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Critiques can be scary. >.>
Critiques can be scary. >.>

Picture if you will, the valar and maiar gathered around discussing creation.


Reviewee: I have invented a new kind of animal! It lives in the water, has gills to breathe, and flippers that enable it to move. I call it a “fish.”


Critiquer: Yeah, that’s good, but… what if this “fish” lived in trees and had wings to fly with?


Reviewee: Well, the point was to make a thing that lived in the water…


Other Critiquer: Man, I really like this “lives in trees and has wings” idea! You should give your fish brightly-colored feathers and have them sing.


In the FurTheMore writing track, writing groups and critiques — and specifically, how to give good critiques — were a major focus. Having only recently gotten into the world of actually being in a writing group, this discussion was fresh in my mind as I watched and winced at a person in a recent group meeting having their perfectly good kid’s book being twisted into all kinds of weird pretzel shapes. Instead of critiquing the story that she had brought, the discussion kept turning to all sorts of different things the story could have been (or to some of the critiquers’ way of thinking, should have been).


The thing reached a head when one of the critiquers suggested that the entire story could be told in pictures, with none of the reviewee’s words at all, to which the reviewee replied, “So what’s the point of my even doing it?”


Please don’t do this to people.


Giving useful feedback can be difficult, and the thing about writers particularly is that we’re a creative lot. When we see an idea that sparks thoughts and possibilities, we want to spin new stories out of them. It’s as natural as breathing! But in the context of writing critique, it’s as useful as putting a fish in a tree and telling it to fly.


Unless the reviewee is specifically looking to brainstorm new ideas (which can also be a great exercise), your job as a critiquer is to address the text at hand: what works, what doesn’t, and specifically if the writer succeeds at making the text do what it’s supposed to do. “Maybe your fish should have its eyes on the side of its head to more easily spot predators” is useful feedback. “Your fish should be a bird” is not, and worse, it can be actively harmful. I don’t think anyone at the meeting intended to tell the reviewee that she had wasted her time and effort creating a useless story, but that was clearly the message she was receiving.


Giving Good Critique in Three Easy Steps


So, what should you do? Try this…


“Get” the Story. Look for what the writer was trying to accomplish, as well as fairly universal things like “Do the sentences make sense?” and “Are the characters engaging?”


Talk About What Worked, What Didn’t Work, and What Was Great. Using the famous “shit sandwich” model (the bad stuff surrounded by good things on either side), give feedback that’s as specific as possible. Remember that the point is to discuss the story that’s actually on the page, not the amazing story you came up with in your own head.


Suggest Changes. Here’s where you can toss in your own ideas, but keep in mind that the changes should be to address what didn’t work first and foremost. If the reviewee’s fish has given you a great idea for a bird, go ahead and mention it as a possibility for expansion or a new direction if you like. Or maybe go create your own bird. You’re a writer, after all! And the best part is that by doing that, you empower the reviewee to make an even better story, instead of tearing them down and making them wonder what the point of having written it was.

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Gneech.com and its sister site, BringingTheAwesome, are both getting a major overhaul! I’m working with Braid Creative to create a new “brand identity” to finally integrate my writing, coaching, editorial, and creative efforts under one unified whole (and a whole new website).





This is something that’s been a long time coming. I’ve been on the web since before it was “the web,” and so I have 25+ years of identities in silos all over the place. It’s time to just be the one “Me!” Writer, life coach, creative artist, giant nerd. They’re all in there. 😉





Stay tuned for progress reports as warranted!

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Groovy, baby.


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Carl W. Buehner


Ever since writing my 2018 report the other day and putting thought into 2019, I’ve become increasingly aware of a theme woven into the music of my life and now coming to the forefront: I must develop my ability to create connection, both on a personal and professional basis, and within my writing.



Because when I look at what isn’t working in my life right now, I see two sides of the same coin: needing to learn how to network in order to build my coaching practice on the one side, and being told repeatedly, “Your writing is crisp, clean, and professional, but the book just didn’t grab me…” on the other. Both of these things are about creating an emotional connection with people, whether directly or indirectly.



I’ve always been vaguely aware of this in terms of watching the audience for Suburban Jungle (and my place within the furry fandom generally)– it’s just like my friendships have been over the course of my life. SJ has a smallish knot of devoted fans, some of whom are intensely devoted to it. (NeverNever was like this too, only moreso.) As long as I can remember, I’ve had a few very close friends, and often been very challenged around getting outside of that group.



Those tight friendships (and very devoted fans) mean the world to me and I don’t want to downplay them. But it is increasingly clear to me as time goes on that I need to widen my circle. A small number of tight friends can make a handful of referrals in my client hunt, but their potential is quickly tapped out on that front. A very devoted fan might buy all of my books and support the highest tiers of my Patreon, but they are only one fan and cannot subsidize my life (nor would I want them to).



And besides the straightforward inability of the math to get me what I need, these small circles also don’t give me what I want. I want to help people with my coaching. I want people’s days to be better because I was in them. I want to have crowds at my table, and people writing fanfics or doing in-depth analysis of my work on Tumblr. As nice as it might be to be recognized as a genius posthumously? I want my work to be loved now.



When my Aunt Iris died, half of Fairfax and Loudoun counties came to her funeral, and everyone– everyone– had something to say about the way she’d connected to them. By comparison, when my father died a year later, his funeral was attended by maybe twenty people, including his three children, their spouses and children, and some of my friends.



That stuck with me.



I loved my dad. Everyone there did. But there is no denying that his life was, in its way, small and limited. I don’t want mine to be.



So what am I going to do about it? I think I was starting to come to awareness of this gap when I came up with my writing goals for 2019, because I listed my goal as “Create self-satisfaction, expression, and meaningful impact in others’ lives by means of becoming a successful and widely-read author/artist.” I added as one of my goals to change my relationship to, say, my Patreon, by focusing not on the dollar amount it brings in, but by the number of subscribers who sign up and the amount of comments that are left.



Similarly, I tweeted last night, “I’ve got ~1500 followers on Twitter and ~450 on Tumblr, and I would like to double those numbers by the end of January. But I’m looking for, y’know, real people who will like my work, not bots. Any suggestions on what I should do, real people?” And that’s an important distinction! I don’t want fluffed up “metrics” that don’t mean anything, I’m not some dot-com-era middle manager looking for clicks.



How will I do this? By finding ways to make my writing grab people. By making more genuine connections with the people I meet. By being with people, instead of either up on a stage or hiding at the back of the room.



If this past year was finally learning how to be friends with myself? This coming year is going to be learning how to be friends with the world.

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My best self.

As I write this, I’m sitting at the drawing table pictured, wearing the headphones and necklace pictured. The rest is a bit harder to pull off. >.>





So! How was 2018? On the grand social scale, of course, it was a dumpster fire. This is hardly news. All the worst people, frantically trying to destroy not just the USA but the whole world, before it all comes crashing down and they end up shooting themselves in the bunker. It’s as inevitable as it is sad. But those of us who are working to build something better will keep working.





On my own personal front, by comparison, it’s been what you might call a challenging year– not in a drama and angsty way, but in the form of taking on difficult obstacles and working to overcome them. This came mostly through the coach training, which was a deep dive into 49 years of mud and gunk that needed cleaning out, but was also singularly more effective than decades of counseling had been on that front. (Which is not to bag on my counselors over the years, but they just didn’t have the intensive focus of the coach training.)





So, looking back on my plans for the year, how did I do?





  1. Gneech, Life Coach. This is up and running! I have passed my exams with Accomplishment Coaching and I’m about 2/3 of the way to my first ICF certification. Right now I’m working on fluffing up my client base a bit more, and I expect to go on to become a Mentor Coach for next year’s program. I’ve got a coaching blog up and running, and I’m looking forward to big things on this front in 2019.

  2. Help Laurie Get Her Business Running. Well, I did help! She’s still working on it. >.> The business exists, we’re getting our insurance through it, so that’s good! The rest of it is up to her. 🙂

  3. Stable and Reliable Income. This piece is still under construction. As the coaching business grows, it will naturally come to pass.

  4. Figure Out What’s Up With My Writing. Honestly, I just didn’t have time to work on this with the coach training going on. I have a project in place to take this on again in 2019.

  5. Sell. A. Book. Didn’t happen, ‘cos above.

  6. Issues Seven, Eight, and Nine. Seven done. Eight 1/2 way done. Nine will have to come next year.

  7. Continue Fixing the Country. I’ve marched, I’ve voted, I’ve campaigned, I’ve called my reps a million times. It’s an ongoing process.

  8. Take a Vacation. Alas, did not happen.




It essentially boils down to “the coach training was huge and intense and took most of my mental energy.” So a lot of other things didn’t get done while that was happening. I have no regrets, though– this was something I badly needed.





What did happen was that for the first time since I can remember, I really and truly became friends with myself– like, all of myself, even the parts I had not been willing to talk to since I was four. There was a specific moment that I had never forgiven myself or let go of the pain and shame from, which I confronted and processed… finally. Only forty-five years later! But better late than never.





Confronting this moment led to the birth of Nii-chan, about whom I’ve written at length elsewhere. In a lot of ways, she is the best version of me, and whenever I find myself wondering what I want to do about something, or who I should be in a moment, I ask myself “What would Nii-chan do?” She’s like the integrated version of the Three Lions and an Otter, but even her version of Business Guy is a lot happier. (Nii-chan is also practice for my next incarnation, so I can hit the planet running when that comes to pass. I don’t want to waste forty years of my next life trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.)





So, yeah. It’s been a big year on that score. But where do I want to go in 2019?





  1. Bring Rough Housing to Its Conclusion. 2019 will be the 20th anniversary of Suburban Jungle, and it seems a fitting place to bring that chapter to a close. My current plan is to finish the story at the end of issue ten. As my hand tremors get worse, it is becoming harder to keep up with what was already an ambitious production schedule, and honestly, I think that story-wise, RH will be done at that point. So I’d rather finish something and feel good about it, than to drag it out to stay within the familiar.

  2. Writing Goals. My goalposts on this front are two short stories sold, an agent secured for Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, a furry novel written for NaNoWriMo, and an anthology project created with FurPlanet.

  3. She-Ra Writing Gig. Seeing Seanan McGuire geek out about landing the writing job on Spider-Gwen made me realize that I wanted that experience in my life. Spider-Gwen is a character that Seanan was pretty much born to write, and honestly, I feel the same about Catra and myself. I have no idea how I’m going to convince the She-Ra writing team to let me on board, but I’ll find a way.

  4. Full Coaching Client Roster. My goal is 14+ clients by this time next year, including five Creativity Klatch clients and three Mentor Coaching clients.

  5. California Trip. I miss Big Sur like whoa.

  6. 222 Pounds. Something that wasn’t on my 2018 list was losing weight– so naturally I made big strides on that! XD Specifically I lost 30 pounds since May, bringing me to my lowest adult weight yet. I have another 50 pounds to go to be at my goal weight of 222, but I am confident that I will hit it this year.

  7. Continue Continuing to Fix the Country. Keep going ’til it doesn’t suck.




So, yeah. That’s where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I think 2019 is gonna be a great year. 🙂

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One of these is a sweet and loving feline, forced by circumstances to seem mean. The other is GrumpyCat.




First item of news! I passed my coach training finals! 😀 This means I will graduate from the Accomplishment Coaching training program, and I’m about 2/3 of the way to an Associate Certified Coach certification with the International Coach Federation.





Now… just to earn a living with it. >.>





Second item of news! Yesterday I was so inspired by Seanan McGuire geeking out over her Spider-Gwen gig that I decided– with no plan how or even idea of the feasibility– that I wanted to get involved in working on She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, on the grounds that as Seanan was basically born to write Spider-Gwen, I was basically born to write Catra. >.>





So I have spent all day canvassing anyone and everyone I know even marginally related to the animation industry looking for referrals or leads, as well as just flat-out e-mailing Noelle Stevenson via the address on her web page and saying “I want in! What do I do?”





In all of my years of creating comics, I never wanted to connect directly to a larger franchise before. As much fun as I’ve had banging around in the My Little Pony fandom, it never occurred to me to try to actually get involved in the show. Heck, LevelHead once offered to finance the creation of a NeverNever pilot to shop around back in the day, and I just didn’t think I was ready for it.





Why She-Ra, and why now?





Well, like I say, Catra is a big reason. She’s basically the Leona/Langley/Tanya/Brigid archetype I’ve been writing for 20 years. Another reason is something I described on Twitter a few days back, of having spent 20 years thinking I was being Tiffany Tiger in my career, when I was actually being Leona instead. For various reasons I’ve been going through my life with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake, sabotaging myself without realizing it and feeling defined by the wins other people were achieving that I felt like “should be” mine.





The transformative process I’ve been going through in my coaching career has really opened my eyes to this, and it’s time for me to change it. Part of that includes putting down the ego-driven “Must create it all from scratch!” mindset and connecting to other creators (and other projects) outside my own little corner of the universe.





Wish me luck! This is a scary, ambitious undertaking for me. Not the actual work of the writing, that part is easy! But changing who I am, moving into a much larger world… that’s hard. O.o





 

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So, Tumblr has famously splinched itself. Patreon is trying desperately to serve its most dedicated users against the will of every bank in the universe. Facebook is and always was a dumpster fire. LiveJournal was Russianized ages ago. Twitter has a Nazi problem in its upper offices. And now WordPress is “updating” itself into unusability.





I don’t mind telling you, I am frustrated.





For a shining window of time (say, 2000-2005ish? I’m terrible with dates), blogging was AMAZEBALLS. There was so much cool stuff to read! People just expounding on any nerdy thing that interested them! People would actually have discussions about stuff! Flamewars did happen sometimes, but they were considered a breakdown of the system, not an inescapable fact of life.





There’s no point in saying “What happened, man?” ‘cos we know what happened. Bots happened. Apparatchiks looking for targets happened. A bunch of broken sadboys happened. Corporate pettiness, short-term thinking, and mendacity happened. The religious right happened. A ton of bullshit happened.





Well I also don’t mind telling you, I’m not giving up. The human capacity for creativity, beauty, and deep thought is limitless, and humanity’s desire to connect, share, and grow is limitless as well. Once there were storytellers, then there were poets, then there were philosophers and playwrights, then there were writers, then there were bloggers. The mode evolves, but the drive remains.





I don’t think that the heat death of the blogoverse is inevitable, and I fully intend to rage against the dying of the light on that front. But I also know that even if the form completely chokes, that drive will manifest again in another form. And I will be watching, ready to pounce on it.

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Me and some of my best imaginary friends.

Me and some of my best imaginary friends.


So yeah, my foray into the world of adult art has in fact doubled my Patreon income, which is awesome! Bringing it all the way up to… $176 a month? O.o


Mind you, I’m grateful to all of my supporters, especially those at the top who have gone above and beyond all of the reward tiers and stuck with me for nearly half a decade. You folks are amazing!


But I look at “comparables” doing similar work to mine, and I see…



Clearly, my Patreon is underperforming, and I need to figure out why, and how to change that. Suburban Jungle Boogie was the first step, and it certainly had an impact! The next few months will be building on that success. My Patreon growth goals for 2018 are:



  • June 30: $200

  • July 31: $300

  • August 31: $500

  • October 31: $600

  • November 30: $750

  • December 31: $1,500


How am I gonna do this? I have no idea! So I’d love to hear any input or suggestions from anyone, ranging from creators who have succeeded and how they did it, to supporters who would be willing to tell me why they chose which artists to support and at what level. And once I have it figured out, you can bet I’ll be back here to report how I did it, because I love you. 😉


Meanwhile, please enjoy a word from Leona Lioness…


Leona is not safe for work.

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By no longer showing Looney Tunes, we are failing future generations.


The rest of this year will be a time of big changes for me. I have a plan, which in my usual humble way, I have dubbed Operation: Awesome! It’s designed to integrate my coaching practice and my creative pursuits into a unified, sustainable, and, y’know, lucrative profession, because I cannot very well make the world a better place if I can’t even put food on the table.


Operation: Awesome! has four major components:



  1. The coaching practice itself: paying clients at various tiers, pro-bono clients, and side projects such as speaking engagements

  2. Blog income: ProudToBeAFurry.org; a coaching blog I’ll be launching later this year

  3. Art/comics/convention income: AnthroCon, Midwest Furfest, book sales, etc.

  4. Patreon: new goals and reward tiers, expanding my reach


Creating the plan for Operation: Awesome! was much like planning a car trip: I decided where I wanted to be, and when I wanted to get there, and then worked backwards to figure out the route, creating “milestones” along the way that would let me know I was on the right track.


Next, I made a list of the resources I had on hand to get me started on the journey– including my own skills and material resources; my network of friends, family, and social contacts; and services I could call on. Since I was planning from the future, this part was particularly important because it showed me what I didn’t need to “go shopping for” as part of the plan.


Finally, I created a timeline based on my milestones. Here’s a chunk of it:


Project Awesome! A small piece.


Notice the “income source TBD” chunks. This is a working roadmap, not set in stone, and I fully expect to tweak, alter, or revise it as things change. I don’t know where that “$2,200 TBD” in August is going to come from yet, just that I intend to figure something out by then. I might be making that much in blog income by then. I might come up with a great idea for group seminars. I might have blown the doors off my $300 Patreon goal. But the point is, now I know that I will need to work on that.


At this level, the project plan doesn’t include “action items”– that’s deliberate, because it’s where a lot of people get mired in details and sent into overwhelm. The plan is a roadmap, not a turn-by-turn set of instructions. Once you have the plan in place, you only create action items for the next milestone.


July is two months away, and my situation or needs may very well have changed by then, so coming up with action items for then might very well be a waste of energy that I could better spend on what I’m doing today. Right now, I’m aiming for the May 31st milestone, so I have created a “to do” list based on that and started to put thought into June. August and September aren’t even on my radar.


Anyone can come up with their own project plan, but honestly I recommend getting someone to go through it with you. Project: Awesome! was a collaboration between myself and my own coach. It requires a certain amount of time and brainstorming, so in my own coaching practice I like to devote two sessions to it. But the benefits are huge, and well worth the time investment.


With my project plan in place I am more confident of success, I am more aware of potential pitfalls and how to avoid them, and I have a clear vision of what “success” will look like. By planning it from the future, it feels like “Future Me” has reached backwards in time and told me how he got where he is, and that I am now calling that into existence by putting in the work.


Let’s rock this thing. 😉


-The Gneech

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New Year's Resolutions by Grant Snider for Evernote

What to say about 2017? I mean, yeah, lots of the perfectly-predictable awful shit that we were yelling about in 2016 came to pass right on schedule. But most of the adults in the room, once it was clear that it was all going to happen, turned their efforts to slowing, fighting, or just mitigating it as best they could. If 2016 was the year of yelling "Look out, there's a train wreck coming!" then 2017 was the year of hitting the brakes and getting as many people off the train as we could, and 2018 will be the year of cleaning up the mess– and sending as many of those engineers and switch operators to jail (or at least to exile in disgrace) as possible.

And for all the usual suspects wailing and gnashing their teeth on social media that 2017 was the Worst Year Ever, it had its good points. Bee populations have increased by 27%. The snow leopard has been taken off the endangered species list. Scientists have successfully re-bred sections of the Great Barrier Reef.

But on my own personal front? 2017 for me was largely about getting back my mojo (thanks, Austin) and, just as Kimmie predicted, a year for new beginnings.

Austin Powers wishes you a happy new year, you sexy bastard.

So, reviewing my goals for 2017...

  1. Issues Five and Six, Plus the First Collection. Nailed it. Very pleased. :)


  2. Publish That Book! Nope. -.- Revised it, kept sending it out, still nope. Somebody else published my book. I nearly hulked out and tore the place down. It was not pretty. I don't know what's going on here, the energy around it has turned all weird. This needs addressing.


  3. Finish Another Book! Also didn't happen, despite starting two and putting more work into the the not-Tolkien book from last year as well. As with publishing the Sky Pirates novel, I feel like there's something weird going on with me and my writing, and I need to devote some time to diagnosing and fixing the problem in order to move forward next year.


  4. Start a Company. Progress... but not in the direction we were going at the time. XD The project [personal profile] laurie_robey and I were working on at the time was going to be a sort of "lifestyle magazine/blog/podcast" kind of thing where we highlighted local features, organizations, points of interest, hidden treasures and the like, a more mainstream "Here's cool stuff about [city]!" kinda like ProudToBeAFurry.org was intended to be for the furry fandom. That particular project ended up not having any legs, as evidenced by how easily we got distracted onto other things... but it was replaced by the serious pursuit of commercial drone photography on her part, and life coaching on mine. Go fig! More about those below.


  5. Move to California. Well... no. We moved back to Virginia instead. XD But honestly, I'm fine with that, and I'll tell you why: there was too much baggage. I was fixated on going to California like Thorin fixated on the Arkenstone, and it was completely messing with my head. That fixation drove my willingness to sell the Hobbit Hole (which was a mistake it took me three years to realize how much I regretted), caused a lot of stress to our relationship, and was leading me down paths that would have led to me being just as miserable in California as I ever was in Virginia or Maryland. And if nothing else, being in Maryland highlighted a lot of the good things about Virginia that I knew I would miss, but didn't truly realize how much. Now, we may still go out there someday. I love Big Sur like crazy and will probably continue to nurse daydreams of Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo. But if/when that happens, I want it to be for the fun and joy of it, not the kind of desperation that was making me stupid about it before.


  6. Stronger faster slimmer better. Didn't happen this time around. I have lost some weight at the B&N job by virtue of salads for lunch and being on my feet all day, but I spent a lot of time in Maryland sitting like a lump eating comfort food.


  7. Bring the Awesome! This has been working! And paying dividends. My mood is up, we are in a new place we like better, we're making progress on careers. The "Unsuck Our Lives" project is paying off!


  8. Edit Myself Less. This is kind of a hard one to report on, because it hasn't come up as much as I expected. I mean, I have been pretty much speaking my mind when I felt like it needed to be spoken, so mission accomplished? But I also haven't been in as many situations where the inclination to keep things to myself was a problem, so it hasn't been that much of a challenge. Honestly? I'm fine with that.


  9. Reverse course and mitigate/repair damage to the country. Been doing this. Lots of marching, calling various reps, supporting grassroots organizations and spreading the word. And it is helping, in ways both big and small. We've still got a lot of work ahead of us, but there are more good people in this country than there are assholes, and we're going to win.


So, a mixed year, but definitely more positive than negative for me.

Where to in 2018?

  1. Gneech, Life Coach. Next weekend is a "trial session" of professional training from Accomplishment Coaching, and assuming that goes well, I will be enrolled for a year's course leading towards my first level of certification by the ICF. Life coaching is a bit like the I.T. world, where there's no legal requirements and anyone can hang out a shingle and get freelance work, but accreditation by professional organizations definitely helps you build both your skills and your reputation. The Accomplishment Coaching program is also designed to get you up and running with a practice quickly– which means having income again. This is a good thing. ;) I have some ideas about where I'd like to go with the career, but they're all fairly vague right now and I have a lot to learn first. But I'm excited to get into it!


  2. Help Laurie Get Her Business Running. I'm probably too close to Laurie to be an effective life coach for her– but I can support her, help provide resources, and so on.


  3. Stable and Reliable Income. Items one and two, combined, become this. ;) Followed up with clearing debts, building savings, and getting back to investment.


  4. Figure Out What's Up With My Writing. Seriously. My hard drive is littered with perfectly-sellable books that for whatever reason I'm not getting anywhere on. Sky Pirates of Calypsitania is now something like four years old without selling, while other authors are succeeding with it. It's a lot like the whole thing of people looking at Suburban Jungle, saying the art is great, and then not buying the book. Do I have something weird going on psychologically with making money from creative pursuits?


  5. Sell. A. Book. Pursuant to above.


  6. Issues Seven, Eight, and Nine. Because that would be awesome.


  7. Continue Fixing the Country. 2018 elections are going to be huge and important and I'm going to work with Flippable, Indivisible, and others to kick serious ass in this department.


  8. Take a Vacation. Laurie wants to see New England, and I'd enjoy that too. Maybe in the fall? We'll see how finances and schedule can be arranged.


In a lot of ways, these feel a lot less "dramatic" than previous years' goals, but also less melodramatic, too. Instead of going into 2018 with dread, terror, or even guns blazing, I've got a feeling of calm purposefulness, and I think that will serve me well. This year's post isn't a manifesto, it's a game plan, and I kinda like it that way.

It's a little early for bedtime, so I'll just say "Good afternoon, world, and have an awesome new year." ;)

-The Gneech
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The Gneech on a surfboard shape with the title Bringin' the Awesome


Just a heads-up all. Several of my websites (including this one and the various Suburban Jungle sites) are moving to a new host, so there may be bumps as that process goes through. I don’t expect it to be a problem, but I just wanted everyone to know up front.


Thanks!


-The Gneech

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Midwest Furfest 2017 was awesome!


Hello, all you awesome readers, and thanks for your November support! It’s been kind of a nutso month for me… I started a part-time job, moved (AGAIN) for what I hope will be the last time for a while, got about halfway through NaNoWriMo before I had to punt, and of course got Issue Six and the first trade collection done in time for Midwest Furfest. So, yeah, just a little busy there. ^.^’


December is hopefully going to be less frantic, but there will still be some big stuff going on. I’ll be starting work on issue seven, hopefully to begin posting late in the month or in January. I will also keep working on Child of the Tower (and posting it to the writing WIP tier for my Patreon subscribers). Finally, I am looking at creating another Patreon tier for art going in a completely new direction than I have done before, but I don’t want to say too much about that until I’ve got all the kinks worked out.


So tl;dr version, thanks for a great November, and watch for more great stuff coming in December! Thanks, everyone. You rock!


-The Gneech


PS: Commission Queue as of December 7, 2017!



  • LKCMSL NaNo cover. Paid: Yes; Due: ASAP

  • Redliox/Blue Shenanigans, again! Paid: No; Due: Dec/Jan

  • Joey Gatorman SJ AU. Paid: No; Due: TBD

  • COMMISSIONS ARE OPEN!

    the_gneech: (Default)
    I have started to notice a strange phenomenon, which is that I have a bunch of things I want and/or intend to do with my day, and yet somehow, sitting down to work on them becomes a direct route to not getting anything done.

    Case in point: today. My bullet journal for today has the following entries:

    • Don commission

    • B&N website/time tracking app

    • New! Improved! Plan for 2018/visualization journal
      • House
      • Work
      • Money
      • Exercise
      • Books
      • (Badass Book for ref?)

    • NNWM

    • Writing blocks/limiting beliefs

    • Fanservice art ;P

    • Groceries

    • Laundry


    Granted, this is a lot of stuff, and I certainly didn't expect to finish it all today. But I also didn't get anywhere near as far into it as I expected. Here's what I've actually accomplished from this list:​

    • Messed w/ B&N site/tracking stuff, only to have it fail. Maybe my employment stuff isn't in the system yet?

    • A very pokey and uninspired Plan for 2018, because every time I tried to write on it my brain just went all fuzzy and I couldn't focus.

    • Groceries.

    • This post is kinda/sorta the writing blocks/limiting beliefs item. At least I'm starting to look at the issue.


    Why did this happen? I don't know. I was all gung-ho and high energy all morning and for large chunks of the afternoon, and that energy was spent mostly working on edits/tweaks of the SJ Volume One Trade (which, you'll notice, was not on this list, because it came in from FurPlanet overnight). Still, that's a major project and needed to get done so that FurPlanet could have the books in production in time to be on hand for MFF. So I don't resent working on that.

    I got the Volume One stuff done, and was eagerly working on ideas for what I would draw as soon as I got home from dinner.

    After dinner... blugh. Everything resembling productivity just stopped. My B&N administrivia attempts ran into walls. My Plan for 2018, which I was super-stoked to write after re-listening to You Are a Badass, just turned into a vague cloud of mush and wore me out. As for art... no way. All energy was gone.

    Maybe it was the burger? I love flame-broiled burgers but only let myself have them once or twice a month at most because they're huge health-bombs (not to mention all the environmental problems associated with beef); but it could be that such a heavy dinner sent me into a food coma.

    But there's also the problem that I sometimes seem to associate this desk with, well, not getting anywhere on stuff. All of the times I've wrangled in creative frustration with Rough Housing, or stared at the outlines for By Elves Abandoned or Child of the Tower and completely failed to have a story spring forth, have happened at this desk. Many of my most successful writing sessions, by contrast, have happened at Starbucks or similar places.

    But at the same time, every page of Rough Housing ever drawn, was drawn at this desk, including the issue six cover I love so much. And I have in the past managed some pretty damn impressive writing spurts here, so I know it can be done. That doesn't alter the fact, however, that headspace is a major thing for creative work, and once a place takes on a certain meaning in your mind, that meaning can come to define your interactions there.

    The last thing in the world that I want, is for my desk to become the place where it is hardest for me to work. -.-

    Part of the problem, I suspect, is that I spend the vast majority of my time here. Writing? At my desk. Drawing? At my desk. Doofing around in the internet? At my desk. Watching anime? At my desk.

    Since we're moving in JUST NINE DAYS (*flail!*) I need to address this in my new workspace. I want my drawing table to be for DRAWING. I want my writing space to be for WRITING. I want the "everything else" place to be... SOMEWHERE ELSE.

    Downside of that, of course, is that I do everything on the same computer. >.> To do different work in different places, I must have a) different places, and b) either a different computer in each place, or easy portability.

    My writing has to be done on a laptop, so that I can easily bugger off to Starbucks or wherever when I need to get away from the cats or whatever else might be distracting me at home. Currently, my art is also done on the same laptop, and it's not real easy to just unplug it and go, because I have so many peripherals plugged in (including a backup drive that gives me nastygrams if I just unplug it without "ejecting" first).

    However, I also have this really nice, beefy PC that a certain TwitterPonies fan gifted me with, now living without a purpose since I gave Overwatch the heave-ho. So one possibility would be to migrate my art (and backup drives and printers etc.) to that machine, leaving my lappy free to come and go at will.

    The other option would be to pick up something else dedicated to doing my writing on. I originally bought a Macbook Air for that purpose, but when I decided I needed a new art computer, chose the Macbook Pro to do double duty. Laurie has the Air now as her computer.

    I dunno! I'll figure it out. The whole issue of desk layout might be a red herring, considering how eager my brain seems to be to send me off in the wrong direction all the time. I am trying to carefully observe my habits and behavior to find patterns, however. Every aptitude test or career-search program in the world tells me the same thing over and over again: GO WRITE YOUNG MAN, so why does being at home with a flexible schedule and leave me so often staring into space instead of, you know, DOING WHAT I'M MEANT TO BE DOING WITH MY LIFE, and frustrated with it to boot?

    I've already talked some about my tendency to go into denial whenever anything becomes the slightest bit painful. This issue of having difficulty writing, when it's clearly what I was made for, is related somehow I think. My ego and my deeper self, whatever that may be, have extended relationship problems that I both need and want to overcome.

    Anyway, that's enough rambling about this tonight, I think. I need to get some sleep now, so that tomorrow I can get up in the morning, slap on headphones, and get as much stuff done as possible before schlepping myself off to the job. But that's also part of the reason why I wanted a day job: to give myself deadlines. If it doesn't happen before 2:00, it's not going to happen tomorrow.

    (It's nuts. Having an external schedule to adhere to stresses me like crazy and makes me frustrated that I'm not getting my art/writing/etc. done. So theoretically NOT having an external schedule should be awesome because I can do that stuff instead! So why, why, why, oh neurotic brain, do you decide that it just means I can fluff off forever instead? Bonkers.)

    Feh.

    -The Gneech
    the_gneech: (Default)
    736 words today, less than half the 1,667/day rate that will hit 50k by November 30. But I tend to snowball over time once a project gets started, so I'm not worried about that. I went to bed crazy tired last night, which led to one of those "sleep so hard it beats you up" nights and was groggy all day. Gonna get better sleep tonight and crank away on it tomorrow.

    Also, inspired in no small part by [personal profile] mooncat_chelion, I'm going to make an effort to post more regularly here as part of the whole NaNo thing. I used to be pretty darn chatty on LiveJournal, and would love to see DreamWidth build more community as well.

    Some of the "long form discussion" I crave and miss, I can find on Tumblr, but the problem there is that the format makes it hard to follow any given thread. Posts appear, get re-posted as comments are put on them, or re-re-posted by other people you follow, and so on, and in short order the conversation is either completely fragmented, or lost in the noise as Tumblr tosses up another reblog of another different discussion, ad infinitum.

    In the past several years I've been more in the reblog/retweet mode than original posting mode as well, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I spent so much of the time from 2009/2010 forward dealing with ailing/dying parents, ailing/dying friends, financial problems, and a long list of other things that I really just didn't want to write about because my journal would have been little more than a long list of laments. But as weird as it may sound with the current state of the nation et al., on a personal level I feel like I've finally emerged from a dark tunnel and things are starting to improve for me... and I expect that continue and accelerate from here.

    Hopefully that will open up the creative floodgates and let my muse return to the surface. Grief takes a shit-ton of energy that could be way better put towards writing Fictionlets, blathering about anything and everything I find interesting, or coming up with stupid filks.

    So instead of multi-post Twitter threads, long rambles on Tumblr, and so on, I'm going to try to cement my habit of posting here, and I'm going to keep looking for cool and interesting people and communities on DreamWidth to follow. :)

    Now... to see if I can figure out how to add RSS feeds to my Reading page...

    -The Gneech



    the_gneech: (Default)

    Milestone the First


    After much wrangling and introspecting and generalized fretting, [personal profile] laurie_robey and I are moving back to Virginia! Specifically, to Reston. SirFox is a fine landlord, and if anyone is looking for a very reasonably-priced place in Germantown, drop me a line and we'll set you up. :) But for various reasons Maryland just isn't working for us.

    This move also signals an indefinite pause on our California plans, for a variety of reasons I might get into in some other post. But for now, it's back to NoVA for us for the foreseeable future.

    Milestone the Second


    The files for the first Rough Housing collection are off to FurPlanet! It's gonna be pretty beefy at ~120 pages, and I'm not gonna lie, I love that cover.

    Milestone the Third


    NaNoWriMo starts on Wednesday! This will be my fourth whack at it (currently standing at 2/1) and will be an experiment: my first attempt at a furry novel. It's a fantasy featuring my little catfolk monk Kihai, my big catfolk barbarian Arshan, and a story something like Iron Monkey meets The Hidden Fortress. So, that should be fun. ;) But as of today, I have no outline, no supporting cast, and only a vague idea, so that's what I expect to be working on for the next couple of days. If the end result is good, I'll float it by FurPlanet as well! In the meantime, I'll be posting daily(-ish) progress reports to my Patreon for subscribers. :)

    So! Life is good. And busy. I'll take it. :)

    -The Gneech
    the_gneech: (Default)
    Sorry, My Give-A-Damn is Broken
    So the thing with the rebel tendency, at least for me, is that I am motivated by desire. That is to say, I have to want something in order to make it happen– which is why grief and depression are my kryptonite. Depression makes it hard to take pleasure in anything, and grief makes it hard to be willing to engage in things you like because you don't want to risk facing the pain of loss again.

    But I can't just spend my life wandering an emotional wasteland like Hipster Percival. Besides the fact that we live in a pay-to-play society, there's a more primal factor in that I need to be creating in order to be happy. But attempting to create when my heart isn't in it, true to rebel nature, is just an exercise in frustration and resistance.

    This creates a kind of feedback loop– I have to be happy enough to get excited about what I want to create, in order to do the creating that will make me happy.

    It's kinda like a fusion reaction: once the cycle is up and running, it's nicely self-sustaining, but if something comes along and stops it (or it runs out of fuel), it takes a vast amount of external energy to get it started back up again.

    Which is roughly where I am emotionally at the moment. I need to restart my emotional pilot light– what I refer to as my Give-A-Damn. When you hear about artists wailing to the muses for inspiration, same deal. Some writers sneer at this notion, saying that "real writers write whether they feel like it or not." I would argue that those writers have probably never had to really deal with a broken Give-A-Damn, and have no idea how debilitating it actually is.

    (They may also be hacks; but that varies wildly from writer to writer.)

    There is some truth to the adage that once you start moving, the energy and enthusiasm will come, but it isn't an absolute. Sometimes "shut up and write" works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, a mental vacation is what's needed. Other times, you need to actually get inspiration from a new experience or from some great piece of work that's new to you.

    So far, my Give-A-Damn has been very stubborn about not letting itself be fixed– but I am more stubborn than it is.

    -The Gneech
    the_gneech: (Default)
    Feel like crap for no good reason today. Trying to grind through because there's a lot of stuff I want to get done and there will always be things trying to prevent me from doing them, so when those things are my own internal bad wiring I can at least say "no" to that.

    Through a roundabout path I recently happened upon Gretchen Rubin's concept of "four tendencies" and discovered that, true to form, I have the rarest and most problematic tendency, that of "rebel." The tendencies are based on how you respond to expectations, whether internal or external.

    • Upholders respond strongly to both internal and external expectations. They tend to be sticklers for the rules, but also self-motivated and with a moral code that can override the outer laws and traditions of the world around them. Hermione Granger is listed as an archetypal upholder; I'm not sure if I actually know any personally.


    • Questioners respond strongly to internal expectations, but not so much to external ones. They always want a satisfactory explanation for anything– if they don't think there's a valid reason to follow a rule or complete a project, they won't. [personal profile] laurierobey falls into this category. I suspect Sirfox is as well, but it's harder to tell.


    • Obligers respond strongly to external expectations, but not so much to internal ones. These are people who can stick to an exercise regimen if they've got a buddy or a class, but will immediately stop as soon as nobody's "checking up" on them. Sandy Rathbun was in this group, and I suspect so was Mammallamadevil.


    • Rebels do not respond well to external or internal expectations. They can be summarized as "You can't tell me what to do– and I can't tell me what to do either." Once they decide they want to do something, there's no stopping them, but until they want to do something, you can expect them to resist with all they've got. That includes things they decided a month ago that they wanted to do, but that they don't want to do right now, which can lead them to be just as frustrating to themselves as they are to the people around them. Like I say, I am a rebel. So is Hantamouse, which is simultaneously why the two of us get along and why the two of us fight.


    There's a lot more to the framework than just this, and it's also just a tool, not some magical solution to figuring out personality quirks and interactions and things. But within the framework, I think there's some interesting insights.

    I was at a presentation by Ms. Rubin, and I tried to ask (but didn't get called on), "If a rebel instinctively says 'no' to any expectation, even their own, how are they supposed to keep from eventually sliding into a Bartleby-esque catatonic state of just never wanting to do anything?" I hoped that her book might have an answer for that question, but I have since discovered that... no, not really. The book had very simplistic reverse-psychology suggestions along the lines of "I bet you can't lose 20 pounds in ten weeks!" Seriously? What am I, seven?

    But this is a problem that I have found myself facing over the past few years since being effectively self-employed. I used to hate my day job fiercely, and come home to work on my writing/art/etc. with the zeal of a workaholic because it was what I wanted to do. Now, the writing/art/etc. is my day job, but instead of being energized and excited and kicking ass, I am now fighting with the constant desire to sleep all day or play video games or whatever else instead.

    A devotee of the four tendencies would say that's my rebel nature, and it may very well be. But that just puts a label on it, it doesn't actually give me any tools to combat the problem.

    I have contemplated going back to a day job just to give me something to channel my resentment back into other than my own work. But as I get older, I don't have the endurance I used to. That Starbucks job I had in late 2015 was only part time and still left me feeling dead most of the time. I can only imagine how wrecked I would be trying to go back to 40 hours of writing code or something similar at 6 am in the friggin' morning. I can't deny the pay would be better, but if it left me too tired to do my real work, it would be literally selling my soul.

    I know that I am motivated by desire. Everything I've accomplished was because there was something I wanted to happen. I created Suburban Jungle because I wanted there to be a comic like Suburban Jungle for me to read. I wrote Sky Pirates of Calypsitania because I wanted to read a book like Sky Pirates of Calypsitania. But right now I'm in a mental and emotional spot where desire is hard to come by. Grief has damaged my ability to feel enthusiasm. Frustration has damaged my ability to feel hope.

    So right now, I am operating on almost 100% pure stubbornness. Which is frankly exhausting. So I guess on reflection it's not quite so random a blugh, nor quite a case of feeling like crap for no good reason. I'm fatigued.

    -The Gneech
    the_gneech: (Default)

    So recently, at Barnes & Noble, my attention was drawn to a hardback on the “fantasy new releases” table, featuring what was described as “flintlock fantasy with airships, a touch of humor, and an engaging female hero.”


    I nearly burned the place down. ¬.¬


    After the writing, revising, submitting, re-revising, submitting again, and so forth that Sky Pirates of Calypsitania has gone through, to see this thing sitting there made me want to scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS SHOULD BE MY BOOK!”


    So. Yeah. I was upset. Deep breaths. Let’s work this thing out.


    On the positive side, clearly someone must think there’s a market for the kind of books I want to write. I mean, there it is. But I have to connect to it.


    And to be clear, I’m pretty sure that the author of that book worked just as long and just as hard on it as I did on mine. My own personal green-eyed-monster popping out notwithstanding, I wish them success.


    That doesn’t alter the fact that I had this extreme, intensely emotional reaction to seeing “my book with someone else’s name on it” right there on the very table where I have been trying to get my book for years now. What I have to do, is direct that energy in a positive direction.


    If this is the team that put the book on the table, I reasoned, then it could serve me well to hook up with that team. A little research turned up the agent of not-my-book. I went back and rewrote the opening, again, to address feedback the book had received on the previous round, getting thumbs-ups from my beta readers, and sent it to that agent. Given that this particular agent has a strict “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” policy, however, the response could easily range from an excited followup any day, to chirping crickets until forever.


    I don’t intend to wait. As far as I’ve been able to make out, the main thing that makes a writing career succeed (besides lightning in a bottle) is sheer volume. The most popular and well-paid writers I know get that way by writing a lot of books. And as much as I love Sky Pirates of Calypsitania, it is only the one.


    What this boils down to is, I need to work on another book. I’ll keep shopping Sky Pirates around as long as it takes, but I can’t leave my career on hold waiting for any one project to move.


    I have been trying to write a more “mainstream” fantasy, and I got maybe a third of it done as part of last year’s NaNoWriMo, but I keep running into a fundamental paradox: in trying to adhere to more standard tropes in order to make the book “sellable,” I feel like I’m just aping other people’s work, which in turn makes for a book that I’m not sure I would read, myself.


    Of course, it’s just the first draft of said book, and so there’s an argument that I should just finish the thing, with “rip out all the Tolkien” being one of the goals of the second draft. But if I know all the Tolkien needs to come out anyway, then leaving it in there for the first draft feels like creating work I don’t need to do.


    So perhaps I should just leave that one in the drafts folder and start a whole new project that’s more like what I want to write.


    But I need to do something. I need to get somewhere.


    -The Gneech

    Mercy Me

    Aug. 9th, 2017 01:25 pm
    the_gneech: (Default)
    Draaaaaag.

    Me, in the summertime.


    It’s weird how I go through these phases. Like, I haven’t played a game of Overwatch in months. I have signed on once or twice to update the app, but I haven’t actually played any.


    It’s a side-effect of energy level. Since the heat wave around AnthroCon, I have spent most of my time pretty much as pictured above. What productivity and energy I’ve had has focused on my writing, because that mostly uses my brain and my fingertips. When I log into a game, it’s Lords of the Rings Online, for the same reason. (And also because LotRO finally got to Mordor, and there are lots of rumblings about the state of the game and the company that runs it. There’s a non-zero chance LotRO may not be around forever, and I want to get the most out of it while I still can.)


    I still like Overwatch and at some point I’m sure I’ll get excited about it again. I’m a little surprised the Summer Games event hasn’t lit that spark, considering how much I loved Lucioball the first time around. But right now I’m just not feelin’ it.


    But one thing this has definitely taught me: I am not cut out to be YouTuber/streamer. Not in the way the industry exists right now, anyway. I can’t (and don’t really want to) knock myself out trying to grind out 10+ minutes of content to post as-close-to-daily-as-possible. As a general rule I dive deep into projects and come up for air weeks or months later, producing something big when I’m finished (e.g., that D&D map, or a novel).


    This has always been the biggest challenge of doing a comic, fighting with having to keep feeding the beast when there are other things I want to do instead. The only reason the comic actually keeps going is because a) I love it, and b) there are too few good furry comics as it is.


    I’m sure that when the Overwatch bug bites again, I’ll be streaming and posting and all that jazz just as I’ve been, but purely for the fun of it. I’m not going to chase viewers or subscriptions. There’s a fair chance I won’t hit master level with Mercy because I’m not competing enough, and eh, that’s okay. It’s an artificial goal designed to give me a destination anyway, not something I had a driving passion for in and of itself. I’m still going to do my best. 🙂


    But only when it’s fun. ;P


    -The Gneech

    the_gneech: (Default)

    I’ve added a new tier to my Patreon page, specifically for people interested in checking out my writing projects, including the Sky Pirates of Calypsitania and By Elves Abandoned series, plus whatever else I get rolling in the future.


    Besides serializing the novel draft (posting a scene every week or so), I’ll also be posting items for feedback, looking for suggestions or ideas, and so on. If/when the novel is finally published I’ll make some kind of arrangements to reward Patreon subscribers who helped with it as well, but that’s something I’ll have to figure out when the time comes. XD


    This tier is for supporters at the $3/month level. I believe that $3/month subscribers should start seeing the posts immediately (the first one will come later today or tomorrow), but you might want to edit your subscription to select the Writing WIP tier just in case.


    Thanks as always, awesome subscribers! <3

    REMINDER! All Patreon subscribers are eligible for commission discounts and early access to Suburban Jungle comics!

    the_gneech: (Default)
    Did a lot of fretting today and agonizing over the status of the Sky Pirates book. No conclusions. The answer I want is "one of the agents I sent it to wanted it," but that didn't happen, so I have to figure out what the next step really should be.

    Three Good Things for Today


    • Got the basic poses finished for Blacktigr's commission

    • Finished the "Windswept Sandbox Full of Giants" recap posts

    • Had some Ben & Jerry's

    • Bonus Good Thing: Had some nice kitty cuddles.


    Three Goals for Tomorrow


    • Finish Blacktigr commish

    • Pencils for SJ page 12

    • Work on "By Elves Abandoned"/"Fortress of Tears" setting


    Gnite world, and have an awesome tomorrow.

    -The Gneech

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