16 October 2021

What Do Three Stars Mean?

Photo by DDP on Unsplash
I got my beta reading reports from Independent Book Review earlier this month, and I've sat on them for about ten days or so, trying to process them. 

They had pages and pages of compliments, yay! But the critical parts of their reports threw me for a loop, with contradictions that make me unsure of what changes I should implement. I know I can't please everyone, and based on the reports I got, I think it's showing me how impossible it is to, given how each reader had very different tastes and often the opposite opinions. 

Overall I was very happy with the reports despite still being confused about what to do, and I plan on using the service in the future for other books. But I'm still trying to work my way through everything that was said, and the largest one is that my book, which I thought was finished, is not. 

The clearest indicator of that is the rating they used--the most popular method, the five-star rating system. They explained that the rating they gave my manuscript reflects what they thought if the book were to be published today. My scores: 3, 3.5, and 3. 

It felt like a slap in the face, especially after all of the glowing commentary I'd received. Why did they say such positive things about my book if it was only worth three stars to them? I thought for certain I'd handed them a four-star book at least, and that it was ready to go. 

Three stars is only one star less than four, yet the difference between them seems so huge. Why did I have such a strong negative reaction to three stars?  What do three stars mean?  

I thought I'd reflect but also do a little bit of digging into whether or not three stars is a negative review.

My initial thoughts: Three stars is in the middle, therefore three stars is average, or a C. Not bad, but not good; just meh. And in a world where everything is competing for your attention, why would you spend money on something that isn't going to wow you? Who signs up for so-so? This is why I thought 3 stars was a bad rating. 

Let's see what the rest of the internet says. 

Author Teyla Rachel Branton, like me, compared the star rating to letter grades in her blog post, and refers to the three-star rating as the "kiss of death." She writes, 

3 stars is a C or a C-. So only average or NEUTRAL. You neither liked it or disliked it. This really is the kiss of death rating. The “okay” novel. If you give a novel this rating, there should be SERIOUS issues because, remember, many advertisers won’t accept novels with this overall rating. So the 3-star novel should be one you didn’t feel compelled to finish, or one whose overall plot didn’t quite make sense (and you feel wouldn’t make sense to others). This is a novel that you wouldn’t recommend unless it was the only thing someone had to read and they were stuck in an airport for two hours.

This kind of aligns with my own thoughts about the three stars! This is why my star rating hurt me, because after I got the compliments that I did, and was told that I had a really strong manuscript and that I was a talented writer, I wondered why I didn't score higher. Most of the issues the beta readers brought up were valid, but I didn't think it would lower the score so much. This is what indicated to me that the book needs more work than I anticipated, and admittedly brought me down a bit. 

Author Duncan Ralston did an unofficial Facebook survey asking whether three stars was a good review, and the majority of participants marked it as a positive, followed up by the next most-popular response, neutral. From his comments, he discovered,

Most people agreed that a 3SR [3 star rating] meant the reader liked the book but it wasn't stellar. Something might have been lacking, or the reader may have been expecting a different book entirely than what they got. There seemed to be a general consensus that if a book is 3 stars across the boards it is likely mediocre.

 That phrase, "mediocre," really stings! 

And yet, despite these interpretations that align with what I think three stars to be, there are other people out there who say that three stars is good. 

Brenna Clarke Gray over at BookRiot wrote a whole article titled "The Truth: A Three-Star Review is Not a Bad Review."Gray assures us that it's not so much that the book is mediocre, but satisfactory. Here's what she says about three stars from her point of view:

  • this book was totally fine
  • I didn’t hate reading this book
  • at no point did I regret purchasing this book
  • some things in this book were good, and other things were not
  • generally, the good outweighed the bad, but not so much that I forgot the bad bits
  • there’s nothing terribly wrong with this book
  • there’s nothing terribly outstanding about this book
  • this is a book that other people will probably also not regret reading
  • if I knew someone who liked this kind of book, I would tell them to maybe read this one
  • I will probably read the next thing this author writes

The majority of these points are positive! But the ones stuck in my mind are "nothing terribly outstanding about this book" and "generally the good outweighed the bad, but not so much that I forgot the bad bits." I want people to think my book is outstanding, and I don't want people to remember bad things about it, so, by Gray's explanation, I would still consider a 3 a negative review. 

Other book bloggers who have their own ratings systems tend to consider threes good ratings, with their own explanations. 

Victoria Papers at Paper and Vices argues that three stars is a good review, and her specific breakdown says,

Three Stars –

Solid book. Good plot, interesting characters/dialogue. Would consider recommending it. Decent editing and worldbuilding. Possibly some things that took me out of the narrative a few times, but overall an enjoyable read. I Will likely read the next installment if in a series, or look at the author’s other/future work. Possibly worthy of a re-read when the mood strikes. This is a good rating.

Of course, my eyes focus on the "possibly some things that took me out of the narrative." There seems to be a pattern here where I can't accept anything positive and only hone in on the negative! 

Girl Plus Books offers a specific breakdown of three stars in "Discussion: The Curse of the Three Star Review,"

•This book was totally fine.
• I didn't dislike this book.
• I don't regret reading this book.
• Some things in this book were good, some were not.
• The good outweighed the bad and there is nothing terribly wrong with it.
• Maybe other readers would enjoy this more than me.
• I would recommend it to readers who enjoy the tropes/themes it employs.

This makes me feel a little bit better, but again, I can't help but bear in mind that this score notes that there were still bad things in the book to prevent the score from being higher, even though there isn't anything "terribly wrong." 

Éimhear at A Little Haze Book Blog goes into further detail about what merits a three-star score.   

Reasons for a book getting three stars from me will include one or two of the following:
  • too many stereotyped characters
  • a bland ending that fell too safely into the realm of well-worn tropes
  • writing that was a little perfunctory rather than lyrical
  • overtly obvious attempts to create a plot twist that never surprises
  • an initial book in a series that serves only as a means to sell the subsequent book instead of truly focusing on having its own solid storyline. Note this does not mean cliffhanger endings.
One or two of these issues together is really not that damning and thusly means that I will very much have enjoyed the book.

Based on my feedback from the beta readers, I don't think my book suffers from these specific issues, but they're still something to bear in mind when I consider what to revise in my book. 

Annemieke at A Dance with Books writes that "a 3 star rating might not be stellar but it certainly gets a passing grade" and adds that:

Often to me 3 star reads are either:

  1. Books that I had high expectations of that were not met
  2. Books that were not for me character or plot wise but still well written that I can other see [sic] really liking.
  3. I enjoyed reading it but it did not stand out.

Lastly, Rosie Amber writes about the star reviews on her website, breaking down the Amazon Star Rating system versus Goodreads. According to Amazon, three stars means "it's ok" while on Goodreads it means "liked it." That's a little confusing seeing as how Amazon owns Goodreads, so there's no consistency there, but whatever. 

It looks like that the constant thread among all of these reviews is that three means "passable," "satisfactory," "average," "mediocre," but also that there were things to like about the book. 

I did walk out of my beta reading experience feeling like everyone did like the book, but there are issues keeping it from reaching its full potential, and that's probably where the threes came from. 

I have a lot of work to do if I want to meet my goal of putting out a four-star book. 

Please wish me luck!


Readers, what do three stars mean to you? 

10 October 2021

The YA Fantasy Reading Project: Aug. - Sep. 2021

Greetings, friends. 

I'm sad to report I didn't get much reading done during this two-month period. I was busy reading a friend's book that was a bit of a whopper in size (558 pages!!) and at first thought it might be YA and I could count it, but it's not. It's a traditional coming-of-age high fantasy.  

So, after just wrapping my friend's book, I realized on the last day of September that I hadn't gotten through any YA novels during this period, so in a panic, I reached out for one at the last second. I finished it the next day, but the next day was October, and usually I don't count books in my reading project until I finish them. 

However, I'm going to go ahead and count this book as part of my September reads just so I have something here to post! 

And the other caveat, is technically it's not fantasy. It's a YA horror novel, and there's no magic in the story, but it's filled with ghosts. Horror is often called dark fantasy so I just figure I'd give myself a little leeway to count this as a YA read. Plus, it was excellent and I couldn't put it down, so I thought I had to spread it on the blog for people to see. 

I read Ryan Douglass's novel The Taking of Jake Livingston. It had been on my list for a long time just on the basis of the cover, which definitely pulled me in and let me know we're dealing with spooky things. 

So, technically not fantasy. Definitely horror. But...here we are, and I want to share it. Check it out! 

I hope for the next two months I get caught up and read a lot more YA fantasy so I can share the good books I've been reading with all of you. 

Thanks for stopping by!

05 October 2021

#auswrites - October

Source: Twitter

Confession: I saw this on Twitter but I have no idea what the #auswrites handle is referring to or what it stands for. I’m supposed to do this on Twitter every few days I guess, but I just thought it would be a nifty idea for a blog post instead, so here we are. 

What genres do you usually read? 

I primarily read fantasy and horror, and as of late, it’s mostly been YA fantasy. I also continue to read comics and manga in these genres, as well as BL webcomics through Lezhin, Manta, and Tappytoon, among other apps. 

What genres do you write? 

I write fantasy. I originally thought it was going to be adult fantasy, but I’ve discovered and accepted through comments from my fellow writers that I seem to be more suited towards YA, so I’ve decided to embrace that and fully commit myself to writing YA fantasy. Maybe I’ll do some NA too, but so far, YA is where it’s at. 

As much as I would love to write horror, I haven’t cracked how to do that, let alone have been able to envision a straight horror plot. I used to call myself a fantasy and horror writer, but have since dropped that part of my bio since I haven’t produced anything in the genre. Maybe someday in the future I will! 

How much planning do you do before you write a book? 

Characters are usually who I envision before I come up with a plot. The plotting itself is a nightmare. It’s been very difficult. I started using Novel Factory software to try and put together some kind of plot before drafting so usually I’ll fill their template out first…and then completely destroy it while writing. Based on how my last book went, I seem to do a lot of extensive thinking and preparation while I write the manuscript; not beforehand. It’s very much a write-pause-think pattern of creation. I got a book out of it, but it certainly was not an efficient process. 

Write a tweet-length story with your childhood toys as characters. 

No thanks. Short stories and micro/flash fiction are just too hard for me. 

Your new work has just become a bestseller! How will you celebrate? 

I would love to throw a small get-together with my closest friends but that’s not realistic. So what I’d probably end up doing is exploding over social media about it and live in a state of bliss where nothing registers in my brain except for the news of being a bestseller. Then after the glow has dimmed a little, I’ll find out what that means financially and work on a budget towards the next book. I don’t expect to make a living, as awesome that would be, but I would love for the publication of one book to be able to finance the next one. 

Show and tell: an ornament in your home. 

I’m guessing “ornament” has a loose meaning here, so I’m going to focus on my Japanese festival masks. I’ve got a kitsune mask and a tengu mask. I probably should’ve gotten the traditional white kitsune mask but I’d never seen a black one before and I thought it was gorgeous, so I snatched it up. I got the kitsune mask at Amanoiwato Shrine in Takachiho, Miyazaki, and the tengu mask at Izumo Taisha Shrine in Izumo, Shimane. The kitsune and tengu are famous creatures from Japanese folktales and mythology, and since I love myth and legends, I thought they were a great purchase. My head’s too big to wear them, but as you can see, they look great on my wall. 

Is there a specific time of day you write?

For the longest time I wrote late into the night (like 3am!), but the older I’ve gotten, the harder that is for me to do. I also seem to only write on weekends now, based on my work schedule. I may start writing on my computer around noon or so, maybe earlier (but no earlier than ten) and spend many hours on the pc with breaks. I try not to be on the computer past nine at night now. So…I just do marathon writing sessions on Saturdays and Sundays when possible. 

Share a photo of yourself from the past. 

This picture is from 2012 or 2013, I think? I’m cosplaying at Colossalcon in Sandusky (as a female Gankutsuou/Count of Monte Cristo) and the camera person was unavailable at the booth so voice actor Ian Sinclair took this selfie of us. It’s one of my favorite pics with a guest ever. 

What do you look for when you edit your own work?

There’s far too much to look for, and far too much I miss. But one thing’s for certain—I repeat myself all the time. I try to look for duplicate words as well as an overreliance on certain kinds of punctuation (I have a tendency to use ellipses and em dashes all the time). I try to replace repeated words where I can and cut down overused punctuation styles. I’m a fan of semicolons too, and sometimes I have to go back and just make things into separate sentences. Of course, I still miss when I have repetition, so I will always need another set of eyes on my work to catch these sorts of mistakes! 

Write a tweet-length story which incorporates romance. 

I plead the 5th!

A movie you loved that we probably never heard of. 

Oh, wow…this is kind of hard! But I’ve got one—there’s an old anime film that I grew up watching that I’m sure nobody remembers, and it’s called Sea Prince and the Fire Child. It’s sort of a Romeo and Juliet tale and I remember it made me really sad, but I also liked it because I thought it was a sweet love story. I don’t know if the anime is from the late 70s or 80s, but it definitely has a vintage look to it.

What has made you stop reading a book before you finished? 

If there are errors in the book…more than just an occasional typo. Every book has one or two typos, even though editors have combed the words closely, so I can let a couple slide. But when it’s excessive, I want to stop. Unfortunately, I've seen my fair share of books that were published without a proper copy edit.

Problematic terms (like “brute” or “exotic” for a POC) or cavalier mentioning of mental illnesses (casually calling someone “bipolar” as an insult, for example) makes me pause or quit--it depends on the context and how it’s used, but more often than not, there’s no justification for it and it’s lazy writing. 

Pace and voice also make me quit reading, too, if I find issues with them. I usually will stop reading a book if it takes an effort to wade through a text because the pace is a slog with not enough happening, or the narrative voice gets on my nerves. 

I DNF frequently. Life’s too short to read books that aren’t appealing. 

What is a challenge you want to overcome in your own writing?

I’ve got two of them. The largest one is to overcome my inadequacies with plot. I just have the hardest time giving my characters enough to do to move things forward, and to have all of what they do be relevant and with purpose. I frequently feel like I have no idea what I’m doing as I write, and I generate so much work for myself in the drafting stages as I try to figure things out. 

The other challenge is with romance. I am not a romance writer or reader, but I love it when there are love stories in fiction. I want to root for couples being together and I love relationships that blossom along the way. As a reader I do find relationships hard to believe, though, so it often takes a lot of convincing from the writer for me to accept a couple’s relationship as organic and “real.” Because I’m so critical as a reader, I’m even more critical of myself as a writer. I doubt my ability to write relationships so, so much. I’m always worried that it doesn’t come off as natural, or that the relationship is built on a shaky foundation where people can’t accept the relationship as legitimate. I will probably always have some sort of romantic aspect in my books, but I’ll always be afraid that they won’t be authentic enough. I’d like to get over this and write believable romance. 

Show and tell: what do you collect?

Since I’m in Japan I collect omamori, the amulets that they sell at shrines. I think the fabric and embroidery on them are beautiful, and each shrine has their own unique prayer amulet. I like to think that I am supporting the shrine while getting some good vibes from the kami

As you can see, I also collect little anime goods from gacha machines or from anime shops like the Jump Shop or Animate. I’ve made what I call my little wall shrine that celebrates the things I love about Japan – shrines and temples, and anime. 

Share the opening line of one of your works. 

“Late on the night of Lirien’s eighteenth birthday, his father walked into the sea.”  -- Son of the Siren

Do you believe in ghosts? 

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I do. I’ve seen something freaky growing up that had absolutely no rational explanation to it; everything about it was unreal, and I could only think of calling it a ghost or spirit because that was the best fit for it at the time.  It still is the only way I can think of to describe it.

22 September 2021

My Brain is Bankrupt!

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash
I finished Son of the Siren in August. Since then I made it through developmental edits and completed a third draft of the book with revisions, and sent that draft off to beta readers who will report back to me by October 6th. I know I did this very quickly, but I feel confident in my book, especially after the feedback I got from my developmental editor, so I thought it safe to move on to the beta reading stage. I’m really proud of where the book is at and don’t anticipate it needing any more major overhauls—just little bits here and there. And probably a great deal of copyediting because I seem to go overboard with my commas.

In the meantime, I thought to myself, what do I do during all of this waiting? I’ve continued to read YA (I’m on The Taking of Jake Livingston right now) and even squeezed in my friend’s book mid-project. But also, I wanted to see if I could try my hand at coming up with ideas for new books.

At one point, I did have ideas. I had a book idea for a Hades-Persephone story, a Beauty and the Beast adaptation, a book about demons and grimoires, a book inspired by the French Revolution, and of course, the prequel to The Name and the Key (this was before I decided The Name and the Key needed its massive overhaul). Then, when writing Son of the Siren, elements from those project ideas kind of leaked into it, so I can’t reuse those little bits and pieces. I’m at a loss with how to proceed. They are little kernels with no real plots attached to them.

During the last quarter of writing Son of the Siren, I did write a full chapter to The Step and the Walk, which is The Name and the Key’s prequel. It came out of nowhere. It combined elements of the demon/grimoire book idea with the world and characters of The Name and the Key. And then my brain switched gears back to finishing Son of the Siren.

I realized that maybe I should follow the path I laid with The Step and the Walk and try to come up with some kind of plot. I filled my idea notebook with scribbles, and then hit a brick wall. Then I switched gears and decided to try my hand at plotting another book idea, the Beauty and the Beast adaptation. My graduate thesis, The Name and the Key, was supposed to be that adaptation, but it morphed into another monster altogether and didn’t resemble the fairy tale anymore. All the while I kept thinking I’ve got a Beauty and the Beast story within me somewhere…so I whipped out my idea notebook again and jotted out some plot points and characters. I got as far as the Beast’s part of the story, then blanked on Beauty’s part of it.

My friends advised me to take a break from all of this planning, and since my brain keeps blanking out on my ideas, everyone is probably right.

It’s tough getting mixed advice. I read books about self-publishing that advised writers not to sit on their hands and work on the next book right away; then I’ve read counter-advice that says “don’t start projects” during the period after you finish your book.

Then I got advice just to write anything, letting the words flow out freestyle, and maybe a spark could come from that. At the moment, it seems blogging is how I’m choosing to write. I knocked out the #52 writing cards post in one sitting, and today I’m trying for catharsis, to share how nervous I am to not be working on a project—whether it’s Son of the Siren or something else.

I am an antsy, anxious person by nature, and this is all one great big test for me, to see if I can be comfortable with just being and not doing. So far, I’m failing at it. Please wish me luck as I try to relax and let things run their own course. Thank you!

20 September 2021

#52 writing cards: Prompts from Shaun Levin's Writing Maps - no. 18


I am not a patient person I have trouble waiting for things to happen especially when it has to do with my writing Oh my gosh I have three beta reading reports coming in but not until October 6th and I feel like I'm going to explode because I want to know what each of them think -- one is a librarian, one is a YA book reviewer, and one writes literary fantasy -- and I think they are a good assortment of appropriate people to review my YA fantasy I'm especially nervous about what the librarian has to say and I am concerned that my book may not necessarily be age-appropriate because of the little bits of jokes and musical innuendos and a fade-to-black sex scene and some cursing but on the other hand I read a book by an author who wrote something traditional publishers classified as YA and it contained fingering and assault and violence and a prince fucking a sword stab wound in a dragon and a whole chapter about his penis so maybe I'm worried for no reason

A tree fell on my car the other day because of a typhoon and thank goodness the car is ok but I can't tell if the marks on the roof of the car are dirt marks from the branches or if they are actual scratches and the only way to know for sure is to take the car to a car wash but every time I've gone it's been a disaster because I keep forgetting the Japanese and how to do it so I usually have to call for help after hitting the wrong buttons maybe I should just clean the car myself and speaking of that I have a problem using my car as a garbage can I have so many empty bottles of drinks and empty cartons from the chicken tenders I would get at the conbini and I believe I may be a disgusting person and while I'm on the subject of the car again or more like the tree they haven't bothered removing the tree yet and I'm really annoyed because I don't know where to park my car so I've been using the parking lot to the onsen next to us and I'm so nervous that I'm breaking some kind of rule in doing so We got a letter from the school in charge of our teacher apartments announcing the falling of the tree and that they notified kencho of the problem and there was a last part about parking and not disturbing neighbors that my phone translation couldn't quite interpret in a way that makes sense but I hope it's not saying that I can't park my car in the onsen lot In the meantime there's no official word on when the tree is going to be moved and the fence repaired so it all goes back to my inability to wait for things

I write really fast and I've only written for about eight minutes but I don't want to explode this blog with 20 minutes' worth of words so I'm going to stop now


Larry slipped into his bowling shoes Why do the shoes always smell like that, like mold and feet and old car fresheners? and followed his teammates down to the lane. 

The team always went in alphabetical order Alex Jim Larry Rich and Alex considered himself the leader of the team, so he always insisted on sitting at the machine and entering everyone's names onto the screen. You could give someone else a try for once, but then again I guess it's no big deal, I'll just shine the bowling ball to calm my nerves 

Why am I so nervous? I've played this game hundreds of times. Except it was the state championship, and the winner would qualify to represent the Midwest region, and the team hadn't been able to crack the top five in about ten years. Their glory days were over. 

Glory days
Yeah they'll pass you by
Glory days
In the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days
Glory days

A vision of his wife as a young girl of sixteen flashed in his mind, winking at him, when she wore a sundress to the county fair and picked off pieces of her cotton candy to put in her mouth, making her hands sticky with spun sugar. She kindly gave him the blue part of the sweet cloud since blue was his favorite color -- "There, it'll match your shirt" she said, smiling. 

She couldn't make it to the game tonight. She was his good luck charm, but she hadn't been feeling well and she said to do his best without her. He wanted to stay home and take care of her with some chicken soup for the soul but he couldn't let his teammates down. Tonight was their night. 

He finished shining his navy blue bowling ball, looking like molten liquid with a marble luster, and put the cloth aside. His hands were clammy. He took out a separate cloth to wipe them off. 

Jim adjusted the collar to his polo shirt as he sat next to Larry. Powder blue is such a weird shade, why did we choose it for our uniform? We look like...and for some reason the word "poodle" popped in Larry's head, although it made no sense. Huh. Poodles. What am I thinking? 

"Ready?" Alex interrupted his thoughts. "Let's get this show on the road." 

Alex bowled a spare, Jim a strike, and when it was Larry's turn he couldn't get Bruce out of his head, the phrase glory days repeating over and over in his brain while he pictured his wife eating cotton candy. He bowled an 8 the first try and got a gutter the second. Could've been worse. 

For the rest of the evening his mind was a jukebox of 80s music with the songs switching from one to another mid-lyric. He even heard the scratch of the record in between the song changes. His bowling reflected his scattered thoughts. He only got one strike for the evening, while the screen lit up with turkeys from his other teammates. Despite his teammates' good performance, they didn't crack the top ten. 

Larry apologized to his teammates and without waiting for them, he put his bowling ball in his case and headed back to the shoe rental section of the alley and slipped out of his shoes. Maybe they spray these shoes with Pine-sol. 

He got in his car to drive home to his wife, who was asleep in bed. He peeled off his clothes and in his boxers, crawled in with her. He turned over on his side, facing away from her, visions of cotton candy in his head. 


Can I say that part two of this was really hard? I'm not good with short stories. I just poured it out of my head and all I can hope is that it makes sense and fit the exercise appropriately, and it entertained you a little bit. 

Thanks for reading!

28 August 2021

The Self-Publishing Journey...How It's Going So Far

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash
I thought maybe it would be interesting to chronicle my journey into self-publishing Son of the Siren just in case it could help people out who are also considering self-publishing their work. Also, it's a good space to vent, because there have been hits and misses so far. 

The Cover

So far, so good. I decided to make the portrait of Lirien by Juhaihai the cover art and I was able to get permission and the commercial license to do so. I am also allowed to use it for all promotional materials, so I'm going to have fun thinking of what to do with the art (I was thinking along the lines of postcards and bookmarks, for example). 

Then I joined Book Brush in order to take advantage of its Cover Creator, which makes both eBook covers and paperback covers. I chose my fonts and pretty much designed everything the way I want it to look. The only thing I'm not sure about is the readability of the font. There's a drop shadow feature in Book Brush, but the shadow isn't very defined, and against the dark background of the cover, it doesn't show up very well, so it doesn't really help the text stand out. I am debating whether or not to keep this as my official cover design (it does look good) or if I should bite the bullet and commission a cover artist to make all of the written content stand out more. We'll see. It all depends on what I can afford. 

In other news, I practiced writing the back cover copy. This is quite the challenge for me, trying to decide how much information is too much. Presently I am debating whether or not to include a paragraph describing the fairy tales the book is inspired by. I modeled my back cover copy after descriptions I saw on Amazon, and some of them do list the book's inspirations. And I did let my author friends take a look at it, too....but then I got a variety of opinions, all of them different, that threw me off. So at the moment, I'm struggling. I hope the answers about this come to me soon. 

The Editing

I've mentioned before that books need to go through several rounds of editing. Here's the standard:
  • Developmental editing - goes over the meat of storytelling (characters, plot, etc.)
  • Line Editing - covers grammar and syntax and the language of the story
  • Proofreading - final check for typos and other niggly bits
There are additional kinds of editing that you can add in here and there, depending on what your needs are for the book, but these three are the minimum edits you should have for a decent product. I was worried because this collectively costs hundreds to thousands of dollars, but so far I have found an affordable developmental editor in Katie Kenyhercz, a romance author and fellow Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction graduate who's been vouched for by other writers. She offered her services to me for a beautiful price and on top of that, I selected her because I need someone with an eye for romance, because there is a romance in the book that's integral to the plot and its resolution. She's got the manuscript in her hands now (I have already completed the second draft and decided to send it off) and I eagerly await feedback!

I also have two more people taking a look at the manuscript, another fellow SHU author and then a family member who has quite the critical eye. It feels like I'm back at Seton Hill with critique partners and a mentor giving me feedback on my work. What I'll do is look for consistencies among their criticism and address those issues if I feel they are warranted, and hone in especially on spots that I know were giving me trouble (like the romance). 

The Formatting

I bought a beautiful template from Book Design Templates, who I used before when I formatted The Name and the Key to be bound and printed for family and friends to easily read my thesis. The book looked gorgeous and it was easy to format, so I figured I could use them again. The templates are designed to work for both print and eBook, which is what I wanted. 

But then I ran into some problems. I formatted chapter one of the book and saved it as a sample pdf, and then uploaded it to my Kindle to read. I did this because some people like digital ARCs as a pdf file instead of an eBook file, and Kindle allows you to read pdfs. It ended up being a disaster. The fonts were pixelated and difficult to read. On the PC, the pdf was fine, but on the Kindle, it was such a mess. 

I was thinking that maybe the template I bought wasn't going to work out. I bought another one and tried it again and the same issue happened. 

However, when I uploaded Book Design Templates' own pdf sample manuscripts with the same templates, their lettering showed up on my Kindle just fine.

I took screenshots of everything and emailed customer service a while ago and have never heard anything back from them. I figure I just wasted my money. 

The good news is that Katie also formats books, and she offered to format mine. I believe I will take advantage of her services and cut my losses with Book Design Templates, which is too bad, because it would have been a beautiful book. However I'm sure Katie will be able to work her magic!

The Imprint

This is probably the biggest problem I've run into so far. I decided to publish my book under my own imprint, which means when the book is listed on Amazon and other places, instead of being listed as Independently Published, it will actually have a publishing company name listed instead. This is a common practice for indie publishers who want to set themselves apart and look more professional.

I made a list of about twenty different names for an imprint and found that they were all taken. Then I found the name "Lailoken," which is one of Merlin's early names (as in King Arthur's Merlin), and it was the first name I found that didn't have a publishing company listed under it. I ran it against the state of Ohio's business listings and trademarks, and it wasn't there either. It seemed good to go. 

There is a personal connection to the name Merlin, and thus "Lailoken." I used to live in Carmarthen, Wales, when I studied abroad as an undergrad. In Welsh, it comes from Caer Myrddin, meaning "Merlin's fort." When I was selecting names I tried to think of things that meant something to me personally in some way, and "Merlin" and "Myrddin" were already taken, so I settled on "Lailoken." 

I snatched up the domain name because it was encouraged to do so before someone else took it. And then I created a business email through Google Workspace, and a website through Wix (unpublished). My goal was to have the Lailoken Press website up and running in 2022 for when I published the book, but purchased all of these things immediately to make sure it wasn't taken. 

I also hired an artist to make a simple, modern logo for the business (which will be a sole proprietorship) and stuck the logo on the site design as well as the book cover of the novel.

And then the other day, while I was trying to come up with my "About Us" business statement to add to the site, I found a new search result that showed indeed a Lailoken Press exists out there in the world. It was listed inside a Google Books preview, the only search result to bring something like that up. 

Reader, I was both pissed and devastated. 

The good news is that I was able to cancel the domain and close the business email account. The better news is I had the foresight to leave my website unpublished so nobody knows about the existence of a duplicate Lailoken Press. 

The hardest thing on my plate now is going back to the whole issue with finding a name. I continue to come up with names that are taken and it's getting discouraging, so I figure that's a sign to take a little break from the name search for now. 

There's still a lot to do!

I'm waiting on the developmental edits to come back to me, and once I get them, I'll be diving into making a third draft of the novel. Once that is completed and polished, I'll give it to a line editor for grammar checks. 

I'm anticipating some work needed on the book, so I think the third draft might take up more time. I don't want to do too much rewriting, but it's very possible that it might be needed depending on the feedback I get. 

I have decided to release the book December 1st, 2022. This is largely because there are things I need to do once I get back to America (like setting up the imprint) that I just can't do while I'm here, and I don't know how long it's going to take. I want to give myself plenty of time to get things right. I also plan on releasing it wide instead of giving Amazon exclusivity (so you should be able to read the book on Nook, Kobo, etc.). 

I have to buy ISBNs, work out the distribution angle, register copyright, and many more things. And I need to save my money while I'm here in Japan because there's no guarantee of a job waiting for me once I get back to the States, and all of this costs money. 

Despite how scary and overwhelming this endeavor seems, it also has me very, very excited. I love being in control of all of this and it's so fascinating finding everything that makes a book come together. 

Please wish me luck! 

25 August 2021

The Fantasy Tropes Book Tag

Photo by Laura Ollier on Unsplash

Greetings, readers! 

I found this fun book tag post from And On She Reads and thought since I've been reading lots of fantasy lately (though limiting it to YA), I could do one of these, too! 


  • Mention the creator ( one’s peculiar )
  • Answer the questions
  • Tag as many people as you like

1 – The Lost Princess 

A book/series you lost interest in halfway through.

Sisters of Shadow and Light by Sara B. Larson was a book I DNF'd at almost the exact halfway point. I thought it took far too long for characters to be introduced and for the main plot point to occur--where the sister gets pulled into another world and the main character has to travel through it to save her. Exactly half of the book was setup and I completely lost the will to continue. Arguably I abandoned it at the best part but the rest of my TBR pile was screaming for attention so I gave up and picked out another book instead. 

2 – The Knight in Shining Armour 

A hyped book/series you were swept up by.

Holly Black's Folk of the Air series is rightfully hyped. I have a love-hate relationship with the books (The Cruel Prince, The Wicked Queen, The Queen of Nothing, and How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories). There were so many things I loved in them, and then so many things that bothered me, too. But I found the series enthralling and I couldn't put it down. I wouldn't give it five stars because of the objections I have to it, but I'd solidly give it 4 stars for readability and the emotional experience I had while reading it. 

3 – The Wise Old Wizard 

An author who amazes you with his/her writing.

Margaret Rogerson. I loved An Enchantment of Ravens and Sorcery of Thorns. Her prose is effortless and immediately throws me into the story and I've adored her plots and characters, so much that there were moments reading where I thought, "this is so cool. I wish I could write this." I'm looking forward to her forthcoming book Vespertine to see how she'll surprise me. 

4 – The Maiden in Distress 

 An undervalued character you wished had a bigger storyline.

In What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo, the whole family is a bit dysfunctional and mysterious, but out of everyone I wanted to know more about her werewolf grandfather. I just thought he was interesting and I wanted to know more. Actually, reading that book, which I would give three stars to because it was interesting but frustrating, most of the characters were a mystery to me the whole way through. Out of all of them, though, I wanted to know more about the grandfather. 

5 – The Magical Sword

A magical item/ability you wish authors used less.

Surprisingly enough I haven't run into a power that I felt was overused yet. 

6 – The Mindless Villain

A phrase you cannot help but roll your eyes at.

"Scrambled for purchase." I've seen this phrase or variations of it in a lot of YA fantasy. 

7 – The Untamed Dragon 

A magical creature you wish you had as a pet.

Does a demon count? I'd like to take care of Silas from Sorcery of Thorns. He is a cat from time to time, so I think it's ok. 

8 – The Chosen One 

A book/series you will always root for.

I really enjoyed Brigid Kemmerer's Cursebreakers series (A Curse So Dark and Lonely, A Heart So Fierce and Broken, and A Vow So Bold and Deadly). I love Beauty and the Beast adaptations of all kinds, but this series went far beyond that into something I found totally unique. The books are told from multiple first-person POVs which I think authors don't often pull off successfully, but Kemmerer did. Though I enjoyed all the characters, I've got a soft spot for Grey. 


I hate tagging people, to be honest. So I hope that YOU can participate in this, either in the comments or on your own blog. Let me know what books make your heart beat faster! 

13 August 2021

I finished the book!

Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash
Thanks to a series of back-to-back holidays, one vacation day, and two sets of weekends, I have nine days off from work. 

What did I do during this time so far? I essentially locked myself in my apartment and wrote, wrote, wrote. And that's how I finished the book! Huzzah!

282 pages.

79,032 words. 

Is the book really finished? 


I have to revise it, and to be honest, I finished the book with sections missing. I wrote little placeholder notes and highlighted them in yellow for me to come back to, then just pressed on without fixing those scenes. 

So the book is complete in that I made it all the way to "the end" of the story, but the story itself has some plot holes and unresolved issues that need to be hammered out in the second draft. 

I feel like a huge chunk of the middle is still missing. There's a romantic relationship that just comes out of nowhere, and I have to go back and lay a proper foundation for that. And I have an ending, but the ending leaves out some information that I think readers will want to know, so I might end up totally redoing that, too. 

The last time I had drafted a book in full was my thesis, and when I finished it, it felt finished. This is the first time I've experienced a finished draft that still feels like it has a lot of work. And it's a bit on the short side for me--I was expecting at least 80,000 words. 

I was advised to sit on the draft for a month before hopping back into it again. Honestly, I don't know if I can last that long. I have a tendency to forget things if I don't address them right away, and I'm worried that's going to happen. I will take a week break at least, but I don't think I can stop thinking about what to do with the novel while I don't touch it. 

I'm also working on all the things I need to do to self-publish it. I went ahead and got the cover art licensed; made cover mockups through Book Brush; paid for interior formatting from Book Design Templates (I used them before for my thesis and was pleased with their work), and downloaded some art for advertising. All of this was relatively inexpensive for me, so that's why I nabbed this stuff so quickly. 

Now I'm trying to save my money for proofreading and copy editing. They are going to be the largest expenses, and I'm legitimately scared about it, because what I need to be saving my money for is the return to America (my work contract in Japan ends July 31, 2022). I'm not sure how to do both at the same time, but I'm going to try it. Honestly, I'm still waiting on two of my economic stimulus checks and that would probably pay for copy editing at least. 

Again, it seems like I'm jumping the gun, but knowing how awful I am with money, I feel like I need to start saving ASAP for these things. 

In the meantime, I'm going to sit on my hands to try not to touch the book while I stress about the future! Whee! 

04 August 2021

I Bit the Bullet...I'm Gonna Self-Pub!

Photo by James Tarbotton on Unsplash
My, what an emotional journey I've been on trying to decide what to do while writing Son of the Siren.  And as you know, I don't really hide my thought processes or how I make decisions on this blog, so you've seen articles like Why I'm Trying to Go Traditional and On Second Thought...Maybe I Spoke Too Soon...where I hem and haw back and forth on how to bring my baby into the world. 

It seems like I shouldn't put the horse before the cart. Why should I think about publishing when the book isn't finished yet? But I've been talking to people, and they've confirmed this isn't something I should really be putting on the backburner. I need to have some kind of plan of action, and I'm coming up on the home stretch of writing anyway, so I need to start thinking about the next step. 

There's lots of work to be done before a book goes to print. I'm in the drafting stage but then there's rewriting based on developmental edits, then rewriting based on copy edits, then proofreading...a manuscript goes through several stages before it's ready for the world to see. So even though I've decided right now the way I want to go for Son of the Siren, there's still many things I have to work on. 

But I'm mostly thinking about it now because I need to save my money while I still have a job.

I mentioned that the primary reason I originally wanted to go traditional was because the author doesn't have to invest or be financially responsible for the things that publishing entails. They write the book, then they get paid for that book (although the way authors are getting paid keeps changing). But for self-publishing, you assume the costs and risks yourself. 

There is technically a way to publish for free, and ways to design your book yourself for free. So...affordable self-publishing is out there. But usually it's a risk doing things on the cheap side. There are services that I want for my book and there's a certain look and feel that I want for it, too...and it costs money. Like, lots of money. I'm trying to find cheaper alternatives to these things, but so far, here's what I've come up with from doing lots of research (all quotes are based off of an 80,000 word novel):

  • Editorial letter - $650 - $1200
  • Developmental editing - $1450 - $6,000
  • Copy editing - $1600 - $3,000
  • Proofreading - $900 - $1200
This is just for everything that goes into the manuscript before it's ready for publication. I have been pricing book formatting, ISBNs, promotion, book reviews, etc. Self-publishing is a huge investment. 

What sparked my interest in self-publishing Son of the Siren (or rather, what changed my mind) was some good conversations with experienced writers, some blog articles that kind of freaked me out, some first-person accounts from Book Twitter, and then really sitting down and thinking about how much control I want to relinquish over a book. 

That's the question, isn't it? 

I thought about my experience writing in my life. I've always done it my own way. It's what I'm used to. When I wrote for the stage, I had other people helping me, but I always had the final word on how things looked, how they felt, and how they went...I am used to being in control of my product. If I've done it this way for years, how would self-pubbing be any different (aside from more expensive and a bigger undertaking)?  

And I'm a bit of a control freak, to be honest. 

I've heard stories about all sorts of changes requested to do to someone's work creatively in order for it to be considered acceptable for an agent's or publisher's eyes...and some of those suggestions went against an author's core beliefs about their own work. If someone told me to change the title to my book, I'd bristle. If someone wanted me to rename characters or cut the love subplot I'd explode. There's got to be some flexibility and trust when you hand your work off to someone else to sell and promote it, and as terrible as that sounds, I am finding out I'm not that flexible. 

Just the other day I was looking at artwork different artists had made for me and there was one piece, by Juhaihai, that really spoke to me. It hit me hard: this is going to be the cover to my book. And I realized I didn't want anything else for it, I felt so strongly about it. I realized I wanted to be more in control of my work than I thought I did. 

And I also realized something else, just from working directly with an artist -- things might not be as expensive as I thought. I was given a great deal on the commercial licensing of the image, and it didn't break my wallet. Maybe, if I did even more research, I could find more affordable ways to pull off the publication of Son of the Siren. Maybe things weren't, and aren't, as insurmountable as I think them to be. 

But the most important thing is that no matter what, this book is going to be out there, in some way, in your hands. And the fact that I don't have to worry about that anymore has taken a huge weight off of my shoulders, and I'm already feeling less anxiety as I work on completing the book. The fact that I've finally made a decision on what to do feels so good!

Please wish me luck on this endeavor! And right now, it's back to writing! Go, go, go!

31 July 2021

The YA Fantasy Reading Project: Jun. - Jul. 2021

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

The course of this reading project has seen many ups and downs, starting out with a very ambitious reading amount in the first period, then dwindling readings for the other months. I'm pleased to report that this time around, I've actually read more than two books! Woohoo!

I decided to start including books with a little bit of horror in them as part of my "fantasy" reading, because horror is considered dark fantasy and if there's magic tied to the horror somehow, I definitely consider it to be fantasy. There's a lot of overlap in those genres, I think, so I'm counting them as part of the reading project. This explains why during the last piece of the project, I included both books in the Anna Dressed in Blood series by Kendare Blake. They were horror but definitely fantasy as well. 

So what kind of books did I see in June and July? We're talking a new view of Camelot; a land where our world and Faerie collide; the open seas where mermaids dwell; a futuristic Canada where magic still lives; and deep in the countryside where music summons spirits. 

Here's the collage of covers, and like always, they're so beautiful!

Stay tuned -- we'll be coming back in the fall to recap August and September! 

25 July 2021

Lirien of Ardeth from "Son of the Siren"

I am delighted to show you this incredible artwork from Juhaihai of the lead character from my novel, Son of the Siren. 

Lirien (c) 2021 by Juhaihai

Here is a quick description of Son of the Siren: 

Eighteen-year-old Lirien of Ardeth, bastard son of a king and a mythical siren, unleashes a forbidden power to save his father from the sea creature's clutches... but there is an even greater danger close by that threatens to possess him and destroy everything he loves. 

This book is a love letter to fairy tales. I play with motifs, imagery, and concepts from three stories: The Little Mermaid, The Six Swans, and Allerleirauh, all woven together in this fantastical tale of love, courage, and obsession. 


Juhaihai is on:

24 July 2021

On second thought...maybe I spoke too soon...

Do remember this post? I talk about being a broke writer and how I'm trying to go the traditional publishing route because I priced out some services for self-published authors and I didn't think I could afford to pay for a good cover, developmental edits, proofreading, formatting, etc. because it would total thousands of dollars. Plus there are some benefits to traditional publishing that self-publishing doesn't necessarily have.

So I've just been humming along, and then I saw this on Twitter, from Ellen Oh, author and co-founder of We Need Diverse Books.

I was completely shocked to read this. I talked to a few authors from my Seton Hill MFA days for more details about this and they confirmed that this is a legitimate part of the business. Then more people hopped on and essentially said, "Self-publishing for the win!!" when they learned of this practice. 

Which got me thinking...the first thought that entered my head was a sad/angry, Nobody wants to pay authors and no one can make a living writing, because I keep hearing of so many instances where that seems to be true. And then I remembered a lot of articles that I've read that include quotes like these:

The more I read about where traditional publishing is going in this new century, the more I wonder why any writer with sense would join traditional publishing. -- Kristine Kathryn Rusch

If you want to see someone point out some of the darker/more disappointing realities of traditional publishing, these three articles bring up some interesting points that also, in addition to the tweet I shared, made me think that maybe I should reconsider my publishing path:

  1. Business Musings: Heads, Sand, and Traditional Publishing by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  2. Business Musings: Traditional Writers by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  3. Traditional Book Publishers... by Dean Wesley Smith
I'm still pricing services for self-publishing. It's still too expensive for me on the whole, at least right now, anyway. But it just seems like there are advantages to self-publishing I've been overlooking.

I've mentioned several times over the course of this blog that I've been nervous about the current book I've been working on, and one of those stress-inducers is that I've been writing under the pressure of trying to predict what an agent and major publisher would want...instead of serving the story. I even took a month-long break working on it because writing became miserable for me. 

When I was confessing my stress to my sister, she asked me to consider something: what would happen if my book never got published? I had a visceral reaction to that question, almost a feeling of sickness.  Obviously this made me realize publishing was important to me, but that the only way to guarantee the book makes it into print is to self-publish it. Traditional publishing is risky -- you could go that route and might never see the book come to fruition. 

I know it's still a little early for me to be thinking about these things, but I'm nearing the end of my draft and getting closer to the next step in my writing and publishing journey. I have to be thinking of where all of this work is finally going to go, so these thoughts have been a constant hum in the back of my mind. 

I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet. But self-publishing is definitely looking more and more appealing to me. 


07 June 2021

The YA Fantasy Reading Project: Apr. - May 2021

Photo by Mimipic Photography on Unsplash
Well, isn't this project becoming more and more of a sinking ship! 

In December and January, I read 24 YA fantasy books. That decreased significantly to four books in February and March. And now, drumroll please... for April and May, I have a whopping TWO books completed! TWO!

I'd like to ask myself what the heck happened during this time period, but I know the truth: I read things other than YA fantasy. 

I read a lot of comics. 17, to be exact. And 11 of those could probably be counted as YA or MG fantasy comics, but my project is about traditional, good-old fashioned prose, so I left those off my list. 

I have also increased my DNF list to 6 books, and some of those additions shocked me. Truly shocked me. I've got a book that was nominated for a Locus Award that I absolutely hated eight pages or so in thanks to the pretentious narration. I've got a book by a beloved author who I never thought I'd DNF, but the story got bogged down in worldbuilding and histories and I just couldn't keep up with it. 

Life is too short to read bad books. Or books that just don't pull you in. 

So...which books actually managed to hold my attention this month? TA-DA!

These are books in a short series, Anna Dressed in Blood. And technically they're horror, but another buzzword for horror is "dark fantasy," and considering there's magic in these books, I'm calling them fantasy. 

They were quite easy to read and I gobbled them up easily. If only the other books I attempted were the same. 

Who knows what I'll accomplish in the next two months? Will it be just one book? Or will I be inspired to read even more? 


See you in August!

05 June 2021

The Terrible Ticking Clock

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I've talked about it on the blog a few times, but I'd thought I'd go into it a little bit deeper for today's post. 

I'm riddled with anxiety as I write my YA fantasy, Son of the Siren. I've never experienced this kind of fear before. It's been an emotional journey because the book has dipped into some trauma from my life, so that was something I needed to work through and process as I wrote. And then there are the usual fears surrounding publishing -- will I ever get an agent? will this book ever see print? will people even read it? Add on to that pile of pancakes additional fears that come with writing for an audience of young people and the responsibilities that come with it.

But the biggest fear I've experienced, and am STILL experiencing, is of the ever-ticking clock that makes me feel like my time is running out. WHEN will this book be done? WHEN will I see it in print? WHEN will people be able to read it? WHEN will I finally be successful? 

I've always known -- honestly, from birth, it feels like -- that I would be a writer. I gained experience with my playwriting from a very early age and was lucky and privileged enough to see every show I've written make it to the stage. I didn't switch to writing fiction until graduate school, but early on in my life I knew I always wanted to write books. And, being the idealistic little ingenue that I was, I had a timeline in my head already figured out. I thought for certain by my late twenties I'd be published; whether it was a play or a book, one of those things would be in print.

Ha. Ha. Haaaaaaaaaa. 

Graduate school was a wake up call, and that adjusted the timeline. Graduate school showed me that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to writing fiction, and I was basically learning the same time I was pumping out a book. But then, after grad school, I thought for certain I'd see my thesis in print before age 35. I started querying agents immediately after graduating, and the rejections rolled in...and based on feedback from an agent I started rewriting my thesis, and then later had an epiphany about the cultural appropriation in the book (which was unintended, but as we know, good intentions mean nothing when you're causing harm). I decided to rewrite the book from the ground up, and while working on Son of the Siren, I just decided to give up on the book altogether. I don't know how long I'll stick with this idea, but for now, everything with The Name and the Key is shelved. 

Now I'm looking at the timeline with Son of the Siren. It took me one year to write 100 pages. Another year to write 100 more. My gut is telling me this book will be around 300 pages or so, and I'm panicking, going, "COME ON! Does that mean I'll still be writing this book another year from now?" My hair is standing on end. I'm itching to have the draft finished and working on rewrites (my most recent reading of the book definitely revealed to me that some chapters need redone). I want things finished yesterday. I want to be working with beta readers and getting editorial letters today. Tomorrow I want to be querying agents. But my fear and my emotions keep halting me, begging me to take a breather. 

Yet all I hear in the back of my mind is tick...tick...tick...

It's hitting me that I might not realistically see any success for myself until I'm in my forties. Maybe even fifties. 

This really bothers me for some reason, and it shouldn't. 

It's not so much the age number itself that gets to me. I don't think people are old in their 40s or 50s.  It's more like, "I'm 37 years old, soon to be 38, and if I don't get published until I'm 50, that means I've got 12 more years of struggles ahead of me."  

Readers, I just don't want to struggle anymore.  

...I don't want to end this post on something so negative. Let me pull some things I found from social media (both originally from Twitter, reshared on Facebook) that speak to how I'm feeling right now. 

The two key takeaways from these:

  • "The only thing that art asks of you is to do it." 
  • "The thing you love doesn't care." 

My ticking clock is telling me that I've got to be working all the time, but right now my emotions and my fear is telling me to take a break. 

What would happen if I stop doing art for a little while? While author C.L. Polk says that art is asking to be done, the main point is that there is no timeline for doing so. 

What would happen if I stop doing art for a little while? The Swamp Witch says nothing, what I love will still be there. 

If it takes another year for me to write another 100 pages? What's the worst that could happen? Nothing. Because I WROTE 100 PAGES. 

I've long felt guilt for not writing every single day as countless authors say you must do. Now I'm considering taking a bit of a break from Son of the Siren just to get my headspace in working order, and I'm feeling guilt about considering it, because OH MY GOD IF I DO NOTHING, NOTHING WILL HAPPEN!

But nothing will happen to the book while I sit there and not touch it. The book will still be there, and that's what's important: I have a book. A book exists. It will still exist whether I work on it today or tomorrow or a month from now or a year from now. 

While I can't shut the ticking clock up, I can try to come to terms with it. It's difficult for me, but I hope that I can continue to reexamine my relationship with time and my writing, and realize that neither are working against me. 

23 May 2021

I hit 200 pages of the novel!

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

This took a really long time, with many starts and stops, but I finally broke 200 pages of writing the book. 

I like to use the Pacemaker app to keep track of my word count and according to the word count planner, I am at 57,987 words and am 73% done with the book. My goal is 80,000 words minimum, which is about the standard for fantasy novels. At the rate the book is going, I might go over that amount, but for the time being, this is my goal. 

This is the longest I've ever worked on a book. I conceptualized Son of the Siren as a graphic novel years and years ago, like in 2013 or 2014, and made the cover and first page of art and gave up because it was too difficult. 

Then in 2018 I decided to make the comic into a YA fantasy novel. This means I have been outlining and plotting and drafting this baby for three years, and based on my timing it'll probably take a fourth year before I wrap this up. My goal is to have the draft completed before I return to the United States in 2022.

I wish I could write faster. I wish there weren't moments of self-doubt and moments of relived trauma that occurred while writing. That may account for a lot of the stalling I experienced as I write this book. I admit this is one of the most challenging pieces I've ever written thus far. 

But 200 pages is a pretty big milestone for me, after five years of not writing anything, so I'm pretty proud of myself. Thanks for being here with me on my book journey! 

16 May 2021

Yesterday's Blogger Debacle

Photo by Andrey Metelev on Unsplash
So, I put up a panicky emergency post yesterday because I didn't know what was happening to this website (I deleted it because I wanted to give you the full story here now). 

Google emailed me to tell me my blog violated their terms and conditions for viruses and malware, and they started deleting both my pages and my posts. 

Reader, I freaked out. 

Then when I tried to access my website, I got the red screen of death warning me my site was dangerous for phishing, and URLs not affiliated with my blog started popping up. 

I did my research and couldn't find anything about what was going down at the time, so I did more research to try and find a way to remove the malware. I was pointed to a security company who you could pay for malware removal (plus add things like a firewall and additional monitored protection). Thinking I was going to lose 10+ years of posts, I ponied up the dough (and reader, it was expensive. I'm too embarrassed to share the amount here). 

THEN...Good friends started sending me information.

According to reddit this was happening to different people who use the Blogger platform. My sister confirmed it happened to her, too, and then a bunch of us piled on a post in the Google Blogger Help forums and a rep finally told us what happened (before lecturing us about posting on a resolved thread). 

So, I wasted my money. A lot of money. I am currently trying to see if I can get a refund since the malware removal request actually didn't get completed. We hit a snag with technical stuff that I didn't know anyway, like FTP or whatever the heck that is. 

In the meantime, Google restored the deleted content from this as an unpublished page, so I had to republish them to get them to reappear and I see now that they're working. 

I also downloaded the .xml file (which I don't exactly know what it is) which apparently backs up all posts in case there is an emergency or I want to switch to a different blog provider...

Which is exactly what I started researching. I've been thinking about transferring to WordPress, because between this episode and Google doing away with subscriptions by email through Feedburner, and the "new" Blogger interface they made like a year ago that I still fight with to get my posts to look a certain way...I just thought it was time to look into switching. 

The other website I worked with, Speculative Chic, uses WordPress and I'm just so impressed with our site and what we've been able to do with it, so that's largely what sold me on WordPress. 

Then I did research. Transferring domains to a new host is freaking expensive. Then there are expenses involving blog design and features as well. 

I just don't have the money to switch right now, and the technical aspects of it are blowing my mind. 

So it looks like I'm going to be here with Blogger for a good long while. 

I really hope that they have a handle on whatever happened yesterday and we don't see something scary like that again. 

What was so frustrating about all of it is that Blogger just arbitrarily deleted posts without giving you a chance to rectify the situation. This means that we are beholden to Blogger's whims. I know it was probably in the terms and conditions when I signed up for this blog over ten years ago, but you never really think of it being relevant until something like this happens to you.