WisCon, Ho!

 Well, this is coming much later in the year than usual, but it’s time for my “Hey, I’m going to WisCon” blog post.

Hey, I’m going to WisCon! 

…blog… post.

Anyway, here is my schedule of scheduled events, all of which are within the hotel itself this year.

FRIDAY, 10:30 PM in Caucus*: Kobolds Are People, Too! – Panel about worldbuilding and “monstrous races”/Always Chaotic Evil tropes. This one’s got some great panelists. I mean, they all do. 

SATURDAY, 2:30 PM in Conference 2: Found Media In Mixed Objects II – Trans/genderqueer reading group. We’re putting the band back together with every member of the reading from last year who’s making it back to Madison this year, including our last minute addition of Dr. Sunny Moraine.

SATURDAY, 4:00 PM in University B: Now That’s What I Call Esoteric! – Panel about weird D&D monster trivia. I will mostly be talking about the intersection of mythology and etymology, and the unexpected twists and turns along the way. Or that’s my plan. This might be a “wherever the panel takes us” panel.

SUNDAY, 10:00 AM in Caucus*: The Obligatory She-Ra Panel – Panel. Seems rude that there’s just one She-Ra panel, but I am on it. I may be doing a sort of casual Entrapta cosplay, I’ve got a fundraising goal for that and about $350 more to go, so… go town if you want to see that, or pictures of that.

SUNDAY, 9:30 PM in Room 629 Secret Superhero Party – It’s the third annual launch party for Secret Sisterhood of Superheroes, the project that I’m going to definitely get off the ground properly one of these years, but probably not right now. In the meantime, it’s still a party, and also a soft-launch/pre-launch for my short story collection. Remember that official convention parties at WisCon are absolutely open to all registered convention goers. This is not something yo need an invitation or tap on the shoulder to go to.

MONDAY, 11:30 AM in Capitol/Wisconsin The Sign-Out – This is your last ditch chance to come interact with attendant artists and authors including me in a formal fashion. Come up and say hi, introduce yourself, get a free bookmark (while supplies last) or possibly an early copy of the book, if the stars align for that (but also while supplies last). I’ll sign either or both, or your program book, or whatever. Keanu Reeves signed a receipt for an ice cream cone once. I’m not better than Keanu Reeves. I mean, I’m good, but let’s be real.


Okay, so, my aesthetic has evolved a bit from the past couple years where it was all bright red and rainbows, but that was evolution from black and white geometric patterns. I still tend to wear the same type of long flowy skirts and layers, and usually some kind of hat or head covering. I am cutting back on sun hats indoors, as they can be inconsiderate in crowded places. So I may be wearing a head scarf with a galaxy print or abstract rainbow thing.

My hair color will vary from day to day but will be very vivid each day. My outfits are going to vary from casual cosplays of Link and maybe Entrapta on some days to my all-purpose look, which I call Intergalactic Cyberwizard. 

Which brings me to a very important point: I may be the only person there walking around with a little borg eyepiece on her glasses. I’m bringing my Vufine, I’m wearing my Vufine. If you see someone wearing a leather pouch with wires coming out of it attached to a high-tech eyepiece, that’s probably me. If she has fiery or rainbow or mermaid hair, or is wearing a Link or Entrapta wig, it’s even more likely to be me. If she’s got a whole set of cool adventuring pouch looking things strapped about her person, it’s almost definitely me.

I like to tell people, when I’m at a convention, that if you think you see me, you probably see me. This is less true at WisCon in particular because there are a lot of people with vivid hair colors and similar aesthetics. But the wearable computer screen over my eye will be a pretty big giveaway.


If you’re in doubt, please look at my badge, which will have the green flag flying if I’m open to socialization, and I anticipate that will be the most of the time. My general rule is that when I’m at a convention, in public, and wearing my badge, I’m there to be with people. Hang out with friends, yes, but also meet people. Be sociable. Be accessible. 

Now, I might look busy. I have Resting Busy Face. And my idle animation is to pull out whatever device I have handy and start writing. This is doubly true now that I don’t have to pull a device out because I’m wearing it. This doesn’t change the above! It just means I’m not going to stand around doing literally nothing.

If you’re looking for an engraved invitation… follow me on Twitter, if you’re not already. I’m going to be tweeting my movements, to the extent that I want people to know where I am. If I say I’m going to The Bar downstairs, that’s not me flouncing away from social contact. If I say I’m going to the swimming pool, then you know there’s at least one body positive, non-judgmental, trans person who will be in the pool. (And probably more than one, we move in packs.)

The bottom line here is that I go to conventions to… convene. Converse. Congregate. Be congenial. It’s my chance to meet people, including people I admire but also the people who support my various works. WisCon is a convention that only has two actual invited guests most years. The rest of us are all just members, all attendees. 

*Tee hee.


So, a couple of quick notes.

I am back in Florida. I have with me a proof copy of First Dates, Last Calls, which I am proofreading to try to catch any mistakes or terminally rough spots before I call it final. Some of the stories in it are years old and have gone through multiple rounds of editing before this book was even conceived, but some of them were just written in 2018. Two of them have never seen the light of day before, so I’m making sure they get a little extra scrutiny.

If you’re with me on the social mediums, you might have seen me talking about or wearing a device on my glasses called a Vufine. This is a wearable heads-up display that I invested in when I found it likely I was going to be traveling a lot in the coming months, under the theory that if I could get my working environment as small and portable as possible I could do so with less disruption, and maybe get more writing rather than less done.

I had a side goal of making my actual laptop computer less essential to my operations, so that I don’t have to take it with me every time I go anywhere. There are still some things (such as laying out books) I would not care to do without it, but I think I have figured out how to make the VuFine work as a display for basically everything else I do. It’s not a wearable computer all by itself (it’s a wearable monitor) but if you have something like a Pi or a PC stick or a powerful enough smartphone, it’s pretty easy to rig one up.

I made a Twitter thread about this remarkable device and some caveats/tips for using it effectively, shortly after I got it. Now that I’ve been using it more (and in particular, now that I’ve been through a trip to the airport and plane ride with it), I am thinking making a blog post elaborating on that, because honestly the difference in user experience between before I knew what I was doing with it and after is night and day. I definitely understand some of the negative user reviews, there is a considerable learning curve with it.

But as I type this, I’m comfortably on my side on a couch. I started writing it at a table and I kept writing it on my way over to the living room. It’s really pretty amazing

Anyway. One thing about the travel is that no matter how portable I can make my portable office, it’s never going to be completely seamless to pick up my work and routine and move it from one place to another. So, I’m kind of reinventing some of my approaches to things, and I’ll be talking about that more in the coming days and weeks. The short version is you’re going to be seeing more longform communication from me and fewer Twitter threads.

Which is likely to slow my audience growth, nothing beats Twitter for engagement and visibility, but it will have its upsides in terms of space to develop my ideas.

“What Is Dungeons & Dragons?”

Sometimes you ask someone if they would like to play D&D with you and their response goes along the lines of, “That sounds really cool, I’ve always wanted to play D&D, it seems neat. I just have one question:

What is D&D?”

And honestly, that’s a good question.

This blog post is my attempt to answer it, for anyone else who has been wondering but felt that asking would make them look silly.

Let me start with a little background on why I don’t find this kind of question foolish at all.

See, for as long as I knew it existed, I thought Dungeons & Dragons was the coolest thing in the world.

It would be years after that before I learned what Dungeons & Dragons actually was, though, because in addition to everything else it is…

Dungeons & Dragons Is A Multimedia Empire

You see, I was born in the 80s, which was the first heyday of D&D in pop culture. The first time you could get D&D merchandise in big box stores. The first time you could see it advertised on TV. It popped up in movies like ET. It was a Saturday morning cartoon.

The cartoon was my first real exposure. Most cartoons were based on something, and in the days when narrative arcs in children’s programming were rare and all the money was assumed to be in syndication, most cartoons had an en media res approach where you’d just sort of come in halfway through the picture and no one would explain what was going on.

So when the first episode of the cartoon aired with an opening sequence that starts with a bunch of kids at a fair noticing a roller coaster and going, “Hey, a Dungeons & Dragons world!” and winding up in something called “the world of Dungeons & Dragons”, I just kind of went with it. This was how cartoons were. 

I was a little confused with how few of the toys on the store shelves seemed to have much to do with the cartoon beyond a basic theme, but, eh. Childhood is a confusing time. 

As I got older, I discovered tie-in novels and comic books which, again, had very little to do with the cartoon and often not much to do with each other. Elves and orcs and dwarves and, yes, dragons showed up again and again. But they all featured different characters and were even in some cases clearly set in different worlds.

And that, in a nutshell, is what Dungeons & Dragons is really about: unique characters, unique worlds, unique adventurers.

But I didn’t know that. I just knew that there was cartoon that was both like all the other ones but also like nothing else I’d ever seen, and it was connected somehow to all these other things. 

When I started reading the novels and comics, I would see adds in the comics for gaming supplements that tied into the novels, that talked about going on adventures and fighting alongside the heroes from the novels.

What were they, board games? Video games? I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to know, and so I went and I found out that…

Dungeons & Dragons Is A Roleplaying Game

The best way I can describe a roleplaying game is a game of make-believe that does not immediately end in an argument the first time there’s a question of who shot first or who hit whom or who missed or if the target had their forcefield dog or if the shooter brought their attack dinosaur who eats forcefield dogs.

A roleplaying game is a game of make-believe with rules and structure to it. It’s a game of shared storytelling where everybody agrees on a basic framework for what is possible and what is likely, and one person is given responsibility for figuring out the gray areas and deciding what happens next.

When you play a game like Dungeons & Dragons, you create a character through a process that will likely be at least vaguely familiar to anyone who has played enough computer games over the years – because the computer games cribbed their concept of character creation (along with a lot of other things) from Dungeons & Dragons and its descendants.

In D&D, you define your character by choosing a race in the sense of being Human or Elf or Dwarf or some other fantastical folk, and a character class that broadly describes your special abilities and role as an adventurer: Fighter, Wizard, Ranger, and so on. 

You define your character’s basic abilities in six areas: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma. Your class and background help you determine what special adventuring skills you’re trained in, such as Stealth or Acrobatics. 

Your class gives you special abilities that defy these kinds of broad categorization. Anyone might know Stealth or Sleight of Hand, but a Rogue has special features that lets you use these skills in ways that other characters can’t.

So you create a character according to a set of step-by-step instructions in the Player’s Handbook (the rulebook for D&D) and then you have a character sheet, a paper or electronic form that records all the vital statistics of your character that impact the game. This is a picture of your character at the start of their career as a heroic adventurer. You might be a High Elf Wizard or a Hill Dwarf Cleric. You might be a Dragonborn Paladin, or a Tiefling Rogue.

Once you’ve created your character — often with guidance from the person running the game, who will usually know the rules at least a little bit — the game properly begins with an adventure.

Dungeons & Dragons Is A Social Experience.

You can play D&D with as few as two people — one person to run the game and one person to have an adventure — and in a pinch there are some variants you can play solo, but it’s intended to be a group experience, with each player creating one character as part of an ensemble for the story and serving a different role in terms of the game. 

Some characters are tougher and stronger and fight on the front lines, putting themselves between danger and their allies. The world of online gaming calls this role the “tank”. Tabletop gaming often goes with the more prosaic “meatshield”.

Some characters are skilled specialists, the kind of role that Thorin Oakenshield described to Bilbo Baggins as “expert treasure hunter”. They deal with tricks and traps that crop up along the way, look for creative solutions to problems, and often have ways of tying opponents up in combat or striking precise and deadly blows while the meatshields keep the attention on themselves.

Then there are support characters, who heal and inspire and help the whole party cohere and be greater than the sum of their parts.

Some character classes are strongly predisposed towards one role or another. Others are more flexible. The ultimate point, though, is that with a group of 3 to 6 people, you can have more fun because each character can both do their own things and find things to do that complement each other.

And of course, there’s a lot of fun to be had just sitting around a table (or in a chat server) with friends, playing a game and imagining epic adventures. 

Dungeons & Dragons Is A Storytelling Medium

When you play a roleplaying game, you’re helping to tell a story. The game runner — Dungeon Master, in D&D’s trademark parlance — serves as a narrator who sets the scene and describes how the story unfolds, but everybody playing is also advancing the story through their decisions. 

The basic rhythm of the game is back and forth: the Dungeon Master narrates an opening and describes where the characters are, what they notice about the world around them, and asks what they are doing.

The players describe what their characters do in response to the scene, and the Dungeon Master decides (sometimes by consulting rules or dice) how that goes, and what happens as a result.

Whatever the players did probably wrought some change in the situation, so now it’s back to them to respond to that.

And so it goes, back and forth, until the story reaches a stopping point or the players do. There’s a lot of “to be continued” in gaming, especially as groups get older.

After each session, whether your character won the day or retreated or lost and even died, you’ll have a story to tell about it, one that hopefully binds you closer to the people who were there for it and helps you connect to a wider community of players beyond it.

And if you keep playing over a long period of time (which is often called a campaign), your character will grow and change to something far beyond the original concept you had when you rolled a Level 1 Half-Elf Bard. You might conquer lands or free them. You might restore the power of a lost god, or destroy them, or ascend to the heavens yourself. Long-running campaigns can change the face of the worlds they take place in, becoming the same kinds of epic stories that inspired people to start playing in the first place.

You can lose battles and you can win wars, but there’s no winning or losing the game of Dungeons & Dragons. Not even if your character dies. Because in the first place, you aren’t knocked out of the game — you can make another character. In the second place, it’s fantasy. Magic can heal even fatal injuries, if you can amass the right power and resources. And sometimes people’s best stories are how their character went out in a blaze of glory.

Dungeons & Dragons Is Fun

That’s it. Even with rules, the point of the game is to have fun. The rules are there to facilitate the fun by cutting down on the arguments and second-guessing and give you a framework whereby you can, once you’ve got your character’s features down, just confidently announce “I throw a fireball at his face.” instead of having to inquire, “So, can I throw a fireball at his face? Is that a thing I can do?”

Even the official rulemasters at Wizards of the Coast will tell you there is no wrong way to play and that if a group at a table agrees it’s more fun when they don’t sweat the small stuff or change an official rule completely, then go for it. 

Because it’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun.

And while it can be more fun when you have a strong handle on what your character can do, it’s 100% possible to play without any prior knowledge of the actual rules. It’s not a competitive game and it’s not a guessing game – most new groups have some element of learning as they go, and as long as you don’t mind asking.

Back From There Again

Well, I’m back in… dang, even years after I moved to Maryland full-time and after my parents relocated to Florida, my urge is still to write “back in Nebraska” in these blog posts. Some of my plans for my Florida foray didn’t work out so well. I was planning on blogging, but I wound up getting sidetracked on that. I was planning on doing some virtual poetry readings and other video streams, but it turned out that there wasn’t any acoustically suitable spots in the house. The place I had picked out from previous visits as being farthest away from the noisy spots? There’s an AC unit right outside it.

But, it was still a good trip! I made less progress on those particular fronts but wound up getting way further ahead on other things. I’m going to have my proof copy of First Dates, Last Calls sometime this week, which is well ahead of schedule, and means that I might actually be reading from the physical book at my reading at the Flying Camel on Saturday, depending upon exactly how timely is arrival is. 

I’ve also had some good luck in changing my habits lately, and building better ones, which I think is going to help me reach goals for things like writing, blogging, etc., as I apply them more broadly.

My big insight here is that if you think of life as a game, you have to remember that it’s often easier to alter your equipment than it is to upgrade your skills. A habit, a true habit, takes time and repetition (grinding for experience points) to develop. But if you can change something in your environment, you can make it automatic, or nearly so.

I’ve tried to cut down on caffeine and alcohol in the past. I’ve tried to drink more water. None of this attempts really took. Then I started carrying around a reusable water bottle. It got me drinking water all the time (because it’s right there), and any time I’m drinking water, I’m not drinking anything else. And let me tell you, I don’t want to be one of those boring people who tells you that drinking water will cure your depression’s cancer or whatever, but the more water I drink, the less caffeine and alcohol I find that I need.

I’m sipping a Dr. Pepper spiked with Fireball as I write this, but, you know, I woke up at 7:30 and didn’t need caffeine to get going, or booze to keep going. I just like i.

Anyway. Along those lines, what I aim to do in order to get my blogging habit back on track is just opening up a blank blog entry when I go to bed, so it’s there when I open my computer in the morning. We’ll see how that works. It’s not quite the slam dunk of a physical hack, because it requires me to cultivate a habit (open a tab before going to bed) and there will be times when I need to do something else first or I don’t have anything to say when I wake up. But it’s a start.

Seasons in the sun

So, if you follow me on Twitter you might have noticed I’m in Florida. If you’ve followed me for long enough you know this means I’m engaged with my family. In the current climate, I like to employ a certain amount of obfuscation about my movement which is why I was a little bit oblique about the fact that I was getting ready to travel and why I’m not going to have a lot of details here. 

I will say that I’m going to be down here for a while. The first little stretch is a bit like a chill vacation – each day we’re going to a different art museum or similar attraction. After that, it’s going to be a working trip – helping out around the house while also working on my writing (I’ve got a book to put to bed!) and my political commentary. It’s hard to guess how much time and energy I’ll have, though. Some of these visits have been among my most productive creative intervals. Others have been less so. There’s really no way to know beforehand. I mean, that’s true no matter where I am in the country. It’s not something particular to here.

Anyway, I’m trying a few things different this time around that might help me have a better time managing my spoons. I’ve been hydrating like never before for most of March and I’ve stepped it up since I’ve been here. I’ve got a weighted blanket to help me sleep, which has worked to the point that I slept through at least one minute of my alarm – don’t know if I would have woken up at all but it did wake Jack up, and he woke me up. 

I am such a light sleeper that I have slept through an alarm only once before in my adult life, and that was a time I was physically exhausted.

I have a weighted blanket at home but dang, the availability and quality have seriously improved from the time I got it. I might be looking to upgrade/replace by the time this kind of weather gets to Maryland. When the weather is chilly, I just sleep with a ton of blankets… but Florida-weight blankets aren’t that heavy, you know?

So, yeah. Extra hydration, less caffeine and alcohol (which wasn’t a conscious choice, just a side effect of drinking water all the dang time), and better sleep. This could be a really productive trip. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

But right now is for family time, so for now, I’m just stealing a few moments here and there to do my thing when everybody else is sleeping and I’m not, or we’re all just doing our own things. One thing I’m going to focus on once most of the family has departed and I’m settling in to work is keeping up this blogging thing. I am already doing it more than I was. I’d like to be doing it more than I am.

I’ll keep you posted.


…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.