Yuletide 2020 writing


Claiming bragging rights. By the comments I got, I think I’m entitled.

A Letter, Unsent (1078 words) – Margery Kempe & Julian of Norwich

This was my actual assignment, the other three long stories are pinch hits. When I offered it I hoped SO MUCH that I’d get it and already had snatches of text floating around in my mind (“fourteen years of age, plain and scholarly, in possession of a modest dowry and plentiful brothers, admirably suited for the convent” is the oldest bit). I had Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love open all the time while writing, and I think I succeeded in getting the voice right. One of the hardest things I ever wrote, and hands down the smuttiest. One of the prompts was “Sex with God” and that helped me along enormously. It’s rated Mature, not Explicit, because Julian still speaks in metaphors a lot rather than being completely, well, explicit.

Thank you, Sara, Heather, and whoever’s name I’ve forgotten (possibly patchworkmouse), for helping me brainstorm Cecily’s name.

Piglets Don’t Hum Hums (1257 words) – Piglet (Winnie-the-Pooh)

It was easy to reread the entire canon, and fresh from reading the entire canon it was easy to get the voice right, but I was short on plot for a while until I cycled (can’t swim on things at the moment) on Woozles and Heffalumps. The recipient didn’t have any prompts, and I looked into what they’d written themself and received in other exchanges and that was all MUCH more mature than I wanted to write for this fandom (or mostly at all, except see above). I had to mail the mods to ask if that meant that I had to write smut or could just write something canon-compliant (the latter).

Youth’s a stuff will not endure (1017 words) – Robin Armin (Tam Lin – Pamela Dean)

The summary is straight from canon (Is Robin a clown?” said Molly. “He seems very sober to me.”) and worked as an extra prompt, and so did the title which I found when searching for “Feste quotations” after I learned that Shakespeare had written Feste for Robert Armin. This was difficult but rewarding, I kept moving paragraphs around and thought I’d never get to a thousand words without filler but eventually it cleared up by itself.

With This Ring (1375 words) – Polly/Maladict (Monstrous Regiment – Terry Pratchett)

This is full of darlings I fear I’d feel obliged to kill if it was original writing, but they work very well as Pratchettisms. So much fun to write. Trans Maladict! Deadpan innkeeper girl! Tiny ancient sweet (“you haven’t tasted the bitter”) vampire great-great-great-aunt! Proposal of Marriage! What’s not to love? (And flatteringly many people did love it and jubilated about it in the comments and a couple even bookmarked it)

Three Times Tail-Kinker To-Ennien Outsmarted Spock, And One Time She Didn’t Mind That She Didn’t (410 words) – Evan Wilson & Spock (Uhura’s Song – Star Trek)

Drabble series, the 10 extra words are tiny-chapter titles. Nobody’s noticed the any/Annie joke <sniff> A surprising lot of research went into this, not only canon review but also wiki poking-around.

Ayewards Internship (100 words) – Maree Mallory (Magids – Diana Wynne Jones)

* goes back and labels it “Post-Canon” *

I’m exceedingly proud of the title of this one. Also that I thought of replacing the original “horse” by “mare” to keep the tension up.

Opening Day (100 words) – Carmela Rodriguez & Ronan Nolan (Young Wizards – Diane Duane)

I admit I researched sex toys. (And glue guns.) Faintly inspired by this (my favourite E-rated Young Wizards story).

Friends to Siblings (100 words) – Elda & Claudia (Derkholm – Diana Wynne Jones)

This came into being because I don’t care much for the friends-to-lovers trope, and detest the enemies-to-lovers trope. It’s just girls hanging out.


Hindsight 2020


That pun is too obvious not to use. But (I think) unlike many people who have blog posts with that title I want to look back on the things that went right in a year that I’m otherwise glad to see gone.

I’ve now kept up the reading notes for an ENTIRE YEAR. It was an experiment at first, to see how long I’d persist, but it’s become a habit and I don’t intend to stop. Future me will be able to see that (a) I read a lot, and (b) Interesting Times made me reread more old favourites and read more fanfic, and steer clear of more challenging and confronting things. I did read some very good new and new-to-me books, though. Clocktaur War and more by T. Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon, The Glass Magician and the two books by Alice Degan were highlights.

Apropos of fanfic, I discovered that I could actually write it, and after one story on Archive Of Our Own and half a year of being stalled there was Yuletide and I wrote a whopping eight stories, four full-length, one shorter and three 100-word drabbles, for a total of about 5500 words. And got only positive comments on those, and not only from the recipients but also from random people who must have stumbled on them. The gift I got ended up in someone’s recommendation post, but none of the ones I wrote did.

Worldcon 2020 was all online so I could actually attend it! I’d never have been able to go to New Zealand for it: for one thing I don’t fly any more. I learned to filk and to use Discord with confidence, and as a nice spinoff we now have a once-a-month online Traveller campaign with players (all women, the GM is the only man) all over the world.

I taught myself MuseScore and wrote up lots of music for the church, even though we effectively didn’t have a choir. Choirmistress and I thought we’d need a whole “choirbook” with only a single melody part because services now have only a single singer, but it turned out that she and I were the only ones who wanted it and we both have the experience to use the four-part book just as easily, so that project sank before it sailed.

Not an accomplishment of mine but something that went right anyway: eldest daughter and her loved one bought a house, and she sent me a picture of the move with an engagement ring on her hand. They’re getting married next July, whether or not the Interesting Times are (sort of) over then, in their own garden among the goats and sheep and chickens. The goats came with the house, they acquired the sheep in December, and the chickens are expected this month.

The biggest thing that went right isn’t mine to disclose, but it makes me very happy. (No, I’m not about to become a grandmother. That I know of, at least.)


Reading notes, week 53


January 2: The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers. Apt, seeing that it starts on New Year’s Eve. Paying special attention to Hilary Thorpe for fanfic-writing purposes. It may be the best Lord Peter Wimsey book, not only as a mystery but as a novel, with all the interaction between people.

Also lots and lots of Yuletide fanfic, wheeee!

December 19: Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers. Sometimes I read only the office parts and skim the partying parts, other times (like this time) I read everything. Now I want to read (or even write) Miss Meteyard fanfic.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 52


December 25: Hangman’s Holiday by Dorothy L. Sayers. Short story collection that actually contains a Christmas story or two. Didn’t time it this way on purpose but it was a nice surprise!

December 24: How Lovely Are Thy Branches: A Young Wizards Christmas. I’d forgotten that it was this good.

December 23: The How Lovely Are Thy Branches Advent Calendar by Diane Duane. Kind of late, I started on the first of December last year and painstakingly read only each day’s entry on that day, but catching up in one fell swoop was fun too.

December 22: Have His Carcase by Dorothy Sayers. Read that in week 41 too so, like Strong Poison, but this time I kept seeing new details and nuances.

December 21: A quick skim-read of canon for a Yuletide beta-read (thing I read decades ago and it’s on Gutenberg). Liked it so much that I downloaded it and squirreled it away for later. Also its sequel.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 51


December 18: Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L. Sayers. Might also want to watch the film version, though Ian Carmichael matches my headcanon for Lord Peter a lot less than Edward Petherbridge does.

Also some more canon review for another Yuletide pinch hit. Turned out that I didn’t need it once the characters and their voices were well established, but I wrote that story in one day (over 1300 words in 7 1/2 hours to be exact) and didn’t have time to read in between.

December 14: Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers. Read it in early October (week 41) but it wasn’t a chore to read it again in the sequence. Miss Climpson, especially, is always wonderful.

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 50


December 12: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers. Didn’t remember that it seems to end at about 55% and then there is a whole new mystery novel in the second half. (The first half isn’t so much a mystery as a comedy of manners and/or errors, with a really convoluted wild-goose chase.)

December 10: Undisclosed canon for emergency Yuletide pinch hit. I’m pretty well-versed in it but never concentrated on these particular characters before. Finished the story, will disclose all on Yuletide author disclosure.

December 7: Lord Peter Views the Body (short stories). Wasn’t really sure it was what I wanted, but once I’d started there was nothing against finishing. — Some of the stories seem to be exercises for later novels: fishing in Scotland in The Piscatorial Farce of the Stolen Stomach, a man murdered on a beach and a professional dance-partner in The Unsolved Puzzle of the Man with No Face. The latter also features a Miss Twitterton, whose completely unrelated namesake comes back in Busman’s Honeymoon. And The Undignified Melodrama of the Bone of Contention has brothers called Haviland and Martin; the alias of a villain in Have His Carcase is Haviland Martin. (This is the kind of thing one only notices on an umpteenth reread.) (While knitting, which seems to be good for both reading concentration and knitting progress. First half of cardigan is done.)

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 49


December 4: Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers. Also better than I remember, with more coherence. And time-appropriate misogyny, some of it perpetrated by women. Ah well, one can’t have everything.

December 3: Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers. Better than I remember but with some cringey moments (“sixteen generations of feudal privilege stirred in Lord Peter’s blood” on seeing the woman his brother was cheating on his sister-in-law with) (I don’t approve of adultery in fiction any more than in reality, but to be honest in this case both of them were married to the wrong person).

December 1: Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers. It seems to be time for a Lord Peter Wimsey reread (not only the Harriet Vane books, which I’ve also done in the past). I absolutely know whodunnit, and how, and I think why, but I still want to read it. It’s got a lot of what I think is called “time-appropriate antisemitism”, which annoys me but I would still prefer this version over a modernised, sanitised one.

November 29: The Extraordinary Adventures of Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Burglar by Maurice Leblanc. Strangely I got it from Gutenberg but Gutenberg doesn’t seem to have it any more — since they’ve changed their interface it’s harder to find things there anyway — but it’s on wikisource. Yes, it’s clear that it’s from 1907 (a hundred and thirteen years old!) but still very readable. It’s got a crossover story with Sherlock Holmes!

Index of reading notes is here.

Putting food into other food


One of my superpowers is “Make Food Into Pie” but of course that’s only a subset of Putting Food Into Other Food.

I’d been wanting to make lemper for some time (anecdote: the first time I made lemper it was almost accidental: cooked a new chicken dish and we noticed it tasted like lemper filling so that was what I used it for), and Spouse suggested doing it with leftover meat from the guinea fowl we’d had. There wasn’t much meat left, but I bought a bag of adzuki beans and made red bean paste so I could fill rice balls with it. It was only a small bag of beans, but I do now have enough bean paste to make filled rice balls for an orphanage, when I boil up some more glutinous rice.

I’m not giving a recipe, because I combined two and took some inspiration from a third and haven’t consolidated (let alone internalized) them yet. It worked, though. Note to self and whoever else is googling recipes: next time I’ll parboil the rice, then add coconut milk and salt and aromatic leaves, then steam again, instead of trying to steam both times. The first steaming came out uneven, the second time a bit overdone, but not so much that I couldn’t form it. The resulting lempers (now frozen) are very soft and I’ll have to thaw and heat them in the microwave on the plate they’re going to be eaten from, because they probably won’t hold their shape in the steamer.

I thought I’d be able to fill at most four lempers with the amount of filling I ended up with, but eventually I had eight!

(filling the seventh here: the amount of filling left in the bowl is barely enough for the eighth, so that one is a bit smaller)

The sushi rolling mat wasn’t absolutely necessary, I could have put the cling film directly on the board and indeed did the first join-the-edges roll only with the cling film, but it was nice to get the lemper into shape with.

I got 11 (and a tiny one I ate immediately) rice balls with red bean filling from the rest of the rice, and they’re in the fridge and I eat one whenever I crave one. They’re too sweet and probably too pudding-like for Spouse so we can’t share them. Next time when I plan to make sweet rice balls and not something savoury from the same batch, I’ll sweeten the rice very slightly because now the rice tastes bland by contrast, but they’re yummy anyway.

After all this rice I went on to make vegan stuffed cabbage leaves: blitzed garlic and ginger and rather a lot of brown mushrooms with turmeric, ground coriander seed, black pepper and a bit of miso, fried the lot in oil until the juice ran almost dry, then crumbled tofu into it. I’d already teased the outer leaves off a cabbage and blanched them to soften — overcompensating because usually I leave them underdone and they’re hard to roll, this time they fell apart while rolling. But I got an oven dish full of reasonable packages, covered with tomato sauce (roux made with oil and strong miso broth, a bottle of passata di pomodoro, spiced with ginger, dark soy sauce and tamarind) and gave it 40 minutes in the oven. (And we served them to friends and everybody liked them, even the person who always grumbles when there’s no meat.)

There’s some filling left that I could arguably make vegan lemper from, it’s the right structure and has a strong enough flavour, but I think I’ve done enough modelling with sticky rice for a while. I’ll probably put it in some kind of dough tomorrow.

Reading notes, week 48


November 28: Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie. Goodness, an Agatha Christie I’d never read! Poirot’s grown on me or something. Slightly too much marriage woes and implied adultery and similar stuff for me but it was exciting, the ending was surprising (in a good way) and the people who deserved to be happy ended up happy.

November 27: Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie. Another comfort reread, Poirot with very little annoying!Poirot, and a smashing school story. Forgotten enough to be surprised by the ending.

November 26: Spock’s World by Diane Duane. Comfort reread (though it has lots of uncomfortable scenes: disaster and war and betrayal and the nasty kind of intrigue) because I needed the Spock I know.

November 24: Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. Spouse was reading it and squeeing about it, and that made me want to read it again too. I’d forgotten some of the twists, and the (happy) ending!

November 22: Enterprise: The First Adventure by Vonda N. McIntyre. It seems to have a lot of one-star reviews, the most notable one saying “a bad book by a good writer, don’t read it”. It also has 4- and 5-star reviews. –No, it wasn’t a bad book (though I skipped most of the Klingon parts: wanton anger and aggression, even when done very well, don’t appeal to me) but what looked like a “people getting used to each other and learning to work together” story suddenly turned into a strange first-contact story, and I felt like I’ve been bait-and-switched. Then it all came together and I went “oh wow” though I may not want to reread it any time soon. (Added treat: Shakespeare almost in the original Klingon!)

Index of reading notes is here.

Reading notes, week 47


November 17-21: Assorted fanfic to clear out my Marked For Later list. It turned out that I’d already read most of that and even bookmarked it but it was nice to revisit.

November 17: The Cloak of Night and Daggers by Rosemary Edghill. #2 didn’t end, so now had to read #3, and that didn’t end either, becoming more and more convoluted until it did so. But at least nobody died. Yet, perhaps.

November 16: The Cup of Morning Shadows by Rosemary Edghill. It’s got at least one likeable character from #1, but now there’s a man being men-know-best-anyway annoying at her and alternate chapters have convoluted Elfland politics, so I don’t know how much of a chance I’m going to give it (currently skimming the politics chapters). And I wish she wouldn’t spell “elphen” and “Elphame”: almost cause for virtual-book-against-virtual-wall by itself. — Whee! This book has just got 100% more interesting. The most unlikeable character from #1 turns out to be the villain now. I was already wondering how the villain could know so much about the human world.

Index of reading notes is here.