Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Talkin' To You Eye To Eye by Roomful of Blues.
Brought to you a la, well, several places actually, but most recently from The Story Siren.
The game? Create an imaginary debut cover all of your own. It's strangely fun and addicting. First, you go to
The Fake Name Generator and you guessed it, pick the first name that comes up. (I picked a Japanese name because of all my uber research in Asian countries right now. And boy did it turn out cool). Next clicky on
The Random Word Generator. The first verb you see is now your title. (I wish inspiration came this quickly in real life) ;). Then head over to
FlickerCC and type in your new title and the first picture with a person is now your cover.
To assemble your very cool new baby, a really good, quick option is Picnik, which lets you add text, crop, and do some effects without needing an account.
And here it is *cue trumpets*
THAW by Rimi Yoshino.
And here are some other, very impressive titles (seriously, and I thought mine was cool, but no).
Kristi at The Story Siren
Karin at Karin's Book Nook
Kelsey at Reading Keeps You Sane
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Talkin' To You Eye To Eye by Roomful of Blues.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): White Shadows by Coldplay.
This list is by no means comprehensive, I'll say that right out of the gate. These are just books that I have personally read or have heard great things about with characters of different cultures that you usually don't see enough of. And just so you know, I love SF/F so if you don't see any of my comments, that is because I am trying with all my superpower restraint not to go into a rant of awesomeness about them. :) So let us begin.
The Ear, the Eye, and the Arm by Nancy Farmer - A futuristic SF in Africa where a set of detectives with special abilites have to go on the hunt and find a family of kidnapped children. How cool can you get?
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer. - A clone of a drug lord who rules the land between the United States and Mexico (appropriately called Opium) must learn more than he ever expected about the world in this amazing sci-fi.
The Twelve Kingdoms by Fuyumi Ono
The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Shadow
The Twelve Kingdoms: Sea of Wind
The Twelve Kingdoms: The Vast Spread of the Seas.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. - Rocks (it really should just be a part of the title).
Moriboto by Nahoko Uehashi
Guardian of the Spirit
Guardian of the Darkness
Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen & Bahija Lovejoy.
The Legend of the Wandering King by Laura Gallego Garcia. - Written by an author from Spain and translated into English makes this doubly cool. And the fact that it is actually based on a real legend makes this very very cool. C'mon, just look at the title.
Sword by Da Chen.
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series, starting with
Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver.
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park - Newberry award winner baby. :)
So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins. - I read this in high school for a history class. I remember loving it. It was my favorite out of the unit.
A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer. - Recognize the name? :) Yep, totally in love with her. Another Newberry Honor winner. Almost every book she has written has won this award.
The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis Mcgraw. - A young boy in ancient Egypt wants to become a goldsmith's apprentice but has to thwart his abusive older brother who he discovers is stealing gold from the tombs of the pharaohs. This was read to me in elementary (bless all those wonderful teachers who do that to the children in their class) and I still remember it and love it to this day.
Monster by Dean Walter Meyers. - This is a very unique story because it is written as a screenplay from the main characters perspective. He is in jail, and throughout the story you have to decide if he is guilty as an accomplice to murder. Very interesting.
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. - A collection of short stories that intertwine about a neighborhood (with many different cultures) who come together after accidentally creating and building a neighborhood garden. I listened to this on audiobook and loved it.
The Dungeon by Lynne Reid Banks. - Author of the famous Indian in the Cupboard series, this is a little-known book of hers. And while it does not have a "main" character of ethnicity, the Scottish lord however does go to China and brings back a little girl who he names Peony to be his attendant, and she helps awaken his ravaged, bitter heart.
The Royal Diaries Series - this is a wonderful series if you have never heard of it, a la the people who brought you the Dear America series. All of these are based on real people, but they have some very exotic ones from some amazing cultures, like Mesoamerica, India, Egypt, Japan, North America, Haiti, and Africa.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George.
Island of the Blue Dophins by Scott O'Dell.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
Holes by Louis Sachar. (Again, main character is Caucasian, but almost all his friends are of different races, and this was one of the first books that made me aware of it. And besides, Zero is black). :)
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now) Harry and Hermione by Nicholas Hooper [Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Soundtrack].
Really, did you think it could be anything else when there's only five days left before Catching Fire comes out? Really? But you would be surprised how difficult these interviews were to find. "Suzanne Collins interview" pops up nothing on the first page on YouTube (tsk tsk ScholasticTeen. You need to tag your videos better).
Two of these are a part of a ten-part video series, so I left the related links up so you can look for them in you need more Hunger Games goodness. The last is from Scholastic's website, and answers some fantastic questions not covered in the other interview about how she first got into writing. I wish you all the most joyous weekend ever. Go forth and find an adventure of your own. :D
Part 4: The Most Difficult Part to Write.
(Funny Part) Part 9: Languages.
Scholatistic Interview (Part 2 of 5):
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): First Time by Lifehouse.
Okay, I am totally stoked about this interview. Not only has Alan Gratz written an incredible novel about one of the coolest combinations I could never think of (baseball and samurai. So cool), he is also funny and so genuine guy and a joy to interview. I proudly present Alan Gratz of Samurai Shortstop.
1. Where you got the idea for Samurai Shortstop is a rather remarkable one. Would you mind sharing it with us?
Sure. Samurai was actually the third book I wrote for young readers, but became the first one I sold. Frankly, I never thought I would ever write historical fiction, because I was too lazy. Historical fiction takes LOTS of research, and great organizational skills. I wanted/had neither. But while I was writing one of Samurai Shortstop's predecessors, I got totally infatuated with Japan. It began when my wife handed me SHOGUN and said "Read this! You'll love it." I did, and she was right. I loved it. I started seeking out more fiction set in Japan, then moved on to non-fiction about Japanese history and culture, and on to manga, and on to travel essays--anything about Japan I could get my hands on. I was standing in a bookstore one day, wistfully flipping through a travel guide to Japan and wondering when I would ever get to go, when I saw a picture of a Japanese man in a kimono throwing out the first pitch at a 1915 National High School Baseball Tournament. That the Japanese were mad for baseball was not a surprise. That they had it so EARLY was. I had always assumed the Japanese learned baseball from American GIs during the Allied Occupation following World War II. But not if they were having high school tournaments in 1915. That picture led me to a book about Japanese baseball, and to more research about the Meiji Period, and the rest, as they say, is historical fiction. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)
2. Do you happen to remember the name of the travel guide?
I don't remember the travel guide, but after seeing that picture and going to other books about Japanese baseball, I've seen the image over and over again. This one I scanned in from YOU GOTTA HAVE WA, by Robert Whiting, which I highly recommend for anyone wanting to read more about the history of baseball in Japan. That's the book that gave me a lot of ideas for the novel, including the gaijin who climbs over the Sacred Wall of the Soul. That really happened!
3. Is shortstop your favorite position in baseball? Why did you pick that position for Toyo?
I'm not sure I have a favorite position--although some of my favorite players have been first and third basemen. To be honest, Toyo is a shortstop for a very silly reason: "shortstop" sounded good with "samurai." Here's how the title came about. I was sitting in the audience of a session at the SCBWI Mid-Winter conference in New York one year, half-listening to the agents in the panel explain how none of them were actively seeking new clients, and I was daydreaming about writing something that combined all this baseball and Japan reading I'd been doing. I knew it was going to be about samurai, and about baseball, and I started thinking about what position my kid would play. "He's a samurai catcher? No. A samurai first-baseman? No." Then it hit me. I snuck out of the session, called my wife on my cell phone, and said, "I've got a great idea for a book. It's called 'Samurai Shortstop!'" My wife says, "Great, what's it about?" And I said, "I have no idea." But I had a title I liked. The rest of the book came later. :-
4. What is the one thing you wish someone would ask you about your stories, but never have?
That's a tough one, because I do a lot of school visits and kids as EVERYTHING. Stuff you'd never DREAM of. One school visit kids kept asking me, "If someone else was going to die at the end of Samurai Shortstop, who would it be?" I was incredulous. Nobody! WHy would anyone else have to die? What a weird question. It must have been part of some set of questions they had to answer for class-although what the right answer is I have no idea.
Otherwise, I suppose the question I'd love someone to ask about one of my stories is, "Can we give you a million dollars to make this into a movie?" I keep waiting to hear that question. I have my answer all planned out...
5. Now, the opening scene is quite - shocking. Why did you decide to open with his uncle committing seppuku (Japanese ritual suicide)? Was this particular scene difficult to write?
The seppuku scene in the first chapter was difficult on a couple of levels. First, I'm very uncomfortable with knives and blades of all kinds, both in real life and in fiction. So that wasn't pleasant. Second, I had to make sure I handled the scene with some sense of decorum and beauty, despite the grisly nature of the deed. Truly, the graphic part of that chapter is only a couple (maybe three?) paragraphs long, and I go out of my way NOT to be too gory about it, which still trying to paint a realistic picture of ritual suicide. But as soon as I read more about seppuku, I knew I wanted to open the book with it. I was already developing this family unit--the unhappy father and son, and the favorite uncle who died for a cause--and I knew we needed to see that scene. What I tell everyone who questions that chapter is this: while I certainly hope it grabs readers' attentions, it's not merely there for shock value. That opening chapter is the impetus for the entire book. Seeing a real seppuku is suppose to scare us, but more importantly it scares Toyo. It provides Toyo's motivation right from the start: "I will do what I can to prevent my father from doing the same thing." That's why he learns bushido from his father in the first place--to understand it so he can talk his father out of it. If we didn't see what's at stake, if we didn't know what he was trying so hard to keep his father from doing, I think the story wouldn't feel as compelling. It's bad enough that Sotaro wants to kill himself--but to do it like THAT? With Totyo standing over him? Seeing Koji's seppuku makes that vision very real for us.
6. Did you purposely offset the next chapter with something so humorous as the boys desperate clamor for the bathroom on purpose? I thought it quite appropriate and very funny myself, though definitely meant for boys :)
I didn't think, "Okay, that was a dark chapter, now I have to follow that with something funny." At least not in a formal way. But I knew from the start I was going to be dealing with some heavy stuff, so I made a pledge to myself from the start to put humor in whenever I could. I think readers need those breathers before plunging back down into the hardcore stuff. And yeah, it's a lot of boy humor. But there's nothing wrong with that, right? :-)
7. Speaking of boys, there are not a lot of girls that appear in the novel. Was this a conscious decision? Did you write it that way so that it might appeal to boys more, for example?
I didn't set out to write a book with no girls in it. The boys school was dictated by the era, but I'm guilty of killing off the mom so that I could focus on the father/son relationship. As a result, I've tried very hard NOT to kill the mom in my other books--notably my Horatio mysteries. The parents are divorced, but if there's any parent who's more involved in his life, it's his mother. In Samurai Shortstop though, I hadn't even realized there were no girls until I got my first editorial letter and one of the questions was, "Where are all the girls?" That's when I went back and added the girls school, and much of the stuff about the Mainstream Society and sneaking out to spy on girls. Still, Japan was (and in many ways still is) a very male-dominated society, and I though it would be disingenuous to portray it otherwise. And when most of your story takes place at an all-boys boarding school, the decision is kind of made for you. :-)
8. You did a lot of research for this novel. So I have to ask - what is the weirdest manga (Japanese comic books) you've read?
Hoo boy. That's a tough question, because I've seen a bunch of really STRANGE mangas. Um... Well, it's meant as a parody of manga, but it's still a manga: Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo. Essentially, the world is ruled by an evil dude named Baldy Bald the Fourth, whose Hair Hunt Troop goes into villages and, well, shaves off everyone's hair. Leading the fight against Baldy Bald is Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, a guy with a big afro whose special talent is the "Fist of the Nose Hair." It's almost not fair to use this one though, since it's meant as a parody of its own genre...but still.
I will say that my first "What the frak?" moment with manga came pretty early, when I checked Fruits Basket out from the library because it was popular and I wanted to see why people liked it. So, um, an orphan girl learns that her adopted family are possessed by animals from the Chinese zodiac, and they turn into these forms when they hug somebody of the opposite sex. Um...okay. And THIS was the premise that launched 23 volumes, and became an anime television show? That was when I learned that pretty much every manga is messed up to some degree.
9. What is the weirdest piece of information you discovered while writing Samurai Shortstop?
That before baseball came to Japan, they had no word in their language for "sports," as in athletic leisure games. Everything they had done before that--kendo, swimming, archery, sumo--it all had some practical purpose, usually military.
10. What is your favorite scene in the novel, personally?
Hmm. My favorite scene... Well, for two very different reasons, either when Toyo leads his room in a defense against the storm, or when Toyo has to take part in the Clenched Fist Punishment. I think those are two very big moments for Toyo's character--one we as readers cheer, and another we have to look at critically and ask ourselves, "Would I do the same?"
11. Did you have to cut out something you did not want to, editors or otherwise?
I had a scene I was very partial to, where Toyo went to the offices of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper and say his father at work on a typewriter, very uncomfortable with new technology. I liked that, but it didn't survive one round of editing.
13. What do you think is the best principle of bushido (the samurai Japanese "way of the warrior" - their code of ethics, if you will)?
I think the idea of honor is perhaps the best principle of bushido--and something I dearly wish we had more of in the West. You know, people used to fight over honor, to have duels, and while I'm not in favor of bringing back duels, I think we lost something very important when we abandoned the very public idea of maintaining one's public honor. Perhaps if we were all more concerned with doing what is generally considered to be right and honorable, we wouldn't make such terrible fools out of ourselves so often. Or maybe we would, and it would just be a lot worse. :-)
12. Ooooh, do tell us about this Book That Shall Not Be Named that came after Samurai Shortstop, but before your modern mystery retelling of Hamlet (starring Horatio Wilkes. That's just awesome). It was another historical, wasn't it?
Well, there's a reason it is the "Book That Shall Not Be Named," but yes, it was more historical fiction. I had just sold Samurai, and so I thought, "Okay, I need to submit another historical novel, to follow that one up." So I set aside what I was working on--the book that eventually became Something Rotten--and wrote a novel set in ancient Egypt that was the story of King Tut's murder, as told from the viewpoint of a young tomb painter. I still like the idea, but I nervous about writing a second book, and not particularly in love with ancient Egypt the way I had been with Meiji Japan, and so the book was forced and, well, not good. It remains in the file cabinet, along with the two novels I wrote before selling Samurai Shortstop, and two others that need work.
13. What book do you wish you wrote that someone else wrote already?
It's not a book, but a short story: Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald." I think it's pretty perfect--a mashup of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos. It's one of my absolute favorite pieces of writing. I have the audio version which Gaiman himself reads, and I listen to it often on solo car trips. I can quote large chunks of it. I wish I had written it both because of the terrific idea behind it, and because of the fabulous writing.
14. Any hint to what you are writing next? (A third Horatio Wilkes novel? Based on A Midsummer Night's Dream? Is there going to be a fourth? And what is this I hear about a a pre-Nemo story before he became captain of the Nautilus? Is there anything you can't do?) :)
I'm currently juggling a few projects, including those you mention, but the one that you'll actually see published next is called "Fantasy Baseball." It's a middle grade novel about a boy who falls into a fantasy world populated by characters from classic children's fiction--Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Toad from Wind in the Willows, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, et al.--who are all playing in a huge "fantasy baseball tournament." The winners get wishes granted by the Wizard of Oz, so the boy joins Dorothy's team as a first baseman--but of course there's much more to it than that.
My editor and I are talking about a third book in the Horatio Wilkes series--to be called "Something Foolish," and based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, but while I have the idea plotted out there's no due date or pub date for that one at present. And "Nemo," the prequel to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, is sold and has a first draft written, but I have more work to do on that, and no pub date to announce.
I also just turned in a book proposal to my agent that combines horror and steampunk fantasy, so we'll see if that has legs! Lots of irons in the fire...
And for those of you who are Firefly nuts like me, Alan's favorite character is Jayne Cobb. ^_^
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Fireflies by Owl City.
I guess this is a lesson in reading all instructions all the way through. I was just over at BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week) to see when we get to see all of the shortlists. And then I noticed a notice (wow, that sounds stupid. But - so funny right now. I stayed up all night reading (a first in way too long), so please don't mind me. Right now I'm in a fit of giggles, thinking it too hilarious to take down. You know when you get that way right? Where everything is funny and you tend to snort for no reason?*).
Anyway. I saw it said that concerning withdrawals, it only applied to the review section. So basically you couldn't be nominated for Best Reviewer, Best YA Reviewer, AND Best SF Reviewer. But the "Everything Else" categories were a free-for-all. Heh heh. So I really shouldn't have withdrawn myself from Best Series/Feature nomination I received. I didn't want to tell you guys. I had no idea that you guys liked it enough to nominate it (it notoriously gets the fewest comments).
But I kept the nomination for Best Name for a Blog. :)
So yes, I have actually been nominated for FOUR categories for BBAW (three now. *sob*). Do you know how hard and incredibly cool that is? I was floored.
Here is the new, and accurate, list of nominations (sorry I kept it from you guys):
Most Eclectic Taste
Best New Blog
Best Series/Feature - withdrawn (idiotically) *facepalm*
Best Name for a Blog
Wow. As WriterGirl, I will not fail your very high expectations of me. You. Guys. Rock.
*I know I'm going to regret those parenthesis later, but I'm still just laughing. I love these moods.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Rebirthing by Skillet.
Thank you for inviting me onto your blog to answer questions about a couple of my favorite books. Let’s get right to it…
1. Yours was the first Asian fantasy I ever read (and it still remains one of my absolute favorites). What made you decide to write it? Why Japan, why Heian Japan (700 to 1100 AD)?
I don’t remember exactly when I became fascinated with Heian Japan, perhaps while I was studying anthropology and mythology at UCLA, perhaps after. But somewhere in there, I learned about this relatively peaceful period in Japanese history when the nobility were deeply enthralled with artistic pursuits. Men had poetry and perfume-making contests. Women styled their multi-layered kimono’s just so to match the season, and became masterful musicians on the koto. But most interesting of all, to me, was that the noblewomen of the palace, who were given little to do but make themselves attractive for marriage in order to cement connections between families, these women wrote. They wrote diaries and poems and romantic stories and lists of things they liked and didn’t like, and they passed them around to one another like ‘zines, or blogs. And better yet, many of these writings, monotagari, have been preserved and translated so a modern, Western woman can read them, read how life was a thousand years ago in a far away land, and compare her present-day life and thoughts to theirs. Not to mention that the oldest known novel, The Tale of Genji by Murakami Shikibu, dates from this period.
Part of my philosophy in writing historical fantasy is that one cannot make up cultures any stranger than those that have already existed in the past. I knew, once I delved into Heian culture, that I would someday have to write a story set there.
2. I had never heard of tengu before I read your book, but apparently they are fairly famous in Japan. Is there something in particular that compelled you to write about tengu in particular? Can you tell us a little about them?
Tengu are what mythologists today would call a “trickster figure” and therefore great fun to write. In Heian tales, tengu would harass monks for being so serious (ostensibly to test the monks faith), and play tricks and shift their shape from bird-like to human. They also were said to be highly skilled, some being master swordsmen (one of which I have make an appearance in my novel GENPEI.) There was also something slightly sad about them, for they seemed drawn to humans, yet always apart from them. Some tales said tengu were the reincarnation of monks who broke their vows. All this is why I thought a tengu would make a great character to play with.
3. How much research did you need to do to make this story come to life? Because it really is, in fact, quite transportive. It really felt like you were in 12th century Japan, complete with culture and their beliefs and views of the world. I loved it.
Short answer, lots. And yet it was never enough. (I haven’t learned much Japanese, so I had to deal with translated works). The best overview of Heian culture that I know of is The World Of The Shining Prince, by Ivan Morris. I think I’ve worn my copy of that book almost to pieces, it’s been so useful. But I’ve also read Genji (and the footnotes! Very important…) as well as Murakami’s diary, as well as the pillow books of other Heian women. Every now and then, I find another translated work to read for inspiration. The last one (which I haven’t finished yet because it’s in two large volumes) is “A Tale of Flowering Fortunes”.
4. Another Asian fantasy author, Cindy Pon, invented many of the creatures her heroine faced from her own imagination. Is that the case with you? Or are they all based on real myths/legends? I know tengu are real, but what about when Mitsuko meets the Judge of the Dead, for example? How much is based on already-existing stories?
To the best of my ability, I tried to keep the creatures and mythological personages as close as possible to those in the original tales. Part of my purpose was to introduce these figures to western readers who might be unfamiliar with them. So, yes, Lord Emma-O is based on mythological tales. I had originally envisioned Little Sister as sort of an Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole sort of story, but populated with figures of Japanese mythology. It became a little more than that.
5. How did you decide to keep which parts of the conflicting tengu stories? And how did you develop such a realistic culture for them? (I highly doubt the legends went into such detail). :)
Actually, the legends –do- go into a lot of detail about the tengu (apparently the Japanese love them too), so I did not need to add much. As to which legends to keep, well much as other writers play with vampire myths, choosing those that suit their story, or keep them interesting, I chose the qualities of tengu that suited the character I wanted to write.
6. How did you like the covers? I thought they were absolutely stunning. Did you have any say in them at all?
I gave no initial direction to the artist, Victor Lee, so you could say I was very lucky. The only comment I made, when I was shown the preliminary sketches, was that the tengu on Mitsuko’s sleeve looked a little too cartoony, a little too…teenage mutant ninja turtles. So they were changed to be a little more ominous.
7. You used proper Japanese name notation (last name first). Can I say how much you rock for that?
You may say how much I rock. (I thought it was important too. Part of that verisimilitude thingy.)
8. Out of both books, which scene/scenes are your favorite, personally?
I’m afraid I wrote these so long ago, it’s hard to remember. But I am all too fond of the chapter in Little Sister where Mitsuko runs off with her sister to the abandoned shrine in the forest and that night meets a tengu for the first time.
9. Did you write all of those haikus yourself? Many of them are so beautiful.
Yes, I wrote them all myself. In my first Heian-set work, The Nightingale, I tried using haiku written in that period and found that although the poems themselves might be in the public domain, the translations were not. So it seemed easier to do my own for LS and HP. I’m gratified you like them.
10. While you were writing this did you have to cut out anything you didn't want to cut out, editors or otherwise?
Again, these were written and published years ago, so I don’t really remember, but I don’t think there were any scenes I adored that had to be cut out. The editor, Jane Yolen, took a very light hand with them.
11. You play in a band, correct? Is there any way to hear any of your music? Have you ever thought of writing music for your stories?
I was in a band. I’ve been in quite a few, off and on in my life. But these were cover bands, playing songs we liked. My main instrument is electric bass guitar, which is not, by and large, a composer’s instrument. I’ve written a few songs, but they are mostly silly ditties that I wrote for fun. My best known songs in fannish circles are “Captain Jenny” and the much earlier filk of “Swinging on a Star” based on fantasy tropes. I’m not quite as brave and artistically adventurous (and talented) as Ursula LeGuin and Catherine Asaro who have blended music and fiction.
12. Will there ever be a third book? It felt like it was supposed to be a part of a trilogy. Any hope of that ever happening?
As it happens, I did do a proposal for a third story of Mitsuko. But in the mysterious ways of publishing, it was not bought. So, alas, it is unlikely that book will be written…unless I just decide to do so on my own.
13. Is there anything new in the pipeline? I hear Asian fantasy is picking up right now. ;)
My most recent published work is a near future SF short story, “Flatland”, in Sharyn November’s YA anthology Firebirds Soaring, which came out this spring.
Right now, my agent is shopping around an alternate-history fantasy set in early California. Sort of Zorro-land with magic. We had a publisher interested, but then the downturn happened last September and that fell through.
Still in the word processor are a purely-fantasy fantasy called Wraithstorm, a girls’ near future sf YA based on some stuff in “Flatland”, and a Nazi/vampire alternate history called Bloodreich. (Wraithstorm is the closest of these to being finished, but it’s still a long way from done).
I’m also doing an Edwardian steam punk (early electric punk?) short story set just before the start of World War 1.
As you can see, I’m sort of taking a break from Heian and Asian fantasy. I don’t have anything new to say or explore in that milieu right now. But that could change some day. The wonderful thing about Heian culture is how it is so intricate and complex and beautiful and shocking that there are always wonders to discover there.
14. And here are some extras generously given by Kara Dalkey (awesome):
Here’s a bibliography of all my published Asian-based fiction, in case you or your readers want to find them.
THE NIGHTINGALE, May 1988 hardback, April 1991 paperback, Ace/Berkley
LITTLE SISTER, December 1996; hardcover, Harcourt Brace
THE HEAVENWARD PATH, 1998; hardcover, Harcourt Brace -- Young Adult historical fantasy set in Heian Japan, sequel to LITTLE SISTER.
GENPEI, January 2001, hardcover, Tor -- Historical Fantasy set in Japan, based on the Genpei War of 1180-1185 A.D.
"The Ghost of Wan Li Road", THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT, September 1989, Harper & Row (Harper Junior Books), harcover, Martin Greenberg & Jane Yolen editors -- Ghost story set in China for Juvenile horror anthology.
"The Peony Lantern", PULPHOUSE HOLIDAY ANTHOLOGY SPECIAL; December 1990; Pulphouse Publishing, Kristine Rusch editor; Reprinted in THE YEAR'S BEST FANTASY & HORROR, Fifth Annual Collection, August 1992, St. Martins Press, Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling editors -- Ghost story set in ancient Japan.
"The Chrysanthemum Robe", THE ARMLESS MAIDEN, April 1995, Terri Windling editor, hardcover, Tor -- Anthology of fantasy stories on the theme of child abuse.
“Lady Shobu”, TALES OF THE SLAYER II, January 2003, Simon & Schuster, Anthology tie-in to the Buffy The Vampire Slayer television series.
“The Lady of The Ice Garden”, FIREBIRDS, September 2003, The Penguin Group, Sharyn November editor, YA speculative fiction anthology.
Thanks again for encouraging me to blather on about my work, and if you have any other questions, feel free to ask.
I'm going to make that an open invitation to all my blog readers. ^_^ If you have any questions or comments, put them here or shoot me an email and I will make sure to get them to her.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Nazareth by Mychael Danna [The Nativity Story Soundtrack].
I'm cheating a little. This does not fit my "published after 2005" requirement, but for the sake of exposing more books of different cultures, I think that is okay. :) Here is the story of Little Sister by Kara Dalkey.
Originally Published: 1996
Current Amazon Rank: Irrelevant (out of print).
My name is Fujiwara no Mitsuko
and I am the little sister of Amaiko.
Goranu, who reads this over my
shouler as I write, says this
is unworthy - that I am much more.
But this is how I've seen myself,
esteemed reader, for much of
my life and especially in the
troubled times just past. Perhaps,
once you have read my story, you
and Goranu, too, will understand.
My Take: I am being very unfair to you guys. I will be dangling a carrot in front of your mouth that you can't possibly reach. This is one of the most wonderful simple reads I have come across, especially within YA fantasy literature. It is beautiful. It is transportive. It is also out of print. If you can find a copy at a decent price, I would highly suggest you take it. It is well worth it, I promise you. Below are the ISBN numbers to help make your search easier, if you so wish. I pray for you that your libraries have copies.
It takes place in medieval Japan, in 1100 AD, in a world so fantastic it almost seems like it could be real. And it has perhaps one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen (that statement still holds today). Victor Lee's work is stunning. You can actually catch a glimpse of our romantic interest in the kimono sleeve Mitsuko is holding (no, he is not quite human, but oh so cool. Eat your heart out Edward Cullen).
This story is unique. Maybe it is just because I am very close to my sisters, but the idea of Mistuko's adventure starting because she wants to rescue her beloved oldest sister's wandering soul (after her husband's brutal murder) is just so real to me. And her adventure only becomes more grand from there, with the help of a tengu (a "demon" bird-like trickster) named Goranu who can change his shape and is more than he first appears - in many ways. Her adventures even go so far as meeting Lord Emma-O, the Judge of the Dead himself. And her story continues in The Heavenward Path, which is not as mind-grabbing as the first for me, but for those who want to know more of her and Goranu's story, you will be eager to snatch it up. I certainly did.
Both Little Sister and The Heavenward Path are filled Buddihst lore and Asian mythology that adhere faithfully to their source material. They also delve into deeper issues of spirituality and philosophical problems that is not often seen in YA literature. How Mitsuko confronts these problems is neither sentimental or moralistic, which the author easily could have slipped into. Both are a refreshing, delightful read of a fully realized fantasy world.
The Final Word: A breath of fresh air from the standard fantasy story. The story and characters are immersive and real. Today, Goranu remains one of my top 25 favorite literary characters. One you do not want to miss, if you can find it.
ISBN (Hardcover): 015201392X
ISBN (Paperback): 0140386319
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing myself on my ipod right now): Rise Above This by Seether.
We just did a Feature Fun Friday a few weeks ago on Maggie Stiefvater, but again, this is just too cool not to share. This is a "behind the scenes" look at how she did the amazing music for her Ballad trailer. Though personally, I love the outtakes for the second half about a hundred times more. That's the real reason for putting this up here. See a real look at the glamorous life of an author. :) Have an amazing weekend everyone! Go have an adventure of your own. :D
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Fireflies by Owl City.
Okay, quick recap about my goals in my reviews. I am WriterGirl. And as a superhero, it is my job to protect the innocent and bring to light the lesser-known works of amazing YA literature. So here are my rules I have placed on myself.
I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 selling books (based on Amazon ranks)
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will not review books before my 2005 (with very rare exceptions).
This is also the month where Color Online has challenged us to focus on books from different ethnicities. And I have found an awesome one for you. I proudly present Samurai Shortstop by Alan Gratz.
Current Amazon Ranking: #337,697
Originall Published: 2006
First Line: Toyo watched carefully as his uncle prepared to kill himself.
My Take: This book is amazing. I don't say that lightly. This book is easily one of the best books I've read this year (he's very lucky Catching Fire hasn't come out yet). :) But the premise of combining bushido, the samurai's sacred honor code, with baseball during the rapidly changing time in Japan's history is absolutely stunning. He is able to blend east and west, old and new, in such a way that I did not think was possible. Really, even now, I'm floored. There might be some quibbles taken up that there are no female characters (I think you *see* two in the entire story), but I find that a testament to his immense research, rather than a fault of oversight on his part. Because honestly, that is how it was. The opening two chapters are stark in contrast, and may be off-putting to some (in the the first Toyo watches his uncle commit seppuku, a samurai's ritual suicide. The second is almost opposite, but no less startling, as all the boys race for the bathrooms after being forced to wait for an extremely long time during their school's opening ceremonies), but I am a girl (last time I checked), and I didn't find a problem with either scene. That first n particular was the catalyst that drove the entire story. It is a fantastic, incredible story. I cannot recommend this one enough.
Final Word: Read it. It is so unique, and just plain cool. In execution, in everything. If you want something different, read it.
P.S I found out the timeline between this and Anahita's Woven Riddle is only five years apart. Now that is seriously cool. I would almost recommend reading them side by side just for that.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now) Journey to the Cave by Nicholas Hooper [Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Soundtrack].
I can't believe it. I don't know who (there had to be many of you who) nominated me for Book Blogger Appreciation Week, but thank you. You will never guess what I got nominated in.
Most Eclectic Blog
Best New Blog
Do you know how hard that is? I can't even imagine. There are so many amazing blogs that are less than a year old. Thank you so much everyone. Even if I don't get shortlisted, the fact that I was even able to be nominated, well, it warms the cockles of my heart. I've already sent in my sample posts. I can only be shortlisted for one, so cross your fingers for me!
*cockles = a weed, or to gather into wrinkles or folds. Okay, that saying makes no sense now...
(according to Merriam Webster it means - Etymology: perhaps from cockle. Date: 1671
- the core of one's being — usually used in the phrase warm the cockles of the heart). So there you go. :)
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): New Divide by Linkin Park.
When you need your chin to carry in all the books you just found at the library. I think that is the definition of joy too. Let me see... Yep, among many other things. ^_^
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now) Over My Head by The Fray.
To celebrate my 100 posts and my first 50 followers, I am doing something exciting. I am going to be commenting on all of YOUR blogs. That is for you guys rocking so much.
I was hoping the two events would coincide, since I couldn't decide which one to do it on. But then my 50 had to spike to 53 (you sneaky little things). You thought to ruin my master plan, did ya? Well, I'm just going to include you, so there.
So to celebrate, I am going to be doing a live post of sorts - of my progress posting on each of your blogs. That's right, I am going to visit each and every one of your blogs and make a comment on one of your posts. I'm not even going to tell you how nervous I am to go comment on Jordan Mechner's blog (for those of you who missed my squeal-fest, here is why Jordan Mechner is a video game writing god).
So let the countdown begin! (and my "opening" Theme Song is seeming just a little too appropriate right now)...
Let's start the clock:
1:45 - Wow, that's convenient. Okay, looking up first follower now. bball11kt you are mine.
1:46 - Okay, apparently you don't have a blog to comment on. Onto the next one! (But know you are still loved nonetheless).
1:50 - Technical difficulties underway. I can't seem to click to people who I know have blogs. Where's my ratchet?...
1:54 - Okay! First success!!! Thank you PJ! Okay, Those faceless icon followers, never fear! I WILL get back to you. *Wooosh into the sunset*
1:57 - 2 down! Umm... 51... to go? Gulp.
1:58 - Note: calimili is one of the coolest verification words I've typed yet. It's like mississippi. Sort of.
2:03 - First row done! Oh, that's only four. Oh wow. Maybe that theme song was foreshadowing something.
2:04 - No! I am the little engine that could! Bring it on!
2:05 - Alas. Another one with no blog. Love ya Kayla!
2:09 - You learn something new everyday. Apparently Meg Cabot's Princess Diary series was inspired from a (really old) book called A Royal Pain? Is it bad to admit that I know that book? That I've READ it? Wow... Onwards!
2:10 - I send MJ love!
2:13 - I just discovered another aspiring writer. Woo woot. And she is pretty hilarious, if I do say so myself.
2:20 - Rediscovered Liyana's blog. Forgot it wasn't in my subscriptions. Problem remedied. (and doesn't 'multis' almost seem like a real word?)
2:28 - NotNessie has an absolutely GORGEOUS header that I've never seen before, because like a fool, I've never commented on it before. Wow.
2:29 - Coldplay's Clocks live rocks. Just saying.
2:34 - Gah!!! Only Hope by Switchfoot JUST came on Pandora (from A Walk to Remember). Can I tell you how much I love this song? I wish I could blare it for you right now.
2:37 - Delectable cake of amazing bookie goodness right here.
2:38 - Oooh, Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls just came on. I am on a roll. (oh and tidbit: this song is an significant inspiration for my own novel).
2:44 - One of my followers wants to go into film. And she's writing a children's novel to boot. That is cool and intense. I'm really like this, getting to know everyone who is following me.
2:51 - Did you know people make fan covers of books? That is just cool. I'm trying really hard to not add that to my list of things to learn.
2:57 - Another aspiring author! Too cool. And Frankie Diane? You have an awesome name.
2:59 - What do you supposed an "emoth" is? A digital cousin to the ebutterfly?
3:00 - Wow. I'm fading a bit. I need me a pick-me-up. Viva la Vida here I come!!!
3:05 - The Dream Reader. Isn't that a cool name for a blog? Crap, I was going to listen to Coldplay. Hang on, grrr.
3:06 - Oh wow, that feels so much better. I am coming to life again. I haven't gotten tired of this song yet. I may just listen to it again.
3:09 - Yep, definitely listening to again.
3:10 - Click. ^_^
3:10 - Oh, that's sad. Two people in a row without blogs I can find. Loves!
3:11 - EEEP!!!!!!! Jordan Mechner is next. Pray for me.
3:11 - No really, pray for me.
3:12 - I've got Viva la Vida in the background. I can do this. Be brave Heather, be brave. Gulp.
3:14 - Oh my gosh, I can't do this. Coldplay may need to be on perma-repeat for a while. He's just written about a unfinished screenplay he did at the time he was doing Prince of Persia. So cool!
3:16 - Coldplay just got repeated.
3:17 - Okay, this is silly. I can do this. I'm a superhero for heaven's sake! I'm WriterGirl! I'm going in.
3:18 - I did it! I rock. And roll. But it didn't show up, so I'm not sure if it actually went through... I'll keep you updated...
3:23 - Two more aspiring novelists. In a row. Cool.
3:25 - Someone else is on a book-buying freeze like me! Oh that pain. I know how you feel.
3:26 - Hey! Another song that is book-inspired just came on. I can't tell you which one it is though. That is top top secret.
3:33 - Loves to Kristen! Only twelve-ish more to go. I think I can I think I can I think I.....
3:41 - Maybe I should have a mascot too...
3:42 - YES! Beautiful Day by U2 just came. Life is good. Very very good.
3:43 Love to Korianne and adriennelizbth08.
3:44 - And Yan. Man, I'm having bad luck.
3:45 - And blair wlewis. Who wants to go five for five?
3:46 - Yep. Five for five. Anyone for six? Or has my internet just broken?...
3:46 - Nope! Genevieve is alive and kicking. Now onto comment...
3:49 - And were back to the love send-outs. Hey Erica and eliang8 and rkgcc!
3:51 - Another writer! Hee hee. Methinks she found me from Shannon Hale's blog. :)
3:52 - Just got 'cometer' for a word verification. A little close to comenter? Okay, fine, that is spelled wrong too, but my brain is going into strange places right now. Look! Butterflies... ;)
3:56 - I just got back to the beginning! Now to see if those iconless ones have blogs. I'm ALMOST there. Bu ya baby!
3:58 - Okay, bigtime loves to Luvdaylillies, Laura, Djpdancer, and a mysterious no-name (I didn't know you could do that)...
3:59 - I'm DONE. Piece of cake. *collapses*
Thank you everyone for following and reading. It wouldn't be the same without you.
Ending Theme Song (it rocks, and I didn't even cheat): Little Wonders by Rob Thomas [from Meet the Robinsons]
P.S Jordan Mechner totally got his comment. :)
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): All We Are by One Republic.
This is a very special event, because not only was I able to get in contact with an awesome author with a very very cool life story, this is my 100th blog post! I can't believe I've made it this far so quickly. You guys are incredible. And I can't believe that Ms. Sayres was willing to take time out of her very busy schedule and help enhance this "semi-themed" multi-cultural month. Without further ado, I happily present Meghan Nuttall Sayres, author of Anahita's Woven Riddle.
1. I don't know which is more interesting - your life, or your books. Do you really dye your own wool and make your own tapestries? :)
Yes. I raise sheep, collect dye plants at home and on my travels and weave a tapestry now and then.
2. What are some of your favorite plants to use? Which ones dye the best? Is there one that makes purple? (it's my favorite color).
Locally, I use tansy, yarrow or golden rod for yellows and gold, however to achieve a primary yellow one must use weld or dyers broom. I buy imported indigo for blue and madder root for reds. Sometimes I bring home madder root from Turkey. To make purple you must dye with indigo and then over dye it with madder root or cochineal. The Celts and Phoenicians made purple dyes with shell fish, but this method is labor intensive and time consuming. I gave it a try when living in Ireland. Check out my website and my book Weaving Tapestry in Rural Ireland for more information on natural dyes.
3. I've heard that Anahita's Woven Riddle was inspired by a Turkish tapestry you saw, one that you actually own. Is this true? Is there any way you could send us picture of one of your tapestries? Or perhaps the one that inspired this rather remarkable novel?
The novel was inspired by an Iranian Afshar tribal rug. I'll send a photo along. One of the borders woven into the rug is featured on the hardback edition of Anahita's Woven Riddle. It is an image of a band of clouds, a prayer for rain.
4. I loved how you didn't make Anahita a stereotypical defiant heroine who gets her way by sheer force of will. Instead you had her work realistically within the bounds of her culture. Any yet you still made her strong and very relateable. Was this difficult? How did you manage to pull it off?
This is a difficult question to answer. I suppose she acted in a way that was consistent with her character.
5. How did you manage to integrate a foreign culture so seamlessly? It's one of the best I've ever encountered. It was so natural and didn't feel like you were "telling" or talking down to me at all.
Thank you. I think spending time in the cultures that I write about gives me a sense of place beyond what research books might offer. Also, having made friends with Iranians at home and in Iran, I have realized that they are people much like you and me. They get up in the morning, have breakfast and go about their day just as we do. They share similar dreams. When writing, I imagined my characters as friends, as people I've met or would like to get to know. Maybe that is why you did not feel "talked down to" as you read.
6. I also loved how you naturally wove history into the story. I had no idea that Russians were trying invade Iran at the turn of the 20th century (and I'm a history major. Shameful). How much research went into writing this novel?
An enormous amount of research, however, it arose organically over many years and included travel. I had several scholars and Iranians proof read various aspects of the manuscript. For more details about this please see my acknowledgments in the back of the book.
7. On the inside of your book it says after hearing of the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran you decided a portion of the sales will go help the women and children affected by it. Is that still in effect?
Yes, however the most recent donation went to a weaver in need that I met on my trip there this spring. Just this weekend I read an article in Persian Hertitage Journal (a US publication) about the restoration work in Bam and how impressive it is. The government of Iran more than doubled the number of new schools in the city from 90 to 186, there is a brand new bazaar, cultural centers and sports complex. The ancient citadel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is coming along, but most of the funding at this time is going to housing and the infrastructure of the city itself. Each homeowner helps design their new house. Apparently this involvement of the locals has helped them to recover psychologically as well. I had visited Bam in 2005, fifteen months after the quake. At that time many people were still living in tents and shop keepers operated out of makeshift stalls or the skeletal remains of their former buildings. And yet, despite the destruction, they hosted a children's book festival, where publishers gave away some 40,000 books. Reading about Bam's recovery today brings me much joy.
8. Who was your favorite character to create? Why?
They are all my favorites!
9. Personally, what is your favorite scene in the novel?
Again, I do not have a favorite scene all though two scenes come to mind that required extra revisions for cultural reasons: the bathhouse scene in the chapter Fatima's Fire, and the mosque scene in the Wounds chapter. For those who have not read the book, you might skip reading this next sentence. In the bathhouse I initially had Dariyoush in the pool with Anahita, helping teach her to swim. In the mosque scene, I was told that I must not show Anahita and Arash embracing in a mosque.
10. Is there anything else in the works? Would you be willing to share any little hint about it?
Among other works in progress, I have finished a companion novel to Anahita's Woven Riddle, entitled Night Letter. I have also just finished revising a novel set in Ireland.
Thank you so much for your time Ms. Sayres. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it.
Thank you for inviting me on your blog.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): We'll Meet Along the Way by Hem.
I am a lover of many things. One of those things is translations of books. Love em'. Old translations, new translations, red ones, pink ones, translations across different languages. I love them all, but not only the traditional sense. One of coolest things for me is seeing books cross into other mediums. This is most obviously seen in books-to-movies. (Did you know that over 1,250 movies have been released in the US that were based off of books, since 1980 alone? Dang. That's over 62 films a year).
But it's really not just limited to movies (though don't get me wrong. Seeing my story come to life with flesh-and-blood people would be just about the coolest thing ever). Fanart continues to astound me. Just how a reader can pluck something from their head and turn it into a visual representation. That is seriously amazing.
Fanfiction, musical compositions, costumes based on your characters, the list goes on and on. I love it all. But one I hadn't considered at first took me by surprise (it shouldn't have). It was theatrical productions. I love the theater. I go to it all the time. I've even taken an acting class, just so I could get in my characters heads better (and plus it looked really really fun and supercool). It just never occurred to me that plays were done from books, not modern ones at least. But that isn't true. An adaptation of Gossamer by Lois Lowry was done recently, as well as a musical of her Gathering Blue. And now to join the ranks is Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. You may have heard of the book. Or not. I've read it and found it to be very interesting. But if you haven't, this clip gives a pretty good introduction.
It was put on by the Griffin Theatre Company in Chicago. I don't know, something about the theater makes it seem even cooler than a movie, because it is living people, done in real time. It gives me chills. So here is a clip, and a desperate hope that one day, if my book ever gets published, I can sit down in a playhouse and watch my story come to life on stage, for real.
Have a fantastic weekend everyone! Go have an adventure of your own.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Separate Ways by Journey.
I'm sure most of you are aware of BBAW (how would you say that out loud, I wonder?) and it is certainly something worthy of its fame. I watched all the proceedings last year as an eager lurker, but this year, with the advent of my new blog, I am eligible to be a part of the proceedings. This is a scary prospect and makes me want to flip through all my posts to see just what the heck I've written that has earned me 51 followers already. I'm still stunned by that. I keep glancing over to my sidebar to see if it is really true.
This is not a plea or self-declaration that you should nominate me (though that certainly would be quite a treat). I'm here as a happy "two-day-left" reminder to nominate those blogs that you've come to love and would not know what you to do without them. I've been simmering through a few and am about to head over there myself. Here are some of my favorite categories that just make me smile:
Most Eclectic Taste (I love that word).
Best Name for a Blog *glances up at mine*
Best Writing (scary prospect)
Best Blog Post
And of course - Best New Blog
If you haven't voted, please do. I found some of my favorite blogs through last year's nominations. If you have a secret gem you know about, please share it with us.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): The Middle by Jimmy Eat World.
You really don't have to travel far to find your own adventure. I keep finding that out over and over again. Like when I am driving through my neighborhood on a routine store run, I drive nonchalantly past a house and do a double take. Was that really a camel I just saw? Just standing on a front lawn? In my neighborhood? Why yes Heather. Yes it was.
I was already on my errand, but I pushed my car and myself as fast as was legally allowed. Hey - I really didn't want that camel to go away before I got back. It was already getting dark and I was afraid it was going to disappear with the sun or something. Camels are not natural in suburbia, even if you do happen to live in a desert.
But he was still there when I got back. And apparently I wasn't the only one attracted by the strange sight. Neighbors were emerging from all their hidey-holes and pausing on their evening walks. We all gathered round to see the baby camel.
It was only three and half months old, and a friend of this particular neighbor apparently raises these (and other) extotic animals. I got to pet him. He was so soft and gentle, and I loved looking into his soft, rich eyes. I wanted to take him home with me. (But that little guy really did like to go to the bathroom. I managed to avoid both spurts during the time I was there. It's all my superskills as WriterGirl). :) Even his back hump was incredibly thick and soft. It was an experience I couldn't have begged more for. He was such a sweetie.
Cosmo (my little camel friend) kept looking for his owner like he was his mother. It was really touching. He really didn't like being apart from him. Hey, this ties into my review so nicely with the middle east. I didn't even think of that until now. And it was so fun to see the neighbors coming out and smiling, laughing, and talking around this unusual but oddly beautiful sight.
Maybe all you need to bring a neighborhood together is a baby camel on your front lawn.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Still Alive by Lisa Miskovsky.
Oh wow. You know when you find something that says exactly what you feel but you didn't have the words to say it right? This article from the LA Times says what I feel but so simply, yet so powerfully.
Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being. We possess the books we read, animating the waiting stillness of their language, but they possess us also, filling us with thoughts and observations, asking us to make them part of ourselves. This is what Conroy was hinting at in his account of adolescence, the way books enlarge us by giving direct access to experiences not our own. In order for this to work, however, we need a certain type of silence, an ability to filter out the noise.
Such a state is increasingly elusive in our over-networked culture, in which every rumor and mundanity is blogged and tweeted. Today, it seems it is not contemplation we seek but an odd sort of distraction masquerading as being in the know. Why? Because of the illusion that illumination is based on speed, that it is more important to react than to think, that we live in a culture in which something is attached to every bit of time.
Here we have my reading problem in a nutshell, for books insist we take the opposite position, that we immerse, slow down. “After September 11,” Mona Simpson wrote as part of a 2001 LA Weekly round-table on reading during wartime, “I didn’t read books for the news. Books, by their nature, are never new enough.” By this, Simpson doesn’t mean she stopped reading; instead, at a moment when it felt as if time was on fast forward, she relied on books to pull back from the onslaught, to distance herself from the present as a way of reconnecting with a more elemental sense of who we are.
Read the whole article on the "Lost Art of Reading" here.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Silver Lead and Snowy Tears by Superchunk.
First review of the diversity challenge! It is a lovely story and I am really excited to share it. (Oh and the hot and cold clue has to do with the location. Iran = very hot, but it also snows there which surprised me. It really shouldn't have. It snows here too, a lot more than you'd expect).
Anahita's Woven Riddle
Current Amazon Ranking: #381,297
Book at a glance: Weaving a bit of fairy tale into her rich exploration of Persian life, Meghan Nuttall Sayres has written a debut novel that delights and fascinates. In this enchanting historical novel, a nomad in nineteenth-century Iran takes fate into her own hands when her father promises her in marriage to a man she dislikes. Anahita convinces her father to let her hold a contest in which potential suitors must correctly answer the riddle she has woven into her wedding carpet. A diplomat, a schoolteacher, a shepherd, and a prince compete in Anahita's battle of wits for the heart of this extraordinary girl.
First Line: "Baba, I have a riddle for you," Anahita said, standing among the pregnant ewes corralled for an early spring shearing.
Second Thoughts: This was a unique, lush, and vibrant book. It brought a different culture to life to me more fully than any book I can recall in recent memory. Not much is said about Muslim culture or the middle east, and hardly ever in a favorable light except where the character is trying to break away from the life they know. This rather extraordinary story told it not only from a perspective within that culture, but with tact and delicacy. Anahita does not try to break away from her culture or the traditions of her people, but moves within those bounds and finds a place in her world. This was enormously refreshing, instead of forcing western ideals into a place with different values. That was one of the highest nods I can give to Ms. Sayres, who seems to have a fairly intimate knowledge and relationship with this culture.
The other is the immersion of this rather foreign place. Often times I read of multi-cultural books who make a noble attempt to take the world they are trying to describe and make it relatable and understandable to an audience with possibly little to no knowledge of that place. Ms. Sayres accomplishes this naturally and fluidly. She does not describe the many unique pieces at great length, but refers to them organically, as Anahita would, and expects the reader to understand from the context (which works out very well). However, there is a glossary at the back, which I referred to more than once.
The history of it fascinated me. It takes place in 19th century Iran/Persia (about 1885, the author says in her notes). Russians were starting to invade (which I had no idea about), and the modern world was starting to creep in in the smallest ways. But so much of it still felt so ancient, like it could have been any time in the last thousand years. Reading this was like becoming lost between worlds, and that was absolutely enchanting and riveting experience.
Anahita, her entire family, and several of the suitors were very well developed, and each extremely unique. I loved them all. However, I had problem with a few of the other minor characters, namely her cousin and the main antagonist (the khan), the man she did not want to marry. He was very 2-dimensional, and in fact fulfilled several stereotypical roles of bad villains, including having a pet cat he carried everywhere and was the only thing he seemed to care for at all. Much of his dialogue was terrible as well. But luckily he did not feature much into the story except as a general unseen force. Her cousin I also wish had more complexity to her, since she was referred to often, but little was done to establish her as a character who could stand on her own.
I loved the sounding board her father acted as, and through his character we could see several faults in Anahita that were not readily apparent when reading close to her. One problem resolved itself too quickly at the end in a single self-sacrificing incident that was too sudden and absolute for me, but her character was good and genuine enough that it was not a major concern of mine. The absolute lushness of the history and the surroundings where it made you feel like you were really there more than made up for any minor faults the story might have had.
The Final Word: An absolutely rich and immersive story of a little-told culture/part of history which is well looking into. It is a world to get lost into, so much that you don't really notice any faults that you might find. Definitely worth reading.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Video Killed the Radio Star by Amber Pacific [remix].
I have made another giant leap in super-hero-dom. WriterGirl now can fight the evils of the world in style. Yes! I finally have a car of my very own after a year without (there have been tears, let me tell you). My beautiful first car, a complete clunker and the perfect college car in my opinion finally could not pass emissions anymore, and so I had to give him up (there were very real tears there. I loved my little faded red hatchback like no other). But he went to a good home, and now he is running again. I even see him in the neighborhood sometimes. He even has a CD player in him now, which he certainly never had with me. I'm glad he is there. I really couldn't bear the thought of him in a junkyard.
And being in a small college town, I could walk to mile or so to the grocery store and back without too much problem (or bum rides with very nice friends). And in DC, well, the metro is awesome. So I got by pretty fine, but now as I am back home in a much bigger city with a less awesome public transportation system, I needed a car. So began the four month scouring search for a (running) vehicle worthy of WriterGirl. And I found one. Boy did I find one. Batman, Wonderwoman, you've got nothing on this (and Spiderman, I have yet to have a genetic mutation, so you don't even count).
Isn't he beautiful? It's a 2002 Saturn, manual (I'm in heaven to drive a manual again). It's got a CD player, it's got four doors (that's new), and it has AIR CONDITIONING. Nothing against my gorgeous baby, but summers are not temperate here (desert, remember), and cold air feels so nice.
And guess what? I paid for him in full. I am so happy. I've never bought anything this big before, and you can tell I'm a little more than ecstatic about it. He's a salvage title, but hey I figure, all the best superhero vehicles have to be in at least one wreck, right? Where would the batmobile be without all those explosions? Not cool, that's where. It gives them character. So rock on, I'm now a part of a team now! We're going to be close buds, I can already tell.
Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Schindler's List Main Theme by John Williams.
ElaineG! Congratulations. I can tell you were very excited about this contest. I loved seeing all the amazing entries, and I'm hoping something like this can be done again. Please contact me by email with your mailing address within 48 hours, or I will pick the next most-voted-for winner. Thanks you guys for making this such a great contest.