What I did while I wasn’t gone

I took myself on a writing retreat last weekend. It was mostly a mental trick to take advantage of physical preparations for travel to a convention I ended up not attending.

Since I had planned and prepped be away from home for a four-day weekend, I figured that meant wasn’t responsible for anything at home those fourdays. I could ignore my whole Regular Life guilt-free and wander off to my computer any time the urge hit.

I finished a short story I’ve been tinkering with for over two years and published it for my email list subscribers (I also set up that process from scratch, a post in its own right.)

I also made headway on a second short story and wrote about 5000 words in Ghost Town, my current novel in progress. I write slower than a Galapagos turtle walks, which is why I rarely post word counts (and loathe them as motivational tool)  For reference, that’s about a usual month’s worth of writing. In 4 days. Yeah. So mental writing retreat as a working trick…definitely helped. I plan to do it again. Sometime.

But writing isn’t all I did. This is a media consumption post too, so here’s what I took in.

Throne of Glass series. Sarah A Maas. Finished all the books currently published (yay!) now have to wait until at least October to read the one that’ll wrap up the current series. (BOO!)  There’s a lot I could say about her books, but I said most of it in a previous post. One thing to add: the things that bugged me in A Court of Thorns & Roses series are less overt in this one. No idea which came first, don’t care, just liking them more.

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach. Kelly Robson. SWOON. So good. Go read it now. It’s a short book, (novella) but it will stick with you in the best of ways. I inhaled it over two meal breaks and a walk.

Yes, I read on walks. I was tripping off curbs and veering towards lamp posts long before it was trendy with Pokemon Go. Don’t worry, I’ve never run into anything, and I always pause at roadways to watch for traffic. But I digress. As usual.

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach reminds me of Connie Willis & Kate Wilhelm ( two of my SFF favorites) at their very best. Not because it had time travel, although it does, nor because of the science, which it is ALL ABOUT,  but because of the way both those elements were presented: brilliantly, elegantly, and enjoyably.

Time travel was an essential element but not a pitfall of paradox or an excuse to wander into theoretical physics for far longer than the narrative could bear (Woo!) Science was at the center of the plot without ever stampeding over the characters or dragging the story into a slough of exposition, (WOO!!!) Plot & characters were also amazing.

Basically, if you want fresh, new classic-style SFF relevant to and written for today’s world, this is it.

A Divided Peace. Tanya Huff. Happy sigh. Always a joy to read her words.  Aaaaand now I have to go back and re-read all the Confederation novels. If I could write military science fiction a tenth as well as she does, I would do a whole novel about Mercury Battalion. But I don’t have the chops for making the Corps a realistic centerpiece. Maybe if someone with experience wanted to co-author…yeah, I would totally be up for that that.

ANYWAY. Onward.

In the viewing circle, I watched a fun season of superhero television show, Black Lightning, and a serious movie about a real world hero. Marshall. (it’s a biopic-style movie  about one of Thurgood Marshall’s early cases.)  

I enjoyed the drama of the movie, but it seemed bizarre to me that the titular character, an AMAZING human being who was part of so much civil rights history–who MADE so much history, was not even the narrative center of his own movie. (A white guy was.)  I am not surprised that was the angle Hollywood took, just angry and aggravated. They could have done so much better.

But I’m loving Black Lightning, so I’m batting over .500 in viewing satisfaction.

Still haven’t seen Deadpool 2 or Ocean’s 8, but they’re on my list. And Jurassic Park Episode whatEVER is next up in Major Hollywood Kaboom Movies.

So until then, it’s back to writing-writing-writing.

 

Where does the time go…

I’m going through one of those phases when the amount of time passing feels vast in comparison to the activities spent filling it. (I call these phases “days of the week with names ending in y.”)  And so I list what I have done as a way to pin down the belief that I did SOMETHING.

Books read: 

Gates of Tagmeth (Kencyrath Book 8) P. C. Hodgell.  I treated myself to the latest in this series as a reward for finishing a Particularly Difficult Scene.  Am now working my way backwards through the series (as one does. What, doesn’t everyone do it that way?) Anyway.  I’ve now also re-read Sea of Time (7) and Honor’s Paradox (6)  and I’m halfway through Bound in Blood (5)

Some hours disappeared down the rabbit hole of ebook formatting research. ‘Porting all the ebooks legally-purchased over a decade into my currently-preferred reading device… was a bit of a challenge. Blame various technology changes. The internet came through once again.

Television viewed:

I caved in & started watching Marvel’s Defenders. I want to punch Iron Fist in the face every single time he’s on screen.  Otherwise, I’m not hating it.

Sportsball Sunday Afternoons is an autumn event here in Chez Herkes. Because it’s soothing and silly. Who’s playing? Not really important. Two teams. A bunch of sports announcers. Unintentionally entertaining events are guaranteed.

Movies:

Beauty & The Beast The live-action Disney remake. Watching it reminded me of listening to a virtuoso musician perform etudes. It was amazing from a technical perspective, gorgeously executed and brilliantly made, but in the end it felt like an exercise.  I did learn that live-action musical numbers with studio sound affect me the same way as uncanny-valley facial animation. They both bug the shit out of me.

Kung-fu Panda 3. BECAUSE PANDAS, THAT’S WHY.  I don’t know enough about the mythology or culture it hypothetically shows to speak on possible problematic elements. I do confess I loved the sneaky choral rendition of “Kung-Fu Fighting” playing in the background of fight scenes. I wondered if I was hearing things, but no. The whole song with words played during the credits.

Oceans Rising. It looked bad sci-fi, so of course I was tempted into viewing it. What a wreck. A total monstrosity of cinema from start to finish. I enjoyed every minute. The movie equivalent of gorging on generic chips & dip. World-spanning disaster movie filmed almost entirely inside rooms with no windows.  I also learned a bit about inertial navigation systems . From Google, not from the movie, which (unsuprisingly) got it wrong.

Things Written:

I’m not sharing numbers. Measuring progress by word counts gives me hives. (Not judging. It works for folk! It’s fab! Count & post away. I won’t see it. I avoid looking the way I steer clear of scented dryer sheets, and for the same reason.) But I digress. Suffice to say I am pleased as punch with my progress. Especially since I did it despite doodling away half a day and more on pretty autumn pictures and other detours into visuals.

The hardest set-up scenes in Heartwood are done, I’ve laid in all the remaining chapter titles, (it’s a new weird thing with this book. I can’t write scenes until I have titles for them) and I did hours of unnecessary research finding the perfect name to re-name a character. The rush-to-conclusion plot avalanche is in full flow. On track to finish before my self-imposed arbitrary deadline. I know that’s asking the universe to derail me. Don’t care. I’m flaunting my happy progress dance.

Away I go to keep up the momentum.


Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers, or you can take free peeks at them on this page here. 

Science-fiction thrillers, science-fiction romance, and science fantasy, full length novels and shorter works. So many choices! Here be direct links to the published stories that have escaped the confines of Amazon. 

Extraordinary books2read.com/u/4N19e6
Powerhouse books2read.com/u/3kZ1VW
Nightmares books2read.com/u/3yPExv
Lockdown books2read.com/u/3GM2Xn

Midsummer Check-in

Reading

All the Single Ladies. I wanted to like this, I truly did. Alas, it rubbed me the wrong way from Chapter 1 all the way through to the conclusion. It read like it started out being one book, and turned into a different one mid-development. The narrative rolled through a pinball machine of feminism-adjacent topics without focus. “Let’s kinda talk about women’s rights in a “then & now” way, but also a little here versus there, and oh, look, SQUIRREL.”

Also, despite nods to racial diversity, economic classism and intersectionality, the window dressing didn’t ring true for me. The author makes loads of sweeping sociological generalizations based on stories from a limited sample of her friends,  studies about people like them, and also some stories about people the editor evidently insisted on including for comparison.

Yes, I’m being mean and cynical. My blog, my interpretation. Did I mention how much I wanted to love this book? Betrayal makes me bitter. This should have been a PHENOMENAL read, but instead I walked away with this impression:

“Golly-gee-whiz, single [white upper-class, educated East Coast urban] women sure have faced a lot of obstacles throughout history and up to the present day! We’ve come a long way, baby, and marriage is a bummer for lots of women now. Go, independence!”

Um. Okay?

The text is packed with statistics, summaries of statistics, thumbnail historical sketches, and anecdotes. Despite the less-than-coherent development, it’s an excellent primer on feminism & politics for someone who knows absolutely nothing of women’s contributions to history or American society. Since I do know those things from other better sources (go ahead, ask me for a list)  I know important things were glossed over, and fast lost patience with the less-than mind-blowing message.

The heavy sprinkling of sub-conclusions like “Getting married messes up important supportive women’s friendships!” and “Male partners/societial pressures force women to make choices against their own best interests as individuals and professionals!” got on my last nerve.  <deep breath> SO DISAPPOINT.

Disclaimer: I have been married more than 30 years. Women’s legal rights were still fresh enough that I had to fight for a credit card and a bank account with only my name on them. I partnered a man who understood why I kept those accounts, bought a car, and paid all utilities in my name only.  Spouseman groks the struggle, and we support each other as equals.

My experience isn’t the norm for my generation, but neither am I a unicorn. The reasons more women are staying single are a lot more varied than this book admits, and most of those reasons are deeply rooted in old system failures rather than fresh new attitudes.

ANYWAY. Grr. Onward.

Empire of Shadows. Much more my thing. History of Yellowstone region written in that chatty, “I’ll spin the yarn in the narrative and stick the scholarly citations at he end” style I love so much.

I finished my All The Grace Burrowes Novels In Print project (she’s a delight, go read her, historical romance fans) and embarked on an Julia Quinn re-read.

Silverthorn. The next Jacey Bedford fantasy. I liked it. The developments are develop-y, the characters and dialogue are fun, and the world-building is neato-keen. Nuff said.

Watching:

  • Killjoys Season 2.
  • Dark Matter Season 2.
  • Finally watched all of Expanse Season 2.
  • I caught up to Daily Show, Samantha Bee & John Oliver (on Youtube) now & then.

STILL HAVEN’T SEEN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL 2. <many sniffles of self pity>

Spiderman: Homecoming. AKA Spiderman guest-starring Tony Stark & Happy Hogan. I loved it despite major doubts about yet another reboot. Best part? So many dialogue zingers, so many non-whitebread non-cliche characters. The plot was grounded in wonderfully-real teen problems too. Usually Peter Parker gets the Hollywood “sure, he’s a kid, but he’s super-smart, so of course he would behave logically and be taken seriously,” treatment, and I can assure you from personal experience that is not how it works. Best news of all: NOT ANOTHER ORIGIN STORY! WOOOOO!

Other Things:

I have tomatoes, basil, and cucumbers growing happily in my sorta-garden. Teeny cucumbers are popping up behind the blooms, and green tomatoes lurk inside the tomato cage.  The peppers are struggling along this year. The sage as taken over its bed, but the butter lettuce is fighting back. (Lettuce is adorable when it grows tall and bolts up pretty little flowers. Ditto radish plants. That’s a thing I learned this year.)

Mulch has been laid down, and more weed death has been sprayed. Call me Godzilla, stomper of weeds. Transplanting of wayward perennials will occur soon.

I have baked in the new oven, and it works. Blueberries are ripe, and I have socked away sour baking cherries this year too. Scones will definitely keep happening.

That’s all the news outside writing-world. In writing land…I’m getting there. I’m achieving a regular working schedule for the first time in months, and the progress is there on the pages of Heartwood. To ensure the regular butt-in-seat part, I am posting one of my older novels up to Wattpad (link: https://www.wattpad.com/story/110555072-downrigger) as a serial, two to three chapters a week.

That’s all from this neck of the woods for now. Ta until later.


Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers, or you can take free peeks at them on this page here. 

Science-fiction thrillers, science-fiction romance, and science fantasy, full length novels and shorter works. So many choices! Here be direct links to the published stories that have escaped the confines of Amazon. 

Extraordinary books2read.com/u/4N19e6
Powerhouse books2read.com/u/3kZ1VW
Nightmares books2read.com/u/3yPExv
Lockdown books2read.com/u/3GM2Xn