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⭐️ 10-ish Books of Summer 2017


Hosted by Cathy @ 746 Books

The 20 Books of Summer runs from June 1st to September 3rd. During this period of time, I have two trips to California, possibly a trip to Colorado, and WesterCon scheduled. Eric is planning on (re)launching the PHYSIC series in Sept/Oct, which means a lot of reading/editing/formatting in the next three months. How much reading will I be able to get done? I don’t know.

I do know that I’ve had a good time with #20BooksOfSummer in the past and, as Brona pointed out, half the fun is making the TBR stack. I am going to cheat, just a little. I have a couple of in-progress books on my list, some of which I doubled up as “Double Features.” All the remaining percentages add up to ~4 books. I’m also going to shoot for finishing 10 books from a list of 15. Current: 3/10

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens Kings of Broken Things The Princess Bride

Continue reading “⭐️ 10-ish Books of Summer 2017”

It’s Monday, What Are You… (7/24)

…Reading?

The Last Unicorn Club Deception 

Will I actually get any reading done this week? Maaaybe? I have Deal Me In catch-up and maybe I’ll finish The Last Unicorn. I’ve been working on Club Deception for review, but I’m not really enjoying it that much.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Watching?

All the San Diego Comic Con trailers.

…Doing?

Recovering from Nationals. On Thursday, Eric and I drove from Phoenix to Denver to play in the USAU Masters Championships. We played three games of ultimate on Friday, three on Saturday (well, I didn’t), and one game on Sunday before driving back (on Sunday). Lots of driving, lots of time in the sun. Eric’s team (seeded 8th going into the weekend) finished 6th out of a field of 16 teams. My team (seeded 6th out of 6) finished in 4th place. I’ll probably have more about Nationals later in the week.

Review ~ Believe Me

This book was provided to me by Penguin Group and Blue Rider Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cover via Goodreads

Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard

Critically acclaimed, award-winning British comedian and actor Eddie Izzard details his childhood, his first performances on the streets of London, his ascent to worldwide success on stage and screen, and his comedy shows which have won over audiences around the world.

Over the course of a thirty-year career, Eddie Izzard has proven himself to be a creative chameleon, inhabiting the stage and film and television screen with an unbelievable fervor. Born in Yemen, and raised in Ireland, Wales and post-war England, he lost his mother at the age of six. In his teens, he dropped out of university and took to the streets of London as part of a two-man escape act; when his partner went on vacation, Izzard kept busy by inventing a one-man act, and thus a career was ignited. As a stand-up comedian, Izzard has captivated audiences with his surreal, stream-of-consciousness comedy–lines such as “Cake or Death?” “Death Star Canteen,” and “Do You Have a Flag?” have the status of great rock lyrics. As a self-proclaimed “Executive Transvestite,” Izzard broke the mold performing in full make-up and heels, and has become as famous for his advocacy for LGBT rights as he has for his art. In Believe Me, he recounts the dizzying rise he made from street busking to London’s West End, to Wembley Stadium and New York’s Madison Square Garden. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
In 2005 (or maybe 2006), Eric and I were at the World Fantasy Convention in Madison (or maybe Austin). Seeking refuge from all the con activities, we went up to our room to rest and watch a little TV. We don’t have cable at home so HBO at a hotel is a little bit of luxury. And on HBO was a comedy special. The comedian was a man wearing heels, leather pants, a tunic blouse and a lot of makeup. He was very funny with a long-game comedy style that relies on clever call-backs. And so, Eddie Izzard gained two fans with his special Dressed to Kill.

What Didn’t Work
It’s hard to say that the first part of this memoir doesn’t work. Eddie Izzard’s early years were not super happy. His mother passed away when he was pretty young and he and his older brother were sent to boarding school because his father traveled often for work. Add to that Izzard’s growing sense that he had, as he puts it, a girl mode despite being very sporty and being interested in the army and the UK version of the scouts. This isn’t material that lends itself to a comedy take. I think Izzard knows this, but he does try to add some levity in the form of digressions. I think it was this juxtaposition that didn’t quite work for me in the first half of the book.

What Worked
The pace picks up in the second half as Izzard talks about the evolution of his career and the things that have become important to him. This seems to be more comfortable territory for Izzard. If, like me, you came upon Izzard as a successful stand-up comedian, it isn’t evident that he originally wanted to do dramatic roles. The path to playing  Wayne Malloy on The Riches or Abel Gideon on Hannibal wound through sketch comedy and street performance before the stand-up stage.

…if I wish to do something, I am quite happy to go back again and again and attack the brick wall of “no” and find a way to push through to the other side.

Izzard has carried this through in his personal life as well. His career as a stand-up comedian was just taking off when he decided to come out as transgendered. It could have destroyed his career or it could have led to becoming a “niche” comedian. Instead, Izzard simply persisted in being an intelligent and absurd. One gets the feeling that if the stand-up thing wouldn’t have worked, Izzard would have pivoted to the next thing. What that might have been is a question for the ages.

Publishing info, my copy: ePub, Blue Rider Press, 2017
Acquired: NetGalley, 5/30/17
Genre: memoir

It’s Monday, What Are You… (7/17)

…Reading?

Since WesterCon I’ve been a more productive writer. Since there are only 24 hours in a day, do you know what’s taken the hit? Reading and blogging.  I’ve decided to cut back on ARCs, and review when I have time. Writing *is* my day job; it has to have priority. Blogging is a fun thing that I do for me.

As for the #reReadathon, what I did read last week was rereading; it just wasn’t very much. I read “The Sand-man” by E. T. A. Hoffmann, about a third of The Last Unicorn, and half of “Maezel’s Chess Player” by Edgar Allan Poe.

What am I going to try reading this week? Eric and I have another long car trip ahead of us and I’ll be taking The Princess Bride (again) and a selection of 19th century short stories. That should keep us awake.

The Princess Bride The Automaton (Fantasy and Horror Classics) The Dancing Partner

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Watching?

I did end up going to see Baby Driver last Friday. It’s very stylish. Great car chases. Great soundtrack.* Plot? Well, I’m going to choose not to think too hard about it. I am glad that it’s doing relatively well among the franchise juggernauts.

* I may or may not have listened to the soundtrack about a dozen times last week. The above clip is the opening scene of the film set to “Bellbottoms” by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.

…What Was I Doing?

WesterCon 70 ~ Part 3: Art and “Aftermath”


Part 1: Steampunk & 19th Century F&SF
Part 2: Science and Writing

My second panel on Saturday was “Using Art and Literature to Build Science Identity.” Sadly, I came into this panel a little late after “Classic SF vs The Modern Perspective” went long and missed most of the introductions. It was a small group with KellyAnn Bonnell, her daughter (as AV support), artist Tom Deadstuff, and two other gentlemen besides Eric and me. We didn’t get too much into the art/lit aspects, but KellyAnn Bonnell did have an interesting list of what things engender science appreciation in kids. (Spoiler: it helps if parents are pro science to begin with!)

After the panel Eric ended up chatting with Tom Deadstuff about, well, stuff. The two had an ongoing conversation over the four days of the convention as we sat in the courtyard and defrosted (some of the meeting rooms were frigid!) and Mr. Deadstuff satisfied his cigarette habit. Sometimes they talked about the artistic process, about the journey of being independent artists, and about the different-but-sameness of being passionate about art or science and how to use that passion to get through life. I listened, mostly. It’s what I do.

Below: some of Tom Deadstuff’s art pieces. He was the local artist guest of honor, by the way. More of his work can be found on Facebook.

Directly related, Tom Deadstuff held a Paper Mache 101 class on Monday. That’s right. All the art above? Paper mache.

On Tuesday, we also attended “From Concept to Reality: Digital Art Painting” with Anabel Amis and “What to Draw When There’s Nothing to Draw” with Julie Dillon, Gilead, Tom Deadstuff, and Larry Elmore. That’s quite a bit of art for this writer and, really, I wish I would have gone to more art panels because…

Continue reading “WesterCon 70 ~ Part 3: Art and “Aftermath””

It’s Monday, What Are You… (7/10)

…Reading?

On Twitter, @bexthebookninja is hosting an informal #reReadathon this week. Above is my laughably large TRB stack for it, especially considering I want finish Club Deception by Sarah Skilton (an ARC) by its publication date next week.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Listening To?

I haven’t seen Baby Driver, but I’d heard that the soundtrack is pretty great. So far, I agree. (Apparently in the movie, Baby suffers from tinnitus and uses his personal soundtrack to drown out the internal noise. I can relate.)

…Doing?

Writing, editing and formatting, reading. Should be a nice “quiet” week.

What WAS I Doing?

WesterCon 70 ~ Part 2: Science and Writing

Part 1: Steampunk & 19th Century F&SF

I was glad to see a healthy science track during this convention. Science, especially space exploration, is important to speculative fiction, but I think that sometimes science for laymen is hard to do so it gets overlooked.

On Saturday, we attended “Year of the Dwarf Planet” with Dave Williams of ASU’s School of Earth & Space Exploration. It was a lot of information about New Horizon’s Pluto flyby and the Dawn orbiter of Ceres. Do you know what’s pretty cool about Ceres? Cryovolcanos. Basically, instead of molten rock bubbling up, water and other minerals create a frozen cone-like structures.

On Monday, there was “Exploring the Red Planet: What Could We Be Doing?” Steve Howe was part of the “Science of Steampunk” panel the day before. There was lots of talk about better, cheaper propulsion methods, but the coolest part was the concept of “hoppers” that we could use to pepper the surface of Mars and collect data. We also attended Steve Howe’s “Intelligent Tool-Using Dinosaurs: Would We Know?” Incongruously titled, the lecture was good (Howe is a great talker) with lots of audience back-and-forth. If dinosaurs had a culture, would we know it through the archaeological record?

The only other science panel I attended was “911 in Space!: Handling Medical Emergencies in Freefall” with another alum of “Science of Steampunk,” Bruce Davis. I’m not writing about space, and I never intend to, but  going into space had always been a way far-out dream of mine.  And that doesn’t change even though I now know how bleeding occurs in low grav. Luckily, there hasn’t been that many medical emergencies in space, but if we intend to send more people for longer periods of time, well, there are a lot of unanswered questions. Great panel. Eric also attended another with Bruce Davis about writing realistic wounds. I didn’t because I was attending some writing panel…

Over the four day weekend, I attended five panels on the nuts and bolts of writing and publishing. Mostly, I didn’t learn much. That isn’t to say the panels weren’t good, but I’m not a novice at this stuff anymore. (Yes, I haven’t been acting much like a professional either lately, but I’ll get to that later.) I was a little surprised that traditional publishing is still being emphasized, though hybrid publishing is a close second. I did pick up on an interesting synergy between Sharon Skinner’s “Kill Your Darlings” and Tom Leveen’s “Writing Exceptional Dialogue”: An emphasis on character intentions and goals on a macro *and* micro level. What is the character’s goal? What do they do, even in their dialogue, to achieve that goal? The secondary note on this is that honing these intentions can come after the first draft. I’m not sure that I entirely agree, but it’s something to think about.

There were two “writing” panels that were just a lot of fun. The first was “Married with Deadlines: Balancing Home Life When Your Significant Other Also Writes.” The panel featured three writing couples: Emily Devenport & Ernest Hogan, Marsheila Rockwell & Jeffrey J. Mariotte, and Yvonne Navarro & Weston Ochse. The good part of being married to a fellow writer? They know the struggle. The bad part? Idea stealing sharing! (Okay, not necessarily a bad thing.) Similarly, “Weird, Wild, Urban and Unknown: Speculative Fiction in the Southwest” with  Suzanne Lazear, Tom Leveen, Amy K. Nichols, Weston Ochse, and Guest of Honor Connie Willis was mostly about funny and harrowing stories about living in Arizona, but also the kind of inspiration that can be derived from our crazy and beautiful landscape.

I plan to Part 3 with some notes about the visual arts and “fallout” later in the week.

WesterCon 70 ~ Part 1: Steampunk & 19th Century F&SF


Aside from our 2013 trip to San Diego ComicCon, Eric and I hadn’t been to a convention since…probably WesterCon in 2009. The difference between ComicCon and conventions like WesterCon is that there are less media personalities and more panels featuring science fiction and fantasy writers and artists. At least, that’s my experience of the con. If you’re into cos play, there was a costuming track. If you game, I’m not sure the gaming suite ever closed. Filk? Films?  There were all sorts of great panels and activities. The con lasted four days, July 1-4. It was held at the Tempe Palms Hotel, which is pretty much in our backyard. No reason not to go to a con with no travel expenses attached!

On Saturday, we helped a friend of ours pack some furniture for his impending move then headed off to the con. By the end of the day, I was pretty tired. I’m not sure that I was too much better off on Sunday. Remember, I’m an introvert. My social batteries only go so far. On Monday, things were complicated by an arthritis flare-up. I skipped out on one  panel *and* we cut the day short. I ended up sleeping after dinner from 6:30pm-9pm only to wake up for a couple hours before officially calling it a night at 11pm. By Tuesday morning, I was in pretty good shape and enjoyed that day more than all the rest.

Roughly, the panels I attended fell into four groups: 19th Century F&SF, Science, Visual Arts, and Writing. I’ll start with the 19th Century.

Due to my current interest in the scientific romances of Well, Verne, etc. and my writing stories set in the early 20th century, I was eager for the panels on classic SF and steampunk, but many of those panel choices were cannibalized due to fatigue or conflicts. One of the first panels I attended on Saturday was “Classic Science Fiction vs. The Modern Perspective.” Half the panel was about how to enjoy classic science fiction, whether from the 19th century or the 1950s when the views of the writers were sometimes much less sensitive about race and gender issues. The secret, it was somewhat agreed upon, is to consider context. In many ways, these problematic classics were progressive for their time. The second half of the panel was about what the future might bring: even our 21st century literature often lacks speculative fiction from non-western worldviews, gender fluid characters, older characters, and usually doesn’t include much in the world building about how women’s issue might change.

On Sunday, I attended a panel with Eric about the “Science of Steampunk.” The panel was fairly split between writers, who often use magic to power their cogs and gears, and scientists, who were there to discuss what might be era-appropriate hard science alternatives to magic. I *think* the panel avoided being too contentious, but I’m sometimes a bad judge of that kind of thing. There was consensus that sometimes, especially when the science isn’t the main point of the plot, a little hand-waving doesn’t necessarily matter much to the audience.

Also on Sunday was an overview of 19th century science fiction and fantasy. And that’s a huge topic to fit into an hour. Talking about Jules Verne and H. G. Wells could each fill an hour. I’ll give the presenters credit: their effort was valiant. After another three four cons, it’ll be a good presentation. As is, I walked away with a huge reading list—90% from the panelists and 10% from the audience. Lots of titles I hadn’t heard of, but none covered too deeply.

Next post, I plan on tackling the science and writing panels.