Books by Other People

I finished Spells, Snow and Sky by CoffeeQuills a few weeks ago. It’s a polyamorous paranormal romance novella, between a human woman, a yuki-onna (“snow woman”, a Japanese spirit), and a witch.

For the most part, it’s a fluffy, low-stakes story, with a single PoV character: Sky, the human. I’ve thought about writing a paranormal romance on occasion, and one of the things that deterred is that, while I like the dramatic, angst-filled background full of adventure, actually writing the adventure takes a tedious amount of time away from the romance. Spells, Snow and Sky addresses this by supplying occasional hints about past drama and adventure, and skipping the whole part where you write it all out. It’s original fiction, but it reminded me of fanfic in this respect; I felt like I was reading a romance about characters that had their adventures in a different book. I thought this was an extremely clever way of getting right to the romance!

As is often the case with me and single-POV-romance, the romance didn’t engage me that much. But it was a delightfully atmospheric story, immersive and wintery.

After reading that, I remembered that I’d never finished O. Westin’s Micro Science Fiction, a collection of tweet-length (144 characters, from before Twitter’s doubling of the character limit) micro fics. So I finished it finally. If you use Twitter, you’ve probably seen O. Westin’s work before, as [profile] microsff. These are bite-sized and delightful as individual works. I preferred to read them slowly, because I found devouring several dozen at a time made them lose their individual weight. It’s a good collection and I recommend it.

Next, I bounced off of three different books, which I am going to complain about here because I want to whinge and also I don’t want to pick up these books again because I’ve forgotten what they’re about. But I’ll put DNF in the titles and author names so they won’t come up in vanity searches.

Also, important note: I bounced off all three for reasons that had nothing to do with the skill of the author. It was purely an “I am not having fun because this book is Not For Me” reaction.

I have a huge number of books on my Kindle where I have no recollection of why I got them or what I was thinking when I did. Many of them were free or cheap from Bookbub deals, and others were recommended.

CytheraDNF by JoDNFGraham: I think this is SF erotica/romance, with the main pairing being M/F. Which is to say “the first chapter had an M/F pair and the blurb implied the book would be about them.” The female protagonist is a “sacred courtesan” and the male protagonist is a ship’s captain in a military fleet.

If you want to read erotica and you like the “happy prostitute” trope in erotica, I imagine this book would work for you. I expect that I picked it up because SF romance that isn’t “alien warlord” style is hard to find. I do not care for “happy prostitute” as a trope. It’s not that I object to sex work so much as to the depiction of sex work as a fun sexy romp where every client is young and conventionally attractive. I feel like fiction about sex work is mostly moralizing in one direction or another -- either sex work is cruel, brutal, and soul-destroying, or it’s beautiful and sexy and uplifiting. Neither depiction feels convincing or interesting to me.

Anyway, I made it through the sex and BDSM in the first chapter, found the second chapter started with the female protagonist “testing” candidates by groping them while asking questions, went “yeah, not in the mood for this much erotica” and put it down.

LordDNFof the LastDNFHeartbeat by MayDNFPeterson

I know why I picked up this one! An author I follow on Twitter tweeted excitedly about the third book in the series being released. So I followed the link, discovered that it was the third book, went to look for the first book, and discovered I’d already bought it.

So I opened the book, and remembered that I’d already bounced off it once.


I gave it another try. It did not work out.

It’s an M/M romance where one male protagonist, Mio, is very femme, to the point of “mistaken for a girl by rando dude who proceeds to sexually harass him.” The other male protagonist, Rhodry, is a tall strong alpha lord with magical powers. Mio is also poor, oppressed by his family, forced into crime against his will, and begs Rhodry to rescue him from his family/life of crime.

So the setup comes across as “exactly like a stereotypical M/F romance except I changed the pronouns for the female character.” I hate this trope SO MUCH. It manages to feel simultaneously misogynistic (“I’ll write an M/M romance because vaginas are gross, ew”) and queerphobic (“but I want to keep every single heteronormative quality in my characters so one protagonist is stereotypically feminine in EVERY WAY and the other protagonist is stereotypically masculine in EVERY WAY.”)

It’s the “every way” that really gets to me. If any of the qualities were swapped -- made the femme man be the alpha lord, or made the super-masculine guy short, or SOMETHING to indicate that the author didn’t think one’s physical qualities absolutely determined one’s status, standing, identity, psychology, and preferences, it would help.

Anyway, the author is trans and I am confident she is neither queerphobic nor misogynistic. She just has the misfortune of liking tropes that make my skin crawl. I tried to persevere.

Then Mio’s mother coerced him into mind-raping a random man for political power, and Rhodry came home to find a dead boy on his driveway and his reaction was along the lines of “this is so tiresome and inconvenient,” and I deleted the book from my phone.

If you don’t mind some grimdark (it’s a romance, it has an HEA/HFN, so presumably they rise above the grimdark eventually) and enjoy the above tropes, I think this would be a good book. What I saw of the dynamic between the two protagonists was good, and it’s well-written. I feel like some interesting stuff was going to happen later in the book. There was a suggestion that Mio might be intersex, which could be cool -- I seldom read intersex protagonists. But I don’t think I’m ever going to be in the mood for the tropes involved here.

NiceDNFDragons FinishDNFLast by RachelDNFAaron

No idea why I got this book. It’s fantasy + SF in the Shadowrun style: Earth several decades in the future, plus “magic returned to the world.” The main character is an unambitious young dragon whose mother got mad at him because he’s not sufficiently cruel and ambitious. She locked him into a human form and exiled him to the “Detroit Free Zone”, where dragons are killed on sight.

I got through the first fourteen pages. There was a prologue that engaged me, and then I met the exiled dragon and his sister and his mother and kind of just hated everything. There was a letter from his uncle that was amusing, though.

The mother is physically and emotionally abusive, and at some point I may be like “sure, I can put up with the protagonist being tortured periodically by his mom” and be able to read this. But. Not in the mood. NEXT.

The Fall of Lord Drayson, by Rachel Anderson

An M/F Regency romance. No idea why I picked it up. But I actually finished this one! It was short and mediocre.

So it started off with the male protagonist, an earl, evicting the female protagonist, the impoverished teenage daughter of a vicar and a seamstress. I don’t usually like hate-at-first-sight books, but I was entertained by the banter between the two as the earl tells the girl that she and her widowed mother have to find some other place to live because he’s selling the property where they presently reside.

The earl then rides off in the rain, falls from his horse, and knocks himself senseless.

At this point, I thought “oh no, he’s gonna wake up with amnesia and she’s gonna lie to him about how he promised she and her mother would never have to move, or something like that. Ugh.” But I kept going.

The female protagonist rescued him, somewhat unwillingly, from the road. When he regains consciousness, he has amnesia, and the female protagonist somehow or other decides to tell him “you are my servant!”


This premise is so mind-bogglingly repugnant that I don’t know how it managed to get on my Kindle. I can only assume it was free on Bookbub and that I only read the 20 word Bookbub blurb before downloading it, and the Bookbub blurb didn’t manage to encompass the awful premise.

But the premise was so terrible that I decided to keep reading just to see if the author could manage to justify a romance ensuing from this.

Short answer: no, not really.

The romance requires copious amounts of suspension of disbelief, not only for the ridiculous amnesia subplot and for the earl deciding not to hold it against her, but for the complete lack of objection by literally anyone else in the story to the eventual marriage of the two. The characters never feel like a plausible part of their period. The first half of the book has the amnesia subplot, and if you suspend disbelief it’s still cringe-inducing but more-or-less works. The last half of the book is tedious, saved only by the too-briefly-sketched subplot of a romance between the girl’s mother and a wealthy friend of the family. (The latter two would’ve been made far more appealing romance protagonists than the actual protagonists.) The earl’s mother and sister make every effort to promote a romance between the two protagonists, with no explanation whatsoever as to why they think this is a good match. The male protagonist stops being a POV character for the second half, for no reason except, I guess, to promote suspense about what’s going to happen next? When this is a romance and we all know how it ends? So tedious.

Granted, I did finish the book; it had good qualities. The characters were endearing except when they were doing the asinine things required by the plot. There are some nice romantic scenes. It’s mercifully short.

It did not make me want to throw it across the room?

I think mostly it hit the increasingly small spot on me between “awful stuff is happening and I don’t want to endure this” and “everything is fine, so I’m bored.” I am an extremely difficult audience. -_-

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The Shirt Cut Meme

“How many other characters do you have?” Frost asked, as I worked on a picture.

“I don’t know. I can’t even remember how many books I’ve written on the average day,” I told him.

“No, seriously. What if we just count the point-of-view characters?”

“It doesn’t matter,” I told him, but it was too late.

“Nikola, Wisteria, Justin. Anthser, Southing. Mirohirokon, Ardent Sojourner. Jinokimijin, Kimikireki. Zenobia -- ” Frost ticked them off on his fingers, then ran out of fingers and summoned a floating ledger to count them on instead. “Kildare, Madden. Sunrise, Bright, Raven, Mercy.”

“Look, is there a point to this exercise?” I asked him, as he conjured up my webpage to look at the list of books.

“Myself, Thistle. Spark, Komyau. Cherish, Dyaneli, Eclipse. Raindrop, Jaguar, Worth. I daresay I’ve missed some of the minor PoV characters -- ah, wait, you’ve some unpublished books, too. Let’s see, Kalisha, Rachel, Griffin. Swan, Breeze.” He flicked his fingers to total the calculation. “So thirty-one. Including myself. How many of them have you drawn?”

“If I include the covers -- ”

“By all means.”

“And the little interior sketches for Scales and Coils --”

“Of course.”

I glanced over the list of publications. “Twenty-five,” I pronounced, with a note of triumph. “See, I draw most of my characters.”

“Splendid. And whom have you drawn more than three times?”

“Um. Thistle. Ardent and Miro. Uh. Kildare and Madden, I think. You.”

“In truth? You’ve drawn Thistle four or more times?”

“Yes! Twice in pictures with you, and then two portraits.”

“Ah, yes. I did particularly enjoy that second portrait,” Frost said.

“Thank you.” I returned my attention to my tablet.

“So. More than four, then?”

“... just you,” I admitted.

“More than ten?” he asked. “Still just me, is it?”

“That’s how numbers work, yes.”

“But there must be an upper bound. You’ve not drawn me a hundred times. Yet. Have you?”

“No! Like ... twelve,” I said. He gave me a skeptical look. “Maybe twenty if you count all the sketches and the non-canon drawings when I was trying to decide what you look like. Or twenty-five. Not more than thirty, I’m sure.”

“Are you, now.”

“Look, it’s not my fault you’re the prettiest of my characters.”

“Setting aside that you created me and my appearance is quite literally your fault, I am far from the prettiest of your characters. Moreover --” Frost gestured pointedly at my tablet “-- I am indisputably not the one with the most prominent bust.”

“Just because it’s a boob meme doesn’t mean you have to use a character with big boobs for it,” I protested. Frost eyed me. “It’s not! Most of my friends and acquaintances who did it used small-chested or male characters.”

Frost sighed. “I do not understand your fascination with drawing me. Could you not draw someone else? Do you not tire of drawing the same person over and over again?”

“I haven’t drawn you enough times to be bored yet. Don’t look at me like that! Comic artists draw the same characters thousands of times. I drew myself like ten times just doing that silly two-page tribute comic for The Three Jaguars.” I pulled it up and counted. “Eighteen times! In two pages! Twenty or thirty times is nothing. Also, Lut was in the hospital and I wanted to do something self-indulgent and fun.”

“You’ve succeeded at the self-indulgent part, I will grant.” He eyed my drawing with another sigh. “I suppose it serves as a good excuse.”

“Look, send someone by to cure Lut’s cancer and I promise, I’ll draw Thistle like a thousand times for you,” I offered.

“Hah. Fair enough.”

I really did spend too much time on this goofy meme, though.

shirt cut meme

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June 2021 in Review


Not a great month for this category, due to Lut spending eight days in the hospital, across two separate stays. Hospital staycation is worst staycation. I ate more than usual this month, at least partly because of stress-eating. But I also ended up exercising more than usual, courtesy of my newfound resolve to exercise a little on days where I was not feeling up to exercising much. That netted me exercise on twenty-two days this month. It was also a net improvement on intensity/time spent exercising, not just the number of days where I did something.


I did a little more work on the setting/characters/outline for A Game to You, but it's still short of the "now I can finally start writing it" stage. It is getting closer! But there’s some stuff in the middle that is too squishy for me to feel comfortable about it.

The Business of Writing

But I did finally start editing Demon’s Alliance. Editing is 37% complete, according to my editing list. So it’s not going quickly, but at least it moved. Editing is easier to do in the hospital than writing is.

I also looked over the feedback for Level 99 and made some additional edits to it. I have a few more things to poke at, but I should have Level 99 ready for layout before the end of July.


I broke my streak while Lut was in the hospital, and then after I realized I’d broken it, I didn’t care enough to restart. It took me until the last week of the month to start reading books by other people again. I’ve been reading my own as comfort reading instead. I even broke my usual rule about editing and re-read the unpublished Demon books for fun. The good news is that I think the unpublished Demon books are fun to read, at least. n_n


I actually did some of this! I did some work on a landscape, was dissatisfied with it, and started a Bob Ross video, but I never got back to it. I should do that sometime.

While Lut was in the hospital, I decided to do the Shirt Cut Meme as a self-indulgent thing. It’s a boob-focused meme, so of course I used Frost instead of any of my characters with boobs. The first two pics came out pretty well so I decided to do the rest. It is not done yet. I have been working on it on and off for 2.5 weeks. It’s probably not the most time I’ve spent on a picture, but it might be more than I’ve spent on any of my book covers. o_o Maybe not more than I spent on The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady. I haven’t really been tracking time on it.

Anyway, I’ve finished 4 of the 5 parts and the last part is about half done, so I’ll finish it. Eventually. I spent most of today working on it. The only reason I’m not working on it right now is that my monthly “do your month-end update” reminder came up, and I’m not allowed to get rid of the unread message notification for it until I finish this post.

Oh! And I finished the cover for You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99, But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person. I did that at the beginning of June and it feels like ages ago now.


On Wednesday, I remembered that I hadn’t done my “learn a new game” goal yet for June, so Terry and I learned to play Sobek: 2 Players. (I have not played Sobek: More Than 2 Players and also suspect that is not the actual name of the 3+ players version). We played two games of it and will probably play it again. It’s a “plan ahead and pay attention to your opponent’s strategy so that you can screw them over” style of game, which is not my preference. (My favorite kind of player-vs-player board game are indirect competition, where you don’t interact a lot with the opponent. Kind of like golf or racing games.) But that aside, Sobek wasn’t bad.

June Goal Scorecard

  • Assist Lut: Yes. This was the big June accomplishment.
  • Look at goal list occasionally:

Stretch goals

  • Work on notes/outlines A Game to You: Technically complete is best completion.
  • Exercise 20 times this month: 22 times bay-beeeee
  • Consumption tracking: I did this!
  • Make an art: Totally nailed this one.
  • Work on cover art for Demon’s Alliance and Level 99: I finished the cover for Level 99! I also worked enough on the start I’d made for Demon’s Alliance to decide it wouldn’t work, which I guess counts.
  • Practice art: Gonna count this one too.
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review: technically I did one extra entry, so I guess done? Oh, wait, two extra entries, because I launched The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady in June.
  • Start revisions on Demon’s Alliance: Did this!
  • Maintain bullet journal: More-or-less
  • Learn a new game: Done!

For a month where I didn’t accomplish very much, I sure hit a lot of stretch goals. In fairness, there’s a lot of overlapping items and “technically complete” in there.

July Goals:

  • Assist Lut
  • Look at goal list occasionally
  • Finish final edits for Level 99
  • Write some new fiction

Stretch goals

  • Work on notes/outlines A Game to You
  • Start writing A Game to You
  • Work on notes/outline for a different book
  • 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
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Finish revisions on Demon’s Alliance
  • Start revisions on Angel’s Sigil
  • Maintain bullet journal
  • Learn a new game
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before

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Hospital Again Again

I was supposed to go to Seattle on Wednesday, June 9, but Lut was admitted to the hospital on June 6, after he grew increasingly confused over the course of the weekend.

The hospital never quite figured out what he had. “Maybe pneumonia.” But it cleared up after a few days, and he was discharged on June 9, about the same time the flight I’d originally scheduled was leaving the airport. In theory, I could’ve switched to a later flight instead of cancelling the trip, but by that point I didn’t want to leave Lut alone to fend for himself for several days.

This was just as well, because a week later, he was readmitted to the hospital, for confusion and hypoxia (low blood oxygen).

The diagnosis was, again, “maybe pneumonia”. They gave him yet more antibiotics, and on Saturday, June 19, sent him home. This time, they prescribed oxygen for him, although this required something of a song-and-dance to accomplish.

Nurse: “We can discharge you today, just need to give you the breathing test to find out if you need oxygen at home.”
Respiratory therapist: comes to his room, takes him off oxygen, brings him back a few minutes later. “He did great! Won’t need oxygen at home.”
Lut: lies down in bed
Lut’s blood oxygen: plummets
Nurse and respiratory therapist: futz with two different monitors and sensors to make sure it’s not a monitor problem
Nurse: “Well, we can’t send him home with his blood oxygen this low.”
Me: “You mean you need to send him home with oxygen, right?”
Nurse: “No, we can’t send him home with oxygen because he passed the breathing test so insurance won’t pay for it.”
Me: “... can I just buy oxygen? With money?”
Nurse: “Sadly, no.”
Me: “So insurance will pay for additional days at the hospital but not for the much cheaper “send home with oxygen”?”
Nurse: “I KNOW RIGHT??? It’s so frustrating. >_<”

By now, the respiratory therapist had left. About an hour later, the nurse came back and took Lut off oxygen. “The RT will do the re-test in 10 minutes and presumably he’ll fail it then.”

An hour passed, of the oxygen monitor beeping because Lut’s was too low. Finally, the RT returned. The nurse and I coached Lut to fail it. “Breathe shallowly! No deep breaths!” The RT brought him back in thirty seconds. Mission accomplished.

I’ve been monitoring his blood oxygen closely since we got home. He does well enough while using the oxygen that I don’t bother with readings while he’s on it. Whenever he’s sitting without wearing it, I check it every hour or so -- we have one of those little pulse-oximeters. On the first two days after he was discharged, he still had the occasional reading of 89 or 88 (they want 90+, and when he left the hospital he was more like 85 on room air). But since Tuesday or so, I’ve only had one reading of 89, and that went above 90 immediately.

We talked to his general practitioner on Thursday 6/24. He said to keep an eye on it and experiment with leaving it off as long as oxygen levels stayed high. But even if he didn’t need it at all, we should wait 4 weeks before calling to return the equipment. You don’t actually buy oxygen at all. You rent an oxygen concentrator. While the patient is at home, the patient uses the oxygen concentrator with a 50-foot extension on the cannula so that they can move around the house. When you go out, you take a tank with you to use. There’s a machine that goes on top of the concentrator that can be used to fill little portable tanks that fit in a shoulder sling, which is a lot less annoying than the big tank on a wheeled caddy that the hospital sent us home with. We have three of those tanks, too, but those are “in case the power goes out” rather than designed for travel. The little tanks have a special valve so that they only dispense oxygen when he inhales, instead of continuously, so they last just as long despite being much smaller. I don’t know why the big tanks don’t have the same kind of valve.

After a hospital stay, they always send out home health aides, so he’ll get physical, occupational, and respiratory therapy starting next week.

My little victory during all of this has been getting back to regular exercise. Over the course of the last year and a half, I’ve dropped from 5+ times per week to 3-4 times. Every month this year, I’ve had “exercise 20 times” down as a stretch goal, and for the last three months I have ended up at 16-17 instead. In June, I exercised for the first three days, and then Lut grew sicker and I didn’t exercise for a week. On June 11, I looked at my list of stretch goals and thought “It is still technically possible to make this goal. I will do the thing.

And then Lut was hospitalized again and I thought “okay, Imma lower my bar for what qualifies as exercise.”

So I started counting stuff like “did one 10 minute beginner’s aerobics video” or “did 30 minutes of pacing while on the phone” (Google Fit measures how much pacing I do, and I make an effort to pace as if I were walking, by going from one end of the house to the other and then back.)

Doing this reminded me of when I used to trick myself into starting to exercise by promising myself I could stop any time. “Just five minutes. You can always stop.” And then once I got started, I’d always continue through to my usual end.

Except that this time, I was letting myself actually stop.

I made it to 21 times in June -- maybe 22 if I decide to exercise later today. But I’ll take it, either way. My overall activity level this month is higher than at any point since October 2020. “Anything is better than nothing” is a good strategy to keep in mind.

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Me 2012

May 2021 in Review

Health & Fitness

Staying the course: exercise about every other day, eating about the same.

Lut finished radiation in May, and has switched to taking pills at home -- Revlimid and Ninlaro -- as of Monday, instead of getting treatment at the clinic. But because Revlimid and Ninlaro are hard on the patient’s immune system, we’re going to the clinic for blood tests every Wednesday for the next eight weeks. This week is our only week off from the clinic in a long time.


I finished You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99, But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person in May, writing ~13,000 words.

I made a few more notes for A Game to You, but haven’t made a lot of progress on it. So much world-building to do. o_o

The Business of Writing

Instead of writing, I launched into editing Level 99, and managed to finish initial edits on it. It is now off to first readers! \o/

Fun fact: Level 99 takes place right now, like the end of one arc is June 3, 2021. Contemporary novels almost never reference specific dates, and from a marketing perspective this was a foolish move. But it’s sort of fun to tie the book so solidly to a particular moment in time. Especially a point in time that is nothing like the years that will come after it, or the years that came before.

I semi-organized the list of things I highlighted last month in my re-read of Demon’s Lure and Angel’s Sigil, but still no progress on actual edits for those books.

And Alinsa finished layout for the ebook of The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady at the end of the month. I uploaded the books in May but they didn’t finish percolating to retail sites until June, so the launch was in June. Yay, new book in the wild!

I have also already updated my website with both the new release and the new WIP, for bonus business points.


I finished India After Gandhi! After just nine months! Wow, that was a long time. I started reading a novella, which is short so I’ll probably finish it in June.


I worked on the cover for Level 99 on the last day of May, so I have something to show for art, yay.


I thought that Terry and I tried a new game neither of us liked in May, but I don’t see anything new in BGA since Schrodinger’s Cats, so I guess not.

I tried a new strategy for editing, which is gaming-adjacent so I’ll describe it here. My normal editing strategy is “make a list of planned changes, rank how hard they are from 1-10, and then wander through the list doing those things.”

This time, I decided to add a ‘word count equivalent’ for each item, which ranged from 100 words for the easiest to 3800 for the hardest. And then I let myself count that many words as 'written' in 4thewords. I felt like I was, on the one hand, overestimating the difficulty in many cases and therefore giving myself too much credit. And on the other hand, I finished initial edits on the book in less than a month, so I feel like this was a Motivational Win. I will do it with my next editing pass, too, and see how it goes.

May Goal Scorecard

  • Assist Lut: Done!
  • Look at goal list occasionally: Done! Regularly, even.
  • Finish first draft of Level 99: Done!
  • Make editing list for Level 99: Done!
  • Start revisions on Level 99: and done!

Stretch goals

  • Work on notes/outlines A Game to You: technically I did this
  • Exercise 20 times this month: This month’s total was 16.
  • Consumption tracking: done
  • Work on cover art for Level 99: Did this, in the “work on” sense, although it’s not complete.
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.: I did two non-review entries, so yes, although I think my target is 3-4 extra per month.
  • Finish revisions on Level 99: Aw yisss done
  • Start revisions on Demon’s Alliance : I did a little bit more work towards this, but no.
  • Maintain bullet journal: done
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before: I did this! Wooo!

Also, this is worth noting -- I’ve finished one of my 2021 goals goals already: completed drafts for two books. This should not be a surprise since I finished the draft for Angel’s Grace in January, and yet somehow it is.

June Goals

  • Assist Lut
  • Look at goal list occasionally

Stretch goals

  • Work on notes/outlines A Game to You
  • Start writing A Game to You
  • Work on notes/outline for a different book
  • Exercise 20 times this month
  • Consumption tracking
  • Make an art
  • Work on cover art for Demon’s Alliance and/or Angel’s Grace and/or Level 99
  • Practice art
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Start revisions on Demon’s Alliance
  • Start revisions on Angel’s Sigil
  • Maintain bullet journal
  • Learn a new game
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before

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New Release! The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady

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

After his first romance ended in bitterness and anger, and his disastrous first marriage ended in the death of his wife, Lord Jaguar of Honor has no interest in a third attempt at love. But he is the sole surviving member of his House. It is his duty to wed, and he is not a man to shirk from an obligation, no matter how unpleasant.

The daughter of a disgraced traitor, saved from ruin only by the grace of their highnesses, Lady Raindrop of Endurance has no romantic expectations of marriage. Her qualifications for a husband: suitable age and wealth, of a House that will make a good ally for Endurance.

*"You know, I am far more than fortunate! I am the sister of a Great Lord who loves me, my House is sound, I am sought after by an attractive, wealthy lord who is not much older than I am, and -- let us not forget -- I have Cantara's Very Best Puppy!” Raindrop said. “Do you have any idea how good all of this looks to my twelve-year-old self who was engaged to a man forty years her senior and watching her world tilt towards treachery and rebellion?"*

But a monster hunts in the forests of Honor, and rumors swirl around the death of the Brooding Lord’s first wife. Did Lord Jaguar murder his own wife for her failure to provide him with the requisite heir? Or did his former lover kill her, in a jealous rage?

“Is there any evidence of this?” Raindrop asked. “These are the lowest quality rumors. It’s as if they put no thought into them at all.”

Or was there some other sinister force at work --

-- one which might threaten Raindrop herself?

Author Commentary

It’s finally out!

After I finished writing The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince, I knew that I wanted to write another standalone romance in the setting. And I knew that I wanted Lady Raindrop — the vivacious, irrepressible younger sister to Lord Lightning, whose household Eclipse and Dyaneli rescue — to be one of the protagonists.

But it wasn’t until I corresponded with a friend about Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey that I knew the kind of story I wanted to tell.

The basic gothic romance plot involves a brooding, possibly sinister lord, a creepy house, a terrible secret, and a scared, timid young woman jumping at shadows as she struggles to survive.

And I thought: what would Raindrop — bold, fearless, relentless, and pragmatic — do if she were in a gothic romance?

And that was how The Lord, His Monster, and Their Lady was born: a queer polyamorous romance featuring two brooding men with dark pasts and too many secrets, and a young woman neither impressed nor intimidated by any of it. That was the cover concept, too:

Monstrous ghostly floating head: “I am the threatening force in a gothic novel”
Looming house: “I am the spooky setting for a gothic novel”
Dark figure in background: “I am the brooding lord in a gothic novel”
Woman in foreground: “Puppy!”

o/~One of these things is not like the others o/~

I had so much fun creating this book; I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

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India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy, by Ramachandra Guha

I was reading this book for a Very Long Time -- since September 2020, to be exact -- and finally finished it a week or so ago. This is a unique case; I don’t believe I’ve ever spent nine months reading one book before. And it really was about nine months of reading one book, not "I read it for a week and put it down for a few months and then picked it up again, repeat until complete.” I put it aside for a few weeks to read Shadeslinger, and for a few days here and there to read a few other books. But for the most part, I read a few pages of India After Gandhi every day from September 2020 through May 2021.

So it’s not a book that pulled me along, where I felt compelled to keep reading and find out what happens next. But despite this (or maybe because of it), I love this book. It is fascinating and informative and packed full of interesting details.

I purchased it due to a confluence of factors:

  • It was on sale through Bookbub, for $1.99 -- a particularly deep discount for an ebook that normally retails at $14.99 (and is well worth $14.99, I might add)
  • It is a history of a non-Western country
  • Written by a native of that country
  • In English
  • With serious attention to scholarly detail
  • Intended for popular consumption

It is incredibly rare to stumble across a book that combines all of those last five features. I’m not saying they aren’t out there, but when I’ve looked for stuff like this, I’ve never found it before. So that was exciting.

The volume has citations for everything, and much of it is primary sources -- eg, “the author went to archives and read the original, unpublished correspondence of various historical figures.” It's this attention to detail that justifies the sticker price; it's a book that required years of research and diligent fact-checking. And it’s written in plain English rather than designed to impress other scholars, so it’s easy to understand. It’s thorough about the period that it covers, 1948-2016 (plus some background from 1947 and earlier), covering political, economic, military, and communal issues. So much of it is stuff I had no idea about. Like Indira Gandhi declared “The Emergency” in 1975 -- effectively martial law, where she cancelled elections -- and then actually ended it in 1977 to return India to democracy.

Much of it feels remarkably similar to American history in certain respects. India is a nation committed to religious freedom, and struggling with that commitment. Minority religious groups suffer from oppression and outbreaks of violence (on both sides, but the minorities get the worst of it.) India has indigenous populations that want to be self-governing, while India is determined to keep the nation united. India’s political dynasties are more obvious and powerful than America’s (the Indian National Congress has been headed by a member of the Nehru family pretty much since inception) -- but America has the Kennedys and the Bushes and the Clintons; it all feels familiar.

Other aspects are so foreign to my experience that I can’t help wondering why they’re so different. The Indian National Congress went from holding over 75% of seats in 1984 to holding under 30% in 1996. In the USA, we fight rabidly over a few percentage points one way or another. It’s all but impossible to imagine either of those majorities or minorities in my country -- much less for one party to go from one extreme to the other in just twelve years! I realize that some of it is because the USA’s particular electoral policies virtually guarantee a two-party system. But even so, the USA’s politics are so team-based that it’s hard to imagine us having 40%+ of the population that’s willing to switch to a new team. (I will be honest, I envy this fluidity).

Anyway, despite the length of time it took me to finish this book, I never wanted to quit. It is a fascinating glimpse into a part of the world I don’t know much about. I am glad that I read it, and a little sorry that I’ve finished it. Guha has written several other history books; I might just pick up another one.

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Call for First Readers for Level 99!

I have almost finished initial edits for You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99, But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person, which means that it’s time once again for the Quest For First Readers!

Blurb! In case the title wasn’t enough of a blurb.

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 eventually, and it's only getting more awkward the longer Kalisha waits.

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

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

A queer polyamorous novel of MMOs and romance

Level 99 is both gamelit and romance; much of the book takes place while the three protagonists play together, including a strong subplot about an endgame raid. I’d love to have both MMO players and those who don’t play as first readers, because I want to know (a) if the gamer content works for gamers and (b) if it’s comprehensible to non-gamers.

There is no explicit sex in Level 99 -- it’s all off-camera.

This is also my first-ever book that’s not fantasy. No isekai, no “the game becomes reality”, just three people playing an MMO. I always thought that writing real-world fiction would be boring, but I had a great time writing about gamers like me, living in my world.

If you’d like to be a first reader, please leave a comment with your email (comments are screened), or email (my gmail is ladyrowyn)/DM/etc. I’ll send out a link on Friday or Saturday, when I finish. I’m looking for first readers who’ll be able to finish reading by June 30. Thank you! ♥

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April 2021 in Review

Health & Fitness

In April, I ate a little more and exercised a little less than in previous months. I am making an effort to do better this month. I only managed exercise 16 times, below my target of 4-5 times per week.

In better news, I received my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer) on 4/22. As of this writing, I am in the “fully effective” state of being vaccinated. Woohoo!

In worse news, the immunotherapy treatments Lut has been receiving each month have become less effective. So they didn’t administer it as scheduled in April. Instead, he’s receiving radiation treatments every weekday for two weeks in May, and after those he’ll start on two immunotherapy pills. One is new, the other he’s taken before and I didn’t love the side effects of it -- it seemed to impair his cognitive abilities. But we’ll see how it goes.

He’s had radiation before and tolerated it well, so we’re not super-worried about the side effects there.


I didn’t finish You Thought You Wanted to Be Level 99, But Really You Wanted to Be a Better Person in April, but I did write 33,000 words. Just as important, I was close enough to finishing it that I did manage to finish it in the first week of May. So the first draft is done as of now. In fact, the reason it took me so long to do my “April in Review” post was that whenever I sat down to write, I wanted to work on Level 99.

At the end of the month, I was chatting in email with Maggie about Shadeslinger, and noted that the problem with me writing a LitRPG is that it’d have a pacifist protagonist and the target market would hate it. “It’d be a portal fantasy litRPG, where the game becomes reality for the players, and most of the players would be like ‘I WILL BECOME A GOD’ while the protag would be all ‘if this is the only world we have now, it's not right to treat it like a game. The creatures and the people in it are not expendable and they don't exist for our convenience.’”

And Maggie responded with ‘so there’s a sub-subgenre of LitRPG that this would fit so it’s not hopeless, you should keep the idea for future use.’

So I put it into my Schenectady folder, and then noodled around with it. I wanted the players to have been brought to the world to defeat some kind of Big Bad. So I’m thinking: “what are the Big Bad’s motivations? I don’t want it to be ‘The Big Bad is evil and there’s no room for reason or negotiation.’ But I also didn’t want it to be ‘aw the poor Evil Overlord is just misunderstood and can be reformed through kindness and philosophical discussions.’”

And then it struck me what to do with the Big Bad, and suddenly I really wanted to write this story.

So my next project is A Game to You, and it will probably be gamelit because I do not have the patience to create an entire RPG system for a book. It is not a romance! The protagonist is a 68-year-old-grandmother! I have to do a ton of background and worldbuilding for it first, but I am Extremely Excited to start writing, which is part of why I was so motivated to finish Level 99 so I could start something new.

Incidentally, my plan to have a new writing project ready to start as soon as I finished Level 99 so that I wouldn’t be depressed when I finished Level 99 did, in fact, work. I am not depressed! WHO KNEW.

The Business of Writing

I finished re-reading the first two books of the Demon’s Series and highlighted stuff that I wanted to remember when editing the latest two books. I did not do any actual editing, though.


Still chewing through India After Gandhi at the same glacial pace. I might actually finish it in May, Amazon says I only have ~8 hours left, and I think that estimate is based on my actual time spent reading.

I started and finished Shadeslinger, which was fun, but I haven’t started another work of fiction yet. I’m having trouble convincing myself to read my own works, which is a new low. I do have a couple of not-by-me books I’ve been thinking of reading.


Nope, none of that. Just writing.


I learned “Schrödinger's Cats”, which is a card game based on bluffing. It technically has a two-player mode but it is a terrible two-player game. But it was quick to learn so I don’t mind. I should probably pick a game that isn’t quick to learn eventually. Although, strictly speaking, my way of picking a game to learn has been “that game name/one-line description entertains me” rather than any analysis of the actual game.

I did the CampNano event in 4thewords, and I’ll talk about that here because it’s basically gaming.

There was A Lot of event stuff added for CampNano this year. So Much Event Stuff. o_o I finished all the CampNano quests, but I didn’t get every item I wanted to pick up. On the other hand, 4thewords is bringing everything back, so I can get it later. On the gripping hand, 4thewords is adding way more content than I can keep up with writing anymore, so the odds of me getting back to it are ... not great.

My new plan for 4thewords is “actually finish all the non-recurring quests in my questbook”, and this will take a Very Long Time to complete because the non-recurring quests clogging my quest book are all things like “fight 60,000 words’ worth of different monsters from different areas”, and I’ve finished like 10,000 words’ worth of them and don’t want to ditch the quest but it’s still gonna take a month plus to finish it.

One of the 4thewords staffers has a rubric for “X amount of editing counts as the equivalent of Y amount of words so just paste in that many words to get credit for it”, and I think I will ask them what their rubric is again because getting credit for the editing I have to do would be motivational in getting it done. o_o;;;

April Goal Scorecard

  • Assist Lut you betcha
  • Look at goal list occasionally: another “technical completion”. I didn’t look at the goal list that much because mostly if I wanted to do something productive, I wanted to write Level 99. A lot of my goals are less “You Must Do These Things!!!” and more “so if you’re stuck for ideas on what to do at the moment, here’s some stuff you wanted to get done.”
  • Participate in CampNano on #4thewords: yup!

Stretch goals

  • Work on notes/outlines for a new book: I actually did this! SO EXCITE.
  • Exercise 20 times this month: Nope, 16.
  • Consumption tracking: Oh got this one!
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review: I did 3, so this is also complete
  • Maintain bullet journal: Yep
  • Learn a new game: done!
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before: done!

May Goals

  • Assist Lut
  • Look at goal list occasionally
  • Finish first draft of Level 99
  • Make editing list for Level 99
  • Start revisions on Level 99

Stretch goals

  • Work on notes/outlines A Game to You
  • Start writing A Game to You
  • Exercise 20 times this month
  • Consumption tracking
  • Make an art
  • Work on cover art for Demon’s Alliance and/or Angel’s Grace and/or Level 99
  • Practice art
  • Post a few blog entries, apart from my usual month-in-review.
  • Finish revisions on Level 99
  • Start revisions on Demon’s Alliance
  • Start revisions on Angel’s Sigil
  • Maintain bullet journal
  • Learn a new game
  • Finish reading a book I haven’t read before

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Me 2012

Shadeslinger, by Kyle Kirrin

Shadeslinger is a LitRPG novel, and the first book I’ve read in this genre (although I’ve read a couple of fics by Terrycloth that are LitRPG-adjacent, if not squarely in the genre.) The vast majority of Shadeslinger takes place inside Earth Bound Online, a VR MMO in a future where virtual reality is fully immersive, and gamers use pods that provide full life support, so they never have to log out.

I decided to read Shadeslinger based on this review on “All the Spoilers”. The blurb for the book makes it sound like it’s about PVP, but there’s no actual PVP in it; I expect subsequent books will be centered on PVP, however.

I found the story and the characters engaging, especially the AI characters. The AI “guide” to the game, a talking axe named Frank, has the strongest character arc in the book. Because the story takes place entirely inside an MMO, the worst possible outcome is always along the lines of “the protagonist might lose his in-game progress and perhaps become so dispirited with the game that he quits playing.” The author does a great job of selling these stakes as meaningful, and that suffering major in-game setbacks would be harrowing. In fact, for me, he did too good a job of selling it. I began the book on April 6, read the first third in a few days, but didn’t finish it until last night, April 23. Much of that slowdown was “the story went from ‘fun romp’ to ‘nerve-wracking because of the obstacles in place.’”

This is an observation about my reading habits, not a criticism of the book. I have a few actual quibbles with the book -- a few times where the protagonist took so long to figure something out that I wanted to shake him, and one case where there was a glaringly obvious “why don’t you do [thing]” and no one even mentions the possibility of [thing] and I was just like “if you are not going to use this Chekov’s gun to shoot anyone would you AT LEAST tell people you have no bullets or something???”

But overall, it’s a great book. Lots of learning a new game and figuring out how to best apply one’s abilities in it, and with interesting combat setups where the AI has unexpected tricks to use and the players need to improvise counters to them on the fly. Plus the joy of finding phat lewt and watching one’s powers advance. I tended to skim over the character-sheet dumps and other stat blocks, but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment and it’s there for the people who like it. Also, while this is prominently marketed as "BOOK ONE", it ends on a satisfying note, with a solid climax and some significant plot points resolved. There's plenty of room for sequels, but it doesn't feel like a cliffhanger ending. If you like the LitRPG genre, or are interested in trying it, I’d recommend this book.

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