Me 2012

Demon's Lure Release!

 
In the fight against the demons of the skylands, Sunrise has one of the rarest powers: that of a lure. Where demons normally feed by tormenting their victims, Sunrise draws them with her happiness.
 
She doesn't want to hunt demons, but when a hunter team arrives at her village to ask for her help, she agrees. It should be easy: they just need her as bait for a pain demon that is too fast for them to capture otherwise. And a typical pain demon is no match for an experienced team of demon hunters.
 
But this is no typical demon. And it has its own plans. It has no intention of being trapped, and is not worried about the hunter team. No, its main concern is: what does a demon who's spent millennia torturing and tormenting humans know about making one happy?

~

Demon's Lure is my newest release! It's in a brand new setting, the skylands of the Anesh archipelago. This is my first general fantasy: there is no romance in Demon's Lure or in its sequel, Angel's Sigil*. So those of you who like my world-building and watching characters problem-solve, but aren't so much into the romance: this one's for you! Its theme is change and adaptation, with central questions like "how can you be happy despite things you don't like and can't change?" and "what causes people to change?" and "do the same things apply to demons?"
 
Some of these questions are less universal than others, is what I'm saying.

Anesh is a queer-positive setting; the protagonist is bisexual, some minor characters are nonbinary, and the society as a whole considers this unremarkable.
 
My cover artist for The Demon's Series is the talented Anthony Avon, and I can't wait to show you the cover** for Angel's Sigil, the sequel. That book will be out in August, so you won't have to wait long for the sequel.
 
* If I write a third book in the setting, it will almost certainly have a romantic subplot, though. Just warning you.
 
** Though if you browse around on Avon's DA, you can spot it now. n_n This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/629530.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

Strong Female Protagonist

Someone on Twitter -- I forget who, alas -- posted a recent strip from Strong Female Protagonist with a link to the comic. I read the strip out of context and then went back to read the archives. Despite the genre-savvy name, it's a serious strip, more drama than anything else. It's a superhero comic that's not, for the most part, about winning by punching things. It's different people with superpowers, most of them trying to Do the Right Thing, often in vastly different ways. There's a lot of slice-of-life stuff, "ordinary day in the life of a person with superpowers". There's also some superhero vs villain fights, and hero vs vigilante, and people with superpowers trying to figure out how to effect real change rather than using their powers to punch stuff.

There's some dystopia in it, in the sense that "most people have no powers and a few can do amazing things" is always a dystopian premise. I almost quit reading over an early revelation of 'big world-spanning evil plot' but I stuck with it. The comic also has long discussions of philosophy and ethics. It reminds me a little of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, but with more recognition that a single person can't clever their way into solving all the world's problems.

There's quite a lot of archives to read -- 800+ pages, I'd guess. It took me a few days to get through. Good stuff, definitely recommended. No idea when or if the major plot line is going to wrap up, although individual story lines do run their course. This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/629503.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

Listening: "#FSCK 'Em All" and "Make No Law"

 
I haven't been motivated to write any fiction since I finished the draft of Frost. I wrote a few new scenes while editing it, but I finished the last of those last Friday. 
 
I'm not really working on anything now.  I've poked at The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince, but only wrote a couple hundred new words. 
 
I've been reading more, and listening.
 
I finally started listening to some podcasts when I'm biking outside. I've been meaning to try "listen to podcasts while biking" for several years, but getting podcasts loaded to my iPod was always awkward. And my old phone was too old to load new apps or stream audio. But Shiny New Phone has no such limitations.
 
I don't need recommendations for podcasts because I have ones that I've been meaning to try for years and years, so ... lots of backlog when I get to them. Recommendations for Android podcast apps would be appreciated, though.
 
The first podcast I tried was T. Greg Doucette's "#FSCK 'Em All".  I've been following Doucette on Twitter for a while; he's a criminal defense attorney in North Carolina, and politically he's pretty much a conservative Black Lives Matter activist. This is not a combination I see often and I find his perspective interesting. #FSCK 'Em All is a weekly podcast, usually around ninety minutes. It's mostly about the failures in the criminal justice system over the previous week. This covers a spectrum of problems, from wrongdoing by cops, judges, DAs, etc., to citizens calling the police for bad reasons, to the occasional story where the cops or other legal officials handle a bad situation well. ("Look, the cops were called on a suicidal guy with a weapon and they DIDN'T kill him!") That last is depressingly rare.
 
In addition to the news round-up, there's often a "Law 140" section, which covers some aspect of civil rights or criminal law. There are also "What the FSCK" segments, where Doucette addresses audience questions.
 
I've listened to the last fifteen or so of sixty-five episodes.  Doucette is enjoyable to listen to: he has a good voice and a casual, conversational manner. I do note that he swears often, but the material is also swear-worthy, so, there's that. The criminal justice news is both depressing and monotonous, because it's so often the same story with new names and other minor variations. "No, no, this is a new story about a white cop shooting a black guy, you can tell because this time the black guy was holding a cellphone and the other time it was a shower head." But it's enlightening on just how pervasive injustice and racism are in the justice system.  There may be only a few of these that attract national attention in a given year, but there are so many that don't.  Every week. 
 
The production values are fine on most episodes, and minimalist: it's pretty much just Doucette talking, no bells or whistles. He does occasional interviews, and these sometimes have audibility issues. Only one that I had to give up on, though, and I suspect it would've been fine if I wasn't trying to listen to it with all the background noise of bike riding. This aside, the podcast does well the things it is trying to do. I will happily listen to new episodes as they drop. I'm probably not going to dive further back in the archives unless I run out of other podcasts I want to listen to while biking, though.
 
~
 
"Make No Law" is the second podcast I checked out. This is a monthly podcast on first amendment law. It's hosted by criminal defense attorney Ken White of popehat.com; I found out about it because I follow Popehat on Twitter. There are six episodes so far, I have listened to them all, and they are magnificent. These are done in conjunction with Legal Talk Network, and the production values are great, including voice actors to read excerpts from trial transcripts and Supreme Court arguments. They're like short history lessons on different important First Amendment cases. The June episode is "Fire in a Crowded Theater" and I can't wait. The episodes weave together White's narration with pieces of interviews and transcripts, so that you get these wonderful informative stories. I had expected to love the content -- I am fascinated by First Amendment law -- but I was surprised at how much I love the particular format of this show. The interviews are often with actual participants from Supreme Court cases, so that's pretty cool.
 
Amusingly, where Doucette is careful to avoid swear words on his Twitter feed but has no compunctions on his podcast, White is the opposite.  "Make No Law" contains no objectionable language, while White is perfectly happy to use obscenities on his feed and website.
 
This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/629166.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

Call for First Readers for Frost!

Frost, master sorcerer, only wanted an apprentice so he would have someone to pass the tedium of his work onto while he enjoyed the more sophisticated and varied parts. Sorcery-bound individuals are vanishingly rare, so when he stumbled upon one who'd been overlooked by testers, he counted himself lucky indeed. No matter if the boy was old to begin an apprenticeship; he would learn.

After growing up a bastard and a whipping boy, the promise of a future as a rare powerful sorcerer seemed impossible to Thistle. He tried to brace himself for failure and disappointment.

But nothing could prepare him for his growing attraction to his master. And it turns out there is one thing worse than an unrequited infatuation with one's mentor:

Having it reciprocated.
~

Frost is, fundamentally, an M/M hurt/comfort romance. It has some kink elements, but it's a 241 page manuscript with maybe 15 pages of sexually explicit material. The side plot of characters researching new aspects and applications for sorcery is a lot more substantial than the erotica. 

Most of the hurt/comfort aspect involves the main characters, somewhat inadvertently, doing really awful things to each other. And then they feel terrible about it and struggle to cope with the consequences, to do better, to forgive one another, and perhaps even to forgive themselves.

This is a fantasy novel not merely in the sense that there's magic, but also in the sense that "in the real world, if you have a relationship that turned abusive and toxic, it is almost impossible that this relationship will later have a happily-ever-after." I enjoy this kind of fantasy, but I don't want anyone to confuse it for a role model.

I'm looking for first readers for Frost, so if this sort of story sounds like fun to you and you're interested in providing feedback, let me know your email address! You will need an address that is linked to Google docs in some way. Comments are screened and your email address will not be shared with anyone or purpose but to give you access to the doc.

You can also send to my gmail account, ladyrowyn, or message me on Twitter or Mastodon.

If this story does not sound like fun to you, that's also fine! This one is fairly niche even by my standards. 
This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/628984.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

"Her Every Wish" and "After the Wedding", both by Courtney Milan

"Her Every Wish" is a novella sequel to "Once Upon a Marquess", although it is only very tenuously connected to it. It's about Daisy, the impoverished friend of the protagonist from the first book. I enjoyed it reasonably well. The protagonists were likable and both of them were poor, which was a nice change from the general "we are all wealthy titled privileged straight white people" that dominates historical fiction. In fact, the male protagonist is none of those things, which is extremely unusual. This is one of those "protagonists get back together after a falling out before story opens" romances, and the initial falling-out was pretty abysmal.  Still, I liked it on the whole. 

~

After the Wedding  was ... ugh. I have mixed feelings about it, and I'm trying to piece out what exactly made me end up as dissatisfied with it as I am.

So here's the good:

I read most of it pretty quickly; after an early false start, I chewed through it in under twelve hours and that includes the time I slept last night.  So obviously it kept me thinking "I want to see what happens next".

I found the protagonists interesting and their feelings for each other believable. 

The supporting cast is good. The reunion between Camilla, the female protagonist of this book, and her sister Judith, female protagonist from the last book, was the most heartwarming and affecting scene in the book. Of minor characters, I found Mrs. Beasley especially charming. 

The female protagonist is bi and the male protagonist is mixed race (black father, white mother), and as with "Her Every Wish" I found this reasonably well-executed and added variety I don't usually see in historical romance.

It's well-written. There are no rookie mistakes in pacing or timing, no characters who are underdeveloped or inconsistent, etc. If that feels like damning with faint praise, it is, but I have read badly written books and I want to be clear on  this count. There's a reason that my scale goes 1-10 and yet the worst I ever give is a 5, and that reason is "because I have started books that are SO MUCH WORSE and I don't rate those because I don't bother finishing them."

And now the bad:

Camilla's internal monologue was unbearable. Literally, I gave up on bearing it. I just skimmed every time the novel went on about what she was thinking. The tenor of her internal monologue changes over the course of the book, from "I am the worst person in the world and I deserve all the substantial suffering I've gone through and everyone will hate me forever" and to "I deserve to be happy and maybe someday I will get it but first I must martyr myself" and eventually away from martyrdom but by then Milan stopped bothering to write out her internal monologue. 

There was a lot of internal monologue before that point, though, and I found it all unpleasant to read and skipped a 4/5ths of it entirely. Usually I like wallowing in the characters' heads, so this is really saying something.

I found the circumstances that led to the wedding-at-gunpoint that kicks off this story equally miserable to read from the male protagonist's perspective. One of the reasons that I kept reading was that I wanted to see the mystery of "why these characters were forced to marry" unveiled (it's not for any of the reasons you'd expect, like "she was pregnant" or "they had betrayed any affection or intimacy between them whatsoever"). 

There is eventually an explanation for why the antagonists had forced the marriage. It's not particularly convincing. Both in that the motives seemed insufficient to merit this response, and that the response was not the best or simplest way to resolve the antagonists' perceived problem. 

All things considered, the "forced wedding" plot device is probably what ruined the story for me. It's used as the reason why the protagonists can't be happy together more than as a mechanism to convince them to be happy together. The sex scene was utterly spoiled for me because Milan put it in with the Plot Hook Of Damocles hanging directly over it, so instead of "aww this is sweet" my reaction was to recoil in horror and disbelief.  "Maybe the female protagonist is dreaming THAT WOULD BE BETTER."

Actually, this bugged me about the sex scene in Once Upon a Marquess, too, though to a lesser extent. But both books set up a situation where the protagonists have sex while one of them is withholding important information, and moreover it's information that could very possibly have made the ignorant party decide not to have sex if they'd known. It's seriously skeevy.  

On a minor note, there are a bunch of nudge-wink asides to modern problems: a multi-page scene based around making fun of the Nigerian prince* scam, a reference to mansplaining, a complaint about the lack of pockets in women's dresses, and probably another couple of things I'm forgetting. These aren't done in an ahistoric way, but I still found it twee and tiresome. 

Anyway, I am giving this book a 6, and it is easily the worst Courtney Milan book I've read. I still finished it, I will still read other Milan books, it's not the worst book I've read this year, even. But ... eyugh. What I like best about romances is re-reading my favorite parts, and there isn't a single thing in this book I want to read again. Sigh. It's not terrible, it's just disappointing.

* No, it didn't involve Nigerian princes or wire transfers, but same type of con.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/628538.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

Demon's Lure ARC!

Demon's Lure is not quite ready for release, but it is in epub form now! I am looking for people interested in receiving a free early copy in return for reviewing it on Amazon and/or Goodreads and/or their own blog/site/review platform. Leave me a message with your email address if you're interested! Comments are screened, so no one else will see it. You can also send email to my gmail account LadyRowyn, if you'd rather.

Book blurb:

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

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

But this is no typical demon. And it has its own plans. It has no intention of being trapped, and is not worried about the hunter team. No, its main concern is: what does a demon who's spent millennia torturing and tormenting humans know about making one happy?
This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/628394.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
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 https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/628088.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

April in Review

 
Writing
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.
 
Art
I finished the couple's adopt for Flight Rising and got one customer. Alas!  I think I am done making adopts. 
 
Other
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.
 
Socializing
I saw Terry for the first time in foreeeeeveeeer. ❤️ ❤️ Just for a long weekend, but it was a good visit. 
 
Goals
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 https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/627869.html. 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 https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/627690.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
smile

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.

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