All posts by serobertsonfiction_otmr8p

Let’s not think about “good uses of our time”

Did I just spend 45 minutes tweaking and uploading covers for the Therapist series just to take “By” off them, because it was starting to irk me? Yes. [Have not updated this site yet; I want to get on to actual writing today.]

Did I accidentally upload the omnibus file (i.e. 4 books) instead of the book 1 file, while correcting a very small mistake in it?

Also yes. Caught it just in time.

Did I spend probably an hour the other day researching new cover styles for Healers only to discover that I don’t know how to do some pretty elementary stuff in the graphics program I recently bought?

Uh, also yes. Someone should probably get me away from this computer before I break something.

On the other hand, what will probably be the 8th Therapist book is coming along swimmingly. [“Probably” = the next few may end up sorted in a different order than they were written, the way 5-7 did.] Healers 3.5 is started, and my doubt meter is higher on this one, but I have not abandoned that project by a long shot. It’s all going. Just slowly.

It’s spring here. Hooray.

Just a quick check-in.

  • It’s solidly spring here! Hooray! Planted a border of native plants and bought some herbs. It’s going to be a fairly low-ambition gardening year this year, though, because:
  • I finally have a date for a medium-seriousness surgical procedure that will end a health issue that has been plaguing me for about a year. Scary yet exciting stuff. I hope to keep writing and reading through recovery (which is short, 2-3 weeks if all goes well). But in the interest of my own mental health, I hope to keep my internet use to a minimum through that time. So if I drop off the radar next month, that’s why.
  • Speaking of reading: still making my way through that haul from the sale. Good times.
  • Speaking of the sale: I’ve committed to listing Therapist book 1 in the July sale. That’s quite a ways off, so more details once we get closer.
  • I’m not going to make any promises about what I’ll finish writing first, but I am continuing to write consistently. I’m stressing myself out thinking about when the next thing will be done, so let’s leave that aside for now.
  • Anime corner: Still continuing Train to the End of the World, Tonari no Yokai-san, The Many Sides of Voice Actor Radio, and Laid-Back Camp, along with the Spice and Wolf reboot. The latter is going exactly on pace with the first adaptation so far, so I sincerely hope it gets additional seasons.
  • Game corner: Started the free-to-play MMO Palia, which is so far the only MMO I’ve ever played. It’s a complete pain to attempt to chat on the Switch and I don’t like keyboard controls, so I don’t know how long this will last. But it’s nice enough so far. In the early phases you don’t actually have to interact with other players, which is just my speed.

Cozy the Day Away haul #1

I’m not much of a book stockpiler. I love reading, but I don’t get as much joy from collecting and keeping books, per se. However, I was excited about this sale, and ended up getting quite a few books in the end. Time will tell how long it will take me to read through them all, but I look forward to it. (I’m currently midway through I Ran Away to Evil, so I haven’t even started yet…)

I have to go in some kind of order, so let’s say alphabetical by title. Mind you, there were lots more books on the list that I’ve already read, didn’t get to, etc. Nothing against any of them.

Artura’s Quest by Tagg Vermette
Awakenings by Claudie Arseneault
Buried in Friendship by T.M. Mayfield
Carry On by Celia Lake
The Crone of Midnight Embers by Iris Beaglehole
Curses & Cocktails by S.L. Rowland
Doll Girl Meets Dead Guy by Lidiya Foxglove
Dusted in Snowflakes by T.M. Mayfield
The Fae’s Bride by R.L. Medina
Familiars and Foes by Helen Vivienne Fletcher
Feathers of Dawn by Jess Galaxie
The Good and the Green by Amy Yorke
Guarding Gus by Karryn Nagel [who also organized the sale, applause]
How to Get a Girlfriend (When You’re a Terrifying Monster) by Marie Cardno
Inspirational Wink and the Altogether Extraordinary Notebook by Delaney Evers
Lollipop Monster Shop by Coyote J.M. Edwards
Love and Lab Extractions by Mary Stephenson Su
Love at First Lance by Gryffin Murphy
The Nameless Restaurant by Tao Wong
The Poison Paradox by Hadley Field and Felix A. Green
The Rogue and the Peasant by Amberley Martin
A Second Story by J.A. Collignon
The Tenfold Tenants by E.V. Belknap
Tools of a Thief by D. Hale Rambo
A Touch of Wrath by Arizona Tape
The Urban Underworld Omnibus by Gwyneth Lesley
Vanilla Bean Vampire by Selina J. Eckert
The Winter Feast by Rose Johnson
Working Under the Warlord by Fiona West

[edit: And even after the sale, a few of the books were still on sale, so I got another couple. Edited the list]

Thanks again to everyone who organized the sale! If you happened to get my book (a person can dream) and have any questions or technical issues, the Discord has a section for that (I’m there @SERobertson, very creative), or my contact info is over on the About page.

Happy reading!

All I need is a time machine

(shoutout)

I am nervous / excited for the sale and promo tomorrow — since Cozy the Day Away was happening, I also lined up a newsletter promo on the same day. (BookBarbarian readers, hi!) Simultaneously, I’m also braced for nothing to happen and for all of this to pass without a ripple. I set all of this up before my last round of “Hey, let’s learn more about strategy and The Business,” and while I don’t regret it, I am more in a “why not” mode than a “this is an exciting new step” mode.

I asked some (much) more experienced self-publishers for advice, and the overwhelming consensus was that my first-in-series is too old. You know, the one I am set to promote tomorrow. Uh, oops. Nobody reads old books, they said. If it wasn’t published less than 6 months ago, it’s irrelevant. Some said I could still write on the same pen name if I REALLY wanted to, but I still ought to abandon my useless back catalog. So having learned that, I’m tempering my hopes for these promos I set up several months ago.

And between that and readers calling Healers “a finished trilogy”, I am trying to pivot to another story in that universe instead of writing Healers 4 right now. For a while it was The Strangers’ Crossroads, which is about a pair of Academy graduates tasked with reopening an abandoned shrine. But that one has some even heavier psychological lifting than Healers. Not a great choice if I want to bring new people into this universe. Someday, I do want to finish that book. But I’m not sure it’s the right one now.

Until then? It’s not the done thing, but I still stand by my first in series. There are things I’d change about it now, but I still like it. And I still think it’s not impossible that a few more people might like it too. Maybe I’m being overly optimistic. But I can’t make it any newer than it is, so we’ll just have to work with what we have until I can figure out what to write next.

This all sounds gloomy, but I promise it isn’t. I want to keep developing my skills, figuring out what makes a story “mine,” and bringing that out. It’s a growth process. Y’know, a growth process that starts with grumbling and ends in optimism hey look, it’s my brand again. There’s a reason for that. ; )

Happy-crying while bowling is the new smiling while eating salad

So I’ve been having a meh kind of week, especially with regard to my writing projects. Full of optimism and ambition for once, I asked for help on a writing forum that’s known for its very knowledgeable user base. I said my stuff is a little off the beaten path, but I know it appeals to some people, and I’d like to figure out the best way to give it a shot at finding people who might like it. In other words, now that the thing exists, how do I wrap it up and send it out there so that it reaches its audience? Covers, descriptions, that kind of meta thing.

The knowledgeable user base said LOL no, you’re wasting your time writing your own work, and there’s no point fretting over its packaging. What you need to do is sit down and copy a more successful book, scene by scene. Change some things up so it isn’t exactly the same, we don’t want a lawsuit here, but you basically want a near-copy of something that’s making bank so you can ride its coattails. Think Hunger Games spawning Divergent, to pick an ancient example. Not exactly the same, but not not the same, you dig? People want more of what they like. Give it to them. Anything else is a waste.

And you know, on so many levels, they’re right. It’s efficient, it gives readers more of what they love, and plenty of people have done it and succeeded enormously. I respect the hell out of that hustle.

But I don’t have it in me. I have to have a personal stake in what I’m writing; I don’t have the discipline to put in the work otherwise. I barely have the discipline to write my own work, when I have full creative control. I could no sooner write a market-optimized book than I could grow wings and fly.

So I plummeted into the grumps, read every 1- and 2-star review my first book got on Goodreads (I normally try to avoid reading reviews because it’s a) bad for me and b) not the point of reviews), and submerged neck deep in Talentless Hack Wallowing. Other good things have happened — I released my seventh novella / tenth work overall amidst all this, and had an encouraging talk with my spouse about improving my old covers in spite of the experts’ advice. But going back to the documents and trying to continue has been like pulling teeth. I had to stop working on my two current projects and went back to an older one, hoping that maybe it had a chance of escaping the talentless-hack miasma.

Monday evening after the day job, I fired up a game of Switch Sports bowling. If you remember the smash hit Wii Sports, it’s… a flawed copy that is still reasonably fun to play. (HEY LOOK, A PARALLEL) And while waiting for the other players to connect, I found out that my spouse had sent in a shout-out for my work on an awesome podcast. Because from day one, he has believed in me and my work. Always.

Turns out you can throw a strike on Switch Sports while happy crying. In my defense, the game dings you for quitting in the middle of a match. I can do two things.

If you got here from the Daily Beans, HELLO! Omigod. The where-to-start post is stickied above. Or hey, thanks for just giving it a click.

A meandering thrill ride for fans of Other Blog Post

(And guess who forgot to enroll book 7 in Kindle Unlimited? This very-much-not-a-pro. Biting my nails until I can add it)

I’ve overhauled all but the last few blurbs in both series (Therapist 5 and 6 seem close-enough, and 7 is new). Writing blurbs might be getting slightly easier with practice, but it’s really difficult for me.

The current wisdom is to mostly ignore specifics and focus on emotional resonance: things that the reader will find relatable, intriguing and/or addictive. This is not how I engage with fiction — I don’t insert myself into the story; I live vicariously, even (especially?) through characters who are different from me* — so it’s been a struggle.

It’s also recommended to stuff as many (accurate) tropes and keywords as you can in there, because that’s what people look for. Both of these insights — the “the story is all about you, reader” and the frontloading of tropes — are fascinating to me, even (especially) if my brain doesn’t work that way. The trope lists in particular remind me so much of fanfiction. AO3’s tag system is truly amazing as a work of crowdsourcing and categorization, and it’s fascinating to see it suffuse out into the rest of the reading world.

I’ll be honest, too — there’s a trace of envy in there, too. People all seem to have Their One Thing: the trope or dynamic or specific niche that fits them perfectly, where every single book is written to make them exquisitely happy, and more are written every day. Wandering through this landscape, I feel like someone who has just realized that they don’t have a favorite flavor of ice cream. That they have a few things that they like, and try different things for the sake of trying different things sometimes. People don’t do that. It’s not normal.

But hey. Story of my life.

* This is why none of my characters are singularly “me”, I think. I’m spread between Agna and Keifon and Berry and Solan and Hazel and Morel and Agna’s work friend Fulvia, who is probably the closest depiction in that she is awkward, offputting, and usually says the wrong thing at the wrong time. <3

Look, spellcheck, I know “fuckup-itude” is not a word

…so yeah, I went and wrote a gay romcom, because it had devoured my brain and would turn me into a lifeless husk if I didn’t. It features a character set up as an antagonist 6 books ago and the drama-llama speechifyer he seemingly summoned to this world to be his nemesis. Choice scenes include “Dark Lord goes shopping for porn”, “the edgelord finally gets his ass to therapy”, and “a bunch of isekai’d humans play D&D in an actual fantasy world.” It is fluffy, angsty, silly, and sappy. It’s uploading now.

I have been having a lot of complicated feelings about this series lately. I always knew it was a niche of a niche of a niche of a niche; nobody writes queer isekai about mental health because no one wants it. But I did, and so I wrote it. And I still love it. Every single one of my unasked-for, stupidly-small-niche, screen-door-on-a-submarine story-children.

Even with all of that angst, I haven’t given up on the series. I don’t have any more in the pipeline I made for myself, ready to roll within a month, but I have started on one and have ideas for a couple more. I still don’t regret the time I spent on it. Not a minute. No matter how it does on the charts. It meant something to me, and so I put my heart into it. Because that’s what I do.

Judging books — well, you know

It seems like the artist I’d hired for most of the Therapist covers isn’t available right now (no offense, they’ve been great), so I figured — it’s a story where it would be nice to have two characters on the cover, why not go a bit further with it?

One chaotic “hiring” post later and I found a fantastic option; I am so, so pumped. They’ve even worked on light novels before, so they know the style; I loved their portfolio; y’all, I am PUMPED. This also means that I should be able to release Therapist 7 within the next couple of months, if all goes well. Fingers crossed.

As usual, I also heard from a bunch of other great artists who I’d also be happy to hire, and I’m thinking again about having some illustrated covers made for Healers. All three of them. In my head it’s for the 10th anniversary of The Healers’ Road this fall, but I would like all of them to match, so it’s a big undertaking.

We’ll see; I’ll put together the reference documents and stew about it for a while. (Related: We recently finished the anime The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent, and my husband commented that its lead character looks like Agna. And now I can’t unsee it, haha.)

This also reminds me of the “trilogy” thing: I swear I actually am, slowly, working on more Healers books. I consider the story soft-closed/resolved-ish but not closed-forever. Like, if I got hit by a bus tomorrow, I want the end of book 3 to feel satisfying. But I also hope that if I write a book 4, it won’t be annoying to readers, like “I thought this was done.”

This may be an impossibility, asking for both of those things. I hope not.


Just a brief games note: I started The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom on Christmas Day and finished it the day before Easter, three months and a couple of days. Logged 190something hours. Completed all the shrines (which I didn’t think I would, but here we are). Found all the lightroots and wells. Did not find all the bubbulfrogs; I stopped about 30 short. Completed all of the sidequests except two (the last mine cart one – meh – and the one where you need to find Gleeok guts – are you kidding me). Collected all the armor that didn’t require defeating a) a King Gleeok (are you kidding me) or b) several waves of Lynels (ditto). And one of the glide challenges. Which is to say, I got almost all of the armor. Did not upgrade all of it, which would require more grinding than all of the rest of the game put together.

Fought one (1), count ’em, one Lynel, and I was pretty annoyed about it. I did enough of that in BOTW. You can’t make me. Except that one time.

The ending makes no sense. But they could not have done the ending that would make sense; people would spontaneously combust. Not spoiling, so I can’t say more than that. (I did get the “true ending” after the credits; I liked that one fine.)

It got me through the winter. I probably could have kept playing for another 50 hours, just meandering around. I don’t even consider myself a giant Zelda fan, but these are both beautifully realized open-world games. Not perfect, sure! But they were hyped for a reason.

So that’s that. I’m thinking I’ll try to ease off, play Switch Sports and Ring Fit Adventure, and actually practice the guitar like I keep meaning to do (oops) for a while. We’re heading into spring.