So I got my first negative review of Legacy on GoodReads…

And I wanted to address it, because for one thing, despite only being posted last month, it refers to the very first version I self-published in 2010, so pre- Inspired Quill edits.

Kuzco knows the score.

Kuzco knows the score.

I’ll post the review, by user ‘Anila’ below:

Post-nuclear-apocalypse furries wielding magic crystals.

Honestly. I’m struggling to talk about this book without just… pointing to that sentence up there and raising my eyebrows. I should probably play nice because this was a Kindle freebie but really. Post-nuclear-apocalypse furries, I swear, what the actual hell.

Okay, okay. An attempt at a real review, in some form.

– Plot: Balanced between ‘completely transparent’ and ‘where the fuck did that come from and why didn’t you bother to foreshadow it’, with the former dominating the earlier portions of the book and the latter taking up much of the conclusion. Note that when I say ‘balanced’ I don’t mean that it all came out well, ’cause it didn’t: the stuff that was completely obvious was often ignored by the characters, which left them looking stupid, and the things that came out of left field were crucial to the plot, which meant pretty much the whole conclusion of the book just had to be swallowed whole. Also, the epilogue jumps two years and just roughly summarizes the interval, in which all kinds of interesting things and developments happened, in a few paragraphs. Really?

– Setting: Grandiose self-aware infodumps that really, honestly, read like a child’s history essay at points. Completely inconsistent technology/awareness thereof – no one is confused when ancient secrets about nuclear physics become a topic of discussion, yet they’re still predominantly wielding swords and bows. Is this supposed to be a medieval-tech society? Is it industrial? Is it electronic? I HAVE NO IDEA, and apparently neither did the author.

– Writing: Started off on a bad foot with countries being referred to as “sovereigns” (that means ruler, not nation) and carried on from there with words that were either incorrectly applied or just plain made up. “Malefically” remains my favorite of the ones that don’t actually exist.

– Characters: Stock fantasy tropes, occasionally with a side of annoying (whatsisface the raccoon) or just plain dumb (the guy who, given the opportunity to kill his lifelong rival and one of the major antagonists, FAILED TO STAB THE DUDE AND NECESSITATED YET ANOTHER LONG DRAWN-OUT SWORDFIGHT WHICH ALMOST KILLED HIM). Relationships were predictable and uncomplicated, and I just generally don’t give a fuck.

Basically: If you want sword and sorcery with woodland creatures, read Redwall. If you want innovative epic fantasy, read any number of other series – if it’s the young female protagonist who must learn to master her powers that gets you, I suggest The Final Empire. But at the end of the day there isn’t enough originality in the concept nor quality in the execution to make this one worth your while.


Much review. So wow.

Much review. So wow.

Okay, so initially that wasn’t easy to read for me, as it’s not particularly polite, but whatever- I’m over it now. As soon as I hit the first sentence I figured it was going to be written by someone who thinks the idea of furry fiction as a whole is pretty laughable. If, on a profile, you write a big declaration that you get HONEST reviews (in big capital letters that MEAN SOMETHING, DUH), generally you’re assured that someone is going to be outspoken and phrase things combatively.

There’s a difference between being honest and being rude. For someone so particular about word definitions, I would suggest learning it.

The main points I take from this:
-Anila took almost as long to review this book as it has taken me to write my second.
-Criticism of the word ‘sovereign’ being used as a term for nation is fairly petty. It’s a fantasy novel, people use unique terms for things all the time, even ‘made up words’ that are apparently so abhorrently amusing. If you’re going to be a reviewer of fantasy books, best prepare for some disappointment if this particular trope bothers you.
– ‘Malefically’ (adverb: ‘in a malefic manner’) is so a word. Even if it isn’t listed by most dictionaries, it’s not a stretch to see that ‘malefic’ actually is, and that ‘ally; is normally added to words to create an adverb form. Getting pedantic over alternative definitions or extractions of words pisses me off. I was criticised at one point for using the word ‘decimated’ as a synonym for ‘ravaged’: I got a comment that read “what, they had 1/10 of the population killed?”. If that’s your favourite definition, then fine, good for you, but there’s another: ‘ kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage or part of ‘. Congratulations on your short-sightedness.
-Foreshadowing is apparently meant to reveal the whole story before it happens. Someone who admits they ‘generally don’t give a fuck’ isn’t going to notice it.
-Reading the ‘in progress’ comments under the review, the reviewer shows more lack of attention to detail, probably brought on by my ‘rough’ writing and poor use of tropes. When Maaka (the surgeon, a falcon) operates, she criticises that BIRDS DON’T HAVE HANDS. Correct. Maaka uses tools strapped to his wings, and objects operated by his beak. He never has hands. Bravo for observation on that one.
-Old review is old.

Too many useful applications for this gif right now, I'm spoilt for choice.

Too many useful applications for this gif right now, I’m spoilt for choice.

Reading this has actually made me aware of some inconsistencies I need to address, like the disparities between the older technologies and Eeres’ current portrayal, and my tendency to infodump (which my editor already brought up with me during the edit for the new version ALMOST THREE YEARS AGO) but I’ll be going through with further revisions of Legacy fairly soon anyway as my publisher goes through its back catalogue.

And considering it’s still averaging a solid 4-star plus rating, I’m not too worried. You can’t please everyone. I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope for a greater response from a Fullmetal Alchemist and Sabriel fan, but never mind. It’s not like every anime/manga/book fan is going to be nice. I don’t even mind (object as much to) a bad review as such if it’s phrased intelligently. But, well…

Yep.

Yep.

Still, I got two stars. That’s more than her review of Game of Thrones, so screw those guys.

I’ll Hold You To That

The title was something someone said to me when I confirmed I’d hopefully be able to update them on a project towards the end of the week. I don’t know if it can be considered innocuous or if I’m just stressed, but it really pissed me off. Probably unnecessarily so. I’m working pretty hard at the moment (although I’m not sure I’m able to say specifically in what capacity), doing a lot of things for other people, and for one that I’ve already been helping both automatically and at their request to say that felt… like a kick up the arse, but not in an encouraging way that I normally appreciate. There’s a group of around a dozen people I’m working with/for, a lot of whom I haven’t been able to touch specifically because I’m working on projects for both this person and someone else. It just jades me when I felt I had started to get on top of things.

I guess you can always do more. But it’s not like I don’t have my own stuff that I really want to finish. I’m a little over a third of the way through Fracture’s edits, and there’s some amazing cover artwork for it that’s coming on really well that I’m desperate to show everyone. And even aside all that, I have an enormous laundry list of projects that I want to finish in my lifetime one way or another.

I actually have a pillow on my desk for this very purpose

I actually have a pillow on my desk for this very purpose

My Wish List

This one’s a little flipped round, because this is a wish list of things that come from me, not to me from others. This is what I have in my head at any give time, for all the projects I want to do. This might explain why it annoyed me so much.

Writing

In the Resonance Tetralogy
Fracture (in edits)
Ruin’s Dawn (started)
Resonance End (plotting)
Spiritus Ex (plotting)

In The Song Chronicle of Thera (Steampunk series)
Firesong: Ballad of Phoenix the Blade (started)
Moonsong: Fugitive of the Snow
Therasong: Heart of the World

In Clandestine
Book One: Protectors
Book Two: Shieldbreaker
Book Three: Tears

Other writing projects
Fantasy Stereotype High School (plotted)
Aeterno (plotted)
Foundation (plotted)
If You Think That’s Hell, You Should Try Working Here (plotted)
The Story of Phoenix the Mechanical Werewolf and Tohru the Electric Corgi: A Steampunk Children’s Tale (drafted, published on Tumblr; would like to get illustrated some day)

Being even half this productive would be great right now

Being even half this productive would be great right now

Costume Projects
Rocket Raccoon (2-3 outfits)
Steampunk Werewolf Mk III (because two isn’t enough punishment for me, apparently. It’s just the head, though. Probably)
Pangolin Fursuit
Mega Lucario
Yugo (from Wakfu)
Mystogan (I swear if it doesn’t work this time I’m going to kill you, you bastard)

Miscellaneous
Voice acting projects, auditions are always ongoing). I’ve been really lucky to be involved with some great productions so far, not least of which includes guest narration of episode 484 of the fantastic Escape Pod podcast. My episode is called That Tear Problem, by Natalia Theadoridou, and you can listen to it here
I have ideas for various comedy podcasts that I haven’t even been able to plan yet, but they’re a distant second to every other item on this list at the moment.

And this doesn’t even mention the stuff I do for work. How hard I work will determine what I get paid. I order for this to be sustaining, I need to dedicate time to my work, or I lose the opportunity to take time to work on what I want to.

In terms of deadlines, only one of these has a specific time limit aside from my work work, and that’s the Rocket Raccoon costume, which I want to get done for Animazement at the end of May. Fracture, unfortunately, while I will get the edits done as soon as I can, may sit impatiently for its release window, as my publishers are fully booked for this year’s novel releases. Small presses have immense respect for artistic integrity, and there’s nobody I would trust more than Inspired Quill with handling my books, but unfortunately it’s partly the nature of the beast that you can only manage a certain number of releases per year until you can widen your foundations. I have always wanted to keep my books affordable and if I self-published it, I’d be forced to charge a fairly unreasonable minimum price to get a markup that would earn me a living.

Pictured: current events

Pictured: current events

So while I know I’m not always great at keeping with things, it’s not like I’m being lazy. Please don’t accuse me of that. If I’m TRULY not doing anything, I’ll have to convince myself that I might actually deserve it, even just for a little while.

Because if there’s one person who has always told me ‘I’ll hold you to that,’ and unforgivably so, it’s me.

Bright Young Things

So I’m really into Wakfu now. For those who don’t know it, it’s a French animated series based on an MMORPG (or MMPORG, if you get the reference), and stars a young Eliatrope (being who can control portals) called Yugo. He’s awesome. He hadn’t been on the screen for more than a few seconds (well, after we saw him as a baby) and I’d already decided I had enough of an affinity with him to cosplay him in the future, because he’s that damn cool. He’s kind and optimistic and capable, and I’m actually a little blown away by how taken I am with him. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised though, because I am still dedicated to the Mysterious Cities of Gold series, and Esteban was full of exuberance and adventure and good will, even if he did tend to get himself into danger a lot. Naruto is a similar character, albeit a lot more outspoken and defiant (and rude). And the original Avatar: The Last Airbender series followed Aang, who had nothing but compassion for the world, and struggled to see it brought to peace, and was dedicated to making his friends happy and safe. He’s my favourite part of that three-series journey, as he leads it perfectly.

He puts the AANG in Prot-Aang-onist. Wait, let me try again...

He puts the AANG in Prot-Aang-onist. Wait, let me try again…

It just brings to mind the reactions people have had to Legacy; specifcally to Tierenan, the deuteragonist (of sorts) who travels with Faria and follows her adventure.

A Hero Who Didn’t Know He Was A Hero

Without exception, everyone who’s spoken and written to me about Legacy has told me how much they like Tierenan. He’s run away with my audience, heh. And he deserves it- he’s a very cool guy, and I don’t think any of the other characters would complain that he gets as much praise as he does. The weirdest thing to me is that he was the character I planned least. He just happened. I didn’t spend ages constructing a specific development arc for him within Legacy or honing his personality. He came as he was and fit in perfectly. I’m really grateful for that, because if I’d tried to write him, I probably would have ruined him.

And we all know how that turns out.

And we all know how that turns out.

The people who know me have said that he’s me, but I always saw myself as Alaris; not a main character, for one, and also more of a support role and a play-as-much-by-the-rules-as-possible sort of person. The more I think about it, though, the more I realise there’s more in Tierenan than I first anticipated, whether it’s reflective of me or not.

When I first wrote Legacy I kind of brushed him off as someone to fill in the gaps between Faria, who carries the main narrative, and Aeryn and Kyru, whose story I had been invested in since the very early concepts (even before any of them were animals). To a degree, I figured that what he said either wouldn’t matter or would be there as a commentary to prevent the whole thing from being too serious. I always wanted him to be likeable though, and not as artificial as a lot of obnoxious Disney comedy placeholders are. But through spending time with him, I think specifically because he wasn’t constrained by preconceived plot ideas, he took a shape of his own that reacted to the environment and the other characters. It really was a more natural progression for him, and I wasn’t even aware of it.

One thing remained constant, though: his unfaltering hope. I’ve always wanted my stories to be full of hope, and he is the sole character that carries it from the moment we meet him. I think people fall into the trap of making stories dismal or harrowing or unpleasant, especially for young adults, and they focus so much on the loss of innocence and certain cruel realities of the world for no reason other than to be evocative. It’s probably what irritates me most about the direction the Harry Potter series went in, especially in the final book. War begets casualties, of course, but stories are such an investment for the reader. Killing off everyone you care about (and not even giving them a final justification or battle scene) doesn’t make you fulfilled as an audience member. Personally, I find it very unsatisfying. Especially for young adults who’re about to make their mark on the world, they shouldn’t be discouraged from trying, or from dreaming big or wanting to protect or include everyone. There’s already so much cynicism in the world, and I think the ones who will change it need to be given hope. Not promises, but hope.

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”- Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I’m really glad that Tierenan is liked so much. It’s humbling to me. I want to keep his light going in the rest of the books, and it would be an honour if he was talked about in the same way that Aang and Yugo and Esteban and Natsu and Groot are some day. And not just by me :p

We're on the fence about you, boy.

We’re on the fence about you, boy. Haven’t forgiven you for the weird plot developments.