Can’t be productive, too surly

Here’s what I did today instead of anything useful:

  • Added a statement to the Healers page explaining that it is not categorically cozy fantasy, FFS, please stop complaining that it’s not (and I know that won’t stop anyone, but hey, I tried)
  • Editing out the “Uncategorized” tags on this blog
  • Breaking up the “Checking In” tag into its component parts – usually games nattering, anime nattering, and book nattering – and leaving “Checking In” for year-end posts and other truly uncategorizable whatsits

Why? Because the next thing on my agenda, aside from beta reading an excellent book that I’m about halfway through, is diving into Healers 4 planning. And as much as I love this world/story, I’m daunted. Almost discouraged. Let’s be honest, though, I’m going to make a solid try of it. Because I love it too much. It’s just hard to take that first step right now.

Let’s wish one another good luck and try again tomorrow.

Another one done.

Book 5 of Therapist, called The Sylvan Dragon’s Herald, is uploading/processing now. It’s the first of three spin-offs narrated by side characters from the original series; this one is narrated by Hazel, the wood witch Lavender met in her first chapter, as she helps the forest’s guardian dragon return a lair’s worth of stolen loot. It’s extremely Ghibli/cottagecore/turning-of-the-seasons/let’s-dive-into-middle-aged-feelings, in contrast to, well, everything before it. Plus some moments of levity, an adorable sidekick, and mental health as always.

I really enjoyed this one. I mean, I really enjoyed all of them in this series; that’s kind of a theme here.

Since we’re committing to Kindle Unlimited/Amazon for the time being for this series, this one will likewise be KU/Amazon only for a while. Like the first round of novellas, my goal is to compile these three side stories into an omnibus when they’re all complete.

Links as soon as the processing …process is done.

Edit: here we go: Amazon (ebook): US / UK / CA / AU

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?

Quick update: The thing is what it’s always been

As part of trying to study up on the meta/marketing?/etc. of it all, I finally bit the bullet and changed the name of the Balance Academy to The Healers. That’s what I’ve been calling it for nearly a decade; the series veered off its original intent as an anthology almost immediately; the BA name is misleading; the end.

I apologize if this is confusing at any point, but it has been annoying me for ages, and I wanted to finally make that switch. So I did.

Announcement over.

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.

Knowing when to stop

I don’t think I’m ready to write the fourth Therapist sidestory novella. It’s about 5 chapters in, and I’m already reconsidering a) the path of the second act and b) whether I’ve done enough research to do justice to the psychological topics touched upon in it. I don’t think I have.

This isn’t a case of lacking confidence in myself, I think; I have gotten to a point where I feel fairly good about my skills. Just that the idea needs more background research and more consideration about how it’s going to resolve. All of which takes time.

So I’m going to focus on editing the first three for now. By the time those are finished and released, I’ll know whether it’s time for the fourth story or whether I want to save it for later. There’s another potential story in that universe I might still pursue someday, so there’s room for a wave 3. These three end on a nice note; there are threads we can still pull on, but I don’t think there are any cliffhangers.

About beta reading:
If you’re interested in beta reading, please let me know (email or Reddit PM; details on the About page). I’ll start badgering people outright when the drafts are closer to being ready — probably in late November or December.

The stories are all written to follow from plot seeds in the first four novellas, so I think coming in cold would be an interesting challenge at best. I do welcome the attempt if anyone is interested, however. The three stand alone from one another, so beta readers are definitely free to pick and choose.

All are about the same length as the Therapist volumes, about 40k words each. Working titles:

  • (book 5) The Sylvan Dragon’s Herald, about Morel’s quest to return the dragon hoard and Hazel’s struggles with her anxiety. Narrated by Hazel, witch of the Southern Forest. Vibes: meditative, witchy, hopeful. A smidge more downbeat than the main series in that the leads are struggling with heavy feelings, but it has a positive direction and a happy ending. Contains some extremely mild f/f romance. Also contains more dragons per ounce than anything I’ve ever written in my life.
  • (book 6) Starting Over in Another World with My Level 99 Self-Doubt, about Berry’s retirement from adventuring, establishing a life in a small town, and the goings-on at the Two Claws Inn after their expansion. Narrated by Berry, ex-adventurer and plant mage. Vibes: snarky, determined, found family / workplace dramedy. Some swearing.
  • (book 7) The Unconventional Courtship of the Mageknight and the Dark Lord, about what happens when two former edgelords fall for one another, but also about trying to be a better person; narrated by Sir Solan the Mageknight and Dark Lord Drekar Nightshade. Contains a LOT of swearing and a moderate amount of m/m sexual content (fades to black before it gets explicit, but there is a lot of making out and specific references to off-page activities or thoughts). Vibes: grumpy/sunshine, where the “sunshine” leads a Dread Army that is really just a dorky intentional community with a death metal aesthetic; dark humor; cynicism turning into optimism.

More detailed content notes will come along with the beta reading questionnaire; I’m still putting those together.

I feel good about this decision, which usually seems like a promising sign. Though it does scuttle my pseudo-NaNoWriMo plans. I guess I’m editing instead of writing for NaNo, then. Here we go.

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.