Still going.

Finally faded out the header image so that the title and subhead are halfway readable. Only took… three years?

Still working on Big Dramatic Climax after a week. It’s long. My plan is to write out all the moving parts I can think of, and then come back and prune until it feels zippy enough. Trying out multiple narrators in sections to try to capture that chaotic, “too many things happening at once” feeling. We’ll see how that goes, too.

Otherwise:

Finished the Perfection run of Stardew Valley. The end content was cute, and I didn’t get too bored in all that time, honestly.

Started the Switch port of Final Fantasy IX. That was the last FF I played when it was new, I have not played it since, and I remember hardly anything about it beyond the character designs and some shreds of plot. It landed in a very… idiosyncratic… period of my life, and I’m trying not to think too much about that. Twenty years is a very long time. If I hardly recognize myself now compared to myself then, that’s a good thing.

[edit: omg though, ~2000-2001 is also when the first bits of worldbuilding and character started to come together for what would eventually be *gestures broadly* all of this. I would lie down but I have things to do]

You know what else is a long time, 6 years, so I’m going to get back to working on book 3 before it’s old enough to vote. Yeesh.

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.

Checking in, signed, Wyndspyral

About halfway through Dear Brother. I’m sorry to report that I have more or less Mariko’s personality [obsessive, disproportionate, passive-aggressive] and Kaoru’s fashion sense [middle-aged lesbian mom on a Saturday] <3

(I’d say I’m a Tomoko, because being Not One of the Specials is a core part of my ThingTM, but she’s too well-adjusted)


In a phase of finding it inexplicably hard to work on any fiction at all. I want to believe it’s a phase, that there’s a way through. Maybe it’s a mild depressive episode. Maybe I’ve just let myself break the habit once, then twice, then all of a sudden it’s fallen apart. Maybe it will come back if I dig back in. Maybe I just need to get the wheels moving. Scenes have started to form in my head again, which they hadn’t been for a while there, so that feels like a good sign. Maybe I need to stop spinning myself up about the next step and focus on the step in front of me.

Maybe I need to figure out what I want to get out of writing right now, because that’s something that evolves over time, and I haven’t checked in lately. A while back, I took down the checklist of goals that I put on my wall back in … ???? … the dim mists of time when I first put Book 1 up. (2014 or something? what even is time?) I had to admit to myself that a lot of the remaining items just don’t matter to me anymore. Maybe it’s a good time to figure out what does matter to me, and let that spur me along.


Also realizing that I need to VERY MUCH FIX a lot of supporting character naming in book 3. I had a strategy to grab names on the fly because it was easy for me, but it’s really not a good idea, and I need to redirect to a new strategy.

I hate naming things, it’s exhausting. You know why there’s no name for my story-world? Why the series name no longer makes any sense for the direction of the trilogy? Why I use initials in my pen name? *gestures*

For a nearly-literal second I had a D&D character who gathered random cool-sounding nouns as names. (no, they weren’t nonbinary; missed opportunity there) I kept a running tally on the back of my character sheet; she was up to about 5 names in about as many play sessions. I wish I had that kind of moxie with writing projects. Just name my OC Wyndspyral Flaymechylde and live in perpetual I-don’t-give-a-crap bliss. Beautiful.

“This could have been a tweet, but no” of the day:

Greatly enjoyed ODDTAXI. Once I could look up details/trivia without being spoiled, I learned that the ending credits ARE fitting in theme lyrically (i.e. dark and offputting), just not sonically. So hey. Correction. However, I also love a chirpy sound / offputting lyric combo, so that’s still up my alley.

Next, I was convinced by the Chatty AF podcast to hurry up and start Dear Brother, a bananapants-level drama!!!!! series written in the ’70s and animated in the early ’90s which was, I can already see it one episode in, a big influence on my favorite series Revolutionary Girl Utena. Apparently the English translation rights aren’t expected to be active for long, so I wanted to jump on that particular slice of history. It’s streaming on RetroCrush here.

Needed a couple of days to recharge my batteries and journal a while before jumping back into the fiction fray, but here we go.

[edit, ~24 hours and 3-4 episodes later: KAORU, who has no time for anyone’s nonsense except Rei’s, apparently. Also watch-through-your-fingers baby goth disaster Mariko. Love ’em both. This should be fun.]

Earworm of the day

The first shot of ODDTAXI is a cinderblock-weighted, tarp-wrapped body sinking into deep water.

This is its ending theme.

I love a good dissonant song choice. Five stars.

Every so often I think: I ought to post pointless thoughts like this on Twitter or something, that’s what it’s for. But then I remind myself that a life goal of mine is to spend as close to 0% of my remaining time on earth as possible arguing with assholes, and that’s what Twitter is also for — so uh, here we are.

(That said, I did not realize the DMs on my reading account were turned off. They’re on now. So like, if anyone has any… questions, I guess? @sadsackgetdown. I am not interested in buying any get rich quick schemes, thank you)

Bookwise, I’m in the middle of rewriting act 3 after pulling what used to be the main plot point in it. It didn’t feel right. We’ll see what remains in act 3, i.e. tying up the threads in acts 1 and 2, and go from there.

I’m starting to feel like some of the stuff in book 3 belongs in another book. I think I’ll be done with A&K after this one, but something like “further tales from Wildern.” I want to get into the establishment of germ theory in a world with magic in it, and the strife in a city with a sudden influx of residents and trade, and Nessiny’s overthrowing the monarchy, and eventually the story-world’s version of the Industrial Revolution. [Also: Realizing jokingly that Agna’s story is the Girlboss trilogy; the one I’ve started working on, with two unreliable narrators, is the Gaslight book; so I’m going to need a Gatekeep book. /j]

It is an absolute miracle how other people can plot things and have them make sense, one thing happening after another, with perfect sense and gripping action, everything unfolding with polished precision to keep people turning pages deep into the night. I am truly in awe. I’ve read books on this, I’ve tried outlining over and over, and it still isn’t happening.

Guess this is why I’m a weirdo semi-monetized amateur instead of a pro. Just appreciating pros for a second. Wow.

Back to it.

Just noting

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.

In which I rant a lot about Fruits Basket

(Unstuck in book 3. Except this is procrastinating. Haha.)

Trapped in the house by an ice storm, I called off the day job and spent much of today a) finishing a crocheting project (my poor, exhausted hands!) and b) binging to the end of Fruits Basket 2019, which I can’t help but think of as Fruits Basket: Brotherhood because I’m a dork.

The original Furuba was one of my favorite anime series in the early ’00s. Even then I had an inkling of its weak points, which time has not been kind to — but I have to say, I really enjoyed the remake. This series has always been a bait and switch: the initial concept is goofy and it looks lighthearted, but 80% of the original story is a steamroller of trauma, and the main focus of the show is generational trauma and abusive family dynamics. Nearly every character has a Dark Backstory and a boatload of trauma, and most of the arcs are about each of them finding their way through it, both separately and with one another’s support.

The first animated version dropped off after the trauma just got started, so the balance was off, but this one rolls on right to the end. That last season is a lot of yelling and crying, and all the emotional payoff from all the trauma before it. They get allllll the way through Akito’s often infuriating story. Momiji gets his chance to grow up and be awesome. Rin exists, at all. My dark horse fave Machi exists, at all. (uh, no pun intended w/r/t Rin) The animation is beautiful, even/especially in a series that’s mostly just talking and flashbacks and characters running after one another and passing out in the rain.

However. Yes, the initial goofy-ass concept, covering up all that trauma, still pivots on an annoying hook; and the remake, like the manga, still sets up a handful of characters who might do something interesting with that annoying hook and then pulls all its punches by the end. To put it bluntly, it queerbaits like a show that was originally made in the early ’00s, and only a little less than the original did. Not so much in the shipping sense, but in that some of the characters seem to sidestep the very, very hetero opening concept, but the story never does anything interesting with that. It wasn’t too surprising that the original didn’t, but the remake doesn’t either, in the interest of adhering to the original. And that squandered setup is much more obvious now than it was 20 years ago.

If I may rant about a particularly irksome bit: They ALMOST left Ritsu on a good note. ALMOST. It feels like a lot happened between Ritsu’s second-to-last and last appearances, and there just wasn’t time to cover it, so the character’s motivation is a complete freaking mystery. Dramatic Haircut, giving away personally meaningful belongings, what happened. If the story is suggesting that this had to happen to create a happy ending, fuck that right into space. It would be better to just skip it, or have Ritsu and Kagura hanging out doing absolutely anything else on earth. Including nothing.

[I don’t think I’ve ever read Furuba fanfic, but now I have half a mind to find a nice genfic where Ritsu gets to keep the long hair and pretty clothes and date Mitsuru and the two of them can be chaotic neurotic messes together. <3 I’m going to believe that happened.]

On the plus side, the remake cut out THE most pointless romantic match-up in the endgame. Just one, out of the approx. 8 in the Defensively Heterosexual Hoedown that caps off the series. There’s a couple of lines and a couple of jokes referencing it, but it doesn’t actually happen. They left in the second most egregious and pointless one, though. (Mind you, I can buy the concept of a bisexual/pansexual Ayame, absolutely. But there’s no setup for that ship. Hill, die, etc.)

And yeah, I knew it was coming; this series hits all the right buttons with trauma and squanders every last shred of queer subtext it sets up. Always did. Still does. And I still loved it. I laughed, I cried, I laughcried. It does some things well and some things not-well. Like most stories do.

Now that that’s done, next on my Series to Watch Solo list is either ODDTAXI or Fairy Ranmaru. Which have absolutely nothing in common except that they’re fairly recent, available on my streaming services, and not up my spouse’s alley. (Joint viewing in the anime sphere right now is Aggretsuko. Fenneko remains my favorite, and I really like the slightly loosely translated dub. The end.)

One… non-ideal solution.

Alternating edits/rewrites on book 3 with some loosely planned writing on book ?4? (actually takes place before book 1, so we’re going to have to come up with some better numbering).

Couple of thoughts. It starts with cringe comedy.

I don’t like all cringe comedy, but I like a bit of it. I’ve gotten some disdain from friends about it, because how could anyone possibly witness those horrible people doing and saying the Wrong Things? Doesn’t it hurt to see someone so imperfect?

Thing is… I’m a full garbage human who has never said a Right Thing in my life, and almost-impossibly-flawed characters are some of the types that I find most relatable. I think one of the reasons I’ve found book 3 so hard to write is that the narrators have worked on themselves to the point where they are not horrible people anymore. They have flaws and shortsighted spots, but their bond continues, they are not actively self-sabotaging, and they’ve Learned some Stuff.

At the start of the new story, one of the narrators is an inept people-pleaser who is neck deep in well-deserved self-loathing; the other is a likeable extrovert who is a) silently cataloguing everything wrong with everyone around her, in order to use it against them if they ever cross her; and b) perpetuating a very long lie about what she did at the Academy. This is finger-steepling cartoon villain level fun to write. They are awful at this point, and as with book 1, I know where I want them to go; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get them there and make it feel deserved. It’s a breath of fresh air.

That said, I’m realizing that there is even less magic in this story than the Healers trilogy. It follows two more Academy graduates, but they’re a priest (skills: talking) and a swordmaster (skills: hitting things with swords). I really, truly do not know what genre we’re doing anymore. I should care about that? It’s hard to care. As long as I’m writing something, that feels better than writing nothing. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to shoehorn some magic into the plot. I don’t know, man. They’re words. Read them if you want to.

In conclusion: January is nearly over, February is short, and then our hemisphere will be nearly done with winter. Can’t wait.