25 April 2013

Female Authors in SFF

Soapbox time.  You've been warned.

First, some relevant links:
VIDA: a look at statistics involving women authors, reviewers, and reviews.  (Lots of graphics for the not-statistically-minded.)
Strange Horizons: a look at the same in the science fiction and fantasy genre.
Author Keri Sperring on "Why I Started #womentoread": in which a sff author asks for recommendations of female sff authors to give to people who may be missing them because of a lack of marketing promotion.

Now that you're up to date, I hope we can all agree that there is a discrepancy in that data, namely that women are under-represented in reviews relative to the number of books they publish.  From my experience as a bookseller, there are two types of books: frontlist titles (i.e. those on display, usually easy to spot because you see the cover instead of the spine) and backlist titles (i.e. on the shelves).  In a brick & mortar store, frontlist titles are the overwhelming majority of sales.  A former manager of mine once quoted frontlist as 70% or more of the sales for the store; in the children's department I ran, that was definitely true (we were required to keep weekly sales logs, so I had the data to prove this).  So, if your books are only in backlist, your sales will be commensurately lower.  I know from 5 years' experience that simply putting a book or series on a display does increase its volume sold, regardless of price.

The internet and social media can be a powerful tool for equalizing the playing field between traditional marketing and deserving authors.  Marketing is all about an information disadvantage: the marketers or retailers know what you've been buying, how much an item actually costs to produce, and whether you can get it elsewhere.  They set their prices and displays to encourage you to think you need it right here, right now.  The internet can let you know that you do have a choice.  Your expenditures in retail are tracked and stores respond!

I don't have a twitter account, so here's my contribution to Sperring's #womentoread request.  I have read and enjoyed every one of these authors immensely.

Mary Robinette Kowal: Alternate history fantasy novels set in Regency-era England; her portrayal of that society and the characters within it are really exquisite.

Anne Bishop: dark fantasy, particularly known for her powerful characters.

Kate Elliott: epic fantasy, fantastic characters, and a serious look at the societal forces that shape a person.

Robin Hobb: epic fantasy, complex characters who change realistically with events.

Kate Forsyth: Celtic fantasy, sword & sorcery, great page turners.

Jacqueline Carey: alternate history/mythology fantasy, set in Europe (mostly...).  Great spy & intrigue novels.

Trudi Canavan: high fantasy, lots of magic, easy reading that really pulls you along.

Madeleine L'Engle: probably the first female sff author I ever read.  Mostly children's/YA work, magic-within-our-world plots.  A great entry point for younger readers.

Karen Traviss: I've only read her Star Wars work (although her own novels are on my to-read list) but, even by non-SW Expanded Universe standards, her books are excellent.  She fabricated a whole culture and populated with realistic characters who react and grow into it.

C. S. Friedman: Epic, high, dark fantasy; mind stretching sci-fi.  I cannot recommend her highly enough to fans of "traditional" sff.

These are just the ones I read and liked.  There are so many others that may speak to you!  Browse those bookshelves or use a dedicated reading site like Goodreads to find a recommendation!

Liebster Questions

My very good friend Jennifer over at Mouse and Home (she's a huge Disney fan) added me to a blog linking set up called the Liebster Award.  It's eleven questions from her and then eleven random facts about me.  I'm usually not big on chain-mail via the internet but her questions were really awesome, like her, so I thought I'd give it a go:

1. If you could meet any person, living or dead, who would it be and what would you ask them?

This is a tough one for me.  I admire many people but have a horrible problem thinking up something to say when I meet them.  (I admit freely, me meeting Fred Haise was all fan-girlish.  We won't even discuss the couple of author signings I've been to.)  There's an Austen quote that describes me well: "We are each of an unsocial, taciturn disposition, unwilling to speak, unless we expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.”
So, since I have to choose: Elizabeth I.  I'd like to know if she ran her court and created her mystique on purpose or partly by accident.
2. What is the last book you read that you couldn't put down?
Mary Robinette Kowal's Without a Summer (my review).  It's third in a series and, while the first was good, they get better as they go.  The book is just so well done in every aspect that you can tell a clever, exacting mind put it together.  Actually, I'd like to meet her, too.
I'm half way through Robin Hobb's Ship of Destiny.  It's also fantastic, although "can't put down" is a hard description for an 800 page book!  It's the third in a trilogy and it's been two years since I read the first two... yet it's so memorable I picked it right back up without missing a beat.  Another author I'd like to meet; I got to participate in an online Q&A with her recently, which was awesome!
3. Name someplace you never want to visit.
Anywhere without air conditioning.  It's in my top 5 inventions of mankind for a reason!  Seriously, though, I've been to Jamaica once and have no inclination to return.  I had fun but feel like I did everything I was interested in.
4. Do you have any hobbies? What are they?
Loads.  Sewing, tea drinking/history, cross-stitching, I'm a beginning quilter... and reading, reading, reading, which is more a lifestyle.  I'm also learning to scrapbook digitally but I'm not very good at it yet.
5. Is there a song that would be your "theme song"? 
Five for Fighting's Superman and/or Nickel Creek's Reasons Why
6. If you had a day all to yourself, what would you do?
Oh my, I thought those went out the window with motherhood... read, take myself out for breakfast, tea, and dinner (this was unlimited money, too, right?  Right?),  maybe do something crafty or visit somewhere I can't easily go with my "zoo".
7. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be, and why?
I actually really like Florida.  But honestly, I'm enjoying living all over the country as a military spouse.  I'm really hoping that one day a place feels like home for both of us!
8. Are you OCD or ADD when it comes to housework?
You could just stop after the first three words of that question: yes.  I have to be careful what I commit to because I get it done right.
9. Who is your favorite Doctor?  (If you don't watch Doctor Who, feel free to simply respond with Doctor WHO?)
Yikes, hard call, and I've only watched 3 of them!  I hope to go back to the originals one day.  Definitely 9 or 10... 9 had so much potential left but 10 just loved the role so much and was terribly witty.
10. What is your favorite TV show?
TED Talks on Netflix. ;-)  For a reader, I watch way too much TV.  Currently, probably Downton Abbey or Doctor Who or How I Met Your Mother.  Of all time... Deep Space Nine?  Scrubs?  Gilmore Girls?  Battlestar Galactica?  I'm not sure... I enjoy anything that makes me laugh and think.
11. What is the best and worst jobs you've held?
The best is a toss up between my engineering job (because, hey, I got to design space stuff) and my book seller job (because, duh, book discount and talking about books with people).  Worst job was one I only held 2 weeks... the manager never set my schedule more than 2 days in advance and I wasn't allowed to do anything except clean the display cases and ring up sales.  It was boring and annoying all at once.
11 Random Facts About Me:
1. I got married much earlier than I expected to in life.
2. I enjoy entertaining but only small parties of people I know.
3. I have never dyed my hair (yet...).
4. I have donated my hair once before and will do it again very soon.
5. I have tracked how many pages I read each week since August 2006.
6. I LOVE dessert... the richer, the better.
7. I'm currently on a no-dairy, no-eggs, no-peanuts diet.
8. Weight lifting is my preferred form of exercise (followed closely by zumba!).
9. I think I'm bad at the give and take of conversation.
10. The older I get, the more awed I am by the philosophy of science.
11.  I am torn between owning all the books I've read and only having really excellent books on my shelves.

If anyone is interested in participating, I will write up 11 questions for you!  Hope you had fun and learned something about me in the process.

26 February 2013

Coming Soon

First off, I just discovered that blogger has a smartphone app. This is blindingly obvious in retrospect but still an amazing discovery.  These days, I'm spending less time on my computer, so I'm hoping this will let me post more often.  (And, my apologies in advance if this contains more typos than usual. I'm trying to edit as I write on this smallish screen, which is rarely a good idea.)

About that projects challenge: it is going surprisingly well. I decided against tracking weekly goals and instead have started two running lists. One is my list of projects that just need to be done. This list helps me get things out of my overcrowded head and reassures me that I'm not forgetting anything important or time critical.  I usually review it whenever I need to add something.

The second list is my goals for the day.  I often include household chores or errands on this list in addition to the broken down tasks needed to accomplish the goals from the first list.  It's a great reminder that I am doing important work, even when "projects" aren't getting done.  After all, healthy meals and clean homes don't happen by magic!  The most important thing about this list is that it has permission to roll over unfinished items to the next day.  I try to remember that there will always be "things to do" and as long as my family is fed and safe and loved, I am doing okay.

What I'm finding with this project is reassurance that I am making progress, albeit slowly.  Coming to terms with the new, postpartum pace of my life has been rough.  Seeing that I am accomplishing goals (I never delete an entry, just check it off) lets me cut myself slack on days where I can't get anything done.  I am relearning how to give myself room to breathe.

There will be pictures soon of some of my completed crafting projects. I'm working on one for a friend who just had her third adorable little one and that will take priority for a few more days.  Right now it's more important for me to accomplish than brag but I hope to be up to that soon, too!  I'm also making good progress with my reading, averaging a book per week this month.  My goal this year is 45 books.  It's ambitious but I like to aim high.  Unfortunately, financial goals are not going as well this year, due to the realities of renting out our property when we live across the country.

What projects are going well for you right now?  Any particular goals of mine that you're interested in?

16 November 2012


I've been thinking a lot about projects lately.  I don't know about you but I feel like I'm in the middle of dozens of never-ending projects!

Today I was also considering my New Year's resolutions.  I make one every year and deliberately don't publish it.  This isn't true for everyone but if I'm talking about it, I'm not doing it.  Two years ago I made some life resolutions, namely some financial goals (made those) and some career goals (a new degree, which was accomplished a little late... having a baby does these things).

This year, I resolved to work on specific gratitude.  As I get older, I'm starting to understand the "it takes a village" mentality.  I work very hard on my own projects and taking care of my family but we wouldn't be where we are today without many other people's contributions.  I feel like I say "thank you" to a lot of people without truly letting them know what they mean to me.  This was especially true after kid1 was born.  No one expects a new mother to do much more than take care of her baby but once I got that (vaguely) under control, I tried to let people know how much I appreciated their support of our family.

For instance, I caught up on all my thank you cards, no matter how late.  All the baby showers, all the gifts, all the meals, all the people who just lent an ear or some advice while I was pregnant.  It was a good feeling to get that done.  I've also tried to send friends a little note once in awhile when I use and particularly appreciate something they gave me, whether it was a piece of furniture or some advice.  This in particular has opened my introverted eyes to the role of friends in my life.  I met some great people at our last base whose friendship is still positively influencing my life today.

But what about next year?  I hope that specific gratitude is becoming a character trait instead of a project and I need a new resolution.  I'm seriously considering starting a 52 projects challenge, one for each week of 2013, and tracking it here.  52 Projects would involved tackling some long overdue emotional weight (e.g. rolling over those orphan 401k's; reading some long-owned, never-opened books) as well as some projects I'd just like to try (finishing a quilt).  This is a departure for me, since it would commit me to regular posts.  It would also be challenging, maybe too challenging, as we are scheduled to move again next summer and I am hoping to earn a job at our next assignment.

Is it a good idea?  If I commit to doing it, would you read and comment on it?  Would anyone like to join me?

18 October 2012


I've recently been motivated to start sewing again, a hobby which took a serious down turn correlating with kid1's mommy-time-intensive first year.  It's hard to know how to pick up a project you've let go for awhile.

Sometimes the results are good.  I recently moved my sewing machine downstairs so I could sew when kid1 naps and sleep.  Clothing repairs got tackled first.  I thought there was monster pile that would take hours to fix but, once I got started, I was done with everything except replacing buttons in 30 minutes.  Now I have an almost-new pair of PJ pants, a sweater, and 4 shirts!  It was great to actually finish something (feeding the family and dishes and laundry and cleaning house don't count... they always need to be done again!).

Sometimes, the results are ambivalent.  In the same sewing spree, I finished piecing together the rows for kid1's quilt.  Now, the pieces are in the right order because I pinned them all at the same time.  And the rows are in the right order (I think...).  But are they turned right?  I have no idea which way I was folding them months ago and which side is left or right.  So while I've definitely made progress, I have some more work to do to really get going with this project.

*Note: This is a great example of why it's important to document your long term projects with things like, I dunno, pictures and diagrams.  Whoops.*

And sometimes, picking up a project in the middle is just a no-go.  The memory game I'm working on was this way.  After the quilt, I tried to move ahead with sewing the patterned fabric into the felt frames, only to discover the reason I stopped months ago: no matching thread.

I'm happy to report that one trip to Hobby Lobby later, that part of the project is finished.  Now, of course, comes the part I hate: ironing seams and interfacing.  Can I outsource this somewhere?  ;-)

Do you have lapsed projects that you're having difficulty re-starting?  How do you get going again?