Me 2012

Only on Dreamwidth Now

A few years back, I moved my blog to Dreamwidth: https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/ . For most of that time, Dreamwidth was able to crosspost to LiveJournal, so this feed continued to update. Sometime in January, it looks like LiveJournal blocked all third-party access to LiveJournal, ending the ability of Dreamwidth to crosspost here.

If you're still only on LiveJournal, I encourage you to get a Dreamwidth account. It's a lovely ad-free site, with owners who are committed to retaining ownership of it, and free accounts that are sustained by the accounts of those who choose to pay. Ie, what LJ was in its early years.

LiveJournal is a Russian-owned media company, and its servers are located Russia. I cannot recommend treating it as a secure long-term home for your posts or your community. :|
studious

2021 Year in Review

Let’s see what my goals were for 2021!

2021 Goal Scorecard

Continue caregiving for Lut: Sure did!

Grade: A+, with extra credit for dealing with ordering specialty medications again and again.

Publish two books: I did! I released The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady in June, and You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99, But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person in November.

I had to go back through my blog to find out what my first release of the year was. It feels so long ago. O_o

Grade: A

Finish drafting two books: Technically, I finished three drafts: Angel’s Grace, You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99, But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person, and A Game to You. Angel’s Grace was like three-quarters drafted when I started the year, but still, it counts.

Grade: A+

Continue to track food & exercise: This fell apart a few times, especially at the end of November and in December. But I tracked for a good 80-90% of the days in the year.

Grade: B+, you tried.

Post monthly updates: Every month!

Grade: A

Put month & year goal list in your bullet journal so you'll actually remember to look at it. Also, look at it: I did put the goals into my bullet journal spreadsheet, and I did look at them now and again. I didn’t quite make ‘every month’, much less ‘on a regular basis’, but it happened.

Grade: B+

Stretch Goals

Make an art every month. Part of an art counts if it's a complicated art:

...

So I was erratic about this one. I did more than the usual number of finished paintings in 2021, mostly from “Joy of Painting” videos. And I practiced more than usual; I started using Adorkastock’s sketch app for figure drawing practice during the Craft & Chat. On the other hand, I did nothing at all art-related in April, and I didn’t do anything but sketches in December, and I did some color work in November but hated it all.

I was gonna just say “no, I didn’t do this one” but I feel like I actually nailed the spirit of the goal. I worked on illustrations! I even did some intentional practice instead of just drawing or painting things and hoping I’d learn something from it!

So, no, I can’t do a nice “here’s one art piece from each month” collage, but whatever. I worked on this. It counts.

Grade: A for effort, you did good

Finish outlines for two books: Technically, I did four outlines: Level 99, A Game to You, and Alien Peacelords, plus I revamped The Twin Etheriums outline. I do not plan to write The Twin Etheriums based on the existing outline, but hey, it counts.

Grade: A+, you overachieved on a stretch goal, congrats.

Read 12 books:

*Non-Player Character by Victoria Corva *Spells, Snow, and Sky by CoffeeQuills *Micro Science Fiction by O Westin *The Fall of Lord Drayson *India After Gandhi *Shadeslinger *Looking for Group *Boyfriend Material *Definitely Maybe Yours *Coracle by MCA Hogarth *Clockwork Boys by T. Kingfisher

So eleven titles, one of which is a novella and another is a collection of microfics. This gets an honorable mention because I did read more than I did in 2019 & 2020, though.

Grade: C, whatever, it was a stretch goal anyway.

Write 50 blog posts: I posted forty-nine blog entries, but I wrote a few that I never posted, so I score this one on a technicality.

Grade: A

For next year, mostly reusing last year’s goals.

Goals for 2022

  • Continue caregiving for Lut
  • Publish two books
  • Finish drafting two books
  • Finish outlining two books
  • Track food & exercise, on most days
  • Post monthly updates.
  • Put month & year goal list in my bullet journal so I'll remember to look at it. Also, look at it.

Stretch Goals

  • Practice illustration on some kind of regular basis.
  • Paint
  • Read at least a few pages of a book I didn’t write, on most days
  • Keep track of how many books I finish or DNF
  • Exercise 15+ times per month
  • Use bullet journal to track what I’ve done, on most days
  • Promote my books a little
  • Write 50 blog posts

I’m using “most days” because I found that if I’m supposed to do something “daily” then the first day I break the streak makes me way more likely to stop doing it entirely. Aiming for something like “300 out of 365 days”. More is better, less is acceptable.



This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2022/01/03/2021inreview.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
tired

December 2021 in Review

Health/Fitness

I stopped exercising regularly in November, and then stopped paying attention to what I eat a few days before Thanksgiving. I have not yet managed to get back to either one. I think I exercised like eight times in December, and pretty much only for the minimum amount of time I will count.

Writing

I added some scenes to Angel’s Grace, and barely wrote otherwise. Added another 500 words to Alien Peacelords, bringing it to 4100, but that was it.

On the evening of December 30th, I noticed that one of my official goals for December was “work on the Alien Peacelords outline and create a spreadsheet with a word count estimate for it.” Which I had not done. In fact, one of the reasons I hadn’t been writing Alien Peacelords was that the outline needed adjustments and I didn’t want to do it. So on New Year’s Eve, during CoffeeQuills’ productivity stream, I beat the outline into better condition, then dumped it into a spreadsheet and estimated its length. The estimate came in at 130,700 words, which is longer than I expected, but not unreasonably so. I suspect the estimate may be high. Working on the outline made me want to write the book again. Some of the lines from the outline made me laugh out loud.

The Business of Writing

I finished initial edits on Demon’s Alliance and sent it to first readers. Since then, I’ve been working desultorily on edits for Angel’s Grace. On December 30th, I also noticed that I’d put down “40% complete on edits” as a goal for Angel’s Grace. Fortunately, I was already at 38.7%, so this was a much less unpleasant revelation. I did some more work on it after I finished the Alien Peacelords estimate. Then I split out one of the editing points I’d been working on and declared one part complete. It’s now at 41.7% complete.

Reading

I did finish a book in December, T. Kingfisher’s Clockwork Boys. I’ve been poking my way through the sequel, The Wonder Engine, but I am not enjoying it much so it’s been slow going.

Art

Still using Adorkastock's sketch app for figure-drawing practice. I switched to paper-and-pencil for this practice, because my tablet pen stopped working. To my surprise, I enjoy it more this way. Not quite enough to make it a regular habit yet, though.

In the last week of December, I remembered that “fix or replace tablet pen” was a December goal. It was an actual goal because I knew that (a) it would not take that long and (b) if I didn’t put a deadline on it I would put it off forever. I mean, I put it off for a month anyway.

I ordered more AAAA batteries online (AAAA batteries are hard to find in person), in case the AAAA rechargeable batteries I’d gotten before were duds. Replacing the battery again did not fix it. I did notice that the eraser on the pen worked but the tip didn’t. So I found a site of trouble-shooting tips and spent an hour walking through them. As I did so, I was struck anew by how much my tablet struggles to do even simple tasks, like “reboot”. Sometimes when it’s turned on or woken up, it will let me unlock it, but then the screen turns black and stays that way for 15 or 20 minutes before it finally comes alive again. I use the tablet primarily for art, and it’s barely adequate to the task of doing a print-resolution front cover. For full wrap covers, I have to do the front cover first and then flatten everything before expanding the canvas to full size and using a minimal number of layers for the rest of the cover.

I also realized that my tablet pen is specifically for the Surface: I don’t have any way to test to see if it’s the pen that’s broken or the tablet. The pen is the only bluetooth device I have for the tablet. Its bluetooth could be wonky, or there could be some firmware issue with it.

Anyway, the list of troubleshooting tips did not resolve the problem. I ordered a new tablet, the Surface Go 3. It’ll be delivered Jan 3. If the pen doesn’t work with it either, I’ll get a new pen too. Independent of the pen, I have wanted to replace the Surface for perhaps two years now. It’s time.

Social

In early December, I went to North Carolina to visit my parents. My brother and sister-in-law were supposed to visit at the same time. But my SIL got pneumonia and my brother had a reaction to the COVID-19 booster shot and was not up to flying even four days afterwards.

But I did get to see Kagetsume and Sophrani on both Saturday and Sunday, which was pretty great. For the first three weeks of December, I visited two local friends who hosted little weekly gatherings on Thursday night -- something like 3-8 people, all vaccinated.

On the fourth week, 12/23, my friends cancelled it because they were both feeling sick. On the following Sunday, the husband went to urgent care for a COVID-19 test and tested positive. On the 30th, he was hospitalized. His wife (more-or-less recovered at this point) got a COVID-19 test on the day he was hospitalized, and tested negative. It’s probable she also had COVID-19 but doesn’t have enough left to register on the non-PCR version of the test. As of this writing, he’s still in the hospital. :( And no visitors allowed, of course, given the contagion risk. Given the rate at which vaccinated people are contracting the omicron variant, and that Lut is immunocompromised, we’re going back into isolation.

I know there are new and effective treatments recently approved: pills that you can take at home, if you get a prescription within a few days of showing symptoms. So kinda hoping that production of that and also tests will be ramped up. And between vaccinations, easily-available tests, and a good treatment option, perhaps in a few more months it will be a more manageable risk for us. But right now, I’m concerned that even with vaccines & booster, Lut is at a high risk of hospitalization (if not death) if he gets sick.

In online socialization news, still doing the weekly Craft & Chats -- even on Christmas and New Year’s Day, because some of us didn’t have any other plans. I’m writing this during today’s chat, as my craft du jour.

Lut, [personal profile] terrycloth and I also tried out Teleparty. It’s a browser extension that does watch parties with friends on various video streaming sites, syncing up the video for participants and putting up a sidebar where you can text-chat. We watched the first episode of the new live-action Cowboy Bebop that way. Tech worked pretty well and it was nice to do something with all three of us again.

Gaming

Technically I did play a new game in December: Kitten Match. It’s a match-3 game -- I’m guessing similar to Candy Crush, though I’ve never played Candy Crush -- with a metagame of “renovating houses while acquiring an ever-increasing number of adorable cats.”

I love repetitive puzzle games like this one, and Kitten Match hasn’t done the “become impossible to play without paying” thing so far (I’m like 800+ levels in so I’m guessing it won’t). Sadly, its account-creation system is Facebook-exclusive, so I won’t make an account and am just playing a local copy on my phone. But the upside to that is that I’m not gonna spend any money on a game that won’t let me make an account without handing my life over to Jeff Zuckerberg. Anyway, the real purpose of this category was to learn new games to play with other people, so no successes on that front.

December Goal Score Card

  • Assist Lut: Done!
  • Visit parents (I have tickets for this trip on Friday!): Done!
  • Give Xmas gifts: I gave out some of them when I visited NC, and shipped the rest on December 10.
  • Work on the Alien Peacelords outline and create a spreadsheet with word count estimate for it: Just barely done!
  • Get Angel’s Grace to 40% complete on edits (it’s at 14.75% now): Also done!
  • Fix or replace tablet pen: Technically not done yet, but I’m giving myself credit for it anyway because the hard parts are complete.

December Stretch Goal Scorecard:

  • Practice art
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before

I was not good at the stretch goals this month but so it goes.

January goals

  • Write a year-in-review post
  • Figure out annual goals for 2022
  • Break up the remaining editing points for Angel’s Grace into smaller steps: Everything left on the editing list (and there is a lot left on the editing list) is too intimidating. I need to make steps like “decide where this thing goes” and then have “add this thing” be a specific step.
  • Get Angel’s Grace to 65% edited.
  • Exercise 13 times: this gets to be an Actual Goal because exercising at all has become a real challenge in the last two months, and I want to get back to it. 13 times means “every work day”, which are the days I’m most likely to exercise.
  • Set up new Surface so I can use it for art: yes this needs to be an actual goal or I will put it off forever.
  • Look at goal list occasionally
  • Make entries in bullet journal for at least 20 days: I like having the bullet journal but I haven’t been using it for the last two months. Hoping that a goal that isn’t “every day” will encourage me to update it when I think about it. Instead of thinking “oh, there’s no point, I haven’t used it in two days and can’t remember that far back so no reason to start now.”

Stretch Goals:

  • Read through A Game to You.
  • Make an editing list for A Game to You.
  • Work on notes/outline for a different book
  • Write more of Alien Peacelords
  • Get some use out of the art book I bought in November (Color and Light by James Gurney; I want to have a working tablet & pen so I can learn stuff and then practice it.)
  • Exercise 20 times this month
  • Consumption tracking
  • Make an art
  • Work on cover art for Demon’s Alliance and/or Angel’s Grace
  • Practice art (bonus stretch goal: total of 15 hours of practice)
  • Post four blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Finish revisions on Angel’s Grace
  • Maintain bullet journal for entire month
  • Learn a new game
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before


This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2022/01/01/december2021.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
cute

Steam Library

My Steam library is relatively small by gamer standards, especially given the twelve years that I’ve had it. But it still has sixty-three games in it: way more than I can keep track of in my head. Anke asked me about how I managed to amass this many, and now I want to categorize them.

Games I got for Multiplayer and Actually Played: 29

ARK: Survival Evolved; ARK: Survival of the Fittest: Lut and I played this during its open beta. I think we stopped before the actual release, which I think is the second title. You could tame and ride dinosaurs in it. That was pretty much the selling point. (Lut points out there was also a lot of building and farming, which is 100% true and also not the reason I got this specific game).

Ascension; Cthulhu Realms; Splendor; Star Realms: Computer adaptations of card-based board games. I got these to play with Terrycloth. The Steam version of Splendor doesn’t let you do online multiplayer in the same game with AI players, which is annoying.

Blood Bowl: Legendary Edition; Blood Bowl: Dark Elves Edition; Catan; D&D Lords of Waterdeep; Small World; Ticket To Ride: Computer adaptations of board games. Played them with Terrycloth.

Card Hunter: Card-based RPG sort of thing, a lot like playing very old-school D&D without a GM. Got it to play with Terrycloth, played it a few times.

Dungeon Defenders; Dungeon Defenders II: Tower defense games. Lut, Terry and I all used to play the first one together, extensively. Lut burned out on it by the time the new version came out. Terry and I played it a little but not much.

Dungeonland: Dungeon stomp. Terry, Lut and I played this together, a few times.

FireFall: This wasn’t an actual Steam game; I must have added it to Steam for some reason, or downloaded a Steam copy after we’d stopped playing it. Anyway, I played a fair amount of this and Steam only says I played it for 30 minutes. Lut and I used to play it together, it was an FPS with MMO elements.

Gauntlet: Dungeon stomp.Terry, Alinsa and I played this together, a few times.

Left 4 Dead: One of Lut’s favorite-ever FPS for team-based PvP. Zombies & survivors game. I played it once with him but my FPS days were already well in the past.

Magic the Gathering (five different versions): These were MtG games where you played a flat fee to buy the game and then unlocked decks and cards to customize the deck with. Much more limited than standard MtG. Terry and I used to play them.

Magicka: Dungeon stomp with weird combo powers. I played it for a while with Terry, Alinsa, Lut, and Octantis, but I never really got the hang of it.

Sanctum; Sanctum 2: Lut, Terry and I all used to play the first one together, extensively. Lut burned out on it by the time the new version came out. Terry and I played it a little but not much. Yes, I had the exact same game experience with this as with Dungeon Defenders, and no, I don’t know why.

SolForge: A card-based game like MtG, but it’s online only and the gameplay would not adapt to physical cards. Lut, Terry and I all used to play this.

Tricky Tower: A tetris-y style game I play with Terrycloth.

Games I got for multiplayer and launched once: 6

Armello: A board game I bought to play with Terrycloth. I installed it and it tried to take me through a tutorial of some kind. I didn’t want to wade through it while Terry was around, so I exited out and never opened it again.

Forced: not sure. I played it for 48 minutes, and Alinsa and Terry also have copies, so I’m guessing it was a dungeon-stomp-style game that we played together for a bit and then I noped out.

Guns of Icarus: FPS where you play the crew on a flying ship. Terry, Alinsa, Lut and I played this briefly. I recall not liking the controls/gameplay much, which was a shame because the premise was pretty great.

Hammerwatch: I played this with once or twice in 2014 and have no memory of it, but I’m pretty confident I played it with Terry. I’m putting it in the “opened once” category even though Steam says I played for 2.8 hours, because it is too forgettable.

Talisman: Digital Edition; Talisman: Prologue: I don’t know why I have two Talisman versions. One was bad enough. I remember loving Talisman in the late 80s/early 90s, and wow, those were Dark Times for gaming. DARK TIMES. “Back in my day, we played Talisman and we LIKED IT. No, I can’t tell you why, I have no idea.” Terry and I played the first title for 38 minutes, but it felt like so much longer.

Games I got for single-player and actually played: 9

Boyfriend Dungeon: dating sim + dungeon stomp

Divide by Sheep: A puzzle game Lyn recommended. Played it for a bit. Simultaneously cute and gory.

Dream Daddy: Dating sim. Played one of the routes but never went back to do any of the others.

Max Gentlemen: Sexy Business!: dating sim + ‘business’ sim. Whole game was very tongue-in-cheek and silly.

Puzzle Pirates: Dark Seas: Technically, this is a multiplayer game, but I hardly ever played the Steam version multiplayer. (Lut introduced me to the game in the pre-Steam era and we did play together back then). On Steam, I played so much distilling puzzle. SO MUCH.

Regency Solitaire: Rounds of solitaire games interspersed with a story. Entertaining.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V: I love Civ-style games, but they’re so addictive that I don’t often buy/play new ones for fear of losing months to them. Technically, this has a multiplayer mode and Terry and I did play it together on several occasions, but the vast majority of my play was solo.

Sunless Sea: I bought this because I loved Fallen London. I did not love Sunless Sea. It wanted to be a roguelike. I tried.

The Wolf Among Us: Interactive fiction game. Fun! Started Lut and I on reading the Fables graphic novels. I played it while Lut watched; it’s one of those games that’s fun to watch.

Games I got for single-player and launched once: 3

Calico: You run a cat cafe shop and acquire pets. Vicorva played this on their stream once, and it looked fun and was cheap. I played it once for twenty minutes, then sat down in-game and couldn’t figure out how to stand up again. Exited out, never played again.

Coffee Talk Demo: You run a coffee shop with supernatural patrons. I played the demo briefly but never bought the game.

Monster Prom: Dating sim. Played it for 15 minutes once, discovered it didn’t have a save, never played again. (It suggested game lengths of 30 or 60 minutes, so I guess the theory was that you would finish it in one sitting).

Games I never played at all: 14

AER Memories of Old: This is some kind of exploring/flying game that I heard of somewhere and thought sounded fun. I had it on my wishlist for a few years and eventually bought it on sale.

Card City Nights; Magnifico; Wakfu; Warlock - Master of the Arcane Demo; Windward; Ziggurat: No idea.

Hatoful Boyfriend: pigeon dating sim.

Monaco: Heist game. I think I got it to play with Terry and then never did.

Ninja Pizza Girl: Platformer. Backed it in Kickstarter.

Sentinels of the Multiverse: Computer adaptation of a board game. Got it to play with Terrycloth but never did.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: I think Terry had an extra code for this from a Humble Bundle and gave it to me.

SteamWorld Heist: I guess I got this to play with Terry? Never played, don’t know what it is.

Tabletop Simulator: This was either a freebie or cheap. I think Terry and I were going to try using it but never did.

Games I literally just bought yesterday: 2

Spiritfarer; Kind Words: I heard about these games a year or more ago and put them on my wishlist. I bought them today because of the Steam sale. Will I play them? WHO KNOWS.


So my general impression that, for the last decades plus, I mostly get games for multiplayer is born out: I have 35 definite “I got this for multiplayer” and 4 probable, vs 18 “I got this for single-player,” and 6 “I have no idea.” Since 2007 or so, Terry and I have played games together for a few hours Mon-Thurs, most nights. So I get a lot of gaming in that way.

I also have a much better track record of trying games if they’re multiplayer: 29 that I played for 2+ hours, 6 that I at least launched, and 4 to 10 that I never tried. Whereas single-player is 9/3/6-10.

I am also pleased that the majority of my Steam games are ones that I’ve played, too. Maybe someday I will launch the other games on the list! At least the ones that I have some recollection of why I got them. Ziggurat may be out of luck forever, whatever it is.



This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/12/26/steamlibrary.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

Call for First Readers: Demon’s Alliance!

Who wants a demon for an ally?

Throughout recorded history, the Anesh Archipelago has been plagued by demons: beings of pure evil, without conscience, irredeemable. That was the unquestioned truth -- until the angels granted a demon hunter's sigil to a demon: Bright. But when Guild White accepted Bright as a hunter-in-training, that didn't settle the question.

Instead, it opens a rift that sets hunter against hunter. At the center of the conflict is not just Bright, but those closest to it. Sunrise, who never wanted to be a hunter but has come to appreciate the demon she tamed. Raven, the seeker who identified Bright's sigil and whom some blame for its acceptance at Guild White. And Mercy, Raven's teammate, who must choose between turning her back on her friends, or on everything she knows about demons.

The division leads to violence, spreading far beyond the halls of Guild White, threatening to destroy the guild system itself. That outcome would benefit no one: not Bright, nor its allies, nor the demon hunters who oppose it --

-- no one, that is, except for every other demon in Anesh.

I have finally finished initial edits on Demon’s Alliance, which means I need first readers for it! Demon’s Alliance is the third book in the Demon’s Series. It does not stand alone. There should be enough context in Demon’s Alliance to remind readers of the events of the first two books, so you need not have read them recently. But I cannot recommend reading this book if you haven’t read the first two.

If you’re interested in being a first reader, please leave your email address in a comment, or DM me on Twitter/Mastodon, or email me at my gmail account, ladyrowyn! The document will be available as a Google Doc. Comments are screened.



This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/12/20/firstreaders.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

Blockchain?

I have opinions about a number of blockchain-based things:

  • Bitcoin: Irredeemably awful. Built on a massively inefficient standard that, by the nature of Bitcoin, cannot be improved. Wastes enormous amounts of energy, is not even good at making transactions. Please let it die already.
  • Cryptocurrency in general: Useful mainly to criminals. Pumped up in value by speculation and money launderers. A bubble waiting to burst.
  • NFTs: oh sweet heavens why. Just. Why. A pump-and-dump scheme inflated by money laundering. Pretends that it represents “digital ownership” of a piece of art or other digital good (often used without license from the creator), actually represents nothing. Terrible.

But the concept of blockchain -- a distributed ledger designed to prove that transactions took place without requiring a centralized system -- I do not have a strong opinion on.

The concept of distributed ledgers, as opposed to centralized systems, has some obvious advantages. A centralized system is easier to hack and to deceive. A centralized system is more vulnerable to failure. Distributed systems are more robust. I like decentralization as a concept; it’s one of the reasons I prefer Mastodon to Twitter.

I don’t know if the inefficiencies that make cryptocurrencies waste such massive amounts of electricity are inherent to blockchain. I do know that Bitcoin is far, far worse in terms of how much power it requires to execute a transaction than later cryptocurrencies. I’m not aware of any cryptocurrency being as energy-efficient as a typical bank transaction.

I tried to find out if there’s something about blockchain that makes it necessarily energy-intensive, but it’s hard to know what to trust in the sea of information from sources I’ve never heard of before. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t have to be, and that most of the power consumption from cryptocurrencies is due to crypto mining and that kind of "mining" is not required for blockchain applications that don't use cryptocurrency. But I’m not positive.

My instinct when I hear that a company intends to use blockchain for some purpose is to cringe. Announcements like this are made by PR people who don’t understand what blockchain is, to reporters who also don’t understand what blockchain is, to be read by consumers who -- like everyone else -- don’t understand what blockchain is. There may be real engineers behind the project who have a good reason to use it, or it might be that upper management heard that blockchain is trendy and they feel compelled to jump on the bandwagon. Who knows?

I’m also always a bit intrigued when some company says they want to use blockchain for a product that is not cryptocurrency or NFT. Because there are some cool things about distributed systems and I want to hear about people using them for something actually useful for a change. -_-



This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/12/09/blockchain.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

Coracle, by MCA Hogarth

A middle-grade fantasy novel, Coracle is a delight to read. I love so many things about it. The premise is that a fallen angel, the Adversary, broke the world in the distant past. At that time, the Savior and her Companions prevented the world from being destroyed and stitched some parts of it back together. In the modern era, islands of land float in the Breath, which can be traversed by vessels, and some of which are connected by bridges. The main character, Marda, chooses to attend the Abbey, a school for Outremers, where youths of age 14-18 or so are trained to emulate the Savior’s Companions and take on different roles in small bands that patrol the broken world. The Outremers’ mission is to mend the world and to stop monsters, if necessary. Over the course of schooling, every Outremer gets either a patron saint or an angel, who will offer guidance to them, and a Godsib: a companion animal/mythical creature.

Religion is prominent throughout. Becoming an Outremer is a spiritual vocation (although the book takes pains to show that characters don’t feel like they’re compelled to do it, or that they’re even necessarily sure it’s what they’re supposed to do with their lives). The characters pray for guidance and attend services and seek to serve one another, God, and the world as a whole.

The narrative showcases a world of fantasy, with wonders to admire and linger upon. One of my favorite parts is that the conflicts of the setting are small-scale and character-appropriate. It’s about kids dealing with kid problems: making decisions about their future, making friends, hanging on to their friends, figuring out where they fit in: all the very real problems of life. I have such a hard time writing this sort of story myself -- my plots all too often spiral into catastrophes and world-saving. But I adore science fiction/fantasy slice-of-life, and Coracle is a wonderful example of it. It’s relaxing and refreshing, with plenty of meaty issues and problems to intrigue and engage the reader. It’s the first book in the series, but ends on a solid note -- no cliffhangers -- at the end of Marda’s first year. Easily a 9, and I very much look forward to the rest of the series.



This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/2021/12/08/coracle.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

November 2021 in Review

Health/Fitness

I cooked for Thanksgiving this year, for the first time since 2016. Lut and I used to cook tons of food together every Christmas, for just the two of us, but he hasn't been up to cooking since his diagnosis in 2017. I decided to do much of the cooking on my own this year, because none of the catering options have been satisfying. We went minimalist on some things -- I got a pre-cooked turkey -- and skipped some of our less-beloved usuals. But we still had leftovers for several days.

Anyway, I stopped tracking food because it was too annoying to figure out how much I was eating. I stopped making an effort to exercise in November, too. I nonetheless exercised ten times, which kind of surprises me. My habit of 'exercise after work as long as I don't have other plans' remains strong even without much driving force behind it. Twice a week isn't much, but it's better than nothing.

Writing

I won NaNoWriMo!

I finished the draft of A Game to You and immediately trunked it because oh man it's the messiest draft. I put more work into outlining and worldbuilding A Game to You than any previous book, and it still wasn't close to enough work. I don't know whether I want to expand it so that the huge cast has room to breathe and be distinguishable, or if I want to cut out half the characters. One way or another, It needs Way Too Much editing. It needs so much editing that I'm willing to edit Angel's Grace now because it looks easy by contrast. o.o;;;

But! I finished it! After writing 50,021 new words. Total draft is around 121,000.

I started writing Alien Peacelords but only got to 3646 words on it. A Game to You ran longer than I expected, although not by that much.

The Business of Writing

I released You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99, But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person! kermitflail

I even made an effort to keep talking about it after release instead of putting up a release post and letting it flounder along on its own. n.n

Reading

This is on the list of things I stopped doing because Nanowrimo. I will return to it in December!

Art

Courtesy of the online Saturday Craft & Chat meet-up, this wasn't one of the things I stopped doing in because Nanowrimo. I didn't finish any pictures I liked this month, but I did a bunch of practice sketches using Adorkastock's sketch app. My Surface's tablet pen stopped working mysteriously two weeks ago. I'd hoped the battery was dead, but replacing the battery did not revive it. I am not sure what other trouble-shooting steps are available, but I should probably do something before I give up and replace it. Cheap tablet pens are not good for drawing, sadly, so it'll be spendy to get a new one.

Social

I attended Contra KC 2021! I had gotten my booster shot on the Wednesday before the con started, and I was still kind of worn out during the con. So I didn't spend as much time as I usually do at the convention, but I did stay late on Saturday evening for the room parties, and saw a lot of old con-friends I've not seen since 2019. It was good. ♥

Gaming

I learned a new game with [personal profile] terrycloth, Deus. We only played it once. It was promising, though. I expect we’ll play it again sometime.

November Goal Score Card

  • Assist Lut: Done!
  • WIN NANOWRIMO: Yes I did this thing. \o/

Stretch Goals Scorecard:

November did not have stretch goals, because Nanowrimo + day job + caregiving is enough.

November Goals

  • Assist Lut
  • Visit parents (I have tickets for this trip on Friday!)
  • Give Xmas gifts
  • Work on the Alien Peacelords outline and create a spreadsheet with word count estimate for it.
  • Get Angel’s Grace to 40% complete on edits (it’s at 14.75% now)
  • Fix or replace tablet pen

Stretch Goals:

  • Read through A Game to You.
  • Make an editing list for A Game to You.
  • Work on notes/outline for a different book
  • Exercise 17 times this month
  • Consumption tracking
  • Make an art
  • Work on cover art for Demon’s Alliance and/or Angel’s Grace
  • Practice art
  • Post six blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Finish revisions on Demon’s Alliance
  • Finish revisions on Angel’s Grace
  • Maintain bullet journal
  • Learn a new game
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before


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studious

New Release! You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99, But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person

I have a new book out! kermitflail

The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady -- buy it now!

You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99, But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person

Three Gamers, Two Ex-Lovers, One Comedy of Errors

When Griffin met a gorgeous young woman in a Guardians t-shirt, he shouldn't've led her to believe he was an expert at the Guardians MMO -- which he hasn't played in years. Now he's desperate to make up for lost time and level up before Kalisha returns from her vacation and expects to play it with him.

After Rachel stumbled into a group in Guardians with her ex, she should've told him who she was. But it's wonderful to game with Griffin again, especially since the two of them found the perfect sorcereress to complete their tank-healer pair. How can she tell him now, and ruin the trio’s synergy?

When Kalisha decided to play Guardians on her vacation, she didn't want her friends to tease her about it. But using an unknown alt to group with her housemate wasn't the most ethical plan. Especially not given that Kalisha already has a crush on her. Rachel is bound to find out someday, and it's growing more awkward the longer Kalisha waits.

Meanwhile, the three players grow closer as their characters level together ...

Author Commentary

A Discord conversation about litRPG themes inspired this book. We were discussing what drives characters, and one of my friends, Tuftears, said, “You thought you wanted to be level 99, but really you wanted to be a better person.”

Me: “That’d make a good light novel total.”

Tuftears: “You should write it.” =^_^=

Me: “All right, but you all have to help me brainstorm.”

I assembled various ideas from the server* into most of an outline. But it was early in the pandemic, and the story began with two people who had traveled for a vacation. It’s common for contemporary fiction to ignore current events, including global pandemics, aiming for a ‘timeless’ feel. But I could not convince myself to set it in 2019, or in a fictional pandemic-free world.

I started writing Level 99 as vaccines first became available, and I grounded the book in a specific period. It opens in May 2021, as it became possible for any adult in the USA to get vaccinated. When it looked as if the pandemic was almost over, before the Delta variant brought a new surge of cases.

But this isn’t a book about the pandemic. It’s about three gamers living online, and finding a love there that carries them into the real world. This is the first contemporary romance I’ve written, but as a polyamorous gamer, the story is intimately familiar to me.

It’s a short, sweet, cheerful novel, about the joy of gaming with good people, the uncertainties of falling in love online, and the mistakes humans make in their efforts to find both companionship and love. I had a great time writing it. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

*To my regret, I did not write down the names of everyone who volunteered suggestions at the time, and the server has since gone down.



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Me 2012

On Series Branding and Subgenres

I should be working on my NaNoWriMo project, but I'm still flattened from the booster shot I got on Thursday evening.  So I thought I would write about my thoughts on a different topic.

One of my Twitter friends, DanniRook (Twitter handle), did a thread on writing yesterday. One point they made was that the Anita Blake series changed over time from "urban fantasy mystery with some romance" to "erotica with some paranormal fantasy." They added that they considered this a marketing mistake on Hamilton's part. Readers felt betrayed by the genre switch. Danni argued that it would've been better to start a new series then to change the subgenre of an existing series.

Lut and I both read the early Anita Blake books. We both dropped the series after several books, due to the subgenre change. So you'd think I'd agree with this idea.

But it turns out that I don't.

First, while there are undoubtedly many Anita Blake readers who dropped the series because of the subgenre switch, the Anita Blake series continues to be massively successful. 28 books in, the latest installment has a 4.7 star rating on Amazon, with over 5400 people rating it.  Saying "this was a marketing mistake" given its long-running popularity strains credulity. If it were truly a marketing mistake, the series should have foundered.

Second, while many readers point to book eight as "when the series jumped subgenres": in retrospect, I believe this was Hamilton's intention from the start. She wanted Anita Blake's character arc to go from "ruthless monster killer" to "monster lover who sexes up all the monsters." Book eight was the point at which you could no longer ignore this evolution, but there were many, many intimations about the character arc before that. It's not an arc I enjoyed or would have chosen, but that doesn't make it inherently worse.

Third, starting a new series is a huge risk. Readers fall in love with specific characters and want to read more about that character. Yes, Hamilton could've escaped the reader backlash by writing a separate paranormal erotica series instead of turning Anita Blake into paranormal erotica. But it is by no means a given that a non-Anita-Blake erotica series would have met with more success. Hamilton has, in fact, written other series; to my knowledge, none of them are as successful as Anita Blake.

But perhaps the most important point is that there is no guarantee that "sticking with the formula" will lead to continued sales for a series. 

If you've got a series with a single main character, and you don't have that series evolve in genre and tone, you can also easily lose readers.

Many -- perhaps most -- readers fall in love with characters: not subgenres, not tropes, not settings. Characters. They want to read about their beloved characters growing and changing over time. If a series delivers a consistent experience in terms of tone/tropes/subgenre/character, will that guarantee that readers will stick with it? Absolutely not. Yes, readers are more likely to get angry if a series changes in a way they don't like than if it stays the same. But when it stays the same, they're just as likely to drop it. "I loved the first few books, but after a while it got repetitive."

Writing a successful series is difficult. And the things that one reader sees as essential to the heart of the series are not the same as what another reader sees as essential.  You may think that the subgenre is central and if it changes, the series is ruined. But another reader might be delighted by the shift in subgenre.  I love the way Lois McMaster Bujold changed subgenres over the course of the Vorkosigan series, for example. I enjoyed the early milsf novels, but would I have read every Vorkosigan book if they'd all been milsf? Maybe, but probably not. The Honor Harrington series delivered a consistent experience, at least from my perspective, and I quit reading those after six books or so.

Of course I'm not saying "authors have to change the series subgenre as they write to keep it fresh." My point is that regardless of what the author changes or doesn't change in a series, a certain portion of their existing readers are likely to dislike it and quit reading. If the author is lucky, a different set of readers will be drawn to it, probably for the same reason that some people left.

As a writer, I wouldn't change what I consider to be the key qualities of one of my series. But I'm aware that what I think is a key quality won't match what every reader thinks is key. I don't like where Hamilton took the Anita Blake books. But this is a matter of taste on my part, not an indicator of some fundamental rule of branding or marketing.



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