Tuesday, September 25, 2012

On Saying Good Bye...

The note I wrote to accompany Shelia, my old wheelchair, as she began her new life as a loaner in the durable medical equipment recycling program.

This is Shelia, named after a ninety eight year old friend who refused to enter a nursing home after being hospitalized with the flu.  She’s been through hell and back with me.  She doesn’t climb hills or do non-macadam sidewalks well.  Have someone behind you on these surfaces.  Most ramps are okay.  Her average battery charge is 20 minutes to half an hour, so always, always carry the charger with you.  Restaurants and malls are good about letting you charge up in my experience.
If you don’t appreciate the stickers, simply get a piece of cloth and drape it over them.  Drive one is my indoor gear.  Drive 2 is faster.  Please keep in mind that the average chair life span is 5 years and she’s 11.  I think that’s a pretty good run.

If you have problems, feel free to call.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An imaginary adolescent's essay

Author’s Note:  This a class essay written by my short story Magic? ‘s main character who’s 13.  My colleagues in at the online science fiction and fantasy workshop send this passage was extraneous, but I liked it too much to delete it.  Therefore, I’m posting it here.  If you want to read more, let me know.  I have some more scenes, but the story is nowhere near completed

            I can’t imagine life without Stasi.  I’ve known her since the womb.  We were born on the same day.  We even have the same name, Anastasia Eliza.  We both hate math, although Stasi hates the subject and I just hate Mr. Kirkland.   We’re both night owls who love cheesy science fiction movies.  We both keep journals, even though I’m more serious about it than Stasi.  We’re both more likely to buy outfits at second-hand store than the mall.  We’ve both been volunteering since forever.   I guess it’s genetic.  As kids, we’d sorted can goods at a homeless shelter and collected medical supplies to send to Africa.  Now I spend Sundays at the animal shelter taking care of abandoned pets and Stasi answers the phone at the Disability Law Center on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

            My mom sometimes teases us that we’re a matching set, but anyone who’s known us for more than 15 minutes can see we’re not clones. She’s short, plump, and loves to be the center of attention.  I’m more reserved and my dad calls me willowy, but I’m really just tall and skinny. My skin is the color of a chocolate bar and my waist length long black hair is usually loose.  Stasi has Nordic skin accented by flaxen hair that gets chopped off the moment it touches her shoulders that she always braids or puts in a ponytail.  Stasi would eat candy for breakfast if her parents let her.  I’m a salad fan, although I like ice cream as much as anybody. I hate the outdoors.  Stasi goes camping every chance she gets and rides her handcycle (a special bike for people in wheelchairs) on the bike path whenever it’s warm enough.  She’s even on a wheelchair orienteering team!  And, of course, there’s the wheelchair thing but I don’t usually even think about that.

            I guess it fate that we’re best friends.  Our mothers were assigned to share a room their freshman year at Bard and have been inseparable ever since. They shared an apartment in Boston while my mom went to law school at Boston College and Lana went to the Massachusetts College of Art to get her MFA in three dimensional art.

              Stasi’s dad was in my mom’s labor law class second year.  She had a crush on him so she invited him over for dinner one night.   Five minutes after Rich and Lana met, my poor mom knew she didn’t have a chance.  Lucky for her, Rich felt bad so he invited her and Lana out to dinner and bought my dad along, who’d been his best friend since kindergarten or something.  He was a high school English teacher in Roxbury, who was doing activism with universal health care movement and writing a novel.   My mom always says it’s lucky that Rich didn’t like her, because she would have hated to break his heart and dump him for his best friend.  I guess it was lucky for me and Stasi, too.

            Two years later, they had a double wedding and spent their honeymoon building an elementary school in Honduras.  Then they moved to Rembrandt because the rent was cheap. Lana could have a studio while my mom and Rich opened a law firm “that put people’s needs ahead of profit margins” without everyone ending up homeless.

            While mom and Rich were busy righting wrongs, my dad and Lana got teaching jobs at the local alternative high school to keep the lights on.  The four of them lived in a small two bedroom apartment and became vegetarians because it saved money.  Then my mom got pregnant with me and everything changed.  Where would I sleep?  How could they afford clothes, car seats, and all the other things I would need?  How could my mom work 80-hour weeks and take care of me? And if she couldn’t, who would?

            In the end, the shelves were removed from a fortunately large hallway closet and my crib was moved in.  At her baby shower, all of my mom’s friends painted a picture to hang on the walls of the tiny room.   My mom remembers Lana saying, “With all the attention you’re getting, I almost want to a kid.”  Someone must have been listening because 8 weeks later my mom was planning her baby shower. 

            My mom’s water broke on January 4th at 2:33 AM.  Even though Stasi wasn’t due for almost three months, Lana’s followed 45 minutes later.  Lana always says it was because Stasi didn’t want to be stuck inside her stomach while I was having so much fun outside.   Stasi’s doctors said that being born early is what caused her Cerebral Palsy, I used to feel bad that Stasi had to be in a wheelchair just because she wanted to follow me, like maybe I should have waited for her. 

            My mom said Stasi was just making up her own mind about when to enter the world and who was I to tell her any different.  I guess she’s right; it was none of my business.  Besides, once Stasi makes up her mind about something, you’re better off just getting out of the way no matter what you think.   

            Once Stacy came home from the hospital, about a month after I did, she moved into the crib with me.  For the first four weeks Stasi was home, Lana had maternity leave and took care of us.  After that, my dad took us to work with him in the morning, so Lana could work in her studio until she had to teach in the afternoon.  We went to the learning laboratory day care, when students helped childcare workers take care of kids, until he was done teaching.  Then he would pick us up and take care of us until he handed us off to Lana at around 5:00.  Then he would correct papers and write while Lana watched us until around 8:30 when my mom came home.  Mom and Rich did most of the weekend childcare to give dad and Lana a break.  They took us to the playground and to watch little league games.  The four of them had a rotating schedule of who would get up with us at night.  Our parents like to joke that their first year of parenting was a group project.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fool Moon (Book 11 out of 150)

I finally got the second book in the Dresden Files. After a lot of problems with Overdrive Media, I listened to the whole tale in two days. Harry is not doing so well as the book opens. His main source of income working as a consultant for the Chicago police, Special Investigations Division, has been cut off due to his unfortunate fight with Karen Murphy, its director. Further problems arise when he refuses to help a sometimes student of his named Kim.

Kim's a lot like Harry, meaning that she's headstrong and not one to quit, even if she knows she's in over her head. Kim gets herself killed and Harry is on the track of what killed her along with four other people, at Murphy's request. But just when it looks like Harry's life is kind of looking up, he realizes the problem might be werewolves.

Apparently, warewolves are not as rare as one would think. There are three groups of them- a good group, a bad group, and FBI agents. Yes, you read that right.

This book is a fun read. I really liked the return of Harry, his girlfriend Susan, and Murphy. I was saddened by the fact that a lot of good people died in this book, but I won't tell you who order that would spoil the story. One thing I did not like was that this story seemed much less realistic than the other that I read the series.

Before you ask me yes I know it's a wizard story so that much realism is not to be expected, but I like what I can at least follow a story from point A to point B without getting lost along the way. For all its faults, I felt the story had a lot of adventure and it was hard to put down. I rate it a 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mira grant responds!

The following is the e-mail response I got from Newsflesh trilogy author Mira Grant. You may remember the letter I wrote her on December 21st praising her work at smashing stereotypes. This is her response, arrived today in my e-mail.

Dear Martina;

Thank you so much. This is exactly what I was hoping for. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And you're right about Maggie and Buffy. It comes up a bit more in book three, but again, it's just "this is what was, this is where we are now," not some huge dramatic brick to the head.

You really made my day.

All the best,

I feel happy and appreciated right now.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Abduction (Book 5 of 150)

I've never read a Robin Cook book before. In fact I've been warned away from him by a friend of mine who knows I have serious issues with the medical industrial complex. Therefore, I downloaded Abduction with the knowledge that might trouble me and also the knowledge that I was empowered to turn it off if I were so inclined.

Imagine my surprise, when what was being read aloud to me was, in fact, a fantasy story of this ocean mining crew and what happens when they get sucked into what is perceived as paradise to most people, especially most heterosexual male people, and yes I mean that the way it sounded.

But all this free love and passivism has a price. When it meant you couldn't go home again? What if it meant the end of family structures as you understood them? What if it meant tolerating things that you were not sure should be tolerated, such as a weird combination of slaves made out of a combining of Neanderthal and machine that still reproduces?

What would you say? What would you do? How far would you go? And what would your hosts do when you stopped playing nice.

I read this book an 8 out 10. It makes you think. It disturbs you. But not as badly as I was expecting. As I am at the end of every good book, I find myself wondering what happened next. I see more Robin Cook in my future.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Eagle Heist ( Book 4 of 150)

I like a good mystery every once in a while, even if I'm not the biggest fan of the genre. So I optimistically read The Eagle Heist by Raymond Austin, only to discover that it was one of those books that made this largely unpublished writer angry. If Austin can get a publishing deal why can't I?

The plot involves a diamond heist and 3 unsolved murders. As no one can figure out what happened, one of the victims mother’s hires a private investigator to help get things on the right foot again. Ex-cop Sloan is who is recommended.

The only good joke in the book, which I thought wasn’t sure if it wanted to be a mystery or a book about the relationship status of a widower, is that the main character looks like Wilford Brimley. The first time this joke was made it was funny. The eighth and after was just old.

If I were writing or editing this book, I would have truncated the first 6 chapters. It made almost no sense. I had no clue about the ending and I’m usually pretty good at solving it. But there were no clues to even grasp.

I ordered the second book in the series, only because I hope it gets better. It can’t get much worse. I rate this book a 2 out of 10. I hope this is the worst book I read in 2012.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Freedom's Landing (book 3 of 150)

As many books by men as I've been reading in the early goings on of this 2012 reading challenge, it was a nice change to read Anne McCaffrey's Freedom's Landing, which had a female protagonist who wasn't at all pathetic or damsel in distress oriented. I'm going to order the next four books in the series.

One of the reasons I like science fiction, and have since I was a kid, is that women are not always pathetic as is true in so much popular fiction. Kristen Bjornsen, Kris to everyone, starts off as a typical American college student forced into the situation of becoming an escaped slave when Earth is taken over by the Catteni and she is transported to another planet, with no idea what happened to the people she loved.

But, like me, whatever situations may due to Kris, she can stop being a good Samaritan. In fact, she gets herself recaptured by helping a Catteni, who she had first thinks is another escaped slave, escape from his country men's vengeance. Then she ends up on a spaceship to a supposedly uninhabited world that turns out to be not so uninhabited, along with the Catteni she rescued.

They, and the rest of their shipmates, must learn to get along and deal with the trials and tribulations of interspecies communication, self-government, and post slave mentality. The fact that McCaffrey just doesn't gloss over these details in pursuit of a great adventure story is what makes in my somewhat sexist opinion, but as a writer I feel like it has some merits, the difference clear between the way men and the way women tell stories. Women, in my opinion, want to delve into the relationships, the details, the mess… Men not so much!

I rate the story and eight out of 10 and must say that I liked the ending very much and I'm off to download the next book now. That should tell you how eager I am to continue this series.

Storm Front (Book 2 of 150)

Storm Front is the first book in the Dresden Files Series. Harry Dresden is a freelance wizard and consultant. He is in trouble with the White Council, the wizarding governing body and a physic freelancer (although he is not really physic, I think) with the Chicago PD.This is not Harry Potter. This book is not a juvenile novel. Please don’t let people who are under 13 read it. But I loved the story, the battles, and even the sensuality (for the most part). Also at times it was grotesque and just a bit much.As much as I complained about how Stuff to Die For ended quickly. This book had about 45 minutes of a too long, explicit ending. If you a grownup who still likes wizards, I recommend this series. If this Harry was born before the child Harry, I’d wonder if that’s were J.K got the name. Since the opposite is true, I must wonder the same about Jim Butcher. I can’t be the only one who noticed the too famous literary wizards have the same name.I like the story and rate it an 8.5 out of 10. Really looking forward to the rest of the series!

Stuff to Die For (book 1 of 150)

Stuff to Die For isn’t the sort of book I usually read. It's author is male. It's two main characters are male and it has nothing to do with social change. But it was available in the audio book library, so I read it.

And to my surprise found Skip and James so endearing I ordered the rest of the series. Skip Moore and James Lessor have been best friends since third grade. James is more of the leader and Skip more of the follower. Always following one get-rich-quick scheme with another is how they end up owning a moving truck and moving some cheating husband’s belongings out of his wife's house. What they didn't expect was to find a finger (yes, an actual human finger) amid the belongings. Furthermore they didn't expect this unexpected finger to belong to someone they knew. But, it did (or at least so they thought).

So began this adventure. It's complete with torture, terrorism, and international intrigue. All very male , very not me, novel plots. But as I said, James and Skip grew on me. In the next book I hope these frequently ne'er-do-well best friends grow up a little and become the men I know they can be. After all they're only 24 in this book.

I rate this book a 7/10. The ending didn't make much sense and came, in my opinion, way too quickly. However, the narrator's voice was charming and you really got to care about the characters. A good read during the flu or on the beach. Not something that makes you think a lot.