Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Mid-Year Reading Update

Since next Wednesday is July 1st, I'm assuming we'll have another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. I figure I'd do my semiannual reading review a little early. My Goodreads Reading Challenge is to read 150 books this year. Unfortunately, the lockdown didn't give me more time to read; if anything, I feel like I've been busier than ever. I've still managed to read fifty-nine books, but I'm currently twelve books behind schedule. Hopefully I'll be able to use a few more vacation days this summer and spend some time catching up.

Here's how my reading breaks down by genre:

Fantasy: 21
Mystery: 18
Non-Fiction: 11
Science Fiction: 5
Other Fiction: 4

By Format:

Ebook: 44
Paper: 15

Since many of the mysteries I read have a paranormal or fantasy element, I normally count them as fantasy. I was tempted to put those books in both categories, but that would have been confusing.

Here are a few of my favorite books from the past six months:

Oona Out of Order
Half Soul
The Skeptic's Guide to the Universe
The Ten Thousand Doors of January
How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse

What's your favorite book you've read this year? Feel free to share the title in the comments.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

All We All Problematic?

I've been thinking a lot about John Scalzi's recent post about generations and discrimination. One of the points of his post is that each generation has to come to terms with their biases, and their targets may differ with each generation. Just as we deplore the sexism and racism of earlier generations, in time, other generations may find their own reasons to think we're unenlightened about subjects they value. Is it ever going to be possible to free ourselves from all biases?

Unfortunately, probably not, unless human nature changes dramatically. Here are a few factors discussed in Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society. The more bonded we are to our in-group, the more we distrust outsiders. Humans require some leadership, but too much hierarchy or too much inequality leads to instability. According to Scientific American, wealth tends to become concentrated in the hands of a few over time. The more wealth you have, the easier it is to rig the scales in your favor--and perhaps even convince others that this situation is natural. We're also prone to implicit bias, though there are ways to overcome it.So if we all have biases, does this mean we're always going to have to deal with systemic discrimination?

I think this is really going to depend on how much empathy and open-mindedness we have. Open-mindedness is part of an individual's personality, but empathy can be developed, especially by reading fiction. We need to view ourselves as belonging to different groups and work to establish connections between them. We also have to learn about the ways we distort critical thinking to support our biases instead of viewing them objectively. This work may never be finished, but each of us is obliged to contribute. We become problematic when we fail to show empathy to others or change our minds when we're shown new evidence.

What do you think is the best way to tackle discrimination? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What the World Needs Now Is Hopepunk!

The year isn't halfway over, but I'm sure most of us are ready to see it go. Between the COVID-19 pandemic, massive job loss, police brutality, and rioters disrupting peaceful protests, it's obvious that our economic and political systems are failing a lot of people, especially marginalized ones. When the situation improves, we need to make systemic changes. Speculative fiction authors are leading the way in imaging what a better future would look like, particularly in genres such as solarpunk and hopepunk.

Hopepunk is a very new subgenre that was named in 2017. Like rebellions in the Star Wars universe, it is built on hope and surviving past the end times. The genre emphasizes community, kindness, and resistance. You can find examples of hopepunk stories at the link above and here. Much of Star Trek is hopepunk, as is parts of The Lord of the Rings. These stories obviously pre-date the naming of hopepunk as a separate subgenre, so the ideas have been around for a long time. However, I do think the psychological need for stories like this is greater than ever.

I have written a solarpunk story, "A Shawl for Janice," which is part of the Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters anthology. The main characters in my still-in-progress urban fantasy trilogy are kinder than many others in their community, which allows them to gather allies.

Are there elements of hopepunk in your stories? Do you have any favorite examples of hopepunk? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

June IWSG: No Secrets, Just Plans

It's hard to believe it's June, isn't it? I hope you have some perfect days this month. But first, it's time for another Insecure Writer's Support Group post. Learn more about the IWSG on their website, Facebook, and Twitter. Our hosts this month are Pat Garcia, J.Q. Rose, and Natalie Aguirre. We've been posed the following question: Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?
Well, when it comes to revealing secrets, especially online, there's only one thing for me to say, and that's...
no GIF

So, let me tell you how my writing is going instead.

My main focus at the moment is a cozy mystery with paranormal elements. It's called Murder at Magic Lake, and I currently have about 22,000 words drafted. (Yes, this is a quarantine novel.) I aim to write about 500 new words each day, or at least enough to get me to the next 500 or 1,000 mark. If I have enough time afterwards, I also try to work on Dryads and Dragons, the third book in my urban fantasy trilogy. After losing most of my first draft back in February, I'm over 24,000 words with that. A short story I submitted to an anthology back in February was rejected, though the editor was very encouraging and urged me to submit to next year's anthology. I should look it over again and send it to another market. However, I've drawn up a new marketing plan based on advice from indie author Susan Kaye Quinn, and that's going to take priority. I'll be publishing my work directly to Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple, but first I may update some blurbs and keywords for my novels. It might also be time to update the covers for Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes, since they're from 2011 and 2012. There's a lot to do, so I need to break it down into manageable tasks.We may not be able to travel anywhere this summer, but I'll still have plenty of uses for my vacation time!

Are you revealing a secret for IWSG, or did you choose another topic? Feel free to share in the comments. In the meantime, it's back to writing for me.


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