Me 2012

Once Upon a Marquess, by Courtney Milan

Once Upon a Marquess was on sale for $0.99 (still is, as of this posting), probably because Milan just released the third installment in the series, so I picked it up and then actually read it for a change. Unlike most of the books that I pick up on sale and then ignore in the endless unsorted pile of kindle books.

It was typical of Milan's works: well-written characters, good banter, one of the protagonists has a Dark Secret, and a fast-paced plot. It was somewhat less intense than many of Milan's books, which honestly I prefer. I am not big on high intensity stories. But I still read it in one day because I wanted to know how it ended. I mean, it's a romance, obvious the protagonists get together and live happily ever after, but I was still impatient to see it happen.

The best part about Milan's works is that her protagonists are all different, with unique strengths and flaws and interesting quirks about their personalities. I have some quibbles about the story (I consciously notice the beats in her book and this annoys me, which is not really a valid complaint) but I liked it enough that I plan to read the next one soon too. So I'm not gonna take this up with gripes. It's a solid 8. This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

April in Review

Another 22,000 words for Frost, which put it at 98,000 words. Since writing wasn't a goal this month, that's plenty.
The Business of Writing
I finished first-pass edits on Demon's Sigil and sent it to beta-readers.
Alinsa got me the early version of the Demon's Lure e-book and I started proofreading it.
I finished the couple's adopt for Flight Rising and got one customer. Alas!  I think I am done making adopts. 
I finished my taxes! Just like everyone else, I know, but whatever. They were stressful and annoying and now they are done.
Lut and I took some money out of his disability stipend via ATM, so that works. It's kind of expensive because his debit card doesn't have a bank, so there are no local ATMs. So he'd have to pay a fee every time we took cash out. We also attempted to use it to pay one of his outstanding medical bills from last year. I don't know if that worked yet. I'll check the debit card balance by phone later this month to see if they actually debited it. We can't use the debit card to pay our credit card, alas, because the credit card will only debit checking accounts.
We did get the last checks cashed from before they started putting the money on the debit card.
We never did get a medical bill for this year. I thought we had for a little while! But that turned out to be a bill for last year and only because one provider didn't have Lut's insurance info. I sent them Lut's insurance info. I was afraid this would mean that I'd have to scrounge up documentation on one of the prescription co-pays (seriously? they're all under $5 except the Revlimid that was $25 but I paid it in January and didn't keep the receipt) just to keep the copay grant open long enough to make sure no actual bills arrive. 
HOWEVER, it turns out the co-pay grant will pay Lut's insurance premiums! And that only required documentation from my employer. So I got that together and sent it to them. I don't know if it worked yet.
Lut only had a couple of appointments in April. The oncologist hasn't put him back on treatment yet because the cancer indicators were all still low based on the blood tests in March. He had blood tests today, though, and his platelet count was low so he needed a platelet transfusion. Next week is another oncologist appointment and I kind of suspect he'll be resuming treatment of some kind.
I saw Terry for the first time in foreeeeeveeeer. ❤️ ❤️ Just for a long weekend, but it was a good visit. 
Oh man I don't know what my goals are for May. There are three obvious ones:
Finish proofreading Demon's Lure
Front/backmatter for Demon's Lure
Finish first draft of Frost
But I finished writing Frost yesterday (total count is 103,359), and I will probably finish proofreading Lure tonight or tomorrow. Some other logical things are:
Final edits for Demon's Sigil
Release Demon's Lure
Initial edits for Frost
I am optimistic that the book release will happen this month. I am not going to start final edits on Sigil now, but maybe later in the month. Likewise for Frost; I want to let it sit a little while before I go back over it.
One of the strengths of my current process is that, since I don't work on just one thing from when I start writing to when I release, I always have something I can work on. If something needs to wait on cover art or layout or first readers, that's fine. I can work on something else.
One of the weaknesses is that there are no logical "take a vacation" points. I don't go "well, I finished this draft, time for a month off from writing while I let my subconscious chew on it" or "I just released a book, time to rest on my laurels". There is always another thing I could be doing. Furthermore, having consciously turned myself into a kind of workaholic, I do not enjoy taking time off from writing nearly as much as I did fifteen years ago. I finished everything on my goal list for March and April a week or more before month-end, and instead of thinking "Yay! I did a great job!" I thought "I didn't put enough stuff on my goal list. MUST DO MORE."
I am not sure this counts as a problem or a humble brag.  Maybe both. It is strange to be so alien to my younger, oft-procrastinating self. 
Anyway, I will split my goal list into parts, and not worry too much about what I get done on the "maybe work on these" section.
Definite goals
Finish proofreading and front/backmatter for Demon's Lure 
Finish first draft of Frost
See if anyone would like an ARC of Demon's Lure, for review purposes

Work on one or more of the following:
Final edits for Demon's Sigil
Release Demon's Lure
Initial edits for Frost
Write more of The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince
Outline The Twilight Etherium
This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

Book Reviews: The Signal and the Noise | Sylvester

I've read a couple of books this month:

The Signal and the Noise, by Nate Silver: This was a rare non-fiction read for me. I picked it up because it was on Bookbub and while I don't often read FiveThirtyEight, I've enjoyed what essays I have read by Silver. The book was interesting too, although I'm not sure I took away anything from it that I will use in my everyday life. Silver has a wide-ranging approach: the book is about forecasting in general, and so tackles a variety of areas where humans attempt to forecast from weather (surprisingly good at this!) to earthquakes (lol terrible) to the stock market to baseball and on.

I have a friend who often talks about future events in his own life in probabilistic terms: a 90% chance he will go on this planned trip, or a 50% chance that he will retire this year, or whatever. Reading Silver's book gave me a new appreciation for this approach, because Silver encourages the reader to think of forecasts in terms of probability and especially to think about uncertainty. Not only "what don't you know?" but "what don't you know that you don't know?"

He skewers one particular target in the housing market crash: the rating agencies. The two major rating agencies emerged almost unscathed from the mortgage crisis, despite being in large part responsible for it. Yes, banks made sub-prime mortgages to people with terrible credit, and people with terrible credit dove into the market, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac underwrote those loans, and other banks came up with the bright idea of selling them by bundling them together and re-dividing them into tranches.. But it was the rating who'd given triple-A ratings to the "least risky" tranches of these high-risk mortgages. They're the ones who said not "the housing market won't crash" but "these investments are safe even if the housing market crashes.".

(Narrator: they were not safe.)

Anyway, this was a scholarly book (so many footnotes!) written with a solid, engaging style. Easy-to-follow and interesting. If you are interested in forecasting or probabilities as applied to real life, it's an excellent read.

Sylvester: or The Wicked Uncle, by Georgette Heyer: As I've noted before, I find Heyer entertaining more as a humorist than as a romantic. This leaves me in the weird position of having enjoyed the book even though the romance utterly failed me. I think this is the first time I've gotten to the end of a romance and found myself wanting a fix-it fic where the main couple stays apart. The female protagonist, Phoebe, had a plan to write novels and live with her former governess as her companion, and I really feel like this would have been a much happier ending. The titular Sylvester isn't ... awful? Like, he takes his responsibilities seriously, and he has a sense of humor, and he can be agreeable when he wants to be. But he is arrogant, callous, manipulative, and temperamental. While he improves over the course of the book, he doesn't rise to the standard of "someone I would want to be around", much less "someone I would trust with my heart". Especially since he is STILL MANIPULATING Phoebe at the end of the book.

Phoebe deserves better, is what I'm saying. Granted, she's kind of silly and impulsive, but she's nineteen and she's a woman in this crapsack world that offers so few good options.

*pats poor Phoebe gently*

Anyway, I generally enjoyed the book up until the last 30% or so, when I found one of the plot twists kind of tedious and it had also become pretty clear to me that I was unlikely to warm up to the male protag. (Frustratingly, there were a couple of points where I thought the ending might do something to endear him to me, but nope.) This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Lut Check-Up

Lut saw his oncologist for the first time since mid-March. Per the lab work from last visit, the cancer is still in check. His platelet count is still kind of low, so the doctor is thinking that when he restarts treatment, they'll use a different drug that won't suppress Lut's bone marrow as much as the Revlimid does. But -- good news! -- he doesn't see a need to restart treatment yet. Lut gets another month off! I am excited.

Lut has been doing pretty well for the last few weeks. He still sleeps 10-12 hours at night, but he's been staying awake most of the day instead of napping often, and he's done more reading and gaming. On Monday, he cooked dinner for us and yesterday he did the dishes before I got to them. ♥ So things are feeling a lot more normal, and I am delighted at the prospect of EVEN MORE recovery time.

So the news from cancer-land is good for a change, and this is nice.

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

Book Review: Dreamstorm

 I read this as an ARC, and it's perhaps my favorite of the Dreamhealers series. It has a deliberate, unhurried pace, lingering on the lives of the characters. It revisits many supporting characters from earlier in the series, and introduces some delightful new characters. (Kristyl is my favorite! I hope for continuing adventures from her, or perhaps a prequel.)
As the title and cover suggest, there is some dramatic action in the book, but the story and conflict revolve around Vasiht'h and Jahir's relationship. I love the way they revisit some of the same kinds of problems they've had in earlier books, but from different angles, informed by their experiences. It feels like a real relationship, where problems aren't resolved forever because you resolved them once, and continue to arise in new permutations. 
A lot of the book has the feel of being on a long, relaxing vacation with friends and seeing astonishing, delightful locales and performances. This is handled beautifully, with enough things going on with the characters that I always felt engaged with the story, and not so much drama that I couldn't enjoy luxuriating in the setting.
Highly recommended!
This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

Sun Porch of

When my house was originally built, it had a basement but no interior staircase, only an exterior door. At some point before I bought the house 15 years ago, amateurs added an extension, pretty much for the sole purpose of enclosing a stairwell to the basement. It has electric lights but no outlets and no heat. The shingles from the original exterior are still in place on the inner wall of the extension. There's some space in addition to the stairs, but it's pretty much an overgrown hall. On the main floor, in the space behind the stairwell that was billed as a "sun porch", we put the cat's litter boxes and a bunch of miscellaneous junk we don't have any other place for and never use.

Several days ago, I came home to find an enormous pool of liquid in the middle of the floor in the cat's area, surrounded by litter boxes. It looked like water and had no odor I could detect. It looked like more liquid than one cat could reasonably contain. The ceiling and all walls were dry. The puddle did not extend to the walls.


I cleaned it up. Maybe Lut or I had sleep-walked, spilled a glass of water there, put the glass away, and left the puddle. I got nothin'.

The puddle has not returned since.

Today, I went to clean the litter boxes. A dying wasp was on the floor among the litter boxes. I stepped on it to finish off the dying process.

Then I noticed another dying wasp.

And a wasp corpse. And another wasp corpse. And


This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

March in Review

Frost is at 76,000 words. That's up from 17,500 at the end of this month. No, writing Frost was not on the goal list for last month. I checked. In my case, writing 58,500 words is what I do to avoid editing for a few weeks. It would've been nice if I could've written them on any one of the sequels I was planning to write next but HEY. Writing happens.

Because I'm writing Frost to indulge myself, it's been pretty easy to write. I'm just doing the parts that are interesting to me. When I hit a point where I'd normally go "I need to do research or think of clever things to use for this part", I mostly NOPE out of it instead. This is a ROMANCE, let's get back to the chewy relationship stuff and there can be just enough surrounding material to hold it together. Just barely enough. Whatever. Like there are two main characters and I hardly even let anyone else show up. I actually thought really hard about making it a poly romance because I love two of the few supporting cast characters, but I feel like this story is held together mainly by the way the protagonists are obsessed with each other. So.

The Business of Writing
Despite procrastinating SO HARD on editing, I did manage to finish the penultimate editing pass for Demon's Lure. last month. \o/ In the last week, because I put it off for that long. "Penultimate" means that the book is now in Alinsa's capable paws for layout. When she's done with layout, I will read it a final time to check for errors, and then it goes into the wild. Because it took me so long to get it to Alinsa, I'm expecting the release to be sometime in May. At least it's not a doorstopper like Silver Scales, so it shouldn't be as hard to layout.

I also commissioned my artist for the cover for Demon's Sigil. The cover he did for Lure is amazing, by the way. SO BEAUTIFUL. I need to do a post just for it. Usually I like to wait for release but I am impatient this time.

I did a little more work on my Flight Rising adopt, because I got three more customers. (!) So that was fun. I also started to draw a couple's adopt (where two dragons are posed together). I don't know if I'm going to do enough on it to make it available for purchase, but we'll see. Adopts are fun to do in general, but they're more fun when I know someone is going to appreciate the art. <3

I am planning a trip in April! To visit Terrycloth! For the first time in a year! I AM VERY EXCITED. If you live in the Seattle area and would like to see me briefly, I'll be there Sat-Sun, 4/28-29. Barring medical crises forcing me to cancel. But yes, Lut is presently doing well enough that he thinks he can fend for himself for a long weekend without me. \o/ 

I was depressed for much of March. A lot of days where I felt wrung out and hopeless. And unproductive, in defiance of all reason. Like, yes, I was procrastinating on editing but still. I did a Nano in like 3 weeks. Give yourself a break, girl.

Anyway, I'm doing better now. We'll see if this lasts!

Goals for coming month

I am tempted to put Frost on the goal list, but NOPE. Odds are I'm going to write it anyway. It doesn't need to be a goal.

I did succeed, technically, at all my goals for last month! Lut is alive, Demon's Lure is to Alinsa for editing, and I did "some editing" on Demon's Sigil. Where "some editing" means "very little but technically editing for 3-4 days DOES COUNT as some". I have crossed 11 items off the list. The list is up to 32 items. So there's 21 left. I don't know how many items it's going to grow to. Anyway, here's my goals:
  • Get Lut to doctor's appointments and otherwise make sure he is all right
  • Do taxes before April 15
  • Figure out how to get Lut's disbility stipend off his debit card and to somewhere that it can actually pay for his expenses. Maybe an ATM. And then actually do this.
  • Get the remainder of Lut's disability checks cashed.
  • Get together enough paperwork for at least one medical bill so that I can keep the Lut's co-pay grant open
  • Finish preliminary edits on Demon's Sigil and get it to beta readers.
The "co-pay grant" is a grant that will pay or reimburse us for the portion of Lut's medical expenses that aren't paid by insurance. It will reimburse for any expenses incurred after 11/8/2017. But it has pretty stringent paperwork requirements: I have to provide a copy of the bill, prove that it was authorized by a medical professional, show that the service was performed during the covered period, find where my insurance paid for its portion of the particular service, and provide proof that I paid it, if I'm asking for reimbursement. I also have to send in at least one receipt every 90 days in order to keep the grant active. So I have until May 8th to do this.

The biggest problem with this is that almost all of Lut's medical expenses are from September 2017 or prior. By October, he had met the out-of-pocket cap and stopped incurring new bills in 2017. In 2018, it looks like the combination of MO HealthNet (the state Medicaid program) and UMR (private insurance through my employer) has either covered everything, or confused healthcare providers so thoroughly that they haven't gotten around to billing us yet. (Honestly, it is anyone's guess which one. GOOD LUCK HEALTHCARE PROVIDERS.)

In another great twist of what-the-heck, the bills I have paid myself, that were from Sept 2017 or earlier, have started to send us refund checks. What. Why. Did you change your mind after four months and decide you didn't want money after all? So I have to try depositing the checks back in my account, I guess.

Anyway, I am putting all this stuff on my Goals list because it's not been getting done and my monthly goals are about the only way to give myself a shot at doing them. I am not good at paperwork. Also, having it on my goals list will remind me that it is, in fact, work. And I should give myself credit for doing it and not go "why am I not accomplishing anything ;__;" all the time.
This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

A Goofy List of Speech Quirks

One of the things I wrestle with as an author is "giving my characters distinctive speech patterns". I can usually manage to make a few main characters sound unique. But if I have a large cast, everyone starts to sound like me, or like one of a few defaults.

A couple of my beta-readers for Demon's Lure pointed out that Lure had this problem. I would ignore this criticism -- it wasn't every reader -- except that I agree with it (dangit). So I really wanted to fix it, or to be more accurate, I wanted it to be fixed. I actually have zero interest in doing the fixing

Hence, instead of fixing it, I've spent the last three weeks writing Frost.  Which is now at 70,500 words. Yes, I wrote 53,000 words in three weeks. Some authors clean to avoid a deadline. I write a different book. Uh. Go go avoidance habits? \o_

Anyway, today is the first weekday I've had off in a long time where I didn't have to take Lut to a medical appointment, so I celebrated by going to the coffee shop for breakfast. I asked a few friends whether I should work on Frost or Lure, and Lure won. So I am Actually Editing this morning, albeit slowly. 

To help me with this task, I started  building a list of specific speech quirks.  Because I tried Googling for one a while ago and didn't find an existing one that was useful to me.

A few of these are stolen directly from Bard Bloom (or maybe Vicki Bloom; I don't know which of them invented the "Sleeth" one, but I named it for the World Tree species). "Using 'the' for emphasis" is also stolen from Bard. Hopefully they will forgive me. I am sharing the list here, so that future authors can find it and maybe be slightly less frustrated than I am. Also so that I can solicit y'all for further suggestions. c_c


A couple of notes: I write pretty much exclusively secondary-world fantasy. So my books all have the conceit of being "in translation": none of my characters speak English, I'm just writing their dialogue in English because it is what I and my readers speak. So when I say "ESL", what I mean is "in this dialogue, the character is speaking a language that is not their native language." For bonus points, you can show them speaking their native language and take away the 'accent'.  Since all the underlying languages in my stories are fictitious, I can do whatever I like with it. I still try to use language quirks that (a) I can tie back in a sensible way and (b) are not similar to common real-world stereotypes.

If you are writing an actual English-as-a-second-language speaker whose native language is, say, Mandarin or German, I strongly recommend you do research to figure out what kind of missteps they are most likely to make in English and do not just pick one because it sounds cool.  You know that, right? Of course you do.

Unusual tenses: Speaker uses a tense that's a little bit off, like "always uses 'shall' instead of 'will'", or uses past tense instead of past perfect, or never uses imperfect tenses. This kind of quirk can be grammatically correct by careful choice of words; in fact, the whole quirk  may be "they phrase things in an odd way that avoids these tenses".  Tends to give the impression of an ESL speaker.
Improper conjugation: Also an ESL quirk. Character might conjugate all verbs in the third-person, say, or might not conjugate verbs at all. Another option is to try to use declensions on nouns or otherwise do things that aren't done in modern English.  Declensions would suggest the speaker's native language is very similar to the language they're speaking now, close enough that declining nouns feels natural.
Uses names often instead of pronouns: not all of the time, just more often than most people.
Uses nicknames instead of pronouns: again, do sparingly
Nicknames everyone
Endearments: 'she calls me baby/ she calls everybody baby'. 
Terse: short sentences.
Long-winded: run-on sentences
Breathless: insufficient punctuation, or avoids needing punctuation: "we went to the store and then to the bank and after that came home!"
Sleeth: always speaks in the present tense. 
Brevity: Leaves out normal words if they're not needed for clarity: "Went to store" instead of "I went to the store". Or even "Store."
Shatner: pauses mid-sentence for emphasis
Articles for emphasis: speaker uses "the" instead of "a", to call attention to a noun. "He bought the beautiful rug" even though "rug" had not been mentioned earlier.
Avoids possessive pronouns: "he has a thoughtful expression" instead of "his expression was thoughtful".  This kind of phrasing works better than "the expression of him was thoughtful", which is unwieldy.
Favorite word: uses a common word more often normal, or in not-quite-appropriate ways. Modern use of "like" for emphasis, for example. Patrick O'Brien had characters use "which" in this fashion. 'And he asked a third time, which he's not gonna like the answer, you mind me.' A "favorite word" doesn't have to be grammatically correct by normal English rules but whatever meaning or purpose they serve for the character, it should do so consistently. 
Formal: elegant, grammatically-correct sentences. 
No contractions: goes well with formal. Also can be ESL.
Casual: chatty, uses sentence fragments, uses filler words, lots of contractions, colloquialisms. 
Erudite: uses big words. Also goes well with formal.
Plain-spoken: uses small words
Bless your heart: avoids hostile/angry language. Patronizingly kind when annoyed, if not deliberately using kind-sounding phrasing while meaning the opposite.
Negativity: Frames things using negative language, in terms of no/not/un-/in-/won't/don't. Eg, might answer "How are you today?" with "nothing's gone wrong so far" instead of "fine". This doesn't necessarily mean the character is negative or unpleasant. For instance, "no problem" is the negative-language version of "you're welcome." Tends to come across as blunt or a downer, however. 
Positivity: Avoids using negative language. Eg, instead of saying "No" to an invitation, explains that they have a prior commitment.
Rising tone: when uncertain, ends statements with a rising tone (question mark) even if they aren't phrased as questions.
Flat tone: Makes statements out of things that are phrased like questions.
Brusque: leaves out normal courtesies, like hello/please/thank you/you're welcome/goodbye
Alternate courtesies: eg, "you have my thanks" instead of "thank you" or "no problem" or "my pleasure" instead of "you're welcome".
Polite: uses courtesies frequently. Or uses elaborate ones, or to excess. "A great and wide apology, noble sir, from this humble servant."
New colloquialisms: turns of phrase appropriate to the setting/character religion (or dominant religion: characters may swear by a god they don't believe in)
Swears like a: Uses frequent inventive imprecations. Or uses curse words casually/constantly
Code-switching: Changes speech patterns depending on who they are with (most people do this to one degree or another, but it is more or less marked depending one circumstances.)
Respectful: addresses people by title & surname, 
Rude: avoids calling people by name, may not know names. "Hey, you."
Poetic: likes using alliteration and/or rhymes and/or particular rhythms in their speech.
This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

End of a Road

Lut's body did not produce enough stem cells to collect via the Cytoxan-based mobilization either. This was the last method to try in order to do the bone marrow transplant, so that is not going to happen.

We'll go back to his previous oncologist next week and resume treatment there. He might end up trying to get into a clinical trial somewhere down the line. We'll see.

Thank you for your well-wishes, everyone.

This entry was originally posted at
Me 2012

February in Review

The Business of Writing
Because Surprise Staycation gave me extra time at home, I finished editing Demon's Lure on March 17, much sooner than I'd anticipated. I've fixed some typos caught first readers, but haven't made much in the way of substantive changes yet. A couple of first readers have had issues with the same aspect, and it's one that will be time-consuming to address. I expect I will make an effort to do so before I pronounce it done.

Since I finished editing early, I started writing a new book. No, I didn't resume work on The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince. Nor did I start on any of the other books I was talking about working on next. AH HA HA why would I do that, that would make sense.

Instead, I'd stumbled across a half-finished outline I started in 2015 and abandoned because the story is Super Problematic. I did several illustrations from the story back in 2015, and posted one of them here: Anyway, having remembered this idea existed, I promptly became obsessed with it all over again, and I decided that I could reward myself for finishing edits early by working on something frivolous until the end of the month. So I finished up the outline and wrote out some world-building notes for four days, then dove in to write 17,500 words in the last week of February.

It is tempting to keep charging forward on it, but I lost my stride as soon as March hit, so I don't think so.

Uhh. I did a reference map for Demon's Lure? And some more genes and a handful of apparel pieces for my Skydancer adoptable. I did launch an adopt shop on FR. It has had two customers! \o/ I am excited because the second customer was today and since I'd ignored it completely for the last two weeks since completing an adopt for my first customer, I'd assumed I wasn't going to have another. :)

Surprise Staycation was unexpectedly relaxing. Surprise Hospital Stay and going back to work was bad. Writing 2500 words a day for a week was also pleasant, though. I finished out February with my reserves tapped out, but my mood overall was reasonably good. Fatigued but not depressed.

"Reserves tapped out" means I go into a total meltdown over minor inconveniences, though. See Friday's entry about the difficulty with hunting down Lut's medicine. x_x

Goals for coming month
  • Take care of Lut
  • Do final edits on Demon's Lure and send to Alinsa for typesetting.
  • Do some editing on the Demon's Sigil. March is presently shaping up to be a lot of "get up ridiculously early and go to hospital", because they are trying to collect stem cells from Lut next week. If he gets the transplant, that's another two weeks in the hospital for him. Hospital is exhausting. Anyway, I kind of wanted to finish initial edits on Sigil, but since I want to do some significant revision on Lure, probably not gonna happen.
This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.