Ask Jax Anything, Part 4

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series)ย 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

I’m gonna start doing one question at a time because it’s easier to do that way, and also cos I am running out of questions. ๐Ÿ˜‰ If you’re enjoying this, you should hit the link above and ask me something.

How did you manage to start building your Patreon empire, and convincing people to pay for your work?

Patreon empire, that’s hilarious. ๐Ÿ™‚ To be honest, Patreon has never been wildly (financially) successful for me. I’ve run three Patreon projects. Latchkey was amazing, and worked really well, in that we covered our expenses, but honestly, even that we only succeeded at doing because I have an awesome network of writers and artists who were willing to come in on an experimental project getting paid less than they were worth, just to be part of the experiment. I’m still really proud of Latchkey, not least because I kept it more or less ticking along, at a pretty high quality, despite being in one of the worst personal depression slumps of my life, but it wasn’t, financially speaking, the greatest success.

I now have two Patreon projects. The Bookish Jelly Bean (which I’m working behind the scenes on getting up and running again) was never intended to be a money-spinner. It is much more a labour of love on the part of my nerdy kid-lit liberal heart. I hoped patrons might help me track down hard to find books, but that was about it. Again, while I’m proud of the Jelly Bean, and enjoy doing it, it’s not super financially viable.

The second is my short story Patreon, where I try to write a story a month (to a greater or lesser degree of success) and hope people will tip me to read them. Again, financially, it hasn’t really been a whopper, but I get occasional new patrons, and it keeps me writing, which was my original goal. If I can get it to the point where it earns my usual editorial hourly rate, I’d be pretty happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

What I have found way more effective is distinct crowdfunding campaigns for specific books. There, people come out to support me, as a rule. And I think the secret to that is basically that I care about people all the time, so when I ask for support, they’re inclined to give it. I have an amazing network of supportive humans from around the globe, but, and here’s the key thing, asking them to buy my stuff isn’t the primary connection. I think there are people who buy my stuff because they like my work, and that is awesome, and ultimately the goal is to have enough of them to make a real living from this, but mostly I’m still at the stage where people buy my stuff because they want to support me.

I don’t know that there’s a bulletproof method to making these things work. I experiment a lot, I’ve learned to not be scared of failure – to try things and learn from whether they work or not. My first couple of crowdfunding projects were fucking awful, but I learned a LOT from those mistakes, and I don’t make them any more. Like, triple check your numbers before you price your rewards, and maybe trying to run a CF campaign in the midst of crippling depression is a good way to hamstring yourself. :/

Also, you know, have an awesome product. It helps if, in addition to having people who want to support you, you are also creating something that people want.

I think a lot of people view these kinds of crowdfunded models as an easy route, but they really aren’t. You have to be constantly reconnecting with your crowd, constantly keeping yourself in their attention, and also still creating amazing things that people want. It’s very hard work, and it’s work with no guarantees. I love what I do, and if I’m honest, the money is nice, but it is secondary to just wanting to create cool stuff. So, it’s not hard to keep at it. But if I’d been doing this for the money, I’d have given up years ago. It’s taken years to build it to the point where I can now be confident that a crowdfunding project I run will work. And even now, there’s always the chance I’ll screw it up in some way. But I keep learning, and hence, the screwups happen much less frequently than they used to.

I’m not sure if that’s helpful. tl;dr Have an amazing product, love what you do and don’t be afraid to express that, build a crowd of awesome humans, for the sake of the people more than the money, and maybe you’ll have a shot. ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Ask me something!

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Ask Jax Anything Part 3

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes

This is part three in a “whenever I get around to it” series, in which I answer your questions to the best of my ability, using my characteristic foul-mouthed, minimal-nonsense approach, based almost entirely on my own ridiculous and often totally batshit life.

You can ask me anything. I know some shit about relationships and communication, I know a bit about the beating of brain monkeys and the support of others who are doing so. I know some shit about parenting, I guess. I may or may not have useful advice – I make no promises. But for whatever it is worth, and whatever questionable wisdom I may have gathered, I am happy to share. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you ask me something and I don’t know the answer I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

I hasten to add that I am not a medical professional, I’m just one human who has been through a lot of crap and learned some stuff along the way, and maybe has something useful to share on the matter. Some of what I have said about my own journey has seemed to resonate with people, so maybe I can help some folks. That would be awesome.

If you have a question, you can ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

I’ve got a desperate crush on my workmate. I’ve recently become single, and I know her marriage is not working out. Should I tell her how I feel?

If she’s still married? Probably not yet. Here’s the thing. No matter how broken and over a marriage is, ending it is still a heart-wrenching, vulnerable, difficult time. And you don’t really want to be the reason she leaves. If she chooses to leave, it’s way better if she does it for herself, andย because the relationship is over than because she’s in a flush of NRE (new relationship energy) over someone new. That too easily can backfire into being “your fault”.

I feel obligated to admit that I found the strength to leave my marriage at least in part because I’d found someone else. But it was definitely over, and I had no doubts about that, and now that that (other) relationship is also over, I don’t regret it or hold it against that person. But there is a possibility that new relationship may have survived better if it hadn’t had to weather my emotional turmoil, grief and sadness over the end of a future I’d believed in for a long time. Even when you know it’s right to leave, there is still a grieving process.

My suggestion is that you offer her coffee and support and friendship, and, this is important, MEAN IT. In other words, not just as a temporary attempt to win her over so she falls madly in love with you, but because you care about her and like her company. Don’t “nice guy” this shit. But it would probably be better for both of you and any budding romance between you if she gets her shit sorted out first. That gives you your best shot at a happy ending. And if it never goes to the romance place, you may have made a really wonderful friendship out of it, which is, despite all the stupid friendzone bullshit, a pretty amazing thing.
As you came to adulthood, your home nation of South Africa was finally ending apartheid and moving into the modern world, ethically. Why did you choose that moment to emigrate? Was it at all related to the changes or a temporal coincidence.

I didn’t actually. ๐Ÿ™‚ I chose that moment to do a bit of traveling because I had finished my degree and didn’t quite know what to do next. I traveled to the States, and loved the experience so much that I wanted to see more of the world. So I got a job in the Emirates for a year. Well, it was meant to be a year. Then I met the man I would later marry, and stayed for four, and then my life was entangled with someone else’s so we had to make decisions as a unit. It was really only when I had a child in New Zealand that I finally laid aside my intent completely to one day “go home”. This is his home now, so here I will stay, at least for now.

When I left SA I had every intention of going back. But life happened and my road twisted and turned and I ended up here. So, yes, temporal coincidence, I suppose, plus a bit of Tolkien’s thing:ย โ€œIt’s a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.โ€

 

Hello Jax! My question is this: what are your thoughts about how to enter a brand new/potential relationship with a sense of optimism and openness and willingness to be vulnerable, when all of your past experiences (long term, short term, sex friends you caught feelings for, all of ’em) have primed your neural pathways to be like “DANGER DANGER this way lies heartsmashingย and tears”? I really soย want to be there for this but I am fucking scared, yo.

Oh, this is a hard one. Because really what you have to do is ignore your lizard brain, and your lizard brain is very emphatic.

I mean, the short answer is, maybe there is danger. I mean, there is, because love is dangerous. There is always the potential for epic heartbreak. But there is also the potential for epic soulmate love. Or for something a bit more lukewarm, but quite lovely anyway. Or for any other gradient between the two.

I think perhaps the only way to do that is to learn to recognise the difference between a reaction to the person in front of you and historical reactions. Which takes time and practice. Because you don’t want to discount your gut altogether, guts are often pretty smart. But lizardbrain fear sometimes feels just like your gut speaking. And it can take time to untangle all of that.

Here’s an excellent litmus test. Tell your person. You don’t have to unload your entire life history on them if it’s still new, but saying something like, “Hey, I’m super into you, and I really want to make this go, but I have a bunch of historical bullshit that is making me feel really afraid. Please bear with me while I work through it.”

It’s a litmus test because someone into you who can go, “Oh, that’s cool, I get that. Baggage is very human. Is there anything I can do to help assuage your fears?” is the BOMB. That’s the shit you want. Someone you can talk through the lizardbrain fear with. Someone who will sit with that fear and hug it until it sods off back where it belongs. That’s the shit.

But if they go, “uh, nah, fuck that, too much work”, then they’ve revealed themselves as not epic soulmate material, and saved you bothaย  lot of time. Because really, isn’t epic soulmate what you deserve?

Try and enjoy the happy early fluttery joy feelings regardless. They really are so much fun, even if it doesn’t work out in the long term. Good luck โค

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Want to ask me something?

Do so here. ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

What’s Jax working on – the 2018 edition

Hi all!

I try, on occasion, to give you a rundown of all the things I have going on, and the many ways that you can support me or find my work. Here’s the “beginning of 2018” edition. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Patchwork Raven

The Raven took a bit of a backseat last year due to life stuff on both my and Will’s parts (he got married, I moved to Hamilton, among other things), but we are back on board this year!

You can still buy Twelve Days on our website in various formats, and you can pre-order our re-release ofย Allusions of Innocence, which should be available in the next month or so.

Eeny Meeny Miney Mo: Tales for Tired Tykes, our collection of children’s stories is so close to being ready I can almost smell it. We hope to launch the crowdfunding campaign for this in March.

We’re also going to be working on re-releasing a few more of my old Solarwyrm titles under the new Raven banner over the next year, and we may even manage to get through some of the novel submissions we still have loitering in our inbox.

Speaking of submissions, we’re still looking for submissions for our Backyard Earth project – a collection of books with stories from every country in the world. Ambitious? Yes. But that’s what makes the Raven crazy special.

Editing

I still edit for money! I’m a lot busier now than I used to be, but if you (or someone you know) have a thesis or a manuscript or a website or pretty much anything in English that you’d like professionally edited, get in touch. ๐Ÿ™‚

Patreon

I have this Patreon where I sometimes write stories. It’s on my list to get up and running again, so if you’d like to read my original tales of wonder and woe at irregular intervals, hop on over and drop me a dollar or so. The more of you who do that, the more likely I am to actually write some things again. Just sayin’. ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Bookish JellyBean

This project was one that also got abandoned in the craziness of last year, but it is also on my list to get up and running again. Basically, I am working my way through a list of the children’s literature “canon” and holding it up to the light of a left-leaning political aesthetic. I have a Masters in Children’s Lit, so I legitimately know what I’m doing. ๐Ÿ˜‰

You can support this on Patreon.
Or follow it on Facebook.

MeBooks

I work with MeBooks, helping out with reviews, blog posts and social media. It’s an awesome little enterprise for Kiwi writers and publishers, helping NZers get their books up online for purchase. If you’re a fan of Kiwi literature and non-fiction, it’s a great place to procure some, but it also has a truly astonishing number of historical texts available for free.
You can also follow us on Facebook.

WeChoose40

Going to be dragging this out from off the cyber backburner too. It’s a Facebook group devoted to creating bizarre musical lists. If you’re a fan of lists, or music, or weirdness, you’ll probably enjoy it. Come on over and join us.

 

I think that’s roughly it. I always have too many balls in the air, and every time I put them all in one place like this I realise that I am a maniac. But it keeps me out of trouble, mostly. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hopefully, you found something that tickles your fancy. Thanks for sticking around. Love you, awesome nerds.

Oh, also:
Follow me on Facebook.
Or Twitter.
And here’s a list of all the books with which I’ve been involved.

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (Part Two)

This is part two in a “whenever I get around to it” series, in which I answer your questions to the best of my ability, using my characteristic foul-mouthed, minimal-nonsense approach, based almost entirely on my own ridiculous and often totally batshit life.

You can ask me anything. I know some shit about relationships and communication, I know a bit about the beating of brain monkeys and the support of others who are doing so. I know some shit about parenting, I guess. I may or may not have useful advice – I make no promises. But for whatever it is worth, and whatever questionable wisdom I may have gathered, I am happy to share. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you ask me something and I don’t know the answer I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

I hasten to add that I am not a medical professional, I’m just one human who has been through a lot of crap and learned some stuff along the way, and maybe has something useful to share on the matter. Some of what I have said about my own journey has seemed to resonate with people, so maybe I can help some folks. That would be awesome.

If you have a question, you can ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

Be warned that this post addresses things of a sexy and kinky nature. If you don’t want to know such stuff about me (I’m looking at you, Mom), you should probably stop reading.

 

Okay, so here goes. Three questions.

How do I prepare for a kink scene? What to bring etc

Okay, so for this one I had to go talk to a few people. I have not personally done anything which can really be regarded as a scene. My kink experience has been entirely tied up (if you’ll forgive the phrase) in existing relationships and exploring stuff with those people. Which means a lot of the baseline things were already pretty much covered. So if you have more experience than I do (which, if you’ve ever done a scene, you do), please feel free to add advice in the comments. ๐Ÿ™‚

Also, this question could mean multiple things. Do you mean, like, a personal one-on-one scene with someone with whom you have not played before? Do you mean a scene at a play party? There will be differences, but some of the base stuff I am about to say applies across the board.

The first thing (and you’re going to find as these posts unfold, that this is almost always going to be my first piece of advice) is that it’s probably a good idea to talk to the person/people involved with the scene. Ask: “What should I bring?”. If they’re experienced, they’ll be able to give you a good idea. Also, making sure your expectations match their expectations is a very good idea. Will you be staying the night? Do they expect you to provide toys or implements? The best prep you can make is to make sure that everyone knows what’s on the table and what’s not, everyone is on the same page about what you expect to happen, everyone understands the lines and the boundaries and all that good stuff.

Make sure you are safe. Both in the “use protection if the scene involves anything that requires it” sense, but also in the sense of, if this is a new play partner, make sure someone knows where you’re going to be, make sure you have someone you can call to come and get you if needed, or someone you can check in with, or whatever you require, to feel safe.

If you’re new to kink (which this question sort of implies) make sure they know that. People can react in unexpected ways to new experiences, and whether you’re topping or bottoming, it is important that the person/people you’re playing with know that this is new for you and that you (plural) proceed accordingly.

Take water and snacks. ๐Ÿ™‚ That shit takes it out of you, plus it can help bridge the gap to bring you back to the real world.

Please, for the love of all that is good in the world, do not mix alcohol with new kink experiences. I realise that this happens all the damned time (and I have made this very mistake my own self – luckily for me, I was with people I could trust absolutely), but it is really not a great idea. Successful kink involves paying attention and respecting boundaries and both of those things are much much more difficult when you introduce alcohol into the equation. Maybe, MAYBE, it’s okay once you have a rapport and a good level of trust and you know what you (and your partners) like and all the lines and whatnot, but while you’re still learning those things, BLOODY STAY SOBER. Please. For your safety and everyone else’s.

 

I’m going along with the occasional menage with my husband and a buddy of his who I really don’t like simply because I *love* the way my husband looks at me when we’re trick fucking with this guy. Thoughts?

It sounds like you’re looking for validation, or for me to tell you that’s okay, which I’m gonna. But with some caveats. ๐Ÿ˜‰

My answer is a bit nuanced. Of course the standard answer is, like, you probably shouldn’t shag someone you don’t want to shag, but I can see that this situation is a bit blurry. Thing is, when you’re in a relationship, you often do stuff you’re not super crazy about because your partner loves it. And I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with that. You want them to be happy and turned on, so you do the things that make them happy and turned on, because you like having that effect on them, and because, well, making them happy and turned on makes you happy and turned on. You know?

And I think as long as, to a reasonable degree, it’s reciprocated, that’s cool. If he loves you in that mini skirt you don’t really like and only ever wear for him, it’s cool to wear it, as long as he also does that thing with his tongue that he’s not wild about doing but it makes you completely crazy. You know what I’m saying? Give and take. That’s the key. (It shouldn’t be transactional, I hasten to add. You wear the mini skirt cos he loves it, not so that he’ll do the thing with his tongue. But it should be reciprocated in the sense that if only one of you is ever doing the thing, there’s a problem.)

Okay, so I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with doing something you’re a bit meh about just because you love that it makes him super happy. BUT in this case the something is a person, and that makes things a bit more complicated. Because I guess the answer to whether this is okay or not, is how the people involved would feel if they knew the truth. Would this guy be mortified to discover you’re not that into him? Would your husband be appalled to discover you’ve been shagging this dude just to keep him happy? If the answers are no, then go ahead and do the thing. Everyone’s happy, no one is getting hurt? WIN.

But if either of those answers is maybe yes? Then you probably need to have a conversation with your husband and, maybe, depending on the nature of the relationship, with the other dude. . Maybe there’s another solution? Maybe you can find someone you’re both super into? Maybe it turns out this guy is totally into the idea of you doing this ONLY to make your hubby make that face he makes, in which case, again, WIN.

In short, my answer is, if everyone’s expectations meet reality, and everyone is having a good time and no one (including you) is getting hurt, then do what you wish. No judgement here. But if someone thinks something different is happening to what is actually happening, or if there is a chance that someone will be hurt by it, then you should probably re-evaluate.

 

 

You’ve done the poly thing at various stages. Did it ever get to being more than two in a bed, and if so, how did that work out?

Your question is a tad ambiguous, but yes, I have been in that situation. You could be asking how to have a successful threesome, or you could be asking how to have a successful triad, and those (while overlapping) are very different questions.

The first is much easier to address. Basically, it comes down to expectations, I think. People who have never had threesomes I think often imagine them with themself at the centre. They, essentially, imagine a V. And, you know, being in the centre can be extremely fun! But, properly successful threesomes are more of a triangle, and you cannot always be at the centre. There’s a lot more turn-taking and ganging-up (in a fun way).

I’m of the opinion that threesomes are better when everyone involved is into everyone else involved. I’ve been in a threesome with someone who I am pretty sure was only into me to the extent that it gave them access to my partner and that was irritating. It was fun, but part of me was like, seriously, you could probably have just asked nicely and I could have wandered off and read my book instead. You know? (I wasn’t hurt or offended, just kind of mildly peeved. And unfortunately for them I read people well enough that their faked interest was obvious to me when I thought about it.)

So here’s my advice. Threesomes can be awesome fun, but they can also be fraught with peril. Try to make sure everyone’s expectations are clear and that the expectation meets the reality. Try to make sure no one gets left out. Try to make sure everyone knows that a bit of turn taking is in order. If two of you are in an existing relationship and you’re adding a third person to the mix (temporarily or otherwise), recognise that the third person is a PERSON and not a toy for your titillation. Recognise that the two of you have history and an existing understanding of each other’s buttons/preferences etc that the new person doesn’t share, and that you need to allow for that.

Try and make sure everyone leaves the encounter feeling valued and nice and post-orgasmic. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Orgasms don’t need to be and arguably shouldn’t be the ultimate goal, but it’s nice if everyone has at least one. More important than the orgasm though is that no one feels cheapened. And that is best done by managing expectations from the outset. This means lots of communication! It can be tricky. There is bound to be a certain amount of imbalance, but as long as everyone feels that they were properly included and respected, and not like a toy used for your funsies (unless that’s their thing, in which case WIN, but that should be clear from the outset), then it can be really super fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

Triads though? That’s a whole nother kettle of fish. I have been in one, and it worked, mostly, for a while, but ultimately fell apart for many complex reasons. The most easy to pinpoint was the fact that it was extremely unbalanced, emotionally, in ways that were not reconcilable. There was also a geography factor that became impossible to remedy.

I suppose, my advice for successful triading, based on my one experience, is much the same. Managing expectations and keeping the lines of communication as open as possible. Making sure, as much as possible, that everyone feels valued and respected and included.

While it worked, it was pretty special. ๐Ÿ™‚ We just had a lot of other stuff going on at the time that made it unsustainable. Because, humans, you know. We’re complex mother-fuckers.

 

Learn from my Mother Fucking Mistakes – The First in (Maybe) a Series

Over on Facebook, I idly declared that I sometimes think it might be fun and possibly useful to people for me to do a kind of agony aunt/advice column thing here on my dusty, much-neglected blog. I have been told by multiple people on multiple occasions that I should write a self-help book with my characteristic foul-mouthed, mostly optimistic, no nonsense approach to life based almost entirely on my own ridiculous and often totally batshit life.

It turns out, a lot of people are kind of into this idea. So I put up an anonymous poll to gather questions, and in only a few hours, I have enough already for several such posts. So, I guess this is a thing now. You can ask me anything. I know some shit about relationships and communication, I know a bit about the beating of brain monkeys and the support of others who are doing so. I know some shit about parenting, I guess. I may or may not have useful advice – I make no promises. But for whatever it is worth, and whatever questionable wisdom I may have gathered, I am happy to share. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you ask me something and I don’t know the answer I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

I hasten to add that I am not a medical professional, I’m just one human who has been through a lot of crap and learned some stuff along the way, and maybe has something useful to share on the matter. Some of what I have said about my own journey has seemed to resonate with people, so maybe I can help some folks. That would be awesome.

Okay, so here goes. Three questions.

Do politics ever get less confusing?

Nope.

Haha, okay I’ll do better than that. I think that in recent years politics has become a rather binary affair, and that’s unfortunate. I think maybe the simplification to tweet sized soundbites of really very complex issues has driven people into very black and white dichotomous views, and that’s a problem.

I’d like to see the nuance return, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope of that happening any time soon, because there’s so much anti-intellectual shit out there, that officially knowing what you’re talking about is almost seen as elitist and therefore negligible. So some random makes a comment about the economy and someone with a PhD in economics goes, well, no, this is the reality, and the two views are seen as having equal weight.

Which means that every random opinion has the same weight and it just makes it very overwhelming. I think maybe part of navigating it is developing a nose for bullshit – especially from the sides you agree with! I have Media Bias/Fact Checkingย bookmarked, and I run anything even remotely dodgy through Snopes before I share it. Staying critical so that you can make informed decisions that aren’t based totally on emotion is important.

And also stepping away sometimes. I have a habit of getting very invested and emotionally bogged down in all of it, and it wreaks havoc on my mental health. It can trigger pretty intense depressive episodes. So I have had to learn to step away. To turn off Facebook. To go play with my kid, or hang with my love, or read a book, or bake cupcakes, and just remember that the fight is important, but so is life. Keeping that balance is hard, but important.

But you know, people are complicated beasts. So of course our social order (which is what politics is all about at the end of the day) is also complicated.

Beware the simple. It’s usually hiding a lack of substance.

What’s your perspective on loneliness? Have you ever been trapped down a hole like that, and if so what was/is/will be your way out?

and

Despite my outward mask of outgoing geniality, I am often lonely in a crowd, even among people I know. How do I overcome this?

I’m going to answer these two together, because they’re related. Have I been trapped in that? Yes. And the ridiculous thing is I have always had lots of people on my side. But my particular brand of depression likes to try to convince me that no one really likes me, everyone is pretending, I’m actually totally horrible, and I have no one at my back. Even though this is demonstrably untrue.

So, yes I have felt that way. I guess, for me, the way out was learning that it was lies, having just a few people who I could trust enough that I could go to them and say, “Hey, my brainmonkeys say that no one loves me” and they’d go, “Oh Jax, your brainmonkeys are full of shit,” and talk crap with me until I felt better.

I have never been in a position where those people didn’t exist though. I have always had someone. Even if I didn’t believe it, necessarily. Here’s the thing. I don’t know who you are, but you do too, because you’re on my friends list. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Even if you’re someone I don’t know that well, I am happy to be that person. โค Most people have SOMEONE like that, even if they don’t know it.

As for being lonely in a crowd, I think maybe we all feel this way sometimes? (Maybe not everyone, but I don’t know anyone who I am close enough to know that about who doesn’t feel like that sometimes.) I think sometimes the trick is try to let go of that external analytic thing that is always evaluating your social performance. (I have that, I am sure I’m not the only one!) That little voice going, “Oh hey, you’re here with all your friends. Are you having fun? Is this fun for you? Are you having the right sort of fun? Do you think they think your jokes are funny?” and etc. If you can try and train yourself to let go of that voice and just enjoy the moment, it may help. That’s easier said than done, I realise.

BUT here’s the good news! Brains are really just habit machines. And habits can be broken and rewired. It takes practice, but it’s doable.

For me, I guess the thing that helps the most is developing safe friendships. You know, those people around whom you can say whatever random shit enters your head and they’re amused and endeared by it. People you don’t have to watch yourself with. People who are weird and oddball in a similar way to you. If you don’t have anyone like that, start looking a bit closer at your acquaintances. There may be one or two who could be turned into that, with a few coffee dates. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Loneliness sucks, man. Humans are social beasts and we don’t deal well with lack of companionship. But one of the awesome things about the internet is that there’s always someone in reach. And if there isn’t, there are communities and fandoms and places that can turn online friendships into real life ones. Be brave. Reach out. That’s how friendships are formed.

 

I love you, awesome nerds. Stay magnificent. โค

 

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Got a question? Here’s a totally anonymous poll where you can leave it for me.ย I’ll probably get to it someday. Unless I get distracted. ๐Ÿ˜›

 

Be the person you needed when you were young

So you know that thing I repost from time to time? It goes like this:

Be the person you needed when you were young.

Here’s the thing about that. You don’t have to have your shit together to do it.

Let me say it again.

You don’t have to have your shit together to do it.

When I was fourteen I encountered two of the most influential teachers that would ever cross my path.

One taught me to think critically, to examine both sides of every story, to understand that when people tell a story, they always tell it from their own perspective and if you really want to understand history, and, by extension, people, you need to learn to decode that.

The other was the first adult I’d ever encountered (apart from my parents who didn’t count, because I was fourteen and an idiot) who I really believed saw my actual potential, and who made me think that just maybe I had some shit going on in my head that was worth putting out into the world.

They hated each other. And when I look back on them with adult eyes I can see that they 100% did NOT have their shit together. But it didn’t matter. I needed the lessons they taught me. I learned them just as well. And I became a better adult as a result.

You don’t have to have it all figured out to be a good influence on someone who looks up to you. All you really have to do is support them, encourage the things they’re good at, and nourish the good in them. That’s it. You don’t have to be wise, or smart, or even have it all figured out. You just have to give a shit, and accept them for who they are.

You have no idea the impact you could have.

When I was about 24 and stuck in a country I really didn’t like that much, and fading away for lack of creative things to do, I made a small theatre group for little kids. And I watched one child absolutely flourish on a stage. That kid grew up into a frikkin’ incredible teen who plays Maureen on stage and pursued that dream all the way to theatre school. The last time I spoke to her mother (with whom I am friends on facebook), she still remembered me. When my kid was born, she sent him gifts.

When I was at camp, there was a kid who was out of control, behaviour problems out the wazoo. Until we put him on stage. Where he blossomed. So I gave him the lead. And he took that responsibility, and flew. I don’t know what happened to him, but I know that, for that summer, he learned that there were ways to get positive attention, and they were way better than the negative attention seeking shit he’d been pulling up to then.

When I was running after school programs and I was so depressed and fucked up I could barely hold my shit together, and my life was collapsing around my ears, there was a kid who was Trouble with a capital T. He’d get into trouble because of his temper, and just escalate in that way some kids do where they’re like, well I’m in trouble now, so fuck it. And over the months I was there, I developed enough of a relationship with that kid that we went from flying off the handle aggressive temper tantrums to him being able to sit down with me and go, “Yeah, I shouldn’t have reacted that way.” I refused to treat him like “the bad kid”. I treated him like a person. And it helped. And I was a fucking mess, you guys.

Not every kid who has crossed my path will remember me. I may not have helped them all. But for a few of them, I think I was That Adult. And every time, without exception, my own life was… not perfect. I did not have my shit together. I just had the right thing for that kid at that time.

Not everyone works with kids. But most people know some. Your own, or nieces and nephews, or a neighbour kid who comes and hangs out with you when you garden. Or whatever. Just, you know, be what you needed. What we all need. Someone to see us for who we are and go, yo, dude. *fistbump* You’re pretty cool at that thing you’re doing.

This shit makes a difference. It changes lives. Trust me.

Do it. Be the person you needed when you were young. And don’t wait till you have your shit together. Be it now. We need you. They need you. Now.

Two kid stories

C story the first:

He asks me to tell him a story. I shamelessly plagiarise Black Adder: “Once upon a time there was a lovely little sausage called Baldrick. The End.”

C: *laughing* That’s not a story, Mommy. It needs to be longer.

J: Okay. Once upon a time there was a swan. And he swam around and around and around and around and around his pond till he was very dizzy. Then he went to sleep. The End.

C: No, no, you’re doing it wrong. In the middle something bad has to happen.

J: Oh, I see. Okay. Once upon a time there was a swan. And he swam around and around and around, and then he stopped because he saw something dark and slithery under the water. And then a giant serpent came out of the water and BIT HIS HEAD OFF! And that was the end of the swan. The end.

C: No, Mommy. You can’t just let the bad thing happen. Something has to fix it. Like, maybe a robot man can come and give the swan a new robot head.

J: So, after the snake bites his head off, he gets a robot head and comes back to life?

C: Yes. And then he’s a half robot swan!

J: And then he’s happy?

C: Yes! That’s a proper story.

C story the second:

This morning, discussing Easter.

C: You know, I don’t think the Easter bunny is a real bunny. I think he’s just a man in a bunny suit who really likes kids so he leaves them chocolate.

J: Oh yeah? Why do you think that?

C: Well, it can’t be a bunny, because bunnies don’t lay eggs. (Can’t fault that logic.)

J: But people don’t lay eggs either.

C: No, but he could buy the eggs. Or make them in an egg factory.

J: Can’t the bunny have an egg factory?

C: *looks at me like I’m crazy* Bunnies don’t have factories.

J: I see. But isn’t it a magic bunny?

C: Yes. But I still think it’s actually a man.

J: Okay.

C: Some of the kids at school think it’s just your parents, but I don’t.

J: Why not?

C: Because last year the bunny brought you eggs too.

I reckon I have one more year of this at MOST.

Things Jax is working on: The 2017 edition.

(WARNING: Shameless self promotion ahead.)

I have a LOT of balls in the air right now, and thought that those of you who want to support me, or maybe are just curious about all the stuff I spend my time doing, might be interested.

raven-logoMy great love atm is The Patchwork Raven. We released our first book early this year, and are currently working on our second. You can buy our books at our websiteย and follow us on Facebookย or Twitter.

I’m working with meBooks on their social media! Come like the FB page, and chat to me about NZ publishing and books. There may even be giveaways in the near future.

I am writing a story a month for patrons over on Patreon. You can read these original, unavailable anywhere else stories for a mere $1 a month.

I am reviewing children’s books to see how they stack up against my liberal humanist ideologies. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just how diverse is our children’s canon? What ideologies does it support? It’s an interesting project, but the longer I do it, the more I realise its value is more big picture than specific. Still, The Bookish Jelly Bean is an ongoing project. Read it here, and support it here.

I have a facebook group for creating weird and wonderful musical countdowns.ย If you like obscure music, themed playlists, and countdowns, you will probably enjoy it.

I’m also running a D&D one shot campaign, which is a loose amalgam of heroes and adventurers. It’s designed to allow people to step in and out as they are available. It’s very new player friendly. If you’re local, and interested in D&D, regardless of whether you’re an old hand or have never played, get in touch and I’ll throw you in the facebook group for that. ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, and I’m also still freelance editing (so if you need an editor or know someone who does, get in touch), and formatting and typesetting things (books, theses, long documents, you name it).

And raising a small human.

And trying to have a life. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yes, I’m a maniac. Writing this like this makes me realise just how much of a maniac. hehe. But it’s fun. Come along for the ride, or whichever bits of it you’re taken with.

In which our heroine gazes solemnly at her navel

I have done a lot of thinking over the past week, about a lot of things. Recently a lot of that has been interrupted by “Was that a tremor? Do I need to get up and find a doorway? Oh no, it’s okay, it was just the wind…”

But this post is not about earthquakes, despite the fact that they have rubbed all my emotional and adrenal nerves raw. (There’s no such thing as adrenal nerves, I know this, it’s a metaphor, LOOK IT’S BEEN A LONG WEEK SHUT UP.)

I’ve watched the internet explode in fear and not an insubstantial amount of in-fighting. And I’m not going to lie. I’m beginning to think I don’t have the energy to fight with the people who are meant to be on my side over the details. So I’m sitting down and trying to figure out what I can do from my very distant earthquake-ravaged land that may actually make a difference.

I want to do something.

This isn’t just about America. America is symptomatic of a bigger thing. And I totally understand why Americans need to hunker down and fight their own battles. They are big, and globally significant, and if I can help I will. But I can’t write to senators, and I can’t vote on anything there, and I can’t really even afford to send money to organisations that do. So I am asking myself, what can I do?

Here is my answer, best as I can figure it.

I can tell my stories. I don’t talk about my childhood that much, or at least when I do, I do it in very broad strokes. Growing up as a white kid in Apartheid South Africa during the 80s and 90s is a weird thing to try and explain. My memories are all distorted, like everyone’s are. My childhood was actually pretty idyllic. I remember people with guns, and I remember bomb scares, and I remember big posters on the walls in our schools with pictures of bombs so we could identify them if we saw them. But this stuff was just part of the fabric of my world. Mostly my world was running around barefoot in the grass and swimming till my eyes were red from chlorine. (And don’t think I don’t know what a privilege that was. I do.)

The thing is though that I think, suddenly, that my perspective as a child in that world may be very valuable right now. Because I am about as leftie liberal as it is possible to be. My political views are really pretty socialist when you get right down to it. AND I CAME FROM THAT. I came from a white working/middle class which was full of good people who actively or passively supported a white supremacist government.

Of course 80s South Africa is not modern USA, of course there are a multitude of differences. But if you want to understand how basically good white people support these monsters, well, that I understand IN MY BONES. I don’t agree. But I get it.

I’m basically your spy from the inside. ;P

Maybe all I can do from my very great distance is try to forge understanding. Not because I think you should understand and empathise or see them as victims, but because if you really want to win, you need to grasp what you’re fighting. This isn’t a “let’s all just try to get along” thing. It is THEIR minds and hearts I wish to change. But you, my darling freaks and weirdos, my beautiful non-conforming warrior people of every colour and creed, you need to understand your enemy. You need to understand that the armies are not made up of monsters. These people are ALSO victims.

And I am not for one second saying you have to rescue them too. That’s not your job, it’s theirs, even if they don’t realise it yet. I’m saying that to win this war, we have to take the power from the generals. And that means dismantling fear and hatred. Because that is where their power lies.

The battle, right now, for many of you, is to survive the next four years. And that is no small task. And what I can do from here to help with that I will do, with all my heart. But I think my energies may be best spent largely fighting a bigger war.

So I will be going back to what I do best. Telling stories. Finding stories, all the stories, from all the voices, not just a select few, and putting them into the world, and trying to find ways to get them into the right hands, and the right minds, and the right hearts. I will, in the words of the wonderful Neil Gaiman, MAKE GOOD ART.

If anyone in the US has practical advice on things I can do from my beautiful green and rocky isle, I would love to hear them. In the meantime though, I will fight hatred on my own turf when I find it, and do what I can to send light into the darkness. Because I don’t know what else to do.

*love*

Some probably very disjointed and emotionally driven thoughts

Okay. Time to speak.

The last 48 hours have been hard. I watched the US election results with mounting dread, and the outcome devastated me. Not only because many people I love live in the US and are members of demographics that are under very real threat by a Trump administration. Not only because we now have to deal with the fact that many of those very hard won battles may well have to be fought all over again.

Mostly, I’m devastated because of the evidence of the power of hatred and fear and bigotry. Because, honestly, I don’t care what you say, this election was fought along lines of race and sex and religion. Go and look at the metrics. It’s there, plain as day.

And I am forced to admit that we’re losing. Those of us who believe in equality are losing. It’s that simple.

I don’t live in America. But this is a global problem. This election is one big glaring symptom, but so was Brexit. So is the rise of right wing extremism in Europe. Hell, even here in NZ, the party in power is the conservative capitalist National Party. We’re a little enclave of sanity in the world right now, with our socialist health care and generally liberal laws about sexuality and bodily autonomy and race. But even here, these things are threatened.

Because we’re losing. When I say “we” I use that broadly. Basically my entry threshold is “Do you really believe in equality? Are you willing to do something about it?” If the answers are yes, you’re part of the “we”.

But I think that’s just the problem. The left, liberals, SJWs, whatever the hell you want to call us, we are fractured and splintered. Some of us are afraid to use the word feminist out loud because it is treated as a dirty word by others of us. Some of us wear these terms proudly, like badges of war – feminist, social justice, activist. Some of us roll our eyes and scoff at those who do.

Some of us are utterly incapable of seeing outside of our own demographics. Gay men who refuse to acknowledge that feminism may have a point. White feminists who refuse to acknowledge that black women have a whole different valid set of issues they don’t have to deal with. White men who want to say they believe in equality but want to be able to do it without sacrificing the advantages they don’t even want to accept they have.

I don’t exclude myself. I have been guilty of some of this myself. That last group especially I find I have very little tolerance for. Because you’re either with us or against us, right?

Except it’s not that simple. We can no longer afford to fight in enclaves. We can no longer afford to only agree to work with people who have accepted our own world view whole heartedly. Because while we argue the details among ourselves, racism and sexism and fear and bigotry are winning.

We can argue till the cows come home about whether Bernie would have beaten Trump, or whether Hillary was really “just as bad” (don’t even start that one with me, because for fucks sake, seriously?), or whether this is the fault of feminists or whether it’s the fault of like, I dunno, capitalism.

The answer is, it’s probably a bit of all those things. But more importantly, the answer is, I think, inspiration. Or lack thereof. The answer is our lack of compassion for EACH OTHER.

I don’t really know how to fix this. I understand getting angry, I understand frustration, I feel these things too. I don’t want to say you or I or anyone shouldn’t feel these things or shouldn’t express them, because that’s insane and idiotic.

I think maybe we need to be inspired again. Obama is a fucking rockstar at that. Michelle is a rock star at that. Bernie is a rockstar at that. Elizabeth Warren is a rock star at that. I don’t believe Hillary was the she-devil many liberals thought she was, but I also don’t think she was inspiring. And we need inspiration.

Maybe it doesn’t have to be political inspiration. Maybe it can be stories. Maybe it can be ideas. I don’t know. But we have to find a way to come together again. We have to find a way to stop being afraid and hateful among ourselves if we’re ever going to convince the people who voted for Trump, or voted for Brexit, that we and our “agendas” are not something they have to fear and hate.

And ultimately, that is the only way we win.

Not by silencing them. Not by yelling at them. By convincing them. By converting their fear and hate into tolerance and acceptance. And yeah, that’s nigh on impossible, but it’s slightly less impossible if we learn to do it among ourselves.

Let me tell you a story.

I grew up in Apartheid South Africa. Until I was about 11 years old, my entire world was based on the fact that white people were somehow intrinsically better than everyone else. This was a truth so true it was built into the fabric of my world. Like gravity and sunlight. I never questioned it. I never thought twice about it.

But when I was 12 I wrote a (very bad 12 year old) poem about a black kid being bullied on a bus, and why that wasn’t okay.

When I was, I don’t know, 9 or 10, I remember the kids around me talking about how sometime soon we might “have to” have black kids in our schools, like it was the worst thing that could ever happen. And I remember believing that at first.

But by the time it happened, it wasn’t a big deal for me. By the time it happened, I had already realised that racism was a bad thing. I didn’t grasp the complexities of it, of course, cos I was 12, but I understood that it was wrong.

I understood it well enough that when I was 13, I was proud to go to a high school that was about diversity, about multi-racial education, about breaking down those barriers.

And you know why? It wasn’t because of the adults in my world. I don’t remember any of them ever addressing any of this with me. (I’m not saying they didn’t – you know how unreliable memory is – but I am saying that if they did, it’s not what I remember.) It wasn’t because of my peers. Most of the other kids I knew thought like their parents, and had never even considered doing differently.

It was because I was a reader. It was because of books. I read voraciously as a child, anything I could get my hands on. And in books I encountered this idea that just because someone is different to you, doesn’t make them bad. And that resonated in my heart because even then I remember knowing I was somehow “different”.

An idea. That’s it.

Now you can argue that I was naturally predisposed to empathy, or because I tend to be a thinky person, I was inclined to analyse things even at a young age and realise that the dominant world view to which I was exposed was seriously fucked up. But what it comes down to is that the reason a white girl growing up in apartheid realised apartheid was wrong was because I read a lot of books.

That’s the power of ideas. That’s the power of stories.

The older I get, the more I feel that the only real answer to any of this is kindness and compassion. Every time I hear a story of someone changing their mind, it is almost always because somewhere along the line someone was kind to them. Homophobes who have stopped being homophobic because they actually got to know someone who was gay. Racists who stopped being racist because they got to know someone of colour. The Other humanised. That is the thing that changes hearts, and hearts are what change minds.

This is exhausting, and unfair. It is fucking horrendous that the oppressed should have to “prove” they’re not a threat to be treated like humans. I agree, whole heartedly. It’s shit. And we may be able to change laws with protest and yelling and argument. And maybe that’s enough for some people. And maybe that’s okay. I don’t know.

But I think that if we want the world to change for real, if we want to dismantle hatred, not just drive it underground, I really honestly think the only way we do that is to stop treating them like monsters, and start treating them like scared humans. We need to give them an alternative to Trump’s fascist rhetoric. We need to inspire.

And the forefront of that battle has to be storytellers, artists, bards, magic makers. It has to be US. Our voices. Our tales. And we have to actually start talking and listening to each other again before we can ever hope to get them to listen to us.

I don’t know. I know this is long and meandery. I don’t know if my answers are any good at all. I only know that what we’re doing isn’t working. So we need to find another way. I am heart-sick. My whole life, all my work, is basically about trying to pull light out of the darkness. And recently it has felt like the darkness is winning.

We need a new battle plan. This one is broken. Let’s start talking.