Culture Consumption: July 2016

So Happy August! I bring you the belated Culture Consumption for July, but at least this month, I know where the month went: Speculative Chic! So far, so good, but starting a fanzine meant less time for other things, like…oh, I don’t know…READING. I still managed some movies and television though, so let’s take a look at what July had to offer, shall we?

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Politics in Fiction with Matthew S. Rotundo

P1060077Welcome to Part Two of Calico In Conversation with Matthew S. Rotundo. If you missed Part One: Taking Off Like a Rocket, feel free to click here to catch up!

Editor’s Note: this interview was originally conducted in March through July of 2016.

***

Let’s dig into Petra. It was a lot of fun re-reading it after reading the initial draft, what…. nearly ten years ago? I also remember at that time, I was a complete crazy person who read through that sucker TWICE (I don’t do that anymore with novels), so the published version is my third time through, and still, despite remember various details and broad strokes of the story (your ending is specifically memorable), I found it to be an engaging, fast read, and I’m really disappointed there wasn’t more interest when you shopped it around. I mean, I know SF has been a hard sell in the past ten years, but dang. This is one of the most professionally polished self-published books I’ve ever read, and believe me, I’m not saying that because I know you. You mentioned you hired a copy editor and a cover artist. How did you go about finding the right ones for your book?

Wow. Thanks so much for the kind words. Petra is a labor of love, as I’m sure you’ve guessed. In addition to the writing itself, I went to some trouble to teach myself how to format both ebook and print editions of the book. That was an inordinately time-consuming process, but I learned a lot, and am grateful for it.

I do wish the market — i.e., publishers and agents — had shown a bit more interest. Of course, I think it’s brilliant, but then, I would, wouldn’t I? Still, there is a glimmer of a possibility that a traditional publisher might pick it up. In the meantime, though, I’ll just keep plugging along with it.

My copy editor, Tamara Blain of A Closer Look Editing, came recommended to me. She did a sample edit of the opening pages, so we could be sure her style meshed with mine. Did it ever! She really knows her stuff. Beyond that, though, she has a lot of experience with independent publishing, which has been invaluable to me. She pointed out issues I never would have thought of on my own. So a lot of the credit for the polish you admire goes to her.

As for my cover artist, Ryan Malm — he’s my niece’s husband, and a talented graphic artist. It was kind of no-brainer to contact him.

Who knows what the market will bring, and what it will look for? If not Petra and its sequel (sequels?), perhaps something else you write in the future will be published through a traditional house! Then again, maybe you’ll get addicted to being an indy author and eschew the traditional publishing process!

But let’s stop speculating: What advice do you have for authors considering the self-publishing route?

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Culture Consumption: June 2016

Happy July! The year is officially half over! June brought the first month of Calico in Conversation, which was SEKRIT PROJECT #1 and seems to be going well so far. And this time next month, you’ll be introduced to SEKRIT PROJECT #2, so please, stay tuned to the blog for any announcements.

In addition to working on said SEKRIT PROJECTS, June brought a lot of great entertainment, so let’s break it down, shall we?

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Culture Consumption: May 2016

Happy June! May was over in a flash, but that’s because I was working my two SEKRIT PROJECTS. One, you already know about: Calico in Conversation! The other, well, stay tuned…. in the meantime, my brain always needs a break from the day job and SEKRIT PROJECTS, so here’s all the culture I consumed in the month of May!

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The Different Interpretations of Princess Leia

bloodlinefinalposteronline-1jpg-19d5fc-720x959So yesterday, I posted This is NOT a Review. When my husband saw it on Facebook, he asked, “So you didn’t like the book?”

That’s not what I meant, not at all.

What I meant is that it’s like someone taking U.S. History, or even World History as I was taught, and suddenly telling me it’s pretty much WRONG, and THIS is how it all really happened, and how it all really happened bears little resemblance for what I’d held as true for 20+ years. Like the some of people really existed, others didn’t, but what I thought happened isn’t even close. Even the names of locations are different!

But guys? Star Wars: Bloodline is a really good book. Like really, really good. Compelling characters, emotional stakes, and sneak peaks into what really shaped the people who know and love (and love to hate) into the characters they are in The Force Awakens.

Razors_EdgeIt’s better than Martha Wells’ Empire and Rebellion: Razor’s Edge. Wells is a great writer, but I was rather ambivalent about the story and the characterization of that now “Legends” title.

Which was far better than Dave Wolverton’s The Courtship of Princess Leia, which one would think would be ALL ABOUT LEIA, but instead it’s about the men fighting for her. I mean, seriously? Why didn’t they get a woman to write that book?

But being a woman doesn’t guarantee you get Leia right. Wolverton’s book was LIGHTYEARS better than Vonda N. McIntyre’s The Crystal Star, which remains the worst Star Wars novel I’ve ever read (not including the novelizations of the films).

These books above? These are the books that I’ve read (there’s a period from 2005 through 2012 where I wasn’t reading the Expanded Universe, sorry folks) that I remember being Leia-centric. And if I think really hard, I’m not even sure The Crystal Star was very Leia-centric: but the parts of the book that are seared in my memory because I hated them so much? All focused on Leia’s plot line.

Courtship2Leia, I’ve found, is an incredibly difficult character to get right on the page. I’m not sure why. But I have yet to read a Leia-centric book where I think, NAILED IT. It may have a lot to do with the fact that we all see Leia a little bit differently, and while I think we can all read a description of who and what Leia is based on the movies, I think translating that to the books is different for everyone, and I realize I’m particularly picky.

I wonder if it has to do with the fact that for so long, Leia was really the one female character of substance in the Star Wars universe, at least from the films? Does that add an extra layer of difficulty in translating her character on the page? Because Leia had to be ALL WOMEN, and ALL WOMEN are not the same.

Claudia Gray does a great job, but I still had disconnect. For all of the reasons I mentioned yesterday, and also because I wasn’t picturing Leia post-ROTJ, but rather Leia pre-TFA. And while I think it’s meant to be more pre-TFA than post-ROTJ, I couldn’t quite get her visage nailed in my head, nor her voice — her voice in particular was very hard to hear, and I kept hearing Carrie Fischer’s gravel from The Force Awakens. Perhaps I was meant to hear that particular gravel, and this is just the part of the transition of getting used to the way things are, rather than the way things used to be.

The_Crystal_StarI wonder if I’m going to be so picky about Rey’s voice, when it’s time for her to star in her own spin-off novels? I hated how Alan Dean Foster wrote her in the novelization for The Force Awakens (and I hated how he wrote Leia too). I know I was super-picky and protective of Jaina Solo back in the day, and to a point, Tenel-Ka Djo, Tahiri Veila, Mara Jade, Mirax Terrik Horn, and Winter Celchu. I’ve always been so protective of the women of Star Wars and how they come off on the page, and I don’t have enough fingers to count all of the times I felt the characters were written wrong, or badly, just to shoe-horn them into a plot that made no sense of their character (not that the guys are exempt from that kind of mishandling either). I’m still bitter about Jaina’s characterization in the Dark Nest trilogy, let alone how they treated her love life overall in the EU.

But when I talk about disconnect, that has very little to do with how well the book is written, and every much to do with how much time I’ve spent getting to know these characters outside of the movies. You’d think that it shouldn’t be a problem: after all, superhero stories are told over and over and re-told and re-launched ad nauseam, and nobody bats an eye. But those aren’t the stories I keep revisiting. And fan fiction often does the same thing, but I don’t read much of that either, let alone a fanfic canon long-lasting enough to create what is a essentially a parallel universe in my fandom.***

So Star Wars: Bloodline is a really good book. And no, I don’t miss the EU so much as I miss the familiarity of it, despite characters getting run into the ground. I’m happy that writers have a clean slate from which to write, I really am. As I said yesterday, as long as they’re written as well as Bloodline, I’ll happily keep reading.

*** = Now THERE’s a fanfic idea, as we see how this new trilogy shapes out: take the best parts of both canons and combine them into something entirely new. And I’m sure someone out there’s going to do it.

This is NOT a Review: Claudia Gray’s BLOODLINE

Bloodline-coverThere’s a weird disconnect, reading this.

Don’t get me wrong: I was REALLY looking forward to it. So much so that when I finished reading my last book (Ken Liu’s The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories) the Saturday before Bloodline was released, I didn’t start anything new because I wanted to open the box on Tuesday and start reading immediately. I’d heard high praise for this book, and I really didn’t need convincing to give it a go, as I had adored Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars, and couldn’t wait to see some pieces of the story filled in between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

So what’s the problem?

I’ve run into this with the comics, even before the Expanded Universe was relegated to the Legends line: the problem for me is that the stories about Han, Luke, and Leia that take place during the original trilogy and all those years after Return of the Jedi?

I’ve read them. It doesn’t matter that it’s no longer canon (or, lately, that it is): I have read so many takes on Han, Luke, and Leia and their lives and thoughts before, during, and after the original trilogy that it’s hard to read anything with fresh eyes. It’s even more disconcerting to now read about the official canon of Han and Leia’s marriage, when I’ve got the EU take firmly lodged in my brain (as well as the EU take on the New Republic, and Luke’s Jedi Academy, so on and so forth). It takes up a lot of real estate, and it’s not something that’s easy to wipe away.

1484724984.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Am I an EU purist? Oh hell no. I’d fallen out of love with the EU long before Disney bought Star Wars, because I got tired of Luke, Han, Leia, and their families never getting peace, of never having a happy ending. I got tired of what felt like soap opera-esque machinations that took place in order for there to be GREAT CONFLICT. I was, in fact, relieved when Disney said they would ignore the EU and make that a Legends canon and start afresh. Star Wars, as a franchise, needed that do-over, and I applauded the decision whole-heartedly.

Yes, that meant saying good-bye to Mara Jade. To Jaina Solo. To other characters I’d known and loved. But it also meant saying good-bye to the machinations that kept them in turmoil, and I could live with that.

I loved The Force Awakens. Wait, let me clarify: I loved the film, but I hated the novelization with a passion.

And you know what?

I read Chuck Wendig’s Aftermath. Loved it. Read Claudia Gray’s Lost Stars. Absolutely freaking adored it.

You know what The Force Awakens, Aftermath, and Lost Stars have in common?

Those aren’t the stories of Han, Luke, and Leia. Yes, the original three play important roles in The Force Awakens, and that’s wonderful. But the two books? Those characters are ancillary, allowing brand new characters to step into the limelight and shine. The Star Wars universe is so very vast, and there are so many stories to tell within it. Those are the stories I haven’t been reading for twenty-plus years. Those are the stories that I find I’m craving now.

aftermath_new.6.red_That doesn’t mean I won’t read the books about Han, Luke, and Leia, even if Bloodline taught me that I miss having the map of the galaxy in the front of the books, with planet names I’ve grown to know and recognize. I miss knowing what the universe feels like on the page, miss having a specific timeline to refer back to (oh, sure we have the START of a timeline in the new books, but it’s not very specific, not like the old one was). I miss knowing exactly where Han, Luke, and Leia were in their lives, even if I disagreed with a particular author’s take on their characters.

I love learning what happened to make the universe into the place it is in The Force Awakens. And as long as the books are as well-written as Gray’s Bloodline, I’m going to keep reading to keep learning more.

But it’s going to be an adjustment. It’ll take time, and probably a lot more books before my brain stops comparing the now official canon to the old one.

As Yoda says, I must unlearn what I have learned.

Culture Consumption: April 2016

Happy May! Good lord, I don’t know where April went. Actually, I kind of do: training to walk (not run) my very first 5k, and then prepping for a Regional Meeting that I was basically hosting. LOTS of stuff on my plate in April, so in some ways, I’m glad it’s over so I can unwind. I did, however, manage to squeeze SOME fun things in, so without further adieu, here’s the Culture Consumption for April!

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Culture Consumption: January 2016

2016 is here, and more to the point, it’s already February. Time flies when you’re having fun, and in my case, that fun is books, movies, television, and comics! Here’s what I managed to consume in January.

25340696Books

When it came to novels, I started 2016 with a bang! January brought some great reading, and some not so great. I’ve committed to being more discerning when I’m reading books, which means if a book isn’t grabbing me early on, then it goes to the DNF pile. In January, I had two DNFs, and I would’ve had three, because the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was terrible. I finished it because I’m a glutton for punishment, and because I’m a Star Wars fan. The two books I actually didn’t finish? Were far better written than Foster’s adaptation, but sadly the texts simply did not engage me.

In the win column, Newman’s Planetfall, Bow’s The Scorpion Rules, and Kornher-Stace’s Archivist Wasp were all compelling reads, as was Duncan’s The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, a book I’m still having trouble believing was written by a guy, given how convincing the heroine’s POV was.

January, in short, was a great reading month.

1) Planetfall by Emma Newman
2) Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster
3) Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace
4) The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
5) The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter by Rod Duncan

Did Not Finish:

1) The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins
2) Phoenix Island by John Dixon

Short Fiction

I hadn’t planned on any short fiction in January, but Lee Robins posted a link to a short story of hers published at Daily Science Fiction, and I had to give it a gander. A great read, and I adored the format.

1) “Tin and Mercury, Gilt and Glass” by Lane Robins

26240977Comics

I have a goal of reading one comic book a day in 2016. Now, that’s not always going to work out: I’ll run out of individual issues, or I’ll get sucked into a graphic novel and read more than one chapter, but that’s the goal. January worked out great, as I not only met my goal (for a total of 31 issues), but I read a hardcover collection in addition (Lumberjanes, what an adorable and fun comic!) as well as a giant, over-sized issue collecting Jem and the Holograms covers for the series so far. Well, read is an exaggeration: there was nothing to read there: just lots of pretty covers to look at!

Graphic Novels:

1) Lumberjanes: To the Max Edition: Volume 1 by Shannon Watters

Individual Issues:

Batgirl #46
Clean Room #3
Descender #8
Descender #9
Jacked #1
Jem and the Holograms #10
Jem and the Holograms Covers Treasury Edition
Lucifer #1
Ms. Marvel #2
Orphan Black: Helsinki #2
Red Thorn #2
Sleepy Hollow: Providence #1
Sleepy Hollow: Providence #2
Sleepy Hollow: Providence #3
Sleepy Hollow: Providence #4
Star Wars #12
Star Wars #13
Star Wars #14
Star Wars Annual #1
Star Wars: Chewbacca #4
Star Wars: Chewbacca #5
Star Wars: Darth Vader #12
Star Wars: Darth Vader #13
Star Wars: Darth Vader #14
Star Wars: Darth Vader Annual #1
Star Wars: Death Vader #15
Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin #1
Star Wars: Vader Down #1
The Sheriff of Babylon #1
The Twilight Children #3
The Walking Dead #149
The Walking Dead #150

Disney-Pixar-Inside-Out-Movie-PosterMovies

Why yes, I did go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters. Again. I’ve officially seen it twice, which is a woefully small number, but maybe I can correct that before it finishes its theatrical run.

In other news, I finally got to watch Inside Out, which was ADORABLE. The Visit was a nice return to form for M. Night Shyamalan, and the end of Bone Tomahawk freaked me the hell out.

* = repeat viewing

A Perfect Ending
Bone Tomahawk
Cabin in the Woods*
Cop Car
Inside Out
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Star Wars: The Force Awakens* (in theaters)
The Descent*
The Visit
Tropic Thunder*
What We Do In the Shadows*

galavant_612x816Television Shows

I’m addicted to Cheers, to the point I’m letting on-going comedies like The Big Bang Theory and New Girl simply fall by the wayside. It’s a great show. American Horror Story: Hotel wrapped up, and while there were storylines/characters I liked, I still find that American Horror Story: Asylum is the best. But the most fun to be had in January was the second season of Galavant. It delivered on season one’s cliff-hanger and ended in a wonderful way that allows the story to continue if it gets renewed, but is utterly satisfying if it doesn’t. And the songs…. oh, the songs…..

* = repeat viewing

American Horror Story: Hotel
Cheers Season 2
Cheers Season 3
Galavant Season 2


That’s it from me! Also, feel free to share whatever 2016 stats you’ve got! How many books? How many movies? What were your favorites? Lay them on me!

Cheers!

A Few of My Favorite Things: Books 2015

I think there’s always a part of me that will miss having a book blog. After putting together December’s Culture Consumption, I started wondering… what WERE my favorite books of 2015? To figure that out, I pulled up my Library Thing account and started sorting by date finished, and then I started looking at the ratings. Anything four stars or higher got written down on the appropriate list: a full five stars are listed as favorites, and four and four-and-a-half stars were honorable mentions.

Why Library Thing instead of Goodreads? Because LT allows for half stars, which means when I’m rating on Goodreads, I might round up or down depending on how I want the rating to look on that site. LT is a more accurate reflection of my thoughts.

I also did not include a few of the fun, children’s type books on the list. I’m a sucker for Jeffrey Brown’s Darth Vader series, and Simon Tofield’s Simon’s Cat books are adorable. So they didn’t get counted.

Before I review my favorites and honorable mentions, I did want to make a few points:

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Culture Consumption: December 2015

Good-bye, 2015, and hello, 2016!!!! While 2015 was a better year than 2014, I’m still glad to have it behind me. I may or may not talk about the reasons why in a later post, but what I will talk about are the goodies that were consumed before the year wrapped up. I may also do a separate post of favorites later, but again, we’ll see if the mood strikes.

So, let’s see how I ended the year, shall we?

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