Sunday Sum-Up: August 16, 2020

A few things from the week:

  • On my day off, I drove all the way down to the botanical garden to photograph the flowers and whatnot, only to get there, have a lovely shot lined up, and then realize that my camera had no memory cards in it, and I had left my regular camera bag (with extra cards) at home. So I think, “I’ll just go get some groceries, take them home, and then come back here”, only to realize that I had left my wallet at home, too.
  • WordPress has shoved the new block editor at all of us. It’s marginally better than the original block editor, but still annoying to work with. I’ll keep working with it. Maybe I’ll get used to it.
  • I keep hearing that mint plants are extremely hardy and that you can’t kill them. To this I say, “Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

    Alas, my mint plant seems to be dead. I’m clinging to a small hope that a few budding leaves will grow up and return the plant to its previous healthy state, but I’m not holding my breath.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

There’s been peace in the house over the last week, as both cats have mostly settled upon their particular domains. Mina has ceded the territory of Under the Couch to Sidney and taken up residence on either Second Shelf or Back of the Couch. Now, the disputes rise over who gets to nap in which window, though that is less of a problem as there are four ‘sitting’ windows and two cats.

Last week, I had a couple of requests for a photo of my older cat, Sidney, so here he is:

Sidney’s been my feline roommate since my last year in college. I adopted him from the animal shelter when he was a kitten, and he’s been a jerk to everyone but me since then. He enjoys sleeping in a patch of sunlight or in a sunny window, and will occasionally hop onto the bed while I’m reading and demand scritchies. He will be sixteen in a few weeks.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

Prince Caspian was better than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but what happened there in the last third or so? We spent all this time gearing up for the battle against the Telmarines, and then Aslan takes Susan and Lucy and wanders off to eat grapes with Bacchus-lite. Why? And also, why are there no consequences for the characters having been through battle? Someone is close to death, but it’s okay! Lucy has a magical potion that will heal you, and if her magic doesn’t do the whole job, Aslan will finish it up for you. Again, why? Maybe it’s just me, but it cheapens the story if there is no real peril for the characters. It shouldn’t matter that it’s meant for children. Children are braver and cleverer than most adults give them credit for. Their stories should reflect that.

Where Dreams Descend… Well. This was a disappointment. I didn’t hate it for sure, but it landed with a thud. And even though there is a cliff-hanger of an ending, I don’t care. I’m not going to read the next one. In spite of all the time spent living with these oh-so angsty characters, I found that I ended up not caring about any of them. And while the writing did improve as the story went on, that didn’t help pique my interest. This story could have been 100-150 pages shorter, and been much better for it. I’ll have a more in-depth review later this week.

Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England provided a lot of illuminating insight into the second half of Henry VII’s reign, and how he went from being seen as a liberator who freed England from the reign of the usurper King Richard III to becoming a tyrant in his own right. It also shows how Prince Henry (the future Henry VIII) grew up in his father’s court and proved to be his father’s opposite. There is plenty of politicking going on, too, especially when it comes to the young Spanish princess, Katherine of Aragon. Penn throws a lot of names at the reader, so it’s helpful to have at least a basic understanding of the history of the end of the Wars of the Roses.

Her Smoke Rose up Forever is a collection of short stories by James Tiptree, Jr., aka Alice B. Sheldon, who wrote some of American science fiction’s most groundbreaking short stories of the late 1960s and 1970s, with everyone in the SFF community believing that she was a man (and in some cases, praising her work for its masculinity). While I understand the technical mastery on display in these stories, I didn’t enjoy very many of them due in part to the depressing subject matter (almost everyone dies!) and the incessant sex and misogyny of the male characters. While the point of many of the stories deals with women and how they’re either escaping from or living entirely outside the male world Tiptree/Sheldon was dealing with during her lifetime, the constant return to the male gaze and its fixation on the female characters’ anatomy quickly grew tiring. These stories– while excellent– are definitely products of their time.

What I’m Currently Reading:

Jade War is just as fascinating as the first book in the Green Bone Saga, Jade City. It follows the Kaul family, head of the No Peak clan, a crime syndicate that– along with the rival Mountain clan– is the de facto ruler of the island nation of Kekon. The rare stone jade gives certain people superhuman abilities, and while jade has long been restricted to Kekon, outside forces are finding ways of obtaining and using jade for their own purposes. As Kekon fights to maintain a place of superiority in a world that is rapidly opening up, the Kaul family must fight to stop the Mountain clan from destroying them altogether. I’m a little over halfway through, and wishing I had more time in the day to devote to this book, because I really want to find out what’s going to happen to this family.

The Four Profound Weaves is a novella about characters undergoing many changes– from one gender to another, from one stage of life to another, from one career to another. The writing is gorgeous (Lemberg is a poet), and the story is compelling. I made the mistake of trying to read it over my lunch hour at work, though, which has too many distractions for a story like this, which requires focus. So I’m going to start over again and only read it at home.

I’ve only just begun African Samurai, but so far it’s great. It tells the story of Yasuke, a former child soldier from Africa who arrived with Portuguese missionaries in Japan in 1579. He ended up becoming a Samurai, and this book tells his story. So far, the narrative is compelling, and I’m looking forward to finding out more about Yasuke.

What I’ve Been Watching:

A Discovery of Witches, season 1

I picked up the first season of A Discovery of Witches from the library, just to give it a chance. I did not enjoy the book by Deborah Harkness (I think I made it halfway through before DNFing it), but the series was much better, as Mary from Mary and the Words said it would be. Most of the misogyny has been removed, and TV-Diana is a far more assertive character and far less helpless than book-Diana was. I enjoyed the series enough that I’ll watch season 2, but only if I can get it from the library.

Old Guard

I kept hearing about this from a variety of sources, so I gave it a shot on my day off, and I thought it was great! Charlize Theron stars as Andromache the Scythian (you can call her Andy), who leads a team of mercenaries seeking to do good in the world. They have have a particular ability that separates them from everyone else in the world, though, and this makes them incredibly deadly and incredibly hunted. I loved how each of the main characters really showed how their lives have worn them down and how they might not want to keep going after everything they’ve been through, but their love for each helps motivate them when a bad guy brings trouble to their doorstep. I also love how they don’t make a big deal of the gay relationship (which is the only romantic relationship in the movie). It’s just part of who the characters are.

They left it wide open for a sequel, and I hope they end up making one. I would definitely watch it. I also placed a request for the comic through my local library.

About That Writing Thing:

I’ve been doing a bunch of research and planning for the next story in my fanfic series. It’s been kinda wild, as I’ve never had to plan this exactly before, but this is going to be the longest and, event-wise, the most complex story so far. I have groups of characters in different places, each of them moving around the country and having to meet up with other groups at particular times.

So I bought a cheap desk calendar to keep track of when the characters are, how long they’ll stay in a given place, and how long it will take to travel. This has meant that I’ve been doing all sorts of Google searches such as, “How far can a horse travel in a day?” (about 20 miles on average, though very experienced riders and horses can go 30 or more). Then I’ll go to Google maps and plot the walking course from Point A to Point B. If, say, that walking distance is 120 miles, it should take my characters six days at minimum to travel there. But. They’re going during a rainy time of year and often through rough terrain, which is hard on the horses and means they’ll have to slow down. So I’m having to guess how much time the poor travel conditions will add, and then mark that on the calendar.

In addition to that, I’ve taken to writing the scenes down on color-coded notecards (blue for Character A, purple for Character B, green for secondary characters, and pink for the bad guys. Because I don’t like the color pink). This works much better for me than a standard outline because I prefer to write this sort of stuff by hand, and with notecards I can shuffle the cards around if I realize that a scene needs to be moved to a different point in the story. It’s been an interesting process, but it’s going to make writing this whole thing a lot easier.

I didn’t list any of the books I’m using for research under the “Currently Reading” list because I’m only reading certain sections of them. I’m not going going to count History of Pagan Europe as a ‘current read’ if I’m only reading the chapters on early Celtic and Germanic paganism, and skipping over Greek and Roman practices (although Roman mystery cults are fascinating to read about).

I’ll probably start writing the opening scenes this week. I’m looking forward to it, as there will be a lot of changes going on for the characters and for the trajectory of the story as a whole.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

P.S. I’m working with the new “improved” block editor, which so far I hate. Please let me know if the images or the text look weird. I’m still figuring out how to find the editing tools and load photo galleries (one of which wouldn’t display at all, even after eight attempts). The preview makes everything look fine, but everything always looked fine on the classic editor’s preview, too, and then image columns would end up scattering all over when the post was published. I’m trying to withhold judgment on the new stuff, but so far, so meh.

23 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: August 16, 2020

  1. Sidney is such a handsome boy😁 I’m dreading being forced to use the block editor. I’m wondering how long my Disable Gutenberg plugin is going to work?

  2. Thanks!

    I’m definitely not a fan of the blocks so far. Maybe I’ll eventually get used to it, but it’s been aggravating just trying to find basic things. If they’d rolled out the setups more slowly, it wouldn’t be so frustrating. But they’re throwing the whole thing at us all at once, and it just makes it infuriating.

  3. The cat photos made my day!

    I didn’t like the block editor at first, but I guess I’m used to it now. Except that it seems like I have to click a lot more to do the same things I used to be able to click once or twice for.

    Are mint plants hardy? I was hoping so, but mine doesn’t look like it’s doing so well. Granted, I don’t do anything with it. It just sits outside. I water it if it hasn’t rained in awhile, but that’s pretty much it.

  4. I love that photo of Mina. It has an almost wistful feel to it. Not sure that’s the right description, but there’s an emotion there. I had to laugh about your day off. Some days things just don’t seem to work out. I’ve gotten into the field just to realize I forgot to charge my batteries. Plenty of flash cards, but no juice to use them. African Samurai sounds fascinating. I think I’d seen that somewhere recently, but not sure where. I checked my shelves and ebook catalog and don’t have a copy, so I look forward to hearing any more you write about it.

  5. I think Mina was wistful about not being able to nap since I was keeping her awake with my camera shenanigans…

    And oh, that day off… *lol* I had to laugh about it, too, in the end. What else could I do? I ended up going home, getting memory cards and my wallet, and heading back to the gardens. Didn’t quite get the shots I wanted since the light had changed, but what can you do?

    So far, African Samurai has been interesting, but not as much about Yasuke as I’d expected. In the first 30%, we learn a lot about the Portuguese missionaries and a little about Yasuke. I’m hoping that proportion changes since the narrative is taking a bit of a turn.

  6. Yay for the cat photos!

    I’ve been working on drafting a few posts today, and I’m starting to get the hang of the block editor. But there are definitely things I have to hunt around for and a lot of extra clicking that could be done away with if they’d bothered to keep some sort of toolbar at the top.

    Mint plants will apparently take over your garden if you just plot them down in the soil without taking care to keep them separated somehow. But I just have one plant in a pot on my kitchen windowsill, and it’s been dying away since the last time I harvested it to make peppermint syrup. I don’t know what the deal is with it, but it’s like it’s not taking up any of the water I’m giving it. It’s just withering away, and I don’t know why.

  7. Sidney is wonderful and grumpy. Love him and Mina of course. I am entertained that yer bad guys are pink cause i hate pink too (exception flowers, sunsets). Yer research sounds awesome. I just went down a rabbit hole about Hamlet. It was awesome. I just have to find the time to write about it.
    x The Captain

  8. You’ve got Sidney to a T!

    It didn’t feel right to give the bad guys a color I liked… They definitely couldn’t have been purple.. I hope we get to hear about your Hamlet research sometime! Are you at all interested in Maggie O’Farrell’s book, Hamnet, which is about Shakespeare’s son who died young?

  9. I love your kitty pictures — their faces are always so expressive. Mina looks pensive and perhaps even wistful? And Sidney is just exuding a “don’t mess with me vibe”, which I think he’s earned by his age!

    I really liked A Discovery of Witches (TV), but I liked the book too. I’m looking forward to watching The Old Guard, hopefully this week. Have a good week!

  10. Sidney definitely has a “don’t mess with me” vibe going on. He always has, even when he was little. But he loves me, so I’m fine with that. I suspect Mina was wistful because she was trying to nap, and I kept annoying her with a camera…

    The book of Discovery of Witches got so frustrating to me by the halfway point, when Diana just seemed to lose all her agency and was just living at Matthew’s whim. I’m glad the TV show didn’t frame it in the same way, even thought the same stuff happened.

  11. Hahahaha, I heard the same thing about mint plants, and I killed mine pretty much immediately, sooo.

    I’m so glad you enjoyed ADOW and Old Guard! I’m really looking forward to the second season of ADOW, and I’m hoping that the lack of misogyny and better character for Diana continues because the second season was where all of the bad stuff really started to get bad. I liked ADOW just fine, but Shadow of Night was a big nope for me. And UGH OLD GUARD. I’ve watched it three times, and I’ve been craving a fourth lately, so I might cave soon.

    Plotting out travel for writing is THE WORST. I recently had to figure out how long it’d take a vampire to travel from the western coast of Portugal to the eastern coast of Greece without using things like super speed and traveling during the day, all while taking place in the late 1500s, and I just wanted to bang my head off a wall. So sending lots of good plotting vibes your way!

  12. I would love a toolbar, yes!

    I have my mint in a separate pot, but it’s turning yellow. I should probably look that up. Right now it’s next to my tomato plants because the internet told me this would keep the ants away, but I can’t say it seems to be working.

  13. I’m not the only one who kills hardy plants! Yay! The little leaves are doing their best to grow, but I’m afraid they’re doomed, too. We’ll see how they go…

    I hope the better characterization for Diana lasts, too, because otherwise they’ll have built up an interesting, strong character, and then just let her fall on her face. No good…

    *lol* Plotting travel! Ugh! It would help if I just had to plot where and where one group of characters was going, but I have three different groups coming and going at different times, and they all have to come together in the end. Luckily, they’re not going THAT far (not from Portugal to Greece, at any rate), so that helps. But I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t bought the calendar. The travel set up in previous stories were easy in comparison!

  14. I think the smell of the mint is supposed to deter the ants from munching on my tomatoes. But, seeing as I had a tomato hollowed out by ants the other day, I am not convinced!

  15. Wow. Sorry so much about your week was adequate at best. So many people I’ve been speaking to have started to have consecutive days like that… Not that I’m wishing them on anyone! But it feels like everyone is struggling with daily life a bit more recently. I hope this trend breaks for us all.

    I am thankful for my self-hosted blog, if only so I can keep kicking the block editor down the road longer. I am the webmaster for the farm, and that is through Squarespace which uses a block editor. I HATE IT. I don’t understand why blogs feel the need to move that direction. We’re not making websites. We’re making blogs. I don’t need my blog to look like the website for a graphic designer or marketing firm. It’s just a blog post. Stop making this hard for us all.

    Ha! Sidney is a surly looking cat. I love him already. No wonder your photos are only of Mina.

    Hearing about your writing process is so neat! I don’t have any aspirations to write, but I love the idea of using color-coded note cards and calendars and all that. I really appreciate all the effort you’re going through here. Keep up the awesome work!

  16. I don’t even know if the theme I use allows for it to look like anything except a blog, so the blocks are just annoying. Need a line break? Oh, it’s a block. Need a photo in there? Oh, there’s another block. Need a bulleted list? Yet another block. How annoying and unnecessary. All I want to do is write book reviews and the like. I don’t need all the graphic design capabilities…

    Glad you like the writing updates! I’ve been thinking of writing a post or two about the writing process (or at least MY process…). It kinda helps me cement story elements in my head, too, so that helps.

  17. Ew. So, they just gave you a billion more clicks to do the same thing you could do with a keyboard before. How… useful. Barf.

    I would love to read about your writing process. I find this stuff super intriguing. Which, honestly, is a bit weird, since I’m not planning on doing any myself. I guess that’s because I enjoy systems. And efficient, effective systems are my favorite.

  18. Yup. Super annoying not to have everything I used just right there in a toolbar, with everything taking one click. Now there’s a bunch of extra clicks, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, until you’ve spent a bunch of time putting together a gallery, only to have it either not load at all or load in the wrong place, and then you have do all that work over again… Not an efficient system.

    I enjoy reading about subjects outside my realm of expertise, so I get it. I will definitely write about my writing process, then!

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