My Influential Authors

Over in the Book of Faces, I was tagged by my delightful friend, author B.G. Thomas to play the Influential Authors Game. Basically, I am to list 15 authors who have influenced me. This doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoy these authors works – I’ll be listing at least one that I find highly disagreeable (I will leave it to you to figure out who that is!)  Being influenced by an author and liking their work does not always go hand in hand.

Rather than simply quick-listing 15 authors in Facebook in response to this meme, I decided to expand the concept here.  I hope you find my list interesting, and perhaps you’ll pause to think about the authors that have influenced your life, too.

1. Ray Bradbury
I discovered Ray Bradbury’s novels when I was quite young. I think I was in 5th grade when I started checking them out of my school’s library.  I’d been reading full-length novels since 3rd grade, ever since Dick and Jane’s adventures in my primers became boring.  Dandelion Wine was the first novel to really take my breath away.  Mr. Bradbury’s astounding talent for pulling me into a story, directly into a specific place in geography and time, taught me that readers can be placed emotionally into the writer’s memories or imagination. It is possible to cross that bridge. What a remarkable concept!

2. Tom Robbins
Dear, dear Tom. How I love him.  I read Jitterbug Perfume during my early 20s, at a time when I was struggling to live on my own and money was not just tight, but usually non-existent. My indulgences were few, but I always found books. Anyway, I was becoming enamoured by conceptual humor and wordplay, thanks to listening to lots of Firesign Theater, but Tom Robbins yanked me right off my feet and up to another level. I’d never read a book that treated words in such a lovingly irreverent manner. The day I finished the last page, I immediately checked out (yes I was still a library girl) Even Cowgirls Get The Blues. To my delight, Tom’s love affair with weaving concepts into his words continued to be astonishing.

3. Douglas Adams
The counterpart to Tom Robbins, for me, will always be Douglas Adams. He’s another wonderfully twisty wordsmith, who led me down a slightly more skewed garden path, via The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. I learned to appreciate humor with a decidedly British leaning through wonderfully absurd phrases such as “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”

4. Carolyn Keene
Hopefully I’m not bursting a bubble by telling you that there really is no Carolyn Keene. The name is a pseudonym for the authors that wrote the Nancy Drew mystery series. I found a copy of The Secret Of The Old Clock at my grandparent’s house at about age 12, while spending a weekend there. I easily read the entire mystery in a day. Gramma explained that there were more books in the series. Many more, and new ones were still arriving quite often, a notion that delighted me!  The Nancy Drew books became the first series to hook me. I have fond memories of going to Sears with my parents, being treated to a small bag of popcorn or handful of candy from the in-store snack stand very near the books (an odd concept, in retrospect, to give popcorn to children about to handle book pages). I’d rush to the book shelves, crunching my treat and looking for my favorite series. Once a month I was allowed to have another book. I read them so fast – if I tried very hard I could make one of the stories last two whole days.  One book a month was excruciating torture!

5. Gail Carriger, Shelley Adina, Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
I am now using a big fat CHEAT and sharing a group of writers who have all influenced my current writing and publishing goals. These are the authors I rely on to show me how it’s done, and done right. I write Young Adult Steampunk with humourous twists. These authors also write in my genre, and unlike me have become well-known and quite beloved. I read every word they write. I feel like a student sitting in the best lecture hall ever. I’m very grateful to have authors with such standards to try to live up to.

6. Robert Silverberg
The World Inside presented an interesting concept for providing housing to an overpopulated world. That seemed good enough, but what I didn’t exect was the level of sex, drugs and rock and roll I’d find in Silverberg’s Urban Monad world. He taught me that you can go a lot further within a storyline than I had realized up to that point. Yes, I was a bit of a prude even up into my late teens.  I made up for that later on, but that’s another story for another time.

7. Ayn Rand
Right. Let’s get this one over with. A guy I was dating for a while gave me a copy of Atlas Shrugged, demanded (yeah, he did) that I read it, and then ask him any questions about the concepts inside. Dutifully, I read the book, which effectively killed all my free time for two weeks. What I learned from this was that Ayn Rand was a genius-idiot of extremes who couldn’t conceive of a middle ground on anything, and that my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend was a jerk.

8. Thor Heyerdahl
The Kon-Tiki Expedition: By Raft Across the South Seas brought history to life in a way my schoolbooks never did.  The adventures of the Kon-Tiki expedition also influenced my dad, who designed and helped build a float for the Rose Parade held every New Year’s day in Pasadena, California. The float had rolling waves, playful dolphins, a well-done replica of the raft, and the gigantic face of the wind at the back of the float, filling the sails with wind-breath.  I helped glue flowers on the float, staying up all night under a tent in a parking lot with the rest of the crew. I marveled at how a book could inspire a small tent-crew to create magic for the Rose Parade!

9. William Speidel
Bill’s name may sound familiar to you if you’re interested in the history of Victorian era Seattle. He wrote a far-too-fun history book called Sons of the Profits about those early, bawdy days in my favorite city. I’ve always had a love of city history, and my move to Seattle threw gasoline on that fire in my mind, that’s for certain. Finding Bill Speidel’s underground tours, and buying this book at the gift shop at the end of the tour started me thinking about the possibilities of setting fictional stories within the already absurd history of Seattle. I have a feeling Cherie Priest might have had a similar experience. Go read her Boneshaker and see what you think.

10. Larry Niven
Ah, Ringworld. Mr. Niven taught me to Think Big! A ribbon in space, turned on edge and joined in a circle. Who knew this unnatural artifact could contain so much culture? So many civilizations?  Such a complex mythos? I can read and re-read this series over and over, and seem to glean something new from it every time.

11. Andrez Bergen
Andrez is a contemporary author and probably the newest to influence my way of thinking. I discovered his work through One Hundred Years of Vicissitude, which I found surreal, charming and shocking, all in a jumble. The universe must have owed me a favor, as I was able to strike up a very nice friendship with Andrez, which continues to this day. He’s taught me that there is no substitute for hard work and simply getting one’s butt into the chair and writing. I mean, the man has a day job, is the father of the world’s most amazing girl ever, maintains other careers as a musician and graphic novelist, and still finds time to stroll the streets of Tokyo taking wonderful photographs of a side of the city we rarely get to see. He’s written more books, each one not quite like the rest, and I would confidently recommend all of them. You’ll find some reviews of his work in this website, just hit the search box with his name.

12. Eleanor Gates
The Poor Little Rich Girl was written in 1912. It’s another of the books I found at my grandparent’s home (the bookshelf hidden behind the television was a treasure trove!) The book centers on a girl who is taken care of by the household servants, since her rich parents have no time for her. She’s accidentally over-medicated one night and falls into strange dreams. Simple sayings take on life in her dreams – for example, her mother really does have a bee in her bonnet, and her father burns his candle at both ends. You may be sensing a theme by now in my influential authors, and that’s okay. Eleanor Gates delighted me with her play of words, bringing hackneyed old cliches quite literally to life.

13. Terry Pratchett
What have I learned from Terry Pratchett, beyond the fact that I love him dearly and miss him horribly?  I’ve learned that rules are made to be broken. Adventures can be horribly politicial, self-centered and hilarious at the same time… er, wait, that sounds like non-fiction these days, sorry. But the main thing I learned from this fine Sir? Not to sweat the construction of chapters. In fact, feel free to chuck the notion of book chapters altogether! Such freedom!

14. Michael de Larrabeiti
As I was writing The Flight To Brassbright, a friend recommended a trilogy of books: The Borribles. I’d never heard of the series, which came as a huge shock to my friend who insisted I immediately fix this oversight. I zoomed through the books, eating them up as if they were candy. I was so impressed by the balance between joy and anguish in this quasi-post-apocaplyse series about children who could turn into little monsters (borribles). Rather than being a cautionary tale, though, I found myself wishing I could be a borrible, too! I also found myself wanting to write more stories set for a younger audience than I had been aiming for, and that I should add a bit more grit to my writing style.

15. Stephen King
While I don’t think I learned anything life-changing, and haven’t changed my writing habits due to his style… my life was influenced by the memories of all those long, solitary evenings, staying up stupidly late on work-nights, due to being held prisoner by a book I simply could *not* put down. I remember finishing Christine a mere two hours before I had to be at my desk at work. Ow! That was a long day. Was it worth it? To spend a long, dark night curled up in a huge leather chair, sipping tea and turning pages while fighting back the goosebumps?  Oh hell yes.

Review: The Opening Bell

The Opening BellAs a kid growing up on the outskirts of Los Angeles, I can’t say I ever watched wrestling, but I also didn’t *not* watch wrestling. It was often part of the background of my life, along with golf and roller derby.

I’d chosen to listen to the audio version of The Opening Bell, the first book in J.B. Garner’s “Three Seconds To Legend” series. I thought it would be a good companion for my 20 minutes of commuting twice a day to and from work. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure how well I’d resonate with a story set in the world of wrestling, but it didn’t take me very long to immerse. When I realized I was actually looking forward to my drives, I knew just why.

There’s plenty of action, of course, but it doesn’t take the place of a solid storyline with compelling, engaging characters. Leilani, our protagonist, must cope with being a rookie in the sport she loves, while dealing with co-worker rivalries, workplace politics, and multi-generational family situations. Is it all too much for the ‘Girl Hercules’ to handle?

James Garner weaves the elements of the story together, taking these disparate elements of Leilani’s world in hand, first as loose strands, but deftly, over the course of the story, weaving them together into a tightly told tale.

Mindy Grall was ideal as the story’s narrator, as she smoothly moved between character’s accents, as well as doing a fine job with male characters. She brought us venerable old men and teenage boys with apparent ease. A slight tough edge to her voice during fight scene exposition felt right.

And, by the end of the book, I realized Garner wasn’t going to let *me* off the hook without a fight. Those last few pages sealed the deal. I can’t help thinking that reading just one book in a J. B. Garner series is like eating *just one* potato chip!

Visit J.B. Garner’s website to browse his potato chips… er… books

Speaking of Disappointing Politics and Snowstorms

William Henry Harrison gave the longest damn inaugural speech any president’s ever given, on March 4th, 1841. For an hour and forty five minutes a 68 year old guy shouted at a crowd IN THE MIDDLE OF A SNOWSTORM without wearing a hat, gloves or coat. After that, rather than getting some rest in the white house, he headed out to whoop it up at *multiple* parties.

His speech ended with “I have this day given to discharge all the high duties of my exalted station according to the best of my ability, and I shall enter upon their performance with entire confidence in the support of a just and generous people.”

What he actually managed to accomplish was to catch a cold, which turned into pneumonia and he died on April 4, 1841 exactly one month after taking the oath of office.

(This is historical entertainment. Rare for me to talk about government. Posting this does not mean I’m open to debate about current events. History sometimes lends perspective when faced with challenges.)

Æther Salon: Publishing Transcript

Last month I gave a talk at the Aether Salon in New Babbage, a virtual steampunk city in Second Life. There was a record crowd of avatars representing published writers, hopeful writers, and other interested folk. The transcript, along with the graphics from my slide show presentation (yes you can run a slide show in a virtual setting) has been posted. If you’d like to learn more about publishing, perhaps this will be of help. I had a lot of fun.

(Information of interest to Second Life residents). This transcript is permanently housed at the Aether Salon website. I am reprinting it here as a mirror, just in case those New Babbage urchins blow up the Salon building. Again. I encourage you to support the Aether Salon however you can. Attend a salon, put a coin in the tip jar to help the house and the speaker, tell friends about salon events… consider speaking on a topic dear to you at the Salon yourself!  Information about the Salon, and a group membership joiner is all at the Salon building in New Babbage.

Aether Salon: Publishing!

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Smile? Okay!

When I was in 6th grade, I thought it would be fun to ride my Flexy Racer down one of the steepest streets in my hilly suburb. It was great fun! I sat on the Flexy and steered with my feet and felt pretty damn bad-ass. But the street ended in a sharp curve to the right, and I couldn’t negotiate it with my feet. I couldn’t brake either, since my feet were controlling the combination steering AND braking pedals. I hit the curb really hard, flew off the Flyer, and landed in the gutter pretty much face-first. I scraped my face pretty badly and chipped my front tooth. It was the week of school photos, too.

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