Two promos I’m in this month!

I’ve been a bit cagey on here, and not really said that I’ve published a book under a pen name because I’m nominally trying to keep my real name and my pen name separate for now, for work reasons BUT you can get my book for free until December 20th through one of these promotions and I’ll tell you it’s the one with the beautiful purple cover with three girls. And if you do by some chance download my book, if you leave a review, I’ll love you forever.

YA Series Starters

YA series starters

There are NINETY-ONE free books in one promo and forty in the other and something for everyone I think. I won’t lie, many are not up to my very high standards of writing, but the thing about indie books is they often will have characters and subjects you can’t find in traditional publishing, and if one matches the thing you really want but don’t find too often, then the quality of writing is not as important. So there are quite a lot of f/f stories, including teen lesbians fighting aliens, and also an autistic main character who kills demons.

Action girls, adventures and friendships

Action girls

Um, is there anything more up my alley than that title?

 

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Portal fantasy I read somewhat less long ago

You may have noticed that a lot of the books I’m writing about were not published when I was a young adult (I’m not that old!) but I was reading things I found in the library, which was not bad but had more old books than new (except in romance and mystery), or in the attic of my house. Hence the rather eclectic list.

The Gate of Ivrel by CJ Cherryh. This is one of the few books I’m going to mention that I will still champion. (I’m not sharing that terrible 70s cover though, lots of naked muscles on everyone.) Cherryh is an amazing writer and her books stand up to the test of time. I had never read someone like Morgaine and Vanye, or a story told from the point of view of someone from a society that didn’t have as much technology as the other’s. You might be protesting that it’s science fiction, not fantasy, and it’s true, but there are portals… This book is also sad! So are the others in the series. So are many of CJ Cherryh’s books from that time.

The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay. Lyrical, lovely, lachrymose (I couldn’t resist) and a King Author retelling at a time I was into King Author.

The Mirror of Her Dreams Stephan Donaldson. This is one of those books that’s like a scar on my soul. I wish I had never read it, it was sexist and the main character was abused throughout the book, but it’s probably inevitable I read it because it was about a woman who traveled to another world. I read all three. I would have to say it was formative in what not to do as a writer. So that’s something. I guess. Don’t even talk to me about this author’s other books.

A book with a blue cover, a woman wearing some kind of desert robes, on a horse, facing the reader, with maybe a city in the background. It was portal fantasy, vaguely Arabian nights kind of setting. If you know what I’m talking about, tell me the name and author, would you? I loved this book, even though I also thought it was boring. It’s funny how both those things can be true.

Portal fantasy I read a long long time ago

I was going to publish this on my YA site in honor of my very own portal fantasy being published this summer, but as I wrote the post I started to feel OLD. The most recent book on this list was published sometime in the 80s. The oldest was published in 1907. The fan fic is newer, but it’s still not exactly yesterday’s fiction, so I thought I’d share this here where you won’t judge my very new book by how old some of the books I liked as a kid are.

I loved books where people from our world went to a fantasy world and had adventures. A lot of those books had characters who had to figure out the world and who they were at the same time. I mean LOVED.

My parents had these beautiful copies of The Wizard of Oz books.

Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Ozma of Oz

Did you know there was more than one? There are 14 written by L. Frank Baum and all of them have wonderful girls as the main characters, who aren’t afraid, who have a lot of common sense and who get things done, even if they’re a little confused about what they are doing. I don’t remember much of the stories, but I do remember some images, like the people growing out of plants, or the miniature china town, where people got broken by careless big visitors.

My favorite Diana Wynn Jones book was The Homeward Bounders, about a boy named Jamie who gets exiled from our world for spying on “Them,” mysterious evil powerful beings who play games with the universe and the people in it. Jamie survives by becoming friends with Helen, who was maybe the first “unlikeable” female character I remember reading. I loved her for her anger and discontent and refusal to be beaten down, and with Joris, a really annoying perfect privileged boy who turns out to be a decent sort anyway.

The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones

The Homeward Bounders

I re-read this book recently, and it is SAD, but I loved sad books as a child.

(Of the Chrestomanci books, Witch Week was my favorite, possibly because almost everyone in that book is being bullied and I was already having that kind of problem myself. Though not as extreme! But alas not as magical either.)

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. Apparently this is the third in the series?! I never read the other two, my library didn’t have them. This is also a sad book, about a girl at boarding school who changes places every night with a girl named Claire who lives in 1918 at the same boarding school.

The Guardians of the Flame by Joel Rosenberg. This is actually a series, but again the library only had one of them and I don’t remember which one or anything about it except loving the humor in it. I am not responsible if you read it and don’t think it’s funny. I was probably about 10 and the book had to be one of the ones written in the 80s.

(The library is probably responsible for why I enjoy reading series out of order—I know! Heresy!—but it’s like an additional puzzle to figure out as I read.)

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one of the first books I remember reading. It also inspired the first story I remember writing, which was definitely fan fic way before I knew there was such a thing. The suck fairy has definitely visited this series, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. If you want a deconstruction of all the colonialism, racism and sexism in them, head on over to Ana Mardoll’s blog, but get ready for the rabbit hole of epic proportions (see what I did there?)

If you loved the series when you were younger but can’t stomach it now, the movies try to fix some of the problems and there is a fair amount of fan fic and fan fix out there, like Ursula Vernon’s “Elegant and Fine” about Susan (poor maligned Susan, who deserves a better narrator than Lewis, and many have done well by her), The Carpetbaggers and The Cave in Deerfield (also SO SAD) by cofax on AO3 and the cross-over stories by burntcopper, also on AO3.

Of all of the rest, the only one I have re-read recently was The Homeward Bounders, so I can’t say if they hold up well. I love Diana Wynne Jones, but I love her in spite of the fact that there is often fat shaming in her books.

Did you love portal fantasy as a kid? What were some of your favorites?

What I’ve been reading: The Obelisk Gate and Orleans

obelisk-gateThe Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin. I thought The Fifth Season was one of the most exciting books to come out in the SFF genre in a long time, both thematically and from a craft perspective. It was also one of the most emotionally challenging books I had read in a long time for many obvious reasons, but the hardest part for me were the descriptions of child abuse. It would be hard to top all of that, and I don’t think The Obelisk Gate managed. I also had to put it down for a long time because of something Essun does fairly late in the book. I could deal with her being a mass murderer several times over, but not this very intimate betrayal. More than everything, this book seemed to be about coping mechanisms, how they help people survive and how they brutalize the people who use them and wield them against other people in their quest for survival.

orleansOrleans by Sherri L. Smith. I can read most dystopias/post-apocalyptic stories without a problem because they are more like fables than anything else, but some are too real and hard for me to read (like The Handmaid’s Tale, which I will never re-read). This story of a young black woman in a post-hurricane, post new epidemic New Orleans was one of the ones that seems too real and too possible. It’s a tough read but good in a heart-wrenching way, though I was not a fan of the ending.

 

Reading Diversely 2016 Check-in

I’ve read 43 books so far in 2016.

23 books by white women

4 by white men

9 by women of color

7 by men of color

That’s about 37% authors of color. And 63% white authors.

Better.

If I look at new books only, that’s 15 books by white women, 2 by white men, and still 9 by women of color and 7 by men of color. So I’m almost 50-50 in the the new-to-me books but when I’m re-reading (for comfort and/or writing books) most of those are by white authors.

Reading Diversely 2015 Summary

My last few posts before my inadvertent blog hiatus were about K.T. Bradford’s article on xojane I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year. My version was to be more aware of what I was reading and to consciously chose to read more writers of color.

I did … not do great in 2015. It would be really easy to kind of slink my way out of saying so and just drop the topic (as with so many intentions when it comes to blogging that kind of disappear). But, I think it’s important to not do that. I consider myself one of those thoughtful, anti-racist white people, and I’m still not doing so great. It takes effort for me to not read just white women with a smattering of white men. I’m not saying it’s hard. This is not rocket science. But it does take change. It does take listening to voices I didn’t realize I wasn’t listening to, just to find the kinds of books that I want to read written by people of color. And sometimes it means reading books that I’m not sure I want to read but trying anyway.

And while I didn’t do great numbers-wise, I noticed that by the end of the year my tastes had changed (not all because of this challenge, but it was one strand in it.) A lot of books felt too much the same to others or too flat. And too improbably white. I also read a lot of fantastic books, the most I’ve ever posted on my my About me page, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many were authors of color.

To the numbers:

According to Goodreads, I read 117 books in 2015.

73 were by white women, and an additional 3 DNF

9 were by white men

25 were by women of color, and an additional 1 DNF

5 were by men of color, and an additional 1 DNF

That’s 85 books by white people or 73%

And 32 books by people of color or 27%

 

Every Heart A Doorway

Given my abiding love for portal fantasy (the first thing I can remember writing is a Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe knock-off, at about the age of 7), I had to read Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire.

I love the concept: a school for children (mostly girls) who have been somewhere else and come back, usually not because they wanted to; a school that helps them cope with having found the place they belong and having had it taken away; a school that gives them someplace to escape the families that want to help them.

I love the inversion of the trope of the portal fantasy. Here is this school full of people who have ALL been somewhere else and come back. It’s not a secret, it’s not a mystery (except in the sense that they don’t know why people travel and how it works). The beginning part was fun-bittersweet for me, a kind of guided tour of what that would look like, of the flip side that CS Lewis and Lewis Carroll never thought of and the sadness and dislocation the Pevensies and Alice must have felt. (I think L. Frank Baum might have done better with Dorothy, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read an Oz book and not just seen a movie.)

But (you knew there was a but coming, right?) this book was so close to being for me and then it wasn’t for me. I could still appreciate it, but I didn’t love it.

It’s too creepy.

A kind of creeping creepiness like spiders crawling on my skin.

I had my doubts about Nancy (the protagonist’s) world, the way you might side-eye the boyfriend of a good friend. “No, he’s great,” she insists but he seems kind of cruel to her and he doesn’t like any of her friends and you wonder if everything is ok behind closed doors. That’s how I felt about Nancy’s world. Maybe it’s ok for her and she really does like that stuff but I don’t and I’m not sure I can trust her judgement.

Jack and Jill and their world are even creepier… and you begin to see my problem.

Kade was a delight though and (minor spoiler) I was happy to see McGuire’s matter of fact portrayal of a boy born in a girl’s body (I don’t think he labels himself specifically in the book).

So this book is perfect for someone else, but not for me.