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

Episode 12: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January – such a pretty cover!

Morning Chatter

Marian participated in the recent #revpit event about query letters/ Revise & Resub (#RevPit) is a Twitter writing community co-founded in 2017 by a group of editors. It supports authors by offering editing-focused chats and mini-events throughout the year as well as an annual contest wherein querying authors can win feedback and edits on their full manuscripts from professional editors, ensuring their works are polished and ready for agent inboxes.

We discuss techniques to try when you feel like you are in a reading slump.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow is described at goodreads.com:

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

This blog post is spoiler-free. On the podcast, we discuss The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow 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

“The will to be polite, to maintain civility and normalcy, is fearfully strong. I wonder sometimes how much evil is permitted to run unchecked simply because it would be rude to interrupt it.”

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

More Discussion

Book Marketing: If you have a book like this with complicated secrets that you can’t give away in the jacket copy – how do you convince other people to read it? How much do we trust cover blurbs? Do we need cover blurbs or can author twitter substitute for that in helping us find books we would love from other author’s recommendations? Where is reader twitter and how do we decide which recommendations to trust? How does “word of mouth” work?

Author: Alix E. Harrow website

Learning: How does learning work outside of academia? Is learning by doing enough? Is learning in the evaluation and reflection even when it seems intuitive?

Theme: This book has a clear one, but it doesn’t beat us over the head with it.

Re-Reading: Lissa says yes. Because reasons that would be spoilers. And spoilers are in the podcast, not here.

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa are trying Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman which comes highly recommended from a podcast listener! (Thank you!)

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 11: Best Books of 2019 and Reading Reflections

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss their Best Books of 2019 and reflect on their reading habits.

Best Books of 2019 – Marian

Additional mentions:

Best Books of 2019 – Lissa

Things Lissa read in 2019 that she wouldn’t normally have tried:

Marian: I’m very surprised to see that of my five favorite books of 2019, three of them are science fiction books.

Lissa: I know, right?!? What is happening to us?

Best Books of 2019 that I didn’t get around to reading. Yet. (Lissa’s list at work)

Lissa’s Instagram feed is her inefficient yet meaningful place to track the best books she read last year….

These books are coming out in 2020! We are excited!

2020 Reading Resolutions

Lissa’s resolution: Buy and Read More Print Books and Read Them Intentionally (Not in my Bed!) and Write in the Margins.

Marian’s resolution: Read More and Better Poetry. Join a Book Group.

Marian’s resolution FOR LISSA: You should read the Murderbot novellas. And listen to Lockwood and Co.

Lissa’s resolution FOR MARIAN: Reflect on what you read more. The learning is in the reflection. And I think you should try a John Scalzi novel. You can pick which one.

Cover blurbs are the print version of author twitter.

Lissa

Coming Up

Next episode: The Book Evangelists will discuss The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

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 10: NaNoWriMo 2019 Wrap Up and CozyPunk Reads

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss their NaNoWriMo 2019 experiences along with the books This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone and The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

NaNoWriMo 2019 Wrap Up

#NaNoWriMo2019 has concluded and it is now December. And here we are.

Doing is good, but the learning is in the reflection.

  • How did it go?
  • Did you write what you said you were going to write?
  • What did you learn? How was this year unique?

Plansting means I think I am writing one thing and then it turns into something else partway through the month. – Lissa

Marian wrote the first 50,000 words of a British historical mystery novel with Egyptology and various levels of success in the advanced plotting. Lissa wrote 51,000 words of a story that started out writing about a woman who creates “Book Club for One” and then another reader joins, 15 years later. And then I added the “Narrator” of both of their stories, as a social worker type of influence in their stories/lives, manipulating them from outside, and then their Narrator got harried with additional workload and sent an ancient copper dragon straight from the D&D 5e Monster Manual to Topeka and the story got….a little bit different and a little bit better. And in the end, most of my novel was about how being in a book club is very very good and also how we all deserve agency in our own lives and our own stories.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is described at goodreads.com:

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

goodreads.com

This blog post is spoiler-free. On the podcast, we discuss This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone 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 and Discussion

“ There’s a kind of time travel in letters, isn’t there? I imagine you laughing at my small joke; I imagine you groaning; I imagine you throwing my words away. Do I have you still? Do I address empty air and the flies that will eat this carcass? You could leave me for five years, you could return never—and I have to write the rest of this not knowing.” 
― from This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Marian perfectly captured why it was so hard for Lissa to talk about why she loves This is How You Lose the Time War when she shared the idea of “Meals and Snacks” from the Malcolm Gladwell MasterClass. People don’t talk about things (movies, books etc) the same way they think about them. In conversation we cling to the little “snack” moments that are easy to transmit to others, but that is different than the bits that we mull and savor over a longer period of time. As writers, we include both snacks and meals so that consumers can use what we write on multiple levels. Lissa wants to annotate a copy of the book with her friends so we can all share the jokes, but also mull over and savor the book on her own, for a long time.

When Lissa hear about this concept of Machinebrain and Gardenbrain from Brad Rourk last week, she thought — it’s Red! and Blue! And she was very glad to be at a training to learn how to be better at Forestbrain.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is described at goodreads.com:

Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

from goodreads.com

We agree that this book gives us SO MANY well developed characters:

  • Ashby – captain
  • Sissix – pilot
  • Kizzy – tech
  • Jenks – tech
  • Lovey – AI
  • Dr Chef – doctor and chef
  • Rosemary – clerk
  • Corbin – algaeist
  • Ohan – navigator
  • Pei – Ashby’s secret partner

“She was exactly where she was supposed to be.”

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

What spinoff projects did we propose during this podcast?

  • The cookbook/craft book based on The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. Marian will work on the recipe for smokey buns and Lissa will knit a hat for fix bots. Maybe.
  • This book is the first in a series! We have more stories to read!

Coming Up

Next episode: The Book Evangelists will discussing 2019 in reading and our plans, hopes, and dreams for 2020.

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 9: NaNoWriMo Prep

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo and why YOU should write a novel this November.

Morning Chatter

Note: In the last episode we promised we were going to discuss nonfiction. Clearly, that has changed. This is what happens when you let two NaNoWriMo fanatics have a podcast. Because we are well into #NaNoPrep.

National Novel Writing Month

To participate, you write 50,000 words of fiction in the 30 days of November. Sign up at nanowrimo.org.

Lissa and Marian both think NaNoWriMo is the best thing ever.

Lissa has been writing November novels every year since 2003.

Marian has won every year since 2012.

Tips and Techniques for Winning NaNoWriMo

  • “Let me give you the tricks I know of, in hopes that you give me the tricks you know of, in hopes that we both can trick ourselves into writing novels.” – Lissa
  • “I think the big thing is just never never never never quit.” – Marian
  • “Put your butt in your chair. Try to have a big word count day.” – Marian

Coming Up

Next episode: We will discuss The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers and This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone and

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 8: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

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In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Morning Chatter

#NaNoPrep has begun.

We discuss the new NaNoWriMo stuff, which Lissa already has!

“These are the traditions in my house, you order it the first day it’s announced, and you use it all as soon as it comes. It’s like a kid on Christmas but it happens right after Labor Day every year and it’s beautiful.” -Lissa

“Every year before NaNoWriMo starts, I pre-order the winners tshirt because notoriously I won’t wear it unless I win and make 50,000 words because I’m ethical, but I’m also cheap, and I don’t want to have spent the money on something I can never wear. So this causes me to succeed every year, just for the tshirt.” Marian explaining “The Marian Rakestraw challenge”

Lissa has been comfort reading including a witty new Eloisa James regencies and The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie is described at goodreads.com:

Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.

Isolated and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must identify the murderer – in case he or she decides to strike again. 

And alternate description of the book at goodreads.com said simply:

What more can a mystery addict desire than a much-loathed murder victim found aboard the luxurious Orient Express with multiple stab wounds, thirteen likely suspects, an incomparably brilliant detective in Hercule Poirot, and the most ingenious crime ever conceived?

This blog post is spoiler-free. On the podcast, we discuss Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie 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

“I like to see an angry Englishman,” said Poirot. “They are very amusing. The more emotional they feel the less command they have of language.”
― Agatha Christie, Murder on the Orient Express

Bonus Content for This Book

This book is famous enough to have been made into at least 3 movies and has more than 19,000 Goodreads ratings.

If you are listening to the audiobook, you should know THERE IS A MAP OF THE TRAIN CAR in the print book.

Also, you can easily find many online resources about the real train The Orient Express now and historically.

What cheats are allowed in detective novels?

  • We aren’t sure yet. But we enjoy discussing it. Also, spoilers.
  • Which elements are the clues?
  • What does the author gift herself?
  • What does the author gift the reader?

To further study cozy mystery novels for comparison, Marian is rereading Dorothy L. Sayers’ Whose Body? and Lissa commits to try listening to the audiobook based on a 20 year old promise to her roommate from library grad school (Hi, Patrick!).

Old Book Problems

“I’m from a hometown that has something called the “Italian Fest” and stabbing with knives has never been part of that culture that they celebrated…and I’ve never heard that Italians might stab people with knives. So I was glad that if that was going to be part of how the detectives were making their decisions that they explained the stereotypes to me.” – Lissa

“Everybody in this book is described by racial characteristics, or religious ones, or class ones.” -Marian

More Books We Discussed

Lissa’s knowledge of Agatha Christie mostly has come from repeatedly reading To Say Nothing of the Dog; or, How We Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump At Last by Connie Willis, and we both highly recommend it. Although you should read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome first.

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis has a time-travel historian character we both love, although only Lissa has named a child after the main character.

Snapshot of your Character” handout that Lissa made for NaNoWrimo a few years ago to help keep track of what a character knows at a moment in time.

Marian is looking for a good beat sheet for outlining a mystery novel. She has tried Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron and the “Whydunit” section of Save the Cat.

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian is reading Packing for Mars by Mary Roach and Lissa is reading Heartland by Sarah Smarsh and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. How can reading non-fiction make us better fiction writers? Would we ever consider writing non-fiction books ourselves? Listen in to find out!

You heard it hear first: Lounging around and reading a lot of books is a great way to prepare for NaNoWrimo.

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 7: The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders Show Notes

Listen

Download Episode 7

In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders as part of reading and listening to the 5-star SF/FF audiobooks and books that we have recommended to each other recently. Lissa has been talking up this book constantly for six months and claims it is a climate change tidally-locked planet #hopepunk found family snuggling book.

Morning Chatter

We did all of our chattering before we started the podcast so let us tell you directly here in the Show Notes that school has started for our various children and that Lissa appreciates SO MUCH that Marian is just a little bit ahead on all of the parenting challenges and can share her wisdom and experience.

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders at Goodreads

“If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams… And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.” 

Set on a planet that has fully definitive, never-changing zones of day and night, with ensuing extreme climates of endless, frigid darkness and blinding, relentless light, humankind has somehow continued apace — though the perils outside the built cities are rife with danger as much as the streets below.

But in a world where time means only what the ruling government proclaims, and the levels of light available are artificially imposed to great consequence, lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage, and as common as grains of sand. And one such pariah, sacrificed to the night, but borne up by time and a mysterious bond with an enigmatic beast, will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.

description from the publisher

This blog post is spoiler-free. On the podcast, we discuss The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders 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!

This is the quote Lissa used to celebrate her new job title “Community Connections Librarian”

Quotes

“I need to learn to belong to other people the way everyone else seems to, with one hand in the wind.” – from The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

“Every community has a need that is cannot meet in itself. The more they say they do not need us, the harder we must try to become what they need most.” – from The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

“A big thing in the Citizens was, we were all responsible for each other … Sometimes that meant that anybody who wasn’t us could eat shit. But we tried to be generous, and the interdependence was part of the teachings.” – from The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

“You might mistake understanding for forgiveness, but if you did, then the unforgiven wrong would catch you off guard, like a cramp, just as you reached for generosity.” – from The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

“I like that the quotes that you read — they’re all conflictual — this is not a book where you can rally around one particular quote. One particular quote is not going to be enough for us to rally around. We’re going to have to re-examine our thinking over and over and over.” – Lissa

Here’s the succinct wording Lissa couldn’t remember during the quotes discussion: “Nothing About Us Without Us!” is a slogan used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the groups affected by that policy.

Characters and Places

Places

How does the world-building work? How are these places described?

  • January 
  • Xiophante
  • Argelo
  • The City in the Middle of the Night

Characters

Which characters do we like? Who scares us? Who is our favorite character? Who are we shipping together? Who do we worry about? Who surprised us?

  • Sophie
  • Mouth 
  • Bianca
  • Alyssa
  • Hernan
  • Barney
  • Crocodiles/Gelet
Oh, Bianca….we could talk about her all day.

Science Fiction as Self-Help

This is a good self-help book for learning more about: Friendships, Love, Betrayal, Boundaries, Trust, and people using each other for good or using each other for bad. This book illustrates all of those things really, truly.

“People don’t hurt each other enough in traditional romance novels to have the level of depth that this book has.” – Lissa’s endorsement for why reading The City in the Middle of the Night is better, post-divorce, than reading her typical stack of escapist romance novels

This was Lissa’s favorite quote on her first read-through. Because this is a self-help book about boundaries.

Subscribing to Their Newsletters

As all good readers know, when you really like the author’s book, sometimes you might check out their website, their twitter, their podcast, their agent…..because those are all source of additional book news and recommendations!

Lissa’s subscribed to DongWon Song‘s newsletter Publishing is Hard (and loves it!)

Lissa starting listening to Charlie Jane Anders podcast Our Opinions are Correct at least 10 days before it won the Hugo for Best Fancast and Marian had it queued up. #earlyadopters

Coming Up

In this episode, we also referenced A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and The Death of the Moth by Annie Dillard.

Next episode: Marian is preparing to possibly write a cozy mystery. So, for next time, we will read an Agatha Christie novel, specifically Murder on the Orient Express and discuss what we can get from this book that will help Marian write a better novel in November.

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