Archive for the ‘Blog and Bookish Ramblings’ Category

Happy New Year!

As you may have noticed, it’s been fairly quiet around here lately.  2012 was a bit of a tough year and so my blogging and internet life suffered as a result.  Thank you to everyone who stuck around in spite of my frequent absences; you are a wonderfully patient bunch!  You are one of the reasons I continually vow to do better.

In the spirit of New Year’s, I’ve made a few reading goals for 2013.  I decided the other day that this will be the year I finally read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard.  I started this book many years ago but got sidetracked by school and never finished it.  Since I live just a few miles from the actual Tinker Creek featured in the book I’m going to read it (appropriately) while sitting by the creek.  (I’m a cold-weather wuss, though, so I’m going to wait until it warms up a bit first.)  My tentative plan is to read it in May.  If anyone would like to join me (literally or figuratively), drop me a line!  I’d love the company.

My other reading goal is just a continuation of a reading goal I made a few years ago: read deliberately.  2012 was a great reading year.  I read and reread a lot of fantastic books.  I attribute that to the fact that I read very few books I didn’t really want to read.  I trusted the recommendations of family and friends, put down books that didn’t capture my interest, and stopped feeling bad about returning books to the library unread.  I need to work on releasing the ignored, unread books that I own, though.  I think I’m going to start giving them a year.  If I still haven’t read them then, they’re going in the donation pile.

And that’s it (for now)!  What about you?  Any reading goals for 2013?

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I try not to judge a book by its cover.  (Okay, I mostly try not to judge a book by its cover.)  I also try – mostly – not to hold it against a book when it has a lousy cover.  But being human and all, I frequently fall prey to my own flaws.  Such was the case with Babylon Sisters by Pearl Cleage.

When I finished reading Babylon Sisters a week ago I found myself royally peeved.  Not because of the book itself, mind you.  (While not as great as What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day, it was still a good read.)  No, what set me off was this:

I look at that cover and I think light, fluffy beach read.  I think drinks with little umbrellas, wide-brim hats, maybe a hot guy or two, female bonding, and lots of pool shenanigans.  And if it wasn’t for Pearl Cleage’s name on the cover, I would also think, Meh.  No, thanks.

Of course Babylon Sisters was none of those things.  Yeah, there was a hot guy and some female bonding and the pool showed up in the story a few times, but overall the book was nothing like the cover.  There was never a scene with three women lounging by a pool.  (I don’t even know who those three women are supposed to be.)  And sure there were light moments, but the book took on weightier issues, too.  Clearly the publishers are targeting a specific audience, but surely they could have come up with a cover that better represents the book itself.

As I fumed about this, I realized that the book I had finished just before Babylon Sisters had an annoying cover, too:

Who is that kid?  The daughter in the book is in her twenties.  And what on earth do bare feet and grass have to do with the story?  Maybe I completely missed that scene – I’ve already returned the book to the library so I can’t doublecheck – but I doubt it.  Like Babylon Sisters, I probably would have passed this book up if it wasn’t for the fact that I have prior positive experience with the author.  (Sidenote: I liked Daughter’s Keeper, but I think Ayelet Waldman’s later novels are better.  Go with Love and Other Impossible Pursuits if you’re wondering which of her books you should to read.)

So what did I do next?  I read Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel, knowing full well the cover was going to piss me off.

I’m assuming the girl we see here is Callie, our protagonist.  It’s actually a pretty big assumption to make seeing as how Callie is biracial and that girl is not.  Callie’s mom is white and her father is black – which we learn in the second chapter – and her hair is described as “coarse” in the very first chapter.  In the beginning of the book her skin is cream-colored due to a lifetime of covering up every time she goes outside.  Why does Callie have to keep her skin light-colored? you ask.  Oh, see that’s because the book takes place in Kansas in 1935.  Apparently not much has changed in 77 years.

That cover is insulting.  It’s insulting to Callie.  It’s insulting to the author.  It’s insulting to biracial readers because not only does it send the message that people with their racial makeup aren’t worthy of honest representation on book covers, it also sends the message that publishers don’t think their skin tone will sell.  It’s insulting to non-biracial readers because it assumes they won’t read a book that features a character who has a different skin color than their own.  And to that I say: BITE ME.

This is 2012, people.  Enough with the whitewashing already.

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And now presenting Heather Dixon, author of Entwined.  Welcome, Heather!

When I was in college and just writing Entwined and discouraged about it because it was in the horrible early stages and was all dark and weird and depressing (and it was, too–it was closer to the original fairy tale, which had witches and poisoned wine and such) I read my first Terry Pratchett book.

It was “Going Postal.” My family–already die-hard fans of the Discworld series–leant me the book, which had pages falling out from being thumbed through so much. I read the prologue, “The Nine-Thousand Year Prologue”, which had beautiful prose and made absolutely no sense. When I turned the page, there was another prologue–“The One-Month Prologue.” That one also didn’t make any sense.

And then, in the first chapter, the main character, Moist von Lipwig, is hanged.

What kind of sorcery is this? I thought.

He’s brought back to life, of course, and the city’s patrician (tyrant) forces him to get the derelict post office up and running again. Moist had been a conniving thief and swindler, and does whatever he can to get out of his new job. But as he resurrects the struggling post office, he begins to realize what a jerk he was, and by the end of the book, through clever prose, soulful, funny characters, and brilliant dialogue–my gosh, the dialogue. Such incredible dialogue. I could slice up Terry Pratchett dialogue and eat it as three square meals a day–and angels, Moist is redeemed.

I flipped back to the two prologues, re-read them, and now they made sense. They were about characters that had died, but who Moist, in his own redemption, had redeemed.

Brain splode. oiaefjksjdal;

In the world of creative writing, there are a lot of proclaimed do’s and don’t’s. Don’t start your book this way. Do make your chapters this long. Don’t write what people actually say. Do write what people actually say. Editors like this. Agents like that. Show, don’t tell. (<–that’s one “fix all” phrase I absolutely hate.) It’ll make any writer paranoid to distraction.

With Going Postal, I felt I left those pretensions behind. He broke all the rules. Prologues, jumping POV’s, footnotes, varying fonts and sizes, chapters of all sizes, such stylized characters, and he was funny. Every page made me laugh. In my reading journey, like Moist, I had transformed. I realized that I’d been caring too much what other people thought, and not being me.

With that in mind, I was able to tackle Entwined (then called The Great Slipper Scandal) again with a renewed sense of what the story–and my writing–needed to be. And, wouldn’t you know, I was able to craft it into a story that I hope, like Going Postal, told a story of redemption in a funny and entertaining way.

If there’s something I hope that readers of Emily’s blog here, and also writers (since book blog readers & writers are often one & the same), it’s this: Don’t be afraid to create things your way. The literary world is rife with people who criticize and woefully lacking in people who create. Find your song in creators and writers whose work you recognize transcendence, and learn from them.

It’s been years since my first encounter with Discworld, but Terry Pratchett solidly remains my favorite writer. My collection of his books are drowning in pencil highlights, notes in the margins, and falling-out pages. If you’re starting Terry Pratchett, it might be a hard nut to crack, as the books are entrenched in the Discworld world. Here are some recommendations to ease you in:

“Going Postal” (of course!)

“Going Postal” the SkyOne movie (<–I actually would recommend this one first, you can find it on Amazon.)

“Maurice and his Educated Rodents” (Winner of the Carnegie medal)

and, “Wee Free Men” (first of the Tiffany Aching series)

Thanks, Em, for letting me be a guest here!

-Heather

Thank YOU, Heather!  You are welcome to stop by any time.

Want more Heather Dixon and/or Utah Book Month awesomeness?  Read Entwined, check out Heather’s blog, or stop by the Utah Book Month blog for more Utah book goodness.

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Ladies and gentlemen, we are just three short days away from a monumental Alcove event. On August 1, I will host my very first guest post by . . . *drumroll, please* . . . a real, live author.

A real, live author. Here. On my blog. To say that I’m ridiculously giddy would be the understatement of the world.

So how did this amazing occurrence come about? Well, I’m glad you asked! Several months ago, my favorite new-to-me blogger Jessica at The Bluestocking Society announced that she and several other Utah book bloggers were going to host a Utah Book Month in August. She invited all interested book bloggers to participate, and even though I live approximately 2,000 miles away and my Utah experience is limited to three (yes, I said three) trips across the Utah salt flats in the Summer of 2004, I eagerly signed up. Shortly after that I received an email informing me that Heather Dixon, author of Entwined, had agreed to write a guest post for my little ol’ blog. All I had to do was email her a topic.

Come up with a guest post topic? For a real, live author? I had absolutely no idea what to tell her, so I did what every reader does in a situation like this: I read. I read her book, I read her blog, I read interviews. And then I came to the conclusion that I completely adore Heather Dixon. She has a fantastic sense of humor (if you don’t have time to read her entire blog – which you really should do – at least read her Oregon Trail post. I read it multiple times and it never stopped being funny), and as if that isn’t enough to endear her to my heart forever and ever, she also loves Terry Pratchett.

When I learned this, I really, really wanted to write her a gushing “OMG-I-so-totally-love-Terry-Pratchett-too-we’re-soul-mates-be-my-BFF-forever-and-always” email, but I thought that might terrify her. Instead I played it cool, like I email real, live authors all the time, and just sent her a list of possible guest post topics. I gave her the option of writing a post about Terry Pratchett, and even though I told her she could choose whichever topic she wanted, I secretly hoped she would choose that one.

And she did! So come back on Wednesday to read Heather Dixon’s Terry Pratchett post. It’s going to be awesome.

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IOU

I owe you:

  • my final Neverwhere Read Along post
  • a May Reads post
  • some Library Love
  • a review or two
  • thoughtful responses to the comments you’ve left on my blog
  • thoughtful comments on the blog posts you’ve written in the last few weeks

Up until recently I’ve been lecturing myself about being a terrible multi-tasker (I should be able to do everything AND blog regularly, right???) and then I realized that I need to cut myself some slack – I’ve done nothing BUT multitask for the last two weeks.  (I need a nap.)  So I am terribly sorry I’ve been MIA lately; I promise it will get better, just not right away.  I’m actually not in Virginia right now; I’m in Oregon for the wedding of a very dear friend.  The wedding is Saturday and there are, of course, a million little things – and one giant thing – to be done in the meantime.  What is this giant thing, you ask?  Yours truly is in charge of the wedding desserts.  So over the next couple of days I’m making eight dozen chocolate-raspberry cupcakes, four dozen lemon bars, and four dozen mini strawberry tarts.  Oh, yes, you read that correctly.  I must be nuts.

But the weather promises to be beautiful for the wedding (those of you familiar with Oregon know how amazing this is!), and I’m sure all the baking will go splendidly.  But think happy cupcake thoughts for me, please!

Hope all is well with you!

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We will miss you, king of all wild things.

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