Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Published short story: "Her Mother's Child"

Woo-hoo! More than a year after I got an offer on my story, it's in print. ;)

My short story "Her Mother's Child" is a coming-of-age story in a gently magical secondary-world setting, featuring goddess spirituality, queer perspectives, and a protagonist with an unusual disability.

You can read it in the Summer 2015 issue of Kaleidotrope!

As of the time I'm writing this it only has one comment on the actual publisher's page, so it looks a little lonely; if you read it and like it, consider saying what you thought. :) So far I mostly just have congratulations on Facebook and people on Tumblr reblogging with tags like "#this is so good." Haha.

In celebration of the release I also did some cool concept art and figured I'd post that here too. It's one possible way the protagonist's daughter might have looked, though you can imagine her however you want. :)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Personal Digest Saturday: June 20 – June 26

Life news this week: 
  • So! Saturday and Sunday I spent at the asexuality conference! I wrote a more detailed Conference Wrap-Up elsewhere on the blog if you want a bunch of details, and I actually just posted a video sum-up too. Highlights included making a presentation about handling asexuality detractors and hanging out with new and old pals, and getting to sign copies of my book for people. :D
  • An interview with me was published in A Plus. I gave them the quotes last week.
  • Tuesday was my first day back to work. My company's president was there and we had this huge interview with a potential client. I had a lot of clean-up to do but I did it all and was really satisfied with how fast I caught up. Also, it turned out we won what we interviewed for, so all that effort last week was not wasted! YESSSS!
  • Sadly, though, in not-winning news, the results of the last pending book award I was waiting for are out, and I found out I did not get a medal or honorable mention in the Foreword Reviews INDIEFAB Book of the Year competition. So I just get to be listed as a finalist for that.
  • Mommy came over briefly and gave me Chinese food on Tuesday and tried to get me to fix her tablet but it didn't happen because it is a Windows 8 tablet and I don't think I can teach her to use it. I ordered her another one. :)
  • Jeaux Day involved food at Chili's and hanging out at his house watching AGT which continues to be kind of disappointing. We also spent much of the night talking about cartoons. It's nice and kind of a relief to be around somebody who is almost as obsessive as I am. Heeeheeeeeeeeeee.
  • On Friday my office ordered pizza and also same-sex marriage was basically legalized and wow and I made a video about the conference and picked my free copy winners for my book. :)
New reviews of my book:

Places featured:
 Reading progress:

New singing performances:

Here I'm singing "That's How You Know" from Enchanted. A guy on SingSnap asked me to do the female part of this duet, so the embedded video below is just my part. If you want to hear how he completed the duet with me, his video is here, but it's just sound.

New drawings:

Webcomic Negative One Issue 0528: "Reading Time."

Webcomic So You Write Issue 49: "Research."

New videos:

Asexuality Conference 2015: winners, updates, news, and more!
New photos:  

Me behind the Asexual Outreach banner, doing my table.
My workshop at the Toronto conference, where I discussed how to handle detractors.
Me with my group of pals at the Office Pub after the first day of the ace conference.
I got some coffee from Tim Horton's, which is apparently a must while in Canada.
Signing books and tabling at the asexuality conference. I signed a bunch of books and held a drawing to win a copy.
At the asexuality conference, some of us took a group photo! There were lots of people who didn't want to be in the photo or weren't there, though.
Sebastian and me at the Insomnia restaurant. They picked a very cool place to eat!

Social media counts: YouTube subscribers: 4,729 for swankivy (22 new this week), 483 for JulieSondra (5 new). Twitter followers: 659 for swankivy (1 new), 959 for JulieSondra (5 new). Facebook: 279 friends (1 new--actually two because I friended Katah and Sara, but someone must've defriended me) and 169 followers (no change) for swankivy, 579 likes for JulieSondra (9 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 107 likes for So You Write (2 new). Tumblr followers: 2053 (33 new).

Friday, June 26, 2015


Just want to add to the noise that is our celebration: The law in the United States now states that same-sex couples share the constitutional right to marry and that states cannot refuse to issue them marriage licenses.

This is incredible. And once the dominoes started falling, in retrospect it seems like it happened really fast.

It didn't.

I know that this was an out-of-reach impossible goal for centuries. I know some people died without getting to marry their partners. I know the associated laws pertaining to custody and inheritance and hospital visits have ruined families and relationships for as long as there's been marriage. It seems a lot faster for those of us who didn't have to feel every second. For them, it was not soon enough. We can never undo that. But now, with this ruling, the future is a different color for many, many people.

I don't want to be married, but I'm happy to know that if things changed and I met a another woman I wanted to marry, it would be allowed. I am so happy for all my friends who can now pursue this. I am excited for what this means for the future in marriage equality. I am looking forward to when the phrase "gay marriage" sounds weird to everyone because marriage is marriage and not everyone who married a partner of their same sex is "gay," nor is their marriage "gay." And as gross as this sounds, I'm glad we can start moving into the period of our national history where people who opposed marriage equality will be billed as the oppressors they were--the opposition that had to be overcome by the good guys, if you know what I mean. The people who are going to be the villains in movies about this in the future.

Unfortunately, now there's this . . . when we talk about racism, some people still say "what are black people complaining about? slavery is over, they have equality." When we talk about sexism, some people still say "what are women complaining about? they got the right to vote, they have equality." And now when we talk about queer issues, we're going to--and already have started to--hear "what are gay people complaining about? they got their marriage, they have equality."

There is still far more work to be done. We still have a need for a movement even if one of our biggest issues fell our way. We must focus on other kinds of equality and just plain changing the attitudes behind the institutional prejudices and oppressions some of us face. The switch doesn't flip just because a law took effect. It's more like a rising tide; the levels rise until people start to notice, and people who would have laughed before start to realize we're serious when that water is flowing in places they imagined would stay dry forever. You don't just declare something wet and wait for the tide to catch up. It's the tide that makes it that way.

Voices and opinions and refusal to accept the status quo are what made it that way.

I'm thrilled. I'm ecstatic. I'm cautiously optimistic. We just won a big game, y'all, though I don't even know if there is a way to win a whole tournament.

But let's keep playing.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pleasant Distractions [GIF]

I'm usually a really, really productive person but the past few months have just been terrible for me.

The last status report I posted featuring a new Bad Fairy chapter was at the beginning of April. I have not been actively writing anything fictional since then, though I've revamped some short stories and finished the edits on my nonfiction book and done a bunch of other creative things like running two webcomics, producing a new video for each of my two channels at least once a month (plus a couple silly music videos that were extra), and blogging a lot. Oh, and reading a book a week, most of the time. But it's pretty weird for me to not be working on my book when it is in progress.

I'm distracted. About half of it is continued engagement and upkeep for my nonfiction career--the New York trip, the Canada trip, the media interviews, the interaction with the asexual community surrounding the topic of my book--but about half of it is absolutely unrelated to that and has involved me voluntarily throwing myself headfirst into a storm of cartoon obsession. I do that sometimes. The last time was about eight years ago with Eyeshield 21, and that ran its course when I ran out of material. This time it's the Steven Universe cartoon, and I fill a lot of my free time these days with checking out fan content like blog posts and reaction videos and creative music videos made with footage from the show and discussion online. It's a TON of fun and I'm really really enjoying it, but whenever I'm away from making new content for a long time, I get sort of--what's a good word for it? Homesick for it? Heartsick? Not sure.

I'm wondering, though, what the motivation behind it is. Am I "being distracted by" this cartoon because it's so great and it's stealing most of my waking thoughts for collection in an insidious black hole from which there is no escape? Or was I just looking for something to help me avoid engagement with my own material? And if it's the latter, is it because I am doing something damaging--avoiding it, procrastinating, sabotaging myself--or is it because I am doing something I needed to do? Something that allows me to take a break or infuse myself with a really invigorating dose of what fiction is supposed to be so I can remember why I do it?

This animated show is deceptively cute for something so awash in feels (as Internet dorks like me refer to it). It is so incredible how it tricks you into becoming emotionally invested and then you can't escape. I'm wondering if I'm enjoying it so much partly because I'm learning from it--learning more about character development and analyzing with my writer brain how exactly the storytelling style resulted in such a successful reception . . . and not just for me, but for so many people. I guess it's pretty typical for me to try to make something "productive" out of enjoying a cartoon, but if I don't, the amount of time I've spent "distracting" myself with it is pretty unforgivable, so maybe it's best that I think of it that way.

That said, maybe I really shouldn't be trying to justify it, even if it's just to myself. Most people have hobbies that don't "do" anything except make them happy, and most people spend a really significant amount of time on those hobbies. Much of the time, said hobbies are television shows or maybe following athletic events or musical events. They enjoy those things with others sometimes, or just by themselves, and feel more relaxed or stimulated or engaged or emotional or uplifted or educated or excited by connecting themselves to these stories others wrote or experiences others are having. Unlike most other people who just consume and enjoy a thing, I tend to get really into mine, and have to drag a few other people into my enjoyment/misery while probably making other people who are close to me roll their eyes if they don't understand or don't want to participate. (They're probably used to it by now if they've known me a long time, but still.)

Success. Thanks, Jeaux!

I kinda hate when this happens because I know how important it is that I keep writing my stuff, but I also kinda love when it happens because it's so special when you find something you really connect with in fiction, and this show in particular is such a great thing to have that with because there are so many objectively positive things about it. I remember when I was in high school and was super obsessive about Animaniacs and my mom would say stuff like "At least those songs are teaching you about state capitals and US presidents." Yeah, at least. Sure, it's a fringe benefit. That wasn't why I was watching it--again, CHARACTERS--but the thing was definitely educational. Same with SU--not educational in such an explicit sense, but there are a lot of life lessons and demonstrations of unusual family structures and non-heteronormative messages and advice about love and complicated interpersonal relationships being modeled and discussed in ways I've never ever seen before. If someone wanted to know why it was so important, I would invoke those elements (and have done so). But none of those things describe why it's important to me.

The characters are goofy and cartoony and are in impossible situations but they are important to me and I'm invested because I care about the people. I want my fiction-writing skills to benefit from this; I want other people to care about my characters the way I care about these ones. I've seen it happen here and there with test readers who have talked at length about stuff under the surface in my work, and that's what I'd love to see happen on a large scale if my writing gets out there the way I want it to. Despite cartoon obsessions being a distraction, I think I can translate my (sometimes excessive) involvement with fiction into better storytelling skills and character development, and come out on the other side better for it.

But to be perfectly honest . . . I think it's time I backed away a little and got some work done over here. ;)

The show is currently on a hiatus after hitting us with five new episodes last week. It is coming back on July 13 with another five new episodes. Maybe I can motivate myself to finish my novel before that happens?

Hmmmm. I think that might be a really good idea. What say you, blog readers? ;) 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday Factoid: Ending Friendships

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: How did one of your friendships end?

I have a lot to say about this but out of respect for the person I'm talking about and in the interest of not boring you people, I will mostly give you just the facts.

I was really good friends with Mia in high school, and we were roomies in college for some of our university years. We were into the same stuff, had a bunch of silly in-jokes, cried over the same things, shared a teen girl notebook where we wrote and drew goofy things for and about each other, dated the same guy at the same time for a while (ew), and had a lot of people assuming we were lesbians. (We weren't, but we didn't care.) And sometimes we pretended to be Sailor Venus and Sailor Mars. Like you do.

And I guess our friendship ended because when she got a boyfriend she wanted to spend all her time with him and grew in a different direction than I did--I'm thinking, looking back, that maybe our previous interests were embarrassing to her or weren't able to coexist with who she wanted to be as an adult, and there I was still celebrating those things. But I don't really want to speak for her as to what she wanted and needed; it just became clear to me that I wasn't a priority in her life anymore since she stopped initiating contact and responded to my invitations by saying she was busy or seeming reluctant, so I stopped trying.

Then maybe six years after we'd last talked, she sent me a message through e-mail containing some of our old jokes and pet names, and in the same letter asked for a favor. I was pretty blown out of the water that she hadn't talked to me for so long and then the next time I heard from her it was because she wanted me to do something for her--coupled with the almost insulting references to a friendship that hadn't been important enough to inspire contact for more than half a decade, like that would make it all okay--so I guess that was when I decided she really wasn't my friend anymore. I still think fondly of the time we spent together, but I don't like maintaining relationships that make me feel like the other person is only speaking to me or spending time with me because I'm literally providing a service for them. I haven't spoken to her since then, which I believe happened in 2006.

Sometimes I still miss us, though.

As an aside, I'd like to say that some people have reacted with confusion or even anger when I've talked about going through a period of grief when I lost this friendship, because they are weirded out by the idea that it was important to me if it wasn't romantic. They generally do one of two things: 1. Insist that if I was broken up about it, it WAS a romantic relationship and I'm not admitting I'm a lesbian; or 2. Insist that it's inappropriate for me to care about someone the way I did if we were NOT in a romantic relationship. So either I'm allowed to have those feelings and I'm lying about it being romantic, or I'm telling the truth about it not being romantic so I'm not allowed to have those feelings.

Friendships are really important, people. We insist on putting "just" in front of "friends" all the time, and describing non-romantic relationships as "there's nothing between us," but we really need to ditch those narratives. Especially for aromantic people like me whose friendships and non-traditional intimacies are the only close relationships we have outside of family, we need to stop snottily dismissing the importance of friendship. Sometimes we move on from them, and I guess in our case we just moved in different directions and I got offended when she tried to ask me a favor after such a long time after we'd gone down different paths, but that doesn't mean I don't consider our friendship an important part of who I became. She was a really good friend for a long time and she was there for me during some formative years and she understood who I was to some extent. 

I still wish her the best, even though I don't know where or how or who she is anymore.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Asexuality Conference Wrap-Up [GIF]

Ugh, I was gonna post about this yesterday after I got home but I was just too tired. :)

So! I am back from Canada! I participated in a two-day conference on asexuality at the University of Toronto, organized by Asexual Outreach. I hosted one workshop--Handling Detractors--and I collected names for a drawing to win a copy of the hardcover or audio version of my book.

The highlight, as always, was getting to meet so many great people. I had some wonderful conversations with Brian, Sebastian, Ryan, Z, Sara, and a ton of other people who came to talk to me or hung out with me during workshops or at social events.

I flew in on Friday. Everything went really well actually. I was a little confused about who was going to help me get to the dorm room where I was staying, because it didn't really get established until the morning of my flight (when Brian called me to arrange it real quick), and then it changed after I thought it was settled. But it worked out fine, and actually I got confused because it was too easy. I had to take a bus and then a subway to get to the place where I was going to meet my people, and the subway confused me because there weren't multiple trains to pick from like in New York, so I worried that I was getting on the wrong one (when you literally can't because THERE'S ONLY ONE).

There was a new episode of Steven Universe that I had missed because I was on a plane. And I feel no shame at all admitting that I watched it on my phone on the freakin' bus. ^___^

Anyway, then I met up with Brian and Sara who walked me to the dorm. I checked in, got my weird key, and went over to the dorm with Sara who was staying across the hall in the same accommodations. She ended up being a bit of a lifesaver for me because even though she wasn't from the area either she let me tag along with her sometimes to go between social events and the conference space, and sometimes we shared a cab when we didn't want to walk places.

The dorm was comfortable and stopped smelling like feet when I turned off the A/C.

I had a Subway sandwich that night (which I found without getting lost, wow). After rearranging my stuff and chilling on the Internet, I went to bed. Then on Saturday morning I got up and got ready for the conference. I was supposed to meet someone to help me get to the conference space but it was one of the things that slipped through the planning cracks so I had to wait a little while until Sebastian was around. We actually ended up driving there because they were bringing in some supplies. And then after I got checked in, it was really chill for a while--just hanging around munching donuts, looking at the tables for ace zines and swag, and talking to each other. More and more people were coming in and some were going into the auditorium to find seats for the opening ceremonies while others were chatting in the main room.

The opening ceremony laid down some rules about the conference and gave some info, and then we hung out some more. (I think you can watch the opening messages here.) I set up my book table and let people come check the book out or enter a drawing. I even got some people coming up to me and asking me to sign their book--they'd brought their copies!--or telling me they were excited to meet me because my videos or other online materials helped them. That was really great.

There I am! Photo by Ace Space.
Next was the first workshop session of the day, and I got scheduled to lead one. Mine was called "Handling Detractors," and since I really hadn't wanted to make a huge deal out of it, I did pretty much no planning. My format was to collect index cards from the audience on which they'd write a statement or question that has been said to them regarding their ace-spectrum or aro-spectrum identity and then I just pulled the cards out of an envelope and talked about them. I said a lot of things but I also got the audience very engaged saying things too, sharing what they said to those statements or adding perspectives. I enjoyed it and it seemed like everyone else did too--it was very well attended. Nobody suggested any comments I'd never heard before--I've kind of heard them all--but there were some really nice perspectives offered on how these comments affect other aces. I tried where I could to throw in actual advice on how to handle the detractors, like the title of the workshop implied I would, but it seemed like mostly we were just all throwing out shared experiences and agreeing that our treatment and reception in society is kinda absurd. I think it was nice for some of these folks to see that others have dealt with the same things they have.

Photo by redbeardace! Note the ace hair bow. And asexual colors on my button-down.
And I am indeed wearing my Crystal Gems shirt again. Heee.

I was glad mine was first because my energy was really low that day and it was good to have it over with. We had lunch. Then we had another workshop; I went to one on explaining asexuality to non-aces. It was really cold in that room! Boo! And my phone was being a butt because I apparently used all my data because you shouldn't watch cartoons on your phone when your Wi-Fi isn't connected the whole time. I got it fixed though.

I'm a mess sometimes.

We had a cake break and another session. I wanted to go to the Older Aces panel but it seemed like that just kind of didn't happen; it was originally scheduled to happen on Sunday, but the person running it wasn't going to be there, so it was moved to a room that was initially supposed to be a "networking session" and still no one showed up so we just kind of sat around arranging stuff and talking and connecting with others in the room. I chatted with Sebastian and later Brian came to pull his hair out and arrange for the closing of the first day.

That all went fine and we made arrangements to all meet at a certain restaurant (for those who wanted to). Ryan and Sara and I took a cab back to Wilson (where I was staying) and I took a nap, which was nice. Then we took a cab to the restaurant and had an awesome time. I got spaghetti with meatless balls, but the balls were too spicy because I'm a wimp.

Sara and me at the pub
Our pub table--Bauer, Katah, Christi, me, Sara. The population shifted a bit here and there.
We had some really fun conversations about glitterbombing, special things about drinking in various places in Canada, weather conditions in various places, and the drinking habits of asexual people.

And Bauer totally learned to make GIFs so she could post one of her dancing with David Jay.
I had a front-row seat to this and it was lovely.
Sara and I took a cab back to the residence and not too much later we were out on the lawn because the damn fire alarm was going off. We had to stand outside and watch the fire trucks. Happily it seems the building was NOT on fire. But scrambling down the stairs in our pajamas wasn't so great. We sat around talking about cartoons for a while before we were allowed to go back up. Woohoo.


The next day, Sunday, we all wandered over to the conference and this time Katah came to get me and lead me to the space. I attended the morning stuff and set up my book table again.

More people entered the drawing too.
And I got my coffee.
I went to one of the planned conference sessions after that--ace-inclusive LGBT spaces--and sat next to Ryan. We both doodled anime things and exchanged webcomic addresses, haha. Later we had lunch and I got to have a nice conversation with him about his ace journey (and some of the bad things), and he told me my book had helped him so much. By the time lunch was over we decided he was adopting me as his ace big sister. Awwww.

Then the rest of the conference was in Unconference format. During the opening ceremonies we just had people suggest topics they wanted to lead and then we gave them rooms and people could go to whatever they wanted. I went to one on asexuality in social media, and then I went to one on asexuality and feminism. Both were lovely (though the social media one was just three people, hee). The guy who runs Asexuality Archive was there and I got a copy of his book. (He tends not to use his real name online so I won't say it just in case.) He took some cool pictures with his fancy camera.

After the conference I did an interview with Bauer which I guess will be on Aces Wild later after all the processing happens, and then I went to dinner with more friends. We ended up at a cool place called Insomnia where they had Adventure Time art on the walls. It would have been funny if I'd worn my Princess Bubblegum shirt that day, because I had it with me (and wore it on the way home). I was wearing an asexuality-related shirt though. :) I had some fantastic french fries and got to have a great conversation with Z and Sebastian about various ace things, and Ryan joined in later, and I got some cool conversations about my book again. It's still kind of a surprise when people tell me they've read it and how it's helped them. I was also occasionally hearing from people that they were intimidated by the idea of trying to talk to me because they knew me from all the work I've done and that's just so weird because I thought I was really approachable. Oh, and some of the people I talked to told me who they were online and I recognized some of them from Tumblr or ace spaces online.

And that night the fire alarm thing happened again. Hahaha. Well, not really so haha.

Sara and I shared a cab to the airport too. And that was it--my flight was fine and I managed to use my travel there and back to read all of Rubyfruit Jungle which I'd been meaning to read for a while. 

Now that all my globetrotting is over I can go back to my life and maybe write a book or something. I have more processing to do, like I want to make a video about the conference and I want to choose my winners. But that will have to wait until I have the energy to do it. My brain is a bit bald right now. I'll get over it.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Personal Digest Saturday: June 13 – June 19

[GIF warning]

Life news this week: 
  • Well, there were two big things going on this week. One was preparing to go to Canada, which didn't require too much prep but still required me to think about stuff. And then the other was that five-day explosion of new episodes from Steven Universe, which in case you didn't know (ha) is my favorite still-coming-out show right now. So I had to go to Jeaux's house every damn day this week and watch them with him. Yes, had to.

    I can't remember the last time I got this wrecked by a TV show to tell you the truth. It's incredible that they can do this much with a show aimed at kids. Some surprisingly mature stuff is being covered--and I don't mean bad language or nudity or whatever, I just mean nuanced and complicated themes that I can't talk about anymore here or this bullet will get too long and you will be sorry I mentioned it.

  • Also I couldn't resist making this GIF from one of the new episodes because why is Garnet so weird. Okay just put a little boy on your head and walk away. (There was no context for this whatsoever in the episode.)

  • Saturday was Drink and Draw! I drew a So You Write comic for next month and got some of Negative One drawn while talking to other weirdos. Eric and I got food together before the event.
  • Sunday I mostly spent making a video about how to publish short stories. In related news, the story I had accepted last year is probably going to run soon because the editor contacted me to update my bio.
  • Monday through Thursday were all very similar to each other. I had a TON of work to do at the office to help them prepare for their upcoming presentation, so I kept having to stay kinda late, and then I'd go to Jeaux's and watch cartoons and then talk about the cartoons and also we watched some America's Got Talent and listened to the two new Night Vale episodes. (I called what was going to happen in the second one at the end of the first one. Seriously.) Jeaux and I got pizza one night and picked up Burger 21 another night. Yum.
  • And of course Friday I flew to Toronto! Everything was good. I had no issues at all with the travel, which is always nice--especially since I am really bad at directions. I managed to get from the Toronto airport to a bus to a subway to meeting some people who showed me how to get to the dorm where I was staying. And then I ventured out for food and didn't get lost coming back. Though I did go out the wrong doors and got scared I locked myself out when it turned out these were only "out" doors and I had to use a different set to get back in. I always figure out some way to be weird. People kept complimenting my hair and my shirt today while I was traveling. (I was wearing a Night Vale shirt and had purple and blue streaks in my hair.) Friendly Canadians!
  • I got interviewed by a new web magazine called A Plus, mostly about asexuality activism and stuff. I haven't seen the article yet.
  • Instead of doing productive things, one night I spent a bunch of time setting up another directory page on my Tumblr, which points people to a categorized list of all the fannish things I've posted. I called it Cartoons, Comics, Fan Stuff.
  • My book is apparently selling ridiculously well right now because my publisher did a promotion on the Kindle edition through Book Bub. It's a short-lived deal for my book until the 22nd, but it's only $1.99 in eBook if you want it!
  • My video Shit People Say to Asexuals just became my first video to have over 100,000 views over the weekend. Apparently this is something one gets notified about by the YouTube system. Who knew.
New reviews of my book:

Places featured:
  • Seeker Daily posted a video that featured a quote from my book while discussing asexuality. It's a nice little peek of a video.
  • Ace Reads recommended my book to a person looking for asexuality books and called it "phenomenal."
 Reading progress:

New singing performances:

Here I'm singing "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley. My friend Robin suggested it.

New drawings:

Webcomic Negative One Issue 0527: "Making It Fun."

New videos:

How to Publish Short Stories has an introduction to the submissions tracking utility The Grinder and some submission ideas. 


New photos:  

I laughed at something so juvenile that I couldn't tell people what it was.
But I laughed until I cried.
June Drink and Draw!
Some weird clouds I saw.
The face I make when someone tells me "It's just a cartoon"
Made it to the dorm in Toronto!
And the haircut comparison photos for June:

February 2014
June 2015
February 2014
June 2015

Social media counts: YouTube subscribers: 4,707 for swankivy (18 new this week), 478 for JulieSondra (1 new). Twitter followers: 658 for swankivy (2 new), 954 for JulieSondra (lost 3--oh, spammers who follow you and then unfollow if you don't follow back!). Facebook: 278 friends (no change) and 169 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 570 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 105 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2020 (15 new).

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wednesday Factoid: Strange Talents

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What is a strange talent that you have?

I guess I have a number of weird abilities, among them memorizing cartoon songs and analyzing fiction and finding minor glitches in people's writing that most people wouldn't notice (such as pointing out that they used "toward" on page 39 and "towards" on page 196). But those are pretty mundane, so I'll bring one up that seems to impress people in a slightly different way.

I can flip a quarter in the air and catch it between two fingers like one of those "catch a fly with chopsticks" guys.

Now pick your jaw up off the floor. I'll wait. 

My talents for singing songs from twenty-year-old cartoons and editing the hell out of  manuscripts are probably actually a little more impressive. But at least this was sort of weird.

You're welcome.

Monday, June 15, 2015

How to Submit Short Stories

In a string of weird coincidences, I talked to three unrelated people last week who all wanted to know how short story submissions work. Since I like to try to make one new writing-related video a month and I didn't have a subject picked out for this month's, I decided to cover that this time.

And ended up making an intensive tutorial on how to use The Grinder.

So the good news is that I know how to screencast now and I made a helpful video.

The bad news is it kind of ate my entire Sunday. But whatever.

The (Submission) Grinder is a very cool utility that helps authors figure out where to send their stories. It lists markets, tracks stats, and organizes your submissions for you. I really like it and I've been using it for a while. Here's my video with short story submission tips and an illustrated guide to using this great submission-tracking utility.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Personal Digest Saturday: June 6 – June 12

Life news this week: 
  • Compared to last week, of course, it was a pretty calm week. I needed it! Highlights included digging into a book by one of my friends so I could edit it for him and making another music video (again set to Steven Universe footage because well you see my brain doesn't work anymore).
  • I had to go grocery shopping twice because I was out of a lot of food. I went on Sunday and on Monday. Riveting, I know.
  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day and we ate at Five Guys. It was a nasty rainy day and my rain suit still didn't keep me dry all the way so it was gross. We watched America's Got Talent and I'm irritated by how formulaic everything is. But I guess Jeaux wants to keep watching it.
  • Next week I'm going to Canada and I really should have been doing productive things but I just seem to be out of it. I've mostly been doing the bare minimum of sorta-creative things I do, like drawing comics and writing book reviews and making videos, but I'm ignoring my e-mail, and catching up on Adventure Time or looking up fun fan content for Steven Universe, which is really fun but at the same time there's nothing new to eat up right now so maybe I should finish my book or something instead of sitting around stagnating and being a goofball?

                Places featured:
                • Over the Rainbow Books: I'm apparently nominated for May as a book that they want to include on some "final list," but I am not familiar with what it means. It can't be bad, though!
                • A Tumblr user called iridescentoracle kept posting enthusiastically about loving my book and I found it really flattering, haha. Post 1 declares love for the book, Post 2 reiterates the love and calls my book "the single best/most clear/comprehensive source I have found on asexuality," and Post 3 declares an intention to buy it because I guess it is being read as a library check-out.
                • Ace Pride Triangle: This is a little older, not posted this week, but I just saw it this week. Someone made a graphic featuring asexual characters and "famous asexual people" and put me on there which I thought was cute.

                  Reading progress:

                  New singing performances:

                  Here I'm singing "Take On Me" by A-ha.

                  New drawings:

                  Webcomic Negative One Issue 0526: "Up Close."

                  New videos:

                  My music video for Amethyst's Mess

                  New photos:  

                  After the influx of pictures in the last couple weeks, I think I'm pictured out.

                  Social media counts: YouTube subscribers: 4,689 for swankivy (17 new this week), 477 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 656 for swankivy (1 new), 957 for JulieSondra (7 new). Facebook: 278 friends (no change) and 168 followers (2 new) for swankivy, 569 likes for JulieSondra (2 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 105 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2005 (lost 2).

                  Thursday, June 11, 2015

                  Compelling Characters

                  Sometimes when a book (or other form of media) completely rocks my world, I think about what core elements inspired that reaction from me and what I can learn from it that I can apply in my own writing. On rare occasions I'll admire a creator's skills in setting and worldbuilding and artistic medium choices (word artistry in books, art style in visual media), but first and foremost, a work that grabs me is almost always about the characters.

                  So I just put together a short list of five things I enjoy seeing in characters--things that make me stay for their stories and hang onto their words.

                  1. They have a past. 

                  Good characters, for me, never feel like they started living when the author began typing page one. They have a past, and the fact that they have a past is clear from how they act and interact (even if we, the consumers of the media, do not know what that past is). They have grown from birth to their current position in life affecting and being affected by their reality, and you can see evidence of that. And it must not be one-dimensional, like a disaster defining the entirety of who a person is as a trauma victim or a person who thinks of nothing but revenge. Their past must be complicated and formative, and must be woven into who the character is.

                  2. They have a future. 

                  Everybody I want to hear stories about wants something. They're going somewhere. If they aren't sure where they're going, they have something to say about that, too. Good characters are being framed in the context of their media at what is theoretically the most interesting part of their life--when they're going from now to later, for better or for worse, and they are showing us how they're moving forward. Good characters imagine their futures and have opinions or aspirations about getting there.

                  3. They have relationships. 

                  Stories are rarely about one person who doesn't interact with others (and has never done so). Good characters should have history and current feelings regarding other characters and those relationships should be complicated. That is not to say they have to be messy or negative; it's just that organic relationships in real life are an amalgam of many factors, and fictional relationships should be similar. Authors should know (though not necessarily reveal) how every important character met every other important character, what they like and dislike about each other, what important things they have done together, and what they want from each other. And the real skill comes in (hand in hand with item 1 above) when authors make us feel what those relationships are in the spaces between the words without spelling them out necessarily (though sometimes explicit explaining happens). 

                  4. They have quirks, attitudes, opinions, thoughts, and actions. 

                  In real life, people have inside jokes; they have gestures; they have favorite foods; they have hobbies; they have political affiliations (sometimes); they have religions (sometimes); they think and do certain things in their lives that reflect what's going on in their heads. A good character always has a mental life as well as a set of actions and words we can observe. And even if we are not partial to that mental life, evidence of it must exist. That is not to say people have to fall into traditional boxes or that all opinions have to be consistent with other opinions (cheese knows we all know inconsistent people in real life!), but people have to internally make sense and externally reflect that they are alive. They might have speech patterns that differentiate them from other characters, or fashion preferences, or always wear a certain item of jewelry, or have a talent or a challenge or an allergy. These parts of good characters flow naturally from who they are as people; they're never just collections of attributes stuck together on a stick figure. Good characters have these quirks, etc., and they make sense with what we learn about them in the story.

                  5. They change.

                  Hand in hand with number 2 above, as good characters go toward their futures, they are changed by what happens to them, change themselves, or try to change themselves. Even very settled, established characters who exude stability by not changing very much in a story still need to demonstrate that they can learn, or might be changed in small ways by helping others change more radically. Completely static characters aren't just boring; they aren't realistic as people. We love seeing people change, even if it's not for the better and can't be called inspirational. We tune in for other people's stories because we want to watch them move from one place in their personal journeys to the next, and we are unlikely to enjoy the ride if the travelers learn nothing and end up back where they started.

                  There are other less generalizable elements of characters that I tend to personally latch onto, but these are the boiled-down simplified versions of character traits I can identify in pieces that have moved me in extraordinary ways. If I'm just not into a story, there's probably no one in it who feels real to me, and the above five items are what I think makes a character feel like a person. If I believe in a character, I might care about them even if I don't like them, and once that happens, I'll likely tune in to watch them do whatever they're doing . . . no matter what it is.

                  Wednesday, June 10, 2015

                  Wednesday Factoid: Favorite Soda

                  Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What is your favorite soda?

                  Oh, man! I can't really think of a good way to make this interesting!

                  I like Diet Coke a lot. Coke Zero is okay too. I don't like uncolas and am not really a fan of root beer. Cherry beverages are sometimes nice, but I seem to have settled on plain cola-tasting stuff these days. For some reason I'm also not a fan of the Pepsi versions. They do taste different.

                  Also . . . did you know you can make cupcakes with soda??

                  • 1 cup cola
                  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
                  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
                  • 1 cup granulated sugar
                  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
                  • 1 cup cocoa powder
                  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
                  • 1 teaspoon salt
                  • 2 eggs, beaten
                  • 1 cup buttermilk
                  • 1 cup vegetable oil
                  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
                    Preheat the oven to 350ยบ F. Melt the chocolate chips and the cola on low in a double boiler or carefully in a saucepan, stirring as it melts. Let cool. Meanwhile, sift together flour, both sugars, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Mix together the eggs and buttermilk, and add the oil and the vanilla extract. Whip it together until smooth with a mixer. Add the cola mix to this mix while running the mixer. Add the flour mix gradually while mixing. Bake in cupcake tins for 15-20 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then transfer to rack for cooling.
                  Yield: 24-30
                  Source: Clare Crespo Hey There, Cupcake!


                  Monday, June 8, 2015

                  Normalizing Our Experience

                  Trigger/Content Warning for suicide and homo/transphobia.
                  It starts when you're young.

                  So much of what we learn about the world--about "how things are"--is absorbed before we're ten years old. Before we're five years old, even. We learn about what reality is, what truths are inescapable, and how our selves fit into this patchwork quilt of a world. 

                  What we don't often get are resources for rewriting the rules if we happen to be born into a situation that presents lies as truths.

                  And as we've seen, living a lie can (and frequently does) kill us.

                  I read "Transgender Children's Books Fill a Void and Break a Taboo" this morning--a New York Times article featuring the growth of the trans-books-for-kids-and-teens movement and discussing its effect on kids today, coupled with adults bemoaning the lack of such materials in their own childhoods. The article, predictably, features a comments section full of people screaming about indoctrination and perversion and nooooo my children are going to be warped by the gay agenda. Most tragic of all, I think, is the common sentiment among detracting commenters that this is an adult issue and introducing it to children (or allowing kids to "be transgender" while they're still kids) constitutes corruption and damage to their young psyches.

                  Tell that to Leelah Alcorn

                  Well, you can't, because she's dead.

                  Her mother, in interviews about Leelah's suicide, expresses bafflement because "he was such a good boy."

                  Leelah explains in her suicide note that she tried to talk to her parents about being transgender and that their response was to declare complete denial, announce that God doesn't make mistakes, and send her to Christian counselors whose intention was (of course) to convince her transgender people don't exist. But she knew since she was four that she was a girl, and she didn't find out until she was a teenager that a word for it existed. Her suicide note says she cried in relief when she found out, only to realize she would never be able to be her true self because every other person in her life repeatedly sent the message that her reality was a delusion. And she couldn't live with it.

                  Trans kids and teens kill themselves at multiple times the national average, and if they do survive, they also become homeless at several times the national average. Even in the face of celebrities coming out as trans--Chaz Bono, Caitlyn Jenner--all these kids hear is "that's disgusting" and "they're turning themselves into medical experiments--they will never be REAL men/women" and "these are deeply disturbed individuals." Even in places where being trans is marginally accepted, this is an everyday part of their lives. They are literally unable to say they are transgender without some stranger barging in and bleating about how their gender identity is not valid.

                  Enter kids' books about trans experience.
                  In Jazz Jennings's book about being a trans girl--designed for children--she frankly discusses her trans experience in the context of a happy, satisfying childhood. And of course, as soon as you say the word transgender, immediately you have people shrieking "WHOA WHOA WHOA, how do you justify introducing this adult subject to kids?"

                  Being a girl isn't an adult subject. Being a boy isn't an adult subject. Being a gender that isn't boy or girl, or being no gender at all, isn't an adult subject. It's not about erotica. It's not about adult relationships. It's not explicit and doesn't contain explicit language. It is about a thing that happens in our world, and there is a child-friendly way to describe it. Jazz's book demonstrates that. It's adults with an anti-LGBT agenda who are slapping all LGBT subjects with warnings about adult material.

                  But that's not really their problem with it. It's never actually about what's safe for children, because they certainly don't seem to have similar problems with child-centric books that bring up other very adult subjects, like--for instance--war. We can have a book about someone whose parent is a soldier and these same people will wave flags and praise its patriotism and dump accolades all over the place for a sensitive portrayal of a difficult situation, even though your parent might die is indisputably an uncomfortable and disturbing part of these children's reality. And you know, you're even allowed to acknowledge the reality of straight relationships--showing a mommy and daddy who love each other and kiss on the lips, or showing a storybook prince pursuing a princess and "winning" her hand in marriage. 

                  Even though these straight relationships clearly imply that the couple probably has sex within their marriage union, people don't lose sleep over it, because they're not actually talking about the sex that probably happens within the context of the book. LGBT children's books are exactly the same way when it comes to explicit subjects, but this is drowned out by cries of NOOOOOO MY CHILDREN SHOULD NOT BE SUBJECTED TO GROWN-UP TOPICS. Well, these people are the ones injecting those "adult" associations with these topics, and doing their very best to attach as much shame and disgust to them as they can so children will learn to find them repugnant. (Which of course is especially damaging if the subject applies to them personally.)

                  Like it or not, some people in our world are LGBT. I don't know what we can really do to change people's minds about its being wrong or against someone's religion, but I do know that there are tons of people who do not have religious hangups on this subject who nevertheless think these topics are inappropriate for children. But people who are LGBT need to see themselves in media if they're going to understand themselves as belonging in the world--and not just as tragic characters or comic relief to someone else's "real" life--and people who are not LGBT need to see these LGBT media representatives in context so they know it's a real thing that exists in their universe.

                  Media needs to normalize our experience. Show us examples of others thinking and feeling how we do. Reflect the world how it is instead of hiding certain parts of it that the people who distribute the media think isn't fit for consumption. These attitudes kill our kids and instill those who survive with shame they often spend their adult lives shedding. These attitudes teach non-LGBT people that it's okay to brutalize and mock LGBT people and that they exist to be laughed at (or, conversely but still uncharitably, they are portrayed as something to pity or something to Teach Real Members of Society about Tolerance). Labeling these regular experiences of LGBT people as hush-hush until you're older--up to and including their existence--sends the very clear message that there is inherently something secret, something gross, something taboo, or something perverted about being a gay, bi, or trans kid. And this isn't a message we should stop sending just because it leads to so many kids killing themselves or living in misery. We should stop sending it because it just plain isn't even true.

                  We need kids' books like I Am Jazz. We need teen books like Some Assembly Required. We need celebrities making a big deal out of coming out and celebrities who don't make a big deal out of coming out. We need to see Cartoon Network shows like Clarence where one of the main characters just happens to have two moms. We need more casual queerness both in the background and the foreground so it doesn't always read like an Issue no matter where we see it--so it can be on TV and in books the way it is in real life. So people whose identities are developing can see it normalized and as acceptable--not as something you can't have the mental abilities to "decide" until you're an adult. There is not a switch that flips on at age eighteen that suddenly enables teens to figure out their identities responsibly if those identities have not been fostered throughout the most formative years of their lives.

                  Fostering them requires creating and distributing and allowing access to media that reflects who they are. Do not push these concepts into a dark corner that poisons them with ideas of secrets and inappropriateness which will continue into their adulthood too. (If they're lucky enough to live to that adulthood.) If you don't understand why this is so important to LGBT people, just admit you don't understand, and then do what most people learn to do in similar situations: LISTEN. You listen, don't just say you don't get it and conclude that they should shut up because you can't conceptualize their desperation.

                  These messages are necessary for LGBT children and teens, but they are important for you non-LGBT people too. Listen to what they're telling you. And if you refuse to do so, don't wonder what went wrong if they never talk to you about it again--one way or the other.