Thursday, July 30, 2015

Your Responsibility

I'm probably going to write about this topic again in the future, because I have a lot to say about it, but today I'm going to talk a little about responsibility.

As a person who's been creating content for and about asexuality since the late 90s, I've been around the block a few times. Probably because of some combination of early adoption plus prolificacy, I ended up considered a community leader (though that was never my intention), and I'm happy with the role I've played in helping people understand this topic for a variety of reasons.

But sometimes I am approached by people who think I have responsibilities and obligations attached to being influential. And for the most part, I agree. I know that people look at me as an authority and that the things I say sometimes need to be a little more calculated or else they could hurt people or spread misleading messages. I know that the standards for how I behave online are (perhaps unfairly) higher than other content creators who don't have my reach. This is something I understand and accept.

However, I draw the line when people approach me with scolding that's designed to shame me, not make me a better leader.

You may have noticed that not every review I receive for my book is 100% positive. I'm very happy about that, though of course I don't like when I get things wrong. I'm glad people are able to be critical even though I'm what passes for a big name in the community, and I'm glad they have been able to offer opinions on what bits of my work could be improved and how.

Some examples:
Because of the nature of our community and my relationship with these bloggers, I was able to discuss some of their concerns "backstage" and figure out how to address the problems with certain sections of the book, and the next edition will be even better thanks partly to their help. I appreciate that they could put into words what they'd like me to do better without their reviews reading like a disappointed mom shaking her finger with her hands on her hips.

But I do get a lot of those disappointed moms.

The other night, someone came onto one of my most popular videos and "called out" my use of the word "non-asexual," condescendingly calling me "honey" and telling me I should just use "sexual" instead of "non-asexual." When I explained to the person that actually non-asexual people have repeatedly told our community that they have various reasons for disliking that terminology (and asked the person not to call me "honey" in this context because it sounds condescending), they did not take this very well.

What followed was the usual eyeroll-worthy Internet pile-on featuring this person and four of their friends (or, perhaps, sockpuppets; hard to tell sometimes when it's mysteriously happening at 3 AM on a video that is not otherwise getting suspicious attention anywhere), every one of whom was full of personal incredulity at my inability to take criticism and my snotty attitude and my need to attack people who disagree with me, all of which (they all agreed, and repeated, and repeated, and repeated) suggest I am not qualified to be a spokesperson and am never going to succeed at anything.

Kind of amusing that they're saying this to a person who has Already Succeeded at This, but I digress.

The original poster bleated the you're too sensitive schtick while instructing me that I should not have a temper tantrum because someone called me honey (you know, because asking someone not to is a "tantrum"), and then they proceeded to search through the comments for any place I was not polite in a reply to a commenter and gleefully pointed out that I had called someone "baby" in a similar condescending way. (The fact that it was a reply to someone who had come into my space to harass me first appeared to be lost on them, as was the fact that you can't scream about how "honey" is NOT AT ALL CONDESCENDING while recognizing that my similar phrasing was certainly not a well-meaning term of endearment.) 

I blocked the original poster when they wouldn't stop coming back to the thread and saying the same things over and over about how I need to stop being such an oversensitive immature petulant asshole if I'm ever going to get anywhere. That was when their other pals suddenly became invested in jumping onto a comment that was over a year old to harass me about the exact same things. Many accusations of how I'm "always so rude" were thrown around, about how my way of dealing with things is to "jump down people's throats" anytime anyone is a "tiny bit negative" about my work, and about how if the majority of people are sending me messages about how I'm mishandling these conversations, I really need to think about what I've done and learn to listen to people you know.

The fact that the video had over 1,200 comments on it and they could only find two with me being "rude" to trumpet about did not seem to register with them. Nor did the fact that both "rude" comments were about as rude as the time I told the original poster that they were mistaken about the appropriateness of "sexual" as a label and that I did not want to be addressed as "honey." 

In other words, if I do not take harassment, snide remarks, disgusting commentary, threats, and rudeness with a smile and infinite patience, I am not fit to lead this charge. My responsibility, in their opinion, is to passively, tenderly absorb ugliness and take it upon myself to individually, politely educate the folks who dish it out.

I answer that with a big fat


It is NOT the responsibility of any community leader or spokesperson to be forever on their best behavior TO THEIR ENEMIES. Setting aside the fact that being kind to them is usually my first inclination if I think they might be educable and IT USUALLY STILL DOESN'T WORK, I find the respectability politics at work here to be bullshit.

If you are an ally of my message, you should be an ally of my message even if you don't like me. That means you straight people still support equal rights for gay people even if a gay person was mean to you once. That means you white people don't suddenly become racists (or, more likely, keep being racists) if a person of color did something not so nice to you. That means you don't sit around in a state of automatic condemnation of people different from you if individual members of that group don't approach you submissively and earn your respect.

And even though I would argue that I was never out of line in even the "worst" of the comments they tried to nail me to the wall for, I absolutely agree that I wasn't polite to them . . . and I don't feel that politeness is the appropriate response to those who approach you to deliberately send you invalidating messages. I want them to feel like they did something atrocious if they choose to approach me like that. Honest questions and ignorance aren't federal offenses, but I can absolutely tell the difference of flavor between a comment that seeks knowledge and a comment that exists primarily to shut me up and embarrass me.

I blocked this group of petty whiners spouting tone policing and snotty criticisms of my attitude, though of course as I waited for each to commit a block-worthy sin they kept popping up on the two "oh so rude" comments I'd made over the years until I got them all blocked and deleted the source comments. Ordinarily I really don't like deleting people's comments, even rude ones, and I block judiciously, but I've come to realize there's a huge difference between censorship/limiting of free speech and actively giving someone a platform to place their nonsense. It basically seemed like leaving those things up was just an invitation for more fake personal incredulity from people wandering mysteriously onto the video only to gasp and "agree" with the person above them to scold me for my terrible behavior.

Gosh, I'm just so mean, and need to learn to take criticism.

The problem with these people is they think any rude comment is criticism. It is not critique. It is not constructive. It is just petty dishtowels who think the best answer to "don't address me condescendingly, and please do research on why your suggestion isn't appropriate" is "NO, YOU!!!!"

I have learned to listen, and the thing about listening is that you do learn what "constructive" sounds like. When someone's comment starts with "lol okay honey," what follows is generally not being offered for the betterment of a message. It is meant to say "God, why are you so silly? Why don't you realize this obvious thing that I came up with after doing no research about your group? Why would you use a term that at first glance seems counterintuitive to me? Obviously since I don't get it, you shouldn't use it! Let me correct you!"

And that, folks, is why when I corrected this person's "correction"--complete with a "please"--I was interpreted as rude and unable to handle criticism. Because that's what this person thinks criticism is: mocking and shame. And if I reply rejecting this and give criticism of my own, that's how THEY interpret MY words. When one does know how to take criticism, one does so taking into account who is offering it and why they're doing so. When someone slings out an ignorant comment that echoes nonsense we've heard before, I know they're not following the dialogues of our community and have no place in telling us how to talk about ourselves. But when someone who IS in that conversation speaks up--someone who has clearly done the listening--I can tell the difference in the criticism that comes out.

And I thank those people, converse with them, and include their input in my book.

Which is published because I'm already doing a pretty good job at this community leader thing and handling my actual responsibilities just fine.

Though one of the people I blocked informed me before I deleted their nonsense that I had earned a thumbs down on every single one of my videos. I'm sure that will really show me where I screwed up. I'll definitely feel like I've been taught a lesson if someone goes to every one of my 80+ videos and clicks a button to express their rage. And I'll totally actually notice.

Which one were you again?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday Factoid: Favorite Restaurant

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

Ughhhhh I will probably just have to be a jerk and say I don't have one.

When people ask me to go out to eat I don't have a go-to place.

I like places where you can get good breakfast.

And I like Japanese food.

I go to GrillSmith a lot because it's close by and has really good cauliflower.

And my friends and I liked this Mongolian restaurant.

And I am partial to any place where I can eat falafel burgers and french fries.

Actually Sweet Tomatoes is also amazing. Salad buffet restaurant.


Monday, July 27, 2015


In these days of Internet, where everything can become social if you want it to be, I've been enjoying a relatively new dimension of media fan experience: reactions.

Not only can we see how a piece of media affects other fans of the media, but we can see the creators of that media responding to reactions and having their own reactions.

This is really, really interesting to me as a creator.

Every week I post my update on what's been going on in my world, and one of the sections I always highlight is if anyone's featuring my work or talking about me (that I know of). Most of the time I don't interact with the people sharing their thoughts on my work, but sometimes--because I have the tools to do so--I respond to their questions or reassure them or comment on what they have to say. I generally stay away from commenting on reviews or negative descriptions of my book, because that's just generally bad manners and is frowned upon since it makes people feel like you're watching and policing criticism of your work, but I don't see the harm in engaging with people in my community in general. I don't believe that becoming a creator means I have to uproot myself from my community and become some cloud-sitting non-person.

Sometimes they seem surprised. Usually they seem pleasantly so.

We still put the creators of our media in this "other" box, as if it didn't come out of a person or as if the person it came out of is not a "regular" person. And we're still getting used to the idea that if the people who make our stuff are on social media, we can see what they think as people and we can sometimes interact with them. (I've seen people who abuse this, too, but most of the time it's just a neat thing we can do now if the creators give us opportunities to do so.)

Recently, as many of you who read this blog or know me in real life know, I've been watching a bunch of cartoons. The writers of the show I'm watching are, in some cases, pretty accessible and active on social media. They generally seem to appreciate that their show has generated mega-fans and so much enthusiasm, but here's a really interesting aspect of it: some fans like to tweet at the creators and (I guess jokingly) scream at them about how they're trying to kill us with the heavy emotions exploding in the storyline recently or that they bathe in our tears and feast on our sadness. One of the people on the team stated that he found this baffling and kind of sad. The idea that creators LIKE causing their fans pain is very weird, I agree.

That said, we do like to move people. We DO like it if you cry--not because we like making you sad, but because it means you cared. You got invested. You thought our fictional people and their situations mattered, and it was real enough to you that you had an emotional connection.

 I've been watching reaction videos of cartoons on YouTube. If you don't know what that is, it's basically people watching something for the first time and recording their reaction, usually with the media they're reacting to displayed in another window for us to see too. Yes, it's as odd as it sounds; we're essentially watching people watch TV. But I've been enjoying watching them--not just because it's an excuse to watch the toons again, but because it sort of makes you feel like you're watching it with a friend (as silly as that sounds), and it also lets you see that other people are having the same reactions you might have. (Or sometimes very different ones!) If you have a favorite movie and you love showing it to other people and you're just waiting for their reactions to certain parts, you know what I'm talking about. In any case, it's really fun watching people laugh and get surprised and even cry over this stuff.

And as an aside, I've seen a surprising number of grown men crying while watching these reactions. Like a really really surprising number. 

Now that creators can read blog entries and see reaction videos of their audience having emotional reactions to their work, not only can they experience that reward in a way that didn't used to exist, but they can learn what's working. Now that I can see what parts of my book people are quoting on Tumblr and see occasional videos mentioning my work as something that improved their lives, I know both which bits are really doing the job and how important it is to keep doing it.

Given that very little of my fiction is published (and it's all short stories and webcomics), I've had limited experience with people reacting that way to my fiction writing, though it has happened with my beta readers and in the comments of my comics. But I know, both from watching the way other people react and from being a fan myself, that well-written fiction leads to real emotional investment that enriches people's lives, and I hope that very soon I have a chance to do that for my readers on a large scale.

Maybe I will. 

And if I'm given that opportunity, I promise I will deliver.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Personal Digest Saturday: July 18 – July 24

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday waaaaaaaas Drink and Draw! Eric picked me up and we went out to dinner with Kim and Robbie first. We ate at Trang's and I had some yummy tofu and noodles. Then the event was pretty sweet. I sat around talking about comics with nerds while drawing, and then went over to talk to Derek for the second half. We had a good time. I have a pretty long So You Write comic in the works (it's long because on every comic that's a multiple of 10 I break the 4-panel format), and I didn't finish it. Boooo.
  • I spent most of Sunday doing book edits for the second-pass proofs of my updated nonfiction book which is coming out in paperback in October. I made a new video too.
  • Monday through Friday I didn't really do anything significant. I finished the edits on Wednesday, and spent the rest of my time not really being productive except I read a book. Mostly I'm just watching cartoons and eating junk food, which I need to stop doing.
  • Jeaux Day happened at Chili's, and we watched America's Got Talent at Jeaux's house. He hasn't been to my place since before New York. My apartment probably thinks we broke up.
      Places featured:
           Reading progress:

          New singing performances:

          Here I'm singing "Dammit Janet" from Rocky Horror Picture Show with my duet partner latwoz2.

          New drawings:

          Webcomic Negative One Issue 0532: "Silent E."

          New videos:

          Managed to crank out "Letters to an Asexual #28," which is about the intersection of asexuality and autism, among other things.


          New photos:  

          I took this at Drink and Draw, trying to take a selfie with Eric's poster.
          And then Cheong photobombed me.

          Social media counts: 

          YouTube subscribers: 4,841 for swankivy (25 new this week), 494 for JulieSondra (4 new). Twitter followers: 664 for swankivy (2 new), 993 for JulieSondra (no change). Facebook: 286 friends (1 new--Amy found me and friended me) and 178 followers (2 new) for swankivy, 587 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 109 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2094 (5 new).

          Wednesday, July 22, 2015

          Wednesday Factoid: Hospital

          Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Have you ever been admitted to a hospital? Why?

          Nope! I haven't. I've never been hospitalized and have led a pretty happily injury- and illness-free life. Except for some weirdness in the last two years that's frankly completely baffling and remains unsolved.

          I did spend a few hours in the emergency room a few months ago, though.

          Never did figure out why I had a weird heartbeat. I went to the cardiologist after, and had a bunch of tests and nothing ever got solved. Which is weird because it was doing not-normal things for months and then sort of became consistently weird right around the time I went to the ER, and then that was literally the last time it happened.

          It's like those computers that have an error and then when you get someone in to fix it it won't do the thing, you know?

          All the weird medical issues I had around the same time seem to have evaporated with no explanation too. I was having a weird breathing thing and my hip and back were bothering me and I had a mysterious abdomen pain (not like a digestive thing, just a weird pain there). And despite multiple ultrasounds and a CT scan and a bunch of random medication there's just no diagnosis and no explanation for anything. I actually have had a couple mild issues with my leg and hip bugging me since then but nothing like it was. I think maybe it's just an inflammation thing and I still have yet to figure out what my body hates.


          Monday, July 20, 2015

          Why is editing so important?

          I've encountered more than my fair share of amateur writers who are really resistant to the idea that their draft manuscripts should be proofread and error-free when they're pitching.

          It used to shock me, but it doesn't anymore. Yes, there are lots writers who honestly want to approach mainstream publishing but think editing and proofreading isn't an important part of their job.

          I think this opinion might come from the misconception that editing is nothing but running a spell-check program, even though they probably know on some level that it cannot catch everything. The real problem is that they think "spelling" is the only important part of correcting errors, and they think "correcting spelling" is basically not necessary for the artist to trouble themselves with. Don't they have literary janitors to do that?


          Yes, when you are published by a publisher who pays you for your work and handles distribution of your materials, you are generally assigned at least one editor, and they do comb through your book to correct errors and make the text conform to their style guide. But that sort of treatment is granted to authors who do their job well enough to get to that point. And you can only do that by treating your material like form is as important as content.

          Nobody in publishing wants to hear that editing isn't your job as an author. Nobody in publishing accepts that it's the story that matters to the point that you shouldn't have to fix the spelling and grammar errors. If you know you are not good at it (or you think you are but everyone else tells you you're not), what you do is get someone to proof it for you, not stomp around insisting that this particular part of making a readable product just isn't your responsibility. That would be like saying a musician who plays and sings poorly is deserving of major record labels' attention because the messages of their songs are so vital. That can be true in isolated incidences--that one part of something is so important that the usual standards don't apply--but it's not up to you to identify yourself as the exception to the rule. If you want the respect and attention of people who pull the strings in this industry, you need to play by their rules to the best of your ability. Most people who think their work is so world-shaking that they should be allowed to break all the rules right out of the gate are mistaken anyway.

          Also, using correct spelling and grammar is not just a preference of pedantic whiny-babies. If you mix up your words and spell things wrong and fail to use punctuation, you really do make your work more difficult to read, and it pulls readers out of the story to focus on your words. You want it to be effortless for them to read. You want them to get lost in it. You don't want them to actually get lost.

          It is your responsibility as an author to deliver a polished package when you are aiming for publication. If you treat editing like it's not actually part of the craft, the professionals you submit to are unlikely to see your work as a diamond in the rough. Competitive markets have too many authors submitting who took the time to polish their work and cut it out of the rough themselves, so there's a very good chance that if you throw a "diamond in the rough" onto their desks, they'll see nothing but a clod of dirt and throw it back at you.

          Saturday, July 18, 2015

          Personal Digest Saturday: July 11 – July 17

          Life news this week: 
          • The big news of course is that I finished Bad Fairy 2's first draft on Saturday! It was 8,000-ish words of new material and it came out how I wanted, though the ending seems abrupt and I'll probably tweak it in editing. I'll get a test audience when I recover.
          • I pretty much literally spent Sunday in bed with coffee and snacks watching cartoons. That was my reward for finishing. I'm all caught up on Adventure Time! Oh and I went grocery shopping. That's something I usually do on Mondays but since I wouldn't be able to do that after work on Monday because of cartoons, I did it early. :)
          • Monday through Friday was the cartoon marathon thing which involved going to Jeaux's house EVERY DAY and watching the new episodes of Steven Universe on his giant screen. And I celebrated by making a different food that was inspired by older episodes of the cartoon show to share with Jeaux every day. It was so great! But in some cases required me to spend the evening doing food prep things. I will post my photos of it in the li'l photos section below.
          • We kinda didn't HAVE a real "Jeaux Day" this week because of the cartoon marathon, but we did our usual watching of America's Got Talent on Thursday. And we ordered pizza and breadsticks. It was pretty great. We also had a long day on Monday because another cartoon, Gravity Falls, was showing its first new episode in months and we wanted to watch that together too, so we took a burrito break between cartoons and talked for a few hours. Mostly about cartoons. Surprise.
          • I was inspired enough by one of the episodes this week to make another one of my music videos. :D (Gosh I had been hoping I'd eventually get to make this video because the lyrics are really appropriate for most of the song, but I didn't have enough footage of the associated characters. AND NOW I DO.) It's set to an Indigo Girls song.
          • My sister moved to North Carolina. I didn't get to see her before she left. I assume she was really busy with everything--I know how things are around moving!--but it was sad that I didn't get to give her a goodbye hug and see her. Though we don't actually see each other that often anyway, so I guess I'll just see her around the Interwebs.
          New reviews of my book:
                  Places featured:
                    • Beach City Bugle featured my animated music video. :)
                    • asexualkatherineplumber is a Tumblr user who posted a picture where she's excited about receiving my book. It's not a new post but I only saw it this week. :)
                       Reading progress:

                      New singing performances:

                      Here I'm singing "Both Sides Now" by Judy Collins.

                      New drawings:

                      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0531: "The Next One."

                      New videos:

                      Just my music video for the Steven Universe cartoon show, "The Power of Two," set to Indigo Girls' "Power of Two" song. It's about the characters Ruby and Sapphire (and of course by extension Garnet, haha). They're such cute gay space rocks.


                      New photos:  

                      The monthly haircut comparison photo:

                      February 2014
                      July 2015
                      February 2014
                      July 2015

                      Me with Cookie Cat:

                      And here are my special foods, with me indicating which episode was on on the day I brought the snack. :) And like a giant nerd I'm wearing a different cartoon shirt every day too.


                       Social media counts: YouTube subscribers: 4,816 for swankivy (41 new this week), 490 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 662 for swankivy (2 new), 993 for JulieSondra (11 new). Facebook: 285 friends (2 new--added a couple of ace friends) and 176 followers (3 new) for swankivy, 586 likes for JulieSondra (3 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 109 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2089 (19 new).

                      Thursday, July 16, 2015

                      Bad Fairy 2 status report: Chapters 23 – 26

                      FINISHED BOOK UPDATE

                      Words: 3,744 words for Chapter 23, 1,935 words for Chapter 24, 2,091 words for Chapter 25, 296 words for Chapter 26.

                      Basic details: Delia tries to attend the princess's naming ceremony so she can give her a spell that will save her from dying too soon, but she ends up confronting her old enemy Beatrice, getting exposed, and barely escaping. She has to sort out her affairs and make herself scarce before anyone figures out she's alive and comes for her.

                      The good: It didn't exactly go how I planned, plus it didn't go anything like the first time I wrote it, so I'm pretty happy with it. I like the return of Beatrice and how neither she nor Delia is a cardboard antagonist (you know, no one demonstrating evil laughter or absurd self-aggrandizing statements), and their honest misunderstandings turned out well. I also liked how presently written Delia turned out to be during these chapters. The reason that the baby cries is interesting, and I like how it affects Delia. Also the tie-ins to the fairy tale everyone knows are kind of subtle but people who know the story well will probably pick them up.

                      The bad: I hope that Beatrice was worth waiting for in the confrontation, and I am not sure I delivered to be honest. I was more focused on being realistic than dramatic. Also because of the focus on Delia's running thought commentary I don't know if it'll get obnoxious. The story also ends really abruptly (I might modify this in edits). And there's an opening to Chapter 23 that rambles for a while about fairy tales, which is a departure from the rest of the story but I really like the context it provides so I hope it isn't annoying and that I don't hate it later.

                      The quotes:

                      Part of the intro to Chapter 23:

                      There are literally hundreds of versions of this story. Some grew branches. Some dropped seeds to feed other legends. Some were chopped down and died. But for a story with so many roots, I’m always perplexed by how consistently storytellers focus on the fruit of one branch without recognizing who was the seed.

                       More from the intro, because drama:

                      What motivations do the storybook tales assign to my character? Oh, usually it’s centered on spite or jealousy at not being invited to the party. Something so petty. Something that would cause a powerful woman to drop a death curse. Even for a tale like this, that never sat right with me. A character who curses a child for the sins of her parents is needlessly cruel and surely very complicated. But the storytellers love making it simple. Black and white. Life and death. Good and evil.

                      An odd perspective on the princess's birth (though there's a bunch more I don't want to share here):

                      As the royal planning committees scrambled to move the celebrations into motion, I watched the new family cocoon itself with the new princess (with only a few medical servants and maids on the periphery), treasuring their first hours together. It was miraculous to float in that bubble from so far away, forgetting I was a person at all—just being part of this calm, still joy that echoed with a newness that was both fresh and ancient. This cycle was one of the oldest things on the planet, but every time it happened, it was truly the birth of something new.

                      In a haze of rapture and mild terror, I packed my things for the party.

                      For some reason I like the way Delia describes the party guests:

                      The exclusively noble guests chatted with each other in small groups filled with calculated expressions and exaggerated voices, each guest elaborately outfitted in finery and standing very still in between gestures as if they expected someone to memorize their visage and paint a portrait.

                      Delia and Beatrice meeting face to face for the first time in fifteen years after Beatrice caught her and sort of trapped her:

                      When Beatrice calmly lifted her wand and smashed my triad hiding spell, my first impulse was to leap at her and destroy that arrogant expression—I wanted to knock her down and ruin her superior plan and leave permanent marks. But all that happened was I found myself standing in a dark hallway facing my childhood enemy with all the fury and none of the action. My fists tightened and that was it. And now she could see me.

                      Beatrice being a butt:

                      “Now how about you tell me why you’re here and I’ll decide what I’m going to do with you. If it’s something sort of sad and pathetic, like you just wanted to see the baby but you were sad you weren’t part of our inner circle, I’ll think about not throwing you in jail. If it’s something as sick as I’m thinking, maybe I’ll just help the king hold you still if he wants to perform the beheading himself.”

                      Good old Beatrice. Black and white, good and evil, as fixated on classic dichotomies as ever.  
                      Well, her competence had surprised me today. Maybe, just maybe, she’d grown wiser in other ways too. Maybe, for once, she’d listen to me if I told the truth.

                      After some weird interaction:

                      I surveyed her cloudy face, her burning blue eyes, the indignation she wore as she stared down at me. Facing each other for the first time as adults, she boasted only a three-inch height advantage over me, but she was still as imposing physically as ever, and I felt myself shrinking. All I had were my words.

                      I didn't include any quotes from after that because they're just too plotty to include with context and don't make much sense without it.

                      And by the way um wow I can't believe my book is finished.

                      Like, it's finished. Well, I still have lots of editing to do but it's done

                      I'm going to write another book next, but the third book in this trilogy is going to kill me.

                      Wednesday, July 15, 2015

                      Wednesday Factoid: Figuring it out

                      Today's Wednesday Factoid is: "Are you still figuring out who you are?"

                      Well, that's kind of a rough question, isn't it.

                      I'd like to say no. I think (and most people who know me would probably agree with this) that I'm one of those people with a pretty established sense of self. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I know what works for me and what doesn't. I know how to motivate myself. I know what I like.

                      But I also know how to add to myself, if that makes sense.

                      I know that being open to new experiences and exposing myself to other perspectives has been eye-opening and rewarding in the past. While I tend to reject narratives spouted by people who insist I need to find happiness the way they did (in, say, religion or relationship goals), I like to hear about why their choices have made them happy and I like to incorporate versions of those choices into who I become in the future if it's inspiring for me.

                      I think "who you are" is a nebulous question. There's a kernel of self and it's hard to know which attributes are temporary descriptions for it. But I think another notable thing about me is how consistent I am. Some people who don't really understand my situation would make assumptions about my living choices and judge me as being in a rut, but I find that assessment kind of hilarious. I'm constantly renewing and refreshing and creating, but I have really specific methods of doing those things. For instance, I've always been a writer and I've always known I'm a writer, so everything I love gets written about. I think in the context of who I am, if I developed another incredible love for some medium of ideas, I would probably also write about it. It's my default mode. It's why I picked writing over performance art or visual art. I know that about myself, and it hasn't changed since I was a kid.

                      I'm also comfortable with who I am and I like who I am and I enjoy being myself. And because that was usually easy for me--I don't feel like it was much of a struggle, though it's a journey of sorts--I didn't understand for a long time why other people couldn't just do the same. A big part of the compassion I developed was learning to understand how people start with different raw materials and aren't working in the same atmospheres. And then supporting them as best I can with the stability I developed--letting them lean on me and climb on me if they need to.

                      I expect to learn and change and grow but yes, I think I know myself.

                      Monday, July 13, 2015

                      Bad Fairy first draft is finished!

                      I usually wait until Thursdays to give updates about my writing progress, and I'll probably make a specific post about the new chapters on Thursday, but I don't have a reason to hold off on this one:

                      The book is finished!

                      You know. The first draft, anyway.

                      I wanted to finish over the weekend so I could devote my attention to some other things this week (*cough* cartoons *cough*), and I pushed myself to sit in that chair and bang out the last 8,000 words or so on Saturday. I'm a fast writer and 8,000 words is usually not that big a deal, but they were 8,000 VERY HARD-WON WORDS because I was writing one of the most emotional parts of the book.

                      And the confrontation is different from the last time.

                      When I wrote this book for the first time as one volume, more than ten years ago, it had much more distant narration and felt a little more like a fairy tale (though it was still in first person). The big clash of the book was showier, with more cartoon villain pompousness and more drama. But when I rewrote this book as a series and brought Delia down to Earth, she became much more nuanced and complicated, and I knew there was no way she would do the things I wrote about her doing in the original.

                      Even considering that, I was kind of surprised what a mess she was at the end of this book. She had a few impressive strokes of bravery, but mostly she did a lot of cowering and cringing and doubting herself. Still, she's a powerful person and it shows. And I really liked bringing her face to face with her childhood enemy.

                      Which of course is to say I hated it, too.

                      I wonder about how my readers will take it, though. You don't see Beatrice until the end of this book, but you do see Delia sulking and raging about her here and there throughout the build of the story, and if you haven't read the first book then you might get some feeling like she's a Big Bad or something. I don't think she really delivers as a villain opposed to Delia, though that's kind of the role she plays (even though most people in Delia's life perceive her as the villain). I wonder if people will find their confrontation disappointing.

                      Maybe. But I'm not writing this so I can just repeat the same tired tropes.

                      So I'm officially done with my first draft and I guess that means I'm technically graduated to editing now. But I'm going to let it rest this week (not only because I'm, er, busy, but because that's usually a good idea with creative works when you want to come back to them fresh), and I'll see about massaging it and sending it to test readers after that. And then my agent will finally get to read it! Huzzah.

                      It kinda feels good but also kinda feels weird too. I'm planning to do some other artistic things this week (maybe a cartoon music video, definitely some baking, and probably some art), and maybe once the Bad Fairy book is out to test readers I'll start drafting my next one. It's been baking for a while and it might be ready to come out of the oven.

                      Saturday, July 11, 2015

                      Personal Digest Saturday: July 4 – July 10

                      Life news this week: 
                      • Saturday was a holiday but I didn't do anything for it; I just stayed in and re-read my book (and made little edits), gearing up for writing new stuff. And then Sunday I actually did the writing new stuff part. It was nice to get back into writing the book after a couple months off.
                      • On Monday I gave an interview to a magazine before work and then had to start my week. I decided I wanted to make special food for next week's cartoon event so I collected ideas and grocery shopped for those items as well as my usual grocery shopping.
                      • The rest of the week I mostly just looked at cartoon news and watched silly things on YouTube and also read part of a book, but I didn't get finished with it. I usually read a book a week but I just wasn't feeling the whole reading thing this week and I didn't get to the end. So . . . well, books don't expire! Also did some short story submissions but nothing really notable.
                      • Wednesday was the usual Jeaux Day: we ate at a barbecue restaurant and watched America's Got Talent and had a really great chat about feminism (which is one of Jeaux's big interests too).
                      New reviews of my book:
                              Places featured:
                                • Locus Online had some reviews of recently published short fiction, and Lois Tilton reviewed my issue of Kaleidotrope. She thought my story was repetitive and and predictable, and called it a "lesson story," which is news to me. I thought her assessment was kinda confusing because she said it like "the reveal" was supposed to be a mystery to the reader, while I thought it was pretty clear that it was only a mystery to the character (and also far and away not "the point"), but considering how many other short stories the reviewer said very similar things about, I'm clearly in good company! (She also claimed it was set in a world where a goddess chooses people's mates for them when they're fifteen, which is misleading at best, but I guess some people must read it that way.)
                                • A conversation with mum: A Tumblr user mentions using my book as a tool to help discuss asexuality with a parent. Thought that was neat.
                                • Your Daily Ace has started an asexual book club and my book is the first featured selection. They have a reading schedule figured out.
                                • One of my cartoon music videos was featured on Beach City Bugle, which is a Steven Universe fan site. Yayyyy.
                                   Reading progress:
                                  • Completed reading: Nothing this week, but I'm halfway through my current.
                                  • Currently reading: The Passion of Sergius and Bacchus by David Reddish.

                                  New singing performances:

                                  Here I'm singing "Love Is Strange" by Mickey & Sylvia. It's a duet with another singer named Seventhchild.

                                  New drawings:

                                  Webcomic Negative One Issue 0530: "Why Is Y."

                                  New videos:


                                  New photos:  

                                  New shirt that says I'm part of the Secret Team, which probably defeats the purpose.
                                  Test run of Together Breakfast, which is an imitation of this.
                                  Yes, that is popcorn on the waffles. Don't ask.

                                  Social media counts: YouTube subscribers: 4,775 for swankivy (28 new this week), 487 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 660 for swankivy (lost one), 982 for JulieSondra (11 new). Facebook: 283 friends (2 new--friended Kjerstin because we like the same cartoon and Brenda because for whatever reason we weren't already FB friends but she runs Pitch Wars) and 173 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 583 likes for JulieSondra (2 new), 54 likes for Negative One (no change), 109 likes for So You Write (no change). Tumblr followers: 2070 (9 new).

                                  Thursday, July 9, 2015

                                  Bad Fairy 2 status report: Chapter 22

                                  I didn't get around to writing more chapters this week, so I just have the one. I think I might just have to save finishing the book for the weekend. And hopefully not completely get destroyed in the process. ::goes away to bite nails::

                                  Words: 2,706 for Chapter 22.

                                  Basic details: Delia attends a birthday party for her friends' daughter and gathers some ideas to make an appropriate gift for the princess's naming ceremony.

                                  The good: New characters appear--sort of--and the birthday party for Fiona and Drake's daughter Lilac is kind of a neat way to reestablish that Delia isn't really a part of this world that's moving on with its everyday activities. I also just really wanted a way to feature her friends and family one more time before I end the book, and throw in some atmospheric foreshadowing. Also, though I've made several references to people who aren't heteronormative among people Delia has met in the land of the dead, this chapter features the first reference to same-sex attractions between actual living people. Hooray for incidental queerness.

                                  The bad: I just hope it doesn't read as filler. Also, an unexpected conversation between Delia and some other party guests defaulted to the usual fixation on Delia being ~different~ from other people and I'm pretty sick of that schtick, but I guess she is too. I like to remind readers that this is the kind of treatment she gets when she hangs out with other fairies, but I don't like how repetitive it gets.

                                  Chibi Delia!

                                  The quotes: 

                                  Drake interrupts Delia's getting-to-know-you session with party guests Mariel and Ruby:
                                  Drake appeared at the head of the table with a plate full of fragrant lamb meat. “Hello, ladies,” he said. “How about that, Delia, you’ve finally learned to tolerate small talk?”

                                  I looked away from him. “Our talk isn’t small.” It kind of was, though.

                                  “Just like a man, always assuming women’s chats are empty,” said Ruby.

                                  “You were talking about flowers, you hens.”

                                  Flowers are my life’s work, you goat.”

                                  When Fiona's daughter and her circle friends are discussing academic frustrations and Drake half-seriously suggests Delia could tutor them (like she tutored Fiona and Drake when they were in the same place):

                                  “I don’t do tutoring now. I think it’s best if you learn from someone who does things in a more typical way. Or you could end up like me.”

                                  Fiona made her explosive one-notch-below-panic face. “Delia! What a thing to say. You talk about ‘ending up’ like you like it’s a bad thing. You’re very successful!”

                                  I smiled. “Lovely of you to say, Fiona. But most people probably don’t want to become lonely old ladies who live in a tower talking to birds.”

                                  “That’s not what she does,” Fiona muttered. “And you’re not old!”

                                  “Not to mention she assures me at every turn that she is not lonely,” my mother said, elbowing me.

                                  For the record, Delia's only twenty-nine at this point. She's kidding about being an old lady.

                                  Delia making plans to sneak into that famous party:

                                  I would have to hide myself completely. And fairies—including my old enemies—would be in that room. I would have to sneak in and out undetected.

                                  And if anyone sensed me, I would be exposed.

                                  I might fail.

                                  There was a very good chance I would fail, in fact.

                                  And the consequences could be life-threatening.

                                  For me, and for the princess.


                                  Wednesday, July 8, 2015

                                  Wednesday Factoid: Last Relationship

                                  Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Why did your last relationship end?

                                  Well, I figured out in high school that I didn't like dating people, so this is a high school story. If you wanna do the math, this was the mid-1990s.

                                  My first relationship, if you can call it that, was with another ninth-grader in my previous school, and though we were pals there wasn't really anything passionate about our relationship. I had honestly accepted being the guy's girlfriend because he was the first person who asked me out. By the time I started at my new high school, I'd decided dating wasn't really a "hey, why not?" thing, and that I wasn't going to date anyone unless I actively wanted to.

                                  Enter Phillip.

                                  Please note that the rest of this story may require a trigger/content warning for self-harm/suicide.

                                  Phil was a guy who hung out with people I didn't know in the grade above me in approximately the same space that I liked to hang out with my chorus friends in the morning. To make a long story short, he thought I was really cute and started messing with me and teasing me, but then one day when he found out I was a writer, he asked for my number and claimed he wanted to talk about it. We did. I let him read one of my in-progress books and he made comments about how similar he and I were to the main couple in the book. Yeah sure.

                                  The next couple years involved him asking me to be his girlfriend and me saying no. I wasn't attracted to him at all (surprise!) but I cared about him as a person, and had become friends with his friend group. Everyone in the group kind of treated Phil like he was just something we kind of had to deal with--his outbursts and sulky attempted manipulative behavior and antics were just expected, and though sometimes we recognized it was serious and tried to help him, it was just an accepted fact among us that sometimes Phil acts like this and we have to deal with it because we're his friends. I kinda followed their lead on that. But when we'd talk or he'd write me these soulful letters about his loneliness and worthlessness, he'd make it clear that he didn't just want friendship from me. He wanted me to designate him a special friend--you know, the kind with "boy" at the beginning and no hyphen or space in there. And every time I said no, he'd say something unkind and turn up at school the next day telling everyone about wanting to die or the various types of self-harm he was engaging in. 

                                  I didn't feel guilty, because even as a naïve sixteen-year-old I didn't feel like I was obligated to date people because if I didn't they'd hurt themselves, but I did feel bad for him because he was a human being who was clearly hurting, and I tried to make it clear that not being attracted to him didn't mean I didn't like him. I had never been attracted to a person that way, I reminded him, so it wasn't his "fault" and there wasn't anything he could do differently to change things. But eventually, during what must have been our fifth or sixth badgering fest where he tried to convince me to go out with him, I told him agreeing to be his girlfriend would be misleading because "girlfriend" usually means you feel certain things and want to do certain things together that I have no desire to do, and he insisted that none of his expectations would change if I would agree to let him use that term for me. I was the most important person to him, he said, and he just wanted something to indicate that our relationship was something different from all our other friendships. I didn't feel that it was, but I wasn't sure how to make him feel loved without being the one to love him. So when he said "girlfriend" would only mean that we were very close friends, I replied to that, "Then I guess we already ARE." He took that to mean we were dating.

                                  And then proceeded to pressure me for sex within the week, of course.

                                  He wasn't incredibly aggressive about sex (and I never did sleep with him, incidentally), but he began to dispense a tired arsenal of manipulative tactics to try to wear me down. One of the favorites, of course, was that I could not possibly know if I liked something unless I tried it, and while I was actually a pretty actively repulsed person, I did try out some kissing and cuddling and other more intimate things with him just because I thought once would be enough to avoid that argument. (Oh, how idealistic I was.) Apparently once I'd tried something and then didn't want to do it the next time, this was a shot right through the heart of his self-esteem, branding him a bad lover who'd ruined everything and there must be something wrong with him. Sighhhhhh.

                                  It is important to note that this time in my life was stressful, because again I did care about what happened to him, but nearly everything he did to try to coax me into the girlfriend corner (with weepy begging when I'd refuse) was regarded with a big eye roll from me. I was getting more and more frustrated with it, and eventually a little desperate because I couldn't figure out how to escape the situation without hurting him irrevocably (remember, in high school we all think we can never heal and our relationships are Very Serious, but sometimes they are). But I just tried to go on with it hoping eventually he'd get tired of being with someone who didn't want to be intimate the way he wanted me to.

                                  He tried a ton of things. He tried "treating" me to things I wasn't really into. He gave me weird gifts. (Like, I got that he was into marine biology, but I don't really know what to do with shark jaws you cleaned yourself. I still have one somewhere.) He tried bringing me to his functions and social events. He tried telling me he would "have to" cheat on me and/or date other girls at the same time if I wouldn't sleep with him. (And I immediately granted him permission for that last because I literally did not have even an iota of possessiveness toward him, and he dated one of my friends at the same time, but she didn't sleep with him either.) And during his senior year, we had a pretty terrible prom together.

                                  I look so happy, right?
                                  There was one really pretty scary time when he got very depressed about how I just didn't care about him enough if I didn't want him to touch me, and took a lethal dose of sleeping pills, then called me to "say goodbye." I wasn't home because I was out of town at All-State Chorus for a big event. He got my mom, who called an ambulance and it's possible she saved his life. (He maintained afterwards that the dose he took was not lethal because he is after all just like Wolverine from X-Men and is too tough to die from things. He'd taken what he thought would help him "go away for a while.") He got some therapy after that, thank goodness. I got letters from him while he was staying in a facility. One of them began with "So I'm in a psychiatric home and yes you're on my mind." 

                                  Things were pretty good for a while after he graduated from high school and I was still a senior. He went away to college and we had a supposed long-distance relationship. There was a fiasco where he was hitting on my best friend (she had a sort of history with him; it's how I met her actually), and she was upset because she didn't want to doodle with my boyfriend if he was my boyfriend, but I told her oh please, seriously, if you actually want him that way you are MORE than welcome to take him off my hands, so to speak.

                                  Of course he called me with his confession, begging me to punish him for sleeping with my best friend, and I guess he was surprised when I told him I was okay with it and he could keep doing it if both of them wanted to. He got even more upset then because he'd wanted me to be possessive and just act like a normal girlfriend already. 

                                  We would argue on the phone sometimes and he'd just go on and on about what my lack of "affection" did to him, and I'd basically remind him that I'd always been forthcoming about not being attracted to him and could not generate the emotion/attraction he wanted just because he wanted me to, nor could he "earn" it from me. I came to understand that he had been disregarding what I said about my lack of attraction because he believed women generally don't know what they want and he must be such a good lover that he can awaken slumbering feelings of sexy stuff in just about anyone. The fact that it didn't work on me was really messing with his identity, I guess. To be honest, I don't even know if it was about me in the first place. It was all about his personal mythology and "abilities," and he was so obsessed with me because I'd apparently been the first person he couldn't coax into bed by either being pathetic enough or being so stellar at foreplay. No thanks. I'd rather think about cartoons. (He was actually jealous of my cartoon boyfriend, Yakko. Not even kidding.)

                                  Can you blame me? He's cute.

                                  Then there came a time when Phil came home from college on a school break and wanted to spend a bunch of time with me, of course. I entered the most actively stressful period of our relationship, worried pretty much constantly about where this was going to go, because it just seemed hopeless and being a long-distance couple hadn't stopped him from continuing to dominate my attention and bogart my time badgering me for affection I wouldn't have wanted to give him at this point even if I could. Again, I knew I was not responsible for his mental health or his happiness, but I did not want to be yet another woman in a long list of women who had contributed to him feeling worthless. And yet at this point, my own sanity was starting to suffer. I had a nervous stomach all the time and volunteered for extra shifts at my job so I could stay away from him. Because, you know, my teenage self was so good at handling conflict. Sometimes all the stress actually made me throw up. One of those times, he was the person holding my hair.

                                  But finally, he was due to go back to school soon and he wanted to celebrate our upcoming anniversary of being an official couple, so he took me out for a dinner at a Spanish restaurant. I remember it being miserable but pretending to be in good spirits, but I guess he knew something was up. What's unfortunate for him is that he tended to use anything he could in my life to try to push me toward being what he wanted, and when we got back to my parents' house he said this:

                                  "I think we should break up because you're not happy."

                                  That was surely where I was supposed to reassure him that I was happy, or at least that I was happy with us, and probably give him anniversary sex in the car. I dunno.

                                  Instead, I agreed that I was not happy and agreed to break up, and after a short discussion and acknowledgment of what we were doing, I got out of the car and went back into the house. I remember walking across the lawn thinking that I'd been "freed," so to speak, and vowed that I would not let him talk me back into that cage. Because I knew what was coming. I knew him too well.

                                  Predictably, he called me less than two hours later attempting to rescind his breakup suggestion, saying he hadn't meant it, and I was like, "Well, I did." After the arguing became wheedling became begging and I still didn't let him talk me into undoing it, he actually cursed me out on the phone and I hung up on him. I felt really calm, I guess. I was just done. And really tired of having so much of my time and energy and attention dedicated to helping a person who clearly wasn't even being helped by what I gave to him.

                                  Time passed. He went back to school. Wrote me some letters. We had one speed bump where he thought he had talked me back into being his girlfriend and I had to call him back and make it very clear that no, I was NOT dating him, which sent the tail spin in motion again. By the time I went to college myself, I had been sent a letter from him (meant to be a guilt trip, but I took it literally on purpose) saying that he thought it would be best if we just didn't talk for a while. And so we didn't.

                                  I did start talking to him again eventually--we knew all the same people, so it was difficult to avoid--and we had some pretty fun times in college once in a while. I didn't actually see him that often, though there was a short period where he used to come over after his security job in the middle of the night and we'd watch anime and get Denny's at 3 AM. He once told me that he'd done some self-reflection and realized he would have to choose between having me in his life on MY terms or not having me at all, and he'd chosen my terms.

                                  Which would have been really nice if he'd meant it, because he also had a rant one time about how if I ever got "romance hormones" in the mail one day then he "deserved" to be first in line since he'd been waiting, and when I said I thought it would be person-specific if it ever did happen, he said if I ever got married he would come "kick the shit out of" my husband.


                                  I guess some people never stop seeing women as possessions and consider the time they've put into wooing them as some kind of down payment on a transaction. Not cool.

                                  We continued to talk for many, many years but I don't really talk to him now. Part of it is probably just that he continues to embrace things I find repugnant, like how he had a friend who was a policeman and the two of them would deliberately drive drunk because that guy's being a cop would somehow protect them from getting arrested for it. He told me that story with tons of elation and uproarious laughter. I don't like to hang out with adults who think that's hilarious. That and a few other things he's done that I don't feel comfortable writing about here.

                                  I honestly wish that guy the best, but boy was he a disaster. I'm just glad that even with all the nonsense I put up with, he was probably the reason I met Meghan, and that's worth it.