Storybook Perfect

Always quirky, sometimes sweet speculative fiction

Author: Kirstie Olley (page 2 of 37)

My Favourite Books Read In 2018

I read 101 books this year, so obviously I can’t rave about every last one of them here, but you can access any and all of my 2018 reviews by checking out this link to my Goodreads 2018 ‘Year In Books’. I am however going to highlight some of my stand out favourites here.

shut up and take my money memeMost of these books had premises that pretty much had me screaming ‘Shut up and take my money’ but there were a couple of surprises too, as well as an old favourite.

The Cruel Prince: It’s early January, and my good friend Jake messages me and tells me ‘shut up and read this’. So I do. And he knows me sooo well that it was my first five star of the year, and so early in the year ;p Wicked fairy people, half breeds, political machicinations you do (and don’t!) see coming and TWISTS. Damn son. The next one comes out soon(like seven days from today ;p ), and you better believe I have it preodered on Audible.

The Obernewtyn Chronicles: ok sure, it’s not ‘new’ but the audiobooks (most of them) came out this year, so you know I was there ;p Doubly because Isobelle Carmody read them herself and does a damn good job.

I got into this series when I was about 15 (not perfectly sure, mid teens ). Not long after I read the first book was when I learned that the author had been my age when she wrote it. It blew my mind and that was when I first realised I could actually write for a living, I wasn’t ‘too young’, because here was this amazing story written by someone my age, published and in my hands.

The Calculating Stars & The Fated Sky: An alternate 1950s timeline, a space race not merely against other countries but for the sake of humanity, and a super clever female lead – shut up and take my money. I was extra excited to find out that when I finally got around to reading The Calculating Stars, the Fated Sky had just recently come out, so I could binge them like they were a show on Netflix ;p

Girls Made of Snow and Glass: Such a good reimagining of Snow White, and expanded far beyond the originating fairy tale so you have so much more to enjoy, plus deep insight into the ‘evil queen’. When I was done I started scrabbling around for the author’s other books and… couldn’t find them. I want more of your stuff Ms Bashardoust!

To Kill A Kingdom: Funnily enough this one popped up as a recommendation after reading Girls Made of Snow and Glass. I read the description and promptly threw my money at it. A very wise decision evidently. Sirens instead of little mermaids, cursing queens, pirate princes, enemies to lovers, star crossed lovers – omnomnomnomnom.

The Poppy War: This one is going to sucker punch you. Even with this warning it will STILL sucker punch you. There are some serious themes in this one, severe violence, war crimes, drug use, but the character arcs and the characters themselves are amazing!

Stuff & Nonsense (The Threadbare series): I’ve finally started reading litRPG, after all this gaming, and loving anime set in game worlds, I finally started a few litRPG books, and for the most part I’m loving them. Especially this series! I seem to have a thing for typically non-playable races as main characters, perhaps because they’re so out of the box. Also,this one doesn’t go overboard with the stats, there will be regular level ups with little bits to follow, but no big character sheets slapped between every single chapter murdering the story’s pacing in cold blood. It’s hard not to love a book which is about an animated teddy bear who just wants to be with his little girl, and leveling up while doing it ;p

I also read the last of The Heartstrikers series that was in this same list for last year ‘Last Dragon Standing‘ and it is a smashing ending to the series, seriously that book is a masterclass on how to satisfyingly finish a series(though you’ll have to read the whole series as well to see what a bang-up job she really did – not that’d you’d be complaining).

In books on the craft of writing my stand out for the year was The Story Equation. There were some ones I know would be good for newbies, but for me this one had the most fresh information and certainly came at it all from a different angle.

I also read quite a few biographies of trans people so I could do better justice to my trans characters rather than just basing them on my trans friends. I especially liked Janet Mock’s, Redefining Realness and Surpassing Certainty (the second extra much because it’s focused on life post transition, whereas nearly every other book I read was very pre- and during with only a tiny bit of post). I also enjoyed Being Jazz and wish that every trans child’s parents could be as supportive as hers. I’ve still got a long-ish list that I want to read still too ;p

Were there any stand out books you read in 2018? Any recommendations for me to read in 2019?

2018 Round-Up and 2019 Goals

I loved my gifted cat calendar from Japan so much I regularly posted pages on my Instagram

When I first went to write this post all I could think of was the last third of the year, where things were not great, especially not writing-wise. I thought “I’ve barely achieved anything this year. Man, I don’t want to write a round-up post about how much I failed.” But then when I looked through it, of my nine goals, three were partially completed and five were thoroughly completed. That’s only one actual fail. I cheered right back up.

On the other hand, I don’t want to entirely gloss over the failure. After all, imagine how much more I could have achieved if I hadn’t gotten bogged down in my own head/bad habits for the last few months?

I found a place which makes amazing udon near me, so this was me a fair bit of the year ;p

I love giving feedback, but this year, partly out of ambition, partly out of obligation for the large amount of beta-ing I was asking others to do, and partly because I struggle to be the no-saying meanie I severely over extended myself in the giving feedback department. In addition for my 5-6 short stories I critique every month for my writers group meeting I also beta-ed eight novels. Near the end I started to get frustrated it had been so long since I’d worked on my own stuff and that turned into a bad habit where, when I felt like I wasn’t getting anything done, I’d fall back on games for my sense of achievement, instead of using them as my treat for a job well done. I’m sure you can guess how much that helped the sense (and reality) of not getting things done…

Vicious cycle.

On the upside, compared to 2017 I didn’t burn or severely slash my hands and arms, though 2018 didn’t like my right foot since I slashed the underside of my foot rushing to get a bin out in time and later severely sprained my ankle  running to the park with Xander (it was six weeks before I could walk properly, and it’s clearly never going to be ‘back to normal’ because it’s very easy to pull if I walk or land funny). Generally though, health-wise, it wasn’t as awful.

my special little snowflake ;p

Harley is very much a threenager. Someone please tell me the tantrums go away >.< Also she gave me a LOT of late nights while trying to drop her day nap but failing. This mean she’d have her nap late in the afternoon, and would wake in the evening refreshed and ready for play for a few more hours, meaning we’d be up super late. She’d sleep in the next morning so *she* got the right amount of sleep, but I’m up early to get Xander ready for school and on the bus, so no helpful sleep-in for me. However, she is adorable. You should hear her singing ‘Baby Shark’ XD and her vocabulary is exploding (she’s a little late in speaking, and considering Xander is non-verbal this was a massive concern for us). She is also nuts for My Little Pony. She struggles with words more than two syllables long, unless it’s Fluttershy, or Twilight Sparkle, or Rainbow Dash, then she has allllllll the syllables ;p  Also, I can’t believe she starts kindy this year!

Xander is still a sweet prince. He puts up with Harley like an ANGEL. This boy is the kindest big brother in the universe. Harley is even one of his very few verbalised words (and the way he says it too too cute!). He’s doing well in school and I can’t wait for his birthday in a few more days because he’s going to love some of his presents and where he’s going for the day.

And back to the writing, here’s how I went with my 2018 goals:

Goal#1 – Publish the Charming Series: I want to have the first four ready to go, I’ve currently got the first two ready, and three needs me to action its feedback (I’ve gathered the beta feedback just haven’t yet actioned it), so I’m close, but I’m determined to not just rush junk out there, I’d rather have them well-polished and ready for rapid release.

Goal#2 – Get beta feedback on Lovely/Lonely: Success, I gathered it. I haven’t actioned it yet, but the goal was specifically about gathering so I count this as a win.

Goal#3 – Continue writing and publishing short fiction in traditional publishing markets: I wrote six new short stories (Alone Time, Delivery Man Wanted, Money For Meat, The Taste of Blood, The Last Breath Before Foam, Against The Black Knight). One story was published this year, Groundskeeper in Stupefy Stories#22. I’ve been waiting a while to see this one finally in print so am super happy, plus , it’s a part of my Retailored Fairy Tales world which I’m planning to focus on a fair bit this next year or two. As for other stories such as the six new ones I wrote I’ve been submitting almost exclusively to pro markets this year, which means less sales so far, but I have had some hold requests and feedback rejections, which is always promising.

Goal#4 – Take my back catalogue of short stories that are out of their exclusivity periods and self-publish them: this was planned to fill out small gaps in the publishing schedule of the Charming for Hire series, so since I didn’t release that I didn’t want to squander these. I did do some work regarding formatting and covers though, so this is a partial complete with a good reason for not finishing.

Goal#5 – Start working towards creating a monthly fiction podcast: well, yes, I’ve *started* but still only at the most basic levels, looking into hosting, production schedule, what I’ll need, basic fiddling with Audacity, but no recordings. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll do a serial show (a novel read in parts) or a short fiction podcast (different story each episode).

Goal#6 – Continue being a good president to Vision Writers Group: I feel I completed this duty well this year. When the Yahoo boards glitched out I swooped in like a superhero (;p ) and found us a new home for the group as well as carefully laid down the foundation for my retirement. Yes. This was my last year as president of the group, I’m still remaining and active member though. Gotta get my critiquing/being critiqued fix somewhere ;p

Goal#7 – Complete one of the unfinished novels: I finished ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’ just after Camp NaNoWriMo back in April. The two halves are quite different from one another and the plot outline mutated a bit so extensive self edits will be needed, but hey, I’ve still completed the first draft of my fourth novel.

Goal#8 – Continue learning: I’m fairly confident in this one. I added a few more podcasts to my already hefty subscription list, continued on almost entirely up to date with the 5 Years to Become a Bestseller course, and also took part in Margie Lawson’s ‘Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like A Psychologist’. I read 10 new craft books this year as well. I also beta read 8 (yes EIGHT) other people’s novels in addition to my normal feedback for Vision, and you learn a lot when teaching/critiquing others too.

Goal#9 – Rewrite Written by the Stars: I didn’t even touch this. Unfortunately it was scheduled for the ill-fated end of the year, so didn’t stand much of a chance. It’s now scheduled for the start of 2019 at least.

Even my crossword app is giving me ‘subtle’ hints I need to get to work

Like I said, not as bad as I thought. I also did all of my mini goals set last year (updating the site’s look, adding my ‘books read’ to my monthly goal round-ups, and upping my reading speed). Not to mention I read A LOT. 101 books officially completed and reviewed. I did read a few books which were bleh and I didn’t finish. I didn’t review them and aren’t counting them. I also listen to a lot of fiction podcasts.

I also enjoyed a lot of story in the form of watching anime while up late trying to get Harley down, and through my bad gaming habit. I posted about my favourites already. If you missed them or are curious here’s my Top 8 Anime of 2018, and Favourite Video Games of 2018(at least I got a blog post out of all that distraction ;p ).

And to wrap this all up, my goals for 2019:

  • Rewrite Written by The Stars, ideally also do my self edits and get some feedback so I can send it out to agents and publishers again.
  • Complete edits on Lovely/Lonely. I have the feedback, now to action it so it too is ready to be submitted.
  • Get the Charming For Hire series ready for publication and release it. This year for sure! I still want to have the first four 100% ready and ideally the 5th close to it so I can use the rapid release tactic.
  • Continue writing and publishing short fiction for traditional markets. I love doing this. Not sure I could stop if I tried.
  • Work on my fiction podcast. I’m not going to rush this too much, but I’d like to seriously start recording some stuff very soon. It’s something I really want to do, but also want to do well.
  • Write at least one new novel. What will it be? Even I don’t know yet ;p
  • Work on more Retailored Fairy Tales stories. I’ve got the loose plots for some Troll’s Toll sequels rattling around up here as well as some other ideas.
  • Continue learning. This one’s always here. It will never not be.

Are you setting any big goals for yourself in 2019? Anything you wish you could see from me? Your enthusiasm might make me add it to my goals list.

My Top 8 Anime I Watched In 2018

Most people know I’m an otaku, and this year I actually had some time for anime. While this list will largely be 2018 releases, there will be a few anime that I only watched for the first time in 2018. Also, this is in no particular order.

Like a true anime snob, I watched most of them in sub form, but this time mostly because I was watching late at night after most/all of the family was asleep(and while I tried to get the final one down for the night) so I had the volume barely audible, and needed them. 

The Ancient Magus’ Bride

I’ll call this a 2018 one since it didn’t finish until early 2018 ;p

Y’all probably already know I love anthropomorphic skeletons (and this fact will come up again later in this post ;p ) and I was really intrigued by Elias’ design.

I was really into the way the story took actual myths and worked with them, embracing that many fairy stories are actually dark, eg/ I *knew* those little fairies were trying to trick her. I also enjoyed seeing Titania and Oberon and their interactions and Leanan Sidhe. The way the magic was worked into the real world was quite cool too.

I love unusual male leads for the romantic roles (hence casting a skeleton and a troll  as romantic leads in my own stories) so Elias is my kind of leading man, not to mention broody backstories are such a hit <3

Their romance is so cute and adorkable, but also they themselves as individual characters are so rich, as are the others around them.

If you don’t mind a bit of dark in your romance (a bit? scratch that, fairly sizeable is more accurate) and unconventional male leads then you’ll love this one.

Cells at work

I was LIVING for the vibe between White Blood Cell and Red Blood Cell.

I’ve never found something so educational to also move me. Seriously the number of times I was edge-of-my-seat during this show was surprisingly high, even moreso considering the content. I mean they’re cells – why was I so emotionally involved? Seriously, 2 million blood cells died inside me in the time it takes to put the period on the end of this sentence.

One problem though was I was constantly wanting there to be an opportunity for Red Blood Cell to save White, but thanks to my (limited) knowledge of biology I knew it was never going to happen and it was frustrating to know that but still have the want deep inside.

A slight heads up for those who aren’t a fan of gore, White Blood Cell spends half his screen time covered in blood, typically from slashing his way through various bacteria and germs.

Wotakoi

For serious, this was soooo good. It was my Friday morning treat for when I finished my word count and trust me, the words never flowed faster any other day of the week for those couple of months ;p

A gamer for the male lead and a fujoshi for the female – I was instantly connected to both of them. Every episode had both at least one ‘problem’ for the characters where they dealt with something nerd related that I almost always sympathised with fully, and one romantic moment which left me swooning. Such a good combo. I could watch this show forever, but I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll never get a second season, so I’ll just content myself with the manga.

Also, I definitely fell in love with Hirotaka <3 and that’s when it dawned on me: I have a type. My favourite characters in anime I watch consistently have:

  • glasses
  • dark hair (this is occasionally a missable option eg/ Shiho Kimizuki from ‘Seraph of the End’ and Yuta Sakurai from ‘Recovery of an MMO Junkie’)
  • adorakble

Extra points awarded for broody backstories and hyper-competence at something(especially if that leads to cluelessness in other things enhancing the requirement of adorkable).

Masculinity is not a requirement though, as I also love Mirai Kuriyama from Beyond The Boundary  (glasses + adorkable + broody back story).

See here for a small strip of some of my favourite characters.

 

*character walks on screen wearing glasses/puts on glasses*

me:

Violet Evergarden

Wow, the emotional depth in this one is amazing. The way it handles the effects of war on people, both soldiers and civilians and takes the care to show how not everyone responds and reacts the same too. I can’t even tell you how regularly I cried watching this.

I was fascinated by Violet herself, and wish we got to learn more about what happened to her before the Major came into her life (though maybe that’s covered in the light novels?). And what sort of stone heart wouldn’t be moved my her memories of him? *cue tears again*

Her mechanical arms were also really intriguing to me. I wanted to know so much more about the maker, the designer, whether this sort of prosthetic was common, or insanely expensive or unique to her alone. Some of the questions got a bit of an answer but largely even those answers felt a bit glossed over. Thinking about it all got me excited and gave me a story idea, though, so I’m not complaining.

I also enjoyed the special that came out after the series.

Magical Girl Ore

I do love me some magical girl anime, especially how more recent series are all trying to go in new and exciting directions. But lately the trend has been to darker paths, eg/ Puella Magi Madoka Magica, The Magical Girl Raising Project, and Magical Girl Site, which is all well and good, but I’m delighted to see some out of the box but still light-hearted fun.

It does lean a bit more toward the ridiculous though, with a yakuza for the ‘cute mascot’/guide, enemies with hella buff bodies but cute teddy bear-esque heads and the main two girls’ ‘singing careers’. There’s the trope of course of the lead girl being head over heels for a boy, but that boy, Mohiro, is hilarious oblivious and blase. Also, the magnificent tangled romance of it all, it’s like a romance dodecahedron rather than just a triangle XD

My Hero Academia

Ok sure this has been out a while, but I only just started. Considering my love for super heroes I should have been in on it earlier, I’ll blame the delay on my irritation with never ending series.

I binged the whole three seasons in four or five days. The kids were into it too and it was school holidays – that’s my excuse ;p

Something I really love though is how so many of the quirks are highly unusual and how quite a few have downsides and repercussions – something I love putting on my own super powered characters (read Short Circuit if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). It really makes me want to get back to writing in that world.

You can probably predict based on what I said about Wotakoi who my favourite character is (no prizes, cos it’s too obvious).

My one issue with the series though is even at the end of the third season they were still regularly putting the character names and their quirk up on screen for characters who had been primary characters from the start. I’m serious, yes, I freaking know who Todoroki and Ochaco are and what their freaking quirks are because I’ve been watching them for the last 60 something episodes.

Skull-face Book seller Honda-san

Obviously with my passion for anthropomorphised skeletons as characters I was 100% in for this show from the start, but add on how true to life the retail worker experience is between not just types of stores(Honda-san’s books store as compared to my video game store) but even in different COUNTRIES and I was impressed.

Honda-san sells comics, so there are lots of references and hilarious otaku characters, including fujoshi, in the show. All his fellow employees wear various monster ‘masks’ and are named for their masks, but as the character base expands they start to be almost anything sometimes, even a publisher asking ‘can i have a koala head’.

It’s also really fun to look at how book-selling works in Japan. I love learning about differences in industries like that, and would love to know as much about the Australian bookseller retail market as I’ve learned from Honda-san.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime

I’m also enjoying a lot of the LitRPG style anime, like ‘That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime’. This goes back far though, to Konosuba, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, and Log Horizon (no prizes for guessing who my fave is in that either).

The opening episode is awesome both in watching him sacrifice himself, but also how every thought he makes as he passes factors into his ‘reincarnation’.

It’s so fun to watch him rolling around as a slime and solving problems. Since it’s still coming out while I’m writing this, obviously there’s much more fun to come, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

 

You’ve probably noticed I’m a bit all over the shop genre-wise, but to be honest that’s part of what I love about anime, so so so many sub genres for me to sink my teeth into and try out 😀

Were there any stand out series for you this year? Anything you’re hanging out to watch next year?

My Favourite Games In 2018

Games were the great escape for me this year. You get a lot of satisfaction out of gaming, and an unfinished game (at least for me) causes no pain, unlike unfinished books and (far, far worse) unfinished manuscripts. When I struggled with some personal life issues I did a lot more gaming this year. Not the best coping strategy, but fun at least.

So, my reviews:

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

Should be no surprise. I already wrote my review earlier in the year, here, and though that was written while I was still early on in the game, it all still holds true after having completed it: a cute , fun game, good story, but not totally gripping.

Octopath Traveler

I said last year this was one of the ones I was looking forward to and I was not disappointed. The many intertwined storylines is great fun, but can be a tiny bit frustrating when you only have so many people in your party at once but want to follow all the storylines, but don’t want to have to level all eight characters all at once. Also, the game didn’t make it easy for me to learn how to switch party members (I had to Google it ;p ) and your main character is locked in that spot until you finish their whole storyline. Lucky I took my time and chose who I thought would be my favourite character (and he totally is plus suits my gameplay style perfectly).

The art style harkens back to older days in the character and monster sprites, but the backgrounds are so lush, it’s an interesting contrast. I’m always a fan of traditional turn based combat(as you can probably tell by the fact the vast majority of games I play are) and I liked the boost mode and how you could carefully play the long game with some bosses by saving it up and them smashing them utterly. Also, secondary jobs always make me smile.

I’m not fully finished yet, but the story lines are all wonderful, and well intertwined, as to be expected of SqaureEnix when they’re at the top of their game (pun intended ;p ).

The World Ends With You

Oh the nostalgia. I played this back when it first came out on DS and it was awesome then and is still awesome. The graphics, THE SOUNDTRACK (damn if I’m not still singing some of the songs even now months later)(not to mention I bought some of the soundtracks back when I was in Japan ;p that’s my collection right there), and the story. Oh man, such a good story. Now as an older person I can read the other characters a bit better, and characters I though were shallow are much deeper now. Still not into the tin pin slammer mini game though. Bleh.

The controls were extremely awkward when the Switch was in TV mode, and were still a bit tough even in tablet mode since instead of using the touch screen for Neku and the buttons for his partner it’s all controlled on the touch screen(the downside of it being a port from the mobile game version, not the original DS). This meant that sometimes I couldn’t activate my psych or get my partner to drop in as I’d planned, but I was still usually able to come out of battles with As or at least Bs so not too bad. Also the rest of it is so good a few awkward moments with the controls is far from a game killer.

Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee

I thought this would be one of my top picks, but the continuation of using the mobile game Pokemon Go’s catching method is far too random and annoying for me. I mean my team are all significantly higher levels than the pokemon to be caught, I’m using a freaking ultra ball and razzberry, I got an ‘excellent’ throw when the circle was super teeny tiny, and still no capture? FU game mechanics, FU. I significantly prefer taking my time to whittle down health with a battle , throw an ailment like sleep or paralyze on it then catch it with a basic level pokeball. However, catching now nets noticeably more exp than fighting other trainers, especially if you’re clever and stack bonuses. The story is nothing new either, basically just a Yellow port.

I do enjoy the graphics style though, and I love that I can actually see the pokemon so I can run to or away from them. Ultimately though, I’m watching for the 2019 core game. Just please let it use normal capture methods. I don’t want to feel like I’m going to throw my precious Switch across the room in a rage quit.

Atelier Lydie and Suelle

While Lydie and Sue are both suitably cute, alchemy is still fun, and the new method of jumping into dungeons is clever and cool there’s one big issue with this installment in one of my all-time favourite series: They took away the time limit completely (or at least some 35+ hours in and still not even a whiff of a real time limit).

Removing the time limit, means there’s no sense of urgency for me, so I’m left with no feeling like I have to rush to finish the game IRL. This has led to the fact I still haven’t finished it. It released in April here, and I got it immediately. Since getting it I’ve completed, Etrian Odyssey V, Persona 4 Golden, Persona 3 Portable, The World Ends With You, a full replay of Fantasy Life and its DLC(God leveled most jobs), and played some of Pokemon Let’s Go Eevee, Persona Q, most of Octopath Travelers(not to mention all the little time wasters and Otome games on my phone). So clearly, I need my time limits back ;p

The Persona series (in general)

OK, none of the Persona games are 2018 releases (except the dancing games ;p ) but I went a little Persona mad this year so thought it shoud be included. I played Persona 4 Golden, Persona 3 Portable, and some Persona Q and Persona 5. It all started when I thought I needed to get around to playing P4g before my Vita died from neglect on the shelf. Of course the high I felt after completing it lead me to get P3p so I could finally play the female MC route (date all the boys!!), and then the high from completing THAT lead me to start Persona Q. The fact this was all during the time when I was struggling with a lot of other stuff and feeling like I was ‘getting nowhere’ I got a lot of satisfaction out of these games.

Etrian Odyssey V

Like with Final Fantasy XV last year, Etrian Odyssey V officially came out in November last year, but of course I didn’t get around to it until this year. I really loved the ability to not just change skin, hair and eye colour, but to even have two different eye colours. Guess how many of my team had heterochromia ;p

Etrian Odyssey games are always tough. You never know when your whole party will get hit with a bind or ailment you can’t shake and suddenly you can’t attack that round and your healer is bound and bam, next thing you know, you’re dead. But that toughness is part of the fun. However, I rarely complete Etrian Odyssey games for this precise reason. This rarely hurts, because the storyline is not a major selling point for most of these games, so I never felt bad. But I finished this one! OMG. And when I got to the end I got the storyline that was so weak earlier in the game. Still not the strongest story line, but cool none-the-less. Plus, the sheer satisfaction of beating the final boss of a game where you can easily die repeatedly in the first dungeon; soooooooo satisfying.

 

All up I think I earned my title of ‘Gamer mum’ quite thoroughly this year ;p (I’m a little too old to be a ‘gamer girl’ IMO

Titles I’m looking forward to in 2019:

The Liar Princess and the Blind Prince: oooooh, pretty, and I just love the fairy tale concept. I am keen to see how the story pans out(no spoilers please if you’ve already played it in Japanese).

Atelier Lulua: well duh.

Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists: a city builder in the Atelier world? Shut up and take my money.

Etrian Odyssey Nexus: another, well duh

The Princess Guide: looks like it could be good fun, but has a chance of going south if the writers do things too obviously. We’ll see, I’m willing to try for the potential alone.

Ragnarok Eternal Love: Ragnarok Online was my first MMO, sooooo many memories, I can’t wait to see what the mobile game is going to serve me.

Was there anything you particularly loved in 2018, or and 2019 releases you’re dying to play?

 

My Retirement

No, not from writing (it’s been a tough last four months but far from how bad it would need to be to make me do that!). I’m retiring from being president of my writers group.

I’ve been the president of Vision Writers for the last four years. It’s been a wonderful time, and the group has had several changes I’ve had the privilige (and sometimes the challenge ;p ) to undertake.

We’ve had so many new members join over my time, and a surprisingly large amount of them to stay on. An anthology was collected too (the ebook Darkest Depths can be bought from most ebook retailers, the print is a limited edition run however.)

It’s been a good time, but a combination of my own time becoming more scarce (and therefore me worrying I can’t devote the time the group deserves) and a desire for others to step up has made me decide now is the time to step down.

I’m remaining a member of the group – you’ll have to drag me kicking and screaming from them ;p  – just now, only a member.

At the Christmas party on Sunday, the last group event in which I was still president, I was given a beautiful hard cover version of The Blade Itself. Best of all it’s filled with many of the members well-wishes. I usually mock when people say they feel ‘blessed’ (thanks to the ridiculously overused hashtag), but this is one case where I do feel it.

I’m sad to leave the position, but I’m also excited to keep going and see how, in 2019, it will be different.

New Release: Groundskeeper in Stupefying Stories v 22

It’s official, my latest short story, Groundskeeper, is finally out.

Groundskeeper is the first story in Stupefying Stories v 22 and is set in my Retailored Fairy Tales world. It focuses on Shena, the groundskeeper for a magic labyrinth.

In the heart of the labyrinth is a tower. In the tower, a princess. Ruling over all, an evil lord. But who maintains that magical labyrinth? Lord Rangatt sure isn’t going to trim all those hedges himself, nor maintain the traps or feed the beasts. That’s Shena’s job, passed down from her father, and she takes great pride in the fact not one prince has made it even as far as the tower. That pride wars with guilt however, and her awareness of how the other townspeople view her. Despite that, change can be a dangerous thing when it involves quitting your job for a powerful warlock, not to mention abandoning your late father’s legacy isn’t easy to do either. What kind of a catalyst does Shena need to finally decide on her fate for herself?

Of course there’s lots of other cool stories in the volume too, so check it out in ebook on Amazon now. Paperback coming soon.

Coming Soon: Groundskeeper

The latest Retailored Fairy Tales story, Groundskeeper, will be released very soon in the upcoming Stupefying Stories vol 22. You can check out the table of contents for it here on the publisher’s blog. If the order is exact it looks like this will be the third time one of my stories starts off an anthology so I’m quite pleased. Also there’s a lot of very interesting sounding other stories I’m keen to read.

Groundskeeper takes place in the same world as Glass Bones, Charming, and The Troll’s Toll. Here’s a little blurb for the story:

In the middle of a labyrinth stands a tower with a princess trapped inside. Many a prince tries to rescue her but the labyrinth is too cruel and none even make it to the tower. This fact is a matter of pride for Shena, the labyrinth’s groundskeeper, but the latest would-be hero has Shena questioning if she’s as evil as she thinks she is.

If you want to be emailed as soon as Stupefying Stories vol 22 comes out, join my new releases newsletter (you’ll also receive a free ebook of my Redlitzer-winning short story Stolen Hearts as a bonus!).

Love Is A Highway

My car going up on the tow truck while I watch from my ride to the wedding

OK, I’m pushing the limits of leeway since the song is ‘LIFE Is A Highway’ and the road I broke down on was a motorway, but shhh.

So I was on the way to the wedding of an old work friend, Brad, and my car broke down ON THE MOTORWAY. Of course I was driving in the fast lane when the accelerator suddenly cuts out so I have to navigate in a rapidly decelerating car across four lanes of traffic to the safety of the shoulder. And naturally by the time I get near the shoulder I also have to cut across and extra lane of merging traffic from the on-ramp (why should it be easy ;p )

You can imagine the fun: a lightly smoking car, me in a fancy dress and heels trying to figure out all the things that have to be done to ensure we are safe, the car is safe, and we still get to the wedding – because I sure as hell wasn’t about to miss Brad and Scott’s wedding ;p

The happy couple

Now here’s a tidbit for my Aussie readers. If you every break down on a freeway/highway/motorway you can call up (in Qld RACQ, in other states I’m not sure) and you get a free emergency tow off the freeway to a safe location for you and the car.

You can also, if you have someone babysitting your kids for the wedding, call them up and beg them to also drive you to the wedding ;p

We missed the ceremony sadly (walked up the steps to the chapel just as the guests came out and started walking down them), but we made it to the reception and had a great time.

June Goals Round-Up 2018 + Halfway Mark Check

In June Harley turned 3, so cue birthday party! She had a fabulous Trolls themed party at the new local park. She had a blast.

The class on writing better body language took up a lot more headspace and time than I’d expected. It was totally worth it, but it also meant nearly all my writing time each day was taken up by it. And with winter hitting here in usually sunny Queensland I can’t even pretend I can breathe through my nose.

Editing T-J’s novel is harder than you’d think. He’s requested I write additions in and he’ll edit them, but his voice is on the other side of the planet from any of the voices I’ve used, and whenever I come across something I have to write extensive explanations of what I mean/why I mention or corrected it. It’s a very clean draft but there’s still lots to do >.<

Because the course and T-J’s novel were my priorities nothing else on my goals list for June got looked at. It’s maddeningly frustrating for me when I see ‘how little I got done’ but i know I still got a fair amount done so I’m trying to not get too upset over it. Plus, when I did my mid-year goal check (which you can see below) I realised I was doing pretty well for the year.

Now for my mid-year goal check!

  1. Publish the Charming For Hire Series: Some progress achieved. I have the first three stories completed and have feedback on them all, just need to implement the feedback on the third one and outline and write the fourth. I want the fourth to be at least finished to first draft level before I work on covers ect to release the first three so I can do a rapid release schedule.
  2. Get beta feedback on Lovely/Lonely: I have the feedback, I just need to implement it ;p
  3. Continue writing and publishing short fiction in traditional publishing markets: I’ve written six new short stories so far this year and while I do need to hurry and get a few stories back out in circulation I’m always careful to do a new edit or at least read-thru and tinker of each story after it has been rejected. I have one story I’m waiting to receive the editor’s changes on before publication in the next month or two.
  4. Take my back catalogue of short stories that are out of their exclusivity periods and self-publish them: Got nowhere so far, but mostly because I’m waiting to get the Charming stories ready so I can release some of these in any gaps in the Charming series’ schedule.
  5. Start working towards creating a monthly fiction podcast: I’m doing plenty of research on this, a microphone is on it’s way. My big stumbling block ATM is whether it’ll be a short fiction podcast (a different short story each episode) or a serialised fiction podcast(one story told in chunks across multiple episodes). Until I know which format I’m going to do I can’t really proceed.
  6. Continue being a good president to Vision Writers Group: No complaints ;p Though we are having some fun with the print version of our most recent anthology which is taking up a frustrating amount of time as I have to tinker over and over again with files.
  7. Complete one of the unfinished novels: I completed the first draft of ‘Key, Clocks, Quests’ in May so huzzah, this one is 100% completed (though KCQ itself still needs to be self edited and beta read before it goes out in the world, but I have a finished draft and that’s what the goal was about).
  8. Continue learning: Listening to podcasts, reading craft books, reading books in my genre, researching markets I want to sell to, researching successful self publishing, researching book marketing, attending webinars, doing courses (the 5 Years to Become a Bestseller course, and Margie Lawson’s ‘Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like A Psychologist’ for two I’ve done so far this year). Also every month critiquing others work. I think I can safely say I’ve got this one (not that I’ll be stopping or even slowing down on this one; I know I’ve still got heaps to learn)
  9. Rewrite Written by the Stars: no progress thus far at all. Too busy on all the other stuff, but I do still have half a year ;p

I’ve broken down all the tasks I need to do for the rest of the year to keep on track with my 5 Years To Become a Bestseller course and my own personal goals and I *should* be able to manage it, though I’ll have to be careful not to get distracted.

My goals for July are:

  • Complete an early stage edit of my husband’s book, I Am Not Liam Neeson
  • Beta-read a friend’s novel
  • Use Beta reader feedback on Nothing Charming to edit it
  • Start using beta-reader feedback on Lovely/Lonely to edit the novel
  • Write at least one new short story
  • Catch up on the reading for my five year best seller course

I’m reading some crime/thriller books right now to help me get more in the headspace for T-J’s crime/thriller, but of course his book is also heavily comedic so I’m struggling to find stuff that’s really like that out there. Any recommendations?

Books I read in June:

  • Surpassing Certainty: Janet Mock’s second memoir, focusing on her 20s. I’m ready for her one about her 30s now (pity she’s not finished living them, I’ll be waiting a fair few years)
  • Feed: at long last, I’ve only been meaning to read this when it was just a single book on its own ;p
  • Deadline: sequel to above
  • Blackout: end of the trilogy to above. Great books if you like the zombocalypse and political thrillers smooshed together
  • Rise: the novella collection, in audiobook hours almost as long as the 2/3 of the trilogy ;p
  • Feedback: because I’m on a roll with this series ;p
  • Beneath The Sugar Sky: back to the home for wayward children(children who’ve been through portals to fantasy worlds) and boy did I love it. Same author as the above books, but sugary sweet now)
  • Attachments: Rainbow Rowell serves me nostalgia, D&D, and awesome characters, but lags a bit on the romance in this one
  • Eleanor & Park: Rowell does NOT disappoint in the romance department this time!
  • The Princess Bride: I’ve been looking for the ‘unabridged’ version for DECADES, I gave in, read this and realised, there’s no abridgement, it’s just the frame story for the book XD
  • The Sleeping Doll: recommended in my Margie Lawson course and a crime novel to help with getting my head in that space for T-J’s novel
  • Roadside Crosses: the sequel to The Sleeping Doll.

May Goals Round-Up 2018

Oh what an eventful month ;p As seems to be my habit I have yet another injury to report, this time spectacularly sprained ankle. Fortunately, unlike my repeatedly injured arm, a sprained ankle is GREAT for writing because it’s the perfect excuse to sit down with your leg elevated and get to typing.

As such, I met my main goal and completed the first draft of ‘Keys, Clocks, Quests’ at 130,000 words. Obviously there’s going to be some trimming before it’s ready. I have an editing plan set out since I’ve written this draft in stints across the last FIVE years, but I’m following the well-beloved advice of letting the manuscript ‘breathe’ for a while first. This gives me a chance to work on some other projects instead of going into full burnout on the project.

Speaking of burnout I am now 100% sure NaNoWriMo no longer works with my personal writing style. Something about the competition effect of it makes me forgive crappy writing too much(because who cares, more words) and push myself way to hard for the ‘win’. It took me more than two weeks after NaNo was done to write the final 10k words because I felt so burned out, for the first 9 days of May I was only writing 100 or so words a day and those by great force of effort. If I ever say I’m going to do NaNo again, remind me of this moment please.

On the plus side though, I did have that moment of pieces falling together perfectly during the final battle when things I’d been putting in on a whim suddenly converged with one another for a perfect recovery from the blackest moment, enabling my hero to defeat the big bad 😀 I even started writing it with tears of excitement in my eyes!

I started working on T-J’s novel too. It’s an amazingly clean draft for a first timer (and I know what they look like usually thanks to the massive amount of critiquing I’ve been doing over the last six years at Vision Writers Group meetings). Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect – there’s still pleeeeeeenty of notes. Let’s hope my marriage remains intact after he’s read all my comments ;p

On the ‘keep learning’ goal I set for the year as a whole, one of the courses I did was significantly more basic than I’d expected. Anyone who’s listened to the podcasts I have for even one year (significantly less time than I have) would already know all this info, and for free. Luckily I picked it up for a song and got a bunch of bonuses some of which have proved more useful, so I’m not pissed.

Also re: learning I’m still tracking along well with the 5 Year Best Seller course and I attended 4 different webinars, but they were mostly on book marketing, not craft ;p

June Goals:

  • Complete an early stage edit of my husband’s book, I Am Not Liam Neeson
  • Do all assignments in the Margie Lawson course I’m taking
  • Beta-read a friend’s novel
  • Use beta-reader feedback on Lovely/Lonely to edit the novel
  • Use Beta reader feedback on Nothing Charming to edit it
  • Write at least one new short story

Well damn son, I do set me some lofty goals. Especially considering I have Harley’s third birthday party to plan and a house which is, thanks to my sprained ankle and a lovely cycle of colds working through the kids, a little bit messier than I’d like it to be >.> Plus I’ve been invited to an old friend/coworker’s wedding <3 but he knew me back when I was skinny and stylish so I have until September to drop a few dress sizes and look suitably smashing.

For those who want to see what I read through May, these are the books I read:

  • The Red Queen: OMG what a massive book! And that satisfaction of finishing a series you started when you were 14 *ahhhh* at long, long last
  • The Journey: an Obernewtyn prequel short story, might not have great appeal to those who haven’t read the series though
  • The Dark Road: another Obernewtyn prequel short story which confused me, and broke my heart… but I enjoyed ;p
  • Last Dragon Standing: another great ending to a cool series. No disappointment here (except that it’s all over now and I didn’t realise it was the final book when I grabbed it)
  • Artemis: no idea how it took me so long to get to this book considering how much I loved The Martian
  • The Speed of Dark: I loved so much of this, but very mixed emotions about the end, read my review if you need more info.
  • Redefining Realness: Janet Mock’s biography of going through childhood and her teen years as a trans woman.
  • Write To Market: I’ve heard about this book a million times, finally got around to reading it

I also kept up to date with all my favourite short fiction podcasts (Podcastle, EscapePod, Psuedopod(who released a cool 3 part novella this month, definitely check it out if you dig horror), Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Strange Horizons, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Apex Magazine, and Toasted Cake). I also found a new one, Glittership which is a queer SF/F short fiction podcast. I’m working thru the available back episodes and loving it.

I’m always looking for good fiction podcasts so if you know any feel free to share them with me. I’m also curious about serialised novels via podcast, but don’t know where to start, so if you know any good fantasy ones feel free to link me 🙂

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