2021: more chances for a happy new year

Hey, 2021, things haven’t got better since January 1. Enough has been written, posted, etc. about the details that we don’t need to go in to them here.

Dear year of 2021, you have more chances for a good start.

For many of us in the USA, January 20 is one of those chances. Joe Biden is due to be inaugurated as President. I hope that the incumbent racist rabble-rouser will be out of the White House before then.

For those with Asian affiliations, February 12 will be another chance for a happy new year. The new year will start as the Rat (yes, really) gives way to the Ox. I hope that the new year will reward those who have the virtues of the Ox.

Oxen are honest and earnest. They are low key and never look for praise or to be the center of attention.

Talking of the Ox reminds me that I should play my bass more in 2021. Because, you know, The Ox was one of the nicknames for John Entwistle of The Who.

I wish you a great 2021, and welcome your thoughts on the new year, whenever if starts for you.

Some YouTuber ELKs are LEAKY

I appreciate YouTubers who are ELK: Enthusiastic, Likeable, Knowledgeable.

My first ELK of 2021 is Daniel Greene. He’s a successful YouTuber: I believe he’s full-time now; he recently hit a quarter million subscribers. That’s not bad for someone who has been described as a disheveled goblin host, and now describes himself as such.

He is one of several YouTubers I consider not only Enthusiastic, Likeable, Knowledgeable, but also Young and Attractive. That suggests the acronym LEAKY, but I don’t think that’s a good way of describing people I like. So I’ll make sure that my next ELK will not be young; that ELK is not a BookTuber either.

Back to Daniel, the young attractive goblin ELK. I should recommend a specific video. That’s tough, since he covers a lot of ground, and posts a lot of videos. I’ll go with his video on how to start with Stephen King. If you’re familiar with King’s work, you’ll be we able to assess Daniel’s analysis, and decide whether his channel is for you. If you’re not, then Daniel can help.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Daniel, ELK’s etc.

2021: Books

What’s good about 2021? It’s not 2020.

What’s there to look forward to? Books and music, among other things.

To start with music… I hope to go to at least one live music show in 2021. As for recorded music, my favorite musician does not have a new album due out in 2021, as far as I know. But he does have a book due out.

Richard Thompson’s memoir Beeswing covers the years (1967-1975) during which he and some friends founded Fairport Convention, the band made some great albums, he left, he made his first solo album, he married Linda, and the two of them made my favorite album: I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. I hope that it is only the first of several memoirs.

The link from Beeswing in the previous paragraph goes to Bookstore.org. I think I’m done with Amazon links. Unfortunately, Bookstore doesn’t yet have entries for two of the books I’m most looking forward to in 2021 (so I’ll link to Goodreads, despite reservations). Each in the concluding volume in a fantasy series.

Jade Legacy concludes the trilogy that Fonda Lee wrote by mashing together martial arts, Godfather-esque conflict between families/gangs, and other things she loves.

The Fall of Babel is the fourth and last book in the wonderfully strange series that started with Senlin Ascends. I posted about this series about three years ago, and my enthusiasm for it has only grown since. I’ll probably re-read the first three in the month before The Fall of Babel comes out.

What are you looking forward to reading in 2021? What else are you looking forward to in 2021?

ELKs on YouTube

What makes you want to follow a particular YouTuber? My best answer is that they must be ELK: Enthusiastic, Likeable, Knowledgeable.

Merphy Napier is my first ELK. Merphy is a booktuber: she posts videos about books and authors, mainly in the genre of fantasy fiction. Here’s the video she posted earlier today, about her favorite authors as of late 2020.

If you watch the video, you’ll certainly see that she is Enthusiastic. I think you’ll find her Likeable, but that is of course very subjective. As someone whose reading overlaps with hers, I can testify that she is Knowledgeable about the genres she reads.

In future posts, I’ll post about other ELKs. Some, but not all, will be booktubers.

In the meantime, you are your favorite ELK YouTubers? Or what are your criteria for YouTube excellence?

What a Long Strange Week It’s Been

The most important day of this week was Monday, the day of my mother’s funeral. Due to Covid and isolation rules, I was unable to return to England to be present at the ceremony. My sister, bless her, arranged a livestream.

So, at 9:45 on Monday (2:45pm in England), we watched the ceremony. It was strange not to be there. It was strangely comforting when Mochi started licking my face as I was watching. It was also comforting to walk her to the beach a little later.

Other strange aspects of the past week included the first Halloween we haven’t celebrated in many years. Some people in our neighborhood “did Halloween”, but we were wary of the Covid-risk to others and to ourselves. Our kids are old enough to understand (16 and 14 now). It was a lovely crisp Saturday afternoon, though.

Then there was the election. Or rather, there still is the election. The strangeness of that would take a post by itself…

How was your week been?

Changing of the Bass

I haven’t played bass guitar much recently. The acoustic bass that was right for me when I bought it a couple of years ago ceased to be right for me when I had problems with my right arm (not due to playing the bass). It was just too thick.

So I decided to switch to electric bass, with the constraint that I should be able to get an electric for about the same price as I could get for my acoustic. That was less than $200: my Ibanez acoustic retails new for $250, and may occasionally go on sale for less than that.

I sold my acoustic through Craigslist, asking and getting $180. I’m pleased with that: it’s a fair price, the instrument being in excellent condition; I didn’t have to cave in to lowballers; the buyer came to my house with cash in hand; and he hosts music nights for friends, so the bass will be in good company.

I bought a Yamaha TRBX174EW Mango for a cent less than that: well, a little more than that, thanks to Rhode Island taxes. But the price was lower than usual, since Musician’s Friend had a 20% off “Rocktober” deal, and free shipping.

So I’m looking forward to a more compact bass that I can play comfortably. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Two Takes on Number Ones

Remember singles? I remember them as 7-inch vinyl discs, with a song on each side, usually bought for the “a-side”. Since then, they have taken many other forms: 12-inchers, cassingles, downloads, streams,…

A Number One was the single that sold the most copies in a particular week. Why this history lesson now? Because of two takes on number ones, and the intersection between the two.

Take one: on Stereogum, Tom Breihan is reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. As of today (June 5, 2020), he’s just got to mid-1982, when The Human League were #1. Tom is an excellent writer and researcher. Today, as often, I admire his column more than the single it describes.

Take two: in the Guardian, the in-house music critics have just finished ranking The 100 greatest UK No 1s. Yes, this is rabble-rousing clickbait. I am roused to point out that there is at least UK1 that is better than about a hundred of the singles on the Guardian’s list. Sing it, Smokey, and know that very few of the artists on the list are worthy to be mentioned in the same post as you.

I don’t know how the Guardian music writers managed to exclude this wonderful song (and pretty good video, by the way) from their top 100. Perhaps they decided that so ridiculous an exclusion would generate clicks and links. If so, it worked, at least one me.

Enjoy the music and the discussion, and feel free to continue the discussion here.

Critique: Circle, and Other Sources

Writers need critique of their work, at least some of it from people unrelated to them. So I’ve started thinking about finding sources of critique.

One popular source is Critique Circle, to which I’ve just signed up. It seems active and well-organized. Submitting my first critique was very straightforward. I hope that my comments on the first chapter of a fantasy novel will prove useful, and that I’ll get useful critique when the time comes.

A future post will concern the search for critique partners for my own fantasy novel-in-progress. Any comments on the fiction critique process would be welcome!

First Draft of Novel

I followed Neil Gaiman’s advice. “Write down everything that happens in the story, and then in your second draft make it look like you knew what you were doing all along.”

I think I know what I need to do to make it look as though I know what I’m doing, including character development, subplots, physical description, more (though not too much) detail about magic system,…

Yes, it’s a fantasy novel. Or it will be, once I’ve add the above-described stuff to arrive at the second draft.

Then I’ll need beta readers. Any volunteers? I’m open to reciprocal beta arrangements.

DNF’d, Then Did Finish: Strange?

Strange the Dreamer caught my attention due to positive reviews and sounding like my kind of book. I enjoyed the early chapters, in which Lazlo Strange talks his way onto the Godslayer’s expedition to the lost city of Weep.

I found less interesting the chapters in which we meet the other main characters, the Godspawn. I DNF’d after about 200 pages (or what would be about 200 paper pages: I have the ebook).

The book takes off just after that point, in Chapter 26 (of 67). The main Godspawn character sees Lazlo, then meets him in a very interesting and superbly-written way. I found this out when I decided to give Strange the Dreamer another try.

I enjoyed most of the rest of the book. Looking back, this surprises me, since a rather hastily-developed romance dominates. The city of Weep is explosively changed during the climax.

Then, we have one of those endings that isn’t a resolution, but a lead-in to the sequel. I don’t think I’ll read the sequel.

I’m glad I went back to, and finished, Strange the Dreamer. I see what people like about it: the worldbuilding, the writing, the characters. But I can’t heartily recommend a book that takes so long to get going, and doesn’t really conclude.