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 (The Chronicles of Narnia #2) by C.S. Lewis
- Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles, ARC provided by NetGalley
- Winter King: Henry VII and The Dawn of Tudor Englandby Thomas Penn, audiobook narrated by Simon Vance
- Her Smoke Rose up Forever by James Tiptree, Jr.
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 (The Green Bone Saga #2) by Fonda Lee (336/587)
- The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg (20%)
- African Samurai: The True Story of a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan by Thomas Lockley and Geoffrey Girard, audiobook narrated by Gary Furlong (13%)
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.
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.
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.