Friday, June 29, 2018

Books To Read When the World is a Dumpster Fire

Hey y'all.

It's hot as hell here in New York today. New York has this particularly humid quality during the summer that makes everything sticky.

I keep hearing rumors that in some regions of the country, there's this thing called a dry heat. What does that feel like? I've never experienced a summer with dry heat.

Anyway. The world feels like an increasingly dumpster fire-like place. When the world feels fairly doom-laden, I find it hard to be creative. Also, with limited time at the moment to be creative, the doom-laden parts of current events weigh a bit more because writing is not only a deep hobby and a continual puzzle and pursuit of mine, it's also my major mental, emotional, and creative outlet. So even if I want to unload issues in writing, sometimes I find that I can't because the world sucks or I'm just really tired or really, I only want to watch YouTube and not do anything else.

And that's when reading comes in.

I'm 5 books ahead of where I should be in my Goodreads reading goal.

For me, of course, my solace reading is usually something romance. I've read a lot of contemporary romance this year because a) I'm trying to write a contemporary romance and b) I've been wanting to read more diverse stories and many of the diverse authors and stories I want are contemporary set.

My other solace reading is fanfiction, which is truly when I want to read something but my brain is like, "I want words but I want to shut off."

But I always like to try to explore other genres as part of my annual reading challenge, too. This year, I've read a couple of books I missed reading as a kid because I was never a big fantasy reader as a child: A Wrinkle In Time and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. They were wonderful.

I've read a couple of travel memoirs. They were different in style and in where the authors traveled, but I loved reading about different cultures, languages, ambiences, and food.

My friend Krystal released a supernatural and fantasy novel earlier in this year--fantasy is a really good escape when the world feels like it's falling apart. I mean, think about The Lord of the Rings, which I was obsessed with in high school and college. Middle-Earth is in peril. Everyone fights to save it from certain destruction.

My favorite book this year is a steampunk novel set in China during the Opium Wars, called Gunpowder Alchemy.

I try to read enough nonfiction in the course of a year because I like learning things. You never know what'll prove useful or inspiring for fiction, for one thing. I tend to read history and generally, when someone takes the time and research to write about something historical, it's because that subject or time period was a true dumpster fire of a time.

So in a way, that's consoling?

What do you do when the world is tilted on the wrong axis? Do you read? What do you read?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

"But this is America--this is not who we are." (Spoiler Alert: It's exactly who we are)

Unless you've been living under a rock in the past week, you've probably seen news stories and Twitter feeds about migrant Central American children coming into the United States with their parents to escape any numbers of dangerous situations seeking asylum, only to be separated--the parents sent to one place, arrested, deported; the children sent to detention centers and not let go to be with their parents.

I've been seeing a lot of "This is wrong, this is immoral"--which it is--but I'm seeing a lot of "This is un-American." Now what exactly does that mean? "This is un-American. This is not who we are as a nation."

I feel like that's either a call to American exceptionalism, an overly optimistic view of the American government and nation, or a lack of knowledge of our history.

I didn't put this list together to diminish anything that's going on today, because yes, I see some unsettling echoes of bad eras of history going on. But honestly, y'all--the United States has done some shitty shit to people in the past and it's doing shitty things to people now. I personally don't know people who approve or want any of this crap to be taking place, but they are. These sorts of things are not new and we need to reckon with the past and solve the present so our future can be full of less crap.

Also, this list is not comprehensive because that would take too long.

When you don't know history, you are bound to repeat it. When you don't know history, you are bound to let your government repeat it.

(And yes, I know, the American people and the American government are not the same entity. But since the government does things "in the interests of American citizens," there you go. This has been our country. This is our country.)

How do we get those kids out of cages and reunited with their parents? How do we grant asylum to people fleeing unstable countries? How do we improve our immigration laws?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Reading Challenge 2018: 20 Books!

Woohoo! I have finished my twentieth book of 2018, putting me something like 4 books ahead of where Goodreads says I should be, which means I can now take my sweet time with the other books I want to read.

Here's what I've read:


11. A Princess In Theory (Reluctant Royals #1) by Alyssa Cole. Fiction/ Romance/Contemporary Romance. 3 stars.












17. The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction To Asexuality by Julie Sondra Decker. Nonfiction/Human Sexuality/LGBTQIA/Asexuality. 4 stars.


18. Gundpowder Alchemy (The Gunpowder Chronicles #1) by Jeannie Lin. Fiction/ Sci-Fi and Fantasy/Steampunk/Action and Adventure/Romance/Nineteenth Century/China. 5 stars.


19. Clockwork Samurai (The Gunpowder Chronicles #2) by Jeannie Lin. Fiction/Sci-Fi and Fantasy/Steampunk/Action and Adventure/Romance/Nineteenth Century/China/Japan. 4 stars.



Wednesday, June 6, 2018

IWSG June: Titles & Names



Welcome to my June IWSG post! The Insecure Writer's Support Group is an online community of writers. We post our writerly insecurities into the world every first Wednesday of the month. Check us out here!

What's harder for you to come up with, titles or character names?

Excuse me while I give a resounding and hearty laugh.

Okay.

I'm terrible at giving titles to my stories. Pearl is Pearl because that's all I could think of. Last year, when I started planning the quartet of contemporary romance stories I'm still outlining, I decided that "Seeing You" (after a song) would make a good title for the first of the stories. "Hearing You" could work for the second, since there's a musician hero in that one. But then, the titles quickly deteriorated.

But I love character names. The character starts taking shape when I've named them. Sometimes they pop into my head already named--Alexandra and Madeline Keegan from Pearl came that way as did Kimiko and Chris from my short story "Haunted Lake." Sometimes I play around with character names for a bit until I get one I like. I like looking up names on websites like Behind the Name and Nameberry, not necessarily to learn the name's meaning, but maybe to learn its origins or derivations or when the name was popular.

But yes, character names are so much easier than titles.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Pink Nipples, and Other Romancelandia Peculiarities

Every genre has its tropes and quirks, right? Mysteries have murders and murderers. Legal thrillers have complicated cases and courtroom drama. Fantasy and sci-fi have magical creatures or people with amazing abilities or feature the future or technology.

Romance has plenty of tropes--I've mentioned them in a few past posts--depending on the type of romance. And then there are the weird little things that have built themselves into like an almost romance-canon thing. That's not explained well. Sorry.

Okay, you know how in fandoms, whatever the fandom-ee is sort of takes on its own life among the fans? In the Downton Abbey fandom, for example, there was a widely-held belief that Lady Sybil Crawley's middle name was Patricia--because there'd been a photo in one of the Downton Abbey books of her carrying a briefcase with SPC stamped on it. And it just became like an established fact in the fanfiction and everyone wrote that in as her middle name, even though the show never confirmed it and then gave her another middle name in a later season.

Little things like that, which take on a life of their own.