Tami Parker Fantasy Author & Other Duties as Assigned

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Genrenauts – A Very Strong Book Recommendation

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So I have been happily listening to the Writing Excuses podcast for a while now.

Periodically, they recommend various authors or books.

One of the books that they’ve been recommending for rather a very long time now (over and over again) is called Genrenauts.

Genrenauts (like “astronauts” of “genre”) is a series of novellas written by Michael Underwood. Here’s the official Amazon blurb for it:

Struggling stand-up comic Leah Tang is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to join the Genrenauts, a secret organization of dimensional travelers. Leah learns that our world is just one of many, and every other world is the home of a story genre — Science Fiction or Romance, Fantasy or Western — populated by archetypal characters and constantly playing out familiar stories.

The Genrenauts’ mission: find and fix broken stories. If they fail, the ripples from the story worlds will cause havoc and devastation on their home world. Leah joins the team and dives head-first into the adventure. But the stories are breaking faster and worse than ever before. Will Leah rise to the occasion, or will she end up as just another broken story?

It.

Is.

AMAZING.

It does what Ready Player One tried (and kinda failed) to do for me with its use of popular media in references. I don’t feel alienated by them … instead, I feel the same way I do when my friends talk about the things they love.

It does what Redshirts tried (and mostly succeeded) in doing by bringing tropes out of the background and using them as intentional plot devices wielded by characters.

It has a culturally diverse cast that doesn’t feel forced or awkward.

I get to see these amazing characters in all sorts of settings, which is more thrilling than I expected. I met them in a Western, and now they’re in a Space Opera and goshdangitall, it’s just FUN.

I bought the Complete Season 1 Collection and I’m only halfway through the second of six novellas and I had to stop and tell you guys about it.

Much much love.

Book Review: The Little Paris Bookshop

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This is not my normal sort of book.

There is no magic, no talking animals, no airships or battles or explosions.

It is a book about a bookshop owner, and love, and humanity, and finding lost things.

In short, it’s exactly the sort of weepy emotional journey story that I avoid.

I strongly recommend it.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George has been following me around Amazon for a while now and I’ve been ignoring it because it just … isn’t my thing. Sure, it got great reviews, but so do a bunch of other stories. Still, I didn’t forget about it, and when it showed up on a dusty corner shelf in a consignment shop that I’d only entered on a lark … well, I thought maybe the universe was trying to tell me something.

The Amazon Description

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

 

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

 

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.

My Prescription

For broken people, to help them find lost pieces. Take two chapters every evening before bed until the entire book is consumed. When it is finished, gift it to someone in your life who needs it.

A Few Final Words

Younger me would never have understood this book and would have hated it.

Perry, you will love it for the gorgeous prose. It is filled with exactly the sort of plump, juicy snippets you love to share with me. It almost made it into the Perrybox several times, but I found someone who needs it more than you.

Faith, you will love it for France, and the taste of a meal on the open water with the stars overhead. I almost chose to give this book to you, because it loves books and people and understands the importance of getting the right book to the right person, just as you do.

Angie you will love it because you love books, and this book loves its reader back more than any other book I have read.

Barto, you will love it because it is complex and dark and bright all at the same time. You will love it because it is honest, even when it is hopeful.

I hope you — I hope ALL of you reading this — find a book so compelling and moving that you are trying to decide who to gift it to when you are done.

It is not my favorite book. It is a very good, hard book, and it was worth not just the time reading it (and crying in it) but also the time in between, where I spent hours just thinking about what it told me.

May’s Book – Watership Down

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Super super late, I know, I know. I actually read a few books this month (yay me!) but I also revisited an old friend.

Watership Down has been one of my all-time favorite books for such a very long time. It was a pleasure to read it again, and I’m happy to say it still holds up to the re-read even if it does show its age.

Watership Down, by Richard Adams

This stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

Books as Experiences

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Re-Reading

I find it fascinating to re-read an old book.

My expectation is always that it will be like revisiting an old friend I haven’t seen in a while. We’ve both changed in the interim, but in general we know what to expect from each other.

After all, when I was a kid, that’s exactly what it was like re-reading my worn old companions.

Everything Changes

These days, it’s totally different.

It’s probably due to the longer time between readings — but also in large part due to the changes in myself as a reader and the writing world as a whole.

I notice things that never used to bother me. Cliches. Misogyny. Tropes. Awkward wordings or weak plots.

Storytelling Changes

Also, even in the relatively short time since becoming an avid reader, styles themselves have changed.

Books now demand a tighter plot with immediate action. Page One Line One had better grip the reader immediately, Or Else.

Passive characters used to be acceptable. Books that once were happily described as “The Adventures of So and So” are now laughably dated.

Change is Good

This isn’t a complaint, by the way.

These are all objectively improvements upon the older storytelling systems and I find I have little to no patience for stories that insist upon an antiquated system.

Not only do I not have time to read as much as I once did, I just … don’t enjoy it any more. Sure, every once in a while one is worth the effort of wading through but in general they end as muddy and unfocused as they begin.

Past Me

The only “problem” lies in my inability to reread an old favorite and enjoy it the same way that I did when I was younger.

Young me didn’t just read those books. She LIVED them. Loved them. Cherished them.

These days, I hesitate to crack open those pages because I don’t want to tarnish that glowing, ruby-lensed memory of them.

A Book is an Experience

“How good the book is” is tangled up with memory and history and beribboned by that one moment in time.

Which means that the books I’m reading now? The ones I enjoy today? They’re only as good (or bad) as they are for ME right NOW.

A book isn’t just a story about a character.

It’s a story about the reader, too. And a time and a place.

And that, my good friends? That is true magic.

April’s Book – The Starlit Wood

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I’m cheating a little and posting a book AFTER I’ve read it … but I wanted to make sure it was a good one.

The fun thing about this one is that it’s a book of short stories! So even if you don’t like all of them (which I did not) you are almost certain to love some of them (which I most definitely did!).

Many many thanks to Faith Williams for rising to the challenge of suggesting it for me.

The Starlit Wood

Packed with award-winning authors, this anthology explores an array of fairy tales in startling and innovative ways, in genres and settings both traditional and unusual, including science fiction, western, and post-apocalyptic as well as traditional fantasy and contemporary horror.

The first and last stories were predictably my favorites, but it was super fascinating to read through all of the different genres, styles, and interpretations. Even if a particular story wasn’t to my liking, I still learned a lot from reading them.

My favorites included (in the order they appear in the book):

  • In the Desert Like a Bone by Seanan McGuire
  • Seasons of Glass and Iron by Amal El-Mohtar
  • Penny For a Match, Mister by Garth Nix
  • The Briar and the Rose by Marjorie Liu
  • Pearl by Aliette de Bodard
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (which was worth the cost of the entire anthology, in my opinion)

Those weren’t the only ones I enjoyed, just a sampling of my favorites.

If you read the book, I’d love to discuss!

On Concepts and Plots

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This post was inspired by February’s reading — Ready Player One.

This post is spoiler-free, but the comments may not be. You have been warned.

I recommend it. I did feel the first half was a little slow, but the second half made up for it and the concept was brilliant.

Concept

As it happens, the “concept” is what I want to talk to you about.

As writers, we often find a great “what if” and want to roll with it.

What if Vampires took over after World War 1 and now people are raised as cattle in “pleasant” camps?

What if there is a magic key that turns any locked doorway into a portal to a magical land?

What if a teenager discovers that she is actually half-unicorn on her 16th birthday?

In the case of Ready Player One, you could say, “What if the real world was horrible so most people escaped into a virtual reality realm for their everyday lives?”

That’s a great idea, and the author does a fantastic job with it. The book explores all sorts of things, from currency to health to chat rooms and even tech support.

It can be tempting to grab that concept and run with it.

Plot

Unfortunately, it also needs a PLOT.

It needs a story that only this character can tell that can only take place in that world — within the realm of that concept.

It needs … a rebellious vampire to befriend a human and buck the system. It needs a villain seeking the magic key in order to subjugate the magical land. It needs a vision quest all young unicorns must complete before their 17th birthday or they die.

It needs a PLOT.

And Ready Player One not only had a fantastic concept, it also had a great plot.

A quest to discover three keys hidden within the virtual world and a race against the heartless corporation bent on monetizing the currently-free system enjoyed by millions.

Writing

I am super prone to latching onto an idea while having a difficult time developing a plot.

Once I start trying to nail down an antagonist and a twist, I get all kerfluffled and feel like everything I come up with is pathetically formulaic.

Which is true. But also silly. You don’t need a genre-changing plot in order to have an entertaining story. That’s what the CONCEPT is for. To decorate the plot and describe it in new terms.

Challenge

Daydream up a simple concept.

“What if … ”

You can roll with “What if cats had wings” if you want the pressure-free version.

Now, come up with a PLOT for it. Antagonist. Goal. Character.

What story can only be told in a world with winged cats? (or whatever it is you chose).

Was it difficult? If so, what about it felt awkward or forced or uncomfortable?

If you can spot your own personal hangups with plot-building on simple challenges like this, you will be able to apply that knowledge to the stories that really matter.

Happy writing!

March’s Book – Envy of Angels

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Quick post to not only let you know that I’m not dead, but also introduce my personal reading assignment for March.

Envy of Angels, by Matt Wallace.

 

In New York, eating out can be hell.

Everyone loves a well-catered event, and the supernatural community is no different, but where do demons go to satisfy their culinary cravings?

Welcome to Sin du Jour – where devils on horseback are the clients, not the dish.

The series was pitched to me by a podcast as a heist story where instead of the crew being criminals and thieves … they’re chefs trying to make a crazy-awesome meal.

That sounds absolutely up my alley, so I added it to my reading list immediately.

I’d love it if anyone had time to add it to theirs!

February’s Book – Ready Player One

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I remember fondly the days when I not only did not have to PLAN for books, books just sort of happened to me.

Alas, adulthood is fast upon me and time for reading must be carved out by my very fingernails.

This month, I’m reading <a href=”https://smile.amazon.com/Ready-Player-One-Ernest-Cline/dp/0307887448/” target=”_blank”>Ready Player One, by Ernest Kline</a>. I’m not quite halfway through it (so this notification to YOU, dear friends, is a bit postmature. Is that a word? It should be a word).

In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.

But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

It is neither new nor obscure — most of you have probably heard of it if not read it yourselves.

But it will be my first time reading through it, and so far I’m enjoying the references to popular culture from my youth and the concept of the fully-immersive virtual reality platform OASIS.

Well, perhaps “enjoy” is a bit tame. I wish like hell I had OASIS available to me today, now, this very second. There’s more than a few of you I’d love to hang out with sans-keyboard.

Anywhoozle, feel free to nab a copy and read along with me this month if you’d like! It’s always more fun experiencing content with friends.

Tami Parker Fantasy Author & Other Duties as Assigned

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