Lucky 7 Challenge!

Skilled sci-fi author and blogger Kasia James has tagged me for the challenge of Lucky 7, a chance to show one’s writing only with one catch – you have to publish your text as it is at the time of the challenge, flaws and all. I just finished editing the novel I’ll be publishing a sample from, however as I’ve written my novel in swedish I’ve had to switfly translate the text to english. (So please excuse any strange words or expressions.)

This is how it works;

  • Go to page 7 or 77 in your current manuscript
  • Go to line 7
  • Post on your blog the next 7 lines or sentences – as they are!!
  • Tag 7 other people to do the same

And this is an excerpt from my novel (fantasy for young adults) from page 7, line 7 and 7 lines on.

Her boots sunk sighing into the wet grass and came out of the lawn with a sucking noise as she lifted them. Behind her Felis spat and hissed, probably upset that she defied him.

     “Coward,” she hissed over her shoulder and felt a swooping sensation in her guts as she once again sensed something large and dark moving just a few metres away from her, beyond the tree line, as she moved closer to the pond with reckless steps.

     Brown shells crawled and cluttered the dense vegetation around the pond. Her red boots were shiny with wetness. The logs surrounding the pond were dark with moisture and covered with a thin coat of algea. In an act of pure youthful defiance she jumped up onto the slippery logs and balanced toward the place where she thought she had seen a shape, a shadow, a something.

I’m finding it difficult to choose 7 people to pass the challenge on to, so I’ll just say that anyone who reads this and feels like it should take it on.

A relationship as fragile as the living paper creatures holding it together.

I read a wonderful short story today. 2012-Hugo Award nominated The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu. It’s a story about shunning one’s cultural heritage, about fear of not fitting in, about parenthood. The mother’s ability to create living creatures out of paper is a subtle, yet grand form of magic that seems fully natural to her son, the narrator of the story, but this ability is not enough to hold his interest and as he ages his dislike for his mother’s heritage and her way of acting and speaking, which is so different from what is the norm in the society he grows up in, grows stronger. She is from the country-side of China, now they live in the USA. The mother’s struggle to connect with her son is as heart breaking as it is desperate. A painfully beautiful story.

You can read it online here, link found at the blog Worlds Without End.

Mysterious dragons, nightly terrors and silly situations…

… are what I found in John Scalzi’s “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City (Prologue)”, a short story nominated for a 2012 Hugo Award. I’d never read anything by Scalzi before and so had no expectations when approaching the text, but was pleasantly surprised by the lovely tone of the narrator and the humor of the text.  I read the text online at Tor.com, here.

I first found the link in this blog post at Worlds Without End, where four other 2012 Hugo Award-nominated short stories are also listed and where they are available online. As they say on WWE, apparently “The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City (Prologue)” was published online by John Scalzi as an April-fools joke. Made me laugh!

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

There are stories that are true, in which each individual’s tale is unique and tragic, and the worst of the tragedy is that we have heard it before, and we cannot allow ourselves to feel it too deeply. We build a shell around it like an oyster dealing with a painful particle of grit, coating it with smooth pearl layers in order to cope.

From American Gods.

There is just something about Gaiman’s stories that lingers with you. Not all of them leave as deep a stamp as American Gods does, but many of them do, and some of them touches upon the heart of hearts when it comes to truths about life, death, belief and love. In American Gods Gaiman serves up profound reflections about mankind and man’s relation to society, the world as a whole, the universe. Love, sex, dreams, violence, friendship, hate, fear.

In American Gods Gaiman tells the story of ex-convict Shadow, who is released from prison only to discover that the woman he loved and lost in a car accident had betrayed him, in the last moments of her life. Lost and rootless, Shadow accepts the offer to work as a handy-man, or body guard of sorts, for a man named Wednesday, whom he meets on an airplane. (Could this be a reference to Adams and his The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, where a certain Norse God appearing in this scene plays an important role? One can only speculate, probably a long shot.) Caught in the middle of a war between the Gods of Old and the newer deities, gods of Media, Highways and Computors, Shadow travels through America as Mr. Wednesday’s hired help, across a country that is a place of exitement and joy, of wonder and beauty, of decadence and filth. The America depicted in American Gods is as transient as it is eternal.

The novel is littered with lovable, fearful, terrible, beautiful, ugly and wonderful women. Beautiful portraits of the female characters, deities or not. Mothers, sisters, daughters, lovers. Gaiman deserves praise for his female portraits, they are as multi faceted as they are respectful.  Samantha Black Crow, the energetic, vivacious, brave and creative young woman who studies women’s history and casts in bronze and hitch-hikes fearlessly. The goddess Eostre, or Easter, who is the goddess of spring and dawn, of life and regeneration. Or Bast, the catlike egyptian godess who weighs the acts and hearts of men and women, against a feather, with Ibis and Anubis,  when they are condemned to their after lifes. And, perhaps the most moving portrait of all, the portrayal of Shadow’s wife Laura, who is one of the greatest heroes of the story despite the fact that she has comitted an unforgivable sin in cheating on her husband.

There is so much to be said about this novel. It’s scope is enormous. We touch upon mythology from all ages and from the different corners of the world. Interspersed with the chapters moving the story of Shadow forward are short scenes showing one or other fate of a deity. Some of these are haunting, others thrilling, all of them moving. American Gods is more than a novel. It’s a journey of the mind. It’s a feeling, at the root of your heart. It’s a truly magical reading experience.

 

Taking a walk while waiting for books to arrive…

Today was a nice and sunny day for walking, fingers crossed that we will not get any more snow now that it has finally melted. (Though we did not get that much this year, luckily.)

I just finished editing one of my drafts and celebrated by ordering some books that were on sale. The first part of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, P.C. Jersild’s Edens bakgård (Back yard of Eden, not sure if this one is translated), Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Diana Wynne Jones’ Enchanted Glass,  Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Scarlett Thomas The End of Mr. Y and a collection of short stories by H.G. Wells.

Now I’m just waiting impatiently for them to arrive.  

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams

Douglas Adams is probably most widely known for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but he has also written a humoristic detective novel with roots in the fantasy genre. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (best title ever?) is the second novel starring private detective Dirk Gently in a leading role (the first novel is Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, which I have not read). The novel has strong influences of norse mythology, with gods Thor and Odin making cameo appearances.

The book opens with the narrator’s thoughts on airports and their inherent ugliness, but soon moves focus to Kate Schecther, the key character in the first scene, who is standing in line at Heathrow. Adams goes on to reveal Schechter’s motifs and reasons for being at said ugly airport, we get a glimpse of her background and Adams swiftly gives us an idea of what type of a person she is. We are informed that she is not really superstitious, but at present time she is doubting whether the Universe is trying to tell her that she should not go to Norway (where she is heading), and we also understand that she is acctually going to Norway in order to meet a man of dubious morale. Schechter has lived in several different places during her life, a restless soul, and she lost her husband five years ago. This terrible loss is just touched upon briefly, mentioned before the narrator moves on to the subject of pizza, and the lack of home deliveries thereof in the U.K., as if the narrator as well as Schetcher prefer not to think of the lost love.

After that, the crazy plot starts to unravel and it’s just a matter of leaning back and enjoying the ride. Expect the unexpected.

I was astounded by the great flow of the text as I read this book, the simplicity of Adams’ story-telling is truly captivating. Adams skillfully depicts the inner thoughts and musings of the different characters’ with humour and clarity, without stalling the action too much, at the same time as he anchors the characters and the plot to their surroundings. Tedious, normal people mingle with gods and supernatural beings, the real places are intertwined with the places that are not, myth becomes reality.

 

Neil Gaiman is working hard…

… writing the first episode of the HBO production of American Gods, as he mentions in this blog post. This is one of those things I can’t wait to see. I wonder who will be cast in the role as Shadow, or as Wednesday, as Laura, as Mr. Nancy. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

I’ve read American Gods twice (once in Swedish and once in English) and I think it’s a great novel. A powerful story, interesting characters, great feeling. I love stories where the only thing that separates what’s real and what’s surreal is a thin sheath of glass, where anything can happen provided the characters are up to it. I’ll be posting a review within the next few days.