Friday, April 5, 2019

March 2019 Doings! (Is It Spring Yet?)

Hey'a, everyone! So, March has now been over for almost a week, but today's the scheduled day for Doings, and we're going with it. (Plus, the alternative is that I leave it until the end of April, and that'll just be a bad idea all 'round.) For those curious: Camp NaNoWriMo is going reasonably well. I started off the month with one chapter that I was excited to rewrite and another few that needed relatively few changes, so that helped a lot. Thus why I was able to get this post up at a reasonable time without dying.


Mechanical Heart mock cover
Mock cover created as an experiment in style. Not an official cover reveal. Don't get excited, please.
  • Once again, I spent most of the month rewriting Mechanical Heart and not making a lot of progress. Part of the problem is that I was almost exclusively writing new material rather than rewriting old material, and I felt a lot of pressure to get it right the first time 'round.
  • Also, politics. One significant beta request was to have more scenes with Josiah acting in his normal world (aka politics and asking a lot of people a lot of questions). Some of those scenes have been fun, but some have been . . . challenging. Hopefully, the results will be worth it.
  • That said, I also wrote less because I was busy putting together the material for the one-shot I'm running tomorrow night. That was another interesting challenge, though of a very different sort. People have been creating their characters and telling me about them, and I'm super excited to see how this all goes down. (Also a little nervous, since I've never been on the other side of the screen before, but y'know.)
  • I also have been assailed all month with a desire to write either books 3 through whatever-the-last-volume-is in my epic fairy tale retelling series or the first book in my fantasy murder mystery series, and it's intensely frustrating. I can't write either book any time soon; the first, I need to rewrite the other two books first, and the second will require a lot of delicate planning that I'm not ready for. Oh well. Such is life.


March 2019 books. Lots of 'em.
  • On the upside, March was another pretty solid month of reading. It looks more impressive than it is, though, for a few reasons.
  • First of all, I only finished Second Son in March; I started reading it back in January for Jenelle Schmidt's read-along. It was, on the whole, a good book, though not my favorite.
  • Second of all, roughly half the books on here are Oz books. And, surprisingly, Oz books are pretty short; I can read one in under two hours. I reread the first one mostly on a whim, then kept going because I wanted to see how the other books held up against my memories since they used to be some of my favorites. They were still thoroughly enjoyable (as evidenced by the fact that I read the whole series, save two). The plots are sometimes a little lacking, and the narration can be a bit didactic, but you have to appreciate the creativity and humor that goes into them. That said, they're pretty dark books if you put even a little bit of thought into them. I may end up writing a full Friday 5s post about my thoughts and analysis after rereading them; is that something anyone would be interested in?
  • I read three other classics in addition to Oz. One, A Wrinkle In Time, is another old favorite that I read while I was home over spring break. (I mostly read it because I had expected to get it as one of my blind date books and that put me in the mood.) The others were both by Agatha Christie: Parker Pyne Investigates (a book of short stories) and Murder on the Orient Express (not pictured because I forgot to add it on Goodreads until the writing of this post). The short stories were fine; a bit of a mixed bag but on the whole enjoyable. Murder on the Orient Express was, naturally, much more impressive. I can see why it's so well known and why so many people love it so much. For my part, I enjoyed it fairly well, and I was impressed by how well Christie wove everything together and planted all the clues. Did I guess the culprit before the reveal? No, but I almost never do.
  • And now we go back to the start of the month for some non-classic reads. On the indie fiction front, we have three recent releases: Honor: A Quest In (Kendra E. Ardnek), To Court a Queen (H.L. Burke), and If Wishes Were Curses (Janeen Ippolito). That's pretty much the order of how much I like each one as well. Honor is excellent; definitely the best in Bookania. If you haven't read it yet, you should. To Court a Queen was also fun, even if the hero wasn't my favorite I've encountered of his archetype. It messed with fantasy tropes in pretty fun ways, and the plot was good. If Wishes Were Curses, on the other hand, didn't quite meet my expectations. I was excited for an urban fantasy mystery, but instead the story spent far too much time gallivanting about with romance and destiny and so forth. That's definitely a personal problem and not a strike against the book itself, but it's still frustrating. (That said, I did like one particular element of the romance quite a lot, so there's that.)
  • Then we have four mainline fantasy reads. As She Ascends is the sequel to Before She Ignites, which I read and reviewed for Cedars in September 2017. I didn't reread Ignites before reading Ascends, which proved to be a mistake; I spent the first half of the novel trying to remember who everyone was and what happened in the last book. This book is also another lesson in why fantasy heroes need to communicate, but what else is new? The Graveyard Book was interesting and clever, a bit odd but enjoyable nonetheless. I may reread it next October, when I'm properly in the mood for creepiness. Monstrous Regiment was my latest jaunt through Discworld, and it was neither my favorite nor least favorite in the series, but I know I don't agree with part of its primary message.
  • And, finally, we have my favorite thing I read all month: The Aeronaut's Windlass! I take this book as proof that steampunk, when well done, is honestly one of the best genres. You've got sciencey magic, quirky characters, airship battles, magical science, cat societies, intrigue, spies, more airship battles, romance, pirates, and did I mention the airship battles? And, as the cherry on top, you've got Captain Grimm, who's the best possible blend of practicality and heroism, whose grasp of airship tactics is matched only by his understanding of human nature, and who has wit and skill enough to spar, verbally or physically, with anyone who comes his way. He's high-key the best.


  • Surprisingly, I watched a lot of movies this month — well, compared to how many I normally watch.
Star Wars logo
  • As I'm going to talk about in a minute, spring break happened in March, which is part of why I watched more than usual. (It's a bit odd — after years of watching movies only rarely, the rest of my family has suddenly started watching movies and old TV shows on DVD every couple weeks, if not every week or multiple times a week. Part of that is probably the fact that we finally got a new TV last summer after having kept the same one for basically as long as I've been alive, but it's still a little bewildering.)
  • Anyway. I got kind of off topic there. So, until recently, my sister hadn't seen Star Wars, which is obviously a state of affairs that had to be fixed before next fall. My family watched Episode 4 before spring break, and then we watched Episodes 5 and 6 while I was home on break. I'm currently hoping that they'll hold off on the rest of the movies until May, when I'll be home again, but only time will tell.
  • We also watched a few episodes of Star Trek (mostly because my grandpa's copy of Star Wars is on VHS, and his VHS player was messed up, so we had to watch something else). I have come to the conclusion that the only way I'll get through the original series is if I watch each season's episode in the order of this-interests-me-most-right-now instead of chronological order. Obviously, I'll watch all, or almost all, the episodes in a season before moving on to the next season.
  • Speaking of watching things out of order: my roommate and I are temporarily back on the Fairy Tail boat. We've been unable to find English dubs of the next episodes in order, though, so we're jumping ahead to watch Fairy Tail Zero, the prequel arc. So far, we've only watched one episode, and it was . . . depressing. But at least tiny!Mavis isn't a complete Pollyanna. That's something.
  • Most exciting out of everything I watched this month . . .
Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse Poster
  • That's right! I actually watched a Marvel movie within a year of when it came out! It's a miracle, y'all. I'm not going to say that Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is my favorite Marvel movie ever. (It isn't, not while Thor: Ragnarok is on the table.) However, it's still a really good movie. The characters are beautifully drawn in multiple senses, and the writers successfully gave all everyone a reasonable bit of development even while keeping the focus on the main three, and they gave each of the main three their own narrative without letting the two secondaries in that core group take over the plot from Miles.
  • Miles, by the way, is a cinnamon roll. And his relationships with the other characters are fabulous.
  • Also, the art of the movie is gorgeous. And the action scenes are almost all amazing. (There's, like, one that frustrated me? But generally, amazing.)
  • Also: Miles has an actual family and relatively non-horrible relationships with his family members. What the actual pumpernickel. It's a spidey-miracle. Recent films and books have gotten a little better about family relationships, but (with a few exceptions, like Black Panther) not much. Miles's relationship with his parents isn't perfect, true, but it's a normal sort of strained? You can tell that the family members really care about each other, even if they disagree about certain things. So, yeah. That made me happy.


Crochet snake that I made for my roommate based on a pattern by H.L. Burke. Its name is Apep.
  • March was mostly characterized by DOING ALL THE THINGS and traveling ALL THE PLACES . . . if by "all the places" you mean Virginia. But I went there and back twice, and those were the two big events of the month.
  • The first trip back was, of course, for spring break. I very much enjoyed being back home for a week! We didn't do much out of the ordinary, but I appreciated the chance to relax and spend time with my family and catch up on some recent book releases. (Plus, I went to the discount bookstore near my house and got new books, so YAY for that.)
  • The second trip to Virginia was actually to Roanoke with some friends from the Honors program. Why were we there? The Roanoke Open Classic QuizBowl tournament! The leader of TDK QuizBowl was taking a team (actually two teams) back to his hometown for the tournament, and he invited me to join them. I wasn't going to go originally . . . and then I realized that, by some miracle, I actually wasn't as busy that weekend as I thought!
  • The tournament went very well on the whole. We didn't win, but we had fun and we gave the other teams a good challenge. (Well, most of the other teams . . . some of them steamrolled us, but some of them also do this competitively as opposed to just as a hobby.) I only made one stupid mistake, and that not until later in the day, but I got several questions quick enough to earn my team bonus points. So, I'd call the tournament a personal success as well as a group one. That trip was also where I watched Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse and discovered my latest strategy game craze, Star Realms. It's a fun mix between a deck-building game and a battle-strategy game; you acquire ships and bases and use them to attack your opponent. I've only played the standard game once, but there's an app version that I downloaded pretty much as soon as I got back.
  • In other news: I figured out my schedule for next semester. I have two graphic design classes taught by a prof who has a reputation for being difficult, but other than those my schedule looks pretty chill. I'm annoyed that I couldn't get the PWID elective that I wanted (Advanced Composition; I'm taking Intercultural Communication instead), though. On the upside, I'm not taking College Algebra! So that's exciting!
  • (For the record: my reluctance to take College Algebra is not because I dislike math — I mean, I don't like it, but my dislike is based on disinterest and not difficulty. However, I've never heard anything good about the college algebra class here, and I have heard that it has a ridiculously high workload and a poorly designed online learning platform. So, in the interest of not driving myself mad with frustration, I'm taking a business stats class instead.)
  • The church website redesign is progressing slowly but surely. We know what we're doing; it's just a matter of assembling the content, and not all of that is under my control. I'm not complaining about the slow pace, though. That just means I can work on it when I have time and not feel pressured to compress other activities to make time for it.
  • Finally: I discovered Mongolian Metal, courtesy of W.R. Gingell. It's awesome, and I've been listening to it basically all month. That is all.


Camp NaNoWriMo Banner
  • Camp NaNoWriMo is happening. I'm still working on Mechanical Heart. I think everyone reading this already knew, that, but if not: you have now been told.
  • I also have stuff going on literally every weekend this month. I am going to die (of fun!). In case you want to know what's going to kill me (with fun!):
    • Tomorrow: D&D one-shot! Pretty much everything is ready now, which is good since I don't exactly have much more time to prep. I've been working with various people, helping them make their characters, and I have to say: we have a pretty interesting group. Everyone did a very good job of avoiding the cliche and making actual characters, not just collections of traits, and I look forward to seeing what happens.
    • The weekend after: PWID Spring Trip. AKA, we travel for the weekend, have fun, and visit companies to see what PWID people "in the wild" do. This year we're going to Nashville, visiting two marketing companies (!!!), talking to an actual published author, and, among other activities, going to a Grey Havens concert (!!!!!!!!). I'm super excited, and I'm so glad that I decided to go on the trip.
    • The third weekend: Easter break! AKA I go to my roommate's house and hang out with her and her family. We might get to leave early this year — like, a whole day early — and I'm very much looking forward to it. It'll be nice to get off campus and not have a full schedule.
    • The final weekend: TDK formal! I'm in charge of decorating, which turned out to be harder than I expected. But the org treasurer just increased my decorating budget, which means I can actually afford my ideas! I can't wait!
  • Anyway. Assuming I don't die of fun, I may die of final projects. On the upside, half of my final projects are actually semester-long group projects, so we really just have to finish up what we've been working on for months now. That's something. On the downside, I'm really tired of user testing.
That about covers it. How was your March? Any exciting April plans? Are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo, and if so, how's that going?
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)


  1. I still need to read As She Ascends, so thanks for the heads-up that I'll need to reread Before She Ignites first. The sequel I'm reading now, The Queen's Resistance, does an excellent job of some short recap within the story so I didn't feel very lost, even though it's been a year since I read book one.

    I also still need to watch Into the Spider-verse, oops. I didn't get around to it when it was in theaters (Spider-man has never been my favorite), but everyone has raved about it so... I wish Netflix had it.

    1. You're welcome! What's The Queen's Resistance a sequel to? It sounds familiar.

      Yeah. We ended up getting it on Redbox. I think you'd probably enjoy it, but I also do like Spider-man in general.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross. :)

    3. Cool beans. That's been on my TBR list; just haven't gotten to it yet. :P

  2. Star Realms!!! We love that game :) the expansion "Colony Wars" or whatever it's called is fun, as well, since it lets you play 4-player.

    Derek also enjoys "Fantasy Realms" and now that he's played it more than once, says it isn't just a fantasy-based version of Star Realms, but has some fun/unique twists (and as a bonus, the basic game starts out being able to accommodate 4 players, so that's cool). I haven't played it yet, but it sounds/looks fun. (One of the factions' artwork is a bit on the darker/creepy side, though, fair warning)

    Ahem. Random fangirling over board games moment complete.

    1. Oooh, cool beans! I will look both of those variations up; they sound super fun! Thanks for sharing! (And random fangirling over board games is ALWAYS welcome here!)

  3. You're going to a Gray Havens concert? Yes, you are definitely going to die of fun!
    My little brothers watched the Spider-Man film without me... I normally don't care much for movies, but I wish I had gone with them for this one.
    I think I'll give The Aeronaut's Windlass a try. I'd like to get a bit more steampunk in my diet.

    1. Hopefully, yes! Barring calamity!
      Yeah, it's worth watching even if you aren't Spider-Man's biggest fan.
      Good choice! I can give you some other steampunk rec's as well if you like.
      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. Thank you, more steampunk recommendations would be much appreciated!

    3. Ok, so, I've yelled about all of these on my blog at one point or another, but:
      -The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogaman (series + first book has the same name; alternate universes, spies, dragons, fae, multidimensional libraries, basically the works)
      -Illusionarium by Heather Dixon (scientist MC, more alternate dimensions, reality-warping magic, a snarky soldier side character, dark but humorous; solid all 'round)
      -Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare (magic system is kind of confusing, but the story is good, and you've got both writer and science MCS! in Italy!)
      -Spellsmith & Carver series by H.L. Burke (fae and steampunk again, with great characters and cute romances and focus on family relationships and a fabulous engineer who shows up in the second book).
      -The second Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson (basically everything great about Sanderson + steampunk).
      -Also The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (again, everything great about Sanderson, plus steampunk, but in YA form.)

    4. Thanks for the recommendations!
      Also, I'm reading The Aeronaut's Windlass now. Enjoying it so far!

    5. Yay!!!! I'm glad to hear you like it!


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