2020

It’s the last couple days of 200.

Definitely been a landmark year, though not for the reasons anyone anticipated.

Everyone knows the bad stuff that happened this year, in a wild, shared, global way. In a small way, it was a weird year because Midas actually had soundness issues that took a few months to resolve (he’s fine now) and that meant we did a lot of hand walking and walking rides through grassy fields that were kind to his hooves. We didn’t do much that was exciting, except try our hand at ponying a pony, which the pony was not thrilled about.

But I thought I’d think about some of the good things, the favorite things…I thought I’d talk about books. Because I love books.

Books

I opened Goodreads to see what I read this year. Man. I found SO MANY awesome books. Not always new, but new to me. I could just list everything I read this year, with a couple exceptions (there were a few meh and a couple I really hated) but I guess you can always just look me up on Goodreads for that.

So here are a few of the best:

  • Crescent City – Modern tech meets angels and fae, and all the myths in one story full of detective work, demon hunting, soul searching, and unforgettable characters. The character depth and heartstring moments we’ve come to love from Sarah J Maas, but with a LOT of swearing. Like, a lot. That part wasn’t necessary, it really stands out in the audio book but I kinda glazed over when reading it in paper form. The rest of the story is enough for me to not care about the weird prevalence of foul language, I cannot wait to see what comes next for Bryce and Hunt.
  • A Deadly Education – I don’t like stories about going to school to be something (assassin, wizard, whathaveyou). But this story, while set at a school, wasn’t about learning to be a wizard or use your magic. It’s more about facing down assumptions, finding friendship, and also getting graduation. El is a delight as a narrator. On the whole it’s fun, twisty, snarky, rewarding.
  • Well Met – Light, fun, sexy, romantic. A rom-com for when you need something uplifting and funny to read. It’s a rom com, but I felt like this book avoided the things I don’t like about rom coms and embraced all the things I do.
  • The Scorpio Races – This book is beautiful. It evokes such longing, and beauty, and it’s a good story–there is a thrilling horse race and gentle love story–and the horse sense is spot on (it would have ruined it for me if it wasn’t). It’s often described as atmospheric, and it is, but if that word sounds boring to you, don’t think of it as atmospheric. It’s not literary fiction which appears primarily obsessed with suffering and postmodern disillusionment–which would probably also get described as atmospheric, but that just means the atmosphere is hell. No, in The Scorpio Races, the atmosphere is Thisby, an island probably off the coast of the UK, and the island is practically a character in the story. If you have a location that you just LOVED, being there is how the book makes you feel. Read it so you understand.
  • The Return of the Thief – Eugenides is back, and he’s amazing. You have six other books to read first, but for a series whose release spanned 20 years, the fact that this book doesn’t disappoint is itself a literary accomplishment.
  • The Riyira Revelations – Royce and Hadrian are now among my favorite friend portrayals in fiction. Royce is a jaded assassin, Hadrian is an idealist fighter, and together they are Riyira, an expensive set of thieves and fixers who steal things and frame people for those with obscene amounts of money. But then they are hired to steal a “magic” sword, and everything kind of goes down hill from there. You will not regret diving into this series and its world. It’s a pretty massive series, I’ve only scratched the surface.
  • The Expanse (first three books) – These books have an enormous cast of vastly different characters. They are very thoughtful, but also gripping and fascinating and hopeful. I love that they are hopeful. I didn’t keep reading into the series (yet) because there are SO MANY and I wasn’t sure how much longer they could go without someone I really cared about dying. So, I figured I would quit while there was at least a potential happily ever after.
  • Paladin of Souls-I have actually read this book three times this year. If you haven’t read Curse of Chalion, start there, and then you will be EVEN HAPPIER reading Ista d’Chalion’s story. Actually, all of Bujold’s stuff set in the World of the Five Gods is good. Start with the Curse of Chalion, though.
  • Beneath Cruel Fathoms – Imagine the cultural differences between a merman and a human woman–are you? Because they are funny. Plus a cosmic plot and some pretty world reaching issues. Add romance, adopted siblings, and you’ve got a good story with lovable characters and I want book two. Because I want it, not because the author was cruel with her ending. At least, not horribly cruel.

I could probably keep going forever, because I love books, but This List has satisfied my need to make a list relating to 2020!

Here’s to a new year in the new world with more glorious books to read.

It’s time to listen

I normally stay out of serious discussion on the internet. I think it’s mostly a waste of time and energy. But I’ve been reading a lot of stories on the internet this past week about what it’s like being black in America today, and I wanted to make sure that anyone reading this who isn’t white, or wasn’t born in the United States of America, knows that I’m listening.

I grew up believing racism was a thing of the past—which I suppose is evidence enough that I am white. I was surrounded by international students most of my childhood due to my parents’ work and knew more about the tension between China and Taiwan than race tensions in the US. I thought because I loved the different tones of our skin and valued my friends of non-European appearance that everyone did. And since I am, in fact, white, I never saw racism because no one did it to me. It’s taken a long time for me to see the skin colors around me at all much less ponder the different experiences afforded each.

This week’s internet conversation reminds me of the #metoo movement in some ways.

Every woman knows what it’s like to be woman in a man’s world–even if, like me, you largely live in a safe bubble. Men just don’t. Unless they start listening.

Every black person knows what it’s like to be black in a white world. White people just don’t. Unless they start listening.

You can’t know what it’s like for someone who doesn’t look like you.

One of the worst parts of adulthood has been discovering exactly how much racism is still a thing. It’s shocking and appalling, and it’s beyond being watched suspiciously in stores–it extends to dress codes designed to shame them for their spectacular hair. It is hatred, obvious and ugly. And it’s rules no one thought to change once they forgot why they were there.

Most of the time racism feels far away to me, that is my privilege, but in listening to the stories of black friends and acquaintances and total strangers who are now coming forward to share…I’m so sorry…I had no idea…And I’m so sorry I didn’t think to ask about it.

And thanks for spelling out how we can help. I’ve found out about a lot of cool Instagrammers, authors, and artists who I never knew existed before this week. I plan to keep listening.

I’ve put some links in this paragraph, mouse over the words to find them. I encourage you, especially my white readers, to read people’s stories. To listen to them. And to keep listening to them.

Not Your Momma’s History – historical reinactor

Twisted – book on the tangled history of Black Hair

Mulatto Meadows – bringing horses to under privileged communities

Here’s a snapshot of some books by black authors which are now on my TBR list:

I’m happy to have more recommendations! I know this is just a tiny smattering. Let me know in the comments who are your favorite minority voices–in books, art, fashion, science, equestrian sports, especially.

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Fanciful Dragon

This one has a story.

We were at a friend’s house to play games, and one of their daughters (who is…5?) presented my husband and I with paper and pencils and told us we each had to draw half the picture.

I think it was me who suggested a hobbit hole, with the circular door being in the middle. I sketched out the left half of the hill, and when I looked over at my husband’s side, he was putting intricate scales on the head of a dragon.

The little pencil sketch ended up being really cool so the next day I sketched the whole thing out again, and then painted it.

I used a piece of paper too big to scan easily, so I’m still trying to get a clean image so I can upload it. But I really love how it came out. Especially the tall grass spines of the dragon.

This picture also reminds me to be imaginative and try crazy things. I never, ever, would have thought of making the hill a dragon, but he did. And I love it!

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clothes

I really love clothes.

They are SO HARD TO DRAW.

The eyes of an owl? Easy. The drape of…well…anything? Not so much.

Pinterest is my friend and tutor. I scroll through pictures and collect images and cobble together outfts off a selection of reference photos. Most of them aren’t really practical, but I like to imagine the one above is actually quite feasible and also flattering. Imagine linen, a thick elastic fabric, and leather.

I’m finding that often less is more, when putting paint on paper. Which is sort of disappointing sometimes because the very act of putting paint on paper is fun.

This is Zare, the heroine of the stories I write over on ZareCaspian.com. I paint her often. Sometimes it comes out great. Other times it REALLY doesn’t. But it’s all educational.

I used to fashion blog a little, part of me misses it. But not really enough to get back into it. Taking pictures is time consuming. And not looking like a doofus–regardless of what you’re wearing–is also an art form. I am out of practice 😛 But I still like clothes. I like to play around with make up some days–I refer to it as war paint. Because that’s what it is, in many ways.

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Adventurers

If you don’t know what you’re looking at, this is probably a weird picture. I was commissioned to paint an adventuring party portrait for a friend–it is VERY difficult to fit 7 people in a single portrait! There is a fighter/barbarian, a wizard, a sorcerer, a druid, a ranger, a paladin and a bard. So, basically everything 😉 if you’re familiar with tabletop roleplaying games.

I made this with inktense, brushpens, watercolors, and masking fluid. Oh, paint pen and metallic pens by kuretake, also. Layer upon layer upon layer. It easily took me 8 hours.

I don’t know why wordpress isn’t letting me rotate these pictures, so, sorry you’ll have to crane your head. But you can get a feel for the layers of detail easily enough.

Also raspberry pie.

This was done in August, but it was a Christmas gift so I couldn’t say anything about it till now 😛

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