Friday, September 1, 2023

August 2023 Doings!

Hello! Welcome to September! I'll be frank; I'm really glad that August is over. I'm not happy that summer is almost over, to be clear — just that this bit of it is done. I feel as if the theme for this August, at least for me, was something along the lines of "Well, it could be worse." It's not that nothing good happened, and it's not that the worst thing possible ever happened, but I did spend a lot of the month, especially the second half of it, feeling worn and stressed and worried. And, of course, when you're in the middle of being worn and stressed and worried, you can't remember what it was like not to feel all those things, and I didn't really stop feeling any of those things for longer than about three hours at a time until the evening of the very last day of the month (yesterday evening, if you're reading this the day it was posted). But! It could have been worse! Some things were actually very good! Like the writing, which we're going to talk about now.


  • As one might expect, my dominant project this month has been editing Song of the Selkies. I received the rest of my beta feedback over the first week-and-a-bit of August, and pretty much all of that was very good and very helpful for figuring out how to make the story the best it could be. I hoped that I'd be able to finish the first edit by the end of the month — not an unfeasible goal, since I knew most of my first draft was pretty clean — but I ended up having to rewrite more scenes and write more new bits than I expected, so I was only able to get up to about Chapter 24 as of the writing of this post. Still, that's over half done, and the back half should be easier than the front half. It almost always is, at any rate, since in the first half of most drafts, I'm still somewhat figuring out the story, characters, and world, while I usually have those well-sorted by the end. I'm wrapping up the month with 78,034 words edited, 13,126 of which are newly written or rewritten (plus whatever I did last night after writing this blog post).
  • Even though I am not where I want to be with the editing, I will say that I still love this story so, so much, and I am so excited about it. Literally all I want to do right now is work on it, not just because of deadlines, but because I really enjoy it, and I'm having such fun spending time with the characters, and I want to be able to share the story and characters with y'all. Has it been stressful at times? Absolutely yes. But I still love the book.
  • (And I'm currently commissioning character art for it! I'm working with a new artist, and she seems very good. I've seen a finished piece for one character and roughs for several others so far, and I just love her style and the way she's managing to capture my characters. I'm super excited to get to show off the finished pieces!)
  • Also on the topic of Song of the Selkies: would you like to help spread the word about this book or any of the Stolen Songs releases? Signups are now open for both the release party and review copies. Check out the release page for a full list of all the books and links. Word of mouth is very important in helping indie books succeed, so whether you're sharing premade graphics and a blurb on social media or going all-in with interviews, reviews, and guest posts, I really appreciate anything you do to share about Song of the Selkies and the other Stolen Songs stories.
  • Outside of Song of the Selkies, I did work some on Bastian Dennel, PI #4 at the start of the month. I have another two chapters penned (about 3,786 words), bringing my chapter total to 27 and my plot almost to the climax. Once Song of the Selkies is released, BDPI #4 will go back to top priority, and I'm looking forward to finishing this up.
  • Speaking of finishing things: also at the start of the month, I finished writing my D&D Feygate adventure! I also started running said adventure, and it's been a lot of fun so far. We had one session that was 90% the players trying to solve a longish riddle that will partially determine how the rest of the adventure goes, and I am really proud of how well they did with it — they even managed to come up to an answer to part of it that was way better than what I originally planned. One of the party members also decided to adopt a Displacer Beast kitten and is now trying to tame it, which I . . . did not expect. We're going to see how that goes, but if anyone has any advice on how to approach this (or how to approach non-familiar party pets in general), please feel free to share.


  • I read exactly two physical books this month. Everything else was on my Kindle. That's not a statistic I usually include on here, but the Kindle app has started doing these reading challenges — perfect week, perfect month, read so many books, read so many days, read books in X category, that sort of thing — and of course only Kindle books count. And in June or July, I came really close to a perfect month, and the perfectionist in me was like "No, we gotta get it this time. We're gonna do this." So . . . lots of Kindle reads.
  • The two physical reads, if you want to know, were The Battle at Hackham Heath and Spinning Silver. Hackham Heath completed my Ranger's Apprentice reread, although it wasn't a reread. It was ok? I didn't love it but also didn't hate it. Spinning Silver is a Rumplestiltskin retelling (with shades of other fairy tales), which I read because several of the Realm Makers faculty recommended it. It's one of the books where I'd learned all the spoilers, and I wanted to see how they happened in context, and then the actual context turned out to be nothing like what I expected. It was a good book, though I didn't always love the writing style and I really wish the author or someone had labeled the shifts in POV.
  • The highlight of the month was, of course, Wet Behind the Ears, the latest in W.R. Gingell's Worlds Behind series. This one had lots to love, including some great character moments and the return of a few old friends — well, technically they returned in the previous book, but we got more of them here. The story was excellent, and now I'm more excited than ever for book 4.
  • Dream by the Shadows and Network Effect were also both very good. Dream by the Shadows is a dark, gothic-y fantasy centered on dream magic. I requested it as an ARC because, well, dream magic, plus I was promised a Beauty-and-the-Beast style enemies-to-lovers romance. And I can say that it did deliver on both of those things, though not entirely in the way I expected. Though the beginning was very dark and hard to read (particularly because I was super tired and stressed when I started it), once the story started spending more and more time in the dream realm, things improved, and I really did enjoy it. I originally planned to post a full review on my blog, but, uh . . . there was a fade-to-black scene towards the end, so I don't know now.
  • Anyway. You know what had no fade-to-black scenes (except when the main character literally collapsed a few times)? Network Effect, the fifth book in the Murderbot Diaries. This is possibly the best entry in the series yet, and I had a very hard time putting it down. There's so many good character dynamics and character arcs, the action bits are excellent, and the . . . antagonistic force, for lack of a better word, is cool. Weird, but cool. Ten out of ten; probably will reread.
  • As for the rest of the books pictured in this month's reading, they were all varying levels of good (none worse than average), but I don't have much else to say about them.
  • Last thing to note on the reading front: since I finished listening through all of the Dear Hank and John podcast, I decided to work through the backlog of Re:Dracula, which is basically Dracula Daily but in audio drama podcast form. (If you don't know what Dracula Daily is: it's an email subscription where you read the classic novel Dracula in real time, and it's one of the best things the internet has come up with in the last ten years.) At this point, I'm caught up with Re:Dracula to about a quarter of the way through August, and I'm very much enjoying it. The voice actors all did a marvelous job. I will say that I don't like the voice actor for Quincy Morris, as his take on the character's accent makes him sound like Jim Weiss — granted, I like Jim Weiss, and his CDs were a major part of my childhood, but it is not at all right for Quincy.


  • So, yes. Here's where all the "Well, it could have been worse" comes in.
  • To be perfectly fair, the start of the month was pretty good. Work was quiet, I was having video calls with my sister every couple days so I wasn't lonely (even though I was home alone), and the fact that I was still waiting on beta feedback meant I had some spare time to watch things (mostly YouTube), play Hearthstone, get to bed at a reasonable time . . .
  • And then I got rear-ended in a parking lot, and everything kind of went downhill after that.
  • Before anyone worries: I'm fine. Everyone else involved is fine. My car wasn't even badly damaged — just a bit dented, and it's fixed now. But I had never been in an accident before, and I definitely freaked out, and thank God my dad was there to take the lead on things like getting the other person's information and asking for a witness statement from someone and all that sort of thing. And thank God as well that I have good insurance so I could get my vehicle fixed and get a rental in the meantime . . . but the fact that it could have gone worse didn't mean it wasn't scary.
  • It didn't help that work had just gotten a lot busier and a lot more stressful, or that those trends continued through the rest of the month. Half the content for the fall newsletter was delayed longer than I'd planned for it to be (for good reason, but good reasons don't change mailing deadlines). We had two short-notice funerals in the space of a week. Preparation for fall ministries and activities started ramping up. We discovered that the system we're using for our new online directory sends alarmingly-worded emails to people whenever you add them to said directory, which means I had to run damage control. (Note: I don't actually mind running damage control on this; it mostly just involves sending emails, and I'm good at those. But it's still an extra thing to worry about.) And almost every time I thought I'd have a quiet day, half a dozen new projects suddenly appeared to drop themselves in my lap.
  • (On the upside, we're way ahead of schedule on materials for the Stewardship campaign — almost everything is ready to send to the printer, and that event isn't until October. So, yay for that.)
  • Additionally, remember how I mentioned that my mom went back to Pennsylvania at the end of July to stay with my grandpa for a few weeks? A few weeks turned into the whole month and nearly turned into until the middle of September due to the hospitals not being able to get their act together until the last minute. She did get to come home for one weekend in the middle of the month, which was good . . . but that doesn't change the fact that I missed her when she was gone, and it didn't take away the stress of the two-ish weeks in which we all worried she wouldn't be able to come home for a month and a half. (She's home now, though, which is why I'm actually able to be semi-optimistic again.)
  • Oh, and because all that wasn't enough: I started grad school two weeks ago, still in the midst of worrying about whether or not my mom would be able to come home before the turn of the month, still worrying about my car . . . that was not a good week, let me tell you, and it was a rough start to the semester. The first couple days were so bad that I genuinely wondered why I'd thought this was a good idea — and while I'm used to feeling that way in the middle of a class, it seemed like a bad sign that we were starting at that point. Everything felt like Too Much. Nothing on its own was more than moderately hard, but everything together, on top of what I already had going on, seemed like a crushing weight. I made it through the first week, though, and the second week might be a little better — we'll find out once I actually manage to do the half of the assignments that I keep putting off because other things take priority.
  • And for the record, I do feel bad complaining about all this because I know so many people who have it worse. Like, I am getting off lightly in every way. I'm stressed about when my mom is coming home? My mom's the one away from home, taking care of my grandpa, not knowing when she'll be able to leave. I got into an accident? Two of my friends got into worse ones — at least my car was driveable and I was able to get in touch with insurance and get a repair appointment quickly. I'm tired from cooking and laundry? I'm doing a fraction of what other people do, and their additional workload isn't any lighter than mine (and they're doing it with chronic pain or fatigue besides). I'm stressed about work deadlines and projects? I'm not the one running the events; I'm not the one going through the personal stuff that's causing the delays. I'm worried about my editing pace? I know people who've written books this close to the publication date and done just fine. I'm overwhelmed by grad school? I'm only taking one class, and I don't even have any big papers or exams yet. I have no right to be upset.
  • But telling myself all that just makes me feel worse — and feeling worse just makes everything harder.
  • (All this may sound like I'm fishing for pity, or sympathy, or something. I'm not. I honestly debated whether or not to say half of it because, as I said, lots of other people have it worse, and I didn't want to complain. But . . . I write these Doings posts for myself as well as for others. I write them so I can look back and remember where I was. So I'm leaving it in for future me.)
  • I don't want to end this section on a downer note, so let's talk about something more fun: the latest from the D&D group I play in (not the one I run), wherein we finally defeated one of our nemeses. It was glorious — he's a schemer who's spent the last several months (out of game) hitting us wherever it'll hurt the most. He's the reason why we're wanted in about half the campaign world (because he framed us for murder), the reason why there's a war on . . . and, most recently, the reason why one party member decided to essentially disappear and retire, because he took one loss too many. We arguably hate him more than we hate the actual big bad villain of the campaign. He's gotten the jump on us so many times . . . but we managed to find out where he was and teleport in on top of him, and the whole thing was just immensely satisfying. Oh, and we may have made some tentative allies among the drow, and I am very excited about that in- and out-of-character. A lot of this campaign has been centered around making friends out of enemies in order to deal with bigger enemies, and I'm glad we might be managing to do that with the drow as well as other groups. Also, my character somehow became very rapidly attached to one of the drow — a young woman in whom I think she sees a lot of herself and her younger sisters — and I really hope I can continue to develop that. I think it's going to give lots of good storytelling opportunities in the future.
  • Oh, and I learned the basic strokes of modern calligraphy through a free online course my mom told me about. That was kinda cool. I thought about going on with the next course (which I would've had to pay for), but September's going to be busy, so I think I'm going to wait on that. It was fun, though.

September Plans

  • Song of the Selkies needs to be finished and uploaded by September 15. So . . . that's going to be my next two weeks. That and preparing for the release party.
  • (Storms, is it really only two weeks?)
  • After Song of the Selkies is done and released . . . well, we'll see. I may take a week or two off, or I may jump straight back into writing BDPI #4 (though at a slower pace). It'll depend how I feel and where I am with other projects.
  • Almost as exciting: I get to see my sister this month! Our Bible study and the Bible study she goes to (which are connected via many close friendships) are doing a joint retreat, so we'll all be going on that. I get to spend a weekend in one of my favorite places with some of my favorite people; it's going to be good. Hopefully I can actually enjoy it and don't just spend the whole time stressing about Stuff That Needs to Get Done.
  • Another happy thing: September is also Silmaril Awards month! I will be hosting a category again, even though some might question where I'm finding the time to do so. I like it too much not to do it, though. However much stress it adds, the fun balances it out. Keep an eye out for nominations opening next on Monday!
  • Less happily, grad school will probably eat up a lot of time as well. I'm hoping that it'll get better now that I have fewer other things to be stressed about, though. I do think this class has the potential to be interesting if and when it shifts away from just being Workplace Writing 2.0, and I'd like to be able to give it enough thought and attention to actually find things in it to enjoy, rather than just pushing through one assignment and another and another.
  • As far as work goes . . . I do not foresee anything slowing down until about January. Fall is also my least favorite church season to design for; it's hard to find good imagery for most of the annual events, and the color palette's arguably the hardest one to work with (at least for me). Still, I'm ahead of the game on Stewardship (as already mentioned) and on graphics for the big fall service project (because we've already started promoting it), so that should help.
  • Last on the list, I'd like to do some baking since I didn't get to do any in August. In particular, I really want to make bagels again. We'll see if that happens or not, though.

How was your August? What are you looking forward to in September? What's your favorite audio adaption of a book? Are you signed up for the Stolen Songs release party? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


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