26 July 2020

Magic future tech

I got heavily into Chinese webnovels last year - an addiction that has yet to pass.  Originally I was reading licensed and/or fan translations of the novels, but lately I've shifted to reading directly on the official original sites (first dozen chapters or so are free, and then you can purchase the rest), and letting Google translate take care of me.

Google translate (the automatic function through Chrome) produces perfectly readable Chinese webnovels.  This is such an amazing thing to me.  Occasionaly there are confusions (particularly for people's names, which usually have a distinct meaning - so occasionally someone the novel usually calls 'Liang You' will be called 'cool pomelo' instead), but for the most part it's clean and readable text.  This is pure magic to me - to have that barrier of language taken away and give me access to reams and reams of virtual books.  [I'm presuming that Chinese somehow lends itself into translation into English - whether through similar syntax or some other congruity, because I've seen many very poor machine translations.  Or perhaps Google is just improving their translation tech year by year and has reached 'readable' level.]

I tend to be what I guess could be called a 'glom' reader.  Like, I'll get into the mood for Rex Stout or Agatha Christie, and then will spend the better part of half a year reading all their books in order of publication.  I don't think it's possible for me to glom the entirety of China's web novel output - the books are being written faster than I could ever read - but I seem to still be in the mood to try.

I started out with the historical reincarnation/transmigration novels, but am now on the modern day reincarnation/transmigration, with an admixture of gaming and game system novels.  [I just finished a gaming one which (entirely coincidentally) started off with a take-off a game I'd just been playing called Raft.]  I prefer the stories that go for around 100 chapters, though I've gotten quite a ways into some of the really long ones.

No novel has kept my attention for 6000 chapters, but I have made it more than a million words into a few of them.

On the gaming front, recently I've played a ton of Two Point Hospital, a fair bit of Raft, and have completed the first location in Viscera (a game where you are the janitor that cleans up after Doom Guy [or other equivalent] has blasted their way through the latest zombie outbreak or alien invasion).

Writing-wise, I'm about 3/4 through 'Firsts', which I guess counts as New Adult, but as usual for me doesn't quite match the genre.  It's something between slice-of-life and romance, with some plot vagaries and a ton of sex that somehow manages to be more friendly than erotic.  When I finish it, I'll move on to 'Seconds', a sequel, mainly because I like the characters, and then back to Tangleways.  [So, not a permanent shift to New Adult or anything - just want to write this story.]

All quiet on the corona-virus front - still working from home (with hopes of transitioning to at least part-time working from home once all this is over).  I purchased a face mask in case NSW mandates masks (it probably won't, but Australia's otherwise good progress tripped up and we've gone all second wavy here, and so I'd rather not be caught out trying to convert my socks into a mask at the last moment).

Hope you're all keeping well.

17 May 2020

Caszandra in audiobook!

And finally the audiobook for Caszandra
Also available through a host of other channels.  Check your favourite distributor to see if it's there.

In the meantime, I'm a little over halfway through Firsts (non-SFF side project).  It seems to have gotten distracted from gratuitous sex into 'friendship is magic', but is still highly entertaining for me.

COVID-19 has impacted me very little, other than my day job at least temporarily shifting to work from home, which I greatly appreciate for the extra sleeping in time.  It does mean I no longer get my excellent commute writing sessions, so I write a bit more in the evenings now.

I hope all of you are keeping safe in this very unusual year.

29 February 2020

Status - February 2020

As y'all noticed, my output over the last year significantly slowed down, in part because I'm finding Tangleways challenging.  An odd thing, given I have a very good idea of what I want to write in it.  I think, because I consider Pyramids the best book I've ever written, I keep worrying that the direct sequel won't live up to it, and keep trying to get every word right.  Giving myself permission to just write the book I want is important.

On the plus side, I am writing a ton lately, but that's because I put Tangleways down for the moment to give myself some head space, and went back to a silly side-project I've been writing on-and-off for a couple of years.  It's a high school romance with a lot of explicit sex, which definitely doesn't fit the rest of my output - I ususally don't even put sex scenes in my books because mostly they're unnecessary to the story.  But I fell in love with the characters, and have been having a lot of fun writing 'Firsts'.  [I'll probably publish that under a pen name, since it's completely off-genre, but I'll link to it from here.]

Apologies to all those waiting for Tangleways!  I've been keeping you on a chain for quite a while now, but I promise not to pull a McKinley!  Once I've gotten Firsts (and maybe Seconds) out of my system, I'll definitely have given myself enough distance to look at what I've done on Tangleways with clear eyes, and I'm already finding myself looking forward to getting back to it.

01 January 2020

Snow Day - a Touchstone short story

Interrupting my packed schedule of reading Chinese webnovels, here is a bit of seasonal fluff for the Touchstone fans.  It was meant to be a quick short story, but turned into 10,000 words somehow.

Expect character glimpses and worldbuilding - this is not a plot-heavy story, though I did end up thinking quite a bit about the times of the year when families get together to have arguments about minor things but generally be cheerful at each other.

[The snow, of course, is not seasonal at all for Australia.  It was 44C here yesterday, but thankfully cooler today. (I'm not anywhere near bushfires, btw, though we do get a fair bit of smoke from them.)]

As usual, the publication process will take varying amounts of time depending on the retailer.  I'll add links below as they come up.  [Published in 2020 or 2019 depending on what part of the planet you're on. :) ]

Amazon US, UK, AU
Kobo US, AU
Google Play

Search Apple's app to get the story there (this usually takes a couple of days to publish).

22 November 2019

Listening to the stars

And here, to interrupt the Touchstone books, is And All the Stars!  Brilliantly narrated by Coralie Bywater, listening to this in audio only makes me want to see this one as a movie. :)
Also available through a host of other channels.  Check your favourite distributor to see if it's there.

I'm hoping Caszandra will be out first quarter next year (still in production).

That will probably be it for audio books for some time - I enjoy listening to them, but it will take quite some time to see return on investment for them.  Hope you enjoy this one!

25 October 2019

Lab Rat Chitter

Next off the rank for audiobooks is Lab Rat One
Also available through a host of other channels.  Check your favourite distributor to see if it's there.

I've also commissioned an audiobook for And All the Stars.  While I don't think audiobooks will be a big return on investment for me, I love listening to them myself, so couldn't resist at least one more.

24 September 2019

Cover Reveal: Swift the Chase

Here's some fun news - a compilation of stories from a bunch of cool authors.  I've not really participated in this kind of thing in the past, but it's hard to resist having my name on a cover with some of my favourite authors.  I also really like the cover (done by  Jenny Zemanek of Seedlings Design studio).

Swift The Chase features scenes or shorts from 9 authors, including Intisar Khanani, Raf Morgan, Casey Blair, Rachel Neumeier, P. Djélì Clark, Sherwood Smith, Joyce Chng, and Melissa McShane (and me, of course).  It's be out on 8 October 2019, free on most platforms.

Magic—danger—and the thrill of the chase!

Experience the rush of racing across rooftops with thieves—or the desperation of fleeing an assassin who knows you a little too well. From the fish market of a tropical island sultanate, to the monster-filled alleys of a steampunk London, to a land where souls take different forms as they rise or fall through the layers of the world, this collection of chase scenes and vignettes set in nine distinctive worlds will leave you spellbound.

Find unexpected allies, unshakeable enemies, sudden twists and turns, and always the swiftness of the chase—whether you’re on the hunt, or racing for your life.

This sampler includes an exclusive bonus scene set during the events of Tea Set and Match by Casey Blair, available for free online, and a scene from an unpublished novel by Rachel Neumeier not available anywhere else. The excerpts by Intisar Khanani, Raf Morgan, P. Djèlí Clark, Sherwood Smith, Joyce Chng, Melissa McShane, and Andrea K. Höst are from longer works that are available for sale at all major retailers. 


I'll be participating in a Facebook launch party on the release day, and there's even a giveaway (which includes an audio copy of Stray! (see the Rafflecopter giveaway)

23 August 2019

Sentence by sentence

Still making progress on Tangleways, but as the title suggests, not very quickly.  I'm having a very consumer-oriented year, just reading and reading, with a side of game playing.  Very unlikely to get a book out this year as a result, though I am having fun with the story, even if it's not a fast one to emerge.

I really like Iona and Wen (both of whom appeared briefly in Pyramids, and have larger roles throughout the series).

I promise not to let my current addiction to Chinese webnovels alter the story too much.  No face-slapping.  No revenges.  Am going to make quite a few of you cry, though, because there's a third character I like a lot in this story, and they're in an unwinnable bind.

03 August 2019


Note that the last chapter of the audiobook is currently appearing after the glossary and character list. I've put in a request to fix and will let you all know.  When it's fixed, you should be able to download a correct version, but until then just skip past the character list and glossary to hear the last chapter!

01 August 2019

Speaking of Stray...

Audiobooks are quite a process - listening, noting errors, going through a correction round, making those funny square-shaped covers...but here we are at the end of the first stage of a long road!

Thanks to narrator Stephanie Macfie, who fearlessly took on a thousand neologisms, Stray is now out at a whole bunch of different audiobook distributors, including:

Check your favourite distributor to see if it's there.

It should also be available through Overdrive, if you have a library looking for something new!

Hope you all like it.  Next stop, Lab Rat One!

19 June 2019

That time I was reincarnated...

I've been tracking my reading on Goodreads since 2010, with a peak of 159 books in 2011 (I was having a big Rex Stout binge), but halfway through this year Goodreads tells me I've read a grand total of four books.

Now, the site has never captured all my reading, since it's very much focused on traditionally published media (by that I'm not talking about self-published or not - I mean the reading of things that have ISBNs or ASINs or things that there's some kind of formal system of indexing).  I've never tried to track the webcomics I read, or even more formal 'Western' comics, let alone the volume of illicitly translated manga/manhua I tend to read.

Earlier this year, the reading of webtoons led me to a translation site of the vast reams of web novels that often form the basis of webtoons.  These are almost all Chinese, Japanese and Korean language stories that aren't available in English (and thus the translation site exists in a legal shadowland in much the same way as fan translations of manga).  These translations are practically the only stories I've been reading since February.

As the title of this post indicates, reincarnation is the hot trope in web novels at the moment (and for the last few years), combining neatly with the other hot trope, isekai (other world) stories.  Many of these are fantastically indulgent power fantasies, but that's okay, I like fantastically indulgent power fantasies.  Better still, not all of these power fantasies feature your Standard Ordinary Guy Lead.

The three countries these stories are sourced from do have some distinct variants (at least in the stories I read - never underestimate the sheer variety of stories out there).

The Korean stories I read tend to fall into two categories.  Girls who pull fantastic derp faces while lying to mystical creatures who have strayed into modern Korea, and guys in some kind of gaming environment becoming supremely powerful and looking incredibly cool while being underestimated.  [I like zero to hero stories like this so long as they don't turn into harem stories.]

Half of the Japanese stories I've been reading are "I've been reincarnated into an Otome game, and I'm the villain!".  [An Otome game is a story-focused romance game aimed at girls.]  The web novels almost always have the 'villain' trying to avoid the execution waiting at the end of the game through good deeds, while somehow failing to realise that she's made all the people she expects to be her enemies absolutely adore her.  But there are quite a few variants - one where the would-be villainess embraces her role (probably in attempt to avoid the love interest being executed in her place).  The other half are straight isekai or reincarnation (transported or reborn into another world that's not an Otome game).  A good third of these are homages to Japanese cooking, where earnest Japanese strays introduce deprived other worlds to things like spices, and not drowning your food in oil, and other basics of cooking.  Being reborn into your own past and attempting to save the lives of soon to be murdered family members is another common one (Lady Baby being an amusing entry here).  But there's some wild variants - the girl with the magic bear suit, the girl who became insanely powerful killing level 1 slimes, and wildest of all, the girl who saves the magical kingdom by hiring mercenaries from her own world and taking down those dragons with tanks - while wearing a gothic lolita princess dress.

But it's really the Chinese reincarnation stories where I've spending most of my time.  Not least because these are frequently 1000 to 2000 chapter stories, but also because many of these stories fulfil my yen for overpowered female mages (in a sub-genre called 'Cultivation' stories).  I rarely make it to the end of any of these stories, not least because they're often not fully translated, or are still on-going, but I enjoy reading them until I can't take the power ups any more.  They take your traditional zero to hero story, focus it around a female character, and add lashings of slapping, family politics, coughing up blood (a sign of fury/chagrin), epic beat-downs, ruthless pragmatism, and fifty servings of revenge (both hot and cold).

Not all of the things I've been reading are magical power fantasies, however.  "To be a virtuous wife" by Yue Xia Die Ying is this amazingly languorous story about a very lazy 'reincarnee', and is also one of the most nuanced 'tell it in the spaces around the words' stories I've ever read.  If you want to read a story about the heights of formality and restraint, this one's for you.  And there's a series of stories which starts off with a detective and a forensic pathologist reborn as two of three sisters (which, amazingly, have actual endings to the stories, even if they're all interlinked).

If I had one negative for the Chinese sub-set of these stories is that most of these girls are thirteen to fifteen years old (not counting their reincarnated souls), and are considered 'too old' if they hit seventeen unmarried.

Anyway, that's how I've been spending my reading time.  Still working on Tangleways - slow going because it's such a damn complex world and I struggle to turn infodump into story flow.  And I think I'm going to have to go straight into book 3 of Trifold once I finish Tangleways, rather than hop back to Singularity because it's super hard to keep all the details this world in my head.

[Also coming up to a major anticipated game release, which will significantly impede writing progress for a few weeks.]

Magic future tech

I got heavily into Chinese webnovels last year - an addiction that has yet to pass.  Originally I was reading licensed and/or fan translatio...