rowyn: (studious)
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.

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.

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

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

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:

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.
rowyn: (just me)
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.


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.
rowyn: (downcast)

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.

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.

Oh hey I did a picture!

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.

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. -_-

rowyn: (Default)
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."
Illustration is in an ordinary pose and shows less skin than a bathing suit, but still. It's lingerie. Might be NSFW depending on your workplace.  )

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.)
rowyn: (studious)
I have finished initial revisions on The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince! That means I need first readers for it!


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!

rowyn: (studious)
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.
rowyn: (Default)
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.
rowyn: (Default)
[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.


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.

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!

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.

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.
rowyn: (Default)
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.
rowyn: (Default)
 Frost and Desire book cover: torso of a long-haired man partially disrobed
Frost and Desire
Frost, master sorcerer, wanted an apprentice: someone who would perform the tedious parts of sorcery, while Frost enjoyed the more sophisticated and varied aspects. Sorcery-bound individuals are vanishingly rare, so when he stumbled upon one who'd been overlooked by testers, he counted himself lucky indeed. No matter if the boy was old to begin an apprenticeship; he would learn.
After growing up a bastard and a whipping boy, the promise of a future as a rare powerful sorcerer seemed impossible to Thistle. He braced himself for failure and disappointment.
But nothing could prepare him for his growing attraction to his master. And it turns out there is one thing worse than an unrequited infatuation with one's mentor:
Having it reciprocated.
Author Comments

Woo! Finally done!

Frost and Desire
is a standalone M/M fantasy romance in a new setting. I thought of the idea for this story in 2015, wrote most of an outline, and then trunked it as too self-indulgent. Last year, after I finished drafting Angel's Sigil, I decided I was entitled to indulge myself for a little while.
The self-indulgent part: one of my favorite variations on the "hurt/comfort" trope is when one character hurts another and then feels awful and guilty about it and spends the rest of the book trying to make up for it. In real life, this does not make for healthy relationships. But this is fiction, and it can be just as much fun to read about relationships that don't work in the real world as it is to read about magic systems and interstellar spaceships that don't work in the real world, either.
I enjoyed writing this book, and I enjoy re-reading it even more. It is so finely-crafted to cater to my particular tastes that I will not fault anyone else for finding it unappealing. But if it sounds intriguing to you, I daresay you will love it!
Spoliers and Content Notes

This novel depicts a relationship that begins as healthy and platonic but eventually becomes abusive. After the breaking point and a long separation, the characters gradually work their way to their happily-ever-after. This is a fantasy. It is not intended to suggest that real-world abusive relationships should be "worked on" until they become healthy ones, or that teacher-pupil romances are a good idea (they are not even a good idea in the story). Novel contains an incident of mind-control, nonconsensual sex transformation, and rape. Also contains explicit sex and consensual bondage. It is not erotica; sex scenes comprise very little of the book. Similarly, despite some dark scenes, most of the book is upbeat: it wallows in the "comfort" side of hurt/comfort.
Thank you for reading!

Not Rabid

Jan. 8th, 2019 02:16 pm
rowyn: (cute)
 For anyone worried that I might die of rabies because I didn't get the vaccine: I saw the cat who bit me last night. He's still alive (and still feeling kind of bitey, though he did not bite me). Rabies is only contagious after symptoms show, and dogs and cats will die of it within ten days of symptoms showing. It's been over two weeks. I'm safe. n.n
rowyn: (smile)
January: Golden Coils
June: Demon's Lure
August: Angel's Sigil
Demon's Lure: complete
Angel's Sigil: complete
Frost and Desire: complete
The Princess Her Dragon, and Their Prince: Started initial edits (very little done).
Angel's Sigil: 8,000 (draft begun 2017, completed 2018)
Frost and Desire: 120,380
The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince: 134,928
The Twilight Etherium: 74,400 (draft incomplete)
That's 337,000 words. This is not quite my all-time high of 347,000 in 2016, but in 2016 I only edited one book and this year I edited three. Also, cancer. I am happy with my word count total.
Purchased four international-only Bookbub ads, for Silver Scales, Demon's Lure, The Moon Etherium, and The Sun Etherium
Other Business-of-Writing items
I commissioned Anthony Avon to do the Demon's Lure and Angel's Sigil covers. I've also commissioned a different artist to do the cover for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince.
4 finished
2 Flight Rising adopts
6 sketches
Composited one cover out of my existing art
Support Lut
He's still alive!  *\o/*  Actually doing pretty well at the moment, as he recovers from the cold and has not been pushed back down by cancer treatment yet. His oncologist will try tapering down on one of his drugs next month, which may help with his general brain fog.
General Adulting
I have done pretty well at this, with one exception -- I broke the front wall of my garage back in, like, October? And never got it fixed.  I made some very desultory attempts at it, and then it was winter and of course I can't hire someone in winter which gave me an excuse not to try.  I should really do something about this, though.
Also, the house needs painting and some general exterior repairs. Meh.
In 2011, I started an activity log to track all of my creative efforts.  Then in 2012, I made a "unified productivity scoring" system kind of thing, that gave me points for writing/editing/completing fiction, and also for blog posts and for art. It was more than slightly ridiculous. For 2012, I scored 27,000 points.  For 2013 I set what I considered an extremely ambitious goal of 30,000. My actual 2013 score -- the year I began and finished the first draft of A Rational Arrangement -- was 45,780. My 2014 and 2015 levels of creative output were overall much lower. (In fairness to my past self, in 2014 and 2015 I was trying to sort out editing and self-publishing and this was extremely stressful for me at the time.)
I stopped using the activity log in the middle of 2014, because it had become much too cumbersome.  But for fun this year, I decided to try to calculate what my 2018 score would've been.
That's not even counting a bunch of stuff that I would have scored points for if I was still using the log -- time spent (or words written) on blog posts and art would've counted as well, for instance.
Anyway, that amused me.
2018 Goal Recap:
I hit all of my stated goals:
* Support Lut through the cancer treatment process
* Continue general adulting as necessary.
* Publish Golden Coils
* Edit and publish the two Demon books.
* Post monthly updates on whatever I did.
I also reached my stretch goal:
* finish some other book and/or stories.
My ideal was "write and publish a fourth book and have two more books drafted."  I did not accomplish this. I drafted 2.5 books this year instead of the hoped-for three, and I didn't publish a fourth book.
I am vaguely dissatisfied about this, and also think that dissatisfaction here is ridiculous and unreasonable.  Yes, I could've spent December working instead of relaxing and maybe finished the draft of The Twilight Etherium. (Probably not; it would've taken another 50k month at a minimum and that still might not have been enough.)  
But I averaged over 900 words per day this year -- not just work-week days, every day! -- and I edited three books to completion and I got three books published and I hired contractors and at some point I just need to admit that this is Good Enough.  I'm not ready to be a four-books-a-year author yet.
Honestly, three books is quite a lot.
Also, they are all good books that I am proud of and enjoy re-reading, which is important too.
2019 Goals
* Support Lut through cancer treatment process
* Do something about the broken garage wall
* Publish three books
* Finish drafting three books
* Write a book in the 55,000-85,000 word range and which covers the entire original outline for the book.
* Post monthly updates
Technically, I've written one book under 85,000 words already, but this was accomplished by splitting Demon's Lure and Angel's Sigil into two books. I am content with them as two books, but I have gotten some complaints about the break and I am just not a fan of this approach. It's part of why I don't want to split The Twilight Etherium.  The Twilight Etherium splits very well in one sense: there's one major plot arc that wraps up the first half, and the second half of the book has a new plot arc that resolves during it. But I want the Etherium books to all be in the same genre: standalone fantasy romances. If I split TTE in half, then it becomes a two-part romance instead of a standalone. From a marketing perspective, this is confusing.
Anyway, I feel as if I am much better at estimating book length than I was four years ago, and that figuring out in advance how long an outline will be and then MAKING IT SHORTER -- or doing a different outline -- is no longer beyond my skillset. Also, I don't want another year where I write 337,000 words but that's somehow only 2.5 books.
rowyn: (studious)
2018 was the year that I started to look seriously into buying ads for my books.

Book promotion is notoriously difficult. Most books sell based on word of mouth, or recommendations through various media, rather than by advertising. Because the product is inexpensive and even consumers who want it are generally only going to buy one copy, no publisher can afford to pay a premium for individual views or clicks.

Most advertising channels for books are Very Bad at selling books. There are many venues, most of which have negligible impact on sales. Back in 2017, I tried buying a Bargain Booksy ad for Silver Scales in the week after its release, and it had zero impact: I sold three copies the day before the ad, and three copies the day of the ad. That ad was for the book at its full price ($4.99). Bargain Booksy might be more effective at a lower pricepoint, but based on other authors' experiences, they are unlikely to be profitable. In point of fact, I unsubscribed from all but Bargain Booksy's "LGBT" category for my own reading, because Bargain Booksy accepts unlimited numbers of promotions per day and its daily emails are overwhelming: twenty or more fantasy novels in one email. I am not surprised it doesn't work.

I might try E-reader News Today at some point: they at least had a noticeable impact on sales for one author's ad, although not nearly enough to cover the cost of the ad.

The gold standard of book advertising -- the outlet most likely (though not guaranteed!) to turn a profit -- is Bookbub. Bookbub is a discount email newsletter. Readers sign up for the categories they want to see and pick whether they want to get emails daily, weekly, or not at all. (You can look at the site to see what's discounted in your genres instead.) Bookbub runs a single deal each day in each category, for a book priced between $0.00 and $2.99. Publishers pay for slots, with slots being cheaper the lower the price point they pay.

Because Bookbub is a discount-books outlet, much of the profit in advertising through them relies on follow-on sales. The book you advertise is a loss leader, and other books in the series or your catalog (hopefully) make up the difference.

Since Bookbub is committed to "one slot per genre per day", advertising space in their newsletter is limited. They turn down a lot of books: 80% is their advertised standard. I've applied twenty-three times for slots. All of my submissions have been for:
  • One book (you can also discount a box set)
  • Sale price of $0.99
  • Both US & International (you can pick one or the other or both).
  • Genre: either "fantasy" or "LGBT".
None of my books have been selected for a US Bookbub, but four of them were selected for international-only Bookbubs. In order:
  • July: Silver Scales (fantasy, $188)
  • October: Demon's Lure (fantasy, $188)
  • November: The Moon Etherium (fantasy, $188)
  • December: The Sun Etherium (LGBT, $52)
Conventional wisdom holds that you run discounts only on the first book in a series. Once people buy the first book, if they like it, they'll pay full price for the others. Some publishers make an exception for romance novels, because romance readers understand that a romance "series" can generally be read in any order and that each book is a standalone story. Moreover, since most ad requests are rejected, being able to submit more books than just the first in a series is helpful in getting your books out there.

That was partly my logic in submitting The Sun Etherium for a promotion. The other part is that The Sun Etherium is the queerest of my books: it features two genderfluid protagonists, both of whom most often present as male: one cannot mistake this for a heterosexual pairing. Part of me wanted to submit The Moon Etherium in the LGBT+ category, but The Moon Etherium is an M/F fantasy romance. Yes, the female protagonist is bisexual, and yes, the setting presents gender as a spectrum where individuals determine for themselves where they belong, not a binary that people are born into. But a 40-word blurb for The Moon Etherium is not going to capture why a reader looking for an LGBT book will want to pick this up.

Speaking of which: Bookbub writes its own blurbs for every book featured in one of its emails. These are short and punchy, and based on Bookbub's market research of what sells books.

These are the Bookbub blurbs for my ads:

Silver Scales: To escape the legions of hell, Sir Damon Kildare has to succeed in a seemingly impossible quest. But Zenobia, a dragon-slayer’s daughter, will stop at nothing to find the key to saving his soul…

Demon's Lure: When Sunrise agrees to help a team of hunters catch a demon, she thinks it will be simple. But the demon is nothing like she expects — and neither is the future that awaits her… An enchanting fantasy!

The Moon Etherium: On a quest to secure his father’s freedom from slavery, Prince Mirohirokon enlists Ardent’s assistance. Bound by duty, she agrees to help and soon the duo is swept up in betrayal and intrigue — with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

The Sun Etherium: Fey immortal Jino, ruler of the Sun Etherium, needs to make sure this year’s Founder’s Festival is a success. But will his trysts at a new club, coupled with his deepening desire for ex-prince consort Kireki, risk everything he’s worked for?

You'll note that The Moon Etherium's blurb doesn't even mention the romance -- it's an ad in the "fantasy" genre, so Bookbub is pitching its fantasy/intrigue plot.

Also, I was totally guessing when I said Bookbub's blurbs were 40 words, but looks like that is around their max length!


Most of Bookbub's subscribers are in the US. The other countries where they have a presence are the UK, Australia, India, and Canada. Their international-only ads usually, but not necessarily, include all four of those countries. In my case, I got all four countries for each promo.

Unit sales from each promo are a little squidgy, because some sales are clearly not from Bookbub and probably unrelated to the promo ("this was an international-only Bookbub and these were US sales"). Others can't be Bookbub but are probably Bookbub-influenced ("Demon's Lure is selling twice as well at its regular price, two weeks after the Bookbub, than it was before the promo.") And whether or not follow-on sales are due to the Bookbub is purely guesswork. So I am giving exact unit numbers, but honestly, they are guesstimates.

Translating unit sales into dollars is even squidgier, because these are international sales. The actual price was 0.99 in the local currency (or 65 rupees for India, but I only had a few sales in India so those have a negligible impact.) Amazon then gives 35% of that 0.99 of local currency to me, converted to US dollars, two months later, bundled with all my book sales in that market. Kobo, Apple, and Barnes & Noble give me between 60%, via Draft2Digital. And while D2D's markets are negligible for my non-promotional sales, they are significant during promos and releases. Kobo is especially a big market for an international Bookbub: in Canada, Kobo is a much stronger competitor with Amazon. The upshot is that a single unit sale could net me as little as US $0.22 (Australian dollars, via Amazon) or as much as US $0.63 (UK sale via Draft2Digital). That is based on conversion rates back in December; it will have changed again by now, and will probably be different by the time I am actually paid. It is theoretically possible to parse out exactly how much each sale made and add it all up, but I have not done so.

Silver Scales: 210
Golden Coils: 27
This was a modest failure. I lost probably $30-$40 net on this promotion. I am fine with this: it moved a couple hundred books into people's e-readers and bumped my visibility a touch. I am willing to assume I got some long-term vigorish from this.

Demon's Lure: 382
Angel's Sigil: 30
This was a definite success. The sales of Angel's Sigil are especially hard to calculate, because Angel's Sigil had only been out a couple of months and was still benefiting from its new-release bump. But percentage-wise, my guess is that the immediate sell-through on Lure was definitely worse than Scales. Nonetheless, very happy with this promotion and would be glad to buy a US Bookbub for this book.

The Moon Etherium: 110
The Sun Etherium: 2
This was just abysmal. Few sales and almost no sell-through. Big money loser.

The Sun Etherium: 83
The Moon Etherium: 12
In case you are looking at this and thinking "oog, that's even worse than The Moon Etherium": no, actually this is the best ROI of all four promotions. TSE was promoted in the LGBT category. Bookbub has many fewer LGBT readers than fantasy readers, and the ads are correspondingly cheaper. This ad was only $52, as compared to $188 for the other three. Moreover, the sell-through was unexpectedly good. 15% of readers either looked at the blurb for TSE and decided immediately that they wanted the first book too, or they chewed through TSE in under a day and then bought TME. Last: this promotion was on 12/31, so it's likely that a few more sales will still trickle in. So although this was comparatively low-volume, I'm excited about the possibilities.


The disparity in the performance of the Etherium novels in the fantasy vs LGBT categories makes it clear that I want to market these books as LGBT+. Which is how I've always wanted to market them, to be fair. On the other hand, marketing The Sun Etherium as LGBT+ and hoping people will then pick up The Moon Etherium is not, in my opinion, ideal. For one thing, just the blurb for The Sun Etherium has spoilers for The Moon Etherium. But The Moon Etherium is, as previously mentioned, difficult to position as an LGBT+ book.

So the logical solution to this problem is to write an EXTREMELY GAY prequel to The Moon Etherium, and then market THAT as the first book in the series. n_n


Overall, Bookbub works much better as a marketing outlet if you have several books in a single series. I haven't really seen an impact on sales of my other series based on a Bookbub promo. So because I only have two books in each series, I've lost a little money, net, on the four promotions I've bought so far. If I were promoting the first book in a series with four or more installments, it'd be much more clearly profitable. The good news is, I'm finally working on the third book in a series! The bad news is, it's a third Etherium book, and nothwithstanding the successful promo on The Sun Etherium, the Etherium books are my worst-selling series.

I still haven't landed a US Bookbub, and the US Bookbubs have a much bigger impact on sales than the international ones (and are correspondingly more expensive -- they cost about four times as much.) I am still submitting to Bookbub for one of these. Bookbub won't run an ad for the same book in the same market more often than every six months, so most of my catalog doesn't qualify for another international Bookbub yet. Except A Rational Arrangement; I am amused that I still haven't gotten a promo for it, since it's my most-reviewed and most-sold book.

Those who've been following my blog since I first released A Rational Arrangement may have noticed that none of the promotions reach the heights of my first couple of months of ARA's release. Alas, ARA remains an outlier in my catalog. ARA has received no promotions, and has sold three times as many copies as anything else I've written since. On the other hand, outside of promotions and recent releases, all of my books are selling 10 or fewer copies a month at this stage: it's not as if ARA is continuing to outsell the rest of my catalog now. It just has a big head start from 2015-2016. Arguably, I should be writing more books set in Paradise. I have not been inspired to write more books in Paradise, however. Also, Further Arrangements was not a stand out in terms of sales the way ARA is, and even ARA did not make full-time-writing-income money. Hence, I am continuing to write books based on my own interests rather than being strongly influenced by "what's selling."

My general experience with Bookbub has been positive: it sells books and it's low effort on my part. Yes, I have to submit a bunch of books for every one they accept, but the submission form only takes a couple of minutes to complete. There are other advertising options I should try, especially since Bookbub is so exclusive. But since Bookbub is the industry leader and even it has not been consistently profitable, I am still at the stage where focusing most of my effort on "write more books" feels right. Advertising one book will have a better ROI when I have more books to sell after new readers finish that first one.
rowyn: (studious)
I went to the coffee shop to write this, which was a huge mistake because my poor little Surface 3 is choking to death on all the stuff I am asking it to do this morning.

One of those things was "extract the data from Google Fit and get it into some kind of meaningful format."

It looks like Google Fit records the data in nanoseconds, because it's a computer and why not, I guess. Assuming this is right -- it produces minutes-per-day that are a little higher than those the app shows, so I'm not confident, but there is no single divisor that will match app to data so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ -- then my average "activity per day" for November was 69 minutes and for December, 65. These figures make zero intuitive sense to me: I felt like I did almost no exercise in December. I stopped biking, and I practically stopped doing anything for the last two weeks because BODY SO BROKEN.

I am not particularly happy with this level of activity, especially since it's 100% walking, with nothing of higher intensity, but meh. I do not seem able to motivate myself to use the exercise bike or dance in my living room, which are my usual methods of winter activity. So this is probably what the next couple of months will look like.

I already whinged about my body failing me repeatedly, so I won't rehash that.

Lut still has a cold, but has been slowly recovering rather than getting worse. One Wednesday, 12/26, he was scheduled for his monthly immunotherapy treatment.

Lut: "I am too sick to get up this early. I can't go to the clinic."
Me: "You still can't call in sick to your doctor's appointment."

So I coaxed him out of bed and into the shower, even, and we got to the clinic only five or ten minutes late, which I totally took as a win. At the oncology clinic, he saw Melody, our usual RN (appointments generally alternate between her and the oncology doctor).

Melody: "You look pretty awful."
Lut: *grunts a little, eyes closed and slumped in his chair.*
Melody: "Do you want to put off treatment until next week?"
Lut: "YES."
Melody: "Okay, we'll reschedule you for next Monday."
Me: "Oh, hey. I guess you can call in sick to your doctor's appointment. WHO KNEW."
Lut: *manages a smile*
Melody: "We really do prefer that you at least show up so we can see how you're doing and if you need emergency care."

I had been worried that Lut would still not feel up to treatment by Monday, because I'd caught the same cold on Friday and while I was mostly healthy five days later, I still had a lingering cough and drippy nose. Even as I write this, 10 days later, I am still not 100%. As feared, Lut was still sick Monday. I got him moving to go to the appointment -- "I want them to SEE YOU so we can have an expert opinion that you are recovering and that you don't need urgent care" -- but when Melody offered to reschedule again, he wanted to do that. So we go back on Friday. My work schedule is in shambles. I'm glad I am officially only 2.5 days a week after this week, because even this week, where I am nominally still supposed to work30 hours, I'm only going to show up for like 14 hours. >_< (I get holiday pay for 6 of that, but the other 10 are gonna have to come out of my depleted stash of PTO.)

I was on vacation in December! So I only wrote 16,900 words of The Twilight Etherium.

2018 Rowyn: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I did prod myself to write on my vacation; I honestly hardly ever "feel like writing". But it doesn't take much prodding to convince myself to write a few hundred words, at this stage. "I'm bored, I might as well write so I have something to show for it." Or "I have the day off! I could spend this WHOLE MORNING at the coffee shop and get some writing done! That's fun, right?"

The TTE draft is up to 74,400 words now, and about half-done per the outline. That puts the final manuscript estimate at 151,000 words. I still think the last half of the outline is going to be shorter than the first half, but we'll see.

I also wrote a number of blog posts, for a change. My favorite was the tribute to Excel. It turns out I rarely have much in the way of blogging that I want to do these days, but I do miss having a record of my life so it was nice to get back to that a little. And yeah, I was definitely writing more blog posts because I was writing less fiction.

The Business of Writing
I was on vacation in December!

But one of my goals was to get the remaining bits for Frost and Desire to Alinsa, and I did this. I also commissioned an artist to do the cover for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince.

I also ran a Bookbub ad for The Sun Etherium I may write a post about my experience this year with advertising.

I finished "Gimme One", which was just a general art-practice piece.

I am getting bored of Pokemon Go, sadly. This has contributed to my decreased exercise time, although apparently not as much as I thought it had. *stares at Google Fit numbers in confusion.* I expect I will keep playing at least a little every day. There are a handful of dailies that only take a few minutes:

* Catch a pokemon
* Spin a pokestop
* Do a field research quest

I have to leave the house, at least to walk across the street, in order to do the last two. But if I am leaving the house at all, going to one pokestop doesn't take me out of my way. And doing each of these once per day gives most of the rewards, so worth doing. I try to end gifts out as well: at a minimum, to all the gift-eligible people that I haven't reached max friend status with. Preferably to everyone eligible. But both of those require a lot more dedication, so I haven't been doing them as much. I haven't been to the Plaza since the last Community Day; I've been trying not to drive as much for Pokemon Go.

I am about 1/3rd through level 38, and I expect it'll be several months before I hit the level cap. Possibly I will speed up again when there's more daylight and biking after work becomes feasible again.

Goals for coming month
Let's see.
* Care for Lut
* Finish 17 more bullet points on the outline for The Twilight Etherium
* And/or finish 17 bullet points on the editing list for The Princess, Her Dragon and Their Prince, or some combination of these two.
* Release Frost and Desire if the layout is finished this month
* 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.

That last one is an effort to tackle my "why am I not reading anymore?" problem from a different angle. I will try tracking my progress on this and see how it goes. It may turn out to be too annoying to track "time spent". But I feel as if my mind is simultaneously "it only counts as reading if you finish an entire book" and also "reading a book takes too long and is too much commitment." And I need to get back to reading or my writing is really going to stagnate. So many of my books were directly or indirectly inspired by other authors.

The "finish bullet points on the outline" emphasis for TTE is because the draft is half-done and already book-length. I do not want to encourage myself to be long-winded by setting a word count goal.
rowyn: (tired)
This is just me whinging like the old woman that I am about my physical complaints.

You've been warned. )

rowyn: (studious)
Shout-out to Microsoft Office's Excel, the Swiss army knife of computer applications, the Spreadsheet Program That Could.

Like, whatever you want it to do.

It can.

Was this a good idea? MAYBE NOT BUT LET'S DO IT ANYWAY.

On my first exposure to spreadsheet programs, I found them confusing: "I don't understand how this works." One of my friends, Telnar, said "You know how word processors are programs for using text? Spreadsheets are word processors, but for numbers." And I thought, "Oh, that makes sense."

And Excel thought, "Cool, but WHY STOP THERE."

At some point in the 90s, Microsoft decided to watch how users actually used the various programs in the Office suite. "What kind of numbers do our users crunch in Excel?" they asked. "What sort of functions do they need?"

And the users said "Well, we don't really use this for numbers that much."

MS: "Uh. Huh. But you use it?"


MS Excel developers: "That sure is a thing. So. HOW CAN WE MAKE THIS PROGRAM BETTER FOR LISTS."

Users: "Really we want to store a lot of records, like lists of our customer's names and addresses in a format that we can sort and filter and stuff."

MS Excel: "You mean like ... a database?"

Users: "What's a database?"

MS Excel: "That thing you just described. Did you know Access comes bundled with MS Office, just like Excel?"

Users: "No. Also, databases sound scary and we like you, Excel."

MS Excel: "Okay ... uh ... sure, we can pretend to be a database, I guess. I don't know if this is really a good idea ... "


MS Access: "... this was supposed to be my job, why doesn't anyone love me."

MS Excel: "WE DON'T KNOW please stop being scary so we can stop doing your job. Also, we're going to add pivot tables to give better reports on the database information that users keep putting in spreadsheets."

Users: "What's a pivot table?

MS Excel: "It gives you statistics on the data in a database. Like the total number of customers who live in Michigan and joined in 2017."

Most Users: "That sounds scary I don't think I can do that."

Jane in the back: "AW YEAH I LOVE IT."

MS Excel: "Okay, well, we already added it, so, uh, you're welcome, Jane."


Users: "Howabout you add charts? Like pie charts, maybe, or bar graphs, or line ones perhaps?"


Users: "... sure that works."

Some users: "I'd like to be able look stuff up. Like I want a formula that checks to see if Mary Watson is in my address spreadsheet and then tells me what her address is."

MS Access: "You know what is great at this? A DATABASE PROGRAM."

Some users *sidle around Access, look hopefully at Excel*

MS Excel: "We're gonna call this formula "VLOOKUP", or "HLOOKUP" if your data is stored horizontally."

Some users: "You're the best, Excel!"

John: "Oh, hey, I'd love it if I could tell Excel to do the same set of operations on a spreadsheet over and over again. Like I get this spreadsheet from my distributor every month but the columns are in the wrong order and it has a bunch of records on international sales that I don't care about, and other stuff. Anyway I do this same fifteen-step process on every file and it'd be great if I could just press a button and have Excel do all fifteen steps."


John: *hides in terror until MS Access is gone, sneaks over to Excel, whispers* "so can you help me?"

MS Excel: "We can add that! Here, press this 'record macro' button and then do your fifteen steps, then press 'stop'. Now you can replay that macro the next time you need to do those same things on a file."

John: "Thanks!"

Most users: "What's a macro?"

MS Excel: "... we just said?"

Most users: "can we pretend it doesn't exist, it's scary?"

MS Excel: "Sure, our program works fine even if you ignore 99% of our features."

Most users: "WHEW."

Pat: "So this macro thing is great but sometimes I want to be able to tell Excel to do things automatically that are more complicated than what I can record. Like I want it to dynamically change the range of cells that it's operating on, or whatever."

MS Excel: "So, huh. You want to be able to program Excel, basically?"

Pat: "Yeah, sounds good."

MS Excel: "Okay, well, we have this programming language that records the macros, so we can just expand it and users can write programs in it."

MS Excel developers: "Are we really putting an entire programming language in our spreadsheet program?"

MS Office: "Actually, we're gonna put it in all our products."



Robin: "Hey, Excel, can you make it so I can import stuff directly from my SQL database to a spreadsheet?"



MS Access: *lifts vampire cloak, hisses*

MS Excel: "So, Robin, you want to do database reports in ... Excel?"

Robin: "YES."

MS Excel: "You're sure you don't want to use a SQL query builder or report writer for this instead?"


MS Excel: "... okay, we basically do anything a user has ever asked us for, so here you go."

Confession: in my 25+ years of using Excel, I have used every one of these features. I am pretty sure this means there is a WHOLE BUNCH MORE STUFF THAT EXCEL CAN DO. Does it julienne fries? PROBABLY.

Is it a good idea to build a form in Excel that uses VBA to hide and reveal parts of the form based on data entered and then send that form's data to a different spreadsheet which stores it like a database? Possibly you should have hired an actual programmer for your programming needs but EXCEL IS NONETHELESS HERE FOR YOU.

Like any Swiss army knife, Excel is not necessarily the BEST tool for any particular job, and sometimes using it for a given job turns out to be a TERRIBLE MISTAKE. But I love you anyway, Excel. You're the best. ❤️

Gimme One

Dec. 14th, 2018 08:44 am
rowyn: (Default)
"Good work, large friend! Gimme one!"

gimme one

I pronounced this drawing done a few days ago. This is the first time I've done a black and white digital picture and then converted the b&w to color. (There is a specific tool that basically changed the color without changing the values. So you select the areas/layers that have the same color -- "these are all brown skin" -- and just change them, and it keeps all the shading.) I am not perfectly happy with the process. I think I am supposed to do some touch-up work to make it look better. This probably requires looking at tutorials or something. I find tutorials on digital art a bit grating because they're all designed around Photopaint and while I have two art programs and they can do most of the things Photopaint can, they do not do them in the same way so spending five minutes watching someone dig through submenus on Photopaint is not as helpful as I'd like.

For this particular picture, however, I'm calling it here. I didn't have a purpose in mind for it anyway. It's just "I saw this pose on a Senshistock (a stock/pose reference account) and went OMIGOSH SO CUTE I WANT TO DRAW THIS."

Now I've spent 15 hours drawing it and I feel like I should come up with personalities for the characters and write a story for them. I mean, I already have a cover, that's the hard part, right?

It kind of is, actually.

I don't think I like this picture enough to make it a book cover though. Even if there is plenty of room at the bottom to lay out the title and author name.

I am a little tempted to go back to one of my early pictures of Miro and Ardent and try coloring it in this fashion, though. Except the layout on my favorite wouldn't make a particularly good book cover. I feel like, while my rendering skills are weak, my framing skills are [File Not Found]. I can't figure out how to frame things in a dynamic, effective way. Art. So hard.
rowyn: (studious)
Last weekend was a coffee shop weekend for me.  For the last several months, I've been using my out-of-the-house time mostly on Pokemon Go. Even when I wanted to  go somewhere indoors, it'd be to the mall or the library, where I could spin pokestops.

But I have been in the mood for Panera, so I went there for breakfast on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I also stayed later than I intended to every day except for Sunday. Each time, 4thewords was to blame. On Saturday, I accidentally started a 2000-word battle so, of course, I had to stick around and win it.  I wrote 1200-ish words of The Twilight Etherium that day. On Sunday, I didn't much feel like writing The Twilight Etherium, but I didn't feel like writing anything else either. So I wrote it because I had to write something for my daily quota.

After Panera, I exercised and ran errands. Most of my shopping is online now. I get groceries by ordering them online at Wal-Mart and then just picking them up, which is very nearly as good as having groceries delivered direct to my house, to be honest. But I still have to go into Costco to pick up stuff there. 
I just realized that I forgot to pick up the book I put on hold at the library. D'oh.  Well, I can always put it on hold again. I haven't been doing much reading anyway. Other than my own books.  c_c
Back in September or so, I started a sketch and then lost my stylus. I replaced the stylus within a week or two, but didn't go back to work on the picture. This weekend, I decided I really needed to justify replacing my (really expensive) stylus, so I went back to the picture.  It felt like it was never going to be done at the time, but now it is looking much closer to complete. It's currently in grayscale, using Artrage's pastel and blender brushes. There are techniques for taking a digital grayscale picture and colorizing it, and I might attempt that.  I don't know if Artrage has the right tools to do so or not.  Might be interesting to try.

I am writing this on Monday, almost entirely because I need to write something to keep my 4thewords streak and I don't really feel like writing at all. I am enjoying being on break and not worrying so much about being productive or not. I've actually thought about spending time on other not-really-productive things. I could start another PBEM! I haven't done one of those in a few months. Or I could try to revive the last one that I let die!  Or I could attempt to revive the PollRPG (I still like the illustration that I started of Corydalis and Smoke and never finished. ) I liked the PollRPG characters and setting and I'm sorry I didn't get further on it, but also not sure if people would be able to follow the story enough to vote usefully in polls, if I restarted it.

Oh, hey, I could try going back to the gaming store for board game nights!  Forgot all about that option. It would be much easier now that I have a car.  I don't think I've actually been to the gaming store since the registration on Lut's car expired, which was like four or five years ago now. I did use a rental car a couple of times to go to Fred's place for gaming, I remember, but it's still been a few years.

Anyway, what I really want to do right now is work on this picture, and I've got my streak in, so Imma do that now.
rowyn: (exercise)
I walked to work on Monday. This was the first time in months that I did so. I biked a lot in the summer and fall, and even several times in November. But otherwise, I've been driving. On Monday, it was around 30 F, with a dusting of snow: enough to frost the ground and cars, but not enough to stick to the roads. I could've biked, but decided to give walking a shot instead. I walked a little more than usual, in order to hit a couple of pokestops that are a half-block or a block out of the way each. I soon realized why I haven't been walking to work: after buying the car and especially after getting my new no-physical-keyboard phone, I've been in the habit of bringing my tablet computer to work, so I can write using it during lunch and breaks. Carrying a messenger bag with a tablet computer in it is a lot more annoying than just carrying a lunch bag. If I try walking to work again, I will probably put my tablet and lunch into a backpack or a grocery tote instead of the messenger bag. The messenger bag has a lot of compartments and is heavy even empty. Also, like a big purse, it tends to accrete Stuff because it's big enough to hold Stuff. I do not need to cart all of it to work, though.

That aside, the walk was fine. When I got to work, one of my coworkers let me in and whispered, shocked: "why are you walking? Is something wrong with your car??"
Me: "Oh, I haven't been exercising as much as I used to and figured the walk would be good."
Coworker: "Oh. But it's too cold to walk! Let me know when you're leaving, I'll drive you home."
Me: "No really it's fine, I chose to walk. Thank you for the offer!"

I am still amused by how people react to the idea of going somewhere on foot, even when the distance is pretty short.

Ironically, while I don't walk to work, I've been walking outside for exercise anyway. If I notice that one of the two pokegyms near work has a raid I can solo and it's after 11AM, I take my lunch break and use it to walk over to the gym and do the raid, and hit any other pokestops I have time for. After work, I go to a tiny park near the bank, which has a pokestop and a pokegym and a teensy exercise track.

The walking path is ridiculously small. It's like 1/7th of a mile for the entire loop. I walk around and around it in the evening, spinning the pokestops and getting a little exercise in. I like it better than walking to and from work because of the pokestops, and also because I don't have to worry about traffic, or lugging my tablet computer around.

On Thursday night, I was thinking about the fact that I really don't get nearly as much exercise as I did during the summer, when I was biking to work, and usually half an hour for lunch, plus an hour after work. Now I walk for 30 minutes at lunch and 30 or 40 minutes after work. It's less exercise total, and a less strenuous form of exercise. But I really don't want to use the exercise bike in my basement: I can't spin pokestops there, and Google Fit won't track stationary biking automatically, and the basement is cold and dismal. I also don't want to drive any more than I have to on a work day. I am willing to drive to the park next to the bank for exercise because it's only 2 blocks out of the way from home, and some days THAT seems TOO FAR. I could drive another two miles to walk between four pokestops instead of two, and I don't because DRIVING TWO MILES UGH TOO MUCH.

Jogging would get me more exercise than walking and I could do it in the same place, so the only problem with that is jogging is terrible. Some years back, I got pretty good at jogging, in the sense of "I could jog very slowly for over an hour". But I always disliked it, and while I increased my stamina, I couldn't seem to increase my speed. It was always the slowest jog, like 4mph or even less. I don't technically walk faster than I jog, but it's close.

I tried interval training a few times: the idea is something like "run for 2 minutes, walk for 2 minutes, repeat 10 times". It was the only thing worse than jogging.

But as I was walking the loop, it struck me that my reaction is less "I hate running" than "I hate running for a measurable length of time". Running for 2 minutes is like 90 seconds too long. BUT! The first 30 seconds of running is actually fun. What if I ran until it stopped being fun, instead of until some arbitrary amount of time had passed? So I ran for one side of the tiny loop -- 1/15th of a mile! -- and then slowed to a walk for a while. And then repeated that cycle three more times.

It turns out the speed difference was large enough for Google Fit to measure! It recorded me as doing a "high-intensity activity" for a total of 3 minutes.

This also had the benefit of warming me up and getting blood into my hands so that they were no longer cold, so that was nice.

Saturday, I repeated this pattern again -- "walk a while, run until running starts to feel like work, walk a while until I feel like running again" at the little park near Panera. This time, I added in running from the start, so I did 8 whole minutes of running, and around 45 minutes of walking. I guess the pattern is something like "run 30 seconds, walk 3 minutes".

I don't know if "run until it's not fun" will let me get any better at running. Maybe after a while I will work up to running for a full minute without wanting to stop? On the other hand, it's something I am actually willing to do. And the best kind of exercise is not the kind that is most efficient at building muscle or burning calories or increasing stamina per minute. It is whatever exercise you will actually do.. I stopped at 53 minutes thinking "this is fine, I could do some more but I'm out of time" rather than "oh thank heavens I can FINALLY STOP that was awful".

So I will keep at it for a while.
rowyn: (Default)
I still consider myself "on break", so I've been doing whatever I feel like doing in my free time instead of pushing myself to be productive. I still do productive things, but I stop once I stop feeling like it. It's been pretty relaxing, and not very productive.

I've written 2500 words on The Twilight Etherium in the last week, which by my current standards is much the same as "not writing at all". I looked up my the old Master Plan(tm) I used while writing Prophecy, and realized that 2500 words a week beats my average for the entire time I was working on that manuscript. For those of you not following me back when I was working on Prophecy, I complained pretty much nonstop about how hard it was to write enough to meet my goals.

Lest you think that this means "well, obviously it's easier to write for fun than it is to meet a goal": my goal last month was 11,700 words per week, and I had no particular difficulty making it. Beyond that, after 2004 I stopped setting any rigid writing goals until 2012. I wrote less from 2005 through 2011 than I had under the Master Plan(tm). I didn't pick up writing speed until I started writing fantasy romance in 2012. (My first foray into fantasy romance was a joint project with LadyPeregrine in 2012, which alas remains unfinished. But it did clarify my love for the subgenre and contributed to my decision to write A Rational Arrangement in 2013.)

Anyway, 2018 Rowyn is much better at working on books than 2003 Rowyn.


On Thursday 11/29, I talked to an artist on Twitter about commissioning them for a cover for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince. They tentatively agreed, and I said I would send character descriptions and a contract and such in the next couple of days. This was one of only two writing-related tasks for the month.

Doing it required looking through the manuscript for The Princess, Her Dragon, and Their Prince, something I had not done -- well, at all. For many years, I used to read my works-in-progress avidly. This has some good effects: it keeps what I've already written fresh in my mind and I get in some preliminary proofreading. But I mostly did it because I like reading my own work. In recent years, I've been more inclined to avoid reading my own works until I start editing them. This also has good effects: it means I am less familiar with the text when I finally edit it, so I am more likely to see errors, and it means I'm not avoiding writing on the pretext that reading the existing book is productive. Princess is one of the books where I didn't go back to read earlier scenes of the book once I finished writing them.

Once I started looking at it to extract info for my artist, I got caught up in reading it. After I got to the end, I decided to start the very early part of the editing process. This is where I make a spreadsheet of all the things I want to change in the text. This part is easy because I make notes as I go along about what I want to change, so I just have to search for square brackets in the master doc and put the items on a spreadsheet.

The list had a total of 39 items. I each item scored based on how annoying it will be to do. Most of them are in the "pretty annoying" range: 25 items with a rating of 6 or higher, on a scale of 1 to 10. I went on to complete the four easiest items on the list. I don't like editing so I generally work the easiest items first so that the list will get shorter and less intimidating. Anyway, I have 35 items left to do. The total number of items on the list generally grows as I edit. It's just as well I don't plan to release this book until March at the earliest.


One of the sections on the annual self-evaluation form at work is "what are your long-term career goals?" Back in 2016, I looked at this question and decided to put down the truth: "retirement". I talked to my boss about it: "I would like to drop to reduced full-time -- 4 days a week -- in the next year, and drop to part time -- 3 or 2.5 days a week -- in the next two years."

To my surprise, my boss was supportive of this: "I would love for you to stay full time, but if you need to reduce your hours, we will definitely accommodate you. We value your expertise and want to keep you in whatever capacity."

When Lut was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, this had two opposed effects on my retirement plans. On the one hand, money became much more of a concern, as my expenses went up with car ownership and incidentals. It also became critical that I keep Lut on my health insurance. On the other hand, managing Lut's care was exhausting and I desperately wanted more time in which to do so. In September of 2017, the latter concern triumphed, and I dropped to four days a week. My "day off" was used to take Lut to whatever doctor visits he needed.

For a while, this sufficed. But over the last couple of months, I've felt more and more like four consecutive work days is too many, despite the fact that Lut's doctor visits have dropped to one or two per month. It had reached the point where I used PTO to cover the days when I had to take Lut to the doctor, rather than switching my day off to that day.

Last week, my boss told me that she had applied for a new managerial position in a new department, and so was leaving her current role. The promotion was official on 11/26, but she's still working in our department for a couple of weeks while the department manager searches for her replacement. My boss will officially transition in January, whether or not a replacement has been hired. Our team have all been in our roles for years, we are all pretty well cross-trained, and we can work autopilot for months without an intermediary supervisor between us and the department head, if necessary.

But this news made me think harder about transitioning to part time. My boss and the department manager have been big boosters for me for as long as I've been working for Teenage Bank. The replacement boss will not be someone within my department and I probably won't know them. Would they still support my switch to part time, as my boss had committed to?

So I talked to my boss about it: "Would it be better to switch now, while you're still here, or should I wait and see who your replacement is, or possibly stick the department manager with handling it if she's not able to replace you for some months?"

Boss: "If you want to do it soon, best to do it now, while I'm still here to manage the paperwork,"

So I emailed her a formal request to drop to part time starting January 7. I decided to wait so I could get the 6 hours of holiday pay for Christmas and New Year's that reduced-full-time employees get, instead of the 4 hours that part time employees get. I considered waiting until after MLK Day too, but three more four-day weeks felt like a lot as it was.

My overall feeling is relief at finally pulling the trigger. I have about six months of expenses in my accounts in the bank, and a lot of money in retirement accounts. The cut in my weekly paycheck will be much larger, proportionately, than the 25-33% indicated by dropping from 30-32 hours to 20-24 hours per week. First, my personal insurance premiums go up by a lot: the bank pays 80% of the insurance premium for full time employees and 0% of the premium for part-time. Second, a lot of my paycheck goes to repaying the 401(k) loan for my car, and that amount will remain fixed. I'm not sure how much I will be making, but it will not be much.

My writing income is not going to make up the difference. My net income from writing averages to maybe $200 a month, before taxes.

But Lut will still have his disability stipend from Social Security, and the house is paid for. I am hoping we can manage without resorting to withdrawing money from my retirement accounts, but if I have to withdraw money from my retirement accounts, well, that's why have retirement accounts.

And I am looking forward to spending less time at my day job. Only two 4-day weeks left!

April 2019



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