Me 2012

April in Review

Health/Fitness
I think I exercised a little less than in March, but neither of the apps I am tracking with are good at comparing month-over-month data. So annoying. Google Fit will track walking and biking automatically but its manual options to track other kinds of workouts are bad, when not outright nonfunctional. I track everything in RealAppeal but it has no export function and it won't spit the data back out in any useful fashion. Honestly, I find this incredibly annoying. What is the point to making apps that are good at recording data if they aren't going to GIVE ME THE DATA BACK? x_x

RealAppeal's site actually does something worse: it offers charts that claim to go back for, eg, 60 days, but instead of showing 60 days worth of data, it takes 12 data points on days 5 days apart and assumes your exercise/consumption on the days in between falls on a straight line between those points. That's ... not how anything works, RA. That is TERRIBLE.

At some point, I should either contact them to see if they can get me an extract, or look for a new tracking app. Meh.

Anyway, I know I spent a lot more time cleaning in April than in March, and counting cleaning in lieu of other exercise. And I think I skipped days more days entirely.

But I've been eating some fruits and vegetables and my weight hasn't gone up, so good enough.

Writing
I finished the outline for Spark of Desire, the gratuitous polyamorous sequel to Frost and Desire, and started writing it. I got about 13,000 words written in April. Guess I'm doing this.

Oh! And I also have Fun Writing Process News about this! I spent a lot more time on the outline than usual, trying to work out all the bugs beforehand instead of expecting to solve them on the fly. Once I had a complete outline, I dumped it into a spreadsheet and estimated the word count for each bullet point on the outline. To my astonishment, so far my per-point word count estimates have been mostly accurate or on the high side. I have added one scene that wasn't on the outline, which took 2000 words. Including that scene, the manuscript is at 16,800 words (3,800 of which was written so far in May). My estimate for my wordcount by this stage of the draft: 17,000. Woo! The estimated total length is 99,500 (someday I will write an outline for a book that's 50-60,000 words, but Today Is Not That Day). Anyway, I was at the 13% mark at the end of April, and for once I feel like that is a reasonable estimate and not just a wild guess.

The Business of Writing
I finished final edits on The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince, adding another 4000 words or so. Alinsa has sent me back an early e-pub for proofreading. I have not started the final proofread yet. I should really start that. And also do all the back/front matter stuff that I've skipped so far.

Art/Other
I thought about drawing a few times but nope.

I did drag out all of my physical art supplies and threw away a lot of old dead paint and paintbrushes. I could not bring myself to get rid of most of the art supplies that are still good but that I have not actually used in the last few years. Which would be, basically, all physical art supplies. I rarely have the urge to do illustrations and when I do, I use the Surface. I am not a good illustrator but when I consider how little I practice this skill, it's a miracle I'm not much, much worse.

The art supplies culling also led to the discovery of some more unframed artwork that I've bought over the years from other artists. (I have exactly one piece of my own art hanging on my walls, and I'm probably going to take it down and replace it with something else soon. I went on a framing spree. I need to put some more nails in the walls so I can hang things. Also look for unused wall space. We're kind of low on that. Lut doesn't think there's enough room for all the newly framed art, and I'm pretty sure he's right.

Gaming
Lut and I made it to a game night at Tabletop! We even played a game! It was a fun one, Space Base. Hopefully we'll remember to go again this week.

I also have a new addiction: "Love Nikki, Dress UP Queen", a phone app game. I am not going to talk about Love Nikki here because there is too much to say.

I still check in on PonyIsland.net periodically but since the game never really grabbed me, I dunno how long I will continue to do so.

4thewords.com, the gamification-of-writing site I've been using for three years, ran a CampNano event so terrible that they extended it for 12 days to make up for the fact that much of the playerbase was confused and upset by it. April wasn't a big writing month for me, so I was going to just go back to the regular sidequests I'd been working on before the event started. But with the extension, I may finish it after all. We'll see. If I do finish it, the odds that I will write a long post about Love Nikki dramatically increase. c_c

Happiness
Oh hey I am no longer grimly depressed. It's weird how sometimes I don't really notice the variance in my mood until previous updates remind me. Anyway, April was a pretty good month, all in all.

Goals for coming month
  • Proofread The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince
  • Complete front/back matter for same.
  • Write 15,000 words of fiction or make a dent on initial edits for the Eclipse novelette and The Twilight Etherium. (Decisions made for the novelette will affect The Twilight Etherium, so these two tasks go together to a certain degree.) Or some combination of writing and initial edits. The big goal is to wrap up everything I need to do on Princess, but since that shouldn't take a whole month, I do want to get something else done as well.
This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/639341.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
studious

March in Review

Health/Fitness
I should download my Google Fit data and look at it but meh. I forgot to add a few workouts into it until just now, which means they won't be in the export. I'll do that later. I was pretty good about doing some form of activity on almost every day this month. Mostly walking. Walking is low-effort. Not just low physical effort, but low mental effort. I don't have to psych myself up to doing it, I can just go "well, I'm already wearing clothes, I might as well go for a walk."

RealAppeal sent me a blender in March. It's this adorable 24 ounce tumbler with the blender blades in the top of the vessel instead of on the bottom. I bet all blenders do that now, it's a good design choice. Anyway, I dug up some smoothie recipes online and bought some fruits and vegetables, mostly frozen, to put into smoothies. And then I actually made some. The only one I like so far is blueberry/banana/spinach. I cut up a little of a yellow bell pepper to add in and that worked all right. It mostly tastes like banana and yogurt rather than spinach or pepper, which is all to the good. The biggest downside of the recipe is that it uses a whole banana and the resulting smoothie is ginormous and effectively a meal, so I have to pick a meal to replace with it. At some point, I need to try sticking half of it in the fridge and drinking the rest of it the next day. Anyway, this is a good strategy for sneaking some Actual Fruits and Vegetables into my other produce-free diet. The nice thing about smoothies is that I can use frozen stuff for it and it doesn't matter because I was going to drink it cold anyway.

I'm down to 178 pounds now, so since I started RealAppeal about 10-11 weeks ago, I've lost six pounds. The RealAppeal thing is no trouble to maintain and I plan to stick with it. This has been an interesting contrast with my last attempt at tracking diet & exercise, in 2014. In 2014, I lasted through about 10-11 weeks of tracking app before I found it too annoying to keep doing. During that time, I lost a total of two pounds.

The most fascinating thing about this to me is that in 2014, I was eating significantly less than I am now. It's one of the reasons I gave up; it took willpower to stick with it and I ran out of willpower.

The differences that I think matter:

~ I am not trying to lose weight. So if I weigh in at the end of a week and I've gained two pounds, I don't go "WHY AM I EVEN BOTHERING???" I go "meh. Didn't care anyway."
~ I refused to let the program set a calorie goal for me. Like the fitness app I used in 2014, the RealAppeal diet program thinks my calorie goal should be between 1200 and 1550 calories. To which I say NOPE. I tried that goal in 2014 and I hated it and burned out after less than three months. I set my calorie goal in RA at 2000.
~ The RealAppeal tracking app is much easier to use than the last one I tried. It has a huge database of existing foods, including most items from chain restaurants. I can start to type and then pick from the list of matches. It remembers the things I've eaten before and offers those matches first. I can add new recipes to the database. I can use the app on my phone or open it in a web browser. I have done daily quests for games that were more inconvenient than this. It's not a hassle.
~ RealAppeal has coaches: actual human beings. I liked my coach, Cass, immediately. Having an Actual Human Coach that I can email or talk to is of both practical and psychological value. I scheduled a one-on-one with my coach (you can do this! As often as you like! Because fortunately not everyone wants to) to talk to her about sneaking veggies into my diet (yeah, I'm basically a toddler, I have to trick myself into eating them.) This was not just so I could get suggestions (which she provided, and some of them were helpful) but to give me MOTIVATION. I told myself three weeks in a row that I would find a way to eat more veggies THIS WEEK FOR SURE but it wasn't until I had to talk to an actual person about it that I persuaded myself to DO IT. I am sure the coaches are the most expensive part of the program, and I don't know that they're the most effective. But they are certainly add considerable value. And the fact that I know how expensive this is makes me value it more, I think, than I would if I treated it as if it had no cost. Even though I have no out-of-pocket costs for the program.
~ The coach and the class doesn't push the nutritional guide. The class is structured around the idea of gradual improvement and giving you a few new things to consider each week. Cass emphasizes the importance of tracking much more than the idea of avoiding specific unhealthy foods or eating healthy ones.

Things that do not make difference:

~ The instructional videos. Every week, there's a thirty-minute class, of which 10-20 minutes is instructional video. They do their best with these, but I find them tedious and mostly uninformative. The rest of the class is discussion between the coach and students, and that part is more engaging. I don't mind the class; I exercise through it and I don't generally do anything very interesting while I'm exercising, so it's no worse than usual.
~ The nutritional guide. RealAppeal has astonishingly inconsistent messaging. Its app tells me that my baseline calories used (assuming no exercise) is 1935. To lose ten pounds in a year, you only need to eat, I don't know, 70 calories fewer than you burn per day. Given that I usually get some exercise in a day, 2000 calories is a perfectly reasonable target for me. But despite this, the nutrition guide programs top out at 1800 and those are supposed to be for large active men. So it's like the app was set up with the idea of "we want you to do this for the rest of your life so you can make your goals ones you can easily maintain" and the nutrition guide is "we think you will quit unless you see instant results so here's some super-stringent requirements that will require all of your willpower." The RealAppeal nutrition guide also wants me to pick one of its meal plans and eat only its recipes and I'm like ARE YOU KIDDING ME. I am not going to prepare 21 new and unfamiliar meals in a single week. Why would you even think that was reasonable. It's so far out there that I haven't even tried to incorporate anything from it into my diet. I don't even use its smoothie recipes because I wanted recipes with veggies and it doesn't have any.
~ The commitment contract: they want you to sign a contract every week that says you will stick with your chosen plan from the nutritional guide. NOPETOPUS ON OUTTA HERE.
~ I want to re-emphasize that point about the nutritional guide, because the last time I tried a diet plan of 1800 calories or less I DIDN'T LOSE WEIGHT. So not only is it a sacrifice, but it's a sacrifice that doesn't even work.

The failure of the nutritional guide to offer any guidance on "ways to gradually improve your diet" is probably my biggest disappointment in the plan. But I am taking a mix-and-match approach and just ignoring anything that doesn't work for me, so it's in the category of "missed opportunity" rather than something that's actively making the service less useful. Overall, I am pleased with the experience.

Writing
I worked on outlines for two new books in March:
The Twin Etheriums: set two hundred years before The Moon Etherium, this novel is a polyamorous romance between three fey who seek the key to immortality: an asexual/alloromantic trans man from the Sun Etherium, a demigirl barbarian, and a cis woman from the Moon Etherium. The outline for this book is complete and in pretty good shape.
Untitled sequel to Frost and Desire: a four-person polyamorous romance. From a marketing perspective, this is a mistake (Frost is my worst-selling series.) I don't particularly want to write this and consider it vaporware. On the other hand, I do want to read it. So it might happen. I have about 2/3rds of an outline for it, so it'll need more work before I can start.

>The Business of Writing
I also outlined the most significant changes I want to make to the final version of Princess. I wrote another eight thousand words or so to add to the novel.

Art/Other
I started work on an illustration of Frost and Thistle, but it's unfinished.

Gaming
I had some drama on Flight Rising. In an effort to make the recap less tedious, the following is not actual quotes. It's pretty similar to the events, though.

Flight Rising moderators: "We deleted a bunch of the bios in your lair for obscenity and we are giving you a warning for having posted obscenity."
Me: "But ... there wasn't anything explicit or pornographic or obscene in any of the bios you deleted. Can you give me copies of the material you deleted?"
FR Mods: "No, we don't keep copies. Or have site backups, apparently. But that stuff was all porn."
Me: "Then how do you know it was obscene?"
FR mods: "Because we deleted it!"
Me: "... so ... do you mean that you consider saying 'some dragons enjoy consensual BDSM activities' to be obscene, even if there is no depiction of sex, sexual activity, or BDSM scenes?"
FR Mods: "Yes."
Me: "The actual site lore is that dragons are sapient beings. Lairs buy and sell them. On an auction house. To breed."
FR Mods: "Yes, well, slavery and forced breeding is fine, obviously, but dragons who enjoy the role of a slave? Having discussions about consent? HOW DARE."
Me: "This bio you deleted was about the rescue of a lost dragon. What was obscene about it?"
FR Mods: "That one is fine."
Me: "... then why did you delete it?"
FR Mods: "Because."

I am vaguely annoyed about their decision that "saying consensual BDSM exists is obscene", given the site lore. But I would have shrugged it off if they hadn't been completely ham-handed and arbitrary in their enforcement of it. This wasn't material on the front page of their site; these were bios buried in my lair. You had to dig to find them. The mods could've told me "Please remove any bios that reference BDSM within X days or we will delete them" and I would have deleted the actual material they cared about and not, like, random bios of the dragons sitting next to them.

Anyway, I have not been much involved with Flight Rising for the last couple of years, and this kerfluffle killed what interest remained. I decided to take an indefinite hiatus from the site. Maybe someday I will want to go back, although it seems unlikely.

After this, a couple of people suggested trying PonyIsland.net.

On the plus side, I love the art for the ponies. There's like 15 different breeds and I like almost all of them.

However, there isn't a whole lot of game to the site. You get enough in-game currency to buy a few ponies. After that, you go to the site now and then, click around a bit to take care of the ponies and do the things that cost money but will eventually make, hopefully, more money. Then you leave the site and do something else until your next window in which to click around a bit opens. After you make more money, you can buy more ponies and dress them up. And use them to make more money. That's pretty much the whole site. Probably the worst thing about it is that your ponies eventually die if you don't take care of them, so taking a few months off would mean your herd would be dead when you got back.

Despite my ambivalence about the gameplay or lack thereof, I bought a year's subscription and have dutifully been building up my herd and trying to make enough money that I can eventually dress them up. They are pretty cute. We'll see if I find this worth it long-term. I do not expect to get involved in the community on PonyIsland, because by the sound of it their moderation system is even more ham-handed and arbitrary than FR's.

One of the things that had kept me coming back to FR for so long was the monthly writers' chat Maggie and I hosted on their forums. I decided to make a writers' chat community on Dreamwidth to see if I could lure some of the FR folks away from the site. And also in case any of my writer friends off-site were interested. It's not a feedback group: it's just a chat group for talking to other writers about writer stuff. Check it out if you're interested: https://dragonwriters.dreamwidth.org/

Happiness
I felt pretty beat up at the end of February, and honestly, March was worse. (Not because of the FR kerfluffle. Or cancer. Stuff I don't want to talk about.) But I got some stuff done that I wanted to do, so that's good. It'll be all right.

But I do want to take a moment here to thank Past Rowyn for her rabid determination to save money for an early retirement. She could've gotten a car fifteen years earlier, or a bigger house, or traveled more lavishly, or eaten restaurant food for lunch every workday instead of bringing food from home, or spent her money on any number of other things that she wanted at the time. But she saved it all instead, so that Present Rowyn wouldn't have to worry as much about money as Past Rowyn did. Thank you, past me. That was kind of you, and I appreciate it.

Goals for coming month
~ Finish the final version of The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince and send it to Alinsa for layout.
~ Stretch goal: start work on my next draft
~ Other stretch goal: start edits on the Etherium novelette that I inadvertently wrote while drafting Princess, or on editing The Twilight Etherium

I do want to get The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince wrapped up this month, and that may take all month but seems pretty doable. I feel pretty flexible about what I do apart from that. This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/638968.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
just me

Mental Hygiene

It's been a week, and I promised myself that I would consider whether or not I want to set any creative goals for March.

I don't. I really don't.

The week has been, overall, fine. I have made more notes for The Twin Etheriums, which is the working title for the Extremely Gay Prequel to The Moon Etherium. The Twin Etheriums now has protagonists and an outline, although I am not exactly happy with the outline. I am going to work on it some more and then try to cadge some friends into telling me if they think it'll make a good book. At present, the outline has an A plot and a B plot, and the B plot resolves waaaaay after the A plot, which does not strike me as optimal. So I'm going to try to beat the two plots into resolving closer together.

I have been working on mental hygiene, I guess you could call it? Specifically, I have been trying to dismantle the mental process that tells me "you NEED to be writing/editing/PRODUCING STUFF!" On the one hand, this feels like a dangerous choice: how will I keep making stuff if I don't set goals and expectations for myself? What happens if I start thinking that I have value outside of my ability to make things?

And on the other hand WOW UNHEALTHY MUCH GIRL??? Have I seriously designed an entire mental process around telling myself that I suck unless I'm churning out material? Yes. Yes I have. Why did this seem like a good idea. I don't know.

Ursula Vernon makes jokes about her anxiety kicking in if she's not working: "I gotta go write another book or I'll die in a ditch next to Wal-Mart." This is a great joke, but ... uh ... I do not want this as my role model. I do not suffer from anxiety, as a rule. My brain dysfunction of choice is depression. "I gotta write another book or I'll fall into the Pit of Eternal Despair." I don't want THAT as a role model, either. I want "I gotta write another book so I'll be able to read it." My next book's purposes is not to save me from poverty or death or despair. Its purpose is to be a fun thing to read. That should be enough.

That needs to be enough.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch wrote a blog post on productivity this week. One thing she wrote in it struck me:
"1,000 words of new material five days per week is 5,000 words per week, or 260,000 words of new material per year. That’s about three 90,000 word novels. Three novels is prolific by traditional publishing standards—hell, by any standards."

I wrote 330,000 words last year. I published three books last year and I expect to publish three books this year as well.

I do not feel prolific. I feel like I'm blundering along at the same sluggish pace that I took to write Prophecy, to be honest. But there is Kristine Rusch -- a blogger who has high expectations of writers, who believes in producing a high volume of work at a consistent, focused pace -- writing that three novels is prolific by any standards.

Huh.

I kind of want to frame that and put it on my wall or my desktop or something. Perspective. I need it.

But to get back to my earlier point: tying my self-worth to my productivity is Not Good. First, it's just wrong. If I told someone else "you're worthless if you're not making anything", I would slap myself. More importantly, it's counterproductive. Being miserable doesn't make me more creative! It just makes me miserable! My first rule of depression is "do not beat yourself up for being depressed." The corollary of that is "don't beat yourself up about the things you aren't doing because you're depressed." Maybe just "don't beat yourself up at all." Save guilt for the prevention of immoral and unethical acts. Girl, writing 1000 words a day is not a moral imperative.

So I am tuning the mental process of "you NEED to do author stuff" to "oh hey, you could be doing author stuff, no pressure though." When I'm bored or have some idle time, I'll think "I could use this time to write/edit/etc." But I am pruning away the part that continues "and if you DON'T that's because you're USELESS and BAD and you'll never finish another book EVER AGAIN."

I'm astonished that consciously deciding not to fall into a particular thought pattern has actually been working, but it has so far. o_o Might just be coincidence.

Anyway, I don't want goals right now. At the end of March, I will write up my usual "this is what I accomplished" post, and whatever it is, it will be enough.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/638311.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
downcast

February in Review

Health/Fitness

I spent all of February sick. With the same cough. That doesn't stop. x_x It was only really bad for the first week. I still have it, a little bit, but it's just "I cough a few times a day" now, so it's not waking me up at night anymore and I feel basically healthy. Still. Actually healthy would be nice.

I've been walking less because it's miserable outside and also sick, but I'm still averaging 3,045,647 Google-Fit-increments per day. I don't understand how those translate to anything else. I used to think those were microseconds (it's labelled "duration (ms)" so that'd make sense?) But I know the total duration of "other" is way less than the number of minutes I entered so really, I got nothin'.

Ooh wait, I updated my numbers in the Google Fit app just before I downloaded it from my desktop. Maybe the app didn't sync before the download.

*attempts to force a sync*

No luck. But I think Google's just not adding in the numbers I entered today to the archive I'm grabbing today, because I added a new activity and it's not showing up at all.

The problem is that I've been tracking exercise in RealAppeal, which I can't export from, and also Google Fit, which I can export from but it's weird.

Anyway, my Google Fit numbers are:

November: 69 minutes per day
December: 64
January: 64
February: 51

February is probably undercounted due to syncing issues. I can see if it goes up retroactively when I grab numbers again at the end of March. But I also did exercise less in February. Because sick. For the whole month.

I am still doing RealAppeal. It hasn't altered my eating or exercise habits much. I eat slightly less and I exercise slightly more. I am kind of frustrated because the change I wanted to make was "eat more healthy foods" and that's not happening. On the other hand, eating slightly less and exercising slightly more is a good thing, so there's that. My weight as of today is 179, so I lost another pound, woo.

Writing
I made some notes for The Twin Etheriums, the prequel story for the Etherium setting that I want to write. It is not close to an actual outline yet.

The Business of Writing
I chopped out a novelette's worth of words from The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince. There was a big chunk of backstory for one character that just doesn't fit in this book. I also added another 8000 words of Other Stuff in, so overall length hasn't changed much. I sent it to first readers last Sunday. I plan on starting final edits for it in April.

Art/Other
Oh hey I did a picture!

Gaming
I made level 39 in Pokemon GO, as anticipated, and am all of 10% of the way to level 40. I will stop posting level updates now.

Flight Rising added a "Hibernal Den", which gives you storage space for dragons you're not using but can't bear to part with. They have a bunch of quests for it. I've been playing a lot more Flight Rising lately.

Happiness
I have been grimly depressed for the past week or so.

Goals for coming month
So, depression has made it extremely difficult to get anything done, and -- BONUS -- trying makes me feel worse. YAY.

I am not sure that not-trying will help, but I sure don't feel in the mood for goal-setting. Here's my March goals for now:

* Care for Lut
* Do 2018 taxes
* Take stock on March 8 and see if I feel more like setting other goals or not.

Good enough. -_-


This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/638023.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

Frost in Lingerie

Some weeks ago, I saw a "DrawYourOCInThis tweet of some lovely lingerie.

My immediate thought: "I should draw Frost in this!"
Frost: "Really. Me."
Thistle: "yes pls."
Frost: "Don't you have at least twelve female protagonists you could draw instead?"
Me: "C'mon, Frost. You wear robes and gowns with long skirts in 90% of the book and when you're not wearing those, you're cross-dressing by your own culture's standards." Frost: "I do not object to it being feminine. I object to it being lingerie."
Me: "Just because I don't describe you in lingerie in the book doesn't mean you'd never wear it."
Frost: "I would not wear it in public."
Me: "Who says you're in public?"
Frost: "You are posting it on Twitter."
Me: ".... my feed isn't that popular?"
Frost: *narrows his eyes at me*
Me: "You're disrobing on the book cover!"
Frost: "Everyone undresses. Not everyone wears over-the-top lingerie. It's different."
Me: "...if you didn't want to be objectified you shouldn't've been fictional."
Collapse )


I am not sure why Frost is my go-to for objectification, though. I've drawn more pictures of him than any other character, outside of header images. By a huge margin. Most of my protagonists get maybe a thumbnail sketch, if that. Frost has his own folder. I dunno.

The thing I am happiest about with this picture is that I managed to draw a male character in a feminine outfit but he still looks like a man. I am bad at drawing men that look male so this is a triumph for me.

Frost is from Frost and Desire.
The pose reference is from SenshiStock.
The background reference is from a photo I took of a plaza in Venice. (Piazzo San Marco, IIRC.)
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studious

Call for First Readers!

I have finished initial revisions on The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince! That means I need first readers for it!

Blurb:

After the kingdom of Mireni is conquered by a vicious dragon, Mireni's king-in-exile is willing to do anything to save his kingdom, including promising half of his kingdom and his daughter, Princess Cherish, to whomsoever stops the cruel beast. With luck, he reasons, one or more of the neighboring kingdoms will come to their aid, and some eligible prince will claim his daughter's hand. Perhaps even some palatable individual, like the handsome Prince Eclipse, who is already on friendly terms with Cherish.

It does not occur to Cherish's father that she might have her own ideas about whom she should marry --

-- Or that the best individual to stop a dragon is, of course, another dragon.

~

This is a standalone polyamorous fantasy romance, set in one of the mortal realms through which the fey shard (the setting for the Etherium novels) passes. It's not an Etherium novel and there is no need to have read the Etherium books to follow this one. The titular prince is a transman in a transphobic culture, so content warning for transphobia. Also contains explicit lesbian and straight sex. 

If you'd like to be a first reader, send me your email! You can leave a message with it here (comments are screened), or email my gmail account, LadyRowyn.  Or DM me on Twitter (also LadyRowyn).

Thanks for reading!

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studious

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

I heard a lot about this book when it was released two years ago; it's a contemporary young adult drama. I've read plenty of YA but I seldom read contemporary books of any kind. Still, I decided to put the e-book of this on hold at the library after I saw a trailer for the movie.

I am glad that I read this book after I started listening to the Fsck Em All podcast. Before I listened to Fsck Em All, I had a vague notion that the American justice system discriminated against black people. But I had no idea how common it was for cops (a) to straight-up kill black people for no reason and (b) that there were basically no consequences for cops for doing so. I'd heard about a handful of cases but I was a white middle-class woman and I thought they were aberrations. Nope. That's the norm. Happens every week. Cop shoots unarmed black guy. Cops release statement giving BS reason why this was justified. Cop is put on paid administrative leave. Initial statement turns out to be full of lies but the lies don't get as much attention as the initial statement so it doesn't matter. Grand jury usually does not indite cop. If he is indited, he's probably not convicted. If he is convicted, he usually doesn't get jail time. Cop is normally not fired. If he does gets fired, he's hired by some other police department and likely goes on to murder some other black guy for the crime of Driving While Black. This is not an aberration. This is the entire system.

Since I went in knowing that this was the whole system, things that might have surprised me or seemed unduly cynical were just "yup, that sure is the American what-passes-for Justice System." In a few ways, the book was less harsh than I had expected. (Spoiler: For example, I fully expected that the cops would try to smear the protagonist as some form of criminal, the same way they smear the murdered black kid as a "suspected drug dealer".)

The Hate U Give is centered on a specific incident of this systemic injustice: the protagonist is the witness when her friend is murdered by a cop. However, the book is as much about the protagonist's life in general as it is about her murdered friend and the subsequent fallout. Her friends, her school, her parents and her extended family all feature prominently. Her uncle -- who helped raise her -- is a cop. This is not a book about how all cops are bad. It is not even about how the cop who murdered her friend is bad. It's about a black teenager trying to find a way to thrive despite all the craptastic systems in place. And about community: how so many people around her are supportive despite the craptastic systems.

It's an excellent book, particularly in the sense of "accomplishing the things it is trying to accomplish." It's evocative of all the complexities and difficulties of its situation. It grapples with all the hard questions and has no pat solutions. And it has so much heart and love that it doesn't feel like a grim book despite how grim the inciting event and fallout all are. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it. I would give it an 8 on my "enjoyed it" scale; if contemporary drama was actually a genre I liked it'd be a 9, I'm sure. Well done.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/637303.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

I actually read a book! This is 100% not the book I would've expected to pick up and read in a weekend, yet Here We Are.

Marie Kondo is a Japanese decluttering consultant, and she's recently become much more visible after doing a Netflix reality show. But I first heard about her a couple of years ago from my friend Ciel on Twitter/Mastodon; Ciel has mentioned using the KonMari method for some time now. He remarked that a lot of the book is Marie saying "I did [X] once [or many times]! It turned out to be a terrible idea. Don't do that yourself." This approach -- that frankness in speaking of one's own missteps along the path -- sounded endearing and I decided to put the book on reserve at the library.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a surprisingly fun, quick read. Props to the author and her translator for taking the boring topic of "how to make your home a better place to live" and making it entertaining.

It's also way more persuasive than I expected. What makes the book special to me is less its tips on process and more "Marie Kondo will now give you permission to get rid of all that stuff you own and don't like and don't use but feel guilty about throwing away." Halfway through the book, I started laundry. As soon as my clothes were clean, I put the book down to dump the clean laundry, all the clothing from my drawers, and a chunk of clothes from my closet onto the couch and proceeded to weed out two-thirds of it. Felt great!

I don't know if I will have my life changed by this book -- it's a lot of stuff to go through, and a lot of the things in my house are Lut's and not mine. One of the charming things about the book, however, is the way it tells you to handle living with other people. "Don't worry about their things. Just take care of your own stuff and your own possessions. That's probably the real source of your clutter-related anxiety anyway." So I can separate out what's mine and go through it and if the place is still cluttered afterwards, that's okay.

Also, it made me realize that almost all the stuff in the bedroom is mine. Trask has his side of the headboard and a few things stored under the bed, but almost everything in their is mine to declutter. MWAHAHA.

If nothing else, I will have 3 fewer bags full of clothing I don't like and don't wear.

Anyway, fun book, recommended if you have a cluttered home and wish you didn't. Especially if you feel guilty for throwing things out. MARIE KONDO WILL ABSOLVE YOUR GUILT. It's great.

This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/637149.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2012

January in Review

Health/Fitness
[Content note: I actually talk about weight and calories and such in this one.]

This year, my health insurer started paying for a weight loss program called "RealAppeal".

I am, on the one hand, not much interested in weight loss anymore. Years ago, one of my friends described me as "smokin' hot", and whenever I think about my appearance, this is the line that comes to mind. It's a valuation that has become independent of objective reality in my head. "Everyone who I would be interested in already finds me attractive. My weight is irrelevant."

Beyond that, weight as a measure of overall fitness is highly suspect. I have been exercising regularly for about 15 years now, while generally gaining a few pounds a year. I am fitter now than I was when I was 60 pounds lighter back in the late 90s. Medical professionals tend to blame everything on "patient is overweight", and the accordingly lowered standard of care fat people get may contribute more to poor health outcomes for them than any actual weight-related issues.

On the other hand, my diet is terrible. I don't mean "I eat too much", I mean "I survive mostly on sugar and fat." And my health insurance company is not paying for this program out of charity or kindness. They are a business; they would not pay for RealAppeal if they did not believe, based on evidence, that RealAppeal would improve the insurer's bottom line by improving the health of their customers. (My insurer may well be wrong about this! They're run by humans with the same biases as all other humans. But they are definitely not doing it because they think I'd be pretty if I just lost a few pounds.)

So I signed up for it -- it's free, I can always quit, why not?

The emphasis on weight loss is just as annoying as I thought it would be. I feel like RealAppeal is negging me: "take a picture of yourself now so you can see how much better you look after losing weight!"

I am SMOKIN' HOT RIGHT NOW, RealAppeal, and nothing you or a camera says will change that.

SMOKIN' HOT.

However! Despite this, I actually like the program so far.

It has weekly online classes, which I thought was going to be super annoying ("ugh, stuck in front of a computer watching a video for 45 minutes?") But their mobile app can play the online classes, so I go for a walk while I watch/listen to the class. The classes are with the same people and the same coach every week (you are encouraged to stick with your time slot, although you can take a make-up class if you miss one). My coach, Cass, is adorable, fun to listen to, and very relatable. She has struggled with bad eating habits too. She was talking about one of the tactics for staying on track -- "write down your motivation somewhere that you'll see it" -- and that the motivation can be very personal. Hers had been a note on her fridge: "Are you hungry? :)" And I thought that was great: at once an invitation to eat if you ARE hungry, and a gentle reminder that if you're not hungry maybe food is not the fix for whatever problem you do have.

You can also schedule 1-on-1 time with your coach if you want to discuss specific issues or just for bonding. I am a big believer in the power of bonding to promote good habits, so I feel like the existence of a coach who is invested in me eating well and exercising is useful by itself.

The site has a tracker, which is much less annoying to use than the last few times I tried food trackers. With the exception of meals from restaurants that aren't chains, it's had all the food I eat already in it. Generally, I can just type part of a name, pick what I had off a picklist, and set the portion size, and I'm done.

Moreover, I love having data and graphs and charts, so it's something I get a kick out of having done.

So I've been tracking what I eat for a couple of weeks. I already tracked exercise through Google Fit. Tracking leads to me eating a little less junk food: there is the act of thinking "do I actually want this or am I just eating it out of habit?" which leads to the occasional "yeah, I don't actually want this" in response.

The program lets you set your own targets, and the competing information is deeply amusing to me.

Video on calorie targets: "Women should set a target between 1200-1500 depending on how active you are!"

Me: "Nopenopenope" *nopetopuses on out of here*

Website, looking at my specific height/weight/exercise levels: "How's 2000-2200 calories sound?"

Me: "Okay that's fine."

I guess the "guideline" targets are aimed at the "I need to see VISIBLE RESULTS IMMEDIATELY or I will give up." But the last time I set calorie targets like that, I (a) soon hated tracking (b) also having to think about what I was eating all the time and (c) didn't lose weight anyway.

So I set my calorie target at 2000, in case I get lazier about exercise, and told the site I wanted to lose 0.25 pounds a week (the smallest number it allows).

In general, I've been either walking or dancing every day for 45-60 minutes, and eating between 1600-1900 calories. I have chosen not to eat food that I would have otherwise had, because it would put me over my target. Like yesterday I got a "pick two" and a frozen mocha from Panera, and then realized this is Too Much Food, so I took the soup and roll home as leftovers instead of eating them.

I have not, at any point, thought "I'm hungry and this takes too much willpower."

I've lost three pounds, much to my surprise. I'm not sure how that happened? This may just be the initial "oh it's a diet you're allowed to lose a couple pounds" before my body adjusts to the new normal and stops losing weight.

But since my actual goal is "exercise and eat better": as long as those things are happening, I don't care about the scale. 95% of why I am weighing myself is that the program asks me to, and since I don't care, I might as well make them happy.

Oh, for anyone curious: I started at 183 lbs and am currently 180 lbs.

Writing
I finished the initial draft of The Twilight Etherium! My belief that "the second half will be shorter" was way more accurate than I thought it would be. First half: 74,400 words. Second half: 28,500. Total word count: 102,900.

So the book ended up right in the 100-120k range, same as the other Etherium books. AW YEAH. I am pleased. Also glad to have the first draft done. And also thinking next book I will try to estimate word count per bullet point instead of "eh, historically each bullet point is around 1500ish words" because while that was still right ON AVERAGE, it was wackily far off when it came to estimating how much book was left on this one.

The Business of Writing
NEW BOOK RELEASE WOOOO! Frost and Desire is now out in the wild. I love this book, y'all. ❤️

I also did some more revisions on The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince. I crossed of another 12 items on the planned changes list. 23 more to go!

Gaming
As predicted last month, Pokemon Go play remains way down. I'm still level 38. I will probably make 39 sometime in February; I have one last friend who regularly opens gifts to get to Best Friends status, and that'll pretty much push me over. But I suspect I won't make level 40 until late this year, assuming I don't just quit entirely. On the other hand, spring and summer weather may make playing more appealing.

Happiness
I was pretty glum for a week or so this month, but my mood turned around a couple of weeks ago and I've been upbeat since then. It's nice.

Report Card for January Goals
* Care for Lut: yup, did that
* Finish 17 more bullet points on The Twilight Etherium: finished 37 points and the whole draft. CRUSHED IT.
* And/or finish 17 bullet points on the editing list for The Princess, Her Dragon and Their Prince, or some combination of these two: only did 12, but this was an "in combination with the above" so this is all gravy.
* Release Frost and Desire: done!
* Spend 15 hours reading stuff that I didn't write. Books, graphic novels, blog posts, articles, and short stories all count. Twitter, Discord, and Tootplanet do not. Lol nope. I caught up on my Dreamwidth feed, which is nice, and I tried reading some books without making much progress. But I didn't even try to track my time spent reading and I'm confident it didn't make it to half an hour a day. This should be easy. I don't know why it isn't anymore. MEH.

Goals for February
* Care for Lut
* Finish revisions on Princess and send to first readers
* Think about next book(s)

I haven't solidified what I'm writing next yet. I am most inclined to write an EXTREMELY QUEER prequel to The Moon Etherium, but since I don't have a solid concept for it yet, I'm not committed. I am farther along on my year's work than I expected to be at this point, so I'm not concerned, either.

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Me 2012

Bad Romance

I started reading romance novels in the 80s. I was a voracious reader, and exhausted the little branch library's allotment of the genre quickly. I could only afford to buy so many new books, so I bought a lot of used books. The used book store charged half cover price, which made 60s and 70s romances cheap.

After a couple dozen, I stopped reading 60s and 70s romances because even teenage me was appalled by the rampant misogyny in them. These were books for woman, by women, starring women characters, and YET. The female protagonists were often caricatures: helpless creatures, with no ambitions beyond love, marriage, and children.

I was, in one way, fascinated by this, because I read much older books that portrayed women in a far more attractive light. Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte gave me independent, confident, interesting women. Why were 60s romances so bad at this?

While I recognized the shallowness of the characters early on, it took much, much longer for me to realize how unhealthy many of the relationships were. It wasn't uncommon to read a romance in which the male protagonist outright raped the female protagonist. I don't mean "this is kind of rapey because she's uncomfortable about having sex" but "woman is saying "no" over and over again while ineffectually trying to push him away, and man ignores her protests and rapes her".

The Flame and the Flower was a 1972 romance showcasing this trope on the lame excuse that the man thought she was a prostitute and I guess prostitutes don't get consent? And this was one of the romances I liked as a teen. I read my favorite parts over and over again.

By the 2000s, most romances had gone from "rape is a good way to get the protagonists in bed because it lets you have your pure female character and sex too" to "howabout we portray the kind of healthy relationships we'd like to be in, instead?"

I love healthy romances. I write about characters who are careful with one another, who consider issues of power and consent, who have an unselfish love for one another. They do not seek to gratify their own desires without regard for the object thereof. Even in Frost and Desire, I cling to that overall tone, despite having a scene of mind control and rape. This trend delights me.

But I feel as if romance is now held to a different standard from every other genre. We don't just say "Wow, that relationship in The Flame and the Flower is messed up": we say "This book is objectively bad because the relationship is unhealthy". When teens say they love TWILIGHT, we fret that they plan to get into abusive relationships.

People, I loved The Flame and the Flower and A Woman Without Lies and I've never been in anything close to an abusive relationship, or thought that abusive relationships were a good idea. I loved reading books about these warped relationships that somehow magically turned out for the best because they were fun, not because they were my role model.

We don't wonder if people who love horror are going to become serial killers, or expect that people who read mysteries will become either cops or murderers. We don't watch Game of Thrones because we long for a return to the War of the Roses.

But romances, ah, if they show unhealthy behaviors, it has to be because the author and the readers endorse those behaviors in the real world.

As I built my playlist of dysfunctional love songs for Frost, I found it freeing to realize just how much music glorified terrible relationships. Music is expected to cover the full spectrum of relationships, from happy to broken to dysfunctional. Music is cathartic, not a model of the ideal.

I came up with the plot for Frost in 2015, and I put off writing it for three years in part because "people will assume I think this is a romantic ideal".

And I finally decided to write my messy hurt/comfort problematic romance anyway.

Because yes, it's great that so many romance novels now model strong, healthy relationships.

But fantasies that would make for bad realities have their place, too. This entry was originally posted at https://rowyn.dreamwidth.org/636585.html. Please comment there using OpenID.