The Post of Everything Reading

First off, in case you missed it, my short story “Earn Your Breath,” is a staff pick of 2018 at Cast of Wonders and has been re-released with a new intro/outro by community manager, Dani Daly. You can listen to/read it here. My happily child-free heart is very fond of this story and I’m grateful to Dani and Cast of Wonders for bringing it to the forefront again.

Also—the Hugo Awards nomination period is now open, and this story is eligible in the short story category. I am also eligible for the Campbell.

Next up, my 2018 reading challenge results. I didn’t quite make it on either the Book Riot Read Harder challenge or the Badass Reading Challenge, though I did get close. For 2019, I’m paring it down somewhat and going with the Book Riot Read Harder challenge because I’m really drawn to this year’s list. I was going to keep it to one challenge, but then the King County Library System announced their 10 to Try challenge, and it almost entirely coincides with the Book Riot one so I figured, why not?

Here’s the list of what I read for each of the challenges in 2018:

Badass Reading Challenge:

  1. A book about a problem facing society today: Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande
  2. Author with the same first or last name as you: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, by Jane Mayer
  3. A book with your favorite color in the title: Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery
  4. A book written by a local author: The Cold Eye, by Laura Anne Gilman
  5. A book about nature: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, by Paul Greenberg
  6. A book written by a person of a different ethnicity than yourself: Unexpected Stories, by Octavia E. Butler
  7. A celebrity memoir: The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher
  8. A book about or has a character with a mental illness: Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo
  9. A book about time travel: Gods, Monsters, and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson
  10. A book about a villain or antihero: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie C. Dao
  11. A book tied to your ethnicity: Invisible Asians: Korean American Adoptees, Asian American Experiences, & Racial Exceptionalism (Asian American Studies Today), by Kim Park Nelson
  12. A book recommended by someone else in this challenge: Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, by Jessica Townsend
  13. A book from a viewpoint of a nonhuman: The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard
  14. A book with a song lyric in the title: The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo
  15. A book written by a male author the same age as you: Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
  16. A book of poetry written in the last ten years: Citizen, by Claudia Rankine
  17. A book set on another planet: The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi
  18. A book that become a movie: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
  19. A book published in 2018: How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays, by Alexander Chee

 

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge:

A book published posthumously: Unexpected Stories, by Octavia E. Butler

A book of true crime: The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession, by Susan Orlean

A comic written and illustrated by the same person: Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson

A book about nature: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, by Paul Greenberg

A western: The Cold Eye, by Laura Anne Gilman

A comic written or illustrated by a person of color: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Vol. 2, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A romance novel by or about a person of color: A Bollywood Affair, by Sonali Dev

A children’s classic published before 1990: Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

A celebrity memoir: The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher

An Oprah Book Club selection: Becoming, by Michelle Obama

A book of social science: Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande

A one-sitting book: Deer Woman: An Anthology, ed. by Elizabeth LaPensee and Weshoyot Alvitre

The first book in a new-to-you YA or MG series: So You Want to Be a Wizard, by Diane Duane

A scifi novel with a female protagonist by a female author: Six Wakes, by Mur Lafferty

A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image: March: Book One, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

A book of genre fiction in translation: Memoirs of a Polar Bear, by Yoko Tawada, trans. by Susan Bernofsky

A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ author: Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley

An essay anthology: All the Weight of Our Dreams: On Living Racialized Autism, ed. by Lydia X. Z. Brown, E. Ashkenazy, and Morenike Giwa Onaiwu

A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60: A Finely Knit Murder, by Sally Goldenbaum

I like the reading challenges because they push me to read outside my comfort zone, and am looking forward to nailing it for 2019. I read 108 books in 2018, and honestly, I’d like to scale that back a bit. My tentative goal is 75 for this year. I read hardly any short fiction in 2018 and have a huge backlog of e-mags to catch up on. Not sure if I’m going to count those in my reading log or not. Feels like I should since most of them are longer than the graphic novels and some novellas I counted last year.

Read harder, friends.

May Reading Challenge or, #AsianLitBingo

For May I’m planning to participate in Lit CelebrAsian’s Asian Lit Bingo reading challenge. The full post can be found here, but a quick recap is that in the US the month of May is Asian American Heritage Month and in honor of that Lit CelebrAsian has put together a reading challenge bingo card.

ETA: May is Asian Pacific Amercian Heritage Month, but I realize some readers here won’t click over to Lit CelebrAsian’s page to see their reason for keeping this Asian American specific. From the website: “*May is technically designated as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. However, a number of Pasifika activists and friends have stated that lumping together Asian Americans with Pacific Islanders results in the erasure and co-opting of PIs and that they want to have their own spaces to discuss their issues. We are respecting that and keeping the two separate for this challenge.”

Asian Lit Bingo 2018 - vers.2

They’ve also compiled an amazing (though by no means complete) list of book recommendations for every category on the bingo card, which can be found here.

I’m planning on tackling the leftmost vertical row (if you’re interested in going for prizes, the contest doesn’t require that you get 5 in a row to be eligible). My planned reads are:

East Asian MC: Rebel Seoul, by Axie Oh or Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, by Julie C. Dao or The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco or How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays, by Alexander Chee or Invisible Asians: Korean American Adoptees, Asian American Experiences, and Racial Exceptionalism, by Kim Park Nelson, or…I have so many that fit here. I’m leaning toward Rebel Seoul and Invisible Asians for May.

Rebel SeoulForest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress, #1)The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch, #1)How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: EssaysInvisible Asians: Korean American Adoptees, Asian American Experiences, and Racial Exceptionalism (Asian American Studies Today)

LGBTQ+ Asian MC: A Line in the Dark, by Malinda Lo or No More Heroes, by Michelle Kan

A Line in the DarkNo More Heroes (No More Heroes, #1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

SFF with Asian MC: The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard or Raven Stratagem, by Yoon Ha Lee or Jade City, by Fonda Lee or…I have so many that fit here too, including ones from the first category. I’m reading Tea Master as part of a buddy read already for May, and Raven Stratagem fits with my plan to get through as much of the Hugo noms as I can, so those two are where I’m leaning.

The Tea Master and the Detective (Xuya Universe)Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire, #2)Jade City (The Green Bone Saga #1)

Graphic Novel with Asian MC: Totally Awesome Hulk series by Greg Pak. I have the first three volumes, though I’ll probably only read the first one for this particular challenge. I wish Monstress Vol. 3 was out but it’s not due until August.

The Totally Awesome Hulk Vol. 1: Cho Time

Southeast Asian MC: Not Your Sidekick, by C.B. Lee. This series has been on my radar for a while so I’m using #AsianLitBingo as the kick in the pants to get it to the top of the TBR pile. Already placed my hold through the library so there’s no going back, haha.

Not Your Sidekick

I have so many more books on my gigantic TBR pile that would fit here and in the other categories on the bingo card, but the ones listed are ones that I really am hoping to get to this year.

 

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.

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.

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).

week-1-rule-of-thirds

January: New Year, New Goals

Here we are, nearly halfway through January and I’m finally getting around to my New Year’s post with resolutions/goals and all that jazz. Well, one of my resolution/goals for this year is to blog more regularly…so there’s that. I’m trying to set what I consider realistic goals that I’ll actually attain with a little effort, rather than setting myself up for failure. So, my goals for 2016:

  • Blog at least once a month. I’ve been puttering around trying to think about content and figure out what I want this blog to be, getting hung up on “oh but it’s not writing-related enough.” I do plan on putting writing bits on here, but the blog is going to branch out a bit more to encompass my other hobbies. I’ve been getting more into photography, so expect to see more pictures on the blog. I’m also participating in the Dogwood 52 Challenge which is open to all, and it’s ok if you join late as there is no “start” date. It’s a weekly themed challenge with a ginormous facebook group, and several splinter groups also on facebook, flickr, twitter, etc.

Here’s my submission for the Week 2 theme: Traditional Landscape. Found a short, flat loop to hike near my house that goes around this little lake. It hasn’t been super cold here, so I was surprised to find the lake was frozen all the way across.

Fog on Yellow Lake

  • Have at least two works on submission at all times. When the flurry of New Year posts came out, I saw a lot of writers setting high submission goals (like, 10 pieces on sub), which was awe inspiring and depressing. Then I slapped myself and remembered rule #, I don’t know, it’s usually in the top 5 depending on who you ask: “Don’t compare yourself to others.” Two pieces isn’t a lot, but I think it’s a good goal for me that is achievable with a little effort. The number also fits with some of my other goals for the year.
  • In an ideal world, start, finish, and get the novel out for querying. I’d really like to have a rough draft done by summer so I can pitch it at PNWA this July. We’ll see. I’m finishing up the outline and trying out plotting using the index card system. I’m liking it more than my previous traditional format. Law school left me with a nervous twitch upon seeing traditional outlines.
  • Write some flash fiction. I’m considering flash anything less than 1500 words, with less than 1k the ideal. All last year I kept meaning to write some, even took a class with the fabulous Cat Rambo, but didn’t write any flash. The only short piece ended up being 2700 words (doing well, making the rounds and receiving some encouraging personal rejections).
  • Read more. And probably review more too. I probably won’t be doing reviews on the blog, but rather over on Goodreads. I go through phases of reading a lot, and then tailing off where I read more magazines and stuff rather than books. Actually, this really should be a goal aimed at curbing the book buying. Something like “must read x books before can buy a new one.” Bought a lot of books this year, especially at cons, but only read 4 or 5 new ones. I tend to reread a lot. I’m thinking that 3:1 is a good starting point.
  • Get back to my pre-accident weight. What New Year post would be complete without a weight loss goal? I’ve been holding steady at about 4-5 pounds heavier than I was before the car accident at the end of 2012. Some of that is me having more metal in my body than before, some (hopefully) is more muscle in my upper body since I’ve varied my workouts more than I did pre-accident, and definitely that I’m more sedentary. I think this might be the hardest goal to get done.

Week 1 theme: Self-portrait! Found out that what feels like a nice smile on my face I don’t like the look of on camera. Took 15-20 shots, settled on this.Week 1- Headshot self timer1-5-16

Onward and upward! Oh, and a sort of post-LASIK update. Very happy with the results overall, but I’m finding that I’m more sensitive to light, whether that’s the sun, interior lights, or the computer screen. I wear my Gunnar glasses a lot more at the computer. Not unexpected or uncommon, and I’m still so glad I decided to go through with the LASIK.