New Plot Bunnies. Maybe I *Will* Write Fiction Again Someday.

In the last month or so, I’ve had two “plot bunnies” occur to me.

The first one I probably will never actually write, because I don’t know enough about the music industry.

When I was at the Yatra/Iglesias/Martin concert, Ricky Martin gave us this speech. I’m trying to remember the exact words, but it was about, like, putting the whole COVID thing behind us (not like living dangerously, but like not being afraid?) and looking forward to a new world and things like that.

I started pondering a singer who had the power of suggestion that could give his audience hope and determination to make a better world like that. Then I considered the certainty that the recording industry would at least try to abuse those abilities. What would make the singer make the break from the music industry? What would that look like? Would it be ethical to use those powers on an audience even if it were for a good cause? Would the attendees of the concert need to sign a consent form? Would that cause the fans to fall away or become more enthusiastic?

Way too many questions than answers for a situation like that. And, again, I know nothing about the recording industry, so I would only display my ignorance by trying to write this.

If anyone who reads this post would like this plot bunny, feel free. Some kind of attribution would be nice.

Then there’s the second “plot bunny.” This one I like and I may even take a stab at writing. It’s a reversed, or maybe even inverted, Hallmark Christmas movie-type story. And I have a bunch of subsidiary ideas that are in parentheses throughout because, like I said, I’m actually tempted to try this one.

Now, remember that I’m ace and probably more than a little aro, so . . . .

Our heroine lives in a small town where she runs a business (coffee shop? bookstore? independent pharmacy?). She’s been with her boyfriend since forever (high school?) and while she loves him, he’s self-destructive (meth? alcohol? reckless driving while on meth or alcohol?) and it’s killing her to watch him.

So she leaves. She breaks up with him on New Year’s Day and moves to the “big city” (Chicago? San Antonio?). We spend almost a year in book-time on her plans to move (what’s she going to do with her business and home in her small town? how will she find a new place in her new home?) and has her grand opening around Thanksgiving.

Then we watch both her business and her personal life grow. She meets a handsome guy in a suit, coded as possible romantic interest, but it turns out that he’s interested. She’s still mourning her relationship and isn’t interested. And when he won’t back off when she tells him to, she would never be interested. She ends up having to do something drastic (police? self-defense classes? public humiliation? a scary friend?) to get him to leave her alone.

Over the next few years, she opens a second location, develops a found family and gets a dog. Her found family gets together for Christmas. The end.

Originally, the pet was going to be a cat, but they always show women with cats and men with dogs, so why not switch that up a bit. Also, having a dog would give her chances to get out and meet people in a way that a cat wouldn’t.

I may also throw a bone to the “but she neeeeds a maaaan” part of the audience and have one of her found family members be the child of a matchmaker, either professional or avocational, and then if the reader wants to imagine Our Heroine in a relationship, there’s an opening for one someday.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! Today we have Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual, by Luvvie Ajayi Jones. I loved this book and found it very inspiring the first time I read it. In fact, when I bought tickets for the virtual book tour for Jenny Lawon’s Broken, it was very serendipitous that I had passed up Neil Gaiman and Judy Blume* for Luvvie Ajayi Jones. I didn’t know Jones from anything, but by the time the tour date came, I was almost as pleased to see her as to see Jenny Lawson. And as I wade farther into my planned writing and (hopefully!) proofreading businesses, I may need to reread this occasionally. I have it on my bed right now, waiting its turn after I finish Still Life.

*Put a pin in this idea — I need to write a post about Blume. As a former ace kid, I always kind of had issues. I’ll get into that later.

Wheel of Time, Episode 3: A Place of Safety

The usual disclaimers apply to this post. Spoilers for the series up to and including this episode are certain. Spoilers for any and all of the books are likely.

The episode titles so far have all been chapter titles that pretty much matched the events of the episode. This one, however, is not a match and, well, I guess . . . Okay, that belongs below my spoiler space image. Speaking of which . . .

Look! It’s my original header image. I still love this panorama. It just didn’t fit the aspect ratio for the header image in this theme. This is San Pedro Park in San Antonio.

We start with two of our three groups, Rand and Mat, and Egwene and Perrin, haring off into the unknown. I believe they’re both heading east towards Tar Valon.

Our third group, Moraine and Lan? Are now a trio with the addition of an absolutely furious Nynaeve. We see flashbacks of how Nynaeve escaped the Trollocs. The Trollocs got to fighting amongst themselves and she made her escape. I swear that happened in the books at some point, but not here. I’ll have to think about it. Once I hit that point in my audiobook reread, I’ll try to remember to come back and edit this post.

We finally meet Thom Merrilin. I wasn’t expecting him this early in the series, since Judkins doesn’t want characters showing up and then going away. Thom disappears, presumed dead, after Whitebridge in the books and we don’t see him for, like, a book’s worth of pages (from the middle of The Eye of the World until the middle of The Great Hunt*) and then it takes still longer for him to become a major character again. I don’t know. I just work here.

I’m also a bit nervous about Thom’s portrayal. As Fred Clark says about Buck Williams in the Left Behind series, it’s difficult to include the greatest writer in the world as a character in a book, because the reader will expect to read the greatest writing in the world, and the writer will fall short. Thom is an amazing musician, we’re told, who has the greatest works of music committed to memory and used to be the court bard for Morgase, Queen of Andor. I hope they have Elton John and Bernie Taupin on payroll here, because the readers of the books will be expecting something amazing and I’m afraid that it’ll be a letdown.

The only characters who actually do reach a place of safety in this episode are Egwene and Perrin, who meet the Traveling People and stay at their camp. They haven’t introduced Elyas, so they did a workaround on the greeting that the Traveling People use by having Aram coach them on what they are to say. It was a little bumpy, but it works in the context.

I was expecting to watch Episode 4 today, but instead I went for an 8-mile walk on the River Walk. Not so much television watching (or, unfortunately, writing), but it was nice to go out and clear my head.

*Germane Amazon Link!

A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle

I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy. I discovered Narnia when I was 10 and then Zilpha Keatley Snyder’s Greensky trilogy when I was, oh, 12 or so. So L’Engle’s Time Quintet should be right up my alley, no?

And, yes, but also kind of no. The no is for whoever at Dell Yearling came up with cover the book had when I was its target age group. Like, what part of a bloated blue man with rainbows sticking from his shoulder blades floating above weird, deformed flowers with a large bug on one of the leaves says, “Read me!”?

Over the years, I became maybe a bit more receptive to the possibility of reading A Wrinkle in Time.* Then in 2019, when I was shopping for my annual Christmas book at our local Half Price Books, I saw a copy of the movie tie-in version and while I wasn’t real sure what the palm trees had to do with anything, since the Murrays live in New England, I figured sure.

And it really is an excellent book. We start out in the home of the Murry family. The father, Alex Murry, has been missing for years. He is a scientist who works for the government in some secret role. The mother, Kate Murry, is also a scientist.

The Murrys have four children, Meg, twins Sandy and Dennys, and Charles Wallace. Our protagonist is Meg.

Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin O’Keeffe travel to a world called Camazotz where everyone is exactly the same — the kids play outside of their houses bouncing balls at exactly the same time and then their moms come out and call them all in to dinner at exactly the same time. This is the result of the influence of “The Black Thing,” the source of evil in the universe. The kids achieve what they need to while on Camazotz and apparently they never go back. I like to think that’s an effect of the time in which the book was written and that if it’d been written nowadays, we’d revisit Camazotz towards the end of the series.

I hate to admit it, but I still haven’t read the other books in the series. They’re on my list, but I have hundreds of unread books, and dozens of books that I’ve read and that don’t have read dates on my Goodreads page, so I probably won’t get to them until much, much later.

*Germane Amazon Link!

The Death Gate Cycle, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

I think that Thomas picked the first book of this series, Dragon Wing, maybe even at the same trip to Bookstop where I got my copy of The Eye of the World. It was at about the same time, I know. It was all part of the fun of not having a main antenna at our apartment complex and not being able to afford cable. We did a lot of reading.

The Death Gate Cycle is fantasy set in the far future of humanity. Humanity has destroyed itself in some kind of global cataclysm (most likely nuclear war) and the elves and dwarves emerged from wherever they’d been hiding for the last hundreds or thousands of years. Soon two groups of humans came to light who were able to control magic (they call it the “Wave,”) and these two groups get into a huge war.

Eventually, one set of wizards, known as the Sartan, take it upon themselves to break the world up into four separate worlds, based on the four classical elements — in the order we encounter them in the series, air, fire, earth, and water. There is a fifth area where the Sartan have the other wizardly race, the Patryn, contained. This is called the Labyrinth.

Our antihero is a Patryn named Haplo who was sent into the other four worlds by a Patryn known only to us as his master for a long time. Haplo’s goal is to foment chaos so that his master can take control of all of the worlds. We explore these worlds with Haplo and see how he grows as he learns more of the four worlds that the Sartan created.

Wheel of Time, Episode 2: Shadow’s Waiting

As always, there will be spoilers for both the television series and the books in this post. Probably more spoilers for the books, because The Eye of the World was published in 1990. Y’all’ve had between how long ago you were, like, 12 and 31 years to read it.

Today’s spoiler space photo is the San Antonio River from the Mission Reach part of the River Walk. I believe that I took this picture at least in part to show that the river is not always as calm as it seems when one is at the downtown portion of the River Walk.

Anyone who has read The Eye of the World will recognize the chapter title as the name of the city of Shadar Logoth.

Shadar Logoth was originally the city of Aridhol, and was dedicated to the Light. Eventually, the King took on a counselor called Mordeth, who advised him to try to use the Dark’s tactics against it, and the warmth of the people of Aridhol became cruelty. They believed that any kind of atrocity they committed, so long as it was in the name of the Light, was acceptable.

Eventually, every living thing in the city was consumed by the darkness that had come to call Aridhol home. The name of that darkness was Mashadar, and the city became known as “Shadar Logoth,” the place where the shadow waits. We get the “Reader’s Digest Condensed” version of this tale. I was pleased to get any of it.

In this episode, we also meet the Children of the Light and the Hand of the Light, more informally, and also slightly pejoratively, known as the “Whitecloaks” and the “Questioners.” Well, we get the names “Whitecloaks” and “Questioners,” which made me uncomfortable. I understand that Judkins is trying to pare it down and all, but it seems that a few seconds to establish that those are not the groups’ real names would be well spent.

I don’t remember if I mentioned this in the last post, but we have roughly 4.6 episodes for each book. A lot of stuff will have to be cut down, condensed, or removed.

For example, we finally hear the tale of Manetheren, which Moiraine tells the people of Emond’s Field earlier in the book. They fit it in by having the kids sing a song about Manetheren while riding their horses through the woods, so Moiraine tells them the story and explains to them that they are the descendants of the people of Manetheren. That was a nice bit of streamlining on the storytelling. We want to show that they’ve been traveling for a while, so let’s have Moiraine tell us of Manetheren while they move.

We end the episode in the place where I gave up on The Eye of the World back in 1993. Thomas and I went to the Bookstop that was where the Party City is now on 281 up near Bitters. I picked up The Eye of the World and got to the end of Shadow’s Waiting. That’s when the central group splits up. Then I lost track of who went where with whom and had to put the book down. I was determined to read it, though, so I skipped this whole chapter then read to the end. Once I knew where everyone was, my second and subsequent readthroughs went much better.

The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson

Yesterday’s randomly chosen book was Firefight, the second book in Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners trilogy. I have read the books, but it was a few years ago and didn’t make it into my “read” list and so I do kind of need to refresh my memory.

But first, I’ll write about my downloaded spreadsheet. As this shows, the books from my “to read” list are in that spreadsheet. Perhaps that was a mistake. If those numbers come up for a book that I really haven’t read yet, what am I going to do? Write 200 words on what I think the book might be like?

The Reckoners takes place in a world with superheroes. Well, when I say “superheroes,” the ones of this world aren’t so heroic. They are, in fact, supervillains. The name they carry in this world is “Epic.”

Our protagonist is David Charleston, who is present when the Epic Steelheart (think an evil Superman) makes his move to take over Chicago. In addition to invulnerability and being able to fly and Steelheart has the ability to turn things to steel. He turns every building in Chicago to steel and gets another Epic to block out the sun, turning the city into eternal night. He then dubs the city Newcago. Considering the resistance to the renaming of Marshall Field’s department store, Comiskey Park (home of the White Sox), and the Sears Tower, I suspect that the locals may call it Newcago out of fear of being turned into steel, but they privately still call it Chicago.

Anyway, most of the cities in the world are now dominated by Epics and David has made it his life’s work to find all of the information on backgrounds and weaknesses of the Epics as he can. His dream is to work with a group of rebels called the Reckoners, who intend to bring down the reign of Epics.

Apparently Sanderson has written a fourth book, Lux. It is currently only available as an audiobook, but there are supposedly plans to publish it as an ebook and in hard copy. It is about the Texas Reckoners and I know literally nothing about it other than that. I guess it’ll probably take place concurrent with the original trilogy, maybe?

Today’s Germane Amazon Link is for Steelheart, the first Reckoners novel. We’ll probably see it again as a Gratuitous Amazon Link once I’ve finished my reread.

I Bought Makeup Today

We have an expensive house repair currently and I will be needing more income than I currently have. I love blogging and don’t intend to stop. I may move to posting every other day so that my daily blog post will buy me more than one day, but as a profit center, so far blogging is a total bust.

So I’m planning to hang up my metaphorical shingle as a freelance proofreader. I’ve done quite a bit of proofreading in the past, both for-pay and for fun, and I still have an advanced sense of “you know this is wrong, don’t you?” which gets a pretty good workout at Walmart, I’ll tell you.

I know that my own posts have oodles of typos and things, but that’s the point of having a proofreader. Writers see what they think the put on the page. Proofreaders actually see what’s there.

So I’m re-signing up for a freelance website I worked with over 10 years ago and may be going to put my ear to the ground for other jobs, as well.

However, in order to do this, I will need a head shot. My last head shot was taken by Alex when he was, oh, nine or so? So I think I need something more up-to-date.

To that end, I went out and refreshed my haircut so that it’s perky and makes me look more alert (and also a bit more youthful!) and bought some actual makeup. I got some eyeliner and eye shadow and blush. I tried pulling out some of my extra eyebrow hairs in my mirror tonight but I think I’ll probably just apply some foundation under my eye shadow before I put the eye shadow on so that my eyebrow hairs are minimized.

I’ve been planning to go to a real eyebrow waxing place and also get my eyebrows tinted. My eyebrows are starting to turn gray and so all you can see are the ones closest to my nose. However, I don’t have time to do that before I need that head shot.

The one thing I didn’t need is lipstick. A couple of months ago, I took a picture of Safiya Nygaard’s Franken Lipstick to my HEB and got the lady working the makeup department to find me a color close to that. The one I got, (L’Oreal’s Berry Parisienne) is really close. And looks great on me. Evelyn, who is my makeup guru, agrees with me.

It’s 11:00 now and I need to go get some sleep. I know that I’m going to be doing a bunch of reading before bed, so I’d better head that way now so I look good-ish in the morning when Alex comes to photograph me.

For tonight’s Gratuitous Amazon Link we have the fifth and final book in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Last Olympian. I really enjoyed this book. After the final Harry Potter book came out, I was dubious (too many of my friends excused the weaknesses of the last books in the Harry Potter series as necessary “because of the formula” and I was concerned that Percy Jackson and the Olympians would go a similar way. Fortunately, it didn’t.)

FoxTrot, by Bill Amend

My first random-number-generated choice was Welcome to Jasorassic Park, by Bill Amend. This is a compilation of FoxTrot comic strips, so I deleted all of the FoxTrot books I could find in the spreadsheet and decided to do one post on the comic strip as a whole.

FoxTrot is the story of the stressors and confict and, yes, occasionally love and affection within the Fox family: Roger, the father, Andy, the mother, and their three children, 16-year-old Peter, 14-year-old Paige, and 10-year-old Jason.

Jason is pretty much the standout character because so many of the strips focus on his math/science/science fiction geekiness. Amend has a degree in physics, so I wonder how much of Jason is a self-insert. Jason loves school because it’s easy for him. He is shown working ahead in his textbooks just for fun.

Paige is a pretty stereotypical 14-year-old girl, interested in fashion, shopping, boys, and so forth. She has almost completely failed in her pursuit of boys, only ever attracting geeky Morton Goldthwait. She has no head for math or science and Jason will give her incorrect answers unless she pays for the correct ones.

Peter is interested in stereotypical boy things like rock music, cars, and sports. He is on the baseball team, but the running gag is that he is a benchwarmer — he barely gets to actually play, if ever. He is also a perennial procrastinator, waiting until the last minute to finish anything.

Dad Roger is also into stereotypical “dad” things like golf and barbecuing. He also fancies himself to be a good chess player, but both Jason and Andy can defeat him easily. Roger clearly loves his wife and children.

Andy is a good mom who loves her husband and children. She may be a bit too concerned about their welfare, because she is constantly trying to get her family to eat “healthy” food that also happens to be completely disgusting. She also harasses them to stop what she thinks are unhealthy habits like procrastinating or watching trashy television. Back in the day, I had a LiveJournal icon of Andy with her head down on the table in front of her in frustration, because, well, when I was frustrated, I felt just like that.

Jason has an ongoing rivalry with Paige. Some of the things Jason does would be beyond the pale for real life, but as it’s a comic strip, the readers give him a pass. It is revealed that Paige would intentionally scare Jason when he was a baby, and that the rivalry stems from those events.

I mostly came to FoxTrot as a young married woman. The strip started in 1988 when I was already in my early 20s and ran in the Chicago Tribune. My family were Sun-Times readers, so for the first couple of years I only got to read it when we were on vacation and the local paper had the strip or when I caught the comics at my in-laws’ (they read the Tribune).

When I got married, Thomas wanted to read the Tribune, and I loved that largely because of FoxTrot. Then I remembered that there should be actual books of FoxTrot strip compilations and I didn’t need the paper anymore. So, for today’s Germane Amazon Link, I bring you the earliest of the larger compilation books that I can find on Amazon: FoxTrot, the Works, by Bill Amend.

A Random Assortment of Stuff

One of the points of NaNoWriMo is to just let go and write.

So, since I’m out of ideas today, I figured I’d just blather on for a couple of hundred words and see what happens.

I think I mentioned here that I recently lost Deimos. He had a tumor in his abdomen and it started hemorrhaging and we had to put him down. So, aside from Mila, who is living with a foster mom, I am out of furry critters. I certainly don’t have any living with me. I think I’m going to take this time to clean up. My carpets, which weren’t in such great shape when I bought this house, look clean, but I think there’s an infinite amount of loose fur buried in them. I’m also working on getting rid of the oil marks from where my five cats rubbed their faces into the door jambs.

I’m also wondering if, when I get a new cat, I can train him (I’m allergic to female cats) to travel with me. I know that I’d have to get a young cat and train him that this is just what we do in our family, and he would have to get along with Mila enough to travel with the two of us.

I was going to watch the second Wheel of Time episode tonight, but when I got home from work, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. So I took a nap until 10:30 and then got up and stared at my blog for a while, then started the process of trying to get my old oDesk (now Upwork) account up and running again. It took a while to find the live chat, since I haven’t been able to access that old account. Then I decided to just write about whatever to get *something* written for today and here we are.

Oh, and I’ve given up on all but the Brilliant Events and 20s events in Wizards Unite and am focusing on leveling up as high as I can before they cancel the game. I’d do the Adversaries events but the only one I finished, I ran out of spells and Exstimulo potions and the new set is supposed to be harder than that. So. Nope.

Instead, I run a Baruffio’s Brain Potion and a Tonic for Trace Detection and just catch as many foundables as I can in that half hour. I’m almost to Level 42.

I think I’m going to have to try the walk-and-dictate thing tomorrow and maybe Sunday. I’m behind on both words and steps.

I wonder if I could export my “read” books list from Goodreads. I was thinking that picking a random book and spending a couple of hundred words on it might be a good way to build a few more posts. Ah-ha! Yes, you can. And yes, I have. Starting tomorrow (or later today by now, I guess), if I hit a block, I will randomly choose one number between 1 and 656 and write for a while on that book. Then I will delete that line and next time choose a number between 1 and 655 and repeat.

Maybe I’ll do this once daily even if I’m not blocked. I need more than 2,000 words per day to win NaNoWriMo at this point.

It’s Gratuitous Amazon Link time. We were in the middle of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, so up next is The Battle of the Labyrinth. I subscribed to Audible for a couple of months while I get all of the Wheel of Time audiobooks and now that I’ve done that, Amazon.com defaults to the audiobook instead of the Kindle book. I may accidentally link to the audiobook for these sometime in the future.

The Wheel of Time, Episode 1: Leavetaking

This will contain spoilers. So many spoilers. It’s downright spoiled. If you haven’t watched the first episode of the Wheel of Time and read all of the books, beware!

I’m also assuming that you know basic terminology like Aes Sedai, Ajahs, etc.

I need images to build up a bit more spoiler space, so I’m going back through my old photos in chronological order for now. I may take some new pictures over the next weekend. This is Vesuvius from 2014.

First off, I wasn’t expecting to spend so much time with the kids from the Two Rivers. Things people said about the focus of the first episode being on Moiraine and being about the rebirth of the Dragon Reborn, I was expecting more New Spring and less Eye of the World in the first episode. And, instead, the New Spring-y stuff is limited to the first few minutes. Then we get Moiraine and Lan watching a bunch of sisters of the Red Ajah catching a man who can channel (was that Logain?) and when it turns out that he isn’t the Dragon Reborn, Moiraine leaves for the Two Rivers.

Rafe Judkins, creator of the television series, is attempting to obfuscate who the Dragon Reborn will turn out to be in part by saying that the Dragon Reborn can also be female and making Egwene or Nynaeve (or both?) ta’veren as well as the three boys, to which I say, “about damn time.”

There’s a lot I liked about Jordan’s attempts at egalitarianism. I liked the fact that so many of the countries of Randland have female rulers, for example. But as with everyone, Jordan had some blind spots. Channeling is stereotypical and, kind of kinky. Men are more powerful and they take an active role in channeling. Women are weaker and channel by surrendering to the Power. The balance for men being stronger is that women can join their abilities together, while for men, they can only join together if there’s a woman in their circle. See? Kinky.

In one big departure from the books, it seems clear to me that Nynaeve knows that “listening to the wind” is channeling. She doesn’t know who her parents are (which is odd. Where is that going?) and she was raised by the former Wisdom of Emond’s Field (a name that I don’t think I’ve heard in the series yet, so far they’ve just called it The Two Rivers), who could “listen to the wind” and went to Tar Valon to train to be an Aes Sedai and was refused because of her ragged clothes and her “peasant accent.”

As part of the attempt to make it uncertain who will be the Dragon Reborn, we also see way more than we do in the books. We see the ceremony where the Women’s Circle braid’s Egwene’s hair and we see the events of Winternight, rather than just seeing the destruction afterwards, which was nice. Well, watching the people of Emond’s Field be slaughtered by Trollocs wasn’t nice. But having those blank filled in was nice. Oh, you know what I mean. I think.

Now for the biggest, most spoilery, question, was Laila fridged? For those who have never heard the term “fridge” used that way, it’s based in a Green Lantern comic book featuring the stupidest Green Lantern of them all, Kyle Rayner. The villain Major Force kills Kyle’s girlfriend, Alexandra, and sticks her in the refrigerator. This leads Kyle to develop as a character. It has come to mean any time a female character is sacrificed (to death, or to incapacitation or whatever) to advance a man’s storyline.

Now, at first glance, Laila’s accidental death at Perrin’s hands (or axe, I guess) does look like fridging. Perrin will change and grow or otherwise develop (maybe in a maladjusted way) to this trauma. I hope that they find a way to subvert this trope in further episodes, but if that’s the only major problem I have with the show, then we’re doing pretty well.

Mega Spoiler for a book that won’t be adapted until season 3, I think, follows:

And what will happen when Perrin returns home with Faile after leaving town before Laila’s funeral? I suspect we may not have the happy Emond’s Field wedding of the book series.