Monday, December 13, 2010

Holy crap, I have a blog! and What I'm reading lately.

Like leaving the baby on the stove ...

Way back when, I went to the Writer's Workshop at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. It was a fine experience, and one I definitely recommend, whether you're just starting out (like me) or already published and moderately successful. Because you can never be too good, right? And among the advice those fine folks from Antioch gave me, was to be publicly accessible, which meant having such things as a blog and a Twitter account.

The latter was simple; the former, less so. Say what you like about it, but Twitter is one of the simplest things you can do if you've got the right tools: take ten seconds out of your life to make an account, and then if you've got anything resembling a modern cell phone (or just an internet connection, which you already need to make the Twitter account, of course), you can tweet to your heart's content.

So, I made a (second) Twitter account for my professional life -- that is, one that focuses primarily on my literary world -- and something like the third or fourth blog account I've ever made for myself. But the problem with blogs, unlike Twitter, is that you've actually got to put some thought in it. You've got to take the time out of your busy life to put down a cogent thought or two. Who has the time or the energy for that?

Well, truthfully, I do, but I've just plain ignored the silly thing up until recently; it's always been in my mind, nagging me with that same feeling that I forgot to put the garage door down, but there's always been something more important that needed my attention more immediately (like researching the amenities of hotels in 1880s Kansas City). And anyway, who wants to read about a book that's only a third of the way finished in its roughest form? I'm not going to divulge plot points or anything substantive about my work, so there really won't be anything juicy on here. But I'm going to try to make a more concerted effort to talk about the writing process -- because it's the thing people keeping asking about at parties -- and also about what I'm reading. Because no man is an island,and I take comfort in reading stories that didn't spring out of my own mind.

So spread the word, invite your friends, make comments, share thoughts.
It's Jeff's literary world, folks. You're just living in it.


In other worlds ...

I just finished In The Night Garden, The Orphan's Tales, Vol. 1, by Catherynne M. Valente (Spectra, 2006). This book is like nothing I've ever read: a modern-day Arabian Nights filled with witches and polar bears who turn into men and princes and princesses and Quests and sea monsters and ...

It's hard to say what this book is actually about, except to say that it's about a strange girl who tells a princeling stories that only she knows, and that each story spirals into another story, which spirals into another, and into another. The tales are rarely isolated, and as the book continues, we're reintroduced to elements and ideas from previous tales, creating a really intricate web of storytelling that you just don't often find (I'm reminded a little of George R. R. Martin on a basic level). It's kind of dark, but in a PG-rated sort of way. On a technical front, it's an ambitious piece of work, and my hat is off to Valente for keeping all the plot threads straight and for resolving them the way she did. However, the pacing is a little slow, despite the brevity of many of the individual tales -- there are just so many of them! Still, stick with it and your patience will be rewarded.

I give this book a solid B, and I think I'll pick up the sequel, In The Cities of Coin and Spice, at the library today.

Right now I'm reading The Native Star, by M. K. Hobson (Spectra, 2010) on the recommendation of actress Felicia Day on her Twitter (which you must follow to retain any shred of geek cred). I don't know Ms. Day personally, of course, but I must say she's got pretty good taste. I'm not very far into The Native Star yet, but I look forward to getting through it; the start was solid, and I'm optimistic about the rest. Hopefully I'll have more to say about it later.

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