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Back in action soon

This blog has been quiet recently. This is due to issues outside writing. I should be back to a more regular posting schedule soon.

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Como desées

Image from the video cover of Princess Bride.

Sherylyn is studying Spanish. A friend who’s studying with her suggested she watch Dora the Explorer in that language.

“It’s a children’s movie,” she said, “And they give the child who is viewing time to answer the characters, so it helps you to learn.”

Unfortunately for us, Dora the Explorer isn’t on Netflix Australia, and that’s the only streaming we subscribe to.

I suggested we try something similar with Princess Bride, given it’s one of those movies we can almost quote off by heart. So we sat down in front of the television, set the language to Spanish with English subtitles, and watched the movie.

I don’t know if anyone here has watched the movie in a language other than English, but I have to say, if I had watched Princess Bride first as a sub-titled show, I have no idea how many times I would have returned to the story. A lot of the subtlety was lost and as a result a lot of the humour, as well. Vizzini’s “Inconcibible” doesn’t work as well as Wallace Shaun’s slightly lisping, “Inconceivable.” Westley’s fight with Fezzik loses a lot when you don’t hear Westley’s grunts each time he is slammed back against the rock, and so on.

It was interesting, to say the least. I think I prefer to listen to any show in the original language and go for English subtitles. So much is conveyed on the screen non-verbally that words are less important than hearing the rest.

Now, I think I might go watch the English language version of Princess Bride.

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Swamped with apples and onions

While ordering groceries online I accidentally switched from buying by individual items to by kilogram.

Now I have 2kg of brown onions, 1 kg of Spanish onions, 2 kg of Pink Lady apples, and more.

Hmm. I wonder if there are any recipes for onion and apples.

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Books that kept me awake

Photo: Kostiantyn

There are some stories that pull you into the book, and remind you just how magic books like this can be. I was lucky enough to read two books like this recently.

First up is Margaret Rogerson’s Vespertine.

Vespertine cover

This is a story about a girl who is, literally, a saint.  Artemesia inherits a powerful relic which helps her in her fight against revenants.  Artemesia is a truly good person, but as Molly Templeton says over on the Tor site, being a saint isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Published October 2021 by Margaret K. McElderry Books.

The second book is Brian McClellan’s In the Shadow of Lightning.

Cover for In the Shadow of Lightning

This is the first in his new series and while I enjoyed the first Powder Mage books (I only read the first three), I love this one so much more.

It’s a story about a mage who works with glass, a former soldier, now drifter, who learns his mother has been murdered. He goes home to find out whodunnit, and to complete the task she was killed doing. Meantime, some of the bad guys use his mother’s murder as an excuse to raid the closest city-state. Note, this is a vastly understated summary of the plot. It’s a lot grander than that. There’s politics, battles, new discoveries and a unique magic system.

Even though it’s nothing like it, Sherlyn says it reminds her most of Brandon Sanderson’s Way of Kings in the feel and grandeur of the book and yes, it does a bit.

Published June 2022 by Tor Books.

These are the type of books you stay up until 4am on a worknight to finish reading.

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The things that slip away

A confusing ménage of slang and reminiscence.

Image Marina Marr. This image is from the UK, but I’m guessing it works similarly. Notice how the land side of the willow is ‘trimmed’ level but the water side isn’t. The tree further back is wholly land-bound, and thus neater.

As a child I used to think that willows were such tidy trees. They grew ‘trimmed’. That is, their fronds always reached a certain level and then stopped growing, as if they’d had a haircut. As I got older I realised that yes, well, they were actually trimmed. Cattle loved willow trees, and if you had cows in the same paddock as a willow tree, the cows would munch on the tree, chomping up as far as they could reach. Hence the neat line.

I’m no spring chicken, as my mother used to say. How old? Let’s just say so old that I saw Abba live at Ripponlea, and the pirate king’s purple pants first time around (as well as the second). Confused? I’m being deliberately so. 😊

I grew up on a farm. Not a farming family but surrounded by farmland. We lived in the old farmhouse, leased out when the farmer built a new one. We loved it. We had our home, our half-acre of vegetables, and we had the creek.

The farm was on the river flats, and we lived near a creek. Back in those days the creek didn’t run dry. In winter, it flooded—the farmer had a boat with an outboard motor, and they’d use that during the floods to get to the cattle. In summer we swam. At our own water hole, or as we got older we were allowed to take an old tyre and float down to Willow Bend, the popular swimming place a couple of kilometres down the road where all the young kids went. Of course, we had to walk home afterwards, but that was never a problem for us. I don’t know what happened to the tyres. I think we must have rolled them home with us.

Distance was never a problem. Sherylyn’s best friend, for example, lived twelve kilometres away. She, or her friend, would always be at each other’s places. They rode their bikes.

Willow Bend was so named because of the willow trees. They were everywhere and because it was a public area, rather than farmland, it was also the first place I saw willows that grew down to the ground.  Willows grew all along the creek, too, and even out into the paddocks.

There are no willows there now. There’s no creek. It’s too dry for them. The times, as a great singer once said, are a’changing. I’m glad I had the pleasure of enjoying the willows along the creek.

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A bit of fun

From Peter Hollens Youtube library

I found a new quiz tool for the website, and I had planned to put a quiz up today, but it’s not finished yet, so instead, here’s the clip from one of the sample questions they provided.

It was a multi-choice question, and you were supposed to answer which set of movies it was associated with, but the name of the clip gives it away. Good clip.

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Pardon me, but there’s a hole in your plot

Image: Zdenek Sasek

Trawling through the Kindle Unlimited novels, I find one I like. Two powerful sorcerers—husband and wife—save the world, but end up dying as a result, leaving their twelve-year-old son an orphan. The boy is taken in by a tribe high up in the mountains and learns to survive in the hostile, icy environment. (I know, it sounds ordinary here, but bear with me, I’m summarising the plot. The start was promising.)

Naturally, with two such powerful parents, the boy’s a prodigy. Oh, and did I mention, if the bad guys knew he was alive they would not be happy, as his parents destroyed their efforts to take over the world? As a result, he hides the fact that he’s a sorcerer, even though he’s been well taught and is already as powerful as his parents. Ten years later the boy has grown up, learned how to survive in the harsh wintry environment. He is asked to take a bunch of freed prisoners across the mountains to safety.

The prisoners, who have all been captured in the last six months, have one thing in common. Every one of them had been travelling to the kid’s former hometown to train under the two famed sorcerers—his parents.

Wait! What? The parents have been dead ten years. Let me reread that section and see if I got that right. These people have all been captured recently.

I reread the section. No. Definitely dead ten years. And the kid needs those years to become familiar enough with the deadly environment to be able to take them across the mountains safely.

Wait. I get it. It’s one of those books where the reader knows more than the characters. The former prisoners don’t realise the parents are dead. Or maybe someone is impersonating them. Okay. I think it’s it bit too obvious and the characters should have picked up on it, but I’ll wait and see.

Two pages on the group talks about fight that saved the world—which they all know about, and they know the sorcerers involved were the ones they were supposed to be training with. They also know the parents are dead.

But … but, these people were captured in the last six months. The last one had been in the prison only five days. They all had families willing to support them and send them to mage training.

It never even crossed the orphan’s mind to query it, either. They were his parents, and they’d been dead ten years and he didn’t even ask, “Hey, you know they’ve been dead ten years so why are you going to them for training now?”

Hmmm.  Spoils the book a bit for me, but I’ll keep reading. Maybe it will work out.

But it didn’t. It was just a plot hole right through the whole book. And the silly thing was, except for a minor sub-plot about an arranged marriage, there was no reason I could see for them to be going to those sorcerers in the first place. They could have gone to anyone who could teach magic.

That arranged marriage, by the way, had been arranged between the orphaned son back when he was an unorphaned two-year-old and one of the prisoners. The boy disappeared for ten years, the parents were demonstrably dead, and yet the parents still sent the girl off to marry him.

No. I don’t buy that. I wouldn’t send my precious daughter off to a strange town to marry someone who disappeared ten years ago. And what’s this correspondence with the parents? It had to have been ten years ago, as well. After all, they’re dead, and everyone knows it.

I kept expecting the parents to reappear, but they didn’t and except for the fact that the travellers got kidnapped going to their house, they never came into it again.

It felt to me like a story where the author had started one story and as the story was written it changed, as stories do, but the author refused to deviate from his original plot line. Or maybe he didn’t give himself time away from the work. A plot hole that big would have been quite noticeable six months away from the story, or if a beta reader read it.

The fixes would have been quite simple. Like send the former prisoners to some other sorcerer for training. Change the romance sub-plot a little. The kid would still have to avoid showing his powers even as he uses them to get across the mountain—which is what the story was about. Sadly, this story didn’t get that time, and I only read to the end of the story because, as I said, I was waiting for the twist that would explain the plot hole.

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Road trip

12 Apostles, one of the sights along the Great Ocean Road. Image by Ashley Whitworth

I took two weeks off work to do a road trip. We went west, along Great Ocean Road, and across the border into South Australia, up to Robe. The weather in that first week was glorious.

I have to say, the southern coast is beautiful. You forget how beautiful it is sometimes. Lovely coastal beaches in parts, wild and rugged in others.

There were more tourists than I expected. This was the end of the shoulder season, getting close to winter so I thought it would be quiet. It wasn’t. I confess I would hate to do the same route in the middle of summer, just because of the sheer number of people. We were also lucky there weren’t a lot of overseas travellers—who often do bus tours—because apparently when the bus tours are running it’s horrible on the road because it’s wall-to-wall buses. (Not denigrating the buses, by the way, as I do a lot of cruising and I’m usually one of the ones on the buses elsewhere, it’s just stressful being a driver on the road with them.)

It’s the first time we’ve been away since the onset of covid. Some things have changed. Some things had probably changed beforehand, but since we hadn’t done a true road trip for years (we love our cruising) this was the first time we’d come across it.

Everyone books online now

It used to be that on a road trip you started looking for a motel from around 2pm onwards. When you saw a place you liked, you’d check if the vacancy sign was lit. If it was, you’d walk into reception and ask for a room.

This time around, that threw people. Everyone, but everyone, booked online beforehand. We had one big hotel where the poor girl behind the counter had no idea what to do (I think she was new) and had to ask the manager for help.

Change in the makeup of the tourists

This one is logical. Great Ocean Road is one of Victoria’s biggest tourist attractions, and on the agenda of most overseas tourists who come to our state. (It’s worth seeing.) But given covid, and travel restrictions, this time most of the tourists were local.

So much building going on

So many new houses were being built. You’d reach the outskirts of a town and find a brand new estate under construction. Or drive through a town that looked as if it had nothing—lucky even if it had a general store—and find massive McMansions being built on acreage. It feels as if in another ten or twenty years the whole of the southern coast will be built up. Rather like Queensland’s gold coast is now.

That’s going to be interesting.

As I said, it was beautiful weather. The first week was fantastic. The second week turned blustery and cold, but we managed to avoid most of the heavy rain, even when we chose to sightsee.

A shout out to all the councils along the way

When you’re travelling, you use a lot of public toilets. Most of these are maintained by the council, and on this trip they were uniformly clean and usable. Even the occasional drop toilets. On past road trips, facilities have been hit and miss.

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Creaking bones

There are things that I don’t miss with an older body, such as pimples and menses. But I’m sure if I was a mage who could rejuvenate my body’s age, I could do something about that those. You just don’t want to do the Archer’s Goon-type reversal, where the mage overshoots the age they want to revert to and goes all the way back to childhood.

My body is aging faster than I want it to. There are things I can’t do any more. For example, I have a bad knee (osteoarthritis) which restricts how far and how fast I can walk. I can’t see as well as I used to, and sitting at a desk all day is creating havoc with my back. Sigh. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw (and others), youth is wasted the young.

The time most of us begin to become comfortable with our bodies is around middle age. Which, I suspect, is why there are paranormal fantasies where the woman gains power, part of which is the ability to control aging, and chooses to retain her middle-aged body.

I get this. Back in my early middle-age I would have agreed with that decision.

Nowadays, not so much. As my own starts to wear out, I say give me the body that can walk all day and get up and do the same the next, and the next. The body that can eat almost anything and if I overindulge, just eat less the following day. The skin that retains its elasticity.

Please, give me the body of the twenty-year-old.

Provided I keep the wisdom and the confidence of my older self.

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Whodunnit and other things

 I love mystery novels. They’re my favourite genre after speculative fiction, and I like nothing better than getting lost in a good whodunnit.

Funnily enough, despite the fact that I love mysteries I can’t read true crime. Just knowing that the book is about real people—usually being murdered—takes away that layer that allows me to suspend disbelief. The layer that says, ‘this is a story’. Instead, I find myself thinking, ‘this happened to real people’.

I had a similar experience recently reading, of all things, a regency romance, where some of the things that happened to a woman in a story came a bit too close to how women really were treated in that era and how they were became, technically, a husband’s property. The story had a happily ever after, it was a regency, after all, but … just, no.

Going back to whodunnits, however.

I watched a movie the other day on Netflix called Knives Out. It came out in the cinemas in 2019, and because of Covid I completely missed it, but it was what I would call a British whodunnit transferred to US soil. There were shades of Hercule Poirot—the detective is even called Benoit Blanc—and story is of a dysfunctional, monied family swirling around in a luxury mansion after the death of the patriarch, with everyone expecting to inherit.

In the tradition of those British whodunnits, it had a star-studded cast. Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Chris Evans, Christopher Plummer, and others. And, of course, it had a few twists to the story.

I enjoyed the story (once I got used to Daniel Craig’s southern accent, not sure I ever want to hear him do an Australian one) and I see there’s a second movie coming out, with another star-studded cast which I’ll watch as well.  Right now, though, the US seems to be doing two types of television/movie well that was once thought of as quintessentially British. The whodunnit, if this is anything to go by, and period romance. Anyone watching Bridgerton?