Dec 1 2018

Back from the land of limited Internet access


Yes, December 1, and my self-imposed fast is over.  It was… interesting.

I had considered the possibility of extending it through December, but it’s really become too inconvenient.  Since I spend most of my time at my office,  the things that one must do but can only do online started piling up.  I was able to take care of the urgent tasks for the duration, by doing them at home instead of here; but that had its own extra inconvenience, because all my supporting documents and paperwork and notes are here, too.

I’m very glad I did it, however, and I’ll certainly do it again.  For shorter periods, perhaps.  A month was pushing it; as soon as I logged on again, it was with a great flurry of bill-paying and finance tracking.

The experience helped me get a better perspective on how one’s day can be used to best effect.  I did some good stuff, and I’m rather pleased with myself!

I allowed myself to become bored, as well, and saw again how very useful that is.  A lot of what one perceives as the frantic pace of modern life is actually self-imposed.  Good to know…

I found that did a lot more reading than I had been doing lately, from feeling too stressed and time-pressed to give it the attention it takes. That was a great relief — I became a writer because I love the whole amazing mystery of words on a page turning into worlds in the mind.

And in aid of that, I checked out from the library (but have not yet got very far into) Maryanne Wolf’s Proust and the Squid: the Story and Science of the Reading Brain.



I was inspired to get it in the first place, from hearing about Wolf’s latest book, Reader Come Home.


I had nabbed this because of its title and description — it seemed on-topic with my internet-fast experiment.  But once I started it, I realized that it would be a good idea to do Proust and the Squid first, since that one was more nuts-and-bolts.  Reader, Come Home seemed a more personal exploration and expansion of the repercussions of the information in the previous book.  So, I paused and backed up.  I’ll report back when I’ve read more.

As for fiction: the other day I decided I needed a breather (it’s sometimes very distracting to read fiction while I’m writing other fiction), and wanted something that I knew I could blast through — but would still have some real grace and strength.  YA, I thought, I want some YA — But good YA…

I have two reliable choices when it comes to that: Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series; and anything by Scott Westerfeld.


I confess that I had originally avoided reading this, because I knew that it involved a teenage girl who wrote a novel during NaNoWriMo, sold it to a big-league publisher, and got vaulted into the publishing world and New York City, and the idea just made me jealous.  I freely admit this!  They didn’t have NaNoWriMo when I was in my teens — they didn’t even have the Internet. My buried seventeen-year-old me was grumpy and envious of the publishing career of a fictional character.

Well, but I could not leave it unread for long, because: hey, Scott Westerfeld.  I don’t think he’s ever disappointed me. So, this seemed a good time to give it a go.

Well worth the wait.  I swallowed it in two big gulps.  It has everything I could ask for in a YA.  And I even did not mind that it had a romance — two, actually.  I generally can’t stand books that center on romances, but one thing my favorite authors are able to do is make me like a book of categories that I generally do not like at all.

But I must say… if the protagonist’s first-novel advance is typical for YA writers, then I definitely am in the wrong genre! Ouch.

One interesting thing about reading YA is the meta-view, the overview.  It’s easier to see the bones, and appreciate the skill going into the twists of plot an turns of phrase.  In Afterworlds, Westerfeld alternates chapters of his protagonist’s real life as she enters the publishing world with chapters of the YA supernatural romance that the protagonist is completing.  It sounds like a cute gimmick, but its execution is not gimmicky at all, and he keeps both stories rolling along.  It’s a book that’s very intelligently written, while remaining as involving as a YA needs to be.  I’m sorry I waited so long  — and I learned a lot from reading it, I must say.

Plus: It has one of my all-time favorite sentences ever written by a human being.  When it showed up on the page, I was stunned.  I had to put the book down, and just sat there, saying the sentence over and over to myself.

Okay, it won’t hit everyone the way it hit me; but it perfectly articulates a thing that I knew, a thing that matters to me, but that I never articulated.  It is so true, and so simply said, that I cannot help but love it.

It’s a line said by the protagonist’s little sister — just a quip, just a tossed-off half-joke, as she casually explained her love of math:


Westerfeld just tossed that off, and went back to the story.

See, this is what the writers I love do.




Dec 21 2014

YA not just for YA’s: Scott Westerfeld




Scott Westerfeld writes YA — that is, books for “young adults” as the term is used in publishing today. That officially means ages 12 through 18; but in fact it means anyone smart enough to read it, however young. Or, for that matter, however old.

You know perfectly well that lots of adults read YA.   If it’s a good book, it’s a good book.

Westerfeld writes the YA that I wish existed back when I was in middle school. So, I’m reading them now, to make up for the previous lack.

I’m especially fond of the Leviathan trilogy (Leviathan, Goliath, Behemoth), a steampunk/bio-hacking-punk alternate universe series with the coolest tech and really engaging characters. I listened to it in the audiobook versions during workouts at the gym, which I highly recommend as inspiration for sticking to your exercise plan: get a great audiobook that you only allow yourself to listen to at the gym. More than once I kept pushing on, just to reach the end of the chapter. (I did the same with Ellen & Delia’s The Fall of the Kings, actually.) Of course, the audiobook versions didn’t have the excellent illustrations by Keith Thompson in the printed books.

In fact, there’s a boxed set that would be perfect for the young reader on your list.

And you know that cliche about how boys don’t read? Well, we know different, of course — but if you happen to have reluctant young male readers on your list, Leviathan might be just the thing to lead them into the wider reading world. Another good one for that: Westerfeld’s Peeps. And yet another good one for that, but with less of an SF/F slant: So Yesterday.

I haven’t read his latest yet (Afterworlds), but it sounds perfect for that voracious reader who also wants to be a writer. And don’t miss Westerfeld’s blog, which is full of writing advice.


Scott Westerfeld’s website and blog

Scott Westerfeld’s books on Amazon

Writing advice from Scott Westerfeld


Oct 20 2011

Still here, still.


Yah, situation has not much changed yet. Still in overtime, and now taking antibiotics for the whatevertheheck that has me coughing.

Cool thing seen recently: How your brain processes time! I’m absolutely fascinated by how the brain works, how the brain generates the mind, how consciousness operates. (Useful information in creating believeable aliens.)

David Eagleman is an excellent speaker and a cutie patootie really seems to know his stuff. Also the author of Incognito which is currently lurking on my Kindle, waiting for me to have some time to give it a reasonable portion of my attention.

Instead, I’ve been doing some serious comfort reading, by which I mean things I’m pretty sure ahead of time that I’ll like. For instance: Terry Pratchett’s latest — Snuff! If I had the time, I’d post an actual review, but I’ll just say that I was not disappointed, and that I believe I’ve come to like the Sam Vines thread of Discworld the best.

Also finished listening to the audiobook version of Scott Westerfeld’s Goliath, the final volume of his steampunk YA trilogy that began with Leviathan and Behemoth. Damn, I wish there had been books like these around when I was of the YA target age! Still, fortunately, I’m perfectly capable of getting swept away by a good YA, and Westerfeld is a favorite of mine.

Ack! I’m still at the office, and I’d better get to that #$##@#@# stack of work…

Oct 2 2011

The door is opened.


I mentioned this on Facebook, but completely forgot to put it here —

I wanted to remind people that Ellen Kushner (famous author, and wife of other famous author and Genrette Delia Sherman) wrote a radio program called “The Door is Opened,” which I heard many years ago, before I actually met her.

It’s about Yom Kuppur and Rosh Hashana, and as a non-Jewish person I knew next to nothing about those holidays. People tend to assume I’m Jewish because of the last name, but nope.

(If you’re curious: I’m an atheist. But as a writer and student of human nature, I’m interested in what makes people tick. The cultural content and context of the Jewish traditions interest me much more than any religious aspects.)

The show was gorgeous, deep, and moving. It totally swept me away. It really is worth hearing, and I urge you to do so because (ta-da!) it’s available to listen to online for free. And while you’re there, you can peruse the other episodes of Sound and Spirit. They’re all excellent, and they’re all hosted by and written by Ellen Kushner.

Meanwhile, Delia Sherman‘s Young Adult novel The Freedom Maze is coming out soon, and you can read the first chapters online for free.

Also cool: My pal Ann Tonsor Zeddies has a story appearing in a YA anthology called Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up. I haven’t read the story yet, but shall be laying my money down for a copy of the book real soon.

Other news: I have not fallen off the face of the earth, contrary to appearances. But ever since Labor Day I’ve had not a minute to spare from an avalanche of overtime at the DayJob. Or rather, what minutes I do have to spare are spent either a) writing, b) going to the gym so my body doesn’t disintegrate from the overtime, or c) complaining. These are my main pastimes lately. Hoping for things to ease up soon.

Latest audiobook I’m working out to: Scott Westerfeld‘s Goliath, the third volume of his YA steampunk trilogy. I love Westerfeld, and I love this trilogy, which I’ve “read” completely in audiobook form. There’s nothing like a good YA when you’re feeling blue.