Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wednesday Factoid: High School Clique

Today's Wednesday Factoid is . . . Were you part of any kind of clique in high school?

Well, I had a group of friends.

We weren't what most people refer to as cliquish, but my high school crowd mostly revolved around people in the class above me (one of whom I was dating), and "members" of it drifted in and out sometimes depending on romantic partners or whatever.

I considered the "core" members of the group to be Meghan, Phil, Aaron, Bryan, and Steve. Later, I guess Mia was part of it too. And Phil was always being hated by one or more of us because he was a jackass.

I was also sort of a part of a secondary "clique," which was the ridiculous chorus girls, but we didn't hang out in groups outside school (with the exception of I guess one time at my sixteenth birthday party where a huge percentage of the chorus class came over to celebrate).

I was a core chorus member, usually participating in two choral groups at the same time and recognized as one of those girls who always got a solo. Several of my friends were serious hardcore chorus girls too, some of whom went to District solo/ensemble festivals with me and went to All-State chorus. I'm really only still friends with one of those gals. It was a good time. Especially Treble Makers. :)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

End-Of-Year Book Survey: 2014!

I was looking around for book surveys to do for 2014 and kept seeing everyone just doing the one from the Perpetual Page-Turner, which I've never done before, so . . . guess it's time I joined the crowd. Hey now! Gotta be a joiner once in a while, right?

So here I go.

Number Of Books You Read: 40
Number of Re-Reads: No re-reads!
Genre You Read The Most From:
I guess YA Contemporary.

1. Best Book You Read In 2014? 

I'll go with Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. 

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t? 

Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket. I adored A Series of Unfortunate Events and found this actually kind of close to boring, but I'll still read the second one to find out if it gets better.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 

Hard to say but I'm going to go with Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep. It had everything going for it leading up to me actually reading it: fantastical premise, modern setting, elemental magic, AND my book club assigned it AND my friend Jeaux has devoured the entire series and raves about it. I was actually shocked by how much I actively disliked it.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014? 

Might have been Grasshopper Jungle. My friends keep saying they don't see what I see in this book. That is because they are jackasses.

5. Best series you started in 2014? Best Sequel of 2014? Best Series Ender of 2014? 

Best series I started was probably Odd Thomas! I've only read book one. Incredible.
Best sequel was probably, geekily enough, the second book in a graphic novel series related to Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Best series ender was definitely Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014? 

Oh, oh, oh, Rainbow Rowell.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone? 

Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler. It's very romance-focused, which is SO not my thing, but I didn't even care. I read quite a few things out of my comfort zone this year, largely because of book club, but I didn't like any of them as much as this.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? 

I don't read a lot of action/thriller, and a lot of the thrillers I read this year WERE pretty putdownable, so I'll go with Dangerous by Shannon Hale. Contained an unusual amount of action.

9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? 

Honestly I probably will not reread any books.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014? 

The cover of Open Letter to Quiet Light. I mean look at this thing.

11. Most memorable character of 2014? 

Maybe Odd from Odd Thomas, haha. Can't forget that guy.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014? 

The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014? 

I'm gonna answer this in a way unintended by the question and go with The Invisible Orientation by ME. Because it was pretty life-changing to get published and stuff, and it provoked a lot of thought on my behalf for sure. :P

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 

And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer. I received it as a gift years ago and liked the idea of one of my favorite authors continuing a series I also loved once Douglas Adams died. I'm sad that I didn't like the book that much though.

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014? 

"You're fucking dumb," Cade said.
That was how eighth-grade boys told each other everything was okay.

From 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2014?

Goodreads says my longest read was Mississippi Jack by L.A. Meyer, at 611 pages, but I think the print was way bigger and my longest read was actually probably Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire.

Shortest read was Fairy Tales in Electri-City by Francesca Lia Block. Poetry. 80 pages, but most of it was white space.

17. Book That Shocked You The Most (Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.) 

The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty. There's just so much going on and at the end you're just not even sure how much of it happened and if it was what the characters said it was.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)?

I'm not a huge shipper. (OTP means "One True Pairing" by the way, if you don't know.) Going with the all-too-obvious and picking Ōtani and Risa from Lovely Complex. Who cares if she's ridiculously tall and he's ridiculously short? You two need to get married.

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year?

Ooh! You know, I thought I'd be picking a friendship, but I'm gonna go with the relationship between Alton and his Uncle Lester from The Cardturner by Louis Sachar. It was so complicated and satisfying.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously?

The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty.

21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure?

Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. It was my first book club book, and I had no inkling of what it was about--would never have picked it up. Five stars.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014? 

Riley and Amelia? Because they're Riley and Amelia?

23. Best 2014 debut you read? 

Ummmmm Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? 

Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read? 

Well, gotta go with Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014? 

I cried, like a LOT reading Divinity by Michelle L. Johnson. I even talk about the crying in my review.

27. Hidden Gem Of the Year? 

I read mostly pretty mainstream stuff that wasn't "hidden." I loved The Queenschair by J.C. Fann, which needs more reads and more reviews. Really innovative, racially diverse, female-friendly fantasy.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul? 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014? 

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. The characters were so pretentious. I hated everyone and felt like I was bathing in fakeness, so it made me angry that it's so popular and beloved.


1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014? 

The Bibliophibian reviewed my book and I like the style. :)

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2014? 

I think I might like my review of Dahlia's book because I know the author online and got to snark at her for the macaron reference. Weirdly, I did that to Michelle too, with her coffee-obsessed protagonist.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog? 

Aw, jeez. While You Wait was born of discussions.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? 

Are you kidding? Pitch Wars!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014? 

It was pretty cool during Pitch Wars when people kept checking out my Pitch Wars posts and the nerdy stuff I was analyzing.

6. Er, 6 is missing in the original post. . . . 

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)? 

My Pitch Wars post, which was fed traffic by the contest I was in. The non-contest blog post that was most popular was Words In My Mouth

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love? 

Hmm . . . Diversity? Trigger Warnings?

9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? 

I would like to say my book club. :)

10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year? 

I actually didn't set any, except saying I'd like to read more, and I did.


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015? 

Probably Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)? 

I really am jazzed to read Of Goddess Born, which is the second in the Queenschair series. AND THE AUTHOR IS SENDING ME A COPY. Yeah.

3. 2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating? 

Maybe the Welcome to Night Vale novel, whatever it ends up being. I don't think it actually counts as a debut because the authors have other stuff out, but I don't think they've published a book together?

4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015? 

Passenger by Andrew Smith. Of course, I also need to read The Marbury Lens first. LOL.

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015? 

Awww um. Maybe get more people to read my blog posts and be more interesting on Twitter so they will. And maybe read more of my online acquaintances' books so I have a good answer for the next question next year.

6. A 2015 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

Nope. I have no answer for this. Because *sniffle* I didn't read anything coming out in 2015 ahead of its release date. I'm not special. ::cries buckets::

Monday, December 29, 2014

Year-End Survey for 2014

Here's my year-end survey to sum up a successful but exhausting year.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you'd never done before?
  • Sold a short story (two, actually).
  • Got paid for nonfiction writing for the first time (sold a short piece to The Toast and got my advance for my book).
  • Saw my first book come out in hardcover, audio, and eBook. Wow!
  • Went to Canada.
  • Worked with an editor to prepare a book of mine for publication.
  • Was on live international television. Twice.
  • Spoke at three major universities, including Princeton, University of Virginia, and Ryerson.
  • Got a book release party.
  • Went on a road trip with my BFF to celebrate 20 years of friendship.
  • Participated on an author panel with two other authors.
  • Met two Internet writer friends in person--Jay and Ryan!
  • Went to Free Comic Book Day with Victor.
  • Joined a book club.
  • Made a piece of writing--gasp--LONGER at the request of an editor.
  • When I visited my grandparents with my sister and Ash in May, it was my first time participating in a gathering of four generations of my family.
  • Had my first "book event" with advance reading copies of my book, involving raffling off a few copies.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes and yes. Last year I made a vague resolution to "read more and write more." I definitely read more! Last year I only finished 10 books. This year I read 40. (41 if you count the one I wrote. More than that if you count the stuff I beta-read.) And last year I only wrote one short story and completed writing no novels. I wrote about 40,000 words of my next book this year, wrote four short stories this year, and have written a ton of essays and articles and reviews and feedback for others.

I figure I will make my resolutions a little more specific for this year:

  1. I will finish writing two novels in 2015. Bad Fairy 2 will be first and my YA contemporary will be next.
  2. I will aim to sell at least two short stories in 2015.
  3. I will prioritize writing instead of putting it on the back burner behind pretty much literally everything else.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Not really, but my two high school friends Aaron and Bryan had their sons Simon and Logan. They apparently enjoy being guys with ending-in-N names enough to do it to their kids. My old college pal Scott is a new daddy to daughter Mackenzie. Several acquaintances had babies too--Jessica welcomed baby Pandora, Kari welcomed baby Porter, and Sarah welcomed baby August.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. My sister's dog Pork Chop died if that counts.

5. What countries did you visit?


6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

How about a three-book deal from a major publisher? ;)

I would also like more serious dedication to my writing, because even with everything I got done, I felt like I slacked. I need to be more proactive in scheduling my time and quit living my life like I'm putting out fires.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

  • April 4: Daddy's sixtieth birthday.
  • May 5: Began writing Bad Fairy's sequel.
  • May 19: Sold my short story "Your Terms."
  • May 24: Sold my short story "Her Mother's Child."
  • May 30: My baby sister Lindsay got married. I was a bridesmaid.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Riding the wave of getting published on top of Pitch Wars without going under. I cranked out 60,000 words of feedback to the Pitch Wars entrants and critiqued two sets of query letters, pitches, and novel material. And I completed my edits for the published book pretty much like a boss, thank you, and got it reviewed/featured in some sort of terrifyingly big publications (the New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, Library Journal, Salon, and Marie Claire come to mind). I'm really proud of having continued to churn out content for everything, too--running four blogs with up-to-date content, making new YouTube videos for both my channels once a month, reviewing a book almost every week, and keeping up to date with my weekly webcomic and my monthly webcomic without missing any updates.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Flailing a lot during the second half of 2014. I couldn't handle things that I usually can handle, like planning/executing a Halloween party or attending events I otherwise would have attended. I didn't want to plan anything for my release (so my release party was a surprise party planned by others), and I didn't write on my long fiction project during this time. Free-floating anxiety isn't a nice thing.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

If you count being sick all year with the same thing and I still don't know what it is! I might have made some progress in figuring out it's some kind of inflammation because anti-inflammatory medicine makes it go away, but after two X-rays, two ultrasounds, and a CT scan led to no diagnosis at all, I am not really sure what to do next.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My new video camera. It makes the process of uploading and preparing videos SO much nicer and simpler.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

  • Mandy, for being so amazing with her Community Café.
  • Jay, for pulling the trigger on his decision to self-publish and coming up with a truly worthwhile product.
  • Victor, for having the courage to go forward in his relationship and move in with his girlfriend.
  • Patricia and Yusuke, whose first year of parenthood has required massive upheavals that they have handled with incredible grace.
  • Whitney, who signed with an agent this year.
  • Lindsay and Mike, who pulled off a pretty excellent Star Wars wedding and have now entered the world of married life.
  • Heather, who sent her first query letters this year and is deep in the trenches looking for her perfect match agent match for a fantastic YA sci-fi.
  • My dear old college roommate John, who won another Tony this year.
13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

I won't name specific people, but . . .

  • Frigging upstairs neighbors who can't be considerate of who lives below them.
  • Disgusting, horrible racists whose attitudes have led directly to loss of life and perpetuate a system that blames victims without punishing aggressors.
  • People who limited the rights of LGBT people and caused violence against them.
  • All the people who reacted to my asexuality activism with threats of violence and condescending lectures about my obligation to try to change my orientation.
  • Selfish people whose fixation on their own worlds limited their ability to see the big picture.
  • People who claim to support freedom of speech if a speaker echoes their beliefs, but support censorship if the speaker says something they disagree with.
  • Rapists and rape apologists who think they're being reasonable and logical when they harass, bully, attack, and shame victims of assault.
14. Where did most of your money go?

Most of my money went where it always goes: rent. Besides that and my other bills, my big expenses were traveling to Toronto (though bro-in-law Yusuke let me use his frequent flyer miles for the airline ticket!), lending other people money, vacationing with Meghan twice (road trip and Disney), paying the fees on the book contests I entered, gifts for others, and, you know, books.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Full manuscript requests from several dream publishers. Receiving sensitive, gently critical reviews from clued-up people in my community. All my publishing milestones (getting an advance check, seeing the cover, receiving ARCs, opening my box of hardbacks, finding out I'm going to paperback next year, finding out I hit reprints). Manuscript requests for my critique partners. Selling short stories. Incredible compassion in queer activism. Cuddling my nephew. Celebrating 20 years of friendship with Meg. Victor deciding to date Tia.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

"All of Me" by John Legend.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?

A little sadder.

ii. thinner or fatter?

Pretty sure I'm way fatter. But I seem to say that every year and I haven't had to buy new clothes yet.

iii. richer or poorer?


18. What do you wish you'd done more of?


19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Reading inconsequential things online while procrastinating. And getting rejected by magazines.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

I went to my mom's for a super excellent breakfast-for-dinner. I brought Jeaux, and besides my mom, my sisters and their husbands were there, plus little baby Ash. We ate the food and shared fun drinks, and had a fire in the fireplace, and exchanged gifts.

21. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?

More than likely it will be at my mom's playing games and eating ice cream with my family.

22. Did you fall in love in 2014?

I fell in love with a few books.

23. How many one-night stands?

Who asks that? Furthermore, who asks ME that?

24. What was your favorite TV program?

The Legend of Korra, no contest.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Hate isn't the word I'd use. I'm afraid there are a few people I had to stop engaging to preserve my mental health, though, and their behavior was very disappointing.

26. What was the best book you read this year?

Oh God, tough call--might be a tie between Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park, Jaclyn Moriarty's The Ghosts of Ashbury High, and Dean Koontz's Odd Thomas. If I had to pick just one, I'm going with Rainbow.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Rachael Leahcar.

28. What did you want and get?

Published. Nahaha. Was pleasantly surprised to sell two short stories as well.

29. What did you want and not get?

Obviously . . . a book deal for fiction. And I didn't get to go to a writing conference. :(

30. What was your favorite film of this year?

Pacific Rim. I didn't see it when it came out, but Victor and I watched it earlier this year and it was about what I'd hoped for.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 36 while on the world's most amazing road trip with Meghan. We drove up to freaking Charleston and ate cake at an Olive Garden sometime after 10 PM.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Writing a book, selling a book, and not being sick. Also, lots of people not being dead.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Sweatpants o'clock.

34. What kept you sane?

My communities (the writing community, the asexual community) supporting me when I felt crappy and rewarding me every time I excelled.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I don't "fancy" people, but I did squee a little when Janet Varney tweeted at me and Andrew Smith followed me on Twitter. (Janet does Korra's voice. She said she might have me on her podcast sometime but it hasn't happened and maybe she forgot. Andrew writes books I like. He followed me after I made a reference to his books on my feed.)

36. What political issue stirred you the most?

I probably became the most emotional over #blacklivesmatter, but was also very invested in trans rights, asexual visibility, and the various terrible displays of bullcrap put forth by promiscuity shamers, rape apologists, and sexists.

37. Who did you miss?

A few of my pals whom I really haven't seen this year because I was busy and so were they. If I had to name names I think I'd be here all night.

38. Who was the best new person you met?

Pitch Wars pals, both mentees and other mentors.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Everyone being impressed by how prolific I am isn't the same as actually being satisfied with my output. I need to focus on what matters most to me.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:

"When I close my eyes, I am at the center of the sun, and I cannot be hurt by anything this wicked world has done."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Personal Digest Saturday: December 20 – December 26

Life news this week: 
  • The holidays are really here! In between all the hubbub and visiting and preparation I don't feel so bad that I didn't get much done, but you know me--I'm always irritated at myself for not accomplishing more, especially when I know I wasted time when I shouldn't have.
  • Baby Ash turned one year old on Saturday! My sister Patricia and her husband Yusuke had come into town the night before and they were staying with my mom. So I went over there for his birthday and got to hang out with them, and sister Lindsay came too. I baked Ash's birthday cake--a banana cake--and he really seemed to enjoy it. At one point he picked the whole thing up and tried to nom it! He also got his presents, and performed a Japanese first-birthday tradition called issho mochi where he had to crawl with a load of mochi on his back as a sort of early display of overcoming adversity (and he didn't like it much!), and he got to choose an item from a lineup of representative objects so the adults could all speculate about what it might mean for his future career. He was so cute and I just wanted to eat him up. Also, my mom made spaghetti and we had a great visit!
  • On Sunday I did laundry, made a video (which was hard because my neighbors were being SO loud that they kept ruining the video and I'd have to redo it over and over), decorated my apartment for Solstice, and got on Skype with Victor, Tia, and Faith so we could open our presents together.
  • On Monday I had to work and it was very busy. I met my family after work and just hung out at Mom's to eat leftovers. And play with the baby of course. It was a nice quiet evening.
  • On Tuesday it was again a busy day at work. I met my family again but just for a Sweet Tomatoes dinner, where Ash got to eat ice cream and pieces of pasta and salad bits. He is sort of saying his first word (we're not sure if it counts)--he picks up a phone (or other object, or just a pretend phone) and says "hello" into it. It's so adorable my head explodes. Oh, and we also did Hanukkah candles at my house--it was the last night and my sister wanted Ash to see. :)
  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day and Christmas Eve. We decided to just make pizza at my place so we wouldn't have to worry about finding an open restaurant, and that we did. We made and ate the pizza, watched the finale of Legend of Korra (!!!!!!), and also watched the musical Bye Bye Birdie. And we exchanged gifts. :) I also finished my So You Write comic and posted it.
  • Thursday was Christmas, of course, and we had a little early dinner at my mom's with everyone. I brought Jeaux, and my sister Lindsay brought her husband Mike. We had breakfast for dinner and it was pancakes, toast or bagels, fruit salad, eggs, and there was also bacon but of course I didn't have that. I brought hot cider that I had spiced myself and I also brought a Yule Log Cake that was delicious. My mom even had soy eggnog! Which was pretty good! The party was really excellent. We exchanged gifts with each other, ate all the food, and visited for many hours. Ahh, it was lovely. After the party I went home and read a book.
  • I got presents from my mom, my boss, Jay, Jeaux, Heather, Victor and Tia, Mike, my sister, and a mystery person who sent me a book but I don't know who it is because there was no note. (???)
New reviews of my book:
          • good book but lacks of scientific completeness: Francesco on Amazon gave me three stars (my first non-five-star Amazon rating, huzzah!), apparently finding it disappointing because it was written for general audiences, not scientific ones.
          • Elizabeth's review gave me five stars on Goodreads (and qualifies that she gives it 4.5 stars in the review, except there are no .5's in their rating system).

                    Places featured:
                    • Carrel Books: My publisher got a site up for my imprint and now my book is listed there.
                    • A Tumblr user posted about my book three times (one, two, three), discussing being thrilled to have received a copy and then quoting from it and stuff. I love when pople get excited about my stuff!
                      Reading progress:

                      New singing performances:

                      Here I'm singing "Thank U" by Alanis Morissette. Because I think this week deserves a gratitude song.

                      New drawings:

                      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0502: "A Little Rebellion."

                      Webcomic So You Write Issue 43: "Stop Worrying."

                      New videos:

                      Not-So-Frequently Asked Querying Questions is available now! All about less commonly discussed aspects of querying.

                      New photos:  

                      I have a ton but just here are some of the best!

                      Aunt Lindsay!
                      Ash is 1! He seems disinterested in the cake.

                      Oh wait, now he's into it.
                      He picked up the whole cake!
                      "Here Mommy, I want to share my cake."

                      Ash got a ton of toys for his first birthday!
                      He loves playing with the bubbles.
                      My sister the feet eater.
                      I was trying to teach Ash about selfies.
                      We took a group selfie.
                      Upside-down kiss lessons!
                      Banana boy.
                      First time seeing a lit menorah!
                      "Mommy, I NEED some of that ice cream!"
                      "Hooray, Daddy's giving me some of his!"
                      Learning to high five.
                      Cute slippers we got for holiday gifts! (I'm in pink.)
                      Fish face boy and the book I got him for Christmas.
                      My Yule tree!

                      Social media counts:YouTube subscribers: 4,187 for swankivy (19 new this week), 421 for JulieSondra (4 new). Twitter followers: 597 for swankivy (lost 1), 803 for JulieSondra (lost 3). Not sure why I lost Twitter followers. Perhaps they were people who added me last week and deleted me when I didn't auto-follow back. That happens. Facebook: 273 friends (no change) and 155 followers (lost 1) for swankivy, 504 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 90 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 1,769 (6 new).

                      Wednesday, December 24, 2014

                      Wednesday Factoid: Sleeping Position

                      Today's Wednesday Factoid is . . . What position do you sleep in?

                      Good question, I'm not awake to tell you so I'm not really sure. I actually change my sleeping position a lot--I don't have just one that I like. Sometimes I just crawl into bed and lie on my back and just snooze. Sometimes if I'm reading before bed I'll put the book aside and just smush into the pillow face first and fall asleep that way. Sometimes I like to sleep on my side hugging a pillow. I'm not picky. It might be partly because I used to do a polyphasic sleep schedule thing that required naps throughout the day and I learned to sleep anywhere.

                      One thing I do know about my sleeping is that I don't move very much under normal circumstances and I have what my friend called a "pixie snore." LOL.

                      Also, sometimes I like something on my head or covering my head when I'm sleeping. I'm weird. 

                      Tuesday, December 23, 2014

                      Not-So-Frequently Asked Questions: Querying

                      Here's a kind of cop-out post where I'm just sharing with you the video version of part of a blog post I made on this same blog so.

                      It's about the not-so-frequently asked questions querying authors often have, including the following:

                      • How many agents should I query at once?
                      • How long is an average response time?
                      • How do I respond if an agent wants to see part or all of my book?
                      • Oh God, why am I so nervous? Why is this the hardest letter I've ever written?
                      • What if all I'm getting are rejections?
                      • What if I sent a partial or full manuscript a while ago but then I edited it and it's better now? Should I send them my updated version?
                      • How do I handle approaching remaining agents if one offers representation?
                      • What if an agent wants me to make changes to my book and try again?
                      • If I get a rejection from an agent, should I reply?
                      • What if I get an offer from an agent I don't want to represent me?
                      • When can I list them as my agent on my blog and in my Twitter profile and stuff? I'm dying to tell everyone!
                      • What if they seem interested but they refer me to an editor I have to pay for or promise representation for a reading fee?
                      • What does it mean if the agent wants to call me?
                      • Can I talk about my agent search online?
                      • What's your one piece of advice to an author newly querying agents?
                      I'll do the other part of the original blog post--not-so-frequently asked questions about being on submission--in my video next month!

                      Enjoy. :)

                      Monday, December 22, 2014

                      Happy Solstice

                      Hey y'all!

                      Last year I did a guest post on Brenda Drake's blog about my holiday traditions. Here is a recycled version of the same post for those of you who might be curious about how folks who actually celebrate Yuletide, Winter Solstice, and other Pagan winter holidays go about their festivities!

                      THE SOLSTICE

                      Yesterday was the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere! Winter solstice on this side of the Earth means the longest night and the shortest day. It means every day from now until the summer solstice will be slightly longer than the one before it. It means the start of the waxing year.

                      But for some, winter solstice is more than an astronomical event. It’s a holiday that some practitioners of nature faiths consider spiritual or religious. For many folks of Pagan persuasions, Solstice is THE big winter holiday. And many Christmas holiday traditions have their roots in our Yuletide celebrations.

                      OUR CELEBRATIONS

                      Yule logs, decorated trees, and caroling (as well as many of the carols themselves!) come from ancient practices celebrating new life brought into a frozen world. Many polytheistic and Pagan beliefs of old feature a god who was reborn on the winter solstice, and his mother the goddess (symbolic of Earth) would celebrate his arrival. Gifts were exchanged, candles lit, bells rung, carols sung. And some modern Pagans celebrate in similar ways today.

                      Some modern Pagans celebrate with group or solitary rituals. The purpose of the rituals is to greet the newborn king—sound familiar?—and honor the cycle of nature. Most Pagan folks believe in some form of reincarnation, and that is reflected in the cyclical deity who is born in winter, is married as a king in summer, and dies/is “harvested” in the fall. Because of the mother goddess’s major role in most Pagan spirituality, this holiday honors the female deity as much as the male, and so some rituals will incorporate some sort of tribute to a general or specific goddess, such as lighting three candles to symbolize her three aspects (Maiden, Mother, Crone: white, red, and black candles). Some like to read spiritually significant poetry, make wishes for a new year, or make a toast. And some group rituals will involve bonfires, dancing, singing, drumming, and group invocations. Decorations and celebrations vary widely, but the symbols and practices tend to contain certain common threads.


                      OUR DECORATIONS

                      Many Pagan people like to have a Yule tree and/or a decorated Yule log, and happily this is one of the three holidays of the year for which mainstream stores carry decorations we can use (the others being Easter/spring equinox and Halloween/Samhain). Traditional Yule logs are decorated with ribbons and sometimes burned, though some folks prefer to put candles on it and “burn” the log symbolically.

                      Yule trees will be more or less indistinguishable from Christmas trees, but many Pagan people prefer to decorate theirs with nature-related symbols or—if they have them—specific symbols of whatever tradition they follow. Mine has a lot of tiny brooms and stars!

                      OUR CAROLS

                      Many well-known holiday carols that are appropriate for Christmas can work well for Pagans; since we also have a child of light being born on a winter’s day, traditional songs like “The First Noel,” “The Holly and the Ivy,” and “Silent Night” might have special meaning to us too. Plus quite a few carols traditionally sung at Christmas are more about traditions we share than religious beliefs we do not, such as “Deck the Halls,” “The Wassail Song,” and “The Boar’s Head.”

                      However, a few specifically Pagan solstice songs exist—great for Yuletide celebrants and for anyone who would like to make their holiday music more multi-faith inclusive:
                      1. Solstice Carole” by Wyrd Sisters
                      2. Bring Back the Light” by Gypsy
                      3. “The Holly King” by Lady Isadora
                      OUR FEAST

                      And one thing just about every holiday celebration has in common is that somewhere in there, you’re going to have a feast!

                      Homemade Wassail Recipe:

                      • 1 gallon cider (hard or non-alcoholic)
                      • 6 cinnamon sticks
                      • 2 teaspoons allspice, whole
                      • 1 teaspoon each clove and ground nutmeg
                      • Tart apples (I use about 3)

                      Put the clove and allspice in a mesh bag or tea ball. Place all ingredients in a large pot and heat until the apples burst. Serve hot with extra cinnamon sticks. (Be sure to strain before serving if cinnamon sticks have broken up during boiling.)

                      Homemade Caraway Dinner Rolls:

                      • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
                      • 1/2 cup warm water
                      • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
                      • 2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
                      • 1/4 cup sugar
                      • 1/2 teaspoon salt
                      • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
                      • 3 egg whites
                      • 2 2/3 cup white flour
                      • 2 cups whole wheat flour

                      Dissolve the yeast in warm water (indicated on the package, usually between 110º and 115ºF). Add the caraway seeds to the yeast mix after it’s dissolved and foamy. Heat the cottage cheese until lukewarm. Mix in the sugar, salt, baking soda, and egg whites, then add that mixture to the yeast mix. Add the two flours slowly, and mix with your hands once it gets thick enough until the dough is all off the sides of the bowl in one lump. Cover and let rise for about an hour. Stir it down and separate it out into 24 oiled muffin tins. Cover them and let them rise again for about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove them from the pans while they’re still warm.

                      And for dessert: YULE LOG CAKE!

                      • Generous 3/4 cup flour
                      • Scant 3/4 cup superfine sugar
                      • 4 eggs, separated
                      • 1 teaspoon almond extract
                      • 10 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, broken into squares
                      • 1 cup heavy cream
                      • 2 tablespoons rum
                      • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

                      Preheat the oven to 375º F. Line (with foil or baking parchment) a 16 x 11 jelly roll pan. Grease and flour the lining. If you don’t have a jelly roll pan use a large cookie sheet, but it won’t come out right if it’s not approximately those measurements.

                      Set aside 2 tablespoons of the allotted sugar, then whisk the remainder in with the egg yolks until thick and pale. Stir in the extract. Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Whisk the rest of the sugar into the egg whites until it is stiff. Sift 1/2 of the allotted flour over the yolk mix, then add 1/4 of the egg white mix and mix together. Put in the rest of the flour and start folding it in with your hands or a plastic spatula. Then finally put in the rest of the whites and mix it in. Spread this mix out evenly on the jelly roll pan and bake for about 15 minutes.

                      Sprinkle some sugar onto a sheet of wax paper and flip the cake over onto it. Roll it up (so that it is shorter and thicker rather than longer and skinnier) with the wax paper in it, and let it cool. In the mean time you can make the filling.

                      Boil the cream and pour over the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl to let it melt. Beat this mixture with a mixer until it’s thick. Take a third of the mix out and set it aside, then stir the rum into the larger portion. If it is really runny and too liquid, you might consider chilling it an hour or so until it’s spreadable. When ready, unroll the cooled cake and spread the chocolate rum mix onto it evenly. Re-roll it–no wax paper in between layers this time–and now you’re ready for ornamentation.

                      If you desire—though this isn’t necessary—slice off a little piece of the end at a slant and then stick it to the side like an off-growing branch. Whether or not you do this, the next step is to frost using the set-aside cream-chocolate mix. Spread it all over the top and sides so that it is completely covered except for the ends that look like the inside of a cut-down tree. Drag a fork across the surface carefully so that it ends up resembling tree bark. When it’s set, sprinkle some powdered sugar on top like snow. Put on a plate and if you like garnish it with cookies, candy coins, or seasonal decorations.


                      Saturday, December 20, 2014

                      Personal Digest Saturday: December 13 – December 19

                      Life news this week: 
                      • The Maclean's article I was interviewed in actually doesn't get posted online, apparently--it's only available to subscribers. And people who can buy it on a newsstand in Canada. But that's okay. It's just a little one-page bit about asexuality (featuring me) and some other related stuff.

                      • Frustratingly unproductive week. I wanted to do my Psychology Today post and some editing and some other stuff but I just didn't seem to be able to keep my steam flowing. I'm not sure why I'm dealing with weird free-floating anxiety.
                      • Corinne called on Saturday and we talked for several hours while I just kinda puttered around washing dishes and cleaning up the apartment (it kinda needed it). Usually I draw or something when I'm on the phone but I had nothing planned to draw. So all I did on Saturday was talking to her and planning/making a video. I guess the video was kind of productive. It's also really funny.
                      • Sunday I had my mom over for a short time--she brought me macaroni!--and she gave me a nice neck/shoulder rub because I have weird tenseness. She's nice. :) Victor was supposed to drop by to get the holiday presents he'd ordered to my house for his girlfriend but he didn't do it because "it got forgotten" when he was in town. (Hahahaha. After he told me it "got forgotten," he then followed up with "by me." So we had to figure out another time for him to come.)
                      • Finally managed to get all my holiday cards out, woohooooo!
                      • We hired one of my friends at my office! Yasmin is going to be a traffic counter for us.
                      • I got my annual performance review at work. Apparently I'm completely perfect and should continue to be perfect. That's how I interpreted it, anyway.
                      • Victor, Tia, and Faith came over on Tuesday--the first night of Hanukkah--and I made latkes. That was fun. We also played Cranium, which is a team game, so I was on a team with Tia and he was on a team with Faith. My team won! Barely. I was sad that we didn't open presents. He just took my presents with him and didn't want me to open mine. I guess they like waiting for Christmas, but I'm going to bother them into letting me open mine on the winter solstice.
                      • Jeaux Day involved food at Moe's (yay mini tofu burrito) and we saw the second-to-last episode of Korra and listened to Night Vale. I drew some pictures for my So You Write comic.
                      • Thursday was the office party! And I never want to eat again! We went to GrillSmith and my boss in typical fashion ordered lots of appetizers so I stuffed myself with guacamole/chips and margherita flatbread and a couple breadsticks, and then my food came and I had THE BEST SALAD (arrrgh it was so tasty, I want to recreate it for my family, it was a Napa Valley salad, which contained mixed field greens, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, Roma tomatoes, Gorgonzola cheese crumbles, and a raspberry balsamic vinaigrette dressing, mmmmmm), plus a side of their smashed cauliflower. And then we had to go to my boss's for dessert! Where I had coffee, apple pie, and ice cream! *gurgle*
                      • The presents I sent to friends arrived a bunch this week. I didn't get anything new except for the Victor presents I can't look at yet and also a gift certificate from my day job. People can get me stuff from my Amazon list if they want! (The link didn't work last week because I'm kinda goofy, but it's fixed. The sidebar has different categories of stuff and you can pick.)
                      New reviews of my book:
                              • Alison of An Un-Calibrated Centrifuge posted a review of my book compared with two others on asexuality (the self-published book Asexuality: A Brief Introduction and the textbook Understanding Asexuality). Alison said mine was the best. :)

                                        Places featured:
                                        • Teen Librarian Toolbox is posting their recommended 12 Blogs of 2014, and the site DiversifYA was recommended, with my contributed interview/post on asexuality being highlighted as one of the great posts of the year.
                                        • "No sex please—it's boring": That's the Maclean's article I was interviewed in.
                                          Reading progress:
                                          • Completed reading: Nothing this week, because I'm a loser. 
                                          • Currently reading: Who Could That Be at This Hour? by Lemony Snicket.

                                          New singing performances:

                                          Here I'm singing "Shame On You" by the Indigo Girls. I again did this because of leftover raspiness. And because apparently I am really into gay songs right now.

                                          New drawings:

                                          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0501: "The Real Story."

                                          New videos:

                                          Letters to an Asexual #23: Very silly video about how one time a guy said he thought I wasn't really asexual because in my videos I made a "sexual face" one time. See me debunk that.

                                          New photos:  

                                          First, the old monthly haircut comparison photos:

                                          Back: February 2014
                                          Back: December 2014
                                          Front: February 2014
                                          Front: December 2014

                                          And now some fun photos.

                                          I wore this dress at work.
                                          My boss said I looked like a bee.
                                          Ginger cookies are incredibly tasty.

                                          Latkes selfie!

                                          Victor always makes a weird face for photos.

                                          Menorah! First night of Hanukkah.

                                          Got cute for the holiday party.

                                          An Office Cheesecake appears.

                                          I made it disappear.

                                          Social media counts:YouTube subscribers: 4,168 for swankivy (18 new this week), 417 for JulieSondra (6 new). Twitter followers: 598 for swankivy (4 new), 806 for JulieSondra (1 new). Facebook: 273 friends (1 new--friended Carey) and 156 followers (2 new) for swankivy, 503 likes for JulieSondra (lost one--someone unliked me?), 54 likes for Negative One (3 new), 89 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 1,763 (14 new).