November 16th, 2009

imaginative girl

Forests and Books

I have the coolest husband in the world. Yesterday, Patrick gathered up me and Maya and MrD and drove out of town. He didn't tell me where we were going. We talked happily in the car - I always love going out for day trips, and I was even happier because this one had the buzz of real adventure. And when I'm a passenger, I specifically love car trips into the unknown.

We drove across the English border, then through England for a while. We drove past rivers and down rumbly dirt roads under low-hanging trees. And we finally ended up in the Forest of Dean, a beautiful old forest I'd never visited before with tons of dramatic viewing points over valleys and gorges. I LOVE forests - my second full-length novel (written when I was 16, which is why you'll never see it published!) was even set completely in a forest because I'm so obsessed with them. Just walking under old trees fills me with a sense of peace and happiness.

(You should have seen me when we visited Sherwood Forest a few years ago - it's an old, old forest AND the site of so many childhood fantasies! I could barely talk, I was so blissed out.)

I'm not going to post any photos from the Forest of Dean today, because I know Patrick's planning to post his own entry about it soon. But I will just say again how happy I am that he knows me so well. :) I had a really, really wonderful time.

***

I've been meaning for a long time to talk about two different YA novels I've read recently. They're each VERY different from each other, actually, but both so good that I wanted to point them both out.

Ice, by Sarah Beth Durst: I bought this one based on the excerpt I read on Sarah's website, and oh, I am so glad I did. I devoured the whole book in one evening!

Of course, I've always loved the fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" (I even did my own retelling of it a few years ago in my story "By the Light of the Dark"), but that actually made me a little wary of this book before I read it. When I love a fairy tale so much, sometimes it's hard to read other people's versions of it! But this one was just wonderful.

Ice starts out on an Arctic research station, where 18-year-old Cassie has grown up preparing to be a scientist. The shift from gritty Arctic realism to the dazzling magic of the Polar Bear king's palace is just perfectly handled, and oh, I loved Cassie's very modern reactions to the king's fairy tale expectations. Their relationship was perfectly drawn, the developing romance was just right...and the final adventure, as Cassie combines her scientific know-how and intelligence with her growing understanding of how magic really works, was so much fun. I loved how fierce and strong she was, and this book was just a joy to read. Really, really fun and recommended!

The Snowball Effect, by Holly Nicole Hoxter: I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this from Holly (one of my fellow Tenners). Wow, is it different from Ice - but also so, so good. This one reminded me of a darker version of a Sarah Dessen novel, and some parts of it were so painful to read that I had to take time away and read the novel in slow bites...but again, I am so glad I did.

Lainey Pike's family is truly broken. Her dad's out of the picture, her stepdad died recently, and her mother, who always suffered from depression, has just committed suicide in the family's basement, just after Lainey's high school graduation. Now Lainey and her estranged older half-sister are suddenly left to look after their five-year-old adopted brother, who has major emotional and behavioral issues. Lainey's never had a protected childhood, and now she's expected to take on a parent's responsibility for a brother who has never felt truly part of her family anyway...and all while grieving (and raging) over her mother's voluntary death. Lainey has a supportive boyfriend, but she feels suffocated even by him and by the way the rest of her life has been forced onto her.

Lainey and the other characters feel utterly real, and her anger and fear and frustration are palpable and completely understandable. She makes a lot of really questionable decisions as she flails around, trying to find her way, but every single one of them felt true to her character, even when they led her into even worse situations. This was often a hard book for me to read, but it was absolutely emotionally truthful, and it had a hard-won hope to it in the end.

***

What about you guys? What books have really stood out to you lately? I'm always looking for reading suggestions!
imaginative girl

16 months of short stories

SFWA has just opened its Nebula nomination period, and in response, a bunch of writers I know have been posting lists of their Nebula-eligible short stories.

I feel totally, totally conflicted about this. On the one hand, it makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, the idea of doing it myself makes me feel very weird, insecure, and uncomfortable. However, I've made a recent resolution to start acting genuinely proud of the work I do, rather than talking it down out of some weird version of Midwestern politeness, so...

...Deep breath: here is the list, 16 months of my published short stories, posted partially for the attention of any Nebula voters but mostly just as a statement: this has been my published life for the last sixteen months. Regardless of awards season, I'd love more people to read these stories, because I truly loved writing them. If any of you do have time to follow a few links, I hope you really enjoy the stories. :)

  • “True Names”, published in Strange Horizons, November 2009.

  • “Offerings”, published in Fantasy Magazine, August 2009.

  • “Wolf’s Kin”, published in Space and Time Magazine, Issue 108, July 2009.

  • “Red Ribbons”, published in Black Static, Issue 11, July 2009.

  • “After the Change”, published in the anthology Future Bristol, ed. Colin Harvey, April 2009.

  • “The Five Days of Justice Merriwell”, published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, March 2009.

  • “Blue Joe”, published in Shimmer Magazine, Issue No. 10, March 2009 (which is available as a free PDF download).

  • “The Andrassii Agreement”, published in Lone Star Stories, December 2008.

  • “How to Recognize a Dragon”, published in Full Unit Hookup, Issue No. 9, August 2008.


(And please note: if anyone wants to read one of the stories that isn't available online, just email me and I'll send you a PDF or Word doc. You don't need to be a SFWA member for this - I really do just want to share these stories right now.)