Followed by, "No, wait. LiveJournal comments are almost always supportive."
The first time I saw the "don't read the comments" meme, many years ago, I was actually confused by it. Comments were the main reason I blogged! I loved reading the comments! Why wouldn't you read the comments? Is it just me? Am I just lucky?
And I think luck is a factor, though less of one than my comparatively small audience and that I rarely post on controversial subjects. But Livejournal is, itself, a huge factor. Specifically, one of the factors about Livejournal that eventually made it a niche product with a small if dedicated audience: that Livejournal's basic concept was of people who not only kept journals, but who read each other's journals. That the Friends List was not named "Friend" by accident.
We used to complain about that word, "Friend", because it made the business of following and unfollowing LJs a lot more dramatic than it needed to be. But the truth is when I started on LJ fourteen years ago, it's because my friends were blogging here. I read Livejournal to keep in touch with my friends, and I wrote in it to keep my friends updated on my life. People have drifted away from LJ over the years for many reasons but I think the largest part of it is that mot people don't like to write the essay-style posts that the LJ environment encourages.
But the sense of community has somehow persevered anyway. People on LJ are less likely to hate-follow, less likely to search out things they dislike to complain about, than Twitter users. People on LJ are more likely to stay silent if they disagree than to leave a comment. The vast majority of LJ users treat blog posts as if they were written by other human beings. Elsewhere on the net, on Youtube and Twitter and personal-domain blogs, there is a much larger fraction of the community that treats posts as if they were written by content providers. By some thing, some entertainer who is not a real person or who will never actually see the comments or who otherwise doesn't matter, doesn't count, doesn't merit respect.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think it's just chance or size. It's that LJ, having been used for so long as "a way to keep in touch with your friends", has held onto some of the corollary: "so of course you'll be kind to them, because they're your friends." Places that were designed as broadcaster-to-audience don't have that benefit. The audience feels free to heckle.
I'm glad this space still has that. I wish I knew how to export it. :/
Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen is in Bujold's Vorkosigan setting. The Vorkosigan books are mostly action-adventure sf, but some of the books don't fit in the "action" category. A Civil Campaign, for example, is a romantic comedy bordering on farce. This newest novel is mainly a romance, but it's much less drama-filled than the typical romance. The central protagonists are solidly middle-aged and, more importantly, mature. The reader never seriously fears that they will make stupid choices based on flawed analysis. They are afflicted with some doubts and indecision, but they doubt sensible things and dither over reasonable options. Even when the outcome was uncertain, I never thought, "oh, this is going to end in disaster if they make the wrong choice." They're smart people. There are good reasons for both paths. They'd be okay.
I really enjoyed reading this novel, especially now, when I'm in the middle of writing The Sun Etherium. TSE's main romance also proceeds fairly smoothly, and the main challenges the characters face aren't life-or-death either. So it was nice to see Bujold making it work. GJ&TRQ isn't her strongest work, certainly, but it's solid and fun and I loved seeing a middle-aged couple get to be the romantic leads.*
There were some elements that didn't work as well for me. It felt like Bujold was ret-conning in Jole's importance in the lives of Cordelia and Aral Vorkosigan over the last 14 or so books. I don't remember Jole being mentioned before, actually, and am kind of wondering if he was (as an extremely minor character). On the one hand, the last 14 books were about Miles and I can quite easily see him being completely oblivious to his parents' private lives. On the other, it did not really feel like Bujold had always intended Jole to have been part of their lives. I'm happy enough to have him in the backstory, I'd just be happier if there'd been prior hints about his presence there.
Anyway, this is a solid 8 and I am happy to keep recommending and reading Bujold's work.
* I tried doing this in The Moon Etherium -- the protagonists are both over 50 -- but since the characters in TME are unaging, they don't come across as middle-aged as strongly.
New release sale for The Moon Etherium ends today! Last chance to buy it for $2.99! The $2.99 sale on A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements also ends today.
For those who've already bought it: thank you! ♥
I'm also gonna beg for reviews now, because having some reviews up is enormously helpful in selling a book. Readers are much more likely to take a chance on an unknown author if there are some reviews on the book, and a lot of promotion opportunities are only available once a book hits a certain number of Amazon reviews.
(This graph is only Amazon Kindle sales because Draft2Digital, my distributor for the other book stores, does not break out sales by day. I generated it in Google, though, since Amazon will only generate a graph for the last three months or less.)
First Year Sales by Month of A Rational Arrangement:
1st Month: 507
2nd Month: 292
3rd Month: 146
4th Month: 68
5th Month: 75
6th Month: 37
7th Month: 38
8th Month: 90
9th Month: 36
10th Month: 45
11th Month: 39
12th Month: 35
Total Sales for A Rational Arrangement, from 6/24/2015 to 9/30/2016: 1,496.
Total Sales for Further Arrangements, from 2/1/2016 to 9/30/2016: 428.
At this point, sales of A Rational Arrangement have not quite flatlined: it sold 5 copies in September. Likewise, Further Arrangements has almost stopped selling: 10 copies in September.
I put both books on sale last week, at the same time I released The Moon Etherium. This move probably generated a few sales, but as the low totals show, they're still basically moribund.
The Moon Etherium's first week of sales have not been impressive either: 33 so far. That's about half of Further Arrangements's sales in its first week, and less than a third of A Rational Arrangement's.
My net income for my first year as an author was about $6,400: something like $5500 from ARA and $900 from FA. I'm happy with that total. It's by no means livable as a sole source of income, but it's nonethelesss much better than I'd expected to do by self-publishing. I didn't seriously expect ARA to make even a thousand dollars when I released it, much less over $5000.
I really wanted to write this post because many of my friends saw that first Monthiversary sales report from me back in July 2015, and I think it conjured an image of my sales as much higher overall than they've actually been. Moreover, it might have left the impression that things would only get better: my next books would be as successful or moreso. Not so much.
I don't anticipate that my second year will go as well as my first year. I intend to keep plugging away at this writing gig, regardless. What would I do if I didn't write, anyway? I will probably try some more new things. Perhaps some of them will work better! Or worse. Let's find out!
Purchase links for books:
A Rational Arrangement (standalone M/M/F fantasy romance): Amazon ~ Kobo ~ Nook ~ iBooks ~ Print
Furher Arrangements (three romance novellas in the same setting as A Rational Arrangement): Amazon ~ Kobo ~ Nook ~ iBooks
The Moon Etherium (standalone M/F fantasy romance with bisexual protagonist, new setting): Amazon ~ Kobo ~ Nook ~ iBooks
But I noticed, during Bisexual Visibility Week, that I was not that comfortable about participating in it. For reasons that mostly boil down to "this is for Real Bisexual People, not you." It's weird to feel that way, after so long thinking I'd finally gotten over being defensive about my sexual orientation. But it bleeds into other things, too.
Amazon asks for up to seven keywords for every book, and it's a good idea to use all seven because keywords are one of the main ways for readers to discover your book. One of the keywords for The Moon Etherium is "bisexual". Amazon chose to put it in two LGBT subcategories (one for fantasy and one for romance) and the Romance > Multicultural subcategory. I don't know what algorithm Amazon uses to figure out the subcategories to use; if I controlled it, I'd've listed it in three fantasy categories, not one fantasy and two romance.
Anyway, I find myself uncomfortable with having The Moon Etherium listed as an LGBT book. Sure, it's got a bisexual protagonist and, for that matter, nonbinary supporting cast members. But is that really what LGBT readers are looking for? Aren't they looking for MM or FF pairings? Perhaps MMF or MFF triads? Isn't that last the only way to be really bisexual? Because everyone knows monogamous people can't really be bi. They're actually hetero- or homosexual, depending on their partner's gender.
You don't need to tell me those last three sentences are BS. I know perfectly well that's garbage. I mean, intellectually, I know that. Emotionally, part of me believes that sexual behavior dictates sexual preference. Unless you're straight, of course. You can identify as straight without having dated anyone. That's fine. But if you identify as bi or gay, you have to prove that, by having sex with members of every gender you claim to be attracted to. No, no, just knowing that you're attracted to them isn't enough. And it doesn't count if you've only had sex with that gender as part of a threesome with someone of another gender. You might just like threesomes or something. And really, do one-night stands count? Or a short term fling? Honestly, if you were a real bisexual you'd have both male and female long-term partners. (We'll let you off the hook for finding nb ones. Maybe.)
For each "you" in that last paragraph, substitute "I", because I would never have the unmitigated gall to spew such hateful rubbish to anyone but myself.
I am so very tired of thinking these things about myself, but I do. Among my past and current lovers are ciswomen, transwomen, cismen, and nonbinary people, and my mind still thinks "you're just faking it". Really, brain? I'm 46. I realized I was bisexual over twenty years ago. Can we stop having this conversation yet? Can we at least not have it about my fictional characters? Can I at least classify Ardent as really bi even though she's not currently in a relationship with both a man and a woman?
I think part of why I wrote Ardent this way was, perhaps, to grapple with my internalized "fake bisexual girl" feelings. "Here, she was married for decades to a woman and now she's seeing a man and her sexual interest is just not tied to gender and she doesn't have to prove this to anyone". Maybe I thought I could fight for her in the way that I have not been able to fight myself.
I don't know if I can.
But I haven't taken the "bisexual" label off the book yet.
* I like the word "pansexual" better than "bisexual", all things considered. I am attracted to cis, trans, and nonbinary people of all genders, and I like the way the root "pan" suggests expansiveness. But bisexual is the more widely recognized term and most people seem to understand it as inclusive. I'm pretty happy to revisit using the label if people have arguments against it, though.
My weight had crept up to 180 lbs, and I finally decided that I should Do Something About This.
My new plan is simply "eat slightly less". I started on September 20 by tracking food & exercise, and have been averaging a net negative of 250 calories. That works out to around half a pound a week. My ideal weight is probably somewhere in the 110-135* range, so it's gonna be a few years before I get back there. That's fine. I'm not trying to get in shape for the beach season or something; I'm trying to return to a healthier weight that will not cause me the long-term joint problems that run in my family.
This plan includes "eat when I'm hungry", which both means "do not eat to alleviate boredom and stress" and also "do not suffer in order to lose weight". I had a snack last night that put me over my calorie count for the day, for the first time since I started tracking, because I didn't want to go to bed hungry. Good call, me. So far, I do not feel like I am suffering on this plan, and that makes me a lot more likely to stick with it.
My scale now says I'm 177 pounds. My spreadsheet (I'm tracking on a spreadsheet because it's actually easier than using an app, sadly) says I should be not quite up to losing my first pound. I am curious to see how my projected vs actual weight loss goes. The first few pounds always seem to be the easiest.
* My lowest weight as an adult is something like 117 lbs. At that time, I thought "I look fine and it wouldn't hurt to lose a few more pounds". Honestly, I don't feel particularly fat even now. My desire to lose weight is mostly "I have a lot of pretty clothes I would like to fit in again" coupled with "and also gaining 5-10 pounds a year is not a healthy trend". One of my friends told me a few years ago "You are SMOKIN' HOT" and this is the self-image that has stuck with me. ♥
21,800 on The Sun Etherium for September. That was pretty much all my writing this month. I feel simultaneously as if this is Not Enough and also that I am being ridiculous and that's fine.
My 2016 YTD word counts by novel:
The Moon Etherium: 124.000
The Sun Etherium: 23,800
That's over 225,000 words and there's still three months left in the year. Brain, please chill out.
The Business of Writing
I published The Moon Etherium! *kermitflail* *collapse*
I did four different cover variants for The Moon Etherium, and a handful of sketches.
I went to ProgPower with alinsa! Wow, it seems so long ago I almost forgot that was in September.
Goals for coming month
alinsa and I plan to serialize The Moon Etherium, which means Alinsa has to worry about getting Wordpress set up again (I hope it's easier this time) and I have to figure out illustrations. There will be eighty installments of the serial. I am not drawing eighty pictures for it. But I do like having images to go with the posts. So I will go through the eighty parts and see if I can figure out some broad shared categories and come up with abstract illustrations along the lines of each category. Goal is 8-10 different illos. I will figure out what each will be before I do any of 'em. We'll see how that goes.
So I'm not really sure what my goal is for October. Probably one or more of the following:
- Write more of The Sun Etherium
- Illustrations for The Moon Etherium/begin serial
- Edit The Warlock, the Hare and the Dragon
I don't particularly plan to finish any of those in October, and I may not start all of them. I'll find out in November what I did!
A long time ago, one of my friends suggested to me that the world would be better off if there were only one human gender: if everyone was hermaphroditic, say. "It'd eliminate gender discrimination. What good do gender differences do us?"
After writing A Rational Arrangement, where societal and legal pressure to conform to a heterosexual, monogamous ideal was overwhelming and a major source of conflict for the characters, I wanted to write about a much more open society in The Moon Etherium. I made a magic-rich setting where all the characters had easy access to a variety of powers, including shape-shifting. In their society, gender is a choice: a choice one can change on a whim, and doing so is unremarkable. Many characters in The Moon Etherium strongly identify with a particular gender and do not change it. Most identify as male or female. But some identify as neuter, and some identify as a mixture, and some change randomly, and all of this just happens and no one much worries about it. One of the challenges of writing the story was presenting this without giving it undue emphasis, because to the characters it's trivial.
In a similar vein, there's no societal stance on "this is the right kind of sexuality" or "the right kind of relationship". The female protagonist, Ardent, had a wife for many years, and is now attracted to the male protagonist, Miro. She never reflects on her sexual orientation because of this, because her society doesn't care. Straight/gay/pan/etc are all ordinary and acceptable and the society doesn't feel a need to categorize them. The protagonists do have an explicit conversation about relationship types (monogamy, polyamory, etc.), because 'we should agree on what our relationship is, since there is no default.'
The Moon Etherium's romantic subplot is M/F and between two people, so in a sense the LGBTQIA+ and poly-postive aspects of the setting are not integral to the story. The main protagonists strongly identify as male and female, respectively. There were various reasons why I wanted to write their story this way. Part of that was that my protagonists live in a society without gender roles, and I wanted to distinguish between "gender roles" (which is a meaningless concept to them) and "gender identity" (which they do have, although it's more fluid for some than others). I didn't want to write about a society where characters took on male forms to do masculine activities and female ones to do feminine activities (though that could be interesting!) But I did want one where the people still felt that male/female/etc. had some meaning. Because gender is fun.
Cantor is a romance between Amet, the male protagonist of Thief, and Always Falling, an asexual neuter and longtime romantic partner of Amet's beloved from Thief. Essentially, we get to see the polyamorous V of Thief turn into a full triad. This romance unfolds against the backdrop of strife between Always Falling and its estranged family, when Always returns for its grandmother's funeral.
I enjoyed Cantor even more than the first book in the series, in some ways. As with Thief, Cantor for Pearls is light on conflict. But the characters do face real problems and resolve them through reason and thoughtfulness, and it felt authentic and sometimes heart-wrenching. Some of the problems that were only kind-of-resolved in Thief come up again in Cantor, which is a touch I loved. Because life is rarely "I had an epiphany and now I will never have this problem again". It's usually "I had this epiphany and that settled the problem for a while but now it's back because PROBLEM and AGH". And often we come back to the same epiphany, slightly reframed for the newest circumstances. Some problems, like anxiety and depression and culture clash, are things we must struggle with over and over and over again in new variations.
Since this is a romance between a sexual and asexual character, there's none of the passionate sex that one often reads in modern romance. There is cuddling and some masturbation, however. I liked the way Hogarth portrays Always's physical appreciation of Amet: not in a sexual way, but nonetheless physical and intimate. Overall, the emphasis of the romance is on the way their personalities mesh and their enjoyment of each other's company, which is the thing I like best in a romance. I adore when characters love each other based on what they are like, rather than rooted in physical attraction. I'll rate this one an 8.5.
A prince of the Sun Etherium, Mirohirokon has everything: immortality, invulnerability, and the aetheric power to be anything he desires, to satisfy almost any desire. But the one thing aether cannot give him is his father's freedom. For a chance to win that, he will risk everything.
Sick of the petty, twisted politics of the Moon Etherium, Ardent quit it for a simpler life. Yet when Miro seeks her aid to rescue his father, she realizes that far more is at stake than one man's life. Duty-bound, she returns.
But to save their world, must they sacrifice their love?
My previous books, A Rational Arrangement and Further Arrangements are also discounted to $2.99 in honor of the new release.
Lastly, special thanks to my tireless typesetter alinsa. ♥