Weekly Update, 5/14/2018 to 5/20/2018

Brief Update

This has been a bad brain week for me. I’ve been working with my new therapist on my insecurities, and it has brought a lot of painful stuff to the surface for me. It’s good and necessary, and I think I will be better for it in the end, but right now I just feel like this deep pit of hurt.

Plus on top of that my cat Brianna had major dental surgery last week, and Matt is sick with something like strep. And I have a larp coming up this weekend. Whee!

Writing (editing) this week was a mixed bag. I integrated the mini-mission into the main body of Lioness, and that brought some uncomfortable feelings about efficacy, whether or not I was going in circles, etc. But I also had one session where I turned a meh scene into something more emotionally raw for the MC, so that was pretty cool.

Habitat-wise, I’m painting the guest bedroom, which currently is an off-white and pale blue (and has been since I moved in). I’ve literally never painted a room before, though, so I’ve already screwed up some important things — like I discovered after starting the first wall that there was a corner with crumbling drywall that I needed to spackle over.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Integrated “mini-mission” into main body of Lioness — did ~3h15m of editing

Reading
– Read “Sirius,” by Ben Peek (Clarkesworld Year Six)

Other Media
– Listened to Real Crime Profile, episode 85-88
– Listened to Writing Excuses 13.8 – 13.11

Health
– Did Zombies Run S2 E21 (2.59mi in 40:38)
– Had a therapy appointment
– Did Zombies Run S2 E22 (2.18mi in 31:01)
– Did ZR supply run (2.72mi in 42:25)
– Did a 1.4mi walk
– Did Zombies Run S2 E23 (2.57mi in 41:15)

Social/LARP
– Had dinner and Panera and worked on Tauros Express larp with EB
– Had a D&D session

Habitat
– Vacuumed downstairs
– Put the first coat of paint on one wall of the guest bedroom
– Donated old coffeepot

Picture of the Week

I was going to offer you a picture of my shitty in-progress paint job, but luckily for you I also have this picture of a flowering tree along my usual run route.

Weekly Update, 5/7/2018 to 5/13/2018

Brief Update

This week, plodding along on the “mini-mission”/new beginning of Lioness, I realized that it keeps getting longer and longer, and I’m still not ready to integrate it back into the main story. As it continues on, I’m not necessarily adding new material — there’s a lot of copying and pasting going on — but it is subsuming existing chapters and expanding them, like some sort of literary katamari.

At that point, I think, maaaaybe this is really a rewrite?

That thought was so depressing, though, that I’m not completely resigned to it. I’m going to try getting this back into Scrivener, and see where that leaves me. That said, at this point I’ve made so many changes to the beginning of the novel that I will need some serious time and effort to rethread those echoes throughout the entire work.

I just hope this is actually important work I’m doing, and not vamping. It’s easy to keep editing endlessly to avoid the fear of rejection. But it’s also easy to submit something too soon, something that’s not “ready.” I don’t know which this is.

Writing is hard. Let’s do math.

Let’s see, what else is new? I’ve been running a lot more this week, in preparation for the 5k I’m doing next week (eep!) I would like to beat last year’s time, but at my current pace that will be hard. To be fair, “my current pace” is measured using a lot of hills that I can’t just run up.

My audiobook of the moment is Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince, which I am really enjoying, both on an emotional and a craftsmanship level. (Executive summary: human child raised in Faerie has to learn to make alliances and navigate fey politics). It’s really interesting to see what she does with voice, with chapter breaks, with making the fey utterly and completely alien. At the same time, it’s often heart-wrenching — I don’t think I’ve ever had a book invoke a feeling of powerlessness quite so well.

Also I finally know how to pronounce “geas” (/Ι‘Ι›Κƒ/), so that’s neat. I guess that makes sense, given that its etymology is Irish; gotta love those lenited final consonants.

Links

My dear author-larper-friend Melissa Caruso wrote Let’s Talk Agency about that bugaboo of, well, my entire writing life. It’s a hopeful post, though, because I learned that agency is often something she has to fix in subsequent drafts, not something that comes naturally. Here’s hoping third time is the charm for this MS of mine…

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote 3253 words on new Lioness beginning or whatever it is

Reading
– Read The Farthest Shore, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Health
– Did Zombies Run supply run (2.28mi in 36:57)
– Did ZR supply run (2.08mi in 33:35)
– Did ZR S2 E18 (3.03mi in 47:36)
– Did ZR S2 E19 (2.31mi in 35:53)
– Did ZR S2 E20 (2.01mi in 31:27)
– Had a doctor’s appointment

Other Media
– Listened to Sword & Scale, episodes 1, 3, 4, 109-110
– Listened to Real Crime Profile, episode 81, 83-84
– Watched The Keepers docuseries

Habitat
– Vacuumed upstairs
– Washed sheets
– Painted a test swatch of paint in the guest room

Weekly Update, 4/30/2018 to 5/6/2018

Brief Update

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and listening to podcasts this week, and less time with the writing. This is the week where I discovered that true crime podcasts are a Thing, and immediately started listening to some.

What do I have to say about the books I finished this week? Vellitt Boe ended on a somewhat dissatisfying note, I thought. The Lovecraft pastiche is strong, and the dreamy tone of HPL’s Dreamlands stories really comes through, but as a result the narrative feels kinda distant. Thus I was never as invested in Vellitt and her challenges as I might have. I left feeling like I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be a thoughtful psychological journey or an adventure story, and like it wasn’t quite either. Either way, it is beautifully written.

The Defiant Heir was a big winner for me. I was dragged through this one at breakneck speed by my love of Amalia (the main character), my investment in her courtship with our new friend Kathe, and the continual upping of the stakes. At the end I wanted to give Amalia a hug; she had to make some really tough choices. I love seeing how she’s changing and growing, while still being true to the person we met at the beginning of The Tethered Mage.

We also had the first session of the new D&D 5E game this week, it went very well; we worked together and killed some goblins, like ya do at level 2 in Faerun. As I wrote on FB, I’m liking 5E quite a lot; it feels like an improvement over 3.5. This led all my friends to opine, because of course I have the sorts of wonderful friends who have very definite opinions on D&D πŸ˜‰

Finally, I signed up this week to run the Metrowest Corporate 5K, the race I did last year. This year I’m fundraising for the sponsor, the United Way of Tri-County, which — among many great programs — supports a free mental health hotline called Call2Talk. If you feel inclined to donate to the benefit of the community in Middlesex, Norfolk, and Worcester counties, I’d be very grateful.

Links

How to be polite, by Paul Ford on Medium. Nothing in here is super groundbreaking, but it is a great example of how continual application of small social niceties can have a unexpectedly strong effect.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote 272 words on the new Lioness beginning

Reading
– Read The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, by Kij Johnson
– Read “Makeisha in Time”, by Rachael K. Jones
– Read The Defiant Heir, by Melissa Caruso
– Read β€œFrom Their Paws We Shall Inherit,” by Gary Kloster (Clarkesworld Year Six)

Other Media
– Listened to Larpcast #107, “Fifth Gate Wrap Part 3”
– Listened to Writing Excuses, 11.41 and 13.7
– Listened to the Art of Charm #701
– Listened to By the Book, “Bonus Episode: Ask Us More of Anything!” This episode turned me on to the following podcast…
– Listened to Real Crime Profile, episodes “Profiling Dirty John,” “More with Dirty John Creator Christopher Goffard”, “Coercive Control in Dirty John”, “Male Sexual Victimization with Sword and Scale’s Mike Boudet”, which then led me to…
– Listened to Sword and Scale, episodes 99, 111-113
– Had the first session of the new D&D 5E game

Larp
– Wrote PEL for Mad3 spring 1 event

Social
– Went to see EB’s play in Meriden, CT

Health
– Had a therapy appointment
– Had a massage
– Took a ~30 minute walk
– Did boffer sparring with Matt
– Did Zombies Run Season 2 Episode 16 (2.19mi in 38:11 … not a great day for me πŸ™ )
– Did Zombies Run S2 E17 (2.32mi in 35:19)
– Did a ZR supply run (1.82mi in 29:00)
– Signed up for the Metrowest Corp 5K

Rejection Log

– 11 day form from Apex for “Mirrors”

Weekly Update, 4/23/2018 to 4/29/2018

Brief Update

It was a busy week for me, sandwiched between two larp events. Still I’m generally happy with the amount — one game to play and one game to NPC seems just right for me.

One of my writer pals, Coral, is starting up a remote D&D 5E campaign in the Forgotten Realms setting, so I spent some time this week rolling up a character (human variant rogue, named Tamarys) and getting used to the Roll20 platform. The last time I played D&D was a high level 3.5 campaign — also Forgotten Realms! –and I’m still learning just how much has changed. Our first game is on Friday.

This week was my friend Melissa Caruso’s book birthday for The Defiant Heir, the second book in her Swords and Fire series. My copy arrived as expected, and I started reading it at Mad3 this weekend. One of the staffers said to me at the end of the event that she was impressed that I was reading the book before game-on instead of any of the ginormous RP write-ups I had to memorize. What can I say? It was super compelling!

Incidentally, I did a ton of RP and a ton of fighting at Mad3. Coming into it immediately after another larp weekend seems to have helped tremendously with my motivation; instead of feeling (too much) of my usual anticipatory dread, I just was excited to get out there and do stuff.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote… some? on the Lioness mini-mission. (Didn’t keep track of how many, but I’ve reached 10,905 words on this new beginning).
– Wrote blog post, “Big Paradigm Shifts in Editing Lioness”
– Submitted “Mirrors” to Apex
– Submitted “Granny Hubbard” to UFO7

Other Media
– Listened to The Art of Charm #683, #695-696, #700
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “Jupiter’s Children”
– Listened to Larpcast #106, “Fifth Gate Wrap Part 2”
– Watched the RiffTrax of Junior Prom
– Made a character for a D&D 5E game

Larp
– Wrote my PEL for Shadowvale E3
– NPCed for Mad3

Health
– Did Zombies Run S2E15 (2.35mi in 39:07)
– Had a therapy appointment
– Had a hair appointment

Habitat
– Dropped a box of donations by the Savers

Rejection Log

– 1 day rejection from UFO7 for “Granny Hubbard vs. the Giant Slime”

Picture of the Week

This birb showed up on Sunday at Mad3, likely to feast on all the discarded millet. We weren’t sure what it was — a dove? A white pigeon? A vicious albino razorhawk? πŸ˜‰ It had a band on its leg, though, so it was probably some sort of domestic fowl.

Big paradigm shifts in editing Lioness

Yes, I’m still editing πŸ˜‰ I received feedback from several of my beta readers, which has given me enough to move ahead. Unfortunately, some of the major problems they’ve reported have caused me to restructure the beginning. Namely, I have been concocting a “mini-mission” to start the book, which partially incorporates existing work, but which is partially new writing.

One of the big problems is: the entire magic system doesn’t get revealed until two-thirds of the way through the book. There are hints long before that, but they don’t make a lot of sense out of context. One reader told me something like, “yeah, I went back, and now I see all these hints that you made, but it still didn’t add up for me at the time.”

So in the “mini-mission,” I’ve been trying to make the magic system clear. I’m using the “rule of three” from larp-writing , which states that if you want your players to know something, you need to put it in at least three places in the game. (Replace “players” with “readers” and “game” with “book”). So Yfre, our protagonist, witnesses one of the characters use this magic at least three times in the mini-mission.

I got to the third time and I was like… that isn’t enough. You can’t believe that this insatisably curious spy would just leave it at that, with nothing answered. So I had her push him; actually ask him what it’s all about. He’s cagey and evasive about it, but he admits the existence of magic: “yeah, that thing you were nearly hanged for? Is real.”

And there we are, in chapter… three? with the first concrete notion that there is magic here.

And for a moment I was like… whoa. Should I really do this? This is a big paradigm shift. Why would I want to reveal that there’s magic right off the bat?

But why wouldn’t I?

And suddenly everything just sorta fell into place. Why not, indeed?

There’s a mystery later on in the book, where someone is assassinated using that magic system. As-is Yfre has no notion that magic exists and is capable of killing someone. It takes her a long time to piece that together. Sixty percent of the book, in fact.

But if she goes into that scene knowing that such a thing is possible — even if she doesn’t know the details — what changes?

Surprisingly little. Because you still don’t know who committed the crime, even knowing that magic is possible.

I’m experiencing a number of big paradigm shifts like this, where something seems impossible, until suddenly you do the calculation and discover, no, actually, that will work. And you can literally feel your thoughts rearranging themselves, something sliiiiiiiiiding into place, like you’re just solved the Rubik’s cube of your story.

Another example happened much earlier. My alpha readers told me they felt Yfre didn’t have enough agency in the climactic final duel. Well, I said, what do I do? She’s not a warrior; I can’t have her participate in the duel.

Or… didn’t she literally just create a bit of magic that makes someone good at swording? I mean, not great, but maybe good enough to do this one thing

And now I can’t imagine that final scene without her taking up a sword.

(Of course, more commonly in editing there are the times when you change ONE LITTLE THING and it alters everything. That stupid red letter. Figuring out the continuity of who had it at what time took up a lot of energy).

So, it’s progressing. If I can cobble this together before July, I may try Pitch Wars again.

Weekly Update, 4/16/2018 to 4/22/2018

Brief Update

Shadowvale was this past weekend, and as usual, it was great. The cold was an issue — I spent Friday night shivering in my bed — but as usual staff and NPCs did everything they could to make the game awesome despite the unforeseen circumstances.

I especially appreciated the rogue mods I went on. Stuff went wrong, but fixing those botches made it seem like something out of a heist story.

Also I was pleased that after last event — where I literally knocked myself out with a trapped box — I managed to open and disarm a box with two trap triggers on it. Thus our crew actually got paid as well as getting info πŸ˜‰

Alsoalso: one of the players has set himself up as a sort of tavern keeper, and in the tavern he had a lockpicking practice setup — a mount for pin and tumbler locks (sort of like the door they’d normally be set in), and five different locks you could try (1, 2, 3, 5, and 7 pins). I knew the theory of picking these sorts of locks, but up until now everything I’ve picked in game has been a simple warded lock. I eagerly set to working on these.

I managed to open both the 1 and the 2 pin locks; I worked on the three-pin one a while, but eventually gave up (it was pretty rusty, which didn’t help). But I was buoyed by that the rest of the weekend, let me tell you.

In practice it didn’t seem much harder than picking a warded lock, except for having to keep pressure on the tension wrench. There wasn’t that much finesse to it; it was mostly mashing different picks around in there until the tumbler turned. I expect with more pins you have to do more individual work per pin, and less raking and praying. But it was a big step forward for me, nonetheless — I’m ready for more difficult locks in mods now!

Links

I adored this video of the esteemed Dr. Nerdlove playing through Super Seducer. If you ever wanted to play a pickup artist game made by Tommy Wiseau, this is the closest you’re going to get to living that dream. The good doctor’s commentary turned pure cringe into must-see TV — just skip the first five minutes while he’s getting the video set up.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote 505 words on the new Lioness beginning
– Read through line comments from a few different beta readers

Other Media
– Listened to Stuff to Blow Your Mind, “Leviathan: the Wolf of Whale Street”
– Listened to Writing Excuses 13.6
– Listened to The Art of Charm, episodes 693-695. (Apparently this podcast started its life, some 10+ years ago, as a pickup podcast, but these days it’s more general “how to develop social skills” sort of stuff. I don’t think it was ever the more toxic variety of pickup stuff, but if anyone knows differently, I’d love to know).
– Watched the RiffTrax of The Fairy King of Ar. Corbin Bernsen, you can do so much better than this movie. Also you will perpetually be Shawn Spencer’s dad to me; sorrynotsorry.

LARP
– PCed Shadowvale event 3
– Picked my first pin-and-tumbler lock!

Health
– Did Zombies Run supply run (2.24mi in 35:03)
– Did Zombies Run S2E14 (2.39mi in 37:09)
– Had a therapy appointment

Weekly Update, 4/9/2018 to 4/15/2018

Brief Update

Not really feeling this sudden return to winter. I woke up this morning — APRIL SIXTEENTH — to a couple of inches of slush on the ground, and that was not okay.

Had a busy and productive week, followed by a mostly unproductive weekend. I am basically packed for Shadowvale next weekend, however, which is a lot of anxiety off my mind.

The video card in my desktop computer died suddenly this weekend (it was a GTX 970). I have a new GTX 1060 wending its way to me, only slightly ridiculously overpriced (thanks, Bitcoin miners), but paid for entirely with Amazon rewards points, so I can’t complain too much.

In the meantime Matt slotted in my old GTX 480. It’s a seven-year old video card, so I won’t be playing my heavily modded Skyrim game with it, but it runs WoW beautifully (thanks to the engine being old as dirt). Might be ready for another role reversal raid this evening…

It was a good week for finishing books, though! Crooked Kingdom ended in an A+++ satisfying way, and I hope to write a proper review of the Six of Crows duology soon. For now it’s enough to say that I think I liked this book better than the first one, and that I keep going back to the Goodreads quote page to remind myself of the sometimes silly, sometimes profound things my favorite fragile-yet-criminal-mastermind teenagers have said.

I also finished The Tombs of Atuan this week, which I’ve had on my shelves since I was a kid, but had never managed to finish until now. It’s kind of a jarring surprise, if you’re coming straight from A Wizard of Earthsea — our pal Ged doesn’t show up until halfway through the book, and otherwise we spend a lot of time doing ordinary dark priestess stuff with Arha/Tenar. Going in with that knowledge, I didn’t mind so much; in fact I was fascinated by how Le Guin manages to show intense emotions with a fairly distant POV (at least by today’s standards of YA narration).

I’ve moved on to The Farthest Shore as my print book of the moment, and The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe as my next audiobook. The latter is a real treat for someone like me, who’s read and re-read Lovecraft’s Dream Cycle stories, as almost every proper name is a reference to something. I’m also enjoying it as an exploration of aging, which is a facet I wasn’t expecting.

I watched some more Versailles this week, but I’ve reached the point I reach in a lot of trashy semi-historical dramatic series, where my ability to stop noticing all the ahistorical details is worn down. I really don’t like the entire plot about Clermont; she’s not a real historical figure, her motivations are shallow and pasted on, and I don’t believe she could outsmart the people she outsmarts.

Links

Women Aren’t Nags — We’re Just Fed Up. I feel that Matt and I have a pretty good division of emotional as well as physical labor in our house, but there are still areas where I feel the frustration and decision fatigue the author talks about.

I’m not just doing it for the likes: does writing mean anything if no one sees it? Shared with me by Dave*, who understands I have some investment in this question! I liked this quote in particular, regarding why writers write:

In our faintly remaining hearts, though, we know it is because we are deeply emotionally wounded and want nothing more than to re-create a simulacrum of what it’s supposed to mean to have a successful life (i.e. one enriched by meaningful relationships), a normal interaction with those around us. And, to boot, we want to be acknowledged for the genius of our ability to so accurately present that simulacrum–one that we ourselves will never get to participate in as a result of some defunct emotional mechanism within our husk.

I’m not sure I agree with this assertion, that you have to be wounded to write, but I’m not sure I disagree, either.

Accomplishments

Reading
– Read Frugal Living for Dummies by Deborah Taylor-Hough
– Read Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo
– Read The Tombs of Atuan, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Writing
– Wrote 1875 words on new Lioness beginning
– Wrote blog post, “Quitting raiding and not quitting raiding”

Other Media
– Watched episodes 3-7 of Versailles
– Listened to Writing Excuses 13.5
– Listened to Happier with Gretchen Rubin #162

Social
– Dinner and writing with Phoebe at Panera in Waltham

Health
– ~30min walk x 2
– Freeform walk/run (1.5mi in 24:04; ZR app crashed on me)
– 10 x jackknives
– Zombies Run S2E12 (2.26mi in 36:46)
– Boffer sparring with Matt
– Had a therapy appointment
– Had a massage

Rejection Log

– Factor Four, 10-day form R for “Mirrors”

Quitting raiding and not quitting raiding

I’ve decided that I’m done with raiding in Legion. At least, srs bsns raiding. And for once, it isn’t due to drama!

This all came about because I am super bored of Antorus, and if I never have to step foot in there again, it will be too soon. I’m also frustrated with healing, of feeling like I never measure up to the other healers in the raid. Finally, I just want my Monday and Tuesday nights back.

When the raid leaders announced on Monday that we were teaming with the guild Light Brigade to try mythic Antorus, and that everyone interested should sign up, my reaction was just…. ughhhh. Matt was gung-ho about it, though, so I felt like I should want to do it. And as a healer, I feel a little bit more dedicated to showing up to these things than I was when I was maining a dps. (Although LB has plenty of healers of their own, so there’s no real shortage). I had some internal conflict about this, but wiping all night on Felhounds (we’d already downed Garothi) sounded about as much fun as cutting my eyes out with a spork, so that decided me.

So I spent much of Tuesday night journaling and writing, and Matt spent it wiping on mythic Garothi and Felhounds. I’m fine with this division of labor.

All that said? Monday night’s raid, before I’d made my decision, was pretty great. We decided to do a “role reversal” raid, where everyone was asked to play a role they don’t usually play. Since I most commonly heal or do ranged dps, I brought my druid Wodehouse as tank, with the other tank being Gylm/Malefic on his druid Elwindar. Matt came as Aulfilde, his monk, in healing spec instead of tank, and Mel (who usually heals) came on her mage Menw. Zal was back, playing his warlock (!!!), and other folks mixed it up as appropriate. Then we jumped into normal Antorus.

It was… a little anxiety provoking, at first? I kept apologizing for everything. When we wiped on normal Garothi (due to too many healers down and light dps), I blamed myself, even though I had almost nothing to do with it.

But I warmed to the role by the time raid time ended, and in total we ended up clearing through Imonar.

Some observations:

On Garothi, I’ve learned why it is that the tanks always go out of range just when they most need healing (Fel Bombardment)! I was a little worried, but hey, Frenzied Regeneration was maaaade for that.

“Do tanks run out for Eradication?”
Gylm: “Yes.”
Zal: “No.”
… well, okay, then.

The two of us, in bear form, are standing on the hill above Felhounds. Gylm’s got whatever artifact appearance makes him red and surrounded in bone armor; I’ve got the blue-ish tint of the baseline artifact appearance.
“I call Not It on fire dog,” I say.
“Well, I was going to suggest we go by coloration, anyway.”

It was good to have another druid tank; we could compare notes on many things. “Just for reference, do you use Rage of the Sleeper to avoid the fire dog fear?”

Soooo many bosses that cleave. Never realized how much I would have to be aware of that taunt asterisk and gtfo to avoid getting stacks of something or other. Fucked this up a couple of times on High Command and Imonar, I’m sure. Also discovered the fun bug whereby sometimes taunt doesn’t work on the High Command bosses.

Just in general, I feel like tanking requires a whole different level of awareness. For example, I have terrible awareness of where on the game map everyone is; as a healer or dps, mostly I just need to know if stuff is in or out of range. But I actually need to be aware of the other tank’s position quite a bit of the time.

Crossing between Imonar’s platforms is so much easier when you’re not stuck at the back of the pack, dispelling everyone who was hapless enough to step in a trap!
“When’s the taunt swap on phase 3?”
“There isn’t one. You taunt when I die.”

“I don’t bother fixing my mogs when I’m in bear form all the time,” I say, “But:” *shift out of bear form, shift from worgen to human*
Bree looks at my mog — which includes things like leather straps across my chest and big furry paws for the Claws of Ursoc — and says, “Oh, Sil,” with a tone of dismay.
“That’s not even that bad,” Matt points out. “You got rid of the booty shorts.”
Gylm points out, “But Sil, don’t you know that a good mog improves your tanking ability?”

When we’re wiping on Portal Keeper, and only the tanks remain:
“Shadowmeld, shadowmeld!” Zal yells.
“Not a night elf,” I remind him.
“Oh yeah, you’re that smelly wet dog.”

Ultimately? It was fun to try this new twist on something I’ve done a zillion times. But I’m still going to step away until BfA comes out.

Weekly Update, 4/2/2018 to 4/8/2018

Brief Update

I celebrated my 38th birthday on Friday — mostly by remembering how much it sucks to get drunk after age 35. I still feel kind of awful after my happy hour tour of West Hartford, two days later — although “hungover” feels a lot like “ennui” at this age.

It should tell you how crappy I was feeling that I visited a famous used bookstore with acres full of books, and didn’t buy a single thing.

Also, the wildest thing I did in my old age drunkenness was read fanfic for a series I haven’t finished, and thus spoiled myself on the ending of Crooked Kingdom. Ah well. I’ve since listened some of the scenes that were spoiled for me, and they were still amazing.

Although, massive props to EB, who not only dealt with my drunk ass, but gave me an amazing birthday trip nonetheless — including books, Victorian death rooms (part of the That’s Weird exhibit we went to), goats, brunch, and rich people’s manors. Her big gift to me was a copy of Millay’s The Princess Marries the Page, a play she wrote at Vassar. I look forward to reading it, as I’ve never actually read any of her plays.

Links

Matt Sachs brought this amazing thread about Buckingham and Charles I’s Excellent Adventure (in wooing the Spanish infanta) to my attention. I knew about some of this, but the DETAILS, man. Trying to pay a ferryman with a gold coin. Bribing small boys. Philosophical conversations about goats. Historical daddy kink. Pretty much the genesis for the diamond studs plot of The Three Musketeers.

All I have to say to this is MY SWEET BOYS.

Accomplishments

Writing
– Wrote blog post: “The only person in the world who loves books”
– Wrote 411 words/worked ~1h on Lioness
– Entered a bunch of old poems on paper into a Word doc

Other Media
– Listened to By the Book “Season 2 Wrap-up”
– Listened to Writing Excuses 13.1-13.4
– Watched episodes 1-2 of Versailles

Health
– Did a Zombies Run supply mission (1.44mi in 25:46)
– Did Zombies Run S2E11 (2.26mi in 38:19)
– Did Zombies Run S2E12 (1.85mi in 29:12)
– Decided on a therapist to see long-term

Social/Travel
– Celebrated my birthday at the Melting Pot in Framingham, MA
– Visited EB in Hartford, CT, and:

  • Did a tour of the That’s Weird exhibit at the Connecticut Historical Society
  • Saw the tavern signs collection at CHS
  • Did happy hour in West Hartford
  • Visited the Book Barn in Niantic, CT
  • Had brunch at the White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI
  • Toured Chateau-sur-Mer in Newport
  • Visited the Common Burying Ground in Newport, and saw the graves of Ida Lewis (famous lighthouse keeper) and Ann Franklin Smith (early 19th century journalist)
  • Saw the grave of Mercy Brown, supposed vampire (not, as I kept saying to annoy EB, “Mercy Brown, vampire slayer.” Truly, history is written by the vampires slayers, not the vampires).

Picture of the Week

I didn’t take many pictures of my weekend adventures (see: ennui), but this one stands out.


LIES.

The only person in the world who loves books

...

So I made a joke in my most recent weekly update that when I post my various maunderings on in-progress books, I feel like the only person in the world who loves books this much.

What do I mean by that? Well, if I’m particularly enjoying a book — as I am the Six of Crows duology, or my (re)read of the Earthsea books — I produce a steady stream of commentary. You may have seen me do this on social media, but let me assure you, you only see a small portion of what I produce.

Why don’t I share more?

I’m not sure it’s interesting to anyone else.

If you haven’t read the book, it’s probably not interesting, and it’s usually spoilery up to the point I’ve read. If you have read the book, you may not have any patience for my partial understanding of the story up to that point. Some of it is cogent — like “I thought this plot twist was handled well for X reason” — but some of it is just silly fangirling, like “what Leverage characters would I map the Six of Crows crew to?”

A lot of it is one-off thoughts, most appropriate for social media

That very thing I am trying to use less of; that very thing I am trying to keep from taking over my life. But when I want to compare the otak from A Wizard of Earthsea to a porg, it seems appropriate for a social media post, but not so much for a blog post. Where do I share this urgently important thought???

Some of it ends up in my weekly update; sometimes I text or message someone personally with a clever thought. More often than I like I break social media silence to share it! And very rarely indeed it ends up in my Goodreads feed, which is probably the place it most belongs. (Although that, too, is social media, of a sort. Not monetized as aggressively as Facebook, certainly, but it has its small place in the attention economy).

Limitations of the media I do use

On the other hand, enough of it is long-form content that I think I would quickly outstrip the limits of the Goodreads progress updates field. (Just confirmed: yep, only 420 characters allowed, and no way to mark spoilers). You can do long-form and spoilers in reviews, but full-fledged reviews aren’t my problem — I write a lot of them here.

And there’s also the fact that audiobooks (which are a lot of my reading) make it hard to say “I paused on page 3 and had this thought.”

So I guess I’ve established that I’m comfortable using Goodreads for short, non-spoilery progress updates on print books that I’m reading, but longer form, spoilery updates that stop short of reviews? I’ve got no place for those.

Want to see an example of this, in all it’s unedited glory? After listening to a chapter of Crooked Kingdom on my commute, this is what I produced.

I’ve blanked out the spoilery bits with a background-color:white style; highlight to read them.

More Crooked Kingdom maunderings…

I listened to the Wylan chapter this morning where you learned what happened to his mother. It was heartbreaking*, and perfectly timed — the reader (at least this reader) figures out what is going on before Wylan does, but not so far ahead that it came across as predictable. It was definitely that perfect “sudden but inevitable” plot twist.

* I was going to say “heartrending”, but that has another meaning here.

(It probably helped that it’s not a plot twist, per se. While it changes Wylan’s motivation — in that he has accepted how evil his father is, and no longer wants to get back in his good graces — it doesn’t really change much about the plan going forward).

And while I’ve been harsh on this narrator, he did a pretty good job in this chapter — enough so that he at least faded into the background.

Particular things/moments I liked, more spoilery now:

– The “let’s go steal all my father’s money” that closes out the chapter. A Leverage homage (?) that isn’t nearly so heavy-handed as some I’ve seen. (Great, now I’m going to picture Kaz as Timothy Hutton instead. I liked it better when he was played by George Clooney in my head. And damn, now I’m mapping the crew members and it’s totally a thiiiiiiing, except for the part where there are different numbers and you kind of have to map both Matthias and Jesper to Elliot).
– Jesper’s incredulous “You lied to Kaz Brekker and got away with it!” moment.
– The irony of Marya not recognizing her son — the inspiration of so many of her paintings — because now he’s wearing Kuwei’s face.
– Playing music to her. (Even if I do wonder how the hell he shoved a flute in his shirt). I had a few moments of “just what the hell is Wylan going to SAY to her?” and this was the perfect response to that. To quote my beloved Millay, “comfort that does not comprehend” is exactly what was needed there.
– Even though Van Eck is just this onion of awfulness that we keep unpeeling, Wylan still has pleasant memories of him reading to him, or bringing him tea when he was sick. Because real people, even awful real people who try to have their dyslexic sons killed and wall their wives up in insane asylums, don’t behave consistently all the time. And on Wylan’s side, real people also have complex relationships with family members who are terrible people.

And more spoilers, about the previous Nina and Matthias chapter, this time:

And I do have to say: what the hell is happening to Nina? The bones of saints? Zoya showing up in the Ravkan quarter of Ketterdam? That whole chapter was Grisha trilogy nostalgia, though I was thoroughly chortling at Nina trying to explain “princess and barbarian” to Matthias, or their very serious, “I don’t understand how you can consider Alina Starkov a saint” conversation.

I still wonder how Nina never met Alina, if this is only two years after Ruin and Rising, she fought on her side, and furthermore that she knows Genya and Zoya and David and every other grisha of note from the trilogy. Was she not part of the group that went underground with them? Maybe I need to re-read and see if I can find her there. (I already pull that book down to consult the map all the time, because it’s the only print Bardugo book I have… though I suspect the map in the SoC books is more complete). I also wonder how she isn’t more disgusted at the mention of Retvenko, considering it’s preeeeeeetty clear from his POV chapter that he fought on the Darkling’s side of things in the civil war.

So yeah, that sure was a wall of text.

More than the logistical concerns, however, it comes back to this:

What do I want when I post stuff like this?

I want to have a dialogue with someone who’s as excited about the book as I am. Someone who is there for analysis, both trivial and literary. I want what I had when my friends and I were both excited about Babylon 5 in high school — the tiny kingdom of in-jokes and buzz that we inhabited.

This brings me back to my young adult years, where I was so desperate to talk about the books I was reading that I would randomly ask people on the street if they read fantasy. It’s cruelly hilarious that this loneliness persists today, when fantasy is mainstream.

I suppose if I were more invested in pop culture, I could inhabit that little kingdom; I could squee about the latest superhero movie or the latest episode of Game of Thrones to my friends. But few are the people I know who have read the books I read; fewer still who want to engage with them in the same way I do.

And some of this is taste. Like I know a lot of my book friends love Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence. I’ve read the first one and enjoyed it, but I don’t feel the excitement they have for it. And so when they squee about it I have little to offer. Likewise I know, of the top of my head, five or so people who have read the Six of Crows series, and while they all agree it’s competent, engaging, fun, none of them are as into it as I seem to be. None of them want that fannish engagement with the book.

My best experiences with this have been in writing communities. If there’s anyone who cares as much as I do about books, it’s SFF writers. But that too depends on tastes matching up. My VP17 Slack has channels for The Goblin Emperor, for example, but also channels for things I don’t care about, and certainly no channel for squeeing about the oeuvre of Leigh Bardugo. (I could create one, but if no one else has read it, what’s the point?)

Ultimately, though? I want people to love books exactly as much as I do, no more or less, in exactly the same ways. That is a literal impossibility, as well as a literary one.

So I guess… what do I do with this shit? Who actually wants to read this? Should I just resign myself to the fact that the answer is “no one”? Put it in a diary and save it for my inevitable biographers? πŸ˜‰