The Jane Austen of SF: Connie Willis

When I read that the topic of the month was humor, one writer leapt to mind, and beat down all the others with ease.  For my money, Connie Willis’ comedies are the funniest, smartest books (and short stories) going.  I call her the Jane Austen of SF, because many of her books and stories are about ordinary people going about their ordinary lives…but funny…!  My favorite of her short stories, At the Rialto, is about a bunch of particle physicists holding their annual convention at the Rialto hotel in Hollywood.  You wouldn’t think particle physics could be that funny…and in point of fact, it’s not the physics that are funny, but the people.

That could actually be said of all Connie Willis’ comedy—and her tragedy, too, because she writes both.  (Fair warning—her tragedy still has her trademark humor and humanity, but she’s notorious for killing practically everyone.)  But even her comedy isn’t simply “funny.”  Like all satirists, she sees people with a clarity that is both scalpel sharp and hilarious.  Her time travel comedy, To Say Nothing of the Dog, is the best of her humorous novels, and it’s superb.  I was trying to think of one quote to introduce Connie Willis to those who haven’t yet found her books, and half a dozen leapt to mind.  But the one I’m going with comes, not from her fiction, but from one of the short story introductions she wrote in her story collection, Impossible Things:

When you tell people you write Science Fiction, they say, “Oh, space ship and aliens,” and then want to know your qualifications. … And it’s no good telling them that your qualifications are that you’ve seen some strange worlds all right, and you didn’t need a space ship to get to them.  They probably wouldn’t understand.

 I’ve sung in church choirs, had Mary Kay facials, put on garage sales.  I’ve been to the mall and the orthodontist and the second-grade Valentine’s party.  I’ve even been to Tupperware parties—only slightly stranger than Venusian eye-stalk bonding ceremonies—at which you participate in arcane contests (“How many words can you make out of ‘Tupperware’?”  “Warp, put, upper, rue…”  I always win.  It’s the only thing majoring in English is good for) and eat ritual preparations of Cool Whip and graham-cracker crumbs and purchase plastic boxes that burp.

 Science fiction?  Piece of cake.  (“Pert, rat, paw tarp, prate, weep, apt, true, wart, Ra…”)

 Bell_Thief_cover-12-16Hilari Bell writes SF and fantasy for kids and teens—and while she’s not as funny as Connie Willis (who is?) her Knight and Rogue series is pretty amusing too.

I don’t wanna grow up!

When I saw this month’s topic was on funny books or books with humor incorporated somehow, I immediately forgot all the incredibly humorous books I’ve ever read. So, I’ve been systematically going through the files of my muddled brain trying to find something to write about (that’s actually worth reading).

Then I sat down to do a review of a children’s book with my daughters. I review the Clara's Crazy Curlsbook and they read it for their reading homework—a twofer. So what, right? Well, I’ve been doing this for the past few months. I’ve reviewed around a dozen books and I’ve laughed right along with my girls when we read them. There’s some funny stuff in children’s books!

So my short and sweet point is, stop and smell the little things (flowers, books, cartoons, whatever). I realized while I was agonizing over what to write for this article, that I sometimes overlook the child in me. I get too wrapped up in the “grown-up Michelle” that I forget it’s okay to let go and be silly sometimes.

Yes, I’ve read many, many young adult, new adult and adult books that have been funny and I’ve laughed out loud while reading them. And if I sat here long enough I’d remember some of the titles (maybe, brain cells are dying every day…). But I’ve had an incredible time reading some of the children’s books and letting my inner child come out to play and remembering how to laugh at the silly stuff.

Sometimes we need to slow down and see the world through the eyes of a child again.

Sometimes we need to slow down and see the world through the eyes of a child again.

It's time to read!

Funny Fantasy

This months’ theme is humor, and the fantasy genre is a good place to find funny books. Some people think the pun is the lowest form of wit, while others counter that that means the pun is the foundation of all wit. If you hold the latter opinion, you’ll love Piers Anthony’s Xanth series. The first book in the series is A Spell for Chameleon, and it’s set in a land where everyone has magic–except one person. I don’t know how many books are in the series now (I got tired of them several years ago), but they get even punnier as the series progresses.

If you enjoy good banter, then you’ll enjoy the dialogue in Lindsay Buroker’s books, particularly in her Emperor’s Edge series. A former enforcer tries to get back into good graces with the emperor by rounding up an unlikely group of men to do unlikely good deeds. The first book is perma-free, so it’s worth checking out — though you might wind up reading the entire series! Another fun series is the steampunk Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger. The first book in the series is Soulless.

Finally, if you just want a comic situation, I recomment Off to Be the Wizard. It’s about a computer programmer who discovers how to hack reality but discovers it’s too easy to get into trouble in our time. He seeks refuge in the Middle Ages, only to discover he’s not the only “wizard” around….

What are your favorite funny fantasy books?

 

April – Funny books/best books with humor!

I love reading stories that incorporate humor, even if it’s just sprinkled throughout the story. A funny line or scene can help the reader relate to the character or the situation, and always adds to the enjoyment of a book for me!

My favorite young adult books with humor are the Lux series and the Covenant series, both by Jennifer Armentrout. She has an amazing way of making characters cool, funny, irritating, and likeable. The interactions between her male and female leads are always fun and exciting.

My favorite nonfiction books with humor are the memoirs by Jen Lancaster. Someone recommended I read Bitter is the New Black, and after that, I picked up a few more of her funny stories. The way she writes about the bad stuff in her life with a comical spin is laugh-out-loud funny.

My favorite new adult author is Cora Carmack. She also puts her characters in some funny situations, and they are all relatable to real life! Losing It is one of my favorite books!

It’s April!!

Spring is here!! Well, for some of us. Spring has been an elusive little beauty this year but at least in my neck of the woods, the weather is FINALLY starting to cooperate. I just hope it sticks ;-)

Our topic for this month, in honor of April Fool’s Day, is our favorite funny books or best books with humor. As I am a HUGE humor fan, I’m excited to see what our authors come up with :)

We also have a release coming up! Sandra Ulbrich Almazan has a book of haiku that you should definitely check out.

Sandra  haikuLife at Seventeen Syllables A Day: A Journal in Haiku

This collection of haiku was written from March 18, 2013, to March 18, 2014. One poem was written every day and inspired by something the author saw or experienced that day. Some poems are literal while others are symbolic. Sandra hopes this collection will inspire you to find more poetry in your daily life.

Amazon

Inspired by The Firm

This month’s topic is “Best books outside your genre that influenced you.”  For me that book was The Firm.  It was the first book that held my attention from start to finish.  I can say that with certainty because it was the first book I had ever read in its entirety.  I was 21 years old.

I didn’t hit my ‘reading peak’ until my twenties.  In fact, I had no interest in it whatsoever.  Every time I tried to read a book, I’d get bored and lose interest after a few chapters.  Then I came across John Grisham’s The Firm.  For the first time in my life I couldn’t put a book down.  His writing style, mystery and character building sucked me and kept me intrigued until the very end.  I couldn’t get enough.  After reading my very first book, I was hooked and started reading regularly.

I often wonder, if I hadn’t read The Firm, would I have ever started reading?  I most certainly wouldn’t have started writing.  For me, John Grisham, opened a whole new world of reading and writing that I never new existed.  He inspired me and changed my life.

The Roads Less Traveled

Since this month’s topic is about books OUTSIDE our genre that have influenced us, I’m not sure where to begin. I read a lot of books outside my genre. I read to learn, to be entertained, to escape boredom and boring friends, to understand the madness of my neighbors, the psychosis of people of different races, the teen angst… The list goes on and on.

Having four older brothers and two older sisters, I started reading grown-up books at a very young age. My oldest sister read romance, so I was introduced to romance at a time when there was no kissing in romance books. I still remember my first book, Shutter the Sky by Janet Daily. Then there was Barbara Cartland’s historical romances. The ton. The handsome rakes. The young ladies swooning. I don’t write historical, but yes, I’m old.

cartland

My brothers introduced me to espionage books before they started turning them into movies . I loved the intricate plots of Tom Clancy books (Jack Ryan books), the intensity of Robert Ludlum (Jason Bourne books), the cunning minds of criminals in Mario Puzo books.

puzo

Then there’s non-fiction. The one that tops that pyramid is the Road Less Travelled Scott Peck. I love learning how people’s minds work and the root of mental illness or psychosis.

peck

So now I write romance with suspense, wicked villains, totally flawed characters, paranormal and fantasy elements