A moofable feast.

Be brave enough to burn and you'll be brave enough to fly.

Oh, almost forgot...
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alexandraerin
...I had a nice conversation with Michael of ILYS.com yesterday.

For those who have missed me talking about it before, ILYS is a web-based writing tool that helps promote word flow. They let you set a word count goal and do not let you edit your work until you reach it. The psychology behind this is that editor-mode in your brain is more critical than writer-mode. Self-doubt, analysis paralysis, impostor syndrome... all of these things can force writer-brain into hiding. Editing can require you to be ruthless that is toxic to the actual act of creativity, so ILYS helps you build a firewall between them.

The feature that makes ILYS into a real killer app in my mind, though, is the one I see less talk about from the psychological side, and that is: it doesn't let you see what you're writing. The classic version gave you one letter at a time, which I think was important for sort of building trust? The new and improved version has a "ninja style" where all you can see is your word count, which ticks upward like a high score every time you get another word out.

It sounds kind of scary, it sounds kind of ridiculous... but man, few things are more daunting than a blank white page. You can sneak a peek at what you've been writing (useful if you get interrupted and lose your place), but while you're typing, you're not looking at what you've written, which means you're not judging it, either.

Anyway, while I was working yesterday, I noticed there was a feedback form on the dashboard that was just a box saying "Talk to us!" So I did. I explained that the multi-story saving feature wasn't what I'd hoped it would be and without the ability to re-open saved stories/previous sessions and edit them, it wasn't very useful for how I use the site.

The thing is, I've been using ILYS, but I haven't bothered with the saving feature for much of the writing I've done on the site, because I've found it easier to transfer it to an editor while it's unsaved.

Anyway, I got a reply within minutes suggesting that more robust save features were in the works but asking me if I could describe in more detail what I was looking for, so I did. Michael thanked me for my feedback and for the clear context I provided for it, and outlined some improvements he'll be making to meet my needs, which he said he would be implementing shortly.

Now, since ILYS launched their pro version after NaNo ended, I have noticed what I would call a steady commitment to improvement. Little things here and there show that people are paying attention and tightening the bolts. The one that stands out to me is that at launch, I couldn't type HTML tags (because it would automatically encode the angle brackets as their own HTML macros), but that was fixed pretty quickly.

This was phenomenal, though. The level of responsiveness and attentiveness was outstanding. It sounds like something like what I was looking for would have been on its way anyway, which I had kind of expected? But he took the time to listen to what I was looking for and then tell me what he was thinking for addressing it, and then assured me it was a priority. That is some top-notch customer service right there.

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Thursday, December 18th
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alexandraerin
The Daily Report

So I got the podcast recorded last night, but then encountered significant hurdles getting it off my phone and onto my desktop for editing. First, the USB connection wasn't recognized. Then it kept stalling out when I tried to upload it to Dropbox. I ended up staying up later than I'd expected trying to even get the dang thing onto my computer, by which point I was well into the second wind of insomnia.

I finally did get it into Dropbox when I had the bright idea to turn off my phone's WiFi and and use the data connection. By the time this happened, though, I was too wiped to even listen to the thing, much less cut it together.

So, I'll be doing that today and tomorrow with an eye towards putting it up tomorrow.

The State of the Me

Kind of frazzled, kind of tired.

Plans For Today

Despite coming into the day a little flagged, I'm in good shape for wrapping up the update I started yesterday, which will leave us at a good break point for the holidays.

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Reader Reviews Are For Readers
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alexandraerin
So, there's this guy. Not going to name him here, but he's an author, and he recently celebrated the milestone of having accumulated some number of reader reviews on the internet. I say "celebrated", but the majority of his post is given over to shaking his head in confused consternation that some percentage of them are made up of people saying they would have liked to see more female characters.

"I could understand if they were saying that this wasn't what they wanted so the story's not for them," would be a paraphrase of his lament, "but I feel like they're trying to hold me accountable for having done something wrong."

As of the time I saw it, the comments on his post were all sympathetic towards him and pretty merciless towards the reviewers. They just want to impose quotas! They want to take away your artistic freedom! If they don't like your story as written, why can't they read something else?

I have a lot of things I could say about the fear of quotas. I won't cover them in detail but I always wonder: if blog posts and negative reviews by random internet people is actually a viable enforcement method for these mysterious quotas, then why are stories still written that fail to meet them?

But it's the sentiment of "If they don't like your story as written, why can't they read something else?" that I want to address here.

Friends, fellow authors, this is what we have to understand: reader reviews are not written for us. They are written for other readers. When a reader signs into Good Reads or Amazon or wherever to say how many stars they gave a book and why, what they are doing is leaving a signpost for future readers that says "This way! This way! If you're looking for this sort of thing, here it is!"

Or "If you're looking for this sort of thing, you're likely to be disappointed," as the case may be.

There's this idea that has always been implicitly in a lot of people's heads. Some of the current blow-ups in the video game world have brought it to the forefront and strengthened it, and it's the idea that a review of a piece of entertainment is meant to be an objective measurement of its quality. Related to his idea is the thought that when someone who dislikes a work because of what might be summed up as content issues or matters of representation, the sorts of things that are often written off as "political correctness", they are cheating the artwork of its deserved rating and thus cheating it of sales it deserves.

The idea is that if your book about manly men having manly adventures is reviewed negatively by people looking for a book with more women in it, this negative review will depress your sales even though for people who don't care about "that stuff" there was no problem reported in those reviews.

Well, first of all, all those "lost" sales are going to fall into of two categories.

The first category is the people who might have checked the book out in case it gave them what they were looking for, but thanks to the reviews they know it doesn't.

Even as an author and creator, I am deeply suspicious of the idea that these people owe me their money, owe my work a chance, to such an extent that something has gone wrong if other readers are letting them know in advance they might be disappointed. I want my work to find its audience. I want my audience to find my work. I have enough confidence in the appeal of my writing that I don't need to trick people into reading it and hope that if they're disappointed by what they bought they don't seek refunds. That's a terrible business model.

Of course, if you're thinking of a work's quality, value, and appeal as objective things then you can't think in these terms. Your audience, like your rating, is just a numerical score. How good is your book? 10,000 readers good!

And this gets to the second category of sales you lose to negative reviews, which comes from people who put a similar amount of stock in numerical ratings. They see your book is 4.5 stars and this other book is 5 stars, and rather than being curious about why some people didn't like your book, they accept that the second book is simply objectively superior and buy it instead.

You could blame these "lost sales" on the "artificially" lowered rating your book has, but the real culprit is the belief that reviews/ratings are an objective measure of quality.

Here's the thing: there are a lot of books out there. The way books succeed is by connecting to people who will enjoy them and become advocates for them. Reader reviews are an important part of this process.

A signpost saying a book is lacking in female characters is just information that consumers can take into account. It's not an admonition with force of law insisting that readers stay out. It's not a declaration that women (or sensitive, caring men) cannot enjoy the book under penalty of law. It is not a petition to the author demanding that he go back in time and change his work before it was published.

It's information that consumers can choose to take into account or not before they make the informed decision how to spend their time and money.

Pure and simple.

How can you be against that?

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Tuesday, December 16th
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alexandraerin
The Daily Report

Yesterday was meant to be a posting day, but I remembered late in the afternoon that it was the last day to submit one of my stories to an anthology. This was one I'd meant to submit three weeks ago when I was in Florida (as that is where the story was conceived and is set), but my laptop was barely functional so that didn't happen.

It occurred to as I was waking up this morning that one of the biggest obstacles I've had in sticking to a writing schedule is that I prefer to do my heavy writing at the very end of my work day, which is often the part I have the least control over, as it's the part that outside obligations and other people's schedules are most likely to intrude upon, and the part where there's no real fallback for me when that happens unexpectedly.

There are reasons I do my writing later in the day, in particular that it often takes me that long to wake my brain up and build up to the critical level of dopamine where the blank page feels more like a ladder than a wall, but starting today I'm going to be focusing on starting my writing at 2:00 instead of 4:00.

The State of the Me

Another slow awakening day, but I'm getting there.

Plans For Today

Mostly bracing myself for 2:00 so I can start writing. Trying to establish a new routine the week before I leave for a week is a little weird, but I want it to feel somewhat normal when I come back after Christmas.

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Monday, December 15th
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alexandraerin
The Daily Report

Well, I went into this weekend intending to do an Other Tales and put together a newsletter. Since it's my last weekend before the holidays and also the last weekend while Jack is away, I wanted it to be productive. But I also went into it with my sleep schedule completely messed up and with a shortage of caffeine and my neuro pills, so... not much actually happened. I did write a draft script for the next Tales of MU podcast.

But, on the plus side! I went to sleep around midnight last night and woke up around 10 this morning.

The State of the Me

Well, my sleep's on a better schedule, but I've been groggy and foggy all day. Things are starting to clear up.

Plans For Today

Afternoon's going to be a writing day. This evening when the street is quieter I might record the podcast.

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Friday, December 12th
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alexandraerin
The Daily Report

Okay, I'm going to have to say that while I'm sleeping enough, my sleep schedule is now officially a problem. I not only slept in really late today, but my sense of time has drifted so much that I thought it was Saturday until about five minutes ago. I'm going to be taking some stronger steps to correct this, though it's going to go through a hard reset at the end of the month anyway, so if I can get through next week I think I'll be okay.

Anyway! Fundraiser is going well. We've passed the second $100 mark and are almost halfway to the third. This also puts us about halfway to where I feel I absolutely need to be by the end of the year ($500), though I hope to surpass that so I have some cushion going into the new year.

One person contributed $100 all by themselves, so in accordance with the terms there are going to be at least three Tales of MU Worldbuilding podcasts, two with general reader requests and one by the donor's request. I recorded a sample one the other day which I put up on Soundcloud and linked on Patreon. I'll be posting it on the MU Blog after I finish this post. It talks about the worldbuilding of the MUniverse in general terms, along with my basic approach to the subject, just to kind of give people some grist for their questions.

My Patreon subscriptions have been growing this week as well. Now that there's a more tangible direct benefit for MU readers, I expect that to continue.

The State of the Me

As mentioned before, my sleep schedule is way off. Otherwise okay.

Plans For Today

I'm going to be updating the newsletter archive (I suspect that it's an issue or two behind), adding the new subscribers to the mailing list and archive list, embedding the intro podcast on the MU site, and also sharing a sneak preview goody in the Patreon stream.

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Thursday, December 11th
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alexandraerin
The Daily Report

Well, I woke up late today. My sleep schedule is really, really off due to a lot of externals. In the two hours I've been awake, I've been working with my poetry editor on a long poem (the tree one, for newsletter readers). Not much else to report except that we've got some activity on the fundraising front: a few new Patreon sponsors and the first $100 benchmark in my year-end fundraiser, with the second only $25 away.

The State of the Me

Doing okay, sleep thing notwithstanding. I'm getting enough sleep, just not at the right times.

Plans For Today

A little more editing, some writing. Posting a chapter of Tales of MU.

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Wednesday, December 10th
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alexandraerin
The Daily Report

So, I woke up early this morning and noticed that my Patreon campaign had passed the $400 mark, which means ad-free for patrons. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I had everything ready to go for this, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to do the site backup and turn it all on.

It occurred to me that the announcement on the MU blog would be a good place to kick my end of year fundraiser into gear, and then I had to make some tweaks to the site plugins and themes, and now here we are four hours later and I'm making my status post for the day.

Anyway, the fundraiser is go. My basic pitch is that I will podcast details of the worldbuilding/mythology of the MUniverse for every $100 I bring in before the end of December.

The State of the Me

Doing good.

Plans For Today

Going to be recording a thing to go with the fundraiser this afternoon, then writing.

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"No, you move."
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alexandraerin


(http://captain-america.us/articles/civil-war.htm)

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Tuesday, December 9th
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alexandraerin
The Daily Report

There's been some very mixed news in the family health front in the past few days, though mixed is better than at least one of the alternatives. My emotions are a little up and down, though, as a result.

While I still have a real need to bring in some money immediately, I'm pleased to announce that my Patreon campaign is almost to the next benchmark, $400 a month, and this is before I've even completed a planned revamp on the Patreon page to broaden its appeal.

$400 is the point at which we'll unlock ad-free Tales of MU for patrons. I have everything set up on the backend for this. I do want to do a full site backup before going live with this. That takes a variable but manageable amount of time because the TOMU database is too large for Wordpress's import function to handle, so I have to export it in chunks.

Patrons who wish to take advantage of this ad-free reading will need to register and sign in (note that this functionality is currently turned off)... I'll be comparing registrant emails to Patreon emails and switching patrons over to the requisite privilege level manually, as I don't have the technical skills or resources to make my Wordpress installation somehow communicate with Patreon directly. Still, that's a small hurdle, and one I can manage.

The State of the Me

Doing okay. Was up bright and early this morning.

Plans For Today

I'm going to be doing some poetry work, and then focusing on Tales of MU.

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