It’s been a quiet week around here, with some real rain and snow (and rain and snow at once), plenty of relaxing on my part (and on the cats’ parts), along with plenty of reading and writing. It’s nice to have weeks like this.
I’ll be heading over to friends’ house to watch The Oscars tonight. We’ve been watching The Oscars together for about twenty years, save for the three years when they lived on the East Coast. They didn’t like it there, so they moved back, and we returned to watching The Oscars together. I fully expect The Power of the Dog to win Best Picture, and I’m hoping that Jane Campion wins for Best Director. Otherwise, I want Dune to win– especially for Best Original Score, as Hans Zimmer’s musical scoring and collaboration for this film was brilliant.
Obligatory Mina Photo:
Thanks to a few warm days this past week, I’ve been opening the windows in the afternoon to air the place out. This has introduced a world of sounds, some of which Mina is excited about (birds, squirrels, people walking by), and others that have been scaring her (trucks and other noisy vehicles). So while I had a mostly relaxing week, she has been a bit skittish. She’ll get used to the extra noises, though. She gets nervous about new sounds, but once she figures out that they’re not going to hurt her, she calms down. Pretty soon, she’ll be spending her afternoons basking in the windows, whether or not they’re open.
What I Finished Reading Last Week:
- All the Horses of Iceland by Sarah Tolmie
- Fierce Poison (Barker & Llewellyn #13) by Will Thomas, ARC provided by NetGalley
- The Rot (Ravneringene #2) by Siri Petterson, translated from the Norwegian by Sian Mackie and Paul Russell Garrett
- The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
All the Horses of Iceland was on my list of anticipated releases for 2022 for two reasons: it’s about the horses of Iceland, and it’s by Sarah Tolmie. I loved her haunting 2020 novella, The Fourth Island, and wanted to read whatever else she published. I bought a copy from my local indie bookshop and read it in a single sitting last Sunday. It was beautiful. Written like a Medieval saga, All the Horses of Iceland is the tale of Eyvind, an Icelandic man in search of he knows not what when he leaves his home and travels far, far away. He takes up with a group of Khazar traders who take him to Mongolia, where he encounters a ghost and a mysterious white horse who change his life and the history of Iceland forever. Having read several Icelandic sagas, I found it easy to fall into the rhythm of the story, which does not read like a modern book– to its benefit. Tolmie’s narratives follow their own path and I’ve found both her novellas to be beautiful and unexpected, and I look forward to her next book.
Fierce Poison is the thirteenth volume of Will Thomas’ Barker & Llewellyn Victorian mystery series. They are all witty and fast-paced, and I rarely guess the identity of the murderer until the reveal. This time around, Barker & Llewellyn match wits with a poisoner who always seems to be two steps ahead of them. It all begins when a newly-minted MP collapses and dies in their office; this tragedy is followed by a greater one when an entire family is poisoned in the East End. The case grows ever more personal when Barker’s home and staff are attacked and poisonous traps are left behind. Plenty of people have both motive and ability, but it seems as though every time Barker & Llewellyn take a step forward in the case, the poisoner attacks from a new direction. This new installment is as quick and witty as the others, though there were some plot points that felt a little rushed, and a major storyline from a previous book was set aside completely– and given Llewellyn’s wants in this story, that feels strange. But there were a lot of changes going on in the book; Barker & Llewellyn have been together for ten years now. Barker is approaching fifty, and Llewellyn is thirty. Barker especially cannot continue his antics from his younger days. Things will have to change, and I’m looking forward to the next book.
It took me a while to get through The Rot only because I was trying to get through some other books first. Once I finally sat down and started reading chunks of it, I couldn’t put it down. I was fascinated to see how Hirka adapted to the new world she found herself in, and how (or if) she would evade the people who were hunting her. I did not expect the twists and turns the story took, and it was fantastic. I was a little less invested in Rime’s story, as there were times it felt like he was treading water. But once he reached a certain point in his character development, his story grew exponentially more interesting. The third book came out this past week. I pre-ordered it a couple of months ago because Barnes and Noble had a sale on pre-orders. It arrived on time, and I am looking forward to finishing the trilogy to find out where Hirka goes next.
After some heavier reads, I decided to read something a little lighter. And because The Tale of Desperaux has been on my TBR shelf for a few months, I decided to finally give it a shot. It’s a charming tale of a tiny mouse who loves music, stories, and a beautiful young princess. These factors cause the other castle mice to reject Despereaux, and the adventure unspools from there. We also meet a rat who loves light and a serving girl who wants nothing more to be a princess. These two do bad things because they resent a world that keeps rejecting them. Is there a chance for redemption? There may be if little Despereaux can hold on to his courage.
What I’m Currently Reading:
- Fevered Star (Between Earth and Sky #2) by Rebecca Roanhorse, ARC provided by NetGalley (7%)
I’m only a little way into Fevered Star, so I don’t know very much about what is going on yet, and I have few thoughts on whether or not I like it. This is a highly anticipated release, as it’s the sequel to Roanhorse’s remarkable Mesoamerican-inspired fantasy, Black Sun, so I will definitely be reporting back.
What I Plan to Start Reading Next Week:
- A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan #2) by Arkady Martine
- The Might (Ravneringene #3) by Siri Pettersen, translated from the Norwegian by Sian Mackie and Paul Russell Garrett
- The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe by David M. Perry and Matthew Gabriele
I’m not sure which of these I will read first. I want to read all of them, but I don’t know which one I want to read first. Perhaps it will be decided by the roll of the dice.
About That Writing Thing:
I’ve been writing up a storm this week while working on another short story while continuing to chip away at the penultimate story in my main series. I’ve stalled out a bit on the main story thanks to not knowing quite how to proceed with the next scene. I have a good start, but I don’t quite know how to continue. I’ll figure it out, and then it will be off to the races again.
It’s been a while since I wrote short stories, as the majority of my writing attention has been on the novel-length fics I’ve been working on over the past couple of years. I’d forgotten how much fun it is to dash off a full story in a few sittings, rather than thinking, “I might have this done by the time Summer rolls around”. I wouldn’t say that writing short stories of 3,000-4,000 words is easier than a 200-page book, but it means there is less delayed gratification, as I can write and edit a 3,000-word story in under a week, post it, and watch a growing readership respond to it. As I have a full set of these short stories coming together in my head, I will be working on them in concert with the other, bigger story.
I’ve been perusing a couple of books about editing this week, as well as rewatching videos from Savage Books on YouTube. The editing books focused on making the language clear on a sentence-by-sentence level, while Savage Books’ videos tend to focus on dialogue and character arcs. The videos have been more helpful overall, as I think I’m proficient in making my prose clear and concise. Dialogue is always difficult, and while I think I’m also proficient in writing it, too, it never hurts to study good dialogue, which Savage Books does by doing deep dives into movie/TV scenes with expert dialogue. If you want to learn more about writing better dialogue, or you’re interested in how writers construct scenes and develop character through dialogue, I highly recommend Savage Books. The host has edited screenplays and novels for ten years, and his love for his profession shows.
Thanks to Savage Books and a few others (I’ve been watching the channel off and on again for several months), I’ve been growing more fond of the editing process, which forces me to identify which parts of the story should stay, and which ones I need to get rid of. It also makes me examine my prose on a sentence-by-sentence basis. This takes a lot of time, but it makes for a superior story in the end. I’m quite proud of the second short story I wrote last week, which has, I think, some wonderful dialogue. Character A is telling a truth, but using that truth to try to misdirect Character B. Character B knows he’s hearing a truthful story, he knows it’s not the story he needs to hear and calls out Character A. Character A ultimately manages to both hold back a painful truth and give Character B enough of the story that he can be satisfied with it.
That all took a lot of editing, but it was well worth it. Strangely, I’m almost looking forward to the editing process on the next story more than I am looking forward to the writing. Alas, I have to do the writing before I can do the editing.
Back to the page I go.