Category Archives: The Process

Let’s not think about “good uses of our time”

Did I just spend 45 minutes tweaking and uploading covers for the Therapist series just to take “By” off them, because it was starting to irk me? Yes. [Have not updated this site yet; I want to get on to actual writing today.]

Did I accidentally upload the omnibus file (i.e. 4 books) instead of the book 1 file, while correcting a very small mistake in it?

Also yes. Caught it just in time.

Did I spend probably an hour the other day researching new cover styles for Healers only to discover that I don’t know how to do some pretty elementary stuff in the graphics program I recently bought?

Uh, also yes. Someone should probably get me away from this computer before I break something.

On the other hand, what will probably be the 8th Therapist book is coming along swimmingly. [“Probably” = the next few may end up sorted in a different order than they were written, the way 5-7 did.] Healers 3.5 is started, and my doubt meter is higher on this one, but I have not abandoned that project by a long shot. It’s all going. Just slowly.

A meandering thrill ride for fans of Other Blog Post

(And guess who forgot to enroll book 7 in Kindle Unlimited? This very-much-not-a-pro. Biting my nails until I can add it)

I’ve overhauled all but the last few blurbs in both series (Therapist 5 and 6 seem close-enough, and 7 is new). Writing blurbs might be getting slightly easier with practice, but it’s really difficult for me.

The current wisdom is to mostly ignore specifics and focus on emotional resonance: things that the reader will find relatable, intriguing and/or addictive. This is not how I engage with fiction — I don’t insert myself into the story; I live vicariously, even (especially?) through characters who are different from me* — so it’s been a struggle.

It’s also recommended to stuff as many (accurate) tropes and keywords as you can in there, because that’s what people look for. Both of these insights — the “the story is all about you, reader” and the frontloading of tropes — are fascinating to me, even (especially) if my brain doesn’t work that way. The trope lists in particular remind me so much of fanfiction. AO3’s tag system is truly amazing as a work of crowdsourcing and categorization, and it’s fascinating to see it suffuse out into the rest of the reading world.

I’ll be honest, too — there’s a trace of envy in there, too. People all seem to have Their One Thing: the trope or dynamic or specific niche that fits them perfectly, where every single book is written to make them exquisitely happy, and more are written every day. Wandering through this landscape, I feel like someone who has just realized that they don’t have a favorite flavor of ice cream. That they have a few things that they like, and try different things for the sake of trying different things sometimes. People don’t do that. It’s not normal.

But hey. Story of my life.

* This is why none of my characters are singularly “me”, I think. I’m spread between Agna and Keifon and Berry and Solan and Hazel and Morel and Agna’s work friend Fulvia, who is probably the closest depiction in that she is awkward, offputting, and usually says the wrong thing at the wrong time. <3

Constructive procrastination, part n+1

Here’s the path that unfolded this week:

“Oh, I ought to update my bio on the Healers books. I haven’t changed it in a million years.”

“…These epub files were all hand-coded, and I kind of mentally refused to do that incredibly fiddly task ever again. …Right.”

*uploads doc version*

*chaos ensues*

*sigh* “Okay, Atticus. Do your thing.” [not an affiliate link, I don’t do that]

*incredibly boring montage: two evenings of correcting chapter titles, chapter breaks of various kinds, and italics*

Result: We have slightly more polished versions of all three Healers ebooks, or we will as soon as Amazon finishes processing them (usually within 24 hours). The print books haven’t changed. I plan to keep hand-coding/laying out the print books, because I’m sure it would be annoying to have books 1-3 match and 4+(?) not match. However, I think an ebook can be re-downloaded at any point, so it doesn’t seem like it’s as big a deal.

That said, if you are a reader who’s run into issues along those lines with my books, please send me an email (info on About page). We’ll figure out what needs to be done.

The actual changes are:

  • took out the summary at the beginning of THR; that isn’t a thing anyone does anymore [I did leave the “previously” summaries in 2 and 3]
  • new copyright page (ooh, thrilling) – same info, just formatted slightly differently
  • nicer font on the chapter headings
  • slight changes to the afterwords, linking to the next book in the series
  • entirely new About page

Since the new About page links to all of my books, I will end up updating it every time I publish another book. I’ve chained myself to this situation, I know, but I like how it turned out. Eventually I will probably whip up a standard About page for the C.A. Moss books as well. (So I can update almost a dozen books every time instead of three.)

Until then, I’m reflecting on the snippets that I read as I skimmed through. As much as I’ve rhapsodized about taking a break from the series, I still really love it, y’all. I do. It’s extremely emotional and the plots don’t always make sense and I love it.

I have started writing Healers 4, picking up where 3 left off. I’d like to finish this one in a more reasonable time than the last. That’s my goal.

EDIT, a few days later: Also added a content notes page at the start of each Healers book. I decided to apply for a cozy fantasy group promotion, and since I know my work is only at the edge of cozy, I thought it would be best to be extra, extra, extra clear about the content.

The promotion hasn’t happened yet, but it’s being organized by promisepress.org if you’re interested in signing up as a reader or author.

2 months of winter to go

Therapist book 6 is with the cover designer, which is generally the last stop before release. I really like this one, too. I mean, I really like every single one of them. As we get to the end of the novellas I’ve finished/nearly finished, I’m sad to shift away from this series, at least for a while. Ah, well. Chances are I’ll circle back after another Healers book. And I hope I’ve learned enough from this experience to take back over to Healers, like how to write faster, for the love of all that’s good and holy

(ahem)

I’m not remotely done with this series anyway; book 7 is still with the beta readers, and then I plan to commission another paperback cover and compile 5-7 on paper. So we won’t see the back of this series for a little while yet, even leaving aside future as-yet-unwritten stories.


I’ve spent the last seven weeks line- and copy-editing my spouse’s first novel. It’s been an exciting process seeing this whole thing take shape. He’s supported me through half a million words’ worth of my stuff; it’s about time I got to even begin to return the favor. And it’s a lovely story.

And honestly? I enjoy this part. There’s a reason The Healers’ Road circled around, unfinished and endlessly re-edited, for something like 5 years before I broke the cycle and finished a complete draft. I love tweaking a sentence. Probably to my own detriment.

I also discovered that editing on paper somehow clicks with my brain. Maybe because I don’t often read on paper these days; I’ve been Ebook Hive for 12 years now. So I don’t get sucked into the story in the same way. However it happens, it seems to work. So I guess next time I edit one of my own, I’m printing the thing out.


Gaming: 70 hours into Tears of the Kingdom, so, y’know, less than halfway. I started Breath of the Wild in late fall on purpose, planning to zone out through the winter on these two games. Which is exactly what’s happening. Though I am trying to limit my time on weekdays: work, sleep, writing/editing, and exercise take priority. It’s mostly fine.

As with pretty much any open-world game, I am inclined toward exploring and collecting. Just finished all the petroglyphs/memories and did the Thing that the Game Nudges You Toward Right After That. (y’know, the thing where you hold the A button for a long long time)

Actually, narratively, doing things in that order was quite effective. Though I was spoiled for the end of the game by watching my spouse finish it a few years ago; it probably would have been quite a whallop if I hadn’t known. It’s okay. I was still moved. For a series not known for its narrative coherence, it’s doing just fine by me.

Grab bag time

  • Punched up the Healers’ Road description for the first time in basically ever. The sale last month didn’t accomplish much, so my takeaway lesson is that something is probably wrong with my cover or blurb (description). The blurb is easier for me to fix, so I’ll start there. We’ll see! (I hope it’s not the cover; I love the current cover. It’s a kill-your-darlings situation, and I didn’t even make it.)
  • Also brushed up the Healers listing page on this site with covers and a few wording tweaks.
  • Via animefeminist.com, I enjoyed reading through several of the articles linked at This Year in Videogame Blogging: 2023.
  • In particular, while I wouldn’t go entirely as far as the author here, this article gets at a lot of my discomfort with the cozy genre in both fiction and gaming: Comfort is a weapon

It’s unfair to generalize and I know that, but I’m still haunted by the reaction of the Stardew Valley fanbase to suggestions from other fans that it would be nice if the idyllic small-town setting had more people who looked like them in it. The fanbase’s reaction was: This is supposed to be a safe, happy, idealized world. Having people like you in it ruins it.

I think about that a lot.

I was also reminded of an exchange I had about cozy fantasy. A fan of the genre said that they liked stories about running businesses because they enjoyed cooking and crafting. Puzzled, I asked why you can’t also cook and craft without selling what you make, for friends and family, say. They didn’t understand what I was talking about.

I think about that a lot, too.

I think about the townsfolk in House on the Cerulean Sea, genteelly howling to destroy anything that seems awkward or uncomfortable, because their comfort matters more than other people’s lives.

I think too much.

Anyway, thought-provoking article, is what I’m saying. And hey, all that said, I still read cozy fantasy (alongside other genres) and play cozy games (ditto). And I keep tilting toward flower-picking and cooking in noncozy games that I play, besides — I’m several hours into The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, and my favorite aspect is all those depots of building materials scattered around the landscape. In context, they exist mostly so the player can put together more rocket-powered killdozers, but I like their in-story purpose as a sign of rebuilding. Sure, they’re an advertisement for that goofily culty construction company up in Tarrey Town, but they’re also a reminder that the kingdom is trying to pull together after the disaster.

Don’t get me started on the Chosen One thing; that’s a rant for another day.

Numbers, year 9

“Surely,” I thought, “it’s far too early to do a year-end wrap-up.” And maybe it is, but the last one was at this time last year. So here we are.

It’s been a while, so I’ll preface this with my usual philosophy/statement of scale. Namely: I’m aware that these are tiny numbers. I’m not embarrassed; don’t be embarrassed for me. I’ve come to accept and enjoy what I do. Some people had a nice enough time reading something I wrote. That’s pretty neat. Also, it’s not my main source of income (I still have a day job, much to the annoyance of some of my coworkers), so we’re not starving over this.

I think it’s useful to say awkward things out loud. To refuse to buy into shame. So I’m transparent about the fact that not everyone out here is a millionaire, and believe that those of us who aren’t still deserve to talk about our experiences.

That said, here are some little charts.

With numbers on them

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?

Procrasti… something

I just googled “constructive procrastination portmanteau” because I could swear there’s a goofy word for what I’m doing right now. The irony is about to make my head explode.

Anyway, before that I moved Healers off Gumroad and enrolled it on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program (KDP Select on the back end). That means that all my stuff is currently only available on Amazon — ebook, print, and KU if you have a subscription. I could actually offer the print versions elsewhere under those terms, but I never dove into figuring out any other system, so those are only on Amazon too. But by happenstance, not necessity.

More about the decision, running promos, and other sausage-making

A useful tool and a pointless rec

Just tweaked allllllLLLLlllll the keywords with the help of the tool at this site here. (h/t r/selfpublish, I’m pretty sure.) Basically it reorganizes the keywords you’re using: “hey, you could squish these two phrases on the same line, genius, that gives you a whole additional line”

(I have entire. additional. lines. on every single one of my eight listings. I struggle with keywords)

Also raised almost all of the prices. I dunno, universe. I’m trying to value my work more. $3.99 for all the Healers books in the US; $1.99 for the Therapist books. Other currencies vary, though I tend to tweak them to .99s, so some places get a break. (I try to tweak down, not up)


Although I keep hearing that the fall anime season is packed, I went ahead and tried out one of last season’s shows and ended up marathoning almost all of it within a week. It’s about a guy who turns into a vending machine. Yeah.

Here’s why I like this show, though, and it’s a reason I can’t entirely articulate. The word “wholesome” gets bandied about in some ways that I don’t agree with, so it’s not enough to just say #wholesome and go about my day.

I am not sure yet what I mean by “wholesome.” Not cynical. Not leering or exploitative, although I believe that media can be both horny and wholesome (Crash Course in Naughtiness is running that slalom right now). Respecting its characters, even if they are lightly sketched or not very deep: we still don’t know all that much about Lammis from Vending Machine, but the viewers aren’t encouraged to view her with contempt. And mind you, she’s got just as fanservicey a design as any other generic anime girl: short-shorts, big boobs, exposed midriff. But, imagine this, she’s portrayed as a person with short-shorts and an exposed midriff.

Basically, I think it’s a lack of cynicism more than anything. A lack of contempt for the viewers, the characters, and the universe. Oh hell, didn’t I just rant about sincerity recently? It’s related to that. Boxxo the vending machine is ridiculously earnest. All he wants to do is help people, all he can do is spit out goods in exchange for coins, and gosh darn it, that’s what he’s going to do. There’s something to be said at some point about the RPG system that makes it a risk to his life to give stuff away for free, but the show doesn’t seem interested in that.

Although I do have to note that this show is also a junk food version of Restaurant to Another World: all the fantasy-world people get immediately hooked on Coke Zero, potato chips, and instant noodles, and rhapsodize constantly about how awesome they are. I hate moralizing about food, but I constantly waffle between “this is funny” and “this is troubling.” Though if you’ve lived on mutton and gruel your whole life, compressed salt-and-carb wafers are going to taste effing amazing. I get it.

“”””””””” ugh

I settled down to flip idly through the print proof and unwind last night, and discovered that about a dozen quote marks were flipped backwards — especially nested quotes and those after italics.

I’d seen a few complaints about this with regard to Atticus’ formatting, but I hadn’t seen any issues in a cursory check, and I was eager to get moving. So… lesson learned. I do still like everything else about Atticus’ formatting, but this is something to be aware of. It also seems to drop dashes when words are split sometimes? That’s confusing. But I am doing a more thorough check of the print omnibus now.

Nobody seems to have bought it yet (lol), so it’s a victimless crime, but it is embarrassing. Word to the wise.