Picture Time: Arya at the Plaza

This was fun to draw. Arya is neck and neck with Brienne of Tarth for my favorite GOT character. Which means I’m in constant fear for their lives whenever they’re on screen or in a POV chapter. SO it’s nice to imagine an alternate universe where Arya is the star of a picture book series. image

The Year in Books: 2015

As I’ve done for the past five years, I kept a list of all the books I read in the past year. Each year the list has gotten longer.

Total Books Read: 102

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Of those:
46 print books
56 audiobooks

Of those:
24 graphic novels
8 ebooks
4 read for critique
16 borrowed from the library
13 short story collections or novellas
30 young adult
9 Middle Grade

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Favorite author numbers:

3 Neil Gaiman
3 Rainbow Rowell
2 George RR Martin
4 Holly Black
1 Jo Walton
1 Jonathan Carroll
1 Jim Butcher
1 Connie Willis

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Favorite Reads:
Eleanor and Park and Carry On both by Rainbow Rowell
The Darkest Part of the Forrest by Holly Black

Honorable Mentions:
The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland For a Little While and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making both by Catherynne M Valente
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The Martian by Andy Weir
Hold Me Closer Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone both by Lish McBride
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Ballroom Blitz by Veronica Schanoes

Lots of great books this year! I could add another fifteen or so honorable mentions, but I don’t want this post to go on forever. I didn’t even list any comics! Comics are the best!

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Book related highlights:

I did some writing. And am still query agents. It’s a long process. A story I wrote a while back was published in the MinnSpec anthology By Polaris Bright. And a Game of Thrones parody I wrote was published on McSweeney’s here.

I attended Wiscon and saw the Tiptree Award ceremony. I’ve already read one of the shared winners, My Real Children, which was wonderful. I’m really looking forward to reading the other, The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne. I went to readings or panels with Alaya Dawn Johnson, Eleanor Arnason, Ellen Kushner, N.K Jemisin, and many many others. I came home with lots of new books and haven’t begun to dig into then yet. Chances are high a few of them will make it onto the next few years’ lists.

While the convention itself was pretty awesome, my favorite part of the trip was listening to the audiobook of the Martian with my sister and brother-in-law on the drive there and back. It’s just a super entertaining and suspenseful book and listening with a few people added to the experience as we speculated about how the hero going to get out of the current life-threatening jam. I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I’m not sure it can top that.

I also attended Nerdcon Stories right here in Minneapolis. I got books signed by Rainbow Rowell, Holly Black, and Maggie Stiefvater. And got to see many other authors speak including John Green, Maureen Johnson, John Scalzi, Stephanie Perkins, Patrick Rothfuss, Matt De LA Pena, Lev Grossman, and a zillion others. Other notable guests included Hank Green, Paul and Storm, and Dessa Darling. Of course, I brought back another pile of books.

My favorite part of this convention was the daily mainstage shows. Many of the guests got to make thoughtful or funny or both fifteen-minute speeches, and then there were games and deconstructionist puppet shows and mock debates. They’ve released a couple of the speeches and games on YouTube. I’m really hoping they’ll post the moment where the entire auditorium sang “Bye Bye Lil Sebastion” it was glorious.

This year I got addicted to the web series Nothing Much To Do, an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. And the sequel Lovely Little Losers, adapted from Love’s Labors Lost. Both can be found on their creator’s channel. They will soon be releasing an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it won’t be a continuation of this series. I will miss these characters. Beadick and Pedrazar forever!

The BBC adaptation of one of my favorite books, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, was very good.

So that was the year in books! I’m currently reading The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke and The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. So how was everyone else’s 2015?

 

The Bat Signal: Gotham City’s Best Gossip

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I had a lot of fun writing this. 

BRUCE WAYNE: BILLIONAIRE PLAYBOY OR TROUBLED REPROBATE?

Like me, I’m sure you read Clark Kent’s profile of Bruce Wayne in last Sunday’s Planet, hoping for a few juicy tidbits about the world’s most famous orphan. Sadly what we got was a puff piece about his latest “charitable” project. Sure, sure, world hunger is terrible, blah, blah the needy, but what do really know about Wayne? For someone who has spent most of his life in the public eye, little is known about the reclusive billionaire.

Is the butler pulling the strings?
Who can forget the now iconic photo of a grieving, eight-year-old, Wayne at his parents’ funeral, with no one but a domestic servant by his side? But who is this butler? This Alfred Pennyworth? Was there truly no other person Thomas and Martha could trust with their only child—not to mention his considerable inheritance? A source close to the family believes Pennyworth wormed his way into the Wayne’s inner circle (blackmail anyone?) and made himself indispensable. After their untimely and tragic deaths (side note: some have cast doubt on the random thief myth), their friends were shocked to learn that the late couple had left their son in the care of an employee. The source confirms that Pennyworth, afraid of losing his cash cow, raised young Bruce in isolation, and fostered a sense of dependence in the traumatized boy. His Svengali-like influence over “Master Bruce” as he ironically calls him, lasts to this day. Now in his seventies, Pennyworth continues to play the role of the dedicated manservant, all the while making sure never to lose his grasp on his adult charge. Including meddling in his romances.

Why can’t he settle down?
Our boy Bruce is anything but a wallflower. Barely a day goes by without a picture surfacing of Brucie with the latest über model on his arm. But they’re as disposable as his income. One of the recent castoffs revealed he lavished her with attention in public, but in private he was distant and distracted. He often disappeared for hours at a time with no explanation. The man has commitment issues, that’s for sure. It’s hardly surprising considering that most of his long term relationships (as infrequent as they may be) have ended in tragedy.

Is Wayne cursed? Or is his sinister valet removing them from the picture? Or could it be Bruce’s true interests lie elsewhere?

What’s with the series of younger male “friends?”
I’m not the first to notice that Bruce Wayne prefers the company of young men. Everyone remembers his “ward” Dick Grayson. While it’s hard to fault Wayne for wanting help a fellow orphan-by-murder, there is something off about taking in a teenager less than a decade his junior to “raise” as a surrogate son. Grayson for his part, fled stately Wayne Manor the moment as he was of age, and has remained tightlipped about his former benefactor.

Less well known is that since Grayson flew the coop, Bruce has “mentored” one high school aged boy after another. What makes this fact more disturbing is that every last one is a physically fit brunette who could pass for Grayson’s doppelgänger. Another source who wishes to remain anonymous, claims Bruce dresses his new protégés in his erstwhile companion’s clothes. And call me cynical, but isn’t it a little too convenient that his lately discovered illegitimate son fits the profile perfectly? Let’s hope little Damien’s trust fund can cover the inevitable therapy bills.

How is Wayne Enterprises staying afloat?
Not all of the mysteries surrounding Gotham’s second most famous resident involve his personal life. While Wayne Enterprises perennially sits in the top five of Forbes’ most profitable corporations list, one has to wonder where the profits come from. A W.E. insider says the company develops hundreds of products a year that never make it to market. Wayne Tech’s computer division reportedly makes the likes of Apple and Google look like mom and pop operations. Yet the prototypes, once approved, are shelved for a future release date that never comes. Similar stories have leaked about their automotive and athletic equipment subsidiaries.

Theories abound. Everything from war profiteering to money laundering. Nobody actually suspects Bruce himself, he’s spotted in the corporate offices less often than a Borneo elephant. But surely his negligence left the company wide open to corruption.

So what is happening inside Wayne Manor?
Honestly, I don’t know. The truth could be wilder than anyone imagines. But there is no doubt Bruce Wayne is hiding something. During a recent segment on The View, body language expert Rita Voorhies said he displays all the mannerisms of a practiced liar. Until we get definitive answers, this humble blogger will have to be content studying the leaked photos from the canceled People’s sexiest man shoot. And contemplating the important questions. Where did he get all those scars? And how does he manage to make them look so hot?

 

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The Year In Books: 2014

Since 2010 I’ve kept a running list of the books I read each year. And since 2012 I’ve made a year-end post with some stats from the previous year. Unfortunately, I can’t claim to have written any new books this year, but I did do major revisions on at least three and have written a few new short stories. My total list includes all the novels, graphic novels, novellas, and novelettes. As well as nonfiction books and short story collections. All age ranges are far game though I don’t count short picture books, individual short stories, or single issues of comics. However, I have started counting it if I read a run of issues of a comic book that would be equal to a graphic novel if I read them all at once but not if I read them a month to month as they were published. Without further ado, I give you 2014 in books.

 

88 read in total
42 print books
46 audiobooks

imageBreaking it down by category
25 Young Adult
6 Middle Grade
19 Graphic Novels
5 Short story collections
8 Nonfiction
11 Digital booksimage
11 Borrowed from the library
8 Borrowed from friends
11 Reread
4 Read for critique

 

Favorite Reads
The Perks Of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

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Honorable Mentions
The Mothers of Voorhisville – Mary Rickert
Locke & Key Volume 2 – Joe Hill
Veronica Mars the Thousand Dollar Tan Line – Rob Thomas
A Song of Ice and Fire 1 through 5 – George RR Martin
The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
Forgive Me Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick

Favorite Author Numbers
Neil Gaiman – 4
Rainbow Rowell – 1
GRR Martin – 6
Maud Hart Lovelace – 5
Jim Butcher – 1
Bill Willingham – 1
David Sedaris – 1
Jane Austen – 1
Jo Walton – 1

Other book-related highlights from 2014
In no particular order

The MinnSpec reading where I read one of my stories to a largish crowd for the first time and met several other local authors.

Going to a signing by Jo Walton at Uncle Hugo’s.

Meg Cabot tweeted about my Betsy-Tacy reviews.

My critique partners continuing to be ridiculously awesome.

Reading the Betsy-Tacy Companion and realizing I now live mere blocks from my childhood favorite author, Maud Hart Lovelace’s first Minneapolis apartment.

So that was 2014 bookwise. Jo Walton’s My Real Children is going to be the inaugural book of 2015. Anyone else wants to share book highlights from last year?

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Always winter and sometimes Christmas.

I don’t have a Christmas drawing this year. So here are a few from J.R.R. Tolkien instead!

 

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Before anyone says anything, I do know the title of this post is a reference to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and that it was not written by Tolkien.

If you want to see previous Christmas drawings, they can be found here and here.

Winter Is Coming and I’ve got a cold

image(Did you see what I did there? Ice and Fire!)

 

I recently read all five Song of Ice and Fire books, and am eagerly awaiting book six. But since George R.R. Martin is dragging his heals, I thought I’d write it instead.

 

Disclaimer: I was on cold medicine when I wrote this.

 

A Song of Ice and Fire Book 6: A Crucible of Cats

Prologue: Character Who Is About to Die So No Need To Learn Their Name

POV character pushes open medievilish wooden door. An axe whooshes through the air like something quite sharp and axe-like. POV character dies very painfully. We won’t know that this death is significant for at least ten more chapters.

Chapter 1: Tyrion

“Hands of gold are always cold but a woman’s hands are warm,” Tyrion thought gloomily to himself. Then he did something super cool in the moment but probably foolish, if you can see ten steps ahead, but you can’t so it’s just entertaining.

Chapter 2: Arya

“Who are you?” asks the kindly man.
“Nobody,” replies Arya Stark of Winterfell.
“Liar. You are the most badass eleven-year-old in literature. Now go assassinate somebody who means nothing to you instead of one of the thousands of people who’ve directly wronged you.”
“‘Kay. Vhalor Morgulus.”
“The other phrase I don’t totally remember,” the kindly man says in response.

Chapter 3: Jon

“Winter is coming.”
“You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
“Cut that out already! I know some stuff, and you’re just the echo of the voice of the chick I lost my virginity to, so it’s not like you’re a walking encyclopedia or anything. Ghost, to me.”
He walks off in huff, never to be heard from again. And you never find out who his real parents are. Neener neener!

Chapter 4: Daenarys

Daenarys finally flies her dragons to Kings Landing. Everyone loses their shit. Cersei is eaten by Drogon. Only Tommen escapes. He will maybe one day return to gain back his stolen throne, riding astride Ser Pounce, and it’ll be like a vicious circle. Like in Kill Bill when Uma Thurman told that little girl to seek vengeance on her. Or maybe not. Also something about Stannis but everybody skims those chapters anyway.

END

 

I think I really captured GRR’s voice.

 

 

 

What’s In A Name?

I’ve been reading Tor.com’s excellent Harry Potter reread series. It reminded me of something that always struck me as odd. Voldemort is only called Voldemort because young Tim Riddle was a fan of anagrams. You see Tom’s full name, Tom Marvollo Riddle, can be rearranged into I am Lord Voldemort. The whole thing is a bit of a cheat. If you’re going to create your new evil guy name out of your old name, why not use all the letters? Is Lord Volamdiemort that much sillier than Voldemort? Get it together, Riddle. Also could several generations of wizards have been spared a lot of grief if he’d reordered his name into Molar Mold Volt Ride. Would he have spent his considerable energy creating a theme park ride based in the wonders of modern cosmetic dentistry?
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Anyway it made me curious about the potential locked in my own name. This is what I came up with.

Title Saunas
Nausea Tilts
Use A Nit Last
A Sun Tat Lies
Aisle Taunts
At Suits Lane
Tai’s Nut Sale
I Lust At Sean

I’m probably not going to suddenly wake up noseless and go on a genocidal, magical, world domination quest. But I will start looking for Sean, he sounds hot.

In other news, my last Betsy-Tacy review for Forever Young Adult went up a few weeks ago. And my fabulous critique group has started a blog. My first contribution can be found here.

Reading to an Audience: in which I read to an audience.

This weekend I participated in a workshop put on by the MinnSpec authors group about reading to an audience. Something I have very little experience with. So I signed up to read an excerpt.

I did not expect to be as nervous I was. My history with Improv pretty much wiped out any fear I once had about public speaking. But there is a difference between acting out a scene you’re making up on the fly, and reading a piece you’ve spent months obsessing over every word choice. In the former, if you say or do something stupid it’s the character who did it, and you were just making it up anyway. In the latter, you’ve had time to rehearse so any mistakes can’t be waved away as no time to prep, and you have to portray all the characters, and maybe you’ve put in too many multisyllabic words that’ll make you tongue tied, and not to mention that the audience is all other writers who will know that you’re a hack who writes in cliches…

So anyway, when I stepped up to the mike my nerves responded with the full body shakes. I got through it somehow, and I don’t think the shaking was that obvious (though I haven’t watched the video to confirm) (oh yes, there was video). In fact the audience seemed to enjoy it, and gave some very good feedback, and when I read the passage again to implement the notes there was no shaking at all. I did have the advantage of going third so I could take advantage of the tips given to the first two authors.

So without further ado, here is the video of me reading a short excerpt from Tooth or Consequence. Actually I read it twice, pre and post notes.

Tooth or Consequence reading