annathepiper: (Ein Minuten Bitte)

And now, part 2 of my review of Write!, the text editor. In part 1, I talked about my initial impressions of its pricing and subscription model, its treatment of saving to a cloud vs. saving locally, and functionality I was able to learn about on the first couple of menus.

In this post, I’ll talk about the functionality on the Edit and Format menus, as well as the overall look of the thing and the experience of writing in it.

Yep, that sure is an Edit menu

I see pretty standard functionality available on the Edit menu: Undo, Redo, Cut, Copy, Copy As (with a few different options as to how you can copy into the window you’re working on), and Find.

(Additionally, since I’m looking at the Mac build, there are also the Start Dictation and Emoji & Symbols options that I see at the bottom of Edit menus on other programs on my Mac. But as those as not specific to this program, I won’t talk about them here.)

The Format menu

Show Context Menu

This brings up a bunch of things that I’d expect to find on toolbars in other programs, and is essentially a glorified toolbar here, even if it’s in multi-tabbed menu format.

I’d be a little annoyed by this, as having to go to the menu seems like a redundant way to get at this functionality, except that I also just discovered I can get to the same stuff by right-clicking anywhere within my edit window. In which case I kinda wonder why there’s a whole menu command to get to this, which, again, feels redundant. But I guess not so much if you’re not used to right-clicking to get to stuff.

Bold, Light, Italic, Underline, Strikethrough, Upper Case, Lower Case

All of these menu options do what I’d expect them to, though I’m a little surprised by “Light”, as this is an option I haven’t seen in word processors or text editors before. It basically appears to be functioning as an opposite of Bold. Except that if you want to un-bold text you can toggle it in every single program I’ve ever dealt with, so I’m not exactly sure why a separate format needed to be here. If I try to bold an entire phrase and then choose “Light” on a word within that phrase, it does the exact same thing as just de-bolding that word.

I do like being able to automatically upper-case or lower-case text, though.

I’m not entirely pleased with all these formatting options being their very own menu items, though, particularly given that they’re all duplicated on the aforementioned Context menu. So there’s another layer of redundancy here, all of which I think would have been entirely fine to eliminate completely with a simple toolbar.

On the other hand, if you have the formatting options on the menu, you can also show the keyboard shortcuts, which is useful, so there’s that. Things like command-B and command-I might be second nature to me (or any other writer who’s been working for a while on a Mac), but I’m not everybody, and it’s important for me to keep that in mind.

Though okay, I just figured out why this menu/context bar bugs me. I’d like to be able to have that context menu floating over on the side so I wouldn’t have to keep bringing it up and dismissing it if I want to reformat text. Or, I’d like these options on a toolbar. This editor is billing itself as a “distraction-free” text editor, but it’s distracting to me to have to keep bringing the context menu up and dismissing it again. I’d be bugged by this less if it were on a mobile device where screen real estate is more important, but I’m on my laptop screen and not lacking for visual space.

Headers and Paragraphs

This is another formatting option that is duplicated on the context menu, and basically covers a small assortment of styles you can apply to text: headings, code, quote, etc. Not too huge a style set, but on the other hand, this is calling itself a text editor, not a word processor. I wouldn’t expect a text editor to get nearly as complicated with its styles as an outright word processor would, so that’s fine.

Alignment

Left, Right, Center, Justify, and Reset, some basic alignment options for whatever paragraph you’re currently in/selected, and it does appear to work on a paragraph basis. Which is about what I’d expect.

I am, however, a bit surprised that these options are not duplicated on the context menu. This is a bit of inconsistency of behavior, which I almost find a bit more irritating than the aforementioned redundancy.

Lists

Bullet, Numeric, and Alphabetic lists styles, including a “Switch” option that apparently just cycles through the three. Not something I feel I’d particularly need when using a text editor for writing.

But, if you’re using this thing as a client to write a post for Medium or some other blogging platform, basic lists could be useful. I use lists in my posts all the time.

Highlight

Behaves mostly like I’d expect, highlighting a word if I’ve already selected it, or turning on highlighting for whatever I’m about to type next if something isn’t already selected.

However, highlighting apparently does not toggle like Bold or Italic. If I have a word highlighted, and then select the Highlight command off the menu again, or use the keyboard shortcut, it doesn’t remove that highlight.

If I want to remove the highlight, I actually have to go onto the context menu and get at the “Clear Formatting” command on the first tab, or the “Clear Highlight” command on the Highlight tab. Easy enough to find but slightly irritating that I had to go looking for it.

Edit Hyperlink

Okay, I get the intention here: add a hyperlink to text. However, I take issue with the implementation, on the following grounds:

One, “Edit Hyperlink” implies there’s already a hyperlink there to edit, which is not the case if what you want to do is actually add a new one.

Two, if you select some text and then select “Edit Hyperlink”, what actually happens is that the context menu pops up, and the “Hyperlink” command on it is replaced by a text box where you’re supposed to enter the hyperlink you want.

And I’m sorry, but the entire notion of splicing a text entry box into a context menu just makes me go NO. Even if it does appear to work and (presumably) saves the effort of coding a separate dialog box to keep track of that setting. I don’t care. It’s still annoying.

So if editing and formatting annoy me, is it at least nice to write in?

Here’s something good I can say about this program: with sidebars and things turned off, whittling it down to just the basic program window itself, I do actually like the aesthetic look of it. It’s clean. It’s simple. It certainly is nicer to look at than TextEdit.

I am not really a fan of its default sans serif font, and there appears to be no way to change it. Nowhere in the program do I see any sign of ability to change what fonts it uses.

But at least visually, that’s the only nitpick I’ve got with it.

Typing-wise, I’m finding it distracting that it doesn’t auto-indent paragraphs for me like Scrivener does. But I can’t hold that against it, because again, text editor, not word processor. TextEdit doesn’t auto-indent so I wouldn’t expect Write! to do so either.

And here’s a thing I do kind of like. Here’s a screenshot of what the window looks like to me:

The Write! Window

The Write! Window

That little gray square over on the right is a navigation bar, which you can use to get a thumbnail view of where you are in the document, and do a fast scroll up and down. I can confirm, now that I’ve typed enough into the test window to get enough text to scroll, that that does work. I also note that if you don’t happen to like that feature, you can turn it off. (More on this in the next post.)

And OH HEY SURPRISE: down in the left bottom corner, that “1 174” down there? Turns out that’s a word count feature that has no access on the menu whatsoever, so I stumbled across that entirely by accident. More on this in another post, too; I like some of what I see there, but some of it seems buggy as well. The lack of an obvious word count was one of the things I was going to say I didn’t like about the program, but since there is in fact word count functionality here, that’s a distinct advantage over, say, TextEdit.

For now, though, that’s enough for this post. More to come in part 3!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Aubrey Orly?)

This week I got email from a gentleman telling me he’s a community manager for a piece of software called Write!, which he talked up to me as a distraction-free text editor. He said he was looking for writers and/or bloggers to review the program or at least mention it on their websites, and offered a free license to try the program out.

Now, as y’all know I’m a big fan of Scrivener, which will continue to be my go-to tool for dealing with larger projects. On the other hand, if I want to write something short (say, the extremely rare short story), I sometimes feel that Scrivener’s actually a bit too complex a tool for that. Sometimes I just want to whip something out in a text editor and not have to worry about a lot of bells and whistles.

And hey, since the guy was offering a free license, I took him up on the offer. So here’s a post reviewing Write!, possibly the first of a few, just because I’m going to do this right and go over it in depth just to see what I’m dealing with here.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Path of Wisdom)

I’m not terribly active on my Pinterest account; most of the activity I have there is my sister forwarding me stuff and asking my opinion on it. (Part of why I’m not more active there is, in fact, that Pinterest has made a lot of its systems frickin’ unusable, and there’s only so much patience I have for that. But that’s a topic for another post.) One of the items she sent me this past weekend was this one.

And, given that I had a reaction to this that I don’t think my sister entirely expected, I thought it might be useful to write out my thoughts in blog form.

Overall, I have an issue with what this screencap implies. Which is to say, not only is it coming across with the theme of “the book version of a story is inherently superior to the movie version of a story”, it’s got a side helping of snarking at the fans of the movie version. My sister didn’t parse it that way, but I did, and this is why: because in each of the shown examples, the book fan is responding to the movie fan by asking if they like a character who only appears in the books.

And if the movie fan hasn’t read the books, they have no possible way to answer that question.

Now, if you assume that the hypothetical book fan and the hypothetical movie fan have not specified which version of the story they’re talking about, then okay, I’m fine with the conversations as portrayed. But the way they came across to me, particularly given the “see, this is why we read the books as well as watch the movies” responses in the screencap, is that the assumption is that the book fan knows that the movie fan is talking about the movie(s), and not the book(s).

In which case, if:

  1. You’re the fan of a book version of a story,
  2. You see a movie fan exulting that they like the movie version of a story,
  3. You know they’re talking about the movie version, and
  4. You ask them what they think of a character who appears only in the books…

…then all due respect, but at least to me, you’re coming across pretty snotty there. And that’s exactly how it read to me in the conversational examples between Movie Fans and Book Fans.

And I have a couple problems with this.

One, as I’ve written before, I highly dislike anything that goes in a direction of “you’re enjoying this thing wrong because you’re not enjoying it the same way I am.” This is true for SF/F vs. romance, Mac vs. PC, Windows vs. Linux, Coke vs. Pepsi, Classic Doctor Who vs. New Doctor Who, or whatever. So I am not on board with giving movie fans shit for preferring the movie version of a story over the book version, particularly if the movie fans haven’t even had a chance to check out the book version yet.

Two, I have issues in general with the automatic assumption that the book version of a story is inherently superior to the movie version.

Okay yeah sure, I get that “the book version is the original and tells the story the way the author intended” as a powerful motivator here. I mean, yo, I’m a devoted reader and a writer, so believe me, I get that. Books are powerful. Books are personal, and a good book makes you develop a strong bond to it.

I also get that movie/TV adaptations of a beloved book or book series can often suck. Ursula K. LeGuin comes to mind here, as to date, I am aware of at least two lackluster attempts to do something with the Earthsea books. And certainly, a lot of folks swear up and down that they hate the Hobbit movies, and would therefore use them as an example of this too.

(I am not one of those people; as I’ve said before, while I find the Hobbit movies flawed in certain critical respects, I will forgive them a lot of sins just on the grounds that they made the dwarves living, breathing characters and gave them a culture, which the book just does not do. And I say that as a diehard, lifelong Tolkien fan. But, I digress!)

But to automatically dismiss any movie version of a story as inferior to the book(s) is rather unfair to the movies. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s vital to keep in mind that what works on the page may not work on the screen. There are different creative choices that have to be made for the movie version of a story than for the book. To go back to Tolkien, but this time with The Lord of the Rings, there are certain choices the movies make that I infinitely prefer over the books. Though for me, the LotR movies stand shoulder to shoulder with the books for how much enjoyment I get out of them.

And to use an example in the screenshot I’m linking off to, there are definitely movie versions of stories that I prefer over the books. Multiple Harry Potter books fall into this category. The movie version of Prisoner of Azkaban is excellent, and Order of the Phoenix is more fun to me in movie form than it is in book form. In no small part, this is due to my relative lack of patience for emo teenaged Harry in the later books–there’s only so much of his emoting in all caps I can deal with!

The best movie versions of stories for me, too, have a big thing I can’t get in the books: music. Howard Shore’s masterful score for the Tolkien movies is of course the shining example here, but let’s not forget John Williams being the guy who gave us the main Harry Potter themes, either.

And to pull in another of my big guns for book version vs. movie version–let’s talk Master and Commander, shall we? Even aside from my documented history as a Russell Crowe fangirl, getting to see and hear Jack and Stephen play their instruments together, and to hear the wonderful soundtrack that goes along with the film, is a huge, huge part of why I get more enjoyment out of re-watching the movie than I often do trying to continue through the series–which I still haven’t finished. I love Jack and Stephen as characters immensely, but Patrick O’Brian’s propensity for telling the reader about a dozen different kinds of sails, not so much. ;D

One more example, from a story that’s generally universally snarked on even though a whole helluva lot of people have in fact read it: The DaVinci Code. I’ve read the book and seen the movie, since the latter was an office morale event, so I got to see it for free. And I’ll say straight up that while neither version of the story could legitimately be called good, the film ultimately was more enjoyable to me.

Three, even aside from the relative merits of a book version of a story vs. the movie version, there’s also the question of whether a given fan is even able to enjoy the book version of a story. Maybe that movie fan is dyslexic or sight-impaired, and the book may not exist in a form they’re able to enjoy (e.g., audiobook, e.g., ebook that can be read aloud to them via the right tech). Maybe they only got to see the movies because they aired on their local TV station, or because they got to see them on a school field trip or as part of a morale event for their workplace (both of which I have been fortunate enough to experience during my time), and they don’t yet have enough pocket money to pick up copies of the books. Maybe they don’t live near a good library or good bookstore. Maybe they don’t even know that there is a book version yet.

The overall point here being, there are any number of reasons why a fan of a thing may so far only be a fan of the movie version, and not of the book version. And IMO, this doesn’t mean the movie fan is doing it wrong.

If I’d been involved in any of the conversations in that screencap, this is what I’d have said:

“Ooh, I love them too! How do you know the story, via the movies or via the books? You haven’t read the books yet? Do you want to? LET ME HELP YOU OUT WITH THIS. Go! Go read! And then come back to me so that we may squee about this awesome story together, won’t you?”

Because yeah, life’s too short IMO to be overly concerned with what version a fan is using to engage with a story. Rather, I’ll try to look for how to share fannish joy about the story with another person, no matter how they’ve come to know it.

Because stories, like everything else in the world, need all the joy they can get.

(And hey Becky, if you’re reading this, thank you for giving me an opportunity to think! And to post!)

ETA: Typo correction. Changed ‘pocket movie’ to ‘pocket money’.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)
The Seafarer's Kiss

The Seafarer’s Kiss

I went on a bit of an ebook buying binge on Kobo, because every so often I just gotta, y’know?

Here’s what I got:

  • The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. Fantasy. Grabbed this because it was on sale, and because I’d heard quite a few good things about it when it came out. It seems like an unusual premise and I am here for that!
  • It’s a regular C.E. Murphy marathon, because as y’all know, I do love me some Kitbooks. She’s just released an honest-to-god romance novel, Bewitching Benedict, which I nabbed because “historical romance” does fall into the narrow category of “romance I like to read”. But I also went back and got her Roses in Amber, which is her take on Beauty and the Beast, and Take a Chance, her superhero graphic novel.
  • Stars of Fortune, by Nora Roberts. Paranormal romance, book 1 of her Guardians trilogy. I don’t quite like Nora’s paranormals (or, “ParaNoras”, as the Smart Bitches site likes to call them) as much as I like her standalone romantic suspense or the J.D. Robbs. But I do occasionally like ’em for potato-chip type reading, and hey, I haven’t read this one yet. Plus, I saw it mentioned on this recent post on the Bitchery, and thought okay yeah sure, that might be some silly fun.
  • Acadie, by Dave Hutchinson. SF. Nabbed this newly released novella from Tor.com entirely because of the title, and because I am curious as to how big a parallel it’ll have to Acadian history in real life.
  • The Seafarer’s Kiss, by Julia Ember. YA fantasy romance. Nabbed this on the strength of this review on the Bitchery, because if you say the words “f/f retelling of The Little Mermaid wherein the little mermaid falls in love with a Viking shield maiden” to me, the words I’ll be saying in reply are “GET THIS INTO MY LIBRARY STAT”.
  • Final Girls, by Mira Grant. Horror. Because “new horror novella by Mira Grant”, you say? Why yes I WILL have some.
  • And last but not least, A Study in Scarlet Women, by Sherry Thomas. Mystery. Nabbed this because while I’d already heard about it and had half an eye on it on the strength of buzz about “genderbent Sherlock Holmes”, I finally caught up on a Smart Podcast Trashy Books episode in which the author is interviewed. And I would totally not have guessed by a pen name like “Sherry Thomas” that the author is ethnically Chinese–and when she described how her writing style sometimes incorporates anglicized versions of idioms from Chinese, the language nerd in me just had to see what her style is like. Plus, genderbent Sherlock Holmes. SIGN ME UP.

Alert readers may note that that’s three, count ’em, three different books that are on this list specifically because of the fine ladies at Smart Bitches Trashy Books. They ARE a huge influence on my reading, it’s true! (Duking it out recently a lot with Tor.com, in fact.)

33 titles now for the year.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Blue Hawaii Relaxing)

So when last we left my Quebec trip report, I’d gotten to Montreal and had managed to rendezvous successfully with the other incoming attendees, and with the drivers who were on tap to get us from downtown Montreal to the site of Camp Violon Trad.

This post, I’ll talk about that site and what it was like.

I’m told that Plein Air Lanaudia is not Violon Trad’s original location, and that a few years in, it’d gotten big enough that they moved to where they are now. During my time at the camp, I learned that at least some of the attendees had been there often enough that they did in fact remember the previous location. Which just goes to show you that this camp is so well loved that it has devoted attendees that come back every year–rather like Fiddle Tunes!

Since I have no experience with the previous locale, I can only comment about the current one. And to be sure, what I saw was lovely.

I was assigned to room in the Foyer building, which I can only assume was pronounced French-fashion, and which I certainly tried to say to myself as such for the duration. I shared a room with three other women, and our room had two bunk beds, so I wound up taking one of the top bunks as I was younger and a bit more agile than a couple of the others. Having a top bunk did rather make me feel like I was twelve.

Here’s the backside of the Foyer building, as seen from just in front of the dining hall.

Since the room I was in (room 3) was up on the second floor, this meant I did in fact need to go up and down a lot of stairs during the course of this camp. While carrying a guitar case, my backpack, and often also my fiddle. And of course my luggage, on the way in and out! All of which certainly contributed to my exercise. And I certainly did enjoy just walking around exploring, since this was mostly how I got pics during the camp.

One of my goals wound up being looking at signs on everything and seeing how many of them I could translate. My favorite of these was “poubelle”, which I learned pretty quickly was the word for a trashcan. And you can see the full set of the sign pics here.

You will note that one of those pictures has Jean-Claude in it. This would be because of course I took Jean-Claude to Violon Trad. ;D I mean, how can you start the party if you don’t have a mammoth? Commencez la fête!

And it was very, very necessary to let him explore the grounds! And also to periodically bring him around to various events and pester at least a couple of the boys of Le Vent du Nord about whether I could get photo ops. All hail Nicolas Boulerice and Simon Beaudry for being good sports. <3

You all can see the full set of Jean-Claude at Violon Trad pics here.

(Side tangent! Note also that a couple of those Jean-Claude pics have a guitar in them. That? That there? That is the guitar of André Brunet, which I note here because André was super, super kind in loaning me his very own guitar so that I wouldn’t have to haul one of mine on a plane all the way to Quebec. I got it from him just before the beginning of classes on the Monday, and in between hauling it around to classes, I spent some time just playing it so I could get acquainted with it.

It was a lovely little guitar, with a good clear voice on it, though perhaps not as muscular and strong a tone as the General–which was kinda fine because this guitar wasn’t a dreadnought, so that was to be expected. And the case had seen quite a bit of usage, which is to be expected for the instrument of a professional touring and teaching musician. This got me amused remarks from Éric Beaudry when I enthused at him about André’s kindness, because of course Éric knows his bandmate’s guitar and case when he sees them.

Let it also be noted for the record that I took a rather inordinate amount of glee in discovering that André had the same kind of strings I use on the General stuffed into the storage box in his case. \0/ Elixir strings FTW!)

But back to the scenery of the place. Overall the layout was this: a central open area with an administration building at the front, and chalets surrounding that space on all sides. Opposite the admin building was the place where the younger attendees were staying. If I were to stand by the admin building and face the youth chalets, the buildings to my left would be the Grand Salle (more on this to come), the buildings where the professors and their families were staying, and the building where I had the guitar classes (more on this to come, too). To the right would be the Foyer building that I stayed in, and past that, the dining hall.

Between the youth chalets and the Foyer building was one access to the lake, which is where the dock and kayaks I took pics of were. There was another access to the lake past the Foyer building, next to the dining hall.

In the opposite direction, towards the building where I had the guitar classes, was the bridge I ventured over and which led to the hockey court, the equipment shed, and the Hebertisme sign. It was over in that direction that I spotted the zipline, too.

I quite enjoyed walking around the grounds, despite the fact that I was massively swarmed with mosquitos. Pro tip for my fellow Cascadians: if you go to a fiddle camp in Quebec, for the love of all that’s holy, do not forget the bug spray. Introvert Anna, who was shy about throwing herself headlong into evening activities yet didn’t want to hide in her room, thought it would be a good idea to hang out outside on Tuesday night practicing on André’s guitar. Only I forgot the bug spray, and boy howdy did the mosquitos find me tasty. (There was much complaining about this on Facebook, oh my yes.)

But aside from the Jean-Claude pics, I think I most enjoyed taking the shots of the lake. Like this one.

All of the scenery shots are tagged on flickr here.

What else? I didn’t do any of the possible camp-type activities that were available–like the kayaks or the zip line or the hockey equipment. But I did do a lot of walking around just to see the place and because I am an active walker. I think if I get to come back to this camp again, I’ll totally want to explore the Hébertisme arch and whatever that mysterious pathway was!

I also didn’t get a chance to explore St-Côme at all, about which I was a little bit sad. But it was too far away to get to on foot, and I had no particular reason to pester the nice gentleman Luc who’d given me a ride in to take me back over there, even though he did offer. (I did pester him to let me check his car when I misplaced my sunglasses, though.) I would rather like a closer look at St-Côme!

Weather-wise we kept alternating between quite nice and sunny, and ALL THE RAIN IN QUEBEC. It was a good thing I’d come with layers to wear!

And that’s about everything I can think of to say about the scenery of the place. Next post, I’ll talk about the actual camp activities, and the actual camp classes! Stay tuned!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Blue Hawaii Relaxing)

The one major thing I was sad about re: our trip to Quebec–other than the saga of Dara’s lost luggage, and I’ll get to that–was that I got to spend only a few hours in Montreal. And that was only because the travel plans meant I had a bit of buffer time between when I arrived at the hotel, and when I needed to rendezvous with the shuttle going to Camp Violon Trad.

Because, fortunately, there was in fact going to be a shuttle. The camp’s staffer in charge of communicating with campers, when she sent out a notice in June telling us what to expect, mentioned that they’d be running a shuttle from downtown Montreal up to where Camp Violon Trad actually happens. I was quite happy about this news, because this meant I didn’t have to try to rent a car and navigate my way northward through a French-speaking province.

(Note that the street signs at this point probably wouldn’t have given me a problem. I’m good enough with reading French at this point that I can figure out roughly where I am, if I need to. The tricky parts would just be not being familiar with any specific traffic laws in Quebec. Or if I had to pull over for directions, or got pulled over by a cop or something–because then I’d have to try to communicate and my conversational French is not up to speed yet. But that was also part of why I wanted to go to Camp Violon Trad. More on this to come, too.)

What amused the hell out of me about the camp shuttle was this: the designated pickup point was right by the Berri-UQAM Metro station. Which, as it turns out, was about the only part of Montreal I knew anything about, because when Dara and I had spent our weekend there in 2012, that very corner was right by the hotel we stayed at, the Lord Berri.

This meant that I also knew that there was an Archambault there, and I knew there were a lot of shops and restaurants and things within immediate walking distance. So, that gave me at least a bit of buffer time, long enough for running errands and having a brunch, between “leaving the hotel” and “rendezvousing with the shuttle”.

Getting out of the hotel

Getting out of the hotel was a bit of a challenge. I knew that in theory there was a bus I could take from the airport to the aforementioned Metro station, and I remembered that on the way in the night before, I’d walked past a kiosk that looked like it had information for the bus in question. But I got a little lost walking around with my luggage through the airport–which, now that it was a much saner morning hour, was a lot busier than when I’d arrived the night before.

Turned out I’d come down onto the wrong floor. I had to backtrack a bit, but ultimately, found that kiosk. And determined that I had to buy a pass that’d cost me ten bucks (Canadian). This struck me as expensive. But on the other hand, it was still significantly cheaper than paying for a taxi.

The bus in question, the 747 (not to be confused with the jet, lol), had a stop not far from the ticket kiosk. So I got out there and soon enough was on my way.

It was awfully bright that morning, so I had my sunglasses on. This impacted my ability to look at things en route, but I did notice that Montreal was undergoing a lot of construction. Rather like Seattle, in that respect.

Once I was off the bus

The bus route was very straightforward: get on the bus at the airport, and get off the bus at its very last stop. So there was no risk of confusion or anything in that regard.

There was a bit of confusion as I was turned around regarding what street I was on once I was off the bus, but that was easily corrected. I found the Archambault (and the Lord Berri right beside it) as landmarks quickly enough. And that let me orient myself on the plan I had for the morning: go to a pharmacy a couple blocks north of the Archambault, then go to the Archambault, then go find something to eat, and finally, rendezvous with the shuttle.

On the way to the pharmacy (and back again, for that matter) I got panhandled in French. Or at least, one active panhandle and one attempt to see if I spoke French, but which I suspected was a panhandle. I was rather amused by that, just because being panhandled in a different language was at least a bit of a switch.

I was also deeply amused by this, which was not something I expected to see in Montreal.

Apparently, at least one Elvis impersonator is a big deal there. Ha!

The Archambault was the major errand I wanted to run (the pharmacy was just for necessities). And what I wanted was Tolkien things in French! I nabbed a French translation of The Silmarillion: this one, to be specific. And I bought the Blu-ray set of The Lord of the Rings movies again, but this time because this set actually had French dubs of all three movies. The US releases we’ve already bought–both the DVDs and the Blu-rays–do not have French dubs, which baffles the hell out of me. Portuguese, yes. French, no. To this day I do not for the life of me understand that particular marketing decision!

I amused the clerk at the counter telling him I wanted to practice my French by doing the reading, and by watching the French dubs of the movies. He tried to warn me that The Silmarillion is not exactly an easy book to follow. I assured him that I had read it repeatedly in English, so yes, I was very, very aware. ;D

I’m pretty sure I provided at least a bit of amusement of my own to passersby on the street, just because I was dragging my suitcase around behind me, with my backpack on top of it so I wouldn’t have the weight of it on my back. And of course, I also had my fiddle, which was what I was carrying on my back instead, since it was lighter than the backpack. This led to multiple conversations with people about how I was in the middle of a lot of travel and was on my way north for the next leg of my journey.

Finally I did make it to Juliette et Chocolat, which had been recommended to me on Facebook as a good source of brunch. And which, in fact, I was pretty sure I’d remembered going to in 2012. The brunch was in fact excellent. So was the dessert, a thing called “petit pot fleur de sel”, which was all chocolate-mousse-y and salted-caramel-y and gracious that thing was tasty.

Eventually I wandered around as much as I felt I was up for wandering around. Half of me really wanted to go to the Café des chats, one of Montreal’s cat cafes, but it was just a bit too far of a walk when I was hauling luggage around with me. So I finally just parked for a bit at the corner, sat in the shade, and hung out playing Gummy Drop on my iPad; while I was doing that, I had another random conversation with a gent amused by my stack of luggage.

That didn’t kill enough time, so I got up and wandered off again to go into a nearby coffeeshop for a cold beverage and a visit to a ladies’ room. And that accomplished, I came back again and finally found some folks waiting in a little cluster with violin cases and other luggage.

I’d found the Camp Violon Trad crowd!

Waiting for the shuttle

I discovered to my surprise that I was not actually the only person from the extended Seattle-area session crowd. One of the other ladies waiting for the shuttle was another Seattle person. So that was awesome to discover. 😀 Turned out we had a bit of a wait on our hands, once we greeted one another and exchanged names and such. None of us were particularly sure which corner the shuttle would be showing up on, or even what kind of vehicle we were looking for.

It was a good thing for me that there was public municipal wifi available, though, because that let me check my mail–and find an update sent out by the camp coordinator, Ghislaine, warning us that there had been a bit of a mixup as to vehicle rentals, and that there would be two drivers coming, but one was running late. Which ultimately meant that there’d be two cars for about six passengers, so we had to divide up who would ride with which driver.

The driver I rode with was a fellow named Luc. Who, as it turned out, is André Brunet’s cousin! He was very nice, and told me and the other two ladies riding with him that he taught English. The route he chose to take northward was a bit random, since he wanted to avoid the tunnel that runs underneath the St. Lawrence river, which is often very crowded. None of us minded, as it was a pleasant drive. I amused myself practicing reading signs we went past, as well as keeping up with the bilingual conversation going on in the car.

Once we made it to St-Côme, I was able to observe that it is a) tiny, and b) kind of adorable. The same applied to Plein Air Lanaudia, the site of Camp Violon Trad. There was a lovely lake there, a bunch of trees, and assorted chalets that we were all staying in.

But more on this in Part 3 of the trip report!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Blue Hawaii Relaxing)

My grand Camp Violon Trad + Memoire et Racines Quebec adventure is sadly now concluded, but now at least I can have the fun of telling you all about it! So now let us begin the blogging!

I can’t give you a day-by-day report of every single thing that happened, though I took a bunch of notes in various forms throughout the trip, and I’ll be relying on those to write these posts. I did have wifi access at Violon Trad–but it was erratic and, well, I was kinda busy, so I didn’t try to do constant reporting of what was going on. So I took a bunch of notes instead on my phone and some in hand-written form as well.

This post is intro and will be all about just organizing to go on the trip!

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Path of Wisdom)

I have a lot I want to write up about my trip to Quebec, and in particular about both Camp Violon Trad and Memoire et Racines. This post, though, is about news I received while Dara, Vicka, and I were going to Memoire et Racines: i.e., that my friend Susan Moseley had passed away.

Some many months ago Susan had told me in email that she’d been diagnosed with a stage 4 brain cancer. That deeply alarmed me at the time, because yeah, I know from experience with brain cancer; it’s what killed my mother. For a while Susan hung in there, emailing me periodically and letting me know how she was doing. But I’d not heard from her much this year at all, and had not received any reply to the last couple of times I’d emailed her to let her know I was thinking of her. So I’d started to worry about whether her health had taken a turn for the worse.

Apparently it had, because while we were in Joliette for Memoire et Racines (and staying in the nearby community of Notre-Dame-des-Prairies), Susan’s daughter Clare sent out word to her mother’s Facebook friends about a memorial they’re having for her. Which served as my notice that yeah, they’d lost her. :/

I gave Clare my deepest condolences, and, since I can’t go to the memorial the family is having for her, I wanted to write up this post about Susan and what she meant to me, a longer version of what I posted to Facebook.

I first met Susan online via the Le Vent du Nord Facebook page, when I first announced myself as a new fan of the group, and inviting other fans to come and chat with me. Susan emailed me and we hit it off pretty splendidly. She was responsible not only for my eventual decision to try to go to my first Le Vent du Nord show–but also for that show turning out to be the one back in 2012 that took place right before Dara and I got double-married in Canada with our friends Elane and Bai. She even arranged to get us a bottle of champagne. It was awesome.

She was also a significant supporter of the 2012 Kickstarter I ran for the second edition of Faerie Blood along with the release of Bone Walker. And by supporter, I mean not only monetarily, but also contributing significant beta reading effort for Bone Walker. We’re talking old school proofreading, too. She printed off the entire manuscript and wrote her remarks up on it. And then mailed it to me. I was super impressed by this, though she modestly demurred about having done anything special.

Dara and I got to meet her in person only once, during the 2012 Great Atlantic Canada Adventure. But we did spend a lovely afternoon with her wandering around Toronto. And, as I recall, she was wearing a Doctor Who shirt.

She sent me print copies of her daughter’s wonderful Ensign Sue Must Die comics, all three parts thereof.

She sent me a double album of music by the Stringband, by way of furthering my familiarity with Canadian folk music.

She sent me a couple of adorable little fingerpuppets made in the likeness of Elvis (an obvious choice for me, of course) and Virginia Woolf (NOT an obvious choice for me). They are now living on our refrigerator, since they have magnets on them.

She sent me tickets for Dara and me to get into the Le Vent show at Hermann’s jazz club in Victoria, which has since gone down in my personal fangirl history as “the first show where I had the mammoth”.

And oh, her love for Le Vent du Nord. My own affection for this band got a lot of its initial fuel from her, just because she spoke so highly of these boys not only as musicians, but also as people. She arranged multiple gigs for them in Uxbridge. She gave them meals and crash space and in general, from what she told me, was an excellent den mother type making it easy for them to go make awesome noises at all her neighbors.

It was very, very obvious to me from her emails how much she loved them, and now, every time I see them play, I will think of her. And I’ll hope that a little bit of her soul will waft along with every note they hit.

Rest in peace, dear Susan. I’ll miss you.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Emperor Fabulous)

If you follow me on Facebook you’ll possibly have seen me periodically posting about how my neighborhood in Kenmore is overrun by wild bunnies in the summer, and this year is no exception. One of the things I quite enjoy about the walk up and down our hill when I’m doing my daily commute is looking for bunnies–whether they’re hanging out openly in someone’s yard, or ducking under bushes, or what have you.

I take pictures of them when I can. Like, say, this one!

You might notice, though, that this picture is kind of soft and fuzzy, and I mean that in a “not just because it involves a bunny” kind of way. The reason for this, I have discovered, is because the iPhone (at least up through the 6’s, as well as the non-Plus 7, according to specs on apple.com) uses digital zoom. And digital zoom gets problematic the closer in you try to zoom.

The common wisdom I’ve seen is that if you want to take a pic with an iPhone, you need to not zoom at all, and crop to get what you want. This is fine if what you’re taking a pic of is pretty close to you. Like this bunny! (This remains my very favorite bunny pic I’ve taken to date.)

But if a bunny is more than two or three feet away from you, you kinda have to zoom to shoot it. Because if you try to get closer, it will very likely sense your presence and bolt.

Which brings me to how I saw Dreamwidth friend cruisedirector posting her own bunny pics! She’s got some nice ones here and here and here, and in general, I’m rather jealous of her zooming abilities! She informed me that Samsung rather gets the credit for this, and if I google zoom specs for Samsung phones, I see things like “10x optical zoom” for the Galaxy S4 and yeah, that’d be why she’s taking better bunny pics than I am. ;D

So then I got all “so what can I do to solve this problem?”

Googling around led me to learning that there are assorted third-party lenses that have been made for the iPhone. The top two contenders I saw in my research were the Olloclip and the Moment, and of the two, camera nerds I read up on have been saying that the Moment is the superior lens.

The problem for me though is that the way the Moment works, they expect you to glue a mounting plate onto the back of your device, and screw the lens into that. I was rather dubious about this–and moreover, decided that I didn’t want to go hunting for one of these, even though I’d read in an article I found posted on the Seattle Times from 2016 that indicated that these lenses would be on sale at the Apple Store in Bellevue.

So instead I opted for the Olloclip. And specifically, I bought this thing, which gives me a telephoto lens and a wide angle one. The telephoto one is the one I’m interested in, since it gives me some optical zoom capability… 2x optical zoom as well as a shallower depth of field. It’s super-easy to pop onto the phone, and I can flip it around to use the wide angle lens. Both lenses can line up with the front and back cameras.

The one drawback here is that I do have to take the phone’s case off, but I’m okay with that.

And so far, the one thing I’m not entirely happy with is that test shots I’ve done with notable amounts of sky in them have caused there to be a bit of a dark halo effect in the corners. So to account for this, I will need to practice aiming and then cropping to get rid of that.

Also, if I change phones and want to continue to have an external lens, I’ll need a different one because this one is specifically designed for the iPhone 6. So far though I’m okay with that, too! My current phone is still perfectly lovely and I won’t be updating it in the near future.

So for now this little toy should be perfectly lovely for my bunny-photographing needs, and I will also be taking it to Quebec with me–because I’m hoping the improved zoom will let me do better at taking pics of musical performances, too. 😀

Here are a bunch of test pics I’ve done with the lens clip so far (and if the thumbnails aren’t coming through for some reason, you can find them directly on flickr here):

Happy with the purchase so far. Playing with this is already fun! Looking forward to learning more!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Alan YES!)
Thirteen

Thirteen

So yeah, assuming you were paying even remote attention to the Internet yesterday, you’ll have heard that Jodie Whittaker will be our next Doctor, as of the Christmas Special this year.

Jodie Whittaker, comma, a woman.

In case you didn’t see that news before and you want mere coverage, here you go:

Doctor Who Is Finally Giving Us A Woman as the Doctor, and It’s About Damn Time and The Internet Had Some Truly Spectacular Responses to the 13th Doctor, Jodie Whittaker on The Mary Sue

Doctor Who’s New Time Lord: The 13th Doctor is Jodie Whittaker and The Moment Has Been Prepared For: Jodie Whittaker and the Future of Doctor Who on Tor.com (and note that the first Tor.com link has the trailer video where Thirteen is introduced)

Naturally, the BBC has a quite a bit to say about the matter, including a bunch of commentary from assorted Doctor Who stars.

Sixth Doctor Colin Baker has a particularly tasty reaction here:

Dara had to point out to me the significance of this–this is a paraphrase of Baker’s own lines after he regenerates in The Caves of Androzani. 😀

As for me?

This is the most excited I’ve been about Doctor Who in years. I watched the intro trailer, and felt a little catch in my heart at the simple visual of a key materializing in a female hand–and the TARDIS answering to a female presence.

The idea of a woman leading the adventure, of being blindingly brilliant, of having the sort of boundless compassion that leads the Doctor over and over and over again to standing up for humanity is heady and exciting. I am very, very much looking forward to seeing Thirteen show us what she can do.

And I’m very much hoping that she’ll open the door wider to a future where anyone can truly be the Doctor. I want to see an actor of color for Fourteen, are you listening, BBC?

But until it’s time for Fourteen, I’ll be there to see what new parts of time and space Thirteen will have to show us!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Beckett and Book)

Snarfed off the Tor.com ebook club:

  • Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey. Fantasy, rather renowned, and it’s been on my To Read shelf for a stupidly long time. Grabbed the ebook to up the chances I might actually eventually read this thing. ;D

And meanwhile my author friend userinfommegaera‘s got a lot of medical challenges she’s got to deal with right now, and selling books is hard enough when you’re NOT dealing with medical challenges. (She said, from experience.) So I grabbed everything of hers on Smashwords that I didn’t have yet, to wit:

  • Sojourn, Book 1 of her Tales of the Unearthly Northwest. Cop crashes his car and winds up in a ghost town–and his version of Brigadoon is not a carefree musical.
  • Much Ado in Montana. Contemporary romance. Which, I might add, has been previously featured on Boosting the Signal!
  • Cross-Country: Adventures Alone Across America and Back. Non-fiction. An account of the author’s travels across the country! If you like travelogues, you might want to check this out.
  • Homesick: A Time in Yellowstone Story. This is a novella, Book 4 of her Time in Yellowstone series.
  • New Year’s Eve in Conconully, another Tales of the Unearthly Northwest book.
  • Reunion, the third Tales book.

24 for the year.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Great Amurkian Novel 2)

Point of interest: I have decided to add a fifth story to the Walk the Wards book, a Kendis short I’d been playing with as a concept back before I wrote Bone Walker… and which I think now does deserve a place in this book.

Part of the reason for this is to just add a bit more length to it, to make it comparable to my other releases in word count. But part of it is also that with both a Jude story and a Kendis story in this thing, I can more legitimately call it book 2.5 of the Free Court series.

This Kendis short will be called “Diminuendo”, and is likely to be novelette-length, or maybe short story, don’t know yet, still working on it. As to what this story is about–it’ll be set between Bone Walker and Warder Soul, and will be the story of why Kendis is going to have a change of cats between those two books. More than that I will not say, because spoilers.

Relatedly, I can also report that all the other pieces in this book do in fact now have their own titles. Most of them I mentioned in this post, and to those I will add that Jude’s story is now called The Light Beyond the Gate.

Let it also be noted that Elizabeth’s, Oscar’s, and of course Caitlin’s stories are all also set in present day. Caitlin’s story is set very shortly after Faerie Blood, just long enough after that book that Christopher’s family in St. John’s have gotten the word as to what happened to him.

Let it be further noted that I’ll be reaching out to the same artist who’s done the cover for Warder Soul to do the cover for this release, too–as soon as I decide what I actually want on the cover. 😉

As of last night I’ve topped 34,000 total words written on this collection, and I’ve written about 6,000 words so far on this month’s Camp Nanowrimo effort. I continue to be hopeful about making decent progress this month!

More bulletins as events warrant!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Great Amurkian Novel 2)

I am chagrined that I may be one of the longest-running people ever to try to finish up Kickstarter rewards owed, but I promise, folks, I’m still working on those novellas. Or, rather, working on them again, given how challenging it’s been to pull any words out of my brain at all this year.

It has however become clear to me that before I can legitimately work on Warder Soul, book 3 of The Free Court of Seattle, I really need to finish the novellas first–in no small part because one of those stories introduces Caitlin and Gabien, who will be important supporting characters in Warder Soul. And I need those characters clearly settled in my mind before they join Team Kendis.

So I’m trying to buckle down and get these novellas done and dealt with. I’d actually started trying to do this last month, instituting my usual strategy of “by god I need to get at least some words into Scrivener” when the words won’t come: setting a stupidly low goal. That’s helped.

But more effort is needed–and so this month I’m participating in Camp Nanowrimo.

This is run by the same folks who do the main Nanowrimo event every November, but it’s a bit more relaxed and groovy in that you can set whatever writing goal you want. So if 50,000 words is too daunting, you can go lower.

I’ve set my goal to be getting 25,000 more words into the novellas. And so far at least I can report that the stories as a collective whole have now topped 30,000 words.

A Power in the Blood is finished–that’s the story about my psychic chick of size who helps a Warder find out who killed his sister. So this effort will be focused on:

The Deepest Breath of Song: A painfully shy young man in a tiny coast town learns there are strange creatures indeed in the nearby ocean–and the town’s Warder needs his help to protect them.

The Plight of the Warder’s Daughter: Caitlin Hallett, daughter of the Warder of St. John’s, wants her chance to see the world before she must commit her powers to protecting a city. But her father Thomas is ill, and there’s no one else in the family powerful enough to take over from him, so he won’t let Caitlin go. When another young member of the Warder lineage comes to St. John’s, Caitlin must choose between seizing the same chance Gabien Desroches has taken–and her love for her city and her father.

As of yet untitled: The story of what happened to Jude when she went to Faerie with Melisanda ana’Sharran, during the events of Bone Walker!

Note also that one of the biggest backers of the 2012 Kickstarter WILL be having an important character named after her in these stories, and a second side character is named after another backer who won the “kill off a character named after a backer!” draw!

So more on this work as events warrant, y’all. And if any of my fellow writers out there are doing the Camp Nanowrimo thing, let me know, hey?

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Good Book)

I finished my re-read of The Silmarillion over the long weekend, so here are some more thoughts about what I noticed this time through!

Tolkien Re-Used Names, Like, A LOT

Here is a short list of names I totally recognized from The Lord of the Rings, and which still to this day cause me a little cognitive dissonance when I see them outside that story:

  • Minas Tirith
  • Echthelion
  • Denethor
  • Glorfindel

And hell, even within this specific book, the name Míriel shows up twice: once as the mother of Fëanor, and once as the last ruling Queen of Númenor.

The First Age Was Surprisingly Short

A big chunk of the book is devoted to the Quenta Silmarillion proper, which is the part of it easily conflated with the overall title. It’s in this part that the big highlights of the book happen–notably, the tale of Beren and Lúthien, and the tale of Turin. And, of course, the First Age is all about the Silmarils, as well as the smackdown eventually finally delivered to Morgoth.

But given this, if you look at the overall timeline of the world of Arda (which is what the world Middle-Earth is on is actually called), the First Age is surprisingly short compared to the other ages of the world. It’s only about 590 years long, compared to the multiple thousands of years that lead up to the First Age, and how the Second and Third Ages are both over three thousand years in length.

Yep, Still Love Me Some Beren and Lúthien

This really goes without saying, but I’ll say it again anyway. 😀 Here are the things about which Lúthien has zero fucks to give:

  • Her father trying to lock her up to keep her away from her man
  • The sons of Fëanor trying to lock her up to keep her away from her man
  • Morgoth himself trying to keep her away from her man
  • Her man trying to leave her behind on the mistaken assumption that he can handle going on a Silmaril-hunting quest all by himself
  • Death itself trying to keep her away from her man

And she is delightful from start to finish. It was a joy to be reminded as well about how friggin’ powerful she is–she uses her “arts” to grow her own hair Rapunzel-style to break out the high tree-house her father locked her up in, and then for good measure takes that hair, slaps a sleep-spell on it, and makes herself a cloak that she uses a bunch later to take down anybody in her way.

And she pretty much sings Morgoth’s crown right off his head, since she knocks him out with her power. Fuck yeah, daughter of Mélian!

Speaking of Mélian

I noticed and appreciated her more throughout this re-read. She’s on record as being the only one of the Maiar to fall in love with one of the Children of Iluvatar, enough that she bothered to physically incarnate herself so that she could be with Thingol. She is also on record as being the major power in Middle-Earth that Morgoth actually fears. Which is impressive, given that he’s a Vala on the order of Manwë himself, and she’s a Maia, and in theory of “lesser” degree.

Shoutout to the Women of the Silmarillion in General

This time through I noticed way more women having active things to do than I really remembered. Mélian and Lúthien are obvious, as is Nienor/Niniel in the tale of Turin and Elwing in the tale of Eärendil. But there are other women of note scattered all throughout the story, and who, even if they’re only passingly mentioned, clearly have an impact on the events that unfold:

  • Nerdanel, wife of Fëanor
  • Haleth, leader of the Haladin, who rules her people as a chieftain and who never marries
  • Morwen Eledhwen, wife of Húrin, mother of Túrin
  • Aredhel, wife of Eöl, mother of Maeglin
  • Emeldir the Manhearted, mother of Beren, who brings her people to safety at the urging of her spouse Barahir
  • Galadriel!
  • Míriel Ar-Zimraphel of Númenor, whose rightful place as Queen is usurped by her husband, and who tragically drowns in the sinking of Númenor by Iluvatar

And Emeldir as well as Galadriel are examples of Tolkien’s making his bolder females get nicknamed in ways that invoke masculinity–Galadriel’s mother names her Nerwen, “man-maiden”, in reference to her height and strength. Part of me is irritated at this conflation of strength and masculinity, I must admit, and yet!

Let it also be noted that before it finally fell, some of Númenor’s rightful rulers were in fact women.

Tuor and Idril Don’t Get Nearly Enough Camera Time

After the awesomeness of the tale of Beren and Lúthien, the second recorded joining of an Elf and a Man, Tuor and Idril, seems regretfully anticlimactic. Tuor basically shows up in Gondolin, hangs out for a few years, and gets permission to wed Idril, Turgon’s daughter. But there’s very little there to show why these two characters loved each other to begin with, and Idril’s marrying Tuor is mostly contrasted to how she doesn’t want to marry Maeglin.

Plus, at least for me as a reader, their story is eclipsed by the fall of Gondolin in general. Maeglin’s part of this I get, just because it’s his being captured by Morgoth’s forces that leads to Gondolin’s location being revealed. Maeglin’s motivations aren’t exactly complicated, but in contrast to him, Tuor and Idril are even less well sketched out. And that does a disservice, I feel, to the second recorded joining of Elf and Man EVER, not to mention the parents of Eärendil.

I do at least like that Idril had some agency in encouraging Tuor to make a secret way out, in case disaster befell. (Which it did.) And I also like that Tuor and Idril apparently eventually went into the West and were allowed to stay, despite Tuor being mortal, which I had forgotten. Tuor managed to get himself counted among the Firstborn, which, well done there.

Elwing: Also Pretty Awesome

Eärendil gets a lot of the press in his tale, as well as repeated mentions over in The Lord of the Rings–but re-reading his tale this time through, I had renewed appreciation for his wife Elwing. This woman, rather than give up the Silmaril she possesses to Fëanor’s remaining sons, tosses herself into the sea to escape. At which point she is transformed into a great white bird, which lets her fly to Valinor and eventually catch up with her husband.

Thus she gets to carry on the tradition of women being awesome in the family tree of Beren and Lúthien, as seems entirely befitting for the mother of Elrond.

More to Come

All of these thoughts are for events in the First Age–but I’ve got more to come regarding events in the Second Age. So I’ll put that into another post!

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (A Star Shines)

So since I have this lovely new Beren and Luthien book to go through, it seemed to me that before I dive into it, it would behoove me to remind myself of the version of the tale I’m most familiar with: i.e., the one that appears in The Silmarillion. Which, of course, means that it’s TOTALLY time for a re-read of same!

(By which I mean, I’m just going to read it again–not actually do a Reread series of posts–at least for now. I may change my mind later! Persons who want to argue in favor of me doing a formal Silmarillion Reread, you are welcome to do so. I may hold on this though until I can score a French edition!)

I’ve just barely started but here are a few things I have been reminded of, or never really noticed before, now that I’m going through the book again:

  1. My ebook edition has additional intro sections that do not appear in my paperback: “Preface to the Second Edition”, and “From a Letter by J.R.R. Tolkien to Milton Waldman, 1951”. The Preface, which is dated 1999, is Christopher Tolkien discussing why he felt it appropriate to include the letter. And the letter itself is the one which, it turns out, includes this wonderful quote: “I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama.” This is the very quote Dara and I have noted before as an argument in favor of Tolkien totally intending his world to be a mythos to which other people could eventually contribute. It’s delightful to see it here.
  2. There is a female equivalent of “Vala” (singular) and “Valar” (plural): “Valië” and “Valier”. I see “Valier” getting used exactly once in the initial chapters, so this is very easy to overlook. My amusement here though is that after several consecutive years of studying French, I totally want to pronounce “Valier” like a French verb.
  3. There isn’t much in the way of character development for any of the Valar, but hey, that’s okay, we’re operating at a mythic and epic level in the opening chapters, so it’s difficult to zoom in on specific characters. I am nonetheless amused at Aulë and Yavanna arguing about his creation of the Dwarves.
  4. For that matter, I’m amused once again at Aulë jumping the gun and making the Dwarves before he had any actual authority to do so. He’s all “Hey Eru I made these guys because I love you and want to be like you and also I wanted some friends OH SHIT Eru is mad should I smash them?” And Eru realizes Aulë’s not actually trying to be malicious, so he lets him keep the Dwarves, only with the caveat that they don’t get to really wake up and exist until after Elves and Men have shown up.
  5. So really, the TL;DR version of the entire Middle-Earth mythos boils down to “Eru and all his angels had a giant jam session, only Melkor got pissy because he wanted a solo”.
  6. There are more named female characters actually doing things even in the opening stretches of this thing than I remembered. Yavanna and Varda both have on-camera action, Yavanna creating the Two Trees and Varda lighting all the stars. Mélian meets up with Thingol. And we even get a passing mention of Nerdanel, the spouse of Fëanor, who at least at first was the only person capable of restraining his more asshole-ish impulses.
  7. Nonetheless, Fëanor? Any way you slice it, total asshole. I mean, dude, c’mon. We get that you’re proud of your Shiny Holy Jewels and your artistic accomplishment, but Yavanna is asking you to your face if she can use them to resurrect the Two Trees. Which are the original source of the light you put into your Shiny Holy Jewels to begin with. And that’s only Fëanor just getting started on being an asshole.
  8. Galadriel! Ten chapters in and she’s not getting much in the way of on camera action, but she is totally there, and called out by name alongside her brothers. Note is made that her branch of the Noldor hang back from the Kinslaying, but Galadriel totes wants to go back to Middle-Earth and have her very own little realm to rule.
  9. I learned a new word: coëval. Which apparently means “contemporary to/the same age as”, and it’s used in describing Melkor in relation to Manwë. Because even after all this time I can still notice new words when reading Tolkien. <3

The ebook’s got some formatting issues for chapter titles, which is a bit irritating; I may have to crack into the ebook and fix those titles, just for my personal reading satisfaction.

Also, given that I’m about to go to Quebec next month, I may have to see if I can hunt down a French translation! Because I have French translations now of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, so clearly I need one of The Silmarillion for my collection. 😀

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Good Book)

Noting this as I actually bought a couple of print books from Third Place the other day–things that fall into the general category of Authors Who Are Absolutely Vital For Me to Have In Print. The people for whom a lack of access to their books would make me sad, whether due to power outage or loss of reading devices or what have you.

The first of these purchases was In the Labyrinth of Drakes, Book Four in Marie Brennan’s excellent Memoirs of Lady Trent series. I’ve actually already read this and I did indeed love it immensely, but I definitely wanted the Lady Trents in print. And this one finally was available in trade now that the hardcover of Book Five is out.

Beren and Luthien

Beren and Luthi

Much more importantly, I acquired a hardback copy of the new Tolkien release, Beren and Luthien!

Y’all know my love of Tolkien, and you’ll probably also remember that I’m particularly fond of the tale of Beren and Luthien, which is hands down my favorite thing in the whole of The Silmarillion.

Relatedly, when Christopher Tolkien released the excellent Children of Hurin version of the other big tale from The Silmarillion–the tale of Turin Turambar–I nabbed that in hardback. I’ve said before how I had to have that in hardback just for the gorgeous illustrations, and out of general appreciation of the beauty of the work that went into putting that book together as an object.

So given all of these things together, you better believe I had to jump on the Beren and Luthien release.

Fair warning though to fellow Tolkien fans who may be covetously eying this release too: it is not cheap. (I got the hardback for $30.00, and while I could have gotten it for substantially cheaper at Barnes and Noble, I made a point of buying it from Third Place instead because local-to-my-house indie bookstores are love.) If you want that hardback and you’re more budget-pinched than I am, be aware you’ll get it for much cheaper on Amazon or with B&N, both of whom are showing prices for it around $18.

Likewise, the ebook is stupidly expensive right now. It’s clocking in at $16.99, and that price is the main reason I haven’t already nabbed this release as well in digital form. Do not mistake me: I will also be buying this book in digital form, because a) Tolkien pretty much would top the list of authors I require in both formats, and b) under no circumstances am I taking the hardback out of the house. But that price annoys me, as it’s yet another indicator of the return of agency pricing, and I have an ongoing gripe with the publishing industry seeming bound and determined to piss off digital readers by making ebooks as expensive as possible.

I’m genuinely torn, though, as to whether Tolkien is worth it to me to shell out for the ebook at that price anyway; if any author merits doing that out of all my favorites, it’s Tolkien.

Either way, the ebook edition will eventually be joining my collection too. And that’ll likely be the way I read it, just because I do most of my reading on commutes.

For now, that’s two additional book purchases to add to the tally this year, which has been quite small. (I’m actually trying to make an effort to put a dent in the backlog of books I actually own, doncha know.) 17 for the year.

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Great Amurkian Novel 2)

As I’ve been lamenting a bit on social media lately, this year has, creatively speaking, blown so many donkeys that I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single unsatisfied donkey between here and Spokane.

But Dara having been working so hard on her Overwatch fic as of late (a fic which, by the way, you should read, because it’s totally awesome and you can find it here) has been a prod to my own ability to write, I think. So I’ve been lately instituting my strategy of “ridiculously stupidly low daily word counts”, just for the sake of being able to say I’ve written something.

I’ve also returned to dealing with my still-due novellas for the Warder universe, in no small part because I’ve realized that I really need to write Caitlin Hallett and Gabien Desroches’ meeting before I can really have them appear properly in Warder Soul.

So I’m back in dealing with their story. And hey, here’s an excerpt! Caitlin’s coming out of a very spiky conversation with her father Thomas, a conversation which has not gone well. Caitlin’s looking to console herself by busking on George Street.

Except she’s got a surprise waiting for her. Muahaha.

Excerpt behind the fold!

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

Kinda awesome how, if I put out a reminder call for Boosting the Signal posts, I can get some! Today I have a post to share with you from a fellow NIWA member who hasn’t been here before: James D. Macon. James released Purveyors and Acqurirers, Book 1 of his Phosphire Journeys fantasy YA series, in November of last year. His piece today gives a glimpse of the mysterious organization known as The Trade. What are their goals? And do their stated goals align with how they truly function? That’s the ticket, as the Interested Party investigating them discovers in this scene.

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Purveyors and Acquirers

Purveyors and Acquirers

Interested Party, (IP), paced in the well-appointed room waiting for his guest to arrive. A dampened fire burned in the hearth and provided an unneeded warmth. The open window allowed a view of the rising moon. The door to the chamber opened and he saw a gentleman stylishly dressed in sky blue from head to toe, and wearing a wide brimmed hat sporting a blue feather from a bird IP did not recognize, walk in. The fellow smiled broadly and closed the door behind him.

“Hello, my name is Qwen. I am a Practitioner of the Arts and member of the Trade. I assume that you are Interested Party?” Qwen gestured with the fingers of his left hand and spoke softly, Aspscon Diatail Soni Visu.

IP stepped back. “Yes, I am. Welcome Master Qwen. I appreciate your agreeing to this interview. I am curious, did you conjure just now?”

“Only a small warding to keep our visit private.” Qwen answered pleasantly. His eyes darted about the chamber before settling on IP. Qwen said to no one in particular, “Please keep a look out for me.”

IP momentarily wondered who Qwen was talking to. IP gestured toward two chairs and eased into the one nearest him. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but tell me what you know about the Trade?”

“Well, if I go into too much detail, then I would have to kill you. Don’t worry, it would only be business.” Qwen’s smile broadened as he sat.

Startled, IP stammered, “Ah, ah, I’m sorry. I was under the impression that this would be a candid discussion.”

Qwen assumed a listening posture with his head tilted to toward his shoulder. “Oh, that’s right, he’s supposedly safe from retribution. What was the Trade Master thinking arranging this interview?”

“Perhaps we should start with you telling me more about yourself.” IP decided a subject change was in order. He could push for more information on the Trade once his subject was no longer distracted.

Qwen leaned back and crossed his legs. “Earlier I stated that I was a Practitioner. What I didn’t say is that I am also a Tzefire, a person with an affinity to the element of air.” He glanced upward. “Yes, I was about to tell him about you.” He turned back to IP. “I have been privileged to be able to associate with beings from the Terrene of Air.”

IP was starting think Qwen was a bit eccentric, or worse. “No offence, but you seem to be conversing with the space above your shoulder. It is rather distracting.”

“Lean forward please.” Qwen conjured, Praesen Adspectis. He touched IP on the forehead.

IP looked with wonder at the four creatures he saw undulating in the air above Qwen. Serpentine in shape, their supple bodies were without appendages. Heads had large oval eyes and a maw that appeared and disappeared from view. IP thought it was nice to know that Qwen wasn’t touched in the head after all. “What marvelous entities.”

“They are known in our sphere as Zephyrs, although that is not what they call themselves.” Qwen informed IP.

This is fantastic, IP thought. What a story this may turn out to be. “What is most important to you, Master Qwen?”

Qwen sat thinking for a long moment before saying, “There are a lot of wrongs being done. Some by people with good intentions. If one could right just one of them, then change for the better can happen.”

“I see.” Now was the moment to get back to the purpose of this visit, IP thought to himself. “A source told me that the Trade has begun to have dealings with children. Is this true, Master Qwen?”

“It is not what you think. There is no nefarious plot for you to dig up. The children are orphans who have been offered apprenticeships. We are only doing our part to help the underserved of Arlanda.”

“Placed in that light, you make it seem as if there is nothing needing investigation.” IP intended to look into Qwen’s claim.

Qwen leaned forward. “How would you like to interview one or more of the children? I could broach the topic with the Trade Master if you wish. Better still I suggest you discuss your concern with Matriarch Izlan at the Temple of the Ladies of Life where the children live. You could even make a donation toward the children’s education. Any amount would be appreciated.”

“I’ll get back to you on that.” IP hadn’t planned on parting with his coin and didn’t want to admit to Qwen that he wasn’t comfortable around children.

A fifth Zephyr entered the room through the open window. It flew around Qwen’s head. Qwen stood. “My apologies Master Party, but my associate has brought an important matter to my attention. We will have to reschedule. By the way, nothing we discussed leaves this chamber.” Qwen didn’t conjure. He assumed the form of a Zephyr and sped out the window accompanied by his companions.

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Buy the Book On: Amazon (Paperback) | Amazon (Kindle) | Barnes and Noble (Paperback)

Follow the Author On: Official Site

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Katara Healing)

I’m now seven weeks after the septorhinoplasty I had done to my nose, so here’s a bit of a checkin as to how I’m doing now!

I had my first fiddle lesson since the procedure yesterday (more on this in another post), and my teacher told me that my voice sounded different to her. This was not a thing I’d been easily able to discern myself, since of course I’m still hearing my voice from inside my head. But Lisa said my voice sounded less adenoidal to her, and given that she is of course a professional touring and teaching musician, she’s totally got the ear to clue in on that.

And if you’re wondering what ‘adenoidal’ means, don’t worry, I had to look up what the heck the adenoids are myself. Answer: they’re the uppermost of your tonsils, and they live behind your nose. Apparently enlarged adenoids can also cause breathing problems! Looking up ‘adenoidal’ as well, I saw that dictionary.com says that an ‘adenoidal’ voice is nasal and high-pitched. So by definition, this means my voice is sounding a little lower and perhaps not quite so constrained. And even if I’m not in a position to personally vouch for Lisa’s observation, it pleases me nonetheless.

Here are things I can vouch for, though.

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

annathepiper: (Book Geek)

The DispatcherThe Dispatcher by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Took me a while to finally get to this, since it’s been sitting around on my computer ever since it was originally released last year. I finally realized I had to sync it down to my phone so I could actually listen to it–which I have finally now done. And I am pleased to report it was quite satisfying.

I’ve generally always liked what I’ve read of Scalzi, although sometimes I like him better as a blogger than I do as a storyteller. In this case, though, I’d heard him do a reading of a chapter out of this at a recent convention, and I liked the premise well enough that I leapt on the offered free audiobook when it was released. Bonus that it was narrated by Zachary Quinto.

Story-wise, I found this to rank pretty high on the list of what Scalzi stories I’ve read (or in this case listened to) so far. The deliberate lack of description on a lot of his characters sometimes leaves me discontent, but in this case it worked well, and contributed to the lean, tight delivery of the story. Plus, given the overall schtick of the worldbuilding–i.e., if you’re murdered, chances are very high you will come back to life at home in your bed–was intriguing and added a dash of interesting philosophical discussion in some of the character dialogue.

Audiobook-wise, I found Quinto’s narration engaging as well. As one would certainly hope with a high-caliber actor, he brought some skill to his reading. Doing audiobook narration is not quite the same thing as a performance in a full-cast storyline, but Quinto did a great job differentiating the characters as he read for them. I was particularly impressed by the changes in his delivery for the female characters, particularly Detective Langdon. None of his changes in vocal delivery were blatant, but they were distinctive, and it was always clear to me who was speaking even when dialogue tags were not provided by the actual prose.

All in all a great little story. I liked it well enough that I’ll be buying the ebook edition, given that I originally got the audiobook while it was available for free. Four stars.

View all my reviews

Mirrored from angelahighland.com.

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