Category Archives: The Healers’ Road (Book 1)

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.

Welcome? I hope?

Tomorrow and Wednesday (Dec. 12 and 13), I’m lined up to run some ads for The Healers’ Road for the first time since 2015. It will be on sale for 99c in the US for 5 days, from the 12th-19th.

So we might get some new readers, which is cool! Or…maybe not, I don’t know! Should be a learning experience in any case!

If you’re new here, welcome. The Books pages on the menu contain all of the details about my books. I have two pen names. One for mostly-serious slice-of-life fantasy where cranky people have long conversations about things. One for goofy portal fantasy about a magical therapist.

This is a freeform blog where I tend to ramble about:
a) where I am in the writing process (often “lost”)
b) video games (I started The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a couple of weeks ago, and have Tears of the Kingdom lined up after it)
c) other people’s books (still a die-hard LeGuin fan, sorry not sorry)
d) anime (my favorite series is Revolutionary Girl Utena; I gravitate toward girly, artsy and as close to devoid of fanboy pandering as possible).

I’m a self-published part-time person-who-lines-up-words with a desk job in the nonprofit sector. All of my education was in STEM, approximately one thousand years ago. But I like writing. A lot. And so here we are.

Welcome.

If you’re not new here, also welcome.

Another quick update: …Mostly

I think I’m done with the meta/etc., at least until I see how the ads go in December. [Apparently? You shouldn’t run ads in December at all. Christmas and everything. Oh well. I’m doing it anyway. We’ll see how it goes, and I’ll learn something.]

Anyway, I changed some keyword stuff behind all the scenes – winnowing out some that nobody actually searches for, brainstorming some others (like, can you believe I never had “camping” as a keyword on Healers’ Road? Camping. The thing that takes up 50% of the novel. Yeesh.)

I also caved and added subtitles to both series. Subtitles are those things like “: An InsertGenreHere Adventure” or “: An InsertSubgenreHere AlsoMaybeAUsefulBuzzword Romance.” You know, “A Fated Mates Shifter Romance” or “A Cozy LitRPG Adventure.” I have never. ever. used. them., because when I started, the only people who seemed to use them stuffed them so full of obvious SEO buzzwordage that they took on a bad reputation. Nowadays, subtitles are commonplace; they help people recognize what genre/subgenre the story is before they even get to the description. (And honestly? I understand why people did the way-too-many-buzzwords thing. They were trying. It’s rough out there.)

The subtitle I added for Healers was “A Slice of Life Fantasy Novel”. Because that’s what it is. “Cozy fantasy” is solidifying into one specific thing that this story is not, and that’s fine. I just don’t want people to expect a quirky small-business story when I’m doing something else. Slice of life covers it.

The subtitle I added for Therapist was “A Slightly Heavy Light Novel”; full credit to my spouse on that one. It’s not as helpful for catching searches, but it nails the “funny but also kind of serious” tone. Hey, I’ve got little to lose on Therapist‘s traction so far; I may as well experiment.

(Ironically, I don’t fully believe that this is a light novel, because it’s not YA. But it draws on light novel tropes and subverts a few of them, and it helps to have a passing familiarity with the genre. If the subtitle starts confusing people, I’ll think of something else.)

I also want to say that all of this meta/marketing/etc. stuff I’m doing isn’t to be cynical or mercenary or to change any of the content of what I do at all. It’s more about shoring up a skill I’ve always felt I lacked, and an area I don’t know much about. To demystify it for myself so it’s less daunting. And ultimately, once a story is written, to try to give it a fair shake at finding people who would enjoy reading it. That’s my actual goal with this part.

I wrote both of these series for me, at the end of the day. I needed a story about two very different people who get past their own flaws to become friends, and also a lot of camping and linguistics. And I needed a story about finding yourself stranded in a goofball fantasy world, mourning what you’ve lost, and rebuilding your life with the friends you’ve made along the way.

Those were for me, at different stages of my life. But I know that both of them would be fun for someone else to read, too. It’s just a matter of putting up a flag for the “someone else”s who would like them. That’s how I’m approaching “marketing.” Figuring out what the flag is for each series, and learning how to raise it.

Hey. I’ve got a bunch of offbeat, comforting, sometimes sad, usually queer, overly introspective stories with some jokes in them. Want some?

Quick update: The thing is what it’s always been

As part of trying to study up on the meta/marketing?/etc. of it all, I finally bit the bullet and changed the name of the Balance Academy to The Healers. That’s what I’ve been calling it for nearly a decade; the series veered off its original intent as an anthology almost immediately; the BA name is misleading; the end.

I apologize if this is confusing at any point, but it has been annoying me for ages, and I wanted to finally make that switch. So I did.

Announcement over.

Sticky post: Starting points

Hello!

If you’re new here, here’s where to start! (The opposite of the other sticky post!)

The Healers book 1 of 3: The Healers’ Road

by S.E. Robertson

Genre/keywords: slice-of-life fantasy, shouting-distance-from-cozy fantasy but check the content warnings first please, character-driven, road trip from hell, enemies to friends


Second chances and unexpected friends

Agna Despana has studied magical healing for nearly half her life, and now she finally gets to prove herself. Ambitious, opinionated, and out of her depth, she will plan her way out of any situation. Except the presence of the dismissive doomsayer she’s been matched up with.

Keifon the Medic has nearly given up. Having lost his family, his old life, and his revolutionary ex-boyfriend, he puts himself at the gods’ mercy to give him a new purpose. Maybe helping people as a medic will suffice. If only he weren’t saddled with this pompous young heathen.

Assigned as partners, the two travel the back roads with a merchants’ caravan, providing medical aid. They each have all the answers, but it will take a long journey, some chance encounters, and a deep look inside to reach the truth.

The Healers’ Road is an enemies-to-friends low-stakes fantasy road trip with warm campfires, good books, and the power of healing yourself as well as others.

On Amazon – print and ebook, and on Kindle Unlimited where available
On Goodreads – rate and review

Content Notes / Trivia


How I Became a Therapist in Another World , novella 1 of 6

by C.A. Moss [also me]

Genre/keywords: fantasy isekai but make it tired, millennial, and gay; let’s throw all the tropes in a blender with a giant pile of feelings and see what we get; fish out of water; empathy as a superpower; humor and heart


Not the Chosen One, just doing my best 

After an unexpected accident, Cat wakes up in a new body in a world full of magic. If this is the afterlife, it’s a lot more cottagecore than she expected — even though it’s also haunted by demons that prey on people’s emotions.

Good thing this world summoned the right vintage-loving queer girl, because Cat — now Lavender — was a therapist on Earth. Wielding magic that gives others space to face their literal demons, she sets out to make a new life for herself. 

A world of new friends, territorial Earthlings, rampaging dragons, high society balls, and rollicking nights at the tavern is just down the country road. But so is the reckoning of what she’s lost…

How I Became a Therapist in Another World is a light fantasy heartwarming isekai novella with emotional moments and a wlw human/orc romance side plot. Lavender’s story continues in parts 2-4.

On Amazon – ebook and Kindle Unlimited where available
Books 1-4 are also available as an omnibus in ebook and print.
On Goodreads

Content Notes / Trivia

One… more… dollar

I bumped up the price of The Healers’ Road to $2.99 US from $1.99, where it’s been for … a while (couple of years?). So all three of the current Healers books are set at $2.99. It’s just based on Amazon’s floor for 70% royalties – at $1.99 I make 70 cents per ebook, and at $2.99 it’s about $2. I’m not a huge fan of the Zon overall, so I’m not saying their system is particularly fair or great, but I am too tired right now thanks to Mystery Not-Covid Cold or Whatever (with bonus day-job stress) to get into the whole wall of text.

Basically, ~$2 seemed nicer than 70 cents. And if you’re interested in reading the book and that dollar makes a difference, I will gladly send you a copy by email for zero dollars. I’ve always said that, and it continues.

Writing update: Therapist book 4 has passed 10k, which means it’s… a quarter to a third of the way done? This novella thing is wild. On a whim, I also skimmed through my Healers-verse side project the other day, and … I still really like it? Once Therapist is done, I might come back to that before deciding what to do with Agna and Kei. As long as I keep working on something, anything, really, it’s serving its psychological purpose here.

Gaming, which is all my brain has energy for today: Fire Emblem: Three Houses spoilers for about 2/3 of the way through Azure Moon.

Truly what the fuck, Dimitri

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.

Ahahahaha.

After years, I think the covers of both books are finally fixed on Kobo. The help team DID get back to me, but I’d stopped checking that email address out of free-floating despair (not their fault!). I just FINALLY did what they suggested and it seems to have worked.

So *ahem* Books 1 and 2 continue to be available at Kobo, DRM-free:

The Healers’ Road

The Healers’ Home

Yay. If all goes well, I’ll add book 3 when it’s done.


Can I just say for the ten millionth time that I enjoy writing and editing and dread everything else? Writing cover copy, coming up with titles and keywords, researching the market, setting prices. Checking email is terrifying. And I check email all day every day at the day job with no problem. How is Outlook comfortable and familiar and Gmail terrifying? I mean, other than Google being Google…

Everyone’s personality is different, is the thing. Lots of people would rather write cover copy all day long than turn over control to someone else. More power to them. Meanwhile, if someone were to hand me money and say “we’re going to do all the work, just write the things”? Yes please, so long as it’s not a naked scam. I mean, I have read about how publishing contracts can be fully terrible, and I’m speaking out of frustration here; I know it’s complicated. But I have the kind of personality to which that appeals, generally. I just wanna do the easy part.

But that’s okay. If I had a publisher, I couldn’t write the stuff I write. It’s a mess and it doesn’t fit into a market segment and while I wish I could write a coherent plot to save my life, it’s evolved into its own weird little thing. Not better than commercially viable fiction, I don’t believe in that sort of stance; just its own thing.


Progress: Ebook edit round 1 is done; beta readers have the same draft; first draft of the book 2 synopsis for the start of book 3 is done. Gotta work on extras, decide on a title, talk to the cover designer, write the cover copy for 3, get the betas’ comments back, and do at least one more round of edits. But I think it’s coming together.

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!

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.