[Self-promotion sidebar] New project launching on Patreon!

Hello, folks! I have a post that I’m currently working on finishing up – it’ll be up either today or tomorrow. But in the mean time, I’m going to take the time to pimp a new project that I desperately, desperately want to be a thing. (But don’t worry! Go Make Me a Sandwich isn’t going anywhere!)

Here’s how I described it on Google+:

Mostly what I write these days are roleplaying games and blog posts, but my first love was and always will be writing fiction. I desperately miss writing fiction, and would like to get back into it! So today I’m launching a new Patreon with the goal of making that happen. The goal of this project is to write a novel that will be published in a serial fiction format, one chapter at a time. I’m hoping that I can attract enough support to make this a financially viable prospect.

In From the Cold is a novel that I have been planning for the last few months, based on a long-running campaign of Apocalypse World set in the Canadian arctic – albeit with many liberties taken and changes made for the needs of a different format. I have an experienced editor on board to make sure each chapter will be polished, and my goal is to publish chapters approximately once per month.

Yes, this is technically fanfic. But given genre fiction’s long and storied history of glorified TRPG fanfic, I don’t particularly think that’s a bad thing. So if you love post-apocalypses and genre fiction and would love to read about grey morality in the post-apocalypse with a big old helping of gender queerness? Then I think I’ve got you covered.

I’m not looking for much to get started; my initial milestone is about half of what I’d ever accept for freelance work. But really I’m just looking to get the ball rolling here, and hopefully with your help I can make this a thing!

The first chapter is up for free here, and the Patreon itself is here.

Wednesday Freebie: the “shit I said somewhere else” edition

Hey, folks. I’ve got a bunch of irons in the fire right now and it hasn’t left a lot bandwidth for blog stuff in the last week. But I do have some super amazingly awesome stuff coming up that I cannot wait to be able to talk about! And I will totally blog about it when it happens!

In the mean time, however, I’ll just drop in and share some stuff that I’ve said elsewhere. I do promise that I will do my best to get something substantial up by the end of the week, so thanks for your patience.

PSA Time: Calling women scary is not a compliment

[I’m quoting myself from Twitter here]

I am tired of being called scary because I express opinions unequivocally and am capable of advocating for myself. I have had people legit try to gaslight me into thinking I am a toxic ragemonster because I don’t apologize for having opinions. (Which is hilarious, because if anything in meatspace I am pathologically avoidant to the point of self-harm.)

So the jokey “remind me not to make you mad” stuff? I hate it. HATE. IT. Because it makes it HARDER for me to speak out, not easier. Every time I advocate for myself, I have to make it funny or self-deprecating, because I don’t want to tip over to being scary. It’s exhausting.

Mostly it comes from dudes who are well-intentioned and think they’re being complimentary. But they need to be aware that abusers do this too. So tl;dr – unless a woman is, like, threatening you with a knife just don’t call her scary, even if you think it’s a compliment. Just don’t.

Games I don’t want to write so shut up brain I mean it

Talking about baking patriarchy explicitly into a game gave me an idea to turn that on its head by doing the following:

Set the game in an explicitly matriarchal society. The game takes the form of a US Senate hearing on reproductive freedom for men. The Senators are all female, or all female and one man who has made the devil’s bargain and explicitly sides with matriarchy.

The men have to argue for their right to bodily autonomy, and all the while the female Senators are doing things like (wo)mansplaining, interrupting, and derailing. Particularly, they should be sure to tell the men not to get angry whenever they show hints of emotion, because we all know how testosterone prevents men from thinking rationally, etc etc.

I don’t want to write this game, but my brain keeps ambushing me. Stupid brain.

Year in Review: My experiences with Patreon and self-publishing in 2014

(ETA: I forgot resolution number 6!)

Because I’m a big fan of transparency, as I find it helps encourage new self-publishers and content creators (women especially), I wanted to do a bit of an analysis of how 2014 went – both in terms of this Patreon, and a little bit in terms of my other publishing. I also wanted to talk about some lessons learned, in the hopes that this will be helpful for folks looking to jump into self-publishing in 2015.

(This post is a freebie, because charging patrons for a post about how much money I’m making off of my Patreon would be totally sketchy.)

1. Patreon revenue

For several reasons, it’s a bit difficult to quantify [money earned] per [standard unit of effort]. Sometimes I’ll do a visual post where I’ve monkeyed with photoshop, or done a redraw, or made a bingo card, whatever. Those tend to have low word counts, but higher time investments than writing-only posts. There’s also no way to quantify time spent on research, short of tracking my hours per post – which is way too anal for the amount of money I’m making on this thing.

So here’s the best approximation I could come up with – [monthly payout] / [total number of paid words]. (I can’t do it per post, because monthly limits mean that I get diminishing returns on subsequent posts in the same month. (That is absolutely not a complaint.))

cents

Now the reason I started my Patreon was to “replace” to revenue that I would lose by writing here on my blog instead of working on other projects that would later earn me money. Kids are expensive, and when I was first looking at starting out, I was really feeling the pinch. So if you look at it from that angle, this Patreon has been a great success. Standard industry rates for freelancers are 2-3 cents per word – which means I’m earning more money per word than I could freelancing, and have been from the start! (That said, standard freelance rates are complete bullshit and don’t represent any sort of liveable wage in terms of financial return on time invested.)

All told, the income I got from this Patreon in 2014 paid for just over half of my kid’s daycare costs, which is a fair chunk of change. Hooray!

2. Patreon: pros & cons

So obviously Patreon is great. And really, to almost every single woman I know who has been saying “I’d like to do more publishing this year”, I will yell GET THEE TO A PATREON. However, it’s not universally perfect. So here are the pros and cons I’ve encountered in the last 10 months (not universally applicable, obviously)

Pros

  • Predictable, regular income stream
  • Pays better than freelancing
  • Gives me the freedom to choose what I write about
  • Real, concrete, tangible proof that what I am doing here has value. Literally!

Cons

  • I’m now a “professional victim” according to some of my haters
  • Every patron-spike (a cluster of new people becoming patrons) larger than 4 people was the direct result of targeted harassment campaigns against me
  • It’s hard to expand your patronage once you reach a certain saturation, because even with the ability to set monthly limits many people aren’t willing to take on new monthly expenses
  • The pressure to make paid posts “valuable” sometimes makes me post less, perversely
  • Patreon is only suitable for small, periodic content; it won’t ever replace KickStarter for huge projects
  • Doesn’t support multiple content “streams” (I couldn’t use this Patreon to support, say, fiction writing, frex)

This might make it look like there’s not any real advantage to having a Patreon, but don’t be fooled. The pros easily, easily outweigh the cons.

3. Self-Publishing: lessons learned

This is the year I decided that I was going to be A Real Publisher! And mostly, that worked out pretty well for me!

real

Most of what I learned this past year is excellently summed up in this piece by Molly Crabapple about how to “make it” as an artist. (Note: I am not even remotely claiming to have “made it”.) But briefly, here are the main lessons I learned this year:

  • DON’T EVER WORK PAY ON PUBLICATION. Don’t do it. DON’T. DO. IT.
  • Seriously fuck exposure. If someone wants you to work for exposure, tell them to jump off a fucking cliff.
  • IT’S ALL ABOUT REVENUE STREAMS. Multiple revenue streams is the name of the game. This year I did patron-supported blogging, game publishing, children’s book illustration, and a few other miscellaneous projects. Don’t put all your eggs in one baskets. Baskets are amazing. You need more baskets. (I think I lost control of this metaphor.)
  • Haters have almost zero power to affect your earnings. People willing to listen to a hater were not going to buy your shit anyway. So when someone hates on your work (spoiler alert: this will happen), set your fucks free, do a haters-gonna-hate-dance, and go on doing what you’re doing.
  • Communicate with your audience! Your audience is something you should build a relationship with. Ideally it will grow, and much of your audience will support multiple projects. (Remember – baskets!) This is something I’m still working on, but wow it’s important.
  • If you’ve ever done a thing and thought “I should sell this thing”, and then immediately talked yourself out of doing that? Tell your brain to STFU and sell the thing. I made $550 this year on a mini-game I almost didn’t publish.
  • Speaking of which, small projects are amazeballs. Don’t be afraid to do lots of small projects instead of one HUGE GINORMOUS PROJECT.

4. Resolutions for 2015

So with all of that in mind, here are my thoughts for the coming year.

FIRST, after the shitstorm back in March over my redraw of GenCon’s mascot, I got paranoid and locked comments the fuck down. That’s killed a lot of discussion and I think that level of caution is no longer warranted, at least for now. I’m probably going to start cautiously easing restrictions on commenting, which will mean that people will be able to comment on old posts again. Hopefully people don’t abuse this.

SECOND, replacing troll comments with sarcastic memes is always a good decision. I resolve to keep doing that.

THIRD, I want to get back into doing at least 3 freebie link posts per month. I’ve neglected this blog shamefully the last three months, and traffic numbers have reflected that. I want to do what I can to promote under-represented voices!

THREE-and-a-HALF, I want to do more “creative” posts. Redraws, cartoons, photoshops, stuff like that. They’re fun! I need to do more fun things!

FOURTH, I want to do more to support women getting into publishing!

FIFTH, I really want to find a way to do more fiction writing in 2015! I’m going to put serious thought into how to do this. Maybe a crowdfunding ransom model? We’ll see.

SIXTH, I’m thinking of adding a tip jar, since a number of people told me this year that they would have supported me as a one-time thing. So I’ll probably put up a PayPal link or something. I’ll figure that out.

So that’s where I’m at. Thanks for sticking with me through what was a pretty tough year. I look forward to seeing what we can do this year!

Happy New Year!

Hi, folks! Just wanted to pop in briefly and say that I’m not dead! It’s just that Christmas tends to be challenging and busy with a toddler in the house.

However, I’ve got a lot of things I’m working on for the immediate future. I’ll be doing an interview/roundtable that I’m pretty excited about. I also made a thing with Twine that’s almost finished about that I’m… well, I wouldn’t say I’m excited about it, but I’m certainly proud of it.

I also plan on doing a year-in-review post about my experiences with Patreon, including some general numbers and some basic advice for people wondering if Patreon is something they should explore for their own creative efforts. This past year I’ve found myself telling a lot of people “you should really have a Patreon”, so I figure that me writing up something concrete would be helpful.

Lastly, I’ve been in a bad place the last two months and I’ve been phoning it in here by really only making paid posts very infrequently, and no freebies. I’m going to do my best to start making regular small posts, probably just linkspams but maybe other things too. I’d really like to be a more regular presence here.

Thanks to everybody who supported me in 2014, and I look forward to an even more exciting year!

Monday Freebie: the entitled douchebro edition

Well, folks. I had intended to start working on a new post today, but the world’s worst headache has reduced me to pasting links into a textbox, so I’ve given up and decided to do a freebie linkspam instead.


 

The incomparable Jay Smooth talking about beating what he calls the Little Hater – the voice that tells us that we are not good enough and no one could possibly find our art valuable. This is something that pretty much every creative person I know struggles with, myself included.

 

25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male. This is an excellent, excellent video about the kinds of privilege that male gamers experience in gaming spaces, and is an excellent resource if you find yourself getting into an argument with someone who confuses privilege with special treatment.

 

Okay, this has nothing to do with social justice – it’s just really flipping cool. Are you the kind of nerd who has ever wanted to create a planet, only it seems like too much work, and then you find out that someone wrote a free planet-generation tool that does all the work for you and you get super excited even though you don’t really know what you’d use such a tool for? …I mean. [cough cough] Not that would ever be that nerdy, but I hear that some of my readers are. Nerds.

 

Congrats on your opinion. This excellent post by Prolost’s Stu Maschwitz is a thing that should be enshrined in geek canon forever. In particular, it’s written about lens flares in JJ Abrams’ Trek movies, but it could just as easily be about women having Patreons or really whatever nerd thing it is that you happen to get in someone’s face about. GO READ IT.


And now a thing that requires a little background.

So over the weekend, the somewhat-infamous James Desborough – a game designer who has been a vocal supporter of #GamerGate and who even tried to make #tabletopgate a thing (yes really) – published a particularly tasteless #GamerGate card game in which one has to battle unethical SJWs by stalking, harassing, and doxxing them. The venue he chose to do this on was Drive Thru Cards, which has an automated publishing process for publishers who have previously published titles with them.

Considering that a lot of publishers who use Drive Thru Cards/Drive Thru RPG/One Bookshelf to publish their content are also people who have been the targets of #GG’s harassment and doxxing, naturally there was swift and immediate backlash against the game; many publishers sent complaints to DTRPG saying that they would not continue to use DTRPG’s services if the game wasn’t pulled – which it was, and quite quickly. (Kudos to DTRPG for dealing with it so quickly over a weekend, no less.)

Of course, a lot of people got terribly upset about this awful, awful ceeeeensoooorshiiiiiip. So here are some things that summarize the situation better than I could in my be-headached state. (No, YOU’RE making up stupid words on the internet.)

First, Matt McFarland knocks it out of the park on his blog in explaining why DTRPG pulling the game IS NOT CENSORSHIP ZOMG READ A DICTIONARY. Also, he talks about why the response by some people who actually harassed and doxxed the owner of DTRPG was not fucking okay. (Spoiler alert: DOXXING IS NEVER FUCKING OKAY)

Second, this post by Fred Hicks is worth reading as a response to the fallout from the game being pulled. Apparently, because some of the Evil Hat crew had the nerve to talk publicly about how – hey, if this stays up we should evaluate if we want Evil Hat’s brand to be tarnished by association, a bunch of anti-SJWs got all het up and decided to harass Fred Hicks, because clearly this was solely his fault and CENSORSHIP and also BULLYING. So then they got a bunch of people to harass Fred when he was just trying to do real life shit, because ETHICS. Or something.

…I’m going back to bed and coming out never.

Self-promotion sidebar: Ruined Empire is at 81% 4 days left!

Hey, folks. I’ve been working for, like, the last week on a numbers post looking at older M:TG Ravnica art and comparing the trends in art then (a couple years ago) to now (very recently, with M:TG Khans). (Spoiler alert: Ravnica’s art is really terrible).

And look, it’s super laborious. I’ve already sunk 6 hours into this thing with analyzing art and grabbing images and photoshopping them and writing an outline… and I’ve got probably another 2 or 3 of writing to go. In fact, here’s an image that I put together for the post:

spellcasters

Totally awesome, right?

Anyway, the post will happen. I might wind up splitting it? We’ll see. I was trying hard to get it done for this week, but KickStarter yannow? It’s hard to get anything done when you’re running one of those.

So new content next week, but in the mean time – have you seen my KickStarter? No? You were meaning to check it out? Well now is the time!

You guys, I promise that this is the best anime/Final Fantasy/social-justice/feminism campaign setting sourcebook ever. You could totally use this to play a social justice cyborg ninja wizard who runs around getting into laser battles with giant mechs if you wanted. People might question your taste, but you could still do it!

Plus there’s going to be system conversions if it funds! The book will include hacks of The Shadow of Yesterday/Solar System and Dogs in the Vineyard. There will also be PDF mini-supplements for use with Fate, Heroine, and a hack of Dungeon World/Numenera!

And it’s going to be ridiculously pretty! So very very pretty, because Claudia Cangini is amazing!

As of the time of this post, we only need $1046 CAD to reach the goal, which – for you non-Canadians – is roughly equivalent to three squirrels and a mountie. Or the Maple Leafs[1].

So, you know, I just met you. And this seems crazy. But here’s my KickStarter, so fund it maybe?

[1] Canada-specific jokes FTW!

[2] I make terrible jokes when I’m stressed, but I make no apologies.

Freebie: Anita Sarkeesian said it better (and that’s okay)

For quite a while, I’ve been working on collecting data for a post about sex workers in video games. It was going to be long and contain a lot of detailed data points and… honestly I tried to find just about any excuse not to work on it, because it was hard. Almost all of the games I was looking at were of the GRIMDARK MALE HERO school of protagonist design, which for the most part I avoid like the plague. (Although I’m willing to make exceptions for exceptional writing. I loved The Last of Us so much that I wrote two posts about it.)

So in order to gather the data points that I was looking for, I was having to wade through some truly awful gameplay clips on youtube, or depressing Google Image search results, and it was just depressing.

spreadsheet
This is the spreadsheet I was putting together. (CLICK FOR MORE READABLE VIEW)

And the idea of collecting all the data points I wanted for the entire list of 86 titles I’d put together was more than daunting. It made me want to give up all together. And I felt bad about that, because it was important – something well worth writing about! Something that spoke to the deepest core of misogyny in the game development industry.

And then Anita Sarkeesian released her most recent video about the phenomenon she calls “non-player sex objects”, which addressed everything that I wanted to say and so much more. And I’ve been mulling over the problem of this post that I wanted to write and realizing that the thing I was planning on writing? I think that’s a thing that would be redundant now. Because Anita said it better than I could.

I feel a little bad about it, because this was something that I’d had hanging over my head for the last six months. But at the same time, I have to recognize that doing the needed research required exposing myself to disturbing and violent imagery, which was a task I just don’t have the emotional bandwidth for right now.

Still, I thought it was worth writing a brief post here, because I want to highlight again that Anita Sarkeesian IS A MOTHERFUCKING SUPERHERO. She deals with the absolute worst that the internet can throw at her and marinates in the disturbing and graphic misogyny produced by the game industry and still manages to create videos that are insightful and powerful and compelling.

I’ll probably still write about sex workers in video games at some point in the future, but I imagine it will be more narrowly focused than the sprawlingly ambitious piece I had intended to write. In the mean time, if you haven’t seen Part 2 of the Non-Playable Sex Objects series, here it is. [ALL OF THE TRIGGER WARNINGS]

Comments

WordPress.com doesn’t seem to have an option for globally turning off comments on the entire blog, so I’ve turned on manual comment moderation, which means theoretically every comment will need to be approved before showing up and thus hopefully achieve the same result. So if you’re a regular reader, or even a new one, and are trying to comment and not seeing your comment show up? It’s not because I hate you. It’s because I can’t trust the internet to play nice right now.

If for some reason this turns out not to have worked (because who knows, I’ve never done this before and seriously I still have shit to pack), then I ask people not to engage with any trolls who might show up. Normally “don’t feed the trolls” is a policy I disagree with, but in this instance… yeah, that.

See you all next week!

Quick update

Hi, folks!

Just a quick update. GenCon is only one week away and I still have so much prep to do! I’ve got a thing that I’ll try to get up before I leave, but this month’s posts will likely be a flurry of post-GenCon stuff. I’ve got some really exciting things planned for GenCon, and hopefully I’ll be able to blog about it upon my return.

I’ll try to at least put up a freebie even if I don’t manage anything else, but no promises!

Policy Note: How I spend my crowdfunding money

[For transparency’s sake, this is being put up as a freebie, because asking patrons to pay me to write a post devoted to telling a subset of non-patrons to fuck off seems a bit hinky. So there you go.]

For the most part, I would call the Patreon for this blog a successful experiment. Sure it would be great to have thousands of patrons showering me with money for every gem of wisdom I happen to let fall from my keyboard so that I could become a Real (read:full-time) Blogger, but I’m okay with where I’m at. The money I get from my patrons gives me the space to write about things that I’m passionate about and pay some bills. Because that’s the thing about having a kid – they’re expensive, and I really don’t have the luxury to write things that won’t turn into money anymore.

The only problem is that having a Patreon has opened me up to a new and extra-fun kind of dismissiveness that makes me very cranky: people who want to set conditions on how I use my Patreon funds before they claim they’ll take me seriously. You know, because if I was A Real Feminist[1], I would be putting my Patreon moneyz towards some worthy feminist cause instead of selfishly keeping it for myself, with the worthy feminist cause usually being saving poor brown women from their own culture[2].

Which is bullshit for two reasons.

First.

Let’s not pretend that if, for some reason, I decided to listen to your unsolicited opinions as to how I should spend my crowdfunding money, you would actually seriously engage with anything I’m saying here. Because “I can’t take you seriously because you’re not doing [X] with your crowdfunding money” is pretty much the same as “I can’t think of a good reason to dismiss what you’re saying so I’m going to come up with bullshit character arguments instead”.

These kinds of comments never come from people seriously engaged with feminism or feminist culture criticism, they come from random dudebros who are grasping at reasons for why I shouldn’t be listened to.

Second.

If you do not back my crowdfunding, I am obligated to give EXACTLY ZERO FUCKS about how you think I should spend that money.

The only people who get to have an opinion about how I spend my money are MY PATRONS AND/OR BACKERS. You can decide to back me or not based on whatever criteria you like – you aren’t interested in what I’m making, you don’t agree with the things I say, you don’t like my user icon, whatever. That’s your prerogative! Live your conscience, vote with your dollar, etc etc etc. But if you’re not giving me money, don’t be surprised if I completely fail to give any shits about what you think I should do with my money.

This Blog, Patreon funds, and how I spend them

I have been nothing but up front with my patrons about how I intend to spend their money.  Hell, it’s in paragraph #4 of my pitch on Patreon:

For the most part, the money that I have earned from my Patreon has gone to pay for incredibly unexciting stuff. Like getting new clothes for my kid every 5 minutes[3], or generally helping offset childcare costs and increased grocery bills.

But honestly, the fact that my crowdfunding dollaz are being used to pay child-related expenses shouldn’t even matter. If I wanted to spend it on strippers and blow (I’m not), that should be a valid goal, so long as the thing I’m crowdfunding still happens and my backers are happy with it.

Policy Going Forward

From now on, any comment that either tells me how I should be spending my Patreon funds or tells other people not to back my Patreon based on same is going to be deleted. Period. I have better things to do than engage with this sort of dismissive bullshit.

As soon as I get a chance (I can’t do it immediately at the time of posting), I will be revising the comment policy posted in the sidebar to reflect this.

[1] It would be impossible for me to overstate how much I love Mallory Ortberg

[2] Because if you’re going to be dismissively sexist, why not sprinkle a little helping of racism on top? You know, for the lulz.

[3] Seriously they grow so fast and even if you shop thrift stores, it adds up