Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday Factoid: Daredevil

Today's Wednesday Factoid is: How much of a daredevil are you?

I mean, I guess not at all?

I'm really not much of a thrill-seeker. I don't find adrenaline-inducing or dangerous experiences fulfilling. But I'm also not particularly afraid of most things and don't have any real phobias, so I've done stuff like gone on pretty intense roller coasters and rides, and have historically not been afraid to do things to see what they're like.

I did once climb onto a ledge on my school building and then jumped off it. That might've been kinda daredevil-ish. (I went up there to retrieve a Frisbee. And then instead of letting someone help me climb down I just jumped off.)

I have also climbed up on roofs for fun, so maybe that's also a little daredevil-ish. I used to bring my friends up onto the roofs of some of my college buildings and we'd have picnics or study up there. In college I'd make studying or reading more interesting by climbing onto the apartment building and hanging out up there.

Monday, September 26, 2016

They lie

TW: Passing mentions of sexual assault. CW: Discussion of racialized violence.

The media has only occasionally been unkind to me. Most of the time, their inaccuracies reflect misunderstandings that don't have intent to invalidate or mislead at their core.

Occasionally the presentation has been sensationalistic or seedy, like the time the Daily Mail found an online photo of me in a bathing suit to accompany their article on the 35-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN WHO SAYS SHE DOES NOT NEED TO BE RAPED. Because it's a great idea to put me in a bathing suit next to suggestions like that, and release it next to my full name and where I live.

(I didn't authorize use of this picture or know about the article before it was printed and then shared around the world, resulting in dozens of abusive and sexually suggestive messages sent to my various accounts.)

Another time, some twit interviewed me, promised a read-back of the story, and then never followed up, claiming the piece had not been published. I only found out that was a lie when someone who had read the article in a magazine in another country wrote me to thank me for writing it, at which point I also found out it had not only been released but had been written in first person, as if I was saying everything in the article. (It expressed sentiments that were common misunderstandings of my orientation--things I would never say.) When I contacted the interviewer to ask a) why is the piece that is clearly the result of her interview published like this when she claimed it hadn't been published and b) who is responsible for rewriting it in first person with this dippy narrative, she mysteriously was in South America with limited Internet, then had the flu, then had just had a baby and couldn't talk to me. Yikes.

They lie.

And occasionally I have been attacked by members of my own community and outsiders over things the media claims I said. Now, most of them have been incredibly reasonable when I describe what I originally said and how that was twisted, but sometimes they ignore the inconvenient truth because it's more fun to sensationalize some controversy based on something I literally never said. And some people don't believe that the media lies. Some people believe they only make mistakes, or believe the wrong people.

They explicitly lie sometimes.

You all want to believe they're telling the truth on the important stuff, but the more a publication claims to be unbiased, the more unlikely it is that that's true. And last week, one of my friends was personally victimized by lying media on a much larger scale than I ever was.

My friend was at the Black Lives Matter protests in Charlotte. She took and released what became a very popular video of a white man charging into a group of protesters and pointing a gun at them. After which the police intervened and let him leave after doing that.

"I saw it with my own eyes," she captioned.

Here's an article that gets the details mostly right.

Imagine how lovely it was when right-wing media picked up the story, used her video on their sites, but rewrote it so the story sounded like "A white man was victimized at the Black Lives Matter protests in Charlotte when he was trying to just drive through and protesters SURROUNDED his car, threatening him until he emerged with a gun. If he had not had a gun, who knows what would have happened? He is alive today because he was armed! HOORAY FOR OPEN CARRY!"

Ignoring of course that a) he drove INTO the crowd in an established, sanctioned, permitted peaceful protest that had police protection and threatened the protesters; b) bringing a gun to a peaceful protest of this nature is illegal; and c) carrying with a permit is allowed, but taking it out and pointing it at people is also illegal.

And the point is that even in open-carry states, black people who either have guns or are just accused of/mistaken for having guns are frequently shot, attacked, surrounded, arrested, punished, and murdered without any regard for the law, and this is what these protests are about. And yet, a white man can do what this guy did--with an actual gun, with what looks like murderous intent--and the police response was to intervene peacefully, talk the guy back into his car, and let him drive away with no consequences.

I remind you: Black people are being MURDERED, they are being SHOT ON SIGHT, for being THOUGHT to have a gun (or sometimes not even that), even in states where having guns is sometimes legal. They don't check. They assume any black person with a gun has it illegally and is going to shoot someone, but these police somehow manage to NOT fear for their lives and NOT lose their cool when it is a white person who has the gun. I mean, after all, he might have a permit, and we have time and wherewithal to check before we shoot in that case. (Not to mention. Again. Black people don't even have to have guns for these murderers to assume they do and that they are up to no good, and they are not given the benefit of the doubt at all. White people get away with actively threatening and pointing guns without being shot or even arrested. Black people do not.)

This conversation almost always turns into "but I saw rioters on the news" and "I can't take this seriously when black people kill each other way more than white cops kill them" and "if they say black lives matter, it's inherently racist" and "what do they even think they're accomplishing with these protests? proving they ARE wild and violent?"

My friend received thousands of hateful comments on Twitter and Facebook. Threats. Murderous threats. And the usual several hundred commenting on her appearance, because, you know, she's a woman, and that's always relevant when criticizing a woman. Her crime was recording a slice of truth and presenting it to the public exactly how it happened. Too bad some media outlets presented it as showing the opposite of what happened, and too bad many of the people framing the protests as violent and unfounded aren't a) there or b) victimized by the violence that inspired said protests.

Protests are not useless and they are not about looting and they are not about "being an angry mob." They're about declaring that a line has been crossed and that we cannot, as a nation, take it anymore. Whenever a country disappears down the rabbit hole, like Germany under the Nazi party or like North Korea, people say "how did it get this bad?" How did it? Because nobody did anything. Everybody just assumed that the government must be just and must be primarily making good decisions about how to govern, and nobody used the power of numbers to declare that they aren't taking it anymore. This nation has already become a dark stain on history in some respects--with public shootings happening so frequently in the absence of any attempt to address what causes gun violence, and with some of our citizens being labeled as thugs and treated as subhuman because of the color of their skin. "He shouldn't have been X if he didn't expect to get murdered!" Really, is that how you think justice works in the land of the free? That if a person is stealing or might have been stealing or is suspected of stealing, they should be fatally shot and not given a fair trial? I'm betting you would not feel that way if it was your father or your daughter who was shot just for being suspected. It shouldn't have to be your relative or your friend before you think it's disgusting.

This is your problem. It's not a small problem. Stop washing your hands of it because you didn't do anything racist (even though maybe you did tweet that thing about thugs deserving it, but those are only the bad black people, right?), stop repeating that nobody alive today in our nation was a slaveowner or a slave and therefore "real" racism is over, and stop ignoring that protests are a form of doing something against a system that is brutalizing its own citizens. Stop treating it like it isn't your business. Stop talking about it like your primary purpose in speaking is to make sure nobody thinks you're bad. Stop denying that there are many bad people in uniform who are abusing their power and getting away with it because their status confers righteousness they didn't necessarily earn. (People are denying that police did anything wrong even when cameras reveal how they plot against people they detain, discuss planting evidence, mock them and punish them for fearing, and treat them abominably when they are imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit.) It's also sort of weird how some of these folks want to organize militias and "take back the country" from someone they think shouldn't "have" it (???), but they somehow also respect the authority of the police without asking whether some individuals have proved they shouldn't have that power. But that's another story, despite being related.

Media is lying. In many cases they are joining with agitators who deliberately send in "protesters" to make the crowds wilder and more violent so they can photograph and film activity that will make people distrust the protesters. Media is sometimes spinning Black Lives Matter as a hate group that primarily exists to take from whites. Media is sometimes taking absolutely every white guy with a gun and turning him into a poor attacked person defending himself from savages, and absolutely every black guy into a potential and probable criminal who may be the victim in this situation but hey he probably did a gang sign or smoked a joint or wore an Ethnic Hairstyle that Looks Scary that we can circulate to make people think he deserved it. While aggressors, criminals, terrorists with guns are presented smiling, groomed, in sports headshots or school pictures if they are white. Let me say that again. Criminals who are white are frequently presented at their best, while VICTIMS who are black are presented to the media as bad dudes so we can all wonder if he maybe probably definitely deserved it. If someone has locs or a gold chain, they probably aren't good people, right?

Those are the stereotypes that make supposedly well-trained police apparently so afraid for their lives that they shoot on sight. They find these images of cultural differences scary, and black skin and everything that can go with it automatically stacks the deck for anything they do to feel threatening. They see neutral and even positive images as signs of mischief and violence. These are the cues unsavory media reps are zooming in on to make people afraid. To make people think there isn't really a problem and the police really are just punishing bad dudes. 

The media isn't telling you what's happening. They're telling you what fits their narrative. Do not make the mistake of assuming the news media is "objective" while the people in your social network telling you a different story are "biased." Everything written by a human is biased. I believe that listening to people who were there, like my friend who was AT the protests in Charlotte, will give you a more accurate story than people who write a news story claiming a peaceful protest involved a mob of BLM protesters mobbing an innocent man in a car who then was forced to defend his own life with a gun. It looked very much to me like he was intentionally threatening them because he did not believe in their cause and wanted them to think this is what they get for their civil disobedience.

They are not freedom fighters when they do this. Protesters are protesting violence that has already been done to them. They are not creating the violence, and when they are victims of it, they are not receiving the fruits of something they've sown. They're saying something, in a peaceful way, that helps people understand we have crossed the line. This narrative of white gun-toting freedom defenders and black gun-toting thugs needs to die, and when the media lies to you, they are not your friend. At best they are grossly irresponsible, like that magazine was when they decided hey, let's advertise that this girl is a virgin and never wants sex, and let's put her bathing suit picture next to her real name and what city she lives in. That can't hurt her at all, I'm sure. I doubt they were cackling evilly in their villain tower and plotting to fill my inbox with dick pics, marriage proposals, and sexual comments on my websites, but when media wants a sensational story before it wants to show you what's happening to people, it fails us. It fails you. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Personal Digest Saturday: September 17 – September 23

Life news this week: 
  • Saturday I did some sketches to prepare for Drink and Draw and packed my stuff for the evening, and did some minor cleaning around the house. Then that night I went out to the art club event and saw Victor there--first time I've seen him since he got out of the hospital. We all hung out and drew pictures and had fun! I got a webcomic done and the beginning of some fan art.
  • Sunday was pretty lazy. My sister P called and so I talked to her part of the day while doing chores, and then I did some ukulele practice, e-mail, karaoke, and entertainment. I made a new recording of a song I learned on ukulele. I might start doing that regularly.
  • Monday was very full. I had to go back to work and had a busy day, and one of my writer friends that I'd been coaching and supporting got offered agency representation so I was very excited for her. It probably sounds weird but I also decided officially to try to lose a few pounds, so I'm sort of on a lazy diet that involves just trying to eat less food.
  • Tuesday was just focusing on a proposal at my office, and then I hung out with my mom after work. I baked her favorite biscuits and she brought soup. We ate together and hung out, and I helped her a little with her computer.
  • Wednesday I busied myself with proposal stuff some more, met Jeaux for PDQ food and discussion of drama, and listened to Night Vale. He also wanted me to watch the first episode of a show called The Good Place but I did not like it at all. I also drew a picture and did some treadmill reading! Oh, and I received some new toys I bought. They're cartoon figures of course.
  • Thursday I was a little sad because this is the first Thursday in more than two months where we have not had a new cartoon episode. I guess I'm spoiled. I worked on the proposal at work all day and turned it in at the end of the day. And I wrote a storyboard for my comic. And I found out an old friend that I hadn't talked to in a while is actually dead, and I never knew. That was very sad. I called my mom and told her about it because she kinda knew who he was too. Then I talked to Victor that night and got a lot of my comic done. I for some reason decided to draw the comic in markers instead of pencil. Don't really care for the results.
  • Friday was a low-key day at work because I didn't have the proposal to worry about anymore. I did some contract stuff and catch-up work. Then at home I finished my comic and posted it.

New reviews of my book:
Interviews, Features, Mentions:
      Reading progress:
        New singing performances:

        This week's performance was "Opposites Attract" by Paula Abdul.

        New drawings:
        Fan art from Drink and Draw
        featuring Steven and Garnet and zappy hands
        Pencil art featuring my mood at not getting a new Steven Universe episode this week
        No one can cheer Baby Steven up!

        Webcomic Negative One Issue 0593: "Doing It Right."

        New videos:

        My "Haven't You Noticed (I'm a Star)" ukulele cover

        New photos:

        Eric is a loud man.
        Eric does NOT need that megaphone.
        Dork with a backpack at Drink and Draw.
        My friends and me at Drink and Draw.
        The beginning of what I drew at Drink and Draw.
        I crawled under my desk being excited for my friend's good news.
        Yet another new Garnet tee shirt.
        The debut of my "Let me drive my van into your heart" shirt.

        Social Media counts:
        YouTube subscribers: 5,349 for swankivy (1 new), 598 for JulieSondra (3 new). Twitter followers: 836 for swankivy (6 new), 1,302 for JulieSondra (7 new). Facebook: 294 friends (no change) and 200 followers (2 new) for swankivy, 643 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 56 likes for Negative One (no change), 127 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 2,462 (no change). Instagram followers: 87 (1 new).

        Wednesday, September 21, 2016

        Wednesday Factoid: Blood Type

        Today's Wednesday Factoid is: Do you know your blood type?

        Yes! My blood type is O positive.

        Let's make this journal entry interesting with a) an explanation of what O positive means; and b) the tale of how I found out my blood type!

        What does O positive mean?

        O is the blood type. Lots of people know blood has "types," but many people don't know what that means. O is actually more like 0--like zero. It means you do not have either A or B antigens on your red blood cells. People who have Type A blood have A antigens on their red cells. People who have Type B blood, you guessed it, have the B antigens. People with AB have both. And people with O have neither. 

        You get your blood type from your parents--from the combination of your parents, actually. You can't exactly inherit one parent's or the other's so much as you inherit a mixture of them. If both your genetic parents are O, you're O. If they're both AB, you could be A, B, or AB. There are all kinds of combinations. 

        The "positive" or "negative" bit is the Rh factor. Rh is a third antigen you either have or don't.

        If you have A, B, and/or Rh antigens, your blood can only be donated to someone who also has what you have. But if you do NOT have one or more of them, someone who DOES can still receive your blood. That's why O negative people are the "universal donors" and AB positive people are "universal receivers." If you're O negative, you're the most likely to have issues with blood that has something in it you can't process--because if you receive blood with an antigen your natural blood doesn't have on the red cells, you can get curdling that makes your blood not work like blood, and then you'll die and stuff.

        Did you know that in some places, blood types are likened to personality types? It's kinda like the zodiac. My type supposedly has good self-esteem and motivation, tends to be optimistic, and has good intuition, but also might be over-critical, selfish, withdrawn, or too focused on their work. I guess I could see that fitting somewhat. :P

        How did I find out my blood type?

        Funny story! I was taking an anthropology class, and one of the subjects was about groups of humans and how they developed different blood types that originated from different parts of the world. The class was mostly a lecture class, but it had a lab component once a week. One week, the lab experiment was testing our own blood to find out what kind we had!

        You could opt out if you wanted to, but you still had to do the experiment. So if you didn't want to use the provided instrument to stick yourself and get some blood (the same kind of thing diabetic people use to get theirs), you could test some sample blood. But I think everyone in my session wanted to do their own. Everyone was following the instructions fine and getting blood to put on their slides. But I couldn't get any blood to come out when the thing stuck me.

        The pinprick hurt, but nothing came out. And it wasn't a problem that could be caused by not pushing hard enough or being squeamish; when you pressed it, it came out and stuck you, no questions asked. I did this a total of TWELVE TIMES on various fingers. Nothing I did could get any blood out. My TA was kinda baffled, because you could see the thing was going off.

        Finally the TA suggested maybe I just have really low blood pressure and therefore don't bleed easily. While everyone else was testing their blood with antigens that would cause reactions to help you determine what kind of blood you had, I was instructed to run around the classroom multiple times and then stick myself again. And that worked.


        Testing involved taking three drops of your own blood and testing one for a reaction to A antigens, one for a reaction to B antigens, and one for a reaction to Rh antigens. If you dropped A on a sample and it coagulated, that meant you had B antigens in your blood reacting to it. If you dropped B on a sample and it coagulated, it meant you had A antigens in your blood. Same for Rh--if it reacted, you were Rh positive, and if it did not react, you were Rh negative. My only clumping reaction was on the Rh slide, so that implies I have O positive blood.

        This is the work of a college student in an imperfect lab experiment, though. So I would want to get it tested officially if I needed a transfusion or something.

        Monday, September 19, 2016


        Over on my author website, someone in the comments is kicking up some dust over the dangers of non-asexual people being "trapped" into relationships with asexual people.

        Some interesting (read: kinda awful) quotes (bold mine):

        The ace partner doesn’t really understand what it means to expect a comprehensive sexlife and to have a hundredth of that in quantitative terms, a thousandth of that in qualitative terms.

        Within our western society a sex life of 2 or 3 times a week, between 20 and 60 minutes each time, is a given. Again, “unless specified otherwise”.

        [If not discussed otherwise, it is expected that] both members of a couple will carry out a certain amount of work, either inside or outside the home, so that there is a balance. A sentence like “I’m not doing the household chores because we never agreed on that” is not acceptable. Of course if before sharing a flat or a house they “agree otherwise” then it is different. But if they don’t, a sound and reasonable assumption is that they will share the burden. The same holds true for having children within a marriage, for listening to music below 40 dB, for getting dressed before opening the door to the neighbor and for having sex. [Denying your partner this standard of sex without them agreeing is on the same level as] accepting that your partner does not work either inside or outside the house, does not get dressed before opening the door, does not use the toilet when nature calls and so many other conventions that are just part of our daily lives[.]

        Interesting, eh?

        In the ensuing discussion, this person doubles down on quoting norms and expressing a right to expect a certain amount of sex in a relationship. The commenter gives a lot of lip service to the idea that other arrangements can certainly be agreed upon--and they're playing the "I'm not against you, I'm on your side" card--but bringing up consensus over and over again as a defense of sexual expectations is reflective of one of the major attitudes that marginalizes asexual people.

        I can certainly admit and understand that if you were a non-asexual person and you married an asexual person with no idea they were asexual, and then you found out they weren't into sex, that could be hurtful and disappointing. But to spin that as if the non-asexual person is "trapped," you ignore that asexual people (and less sexual people, and people who just happen to have a lower threshold of how much sex they want in general) are often pressured with this same status quo into a "trap" that demands sex they don't want to have. This is consistently used against asexual people in relationships to make them feel like the problem, and the fact that we are 1% while "they" are 99% does not mean partners have a right to forgo negotiations and discussions over sex, imagining themselves simply entitled to their desired level of sexual intimacy. You cannot expect that your partner will be giving you what you want without asking them. Every relationship participant should discuss this if they find it vital, and no relationship participant should enter a relationship believing there's a minimum amount of sex they are owed.

        If something is necessary to your well-being and the well-being of your relationship, you damn well need to talk about it. The entitlement that oozes out of someone who thinks they have a right to expect sex as a matter of course is mind-blowing. Yes, it's pretty typical for all of the members of a relationship to want sex. But even when they do, you still can't treat it like a clause so taken for granted in the contract that you assume it's there and don't read it. It's also not a fine-print gotcha that asexual and less sexual people are sliding in there to get what they want from a relationship without having to compromise at all. And having less sex than "expected" certainly is not a breach of decency along the lines this person is implying. It's amazing that they compared it to refusing to get dressed or use the toilet. [Not to mention that some people are nudists, though obviously there are laws about clothing in many places, and some people with certain disabilities or alternate situations do not/cannot use the toilet.]

        A big part of what I do in my activism is attempting to eradicate expectations of this nature. Your sexual appetites being common does not entitle you to their satisfaction. And though, again, this commenter is saying disclosure by the possibly asexual partner would "excuse" them from this duty if the non-ace partner agreed, they're also saying that their standards automatically apply if no agreement is made. Really, it just happens to be what you want and expect unless someone specifically brings it up and wants something else? Convenient. And ultimately wrong. Sex does not have a default measurement you are allotted or promised. No matter how many studies you quote about what's common, these are designed to be descriptive--they are designed to illustrate what is happening in relationship participants' sex lives. They are not designed to illustrate what should be happening in yours, and they are certainly not designed to make a less sexual or disinterested person feel like they didn't get a memo everybody else got.

        Relationships, and what we do for intimacy inside them, are highly personal. There is no default you are entitled to expect. I don't care if no one in a particular relationship is asexual; every member still deserves to be free of predetermined expectations extracted from a study that wasn't designed to enforce normativity. And since this issue of compulsory sexuality affects my community especially negatively, I've taken up fighting its roots as part of my message. That doesn't work too well if you claim to make exceptions for asexuality (BUT ONLY IF THEY DISCLOSE IT BEFORE THEY "TRAP" YOU!), while still insisting that the "standard" applies everywhere else.

        Saturday, September 17, 2016

        Personal Digest Saturday: September 10 – September 16

        Life news this week: 
        • Saturday I of course did not have work to walk to, so I got my daily steps for the "Step-tember challenge" on the treadmill. But the air conditioning was broken in the fitness room so it was pretty hot. 92ºF hot. And I did it anyway. Kind of a bad idea. The only thing I really did besides that was play my ukulele a lot! And I posted a video of the very first song I've learned on ukulele after one week of teaching myself. I know it's not good, but I just started!
        • Sunday was a semi-productive day. I made a video for my writing channel, played ukulele, did laundry and dishes and karaoke, made a birthday cake for my mom, set up a new computer for my mom's birthday present, went to the store for soda, did some reading while on the treadmill, and did some editing on my book.
        • Monday was busy at work and I had to do a bunch of research and phone calls. I also helped a friend with some agent advice. Then it was pouring when I was trying to leave the office so my office manager drove me home! Then I had my mom over and we ate rice and birthday cake. (I don't think she really liked the cake though.) We did a Skype session with my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew so they could watch my mom open her present. I did a silly thing where I had her open the power cord and when she didn't know what it was I was like "Oh it's the power cord to this" and gave her a new laptop. She was surprised!
        • Tuesday it was busy at the office again. I did my grocery shopping after work and got a compliment on my Keep Beach City Weird shirt from the bagging person. Hooray for cartoon nerds! Then at home I did some processing on the video I recorded over the weekend, and did some relaxing.
        • Wednesday I was busy with admin stuff, and met Jeaux for Chipotle after. We didn't really do anything--just lazed around with no agenda. And I let him read my copy of The Answer. After he left I drew a picture for the next day's cartoon.
        • Thursday was a weird day. I had fallen asleep on the floor and got myself up and into the bed for a few more hours of sleep, and then I got awakened early because my office manager called to remind me that we had a lunch celebration for earlier in the day than I'm usually there. I jumped in the shower and walked to the office with plenty of time to spare, and then we ate at Outback. (I had a potato and broccoli!) Then I did a bunch of stuff for our projects and watched Steven Universe at Jeaux's house after work. It wasn't that exciting of an episode ("Onion Gang") but whatever. Then I chatted with Victor on the phone and drew my webcomic.
        • Friday's walk to work was weird because some dude tried to follow me and talked a bunch of nonsense along the way to get my attention. He eventually abandoned the attempt and I got to continue in peace. I had a short work day, went home, finished my comic, and played my ukulele. I also spent some time on the treadmill during the wee hours, 'cause that's fun.

        New reviews of my book:
        • Goodreads says I have one new review this week, but I can't get it to show me anything newer than a review from two weeks ago. Can I just say I hate that you can sort reviews by "newest first" and it will literally still just put them in a random order?
        Interviews, Features, Mentions:
            Reading progress:
              New singing performances:

              This week's performance was "Broken Strings" by James Morrison.

              New drawings:

              Episode doodle for "Onion Gang."

              Webcomic Negative One Issue 0592: "Where It Came From."

              New videos:

              My writing channel has a new video: Writing Characters with Special Skills.

              My "Giant Woman" ukulele cover


              New photos:

              Don't really have any pics this week but here's Mom's cake.

              And the haircut comparison photos:

              Front, February 2014
              Front, September 2016
              Back, February 2014
              Back, September 2016

              Social Media counts:
              YouTube subscribers: 5,348 for swankivy (9 new), 595 for JulieSondra (2 new). Twitter followers: 830 for swankivy (4 new), 1,295 for JulieSondra (7 new). Facebook: 294 friends (no change) and 198 followers (lost 1) for swankivy, 642 likes for JulieSondra (1 new), 56 likes for Negative One (1 new), 126 likes for So You Write (1 new). Tumblr followers: 2,462 (lost 3). Instagram followers: 86 (no change).

              Wednesday, September 14, 2016

              Wednesday Factoid: Writing By Hand

              Today's Wednesday Factoid is: When do you write by hand?

              I write by hand every day, but that's mostly because I have kept a handwritten daily journal for the last sixteen years.

              Besides that, I hand-write phone messages and calendar entries while I'm at work, and sometimes I hand-write letters to friends, but not often. I used to write my novels by hand but I've pretty much phased that out. Sometimes I write a webcomic storyboard by hand if I'm not near a computer but want to write one. (I prefer to write the storyboards on the computer now so I can cut and paste them into my program where I render the talk bubbles, but I used to write every storyboard on the back of scrap paper.)

              And then sometimes I'll just write a caption or comment on a drawing I did, so I guess that counts!

              Tuesday, September 13, 2016

              Remembering why

              I did some work on my Bad Fairy project this weekend and dipping back into it reminded me VERY STRONGLY why I love this story and why I want it out there.

              And the really effusive feedback I'm getting from my test readers is encouraging, so there's that.

              I think there's still some work to do on the beginning of the book. Not just to tune it up, but to rethink my strategy entirely as to how I introduce this character. As many of you know, this was written as a sequel, but now I may be pitching the sequel as a first book (you know, with the option that they could always release the trilogy as I originally imagined), and the book has to be able to survive that. Right now, I think it does feel like a sequel in a way I don't really want it to.

              Yes to making it seem like the character has plenty of history; I like the idea that readers are only seeing a piece of her life and aren't meant to fully process everything she's been through without context. I think the way she acts like she has a lot behind her can be carried forward as clear baggage without sounding too much like I'm a) rehashing what happened in the first book or b) focusing on establishing her past at the expense of her going forward.

              No to extensive flashbacks, spending four chapters on casual exposition, and making the second book about the first instead of letting the events of the first be reflected clearly in the second.

              I have a lot of work to do on it but sometimes when I step back into the story it becomes so clear why I wrote it and how much I expect my audience to enjoy it. 

              I really want to get that part done but it's intimidating sometimes. :(

              Saturday, September 10, 2016

              Personal Digest Saturday: September 3 – September 9

              Life news this week: 
              • Man, this was an active week on my feet! I'm participating in the "Step-tember Challenge" at work, wearing a pedometer and counting steps that we're all entering into a spreadsheet, competing against the other offices. So I'm doing a bunch of walking, including walking to and from work to get more steps. It's been . . . hot. And tiring. But very good for me, I think!
              • Saturday, in search of steps, I walked to the bus stop and rode to the mall. I got a bunch of reading done on the bus and got a number of things accomplished at the mall--including doing an exchange for when I bought the wrong toy, buying some new clothes, and eating a pretzel. Then on my way home I stopped in at Sam Ash Music to buy some violin rosin and ended up seeing a ukulele display that inspired me to buy a ukulele. I've never played ukulele before (except for a single lesson on the blues in a college class), so it was a brand new instrument for me! I got home, bought some pizza to be delivered to my friend who had no food, took a shower, and ate candy I bought at the mall. I finished the book I'd been reading and reviewed it online. Whee!
              • Sunday I did MORE walking!! I walked up the other side of the street and stopped to do some errands. I bought new bike lubrication for my chain, stopped at the craft store to get some art supplies (including a few new Copic markers!), got some new folders at the office supply store, and picked up a few groceries. Also, the art I'd dropped off at the craft store to have framed was ready, and a friend who works there offered to deliver it to me for free since it is big! HOORAY! I got home and showered, then taught myself a few songs on ukulele and drew a picture. Yay!
              • Monday I had Labor Day off from work so I did stuff at home. I tried to play DDR to get steps but the pedometer didn't record them very reliably so I guess that's out. I also did some reading--actually read and reviewed two books (though one was a children's book--The Answer came out and I read it immediately because Steven Universe you guys). Also did some blogging, did laundry, bought clothes online, and joined a place called Imzy. If you want an invitation, let me know. This is my (teeny) profile and I was invited to participate because there are some good asexuality conversations happening there.
              • Tuesday I got to work and found out we won a project we worked really hard on, so we were pretty excited. After work I went grocery shopping. Still walking so I was just walking my bike so I could carry my groceries in the basket. My mom was in my house when I got home so I unpacked and had a sandwich while she ate some cheese. We hung out and chatted about life. She didn't stay that long though. I made a clay statue and baked it in my oven, and then I tried the exercise room at my apartment complex's fitness center for the first time--to use the treadmill. I got my first recording of over 20,000 steps for the day! Beyond that, I played my new ukulele and watched YouTube.
              • Wednesday was super hot. I didn't do a lot at work, and met Jeaux after to eat at Moe's. He offered to walk so I would still be able to get my steps, haha! We hung out, watched a couple episodes of Stranger Things, and after he left I drew a picture for the next day's cartoon.
              • Thursday I did some of the usual tasks at work, then walked to Jeaux's where we finished off watching Stranger Things and got to see that day's Steven Universe episode, "Last One Out of Beach City." It was really cute. Then on my walk home I got some food from Chipotle, which is the first time I've eaten there, and I had a chat with Victor on the phone while drawing my comic.
              • Friday wasn't too eventful. I worked, walked, and posted a comic. And watched some YouTube stuff and played some music. *shrug*

              New reviews of my book:
              • No one cares about my book this week.
              Interviews, Features, Mentions:
                • No one cares about me this week.
                  Reading progress:
                    New singing performances:

                    This week's performance was "More Than Words" by Extreme.

                    New drawings:

                    This week's cartoon: "Last One Out of Beach City."
                    They're going to a concert. Where Pearl will be a nerd
                    and try to talk to a hot chick.
                    Character request from Facebook:
                    I drew Jenny and her grandmother Nanefua.
                    Hey Steven Junior
                    Why did I draw this

                    Webcomic Negative One Issue 0591: "How We Honor."

                    New videos:

                    Not this week!

                    New photos:

                    Replenishing protein from all that walking!
                    Expensive art, expensive framing--it's hung!
                    Make sure you don't forget your Moon Goddess statue when you go on adventures.
                    Here's a better look at her--the goddess statue I made.
                    They MADE me eat cheesecake to help celebrate the win at work!
                    What outrageous treatment!
                    My new ukulele is aqua colored!

                    Social Media counts:
                    YouTube subscribers: 5,339 for swankivy (lost 2), 593 for JulieSondra (4 new). Twitter followers: 826 for swankivy (1 new), 1,288 for JulieSondra (1 new). Facebook: 294 friends (friended Emmanuel) and 199 followers (lost 1) for swankivy, 641 likes for JulieSondra (no change), 55 likes for Negative One (no change), 125 likes for So You Write (lost 1). Tumblr followers: 2,465 (lost 4). Instagram followers: 86 (1 new).

                    Wednesday, September 7, 2016

                    Wednesday Factoid: Family Hobbies

                    Today's Wednesday Factoid is: What hobbies have been passed down in your family?

                    Hm. Well, this is an odd one maybe. My parents are both a little artsy--my mom is handy/crafty, and my dad is musical. But it seems like the arts my mom was into never stuck for me, while the ones that came from my dad's side seemed more natural for me.

                    My mom's good at sewing, can make stained glass crafts, has dabbled in all kinds of stuff like revamping furniture and arranging flowers, and had her own macramé business when I was a kid. I learned a little macramé from her but didn't do anything with it.

                    But my dad was from a musical family, and he played a few instruments, while both his parents were singers and his sister was a visual artist (painting, drawing, photography). I got the music bug pretty good and learned piano from my father, played violin in middle school, later joined the high school chorus, participated in audition-only competitive All-State choirs, and majored in music.

                    And one of my sisters is artsy the same way my dad's sister is in a lot of the same things. I like to draw and do crafts too but I don't think it's really on that level.

                    What's also kinda interesting is how ALL of us are language nerds of some kind. My grandmother (on my dad's side) taught English, and a bunch of us have somehow ended up in editing or writing-related positions, and language glitches tend to drive us up the wall. So I guess that counts too!

                    Monday, September 5, 2016


                    I've mentioned a couple times in the last few entries that I consider myself to be primarily a writer but also enjoy being a hobbyist in music and visual art. Lately I've been spending a LOT more time with my hobbies--and spending more time with them than I have been with my "primary" art--but I know it won't lead to anything professional. Probably not even if I wanted it to (which I don't). I just basically want to be confident in these arts. For them to be things I can do. Things I won't claim to be able to do and then feel embarrassed of how much of an amateur I am when people look at or hear my product.

                    So I have to keep in mind the lessons I learned as a writer. Progression generally requires two things:

                    1. Practice

                    2. Guidance

                    Over-reliance on either leads to crashing and burning. (Or at least not getting anywhere.) I've been practicing drawing for my whole life, and have been maintaining a tight schedule on a webcomic that requires 10 drawings a week for over ten years. But except for occasional peeks at references and even more occasional consultation of a drawing book, I have had next to no guidance on my art, and I think it shows. For instance:

                    Here's a drawing I did when I was eleven.

                    Sometime within the next couple years, I met an art teacher and got a few tips from her. This happened.

                    Clearly still not high art, but there's a huge difference--and it didn't come from just trying the same thing over again. 

                    A couple years later I reproduced the cover of a book I liked, paying a lot of attention to the source material. I got this.

                    Years later, I can do a decently sophisticated, but not-anything-special piece of pencil art.

                    I still pretty much have no idea how light really works and really suck at doing clothing that looks like clothing and what are backgrounds anyway but . . . I mean, that's not too bad for being self-taught except for one art teacher who wasn't even actively giving me lessons. (I was helping in the art room at my after-school program, and I picked up some stuff.) 

                    Nowadays, in my pencil sketch webcomic, most of the characters are drawn hastily and sketchily, but the idea of them comes through for the purpose. There are a lot of frames like this.

                    A lot of scribbles, more or less nonexistent backgrounds, and low on the detail. But it serves the purpose. I'm happy with it. I probably plateaued with this a long time ago.

                    When I started drawing more cartoons as of recently, I was kinda tossed back to the drawing board (haha). It was a new style for me and I was much more used to working in pencil. Color is hard. It's a whole different dimension of being confused by how light works, and it's so cool when it works out right, but most of the time it doesn't. I was paying a lot more attention to very small things that I wouldn't on subjects I felt more comfortable with, like exact proportions and little bitty details. And the end product was much more satisfying than the sloppy, stagnant cartoon doodles of the Simpsons characters I used to do in middle school.

                    (I'm still clearly baffled by how light works tho guys.)

                    I used references for all of these little sketches, and after a while of playing with them, I now have a handle on some of the shapes that make up these characters. So I can give them different expressions or try different angles, or put them in different clothes. But I had to start with something not too ambitious, and just . . . draw shapes. Draw faces. Play with colors. See what comes easily and what doesn't.

                    And now, though I'm not going to go into details, I'm working on some music stuff I've never tried before. The progress is . . . well, slow. I'm brand new to it, and with my music theory background being quite solid, I guess I expect more from myself. I expect to be able to plunge forward and pick things up quickly, even though this category of music stuff is nowhere in my vocabulary. I have an advantage only in that I know how to read music already and I have a very good ear--I know if I'm doing something wrong instinctively, and can dig around to figure out how to fix it. 

                    But I'm also looking up and reproducing very, very basic beginner stuff. The stuff I can imagine child beginners being taught--not actual how-to-play-this-song instruction, but positioning, best practice, terminology. Of course an impatient music nerd expects to be able to jump right into the part where you play songs. I'm working on that, but I'm also a complete beginner and I have to remember that. I'm at the point where I can't do anything without a lot of guidance, but that's good because it means I'm constantly checking in to make sure I'm not learning bad habits.

                    And now, I'm dealing with an awful lot of practice.

                    I literally started with this less than two days ago and I've already seen practice work wonders. Things that seemed ridiculously difficult--things I couldn't really imagine seeming natural or easy for me--fell into place with repetition. I keep reminding myself of that every time the next step is hard. Practice will smooth the edges off. Practice will make impossible into difficult into doable into easy. Practice will build the stairs for me. I can't climb by skipping too many stairs. It's just going to make the journey up the staircase harder if I don't build every step.

                    Writing is like this. There are so many steps. You have to learn letters, then learn words, then learn how to use sentences. There's so much right at the beginning that we master readers don't even think about anymore. But then we use those skills to tell stories. And storytelling also has its alphabet; there's sentence structure and punctuation to worry about, and there's character development, and there's plotting, and setting, and bringing a message the way you want to bring a message. It's so much and it doesn't come fast--or it doesn't seem fast while you're building that staircase. But once it's built, you can use it to climb up and down, turn around, pause where you want to, focus on where it takes you rather than what the steps are.

                    I can do a lot for my eventual competence and mastery by focusing on my own individual stairs and the next few ahead--while still admiring people who have already nailed down their stairs and are climbing to places I want to go. Sometimes watching them and the ease with which they use the stairs as a tool can be a little intimidating: why can't I do that? How long will it take before it's that effortless for me? Where will I even go once I have enough stairs? Why is this one stair giving me so much trouble when the previous ones weren't this bad?

                    Practice. It won't be like this forever. Keep looking at the people who have benefited from practice, and respect that countless hours you didn't see are behind that effortless ascent. If you want to follow in their footsteps on your own path, you've got to be the one crafting the stairs.