What I’ve Been Reading Lately (September, 2022)

Looking back on recent reads, I find I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy – which is not exactly unusual, but is not as much the case anymore as it was, say, five years ago!  In fact, I didn’t read any nonfiction this month, which isn’t the norm anymore.

I read a very odd book, Meet Me in Another Life by Catriona Silvey, which…I hesitate to categorize as sci fi or fantasy, because I don’t want to give too much away.  The two main characters keep repeating their lives and meeting each other in different ways – but it’s not exactly reincarnation, because they keep living through the same time period, and it’s not exactly parallel worlds because they’re different relative ages to each other…it’s very strange and intriguing!

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers is a rather lovely, philosophical sci fi book – it’s about a utopian future rather than the so common dystopian ones, and is the first in her Monk and Robot series…and it really is about what it says.  This was the author of A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and I was curious to see what else she had written. Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading Lately (September, 2022)”

Writing Update (September, 2022)

It’s been a busy past month in my writing.  I attended my annual writing retreat just after my last update, and had a really great weekend.  As a group, we made some progress on our collaborative fantasy romance, as well as digging deeper into our next project, a planned collection of sci fi stories.

The sci fi stories center around a group of characters on the run (via spaceship), with each author taking ownership of two characters.  We wanted to explore how the group got together, so we played out the origin story in a loose D&D game style.  They all meet while separately robbing a museum on the same night, so we drew up a map of the museum and moved our character figurines through it as we invented the story in real-time.  It was a LOT of fun, and we ended up with an extremely detailed outline for what I think will be a very cool story.

I also made some progress on my revisions of Thorns I, and finished this latest revision pass about a week after the retreat.  I sent it out for second-round beta reader feedback, and will see how that goes.  A lot of changes happened in the revisions, so I’m curious to see how it reads now.

Since sending Thorns I off, I’ve been working on a higher level to outline my Thorns series more clearly.  I’ve come to the conclusion that what started as a short story is now going to be a five book series.  Book 1 is almost done, Book 2 is drafted, and I wrote a big bulk of Book 4, Penelope’s novel.  So now I’m outlining Books 3 and 5, and also looking at some revision plans for Books 2 and 4.  It’s complicated!  I hope to have some really solid outlines by the end of the month.

In between outlining, I wanted to do something a little less complicated and more around actual writing, so I’ve been doing daily writing prompts – sort of bouncing between doing a prompt each day, or doing some outlining.  I’ve been using the prompts to explore the characters from my series in more depth, so it’s been a good support to my larger writing goals.  And just been fun!

So just for fun, here’s a bit from a prompt about making grilled cheese, which I decided to use to explore my new sci fi characters.  Enjoy!

I got to work on my grilled cheese, using the super fancy stove in the commissary.  Seriously, I’ve seen navigation controls with fewer buttons.

That may have been a problem.  I mean, everything was going along great at first.  The bread was all toasty, the cheese was all melty, the butter was all buttery and I had a fantastic grilled cheese in process, when suddenly it exploded.

I don’t know how it happened.  I didn’t think cheese was explodable, but maybe there’s some nuance I missed.

All I know is one minute everything was fine, and the next minute there was smoke and blobs of cheese and smears of butter everywhere.  I blame the stove.

I would blame the AI, seeing as he clearly had it in for me, but if it was him, he did a really good job of simulating distress.

“There is smoke in the air and butter on my countertops and—and—my sensors are picking up cheese!  On the ceiling!” the AI howled.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (August, 2022)

I’ve been reading more fiction since my last update, and fortunately having better luck with it too – for the most part!

The highlight has been the Clocktaur Wars books by T. Kingfisher – a duology (or one book that got really long so she split it in half, according to the author’s note), I read both The Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine.  They were excellent.  Exciting and engaging, but mostly I just really loved the characters.  The story revolves around a suicide mission to an enemy city to try to stop the Clocktaurs, giant magical machines sent to rampage through the landscape.  There’s a cranky forger with frequent allergy attacks, a formerly-possessed paladin (but the demon’s dead now) who’s generally tortured and apologetic, a deeply cynical assassin, and a very naive scholar.  I’m simplifying this greatly, but trust me when I say they are wonderful.  There’s a very satisfying romance, a lot of humor, and some genuinely creepy bits too.

Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading Lately (August, 2022)”

Writing Update (August, 2022)

My writing had been going along with slow but steady progress for the last few weeks.  I’ve been almost exclusively focused on revisions for Thorns 1, and am about 3/4 of the way through this pass.  I’ve been paying particular attention to Terrence’s character, and the character of the chief villain of the story, his brother Gregory.  There’s been a few new scenes, and some tweaking of existing scenes.

I’ve also found a few opportunities to do more with Penelope, the heroine of my unexpected additional novel.  She’s still a small character in this book, but Terrence and Rose wonder about her a little more, and worry a little more when she leaves the scene (events that lead her to her own book).  Here’s an excerpt from an added scene featuring her.

Penelope always seemed to have a wall up that Terrence didn’t know how to get past.  Someone else might find a clever way around, but the best he could think of was to just fling himself at it.  Because there really had been something on her face, when she’d looked at him just then—  “Are you happy here, Penelope?  Do you…miss where you grew up?”

A long pause stretched out, as Penelope continued with her embroidery, and he thought she wasn’t even going to answer.  But at last she said, “The castle in Relnyra was close enough to the shore to hear the waves, especially at night.  I do miss that sound.”

That was a more personal remark than he’d ever had from her before – but it didn’t answer his first question.  “That sounds nice.  It must be hard, to be in such a different place,” he said carefully, not certain they were actually talking about waves.

Continue reading “Writing Update (August, 2022)”

What I’ve Been Reading Lately (July, 2022)

I’ve had a good mix recently of non-fiction and fiction reads – though I’ve had better luck on the whole on the nonfiction side!

I’ve been rereading L. M. Montgomery’s journals for the…third?  fourth?  fifth? time.  I’m on Volume IV of her Complete Journals (as opposed to the previously published Selected Journals).  Volume III covered most of WWI, and Volume IV covers the next several years, including the 1919 flu epidemic.  It was interesting to see what she said about the flu – more than I remembered, but still not very much.  No mention of things like masks or lockdowns!

I also read Free-Range Kids by Lenore Skenazy, which I liked a lot.  It basically advocates for giving kids more freedom and worrying less, with some good arguments on why parental fears are often overblown.  She did become a bit of a fear-mongerer about fear-mongering, though, in a strange way… Continue reading “What I’ve Been Reading Lately (July, 2022)”