Weeping of the Willows update (actually, it’s more of a non-update…)

So this week is the last week of the boy’s summer school. Can’t believe six weeks went by so quickly. It’s a good thing I used all that time to focus exclusively on Willow…

…oh, wait. No I didn’t. Truth is, I did not work on Willow at all.

You see, back in June, I was working hard to make the June 30th deadline for Writers of the Future contest. Then I learned that another deadline for a rewrite request I’m doing got pushed down to August, which gave me the whole of July to focus on reworking my story. I’m glad it got pushed, because if it hadn’t, I would’ve just done a slap-and-dash rewrite and hope for the best. This gave me time to really contemplate on how to change the story. But yeah, because I was working so hard on these two short stories, Willow fell to the wayside because I didn’t have time to work on it.

Which don’t make sense at first–with the boy at school, I had oodles of time to write, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Except with all that time, I did other things too, like clean and nap and uh…read email…play Bejeweled…

But the other thing was that I was totally wrapped up in these short stories. I couldn’t put them down. I had to finish them to see how they turned out. There were the deadlines, too, but still–I was having fun working on these stories. And I felt that if I switched to Willow, I would lose my momentum in getting them sent out.

Both stories have gone out now. And I got a week left of freedom…of sorts. Except really, it’s only two more days, because I have in-laws visiting on Thursday. Which means we have to get the apartment clean. And I have an essay to wrap up that needs to get done by Saturday, which means I need to finish it tomorrow…

But I miss Willow. I miss working on it. I want to work on it again.

Okay, here’s a promise to myself. Make August Willow month. Sure, the boy will be back to being at home in the afternoons, but to be honest, I miss the structured time I had with him. Actually, there’s a lot more I miss from him not being around, but that will have to be a separate post. Trust me, come next week, I’ll probably be thinking, man, I so wish he was back in summer school…

Thoughts on my first public Reading (well, not really public, but still…)

So last Thursday, I did my first short story reading to an audience. It was pretty fun. It wasn’t a public reading, though; it was for an art show our organization put on. I thought that since I knew everyone there, it would be an easy thing. I was suprised, therefore, when I spent most of the day with the jitters.

Reading something for strangers is easy, because once they hear you, you never really see them again, unless they liked your work so much they go to your blog. But people you know is a different story. In this case, the people I read to are my co-workers, people I see every day. It wasn’t that I was worried that they wouldn’t like the story (I read “Click”, which is the only story you can’t read online). In fact, as I read it out, I kept thinking, wow, this is a good story! I don’t know if I can write anything to top this.

I think what made me nervous was that this was something “I” wrote, not some nameless, faceless writer. So when I read it to my co-workers, it was like baring a part of myself to them. It’s strange, because I don’t write my stories just to hide them away. I want them out there to make a connection to other readers. It’s the best way for me to communicate. But at the same time, it is personal. So when I read it in front of people I know, I feel a little funny.

Then again, I haven’t read in front of complete strangers yet, so what the heck do I know?

Anyhoo, the reading was a success, and I had lots of people come up and say they really, really liked it and that I read it wonderfully, which makes me happy. I had so much fun reading it, I’m considering sending it out again. I think it will make a good reprint. The question is finding the right placement for it. It’s not a standard fantasy story; more on the experimental side. Plus, I need to do some light editing. It was funny–I was actually making revisions in my head as I read it aloud (Ooo, that sentence would be better if I said it this way; I need to delete these adjectives so they’ll have greater impact later on). Funny how a story is never really finished, even after it gets published.

Book Reviews: Various

I have a bunch of books piling up that I need to do reviews for, so I’m just going to do them all in one fell swoop.

 

years best fantasy

Year’s Best Fantasy 7

Now that The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror is defunct, I  have to look for a new anthology. At the library, I saw Year’s Best Fantasy and figured, well, might as well start with something a little familiar. Also, I saw it had Peter S. Beagle’s Four Fables (which you can hear in separate miniature episodes at Podcastle). Plus, the cover looked really cool.

The stories in it are okay. Only a couple really stood out to me as really, really good, besides the Beagle stories.  Show Me Yours by Robert Reed was a revenge story I had to read twice; not because it was hard to read, but because once I got to the ending, I wanted to catch the details I missed before. But my favorite story was Pol Pot’s Beautiful Daughter (Fantasy) by Geoff Ryman. Had I gone to the Beer and Marmalade party at Wiscon, I would have fangirled him on this story. Great supernatural tale of ghosts and redemption.

I’ll keep an eye out for more of this anthology. Maybe I’ll try the science one next. Three Fables out of Five.

Love is an orientation

Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community by Andrew Marin

This is a book I picked up at InterVarsity Press back when I went to the Multi-Ethnic Publishing Seminar. I’ve been searching for a good Christian book that deals with the topic of gays and lesbians, and I believe this one is it.

Andrew Marin starts off the book by sharing his own story. In college, three of his best friends came out to him. At first, he did the typical Christian response, you can change back, you could go to hell, etc. After that, when he realized that wasn’t going anywhere, he decided to immerse himself fully in their culture to try to understand them what they were going through. In his words, he decided to become "the most involved, gayest straight dude on the face of the earth". So he hung out a lot in gay bars and clubs in Boystown, Chicago (which I’ve actually been to a couple of times. Long story.)

I like this book because instead of your typical "ooh! All gay people are going to hell. End of story!" viewpoint most Christian books take, Marin presents God’s word in how it’s viewed by gay Christians. He lays out the key Biblical passages that are the controversial to both gays and Christians and gives the cultural relevance for each. He admits there are passages where he simply doesn’t know about, but the point is not to show who’s right, but to bring both sides to the table to show what each group believes.

But what I liked most about this book was that he brings back the word "love" to the foreground. Marin emphasizes having true relationships with the GLBT community, not just lip service. He strongly encourages Christians to look past sexual orientation and focus on real friendships. And he reminds the church: it is not up to us to "fix" gays, or even to make them Christian. All God requires of us is to love them. Can we trust Him to do the rest? "Do our churches really give the impression that GLBT people have to be fixed before they are allowed to attend?" Marin asks. "Can we give love to (and be loved by) those without pretty pasts? Can we allow for God’s redemptive cycle to work in people’s lives without ever knowing the ending?"

There are some technical terms Marin use that went over my head, and he does mention his foundation a lot.  But this is a book that needs to be read by all Christians, I think, both gay and straight. Five Manholes out of five. And it’s a bar in Boystown, you perverts.

 Little Brother

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

I’ve been hearing a lot about Doctorow. How he is pioneering the "giving the whole book away for free" trend that’s been happening. Naturally, his YA story Little Brother was on the website for free, and it was a B&M pick, so I downloaded it.

Once you get past all the introductions and the copyright rants and the bookstore shoutouts, there’s actually a pretty action-packed story here, at least in the beginning. Marcus Yallow is a typical teenager—he’s into video games and the net, he bucks the computer systems at school, and he got the cocky attitude that screams thinks he knows pretty much everything adults don’t. If Daniel went to his school, I think I would put a kibbosh on any blossoming friendship between them.

Marcus one day skips out of class with his friends to be part of an ARG in downtown San Francisco. As they nearly get busted, a bomb blows up the Golden Gate Bridge. Marcus and his friends get rounded up by the Department of Homeland Security. After being humiliated and tortured, Marcus gets released but is warned that DHS is watching him. And one of his friends is missing.

I had often wondered what a youth rebellion would be like in this time and age. In the 60s there was the Woodstock generation who demonstrated against Vietnam. This generations’ idea of demonstrations seem to be turning their icons a certain color to show support for demonstrations happening far, far away.

Doctorow does an excellent job of showing Marcus using his mad l33t skilz of hacking to fight the system, in this case, his own country. Towards the end, however, all the constant action became cartoonish and unbelievable to me.  What scares me about books like these is that , since it takes place in post-911, it’s likely that this story could possibly happen. But then its gets too much into itself for its own good. Too heavy on the "freedom fighting" when all you have is a bunch of kids getting together for a party, no matter how good it is. Not a bad book, but still, a bit much. 3 Xboxes out of 5.

American gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I wish I can do a whole post on this, but like I said, I have a backlog of books to do. But I finally got around to reading this, and I only have one things to say. This is probably the first book I ever read where The House on the Rock is used as a gods stomping ground.

I read Anansi Boys last October, and I had an inkling that American Gods tied in with it. Boy howdy, does it ever. American Gods is a darker, perhaps more bloody story than Anansi Boys, but the two books are definitely two sides of the same coin. Both deals with men who suddenly find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Both find themselves pulled into the realms of the gods. Both even have the Anansi character showing up (in fact, it was fun to see how "Mr. Nancy" alludes to his ‘no-good’ son). And both have tales, lots of tales, from myths to fables to tall tales. In fact, I would say that that Anansi Boys is omake to American Gods in terms of its humor and lightheartedness (and yes, there are some dark moments in Anansi Boys, but the ending was a lot more fun than American Gods).

What I loved about American Gods the most was that it seemed that Gaiman made this as a love letter to the Midwest, especially, of all places, Wisconsin. Madison gets a nod as well as Chicago, and all these little towns in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri (though does Missouri count as Midwest? I’m not sure…) There’s a chapter where the main character, Shadow, spends a cold winter in Lakeside, which could be any town in Northern Wisconsin. Having experienced some of these towns, I could completely picture it. Would this book qualify as urban fantasy, or small town fantasy? Hard to say.

But I do know one thing. This is a great book. Definitely worth buying. 5 coins out of 5. And be sure to keep an eye on your coins. Like gods, they can disappear without you even knowing it.