Thoughts from a Harry Potter Reread: Prisoner of Azkaban Edition

aka “the best book,” according to people who don’t realize the true awesomeness of Order of the Phoenix.

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1. An Insufferable Know-It-All: The more I reread, the more I realize just HOW MUCH I’m like Hermione, including her not-so-great points. Like thinking she Always Knows Best. Always. I can’t even imagine how obnoxiously like her I was at 13.

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2. Dying Words: HOW did I not realize how horrific this book is? 13 year old Harry hears his mum’s dying words whenever he gets near to a Dementor. And there’s a part of him that wants to keep hearing it, because it’s the only thing he remembers her saying. WHY, JKR, WHY.

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3. A Class Of One: I know Hermione is dedicated to her studies, but if she literally the only person in her other classes? How could she have one at the same time as Charms, when all the Gryffindors take Charms together? Why were the exams scheduled at the same time — because, again, every single Gryffindor is taking Divination. And if it was just her, why weren’t they just scheduled in free time?

(Also, as someone who fought the administration for the right to take extra subjects in highschool… SO RIDICULOUSLY LIKE HERMIONE, guys. Why would I want to put myself through that?? If I’d had access to a timeturner, I’d probably have taken every subject too).

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Romeo and Juliet Live

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Last week, I was lucky enough to go and see the live broadcast of Kenneth Branagh’s Romeo and Juliet, starring Cinderella and Robb Stark, aka Lily James and Richard Madden. The play was performed in London, and we watched a livestream of it in a cinema in Leeds, along with other cinemas all over the world. It was the first time I’ve ever done something like that, and it was fantastic.

This production was set in the 1950s, and to capture that feeling, the entire thing was streamed in black and white. It’s also notable for having Derek Jacobi as a much older than usual Mercutio, which was a really fun and interesting choice. It was a slightly confusing experience at times, because I really wanted to applaud at the end, even though I was actually in a movie theatre hundreds of miles away from the actors. But it combined the energy of a play with the camerawork of a movie, and it was magical to watch.

I realized, as I watched, that I’d never really seen Romeo and Juliet performed. I haven’t studied it since the equivalent of sophomore year, when I had the world’s worst English teacher and didn’t learn anything at all, except perhaps that I hated my English teacher.

It was so different experiencing it now. As a fifteen year old, I thought the play was stupidly melodramatic. I didn’t realize that it was meant to be melodramatic, because the main characters are teenagers. And this adaptation really emphasized that.

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Thoughts from a Harry Potter Reread: Chamber of Secrets Edition

I’m seeing Cursed Child at the end of the month, which means it’s time for my first full Harry Potter reread since Deathly Hallows came out!

Obviously, I have some thoughts. Chamber of Secrets was always my least favorite of the books, and the one I’ve read the least. So a lot of stuff stuck out to me this time. Like…

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1. Evil Brother: are we supposed to assume that Percy is opening the Chamber of Secrets before the big reveal? The book seemed to go out of its way to make him look Really Suspicious.

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2. Possessed by Voldemort: As a kid, I never realized how sad Ginny’s story is in Chamber of Secrets. She’s only 11, and she’s possessed by Voldemort. She tells Voldemort all of her feelings and her secrets, and because she unwittingly confides in him, he steals her soul and forces her to do terrible things, including attacking Hermione. Poor, poor Ginny.

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June

June News

  • EpicReads revealed the cover for Long May She Reign! You can find out more about the book here.
  • Long May She Reign is now also available for preorder! It’ll be released on February 21st 2017.
  • I was interviewed by Kayla Dean for her Millennial Writers series. We talked about fairy tales, feminism and finding an agent, and what it means to be a “millennial writer.”

 

June Writing

  • I’ve been reviewing this year’s Hugo Nominees for Best Novel: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson; The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin; Uprooted by Naomi Novak. The final two are coming next month!
  • My newfound Hamilton obsession found me exploring how the musical deals with Eliza, and her absence from the historical narrative.
  • After watching a Let’s Play of Undertale, I talked about the game’s metaness and how it plays with our expectations.
  • After watching the new season of Orange is the New Black, I talked about the show’s moral complexity, and whether that does a disservice to the victims of violence and abuse.

 

June Books

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  • The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin. Fantasy with a really great worldbuilding and an inventive structure. Sometimes a bit slow, but a good read.
  • The Way To Game The Walk of Shame by Jenn P Nguyen. YA contemporary with a protagonist who wants to make sure we know she’s not like other girls.
  • Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. A beast of a book that definitely wants to put the science in science fiction.

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Long May She Reign Cover Reveal — And Now Available for Preorder!

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After sitting on this for far too long, I’m finally able to share more info about Long May She Reign. Specifically, the cover! And the blurb!

First, a little more detail about what Long May She Reign is about…

Freya was never meant to be queen. Twenty third in line to the throne, she never dreamed of a life in the palace, and would much rather research in her laboratory than participate in the intrigues of court. However, when an extravagant banquet turns deadly, and the king and his courtiers are poisoned, Freya suddenly finds herself on the throne.

Freya may have survived the massacre, but she is far from safe. The nobles don’t respect her, her councillors want to control her, and with the mystery of who killed the king still unsolved, Freya knows that a single mistake could cost her the kingdom – and her life.

Freya is determined to survive, and that means uncovering the murderers herself. Until then, she can’t trust anyone. Not her advisors. Not the king’s dashing and enigmatic illegitimate son. Not even her own father, who always wanted the best for her, but also wanted more power for himself.

As Freya’s enemies close in and her loyalties are tested, she must decide if she is ready to rule… and, if so, how far she is willing to go to keep the crown.

And then, the cover…

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Long May She Reign Cover Reveal

Guy, guys, guys.

The final cover for my next book, Long May She Reign, just arrived in my inbox.

I am in love. It’s gorgeous.

The cover will appear both on the blog here and on EpicReads on June 27th, but if you’d like to get a peek at the cover and a sneaky little excerpt of the book before then, be sure to sign up to my newsletter. I’ll be mailing them out to subscribers only on Friday June 24th.

Can’t wait to share it with you all!

Why are Let’s Plays so popular??

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time watching Let’s Play videos on Youtube. In my defense, I just discovered jacksepticeye, and he’s such a sweetheart, and he has so many videos, and it makes me happy to watch them while cleaning or knitting or lazing about… but still, I’ve had plenty of moments where I’ve thought, “Am I really spending hours watching a stranger play video games??”

Because it’s kind of weird, right? Let’s Plays — in which Youtubers record themselves playing video games — are the most popular type of videos on Youtube (the most popular Let’s Player, Pewdiepie, has over 45 million subscribers). But video games are meant to be played, not watched. Why would so many people bypass that key part of video games and enjoy watching a random person playing them instead??

In my opinion, it all comes down to that desire to share experiences. I think there are two types of people in the world: the people who want to soak in a movie in silence, and the people who want to comment on it as they watch. I’m very much in the second camp — movies are way more fun when you can keep up a running commentary with your friends. And Let’s Plays offer a similar experience of video games for those of us in that second group.

If the video is of a game you aren’t familiar with, then you want to see what happens next, and you want to share that first time experience with a Youtuber who is cracking jokes or laughing or getting emotional, enhancing the experience. And if you are familiar with the game, Let’s Plays are all about reliving it vicariously through another person’s first reactions. This is why I’m addicted to Let’s Plays of Undertale in particular — there are so many hilarious and shocking and heartbreaking moments that I can’t wait to see the player respond to.

Really, it’s like the appeal of compilations of Red Wedding reactions a couple of years ago. There’s fun in seeing someone else’s shock or delight at something that previously shocked or delighted us. We can’t experience it for the first time again, but we can relive that feeling through them.

Of course, Let’s Plays all come down to the Youtuber’s personality. I guess there must be people who watch 100% for the games, but if I only cared about the games, I’d just be playing them myself. It has to be a game that grips me and that I want to experience more of, but in the end, it’s mostly about who’s playing it. Let’s Plays create the illusion of hanging out with a friend and experiencing a video game story together. So the Youtuber has to seem like someone you would want to hang out with.

And why watch a video of a game you’ve never played, instead of playing it yourself? Well, because some games are inaccessible to some people — I can’t play Until Dawn or Uncharted 4, for example, because I don’t have a PS4. Sometimes people love video games but can’t afford every one they want to play. Sometimes people want to check it out a bit before they buy. And sometimes, it’s not about the game at all. Sometimes you’d never play the game yourself, but laughing with someone else over it is fun. It’s all about the commentary of the person playing.

Still, it’s an incredibly weird phenomenon, and I’ve no idea how anyone first thought to do it. But as I get cosy on my sofa and watch jacksepticeye get emotional over Asriel in Undertale while I’m too sick to do much of anything myself, I kinda love it nonetheless.

Starting my Hugo reading

I’ve been having a mini-vacation over the past week, which has given me the perfect excuse to start my Hugo Award reading for the year!

The Hugo Awards are great, because anyone can get a membership and vote for them. They also suck, because the voting system can be easily gamed, leading to incredibly excessive drama over the past couple of years.

My summary of the drama last year:

And a quick blog post of the drama this year.

But whatever. Despite all that, I’m hyped to read pretty much every novel on the nomination list. I’m reading so much YA most of the year that I don’t get around to many books that aren’t YA. Hugo Award season is my chance to catch up!

So. I just finished reading Uprooted by Naomi Novak, which had the double honor of being a book I’ve wanted to read for ages and for being the most easily borrowed from my library. Full thoughts will be going up on FeministFiction when I come back from vacation next week, but for now, I’ll say that I really, really liked it. It’s an original fairy-tale-esque fantasy, and it’s so creepy and compelling and wonderful. I’m not sure I liked it quite as much as other people seemed to, but I’m glad I read it!

Next for me is probably The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin, which I know very little about, except that it’s supposed to be good. It looks like a fantasy end-of-the-world type novel, about a woman crossing to the ends of the earth to rescue her daughter.

Then there’s Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. It looks like more of a ~conceptual~ novel than the others, which could be good, could be bad. Last time I encountered Neal Stephenson, it was his cyberpunk Snow Crash, when I was in college. I was supposed to read it for a class on science fiction and colonialism. I only got through maybe three chapters of it. I was super stressed and busy with my thesis, so it might not be the book’s fault that I ditched it and faked my way through the discussion class. Then again, it might be. We’ll see.

Next, Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. This is the final book in her trilogy about gender and colonialism and identity and all those things my college sci-fi class would have loved, and I’m excited to read it. I looooved the other two books, and find the protagonist fascinating. But still, haven’t read this one, because it’s not available in my library, and seriously, that’s how far behind in my non-YA reading I am. So. Soon!

And finally, there’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher, which seems like the one I’m least likely to enjoy, based entirely on the cover, which is very Dude Goes On An Adventure. Buuuut I’ve been told that I probably will like it when I pick it up, so I’m intrigued about what it’s going to be like.

Then on top of that, there’s all the novellas and short stories and categories like that… those are far more affected by all the weird drama this year, and I had a very bad experience reading the drama-voted short stories last year, BUT there’s some Brandon Sanderson and some other intriguing looking things hidden there, so… we’ll see.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my cat is trying to steal my frappuccino, and I think I’m going to have to fight her for it. Later, guys!

Copy Edits

Thank god for copy editors.

Editors basically work to make a story better, and to prevent the authors from looking like idiots. The main editor mostly works on big picture stuff, helping the novel be the best it can be. Copy editors, meanwhile, work on the tiny little details. They fix grammar and punctuation, standarize spelling and capitalization and word-use to the “house style,” and, perhaps most importantly, are absolute geniuses who catch the author’s little contradictions that got lost in 100,000 words of fantasy narrative.

Seriously. Geniuses. Like “on page three you said the building had one tower, but here on page 303 you say towers — which is it?” level super-brains. They’re the people who notice that you said something happened three days ago, but the characters have only slept twice. They catch that your character had blue eyes in most of the novel, but grey eyes in this one scene. They are fantastic at pulling out logical inconsistencies in the novel, the brain-hiccups that come up when you spend hundreds of hours revising and refining a story and forget to account for certain changes all the way through.

Unfortunately, this can mean that reviewing your copy edits leads to pulling-out-your-hair frustration. It’s a bit embarrassing to see that you mixed up “further” and “farther” for the 500th time (sorry, wonderful copy editor!). But when they bring up a logical flaw that should have been obvious, but somehow you missed on the five million times you read the book, and now you have about a week to fix it? Eeek.

But at least the copy editor found it for you before the book went to print. They are indispensable, magical beings.

Copy editing also makes me realize that, no matter how much I think I understand the differences between British English and American English, I never really know all the differences. For example, America, why don’t you say “dreamt” instead of “dreamed”? That “t” is really nice, I promise. It adds a satisfying little click to the end of the word. And wouldn’t you rather move towards something instead of just toward it? What did the letter s ever do to you?

I write in “American English” these days, after four years at an American college, and three years with an American publisher, but… I don’t, really. I write a horrifying hybrid of British and American, where ‘z’s spring to my fingers and ‘u’s get lost somewhere along the way, but which still makes my American copy editor scream in frustration because dammit, forward doesn’t need an s at the end!

As I write this, I have two more days left to review my copy edits and work on fixing these problems. Two more days, and then the novel gets locked down. This becomes the version that is printed for review copies. It becomes hard to make changes that aren’t on a typo-level. Scary stuff. But less scary with a genius copy editor on my side!

Starting Again

About a year ago, I shut down the blog part of my author website, because… well, because I needed a break, really. 2015 was an intense year for me, and 2016 has been the same. My first novel hit the shelves, I had to write my first book sold on contract (what if my editor didn’t like it??), and I had a lot of Big Questions, like What Does It Mean To Be An Author Online? And, What Do I Even Want To Do Right Now Anyway?

Not quite “what is the meaning of life?”, but enough that writing here became a bit confusing, and it was the commitment that had to go, at least while I cleared my head.

But I’ve cleared my head for a year now, and I miss writing here. I’ve played with all the different social media platforms, but in the end, I’m a writer, and nothing beats a good long written ramble for me. I’ve been an internet oversharer since the days of Livejournal, and I have thoughts to share.

If you’d visited my website before, you might notice that there’s a lot less of it now than there was before. That’s an experiment too, inspired by the idea that busyness just makes everything far more stressful and confusing than it needs to be. I’m trying this whole “simplicity” thing in my life (definitely more on that later), and I wanted the website to reflect that. Hopefully there’s still everything you might need here.

Plus now there’s a blog. Again. So what can you expect? Well, not thoughts on feminism in fiction, that’s for sure — for that, head over to my other website. But there’ll be other stuff. Things about writing! And books! Thoughts about dealing with anxiety as a writer. Life adventurers from Ye Olde England, where I live. Just — my brain, basically, in word form on the internet.