All posts by serobertsonfiction_otmr8p

Earworm of the day

The first shot of ODDTAXI is a cinderblock-weighted, tarp-wrapped body sinking into deep water.

This is its ending theme.

I love a good dissonant song choice. Five stars.

Every so often I think: I ought to post pointless thoughts like this on Twitter or something, that’s what it’s for. But then I remind myself that a life goal of mine is to spend as close to 0% of my remaining time on earth as possible arguing with assholes, and that’s what Twitter is also for — so uh, here we are.

(That said, I did not realize the DMs on my reading account were turned off. They’re on now. So like, if anyone has any… questions, I guess? @sadsackgetdown. I am not interested in buying any get rich quick schemes, thank you)

Bookwise, I’m in the middle of rewriting act 3 after pulling what used to be the main plot point in it. It didn’t feel right. We’ll see what remains in act 3, i.e. tying up the threads in acts 1 and 2, and go from there.

I’m starting to feel like some of the stuff in book 3 belongs in another book. I think I’ll be done with A&K after this one, but something like “further tales from Wildern.” I want to get into the establishment of germ theory in a world with magic in it, and the strife in a city with a sudden influx of residents and trade, and Nessiny’s overthrowing the monarchy, and eventually the story-world’s version of the Industrial Revolution. [Also: Realizing jokingly that Agna’s story is the Girlboss trilogy; the one I’ve started working on, with two unreliable narrators, is the Gaslight book; so I’m going to need a Gatekeep book. /j]

It is an absolute miracle how other people can plot things and have them make sense, one thing happening after another, with perfect sense and gripping action, everything unfolding with polished precision to keep people turning pages deep into the night. I am truly in awe. I’ve read books on this, I’ve tried outlining over and over, and it still isn’t happening.

Guess this is why I’m a weirdo semi-monetized amateur instead of a pro. Just appreciating pros for a second. Wow.

Back to it.

Just noting

If Gumroad starts pushing NFTs, I’m moving to another system. Just FYI. <3 (and yes, Amazon is also evil, I’m aware. But evil + hilariously transparent scam + melting the planet for no reason = I choose not to support that, thx.)

In the meantime, feel free to buy wherever works out best for you. This is a no-guilting-the-readers-as-long-as-they-aren’t-pirating space.

And if you can’t: if this were a professional writing outfit, I’d say get it from the library — libraries are great, and our household uses Overdrive and Hoopla constantly. However, this is not a professional writing outfit, so my stuff is not in libraries.

So: If you somehow heard of the books, want to read them, and don’t have money, just ask me (contacts are on the About) and I’ll send you an ebook. No need to justify it, just ask. No strings. Life is short, and it would be cool if someone wanted to read one of my piles of words. It’s also cool if people want to pay me for them, because I try to use money for things other than melting the planet.

Anyway, uh, watching out for that. Back to working on books 3 and ?0.5? simultaneously because what is focus, really.

In which I rant a lot about Fruits Basket

(Unstuck in book 3. Except this is procrastinating. Haha.)

Trapped in the house by an ice storm, I called off the day job and spent much of today a) finishing a crocheting project (my poor, exhausted hands!) and b) binging to the end of Fruits Basket 2019, which I can’t help but think of as Fruits Basket: Brotherhood because I’m a dork.

The original Furuba was one of my favorite anime series in the early ’00s. Even then I had an inkling of its weak points, which time has not been kind to — but I have to say, I really enjoyed the remake. This series has always been a bait and switch: the initial concept is goofy and it looks lighthearted, but 80% of the original story is a steamroller of trauma, and the main focus of the show is generational trauma and abusive family dynamics. Nearly every character has a Dark Backstory and a boatload of trauma, and most of the arcs are about each of them finding their way through it, both separately and with one another’s support.

The first animated version dropped off after the trauma just got started, so the balance was off, but this one rolls on right to the end. That last season is a lot of yelling and crying, and all the emotional payoff from all the trauma before it. They get allllll the way through Akito’s often infuriating story. Momiji gets his chance to grow up and be awesome. Rin exists, at all. My dark horse fave Machi exists, at all. (uh, no pun intended w/r/t Rin) The animation is beautiful, even/especially in a series that’s mostly just talking and flashbacks and characters running after one another and passing out in the rain.

However. Yes, the initial goofy-ass concept, covering up all that trauma, still pivots on an annoying hook; and the remake, like the manga, still sets up a handful of characters who might do something interesting with that annoying hook and then pulls all its punches by the end. To put it bluntly, it queerbaits like a show that was originally made in the early ’00s, and only a little less than the original did. Not so much in the shipping sense, but in that some of the characters seem to sidestep the very, very hetero opening concept, but the story never does anything interesting with that. It wasn’t too surprising that the original didn’t, but the remake doesn’t either, in the interest of adhering to the original. And that squandered setup is much more obvious now than it was 20 years ago.

If I may rant about a particularly irksome bit: They ALMOST left Ritsu on a good note. ALMOST. It feels like a lot happened between Ritsu’s second-to-last and last appearances, and there just wasn’t time to cover it, so the character’s motivation is a complete freaking mystery. Dramatic Haircut, giving away personally meaningful belongings, what happened. If the story is suggesting that this had to happen to create a happy ending, fuck that right into space. It would be better to just skip it, or have Ritsu and Kagura hanging out doing absolutely anything else on earth. Including nothing.

[I don’t think I’ve ever read Furuba fanfic, but now I have half a mind to find a nice genfic where Ritsu gets to keep the long hair and pretty clothes and date Mitsuru and the two of them can be chaotic neurotic messes together. <3 I’m going to believe that happened.]

On the plus side, the remake cut out THE most pointless romantic match-up in the endgame. Just one, out of the approx. 8 in the Defensively Heterosexual Hoedown that caps off the series. There’s a couple of lines and a couple of jokes referencing it, but it doesn’t actually happen. They left in the second most egregious and pointless one, though. (Mind you, I can buy the concept of a bisexual/pansexual Ayame, absolutely. But there’s no setup for that ship. Hill, die, etc.)

And yeah, I knew it was coming; this series hits all the right buttons with trauma and squanders every last shred of queer subtext it sets up. Always did. Still does. And I still loved it. I laughed, I cried, I laughcried. It does some things well and some things not-well. Like most stories do.

Now that that’s done, next on my Series to Watch Solo list is either ODDTAXI or Fairy Ranmaru. Which have absolutely nothing in common except that they’re fairly recent, available on my streaming services, and not up my spouse’s alley. (Joint viewing in the anime sphere right now is Aggretsuko. Fenneko remains my favorite, and I really like the slightly loosely translated dub. The end.)

One… non-ideal solution.

Alternating edits/rewrites on book 3 with some loosely planned writing on book ?4? (actually takes place before book 1, so we’re going to have to come up with some better numbering).

Couple of thoughts. It starts with cringe comedy.

I don’t like all cringe comedy, but I like a bit of it. I’ve gotten some disdain from friends about it, because how could anyone possibly witness those horrible people doing and saying the Wrong Things? Doesn’t it hurt to see someone so imperfect?

Thing is… I’m a full garbage human who has never said a Right Thing in my life, and almost-impossibly-flawed characters are some of the types that I find most relatable. I think one of the reasons I’ve found book 3 so hard to write is that the narrators have worked on themselves to the point where they are not horrible people anymore. They have flaws and shortsighted spots, but their bond continues, they are not actively self-sabotaging, and they’ve Learned some Stuff.

At the start of the new story, one of the narrators is an inept people-pleaser who is neck deep in well-deserved self-loathing; the other is a likeable extrovert who is a) silently cataloguing everything wrong with everyone around her, in order to use it against them if they ever cross her; and b) perpetuating a very long lie about what she did at the Academy. This is finger-steepling cartoon villain level fun to write. They are awful at this point, and as with book 1, I know where I want them to go; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get them there and make it feel deserved. It’s a breath of fresh air.

That said, I’m realizing that there is even less magic in this story than the Healers trilogy. It follows two more Academy graduates, but they’re a priest (skills: talking) and a swordmaster (skills: hitting things with swords). I really, truly do not know what genre we’re doing anymore. I should care about that? It’s hard to care. As long as I’m writing something, that feels better than writing nothing. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to shoehorn some magic into the plot. I don’t know, man. They’re words. Read them if you want to.

In conclusion: January is nearly over, February is short, and then our hemisphere will be nearly done with winter. Can’t wait.

Happy things, scary things

As a reader(tm): T. Kingfisher’s Paladin books, Paladin’s Grace and Paladin’s Strength so far, have me wanting to run around in circles yelling about how awesome they are. I’m only about halfway through Strength, and it is something I have never seen before, in ways that I have a lot of Feelings about. But I’ll leave that to people who can speak coherently about books. I can’t right now. I can just run around in circles yelling. I am so happy these books exist.

[EDIT: There’s a third one, Paladin’s Hope. Bought, read, enjoyed. Absolute corker of a final line. Wow.]


As a whatever(tm): Realizing that I asked both beta readers to read a draft that ended up not being final, and then made a bunch of changes. Now I have no beta readers left. I’m slightly fucked at this point. I could afford to have one book edited if I tapped out my savings, but this is book 3 of a trilogy. An editor would probably suggest well-deserved changes that would drastically affect the continuity/world/etc., so I’d have to pull and rewrite the first two to match. Which I don’t really want to do, even if I should. I’d rather move forward onto new projects when this one is done.(*)

So…

I mean, even if I have to shove it in a drawer and let it die there, I’d rather do so with a finished book. So I’ll keep going. But I don’t know what to do after that.

Well, onward.

(* aside from maybe some extras for an omnibus or something)

[EDIT: To defend my beta readers, they are great and have not gone anywhere. But I have already bothered them, and I don’t want to take any more from them than I already have. If dumping a book that took decades to write and refuses to come together allows me to write another one someday, I will take that bargain. We’ll see; I’m still trying to come up with another way out.]

We have some lore.

Lore!

Is it yet another procrastination tactic? Yes.

Is it something I’ve been meaning to get around to for ages? Also yes.

For now we’ve got places, groups, belief systems, and a summary of the magic in the series. Eventually, I’d like to add character profiles, especially since it’s been several lifetimes between the book releases, and I don’t expect anyone to remember who the hell any of these people are.

You’ll notice none of these statements say “maps”, and while maps are fun and a classic addition to any worldbuilding, I am not good at drawing them (or anything else, really). I’m also a bit wrapped around the axle over all the mistakes I’ve made in placing mountains, rivers, biomes, etc. etc. etc. even in the vague geography mentioned in the story so far.

But who knows what the future brings! Maybe I’ll finally learn to use one of those fine mapping softwares out there (some of which I’ve already bought). And figure out how to fix the rain shadows / tectonic plates / etc. It could happen. Anything could happen.

For now, we have lore. Goodnight.

Numbers! Been a while.

When was the last post, October — well, my year hasn’t gotten any worse since August, so that’s nice. Still here, thankfully. Still working on Book 3 and trying not to stress about it. It’ll happen.

Otherwise, signed up for backloggd.com to keep track of my woeful video game backlog. It’s one of a few sites that function more or less like Goodreads for video games. Current backlog: 39, most of which are indie games from Steam or itch.io that I bought in bundles over the last couple of years. And so far I’ve found 213 games that I’ve played for any length of time at any point in my life. I started out on a console that isn’t even on the database, the Intellivision, which was basically the Betamax to the Atari 2600’s VHS. (Uh, that analogy is for old people too. It was a competitor that time forgot, in other words.) It would be amusing to include those games on the list too, but that’s okay.

Current TBR, by the way, is around 10. That’s one-zero. I spent most of 2021, when I had the focus to read at all, striving very hard to read down the TBR and quitting a few books that I just bounced off of. Still slowly poking through a year’s best sff anthology from I’m not even sure what ancient year.

So anyway, since it’s the end of the calendar year and I haven’t done this in an extremely long time, I thought I’d do a numbers post. Why not. I think it’s kind of interesting, because I’m going about this in a way that I don’t see often (or at all, ha), and therefore, you don’t hear about this scenario much.

Continue reading Numbers! Been a while.

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.