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Pretending to be a real grownup

I had a reasonably good day today! (I mean Tuesday, not Wednesday. Working evenings messes up my sense of days, lol.) Slept later than I wanted, but there was housework, and phone calls*, including scheduling an eye appointment for the first time in *mumblemumble* years, a doctor’s appointment to discuss medication for my mental health issues**. I also worked on AFWT. I’m in the beginning of the middle scene, which should be short, but I think I’m gonna be looking at a longer than average chapter again…

*sigh*

Anyway, I have a comic page to ink! Preview pic tomorrow, hopefully!

*I really, really hate talking on the phone, sometimes the very idea of making phone calls makes my stomach curdle. Apparently this is not an uncommon anxious reaction, which makes me feel, if not better, then less like a freak.

**It makes me feel positively paradoxical, however, that I have to have a superlative mental health day to get myself to do something about my mental health issues…

Research Mission: Fail

I talked in my last post about going out in search of research material. I ended up at BookPeople. They had several books on Austin history, but none with the kind of information I needed. Boo. Though I did find this:

LOOK LOOK IT’S A BOOK ABOUT FAMOUS TREES!!!!!

I didn’t realize we had enough famous trees to fill a whole book. And now there are gonna be a lot of magical trees integral to the plot of this book.

I am not sorry.

But I still have to find some research material on my setting.

In other news: my work schedule has gone back to normal this week, and I even Did Stuff when I got home from work this afternoon instead of lolling about like a lump! Behold, the rough pencils for the second page of ‘cold’.

I made a mistake–wasn’t paying attention when I drafted, so the image isn’t properly centered, but that can be fixed when I transfer it to the watercolor paper.

I also worked on my book and cleaned part of my kitchen. Cross your fingers for me that this keeps up…

Research and other deadly foes

I sort of fell off the internet for a while, except for Tumblr, which, as social media outlets go, is the most benign, being 99% pictures of cats and webcomic updates. My depression and anxiety have calmed down a bit, so I recently dove back into the wilds of Twitter.

This proved a boon for that one weird novel idea that came to me last year, featuring the supernatural oddball combination of a unicorn and an incubus. (This was inspired partly by a side character from the Kate Kane series I talked about here and an offhand comment from some social media post ages ago about unicorns in urban fantasy.) The two main characters came pretty easily, and a conflict soon followed, but the bane of my writing existence is actually plotting so I struggled to find some way to get the book moving beyond introducing the characters. Worldbuilding was also a bit of an issue with this one–how do you handle the ubiquitous urban fantasy tropes? Especially when you’ve already got another urban fantasy-ish story that you’ve determined will have none of them in the works at the same time?

It was given some steam, quite by accident, when I saw this tweet

It struck my attention because the working title for this book is Lion and Unicorn, because the antagonist is a lion avatar of a goddess. Still working out the main plot, but now there is some forward motion on it, and I was inspired to work on the details, which led to searching such things as sacred plants in folklore, ancient deities who have lions as sacred beasts, genius loci, Celtic fairy lore, and all the other usual suspects in urban fantasy, ie, werecreatures, vampires, and the like.

I learned, among other things, that hawthorns feature in a number of folklore traditions, including vampire slaying, but all the things I found are European in origin. I started looking up American analogues, and let me tell you, it was hard trying to get information on the species native to the Central Texas area, but I did it. The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center has a very nice database, so I was not only able to find some species of hawthorn to use, I was also able to look up wild roses and verbena, which also have prominent places in the folklore. I still need to look up local folklore. I have some books to read on that subject; they just need to be unearthed from my massive TBR pile.

I have parts of two chapters for this book already, but I probably won’t get to work on it seriously for a while. My priority, aside from ATWT, is going to be the ace wolf shifter story (working title:Golden Wolf) and the other urban fantasy, (working title:A Spirit of Place), which share a world and have crossing plotlines, which both need research as well, mostly on the setting. Going in search of a good history book about Austin this weekend to that end. The magic system for that series is going to be based on genius loci, so that’ll be fun.

Um…not a lot else to talk about, really. I’ve been plugging away at AFWT, currently on Ch46 of the fifty-two I have outlined. My anxiety has gotten a lot better, but my depression is still kicking my ass, and this week’s work schedule isn’t helping. I wanted to do Inktober, but after the first day, work was such that I came home Monday dead on my feet and spent the next two days half zombified, so the second page of the work, inspired by the aforementioned A Spirit of Place, the protagonist of which is a webcomic artist who co-owns an art supply shop.) is barely half drafted. There was perspective involved, which makes me twitchy anyway, and the hardest part of making comics is actually trying to decide the best way to compose the panels, so it took me like, three hours to do even that much.

I was planning to get back to it today, but I ended up being depressed and also full of allergies so I slept most of the afternoon, and my brief attempt to write was…not successful. But my sister made me dinner and I had a nice walk, and a book that I pre-ordered will be coming out tonight, so I’m giving myself the rest of the evening off, and I’ll try to get back to the drawing stuff tomorrow night.

In the meantime, have this shot of the cover/first page of ‘cold’ by Elise Davenport, the MC of A Spirit of Place.

A Purple Garden

purple tiger roses

It’s purple and it’s TIGER why the heck wouldn’t I want this thing?


Purple is my favorite color, as anyone who has known me for more than five minutes will know. So when I saw these fabulous purple tiger roses, I just had to have them. But, not content to limit myself to a single purple flower, I also bought this one:
dark purple rose

Look it’s a ~mysterious purple~ rose


And a wisteria as well…
wisteria

Been wanting one of these babies for AGES


And then I got to thinking that I already have a huge rosemary plant that is covered with purple flowers, and then I saw some seeds for a really cool purple columbine, so I bought those as well. (Though while I was outside planting the purple tiger rosebush they mysteriously vanished from the porch. Stupid wind blew them off somewhere. I hope I can find another packet.)

I bought a purple clematis too, but as I got that from Walmart, I don’t have a convenient picture to snark from their website, so you’ll just have to wait until it blooms. Which might be a while, since I have yet to plant the dang thing.

I’m wondering now if it’s too late to plant irises, because of the purple flowers, those are some of the nicest. I did get a mixed bag of anemone bulbs, not all purple, probably, but the pinks and reds should make a nice contrast, or maybe I’ll pot them and just transplant the purple ones in the garden.

Anyway, that’s a thing I’m attempting. It’ll probably be slow going since I have a bit of a black thumb and am almost incable of getting out of bed at a decent hour anymore–it is just slightly miraculous that I managed to get up early enough to plant the rosebush today. (I also bought and planted a Japanese Loquat just because it was there and sounded cool.) Updates as they happen! (Hopefully!)

So…I bought myself a hat?

I am becoming ever more housebound, between taking my writing seriously* and the burgeoning anxiety/depression issues, but a few weeks ago, my sister did manage to get me out of the house on a shopping trip. We went to a craft store, a book store, and Target.

At Target there was a hat.

My BFF promptly named it my sherbet hat, and so it shall be called for ever and ever

I loved it at first sight. The colors are so cute! I made the cardinal mistake of putting the hat on and wearing while I followed my sister around the store. It felt odd at first, but then I forgot about it except when I was walking fast enough to make the beads bounce against the brim in the most satisfying way.

Of course I ended up buying it.

Now, I am not a hat person. Hats make me feel like I should be trying for some sort of fashion, and my fashion is generally ‘whatever is comfortable and doesn’t make me look ten pounds overweight’ and ‘sandals when the weather approves.’ In Texas, it approves most of the time. I wore them today when I took my dog for a walk.

I also wore my sherbet hat for the first time too, because one of the reasons I was able to persuade myself it wasn’t a self-indulgent waste of money was that I sort of needed one for our walks. Texas is a big, open place, and even more so in the winter, when all the trees are hanging out in their birthday suits, and the sun is free to shine right in your eyes when you’re walking in the direction of the sunset on a short January evening. The sunlight shining through the brim was very nice, all golden through the pinkish-red of the hat itself. I am satisfied with my purchase, and am not inclined to castigate myself for spending the money.

*Hey, J.M., how is that going anyway “Oh, fine, I felt really good this week despite being tired as hell, so I’m almost done with Ch34, (one scene left *crosses fingers*) and not terribly discouraged even though the mess my country has gotten itself into since November sent me into a Spiral of Doom™ that put me two and half months back on my schedule and now AFWT probably won’t be released until autumn at earliest” she says while totally not sobbing in a corner.

No, it’s fine, really, I promise. I feel good today, anyway, so I’m going to make the most of that while it lasts.

Reading Roundup for 2016 and Some Highlights!

I basically spent the last two month of 2016 in a semi-comatose state, inhaling the fluffiest fluff possible to sooth my raging anxiety and depression. *gestures at the general state of the world* Fell off all my social media, barely left the house for anything except work…yeah, it was bad.

But I now have a bunch of books and other media to talk about!

TV stuff first!

My BFF got me into Supergirl. I had seen a couple of episodes and not been terribly impressed–the acting is…not great (it’s a CW comic book show, duh) but the characters are actually adorable when taken in context, and that counts for a lot with me. *squees at how adorable Winn is* *pinches Kara’s cheeks* And I love how much time is devoted to the sister relationship between Kara and Alex.

I watched the entire first season on DVD, but it was too late to really get into season two, since I had missed like, all the new episodes. I’ll probably binge it when it hits DVD on Netflix. I much prefer to consume my visual media that way anyway, since I tend to check out of shows after a few weeks when I try to watch them on a week to week basis.

Then I had to start watching the Flash, because Supergirl got me jonesing for more adorkanerds, and basically the entire cast of Flash is adorkanerds. I’m about halfway through the first season–I got stuck in an ebook loop and forgot to finish the second disc and the first one got buried under a mountain of crap on my desk so I forgot to send it back.

Oops. Oh, well, on to the books!

New stuff first. I have been a really big fan of Patricia C. Wrede’s Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Dealing With Dragons, Searching for Dragons, Calling on Dragons, Talking to Dragons) since I was a kid, and I recently saw a recommendation for her Cecelia and Kate novels.

In Sorcery & Cecelia, the two cousins have been inseparable since girlhood. But in 1817, Kate goes to London to make her debut into English society, leaving Cecelia behind to fight boredom in her small country town. While visiting the Royal College of Wizards, Kate stumbles on a plot to destroy a beloved sorcerer—and only Cecelia can help her save him.

They are super good despite being told in a series of letters, which is possibly my least favorite literary device ever. Regency romances with a magical twist are one of my favorite things, as I have recently discovered. I devoured the first one, Sorcery and Cecelia and then the next week the second, The Grand Tour. I’m saving The Mislaid Magician for a day when I need something suitably Fluff.

Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series is also pretty good, even if she’s a bit mean to her characters.

The world of Faerie never disappeared; it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival—but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born.

Outsiders from birth, these half-human, half-fae children spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery…before the curse catches up with her.

I finished the first two books, and the third is on my shopping list. Probably gonna hit up the used book stores for this series from now on though. (I really do feel like eight dollars is too much for an ebook when it’s part of a really long series like this. Hey, publishers, I really do spend more freely on ebooks when they’re five bucks or less. I’m saying this as a person who has spent a truly ridiculous amount of money on ebooks this last six months or so, I’m just saying.)

Speaking of inexpensive books, I loved Harper Lee’s Tyack and Frayne series. They’re novella length, and even though I’m not a huge fan of the insta-love trope, the subsequent installments dealt with the development of the relationship so well I stopped caring about that.

Gideon Frayne has spent his whole working life as a policeman in the village of Dark on Bodmin Moor. It’s not life in the fast lane, but he takes it very seriously, and his first missing-child case is eating him alive. When his own boss sends in a psychic to help with the case, he’s gutted – he’s a level-headed copper who doesn’t believe in such things, and he can’t help but think that the arrival of clairvoyant Lee Tyack is a comment on his failure to find the little girl.

There is a good balance between the relationship and the mysteries, with the two becoming more intertwined as the series progresses, and Harper Fox has a way with language, and with making the setting come to life. I’ve read a few of her other books, but this series is the best so far.

Another really good series is Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett’s Novels of Astrieant. It’s a historical mystery/fantasy/mystery–quite a genre mix there. The first one is Point of Hopes.

Nicolas Rathe is a pointsman, a dedicated watchman in the great city of Astreiant. During the annual trade fair, with a city filled with travelers and merchants, someone is stealing children. The populace is getting angry and frightened and convinced that a foreigner must be to blame. Rathe calls on the aid of both an out-of-work soldier, the handsome Philip Eslingen, and the necromancer Istre b’Estorr. The art of astrology is a very real power in the kingdom and plays as much a role in politics as greed and intrigue. Rathe finds himself struggling to find the children before a major astrological event brings about catastrophe.

These are long books, with ultra-detailed narratives–which doesn’t bother me, I actually like that. The worldbuilding is spot on, medieval Venetian-inspired with a matriarchal society, the magic very skillfully woven in.

Melissa Scott also cowrites another series of historical fantasy mysteries with Amy Griswold, this one Victorian, starting with Death by Silver.

His practice newly established, metaphysician Ned Mathey can’t afford to turn away any clients. But the latest Londoner to seek Ned’s magical aid gives him pause: Mr Edgar Nevett, an arrogant banker, is the father of the bully who made Ned’s life hell at boarding school. Nevertheless, Ned accepts the commission to ensure the Nevett family silver bears no ancient or modern curses, and then prepares to banish the Nevett family to unpleasant memory again. Until Edgar Nevett is killed by an enchanted silver candlestick—one of the pieces Ned declared magically harmless.

Calling on his old school friend Julian Lynes—private detective and another victim of the younger Nevett—Ned races to solve the murder, clear the stain on his professional reputation, and lay to rest the ghosts of his past.

It’s got the same long, ultra-detailed style–again, not complaining. The magic is really cool and sort of scientific-ish, with complicated written spells and detailed rules about what works properly.

One more series that I really liked was Alexis Hall’s Kate Kane, Paranormal Investigator.

My name’s Kate Kane, and when an eight-hundred-year-old vampire prince came to me with a case, I should have told her no. But I’ve always been a sucker for a femme fatale.

It always goes the same way. You move too fast, you get in too deep, and before you know it, someone winds up dead. Last time it was my partner. This time it could be me. Yesterday a werewolf was murdered outside the Velvet, the night-time playground of one of the most powerful vampires in England. Now half the monsters in London are at each other’s throats, and the other half are trying to get in my pants. The Witch Queen will protect her own, the wolves are out for vengeance, and the vampires are out for, y’know, blood.

I’ve got a killer on the loose, a war on the horizon, and a scotch on the rocks. It’s going to be an interesting day.

It’s basically the standard urban fantasy setup–vampires, faeries, werewolves, mages–except the cast is like, 90% lesbians. Kate Kane is half fae, and her magic is really neat and creepy, and the first book was just hilarious with her snarky sense of humor. I really hope the third book comes out eventually…

I think that’s it for my recent reads (or rather, the things I’ve read since my last roundup, anyway, you know, way back in *mumble mumble*). Probably my favorite series (aside from Tyack and Frayne) I’ve read this year is K.J. Charles’ Society of Gentlemen. The covers are, frankly, hideous, and that put me off trying them for a long time despite enjoying the author’s previous series pretty well. But the writing is so good–the historical detail is phenomenal, giving a real sense of the setting that was sorely lacking in some of the Regency series I’ve read–politics, fashion, slang. Despite being fairly short books, they create a detailed world and well-fleshed out characters. Since this is a problem for me and my multiples-of-hundred-thousand-words-long manuscripts, I’ve reread these books several times to try to get a sense of how she accomplishes this. Hopefully it’ll rub off on my future attempts. (Not that I’m going to attempt to cut down AFWT at all. I’m going to write that exactly how I want, and how I want is ridiculously long, apparently. lol)

A Bit of Halloween Flash Fiction For You

Karen plunged a knife into the soft and pliant flesh and cut a clean, round hole. “Gosh, this is gonna make a mess,” she said, pulling the top off the pumpkin. She was surprised to find, instead of seeds and pulpy orange goo, a lot of fuzzy black mold. “Damn it,” she said, “I paid four bucks for this thing!”

She threw the pumpkin away and washed her hands, wondering what to do in the two hours she had left before work. “Guess I’ll watch some TV,” she said. She flipped through the channels, but there was never anything on in the afternoon. She decided to put in a movie–after she got something to eat. For some reason she was starving, even though she’d just finished breakfast.

She decided to fix a bowl of ice cream. It took a while. She kept dropping the spoons on the floor. “Why am I so uncoordinated today?” she grumbled. Her hands looked terribly pale. She hoped she wasn’t getting sick.

She shuffled back into the living room, adding lethargy to her list of symptoms. It seemed like a lot of trouble to cross the room to select a DVD, so she plopped down on the couch and stared listlessly at the screen. A talk show was on, lots of dysfunctional people screaming about baby-daddies and drugs. She had been watching, ignoring her ice cream, though staring at the host’s shiny bald head, she was hungrier than ever.

After a few minutes, the show was interrupted by a special news bulletin. “A mysterious fungus has been reported as causing mass outbreaks of mind-altering behavior this Halloween. Symptoms include a lack of coordination, extreme hunger and what has been described as ‘brain fog’. If you see anyone exhibiting these symptoms, please report it to the FEMA Heath officials at the following numbers. FEMA director W. Craig Fugate is cautioning citizens to stay indoors until the cause of this massive outbreak can be identified and dealt with. If you absolutely must leave your home, wear a helmet as a precaution, as the fungus has been linked to outbreaks of violence, including infected persons attempting to bite passersby on the head and face.”

Karen stared at the screen in dismay. “Are they trying to tell me I’m turning into a frickin zombie?” No wonder the cats were hiding on top of the bookshelf.

She sulked on the couch for a while. Finally, she had to get up and get ready for work. After all, convenience stores never close, not even during a zombie apocalypse.

It wasn’t all bad, she decided. There were a few customers she actually wouldn’t mind meeting today.

(c) 2011 J.M. Cowan

Totally not posting from work *coughs loudly*

I went to get my phone battery changed. It turned into a mild adventure. Which is to say I am now a bit stressed out. 

I got to the battery place and they did have a battery, fortunately. Two of them. When my mom went, that had told her there was one but they were wrong. Twice. It was not an encouraging story. The girl took down my information and went to replace the battery. She went behind a little high walled kiosk thing and I could hear her making sounds that were also not terribly encouraging. There was a loud adhesive-tearing sound. Then she brought my phone out and plugged it in because apparently these batteries do not come charged? 

And we waited for the phone to come on.

And we waited. 

And we waited.

And ten minutes of incredible awkwardness later she finally decided she would try the other one. Meanwhile my stomach is doing that stress thing. You know. Cold knives in the gut sort of thing. This gets worse when she brings my phone back out and we wait for it to come back on. She is holding the original battery that came with the phone now and it…does not look viable anymore. She broke the capacitor on it taking it out so if the second battery didn’t work I was basically out a phone.

And we waited. 

My stomach: D:

And then, thank all the gods and spirits* it actually started. It has been working just fine since yesterday. Not great battery life but that’s probably the iOS 10 update’s fault. Apple does not really believe in backwards compatibility. :/

*I love how after working on this book for a year and a half I keep catching myself swearing in character. I expect any day now to get a Look from one of my customers for saying ‘fire and water‘ instead of ‘dang it’

So the battery is going out on my phone

It currently only lasts about five minutes unplugged. I’ve had this phone for about three years, I think? An iPhone 5c. It was free with my contract renewal, and it’s been getting slower anyway, so I thought I’d go and see about a new one.

Went to Verizon, and my options, as told to me by the guy behind the counter, are to pay full price outright for a phone (lolno), or pay monthly payments until it’s payed for (it’d take two years to pay for the damn thing). So I said, “You don’t do contract renewal pricing anymore?”

And he said they did but my bill would go up by twenty dollars a month.

So I said that was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard of, who would pay more to be trapped in a contract for two years? And he said it was to keep the non-contracted customers.

But…you don’t want to keep the ones who are willing to be contracted? Like, I could *switch* phone companies right now and get a cheaper phone? Big business logic?!??!!? (Also, they wanted to charge me fifty dollars more for the phone than Apple would have if I bought it outright?!)

I know, I know. “Stop wasting time whining about phones and finish the dang book already.”

I am about halfway done with the revision, though. I…severely doubt I will be able to finish before the new year, unless my muse lights a serious fire under my @$$. I was looking at Ch12 today, and Extremely Large chunks of it will have to be rewritten from scratch now–I will never, ever write another book without figuring out all the worldbuilding details first again–I have basically halted work on my side project (tentatively titled ‘Golden Wolf’) for just that reason. (It’s an asexual romance with wolves who can turn into people, not werewolves, set in small town Texas. I’m planning to do a research trip for it for my birthday, to Boerne, which is tentatively the setting. Haven’t decided whether it will be set in the real town or a fictional version.)

I also figured out the emotional arc for the sp/ace romance. I had been stumped for a conflict, and stupidly ignored that it was right there in the first scene that I live-tweeted last year, because I thought it was going to be a much different story than the one it is supposed to be. Oops. Oh well, I still have a deal of research to do for it anyway. I thought of writing it for NaNoWriMo this year, but I think I’ll actually just work on AFWT instead, see if I can’t finish it before the end of the year. And on that note, I’ll go work on Ch12, but only for an hour, because I have a ton of stuff to do tomorrow, chief of which is going to get the battery replaced on my phone because *makes rude gesture at Verizon*

Reading Roundup!

I had been having trouble getting into new books for a couple of years now. It’s partly the depression/anxiety/ADD thing, and partly a lack of time when I’m working on a project that got as big as my current WIP.

But recently, I started reading as voraciously as I used to as a kid again. I think it’s the sheer convenience of reading on my phone that’s done it. I do not own an e-reader, and I can’t see myself buying one, ever, but the ability to hold an entire library in my back pocket has done wonders for my reading habit. The small screen size and adjustable fonts help negate my tendency to zone out in the middle of a page of text, and being able to change to a black background with white text is so much easier on my eyes for some reason. Plus, it’s my phone, which I keep in my pocket, which makes it easy to pick up around the house and while waiting in line at the bank and other such quiet moments that arise.

I may also have developed a terrible, ADD tendency to switch between writing, reading and Twitter every five minutes. In case you were wondering why it’s taking me so much longer to get these chapter revisions done.* -_-;

My recent binge started with a special price on the ebook for Gail Carriger’s Prudence, which I had been curious about. I liked Soulless, but my interest in the series sort of tapered out after the third book because I was on a Serious Stories kick then, and these books are basically All Fluff All The Time even when she’s trying to be sort of serious, but now I am on a huge Fluff Kick because reasons. (Although I generally consume my Fluff in comics format because I still prefer texty type stories to be dense and long and involved.) Anyway, Prudence was a solid three-star read for me, and I’m just waiting for the price of the sequel to go down so I can read it. I really need to finish the Finishing School series too. The first book was decently entertaining.

Then while I was browsing the ebook recommendations from Amazon, I ran across a title that seemed familiar, and ended up binging on the first three books in Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series, which were recommended to me by my best friend ages ago and which I promptly forgot about because my brain is like a sieve. I actually had to force myself to stop reading them at book three because I was not getting any work done on my own book. Also because the ability to immediately buy the next book in a series is a dangerous thing for my credit card balance.

I might as well have finished the series, though, because I still ended up buying a bunch more books. The ones that I liked the best were the Cadeleonian series by Ginn Hale, Lord of the White Hell and Champion of the Scarlet Wolf. These are just good books, wonderful character interaction and enthralling worldbuilding and plotting. I particularly liked the magic in the Scarlet Wolf books.

I’ve read about half a dozen other books, but nothing I cared for enough to write about. I’m going to start trying to tweet more about what I’m reading over on my Official Author Twitter, since I don’t have much else to say on it. I forget it’s there most of the time, oops. ;p

*actually that’s because I keep having to go back and forth between chapters and reread everything eight billion times and make hard decisions about plot and character relationships and this book is already at 80K words and I’m ONLY ON CHAPTER EIGHT gods damn it why do I do this to myself