Reading Corner: Perched on Olympus

My first introduction to Percy Jackson was not finding the books in the library or even the movie trailer, but rather the studio’s incredibly long and lengthy file name joined by (what felt like) a thousand other long and lengthy file names all beginning with PercyJackson, or in some unfortunate iterations, Percy_Jackson. The differentiations as the file name made its way onward towards its final destination of OV (preferably) or VF (god no) were no less subtle and far more aggravating.

Percy Jackson quickly became a gigantic pain in my ass and my least favorite person ever.

As an aside, I am referring to the second Percy Jackson movie. I can only assume I actually had seen the preview for the first feature prior to my exposure to the monstrosity naming conventions of the second, but the entirety of 2010 remains an extremely hazy memory.

Anyway.

Time has since passed. Wounds have since healed. I would occasionally remember that I maybe wanted to read the books. That I was, let’s just say, mildly curious about Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

My friend gave me most of the first series for Christmas.

I devoured them. I wanted to write a blog post about how #awesome it was that the last Olympian was Hestia, the importance and prioritization of hearth and home, but I had since found out about Heroes of Olympus and who has time to write a blog post when there are those books to read.

And so I read Heroes of Olympus, and that was when Nico Di Angelo crushed my heart in a stealth attack of feeling.

I seriously enjoyed these books despite the fact they were straight–seriously straight. I would use the “straight as hell” metaphor but it would be inappropriate to do so in this context.

But that’s okay. I’m used to my content being straight except when authors pull a surprise! We’re gonna reveal that Nico’s gay! Because he’s being forcibly outed! By Cupid!

Ouch????

I’ve been lucky. I’ve never been forcibly outed–only casually accidentally outed because the person involved didn’t realize I would prefer to Not, y’know? But she thought I was out and probably didn’t think about how gay people have to out themselves to every new person they meet so I don’t count it.

But like–what happened to Nico? Ten times worse. Being forced to confront his love for Percy in front of a person he doesn’t really trust that because Nico doesn’t trust anybody.

Again let me just say–ouch.

Honestly, this isn’t really a good start.

I was desperate for Nico to find happiness and, at the end, Riordan indicates that he might be able to find young romance with some guy named Will.

I had forgotten who Will was. I had to interrupt my reading to google, Will Solace Heroes of Olympus.

Oh. That guy.

Wait. What guy?

You see.

The whole “dynamic” was shoehorned in. It was like Riordan knew enough to not let Nico end up alone, but didn’t know enough to understand that Nico ending up with the equivalent of some Rando would be really unsatisfying.

I know that Nico was never one of the Seven (an observation noted by Nico himself that did not fail to make my heart ache) but all the other seven kids had major pairings with people who actually had their own point of view chapters through multiple books–right?

No, they didn’t! Time to talk about Leo Valdez!

Leo was shoehorned into a romance with Calypso, a plot line that was entirely unnecessary and served primarily to give Leo a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend named Nico.

Their names even rhyme how could Riordan have resisted such a temptation? To this day, nearly 24 hours after finishing the last book, I do not know. I can only shake my head and tsk my disappointment his way.

Leo (very vocally) likes girls, but I don’t think it would have been so unbelievable that Leo could have liked boys too.

Leo’s insistence on his attraction to the ladies is the embodiment of overcompensation. His attitude reminds me of me when I was his age: I’m going to get married to a man! And this man is going to take care of me! And we’re going to have so many babies! And I’m going to be so happy in my nuclear family!

#classic

A lot of times in the LGBT stories that I’ve been exposed to, there will always be the person who is Out and the other who is Not. It’s so ingrained. The conflict of such a relationship always seems to be a driving point.

It’s so tiring.

I would have loved to have seen Nico, struggling with the fact that he’s gay, becoming close with Leo, who is struggling to realize that he likes guys too. And together, they would realize that they liked each other.

Instead of the ridiculous Hazel-Frank-Leo half-hearted love triangle, we could have had that.

Instead of Leo finding his way back to Calypso’s island to keep Percy’s promise, we could have had Nico meeting Leo in the underworld after he died. We could have had Nico promising Leo that he would see him on the other side just before Festus injects him with the cure to bring him back to life.

C’mon this is the stuff of romance.

So in the Last Olympian, a character dies. Not a major one, but a character dies. A lot of minor characters die off page in Blood of Olympus, but overall, practically everybody lives, and this makes me happy.

I am so glad nobody I loved or particularly liked died. I am tired of heartbreak in my consumable fiction so it was nice to know that they all ended up okay because I stayed up way past my bedtime to make damn sure they would be okay.

So I thought that was a good beat to end it on–with everyone alive, everyone finding love and a home.

I’m not sure I’ll ever be over the missed opportunity for Leo and Nico, but I was also thinking about the actual writing of the novels.

I would hardly say that it was anything to write home about, but it was so readable. It was consumable. And I wish that I could find a way to balance my artsy-fartsy writing with readable, can’t-actually-put-it-down writing.

But I do recommend the books and I do intend to read more of the author. Started the Apollo book just today, actually, though I have to wait until May for book 2 and who knows how long after that for the rest.

Reading Corner: The Postman Always Rings Twice

This year, I want to broaden my literary scope. Instead of just reading Sci-Fi with a non-fiction book thrown in everyone once in a while for good measure, I want to start reading all the genres.

So I started with one I normally wouldn’t glance at in a million years: noir.

The Postman Always Rings Twice was on a list of top noir books, and the title intrigued me so I started with that one. After I finished the book I googled why it was called that because the novel itself featured zero postmen. There are several theories of course, which you can find on wikipedia, but I think my favorite one was the inescapable aspect of death. It reminded me of Roxy in Dead Like Me, who was actually a meter maid (I remembered belatedly), but still it would have been cool if one of the reapers had been a postman, wouldn’t it? Like, that seems like a thing that Dead Like Me would have done.

Noir is not my favorite genre. It’s an unhappy genre (at least in my very limited experience), and I don’t think that Cain’s novel was an exception to the rule. It began unhappily and it ended unhappily.

However, Cain’s prose is gorgeous. It was some of the most gorgeous prose I had ever read. The voice of the narrator came through so clearly, so intimately. One day, I hope to write so skillfully–which is why I must practice.

I have another noir book waiting for me on the library hold list. Unfortunately, I don’t remember which one it is because it’s in an anthology called Books to Die For. Perhaps I’ll read another book than the one I wanted, which is one of the reason I sprung for the anthology.

Who doesn’t love a good anthology?

Reader’s Corner: King & Riordan

When I was a kid, I used to read several books at a time. I blame this on my home school education,  tv was a limited amusement, and that we used to belong to the Pizza Hut reading program: read x number of books and you get a free single-serving pizza.

I would read books that were beneath my reading level so I could chow through them in a single day, satisfactorily log it, and then read another one. Normally, I was reading other books that were not considered pizza fodder, though I took great satisfaction in logging those too.

Then I grew up. Got a major case of The Depression, and stopped reading!

I know, what a bummer.

I’ve actually been reading again for a while but not like I used to. Not like I did as a kid.

I’ve been starting small, again reading books below my age. For example, my coworker gave me the Percy Jackson books for Christmas. You’ll have these read over the weekend, right? She asked me.

Uhhhhhhh, I said, very intelligently.

To be honest, I was feeling the pressure. My mom had also given me two books that she wanted me to read, one of which was sitting on my shelf for over a month, the other languishing in my kindle for even longer. I also had my own list of to-reads which I had yet to get to–Amazon asks me how many stars I want to rate a book I’ve purchased but yet to read, and the guilt sets in.

I did not have the Percy books read over the weekend, but I did go through them at a good pace despite working full time, writing, being dog tired, and reading other projects.

Yes, I am back to reading multiple books at a time!

The primary book that I read while reading Percy Jackson was Joyland by Steven King. I chose to read Joyland to expand my genre horizons beyond science fiction and fantasy.

I consumed Joyland in a day and a half. Stephen King is a pretty good writer, obviously. His On Writing was one of the first books I read about the craft, though my thoughts are mixed on it now as an adult. I really enjoyed Firestarter, but couldn’t get into some of his more “heavier” stuff. Basically, I don’t read a lot of Stephen King for several reasons, and I started IT though stopped when I discovered what happens at the end of the novel.

I’ve never read any of Rick Riordan’s work before and, even though they are different genres written for different audiences, I couldn’t help but compare the two to each other craftwise.

One of the things I immediately noticed about Joyland was that it was not structured into chapters. The other thing I noticed is that, even though I could remember what happened as I was reading, the drama was written so smoothly it was sliding melted butter over bread. It’s the juxtaposition of feeling where you remember what happened–but you also don’t. The same sort of feel when you try to remember exactly what filled your hours on a weekend, but you can’t. The day was there, and it wasn’t. There’s just the feeling you had–that it was great or good or satisfying or bad.

I’ve always had this feeling when I’m immersed in a well written book. It reminds me of the feeling I get when I’m trying to write: how am I going to fill these pages when hardly anything is happening, when the plot is a slow boil? And here is Stephen King doing just that, nearly effortlessly.

I’m not sure if I’m explaining it right. Maybe if I finally bring in my point about Percy Jackson:

With Percy Jackson, I have the opposite feeling. I remember what fills the page because it feels very much like a video game. Each obstacle is like a punctuation mark. Again, this is probably because this is aimed at a (much) younger audience than myself.

But it also got me thinking about different writing styles, and the audience. Of course, you’re going to be changing your form and style as necessary, but I couldn’t help but feeling that my most mature writing is more like Riordan’s than King’s.

And there really is nothing wrong with that! But, especially since I am not writing for a younger generation, I want my writing to read more like King’s. Not in his voice, just the way people read the words without noticing the plot structure or other writing devices because they are so well hidden in the actual story.

It’s something that I’ll be aiming for in the coming months.

New Years Eve

Like so many others, I’m thinking about my goals for the coming year. I’ve been thinking about this since my birthday, actually, and I did touch on it with my birthday post.

Here are the major things I want to accomplish:

  • Finish my Star Wars fanfic tribute to Carrie Fisher in a timely manner.
  • Cut down on internet time. I will be signing off tumblr for the entire month. My return is dependent upon how I feel after a month of no tumblr. I hope to be active on facebook, twitter, and Archive of our Own.
  • Launch a Patreon in April. In order to do this, I need texts prepared, a self-education in marketing, and a passing familiarity with taxes (ie, should I go ahead and register myself as a business in my state of residence). Marketing and accruing a viewership should begin in earnest around March.
  • Keep writing (and reading) short stories and trying to get published professionally. Decide if I want to keep Sonja Natasha for my writing purposes on both indie and traditionally published works or separate the two with different pseuds.
  • Procure contacts instead of glasses for rollerblading/skating purposes–join a derby team if I’m feeling brave.
  • Which leads me to fitness–I’ve lost nearly 30 pounds by changing my diet, but I’m in terrible shape. Terrible, awful shape.
  • Think about moving. One of my coworkers wants me to room with her, but it would require me to more than likely terminate my current lease. However, I think it would be a wise decision to do this for a number of reasons.

Minor things to accomplish: every time my boss asks if I know anyone who might be interested in a job, I have to shrug and say something embarrassing like, Everyone I know is here.

And this is the truth. I don’t have friends outside of work here. I don’t say this to be self-pitying. It is a fact, a fact I have been meaning to change since I moved here. I’m pretty sure every new years resolution post or tweet has said something to the same effect:

I’m gonna put myself out there! Gonna get me a social network!

etc.

I don’t know how to make friends, but I know that getting involved in the local community is more important than ever. I need to make a real effort to change that, and I hope this year I’ll succeed.

Work is going to become even tougher. I’ve been promoted (in words only) to a position that requires a lot of responsibility. I’m the first, so I need to shape it. This is in addition to all of my other responsibilities at work.

This in addition to the fact I’ve been working on my weekends (anywhere from one to five hours) for the past three months.

This in addition to the fact writing/marketing is also about to become full time endeavor.

I will be tired. I won’t even feel like going out most of the time.

But I have to. I have to make this a priority somehow. I just don’t know what I’ll be sacrificing. Hopefully it won’t be sleep because I need eight to ten hours–and that’s another minor resolution. I need to make sure I’m going to bed on time.

I hope this year is kinder than 2016. I hope people are kinder. I hope I’m kinder.

Writing Update

With just barely a week to go before Strange Horizons’ deadline, I finally finished the first (haha) draft of the story I want to submit to them.

It’s been edited once since then, but it still needs a title, I’m still not happy with the name of one of the protagonists, and it needs further revision.

But it’s finished, and that means that even if I don’t get it to where it wants or needs to be, I can submit it to Strange Horizons and that’s really the only thing that matters.

Now, I still need to write the horror story, and there’s another anthology I’d like to submit to called UFO (Unidentified Funny Objects — deadline also April 30).

I’ve not written a lot of humor (actually more like zero humor) so I think it might be an interesting exercise.

I feel like I’ve been writing a lot lately, which is nice.

Reading Corner: Star Wars A New Dawn

I was able to finish reading Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. It was entertaining, and like most Star Wars novels, I was able to finish it quickly, but I also thought it was missing the heart that appears so clearly in Star Wars The Clone Wars (television series) and Star Wars Rebels.

“A New Dawn” introduces Kanan and Hera who are two of the mains in Star Wars Rebels. We meet them both in a different part of their life, when Kanan has less purpose and Hera is not quite as tempered as she appears in Rebels.

It’s always hard to do that, to go back, when the audience is probably more familiar with these established characters that they already know and love.

I think it would be easier to do that if Miller hadn’t decided to ostracize certain members of the audience immediately off the bat.

Star Wars has always had an issue with ableism, and A New Dawn does nothing to contradict that, or to undo it. Obi-Wan speaks of Darth Vader that he is more machine now than man in a manner that suggests that this has something to do with his evil doings. The same sort of context is used repeatedly in describing Count Vidian, the primary villain in the novel. He is a man who murders indiscriminately, who would destroy entire moons to establish himself and his authority, and who would not hesitate to commit genocide. He is described as a “human droid” and the author took great care to detail how unnatural he appeared with his synthetic skin and his cyborg parts.

Another character named Skelly was a war veteran who had lost an arm. His prosthetic was made for a species not his own, and it doesn’t function correctly because the hospital was not well equipped. I feel like this would have been a very good way to discuss when people do not have the resources to access proper medical care–whereas Vidian had vast resources at his disposal–but that never happened. The focus was always on the presence of the prosthetics and did not open a discussion about access to health care.

Even Skelly is contextualized as crazy. Throughout the novel, he attempts to make his point by bombing the mining facility and the town, and even though he shows regret, and even though no one dies from it, it left a sour taste in my mouth, especially since he dies at the end.

There really is no reason for this, and it lacks a nuance that emphasizes able bodied people as the good guys and the ones who survive.

The other ostracizing moment for me was the depiction of Kanan as aggressively straight. The captain of the star destroyer who brings Count Vidian to Gorse is a woman of color, whom he immediately flirts with over the radio. Kanan immediately flirts with Hera. Hera’s physical appearance is perpetually emphasized through the eyes of multiple male characters–which I thought was especially unfortunate considering how frequently the Twi’lek women have been sexualized throughout all of the Star Wars franchises. It felt to me that the author was assuming a heterosexual man would be reading this, not a woman, certainly not a nb lesbian such as myself.

It also affected the way that Hera herself was written. She had several view points throughout the novel, but I felt that she lacked depth and complexity compared to Kanan’s.

In the forward, Dave Filoni wrote the following:

So how do we move forward? And how do we make sure we get it right? Very simply, we trust in the Force, and we trust one another. We came together as a group and found the best talent: people who, like you and me, love Star Wars and want to make it great. Who want to capture the feeling that it gave all of us, that inspired all of us. More than at any other time in its existence, new Star Wars stories are being told every day. More important, the old concept of what is canon and what isn’t is gone, and from this point forward our stories and characters all exist in the same universe.
I really hope he means that. I don’t want the same story being told by the same person over and over.

Reading Corner: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

I’ve been struggling with reading, primarily because real life demands in my life take a lot of energy from me, and I have a difficult time finding time to read when I do so. I am trying to make reading more of a priority to me and, since I’m currently still on a Star Wars kick from The Force Awaken’s release back in December, I thought I would start with a Star Wars novel. I also decided to start with Star Wars because I would love, love, love to one day be invited to write one (but that is dependent on me actually, I don’t know, writing, finishing things, etc).

I started with Lost Stars by Claudia Gray.

Read More »

Story of My First Sale

So when I was writing, “You, An Accidental Astronaut,” it was in a different format because I was writing it for another literary magazine.

When I heard about Mothership Zeta, I already knew that the format I was trying to push this story into wasn’t going to work. And that’s when I realized that I wanted to submit it to Mothership Zeta, and that when Mothership Zeta would reject it I would go ahead and try to submit it to the place I originally had in mind.

Then I promptly forgot about the deadline. I was fighting and struggling with the story, had fallen out of love with it, even, and I had only gone over it once or twice when I remembered the deadline after it was almost passed.

I never even had someone else look it over because I was too busy self-rejecting myself and the story. But I sent it out anyways and to my shock, I survived the first and second rounds of rejection until I received the email they wanted to accept it and have me sign a contract and everything.

It was funny, because the news came on the Worst Day of Work. I was already on the edge of a breakdown in the breakroom when I was on my lunch break. As people at work can testify, I never took my breaks, usually opting to eat at my desk as I worked on the emails that came in–but today if I did that I would have broken down in tears in front of everyone and We Can’t Have That. So I was checking my email, completely zoned out, and I was almost about to autoarchive the email on my phone. I had to re-read the email twice over, and by the time I had processed what it said, I was, as they say, over the moon.

The first thing I did when I went back to the office was announce the news and everybody was happy for me and I was happy for me and work still sucked but it didn’t suck as much because I had published my first story–a story I hadn’t even technically tried to get publish. A story that I had only sent out once and it had been accepted the first go around. A story that I had lost faith in.

That story was accepted.

In many ways I feel like I cheated somehow. I’ve only submitted about five stories for publication in my entire life. Two of those stories I submitted to Weird Tales when I was a teenager and got form rejections. Two of those stories I submitted only once and then self-pubbed them here.

And then this.

I feel like I didn’t earn my first sale, but I’m also trying not to think like that because I did earn it because I wrote it and I sent it out and everything. I just got lucky.

Anyway, that’s how I got my first sale.

While this post was percolating, I also read Sunil Patel’s Anatomy of a Sale Parts One and Two which I highly recommend reading. In the articles, Patel mentions several sites to make submit/rejection experience more engaging and interactive, which I am definitely excited to give a try (referring specifically to The Grinder and the Sink or Submit game).