Sunday Sum-Up: January 29, 2023

I had a busy week at work last week, thanks to a tedious but necessary annual task that always takes several days to complete. We finished it yesterday, but while that’s all done next week promises to be a busy one, too. At least Monday and Tuesday will be busy. After that, I think things will quiet down a little.

Otherwise, an arctic cold front moved in yesterday so it will be well below freezing until next weekend. I plan to stay inside with plenty of blankets, soup, and hot cocoa until it’s less bitterly cold and windy out.

Obligatory Mina Photo:

Mina’s weeks are full of coziness. She’s taken to napping in her chair most of the time (by her chair, I mean the one I got to use as a reading chair and put a few blankets over, that she has since taken over), which is terribly cute, although sometimes it can be hard to find her given that the top blanket is black. When she curls up and tucks her nose behind the tip of her tail she’s hard to see.

But. She doesn’t spend all her time napping. Over the past week or so, she’s been getting the zoomies around 4:00AM. While I love the sound of her little feet running over the wood floor, I do wish she would wait a little while before running around. Perhaps until 7:00, when I’m getting up. I love this cat, but I’m not fond of this new wake-up call.

What I Finished Reading Last Week:

I spent most of last Sunday evening finishing up Powers and Thrones. By that point, the narrative had gone into a part of history that I’m very familiar with so it was easy to fly through the pages. Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. Dan Jones is great at presenting history in a fascinating way so that it sticks with you. I think the bit of history that was newest to me was Jones’s idea that the Huns’ arrival in Europe and the Near East in the last half of the sixth century was driven by the sudden climate change caused by a massive volcanic eruption that occurred in 536 CE, and affected societies around the world. The theory is that, after cold volcanic summers forced the Huns out of their lands in the north, as the trees and grasses they and their horses relied on weren’t growing or were covered by snow, and so they moved southward to find new grazing lands. This, of course, put pressure on the people who lived in those lands, and their movements away from the Huns put pressure on Rome. What this book mostly did for me was to tie the events of the early medieval era together in a cohesive way that linked events, causes, and consequences in a way that feels more coherent. It’s easy to see all the different kingdoms and cultures as separate entities that have little to do with each other, but even far-flung societies had effects on each other. Humanity has always been interconnected, even when travel took longer.

I finished The Luminaries on Sunday, too. Overall, it was just fine. I liked that Dennard poked at and played with some familiar tropes and turned them about, and while my suspicions about one of the characters weren’t confirmed one way or the other (that is for the next book, it would seem), the ending was still satisfying. But the whole story fell a bit flat for me, as the worldbuilding was rather shallow, and it always bugs me when books have an entire society divided up into arbitrary groups and declares, “The Monday clan is like this, and the Tuesdays are like that, and everyone falls into line” (the Luminaries in the book are divided up into familial clans named after days of the week), because people aren’t like that in reality. I know that it’s easier for an author to build characters and worlds by making their culture like that, but it always rings a little hollow to me. So The Luminaries with its story of a teenage girl who wants to be like the other people in her society and become a monster hunter, but discovers that the reality of her world is darker and more complicated than she realizes, is a good story, but I thought it fell a little flat. I’m not sure that I’ll continue with the series.

The End is Always Near is another book that had a good idea, but fell flat for me. The point of the book is something like, “civilizations throughout history have inevitably ended, and the people who lived in those civilizations never imagined that their culture would come to an end. How does this relate to us in the twenty-first century?”. Carlin also discusses the idea that “tough times create tough people who are able to overcome so-called soft and decadent people in the twilight of their empire, but does tough times really make tough people?”. These notions, on the surface, seem like interesting topics to start off with, but Carlin’s narrative feels like it wanders around the edges of said topics without delving too deeply into them, and so the whole book feels like it’s rambling on without ever quite getting to its point. I think this is a book meant for people who are just starting to learn about history, which doesn’t quite describe me. Perhaps if this book had come along while I was in college it would have hit me differently, but these days I need something that goes deeper into its topic.

What I’m Currently Reading:

  • Hell Bent (Alex Stern #2)by Leigh Bardugo (200/481)
  • Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell Trilogy #1) (40%)

I’m not quite halfway through Hell Bent, and I can already sense that Alex and Dawes are about to make some Very Bad Decisions. Granted, Alex is made of bad decisions, but Dawes is usually more careful. Not that I fault Dawes for everything she’s done, but opening portals to Hell is a bad idea altogether, and it remains to be seen if the price they’ll pay is worth the end result. Meanwhile, Alex has gotten herself wound up in even more trouble thanks to someone back in Los Angeles, and I’m wondering how this will all tie together and how Alex will get herself out of this. I have to say that I am liking Hell Bent even more than Ninth House, in part because the basic world-building has already been done, and Alex doesn’t have to keep proving herself to everyone. She’s much more comfortable in her skin and more comfortable dealing with the characters she finds around New Haven. And as much as I shake my head at Alex and Dawes’s eagerness to open the said portal to Hell (no matter how worthy they think their cause), I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen when they attempt the ritual, and what unintended consequences they’ll unleash when they do it.

Wolf Hall. Hilary Mantel. Need I say more? I’ve been watching (or at least playing) all sorts of historical documentaries on YouTube this week, I’m finally back to seriously working on the medieval fantasy fanfiction I spent months working on last year, abandoned for a few months, then came back to several weeks ago, and I just generally wanted to reread Wolf Hall because I love the cadence of Mantel’s writing in this book in particular. So I downloaded the audiobook from my library, and have been listening to it almost every chance I get. So far, I’m to the point where Henry VIII is starting to notice Cromwell’s usefulness, while Cromwell has taken the court’s measure and has just about everyone figured out. Have I mentioned how much I love Mantel’s depictions of the people who lived in Henry VIII’s orbit? They feel so real and so deep– even the ones we don’t know very much about, like Mary Boleyn. I will definitely be continuing on with the trilogy, as I haven’t read the whole thing through since The Mirror and the Light came out in 2020.

About That Writing Thing:

Long time, no writing about writing!

Suffice it to say that I have been writing outside of this blog. Earlier in this post, I mentioned that I’d started work on the fantasy story I spent about eight months working on last year. By the end of those eight months, working on the thing was feeling like slogging through a bog and I hated just about everything I was writing for it.

So I put it away. I worked on other things. I decided that it wouldn’t be a terrible thing if I never finished it.

And a few months passed.

And then someone posted a whole one-sentence comment about an earlier story in this series, and that got the wheels spinning on this project again. After thinking about the story for a couple of hours, I sorted out the issues in the plot that were dragging everything down, and I got rid of them. I completely restructured the story, pulled out the sections that I could still use and pasted them into new documents, edited them together, added bits and scenes to make those parts flow together, and now I’m continuing the story day by day.

I decided early on in this reboot that I would make a goal of 300 words per day for it. I hit that most days without a problem, and often go well over it. It keeps me from sitting and staring at the screen if I can’t think of what the characters will say next, or if I can’t figure out how to start or end a scene, because even if I can’t finish a scene or a conversation, I’ll find a way to get those 300 words and can call it a night.

I’m feeling rather lucky that, of the roughly 45,000 words I wrote for this story last year, I’ve been able to use about half of that already and I’ll be adding another chunk from the previous draft to the end of the current chapter. I’ll just need to do a bit of editing to fit it in, but it won’t be that hard to edit it down to what it needs to be.

It’s been great getting back to this story. I’m getting close to having the whole series finished, and once that happens it won’t be hanging over my head anymore (and I won’t feel strange reading fanfiction for that particular series). I’ve also been enjoying writing in this particular style. As it’s set in the early medieval era, I try to give the dialogue that older sound (no ‘thee’ or ‘thou’, alas) and it’s fun to come up with dialogue that’s a cross between an older style (think Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or something like that) and something modern that current readers will recognize. It’s fairly easy for me these days, as these characters (as they exist in my series) have been living rent-free in my head for nearly ten years. So now that I’m resolved to finish this series, and now that I’ve sorted out the problems that were holding me back, the writing process has gone back to being fun again.

6 thoughts on “Sunday Sum-Up: January 29, 2023

  1. Your goal of 300 words a day reminds me of the goal an online guitar teacher recommends. He always says to set aside just 10 minutes a day to practice guitar. Don’t set a goal of an hour or more, but just 10 minutes because that’s something just about everyone should usually be able to do. And maybe that’s all you’ll be able to do some days, but quite often you’ll end up doing more. It’s really all about overcoming inertia, which can be pretty strong for some of us (yes, I’m looking in the mirror right now). 🙂

  2. Yeah, you just have to overcome that initial inertia, and once you’ve hit the little goal going on from there feels less onerous. I’ll be finishing up another scene in my story tonight, so I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made on this thing this month. Little goals can make big things happen!

  3. Hi Kim,
    when I studied many years ago I specialised on illuminated manuscript of the middle ages. Therefore I read a lot about the middle ages. Dan Jones’ book is too journalistic for my taste. Of course it’s written for readers who don’t know much about this age. There is nothing new that everyone who is interested knows about this time.
    300 words daily is nice. There are basically two ways of writing, one is like Hemingway used to work and the other is like Thomas Mann wrote. Hemingway wrote fast and lot per day but then he edited it up to 50times and later with his editor again. Thomas Mann wrote about 3 hours a day and sometimes two or three sentences only but they were perfect and printable. How are your 300 words?
    Keep well and keep on writing
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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