Stolen valor and edge cases

The bio has been up on the site in its current form for a while now, and it’s very unlikely anyone has seen it – but it bothers me enough to write a little piece that I can link to the bio for context. It would be nice if I could do the same to the “about” section of the ebooks… but we’ll start here.

The new bio uses they/them pronouns. However, those aren’t my actual pronouns. I feel bad about lying. No one uses they/them for me. No one sees me on the street and is mystified / unsettled / radicalized by the iconoclasm of my gender. No one is struck wordless by the inability to encapsulate my identity. They see what they see, they label it immediately, we’re done. I am not a sexy mystery, a sylphlike enigma. I’m not even an elfin type. I’m more of an orc. At best.

In other words, a gamine, fashion-forward 19-year-old with great hair who goes to film school and spends their days at protests… that’s not me. I support that person from far away. Rock on. You’re doing great. But that’s not me.

I spent five or so years picking everything about my gender apart, and ultimately had to conclude that I don’t tick all the boxes. I had to walk back all the stuff I pestered my past friends about on social media. An embarrassing mistake. A cautionary tale. I am nothing if not cringe.


It’s funny: I can put up with people using my real pronouns and name in the day to day. It stings, sure. Wears me down, drip drip drip. But it doesn’t grind me into an agonized paste. Still, though, it’s hard to bring myself to do that damage, however small it might be.

That’s my failing as an ally, I think. An area where I want to do better. I don’t want to steal queer valor or mislead people.

I think there aren’t many edge cases out there, or it’s hard to talk about us with bigger issues on the table and enemies at the gate. And it’s important to stay in our lanes and not talk over actual trans people and/or nonbinary people (some of whom define themselves as trans, and some of whom don’t – it’s an overlapping Venn diagram).

I just have minor things in common with the trans community: I don’t enjoy my assigned gender and wish it had been different. It takes a lot of energy to stand being myself, and I have to imagine a different self sometimes to be calm and happy (I realize this is not who I really am, it’s more like a visualization exercise). I was very disappointed with the specifics of how I had to grow up, starting in childhood and intensifying in adolescence.

Unlike trans people, however, I am not part of that community; I am not destroyed by living as my assigned gender; I did not have that inner voice that told me who I truly was from childhood on; I’m not fabulous and talented and unfairly maligned; I don’t have a close-knit circle of trans and queer friends; I don’t have great hair; I can’t dress myself worth a damn; I’m not an artist or an activist, I have a dead-end desk job; I’m dumpy and middle-aged and embarrassing.

I’ll strive to take this tiny grain of common experience and use it to try to be more empathetic, to stay in my lane and fight fellow cis people who use their one life on earth to be assholes. I’m not good at fighting. My innate unlikeability means that my presence in any fight makes my side look bad, so I try to pick my battles very carefully. But it’s all I can do.

(Someday I will write a story about a narrator who’s innately unlikeable in this way, but still tries to be a good person. It’ll be a ride.)


The bio stays for now. I’m doing my best and hope to do better in the future. Fuck TERFs and all other transphobes.

When in doubt, ask. It’s okay to respectfully ask.

Thank you.

In my defense, I barely knew what time was in the Before

I spent last night journaling about what I did during September, and I still don’t know where it went.

Hello. What’s up. Here are some unorganized thoughts.

  • Changed the blog category “proof of life” to “checking in”, because for me it crossed the line between “ironic overstatement” and “hmm, no thanks”.
  • Got all of those great notes back from the beta readers, identified some large elements that Book 3 was missing (more motivation for the “antagonists[ish]”, some logistical changes to the second half, commitment on the shipping question), ignored them for the rest of the summer.
  • Vowed in October to write something every day, whether that’s a bit of the story, some journaling, or this here procrastinatory blog post. I want to make it a habit again.
  • I want to not be scared of finishing Book 3, of doing a bad job, of writing something that some undefined someone doesn’t like. I want to write something that I like. I want to bring this storyline to a close and switch gears. I can do it. I just have to keep moving and keep my motivation in mind.

And what’s my motivation?

I read this tweet recently by the truly original Chuck Tingle, and it really struck me. I’ve tried to force sincerity out of my work and become more of what I feel like I’m supposed to be: better plotted, more marketable. It doesn’t work for me. It’s great if you can; I’m not talking about you. It doesn’t work for me, though.

I felt really bad for a really long time because Some Undefined Person Didn’t Approve of Something I Did, and many things in my personality make that just unthinkable. But it’s at the point where to keep doing something I love, I have to put up with that feeling.

I choose the story. I choose to keep going. Not out of spite; I have nothing to prove to anyone. Just because, well, I want to do this thing, and only I can stop me.

So I want to bring Agna and Keifon’s story to some kind of conclusion. I think after this point, if I come back to write about them, it will probably either be a short story or as side characters in a book narrated by another character. But hell, who knows what the future holds.

At the start, I assumed that I’d follow up Agna’s first book with one about Rone, her mentor, because he’s A Guy with a Sword and everybody loves those, don’t they, that’s important, isn’t it. After a while, I assumed I’d follow up Agna’s third book with one about Lina, her sister, because Lina is closer to the political upheaval in their home country, and political upheaval is Exciting and everyone loves Exciting Stories and Plot and that’s important, isn’t it.

I had a story framework on the back burner for a lot of this. A scenario, a setting, two narrators: more Academy graduates, former classmates who can’t stand one another and get assigned to a posting in the same small town. It takes place before Agna’s story, it has nothing to do with the political upheaval (I think), and I’m still not fully sure what Happens in it. The psychological themes are chewy, there’s the kind of drama I love, absolutely nobody was asking for this story and nobody gives one solitary crap about it. Except me.

And I’m writing for me.

So maybe it’s next. Maybe I’ll jump ship from fantasy and write that sociological science fiction idea ricocheting around in my head, about what happens down the road if nightmare capitalists actually do start a space colony where the poor colonists’ descendants are indentured servants. But by the time I do, nineteen other people will have already written theirs, so I can just read theirs.

I hope to write with love, even if I’m writing about unlikeable assholes or nightmare capitalists. Because that’s what motivates me. Not money, which is fine if that’s your motivation. Not approval, even though I feel like I’ll die if I don’t get it (which is fully asinine, I acknowledge that). I like writing. That’s why I do it. That’s all.

The Healers’ (Gum)road

Gumroad link for Book 1 is now live! So if you are inclined to do the sideload thing and/or don’t want to give money to the big storefronts and/or want to maximize the creator’s cut of the profits, there you go. But don’t worry on my behalf when it comes to money. It’s fine. I’m not shaming anyone into giving me any. If you feel moved by anything I’ve written, give a donation to a cause you care about. They need it more than I do.

Just Book 1 so far. Formatting is a long process! I probably didn’t have to do all of it again from scratch, but now my memory is refreshed, and I’ll have to do Book 3 someday soon (hopefully) anyway.

It took most of an afternoon on my day off, and that’s only because I got sucked in re-reading chapters that I hadn’t read in years. I found at least three continuity errors! Dammit! 😀 At least one is a continuity error in comparison to book 3, and I can still fix that.

Next, formatting book 2 and/or finally getting some more notes / extras up like I keep claiming I’m going to do in the end notes.

EDIT, Later That Day: Book 2 is also live on Gumroad. A few notes are up, too. Someday I’ll organize all of my lore notes, and get at least a few short stories up / back up. Someday. First, I’ve procrastinated about as much as I can from finishing the Book 3 edit.

Desk + head

Coming to you this evening from the home office which used to be my remote day-job workplace from April 2020 through mid-June 2021, and which still doesn’t feel quite “right” for writing projects. Gotta get back on the horse, though. Book 3 isn’t gonna finish itself.

This evening I realized two things:

a) the “books” page didn’t have Kobo links yet, so that’s fixed

b) I’m planning to make my stuff available on Gumroad for anyone who wants to fully avoid Amazon / kick more of the funds to the artist / what have you, which leads me to…

b) 1) I absolutely do not remember how to format a flipping ebook; the 4+ years since I last published have fully wiped that knowledge out of my head.

I found this page, hallelujah, from a self-publishing guru who has been around long enough that even I remember his site: Formatting an Ebook: A Step-By-Step Guide. It also name-checks Zen of Ebook Formatting, which caused one of those jolts-to-the-brain of an uncovered memory. Just the existence of that book, mind you; not how to do any of this. I remember the cover! Just not the contents.

So now I’m off to read that page, and then Zen of Ebook Formatting, and eventually, someday, I’ll have clean, new copies of Books 1 and 2 in a couple of format options on Gumroad.

Yes, this is procrastination.

Ahahahaha.

After years, I think the covers of both books are finally fixed on Kobo. The help team DID get back to me, but I’d stopped checking that email address out of free-floating despair (not their fault!). I just FINALLY did what they suggested and it seems to have worked.

So *ahem* Books 1 and 2 continue to be available at Kobo, DRM-free:

The Healers’ Road

The Healers’ Home

Yay. If all goes well, I’ll add book 3 when it’s done.


Can I just say for the ten millionth time that I enjoy writing and editing and dread everything else? Writing cover copy, coming up with titles and keywords, researching the market, setting prices. Checking email is terrifying. And I check email all day every day at the day job with no problem. How is Outlook comfortable and familiar and Gmail terrifying? I mean, other than Google being Google…

Everyone’s personality is different, is the thing. Lots of people would rather write cover copy all day long than turn over control to someone else. More power to them. Meanwhile, if someone were to hand me money and say “we’re going to do all the work, just write the things”? Yes please, so long as it’s not a naked scam. I mean, I have read about how publishing contracts can be fully terrible, and I’m speaking out of frustration here; I know it’s complicated. But I have the kind of personality to which that appeals, generally. I just wanna do the easy part.

But that’s okay. If I had a publisher, I couldn’t write the stuff I write. It’s a mess and it doesn’t fit into a market segment and while I wish I could write a coherent plot to save my life, it’s evolved into its own weird little thing. Not better than commercially viable fiction, I don’t believe in that sort of stance; just its own thing.


Progress: Ebook edit round 1 is done; beta readers have the same draft; first draft of the book 2 synopsis for the start of book 3 is done. Gotta work on extras, decide on a title, talk to the cover designer, write the cover copy for 3, get the betas’ comments back, and do at least one more round of edits. But I think it’s coming together.

Things you’re supposed to do

For once, my natural procrastination and laziness dovetailed with something you’re actually supposed to do: to put down a draft when it’s done and let it drain out of your brain for a while before you edit. A couple of days ago I realized I had a batch of songs stuck in my head that I often listened to while working on the draft, and I decided to take that as a sign from my subconscious that it was time to start again. Was it? Probably not. But why not.

Besides, I’d developed a habit of practicing ukulele and then writing, and when I finished the latter I stopped doing the former. Which isn’t great. Kind of lost the calluses, mostly. But I can still play, so that’s nice.

I’m embarrassed about taking up an instrument when I did, i.e. late April 2020. It seems like a facile, grind-culture / productivity-hack thing to do, and that is absolutely not why I did it. But I can’t prove that, and it still looks bad from the outside. Which is unfortunate. It was interesting to learn a stringed instrument, and I really enjoy it. If, someday, I can actually play and sing “(Nothing But) Flowers” at the same time, I’ll feel like it was an endeavor worth not being embarrassed about. Not there yet. Someday.

Meanwhile, I spent most of my leisure hours on a new version of an old-school time-suck, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town on the Switch. Harvest Moon / Story of Seasons is an old favorite, and I’ve enjoyed this installment so far. It’s cute. The script is well translated. There’s enough to do, and no plot railroading the player along. Not perfect, of course; it’s Inventory Management: The Game, and the whole maker-machine thing is goofy. (Did I not just get tired of that mechanic in the first two-thirds of My Time at Portia? I believe I did.) And whyyyyy can I not clip through my farm animals COME ON. But it still has that advancement loop that sucks my brain in and wraps it up like a Thundershirt, much like all the other games of its ilk that I’ve played for coming up on 20 years. It works on me. It just does.

(Someday I might write myself a big long rant about farming sim games and the kind of pastoral fantasy they often end up espousing — “city bad country good”, etc. — and how it feels like my work can slip into that mode even though I don’t intend for it to, and my many issues with that kind of polarized thinking and why I Love Cities Actually… but not today.)

And now it’s time to scale back the games and get on with editing the draft of book 3, now that book 3 is no longer playing in a loop in the back of my head. The beta readers have it, and Godspeed to them; it’s at least shorter than the second one. We’ll see what they say, and in the meantime I’ll work on line edits, my favorite (zero sarcasm).

We’re still here. I’m glad of that. Back to it.

There’s a reason the tag is still “Book 3”

Progress!

Step 1a: fix formatting messiness like smart/flat quotes, tabs, headings, blahblah (trying out a Google Drive plug-in for some of this)

Step 1b: decide on a cover, buy it, hope the title designer still has any of those fonts from lo these many years ago; get that ball rolling -> Not yet, because I can’t commit to a title. However, I ought to at least shop for covers. There are dozens of very lovely “gauzy nature + writing implements” cover blanks out there, and I enjoy looking at them.

Step 2a: crack into my running list of Words I Use Too Often / though I think “smile” is still used too often. You’re supposed to torture your characters, oh no

Step 2b: describe more things, geez! / Tried!

Step 3a: reread everything, streamline sentences, look out for dropped plot threads and fix them

Step 3b: repeat (Note: Do not take 2 years for this step) -> About to do this, via exporting to my e-reader

Step 4a: turn over to beta readers -> DONE! <3

Step 4b: pivot to extras for Books 1 and 2 -> this is daunting! It should be fun, but it’s also daunting. Giving myself free rein to write bits outside the main narrative has resulted in a) spinning off into an entirely separate universe in a different genre b) an excessively dark Nessinian historical short about an assassin and c) a goofy flash-forward based on a fanfic prompt that turned out to be kind of useful in an indirect way.

(It’ll get done, I just need to think about it)

But hey. The draft is done. I don’t know what to do with my life from approximately 8-10 p.m. every day. All of *waves above* this, I suppose. Time to get to it.

Phase 2: Things exist, say something about them

We have passed the easy part of the edit where I search and destroy/replace some of my over-used words (but, moment, forehead) and have entered the part of the edit where I go through and try to describe more things, because my natural tendency is toward scenes that apparently take place in blank white voids, starring beings of pure energy. You want to fix that before you reach the final.

This part of the edit is slow going, but it’s important.

Pictured: one good boy, not helping. A nearly daily occurrence. I don’t make the rules.

An unimpressed tabby cat blocks 60% of a monitor that is covered in Meeples and paint-and-take minis, showing a blurry view of Google Docs

Back to it.

Now the work begins.

* One chapter and an epilogue. So now the draft is done.

Step 1a: fix formatting messiness like smart/flat quotes, tabs, headings, blahblah (trying out a Google Drive plug-in for some of this)

Step 1b: decide on a cover, buy it, hope the title designer still has any of those fonts from lo these many years ago; get that ball rolling

Step 2a: crack into my running list of Words I Use Too Often

Step 2b: describe more things, geez!

Step 3a: reread everything, streamline sentences, look out for dropped plot threads and fix them

Step 3b: repeat (Note: Do not take 2 years for this step)

Step 4a: turn over to beta readers

Step 4b: pivot to extras for Books 1 and 2

Step 5a: get betas’ feedback, reread, decide what to implement

Step 5b: same as 3a, plus insight from betas

Step 6a: write synopsis of first two books, plus the blurb / cover copy for this one

I actually love editing, in all seriousness. Editing >> writing >> outlining >>>>>>>>> blurbing. I’m pretty jazzed that we’re finally at this stage. Onward and upward.