, various Dragonlance, everything by Tamora Pierce ever, and I'm sure there are even more that I'm forgetting.

I would love to have a hidden library some day, where I can cloister my treasures away like a dragon. I could sit and drink raspberry hot chocolate and read beautiful stories while surrounded by hundreds of other beautiful stories.

Right now I'm reading The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt, and as of 94 pages in, I'm remarkably pleased and amused. The hero has done nothing abusive and the heroine isn't an idiot. In fact, I may even adore her. Now, if only I could rid myself of the niggling thought that the heroine is only allowed to exercise such common sense and rebellion (in realistic if improbable ways for the era)  because she's a widow...

*****

Also, as of last night:

Black Widow's Walk

50,105/ 90,000
manifesta: (Alex/Izzy)
The start to the new year has been lovely. Over the course of New Year's Eve I blazed through Hilari Bell's Rise of a Hero, and then through Forging the Sword, the last two books in her Farsala trilogy (the first being Fall of a Kingdom). Her style is reminiscent of Alma Alexander's in her Changer of Days duology and features many similarities, although both first books came out around the same time. I don't really consider this to be a bad thing; I think each books expands in separate directions within the context of their own worlds. I particularly enjoyed some of the innovative obstacles the protags face in RoaH.

I think it's YA, but I could be wrong. I could see it as adult epic fantasy.

Yesterday I finished Marie Brennan's Midnight Never Come, and it stuck me how ahead of the publishing trend my first two books were. My first was a contemporary fantasy when contemp/urban was just starting to expand, and my second was a contemporary faerie tale with roots in an alternative Tudor England. Books like Midnight that combined my two loves--faeries and real-world fantasy--were limited to Holly Black, Francesca Lia Block, and few others, all of which were YA.

Brennan's writing is luscious, and her leading female character a realistic mix of strength, desperation, and cunning. She also kept regional faerie lore intact, a task that must have had its difficulties.

Now, partially inspired by Brennan, I'm re-reading Charles de Lint's The Onion Girl. It has reminded me why I love urban fantasy--true urban fantasy, not the gutted version that's being reproduced over and over again today. It also reminds me of a time when women's strength in UF was portrayed through determination and character rather than the false symbolism of a vampire boyfriend or knives.

*****

Classes have started, and in lieu of finishing the last stats courses, I'm indulging in reading-focused history and women's studies courses, as well as psych of law. I'm still researching stereotypes with a professor, and will be for the rest of the year, but our direction may be changing a little-- something we discussed at our 8AM meeting this morning, 4 full hours before my first class. Ah, the sacrifices I make in the name of science. 

The sociology department is trying to lure me over to the Dark Side. They've invited me to apply to work on a grant-funded research project, which would do wonders for my resume. Tempting.

Tomorrow I get to watch Pocahontas in class. On one hand, yay. On the other hand, this is ironic, given that I just watched Avatar last weekend, and was not that impressed (via [personal profile] shiegra).
*****
 
I finally figured out how to conduct political warfare via the use of illusions in Black Widow's Walk. I'm surprised it took me so long to come to that conclusion, but now that I have, it opens up all sorts of doors. I'm officially dedicated to finishing BWW by April 1st--a date at the end of the quarter that I picked randomly, but also happens to be the 5th anniversary of the completion of my first book. (Yes, I remember things like that.) If shit happens, shit happens. Regardless, it's nice to finally have an end goal in sight.
manifesta: (Default)

I finished Califia's Daughters by Leigh Richards before I left for home, and I was right: there certainly was a plot twist. Kind of. And then that entire plot line that drove the first half of the book was completely dropped, and a much stronger, more evocative story emerged. I feel like the book would have been even better had Richards eventually tied up the ends of the first half and expanded the second half, but I suspect a page limit was involved. 

Crimson & Steam also arrived before I left! If you're keeping track at home, C&S doesn't hit the shelves until 12/2/9/09. I've never read or seen a novel pub'd by LoveSpell (sub of Dorchester), so I'm not familiar with what's typical for this brand, but despite being just over 300 pages, the ARC is glossy, beautiful, and super thin. Here's a comparison with Marjorie Liu's The Fire King, which is also just over 300 pages:



It's less than half the size! I love the weight and feel of it, and I hope the final version is also this way. If more paperbacks were printed this thinly, they could fit more on the shelves, and I could fit more in my suitcases (think of all the 800-page epic fantasies I could read!). The contest didn't specify whether it would be a signed ARC or not, but Liz Maverick not only personalized it, she also included a signed bookmark and congratulatory note. Thank you, Liz!



I haven't yet finished reading it, but thus far it's been a delightful bubblebath companion. A full review to come soon.

manifesta: (Black Jeweled Queen)
Kristin Briana recently posted about her list of top 5 YA girls. Here's mine for women in fantasy.

5. Mina from Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Dragonlance chronicles.

A God convinced that she ishuman, Mina raises an unstoppable army to serve what she believes is the One True God.

4. Alexia of Okrannel from Michael A. Stackpole's DragonCrown War Cycle.

She's a princess of a fallen nation and leads an army to reclaim it.

3. Alanna of Tortall from Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet.

She sabotages the patriarchy and becomes a knight, and then turns down the King when he asks her to marry him because she knows the life of a tamed wife isn't for her.

2. Surreal SaDiablo from Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy.

She's a prostitute and an assassin, she plays a part in Jaenelle's rescue from Briarwood, and she doesn't hesitate to plop someone's decapitated head into a bucket.

1. Sioned from Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince series.

Why? She's smart, sassy, and the cornerstone of Rawn's many autonomous female characters. She makes difficult, heartbreaking decisions in the first book that influence the next five. The series follows her from a young woman to old age, and she just gets more badass with time.
Sioned glanced over her shoulder. "Do you think this castle--any castle--could hold me if I wanted to leave?" [...] "It seems to me that what peopole call 'insane' are things they neither know nor understand--nor could possibly guess at. Such is the fate of those cursed by a total lack of imagination..."
"Tell me or I will lock this castle--"
With a little shrug, she replied, "You're becoming predictable--not a healthy quality in a prince. Good night."
I wish I could pick more than five. I wanted to include more off-the-beaten path books and heroines, but it's a little difficult without the memory cues a full bookcase would provide. I didn't include Jaenelle Angelline or Karla of Glacia because I'm sure people are tired of hearing me gush over the Black Jewels. Phedre no Delaunay de Montreve is also pretty high up there, as well as Rani Trader from Mindy L. Klasky's Glasswrights' Guild. And Talyn from Holly Lisle's Talyn, and...
manifesta: (Sailor Moon)
Justine Musk on Why You Need to Write Like a Bad Girl, Part 1 and Part 2.
"As girls we are taught that we do not belong to ourselves: our time, our sexuality, our ambition, must be channeled into fulfilling the needs of others while our own needs are dismissed as unimportant, trivial, ‘female’.

The need to write isn’t about the desire to find meaning in the world, but to make meaning. If you have it, you know it; it’s lived inside you from a young age and will never leave. It will continue to call and nag and eat away at your soul until you start to do something about it. To deny it, to allow others to deny it, is to kill off a part of your personhood."

As Veronica from Dangerous Beauty says, "A woman's greatest, and most hard-won asset... is an education."


I'm currently reading Califia's Daughters by Leigh Richards, a present-day post-apocalyptic  based on the Amazon women of Mexico/California from the 1500s. (Present-day California is rumored to be named after Queen Califia.) A plague has killed off most of the men, leaving women to take up what had once been men's roles.  It's not particularly fast-paced, but I sense that there's an epic plot twist coming that I'm hoping is worth the wait.

I recently won an ARC of Liz Maverick's Crimson & Steam, the first paranormal romance with steampunk elements that I've heard of. I'm hoping it arrives in the mail before I leave for home next weekend, otherwise I may not get to post a review until after it comes out later this month.

Also: I'm deeply saddened that The Hunger Games is not coming out in paperback until July 2010. That's nearly two years after it came out in hardback.


In psych news, Experiment #1 has been laid to rest. I turned in my final paper and gave a presentation on it last week (nothing was statistically significant, nada, nothing) and now all I have left for school is my final on Tuesday. Over break I'm going to be studying for the GRE, researching one of my pet theories for a possible experiment, reading books, and eating candy canes. And writing BWW... but let's not think about that right now.

Oh! And I forgot to mention: Congress was fabulous. I took class taught by Liz Lira, a 16-time national and 6-time world champion. One of my favorite of her performances is from the 2002 Mayan World Championships. No pictures yet, but hopefully soon.
manifesta: (Kahlan)
I think that the posts over at SF Novelists can be hit and miss sometimes, but I really enjoyed Marie Brennan's post today titled A Woman's Place is Not in the Refrigerator. In it she discusses how female characters are often killed off in order to propell the main male character's story forward and jumpstart their motivation.
"...it shows up in narrative media all over our culture. And, like many such tropes, the problem isn’t that it ever happens; the problem is that it’s a pattern. One which routinely treats women as the objects of violence, and as plot devices manipulated in the interest of a man’s progress."
I liked the post so much I checked out her website, where I found a backlog of some of her past posts, such as Tough Women, or Fascimiles Thereof, which outlines a lot of the problems I see in modern UF:
"...and instead of tough women we've always had an abundance of tough chicks, sexualized little things crammed into corsets, with guns to substitute for strength of character. I can think of exceptions to the rule, but they're just that: exceptions instead of the rule, and all too prone to getting undermined somewhere down the road."
as well as an essay on how she writes female characters. Between finding these gems and morning classes being cancelled due to high winds and power outages, it's been a lovely welcome back from my feminist weekend.

Brennan also has a ton of other essays that I haven't yet had a chance to peruse, but will as soon as I'm not drowning in psych work.* Being a fan of historical faerie fantasies, her book Midnight Never Come is now on my want list. Anyone read it?


*All the trials for my main experiment are (thankfully) done, which means I no longer have to get up at 6:30AM. The coding is also complete, leaving only the results analysis before I can write the paper. Alas, there are plenty of other things to do, such as prepping for two other experiments and reading a never-ending supply of psych articles.
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
I'm 1/3 of the way done writing Black Widow's Walk! *dances* *snuggles book*

With the end of the last scene Deahnna realized something partly inaccurate, and in the current scene I switched to a POV I haven't written in before. She's a minor character, but an important one. I was also finally able to write in some nonheterosexual secondary characters that are adorable and make me squee with happiness. (It also helps that they're courtiers but not nearly so awful as the others.)

I'm not currently reading anything other than psych articles, though I did pick up Lynn Viehl's new Shadowlight in an attempt to keep it on the NYT list for a second week (which it did, and totally because of me). I also found Califa's Daughters by Leigh Richards a few weeks back in an indie store. It has the makings for a feminist fantasy, or in the very least a fantasy that plays with gender roles (ala Anne Bishop). 

It's been raining nonstop lately, which has been disheartening. I love autumn... but I love autumn more when it's sunny and chilly, not rainy and chilly. I just hope it doesn't pour on Halloween. I don't fancy walking down the street in a rather long dress (albeit with boots) and getting soaked.  (For those curious, I'm going as River from Serenity.)

The dress is actually longer than it should be for River's dress, but it's blue and layered like hers. As I was walking around in it the other day, I realized that it's an outfit Deahnna would approve of, if not wear.

I know. I'm weird.

Black Widow's Walk
 
30, 009 / 90,000
manifesta: (Rory/Logan)

New pictures! This one featuring the cover of my new laptop and the German edition of Jacqueline Carey's amazing Kushiel's Dart. I'm still fighting with Dell to ressurect the old one-- it's been over three weeks, and I seem to be losing the battle to insanity (on their part, not mine).

 

Yes, the Germans decided to use the cover of Kushiel's Scion for Kushiel's Dart. I approve, because they spiffed it up a bit. I know you can't tell in the picture, but the border is intricate, and the spine features her rose. (Side note: Given that our hair is nearly identical, I would be Phedre for Halloween... if I wanted to sit still for several hours while someone drew a fake tattoo down my spine. And if people would even recognize who I was.)

 

Thank you, Jacqueline Carey!

On another note, Schneider wants to know: What's your writing process? And I swear I'm not linking just because I nagged him into to posting! ;)

Also: You know it's fall when you and the three people in line before you each order a tall pumpkin spice latte. In behalf of all coffee addicts, I'd like to apologize to Starbucks baristas everywhere for flooding your stands and coffee shops with pumpkin spice requests. I promise to continue ordering my iced caramel macchiato every once in a while, just so you can have something new to make that does not involve an orange vegetable.

manifesta: (Dangerous)
A list of things that will remain undiscussed in this entry: the fact that my laptop is still broken; the status of my novel; the level of stress I'm experiencing in regards to school.

A list of things that will be discussed: books, and lots of them.

Since Black Friday (or in other words, last Friday, the day my laptop died), I've read nearly 7 books. That afternoon I finished reading Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente, which was confusing but wonderful and contained prose that would have bordered on being purple if written by anyone else but was saved by Valente's amazing skill for words. Over the course of the weekend, I raided my roommate's bookcase for new books to read and found Scott Westerfield's Uglies series. I blazed through the entire series and later found myself silently using some of the characters' Pretty jargon. It's a good series, though I did find some of the characters immature-- Aya, from the fourth book, particularly wore on my nerves. Tally did at first, too, but I feel like she at least had a character arc and matured throughout the series.

Yesterday I finished Hawkspar by Holly Lisle, a book I picked up in June but didn't start reading until this week. I've been a fan of Lisle's work for years (her forum and workshops for writers were my gateway drug), but her writing never really resonated with me until she wrote Talyn a couple years back. I feel like Talyn is the pinnacle of her story-crafting ability, and it's been on my keeper shelf ever since. Hawkspar is a pseudo-sequel to Talyn. I remember following along throughout the years as Lisle wrote the book, and the struggle she endured to get it published (as a midlist author with years of experience and books behind her) both intact and as the book she knew it to be. At 600-words, it's beefy, but amazing, and I'm glad she fought so hard. There isn't a single page or scene that isn't necessary. I mourn the words I knew she had to cut, just to narrow it down to 600. Hawkspar is an excellent example of an modern epic fantasy with solid world-building. Did I mention that the main character was blind for most of the novel? She was. The fact that Lisle wrote a book featuring a protagonist who couldn't see, and thus, couldn't wax poetic about her surroundings, deserves many a brownie point.

Since I'm not talking about the state of my laptop, I won't mention that while at Starbucks today I experienced hardcore laptop-envy when some dude pulled out his fully-functioning Macbook and proceeded to enjoy his mocha and his uninhibited wireless access, too. It could be upwards of two weeks until I have working computer, so I still won't be around much, though I'll try to update when I can. Up next: a review from one psych major to another for Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson, My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, and any other books I burn through between now and then.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
It occurred to me today that in a lot of books, the female characters are often referred to as "beautiful" first and foremost before anything else. I keep tripping over that word, too-- my first impulse is to describe Deahnna as beautiful... right before going on to add that she's a talented violinist and infamous for her devil-may-care attitude. I think she's beautiful. Zephyr, the lead male character, thinks she's beautiful. But that's not what she's known for. She has other qualities about her that are awesome; hello, she's a badass violinist. (And she could Spin most people into an illusion so taut they'd never again know up from down.) I'd rather let the reader decide if they think she's beautiful, but not base it on me telling them she looks that way.

On a related note, Kate Elliot asks: Have you read any epic fantasies with female characters prominently portrayed? (I'd like to add, do you know any epic fantasies with female characters prominently portrayed as strong?) They've developed quite a list already, but I bet the list for epic fantasies that don't portray women, especially strong women, is even longer.
manifesta: (Dangerous)
I was all set for a big writing session last night (yes, on a Friday; I was beat from training, I wasn't going dancing, and few people are in town, sooo...) when I barely was able to get 50 words after an hour of frustration. I gave up at about 400 and went to bed grumbling. My allergies woke me up at 7:30 this morning, so I staggered out of bed and started writing. Things went more smoothly after a few failed starts. I just finished a scene, and in the next one Deahnna makes a startling re-entrance to the High Court. I'm helping some friends move in today, including my roommate, so I don't know how much more writing I'm going to do tonight.

While waiting for the cable guy to fix my internet the other day, I read about half of Palimpsest. Valente's prose is luxurious and sprawling. The story still has me confused, but it's becoming clearer. It definitely resonates with Charles de Lint's work, and it's refreshing to read a fantasy that's minus the typical forms of magic or bloodshed.

Black Widow's Walk

14, 043 / 90,000
manifesta: (Writer)
I finished reading The Drowning City this morning while hunkered down against the rain. It's a refreshing new spin on the fantasy genre, one that I appreciate. I hadn't expected some aspects of the ending, and I definitely became attached to some of the characters, particularly Xinai. My only wish is that Adam had had a little more presence; for a bodyguard, he didn't do much bodyguarding.

I just finished writing two relatively head-hurting scenes in Black Widow's Walk. They're transitionary scenes, and so their main purpose (among others) was to get the story from point A to point B. Thus led to me pacing around my room trying to think up ways to make them more interesting to read and less boring to write. I finished chapter two and started chapter three in the head of a secondary character with malicious intentions. Oddly, her head's fun to be in. I'm not sure what that says about me. I also found a historical tidbit that fits in very nicely with what I imagined when I dreamt up a book based on the title Black Widow's Walk. (The title came first, the story came after.)

On Wednesday I'm going to be moving into my new apartment! College doesn't start back up again until later this month, but I'm returning early to attend a week and a half of training workshops related to survivor advocacy and violence prevention. It's a yearly thing to brush up on old knowledge, and I'll get to bond with the new team members.

My cable will hopefully be set up by Thursday night. Unfortunately, the summer's pretty much over, and it's going to get busy from here on out. I'll update as often as I can!

Black Widow's Walk

11,050 / 90,000
manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
The Drowning City by Amanda Downum is nummy. The atmosphere is particularly lush, the characters are badass, and they eat curry. CURRY. It makes me long for Thai food just reading it. Ohmygosh.

In regards to Black Widow's Walk, I figure I might as well post the pitch if I'm going to rambling on about the book. (For those on the access-list, sorry for repeat content.) Keep in mind that by the time the book's finished, the pitch in its current state probably won't be quite so accurate anymore.
 
the only ones that know what's real and what's not are the assassins )

Ta-daaaa.

Deahnna's way of coping with her schizophrenic tendencies is to constantly surround herself with music, which often means she resorts to humming. I've had this amusing impulse all day to plop her down in the real world and give her an ipod.

I realized today that I've been working on this book in some form or another every day for almost the past month. There was definitely a point where I was walking downtown to Starbucks everyday to brainstorm, and certain baristas automatically asked if I wanted an iced tall caramel macchiato the moment I walked in the door. I haven't had that kind of dedication to a book since before I started college. Hopefully I'll keep it up when I go back later this month.

Black Widow's Walk

7,037 / 90,000

manifesta: (Black Widow's Walk)
Worked on a good scene today, one that established fledgling trust between my two lead characters. I'm writing at a steady 1k or so a day, which is all I'm asking of myself for now. When I hit 10k total, I'll post a teaser (so in less than a week?).

I've noticed that I've barely described the environment at all, focusing more on the characters and their actions. My scenes have been somewhat on the short side because of it. I think it's an automatic impulse for me to downplay description after reading so many fantasy novels where there would be paragraphs after paragraphs of it.

I finished reading Naamah's Kiss yesterday. It's good in its own way, but not as good as her other novels. The pressing conflict just isn't there, and Moirin doesn't have to make any serious sacrifices. A huge draw for me in any novel is the level of the stakes involved. The greater the stakes, the greater the reward. A book without stakes that invoke emotional investment can still be good... but it won't be one of my favorites.

However, I will say this: Carey's portrayal of pansexuality through her main characters makes me very, very happy. In fact, I think her work qualifies for Outer Alliance membership: "As a member of the Outer Alliance, I advocate for queer speculative fiction and those who create, publish and support it, whatever their sexual orientation and gender identity.  I make sure this is reflected in my actions and my work." Link found via Amanda Downum, whose book I'll probably be reading next, because its luscious cover and badass female necromancer keeps staring at me from across the room.

Black Widow's Walk

5,018 / 90,000

manifesta: (Alex/Izzy)
I've been gnawing my fingernails off with worry about the beginning of Black Widow's Walk. Is it too edgy, too potentially triggery? Did I do injustice to a subject that is very serious?

I texted my former roommate asking if she could read it and tell me if I was an awful human being (she does so enjoy informing people when they're awful human beings). She read it, gave me some feedback, and basically told me that I wasn't a disgrace to the population (yet). Major sigh of relief.

It's been a dark and twisty, to quote Meredith Grey, past few scenes. I've had to walk away from it at points. I'm hoping with the scene I begin tonight, a new character will add some light-hearted banter into the mix, and though the book will always be dark and twisty at heart, it'll cheer up a little more from here.

On a brighter note, I went to Borders today and came away with Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente (an urban fantasy harking back to the more traditional lines of Charles de Lint), The Drowning City by Amanda Downum (sword & sorcery?), and The Fire King by Marjorie M. Liu (paranormal romance). 

I also picked up Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson, a recent YA debut. I've been uber excited for this book because I'm, um, kind of obsessed with my major. Social cognition (how we think when we interact with others + how we think in general) is a lover of mine. In the fall I'm going to be conducting research with one of my professors on stereotypes and prejudice.

I probably won't get to read these for a little while because of I have oodles of other books to read, but I'll ramble on about them when I do.