Episode 22: The Expanse series and N. K. Jemisin’s Masterclass

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss The Expanse series by James S. A. Corey and a new Masterclass N. K. Jemisin Teaches Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing.

Morning Chatter

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey

Humanity has colonized the solar system—Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond—but the stars are still out of our reach.

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, the Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for—and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to the Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations—and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

 From goodreads.com

Discussion

James S. A. Corey is the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank. The story started as an RPG.

Worldbuilding in The Expanse series is excellent.

The audiobook versions are excellent.

Because we are at very different parts in the series, the discussion attempts to be completely spoiler-free!

Will we watch the television series? Will we keep reading the series? Will the things we hope will happen for the characters come to fruition?

Other readers who we talk to about science fiction books like and recommend this series – being in a community of readers is pretty awesome.

Here are two options for what I think will happen. Option A and Option B.

Marian

You know how there are all the other letters of the alphabet, C through Z. I feel like that is a spoiler way free to tell you that you are really going to like reading this book to see what happens.

Lissa

N. K. Jemisin Teaches Fantasy and Science Fiction Writing is an amazing Masterclass and also N. K. Jemisin is an amazing writer. We are slightly more eloquent or at least more verbose when we discuss it on the podcast.

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa will really, truly, probably, read and discuss two fantasy books written for youth, which Marian read in her youth and Lissa has not read. Yet.

  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
  • The Book of Three The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 1 by Lloyd Alexander

Pssst! Want to See Something Cool?

Marian’s first book A Little Touch of Magic is now available! There are fairies. Someone has a tail. Must be a fairytale. Buy it wherever books are sold, especially for the middle grade fantasy readers in your life.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

Episode 21: The Splendid and the Vile

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

Morning Chatter

The Splendid and the Vile

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally–and willing to fight to the end.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports–some released only recently–Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments. 

Discussion Questions

  • How real is real, even when exhaustively researched?
  • Does this make you want to keep a detailed diary? How will personal text messages or emails be treated in future memoirs and historical record?
  • What can we learn as writers from this book? How does this story turn reality into an exciting/interesting narrative that follows the “rules” of fiction?
  • Why did it take each of us so long to read this book?

Bonus Book in Progress

We are both currently reading The Power of Ritual: How to Create Meaning and Connection in Everything You Do by Casper ter Kuile and bringing some of the sacred reading suggestions into our discussion here.

  • Reading about other people improves our ability to understand and cooperate with others and ultimately to understand ourselves
  • Could this book, The Splendid and the Vile, or the original speeches by Churchill, or some of the letters or diaries– be something for a sacred reading/discussion? What would we each want to choose as a sacred text?

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa will read and discuss two fantasy books written for youth, which Marian read in her youth and Lissa has not read. Yet.

  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
  • The Book of Three The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 1 by Lloyd Alexander

Pssst! Want to See Something Cool?

Marian’s first book A Little Touch of Magic is now available! There are fairies. Someone has a tail. Must be a fairytale. Buy it wherever books are sold, especially for the middle grade fantasy readers in your life.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

Episode 20: Why Fish Don’t Exist

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller

Morning Chatter

  • Why aren’t we discussing The Splendid and the Vile yet?
  • What else have we been reading lately when we were supposed to be reading The Splendid and the Vile?
  • Reading: Uncharted Territory by Connie Willis, The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  • Watching: Gravity Falls, Ghosts, Space Sweepers

Why Fish Don’t Exist

A wondrous debut from an extraordinary new voice in nonfiction, Why Fish Don’t Exist is a dark and astonishing tale of love, chaos, scientific obsession, and—possibly—even murder.

David Starr Jordan was a taxonomist, a man possessed with bringing order to the natural world. In time, he would be credited with discovering nearly a fifth of the fish known to humans in his day. But the more of the hidden blueprint of life he uncovered, the harder the universe seemed to try to thwart him. His specimen collections were demolished by lightning, by fire, and eventually by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—which sent more than a thousand of his discoveries, housed in fragile glass jars, plummeting to the floor. In an instant, his life’s work was shattered.

Many might have given up, given in to despair. But Jordan? He surveyed the wreckage at his feet, found the first fish he recognized, and confidently began to rebuild his collection. And this time, he introduced one clever innovation that he believed would at last protect his work against the chaos of the world.

When NPR reporter Lulu Miller first heard this anecdote in passing, she took Jordan for a foola cautionary tale in hubris, or denial. But as her own life slowly unraveled, she began to wonder about him. Perhaps instead he was a model for how to go on when all seemed lost. What she would unearth about his life would transform her understanding of history, morality, and the world beneath her feet.

Part biography, part memoir, part scientific adventure, Why Fish Don’t Exist reads like a fable about how to persevere in a world where chaos will always prevail.

Quotes

You matter, Reader.

“While other people don’t matter, either, treat them like they do.”
― Lulu Miller, Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

“Slowly, it came into focus. This small web of people keeping one another afloat. All these minuscule interactions- a friendly wave, a pencil sketch, some plastic beads strung up a nylon cord- they might not look like much from the outside, but for the people caught inside that web? They might be everything, the very tethers that keep one bound to this planet.”
― Lulu Miller, Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

“When I give up the fish, I get, at long last, that thing I had been searching for: a mantra, a trick, a prescription for hope. I get the promise that there are good things in store. Not because I deserve them. Not because I worked for them. But because they are as much a part of Chaos as destruction and loss. Life, the flip side of death. Growth, of rot.”
― Lulu Miller, Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

Little known fact: If Lissa really loves you, she probably texts you screenshots from this app: Fish: a tap essay by Robin Sloan but if you don’t know her well enough for that yet, download it for yourself!

“The best way of ensuring you don’t miss them (the good things in store), these gifts, the trick that has helped me squint at the bleakness and see them more clearly, is to admit, with every breath, that you have no idea what you are looking at. To examine each object in the avalanche of Chaos with curiosity, with doubt.”
― Lulu Miller, Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life

Discussion Questions for further thinking, because you will definitely want to read this and discuss it with you friends

Cheesecake, from the small web of people keeping one another afloat in Lissa’s life. This podcast is another obviously delicious example.

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa read and discuss Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. For real this time. Not like the previous TWO episodes when we discussed other books after advertising that we would discuss the Erik Larson.

Pssst! Want to See Something Cool?

Marian’s first book A Little Touch of Magic is now available! There are fairies. Someone has a tail. Must be a fairytale. Buy it wherever books are sold, especially for the middle grade fantasy readers in your life.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

Episode 19: Cozy Mysteries: Reading and Writing

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss reading and writing cozy mysteries.

Morning Chatter

Cozy Mysteries and Writing Craft books

Marian read:

Lissa read:

What we discussed:

  • Could you, would you, write a mystery?
  • Does the “cozy” aspect make murder more palatable?
  • Did you notice that cozies predominantly feature female protagonists?
  • How does one plan and plot and outline a more complicated story when one usually is not a planner?

Free Cat Content

This episode ends with some free cat content, coinciding with our very first SURPRISE PODCAST GUEST. If you like purring, you’ll like this last bit quite a lot!

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa read and discuss Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.

Pssst! Want to See Something Cool?

Marian’s first book is launching in February 2021 and the preorder link for the ebook is available here.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

Episode 18: Books We Wish We Read in 2020

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss the NPR’s Best Books of 2020 Book Concierge selections, particularly Books We Wish We Read in 2020

Morning Chatter

  • Why are we so tired after NaNoWriMo?
  • Holiday Baking Traditions: candied orange peels, caramels, carrot cookies, briecelets.
  • Reflecting on our NaNoWriMo2020 experiences: finishing our 50,000 words, story structure, missing writing at in person events, word crawls, what we learned.

What is the NPR Book Concierge?

The Book Concierge is NPR’s annual, interactive, year-end reading guide. Mix and match tags to filter results and find the book that’s perfect for you or someone you love.

It’s been a year of reading slump. Marian thought this would be a good idea because we could take a look at what we would have read, if we had a good reading year.

Lissa’s Books We Wish We Read in 2020

Books Lissa Bought, Read, Loved

Books Lissa Started but Didn’t Finish, Yet

Books Lissa Has Bought But Not Read, Yet

Books that Look Interesting to Lissa

Marian’s Book We Wish We Read in 2020

Books Marian Has Bought But Not Read, Yet

Books that Look Interesting to Marian

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa read and discuss Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.

Someday we might also like to read and discuss any of all of these titles: The Glass Hotel, A Castle in the Clouds, Why Fish Don’t Exist, The Space Between Worlds, The Once And Future Witches, A Game of Fox and Squirrels, Glass Town, The Daughters of Ys, Interior Chinatown.

Pssst! Want to See Something Cool?

Marian’s first book is launching in February 2021 and the preorder link for the ebook is available here.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

Episode 17: Hate Reading Hemingway

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.

Morning Chatter

  • How can Marian invent a way to keep her new planner cover closed?
  • Should everyone buy a comfy gaming chair for their office?
  • What is hate reading and were we successful at it with this book?

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

The description of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway from goodreads.com:

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway book cover

Hemingway’s memories of his life as an unknown writer living in Paris in the twenties are deeply personal, warmly affectionate, and full of wit. Looking back not only at his own much younger self, but also at the other writers who shared Paris with him – James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald – he recalls the time when, poor, happy, and writing in cafes, he discovered his vocation. Written during the last years of Hemingway’s life, his memoir is a lively and powerful reflection of his genius that scintillates with the romance of the city. 

Discussion

Hemingway accidentally forgot to include that he was living in Paris because of Hadley’s inheritance money.

“He liked the works of his friends, which is beautiful as loyalty  but can be disastrous as judgement” Hemingway, writing about Ezra Pound

“Forgive you for what? Always talk about it or about anything. Don’t you know all writers ever talk about is their troubles?” Hemingway, describing encouragement from Sylvia Beach 

It paints a really good picture of what it is like to be someone who is struggling to find their own voice and grow in their craft.

“I wrote it and left it out.” – the end of his first marriage is not part of this book.

“…my new theory that you could omit anything if you knew that you omitted it and the omitted part would strengthen the story and make people feel something more than they understood.” Hemingway on leaving out a man’s death from the end of a story

Hemingway and Fitzgerald – WOW, so much gossip in this book! We share our best theories on the scene between Hemingway and Fitzgerald comparing personal body parts and studying the statues at the Louvre. Does Hemingway find Fitzgerald attractive? Is Hemingway mentoring Fitzgerald? Why did Hemingway hate Zelda so much?

NaNoWriMo 2020

As we move through #nanoprep season, we start thinking about our potential November projects. We are both posting on Instagram as part of #instawrimo. Lissa recently filled out several of the plot outline worksheets from NaNo Prep101 while her kid set timers and made her finish each one in 10 minutes. Highly recommended technique for exploring your ideas, quickly!

Marian was considering writing literary fiction based on A Moveable Feast but tabled that story because it isn’t the book she wants to write right now. Marian is preparing to write historical fantasy. She is preparing by creating a notebook of interesting ephemera and inspiration.

Lissa is preparing to write something like “librarian-ish on a spaceship-ish on a journey-ish” and is now pondering writing the story in the episodic memoir style of A Moveable Feast, just like Hemingway (only nothing like Hemingway.)

“Okay, but now I just thought of a new idea for my novel.”

Lissa

How do you get your main character’s voice in your head? How do you get to know that person? What will our stories become? Will we write the stories we are planning? Will we write 50,000 words in 30 days?

Did we mention? You should write a novel this November: https://nanowrimo.org/

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa reveal the amazing and interesting stories behind the stories of how their writing projects and experiences with NaNoWriMo 2020 progressed toward victory! Maybe. Probably. We hope.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

Episode 16: Old Man’s War and Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss Old Man’s War and Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi.

Morning Chatter

Marian is reviewing possible cover designs for her forthcoming book! February 2021. She’s reading many many books about hygge and evaluating everything around her for its hygge qualities. Hygge is a quality of coziness and contentment, from merriam-webster.com.

Lissa is thinking about possibilities for her recent Leadership Coach Intensive for fiction writing. She’s reading The Monsters Know What They’re Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters by Keith Ammann which is informing her fiction writing character development, as well as improving her ability to roleplay a half dozen kobolds simultaneously while gaming with her kids.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

The description of Old Man’s War by John Scalzi from goodreads.com

Book cover of Old Man's War by John Scalzi

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce– and alien races willing to fight us for them are common. So: we fight. To defend Earth, and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has been going on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force. Everybody knows that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve two years at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine–and what he will become is far stranger. 

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

The description of Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi from goodreads.com

The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity’s first interstellar friendship. There’s just one problem: They’re hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity’s trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal. Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He’s one of Hollywood’s hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it’s quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he’s going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster. 

Discussion

Old Man’s War was Marian’s first John Scalzi book. The Goodreads blurb is the setup for the story, but it can’t tell you more without ruining it.

  • Would you sign up and leave earth forever?
  • What makes us who we are? Bodies? Feelings? Experiences? Memories? Relationships?
    Everything else we talked about was spoilers!
  • What does sci fi let us talk about, themes or situations, that contemporary fiction doesn’t let us talk about quite as easily or with as much page-turning entertaining fun?
  • Agent to the Stars was Scalzi’s “practice book”. Do you think practice books are a thing? 
  • Is Agent to the Stars like other books he has written or is Old Man’s War more typical?
  • What are the big themes in John Scalzi books? How does he put several big societal themes and puts them in popular genre science fiction and make it so fun but leave you thinking?
  • What John Scalzi books are the best? (All of them.)
  • How does John Scalzi present himself on twitter or his blog versus his fiction?

NaNoWriMo 2020

As we move into #nanoprep season, we start thinking about our potential November projects, reflect on how different and also the same all-virtual NaNoWriMo could be, and look forward to #instawrimo beginning on Instagram in September 2020.

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa attempt to “Hate Read” A Moveable Feast (the 2009 edition) by Ernest Hemingway, which is to take pleasure in laughing at or criticizing  according to merriam-webster.com. We will read and discuss Hemingway’s life in Paris in the 1920s, discussing him personally and also learn from his writing. We remain somewhat open to being wrong about choosing this book for hate-reading, but we look forward to this experiment in how to hate-read and why you should try it.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

Episode 15: The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss The Time Machine by H. G. Wells and share our attempts to adapt a public domain work into a new story.

Morning Chatter

Lissa left her house on the same summer vacation she planned months ago. Marian is finishing edits on her book! (And her reward will be even more edits on another project!)

The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

The description of The Time Machine by H. G. Wells from goodreads.com

 “I’ve had a most amazing time….”

So begins the Time Traveller’s astonishing firsthand account of his journey 800,000 years beyond his own era—and the story that launched H.G. Wells’s successful career and earned him his reputation as the father of science fiction. With a speculative leap that still fires the imagination, Wells sends his brave explorer to face a future burdened with our greatest hopes…and our darkest fears. A pull of the Time Machine’s lever propels him to the age of a slowly dying Earth.  There he discovers two bizarre races—the ethereal Eloi and the subterranean Morlocks—who not only symbolize the duality of human nature, but offer a terrifying portrait of the men of tomorrow as well.  Published in 1895, this masterpiece of invention captivated readers on the threshold of a new century. Thanks to Wells’s expert storytelling and provocative insight, The Time Machine will continue to enthrall readers for generations to come.

Discussion

The Time Machine: Problems and Pleasures of reading Classic Literature

  • What do we think about the Eloi and the Morlocks and Weena?
  • If you were imagining a utopia, what would it look like? Can there even be a utopia?
  • Using a frame story, two first person narrators, a narrator who is removed from the action 
  • What’s with that ending? What do we think happened to The Time Traveler?

Challenge: Reimagining Classic Works

How did we decide to do this again? Lissa was trying to fulfill a writing dare to write fanfiction. And wondered if reimagining classic works is a kind of fanfiction. Ultimately she wrote a short story imagining Kirsten Cohen (the mom from the early 2000’s television drama The O.C.) in 2020 awaiting the birth of her first grandchild during the pandemic and racial justice protests.

Is reimagining a story more fun to write? Easier? More challenging? 
What makes it more fun for the reader? Do readers like the puzzle to see what they recognize from the original? To see what the author has changed? The familiarity with the original concept?

Reimagining of classic public domain stories can be published, unlike fanfiction based on current characters.

New Podcast Segment: Bad Idea Corner and/or Slush Pile

It’s amazing to think about and imagine stories we don’t ever have to write.

Lissa’s reimagining of Treasure Island as a Modern Middle Grades Coming of Age story.

Jemma Hawkins lives with her mom in a struggling Bed and Breakfast, and across town her father runs a pirate themed miniature golf and go-cart destination. Jemma rarely sees her father, but after a mysterious visitor arrives, her mother encourages her to spend the summer at mini golf. As Jemma gets to know her father better, she uncovers a mystery based in her parents’ past, including the slightly creepy place they met, a large amusement park called Treasure Island. Jemma and several others travel to Treasure Island in search of the secrets from the past, hoping to improve the future for her family. The maintenance worker Ben Gunn helps Jemma find what she needs, and keeps her safe from those who would hurt her in order to prevent her from succeeding. Jemma is shocked to discover that as teenagers her parents were working in a group of friends who stole, argued and ultimately betrayed each other. One of them – a woman with striking silver hair – is now determined to get revenge, confident that she can still return home to her own growing family. Jemma can’t make everything right in the piratical mess that the adults have created, but she can find the secret treasure. Once her father’s past is redeemed and her mother’s future is reassured, Jemma can focus on her next adventure: high school.

Marian’s reimagining of The Great Gatsby in Space.

The glittering city of Agorith has long been a playground both for the established aristocracy of the galaxy and those who seek to join them.

Kase, the ambitious son of prosperous but provincial merchants, has arrived in the city looking to make his fortune. Using his family connections, he has managed to secure small quarters that overlook the truly fabulous homes of the rich. His neighbors fascinate him, especially one who seems to exist more in rumor than in flesh, Harlin.

When he visits his cousin, Lylah, he learns that her marriage isn’t a happy one and that her husband, Mazen, is a brutal man who uses his power to keep others in the population suppressed. Mazen decides to use his power to elevate Kase in Agorith society. He takes him to the inner sanctum of the city, a place even Lylah does not know about, where those with power can behave however they want without regard to morals or social norms. There, Kase meets the sycophants who feed the obsessive appetites of the powerful, including Talira, a woman who seems to know everyone and everything. Fascinated and repulsed, Kase finds himself drawn into this world.

His head filled with ever more fantastical tales of the mysterious Harlin, Kase finally attends a strange and fabulous party at his neighbor’s house. There he unexpectedly encounters Talira, who introduces him to the shadowy figure. 

As his friendship with Harlin grows, Kase is introduced to yet another side of Agorith, an underworld of dealmakers who seek to seize the power of the elites for themselves. Talira and Harlin tell Kase that this group of rebels seeks a more egalitarian society, based on merit and personal effort. The group promises that they are the cure for the excesses of the ruling class. Kase is persuaded to introduce Lylah to this world, where he feels she might have a chance at happiness.

For a time, it seems as though this vision of the future will come to fruition, but cracks start to appear. Kase slowly learns that Harlin’s story of his past and methods is not entirely true. Talira, who Kase has been falling in love with, is showing destructive tendencies, and Lylah has grown less enchanted with her shadowy new world as she contrasts it with the luxury of her unhappy marriage.

Desperate to use Lylah to destroy Mazen, Kase pushed her harder to fully turn against her husband. When Mazen discovers his wife’s second life, matters reach a boiling point. He lures the group to the inner sanctum of the city, where he feels he can assert absolute control. A fight ensues.

When an emotionally broken Lylah flees, she accidentally kills the daughter of the city’s ruler. Unbeknownst to Kase, Harlin decides to protect Lylah and help her escape. Mazen decides to use the incident as an opportunity to destroy Harlin by fingering him for the death.

Kase learns the truth too late. Harlin loses his chance to flee and save himself by waiting for the weak and faithless Lylah to come along. Instead, she returns to her gilded cage.

With the loss of the leader, the underground resistance crumbles. Kase recognizes that both sides within Argolith are inherently flawed, as was his vision of finding greater glory there for himself. He convinces Talira to come back home with him.

Although Kase has lost his innocence and his trust in the glittering promise of Argolith, he has found a partner in Talira. They board a transport to the provinces, where they vow to keep working toward a better future.

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa read Old Man’s War by John Scalzi. Lissa discovered John Scalzi by way of Wil Wheaton narrating the audiobook of Ready Player One almost a decade ago. This led her to Redshirts, which turned into reading (listening to) almost all of Scalzi’s fiction.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

Episode 14: All Systems Red by Martha Wells and Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss All Systems Red by Martha Wells and Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

Morning Chatter

Staying safer at home hasn’t led us to more frequent reading or more frequent podcasting. We are glad to be podcasting together today.  Marian and Lissa are looking at the popularity of the novella as a form and a length. As longtime NaNoWriMo writers, we are both familiar with what a 50,000 word story can do.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

The description of All Systems Red by Martha Wells from goodreads.com:

Murderbot Book #1

In a corporate-dominated spacefaring future, planetary missions must be approved and supplied by the Company. Exploratory teams are accompanied by Company-supplied security androids, for their own safety.

But in a society where contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, safety isn’t a primary concern.

On a distant planet, a team of scientists are conducting surface tests, shadowed by their Company-supplied ‘droid—a self-aware SecUnit that has hacked its own governor module, and refers to itself (though never out loud) as “Murderbot.” Scornful of humans, all it really wants is to be left alone long enough to figure out who it is.

But when a neighboring mission goes dark, it’s up to the scientists and their Murderbot to get to the truth

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey

The description of Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey from goodreads.com:

In Upright Women Wanted, award-winning author Sarah Gailey reinvents the pulp Western with an explicitly antifascist, near-future story of queer identity.

Are you a coward or are you a librarian?

“That girl’s got more wrong notions than a barn owl’s got mean looks.”

Esther is a stowaway. She’s hidden herself away in the Librarian’s book wagon in an attempt to escape the marriage her father has arranged for her–a marriage to the man who was previously engaged to her best friend. Her best friend who she was in love with. Her best friend who was just executed for possession of resistance propaganda.

The future American Southwest is full of bandits, fascists, and queer librarian spies on horseback trying to do the right thing.

This blog post is spoiler-free. On the podcast, we discuss and compare, All Systems Red by Martha Wells and Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey and our discussion in the podcast is filled with minor spoilers, so please read the books before you listen if you are into that kind of experience. We’ll be here for you when you finish!

Discussion

 Marian’s Crackpot theory about novellas includes the cover price and size, magazine publishing trends, ebook publishing trends, and the shortening of attention spans.

Other recent novellas we recommend include:

“I need my dismemberment to be toward social justice and community change.” – Lissa, describing why the violence in both of these books is somehow palatable to her otherwise suspense and gore averse preferences.

Novellas leave room for other characters to have their own stories told in other novellas. Or sometimes they leave room for characters who are a huge presence on the page to continue to take up space in the reader’s imagination.

Upright Women Wanted followup book idea: “Cye and Esther’s Guide to Living on the Road” with lots of chapters about fighting fascism and also recipes. Lissa wants to read this. Someone please write it.

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa will pitch their re-write or update or adaptation proposals of The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and discuss whether we would truly ever want to rewrite/adapt a public domain book into a new story.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

Episode 13: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Morning Chatter

We haven’t talked about books as recently as we had hoped we would. We are very glad to be talking about books with each other now. Camp NaNoWriMo is happening, and writing is hard right now.

Book News! The Hugo finalists are announced and we are very pleased to have read so many of the nominees!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The description of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine from goodreads.com:

No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . . the only way to survive is to open your heart.

This blog post is spoiler-free. On the podcast, we discuss Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman in detail and our discussion in the podcast is filled with minor and major spoilers, so please read the book before you listen if you are into that kind of experience. We’ll be here for you when you finish!

Quotes

Lissa’s favorite quote from the book Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Marian liked this choice from among Lissa’s favorite quotes. Lissa liked this quote because someday when she is ready for dating, she hopes she is slightly less awkward than Eleanor.

More Discussion

Book Marketing: Who is this book for? How much do we trust genres or cover blurbs? How does our expectation match the reality of the book? Should readers be warned about issues books? How do readers react to books when they get into the story and find that they aren’t ready for this particular book?

Writing “Unlikeable” characters

  • Is Eleanor relatable?
  • Is she realistic?
  • Did your feelings about her change over the course of the book?
  • Who does it seem like Eleanor is modeled on?
  • How are characters informed and inspired? How much does the reader bring to their unique interpretation?
  • How unreliable is Eleanor as a narrator?

“I liked the sad parts. They helped me have my feelings. That’s what books do.”

Lissa describing …. pretty much the entire book

Nobody’s ever in a finished place.

Marian describing…very smart things about the theme of this book and also real life.

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa are looking at the popularity of the novella as a form and a length. As longtime NaNoWriMo writers, we both familiar with what a 50,000 word story can do. We will read and discuss All Systems Red by Martha Wells and Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters