OK, all of the Winter 2023 anime series I was watching have wrapped up, so here are some thoughts.Cut for nerdery, moreso than spoilers
- As soon as the cover titles are done, Therapist book 2 will be ready to release. (No pressure, ha) The first draft of Book 4 is progressing fine. I don’t want to put a particular timeline out there because not everything is under my control, but I’m optimistic.
- Finished the Blue Lions / Azure Moon playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I think this game has eaten my brain mostly because of its focus on character interaction. Also, I’ve always liked tactical JRPGs. Two great tastes, etc.
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:
- Time off for the holidays
- I got sucked into the story far more than I expected
- 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)
One week till a medical appointment that will take me out of this health-related limbo; two weeks till the end of the year. Oh yeah, and a holiday in there, which I keep trying to care about as much as other people do. I feel bad about that, I really do. Theoretically, I like a winter celebration. I love fireplaces/bonfires, baking, coziness, etc.; I think I just hate the stress related to gift-giving and gift-getting. Oh well. I do my best to keep my incorrect feelings to myself.
Anyway, the trend towards infographic-ing everything you do throughout the year is… sure something. It makes sense, in that apps want people to post about them on our increasingly bizarre social media landscape.It’s been a weird one.
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
If Gumroad starts pushing NFTs, I’m moving to another system. Just FYI. <3 (and yes, Amazon is also evil, I’m aware. But evil + hilariously transparent scam + melting the planet for no reason = I choose not to support that, thx.)
In the meantime, feel free to buy wherever works out best for you. This is a no-guilting-the-readers-as-long-as-they-aren’t-pirating space.
And if you can’t: if this were a professional writing outfit, I’d say get it from the library — libraries are great, and our household uses Overdrive and Hoopla constantly. However, this is not a professional writing outfit, so my stuff is not in libraries.
So: If you somehow heard of the books, want to read them, and don’t have money, just ask me (contacts are on the About) and I’ll send you an ebook. No need to justify it, just ask. No strings. Life is short, and it would be cool if someone wanted to read one of my piles of words. It’s also cool if people want to pay me for them, because I try to use money for things other than melting the planet.
Anyway, uh, watching out for that. Back to working on books 3 and ?0.5? simultaneously because what is focus, really.
The bio has been up on the site in its current form for a while now, and it’s very unlikely anyone has seen it – but it bothers me enough to write a little piece that I can link to the bio for context. It would be nice if I could do the same to the “about” section of the ebooks… but we’ll start here.
The new bio uses they/them pronouns. However, those aren’t my actual pronouns. I feel bad about lying. No one uses they/them for me. No one sees me on the street and is mystified / unsettled / radicalized by the iconoclasm of my gender. No one is struck wordless by the inability to encapsulate my identity. They see what they see, they label it immediately, we’re done. I am not a sexy mystery, a sylphlike enigma. I’m not even an elfin type. I’m more of an orc. At best.
In other words, a gamine, fashion-forward 19-year-old with great hair who goes to film school and spends their days at protests… that’s not me. I support that person from far away. Rock on. You’re doing great. But that’s not me.
I spent five or so years picking everything about my gender apart, and ultimately had to conclude that I don’t tick all the boxes. I had to walk back all the stuff I pestered my past friends about on social media. An embarrassing mistake. A cautionary tale. I am nothing if not cringe.
It’s funny: I can put up with people using my real pronouns and name in the day to day. It stings, sure. Wears me down, drip drip drip. But it doesn’t grind me into an agonized paste. Still, though, it’s hard to bring myself to do that damage, however small it might be.
That’s my failing as an ally, I think. An area where I want to do better. I don’t want to steal queer valor or mislead people.
I think there aren’t many edge cases out there, or it’s hard to talk about us with bigger issues on the table and enemies at the gate. And it’s important to stay in our lanes and not talk over actual trans people and/or nonbinary people (some of whom define themselves as trans, and some of whom don’t – it’s an overlapping Venn diagram).
I just have minor things in common with the trans community: I don’t enjoy my assigned gender and wish it had been different. It takes a lot of energy to stand being myself, and I have to imagine a different self sometimes to be calm and happy (I realize this is not who I really am, it’s more like a visualization exercise). I was very disappointed with the specifics of how I had to grow up, starting in childhood and intensifying in adolescence.
Unlike trans people, however, I am not part of that community; I am not destroyed by living as my assigned gender; I did not have that inner voice that told me who I truly was from childhood on; I’m not fabulous and talented and unfairly maligned; I don’t have a close-knit circle of trans and queer friends; I don’t have great hair; I can’t dress myself worth a damn; I’m not an artist or an activist, I have a dead-end desk job; I’m dumpy and middle-aged and embarrassing.
I’ll strive to take this tiny grain of common experience and use it to try to be more empathetic, to stay in my lane and fight fellow cis people who use their one life on earth to be assholes. I’m not good at fighting. My innate unlikeability means that my presence in any fight makes my side look bad, so I try to pick my battles very carefully. But it’s all I can do.
(Someday I will write a story about a narrator who’s innately unlikeable in this way, but still tries to be a good person. It’ll be a ride.)
The bio stays for now. I’m doing my best and hope to do better in the future. Fuck TERFs and all other transphobes.
When in doubt, ask. It’s okay to respectfully ask.
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!
OK, Books 1 and 2 are now available in print at Amazon; see links on the Books page, via the sidebar/menu.
I really ought to order preview copies and make sure something isn’t drastically wrong with the formatting, but uh, let’s… live on the edge, shall we?
Meanwhile, I have contacted Kobo about my issues with getting the covers to display. Book 1 is still not working, but Book 2 is fine! Well… that’s a start? I do look forward to having them available in more places; I just seem to be technically challenged. Which is kind of embarrassing.
This has been, The Thrilling Adventures of the Exciting Lives of People Who Don’t Actually Know How to Make Books Beyond Putting Words in Order, Volume 1: It’s Really Quite Complicated, And I See Why Most People Hire an Army of Contractors to Do It For Them.
Update on availability: Book 2 (The Healers’ Home) is now off Amazon Kindle Unlimited. Book 1 will cycle out of that system on June 24, and at that point, I’d like to release both on some other platforms.
So the goal is the week of June 24, if all goes well. Maybe I can also get it together(tm) and rerelease it in print? Maybe? Who knows.
Book 3 feels like one of those dreams where you try to do a task and it keeps turning into something else. You try to dial a phone, but every time you look, the phone is now a cabbage. It’s progressing, sure, but the plot keeps veering west even though I’ve carefully explained to myself that veering east is less trite and more interesting. Sigh.
I may just let it be that “something else” and let the chips fall where they may. That’s difficult, sometimes. It’s a learning experience.