Book Thoughts

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Rarely have I read a YA fantasy novel with a contemporary setting that evokes such a sense of place. Brooklyn isn’t described so much by its physical landscape, but the way that the people interact with it, how they speak, and inhabit it. ‘Community’ might be a better word for it.

The story follows Sierra, a talented artist, that has to come to terms with a family legacy that no one wants to tell her about, and figuring out both the past that’s come back to haunt them, and how she fits into it for the future.

In the book, magic shaped by creative acts. Painting is the main form, but some people use magic, and her grandfather used stories to control spirits that aren’t so much fearsome but can be used for good or ill by the people that shape them.

And Sierra, she’s not always right, but she’s bold, and when she makes decisions, other people support her even if they don’t quite agree. The story might be about her, but it also wouldn’t be much of a story without the family and friends who are part of it.

Which brings me back to ‘community’. You get a sense of it from the way Sierra knows the domino players down the street, the multi-generations coming and going from her home. There’s a real sense that everyone watches out for one another, that blood or not, they’re family. That’s something I can relate to in my own upbringing.

And, you know, it was so good to read about a young woman who doesn’t hate how she looks, is opinionated, strong willed, and isn’t punished for it by her family or the circumstances of the story. Instead, she’s rewarded for sticking to what she thinks is right. That feels oddly subversive. It shouldn’t be, but it does.

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Writing Discussion

poison bottle photo
Photo by athriftymrs.com (CC)

Some nifty finds online:

Fantasy Worldbuilding Resources. This batch includes a including a language generator, map maker, and my favorite, the speed distance calculator (how long it would take someone to get somewhere).

Master List of Facial Expressions. So every description is not just ‘he smiled or she looked’. (raises hand, guilty).

Halcyon Maps (lethal dosages of poisons). JUST in case your characters ever need to poison someone.

Any good finds on your side?

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Journal

SO first news! I sold a poem. If you’re thinking “Huh? Since when do you write poetry, Theresa?” Yeah… same here. A silly tweet bothered me so much that I had to say something, but I couldn’t quite manage to turn it into an essay. Instead it came out as a scattering of fragmented thoughts. I’m still not convinced it’s poetry, but someone else thought it was, so I’m as pleased as a kitten with a full belly. More info on that when I can share it.

In writing, I hit the 30 k word mark on the first draft of the YA SF novel. This is about the point (just around he middle of the story) that I usually run out of gas while drafting. It felt like a good time to switch back to edits on my YA high fantasy, but before diving in, I decided to take some time to brush up on my writing craft.

It’s actually nice to have alternating projects to work on. I didn’t think I would like it, but as long as they’re in differing states of completion, it seems to work. Edits are a break from the drafting exhaustion and the thrill of a new book helps stop the obsession / stressing out over the other.

Books Read:

  • Never Let Me Go by Kazu Ishiguru
  • Dark Orbit by Carolyn Ives Gilman
  • Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza (YA)
  • The Magic Words by Cheryl B. Klein (Non-Fic)
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  • Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole (Non-Fic)

Writing Days: 9
Total Word Count: 9307
Current Status: Editing

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