What I Read, What I Watched, What I'm Working On

10 January 2003

It's raining again, or maybe still. It was decent rain for awhile this morning. I think the Bay Area is maybe trying to comfort me. It knows I'd rather be somewhere with a Long Night, so it was overcast all day yesterday, a little bit dark all the time. The hills are greening up fast, starting to look like an Irish Spring commercial. Oh, and hey, if you're driving a car in the Bay Area, turn your lights on, you psycho! Why is it that Californians don't realize that you need to turn your lights on in the rain? Yarg!

Anyway. I ran every errand I could think of yesterday, except for getting the oil changed. Otherwise, most of the stuff for outside the house was done. Grocery store, bank, two different P.O.s, office supply store, Hallmark, library, and Barnes and Noble -- well, I had a gift card from the godfathers, and I only got one of the two new Charles de Lint collections for Christmas. So I got the other one, and one of Jesse Byock's Icelandic history books and a Diana Wynne Jones. Deep Secret turned me into a full-fledged Diana Wynne Jones fan. Before that, I liked many of her books but wasn't willing to commit to saying that I liked her stuff in general -- I thought it might depend on what the subject matter was. (And I still believe she could write a bad book. Anyone can write a bad book.) But Deep Secret looked fairly unappealing, frankly. I only bought it because the Nice Mean Man (a.k.a. Will) talked me into it. It has centaurs and cross-world travel through a series of worlds with varying amounts of magic. It sounded pretty Piers Anthony, and that's not a good thing. But it was good, really good, lots of fun. I highly recommend it.

Oh. I guess that's a segue into my Christmas reading recommendations. Well, the other Charles de Lint collection, Waifs and Strays, certainly qualifies. Good stuff there, and only a few of them overlap with Dreams Underfoot. The problem with Charles de Lint is that reading some always makes me want to read more. The good thing this year is that there are several re-releases of things I haven't gotten yet, so I'll have good de Lint potential for awhile. Sarah and Jeff got that one for me, and it was well worth my time.

Michelle and Scott -- who, incidentally, are engaged now, woohoo! -- got me/us, among other things, Louis Sachar's Holes. Good fun. And it was fairly self-contained. I didn't feel that anything had been clipped, restrained, or left out. It was just itself. It's a children's book, sort of an adventure story...not much like anything else, I don't think. Worth the time it takes to read it, and probably worth more than that, since it's short.

Onie got me Terry Pratchett's Night Watch, which was an awfully lot of fun. It was not in any way ground-breaking, for either a Discworld book or a time-travel book. That was all right. It had no need to be breaking ground. The ground it was already on was just fine and had plenty of room.

Charlie Stross' Toast and Other Rusted Futures was an entirely different kind of fun. The sort of fun that prompted me to have a brief discussion with Mark about what was explicitly stated in the algorithmic bits and what could be reasonably inferred. Total geekout. I can't wait for his novels to show up here.

I think that was about it that was outstanding. I reread Sarah Zettel's Reclamation, which is nowhere near Fool's War in quality but still amused me. And I discarded Anne Perry's Tathea. Ugh. I tried it, but I couldn't get past about page 50 -- it was just that terrible. Lin swears that Perry is a good mystery writer, so I'm going to give her a try there, and fairly soon, so that I don't go through bookstores scowling at her books.

Plenty of the rest of the books I read were pretty good, worth reading, but not mind-blowing: Naomi Kritzer's Fires of the Faithful, Nancy Springer's I Am Mordred (the ending was such a cop-out!), Gripenberg's Finland and the Great Powers, Diane Ackerman's Origami Bridges and The Rarest of the Rare, Neil Gaiman's Coraline (it was good, but I think I'd heard too much about its creepiness, and it didn't creep me out that much), Diane Duane's A Wizard Alone, Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Stories for an Enchanted Afternoon, Caroline Stevermer's River Rats, Leif Enger's Peace Like a River (I didn't know anybody could do Midwestern Protestant Magical Realism!), Joe Haldeman's Guardian, Lawrence Block's Tanner's Twelve Swingers, Barbara Hambly's Sisters of the Raven, David Brin's Kiln People, Lawrence and Sylvia Hokkanen's Karelia, and Kate Wilhelm's A Sense of Shadow and The Good Children. And some sagas, and I'm still reading the sagas. I'll talk to you about any of that if you want to hear it, but it's too much to go on about each book, I think. I read kind of a lot, but I've still got a lot on my piles to read, and some of it looks pretty exciting.

Not that I spent much time yesterday reading, nor do I plan to do much of it today, I'm afraid. I'm going to finish the novella Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow had on Scifiction in December (because I hate serializations and didn't read it in serial because that would only have annoyed me), but otherwise it'll be busyish. Too many different things yet to do around here, cleaning and laundering and typing typing typing. And doing some yoga to counteract some of the typing.

I was typing some of Dwarf's Blood Mead yesterday when I had the odd feeling that it was the bit they could quote out as a teaser, you know, in the front of paperback editions sometimes? I'm never aware of that sort of thing when I'm writing, but when I'm retyping, it's kind of a different matter. And, of course, I could be wrong. I guess we'll see. It was surreal, though.

I also noticed that I tended to use compound sentences with "and" more when I was on the airplane. What deep psychological and artistic significance this has, I have no idea.

I have a few problems with Dwarf's Blood Mead right now. One of them is horses. There are horses in this book. Do I need to name the horses? I hate horse names. They're so often just stupid, but I don't want to name them, well, the Icelandic equivalent of Bill, because I don't want the reader, stuck among unfamiliar Soldruns and Kjartans to begin with, to confuse someone's brother for her pony. The dog was easy; his name is Ulff, and that's the end of it. But I know from dogs. I've named dogs before, and will again. Horses, no, not so much. So what the heck? What do I do? Am I allowed to just have people ride "the brown mare" or "her favorite pony?"

The other problem I'm having is a bit trickier. Power is more segregated in my almost-Icelandic society than it is here -- there are some areas in which Soldrun is quite powerful for her age, because she's the eldest daughter of a landholder (female, like all landholders in this book), and in fact there are areas in which she quite clearly outranks her three older brothers. There are also areas in which she does not. And she knows, and they know, which areas those are. She knows where the demarcation line goes. I think I just need to make it a little clearer to the reader where the demarcation line goes. We'll see how that works. Maybe it'll go in Chapter Three. If it does, I fear that Chapter Three will become Chapters Three and Four. It's all right. I never understood these chapters all that well anyway, and I was surprised that they showed up at all.

Incidentally, I've been referring to Dwarf's Blood Mead as DBM in e-mails, and Scott has grown too used to the Not The Moose Book abbreviation, so he says he can't help but read it as something like Da Book Moose. In case you were wondering, this is not Da Book Moose. But that doesn't make it Not Da Book...oh, never mind.

I think The Book Moose is a pretty decent little kids' title, though, in case anybody was wondering.

I was talking to Timprov about the NTMB last night, or rather about its eventual prequel, and I ended up saying, "You know it's a sad day when you have Swedes and Norwegians in a book for their superior emotional expressiveness." But given a book that's mostly about Finns, it's not an unreasonable solution.

Oh! I have a stink problem again. I wrote about this before, when they discontinued my Flowering Herbs lotion and I had to try to stock up on it and then get used to another scent. Mark bought me Juniper (too butch for me) and Water Blossom Ivy, so I had settled on Water Blossom Ivy and was alternating that with my Flowering Herbs stash, until gradually both of them got to smell like me to me. Well. So. I was getting a bit low on the body cream in Water Blossom Ivy scent, and Mom and Mark went looking for some for in my stocking. And they've discontinued that now, too. So I'm stocking up on that, too, and I'm not buying any new lotion until I'm done with my stashes of both good kinds, and I am not entirely happy about having to be flexible about my stink like this. All this discontinuing left and right, just to make room for more Tossed Salad scented lotions. It is Not Appreciated.

So. Hmm. A few more things before I get back to productive work: I went to see "The Two Towers" while I was gone. Twice: once with the entire Gritter family, and once with Timprov and C.J. I probably wouldn't have gone to see it twice on my own, but Timprov and C.J. hadn't seen it yet, and it was definitely enough fun to go with them. I really liked Rohan. My one gripe with it is that my friend Jen (The World's Best Lab Partner, that Jen, for those of you who are keeping score) did a stirring rendition of Eowyn's speech from The Return of the King when we were in college, and so now I think of Eowyn with Jen's soft-edged drawl. And the rest of Rohan gets the same treatment. "Y'all cain't go armed into the presence of Theoden King." Etc.

I think many people liked the ents more than I did. I thought they needed to be slower, deeper, funnier, and less spindly. And less isolationist, and more aware, and in the movie more, generally. But Gollum, Gollum was quite good, and the scenes with the fish were perfect. Gollum grew on me on the second viewing.

I also got introduced to "Trading Spaces," which I don't think I'll be watching much of without my folks, but they love it. And sometimes the spectacle was quite something. And Matt and I watched a couple of episodes of "The Scarlet Pimpernel," which I particularly appreciated because it wasn't trying to be the book, so I didn't have the urge to pick at it. (I did think that the actor they'd chosen was very good as The Scarlet Pimpernel but not so great as Sir Percy.)

And, I blush to admit, on New Year's Eve, we watched "Red Green Does New Year's Eve." And laughed at parts of it. It was very silly, and sometimes silly slapstick really is funny. But mostly it was just a Northern Thing that we couldn't do here, and I appreciated that.

I realize that I only got the Christmas Eve pictures up yesterday. I had a few things to do. I'm hoping to finish up the rest of them today, but I may only get Christmas Day done and may save Milwaukee and Minneapolis stuff for later. We shall see, she said mysteriously.

Okay. Productive work now. Or at least soon.

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