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.

 

Still Doing Other Things

otter things header

Media consumption continues. Documentation continues.

Movies & TV:

Dark Tower: This could have been great. It could have been good. It settled for sadly forgettable. Too bad.

The Mummy (Tom Cruise running edition) The best I can say about it is, “Welp, it kept a lot of production crew employed and effects people busy for a while.” If I hadn’t given up and started doing laundry & dusting after half an hour, my analysis would probably be more like, “OhgedohgedcanIhavethosetwohoursbackplease?”

Black Mirror: Episode 5 was a pointless exercise in directorial control. The rest, I enjoyed. Far less overt gore in this season, for which I am grateful.

A re-watch of Peaky Blinders + the new season. I don’t know if I ever remembered to include the previous watches in a media consumption post. I watched the first one while doing a Boardwalk Empire binge and my brain, being a cluttered place, put them both in the same memory drawer. Oh, well. It’s fantastic stuff: super-tight storytelling, phenomenal acting, brilliant direction, perfect costuming & production. Violent as hell.

Something or other Planet of the Apes. The last one. Um. Ew. Watching these is like picking scabs. I can’t stop, but I hate. No magical hydroelectric dam in this one, so it has that to recommend it. It also has Woody Harrelson channeling Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now, and I don’t know what to make of that.

Books

More Sarah Maclean aka “the Maclean I like better than the other two who also write 19th century British fantasies.” They aren’t deathless literature, but they’re jolly good.

Babylon’s Ashes. The next-to latest Expanse novel. I LOVE THIS SERIES AND ALL THE CHARACTERS IN IT. (pretty sure I say that every time I finish one of these tomes. It bears repeating.) Re-settling into the timeline took a few chapters, but I was expecting that. Setting up the plot-board on something big takes time, and the scope of this work is beyond epic. The authors’ take on colonialism’s problematic side make for a bloody conflict-soaked take on space settlement. And yet… it isn’t gritty, grimdark “we’re all gonna die” morality play.  It’s the opposite of the shiny, optimistic, idealist-populated perfect-people science fiction of my youth…and yet it is relentlessly, infinitely hopeful about the future. It’s a no-punches exploration of what it means to be human in an inhuman universe. I could go on for hours about the frail, imperfect, sometimes monstrous–and yet still heroic–protagonists. (but I won’t)

Other-other Things

That’s all for now. I’m back on a regular schedule, and progress is occurring in the writing sector, but those things will get their own updates in due time.  Gotta feed the blog something after all.

Last doing-things post of the year (mostly movies)

Hard to believe, but I’ve kept up this semi-regular documentation of media consumption for over a year now. Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds, but in this case, I’m happy to be small. Any day I get to say, “I have done the thing,” is a good day.

So what have I been doodly-doing? Mostly socializing, baking, and eating holiday food. But also the usual reading & watching. This is a long post since it’s been a LONG time since the last one.

Books: Lots of fantasy fluff–errrm, that is to say historical romance fluff. Many reprints, which meant plenty of squirmy “wow, that’s not a good behavior to promote,” moments. Elizabeth Boyle (good stories, but a lot of recurring phrase tics and sketchy themes) Sarah Maclean (great dialogue, fun alterations to history, good job with consent) Julianne Maclean ( similar to Sarah Maclean ) I plan to read/re-read all of N. K. Jemison’s ouvre in January as my hibernation treat.

Television: I’m watching less and less TV. NCIS will definitely be off the schedule after this season. Ditto Lucifer. They’re both okay, but okay isn’t enough to justify my time these days. Supernatural is ending, and that’s cool. Mostly I’m watching Netflix originals & DVD sets from the ‘brar

Punisher: A punishing experience, pun intended. (Bwahahahahahaha…ahem…sorry.) I’m not a fan of gore, and this spilled over my tolerance threshold, but it avoided the origin story trap, and it didn’t stretch for a redemption arc. I have Major Issues with people giving heroes a pass on murder just because they’re killing bad guys, but this mostly dodged that trap too.

Defenders: Origin story could have been forgivable if they hadn’t taken so MANY episodes setting up the team. Also I could do with a LOT less Iron Fist. And even less “throw every supporting character from every series into this because why not?” plotting. It wasn’t bad. It should’ve been better.

Movies:  This has been a bad year for catching movies in the theater. So I’m grabbing them from the library as they hit DVD. (Have I mentioned lately how much of a library fan I am? PUBLIC LIBRARIES RULE!)  Ahem. Anyway. I watch a lot of movies in midwinter. So, grab a cuppa. This gets long.

The Great Wall. I almost liked it. Loved that a white guy was the Exotic Dispenser of Magical MacGuffins (contrary to many viewers, I didn’t see Damon as White Savior nearly so much as “barbarian dude barely tolerated the whole time.” The smart dude who engineered the victory was Chinese, as was the heroine who delivered the final blow. Never was Damon’s arc the focus of the plot.) I say “almost liked it” because OMG it was stupid. Fantasy siege battles are all fun and games except the engineering is JUST AWFUL AND COMPLICATED FOR NO REASON and war doesn’t work that way. I felt like Sigourney Weaver in GalaxyQuest for over half the movie.

Transformers Last Knight. Watching this made me wonder if the writers and producers  got lost in a props department and came up with lame excuses to use everything they ran across. Possibly they were also intoxicated at the time? King Arthur. Aliens. Transformers in all shapes and varieties. Add in massive amounts of voice-over and awkward failed attempts at “snappy” dialogue, stir with a huge cast of cardboard cutout characters and pretensions everywhere. It’s a painful, boring, overblown, disjointed mess. Not as bad as Battleship, but close. It made fine background viewing for three batches of cookie dough, but I would have been royally ticked off if I’d spent money on it.

Thor: Ragnarok.  Did I mention this one already? No, my November posts were all about food. So here’s my Thor report.  I prepped for the new movie by watching the first two back-to-back on Thor Eve, and was once again annoyed by all the oportunities missed in both films.  Thor 1 was not an origin story.  That’s the best I can say about it. Well, that and a shirtless Hemsworth. Ragnarok was worth the theater prices and made up for all the prior missed opportunities.

I adored seeing Thor as an earnest straight man constantly stumbling into comic situations. I always liked him better in the graphic novels when he was played for comic relief.  I am evidently in the minority when it comes to not missing the formal forsoothian Asgardian language and grammar.  The “main” villain didn’t impress me, as well-acted as she was, and the plot felt like they trid hard to cram two movie’s worth of plot into one, but hey. Loki & Thor banter. Dr. Strange banter. Hulk banter. ALL THE BANTER AND GIGGLES.  I like it. Another!

Star Wars Episode 8. For this one, too, I made the effort to hit a theater, and I’m glad I did.

Kong: Skull Island. Hooyah, I’m glad I didn’t spend popcorn money on this putrid mess. Not even Hiddleston & some other great actors could save it from its “Heart of Darkness meets Jules Verne plus Jurassic Park with a 70’s retro feel” premise. Too many flavors went into the smoothie blender. The result was horrible: gritty, lumpy and with a bad aftertaste. The only redeeming quality: seamless integration of the CGI. Never once did Kong or the other critters remind me they were merely imaginary.

Alien:Covenant. Um. The crew were not as fundamentally, hatefully stupid as the crew of the Prometheus, and the dual dose of Skaarsgard was scenery-chewing, over the top fabulous, but…it was still a problematic mess of people behaving so ridiculously I was rooting for them all to die much faster than they did. And the demonstrably incompetent captain’s faith being played as a beneficial trait misunderstood as a flaw by the foolish secularists bugged the shit out of me almost as much as the “superior intelligence equals emotionless also equals evil” theme.

Get Out. This one would have been too intense for me in the theater. Right at the painful edge of scary. So good. So creepy.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Does adding a subtitle subtract quality from a movie? Just asking. This might have been a decent, albeit anachronistic fantasy movie a la Knight’s Tale, (which I hated on first viewing because I was told it was historical, hah, lols NO) but the producers just had to slap King Arthur’s name on this, and it so very much is not true to the King Arthur legend, not even tangentially or as a “re-imagining of the themes.” Also WTF with putting in magical war mommoths. EPIC EYE ROLLS.

Baby Driver. I can see why it’s so well-reviewed. Fantastic cast of fine actors giving it their all, razor-sharp direction, solid writing. More happened in 20 min of this movie than in the first hour of King Arthur. I didn’t like it, I generally don’t seek out the “I’m only bad to protect other people” not-really-a-redemption-arc tropes. It just didn’t wow me. But I can see why other people adore it. (shrugs) It’s quite a brilliant film.

The Last Jedi. I enjoyed it from opening credits to final fade to black. There is much I loved. Don’t get me started on the flaws. Just don’t. My objections are all storycraft fails and/or internal consistency issues, nothing to do with changes to the mythology, vioating tropes or departures from canon. I’m on board with all those things. Also, to my surprise, porgs.  I love most the way the story is treating its own history like a spiral that keeps coming around to the same touchpoints but with changes & development each time.

The Christmas movie tally: both the Christmas Die Hards, Meet John Doe, (instead of It’s A Wonderful Life) Bell, Book & Candle, Lethal Weapon, and A Christmas Carol.

…and that’s a wrap.

Upcoming plans include getting my hair buzzed off because it’s past time, and buckling down on the new book (which I have shamefully neglected in favor of Doing All The Other Things this month) plus beginning revisions on Heartwood.  I’m try to aim at weekly or bi-weekly updates here. Shorter reports are happier reports.