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 I was going to write a very comprehensible post about Ramadan, but I have a headache caused by lack of caffeine because I switched from coffee to tea this morning and thus am not much in the mood to try a craft one at the moment. But there's a dozen things I want to post about, so here we are, with yet another list of things.

1. The switch from coffee to tea is mostly because I ran out of coffee, and since the boys and I are leaving for the entire summer, I'm not particularly interested in replacing it just yet. Also, I have tons and tons of very good and delicious tea leaves in my pantry and I need to drink them. My brain does not agree with this plan, which is ironic since my brain is what suggested this plan in the first place. If I wanted, I could take a very short walk over to the compound center and get an iced coffee from the restaurant there (which is not closed for Ramadan and has good iced coffee for about $3), but it's the principle of the thing.

Not that principle means much when your head aches.

2. It is Andrew's last week of first grade. They're not required to wear uniform this week, but Andrew wore his anyway today because he wanted to wear it. It's not like it's a big deal - I'm sure there will be other kids wearing a uniform, because there always are. And his uniform isn't super uniform-y - it's a red polo shirt with the school crest and a pair of dark-colored shorts. Half the kids in the compound don't even take them off after school because they're pretty comfy. But I bet Andrew's told at least ten times before lunch that he didn't have to wear a uniform today.

Honestly, I think half the reason he wore it is because I made the belated discovery last night that all of his play shorts are too small in the waist by about 2-3 inches per pair, which is just... horrible. But he didn't say anything and he hardly ever wears them anyway (see: comfy school clothes) and it was only when he was trying to put on a pair yesterday that really were obnoxiously small that I thought to look. The really stupid thing is that he has tons of clothes in his closet that are bigger sizes because I was smart and bought up a few sizes before packout. So I've gone ahead and switched them all out but I'm not sure Andrew got the message.

Anyway, he's doing super well with school, he's caught up on reading and I think he's better at math than he's letting on. The school has two teachers in mind for him for next year, they just don't know who's staying and who's going. I think he's ready for 2nd grade. 

(For those wondering when Andrew got old enough to be a second grader - I am right there with you.)

3. Charlie's speech therapy is going well. He's beginning to mimic more often, and he's adding words to his vocabulary. Not every day, but at least he's adding. I think we're going to pull this kid into verbalization, him kicking and screaming the whole way. He's also decided against potty training for the time being. We take off his diaper, he points to the potty and yells. We put him down to go to the potty - and he looks at us, grins like a maniac, and then runs for the stairs, laughing the entire way with his little butt peeking out from the hem of his shirt. Even when we sit him down on the potty, he's up like a shot and off running. Which is really disappointing because he was doing so well. If we can get him potty trained by September, he can go into the big-kid class at kindy (ages 2-1/2 and up). Otherwise he's stuck with the middle class (1-1/2 through 2-1/2). 

4. Pen's sixth book came out about two weeks ago. I've done a couple of different things with marketing it; I'm not entirely sure how well any of them have worked. One of the things I did was to start it off priced at 99 cents as a promotional thing for people on my newsletter. I ended up getting some really good sales... until I upped the price as planned to $1.99 about a week before release, and then sales took a sharp downward turn. They went up briefly when it was released... but I never cracked the first page of ranked books on the Gay & Lesbian bestsellers list on Amazon (though I came close), and cracking that first page really helps sales rankings, because then you tend to stay there for a while. 

Another thing I did was to hire an ARC service. Amazon has this thing where if your book has more than 50 reviews, it's more likely to pop up in searches and also-purchased-by and the like. The reviews don't even have to be good, they just have to be there. There's a couple of ARC services out there where you pay a set amount and they'll get your ARC into the hands of readers who want it. The reviewers aren't paid, and this particular service claims an extremely high return rate because they check that their reviewers really are reviewing their ARCs. (Which is one of the reasons they probably earn the money they're paid, this is a whole lot of tracking on their part.) 

Anyway, between the ARCs I handed out personally and this service, the new book has more than 50 reviews. The vast majority are positive; the negative ones are of the "but why don't they shift into wolves and don't you know men can't really get pregnant?" variety which I can easily ignore. 

5. I've also started posting the mega-long second season fic for Yuri on Ice. It's still a WIP, which was a conscious decision... I'm not sure I'd do this again, honestly. It's an interesting process, and I'm glad I started posting when I did, but.... I wish I'd spent more time finishing and polishing it before putting it up. Partially because:
6. ...I don't know, I feel like the last year or so, my writing hasn't been so strong as it used to be. I'm not sure why. Both Pen's last book and this new YOI fic have received comments that are strikingly similar in nature. A couple of the Pen reviewers said they found the writing to be "juvenile" - one even said it reminded them of fanfiction. Which is both funny and cringe-worthy, because while yeah, I write fanfic and I happen to think fanfic can be as good if not better than some published stuff out there - I don't think they meant it as a compliment. There's been some comments on the YOI fic as well that are more critical than not - the first week or two were especially hard for that. It wasn't so much what they said, but the way they said it, kind of like, "Aw, here's a little baby writer, let's boost her confidence and tell her to keep reaching for that rainbow!"

(To which my 40-year-old-probably-been-writing-since-before-you-were-alive self wants to respond with a cheerful and friendly "F*** you." Not exactly a diplomatic response, I think we can agree. Instead I gritted my teeth, said "thank you for your comments!" and kept going. Because maybe once upon a time I would have sobbed into my ice cream but I'd like to think I've matured a bit since then.)

(The cynical part of me also points out that the most popular fic in the fandom right now features 20,000-word chapters with page-long paragraphs in which the characters spend most of their time thinking about things that happened in previous chapters and denying that they're actually in love with each other while having a whole ton of sex every time they're in the same hemisphere. Also if you don't listen to the music they've linked, you cannot possibly understand the fic itself.)

(I did say I was petty in here.)

Thing is... I'm not sure what happened. But whatever it is, clearly it's not just one or two people or even me who think that my writing is weaker than maybe it once was. (Though of the people who called or thought it "juvenile", maybe I'm the only one who has the ability to compare to previous works.) Which makes me wonder... what happened? Did something happen, or is this just my imagination? And if it did happen... how on earth do I fix it?

One of the things I wanted to do was find a professional editor and see what they thought. I could have done it with the book that's coming out in July - I finished it way back in October, after all - but then I never was able to figure out where to send it, or if I really wanted to spend the money. Because professional editing is (a) expensive, and (b) not really utilized by people who are writing the sort of books I'm writing. (Yes, here, let me pay you to read this book about guys knocking up other guys, woo-hoo!) I mean... I have some wonderful betas. They catch a ton of my mistakes and they're almost always right about when things need to be fixed. But... then I get reviews that say my writing is juvenile and comments pointing out where I made a POV switch in the middle of a scene and sections where the tense is questionable and... maybe those things wouldn't necessarily be caught by a professional editor, but sometimes I feel like the story needs more help than I'm able to find on my own for it. If that makes sense.

And as much as I hate spending a ton of money on a book before it's published... maybe this is an expense I should really consider. At least part of the time.

7. ... I was going to have a #7, but my head still hurts and I've got about an hour before Charlie wakes up from his nap, so I'm going to go lie down for a bit. 

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