Featured

A Wild Alex Appears! Reprise

Back at the end of 2018, I wrote my very first post on this blog – an introduction post. I aimed to use this blog a lot more than I have been – this was never supposed to be a “I drop in every few months” sort of deal, believe it or not. I originally aimed to make this a monthly thing, if not weekly.

Hopefully, I can get myself to that sort of place once again.

Hi! My name is Alex and I am a nonbinary writer from the Pacific Northwest. My main genre settles somewhere in the scope of speculative fiction. Often, this means “fantasy”, but not always. I’ve been a lot of places on the internet over the years – Twitter, Tumblr, Wattpad, some other, more defunct writing websites. You may have seen me around, you may not have. Regardless, welcome to my page.

The main purpose of this blog remains the same as when I conceptualized it: writing and exploring the writing world of other authors. There may also be some discussions of gaming and game design.

These are some things you can expect to see on this blog:

  • Book reviews
  • Discussions of tropes in books and games
  • Experiences I’ve had with writing/as a writer
  • Publishing discussions
  • Snippets of things I’m working on
  • Writing advice

And if there’s anything else you’re keen on seeing, feel free to say so! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A Book A Week Keeps the Brain Sharp – 2022 Books in Review

It was my first 1-star read of the year and deserves its place at the bottom of my list.

Past year in books recaps:

2022 wasn’t a perfect year by any means, but it sure was an improvement from years prior. A lot of positive changes were made which led to a better quality of life for me. For once, I’m excited to see what the new year will bring!

In 2022, I had a goal to read 52 books—basically one book a week—and exceeded that by quite a few. My grand total for the year was 67 books, which is also 21 more books than I read in 2021! Kind of wild to think about. In terms of ratings, I averaged a 3.63 rating on the books I read. A slight decrease from 2021. Finally, I read the most pages out of any year yet, ending with a grand total of 18,947 pages. That’s a whole lot.

Here’s a breakdown of my ratings:

All in all, quite a productive year was had.

Like last year, I don’t aim to try to “rank” books so more as I would like to sort some of my reads by category. So, let’s get started!

Best Fiction Book of 2022

I didn’t have to think hard about this. I almost wanted to call it a tie, but I think I’m going to pick Jade City by Fonda Lee. This book has everything I really like in a novel in general, let alone a fantasy one. It’s been the first book I recommend to people when I talk to them and the series I can’t stop thinking about. I actually finished Jade War, the sequel, on the first day of 2023… now, I hope I get to read Jade Legacy sometime this year, because I really can’t get enough of the series. If you like stories about gangsters, very morally-grey characters, and plots so tense you’ll think you swallowed a live bomb, this is probably the book for you.

I don’t often trust/like books that are prominent in reader spaces, I’ve learned, but my love for this one is pretty in-line with everyone else. And the book deserves it—seriously.

Worst Book of 2022

This one is… really a toss-up. I read one book because I knew it would be bad, but I don’t think I want to count that because I knew, yaknow? I went into it knowing I wouldn’t enjoy it.

…So, instead, the worst book I read of 2022 was Liber Khthonia by Jeff Cullen.

Books on paganism are already a hard sell for me. I’m a Pagan but not… not in the way a lot of people on social media tend to be. A lot of people on Witchtok are fairly different, for example. As a result, when it comes to books about paganism and spirituality, I tend to read more historical.

But, as a Hellenic Polytheist, the quality of more modern books about the topic and about my deities is… variable. And unfortunately, this book was one of the worst ones. It is inaccurate from a factual standpoint about spirituality, pagan spaces, and the goddess Hekate Herself. The author also makes some incredibly outlandish claims, like saying modern day butchers who don’t purify themselves spiritually after every animal they handle will turn into soulless animal torturers. Just all around a pretty shitty, disappointing book. It was my first 1-star read of the year and deserves its place at the bottom of my list.

Most Disappointing Fiction Book of 2022

I really wanted to talk about this book, but I couldn’t decide if it was the most disappointing… But then I split the list in two. So, most disappointing fiction book goes to Iron Widow by Iron Jay Zhao.

I’ll admit it, I fell victim to the hype when this book was first being talked about online. On the surface, it sounded like this book was prepared to deliver a lot of things I was dying to see in books. Polyamory? Check. Fucked up women who get to stay fucked up? Check. Interesting worldbuilding? Sure.

I need to learn to not listen to the hype.

This book had a lot of decent ideas and then executed them all with the grace of an elephant balancing on a beach ball. It’s so clumsy about all of them that it is actively anger-inducing and, worst of all, incredibly frustrating. It’s one of the only books whose rating got lower the more I thought about it.

This book tripped on its entry into the world and when I hear people raving about it I swear I’m going insane. Did we somehow end up with different copies of the book? Somehow, no. I don’t understand it.

Most Disappointing Non-Fiction Book of 2022

The biggest reason why I split “Most Disappointing” into two this year is because of this book. I also would put non-fiction under heavy quotation marks in this case. Most disappointing non-fiction book I read goes to Strix Craft by Oracle Hekataios. First of all, the author name should have been warning enough for me. Second off, this book gets so many basic principles of Greek magic and Hellenic Polytheism so incredibly wrong. Incorrect recounts of mythology. A very strange, constant focus on sex and genitalia. There’s plenty of older books about Hellenic Polytheism and not as much more modern takes, so I was really hoping to get some use out of this book and just… didn’t. It’s not Greek magic, it’s a new age Wiccan mess with a “Greek magic” mask. Pissed me right off.

Book That Most Surprised Me

The honor for this category goes to Orphic Hymns: A New Translation for the Occult Practitioner by Patrick Dunn. Partially because I was surprised by how much I liked his translation work. Mostly, however, the surprise came with each hymn featuring the original Greek on the page beside it, which was super cool to see the first time I opened the book. It also includes miscellaneous sections, including one on how to use the hymns and ideas for using them. All in all, an absolute delight and completely worth the money spent to get it in hardcover. I really enjoyed my time with it and often think of reading it again.

Favorite Cover

I’m not often one for judging books by their covers, but I continue including this category for fun. I was kind of torn, but I think I’ve decided on The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. I loved everything about this book, the cover included. It’s just fucking cool and the contrast means this cover really catches your attention. It’s also incredibly pretty in paperback. I want to get a copy to own some time.

Best Nonfiction Book

I didn’t read a ton of non-fiction this year, but I really enjoyed Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? and Other Questions About Dead Bodies by Caitlin Doughty. It’s an honest and humorous look at death and the many questions people tend to have about it, as answered by a mortician. I found this while at the library and the title immediately captured my attention. Well-worth the read. And it’s pretty short, too.

Best Indie Book of 2022

I’m adding a section this year because, like I said last year, I want to shout out as many books as possible. That and indie books don’t get a whole lot of love in general. So, for this category I’m choosing Everlong by R. Raeta.

I wasn’t fully sold in the first couple of chapters, but the book made a major turnaround and won me over. This was a very interesting take on vampires and on romance and was a fast, very enjoyable read. If you’re choosing an indie author to support in 2023, perhaps consider this one!

Book Plans for 2023

Much like last year, I want to try to one-up myself and read 60 books. I think that’s achievable so long as I keep on the same pace as I did last year. So far I have finished two books: Jade War by Fonda Lee and Better Than New by Charley Descoteaux. A touch behind, but I also have been prioritizing writing these first two weeks, so I’m sure I’ll pick up the pace soon.

Here’s the next few books that are on my list to be read or are currently being read:

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett
  • The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
  • The Eye of the World, Book 1 in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
  • The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty
  • A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
  • The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickerson
  • If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

Well, that’s my book ramble for 2022. What about you? What were some books you read last year? Anything you hope to read this year?

Current Writing Plans — 2023

I know I already talked about my writing goals for 2023—over here—but this time I want to talk about my actual planned schedule for 2023. Will I follow this perfectly? Maybe not. But here’s the rough plans I’ve made. Accountability and all of that. I’ll check back in sometime in the summer to see how I’ve been doing.

JANUARY — MARCH

From now until March 1st, I am working on completing my novel, A Sharper, More Lasting Pain. The good news is it’s already halfway done, thereabouts. I’ve already plugged into my calendar when I hope to have each chapter done by, so it’s time to knuckle down.

I will also begin posting the draft to Wattpad to get initial thoughts and impressions. This will be a limited release, as the book will be pulled shortly after its been uploaded in its entirety to the website, but with one update a week I am projected to be finished with posting the novel come the 17th of May, though I may accelerate the timeline. If you’re interested in reading along, you can see the author’s note here. I may also post to Royal Road, just to get more engagement.

In the midst of all of this, I also have NYC Midnight to think about, which starts January 20th. I am hoping to have a fair chunk of my work for ASMLP done before this.

MARCH

March will be for letting ASMLP stew some before I start doing a light revision. I already have some things I would like to fix, so I’m hoping I will have the chance to do so in this time. I also aim to take another stab at my novella, Before the Moon Sets. I have some revisions I would like to make, and then I want to finally finish it. At the end of this, I want to put out a first call for beta readers for ASMLP.

APRIL — JUNE

This stretch of time will be devoted to finish searching for beta readers and to get the work into their hands. Alongside the serial readers on Wattpad and (potentially) Royal Road, I hope to have a beta team put together. While the serial readers and beta team will be reading different drafts, they’ll be reading the same book in principle and any feedback provided either way I hope will be actionable.

JUNE — JULY

By this point I should have enough feedback on my hands to start another round of revisions. This should be faster than the round in March if all goes to plan. During this time, I will also be researching editors to find one suitable for my needs.

AUGUST — SEPTEMBER

Gods willing, I will be using this time to work with an editor and put their feedback to use. I also will be looking into acquiring ARC readers at this time

SEPTEMBER

Provided I can get edits done fast enough, I want to take time in September to finish formatting ASMLP and finalize looking for ARC readers. I also in my spare time would like to look for beta readers for BTMS.

OCTOBER

I’m getting married this month, so anything planned will have to happen after that. I would like to use October, that in mind, to finalize everything for ASMLP and prepare it for a November release. I also would like to finalize a beta reading team for BTMS.

NOVEMBER — DECEMBER

I would like to round out this year with ASMLP being published. Currently, I have a tentative date set in November, but that requires everything to run exactly as planned. I am prepared to delay its release until spring of 2024. That said, no matter what I should be at least close to having ASMLP ready for the world by then. In that case, I will be switching gears to BTMS.

I will take some time looking for a cover designer for BTMS, as well as taking feedback from my betas and applying them to the novella. I would like to have this finished by the end of 2023 so that I may take the steps to publish it in 2024.

I could also reverse things and try to publish BTMS first, but I’m not sold on that yet.

IN CLOSING,

I have plenty planned for 2023 and it’s shaping up to be a very busy year. I wouldn’t have it any other way, honestly. Wish me luck!

On the Count of 2-0-2-3 – 2023 Writing Goals and a Reflection on 2022

I think I’m able to think more on my writing and career goals as a whole again.

Another year has come and passed us by once again. For some, it was another year of accomplishments. For others, it was another year to do your very best to just scrape by. Both are equally as valid?

Me? I didn’t do a whole lot, obviously. At least, not on the writing front. In my personal life, I moved, am planning a wedding, completely changed jobs… and so writing had to kind of take a back seat for a while. Which, while I missed it all the while, was a necessary move to maintain my sanity. And now, with most of my personal life readjusted, I think I’m able to think more on my writing and career goals as a whole again.

I outlined my goals for 2022 back in January–here for reference–so let’s see how I matched up to my ambitions! Here were my original goals, for reference:

  • Achieve a second short story publication, ideally to the same place as my first publication.
  • I was given the chance to participate in NYC Midnight. My goal was simple: get as far as I can.
  • I had been working on outlining a high fantasy adventure novel and I wanted to finish that this year.
  • I wanted to finish rewriting Lilium, my paranormal novel about the bonds of family and how they extend beyond the grave.
  • I wanted to write some more short stories and see about self-pubbing a collection or something.
  • I wanted to use this blog more. Post more writing advice, more reviews, and just in general more posts about writing!

I think it’s safe to say I accomplished…half of this. I got Within These Twisted Vines published this summer, for example. While the short stories were a little (ha) short sighted, I still managed to complete a couple. One was for NYC Midnight, which I’m quite proud of even if I didn’t make it to the next round with it–so I did “get as far as I can”. So while I didn’t touch Lilium much or get too much farther on the outline for that adventure novel, I still got plenty completed that I hadn’t anticipated.

So, what are my goals for 2023?

As before, I want to keep them simple and achievable. I explained in my goals post for this year why I don’t like setting resolutions, so I won’t repeat myself here. That said, I would like to:

  • Finish the first draft of my Sapphic Fantasy Dark Academia novel, A Sharper, More Lasting Pain. I’m already halfway done with it, so I think I can knock the rest of it out.
  • Participate once again in NYC Midnight and, as before, get as far as I can. Maybe I’ll make it past the first round this time!
  • Take another stab at revising Lilium.
  • Write at least 3 short stories.
  • I want to attempt to make a post once a month to this blog. I have a lot of post drafts in a backlog, so it’d be cool to to go through some of them, shape them up, and get them finally posted.
  • Read 60 books.
  • Put together a beta reading team to go through ASMLP once it is finished.

A lot of similar goals to last year, which I’m fine with. An element of consistency is key. And if I don’t reach it all in 2023, that’s fine! There’s always 2024, and so on and so forth.

Standards Within the Publishing Industry – Why I Will Never Go Trad

Every success story hides an army of failures behind it, though, and that’s the more troubling heart of it all.

For most authors, the ultimate dream is to be recognized by one of the Big Five (now Big Four) publishing houses and to see your name on the cover of a book in a book store. It’s exhilarating to think about, isn’t it? But then, as you get older, this dream loses its sheen somewhat. You see the kinds of books that get released. You learn the real goings-on of the industry. Year by year, this ever-shifting knowledge gnaws at you. It depresses you.

Personally, I grew up hearing the supposedly-motivational speeches. J. K. Rowling and her series that molded a generation. Stephen King and his horror novel empire. Every success story hides an army of failures behind it, though, and that’s the more troubling heart of it all.

I think the first real chip in my writing dreams happened in my youth. In my state, a teenage writer got famous for being published at 16. At least, I think that’s how old she was. All I mostly remember is my mother calling me to watch an interview with her on the news while I got ready for school. And I’ll admit, seeing a woman just a couple of years older than me, doing the thing I already dreamed of doing, was incredibly exciting. If she could do it, surely I could, right?

In our mutual excitement, my mother bought me a copy of her book and I rushed to read it. Afterwards, she would write a review in my stead on the Amazon page.

Unfortunately for all of us, that book was… quite a miss.

I still admired that author after the fact. A tiny part of me still does to this day. To be published young is not something many achieve… but this is a topic for another time, I think.

Over the years, there have been more blows to my faith in traditional publishing. I think anyone who has spent a lot of time in online writing spaces can understand why. From recent phenomenons such as #PublishingPaidMe to the long-winded publishing timelines that have been a staple of going traditional, the lack of diversity at every single level of publishing… it’s all one big headache. And as I’ve grown older and been able to see more of this dream for what it is… the less I’ve wanted it.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be published. At this point, I have two whole publications under my belt! Clearly, it’s still a dream I’m pursuing. However, aside from the above, there are plenty of other reasons why I won’t pursue traditional publishing.

I’m a bit of a control freak, for starters. I like having the final say on the things I produce. The title of my work, how the cover comes out… when I write books, I have a specific vision in mind for them, and it’s frustrating knowing that if I went traditional, I would have to budge plenty on my vision. That’s acceptable for plenty of people–otherwise there wouldn’t be a publishing industry to speak of–but not for me.

Another reason is the sheer difficulty in being accepted in the first place. Most major publishing houses won’t take unagented manuscripts, which means you first need to cross the hurdle of acquiring an agent. There’s plenty of agents to choose from, and that means you have plenty of chances to be taken advantage of. But say you pick a good agent, and you get lucky and they decide to take you on. Now you have to have them take your work–probably after having altered to their wants–and shop around with it. And maybe you get lucky here, too, and end up with a good opportunity. That’s great for you! However, it’s not the reality. All too often, though, it becomes an eternal slog after eternal slog. That’s just not for me.

If this wasn’t enough, there’s been… interesting trends in publishing lately, both in the books and in the general writing meta. For example, the growing push for authors to market themselves online in unusual means (like Xiran Jay Zhao, who experienced astronomical popularity and are now an unwilling example in promotional discussions.) Or how TikTok has brought to life controversies such as Lightlark. The self-censorship from TikTok has even bled into real-world book summaries such as:

[Redacted] is a dark retelling of Peter and Wendy. If you like your enemies to lovers romance with hot, ruthless, morally gray love interests, you’ll enjoy [redacted]. You can expect hate kissing, fighting, bickering, and ‘touch her and I’ll unalive you’ vibes.

Summary of a book published February 2022

This is not meant to be a post of doom and gloom, however. For plenty of people, traditional publishing has been just what they needed. Some even got lucky enough to make a living from it! However, there’s plenty of reasons why it isn’t for me.

But what about you? Is going traditional something you’ll ever consider doing?

This Could Get Ugly – Unpopular Book Opinions Tag

As with most book-related things I do, I’m doing this because I saw it first on YouTube/BookTube. I read books, too, so I thought I’d play along. Of course, these are all my personal opinions and you’re free to disagree. Preamble aside, let’s get started!

1. A popular book or series you didn’t like

Starting out strong, here… I’m going to say Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao.

I wanted to like this book. I really, truly did. And there are parts that I did like. Unhinged main character? Yes. General concept? Yes. The actual execution? Well…

I was really looking forward to the polyam romance and it was… incredibly disappointing. The two men in the relationship have their romance developed largely offscreen, so when they’re romantic on-page it really feels like it comes out of nowhere. A lot of the action scenes were hard to follow. Wu Zetian had a whole murder mission from the getgo and almost let the man who murdered her sister off the hook just because he’s hot. It’s not until she could access his memories that she’s back to her original plan. And the book is full of plenty of other aggravating choices like this. Maybe I’ll make a whole dedicated review for it. For now? Iron Widow was more like a Tin Clown.

2. A popular book or series that everyone else seems to hate but you love

The last book I can think of that would fit this would be The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold, I think. Most of the time when that book is mentioned, it’s mentioned with disdain. Obviously, book tastes are subjective, but when I was a young teen I read this book several, several times and loved it each time I did. Maybe if I read it now, my mind would be changed? But I’m quite attached to it still. I think I just read it at the exact time that I needed to.

3. A love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with // an OTP you didn’t like

I’m diving into the dredges of my memory for this one. Anyone ever read Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead? It never got as popular, but I loved that series to bits and still do. And like, I get why this pairing never lasted but… I really liked Rose and Adrian together, tbh. So it’s not so much I didn’t want her to end up with Dimitri, persay? I just didn’t like them together as much as I liked Rose and Adrian. And then Adrian ended up being paired with… Sydney? In the spin-off series, I think. Which was certainly a choice that was made.

4. A popular book genre you hardly reach for.

I don’t know how “popular” it is, but I don’t grab for historical fiction all that often. I am also, despite what my answer to #3 would suggest, not the biggest fan of vampire books, or paranormal books in general. And this last one I firmly maintain is an age category, not a genre, but I don’t really go for YA books anymore. Mostly because it feels like I’ve outgrown them, you know? The writing style and content in most YA books are not something that interests me anymore. But, that said, there have been some stellar reads.

5. A popular or beloved character you did not like.

Is it time to upset the stans?… it’s time to upset the stans. I couldn’t stand Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Really, there wasn’t a lot from that book/series I was willing to tolerate, but Rhysand is the biggest example and reason why. Maas decided to completely assassinate Tamlin’s character by book two just because she thought Rhysand was hotter. Sorry, but that’s what happened. Rhysand is absolutely fucking creepy. Thinking about him makes my skin crawl. Plus he low key assaults Feyre in the first book and it’s all just? Hand waved? No thank you. Fuck Rhysand.

6. A popular author you can’t seem to get in to.

Would it be cheating to say Sarah J Maas again?

Actually I have a better one. J. K. Rowling.

Folks, it’s time to find a new fandom. I never understood why Harry Potter got as big as it did. I read them as a kid and… I mean, I liked them, but they weren’t the massive world-shaping phenomena everyone else made them out to be. I never obsessed over which Hogwarts house I was or big on the scene in general. And especially now? It doesn’t hold up. J. K. Rowling absolutely shaped a generation, and I get how she appealed to people back then, but it’s time to find other books. The author is a violent bigot whose rhetoric is being sited in this new wave of transphobic legislation and you really… can see her biases in her work. Just saying.

7. A popular book trope you’re tired of seeing

I am absolutely bored of “not like other girls”. I’ve had it. Every example I’ve seen of a character who fits this archetype is just misogynistic and edgy. It’s not cool, it’s not cute, it’s not funny. You’re not any better just because you pretend to be different.

8. A popular series you have no interest in reading

I will never touch another book by Sarah J. Maas for as long as I live, or Harry Potter or anything related. I also was never interested in reading the Shadow and Bone series by Leigh Bardugo. Finally, and especially after the Goodreads Choice Awards controversy last year, I have absolutely 0 interest in reading the Empire of the Vampire series, let alone any other Jay Kristoff book.

9. What movie or TV show adaptation do you prefer more than the book

This is purely because it was a kid’s book, but Spiderwick Chronicles. The movie was alright, from what I can remember, but I had outgrown the books by the time I’d read them, so…

Annnnnnd… that’s it! Did you have any reading hot takes to share?