Sunday Sum-Up: April 11, 2021

It’s been a rainy week around here. The first couple of days of the week were sunny and warm, and then it clouded over on Tuesday, started raining Wednesday afternoon, and kept raining until Thursday night. Then it rained again on Friday night. It’s all rain, rain, rain.

But this weekend has been absolutely lovely. I went out for takeout again last night and ate outside at a picnic bench in the college’s arboretum and photographed more flowers.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

I did a bunch of laundry last Sunday, including bedding. I’d stripped the bed and flopped my big blue blanket onto the mattress while the sheets were in the wash. Just before I got said sheets out of the dryer, Mina decided to make herself a little bed in the folds of the blanket. Right after I took this photo, she went to sleep.

Of course I had to wait to continue the laundry until she woke up, because when a cat is adorably napping you can’t disturb her.

Fortunately, she did not take a long nap so I got all the bedding washed long before bedtime.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is, sadly, the final book of Becky Chambers’s Wayfarers series, wherein readers follow different groups of people (some human, some aliens) as they go about their lives. There isn’t much in the way of plot in any of the four books. It’s just a group of characters trying to connect to each other in some way. Reading these books is like getting a literary hug, because you know going into it that there is going to be a happy ending, even if it’s not the happy ending you’re expecting. I’ll have a more in-depth review later in the week.

The Heroine’s Journey is part-writing book, part-pop culture commentary. It details the heroine’s journey which is a) a story structure running counter to the far more well-known hero’s journey, b) is much older and much more prevalent than most people realize, and c) is massively successful as a storytelling structure. What, exactly, is the heroine’s journey? It’s a story in which the heroine (who is not always a female or female-identified character) is involuntarily separated from their friends/family/world, spend part of the story searching for family/friends, and when family/friends are found, the heroine solves the problem thanks to the clever use of delegation. The heroine will also seek help when necessary (which is generally counter to the hero in the hero’s journey, who society thinks is weak for asking for help), and her story ends happily. So what sorts of stories in pop culture are heroine’s journeys? Romance novels, the Twilight saga, and Harry Potter, among other things. See? Successful. Overlooked, because “serious stories don’t have happy endings” and “strong characters don’t ask for help” (which is not a helpful [ha] in general society, as people imagine that they’ll be seen as weak for asking for help, which means they don’t get the mental/physical/emotional/etc. help that they need). Now that I’ve read this, I have a much better idea about why I generally don’t read fantasy novels by men, who tend to stick with the hero’s journey (the solitary [usually] man who is called to adventure, probably has a mentor who dies, might have a collection of companions who go with him and may sacrifice themselves for him but just as often will try to go it alone and after he succeeds at the task finds that he has changed so much that he no longer fits in with society and ends up alone.

This isn’t to say that the hero’s journey isn’t valid, or that the heroine’s journey is less “serious” than the hero’s journey. They’re different, and that’s okay. They can also combine to form amazing stories (Frodo- hero, Sam-heroine), collide and do amazing things, or morph from one kind of journey into another.

This was such an informative book, especially because Carriger– an archaeologist by training– traces the roots of the heroine’s journey back to early Greek, Egyptian, and Sumerian myths and then shows how it appears in modern culture, and has been incredibly successful, even if critics and scholars have failed to take it seriously.

What I’m Currently Reading:

I’ve made very little progress through Deathless, but so far it is reminding me of Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy thanks to the strong Morozko vibes that Koschei gives off, but they are far different characters so far. I’m interested to see how it all unfolds, but it’s not a priority at the moment.

The Glitter in the Green is proving to be a lovely book about hummingbirds in all their incredible variety, as well as a human history in regards to these beautiful little birds, as well as hummingbird enthusiasts both infamous and celebrated. There are times when I can’t help but stop and do a Google search to find pictures of the birds Dunn mentions, and times where I am absolutely furious when Dunn describes the wildlife trade (past and present) and how it has devastated hummingbird populations for centuries. Climate change is seriously affecting how hummingbirds live in the world. Some of them are simply changing where they live, but many others are going extinct and because some species live in such specific and remote areas, we may never even know they existed. But overall, there is something joyful about Dunn’s search for these beautiful little birds, and I am learning so much about them.

I’ve only just begun Njal’s Saga, so I don’t have much to say about it other than the fact that some characters who show up in things like Egil’s Saga are mentioned, and it’s fun to hear about them because I remember their stories from other sagas.

I decided I wanted to finish up the Wayfarers books, and because the audiobook of Record of a Spaceborn Few was available through the Hoopla app, I decided to go ahead and download it. It’s different from the other Wayfarers novels in that the characters aren’t altogether in one place or consistently interacting with each other. There are different story threads doing on with each character, and I’m wondering how– or if– they will all come together. But overall, I’m enjoying it. It has the same vibe as the other books, although the first book, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is still my favorite.

What I Plan to Start Reading This Week:

Nothing, really, unless I get one or more of my current reads finished.

What I’ve Been Watching:

The Dragon Prince, season 1
Rating: TV-Y7
Starring: Paula Burrows, Jack de Sena, Sasha Rojen, Jason Simpson, Racquel Belmonte

I watched the first episode of this animated fantasy series when it first came out, and never watched the rest of it until this week, when I basically binge-watched the first season. It’s a little one the nose with it’s messaging at times, but it is meant for children, so I understand why it’s like that. But overall, it’s completely charming and has an interesting story and world, and I’m looking forward to the next couple of seasons, as the characters will inevitably grow up a little more and their relationships will grow more complex.

A Little Chaos
Rating: R
Directed by Alan Rickman
Starring: Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alan Rickman, Stanley Tucci, Helen McRory

Given the nearly impossible task of building vast gardens for the new palace of Versailles, the master gardener Andre le Notre must hire other landscape artists to help him complete the gargantuan task on the strict timeline that King Louis XIV demands. Though her designs are unusual, le Notre decides to hire a woman, Sabine de Barra, to build a fountain and outdoor ballroom for a particular section. The longer Sabine is at Versailles, the more intrigued the court is by this unassuming woman– and more fascinated le Notre finds her. But Sabine is holding back secret grief, and it’s only by facing it that she can move forward.

This was a fun period piece that is not historically accurate in its story– Sabine de Barra was not a real person– but it looks and feels like everything belongs in the area, and the characters feel like they stepped out of the pages of a history book, rather than feeling like they’re modern people dressed up in costumes. There’s an especially lovely scene between Rickman and Winslet, and Schoenaerts is excellent all the way through. Stanley Tucci’s performance is worth a mention, too, because even though he isn’t in it for very long, his character– the flamboyantly gay brother of Louis XIV, Philippe– steals every scene he’s in. Is it the best historical drama out there? Nah. But it’s very well made, and I will probably watch it again, just because it’s so pretty to look at.

About That Writing Thing:

I’ve been making steady progress on my current story. I have one short scene to write, and then I’ll be done with Chapter 9. It’s been a fairly restful couple of chapters for the characters (physically speaking, as at most, they’ve been walking around having conversations), but that’s going to end soon, as Chapter 10 will be an emotionally harrowing one for my main character. And after that, they’re off to battle the invading army.

It’s been interesting to ponder my plot and characters this week, in light of my reading of Gail Carriger’s The Heroine’s Journey. Way back when I was initially planning this series, I was using elements of the hero’s journey when planning the main character’s overall arc. But the more I listened to The Heroine’s Journey, the more I realized that what I was really writing for him was a mix of both the hero’s journey and the heroine’s journey– I just didn’t have the vocabulary for it. And it makes perfect sense for the character, as he was raised by a single mother and taught traditionally feminine things, but now as an adult, he spends most of his time among warriors. So on a basic level, he’s someone who has experience in both the masculine and feminine roles of his culture. I’ve been unconsciously blending the different journey’s the entire time I’ve been writing this series, and I didn’t even know it!

The more you know, huh?

9 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: April 11, 2021

  1. Beautiful photos! I’m so glad to read your thoughts on The Heroine’s Journey. I thought it was fascinating, and it really helped me understand some of my reading preferences and why certain types of stories resonate more than others. I’m glad it’s giving you something to consider with your writing as well!

  2. I enjoy when you share your photos, really beautiful views of the world. I’m glad to see you’re enjoying The Glitter in the Green, that’s a book I’d very much like to read. Hummingbirds are such beautiful and amazing little creatures. And I love the insights on writing you’ve gained from reading The Heroine’s Journey. So often learning more of the vocabulary of our pursuits helps us better understand different elements of it. And some of these pursuits have so much vocabulary to learn! 🙂

  3. Wait. Carriger as in “I write YA and MG feminist steampunk fantasy”? That’s so baller. And makes me super happy! I’m glad I know about the Heroine’s Journey. You might be surprised to hear these stories appeal to me. 😉 I might have to pick this book up!

    I love that you’re reading Chambers’s works out of order. Even when I know that I can read a series in “any order” I find myself always reading them in publication order (or whatever the most recommended order is). I want to hear what you think of reading them “:out of order” and whether you think it matters.

    Oooh, The Dragon Prince. I’m not one for much TV or film, but I binged this series over the summer. It was dreadfully hot and we don’t have AC. So I spent each evening watching as the living room has a wonderful ceiling fan and it’s on the opposite side of the house from the kitchen. XD

  4. Yes! Carriger, as in Parasol Protectorate and Finishing School books! You should try out Heroine’s Journey. It reads like it’s intended to be a craft manual, but it really provided insight as to why I like the stories I do, and why I write the way I do.

    I really don’t think it matters what order you read the books in, but maybe read A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet first, because that gives you the explanations as to the GC and Aelouns and whatnot are. Otherwise, you’re going to be mad confused about things.

    I need to finish the rest of the series, but with Shadow and Bone coming up and a busy week ahead of me next week, it’s probably not going to happen until this summer, when it’s hot and I want something that’s not so heavy to watch (I’m assuming a children’s show doesn’t get super heavy in later seasons….)

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