Friday, February 25, 2022

February 2022 Doings!

And here we are again! It feels like I just did one of these . . . but, of course, February's a short month, and I did end up delaying my January Doings! by a week, so no surprise there. Most of this month's excitement has been writing-related, so let's just jump right in there.


  • On the whole, this was a pretty good writing month! It started, of course, with revealing the cover of Mask of Scarlet — which, friendly reminder, is available for preorder on Amazon! And if you can't wait for the release date, you can request an ARC of any of the Three Midnight Curfews.
  • On the day of the cover reveal, I also finished editing Mask of Scarlet and sent it off to betas. I know one has finished, and while I haven't looked at her in-manuscript comments yet, I know from her messages that I very much got the reactions I was hoping for. So that is very encouraging!
  • After sending out Mask, I did take a few days off from writing (mostly) as a bit of a break before jumping into outlining and drafting my Super Secret Mystery Project, also known (at least to me) as TaSG. If you can correctly guess what those initials stand for, I will give you a cookie . . . and maybe something else? We shall see. :D
  • In addition to TaSG/the Super Secret Mystery Project, I've been doing some thinking about future Bastian Dennel books. I think I have a good idea of what the next three or four books in that series are going to be, and I have a plan of when I'd like to release the next two. After that, well, we'll see what opportunities come up.
  • On the D&D front, I haven't done a whole lot of campaign/adventure writing, but I have done a lot of thinking about future plotlines and what might happen and where the characters might go. I mentioned last month that the group met the Fellowship — yes, that Fellowship — and was very excited about it. They also informed me that, in addition to wanting to potentially go back to Middle Earth, they would totally be down for more world-hopping adventures, which means I can potentially just combine a different campaign concept I was thinking about with the Defenders of Serys campaign. (And that, my friends, is a great relief.)
  • Finally, one last bit of exciting writing-related news: I am officially attending the Realm Makers conference in July! I have a registration and a room reservation (and a roommate), and I am SO HYPED. This will be my first-ever writing conference, and I can't wait to go, learn, and meet all the awesome people.


  • This has been an interesting mix of reads, to say the least. I discovered back in January that one of the libraries I go to was doing a winter reading challenge for adults, so I tried to tune some of my reading to that, with . . . mixed success. In addition, the other library I have a card at did a Blind Date with a Book event, which I'm sure you all can guess meant I was delighted.
  • My Blind Date Books were J.R.R. Tolkien's transaltion of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo and Gregory Maguire's A Wild Winter Swan. The Tolkien-translated poems were excellent, of course. It was interesting both to read the full version of Gawain and the Green Knight (since I've only ever read abridged or sanitized versions) and to read the medieval reimagining of Orpheus. As for A Wild Winter Swan, it was a very well-written book that I nonetheless did not particularly enjoy reading. I'd be happy to own the Tolkien, but I don't even think I'd consider rereading A Wild Winter Swan.
  • Other than that, I had two new reads: Death Wind (Elven Alliance #3) and Rise of the Dungeon Master, a graphic novel about how D&D was created. Both were quite good, and I definitely enjoyed them! In Death Wind, I did have some stylistic frustrations with the author's writing (which is nothing new), but the story was excellent. And Rise of the Dungeon Master was very well-written and well-illustrated, and I think the writer did an excellent job distilling and expressing the story.
  • I also reread quite a few books, all of them good. The highlights? The Lord God Made Them All is always a delight — it's James Herriot's fourth autobiography, and it's just as much a comfort story as the others. Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass were childhood favorites, and it was fun to revisit them. And Going Postal is one of my favorite Discworld books — no wonder, given that Moist von Lipwig is very much an example of one of my favorite archetypes.


  • As has been the usual, there's not much to say about this category . . . but I did finally finish Episode 5 of Critical Role Campaign 3, and I started Episode 6, so there's that. I continue to love all the characters, but Laudna and Imogen are definitely my favorites. (Orym is, like, third place, just because you can't not love him.)
  • (No, I haven't watched the show yet. Yes, I absolutely do want to watch it. I just have to get to the point where I have time to watch it.)


  • Mmmkay, what happened this month that didn't fit into a category I've already talked about . . .
  • Oh! We finally got a treadmill! I've been pushing on and off for us to get one for probably ten years at this point, on the basis of "Remember how when we had the one my grandpa gave us, I used it pretty much every day?" and, more recently, "You know how there's nowhere good to walk around here that doesn't require a fifteen-minute drive first?" We held off initially because we didn't want to have to move a treadmill and then because we couldn't agree on what we wanted. 
  • But! We finally agreed, and we put in the order around the beginning of the month, and then it arrived the day before the Mask of Scarlet cover reveal. We wanted them to deliver it down to the basement . . . so, of course, they instead put it in our front entryway. And then we had a very interesting night of trying to get it down the inside basement stairs. Eventually, we had to move it back outside, wheel it around the house on a dolly to the outdoor basement stairs, and take it down that way. On the upside, no one was injured, nothing broke, and now we have a treadmill! Which I have used multiple times, though not every day — I'm currently aiming for 2–3 times per week.
  • I tried a new biscotti recipe for National Biscotti Day. These ones were Milk Chocolate and Honey biscotti, and they were pretty tasty. They turned out a little darker than I wanted because I didn't leave them in long enough on the first bake and overcorrected on the second, but they were still good.
  • We did have several warm days this month, which was nice. Downside: that meant we had to go out and cut a tree into logs for splitting. (The tree in question had been cut down last November or December, but it's at the back of our property and not very convenient to get to.) Upside: a friend from our Bible study came out to help, which meant we finished much faster. Even more of an upside: the friend brought his crossbow to shoot and let us shoot some as well.
  • After procrastinating for about six months, I finally went and got my eyes checked and confirmed that yes, I do need new glasses, and then ordered the new ones the next week. I'm supposed to actually get the new glasses this weekend, and I'm rather excited. While I like my sunglasses, I've realized over the last two years that I made a mistake when picking the frames for my regular glasses (which are just for distance, for the record), getting ones that are smaller and looser than I really like. It took buying blue light glasses to realize my mistake. The new ones, however, should be a better fit, and I'm hopeful that they'll be less annoying to wear.
  • Otherwise, most of this month's excitement has been at work, where things have been quite busy with the newsletter, Lenten and Holy Week preparations (yes, Holy Week this far out!), and a funeral on top of the usual stuff that needs to get done. I'm certainly not complaining, since I'd rather be busy than bored, but it has been a lot, especially this past week.
  • Oh! And the last exciting thing that happened this month: not only did I make Duolingo's Diamond League (two weeks in a row!), but I hit the top spot on the leaderboard! It took a week of, ah, slightly obsessive Duolingo practicing. I mean, it was productive use of my time, but it was a lot of time on Duolingo.

March Plans

  • First job for March: finish drafting TaSG/the Super Secret Mystery Project. I've managed about a chapter per night thus far, with a few exceptions when I didn't write anything, so I feel good about this. It's first-person POV, which I think tends to go a little faster. I'm hoping to get this done early in the month so I can move on to the second job for March . . .
  • The second round of Mask of Scarlet edits! As I said, I have some comments back from betas, and I'm expecting more in the next week or two. Since this comes out at the end of April, I can't procrastinate on this, but I do want to finish the Super Secret Mystery Project draft before I switch over.
  • Of course, things might be slowed a little by the fact that my sister! is coming home! for spring break! And I am so excited to see her again! I'm a bit saddened that I probably won't be able to take time off, but I'll still get to hang out with her a fair bit outside of my working hours.
  • Work will probably continue to be busy all month. But, again, I'm not complaining. Better busy than bored, as long as I'm busy with good things and not busy putting out fires.
  • On the reading front, I have several series and series-rereads in progress that I want to finish (notably, Oracles of FireLegends of Karac Tor, and finally reading the last half-dozen Discworld books). I also have rather a lot of books in library stacks that I really should read . . . but, let's be real, I'm mostly going to continue mood-reading.
  • Finally, I'm hoping that spending time on the treadmill will also mean more time to watch stuff. I'd love to actually catch up on Campaign 3, start watching the Legend of Vox Machina show, and hopefully fit Encanto in there somewhere. That said, I'd settle for just watching more of Campaign 3, period.

How was your February? Any exciting plans for March? Any guesses about the Super Secret Mystery Project/TaSG? Are you going to Realm Makers? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 18, 2022

No, I'm Not Going to Watch The Rings of Power

 So, here's the thing. Y'all know I love The Lord of the Rings. Y'all also know that I'm not crazy about movies, but that I try to be generous when it comes to book-to-screen adaptations, even when they're not perfectly faithful to the book. I love the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings films, even if they didn't do Faramir anything like justice. I watched the Hobbit movies in theaters and argued in their favor even when some of their decisions made me more than a little upset. And when I learned that there was going to be a new TV show based on The Silmarillion and other pre-LOTR Middle Earth writings coming in September, I was pretty optimistic. But the more I've heard, the more certain I am, even as early as it is: I am not watching The Rings of Power — and here's the reasons why.

No, I'm Not Going to Watch The Rings of Power (And Here's Why)

  1. They literally cannot be really faithful to the source material. Does that sound overly harsh? Yes. But the showrunners have admitted as much — they don't have the rights to The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, or anything outside The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and the Appendices. That means they're filling in a lot with their own inventions. I will give them credit for stating outright that this is basically a high-budget cinematic AU fanfic (though they said it in a fancier way); it's kind of refreshing to have that established at the outset. But that's not the show I'm looking for
  2. They did this to Elrond:Look, out of all the characters in the show, Elrond is the one I have the most investment in. And this . . . this is not Elrond. He's described in the First Look article as a "politically ambitious young leader," and . . . no. No. No. I live with the character assassination of Faramir in the LOTR movie because the movies are, in most other respects, true to the books. I will not accept them doing the same to Elrond in a show that's not going to make up for it in almost all other respects.
  3. I don't trust Amazon. Look, I'm not here to critique Amazon in general. I'm not even here to comment on how they've done with some of their other recent fantasy-book-or-story-to-movie adaptations. I'm here to say that I don't trust Amazon to get what The Lord of the Rings and the Middle Earth books in general are really about, as evidenced by the fact that they compared it to Game of Thrones, of all things. Honestly? In the hands of someone who understands the themes and the stories and the concepts Tolkien was trying to convey, this show could be good — even with the very drastic changes they're making, even with the amount of original content they're adding, even with how they're treating Elrond. But I don't trust Amazon to get that, and I don't trust Amazon to pick showrunners who'll get it either. (Again, they called Game of Thrones the "spiritual successor" to The Lord of the Rings. Spiritual disowned-wastrel-nephew, maybe. Hardly a successor.)
  4. I don't want The Lord of the Rings to become Amazon's MCU or Star Wars. Maybe this sounds weird to people. I don't know. But while I liked the MCU movies (up until I stopped being able to keep track of them) and I enjoy most of the interactions I have with Star Wars and Star Wars-adjacent stories, they're . . . kind of a lot. It's one thing after another, produced so fast that you barely have time to realize a series is running or a movie is releasing before it's over, and from what I've heard, that speed is reflected in the quality of some of the shows. And, look. All three storyworlds — The Lord of the Rings, the MCU, and Star Wars — have the potential to support this volume of story. But I think that the people behind the new MCU and Star Wars stuff aren't consistently respecting the story or the fans — they're doing this because this is what sells, and they'll keep stretching the material further and further as long as it keeps selling. I don't want that for any of these three storyworlds, but I want it least of all for The Lord of the Rings.
  5. There are other shows I'd rather watch and stories I'd rather enjoy. You know how long my backlist is? It's so long. Even if you leave off shows I'm currently watching, even if you restrict the list to only shows and no movies, no YouTube series, no other forms of media, there's a lot I want to see. There's a lot I know will be good because it's been recommended to me by friends I trust. So, I'm not going to put time and effort into a show I wouldn't look twice to it if it didn't have The Lord of the Rings pinned on to the title when there are so many other stories I could enjoy instead.

So, that's my take. Is there a possibility I will change my mind in November, once there's several episodes actually out and I know if my worst fears have come to pass? Maybe, if literally everyone says it's great. And I am still holding out hope that the animated War of the Rohirrim movie will make up for the failings of The Rings of Power, since it at least has some of the Lord of the Rings leadership on board. But for now? I'm pulling out before I can be disappointed.

Are you planning to watch The Rings of Power? How are you feeling about what we know about the show so far? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Mask of Scarlet Cover Reveal

Blog Header__MoS Cover Reveal

All right, all right! Who's ready for a cover reveal? (It's me. The answer is me. I'm ready. Hopefully y'all are excited too!) Today, we're debuting the cover of Mask of Scarlet, the third book in the Bastian Dennel, PI series. Like the other covers in the series, it was designed by yours truly! But before we get to that . . .

Nah. I'm kidding. Let's get this shiny out for y'all to admire.

Mask of Scarlet front cover final_ebook


Bastian Dennel is a detective, not a matchmaker. 

But he’s also not one to turn down easy mazuma. So when one of Innsjøby’s richest young sheiks hires him to find his so-called true love — a girl he’s met only once at a masked party — Bastian is on the case. After his last few high-risk adventures, he’s ready for a job where the hardest part will be collecting his payment. Sure, all he has to go on is a guest list and a description . . . but how hard can it be? 

Of course, easy money always has a catch, and what should’ve been a simple search turns out to be anything but. Everyone seems to have their own opinion on who this mystery girl should be, whether or not it matches reality, and even the Families are getting involved. To make matters worse, Dayo is acting cagey, and Bastian doesn’t know why. 

Bastian’s business is the truth. But what can he do when everyone around him has already decided what they want the truth to be? Find out in this Jazz-Age take on “Cinderella,” book three of the Bastian Dennel, PI mysteries!

Releasing April 29, 2022

Preorder on Amazon || Add to your Goodreads shelf || Check out the rest of the series

Three Midnight Curfews Group_all

Mask of Scarlet is releasing alongside Kendra E. Ardnek's Crown and Cinder and Rachel Roden's Cindy Ellen as part of the Three Midnight Curfews, a group release of Cinderella retellings. This is my first time publishing outside of an Arista Challenge release . . . though, I mean, there's still a lot of overlap, given that Kendra was still the one to put it together. You can learn more about the other books at the links below.

Crown and Cinder (The Austen Fairy Tale Book 2)

Preorder on Amazon || Add to your Goodreads shelf || Austen Fairy Tale Book 1

Cindy Ellen (The Austen Fairy Tale Book 2)

Preorder on Amazon || Add to your Goodreads shelf || Discover the series



And, of course, a cover reveal means special promotions! Today through February 11, The Midnight Show and Gilded in Ice are both available in ebook form for $0.99 on Amazon. A lot of y'all have probably picked those up by now, but if not, now's the perfect time to do it!

So, what do you think of the cover? How excited are you about Mask of Scarlet? Please tell me in the comments!


Friday, February 4, 2022

January 2022 Doings!


It's the first Doings of 2022! Whoop whoop! January feels like it's been a pretty busy month, mostly because it included, as Bastian would say, a lot of lates and earlies — up as long as I could manage to draft or edit, up before the sun to get to work on time. All in all, though, it wasn't a bad month.


  • The first draft of Mask of Scarlet, aka Bastian Dennel, PI #3, is officially finished! And, if all goes to plan, by the time you read this, the second draft will be at least 70% done as well. It was a much cleaner first draft than Gilded in Ice, which I expected — there aren't quite as many elements to balance, and I didn't have to adjust the timing and pacing as much. Most of the biggest changes were in the first three or four chapters, which I wrote before I had all the story details I needed worked out.
  • In addition, Mask of Scarlet has a release date — April 29 — and soon will have a cover as well! The reveal is on February 9, so keep an eye out for that! Plus, The Midnight Show and Gilded in Ice will both be $0.99 (ebook) that day, if you haven't picked up either of those yet.
  • The book is also up for preorder on Amazon, so feel free to go check that out! Normally I hold off on the preorder until the cover reveal, but I'm releasing it a little early this time.
  • Finally, on the D&D front, my group finally reached one of the parts of the adventure I've been planning for the longest: an encounter with the Fellowship — yes, that Fellowship from LOTR! They met Merry, Pippin, Boromir, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, roughly in that order (and that should give you a clue about when in the story they met the Fellowship), and did effectively derail the course of one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time . . . but, of course, in this case, that was exactly what I hoped they'd do. (It's always worth noting when derailing a plotline makes a DM happy.) Of course, what I didn't anticipate was how much they'd want to either stick around in or come back to Middle Earth . . . so we'll see where things go (literally) once they finish up their current quest.


  • Things I intended to reread this month: The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time book 2) and the rest of Legends of Karac Tor.
  • Things I did not reread this month: The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time book 2) and the rest of Legends of Karac Tor. Oops. (In my defense, The Great Hunt is, as far as I remember, a lot of growing pains for Rand and Mat, and I just have not had the energy to deal with that or the amount of sadness in the latter three Karac Tor books.)
  • On the upside, the month started out very well — I finished The Dark Archive (only one book left before I'm caught up on the Invisible Library books!) and read Between Kings, the final City Between book. Both were excellent, especially Between Kings. It wasn't my favorite in the series, but it was a very good finale, and I was happy with where the characters landed.
  • I also continued my Dragons in Our Midst reread by moving on to the Oracles of Fire series. I've gotten through two of the books, and I'm enjoying them much more than I originally did.
  • Back to new reads — I cleared a few books off the backlist and read The Cruel Prince, The Innocence of Father Brown, and the first three volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist, all of which I enjoyed for very different reasons. The Innocence of Father Brown was definitely the best of the three — no surprise there. The mysteries are clever, and I like the characters of Father Brown and Flambeau. I would honestly put them on a level with the Sherlock Holmes stories in many respects. As for the other two: The Cruel Prince was exciting, though not something I'd go out of my way to recommend — if you want a book about fae, there are better ones out there. Fullmetal Alchemist was an enjoyable read — I almost said a fun read, but that's not quite true, given some of the themes it deals with. But it wasn't all grimdark, and it has a nice brotherly relationship and some interesting lore, and it doesn't lean as heavily into certain uncomfy tropes as other manga I've read. I do plan to keep going with all three series as I'm able to get ahold of the books.
  • And then we have some assorted rereads: Ticket to Write by R.M.S. (a compilation of bus ticket poetry originally posted over on Against the Shadows), Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett (which is a very interesting take on a lot of fairy tales all put together), and Paper Crowns by Merriam Neal (a fun novella with a magical cat; very nice as a stress-reliever).


  • Focusing most of my time and energy on Mask of Scarlet has meant that I haven't had a lot of time to watch stuff, much to my disappointment — I'm missing my Critical Role, and I also desperately want to watch Encanto, since I keep hearing so many good things about it. Plus, Legend of Vox Machina just launched in animated form . . . it's a real problem.
  • The little bit of movie-watching I have done has mostly been with my family. We rewatched Charade at the start of the month, right before my sister went back to college, which was a lot of fun. It's my favorite older movie for a reason, you know?
  • But, yeah. Hopefully I'll be able to get in a little bit more watching-of-stuff once I finish this round of Mask of Scarlet edits.


  • January started off pretty well — although it snowed, which I distinctly don't love, that plus the cold and ice meant I got almost a week of either snow days or holidays or work from home. So that was nice. Less nice: the fact that all the other times it's snowed or sleeted or been otherwise inclement, it's been on weekends or days that I would have off anyway. Also, I'm sick and tired of being cold, and it's only a month and a bit into winter.
  • ANYWAY. Moving on from complaining about the weather: my sister headed back to college in the second week of January, which was sad . . . and also meant I was home alone for three days. More importantly, it meant I was responsible for keeping the fire going for three days, during which I'd mostly be at work. Thank God, I actually succeeded at that — and I didn't set myself or anything else on fire in the process. I still can't start a fire . . . but it didn't go out on my watch!
  • After that, the next big thing — and, honestly, the most noteworthy part of the month — happened at the very end of the month, when the Director of Admin at the church where I work retired. She'd worked there for 45 years in various positions, so that was a pretty big event at the church. It was really something to hear everything people had to say about how she'd influenced the community, not just of the church itself, but of the neighborhoods and city. For myself, I'm sad she's gone — she was my direct supervisor, and was genuinely a great person to work for and with — but her successor is lovely, so the transition hasn't been too difficult.
  • On the baking front, we've had a bit of a mixed month. I coincidentally happened to make a chocolate layer cake on J.R.R. Tolkien's birthday, so that worked out nicely . . . except for the bit where the cakes ended up not being fully done in the middle. Oops. We salvaged as much as we could and filled in the rest with the mini-mini cake we'd made with left and trimmings from leveling off the top. If nothing else, it tasted good!
  • Then I made pretzel knots about a week later, which were delicious. And the last thing I baked was a loaf of sourdough bread with cranberries and walnuts . . . which failed miserably because I didn't correctly adjust the baking time to account for the mix-ins. That was a thoroughly miserable day.
  • On a happier note, Michaels has been having yarn sales all month, so I've gotten to add a lot to my stash. I've decided to make myself a capelet, and I'm already a third of the way done, despite only having worked on it a few times over the month. I'm using the new O'Go yarn from Bernat, and it's a pretty nice format aside from the fact that you can only go through the skein one way. I also got yarn to make something for a friend . . . which may be a Christmas present, so this is officially the earliest I've done anything regarding Christmas gift acquisition.
  • Also — this is technically a February thing, but it was on the first, so it's fine — I had my first Connect Group meeting with more than one other person! So that was fun! People seemed to enjoy it, so hopefully we'll continue to have more than just me and one other person.
  • And, of course, we have D&D adventures! In one campaign, we've spent the month preparing for the first big boss fight we've had in a while. We've literally traveled to another plane to take this being on, and we've pulled together a ton of our allies . . . it's exciting, y'all. In addition, some of the members of the Underground are getting together to do monthly one-shots, and we had our first one about a week ago! I ended up playing a Knowledge Domain cleric with a fantasy!German accent, and she was pretty fun . . . though I'm going to have to get used to being squishy after having played a paladin so long. It's weird going from 84 HP to only 31, y'all.

February Plans

  • First things first: I need to finish editing Mask of Scarlet. I'm hopeful that I'll be able to power through that this weekend and get it to betas at the start of next week; that may or may not be reasonable depending on how accurate my memories of the second half being mostly clean are.
  • Also, as I already mentioned, I have a cover reveal for Mask of Scarlet on Wednesday! So I'm hyped for that!
  • Back to the writing: once I finish MoS, I want to give myself a day or two off, and then I have my Super Secret Mystery Project to attempt. Unless I call it off . . . but I don't want to do that without giving it a fair shot, especially because I want to take some time and write something that's not Bastian Dennel, PI. (Don't panic — I love Bastian, and I'm not leaving for good. But I do need to shake things up every now and then.)
  • I also need to write the next Defenders of Serys adventure, but not immediately — I have enough material for another two or three sessions, and I also don't know what the next adventure is going to be. On the upside, I know the two most likely possibilities, and of those two, one is building off an existing story, and the other will be pretty straightforward. So it won't be the end of the world if I have to hurry to get it written. (What really does need to get done soon is the map for the final combat . . . which is sort of going to be five maps in one, so I should probably get cracking on that.)
  • Outside of writing and writing-adjacent activities . . . there's actually not much. This month's photo competition theme is street photography, which I probably won't do much for — it's too cold for many people to be out and about, and I don't have time to go find them anyway.
  • At work, we're already starting to gear up for Lent and Holy Week — two of my big projects this past week were both connected to Lent, and the assistant pastor is putting together stuff for the Good Friday service (which will involve a lot of graphics work on my part), and . . . yeah. That'll undoubtedly continue through February.
  • I'm also really hoping that February will be the month that I make Diamond League in Duolingo. I'm not actually competitive about this, but I am a completionist, and one of the only achievements left for me to get is to get the #1 spot in Diamond League. I have a plan of how to get that spot . . . but I have to get into that category first, and that's the struggle.

How was your January? Any exciting plans for February? How are your New Year's goals or resolutions going (if you set any)? Have any fun projects going? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!