Top 10 of 2016: Books

With movies and television taken care of, it’s time to tackle the category that is probably the nearest and dearest to my heart- books!

This list includes my favorite books of 2016. To simplify things, I’m only including books I experienced for the first time in the past year (as much as I enjoyed rereading the Glamourist Histories). Not all of these books are 2016 releases, but some of them are. Interestingly, I couldn’t help but noticing that as I was compiling this list, I ended up picking quite a few nonfiction titles. And while I certainly read more nonfiction this year then I have in the past, it didn’t make up THAT much of my reading, proportionally. Perhaps I just ended up choosing really good nonfiction titles!

Same as my last two lists, this is a countdown! So the number one book IS my number one book of the year.

10. The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin– Clearly, the world agrees with my on The Fifth Season‘s awesomeness, as it won the Hugo Award this year! The Fifth Season works for me for three reasons. The characters are complex, the world building is fascinating, and the way the book is structured is fascinating for me as a writer. I have no excuse for having not read the sequel (The Obelisk Gate) yet. Don’t worry, I feel the shame.

9. The House of Hades by Rick Riordan– One of the things I tried to do this year is catch up on Rick Riordan’s Mythology books. And I did great, until The Hammer of Thor was published, and now I’m behind again (d’oh!). My favorite of them all was The House of Hades, which brought our characters into new and interesting directions, my favorite being Percy and Annabeth’s journey through Tartarus, where they must face their slain enemies. Really good stuff.

8. Cinder by Marissa Meyer– I actually read all four books in The Lunar Chronicles this year (plus the spin off novella Fairest. The short story collection, Stars Above, is still in my TBR). I felt like the strongest was the first book Cinder. It’s not that the later books were bad. I just prefer the smaller, more personal focus of the earlier books. Cinder does a fantastic job of retelling the Cinderella story in a sci-fi setting. I’m impressed at how well Meyer took a fairytale lead particularly lacking in agency and crafted a really satisfying protagonist out of her. The romance was also top notch.

7. The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard- The Story of Stuff is a fascinating look into the lifespan of the things we own, from how the raw materials are gathered, up until after it’s been thrown away. Throughout this process, The Story of Stuff takes a close look on its impact on the environment, and the people who live it. The Story of Stuff will dramatically change how you look at the stuff in you life, from the cotton t-shirt on your back, to the cellphone in your pocket, and it manages to deliver an immense amount of information in a way that both informative and highly entertaining. This book should be required reading in high schools.

6. Borders of Infinity by Lois McMaster Bujold– I read a few of the Vorkosigan books during 2016 but my favorite- by far- was Borders of Infinity. This collection of three very different novellas tells three satisfying Miles Vorkosigan stories, tied together by unrelated framing story. This is a wonderful addition to an already wonderful series. I suspect it will be satisfying to both new and existing fans of the series. I fangirled about this one over at Speculative Chic this fall. 

5. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah– I’ve read my fair share of comedic memoirs, but Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime completely changed how I view the genre as a whole. On top of being funny, Born a Crime is also chock full of information about horrors of apartheid and its aftermath. The level of poverty the now cheerful host of The Daily Show experienced in his youth will be unfathomable to the vast majority of the book’s western audience. We talk a lot about checking your privilege nowadays, and that’s so important, especially when it comes to realizing what privilege really means in the context of the wider world. Born a Crime is a book that often left me in tears, which doesn’t happen all that often. I highly recommend reading this, even if you don’t watch The Daily Show.

4. The Supergirls by Mike Madrid- I write a lot about superheroes over at Speculative Chic. In preparation for that, I decided to brush up on my background reading. I started off with The Supergirls, by Mike Madrid, which is all about the history of female characters in comics. I had no idea that on top of being informative, that it would be such a page turner as well. Madrid clearly cares about the women he writes about here, and his enthusiasm comes through on every page. This is 100% recommended to anyone with any kind of interest in the role that female characters have played in comics from the Golden Age to the early 2000s.

3. City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong– I’ve been a big fan of Kelley Armstrong since I first picked up Bitten when I was in college, so the fact that she continues to wow me with great material, ten years later, really says a lot. City of the Lost is a fantastic thriller/murder mystery that takes things the next level thanks to its unique setting (focusing on a small community of people who live off the grid), tough-as-nails lead (have I mentioned recently that I have a weakness for awesome lady cops in my fiction?), and steamy romance (I thought I was going to hate it, but I was so on board by the end). I am chomping at the bit for the second Casey Duncan book A Darkness Absolute, which is supposed to be released this February. 

2. Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda– A behind the scenes look at Hamilton, this tome-sized book chronicles the evolution of the musical from its initial inception up and through its runaway Broadway success. To fans of Hamilton, I could not recommend this book more. It’s like someone has handed you all of the hidden secrets of the musical. The fact that it contains the entire script (with footnotes from LMM!), and gorgeous photos is a wonderful bonus. If you’re a Hamilton fan and haven’t read Hamilton: The Revolution, do yourself a favor and hit up your local library.

1. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron– And now we get to my favorite book of the year, the newest book in my favorite series, The Heartstrikers. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished continues the story of Julian Heartstriker, the one nice dragon of a clan of greedy dragons, trying to get by in a post apocalyptic world. No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished has a distinctly political air, and the fact that I found is so enjoyable during a year when real-life politics thoroughly depressed me, says a lot about the quality of Rachel Aaron’s writing. I know that she’s currently hard at work at the fourth book, and I can’t wait to dig into it. 

Honorable Mentions: Imago by Octavia Butler, A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord, Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal, The Dispatcher by John Scalzi

So those were my favorite reads of 2016. I’d love to hear how everyone else’s reading year went.

Next up, comics and graphic novels!

Top 10 of 2016: Television

On Monday, I posted my top ten movies of 2016. Now, it’s television’s turn.

Admittedly, television is a trickier beast. You can’t really make a list of the best television seasons, as network TV shows follow the school year, instead of the calendar year. You also can’t do television episodes, because shows on netflix are so arc-heavy that they don’t always have one episode that stands out above the rest. So instead, I’m just going to completely open things up. Which basically means that anything goes! That includes my favorite stand out episodes, beloved characters, story arcs, etc. The end result may be a little messy, but it’s a far truer representation of my top 10 of television of the past year.

Just like my movie list, this list includes TV shows that I first experienced 2016. And while not all of them first aired in 2016, most of them did. Also, like the movie list, this IS a countdown. So the number one was my number one moment of television in 2016.

10. Agent Carter– “Smoke and Mirrors”– Poor Agent Carter. While it was chock full of lovable characters, great humor, and did a wonderful job expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe to include post WWII America, it didn’t always live up to its full potential. “Smoke and Mirrors” is an example of how good it could be when it did. This episode not only revealed the origin story of Peggy Carter herself, but season two’s villain Whitney Frost, expertly exhibiting the challenges facing women in the 1920s and 30s without feeling hamfisted. While it’s tragic that Agent Carter will never see another season, I’m so happy that we got a season two, if just for this episode.

9. Daredevil- The Punisher– While season two of Daredevil wasn’t quite as impressive as its first outing, it certainly had its strengths. The most obvious of those strengths was The Punisher, expertly played by Jon Bernthal, who added shades of gray to this already very gray section of the MCU. I’m so happy to see that The Punisher will be getting his own spin off series in 2017, and that Karen Page will be following him as well. Their complex relationship was one of my favorite parts of this season.

8. Luke Cage– Misty KnightLuke Cage proved to be another strong addition to the Netflix corner of the MCU, bringing in several new memorable characters. Perhaps it’s due to my weakness for tough lady cops, by my favorite of these new characters was Simone Missick’s Misty Knight, the intelligent and driven Harlam detective. I can only hope that, much like The Punisher, Misty will be given a spin off of her own. I’d happily watch a show all about her.

7. Noragami– The Lady Bishamon Arc– Season one of the anime Noragami was plenty of fun, filled with great humor, fascinating ghostly worldbuilding, and action sequences. But it was the Lady Bishamon storyline of season two that really pulled me in. This arc was filled with twists and turns that really changed how you viewed the main characters, and the final showdown between Yato and Bishonen was nail biting. Can we get a season three? Soon?

6. The Flash– Earth 2– While I certainly have my quibbles with season two of The Flash (not to mention season three), it doesn’t change the fact that it was just so fricken fun to visit Earth 2. I’m a sucker for alternate universe storylines, and had a ball getting to meet the different versions of The Flash’s all-too-likable cast of characters (the highlights clearly being the alternative versions of Caitlin and Cisco). The actual visit to Earth 2 was short, but meaningful, and its effects were felt across the entire season.

5. Supergirl– The new characters of season two- Sometimes when you see that a TV show is bringing in A LOT of new characters in for a new season, you get nervous that things will start to feel crowded. This is how I felt going into season two of Supergirl, but dammit, somehow they managed to pull it off. I love all of the new faces that we’ve gotten to meet in season two, from the tough but likable Detective Maggie Sawyer (there I go again with awesome lady cops!), the morally complex Lena Luther, the should-be-annoying-but-is-actually-quite-charming Daxamite Mon-El, the secretive Miss Martian/M’gann, and Tyler Hoechlin’s wonderful new version of Superman (who I fangirl over on Speculative Chic right here). It’s a virtual smorgasbord of fabulous, new characters and I enjoy digging in every week.

4. Arrow‘s 100th episode– Perhaps the most impressive thing about Arrow‘s epic 100th episode is that it really shouldn’t have worked. Not only did it have to reflect on the legacy that Arrow has built over four and a half seasons, but it was also the third part of an ambitious four night crossover event. Under a lesser writing team, Arrow may have worked in one area or the other, but the Arrow team clearly knew what they were doing. Arrow‘s 100th episode was moving, exciting, and grand. I can see myself rewatching this one over and over again. If you’d like to see my further thoughts on the crossover event as a whole, check out this joint review I did with JL Gribble over at Speculative Chic.

3. Psycho-Pass– Season 1, part 2– I didn’t know what to think about Psycho-Pass at first. While the tech and worldbuilding were interesting (it’s kind of like Minority Report, only instead of killing all the future murderers, they turn them into captive hit men for the police force), it took several episodes before I was fully invested in the characters. By the time I got to part two of season one (which basically means season two), I was 100% on board, excited to learn more about this world and desperate for the pure-minded Akane and the latent criminal Kogami to just make out already. If you’re a dystopia fan, do yourself a favor and watch Psycho-Pass. You don’t need to be an otaku to find it as addicting as I did.

2. Game of Thrones– “The Battle of the Bastards”– And now for the most cliche item on the list! Having completely broken free of the incomplete book series, Game of Thrones reached new heights in season six, and no height was higher than the penultimate episode “Battle of the Bastards,” which managed to capture the horrors of war, finish off a long-running arc in a thoroughly satisfying way. I am crazy excited to see how the show will develop in season seven.

1. Agents of SHIELD– Fallen Agent– One of the best and worst things about network television is how long it takes to tell a story. Twenty-two episodes a season, with storylines that can go on for years. In its infancy, Agents of SHIELD showed the drawbacks of having such a long season (it took quite a while to get off the ground) but by the end of season three, it showed the strengths as we witnessed the final showdown between Skye/Daisy and Ward/Hive, a moment that we’ve been building up to for years. This was only a small part of what was an incredibly strong two part finale (topping off what I feel was SHIELD‘s best season yet). SHIELD‘s season three finale was everything a finale should be, filled with show stopping set pieces, dramatic emotional beats, and plot developments that will change the show and its characters forever. Last spring, I must admit, many of the finales left me feeling underwhelmed, but Agents of SHIELD made up for it all on its own.

Honorable Mentions– Master of None– “Parents”, Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt– “Kimmie Meets a Drunk Lady”, Doctor Who– “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, Legends of Tomorrow– Captain Cold

And that’s it for me! I’d love to hear what shows/episodes/characters everyone else fell in love with during 2016.

Top 10 of 2016: Movies

With the end of the year just around the corner, I’ve been seeing a lot of Top 10-style lists, such as top 10 movies, top 10 books, or top ten TV shows, showing up on the internet. Since I really enjoying reading these lists (or watching them, if they’re on youtube), I figured I would share my personal top 10s for 2016. And since I don’t think I’ll be going to the movies again before the new year, it seemed safest to start with film.

Before I get to the list, I just want to give a few caveats. First off, there are plenty of great looking 2016 movies that I haven’t seen yet (looking at you Arrival!), so if your personal favorite is not on this list, that’s why. Also, this list is drawn from all of the movies I saw for the fist time in 2016. So while most of the items here are 2016 releases, a some are not. And thirdly, this is a countdown list! So the number one movie is the movie I personally enjoyed the most in 2016.

Without further ado, here are my top 10 movies of 2016.

10. JourneyQuest 3: The Pale Lady– The little movie that almost wasn’t. The third installment in the JourneyQuest franchise was funded on kickstarter by the skin of its teeth back at the beginning of 2016, and was released to backers just this past month. While JourneyQuest: The Pale Lady has production values far below any of the other entries on this list, the passion and energy the cast and creators bring to the screen is infectious. I love the sword and sorcery-esque world it take place in, and getting to follow our hapless cast of characters for another round. I just hope I don’t have to wait too long to see how that cliffhanger is resolved! For those new to JourneyQuest, start here.

9. Doctor Strange– Admittedly, this isn’t going to go down as my favorite Marvel movie (if your curious, it ranks directly in the middle), but I still felt like Doctor Strange did a great job of bringing magic to the MCU. Doctor Strange hosts an impressive cast, and even more impressive visuals. Overall, it was tons of fun to experience in the theaters. Perfect popcorn fare. For more of a review (including my thoughts on the whitewashing controversy) check out this post that I contributed to on Speculative Chic.

8. Finding DoryFinding Nemo is one of Pixar’s best movies, and probably impossible to top. But even though Finding Dory will not be a classic for the ages, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a genuinely funny and moving film, with a top-talent voice acting, and beautiful story about parents and children. The short film, Piper, that accompanied it, was also too cute for words.

7. Psycho-Pass: The Movie The anime Psycho-Pass was one of my top discoveries of 2016, but I was a little nervous about checking out the accompanying movie, as tie in movies to anime series can often feel like useless filler. But Psycho-Pass: The Movie doesn’t fall into this trap at all. Bringing our heroine, Akane, out of Japan, wonderfully widens the scope of the franchise, showing the audience just how dystopian this future can get. On top of that, the film provides some great character moments between the show’s two leads. I’ll even forgive the movie its crazy, awkward engrish! Highly recommended for fans of season one of the anime.

6. Sing Street– It can be argued that since Once, John Carney is basically making the same movie over and over again. And nothing could make me happier. His films about musicians creating art and finding love never fail to sweep me up and take me away. Sing Street, which is a fantastic coming of age story on top of being a great movie about music, is filled with catchy tunes, and a likable and talented young cast. I can see why this little film got nominated for a Golden Globe.

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story While not as enjoyable as The Force Awakens (one of my favorite movie of 2015), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story remains a movie I can see myself revisiting again and again. Thanks to the dedication of its talented cast and director, Rogue One really changes how you look at the original Star Wars. That and this tense, more adult Star War movie, proves that not all prequels need to be a let down. For more of my thoughts, check out this post on Speculative Chic.

4. Moana– While I never had a “Disney Princess” phase, Disney movies (especially those involving princesses) will always remain near and dear to my heart. Much like Frozen, Moana takes everything I loved about Disney movies as a child, and updates them for a new era. The voice work is fantastic, the music is wonderful, and the CGI shows that the animation industry is continuing to develop and improve its technique, decades after Toy Story. I share more thoughts on Moana here– I’m the second review down.

3. Captain America: Civil War– This is the movie that I’m sure will be at the tip-top of many top 10 lists, and I can see why. Captain America: Civil War effectively builds on the personalities and tensions that have formed over several years worth of Marvel movies, delivering a nuanced character-focused piece with all of the big, explosion-filled action set pieces you’d expect from a summer tent pole movie. Captain America: Civil War manages to both kick off phase 3 of the MCU, and finish of the Captain America movies in a way that is an absolute joy to watch.

2. Deadpool– There are some movies that get better the more than you think about them, and that’s 100% true for Deadpool (as well as my number 1!). Many people like to look at Deadpool and see it as a victory for R-rated superhero movies, but I feel like only doing that really undercuts the film. Deadpool isn’t just a good R-rated superhero movie. Deadpool is a movie that is firing on all cylinders. Its a successful comedy movie, AND a successful action movie, AND a successful love story, AND a successful horror film (during the Weapon X scenes). Deadpool is a movie that slides from genre to genre with unbelievable skill, but you barely notice it because you’re too busy laughing at Ryan Reynolds. Deadpool 2 is one of those movies that I am looking forward, but also fearing. I honestly have no idea how they can pull off this tricky balancing act again.

1. Zootopia– Speaking of movies that can easily navigates between multiple genres, let’s talk about Zootopia, my favorite movie of 2016. Zootopia was the first movie I saw in theaters in 2016, and boy did it start things off on a great note. Zootopia manages to succeed on everything it attempts to do, which is pretty impressive, because it attempts to do a lot. Zootopia is a masterfully made animated tale, filled with rich worldbuildng and gorgeous animation. Zootopia also succeeds as a detective story, chock full of real world commentary. But the reason why I loved Zootopia the most is because of the strength of it’s characters, and just how much you care for them by the end. I dearly hope that Disney ends up putting out a Zootopia 2, because I so desperately want to spend more time in this wonderful world with these amazing characters.

Honorable Mentions: Bad Moms, Naruto: The Last

So, those are my top ten! I’m curious to see how they line up with everyone else’s!

Fallen to Earth: The Trials and Tribulations of The New 52’s Supergirl — Speculative Chic

Hey there! I have a new entry up on Speculative Chic! This one’s all about Supergirl, and adventures during The New 52. I break down both the good and bad (and trust me, there are both!)

Back when Greg Berlanti first announced that he was making a Supergirl TV show, I realized something very important. I knew embarrassingly little about Supergirl herself. Sure, I knew that she was a Kryptonian, and Clark Kent’s cousin, but beyond that? Yeah… not so much. To rectify this, I found myself hitting up my library,…

via Fallen to Earth: The Trials and Tribulations of The New 52’s Supergirl — Speculative Chic

Meet Squirrel Girl: Your New Favorite Superhero, Role Model, and Best Friend — Speculative Chic

I used to think that Squirrel Girl was just a joke. In my defense, that was usually how she was brought up, in a laughable, dismissive way. I distinctly remember some form of the phrase “Even Squirrel Girl will have her own Marvel movie before DC figures out how put popular character X on film”…

via Meet Squirrel Girl: Your New Favorite Superhero, Role Model, and Best Friend — Speculative Chic

Hey! My first post on Speculative Chic just went live! Are you a Squirrel Girl fan? Then you’ll love this post. Not a Squirrel Girl fan? Then maybe you will be after reading this post 🙂

Make Your Own Avengers Team!

I was going to write this big post about dealing with self doubt, and how difficult it is to tell the difference between genuine needs of improvement in one’s writing vs. the falsehoods based on personal insecurities. Buuuuut then I found myself in the middle of a pretty busy week, and that just sounded way too serious/depressing. So I’d thought I’d reference a conversation I had with my husband a few days back about the Avengers.

Here we go! Thanos assembles the infinity gauntlet in Avengers: Infinity War (now presented without parts!). He snaps his fingers and all of the Avengers (BOTH teams, the one from the original Avengers movie, and Cap’s team at the end of Age of Ultron), vanish without a trace. It’s up to you to form a new Avengers team of SIX people. You can choose from anyone who has appeared in an MCU movie, an MCU television show, or is contracted to appear in either. So Captain Marvel is fine, as she has her own movie coming out. And Iron Fist and Ghost Rider are fair game since they will be showing up in the shows. Basically, you just can’t pick anyone that hasn’t already been an official avenger. Any other MCU character is on the table.

Here’s what I chose for my roster:

Avenger #1- Loki
This is the choice that gave my husband the most pause. Technically, he’s not a hero, but a villain. Also, to my knowledge he has never been an Avenger in the comics. BUT! look at the previous films, and his role actually makes a lot of sense. After failing with the Chitauri at the end of the first Avengers movie, Loki is already on Thanos’s shit list. So with the Mad Titan on his heels, Loki might be forced to make some… interesting alliances. The values of having Loki on the team are pretty high. Although he’s not the fighter that Thor is, as an Asgardian, he’s certainly no slouch. Also, he has previous experience with an Infinity Stone (the aether, from Thor: The Dark World). Loki is also a trickster, which might allow him to turn the tables on Thanos. Thematically, Loki’s tricky nature and moral flexibility would bring in a an element that we haven’t really seen with an Avenger (Tony may have made Ultron, but that came from a place of good). This would result in interesting interactions with our more lawful good team members (more on them later).

Avenger #2- Black Panther
The loss of Captain America is a heavy one. The former solider is one of the team’s strongest fighters, an impressive tactician, and a leader that people can stand behind. Would could possibly come close to replacing that? Enter Black Panther. Civil War has proven to us that he’s a beast when it comes to combat abilities. Not only that, but his decisions at the end of Civil War show a real emotional maturity that I believe is necessary when it comes to being a leader. That and the whole being a monarch of a country thing. Also, without Tony, you’ve lost your cash cow, a role that the wealthy Wakandan could fill quite nicely.

Avenger #3- Gamora
No offense to Star Lord but as the “daughter” of Thanos, I couldn’t think of a Guardian who’d be better suited for a fight against Thanos. This works both logistically (she’ll be the only Avenger that KNOWS that guy after all) and thematically. Going up against the man who killed your family then forced you to work as his personal assassin for years? That’s powerful stuff. Also, I would love to see see her interact with other Avengers, who are unlikely to know what to do with a truly alien presence. And as someone who prides herself as living with honor, I could see a real strong friendship forming with Black Panther. On top of that, she ALSO has previous experience with an infinity stone (the power stone). That and we need someone green on the team.

Avenger #4- Captain Marvel
This one is a little tricky. Unlike the other members of the team, who we have seen on screen to some effect, how Captain Marvel will be portrayed is a bit of a mystery. Will they emphasize her military roots? Those are skills that could be useful to the team after the loss of both Cap and Rhody. Or will they chose to make her a cosmic hero, emphasizing her connection to the Kree? Having another Avenger with knowledge of the alien side of the MCU is not a bad choice. Regardless of her backstory, if there’s one thing that’s consistent about Carol Danvers, it’s the fact that she’s a powerhouse. And without Thor or Hulk running around, we are going to need someone who will play the role of “big gun.” I couldn’t think of anyone better suited to that then Captain Marvel.

Avenger #5- Doctor Strange
He’s another tricky choice, as we’ve only seen Stephen Strange exchange a few lines in a couple of trailers. But one line in particular has stood out to me. When Strange comments to the ancient one that “this (magic) doesn’t make sense,” she replies, “not everything has to.” What better way to take out an all powerful being then someone who doesn’t have to play by the rules? Someone who has inter-dimensional powers. Also, if the rumors are true about an infinity stone appearing in Doctor Strange, he will ALSO have experience with a Stone. That and with Tony gone, we’ll need a new beardo on the team.

Avenger #6- Spiderman
This one is tricky, because I knew I wanted to put a more street level person on the team. While my heart may be with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, I know that, tone wise, what we really need is a wise cracker to break the tension created by the super-serious team members already assembled. Also, it would be really interesting to see the perspective of a shiny new hero. Peter Parker is a teenager, not a thousand year old Asgardian, or an alien assassin. He doesn’t have military training, nor has he studied the mystic arts. He’s just a kid trying to keep his neighborhood safe. And that, more human perspective, when combined with his tendency to crack jokes to break tension, is surely one that viewers will find themselves drawn to the most.

So there you go, Kevin Feige! I made your next Avengers team. I’ll be waiting patiently for my paycheck.

What does your roster look like? And yes, I am aware that this is a VERY BIG question, so it might take you a minute to think it through 🙂

Let’s Collaborate! On Writing Groups and Fanzines

As a lifelong introvert, I’ve never been big on group activities. I didn’t do much partying in college, and I’ve always been the type of person that does better with a small group of close friend then a large gathering of many acquaintances. But in this world of networking and social media, being the loner nerd who likes to stay home and read doesn’t always fly. So I do my best to tackle the world of socializing like any slightly awkward woman in her 30s. In doing so, I’ve learned a very important lesson.

Collaboration can be a powerful thing.

And while I’ll always be that loner nerd-and there are certain projects I can never see myself collaborating on-in the past few months I’ve found a few methods that suit me just fine.

First off, I’ve joined a writing group! There’s four of us total, and we’re all working on speculative works. Mine- Red and Black- is a superhero novel. Another member has a sci-fi story taking place on a generation ship. A third has this unique gothic tale taking place in a small town in Maine. The final member is working on a choose your own adventure style traditional fantasy story. So lots of fun stuff to be had there! Although I’ve always had first readers, it’s been a great help to have this extra level of involvement with my novel. It’s made me realize the vital importance of having as many people read your novel as possible before you try to shop it around. I mean, no one likes having their flaws pointed out to them, but it’s much better to have all of the rough edges smoothed off before you try to publish. Because eventually, someone is going to see those flaws. And as much as we writers might like to think we really know a story, sometimes you’re just too close to a project to see them all.

My writing group will be meeting on Sunday. One of the things we will be discussing is the second third of Red and Black. I am quite eager to hear what people think!

Another example of collaboration is a fanzine that I’ve been invited to be a part of. And lo and behold, it just launched today! This group blog is called Speculative Chic, and you can read the intro post here. Starting next week, the blog will feature regular posts all about geek culture and speculative fiction. And there are A LOT of contributors who are going to talk about everything from the latest big movie release, to a big discussion of the nominees for the Hugo awards. I have two tasks. One is assembling a weekly column called “My Favorite Things.” I like this column because it’s all about geeking out about your current favorite media, which I love to do anyway. There are already several posts up for discussion for anyone curious. And later on, I will be posting my own column, which will be all about comics. I decided to start things out by talking about one of my favorite superheroes, the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl! Please keep an eye on the blog, as that will be posting in the second half of August.

So collaboration may seem like a scary thing, especially to us writers who envision their dream job as sitting alone with their laptop in a dark room. But even if you are an introvert, there are so many benefits to working with others towards a common goal. It can result in you becoming a better writer, for one thing. Also, sometimes when you try new things, you can inadvertently end up finding something that you love. So when these opportunities for collaboration come by, don’t reject them outright. Take a serious look at things. For all you know, it could result in something awesome.