This book’s table of contents reads like an index to the last nine years of my life.
In 2012, I attended Clarion West, where I was told—among many things—that I might not be a writer, that I might become an editor instead.
Months earlier, at a small SF con called Potlatch, I met Tod McCoy. Later I would remember him for two things: 1) gleefully bidding up—and winning—a signed first edition at the benefit auction (Was it a Zelazny or a Delany?) and 2) going out of his way to welcome newcomers to the Seattle SF scene. Oh, and a third: he mentioned that he published books. (Also that weekend, I met Pocket Workshop’s cover artist, Cory Skerry, who likened novel writing to juggling, and who would soon be among my Clarion West cohort.)
Rewind another six months: Fall of 2011 saw me taking a one-day workshop from Nancy Kress and online classes from Cat Rambo. Nancy taught me about scenes and how (I’d been failing) to write them. Cat taught me everything. (And she told me that choosing not to write was perfectly valid… but that in her home, writers just f**king write.)
Jump forward again to Clarion West 2012—the summer workshop. It was finally happening. The long hours and late nights, the shared genius (real or imagined), the terror and delight at every written—every critiqued—story, the voices of instructors (which would continue speaking in my head thereafter (those of Stephen Graham Jones and Connie Willis included), and the emergence of a new family—a cohort of writers who know me better than anyone ought (two of their voices speak from these pages).
After the workshop, I returned for more, first as an assistant, then as workshop administrator, joys of which position included working with Neile Graham, witnessing students’ growth, and forging friendships with instructors (many of Pocket Workshop’s authors). I now serve on Clarion West’s board, and while I’ve loved the organization since first contact, its ongoing dedication to nurturing and promoting neglected, marginalized, and underheard voices, and to engaging with the social and literary interests of our community, make me ever happier to be counted among its number. Especially now, in the hate-drenched apocalyptic chaos of 2020 (and I’m writing this three months shy of year’s end).
Today I finished reading the 1997 Elizabeth Hand novel Glimmering. Global pandemic, environmental horror, social collapse: it felt too familiar—another morning’s trawl through Guardian headlines. I tend toward depression. It’s an effort to keep my brain from spiraling, and this year has put anti-spiraling tools to the test. Editing Pocket Workshop—reading these essays and corresponding with their authors, guzzling at the firehose of their wisdom—has helped. For me, it is one of a handful of bright foci scattered across darkness—another shining point in a vibrant constellation of hope, of future.
It’s a book for writers, yes. But also, it’s a book for people who live… now. And tomorrow.
Saturday, January 9, 2021
This book’s table of contents reads like an index to the last nine years of my life.
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
- Developmental, structural, and substantive editing
- Copyediting and proofreading
- Personalized consultation on biomedical elements of fiction and nonfiction
- Fact-checking and formatting of medical science manuscripts
- Pocket Workshop, a book of essays on writing, co-edited with Tod McCoy, 2021
- project management, developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading
- Short story by Georgina Kamsika, 2020
- developmental and line editing of "Something Beautiful That Goes Out"
- Urban ecology projects for UW professor Marina Alberti 2014 – 2019
- copyediting of 300-page textbook, Cities That Think Like Planets
- copyediting of articles for academic and lay publications
- rapid turnaround rewrites of web copy, press releases, and correspondences
- Manuscript preparation for Forte Science Communications 2016 – 2018
- copyediting manuscripts by Japanese scientists for submission to English-language journals
- helping authors rewrite articles in response to reviewers’ and journal editors' requests
- Fantasy novel by Michael & Linda Pearce 2017
- copyediting of a self-published 400-page book, Lord of the North
- Workshop administrator, Clarion West Writers Workshop 2014 – 2017
- coordinating and running annual six-week residential workshop
- recruiting instructors for, coordinating, and monitoring one-day workshops
- interacting and collaborating with dozens of professional writers and editors
- Graduate student and postdoctoral trainee, UW School of Public Health 2010 – 2011
- collecting, analyzing, and reporting environmental and occupational health data
- writing manuscripts and presentations based on original research
- line editing and proofreading colleagues’ manuscripts
- Chief resident, clinical and anatomic pathology, University of New Mexico 2009 – 2010
- writing and editing pathology reports, clinical laboratory protocols, research findings, didactic presentations, and administrative documents
- University of Washington — Certificate in Editing — 2020
- University of Kansas, Gunn Center Novel Workshop — 2017
- Clarion West Writers Workshop — 2012
- University of Washington, School of Public Health — 2010–2011
- University of New Mexico, School of Medicine — Pathology Residency — 2006–2010
- University of Washington, School of Medicine — Doctor of Medicine — 2002–2006
- Tulane University, School of Public Health — Master of Public Health — 2001–2002
- Seattle Pacific University, Biochemistry — Bachelor of Science — 1998–2000
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Rendezvous with Rama - Arthur C. Clarke
A classic. Good science fiction book.
The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell
Pure genius, start to finish... and great narration for the audiobook. I absolutely recommend this book; Easily in my top 50 ever.
The Golem and the Jinni - Helene Wecker
So, so good. If you haven't read it, do so. The audiobook is brilliant.
Nexus - Ramez Naam
Crux - Ramez Naam
Apex - Ramez Naam
Excellent near-future science-fictional techno-thriller trilogy. Great fun—and they make you think. A lot. Full of stimulating speculations and plausible extrapolations about technology, neurobiology, politics, warfare, religion, and human relationships.
Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson
Oh, holy hell, yes! Of course, anything from KSR is going to be amazing, but this... this... well, go read it (or listen to it).
2312 - Kim Stanley Robinson
Wait, hang on... if Aurora got a ten, 2312 gets at least an eleven? Because, yeah, this one is even better. Well... I don't know if it's actually better, but it affected me more. An absolute masterpiece.
The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
A classic—and for good reason. Excellent book. If you haven't read it, do.
Bel Canto - Ann Patchett
Thoroughly enjoyable. Especially if you're into opera.
Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami
I wanted this book to go on forever. So beautiful!
The Water Knife - Paolo Bacigalupi
Terrific book. More environmental thriller maybe than SF (and thrillers aren't typically my thing), but wow, did it keep me rapt! I loved The Windup Girl, Pump Six, and Shipbreaker, but I feel like the characters in The Water Knife are even more real and alive. As their paths converge, collide, and become inextricably tangled, all of their motivations, actions, and responses are entirely real... and their outcomes are earned. A gritty delight.
SevenEves - Neal Stephenson
YES! The first half destroyed me; the second half reconstituted the debris. Amazing book. I listened to it shortly after it came out (May) and hardly a day has passed since that I haven't thought about it.
The Buried Giant - Kazuo Ishiguro
So strange. Beautiful. Ultimately, I loved this book, but it was... different. Quite possibly perfect.
We Are All Completely Fine - Daryl Gregory
Brilliant novella. Engaging, compelling, thought-provoking, emotionally moving, and funny. I feel like the characters are still living in my head—they pop up every now and again to remind me that the world is a very weird place.
Harrison Squared - Daryl Gregory
Super fun Lovecraftian YA novel featuring [spoilers] one of the characters from We Are All Completely Fine. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope Daryl gives us more novels from this world!
Passage - Connie Willis
Damnit, Connie! Why? WHY? WHY? I'm pretty sure I'll never completely recover from this one. Wow. SO good. Possibly my favorite Connie Willis novel (which is saying a lot, given that my older daughter's middle name came from Connie's Doomsday Book). Intense and heart-crushing exploration of death, hope, grief, love, disasters, stupidity, brilliance, and resilience (romance and comedy make their appearances too, of course—it is a Connie Willis novel, after all).
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - David Mitchell
Mitchell at his finest. I can't recommend this book enough. So good. And the narration in the audiobook (by two different narrators) is superb.
The Peripheral - William Gibson
If it weren't for Aurora, 2312, and SevenEves, and Passage, I'd say that The Peripheral was the best science fiction audiobook on the list... but given those other four, I'll just say it's one of the five best science fiction audiobooks on the list. Really, though, this is a positively brilliant and expertly executed book. I LOVED it.
Cujo - Stephen King
Another classic. Very effective.
In progress: The Years of Rice and Salt - Kim Stanley Robinson
I'm about three-quarters of the way through this massive tome... and unless it falls apart somehow (which I can't imagine it doing), it's on track to be among my favorite books ever.
Books (print or electronic)
Alif the Unseen - G. Willow Wilson
Really wonderful YA novel. Read it!
The Child Garden - Geoff Ryman
This is a strange and wonderful book. Deeply moving and thoroughly original. Also a great one for opera lovers.
A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
So good. This book inhabits that marvelous realm where literary and speculative fiction intersect. If you haven't read it, you're in for a treat.
All Those Vanished Engines - Paul Park
Unlike anything else I've read. I loved it... but I don't know how/where to classify it. Scenes and images from this book play in my mind over and over again and every time I think about it, I discover new ways to see it. This is one that I definitely need to read again. And you should read it too so that we can talk about it.
The Dragons of Heaven - Alyc Helms
So, so good! SO MUCH FUN! Wow. A wild and brilliant mix of noir, adventure, fantasy, and romance. And DRAGONS! Oh, but these are not the dragons you've known before. These dragons... wow... they might just stir up feelings that... well... read the book for yourself. But don't blame me if you love it in ways you might never have expected.
Caution: If you start this book, you won't be able to put it down... and when you've finished it, you'll want more. Good news, though, the sequel, The Conclave of Shadow, is coming this April!
Seriously Wicked - Tina Connolly
What a riot! Seriously, this book rocks. Funny, smart YA fantasy. Couldn't put it down. Can hardly wait for the next in the series, Seriously Shifted, to come out next fall.
MARTians - Blythe Woolston
Blythe, Blythe, Blythe... what a book. This YA novel shows us an all too plausible dystopian future—though not your typical dystopian future. This is a future of compulsory consumerism... and it is scary. But the characters are so goddamned beautiful—and the ways that they learn to carry on and find hope and happiness... well, it's inspiring.
Solitaire - Kelley Eskridge
Such a great book! So much to think about in this one. And such wonderful characters. I love books that take me deep into the mind of another... and this one is all about living inside. I'll be reading this one again before long, and I can hardly wait for the forthcoming film adaptation, OtherLife.
Three Songs for Roxy - Caren Gussoff
Beautiful and brilliant novella. I loved every word of it! It's an aliens-among-us story... but more than that, it's story about people and commonalities despite apparent differences... and embracing love when and where it finds you.
Experimental Film - Gemma Files
So creepy and awesome! The characters feel like people you know (some like the people you wish you didn't know), their fears and motivations become your own. The gods and ghosts that affect them will haunt and harass you, and you'll never be able to unsee the images that this book projects onto your brain. But you'll be glad that you read it... and, like me, you'll be eager for more of Files' fiction.
Shelter - Susan Palwick
Lovely, amazing book about empathy and forgiveness and transformation... and artificial intelligence and high-tech houses and robot companions. Art, science, religion, philosophy, technology, medicine, psychology—these are the threads of which Shelter is woven... but the tapestry itself is a story—the story of a person and of the lives that that person touches, loves, tortures, serves, protects, and destroys... and of how that person is, over the course of her life, transformed and redeemed. Read the book and you'll be transformed too... for the better.
The Devourers - Indrapramit Das
Where do I even begin. This book dug its claws into me and tore me apart—completely shredded me... and then it ate me alive, spat out the bones, set them on fire, and then coaxed a phoenix of pure, elated joy from my ashes. This book... this fucking book... Holy hell! It is THE book.
Oh... but it's not available just yet in the USA. You can get hold of the Penguin India edition if you hunt around, or hold tight till summer of 2016, when it'll be published in the USA by Del Rey (put it on your wish lists and start asking your libraries and bookstores to order it as soon as it's available).
Look to Windward - Iain M. Banks
Good book. Not my favorite of his, perhaps, but still, amazing. Of course, to say that a book is not my favorite Iain M. Banks book is like saying that Laphroaig 10 isn't my favorite Laphroaig: no, this isn't the Iain M. Banks book that I would put at the top of my list, but it's still an Iain M. Banks Culture novel, so it's gonna be high on any list of SF books I ever assemble.
All the Birds in the Sky - Charlie Jane Anders
Easily one of my favorite books of the year—of the decade, even. A masterful marriage of science fiction and fantasy in a book that glows with fun and joy. It's exciting, romantic, smart, funny, inspiring—it's everything that a book should be... oh... everything except available. But don't worry. It'll be on shelves just 27 days from now (January 26, 2016!). So hurry up and preorder it! You will LOVE it.
In progress: Lament for the Afterlife - Lisa Hannett
I'm only a quarter of the way in, but I'm pretty sure this is going to be among the best of the best of the past several years. I won't say more yet, but wow... it's something new and amazing. Go buy it and read it so that we can talk about it.
And then there are two others that I read and loved but that aren't available yet. I did get permission from the authors to talk about them, though (hence this updated version of the post... for those of you who read the original), so here we go:
The Riverbank - Kij Johnson
The Wind In the Willows has always been one of my favorite books. I think I've read it at least five times. I can hardly wait to read it to my girls. But it has some problems. Mostly... where the hell are all the female animals?
In Kij's masterful sequel, The Riverbank, (Small Beer Press, 2017) this problem is remedied! AND the story is brilliant. SO MUCH FUN! It is a perfect, natural extension of Kenneth Graham's classic—both a worthy homage from a loving fan and an ingenious extrapolation by one of the best writers. In Riverbank, the characters with whom I grew up continue their adventures (or their attempts to avoid adventure), but they are joined by several folk, all of whom instantly feel as though they've always been part of the story, and now, in my mind, are as essential to my experience of this world as Mole, Rat, Badger, and Mr. Toad.
I am immensely excited for this book to be released to the world.
Icarus Kids - Helen Marshall
This long-awaited debut novel from World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of the collections, Gifts For the One Who Comes After and Hair Side, Flesh Side, is everything I could possibly have hoped for. And more. If you've read Helen's stories, you already know that she is one of the most talented, capable, and original writers alive today (or ever!), but getting to sink into an entire novel's worth of her writing—to inhabit the lives and minds of her characters, to learn, love, and fear their world in depth, and to experience their transformations—is a literary treat of delightful (and frightful!) immensity. Is it fantasy? Horror? Science Fiction? Magical Realism? Yes. But does its classification matter? No. Icarus Kids is. Read it (once it's available) and you'll understand that that is what matters.
Comics / Graphic Novels
I'm not going to say anything about the ongoing series, but if they're on this list, it means that I think they're great (I started a whole lot more series this year that I didn't like well enough to mention).
Saga - Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Ms. Marvel - G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
We Stand On Guard - Brian K. Vaughan & Steve Skroce
Sex Criminals - Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
Daytripper - Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá
Okay... I just read this one last week and it may just be my favorite graphic novel ever. Granted, I haven't actually read very many comics or graphic novels, but still... this would easily be among the best books of any sort that I've read. So, so good.
Unwritten - Mike Carey & Peter Gross
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Monday, December 9, 2013
I'm pretty sure that this list isn't complete (I'll add more as I remember them), and I'm not sure that all of these were actually read during the 2013 calendar year (I might have read a few of them in the final months of 2012). In any case, I only listed books that I'd recommend reading.
I also read a few hundred short stories (many of them were slush for a magazine and many others were works-in-progress, by friends), but I'll save my list of them (the published ones) for another (unlikely to ever materialize) post.
Oh, and I haven't finished Nicola Griffith's Hild yet, but it's shaping up to be one of the best books ever. Really. Go out and buy it, people. It is truly amazing. I can hardly wait to get back to it. In fact... why the heck am I blogging when I could be reading Hild?
Enough said. Here's the list:
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks
Among Others by Jo Walton
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
The Shining and Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova
Hild by Nicola Griffith
Comics and Graphic Novels
Locke & Key (vols. 1-5) by Joe Hill
From Hell by Alan Moore
Saga (vols. 1-2) by Brian K. Vaughan
Short Fiction Collections and Anthologies
Hair Side, Flesh Side by Helen Marshall
At the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson
Remember Why You Fear Me by Robert Shearman
Unpossible by Daryl Gregory
Telling Tales: The Clarion West 30th Anniversary Anthology
The Big Burn by Timothy Egan
Friday, November 2, 2012
1. What is the title of your Work in Progress?
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
As faithful readers will no doubt recall, I sometimes post my daily timed writing exercises on this blog. Some of them I later develop into longer pieces. Most of them are responses to lines pulled randomly from books around the house—lines taken completely out of context.
Back in February, I wrote on a prompt from one of H.G. Wells' late (and lesser-known) works, The Happy Turning. Later, at the Clarion West Writers Workshop, I developed it into a short story. I had so much fun writing it, and received so many intriguing suggestions from my colleagues and the instructor of the week (Stephen Graham Jones), that I began to think of it as the beginning of a novel.
Today, as I was going through my timed writing exercises, looking for the one mentioned above, I found several others, with related themes (here, here, and here). It seems that my mind has been delving into (and back out of) the grave rather frequently.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Hmmmm... difficult question. At the risk of giving too much away, I think of it as paranormal horror, disguised as a light-hearted science-fiction adventure.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I've never been one to generate a clear picture of what characters look like in books that I'm reading. The same goes for characters that I write. When it matters, for any story reason, I'll describe elements of their appearance, but when it comes down to it, I really don't care what faces my characters have in the minds of readers. I want readers to supply the face that works for them. I am, therefore, sorely tempted to boycott this question altogether.
However, to engage the spirit of the survey, I'll give it a try. But only for two of my characters, and I reserve the right to come back and alter this post later, should the faces of these actors begin to exert too heavy an influence on the natural evolution of my creations.
Ella Ferry, the protagonist, is in her mid-sixties, and is a smart, crusty, wiry, curmudgeon. Life (and a few of life's less savory emissaries) have dealt her a pretty shitty hand, but she manages to get the job done and to sort out whatever (and whoever) needs sorting. My top picks to play her would be Frances McDormand or Sigourney Weaver.
Turner Luce, a sophisticated but rather unpleasant character about whom I shouldn't divulge too much, might be well played by Ralph Fiennes or Clive Owen.
5. What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?
In the near future, technology that restores deceased persons to life proves to be a blessing for some, a curse for many, and, for a privileged few, one hell of a business opportunity.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The latter, if I'm lucky. If not... well, we'll just see how desperate I get. I don't particularly like the idea of self-publishing, as I'd rather not have to deal with any aspect of the process besides writing. Agents and publishers play important roles in turning a book into something that people might actually want to read. I'd like my novel to benefit from such expertise.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Ha ha ha ha. Good one. First draft? Past tense? Ask me again when I've written a first draft and I'll be delighted to tell you.
8. What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?
Um... we may have encountered a problem here. Although I'm sure there's nothing truly original about my novel, I'm at a loss when it comes to comparisons. I read mostly hard SF and literary classics, with a bit of fantasy and modern literary tossed into the mix. Books that feel similar to some of what I'd like to capture in this novel include:
The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (for dark, creepy, moral ambiguity)
Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (for on-the-road--or river--adventure with plenty of humor)
Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey (for tumbleweeds, old-west feel, religious zealotry, and guns-a-blazing)
The Queen of the South by Arturo Perez-Reverte (would-be damsel-in-distress defying expectations to become kick-ass, uber-pragmatic, violent-when-necessary kingpin)
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton (for secretive organizations, plot reversals, and the-completely-unexpected-seems-inevitable-ness)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson (for freaked-out, substance-fueled humor, sheer paranoia, and dry, dusty, road-trip-through-the-American-Southwest mystique)
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Part of this is answered above in question 2, but I suppose that some of my underlying interest in the idea of corporeal resurrection stems from growing up with people who believe in a literal resurrection of the dead. This novel is not a commentary on any specific religious beliefs (the mechanisms of resurrection in my story have nothing to do with those suggested by Christian traditions), but tales that I heard as a child, from both the New and Old Testaments of the Christian Bible, may have planted early seeds this project.
That would be the "what" part. As for the "who," most of the credit goes to my Clarion West cohort and Stephen Graham Jones, for giving me such enthusiastic feedback on the short story, and for giving me so many additional ideas about where I might take it.
Also, in that this story features a tough, practical, often abrasive, but ultimately caring woman as the protagonist, it is certainly inspired by many such real-life women who I know or have known.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
I will include realistic details about disease, death, and mortal remains—information gleaned from medical training (especially from forensic pathology rotations). It will be set largely in wastelands of the American Southwest, but segments of the story will occur in cities as well. I intend to explore the fuzzy line between incomprehensible technology and old-fashioned magic, and whether the distinction even matters.
Mostly, though, I just want to create something fun—fun to write and fun to read. I've been writing sad stories lately, and I want to see what it feels like to laugh and smile while typing, so if I succeed, readers can expect to be entertained.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
I don't really know very much about Neil Armstrong. He was, for me, as a child, more of a symbol than a person. I fantasized about the idea of being a Neil Armstrong more than I ever worked towards becoming one. I understand now, better than I did as a child, how unlikely it is that I will ever follow in his "small step." Even so, it was dreams of that step, dreamt as a small child, and expression of those dreams, that prompted parents and aunts and uncles to tell me, if you want to be an astronaut, you have to be good at math and science.
I don't know... maybe I would have pursued an education in science even if I hadn't spent my early years in the afterglow of the Apollo program. I don't think so. I think that all of the buzz about moon landings and the new Space Shuttle program that followed had a huge influence on my thinking. I believe that I am who I am today, in part, because of Neil Armstrong and the dreams that he and his colleagues inspired.
There are many photographs of the moon available online. Some amazing ones. Enjoy them.
Here is one that I took tonight, minutes after learning of Neil Armstrong's death.
Thank you, Mr. Armstrong. Rest in peace.