Friday, October 31, 2014

Myers-Briggs character profiles

So I decided to be silly and take the Myers-Briggs test on behalf of my characters.

Myers-Briggs, if you're not familiar, rates people on four qualities and combines them to give you one of sixteen personality profiles. It measures Extroversion vs. Introversion (E vs. I), Sensing vs. Intuition (S vs. N), Thinking vs. Feeling (T vs. F), and Judging vs. Perceiving (J vs. P). It's not an exact science, obviously, and it relies on a person's self-reported beliefs about themselves, but it is nevertheless an interesting exercise for understanding characters!

Especially if, like me, your characters don't test out to be the same type as you.

I almost always test as INFJ. And even though most people suggest you should write what you know, I've always felt like my characters were very different people from me, and on this test, that was reflected.

(For the record, I took this test for my characters, and the abbreviated descriptions I'm offering here from that site have been altered slightly to fix typos.)

I did this test for four major protagonists: Ivy from The House That Ivy Built (and later Negative One), Delia from Bad Fairy, Cassie from Finding Mulligan, and Nick from Stupid Questions. First I'll show you their result, and then I'll give you a quick reflection on each.

Ivy's Result: ESTP (Extrovert/Sensing/Thinking/Perceiving)

Energetic and constantly on the go, you are a natural born risk taker that thrives on adventure and new challenges. You live life to the fullest and want to share your time with like-minded people. You are always very aware of what is going on around you and do well in crisis situations. You have a good deal of courage in you. Your view of life is very realistic. You focus on what is, not what might be.

In relationships you can be made to feel trapped by obligations and commitments. Your independent nature needs a great deal of latitude so you may roam as you need to. You will rebel against anyone who tries to control you. Unless you are with others that share your need for new and exciting experiences, those around you may find themselves sitting on the proverbial bench alone. You have the social skills and attitude to get along well with many types of people. You do not dwell on emotional issues. You rely on your charms to impress those you are attracted to. You're not one to shy away from a fight. You are materially generous, but may shy away from deep intimacy. You will bring excitement to any relationship you enter.

Is it true? This is pretty accurate for Ivy. She's definitely an extrovert--probably my only major character who actually seems to thrive on attention from others and feels particularly lonely when she doesn't get it--and she's definitely a free spirit. She's a go-go-go person who's always impatient with people who don't move as fast as she does, and she makes a ton of split-second decisions. She does have a tendency to sulk or brood sometimes, which this profile doesn't really cover, but other than that, I think it captures her well. The need for novelty, the rebellion against those who seek to control her, and the tendency to stand ground in a fight are all particularly appropriate.

Delia's Result: INTJ (Introvert/Intuitive/Thinking/Judging)

You are an individualist and very independent by nature. You are very adept at devising systems and creating theories. Self-improvement is important to you, and you look inwardly for the energies to reach your goals. You are creative and an excellent problem solver that has the endurance to get those tough jobs done. You need your privacy and time for introspection. So much in the world interests you that you sometimes have a difficult time choosing what activity to pursue next.

In relationships you are very loyal and prefer a traditional structure. You tend to only demonstrate your affections to those who are very close to you. You enjoy one-on-one relationships that are very intimate. You sometimes like extroverts, because they can take the "heaviness" out of your personality. You love the intellectual arena and the exchange of ideas. You are very sensitive to rejection but hide your emotional vulnerabilities well. While very loving, you can get so absorbed in your own projects that you neglect those around you.

Is it true? Sounds like the person who wrote this basically must have known her. Delia is a rather private and driven character who spends the entire first book focusing on her magickal studies with single-minded, nearly scary dedication, to the point that she sets achievement records all over the place and scares people's socks off. The bit about not being able to choose a direction is funny because she literally wants to master everything known along with a few unknown things too. She's very quiet, but formidable when challenged, and her best friend is more of an extrovert. Her mother complains about the "getting absorbed and neglecting your loved ones" bit.

Cassie's Result: INFP (Introvert/Intuitive/Feeling/Perceiving)

You are devoted and compassionate. You have a well-developed distaste for rules, orders and schedules. You are a natural born learner and can get so absorbed in your projects that you forget those around you. You are passionate about your beliefs and love ideals. You have very high standards for yourself. You are very creative, sensitive, reserved, and introspective. You respect the values of others and expect them to respect yours.

In relationships you are loyal and totally committed. You prefer a few deep relationships over a horde of acquaintances. Because you are somewhat reserved, you do best in one on one and small group situations. When you feel comfortable, you can be very entertaining and capricious. You are nurturing and supportive by nature. Your greatest social challenge is to balance your need to withdraw into your inner-world with your need to keep a strong connection with those you care for.

Is it true? It's hard to tell sometimes with Cassie, because in the story, she's really two people. I was trying to answer for the part of her that's actually Cassie, not the idealized version of her that lives in an alternate reality. (Dia is another story. She needs her own personality test, I think.) The part at the end there about withdrawing into an inner world is 100% spot-on and literal in her case. She travels to an alternate world in her dreams (where she is a different person), and it absolutely does affect her social life because it changes who she wants to be. She definitely has some creative bones in her body, and she spends a lot of this story looking for her love connection.

Nick's Result: ISTP (Introvert/Sensing/Thinking/Perceiving)

Naturally reserved and thriving on adventure and challenge, you much prefer action to conversation. You also have a penchant for observing what is going on around you. You enjoy activities that require hands-on skills. Resourceful and independent, your motivations come from within you. You are a collector of information, rational, realistic and pragmatic. People often have a difficult time figuring you out, and you will remain a mystery to many.

In relationships you are not one to have deep talks, but would rather let your actions speak for you. You display your love and care for others by doing practical things for them. You are not one to take on too many commitments or obligations--if any. You need your time alone and even though you are probably very loyal, this may cause conflict at times. You are not one to start fights, but you won't back away from one either.

Is it true? It's definitely true that people can't figure him out easily, and he's definitely paying attention to stuff that goes on around him, but the "preferring action to conversation" I'm not sure about. That said, in his relationship, she talks way more than he does, and he definitely gravitates toward practical solutions and wanting to provide for those he cares about. He thinks himself quite rational and gets really irritated and avoidant when he doesn't understand his feelings, which is interesting because he has a lot of those and doesn't want to deal with them.

And as a bonus, I saw this fun post on Tumblr where someone had figured out what Myers-Briggs types went with which Hogwarts houses, naming a primary and a secondary house. According to that chart, Ivy would be Gryffindor/Ravenclaw, Delia would be Ravenclaw/Slytherin, Cassie would be Hufflepuff/Gryffindor, and Nick would be Ravenclaw/Gryffindor. I kinda agree with those assessments too. Especially the one for Delia. Hahaha.

I think I might do some of my lesser protagonists and minor characters sometime too, but it's doubtful anyone wants to see me ramble about that. If anyone's read my stuff and wants to know a certain character, though, feel free to comment and bother me for the result. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It's Ace Awareness Week!

Asexuality has an awareness week and it's now!

I'm asexual, which means I'm not sexually attracted to anyone. I'm also aromantic, which means I'm not romantically attracted to anyone. Asexuality is a sexual orientation--it's about attraction, not about behavior, so it is not the same thing as abstinence or celibacy, and it's estimated to describe one percent of the population.

One in a hundred sounds like a lot for something so poorly understood and invisible, right? Well, you can thank our sex-compulsory culture for that. We all grow up believing that sex and relationships are essential to happiness, and if you want one but not the other (or, God forbid, you don't want either), you're encouraged to shut up about it. You're encouraged to believe something is really wrong with you, and you will usually react to it by trying to "fix" yourself or hiding what you think is broken.

Asexual Flag!
I see a lot of "so what?" when I do asexuality awareness activism. Once people grasp what asexuality is and learn that it helps people to find out there are others, they usually say "So, then, is that it? You exist, great, now why do you need to keep talking about it?" (Well, to be honest, the criticism along those lines is usually much  more vitriolic, and sounds more like NO ONE CARES, SO STOP TAKING ATTENTION AWAY FROM PEOPLE WITH REAL PROBLEMS!) Well, we need to talk about it for far more reasons than "real problems," but we have those too. It's incredible how often people simply assume we aren't hurting or suffering in the silence that surrounds these conversations, and how often they growl into our faces that we need to shut up long before they've bothered to listen to what we'd say.

Asexuality erasure, invisibility, and denial hurts people who know they're asexual, but it also makes it far more difficult for asexual people who don't know they're asexual to find out that they are. This means they spend their formative years believing they can't connect meaningfully with other people and that they will be doomed to being alone; that their partners (should they try dating) deserve sex and that they are literally abusing their partners if they do not consent to it; that they are selfish or inhuman or warped beyond imagining if they do not or cannot enjoy sexual relationships; and that they do not deserve to have their desires respected--others' desires will always trump theirs. And because most other people don't know about asexuality, they perpetuate misleading and damaging beliefs about sexuality that can hurt asexual-spectrum people--sometimes in very visible and measurable ways if you take a look at what it does.

Asexual people are almost always treated to what's known as the Outsider Experience, and this can lead to depression and anxiety that also will not be properly treated because mental health professionals they may seek out will see their lack of interest in certain types of relationships as one of their symptoms. Even our therapists and doctors try to "fix" something about us that isn't broken, without understanding that what we really need is a culture that fosters sexual agency, not just sex. And real sexual agency includes the option to say no, to say never, to say it's not part of how you express love, to define the circumstances under which you would like to engage in it.

This Asexual Awareness Week, it would be super great and amazing if non-asexual people could help us with our visibility efforts. Do you want to know the basics?

Non-asexual people could recognize the contributions they can make to criticizing sex-compulsory culture. You may not be asexual, and you may not know any asexual people (or you may not think you do), but you can make this world better for everyone on the asexual spectrum by questioning assumptions about sex/relationships and their central focus in our society. You can question sexual assumptions and blanket statements like "sex is a universal human desire" or "every person dreams of finding the perfect partner," and you can refrain from making statements that equate sexual attraction/romantic attraction with being human, being truly alive, being a person, and being fulfilled/happy.

You can listen and believe when someone comes out as asexual or describes something to you that sounds like an asexual experience. You can express support and spread awareness materials. And you can avoid perpetuating messages that suggest asexual people have to investigate every other possibility (abuse, mental illness, physical illness, social problems, suppressed homosexuality, autism, lack of experience, medication, lack of potential partners, youth or age, etc.) before acknowledging their orientation, and you can refrain from assuming that any of the above traits invalidate someone's asexuality if they do coexist with it. Asexuality isn't a last-resort diagnosis. It isn't a diagnosis at all.

Here are some more ways you can help.
And of course, just don't be a jerk about it if you aren't really interested and still don't see why this is important/necessary. One of the worst things I've seen this week is the backlash--the hundreds of people wailing WHO CAAAAARES, oh noes, these people are just attention-mongering freaks who want validation for their ILLNESSES THAT THEY CAN'T FACE, etc. (Yes, that is what my YouTube comments are filling up with this week.) Is it really too much to ask that if something really is that resoundingly irrelevant to them, they just ignore us instead of actively trying to make us stop talking? Seriously y'all, I've about had it with you trolls.

Monday, October 27, 2014

30-Week Writing Survey: Week 30: Tagged



Today's question: Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of their characters!

I'm gonna tag that jerk Whitney Fletcher because he said he was so gonna do this survey and then he never posted it. Maybe he's, like, busy actually writing or working or being alive or something.

And I really wanted to see his answers.

Whitney was my Pitch Wars mentee last year and I really enjoyed Ingrid, Whitney's protagonist in his urban fantasy novel (which I think is currently titled Valkyrja). I liked a ton of things about the story--obviously, since I picked it--and really enjoyed the complexities of the protagonist. When she was mean to herself or others, it wasn't annoying, and she had a soft side that wasn't expressed in a predictable way, and she was a foul-mouthed cab-driving ex-Valkyrie lesbian, which you just don't see every day. I liked that she could be as blunt as she was and still be complex. And I liked how her insecurity looked a lot like her pride when expressed on the outside, but that we as the readers got to know better.

And that's it. That's the end of the survey!

Now I have to find another one to do. . . .

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Personal Digest Saturday: October 18 – October 24

Life news this week: 
  • I had an interview on a Dublin radio station (that somehow happened at 7 AM instead of the 7 PM that was scheduled in my e-mail--dear lord), but even though it was on Saturday, I still have yet to gain access to the playback, so I have no idea what my pre-coffee interview sounds like. I followed up and the interviewer promised to send me the link when it's ready, but . . . nothing yet.
  • Had an interview on Sexperts on Friday. It was shorter than I thought it would be--about ten minutes. We had a somewhat longer pre-interview, so I thought I would have a slot more like twenty minutes. It was a decent interview, with none of the leading questions or judgy comments some other interviewers have made.
  • I have a TON of pending media now. Some of it is because Asexual Awareness Week is this coming week. So far the ones that have yet to print/air or that I haven't posted here include three electronic media/blog interviews/reviews, three interviews in print magazines/papers, one professional journal review, two podcast interviews, and one ongoing blogging opportunity that's been offered to me from a major magazine.
  • I finished up my award list for my book and it's out to my editor.
  • Have been helping my mentees with the last bits of their books and their pitches, but we're not quite there yet.
  • On Friday I went to see a local singing group perform because they were doing their performance at our apartment clubhouse. They also said there would be free appetizers from a local restaurant, but when I got there, every single option had meat in it, so I ate bread, whee. The singers were a ladies' barbershop quartet called the Ladybug Quartet. I enjoyed it.
  • Made a video about how to be a good ally to asexual people for Asexual Awareness Week next week. I did it on Friday after the interview and before the music show. ::faints::
  • I went to the doctor on Monday (agaaaaiiin) and now I have to get a CT scan. Blahhh. I have to drink something gross and go back next week. And I got X-rays, which they called about the next day and said whatever my problem is isn't being caused by my bones.
  • Went to my mom's on Tuesday and slept over again. We had spaghetti and Texas Toast, and in the morning she made me breakfast again. She's been really obsessed with Ylvis lately so we were watching funny videos of them.
  • I did early voting! Voted for Florida governor and some amendments (including one about medical marijuana).
  • Got to chat with Meghan about our upcoming trip to Disney in November and talked to Victor on the phone while drawing, like always.
  • I ate at Panera with Jeaux this week. Then we went to my place and chatted and watched the newest Legend of Korra episode.
New reviews of my book:

        Places featured:
        • Sexperts: My interview with Dr. Limor Blockman. It starts at about 41:00. The link is for the direct download of the mp3, but I think you can listen to an in-browser version here. It's episode 32: Different Strokes. Please note that the program topics before my interview are very explicit and involve some pretty detailed discussions of kink/BDSM.
        • The Asexual Agenda gave me a mention for my Pleasure Mechanics interview.
        Reading progress:

        New singing performances:

        Here I'm singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" by Bette Midler.

        New drawings:

        Webcomic Negative One Issue 0493: "Just a Kid."

        New videos:

        Asexuality: How to Be an Ally

        New photos: 

        The Ladybug Quartet I saw performing barbershop!

        Social media counts:
        YouTube subscribers: 3,961 for swankivy (19 new this week), 392 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 571 for swankivy (6 new), 750 for JulieSondra (9 new). Facebook: 272 friends (no change) and 150 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 482 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 48 likes for Negative One (no change), 85 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 1,607 (12 new).

        Tuesday, October 21, 2014

        What keeps you busy?

        People frequently ask me what keeps me so busy--why does it take me a while to address your non-time-sensitive e-mail? Why is it hard for me to be spontaneous and join you for that social event you didn't tell me about until just now? Why am I so often turning down offers to participate in projects or contribute to stuff you think I ought to have time for? What exactly am I doing anyway?

        And of course, there are occasional jackasses who see some project I AM involved in and they judge it to be the whole of my existence because it seems broad or comprehensive, or because it clearly took time and effort. (This happens a lot on YouTube--people message me just to snot on me for "making this asexual thing [my] whole life.") It's amazing how common this misconception is--that their exposure to one tiny cross section of my life means they can accurately assess what I'm about. They have no idea.

        So! Let me walk you through my life.


        Writing should come first, though obviously sometimes it doesn't. I am actively drafting a novel--Bad Fairy's second volume in the series--and I am editing my novel Stupid Questions and sharing it with a couple critique partners. I am planning to clean this up and show it to my agent, so that's pretty important. The nonfiction book obviously came out recently, and up until that point there were edits, correspondences to be had, decisions to be made, and now we're applying for awards. I've also been stealing little bits of time to work on short stories and have done research to put them on submission to editors. (I currently have six stories out for consideration.) And sometimes I write articles and get them published in magazines.


        This is a big one. Now, some of you might not know this, but I run four blogs. I have this one, which I try to use as a personal-writing blog--it's primarily about my author life, and includes writing advice and updates on my accomplishments in the writing world, with a personal update once a week. This blog tries to update four times a week. I also have my good old personal LiveJournal, but since the blogging platform has become a bit of a ghost town these days, I have primarily been using it to post a different version of the Saturday Digest I always post here, so those still reading there can see it. I have my main author site, which is not regularly updated on any schedule but always has the major writing-related news. And I have my Tumblr, which is an asexuality blog. I create original content, share other people's content, and sometimes post my hate mail so people can laugh at it.


        I'm almost always in the middle of reading something for one of my critique partners, and Pitch Wars is front and center now as I'm stomping forward trying to help my mentees tweak their books and massage their short pitches. I have several friends who could at any moment suddenly drop a book on me, and though of course I want to help, it is something I end up having to shoehorn into my schedule. I also read a published book about once a week. I decided this year to make a strong effort to do more reading because 2013 and 2012 were disastrous for my reading list; you're not going to get time, because you have to make time. And it's very important for writers to read. So just about once a week, I'm reading a new book and posting a review in multiple places: my own site, Amazon, Shelfari, and two Goodreads accounts. (It's generally two different reviews.)


        Yeah, there is more to my life than my personal projects and staring at a computer screen.  I hang out with my mom pretty often; I go out with my friend Jeaux once a week and have dinner; my friend Victor calls me once a week at night and talks to me as I do chores and art (or sometimes he comes over); sometimes friends come into town and hang out with me when they can, like Meghan, Sarah, or Mike. I also go to a book club once a month and we talk about the book we read and go to dinner after. Sometimes friends and family from out of town call on the weekends and maybe I'll talk to them while trying to get laundry done.

        Making Videos

        I have two YouTube channels--one for writing videos, one for personal and asexuality-related videos--and I do my best to update both of them once a month. That doesn't sound like very much, but there's at least some planning involved in every video I make, and depending on the type of video, sometimes it requires extensive editing. It's the kind of thing that will definitely steal the majority of your Saturday on occasion. And then on top of that, I create transcripts for my videos so people who need them can also enjoy their content. (YouTube has a feature that lets you turn captions on or off. I program caption files for the videos so they'll sync up with what I'm saying.) In addition to the two videos a month, I make a goofy singing video pretty much every week. This isn't exactly a priority, but I enjoy doing it. Partly because I went to school for music and singing was a huge part of my formative years, so it's a little sad to me that when I grew up I didn't become some kind of musician. (That probably would have been unfathomable to my high school self.) Doing goofy karaoke videos once a week is a nice way to stay in touch with the part of me that's still a musician, and it keeps my voice in shape at least a little bit.

        Making Art

        Some of you know I do a couple of webcomics. Well, let me give you some perspective on that. Negative One updates once a week (on Fridays). So You Write updates once a month (whenever I want). That means that somewhere in this nonsense I have to find time to write the storyboards, draw the pictures, process the art and text on the computer, and upload/post them. Negative One is an ongoing story comic that has been posted consistently every single Friday since May 20, 2005. It's never been late or missed an update, ever. Most issues feature TEN frames--ten new drawings every week. People sometimes laugh at me when I claim this is a priority and that no, I can't suddenly go out on a Friday if I'm not done, but I find I don't get along very well with people who think a night out automatically trumps a ten-year-long unbroken commitment because "lol it's REAL LIFE." So I usually draw Negative One while I'm on the phone with Victor (and finish it up the next day), and I draw So You Write (which is usually only four frames, but it's in color) whenever I get a block of time that I can squeeze it in. And since I really like drawing characters outside of the webcomics--especially if I want to figure out what a new character looks like--I sometimes end up pushing that in, too.

        Correspondence, Social Media, and Internet Maintenance

        Beyond just keeping up on Twitter and posting/responding to messages on Facebook, there's this little thing I call Internet Maintenance that I frequently have to deal with. It takes time to keep profiles up to date, respond to YouTube comments, check Tumblr reblogs and see if anyone's throwing a strop about something I said (or, more often, saying something super nice; thanks guys). I sometimes have to reorganize my website because of certain things, or add things to public lists, or clean up stuff that's dated, or add photos to my Internet galleries, or add books to my to-read lists, or approve comments on my blogs. I also have a newsletter that I put together and send out every few months or so.

        And of course . . . I get a lot of e-mail. TONS OF E-MAIL. A couple dozen a day, many of which require some kind of action or response. It's not very surprising, I think, that when the rather long, non-time-sensitive mails trickle in from old friends or thoughtful people, I don't generally respond to them immediately. Partly because the content and its author deserve to be addressed when I have a non-rushed time to pay attention to it, and partly because they often have more time than I do for correspondence and will probably write me back faster. ;) A large portion of my e-mails are people asking for advice or information; sometimes it's people wanting publishing advice or reactions to their writing (the latter of which I can't provide for random strangers), and often it's people wanting to explain their sex problem or relationship problem to me and get advice on how to deal with it or how to figure out if they or someone they know is asexual. If a message is short, time-sensitive, or (sadly) hostile/harassing, I will usually choose to deal with those first. And speaking of which. . . .

        Interviews and Appearances

        This isn't something a lot of my blog readers will be dealing with in their own lives on a regular basis, but it's kinda been part of mine for a long time--though more so since I got the book published, of course. I get a lot of messages asking me to provide a quote, answer a series of questions, be featured in an article, be available to be on a podcast or radio interview, or come to an event. Less commonly, I'll be asked to participate in video media, but that happens too. I will tend to respond more positively to speaking opportunities that will result in resources I can share with my community. There's been a pretty steady trickle of interviews since my book's publication, but I'm kind of expecting next week to explode with sudden time-sensitive requests because it's Asexual Awareness Week and that generally happens to me every year at that time. When I'm invited to make an appearance or presentation somewhere, I usually have to put a fair amount of time into preparing my speech and visual aids.

        Everyday Life

        So there's also this whole earning a living thing. I have a part-time job and have to spend 28 hours a week doing said job. I'm an admin at an engineering company. And I say with absolutely no ounce of sarcasm that it is the best job I've ever had, for many reasons; however, it is of course a small suckage of my time, this whole pesky need to make money and pay my rent. And like anyone else, I still have to pay my bills, go grocery shopping, clean my house and do organization projects, take showers, eat, and sleep. Oh the horror!


        You may have noticed just about everything I do above is sort of fighting for its place in the loosely organized "whenever" of my life. And I've got a pretty good schedule down for a lot of it: Laundry and karaoke on Sunday, grocery shopping on Monday, hang out with Mom on Tuesday, go out with Jeaux on Wednesday, draw the comic and talk to Victor on Thursday night, post the comic and do site updates on Friday, play catch-up on Saturday, and find time to read, draw, make videos, blog, play with my friends, WRITE, and fulfill communication obligations in between. But there are still other things I like to find time for too, like baking, playing DDR, making crafts and presents for others, listening to music, seeing stage shows, gardening, redecorating, playing tennis, or going out to do shopping, see movies, or go to events with my friends. A lot of these are things I do WHILE I'm doing other things--for instance, when Jeaux is at my house, I get to watch TV shows we like or listen to a podcast, and when others invite me to do things, I get to go swimming or see a theme park or do something special. And I've always got projects that are infinitely postponed that I like to get to once in a while. Making a new website, scanning some old photos, learning new songs that I can make multitrack recordings of, researching books and music by artists I enjoy and seeing what they've done lately, actually reading blogs. . . .

        It's sometimes really hard to maintain the energy to do all this stuff, so I am always in a sort of balancing act as I try to both satisfy other people's expectations and live up to my own standards. So sometimes if I don't text back, or I'm hard to nail down, or I'm too tired to do something, or I don't answer your e-mail quickly, or I'm never on Skype, or I say I'd rather spend my Saturday writing than going to the movies . . . please cut me some slack and be patient. For the most part I love my life the way it is, but it's true that sometimes I drown and sometimes I'm not happy with how I'm handling it. I need your support, and when you're patient and nurturing and willing to cheer me on even if I take a while to get back to you, I notice.

        So please don't follow up an unanswered e-mail with snide commentary on how apparently I don't think you're important. Don't take it personally if I've been putting off my own writing for so many weeks that I just need to do it and therefore politely decline hanging out with you. Don't sneeringly point out that my posting ridiculous links on Facebook means I have time for your e-mail, especially considering I'm often stuffing my face with one hand while reading Tumblr and happening to share a funny link I found on another platform.

        And don't you dare flollop into my YouTube comments to tell me I clearly have no life because you don't think one of the ten thousand things I'm doing deserves the attention I give it. Yes, some jerk did this today. And two days ago. And last week. Apparently these folks feel it's very important to shame me for supposedly lacking anything meaningful to do in my life, accusing me of ~wanting attention~ and ~trying to be special~. I'm aware that nobody who reads my blog would do such a thing, but good lord does that irritate me.

        Monday, October 20, 2014

        30-Week Writing Survey: Week 29: Thinking About Writing



        Today's question: How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something out in the world that reminds you of your story/characters?

        I do think about my various stories regularly. I would say that if I am in a situation where I have to wait "mindlessly" or before falling asleep, I'm thinking about characters. It is rare I'm inventing stuff for them to do or "pre-writing," so I guess I'm just thinking of their experiences and sometimes I realize certain things about how they think or who they are.

        I quote them a lot. People have conversations with me and it will remind me of what so-and-so did or said, so I tell my conversation partners about the applicable situations as if these are things that happened to me or my friends. It's kinda surreal, but it is part of my reality.

        Lots of situations in music remind me of characters, and sometimes I'll see a person in public who reminds me of a character.

        Saturday, October 18, 2014

        Personal Digest Saturday: October 11 – October 17

        Life news this week: 
        • My interview with Chris from Pleasure Mechanics was broadcasted on the Speaking of Sex podcast. I recorded it a while back but it was released on Friday.
        • Got to chat by phone with my sister in California, and managed to get my fall decorations up finally while being entertained by the conversation. Sounds like my baby nephew is briefly standing on his own these days!
        • Spent Sunday almost entirely devoted to editing other people's stuff. Don't seem to be able to get around to editing my own.
        • Visited my mom on Tuesday and slept over. We had a really nice dinner that she made and we watched Rat Race on DVD. And then in the morning she made me breakfast. It was so cute. :)
        • Also briefly got to talk to Jessie--we almost never get to chat by phone because of busy schedules on both our ends--but it was nice to touch base with her.
        • Victor, Tia, and Faith came over to celebrate Victor's birthday. (His birthday was Monday but we did this on Thursday.) We played a silly board game called Quelf and had a good time eating Taco Bus food, eating cake, and bothering each other. After the ladies left, I hung out with Victor and he slept over, and we just chatted while I did my comics.
        • I ate at NY Best Pizza with Jeaux this week. Then we went to my place and chatted and listened to Welcome to Night Vale and watched the newest Legend of Korra episode.
        New reviews of my book:

          Places featured:
          • Pleasure Mechanics: Chris Rose had me on the Speaking of Sex podcast. It's a nice sensitive interview, about thirty minutes long, and doesn't focus entirely on the same things everyone asks. I actually got to talk about community, what lessons we can teach each other, the diversity in the community, and some nuanced stuff on relationships. You can also hear it on Stitcher.
          • Badass Ladies: I don't really know what this is for, but I'm being suggested as someone to interview on this page. Maybe they'll follow up.
          Reading progress:

          New singing performances:

          Here I'm singing "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas.

          New drawings:

          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0492: "Food on a Stick."

          New videos:


          New photos:

          Me with Jay's newly published book!
          Me looking like a hobbit with my document clip cape.
          The breakfast my lovely mommy made for me.
          Tofu taco from Taco Bus!
          Victor's girlfriend Tia executing a board game challenge.
          Poem Victor wrote for me as part of the board game.
          I looked like a Digimon character that night.
          Victor's robot boots make Transformer noises.
          And the monthly haircut comparison photos:

          Back, February 2014
          Back, October 2014
          Front, February 2014
          Front, October 2014

          Social media counts:
          YouTube subscribers: 3,942 for swankivy (61 new this week), 389 for JulieSondra (5 new). Twitter followers: 565 for swankivy (2 new), 741 for JulieSondra (3 new). Facebook: 272 friends (no change) and 149 followers (4 new) for swankivy, 482 likes for JulieSondra (2 new), 48 likes for Negative One (no change), 85 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 1,595 (6 new).

          Wednesday, October 15, 2014


          It's amazing how many people think you need to get somebody's permission to make a statement or have an opinion. Especially on the Internet.

          It's also amazing how many people believe some arbitrary threshold of relevance must be crossed before someone's content is worth making.

          I can't even count the times and ways in which I have been criticized for making content. Not the content itself, mind you; they're not even arguing with my message or any of the points I'm making. I don't mind if someone wants to question or criticize my content. I'm saying they're arguing with me about whether I should have bothered making it.

          And whether I have the right.

          YouTube. How many times have people written blistering epics in the comments field, opining that asexuality activism does not matter because nobody's really being hurt or 1% of the population (as we supposedly are) just isn't enough to bother with? How many times have people told me I'm selfishly stealing finite resources from whatever Real Problems they think deserve more attention? How many times have people who have done not one bit of research about our experience tried to tell me my content isn't relevant enough to deserve the time and energy put into creating it or the time "wasted" on watching it?

          Yeah, it's a lot.

          And yet, 4,000 subscribers or so seem to disagree, and the heartbreaking and heartwarming comments I get from people whose lives I've improved make it clear there's a benefit.

          These folks don't care. It's not important to them or anyone they know; it's been invisible to them their whole lives; it doesn't make logical sense to them that being asexual in this world could involve both blunt and subtle trauma; it doesn't matter to them that there are far more reasons that marginalized people need to find and interact with each other far beyond matters of civil rights and violence.

          And they are saying this about YouTube. They're saying my stuff isn't relevant or important enough to have space and time devoted to it on YouTube. I'm pretty sure I don't have to find ten or twenty quick examples of ridiculous things on YouTube for people to take my word for it that it is NOT some high-standards bastion of polished content and newsworthy items.

          What else? Tumblr. I have around 1600 followers on my asexuality-specific Tumblr blog. Tumblr is often mocked even within Tumblr--not to mention outside it--for having an idealistic and young population. I've had people tell me straight up that putting my writings on Tumblr--which I joined because there was a healthy asexual community there--is pointless because no one takes Tumblr seriously. Oh really? So if I put it on YouTube (ahem, I mean SeriousTube), it's too silly, but if I put my supposedly silly content on Tumblr, I'm giving asexuality a bad name since Tumblr is full of SJW college kids? (Despite that I don't think this about Tumblr--and that I think accusing Tumblr denizens of being immature and easily agitated over "nothing" is way more immature and reactionary than people actually are on that site--I still wouldn't be there if I didn't think it was a nice accessible place to put my content.)

          Okay, perceived legitimacy problem. What else? Well, I've talked about my content in magazines, on television, in a documentary film, on podcasts, on the radio, on blogs, and during in-person educational talks. I've been in TIME and Salon and The New York Times. And now I've written a book about it, queried agents and found one to represent the project, sold it to a publisher, and made it available to people all over the world. Good enough?

          Nope. Now this is rare, but every once in a while, someone says the mainstream press classifies me as a sellout. That I'm not really doing this for a real cause; I must just want attention or want to make money. Furthermore, I don't have the right to represent the asexual community because I shouldn't be speaking for everyone like that. (This is despite the fact that I do my best to point out that I don't speak for everyone whenever I get the opportunity and whenever it might be unclear, and that I often answer questions by acknowledging the community's tendency to give different answers BEFORE I answer for myself.) And even though obviously no one person and no one work can "represent (and feature) the whole community" while remaining concise, I was aware that no matter what I said, it would be assumed to represent most or all asexual people, and I was determined to do the best I could to incorporate feedback and contributions from every demographic in my community that I could think of.

          So in addition to including contributed quotes from more than a dozen other influential asexual-spectrum bloggers, I managed to get hundreds of people to help test-read it (that is not an exaggeration) so I could have the best shot of properly representing a diverse community with different experiences from me, and I didn't just find one person to "represent" a whole group. I put out a specific call asking people to help me with certain sections of the book if they were in a group I felt I couldn't properly, authentically speak about without help, such as male asexual people, asexual people with disabilities, asexual people of color, asexual people who practice a religion, et cetera. I received lots of great feedback about what I needed to include/change/expand and what I was already doing well. I only received one hostile reaction at the editing stage, and that was from a person who was angry that I had used my introduction to talk about my own experiences instead of providing a skinny version of the content of the entire book.

          And yet sometimes I still get this. How have you helped? Who needs your book? You're not a public figure. You're not an academic--you don't know what you're doing. You're too much of an academic--you're too separate from the everyperson up in your Ivory Tower. You said something I disagreed with once, so I can't support anything you say. You agreed with someone I don't like, so everything you do is suspect. You're not pretty enough--you make us look like we're all ugly people who can't get a date. You're too pretty--you make people think you can only be asexual if you get offers and refuse them. You didn't cover my pet issue comprehensively enough, so you might as well have not written the book. You don't define your terms well enough, so it's worse than useless--it's confusing. You spend too much time defining terms, so it's worse than useless--it's boring. I'm anti-sex and I'm furious that you claimed asexual people can have sex and still be asexual. I'm into compulsory sexuality and I'm furious that you claimed asexual people should be able to choose whether they have sex in relationships. I think you're being irresponsible by claiming asexual people can be kinky because there's something wrong with those people. You're a bad person and you should feel bad.

          Sometimes I even get "you haven't done enough, PROVE to me that you're helping" and "oh wow look at all you've done--so you expect me to be impressed?" from the SAME PERSON.

          I'm certainly happy to take criticism about the book--especially since it will come out in paperback next year and I will have the opportunity to update if I need to--but that criticism needs to not be accusatory or sound like harassment, or I'm just going to think it's one of those people who will hate me no matter what I do. There's a huge difference between "can you include a section/expand your section on X?" vs. "WTF do you think you're doing refusing to cover X properly? People like you are always trying to erase us." No, I'm really not, but I'm never going to actually know what you mean if this is the first time I've had this conversation and I lack the context to understand the problem. I know I'm not perfect and cannot be/have not been everywhere. But I also don't like giving up and saying "Can't please everyone, so I might as well be a jerk!" I have always been approachable and a listener. That's why I did things the way I did when I was creating the book in the first place. It's really frustrating when people think I'm out to harm them.

          So now here's the thing. Despite all the squawking about FREE SPEECH when people see that their words have consequences, some of the people trying to harass me into silence are doing so by saying--in some way or another--that I don't deserve to be speaking. Either the message itself isn't worth saying or I'm not qualified to say it. They are the arbiters of who's qualified, whose issues are important enough, what's justified. And this arbiter role is something they possess simply by virtue of being them; they can "see" through whatever their version of common sense is that the world would be a better place if I just shut up. The populations they were unaware of until I made them uncomfortable by talking about them probably just don't exist or don't have it as bad as I say or don't need help or need to be fixed or need to face that they're mentally/physically ill or shouldn't be encouraged or--ultimately--shouldn't be acknowledged as a relevant population to consider important in our daily lives. Oh noes, things would be better if these conversations were not happening in places where I might intersect with them and be asked to offer proper decorum and respect! That would be horrible! Better convince her that she has no business opening her mouth!

          It doesn't work, guys. Because the type, style, and content of your resistance is exactly the kind of thing bigoted, selfish people always choose when they attempt to "fight" someone they disagree with. Instead of arguing with the message, they try to shame the messenger, pelting her with "how dare you think you can speak?"

          How dare I?

          Well, I've already seen what happens in the silence. And despite the abuse and harassment I'm dealing with, I like it a lot better this way.

          Monday, October 13, 2014

          30-Week Writing Survey: Week 28: Disability



          Today's question: Have you ever written a character with physical or mental disabilities? Describe them, and if there's nothing major to speak of, tell us a few smaller ones.


          First, there's a character in my webcomic Negative One (and the novels it's based on) who's got a disorder that manifests similarly to profound autism. (The protagonists don't know if she has a real name, but because of some weird interaction stuff that happens in the comic, they refer to her as "Neptune.") She can speak, but it usually is not actually in response to what other people are saying. (The folks who know her well have noticed she tends to repeat phrases--either the first half or last half of a sentence--and will even duplicate the pitch and accent.) She also hums a lot and tends to have at least one of her hands on her face most of the time. She doesn't make eye contact, though sometimes when she SEEMS to be doing so, it's more like she's looking through you. She has no understanding of social conventions and no understanding of other people as people. She's also an albino, though that's normal where she comes from.

          Theresa, also from Negative One, is epileptic, though this hasn't manifested in the comic at any point where any other characters witnessed her having a seizure. It's part of the reason she ended up not being able to keep a job for a while, losing her health insurance, losing custody of her children, and ending up homeless. Great situation, huh?

          Ami from my old novel series The House That Ivy Built is physically disabled (has lost the use of her legs), but this is at least temporary because she is going through rehab. She was hurt in a car accident and at the time she first entered the story, she had braces on her legs, and got around with arm crutches or her wheelchair. 

          Cassandra from Finding Mulligan could, in some ways, be thought of as mentally ill because throughout most of the book she demonstrates a mode of thinking that could be classified by some as dissociative or schizophrenic. Oh look, spoilers. She has an alternate self that lives in an alternate universe. When she was a child and her parents found out about this, she went through some therapy, and instead of recognizing anything wrong with her thought process, she elected instead to "protect" herself by changing her answers and telling the psychologists what they wanted to hear. Thing is, despite her delusions, she's completely functional and has some amazing cognitive abilities (like an amazing memory).

          I have a character in a short story, currently named "Protector," who has a pervasive memory disorder that causes him to be unable to have access to long-term memories (and even fairly short-term ones). Sometimes he'll be searching for something and forget in the middle of doing so what he's searching for. The thing he seems to be able to remember best is his girlfriend's name. Bonne loves him unconditionally despite his issues.

          In my short story "That Story about Fortune Cookie Girl," the protagonist's fiancée, Bridget, has ADHD. Her future mother-in-law claims it's a "fake disorder." Kind of one of the minor annoyances in the story.

          In my short story "Your Terms," published in Timeless Tales (last story), the character Hope has severe agoraphobia.

          Jesse from The House That Ivy Built is severely dyslexic. He loves to write, though, and does so by using a voice recorder and having someone else transcribe his plays for him. He's left-handed and tends to write in almost mirror fashion (except that it just isn't consistent, really).

          Marz from Joint Custody is also dyslexic, though not severely. She does have to take some "special" classes at school because of it, though, and sometimes the kids give her crap about being in those classes. ::eyeroll:: Her parents and family don't make a big deal out of it at all though.

          Iris's mother from "Her Mother's Child," a short story I sold recently and will appear online in 2015, has lost the use of her voice, though the story does not reveal why. Iris's mother communicates through sign language and gestures. She's hearing, though, and could speak earlier in her life.

          Bad Fairy has three characters with disabilities later in the series. Delia, the protagonist, feels a bit of camaraderie with folks who have intellectual disabilities, who in her era (sometime in an alternate-world middle ages) are basically just institutionalized as if they're prisoners. She feels like she was one of the fortunate (being born with magickal abilities as a birthright), but because she is also half human she ends up facing prejudice and isn't able to get what she wants most. When she encounters people with intellectual disabilities during some research through the land of the departed, she eventually ends up campaigning for their cause because she feels they, like her, were handed a difficult lot due to birth circumstances, and she hates it that just for being born some people get imprisoned and others get to be king. 

          So there is one intellectually disabled man who she meets in the afterlife, and also a character who is deaf and mute with typical intelligence and whose interesting agricultural inventions end up having a chance to flourish because of some help she provides nudging royal policies. And then there's Moira. Moira is an intellectually disabled princess. Princess Aurora (later Queen Aurora), like her mother Queen Trinity, has an unstable reproductive system and has great difficulty conceiving her daughter and doesn't become pregnant until she is over forty. Her child Moira ends up being born with Down's Syndrome, though of course I don't call it that since the term wasn't invented then and there. :) Because the kingdom's princess has this condition, attitudes toward that particular phenomenon become kinder in their area due to more awareness and an interest in not wanting to seem insensitive to the princess's situation. Surprise.

          Minor physical or mental disabilities or stuff that might not really "count":

          Tab from The House That Ivy Built can't read, and it's not because she hasn't been taught. She can't process letters or words in print, and I'm not sure why. I'm reluctant to dub that "dyslexia," though, because Tab isn't human and I'm thinking it's just part of how her brain is built, and I don't think it's the same processing issue that dyslexic people have. She can speak fine, but I guess maybe her mind won't adapt to include understanding print. Adele's the only one who knows about this. She's embarrassed to admit it since the other kids in the house (Nina and Thursday) can read. I'm also reluctant to call this "a disability" because even though from a human standpoint not being ABLE to learn to read would be, for Tab it's probably how she's supposed to be.
          Ivy from The House That Ivy Built and Negative One has deformed hands and feet; she's missing her pinkies on both. It's a very minor thing, but it does cause her trouble sometimes. She's unable to play piano or type in the traditional ways (so she has to invent her own fingering positions), and sometimes has to deal with embarrassment over people assuming having five fingers on each hand is a standard (well-meaning phrases like "high five," "five-finger discount," "have him wrapped around your little finger," and "pinky swear" have unintentionally annoyed her, and rhymes like "This Little Piggy" or tricks like counting on your knuckles to figure out how many days a month has have failed miserably in her case). One of her friends joked that if she tried to speak American Sign Language she would have a speech impediment. She didn't think that was too funny. She would also have to modify gloves to fit her if she was going to wear them, though she hasn't done so as such. As for her feet, it hasn't been a problem except that having fewer toes actually makes her feet quite a bit thinner than most people's, and she finds that shoes do not fit her well.

          That's all for my characters and disabilities!

          Saturday, October 11, 2014

          Personal Digest Saturday: October 4 – October 10

          Life news this week: 
          • Had an interview on a live BBC show this week (Monday); I had to be on at about 4 AM because of the time difference, but that's okay because I'm usually still awake at that time because I'm weird. I got to listen to a bunch of news about trains messing up before my piece came.

          • Went to Mom's on Monday instead of going to work. She was supposed to have a medical thing that day and I arranged to have the day off, and we ended up watching Throw Momma From the Train because my mom found out I'd never seen it and decided it was a travesty that I hadn't. She bought it on DVD. Heh.

          • I've been working with my publisher this week on submitting applications for awards my book might be eligible for.

          • Book club met this week. We discussed the book Spider's Bite and went to dinner together at Burger 21. It was an enjoyable discussion and the chat at the restaurant was nice too. People are cool about asking me how my book is doing and stuff!

          • My friend and long-time critique partner Jay published a book through Amazon this week and that's some pretty damn huge news. I read it in draft format, but I probably need to reread it before I can review it.

          • I ate at Five Guys with Jeaux this week. Then we went to my place and chatted and watched the newest Legend of Korra episode; Season 4 just started. Oooh.
          New reviews of my book:

          Places featured:
          • BBC Radio Berkshire: Andrew Peach interviewed me. You can hear my bit about 2 hours and 20 minutes in.
          • Pub Hub mentioned me; one of my blog posts on responding to the ridiculous Salon comments is linked.
          Reading progress:

          New singing performances:

          Here I'm singing Roxette's "Listen to Your Heart." I apologize for the belting that doesn't really work.

          New drawings:

          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0491: "Open to Me."

          New videos:


          New photos:

          Taking selfies while waiting for the radio host to finish
          talking about train delays. . . .

          Social media counts:
          YouTube subscribers: 3,881 for swankivy (29 new this week), 384 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 563 for swankivy (4 new), 738 for JulieSondra (4 new). Facebook: 272 friends (no change) and 145 followers (3 new) for swankivy, 480 likes for JulieSondra (7 new), 48 likes for Negative One (no change), 84 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 1,589 (11 new).