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!