Spring Reading Recap

I’ve been trying out book bullet journaling as a way to track my thoughts and do “mini reviews” of books, and I’m liking it so far. I love the concept of bullet journaling with regard to scheduling/planning, but I tried it a few years ago and it doesn’t work very well for me and how I like to organize. But the book review journaling is working out great. Also a nice way for me to feed my new washi tape obsession.

This is just a quick recap of a few of the books I’ve read this year that have stood out for me.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande

October 2014, Metropolitan Books

Reading Challenges: Book Riot- A book on social science. Badass Reading Challenge (BRC)- A book about a problem facing society today

It’s never too early to start thinking about end of life care. While the book does focus on the ageing side of mortality, there are also examples of terminal illness affecting “young” people, and the questions raised apply to everyone. It is sad, but ultimately, I think a hopeful book. Forewarned is forearmed. However, it also perpetuates the notion that disability is awful. There are several quotes from people in the book where they refer to using a mobility aid as feeling like failure. They would rather try to walk and risk a bone-breaking fall than use a wheelchair or a cane. And, I get it, sort of, as someone who acquired disability rather than being born disabled. Losing your ability is rough, and we all deal with it in our own way and at different speeds. But, I was disappointed that the book didn’t look at how mobility aids provide independence. And no, being disabled is not a fate worse than death.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo

September 2015, Henry Holt and Company

Reading Challenge: BRC- book about or has a character with a mental illness

This was my first introduction to Bardugo’s work, and before I’d even finished Six I ran out and bought the sequel (Crooked Kingdom), and the first in her Grishaverse trilogy (Shadow and Bone) which takes place before Six. So, yea, I enjoyed it a lot. Great worldbuilding, fast-paced heist plot, and I loved all of the characters. Also, a YA novel with romances that didn’t annoy me! No love triangles, no being crap to your friends to spend time with the love interest you barely know. The relationships were all interesting for me and I liked that they were all at different stages—new love, relationship long-time in the making, tumultuous, etc. I don’t have PTSD, but thought it was portrayed well and respectfully. Kaz’s cane usage…didn’t read as realistically for me, a former cane-user, but this is a good place to point out that disability isn’t a monolith. It didn’t stop me from enjoying this book. And, for audiobook types, the husbeast listened to this and also enjoyed it a lot. He had his misgivings going in since there are a lot of narrators (6 or 7), and that’s not usually his jam, but he thought it was handled well and has already listened to (and liked) Crooked Kingdom.

The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #1)

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend

October 2017, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Reading Challenge: BRC- a book recommended by someone else in the challenge

This book is adorable. I loved the magical world, though I hope wunder is explored/explained more in the next book, because yes, there is a sequel supposedly coming out this fall and I can’t wait. I hate to call any book the “next” anything, but I think this series would be a nice successor to Harry Potter. It’s the HP for this generation of sixth graders, and beyond. There are a lot of similarities, but Nevermoor is still its own thing. I liked the characters a lot. Found Morrigan likeable and brave yet sensitive. I sympathized with her right away as she’s got to put up with some kind of heavy stuff for a middle grade book with regard to her crappy family. I’m always up for a platonic m/f friendship and got that with Morrigan and Hawthorne. But, I was disappointed that there wasn’t a positive same-age female friendship, though by the end there looks to be the start of one. Still, there’s a lot of mean girl-type rivalry going on and no same-age girls genuinely being friends.

The Ambrose Deception

The Ambrose Deception, by Emily Ecton

February 2018, Disney-Hyperion

This one isn’t part of either of the reading challenges, though in hindsight I’m realizing it would count for the BRC challenge under “a book published in 2018,” but I’m probably going to use The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton for that one. I’ve been upping my middle grade game this year and loving it. This is a clue-based mystery, and I was a little worried about how that would play out on the page. I think it worked quite well. The three main kids are all interesting and distinct from one another. I also loved the side character drivers who are assigned to each kid—they bring a level of “adult” humor to balance with the kid humor. I usually don’t like contemporary books set in a big city (*cough cough* anything set in NYC) because they tend to read like love letters to the city, and I usually haven’t been there and feel like I’m missing context for the book. This book takes place in Chicago, which I’ve never been to, and while there are some things that read like they’re Easter eggs for Chicagoans, I never felt like the location was keeping me at arm’s length. I recommend reading either the print or ebook for this one as it had a nice production budget for multiple fonts and images that tie into the story.

 

A non-reading challenge…goal, that I set for myself is to get through as much of the Nebula and Hugo nomination lists as I can. I’m nearly there with the novellas (JY Yang’s Black Tides of Heaven and Martha Wells’s All Systems Red are looking like my picks, but I still have a couple left between the lists to read), and midway through with novelettes. The short story categories are so strong for both lists. My heart is with Caroline M. Yoachim’s Carnival Nine, but all of the stories Are. So. Good. Not sure how many of the novels I’ll get through. And, what am I currently reading? Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond, because apparently, I’m good at saying “I must read X” and then promptly not reading it. I’m going to need something light and happy after this book though.

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Story News!

It’s alive, friends, “Earn Your Breath” is alive! Or rather, it’s “live” over at the wonderful Cast of Wonders. You can give it a read or a listen here. Look at that beautiful cover art by Geneva Benton!

I’m so excited and feeling all the feels over this story. It’s very near and dear to my heart, as a woman who has known practically since the womb that I don’t want to have children. There’s also an ass-kicking female lead, a knife fight, and platonic male/female friendship–all things I love. To everyone, but especially to women (and women-presenting), because I think we get pressured more than men on the whole “when are you/why don’t you have kids” thing (and all its variations), this story is for you.

So, a little history on how this story came to be. The rough draft for this was written back in March 2015. And, yea, lots of changes between the first draft and the final.

EYB pic

This story is a play on the simplistic writing advice “write what you know.” I’ve known since I was a kid that I don’t want to have children. I grew up listening to well-meaning adults tell me in a variety of ways that I’d change my mind once I was older. I haven’t. I dealt with people remarking that I wasn’t a “real” woman if I didn’t have children, people saying how they couldn’t understand why someone wouldn’t want them, people trying to lecture me because what if my future husband wanted kids? What a horrible girl I was, holding this hypothetical person back from something he apparently wanted.

So, I went forth into the world and made my intentions clear. I met my husband when I was eighteen, and I told him on our second date that if he ever wanted kids, if he thought he might ever want them someday, if he had the slightest hesitance because there was a shadow a of a “maybe” in the back of his mind, then we should break it off now. “We’re not getting any younger,” I said. “I’m never going to change my mind.” I was eighteen.

I wrote what I knew: a woman’s worth can be measured in more than just children.

I learned a lot in writing “Earn Your Breath,” and especially in the revising (very special thank you to Rachael K. Jones, for sending me the most encouraging personal rejection letter ever. I firmly believe that the story found a home because her pointed feedback made it stronger). It’s the second short story I’ve ever written, not counting little things written when I was a kid, and the first that I thought was a complete story. I’m very grateful it found a home with Cast of Wonders, and am honored that it gets to be a part of the Artemis Rising 4 issue.

Ibba Armancas does a wonderful job narrating it, and there’s a great discussion between the hosts of Breaking the Glass Slipper: Megan, Lucy, and Charlotte at the end of the podcast where they examine the strengths and weaknesses of the story. Please consider giving it a listen.

I head back out to Lake Quinault tomorrow for five days of writing in the rainforest at the Rainforest Writers Retreat. One of my goals while there is to get a reading recap post done since that’s something I’d like to do “consistently” (hahaha, consistency? Me? On this blog?).

And a last bit of news—my story “Fishkin,” an #ownvoices short story dealing with adoption and exploring what that means for an adoptee (who also happens to be a fish person because I’m a fish nerd and had to write a story with fish in it), is slated to come out in the May/June issue of Cicada Magazine.

2017 Recap and 2018 Plans

2017. Politically…bleh. But, on a personal and professional note it had a lot of highlights.

  • I went to Yellowstone National Park for the first time and experienced -25F temps…
  • I went to both the Arctic and the Antarctic. I saw polar bears and penguins and lots and lots of beautiful ice…
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  • I went to beautiful Assiniboine Provincial Park and photographed in weather from overcast and snowing to blue skies and dry…
  • I turned thirty…
  • I got published! Multiple nonfiction pieces, and my first short story sale: linkies here
  • I finished my novel…
  • I pitched my novel at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference to two fabulous agents, and they asked for pages!…

I’m probably forgetting some things, and there are others that I can’t quite share yet, but overall, a big year for me.

Going forward…

Week 1-Open Posting

Week 1- Open Posting. A shot of Lake Magog and the mountains surrounding it. Taken in September 2017, a few days after the featured photo up top.

I’m going to focus on only one photography challenge, the Bob Noble one (not sure how well that link will work as it’s a closed facebook group, but I think people are still welcome to join?). I made it a about 2/3 of the way through the 2017 challenge. The schedule is more relaxed this year, which will hopefully help me get all the way through it.

This year, a personal photography goal is to get through processing photos from my trips. I have a woefully neglected smugmug site where I’ll be putting some photos, as well as some on my facebook page. I haven’t been on flickr much so I’m hesitant to point people there to see my photos.

2017 was the year I devoted to the Tempest Challenge, where you “take One Year off from reading fiction by straight, white, cisgender male authors and instead read fiction by authors who come from minority or marginalized groups.” I very much enjoyed this challenge and could/should devote a post to my picks from the last year. I highly recommend it.

This year, I’m doing two reading challenges that somewhat overlap. The Book Riot 2018 Read Harder challenge, and the #BadAssReadingChallenge2018 (facebook group). A tentative plan for the blog is to do monthly recaps of what I’ve read. I got back into comics/graphic novels during the Tempest Challenge, and am happy to see a few themes in the Book Riot challenge devoted to them.

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Onward into 2018!

This is 30

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I said goodbye to my twenties today. The last decade holds some of the best moments thus far in my life, and hopefully what will prove to be the worst.

I went to undergrad. Got married. Went to law school, and while it’s not a secret that I ended up hating most of the experience, I can never fully regret it because of the wonderful friends I made through going. I decided to pursue a career in writing, and saw my first pro-sale at twenty-nine. I’ve done two things that would have my mother throwing up her hands in (good) exasperation because they’re things she tried so hard to interest me in when I was younger: music (violin for the last four years, piano sporadically for the last year), and making baby steps in seeking out other Asian American adoptees. I’ve taken up photography as my latest hobby, and it’s led me to amazing places and people.

Those are the good things. I’m probably forgetting some, but I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished so far.

But, the (hopefully) worst moment of my life also happened in my twenties. It’s hard to describe in a way that conveys all of the meaning it holds for me. December 21, 2012, a tree fell on my family’s car while we were driving on the highway. My parents were killed. My family was broken. It’s the day that changed the way I look at my life. That last is a bit dramatic, but they’re all true. The accident changed the way I see my life—it’s all either pre- or post- accident now. In some ways, my brain is still stuck in time. I default to thinking we’re all the same age as we were that day.

Beth May 2015

Another low point of my twenties was losing Beth. It was inevitable—she wasn’t going to live forever and eighteen years is a good run for a cat. She died two years after the accident, and it’s hard for me to separate the two simply because she was the only thing that didn’t change, the only crossover from my “old” life into the post-accident days. The accident changed everything else about our family—the house, certainly the people, even the dogs, and that’s understandable. The dogs were taken in by our beloved neighbors who welcomed them as a part of their families, but it hurt to see them change and view someone else as “their people.” A long-time friend of mine and her family took Beth in after the accident and both Steve and I were jealous-scared that she’d forget us. She didn’t. Old Beth the Iron Kitty moved something like three times in three months without batting an eye, and when we were finally reunited she moved back into our apartment like it was no big deal. She bridged the gap after the accident, unchanging, constant, and for that I am grateful.

I hope my thirties go well, but if they want to be a bit less eventful I’m quite all right with that too.

A Roundup of Links

Let’s be real–you’re all here because you want photos. Here’s a polar bear from my recent trip to Svalbard, Norway.

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Happy now? I took 2400+ photos on the trip and have barely scratched the surface on culling or processing, so it’s going to be a while.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick roundup of links for some of my recent essay publications.

“My Family Isn’t Built By Blood,” an essay on the representation of adoption in speculative fiction. Available in the Invisible 3 anthology co-edited by Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj.

“From Able to Disabled: Seeing Disability on FOX’s ‘Bones,'” an essay that expands on my earlier blog post about how acquired disability and the grieving process is represented on the TV show “Bones.” You can find it at The Learned Fangirl.

“Disabled or Just Broken?” published as part of Uncanny Magazine’s Kickstarter campaign for the Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction special issue. This essay will also appear in the issue when it comes out next year. The Kickstarter has already reached its second stretch goal! Please consider backing this amazing project.

We’ll close now with Sleepy Bear.

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Invisible 3 Cover Reveal!

Psst. My name is on a thing. Huge thank you to Jim C. Hines and Mary Anne Mohanraj for this opportunity. My essay on the representation of adoption in spec-fic will appear in the third installment of the Invisible anthologies, due out soon. Click the link to see the cover and list of contributors.

Invisible 3 Cover

My apologies that the blog has been a bit quiet as I have news I’m bursting to share but have to be vague on the details for now. I recently signed the contract for my first pro short story sale to a SFWA-accredited market! More details to come when I’m able to share them.

In photography news, I’ve been plugging along in both weekly themed challenges, but am lagging behind when it comes to the Dogwood one. I’m still behind on getting all the photos from my Yellowstone trip edited (and rather unmotivated since I hate processing).

Here’s a funky shot of one of my angelfish for the Bob Noble challenge. Week 21: Shoot something ordinary and make it extraordinary. Not sure it’s “extraordinary,” but I like how almost bug-eyed the fish looks from this head-on angle.

Week 21- Something Ordinary Made Extraordinary

Thoughts on Disability

Header image is my submission for Week 15- Hard, in the Dogwood52 Advanced challenge. Seemed fitting for this post.

I’m currently finishing the final season of Bones, and have a few thoughts on how it handles the disability of one of the main characters, so hopefully a blog post on that soon.

In the meantime, here’s a Storify of some thoughts I had on twitter about an article on ableism in writing and my able–>disabled perspective on one of the points.

Storify Link

Erm…ignore all the misuses of your instead of “you’re” *hangs head in shame*.

A Recap of Some Photography Adventures

How is it already mid-February? My 2017 started off with me getting what I thought was a really bad cold, but in hindsight it was probably the flu from hell that seemed to be everywhere in Washington. I recovered (mostly) in time for my trip to Yellowstone with Jared Lloyd (I went on the wild horses workshop with him last spring), and co-led by Doug Gardner. They’re both fabulous and if you’re looking for a wildlife workshop I can’t recommend them enough. They’re excellent photographers as many photog workshop leaders are, but they’re also excellent teachers—which some photog workshop leaders are not. For my fellow writers, it’s similar to how just because a person can write well doesn’t mean they’re automatically a good editor.

I haven’t managed to get through all of the photos I took (a few thousand…), but I have a few to share. Yellowstone in the winter is so fun and pretty! And cold, imagine that. I’d never been to Yellowstone before, or in negative degree temperatures, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Since my only frame of reference for “cold” was the 16-17 degrees Fahrenheit I’d experienced during undergrad out in eastern Washington, let’s just say that -20, -25F on our first morning in the interior was eye-opening. Actually, icicle-on-eyelash-inducing.Photo courtesy of Jared Lloyd Photography.

Frosty Morning

Also, don’t be the person who forgets her snow pants in the hotel on the first morning. Frolicking around in Polartec 200-weight pants when it’s -20F out is a poor life decision.

I’m compiling an album that you can find on flickr, and will eventually get one up on facebook. We saw plenty of wildlife despite the heavy snow in the interior. Bison are everywhere, which can actually make it challenging to get an interesting photo of them. The first morning where it was super cold was pretty lucky for us, because you need the temps to get down that low or lower in order to get images where the bison are covered in hoarfrost. Which was the kind of shot at the top of my list to try and get. Pretty happy with it.

Frosty Bison

Bison don’t quite have the “look of eagles” that horses possess, but they make a good go of it.

The Look of Eagles, Bison Version

We were also really lucky to see a long-tail weasel in its winter phase coloration. Apparently only the short tail weasel gets to be called an ermine when it turns white. Photographing this guy was an exercise in frustration because he was so fast, small, fast, white on white, did I mention ridiculously fast? For legs that are only a few inches long these things can fly across the snow. We were fortunate to get about 20+ minutes with him as he hunted for rodents sleeping under the snow.

Long-tail Weasel

Others that I don’t all have up yet are foxes, river otters, coyotes, bald eagles and a bunch of other birds, bull elk, bull and cow moose, mule deer, bighorn rams…and I’m probably forgetting some others.

Week 6- Anything Blue

On the writing front, draft zero of the novel is nearly done. If all goes according to the outline (ha!), then there’s three chapters left. I was able to get into session 3 for Rainforest Writers in early March, so the plan is to have the draft done and start typing it up (2/3 of it have been handwritten because I’m weird like that) at Rainforest. We’ll see how that goes. I’ve never been to the Rainforest retreat/workshop before, or Lake Quinault, and I’m looking forward to both the writing and photographic opportunities.

Onward to 2017

Took a look at my “resolutions” blog post from January, and thought I’d do a bit of a recap/goals for next year. As far as my resolutions for 2016 went…well, the blogging once a month almost made it. I think I missed twice, but also posted more than once a few times too. So, let’s call that one fulfilled.

The Writing Goals. I did succeed in having at least two short stories on sub at all times. Yay. As far as the whole, have an entire draft of the novel written and polished and out for querying. HAHAHA. I’m a sweet summer child. In fairness, I ended up scrapping the novel I’d started earlier this year, and started fresh in May. I’m almost finished with the last chapter in the second act, and according to my outline, Act 3 chugs right along. Not that the outline has changed…a lot…during the process… I wanted to have at least the second act finished by the end of the year, but I’ve been hit with a nasty cold/fever and there’d probably just be pages of characters sitting around being pissy that I’d have to fix in post. I wrote a tiny bit of flash, but that’s a goal that will carry over into next year.

Read More. I’ve read a lot more this last year than in previous years, I think. What I might do is start keeping a list of what I finish in 2017 so I have hard numbers to look back on. I have a ton of YA and novellas stockpiled, so 2017 might be the year to tackle those. I was terrible and didn’t do any reviews on goodreads…bad me. It feels kinda weird reviewing books of people I know/might know in the future. Fellow writers, do you have this issue? I need to make an account that doesn’t use my name.

Weight Goals. So, that was a total fail. Oh well. I think I gained two or three pounds over the last year. I think I also need to accept that the way I exercised in my teens doesn’t apply anymore. I’m not too down about this “failure” though because I’m not upset with how I look, and I’ve accepted that post-accident my activity levels can’t be the same. Also, I should probably eat out less. Should. Might. Maybe.

2016 was a great year in exploring my new hobby: photography. Had a blast on two big photo trips, both of which I covered earlier in the blog (wild horses in NC, and the Palouse). 2017 should also be an exciting year when it comes to photography. I have two trips already booked: Yellowstone in mid-January, and Norway in June. I’ve got some photography goals for next year which include two separate weekly themed challenges. Even though I petered out about halfway through the Dogwood52 2016 challenge, I am much more inspired by the “advanced” 2017 challenge list. I’ve also joined a second challenge run through facebook, put on my photographer Bob Noble. It looks a little more relaxed and personal than the Dogwood one since the group will be capped at 150 people (sitting at I think 110 now). As a way to try and stay motivated and keep the blog active, I’ll probably start doing roundups of the photos taken with notes about the images on the blog.

The writing goals from last year pretty much all carry over into this year. I’d like to do a few more writing-related posts. I’ve said before I’d “review” some of the online classes I’ve taken (Gotham, LitReactor, Cat Rambo), and I’d like to get those written. I’d also like to do a post on my slush reading experience (I’m a slush reader for Uncanny Magazine).

Hard to think about weight goals right now when things like breathing and swallowing hurts (curse you, cold) but I’m going to vary up the workout routine more, try and get some more HIIT workouts in, etc. Finding workout videos and routines I can do post-accident has been a process, but I’ve started doing more barre workouts and like them a lot.

Ok, this ended up being longer than I expected. Off to drown myself in tea. I leave you with my first photo for the Dogwood2017 challenge: tell a story using the Rule of Thirds compositional rule. Cogwheel loves watching the fish get fed. Thankfully, we’ve never had a cat that tried to go fishing (though both Beth and Cogwheel have fallen in).

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SIWC 2016 Recap

 

So, I gushed a bit after my first time attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference last year, which I blogged about here.

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I still love this conference. As a second-time attendee, there was still a huge variety of workshops to choose from. Not each one was a winner, but I enjoyed the majority and would like to go back again. SIWC does a good job of having several recurring workshops as well as adding in new variety each year. This is a fun, inviting, professional conference that is certainly beginner-friendly. No matter what your skill level is, everyone there is welcoming and comes with a similar level of commitment to the craft.

Great keynotes all weekend long, kicked off by Canadian author Angie Abdou on Friday morning and followed by authors: Daniel Jose Older on Friday night, Jael Richardson on Saturday morning, Larry Brooks on Saturday night, Cat Rambo on Sunday morning, and closed out by literary agent Donald Maas at the Sunday luncheon. Food was fine, just like last year. I can be a bit of a picky eater but always found enough to eat in the buffet, plus the Sheraton’s restaurant is pretty good too (though pricey…it’s hotel food). I bought a full conference package which included lunch/dinner in the ballroom, but there was also a small snack bar set up near the room where the Blue Pencils and Pitches were held that sold coffee, bagels, pastries, etc.

SIWC has four sessions a day, each an hour and fifteen minutes long—great for having enough time for the presenters to go a bit deeper than 101 level and still have time for questions. Each session has 8-9 different workshops going on at once, so there’s plenty to choose from—both a good and a bad thing! If one workshop isn’t panning out, the conference encourages you to try one of the other ones. The Blue Pencils and Pitches run throughout the day all weekend so people are always quietly coming and going (thank you, door monitors) and it’s not awkward if you get up to leave.

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View from the hotel. I don’t think I left the building all weekend.

I had an informative pitch session with Moe Ferrara this year. I went in more for practice/experience than anything else since my novel isn’t complete, and I almost chickened out and canceled the pitch, but I’m glad I went through with it. Moe was great and gave me some tips on how to tighten up my phrasing, and invited me to send a query when the novel is finished.

I got in for a second Blue Pencil this year in addition to the one included with registration. You can try to get extra Pitches or Blue Pencils if there are openings with the presenters (I think there usually are), and I got in with Daniel Jose Older on the last day. My first Blue Pencil was with Cat Rambo, and both were great. You can bring a maximum of three pages to the critique session, which is only fifteen minutes long. I brought the beginning of a new short story and got some good feedback on how to mete out the backstory better, as well as some markets to approach when the story is ready. The fifteen minutes goes fast, but I’ve gotten valuable feedback within it—especially helpful in the beginning of a short story.

It’s a big conference, but I’ve made some amazing writing friends both years that I’ve gone. A real “finding my people” kind of event. It’s not inexpensive being a three-day conference, plus the convenience of staying in the hotel, though it being in Canadian currency does help. But, if you can afford to go, SIWC is a wonderful experience. Next year is the 25th anniversary! I wonder what they’ll have in store for us…