Three things.

First: Bugsnax is gloriously weird and charming as all get-out, and I am bad at it for the same reasons I was bad at Portal, I think — something about first-person physics-puzzle solving? But at least it’s cute and extremely weird while I flail around.

And fairly gay, I was not expecting that! Nice. To be honest, I went in as uninformed as I could be, apart from “puzzle game” and “weird and cute”. I’ll buy a ~$20 game on that much. I’ll buy three ~$20 games on that much, yet I’ll balk at one $60 AAA game if it never ever goes on sale. Looking at you, Fire Emblem: Three Houses.

Second: I just read Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary, and it was delightful.

Third: Edits are going well. Cut 10,000 words this week without taking out any whole scenes — just tightening up dialogue for the most part, trimming out the parts where I wasn’t sure where the scene was going and let the characters ramble till I, and by extension they, figured it out. And it worked. I don’t think I’ve tried specifically that approach before. I like it. Very satisfying. Usually I focus on overused specific words and cutting entire scenes. I’d lost my old “overused words” list from the last draft, so this was a lucky mistake.

[edit: I forgot, I did take out at least one scene. Not many, then.]

Mostly I let the emotionally important scenes ramble; these are primarily scenes where we’re just getting from point A to point B in dialogue. Those can stand to be more brisk.

Well, back into it. Almost ready for actual beta reading, I think — and as always (ALWAYS), if you are available for beta reading and don’t mind that my budget for it is zero dollars, hit me up at wheel.of.a.different.color@gmail.com or u/ofthecageandaquarium on Reddit (not using Twitter anymore, because… well). I think this thing is legitimately ready for a beta read now. As in, I think it has as complete a plot as it’s ever going to get.

Really truly back into it now. — Now.

*epic music goes here*

Finished the Switch port of Final Fantasy IX. Man, that “double speed” mode in the remake/port is a lifesaver. I only ground up to about level 55 and didn’t go wild tracking down every last thing — just went through the story, for the most part — but the whole game only took a little over 30 hours. Nice and tidy.

I did not, as I mentioned earlier, remember much of the plot of this game, except for the beginning, the major character designs, a couple of twists, and the very last FMV (which is still adorable). I’d also forgotten how much I’d liked the score to this game.

I have no patience for fighting over which FF is ~the best~, so while I enjoy the cutesy fairy-tale style of IX, that’s not part of any kind of unified field theory of The Old Style Is Better blahblahblah. I was about 11 when I played FF original recipe, 14 when I played FFIV, and 16 when I played FFVI; those were the ones I’d call influential to my nerd upbringing, but that doesn’t make them inherently better. (Except 6’s score /jk)

There’s still a vague background goal of getting to all the non-MMO, mainline entries when possible. XIII and XV are left, assuming I’m willing to eventually bother blowing the dust off our XBox One.

Next is probably Bugsnax, which just came out on the Switch.


Story-wise, edits continue. The timeline fits together, though the characters have a packed month in there. I have the word count down to 145k from an original 152, and my goal is 140 before I turn it over to my one remaining beta reader. (no pressure, hon, you’re all that stands between us and certain doom <3 kidding. sort of) Still feel good about all my story choices, which is very encouraging.

Today is Dash Fixing Day. Does literally anyone but me care whether I’m using proper em- and en-dashes vs. two little ones –, almost certainly not. Nevertheless. A fine Dash Fixing Day to you all.

The light at the end of the tunnel

Still at it. Big Dramatic Scene is done. It’s far, far, far too long, but I will worry about that in the next round of editing.

I think this draft might actually work? It will need some tweaking and edits, especially to carve down its 150K+ word count, add more descriptions (blank white room syndrome strikes again), and make sure all foreshadowing is retroactively included. But… I think it will work. I think we’re actually going to see this thing released eventually.

Huh.

(Yes, epic fantasy is routinely longer than 150K. That’s fine. Books 1 and 2 came in around 130, though, and I don’t want to overshoot that with 3. Even that’s a lot for a series where nothing happens.)

On to the denouement. — Though now I am questioning the very little I know, because the definition of “denouement” I’m getting from the internet is opposite what I learned as a wee sprout. I learned that the denouement comes AFTER the climax, i.e. “ah, at last the kingdom is saved. FOR NOW…” Google is trying to tell me that the denouement IS the climax, which I thought was only the case if you’re writing a cliffhanger.

Can you tell I have studied writing for a total of… like, one elective in high school and comp 101 in college

oops

Still going.

Finally faded out the header image so that the title and subhead are halfway readable. Only took… three years?

Still working on Big Dramatic Climax after a week. It’s long. My plan is to write out all the moving parts I can think of, and then come back and prune until it feels zippy enough. Trying out multiple narrators in sections to try to capture that chaotic, “too many things happening at once” feeling. We’ll see how that goes, too.

Otherwise:

Finished the Perfection run of Stardew Valley. The end content was cute, and I didn’t get too bored in all that time, honestly.

Started the Switch port of Final Fantasy IX. That was the last FF I played when it was new, I have not played it since, and I remember hardly anything about it beyond the character designs and some shreds of plot. It landed in a very… idiosyncratic… period of my life, and I’m trying not to think too much about that. Twenty years is a very long time. If I hardly recognize myself now compared to myself then, that’s a good thing.

[edit: omg though, ~2000-2001 is also when the first bits of worldbuilding and character started to come together for what would eventually be *gestures broadly* all of this. I would lie down but I have things to do]

You know what else is a long time, 6 years, so I’m going to get back to working on book 3 before it’s old enough to vote. Yeesh.

Lightning. Bottle it.

“To get unstuck and fix this last act,” I said to myself, “I need to tie together the plot threads up to this point, use an external threat to force the rivals to work together without making it come completely out of left field, and let the narrators exercise what they’ve learned up to this point in their growth arcs. Seeding ideas for potential sequels wouldn’t be so bad either, as long as it isn’t obnoxious. So…”

Three brainstormed ideas later and I had one so obvious that I’m mad at myself for not thinking of it sooner. Ten pages of outline / summary / links to Wikipedia after that and we have a road map. Started writing it on Saturday.

Some people can come up with this stuff without writing dead-end drafts for years, but you know, practice, etc. Also, I can only work with what I’m able to do.

I think I also have a new direction for Strangers, the potential project after Healers, that would get more magic into the story (something I’m insecure about) while staying true to the characters and the theme of that story.

What is HAPPENING here. It’s about to make me paranoid about another shoe dropping. Well, time to write down all these ideas and ride the wave.


Entertainments: Up to what seems like the last arc of Dear Brother, stopped for a bit because I want to hear AF‘s commentary. Gameswise, almost done with that 100% completion run of Stardew Valley on the Switch; finished 2064 on PC and will probably pick another game from my PC backlog after writing today. Started Monster Prom on Switch, which is gleefully, unapologetically ridiculous. It seems nearly impossible to 100% complete that thing, so I will likely keep doing runs until it starts to feel repetitive and then move on. I’m not very good at it, mind you; I’ve succeeded three times out of probably 15 runs. Haha.

Meanwhile, since January I have gotten hooked on Ring Fit Adventure? I’ve played exergames fairly frequently since the mid-oughts, and this one is… actually fun AND challenging AND has a lot of variety? With this thing and the treadmill we got about six months ago, I don’t really miss the gym? Huh.

Game notes, April 1

I don’t do April Fool’s Day; this is just a post that happens to be on April 1.

Looking for a break from Stardew Valley*, I started and played what seems like >50% of Unpacking this evening.

I was lightly spoiled to the progression of the story and one particular level by the review that led me to try it, but since my husband was in the room while I played most of it, we still had the opportunity to grumble things like “fuck that guy. I think he’s a P90x bro. At least he likes Queen. Ughhhh the underwear” out loud. (did I fix that? yes I did. fuck that guy and his fancy everything)

Paused for the night two levels after Fuck That Guy. Will probably play through the rest tomorrow sometime.

A couple of weekends ago I played through another game in two sittings, Donut County, a.k.a. Reverse Katamari Damacy. Enjoyed that one too. Still listening to the soundtrack. Which I will do as I start tonight’s writing. Three-day streak! Aiming for a solid week to start out.

* I’m nearing the end of a 100% completion run for the first time, and realized I had lost an item I needed one game-month after the only day when I can purchase it again. So I’m just bopping around, doing whatever and racking up money until the calendar rolls back around. It’s… beginning to get boring. Hence breaking it up with another, shorter game.

[edit, next day: yep. finished. the game about taking things out of boxes made me cry, y’all. But I’m a bisexual anime watching / tabletop gaming / fantasy reading / ukulele playing / plant growing nerd who has moved ten times in their life and loves piecing things together from context, this game was aimed directly at my face. what do you want from me. Also I’ll cry at a lot of things, this isn’t a secret. so yes, that was sweet and satisfying. good times.]

Podcast rec time

I used to have an “As a Reader” tag. Oops. Fixed.

Okay, so: I really enjoyed this podcast interview from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books with author Jane Buehler. It ranges over “cozy fantasy” as a genre and writing more vulnerable, realistic sex scenes with human foibles — something I don’t write (I’d turn into dust, I think) but which is fascinating to hear about. [And there’s a transcript! Yay transcripts!]

I’d never heard of Buehler’s work till now, and as I commented there, I bought one of her books within five minutes of the conversation starting. I’ll admit here on my own turf, it was as soon as they hit the magic words “beta hero.” I am not fond of that term for a lot of reasons, starting with faulty research. But it’s the term used in the genre, and it’s not my place to question that from the outside — it’s a term I don’t like for a concept that I do like, blah blah, moving on.

Anyway, I finished The Village Maid today. I was worried/bummed out after the first chapter because the narrator begins in a dark, bitter place, and I wasn’t sure whether it was just that character, or if the hopelessness came from the setting. In particular, I wasn’t sure if it was the kind of fantasy setting where women couldn’t hold skilled jobs or have any hope in the future apart from Landing A Man, since that was what the narrator was fixated on. (To be fair, this is book 2 in a series and I did not read book 1. I knew that going in.)

And it’s a fine goal in life to want to have a partner, no problem there, I just get very bummed out if that’s the only survival option available to all women in a particular setting. Sure, it’s historically accurate in some cultures and contexts. Doesn’t mean I want to read about it.

The story opens up from there, though — it’s kind of just the narrator’s outlook, though it’s also her situation and life history. In short, yes, women can hold skilled jobs; the narrator in particular just thinks she isn’t good for anything but Landing A Man. And the “all the other women are catty bitches” flavor near the beginning… … … …mostly wears off too, and it’s kind of one of those situations that illustrate the concept “if it seems like you’re always surrounded by assholes, maybe you’re the asshole.” (On purpose; that’s only the start of her arc.) There is some truly breathtaking bullying midway through the book that gets mitigated somewhat by the end (j/k we did not do this absolutely heinous thing we said we did lol), and that still makes me feel Not Good… but I’m also midway through a TV series with really intense bullying themes, so maybe I’m just overloaded on that theme right now.

The story also sometimes seems like it’s about to slut-shame the narrator, but it never actually does? Which is nice. And another random thought, there was a LOT more action than I was expecting, after a certain point. But that’s fine, it kept the plot rolling.

In the end, it turned out to be a lovely, charming book that I enjoyed quite a bit. It is 100% a romance, so y’know, I would not necessarily say “if you like my work, this is similar, except professional.” I frankly do not have the chops to write romance. I’d recommend it if you like, as discussed in the podcast, magic and such but not lots of beheading/entrails — PLUS romance, which I do like some flavors of.


More broadly, it makes me happy to hear about the concept of cozy fantasy as a whole, whether it’s romance-based or not. Cozy science fiction is out there too, in Becky Chambers’ work for one.

And the “cozy” name to me — not speaking ex cathedra, just as a reader — doesn’t mean that a story sugarcoats its story or its characters’ troubles, or that nothing in the story matters. Just that the conflicts are human-scale. That may not relate much to the original genre of cozy mystery, since mystery is already more frequently at human scale than fantasy is, but I think it’s a key facet of what I’d call cozy fantasy. Big things may be happening in the world — they always are — but the story’s focus stays with people who are not the primary history-makers. That’s what I like to see.

So I read a book this week that I liked. (Two, actually; I also finished Network Effect by Martha Wells, one of the Murderbot books.)

I spent my writing hour doing this instead of editing. Whoops. 😀 Worth it.

Checking in, signed, Wyndspyral

About halfway through Dear Brother. I’m sorry to report that I have more or less Mariko’s personality [obsessive, disproportionate, passive-aggressive] and Kaoru’s fashion sense [middle-aged lesbian mom on a Saturday] <3

(I’d say I’m a Tomoko, because being Not One of the Specials is a core part of my ThingTM, but she’s too well-adjusted)


In a phase of finding it inexplicably hard to work on any fiction at all. I want to believe it’s a phase, that there’s a way through. Maybe it’s a mild depressive episode. Maybe I’ve just let myself break the habit once, then twice, then all of a sudden it’s fallen apart. Maybe it will come back if I dig back in. Maybe I just need to get the wheels moving. Scenes have started to form in my head again, which they hadn’t been for a while there, so that feels like a good sign. Maybe I need to stop spinning myself up about the next step and focus on the step in front of me.

Maybe I need to figure out what I want to get out of writing right now, because that’s something that evolves over time, and I haven’t checked in lately. A while back, I took down the checklist of goals that I put on my wall back in … ???? … the dim mists of time when I first put Book 1 up. (2014 or something? what even is time?) I had to admit to myself that a lot of the remaining items just don’t matter to me anymore. Maybe it’s a good time to figure out what does matter to me, and let that spur me along.


Also realizing that I need to VERY MUCH FIX a lot of supporting character naming in book 3. I had a strategy to grab names on the fly because it was easy for me, but it’s really not a good idea, and I need to redirect to a new strategy.

I hate naming things, it’s exhausting. You know why there’s no name for my story-world? Why the series name no longer makes any sense for the direction of the trilogy? Why I use initials in my pen name? *gestures*

For a nearly-literal second I had a D&D character who gathered random cool-sounding nouns as names. (no, they weren’t nonbinary; missed opportunity there) I kept a running tally on the back of my character sheet; she was up to about 5 names in about as many play sessions. I wish I had that kind of moxie with writing projects. Just name my OC Wyndspyral Flaymechylde and live in perpetual I-don’t-give-a-crap bliss. Beautiful.

“This could have been a tweet, but no” of the day:

Greatly enjoyed ODDTAXI. Once I could look up details/trivia without being spoiled, I learned that the ending credits ARE fitting in theme lyrically (i.e. dark and offputting), just not sonically. So hey. Correction. However, I also love a chirpy sound / offputting lyric combo, so that’s still up my alley.

Next, I was convinced by the Chatty AF podcast to hurry up and start Dear Brother, a bananapants-level drama!!!!! series written in the ’70s and animated in the early ’90s which was, I can already see it one episode in, a big influence on my favorite series Revolutionary Girl Utena. Apparently the English translation rights aren’t expected to be active for long, so I wanted to jump on that particular slice of history. It’s streaming on RetroCrush here.

Needed a couple of days to recharge my batteries and journal a while before jumping back into the fiction fray, but here we go.

[edit, ~24 hours and 3-4 episodes later: KAORU, who has no time for anyone’s nonsense except Rei’s, apparently. Also watch-through-your-fingers baby goth disaster Mariko. Love ’em both. This should be fun.]