jakebe: (Self-Improvement)

January 2016 was an extraordinarily busy month; everything just took off like a rocket, and it was all that I could do to hold on. Most of the work was anticipated, but I think I under-estimated the effect of a lot of it, and of course my still-developing organizational skills weren't quite up to the task of keeping everything in order so I could get stuff done. I spent the last day of the month traveling from New York back to Silicon Valley, so exhausted I didn't even realize how tired I was until I got a good night's sleep.

Even still, I can't say it was a bad time. I did a lot of stuff that was fun and enriching, and now that I made it through the worst of it I can take a breath, look at what went right, what went wrong, and how I can use the momentum of the month to propel me through my projects for this one. Here's a brief rundown of the major events last month:

The Jackalope Serial Company
On New Year's Day or thereabouts, I launched the Jackalope Serial Company. It's an idea that had been brewing through the last six months of 2015, and I felt I was finally in a good position to make it happen. The JSC is basically the label through which I tell serialized erotic stories, one chunk every week, until it's finished. The idea is to put up parts of 1500 - 2500 words a week on the Patreon, then edit those parts into monthly chapters that get released to SoFurry, Fur Affinity and Weasyl at a later date. The first serial is The Cult of Maximus, which I'm expecting to be a 100K-word story when all is said and done. That should take us through the first year of the JSC's existence.

Launch was reasonably successful; to date I've got 17 patrons donating just over $100/month for the cause. I appreciate every single one of them! John Cooner did a bang up job on the launch poster/wallpaper, business cards and other assets that will be rolled out in the next month or so. And I've put up the first three parts of the story in January, with parts 4 and 5 coming (hopefully) this week to close out chapter 1.

I wasn't as regular as I would have liked to be starting out, for reasons that I'll talk about below. I'll be spending much of this month and next trying to build up a small buffer so I can make sure the schedule is regular even if something unexpected happens. For now, though, I'm flying by the seat of my fluffy white tail. Thanks to my patrons for the patience they've displayed and the feedback they've given so far; really looking forward to having things settle into a routine this month!

Further Confusion 2016
This is kind of the biggest furry event of the year for me, and this year was no exception. I took part in five panels this year: "Power and Privilege in an Anthropomorphic World", "Furries and the Other", "Write Now!", "Brainstorming in Real Time" and "Mindfulness and Transformation Workshop".

The first two were the biggest surprises and fulfilling experiences I've had at a convention in a long time; there's a real receptiveness to the idea of exploring our differences and power dynamics through furry fiction, and the audience was lively, insightful and wonderful. This is definitely a keeper; I'd love to be involved with it next year. The second two were awesome mainly because I just got to hang out with members of my writing group and talk with other writers about ways we can push ourselves past our blocks or think about constructing stories in a different way. I don't think I've ever laughed as much as I did in those two panels.

For Mindfulness/Transformation, my friend Kannik and I tried a structure to make sure we went over the most important ideas we wanted to transmit and I think that went over pretty well. The exercise portion of the panel could still use some work, but we talked about how to adapt that depending on the read we get from the audience; next year, I think we'll have a pretty good handle on things.

Away from the panels, having conversations and meals with a few people I don't get to talk to that often were the highlight. This fandom is full of such a varied mix of interesting, passionate and unique people, and cons are one of the ways we can plug into that directly. I love talking to people and seeing their perspectives on all kinds of things; it makes me fall in love with the community all over again.

The Day Job Summit
This was a bit of a wrench. My company had merged with a similar one in Europe after being bought by a holding company last year. Initially, the plan was to bring everything together slowly and carefully, making sure the customers for each side didn't feel spooked by what was going on. Apparently, the executives discovered that was no longer a concern and ordered a giant event for the merger kick-off this last weekend in January.

So, this was the first work trip I had ever taken, which is another milestone in my professional development. Thankfully, my husband came with me to hang out and be a tourist, so I was able to enjoy the vacation side of things through his eyes. We also know quite a number of people in the area, and we were able to visit with a few of them.

The overall effect of the summit was building a sense of community between two very different sides of the company; I'm not sure how well that came off, but I know that my particular department (Technical Support) grew a lot closer through the experience. I got to meet a lot of really neat people in European tech support, and we traded war stories. But for maybe the first time, I feel like a fully-accepted member of the team I work in, and that's just incredible. I can legit say I love the company I work for, and the people I work with.

We also saw our first Broadway show while we were out there -- the runaway-smash musical Hamilton. If you haven't listened to the soundtrack yet, do yourself a favor and pull it up on Spotify or your music-streaming service of choice. You will NOT be disappointed. It's a hip-hop/rap musical about a founding father whose story almost never gets told, Alexander Hamilton. The inversion of race (Hamilton, Aaron Burr, Thomas Jefferson and other major characters are black) really punches up the drive of the Founding Fathers, brings their tragedies home in a way I had never considered, and makes me empathize with them in a way I never had before. It makes this old, distant history alive and personal. It's so good.

New York City is a hell of a town. We visited Wall Street, saw people fondling the bull outside of the NYSE, visited Trinity Church and Fraunces Tavern; we went to Brooklyn and had brunch at Flatbush Farm with a major sci-fi/fantasy author (!!); and partied pretty hard at Celsius in Bryant Park, The Eagle on the lower west side (?) and Grand Central Terminal. We saw subway dancers who were amazing, listened to cellists and jazz ensembles, saw the knock-off mascots threatening people in Times Square. All in all, a hell of a trip.

Writing/Reading
I started out strong in January, finishing my first short story of the year for MegaMorphics ("New Year, New You") and wanted to have "A Stable Love" done but the JSC work sucked up all the oxygen in that room. I started The Cult of Maximus, but didn't get as far with that as I'd like, so this month will be a bit of righting the ship as far as that's concerned.

I did read an awful lot, though. I'm catching up on my backlog of comics -- I'm finding "The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl" to be a singular delight, and I'm really digging "Sam Wilson: Captain America". I finished Kindred by Octavia Butler, and that has been a life-changing book for me. It fundamentally changes my idea of black women for the better, and I'll need to let that cook for a moment or two. I started The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin, and I'm looking forward to finishing that, and I finished the third collection of the Apocalypse Triptych, called The End Has Come. It features (mostly) post-apocalyptic stories, many of them continued from stories in the other two collections. It was a neat idea that had a satisfying and surprising set of conclusions, and I'm looking forward to talking about that later.

Meanwhile, my reading stack grows all the time. :) Since it's Black History Month, I feel like I should be reading something theme-appropriate, and there is no shortage of books that fit that bill. I'll talk a little bit about that tomorrow.

So that was my January in a nutshell; incredibly busy, full of wonderful and enriching experiences, as well as a lot of opportunities for growth and learning with various personal projects. Tomorrow, I'll talk about my plans for this month and what I hope to have achieved when looking back on it sometime in March.

How was YOUR month? What were your highlights? What stories did you complete or make progress on? What things did you notice that you could do better?

jakebe: (Reading Rabbit)

Further Confusion 2016 will begin tomorrow, and for most of us furries we're just counting down the hours until we can head to San Jose to immerse ourselves in fandom for four glorious days. I know I'm itching to get there myself. But one of the things that rarely gets talked about at these conventions is how big a disruption they are to our daily lives, and what that disruption can do for those of us coping with mental illness. While the potential is there for a brilliant weekend, the craziness of the convention alone can throw us off-kilter.

For many of us, FC 2016 is one of our only chances to be with people we feel truly understand us; for four days we can put aside the problems of our regular lives and enjoy company and kinship in a way we rarely get to experience. We become so attached to the promise of a non-stop great time that any disappointment or gap in pleasure can send us spiraling into dark places. Unfortunately, downtime and disappointment are both facts of life; we can do ourselves a huge favor by learning to roll with them.

I want folks who are going through rough times at the convention to know that I see them, and I sympathize with what they're dealing with. I'd like to share a few things that have helped me get through conventions and have made sure I have the best time possible.

Absolutely take care of the basics. 6/2/1 is a mnemonic I've seen floating around recently to remind people about the basic things you should do every day during a convention. 6 hours of sleep, 2 meals a day (at least), 1 shower. Making sure you're well-rested, well-fed and well-groomed can have a profound effect on your mood -- this goes doubly so for those of us with mental issues.

If nothing else, making sure you get enough sleep and enough to eat is absolutely essential for managing your mood. Sleep allows the brain to recover from daily stresses, and your body needs nutrients to keep it running properly while you're awake. And making sure you're clean and wearing comfortable clothing you feel good about being seen in helps tremendously with self-esteem. Those three things alone are vital, easy things we can do to keep us on a stable footing emotionally.

I know that sleep and showers can go by the wayside pretty easily, especially for those of us stricken by FOMO -- the Fear of Missing Out. It can feel like leaving our friends is a guarantee of not getting to see or do something awesome. But it's important to remember that the convention (and your friends) will be there when you're awake, cleaned and your hunger is satisfied. It's a trade-off of quantity of time for quality time. When you feel better, you will have more fun. Trust me on this! I've stuck around for things way longer than I should have, when I was hungry or tired, just because I didn't want to leave. It was miserable.

For those of us who need a little extra self-care, I would recommend sleeping at least 7 hours a day, eating 3 square meals, taking 1 shower and making absolutely sure you take any medications that you've been prescribed.

If possible, adapt your routine for travel. One of the ways I manage my mental state is by doing my best to establish a routine. I get up at a certain time, I go to the bathroom, I meditate, take my medication, then get to writing. Doing this every day gives me a nice foundation to center on through the craziness of the day; it's how I try to put my best foot forward. Obviously, it's a lot harder to stick to it when traveling, but I give it my best shot and I recommend you do the same.

If you have a small set of activities you do at certain times, find ways to stick to them when you're traveling -- especially if it helps to center and calm you. If that's just not possible, think of alternate activities that provide you with the tools you need to be mentally resilient through the day. It can really help you through the marathon of interaction that conventions tend to be.

Learn to be OK with being alone or having downtime. This can be difficult, especially if the convention is the one time you get to spend with friends you only know online. But the fact of the matter is sometimes your friends will be doing something else or you're waiting to join up with someone; you will find yourself alone with nothing to do. This doesn't have to be a bad thing; there's an enormous convention happening all around you, with new people to meet and all kinds of interesting things to do.

If you find yourself having downtime -- unexpected or otherwise -- take advantage of the events being set up by the hard-working convention staff. Take a look at the schedule to see what's open and where things are; the gaming area tends to be open most of the day and night, and there's a number of meeting areas that you can camp out in and hang out. If nothing grabs your fancy, pre-planning an "alone time" activity or two to fall back on can help keep you occupied for a while. Take advantage of downtime to center yourself and collect your thoughts. Being alone doesn't necessarily mean being lonely.

Allow yourself to feel what you're feeling. Sometimes, despite our best efforts and careful planning, we'll fall into a bad mental state. That is OK! No one -- not even at a world-class furry convention -- feels great all the time! Sometimes we'll be sad, or bored, or angry and frustrated. There's a huge emphasis on avoiding the negative feelings we have, but that can make things worse. I know for me, I'll think that I "shouldn't" feel the way I do and that guilt or frustration (What's wrong with me? Why can't I just be happy?) just makes things that much worse.

If you're having a bad time, or you're feeling low, take a moment to tell yourself that it's OK you feel this way. It's a valid emotion to have, and it's only temporary. It will pass in time, even though it might not feel like it. What's more, you don't have to necessarily *do* anything about what you're feeling. It can be a powerful thing to accept your feelings, even when they hurt. You may not feel better, exactly, but it can ease the pressure that we can feel about our emotions.

Further Confusion is a wonderful con, and I hope that everyone who attends has an amazing time. If you find yourself struggling to deal with emotions, please reach out to someone. You are not alone, even though it may feel like it. But you have to take care of yourself before you can expect others to take care of you.

Make sure you get enough sleep, get enough to eat, and present yourself as best you can. Plan to take care of your needs ahead of time if at all possible. Accept who you are and how you feel. It can be difficult work, I know, but the work is worth it. I'll see you folks in San Jose in about 24 hours.

jakebe: (Fandom)

Folks, it's that time again -- the time when downtown San Jose is suddenly flooded with bizarre people descending onto the Convention Center to engage their weird hobby. The volleyball girls are back! Oh, and also Further Confusion is coming up this weekend.

Of course I'll be there -- just look for the portly black dude probably wearing a sweater vest and a backpack and some sort of jackalope badge. I'm really looking forward to meeting lots of you coming from all around the country, or hooking up again with friends I haven't gotten to see for a while, or chatting with fans about the things that we love and care about. It should be a blast!

One of the best things about Further Confusion is the robust slate of panels, seminars and events that encompass almost every aspect of the furry fandom -- art, writing, music, performance, science, spirituality and crafts are all well-represented there. As a writer, I'll be on a few panels this time and I wanted to tell you about them, just in case you were interested!

THURSDAY, JANUARY 14TH
OUT OF POSITION Release Party (Marriott: Almaden) - 7 PM
My good friend Kyell Gold will be releasing the latest novel in his Out of Position series -- Over Time -- at the convention! His release party will be pretty awesome, and one of the best ways to kick off a weekend-long party is by celebrating a friend's success. The book won't be available for sale there, alas, but he'll be there to chat and sign things, so it really is the next best thing.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 15TH
Power and Privilege in an Anthropomorphic World (Hilton: Santa Clara) - 1 PM
I'll be talking about how to illustrate the societal effects of different species co-existing within the same world with Chipotle and my husband, NotTube. I'm really excited about this topic; it's not necessarily all about how power dynamics from the real world translate into our fictionalized furry ones, but what a whole different set of dynamics borne from the traits of vastly different species might look like. Would carnivores really dominate the power structure? How would physical characteristics shape the world? And what advantages would humans have once we lose opposable thumbs and sapience?

Write Now! (Hilton: Santa Clara) - 3 PM
Kyell Gold and I will be talking about ways to think about the shape of your short story with an eye towards finally sitting down and banging it out! We'll break down the basic elements of your story -- what you'll need to get started, most of the time -- and then providing 30 minutes to work on it using the tools you have at your disposal. How generous!

SATURDAY, JANUARY 16TH
Mindfulness and Transformation in Action (Marriott: Almaden) - 11 AM
Kannik and I will be discussing the transformative power of bringing mindfulness into your life. We'll talk a bit about our perspective and background working with it, discuss examples illustrating exactly how clear and present thinking can redirect negative experiences, and engage in a brief meditation session and a few exercises to give folks a feel for using it. This is always one of my favorite times at the convention; I look forward to it every year.

Furries and the "Other" (Hilton: Santa Clara) - 4:30 PM
Here we'll be discussing how the concept of "otherness" applies to furry -- or if it even does! Mapping real-life social and political differences to furry fiction is an interesting thing; there's often not a direct parallel, but what can we learn from the way divisions are drawn? What does that say about us as creators and readers? I'll be talking about this with Mary Lowd and Chandra al-Alkani.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 17TH
Brainstorming in Real Time (Hilton: Santa Clara) - 11 AM
One of the biggest things I've learned in writing last year is to always try out multiple answers to the question "And then what?" Your first answer is going to be the most common one, and the further out you go with ideas the more creative opportunities open up! Even ideas you instinctively discount can be the best ideas you have for really pushing your story into new territory. My writing group -- Chipotle, Kyell Gold, NotTube and myself -- will be hosting this panel detailing the brainstorming process and how you can use it to your benefit.

Unsheathed Live (Hilton: Santa Clara) - 10 PM
To close out the convention, the adult writing podcast is all set to go for another year! Kyell, KM Hirosaki and NotTube will talk about furry writing for adults, take audience questions and probably have a lot of wine. This is always a blast, and I'm really looking forward to going out on a high note with FC 2016!

So that's my schedule! Feel free to join me at any of these panels or say hello if you see me bumming around the convention. I'll even have business cards for the Jackalope Serial Company! Whoo!!

See you at the San Jose Convention Center this weekend, folks. It's going to be legendary!

jakebe: (Kangaroo)
The break that I had threatened earlier was a little longer than anticipated -- sorry about that. The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind for a number of reasons, and I'm just now getting to catch up with everything. There'll be more about that in future blogs, I promise, but for now let's talk about the reason I was away for so long -- Further Confusion 2013! (Warning: A lot of these links will lead to places that acknowledge sex and alternate sexualities.)

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, Further Confusion is a fantasy convention centered around anthropomorphics ("furries") and its various interests. You can find people there who are into cartoons, sci-fi/fantasy novels, spiritual studies (totemism, etc), music, zoology and all kinds of things. Furry is an umbrella group that can accept a multitude of roads into its borders, and that's what makes it so cool.

I was there along with my husband Ryan; our primary interest/niche in the fandom is writing, and it's a great time to be a furry writer. The community is growing and maturing in really neat ways, and we're finding niches being filled in our little 'ecosystem'. There's something for everyone, and a lot of our writers are trying to find ways to make a living doing what they love by non-traditional means.

There were a number of authors there to read from their work. Mary Lowd had a whole panel to herself, to read from her work. Kyell Gold held a panel to read from his latest novel, Divisions. Sofawolf Press -- one of the biggest publishers of furry literature -- offered a sampling of readings from three works that will be coming out in the future. One of them was from Ryan, who'll be publishing a novel trilogy about a tribe of men and their relationship with the gods around them in mythic Africa. It's a very impressive work, and I'm immensely proud of him for it.

I attended another reading from FurPlanet Press, a great publisher that's looking forward to an impressive year. Watts Martin read from his novella, Indigo Rain, and another friend Kevin Frane read from his new novel Summerhill. Graveyard Greg read from his alt-universe novella Carpe Mortis as well. The stories I heard this weekend run the gamut from gay slice-of-life to epic fantasy to post-modern sci-fi weirdness to action thriller to traditional fable. And they're all good!

A bunch of local folks put together a jazz band that held (I think) their first concert on Friday afternoon. I thought I would zip in for a little bit, but ended up staying for the whole thing. I was pleasantly surprised by how well they played together, how much energy and passion they had. It was easily one of the highlights of the convention -- I really hope the Super Pack Jazz Ensemble puts in a return appearance next year.

Conventions like this one are really inspiring. I get to see a host of the friends I've made over the years, catch up on what they've been doing, and meet new friends who have a wealth of different experiences. Almost everyone you meet honors their creativity in some way or another -- through drawing, writing, performing, crafting, DJing, coding, collaborating. There are leather-workers, button-makers, hypnotists, costume designers, and artists of every stripe. It's hard to come away from the convention without being proud of this wonderful fandom and all the great people who make it up. And it makes you want to rise to the challenge of contributing to it in a meaningful, positive way.

So that's where I am, and where I've been. While running around being inspired and meeting an entire crush of people, though, I've fallen behind on my own creative projects -- quite seriously so. That's all right. It's a learning experience, and I think I'm in very good shape to press ahead with my writing.

Kotaku did a very nice piece on Further Confusion, by the way, if you're interested in knowing more about it. A lot of the media coverage about furries is less than kind, but this one is fairly even-handed, if a bit bemused about our existence. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to ask. I'll be as open and honest as possible.
jakebe: (Default)
Hey folks!

I'm trying to get ready for FC2010, but I need a bit of help doing so. Hopefully I'll be taking on a few additional responsibilities and there are a few things I'll need to do to make sure I handle them properly.

First, I'd like to make an open call to anyone who would like to host a Spirituality panel. I believe we have participants for a Christianity, Native American and Norse Spirituality, Buddhism and roundtable panel. I'm particularly interested in anyone who would like to run a panel on furry and Christianity, Islam, atheism or other religious tradition that isn't usually represented.

Second, could anyone point me to a good community of spirituality in the fandom. Broad net and interfaith communities are particularly useful.

Any nudges folks could give me in either direction would be greatly appreciated!
jakebe: (Meditation)
I picked up this book from Dainin Katagiri several years ago, because the title just leapt out and grabbed me so strongly. You have to say something: Manifesting Zen Insight. It was a pretty big dilemma for me at the time, and it's an issue that continues to dog me to this day. What in the world could I possibly say about Buddhism? If I couldn't explain myself to the people around me, have I really learned anything? If someone were to try and pick my brain about my beliefs on the spot, chances are I'd end up tongue-tied and frustrated. What makes sense to me intrinsically becomes this baffling and weak train of logic if I try to put it in words.

But as I get older I realize the vast importance of speaking and acting on the things you've learned. It's not enough to go up to the mountain and stare at a wall until you've reached enlightenment. It's definitely a good thing, to go into a hermitage, to find your personal connection with the divine in your own way. But every once in a while, you have to come back down. You have to talk about what you know, what you don't, and how each of those pieces make you who you are. Discussion is just as important as silence. Action is just as important as sitting. In order to truly understand a lesson you think you know, you have to find out how it translates from being an idea to being an action. If your spirituality doesn't change how you act, if it doesn't make you more engaged in the world around you, in my opinion it's failing to do its job.

Earlier this year I was asked to help with the Spirituality track at Further Confusion 2010. It's always been one of my favorite things about FC, so I accepted. It's really exciting to be able to take care of this conversation, and what I hope to do is give people a forum to voice how their spirituality has changed them and driven them to act on the principles of their faith. I know that the current political climate has made this a really unattractive idea, and especially in the furry fandom spirituality hasn't enjoyed the best reputation (*especially* if you're Christian), but I think it's important for us to have a dialogue about how faith can be a tool for something positive.

We don't have to agree about where our spirituality takes us, and we probably never will. But I think it is important for us to realize where we're coming from, and to know how we differ and where we agree. Tolerance and respect don't come from being completely segregated. I think that people of all backgrounds can mingle and even debate with respect. That's what I would love for the Spirituality track to help accomplish.

Right now there isn't much that's solidified, but I would love it if we could find someone to speak about Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Atheism...all with an eye towards a furry bent, of course. I would also love to put together some sort of Sunday morning interfaith service, a spirituality round-table, and other panels designed to encourage dialogue among differing views. If you or someone you know would be interested in helping with this, please let me know. It would be great to hear from you!

Ultimately, spiritual people far too often feel like their faith is something that should only be intimate, that it has no place in the social sphere. I think it's important for us to be mindful of people who have no place for it in their lives, but at the same time I think it's time for us to speak up, not just in words, but in deed. The time has come to say something.
jakebe: (Work)
Running (Apartment)
Time: 30 minutes
Distance: 2.123 miles
Top Speed: 5.4 mph
Top Incline: 4.0%
Calories: 300


I thought I would get in a little run while [livejournal.com profile] toob was off enjoying the first day of FC. :) I think I could really use the time to calm my frayed nerves, get some laundry and cleaning done, go over my notes for the Buddhism panel... (and sneak in a few rounds of Rock Band).

The apartment treadmill feels really easy now that I've been pushing myself again on the runs. Still, my legs were grateful for the easy time of it. I have this particular pain in my right leg, down low where it feels like a tendon is connecting to the bone. I don't think it's a tear -- to be honest, I'm not sure what it is -- but it tends to bother me whenever I get in a particularly good run. I'm hoping it's something that will get better on its own, but I suppose I should e-mail my doctor about it.

Right now I'm reading two books aimed for self-improvement: The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron and Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. The former is a godsend to folks who tend to eat emotionally, even if Cameron insists on using really retarded phrases like "Snack Attack" and "Body Buddy." There's actually a few good ideas in there, namely using writing as a replacement for food when you get that craving, but if she insists on saying "writing yourself right-size" one more time I'm going to scream.

The second book deals with self-image issues from a Buddhist perspective, which I certainly appreciate. It's definitely written in that hug-yourself, New Age tone, but that's not something I mind so much. In fact, I'm wondering if resisting anything written in that tone is a way of pre-emptively invalidating the advice so I don't have to follow it. Oh, the traps we set for ourselves.

I'm getting a lot of mileage out of the book and I'm only two chapters in. After the convention, I'm probably going to be really annoying and talk about it for a few weeks or so. Just so you're warned.

Now: dinner, a bit of reading, and bed. I'm making an early day of it tomorrow so I can get to the con by mid-afternoon. I can't wait to see you guys there!

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