Saturday, May 29, 2021

Book Review: Black Sun

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Black Sun is the first book of an epic fantasy series. Like many first books, it covers the beginning of the journey for multiple characters. There is a definitive two-sided conflict rising but there are a number of unaffiliated characters who become involved along the way either as a main character visits their past, or reaches out for assistance. The two main characters that "lead" the opposing sides do not meet by the end of this novel, but the sides do encounter their first clash.

The voice was engaging and shifted appropriately from character to character. One character in particular, Xiala, had a distinct voice that was well developed. Her personality was more clear and her motivations believable despite being one of the unaffiliated characters caught up in a personal conflict. There were only a few minor distractions in the writing style. I was tempted to start a tally of how many times I read the word 'had.' This could be because I have been self-editing some work and am sensitive to overused words at this point.

I did not have issue with the genderless, or third gender, pronouns. This is not the first work I have read that employs this and it does not take away from the story. (But I also feel like it did not necessarily add anything either. Maybe the author's personal attempt to 'normalize' alternate genders? Which is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but it still felt like more of an afterthought. Like, by the way, I want to support people who do not fit into the two-gender illusion, so here's a shout-out.) Maybe this will be further developed later?

I enjoyed the similarities between native cultures in our own history and those in the book. I think good stories make us reach into our own experiences and pull out similarities and differences. The description of the different clans, or ethnicities, was effective and the use of magic and ritual certainly aligned with pagan and naturalistic religions I have studied. Seeing magic that does not only align with common Western beliefs was enjoyable.

Worldbuilding was perfect. I had a good image of the terrain, the people, their clothing, beliefs, and even their diets. None of it was overdone with boring descriptions or exposition.

The plot moved at a decent pace and the character's conflicts were relatable. Maybe one or two events felt forced like there was no other way out of that situation, so here is some magic. But overwhelmingly, that was not the case and it was mostly well used.

I felt like the ending was good as well. I did not feel like I was missing anything or like the story just suddenly stopped. Obviously, the main conflict is not over, and the characters have unfinished business, but the first part of the story ended well.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Happy Towel Day

I just wanted to pop in and say Happy Towel Day to everyone!

What a fun day. It also happens to be my son's birthday, so I wanted to share a funny story about this day seven years ago (involving towels). 

My kids were born at home, and the first time, things were not exactly on schedule. Nothing was ready, my dates were off, and I had no clue I was in labor. I remember continually bothering my husband (who was busy murdering zombies on his computer). "I feel funny and I keep having to stand still."

Anyways, there are a lot of other details to this story that I won't share here, but when the midwife arrived she sent him to gather fresh towels and other items. I was in the middle of doing laundry for the week and had not finished. In walks my husband with an arm full of towels straight out of the washing machine. He was trying so hard to be helpful and the midwife politely informed him that the towels needed to be dry. 

Very shortly after, my incredible son was wrapped in a dolphin beach towel instead of the new, fancy ones I bought for the homebirth. I find this all highly appropriate given the coincidence of towel day and the importance of dolphins as the second most intelligent creatures on Earth. 

Not only should you always have your towel, but you should also always have clean towels!

I hope you all have a wonderful day! So long and thanks for all the fish!

We still have the towel! (And the kid...)

Monday, May 17, 2021

Melancholy? Pensiveness?

As a member of the Insecure Writer Support Group, I feel the need to share a moment of insecurity. I have found myself in a rather gloomy state, and no idea why. I do not particularly feel sad or depressed, but more like how one would feel after falling off a bike and no one saw it happen. That moment after you get a shock and some pain and have absolutely no one to share the experience with. 

The irony in this is I recently had a pleasant meal at a new friend's house. Of course, my husband insisted we take our kids, and that was as expected. But it is strange to me that after a moment of socializing I would feel a touch "alone" the following day. 

Was it simply a reminder that I was capable of meeting new people but terrible at it? A reminder that life is rather repetitive and simple (which is really just fine with me!)? My social anxiety is not crippling, but it does weigh heavily on me and perhaps this is just the first time I have had it in a while. Could it be a drop after adrenaline?

Why am I putting this out there. Because I felt insecure and I wanted to express the fact that it is okay. So I feel blue, so what? I will just go with it. I'm planning my son's birthday adventure (I don't do parties...maybe next year), signing him up for performing arts lessons, my daughter is using the potty without being prompted, I will finally get to attend a Con this summer, my first story was just published, my novel edits are moving along smoothly, the engineer and contractor are meeting to set up a timeline for our house, and I feel a little sad. No biggie. 

Strangely my first thought was, What did I eat? Then I decided I should probably just meditate. Now, I am thinking it is time to hit the gym and finish with some yoga.

I have become increasingly aware of the direct connection between physical and mental state, so I know it is time to do some self-love. I spent the entire day outside yesterday, editing under an umbrella. Maybe I just need some movement to go with that nature. I wish there was a good hiking trail to do some walking meditation. As much as I love exercising, the gym comes with a level of anxiety that is counterproductive. 

What do you do when you feel a bit insecure? Do you ever get a strange moment of "slowness" when you feel a little down even though you have plenty going on?

Writing meditation is also a trick of mine, but I did not feel like finding my old journal. This seemed like an okay place to get out some words. Thanks for your visit!

Book update:

Currently editing scene 9 of 35.

Current word count:  72872 

Goal:  Edit 4 scenes per week, including initial edits to identify issues with arcs, sequencing, action, and dialogue.

Tea:  Sweet & Spicy (Original Decaf)

Monday, May 3, 2021

AtoZ Challenge - Reflections & IWSG May

May the month of May bring you little mayhem and plenty of mayhap. (May the Fourth be with you if you happen to be visiting on such a holy day.)

Anyways, I would like to share my reflections for the A to Z Challenge and answer the fabulous IWSG Question of the month.

First, I am happy to announce I successfully completed my first A to Z Challenge! I did half of the entries ahead of time and scrambled desperately to get the rest finished in time. I managed to post them all on the correct day and in so doing proved the strength of my marriage. (Dear husband, thank you for not abandoning me during my crazed, late-night keyboard clacking. Payback for all those long gaming nights if I'm honest.)

For the month of April, my site received around 3,500 visits and 180 new comments. I am very pleased with these numbers as a first-time participant. My blog recently turned one year old, so that is even better!

My favorite part about the entire experience was the connection with other writers and readers. Seeing their comments each day gave me a boost of confidence. A number of readers stuck through the entire series and read through to the finish. I was nervous to create a perfect ending for them. I wanted them to read the last words with a satisfied smile. I hope they did!

On the flip side, I learned about a number of new blogs I now follow as well. I added several in the margin to your left. There are some very inspiring storytellers and artists among them. I tried to reply or return every comment I received. In the coming months, I would like to feature some of my favorite bloggers. It was a long and difficult month and I intend to continue visiting and commenting until I am certain I did my part! Plus, there are many blogs I never got the chance to visit!

Now to the May 5th question:
Have any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect? If so, did it surprise you?

I received more feedback on my writing this past month than I thought I would. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised. I did not expect readers to follow the characters with such interest, nor did I expect them to be concerned for what would happen to them next. (Obviously, I hoped.) I was also pleased with the comments regarding worldbuilding. Reading their comments and dislikes for the villains/society helped me develop the story arc and bend the story toward that feedback. I found great joy in play-acting through my character and seeing the reaction as if I were looking directly at my audience. Special thanks to my most active readers, your comments kept me going:  Zalka Csenge Virág, Deborah Weber, Jemima Pett, Olga Godim, Iain Kelly, Jayashree, Yamini MacLean, Anne EG Nydam, Gail Baugniet, Anstice Brown, Jennifer Duggin, and Alex J Cavanaugh.

Please take a few moments to visit some other fabulous blogs. The awesome co-hosts for the May 5 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine!

Do you have a copy of the latest IWSG Anthology? Ten fantastic stories await you, and I am honored to say one of them is mine!

Catch the authors on tour!
Tuesday, May 4 - Laura Billings' blog: Bookish Equestrian
Tuesday, May 4 - Jemi Fraser's blog: Just Jemi
Wednesday, May 5 - Ellen Jacobson's author blog
Thursday, May 6 - Mason Canyon's blog: Thoughts in Progress
Friday, May 7 - Louise Barbour's blog: Standing Into Danger
Monday, May 10 - Nick Wilford's author blog
Wednesday, May 12 - Cathrina Constantine's author blog