Category Archives: as a reader

A grab bag for February

Today’s productive(?) procrastination: researching cover trends to decide whether I want to overhaul the Healers covers. The promo didn’t work; therefore, something must be wrong that keeps people from clicking. I honestly still like covers 1 and 3, but I have to face the fact that they don’t look like the other covers out there in the cozy/literary fantasy space. That’s a hindrance.

If I do end up doing this, then all my agita about print editions is out the window; I will, in that case, redesign the interiors too.

I find this all kind of fascinating to research, but wildly out of my wheelhouse (I am not a visual person at all). It’s also exhausting to have to make decisions about it. But hey. That’s the fate of self-publishing.


Listened to another podcast episode that got me to buy a book: Why Do So Many Coffee Shops Look the Same?

Likewise, this kind of analysis is fascinating to me and wildly outside my wheelhouse, as someone who is not visually oriented and has never taken to social media that is visually oriented. Have not read the book yet; I’ll get to it soon.


Recent reads/recommendations include the entirety of Greenwing & Dart (the series feels unfinished, but I loved it up to that point), Wyngraf’s Valentine’s Day 2024 special (adorable) and the first couple of omnibi of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (sad and adorable; will have more to say about this once I read the whole series).


Look at that, we’re halfway through the Winter 2024 anime season. TIme might be linear after all.

  • Delicious in Dungeon: Love it. Characterization is a breath of fresh air in a world of stale tropes. Opening theme is a banger. Calls on fantasy/RPG nostalgia without mindlessly copy-pasting. Only one notable female character so far (the other one is languishing in a dragon’s colon), but she is great despite being the party’s constant naysayer. We’ve been on the verge of cancelling Netflix among our raft of streaming services, and now I’m kind of mad that this has dragged me back in.
  • Mr. Villain’s Day Off: I think it’s accomplishing the “one joke” better than Too Cute Crisis did, which is why I’m still watching it. Not perfect — I’d like to dig six inches deeper on the characters they’ve established rather than just throwing in more and more new ones — but it’s refreshing to have a show that focuses on achievable work/life balance instead of throwing its hands up and saying “welp, the only way out is to die and get isekai’d, lol.”
  • ‘Tis Time for “Torture,” Princess — this season’s “this is so silly, and yet I’m still watching” pick. Nothing makes sense, but it’s oddly charming. Also not perfect (see the game of pervy chicken they’re playing with the paladin character), but mostly harmless. There is a large cast of adorable demons who take excellent care of each other and their prisoners, and I’m a sucker for that.
  • Have not started Sign of Affection yet; I’ll tackle it in the backlog later.
  • Backlog we’re still working on: Natsume’s Book of Friends, Isekai Izakaya, The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent, Revue Starlight. I had to pause RS for a bit when I didn’t have the stomach for drama, but I’m back in. Hidive, your days are also numbered. Sorry. Akiba Maid War was fucking fantastic and I’m glad I finally got through Penguindrum, but there are only a few more series I want to watch in your lineup.

edit to add: ooh, I forgot one! I started a Zoom guitar class. Having loads of fun. It seems like some of the general concepts I learned with the ukulele are carrying over, which is nice, but the strings are SO much sharper!

Friday the 13th roundup

  • One of the books I beta-read last year is approaching publication, and I want to plug it because I enjoyed it a lot: When We Walked in Memory by Charlotte Kersten. (If you are here from the cozy side of things, take note of content warnings first. Thanks!)
  • Almost done with the first draft of Therapist 5, The One That’s Basically Just a Fantasy Story Because The Isekai’d People Aren’t At the Center for Once. (not its actual title. Its actual title is The Sylvan Dragon’s Herald.)
  • Apparently The Healers’ Road has a vote in r/fantasy’s Top Self-Published Fantasy Novels, which is unexpected and fantastic. That sounds like sarcasm, but I promise it isn’t. As we close in on that book’s 10th anniversary, I am still awed and humbled that people have taken a chance on it.
    • I honestly don’t know what I’d vote, because I … don’t know what’s self-published and isn’t. I’d have to do some research. But I feel like I ought to have my own list, if only for plugging purposes.
  • Gaming: Currently 3 “years” into Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life, a game I originally played on PS2 (it was originally on the Gamecube). It holds up fine, and I’m enjoying it – but I’m also reminded of how much Stardew Valley brought to the table in terms of giving the side characters depth. Like any depth. Hey, I know SDV built upon SoS:AWL’s foundation. It’s just interesting to reflect how far this genre has come.
  • Anime: We are watching Undead Unluck (my spouse’s choice) and will eventually watch After School Hanako-kun. I am weirdly tempted to try Crash Course in Naughtiness. (Not what it sounds like) However, I made the ill-timed decision to try to squeeze another previous season’s show in: Endo and Kobayashi Live! I truly don’t have time to explain this show’s premise. It’s entertaining a couple of episodes in, and it’s not very long. I continue to wander the earth looking for more comedy anime that works in translation. We recently burned through O Maidens in Your Savage Season, which… … … I’d recommend the first half? It’s funny. The second half, when it dives into drama, less so.

Reading conditions, insomnia and me

This past weekend, I spent an afternoon in a car, midway through a family trip from the eastern US to the Midwest, reading through and making what are probably my last edits to Therapist book 3. And I think my work might be best suited to moments when you’re a captive audience, like car trips — assuming you don’t get motion sickness, of course. (I’m very lucky; I wouldn’t have survived childhood without reading in cars. I remember reading one sentence at a time as we passed under lights on the highway.)

Similarly?, I started reading Wyngraf issue 3 — a literary magazine focused on “cozy fantasy”, and one I highly recommend — in the middle of the night, on vacation, kept awake by acid reflux. Which are precisely the conditions under which I started reading issue 2 last year. There’s at least some rhyme and reason to that; short stories are nice when you aren’t sure how long you want to keep reading, and when you’re cursing your own body’s mundane failures, something cute and soothing hits the spot.

The latter is also why I read large stretches of the Dreamhealers series in my first few rounds of a style of insomnia that I can look forward to “enjoying” for the next ten years or so. (Maybe. It’s complicated.) Now I’ve settled into slowly reading through a nonfiction book which I only pull up under those conditions.

So sometimes it’s not just a matter of finding a book that matches your taste; it’s a matter of finding a book that compliments your situation. Not necessarily matches it, but compliments it.

Or maybe it’s just how my broken brain works: I remember where I read some particular books more than the details of the story. Over lunch, in a particular room at my day job: that’s I am Livia or The Thief or The Goblin Emperor. One park bench is Winter Tide, another is Glitter Up the Dark, a picnic table in the same park is Cryoburn. I also remember reading a lot of Song of Achilles while awake in the middle of the night due to stomach problems. At home that time.

Who knows. Moving on.

Anime update: Breaking: Cats are cute

One more for good measure

Unexpectedly, I finished one more book before the new year: The Hands of the Emperor by Victoria Goddard. I didn’t think I’d finish this one so soon, but a few things lined up:

  1. Time off for the holidays
  2. I got sucked into the story far more than I expected
  3. I hit a point in No Man’s Sky that’s 90% loading screens and maps, so I fell into a pattern of reading while the loading screens loaded*

I had no idea what to expect, going into this one. It’s one of r/cozyfantasy’s regular recommendations — probably on the top ten — and all I knew was “story about a bureaucrat who wants to make the world a better place.”

Yep. It’s that. It’s also about colonialism/imperialism, cultural assimilation, and good governance, has excellent characterization, and worldbuilds without tiresomely explaining Magic Systems(tm) at the audience.

It’s also not cozy, in my opinion. I admit, I have developed a fairly restrictive impression of “cozy” from the community: “takes place in a cottage in the forest, there’s a lot of tea, there are no world-destroying stakes, and NO BAD OR CHALLENGING EMOTIONS EVER, OR HEADS WILL ROLL.” I don’t mean this to be denigrating. Cozy mystery has a long and successful history. It’s just that, but with magic. Magic, She Wrote.

There are a lot of emotions in this story, despite/because of the fact that it’s about an outwardly starchy bureaucrat. Few of the emotions are fluffy or easy. And though the day-to-day focus of the story is on one character and most of the story takes place in two general locations, it very much has ramifications about the larger story-world. That’s… a big part of the point. Making the world a better place.

So I’m kind of surprised that this community latched onto this book, but I am very glad they did, because I rabidly enjoyed it. I finished the first book on Christmas Day and started the second shortly after. (I did not figure out the twist at the beginning of the second book until… maybe 75% of the way through the first? This is why I don’t read mysteries)

There is a long stretch that basically boils down to Kip Tells Off Some Naysayer, Everybody Clapped, which…. eh, but it’s capped off with a set piece that I absolutely loved at the end, so it didn’t break the book for me.

Anyway, consider this a recommendation.

NMS elaboration (Spoilers)

It’s the season of hot beverages (here), rejoice

Little updates:

  • The Healers’ Purpose just hit 100 copies on Amazon; round numbers are neat. Several on Gumroad as well. Ironically, Gumroad sends me an email each and every time a copy of something sells, but I pay less attention to it. That doesn’t seem right. I ought to either check it more often or turn off those alerts. Maybe both. Anyway, that’s nice.
  • The new side project is in the hands of a couple of beta readers; thanks, folks, even though you can’t “hear” me here! Commissioned a cover illustration that I really love, and sent it over to my usual titles/design expert with a bunch of examples of English light-novel covers and an explanation of what the hell I’m trying to do here. Should be fun.

Recommendations / book talk:

In which I squee, a lot, about Mindtouch

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.]