On Gratitude

I’d really like to thank a couple (I think, it seemed to be more than one but not by much) of anonymous/pseudonymous individuals who sent me disparaging messages over the weekend, trying to… well, actually I don’t know what they were trying to do. Disparage me, discourage me, stir up drama… some combination of all of the above? But I kept getting nasty messages referring to other authors running fundraisers or starting up Patreons right now, in a goading “Look how much better they’re doing than you are.” way. Some of them were encouraging me to give up, some were basically telling me I shouldn’t be “putting up with” or letting others “get away with” their success, whatever that means.

The thing is, I don’t find the success of other authors discouraging. I find it hugely empowering. N.K. Jemisin, a successful traditionally published author who I believe has been nominated for just about every major fantasy award, launched a Patreon campaign on Friday-ish in order to help her quit her day job and focus on writing.

This kid of thing happens because “successful author” does not necessarily mean “making enough money to live on”, no matter what your publishing model is. That discourages me. That makes me feel somewhere between defeated and fighting mad. But an author figuring out a better way to do things? That makes me happy. I mean, heck, it was knowing about this reality that led me down the road I chose in the first place.

Now, I know N.K. Jemisin personally, if not closely. We’re mutuals on multiple social media sites. We’ve met in person. It’s possible we’ve even shared a meal together, although I think it would have been a “push three or four tables together” kind of meal, which is part of why I’m not sure if we have or not. I don’t know if she’d call me a friend, but we’ve had nothing but friendly interactions. I admire her as a person and while I have bounced off some of her books, I love the ones that I got into and I recognize the quality of the ones that I didn’t.

So how could anyone be so petty as to imagine that I’d react to her great achievement with anything but, “Well, good for her!”?

I mean, I’m not just going “Good for her.” I’m taking notes about what she’s doing, and sharing my experience with the platform when she asks. To the extent that our paths overlap, we have a lot to learn from each other. I find her example inspiring not just because of her success, but because I’m watching someone succeed while making some of the same decisions that I’ve struggled with. So it’s like getting a vote of confidence by proxy. Yes, one short story in a month is plenty of short stories. Yes, relatively clean drafts are a fine standard for this sort of thing. Stuff like that.

I have a hard time convincing myself that any amount of work or effort is truly enough to show my value to the world, which makes it hard to muster the energy for any amount of work or effort. So seeing where other people set their benchmarks… well, you can’t live your life living up to other people’s examples, and you shouldn’t try. But it can be a good way to quiet down the doubts.

I think I’m supposed to be jealous because I’m re-jiggering my Patreon at the same time she’s launching, but as far as I’m concerned, we both had really successful weekends. My goal for the weekend was to get enough money to fly two people to WorldCon, and you know what? Mission accomplished. Now, I do also need to make more money on a regular basis, and I have plans to do so, but it’s a “one thing at a time” kind of deal. The plane tickets was a “money right now” situation. Patreon is a longer game, and now that the plane tickets are taken care of, it’s where my focus is going.

It’s no secret that I’m struggling financially, but it shouldn’t be a secret that my financial struggles have spun out of personal/emotional struggles that I’m now putting behind me. Another author’s success didn’t cause my troubles and another author’s success isn’t going to prolong them. I’m ready to start making real money again. And yes, the key word there is “again”.

All the anons who tried to discourage me by pointing to other authors living the dream did is remind me that eight years ago, I managed to get enough recurring income to quit my day job and focus on my writing, and I did it without Patreon. I did it before Patreon. I pioneered the kind of direct micropatronage for authors that Patreon enables, and if I didn’t get a lot of recognition for this… well, that’s partly because I’m an awkward self-promoter, but at the end of the day, I didn’t do it for recognition, I did it for money to live on, and I got that.

You know what the biggest amount of money I crowdfunded for my writing over a couple days was? I don’t know to the dollar and cent, off the top of my head, but it was… as they say dans la belle internet… over 9000. U.S. dollars, that is. Now, that was basically meant to cover several months’ worth of expenses projected backwards over time, but still. I did that. Me. Almost a decade ago. There was no Kickstarter. There was no IndieGoGo. There was no GoFundMe. There was just me rattling a cup, reminding people that I was doing work and that my work had value, and that I had expenses that needed to be covered for me to keep living and doing my work.

Back in the day, my example inspired Catherynne M. Valente to take a chance on crowdfunding and web-publishing her first …Fairyland… novel, which also became her first New York Times bestseller and is now a much-loved series. Before the web response proved that people would read it, it would have been a hard sell: a young adult novel written in a style emulating books for younger readers that is actually a spin-off of a very adult novel? Who would read that? The answer, it turns out, is everybody. The books are a legit phenomenon, an all-ages hit.

The other individual that my anonymous correspondents have tried to pit me against is Rachel Swirsky, who’s launching her Patreon with a fundraiser drive for Lyon-Martin health services through the one-two punch of offering a parody of what is possibly her own most famous work as an incentive for participation, and donating the first month’s proceeds to LM. I think it’s a great way to get people in the door, where they can see what she has to offer. I predict she’s going to get a lot of long-term patrons out of this short-term campaign, and even if she doesn’t… well, it’s a great cause, isn’t it?

The thing is, Rachel actually reached out to me for advice on this before she did it, though I was not in a place where I could offering any. I’m helping her out how I can now. At her invitation, I’m pitching in with one of her incentives, which seems like it’s going to be a lot of fun for everyone involved. I’m in a time crunch, but I have a sketch of a blog post I’ll be making about what she’s doing and why it’s important.

All of this is to say: (a small number of) people are trying to be jerks about crowdfunding, probably because they don’t like it when artists and creators they disapprove of find ways to make a living that they have no power to interdict. This is not new, any more than patronage itself is new.

And I’m a little grateful to the jerks because they forcibly reminded me that however I feel right now, I am not a failure. I have achieved great successes in the past, and there’s no reason to believe that I cannot achieve greater successes in the future.

Even more so, I’m grateful to the readers who have supported me over the years, those who circulated links and spread the word, those who pitched in their dollars and cents and the few individuals who have personally invested hundreds or even thousands of dollars in my life and career, and I am grateful to the writers and artists who have shared the bonds of respect, admiration, and friendship with me.

STATUS: Monday, May 23rd

The Daily Report

Well, the end of last week and this past weekend were… interesting. I made some plans, got some perspective, and took a few steps. I have a fundraiser specifically for the purpose of getting myself and Jack to WorldCon, and its first day, it brought in enough for us to buy plane tickets (the most time-critical element of the expenses) as soon as the withdrawal clears. Every $150 thrown into the pot will net a new satirical piece along the lines of my popular Sad Puppies Review Books features. The first one, a SPRB treatment for Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, went up over the weekend. I’ll be doing the remainders about one a week.

I’m kicking around ideas for my next satire, but the Mike Mulligan review may wind up counting for this week, as we leave for WisCon the day after tomorrow. The con doesn’t actually start properly until Friday, although there are some kick-off events on Thursday. So why Wednesday? Well, last year, I screwed up the dates when I was buying plane tickets and only noticed the day before our flights that they were a day earlier than our hotel reservations. So we had a frantic scramble to get ready and to find accommodations… but when all was said and done, we found it was less stressful to do it that way then to travel and not have a full day to recover, rest, and decompress before we start socialing and doing things. Also, the further our travel is away from the actual weekend, the easier a time we have with the airports. It does add to the expense of the thing, but in years that we can all go, WisCon basically winds up being our big blow-out.

In some ways, it’s my usual impeccably terrible sense of timing that I’m gearing up to kick hindquarters and take names right before we have to leave, especially since the con tends to wipe me out, physically and emotionally. I’m also bad at calendars. When I started planning, I managed to simultaneously convince myself that the con was both further away in the future, and also further from the end of May. It only just now hit me that June 1st is the day after we get back, and not a week after that. Oops.

Oh, well. You know what? I have never felt as good going into the con as I do this year. My physical health is better than it’s been in my adult life. So full speed ahead and dang the torpedoes. We’re doing this. MU updates still resume June 1st, and the beginning of June is still when I kick all my plans into high gear.

One of the things I did last week was split my Patreon into two, one for “support Alexandra Erin the author” on a monthly basis and one for “support Tales of MU” on a per-update basis. The MU one is currently at $35, which amounts to something around a penny a word… not the best rate, but a good start. My secret inner benchmark for MU being worth it to keep writing has always been $50 a chapter, so that’s what I really hope to see as a baseline, but I completely understand it not being there before I’ve even started updating again. At this point there aren’t even links on the MU website that point to the new Patreon.

The personal Patreon attracted some new patrons but the number of patrons and monthly income more or less stayed the same, as older supporters who are only or mainly interested in TOMU took the opportunity to make that officially clear. I kind of expected that. the The fact is that if both campaigns gain or lose no one between now and the end of June, I still stand to make substantially more money from that month than I am this month, because the MU campaign is based on number of updates.

I plan on growing the MU Patreon by proving its value with quality and consistency of updates. Proving the value of the author one is going to be a little trickier. The most successful crowdfunding campaigns for authors are from ones who have the kind of large established following that is easier to build if you achieve success in traditional publishing. I am in the weird but not necessarily bad position of having done more recently to impress my fellow authors than my fellow readers.

So my immediate plan to “prove my brand” as an author is to, in the run up to the end of the month, re-publish one of my favorite short stories or similar works of mine a day, with a link to my author Patreon at the end.

This way I can show people what they’d be supporting, exactly, and what they’d be getting in return.

The State of the Me

Doing good. I think I mentioned I had a terrible insomnia episode going into Friday. I slept well over the weekend, though I paid for the missed sleep pretty dearly.

Plans For Today

Okay, if you were paying attention to the long and meandering daily report, you might have noticed I have a plan to re-publish eight short stories between now and the end of the month, and that two days from now I am leaving on a trip that ends the last day of this month. This means that my main task for today is going to be selecting those eight stories and getting them queued up as posts.


Monday Morning Monster: Blight Dryad

Blight Dryad


A blight dryad is a wretched creature that results when a dryad is corrupted by the Shadowfell or killed by necromantic blight. Blight dryads hate everything green and growing, and have a passionate antipathy for the living, particularly elves and fey creatures.




Make America Better Shirt

So, I was on Twitter (drunkenly) explaining the history of the CIA (again) when something about the “Make America Great Again/America Was Never Great” hat war crossed my eye.

I said, “Do you know what hat I want? Make America Better.” Because you can’t argue with that. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, you have to believe that we can do better.

Well, I thought about it a little and realized I don’t really have the head for baseball caps, but I decided to be the change I wanted to see in the world, so I decided to try my hand a third Teespring campaign. The first two struck out… didn’t get enough minimum orders to go to print. This one is nothing but simple, sharp lettering, though, which apparently comes with a few perks, like a minimum order of 1. So by ordering one of these babies for myself, I fulfilled the minimum and guaranteed that anyone else who wants one can have one.


Acknowledging an elephant standing awkwardly in the same room with my big plans.

The flipside of my new and growing confidence is that I am sitting on months… possibly close to a year… of unanswered and even unread email from the depths of my anxiety. There are people who sent me questions and inquiries, people with whom I had begun collaborations, people I was in the midst of doing business with when things went downhill and I just sort of snapped and lost all of my ability to deal with my normal channels of communications.

I’m sorry to those people, both the ones I know about and the ones I don’t. Knowing that I completely disappeared without a word from the ConCom mailing list and did none of the work I had been prepared to do for this year’s con is giving me a mounting of sense of dread about showing up at WisCon next week, and I’m not sure what to do about it, especially since I still feel massively unprepared to look at, sift through, or respond to my work email.

This is the kind of thinking that keeps me in the hole once I fall into it. Knowing that’s what’s happening helps a little, but it doesn’t end the effect.

I saw a great stream of tweets by Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle on Twitter) that talked about this. I’m going to quote her here:

“How come people think your depression isn’t real if it doesn’t look or manifest itself like theirs? What a strange barometer.

What people think you shouldn’t be able to do when you’re depressed is not an actual barometer for how depressed you are. It just ain’t.

When I’m depressed, I can still get up and go to work, but I get easily overwhelmed by email. I can tweet, but I can’t talk on the phone.

We need to do away with the idea that because you see someone casually interacting online they must be in great mental health.

I think this is how some people slip through the cracks even though we’ve seen people tweet, update & publish blogs right up until the end.

There’s more in the same vein, but that’s the crux of it. It made me feel better to read someone else writing about it, about the exact situation I’ve been in and the exact way I’ve been feeling. This was the real single largest roadblock on finishing Angels of the Meanwhile, but also the hardest thing to explain because “I am afraid of my email and I can only even marginally function if I continue to ignore it” sounds, as Ford notes later in the stream, like an excuse to anyone who doesn’t feel it.

I know that I’m going to have to take responsibility, clear out the mess, and make what amends that I can. Part of my action plan for June is to spend some time each day… at the end of the day, so I can face it after I’ve accomplished my other goals for the day and am riding high… and clear out a hundred email messsages (most of which, I know, will inevitably be junk mail, automated updates, etc.). At that rate, it will take me about a month and a half to get through it.

As part of that, I will be making personal apologies as appropriate. Until then, if you were waiting on replies or actions from me in the past year and have been sitting here going, “Why is she talking on her blog and Twitter about all the awesome things she’s going to do if she can’t even reply to me?”, please know that I understand the position I have left you in and that I am sorry.

Digging Deep with Mike Mulligan

With one exception (The Poky Little Puppy), every book I have chosen for Sad Puppies Review Books is one that I have strong enough memories of that I can thresh out the basic idea for the review and then go look at some combination of Wikipedia, Amazon, and YouTube to verify the details I was hazy about. If I know a book well enough that I can call its story to mind and come up with some angle for my red-pill-popping, reactionary right-wing reviewer to take on it, I use it.

So most of the books I’ve reviewed are ones that were favorites of mine, or favorites of one or many of the children I’ve read books to over the years. The most recent one is a little different, as it was actually a favorite of my father’s. In fact, I associate the book Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel so strongly with my father that I almost dedicated the Sad Puppy review of it to him, then thought better of it on the grounds that given the subject matter, it would be easy for someone who doesn’t know him to misunderstand such a dedication.

I didn’t think about Mulligan et al when I was writing the first or second round of SPRB mainly because it wasn’t a huge part of my childhood in the same way that the books I used were, but as I had also exhausted a lot of the more obvious possibilities, last night when I saw that the GoFundMe campaign cleared $150 just before I went to bed, I wound up Googling “classic children’s books” for inspiration, and there it was in the banner of examples that popped up. I was naming the books that caught my eye to Jack, who did not have the same literary upbringing I did and who had never read or heard of many of the stories I know by heart.

He asked me to tell him the story of the titular Mike Mulligan and his equally titular steam shovel, and I did, and he remarked that it seemed to him to be about the importance of not leaving your friends behind.

I think there’s definitely something to that, although it’s such an integral theme that it’s more of an axiom. The alternative never even comes up. When the new power shovels are introduced, Mike never thinks about abandoning his trusty machine. When Mike and Mary Anne dig themselves into a hole they can’t get out of, the story treats them as a unit. Mike can leave any time he wants, but the question is how to get them out. The fact that either they both go or neither one of them does is treated utterly matter-of-factly, not as some foolish stubborn stand taken by Mike. The story’s solution does not actually require that Mike stays, but the version of it where he doesn’t is never proposed.

And so just like that, I had my hook for the review. The sort of men who fuel campaigns like the Sad Puppies and Gamergate will eat up a story like that… when it’s about a bond of friendship between two men. Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel is given a feminine name and personified as female, though, and any kind of story of sacrifice or even mutual support and respect between a man and a woman is cast down as being emasculating feminist propaganda.

When two presumptively straight guys make it clear that they will to the mat for each other every time, when they say things like, “If you want me, you’re going to have to go through him.”, when they make it clear that if it’s the two of them against the world, you should think twice before betting on the world, they… and, frequently everyone else… will eat it up with a spoon. But make one of those characters female, and suddenly she’s a gold digger, she’s an albatross, she’s using him, she’s manipulating him, etc.

Even people who get lumped into the “SJW” side of things will get in on the act under the guise of praising the woman for being “better” or “stronger” than the narrative that shows the man supporting her. Few people in the audience asked why Bucky Barnes even needed to be saved if he’s so great, or why Cap would be willing to tear the team apart to do so. But replace him with a woman… particularly, replace him with a woman of color or most particularly a Black woman… and people who celebrate the Bucky/Steve dynamic whether as an embodiment of masculine love (whether platonic or not) will excoriate the whole thing.

Men who stick by their (implicitly male) friends through thick and thin are seen as being noble. Men who fight and die in futile causes as part of a band of brothers even more so. But put a woman in the mix…

Just think about how many times on a TV show, aimed at people of any age, you’ve seen the lesson aimed at boys that they have to stand by their friends. Think about how often we see the lesson that women should stand by their men. And think about how often the lesson is, “All this, just for a woman?”

The “character” of Mary Anne the steam shovel is only incidentally female. She’s only mildly anthropomorphized in the art and narration, has no lines of dialogue and never acts on her own. She’s female because that’s the way we speak about vehicles and vessels. But for whatever reason, she is presented to the reader as female and Mike Mulligan’s bond of loyalty to her is shown as that of two old friends who rely on each other, and I think that’s important.

Of course, there are people who will look at this and say that I’m reading too much into this, that I shouldn’t be trying to politicize children’s books. But at its core, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is the story of a Depression-era laborer who is pushed out of the job market by changing technologies, and what he does to survive: first by finding a niche that the emerging big players aren’t ready to address, then by working harder and better than they will, and then finally by changing in the face of a changing world.

John Henry, the subject of a similar story, worked himself to death trying to prove that his labor was not made obsolete by a steam-powered device. Mike Mulligan pilots such a device, and its fall into obsolescence in the face of newer machines is what motivates him to work himself up into such a frenzy that he winds up trapped. Whether or not this story was meant to have political meaning, it reflects a reality that is in part political in nature.

Now, critics of this kind of discourse say things like, “But you can read any message you want into a story!” And you know what?

To a point, they’re right.

We could say that Mike Mulligan whitewashes and sanitizes the John Henry fable, by replacing the freed Black man with an Irish laborer, making his Phyrric victory non-fatal, and showing society making a place for him and his steam engine. Or we could say that they’re just different stories in the same mold, and that the author did not necessarily have John Henry in mind at all when she wrote it, that she was merely drawing from the same well.

We could argue that Mike’s final fate being far kinder than John Henry’s shows that society has progressed over the decades, or that it at the very least reflects the author’s optimism that it could do so. Or we could say that Mike’s ability to go the suburbs and win over the town and carve out a life for himself there is emblematic of the growing social capital and access to white privilege of Irish laborers in the early 20th century, something John Henry wouldn’t have had been able to do, if he had been a contemporary of Mike’s also pitting steam power against internal combustion and electric power.

If I say that these arguments all have some value, critics of such critical discourse (the critical-critical, we might call them) would no doubt seize on this as an admission that this kind of examination serves no point except to undermine the value of meaning and truth. If everything is true, then nothing is true, and anything can be true! Subjectivity run amok! Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria!

To the critical-critical, the only point of such examination is criticism in the most negative sense, and the only point of criticism is to prove that something is bad or wrong in order to destroy it. If we talk about the socioeconomic reality behind Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, that means we are coming for it, and if we’re not stopped when we come for Mike, then who knows what we’ll come for next?

In a very real sense, I wound up choosing Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel for my next review because of two men whom I know are willing to do the hard work and stand by the women in their life with the same valor and honor that society says men should stand by each other, men for whom sacrificing for their partners is not even seen as a sacrifice or a question. When I compare them to the fearful, fretful men who inspired the content of the review… well, there’s no comparison.

Sad Puppies Review Books: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel


Reviewed by John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired)

There is a disease men get sometimes, or at least some men. Blue-pill beta cucks who have not yet learned the value of going their own way. It is called one-itis, and the women who control the media use it to foster this disease by shoehorning the same love story into every movie and TV show, telling men that there’s one woman out there for them whom they must spend all their time and energy trying to please in order to win her. There’s nothing modern feminists want more than a world where men have to see them as prizes to be won and fought over, because that is the only way they can have true power.

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is the story of a sad, broken little man who ultimately loses his lifelong battle with one-itis. It depicts his journey from a proud construction worker to a humble janitor, living out his last days in the dingy basement of a building that only his own honest labor made possible while the man who bested him, a powerful man who consistently demonstrates his value, lords his position over him.

The main characters in this book are Mike Mulligan, the construction worker who is led around by the nose by his ungrateful, greedy shrew of a steam shovel Mary Anne, and Henry B. Swap, a local politician who knows the importance of keeping frame.

The opening pages of the book are a sickeningly, sappy love song to the so-called “virtues” of Mary Anne. Mary Anne is so great, she and Mike Mulligan “and some others” dug the canals for the boats and the roads for the cars and the landing strips for the airplanes. This wording clearly shows us how completely our hero has succumbed to one-itis. Even when he’s participating in grand architectural projects, he only has eyes for his steam shovel, his One True Love.

For a while, he’s so wrapped up in the grand romantic fantasy of it all that it seems like they have a good life together. We’re told that he works so hard and takes such good care of her that she never grows old, but what we never hear is what she does for him. When is it her turn to take care of him? Feminists say they want equality but they have created a world in which men must labor to support them.

And even if Mary Anne looks good for her age (only because Mike supports her!), there’s still trouble in paradise because here comes younger, sexier power shovels: Diesel shovels, electric shovels, gas shovels. Men who know their own value prefer the younger models, and soon no one wants Mary Anne around except for sad sack Mike Mulligan, who can’t bear to let her go, but now can’t find the work he needs to do in order to support her in the lifestyle to which she has grown accustomed.

This is one-itis. Mike Mulligan would have been just fine if he’d been willing to say, “Later, toots!”, leave Mary Anne on the scrapheap where she belonged and started fucking one of the modern shovels instead. Or why one? He could keep a lot of them in the air until he knows he’s ready to settle down. He should be living large. Nothing demonstrates your value to women better than your willingness to keep a lot of plates spinning.

But because he has one-itis, Mike doesn’t realize that while Mary Anne cannot function without him, he can function just fine without her. Mary Anne needs Mike Mulligan inside her in order to come to life. Without him stoking her furnace, pulling her levers, and ramming pistons, she would remain cold and inert, without purpose or function. What does he need her for? To dig a little faster and a little better? I submit to you that Mike Mulligan on his own could eventually dig any hole that he dug with Mary Anne’s nominal help, but Mary Anne on her own is just a big useless thing, waiting for a man to fire her up and give her direction!

But rather than trading her in for a younger model, Mike follows Mary Anne out of the city and away from the lucrative construction jobs to a podunk town where an aging beauty can still act like a big fish in a small pond. There, desperate to be able to continue to please her like he once did, Mike lets himself be manipulated into a bet with the town’s alpha red pill selectman, Henry B. Swap: he’ll dig a cellar for the new town hall, and he’ll either do it in a single day—meaning he’ll bust his ass way harder than he needs to—or he’ll do it for free, meaning he’ll bust his ass for nothing.

Mike’s problem, from start to finish, is that he has no notion of keeping frame. Frame is how men control their interactions with the world. You, not some steam shovel you picked up, should be setting and controlling the frame in your relationships. Whoever sets the frame for any negotiation, in a relationship or business transaction, controls it.

Where Mike should have been demonstrating his power to Swap, he instead broadcast his desperation. And he gets taken advantage of, because of it. He lost frame with Mary Anne years ago if he ever had it to begin with, and he loses it immediately with Henry B. Swap, and so we’re treated to the sad spectacle of a man who once laid the foundations for skyscrapers trying to scrape out the basement for a two-story building in a single day.

Now, he succeeds, sort of. He succeeds because Mary Anne isn’t even loyal to him. She’s an exhibitionist. Any time a crowd watches her work with Mike, it just stokes her boiler even harder, and so they “dig faster and better” the more people are watching.

Men, if you’re ever dating an excavator, her work should be for your eyes only. She shouldn’t need a crowd watching to do her job. She should be digging modestly, in the privacy of your own home. It’s one of the simplest rules of red pill logic: sooner or later, a steam shovel that needs to dig in front of other people will want to dig with other people.

One-itis often leads to tunnel vision, and that’s the case here. Mike fulfills his beta boast, but at the cost of everything. He has literally dug himself into a corner. With no ramp to get out of the cellar, he’s stuck.

Or is he?

There’s no way to get Mary Anne out of the pit he dug, but just a few pages later, Mike’s climbing out on a ladder. It’s only his irrational attachment to her that keeps him there with her. The lesson here is that it’s easy for women to fall, but men can still just get up and leave when that happens. Mike, sadly, doesn’t learn it. A little boy suggests that if Mike is so in love with Mary Anne, he should just stay in the basement with her. If there was any doubt that Mike was a cuck of the highest or maybe lowest order, Mike agrees.

When the book closes, Mary Anne is keeping Henry B. Swap warm while Mike is still devoting his life to maintaining her. That’s the way it is. Women keep men like Mike Mulligan around only so they can leech off their beta bucks while they chase after the alphas. This book shows the entire process from start to finish in breathtaking clarity, but in an Alinsky-style propaganda twist, it puts a happy face on it, showing Mike Mulligan’s final defeat as a kind of contentment.

He’s going to live the rest of his life in that basement, because retirement would mean walking away from his “one” and if he could have done that he’d have been living the high life with a string of motor shovels up and down the coast, and we’re supposed to believe he’s happy about it. He certainly does.

Two stars.

Want to send John Z. Upjohn, USMC (Aspired) to WorldCon? Help Alexandra Erin get him there! For every $150 donated, we’ll post another piece like this.

Send Me To WorldCon

Last night while I was wide awake (or rather, very early this morning), I decided to set up a GoFundMe page for getting to WorldCon.

For every $150 I get, up to the goal of $1,800, I will write a satirical piece along the lines of Sad Puppies Review Books. In fact, most if not all such pieces will be new SPRB. I’m just leaving it open-ended in case I have a really compelling idea for something better, or I run out of workable ideas for book reviews. As always, I will not just churn out something that retreads the same jokes with slightly different source material to get easy applause for preaching to the choir. I am a craftswoman, no matter how low-hanging the fruit I pick may be.

Now, even if this falls flat, I do have some new potential and actual revenue streams that might let us swing it by the hair on the skin of our teeth by the time August rolls around, but that’s a big “might” and I’m not sure it’s worth it, spending the time and money and energy from now until then making it happen, as opposed to focusing on growing my audience and business in ways that will benefit me long past then.

So, as the those dedicated free speech enthusiasts would put it, I’ve decided to let the market decide. Want to see me at WorldCon? Want to read about my adventures at WorldCon? Want to live in a world where I go to WorldCon? Put your money where your mouse is and vote with your wallet. If the dreadful elks can make sure that Vox Day owns the Hugo ballot, I have to believe the wider fandom at large can ensure that Theophilus Pratt and John Z. Upjohn, USMC (aspired) have ringside seats, if that is in fact what they want.

Now, I am sure that in some quarters this gambit will be dismissed as “e-begging” for “Social Justice dollars” or “victim bux”. If you’ve never seen someone throwing those terms around, be grateful that you haven’t done all the research I have into the alternate realities inhabited by reactionary fandom cliques. As ridiculous as the claims they make are, I confess it is tempting for me to try to temper my approach, to avoid crowdfunding or trying to do it in an apologetic and quiet way in order to try to head off such criticism, or at least make it clear that it’s not warranted.

But at the end of the day, I believe that I have contributed something of value to a wider community. I believe I can make even greater contributions in the near future with a little help. The kind of transaction I’m soliciting here is neither scam nor charity, but a simple exchange of value for value.

Not sold?

Just imagine John Z. Upjohn livetweeting the con, and then listen to your heart.


STATUS: Friday, May 20th

The State of the Me

As if to remind me that I’m not invincible, I had the worst insomnia episode of 2016 last night. As in, total insomnia. Did not sleep a wink until after the sun came up and I was able to pass out from sheer exhaustion. Hence there’s been something of a slow start to today.

Plans For Today

No long introspection today. Just a plan of action. I am going to be changing up a few things on my personal Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/alexandraerin) and on my newly established Tales of MU Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/talesofmu). Right now, you might notice that my personal one has a banner referencing Tales of MU. That should give you some idea what kind of changes I’m talking about.

I’ll be making another blog post directly after this one about another crowdfunding development, and I had a tweet stream that I will either collect into a storify or assemble into a blog post, as part of a new effort to make sure that my utterances do not simply vanish into the void. You know Dr. Doom has recording devices in his armor that records everything he says for posterity? The Marvel 1602 version kidnapped William Shakespeare for the same reason. I really need to do one or the other of those things, one of these days.


Okay. So. Business plans.

The fact is, I’ve been doing this crowdfunded on the internet thing longer than almost any author currently active. I was doing it before it had a name, before there were all the tools we have now, and before there were reams and reams of advice to follow on how to do it right.

The fact is, things should have been getting easier for me with the influx of new tools. The fact is also that they haven’t. My peak financial success as an author came before Patreon, before IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.

And the reason for this, I believe, is that rather than using new tools to make my life easier, I’ve been using them to make my life more complicated. Rather than using them to do more of what I was doing, I’ve been listening to other people’s advice about what to do with them, even when it didn’t fit what I’ve been doing.

Where I get into real trouble with crowdfunding… well, it ties into what I was talking about in my status post earlier today. The feeling that I’m not doing enough. I start soliciting money in exchange for the stories I create, and then I feel… and there are those piles of advice out there telling me that I should feel this way… like I have to add something extra, like I need to provide incentives, like a bank giving you oven mitts or a foam beer thingy when you open a checking account.

My dad told me a story once (and then maybe ten or eleven more times after that; we are a family of storytellers) about a new client of his who asked him why he didn’t send out extravagant holiday gifts to remind his clients that he appreciates them, as is common in the business. “My last guy always sent me a turkey,” he said, or words to that effect. My dad’s response was to show him how his account had fared under his stewardship, and tell him, in effect, “Merry Christmas.”

Going forward, that’s going to shape my basic approach to things. No promising turkeys. Once upon a time, I made $1,200 a month in recurring reader donations on the strength of little more than “I’m writing what I want to write, and if you want to read what I write, you can pay me to keep writing it.” I mean to get back to that point and surpass it, also on the same strength.

Now, it’s not just that my business direction floundered in the intervening years. I have also been struggling creatively, mostly because I was struggling cognitively. You go back a bit over six years and I was in a pretty scary place. I had serious, persistent memory problems. I had focus problems. My always (and still) bad sense of direction and poor visual processing of faces was at a debilitating level. I started experimenting with dietary supplements to improve things, and while those experiments are ongoing, I have been improving in a more or less steady direction.

Recent changes to my lifestyle have kicked that into high gear, and then this past few weeks I added a few more touches to my regimen that have me feeling… well, like I did back in 2007, when Tales of MU was new. I mean, I still have anxiety and such. On a purely cognitive level, though, in terms of clarity and strength of mind, I am on top of the world. I’ve been there for a few weeks now, through poor sleep and sickness, even.

So, anyway.

Here’s the plan.


The hardest thing for me, using Patreon, has been to figure out how to sell myself on it, basically. What I’m offering. My creative output, at its best, is very eclectic. There’s poetry, flash fiction, my takes on explaining topics, out-and-out opinion pieces, stories, and stuff. Then there’s my biggest historical money-maker, Tales of MU. It’s suffered quite a bit lately, and one of the reasons it’s suffered is that I have a hard time figuring out how to sell it alongside everything else… do I make my Patreon “Tales of MU and the rest” or more, “Here’s everything I do and Tales of MU”?

Well, here’s my solution: I’m splitting my Patreon in two. Two patreons. One for Alexandra Erin In All Her Glory, one for Tales of MU. The Alexandra Erin one is going to be on the monthly plan. The Tales of MU one is going to be on the pledge-for-work plan; meaning, if you pledge $1 per chapter, then I get $1 from you each time I post a chapter. This also adds in some accountability.

The Alexandra Erin one is going to be my current one, because, it’s really not going to change much, especially from what it’s been lately, when Tales of MU updates have become basically quarterly occurrences. Once it’s divorced from Tales of MU, the eclecticness of it all is going to be something that I embrace. I mean, it’s not like people never buy a thing that gives them some current events, some opinion, some humor, some fiction, etc. That’s basically a lot of magazines, right?

So the details are still firming up in my brain and probably won’t settle completely until after WisCon, but starting in June, my creative and insightful output is basically going to, in some form, be shaping up into Alexandra Erin: The Crowdfunded Zine. I’ll still be writing and posting stuff to my blog or directly to Patreon throughout the month, but I’m going to be collecting, collating, and polishing it as I go so that at the end of each month I have a shiny package I can give to my patrons and sell to anyone else who wants it, and that I myself can look at with pride, knowing that yes, I definitely accomplished things this month.

Tomorrow I’m going to be updating my Patreon page and getting the new one in order.

Now, here’s an important thing: if you like Tales of MU and you also want to just support everything that I do, you will not have pledge twice. I’m not going to be like the Coca-Cola company, worrying that sales of Diet Coke are cannibalizing the market share of regular Coke.