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Hi! ¡Hola, y bienvenidos! My name is Lisa Bradley. I write speculative fiction and poetry. My work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Cicada, and Stone Telling. My collection of poetry and short fiction, The Haunted Girl (Fall 2014, Aqueduct Press), can be purchased from the publisher or Amazon. My agent is Rebecca Strauss at DeFiore and Company. For more information, including a list of my publications, please refer to my author website.

I'm originally from South Texas, but I've lived in Iowa for ~20 years. In addition to being a writer, I'm a wife and mother. I have chronic depression, but it's under control and I don't need medical/lifestyle advice, thankyouverymuch. (Some more labels: Latina! atheist! anarchist! bisexual!) I love horror movies, cars, gothic country, jigsaw puzzles, gin, NBC's Hannibal, whisky, dark chocolate, art journals...

I have written a series of posts, "Writing Latin@ Characters Well." I've provided links to each post below and will update this master list as necessary.
What are you?
Where are you from?
No, really. Where are you from?
But you don't *look* Latin@.
Say something in Spanish!
I LOVE Mexican food!
Putting out those fiery stereotypes
Banging down more stereotypes
Ingroup versus Outgroup conversations

Thanks for visiting. I hope we can be friends. :)
Just Finished: A Rope of Thorns by Gemma Files (handful_ofdust). As I said in a previous entry, reading this book was 'bout the only thing making me happy, so I stalled to avoid the ending. It turned out, I needn't have worried, because the ending of this, the second book in the Hexslinger trilogy, was pretty happy-making in itself. There's such a density of detail in these books, delivered at such breakneck speed, that one might imagine Gemma writing in a mad-dash to get it all down. But this isn't (only?) a helter-skelter stream-of-consciousness adventure. There's a magnificent level of craftsmanship at work. For example, I had no idea Chess's mother would assume so much importance when she was first introduced, and being surprised like that gives me goosebumps: what other pivot points have I missed? what revelations await in the final book?

Perhaps my favorite line of the book: "Gods sleep within us all, waiting to be prayed alive. And gods can kill other gods."

Currently Reading: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Tweetie and I are almost finished with this novel in verse about a young girl whose family immigrates from war-torn South Vietnam to America. The girl has a sweet neighbor who is a retired teacher, who agrees to tutor the girl and soon becomes her champion, helping her deal with bullies and her clueless teacher, who presents a very one-sided picture of Vietnam that further alienates the poor kid. Honestly, the neighbor reminds me of my own neighbors, both of whom are retired teachers and unfailingly kind.

For my nonfiction research, I'm still plugging away at The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working-Class Music by Manuel Peña. The author gives mini bios of some key artists in the conjunto tradition, and it's interesting to see my hometown region from their point of view. In the 1930s, there were Anglo and "Mexican" schools. Like my grandparents, the musicians who Peña profiles grew up with little formal education. He shares a quote from a (white) school superintendent back then:

"Most of our Mexicans are of the lower class. They transplant onions, harvest them, etc. The less they know about everything else, the better contented they are. You have doubtless heard that ignorance is bliss; it seems that it is so when one has to transplant onions...If a man has very much sense or education either, he is not going to stick to this kind of work. So you see, it is up to the white population to keep the Mexican on his knees in an onion patch...This does not mix well with education."

I think what bothers me--I mean, aside from the paterrnalism, racism, and hypocrisy (he starts by claiming ignorance is best for the "Mexicans", then admits it's really best for the white population to keep the Mexicans in servitude)--is that this attitude comes from someone who made it his life's work to foster education and enlightenment...but only for certain people, which seems anathema to the very notion of enlightenment.

Wednesday Reading: Degrees of Past edition

All the books in this edition are history oriented nonfic or historical fiction. Not intentional, just happened that way.

Just finished: Border Boom Town: Ciudad Juárez since 1848 by Oscar J. Martínez. I was so excited about this book when I started it. My full review is at Goodreads, but, in short, I came to feel the author minimized certain acts of violence by US "authorities" and thus I lost faith in the accuracy of his account of events.

Currently reading: My read-aloud with Tweetie is Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. As asakiyume suggested, I probably enjoy it more than Tweetie does. I think she could take or leave it, but she perked up some when the young Vietnamese narrator and her family arrived in the US, with all the culture shock that entails.

For my own pleasure reading, I continue with A Rope of Thorns by handful_ofdust. I should've finished it by now, but for a while there, Gemma's book was the only thing making me happy, so I (stupidly) stopped reading in an effort to make it last. Brain, get your shit together, yes?

My current research read is The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working Class Music by Manuel H. Peña. The topic is only slantwise related to my novel, so I won't read the whole book, but it's pretty interesting in itself. The thesis is that the conjunto musical style developed among Tejanos post WW2 because of the socioeconomic, racial, and asssimilation pressures particular to that era.

Next up: The university library books I borrowed for novel research are due June 1, so I've got to hustle through Where North Meets South: Cities, Space, and Politics on the United States-Mexico Border by Lawrence A. Herzog (the author's name is familiar to me from my days of polisci copyediting). If I finish A Rope of Thorns, I may start Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, ed. Sheree R. Thomas.

Health Update

I broke up with vegetarianism a month ago and I feel better than I have in a LOOONG time. I have mixed feelings about this, but I think the results are inarguable. Just a week in to my more carnivorous lifestyle, I felt like I'd dropped 30 pounds. In truth, it was just the relief of not being bloated and in pain anymore. Remember those commercials about sinus congestion that show how pain distorts body image? Like that.

I don't think I've cut anything out of my diet entirely. I severely restrict tomatoes, beans, and dairy. I've cut back substantially on soy and gluten. And I've been pretty intense about keeping a food journal. I use a free iPhone app, My Fitness Pal, to keep track of what I'm eating and any symptoms. A side benefit is that the app shows me calorie breakdowns and provides nutritional info. It's particularly useful for helping me avoid anemia and its exacerbation of my restless leg syndrome. Unintentionally, I have lost weight, but only about 7 pounds.

The weight loss is interesting because, in addition to changing my diet, I've started taking oral contraceptives again. When I used them in the past, I gained weight. I'm not sure what to credit the difference to. I've changed, the drugs have changed, etc. But I'm relieved not to have to fight unwanted side effects. As for possible positive side effects, my skin is clearing up. As with the weight loss, superficial improvement was not my intention, but I'll take it, as it means one less thing to worry about.

Hubster says, now that I've taken care of the digestive problems, I can schedule a doctor's appointment to address my restless leg syndrome. ...I guess. I feel pretty overwhelmed lately, for no reason I can pinpoint. Maybe it's the depression? I just want to sleep all the time. 

Accomplishments, I Has Them

Editor Mitchell Hart has posted the newest issue of Through the Gate, which includes my poem "Levity." A short, whimsical piece about what asakiyume aptly terms "inconvenient miracles," this poem was loosely inspired by old photos of spiritualists. Also included are works by popelizbet, sovay, Bogi Takács, M Sereno, Neile Graham, and Sarah Page, in an ever-changing lineup that prompts the reader to consider connections between the works. Or maybe the Table of Contents is just tricksy and having fun!

At Lightspeed, tithenai has reviewed three books from Aqueduct Press: sovay's latest collection, Ghost Signs, Jenn Brissett's novel Elysium, and my collection, The Haunted Girl. Amal is very complimentary, which is thrilling in itself, but she also clearly "gets" my book. I wanted to hug these words:

...at the collection’s core: resistance to norms, to imposition, be they of language, sexuality, or mortality. There is a sharpness, a sting to most of these poems, of the kind that makes you hiss and then seek it out again....I loved the collection’s bilingualism, both in the presence of Spanish and the musings on being between languages, on the thermodynamics of translation.

I am so grateful my work is out there, being read, being appreciated.

Now, back to work!
Just finished: Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks. Reading this book, I realized what I've loved so much about previous Sacks books I've read. I've never sensed any judgment or disgust from him regarding his patients' symptoms and behaviors, regardless of how bizarre they might have been. In this book, specifically the chapter "Altered States" but also sprinkled throughout the text, Sacks recounts the various hallucinations he himself has experienced, some of them intentionally conjured from experimentation with recreational drugs, others due to his habit of "self-prescribing" drugs as a young doctor, and still others resulting from the contingencies of life. Perhaps it's been first-hand experience that's kept Sacks humble and compassionate.

This is not my favorite of Sacks' books, but it was enlightening, especially his observations on the geometric auras associated with migraines, how they reflect the patterns built into the architecture of our brains' visual systems.

"Perhaps such experiences are at the root of our human obsession with pattern and the fact that geometrical patterns find their ways into our decorative arts....Migraine-like patterns...can be found in Islamic art, in classical and medieval motifs, in Zapotec architecture, in the bark paintings of Aboriginal arists in Australia...in virtually every culture, going back tens of thousands of years. There seems to have been, throughout human history, a need to externalize and make art from these internal experiences....There is an increasing feeliing among neuroscientists that self-organizing activity in vast populations of visual neurons is a prerequisite of visual perception....Spontaneous self-organization is not restricted to living systems; one may see it in the formation of snow crystals, in the roilings and eddies of turbulent water....[T]he geometrical hallucinations of migraine allow us to experience in ourselves not only a universal of neural functioning but a universal of nature itself."

Now reading: Border Boom Town: Ciudad Juárez since 1848 by Oscar J. Martínez. This book is a researcher's dream come true. Terms defined at the beginning of the book, photos, tables, detailed endnotes, extensive bibliography, critical analysis of sources in that bibliography, well-organized chapters, intros and conclusions. I want to make sweet, sweet love to this book. I know it will be useful for present novel and I will probably turn to it again for a future project. Big score!

Also reading: A Rope of Thorns, Book 2 of the Hexslinger series, by Gemma Files. I laughed at the book's dedication to Files' husband. I cooed over the epigraphs, and then I quick-slipped back into this 'verse I absolutely LOVE. In the wake of the Sacks book, I can't help but marvel over the hallucinogenically elaborate images spilling from the pages. So many awe-inspiring details. The gods and monsters will gobble you up while you stand in slack-jawed wonder at their terrible beauty.
Music is magic, as any teen could tell you. In SIGNAL TO NOISE, the teen is Meche, who discovers she can work spells with her friends using vinyl records. Of course, the teens seek to change their miserable social lot through magic, with dubious results.

The teens' story is solidly set in 1980s Mexico City, expertly interspersed with chapters recounting adult Meche's return to Mexico City for a family funeral. The back and forth in time feels flawless, as deftly handled as the changes in point-of-view, which allow readers into all the characters' heads (teen and adult alike) without ever being confusing. While the teens' story ramps up to disaster, adult Meche's story is more about internal change. This is not to say the adult story is any less magical--even more so, perhaps. After all, it's easy to believe in magic when you're young. As we age, that faith gets kicked out of most of us.

Some readers will resist sympathizing with Meche, who has a prickly personality and tends to abuse her few faithful friends, even as an adult. But I enjoyed her strong identity and the fact that she is who she is. She grows and improves, but she remains fundamentally herself, which is an admirable feat for anyone, but especially for a female coming-of-age heroine. Her prickliness makes her moments of tenderness even more touching. For example, I loved her relationship with her grandmother, which was gentle but not sappy.

A subplot involving Meche's friend Daniela and a teacher, though completely believable, felt a bit pat to me. I would've preferred more focus on Daniela's self-perception as a person with chronic illness, especially when that illness seems cured, at least temporarily, by magic. But that's less a complaint than a desire for more of this world Moreno-Garcia has conjured. (Luckily, the author has provided a playlist to let us live there a little longer.)

SIGNAL TO NOISE conveys the raw emotions of the teenage years without slipping too far into nostalgia or downplaying the emotional struggles of adulthood. It's a marvelous balancing act. I can't wait to see what Moreno-Garcia does next!

Wednesday Reading: Challenges Edition

By now, the sturm und drang over K Tempest Bradford's reading challenge to "stop reading straight white cis men for a year" seems to have blown over. I thought it was a worthwhile challenge for certain readers looking to diversify their reading habits, despite the complications that might arise trying to put it into action. (For example, how do you know a person is straight or cis unless they make that information public?)

Last year, I started noticing how many more blurbs on book covers came from (what seemed to be, judging from names) men or nongendered entities like the Times or LA Book Review than from women. Partly because of that inequity, at the beginning of the year, I made a challenge for myself: to make a dent in my TBR pile while reading a gender-balanced slate of books that alternated between men and women. Of course, I quickly realized I hadn't accounted for anthologies and then, much to my shame, I realized I'd defaulted to the faulty binary gender framework. Egads, these prejudices are hard to stamp out.

So I've adjusted my challenge. I'm noting and alternating genders as best I can, given my TBR pile and limited knowledge of author identities. This challenge does not apply to the books I read aloud with my daughter, since that's already a complicated negotiation process. ;) It's not been a difficult task thus far, as I'm a slow reader and read more than one book at a time.

I'd love to hear about reading challenges you've set for yourself, whether for this year or in the past. Tell me about them in the comments!

Read-aloud: We finished reading PIE by Sarah Weeks yesterday. My review is on Goodreads. In short, it was like a culinary cozy mystery for the middle-grade set, set in the 1950s, complete with pie recipes at the beginning of every chapter. I found it a little too wholesome (you know me, right?), but we inherited the book and it was on the short-list for a state book award to be chosen by Iowa students, so I persuaded Tweetie to read it with me so she could vote. I'm not sure what we'll tackle next. I've asked her to look for another nominee, Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, but we'll see.

Nonfiction: I finally finished On the Rim of Mexico last night! Review here. tl;dr, It's a good book that could use a revised, post-NAFTA edition, and it's entirely my fault, not the book's, that I took forever and a Tuesday to finish reading it. I still have a lot of note-taking to do from it, so it's not off my desk yet, but it's off my conscience.

Fiction: I finished reading Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which I enjoyed very much. I reviewed it on Goodreads but will give it its own blog entry in a minute, just in case folks want to chat about it!

Well, that was fast.

Time between "This chicken is nasty" to "You poor, delicious chicken":

36 hours.

Stomach complications were minimal this weekend--I still lost sleep--but I got some breathing room, so to speak. I'm pretty sure tomatoes are a problem, but the jury's out on the rest of the nightshades. I'm afraid to even look at a bean right now. I remain suspicious of gluten and soy.

I've come to the conclusion that, just as the best way to not be poor is to start off rich, the best way to not be sick is to start off healthy. It's really really hard to improve your situation when you're starting from a deficit.

Threshold

Something really weird happened last night.

I ate chicken. On purpose.

I've been a vegetarian for over 10 years. I backslid a bit when I was pregnant, because it made me feel more secure about getting all the nutrients I needed. I've also made nice and eaten tiny amounts of meat when I ordered badly in restaurants.

I've been vegetarian because of my concern for animals. That hasn't changed. What has changed is my health. For almost a year, I've been suffering stomach problems of one kind or another. I can't count how many hours of sleep, work, and family time I've lost due to stomach woes. I've tried a lot of things to be healthier. When I was on prescription-strength acid reducer, I felt pretty good--which meant I only felt wretched for a few days once a month, rather than a few days every week. I'm on non-prescription meds now, and I'm maxing out the daily dose and still having symptoms. So I'll have to go back on prescription.

When some people first consider going vegetarian, they worry a lot about nutrients and protein and minerals. Usually much more than they ever did when they ate meat by default. I find myself on the opposite side now: I could stay veggie, but I don't have the spoons to do the differential equations necessary to achieve the balance I need if I don't want to be in constant pain.

I don't know that incorporating small amounts of meat into my diet will solve my stomach problems, either, but it could solve some, and frankly I'm nearing the end of my rope. If I could just not eat anymore, period, I might do that. It's that bad.

So, I ate chicken last night. And it was nasty. But I'm only in slight discomfort this morning, not pain, and I'll take it.

Bonus Notes for "Golden Age"

Bogi Takács (prezzey) recently featured my poem "Golden Age" in eir #diversepoems recommendations on Twitter. Knowing how much Bogi appreciates bonus notes, I thought now would be an excellent time to elaborate on my poem, which originally appeared in Devilfish Review.

A note about the venue: Okay, coolest name ever! And some kind of cephalopod on their banner? I was sold! But when I read the editors' profiles, I realized they too are from the Rio Grande Valley. That definitely influenced my decision to send them "Golden Age."

I titled this poem "Golden Age" because I thought a certain type of science fiction becomes really appealing when one is first coming to understand mortality, specifically the mortality of our older loved ones.

Diabetes runs in my family. The grandmother I grew up with had Type 2 and her brother had Type 1. He needed regular injections, and the needles frightened me. I don't actually remember him doing the blood test strips, but he'd already lost an eye from diabetes complications. His glass eye was another fright to me, especially when he didn't have it in the socket or he took it out to tease us kids. Not understanding the difference between the two diabetes and seeing the common problems they caused my grandmother and her brother, I had a constant background worry that my grandma would get "as bad" as him. (And, in fact, she did have a host of health problems, related and not to the diabetes.)

Bogi mentioned the code-switching in the poem, and honestly, I had to go back to see what I'd done. I knew I'd used Spanish, but I'd forgotten how I'd had the child and Abuela go back and forth from English to Spanish, the give and take that was necessary to have that conversation between a mostly English-speaking Latina child and her mostly Spanish-speaking grandmother. That bilingual waltz was so ingrained in my childhood--and continues to this day between me and my mother-in-law--that it naturally emerged in the poem.

I had a difficult relationship with my grandma. In my opinion, she was not a good mother and she was unfairly thrust into the role a second time when my parents separated and she became responsible for us kids most of the time. I've written unhappy, even angry things about Gram, so I was glad to write a small, intimate remembrance that condenses the tender moments we shared.

Poetry Sale!

I'm pleased to report that my poem "Levity" has been accepted for issue 6 of Through the Gate. "Levity" is a short, whimsical, non-angsty piece, and I look forward to sharing it with you. :)

Creative Juices

Settled in for the long haul of novel revisions, I know what *I'm* doing for the next few months. So I want to hear what everyone else is doing!

Artists, writers, editors, musicians, creatives of all kinds: What are you working on now? What's going well, what's giving you conniptions? What are your short-term goals?

Pics, snippets, links all welcome in the comments!

Wednesday Reading: Cut It Out edition

I've started no new reading since last week, just chugging along with the same trio of books. Since I have a novel revision looming, however, I've been unable to disengage editorial instincts as I read.

For example, Mouseheart, the read-aloud I've been doing with Tweetie, begins with a prologue. I've heard so many agents and editors advise cutting prologues and just start the story already that I automatically question the necessity of such intros. As I near the thrilling conclusion of this middle-grade talking-animal fantasy, I've pretty much decided that this book did not need a prologue. So the question is, why use one? In this case, it gives the reader a more swashbuckling hero at the start, and it introduces a feudalistic fantasy element that the publisher might think helps distinguish the book from other talking-animal stories, which...maybe not? LOTS of books take animal "kingdom" literally these days.

(Also, at some point we need to talk about why we give our kids a steady stream of feudalist-inspired battle-and-intrigue fantasies, especially when YA novels are so dystopic lately.)

And despite my ranting last week about the awful female character, I continue reading Valley of Bones. What's interesting is that Gruber can write great female characters--when they're positioned as maybe villains, maybe victims. Not your typical noir femme fatales, much better than that. In fact, in this very book, he presents a really fascinating woman, Emmylou, telling her own story of how she got caught up in huge, possibly supernatural events. But this Lorna character he's created... She's the love interest of the male lead, Paz, and she just revolts me. The one thing that might have made me sympathetic to her--her mother's death from cancer and her own consequent hypochondria--is just buried under racism and classism and fat-phobia and superiority. I've tried to interpret her as a variation on a theme--how is she like/not the "villain" here?--but it's exhausting.

So I'd have cut Lorna out completely. :D But something else I might cut from the story are the numerous excerpts from a supposed history of an order of nuns. One or two have been useful, but I'm not sure why we couldn't get the same (much-abbreviated) info via the point-of-view characters. I like to withhold judgment on such things until I finish reading the book and I see how it all (might) come together, though.

Because I've been reading this book so critically, I've also realized that Lorna's pov is written in present tense, whereas Paz's is firmly in past tense. Going back to the first book, I see Gruber did the same thing there, alternating between tenses for the two leads. Here it bothers me, and I think it's because we're already veering between past and present in Emmylou's account of how she got involved in these murders that Paz is investigating, PLUS we have those excerpts of nun history. So, I'm feeling unnecessarily tangled up.

All of which contributes to much wariness as I contemplate the third book in the Paz series. I think/hope that having worked through this second book, I will be more willing to bail on the third if it annoys me half as much. :D

Spec Poems Reading Recs

The deadline for Rhysling nominations is Feb 15. I'm very grateful to see "Una Canción de Keys" among the long-form nominees. Thank you, Bogi!

Thanks also to everyone who provided eligibility posts, which made it much easier for me to remember when and where I read your poetry. (My depression affects my memory, so if you're still sheepish about doing eligibility posts, consider it a matter of providing equal access for some disabled readers.) No doubt I've still missed important, impressive work, especially if it appeared solely in print. I've also enjoyed much work not listed below. (Some were already on the ballot; some were by folks already much acclaimed/recognized; etc.)

I've indicated the poems I'm nominating with an asterisk. I've grouped the poems as long or short, but I only eyeballed line counts, so please verify the proper category when nominating.

Short Works

It's a Universal Picture by Gwynne Garfinkle in Mythic Delirium*
The devil riding your back by Gabby Reed in Liminality (Her first poetry sale!)
You Are Here by Bogi Takács in Strange Horizons (already nominated, but I can't help but point to it again, emphatically; this poem is emblematic of what spec poetry can do and should be celebrated)
The rivers, the birch groves, all the receding earth by Rose Lemberg in Strange Horizons
After the Mistress of the Copper Mountain by Rose Lemberg in Through the Gate [I'd originally put this in the Long category, but I was wrong]
The Nerve Harp by Mat Joiner in Stone Telling
Coyolxauhqui by Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas in Stone Telling
Nisei by Beth Cato in Mythic Delirium

Long Works

Scales by Ruth Jenkins in Stone Telling (Truly, I don't know if this fits in the long or short category [ETA: according to this blog post, "Scales" really is a Long poem.] Like Bogi's "You Are Here," this poem is a stunning example of what spec poetry can do when poets utilize the technology available to us; not sure how this could possibly be reproduced in the Rhysling anthology, but it's NOT to be missed!)
The Martyr of Baikonur by India Valentin in Liminality (another first-time poetry sale, iirc)
Feather by Mari Ness in Goblin Fruit
Demands Mari Ness in Goblin Fruit*
A Summoning of Monsters Jack Hollis Marr in Liminality
Long Ear Sofia Samatar in Stone Telling

So much poetry goodness out there! Enjoy. 

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