Friday, May 28, 2021

May 2021 Doings

Hello, y'all! It's the end of May, or just about — technically, we have a few days left in the month, but I'm posting Doings now for reasons that will be clear at the end of this post. I anticipate a quiet Memorial Day weekend, so it should be fine. Let's get going!


hands typing on a laptop keyboard

  • Here's the big news: the Midnight Show sequel has a title! After some deliberation (and title testing on IG), I settled on Gilded in Ice. This will be the second time I've written and released a book that has a wintery title despite being set primarily in spring or summer . . . but this one, at least, does involve quite a bit of coldness. (I'll just have to release some wintery books with warm or summery titles to balance it out. Or, you know, I could stop doing this sort of thing altogether, but where's the fun in that?)
  • The actual writing of the book is coming along slowly but steadily. I'm on Chapter 30 or 31 at this point (depending on when you read this post — if I'm lucky or if you're reading this really late, I might be on 32), and I sorted out the rest of the timeline this past week.
  • ("Wait, Sarah," you say, "you're editing this, aren't you? Shouldn't the timeline have been figured out months ago?" I've rearranged and cut so many scenes in this book, the original timeline ran for the hills long ago. And I've been working the rewritten timeline out in chunks of five to ten chapters at a time.)
  • Anyway. As I was saying, I'm on chapter 30 or 31, and I plan for about 40 chapters total. So it would be feasible for me to finish the rewrite this coming month, provided I'm able to focus.


  • As you can probably see, this month's reading was a somewhat eclectic mix. I'm not sure if it's actually more eclectic than my average reading month or if I'm just in a mood while I'm writing this, but there was a lot of variety.
  • I'm finally back to rereading The Lord of the Rings, as you can see. I'd been procrastinating on The Two Towers because, while I quite enjoy the first half of the book, Frodo and Sam's journey from the Great River to Mordor is one of my least favorite parts of the trilogy. (Granted, it does have one of my favorite LOTR quotes and one of my favorite characters in it, so that helps. But it's still . . . y'know.) But I got some extra motivation in the form of needing to refresh my memory of the book's events, and I'm glad I finally got back to it.
  • I had two read-for-review books this month: Bryan Davis's Invading Hell and Suzannah Rowntree's A Vampire in Bavaria. Both were excellent, and Invading Hell was a pleasant surprise — I was worried that it, like the first book, would end up amplifying my stress rather than providing an escape. However, it ended up having much more of a classic Davis book vibe than I expected, almost reminding me of some of the Oracles of Fire novels. I suspect it'll end up being my favorite in the trilogy.
  • And, of course, I loved A Vampire in Bavaria. This time, I was ready for more action and less mystery (so I didn't experience that same twinge of missed expectations I did in Anarchist), and the story itself was absolutely thrilling. I made the mistake of picking it up after ten in the evening, thinking I could read a few chapters and then set it down again like I usually would — and then it was 11:30, and I was on Chapter 11, so I decided I'd read one more chapter so I could end on a good number — and then I didn't end until the book did. Oops.
  • And the last exciting read of the month was The Green Ember, which has been quietly blinking out at the edge of my radar for quite a while — the author is part of the Rabbit Room, I think, or is otherwise associated with Andrew Peterson — but which was pushed to much higher priority by the fact that a new friend of mine kept posting fanart for it, and I got curious. So I read it and quite enjoyed it, even if I did occasionally have to stop and question the author's character-naming choices. (There's a rabbit named Kyle, and he has roughly the personality you'd expect from a human by that name. He confuses me on many, many levels. He's not a main character, thankfully.) 
  • Names aside, though, it's a good story, and the main characters are a very satisfying balance of reasonably competent but still inexperienced, and, yeah, I guessed what Smalls's deal was in the first chapter he was onscreen, but I'm ok with that. And I definitely requested the rest of the series from the library when I was about 60 pages out from the end of the first book.
  • And a quick mention of my other reads this month: The Language of Thorns was a really cool anthology of in-world folktales from the Grishaverse, and now I kinda feel like I should do a better job thinking through my own worlds' folklore. Met by Midnight was a reasonably interesting twist on Cinderella and a nice distraction on the random day when my office lost internet access all day, but it's far from my favorite retelling. And my reread of Elantris was a nice next step in my Cosmere reread.


  • Pretty much the most noteworthy bit of the month on this front was probably re-watching the Fellowship of the Ring (extended edition, naturally) with my family towards the beginning of the month. Though — and I kind of feel like a horrible person for this — I honestly wasn't excited about watching it? It wasn't even my suggestion; my dad is the one who's been suggesting LOTR any time we're talking about watching a movie. And I kept putting it off with the excuse that my sister would be disappointed if we watched them without her — until now, obviously, because my sister was here and did want to watch the movie.
  • I don't even know why I wasn't more enthusiastic about the idea. I should've been enthusiastic. I've repeatedly stated that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favorite movie/movie series, and I still hold to that statement. But when it came up in discussion, I just . . . wasn't excited. I don't know. Maybe I was remembering all my frustrations with the movie more keenly than the things I love about it. Maybe I was intimidated by the probability that if we started watching the trilogy, even if we watched each movie in halves (which is what we're doing), I was committing to the equivalent of two movies a weekend for at least three weeks. Or maybe it was just one of those scenarios where the weight of the excitement and hype I thought I was supposed to feel started pressing so hard that it turned into dread instead. That's happened, sometimes. It's a primary reason why I sometimes take ages upon ages to read a book I've, up to that point, been really excited for. I don't know.
  • Anyway. The point is, we watched Fellowship, and I certainly enjoyed it, even if I wasn't excited about it. I was less frustrated with Frodo's tendency to stare dramatically than I remembered being, which was a plus. And I'd forgotten how much of the dialogue actually is pulled straight from the book.
  • On the downside, I have . . . well, I didn't actually read The Silmarillion, but I read a lot about the events of The Silmarillion, and now I'm about 300% more annoyed at the absence of Glorfindel than I was back when I just thought he was a cool character. Like, for conservation of detail, I understand the switch, but . . . bleh. I also think that Tolkien had the right idea in the books, keeping Arwen and Aragorn's romance largely "off-screen" and showing it mostly through other methods, thereby preserving the more . . . mythic, I guess, element of it. (Feel free to take that opinion with as much salt as you like, though. I tend to not be enthusiastic about on-screen romances in general, and that, along with characters' communication skills, tends to be the first thing critique in any film.)
  • (Also, unpopular opinion, but leaving out Tom Bombadil was 100% the right choice. Younger me may have said otherwise. Younger me also was trying to shape a large portion of her identity around being a "hardcore" Tolkien fan. Tom Bombadil and the Old Forest are great in the books for worldbuilding, theme, and tension purposes. But in the movie, they truly aren't necessary.)
  • Outside of Fellowship, I've pretty much just been watching — you guessed it! — more Critical Role. I just finished Episode 66 the other night, and . . . to be honest, I'm ready to move on from Xhorhas, just like I was ready to move on from Fjord's pirate arc a few months ago. Mostly, I'm tired of the Mighty Nein's attitude. But we seem to be moving in a cool (though creepy) direction with the end of the last episode, so I'm excited for that!
  • Also, I keep hearing that Campaign 2 is probably going to wrap up soon, which is kind of exciting for me in that it means Campaign 3 will be right around the corner (albeit after a hiatus, probably). And that means I'll have the option to at least start the episodes when they're live as opposed to, y'know, two years after they happen. It'll mean splitting my attention between two campaigns, but I can live with that, especially since there'll no longer be any pressure to "catch up."


  • We saw an owl! In our YARD! Not only that, in a tree right outside the office window! It was very exciting.
  • In other news, my sister's back! And that's made me happy. It's nice to have someone around who's a little closer to my own age (and who shares most of my interests). We've played a few rounds of Sentinels, and I introduced her to Portal. (I also started replaying Portal, but I'm doing it in tandem with her — so, we do the same rooms at the same time, so I can more effectively provide hints and help when she needs it and so I have the fun of playing it. The added benefit is that, because we're only playing when we can play together, it doesn't become a temptation for either of us to spend too much time on.)
  • Mother's Day was pretty chill as a holiday. We played some Yahtzee and watched the second half of The Fellowship of the Ring, my sister and I made food, and . . . that's pretty much it. Unless I'm forgetting something. Which is always possible.
  • Probably the most exciting thing that happened this month was a visit to a historic mansion and its gardens/grounds (mostly the gardens/grounds because we weren't allowed in the mansion) courtesy of my dad's photo club's lack of a year-end party. (As in, they didn't have a year-end party, so they spent the money on admission for this instead). We had a nice time walking around and taking pictures, and I convinced my sister to dress up a bit so I could do some portrait photography, which was fun. The pictures mostly seem to have turned out reasonably well, though I do apparently suffer from an inability to hold the camera straight half the time. Oh well. That's what the crop tool is for.
  • Work continues to be, well, business as usual. Things are quieting down now, since Easter (and Pentecost) is past and less happens in the summer. Well, that's not quite true. Stuff still happens . . . it's just not as intense as Easter week or the newsletter. Or figuring out the livestreaming system. (This is a good thing in that it means I'm less stressed about my actual work. It's not a great thing in that it gives me more time to get frustrated with people .  . . well, mostly one person who has a habit of asking me to update, design, or post things and then not giving me all the information I need, even when I ask multiple times. Given that this is the only significant job-based frustration I have on a regular basis, I am absolutely not complaining. I'm still annoyed, though.)
  • (Also, I realized that this is basically just another variation on the same problem that caused me 99% of my stress my junior year of college, and I'm just like . . . gah. I can't even solve this one by doing what needs to be done for the person who didn't do it because, again, I'm lacking fundamental information and resources. Is this going to be my entire life? Because it's starting to feel like this is going to be my entire life.)
  • On the baking front, I made sourdough bagels (which turned out much better than the non-sourdough ones I made two months ago) and a chocolate cake (because I have basically no experience with cake-making, and I thought I should fix that.)
  • And we'll wrap this up with a D&D update! We only met a couple times this month, thanks to people having to deal with stuff like, y'know, finals and travel and work. Sadly, we lost one of our players, at least temporarily. We hope he'll be able to come back once his job situation is sorted out, but for now, we're operating as if he won't be returning. And then we had our first PC death (not counting the PC who turned on the party ages ago) the same session. He got better (because guess who has Revivify now? me, that's who), but it was still intense.

June Plans

  • You know how I normally take a blogging hiatus in April because it's Camp NaNoWriMo and finals and all that jazz? And you know how I didn't take a hiatus in April this year because I'd been going at a Camp NaNo pace all year already and I didn't have finals? Yeah. Turns out that hiatus was important.
  • So, yes. I'll be taking a blogging hiatus in June. I'll still be reading other people's blogs and hanging out on Facebook and Instagram, and I'll probably try to put up my Summer 2021 reads post sometime before summer starts. But I won't be posting other than that until July (or at least until June Doings).
  • What will I be doing instead? Most significantly, I intend to have the second draft of Gilded in Ice finished and ready for other people to read and return comments on by the end of the month. This is way later than I wanted it to be done, but it is what it is, and I'm planning on a later release, so I should still have time enough.
  • I also have a wedding to attend in June, which I'm excited for. It'll be a chance to see a lot of my close friends who I haven't seen in person in a year or more, so that makes up for all the driving I'll have to do to get to it.
  • And I also think that the current D&D arc I'm running will probably wrap up this month! Assuming we actually manage to meet more than twice in the whole month, that is. After we finish the arc, we'll probably take a break from playing for a bit so I can write what happens next. One thing I'm certain of: while this was fun, I'm going to try to avoid planning such lengthy modules in the future.

How was your May? Any exciting plans for June? Or for the summer in general? And do you ever have the problem of "I should be excited for this because I love it, but I'm not actually excited?" Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 14, 2021

Spring Anytime Reads

 Hey'a, all! We're well into spring now, and I think that makes it a good time to finish up my series of seasonal reads! As a reminder, this started some years ago with my Summer Anytime Reads. In the last year, I followed it up with Autumnal Anytime Reads and Winter Anytime Reads. And now I've got a list of spring reads for you! As usual, there's a variety of qualifying elements; some of these take place in spring, others have themes that I think reflect the season well. All of them, as usual, come with some related reads for if you've already read my primary suggestion.

Spring Anytime Reads

  1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I almost didn't include this because it's so obvious, but at the same time — it's the classic Easter fantasy read, and the return of spring after an unending winter is one of the main plot points. You kind of have to include it.
    If you liked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, try: The Princess and the Goblin/The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald (for more classic children's fantasy and the man who inspired Lewis) or The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (for beautiful, decidedly Christian fantasy).

  2. Moonscript by H.S.J. Williams. This is another winter-into-spring book, for sure. It's a story of rebirth, of return, of renewed life; what could be more spring-like? And the vibe of the story runs the gamut from the aching cold of early spring when you wonder if winter will ever let go to the joyful release of the first warm days to the misery of a sudden return of winter cold and darkness when you thought you were free at last.
    If you liked Moonscript, try: The Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (for more stories of renewal that heavily influenced Moonscript) or Orphan's Song by Gillian Bronte Adams (because Birdie and Tellie are astonishingly similar).

  3. Spindle by W.R. Gingell. How long's it been since I raved about a W.R. Gingell book? Too long, that's how long. Spindle probably actually takes place in summer, but it feels like a very May-ish book. It's full of new beginnings and new growth and sunshine, and I love it so much.
    If you liked TBA, try: Spindle's End by Robin McKinley (for another highly magical Sleeping Beauty story) or Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (for stubborn, unexpectedly magical female leads, oddly charming wizards, and general vibes).

  4. An Echo of the Fae by Jenelle Leanne Schmidt. This story does take place specifically in spring (though with quite a bit of influence from Summer and Winter — yes, those are capitalized for a reason, and you can probably guess what the reason is from the title). But it's also a very green and springy story, and if you, unlike me, don't suffer from seasonal allergies, it would be a very good book to enjoy on a day out in nature (or at least outside).
    If you liked An Echo of the Fae, try: Fairest Son by H.S.J. Williams (for fae fairy tales) or The Princess and the Invisible Apple Tree by Meredith Burton (for sweet family-focused fairy tales).

  5. The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber. Thanks to my sister for this suggestion, which I absolutely wouldn't have thought of on my own. (It's been way too long since I read this book.) One could make an argument for The Thirteen Clocks as either a winter or spring book — most of the book is very wintery-feeling, but the storyline and ideas are spring-like in the same way as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe is. So, I'm categorizing it as an early March sort of book.
    If you liked The Thirteen Clocks, try: You tell me. Of this story, I would say, as one character puts it, "I don't know what it is, but it's the only one there ever was."

What are your favorite springtime reads? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Interview With Princess Sorei (of Love and Memory)

 Good morning (or afternoon, or evening, or whenever you happen to be reading this), all! Who here's read Love and Memory since it released two weeks ago? (If you haven't gotten it yet, you can pick it up on Amazon). As part of the release tour, I was supposed to post this interview with Sorei, one of the new characters, but . . . it didn't exactly happen. But I thought it was fun, so I'm posting it now.

Interview With Princess Sorei

Hello, Sorei! Welcome to the blog! To start out, tell us a little about yourself! Who you are, your role in the story, anything you want to share?

I'm a princess on the way to marry a prince so he can become king. I'll secure a treaty between our feuding kingdoms and be his first wife, but who knows if he'll remember me the next day. I mean, I'm barely more than a child. 

As a princess of Kurzi, I'm sure you have many duties and responsibilities. Can you tell us a bit about what those look like and how you feel about them?

If you consider learning how to make myself beautiful and perfect for a future husband to be a duty and a responsibility ... oh, and learning how to argue with the other women over who's the most valuable and important, but I know that doesn't count.

Who would you say is the person who's influenced or inspired you most in your life?

My oldest brother Nalaam, who I unfortunately failed to mention to Kendra until the last minute so she wasn't able to properly incorporate him into the book. But he was the one who taught me to read and write, and then convinced my father that I was the one who should be sent for the alliance. I'm a bit put out with him on that last point.

During the course of your story, you encounter some rather interesting travelers from another world. What were your thoughts on them? 

They treat their women a lot better than my country does. I mean, they say it's not perfect either, and I believe them, but, well, they apparently don't send fourteen-year-old girls off to get married. 

Based on your experience with these travelers, what do you think their world does better than yours, and what does your world (or country, either one) do better than theirs?

Well, their world has televisions and technology, but ours has Fire Princes and magic, so I think that's a fair trade. There's some other stuff, too, but I don't have everything straight on what is their world, what is actually Rizkaland, and what is Sylvia's other countries.

One of those travelers, I'm aware, has in her possession a magic tablecloth that produces a feast of its owner's favorite foods on command. I also believe you got to partake of at least one of these feasts. Did you taste any particularly noteworthy foods from it? Either something particularly delicious or something especially odd?

There was this stuff called chocolate, and it was amazing. Bitter and sweet all at once, it tasted a bit like the nira nut, but even better.

How do you hope people, either those in your own world or those in our world who read your story, will remember you? What legacy do you want to leave behind? 

I want to be remembered - positively - for myself, and not just as the princess who a prince married to secure an alliance and bear him an heir.

That seems like a good legacy. Thanks for answering my questions!

So, if you've read Love and Memory, what did you think of it? If you haven't read it yet, what's another new release that you really loved (or are really excited for)? Please tell me in the comments!

Thanks for reading!