Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2009, Pt. 16: Haddayr Copley-Woods

Sounds Like 2009, Sure Enough
by Haddayr Copley-Woods

This summer, a friend of mine had to bully me into starting the Sookie Stackhouse mysteries, upon which the True Blood series is based. Well, twist my arm. You see; I am a horrible snob. However, I finally decided that friends do not look down their noses at friends' taste in stuff unless we know wtf we're talking about, so I picked up the first book she'd loaned me and started reading: Dead Until Dark.

And you know what? They're well written. They are entertaining and fun, and the protagonist is a beautiful blond who does stuff for herself but not in an overly annoying and phony "I Am Making A Point" sort of way, has an actual job as a barmaid and actual bills that she actually has to pay, and no one – not a single boyfriend – has a "crooked smile." Also, because Charlaine Harris is an actual Southerner instead of a condescending Yankee writing about Southerners, her backwoods characters feel like real people – even most of the bad guys, and her small town feels like a bunch of folks instead of a bunch of stereotypes.

Yes, yes there are vampires, which we are all so sick of, and werewolves and lord help us fairies but seriously check it.

Flushed with success from reading many of those books, I took a fellow writer's advice (hi, Dena) and started reading other mysteries to learn more about plot. I turned to none other than Agatha Christie herself.

Seriously, people. Read Miss Marple mysteries. Wonderful plotting, wacky twists, strong characterizations, delicious language. One thing I found interesting was that it was clear to me as she went how when she was an early mystery writer she sometimes depended on absurd and ridiculous coincidences upon which to found her mysteries, but as she became more and more experienced, I'd finish the book and slap myself on the forehead, annoyed I hadn't figured it out myself.

Are podcasts fair game for this series?

Because if they are, whether you are disabled or not you MUST check out the BBC podcast "Ouch," which a friend (oh hai Shana; look at all of my embarrassing shout-outs) suggested last year but which I didn't really get into until this year.

It's a talk show by and for disabled folks. You will laugh and laugh, and if you're able-bodied, you'll probably feel guilty and laugh some more. If you're a gimp (or "crip," as the Brits call themselves) you will again see this strange fellowship we are all in, and revel in it. (The podcast is here.)

Speaking of shout-outs, I heartily suggest that all of you read Alan DeNiro's book Total Oblivion, More or Less. Yes, yes, we are in a writing group together and blah blah blah but I have reasons:

1. Adult book with teen protagonist
2. Really REALLY weird and unexpected and
3. Scary in places
4. Bizarre resonances with Twain and Miéville.
5. A super gross and interesting plague.

So we started with vampires and ended with a plague. Sounds like 2009, sure enough.

Haddayr Copley-Woods is a copywriter living in Minneapolis with stories in places such as Strange Horizons and Ideomancer. She blogs at

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