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Ain't nothin' but a hound dog

Maybe it's just me, but when mainstream, popular jerkwads like Scott Adams go off about what a shame it is that men have to suppress their "natural" urges to, uh, RAPE WOMEN, because really, the victims here are the round pegs of men who are forced to conform to the horrifying square holes of women (ya know, I hadn't realized that aspect of my anatomy)...

Is it not just a little, teensy bit terrifying?

How can someone get up in public and say, without apparent irony, that men are naturally programmed to rape? I mean, to forcibly project their penis into the orifice(s) of an unwilling partner, and that such urges are nearly uncontrollable without chemical castration? I know that this isn't true, but the ability of men like Scott Adams to say shit like this and then for hordes of other men to SYMPATHIZE with him makes me feel just a little less safe than I did an hour ago.

Even if I concede the premise that men are naturally hornier than women (a doubtful conjecture that seems implicit in his screed), I don't see how you get from that to, therefore rape is natural and its illegality causes depression and lack of fulfillment in males. Here's a novel idea: How about you express your inner horn-dog with lots of sex with willing partners? Even if you can't find one partner to satisfy all of your (consensual) sexual urges, you can find many who are all okay with the idea of multiple partners. It's not that hard. Try Craigslist. Don't rape.

But honestly? I just have to shake my head and hope that I'm never alone in a room with Scott Adams.

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In other (far more pleasant) news, I have two new short stories currently wild and free on the internet:

1) "A Prince of Thirteen Days" in Fantasy Magazine. This is a concurrent reprint of my story in the amazing Welcome to Bordertown anthology, edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner. This is my first Bordertown story, and it was a privilege to get to write in that magical, wild place, and hopefully put my own spin on things. A hint about that spin: there are biscuits.

2) "Their Changing Bodies" in Subterranean Magazine, part of Gwenda Bond's amazing YA issue. This story is...odd. I don't want to spoil it, but it involves teenagers and bodily fluids and coupling and supernatural happenings at summer camp. If you attended my reading at World Fantasy in Columbus last year, you heard the first half of this.

Hugo Voting For Your Consideration

This is my first time ever doing this, so I'll keep it short.

Nominating for the Hugos ends this Saturday. If you were a member of Aussiecon or this year's Worldcon, you are eligible to vote. You can purchase an associate membership for this year's Worldcon and also be eligible to vote. Should you be eligible to vote, you might wish to consider my two pieces from last year:

1) My novel Moonshine

2) My short story "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (included in the wonderful Zombies vs. Unicorns anthology)

If you would like a copy of either of these things, send me a PM, comment here or email me (utsusemia at gmail dot com) and I will send it to you. It would be best if you are actually eligible to vote if you ask me for these things, but I won't police anyone about it.

Thank you!

where I write

(I'm doing an experiment with posting my thoughts. Apologies if this gets as tedious as I'm afraid it might.)

The thing is, I'm trying to finish a novel. It's been a fairly tough slog for the last few months; surprisingly so, in some ways, because I really enjoy this book and its characters. On the other hand I wrote two novels between the first Moonshine and this sequel, and I feel like that sort of thing can really put off your writerly mojo.

Which brings me to the putative topic: where I do it. On the bed, on the couch, on the kitchen table, ha ha, I know. Often, in coffee shops. Mostly by myself. I have trouble writing in groups, though it's a popular activity here in the big apple since we have such a glut of writers. My trouble is that I talk too much, so everyone benefits when I stay home. I don't have a writers desk. I do technically, but I only occasionally write there. I've discovered that I'm not one of those people who can write in a single place. Even if I'm staying in my apartment, I'll move to every possible writing space every few hours. Part of this is because I'm so procrastination-prone that I hope that I can shake off the doldrums by changing pace. Sometimes this works. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I've written nearly-ten novels, because I begin to seriously doubt my ability to do anything at all.

Lately, I've gotten a great deal done late at night, in the dark, in my bed. Sometimes I wonder if it's because on my very bad procrastination days,  exhaustion is the only thing that can make me focus. Again, I like coffee shops, but they're unfortunately very spotty in their writer-friendliness. Every "perfect" coffee shop has issues. The one around the corner from me has good coffee or bad coffee depending on who prepares it. Sometimes the music is relatively mild at mid-volume. Sometimes it's blaring. On a good day in a coffee shop, I can focus and get more work done in a shorter period of time than I can at home. But on a bad day, I'll call it quits after four hours with a hole in my wallet and just a hundred words to show for it.

Right now, for example, I'm sitting in my bed with my second pot of green tea, writing this blog post (a blog post!) instead of finishing my novel. Which is due I don't even want to say when.

Time to write, huh?

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Reading tomorrow

Yes, I know this LJ is woefully under-updated. Yes, lots and lots of things have been going on in my life of late, but I have a very difficult time figuring out how to write about them. Perhaps a list?

-- I finished a half marathon yesterday! My goal was just to finish, since I didn't think I was in good enough shape, but actually I ended up running the whole way and finished in 2:34, which blew past all my wildest dreams of possible achievement. The marathon was in Niagara Falls, and went right past the falls at the finish line. It was gorgeous, I discovered that running is much easier with fluids (duh!) and I think I want to do another! I blame my boyfriend for getting me into this. My family can't believe it.

Today, however, I am more sore than I have been in a decade. At least. I think the last time might have been after my Tae Kwon Do black belt test.

-- I finished my YA science fiction novel set in Bahia, Brazil 400 years in the future. I kind of love this book and here's hoping it finds a good home. Given some other news I can't quite disclose yet (contract stuff), I am cautiously optimistic that it will!

-- I am late late late on the sequel to Moonshine, but thankfully I have found my muse again (and fixed the plot) and I'm on pace to finish by the end of this year. Which means a Winter 2012 pub date, unfortunately. But what can you do?

-- I moved to Brooklyn! I love the place, though first we had to eradicate cockroaches and the other day we saw a mouse (sigh). I'm honestly a little worried about the mouse because the thought of killing it makes me sick to my stomach, but I don't want it rooting around my bedroom either! The perils of living in a 1920s era apartment building, I suppose.

AND, finally, the purpose of this haphazard, drive-by update:

I'm reading tomorrow! It will be a pretty awesome event, if I may say so myself, being a theme of African American writers of vampire fiction (me, Linda Addison, Terence Taylor and L.A. Banks). Titled, even more awesomely: Beyond Blacula. Deets are here, but basically it's at the Soho Gallery of Digital Art at 6:30 tomorrow. If you're in town and free, it should be fun!

Zombies vs Unicorns: the debate!

Should have mentioned this earlier, but I will do so now! I'm at the beach at the moment, scrambling like mad (read: lying on the beach and pondering the lifestyle of seagulls) to come up with arguments for this event I'm doing in NYC tomorrow...

Thalia Kids' Book Club: Zombies vs. Unicorns

Thu, Sep 23 at 6 pm
Leonard Nimoy Thalia
$15; Members $12

Even though I wrote a story for Team Zombie in the book, I've been recruited as a turncoat for this debate, so, along with the fabulous Holly Black and Naomi Novik, I will be debating Maureen Johnson, Libba Bray and Justine Larbalestier.

Yes, if Team Unicorn wins, I think it might be despite a certain sun-kissed zombie writer ;)

But come if you can! I need a few people in the audience who will laugh at Very Bad Jokes.

Full listing here.

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Review in Locus

Because writing has been hard lately and I really needed some cheering up, I will share with all of you this truly amazing review Faren Miller just did of Racing the Dark and The Burning City in the August issue of Locus. Here's some excerpts, with a pre-emptive squee!!!!

Alaya Dawn Johnson’s Racing the Dark (opener of the Spirit Binders trilogy) would certainly have made my recommended list for best first novels, if I’d seen it when it came out in 2008. At least I can say something about it now, because it sets the stage for new sequel The Burning City.

...

The writing is eloquent and unflinchingly vivid, enough to retain a reader’s interest even amid this labyrinthine state of affairs, while the culture and its forms of magic are sufficiently offbeat (not European-medieval) to lift the book well above all those generic fantasies of youngsters coming into their Powers.

What may be most traditional about this trilogy is the mood change in book two: rapidly increasing darkness, as adversity becomes something far worse. Ever since Lana struck a bargain of her own to save her mother’s life, she’s been trailed by an avatar of Death – a creature who develops its own personality over the course of The Burning City. A confrontation with Wind, the one spirit that has already escaped its bonds, has transformed her into a strange winged hybrid known as a ‘‘black angel.’’ Though she and another hybrid (something like the son of Water) have fallen in love, their brief moments of bliss can’t last long. And the great city introduced in volume one suffers from its own horrors. Ravaged by a volcano when Fire nearly broke free as well, it now comes under the rule of a psychopath.

Johnson finds ways to bring us close to everyone – human or otherwise; good, bad, or somewhere in-between – as she works outward from the original circle of Lana’s family and acquaintances to their friends, enemies, and lovers, plus a few unrelated characters who strive to hold together an increasingly threatened world. She uses the same straightforward, informal style – peppered with modern slang – for a ‘‘novel within a novel,’’ the Black Book, even though it’s set a millennium in the past, at a time when the notion of spirit binding was new.

Here too, we get up-close and personal with young people struggling to find their way in unfamiliar environments. I would have liked at least a smidgen of the archaic in these episodes, to differentiate present from distant past, but The Burning City is more interested in the connections. Whatever the era, life is a continuum of personality and experience – the Eternal Now of some philosophers, or the ceaseless intimacy that drives so much YA? More likely the latter, yet at this midpoint the Spirit Binders trilogy has a style all its own: unflinching, sophisticated, imaginative enough to please (and jolt and challenge) even jaded adults. We’ll just have to wait for volume three to see how it all comes out.

1995-2010

My sister wanted to call him Pepper, but when my father and I had to fill out the forms for his first trip to the vet, we agreed: it had to be Atanie. We justified our high-handedness with the thought that she would thank us later for not giving him such a silly, generic name (especially to a wheaten terrier). For years afterward, Lauren would guilt us for changing the name of her dog behind her back. We asked her if she actually still preferred Pepper. No, she'd admit, but it was still a lousy thing to do to a ten-year-old with her first pet.

Atanie was rail-thin all his life, though he loved food. His dog bowl always stayed full; he subsisted on human leftovers: grated cheese dropped to the floor during dinner preparations, cantaloupe sliced and given to him as a treat. Once I tried to make cheese garlic biscuits, but the baking powder had gone flat and they turned out as over-salted cheese/garlic hockey pucks. I was about to throw the whole mess away when Atanie came nosing over, jumping up and down in his eagerness to have some human food. We were bad dog owners, I guess; we gave him our food all the time. I broke off a chunk from one of the hockey pucks and tossed it on the floor. If Atanie had been excited before, now he was rapturous: he ran around the kitchen, panting and whining for more. I gave him the rest of the biscuit. He launched himself through the air to get at it faster--doggie acrobatics for food joy. My sister came into the kitchen and stared at him, amazed. Atanie had a few favorite foods (Did I mention cheese? And no crappy American for him, either. He wanted the good stuff--full fat, extra sharp cheddar or nothing at all). But I don't think we'd ever seen him quite so excited. When Atanie was happy, he would move: absurdly fast sprints around the house, culminating in leaps down short staircases. He would jump and stand on his hind legs--both to be affectionate and to be in a better position to scavenge good food. He spent the whole next week running and jumping for joy every time someone took another one of those biscuits from the fridge.

His name was Atanie, but we called him "crazy dog" almost as much. And he would wag his tail and beg for cheese and oatmeal cookies and sprint back and forth and roll over at the slightest hint of a belly rub and always prove us right.

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This just in, from the latest tale of evil, venality and criminal corruption perpetrated by our government and the corporations it works for.

Or:

The disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

From an awesome investigative article in Rolling Stone, which you should read in full:

Nowhere was the absurdity of the policy more evident than in the application that BP submitted for its Deepwater Horizon well only two months after Obama took office. BP claims that a spill is "unlikely" and states that it anticipates "no adverse impacts" to endangered wildlife or fisheries. Should a spill occur, it says, "no significant adverse impacts are expected" for the region's beaches, wetlands and coastal nesting birds. The company, noting that such elements are "not required" as part of the application, contains no scenario for a potential blowout, and no site-specific plan to respond to a spill. Instead, it cites an Oil Spill Response Plan that it had prepared for the entire Gulf region. Among the sensitive species BP anticipates protecting in the semitropical Gulf? "Walruses" and other cold-water mammals, including sea otters and sea lions. The mistake appears to be the result of a sloppy cut-and-paste job from BP's drilling plans for the Arctic. Even worse: Among the "primary equipment providers" for "rapid deployment of spill response resources," BP inexplicably provides the Web address of a Japanese home-shopping network. Such glaring errors expose the 582-page response "plan" as nothing more than a paperwork exercise. "It was clear that nobody read it," says Ruch, who represents government scientists.

A web address for a Japanese home-shopping network. I laughed, but it makes me feel like crying, too.

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Book (2) day!

Today is the official pub date of The Burning City, a/k/a Book 2 of The Spirit Binders trilogy. I sweated blood to finish this thing, and I can't tell you how happy I am that it's finally out.



two posts up

So you know those blog post things where I dispense my opinions on subjects in paragraph form? The ones that I tend to write, oh, about twice a year?

I have two of them up as guest posts today! It was a struggle, let me tell you, but hopefully I didn't come off as a complete idiot. Both are about various aspects of vampire fiction, as this week I'm blog touring for Moonshine.

My possibly-guilty love of bad boys and anti-heroes for Fangtastic Books.

Social engineering vampires for Vamp Chix.

If you have nothing else to do at work or something, you could check them out.

As for me, I'm off to BEA!