Storybook Perfect

Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

My Favourite Books In 2019

I polished off 136 books this year, so picking only a few favourites is a grueling task. I’ve tried as much as possible to stick to 2019 releases, but a few older books were just too good to skip over.

If you want to check out all my reviews you can access them through my Goodreads 2019 in books. Heads up though I fell into a bad habit of writing reviews weeks or months after having read the book (and therefore after having read sometimes ten or more other books since) so the reviews aren’t always quite as good as they should be.

Without further ado, my favourite books/series read in 2019:

Holly Black’s ‘Folk of the Air’ Series – since 2 of the three books of the trilogy came out in 2019 I definitely consider this a win for 2019.
The characters in these books are just so good, and political machinations of the *best* kind (definitely not the boring sort). So many twists, so much fae chicanery, and still the perfect level of romance. Even a few little references to anime as well ;p

If you want my more in depth feelings on each of the books my Goodreads reviews are here:

1. The Cruel Prince, 2. The Wicked King, 3. The Queen of Nothing

Tales of Varenia (The Lightning Struck Heart series) – I was on the hunt for high fantasy and or fairy tale fantasy with gay male leads and was recommended this one and oh boy it was a doozy. You will never laugh so much in all your life as when reading this series.

The voice of the POV character is very OTT modern gay which can be a little jarring with the distinctly medieval setting but before long you’re rolling with it and rolling on the floor laughing too.

The side characters are all pure gold too, Gary the gay af unicorn, Tiggy the giant, and Lady Tina D’Silva is the finest minor villain I may ever have read. Also, the romance is perfect, Havehart 4eva. (Heads up for explicit sex scenes though if that’s not your jam)

Spinning Silver – like Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle and a lot of my Retailored Fairy Tales,  this feels like a fairy tale retelling but isn’t, its a story existing in that fairy tale world but more than just a simple retelling or reimagining.

Three different women make up the main POVs and their stories weave beautifully together.

The plot is strong and the power Novik has to make you feel what the characters are feeling is mythic.

The fae-esque creatures in the story – the staryck – are a delight to read, their cold cruelty just perfect and when the king gets trapped by his own words by Miryem I was laughing so hard.

Red, White and Royal Blue – I rarely read outright romance and even rarer contemporary romance, but this one was recommended to me by too many different people to ignore. I might have been very late in finally getting around to it but was definitely worth it.

The plot is that sort of hilarious ‘of course I’m going to love this’ stuff where the son of the US president and a prince on England start up as enemies and (because it’s a romance trope ;p ) end up lovers. It’s a very believable path (unlike some enemies to lovers stories I’ve encountered), and both of the boys are such well-drawn characters. I love the text chains and emails, though I imagine they look better in a paper back than merely being read out in the audiobook. Also five stars for the narrator.

The Girl Who Drank The Moon – Wow.

No seriously, wow. So much fairy tale magic, beautiful characters, terrible villains, good people doing good things even though it might not win them what they want, all the things!

I am going to go out and buy a paper copy of this book so when Harley is old enough to sit still for it I can read this to her.

 

I also enjoyed going back into the DFZ in a new series by Rachel Aaron (previously I’ve raved about her Heartstrikers series in this same world).

Seanan Maguire’s novellas in her ‘Wayward Children’ series had another release and let me just say this series is so freaking good, anyone who likes portal fantasy and young people in fae worlds will love this series about children who find doors to other worlds then end up back here stuck, wanting to return to fae or whatever realm they came from but instead growing up n our world. I may be spending an entire Audible credit on a only 4 hour audiobook but I don’t care because they’re just that good.

I also finally discovered Leigh Bardugo’s books and yes! Why did this take me so long?

I read a lot more non fiction this year than ever before. I gobbled up 16 books on writing craft/mindset/business, 3 books for research (non-fiction books I mean, I read a lot of fiction in the niche my books fit in to help me suss out who the best authors are and who my books pair nicely with like a good red wine ;p ), 8 biographies/memoirs, and 19 different self-help titles not specifically aimed at writers – but you’ll notice the distinct majority are about time management and productivity, so you know it was still about my writing ;p, and even several just-for-fun books on the Apollo Nine mission and the Golden State Killer because my interest was piqued.

My favourite craft book was Wired For Story, which uses brain science to show how story works on readers at a neurological level. I’m currently reading the companion books to it Story Genius as well

In 2020 I’m looking forward to:

  • The next Wayward Children book, Come Tumbling Down,
  • The next book in the Nikolai Lantsov duology (if it even comes out in 2020…)
  • The  (probably) final book of the Legacy of Orisha series
  • Ember Queen, the last of the Ash Princess trilogy
  • Any way The Wind Blows (the final Simon Snow book)
  • and Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (author of Girls Made of Snow and Glass, one of my favourites of 2018)

Any books you were especially mad for last year or particularly keen for this year? let me know and make my TBR even bigger ;p

My Favourite Anime of 2019

Y’all, there was soooo much good anime this year, so don’t expect this to be a short list. Also I had a lot of forced-to-stay-up-late nights (when you watch subtitled shows so you don’t wake up kids or hubby) so I watched more than usual too, which doesn’t help limit this list’s length ;p

As usual these are in no particular order, but before we dive in let me say there were so many good OP and ED songs this year. Usually each year sees one or two new songs added to my anime playlist, but this year saw six ;p Also if you don’t want ‘Good Morning World’ by Burnout Syndromes as your new alarm ringtone I don’t think we can be friends any more.

But without further ado, here’s my favourites from this year and what rocks about them.

The Promised Never Land – If I was forced to name a single favourite this would be it for 2019. OMG the twists and suspense. I was watching this one as it came out weekly and DYING with the wait most weeks. So much of what happened I genuinely didn’t see coming, which is something I don’t get enough of. The characters are amazing too, everyone’s so well fleshed out, villains and side characters with as much care as the main trio. But I’m dying where it ended! I guess I need to collect the manga to find out what happens next >.<

The Rising Of The Shield Hero – I love portal fantasy. I love ‘people from earth ending up in game worlds’ especially much, so I was already highly likely to be on board with it, but the story really swept me up. I wanted to smack the other three heroes upside their heads so much my hand itched.

I enjoyed how the in-game system worked, and how Naofumi had never heard of the game unlike the other heroes so was thrown in the deep end. I was a little disappointed I never felt like I got any real motivations out of some of the villains (SPOILER: the princess in particular) though.

I was a big fan of the Naofumi’s redemptive arc and the fact that instead of yet another cat girl, Raphtalia was instead a tanuki girl ;p

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress: The Battle of Unato – I was 600% sold on Mumei and Ikoma’s relationship, it’s adorableness was the perfect offset for the gritty zombocalypse around them. I liked the take on zombies, how they were made, looked, and functioned and also the power tiers.

The world really felt so much bigger than the 3 episodes on Netflix so I chased it down and saw there was an originating series set before this series, best of all it was already streaming on Prime, so YAY binge time ;p

 

Stars Align: that ending song. definitely a new addition to my play list. Not to mention the credits it rolls over are great, the dance they all do showing off the characters personalities perfectly(video above^ ) is just ( ˘ ³˘) .

The show is a nice mix of slice of life and sports anime. You don’t get drowned in matches(I’m looking at you Haikyuu(still love you tho)), sometimes we’ll go a couple of episodes without even having a tennis match, just digging into the boys’ stories. And every one of those stories are so good, though heads up a LOT of complicated issues are covered, and the abuse some of these boys deal with ranges from true physical, to just about every kind of mental abuse. I want to adopt them all and be the mother they deserve (though holy crap I’d have a lot of children then).

Episode  8 has my heart though. It’s the one where the team manager(Yu) talks frankly to Maki about how they(singular they btw) isn’t certain if they’re a boy or a girl, and then Maki talks about his mother’s FTM friend and lets Yu know ‘I think it’s all right to not know for sure,’ and essentially, roll with it I got your back, and I was just YES please more of this in everything now. Thank you. Also, Shinjo you dummy, when Yu asked you your opinion they wanted a compliment! Gah!

I also really love the journey Mitsue is on, both her artists journey as well as coming out of her tsundere shell.

I really hope the season doesn’t end at episode 12 (the last episode to air before I wrote this) because its too sad, I can’t! Plus so many open threads, but too many anime do so IDK and if I look it up and find it out it might be more than I can take >.<  I want happy endings for all of them.

Fire Force – I am not exaggerating when I say the first episode of this series is my all time favourite first episode of any anime ever, and possibly even any show ever (up there with Brooklyn 99’s first episode). It was just the perfect balance of everything storytelling as well as ticking a lot of my ‘I love it when…’ boxes. None of the episodes since have been quite as perfect, but it’s still a great show, and of all the releases that come out Saturday morning(or at least that’s when Animelab release it ;p ) it is the first I watch every time(though Dr Stone is a close second).

I love the steampunk-y world, the fact all magic is fire based yet everyone has wildly varied powers, spontaneous combustion, and especially the cavalcade of nutso characters. You can probably guess who my favourite is (hint: glasses, cooks, totally the group ‘mum’ and uber strict ;p ), but there’s a lot of hilarious characters to enjoy. TBH I didn’t like Arthur until ep 4 or 5 when his hilariously dumb ass was fighting a superior opponent and he kept saying ‘something’s off with me today’ and his opponent was all ‘bitch please you’re just weak’, then Arthur went ‘Oh I’m using the wrong hand’ and lol he was genuinely that dumb that he didn’t realise he was using the wrong sword arm the whole time. I laughed way too much and didn’t hate him any more after that.

I’m pretty confident that this is going to be one of those never ending series, which makes me weep because I’m already following enough of those and this year I’ve added a further two! Gah!

Let’s play a quick game of ‘spot the main character’

Dr Stone – To be frank I could go on forever watching just Senku do science in a stone age world. No need for Tsubasa and his crew to ever show up to the fight. Who needs dramatic tension when you have science? I especially love when he gets all calculating and pulls his ‘evil’ face. That hair is a whole ‘nother level of anime hilarity though XD I’ve been calling it ‘the spring onion anime’ to some of my friends who also watch it ;p

The science is really genuinely cool, and the clever way they source it in this stone age world is impressive. After the first episode I was not in the least bit surprised to see the disclaimer telling people to not try this at home.

There’s heaps of fun characters both among the good guys and the bad guys, though most of them aren’t quite as nutso as in Fire Force there’s still quite a few, shall we say ‘bold’ individuals ;p

this picture sums up nicely why I like this show so much

Kemono Michi: Rise Up – A pro wrestling champ is transported to another world in mid-match. Genzo is crazy strong and totally overpowered in the new world, but he quickly finds out he was summoned to this new world to defeat the ‘demon beasts’. Problem is he’s a hard core animal lover and would rather collect them, rub their bellies, and help them find forever homes than hunt and kill them. Seriously, dude keeps a menagerie of mythical creatures and loves animals of all kinds – obviously someone like me is 600% in. It’s hilarious too. I do wish some of his companions were better people(and occasionally even better formed characters(they get a little 2d, which is good for regular lolz, but less so for real story). I see why its done for comedy, but sometimes it just detracts. Also, clearly the world Genzo comes from is not our world, because pro wrestling is real ;p

Lolz aplenty and mythical creatures abound. Highly recommend if you are or ever were a fan of pro wrestling.

Do You Love Your Mother And Her Two Hit Multi-Target Attacks? – The description on Animelab had me wary because it described Mamako’s affection for her son as being ‘too much’ and I worried for the first few episodes that it was going to go into icky territory. For those (like me) who would not want to keep watching if that were the case let me assure you she’s just a doting mum, not creepy. There is a LOT of fan service (Mamako’s clothes melt off in the first episode), but she’s horrified and embarrassed, not wanting her son to see her like that and he’s also ‘OMG no son wants to see his mum like that’, and it remains that way every time there’s fan service.  This is a laugh put loud funny series. Mamako is hilariously overpowered and knows zilch about RPGs (or games period) so is forever just winning through sheer force of power but also inadvertently never letting her son get to show off or sometimes even fight.

The series isn’t nothing but lolz though (unlike Kemono-michi, above), there’s lots of looks at how different mothers approach mothering, what being a mum and a child means, and some genuinely touching moments too. I think mums like me who watch anime will get a lot of enjoyment out of this. Kids & teens, if you want your mum to like anime watch this with her perhaps ;p

Kaguya-sama Love Is War – In one word: Crack. In a few more words: romantic comedy crack. This show was soooo good. The pair are made for each other, in love with one another, but determined to NOT be the one who confesses so they are always setting things up so the perfect moment for the other person to confess is there and then when there’s a perfect moment for them to confess, resisting it and trying to flip the tables. They’re both terribly clever and manipulative, so don’t fall for each other’s ploys, but then in come the wild cards of the other members of the student council to toss everything on its head too. It’s the perfect blend of melty romantic moments and hilarious situations. Best of all the ending episodes are beautifully satisfying.

 

Of course I’m still enjoying shows like My Hero Academia, Black Clover, Attack on Titan, ect but as they’re on going I didn’t include them officially.

I really wish I could have listed Magical Girl Spec Ops Asuka, because I really love me some gritty magical girl anime (or you know magical girl anime of almost any variety ;p ), but there were just way too many torture porn moments. To be clear I don’t just mean torture, I mean torture combined with STRONG fan service in the same instant. Always a girl skimpily clad, writhing in a very sexual way with specific camera focus, but genuine agony screams while being tortured(like literally having her arm cut off in once scene). It didn’t not happen just once or twice either. It made me so uncomfortable I couldn’t finish watching the series. However I love the spec ops aspect, the costumes and powers, and the character interactions and the darkness that they did go that far sometimes. I enjoyed how grim it took some of the story lines, I just didn’t like the fact they sexualised the torture. TL;DR is you can torture someone, but don’t try to make it sexy at the same time or I’m out.

Anime I’m keen for next year:

  • More Fire Force and Dr Stone of course ;p (plus my usual never-endings like Black Clover, My Hero Academia, and Attack on Titan)
  • Magia Record – why would I not be hanging out for more dark magical girl anime?
  • Science Fell In Love So I Tried to Prove It – more lol romance, I’m so ready. I’m kinda expecting a secret love child of Dr Stone and Kaguya-Sama Love Is War ;p
  • More Haikyuu – because Haikyuu
  • Somali and The Forest Spirit – love the idea of humans brought to the brink of extinction by goblins and other fantasy creatures (that sounds horrible, I hope you know what I mean ;p )

Anything you’re hanging out for next year? Tell me, let’s get excited!

My Favourite Games In 2019

It’s been a tough last half of the year for me, but while my writing wasn’t so strong, I was still ‘filling the creative well’ by consuming tonnes of great story in my favourite mediums. So for the next couple of days I’ll be posting about my favourite books and anime of 2019 but up first is games.

Whoooo baby there were so many Atelier releases this year. First they served me up the 20th Anniversary celebration game Nelke and The Legendary Alchemists(more on how much I loved it below), then Atelier Lulua(with a return to Arland, but sadly not my thoroughly-missed time limits), and then as a surprise at the end of the year they released Atelier Ryza instead of holding onto it for a 2020 release (sadly I’ve not played much of it yet so couldn’t speak to anything but the graphics of thus far ;p ), so it’s like NIS was telling me to never stop throwing money at them. I obliged.

So let’s start with Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: A city builder with every single alchemist (and a few other notable characters) from every Atelier game, clearly I was already there (with bells on!). The story tied it all together pretty nicely and all the side stories with each and every one of the alchemists were so much fun, especially for the characters I didn’t already know (I came into the series with Atelier Iris (the first one) on PS2) but knew a little about from the Atelier Series Chronicle art book (2009). The new characters were cute and I was sailing the hell out of the Nelke/Lotus ship too.

The game mechanics were fairly simple, but still fun, though in the early portion of the game, the exploration and combat was a little frustrating because of the time it took up, but you need those damn materials, but once you can send people out gathering through explored areas you could just dash though the area, and then send people there to gather when you got home, much easier. Easy enough that I managed to get the true ending on first playthrough ;p

Honestly, I had so much fun with it that immediately upon finishing my first playthrough I took my new game plus and started a second run. I’m fairly sure that a decent amount of my delight springs from the fact that we were back to time limits. The time limits aren’t excessively difficult, but just their mere existence gave me that little bit of challenge I think I’ve been missing from the last few releases of the franchise.

I’ve recently noticed they’ve made some DLC extra stories and am trying my hardest to resist jumping back in for a third play through to experience them!

The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince – I mentioned in my similar post last year I was hanging out for this game. I’m usually not into side scrollers all that much(I want to bash my enemies with a sword, not jump over them), but the art and the storyline overrode my usual objections and I gave it a try.

The story is so good. So good. The game is pretty quick to get to the final stage but a fun path there, but ARGH! the boss stage is such a bitch. I think I replayed the first portion of it for as long as I played the entire rest of the game trying to make it through. However the ending will make your struggle worth it. Fairy tale fans who aren’t afraid to Groundhog Day the hell out of themselves in the boss stage will love it.

Crystar – a magical girl style game, of course I’m there!  The graphics are super pretty. I love the set designs and the costume designs a lot, and I love little details like how the sisters have matching (but different coloured) argyle patterns at the top of their thigh-highs when in casual dress. I also like how occasionally they switch up the art style, with the memories sometimes flipping into the scratchy sketch style.

The story is dark, so heads up for a bit at the very start for those who have suicide related triggers as they hit that theme a few times with several of the butterflies right off the bat (though kudos to the voice actors for hitting the notes just right to make the lines resonate powerfully too). I haven’t gone very far yet though, because it only recently showed up in Aussie stores, but I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

Despite the grimness of the story line there’s still lolz aplenty, eg/ that line “I didn’t have my phone, not that I could use it as a butterfly’. And there’s a lot of sweetness too. Also, thank you whichever developer included the fact that playing with your dog warms your heart back up because yes, yes it does <3

Persona Q 2 – yass for Fem MC, my team was almost exclusively Akihiko, Chie, Shinjiro, P5 MC and Fem MC, except when quests demanded otherwise. Those first three as your front line team was a killer combo BTW, get Chie to Counter and Shinji to All Guard(with a persona who regularly nullifies physical damage ;p ) and bwahaha enemies are smacked down for even trying to hit me. I was genuinely frustrated when I started to play Etrian Odyssey Nexus and I couldn’t find a similar set up XD (for those not in the know The Persona Q series is the Persona characters thrown into Etrian Odyssey style gameplay with the combat, dungeon style and map drawing like in EO, hence my irritation when I switched to such a similar game but couldn’t get the same dynamic rolling).

It was a good story too, my heart went out to FemMC when they met up with the P3 team </3

Little Briar Rose – Ok, fairy tale game, killer ‘stained glass’ style art, and cheap as chips on the Nintendo store? Shut up and take my money (actually I think I ended using my Gold points to buy it, but shhh). If you don’t love the art in this game then I feel like you and I can’t be friends any more. (j/k of course, but we might be rocky for a bit ;p ) .

If you mess up you get cursed (I got the chimney wrong on the gnome house and was turned into a gnome ;p ) and another prince (also controlled by you ;p ) comes in and takes up the quest where you failed. The puzzles are funny and cute, and as I already mentioned the graphics are too beautiful.

My only issue is it never told me it was autosaving, nor gave me any self saving options. I played for quite  a while looking for save options or an ‘autosave’ icon to appear flashing, I never saw them and started to get worried about how long I’d played without saving and how if I exited I might lose it all and have to start over only to find the save point was just a few minutes further from where I was ;p It seems to autosave after most actions though.

Mistover – I downloaded the demo almost for the hell of it (I saw an anime style game had a free demo and was pretty much ‘why not?’), and to my surprise the game play when I tried the demo was EVERYTHING I needed in a game at that moment. The ever changing dungeons, the classes, the combat style, the group combo attacks, the town when you head back there, the difficulty, just yes. Please sir may I have some more. If you like Etrian Odyssey and/or Persona Q then you should like this.

I really like the edgy anime style art too, plus the premise and characters in town were good fun. Also, the demo is pretty extensive if you want to give it a try and not just take my word for it.

Pokemon Sword/Shield – naturally I grabbed the latest Pokemon game promptly (though I spent weeks agonising over which one, I mean Sir Fetch’d or gorgeous psychic-type Ponyta amirite!?), and TBH all the changes I heard people whinging about prior to release didn’t bug me at all. We’re back (after Let’s Go Pikachu/Eeevee) to proper old school catching, there’s fun gyms, I get to dress up all cute again, the Wild Areas are fun and great for leveling (plus who doesn’t love looking for that fishing chick and getting pearls off her over and over again ;p I’m rich, rich I tell you!).

For the first time ever you can catch eeveeloutions in the wild too! (Though by the time I could get over to the island I’d already bred my eevees and evolved them and was running around with my all eeveeloution team.

I got a bit frustrated by the ‘you can’t even catch the pokemon without certain gym badges’ thing. If I and my pokemon are good enough to whittle the wild pokemon’s HP to 1, then put it to sleep it doesn’t get a goddamn choice IMO (RAGE!!!). (this sounds very problematic on re-reading ;p I’m talking about catching pokemon I swear)

I love surprise trading too. (I’ve got a million level 1 eevees ;p ) Dynamaxing is pretty cool too. Definitely a solid addition to one of my longest gaming loves.

one must even be considerate of thugs ;p

Kuukiyomi(consider it) – an unusual little game with puzzles on how to be considerate, eg/ if you’re part of a pair just standing on the escalator side by side one of you drops behind or in front of your friend to let someone striding up the escalator go past you without slowing down.

It was far from expensive and I thought Id give it a try. I’m waiting for real quandries like ‘do you wash your neighbour’s side walk when washing your own? Because some neighbours see that as you making them owe you one, so it isn’t considerate ;p

I totally sat down too fast in the school ‘stand, bow, sit’ one and fell backward on the chair ;p I only wonder if there are other options, like different ways you might have been considerate. I’m also a little disappointed, I wanted to get rankings eg/ S-rank considerate or A/B/C/D-rank ;p

A shout out is owed to the re-release of Ni No Kuni Wrath of the White Witch, but it since it’s just a re-release, I’ll just include a link to my original review which stands true for this playthrough also.

You might notice more of my games were Indie titles compared to last year. I’ve been using my Switch a lot more and have been taking advantage of the Nintendo store and a few sales it’s had ;p

Games I’m hanging out for next year include:

  • Animal Crossing – OMG you guys, did you see you can make your own tools! And you can pole vault over rivers and and and, just give it to me NOW!
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake – haven’t we all been waiting too long for this?
  • Atelier Dusk Series Deluxe pack – hey NIS, Y U no give me physical copy to buy? Won’t stop me. Totally playing Escha to Logy as soon as I download it ;p
  • Cris Tales – that art, gimme gimme gimme
  • Re:Legend – looks pretty damn cute, did y’all see that screenshot where you’re riding an axolotl?
  • And lets face it we all know I’ll play Persona 5 Royal.

Any game you really loved this year, or are super keen for in 2020?

2019 Round-Up & 2020 Goals

Since  we’re also closing out the decade, I thought, rather than focus how much things collapsed in the last six months, I’d prefer to look at how much I achieved in this decade.

I went from someone who had completed the first draft of one novel and very little else to someone with 5 completed novel drafts (some edited and ready now, some that will never see the light of day), wrote over 39 short stories and novellas, and went from unpublished to published in both the traditional and indie settings (more in the trad than indie). I was also president of the Vision Writers Group for four years (and still a member). I also had two beautiful children, went on some wonderful travels (best of all a trip to Japan), and generally had a pretty good time, even reaching 15 years service with my day job employer.

Now we’re in 2020 both my kids will be at school, which means I can put more time into my writing, but also need to buckle down and get some more ‘day job’ work done too.

So now, without further ado, my writing goals for 2020:

  • Finish (at least) the next three books in the Charming for Hire series and get books 1-5 ready for publishing
  • Finish The Troll’s Toll sequel (I’ve had a few people asking after this but have been trying to get the two antagonists to stop being such limp noodles) and publish, then get a leg on with the final book of the trilogy
  • Keep on keeping on with the short stories
  • Keep learning
  • Work with more pro editors – I really want this. I plan to hire one or two for freelance work. Technically this could fall under ‘keep learning’, but I don’t want to let it slip into that and go missing.

With a stretch goal of – if time allows – fixing up Glass Slippers for publication

I’m really going to work harder on following Heinlein’s business rules for authors too.

How was your decade? What are your goals for 2020?

Keep an eye out for the next couple of days for my ‘Favourites of 2019’ in books, games, and anime.

Porthos’ Goodbye

A *heavily* pregnant me cuddling Porthos

For months now (possibly even a year, I can’t remember when I started) every time I’ve been passing by our dog, Porthos, and he’s asleep I’ve done what parents of newborns will be familiar with: I’ve stopped in my tracks and waited, breath held, until I’ve seen his stomach or chest rise and fall with breath or some other movement that proved he was still alive. And over the last few months he was napping so much of the time I was pausing at lease five times a day. The saddest part was, this time I didn’t have to check, I just knew. It wasn’t any of his comfortable napping poses. I froze not to wait, but to put my hand over my mouth and start crying.

Like Arima, Porthos was Ezri‘s son, born in the same litter as Arima. He was named for Captain Archer’s (from Star Trek Enterprise) pet beagle, but we had a lot of people (read: not nerds) think it was for The Three Musketeers, especially with Arima around which people would think was Aramis. For a large part of the three’s lives all of them lived together with us, but Porthos had a bit of a journey before those days.

In the young days, still a puppy, Porthos would escape with or without his mother (usually with), but none of those journeys is the one I’m talking about. When he was a few months old Porthos went to live with T-J’s parents. They didn’t rename him because T-J’s mum also is a Trekkie. But it wasn’t a forever home (though not through neglect). When the couple split, Porthos moved with T-J’s mum, but then she made a further move to Tasmania. While she looked for a place suitable for an escape artist dog Porthos stayed with us, completing the trio of dogs we’ve had for  over a decade.

Porthos was an impressive jumper. We had to extend too-short fences with chicken wire to prevent his stunning leaps over, and then ensure all houses after had solid six foot fences. Being the leanest of the trio he was often the first to wriggle worm-like under fences too, and was the last to give up escaping the yard for adventures in the wide world – though his last escape a couple of years back was anti-climactic as he only escaped into our back door neighbor’s yard to play with their dog Indie ;p

so grey you can barely tell he’s a pedigree tri-colour beagle

Porthos started going grey almost as soon as his mother did (so a year and a half early) and his colour bleaching was even more extensive and for at least the last year I’ve been calling him ‘Old Man’ far more than his real name.

While being our only dog for the last 18 months might have been a little lonely since his fur family wasn’t around anymore, his human family’s attention was no longer split, and he also got away with a lot more stuff (such as coming inside far more often). He also got to enjoy more big group walks as it’s much easier to walk with two kids and a dog that two kids and three (or two) dogs, that and in his old age he wasn’t tugging the leash quite so violently as in his more youthful days.

Another benefit of being the last dog is when he started getting picky with his food he was indulged (gourmet dog loaves anyone?). Sadly as the months wore on he got pickier and pickier. Even the food he did like he’d wait to eat, or eat a little now then a bit more an hour or two later. A couple of cheeky magpies in the area would pop by in the morning to have a peck or two at what was left in his bowl. Then morning and afternoons, and now just whenever they felt a bit peckish (bdm-tsh). Seriously though, I should take a picture of these magpies, they are legitimately fat birds compared to the rest of their species.

so old he was gentle enough on the leash for Xander to hold it on his own

He was always funny with his food though, insisting on flipping over dry food bowls because he’d rather eat it off the ground, and often playing what I can only call cat-like with individual biscuits and flipping them up in the air and chasing them. (I tried to find a video of this while sorting through our drives for this memorial but there are soooooo many videos over the years, I haven’t been able to find it yet. Will post if I do though because it’s hilarious and adorable). In a similar cat like way, he used to like to climb up onto my lap and curl up there too. In the picture at the top of pregnant me cuddling him he was trying to curl up in my lap and I was telling him “Dude, I don’t even have a lap at the moment”. Like all our dogs, he never chased any of our cats, but that’s probably because he was raised as a puppy with many of them while they were kittens.

With Porthos’ passing yesterday we now live in a house with no canines, a state  we haven’t been in since the very early days of our relationship. He was 16, like his mum, so a huge part of our lives and our kids’. It’s tough, waking up in a dog-less house, but at least the trio is together once more.

The trio snuggled up in a nap pile, I had to take the photo through the window because if I opened the door to go outside they would hear it and come rushing to the door to beg for food.

Quite Early Mid-Year Goals Check-Up

the first Retailored Fairy Tales novella is already available

After reading Eat That Frog, Turning Pro, The War of Art, The Successful Author Mindset, and listening to quite a few different writing related podcasts recently I’ve been thinking I need to focus more on a single series, or at least the universe that series is in. So now, in my quite early mid-year goals check-up, I’d like to announce I’m going to be focusing almost exclusively on my Retailored Fairy Tales universe for the forseeable future.

This will of course lead to some adjustment in my goals for the year.

My goals previously stated, with revisions following are:

  • Rewrite Written by The Stars – for the sake of focus I’m cutting this one for now. I really love this story and i know a complete rewrite will save it from the editing purgatory it is currently languishing in, but I want to focus completely on my Retailored Fairy Tales universe
  • the latest Retailored Fairy Tales short story, Groundskeeper, is available in Stupefying Stories v 22

    Complete edits on Lovely/Lonely – same story as above, I love it, but I’m trying to focus. I may still work on one or the other of these two noves if I start feeling a bit ‘burned out’ on RFT but I’m essentially relegating these to ‘stretch goals’ now

  • Get the Charming For Hire series ready for publication and release it – this is now my number one focus, though the release part may change, I want to have all but the very final book first draft and the first four at least professionally edited before begining my release schedule, that way I can do a rapid release. If necessary that may mean release won’t start until next year and I am zen with that (I can explain the whys of this more but it goes into book marketing and the current market a bit and might be boring to those of you who aren’t also writers ;p )
  • Continue writing and publishing short fiction for traditional markets – I’m not cutting this one completely. I’ll continued to edit(and re-edit ;p ) and send out my existing shorts, but for the rest of the year I’d like as many of my new stories to be in my RTF universe as possible
  • Work on my fiction podcast – staying about the same, but might just change it to making my own audiobooks. i still love this idea though, I want to narrate some of my fiction so much XD
  • Write at least one new novel – I still will, but they’ll be all be Charming For Hire ones ;p
  • Work on more Retailored Fairy Tales stories – lol, unchanged
  • Continue learning – I’ll never cut or change this one. Ever.

So a little bit of cutting, a little bit of modification and some stay perfect just as it is. Sounds a bit like editing ;p

And for any fans of The Troll’s Toll, you’ll be happy to know I’m going to refocus on writing the second of The Troll’s Troubles Trilogy and finally outlining the third book too. No ETA right now since Charming for Hire is my number one focus, but if you’re keen let me know and I might shift to The Troll’s Troubles instead.

April Goals Round-Up 2019

I fell just short of my goal of writing 50k words of The Charming War/The Handrell War.  47.5 k so close! But between school holidays, all the public holidays and a bad case of ‘I got a video game for my birthday’-itis to have managed to get that close is Herculean in my opinion.

As happens with NaNo novels I know there’s a lot of chaff words, characters getting excessively verbose for no reason other than to up my word count and doing more highly introspective navel gazing than I’d typically write, so I’ll have plenty of words to shave. However unlike other times, I’m not feeling burned out on the project. I’m confident I can finish it and do my word trim pretty quickly and start working on the next Charming book.

I was so hyper focused on getting the Charming book done I didn’t touch any of my short story back catalogue.

For May my goals are:

  • Finish the first draft of The Charming War/The Handrell War
  • Get at least three more back catalogue short stories back out there
  • Prep thorough outline for next Charming book (‘The Glass Witch’)
  • Start process of hiring a professional developmental editor for Charming Rivals
  • Write one new short story (ideally set in the Retailored Fairy Tales universe)

You might notice most of my goals are still centered on my Retailored Fairy Tales universe. There’s a reason for that which I’ll go over in a blog post tomorrow, my ‘Quite Early Mid-Year Goals Check-Up’ ;p

And as usual, if you’re curious as to what I’ve been reading through April, here’s the list with links to my review on Goodreads if I made one:

  • The Language of Thorns – Bardugo’s fairy tales from the Grisha-verse were obviously right up my alley
  • Tribes – an interesting idea worked up. Not sure exactly where I belong in my tribe…
  • You do You – makes me want to actually read her other books
  • The Song of Achilles – a lovely romantic angle of the Achilles legend
  • The Fire’s Stone – a cool older fantasy novel which is wonderfully inclusive, but suffers from head hopping-itis
  • TransMission: My Quest For A Beard – another cool trans memoir
  • It Burns – technically an ‘audio program’ but it was still a very interesting listen. Also currently free on Audible if you read this fast enough ;p
  • The Power of Body Language – an interesting read to expand my knowledge of kinesics, so much fodder for my writing 🙂
  • Eat That Frog – a good but fairly simple time management book
  • Turning Pro – an inspiring follow up to The War of Art

March Goals Round-Up 2019

I did pretty well this month, not as good as I was hoping, but definitely made some headway against the lost time so far.

The ending of Nothing Charming was a bigger mess than anticipated >.< I needed to rewrite the final scene into two heftier scenes (I summarised some of my final points too hard and fast, my beta readers were unanimous in response to that), but in the end I managed to finish the structural edit. All events and structure are as they should be. I still need to do a fact check, a line tinker, and a proof read, but I’ll save that for after I’ve written the next one so I can cross check facts across all three books.

  • Complete edits on Nothing Charming: as established above, done.
  • Prepare the plot outline for ‘The Handrell War’: 90% done. I have an event outline perfected, but there’s a few conversations I know characters need to have to resolve somethings and set other things up for later books, but i don’t know precisely where to fit them. I think when I’m elbow deep in the story I’ll be able to feel it out.
  • Write two new short stories: I wrote two new short stories as hoped, ‘Apple Knight’ (3,000 words) and ‘Spinning Gold’ (500 words).
  • Get all my back catalogue stories back out there: I got four more of them updated and out there, not as many as I would like, but not shabby either
  • Read through the current Written by the Stars draft, lift plot points, rework with Story Equation to create new plot outline for use in Camp NaNo in April: I changed tack in the last week of March, figuring I need to focus on just the Charming series right now, once that’s all done and out I’ll let myself look at other things. I feel like the focus will ground me better, and if I move with the right amount of speed I can still get it all done. so instead i made ‘The Charming War/Handrell War’ my NaNo project for April.

Throughout March I attended a couple of webinars and read 5 craft books, that’s plenty of ticks for my year long  learning goal ;p

For April my goals are:

  • Write 50k of The Charming War/Handrell War (and figure out its title ;p). 50k might be all of it, not sure, should be in the ball park though.
  • Get the rest of my short fiction back catalogue out there

At the start of the year I set myself a goal to read 100 books this year. I’ve just finished the first quarter of the year and I’m within spitting distance of halfway to that goal. I went too easy on myself – that or I’m doing too many chores and therefore reading heaps more audiobooks ;p

Books I read:

  • Save The Cat – finally ;p
  • Stormdancer – a reread to remind me what happened before finishing the series at last
  • Kinslayer – no saggy middle in this trilogy
  • Endsinger – a quality end to the series
  • Deep Point Of View (Busy Writers Guides) – a thorough explanation and an easily usable plan of action!
  • Save The Cat Strikes Back – because why not read the whole series when the first two have been so helpful ;p
  • Reindeer Boy – a squishy one-shot full of cuties with antlers ;p
  • The Last Fifty Pages – because I needed an extra push to wrap up my ending right and this book released with perfect timing
  • Shadow and Bone – I wish I hadn’t read King of Scars first, totally ruined the big mid-point twist, and I know I would have freaking died over it without the advanced warning. I totally cheated myself,
  • Siege and Storm – very happy to have my second trilogy this month also not suffer from saggy middle syndrome. Tight and trim here.
  • Ruin and Rising – Bringing the trilogy home well 🙂
  • How To Write Short Stories – doesn’t sound like a book I really need ;p but I read it because the author is good and it never hurts to gather up a few extra tips to polish myself 🙂
  • Six of Crows – a romantic entanglement novel hiding itself as a dark fantasy heist novel ;p (seriously tho, everyone is paired up, it’s hard to miss for a chronic shipper like me)
  • Crooked Kingdom – so good, but why’d you have to kill him Bardugo >.<

Alita: Battle Angel – My Thoughts

some of my earliest anime/manga purchases – yes, that is a VHS tape ;p

I’ve been a Battle Angel Alita fan for over 20 years. I first saw the anime while still in high school and I’ve been collecting the manga for 18 years (it was one of the first manga I ever bought!). As if I wasn’t going to go see the movie.(it did take me a couple of weeks to get to it though, with camping, road trips, and getting away from the children ;p )

I went in wary, after all western adaptions of anime hits have not always produced the best results…  I went in curious to see what would be changed, how much would be added, how much of the world and its future and history would be put in. I went in cautiously optimistic because of my long held love for this series.

And I was not disappointed.

The movie wasn’t without flaw. It suffered a bit from ‘put all the things in!’ syndrome, but it felt more like an enthusiastic I’m-a-big-fan driven urge, not wanting newcomers to miss out on any of the coolness that is Alita. This did cause it to get a bit shuffled around, and sometimes subplots lost traction because there were so many that sometimes the romance subplot or the motorball subplot wouldn’t even get a mention for six or seven scene. The problem didn’t  reach movie-ruining levels for me (though I’m left wondering if someone with no knowledge of the world might have felt somewhat lost).

Several of the iconic moments (Ido pulling Alita’s remnants from the scrapyard, Alita holding Hugo’s hand hanging off the side of cables of Tiphares/Zalem, ect) were beautifully rendered, and though only touched on it was fun seeing some of the little nods to the fans (like the quick look at Jashugan). The special effects are great – but you probably already knew that considering who made it and the availability of trailers.

I was a little irked by some of the name changes, Daisuke to Dyson is understandable for an American audience (though why ‘Dyson’ is he a vacuum cleaner?’) but what kept niggling at me was Tiphares to Zalem. It threw me every damn time.

just try and tell me she isn’t weirdly perfect for the role

I love love loved Rosa Salazar as Alita. Her voice, her acting, her look (which admittedly is largely cg, but shh) were all great fits for one of my all-time favourite characters.

The emotion remained there well too, (SPOILER ALERT y’all) I still teared up as Hugo’s elbow joint breaks and he plummets away, even though I knew it was coming (and have seen and re-seen that scene into probably the triple digits by now between the anime and manga), and I really enjoyed the romance elements (though the scene with the heart didn’t work quite as strongly as I think it was supposed to).

Overall I was pretty happy with it, and would be up for any sequels, but worry a bit how non-fans might struggle with it.

 

ps. if you liked it and haven’t read the manga do it! Do it because Sechs is AWESOME. (also say that last bit out loud to a friend beside you on the couch like I did and you’ll have a great long-running in-joke ;p )

February Goals Round-Up 2019

I really don’t want to write this one, because I’ve done so little. But when you realise how much I had to work around it’s surprising I got anything done!

I finished reading all of the Deep Editing lecture packet from Margie Lawson (though I’ve not applied it to ALL of Nothing Charming yet, only what I’ve edited so far). Speaking of Nothing Charming, I’ve edited a further 22 pages using both the Deep Editing class, the four beta readers’ feedback and my own nous. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I only had access to a computer for ten days this month, and most of those I was working the day job, packing, cleaning, and critiquing other peoples’ work for the Vision Writers meeting this weekend.

To break down how I went with my goals directly:

  • Proceed with edits on Nothing Charming: I did 22 more pages. Progress FTW
  • Percolate some flash fiction ideas while driving on the holiday: I had two ideas while away, but I don’t know if they’ll end up being flash, they might be more my usual short story length ;p an idea’s and idea though, length doesn’t invalidate that in my opinion.

I might have managed to edit a few more pages of Nothing Charming, but I recieved a nice rejection back for Mermaid In A Jar so edited that story both with the feedback from the rejection and with the Deep Editing course. I’ll do one more read through later today and submit it to the next publisher.

bonus points for the skink in the bottom left hand corner

The massive time suck was the road trip to Sydney. While it was no good for my writing and editing it was super fun in general. I also got to see a lot of baby (or at least immature) birds that I’d never seen before. I saw baby peacocks with their peahen mother, and an immature bush turkey (it was so small and scratching up his little mound already uber-cute!). There were kangaroos at every campsite, some sidling right up to our tent. We also met some super friendly possums and land-on-your-arm lorikeets – and those are the wild animals! We also went to Taronga Zoo and the Sea Life Aquarium (dugongs!).

As much as I goaled low for February, I need to make up for the lost time. Here are my March goals:

  • Complete edits on Nothing Charming (and maybe convince friends and family to chip in for a professional edit for my birthday ;p )
  • Prepare the plot outline for ‘The Handrell War’
  • Write two new short stories
  • Get all my back catalogue stories back out there. At the end of last year I fell seriously behind and I hate sending out stories that haven’t been self-edited between each rejection – you never know what I learned while they were out and what I’ll catch on a fresh read
  • Read through the current Written by the Stars draft, lift plot points, rework with Story Equation to create new plot outline for use in Camp NaNo in April

Yes I *know* I keep saying ‘no more NaNoWriMo’, but its a checkbox on the Five Year Best Seller course, and I don’t want to skip any steps.

And lastly, a stretch goal of:

  • Edit Lovely/Lonely

The list’s a bit long, but I’m confident I can handle it, especially with Harley at kindy an extra day a week to meet the minimum attendance requirements.

Lastly, for those who want to know, here’s the books I read in February:

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