Books

More Stay-at-home reading suggestions!

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So, if you haven’t found bookshop.org yet, you absolutely should. You get to support your favorite local bookstores (mine is the Neverending Bookstore) while still shopping online. Yeah, it’s not as cheap as Amazon sometimes, but I feel a whole lot better about using it! You can either shop by stores’ curated lists, or you can just buy individual books and attribute the sale to the bookstore. I’m working on curating some lists of my own on it to share with y’all so when you’re in the mood for something new to read, you’ll have my suggestions front and center! (full disclosure, if you buy off one of my lists, I get a small percentage of the sale)

But on to the books I have recently found awesome!

On the Nonfiction side:

Plays, since I’m studying up on that form:

Speculative Fiction:

  • I’m in love. I have a new absolute favorite author, and her name is Rebecca Roanhorse. Rebecca, if you read this, I totes want to take you out for drinks anytime you’re in Seattle! A native creative, she has two different series up and running, one based in a post-apocalyptic, mad-maxish Navajo nation (Trail of Lightning), and another that uses native mythologies to write far-reaching fantasy epics the same way Tolkein used British (Black Sun). SO FRIGGIN GOOD! I need the next ones, pretty please!
  • A Dream So Dark – second in the series, just as good as the first!
  • Fledgling – Finally getting around to reading all that Octavia Butler goodness, all thanks to Ada’s Feminist Science Fiction Book Subscription.
  • Time Pieces – a collection of poetry by Michael Bishop, currently out of print, but most of them will be appearing in his upcoming collection from Fairwood Press!
  • The Relic – a blast from the past that surprisingly is still a really good read.
  • Nevermoor and The Wundersmith – A trippy YA alternate world that is just a hoot to read.
  • White is for Witching – my first Helen Oyeyemi, so wonderful

Otherwise, I’ve been working on several projects, the Seattle Prohibition project has take a sharp left and split into two very different beasts, so I’m working on both of those, I applied for a grant for one of them. I’ve got an anthology idea I’m shopping around (watch for a call!) and the illustrations for the last two Oz novellas are almost done, woo!! On top of all that, I’m getting a certificate in non-profit management so I can actually start making the differences I want to see in this world. TTFN!

Happy Indie Bookstore Day!

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You have to admit, there’s something wonderful about walking into a small local bookstore with a hand curated selection that is simply delightful. And that’s why I love Indie Bookstore Day, it gives you a reason to go out of your way and visit some new stores you maybe weren’t familiar with before. That’s also why I love the comic book passport for Emerald City ComiCon. Well…anything where I can gather stamps and there are prizes, I’m absolutely in, especially when we budget to buy books!

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Of course, what would this whole *gestures outside* be without a hitch in the giddyap? Last year, we restricted our visiting to just one new shop: Annie Carl’s Neverending Bookshop. Annie and I hit it off like gas and a match and we’ve not stopped talking since. She’s my go-to for amazeballs books and we’ve recently started talking about a super-secret hush-hush project we’re going in on together. This year, at least for the Seattle challenge, it’s gone virtual! Yeah, I love the actual going to the store, but with the advent of Bookshop.org booksellers can create those wonderfully curated lists and still reap the benefit of sales even while you’re buying your books online. Which means: the challenge is back on!

Seattle’s franchise of Indie Bookstore Day laid out the gauntlet to see who could complete a 10-10-10 challenge. Buy 10 books, from 10 different local bookstores, over the course of 10 days, turn in your receipts, and get a free tote bag! Being ever the over-achiever with a LONG list of books I want to buy, I dove right in and wrapped it up in one long 3 hour internet dive. Because, of course, I’m not going to all these stores’ websites WITHOUT checking out their curated lists. Which is where I pulled seven of my ten titles from, I might add. Well, from Annie’s lists for the Neverending Bookshop and from Ada’s Technical Books sci-fi and fantasy section mostly.

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So who were my 10-10 in 1 picks you ask? I thought you’d never get there!

I tried to focus on books I wanted to learn from or women creators or creators of color, but added a few others on just because they looked like too much fun not to. And now I need to finish the three books I’m in the middle of at the moment before these start arriving! BTWs, one of those is Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, who is my new favorite, so check her out!

My Stay-Safe-Stay-Home Reading List

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Luckily or not, I was sick for the first part of the Seattle social distancing. Probably the unmentionable, but not enough tests. So it goes. But once I’m almost upright again, I ask myself how I am going to entertain myself through the copious hours cooped up with husband and dogs. Catching up on art projects, sewing projects, writing (HAH, like i have the emotional energy for THAT right now), reading…and, oh yeah, my gathered list of things to read just passed 200 on the Amazon wishlist I keep specifically for that. So off to the Libby app to see what I can borrow from my library virtually. Turns out, most of the list. The expensive text books and out of print antiques I’ll save for another day. For now, I’m keeping my holds list maxed out and burning through as many of the list as possible.

Where does this list come from? I know you want to know. Mostly it comes from folks I teach writing to. I have several exercises that asks students–child, teen, and adult–what their favorite books are. And I write them down, or keep the post-its, or however I need to save them from class and then they get added to the list. Also topics I have a passing interest in, I’ll add a handful of “best representations.” Or authors I needed to catch up on Which meant my list to read had grown to absolutely absurd lengths and it was time to do something about it.

Thankfully, I already have a very specific process in place for allowing myself to stop reading a book when I am not enjoying it. I can stop reading at any point, BUT I must be able to explicitly state what it is about the book that just isn’t working for me. Reasons I have stopped reading books from this list so far:

  • Choking on the toxic-masculine male gaze
  • Very poor copy-editing
  • Very poor writing ability
  • Was trying to give a genre I don’t normally like a go, but find that it still puts me to sleep as its pacing and content is just not engaging for me
  • Unintentional and unaddressed problematic content due to the author’s point of view
  • And one notable book that gave me severe anxiety due to the way I identified with it, too much to handle right now

But for every three or four (or ten) books I return to the library started, but not finished, I find there’s one that draws me in and delights me. Those have been, in the reverse order to which I’ve encountered them as I scroll backwards through Libby:

  • Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
  • Autonomous by Annalee Newitz
  • Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine (good book about writing for younger writers)
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopikinson
  • Greenglass House by Kate Milford
  • The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
  • Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy
  • A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
  • In An Absent Dream and That Ain’t Witchcraft by Seanan McGuire
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress

Okay, that was more than I had realized. Some of them, Like Greenglass House and The New Moon’s Arms I immediately went and placed a hold on more of their work, I enjoyed it that much. I currently have a maxed out holds list for ebooks ranging from “Available Soon” to “Available after 9 weeks,” 15 more on my “put on hold when I can” list, and 35 that aren’t available through ebook lending and I’ll either need to wait for the library to open, and yet more that I will have to purchase since the library doesn’t have them in physical form either. I’d say one day I’ll reach the end of this list but I just added 15 from the students I’m working with this week so…probably not!

Oh…wait…I forgot to count the 20+ physical books waiting for me on my to-read shelf out in the living room, too…

New Novellas Just in Time for GeekGirl Con!

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It’s that time of year again! GeekGirl Con is just around the corner (Nov. 16th and 17th this year) and I’ve got two new novellas for your enjoyment. The first, Pit Stop, was previously only available in the Night Lights Anthology, and Wavefall which is a brand new adventure in the same universe. Literally the opposite side of the universe from Pit Stop, but same none-the-less.

Pitstop Front Cover

Pit Stop is the story of Maevis, in self-imposed exile on a distant refueling station for Corporate. She finds herself helping out an injured juvenile hijacker and rethinking some of her choices.

Wavefall Front Cover

In Wavefall, we meet Andrea and Brad on a mining asteroid hoping to survive a quantum event that is traveling through the universe and leaving a wake of missing and dead people.

Also don’t forget that the third in the Oz novellas series is out for consumption as well! Jason Morgado is working on the illustrations for the last two right now, and I hope to have the fourth and fifth out in the next year, so keep your eyes peeled.

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All three stories are available in print through Amazon or your other favorite book vendor, as well as digitally through whichever form you prefer downloading books. And as a teaser, this NaNoWriMo, I’ll be editing another two books in this series, as well as finishing up writing the first draft for two others, including a followup to Wavefall. Follow me on Instagram if you want to keep up to date on my writing progress!

Indiegogo Update

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Thanks to those of you who have donated already, you’ve pushed me past the halfway mark! As of right now, I am at $625 and that means I only have to raise another $375 before everyone gets a digital copy of Undeliverable along with the swag from their pre-order level.

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To this end, don’t forget to send the campaign to your friends and family! Anyone you think might enjoy a good read or support the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Also, the more of your friends, coworkers, family, and pets that donate, the greater your chances of winning the signed prints from Thea of Oz!

 

 

 

Youth Literacy Day!

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Today is National Youth Literacy Day!

Today, you should:

Read a book to a child.

Donate a book to a library.

Explore 826, an organization dedicated to furthering writing and reading in inner city youth populations. Make a donation, volunteer, or answer one of their writing prompts!

Develop a sinister looking device that remotely transmits the ability to read to the whole world.

Okay, maybe this last one is a bit of a stretch, but look how easy it makes everything else look!

Pros and Cons of Different Types of Publishing

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So, as I’ve been contemplating the whole “how do I get myself published” question, I have had to come up against the hard realities of the world and how it views the different tracks publishing can take. I am going to take a little bit of time here and spell out how I see the breakdown of possible publishing avenues, starting with the least respectable to the most respectable. I’m hoping this can answer any questions about why I choose to go the route that I choose.

Self-Publishing
This is the term you don’t want to hear from the mouths of your friends. “Hey, Rebecca, my uncle self-published his memoir and you like books, you should totally buy a copy to help him out!” What this translates to is an unedited mass of papers, spiral or tape bound at Kinkos, with a cover they hand-drew, unedited, full of the kinds of sentences that will make you cry and curse the world. They probably never read it through twice, or even if they did, they decided it was perfect (its not) and think the whole world should think its perfect and don’t understand why the world refuses to acknowledge their greatness with a listing on the NY Times Bestseller list.
Rights you retain: All
Royalty: Anything above printing cost
Distribution: Wherever you can convince to carry it
Cost:
 Entirely out of pocket, spread out over time
Production value: Low

Vanity Press Publishing
This is slightly better than pure self-publishing. I highly doubt that its been edited, but at least it looks slightly better. It at least looks like a real book. In fact, they may have had a house designer and proof reader go over it (for a fee, usually three times higher than a freelancer could have given you). However, to get it out in the world, you had to pay for every copy up front from a company that really doesn’t care if you succeed or not. So now you have the 5,000 copies you were forced to pay for and no real idea what to do with them. Or you’ve read all the blogs online about how to market them, but you spent all your money getting them printed, so now you can’t afford even a minor marketing scheme.
Rights you retain: All
Royalty: Anything above printing and setup cost. The setup cost can be several thousand dollars
Distribution: Wherever you can convince to carry it
Cost: Entirely out of pocket, large chunk upfront and then printing costs
Production value: moderate

Crowd-Funded Publishing
Here’s where things start to get interesting. This is a recent development, what with Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Here, you can reach a wide audience and they can verify that your work has merit, and help fund its launch. Now, you are no longer responsible for bearing the entire burden of the price of editors, designers, and marketing and you can approach the level of production a publishing house could offer. If you’re diligent and internet savvy, you could have the production budget of one of the biggest houses and produce books of verifiable quality. And, with the advent of CreateSpace and Lulu, you need not print anything to have on hand if you don’t want to and can handle all the sales through Amazon, which will also distribute to regular bookstores.
Rights you retain: All
Royalty: Anything above printing cost
Cost: Only what it takes to set up your campaign, be it videographers or what have you.
Distribution: Amazon and the like as well as book store distribution channels
Production value: moderate to high, depending on who you have design it and where you have it printed.

Independent House Publishing
This is getting into the commonly considered ‘respectable’ range. Here, an editor has vetted your work and you’re considered publishable (ie saleable) material. The good part about this is all the copyediting/design/layout and a good deal of the marketing is handled by the house. Which frees you up to be writing your next book. Unfortunately, they’re a small house and can’t afford much in the way of marketing, and probably have a small circulation, unless they’re something like McSweeney’s
Rights you retain: A good majority
Royalty: About 15% of the cover price
Cost: none
Distribution: All Internet and traditional store distribution
Production value: moderate to high, depending on how big the press is.

Traditional House Publishing
Here is where all the reputation is. Get with Knopf or Penguin or Random House and you’re considered golden. But are you? Sure, they’ll woo you and promise the moon, but they’ll insist on new untested writers giving up way more of their rights than they probably want to and, again as a newb, unless they think you’re the one in a million rising stars, then they’re going to give you virtually no marketing money. They count on your using your advance to do it all on your own. Remember, they’re putting out hundreds of books a year, your’s is only one of them.
Rights you retain: Less than you’re comfortable with
Royalty: as a newb, maybe 10%
Cost: none
Distribution: All Internet and traditional store distribution
Production value: Usually pretty excellent

Given all of this, I personally would feel much more comfortable an Indie press or going with the crowd-funded option. Either way, I know I’m going to be producing quality. And with the crowd-funded option, I actually get to keep all the rights myself and get a much more vast royalty than I would with a house. BUT what I am giving up is the experience, connections, and reputation of a house publication.  And that’s a hard pill to swallow. Now, I have not yet given up on the possibility of a house deciding I’m worth their time, but I have also come to the decision that crowd-funding the book is just about as good. I can raise the money to do a proper edit and copyedit of the work, and, if I hadn’t been so design-orientated myself, I could hire a decent designer. And then, I can pay for a decent marketing campaign to try and get it into as many readers hands as possible.

And now you know where I stand on all this. Now, if Random House turned around tomorrow and promised me the moon, I’d have a damn hard time turning them down, because, let’s face it, who wouldn’t want that sort of reputation boost? But I would have to sit down and seriously consider all of my options before accepting a steep drop in royalties and the loss of control over a lot of my rights.

Jane Friedman also recently explored this topic in a slightly different manner, and I’ve included her infographic below.

For a Good Cause

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Some people publish their writing because they want to be famous, some because they want to be rich, some because they’re driven to share a story, and still others publish because its the right thing to do.

Dylan Siegel is one of the last in that list. At six years old, he’s raised over $200,000 to help out his best friend, a young boy suffering from a nasty liver condition, by funding research to help find a cure. The way he did this? He wrote a book called Chocolate Bar and sold it to raise money. His goal is to raise one million dollars and he’s well on his way.

So, why not support an excellent cause, and a budding writer, and pop on over to their website and help them out?

Amazon’s New Fan-fic Program

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Most of you at this point have heard about Amazon Worlds. At least, you have if you connect with any kind of social writing media. For those of you who wisely avoid this cess-pit, let me inform you as to what is happening. Amazon has optioned rights for a bunch of worlds/character sets and is about to open the floodgates on those worlds to fan fiction authors to sell their work on Amazon.

My initial reaction was, “Oh HELL no.” This stems from a sense of ownership over my characters and worlds. If anyone is making money off of it, I should be. But then we look at bit closer at what Amazon is doing. They will only publish fan fiction that is optioned by them, so nothing that the authors/writers/producers haven’t already given the go ahead for (and been paid for). And on top of that, the original content creators will get a cut of anything that’s published.

Well then, that’s alright, isn’t it? You get paid for something you didn’t have to write and your characters and world get more air time which equates to more exposure and better sales of your original work. Or it should, at least in theory.

But here’s where I get hung up and I’m not sure I could ever bring myself to license saleable fan fiction until after my death or the onset of dementia…you have no control over what these people are making your characters do.

Have you READ some of the fan fiction out there? It’d make the sado-masochistic lead of 50 Shades blush. I mean…the things they make Harry and Malfoy do…and then they add in the basilisk…Emma’s face says it all:

 

So, I’m left with this uneasy feeling that this is going to get away from Amazon, particularly since they just tightened their restriction on adult content in their bookstore. Half the fan fiction they are about to receive will be so absurdly smutty, bizarre, gross, and just unsaleable that I hope they’ve hired the sexual crimes division of the local prisons to scan them because those are the only humans who are going to be able to stomach it.