Solutions and Other Problems, by Allie Brosh

Solutions and Other Problems took seven years to write. Well, it took seven years to publish. I attended a virtual book tour for Solutions and Other Problems which was attended by Brosh’s mom and her mom said that the book took much less time to actually write, but getting up her courage to send it to the publisher took longer.

And that makes a lot of sense. Brosh went through a lot in those years. She took a long sabbatical from her blog not too long after publishing a two-part cartoon on her fight with depression. During those seven years, she also lost her sister and got a divorce. Her parents split up at some point during those seven years as well.

Hell, I haven’t gone through anything like that in the last seven years, and I’m still having trouble getting my courage up to put myself out there.

Brosh has a wonderful sense of humor and she’s an amazing artist (she actually works hard to make her pictures look that amateurish). Solutions and Other Problems is largely about how weird and maladjusted Brosh is. In showing us how weird and maladjusted she is, though, she shows us how weird and maladjusted we all are.

Or maybe it’s just me.

I hope it’s not just me.

Shower Thought on Wheel of Time Episode 4

So I was coming out of the shower today and it hit me . . . .

Lookout Mountain 1863
1863 lithograph of Lookout Mountain.

Okay, so they definitely seem to be hinting that Nynaeve is the child of Aemon and Eldrene, the last king and queen of Manetheren. The last thing that Nynaeve remembers her parents saying to her is the last thing that Aemon and Eldrene said to their children . . . ?

Now, maybe this is a red herring, but I think that might be where they’re going. Additionally, I’m pretty sure that if they did, it would be a way to make Nynaeve *way* stronger in the Power than any other woman in the modern era.

In the books, the number of novices is dropping significantly and modern channelers are way weaker than in the past. I believe it is Verin who suggests that the way things are working now, they may be culling the talent out of humanity. Or, at least, the parts of humanity that they’re in touch with.

Verin, or whoever, says that (a) Aes Sedai rarely marry and almost never have children, and (b) they gentle all of the men who can channel that they can find, and most of them end up committing suicide. I don’t remember if Verin actually follows the chain of thought so far, but probably the only people who can channel who reproduce are men and women who can be taught to channel or who are born with the spark but are so weak that it is never caught. *

There are other channelers, such as the Seanchan, and the Kin, but a similar thing applies there. The Seanchan clearly don’t allow their Damane to reproduce, and so the only channelers that can reproduce, again, are the Sul’Dam, the ones who can be taught. I’m surprised by how strong the freed Damane end up being, because the same thing should have happened in Seanchan.

And I don’t remember the Kin having descendants. They try to live by what they think of as Aes Sedai rules, so I’d think that their rates of reproduction should be pretty low. Also, the Kin are women who were put out of the tower, largely because they were too weak to advance. Some of the stronger of the Kin are ones who balked at the testing, but most of them learned just enough channeling not to hurt themselves and then they were sent away.

So if only weak channelers reproduce, the talent will get weaker.

If they want Nynaeve to be a valid option for Dragon Reborn, she would need to be incredibly strong. Like, up by where Rand is in the books. So, having the solution to the mystery of Nynaeve’s parentage be that she’s Aemon and Eldrene’s daughter would make her naturally way more powerful than the rest of the current Aes Sedai. She dates from an era when they weren’t culling their channelers.

As for how Nynaeve ended up so far in the future, maybe Eldrene had Foretelling as one of her Talents and she knew that Nynaeve would be needed, so she sent her to the future or put her in stasis or something?

It’s possible that I’m overthinking this, but Judkins is also a fan of the books, so maybe I’ve overthought this just the right amount. We’re going to find out who the Dragon Reborn is in Episode 8. It’ll probably be Rand, but you never know.

*D’you suppose there are men who are so weak that it just looks like, like, luck or skill rather than channeling? A silversmith who becomes rich and famous because he can make silver do things that silver just shouldn’t do? A trader whose ships just narrowly avoid the kinds of hazards that nearby ships get caught in? Would they also be affected by the taint, or is the amount of mental illness proportional to the amount of Saidin used?

The Wheel of Time, Episode 4: The Dragon Reborn

As always with these posts, there will be spoilers for the episode and also for just about any point in the book series. If you don’t want to be spoiled, just move along.

Today’s spoiler space image:

Cincinnati, from Covington, Kentucky
Cincinnati, August 1987, taken from across the Ohio River, in Covington, Kentucky.

Two of our three groups, Egwene and Perrin and Mat, Rand, and Thom (I’ve decided to list groups alphabetically) are still on the move.

Egwene and Perrin are with the Traveling People, who are traveling east. When they make camp for the night, Egwene dances with Aram after failing to convince Perrin to dance with her. Perrin gets the explanation of the pacifist Way of the Leaf that the Traveling People follow from Ila and this scene is one of the most beautiful scenes so far.

Ila explains that she follows the Way of the Leaf not because it will benefit her or even Aram, her grandson, but because someday her late daughter (Aram’s mom) will be spun out by the Pattern again and she wants to leave a better world for her.

Mat, Rand, and Thom spend the night at the Grinwell family farm. After Dana said that the fastest way out was a riverboat, and we established that they have money, I was expecting to meet Bayle Domon. Surprise! I guess.

Instead of being a boy-crazy teen girl, Else is a little girl who reminds Mat of his sisters. Thom tells Rand that he thinks that Mat might be able to channel because Thom’s nephew Owyn got surly like Mat is after the taint on Saidin got to him. Neither knows about the Shadar Logoth dagger.

The Grinwells are attacked by Trollocs and Mat and Rand escape with their lives. The last we see of Thom, he is fighting off a Fade with his knives, just like in Whitebridge in the books.

Don’t tell me we’re going to skip Whitebridge! OMG. It’s Whitebridge!

Based on the books, which is no guarantee, we won’t see Thom until next season now, since he rejoins the story in The Dragon Reborn*. Maybe Judkins et al. are still in negotiations with John and Taupin.

Okay. Now for the exciting part. Lan, Moiraine, and Nynaeve. First, just to throw this out there. We meet Alanna and she is very strong. I still don’t like her. I have my reasons.

We see the first real sign of the Lan/Nynaeve romance here. She catches him praying for Malkier and she shows him her ritual, the last words her parents spoke to her. They are in the Old Tongue, which she doesn’t speak. Lan tells her that the words she spoke are the words that the King and Queen of Manetheren told their children before they left for their final battle.

Are they telling us that Nynaeve is the rightful ruler of Manetheren? Has she been frozen in an iceberg for hundreds of years? How will this work out?

And then there’s the real spoilers. Like, Turn Back Now. I almost want to throw another spoiler space photo in here.

Moiraine takes a turn shielding Logain so she can see how strong he is, so she can hopefully eliminate Logain from the running as the Dragon Reborn. It turns out that he is very strong indeed, but not as strong as the Dragon Reborn is supposed to be. And she tells him so.

Then Logain’s followers attack the Aes Sedai camp. Logain uses the distraction to break free of his shields and everyone except Nynaeve dies. Lan’s death makes Nynaeve angry, and, to paraphrase David Bruce Banner, you wouldn’t like Nynaeve when she’s angry.

I half expected this to be the big balefire scene, replacing the one where Rand balefires Rahvin in The Fires of Heaven. And I’m thinking, what will happen to the Pattern if Nynaeve erases Logain from the timeline?

Instead, she heals everyone. So I guess she can heal death after all. Okay.

Logain decides then and there that Nynaeve must be the Dragon Reborn. O. Kay.

After they recover from their deaths, the Aes Sedai do an extrajudicial gentling of Logain.

*Germane Amazon Link!

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.)