Category Archives: Books

It’s been a year. I mean month.

How about that! It’s been a month since book 3 came out, give or take a few days. It’s going nicely by my standards — about 85 copies sold. I think I mentioned this already, but about 1/3 of the people who bought book 1 have gone on to buy book 2, so I’m curious to see what the ratio (conversion rate? that sounds weird) is for this one. If it’s also 1/3, we’re almost done. Heh.

It’s likely to be more, I think, but that’s not based on science or anything. More a vague notion that if you went on to book 2, this is probably Your Kind of Thing, and so you may be more likely to keep going.

Either way, it’s fine. Book 3 is doing its thing. If you’ve read it, I hope you liked it; if you haven’t, I hope you give it a try. If you want to. I’m not the boss of you.


What have I been doing for the last month? Well, a) stressing about stuff in real life (it’s okay, plans are in the works); b) playing video games far, far too much; c) repainting some rooms in our house; d) writing down some haphazard brainstorming for book 4.

Gamewise, I got through the entirety of Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Dare I say… more than the original? I’m gonna say it. I was not a completist, because eff the bandit quests mostly, but I recruited all but one of the townsfolk and got to the point where money no longer meant anything. So a lot.

Then started Ooblets, a game that I think I’ve had in my bookmarks, “keep an eye out for this” style, for five hundred and fifty years. But now it’s out on Switch! So I’m playing it!

Stardew Valley meets Pokemon” is basically built in a lab to appeal to people with my gaming taste, and it seems almost too on the nose that the titles/UI use the same font as Steven Universe. The character/NPC design and monster design is simplified and cute and weird. I like the not-too-complex card battling mechanic, because I am not a deck-building game person normally. The toddler-speak style of the UI language — item names, confirmation boxes, etc. — annoys me, but not enough to drive me out of the game. I kind of stopped seeing it after a while, especially with the NPCs that use it a lot. I’m at… what I think is the next to last town?, stuck, on the verge of looking up some tips, but still enjoying it overall.

And all the bugs so far have been funny, so I’m not remotely mad about it. Once I showed up on a map looking like my character was 100 feet tall. And this might not even be a bug, but my character regularly loses control of their torso and whipsaws around from the waist up while running in a way that still makes me laugh, dozens of hours into the game.

Probably not going to be a completist for this one either, but I will probably sink a fair amount of time into it by the end.


The brainstorming for Book 4 still hasn’t coalesced into an outline. Because I’m starting to feel scared of starting, I’m jumping in by writing some scenes just to see how it goes. This is not a good idea; do not do this. This is how I started book 1. It took what, like, eight years to write or something. But here we are, and it feels good to try.

Moving parts, continued

The release post is now stickied, so I can keep posting about follow-up without feeling like I’m burying the announcement.

Also, I forgot to include this song, which has been stuck in my head intermittently through this process. [They Might Be Giants, “Number Three”]

The print version is now live on Amazon. I’m about to send my first email to the mailing list, which I find very daunting despite the fact that these folks specifically signed up for updates. Impostor syndrome 101, right there.

After that, it seems like the only loose thread is Goodreads; I don’t think it has populated there yet. I have found and bookmarked the instructions for requesting an addition, but I’ll wait a little while before going that route.

[EDIT: As soon as I posted this, I saw that Goodreads has populated book 3. All right! Updating link lists now.]

Non-book stuff: vacations and exergames

Book 3 is out!

After fixing the link to the cover artist credit, we are now good to go on Gumroad and Amazon. Nook and Kobo are processing now, and should be ready within the next couple of days.

Amazon US / UK / CA / AU – ebook and print [as of 8/15]
Gumroad – ebook (EPUB, MOBI or PDF)

Summary:

When the Academy sends a new batch of healers into the field, Agna finds herself in an unexpected position of authority, on top of managing her new art gallery. She jumps at the chance to prove that she deserved to escape her father’s shadow. As her colleagues begin to fall victim to an unexplained loss of healing power, it starts to seem like too much for one healer to handle alone.

Keifon’s new life seems like more than he’d dared to wish for: friends, security, a chance to advance his career as a doctor. He has also confessed his feelings to his dearest friend, or so he thinks. But while he waits for her reply, his life continues on a path he never foresaw, and he begins to find new sides to his calling.

The city takes in its new transplants and offers opportunities, but not without a cost. Now that the friends — or perhaps partners — have found a place for themselves, they may find themselves doubting their direction.

Content notes here.


Whew. Feels strange that this story exists in the world after all this time. I don’t expect anyone to remember parts one and two. And that’s okay. I’m a different person than I was when I wrote book one. But I wanted to see this through, and I really do like the finished product.

Print layout next. I hope by jumping directly into it, I won’t start procrastinating… And this time, I’ll make notes for myself about what I’m doing so that it will be easier next time.


Update, Tuesday 8/9 [the timestamps are perpetually a day ahead of me, for some reason]: Print layout done, proof ordered. Nook and Kobo are ready to go.

Barnes & Noble / Nook – ebook
Rakuten Kobo – ebook

Considering the print proof needs to be, well, printed and then mailed, everything will hopefully be sewn up by next week. At that point I guess I’ll bother the mailing list.

It’s funny: the print version sells about a tenth as many copies as the ebook version, and add into that the drop-off between books 1 and 2 – I don’t expect to sell many print versions of book 3. Still, I just want to make that option available in case anyone wants it. It feels rude not to, since I know I’m capable of doing it. Why not, you know?

(I’m not complaining about the drop-off, by the way; if someone had a decent enough time with book 1 and then stopped, I still feel like my job here is done. Book 1’s ending is extremely not a cliffhanger, either. Ha.)

Update, Monday 8/15: Print verson is available at Amazon now.

We’re goin’ in.

As soon as my creaky desktop decides to cooperate, I’ll start formatting Book 3 for the digital/ebook release. I do plan to release it on paper, but formatting for print is a separate process, and I’m much rustier with it. So it’ll be ebook first, within the next two weeks if all goes well; paper after that sometime.


For the first time, one of my anime-related rambles relates to my hashtag-content: we’re trying out the currently airing Parallel World Pharmacy. I don’t hate it yet! Hooray! It’s not my favorite this year, but it hasn’t fucked up monumentally yet (as of episode 5), which is extremely high praise for an isekai series.

There’s even a scene in the most recent episode where a side character, who is opening a store, intentionally hires women who have been forced out of their past careers because they had kids. Let me tell you that given the current state of isekai anime, this is some kind of burn-it-all-down ~radical rhetoric~.

Heh.

One worrisome bit: it was weird to me that there was such a focus on cosmetic bloodletting, because bloodletting used to be seen as the cure to basically all ills. This series acts like it was a cosmetic procedure that women took to look whiter. Y’all, they stuck leeches on you for basically any reason. Got the flu? Too much blood. Depressed? Too much blood. I’m oversimplifying, BUT. Not by much.

Maybe that’s a difference between Japanese medical history and Western. I don’t know. I don’t have time right now to fall down a rabbit hole of bloodletting in Japan, because I’ve got a book to format. It’s just the first side-eye I’ve given this series so far.

(Side note to the side note, though, Spice and Wolf covers humorism amusingly — no pun intended — in a scene where one character smugly mansplains the theory to a character who’s never heard of it. A+.)


OK, the computer caught up with itself. Here we go.

See, this is why people go to school, I guess

Finishing the last (fingers crossed) edits on Book 3 and brainstorming for Book 4 (i.e. a direct sequel to book 3, not Strangers). And by “brainstorming” I mean noting all the loose ends / unfinished business in book 3, and looking at where all the characters are, what their goals are, and how their goals might clash and intersect.

Except I mentioned this in passing in a “how was your week” thread on a writing forum, and the group reacted like I’m attempting to walk backwards up Mount Everest while juggling chainsaws. Are you… are you not supposed to figure out character motivations? Like… how do you not… figure out character motivations?

I went to school for science, okay. I know things about outdated research technology and botany and sometimes, when I can remember them, names of bones and shit. They did not tell us how to write a novel outline in science college. That would have been completely counterproductive, you see. I learned how to write a research paper, with an abstract and charts and whatnot. That does not come in handy these days.

I truly and completely don’t know what I’m doing wrong. It sounds like most people were losing their heads over the fact that I had something like 20 characters in book 3. I’m pretty sure I had 20 named characters in book one. That doesn’t seem so extreme? Two narrators plus their families / love interests / inner circles is like 10 characters right there, and then there are side characters, antagonists, etc. I could name 20 people I know IRL easily, and I’m a dang hermit? I feel like I’m losing my mind. I need to set this down for a bit.


Probably not helping my mood is the fact that I followed up Chicory with a replay of Night in the Woods, a game I rabidly love and relate to, but that taps into a weird, depression-adjacent headspace. Which is one of the reasons I love it! But, you know. That plus being in an off mood can be an odd combination.

(I grew up in a town about two notches more urban than Possum Springs, in the same region it was based on. We had a big strip mall and a medium-sized hospital, and one heavy industry had managed to hold on through my childhood while a lot of nearby towns had lost theirs. But, well, a lot of things in the setting and the story feel very real, in a way that I just don’t see that often.)

(We lived there till I was midway through college, then moved a bit closer to the city. I went back to visit family who still lived there, but didn’t rove around much otherwise. Now I don’t have any reason to. But I still have dreams about riding bikes through it. Go figure.)

(A cursory Google search suggests that the plant is still open in the year of your lord 2022, somehow??? Wow. Wow. )

Anyway. Go Smelters.

[Edit: On the plus side, the “sign up for update emails” widget is now fixed. I … don’t know how long it was broken. Huh.]

Something something learning experience

It’s July, the gooseberries are ripening, so self, START WEARING GLOVES for the love of all that’s good and holy. Every time I go out to harvest I’m like “oh, I’ll be careful” and come back in looking like a pack of cats went to town on my arm, because it’s a big overdue-for-pruning maze of extremely thorny stems with berries hidden underneath. But after all that I have berries to show for it, so. Um. Let’s call it even?


All of the beta reads are done, except for the very last read-through requested by my spouse. All were fantastically helpful, and I’m making edits based on recurring comments and good ideas all around.

Currently, that means weeding out the pack of side characters, combining six characters into three by cutting the three that had the least to do. It’s gratifying because I always enjoy editing, but it’s also a strange feeling to go through a story and make some of the people in it not exist. Like, they used to. I gave them lines and names and a little bit of backstory. But in the end they didn’t contribute much to the plot, and so when it’s done… they were never there at all.

I’ll probably recycle the names and concepts for later stories, especially if we come back to this setting. In the meantime, their bits in the story are being handed off to the other three side characters. Which is strengthening the remaining three, I think. It should be interesting to see how that works. I haven’t really tried it before.

Still aiming for the end of August as my personal goal, and I think I can make it. Onward and upward.

Squee, trees

We have a finished cover for book 3! woohoo! I’d say “it feels like this is actually happening”, but honestly, I’ve felt that way for a little while now. There will probably be more edits to come; I don’t know if the last act of the current draft will fly, and I’m working on that “folding together two plot points” thing from the last post. But it feels within reach!

I’ve been listing a lot of media lately and that’s not very interesting, so I’ll just say

  1. Enjoying Paper Mario: The Origami King more than I enjoyed The Thousand Year Door, and the latter was generally fine. Might actually finish this one?? [edit: I did, the following day. boy, that last battle was effing annoying. but now it’s done.]
  2. Just finished the first season of Our Flag Means Death. Direly tempted to recreate the cat flag for our wall. Maybe a mini version.
  3. Really looking forward to a concert next week, which will be the first indoor show I’ve been to since COVID hit. Feels kind of weird. Yeah sure, plenty of people have been “back to normal” for a year now, but, well, we all make our own choices. I’m cautious. I’ll own up to that. But I’m still looking forward to it.

Welcome, everything is backwards

Upon nearly finishing what was supposed? to be my final read-through, an idea came to mind to fold together two of the plot points in a way that would strengthen the themes, cut down on redundancy, and bring some of the conflict closer to the leads. You know, the kind of thing that you’re supposed to think of before writing 150,000 words.

Better late than never? Hopefully?

It would only take a substantial rewrite of three or four chapters and some smaller edits. I just have to decide when in the story to resolve this new plot point, look it over, and decide whether to do this.

Additionally: giving “My Next Life as a Villainess” too much credit, and continuing anyway

How long till I un-memorize this thing?

If you work on the same project long enough, it’s easy to accidentally half-memorize it — when I try to reread book 3 to edit, I tune it out. So as hard as it is to not move forward, I’ve been working on another project to keep momentum going while my brain empties out that particular buffer. The plan is to keep that up for a couple of weeks and then see if editing works.

It’s actually going pretty well. I don’t know if it’s A Good Idea to finish this one next, vs. picking up the dangling plot threads in book 3 to continue with A&K & co. next. But it’s a nice palate cleanser for now.


Finished Bugsnax in about 20 hours, including the Isle of Bigsnax expansion, which was included in the Switch version. Did not finish all of the small sidequests, but I finished all the story-related sidequests and got the “good ending”.

I did not know this goofy-looking puzzle game had such fun characterization?? and a plot driven by personal challenges and complicated relationships??? what? I love it. Also: one of the townsfolk is a nonbinary mad scientist, excuse me, what a delightful surprise. I got out of the custom plushie biz several years ago, but I am sorely tempted. I still have an annoying amount of plush and fleece boxed up in the craft room. … … We’ll see.

Next up gamewise: Actually, Earthbound, via the Switch’s SNES emulator. I don’t want to replay Night in the Woods until closer to fall, didn’t feel like starting Breath of the Wild, and didn’t have enough cash in the account to buy anything else on my wishlist. So let’s see if I make it all the way through Earthbound this time.

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.