Favorite albums of the year, part I

I whine about there being many books and little time quite a lot. But it’s also true that there’s a ton of wonderful music (okay, mostly metal) I listen to every year. This year brought me some anticipated progressive metal releases and some pleasant surprises.

Kamelot – The Shadow Theory

Okay, to me this album sounded like a second pressing of Haven– which is my favorite Kamelot album, but I didn’t feel like I learned anything new in The Shadow Theory. The compression in the production is a bit much. But there’s amazing guitar work, synths, and the vocals are fantastic. Add in the cool science fiction story and it’s worth a listen if you’re already a Kamelot fan.

 

Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura

I discovered the band this year, and they already have a special place in my heart. The frontman is my grandmother’s congressperson. Weird and awesome, right? Chthonic show the world the tumultuous 20th century history on the island of Taiwan and that the struggle for democracy is something recent and special. This album makes me hopeful for the future. Also, the music. It doesn’t quite sound like any other band. Worth a listen for anyone interested in traditional Taiwanese music or any kind of metal. Also deserves some distinction for the lone woman in the band not being the singer.

 

Light the Torch – Revival

Howard Jones got eaten by stress and diabetes. Being a vocalist has its own perils because of all the touring, and that the instrument is so delicate. So in the past six years, Jones has apparently gotten control of his blood sugar and is back with Light the Torch. Revival is their third effort (this band was previously known as Devil You Know and changed its name when it changed some personnel). I enjoyed the elements of metalcore, prog, catchy choruses, and of course Jones’s amazing big voice.

 

Angra – Omni

Angra offer something other power metal bands generally don’t: awesome South American folk elements. Bittencourt and co.’s latest offering holds together better than most of their other albums. The band tries a little of everything while still making a cohesive listen.

 

 

 

 

Honeymoon reading

This morning I set out to New Mexico with John! There will be plenty of downtime and hanging out at cafes, just letting our brains unknot for a week. I’ll do plenty of reading, I’m sure. Here are some books that I’m thinking of getting to:

  • Aliens in the Barn by Kyndra Hatch. I’m partway through this, and I haven’t met such unique aliens in a long time.
  • Deep Indigo by Cathryn Cade. I’ve read the others in this series and enjoyed them, so why leave that incomplete?
  • Mission: Improper by Bec McMaster. The spinoff to London Steampunk.
  • Hell Squad: Cruz and Gabe by Anna Hackett, because I’ve read the later books and want to be able to fill in a few references.
  • Trapped with the Cyborg by Cara Bristol because I will read most any books with female cyborgs in them.
  • Seth by Eve Langlais because see above.
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I’ve tried to read this a decade ago but had some trouble with it. I think it’s important for me to read more about hypercapitalism and classics of cyberpunk.
  • You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty by Dave Barry. Dave Barry was the first humor writer I read as a teenager and I appreciate his talent for the absurd.
  • Devil’s Kiss by Zoe Archer. I love her adventure stories. This is a historical with some supernatural elements I borrowed from the library.

I said recently that I’m not great at “just being” and reading is a good balance between doing and being. Do you have any summer vacation reading plans?

Other worlds blog hop

Other Worlds Blog Hop

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My work-in-progress takes place in what is currently Portland, Maine, several hundred years from now. When the United States fragmented, the Portland area, most of modern-day Maine, and parts of Vermont and New Hampshire consolidated into a city-state of the same name. Jet fuel is scarce, so most valuable trade is done via ships, and Portland’s primary industry is shipbuilding. Three mega-corporations (Corps) control Portland along with the municipal government: Harbor Securities, Michaud Dynamics, and Fairchild.

Picture of Portland's Old Port area
The Old Port in the modern era

Portland, Maine was named after the English Isle of Portland by English settlers. Before that, the Algonquian people who lived there called the peninsula Machigonne. Portland, Oregon was named for Portland, Maine when pioneer Francis Pettygrove won the right to name the town he and Asa Lovejoy founded on the Columbia River when he won a coin toss.

Why set a cyberpunk novel there? One of my assumptions when considering a future was that several large nations would fragment because governing that many people is very difficult to do with any nominally democratic process. I’ve been to Portland a handful of times and developed affection for the city: it was enough unlike Boston (where I lived in and around for almost ten years) that I thought it deserved its own place in my fictional future. A city, but not the Big City.

To celebrate summer and the blog hop, I’m giving away some SFR books:

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And don’t forget the Grand Prize on the blog hop if you haven’t entered already!
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Words are difficult

I have never fancied myself a writer. I loved writing when I was young, and I have always loved reading. As I aged, I stopped writing fiction. My internal editor and censor was too loud to squeeze much out. I would have plenty of stories in my head, but I would only jot down notes and use them as inspiration for the pen-and-paper/LARP games I was involved in. Writing is a craft that requires plenty of dedication and practice. Since I have so many hobbies, I’ve never thought I’d have the energy to give writing my stories. However, I recently had an idea that learning to write could improve my communication.

I believe I have many communication difficulties. Explaining my emotions is difficult, since most of the time I don’t completely understand them. They tend to be tangled together, tethered tightly so that when I try to tug on one experience or feeling, a whole bunch come to the fore with it, all yarn-vomit like. Explaining my thoughts is a bit easier, but since my thoughts form patterns instead of lines, expressing them in a way that other people can grasp and understand often takes a long time. It’s work to unwind all of this and give it to people in formats they can digest.

I realized recently that I like reading romance because it is a genre where the focus of a given book is supposed to be feelings. These books are about relationships and are quite plentiful on the library shelves. Genre romance is my favorite! Mix up feelings and cyberpunk, or relationships and gritty fantasy, and I’m a happy human.

I took a writing class through the Experimental College because iI thought it would help my putting my feelings into words. I need deadlines and structure to start anything I am unfamiliar with. Writing about people and their feelings with the chance to edit the words afterwards (words cannot be unsaid) seemed less risky than doing a verbal braindump. I learned some interesting tidbits about myself during the process, and by continuing to write I hope to learn more.