Category Archives: Recs

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.

Hooray, more backlog

Get out of my head, AV Club: The 22 best LGBTQ+ video games to binge-play during Pride Month

(We’re halfway through, though, some of us have to work haha)

Played: 8. Arcade Spirits, Bugsnax, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Gone Home, Hades, Night in the Woods, Spiritfarer, Stardew Valley.

Already wishlisted/backlogged: 5. Boyfriend Dungeon, Dream Daddy, If Found…, Life Is Strange, SU: Save the Light. (Halfassedly; I loved SU when it was airing, and my enthusiasm evaporated immediately afterward for a bunch of reasons, both story-based and personal. Might still play it sometime with my spouse for the nostalgia factor.)

[EDIT to correct: I might not have If Found…; what’s on my backlog is a different game called if not us, and I misremembered. However, the cover for If Found… looks familiar, so it might be buried in my backlog somewhere too. The curse/blessing of bundles.]

Not played: 9. Celeste (I suck at platformers), Drag Her! (not my thing, fun idea though), Ikenfell (never heard of it, super cute!), The Last of Us part II (this is not a Playstation house, sorry), Life Is Strange: True Colors (let me play the first one and see if I like it, damn, people), Mass Effect: Andromeda (maybe… maybe, also this one sounds like a stretch?), An Outcry (never heard of it, looks scary), The Sims 4 (not my thing), Tell Me Why (never heard of it)

Okay, so roughly half-ish. Of the last category, I’d probably try Ikenfell, Andromeda and Tell Me Why, and maybe True Colors if I end up liking the first part. Do we really need two entries in the same series here? Oh well.

Right now I’m playing a game called Wytchwood that I think I just grabbed from a Switch promo or something, because I don’t recall where I first heard about it. It’s a “run around grabbing items and crafting things” game a la Don’t Starve, but instead of edge of the seat Edward Gorey style stress, it’s mostly laid-back fairy tale witchery. As in, the player character is a cranky swamp witch with a cauldron helmet and chicken feet who goes around mixing eye of newt etc. into various potions to dole out doses of poetic justice. Quite fun so far.

And now I really, REALLY need to get back to editing.

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.

Lightning. Bottle it.

“To get unstuck and fix this last act,” I said to myself, “I need to tie together the plot threads up to this point, use an external threat to force the rivals to work together without making it come completely out of left field, and let the narrators exercise what they’ve learned up to this point in their growth arcs. Seeding ideas for potential sequels wouldn’t be so bad either, as long as it isn’t obnoxious. So…”

Three brainstormed ideas later and I had one so obvious that I’m mad at myself for not thinking of it sooner. Ten pages of outline / summary / links to Wikipedia after that and we have a road map. Started writing it on Saturday.

Some people can come up with this stuff without writing dead-end drafts for years, but you know, practice, etc. Also, I can only work with what I’m able to do.

I think I also have a new direction for Strangers, the potential project after Healers, that would get more magic into the story (something I’m insecure about) while staying true to the characters and the theme of that story.

What is HAPPENING here. It’s about to make me paranoid about another shoe dropping. Well, time to write down all these ideas and ride the wave.


Entertainments: Up to what seems like the last arc of Dear Brother, stopped for a bit because I want to hear AF‘s commentary. Gameswise, almost done with that 100% completion run of Stardew Valley on the Switch; finished 2064 on PC and will probably pick another game from my PC backlog after writing today. Started Monster Prom on Switch, which is gleefully, unapologetically ridiculous. It seems nearly impossible to 100% complete that thing, so I will likely keep doing runs until it starts to feel repetitive and then move on. I’m not very good at it, mind you; I’ve succeeded three times out of probably 15 runs. Haha.

Meanwhile, since January I have gotten hooked on Ring Fit Adventure? I’ve played exergames fairly frequently since the mid-oughts, and this one is… actually fun AND challenging AND has a lot of variety? With this thing and the treadmill we got about six months ago, I don’t really miss the gym? Huh.

Game notes, April 1

I don’t do April Fool’s Day; this is just a post that happens to be on April 1.

Looking for a break from Stardew Valley*, I started and played what seems like >50% of Unpacking this evening.

I was lightly spoiled to the progression of the story and one particular level by the review that led me to try it, but since my husband was in the room while I played most of it, we still had the opportunity to grumble things like “fuck that guy. I think he’s a P90x bro. At least he likes Queen. Ughhhh the underwear” out loud. (did I fix that? yes I did. fuck that guy and his fancy everything)

Paused for the night two levels after Fuck That Guy. Will probably play through the rest tomorrow sometime.

A couple of weekends ago I played through another game in two sittings, Donut County, a.k.a. Reverse Katamari Damacy. Enjoyed that one too. Still listening to the soundtrack. Which I will do as I start tonight’s writing. Three-day streak! Aiming for a solid week to start out.

* I’m nearing the end of a 100% completion run for the first time, and realized I had lost an item I needed one game-month after the only day when I can purchase it again. So I’m just bopping around, doing whatever and racking up money until the calendar rolls back around. It’s… beginning to get boring. Hence breaking it up with another, shorter game.

[edit, next day: yep. finished. the game about taking things out of boxes made me cry, y’all. But I’m a bisexual anime watching / tabletop gaming / fantasy reading / ukulele playing / plant growing nerd who has moved ten times in their life and loves piecing things together from context, this game was aimed directly at my face. what do you want from me. Also I’ll cry at a lot of things, this isn’t a secret. so yes, that was sweet and satisfying. good times.]

Podcast rec time

I used to have an “As a Reader” tag. Oops. Fixed.

Okay, so: I really enjoyed this podcast interview from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books with author Jane Buehler. It ranges over “cozy fantasy” as a genre and writing more vulnerable, realistic sex scenes with human foibles — something I don’t write (I’d turn into dust, I think) but which is fascinating to hear about. [And there’s a transcript! Yay transcripts!]

I’d never heard of Buehler’s work till now, and as I commented there, I bought one of her books within five minutes of the conversation starting. I’ll admit here on my own turf, it was as soon as they hit the magic words “beta hero.” I am not fond of that term for a lot of reasons, starting with faulty research. But it’s the term used in the genre, and it’s not my place to question that from the outside — it’s a term I don’t like for a concept that I do like, blah blah, moving on.

Anyway, I finished The Village Maid today. I was worried/bummed out after the first chapter because the narrator begins in a dark, bitter place, and I wasn’t sure whether it was just that character, or if the hopelessness came from the setting. In particular, I wasn’t sure if it was the kind of fantasy setting where women couldn’t hold skilled jobs or have any hope in the future apart from Landing A Man, since that was what the narrator was fixated on. (To be fair, this is book 2 in a series and I did not read book 1. I knew that going in.)

And it’s a fine goal in life to want to have a partner, no problem there, I just get very bummed out if that’s the only survival option available to all women in a particular setting. Sure, it’s historically accurate in some cultures and contexts. Doesn’t mean I want to read about it.

The story opens up from there, though — it’s kind of just the narrator’s outlook, though it’s also her situation and life history. In short, yes, women can hold skilled jobs; the narrator in particular just thinks she isn’t good for anything but Landing A Man. And the “all the other women are catty bitches” flavor near the beginning… … … …mostly wears off too, and it’s kind of one of those situations that illustrate the concept “if it seems like you’re always surrounded by assholes, maybe you’re the asshole.” (On purpose; that’s only the start of her arc.) There is some truly breathtaking bullying midway through the book that gets mitigated somewhat by the end (j/k we did not do this absolutely heinous thing we said we did lol), and that still makes me feel Not Good… but I’m also midway through a TV series with really intense bullying themes, so maybe I’m just overloaded on that theme right now.

The story also sometimes seems like it’s about to slut-shame the narrator, but it never actually does? Which is nice. And another random thought, there was a LOT more action than I was expecting, after a certain point. But that’s fine, it kept the plot rolling.

In the end, it turned out to be a lovely, charming book that I enjoyed quite a bit. It is 100% a romance, so y’know, I would not necessarily say “if you like my work, this is similar, except professional.” I frankly do not have the chops to write romance. I’d recommend it if you like, as discussed in the podcast, magic and such but not lots of beheading/entrails — PLUS romance, which I do like some flavors of.


More broadly, it makes me happy to hear about the concept of cozy fantasy as a whole, whether it’s romance-based or not. Cozy science fiction is out there too, in Becky Chambers’ work for one.

And the “cozy” name to me — not speaking ex cathedra, just as a reader — doesn’t mean that a story sugarcoats its story or its characters’ troubles, or that nothing in the story matters. Just that the conflicts are human-scale. That may not relate much to the original genre of cozy mystery, since mystery is already more frequently at human scale than fantasy is, but I think it’s a key facet of what I’d call cozy fantasy. Big things may be happening in the world — they always are — but the story’s focus stays with people who are not the primary history-makers. That’s what I like to see.

So I read a book this week that I liked. (Two, actually; I also finished Network Effect by Martha Wells, one of the Murderbot books.)

I spent my writing hour doing this instead of editing. Whoops. 😀 Worth it.