Friday, July 31, 2020

July 2020 Doings!

Well, here we are! The end of another month! We're officially over halfway through the year and halfway through summer, and . . . yeah. I feel like this was a short month, but I also can barely remember the start of it, so . . . that's weird. Anyway. Let's get on with the Doings, shall we?


  • So, this was probably the chillest Camp NaNoWriMo of my life.
  • I was editing The Midnight Show, you know. And I expected it to take most of the month — expected to still be scrambling to finish at the end. Instead, I went through more times than I planned and had time for a few extra people outside of my original betas to look at it as well. So, that's cool.
  • Side note: either today or tomorrow is the last day to sign up for the Tattered Slippers blog tour. So if you haven't done that and you want to join the festivities, make sure you don't put it off any longer. Link is here.
  • On a related topic: have you preordered The Midnight Show? If you're thinking of getting the ebook, preordering helps my rankings and such quite a lot. (Also, all the people who've read it so far have told me they really enjoy it! So I'm not the only person who thinks it's good!)
  • Blood in the Soil/Earth is going slowly but steadily. I think I may have managed to move in towards the . . . pre-endgame? Pre-pre-endgame? Something. I still feel like I'm feeling my way along the story, but I also think I'm getting close to the point where I won't be second-guessing myself every page. Maybe I'll actually finish the book this year; that would be nice.
  • And in terms of D&D writing, I spent most of the month worldbuilding dwarven cities, culture, and cuisine. It . . . was a lot. It's kind of one of those things where I know 75% of what I build won't actually get used, but I have very little idea which 25% I'll need, so I have to do all of it. On the upside, I should be able to use a lot of it in the future, so it's not like I'm wasting my time and effort.
  • I also decided to reread what I wrote of Dust of Silver, which was a stupid decision because I had written less than I thought I did and I left off in a non-ideal spot, and I kind of want to work on it (half because I miss Poppy and Ivy; half because I really want to rewrite my Beauty and the Beast retelling), but I have no idea where I was going with the story. Gah. I have regrets.


  • This was a slightly better reading month than last month was; I managed 13 books, seven of which were rereads and most of which I very much liked.
  • My rereads included Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes (both still excellent), the Abhorsen trilogy (I still love these books and this magic system SO MUCH and I can't even explain why), and The Hobbit (because I plan to reread The Lord of the Rings soon). So that was all very fun.
  • On the new-to-me books front, I finally read Spindle's End and Beauty by Robin McKinley, which — oh my pumpernickel. They were both so good, y'all. I was a touch disappointed by the ending of Beauty, but even so, they were both so. storming. good. I should've read these sooner. They're both officially among my favorite retellings of their respective fairy tales.
  • I also read the A is for Apple anthology, which is a set of five Snow White retellings. Contrary to what the name would suggest, it's really not a children's anthology. It had two really good stories — "The Poet's Missing Daughter" and "Skin Deep" (the former of which is an Asian mystery retelling; the latter of which is a contemporary about IG/YT influencers and is just really good) — and a few other meh or ok ones. If you're looking for Snow White retellings, though, it could be worth picking up just for "Skin Deep."
  • Going back to books I should've read ages ago, we have Deep Secret (Diana Wynne Jones) and Truly Devious (Maureen Johnson). Deep Secret was fairly fun, not my favorite DWJ, but enjoyable enough. It did make me wonder what kind of conventions Jones had gone to, though. Truly Devious didn't amaze me either, but purely for personal reasons — the story was good, and the concept was interesting; I just didn't jive with the writing style and had trouble keeping track of characters. (Ok, and I didn't buy the romance. But that's mostly because I heartily disliked David pretty much all the way through.)
  • Finishing up the month, we have a reread of Plenilune, and a first-read of Song of the Current. Plenilune, I didn't enjoy quite as much as I did the first time I read it, but was still excellent. I had an easier time keeping track of who's who and connected to what and where than I did the first time around. I do think I could've benefited from a map, though. And, I mean, Dammerung is pretty excellent, so that covers over quite a lot of flaws. Song of the Current was delightfully nautical and had a good story and good vibes, though there were a few things that made it less than perfect.


  • Most of what I've been watching this month is Critical Role, trying to cram in as much as I can in the time I have. I just finished Episode 18, and I'm facepalming a little (ok, a lot) at some of what goes on, but it's still fun. Caleb continues to be my favorite of the M9, though I love pretty much all of them. Though this does have the downside of making me want to make and play so many new D&D characters . . . I mean, it's made me more open to certain classes and races now that I see how they work, which is great, and has given me ideas on how to play the characters I have better, but everything looks fun and I want to do it alllllllllll and I caaaaan't.
  • (I mean, yes, I can make them as NPCs/GMPCs and slip them into my game when appropriate. But it's not the same as actually playing the characters in a campaign; I have too many other things in my head to get the full experience.)
  • Anyway. Other than Critical Role, everything I've watched has been stuff with my family. A lot of it was movies I'd heard a lot about but hadn't seen yet — sometimes classics, sometimes not. Unfortunately, I was uniformly frustrated with most of those.
  • For example: we watched Phantom of the Opera (2004 version) about midway through the month, and while I admit the music is pretty good, the storyline is just . . . why? I spent half the movie just (mentally and sometimes verbally) yelling at Christine and Raoul and everyone and the other half telling the Phantom off for being a creeptastic stalker. So, yeah, I'm basically this one post:

  • Anyway. Also disappointing: at my request, we watched Goldfinger (because I've never actually watched any James Bond). I very quickly regretted that request, but, hey! I've now officially watched something James Bond and I never have to watch another one. Seriously, though. Bond just kind of seduces his way through the movie, and pretty much anything he accomplishes, he does through 90% luck or getting a woman to do it for him, and I am not impressed.
  • The best of the well-known-but-I've-never-seen group of movies was My Fair Lady, which we watched for my sister's birthday. It was great, but I now want to write a retelling that fixes the stupid ending. Seriously. It was really good (if sometimes awkward) up until the last two scenes. I loved Eliza's character arc, and I loved the fact that she grew enough to tell Professor Higgins off in the end and was fully prepared to make her own way in the world. But then the filmmakers screwed that up by having her reappear in that final scene when she had no reason to come back. Higgins hadn't redeemed himself to her; he barely redeemed himself to the audience — and that only if you stretch things. He sort of recognizes that he may have been wrong; we see no indication that he plans to change. And that's the essential ingredient in the arc of any character of his type. It is, in a way, a sort of Beauty and the Beast retelling where the Beast never becomes not a beast. And I do not approve.
  • Anyway. Outside of that, we rewatched Secondhand Lions, which I really liked when I was younger and apparently still enjoy. It's kind of weird — it does not, on the outset, seem like the kind of movie I would like (as it's a real-world-ish story that relies as often as not on awkward situations), but then you watch it and it's like "Why would anyone not enjoy this?" It's got humor. It's got heartwarming moments. It's got swordfights. It's almost 100% about a family figuring itself out. It's great.
  • Probably the best movie of the month was Where Eagles Dare, which was actually cooler than I expected. I fully admit that I'm prejudiced against war movies — I associate them with being dark and depressing and having a lot of characters I can't tell apart because they're all white guys with either black or blond hair and no one says names often enough for me to figure anything out. And, yeah, for the first thirty minutes of this movie, I had no idea who anyone was. I actually still don't know the names of several characters who I think I was supposed to be able to identify. But it was still really good and really twisty, but in a good way, and it's spies and stealthiness and secret identities and guile heroes, all of which I appreciate.
  • Oh, and we watched The Man Who Knew Too Much, which I did not enjoy at all. I actually almost walked out halfway through the movie (because I'd said I'd give it a try for half an hour and had already given it more than that), but ended up coming back because I hoped it would get better (and I felt guilty for leaving). It did not get better. As a result of this (and other movies I've watched), I have come to two conclusions:
    1. I like Hitchcock movies best when Hitchcock didn't actually make them. Which is to say: the best Hitchcock-style movie I've seen is Charade, which isn't actually his. I have a suspicion that this is because Hitchcock doesn't seem to have a sense of lightness or humor, and I don't care how serious or thrilling of a story you're telling; you need moments that are lighter. You need to occasionally let the tension lift or else you either exhaust your audience or your audience just stops feeling it.
    2. Jimmy Stewart often plays one of two types of characters: the sensitive, moral guy who's trying to do right and the angry guy who doesn't know how to let anyone else (especially women) talk. I don't mind the first. I hate the second with a passion. This is probably part of why I'm one of the three people in the world who don't think It's a Wonderful Life is the absolute berries/best Christmas movie ever/whatever.
    3. (I also determined that, if given the chose between watching a movie with Jimmy Stewart in it and watching a movie with Cary Grant in it, I'm more likely to enjoy the Cary Grant movie. So apparently those names mean something now, as opposed to three months ago when I routinely became frustrated with my dad for saying "We could watch this; it's a Cary Grant movie, or this, which has [insert other famous classic actor here] in it" and not giving any other information about the movies. Yay, character development?)


  • July was much quieter than June, which was nice. I spent most of the month reading, editing, writing, watching stuff, playing D&D, and occasionally baking.
  • McKays, our favorite used bookshop, reopened for business recently, so I got to go there. And then I proceeded to spend about twice as much as I planned. But it's fiiiiiiiine. I got good books. It's worth it.
  • My sister had her birthday this month, as I sort of mentioned earlier, which was fun. We didn't really do a whole lot other than watching My Fair Lady, but we did have chocolate cake. It was very yummy.
  • But yeah. That's about it.

August Plans

  • That's at the end of the month, so I'll be spending a lot of this month prepping for that. So that'll be finishing up last edits and formatting stuff and writing things for the blog tour. Which, reminder, if you want to sign up for it, you should do that now!
  • Outside of that, I'm figuring out job things still. I may be closer to a partial answer on that, but we'll see. I did apply for the Tor Books internship because it's virtual this year and it would be SO COOL to get actual experience in the big-press publishing industry, so, yeah. I'm praying that comes through and that they don't say "Nah, you graduated already; we don't need you. Get a full-time job already."
  • (Unless they decide they want to hire me for a full-time remote job, in which case YES PLEASE AND THANK YOU VERY MUCH.)
  • (It's funny; I spent a lot of time in college feeling like the only one who didn't want to go into the publishing industry, but now I've remembered that the publishing industry needs marketing and production people and I REALLY want to get in on that. Just . . . let being excited about books and making things related to books be my actual job. Please.)
  • But yeah. Other than that, it's business as usual. I kinda want to write a new book but I also know I should try to hurry and finish Blood in the Soil/Earth. It's a struggle.

How was your July? Any exciting plans for August? How do you feel about Hitchcock movies? Have you watched Critical Role (or another D&D podcast), and if so, do you have this problem of wanting to play ALL the classes and races and characters? What's your favorite D&D character concept that you haven't gotten to play yet? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)


  1. July was... meh. Stressful kind of sums it all up. I'm glad July is over today. I'm not usually one to wish away time, but this is a month I will not care about slamming the door on. There were good things, and there were beautiful things, and there were things I am thankful for and there are things I learned and things I hope to continue... but I'm just... GOODBYE JULY.

    I'm not a huge fan of Hitchcock films in general. My favorite of "his" is "Wait Until Dark" with Audrey Hepburn and apparently Hitchcock didn't direct that one (and practically didn't even write it, either) but it's fabulous.

    I also have the problem of wanting to play ALL the races/characters in D&D... but I also just want to go back and re-play characters that have been left by the wayside... my halfling warlock/sorcerer was my favorite character I've ever played and I miss her. Actually, I just miss playing D&D at all. I think we might have found a group who's willing to try it... but they might take some convincing.

    I love Secondhand Lions so much. It's just so charming and... I love the crazy adventure story running through the middle of it... but then, story-within-a-story is one of my favorite plot devices.

    I hate James Bond. I DO like the newer Casino Royale, though. It's the only Bond film I actually enjoy.

    I want to be part of the Tattered Slippers blog tour sooooo bad but I absolutely don't have time. I'm already overcommitted on all the things and I don't have time to finish them all. *sobs*

    Spindle's End and Beauty are SOOOO good. I actually think I remember loving Rose Daughter even MORE than Beauty (which is saying something, as Beauty was the first retelling I ever read/fell in love with)... I'd have to reread it to make sure, but I feel like I remember liking it better as a B&B retelling.....

    Will be praying for you about the internship!

    1. Given what I've heard about your July, I don't blame you. Praying that your August is better.

      Huh. That has two things in common with Charade (Audrey Hepburn & "not actually directed by Hitchcock"). I'll have to suggest it!

      Oooh, yeah. I haven't been playing long enough to have the "I want to play this character again" problem, but I imagine that just makes it worse. I hope things work out with this new group! If they do, I'd love to hear about your D&D adventures!

      I know, right? It's just really fun. And good to know about the newer Casino Royale.

      Awwww. :( I get it, though. Good luck with all the things.

      Oooh, I haven't read Rose Daughter. I'll look it up. Is it by the same author, then?

      Thank you! Your prayers are much appreciated!

    2. Yes, Rose Daughter is also by Robin McKinley. She said she never saw herself writing ANOTHER B&B retelling, and then she did and was more surprised by it than anyone! :)

    3. That's a cool story. Thanks for the recommendation; I'll look it up!


I'd love to hear your thoughts! But remember: it pays to be polite to dragons.