Periodically I like to share thoughts about books I’ve read and enjoyed so that you might consider reading and enjoying them too.
In no particular order, some recent favorites:
The Girl from Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig
This one caught me up with its premise (what if a girl lived on a time-traveling pirate ship and her father was obsessed with finding a map that would take him back to the moment before his wife died giving birth to her?). It pulled me in with wonderful characters and a fast-paced plot. Plus, the idea that an authentic map could take you anywhere (real or mythological) struck me as extremely cool. I think what I liked best about this book, though, was the balance Heilig managed between the fantastical elements and the more prosaic (but no less interesting) emotions and dynamics that exist within a family.
The Paradox Trilogy by Rachel Bach
This series hit every single one of my buttons. Totally fantastic, kick-ass female protagonist? Yes. Gripping plot? Check. Character-driven science fiction? You bet. I tore through these books (Fortune’s Pawn, Honor’s Knight, and Heaven’s Queen) in about a week. Bach’s protagonist, Devi, is a mercenary with ambition and recklessness to spare. That combination gets her into some unbelievable scrapes and watching her negotiate them is a delight. Bach writes action better than almost anyone else I’ve read. If you’re looking for a fun, exciting sf adventure, this series will not disappoint.
The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel
This standalone (which will become part of a series, I believe), is a lot of things. It’s a murder mystery. It’s a romance (and a pretty hot one at that). It’s a space opera. At its heart, though, I think what makes this book work is that it’s first and foremost a character study. How do different people react and respond to pressure from their personal relationships and from external (and pretty traumatic) events? How do those twin pressures intertwine and inform each other? The answers to these questions are sometimes tragic, sometimes surprising, and always interesting.
That’s right, travel season is nearly upon us, and this year it is all about family.
In 14 days spring break will FINALLY be here and my dad, sister, and myself will travel to the British Virgin Islands where we’ll spend a week semi-conscious on the beach.
In 46 days I will have administered my last final exam and submitted my grades and I’ll get on a plane for Seattle. I’ll spend about 2 1/2 weeks visiting my parents and sister, helping my mom in her amazing garden, writing a lot, and camping with my nieces. It will be awesome.
Then, in 107 days, my husband and I will take a family vacation with my parents to the Dordogne in SW France. I will wallow around in prehistoric cave art, stuff my face with truffles and foie gras, drink lots of wine, and post photos on Facebook that will make everyone hate me. Apologies in advance.
These trips will no doubt be fabulous, but the best part is that in the next 4 months I’ll spending almost 5 whole weeks with my family. This makes me really happy because they live in Seattle and I live in NYC and I never get to see them this much in such a short time. Yay!
I mean this literally and figuratively.
In the literal sense, I’ll be heading off to a writing retreat this weekend. Some friends and I will be staying in a house deep in the woods of northeastern NY. The house used to be a hotel and the woods are (I’m told) dark and deep. It all sounds very atmospheric. I think there’s an equally likely possibility that we’ll:
a. have a great time and get lots of writing done
b. be devoured by sinister forces that dwell beneath moss and stone, never to be heard from again.
Wish us luck!
In the figurative sense, I’ve definitely wandered out of reality and down a winding path with an unknown end. I call this journey Miranda’s First Draft Adventure in which I temporarily disconnect from reality. When I’m feeling my way through a new project for the first time, I tend to go invisible. Or, maybe a better way to put it is that the real world becomes invisible to me.
It might look like I’m cooking dinner or having coffee with a friend or folding laundry, but I’m not. I’m actually working out the way this character might react in a particular situation or considering how to fix a plot hole. I’m not really in a classroom in Queens queuing up the afternoon’s lecture but on a damaged shuttle in another galaxy, trying to imagine how my protagonist will react when he finds out his best friend is a lying liar.
The “here but not here” part of working on a first draft has many advantages. It means I’m always working on my novel, even when I’m doing something else. It means I wake up at 3am with The Solution to a problem or have flashes of deep character insight while waiting for the G train. It makes the book better and is, frankly, an integral part of how I work. It also has disadvantages. I neglect my friends and family. I get scatterbrained at work. I can’t concentrate on other important things in my life. I drift away from the here and now.
This process, though? It appears to be involuntary. I don’t know another way to write a first draft. So, if you’re looking for me, that’s where I’ll be. In the Woods. Literally and figuratively.
See you on the other side.