How To Reach Me

So, it’s no secret among those who’ve tried that I’ve been hard to get in touch with lately by anyone who didn’t already have a very direct line.

The whole story goes back to early 2015, when my twitter commentary and blogging about certain ~*controversies*~ put me on the radar of some nasty people who (among other things they tried) signed my public-facing email account up for a ton of subscriptions and spam.

Clearing this out took a lot of brain cycles I would otherwise have used to keep up with actual correspondence, and there’s still a lot of junk. The fact that this makes it possible to overlook real emails in the mix is only a small part of the problem. The bigger part is how the ever-increasing inbox numbers make even looking more imposing, when I go through a period where I’m already anxious and/or depressed or feeling phobic about communication, things that happen anyway and have only been exacerbated in a very vicious cycle.

Fast forward to today, where things have gotten so bad that there are over 2,500 unread emails going back I think to the summer of 2015. I am going to start going through them in batches after I get back from WisCon, but in order to make sure that you can reach me and in order to prevent this from happening again, I’m doing two things.

First, I’ve created a new email address: blueauthor (where’s it at?) alexandraerin (I’ve got two turntables and a dotrophone) com. It’s clean, it’s functional, you can send me messages there. I’m going to start shifting stuff over to that address, and eventually my now former public email address will just forward to it.

Second, I’m giving my partner Jack Ralls access to this, so he can act as my social secretary, deal with spam, and flag things for my attention. He’s offered this before, and I’ve always turned him down because I felt guilty, but lately I’ve been taking note of how other authors handle these things and I’ve noticed that having a significant other or trusted friend act as a buffer with the world is not at all uncommon for those who can’t afford a professional service or personal assistant. As Jack points out, even if I can’t pay him anything, I make more money when I’m a functional human being and when I have more time and energy for writing, so it’s a net gain for the household in exchange for him doing the kind of labor he’s good at and enjoys, and at which I am absolutely terrible.

Now, for much of the next week, we’re both going to be 1) busy and 2) at a place with a temporarily overburdened wifi infrastructure, so I’m setting up an auto-responder at that address for now to let folks know what the deal is, and we’ll be doing similarly in other situations where we’re both kind of AFK. Better communication all around, basically.

As a final note: if you’re reading this and you already have my not-public email address – please feel entirely free to keep using it. If we’re that level of close, that’s still the best way to reach it. The “contactme” address is the one being replaced by blueauthor.

Welcome!

Hello! Thank you for visiting my website. If you’re here, you’ve probably got some idea who I am. If not: My name is Alexandra Erin and I’m an author, poet, blogger, and humorist. I am also, in no particular order: white, trans, female, and disabled.

I’m also a veteran crowdfunder, have been using micropatronage to pay my bills since before there were easy tools for it. After a few years in a personal and financial slump, I am trying to rebuild my career and my finances by taking better advantage of these tools. As I approach my 36th birthday next month, I’d really like to increase my audience and start making enough money to live on again.

Well, I’d say “like to”, but I mean “need to”, which means I need some help.

Here are a few things you can do to help me:

  1. This GoFundMe campaign will help me get to WorldCon this year. Many members of the WorldCon (and greater SF/F writing) community first heard my name in 2015, as I responded to the third iteration of the Sad Puppies temper tantrum with my characteristic humor and insight. Being at WorldCon would not only be a hoot and a source of potential material for more satire, it would be a great opportunity for me to network.
  2. Join me on Patreon to both financially support and gain free access to my writing. Any level of support will get you exclusive members-only access at least one new short story every month, plus an electric compilation of my writing (fiction and otherwise) produced each month. Supporting at the $10 or $25 will gain you access to my online seminars on such topics as writing by the seat of your pants, writing a story when you only know part of it, and writing when you feel like you can’t.
  3. Share this link, which is a category in which I’m posting one of my previously written short stories a day, every day, for the remainder of the month, to let readers know what I have to offer when I say I’ll give one new short story every month on my Patreon. This is my version of a PBS telethon.

Feel free to share that last link (and the other two!) in any place you wish, but if you really want to help get the word out, the best way to do that is to support my thunderclap by May 31st. Thunderclap is an app/site that allows us to coordinate a message across social media. You participate by clicking that link and then clicking the support buttons. The site will ask permission to post using your Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr account (as you choose). Do not be alarmed! This is how it works. It will only post the one message which I wrote (and which you can see and edit) when the thunderclap “goes off” on May 31st (after the last sample story is posted), as well as a message immediately to say you participated, in order to draw in more participants.

Some people wonder understandably why we would need an app to post the link, but the idea is basically to create a coordinated social media blitz, the kind of thing that normally takes a PR department and a huge marketing budget. By getting numerous people to share the link to my sample stories at the same time, the message is boosted to a larger audience. And larger audiences is what this is all about.

Also, if you’re more interested in buying stuff than crowdfunding… you can totally buy stuff from me.

  1. E-books on Amazon. (DRM free!)
  2. E-books for Nook. (DRM free!)
  3. E-books direct from the author. (DRM free!)
  4. My supplements for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. (DRM free!)
  5. Order a Make America Better t-shirt or sweatshirt. (Also, technically, DRM free!)
  6. Angels of the Meanwhile, an electronic anthology I edited that was put together to benefit the medical bills and related expenses of Elizabeth R. McClellan. Every penny earned by sales of this goes directly to her, but hey, that’s a good cause and it doesn’t hurt me any to have my work being in more hands, right? If PayPal doesn’t work for you, you can get it here instead. Oh, and… DRM free!

Announcing new patron perks!

My plans were to announce this stuff in June since that’s when I’m doing it, but it just hit me that this wouldn’t give people much time to sign up. And also, with a monthly Patreon plan, people are basically paying for the next month’s perks; i.e., if you sign up in June, you’re basically not paying anything until July.

Anyway, here’s the deal:

People who pay $10 or $25 per month to me on Patreon will have access to a new online writing seminar I’ll be hosting in Google Hangouts. For $10, you’ll be able to read the transcripts. For $25, you’ll be able to participate. In these two hour sessions, I’m going to tell you the tips and tricks that really help me out, the things that I never see other writers talk about.

For example? June’s topic is “How do I write a whole story when I only know one single thing about it?” You know, you’ve got one character. Or one scene that’s really clear in your head. Or even one line. It’s a great line. Clearly it means something. But what?

I tell you, every writer’s been there. A lot of writers never get past there. Me? I live there. It’s my home. And I’m offering a guided tour.

You can see the official announcement on my Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/5524689

WisCon Panels

It seems like every year, I meet someone at WisCon who has gone to other SF/F cons before but is a WisCon newbie. You can spot such a person because at the moment when we all pull out our handy-dandy pocket programs and/or schedule apps and start talking about what panels we want to go to, the seasoned newcomer says in a perfect Elle-Woods-on-first-day-of-law-school voice, “Who goes to panels at a con?”

I don’t point this out to shame the people who have done this, or the people who will do so this year. If you’re fortunate enough to witness this moment, feel blessed, because you are about to watch something beautiful happen, something as miraculous and wondrous and yet predictable as a beautiful butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. You’re seeing the WisCon equivalent of one of xkcd’s “lucky 10,000” moments:

ten_thousand

In other words… yeah, they don’t know, but they’re about to learn, and it’s going to change their lives when they do.

Not only do people go to panels at WisCon, people go to WisCon for the panels. I haven’t been to a WisCon yet where I didn’t find myself wishing for a time-turner so I could go to more panels, including ones scheduled against each other.

I am participating in five panels this year.

My first one… in what I think is the first regular programming slot of the con… is called “We All Start Somewhere: Welcoming Social Justice Newbies”, at 4 PM on Friday.

Panel description:

Many people aren’t born into families that talk a lot about or value social justice. We come from all different backgrounds with all different kinds of experiences. When someone wants to gain a better understanding of and start practicing social justice, how do we, as a community, welcome them and offer opportunities for education? How do we deal with the same basic questions over and over again? What do we do well? What could we do better?

If this is your first WisCon, or you still feel like an outsider, I’d suggest coming to this one, as I have a feeling it’ll be a good icebreaker for the kind of discussions we have at WisCon. I for one intend to do my best to make everyone who shows up at this one feel welcome.

The second one is called “Women and Trans/Non-Binary People: The Pitfalls of Haphazard Inclusion”. It’s at 9 PM on Friday.

Panel Description:

Attempts to create calls for submissions/lists of authors with marginalized genders have come under criticism for asking for “women and non-binary” or “women and transgender people”. Adding trans and non-binary identities to “woman” often adds additional confusion for trans masculine people (are trans men included as “sort of women”, or excluded as “not a marginalized gender identity”?). Does inclusion of non-binary identities with women imply that those identities are necessarily “feminine”? Does the addition of “trans” as a separate category imply that trans women are not members of the group that is ALL women? How can we more effectively promote the inclusion of transgender, genderqueer, or non-binary authors?

Honestly, I feel like the description is soft-pedaling some aspects of the problem. I mean, I’ve seen calls for submissions and event invitations that say “women and trans women”.

My third panel is “Trans and Genderqueer People Talk RPGs”, which is the first one I’m really excited about rather than just feeling like I have things to contribute. It’s Saturday at 10:00 AM.

RPGs, whether tabletop or electronic, allow us to play characters different from our current real-life configurations. Playing RPGs can therefore be freeing for trans and genderqueer people. It can also be awkward or even triggering. What insights into ourselves or the world have we gained by playing RPGs (tabletop or electronic)? How have RPGs helped us gain catharsis? What messed up situations have we encountered?

My fourth panel is called “Trans Narratives: Pitiful and/or Powerful?”. It’s at 1:00 PM on Saturday, and goes something like this:

Some trans people experience a lot of marginalization for being trans, and some of us have quite wonderful lives. Do we have to portray ourselves as underdogs to get anywhere? Is the “pitiful trans person” narrative more destructive than it is constructive? Can we also make room to celebrate how far we’ve come in our own lives, personally and as a community?

Looking forward to this one, should be interesting.

My last panel is called “Trans Body Positivity”, and it’s one I’m moderating this year. I moderated a panel last year. I was not expecting to moderate a panel, and didn’t realize I was until the day of. Despite being the least moderate person I know, it went well, probably because I remembered the cardinal rule: always drink in moderation.

Body acceptance and positivity movements contain some very worthy goals. Living in a trans body can cause attaining those goals to be more complex and confusing, however. How a trans person feels about their body before, during, and after various stages of transition varies greatly. A trans person choosing not to transition at all (or who is unable to transition) may have to learn very different ways of accepting and loving their body. For nonbinary trans folk, there might be whole other issues to deal with. How do trans people engage with and contribute to body positive movements? What do we have to teach others from our own experiences?

This panel is at 10 AM on Sunday.

Okay, so…

I have spent most of today sorting and collating stories to try to come up with a tentative “best of” list, with things of short story length that can stand on their own. These will be posted from this blog’s queue at noon each day from now until the end of the month, as “I Do Not Fight Monsters” was posted today.

I wound up with eight of the required nine, inclusive of today’s. It was challenging in part because the largest single body of my work is serial stories, and while there are some excellent standalone stories in my serial universes, I did not want them to dominate things. So there will be two, maybe three stories from the Tales of MU universe (or MUniverse), though not ones that require knowledge or investment of the main ongoing story.

Interesting thing about how it shook out: while a few of the selections defy such easy categorization, it was about half modern supernatural/horror and half high fantasy.

The point of this exercise, again, is to give prospective patrons a clear idea of what I have to offer, fiction-wise. I’ve been getting a lot of note for my wit and my insight; not so much for my storytelling, and that’s going to change. I’m still shaping up my Patreon presentation to reflect this, but starting in June I’m going to be writing and sharing (under a patron-only lock, at least initially) a new short story every month. This is not going to be the extent of my writing activities, but I do think it’ll be a draw.

I chose today’s selection because it was my first full-length story I submitted for publication anywhere as an adult, and it was accepted on the first try. It also has another bit of “historical” significance: my now-boyfriend Jack read it aloud in one of his college classes, years ago, before we had ever even met in person. Surprisingly (or maybe not, as I actually am kind of a big deal), his professor was already familiar with me.

Anyway, if you want to see what I have on tap, just bookmark http://www.alexandraerin.com/category/patron-preview and check it every day in May. A new story goes up at noon, Eastern time.

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.

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.

Since I haven’t blogged about my actual life that much lately…

Let me just tell you how my afternoon’s been.

The popping out of the house for a bit wound up taking a bit longer than expected. We were heading to Shepherdstown, after a friend of ours had told us that they have a decent selection of men’s pants. Jack has been looking for more that will fit him, as his waist has shrunk a bit the past few months, but he doesn’t want to buy a bunch of new clothes while his body is still changing shape. We didn’t find anything that fit him there, though I did find a cute red hat that fit me surprisingly well (it didn’t look like it would).

That’s jumping ahead. It took a bit longer than expected, as I said, because we found ourselves on a winding country road behind some large, slow-moving vehicles used for repainting the lines on said road. The day was nice, though, and so was the company, so I didn’t really mind going 10 mph for a good portion of the way there.

The hat was a good find, and it happened to coordinate really well with what I was wearing today, so I took that as a sign and got it.

We headed back to town and stopped at the mall, because Plan B on the pants situation was trying to find some cool suspenders. Jack had a blood sugar situation on the way into the mall, so we popped into a candy store to see if we could find something with a moderate amount of carbs, something to get him pepped up without swinging too far in the opposite direction. Score: something called Gardner’s Candies had a roasted almond chocolate bar that had 11 net carbs per half-a-bar serving. Even better, the bar is divided into easy break away squares, six per half a bar. That’s less than 2 carbs per square.

So that was a nice find.

They have a website. This is the ordering page for their chocolate bar, which has different options; all the non-almond ones had around 50% more carbs, probably because they didn’t have almonds taking up space. Disappointingly, their “nutrition information” link takes you to a PDF that contains a single page on which is written a 1-800 number to call.

Jack did find his suspenders, and he got a new hat, too. I’ve also updated my Facebook profile pic to one that he took today, of me in my new hat.

Nice afternoon out, all things considered.

State of the Me

I started off yesterday feeling pretty low, and ended it feeling pretty high. Immediately after my first blog post of the day, I broke down a giant pile of empty cardboard boxes that have been cluttering the end of our upstairs hallway, and throughout the afternoon I unpacked three boxes of dishes (mostly coffee mugs and a few other cups) that were packed up from Jack and Sarah’s apartment but never unpacked or put away, then destroyed even more cardboard boxes. Since we only get recycling pick-up every other week and we’re only contracted for one bin, I’ll probably be putting those boxes out well into June, but they certainly take up less space disassembled and flattened than they did as boxes.

I was hoping I’d wake up today feeling exactly as awesome as I did in the afternoon yesterday, but that didn’t happen. Ah, well. At least I have yesterday as a shining example of how the beginning of the day isn’t necessarily a prophecy about the whole of it.