So there I was, bent over sideways, lugging a duffel bag full of booze through Lozenets at 1:30AM.
It was two weekends before Christmas and not a taxi was to be found in the town of Sofia. We'd been forced to drive to the party, which meant we had a car to drive home.
"We'll get a taxi and pick up the car tomorrow morning," said Pavlina. "But we should put the booze in the car first." It was a duffel bag branded with her company's logo, filled with everything her employees hadn't drunk that night. I switched it to my left hand and bent the other way.
I used to hate parties like this. Honestly, I still don't like them much, but I no longer hate myself for checking out after a couple of hours to sit in the corner and read with my earplugs in. One mistake I did make was to arrive at the party hungry. I'd taken too many cornflakes chicken things with my whiskey and now I felt mildly sick.
Pavlina's assistant had found a good source for her merch. The duffel bag creaked under the weight of undrunk drinks, but it did not explosively fail me on that long walk. Apparently there's a section of Roman wall there, but I didn't notice it. I was focused on getting that duffel home. We'd be stocked up on wine. I'm rarely in the mood of beer, but it keeps, doesn't it? Given how heavy this thing was, we should have a supply until spring. My shoulder hurt and snow gently fell.
"How about I drive?" I had my wallet with me and it carried my American license. Adjust the mirrors, push the seat way back. But this isn't a story about driving. It's about that beer.
I decided to leave the duffel in the car that night, but the next morning I hauled it up the four flights of stairs and through our apartment to the balcony. It was only there that I opened it and discovered that was almost entirely full of Moretti Zero. Non-alcoholic.
After one last spate of writing, research, and conlanging, I put Third Realm to bed. The heart of the story is there, and now it needs to rest while I forget about it and work on other things.
Such as Fellow Tetrapod! I am now getting my claws into the final revision of this oversized manuscript, and I'm cutting. If you want to tell me what you want me to discard and what to keep, there's still time for you to beta-read the current draft.
And The World's Other Side is nearing the end of its serialization. It's time for me to start getting it ready to publish on Kindle Unlimited, and more importantly, advertise it. So here's a question: how do I introduce this book to potential readers without feeling gross about it?
And I read some. Actually, I read a lot. A lot. It was a good vacation.
Dirk Gently: The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul (BBC Audio) by Douglas Adams
Listening to this radio show was a good way to make me want to read the original. Humor that works as narration fails when it's said aloud by a character. On the other hand, the plot in the dramatization emerges more starkly from the jokes and digressions, but on the third hand, jokes and digressions are the whole point of a Douglas Adams story And I did not appreciate the Hitchhikers Guide references.
The Russia House by John le Carré
I love how real John Le Carré novels are, and this one was so real it was spooky. During the small window between the beginning of Gorbachev's reforms and the end of the Soviet Union, a drunken, womanizing reprobate of a book publish receives a manuscript for a novel written by a Russian physicist. The book contains military secrets - turns out the red army isn't all it's cracked up to be. What the author is really interested in, however, is whether his book will be published. That resonates.
Swan Knight's Son by John C. Wright
A tale of knightly chivalry transplanted into 21st century America. It mostly works, and at times, such as our knight's battles with elves by word and sword, it's great. The greatness is hampered by a terrible lack of proofreading (the use of "woses" in the singular was a mistake) and Wright's auto-plagorism. Why did he re-use mermaid girlfriends and villains with impenetrable body hair in two separate series? Surely he can come up with other monsters. These frustrations aside, I did enjoy the book. I'm saving the next one for when I feel sad and need some encouragement.
Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
Jeeves takes a break for Bertie, but the young idiot's problems grow so large that Jeeves can no longer in good conscience avoid solving them. A house is burned down, a marriage is arranged, and in the end, there is no other employee whose sentences Jeeves would half so much enjoy completing.
Agatha H. and the Siege of Mechanicsburg by Phil Foglio
I wouldn't have bought this, but the audiobook was included in my audible subscription. I read the Girl Genius webcomic, and I did enjoy this reminder of the plot from three or four years ago, some of which I'd forgotten. I admit the romance was nice. The reader was very uninspired, though. The Foglios and their friends do a much better job with the voices in their podcasts. These are ridiculous larger-than-life satire monsters, and they should sound ridiculous.
The Engineer by Will Wight
I read this book during a Christmas party, so I appreciate it for the relief it afforded. But I have to say this second book in the series repeats the problems of the first. The beginning is fast-paced and exciting as the crew of the Last Horizon rescue/recruit their engineer, but then we hit a wall. It's like the book ends and we begin a new book building up to a battle with an enemy from the engineer's past. The whole thing feels clumsy and bloated, like it followed its outline too closely and was published before it was ready.
The Aye-Aye and I by Gerald Durrell
This is one of Gerald Durrell's last books. It's written by an old man with unreliable hips and a younger wife, with a tendency to chastise the reader for not doing more to protect vulnerable species. Between all that, there is enough humor, beauty, and animal behavior to keep the you going.
The Sword of the Lictor by Gene Wolfe
I don't have the skill to do justice to this book, even in summary. This was my second reading, and only now did I understand what actually happened between Severian's work in Thrax and his time as a wandering outlaw. I have a friend who's read these books several times, and when we last spoke he quoted a line from The Sword of the Lictor to help me think about a personal problem. It did help.
The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
Not enough character development. But seriously, I would have liked a bit more editing between me and Twain's travel diary There were occasionally bouts of deep consideration (such as when he visited Golgotha), and real humor ("bring us a fresher mummy") separated by long stretches of humdrum vacationing.
Daniel M. Bensen