Sunday Sum-Up: September 27, 2020

  • The autumnal equinox passed last week, but thanks to an ongoing drought and a brief cold snap, the leaves started turning a few weeks ago, and have been falling every since. Because I live in a neighborhood with a lot of old trees, it’s been particularly autumnal every time I look out the window.
  • I finally remembered to send in my application for a mail-in ballot. While my home state has plenty of problems, voting isn’t one of them. They make it easy to get registered and easy to vote, and while plenty of politicians on the national level have denigrated mail-in voting, Nebraska went ahead and mailed out applications for absentee ballots to every registered voter in the state for both the primary and the general elections. There are a few rural counties that have been voting entirely by mail for several years now, so I guess that made it easier for the Election Commission to make it happen on the state level. I’ll get my mail-in ballot in a week or so. I’m looking forward to voting!
  • I finally made it out to the little state park I’ve been wanting to get to. There is a little waterfall (little, as in about 5′ tall) I enjoy spending time at, and because I got there around 8:00 in the morning, there was no one else there. I had the place to myself for about two hours.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

I know. She’s adorable. She knows it, too.

The other night, I woke up around 3:00 to find that Mina had curled up next to me. It was super cute, and I went back to sleep a happy cat mom. Then I woke up again a little while later to find that I was sleeping with my back against the wall, while Mina was sprawled out across the bed. I don’t know how an eight-pound cat commandeers most of a bed, but she manages it somehow.

What I Finished Reading in the Past Two Weeks:

It’s been a weird couple of weeks for reading. I’ve started a few books, only to put them aside with the full intention of reading them another time. I’ve gotten plenty of things done, but reading and writing hasn’t really been one of them. But I’ve finished a few books last week:

Austen Years is Rachel Cohen’s memoir of the years she read basically nothing but Jane Austen’s novels after the birth of her first child and after the death of her father. The story isn’t told in chronological order, and serves more as a meditation on Austen herself and the finer points of her novels, as well as Cohen’s life as a new mother, her long relationship with her husband, and the days leading up to her father’s death. It’s beautifully written, and provides wonderful insights into the politics underlying Austen’s novels.

I’ve been looking forward to The Once and Future Witches since I first heard it was coming out earlier in the year, and when I saw it was available on NetGalley, I immediately requested it, and was approved the next day. It took me a while to get through it, but when I hit the halfway point and finally had a few hours to devote to it, I read the rest of the book in one go and loved it! It’s an alternate historical fantasy in which witchcraft used to be a part of everyday life– especially for women– but after St. George vanquished the three great witches, magic was regarded as a sinful thing not to be practiced. But in the streets of New Salem in 1893, women are marching for the right to vote, and the old witching powers hidden away in fairy stories and children’s rhymes are bubbling to the surface again.

Twilight Company is, apparently, a tie-in novel for a Star Wars video game. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. But ever since I watched Rise of Skywalker, I’d been wanting to read some of the new Star Wars books, so I grabbed this one, as it happens in the midst of the original trilogy. It’s a fast-paced, gritty adventure detailing the adventures of the rebel infantry unit, Twilight Company. Though it has some flashbacks that aren’t entirely necessary (unless, perhaps, it works with the video game?), the overall effect is an interesting take on Rebel Alliance forces that have only a passing familiarity with the heroes of the Alliance. I finished the last 75% across two nights.

I’m not sure if Heir to the Jedi is part of the ‘Legends’ series of the Star Wars expanded universe that was sort of pushed aside by Disney when they bought Star Wars, or if it’s one of the new ‘canon’ novels that’s part of the Disney Star Wars universe. But it was another fast-paced adventure, this time staring Luke Skywalker shortly after the Battle of Yavin. He is tasked with extracting a decryption expert from Imperial custody, and ends up having several adventures along the way. The first half feels a little like a video game where you have to go to Town A to get This Thing in order to go to Town B to give This Thing to Bob so Bob can give you the directions to Town C to get That Thing to deliver to Edna in Town D. So it’s a little episodic, but it was quick to get through and fun to see things through young Luke’s perspective.

Currently Reading:

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) by Rebecca Roanhorse, ARC provided by NetGalley (25%)

Xiala is a disgraced Teek woman blessed with a strange magic that can affect minds and calm the waters. She has been tasked with carrying a single passenger to the holy city of Tova– the catch is that she has just twenty days to do it, a feat that is nearly impossible. Her passenger is a young blind man she is assured is harmless, but she’s not so sure about that. Meanwhile, in Tova, the priests are preparing to observe their holiest days, but the festival is due to coincide with a solar eclipse they fear with bring unbalance and disorder to their world. So far, this is a fascinating world full of political maneuvering and dangers none of the characters expect.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

um… All my library holds came in within two days of each other….

And for another buddy read with Jackie at Death by Tsundoku: Dune by Frank Herbert

What I’ve Been Watching:

PBS streaming/Amazon Prime
Starring: Nicola Walker, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Lewis Reeves, Jordan Long, Peter Egan, Carolina Main, Hiten Patel

My co-worker recommended this British crime drama to me, and once I started watching, I couldn’t stop. One of the selling points was that it had a diverse cast of characters who were mostly ordinary people– especially the police officers, who didn’t have any wild drama in their home lives that spilled over into their work. It’s about people doing their best while solving cold cases. Unforgotten is especially good at showing that– even if decades have passed– the effects of a loved one’s disappearance has profound effects for those left behind.

The first two seasons are made of three, 1.5 hour episodes, while the third season has six 45-minute episodes. According to my co-worker, a fourth season is in the works. I’m looking forward to it.

About That Writing Thing:

My progress on my current work-in-progress has been slow, and it took a long time for me to figure out why. I’d written the entire first scene with the bad guys, and it was fine (it needs revision, but that’s for later), and then I got to the first scene with the main characters, and my progress ground to a halt. No idea why, since it was a light-hearted scene with plenty of banter, but I was only getting a paragraph or three done each day.

But then I watched the interview Daniel Greene did with Mary Robinette Kowal, and they briefly discussed writer’s block. Kowal pointed out the circumstances where she’s encountered writer’s block– a big one being mental health, but also points when her reader’s brain has realized that the section she’s writing is boring or unnecessary before her writer’s brain realizes it. And so I realized that my main character’s opening scene is happening way too early. They’ve spent the summer traveling, and I started them out on the road home, but that’s not working. At all. So I’m going to trash that first scene and start the scene over with their having arrived home and getting back into the politics they’ve been dealing with through the past few stories. I’m optimistic that this will help, and that I’ll start writing more quickly than I have been.

7 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: September 27, 2020

  1. Virginia has been successfully integrating mail-in ballots for some time now, though I believe in the past you needed a specific reason to qualify (health, travel, etc). This year, though, anyone can take advantage of it, which is great. They’re also allowing early in-person voting, though I’ve been saddened to read about some aggressive protesters at some early voting locations. It’s hard to think of that as anything but intimidation. Sad.

    I love your waterfall photograph, nicely done! It looks like a real beautiful location. I love being out alone in places like that, especially early (or late) enough to have some nice light.

    Glad to hear you enjoyed The Once and Future Witches. Though I’m not excited by the title I’d really like to try it as I loved The Ten Thousand Doors of January. Also glad to hear you’re enjoying Black Sun, that’s another I’d like to try. I haven’t yet read Mind of the Raven but I enjoy Bernd Heinrich’s writing.

    I hope you have a great week, and I hope your writing goes well!

  2. I wish more places would integrate mail-in voting, no matter the reason. For the rural counties here, it’s made for higher turnout since farmers and ranchers don’t have to drive for miles and miles in potentially awful weather. Our early voting doesn’t start for another week or so. I hope there aren’t people trying to intimidate voters here. That’s awful that you’ve had that problem in Virginia.

    Thanks! There aren’t a lot of waterfalls in the region (the Great Plains not being known for dramatic cliffs…), so it’s nice to be able to visit even this little one. Especially on a quiet morning when no one else is there.

    There is definitely a reason for the title of The Once and Future Witches, but mentioning why might be a spoiler… Give it a shot! I think you’d enjoy it if you liked The Ten Thousand Doors of January.

    You have a great week, too!

  3. Mina looks kinda gangsta to me this week with her head cocked to the side like that lol.
    My cat keeps playing tag with my feet. He’ll hit at them with his paw and then run away trying to get me to chase him I think. It’s so cute but annoying when I’m trying to walk somewhere.
    Your neighborhood must be very beautiful right now with all the leaves.

  4. Haha! Gangsta Mina! I love it. I’m not going to tell her you said so, though, because it would go right to her head…

    Cats just wanna have fun, ya know? Even when they’re being completely annoying about it. If they weren’t so cute, there might be problems.

    Sadly, we don’t get the beautiful fall colors like other areas of the country do. Lots of yellows and browns, but not much gold or red, unless there happens to be the right kind of tree in the neighborhood. But that’s okay. It’s still plenty autumnal with just the falling leaves!

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