Category Archives: Books

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.

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.

Link: Noncombatant characters in fantasy

Should I try to post more often? Maybe. I’m one chapter from the end of this draft, so is this mostly procrastination? Absolutely.

I’m here to link to this article that I found interesting and relevant to my goals in telling stories: You Don’t Have to Kick Ass to Be Kickass: Shoujo fantasy and the value of the noncombatant hero

Focusing on anime and manga, obviously, but I am still a bit of an anime nerd and have been influenced by its tropes. Growing up playing JRPGs, I liked the idea of defensive magic and noncombatant characters, but the “angelic and sacrificing caretaker” trope didn’t speak to me (sorry, Rosa and Aerith [RIP]). (Team Rydia 4ever) Those sorts of influences filtered through to the kinds of characters I wrote about later. And clearly, I’m not claiming to be unique when my female lead is a healer, one of the tropiest fantasy tropes going – but as I develop as a person who tells stories, I hope to keep finding less hackneyed directions to take the story. Like, as this essay talks about, not constructing a binary of male/female fighter/healer hero/damsel, or casting either side of those binaries as inherently better than the other.

Actually, if we get right on down to it, the fact that my stories are probably never going to focus on combat as a means of problem-solving might be what makes them not feel like fantasy in the first place, which makes me a bit sad because I like fantasy, I swear I do. I just… do not care about slaying things. And there are plenty of fantasy novels that are about court intrigue or magic college or what have you, which is the kind I like most. Still, I can’t shake that image of the dragon-slayer or the lone hero who sticks a sword in the demon king as What It Means to Be Fantasy. (Am I just overly influenced by games again, hello, Link? Maybe.)

On a less self-promotional note, speaking of noncombatant heroes: I’d also like to shout out Ascendance of a Bookworm, a recent light novel and anime fantasy series in which the protagonist spends the entire first season a) trying not to die of a magical wasting disease and b) figuring out how to manufacture books by hand from first principles. I love a fantasy series that mostly ignores things like “magic systems” to geek out about trade guilds and class struggles and stuff (see also Spice and Wolf). I left off somewhere in the second season. Oughtta continue that.

Speaking of continuing… back to the draft!

Those three copies

It takes a lot of money to ship things. I should know this, as I have been a lazily silent “partner” in an Etsy store for lo these 15 years. However, I did not realize just how much it can take to ship one paperback. Media mail is a thing, but I don’t fully understand it and honestly, in this day and age, my country’s mail system has enough to worry about.

I currently have 3 copies of the old cover version of The Healers’ Road, and in theory I’d like to give them away, but honestly? Shipping them is more hassle than it’s worth, even domestically. I respect not wanting to support Amazon, I really do. I also get not being into e-books.

But I just have to retract the offer, I think.

The moral of the story is ????.
– It’s weird being the writing equivalent of an inept garage band, or two dudes who decided to do a podcast about movies all of a sudden.

– There are non-Amazon avenues to print on demand that I ought to check out, sometime in this very long winter.

– I ordered too many author copies back in the day because I was really excited about seeing my story in print, and I thought we might move a couple at our craft sales table.* There’s something to hold onto in that. That enthusiasm was pure at the time. And that’s okay.

For so long, that box of extra copies (and bookmarks that we printed, and display bracket thingies) felt like a huge moral failure. But I won’t let it be that anymore. It’s just a relic. I was excited to put out a few copies at our table, even though I only sold maybe two of them. Even though we got out of the Artist Alley business not too long after that. I have some good memories of that time. That’s not a moral failing.

Meanwhile, right now, yeah, Amazon is the only place to get it in print. I’ll work on that. I was discouraged by my botched attempt to release it on Kobo and Nook, and never tried other avenues – but I know they exist. Hey, maybe I’ll even fix those someday?? One can dream.

* I just have to share that I originally wrote “craft table”, and then realized that that’s a film industry term for a catering setup. Not that.