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!

New year! Check-in time.

A chain of circumstances led to the realization that I haven’t checked my “author” email in several months, maybe even a year or more. Oh hell, that’s bad. I’m very sorry to anyone who tried to contact me. I don’t expect anyone to contact me, so I don’t look, and sometimes people do. Oops.

So hey, why don’t we take stock at this artificial dividing line between 2020 and 2021? (The new year is on April 1 in my books, let me be salty)

Last time I did this I scored it with a Canadian song that I love, so how about…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXwGX5Es9vM

(“Whiteout Conditions”, the New Pornographers)

(Last time it was this one; I still love it, and I learned how to play it on ukulele this year, which tickles me to no end)

(I’m from the US, not Canada; y’all just have some musicians that I like. Plus socialized medicine)

Continue reading New year! Check-in time.

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.

Time for a new tag

…I have a dark sense of humor, so… no offense meant.

Still writing. Still here, along with my loved ones; we’ve been very lucky and as careful as we can be. Mostly lucky, and fortunate enough to be able to work from home at our day jobs and isolate fairly well.

Yet Another Draft of Book 3 seems to be creeping ever closer to completion, so I’m trying not to lose hope. Do I remember anything about formatting ebooks? No sirree. Those are skills I learned just long enough to do the task, much like how I learned calculus in college. Short-term memory only. That’s okay. Maybe it’ll come back to me. If not, relearning it is my next “fun” “new” “project”.

Also turned off comments, so hey bots, find somewhere else to spam. I’m too lazy to keep on top of your flood of nonsense. Humans, on the off chance you want to contact me for something that is not trying to sell me snake oil: I can be found at u/ofthecageandaquarium on the gayer, less reactionary areas of Reddit or technically, by the email listed on the About page, though to be honest, I don’t check that either.

This is what separates the hobbyists from the pros, I think. I’m so bad at social media. If I could think of something interesting to post on Twitter that isn’t burning trash, maybe I’d do that, but uh, not so much! I do use it to read other people’s stuff, so if you want to contact me for something that isn’t a trash fire, I’m technically at @sadsackgetdown.

(two unrelated handles, both They Might Be Giants references. Yes.)

Either way, if you’re trying to sell me something, you are trying to get blood out of a stone, friend. If I had money, I’d be hiring an editor for these beasts or supporting my many causes.

Anyway, still writing, hope all is well, stay inside if you can, wear a mask until further notice, don’t be an asshole, goodnight and good luck.

Here’s what happened this time.

I write slowly. I think the years between books 1 and 2 bear this out. I’m a hobbyist, really, and a hobbyist without a lot of motivation most of the time. So that’s a factor.

In February 2020, I finished a first(ish) rough draft of book 3. To recap, in book 2 (uh, spoilers, if anyone cares) our protagonists settle down in a small city and work in a charity hospital, one as a magical healer and one as a doctor’s apprentice. Due to the events of book 2, the political landscape in the story is beginning to shift, with the nearby national border becoming more open for travel and trade.

In this early draft of book 3, written largely in 2018-2019, an unusually wet spring causes flooding, particularly in an older area of the city with old infrastructure. And you’re seeing where I’m going with this: not cholera, too grisly, but not far off. A lightly fictionalized version of typhoid fever. It starts to sweep through the city, people start blaming newcomers because people tend to suck, and the protagonists (particularly Agna, the healer) get involved in figuring out where it comes from, since the story-world has not figured out what microorganisms are yet. Basically an echo of real-world shifts in scientific theories in the 1800s, only with magic.

I had just started to edit the draft when I realized it could never see the light of day. Either it would look like a crass cash-grab, or a mawkish attempt to Say Something about the current day – although it was almost entirely written before the COVID-19 pandemic. The plot just could not fly now. End of story.

I am still turning the ship around, working from home at the day job, time no longer has any meaning, the draft now has a different plot, and it’s still in progress. I don’t think I’ve logged into my “writing” email in months, not that it really matters, honestly, but if anyone for some???? reason has tried to get hold of me, apologies. I write every day, and I still love it, but any interactions with the “””professional””” side of this whole thing demoralize the hell out of me. At heart, I still wish I were a fanfic writer in 1999, posting things for free because it was fun.

Meanwhile, even talking about the pandemic feels like a relic of a different time. My country is in a long-overdue upheaval as people demand the rights they should have had for generations. I have no platform, really — I don’t even post on Twitter, though I read it, who knows why — and it seems strange to try to prove my ally bona fides when my voice is the tiniest whisper. If I had any proceeds from my books, I’d donate them. I donate privately, and have already chipped in more than I think I’ve made on the books this year to bail funds and mutual aid societies. But more to the point, I’m listening and educating myself and trying to be a better person. It’s the smallest possible start and an extremely low bar.

Someday, I hope to update with a finished copy of book 3. Until then, know that I’m a human who’s trying to do better, trying to try, trying to see my own faults and fix them. I recommend that path. It’s a good one.

Things that exist

OK, Books 1 and 2 are now available in print at Amazon; see links on the Books page, via the sidebar/menu.

I really ought to order preview copies and make sure something isn’t drastically wrong with the formatting, but uh, let’s… live on the edge, shall we?

Meanwhile, I have contacted Kobo about my issues with getting the covers to display. Book 1 is still not working, but Book 2 is fine! Well… that’s a start? I do look forward to having them available in more places; I just seem to be technically challenged. Which is kind of embarrassing.

This has been, The Thrilling Adventures of the Exciting Lives of People Who Don’t Actually Know How to Make Books Beyond Putting Words in Order, Volume 1: It’s Really Quite Complicated, And I See Why Most People Hire an Army of Contractors to Do It For Them.

A new low (or high?) + Real books and not-real books

Did I just re-format Book 1 for print because I was procrastinating writing Book 3?

Y…yes. A bit.

It was already mostly formatted! I just cobbled together a new wraparound cover, since last time it had the Horsie Cover, and we are now on the Treeeeeeeees! Cover. The interior, which is the larger part of the effort, hasn’t changed except for the bio.*

But yes.

The Healers’ Road should be available in print on Amazon again in 72 hours, if all goes well. Other books and markets, I’ll work on as procrastination continues. (which it probably will)

The cover issues with Kobo persist, by the way. I’ve re-tried with a differently sized file, and if that doesn’t work, I’m going to pester somebody like the rank newbie I am.

* Deep breath. So, that. First, I made it shorter; second… About a week ago I came out as nonbinary (and some other things) via Facebook post, so yay?, I can mention that in book contexts without fear of it getting back to Real Life People.** In short, the new bio uses they/them pronouns. I don’t yet IRL. Hey, yet another topic for therapy!

** except my day job.

So, uh, that!

I think I’ve also clarified my approach to This Whole Thing, including why everything is late and slapdash and does not fit nicely defined genres: In my heart of hearts, I am still a fanfiction writer circa 2001. Now that AO3 has won a Hugo award, it’s clear fanfic has evolved, and I have been out of the loop for much of that evolution. Still, I remain in the mode of Writing Stuff That Makes Me Happy And Feeling Awkward About Asking For Money For It.

That’s not to say that fic writers can’t be punctual or strategic, or that they can’t ask for money; obviously Patreon does a very brisk business these days. But me, I come from the days when no one even knew to ask whether that was an option, and it still seems very strange to me that someone would pay money and download something I wrote and shelve it alongside, like, “real” books? that some moonlighting English professor or full-time garret-dwelling Author wrote?

IDK. It’s still very weird to me. Awesome. But weird.

I try not to look at sales figures nowadays because they still make me feel weird, but my spouse likes to track how many reviews and such I’ve gotten. Recently we tried to figure out where a little sales bump came from, and it turned out that one of my books had been name-checked in a thread on r/fantasy. SO THANKS, R/FANTASY! I don’t read you, actually, but thanks!

All that said, I don’t want anyone to feel ripped off for spending approximately $1.99 on this pile of words. I did work hard on it, it does mean a lot to me, and people’s time is worth something etc. etc. capitalism. Just that the urge to label and minimize what I do is strong, and hey, there’s another topic for therapy. *makes note*

Have a good one, all. Thanks for reading.

Tomorrow is…tomorrow? Ish?

Okay, so The Healers’ Road and The Healers’ Home are en route to Kobo and Barnes & Noble. Both need to check …things?… like, I suppose, my payment information and confirming that I haven’t uploaded a world-destroying virus to their system.

Links will follow as soon as they’re available.

This process makes me nervous, and always has. On one hand, I feel less emotionally invested than I did the first time around. On the other hand, I am much more out of touch with self-publishing than I was the first time.

It’ll be fine. More soon.

Edit, 6/30 – Kobo won’t load my covers, but B&N/Nook is up – Road & Home. Yay!

Tomorrow, the world.

Update on availability: Book 2 (The Healers’ Home) is now off Amazon Kindle Unlimited. Book 1 will cycle out of that system on June 24, and at that point, I’d like to release both on some other platforms.

So the goal is the week of June 24, if all goes well. Maybe I can also get it together(tm) and rerelease it in print? Maybe? Who knows.

Book 3 feels like one of those dreams where you try to do a task and it keeps turning into something else. You try to dial a phone, but every time you look, the phone is now a cabbage. It’s progressing, sure, but the plot keeps veering west even though I’ve carefully explained to myself that veering east is less trite and more interesting. Sigh.

I may just let it be that “something else” and let the chips fall where they may. That’s difficult, sometimes. It’s a learning experience.

Sale? Sure.

I’m trying to take advantage of this fairly new “not feeling crushed under a two-ton weight of doubt and fear” thing to, among other things, get things in order on the book front. Not only to write Book 3, but to catch up on things I’d meant to do with the technical side of 1 and 2.

Such as:

  • Update the website. Uhhhhh… happened. After a fashion.
  • Reformat 1 and 2 for print – for the first time for 2.
  • Look into releasing outside Amazon. Honestly, so far the Amazon-only situation has been based in procrastination and worrying about getting it wrong. “Wrong” in the sense of releasing a book with mangled formatting and annoying people, not in the moral sense.

If I’m going to release in other markets, then 1 & 2 won’t be available under Kindle Unlimited in the future. I know some folks have read them that way, and I do hope Amazon isn’t going to be obnoxious and cut anyone off. Honestly, if something like that ever happens, I’d rather just email the person a copy.

Secondly, looking at my Unlimited (well, KDP Select) dashboard, I haven’t run a sale since 2016? Geez. Okay. May as well take advantage of that option while I have the chance, then. (Amazon only allows a particular kind of sales if your book is exclusive to them. So once we’re out of that clause, the price can be changed, but a limited-time sale is out.)

Book 1 (The Healers’ Road) is on sale from April 8 – 15 at £0.99 at Amazon.co.uk. In the US, it’s at a price point that I’m not allowed to discount further through that widget. These things are complicated.

Book 2 (The Healers’ Home) is on sale April 8 – 15 at $0.99 at Amazon.com and £0.99 at Amazon.co.uk.

Those are the only storefronts that I can reach through these sales. Sorry about that, everybody else. I know you’re out there!

Right now I’m looking into Kobo/Rakuten (/Overdrive, MY NEW BFF AS A READER) and Nook/B&N. Then, if that goes well, maybe Smashwords or something else more direct. We’ll see how it all goes. I’m sure this gets easier with practice, like everything else.

Finally, I have 3 more copies of The Healers’ Road in print, older cover (still love it, just older) available for completely free. Details are in the previous post.

Thanks, all.