Demon's Lure: Call for First Readers!

I am on my final read-through of Demon's Lure before I send it to first readers, and hope to finish in the next few days. This is my call for volunteer first readers! Here's the blurb:

In the fight against the demons of the skylands, Sunrise has one of the rarest powers: that of a lure. Where demons normally feed by tormenting their victims, Sunrise draws them with her happiness.

She doesn't want to hunt demons, but when a hunter team arrives at her village to ask for her help, she agrees. It should be easy: they just need her as bait for a pain demon that is too fast for them to capture otherwise. And a typical pain demon is no match for an experienced team of demon hunters.

But this is no typical demon. And it has its own plans. It has no intention of being trapped, and is not worried about the hunter team. No, its main concern is: what does a demon who's spent millennia torturing and tormenting humans know about making one happy?

Demon's Lure is the first book in a new setting. There will be at least one sequel. The lead character is bisexual and she lives in a queer- and polyamorous-friendly society, but neither this book nor the sequel is a romance! There are no central conflicts or sub-plots that are resolved by the power of romantic love.

You needn't have read any of my other books in order to volunteer for this one. First-time volunteers are appreciated! General feedback I am looking for from first readers:
  • General commentary on what works/doesn't work in the story
  • Spelling/grammar/editing artifact errors
  • Continuity errors
  • Overused words
  • Confusing text (eg, if you find yourself confused about what's going on, or what this word the characters keep using means in the context of the story, or things of that nature)
I figure on sending the book to first readers somewhere around Feb 20 (Tuesday). I'd like readers to be done reading & providing feedback within a month, so by 3/20 or so.

Please comment with your email address (or direct-message me on Twitter or Dreamwidth) if you'd like to volunteer. All comments are screened so your email address will not be made public. Reading will be done through Google Docs, so email accounts with a Google account associated are preferred.

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Me 2012

Wait What?

I mentioned in Saturday's entry that the next attempt to collect stem cells from Lut would be "three times as bad as the previous attempts."

The schedule for it started today, with seven hours of chemotherapy at the clinic. Then he'd be sent home with another IV hooked up to him, and I'd bring him back Thursday to have that unhooked. Then he'd get shots starting on Sunday morning and every day for the next nine days.

The consent-to-treatment meeting with the doctor was also this morning. I dropped Lut off at the clinic and went to work, with the plan to pick him up after the chemo was done.

Five minutes after work, I got a call from Lut. "You need to be part of the consent meeting," he said.

Then the doctor came on the line: "What are you doing at work? He's going to need 24/7 care after having the chemo, today for three to four weeks."
Me: "What?"
Doctor: "This is the same kind of chemotherapy that we use before the transplant. It's a weaker form; if the transplant uses a 10, this is a 6 or 7. But he'll still need 24/7 care! You can't be leaving him alone to go to work!"
Me: "... literally no one mentioned anything about this to me."
Doctor: *lectures me some more about how I can't leave Lut alone and what am I thinking and if I'm going to got TO WORK they can't do this treatment*
Me: "I need to talk my boss. I will call you back."
Doctor: "All right, well, we'll cancel the treatment for today -- "
Doctor: "All right."

Not only had no one told me that Lut was going to need 24/7 care, but the nurse-coordinator had specifically consulted me about what times would be most convenient for me WITH MY WORK SCHEDULE. So I am pretty sure the doctor was the only one who knew what was involved and had not successfully communicated it to anyone else. x_x

So I called my boss and didn't reach her, emailed her, called again, got her, and poured out my tale of woe. "So I need to take 3-4 weeks off STARTING THIS AFTERNOON, and then another two weeks sometime afterwards if all goes WELL."
Boss: "Omigosh TODAY?"
Boss: "Well, okay, you better do that then. Let me know what you've got going on and we'll get it covered."

So my boss is basically a saint. ♥

I called the clinic back and they started the treatment. Which I didn't need to be there for, so I'm not sure why the doctor was so put out that I wasn't, but whatever. If he gets Lut's cancer into remission I can forgive the lousy communication.

Our manager called shortly after I got off the phone with my boss, to give me moral support and let me know that she was also 100% supportive about me needing the time off.

Then I spent the next six hours at work frantically trying to wrap up the things that were important, and that I was in the middle of, and where I have some advantage over the rest of my team in experience/know-how.

I actually did pretty well at this! I was pleased. I wrapped up the last report just when the nurse called to say that Lut would be ready for pick-up soon. I dashed off some emails and turned my out-of-office on and then went to collect Lut and a pile of new medications and instructions.

As of this afternoon, I am on leave from work, which is a weird feeling. I still have to get up early every day and take Lut to the clinic, but those appointments are short. I can't go to the coffee shop to write, though, because the reason I am off work is so I can be here for Lut. I may try to make Pretend Coffee Shop in my living room, where I go there to write on my laptop and have a Coke float. Otherwise, I'm afraid it'll be video games at my desktop whenever I'm not actively checking on Lut. I am not required to hover over him, vulture-like. It is assumed that the caregiver will sleep at the same time the patient does, for example. So I expect to be keeping an eye on him, but also that I'll have a lot of time when I can do whatever I want except for leave the house. Lut is under orders not to leave the house except to go to the clinic, too. His immune system is compromised by the chemo. He can't even have food from a restaurant! Very sad. :(

Lut is doing okay-ish so far. This chemo is much more like what you think about when you hear "chemo", so he has nausea and weird pains and he will lose his hair in the next week or so. It's not too bad yet, but the worst hits in the next day or two.

The odds of a successful transplant at this stage are not super-great. If they can't collect stem cells from him even with this, then he will go back to his previous oncologist and we'll manage it with less dramatic kinds of chemo and hope for the best. It's not an instant death sentence by any means, but the chemo-alone route is unlikely to get Lut into remission. Prayers and good thoughts are much appreciated.

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Me 2012

Cancer Adventures

One of the things about cancer treatment is that you make plans, and then things happen and then you probably throw out that plan and try something different. And all of this is both expensive and unavoidable. Not necessarily expensive to the patient personally, because healthcare costs are beyond bizarre and well into surreal in this country. But expensive for someone.

Back in December, the plan was that the doctors would collect stem cells from him in the middle of the month, and then he'd get a megadose of chemotherapy at the end of the month.

Then he got pneumonia after the first two days of shots before collection, so the whole thing was aborted for two weeks. At the start of January, a pulmonary specialist saw him and said his lungs still showed possible signs of infection. You cannot give someone who has even a trace of infection a megadose of chemotherapy to kill everything in their bone marrow. Because that annihilates their immune system. Any infection would take over immediately.

So they couldn't start doing the transplant any time soon. However, they still wanted to do the collection now, because the more chemo you get the weaker your stem cells are, so this is a sooner-the-better situation on collecting stem cells.

Next plan was to collect stem cells in early January, put Lut back on normal chemo until the infection was provably completely gone, and then do the transplant in early February or so.

So in early January, while Lut had the out-patient surgery to place the trifusion line, I called the speciality pharmacy about getting him back on Revlimid.

I guess I never really wrote about Revlimid. Revlimid is a crazy-expensive chemotherapy drug specifically for treating multiple myeloma. The retail cost is around, I dunno, $800 per a pill. You take one pill a day, two weeks on and one week off. My insurance has a $12,800 out-of-pocket cap. (There are like three different levels of caps: $3200 deductible, $6700 treatment, $12,800 out-of-pocket. Lut has cancer. He hit them all last year. He will hit them all this year too). With most kinds of medical costs, you get the treatment whether you can pay for it or not. But pharmacies aren't going to send you $11,0000 in drugs without payment up front, from you or your insurance provider or someone. Fortunately, there's a grant program, Celgene, that will cover the out-of-pocket for Revlimid if your annual income is less than $100k.

But all this makes ordering Revlimid complicated and weird. I started the call before Lut went into surgery and I was still on it when he came out. Eventually, I finished, and arranged to have the Revlimid delivered to a convenient local branch of the pharmacy instead of to my house like usual (they do not stock $800-a-pill esoteric drugs at local pharmacies in general), because we were going to be out of the house.

The next day, Wednesday, we went to the apheresis center and they checked to see if Lut had produced enough stems cells to collect. He hadn't. He got more shots that night, including a different drug, and then we went back Thursday. Still no luck.

Nurse-coordinator: "Okay, we're going to abort this try. Do not start the Revlimid!"
Me: "Uh, should I pick up the Revlimid? Because it was supposed to arrive at the pharmacy this morning."
NC: "No, don't."

When I got home, Lut told me the pharmacy had called and said we could not pick it up. "They said it has to be sent to the house, it can't be sent to the pharmacy."

Me: "Well ... that's very weird. Maybe they got the memo that it was cancelled? We didn't want it anyway so ... good?"

Fast-forward two weeks, to Friday morning. Lut has tried and failed stem cell collection a third time. We get to try a fourth time next week, using a regimen three times as bad as the previous attempts. He is still not back on regular chemo to manage his cancer because they're still trying to collect.

I get a call from the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center, the place that prescribed the Revlimid. "CVS Pharmacy called and said your Revlimid is still ready for pickup."

Me: "... they told Lut we couldn't have it?"

SCCC: "... I got nothin'. They say now that it's been there for two weeks and they're going to send it back and destroy it if you don't pick it up. You might as well pick it up, Celgene and your insurer already paid for it regardless."

Me: "Well. Okay then."

And this is why I have $11,000 in cancer drugs that Lut isn't currently taking on my kitchen counter. We kind of expect he will be back on Revlimid at some point, although at this stage probably not in the next several months. Still, it keeps for a year and doesn't have any unusual storage requirements. So hopefully it'll be fine when he needs it. And it will save me from dealing with Revlimid bureaucracy for three weeks when the doctors put him back on it. I would rather the pharmacy had been able to just ship it to some other customer who needed it, but apparently once it's shipped anywhere it can only be given to the original patient it was prescribed for. Medicine has weird regulations, y'all. I don't even know who made that rule.

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Me 2012

January Month in Review

I did manage to eat more vegetables this month! Not really exercising much. The clinic has tried two more times to collect stem cells from Lut, since the pneumonia in December cut the first attempt short.  The last two times, he's gone through all of the shots, plus the bonus shots, but not produced enough to collect. So we start a different and even more awful regimen next Wednesday.
Anyway, because of this I've been getting up early and getting home late and not exercising on those days. On days when I go to work at a normal time and get home at a normal time, I usually still exercise a little, but not as much as I used to.
8,000 words on Demon's Sigil, finishing the first draft
8,500 words in world-building, outline, and story notes for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince: my newest work-in-progress
8,000 words beginning the actual PDP book.
The Business of Writing
I did a very little bit of editing on Demon's Lure on the 31st.

Applied for (and was refused) a Bookbub, whee! Bookbub is an exclusive discount advertising outlet. It is the only effective form of book advertising, so far as I know. They reject a lot. Anyway, I need to get in the habit of applying for Bookbubs even though I don't have the best kind of back catalog to take advantage of them. And I need more reviews for my books. If you've read one of my books and haven't reviewed it, these sad puppy eyes are me asking you to do so: /o_o\

Most importantly: released Golden Coils. \o/
I actually did multiple drawings this month, surprisingly.
* Black & white cartoon
* Color cartoon
* three color portraits of women for practice
* color illustration for one of the characters from PDP
* sketch of one of the PDP characters
* Female skydancer adopt and seven or eight genes for it (in Flight Rising, players sometimes make their own lineart based on one of the breeds, and then recreate the genes and apparel to match it, and sell versions tailored to other people's dragons as a cheaper form of commissioning art for your dragon. I haven't tried to market mine and I don't know that anyone would buy it if I did. But Maggie started doing it for female tundras, and then got a few other friends drawing dragons for adopts, so I hopped on the bandwagon.)
This has not been a great month, but given Lut's health issues, not surprising. I feel pretty productive, though. I am happy with the amount of stuff I accomplished.
Goals for coming month
* Complete 24 items on the editing list for Demon's Lure
I picked "24" because that is how many items are currently on the list.  Me being me, I will be VERY SURPRISED if that list doesn't attract any new items as I start editing. Very few of those items are simple.  I need to go through and rank them from easiest to hardest so I can do the easiest one first.  Actually, I can tell right now which is easiest and I am going to do it.
There, done. One down!
I have become a big believer in "do the easiest items first", because (a) watching the list get shorter gives me confidence and (b) the hard ones seem less daunting when the list is shorter. But I did also get started on one of the hard items today too, so I'm not a total wuss.
Ideally, I want to finish editing Demon's Lure this month and get to first readers, but this seems awfully optimistic, hence the "complete 24 items on the list."  In the unlikely event that the list doesn't grow, it'll be done and hey, bonus.
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Me 2012

New Book Launch: Golden Coils!

Golden Coils

They saved his soul ... now it's time to save her world!
When Bia is forced to flee the Mark Isles, Sir Kildare brings her to his native Dumagh to seek asylum. Bia knows Kildare feels indebted to her for her part in his salvation. But she loves him too much to want him bound to her by gratitude.
Since they banished Fiona Gascoigne's demon, they assume she no longer poses a threat. But there is a reason Gascoigne has never feared damnation, and her ambition and capacity for evil extends far beyond anything Bia or her son could imagine...

Author Commentary

Golden Coils is the sequel to Silver Scales, which I published in November. I imagine that does not make it "long-awaited" for most people, but I started to write this book in 2006. I have been waiting for this for a long time! I am delighted by the final results, and I look forward to hearing the reactions of readers.

Golden Coils
is the second book of the duology and concludes those arcs that were not resolved by Silver Scales. So if you prefer to binge-read series, now is the time to get them both! I may someday revisit this world, but the story now does not demand a sequel the way Scales did.

Silver Scales for $2.99!

Now is also a good time to get both because Silver Scales is on sale through February 2!

Other Stuff

M.C.A. Hogarth publishedBusiness for the Right-Brained so recently even she hasn't sent out her newsletter announcing it yet! This collects and adds new material to a series of essays she published on her blog some years ago. This is my very favorite business book: a book so delightful I read it with enthusiasm long before I made any efforts to make money at a creative endeavor. It is chock-full of good advice offered with kindness, consideration, and adorable jaguar illustrations.

This book, y'all. It is wonderful. I drew a mini-comic in tribute to these essays a couple of years ago:

That is how much I love it. If you are interested in creative endeavors or in business, this book is not only well worth reading. It is also just plain fun to read. *hugs her copy forever*
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What Next?

I finished the draft of Demon's Sigil on Wednesday and sent Alinsa the backmatter for Golden Coils yesterday and my final proofreading notes last weekend. So Coils is awaiting final layout and I have drafts for two more books complete, Demon's Lure and Demon's Sigil. Both of the Demon books need significant amounts of editing.
The obvious thing for me to Do Next is edit the Demon books, but I am not ready to dive into editing and even if I was, I'd still want to be writing new material at the same time.
I am not sure how long the Demon books will take to edit. Scales and Coils combined took a year, total, including time for first reader comments and accompanying revisions. The Sun Etherium took two months. My guesstimate is three to four months per book for the Demon books. They are about half the length of Scales and Coils so I expect them to be quicker to edit, but the draft is rougher than TSE.
In any case: I get to pick a new project to write! For the first time in about ten months! SO EXCITE.
I have a bunch off ideas but I haven't settled on one yet.
Old Boring Ideas
Fellwater: my ridiculous BDSM fantasy novel. It's about 80% done but I have so very little interest in the last 20%. Even though I'm fond enough of about half of it that I reread it for fun sometimes.
Poll RPG: I love some of these characters still and I know generally how the plot goes. But I don't want to commit to a serial, and the long hiatus means the people who were reading it have probably forgotten it by now. And the audience for it is smaller than for a book. It is so weird to me that I am less good at giving away my stories than Amazon is at selling them.
New Exciting Ideas
The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince: a polyamorous fantasy romance, set on one of the mortal worlds that the fey shard from the Etherium setting passes through. It would have cameos from some of the Etherium book characters, but mostly be set in the mortal world. The dragon is a shapeshifter and the prince is trans, either a man or a masculine-leaning enby.
Amaryllis and the Demigoddesses: polyamorous fantasy romance about a trans woman from Newlant (the setting for A Rational Arrangement) and two Blessed women from Southern Vandu (where Blessed are considered to have two parts, one
human and the other divine.)
Demon's Solution: third Demon book, which I am mostly interested because I could finally get to the polyamorous romance between the three human protagonists. It'd have a main plot about demon-hunting, though.
Wisteria's Daughter: an f/f romance between Astraia Striker and Sharone Whittaker, with an epic fantasy subplot or possibly main plot.
Pyrite Chains: third book in the Warlock, the Hare, and the Dragon series. This would be about Lilith and Hell and escape therefrom, and probably involve Madden prominently.
A Fey in Exile: One of the fey folk from the Etherium setting accidentally gets stuck in a mortal world when the fey shard moves on, and hijinks ensue as he ways for it to come back. I have no plot, I just did a few cartoons of him and he amuses me. Also, he's a sympathetic figure, in contrast to the fey in the idea below.
To Kill a God: A couple of fey trapped in a mortal world use their power to conquer a human nation and terrorize the population. Mortals struggle to find a weapon that can stop immortal, invulnerable people who can walk through walls to escape traps.
The Twilight Etherium: about the creation of a new Etherium, with bonus polyamorous subplot involving Miro/Ardent/Whisper.
Bowracer: Callie (Anthser's love interest from ARA) finds a bowracing partner of her own. I wrote an outline for this novella when I was writing FA, and then decided I needed to write "A Regular Hero" first. I'm thinking of writing this and giving it away as a freebie for people who sign up for my mailing list.
Real: An itinerant writer on modern Earth. A former space marine with PTSD trying to recover on a peaceful world while the war rages on. A princess in dangered of a political coup. They have nothing in common, other than that they are all the same person. Kind of a psychological action-fantasy story.
The Future Unbounded: a small-town seer has a vision of the end of the universe, and struggles with how to best use her gifts in response. If she can save one world, or risk that world for the remote chance of saving them all -- which should she chose? Epic fantasy.
Of all of these, the princess/dragon/prince one interests me the most. Only one of these -- "Bowracer" --has a complete outline, but the princess one has a significant chunk of development.
Also, I really want to do a female-centric romance, and also another poly romance. It's been so long since I wrote a poly romance. SO LONG.

Anyway, poll because polls are fun:

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Me 2012

January and 2018 Goals

I am going to keep these relatively unambitious, because the big one is, you know, big.
2018 Goals
  • Support Lut through the cancer treatment process
  • Continue general adulting as necessary.
  • Publish Golden Coils
  • Edit and publish the two Demon books. 
  • Post monthly updates on whatever I did.

Stretch goals
: finish some other book and/or stories.
Ideally, I'd like to write and publish a fourth book and have two more books drafted. In a hypothetical year without cancer, this would not be unreasonable. Even with cancer last year, I edited three books, published two, and drafted 1 plus most of another.
But. Cancer.
I will certainly work on some new stories this year. I can't picture a year where I only write new fiction for one month, which is about how long I expect finishing Demon's Sigil to take. But having the focus to finish something while editing ... Let's not count on that.
Three new books will suffice, even if they're books mostly or entirely finished last year.

January Goals
Eat at least a pound of veggies per week. I want to eat more vegetables, but I don't want to set a goal that would be, like, an actual healthy amount to eat per day. Because then I would give up. I don't really like veggies or preparing them. I am trying my father's method, which is to buy frozen steam-in-bag veggies that come in some kind of sauce so they're (a) easy to prepare and (b) not actively unpleasant to eat and (c) will not spoil before I get to them. I've only found one that meets all three criteria so far: broccoli in cheese sauce.  I need to find some more if I'm going to work up to eating some veggies every day, because the broccoli with cheese gets unpleasant to eat after a couple of days in a row. So. Any suggestions? o_o
Finish Demon's Sigil: This is going to be easy because I'm on the last scene now. \o/
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2017 Year in Review

I normally do separate December wrap-up and year-in-review posts, but I'm combining them because I only have a couple of things to comment on for December specifically.

I''m 181 lbs now, which I mention for bookkeeping purposes.

I've been trying to get back into the habit of exercising again, with not much success. I wonder if I can get a reclining exercise bike that would work with a laptop yet? The one I got 10 or 12 years ago is almost but not quite workable with one. Lately a lot of my exercise has been dancing in my living room, with the laptop on a counter top, which is probably not as good exercise as the treadmill desks some people use, but it's better than nothing.

My favorite exercise guru answer to the "What is the best kind of exercise?" question is "The kind you will do."

Fellwater: 38,041. (Fellwater is at 91,141 total now)
PollRPG: 29,023
Demon's Lure: 80,966
Demon's Sigil: 73,284

That's 221,000 words of fiction total. That's a lot less than last year, when I wrote 347,300. But 2016 Me only edited one book and 2017 Me edited three. The only other year where I've broken 200,000 words was 2013. So, all together, I'm pleased with how much fiction I wrote.

Of those projects, only Demon's Lure is a complete book. I hope to finish Demon's Sigil in January. I estimate I have around 20,000 words left. Most of the hard stuff is done and it's mostly denouement from here. Then it's All The Edits because the Demon books were ones where I kind of skipped some of the world building and character development that I really should've done beforehand and now I need to backfill it. *sigh*

Anyway, I finished drafting a book! So that was good.

I don't know if I will finish Fellwater or Poll RPG, for different reasons. I'm not quite declaring them dead, but they're both dormant. Haven't decided what I'll write after I finish Demon's Sigil. I have several candidates. All of which are sequels of a sort, for a change. None of them involve existing characters, but they do involve existing settings, at least.

The Business of Writing
I finished edits on three books:
Silver Scales
Golden Coils
The Sun Etherium

I published two of those, Silver Scales and The Sun Etherium. Golden Coils will come out later this month.

Uhhhh. I did a cover for The Sun Etherium? And a few incidental illustrations for books. I pretty much gave up on trying to draw in 2017, to be honest. Getting a Surface to draw on did not help in any meaningful way, alas.

This is the year my partner of twenty years was diagnosed with cancer and spent eight weeks in a hospital, mostly in a state of confusion so strong he couldn't remember anything but his name and mine.

So all things considered, my mood was pretty good. But 2017 was still a crappy year.

Goals Recap

Let's look at last year's goals! I set some.

Serialize Silver Scales (aka The Warlock, the Hare and the Dragon).
-- Nope, didn't do this one. But this was a "decided against" rather than a failure. When I polled about this, only three people responded that they preferred serials over reading it as a book. Serializing a book, even one I've already written, is a significant time investment and didn't seem worth it for three people. (My apologies to all three of you!) A Rational Arrangement had picked up a number of readers as a serial, but The Moon Etherium didn't, so I figured the serial was unlikely to grow my audience.

Publish Silver Scales
Done! In November, so later than anticipated. Mostly because cancer. -_-

Publish the sequel, Golden Coils, probably sometime in September-December
Not quite! It'll be out this month.

Hire a professional-quality artist to do cover illustrations for the above.

Stretch goals:
Publish The Sun Etherium, probably in December.
Done! On time, even.
For those curious: I bumped TSE ahead of Coils because when The Moon Etherium was in the Story Bundle back in September, Alinsa and I added "Coming Soon" blurbs for Scales (in October) and The Sun Etherium (in December) to the back. Scales ran a little late because it was long and had some layout issues. Since I hadn't set a release date for Coils and I had set one for TSE, I wanted TSE to make its release date.

Also a bunch of people kept saying "why are you releasing the sequel so soon after the first book? No one will have finished it yet! Traditional publishing never does that!" Well, traditional publishing never does that for a bunch of reasons that are irrelevant to me. But I figured the extra month would make those people happier. O:)

Finish drafting a new book or three.
I finished drafting Demon's Lure! I am almost done with its sequel, Demon's Sigil. I expect to finish that this month. They will need a fair bit of editing.

Also, keep doing the monthly updates. Those are handy and not too arduous.

I had some December-specific goals too:

Illustrate The Sun Etherium cover:

Look for an artist for Demon's Lure.
I figured out what I wanted the cover to look like partway through the month, and realized I definitely could not do it by doing a bad mockup for it. Then I emailed an artist at 10:30PM on Sunday night just so I could write that I hadn't failed this one. The artist got back to me the next day with a "sure, I can do this" and a quite reasonable quote. I still have to get him a contract to sign, but it looks like I have a cover artist. \o/

Talk to my father and/or Telnar for advice about my horrible cash flow issues.
I did talk to Telnar, and then my cash flow issues got resolved by unrelated means. ♥ and also \o/

Write 14,000 words of Demon's Sigil.
Wrote 20,000 words SO THERE December!

I technically failed two goals this year (serializing Scales and publishing Coils). But I achieved all the rest, plus some stretch goals, and Coils is super-close to being published as well.

Overall, I am SUPER PROUD of myself for everything I accomplished. While doing all of this horrible adulting. GO ME. I can't believe I actually achieved stretch goals in this terrible year.  What.

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A Lake of Feathers and Moonbeams, by Dax Murray

This book was billed on Twitter as "polyamorous fantasy romance", which pretty much tells you right there why I decided to pick it up.

It has a number of things I love:

- It's a bisexual-positive setting, with three different characters presented as attracted to multiple genders and it's neither controversial nor salacious to anyone else in the setting.
- There's an asexual background character who likewise exists without anyone thinking that asexuality is weird or bad.
- One of the protagonists is enby and once again this is presented as a fact no more noteworthy than being male or female.
- Polyamory is not quite so widespread: two characters wrestle with attraction without ever considering that polyamory is an option. But there's a background triad from one of the nations and again, their relationship is portrayed as reasonable and open, not scandal-worthy.
- There's the suggestion that one of the background characters might be trans (two women are described as having children together, but it's not explicit whether this is via magic or natural).

In any case, you get the idea: this is a queer-positive book which does not feel the need to deal with prejudice. "This is the way things are and everyone is fine with it." This approach is delightful and rare and I enjoyed it immensely.

Other upsides:
- Vivid, beautiful imagery in describing the magic
- Characters involved in an arranged marriage who react in a mature, responsible way
- Nuanced portrayal of a difficult, problematic relationship

On the downside:

- The book has some awkward infodumps, some of which are made worse by not even containing significant information (eg: several pages about different types of magic in chapter 1, some of which never come up again, and the list is not even exhaustive: other types of magic are introduced later, including a plot-critical form in the last quarter of the book.)
- The characters would benefit from more depth and development; one has the impression of characters who are much more complex and lively in the author's head than they are in what the author has managed to capture on the page.
- The writing sometimes sparkles -- there's a beautiful play-fight between the two female protags where they're just adorable -- but more often it feels stilted or overly simplistic.
- Contains many typos and editing artifacts, some of which are just weird ("98 nfo" after the end of a paragraph?) and misgenders the enby protag once, which is very understandable but did make me sad.

I enjoyed the book enough to finish it, which is a pretty high bar to clear in my case. There are lots of excellent, fun ideas in the story. I hope the author continues to refine feir craft and produces more books; there's a lot of potential here and I look forward to seeing more.

I agonized a lot over what to rate this on Amazon, and it's still hard to even quantify it here. I feel like the book is TRYING SO HARD, and catering to so many things I adore, but ultimately the author does not have the maturity of talent to capture feir vision. So it's like "A++ for effort, C- for execution". I guess 6.5? If you are thinking about picking it up, read the preview and if you're happy with it the rest is of the same level of quality. The book blurb is kind of a mess and the book itself is better than that.

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Me 2012

From Ruins, by MCA Hogarth

I read this book shortly before release, as an e-ARC, and just realized I posted a review on Amazon but never blogged it.

I enjoyed FROM RUINS so much I bought a copy so Amazon could keep it handy for me whereever I go. The novel brings plot threads from all five previous books in the series crashing together in a tumultuous, multi-faceted conclusion. I am particularly fond of several aspects of it:

* The book has several climactic scenes, each resolving different threads. Sometimes multiple threads are resolved at once, but resolution is difficult and messy and unfolds realistically, rather than in a single Hollywood-esque moment of triumph.
* There is lots of denouement, to explore the ramifications of all that has happened. This is a book about war on a galactic scale, and it encompasses many battles. But it is also about change and how to transform a poisonous culture into a healthier one. That latter involves fighting but the goal is not *accomplished* by fighting. I like how Hogarth addresses it as an ongoing struggle., both internal and external.
* The denouement includes lots of sweet, tender moments that are a well-earned payoff after everything the various protagonists have been through.
* I especially enjoyed the Queen Ransomed's arc. I liked the other arcs too but GO QUEEN *waves pom-poms*

There were some aspects of the book I didn't like as much; Sediryl's arc never really worked for me, and there were a couple of bits during one of the climaxes that didn't make sense to me. But overall, FROM RUINS builds on the foundations laid in previous books to make for a satisfying, engaging conclusion. Highly recommended!

On a related note, book 1 of the series, EVEN THE WINGLESS, is on sale for 99 cents. So if you've not started the series, now's a great time for it!

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