Lost to California

Snap back to reality. Back in Seattle. For the past two weeks we’ve been transients, driving up the California coast, packing a bag every day and going from motel to hotel. The sort of trip where you forget if it’s Monday or Tuesday (or maybe Wednesday?), where every meal was just brought in off the boat, where the biggest decision of the day is, “Should we stop at this beach or keep driving to the next?”

We traveled the Pacific Coast Highway, Highway 1, a classic stretch of road that hugs the sea. We rented a convertible and drove from San Diego to San Francisco. I had done parts of this drive before, but never the full thing. California has a strange, magical pull over me, and I wanted Byron to experience that magic.

What I wrote last year is still true:

Everything down there just seems scented with a kind of forgetfulness — like there is nowhere else in the world to be, nowhere else in the world you should be.

I really think I temporarily lost my mind down there. It may still be floating around somewhere off the California coastline. I assume it will meander back home at some point, back up to Seattle, but for now I’m content to let it wander.

USS Midway in San Diego.

Starting in San Diego, visiting the USS Midway.

USS Midway in San Diego

Beer in San Diego.

Three local IPA’s.

Birds at Torrey Pine State Reserve.

View from Torrey Pines State Reserve.

View from Torrey Pines State Reserve.

Vroom vroom.

Great blue heron at Crystal Cove State Park.
Crystal Cove State Park.
Crystal Cove State Park.
Crystal Cove State Park.
Crystal Cove State Park.

Will Rogers State Beach

Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica, where we used to swim with my grandparents.

Will Rogers State Beach
Will Rogers State Beach

Pacific Coast Highway

The last green in California.

Morro Bay

Morro Bay.

Morro Bay

Moonstone Beach

At Moonstone Beach in Cambria, we stumbled upon the prologue to The Birds.

Pelicans at Moonstone Beach
Pelicans at Moonstone Beach

Pelicans at Moonstone Beach
Sea lions.

Big Sur.

Entering the crazy twisting Big Sur.

Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur

We stopped at the Henry Miller Memorial Library and started chatting with the young woman at the cash register. She was from the Netherlands and had just arrived in Big Sur yesterday. She'd been driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in her van, liked it where she was, and decided to stay. That's the kind of place Big Sur is.

At the Henry Miller Memorial Library, we learned the young woman working the cash register had just arrived in Big Sur the day before. She was from the Netherlands and had been driving down the Pacific Coast Highway in a van when she entered Big Sur. She liked it and decided to stay. Now she’s working at the library. That’s the kind of place Big Sur is.

Big Sur

Big Sur
Yellow flowers at Big Sur

Redwood trees in Big Sur.

Even little Redwoods tower.

Juan Hiquera Creek in Big Sur

Point Lobos State Reserve

Landscape artist Francis McComas called Point Lobos the “greatest meeting of land and water in the world.” I’d have to agree.

Point Lobos State Marine Reserve

I was SURE this piece of kelp was a sea otter. 100% sure.

Point Lobos State Reserve
Point Lobos State Reserve


Point Lobos State Reserve
Harbor seals at Point Lobos State Reserve
DSC00860

Eucalyptus trees.

Eucalyptus. My favorites.

Highway 80 in California

2015 Chevrolet Camaro

Our valiant ride after 600+ miles.

Quarter horses.

Pit stop to a family member’s horse ranch in northern California.

Quarter horse.
DSC00888

Summer Book Reviews

This past spring, I read so many books I had to split the reviews up into 2 posts. Summer? Let’s just say that the state of my reading list reflects how summer went for me. But THAT’S OK. Summer is the season of beach reads and page turners and “guilty pleasures,” so I certainly won’t feel guilty about how many books I did or did not read.

(I should note that there are 2 other books not included here that I tried to read, but I abandoned them both around the 50-page mark. Life’s just too short for books you aren’t diggin’, friends.)

Desert Notes by Barry Lopez

Desert Notes by Barry Lopez

After driving to Washington desert country this spring, I decided to finally, FINALLY pick up this book. Lopez is like some sort of demigod among nature writers, and any environmentally minded lit major beams at the very mention of Desert Notes. I’m actually rather surprised I never read it in college, given the number of professors I had who were in love with Western American literature. Apparently I needed a trip to the desert to be in the right state of mind to pick this one up. (A good book is not only good based on its own merits, but based on where you are in your own life, as well.)

And after all that lead-up, the book was… good? A very different read for me. Objectively beautiful writing. There’s no plot to speak of; it’s the power of words and descriptions that draws you in, dreamy and wandering. While this type of writing may not be my typical cup of tea, it’s still good to branch out and see what other genres have to offer. It inspired me to write a short, weird little travelogue — you never know what may inspire future work. And now I would REALLY like to go check out the Alvord desert, the desert that inspired this book.

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

While browsing Austin Kleon’s blog, I found this snippet he wrote about Leonard: “His books are my reset button, where I turn when I’ve stalled out and I’m bored with my books, and I just want something awesome that won’t annoy the shit out of me or leave me hanging.” I felt the need for a reading reset, so I decided to give Kleon’s method a shot. And I have to say, it pretty much did the trick — this was just a plain ol’ fun book. Good dialogue, likable characters, simple prose that drives the plot forward. Many people would classify this as a “junk food” book, but at the end of the day, it’s pretty damn good writing.

My only qualm — the whole time I was reading, I couldn’t get the movie version out of my head. I haven’t seen Get Shorty in a LONG TIME — yet with each line I read, there were John Travolta and Gene Hackman, delivering all the dialogue. Which is not the WORST thing in the world, but I like to form my own visions of book characters. Next Leonard book I pick up, I’m going to choose one where I haven’t seen the movie.

California by Edan Lepucki

California by Edan Lepucki

Oh man. This book. I have feelings about this book.

I was one of the many people who pre-ordered this much-hyped book after Stephen Colbert promoted it on his show. I ordered it for two reasons: 1) any boost for independent bookstores is awesome, and I wanted to be a part of that (I chose to order from Parnassus Books, myself); and 2) the book itself actually sounded totally up my ally. Dystopian speculative fiction set in California? Yes, please!

California starts out strong enough — Lepucki has an interesting writing style, fairly straightforward but with the occasional poetics thrown in for good measure. She did a good job depicting the relationship between Cal and Frida, the young husband and wife at the center of the book — their relationship is far from perfect, but it is believable. And then… things started to turn a little south. As it nears the finale, the book begins to suffer from “showing vs. telling” (one of my biggest writing pet peeves), but I was willing to look past that to see where it went. It IS an intriguing plot line — I flew through the whole thing pretty quickly.

But the ending. Oh god, I HATED the ending. I can’t remember the last time I actively disliked a book ending so much. I finished and may have actually said out loud, “THAT’S IT?” I won’t spoil anything here, because that would just be lame — but if anyone else out there has read this book, I’m very curious to hear other’s reactions.

All that said — I would still be interested to read a second book from Lepucki. This one had a bit of “first novel” syndrome about it, but she’s clearly a talented writer.

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Speaking of Parnassus Books — a friend of mine recently went to Nashville, and I told her she should visit this bookstore. Tara, bless her, DID stop in, and while she was there texted me: “Which Ann Patchett books should I buy?” You see, novelist Ann Patchett co-founded Parnassus Books. I had to confess that I had not read any Patchett, but that This is the Story of a Happy Marriage was well-reviewed on Goodreads. After this shameful exchange, I decided I should remedy this and picked up the book myself.

I can now retroactively recommend this book with 100% confidence. Patchett is primarily a fiction writer, but for years she earned her bread-and-butter by writing nonfiction magazine articles. She selected and organized the best of those articles for This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, while also writing two new stories for the compilation — one about writing called “The Getaway Car” (highly recommended for all you writer folk out there), and another story about the birth of Parnassus Books. The other articles focus on marriage, divorce, dogs, re-marriage, family, friendship. If these seem like broad themes — well, yes, they are, but Patchett writes about them with such specificity that they seem new. She’s an incredibly talented writer, and beyond that? She just seems like a nice person. You finish a story and think, “Why are Ann Patchett and I not friends? We’d be great friends.” I’ll definitely be picking up more of her work.

(Can I mention, too, how much I adore that book cover? Great design, that.)

What did you read over the summer? Any delicious guilty-pleasure reads? I’ve kicked off my fall reading list with Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, so I think the next season is off to a good start…

Summer Slipping

Last Friday, I took the ferry back from Bainbridge and watched a red sun slip behind the Olympic range. A perfect moment in a shamefully beautiful corner of the world — but something was amiss. I turned to a friend and asked, “What time is it?”

She looked at her phone. “7:45. Too early for the sun to be going down.”

Bainbridge_Sunset

Quickening days are the first indicator of what’s to come. I love fall, don’t get me wrong — turning leaves and snuggly sweaters and low light cutting through crisp air. It’s a season of unwinding, preparing for dormancy. After the go-go-go of summer, fall is a much-needed letdown.

But I’m not ready for dormancy. Somehow when I had my back turned, summer slipped away.

The hammock colony stares at us from the backyard, neglected, colorful cocoons swaying with no occupants. House projects remain only grand ambitions. The local lake taunts from a distance, unvisited. Edits to my book — oh man, remember how I was going to have that done by July 1? HAHAHAH.

When I look back over the summer, the only thing I can remember doing? Work. Work consumed all, bored into every facet of my brain, and while I wasn’t paying attention, summer ticked on.

I know, objectively, that that’s not true — I did things other than work. I spent time with friends and family. I took a beach trip, got some fly fishing in. Why, next week we even get to go on a vacation — a final “hoorah” to end the season.

But I swear when I woke up yesterday, it was June. Last night I wrapped up in my heavy sweatpants and hoodie. This morning when I got up for my morning run, 5:45 had gone dark. I blinked and three months disappeared. That’s the long con of time, isn’t it? It tricks you into thinking it’s infinite, but as you get older, you stop paying attention for just one second and half a year is gone.

Manzanita Adventure Weekend

This past weekend Byron and I packed up the dog and the car headed down to the Oregon coast. We met up with a group of my best college friends — and I just about exploded with nerdy glee when my new camera arrived just in time for the trip. I realized a few weeks ago that my old camera is now technologically outdated — the photos it takes, they just ain’t lookin’ so hot. So based on some friends’ recommendations (thanks, Lauren and Hen!), I took the plunge.

Oregon proved to be the perfect testing ground. Sun, beach, epic trees… what more could a gal ask for when trying to figure out the difference between shutter speed, F stops and ISO?

Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford. Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Peaches and blackberries. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Neahkahnie Mountain. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Neahkahnie Mountain. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

View of Manzanita Beach from Neahkahnie Mountain. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford

Louie the Dog. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

 

Rockaway Beach. photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Swimming at Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Sunset at Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Sunset at Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

Sunset at Manzanita Beach. Photo by Laura Dedon Oxford.

If you get a chance to visit the small sleepy town of Manzanita, I highly recommend it. It is a magical beach in a special corner of the world.

The One Glaring Problem with “Guardians of the Galaxy”

Spoiler-phobes, this post should be relatively safe for you — there are a few minor plot points discussed, but nothing big.

I’m going to start off by saying that Guardians of the Galaxy — the new Marvel flick starring Andy Dwyer, erm, I mean Chris Pratt — is FUN. Just pure good entertaining fun. I haven’t grinned that much in a theater in a LONG time. Go check it out if you haven’t, it comes highly recommended from this camp (and literally everyone else I’ve talked to who’s seen it).

That said — when Byron and I left the theater and got in the car to head home, I turned to him and said, “You know what my one annoyance with the movie was?”

“What?”

“They didn’t let Zoe Saldana’s character DO anything.”

His immediate reaction: “I KNOW!”

Zoe Saldana plays Gamora, billed as “The Deadliest Woman in the Whole Galaxy.” This is well established in the movie, her supposed deadliness. She’s been programmed since childhood to be an assassin — she’s even been surgically modified to be more of a Badass Killing Machine — and the viewer gets the impression that she’s unstoppable.

UNTIL she meets Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, aka our main hero. And then apparently she can’t do anything.

Within the first 15 minutes of the movie, she meets Quill and can’t even steal a small orb from him. Because she gets knocked out by a raccoon. I mean, a kickass raccoon, but still. Raccoon vs. Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy? Come on. Throughout the rest of the movie, she gets saved by Quill not once, but twice. Once the cogs of the movie start turning, Gamora seems to exist to either a) motivate our hero, or b) serve as his new love interest.

Which just… UUUGGGGHHH.

Gamora’s character made me immediately think of this article by Tasha Robinson: “We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome.” Robinson’s article starts out with an example from another movie — but this quote applies directly to Gamora as well:

She’s wise. She’s principled. She’s joyous. She’s divided. She’s damaged. She’s vulnerable. She’s something female characters so often aren’t in action/adventure films with male protagonists: She’s interesting.

Too bad the story gives her absolutely nothing to do.

Robinson gives a checklist to see if your female character perhaps fits the bill of the Trinity Syndrome — “the hugely capable woman who never once becomes as independent, significant, and exciting as she is in her introductory scene.” Gamora hits a lot of the marks.

(Credit where credit’s due — Gamora DOES have a big fight scene at the end of the movie. But that felt weirdly anticlimactic to me after everything else.)

This may all seem like minor quibbling. And it kind of is — I really DID enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy. But I’m annoyed because it was SO close to being a perfect movie. There was so much potential for Gamora to be a really kickass character. Instead, she’s given wooden, exposition-laden dialogue and serves as a catalyst for our hero. Excuse me, but I think I’ve seen this play out before.

Maybe there’s still hope. There’s obviously going to be a Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Maybe they’ll give Gamora something really kickass to do in THAT movie. You’re ALMOST there, Marvel — I know you can do it.

Desert Memos: A Mini Travelogue

When you think of Washington state, what do you think of? Coffee, Amazon, Nirvana? Lots of trees and rain? Washington IS all these things… but there’s another side, too.

Columbia River at George, Washington - Buffalo Writes

The eastern half of Washington state? Pretty much all desert. Well, ok. TECHNICALLY not desert. But compared to Seattle’s maritime qualities — yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and call it how I see it.

A collection of yurts in the middle of a desert winery. Glamping at its best. Adirondacks and wine and tawny rabbits nibbling on sage. Twenty feet from your door, the descent to the bottom of a gorge — the river below receded, hexagonal tiles baked into the dried mud. And wouldn’t you know it, down here with the lizards and the snakes and the cactus flowers, sits one beat up desk, gradually becoming the desert. The office-supply life, it follows you everywhere.

At the start and end of summer, a lot of Seattleites hop over the mountains and drink up some of the eastern Washington sunshine — summer starts earlier and ends later over there. In May, my friend Hen and I did just that. We spent only 2 days in and around George, Washington, but it was enough to once again become totally smitten with the landscape. And when I got home, I was temporarily possessed by Barry Lopez.

Everything feels new and familiar and BIG. The vast space opens your brain and invites you to float from one thought to the next until you settle like pink dusk in the night. Record the thoughts acquired during such downtime, such non-thinking. Sift through them later, see what you find. Back to reality, desert memories rest heavy on the brain.

Alright alright, maybe I wasn’t possessed — maybe I just read Desert Notes and was inspired. Either way, I wrote up a little something — an experimental piece, very unlike my usual stuff. I’ll leave the dreamy landscape writing to Mr. Lopez in the future, but it was fun to try my hand on it.

You can check out the full deal over at RAD AND HUNGRY’s blog (or hey, if you’re on Medium, it’s there, too).

Columbia Gorge at George, Washington - Buffalo Writes

Writing Words from Neal Stephenson (Or, Hidden Treasures at the Doctor’s Office)

Last week I had a doctor’s appointment. I was in the waiting room — waiting, as you do — and spied a copy of Seattle Met magazine. The cover touted “52 amazing weekend getaways!”, or some such numbered list that always sucks me in. So I picked it up and started flipping.

Halfway through, I stumbled upon an interview with none other than Neal Stephenson — local speculative-fiction writer who’s penned approximately one zillion books. Byron loves his writing, and I very much enjoyed Snow Crash, so I stopped my page flipping to read the interview.

It was then that I noticed that this particular issue of Seattle Met was from January 2011.

Seattle Met - Interview with Neal Stephenson

January 2011. Can we just take a moment to appreciate that? Doctor’s office, you have officially outdone yourself when the magazine in your waiting room is 3 1/2 years old.

But at the end of the day, the past-due expiration date didn’t particularly matter — I still very much enjoyed Stephenson’s responses, and found them relevant to where I am as a writer.

Seattle_Met_NealStephenson_2

“Fiction is a pop culture medium.” I love this quote so hard — it describes how I currently approach my writing. Yes, fiction CAN be artful and poetic (and so much of it is) — but it doesn’t HAVE to be. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking pleasure in a page-turner.

Seattle_Met_NealStephenson_3

Writing my first draft, some of the minor characters surprised me — they had relationships I didn’t expect, back stories that were news to me. Now that I’m working on revisions, they’re being given their due — getting fleshed out where appropriate, rearranged so they have more importance to the story. I did have an outline, and it saved me from drowning in first-draft despair — but deviating from it to follow these minor characters makes the story richer.

Seattle_Met_NealStephenson4

“I like to write” — and at the end of the day, shouldn’t that be what it’s about?

If you’d like to read the full interview, you can check it out over yonder. And next time you’re at the doctor’s office, give the old, old magazines a spin. You never know what you might find.

 

Don’t Let It Go

Last week, Lauren at I’m Better in Real Life wrote a blog post reviewing her 2014 goals, taking stock, seeing how she was doing. It’s a great post — well written, introspective, encouraging conversation — but it depressed the hell out of me. Here we are, halfway through 2014 (HOW IS IT JULY, C’MON), and my book is still unedited. I blew past my self-imposed July 1 deadline. The farthest I’ve gotten is chapter 3. It’s just sitting there on the desktop, sad and lonely, judging me in its unrevised state.

So I’ve been in a funk the past week, thinking about the book — how the task at hand feels huge, how I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to get it done, what with working a demanding 9-to-5, keeping up on house projects, and you know, just making sure the general necessities of life get accomplished. (Laundry. Is laundry a necessity? Let’s discuss.)

Last Thursday, I got off work later than usual. Tired, hungry, I went out to the elevator bank. Waiting for an elevator was one of my former creative directors, someone I used to work with a lot, but don’t get the chance to anymore. He, too, was looking a bit ragged. We nodded hello’s, waited for the elevator to arrive.

We’d gone down a floor when he said, “What’s happening with the book?”

I laughed and gave a half-shrug. “Nothing. Not really.”

“Why not? Do you not think it’s good anymore?”

Defense mechanism engaged. “No, it’s not that. I DO think it’s good. I think it could be good — I still need to edit the thing. I just haven’t been working on it, with the new job.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I know how that goes.”

We rode in silence a minute, before he said:

“Don’t let it go.”

I laughed. “Yeah, yeah, I know.”

“No, I’m serious. I’ve stopped working on projects outside of work, and I feel like my soul is corroded.”

The elevator doors dinged — we reached the lobby. As we walked out, I said, “That’s both depressing, and I totally understand.”

That’s where the conversation ended — on a totally low note. But something clicked. I walked to my bus. I got home, broke out the iPad — dinner be damned, cooking can wait — and edited for about 30 minutes.

Because look, he’s right. I’ve mentioned before that “not writing” has this effect on me — I lose my edge, I feel stagnant. And the only thing that’s going to change that is to get my ass in gear and write. Work? Work will always be there. It’ll always be hard and exhausting and challenging and an excuse. There’s never going to be a magical time in my life when all the stars align and say, “Oh hey! It looks like you’ve been needing some energy to write. Here you go!”

Byron asked what he could do to help, and I said, “Honestly? Just tell me to write.” The past couple days, I’ve gotten more editing done than I have in the past month. Granted, it’s all still in chapter 1 — but it’s good progress. I finally feel things coming together. (Largely thanks to the wonderful Wonderbook — but more on that later.)

This is my mid-year kick in the pants. I’ve assessed my 2014 goals, and found the progress lacking. I can remedy that. It’s in my control. Consider this the antithesis to the Disney anthem — no letting go here. I’m sinking in the talons.

Writing Process Blog Tour

A little back story: I met Margaret on the second night of AWP, in the Sheraton hotel bar in downtown Seattle. The entire bar was filled to the brim with writers and other literary-minded folks — a surreal yet dazzling experience. I “knew” Margaret through our mutual friend Lauren (via the internetz, naturally), and we spent a fun hour or so drinking and talking about writerly things (two activities that go together so well).

Last week, Margaret emailed and asked if I’d like to participate in a “Writing Process Blog Tour” — a set of questions that have been making the blog rounds. The idea is this: a writer gets “tagged,” and then “tags” other writers to answer the questions in turn. At the end of the day, we’re all talking about the creative process in one nerdy gabfest. Um, SIGN ME UP.

Margaret’s responses can be found over here (her talk about “non-process” is wonderfully honest). And mine? Well…

1) What are you working on?

In theory? Edits to my book (I finished the first draft in December). In reality? I haven’t touched it in several weeks. I’m rapidly realizing I’m not going to hit my self-imposed July 1 deadline, and that is… a bummer. BUT. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. I got a new job a few months back, and it’s taken a lot of time and energy to get up to speed. Which means other things fall by the wayside. Including, in this case, book edits.

That isn’t to say I haven’t been writing — I just haven’t had the energy for that particular project. I wrapped up a short story a few weeks back, a wild little romp set in backwoods Louisiana. Short stories aren’t typically my forte, but I’m feeling good about this one. Besides, it’s good to write in different formats from time to time — strengthen ye ol’ writing muscles.

2) How does you work differ from others of its genre?

Oh boy. That’s a tough question, isn’t it? First I’d have to figure out what my “genre” is. Lately, I’ve been drawn to speculative fiction (I don’t really count my writing as science fiction, because the science is… well, nebulous at best). In the past, I’ve written historical fiction and dabbled in literary fiction (a genre I don’t think I’m particularly good at, and have since largely abandoned).

How does my work differ? Well, this is the obvious and cliché answer, but I’d like to think my voice. Every writer has a distinct, evolving voice, and I’m growing into mine. I also hope that my stories are easily accessible — you don’t need to be a speculative fiction fan to pick them up and enjoy them. But I guess that largely remains to be seen.

3) Why do you write what you do?

Because it’s fun! Because I enjoy the stories I tell. Look, most of us are NOT doing this for fortune and fame, so we should damn well enjoy the writing itself.

Another way of saying it — these are the stories I have to tell, the ones that bore into my brain and refuse to move. When you have a story like that,  you can’t ignore it. Try if you want, but years later it’ll still be there, waiting to be put to paper.

4) How does your writing process work?

If I’m good about it (aka, consistently producing work), I have a strict writing schedule. When I was finishing up the first draft of my book, I got up at 5:30am every weekday morning to get in an hour+ of writing before work. For me, a set schedule is the only way to add up that word count.

Other than that — my process is not really all that consistent. A lot of times I prefer writing first drafts by hand; for me, handwriting unlocks different parts of my brain. Of course, this doesn’t work as well with longer pieces. For writing large chunks or revisions, I work on either my iPad or desktop (everything syncs up to Dropbox, so the files are always updated no matter which device I’m on). When I sit down to write, there’s a good 10-15 minute window where I sort of dawdle, re-read what I did the day before, get my brain back into the game. But once I’m in, I’m in. Poor Byron knows this well — it’s hard to get my attention once I’m in the middle of writing.

That’s a wrap! And now that my questions are answered, it’s my turn to play tag… and the torch is going to Tayler of The Awkward Olive. Tayler and I were in the same creative writing program in college, and I was lucky enough to go on two study-abroad trips with her (one where we studied expatriate writers, and the other where… well, essentially we wrote in pubs. It was glorious.). Tayler currently lives in Oregon, eating delectable local food and working in her envy-worthy garden. At her blog, she writes honestly and eloquently about everyday life — look for her answers to the Writing Process Blog Tour soon!

And if you are a nerd like me and really enjoy reading about writing processes… might I recommend some other folk who have played the game?

  • Lauren (yes, the Lauren who introduced me and Margaret) answered in regards to writing both creatively and professionally.
  • Brian Benson, who I do not know personally or even via the internetz, but I found his answer to the “How does your work differ” question quite intriguing (and now I totally want to pick up his book).

When the internet connects diverse and widely spread groups of people over one common interest — well, that’s clearly why it was invented, right? (I mean, aside from cat gifs. Obviously.)

Spring Book Reviews: Part 2

OH HAI! This is a tad bit late. Part 1 went up two weeks ago, and I meant to have Part 2 done the following week… but, well, the last book took longer to finish than anticipated. That’s one downside to the Kindle — even with that little percentage bar, it’s harder to judge your reading progress than it is with an actual, physical book staring you in the face.

But! Without further ado. The rest of the books I read this spring…

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles

Honestly, I’d never heard of this book and never would have picked it up if it weren’t for Lauren’s Better In Real Life Reading List. She asked people to participate in book reviews/discussions, and The Age of Miracles was my assigned book (just like school! But without the tests and drama). I’m definitely glad I read it — it was thought provoking and fairly well-written. But let me warn you, this book put me in a DEEP FUNK. If I may quote myself… (Is it weird if I quote myself? Whatever.)

It’s fitting that the book brings up those uncomfortable middle-school feelings, because they tie in well with the main theme: the haunting passage of time. How quickly it goes by, how cruel and unrelenting it is. Time spares no one and nothing and makes you realize that, ultimately, you are alone in the world. If that all sounds depressing… well, yeah actually, this book was a bit depressing. I kept waiting for the uplifting twist, the silver-lining ending… and it never really arrived. This book has loneliness and fatalism at its core.

Seriously, NO SILVER LINING here. You’ve been warned. If you’d like to read ALL MY THOUGHTS on this book, pop on over to Better In Real Life to see the full discussion.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

The Once and Future King

You guys… I feel so much guilt over this one. I seriously considered not including it here, because I’m ashamed by what I’m about to say.

This book is a titan — a classic of the genre. It’s influenced so, so many writers, and many consider it to be the best fantasy novel ever written. I use the title to make puns all the time — “Oh yes, that’s our Once and Future Garage” — but my dirty little secret? I’d never actually read it. So I figured, you know, if I’m invoking this book to make bad jokes, I should actually read the thing.

And I… didn’t like it. I tried, really I did — I went well past Nancy Pearl’s 50-page rule — but I kept running into 2 problems: 1) I couldn’t get the Disney version of The Sword in the Stone out of my head, and 2) I don’t really like White’s writing style. He goes on for ten pages about the rules and techniques of jousting, and all I could think was Oh my god I don’t care about jousting I don’t care about this stupid knight please get to the stupid story.

But I wanted to stick it out. I figured if I could just get through Part One, maybe it would pick up, maybe I’d get into it… but I finally had to give up. I was skimming entire sections just to try and get to “the good part.” Eventually, I realized that “the good part” would never come for me — The Once and Future King and I were not meant to be. Pour one out, move on. (I still reserve the right to reference the title in my bad puns, though.)

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl

A while back, a coworker and I were exchanging book recommendations. MaddAddam had just come out, so I enthusiastically recommended that series. With equal fervor, my coworker recommended this book (while also suggesting a nerdy-girls book club at work — YES, PLEASE).

And now I’ve finally gotten around to reading it! And general consensus — definitely glad I did. The Windup Girl is set in Bangkok, in a future world where horrible blights and crazy pesticide-resistant beetles have destroyed global agriculture. Most countries have fallen into chaos and famine, but the Thai Kingdom remains, self-sufficient and sealed off from the outside world. The book follows a cast of characters — some intent on Thailand’s continued independence, some who would like Thailand to open up trade with the outside world. Conflict ensues.

The world building drew me into this book — Bacigalupi does a fantastic job painting this futuristic society, where calories are currency and an ice cube is considered a huge waste of energy — but the characters didn’t quite do it for me. Each chapter is told from a different point of view (there are, if memory serves, five rotating narrators), and this switching made it a harder for me to get into the story. And our titular character, Emiko the Windup Girl… well, I had issues. She’s “New People”, a humanoid sex slave designed to serve without question. And that ingrained desire to serve makes for a weird main character. She remains passive as horrible, terrible things happen to her, and when she DOES act, she regrets it afterwards and constantly apologizes for her actions. I wanted her to stand up for herself, take charge, leave all the assholes behind who kept hurting her — but that wasn’t the character. Which annoyed me, because I wanted her to be that way. At the end of the day, I did enjoy the book — but I felt like I could have enjoyed it more. Which is an odd experience.

That’s a wrap for spring! And next we have summer… oh, summer reading. The most wonderful reading season there is (why else would everyone and their mom put out summer reading lists?). What will you be reading in a sunny hammock, while sipping on a beer and kicking off your sandals? I haven’t quite decided on my list yet, so I’m quite eager for suggestions.