Friday, December 31, 2021

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

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

NYE 20212 All the Years Before Her

All the Years Before Her

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


December 2021 Doings!

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


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


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


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


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

January Plans

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

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

Friday, December 10, 2021

Winter 2021–22 Reads

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

Winter 2021–22 Reads

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

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, December 3, 2021

November 2021 Doings!

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


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


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


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


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

December Plans

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

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