March 22, 2015, 5.52 pm
This weekend's reading recommendations from my boys: MrD, the 6-year-old, is absolutely loving Witch Baby and Me, by Debi Gliori (Book 3 in a fabulous early-MG series that we both love) - we started reading it yesterday, we're now 8 chapters in, and he thinks we are reading MUCH TOO SLOWLY.
And Toddler X (who's now 20 months) has made me read him The Night Pirates, by Peter Harris (in which a very nice little boy gets to go on an exciting night-time adventure with a band of "rough, tough little girl pirates") 6 times already today. And he complained when I put the book away after our sixth reading! (MrD still likes that book, too. It was one of his favorites when he was younger.)
What about you guys? If you have kids, what are they reading? And if not, are there any kids' books you've read and loved recently (or remember reading when you were younger)?
March 19, 2015, 3.23 pm
Whew! Within the last two weeks, I finished the first draft of my new MG novel, and I rewrote my latest 30,000-word freelance project, too. Add in the fact that Toddler X is currently teething AND going through a nasty cold - meaning that over the last three nights I've managed a combined total of 8 hours' sleep - and, well, this week has turned into a total rest & recovery week (at least during the daylight hours).
But! That means I've had a great excuse to do lots of knitting...
...which means a lot of listening to podcasts, too! I already knew I loved Galactic Suburbia (three smart, fun women talking about science fiction, fantasy and feminism - SO awesome!), and this week I caught up on my other favorite podcast, Champagne and Socks (in which f/sf editor Alisa Krasnostein talks about her crafting and gardening projects, and I think, ooh, that sounds nice...). What other podcasts should I be listening to? I'd love to hear your recommendations.
And this has been a great week for books! Y.S. Lee's wonderful book Rivals in the City came out in the US and Canada this week. Hooray! I adore this series of awesome YA Victorian-era mysteries, which got better and better with every book. (And the first one was already so good that it inspired me to write my first-ever piece of fanmail to an author!)
Rivals in the City is the last book in the series (alas!) and also my very, very favorite. You can read my full Goodreads review (which I wrote after reading the earlier UK edition), or just read this snippet from my review:
I love Mary's fierce intelligence and (completely era-appropriate) feminism. The central mystery in this book was my favorite of the mysteries in any of the books so far - compelling and fun and resonant of a really good Sherlock Holmes story. I also love the seamless way that issues of social justice are integrated into the story. And I looooove Mary's scenes with her fiancé, who is just so right for her! I only wish the series could go on forever - I'd love to read her further adventures. But this was a lovely, lovely end to the quartet.
So in other words, I highly recommend this book (and series)! :)
And then today Justina Robson's new space opera, The Glorious Angels, came out in the UK! Justina has been one of my favorite authors for a long, long time. She writes hugely inventive, intelligent and original science fiction and fantasy for adults, and a new book from her is always a MAJOR event in my world. My pre-ordered copy of this book downloaded onto my Kindle today. I've already started reading it, and - no surprise - it is wonderful so far. (And at the moment, her publishers are offering e-book versions of the book for only £1.99!!! So NOW IS THE MOMENT to buy this book, obviously! Although I'm planning to buy a paper edition, too.)
(ETA: And a quick note, now that I'm about 1/5 of the way through - this book is definitely for adults only, and I thought I'd better highlight that fact since a lot of people come to this blog through my MG books! But it's also gorgeously written and hugely imaginative.)
What about you guys? What are you reading this week?
PS: Here's the one sad thing about equal co-parenting. Last night at dinner, I told Patrick that after listening to so many podcasts lately, I'd started fantasizing about doing a podcast of my own about guilty pleasure reads, etc - but that of course that would only be fun to do with a friend.
He said, "I'd do it with you!" I said: "THAT WOULD BE SO MUCH FUN!" - and then we looked at each other and realized: But there is No Way we could possibly manage that, at this point in our lives. Seriously. We NEVER have that much time alone together without any kids who would very, very loudly take over the podcast! And: how bizarre is it that it would be SO much easier for me to arrange long uninterrupted time with a friend from out of town than with my own husband who shares my house? But since Patrick and I are each other's childcare providers, well....
Sigh. One day! (And in the meantime, if anyone who reads this blog entry is a close personal friend of mine who ALSO fantasizes about doing that kind of podcast, let me know! :) Because it would be ridiculous for me to take on any more commitments right now and yet...and yet...!)
March 11, 2015, 5.57 pm
So the biggest news of this past week is: I finished Draft 1 of my MG dragons-and-chocolate book! Wooooot! This was an even bigger deal to me than usual (and I ALWAYS love that feeling of finishing a novel draft) because (a) this is the first book that I've written from beginning to end ever since Toddler X was born, nearly 20 months ago, and (b) this is the book that taught me to love writing novels again, after spending 10 months completely knotted up over a manuscript that was never going to work...because I was trying so hard, in that book, to write like someone else, someone not-me.
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (working title!) is still a very rough first draft, and I'm not even sending it out for any critiques yet - but it is so very much me, and oh, did I love writing it.
Unfortunately, on the same day that I finished my first draft - and crashed hard with the M.E., after an intense writing week following 2 weeks of child sicknesses - poor Patrick came down with the same horrific stomach bug that both of our boys had already been through. So this weekend, post-draft, was rather less celebratory than planned and more...well, survival-mode, basically! It was a weekend of ordering pizza delivery and snuggling up on the couch with my little boys, getting through the days as quietly as possible. Luckily, both boys are very snuggly, and they both like pizza.
It's been a quiet week ever since then, but with the addition of an intense writing schedule during my child-free hours, as I try very hard to see if I can get my latest freelance project turned in early to help out with a deadline crunch. I don't know if I can, but I'm trying. Wish me luck!
So, I was having a fairly stressed-out morning this morning after a nearly sleepless night with Toddler X last night, trying to force my tired brain through as many pages of freelance edits as possible (as well as proofing a novelette that's being published next month) while Toddler X was out with his childminder for the morning...and then there was a knock at the door.
A man stood outside, holding a very classy-looking black bag in his hand. "Would you be Stephanie?" he asked. "Yes," I said. He smiled and handed me the bag. "These are a gift for you from [Wonderful Friend's Name], from Black Mountain Gold Chocolate," he told me.
And look what I found inside the bag, after he left! Dragon Bars!
They were the perfect gift, especially since they were sent to celebrate my book about dragons and chocolate. I was so happy to see them. I sat down and edited for another half an hour, pushing even further into the manuscript than I'd aimed for. Then I made a cup of celebratory tea, I opened up the Omega Dragon Bar, I bit down...
...and, OMG. The Omega Dragon Bar from Black Mountain Gold may just be the best chocolate bar I've ever eaten in my life! It is SO delicious.
There's a lot of work still to be done over the next week or so. My M.E. is still being a pain. But life is full of good friends and chocolate and family, and I am happy.
And the week after next, I'll get to start revising my dragon-chocolate novel! Woot!
March 4, 2015, 3.24 pm
I was fifteen years old, and our town had just gotten its first Barnes & Noble, when I first discovered Locus magazine. By then, I'd written my first fantasy novel (a hugely derivative contemporary fantasy that was basically my attempt to write another War for the Oaks), and I knew I wanted to be a pro fantasy author one day. It was my biggest ambition...but it also felt to me like a totally unrealistic ambition in so many ways. I didn't know any authors. Normal people weren't professional authors, were they? So how could I ever become one?
Well, Locus, for the first time, made it seem almost possible. Its full title is Locus: The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Field, and it's a trade publication for science fiction & fantasy writers, editors and publishers. In Locus, not only could I read long, meaty, in-depth interviews every month with real f/sf authors (desperately fantasizing that I would one day be one of them), along with thoughtful reviews of dozens of new f/sf books, but I could also read monthly listings of which authors had just sold their new books where, via which agents. I could see photos from the science fiction & fantasy conventions taking place around the world, putting faces to the names of various writers, agents, and editors. It made the whole field feel real, and full of real people, to me...
...And so, needless to say, from the time I got my first subscription, at 15 years old (as a Christmas present from my parents, who understood my obsession), it became a lifelong dream of mine to be one of those authors interviewed in Locus one day.
And guess what???
I so wish I could show this magazine cover to my 15-year-old self! And the fact that I was interviewed in the same issue as Garth Nix...wow. I didn't think anything could make this more exciting for me, from the time I was first invited to do the interview (and gasped out loud with delight and disbelief) - but seeing his picture on the cover really did it.
I am ridiculously excited.
I was interviewed via Skype, in a long, fabulous chat that took well over an hour (and which was made astonishingly relaxing and easy just by the fact that the interviewer was Tim Pratt, who is enormously fun to talk to), and I have to say, this is the most in-depth interview I have ever had or may well ever have. The magazine will be on newsstands sometime within the next week or so, and you can also order copies (either e-copies or print ones) via the Locus website.
Today I am so, so tired, because Toddler X's sleep has continued to be horrifically bad at night every night for the past week and a half (we're guessing growth spurt at this point? maybe? it has to be SOMETHING that will stop soon!)...but every time I look at that magazine cover, I feel happy all over again.
It's been over twenty-two years since I first started squeezing my eyes shut and imagining that one day, I'd be a real, professional author and have an interview in Locus. And it's a really great feeling when a lifelong dream comes true.
February 28, 2015, 1.13 pm
So, over the last few weeks, first I went without a computer for 11 days, and then just after I got my new computer, both boys got sick. MrD ended up only attending 2 out of 5 school days this week, and Toddler X has been awake (and keeping me awake with him) for most of every night.
I've been trying really hard to push through and get everything done on time or early anyway...but yeah. I've failed. And I really hate that.
Today, I had to send two emails that made me cringe. In one, I asked for a second extension on a book review that I'm scheduled to write; in the other, I had to say to my very favorite, long-term (and wonderful) freelance employer that, as much as I really do want to help them out in a difficult situation, I can't actually promise to turn in the next draft of my latest project much earlier than we'd originally agreed.
I guess whether or not those necessary emails sound cringe-inducing to you depends on your particular personality...but when it comes to driven, anxious, perfectionist me, I found them EXCRUCIATING.
So it was really good timing for me to be in the middle of reading Brené Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection. Here's a quote from the introduction that resonated so much for me, I stopped and re-read it several times:
Wholehearted living...means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It's going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn't change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.
Again, that may not sound earth-shattering to many people - but for me, oh, lord, does it resonate! And so many other passages in this book have resonated, for me, as well. I'm reading a library copy right now, but I will definitely be buying a copy to keep, as well as looking for copies of her other books.
What about you guys? Do any of you struggle with perfectionism, or is that a non-issue for you? (I wish it was for me!) If you do share that struggle, what are some of the tactics you've used to deal with it? There was a while when I relied heavily on writing "Done Lists" at the end of each day, showing exactly how much I had gotten done even on days that felt incredibly unproductive. On the other hand, of course a big point of the book I'm reading right now is that we shouldn't be judging our own worthiness by our productivity anyway. I would like to be able to stop doing that...but I'm also up for any tips to help along the way.
Either way, I highly recommend The Gifts of Imperfection!