Thursday, March 31, 2016

What if it's just terrible

No new writing this week, as has been the case for uhhhhh the last few weeks, but in this case it's because I decided to shift focus to editing Bad Fairy

I announced my request for new test readers here on the blog first, and then shared the post on Facebook. I got a few new readers from that. Then the next day I shared on Twitter, and eventually I (kinda reluctantly) made a similar post on Tumblr. (Most of the couple thousand people who follow me there follow me for asexual blogging, but I have no idea how many of them would be good test readers.)

I've already gotten some feedback (though most people haven't had time to read the sample chapters yet), and even though I'm mostly hearing good things, a neurotic writer's brain can take the most innocuous commentary and turn it into "what if the whole thing is just terrible and I did everything wrong?"

The first Bad Fairy was written with weird little perspective-dropping italics interludes, and it opened with a "chapter" that was ONLY one of those--so it kind of gets processed like a prologue. You have to have been in the fantasy writing community to really grasp the almost rabid hatred of prologues among some readers (including publishing professionals). They have this knee-jerk reaction sometimes like "OH GOD A PROLOGUE must be a pretentious fantasy writer or a person who doesn't know what they're doing, TIME TO SKIP and also judge the writer with impunity." Even my agent said when she first saw it opened with an italics prologue she was planning to tell me to cut it or incorporate it into the main text. Until she read the book and realized a) this is a character who would write a prologue into her book and b) it establishes tone the way nothing else could have.

But despite that, I guess I was influenced by the maelstrom and chopped Book 2's prologue from the chapters I sent out. Now, based on the feedback, I guess that was a mistake, so I'm putting it back in. The "prologue" is only one page and it's labeled Chapter 0, but just like the other one, it establishes tone and makes it clear that the character is writing this account from later in her life. I think that's pretty important because my character's situation is weird. First, you're thrown into her world where you don't know the rules at all, but then since Delia is an exception to a lot of the rules, it takes even longer to read her and figure it out.

The character is thirteen at the start of the book. She's already graduated from the fairy version of school and is looking for a job, but there are many complications because of some nonsense that happened between her and her enemies that resulted in discrediting her. She's basically waiting for a chance to appeal when the book starts. The fact that she's doing what an adult would usually do in our world after graduating from high school or college and the fact that she's kind of precocious makes her seem older than she is (plus the book is narrated about her young life by her older self), but her emotions and opinions and some other stuff is very much the usual teenager. So there have been some questions about what even the voice is supposed to be. 

I remember this being a problem occasionally when I was querying for book 1. Most people processed that it was written by her adult self, but I had one agent inform me that a baby can't narrate her life in a mature manner. (I wonder why the agent thought I didn't know pre-verbal infants can't compose a narrative. Delia's book literally begins with a description of what she remembers about being born. I'm aware babies generally don't remember being born. The fact that this character tells you she remembers it should clue you in that it's not a typical/realistic story, and it's kinda baffling that some folks do not realize what it means that they're reading fantasy.) I've also been told I need to change the voice to be younger, or change the voice to be older, whatever the reader believes I was going for. (It's happened once so far with this book too, but since the version that reader read did not have the prologue, I guess it was just too unclear that this is actually supposed to be narrated by the protagonist from later in her life.)

I'm really excited so far by some of the comments I've gotten featuring questions about how the fairy society thing works. I'm doing everything I can to provide a slow but satisfying reveal of these elements and expecting readers to pick up important details from context, but sometimes (as expected) I have not given enough background detail for readers to grasp something that IS actually important at that point, and getting these questions reminds me/shows me where I need to phrase things differently or provide more context. It's hard since I established so much in the previous book and I want the reader to feel like they're reading an appropriately complicated continuation of someone's life without feeling like they're missing stuff they need.

I think also that when we're reading published books, we believe them more. By this I mean if we're confused about something, we usually trust that a) the book will reveal what we need when we need to know it and b) we assume that the world is presented how it's supposed to be for a reason, and we can take it for granted that this is the way the setting is rather than a mistake by the author. In books that aren't published, I think we are more likely to conclude that the author doesn't know what they're doing and needs to be corrected. To use an example that no one has tried to call me out on but still might: In my case, that might happen if someone tries to use modern, local laws to judge the characters' alcohol use implausible. No one in the book ever suggests that Delia, at age thirteen, is too young to drink wine or ale. She's been drinking small quantities of alcohol (primarily wine) since she was six or seven, because it's just part of her culture. That's not unheard-of in our world, either, but I could imagine a reader judging that ridiculous because kids aren't allowed to drink. In a published book, I wonder if said readers would say "Oh, I guess kids are allowed to drink in this world" rather than "Pssht wow that's really sad that the author doesn't realize children objectively are not allowed to drink."

And with a book like mine, I have to find subtle and nuanced ways to relay these things so they don't read like mistakes that jostle the reader out of their reading reverie. I certainly want them to wonder about things, but I don't want to confuse them to the point that they think I don't know what I'm doing. 

I'm pretty good at processing feedback and understanding the difference between when the reader just has a different opinion from me versus when the reader has feedback that will make my book a better version of the story I want to write. But sometimes even considering which comments are which can make a fairly confident writer wonder if they wrote the wrong story or wrote it in such a way that the story they wanted people to read isn't coming through. I don't think those kinds of thoughts often, but diving into the first chapters again with readers who haven't had enough time and exposure to get acclimated either is certainly one of the times I do. :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wednesday Factoid: Under Your Skin

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: On a scale of 1 to 10, how easy is it for someone to get under your skin?

I can't answer that with a number in any meaningful way, sorryyyy.

Whether something "gets under my skin" depends on what the issue is, who's saying it, why they're saying it, and if they're saying it on purpose to piss me off and/or should know better.

I'm usually an incredibly tolerant person and everyone comments on it online. "How do you deal with those assholes so patiently? How haven't you snapped by now?" I'm pretty used to taking ignorance and addressing it with education. But I will go from cucumber to hot pepper if anyone uses the following techniques in their conversations with me:

  • Infantilization (e.g., "Honey, you're just not experienced enough to grasp this.")
  • Misdirection (e.g., "You say you're not gay, but really you just hate gay people. Why do you hate gay people so much?")
  • Exaggeration (e.g., "You don't want kids? Guess you want all humans to die.")
  • Invalidation (e.g., "You don't have an important message. You just want attention.")
  • Argument from authority (e.g., "I'm a biologist and I know there's no such thing as an asexual human.")
  • Ad hominem (e.g., "Your real issue is you're a bitter, lonely, jealous woman.")
  • Entitlement (e.g., "Hi, I'm a stranger with a question. I could Google it or watch a video, but I'd rather you just answer my several in-depth questions personally.")
  • Shock statements (e.g., "Ugly bitches like you would stop talking so much if they'd just get laid.")
  • Tone argument (e.g., "You sound kind of emotional. Calm down. We can't have this discussion when you're worked up.")
  • Therapy trolling (e.g., "You really need to see a psychologist for these *issues* you have. GET HELP, seriously.")
  • Appeal to consensus (e.g., "Men and women can't be just friends. Ask any man.")
  • Negging (e.g., "There are some holes in your argument, but I guess I can ignore those. I admire how well you've grasped the basics of this issue--maybe one day you'll get up to advanced.")
  • Name-calling (e.g., "lol what do you know, you're just a dumb slut.")
  • Intellectual dishonesty (e.g., "I know I'm right--I read a study on it. I believe that study, and I won't read any conflicting research.")
  • Downplaying my experience (e.g., "Oh big deal, you're asexual, it's so painful that sometimes people joke about you being a plant.")
  • Shaming (e.g., "How dare you steal the spotlight from people with real problems!")
  • Misleading accusations (e.g., "You just made up something to be mad about because you want to sell more books.")
  • And anything that sounds like "Well, you'll get smarter/do your research/live longer and you'll eventually see that I'm right."
I also hate when someone says something incredibly rude and when I treat them like they did so, they act like my response is baffling. I recently had someone on an asexuality video comment who wrote "what is this shit??" on my video, and I actually answered him nicely, and he proceeded to say it was maybe interesting but he just wasn't sure if it was "a real thing" because people just love labeling themselves and are probably just attention seekers. When I addressed that like it was the grossness that it was, he exploded all over suggesting my attitude had poisoned him against learning anything about the orientation. It's insultingly transparent; nobody who comes into a conversation twice acting like the subject is ridiculous and probably fake is actually there to learn.

And when I'm in a conversation with people who disagree with me, one of the things that irritates me the most is when they claim I'm overly invested because I keep replying (while I guess they aren't, even though they're also still replying?) or they "give up" with sarcastic comments about how I must think I'm right because I went to college or know a lot of words. Like, as if that's my position. I hate when they suggest I'm still talking because I need to have the last word. I keep talking if I still have things to say, and more often than not if we get to that point the other person is not actually responding to what I've said. They're having an argument with an imaginary person who believes or says the things they're debunking. I can't even tell you how many conversations I've had like that, where suddenly it's about why I'm so selfish that I can't "give my boyfriend sex" when I'm still trying to get them to understand that I don't even have a boyfriend (nor do I want one). Whether it's "selfish" to not treat sex as a right that compromises my body is another story entirely, but wow it's hard to have conversations with people who are literally rewriting what I have said about myself to make it fit a narrative they can demonize.

I guess most of the bullet points above are rooted in one of two things: misrepresentation and nastiness. If someone is pushing the misdirection buttons, they're ultimately implying that I'm dishonest with my words, and that's a major insult to me. And if they're pushing the nastiness buttons, they're infusing the conversation with hostility nobody needs; they don't want to argue with me so much as punish me. Not cool.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bad Fairy reader list is OPEN!

Hi readers,

In an attempt to get off my bum and start editing this book, I am now announcing a request for test readers. I have a small list already but even if you think you're on it, you might consider commenting here or contacting me privately (use the "contact" button on my blog for options) if you're not sure. If you're joining, I need an e-mail address for our communication, so your best bet is sending me an e-mail message unless you have a question.

What is this book?

Bad Fairy is a Sleeping Beauty retelling featuring the wicked fairy from the legend as the protagonist. (It is not related to anything associated with the Disney version of this tale; it draws inspiration from the older fairy tales.) This particular volume is the sequel to another book I've written which is already represented by my agent, but there's a chance this one will be published first if I get a book deal--it contains the more iconic and familiar elements of the Sleeping Beauty story everyone knows, while the previous book reads more like a prequel and ends before the princess is born.

Do I have to have read the first one?

No. In fact, I'd like my test readers to be some mixture of people who have read the first one and people who have not, so I can get some idea of whether the second book can be read without the first one. (It's very hard to be objective about that sort of thing.) If I were to have my way, the books would be published in chronological order, but if the first ends up as a prequel I'll have to deal with it. That said, if you would prefer to read the first before reading the second, I can arrange that.

What are you looking for in a test reader / what do I have to do?

Whatever you want. I'm looking for some kind of significant feedback, so I don't want "it was really good," but other than that your approach is up to you. I'm fine with it if you want to go for line edits and in-document comments. Or I'm fine with it if you want to send me e-mails with summed-up reactions and suggestions. Or anything in between.

My preferred method is to send a reader the first three chapters and wait for feedback on those before following up with the rest. This system has the following benefits:
  • I'm not sending my entire book to someone who might never give me any feedback.
  • Readers get to decide based on three chapters whether the book is for them, and only ask for more if they're enjoying it.
  • It's a bite-sized piece that isn't too overwhelming--for the reader or for me in addressing comments. 
You can decide after three chapters if you want to be sent more chapters or the entire book.

How long is it?

It's not as long as the first Bad Fairy. It's about 97,000 words/320 pages.

Can you say more about the book so we can decide if we're interested?

Here's the blurb:

Delia Morningstar, fresh out of fairy school, believes a grand destiny awaits her. But nobody wants to hire a precocious know-it-all with spooky interests and half-human ancestry. When her last efforts to find a home for her passion end in disaster, Delia's off on her own . . . investigating the land of the dead.  Because that's what dark fairies do for fun.

Determined to secretly meddle in the affairs of those who rejected her--for their own good--Delia uses her afterlife connections to help the king and queen of her kingdom conceive the child they've always wanted. But she didn't count on the connection she would have with that princess, and a few sloppy decisions bring the blame for cursing the baby down on Delia's head. Faced with the wrath of her old enemies the three good fairies, Delia may have to undertake extreme measures to stay alive long enough to save the princess from death. . . . 

Appropriately creepy doodle of Delia
drawn for me by Tumblr artist soapybacon
Hope to hear from some of you soon.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Personal Digest Saturday: March 19 – March 25

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday I went to my friend Eric's screenprint show, 13 Cool Kids. It was pretty great. I arrived with Drink and Draw friends Belle, Tommy, and Gennie. We got to look at all of Eric's art on the walls and talk about it, and I had a good Vietnamese iced coffee, and I got to chat with a few other folks. Then we stayed and listened to some of Yousef's band (Yousef is sort of a friend-of-a-family-member-of-a-friend situation), and it was cool and made me want to learn to play drums. Then our group added a couple people and went to a bar where I had root beer and watched them play Jenga. It was a pretty great night overall and I had a good time.
  • Sunday I made a new writing video and did its subtitles, redecorated my apartment for the season, and did laundry. It was a productive day except I didn't do any writing or editing.
  • Monday was a long work day and I had to stay late to finish some crash diagrams. Spent the evening not doing much. And Jeaux made fake Yu-Gi-Oh! cards based on Steven Universe characters, which made me quite happy.
  • Tuesday was an eye exam before work, so I had to spend part of the day unable to see properly due to dilation stuff. Rargh! Then in the evening Mom came over and we had a pasta dish. I also found out my short piece "Asexual, Aromantic, Partnerless, Childless – and Happy" was included in the Drunk Monkeys anthology that was released recently.
  • Wednesday I had to rush Mom out of the house in the morning because we woke up late. (And it's sad if you make yourself late when you don't have to work until noon.) After work I met Jeaux and we had food at Moe's. I got a double tofu burrito. :D We didn't do anything special after, just talked about video games and feminism and silly Internet things.
  • Thursday morning my apartment had no electricity because the apartment people were replacing a generator or something. D: I didn't get caught in the rain coming home! I did some reading and drawing and playing around on the Internet. Oh, and my Night Vale live show tickets came!
  • Friday I posted my comic right after work and had a phone call with my dad, and made some birthday plans. I'm gonna go see the orchestra with him next weekend. Then! I just spent the night reading and posting comic reviews.
    New Reviews of My Book:
      • Not a review per se, but the owner of Apositive has printed a lengthy discussion/criticism of my book's title (while making it very clear it is not a response to the content).
        Interviews, Features, Mentions:
          Reading progress:
            New singing performances:

            Here I'm singing "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues.


            New drawings:

            Webcomic Negative One Issue 0567: "I'll Ask."

            New videos:

            Choices in Publishing is here!


            New photos: 

            The only photo I got of Eric at his show (which makes it very clear I'm short)
            The Jenga game at the bar/restaurant The Mermaid; I have good reason to believe every one of these Jenga pieces has been IN a beer at some point.
            My root beer face.
            And I got my Night Vale tickets! I'm going with Jeaux, Meghan, and Katelyn in July.
            Social Media counts: 

            YouTube subscribers: 5,289 for swankivy (7 new), 567 for JulieSondra (4 new). Twitter followers: 764 for swankivy (2 new), 1,223 for JulieSondra (6 new). Facebook: 289 friends (2 new--Emily and my brother-in-law are now my Facebook friends) and 196 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 633 likes for JulieSondra (lost 1), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 119 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 2,344 (7 new). Instagram followers: 62 (no change).

            Thursday, March 24, 2016

            Random rant about websites

            This morning a friend posted a news story on Facebook and I tried to follow the link to read the story. Only to find that it immediately (loudly) began playing a video as soon as my phone loaded it.

            I poked the video where a pause button would usually be, but there wasn't one. I tried a few other things to get the video to stop playing, but it would not stop.

            I turned the volume off on my phone. And I mean I SET THE PHONE TO MUTE. And the video CONTINUED TO PLAY, though my other sounds were shut off. I mean that yes, it was still PLAYING SOUND while my SOUND WAS OFF.

            And there was no way to look at the page without the video loading, which meant a) I could not read it while I was in public (e.g., at work, where I was trying to read it) and b) since I have trouble reading when there is talking or music, I could not just ignore the video and read the article. And in my experience, with asshole sites like this, they don't just play the brief news story and then stop. They load a related video and keep playing. 

            (I once tested this. A video wouldn't stop playing in my browser so I left it there and went to work. When I got home six hours later videos were still playing.)

            I don't understand why they think we want this.

            And if they're well aware that we don't want it, I don't understand why they think exposing us to it against our expressed will is a good marketing strategy.

            And even if auto-play on such things was a good way to make people consume content you want them to consume, why the hell would you disable their ability to stop it if they don't want that??

            And last night, I was trying to watch a decently long video (about 17 minutes) that was embedded in a website, and I missed something someone said so I tried to replay that part. Instead of letting me replay content, it registered my click as me being done, gave me a popup thanking me for checking it out, and gave me the option to click on another video. I couldn't get back to the video I had been watching without completely reloading the page, and then there was literally no way to fast-forward the video; any click on the video at all just stopped it and removed it from the page while encouraging me to check out another one. To watch it, I would have had to view it completely from the beginning again even though I'd seen eight minutes of it already. I got tired of trying to find a solution that would let me look at the content I came for and just found an unofficial mirror of it on YouTube.

            Similarly, I'm soooo frustrated by the way websites are programmed these days to load ads that encroach on the content or pop up requests for you to buy something or add your name to a list. Sometimes when you enter the site, it grays itself out and pops up a window bothering you to join the mailing list, and you can't even look at the site until you either respond or hit the close button. And then sometimes it will frigging ask you if you're sure and tell you you're missing out. This is so obnoxious. I don't see how anyone thinks pestering a viewer and interrupting the content they came for is a good way to make them subscribe to you.

            Case in point.
            I move my mouse toward the X and suddenly there's a popup! BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE DON'T YOU WANT . . . I decide not to create an account when I make an order and it "reminds" me four times before I check out that I should make an account . . . I am trying to read something and a sidebar ad suddenly expands and begins playing music and freezes my computer if I try to mute or close it . . . I go to YouTube and people whose main message I want to hear spend half the video telling me what their update schedule is and encouraging me to subscribe to them while covering themselves with multiple colorful "funny" annotations that I have to X out of to see what I came for . . . 

            and I just plain do not get it.

            They cannot possibly think annoying the piss out of their customers and viewers is a good way to retain their business or attention, and they cannot possibly think the crap they're doing is not annoying. The only conclusion I can come to is that they know and do not care because the actual way they make money from advertisements is if we're forced to load them and experience them, not if we actually buy the product. And someone who doesn't need to use the site or doesn't consume the content through its consumer portal doesn't believe it's intrusive enough to push people away, and their philosophy goes something like "well if only half a percent of our viewers sign up because of the annoying 'join list!' popup, then it's STILL MORE CUSTOMERS THAN WE WOULD HAVE HAD WITHOUT IT!" And with the commercials they throw in front of your content without an opt-out opportunity, they may very well know you don't want to see it, but they're still telling themselves yeah, but they'll know about our product and remember our name.

            Yeah. We'll remember you're the one who programmed your website or wrote your video script so we couldn't get away from you even if we express that we want to, and we'll probably avoid you in the future and remember you're a jerk. I swear to cheese, it's like those dipshits on dating sites who send women lewd messages or provocative, offensive questions and when the women scold them, they grinningly reply, "Well it got you to reply though, didn't it? Therefore, it WORKS."

            No. It does not "work." If your goal is to annoy me and punish me with content I'm supposed to end up wanting, yeah, I guess it's working, but I think it's an awful idea to make the content someone came for impossible to consume without aggressively interrupting it with stuff that overlaps or distracts or literally makes noise (even when you're in a situation where your devices aren't supposed to make noise).

            And I do understand that it's advertising that allows some things to exist; that it's advertising dollars that pay for products or networks or websites or individuals' survival. That's actually just fine. And it doesn't annoy me that on YouTube some videos will have a promotional message before the content starts (assuming it's short and not full of unannounced gore or something; very long unskippable commercials and previews for movies with extreme violence and creepy monsters have occasionally freaked me the hell out, and I think that's in terrible taste). It doesn't bother me that television shows have commercials, that movies have previews, that websites have banner ads or options to sign up for stuff. I just want them to stop making content we didn't come for so intrusive that I literally can't consume the content I did come for.

            Stop making websites so focused on getting our attention for the next thing that they don't do a good job giving us the thing we actually want.

            ETA: I just went to a website to read an article and I got through about two sentences before it forcibly scrolled the text I was reading off the screen to put a huge screaming video clip in the center. I scrolled down to read what was below it and an ad popped up and covered the text, then readjusted itself to wrap around the video ad. As I was scrolling around literally chasing the text so I could read it, a full-page ad grayed out the screen and covered everything encouraging me to enter to win an iPad. When I got rid of that screen I could read the text but a video was playing in the corner and it eclipsed the text so you had to scroll until the text was above it. Hovering over the video yielded no pause or close options. I do not understand what they think this is encouraging us to do. I gave up on trying to read the article and I will never go back to their site.

            Wednesday, March 23, 2016

            Wednesday Factoid: Gender/Sexuality

            Today's Wednesday Factoid is: How would you describe your gender/sexuality?

            I don't believe this is a mystery to anyone who reads my blog but yeah.

            Gender: Cisgender woman.

            Sexuality: Asexual.

            Some elaboration (because of course I have elaboration):

            Gender-wise, I've never even considered identifying as something other than female. I'm not an incredibly girly-girl with my behaviors, and I certainly don't do a lot of the traditional feminine things, but with my identity I feel like I'm nowhere near masculine and the nebulous aspects of femininity that seem somewhat definitive are all things that resonate with me. I'd be hard pressed to describe them specifically, but the best way to say it is that "women," collectively, is a plural noun that I would automatically use synonymously with "we." 

            Sexuality-wise, it's a little more complicated because we live in a heteronormative world that had me believing it was inevitable that as a little girl, I'd grow up to be a woman who married a man and had children. I just assumed that was my future, and it wasn't upsetting, though it always seemed like a distant dream like most of the rest of adulthood was. But when it became time for me to get crushes and avoid giving into the temptation of sexual cues, I was pretty sure that this whole thing was for other people, not me.

            For some reason, "but that's what you DO" didn't really affect me in this area of my life. When people got really aggressive about it and I asked them to tell me, in words, why I "had to," they never had a good reason. They knew they wanted to, and that was their reason, but they wouldn't accept that I didn't have that reason to go on, and they always seemed to make it about children. Don't you want a family? Of course you want a family. I take it for granted that you want a family because just not getting married and being single forever makes you automatically a loser. But following my inclinations to do exactly what I wanted with my life was almost always processed as a person who can't get what she MUST want instead of a person who just doesn't want that.

            I won't lie: that part of it's been tough. Being regarded with pity and confusion that is inappropriate and disproportional to the issue is frustrating, demeaning, and sometimes exhausting--especially when interested would-be suitors refuse to process me as anything besides "available" (because that's what "unpartnered" translates to for them), and proceed to harass me with unwanted sexual advances that they frame as "a compliment" or "doing me a favor." It's pretty gross.

            Being asexual (and aromantic) is pretty fundamental to my identity. But if I met someone toward whom I felt sexual or romantic interest, I'd explore what that means to me too. (I'm sure it'd be confusing, but I don't believe in treating sexual orientations like decisions, so of course I would behave differently if I started feeling differently.) The only consistent problem I have with my orientation is other people's reaction to it, and I could certainly live a less conflict-ridden life if I talked about asexuality less, but avoiding attention and harassment is not my main goal in discussing this topic. I want other people to understand it--regardless if they're described by it--and I want to change how people think about orientation. I didn't feel lost or confused or broken because I didn't want to date or hump my classmates, but a TON of people like me do. I want to both help them feel less alone and help others (those willing to listen) understand that we aren't there for them to fix.

            That's it.

            Tuesday, March 22, 2016

            Be a reader, not a writing instructor

            You know what's surprising? How often people who don't write (or haven't even read my stuff) try to tell me how I should be going about writing.

            I like feedback. I don't even mind if it's feedback I disagree with or can't use. And I certainly don't expect a shred of "credibility" behind criticism or commentary; you do not have to be a regular reader of the genre, a learned language geek, an editor, or an expert in the field to have an opinion I want to hear.

            What I don't want to hear is overused, contrived, condescending, or ill-informed advice on how to fix it.

            I once had a reader who said, "You know, when I write, I really try to put myself in the character's place. You should try that."


            (We were both in high school, so she gets a pass on making a ridiculous comment, as I'm surely entitled to a pass for writing something substandard, but I digress.)

            Do you know what would have been more useful for her to say? Something like this:

            "I felt sort of disconnected from the main character. I couldn't tell what her feelings were."


            "I had trouble seeing the surroundings the character was in."


            "I felt like the character's thoughts didn't really match her actions."

            But just feeding me simplistic advice on putting myself in the character's place? It's useless. Because theoretically, I've already done that when I wrote the piece. I need to know what's wrong--what you think is missing--before I can figure out how to fix it. Don't tell me how to fix it. That's my job, unless I ask you for specific suggestions. Your job as a reader is to tell me what you felt as a reader. 

            This goes double if you haven't even read my stuff. I've had people find out that I write really fast sometimes and immediately comment, "Oh that isn't good. You need to take your time." Or they find out my word counts run high and they opine, "You don't really need to describe every leaf on the tree and every stitch of the characters' clothing, you know." Or they learn I'm more of a pantser than a plotter and they tell me how that doesn't work because you need earlier clues for the later plot to be satisfying.

            I'm not hasty to the point of carelessness and I edit extensively. My word count issues do not come from overdescription (quite the contrary, actually). Pantsing yields more "early clues" than you think, and when it's not enough, that's what editing is for.

            Sometimes authors are portrayed as overly sensitive if they can't take criticism, but if you try to tell them how to do their job instead of telling them how YOU felt about their work, it's probably going to be at best inaccessible as feedback, at worst discouraging and interpreted as personally mean. You shouldn't have to cajole them and massage their feelings to get them to be open to feedback, true, but if what you offer is meant to be constructive, listen to me here. "You need to make this villain's motivation more believable" sounds entirely different from "I didn't believe in the villain's motivation." It may seem like a small thing, but reacting with an explanation of why you, personally, didn't connect to something in the author's story (or didn't believe it, or found it off-putting, or found it confusing, or thought it was contradictory) will be much more likely to work. The writer, if they truly want constructive feedback, will interpret just about anything you say as a way to make their work better, even if you qualify it as your opinion and admit that not everyone will have a problem with this. They will be actively looking for ways to improve their story, and you do not have to be aggressive or unforgiving or hit them with hardline statements about what they must do.

            And if they're not actively looking for ways to improve their story and just wanted a pat on the back, they're going to ignore any kind of criticism they receive, so don't waste your breath.

            The exception here is language mistakes. I will tell you in no uncertain terms that you must murder your language mistakes, and this is not something I should have to frame as a personal opinion before you'll fix it. ;)

            Saturday, March 19, 2016

            Personal Digest Saturday: March 12 – March 18

            Life news this week: 

            • My book went on sale through a BookBub promotion, making the eBook $1.99 for a limited time. This has been very good for sales!!

            • Saturday was a low-key day where I got a lot done with the help of some to-do lists. Also got to talk to my sister and hear about her Mexico trip. And I posted a new writing comic.
            • Sunday I made a new video, which was a long-awaited sequel to my Asexual Bingo video.
            • Monday was busy at work because we had a letter due, but that was dispatched quickly. Then after work I grocery-shopped and made the subtitles for my new video, then posted it around. Then I couldn't sleep because for some reason I started having nightmares about the letter we sent in at work, dreaming over and over that we hadn't sent it in right or I'd attached the wrong file. Who wants to cost the company $1.5 million? Urgh.
            • Tuesday I worked and took a nap, and Mom came over. I gave her some pie (because we were eating it for a belated Pi Day) and we also had noodles. Mommy kept saying how great it was that I fed her because she felt crappy before and good food made her feel better. We watched my new video together and she slept over.
            • Wednesday was Jeaux Day. We went shopping for new comics (yesss I got my new Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems comic!), and we ate at Cheddar's. The food was pretty good and I got a four-side plate plus salad for like ten bucks! Then we listened to Night Vale and the new podcast by the same people, Alice Isn't Dead. It was all right. We also found out they're doing live shows in Tampa later this year, and made plans to get tickets!
            • Long day at work on Thursday. For perspective, I work 28 hours a week and usually have 5.5 to 6-hour days. This was a 9-hour day. ;___; I had a good day after, though. Went home, chatted with Mom on the phone, processed my webcomic early and watched silly things on YouTube.
            • Friday I came home after work and got ready to go out. We had Drink and Draw that evening because even though it's usually on Saturdays, the host of Drink and Draw was having a show that day (which I am also going to). Belle came to get me and we had some good chats and hung out at the event. I got my So You Write comic done for next month and watched Eric flip out about his upcoming show. It's going to be cool and it's called 13 Cool Kids.
              New Reviews of My Book:

              Interviews, Features, Mentions:

                Reading progress:

                • No books this week. I've been ignoring my to-read list, though I read a comic.
                • Currently reading: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

                  New singing performances:

                  Here I'm singing "1234" by Feist.


                  New drawings:

                  Webcomic Negative One Issue 0566: "A Different Me."

                  Webcomic So You Write Issue 58: "Lucky."

                  New videos:

                  Asexual Bingo 2 is here!


                  New photos: 

                  Video-making face.
                  Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems #1 is out!
                  Eric getting his first look at some of the prints for his show.
                  Pre-setup for 13 Cool Kids, Eric's show.
                  In progress during Drink and Draw.
                  Eric made this picture black and white for maximum
                  pretentiousness and shared it on his page.

                  And the haircut comparison photos:

                  Front, February 2014
                  Front, March 2016
                  Back, February 2014
                  Back, March 2016

                  Social Media counts: 

                  YouTube subscribers: 5,282 for swankivy (7 new), 563 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 762 for swankivy (3 new), 1,217 for JulieSondra (8 new). Facebook: 287 friends (no change) and 195 followers (no change) for swankivy, 634 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 118 likes for So You Write (lost 1). Tumblr followers: 2,337 (19 new). Instagram followers: 62 (1 new).

                  Wednesday, March 16, 2016

                  Wednesday Factoid: Hermit

                  Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Could you live as a hermit?

                  Yeah, sure.

                  I don't actively want to be a full-on hermit or anything. I like individual people in my life. But since this question is kind of implying that there's some reason I'd have to (through its use of "could" rather than "would"), I'm sure I could if there was a reason.

                  I'm an introvert (though not the type that is particularly shy, socially awkward, or anxious), and I don't have cravings to be with other people or loneliness that pushes me to seek out social interaction. I prefer to be home by myself, and am capable of entertaining myself easily. Some contact on the Internet is nice though. I just mostly think of that as an intellectual exchange of information more than I do as a social activity, though there are times it is that for me too.

                  If I had to "be a hermit," I'd probably get along better than most people, I think. 

                  Monday, March 14, 2016

                  You want attention

                  I was looking at one of the Tumblr blogs I follow today and noticed several people were questioning this artist about why she uses so many tags.

                  "Do you tag the hell out of your art because you want as many people to see it as possible?" one of them asked, and a couple others seemed to think this was "attention-seeking" or whatever.

                  "Well yeah," she essentially replied; "I did this art and I want people to see it?"

                  It was striking to me how consistently people appeared to think that was a bad thing to do.

                  When did wanting attention become a thing we spin negatively?

                  Similarly, I just made (and am polishing the processing on) a new video for my asexuality channel, and one of the comments I dealt with several times was "you're doing this for attention." They portrayed this like seeking attention for the issue I want awareness raised on is somehow immature, weak, ridiculous, or indicative of a personal problem.

                  But, like, don't we . . . all want our ideas to be shared? When we create them and put them in a public place for the purpose of convincing or educating people, isn't it natural that we, uh, want them to get attention?

                  Of course, the people conflating "wants attention" with the content creator's supposed insecurity are looking for an excuse NOT to pay attention to said content. If they can make you look silly by implying or stating that you are trying to pry undeserved attention out of strangers on the Internet for your own gratification, they no longer have any responsibility to respect anything you say.

                  I've also had the occasional snotty comment from an online passerby suggesting my Internet presence is egotistical or indicative of self-obsession. (You know. Like, one every couple years or so. In a pile of daily e-mails and messages from people who liked some scrap of my content.) I'm aware that I say a LOT of stuff that very few people care about, and that I'm probably the only person who cares about all of it. I'm actually pretty baffled that anyone thinks making websites and blogs and YouTube channels about whatever interests ME on MY PERSONAL SPACES is a bizarre thing to do.

                  If the content isn't interesting to someone, I expect them to do the reasonable thing: Don't look at it.

                  I wouldn't go to the indexed episode descriptions and theory discussions of a television show I'm not interested in and announce publicly that no one cares about that thing (or that if they do, there's something wrong with them). I wouldn't look through the personal documents of someone who has nothing in common with me and scold them for how uninteresting they seem to me. I wouldn't go look at a place that's known for unprofessional, personal content like, say, someone's personal Twitter timeline or casually shared Goodreads book reviews just to POINT AND SQUAWK about how sometimes this person who writes dignified stuff in one venue behaves like a nerd elsewhere on the Internet.

                  What I truly do not understand about people who do this is what they even want. Do they just want people who make content that doesn't apply to them or interest them to stop making it? And are they so convinced, by their personal disinterest, of the utter uselessness of the content that they must make public statements asking others to cease creating it? Even if literally nobody but the person who made it cared, that would be a fine reason to make it, and the rest of us mature adults can just nod and smile and agree that this is not an issue for us because people making things we have no interest in does not affect us in any way.

                  I think, though, that the "SHE WANTS ATTENTION" nonsense isn't actually about the content. It's about trying to judge people because they're not the same as you. I'm not sure why someone feels superior if they, say, go to someone's Tumblr art blog and realize that they've drawn scads of pictures that nobody really liked or reblogged, and react to this by pointing and laughing about that person wanting attention and not getting it. They want to assign personality problems and fundamental flaws to people who are doing things they don't like or don't care about--perhaps because those people are enjoying themselves. I have a LOT of things to say and stuff I care about, and I'm pretty sure a personal website is a reasonable place to dump brain detritus even if some of it is old or weird or ridiculous or uninteresting to most people who don't know me, so I've always thought it's . . . just kind of puzzling and sad when people write to me to shame me for making it or paint me as an egomaniac because I make online content cataloging the goofy stuff I think about.

                  There's this X button in the corner of your browser for things you don't want to give your precious attention to. No one is demanding that you spend that attention on things you don't wish to. Opining that people should stop making content that isn't tailored to what you want to see is an awful lot more bafflingly selfish and egotistical than any extensively tagged art blog or awareness campaign could be.

                  Saturday, March 12, 2016

                  Personal Digest Saturday: March 5 – March 11

                  Life news this week: 
                  • Saturday and Sunday I just caught up on e-mail and house stuff. And my washing machine broke. I wish I could say I got more done than writing letters and organizing music and backing things up, but I didn't.
                  • Monday was just a normal day at work except I didn't feel like shopping afterwards so I took a nap and did nothing. I went to Mom's on Tuesday and we also didn't really do anything but I had a nice falafel burger thing.
                  • Really the only exciting thing about the week was getting some new shirts in the mail.
                  • Wednesday was Jeaux Day and all we did was watch Deadpool and eat at Chili's. I didn't much care for the movie, though the humor was the best part.
                  • And Thursday and Friday nothing happened. I just drew some pictures for my comics and slept a lot and read a little bit. I really need to get more done.
                    New Reviews of My Book:

                    Interviews, Features, Mentions:
                      • Nobody's talking about me this week.  Boohoohoo.

                      Reading progress:

                      • No books this week. The patron saint of slackitude can now come pray to me.

                      New singing performances:

                      Here I'm singing "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys.


                      New drawings:

                      Webcomic Negative One Issue 0565: "Her Choice."

                      New videos:


                      New photos: 

                      My new Crying Breakfast Friends shirt!
                      They had marionberry candy at work and I
                      was the only one who liked it so I took it home.

                      Social Media counts: 

                      YouTube subscribers: 5,275 for swankivy (7 new), 560 for JulieSondra (lost 1). Twitter followers: 762 for swankivy (3 new), 1,209 for JulieSondra (lost 1). Facebook: 287 friends (no change) and 195 followers (1 new) for swankivy, 634 likes for JulieSondra (4 new), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 119 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 2,318 (no change). Instagram followers: 61 (no change).

                      Wednesday, March 9, 2016

                      Wednesday Factoid: What I Do

                      Today's Wednesday Factoid is: List the Top Five Things You Spend the Most Time Doing, In Order.

                      That's a hard one. Here's my estimation.

                      1. Internet Silliness
                      2. Sleeping
                      3. Day Job
                      4. Creative Projects/Reading
                      5. Socializing

                      Internet Silliness refers to watching YouTube videos and cartoons, playing on Facebook and Tumblr, and responding to e-mails. I kinda do too much of this lately, and a year ago this might not have even made the list. But I do currently spend so much time enjoying cartoon stuff that it's kinda eclipsed everything.

                      Sleeping does, regrettably, take up five to seven hours of my day.

                      Day Job involves five to six hours (most days) of my weekdays. Though to be honest I'm not 100% involved in the job at all times while I am there, so I might be engaged in Internet Silliness some of the time I'm Day Jobbing.

                      Creative Projects/Reading involves what it sounds like, but it varies week to week as to what I am reading, whether I am helping someone edit, and what kind of blogging, video-making, comic-making, and writing I am doing.

                      Socializing includes Jeaux Day, phone calls, and time with my family.

                      I'm hoping I can encourage myself to spend less time with the Internet Silliness and more time with the Creative Projects/Reading in the near future, but that just ain't happening right now. ;)

                      Monday, March 7, 2016

                      Where's the plot?

                      Sometimes I write short stories and I submit them to places and then they get rejected because they don't have much action.

                      Basically, I frequently write stories that essentially have no plot.

                      I think this is partly because what I (and many other people!) enjoy about fiction has little to do with plot; I tune in for characters and concept and atmosphere, and whether the characters do much of anything takes a back seat behind whether I like who they are and enjoy watching them interact with their environment and each other. I recognize that of course stories have to go somewhere, but I've so often gotten turned off by what the stories become when they are dragged to a climax by their plot coupon that I guess I've sometimes opted to write stories that go nowhere instead of making them go somewhere that doesn't matter.

                      I think I need to do better than that.

                      Recently I came up with an idea for a short story and I was definitely itching to write it right away. It happened during a really busy week and I was mentally combing through my schedule wondering if I'd be able to steal a couple hours to write it down. And then I decided not to.

                      Because it doesn't have a plot.

                      It's just a concept, and it will make an interesting snapshot of some people while making a statement about human nature and all that adorable literary stuff, but I actually have no idea what they are going to do. I know who they are. I know what their past is. I know the point I want to make (though I think one of the characters has something else to show me once I get into it). But I don't know what they will be trying to do.

                      Maybe I'll figure something out. Maybe I'll deliberately make a gimmick out of their situation so I can take potshots at the need for plot, I don't know. 

                      Haven't decided if I want it to be in first person or third. (Leaning toward third, so I won't fall into the trap of too much introspection.) Haven't decided if I want it to be in past tense or present. (I think I'll just make that choice when I sit down to write it.) I don't know what any of the characters' names are. And I don't know quite where the story starts or how it ends.

                      Weirdly, even though it's not a story about stories, I think it will say something about why we tell them.

                      Maybe I'll wait for the plot to bite me.