Obviously I survived my test on Saturday, but it was even less pleasant than expected. Getting up at 5:30 on a Saturday is never a good way to start a weekend. The drive wasn’t too bad (and was actually very pretty, this being fall in Oregon) but the actual testing was physically uncomfortable. For one thing, the room in which we were tested was freezing! I mean, it wasn’t just me; everyone was complaining. Second, the act of test-taking:I haven’t taken a written test in a very long time, and it turns out sitting there filling in circles and writing essays in pencil for hours is more annoying than I’d remembered. (If I’d spent a day in an office during my years of schooling, no doubt I’d say the same about sitting at a desk in front of a computer or going to meetings for 8+ hours. It’s all what you’re (not) use to.) Worst of all was the test itself, which had a distressing number of ambivalent answers, wasn’t similar in format to the same tests provided, and inclduded a lot of questions not covered in the official prep handbook sold by the same association who admiinisters the test. It was terribly specific in subjective ways, too, with questions like name the top three factors in determining the success of (complex business situation).” That might pass in a multiple choice question, but that was part of one of the essay questions! So you know they’re looking for some specific writer’s theory, because in any complicated situation involving human interaction there are a number of competing factors, some of which could be lumped together or split apart to supply more or fewer choices.

In brief, I have no idea whether I passed, but I sure hope I did because I DO NOT WANT to do this again any time soon.

The rest of the weekend was great – I think Ted was deliberately trying to help with that. (He might still be feeling a little guilty because I spent most of last weekend out in the rain, being pit crew for him at two regattas.) We went out for a fancy and excellent dinner Saturday night (Hall Street Grill in Beaverton, which is a much nicer restaurant than the name suggests, at least IMO), then did a driving trip Sunday up along the Columbia River to Astoria, down along the coast to Seaside, then back home. Astoria turns out to have a surprisingly large and excellent maritime museum all focusing on exploration, trade and shipping up the river. I hadn’t realized it’s one of the most dangerous places to navigate in the US, but we went out to the tip of the jetty nearby and even on a calm day the waves were throwing up spray two stories high. Seaside is more of a beach-resort town than I’d expected – I bet it’s jammed in summer. Even on an October weekend, lots of people were out taking advantage of the good weather. Here’s the photographic evidence – two of the glorious weather, and a whalebone swift from the museum’s whaling exhibit, for you knitters.

drive

columbia

swift

Another minor annoyance came up yesterday: over on Dreamwidth I received a note from a random stranger wanting me to read her manuscript. Apparently this is not because I sometimes write about books, just because I have SFF listed as an interest. That’s chutzpah enough, but then comes this bit in her note: “I plan to get “Vampiric Interdiction” printed and available for purchasing after I finish it and get all the editing and such done and so I want to make sure it’s the best it can be. 😀 This only a first draft so I am aware of most spelling and punctuation errors in it, and obviously they will be address in editing (but I am not at that stage yet). :)” (The smilies are her own.)

Most authors try to make a book as good as it can be on their own, then send it out for critique to specific people they have reason to believe can offer useful feedback to help them improve it. Apparently this person wants total strangers to read her first draft and ignore all its errors, apparently not realizing that’s impossible for those of us born with the proofreader’s gene, and not mention them to her. It’s unclear what she actually wants: praise only? The ability to self-publish and claim that X number of people have already read and loved this book? No thanks. I’ll be over here reading the works of authors who actually work on their craft.

Anyway, vampires and werewolves hold no intrinsic appeal for me, and when I see them as the topic of a book, my first instinct is usually “Oh, no, not again.” Much as I enjoy the Kate Daniels or Mercy Thompson series, it’s because they have great characters who happen to be werewolves or vampires, not the other way around. Speaking of urban fantasy series, I finally got around to reading Ben Aaronovich’s Midnight Riot, which has been on my Kindle for ages and which is now apparently being sold under its better British title, Rivers of London. It was good enough that I’m now in the middle of the third one. I like what he’s doing here. It keeps getting compared to the Harry Dresden books, with a dash of Neverwhere, and that’s about right, though I find Inspector Peter Grant more engaging than Dresden. I have no data to say for sure whether Aaronovich’s portraits of London, the West-African immigrant community there, or the British police force are accurate, but they sure feel solid – not like research, but like something he’s lived with. (I’m guessing some or most of it actually is research, so he’s done his worldbuilding well on mundane as well as magical elements.) I’m looking forward to finishing this third one, though, much as I like it, because next up is Rick Riordan’s latest, House of Hades. Its predecessor ended up not so much with a cliffhanger as with its main characters literally falling off a cliff into Hades. Not that they’re any likelier to die than the heroine in the old silent movies was likely to be run over by a train when she was tied to the tracks by the villain, but I’m eager to see how they manage the not-dying part.