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16 July 2017 @ 07:33 pm
I'm moving to Dreamwidth!


Since April was a haze of rushing to finish my law school requirements and stuff, I totally missed out on the changes to LJ's ToS, and since I often review queer fiction/talk about asexual issues, I was worried about my LJ getting deleted or something because of that. (Also, I'd wanted a name change for my journal forever, but didn't want to shell out the $$ to change it.)

I'll keep this LJ as a backup/record. I've imported all of my entries, though on DW I'm deleting a few (seriously only a few) entries that I regret writing.

EDIT: Forgot to add that I'll still be cross-posting here, for the time being.
15 September 2018 @ 08:33 pm
Undertow by Brooklyn Ray

(Trigger warning: this book heavily implies a character is physically abused by their parent)

Full confession: I've read only about 15% of this book so far, but what I read made me so angry I had to stop and blog about it.

I had a bad time with the first book in this series, Darkling. In general, this author has serious issues with portraying PoC and Asian American characters in particular, even though they frame themselves as kind of the "champion" of the queer community on Twitter (really, mostly a champion for white queer Twitter + their few QPoC friends).

In Darkling, Tyler Li—the only Asian American character—is the antagonist. He is portrayed as the least tolerant, most bigoted person even though he is literally surrounded by white characters. He is also pitted against the book's only other PoC character. Because Ryder is the protagonist in Darkling, the reader is essentially positioned to hate Tyler Li and think he's a massive jerk.

In the beginning of Undertow, it's heavily implied that Tyler is a jerk because his father is physically abusive toward him.

Let's unpack this.

Abuse within Asian American families is a sensitive issue. It happens, and it's often swept under the rug as a normal "tiger parents" thing. It's on the spectrum of Asian Americans who have difficulties with their parents. I'm not against the portrayal of Asian American characters with difficult or even abusive parents.

But for a white person to insert themselves into this intracommunity issue is swerving out of their lane to the extreme.

And it's not just that in Undertow; I'm sensitive to portrayals of abusive relationships in fiction, and the whole thing is treated in a way that felt incredibly disrespectful to me: Ryder (the protagonist of the previous book, remember) essentially mocks Tyler for being abused by his father.

What. The. Actual. F**k.

Author—how dare you? How dare you make the Asian American character the most intolerant and reviled one out of your majority white cast, how dare you decide that his jerkishness is due to him being a survivor of parental physical abuse, and how dare you then have the previous (white) protagonist mock him for it?

What is wrong with you??

How dare you call yourself an ally to POC???
08 September 2018 @ 05:06 pm
I think I mentioned in my previous post that I'm in a rut right now in regard to writing, and as I was talking to my friend about it, she suggested that I write what I like to read.

Which is some common sense advice that I'd somehow managed to forget.

Maybe this is due to my childhood or something, but oftentimes I get very focused on trying to write something "groundbreaking" and "original" and "never been done before" and "'certain' to be successful"...and every single time, those projects fail.

My finished novels were always, always ones that I initially started with no intention of publication—stories that I started writing purely for fun, not because I was trying to make a statement or leave my mark on the world. Stories that I started off writing because they were exactly the kind of book I wanted to read and couldn't find.

Book #1 was the amnesiac assassin enemies-to-lovers story that I'd been trying to write for ages because I love writing assassins, I love writing/reading enemies-to-lovers, and I love amnesia tropes.

Book #2 was the story about an autistic vampire hunter who got to kick ass while snarking at how unfair neurotypical society was because I wanted to read about a kick-ass autistic protagonist and complain about neurotypical privilege.

Inevitably, of course, I do end up making statements, and my stories do end up being unique and original. But it's always a side effect rather than the primary goal.

The problem then, though, is that I essentially have to "trick" my brain into working on a project that I can finish.

Which is ridiculously hard.

And due to real-life stress and/or genre fatigue, sometimes I get into periods when I don't know what I like anymore, because I don't like anything (or barely anything) I'm actually reading. And then I can't write at all.

On top of that, there are only so many tropes I like, but I also try not to repeat myself from story to story because I feel like that's tacky.

05 September 2018 @ 11:05 am
I read These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch this weekend. Having disliked her previous book, Snow Like Ashes, and having seen mixed reviews for TRW, I was prepared to dislike it, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. This is probably the first fantasy book I've read that I've enjoyed in...maybe a year?

I didn't find the infodumping to be intrusive or slowing the pace down. An overly-explanatory style doesn't always work, but it worked for me in TRW because of the dense history of the world, and it was fine. At first, I was uncomfortable with Grace Loray as a close analogue to the United States, but I was really glad when the author actually provided more complexity later on, showing that Grace Loray wasn't a utopia, either.

I also find it surprising that people have called this book "boring" or "dry." I will quit reading books within literally a few pages if I think the writing style is boring, but this book captivated me with a killer first line and didn't let up (although there were admittedly some questionable word choices sprinkled in). I did skim some of Lu's passages because hers seemed the slowest, but that was about it.

Each of the three main characters was fairly complex and multifaceted. Lu was my least favorite, if only because she was kind of the predictable Strong Female Character, but she was still well-drawn, and I appreciated that the author challenged Lu's naïveté about Grace Loray. The portrayal of various kinds of PTSD for the three leads felt realistic and was a touch of depth that I'd given up on expecting from YA.

The way Ben was written, as a queer (gay?) character, bothered me a lot in the beginning because he seemed so sexualized compared to the straight characters. (When the author cited C.S. Pacat as an inspiration, my reaction was less surprised.) But he got a lot better later on. Lu and Vex's relationship bored me because it felt like a very typical, very obvious M/F enemies-to-lovers dynamic. However, I am ALL FOR what looks like it's going to be a slow-burn enemies-to-lovers relationship between Ben and [SPOILER REDACTED] in the next few books.

Ultimately, though, this book inspired me to try my hand at writing fantasy again, and for that reason I feel more favorably toward it than simply viewing it as the sum of its parts. It captured some of the magic I remember from reading fantasy as a kid and that I lost in YA fantasy of recent years; namely, deep, complex characters and a well-thought out world that feels like it actually lives and breathes, not that it's just a cardboard set.


I've been reflecting a lot on writing and what I should write next.

In recent years, it's been something of a battle between my desperate desire to write something "mainstream," something that can get picked up by a traditional publisher, versus what my brain actually wants to write.

I think I could push myself to write a "mainstream" YA novel. Being a relatively experienced writer by now (not just in terms of fiction writing, but also because I've had a lot of practice writing for my day job), I think I could do it and have it turn out to be okay enough to query. In other words, I could treat writing as a job.

The deep reflection I've done after my first book was published has led me to some of the conclusions I've feared: That writing a book that is 100% what I want is apparently unpopular in this market. I thought a queer romance with assassins and mysteries and corporate corruption would be interesting to people...but I guess it isn't, since I've been having a ton of trouble with marketing and complaints that the book doesn't fit neatly enough into one genre. So it makes me think that maybe I shouldn't write a book based solely on what I like, if I ever want to turn writing into a full-time career.

But writing is such a hard, lonely endeavor that if you don't have the strongest love and passion for your work to sustain you...what else can?

I like speculative fiction. I like a touch of mystery. I like exploring how people cope with a damaging past. I like angsty but also tender interpersonal relationships. I like sarcastic nerd protagonists. I like exploring the use of narrative to reveal and hide information. I like healing narratives.

I can't change what I like.

Embracing that is hard when I can't be certain that it will lead to success. But maybe it's the only way forward.
02 September 2018 @ 09:52 am
Seeing some Reddit discussions about other MMOs' failures has made me reflect on GW2 and why I've stuck with it for so long.

I've had my eye on GW2 since it was in development, but I didn't play it at launch because I wanted a free trial to confirm that it was a fun game and not as grindy as the free-to-play MMOs I'd dabbled with before. But when I did finally try it out, I was in love. The design choices that stripped away the grind and competitive nature of other FTP MMOs resonated deeply with me, as those were the number one reasons I never stuck long with MMOs before. GW2 was beautiful and fun right from the get-go.

And the classes! I love that each class has their own unique mechanic, so that playing each class feels different not just because of different weapons/skills. For example, my sister gravitated toward Mesmer because of the whole illusions/phantasms/shatter mechanic, and while I usually steer away from heavy armor classes, I made my first character a Guardian because of the virtues.

I know everyone groans about underwater combat, but frankly I love underwater stuff. It adds even more exploration to maps with water and stands out as another unique feature of GW2. (Honestly, I'd even want an underwater expansion and underwater mounts*!)

Admittedly, the fact that GW2 only requires a flat fee (for the core game and expansions) is a major pragmatic reason I keep coming back to it, as I can take a break for a few months and then return when I feel like it.

I wasn't excited about Heart of Thorns at first because of the way it seemed to be marketed toward more "hardcore" players; I eventually did buy the expansion (when it went on sale ~1 later) primarily because of the elite specs, though, and I found myself enjoying the meta events, particularly Auric Basin's Octovine. I was so hyped about Path of Fire, though. The mounts have made it a joy to go through the old Centra Tyria maps again. I love that mounts aren't solely prestige items (other than Griffon, maybe) but were truly created to enhance the experience of movement in the game.

I'm also super grateful for the QoL updates GW2 has had through the years, showing that the devs really do care about optimizing player experience as much as possible. The wardrobe system was a game-changer, and I'm so incredibly thankful for the new Novelties system (the lack of which was the major reason I never paid too much attention to toys/other novelty items in the past). (Also, how incredibly generous was it of ANet to give each player a choice of a free Novelty item to kick it off???) Now we just need a library system for all the books weighing down my Revenant...

In case I sound like I do nothing but sing GW2's praises, I will mention that I do have issues with the game. Chief among them is that ANet has introduced grindier achievements/collectibles that I think were really unnecessary--namely, the swim infusions (I still cry about not being able to get the bubble helmet) and many of the new armor sets in PoF. I'm also annoyed by many of the achievements in PoF and Living World Season 4 requiring large groups of players, which means that I'm usually stuck waiting around for the magical moment when I end up in a map with a group of players also doing these events. (I'm not saying no achievements should be tied to group content, but it's a pain when the maps are often deserted, especially in the PoF maps, which is a design flaw itself.) I was also angry enough at the original RNG Mount Adoption License that I actually stopped playing the game for several months (while the system they introduced later fixed that problem, I still think they should introduce it for the original set of mount skins as well).

So yeah, that's my Guild Wars 2 story.

Random Trivia:

Favorite holiday: Wintersday

Favorite mount: Springer (I just can't resist these adorable bunnies)

Where would I like to see a future expansion: Cantha, Charr homelands (seriously, I think Charr lore is fascinating and there's so much possibility there), or underwater (related to the Deep Sea Dragon)

(*Now that I think about it, though, I think if ANet were to do underwater mounts, they'd probably have to do it with Living World Season 4, given that each expansion + corresponding Living World Season seems to have a self-contained mastery system.)
05 August 2018 @ 10:14 pm
I'm in another writer's block rut.
Logically, I know I shouldn't be so hard on myself. I've been distracted and on edge for the last few months due to my upcoming debut release and studying for an exam and the crappy day job.
But writer's block brings me so much fear.
There's nothing quite so terrifying as watching a bunch of story ideas fizzle out as soon as you put a few hundred words down on the page.
It makes me fear that I'll never be able to finish writing a book again.

And, okay, part of it is that I'm in another genre crisis. I've become disillusioned with the queer romance genre due to difficulty breaking into traditional publishing, combined with how so very white indie queer publishing is. So, even though my brain still spits out MM romance ideas, I think somewhere in the back of my head I'm feeling less attached to these ideas because they just feel like a dead end, professionally and emotionally.

So I'm trying to get back into YA and MF romance again, and I think I might have a candidate. But "might" is such a fragile word, because I've learned never to count my novels until they're actually done.

There's also the fact that...I kind of suck at writing MF romances. I've only written one successful one in my life (and, not so surprisingly, this new idea is kind of a retelling of the old one).

05 August 2018 @ 03:17 pm
I know PoF is old news by now, but I've just recently gotten back into the game (thanks to the Roller Beetle) and I have new thoughts on why PoF isn't as compelling as Heart of Thorns for long-term play.

Now, I haven't done a ton of Crystal Desert bounties/meta events since they (allegedly) rebalanced the awards, so I don't know if those events are more rewarding (in any case, they're clearly not as compelling as the Istan farm). But here are the thoughts I had today:

HoT had several armor/weapon sets to go for that were time-consuming if you wanted to collect them all, but they were eminently doable. They took a long time, but they were doable. And grinding the Octovine event for the Auric weapons, or Chak Gerent for Chak weapons, wasn't bad because you could make decent gold doing those events.

For PoF, it's different, since the new armor/weapon sets are primarily based on crafting. When I looked at the Spearmarshal armor, I realized that not only would I have to collect a ton of Trade Contracts to buy recipes, and then farm even more Vials of Linseed Oil (which, to be honest, I was more than a little tired of doing after farming them for HoT), but I would also need a whopping 150 Hardened Leather Sections per armor piece! At which point I was like "Screw it, there's NO way crafting this armor set would be worthwhile."

And then I looked at the Trading Post. And then I realized that the Spearmarshal armor sold for WAY less than it would cost in time and resources to craft.

That's the problem: It's not worth playing the game to get the new armor when you could buy them off the TP for low prices.

To be fair, Bounty Hunter armor isn't available on the TP. But still, the resources needed to craft the armor makes it not worth it. Sunspear and Mordant armor are craftable, but they're also available on the TP for (largely) reasonable prices as well.

I'm not sure if the Crystal Desert bounty awards have been rebalanced to make it reasonable to get the Funerary armor/weapons. But in any case: HoT armor/weapons were designed to be grindy, but easily doable as long as you wanted to invest the time. PoF armor/weapons were designed to be essentially impossible to make/get in game without a HUGE time/money-sink.

And that's the problem; that's why it doesn't feel rewarding to play in the PoF maps once you've unlocked all the initial things.
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

(Content warning: This book contains graphic violence directed toward gay men. There are more detailed content warnings in the book itself.)

As usual for McCade, the quality of writing is excellent. I really enjoyed the representation of Malcolm and Seong-Jae. The characters are fascinating and alluring, both with mysterious backgrounds teased for future stories to come.

My main issue with this book is with how the mystery was resolved. Spoilers abound below--you have been warned!

Cut for spoilersCollapse )
Tags: ,
This is a list of books published by indie publishers that feature an asexual-identified POV character, or the POV character's love interest, in a romantic plot/major subplot. I've excluded self-published books just because it's harder for me to keep track of the details in those books, as well as because of the lack of gatekeeping with self-publishing. (Also excluded: YA books, because YA tends to skew to less discussion of sex by genre default.)

Books listed under the cutCollapse )

So...yeah, sex-repulsed asexuals are really not well represented, particularly in the romance genre. (I think, with regard to traditionally published books and non-romance books, sex-repulsed asexuals are primarily represented by aro-ace characters, which is obviously not the same thing.)

Which sort of lends credibility to my argument that gray-aces/demisexuals/sex-positive aces of any romantic orientation would be more welcome by the general (presumed non-asexual) reader body than sex-repulsed heteroromantic aces—the idea of not desiring sex at all is seen as more subversive than a LGBP romantic orientation. (Which isn't even getting into issues with fetishization of M/M sex.)

Yes, of course demisexuals, gray-aces, and sex-positive aces deserve representation too. But sex-repulsed aces currently have almost no fictional representation, and that's something I wish people would take into account.

When the vast majority of books with asexuals show those asexuals as only able to be in a romantic relationship if they're willing to have sex to some degree, that sends a message that alloromantic sex-repulsed aces have no hope of finding romance (unless they find another alloromantic sex-repulsed/indifferent ace—which is a fine solution, but in real life, the statistics of that happening are on the low side). It reinforces the idea that sex-repulsed asexuals (and sex-repulsed non-asexuals, for that matter) are still freakish deviants, as well as the idea that there's only One Real Way to have a romantic relationship, and that involves sex, instead of presenting different kinds of romantic relationships.

I'd hope that, in the future, we can get to the point as which writers can let go of the sex = love framework, because alloromantic sex-repulsed aces deserve to believe they can have happy endings, too.
24 June 2018 @ 04:00 pm
Me before: Where tf is my editor, I want to get started on edits for my book already

Me now: lol she can take as long as she wants, I've found stuff I need to fix first