Friday, December 31, 2021

All the Years Before Her [A New Year's Eve Short Story]

 And here we are! Back with another New Year's Eve short story! This story should stand on its own, but for fullest appreciation, you may want to go back and reread my previous New Year's Eve stories.

NYE 20212 All the Years Before Her

All the Years Before Her

The sounds of upbeat music and laughter drifted over the hill from the main camp, through the slowly dying light, and came to rest in Laelia's ears as she knelt by an ancient, weather-worn pillar, cleaning dust from carven grooves with a brush. The words tangled in the trees, but Laelia could just make them out: Ring the old year out, ring the new year in, bring us all good luck, let the good guys win . . .
She recognized the tune quickly: an old song from Earth — she automatically recalled the designation, memorized and drilled over the last three years of her studies: world 1-3, erroneously known as the Magicless Realm until 5497 P.C. . . . She dismissed the memory with a shake of her head. Her friends always said she spent so much time studying that she didn't know how to be a person. Maybe they were right. There had to be some reason why she was out here, working her way through the last of the old year, instead of with the rest of the dig team, entertaining their sponsors and enjoying spiced cider and sweet wine and the best of Torio's cooking. Among the many delights and delicacies he'd prepared was one of her favorites, that one dish with the beans and the long noodles and the thin-sliced ham that she could eat bowls and bowls of. She should be back enjoying it and making small talk with the university representatives, telling them all about their work here at the dig and all the great discoveries they were making about the history of Dacharan. She should be celebrating the end of a successful year and welcoming in the new one with shouts of joy.
But instead she was here, staining the knees of her best slacks with the dirt of the ages, shivering in the chilly winds that blew straight through the thin fabric of her fluttery blouse, staring at grooves in old stone in the glare of spotlights pointed on her location. Once they'd been letters, she thought, but the forms were so worn and chipped and weathered that it was hard to make out what they'd said. Maybe if she kept working, she'd figure it out.
Or maybe she'd work and work and work and go to bed when she couldn't work any more, and she'd wake up and find that someone else had picked up where she left off and made a brilliant discovery that she couldn't claim any part of for fear of seeming selfish.
The music coming from the party grew in volume. "We're coming out into a brand new day and I just know it's gonna go my way . . ." Someone important must've decided to start dancing, and now everyone else was following suit. It really was a good thing she hadn't stayed. Talking was hard enough. Dancing was harder — especially when everyone swept off in a wave that she didn't notice until it was too late, especially when the music was loud and the lights flashed off every speck of shine anyone happened to wear and everyone was moving. She always ended up on the edges then, trying not to drown in the endless sea of excitement and sensation.
In that respect, really, it was for the best that she was out here. At least she was doing something productive, even if someone else probably would get the credit for it. Anyway, didn't some people say it was lucky to be working when the new year found you? They'd been people in other worlds, mostly, but luck was luck.
The letterforms cleaned to her satisfaction, she moved up the pillar. Here, the carvings formed pictures inset into the stone. Maybe they'd been filled with something else once, but whatever it was had been lost to time, leaving only outlines. Laelia allowed herself to imagine what the shapes might've looked like when they were new-made. Had they been filled with shining gold to proclaim wealth and power? Or perhaps they'd been filled with cut gems and glass, mosaics like her sister created and had used to win her fame.
Tamati would be holding her own party today, a gala in her newest exhibit. She'd sent pictures of it to Laelia: the white marble floors and the columns that separated each piece of artwork, the skylights that let in light to shine and sparkle off the precious materials making up the mosaics, the wide window-doors that opened onto a balcony with a perfect view of the sunset. Tonight, it would be filled with men in perfectly-tailored purple suits and women in silk and velvet and beads: artists and businesspeople rubbing shoulders and commenting on this piece or that or on the quality of the wine or the exquisiteness of the music — commissioned, Laelia knew, exclusively for that party and not to be released to the public until just before the next new year.
Laelia had received an invitation, of course. Tamati had been more than generous, as she was every year. There would've been a place in that room for her, Laelia knew; a dress and shoes and jewelry picked out and paid for by Tamati herself, platters of Laelia's favorite chocolate truffles and tiny pecan pastries among those circulated by waiters, and a few of Tamati's closest friends with instructions to make sure Laelia was always being included in something.
But the last four years, Laelia had attended and smiled and eaten delicacies that probably cost as much as a month's tuition in the shadow of all her sister had accomplished, and she'd managed polite replies to everyone who inquired if she were an artist like Tamati, what she was doing, when she'd succeed like her sister had. She never mentioned that she'd been the artist in the family before Tamati was, that Tamati had started out by watching Laelia — and then rapidly surpassed her. She didn't mention how she'd given up on art several months after Tamati sold her first piece. What was the point, when she'd only ever be a poor shadow of her sister?
Under Laelia's careful brush, enough dust had fallen away from the carvings to reveal their shapes. Here were robed human figures, hands outstretched to hold stars or flames. Here were great, curved waves of something threatening to overwhelm the people. Here was a great castle, and another star above its tallest tower.
There came a sudden stillness and a change in the air. Laelia's skin prickled. Then a sudden light flashed above her, and a wave of energy broke against her, stinging like hundreds of tiny sparks. Before she could even start thinking about identifying it, she heard a yell and a thud as something — no, someone — fell from midair onto the stone beside her.
Another shout came from above. "Carrie!" Laelia looked up. Another two people — one a man with messy dark hair, another a lady with a thin face and large eyes — drifted towards the ground, moving as slowly as if they had a parachute to hold them up. Both wore robes like Laelia had seen only in history books and museum exhibits and living history villages.
She looked down at the figure who'd fallen. Another lady, wearing similar robes in brilliant green under a darker-hued puffer coat like the ones popular on Earth. She lay still, but her chest rose and fell in regular motion.
The two in the air landed some feet away and dashed over to the lady on the ground — Carrie, it would seem. The man dropped to his knees, muttering under his breath, and fumbled for the lady's wrist.
Was he blind, then? "She's breathing," Laelia offered. "She's not dead."
Both looked to her in shock. Had they not noticed she was here? But before either could speak, the lady on the ground let out a groan and her eyes fluttered open. "Ow."
"I should think so," the man retorted. "What were you thinking, time-porting from thirty feet up like that? You could've killed us all!"
"I wouldn't've needed to if you hadn't gone poking things you should've left alone and waking up Cthulu's great-grandson." Even with the sharp edge of annoyance, the lady's accent reminded Laelia of molasses or caramel syrup. "What were you thinking?"
"I didn't know what was in the box —"
"It had Lost Realm runes on it! What did you think would be in there, a litter of puppies and a leprechaun's rainbow?" The lady propped herself up on her elbows with a wince. "I knew you were a fool, but didn't think you were an idiot, Tam."
"I would think you'd know by now that Lost Realm runes are also used frequently by people who want to leave messages that own't be easily read —"
How long would this go on? Laelia picked up her brushes and carefully started edging away.
The thin-faced lady sighed and edged with her. "They do go on," she murmured. "I apologize. I'm Willow, and that's Tamison and Carrie. We didn't mean to drop in on you."
"Where did you come from? You fell out of nothing." As soon as the words left her mouth, Laelia realized what she'd forgotten. "I'm Laelia Kynn." Their names sounded oddly familiar, though she couldn't place them. Family of one or more of the other members of the dig crew?
"Nice to meet you." Willow offered a friendly smile. "We came from here, you could say. Just a different here. It's a long story."
"A different here?" Laelia echoed. The site around the dig was blocked off for two miles in any direction; she knew everyone who had access. Unless they were party guests, she supposed . . .
Tamison and Carrie's voices had both steadily risen in volume over the last few exchanges. Finally, Tamison's voice reached a shout, "You always do this! You always jump to portals as your first resort, and you do it willy-nilly and we end up who knows where, except now it's who knows when too!"
"Well, we didn't change location much. Just altitude. I can tell you that. And we just met someone who knows when we are." Carrie, who'd managed to sit up properly by now, turned towards Laelia and Willow. "You do know when we are, don't you? What year?"
"Thirty-eight — ah, seven thousand eight thirty-eight. Almost thirty-nine." The words felt like they were coming out of someone else's mouth. Had she been the one to hit her head, and now she was hallucinating? "Who are you?"
"Travelers." The woman started to struggle to her feet. "We'll be leaving in a moment — ah!" She let out a small cry of pain and sank back to the ground as her leg gave out under her. "Or maybe not."
"Definitely not," Tamison snapped, still scowling. "You've made six timeports in four hours. If you don't take a break, you'll burn yourself out and we'll be stuck who-knows-where-or-when for the rest of our probably very short lives. Of course, if you'd show someone else how to do it, that would be a different story. I know you probably won't deign to grace me with that knowledge, but at least show Willow."
"If either of you had a chance of managing it, I would show you." Carrie shot back. "But I'd rather be stranded somewhere than lost in the Void and the Chaos because you mucked up something this complicated without a safety net."
Timeport. The word finally struck the right chord that made all the other discordant notes come into tune. She'd read about this — it had been a sidenote in one of her textbooks, History of Magical Theory and Practice. The sidenote had said such things, such teleportations or portals through time, usually only happened by accident while traveling between perpendiculars, but that it had been theorized that they could also be produced purposely. One wizard had been on the verge of discovering how to do it before she disappeared. What had the wizard's name been?
Tamison and Carrie were still quarrelling, while Willow was steadily looking more and more tired. Laelia finally found her voice again. "Are you from — from another time? Can you do magic? Do you know what this place is? Was?"
Both Carrie and Tamison stopped arguing and turned back to her. Carrie gave a sideways smile. "Of course we can." She flicked a hand and Laelia found her feet lifting off the ground. She rose six inches before Carrie set her down again.
Tamison gave Carrie another cross look. "I could've demonstrated. The rest of us are capable of some things, you know." To Laelia, he added, "You act like magic is something unusual. We're still in Darachan, aren't we?"
"Ye-es." Laelia drew out the word. "We haven't had real wizards for — for at least a thousand years. Something — something happened. At the old capital — here. Ages ago. We don't know what. It destroyed everything, though. And then Darachan sort of . . . it sort of wasn't for a long while. And now it is again, and I'm — we're trying to figure out what happened."
Willow perked back up. "You're a researcher?"
Laelia felt the heat rise to her cheeks, and she glanced down at the tools in her hand. "Not — not exactly. I'm — I'm just — I — I'm still a student. This is my first dig."
"We're all students, really, aren't we? So you're an archaeologist? We're nearly in the same field, then; I study interdimensional anthropology." Willow gave Laelia a warm smile. "This was the New Council Building; it was just being built in our time. Is the Tower of Luck still standing? It should've been just a mile or two east of here."
"We've found a stone circle that way, and a cracked foundation." If she focused on Willow, she could just about block out Carrie and Tamison, both of whom gave off an air of intimidating importance. "We think it was at the center of whatever happened to the city."
The three traded a look. "I can't say I'm surprised," Tamison said wearily. "If anyone were going to blow up the city, it would be them."
"They definitely don't do things halfway." Carrie already sounded much less cross. She sighed and shook her head. "We should go. We're trying to find something that was supposedly left here — a book, we think. Tam, Willow, help me up."
"I told you already, we can't go anywhere." Nonetheless, Tamison slid himself under Carrie's arm and hoisted her so she could stand on one foot and lean on him. "Not with you this tired, and not with your leg like . . . whatever it's like."
"Well, we can't exactly stay here either." Carrie shook her head, already starting to make motions in the air. A faint shimmer followed each gesture. "I'll be fine."
"Wait!" The word shot out of Laelia's mouth before she could think about what she was saying. She froze as three sets of eyes turned to her, but forged on without giving herself time to second-guess herself. "Stay — for a little while. Just a little. Please. Maybe you can help me — help us figure out what happened. We have a doctor, and we have some extra beds. Or — or if you have to — to go, take me with you."
Had she said that? Had she really said that? But even as she questioned herself, the possibilities sprang to mind. If this was real, if they really were traveling in time, then she could find out for certain what happened to the capital. She could solve the mystery. She could accomplish something that was, to some degree, hers.
Tamison frowned. "I don't know . . . Did I mention that Carrie tends to throw us pell-mell through time and space according to her whims?"
"Not according to whims," Carrie muttered. "It's not my fault I've had to rush so many to get us out of trouble you caused."
"I can risk it." Laelia clasped her hands in front of her. "Please?"
Tamison and Carrie traded a look. But Willow studied Laelia a moment and then smiled. "I think we could." She turned to the other two. "I have a good feeling about her. And if she knows where we can find a doctor, I think we should have someone look at Carrie's leg. No one else here has any medical training."
"Well . . ." Carrie pursed her lips. "One more shouldn't hurt." She nodded to Laelia. "Show us to the doctor you said is around. He can make sure I didn't break something when I fell. Assuming it's nothing too serious, we leave first thing in the morning."
"Just follow me — thank you." Laelia gathered her things and headed back towards the camp, beckoning for the three to follow. She glanced off to the west as she went. The sun was setting, turning the clouds brilliant orange and pink. The old year was passing — let it pass! All the years were before her now.


December 2021 Doings!

And here we are, at the final Doings! of 2021. It's been a year — not as strange and terrifying and crazy as 2020, but still very different. But we aren't here to talk about 2021 as a whole; we're here to talk about the last twelfth of that year. So, let's get on with it.


  • So, Bastian Dennel, PI #3 is not finished. But I did make progress, which I count as a win. I currently have about 30K words and 17 chapters, and the end is more or less in sight at this point.
  • Thus far, the theme of this book seems to be "how much can I have other characters exasperate and/or threaten Bastian before he loses it." He has come close. But he's holding on. It's very fun to write.
  • Outside of my novel, I ended up doing more D&D writing, which was super fun. One of my players ended up not being able to make it to really any of our December sessions, and what I had planned wouldn't work without her, but none of the rest of us wanted to go a month with no sessions . . . so, at the almost-last minute, I put together an extra two sessions' worth of material that didn't require the fourth player. My group is hopping from realm to realm, and so far they've encountered a Spring Court fey noble, fought a Jabberwock in my take on Wonderland, and proved themselves to the Wild Hunt. They have two more stops before the finale, and I'm looking forward to both of them.
  • We also had to switch from meeting via Zoom to meeting via Discord, which is fine except that it makes running combat difficult. We're experimenting with digital maps, and I'm trying to find a service that I like for creating them (because if I do everything in Illustrator, I will take far too long about it). If anyone has any recommendations that aren't Roll20 (which I've tried and can't figure out), please let me know.
  • And, of course, I'm currently working on my New Year's Eve short story, which should be posted tonight. Took me a bit to figure out what to do, but I like the way it's shaping up on the whole.


  • Oddly enough, I didn't really do a ton of reading this month. And what I did read, for the most part, I took my time with. That's probably because I didn't have time to read a lot most evening, I was so busy with . . . well, everything else.
  • So, what did I read?
  • The month was evenly split between new reads and rereads. On the new read side, we had Heart of Shadow and One Corpse Too Many. Heart of Shadow is a fantasy adventure with a hefty dose of romance, and . . . honestly? It was recommended to me as a Vespertine readalike, which meant I was simultaneously excited and very skeptical, but it was so good. And then One Corpse Too Many is book 2 of the Brother Cadfael mysteries. I think I liked the first book better, but this one was still very enjoyable.
  • Then on the reread side were the first two Legends of Karac Tor, The Book of Names and Corus the Champion. I've been meaning to reread this series for a while, and I'm glad I finally got around to it. There were some elements that I noticed this time around that were kind of  . . . well, they might've been stylistic choices I disagree with, or they might've been instances that could've used another round with the editor's pen. But the stories and the characters still hold true and magnificent.


  • Unsurprisingly, this section is mostly Christmas movies. Mostly in the second half of the month, my family and I watched A Christmas Carol, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Lemon Drop Kid, and White Christmas. That's slightly fewer than I watched last year, but it hits my four favorites plus one more, so I'm hardly complaining.
  • Otherwise, I watched a little more Critical Role, though not a lot. I'm still way behind on Campaign 3 of Critical Role — I'm nearly done with episode 4 — but I'm still enjoying what I've seen. I also watched their Christmas one-shot from a few years ago, and . . . ok, I spent a lot of it thinking about whether or not I could do something similar for my group next year. But I have learned that I do very much enjoy Liam's DMing style, and it looked like the cast was just having a ton of fun with the session in general.
  • And, of course, there was the requisite assortment of YouTube watched while making Christmas presents for people. This year's highlights: Morgan Donner's shenanigan pants and a fair amount of the How to Drink archive, which I started on because they were recreating drinks from Critical Role and other fantasy stories, watched more of because it was useful story research, and then kept going with because it was just enjoyable.


  • First off: the non-writing project I spent the most time on: a crochet garden for my sister! Technically I've been working on this (plus another five plants not pictured, which went to my roommate, my mom, my grandfather, and me) since November, but I kicked it into high gear in December. Thankfully, the individual plants work up pretty quickly — I can do the soil in about two hours, then add another one-and-a-half to two hours for making the actual plant and sewing it in place — but I needed to make a lot of them. And, of course, once my sister got home, it was harder to get anything done on them without her seeing. I ended up working right up to the literal last minute, finishing the last plant (for my mom) before breakfast on Christmas. But I'm very pleased with how they all turned out, and they were well-received by everyone who got them.
  • And now, backing up: December was, as you'd expect, a pretty busy month. My sister arrived home from college somewhere around the 9th or the 10th, which has been nice — I really miss her when she's at college.
  • I did a fair bit of baking, as you'd expect: shortbread at the start of the month (not technically Christmas cookies, but close enough), then rolls and peppermint brownies for my work Christmas party, and finally molasses cookies and mint checkerboard cookies as my contribution to the family Christmas treats, plus fresh bread to go with Christmas dinner. (Even so, it's only a drop in the bucket compared to everything my mom made: pumpkin cookies at the start of the month, another batch of shortbread, two batches of basically-buckeyes, an immense amount of mint truffles, chocolate-peanut butter and chocolate-caramel crackers, Russian teacakes, macaroon bars, cranberry-almond biscotti, ladylocks, and a little bit of assorted bark with the leftover chocolate. Yes, Christmas at our house is delicious.)
  • As I just mentioned, I had my first-ever work Christmas party, which was pretty enjoyable. Thankfully, it was a luncheon and not something after-hours, and it involved a great deal of delicious food and desserts. (Did I eat too much? Absolutely. Was it worth it? Again, absolutely.) All in all, it was a nice time.
  • Our Bible study's Christmas party was later that same week, and that was also a lot of fun. It's the first time I haven't needed to play a role in the impromptu Christmas pagaent, which was nice — we actually had enough kids to fill all the roles without needing to double up or draw from the less-excited college and post-college kids. (For the record, I'm not complaining about having to participate in past years . . . but it definitely did become less fun for me somewhere down the line, whereas my sister seems to get more into it as time goes on.)
  • Then we had a relatively quiet week, broken only by the final photo contest of 2022, which had the theme of doors and windows. On a related, non-Christmas-y note, I absolutely love that phone cameras have gotten so good. Of the four pictures I entered, three were taken on my phone, and they came out really well. They were high enough quality to work with (you couldn't make a large print of them, but for an 8x10 or a digital competition, they were sufficient), and because my workplace has a lot of really nice stained glass windows, it was great to be able to just take pictures where I happened to come across them instead.
  • AND THEN WE'RE BACK TO CHRISTMAS! My grandpa arrived on the 23rd to stay for the weekend, and having him here was lovely. The next day we attended our church's noon Christmas Eve service, which I think was so well-done — sometimes I feel a little dissatisfied with how our church does Christmas Eve because it's not the traditional candlelight service, but this year's service was just so good. (Also, I discovered that I don't mind Lauren Daigel's "Noel" when it's not Daigel singing it.)
  • Christmas itself was very nice as well. Everyone seemed to like the gifts I got them, which was a relief — I was second-guessing almost everything I got anyone this year. For my part, I was very happy with everything I got, but I was probably most excited about the Between Shifts paperback, a new mouse (that will hopefully prevent/reduce some of the wrist pain I've been dealing with in the last few months) and the fact that I finally got the NASA Grand Tour calendar. (It has travel posters for different planets and systems and asteroids for each month and it's just so cool.)
  • The last bit of December has been, thankfully, quiet, both at work and at home. We'll finish out the month with our Bible study New Year's Eve get-together, and all in all, I think it's been a good end to the year.

January Plans

  • I know I said this last year, but I really need to finish Bastian Dennel, PI #3. Depending on how long that takes, I still have a secret project novella that I want to start on, but I would have to write a complete, serviceable first draft in about a month's span . . . it's doable, but the last time I did it, I wasn't working full time, so we'll see what happens.
  • Book-wise, I'm trying not to make too many predictions about what I'll read because I always seem to be wrong, but I do need to finish rereading Mistborn Era 1 (especially since The Lost Metal is releasing next year), and I want to continue rereading Wheel of Time while I still have something resembling momentum.
  • And, like I said last month, I need to be working on taking photos for the 2022 photo club contests. The January contest is "household items," which I think will be fun. Still life, macro, and abstract photography is my jam, and so something like this is right up my alley.
  • Finally, at work, my direct supervisor is retiring, and her replacement will be coming in partway through the month. I'm not going to lie; I'm nervous. But I do have confirmation that my very worst fears won't come to pass, so we'll see what happens.
  • Yeah. In general, I'm hoping for a quiet month. We'll see if I actually get it or not!

How was your December? Any exciting plans for January? Any delightful Christmas stuff you did? What was your favorite holiday treat that you enjoyed this year? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 10, 2021

Winter 2021–22 Reads

Hey'a, everyone! So, I recognize that it's a touch early to do a seasonal reads post (winter doesn't officially begin for another week and a half), but I want to do Christmas stuff on the blogs next week if possible, so . . . here we are!

Winter 2021–22 Reads

1. Of Fire and Ash by Gillian Bronte Adams (December 7). This one just came out this past week, but it wasn't in my fall reads list, so I'm including it. From the sneak peaks Gillian's shared both publically and with her street team, this looks like it's going to be so good: magical horses, epic conflicts, tragic heroes, the works. Early reviews are also suggesting that it's light on romance, so — hallelujah.

2. Wrought of Serpent and Snow by E. J. Kitchens (December 9). Another book that just came out this week! I confess that I do not love the cover . . . but I did love Wrought of Silver and Ravens, the previous book in the series, which was one of my favorite of the Tattered Slippers releases, and I'm excited to see what happens next!

3. The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman (December 28). I confess that I'm not entirely caught up on the Invisible Library series — The Dark Archive slipped out without my noticing, and while I do have it out from the library, I haven't gotten around to reading it. But with the release of The Untold Story at the end of the month, I think The Dark Archive will have to move up the list. Both stories sound like they'll have a greater focus on Alberich and the fae, which is exciting. (We all know how much I love the Invisible Library fae, after all.)

4. Between Kings by W.R. Gingell (December 31). I am simultaneously SO HYPED and UTTERLY TERRIFIED for this. It's the end of the City Between series (though the author has promised spinoffs), and I'm so sad that I'll be saying goodbye to Pet, Tuata, JinYeong, Zero, North, Athelas, Morgana, and the rest. But also, the last book ended on such a cliffhanger, and I desperately need to know what's become of everyone. Out of everything on this list, this is definitely what I'm looking forward to the most!

5. A Conspiracy of Prophets by Suzannah Rowntree (January 6). So, yes. I had very mixed feelings about the first book in the series. But, I was told that I might like other books in the series better (especially since they focused on other protagonists), and I've loved Suzannah's other books, so I'm not taking this off my TBR list yet. And even if I'm not a fan of Lukas Bessarion, this installment sounds pretty epic.

And that about covers it! A little sparser than some of my seasonal release roundups, most of my favorite authors released something in summer or autumn, so this is a more quiet season. Still, what is there looks pretty good. What book releases are you excited for this winter? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


Friday, December 3, 2021

November 2021 Doings!

It's Christmas! Christmastime, anyway! The tree and decorations are up, I'm listening to Christmas music while I write this, and I started my Advent calendar (which contains cheese! not only that, but pretty good English cheese! plus cheese-related jokes for each day!) earlier this week. This is the first time I've had a food-based Advent calendar, and I am quite pleased with it at the moment. But this post is not about Christmas. It's about November, which only contains a small slice of Christmastime — and that at the end. Let's see what happened the rest of the month.


  • In theory, this past month was NaNoWriMo. In practice, it was a month in which I was writing and feeling grateful for the words I did get and letting the ones I didn't go (because I was tired and when I'm tired I have trouble being creative and focusing on one task).
  • My current WIP is Bastian Dennel, PI #3, which had a name very briefly in the planning stage but then lost it when it turned out to (A) not actually fit the piece of the story it was meant to fit and (B) sound too similar to the title of another book I intend to write if I have time. It's a Cinderella retelling, the first I've written in . . . um . . .
  • So I just had the realization that this is the first time I've actually written a Cinderella retelling. Not sure how that happened. I know I've had ideas for Cinderella retellings in the past, but not many, and none I've acted on. Maybe it's because Cinderella has never really been my favorite fairytale? But I don't dislike it to the point that it actually motivates me to come up with a better version. (Or it could just be that there's already a lot of Cinderella stories out there. I don't know.)
  • In any case, I'm writing one now. I'm at about 17K words and 11 chapters in, which is nowhere near as far along as I wanted to be, but also . . . November is a busy month, and the days are short, and my motivation drops when the sun goes down. So I'm grateful for the words I have in there, and I'm still optimistic about finishing the rest soon.


  • Another light month on the reading front — in terms of quantity of books, anyway.
  • This month only included three new-to-me reads: Vespertine, Coraline, and Curse of the Midnight King. Vespertine was absolutely one of my top reads of the month, if not the top read of the month. It was everything I wanted it to be and more: Margaret Rogerson's magnificent style of storytelling and knack for excellent protagonists and relationships, a dark and rich world (with LORE), major Abhorsen vibes (in the best possible ways), multiple enemies-to-friends dynamics . . . it's so good, y'all. Coraline, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe it's because I'm an adult and not a kid, but I didn't find it half as creepy as people made it out to be. It was a good story, but I didn't love it. As for Curse of the King, I posted my thoughts on it a few weeks ago, but the TL;DR is that I liked the story even though I didn't really connect to one of the main characters.
  • The rest of the month was made up of rereads. I finished the Dragons in Our Midst series with Circles of Seven (still one of my favorite Davis books) and Tears of a Dragon (still one of my least favorites, though I did like it a bit more than I did the last time I read it). I also reread The Fifth Elephant, which I liked the first time around and liked better still this time. I'm hoping to get to Thud! and Snuff soon, but I continuously have trouble getting ahold of them at the library when I want them. (I've only been trying to get to them for the last four years at least.) And How To was, of course, very fun to read. Randall Munroe's stuff always is. (Technically, there's a chance I'm still reading it when you read this post, but I expect that I finished it Thursday night after I finished writing this post.)
  • The biggest reading achievement of the month is that I finally did what I've been meaning to do all year and started back on the Wheel of Time books by rereading The Eye of the World. It was, as I remembered, a long book that feels its length. But I do think I liked it better this time than I did the first time I read it — and I did pick up on a bit more, even though I never even came close to finishing the series. It's kind of funny to look back at my notes and review from the first time I read it, though, particularly when it comes to my opinions on certain characters.
  • That said, now that I've made a start on the series again, I'm a bit more motivated to continue. My current plan is to aim for a book or so a month until I catch up with the Wheel of Time readthrough on, then read along with that. Or maybe I'll keep reading at a faster pace. We'll see.


  • So, mostly I just watched Critical Role, and not even much of that. I'm definitely not doing a good job keeping up with the new campaign (though I guess I'm only a couple episodes behind, which isn't bad). I'm still enjoying it; I just haven't had a lot of time for it. Laudna and Imogen are probably my favorites characters of the new campaign, but Orym and Dorian are very close seconds. I can tell that all the players had a lot of fun coming up with their characters, though, which is delightful.


  • It's kinda weird that this is the hardest category to write. It's probably because I have a record of what I wrote and read in any given month, but I don't have a good record of what I actually did.
  • Anyway. We'll hit the highlights first. The most exciting bit of November was, of course, Thanksgiving. My sister brought a friend home from college with her, so that was different — it was the first time she or I brought a friend back from break with us as a guest and not just as someone getting a ride from us. Both my sister and her friend had a lot of homework, but we managed to get in several games of Sentinels. As for the actual holiday: I made a cranberry apple pie and rolls, and my mom made pumpkin pie and green bean casserole, and we went to celebrate with some other families from our Bible study, and that was delightful. And the day after that we put up our tree, which I already sort of talked about.
  • A bit less exciting but still important to me: we celebrated my birthday about midway through November. We didn't do anything big, but my mom made pecan pie, and we went out to eat, and it was nice, y'know?
  • So much for the big events. In terms of smaller occurrences, the second meeting of my board game Connect Group went a bit better than the first. I mean, I still only had one person show up, but it was a different person, and the person who came to the first meeting would've been at the second as well had she not been out of town. And I had someone else express interest later in the same week, so I have high hopes for next Tuesday! (I'm trying to temper them with the knowledge that it's the holiday season and everyone's busy.)
  • I didn't have as much success as I hoped with doing more photography. Sadly, I missed out on some photography workshops that I would've enjoyed — I knew they were happening, but they were connected to a larger event, and I didn't realize that they were workshops in the sense of "Opportunity to actually take pictures of a thing" as opposed to "Slightly more interactive talk on how to take pictures of a particular type of thing." That said, I did go out with my sister on Thanksgiving weekend so I could take some pictures of her with the stained glass windows at the church where I work, and I think those will turn out well once I do some editing. I'll have to do a bit of sort-of-HDR and exposure-and-focus-stacking, I think, to get the effect I want.
  • (It's only sort of HDR because HDR, or high dynamic range photography, usually doesn't work with live subjects — you're stacking different exposures of photo on top of each other to bring out maximum detail and color, and any movement or change in the image can create "ghosts." But I think that since I'll only be really using it on a portion of the image, it'll be ok. We'll find out.)
  • On the D&D front, this month was really fun. The group I run finally got to play again, and the characters survived their first venture into the Feywild (and I got to play a twisty and overdramatic fey lord; it was delightful). And in the other campaign, we fought a sea serpent, got quite a lot of money from a giant's horde (the giant had attacked us earlier, and we'd found a map to where he kept his treasure), and had some really good roleplaying moments with one player's new character reacting to what is, essentially, his first time adventuring with a team.
  • And then, of course, there's my day job, which continues to go reasonably well. I keep bracing for the wave of holiday busy-ness to crash down and pull me under, but so far, things have been pretty calm. Another month and a bit and I'll have worked here for a full year, which is quite exciting.

December Plans

  • I need to finish Bastian Dennel, PI #3. This is a very definite must. I'm also hoping to squeeze in a couple holiday short stories and maybe start writing a new novella that's not in any of my established storyworlds? We'll see how much time I have and how well the rest of my WIP goes. If nothing else, I'll find a way to fit in my annual New Year's Eve story. (And, of course, I have to balance that with a bunch of blogging: my year-end book roundups, yearly goal posts, Winter 2021-22 reads, and regular weekly blog posts . . .)
  • On the reading front, I want to read a fair bit in Kindle Unlimited, since I forgot to cancel my subscription in November and I want to make it worthwhile. I'm also hoping to start rereading the next Wheel of Time and maybe the Legends of Karac Tor series as well. And I'm going to squeeze in some of my favorite Christmas reads, namely The Enchanted Sonata. If anyone has any additional recomendations, I'd love to hear them!
  • Speaking of Christmas: I'm almost halfway done with Christmas shopping already — in fact, I wrapped and sent off one person's gift last weekend. I have some left to do, though, and some of it involves actually making things, so that'll take some time.
  • And, of course, it's Christmas cookie time! I already have some ideas of what I want to bake this year, and I'm super excited for that. (How soon is too soon to start baking?)
  • I don't actually have any big Christmas plans — just the usual things my family always does, plus my work's Christmas event. But that's fine by me. I like quiet, especially when it's quiet because we choose for it to be quiet and not because it has to be quiet.
  • I also need to get busy doing photography towards some of the upcoming 2022 contests for the photo club. One of the contests is street photography, which . . . I do not know how or where to do that. But I'll figure something out, I suppose.

How was your November? Any exciting plans for December? How did NaNoWriMo go for you, if you participated? What are your favorite Christmas reads? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 26, 2021

Books I'd Give My Characters: Black Friday Sale Edition

Hey'a, everyone! Hope y'all had an excellent Thanksgiving if you celebrated! Of course, it's now Black Friday and the start of the Christmas season — specifically, for purposes of this post, the start of the Christmas gift-shopping and gift-giving season. (Unless, of course, you're the type of person who does all your Christmas shopping way in advance.) Because of that, I thought it would be fun to think about what books I would gift to some of my characters . . . but with a twist: I'm specifically choosing books that are available in the Perry Kirkpatrick Black Friday book sale. This sale runs from Black Friday (today, November 25) through Cyber Monday and includes literal hundreds of clean and Christian indie reads from authors like Kendra E. Ardnek, Jaye L. Knight, H.S.J. Williams, and myself. There's free and $0.99 ebooks, plus some special deals on print and audiobooks. I strongly recommend checking it out; I always end up picking up some good deals for myself . . . and, of course, today, I'm also picking out some books for my own characters. Let's get back to that, shall we?

Books I'd Give My Characters: Black Friday Sale Edition

1. For Princess Grace Chambers (Mechanical Heart): the Elven Alliance books by Tara Grayce. As I've said before, Grace is one of the biggest readers out of any of my characters (at least in my published books) — she enjoys just about anything as long as it's well-written, it has good characters, and she can talk about it when she's done. So, while she'd be happy with pretty much all the books included in the sale, I'm giving her the Elven Alliance series by Tara Grayce. She'd see a lot of herself in Essie, the lead, and would certainly relate to many of the challenges the characters in the novel face. (After all, she's a princess — she's seen equivalents to some of them firsthand.) But, most importantly, Elven Alliance has a very enthusiastic (albeit small) fandom, which Grace would join with utmost pleasure.

2. For Roselle Dennel (Gilded in Ice): Moonscript by H.S.J. WilliamsAs those who've read Gilded may remember, Roselle loves stories of adventure, danger, magic, and mystery — preferably featuring adventurous-but-relatable leads, strange, faraway, and exotic locations, and plenty of character banter and relationships to get invested in. And if there's a little twist of romance or a dark-and-tortured hero (or dashingly dangerous rogue or swashbuckler), all the better. Moonscript does not check every box in that list . . . but it does check most of them. Roselle would happily spend quite some time exploring this world of elves and humans, and she'd absolutely fangirl over Errance (and Coren) as much as the rest of us do.

3. For Kona Dennel, by way of Roselle (Gilded in Ice): The Dark King's Curse by Wyn Estelle Owens. So, hear me out. Kona is not the type of person who really enjoys reading for the sake of reading. But she, like many people, enjoys being read to — and the only thing Roselle likes better than a good book is sharing that good book. So, The Dark King's Curse technically goes to both of them. Why this book? The storyworld has enough similarities to their own world that it would be almost like historical fiction for them — and both of them would enjoy the family elements of the story. Roselle would be all over Laisren and Siobhra (Laisren is the kind of dramatic she loves, and Siobhra is a cat and therefore wonderful), while Kona . . . Kona probably actually likes Fionn best, with Fiachra a close second. Their enjoyment of the story is not hindered by Bastian wandering in and out of the room, adding commentary, and making offhand predictions (though he's secretly enjoying the book as well).

4. For Zhu Baili (Blood in the Snow): The Worth of a King by Kendra E. Ardnek. Baili's a hard character to pick for; like Kona, she's less inclined to read for pleasure or for the sake of reading — her preferred way to experience a story is in the form of a play. But I think she'd like The Worth of a King. She'd probably relate well to Obsidia and Delaney (and, to a lesser extend, Adrian) and Obsidia's plight, and she'd enjoy the romantic elements of the story. I can even see her reading it together with Xiang as they curl up together for a precious bit of alone time or sharing it with her friends. (Gan enjoys the dramatic flair of the Zovordians; Chouko makes snarky comments every few pages but is secretly just as invested in Obsidia and Adrian's problems as Baili is.)

5. For Azuma (Blood in the Snow): Wrought of Silver and Ravens by E.J. Kitchens. Canonically speaking, Azuma is a poetry-lover first and foremost. But he also enjoys novels on occasion, with a preference for the complex or epic tales. So, I'm giving him Wrought of Silver and Ravens, a high fantasy take on "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." He'd probably see himself in Athdar and his situation (and Athdar's relationship with Thea), he'd like Galen as much as I do, and he'd appreciate the twists and turns of the plot quite a lot.

Have you checked out the Black Friday sale yet? Which books in it are you eyeing up, either for yourself or (in this hypothetical scenario) your own characters? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 12, 2021

Thoughts on Curse of the Midnight King

Good morning, everyone! We are almost two weeks into November and NaNoWriMo, and I'm . . . well, behind, even considering that I'm aiming lower than 50K. But it's fine. I still have over two weeks left to fix that. Anyway, today, I'm breaking my hiatus to share about Yakira Goldsberry's Curse of the Midnight King, a dark fairy tale retelling that crosses the Twelve Dancing Princesses with Cinderella. There are preorder goodies and a few days left to claim them, for the record. You know, if you're interested.


Thoughts on Curse of the Midnight King

  1. Cinderella and the Twelve Dancing Princesses is a brilliant combination of fairy tales. I've never seen it before that I recall (except maybe in one of the stories that mash together all the fairy tales), and I honestly wish I'd thought of it first! Not that I would've had time to write it . . . Anyway. The two fairy tales fit together wonderfully, especially with a dash of Hades and Persephone vibes for extra flavor. The element of Faye rushing fron the above-ground ball to the below-ground one, desperately trying to keep from dragging one into the other, is just excellent.
  2. Pathos and the underword are very dark. Which, in general, is what I want it to be — the underworld in most Twelve Dancing Princesses retellings should be dark and beautiful and terrible and filled with gilded danger. This one is much more overt in how dangerous and terrible it is (as opposed to the dancing pavilion in, say, Entwined), but that makes sense since we're coming into it long after the glamour and wonder has worn off for our protagonists. Also, the element of transformation each time Faye enters Pathos's realm? Loved it.
  3. Pathos is a highly stabbable villain. He's just the worst, ok? I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be a bit sympathetic to him because he claims to care for Faye? And maybe he does a little? But it's nothing like real love, and I spent most of the book hoping Faye or someone would just stab him. On a related note, though, I do love the note of Faye being dressed in gold every time she comes  to the underworld. Like, I'm pretty sure Pathos controls that. He decides who's dressed in what color. Which means that he subconsciously recognizes that Faye is a danger to him, that she'll be his undoing. Oh storms he's literally flirting with death. I just realized that in writing this post. Dramatic, stabbable idiot. (He's not an idiot. He's actually reasonably clever, more so than I realized. But in this case . . . he kinda is an idiot.)
  4. It's simultaneously a sister-focused story and not. I recognize that sounds weird. Faye's main motivations throughout this story are her sisters and her need to save them and atone for what she feels she's gotten them into. Which is great! But she's also forbidden from speaking to them or really interacting much with them, so both the deeper sisterly relationships and the characterization of her sisters is a bit . . . lacking . . . for my tastes.
  5. I hate to say it, but I really didn't click with Faye. Not in the sense that I didn't care about what happened to her, but I didn't connect with her in the way I wanted to. She spends most of the book in such a dark headspace — for good reason! Given all she goes through, it would've been strange if her thoughts weren't shadowed. And I know there are people who will connect with her, who will see some of their own struggles in her. I'm just not one of those people.

What do you think of Curse of the Midnight King? What's your favorite take on Cinderella or the Twelve Dancing Princesses? Alternately, what's a fairy tale combination that you love and wish you'd thought of first? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 29, 2021

October 2021 Doings!

 Hello, everyone! October is nearly at an end — a couple days left, true, but close enough — and that means it's time for another month's Doings! post. While this wasn't nearly as eventful as August or as breakneck busy as September, there was still plenty going on to tell you about!


  • This month's been pretty quiet on the writing front — no surprise there. After September's madness, I needed a month that was a little easier to manage. I did finish up the D&D module I was working on, other than making maps for the final combat, so that's ready to go starting in November! I've had some of the stuff in this next module in mind for absolute ages, and I'm super excited that I finally get to put it in action and see how my friends react.
  • Outside of D&D, I wrote a Halloween-ish short story for a challenge/contest thing on another site. I probably won't post it on here at the moment (just because the challenge was so recent and it was very specific to that site), but I may bring it back for next year's Halloween on my main blogs.
  • And that about covers it! I am in the process of starting Bastian Dennel #3, but I haven't made enough progress to really say anything else about it. As a reminder, if you want an overview of everything going on in the world of my writing, you can check out my On the Taleweaver's Desk post that just went up last week!


  • It's also been a rather light reading month, which is a bit unusual — usually less writing means more time for reading. But not so much this month, apparently.
  • The highlights of this month were The Anthropocene Reviewed, Gothel and the Maiden Prince, and The Martian, which is kind of remarkable since only one of those is a fantasy novel. The Anthropocene Reviewed is a book of essays by John Green, modified from the episodes of the podcast of the same name, and it's lovely and poetic and thoughtful in a way I could never be no matter how long or hard I tried. Quite frankly, I think Green is a better nonfiction writer or essayist than he is a fiction writer, which should come as a surprise to no one who knows I watch vlogbrothers regularly but have only managed to finish reading one of Green's fiction works. I know I'm probably in the minority in this regard, but so be it.
  • Moving on! Gothel and the Maiden Prince is the latest from W.R. Gingell, whom we all know I love dearly. Gothel was not by any means my favorite of her works, but I did enjoy the characters and their dynamics and the twist on why Rapunzel and Gothel are in the tower. Plus, it's got that lovely pairing of the dark, intimidating, commonly-assumed-evil, hard-because-life's-hard character with the sunshine sweetheart that's so delightful whether it's romantic or platonic, so how can you argue with that?
  • And The Martian, while containing far stronger language in far greater quantities than I prefer, was just a lot of fun. It's got a great storyline. It's got a lot of actual science, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming — or, I didn't think so. (That said, I like science when I'm not having to name chemical compounds or memorize three hundred and fifty-nine biological terms, so your mileage my vary.) It avoids the trap of having the main character be annoyingly good at/knowledgable in everything, and it has a lot of humor (much of it sarcastic), and it's just fun. It's like Randall Munroe's What If and How To, but with an actual plot and much more focused in terms of what type of science you're dealing with. I'm definitely going to reread it, is what I'm saying.
  • Otherwise, I had a fair number of rereads: The Candlestone in Dragons in Our Midst (still not my favorite in the series, but I like it better than I used to; I'm saving Circles of Seven for Halloween), M is for Magic (better the first time around), Feet of Clay and Jingo (both better than the first time I read them), and, most notably, The Story Girl by Lucy Maud Montgomery. It's notable in that I've been intending to reread it for the longest time and also in that I never actually read the full book; I got out a version that was split into many smaller volumes for . . . some reason. But that's been delightful. I know everyone's all over Montgomery's Anne books, but I always liked The Story Girl better.
  • And, to wrap things up, we have War Bound, the second Elven Alliance book, which I enjoyed well enough in the same way I enjoyed the first book, and The Library of the Dead, which was one of my Halloween-ish reads and was . . . meh. Not a bad book, but I didn't love it, and I don't think I'll continue the series. Not pictured is The Blacktongue Thief, which I technically haven't finished (I had to return it to the library) and have mixed feelings about. I like the POV character and the most prominent secondary character well enough, but . . . I don't enjoy spending time in the storyworld, and it's just a rather dark book. We'll see if I decide to get it back out.
  • The other bit of reading news I have is that I acquired a signed copy of Vespertine (the OwlCrate edition), and it's so pretty. I'm super excited to read it, and I'll get to do that this weekend — Vespertine, Coraline, and Circles of Seven are my Halloween reads for the year, and I'm looking forward to all three.


  • Glory hallelujah, I have finally gotten through Episode 74 of Critical Role! For those who missed it, I've been stuck on this episode since August, partially because I haven't had time to watch and partially because I was just . . . not enthused about Reani, the guest character. She rubbed me the wrong way, y'know? But once I powered through the first half of the episode, I warmed up to her a bit. And now I can finally move on with the rest of the campaign . . . well, in between watching Campaign 3! I'm very excited to be able to follow a campaign from the start for the first time, and I'm liking the new party fairly well so far. And, yes, I am trying to watch the episodes live . . . or, I start the episodes live, at any rate. I have yet to watch an entire CR episode in one sitting, and I don't see that changing for Campaign 3.
  • Aside from Critical Role, I watched three movies with my family: Die Hard, Master and Commander, and Casablanca. All three have been on my to-watch list for a bit, though for different reasons. Now that I've seen them, I can say of all three that I didn't love them, but I did like them, and I'd probably watch them again at some point. Die Hard had much, ah, rougher language than I expected, but I appreciated the twists and the scheming and counter-scheming on both sides. Master and Commander was interesting and had good character dynamics, though it was more serious than I expected from the few posts I'd seen about it. (I suppose that the name should've clued me in, but ah well.) And Casablanca is, well, it's a classic for a reason. But Rick and his arc and his interactions with the police prefect fall into some of my favorite tropes, so I did genuinely like the movie.


  • Most of this month has been occupied by preparations for my church's Trunk or Treat event, which was this past Sunday, October 24. As you probably saw on Facebook or Instagram if you follow me over there, my theme was an International Curiosity Shop — otherwise known as one of those weird little shops that provide quest items to adventurers and sell artefacts from fantastic worlds to interested buyers and then disappear — otherwise known as a way to use the maximum number of props I already own and appeal to a variety of fandoms. I spent several weekends acquiring materials and crafting items, including fixing up my steampunk pistol to make it more interesting, painting dragon eggs, putting together a Death Star pumpkin to hold candy in, and repairing my sword. I did end up working right up to the wire, but it all came together pretty nicely!
  • Of course, I might not have been running quite so close to the line had most of my Columbus Day weekend not been taken up by other activities, namely helping my family cut up an absolutely massive oak tree that fell on our neighbors' property. (They asked us to cut it up and take it away, for the record.) We didn't even finish it in the weekend; my parents had to finish the job over Tuesday and Wednesday while I went back to my actual job. It was not how I planned to spend the weekend, but . . . it's a necessary evil if we want wood for the fireplace.
  • I will also admit that some delays came from the fact that I went to a local Renaissance Faire on the 17th — a decision I absolutely do not regret, even if not going would've given me extra crafting time. While it was much smaller than the Ohio Renaissance Festival that I've gone to before, it was a lot of fun. The highlight was probably watching a demonstration of Viking-era weaponry that gave me a lot of good story research (and made up for a rather disappointing joust immediately before), and I had a lovely time wandering around different stands afterward. Also, I got to taste mead for the first time, and I genuinely enjoyed it! I mean, I thought I would, but most of my previous experiences with tasting alcohol were rather disappointing. And now I have reference for my books as well!
  • Anyway. Even with the tree and the Ren Faire, I did get everything finished in time for Trunk or Treat. The event itself was fun, though I did kind of wear out my throat from talking to people in a mostly-English accent for several hours. I mean, what's the point of dressing up and setting up a whole Interdimensional Curiosity Shop if you're not going to stay in character and wish people well on their quests when they come get candy? Oddly enough, the props that got the most comments from people were the ones that took the least effort, but such is life.
  • What else is there? I had my first Connect Group meeting at the start of October, but it didn't go terribly well — of three people who expressed interest, only one showed up, and one responded to my "don't forget this is happening" email with "Oh, I forgot to tell you that stuff came up and I can't be part of this after all." The person who showed up was nice, and we had some good conversation while playing Carcasonne, but it was definitely not what I hoped it would be.
  • Work's been busy, though certainly not as stressful as September's hacking adventure. I think I should probably just accept that nothing's going to be really calm until after the New Year, what with fundraising campaigns this month and a little bit of next month and the holidays coming up soon. On the upside, our new Kids Ministry director started this month, and she's lovely. And by "lovely" I mean that she's nice and friendly and sends me information ahead of the day it's due. This might seem like a low bar, but since the first deadline of the week is Monday noon and most of the programs staff (the people from whom I need said info) don't have a lot of spare time over the weekend . . . well, it's impressive, and it makes my job much more pleasant.
  • The last item of note for the month is that, as I mentioned in September's Doings, I rejoined the photo club my dad and I used to attend. The first contest I was able to enter was last night, and while I didn't have as much time to take new photos as I hoped I would, I was pretty happy with my entries. And two of them actually placed in their categories, so that was a nice confidence boost for my first actual contest in a long time.

November Plans

  • First and foremost, the recurring question of every November: Am I doing NaNoWriMo? While I originally planned to skip it this year because I'm working and I won't be able to block out the same swathes of time to write, Bastian Dennel #3 got pushed back far enough that I might as well call it a NaNoNovel and myself a NaNoRebel (since I don't anticipate the novel hitting 50K — it'll be closer to the length of The Midnight Show than Gilded in Ice). I do want to get the first draft hammered out pretty quickly — in time to potentially write something else in December — and I'm hoping that the general culture and atmosphere of NaNoWriMo will help with that.
  • That does mean I'm extending my blogging semi-hiatus into next month, which is to say that I'll post as I have time, inclination, or prior commitment. I have one review-type Friday 5s planned for Curse of the Midnight King (since I'm technically on the street team). And if anyone's interested, I'm thinking of writing a post about how I made some of my Trunk or Treat props. But in general, the novel takes precendence over the blog.
  • On the D&D front, the group I run will start back in on our main campaign next weekend, and I'm excited about that. Like I said, I've been planning some of the next adventure for quite some time, plus one of my players and I were working out more about a character's backstory and it turns out that it'll tie in rather nicely with part of what's going to happen.
  • Much like last month, I want to try to do more photography so I'll have more recent photos to work with for club contests. Given the first item in my list of plans, we'll see how that works out.
  • And on top of all that, I'll have my next Connect Group meeting this coming week, and I'm looking at volunteering in some other areas of the church (namely the AV Team) as well. We'll see how both of those go. Hopefully better than the first Connect Group meeting did . . .

How was your October? Any exciting plans for November? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, what are you writing? Would you be interested in hearing about how I made any of my Trunk or Treat props? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 22, 2021

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 2: October 2021

Hey'a, all! As you may remember, this summer, I started a new quarterly blog series, On the Taleweaver's Desk, in which I give you an idea of the "big picture" of what's going on in my corner of the writing world. And now it's time for the second installment in that series! Please be aware as you read this that I'm still figuring out what does and doesn't work in terms of information provided, so please let me know if there's anything you think could be better here. Do you want more information? Less? Are you confused by anything? I want to know! Also, if you want more information on any of the projects listed here, you can find that on my Works in Progress page!

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 2: October 2021

On the Desktop

These are the projects you might find open on my laptop or desk if you took a peek at it during a normal day. They're currently in progress and at the top of the priority chart.

Bastian Dennel, PI #3

What is it? Exactly what it says on the tin.

Status: Vibrating eagerly in the back of my head and occasionally launching itself against to the walls yelling "Write me!" About to be started.

Technically this should probably go in "Awaiting Delivery," but given that I have a good idea of most of the plot and intend to start writing this as soon as I have time in which to do so, I'm putting it here. I was planning to put my third Bastian Dennel book on hold for a bit so I could focus on Blood in the Earth, but then someone (not naming names, but she knows who she is) gave me an idea that wouldn't let me go. And since an idea like that is what started the series and this one seems like it'll be really fun to write, I can't just ignore it.

D&D Campaign: Defenders of Serys

What is it? Defenders of Serys is the homebrew D&D campaign that I run for my D&D group.

Status: Finishing up the first module of Season 4.

I didn't get as much writing on this done in August/September/October as I intended, unfortunately. On the upside, it took us longer to finish Season 3 than I thought it would, and I almost have the first module done. Plus, one of my players and I ended up discussing backstory stuff because of a feat she took when the group leveled up, and, well, now I have another module/story arc planned for the next season. It's going to be great. I just need to finish writing the one I'm on . . . and I need to do that soon, since we start regular sessions again in a couple weeks.

Stacked on the Side

These are the stories that I'm not actively working on (at least not officially), but I'm keeping close at hand because I plan to get back to them soon (or I just work on them sporadically as the urge takes me).

Blood in the Earth

What is it? Blood in the Earth is the sequel to Blood in the Snow and a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses crossed with the myth of Hades and Persephone.

Status: First draft finished; awaiting revisions. Despite my earlier hopes, I probably will not get back to this story this year.

Once Upon a Dream

What is it? A light steampunk (or gaslamp fantasy?) Sleeping Beauty retelling; the predecessor to The Midnight Show

Status: Edited several times over. Awaiting another round of rewrites/expansion/edits.

Shelved for Now

These are stories that are also on hold, but which I don't have specific plans to work on very soon. They're still within easy reach should I decide to return to them, but they aren't a top priority.

Dust of Silver

What is it? Classic-ish fantasy retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses crossed with Rapunzel, the first book in what has the potential to be a rather long series. Also, a rewrite of a book I wrote years ago that won't let go of me because CHARACTERS.

Status: Several chapters into the rewrite, though those several chapters haven't been touched in a few years. I swear I'll get back to this . . .

Between Two Worlds

What is it? A portal fantasy adventure about what happens when you come home from the adventure, only to discover that the adventure isn't quite as done with you as you thought.

Status: Awaiting another round of edits/rewrites while I write other things and daydream about its sequels.

The Way of the Pen

What is it? Self-aware fantasy adventure about a girl and her author.

Status: The first draft is sitting on my shelf, patiently waiting for its turn back in the spotlight, as it has been for some time.

Berstru Tales series

What is it? A classic epic fantasy series and the longest-running series I've worked on (either in the number of books written or in how long I've worked on it.

Status: Needs to be rewritten from the ground up, but the bones are good. I did come up with more new and exciting ways to make the characters' lives interesting, so . . . there's that?

A Tower of Portals Campaign

What is it? A second D&D campaign inspired by one of my favorite video games.

Status: On hold; worked on as I come up with new ideas and have time.

Awaiting Delivery

These are the stories that are on their way, but haven't quite arrived yet to the point where I can write them: ideas I'm toying with but haven't even started to draft because they're still too nebulous.

Super Secret Mystery Project

What is it? You don't know. It's a mystery.

Status: Idea that technically popped into my head a few weeks ago but is born out of a sort-of idea that I've had for a few years, and due to certain elements it contains, it's been pushed up the list in terms of priority.

Novellas from the world of Blood in the Snow

What are they? Currently, three and a half ideas for spinoffs, most of which are also fairy tale retellings: one Puss in Boots (no, really), one Orpheus and Eurydice (probably crossed with a similar Japanese myth, Izanagi and Izanami), one Snow Queen (that's the half an idea), and one that's not currently a fairy tale retelling but would be about Gan and Azuma before they were animal-keepers at the emperor's palace (inspired the summer I spent watching a lot of Hogan's Heroes.

Status: Won't be written until after I edit Blood in the Earth. And the half-an-idea Snow Queen, which had the best chance of being written before then, has been . . . supplanted. Of the others, I have rough ideas of scenes in two of them, and a general concept for the last.

Unnamed Fantasy Murder Mystery

What is it? Exactly what the headline says. A prominent noble is murdered; his adoptive daughter is poised to inherit his lands and position — but some are saying her hand was behind his death.

Status: Still just an idea. Still not going to be tackled until after Blood in the Earth.

Mechanical Heart Sequel

What is it? Exactly what the title says.

Status: Still half-formed. I do have a specific fairy tale in mind that I'd be retelling, though.

Worldhoppers Inc./Mythology D&D Campaign

What is it? Yet another homebrew D&D campaign. Or two. Technically it's two possible themes for series of connected one-shots and short-term adventures, with a few adventure ideas for each theme and a chance that I'll just try to combine them.

Status: Probably not going to work on this until I have a lot of spare time, need a new campaign for my D&D group, or have reason to prioritize the Welsh myth adventure.

I think that pretty well covers how things currently stand with me and my writing! Was this interesting or helpful? Are there any ways I could make it more interesting or more easy to follow or just better in general? (Saying "write all the stories" doesn't count.) Do you have thoughts on any of the stories? What projects are you currently working on?
Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 1, 2021

September 2021 Doings!

Hello all! Here we are, through September at last — storms, this was a busy month! Between a lot of challenging projects and problems at work, hosting a Silmaril Awards category (check back for my ceremony tomorrow!) finishing final edits and proofs on Gilded, and preparing and participating in the Frosted Roses release tour, well, I certainly haven't had time to be bored. Tired, yes. Bored, no.


  • As one would expect, much of my writing time this month was dominated by final formatting and edits on Gilded in Ice, which went well. I would like to express again how great an investment a widescreen monitor is, especially when you're trying to transfer the edits from your final proof to both your Kindle and paperback versions at the same time.
  • The rest of my time was taken up by writing posts for the blog tour: four character spotlights, four guest posts, and five review lists — plus, of course, my regular posts for the month, including the Silmaril Awards. Do make sure you check out all the tour posts, particularly the guest posts; I had fun writing them. (Also, there's character art scattered throughout the guest posts and character spotlights!)
  • The Silmaril Awards went great, though! I hosted our new category, Most Majestic Ruler, and it was quite fun. The results for that go up tomorrow. No spoilers, but I can say that the ceremony post was quite interesting to write. (On a side note, I am incredibly thrilled by how many awards the City Between characters have won or been finalists for. It's high time the series and W.R. Gingell's books in general got some recognition in the Awards!) If you haven't been following the Silmaril Awards ceremonies, make sure you go back and check those out; you can find a complete list on the Awards site.
  • On the D&D front, we finished out the last bits of the arc — the denoument, if you will — and sent the Defenders of Serys onto their next adventure with an old friend back in the group, a new ship, and the prospect of a return home after a long time away. Then we took a break for a few weeks so I could finish up my book and the next module. The book happened; the module didn't. Ah well.


  • This month's reading wasn't quite as impressive as August's was . . . but that's not a bad thing. It was, however, much more varied.
  • I finished rereading the Invisible Library series, including The Secret Chapter, which I hadn't gotten to read until now. The Secret Chapter was good, but not my favorite — I love a good heist, but it was a lot of new characters to keep track of. The Lost Plot and The Mortal Word have, on the other hand, been elevanted in my esteem.
  • I did manage to fit in a couple non-fantasy — nonfiction, even! — books this month: James Herriot's All Things Wise and Wonderful (a reread, and as thoroughly delightful as ever) and C.S. Lewis's The Weight of Glory (a collection of essays, some of which I think I've read already, all of which were very good). I intended to fit in a few more still, but life had other plans. (I did start reading The Anthropocene Reviewed, so there's that.)
  • I got in plenty of new-to-me reads as well! Obviously, I read all the Frosted Roses releases, and if you scroll back, you can see my reviews. I also read A Wind From the Wilderness by Suzannah Rowntree, which . . . I didn't love it nearly as much as I wanted to. I liked Ayla and her internal conflict; I liked St. Gilles and seeing all the intricacies of diplomacy and tactics, as well as his own conflict between care for his own and sometimes feeling the need to be hard in order to care for them. But I did not enjoy Lukas or his POV, and I liked it less by the end of the book.
  • On the flip side . . . I finally decided to give Fierce Heart a shot, partially because so many people I know seem to be crazy for the series and partially because someone finally informed me that it's less of a romance-first book than I make it sound. Having read it, I will agree that people have good reason to like it so much. I'm still not all heart-eyes over it, but, as Kendra put it, "it's about a marriage, not a romance, and a marriage of two countries, not just two characters," and therefore I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.
  • I finished out the month by starting my long-intended reread of Bryan Davis's Dragons in Our Midst series, which is fun. Dragons in Our Midst, DragonKeeper Chronicles, and Wayne Thomas Batson's books used to be pretty much my life. Coming back to the series now, I rather appreciate that Billy and Bonnie are so much less angsty than the average YA protagonist seems to be.


  • . . . I might've watched an episode of Leverage at some point? Book and book tour crunch time, especially combined with Silmaril Awards, does not leave much space for watching stuff.


  • . . . Hold on. I'm having a moment. To be specific, a "I know I did three million things this month, but I suddenly blinked on what ANY of them are" moment.
  • Ok. Ok. Back on track. Labor Day weekend, we went up to White Sulphur Springs for a retreat with some other people from our Bible Study and another related Bible Study, which was nice. I had high hopes of doing some writing, which didn't happen, but I spent a lot of time reading on the porch. I also got some new recipes (one for rolls, one for bagels) that I'm excited to try when I have a non-busy weekend sometime.
  • I also volunteered with my church's Connect Group Fair, which is basically an event where people can find out about different Connect Groups (Bible studies or small groups) that are open and how to start their own group. Pretty much all I did was stand there and occasionally say "Hello, yes, you can take one of these booklets of information," but that's probably better than having to try to explain something I've never actually attended?
  • On the work front, this month was pretty hectic. We brought back the bulletin, which meant I had to learn a new process and everyone in the office (with the exception of the accountant) had to adjust their routines. We were also finishing up preparations for a pledge campaign, which had a lot of moving parts . . . and on top of all that, our Facebook page ended up getting hacked, which caused considerable panic and stress for almost everyone in the office. Resolving that was quite the, ah, adventure.
  • On a less stressful and more pleasant note, my dad and I went to a local museum's outdoor exhibition of tanks and other military vehicles, so that was very cool. Our main purpose was to take photos, but it was generally interesting even without the photography. A lot of the tanks still worked well enough that they could be driven, and at one point there was a demonstration of how tanks are actually used in combat scenarios (which I made sure to pay attention to for writing research purposes). Plus there were reenactors and other volunteers in period uniforms, and that made for some interesting photo opportunities.
  • Ok, that was much a shorter section than I expected it to be . . . but I guess a lot of my busy-ness has been the same things taking a long time, rather than many new things. Plus I covered a lotof what I did in the Writing section of this post.

October Plans

  • First things first: once my Silmaril Awards ceremony goes up tomorrow, I will be taking a semi-hiatus from blogging for the duration of October. I say semi-hiatus because I still plan to post my On the Taleweaver's Desk writing update in mid-October. And if I manage to be particularly motivated, I may make some updates to various pages on my sites. But I will not be doing weekly posts.
  • What will I be doing? On the writing front, I'll be finishing up my next D&D module (and possibly starting the one after that), participating in a short story challenge, and maybe starting on my next big writing project? I'm torn between a desire to jump into the next thing and a desire to just, y'know, take a break.
  • I'm also hoping to get back into photography in the coming months. I rejoined the photo club I used to attend with the intention of actually entering the monthly contests, which means I need photos I can enter in them. October's theme is circles, and while I have some pictures from a while back that I should be able to use, I need some options.
  • On the social side of things, I'm attempting to start a board games and Bible study group through my church. We're supposed to have our first meeting this coming week, and I am . . . nervous. I really want this to work out, but there's already been several hiccups in my best- and second-best-laid plans.
  • Something I am not nervous about: my church's Trunk or Treat event! I am going to start prepping earlier this year than I did last year, and I'm aiming for something more broadly recognizable, and it's going to be great. That also means I get to do some crafting throughout this month (and some repairs/updates to past crafts), which will be delightful.
  • Work will probably continue to be busy. I get the impression that fall and the Advent/Christmas season generally are. But I'll manage.

How was your September? Any exciting plans for October? Do you do anything for Halloween? How do you feel about the Silmaril Awards winners so far? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!