Friday, May 31, 2019

State of the Schafer, Vol 6

Yikes, what a week. My son came down with the flu and was absolutely miserable for five very long days. (And nights. The high fever gave him screaming nightmares. Good times for all.) His head and eyes hurt so much he couldn't read or even watch TV for very long, which left me as his main source of distraction from pain and fever. It's always heartbreaking as a parent to see your child in pain yet be helpless to make that pain vanish; I'm just glad my son is still young enough to find some comfort in my presence. But needless to say, I did not get much writing or anything else done. I have never been so glad that I'm not facing any deadlines.

Happily, the kiddo has at last recovered, and my own immune system seems to have held out against the virus, with the help of lots of hastily snarfed vitamin C. I was terrified I'd get sick and have to cancel my planned trip to GeyserCon. But hooray, I am healthy and typing this in Auckland airport while waiting for my puddlejumper flight to Rotorua.

Writing progress:

I've only managed about 2K more words on The White Serpent since my last update, but I'm hoping to carve out a decent chunk of writing time each day in Rotorua. I always need a little down time anyway at cons, especially when it's my first time at the con and I don't know many people. I love meeting and making new friends, but the extra social effort required is always a bit of a challenge for an introvert like me, so it's nice to schedule myself some quiet time each day when I can write and recharge.

Skating update:

I did manage to squeeze in a skating session before flying out of Queenstown, which was a huge mood lifter after a very long time stuck inside the house with my sick kiddo. I was so delighted to be on the ice again that I even summoned the guts to try my axel.

The forward "leap of faith" take-off for the axel makes it the most intimidating of all the skating jumps. If you don't fully commit to the jump, it's likely to end badly. (How badly? There's a reason for the old stress fractures lurking in my lumbar spine.) You need to kick your free leg through and then instantly shift your weight from take-off to landing side, while simultaneously yanking arms and legs in to generate the required rotation.

All that can go wrong in a whole lot of ways. The axel is the only jump I've ever learned where sometimes, long after you think you finally have it down, you jump and your body suddenly says, "NOT TODAY, SATAN!" and bails mid-air. (This is so common a failure it's got a name: the "waxel", seen on occasion even in Olympic programs.)

So, yeah. Trying the axel again for the first time after 4 years off the ice was a nerve-wracking experience. I kept worrying that my body had completely forgotten how to do the jump and disaster would result. (I do wear gel pads over tailbone, hips, and knees when practicing, but still. No such thing as gel pads that can protect the spine.)

I comforted myself that I'd taken at least one hard fall already on footwork the other week, and my back survived. After some deep breaths, I went out for some axel attempts...and LANDED THEM, HALLELUJAH! Or rather, landed most of them. But even on the axels I didn't cleanly land, I didn't fall. And those I did land nice and solid on one foot...the elation was immense. I still grin wide just thinking about it. Even my coach was delighted, doubtless thinking of how much time it'll save if she doesn't have to re-teach me the jump.

It's only a single axel, sure, not a double or anything really impressive, but still. I came off the ice feeling like a superhero. That seems weirdly appropriate as the start to a science fiction/fantasy convention weekend.

Reading Corner:

I finished Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire, which was just as good as everyone said. The story reminded me of C.J. Cherryh's Foreigner, with an ambassador struggling to navigate complex and deadly politics in a culture they can never understand as a native does. I liked Martine's protagonist Mahit more than Cherryh's Bren, which helped make the reading experience much more engaging. If you're looking for science fiction with a lot to say about issues of culture and colonization, or if you just enjoy SF with interesting worldbuilding and character interaction, this one's for you. I'm eagerly looking forward to the sequel.

I then devoured Rachel Neumeier's Door Into Light, the long-awaited (at least by me!) sequel to her 2012 novel House of Shadows. I adored House of Shadows for its lyrical, atmospheric prose, mythic magic, and interesting characters, particularly the bardic sorceror Taudde, who struggles to navigate questions of morality and honor while living in an enemy country. The story in House of Shadows stands well alone, but leaves plenty of room for futher intriguing developments--and ever since reading the opening snippet of the sequel on Neumeier's blog, I have been absolutely panting for more. I'm happy to say Door Into Light did not disappoint me. I thoroughly enjoyed being back with Taudde and Leilis and all the other characters. I think I'll be re-reading both books again soon, just to savor the experience once more. I particularly recommend the duology to anyone who loves Patricia McKillip; it reminds me of her work in all the best ways.

Right now I'm partway through Sangu Mandanna's A Spark of White Fire, which is YA space opera inspired by Indian mythology, with meddling gods and magic and sentient spaceships. I'm really liking it so far. Hooray for great reading streaks!

Pic of the Week:

Sunrise on the way to GeyserCon

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