Time Away

zzz

Octavia takes a break on The 100, kind of like us.

So, you’ve all been too busy with the holidays to think about our blog, right? Because we have. And not just busy with seeing family and that sort of thing, although we have been, but J and I have also been writing like the wind. I wrote two fanfic short stories for friends as holiday presents, and I also wrote a short story as one of J’s Christmas presents. And J, overachiever that he is, wrote me a novel. The title of the novel is Called to Account: A Novel of Epic Banking, and it is precisely as awesome as you would think from that title.

Soon we will be taking our annual writing vacation, and depending how wrapped up we are with that, we may miss a Sunday here or there, but we’ll try really hard not to. Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and best wishes for the New Year.

~S

This Is the Year That Was

regret nothing

Since S has done a year-in-review post, I figured I should do one, too. The only problem is that, when it comes to movies and TV, we watch everything together. And generally speaking, we have the same opinions about what we see. We’ve got that whole “unicorn” thing going on, remember? So I’m not going to be talking about TV and movies. If you want to know what I watched this year, scroll down and read what S has to say, and then just assume that I’m saying it, too.

Writing (time to brag):

I started with April Camp NaNo, where I wrote The Last Bright Angel. That was fun because it was a bit longer (at roughly 150,000 words when revised) than the shorter NaNo-length, 50,000 word novels I’ve been writing recently. That was part of the whole point of doing TLBA, in fact—to practice writing longer, more complicated works. There are eight POV characters, so I had a lot of work keeping everything straight.

For S’s birthday at the end of May, I wrote her Red Sand Girl, which is the origin story of one of our wizard characters. That was a more traditional 50,000 word novel with two POV characters. I did another 50,000 word novel, The Path of the Son, for July Camp NaNo, which shows another of our wizard characters (a fairly unpleasant person) when she was much younger, but not much nicer.

I started my Religions of Myrcia project in July, as well, and that took me about six weeks, through the rest of my vacation and into the beginning of Fall semester. The finished file ended up being more than 50,000 words, and I’ve already used it as reference material for writing projects since, so I feel that was time well spent.

And then, of course, there were my two novels for NaNoWriMo in November: In a Womanly Fashion and A Meager Education, both of which were around 70,000 words. The second one included excerpts from smutty novels that one character reads, and lyrics to a song called “Friendship is Special” from a truly awful children’s musical that she is obliged to go see. Those were lots of fun to write.

Reading (in which I am much more modest):

I didn’t have much time to read this year, though I also read and enjoyed The House of Mirth for S’s book club. Like her, I highly recommend it. I spent way, way too much time poring over religious reference works and Wiki pages on various churches while writing my Religions of Myrcia reference file. You really haven’t lived until you’ve spent two or three days reading up on monasticism.

I did some reading to prepare for my NaNo novels, as well. In a Womanly Fashion is a heist novel and at least partly a nautical adventure, so I read Treasure Island to get me inspired. It’s as good as I remember it being, and I discovered it fits almost perfectly into the traditional three act structure that books on novel writing and screenwriting teach.

A Meager Education is a school story, so I read through this volume of Lawrenceville Stories by Owen Johnson. They’re excellent examples of the school story genre from the late 19th, early 20th centuries.

Right now I’m about to start The Shepherd’s Crown, which is the last (sniff) Discworld book by Terry Pratchett. I’ve heard good things about it, and I’ve managed to remain mostly unspoiled about the plot, so I’m looking forward to that.

So this is what I’ve been up to this year. Other than, you know, doing my job and stuff. But that’s boring, and nobody wants to hear about it.

Now I just need to figure out what to get S for Christmas.

J

It was the best of times, etc…. 2015 Review

gun in your pocket

Santiago Cabrera as Aramis gets a smooch from Tom Burke as Athos in the BBC’s The Musketeers. My silly edit.

Tis the season of Top 10 Lists and the like, and while I don’t really quite have something like that to offer, I’ve been thinking I could do a little recap about where my mind was narratively speaking in 2015.

The Best: New (to me) TV

In 2015 I discovered four new TV shows that are destined to be shows I watch repeatedly for years to come and will be long-term touchstones when discussing fiction done right. It all began back at the beginning of the year when I discovered The 100. Set in a near post-apocalyptic future, the survivors of a nuclear war still living on a space station need to return to Earth and pray it’s habitable. Well, guess what? It sure is habitable, because there are folks who never left. It’s a thematically challenging, visually remarkable, and well-acted show. If CW, teens, and post-apocalypse usually turn you off, I understand, but if you’re ever going to make an exception, it should be this show.

Then at the end of May I found The Musketeers. Sigh! The BBC’s take on Dumas’s classic adventure tale is pretty much my favorite thing in the world right now. Which, of course, means 2016’s Season 3 is to be the show’s last. There’s simply nothing I don’t adore about this show: it looks great, I love the soundtrack, the stories are exciting, and I couldn’t love the cast more. Tom Burke’s Athos is destined to go down as one of my favorite TV characters ever.

Then once J could convince me to watch something other than The Musketeers endlessly, we found Halt and Catch Fire and Manhattan. For anyone who thinks I’ve sold my soul to the CW (which, frankly, has better programming than a lot of people give it credit for) and other lighter fare, here are two grown up period drams with complex characters and relationships. Watching the ever-changing dynamics between Joe, Cameron, Gordon, and Donna on Halt as they navigate the tech industry of the 1980s has been a treat, the characters each growing, changing, receding as individuals and as part of groups. The relationships on Manhattan, a fictionalized account of the invention of the atomic bomb, are equally complex, and the intensely character-driven plot is constantly surprising. (I once referred to Manhattan as the “Imelda Marcos of TV–there’s always another shoe to drop.”)

The Worst: Movies

I am a notorious movie buff. But guess where I haven’t been all year? To be honest, what’s playing at the theater hasn’t interested me on the whole for the past two years. I’ll probably go see In the Heart of the Sea later this month, because I love a good nautical story, but that will be the first film I’ll have seen in the theater since, I think, American Sniper. I’ve caught up on some things on DVD, but I just can’t convince myself to go to the theater when there’s so much good TV to watch.

The Best: Fanfic

2015 will go down in history as the year I sold my soul to fanfic (not the CW). I started reading it, and as J predicted, I started writing it, and I freaking love it. I also love the crazy women at Twitter who first gave me fanfics. I think it started with SG (@wedsandsatnight) giving me what isn’t quite typical fanfic, rather one of R.A. Steffan’s wonderful The Queen’s Musketeers stories. And then somehow I fell in with Carrie (@Snowglory) and Canadian Garrison (@CdnGarrison) and the world of Archive of Our Own was opened to me, and well, let’s just say that wonderful writers like breathtaken, Teland, uena, and too many others to name, have made my reading life decidedly more interesting!

The Neglected: Traditional novels and nonfiction

To spend the amount of time I now spend reading fanfic, something had to go, and it wasn’t going to be television. Because the fanfic I want to read isn’t available on audiobook for the most part (although R.A. Steffan now has an audiobook!), I’ve continued listening to some traditional novels and nonfiction books, but as far as sitting down and reading a book I hold in my hands, even ones I hold on my tablet, well, that hasn’t happened much. Except for the books I read for my book club, which leads me to…

The Best: The House of Mirth

Hands down, Edith Wharton’s classic is the best book I’ve read this year. The language is beautiful without being pretentious (one of the hardest lines for an author to walk, in my opinion), Lily Bart is a phenomenal heroine, and I wept. That’s pretty much the trifecta for me to love a book. Over the years, I’d tried to read The Age of Innocence several times and never made it past the first chapter, so I’d written Wharton off as an author. But when a member of the book club enthusiastically requested we read House of Mirth, I couldn’t say no. I opened the book dreading it, and instead fell wildly in love.

The Best: My first fanfic

Again, for the sake of keeping JS Mawdsley separate from my fanfic pseudonym, I’d rather not provide a link to my work on AO3. However, when I think about my work as an author this past year, I think most fondly on my first fanfic story. I recently reread it to refresh my memory as I prepare to continue the series, and it’s not half bad. Add to that how much it made me enjoy writing again, and it really is the best of me as an author in 2015.

The Worst: The Queen’s Tower revision

I will finish revising this book, dammit. Just not in 2015. Sometimes you feel it, sometimes you need to write fanfic instead.

So, narratively speaking, that was my year. Hope you had a good one!

~S