Bits and Pieces

On August 17, Comeuppance Served Cold went into the production phase. I expect to have copyedits to review by September 8, so I know what I’ll be doing for a while!

Saturday, August 28, I participated in a live Zoom class on Writing Magic, offered by Cat Rambo. Here’s a link to the classes and other events she offers. There were six of us (I think), and the session lasted two hours and was the perfect balance of lecture and writing practice. Some of the material was a good reminder–some made me think about magic in fiction from a different perspective. I got a lot out of both exercises. And the group was a delight.

This is the second workshop I’ve taken (the first one was not live, and it was about linguistics and worldbuilding). They’ve both been great experiences for me and I recommend them to you.

Book recommendations: Three to recommend, each completely different.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. This is probably sold as a middle-grade book. It does skew young. I loved every word. A suspenseful, vivid, sweet and funny fantasy about families, belonging, doing what’s right and figuring out what that is. Terry Connelly gave me the nudge to read this, and I’m so glad she did.

The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel. Like Cerulean Sea, it features a building by the ocean. There the similarities end. Mandel explores the financial crash of 2008 through the device of a Bernie Madoff-like conman and the woman who pretends to be his wife for the final three years of his reign. The story follows that woman, named Vincent, her brother Paul, and various characters who came into contact with the conman–many of them at the exclusive, secluded hotel on a British Columbia island, the titular glass hotel. The characters are deep, conflicted, expertly drawn, the prose is precise, dreamy and immersing, the story ranges from a small B.C. town to New York, to the high seas.

I bought the YA thriller Ace of Spades because of its stunning cover, and I am so glad I did. Faridah Abike-Iyimide’s debut novel belongs to a subgenre a friend has heard called “dark academia.” I would have said “evil high school.” You get the idea. Devon and Chiamaka are overachieving students at the exclusive Nivius Academy. Chi is the daughter of wealthy parents, while Devon is a scholarship student who occasionally delivers drugs for the dealers in his neighborhood in order to help his hard-working mother make ends meet. Aside from being classmates, the two only have one other thing in common: They are the only Black students in the school. As senior year opens, they are both targeted by an anonymous harasser who sends texts and images, starting with embarrassing and quickly growing worse. Chi tumbles from being the Queen of the Halls to a social pariah, and for Devon, his dream of attending Julliard is on a crash-and-burn trajectory. It soon becomes obvious that that harasser, who is now invading their privacy and worse, has access to too much information to merely be a student. Devon and Chi struggle to decide who to trust.

The degree of paranoia engendered by the middle of the book veers into horror, and I mean that in the best way. Can they trust anything? Anyone? The ending is dramatic and satisfying. Abike-Iyide has literalized a system of discrimination and hierarchy that most of us would prefer remain unspoken and given us two characters to root for, as one after another, the things they thought were support systems are ripped away.

If you are white and don’t want to hear about systematic injustice, or you feel like you shouldn’t be held responsible for the racist system under which the USA operates, you may resent this book or find it implausible. It can also be hard for us to accept that a gripping, vivid story may not be for us, and there may not be a central place for a white character. I went into this book knowing that it was not aimed at me in any way. I recommend that approach.

I finished it up impressed with Aibke-Iyimide’s talent and sheer hard work. I’ll be sure to pick up whatever she publishes next.

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