Tuesday, December 29, 2020

December 2020 Doings!

Hello, everyone! Yeah, this Doings post is not coming to you on the usual day. But since this is such a posting-heavy week (with Doings!, my 2020 reading wrap-up, 2021 goals, and hopefully a short story for New Year's Eve), I decided to mess with the schedule a bit. So, yes. This will likely be the first of many posts this week. Enjoy?


  • No, the Midnight Show sequel is not done. Yes, it is behind schedule. I continue to blame research. Also, y'know, Christmas prep.
  • On the upside, I've written some every day this month, so I feel good about that. And I think we're close to being finished; nearly all the pieces are in place for the mystery to be solved and the conflicts resolved. I'd feel better if I'd written more every day and if a few more pieces were in place, but I will take the victories I can and try again next month for the losses.
  • I also didn't work at all on my D&D campaigns, but we're still working through the current module, and I expect to be in this module for another couple of weeks, so we should be ok.
  • I'm finishing out the month with 17956 words (plus probably another couple thousand over the next few days) written in December and 53698 total on The Midnight Show sequel. Some of those words will be cut in edits, but this book will definitely be longer than its predecessor.


  • This month's reading was about 50% Christmas stuff, which is more Christmas reading than I've done in quite a while. I started off with Hogfather, which I liked better on the reread — It helped that I'd been seeing posts about the story a lot on the socials, so I was pretty hyped. I followed it up with some short stories: The Sixth Christmas, which was an interesting take on a Christmas Carol/Wonderful Life-type situation, and the Christmas in Talesend anthology, which is always fun. And we finished up on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with The Enchanted Sonata, which was also absolutely delightful on the reread.
  • Outside of Christmas reads, I finished the published Magus of the Library books with volume 3, which was about as good as the first two. And I read some short stories: an anthology by Patricia C. Wrede, the highlight of which was an Enchanted Forest Chronicles short story about an enchanted frying pan, and H.L. Burke's "Spider Spell", which was fun but did not make me more favorably inclined towards spiders as a whole.
  • I also read Allie Brosh's recently-published second book, Solutions and Other Problems. It wasn't bad, but I didn't love it. I was glad I'd read it once, but I don't think I'll reread it.
  • The non-Christmas highlight of the month was rereading Little Women, which honestly gets better every time I read it. It truly is an excellent book, and it was nice to revisit all my favorite parts and all the bits I'd forgotten.
  • And I'm finishing out the month with 10 Blind Dates, which is not my usual genre (it's contemporary YA romance, of all things), but it was recommended to me by a friend and I'm actually enjoying it more than I would expect. It has a lot of emphasis on family relationships as well as romance, which is nice.


  • Obviously, we watched a lot of Christmas movies this month. Some of them were the usuals (Rudolph, Little Drummer Boy, White Christmas, Peanuts, etc.) Others were new to me; we watched Shop Around the Corner and The Bishop's Wife the week before Christmas. Both were . . . I wouldn't choose to watch them again, but I wouldn't refuse if other people wanted to watch them unless I had a compelling something else that I needed to do. (I do want to watch You've Got Mail now, though, since people have told me that it changes most of the reasons I wasn't excited about Shop Around the Corner.)
  • We also watched the 2019 version of Little Women, and I was actually impressed. They did better with peoples' character arcs than I feared, and while I have mixed feelings about how they handled the back-and-forth between different parts of the timeline, I think the movie was well-done overall. (I also feel like this movie clarified a lot for me why so many people disliked a particular part of The Penderwicks At Last that I was genuinely happy about. So there's that.)
  • Also, Overly Sarcastic Productions posted the next part of Journey to the West, and therefore I am IMMENSELY happy. It was a very fun episode, and my desire to read the actual book has been renewed. (Tragically, no libraries near me have the better English translations. I might suggest the libraries acquire them, though . . .)
  • And, of course, I'm still working my way through Critical Role. I'm halfway through Episode 42, and the Avantika arc is still not my favorite, but it's getting better! And I think I only have about eight episodes left before we get to the arc I'm really excited about, which is the trip to Xhorhas.


  • Most of the month, of course, was occupied by Christmas stuff: making and acquiring gifts, sending Christmas cards, baking cookies, and so forth. I am very happy with this year's Christmas baking. I made molasses cookies and gingersnaps (because we were running out of molasses cookies), both of which I've made previously. I did about 60% of making cut-out cinnamon sugar cookies — my mom and I mixed the dough up in a joint effort, and I did the cutting and baking. And, arguably the one I'm most excited about, I made mint chocolate chessboard cookies, which are a variation on cut-and-bake sugar cookies, but with strips of chocolate and mint dough formed into a checkerboard pattern. They turned out very well, and I hope to make the Neapolitan variation sometime in the future.
  • In addition to the writing and the Christmas prep, I spent a lot of the month working on the second half of the freelance design project I was working on last month. This month was less of a learning curve, but it still took a lot more out of me than I'd hoped. On the upside, I'm almost done, and what's left should be less frustrating. Hopefully, anyway.
  • On a happier note, I did have a second interview with one of the places I applied for back in November, and it went very, very well. And the interview led to a very exciting phone call about a week before Christmas . . . but more on that in the next section.
  • And now, back to Christmas! Christmas Eve was . . . not really what I was hoping for? We ended up with the noon Christmas Eve service, which I wasn't super happy about (the service was very nice; it just made for an extraordinarily awkward flow for the day), and we didn't do as much driving around and looking for lights as we normally would because it was raining. (And there weren't as many lights on for the same reason.) But it was ok.
  • Christmas Day was very nice, though. We ended up having ham instead of the lasagna we originally planned, and that was very tasty. My family seemed to like the gifts I got them, which I'm glad of. (One highlight: I got my sister her first set of D&D dice!) I also got some very nice gifts, including some expansion sets for Sentinels of the Multiverse (I now have all my favorite heroes, villains, and environments, along with some new environments I'm super excited to try), the most recent Invisible Library book and Randall Munroe's What If?, and two new tumblers to replace the one that has a bunch of cracks in the outer wall from when it got knocked onto the ground in a parking lot back in September. (They change color in response to temperature! I am more excited about this than I have any right to be! Also, they're a little larger than my old one but not so much that they don't fit in cupholders.)
  • After Christmas, we took a short trip up to visit my grandpa, since we haven't seen him in quite a while. So that was very nice.
  • And throughout the month, my sister and I had several opportunities to play Sentinels of the Multiverse with our roommates over Zoom. It works surprisingly well — it's better when all parties have both the villain and the environment we're using, but we can manage even when only one person has the deck. About half the games we played were against a surprisingly deadly combination: Omnitron (think: murderbot with control of a robotics factory) in the Ruins of Atlantis (exactly what it sounds like). Omintron is a Level 1 villain, so he's usually not hard to beat, but somehow this villain/environment grouping killed very capable hero teams three times (three!) before we finally managed to beat it.

 January Plans

  • So, the most exciting thing that's happening this coming month: barring calamity, I am officially starting a new full-time job in the first couple weeks of January! I'll be doing print and web design work for a church about thirty minutes from where I live. I'm looking forward to it, though I'm also a bit nervous (more about changes in general than about anything specific). I think it'll be a good place to start out with professional work: it seems like it'll be less stressful than some other places I applied to, and the people I'll be working with most seem very nice.
  • That means I'll have to work out how to balance writing with full-time work and not ignoring my family, as I fully intend to finish the TMS sequel in January so I can send it to Kendra in February. I will have a four-day workweek instead of a five-day one, so that'll help. But it'll still be a challenge.
  • I'll also be finishing up the freelance project in the beginning of the month, but, again, I should be just about done with it. Fingers crossed that I'm not wrong . . .
  • And in whatever time I have left over, I have a lot of reading to do so I can get in Return of the Thief and Rhymth of War before I have to return them to the library. Because let me tell you, I'm super tired of trying to dodge spoilers, especially since people are starting to leak stuff about RoW. Queen's Thief fans seem pretty good about tagging spoilers even months after the release. Not so much Cosmere people.

How was your December? Any exciting plans for January? Are you as behind on your TBR as I am? What were the highlights of your Christmas season?  Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 18, 2020

Winter 2020-2021 Reads


Hey'a, everyone! It's time for another season of new reads! I'll confess, after the last few seasons of a lot of highly-anticipated (and sometimes long-awaited) reads, this winter's lineup almost feels a little unexciting. That said, even if I'm not over-the-top excited about any of what's coming, there's still a good bit to look forward to. (Plus, I'm still catching up from this time last year, so . . . maybe it's ok if we have a quieter season, yeah?)

Winter 2020-2021 Reads

1. A Day of Darkness by Suzannah Rowntree (December 3). This is the third book in a series, and I haven't read any of it yet technically, but I'm told these are essentially standalones. Also, I want to read the whole series as soon as I get a pause point between library books and long-anticipated new releases — it's time-traveling historical fantasy set largely in the era of the Crusades, and if that doesn't sound awesome, I don't know what does. (Also: it might partially fulfill my long-standing wish for portal-type fantasy in which the protagonist goes to a more advanced era or culture than they came from? Which would be awesome.)

2. Blind Date with a Supervillain by H.L. Burke (December 18). I do not love the cover on this. I'm saying that right now. The "Blind Date" font bothers me enough that I almost didn't include this on the list. But it's superhero slice-of-life, and I've been saying that I want that for years, so in the end, I can't not include it. This is a spinoff from Burke's Superhero Rehabilitation Project (another series I really want to read as soon as I clear a bit more of my more urgent backlist), though it can be read and enjoyed on its own, and it sounds pretty fun (if more rom-com-y than I normally go for).

3. Lore by Alexandra Bracken (January 5). Another book I debated about including (not because of the cover, 'cause this one is pretty gorgeous), but it's urban fantasy and Greek myth, and I'm almost always down for more of both of those. And I'm very curious what the significance of a Medusa figure on the cover might be — are we getting another sympathetic Medusa story? (I say "another"; there really aren't many, if any, in published fiction. Just in short webcomics and stuff.) Also, it's confirmed to be a standalone, so thank goodness.

4. Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer (January 12). Magical, mysterious, deadly forests have been a thing in fantasy forever, but only because they have so much potential. And while forbidden love stories can sometimes get on my nerves, maybe this one will be different? If nothing else, "Monster seeks to become human" stories have just as much potential as magical woods, and I'm interested to see how this one turns out.

5. Cast in Firelight by Dana Swift (January 19). I keep going back and forth on how excited or not excited I am for this one. On one hand, I really like the idea of characters in an arranged marriage saying "Heck no!" and running off to find someone else, only to end up falling in love with the person they were supposed to marry. On the other hand, there is so much potential for this story to go wrong in the ways that frustrate me most. So . . . yeah.

6. The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick (January 21). It's not exactly a magical heist novel, but it's a magical long-con novel, which is in many respects the next best thing. Also, "a con artist, a vigilante, and a crime lord must unite to save their city"? Sign me up. Just . . . please, let this not be another "The Last Magician" situation, where the novel has so much potential and then is utterly ruined by a lack of any kind of inter-character relationship worth getting invested in.

7. Magus of the Library volume 4 by Mitsu Izumi (January 26). I discovered this manga series earlier this year on the recommendation of a friend. I zipped through the first three books, which were all delightful — low-stakes, character-focused fantasy featuring a Middle East-inspired world, magical librarians, and an equally magical library. I was super disappointed when the third book ended, so I'm looking forward to this releasing.

8. Muse by Brittany Cavallero (February 7). Alternate America-type historical fantasy seems to be growing in popularity of late, and I am 100% here for it. Some people are also saying this is steampunk? Which, if it is, is doubly awesome; I haven't read any good new steampunk in quite a while.

What book releases are you excited for this winter? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 4, 2020

November 2020 Doings!

 Hey'a, everyone! We are officially into the holiday season and the final month of 2020. Thank goodness. I'm not going to pretend that all our troubles will end with the dawn of a new year, but I am glad that at least we're in a season that feels a little more hopeful.

(I would also like to say that this is the first time in at least two years that I've actually done a November Doings! post instead of merging it in with December's Doings! So in that respect, I am doing great.)


  • November is, of course, National Novel Writing Month, so every minute of writing time I had was dedicated to working on my NaNo novel, the sequel to The Midnight Show. Given that, you would think the first draft would be done by now, right?
  • No. It is not.
  • (Incidentally, I also didn't hit 50K, but I wasn't exactly aiming there either, so . . . it's ok?)
  • I would like to say that this is solely because I had fewer minutes of writing time than I expected — which is true. A lot of my time this month went into freelancing and job searching — and not just time, but also a lot of mental and emotional energy, which I'll probably talk about later. And, of course, we had the start of the holiday season, which takes up more time.
  • The other part of it is that . . . well, I have this pattern that I tend to fall into when writing series. It goes something like this:
    • Me: *has an idea, gets really excited*
    • Me: *writes a simple, single-plot first book with either a single POV or dual POVs trading off on the same plot*
    • The Book: *is easy and fun to write; gets finished really fast*
    • Me: Hey, that was fun, and super chill. *shares or publishes that book*
    • Other people: Hey, we like this book!
    • Me: Wow, not only did I really enjoy writing that, other people seem to like reading it. I should write a sequel.
    • Me: *comes up with sequel idea*
    • The Sequel Idea: *has more POVs, more plotlines, and is generally more complex*
    • The Sequel Idea: *gets last-minute changes to what I planned*
    • The Sequel Idea: *takes more time and effort to write than I expected or than the first book did*
    • Me: *surprised Pikachu face*
  • Every. Time. This happens every. single. time. I'm not sure if this is a case of my being unable to learn from my mistakes or if I just keep hoping that this time will be different. And it never is. It happened with Blood in the Earth, as you all noticed. Before that, before I started publishing, it happened with my Berstru Tales (and got worse with every sequel, to the point where I decided it would be easier to go back and rewrite the stories from the beginning rather than keep trying to salvage the current Book 4), and it happened to my epic fairy tale retelling series (Book 2 of which took literally two years to write), and I have no doubt whatsoever that if and when I write a sequel to Mechanical Heart, it'll happen there too.
  • So, yes. In summary: sequels are hard, and I am continually surprised by this.
  • But!
  • I did write 32,874 words spread out over about 18.5 chapters, and I think I'm about halfway through my outline, so . . . that's good. We can still finish this by the end of December. It'll be great. Just darb, as Dayo would say.


  • I usually expect my reading to go down in November, but I actually had a pretty good month. It was helped along by the fact that I had a lot of books available that were low-energy, not quite comfort reads, but close enough. A lot of that reading was also graphic novels, manga, or comic compilations, so . . . there's that. (I actually just now realized that I only read four traditional books this month; oops.)
  • Anyway. I finished all the published books of Delicious in Dungeon and found them fairly enjoyable. I still like the early books best, but there are some good interactions, and we get backstory on characters, which is nice. And now I just have to wait for the last two books to be released. I also read Seven Little Sons of the Dragon, a collection of short stories by the same author, which was . . . well, the same sort of mixed bag as most anthologies. My favorites stories tended to be the ones that seemed like they might've been inspired by traditional myths or legends.
  • Finishing Delicious in Dungeon meant I could move on to the other manga I was really excited about, Magus of the Library. I've read the first two books so far, and I'm really enjoying it. I mean, a magical library and librarians, an Arabian-inspired world, a lot of book-based enthusiasm . . . what's not to like?
  • Moving back to Western graphic novels and comics: I read the third Adventure Zone graphic novel and enjoyed it quite a bit more than the first two. You can tell that the players have gotten to the point where they're coming to care about the characters other than their own and the world they inhabit, and that makes the story they're telling better, in my opinion. I also read both Strange Planet comic compilations (which were awesome; if you haven't read them and/or don't currently follow Nathan Pyle on Instagram, you should fix one or both of those things) and Tom Gauld's Department of Mind-Blowing Theories comic compilation. Both of these comic series are full of a type of humor I like quite a bit — one that pokes fun at humanity's oddities while also celebrating them, and yeah. 10/10, would recommend.
  • Finally, we come to the traditional novels! I started out with two rereads: Randall Munroe's What If? and Terry Pratchett's A Blink of the Screen, both of which I liked about as much on the reread as I did the first time around. Then, towards the end of the month, I read Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which has been on my TBR for a while. I'm not entirely sure how to feel about it; the writing quality and the storytelling quality are both off the charts, but I really didn't like any of the characters at any point in the story. Then again, I'm not sure you're supposed to like the characters. It doesn't seem to be that sort of book.
  • And then we did a complete 180 and finally got around to Kat Cho's Wicked Fox, which is not a standalone as I thought but rather the first book in a series, and I am annoyed. Not as annoyed as I could be; it had a very satisfying ending. I'm just tired of thinking books are standalones and then discovering otherwise. But the story was good; it was nice to get a setting outside of America or Europe, and I think the author did a good job weaving in traditional Korean mythology with the modern world. I will say that I didn't entirely buy Miyoung and Jihoon's romance . . . but I more than bought their friendship and Jihoon's friendships with others, and that's more important to me anyway.
  • And we finish up this summary with a book that's half comic and half traditional text-based novel, Hyperbole and a Half. While I don't and never have followed the blog, I know of it via general internet culture and more specifically, Jen of Epbot and Cake Wrecks. And somehow it (and Allie Brosh's new book, Solutions and Other Problems, and The Bloggess's books) popped back up on my radar, and since I'm trying to read more outside the fantasy genre, I thought I'd pick it up. And while it's certainly not my favorite book I've ever read, it's still a good read. I don't know if I'll read it again (I may or may not), but I'm glad I read it once. You feel me?


  • Unlike my reading, my watching-of-stuff-that-isn't-short-YouTube-videos went way down this month.
  • I'm still crawling my way through Critical Role. I think I got in maybe two episodes this month? The problem, generally speaking, is that I am not enjoying the Avantika arc, and while I like Fjord as a character and Travis as a player, I really don't care that much about Fjord's backstory. I'd be almost tempted to just read summaries and skip this arc, but I also don't want to miss out on small, fun moments. (Like Fluffernutter. I finally got to that bit, and while it's funny out of context, it's hilarious in context.) So . . . here we are.
  • In terms of actual movies or similar, all we've watched are holiday shows (namely, the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and Rudolph). We did finally get Disney+ to work with our TV, though, so maybe that'll change soon? (Probably not; Christmas movies take precedence in December. But there's always the possibility.)
  • Also, I just wanted to say that I discovered the Lockpocking Lawyer on YouTube this month, and his videos are . . . strangely addictive? They've pretty much been my procrastination method of choice as of late. LPL has a lot in common with Rybonator in that they have very calming voices and their videos are very focused on actually doing the thing rather than being clickbaity and repeating stuff a bunch of times, and it's just really nice. I also feel like I know more about security measures now, which is nice. And if I even need my characters to pick a lock, I know more than I used to about how that works too!
  • (I have also learned that you should never trust MasterLock or Hotel Safes, but yeah.)


  • This is always the hardest section of these Doings! posts. I have easily accessible records of what I wrote, read, and watched, but when it comes to life stuff, I basically have to rely on my memory. And my memory is . . . sporadic.
  • So. Most of the month was taken up by three things: writing, which I already talked about, and job searching and freelancing, which I said I was going to talk about. Not that there's a whole lot to say.
  • I had one interview this month, which went well, and I'm going in for a second with the same place soon. So that's exciting. I've never gotten to a second interview before.
  • As far as freelancing goes, it's nice to be doing design stuff with an actual purpose and project again. The difficult bit has been figuring out how to work well with a client when I'm the one doing the communication instead of someone else communicating with them and relaying requests to me. So that's been a bit of a learning curve, and a rather stressful one at that, which is what's taking most of the mental and emotional energy I was talking about.
  • On a happier note, we celebrated my birthday this month with lunch/dinner at my favorite Mexican place and a pecan pie cheesecake, both of which were DELICIOUS.
  • Speaking of deliciousness: Thanksgiving was excellent. A lot quieter than most years, since we were having it at home with just the four of us instead of with the whole Bible study group, but even that was nice in some respects. My dad borrowed a smoker and made smoked turkey, which turned out quite well. I made sourdough rolls and an apple-cranberry pie (and pie crust for my mom's pecan pie), both of which were also a success . . . even if the apple filling didn't cook as well as we thought it should have. (We're not sure what's up with that.)
  • And, of course, Thanksgiving meant that my younger sister came home from college, and due to her college's adjusted schedule, she won't go back until the new year. It's nice to have her back in the house. I've missed having someone to chat about books and stories and stuff with, plus I got the Sentinels of the Multiverse game for my birthday and now she and I can play that together. We can also play with my roommate via Zoom, which we did last Sunday. It works astonishingly well.
  • The last exciting thing I remember: I did another round of testing on my sourdough bread recipe combination, and I think I found a combo that I like. Essentially, I use the ingredient proportions and mixing method from the old recipe and the kneading and shaping method from the new one. The result is a loaf that has a good sourdough tang and is fluffy and domed enough to match my expectations but solid enough that you could use it for sandwiches. So that's my true baking victory of the month.
  • I think that pretty much covers it. Odds are, I'll remember something I should've included about five minutes after this post goes up, but if that happens, oh well.

December Plans

  • It's Christmas time! Which means sending out Christmas cards (I have my list; just gotta act on it now), hurrying to find or make Christmas gifts (though I'm ahead of the game this year for half the people I'm giving gifts to), and an abundance of Christmas cookies (many of which I will hopefully be making).
  • It also means Christmas music, which I'm enjoying in moderation. (The tragedy of my current WIP is that it's set in the summer, and so I absolutely cannot listen to Christmas music while writing it, even though Christmas music and swing/jazz go together super well.)
  • Speaking of the WIP, I intend to finish it this month. At the very latest, it needs to be finished early in the new year. Best-case scenario, I have it done before Christmas so I can use the week after Christmas to work on my New Year's short story. But I'm still going to be freelancing during that time, so . . . we'll see what happens.
  • I am also hoping to get in a good bit of Sentinels while my sister is home. That would be delightful. Time-consuming. But delightful.
  • That pretty much covers it, I think.

How was your November? Any exciting plans for December? Do you also have problems with being consistently surprised by the difficulty of sequel-writing?  Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!