John, the dog & the cat are all passed out downstairs, so I thought I'd force myself to get up to the computer and write out my thoughts, especially since I skipped morning pages today in favor of getting to brunch before the Sunday crowd. We ended up at Ted's Escondido Mexican Cafe (there are 5 Ted's in the area - I know all kinds of details about since they're our clients at work, and I've been wanting to go to one of the restaurants for awhile. But since John doesn't care much for Mexican food, I had to ask very nicely...) - and it was unbelievable. Anybody who comes down here, we're going. Best fajitas in the world, which I already knew, but the most UNBELIEVABLE tortillas and chips and 3 kinds of salsa and queso, just for starters. Malia, you'd be in heaven. Heaven. Oh, and then we picked up some cheesecake to take home from the Cheesecake Factory, because I've been craving peanut butter cheesecake for some time now, and I can't buy peanut butter because I'll eat it all in 2 days. From the jar.
I look at blogging as part of my working life, part of my writing life, and since that's been cut into with my actual daytime job, blogging has been set aside, too. I'm very possessive of my free time, which I think most people ought to be, and I've been fortunate enough to have a job that I can write at, for the most part, although all of that changes come tax season, which is in full swing. All this to mean I've been procrastinating on a new blog entry because I have to do in my free time - and I'd rather not. I tried to convince myself that shorter entries would work just as well, but the possibilities keep piling up -
I wanted to write about Cherie Priest's Boneshaker - and my disappointment following it, and why I started skimming at about page 100. She wins an award in my book for her fantastic worldbuilding, when it comes to steampunk. But with her characters? And the actual writing? A big emotional miss. BIG miss. It reads like a mass market urban fantasy (which truthfully, I can't knock, since those are published and none of my books are, but there's a reason why they're mass market, and why the covers all have some woman's bare back imprinted with a Celtic tattoo on them, and why the plots are predictable and follow a certain pattern) but in 19th century Seattle, and with zombies, aka rotters. She does this absolutely terrific set-up of a terrific story, but nearing 200 pages, I realized I only had so many more pages to go, and this may not be as fantastic as I was gearing myself up for. Sure enough, there's suddenly a wrap-up of details, and this glorious setting and world she created is shortchanged by the events turning around, loose ends neatly taped closed, and that was that. That's the book. The set-up was the book.
So what's all the hype about, then? Just for the steampunk glory? In all the Locus recommendations, I noticed about 1/2 the entries marked it recommended, and it didn't even make the list for the other half...so, yes. Maybe those are the books I need to read.
I keep buying anthologies - ordered two more zombie ones, that are supposed to be somewhat original; I think I want some more good zombie stories because of the lack of follow-through on Boneshaker's 'rotters'. Also, the Strahan ones keep hitting the mark lately, and every other one falls short - why is that? I bought Strahan's Starry Rift, and the New Space Opera 2 - which is already unbelievable, in a way I can hardly process through. I don't have that kind of scientific brain, but the more I read, hopefully the more I'll learn. Plus, Strahan's Best of Volume 4 should be coming out soon. Oh, and I still the 'Secret History of Science Fiction' or something like that to read, too. And Locus recommended several more anthos which I'll be ordering soon.
Then there's the slush patterns I've been seeing lately - polished, boring-as-hell stories. No, not boring as hell, somewhat interesting. But they're not enough. Not even anywhere close. The writing is fine, but there's no level of expertise shown, about anything. Steve Chapman and I were talking about this last week - how an author has to take the reader to a different world, no matter what kind of world it is. Here, he says it better than me:
"As a reader I feel like that's an important demand I make of an author: get me convincingly inside the workings of worlds I have no access to. Show me something I haven't seen before. It doesn't have to be another planet. It could be how the drug trade works in Baltimore. If you do it well, it's still taking me to another world."
Good, yes? That's what's not happening in these submissions. They're too simple. Unlayered. Un-intriguing. Not unusual enough. There's not much I can say when I click on 'reject' other than not right for this magazine. The story is written fine - it's not impressive, it's just kind of there. But it doesn't wow me - and every single time I claim a slush submission, I hope to be wowed.
Let's see - made a cheddar, onion, herb loaf for John in the bread machine. Good, but you couldn't even tell there was cheddar & onion in it. Oh well. Also baked a very large loaf of French bread to go with lasagna last night - which might have been the best lasagna I've made yet, so John should be set with leftovers all week.
I get to see Shannon this weekend in Houston - a short trip, Friday night to Sunday afternoon, but I desperately need family time. It's been a terribly hard week with Mom, how much I've missed her. I was talking with a woman at work - she just had a quadruple heart bypass, and she was talking about how cranky she was all the time, how this surgery changed her in so many ways, and I said I understand - I haven't been the same since Mom died. She said really? You really haven't? I didn't know whether to be glad or offended - of course I initially picked the latter - how could I get over something like this quickly? It's been more traumatic for me than anything else I've ever gone through in my life, and I was so offended that someone I work with, that I see every single day, thought I was just fine. And it's only been six months. Or maybe she thinks that because I act just fine. I suppose that's the case - how else is one supposed to act, anyway, when society requires you to go on with your life as a normal, functioning person?
Anyway, I'm very excited to see Shannon, especially since we were robbed of Christmas in Houston by the uncharacteristic blizzarding here. And a Chicago trip, asap. I want to go now, but baby Youngerman will be born sooner rather than later...and I must, must, must see him...