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.

The Year of Trash Fires and the Books Within

Past year in books recaps:

2021 was a continuation on a legacy of suckage in most respects. Covid continues to be a thing – and is actively getting worse by the day. Tensions continue to mount day by day. However, there was a bright light in my corner of it all. As of October, I’ve been published! Which is… still, such a wild, incomprehensible thing to me, if I’m being honest.

I had a goal to read 40 books, which I beat out at 46 books. I read a combined total of 12,987 pages, with the shortest book at 22 pages and the longest and 752. I also maintained my average rating of 3.8 stars. All in all, I read two books less than last year, but I rated them better on average! Here’s my breakdown in visual form:

All in all, quite a productive year was had.

I think I can attribute some of my more positive shift to be because I made a more conscious decision and effort to seek out books I knew I was going to like. Books that had me excited. And also, books I had been reading for a while and needed to tie the loose ends on.

Normally at this is the time I would recap the best and worst books of the year. I’m still planning to do this, but a bit differently. I want to highlight more books, if I can, and sort them not so much by best and worst but rather moreso by category. Let’s get started.

Best Fiction Book of 2021

My answer isn’t quite the same as it was in the middle of the year, but that’s only because I made the decision to split this into “best fiction” and “best nonfiction”. While I don’t read as much nonfiction as I would often like to, I think it deserves its own category.

But we’re not there yet.

I think my answer for this category remains mostly the same as it did in the middle of the year. One of the best books I read this year was Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink. However, since that post, I also got to read Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson and, honestly? What a treat. I was having a blast the whole way through. I can’t really pick between either of these books, honestly. They were both so fun and refreshing in different ways.

Worst Book of 2021

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki immediately comes to mind here. I highlighted this book in my mid-year post as “Biggest Disappointment”… My father told me I needed to read it as he had recently became interested in stocks and investing, and that he knew it would make me angry. I don’t think he knew in just what way this book would anger me, though. I knew I would hate this book going into it, but the way Kiyosaki talks about poor people and the working class, calling them lazy or unintelligent because they aren’t rich. People like this man disgust me, honestly. Not only because he wrote this book, but also because my research into him before, during, and after reading this book shows me he’s just full of shit. Even now, thinking about this book and this person has me seething. Anyway.

Most Disappointing Book of 2021

This is going to go to Hellenismos: Practicing Greek Polytheism Today by Tony Mierzwicki. For a while, now, I’ve been trying to lean more into Greek polytheism in terms of spirituality. And in some parts, this book was a lovely guide to getting started in that. However, the author also made some pretty odd comments at parts, including ragging on GMOs in places where that wasn’t really… relevant? At all. That said, this book comes with an extensive list of resources at the end of every chapter, which is good for further research. I don’t know, though. This book at times just rubbed me pretty wrong.

Book That Most Surprised Me

Do I think this book was perfect? No. Did I enjoy myself the whole way through? Yeah. The book I picked for this category was The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci. I have a hard time with books wrote by… “influencers” doesn’t quite feel like the right word. Regardless, more often than not, I find books by these kinds of people to be lacking. I talked about this a couple years ago when talking about The Cellar by Natasha Preston. However, The Savior’s Champion was a blessed change. Again, it wasn’t a perfect book. It definitely could have been pared down some, and there’s some choices I don’t agree with. But for the most part, I had a lot of fun! And I liked this book so much I bought the next one. We’ll see how that goes.

Favorite Cover

I’m not often one for judging books by their covers, but I figured I would do this for fun. I had a couple of books in mind when thinking about this category, and I’ve reduced my choice down to two. The first is Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann. I’m really happy there’s more and more people of color being featured on book covers, and I really love the font here and just. The general layout of it. It pleases me. The other cover I had in mind was In the Dark by Loreth Anne White. I really am a sucker for more minimalistic covers, or ones that get funky with the text.

Best Nonfiction Book

I don’t read as much nonfiction as I do regular fiction, admittedly. However, I mentioned this book in my mid-year post and my answer remains the same – that is to say, my favorite nonfiction book of 2021 was Know My Name by Chanel Miller.

This book broke my heart. It really did. If you’re unfamiliar, Chanel Miller is the woman that Brock Turner raped back in 2015. I first heard about this book via the YouTube channel “withCindy” (formerly “ReadWithCindy”) and knew I had to read it. And it hit… so close to home so many times. Chanel writes about it all in such a poignant manner. And you know what? She shouldn’t have had to write this in the first place. She shouldn’t have been put through everything she did. Just… If you’re going to read any book, read this one.

Book Plans for 2022

In years past, I’ve named books that I had not, in fact, gone on to read. Still, I wanted to highlight my reading plans for this year, what I’ve already read, and what I’m currently reading or plan to before the year is up.

This year, I’m getting a little ambitious and saying I would like to read 52 books, one book for each week of the year. I’ve already read 3 as of making this post – Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, Branches by Adam Peter Johnson (the Twitter Indie Book Club reading choice for January) and The Legend of Zelda, Vol 4: The Minish Cap/Phantom Hourglass by Akira Himekawa. I’m off to a good start! 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
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • 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 Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
  • Going Postal by Sir Terry Pratchett
  • Rivers Run Red by A. D. Green
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
  • Dreams and Deceit by Freya Bell and Nicole L. Soper Gorden

What about you? What were some books you read last year? What are you planning to read this year?

A Roadmap To 2022 – Writing Plans for the Rest of the Year

Any time I’ve tried to stick to a resolution, I’ve not followed through and have spent the rest of my year saddled with the guilt. That’s not the way I want to live my life.

I’m not a person for New Years Resolutions. I never really have been, but I especially stopped being so a couple of years ago. Near Years resolutions are the sort of phenomenon that many people say they’re going to do and then don’t follow through on. In fact, this study says “Seventy-seven percent maintained their pledges for 1 week but only 19% for 2 years.”* And I, personally, know my limits and my mentality. Any time I’ve tried to stick to a resolution, I’ve not followed through and have spent the rest of my year saddled with the guilt. That’s not the way I want to live my life.

But there’s never shame in knowing your limits.

Instead, I try each year to make myself more general “goals” to complete through the year. Resolutions are normally something Big and abstract. Losing weight. Eating healthier. Travel more. A list of goals with no set concrete steps to it. Personally, I find this abstractness difficult to conceptualize, and even harder to achieve.

That said, I have some writing-related goals of my own, which go as follows:

  • Back in October, I was published in an anthology with a short story about gods and cults. This same place is currently accepting submissions for a new anthology to release this summer, so I’m currently trying to finish
  • I have been given the chance to participate in NYC Midnight, an annual short story writing competition. The first round starts this Friday. My goal here is simple: get as far as I can. Wish me luck!
  • I have been really vibing with this latest draft of Those Who Emerge from Ashes, my dark fantasy novel about what it means to be a god.
  • I have been working on outlining a high fantasy adventure novel and I would like to finish that this year.
  • I’d like to finish rewriting Lilium, my paranormal novel about the bonds of family and how they extend beyond the grave.
  • I’d like to write some more short stories and see about self-pubbing a collection or something.
  • I’d also like to use this blog more. Post more writing advice, more reviews, and just in general more posts about writing!

That said, a lot of these goals are lower-stake and come with their own sets of steps, to help aid in their achievement. Time will tell how well I fare.

What about you? What are some goals you’re aiming to complete in this coming year?

*Study Cited: Norcross JC, Vangarelli DJ. The resolution solution: longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts. J Subst Abuse. 1988-1989;1(2):127-34. doi: 10.1016/s0899-3289(88)80016-6. PMID: 2980864.

Another Half-Year Goes By – Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

So far in 2021, I’ve read 30 books and have averaged a 3.8 rating amongst all of them. That’s 3 more books than this time last year and .4 higher. I’m liking a lot of what I’ve read, too!

I made this post last year which was my attempt to take part in the “Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag” that’s popular in bookish/reading communities online. I’m still reading a lot, so I figured I’d go ahead and do it again!

But, before I do, some statistics.

So far in 2021, I’ve read 30 books and have averaged a 3.8 rating amongst all of them. That’s 3 more books than this time last year and .4 higher. I’m liking a lot of what I’ve read, too!

Now for the questions.

Question 1 – Best Book You’ve Read So Far?

I think this title will go to Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink. I’ve loved a lot of the books I’ve read, but this is the one that gave me the most… feelings while reading it, and even right after finishing. I’m already in love with Joseph and Jeffrey’s work (see: Welcome to Night Vale), so I think it made loving this book all the easier. Also, it’s a nice intersection of all of my interests in content, I think.

Tied for this spot is going to be Know My Name by Chanel Miller. It was a harrowing autobiography that put into words many things I’ve felt and experienced before. It was painful to read, honestly… but it was supposed to be.

Question 2- Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far?

I’ve only read two series of sequels… so of those, I’m going to give it to Since September by Allison Martine. She’s an indie author we read for Indie Book Club over on Twitter. I was absolutely in love with her first book, Dibs, so my love of the sequel was kind of a no-brainer. But these books will have their own dedicated review, which will allow me to be a little more in-depth.

Question 3 – New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To?

Without a doubt, I’m dying to read The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri. I loved reading her novel, Empire of Sand last year (it even featured on last year’s freakout tag!) and the writing was so fabulous that she’s become one of my favorite authors. The fact I now have a chance to read something else of her’s, and that it’s gay, has me ecstatic.

Question 4 – Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year?

I have two books for this one: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao and She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan.

Question 5 – Biggest Disappointment?

Okay… I have two, for very different reasons. The first is Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. A disclaimer, I went into this book already knowing I wasn’t going to like it. My father recommended it to me as part of his recent… heavy interest into stocks and investment, which is fine. He even warned me this book would probably make me angry… I just don’t think he anticipated why it would make me angry. Plus, having researched the author before, during, and after reading, I know a lot of this book is a load of shit. Even if it wasn’t, it’s just so…. judgemental of poor and working class people, constantly calling them lazy or focusing on money and being unintelligent cause they can’t get rich… instead of, I don’t know, criticizing the system that puts them in this position in the first place. Then again, the author is a rich man, so of course he would think that way. Plus the writing was soooo painfully repetitive. It would constantly use many words to say the same thing – and in truth, it didn’t say much of anything at all.

The other book I’ll put here was another Indie Book Club read, Tears of a Cowgirl by Jupiter Rose. I don’t normally read Romance novels (capital R romance, different than romantic books) and this book is really all of the reasons why. There will be a dedicated review at some point, so I’ll be brief here, but basically it’s about a woman escaping an abusive ex and starting to fall in love with another guy while said ex interferes and tries to kill her… which can be interesting. However, every single person in this book had the emotional intelligence of wet cardboard. The new love interest is about as stalkerish as the ex and honestly, very fuckin creepy. I wanted to chuck this book across the room, honestly.

Question 6 – Biggest Surprise?

Hmmm… For this one, I’ll say Edge of the Breach by Halo Scot. It’s hard in general to know what books you’re going to vibe with, and I’ve found my experience with indie books in general very… mixed. I’ve found some real winners and also books that made me deliriously angry while reading them… That said, everyone on indie twitter raved about Edge of the Breach until the cows came home, and it eventually became a book club pick in Indie Book Club. And you know what? I loved this book a lot, even if it was incredibly hard to read at times. These characters are very fucked up. Like… There’s a scene towards the end that had me on the verge of vomiting. It’s sometimes that bad.

And yet, despite all of this, I loved this book enough to buy the sequel.

Question 7 – Favorite New Author?

I’m gonna say Chanel Miller, though I’m unsure if she plans to write any more books of any sort. As previously mentioned, the way she was able to recount her journey was written so beautifully. It was painful to read at times, due to how much you can relate to it. I’d love to read some sort of contemporary/literary novel from her. She’d knock it out of the park.

Question 8 – Newest Fictional Crush?

Like I said last year, I don’t really do fictional crushes. I don’t really feel like picking one.

Question 9 – Newest Favorite Character?

Hmmm… I think I’ll pick Keisha Lewis from Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink. She’s quite relatable in her determination and love of her girlfriend, and in her anxiety.

Question 10 – Book that Made You Cry?

If it wasn’t already obvious, this is going to Know My Name by Chanel Miller. I didn’t actually start crying – it’s a bit difficult for books to make me do so – but I came quite close a few times.

Question 11 – Book that Made You Happy?

This one has two answers. The first is going to be the Spice and Wolf light novels – so far, I’ve read the first three this year. This is a universe I’ve been in love with for years, and it was one of the first animes I watched when I was first starting to watch them. Since then, I’ve been dying to read the light novels or manga and have finally started said process. A lot of what helped these novels make me happy was, yes, the nostalgia and my love of the universe. Honestly, the writing is… uh… It’s not the most avant garde thing out there, but that matters little to me in this case. It was still easy enough to follow along and relive the situations I once saw on Netflix.

The second answer is Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono. I don’t think I need to explain this one too much, but it was an adorable novel regardless.

Question 12 – Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought this Year?

I’m assuming this is going off of covers. In that case, I’ll say Over the Woodward Wall by Seanan McGuire/A. Deborah Baker.

Question 13 – What Books Do You Need to Read By the End of the Year?

I definitely need to read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, and I’ll be doing so next month. Otherwise, the current list of books I need to read is as follows:

  • A Flight in the Heavens by Gabrielle Gagne-Cyr
  • The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
  • Calculated by Nova McBee
  • Going Postal by Sir Terry Pratchet
  • The First Mrs. Rothschild by Sara Aharom
  • Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  • Good Omens by Sir Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • Rivers Run Red by A. D. Green
  • The Throne of the Five Winds by S. C. Emmett
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Plus anything else added on by book club. I have a whole queue ahead of me!

But what about you? Have you read anything fun lately? Do you have anything you’re itching to read? Let me know below!

Climbing the Mountain – Camp NaNoWriMo Recap

I am so out of practice, honestly.

I’ve been floating between projects for the past year, unable to produce much of anything for all of them in the process. 2020 was no joke. I know I’ve said this before, but I still maintain that. But, then again, I’ve said that before about other years, too.

A couple of Novembers ago, I wrote Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo, a post discussing NaNo and self-care. I still maintain my stance on this, too, and I don’t plan or anticipate doing NaNoWriMo 2021, but Camp NaNoWriMo is a slightly different monster. I’ve been trying to get back into writing for a while. All previous attempts the last year or so have failed, but now I’m on the other side of April, a little more excited about my projects than I was before. I can’t call this a comeback – not yet – but I’m still optimistic about returning to a routine.

And routine really is what I need.

To recap, I initially set out to write 10,000 words of my dark fantasy novel, Those Who Emerge from Ashes. I call this draft six, but there’s a lot about this attempt that is wildly different than its predecessors. I spent most of March outlining and planning things out, and on April 1st, I took off running. The result was better than anticipated. I crossed the 10k word goal by day 13, then 15k on the 21st. By then, my trajectory was slowly. I hoped I could finish the month out with 20k, but left myself with a more conservative goal of 18k. A good thing, too, as I ended the month with 18,993 words to my name.

I also had three minor goals to maintain alongside this one. First, a discord server I’m in challenged us to write at least 20 minutes a day. While I didn’t keep official track of this goal, I definitely maintained that. Second, I challenged myself to write every single day. This, again, I maintained, ending my sessions with clocking my new count into the NaNoWriMo website. Lastly, I challenged myself to write at least 350 words a day. I fell short on the very last day, but otherwise maintained this – with some close calls. I won’t give myself flack for the last day. At that point, I’d already hit all of my other goals and really did need a break.

I think it really helped to shift some of the major plot elements and reconstruct this project. 80% of the last draft has not made it into the new one so far, and a lot of the remaining 20% has been heavily altered to match these new circumstances. I can’t say it’s a new story, though, when a lot of the main idea remains the same. That said, the newness is part of what made this draft so appealing. I found new arcs and scenes to be excited about. This draft won’t be the final one, I know, but I’m starting to feel like it’s the first major step to how I’ve always envisioned this story.

This post is getting a bit long. I’m going to end it with some small excerpts of my favorite parts from this month, but first… Did you do Camp NaNo? What was your result? How’re you feeling about your project now? Feel free to discuss what you did in the comments!

And now, some of my favorite bits from Those Who Emerge from Ashes.

Chapter Three
There was a scar on the inside of her arm. As a younger acolyte, she had once gone foraging in the woods under strict supervision. Monsters had come from the shadows and overwhelmed her small group. Maka was the only acolyte left standing from it. Everyone else had died in bloody heaps. Maka had bled, too.
Scholar Selene had tried everything to scrub the memory from Maka’s brain, and for the longest time, Maka thought she had succeeded. Now, there was no denying what she was.
Without thinking of the consequences, Maka dashed across the desk, grasped the athame, and sliced into her palm.
Apprentice Maka, how dare—“
Blood rushed down her arm. She couldn’t clench her fingers. The athame fell with a thud on the carpet, all but forgotten as pain lanced through her. Where she had expected garnet liquid to stain her coat and the carpet, it was instead a shimmering gold.

Chapter Four
There wasn’t time to think. Dakota closed the distance between her and the train. She wouldn’t be able to board, but there was an empty carrier car sweeping by now. She took a breath and lunged.
For several heart-stopping moments, she hung from the rail, clinging for dear life. Shouts of alarm chased her. She thought she felt something tugging at her coat, but then it was gone again. Huffing, she fought the urge to look down to the tracks and tugged for dear life.
Another pause as she flew through open air, then Dakota collided with the train car floor. She rolled with a moan, panting. Through her thick cloud of air, the tall figures stared, seeming to realize it was too late to stop her. One of the figures, the most decorated of them all, pressed their lips into a thin line before turning away.

Chapter Seven
Dakota stared at her cards until she went cross-eyed, but they still didn’t make sense.
She blamed it on the train. The rails rattled beneath her. Riding along had been smooth so far, save the vicious winds tearing at her from all sides. She’d found a small pocket of the car, which was more an open box than anything, where the wind hadn’t yet ripped everything apart. It was here her divination cards lay now, smooth to the touch and made from linen. Three such cards stared back at her now.
She tapped the first card, depicting five thin sticks clashing together. The suit of rods, for travel and opportunity and chance. This specific card spoke to conflicts, but of what? There were many avenues, she thought, it could apply to.
The accompanying cards cleared up nothing.
The second card featured a figure with no face, arms spread wide to the sky above them. A thin curved scratch shaped the moon. Pinprick circles were the stars. From what she could recall, this card spoke to religious wisdom, which was especially odd to her considering she had never been a spiritual individual.
Meanwhile, the third card was the outline of two figures on opposing ends of the linen, connected by their outstretched hands. Though they appeared to mirror each other, Dakota had studied this deck enough to notice the subtle differences. The Twins spoke to choices, though it could speak to relationships as well. She traced the face of one of the figures, though no true face existed, and frowned.

Chapter Nine
A few things happened in rapid succession. Dakota shot out a hand, murderous thoughts racing through her head. Something in the back of her mind snapped. The wind around them whipped into a sudden frenzy. Dayan slipped and the cards exploded from their hands and fluttered in all directions. With a yelp, Dakota dashed forward to recover them all. They made slow descents like leaves in the autumn. It took her a couple of minutes to gather them all.
Dakota counted them under her breath. Seventy-three cards in total – or, there should’ve been. She came close once, twice, then a third time, brow creasing first in confusion and then in anger.
“Missing something?”
She met Dayan’s gaze for half a second before lunging for the card in their grip. Three Vahnic wine bowls, as dark as the night sky, flashed on the card’s surface. Friendship and celebration.

Chapter Ten
Damn Maka. Damn the Scholars. Damn everything.