Still tap dancing on that wire?
Please sit down. We have to talk.
An interviewer asked me recently about why I started my blog. I didn’t have much time to think about it because I was sitting in our 150-year-new house, which lacked internet, phone signal, or (I just found out) a working oven. It is, in fact, currently grandly furnished with one table (folding), two chairs (also folding), and one bed (inflatable). But I just looked out the window at the moon rising over the water and thought, “I could so blog this!”
Before cashing in all my karma vouchers to reach this enlightened plane of existence where I’m a writer and all my days are Saturdays, I headed up human resources for a series of technology companies. (Translation: I fired people.) Okay, before I could fire them, I had to hire them. And that part was so much fun! I didn’t even have to buy them dinner or drugs or sleep with them to make interesting people want to be there with me and answer any question I might ask. Because it was high tech, almost all of them had worked for companies that didn’t make it. Because they were smart, when I asked why their companies had failed, they always knew the reason. Because it was an interview, they were always willing to tell me. Because you can’t make this stuff up, their answers always fit into one of two things—things that eerily mimic current [cough presidential candidates cough] events.
Thing One: their company failed because its leaders forgot who they were. In trying to make sure they took advantage of every opportunity that came their way, they lost track of why they had built that company in the first place, spreading themselves so thin trying to do everything that they ended up not being able to do what they started.
Thing Two: their company failed because its leaders couldn’t forget who they were. In clinging so tightly to their single-minded vision of what they started as, they weren’t able to naturally grow and expand to respond to changes and opportunities. So they ended up choking the product they were trying to protect.
“If shooting yourself in the foot qualifies you to be president, then we have the most qualified candidates in years…” —Samantha Bee on Full Frontal
Anyway, that’s how I think of my little blog—like a Dr. Seuss story with me tap-dancing between Thing 1 and Thing 2. I started it because I needed to be a writer. I wrote a book and plenty of clever people said that novelists need blogs to provide shiny PR for their books. It should, they said, be full of content about the books and writing as a process, and… and… And you know what? Writing books is fun, but even I wouldn’t want to read the minutiae of what goes into them. Talking about the process of writing is not only boring (total pantser here!) but the people who’d read it are other writers, not always potential readers. But talking about whatever comes into my head—silly stuff, books I’m reading, books I’m writing, what other people are writing—that’s both true to what I am and capable of evolving and growing. The only thing is that it’s getting harder to stay balanced on that wire. So for the next few months, I’m going to cut back on the blogging and concentrate on the writing parts. I won’t disappear, though, because I’d miss you all too much.
So…will you join me here today? I can’t really offer you much, and there’s just one extra chair that I’m saving for my guest. But the sun is shining, and I’ve got the kettle on so there’s coffee and a mismatched collection of mugs. Plus I do have this plate of somewhat lumpy looking lemon drizzle cookies I made in the toaster (yes, that absolutely IS a thing), and I’ve spread out some blankets in the garden. We can sit on the steps and watch the sun come up over the water.
I was thinking about this today because A) we finally got the new wifi installed and I noticed how many fabulous people are following this little blog and B) I read a new and different book by Piers Anthony, a writer I’ve loved literally for decades. If he can try new things as he celebrates his eighty-third year, then certainly I can enjoy a new house, even if it doesn’t have an oven. Or heated bedrooms. (And don’t even get me started about the bathroom situation…)
Will you read my blog today? I hope so. I’ve made so many good friends online, and I’d love you to be one of them. But whether or not you do, I’ll still be writing, still trying to tap-dance that thin wire between Thing One and Thing Two—remembering why I came here without forgetting who I am.
How about you? Why do you blog? Why do you read other blogs?
Review: What if the only thing standing between the aliens and us is her hair? And she’s bald?
Hair Power by Piers Anthony
Piers Anthony, critically acclaimed author of the New York Times bestselling Xanth series, brings together humor and adventure in this original story of loyalty, friendship, extraordinary powers, and hair.
Terminal cancer patient, Quiti, walks into an abandoned building planning on taking her life.
Instead, she encounters a telepathic ball of hair that insists it is an alien seeking to facilitate diplomatic communication on Earth.
Quiti assumes it is all a hallucination conjured up by her brain tumor.
Because of this assumption, when she saves the alien’s life and it insists on doing Quiti a favor in return, she only asks for her hair back. She soon discovers, however, that the creature’s gift extends much further than her new locks that can change color with a thought. As her powers grow and her deadly illness goes into remission, Quiti quickly realizes that there are those that would want to use her for her abilities and is forced to leave behind everything that she knew.
Will this blessing curse her to a life on the run, or does the mysterious hairball have more in store for her?
Okay, let’s just get it out there. I’m a geek, a nerd with a lifelong (luckily, requited) passion for classic science fiction, fantasy, and puns. My beloveds include Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Neil Gaimon’s everything, and of course, the trope-maker himself, Piers Anthony’s Xanth. So I was both delighted and worried when his publishers sent a review request for Hair Power, his new and decidedly non-Xanth novella.
Hair Power starts with a fabulous first line: “Quiti was no quitter, but she was looking for a place to quit.” Diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, she knows that all she has left instead of hope is the chance to end things on her own terms while she still can. When she spots the giant hairball that needs her help, she isn’t sure whether it’s a figment of her disease. But she puts aside her own suicidal plans to help, asking only for hair as her reward. She gets her wish, but soon realizes that she’s received far more. As Quiti’s new hair begins to grow in, it brings with it a mixed bag of miracles and problems that send Quiti and her decidedly motley posse off on their own hero-quest.
Quiti’s world is closer to urban fantasy than to the pun-fest that is Xanth, and (despite noticeable absence of either spaceships or horses) closer still to space opera. Consider the tropes that make up Quiti’s story:
- Urban. Quiti’s adventures happen in a fairly recognisable world, with crappy neighborhoods, back alleys, the occasional abandoned warehouse, and you know…aliens made out of hair. Of course.
- The quest. (Be named the Chosen One, recover the macguffin, fulfill The Prophecy, save the world. True love optional.) In most urban fantasy tales, if the main character is a hero, he’ll probably be a blue-collar warlock with a muggle best friend and a mysterious pet. If she’s a heroine, she’ll have a (possibly gay) paranormal best friend, and at least three super hot guys after her, which she won’t be able to understand because she’s just a normal, average girl who has long red hair, is loyal to her friends and family even though she has issues with one or more parents who (despite being dead) are trying to kill her, and who just happens to like to wear leather, fight vampires, and be a martial arts expert. Except… Quiti really is unattractive, and always has been—even before the cancer treatment left her bald and bloated. But now that she’s gorgeous, she has guys coming on to her, from a jailbait teen to gangs, rapists, and a confused but ultimately hair-blessed hero.
- Will they or won’t they? (If it’s season one/book one of the series—they won’t.) But in Hair Power, there are echoes of Xanth’s famous Adult Conspiracy, as Quiti refuses to have sex with her underage admirer. And even when she does meet up with a hair-enhanced potential mate (who has been specially trained by a terminally-ill prostitute-with-a-heart-of-gold), Quiti—an actual hymen-intact virgin—waits for marriage.
- One order of super-stud hero to go? The hero is probably somewhat barbaric but definitely larger than life, an honest to gosh evil-bashing machine until his last manly breath. Except this time it’s the virginal Quiti who unlocks her magical abilities, and turns into the badass (but still good-girl) fighter who has to keep rescuing the others.
- What’s in it for me? Despite the hero’s knee-jerk evil-fighting ways, s/he is mainly motivated by self-interest. I have to say that Hair Power veers into fairy-tale land here, with the poor but worthy humans proving their worth and receiving their follicle-enhanced rewards. No selfish hero/chosen one need apply.
- Attractive people are good. Unattractive ones are either bad or funny. No
fat, uglyappearance-challenged hero will ever stick it to the manstop evil. Or get laidrescue the maiden. Or even make the last-second winning run/basket/goal/WTF that cricket-thing issave the universe. Um… actually the hair-enhanced do go from ugly to seriously hot. (Hey, don’t judge—even Buffy and her posse were cute.)
- If you kill the leader of the bad guys, their minions will close up shop and go away. No way will they say to themselves, “Hey! We’ve got this terrific org and now there’s upward mobility. Evil rocks!” These are not issues that troubled Zena, Conan, or Buffy. But the problem in Hair Power is that the source of all evil is The Man. Apparently, the government has a knee-jerk Area 51reaction, “They’re different. Let’s dissect them!” So the only way to beat them is, apparently, to beat them at their own game.
- Horses. Who needs horses when your own mane lets you fly?
I loved the familiar feel of Piers Anthony’s dry narration. I even enjoyed the way he doesn’t build characters as much as set up puns. (“Call me Hair Brain.” says the alien.) Given the novella format, the pace is necessarily fast, with lots of details brushed aside or ignored in favor of moving the story forward.
But there were a few things that really troubled me. First and most inescapable was the attempted rape. I’ve actually never been a fan of the wink, wink, nudge, nudge treatment of sex in Piers Anthony’s books. But that was young adult, with lots of puns designed to go over the heads of young audiences but amuse adult readers. In this day and age, a sexual assault in which actual penetration is prevented (and which causes no apparent psychological damage) by the victim’s magical ability to freeze her legs together is just eeewww… Not to mention the fact that she didn’t tell her date—or the cops—about it because “I didn’t want to mess up your evening.”
Overall, Hair Power is a fairly classic SciFi tale, complete with aliens and their mysterious powers. If you like an action and adventure, some fairly G-rated (if occasionally mishandled) romance, and lots of puns, then Hair Power is a fast, fun little read.
***I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***