Well…

…I’m keeping up my streak of blogging about every two weeks or so. We’ll see if I can improve on that in the coming days.

It feels a little weird to be talking business at this moment in history, but I really do need to blog more often, and to keep up my other professional obligations.

This week I put in my party proposal for WisCon and my proposal for a trans/genderqueer reading group. Yesterday I had my best writing day in a while – I wrote a very short poem (short enough to fit in a single tweet, even!) as a warm-up, and then a 3,500 word short story, and then another story in the form of a 900 word monologue or prose poem, I’m still not sure how I’d best classify it.

The poem and the poetic monologue were written to use as reading material during my nearly weekly appearance at The Flying Camel. Last week I started doing a virtual reading on Twitter’s Periscope service around midnight on the night of the open mic night. I’d planned to do the same last night, but with the news breaking out of New Zealand I didn’t quite have the right mindset for a public performance and I decided to spend my time reporting Islamophobic tweets on Twitter. Weirdly, all the accounts I found that were spreading hatred of Muslims last night were also engaged in anti-Semitism, homophobia, and racism. Go figure.

Anyway. I’ve got a social engagement for the middle part of the day, and after that I’m going to post the two shorter works to my Patreon. The longer one will be up probably next week. When I write a story, particularly one that’s over 1,000 words, I think of it as having three stages of doneness: complete is when the whole story is there on the page. Finished is when I’m gone over the rough bits. Polished is when I’ve looked at the finished story, and often slept on it, and figured out all the ways to really make it sparkle. I wrote a complete story yesterday in about an hour, but it’s not finished and it’s not polished.

If I’m stuck on what to blog about, I might talk about the story some more, because I wrote it as a way to sort of get over some mental hurdles that have been holding me back in some of my longer ongoing writing projects.

New phone, what’s all this, then?

So, I got a new phone recently. It’s part of my ongoing drive to overhaul my life by getting rid of stuff that doesn’t really work, stuff I’ve just sort of put up with. So when I was shopping for a new phone, what I looked at was something that would do the stuff I use my phone for, but fix a couple of things that were causing problems.

One of the biggest problems was that in getting a screen size that let me use my phone as a work device, it wound up being too wide for me to comfortably hold. Even with a pop socket on the back (which helped a lot), I couldn’t use my phone all day without dropping it at least once, and putting a lot of stress on my hand and wrist.

I could get a smaller phone easily. But one big enough for me to work on yet easy on my hand was trickier.

After a LOT of research, I landed on the Galaxy Note 9 as hitting my sweet spot. It has a nice big screen and is only a very tiny bit narrower than most phones with that kind of screen real estate — but phones that size are only a tiny bit too wide for my hand. I found some similar sized phones that were markedly lighter in weight, but they seemed to get there by compromising on battery life and that’s a high priority for me.

The Note 9 wasn’t the cheapest choice, but I’ve always gone for kind of middle of the road on power… and then struggled in frustration when I tried to write on my phone and it was slow and non-responsive at my typical input speeds. So even though I wasn’t buying it primarily for the specs, I have found using it to give me the kind of profound KonMari-esque sense of relief and release that I was expecting from its shape, but all around. I can write on 4TW and it is so fast. It doesn’t reload my pages every time I switch between them. I can write one-handed using my thumb, two handed with the included stylus (first handwriting recognition thing that actually reads my handwriting!) or if I have a surface in front of me, with a bluetooth keyboard that has similar key size to the netbooks I used for years.

But it’s so much more responsive than the netbooks.

So, I have been writing up a storm. This is my second blog post of the day, the first one being up on my Patreon because it concerns the art and craft of writing. I have another blog post I wrote yesterday that I need to reformat a bit before posting. I wrote a whole short story that I had allotted four hours to write, in about 75 minutes.

Listen, if you’ve followed me for years you know that writing on my phone or other handheld device is not something new for me. It’s always been sort of the holy grail for me, of being able to write effortlessly anywhere and just have it sync to the cloud so I can finish it up on a computer. Some of my devices have been better for that than others. Sometimes I had a real working solution for a while. Sometimes I was kidding myself and trying to make something work that was just causing aggravation.

But this is so fluid and seamless. If I sit at a table or desk and prop my phone up and put my keyboard there, it does amazing things for my focus. I can see the whole screen easily, my eyes are focused right on it. I can type at a really good clip but it’s dang inconvenient for me to flip to a different app or tab, so I only do it when it’s necessary, not out of reflex. My phone is there on the table, not at my side where I can just grab it and check Twitter.

For me, it’s all of the advantages of a single-use word processor (as some authors use) without having to carry around a single-use gadget and hoping it doesn’t break or get lost or die before I can transfer my work off it. It’s great. It’s not cheap, but, you know, my last new phone was in fall 2017. A year and a half between upgrades doesn’t feel too indulgent for someone who uses wireless tech as heavily as I do.

Anyway. The phone is Galaxy Note 9. The keyboard I use is the Microsoft universal folding bluetooth keyboard – that’s an affiliate link, just so you know, but this is a true and wholehearted recommendation for people who can type on a netbook sized keyboard, and who will be using it while typing on a hard elevated surface like a table. Those are the caveats. You can’t hold it in front of you and you’ll be frustrated if you try to use it on your lap. But it’s hardy and robust, with a good battery life – I haven’t had it for long but I bought it on recommendations from people I consider power users when it comes to typing and traveling.

I’ve been learning what else it can do (it can measure heart rate and has a built-in pulse oximeter, among other surprises, and can do streaming video muuuuch better than anything I’ve owned before), but honestly, I bought it with the killer app being slightly narrower while still being a usable size, and finding out it’s great for writing on in any configuration has been enough of a pleasant surprise.

49 days into the new year…

I made the decision late last year I was going to resurrect my blog in 2019, as an actual blog, updated nearly daily. I made this decision because I had started daily journaling in 2018 and it was really good for my emotional and cognitive processing, but it also resulted in me being even more closed off from others than I had been before, because I now had an outlet for my thoughts that wasn’t putting them up on Twitter or throwing them into a blog post.

I did a couple of posts at the end of December because I like to get a running start on my resolutions (that’s the secret to getting anywhere with them, in my experience), and then… nothing. I’ve realized this a couple of times in January and again in February, and here we are about two-thirds of the way through the month and I’m making my first post.

I think the allure of journaling instead of blogging is that it’s so much safer, now that I’m something of a public figure. No one ever tries to start a conversation with my journal, or mistakes it for a dialogue already in progress. Nobody is combing through my journal looking for something they can later impress me by having deduced by reading between the lines and figured out. (Usually wrong. Always creepy. Usually well-intentioned. Still creepy.) Nobody’s looking at my journal ready to pounce on things they think are inconsistencies, as every life inevitably must contain contradiction.

Even as I type this, I can hear in my head as people get ready to go on Twitter or Facebook or email and tell me, “That’s alright! Don’t worry about what other people think! Just do what you want to do!” Listen, there are people who need to hear this. People who need or want a push will go digging for one. This is just me, quietly thinking out loud.

So, this is my first blog post of 2019. I don’t want it to be the last one, or even worse, for every blog post to wind up being an explanation of why I haven’t blogged more lately. So what I’m doing is another thing I started in late 2018, which is to take what works (journaling) and let go of what doesn’t. I wrote this as part of my daily journaling. Why not? It’s part of my routine anyway. 4 The Words, the site I use for my journaling (along with my more creative writing), recently had an upgrade that makes it easier to export or copy/paste formatted text from it.

Here’s some highlights of recent events from my life:

  • I’ve started attending open mic nights some weeks at a local literary cafe and bar called The Flying Camel here in Hagerstown. If you’re local, you can watch my Twitter on Thursdays to find out if I’m going to make an appearance. I will be holding a personal reading there on Saturday, April 20th, at 2:00 PM in support of my forthcoming short story collection First Dates, Last Calls, which will be available for pre-order at that time. I expect to hold a launch party there as well.
  • I’ve upgraded my look to include more hooded cloaks, because if you’re going to sit around in a bar you might as well look like you’ve got an important quest to hand out.
  • I got my first respiratory illness of the year. I came out the other side over the weekend, but my energy levels are still really low – we went out yesterday in the cold and I paid for it by being exhausted today.

That’s what’s going on here. Oh, I also poked my head into my patron Discord server for the first time in a while, back on a day last week when I *thought* was recovered from the cold. Haven’t really had the focus for chat since, but I’ll drop back in soon.

Rest day.

I really, really need to drill it into my head to take a day of rest after getting back from traveling. It always feels indulgent after what was essentially a vacation (albeit one that came with responsibilities),  came back Sunday and tried to jump into things with both feet on Monday, and I have spent the whole week so exhausted that I trail off mid sentence and otherwise generally forget what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I’m sleeping well at night, mostly because by the time I go to bed I’m too tired not to.

The longer this goes on, the less I get done and the worse I spiral down and the more it feels like I have got to get stuff down. But yesterday, I reached a breaking point and acknowledged: I need to wipe out my travel fatigue and catch up my missed sleep.

So today I’m doing what I should have done earlier, and taking a rest day. As soon as this is posted, I’m lying back down (I’m still in bed as I write this) and getting some rest.

(I know the Tales of MU website is still down. All my hosted sites were earlier in the week, and while the outage has been resolved, for some reason it hasn’t come back up. I have done everything I can on my end. It is in tech support’s hands now.)

Rule of Thumb: Selfish People Aren’t Worried About Being Selfish

There was a time in my life when basically everybody I was talking to on a daily basis was, like me, an adult of a culturally Catholic background; practicing, lapsed, grown up children of recovering Catholics, the whole spectrum. And the thing that caused me to notice this was a conversational tic that everybody around me seemed to have:
is it bad if I ____?” Sometimes it would be, “How bad is it if I _____?” 

It was never anything actually bad, often nothing in the neighborhood of badness, but eventually the requests for reassurance got so prevalent in conversations that I started laying down the law: I am nobody’s confessor. I can’t give absolution. I have my own Catholic guilt to process.

These days, I have an irregular hobby of browsing relationship advice forums. I started because some of the people I follow on Twitter have the habit of highlighting particularly awful “gems”. Snippets and screen shots got me curious enough to go over and see what I was missing, which eventually got me sucked into reading other posts, and then, offering advice.

And I’ll tell you, there’s a pattern I see in people asking for help that reminds me of the Catholic tic: Am I being selfish if I ____? Is it selfish of me to ____? and so on.

And I’m not going to say there’s no one in the world who ever asked that question in a situation loaded with irony, but I haven’t really seen it in the context of people asking for advice from strangers. It’s not “Am I selfish if I only think of myself? Am I selfish if I expect everyone to put my needs above their own?”

It’s, “Am I selfish if I want some alone time? Am I selfish if I want my partner to compromise sometimes instead of it always being me? Am I selfish if I expect my partner to help me meet my needs as much as I help them meet theirs? Am I selfish if I leave because this relationship is destroying me, knowing that my partner will be devastated?”

A real selfish, manipulative person might tack a “Is that so selfish? Is that too much to ask?” onto the end of a rant, in an attempt to coax the target of their manipulation to agree that it’s quite reasonable and not selfish at all, but at the point where you’re wrestling with this, really wrestling with what to do about it, with a bunch of strangers, it’s more likely the case that you’re not being selfish at all, and the fact that you’re worried that you might be is pretty strong evidence in support of that.

Selfish people don’t often worry that they’re selfish. They don’t think of themselves as selfish. Few people want to be selfish, so your average selfish person’s problem isn’t that they’ve decided to be selfish but that they’ve defined things for themselves in such a way that their expectations and behaviors are normal. This is how it comes to be that so many selfish people see everybody else around them as the selfish ones. They’ve set a baseline where their level of centering themselves is normal, and anyone who doesn’t meet that skewed bar is falling short.

When you find yourself wandering if you’re asking for too much, if you’re wanting too much, if you’re needing too much, try stepping outside your situation and imagining that someone else is confiding to you about it. Extending compassion and empathy to ourselves is a skill that few of us learn at the level we really need it, but anybody who worries about being selfish is very likely to possess the skill of empathizing with others.

Is it too much to ask for another person to have some support from their partner? Then it’s not too much for you to ask. Would it be selfish for another person to want to have some time and space for themselves? Then it’s not selfish for you. Is it selfish for anybody else to not martyr themselves in a relationship for the sake of somebody who wouldn’t begin to do the same in return?

No, it’s not selfish for them, and it’s not selfish for you.

STATUS: Thursday, September 1st

The Daily Report

Well, my end-of-month push for August yielded mixed results. I did start (and mostly finish, more on that a paragraph down) a new piece with which I’m very happy, and which I will finish today and post as a slightly belated short story for August. But a pair of (still ongoing) family health situations did impact things.

After I made the decision (mentioned earlier this week) to basically take a fail on August, I have decided that the centerpiece of my Patreon and my planned “year of awesome” really must stand: one short story a month for a year. I think that’s the central value I’m offering. This is why rather than just saying August was a miss and taking the thing I started writing earlier this week and using it to get a headstart on September, I’m going to finish it and post it.

Now, I’m calling it a short story, but I had to some soul-searching regarding categorization. What it is, in fact, is an epic science fiction poem. I’m calling it a short story because it is short story length (it’s going to wind up between 3,000 and 4,000 words, when I’ve shored up a few passages that need shoring up) and because it does, in fact, tell a story in a distinctly linear fashion. Poetry is the form, but it is a short story.

I had some moments of going back and forth with myself about whether or not this “counted”. It already felt a bit like I was just giving myself wiggle room when I made one of my monthly goals “a flash fiction or poem”, as if I’m treating those interchangeably when they’re different things. And they are, but so are two different pieces of fiction, or two different poems.

The poem is (currently) called “Our World Is A Lifeboat”. It’s a science fiction poem that, in practical terms, is about the survivors of a crashed space ship, at least in the way that Asimov wrote stories that were about robots.

Financial Status

Awkward. Much improved from before the summer, though tight because of WorldCon, because a “nominal fee” we had planned for wound up being a couple hundred more than we’d anticipated, and because my dismal performance in the August heat means Tales of MU made me very little money, which is fair, I’m not complaining. The whole point of the model I’m using for that is that people only pay to support it when it’s being update. But it’s a fact that my income at the start of this month looks a lot more like my income back in March or April than the rest of the summer, and that’s a problem.

I have been enjoying increasing celebrity and acclaim, but the real long and short of it all is that I need this to translate into Patreon growth, and that’s not happening. I keep churning along just below the $400 mark, which has been my goal pretty much since I started, and even that is just an initial goal. I need to be making more money.

It might be that I need to cut back on how much of my time, energy, and creative output is given away for free. As much as I hew to the model of the “the foundation of crowdfunding is the crowd”, I need a better way to get the crowd to bring the funds. Do I start my entertaining and/or insightful digressions off Twitter and put them directly on my Patreon page? Start locking down my short stories, posting only the beginnings?

I have to do something different. I need to figure out what it is. Heat or no heat, con or no con, I think I would have had an easier time sustaining my momentum through August if the numbers had been growing the way I had thought/expected/hoped they would.

The State of the Me

Doing pretty good? Late night hospital visits leading to late night dining out instead of cooking at home has played havoc with my eating and sleeping habits; my choices for drinks the past two nights have pretty much been something with caffeine at 10 or 11 at night, something with sugar, or ice water. I might have to get back in the habit of carrying flavor drops in my bag. For all that I’ve been overcaffeinated the past two nights, I have slept okay… not deeply, but deeply enough. Thank goodness for high tolerance.

Plans For Today

I’m going to be finishing up my epic poem and posting it in some form, but also doing a lot of stocktaking and figuring out where I go from here.

STATUS: Monday, August 8th

The Daily Report

Last week was successful and productive by some measures, less so by others. I stumbled out of the gate a bit at the start of the month. I did write a lot. I posted some of the fruits of that writing yesterday, the first part of a novelette I’m calling King of America, about a completely fictitious and entirely original real estate tycoon who decides to run for President of the United States. It hasn’t attracted much attention yet, but I think the work as a whole could genuinely grow to be the most important thing I’ve ever written.

I’m a bit behind generally on some of my larger goals. I had so much energy for April through much of June, repeatedly hitting the “heat wall” in July and August is a bit dispiriting. My overall goal for my 37th year on the planet is to kick my career into gear and build my audience and income with a whole year of being awesome, but I’m finding myself needing to scale back my ambition for the first two months, and I’m planning on next year taking a semi-hiatus in July and August, after a victory lap in June.

Financial Status

Doing okay. Fruits of improved income and better budgeting is that there’s no frantic, frustrating conversation about how we’re getting groceries this week.

The State of the Me

Yesterday we had an outing to Baltimore that involved a lot more walking in the heat than I had assumed/planned for, so I am coming into this week a little drained.

But a funny thing happened late last week: I remembered that my office in fact has a ceiling fan positioned more or less directly over where I sit. Prior to this, I had been marveling at how I’d managed the previous summers in this room, as this is the first year it has its own A/C unit. I know I did spend some amount of the time working away from my desk, but not all of it. The A/C beats the fan, obviously, which is why I never really missed it enough to remember it existed… but having both of them going == bliss.

Plans For Today

I’m going to be doing some slush-reading and sorting for Ligature Works, and a lot of writing.

STATUS: Tuesday, August 2nd

The Daily Report

It’s been a weird, disjointed start to the day today, and to the week (and by extension, the month of August), but productive nonetheless. I did have to run out yesterday afternoon for a grocery run, but our growing financial flexibility meant I was able to transfer the funds for next week’s shopping so I don’t have to actually tag along. Yay, progress!

Jack and I have been hitting a neat kind of stride with Ligature Works and submissions. I have a hard time collaborating with others, but I think we work well together in this respect. Our tastes are far from identical, but we share a lot of the same criteria in what we look for and what we don’t. We have sent out four acceptance letters so far. This actually means we only have two slots left in our initial publication budget, which means we’re going to start being really selective. We might not make any more firm decisions to accept for a while, unless something comes along that gives us the editorial grabby hands.

We might have to start dedicated crowdfunding for a bigger table of contents.

Financial Status

Doing okay. There were some big not-quite-annual car-related expenses at the end of last month. I think once we’re past WorldCon 74, we’ll be able to basically allocate most of the household grocery money we’ll need at the start of the month and then not worry about who has the funds on hand to pay for it vs. who has the time and ability to go shopping.

Our financial fortunes have really only improved modestly so far, but the less money you have to begin with, the bigger impact every dollar increase has.

The State of the Me

Honestly doing pretty good compared to July. I mean, we’re only two days into August, but I’m starting out with the idea that it’s okay to need to rest, and more attentive to things like keeping A/C and fans on as needed, paying attention to hydration, etc.

Plans For Today

I did not finish my draft of today’s chapter yesterday because of the aforementioned grocery trip. Wrapping that up and putting a bow on it this afternoon so I can keep to the schedule.

STATUS: Wednesday, July 13th

The Daily Report

Well, my snap decision to push ahead with my publishing plans even though my Patreon wasn’t yet at the level I’d wanted is seeming more and more like a good decision. At the rate things have been going, I’ll be at the $400 mark (the first benchmark set for my publishing venture) before the end of the month, and it’s not so hard to believe I’ll be at $500 by the end of August. If so, I’ll be coming into September right on target for my initial modest plans.

When I started restructuring and refocusing my work back in May, I was inspired by the success of several more traditionally published authors who made the jump to Patreon, as well as by others who were making plans. At the time, my small cadre of dedicated detractors tried to stir the pot by suggesting I was or should be jealous of their out-of-the-gate success. I wasn’t. These are my peers and friends, and I can be happy for them. I’m also aware that they aren’t actually just out of the gate, that they are doing and have been doing the work.

I would <em>love</em> to just instantly have thousands of dollars a month of income coming in, believe me, I would. But I know that’s not likely, and that’s part of why I laid out a year-long plan for myself to begin with. June 2016 to June 2017, age 36 to 37. My year of awesome. The plan’s not going to end next June, and I’m not going to stop being awesome next June.

On the subject of plans and their evolution: while I’m sure I couldn’t sustain a rate of an original short story a week without dropping something, I’m kind of feeling unfulfilled by the one a month, and I also have the perpetual dilemma of “Do I keep this for my patrons and possible publication elsewhere, or make it public as advertising/performance?” So I’m going to start aiming for two, one that can be locked up on Patreon and one that can be flung to the winds.

Financial Status

Feeling pretty good about where things stand right now, how things look for the rest of the month, and where I’ll start the next month if things proceed more or less apace. The con funds are now all in place for August and while that’s earmarked money, it’s nice to have some digits in my bank account and know that if something unexpected came up in the next couple months, it wouldn’t put me negative. I could cover a number of small to medium family emergencies by borrowing from myself. It’s amazing how much background anxiety this relieves.

At the same time, I feel a little bit of a “walls closing in” sensation because during most of June I had stuff coming out like *snaps fingers repeatedly in rapid succession* and so I had all this miscellaneous money coming in from it that continued through last week. But here I just came back off a week’s vacation, I’m getting in the swing of things, that’s not happening. Not a complaint! Just a reminder to myself that nothing’s gone wrong, things are just normal and it’s time to get back to work.

The State of the Me

I’m very “swingy” lately. I figured out yesterday that after my vacation detox/reset, I made a fairly classic mistake of resuming my previous doses of everything without the accumulated tolerance. In layperson’s terms, I spent the past two afternoons high as particularly high balls. I was functional Monday, less so yesterday.

I’m also physically very tired. I’ve been getting moderately into Pokemon Go… while I’ve played and enjoyed the Stadium series and I love Pokken Tournament, I never got into the core series or watched the anime, but Jack’s very into it, particularly as it came out at a time when he’s consciously being more active and getting out more. I’m very heat-susceptible, though, and prone to exercise intolerance in the best conditions, and I think even my modest efforts to “catch all of them” (as I believe the saying goes) may have been too much.

Plans For Today

My plans for today have actually changed since I started writing this post, as an external thing was canceled for external reasons. So I think I’m actually going to spend the day just doing random writing, see how many of my goals for the month I can knock out.

Home again, home again.

 

Well, I’m back.

Our trip to Nebraska for the 4th of July and the following week wound up happening in markedly different circumstances than it had been conceived. We’d been thinking it would be the last big function with my whole family for a good long while, so we wanted to allocate the time to do it up right. Things have changed to the point where this premise is no longer as likely to hold true, but it’s now markedly more likely to be the last one to happen in Nebraska.  We had less time with family than we would otherwise have liked, but more time to take in the sights of Omaha and its environs for what may be the last time.

But of course, any trip might be the last trip, regardless of larger circumstances. There was a recurring theme that bookended one recent year of Doctor Who in the holiday specials: every Christmas is last Christmas. Every gathering might be the last for someone. Even if we had plans to go back to Omaha next year or next week, it might not happen.

Life is full of unexpected things, good and bad. I honestly didn’t expect to be able to take my Maryland family back to see Nebraska as soon as I did or as often as I have since then. When we went for my sister’s wedding, I honestly thought that would be my one and only realistic chance to show Jack and Sarah around town. Now here we were, two years later, basically recreating that trip.

The other thing that changed was that when we planned this trip, I was basically treading water creatively and professionally. By the time it came around, it was inconveniently occupying the first week of month 2 of my personal renaissance. The fact that it came the week after I had a surprise viral hit on Medium was both blessing and curse… it stopped me from doing more to capitalize on that, but it also broke me out of the cycle I’d fallen into of refreshing page stats and link referrals and refreshing Twitter mentions to see what people were saying. It took some of the pressure of “Okay, now what’s your next act?”

Anyway.

Home now.