Thursday, December 31, 2015

And Here Comes 2016…

It’s been a tough but good year for me on many fronts, including writing.

One of the “tough but good” things has been figuring out gaps in certain things I know that were sabotaging me. For example, I’ve long called myself an editor, with my topmost editing service being a “tutoring edit”—despite more than one client telling me they learned more from one of my edits than they had from school. I’ve also long been aware of a core element of writing that many teachers skip, either assuming folks already know it or not realizing that it needs to be taught.

After years of teaching this one-on-one—and having to reassure each one “You are not alone!”—I’ve finally realized that a few things.

  1. What I’ve been calling a “tutoring edit” is actually “coaching”.
  2. I have more than enough material to create my own e-class.
  3. Teaching a group at once would increase the value and encouragement for each student.

I actually like tutoring. I even did it as a kid, for my classmates and others—and not only one-on-one! So creating an e-class (or more, but I’ll be starting with one) is such a natural, obvious consequence of what I know that I can’t help but feel silly for not thinking of it sooner…but considering I had to first realize my “tutoring edit” was in fact “coaching”, I can’t blame myself for taking so long to figure it out.

So, one of the first things I’m doing this year is creating an e-class. Working title: Why Don’t They Get It? the secrets your writing teacher forgot to tell you.

And seriously, the core problem does tend to be that folks who know how to write outright forget to teach this—or don’t think to, because it’s so obvious once you know it that it’s easy to think it’s common sense; or don’t want to, because it’s not as easy to teach as mere grammar and spelling. If writing’s a fence, my class will address the posts.

Hint: Grammar and spelling are essentially whitewash and polish—they’re needed for something to look nice, but they don’t do much good if your fence is missing needed pieces.

This is not a “how to sell!” class.

This is a “What all that ‘How to sell your writing’ advice assumes you already know” class.

You probably need this class if…

  • you think “perfect grammar and spelling” are all that’s needed to have “perfect writing”
  • your readers often miss your point, and you can’t figure out why
  • you think the reason readers miss your point is that you’re being poetic

All those things signal that some posts are missing in the fence of your writing. You can whitewash and polish up what’s there—and, depending on what’s missing, the result might work fine for what you want to do with the fence. If so, that’s great!

But if those parts are missing because you don’t know they’re missing, how can you put them back in when you need them?

Everyone has missing or weak points in their writing.

That’s part of being an imperfect human. Even the best writers and editors in the world are not exceptions to that—myself included.

That “those who can’t do, teach” thing is bullshit, by the way. You have to understand how something is done in order to be able to teach it well—but doing and teaching are two different skills, so not everyone who does something can teach that something. I know a lot about marketing and ways to help a series do well out the gate, but since I don’t actually use what I know, I’m not about to teach it!

And not everyone who can teach something outright wants to. Teaching how to do something gives others an opening to ridicule/dismiss you as having to teach because you can’t actually do that something, which is annoying and draining to deal with.

That said…

I don’t believe my regular commenters need this class.

You might benefit from some specific things, but I suspect you’ll find that the class essentially covers things you already know.

But if you want news about the class and first dibs when the class opens for enrollment, you can sign up for notifications now.

This class is my current “big” project.

To keep from overwhelming myself, I’m limiting myself to one “big” project and one “little” project for my current plans.

My little project? Getting back on the wagon with First Draft Fridays over on Wattpad.

If these two items prove straightforward enough for me to keep up with—and they should, especially since the class should become a “little” thing once it’s all put together—I have a few projects that I’ll be adding onto my plate, one at a time. (One of them will involve regular blog posts that I know my regular commenters would probably enjoy, in the vein of the “Idolization of Free Will” post I promised quite some time ago but have yet to deliver.)

But one thing I’m going to do?

And I may not wait until 2017 to review what’s in it! :-)

What big or little plans do you have for the new year?


Thursday, November 26, 2015

What I'm Thankful For, 2015 Edition

Welp, it’s that time of year, again: the time when it’s standard to review what we’re thankful for.

  • I’m thankful for God’s providence and provision. There have been so many events in my life where even a slightly different outcome could’ve resulted in me not being here, today.

  • I’m thankful for the Internet and computers, because they let me work from home (and buy things) without having to go anywhere. When I leave the home, it’s to be social, not for some kind of work. I can curl up in my blankets and type away on the code for someone’s website, or edit for someone’s book, or text for someone’s ghostwritten story. I can also come up with my own projects. (I think y’all will like an essay I’m working on that’ll be showing up one of these weeks!)

  • I’m thankful for all the folks who put the time and energy into keeping encouraging and educational resources available online, like BibleHub for Bibles and references. (For entrepreneurs, there’s Jeff Walker and Ramit Sethi and MarieTV; for writers, Carol Tice and Bamidele Onibalusi. I’m also finding Tai Lopez’s free calls fun.)

  • I’m thankful that I’m making a lot of progress in recognizing and valuing my own expertise, to the point that I’ll be applying more of my skills to my own work, soon. (There’s a lot I’ve known but that I’ve been unable to apply to my own business, for various reasons. Some of which y’all can probably guess.)

  • I’m thankful for the ability to cook without anyone sabotaging it, or anyone complaining about the expense of ingredients even when they didn’t purchase them. When I’m feeling down, I know I can make a quick bread or sauce or cookie, and I have half a dozen people who will light up at the opportunity to taste-test it. (Speaking of my cooking, I still have to get the back-end stuff set up for About That Herb to move servers, but in the meantime, check out my recipe for pie spice. I’ll soon be posting an easy way to cook—and use!—winter squash.)

  • I’m thankful that eating more is clearing up several of my health quirks, like my cold intolerance and lightheadedness. (My mother eats less than I used to. I can’t help but wonder how much eating more would help her.)

  • I’m thankful for the cooling weather (for what may be the first time in my life—I’ve always preferred heat). Interestingly, as it’s gotten cool and some pollens are no longer out, I’m needing less devil’s claw. Might be a correlation rather than causation, but it’s still something that I’m keeping in mind for when I pick where to travel to next.

  • I’m thankful for my very affectionate, very sweet cat.

  • I’m thankful for my friends, some of whom hang out in IM and remind me when mealtimes hit, since my hunger sensation is still missing more often than it’s present.

  • I’m thankful for you, my readers and fans. I feel bad for leaving you hanging so much, but regardless of how long I go quiet, I know that I need to come back…and that, before I can come back on a long-term, regular basis, I have to first take care of myself. Thank you for understanding and for encouraging me to do that.

I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting right now, but it’s still lovely to be able to experience the season. I’m now off to make some sautéed escarole and beans!

What’re you thankful for? Have any thoughts to share on what I’m thankful for? :-)

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday!


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Wait—What's Up with My Legs?

There’s nothing like realizing something shouldn’t be normal to make you notice that your definition of “I’m doing great!” has problems.

Case in point: I am regularly ill in spring, as plants come back to life after the winter. (I’m allergic to grass, trees, flowers, shrubs, and cacti.) The allergies tax my body and my immune system, which means I get things like ear infections and the flu and similarly unpleasant issues.

And then, right when I’m recovering from that, strawberries* abound in the grocery stores.

For those who haven’t heard yet: I’m highly allergic to strawberries. And when I say “highly”, I mean “insanely”—and when I say “insanely”, I mean “walking past them in the grocery store can result in breathing difficulty”. Note to self: try living in a different climate.

This year has been no exception in that pattern of springtime allergies and illness. That pattern also brings with it more adrenal fatigue and such, from my messed-up endocrine system and other some things (the latter of which I’m sure most of y’all can guess correctly—and the rest of you can jump on that to reinforce whatever assumptions and misconceptions you like).

But my definition of “I’m feeling great!”?

“I can complete a housework task without needing any breaks, and I don’t feel exhausted afterwards or ill the next day!”

Don’t get me wrong—I’m still very happy when that happens, but it’s not as normal as it should be. I usually pause every so often, count my spoons, and try to figure out the balance between keeping enough spoons to last the day and using all spoons before they expire.

I also spent much of June homebound next to a HEPA filter, due to malfunctioning adrenal glands (and the resultant worsening of allergies) and intermittent tactile sensation in my legs (and the related difficulty keeping them warm).

The saddest thing? My legs’ issues started about two weeks before I realized what was wrong. I just had a sense of “I need to keep them warm.” I didn’t even process, “Wait, my legs aren’t feeling heat, cold, or air flow properly—and sometimes that’s affecting both of them, sometimes just one, sometimes the foot and leg and not the ankle, sometimes the front of the leg and not the back…” etc. I didn’t even process that it was happening sometimes to my arms, too.

I’ve seen a neurologist about tactile issues before, and from what she said, the weirdness to the sensation stuff means it’s probably hormonal; the irregularity fits how my “I’m cold” sensation likes to altogether vanish or return from time to time, but that’s my whole body. The “I’m cold” thing seems to have resolved with getting some pancreas treatment, so I guess insulin issues could be causing this, too. I know I have the insulin resistance that can lead to type II diabetes.

With how bad my allergies are and what I’m allergic to, going to the doctor can be dangerous for me. Even if I can get to the doctor’s office—which isn’t always possible; depends on what I’m exposed to on the way—the doctor’s non-latex gloves? Allergic to those. Tylenol? Allergic. Any scented air freshener or cleaner? Probably allergic. Since some of my other allergies have spontaneously worsened to strawberry levels (hopefully temporarily), I haven’t dared test to see if those other ones have stayed comparably benign, but I am adapting to allergens where I’m living and have been reacting less, in general (except for the kiwi I tried a few months ago, but I kind of expected that, since it’s on the “avoid me” list for more than one of my allergies).

And then there’s the fact that I’ve gone to doctors for odd sensation issues, before. I lost my “I’m cold” sensation for years before it came back, and I’ve even experienced loss of all tactile sensation before—from the dye used for a CT scan, which freaked the nurses out. (They kinda panicked. I just looked at them and pointed out that it was just the topmost level of sensation—my somatic sensation was unaffected—and was more odd than anything else. It came back in about 30 minutes.)

My leg thing has been more annoying than anything else, except…

I was also getting pain spiking through my legs, sometimes.

It was distracting at best—okay, so “at best” actually is that it’s character fodder for the future, but you get what I mean.

And to be honest, even with that leg thing, I was healthier and able to get more done, overall, than I was able to two years ago. Which says something about how ill I’ve been for years.

Acknowledging and accepting such things is the first step needed to work at improving them, though, and I started feeling much better emotionally, upon doing that.

That improved mood helped me also focus and evaluate on potential home remedies to help things. One thing I did was try devil’s claw, an herb that I bought a few years ago for my mother, who refused to take it, then made a tincture with more recently to see if it helped a friend who suspects she has arthritis. Well, ginger actually works better for that friend, but I figured that I could try the devil’s claw, myself, just to see if it did anything.

And both the pain and the tactile sensation issues with my legs (and arms) went away.

I do have to take the devil’s claw regularly, to keep the benefits, but the longer I take it, the better I feel even when it wears off—and the more I notice that other pains I hadn’t realized I’ve been living with are being assuaged when I’m taking that herb. I can only assume I’m experiencing the benefit of its anti-inflammatory effects, since that’s what it’s most known for. (It’s been found effective for some cases of osteoarthritis, for instance.)

Devil’s claw is also sometimes recommended by herbalists for a condition really hope I don’t have but that would fit many symptoms I’ve always thought of as myriad little things. (I pray I don’t have it. If I do, I should’ve been diagnosed as a child—but having it would explain a lot, including how I tend to feel worse if I take echinacea.)

Also, more and more sensations that I always thought of as “sickliness” are actually hunger, and I’m making progress in that mental redefinition.

In any event, it is what it is. I’m also better able to concentrate and get things done while on the devil’s claw, which could simply be a side effect of the pain reduction. (Hey, pain’s distracting. Especially when you’re experiencing twelve different types of pain from nine different spots on your body.)

Am I 100% pain-free? No. Am I experiencing far less pain than I have for the past however many years? Yes.

How are y’all doing?


Thursday, October 8, 2015

It Was the Weeks before Halloween…

And folks were lamenting the pending “demonween” and how the holiday was a testament to how far the culture had fallen from its Christian roots…

I’ve seriously been seeing and hearing these kinds of complaints, and they’re not uncommon in the circles I’ve grown up in (which has included more than just reformed presbyterianism).

I’m reminded of the looks and discouraging comments I would get when I first started admitting that I like gothic things, before I wised up to the facts that 1. folks often conflate gothic, Goth, and emo, and a brief history about the historical origins of gothic can clear that up (short version: rationalism said everything could be explained and discovered via human reason; the gothic arose as response to that, insisting "Um, no"); and 2. many Christians don’t seem to notice how someone who thinks about what happens after death is a bit easy to communicate with about such things than someone who doesn’t want to so much as think about how they’ll die someday.

But then, most people—Christians included—aren’t all that great with communication…but that’s something to discuss in another post.

For this post, my concern is that many Christians get caught up in the surface of Halloween and ignore the substance and the opportunities in it.

I can’t speak for much of the world, but in the US, Halloween is pretty much a celebration of creepy and candy, just as Easter is pretty much a celebration of cute and candy. The celebrations are about 6 months apart, too, so from a business marketing standpoint, the "candy!" push on both of them makes sense.

As for the “creepy”, the culture at large (and even inside the church) tends to avoid discussing or thinking about death and the supernatural, so of course it all gets turned into a joke for Halloween. That’s a basic defense mechanism. If something scares you, mock it and laugh at it (and, ideally, get others to laugh at it, too).

If something's silly and/or stupid, it isn’t dangerous—or so the illogic goes. And not infrequently ends up being “famous last words”.

Look, I get that people don’t want to be frightened or to think about demons and the witch of Endor and how Jesus had no issue with His disciples believing in (and being afraid of) ghosts [Matthew 14:25–27, Mark 6:47–50, Luke 24:36–43—and in that last case, He even gave explicit reasons He couldn’t be a ghost]. I get that people want to protect their children from fear.

But the Bible is freaking scary, y’all. You got everyone killed in a giant flood, people spontaneously being unable to understand their loved ones, and all sorts of murder and mayhem and spontaneously talking animals that the audiences respond to without apparently finding it weird that the animal is actually talking. (Don't ask me why, but I remember the story of Balaam’s ass being my favorite when I was about nine.)

And that’s just in the first few books! We haven’t even touched the torture or the suddenly-destroyed cities or the spontaneous deaths or the afterlife or the fact that there’s this fallen angel & co. out to get back at God, seeking to use us as tools.

Seriously, I can’t be the only one who gets creeped out by Job 1. As reassuring that it is that Satan had to ask God for permission for what he did to Job, there’s still the fact that there’s this manipulator out there actively trying to outmaneuver God. Doesn’t matter if God sees through it and can outmaneuver Satan each time. Satan’s still out there doing it!

So I really don’t get this Christian aversion to stuff that makes us uncomfortable. The aversion itself makes me uncomfortable, because if somebody can’t handle the world's sanitized, trussed-up, silly-fied version of reality, what does that say about how they treat the version of reality found in Scripture?

Some folks protest on the grounds of being bothered by the sanitization, trussing up, and silly-fication. But in my experience, that isn’t the argument that the vast majority of Christians make. Most protest because of the demons and witches and spirits and zombies.

Now, let’s back up a little. I don’t know much about how the rest of the world celebrates Halloween, but I do know that at least some cultures treat it as a day (or three) remembrance of those who have passed on. Loved ones, friends, people we respect, whatever. A time of remembrance.

Okay, and mockery to counter the fear of death, but Christians as a whole seem to miss the not-so-little point, there, of why people fear death.

You know, the entire life-to-come thing?

Halloween is the one time of year when the culture as a whole is consistently willing to think about and discuss death and what comes after it. They turn it into a joke, but that doesn’t mean we have to do the same. We can use that willingness to broach the topic and witness from there.

I’m familiar with four Christian responses to Halloween: embracing the current cultural rendition of it, ignoring it altogether, Reformation Day (which I’ve seen churches celebrate with costumes and candy) and Hell Houses like the Judgement House program.

Those who celebrate Reformation Day would generally claim more knowledge of Scripture and church history, yet it’s those who do the Hell Houses (and potentially break the second commandment in doing so) who are reaching out and actually witnessing effectively.

Those with “less” knowledge are responding to what’s actually going on better than those with “more” knowledge.

Those with “less” knowledge are communicating better (more effectively) than those with “more” knowledge.

That in itself suggests that something is fishy with one of those responses, if not both.

We’re human. Something will pretty much always be “off” about all exclusionary sides in a position. There are people for Christ, against Christ, and lukewarm about Him (who count against him [Revelation 3:16])…but start defining what makes folks qualify as which type of person, and things fast get messy, because folks like defining their practice of Christianity as the right way. [Watch the “wrong” movies? Read the “wrong” books? Have the “wrong” stance on a theological nonessential? (And which specific items are nonessential, anyway?) No matter what you watch, read, or believe, there are people out there who will use something in there to consider you for Christ, people who will consider you against Him, and people who will consider you lukewarm.]

It’s the weeks before Halloween, and maybe we Christians should be using that to remind ourselves that there’s more to life than the material…and that we should be speaking to others accordingly.

What are other Christian responses to Halloween that you’re familiar with? What are your thoughts on the holiday, how it’s celebrated, how it’s responded to?


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I'm Alive (and have a guest post)

Hi, all!

Sorry for the long silence (I'll probably have a blog post about that, one of these weeks or months, but I've at least partially adapted to allergens here), but I'm alive! (Those of you on my newsletter should have an e-mail in your inbox.)

Today I pipe up to announce that Jami Gold has hosted me on her blog: When Is a Good Editor Not Good for Your Story?

Also have some more announcements, such as two nonfiction books available for preorder on Amazon (and if you want them on another vendor, let me know, else they'll be Amazon-only for the first 90 days after release).

Coming 10/13/15:
The 5 Pillars of Point of View
Special preorder price: $0.99!

Not sure how to develop your own "style"? Can't figure out why a lot of readers can't understand what your character's doing or why? Wondering how to make your story "deeper" or more poignant?

Point of view the way to go.

If you understand point of view, you can also intentionally write stories that use points of view that focus on your strengths as a writer and use less of your weak points.

Coming 11/10/15:
Efficient Essay Writing
Special preorder price: $0.99!

Tired of spending so much time on your essays, muddling through the steps? This book gives you guidelines to help you organize the process and to figure out what works for you and your situation, rather than giving you some kind of road map that only works with a specific type of essay and teacher. It includes some worksheets designed to help you keep all you need for your essay in one place.

I can't promise this'll be out until November, but I am trying to get it to you sooner, so it'll help with this semester rather than next one.


Does nonfiction like this interest you? What's new with y'all?


Friday, May 8, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me

A decade ago today, I was wrapping up my senior year of high school. The school had its good points, things I enjoyed about it, but by the end… Suffice to say that university was sooo much easier than high school, even when I consider the college semester when I had 7 classes or the two terms when I was having constant pain and/or nausea (gall bladder attacks).

A decade ago, plus or minus 8 months, was also when I finished the first edition of A Fistful of Fire, got my first short story published (in a now-defunct Christian sci-fi magazine…and I don't seem to have any copies of the story anymore), when I got started as a freelance writer and editor, and when I started teaching myself how to code websites. The day itself was when I started playing RuneScape, and it was somewhen around then when I saw the first Underworld movie, read Twilight and discovered the band Within Temptation (all thanks to a particular friend).

So now on this anniversary of my birth, I look at that past decade and consider what I want to do for the coming year, where I want to be in another 10 years.

First and foremost, I need to finish some things—like the last Wynne D'Arzon story and the Chronicles of Marsdenfel and the next few Destiny Walker novels…and all those newsletter short stories I'm behind on. I've started two of them, one more solidly than the other. (The story of Owen Brylee and how he ended up with a son—which may or may not be the way the child's mother leads Owen's sister to think…)

Ten years from now… Well, I have some goals, but let's see what God has in mind. :-)

Do you ever look back and see where you've been, or look forward and consider where you'd like to end up?


Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Have an Opinion—and Yes, It Is Brave to Share It

image © Wong Mei Teng, used per the terms on

I never planned to write this post.

I was just sitting at home alone yesterday evening, playing some Alchemie on Kado Kado to unwind a little before delving back into some non-fiction work or fiction writing (I was planning to do a little of both), and listening to some pop punk and post-grunge rock on Grooveshark.

There I was, mulling on the emotions in Fall Out Boy’s “Alone Together” and Breaking Benjamin’s “Failure”, and Linkin Park’s “Rebellion” came on.

My thoughts went through something like, Oh, Linkin Park—wait, that sounds like Celtic/folk, but I don’t remember putting that on the list—oh, that is Linkin Park, after all. Hmm. Which one is this? I checked the song title, thought it interesting, and listened…and was struck by the chorus, which says any “rebel” who hasn’t experienced oppression via gunpoint is fortunate and is only imitating rebellion.

That message reminded me of Kameron Hurley’s recent blog post that ultimately says it really isn’t all that dangerous or brave to voice an opinion on the Internet—which itself reminded me of a counterargument against that post that I cannot remember the author of or how I’d found it, to be able to find or link to. (Sorry. Please consider it a casualty of me not expecting to write this post.)

I’ve been following Kameron Hurley pretty much since her Hugo award-winning blog post essay, “We Have Always Fought: Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle, and Slaves’ Narrative”, which always sticks in my memory as “that essay with the llama analogies about women as combatants”.

(To be honest, as interesting as I found her post itself, more of me geeks out about how she won a Hugo with a blog post essay. A freaking essay, folks. Like the ones you probably hated writing for school—unless you were, like, the class know-it-all, and then you probably read her post and sigh happily about it being so interesting…but I both digress and have earned your askance stares).

Anyway, I read her recent blog post promptly after she posted it. I have a feed reader I use for just that purpose, for all few-dozen blogs I follow. At the time, I understood her point, but it left me feeling vaguely uncomfortable. I felt as if I agreed but disagreed with her, but I couldn’t pinpoint where or why. That counterargument post I can’t find helped me isolate what bothered me, but I felt as if something was missing from the discussion.

Not really having the time to sit down and puzzle through what discomfited me, I didn’t comment and didn’t plan to. (Besides—this was Kameron Hurley, who’d won a Hugo for her freaking essay. Whatever was niggling at me probably wasn’t all that significant.

Aaaand then that Linkin Park song, “Rebellion”, had to smack me in the face with what’s bothering me and thereby kick me into writing this post.

See, the song’s point is that it’s the folks oppressed at gunpoint who know what rebellion truly is. Those of us fortunate enough to not experience it are just imitators.

Problem: Oppression doesn’t need a gun.

Not all that long ago, I lived at the risk of losing my car, my cat, and my computer at any time. There was actual precedent for a computer I had paid for, completely by myself, being taken from the adult me at least once—a computer that I needed to be able to do my job, which was how I paid the bills and even managed to eat, more often than I want to admit. I’d given my parents money for the car, but it was still in my father’s name and treated as his, whenever one parent found it convenient. The cat had been verbally gifted to me and I’d been paying for it, but because she was under my parents’ roof, they started speaking of getting rid of her. (My parents were upset that QTpi loved me but outright fled them.)

When the Harry Potter movies came out, I was told point-blank that watching them would get me kicked out.

Among my allergies and health issues and forced-on-me limitations, I seriously doubted I could support myself on my own. I spent about a year homebound from my grass allergy and not-yet-identified tomato allergy. I was frequently unwell, to the point of having to decide if I would cook for my parents or for me, and I couldn’t understand how the doctor’s test had proved that I actually had a really good immune system.

(…I’ve more lately been learning the many ways hunger can manifest when you’ve been conditioned to feel guilty for eating, because it’s taking resources from others in the family. And, of course, any family who reads this is going to have no clue what I’m talking about, but that’s their prerogative.)

That background leads into another reason I was reluctant to say anything contrary to Kameron Hurley’s post: How dare I say anything? I have no right! I’m so untrustworthy that even as a kid, folks frequently assumed I’d made up my own given name, believing my nickname was my actual name!

(I seriously didn’t know that was strange until last year.)

I’ve never looked down the barrel of a gun, but I’ve looked at someone and known that they would hurt my reputation, friendships, relationships, and even finances if I dared voice my opinion. [That person is likely having someone read this and/or is reading it themselves, by the way.]

I finally started spoke up and refused to stop, even when the consequences started rolling in.

Family hasn’t really spoken to me, since—and there have been so many more repercussions of that, it isn’t funny. I’ve even faced prosecution from within my denomination of Christendom (though I suspect those involved would insist I’m overstating matters…I do have witness + written record).

By the standards in Kameron Hurley’s post, I was not brave, because there was no direct threat to my life.

You wanna know why I decided to finally speak up?

Because I am dangerously allergic to strawberries, where even airborne exposure results in difficulty breathing, and my parents hadn’t bothered to tell my friend that I was coming with them to her baby shower. If my friend had known I was coming, she would’ve alerted her mother to keep the strawberries—which my friend loves—in the fridge.

That friend has been able to remember my allergy ever since her well-meaning husband stuck a plate of fresh strawberries in my face, to ‘help’ me, because my family had made him think my strawberry allergy was psychosomatic. (To be fair to him, he was apologetic for months. My family, when called out on their part in the fiasco, just protested both “Well, we thought it was!” and “We didn’t know he’d take us seriously!” and never seemed to notice how contradictory those two were.)

But my friend hadn’t been informed that I was coming, and so I got to experience, again, air with strawberry in it and experience the ensuing difficulty with breathing.

And then I was scolded—again—for making others feel bad and not just coping with my allergy.

(All I’d done was alert some folks present that I was having difficulty. Friends have actually teamed up on me to say together that I am not nearly as vocal about my allergy as I should be.)

I am also allergic to grass, trees, shrubs, flowers, and cacti, but that was the lesser of two evils that day. I was sitting outside on the front step, body itchy and eyeballs hurting, already feeling ill from the Benedryl I’d had to take. I was trying to figure out how I was going to handle the chores and work I had to get done and how I was even going to eat for the next few days, because it would take that long to recover from allergies and I’d probably still be required to cook dinner for both myself and my parents. (Differing dietary requirements were involved.)

I realized that the way things were going, I was likely going to end up hospitalized (and who would be paying that bill? not them) or dead, and my family would consider it all my fault.

I was oppressed.

I was brave.

And me saying anything now, in a space that those involved know about and are likely reading? That’s brave, too.

I don’t go into all that to make you feel sorry for me. (If you do… well, sorry. Can we try to focus on my point rather than on poor me, please?)

I go into all that to point out how oppression is more than the barrel of a gun. It’s more than the threat of physical harm to you and your loved ones.

Oppression isn’t just immediate fear for your life.

Oppression is when any person makes you feel trapped.

(That definition comes from a friend of mine, who could add dimensions I don’t even touch on in my post.)

Don’t believe me? Okay. Let’s pull out the dictionary (links go to Merriam-Webster):

1.a : unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power
1.b : something that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power
2 : a sense of being weighed down in body or mind : depression
: the possibility that you will be hurt or killed
: the possibility that something unpleasant or bad will happen
: a person or thing that is likely to cause injury, pain, harm, or loss
: the quality that allows someone to do things that are dangerous or frightening
: the quality or state of being brave

In light of those actual from-a-standard-dictionary definitions…I think Kameron Hurley’s post is—unintentionally, to be sure—cruel and even outright dangerous for people who are experiencing gaslighting or other forms of psychological abuse.

I’ll go one step further and even call it dangerous for people experiencing verbal abuse.

Maybe Kameron Hurley doesn’t believe that things like online threats of rape and murder can or will manifest into real-life actions. Maybe she doesn’t believe that cyberstalking can have real-life consequences (impersonation, identity theft, and real-life stalking are three I can think of off the top of my head). Maybe she isn’t bothered by people she assumes she’ll never see or hear from in her everyday, real life, because her online and offline lives are separate.

At one point, one of my former neighbors was among my Twitter followers—someone who had no clue that I was the girl she’d once known. (“Misti Wolanski” is a penname.)

Voicing an opinion online is by no means the same thing as voicing an opinion while looking down the barrel of a gun. They’re different situations entirely.

One of the two scenarios has the promise of a specific form of short-lived violence. The other has the potential to trigger various forms of violence that could last a short or a long time, depending on how vitriolic it gets.

It’s far easier to get help when you’ve been threatened with immediate, in-person violence. There are things like restraining orders and body armor and personal weapons (and emergency services).

Verbal and psychological abuse, though? Far harder. You have to get people to believe that yes, it really was that bad—that you aren’t just overreacting to the normal well-intended stuff most people do. And no matter how much evidence you have in your favor, there are people who will still believe that you’re angry and bitter and making things up and overreacting. Not infrequently, the very people you ask for help will refuse to believe you—or they’ll make assumptions and unintentionally encourage you to do things that are ultimately harmful for you.

Online abuse does tend to have a paper trail…but that doesn’t help as much as you might think. Online threats are even dismissed by law enforcement, so a person who is threatened online often has to wait for it to manifest offline before they can get help…and has to live with the stress that the first reportable incident might be the last one that they’re alive.

For a victim of online or offline abuse, their eulogy could end up being “Oops; guess those threats weren’t a joke.”

Some people make outrageous threats that are bluffs or “venting”, which they won’t actually carry out.

Some people make outrageous threats because they know that others will assume they’re joking.

And then there are the people who stick to indirect threats or things that aren’t threats unless you know the context, which oh-so-difficult to be able to clearly explain to anyone, much less to be taken seriously about.

Dealing with an immediate threat versus dealing with a potential threat require two different sorts of bravery, but both are brave.

(Note that I am entirely ignoring the potential for Internet lynch mobs, though those can and have destroyed entire businesses. I personally witnessed the destruction-by-online-lynch-mob of LendInk, a website that, once upon a time, dealt with perfectly legal e-book lending. Some authors mistakenly thought it a pirate site, and their ensuing response damaged LendInk so much that the owner decided to close down the service.)

Bravery is more than just facing down fear of immediate death or physical harm. Bravery isn’t ignoring the risks of something or pretending they don’t exist.

Bravery is knowing the danger and acting anyway.

I’ve been physically hurt—in ways that didn’t show and couldn’t be reported—for saying something another person doesn’t like. I’ve been verbally eviscerated and had my very sanity and reliability repeatedly denounced, for saying something another person doesn’t like.

Maybe others decided they could treat me that way because I’m female. Maybe others decided they could treat me that way because I look so young. Maybe you’re neither or only one of those things, and therefore nobody’s laid a hand on you or sought to convince you that you have a neurodevelopmental disorder (that doctors say you can’t possibly have).

But I know the dangers of voicing an opinion, both online and offline.

People like Kameron Hurley deserve the thanks they get for their boldness, because boldness requires bravery…or ignorance, be it witting or unwitting. Perhaps they’ve forgotten the bravery needed to keep their confidence before they stopped caring what bullies said. Perhaps they don’t realize that speaking out when you know people will target you for what you say requires bravery in itself.

You may consider a danger negligible or not worth fretting over. That does not make it any less objectively dangerous. Different people have different values for what constitutes an acceptable risk.

It’s possible to experience offline consequences for online statements. (Some people have entire careers online, so even online consequences can cause lasting harm.)

Some people speak up anyway, saying things we know can and likely will someday be used against us.

If you don’t think that requires bravery, I have to wonder…what dictionary are you referencing to define the words like brave and danger?


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Confessions of an Aromantic Asexual Conservative Christian

I've been sitting on this post for a few months, and I think it's time to bite the bullet and confess: I am an aromantic asexual.

It's something I've been confused about for quite some time, due to various factors. Lack of familiarity with the concept. Misunderstanding of what "aromantic" and "asexual" even mean. My mother's reaction when I casually suggested "Hey, this kinda sounds like me."

But waaaait a minute. If misunderstanding "aromantic" and "asexual" has been a problem for me, shouldn't I define my terms?

Yes. Yes, I should.

In fact, there are several terms I need to define before we continue this discussion, which I've found useful as a person and as a writer. Not all of these terms are "official" or widely used, but they're handy for comprehending the full issue, which has a lot more involved than many assume or realize. (I realize that the Bible only recognizes two biological genders. I'll address that in a bit.)


what classification of person you're attracted to, sexually and/or romantically
biological sex + self-identification + orientation
conventional male/female distinction
The traditional heteronormative male/female biology/self-identification + attraction to the opposite sex is called "binary gender" and is indicated by a prefix of "cis–".
desire for sex
notice that there's no mention of sexual or romantic attraction here—this is independent of that
sexual attraction
interest in a sexual connection with another person
romantic attraction
interest in a romantic connection with another person (ex. cuddling)

born with biological features from both genders
this is more common than you probably think; evidently some places auto-sex assign without even explaining to the parents
transgender ("trans")
someone who identifies as a gender other than the one they were born with
Note that at least some of these are intersex folks who were given a sex assignment at birth and later realize that they're actually not that gender—and that an intersex person who transitions to a binary gender actually counts as "trans"
heterosexual ("het" or "hetero")
being sexually attracted to the opposite binary gender
homosexual ("homo")
being sexually attracted to the same binary gender
asexual ("ace")
feeling infrequent or no sexual interest in anyone or anything, as your natural state unaffected by biological issues or emotional stress
demisexual ("demi")
able to feel sexual attraction to someone ONLY after a strong bond has formed with that person
gray–asexual ("gray-A")
mostly asexual, but feeling sexual attraction on occasion
Note that "demi" is a form of gray-A, and someone who feels attraction on occasion" might call themselves an ace or a gray-A.
bisexual ("bi")
being sexually attracted to 2 different genders
Notice that this is specifically 2—so a woman who's sexually attracted to heterosexual men and asexual men actually qualifies as bisexual
polysexual ("poly")
being sexually attracted to multiple different genders
This could be used for everything from 2 to all.
pansexual ("pan")
being sexually attracted to all genders
So if you're sexually attracted to every type of person, you're pansexual—and notice that this has nothing to do with fetishes or being attracted to animals or things.

someone who is romantically attracted to a variant or ambiguous gender
being romantically attracted to the opposite binary gender
being romantically attracted to the same binary gender
aromantic (aro)
feeling infrequent or no romantic interest in anyone or anything, as your natural state unaffected by biological issues or emotional stress
able to feel romantic attraction to someone ONLY after a strong bond has formed with that person
not on the extreme end, but on the spectrum of aromanticism
being romantically attracted to 2 different genders
notice that this is specifically 2—so a woman who's romantically attracted to heterosexual men and asexual men actually qualifies as biromantic
being romantically attracted to multiple different genders
This could be used for everything from 2 to all.
being romantically attracted to all genders
So if you're romantically attracted to every type of person, you're pansexual—and notice that this has nothing to do with fetishes or being attracted to animals or things.

What a mess, right? Raise your hand if you actually read all that.

Now, why did I go into all that to talk about my own aromantic asexuality?

People are complicated. Labels only work to give broad strokes—and even then, they require the party using the label to use the same definition as the person hearing it.

It's like me being an outgoing introvert. Many people conflate "introverted" and "shy", so they insist I'm an extrovert. But introversion actually has nothing to do with shyness—it's where you get your energy. I like people just fine. I just find them draining. So if I need to recharge after a long day? Going out to a party is the worst thing I can do, to get that energy back.

In my own case, calling myself an "aromantic asexual" is the simplest label I can use (and if I want to be more accurate, I'll still have to define that I'm on the extreme end and feel very little or no romantic or sexual attraction to anyone, but it works).

Where it gets sticky is in that "very little or no".

See, I have never been sexually attracted to anyone, nor do I have any libido. I'm admittedly curious, but as a Christian who believes that sexual intercourse should be reserved for marriage, it's not gonna happen unless I ever marry—which is something that could potentially happen someday, because although I feel no sexual attraction whatsoever, I may, on occasion, experience romantic attraction…

But that "romantic" attraction seems to be more appreciation for being respected in conversation and enjoying others' company. I don't get desire for anything beyond that. (And though I do have a hormone disorder, but this has been true even when my hormones are in order. When my hormones are acting up, thoughts of sexual or romantic relationships actually repulse me.)

But let's assume that my appreciation of respect and enjoyment of others' company is romantic attraction. If that's true, can call myself aromantic, because "infrequent romantic attraction" suffices to describe what I experience—but I can also call myself "heteroromantic" (because I get it with guys), "demiromantic" (because it's guys I have another bond with already), or "gray-romantic" (because I do feel it sometimes). Any and all of those labels work, and that's just a side effect of labels' limitations.

Labels work as descriptors, not as definitions.

A person who is their label is a stereotype, and while stereotypes exist because there's some truth to them, that truth tends to be true of a small subset of the whole group—and sometimes, the stereotype actually says more about how people view the group being stereotyped than it does about the group itself. (Case in point: In the US, nationality of the most recent influx of immigrants is always derided as dirty and lazy, regardless of what that has to do with reality.)

In my own case, I'm definitely an aromantic and asexual…but I might also be heteromantic, demiromantic, and/or gray-romantic, depending on the definitions.

Wait—my sexual orientation and romantic orientation may not exactly match up?

Nope. And that's actually not entirely unusual.

For instance, it's completely possible to be heterosexual and homoromantic, with or without a libido. You can be completely asexual and aromantic and have a libido. You can be completely Xsexual and Xromantic—where prefixes match—and lack a libido.

If you're a writer, stop and think about that for a moment… What would that do to your characters, to give some of them inconsistent romantic vs. sexual orientations, or to make their libido not coincide with their attractions?

Even as a hormone-ridden teenager, I had to learn to look at someone and consider their aesthetics. I was harassed about it quite a bit, by peers and family alike, who would ask if I found someone attractive and insist I was being coy when I answered, "I don't know."

(News flash: I actually didn't know, because I didn't—and don't—naturally think in those terms.)

These days, I've made a habit of asking myself about aesthetics upon observing people, but if I'm distracted or sick or tired or some other thing has my attention, I won't notice. Or I might think of it twenty minutes (or two hours) into a conversation.

But people like random compliments, and I like making people happy, so I seek to notice things. I'll walk up to strangers and say things like, "I like your boots" or "That color suits you."

The little problem with that is that…

  • What I say: "Hey, that was a great discussion. I enjoyed it."
  • What girls tend to hear: "Oh! She wants to be friends!"
  • What guys tend to hear: "Oh! She's into me!"
  • What I mean: "Hey, that was a great discussion. I enjoyed it (probably because it was intellectually stimulating). Maybe we could converse again sometime (but I don't yet know you well enough to cross from 'acquaintance' into 'friend')."

There is a reason more than one friend has joked that I'm a Vulcan.

For me, noticing that someone has an aesthetically pleasing face is no different from noticing, "What lovely architecture! or "Oh, I love the way the blues pop in that painting!"

Suffice to say, I accidentally ran face-first into some awkward situations before I realized the disconnect between what such compliments mean to me and what they tend to mean to other people. (Sorry, people I've misled. I wasn't trying to!)

I therefore pretty much stick to complimenting females and children, these days, and as a drive-by. (Walking up to strangers then passing on, or as a cinch to a conversation before I excuse myself.) That works out best.

What does this have to do with your writing?

First, I have an idea for a serialized novel set in the same world as the Overhill stories. I'm still hammering some of it out, but it looks as if it would be a mystery or thriller in an urban fantasy setting, with the female main character (FMC) as a werewolf. Avery Williams, to be exact, who was the first character I came up with, years ago when I first started plotting in that story-world, and I'm still not sure if I've finished anything with her in it.

Warning: Some spoilers ensue for a WiP, which will likely not be completed for at least 6 months.

This planned serial (which is tentatively planned to be 3 books of 7 episodes each) would feature her as FMC. The first one would have her at 13-ish, but the second and third would be later, with male main characters. For one of them, I knew from the start that guy would end up attracted to her, but I realized pretty quickly that she wouldn't return his interest.

But try as I might, I couldn't figure out what would interest her. I thought about all sorts of guys, dismissing one after the other… I even started considering if she might swing to her own gender, which also got a "Nope."

I finally realized that Avery Williams is an aro ace and does not experience any romantic or sexual attraction whatsoever.

And realizing that, she came together as a character I understood. I'd been assuming she would be interested in a relationship someday—in a spouse, in children.

Nope. Not a whit.

I suspect I'll be able to write some of her stories, now.

Mulling on sexuality, particularly the types of interest and the assumptions others make about it, has also given me ideas for some other stories (like one that I think y'all might really enjoy, because everyone I've mentioned it to has perked up even at the title—not that I'll be able to write it for a while).

It's also made me realize that I've already written more than one character on the asexual and aromantic spectrums.

Which now has me mulling on how to use that sort of thing consciously in my writing—no to preach about it, in my stories, but to be aware of it so I can demonstrate it overtly when appropriate, because people are people, and people are messes.

But the Bible says…

Yes, there are genetically 2 genders, recognized by Scripture—and interest is distinct from that. Per many of the conservative descriptions/definitions/assumptions about the differences between men and women, men are considered more sexual than romantic, and women are considered more romantic than sexual. That doesn't invalidate the labels as descriptors for people. People don't fit in perfect little boxes, unless you're speaking of specific defined either/or choices, like "trust in Christ as your savior vs. trust in something else"—but even then, you still have situations where, from the human standpoint, it's not that simple—because the humans have different nuances in their definitions for "trust", "Christ", "savior", etc.

There are intersex persons, which are a completely to-be-expected result of shoddy genetics stemming from the sin-infested world / from the second law of thermodynamics / from some other pertinent scientific factors that I won't bore you with. And then there are the folks attracted to the same gender or who perceive themselves as a gender other than what their bodies seem to be.

I honestly suspect the imperfection of genetics accounts for more of the confusion than many Christians want to consider. Whenever I've attempted to bring that up in conversation, it's promptly been dismissed as only accounting for a teensy-tiny number of people.

Well…that may be true, but dismissing it as a small percentage, without even bothering to check the actual numbers, is outright prideful. And it dismisses and ignores just how many people are affected by this.

At least 1 out of every 2,000 people is born intersex, if not 1 out of every 1,500. By some definitions of "intersex", more than 1 out of every 100 people is born intersex!

That means there are at least 157,000 intersex people in the the USA alone, and probably more. (That's with the lowball estimate. If you count 1 of every 100, that's 3,140,000 intersex people in the USA. Not world. USA.)

Even with the lowball estimate, that's about half as many people as are members of the Presbyterian Church of America, and 5 times the number of people who are members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church denomination. Hey, 157,000 is even more more people than are known to have neurofibromitosis. In comparison, there are an estimated 700,000 transgender people in the USA, and 3,140,000–7,850,000 homosexual. (Again, I'm working from USA numbers, here.)

When an infant is obviously intersex at birth, sex assignments can be automatic—and from first-person accounts I've read, parents aren't always informed properly, either.

Let's assume that, for those 1 in 2,000 people born intersex, doctors get the sex assignment right half the time—and ignore the detail that an intersex person who's had a sex assignment is technically transgender. That still means that a minimum of 78,500 people have been assigned the wrong sex, through no fault of their own.

That's a minimum of 78,500 souls in the United states alone that can legitimately qualify as transexual or homosexual for physical biological reasons that even the most conservative Christian should accept.

That's nice. But what about the millions who don't have that excuse?

First, before I offend anyone further, I need to point out that I am quoting the conservative Christian standpoint, here. If you are not a conservative Christian, I expect you to disagree and to not abide by the scruples of a conservative Christian. (I would actually find it really weird if you did agree with the reasoning I'm laying out, here.)

Seriously, expecting someone to abide by the standards of your faith—whatever that faith is—just "Because it's right" is one of the idiotic things that makes a person come across as a hateful, spiteful bigot, even if they mean well. Even Jesus bothered to, well, help the adulterous woman brought out for stoning, and chat with the Samaritan woman at the well, and guided the conversation into pertinent openings to instruct them in what to do from there.

He didn't walk up to them and say, "You're living in adultery! That's evil and wicked, and you need stop now!" That's the argumentative equivalent of telling a kid to stay away from a fire "Because I said so!" Sure, the fire will eventually hurt the kid, even if they're careful and think they know what they're doing (because it'll dry their skin out). But the kid enjoys the fire, liking the warmth or thinking it looks intriguing, so you have to give them a reason to trust and believe you before you can expect them to heed you over what their own senses are telling them ("It's so pleasant and fun and won't hurt you if you handle it properly.")

Since that "Because I said so!" method doesn't work on even small children, why does anyone expect it to work with adults?

I am admittedly concerned about the commonality of homosexuality, but that's due to Romans 1:26–27, which calls the desire for the same binary gender a sign of God's wrath/judgment on a nation (not individual). Do I believe the practice of homosexuality is a sin? Yes—but homosexuality is listed with things like lying, murder, fornication, idolatry, adultery, stealing, envy, drunkenness, and extortion (I Timothy 1:9–10, I Corinthians 6:9–10all sins that Christians can experience and struggle with and still be Christian (I Corinthians 6:11).

Wait—what's my point?

My point is that everyone has their failings, and everyone has sins they're prone to.

The nature vs. nurture debate is irrelevant to a Christian. I've grown up being told to my face that I can't be telling the truth even when I am, which led to some years of me intentionally, habitually lying, because I was going to be accused of it, anyway. Whether those lies stem from biology or conditioning is irrelevant in the face of lies being of the devil, according to my faith. No matter how or why my childhood habit of lying (which I worked myself out of years ago) developed, I was still responsible for those lies—and even now, if I admit to that old failing or see someone who remembers it, I have to deal with the consequences of having been a onetime habitual liar.

(I believe one of the causes of the original accusations is my memory can be a bit delayed. If you ask me if I did something this morning, my memory's equally likely to not remember that I did it or to remember a time I did it two weeks ago as if it happened in the past 24 hours—so I not infrequently might give one answer, then say "Wait…" and try to puzzle it out. Due to some changes in my life that are resolving the causes for that, it's getting better, but it's still "off".)

So maybe a Christian lusts after someone of their own binary gender—or maybe they lust after all/any genders. So what? That's no different from a Christian being predisposed to drunkenness, jealousy, idolatry, or breaking one of the other commands, such as those found in the Ten Commandments.

  • If a person claims to be Christian and abide by the Bible as God's word, then accepting those commands logically ensues. We all are imperfect and will fail sometimes, but we'll at least attempt to obey.
  • If a person doesn't claim to be Christian, then the Bible's commands are irrelevant to them, from their perspective, and expecting them to abide by Scripture is ridiculous.
  • If a person claims to be Christian then ignores parts of the Bible for whatever reason, then that can be problematic. Why they ignore certain parts of the Bible and how they chose what to keep and what to ditch? It's an awkward situation that necessarily indicates that God's too ineffectual to protect His word, and that humans are so much smarter than He is, which means He's ineffectual. And there isn't really any reason to follow an ineffectual god.

No matter your perspective, retorting "You're wrong!" isn't going to open an intelligent, reasonable discussion—and again, the only people I can recall Scriptural precedent of Jesus outright rebuking from the get-go are the people who knew better (like the Pharisees).

So what's my point of speaking on this as a writer?

So I'm starting to be bothered by the fact that I'm willing to write murderers and thieves and adulterers and yet shy from writing someone who isn't heteronormative. It's inconsistent of me—hypocritical, in a sense—and I don't like it.

I don't write to reflect life as the Christian ideal, but as what it is, and how everyone's struggling in their own fashion. Cherry-picking specific faults while ignoring others entirely is downright cruel of me.

I honestly started thinking about this back when working on A Fistful of Earth, when I was writing scene where Lallie's taking Aidan and Evonalé to the river crossing. Their trip through dockside (the part of Saf near the docks—so the northeast part of town) would of course encounter more rowdiness than they were used to seeing. I started writing a heteronormative pair, then realized that changing it would give another peek at how sheltered Evonalé has been.

But one…well, problem with writing a homosexual MC is that I would show problems with it, like I show problems with everything else (because everything humans fiddle with is necessarily imperfect). Homosexuality is prosecuted and vilified so much already that I fear that any such work won't be able to be received in the spirit I intend it.

I've been harassed for merely suggesting I might be asexual, and that's an acceptable orientation under conservative Christian theology. I'm physically attractive and apparently have an appealing personality—both things that some others have used as "proof" that I can't be an aro ace. (Don't ask me how others' attraction to me has anything whatsoever to do with my attraction to others.)

I'm certain other orientations get treated worse. I don't want to contribute to harassment of others.

Are you telling me you're going to start writing protagonists who aren't straight?

No, I'm telling you that I may possibly do so in the future—and if I do, it's a comparable choice to writing murderers, liars, and thieves.

And like any of my work, it would be up to you if you're going to be interested in reading it or not.

Have you noticed the aromanticism and asexuality in my work? What are your thoughts on genetics and how those affect attraction?


Friday, February 20, 2015

"Realities of Self-Editing" E-Book Now Available for Preorder!

If you've been a longtime reader of my blog, you may remember the Realities of Self-Editing blog post series, which covered the mindsets and approaches needed to properly edit your own work. I've wanted to compile and revise it into book form since I was writing it, but for reasons I won't go in to, it was wisest to wait before publishing it.

Now the reason I had for waiting no longer exists, so I've set up my e-book for preorder on Amazon. It's scheduled for release on my birthday, May 8th.

You can get Realities of Self-Editing for $2.99 USD now.


(Sorry for the long silence, everyone. Life, yanno? But things seem to be settling down, and I intend to be back and on a schedule, soon.)

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