Weekly Ramble Nine: Welcome to 2019

Welcome to 2019, everyone. Again, I'm late with my post, and again it was on purpose. I was off of work on Monday and Tuesday, which I spent relaxing, doing some writing, and tidying my apartment for the new year (seriously, you guys, my tea collection looks so pretty now), so today is technically my Monday. You'll have to forgive me. I'll get back to a normal schedule next week, hopefully.

Recap of 2018: I got an interim promotion at the day job that I hope to keep permanently. I finished the first draft of a novel for the first time. The world seemed at all times to be burning down around my ears while things were going pretty well for me, personally. I was often stressed, usually busy, and perpetually snowed under in things that needed to be done around the house. All in all, it was a year. I don't know what else to tell you. I survived. If you're reading this, you survived, and what else can we ask for, really?

I'm not much of one for making new years resolutions or S.M.A.R.T. goals or whatever, or rather, when I do it I tend to go overboard and make grand, sweeping changes that are, without fail, unsustainable. So this year I'm dialing in back, and making only three of major goals, and adding to them a change that will make keeping to those goals a little easier.

  1. Goal: Finish the second draft of my novel, and get it into some other people's hands. I've already written it once, how hard could it be to write it all again?

  2. Goal: Get back into exercising. I was doing pretty well for the first three quarters of 2018 with this one, but then I got my wisdom teeth out, and once I was ok to exercise again, I got sick for six weeks straight. I'm out of shape and looking to get back on that bandwagon. I'm also going to mix it up and add some weight training to my routine, because while swimming is great cardio, I do need to do some weight bearing exercises as well to make me less injury prone and keep my bones dense! I don't feel like this goal is asking too much, because it's something I was already doing successfully before my whole life went off the rails.

  3. Goal: Get work clothes that fit me. I'm working in an office that's on the nicer end of business casual, and while I've got my button-up game pretty well sorted, I need some work-appropriate sweaters, and even more importantly, work-appropriate pants that look nice. I've been getting by with ponte pants that are just a smidge to tight to be appropriate without a longer top and "ankle lenth" pants that look like capris on me because I have longer than usual legs. Neither is great, and while "straight leg" pants would be appropriate and the right length, they don't play well with my preferred loose on top, fitted on bottom silhouette. So this week I got some straight leg pants that fit me through the hips and are the right length in a consignment store, and took them to the seamstress my husband usually uses to get the legs tapered. Fingers crossed that it works out!

  4. Change: My partner and I are paying for someone to come in and clean our apartment every other week. He works 60-hour work weeks, and I'm writing a book in my free time. Our apartment has been a wreck this year, and I've felt constantly snowed under by the responsibility of keeping it a basic level of clean on top of doing laundry, dishes, etc. I realized the other day that neither of us had vaccuumed our bedroom since we moved in last January. Groooooooss. So anyway, when I got my promotion, the only thing I decided we were going to spend the extra money on (besides paying down debt) was hiring someone to come clean our apartment on a regular basis. We had someone come in for the first time on December 29th, and holy shit was it worth it. The bedroom got vaccuumed, the stove top was spotless--it's already my best decision of the year. I know that this isn't something that everyone can afford, but I can, and it was worth every penny.

So that's it, my plans for the new year. In the past week I've written 3,171, bringing the total wordcount of Mendenhall Draft 2 to 12,088.

I also have three book reviews for you this week. Hurray!

City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

This book is both epic and wonderfully intricate. S. A. Chakraborty has managed to squeeze believable, lovable characters, magical world building, intricate politics and explorations of identity, belonging, and privelege into one book seamlessly and comfortably. Yes, this book is about djinn, but it's also about how different minorities are turned against each other by a ruling party; it's about the use of power, and rebellion, and about grey areas in both. I loved it unconditionally for the ways that it was about the real world while also presenting a fully fledged secondary world for the reader to escape into, and for allowing for hope despite everything. Everyone should absolutely check this book out. You'll love it, promise.

Time Was by Ian McDonald

This book is a love story, a time travel story, and a mystery, and I wish that I had liked it more than I did. It's clearly masterfully written, has some beautiful prose, and god knows I love the idea of a pair of gay soldiers. I just wish I hadn't felt like I was held at arms-length from the two characters I cared most about for the entirety of the book. I never really felt like I got to know Tom and Ben, just their strange story. Maybe that's part of of this being a novella, maybe that's an artifact of the fact that a lot of what we learn about Tom and Ben is through bits and pieces of historial documentation. Still, I generally read to get to know characters, to live inside their heads, to know what it feels like to be them, to live their lives, and I didn't find that here. The book is still good, though, and if you like the idea of time travelling gay soldiers, I'd recommend giving this one a read.

Exit Strategy by Martha Wells

If you're not on the Murderbot bandwagon, go back to All Systems Red and get on it. Exit Strategy delivers a satisfying conclusion to the series. Murderbot is, as always, the highlight of the story, both prickly to a fault and infinitely loveable. Really, you guys, check this series out.

Weekly Ramble Seven: Birthday + Vacation Slacking

Last week was my birthday week! Happy birthday to me! I bought myself some books, took two days off work, had my mom come to visit, played a lot of Breath of the Wild, and skipped writing for four days straight. Just let myself completely off the hook. Didn't even do any research reading. Sometimes you just need to allow yourself a vacation, you know? I'm not going home for the actual holidays, and will probably write most of those days since my husband will be working and I'll be at home alone (and oh so cozy and rested, seriously, after the year I've had staying home and writing sounds like this introverts dream), so this four day weekend was my 'holiday vacation' and I'm back and feeling pretty rested.

Still, I did get some writing done. I didn't cut anything and added 2,860 to Mendenhall for a total wordcount of 60,846. Plus I've got a pair of book reviews for you (even if one of them is v. v. short)!

The Fated Sky by Mary Robinette Kowal

I don't know what I could say about this second book in the series that I haven't already said about the first book in the series, except that I enjoyed it even more because we got to go to space. It's detailed. It's alternate history in space with a female, jewish protagonist, and it deals strongly with racism, sexism, and tons of science! I loved both books in this series, and if you haven't read the first, you should totally go back and read it. This series is completely worth it, and only gets better the more you read.

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

Look, Murderbot's not getting any less awesome, and may in fact be getting more so to the point where it might break your heart. Read these books!

Weekly Ramble Six: I'm Really Back This Time, I Swear

Hey loyal readers (if you exist)! I know it's not Friday, and I know I've been gone for nearly a month without updating, but I'm back today with a weekly ramble, out of time, and probably short, but I want to get you up to date, and I didn't want to wait until this Friday to do it, since you've already waited so long.

So! What happened? Well, I got sick, first with a cold, then with a sinus infection, then with bronchitis. I'm still not entirely over the bronchitis, but close enough. Also, one of my lovely cats broke his tail, and had to get it amputated. He's fine now, if grumpy because of the cone he has to wear. November (and the start of December) was just generally miserable, and I got very little writing done, both fiction and nonfiction. I did, however, do a lot of decision making? Plotting? Picking away at things? Thinking? Things that aren't writing, but are necessary to doing writing in the future, so I don't feel like November and December were complete wastes.

So, here's what's going on:

Sea Witch has been put on the back burner while I do some thinking and researching about the plot & revolutions. I wrote myself into a corner in November, cut some stuff, and then realized that I'd reached a point where I really wasn't sure what should be going on big-picture-wise, and I need to figure that out before I continue. Its current wordcount is 18,742.

This isn't a problem, though, because I started reading through my first draft of Mendenhall (which I'm in the process of retitling as well) on the first of December, and on Saturday afternoon while I was inputting some notes into Scrivener, the changes that I need to make to the structure overall just clicked into place, and I rewrote the whole outline in about 45 minutes. Bad news is that this is going to necessitate a nearly complete rewrite of the book, but the good news is that I'm feeling really good and invigorated about the whole thing, so it's full steam ahead for the good ship Mendenhall. Yesterday, my first day of the rewrite, I wrote 623 words, and the total overall wordcount is 57,986.

I've also been super lax about book reviews, so out of all the time I missed, you only get 4 book reviews. Still, they're good ones.

Witchmark by C. L. Polk

Witchmark is the kind of book where the romance is sweet, the plot is full of the right kind of tension, and the characters are so real and vulnerable that you can't help but love them and worry about them. I also really enjoyed the fact that this wasn't just another cookie-cutter fantasy England; Polk has really thought through the ways that magic relates with society in her world, and the effects that it has on her characters are both nuanced and impactful. I'm so glad that I pre-ordered this one on a whim; it's one of the most fun books that I read this year, and I can't wait for the next book set in this world!

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

It's hard to write about Spinning Silver without talking about the other book in this "series," Uprooted, much as it's hard to read Spinning Silver after reading Uprooted without comparing the two. These books are not, however, related in anything more than the way that they continuously subvert fairytale tropes. Spinning Silver is a retelling of Rumplestiltskin where Uprooted was a retelling of some tropes without being a retelling of a particular identifiable fairy story, but both have the same relentless rate of reveal that changes your understanding of the story that you're reading every couple of chapters, and a strong focus on female friendship, that I loved so much in Uprooted. I particularly enjoyed the tensions at the start of the book, which centered so much around the ways that the jewish family at the center of the book are othered in their own hometown. The story didn't appeal to me quite as much when it moved into a larger good vs. evil narrative that was still engaging, but not quite as nuanced and personal as the first part of the book. I feel like Uprooted did a better job of keeping things nuanced and personal throughout in a way that Spinning Silver didn't, but that more because Uprooted is a work of genius than because this book is bad. In fact, this book is still really, really good, and I would recommend it if you enjoyed Uprooted. It would also probably be a good winter/holiday read since there is so. much. snow.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

While this book may have at least some of the outward trappings of a "native american mad max" (all things that I'm into, and how it was sold to me on twitter), it is definitely more fantasy than science fiction, and is less about institutional power and more about vulnerability and working through trauma. Not that I have anything against that, and it's definitely a story that needs telling, but I definitely came into it expecting one thing, and got something that looking similar on the surface, but was completely different underneath.

All of that being said, this book is solidly written, the characters are deep and the sort of flawed and vulnerable in the ways that only make you like them more. There's a little bit of romance, a lot of action, and plenty of grit, so if you want all of that in one package, this is the book for you. Plus the premise is wonderful and totally worth your time. Definitely check this one out.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss

Look, I'm not much into Victorian or steampunk stories lately--nothing against them, it just hasn't been what I've had a taste for lately. However, if I had to read a story set in Victorian England, I'm glad it was this one. I love the premise of all the characters being monstrous women, and I love their diverse talents, and the ways that they support themselves in a world that doesn't accept them. The style is unique, with all of the characters piping up to comment on the narrative, but strange as that sounds, it works. Definitely would recommend if monstrous women, Victorian England, or Sherlock Holmes is your thing.