[TWGW] My TBR Challenge – Part 1

I’m challenging myself to read some new and old books from my TBR stacks in a month and a half. Eep!

(I’m also challenging myself to be less lazy and use my real camera again.)

Books Mentioned:

We That Are Left by Clare Clark (Galley, October 13, 2015)

The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker

The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet and Other Stories by Vandana Singh

Soul Music by Terry Pratchett

Atomic Aztex by Sesshu Foster

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

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A (Belated) Clive Barker Halloween Special

This Halloween, I found myself face to face with Clive Barker. One would think I would’ve blogged about it sooner.

The encounter involved a fetish club, a costume contest, and a broken branch antler.

I heard through reliable sources (a mess of flyers littering my Facebook feed) that Clive Barker was hosting a Halloween ball at Miss Kitty’s in Los Angeles, and that he would be judging a costume contest that night.

For once, I hadn’t procrastinated on my costume and actually took some pride in it, so I jumped at the opportunity and purchased a ticket to the event.

This is how events (and I) unravel…

Barker is nowhere to be seen when I arrive, but that isn’t a surprise. With celebrity hosted events said celebrity usually makes a brief “onstage” appearance. So Miss Kitty, an intimidating and queenly type, makes the rounds and personally handpicks contest participants. When she chooses me, I try to act all “whatevs” about it, but my giddy excitement is pretty obvious. She has all of the participants line up in the hall to wait and I’m scratching and slapping people with my branch antlers as they pass. I worry not that I’ll find a dislodged eyeball on one of my branches, but that someone will break the headpiece as they’re impaled by it.

Miss Kitty finally introduces Barker and, in a flash, I see someone all in white ushered onstage. This is when I get really nervous. I was a theater nerd in high school–it’s not like I’ve never stood on a stage in front of people, but being in a judged setting is a different matter, especially when the judge is a writer you respect and are inspired by (a heart defibrillator and years of intensive therapy would’ve been necessary had it been a contest on my writing as judged by the author in front of a large crowd).

Shortly after his entrance, I hear the announcer call the “Winter Witch” and I’m pulled up the stairs. As my foot hits the stage, the curtain latches onto my antlers and time stops. Something crunches and cracks on my head. I can almost hear the creak and whine of a redwood capsizing as my right antler begins to collapse. The base tears off the headpiece but I grab at the antler before it falls off completely and hold it in place as I head onto the stage. Disaster and recovery occur in the span of about three seconds.

Everyone’s clapping and shouting. I’m still in too much of a panic to even see Barker sitting on the throne downstage. All I can think about is how stupid I must look gripping the antler as I walk. A pageant smile emerges from I don’t know where and sets itself on my face as I march down the runway.

As I’m coming back around, resisting the desire to dash madly down the stairs leading off the stage, I’m directed to stand before Barker so he can get a good look at the costume. I walk up to him smiling like a clown, sweating like a pig, and curtsy. Of all things. I don’t know why, it just seems like the thing to do.

Then he nods and says, “That’s a really great costume.”

I WIN!!!!

WOOOHOOOoooo….

…Actually, I lost to a Silent Hill nurse who did that creepy stilted walk. Ah well. I made it into the final round and Clive Barker complimented my costume. I consider that a win. (But don’t count on ever seeing me on ANTM.)

Book Review: Abarat

The early Hellraiser movies have long been favorites of mine and so Clive Barker’s name always means good things to me. I’ve long thought of Barker as a great mind in horror but, terrible fan that I am, I didn’t realize his work went beyond the one genre.

Needless to say, I was intrigued when I randomly learned he’d written a series of Young Adult fantasy novels, starting with Abarat. After reading the summary on the back of the book, the title immediately went on my summer reading list. Here’s the summary:

A journey beyond imagination is about to unfold…

It begins in the most boring place in the world: Chickentown, U.S.A. There lives Candy Quackenbush, her heart bursting for some clue as to what her future might hold.

When the answer comes, it’s not the one she expects.

Welcome to Abarat.

That little blip took me back to some of my favorite childhood movies and stories with the common theme of young person struggling to find his or her purpose, and then discovering it in a fantasy world (particularly the Harry Potter books, Labyrinth, and the Adventures of Baron Munchhausen the movie). These are the stories that have influenced and shaped my own writing.

The Review

It’s been a long time since I read YA fiction, which is bad news since it’s my novel’s genre. I think the last YA book I read was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when it had just come out.  It was a little jarring returning to it after so many years. Along the lines of my earlier adverbs post, some prevalent literary rules are broken in the genre but that sort of thing doesn’t bother me much, especially while traveling through a gorgeous world like Barker’s Abarat. He really is a master when it comes to creating unique creatures and settings; he doesn’t hold back. I might as well have been in Abarat as I read about Candy’s adventures.

I also want to note that there’s more diversity in Barker’s novel than I’ve seen in YA lit in general. This made me happy.

Barker’s prose captivates. I was taken on a ride right from the start with the first sentence.

The storm came up out of the southwest like a fiend, stalking its prey on legs of lightning.

So simple, so telling.

If you’re looking for a story that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before and breaks the boundaries of structure and form, or a story that deals with issues rarely broached in literature, this probably isn’t the book for you. If you think “serious” literature is the only “good” literature, this isn’t the book for you.

I was looking for a book that reminded me why I love YA fantasy and inspired me to work harder on my own novel. This was the book for me.

What I Learned

Abarat gave my imagination much-needed exercise. Many times as I read, I wanted to run to my laptop and think of ways to make the world in my WIP richer. World-building is supposed to be fun, and I think I forgot that. Here’s a description of one of the islands in Abarat–the Yebba Dim Day, an island shaped like a big head:

It was a city, a city built from the litter of the sea. The street beneath her feet was made from timbers that had clearly been in the water for a long time, and the walls were lined with barnacle-encrusted stone. There were three columns supporting the roof, made of coral fragments cemented together. They were buzzing hives of life unto themselves; their elaborately constructed walls pierced with dozens of windows, from which light poured.

There were three main streets that wound up and around these coral hives, and they were all lined with habitations and thronged with the Yebba Dim Day’s citizens.

I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series.