Tag Archives: reading

My Odyssey Workshop Experience 2020: The Prep

I wrote most of this back at the beginning of my Odyssey Journey and then got incredibly busy. Just imagine this from the end of May/beginning of June time period:

Now onto the true beginning!

After being accepted, and choosing to attend virtually on account of COVID, I had to send in two assignments. One was a newly written story (which ended up naturally falling below 4k words when I wrote it and immediately got ear-marked for Odyssey for that reason alone) and the other was a favorite short story written by someone else (I chose Playscape by Diana Peterfreund in case you were wondering because seriously, it’s awesome and you should read it).

Over the next two weeks I received a textbook and a bunch of emails for typical things you’d have for a class (schedule, syllabus, questions, assignments, etc.) plus a few that likely were specially for this year’s virtual alteration for the workshop (like how we’re going to communicate and upload documents, etc.).

Then, in the weeks right before class was to start I worked on readings with my trusty pink and blue highlighters (because yellow is just so…ugh), while cramming disagreements (and agreements) in margins (harder to fit disagreements though; so much more to explain). I ended up filling an entire small notebook with all my thoughts and had to move on to another, so that seems to be a setting stage for this workshop. Maybe I won’t have any free notebooks left by the time it’s over (unlikely, since I have a crass amount of them, but you never know).

My handwriting is already jumping between seamless and even to barely legible.

I already had a small office setup that I could use as my “lecture hall” so to speak, so I cleaned it up, set up one of the signs that Jeanne Cavelos sent me in the window and sat my kids down to explain that they were to NOT DISTURB ME UNLESS THEY WERE DYING, which I think may have gotten the point across.

And then…I thought I was ready.

<3 Marie C.

May 2020 Recommended Books

Where last time I recommended all fantasy books, this month I decided to go in the complete opposite direction and talk up some science-fiction books I’ve read recently.


NINEFOX GAMBIT

by Yoon Ha Lee
(Science-Fiction)

The biggest compliment I can say about Ninefox Gambit is, I wish I’d picked it up sooner. Far sooner. Back when it’d first come out sooner. On the other hand, then I wouldn’t be able to immediately have access to its sequels, so there’s a huge positive about waiting until the trilogy is complete.

This story takes science-fiction world-building and turns it inside out and upside down, in a unique way, yet using older, easily grasped ideas. For instance, it’s a combination of military fiction with religious zealotry, using the fantastical element of never-ending life with political drama, all within a blow-by-blow space-siege operation. Continue reading

My Odyssey Workshop Experience 2020: The Application

Before I talk about my May prep, I feel I have to go backward, all the way to last year. Pre-corona, pre-quarantine, to when the world didn’t seem so bleak and 2020 was the epitome of hope, excitement, and expectation.

The idea of attending a workshop (I’ve attended two prior: a fiction writing one at 18 at a local college, and the Writers of the Future week-long one) came up in an email exchange with a friend, with us discussing some of the shorter, more accessible and doable workshops. For years, I’ve been stunted in this possibility, for logistically and financially my family just couldn’t make a six week course happen.

And yet, when I looked at the smaller, shorter workshops, I felt something snag inside me because what I really wanted, truly needed, wasn’t to be told how to write, but to have people look at my work, story after story, week after week, and tell me exactly where I personally struggled, where my specific weaknesses are, so I can focus on them and improve collectively, across all my work.

I started saving. Maybe for ConZealand, maybe for a short workshop, I wasn’t sure, but I saved regardless. Continue reading

Historical Nebula Nomination Read Series [1965] Check-In #1

My first Check-In post in this auspicious quest. I’m going to admit, I thought this would be a breeze given word count in books in the 1960s were far and away less than the current average word count. What I didn’t take into account was the -isms. Sexism, racism, etc. And some of that can be…difficult.

Now, I’m going to do my best to consider the time period in an effort to be a little more fair since it’s truly impossible to judge certain things by today’s standards when thinking of yesterday, especially when I obviously wasn’t around fifty-sixty years ago to have personally experienced the world then. So certain instances, like calling all women “girls” or the invisibility of certain races, I will strive to overlook.

However, I’m human and my beliefs will very likely get in the way sometimes.

So far, I’ve read four of the 1965 Nebula Nominations:


The first book I read was Rogue Dragon by Avram Davidson, a small, chapbook-sized science fiction novel about an Earth that had been turned into a hunting ground for unintelligent creatures titled dragons. In reality, the descriptions and writing of these dragons resembled large theropods. (And, in fact, there’s a scene that heavily reminds me of Jurassic Park, though of course that book wasn’t published until the 90s.)

The lead character goes on a discovery adventure where he lands within one group of characters after another, becoming acquainted with different sides of the entire story there on future Earth. His journey is a haphazard series of events though, with much of his autonomy stolen from him often enough that it’s comical to discover just how he would stumble into the next phase of the story. He is not a typical hero for the bulk of the story; he’s more of an information gatherer. Continue reading

January 2020 Recommended Books

I haven’t posted this before, but I feel the need to announce I’m now the parent of a teenager and have been for a few months. I don’t feel old enough to have a teenager. Nor do I feel capable of keeping up with feeding one. How does one do that? Add an addition to our pantry? Daily drop-offs from the grocery store? Buy intravenous feeding tubes? If ever there were black holes on earth, they would be teenaged stomachs XD

Monstress Vol 1: Awakening & Monstress Vol. 2: The Blood
by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

The first thing you notice about these graphic novels is the gorgeous artistry by Takeda. She brings such detail into every panel, making every page a thing of beauty to be admired. The world itself, as grim as it is, is vast, multi-cultural, with layers hidden within layers. Just for those two aspects, Monstress is worth reading. But there’s more. The character of Maika is conflicted, blunt, and horrible, yet also one who evokes sympathy. She fits in that classic trope of the abrasive character who does her best to keep people away from her for their own good. Yet she’s failing even in that and desperate for answers to what is happening to her. There is a cast of secondary characters both interesting and strange and Liu does not shy away from showing the dreadful sides of avarice and bigotry through them all.

Both my children stole all three volumes from me to read. I haven’t even read the third volume (though they have), so I guess it gets the stamp of approval from a younger generation too :)

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Does this count as Fantasy or Science Fiction? Maybe not :) It’s all nonfiction, relaying fun stories through Elwes’s eyes during the process of making The Princess Bride, one of the most iconic movie/book combos of the last century.

There was at least one vignette I was already familiar with, so I’m assuming I read an excerpt of the book at some point, but most of the information was new to me, and given it was filtered through Elwes’s eyes, it carried an air of nostalgia with an overlay of all of his excitement, nervousness and, occasionally, embarrassment.

You get to walk through the process, from him first getting the job to the final days. Get to hear about the arduous process of creating the duel between Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin. For me, it felt like traveling back in time to my childhood.

The Princess Bride
by William Goldman

Speaking of The Princess Bride, why yes, I was inspired to pick it back up. I’d never read it all the way through, just bits and pieces. And before I get to the story, I’m going to fully admit that I was one of those many people (long ago) who thought the book was actually abridged and searched for the unabridged version to no avail. Luckily, I don’t also have to admit that this happened recently (but I did have a moment–just a moment--when I picked it up off the shelf and thought wait–what? In my defense, I had just learned that Dune had an abridged version and I went searching to figure out whether I’d read the wrong damn book some twenty-five years ago. Spoiler alert: I hadn’t. I read it in all its wonderful glory the first time.)

The story is almost completely the same as the movie, with the notable exception being the Zoo of Death, which was understandable in its absence in the movie, but also pretty entertaining. There are other smaller changes as well, but none of them huge or plot/character changing. This is one of those, if you love the movie, you will undoubtedly love the book and vice versa. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the read if you’ve already seen the movie. Just the opposite.