Friday, July 23, 2021

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 1: July 202

Hello, hello, hello! So, for a while now I've been meaning to start a new regular blog series, one that would orient readers both old and new to the "big picture" of what's going on in the world of what's-Sarah-writing-now. My daily and weekly writing goals (posted on Facebook and Instagram), I think, do a pretty good job of showing what's going on right now, and, of course, my Doings! posts include monthly progress updates. But I also want y'all to know how those daily and monthly updates fit together in the long term, which is the gap I hope this series — On the Taleweaver's Desk — will fill.


On the Taleweaver's Desk will cover four categories of projects, which I'll explain once I get into them, and will include both projects-for-hopeful-publication and side projects that are just for me and my friends (aka D&D campaigns, because I like talking about them, they're important to me, and they do take up a decent percentage of my writing time at this point). It'll go up four times a year; I'm thinking a month into each season. (So, July, October, January, and April.) It'll be posted on Light and Shadows, Dreams and Dragons, and my author site, so you'll see it no matter where you follow me.

And now, with those words of explanation out of the way, let's get on with the actual post!

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 1: July 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.

Gilded in Ice (Bastian Dennel, PI #2)

What is it? Gilded in Ice is my next upcoming book and the sequel to The Midnight Show. It's a mystery retelling of "Snow White and Rose Red" and "East of the Sun, West of the Moon."

Status: Waiting for beta feedback, working on preliminary formatting

Not a lot has changed with this project since my last Doings! post. I've started to get a little bit of feedback from some of my betas, which means I can begin thinking about what needs to be adjusted in edits. The paperback cover is about 90% done (I just need to adjust the spine width), and the actual content formatting is . . . well, I haven't started that yet. But, since a lot of it will carry over from The Midnight Show, it technically isn't completely yet-to-begin.

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: Writing Season 4 and thinking of what to do during our break.

As a word of explanation, since this campaign started during our senior year of college, I set it up to run more like a TV show than your average D&D campaign, with linked one-shots and breaks every so often for me to take a break from DMing and get ahead on writing the adventures (thus the term "Seasons"). While we've shifted from the linked one-shots to a more traditional campaign format, we still take breaks every so often, and we're coming up on one now. I've written all I need to get us to that break, and I've started prepping the first adventures for when the break ends. I have three in mind, and I'm very excited about ALL of them.

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.

I finished the first draft of Blood in the Earth last October, right before I started writing Gilded in Ice. It's a mess, but there's a lot of good bones in it . . . it's just that the bones are, currently, the narrative equivalent of a Brontosaurus: mostly the right pieces, arranged in the wrong way to create an incorrect story. I'd like to start edits on it sometime this year if things work out.

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.

Once Upon a Dream was the novella I wrote, oh, some years back for the Five Magic Spindles Rooglewood Press collection. Like Blood in the Snow, it was a finalist in the competition, but it didn't make it into the actual collection. I've been meaning to polish it up and expand some of the parts of the story so I can publish it for a while now, especially since The Midnight Show and Gilded in Ice are set in the same world (albeit several decades later). That said, it's not a top priority, especially since I'd like to get at least a few more Bastian Dennel, PI mysteries written and published before I jump back in time.

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 when I have new ideas.

This is a side project that I worked on for a few months in 2020, but which I set aside once I started running up against deadlines on other projects. It's very different from any of the other writing I do, and the format of the campaign and the need to adapt certain elements from the inspirational material to D&D 5e in a way that's interesting and fun and isn't just a carbon copy of the original makes it an interesting challenge. I'm not actively working on it, but when I have time and come up with ideas for a new section, I'm prepared to pull it out and write more.

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.

So, yeah. I started rewriting this for the Golden Braids Arista Challenge, about two or three years ago. I didn't finish rewriting it because I decided to rewrite Mechanical Heart instead . . . I think because I thought it would be less work, or at least easier to finish on time? I'm not sure. I want to get back to it eventually because I want to eventually write the whole series and do all the characters and relationships the justice they deserve. (This is one of the most romance-heavy series I have, which . . . is still not saying a lot, to be honest. And most of the couples don't really show up until the sequel. But two of them get their start here, and I'm very excited about them.)

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: The first draft has been done for some time; the second version should probably just be restarted at this point.

This story sits near and dear to my heart, and I am going to finish it and publish it if it kills me. (It won't kill me. Unless I die of self-inflicted feels because there is so much pining in this book.) However, since it's not a fairy tale retelling or a D&D campaign, it hasn't fit nicely into my writing schedule since I started publishing things. That's ok, though, since this book gets into the multiverse of my storyworlds more than anything else on this list, and I really should have the workings of said multiverse figured out before I start doing more stuff with it. On the upside, I think rewriting it will take less work than some of the other projects on this list when it does move up the priority chart.

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.

I wrote this around the same time as Between Two Worlds — I think Between Two Worlds came first, though I could be wrong. Anyway, they've both been sitting on the shelf for a while. Again, I love this story, and I want to go back to it, and I think it could be rewritten with less effort than some other things on this list, but it hasn't fit neatly into my writing schedule. Quite frankly, Rinna would probably be very happy if I just moved on and continued to leave her alone, but the whole story is about her dealing with being in a story, so I'd hate to waste all that character development. This is also one of the few books that still doesn't fit in the multiverse as a whole (or if it does fit, it does so in a different way), so it's my best candidate if I decide to submit something to small-press or traditional publishing.

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.

Some people might question why this is even on the list. I started writing it almost ten years ago at this point, and it shows in the storyline. But, as I said, the bones are good, and the characters are good (though some of their ages will need adjusting), and — look. The Way of Kings originated from the first character Brandon Sanderson ever wrote. The character and the story around that character changed and grew a lot before it became the story we know today, but I'm calling that proof that I shouldn't give up on Berstru just because I wrote it so long ago. It's going to take a lot of work when I do go back to it; like I said, it needs as dramatic a rewrite as Mechanical Heart did. When I go back to it, it'll probably be a project that I do primarily for myself (and to set up some other elements of the multiverse) more than something I write because I know a lot of my readers will be super into it. But I'm not letting go of it — not when I find myself thinking about it on a weekly, even daily basis at times.

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.

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.

Status: Well, one is, as I said, only half an idea. Of the others, I have rough ideas of scenes in two of them, and a general concept for the last.

I'm not sure what else there is to say about any of these? I think they'd be fun, but the actual sequel takes precedence. Also, of the two I'm most excited about, one (the Orpheus and Eurydice one) doesn't even take place until after said sequel, and the other (the Gan one) would, I think, be best read after the sequel as well.

Mechanical Heart Sequel

What is it? Exactly what the title says.

Status: Half-formed ideas that have yet to coalesce into anything actionable.

I will be frank: writing a sequel to Mechanical Heart is not a priority right now. It ranks above some of the Shelved for Now projects, but not above all of them. Why? As things stand, it works well as a standalone, better than anything else I've published thus far. Also, Mechanical Heart was hard to write even though I loved the story, so I don't want to start a sequel until I have a well-formed idea that I'm really excited about. I apologize to anyone who's disappointed. (Don't worry, I doubt I'll be able to stay away forever. I never can.)

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: A growing, but often-shifting idea.

I've had this in mind to write for a while — since before Cedarville, in fact. I've mentioned it in a few posts, though none are recent. But until recently, I haven't had the courage to try my hand at writing a true mystery, let alone one that would be so heavy on politics and so light in magic. That's probably good, since that gave this story enough time that I think it's stronger now than it would've been if I'd written it when I first imagined it. Still, I don't think I'm going to tackle this until Blood in the Earth is done.

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.

Technically it's two separate ideas that I might combine into one. Idea one focuses on Worldhoppers, Inc., an organization that takes care of your magical, strange, and paranormal problems . . . for a price. Idea two is more of a series of one-shots and short-term adventures based around fairy tales, folktales, and myths. If I combine them, Worldhoppers, Inc. becomes a more noble organization whose agents maintain the storyline in both fandom worlds and folktales.

Status: Mixed?

So, these ideas came from a few places — a realization that a particular Welsh myth would make a pretty good D&D adventure (though it wouldn't fit into my current campaign), players in my current campaign commenting on how fun it could be for their characters to end up in different fandom worlds, a few songs that gave me concepts for adventures, and so on. Eventually it settled into two ideas — Worldhoppers, Inc. (think adventuring guild, but in multiple dimensions!) and the mythology campaign (in which storylines would be pulled from myths, folktales, and fairytales) — which might be combined into one concept (an organization that deals with magical problems throughout realms while making sure the "storyline" of each world isn't interrupted). A few of these adventures, I'd like to write so I could have them on hand if I'm asked to run a one-shot or a mini-campaign. But, like many things on this list, I haven't had the time yet, especially since I prioritize novels over D&D writing.

All right! Hopefully that was interesting. I recognize that it was a lot of information; in future posts in this series, I hope that the status of most of the non-active projects will be much shorter. (I also hope to use some of this post to update my Novels page on this blog so I can point people there for more information.) But I think writing all this down was helpful for me, and I'd like to think it was helpful for some of y'all to read.

Is there any story or project in this list that you're especially excited for me to write? What are your current projects that you're working on? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Revealing the Gilded in Ice Cover!

 

Hello, everyone! I've been talking about Gilded in Ice, the sequel to The Midnight Show, for . . . storms, eight or nine months at this point? And I mentioned that I finished the cover around the end of last month . . . and now I get to show it off! Now, some authors might drag this sort of thing out, but not me! Not much, anyway.

 

Bastian has two new missing person cases. One is cold. The other is his own sister.

Since his success solving the Midnight Show disappearances, Bastian Dennel is sitting pretty. And with the new high-profile cold case that just got dropped in his lap, he’s pretty sure things will stay that way for a while. But when he finds out his sister has gone missing without a trace, he’s determined to find her and bring whoever’s responsible to justice — even if his only lead is a stray cat with a knack for vanishing unexpectedly.

Kona Dennel’s plans have already been upended, so when the talking cat she’d befriended asked her for help breaking an enchantment, she didn’t see any reason not to say yes. She didn’t expect to be trapped in a frozen mansion or to be drawn into conflict with a mysterious lady of the fair folk. Even the cat is hiding more secrets than she realized. It’ll take a skilled detective to untangle this web . . . but since Bastian isn’t here, Kona will just have to do it herself.

Secrets abound, and the one creature who knows the truth isn’t talking. Can Bastian and Kona outwit a fae who’s been at this for centuries? Or will thawing out the long-frozen truth drop them in over their heads?

A magical mystery reimagining Snow White and Rose Red and East of the Sun, West of the Moon in the jazz-age world of The Midnight Show.

Releasing September 24, 2021

Preorder on Amazon || Add to your Goodreads shelf

For those curious: yes, I designed the cover, just like I designed the cover of The Midnight Show! Speaking of The Midnight Show, the Kindle version is free on Amazon today through Saturday, July 17!

As some of you know and others of you may have guessed, I'm releasing Gilded in Ice as part of the Frosted Roses Arista Challenge group. This is my fourth year participating in the Arista Challenge, and it's a new adventure every time. You can check out the full author lineup by reviewing last night's Facebook reveal party or visiting the release info page. And if you want to help spread the word about the release (or these snazzy new covers), we have several ways for you to do that. You can share the covers (info packet here) or sign up for an ARC or the blog tour! (If the info isn't up on the sign-up post yet, just check back in a bit. Kendra's in the process of putting that together.)

As a final note, we are currently running two special promotions! For the duration of this week, all of the Frosted Roses preorders will be only $0.99, and if you preorder all six and forward your receipt to Kendra, you'll get a special gift. And if you share the covers this week, you'll get another special gift! Find all the details on this post.

 

I can't wait to share this story with y'all. Thanks for your support!

Friday, July 9, 2021

2021 Mid-Year Book Celebration

Here we are, halfway through 2021, and you all know what that means! It's time to check in with my reading for the year! As promised, we're renaming this because, let's be real, "Book Freakout" is not accurate. From here on out, these posts will be the Mid-Year (or End-of-Year) Book CELEBRATIONS! Because what are they, really, but a space for me to recognize and rejoice in all the awesome stories I've enjoyed?

As always, we're going to start the party with some statistics and updates on my reading goals. Thus far, I've read 44 books and 15.5K pages this year, which puts me a bit ahead of schedule for completing my overall goal of reading 75 books this year. It also puts me behind what I had read around this time last year (by about 14 books and 4K pages), but I have, y'know, a job this year. On the upside, I've liked most of what I've read; my average rating is 4.2 stars. As for my more specific reading goals:

  • Towards my goal of 12 books written or published before 1975, I have read . . . 1 book. Wow. That's even worse than I thought — I expected that The Last Unicorn, at least, would have fallen into the "older books" zone, but it was published in 1986. That means the only book I've read that was published before 1975 is The Two Towers. (On the upside, I'm currently rereading Return of the King, so I'm about to have two books for this goal!)
  • I've read 4 books outside the speculative fiction genres . . . sort of, at least? Three (the Jenny Lawson memoirs) definitely count. One (Isle of Swords) is . . . I think technically historical adventure fiction? But I can't remember for sure if there's any elements that would edge it over into historical fantasy.
  • As for my goal of 1 epic-length Tolkien or Jordan novel every 2 months, I've read . . . again, one book. I briefly misremembered this goal as "one epic-length fantasy every 2 months," and if that were the case, I'd be doing great with my Sanderson reread. But nope. I even specifically said "non-Sanderson" in my original version of the goal.
  • Finally, I have not been keeping up at all with my goal of tracking my reads in more detail. I meant to make a spreadsheet, and then I just . . . forgot. I went back and made a spreadsheet this past week of my reads thus far this year, though, so we'll try to do it for July and see how it goes. (Technically, my goal was only to do it for one month, so I haven't failed yet!)

And now, with those statistics out of the way, let's get on with the celebration proper!

2021 Mid-Year Book Celebration!

1. Best book you've read so far in 2021:

It's a tie, but not between the books you're thinking it will be.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Werewolf of Whitechapel by Suzannah Rowntree

There is absolutely no way I can pick between these two. They're both magnificent urban fantasy adventures — one modern-ish, one historical. Neverwhere is probably one of the best showcases of Gaiman's magical writing style I've encountered, and it has mythical and fairy-tale vibes that can't be beat. On the other hand, The Werewolf of Whitechapel is a fantasy-mystery with a storytelling voice I just love and a heroine I couldn't dislike if I tried. Not that I'd want to try.

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2021:

And here are the books you thought would be the answer to question one — another tie between two amazing books —

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Again, I can't choose between these. Rhythm was epic and explosive and heavy — literally and figuratively. Like Words of Radiance, it had some of the deepest darkness and most brilliant triumphs in the series to date. But Return was all I could've wanted from the conclusion to one of my favorite series — and then some.

3. New release you haven't read yet but want to:

Literally almost anything from my last two new-releases posts, ha! I've been mood reading a lot, and I've been playing catch-up since, I don't know, probably since 2015 to be honest.

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:

Mine.

But also . . .

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Margaret Rogerson is one of my favorite authors, and the blurb for her next book reminds me of Abhorsen, which I also love, and I am SO PSYCHED. (It's also going to be a nomance! Which is FABULOUS.) I may or may not have joined the OwlCrate mailing list solely so I could order the special signed edition. I have no regrets.

5. Biggest disappointment:

The Unicorn Anthology

I don't DNF books very often, but this anthology just made me sad and angry, and it was full of stories by people who really wanted to be writing Literary Fiction but were, for some reason, writing fantasy — and so, to spite the fantasy crowd, they filled their stories with the same sort of misery that permeates the worst of literary fiction.

As for books I actually finished, The Last Unicorn probably takes the spot. I'm glad I read it once, but I really do not want to repeat the experience.

6. Biggest surprise:

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

I read this book because I heard it had Kaz Brekker in it. I didn't even enjoy the Kaz Brekker bit that much. But the rest of it, I enjoyed far more than I expected based on the previous book. Less angst, more clever, desperate people being clever.

7. Favorite new-to-you author:

S.D. Smith, author of the Green Ember series

Other than Redwall, I generally haven't been one for the fantasy subgenre I like to refer to as "small creatures with swords." (That might be its actual name? I don't know.) But this series kept popping up on my radar, and I knew the author was associated with Andrew Peterson, so I figured I would give it a try . . . and storms, did I make the right choice.

8. Newest fictional ship:

  • This isn't new, but my appreciation for Gen/Irene, Helen/Sophos, and Adolin/Shallan has been renewed and lifted to greater levels than ever. Relationship goals, all of them. Some of them shouldn't be relationship goals, maybe. (Looking at you, Gen/Irene.) But they are anyway, and they're beautiful.
  • In terms of new ships, Lois and Chaiman are the sweetest and I shipped them before I was even certain there was any hope in shipping them.
  • Sharp/Short from the Miss Sharp's Monsters series also gets a shoutout. They're an excellent match.

Yeah. There's not a lot to mention here. Most of the new books I've read haven't been romance-heavy, and I like it that way. (Also, I reread a lot this year.)

9. Newest favorite character:

Again, this year has had a lot of rereading, so I've spent a fair amount of time just renewing my appreciation for old favorite characters. That said, there are a few new faces on that list . . .

  • Miss Sharp (Miss Sharp's Monsters) is whip-smart, stubbornly protective, and brave and loyal to a fault — not to mention quite witty. She's the best part of the series that bears her name — though I love many of her companions, allies, and sometimes enemies as well, particularly May, Inspector Short, and Grand Duke Vasily.
  • The Marquis (Neverwhere) is a magnificent character, catlike in all the ways that matter most. Any scene he happens to be in is a good one, and the short story he had all to himself was just as good as the full novel I met him in.
  • And from the Green Ember books, we have Helmer (grumpy, but heroic; I initially liked him out of spite for another character and then was pleased when my choice proved well-made), Picket (despite some initial frustrations and misgivings), Smalls (SMALLS!), and probably Weezie as well — I haven't known her quite long enough to be certain, but I very much like her in the half a book I can go off of.

10. A book that made you cry:

Rhythm of War didn't actually make me cry, but it did cause other distressed noises more than a few times, so I'd say that counts.

11. A book that made you happy:

Can I say The Werewolf of Whitechapel again? No? I have to talk about something else? Fine.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo was a very cool collection of in-world myths, fairy tales, and legends. I very much enjoyed it, dark though it was at times. Part of me wants to try to do something similar for some of my worlds, but we'll see.

12. Favorite book to film adaptation you've seen this year:

Fellowship of the Ring. Yes, it's a rewatch. I'm counting it because otherwise I have nothing to count.

13. Favorite post you've done so far this year:

I've been blogging a little less this year, but I still have a few posts that I really enjoyed writing and whose end result I'm pleased with.

  • "Old Years' Memories; New Years' Visions" — My annual New Year's short story chronicling the adventures of Carrie and Tamison! This one may be my favorite in the series so far, in no small part due to how many references I got to make to all the books I've written and am going to write.
  • Giving Fanfic Some Credit — I'd been thinking about writing this post for at least a year before I finally wrote it, and I really enjoyed being able to celebrate fanfiction, which is a large part of what's gotten me into more than one fandom.
  • Some Thoughts on Spoilers — I have strong-ish opinions about spoilers, and they run in the opposite direction to everyone else's strong opinions. Or so it seems sometimes.

14. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year:

Behold: Spindle. It's beautiful, and it's mine, and I got so excited when I found it.

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Heh. All of them. (But I do have four months free of Kindle Unlimited, and I want to make the most of it, so . . . probably allllllll the indie fantasy/spec fic that I've been holding off on because I don't like buying ebooks unless I know they'll be good.)

What about you? What were your favorite reads of the year? Biggest surprises (for good or ill)? Are you caught up on 2021 releases, or are you just as behind as I am? And, if you're a fellow Margaret Rogerson fan, how excited are you for Vespertine? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 2, 2021

June 2021 Doings!

 Hey'a, friends! June and my blogging hiatus are both at an end, so here I am with the month's Doings! I'll have some other update-y posts for you later in the month (specifically, my mid-year reading roundups next week and a general writing update towards the end of July), but those are later. Let's get on with the Doings!

Writing!

  • The second draft of Gilded in Ice, the sequel to The Midnight Show, is finished! Huzzah! This took much longer than anticipated, but that's probably more due to poor estimating on my part than it is due to the book itself. I mean, it's kind of due to the book. But it's mostly on me.
  • Almost as exciting: Gilded in Ice also has a blurb, tagline, and cover! The cover will be revealed at a later date (though you get a sneak peak above), but the blurb and tagline are out there on the interwebs in their finished form, if you care to seek for them.
  • I didn't do very much D&D writing this month, but my group did get to play IN PERSON for the first time in almost a year and a half! It was so nice to actually play without screens to separate us. Everyone was much more engaged, even though the session was mostly combat (which usually is when people are most likely to get distracted). I mean, the fact that we got to have a physical map (which is a lot easier to see and interact with) and candies for the baddies probably helps a lot with that. But it's also just a lot easier and more fun to talk and interact when you're face-to-face.

Reading!

June2021

  • Apparently this has been a really long month, because I genuinely thought some of my June reads were from back in May.
  • Anyway. This was another month in which my reading was kind of all over the place. The best book of the month was probably The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, which was recommended to me by a friend with excellent taste in books. It's urban fantasy about a man who can bring characters and things and places out of books, and there's a lot of celebration of both brotherhood and classic literature, and it's just a very good story. A bit slow in the middle, but still very good.
  • I continued reading the Green Ember books; I got through book 2, two of the novellas, and most of book 3 in June, and at the moment I'm either finishing or just finished with book 3 (not pictured). I'm very much enjoying the series, and I think it's especially good for this present moment. One of the themes of the story seems to be hope in the midst of heartache, and it's just a good reminder that nothing evil endures.
  • (On a related note, I kind of want to make art of a particular refrain from this series — "It will not be so in the Mended Wood" — and of the "it will shine out the brighter" LOTR quote and of a few other similar quotes. I am bad at text-based art, so we'll see if it happens.)
  • On the other side of the spectrum, Rule of Wolves and Dirk Gently were both better than I expected. I read Rule of Wolves because I heard Kaz and the Crows were in it, and . . . they were, but honestly, their part wasn't even in my top five for favorite parts of the book. The story as a whole has moved away from angst and back towards clever people being clever and amazing, which I appreciate. And then Dirk Gently I picked up on a whim, despite the fact that the only other thing I've read by Douglas Adams, I dislike. But this one was enjoyable! And interesting! And funny without being depressing! So I count that as a win.
  • Rounding out the month are the Critical Role Mighty Nein art book — stealth-read in ebook form at work on a slow afternoon — and a reread of The Whispering Skull, the second Lockwood and Co book. Both were quite enjoyable. The art book had an excellent selection of pieces and some nice "background info" on the world and characters featured. And I liked The Whispering Skull better than I remembered.

Watching!

  • Ticking another movie off my list of things-I-should've-watched-years-ago-and-didn't, my family watched National Treasure towards the start of the month. Don't judge me, but I think I liked it better than Indiana Jones. I love a good heist or a good treasure hunt much more than a standard action-adventure, and National Treasure has both. So, yeah. Definitely my cup of tea. Plus it was just a generally fun movie.
  • My family also continued rewatching the Lord of the Ring Extended Editions with The Two Towers. When I reread the book a month or so ago, I was surprised by how much more I enjoyed it than I remembered . . . so it's kind of sad that the movie had the opposite effect. The changes that I'm most upset about (how Peter Jackson absolutely ruined Faramir's character and the overemphasis and over-angsting of Aragorn and Arwen's romance) are most prominent in this movie, plus . . . look, I know that my favorite quotes in both the book and movie version of The Lord of the Rings come from Frodo and Sam's part of this book, but other than that, I really do not enjoy Frodo and Sam's journey to Mordor, and it's worse on the screen. On the page, I can read a little faster; on the screen, I'm limited by the pace the director set. So, yeah. If I have to pick one LOTR movie to watch, it would be Fellowship every time.
  • And, of course, watching Critical Role continues. I tried the first episode of Exandria Unlimited and got through to the break, but to be honest, I was not enough of a fan to keep going, and I'm definitely not into it enough to watch it live. (Or, live-ish.) It's nothing against the DM or the players; I can tell they were having a great time, and the DM seems pretty fun. But the story they were telling didn't grab me, and without any kind of prior attachment to the characters, I wasn't super inclined to keep going. (I also learned that I do not like watching stuff on Twitch because the chat is super distracting. So that's another point not in its favor. I'll deal with it when the real Campaign 3 rolls around, but not for this.) Instead, I'm going to keep going with Campaign 2. I'm currently on Episode 70, and . . . yeah. It's been heavy, and it's a dark part of the story, but I look forward to what's to come.

Life!

 Despite all my adventures this month, I don't have a single representative picture that doesn't include people who might not want their faces on the internet. Enjoy this picture of my latest sourdough loaf instead.
  • Well, this was a busy month, let me tell you!
  • The first half of the month was dominated by writing like mad, trying to get my book done . . . and also by my mom fracturing her thumb while working outside Memorial Day weekend. Which is, y'know, non-ideal. And painful for her. And stressful for everyone. And which also meant that my sister and I had to take responsibility for more of the cooking and some of the other around-the-house tasks for a while. (My sister ended up with more of that work than I did, by virtue of the fact that she's home most of the day and I'm not. And I very much appreciate her doing it.) And by the time we got past that, we had come to the point of . . .
  • The Ohio adventure! One of my hall friends from college was getting married, which basically meant a mini-reunion of most of the friend group . . . and an eight-hour drive each way. (The drive went fine. My sister copiloted/helped drive half of each side of the trip, and aside from a massive rainstorm while we were in the mountains on the last leg of the trip, everything went smoothly.) And then I had a VERY busy weekend in Ohio making sure I got to do all the things with all the people.
  • Thursday evening through Friday afternoon were reasonably chill — I hung out with my roommate (whose house I was staying at), we played Sentinels of the Multiverse, and I wrote while she was at work. Then, Friday evening, the day before the wedding, I drove down to visit a couple of friends who wouldn't be at the weekend's main event. It was so nice to get to enjoy a meal with them again (we were lunch buddies in college, among other connections), and then they introduced me to the board game Scythe, which I honestly enjoyed much more than I expected. I'd heard it was long and a bit complex, and long it was (I stayed much later than I intended, though the thunderstorm that rolled in right as we sat down to dinner also contributed), but it wasn't any more complex than Sentinels. But yeah. There was a lot of good conversation and good fun, and I've missed them a lot.
  • Then we get to Saturday! Which was . . . a lot. There was the wedding, obviously, which was lovely. One thing that stood out to me was that it was a lot more sociable than many of the weddings I've attended in the last couple years. Specifically, the bride and groom and the wedding party were able to spend much more time with the guests than at many other weddings, and it was nice to get to spend time with the people I came to see and celebrate.
  • After the wedding, the hall group returned to my roommate's home with the intention of continuing celebrations (the "afterparty," if you will), but what actually happened was that everyone crashed until someone said they were hungry and we should eat dinner. But it was nice to have the whole group together again. Conversations were had, photos were taken, and many hugs were given. Many, many hugs.
  • And after that was the after-after-party, aka D&D. Which was, as already mentioned, magnificently fun even though we were all exhausted. And even though some of the players had really bad luck with saving throws. And the encounter turned out harder than I expected. It's ok.
  • That brings us to the back half of the month, which was taken up by trying to recover my energy after the trip (still haven't fully succeeded, to be honest) and by some workplace stress in the form of one of the staff members leaving unexpectedly. I was honestly one of the people least affected by the departure, but it was still a bit stressful for everyone.
  • Oh, and in the midst of all this, my sister and I finished Portal and moved on to Portal 2! (Again, she's playing for the first time, while I'm playing for the third time.) It's still fun, though I do get occasionally frustrated by the fact that things I think should be obvious even on your first playthrough aren't obvious to her. In all fairness, I spent much more time than she did playing computer and video games and watching others play those types of games, so I'm more familiar with the conventions than she is. We're both generally enjoying it, though.
  • I also gave Journey (that one video game with the sand and the robed people and all that) a try earlier this week. I'm not entirely sold on it, and I think I missed something in the third level, and possibly several of the other levels, because right now I'm stuck. We'll see if I go back to it or if I just move on to other games.

July Plans

  • So, I'm just going to say one thing up front: I am not doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month. I tried back in April and kind of flopped, and I just finished a writing project and need to take a break before I pick up something else big. I don't know how long of a break it needs to be either, just that it needs to be.
  • What will I be working on? I'll be doing some D&D writing (which is still writing, but is different enough that it should give my brain a break.) I'll be working on formatting for Gilded (as much as I can without the finished manuscript). I'll be giving myself space to play with other stories and ideas and projects as they come to me. And I'll also be blogging, obviously. My June hiatus was nice, but I don't want to go off-schedule too long.
  • That said, the other reason I'm taking July off from planned writing is that it's going to be another busy month in terms of events and social stuff. There's Independence Day, obviously (though that'll be small, since the people we normally watch fireworks with are out of town), and we're having guests twice during the month. (My college roommate is coming to visit, and I am VERY excited.) Plus, I'm thinking of starting a board-games-and-Bible-study group through my church, so I'll need some time to figure out what that looks like and how that works.
  • And, of course, I plan to spend a lot of time during the month enjoying good stories in many forms: books (I need to finish my LOTR reread and my Green Ember series read, and I'm thinking of rereading the Knight and Rogue books, or maybe the City Watch thread of Discworld books), movies and shows (I still need to introduce my sister to Firefly, and video games (the Portal 2 playthrough will continue, plus I want to hit some of the other games I've bought on Steam and not gotten around to). All in all, I have a lot to look forward to.

How was your June? Any exciting plans for July? [question] Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!