Sixbeforelunch asked about this. (Yes, month meme answers will spill into next month.)

I won't go much into logistics because those are so localized. However, I will mention that therapists frequently have dreadful websites, so I take those with a grain of salt and just look for giant red flags (for me) such as phrases like "holistically incentivizing inner growth via process-oriented 'out of the box' thinking" or "we shall dance together in the inner sphere of oneness" or "Byron Katie."

Statistically speaking, the most important predictor of the success of therapy is the rapport between the therapist and the client. So the most important questions to ask yourself are, "Do I like this person? Do I think this is someone I could come to trust? Do I think I could talk to this person about the stuff I want to talk about?"

If you hate the therapist on the first session, don't go back. If you're not sure, maybe try one more session. You should feel at least reasonably/tentatively good with them by session three. It's not just about how competent they are; it's about chemistry and having a good match. You can do OK with someone you don't bond with (especially with some very skills-oriented therapy like CBT) but if it's not skills-oriented or you actively dislike them, you probably won't get much out of it.

That being said, rapport alone will do just fine for life problems. It will also often do just fine for life problems plus mental illness or trauma that has already been treated and that you already have a reasonable grip on. If you have a mental illness or trauma that you're addressing for the first time, or have never successfully addressed, there are a lot of very specific treatments that not all therapists will know about or use. This is where experts come in handy.

(Including but not limited to OCD, ADHD, specific anxiety like phobias or social anxiety, and PTSD. If you have serious specific anxiety and you've never tried CBT, an anxiety specialist who uses CBT can be life-changing.)

Think about what's important to you and what you're worried will be misunderstood. What are your dealbreakers?

I had a phone conversation with my current therapist before ever meeting him in which I interrogated him at length about his opinions about the internet. Only when I was satisfied that he would treat internet-based relationships as real relationships and not judge me for caring about online interactions did I go to see him. I also sounded him out about certain issues involving being a therapist that I'd previously clashed with other therapists I knew over. Only when I was satisfied that we were on the same page about that did I go to meet him.

Feel free to ask questions!
Vass asked about emergency preparedness, which is an interest (and former occupation) of mine. If you click on the tags, you will find a number of stories in which cars and other objects burst into flames (this seems to happen often in my vicinity), and in which I locked myself in my bedroom, set my pants on fire while I was naked and dripping wet, etc. (Moral: Do NOTHING before coffee.)

Information about the physical aspects of emergency preparedness (what to have around, where to store it, what training to get) is widely available and also localized. What you need depends on what you're likely to face. I have no idea what to do in case of tornados, because we don't get them where I live; a resident of Louisiana doesn't need to know about earthquakes. So I'll skip that part and instead discuss psychology, which is universal.

My experience is that not very many people are interested in emergency preparation, on any level, but that the people who are interested are very interested. And also that the people who are not interested tend to think that the people who are interested are deluded - that there is no actual value in being prepared, but that it functions as a mere security blanket of false comfort. I can't tell you how many times I hear, "Well, if it makes you feel better..."

Naturally, I find this quite annoying. I have used my training and equipment many times, and have very likely saved at least one life. It does make me feel better, but that's not its sole purpose. I also find it aggravating that the security blanket implication suggests that anyone who needs it is a coward. People interested in emergency preparedness frequently either have dangerous jobs or live in dangerous areas - that's how they got interested in the first place. If you ever take a class geared toward people who are there voluntarily, rather than being required for work, there tends to be a heavy emphasis on not being foolishly heroic. That's because the people taking the class tend to rush toward the danger, rather than running away. You don't need to warn people about things they'd never do anyway.

(Those of us who are interested can also annoy those who are not. That tends to go in the direction of "Just wait, you'll come running to me to save you when things go south.")

The most important aspect of preparedness is psychological. The place you start is believing that bad things happen, that at some point they will happen in your vicinity, that you may well be capable of doing something that will have positive results, and that you want to do so. People often don't believe (or don't want to contemplate) any or all four of those ideas. But once you consciously believe all those things, everything else follows.

(Number three is conditional because there's always the possibility that, for instance, the first thing that happened in the earthquake was that a brick fell on your head.)

The first time or first few times you're in an emergency situation, it's natural to freeze. It's also natural to freeze if something completely unexpected happens, no matter how experienced you are. If you deal with similar situations regularly, you stop freezing. However, the important thing to remember about freezing is that it's normal (so don't blame yourself) and it's temporary (so don't panic).

The freeze reflex is there, I believe, to force you to evaluate the situation rather than blindly plunging into counterproductive action. If you recognize it as that, you can use it to your advantage. So you're standing there thinking, "Oh my God, what's going on?!" Remember that this is the freeze response. Stay where you are (or take cover, as relevant) and see if you can figure out what's going on and what you can and should do about it. You only need a few seconds to evaluate. Take those seconds.

Many emergency situations are simple. Many useful and lifesaving responses are simple. Call emergency services. If someone's bleeding a lot, stop it. If someone's in danger of being hit by incoming traffic, stop the traffic and (if they don't have a possible spinal injury) remove them to a safe area. If someone does have a possible spinal injury, don't let them move. If things are falling, take cover. Stay away from live wires, including any conductive substances the wires are touching. If someone's having a psychological crisis, stay calm, listen, and let them see your sincere concern. Don't be afraid to ask if someone is suicidal. If someone says they intend to harm someone, believe them. If you're not sure whether or not someone is in trouble, ask. Etcetera.
Anglerfish07 wanted to know about my favorite fusion food. Though I live in the city of Korean tacos and sushi burritos (NO I am not going to try the latter without a sincere personal recommendation), there is one clear answer. It is, of course, Asian-Western pastries and other related desserts.

The form is Western (usually but not exclusively French), the flavors are Asian, and the presentation is exquisite. For instance, black sesame cream puffs, kinako (sweet soy powder)-dusted donuts made with just enough mochi dough to lend a delightful chewiness, mango pudding, white sesame panna cotta, and so forth.

While I enjoy both traditional Western and Asian desserts and pastries, their fusion incarnations lift them to a whole new level. Western desserts are often too sweet for my taste; fusion desserts are just sweet enough. Asian pastries can be too heavy and dense; fusion pastries are typically very light. I'm not that big on chocolate, so a wide array of alternate flavors is nice. Also tropical fruits are objectively superior to temperate fruits.

Japanese pastry chefs in Paris

Behold Chantilly!
Welcome to the question-a-day month meme! You can still add questions. Check the LJ version for the most current schedule.

Lokifan asked what media I’m looking forward to. I look forward to Orphan Black, season three. This is one of the best TV series I’ve ever seen: great characters, great dialogue, consistently unpredictable and well-structured plotting, and one of the very best performances I’ve ever seen on TV.

I thought for ages that this was an anime because the title sounds like one, but it’s actually a contemporary sf series. Sarah, a down-on-her-luck young woman whose child is being raised in foster care and is fleeing an abusive boyfriend, sees a woman who might be her double commit suicide by jumping in front of a train. She grabs the dead woman’s purse, finds her bank account and keys, and steps into her life.

That’s the first half-hour of the first episode. Things get complicated from there. Very, very complicated. Sarah finds out that she and the dead woman are clones… and there’s more clones out there. Some know what they are, and some don’t.

I don’t want to reveal too much, because as I said, the plot is consistently surprising. But Tatiana Maslany is extraordinary playing the various clones. They are all so distinct and convincing that you can tell when she’s one impersonating another – and are all also fascinating, complex characters. Great supporting cast, too. I especially like Sarah’s foster brother Felix and her own foster mother, Mrs. S. The characters have fascinating relationships with each other, and the show is often very, very funny. (I almost died laughing at some of the scenes in the rehab, not to mention Alison’s musical.)

Highly recommended. Contains some graphic violence and disturbing themes, including but not limited to children in danger, sexual violence, and non-consensual medical experimentation.

Feel free to put spoilers in comments, where I am happy to discuss in more detail. If you have not yet seen the show up to the end of season two, DO NOT READ COMMENTS. It’s best watched as un-spoiled as possible.
rachelmanija: (Books: old)
( Jan. 3rd, 2015 10:13 am)
Sholio asked me about my first Yuletide. I have no idea how I heard about it or what made me decide to try it out. All I remember is that it did not go well. I offered too many fandoms and offered to write any characters in them. This is a classic beginner’s mistake. I got an assignment for two characters who don’t actually meet in canon, with no details and no letter. I banged my head against the wall for a while, then defaulted.

To get back in for next year, I wrote The Story of Marli-Hrair and the Black Rabbit of Inle for Watership Down as a New Year’s Resolution. It’s still one of my favorite stories. (You probably don’t need to know canon, other than that they’re rabbits.)

The next Yuletide – my second signing up, but my first actually participating – was a huge improvement. I was less free with my offers, and got a wonderful, inspiring letter. I wrote The Taste of Honey for Sandman, which is probably my very favorite of my own fanfic stories, if I had to pick just one. You don’t need to know canon, other than that Dream and Death are siblings who rule over dreams and death.

I also snagged a pinch hit, Blood and Ink for Lloyd Alexander’s Westmark. You do need to know canon for this one. And I wrote a treat, The Rose of Naamah for Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart. You don’t need to know canon, but don’t read unless you’re cool with major sexual masochism involving consensual pain infliction. Way back in this era, authors couldn’t edit stories once they were posted, so I had email Elyn Ross, the mod, a frantic note asking her to insert a line in which the heroine takes off her panties. She very kindly inserted it.

That was 2007, and I’ve been doing Yuletide ever since. It has transformed Christmas from a rather dull holiday to one of my favorites. I like the challenge, the inevitable wank, the stories I get written for me, the treasury of others' stories to read, the community, the inspiration, and the opportunity to give presents to friends or acquaintances or strangers.
Welcome to the question-a-day month meme! You can still add questions. Check the LJ version for the most current schedule by clicking on the month meme tag.

Dhampyresa asked about the process of publishing a book, from first idea to publication. There’s actually several different roads for this, depending on whether it’s traditional or self-publishing, or whether I write solo or collaboratively. For this, I’ll assume you mean solo, because I’ll write on collaboration later.

In the beginning is the idea. I have lots of these. If I stuck just to the novel ideas I have right now, I’d have enough to keep me busy for the next ten years. So it’s not so much getting an idea as prioritizing an idea.

Due to laziness, I tend to prioritize the ideas that won’t take extreme amounts of research or worldbuilding. (This is why the lesbian dragonriders book got pushed back – it requires both. Anyone have good, vivid references for WWI-style dogfighting and aerial strategy?)

So, I’ve got my moderate-worldbuilding, moderate-research idea. I then contemplate and outline, then start writing. Eventually I have a manuscript. Here’s where paths start diverging.

If I’m going to self-publish, I polish, proofread, write a blurb, and create keywords. I get other people to do the cover and formatting. I usually solicit some reviews from bloggers. Then I publish. Ta-da! Once it goes live, I send out a message to my mailing list to let them know I have a book out. If it’s a sequel, I update the previous book to put a link to the sequel at the end of it. I will probably also put the first book on sale, to lure new readers. Once the manuscript is ready to go, the rest of the process takes anywhere between a week to two months. The difference depends on things like whether you had the cover done in advance and your formatter’s schedule.

If I traditionally publish, I send it to my agent to submit to publishers. This part takes between one month to one year, but could be longer. (If an agent can't sell a book in a year, it may not sell at all. Submitting without an agent takes far longer.) If a publisher or publishers wants it, they send a contract, which I and my agent ponder. It usually goes back for revisions/requests. Contract negotiations can take six months. Then the editor asks for revisions. I do them and send them back. The editor will usually do at least one round of that. This part takes between three months and two years. If it takes longer than four months, most of that time is spent after I’ve sent back my revisions and am waiting for the next set of notes.

Eventually, the manuscript goes to copyediting. It will be sent back to us with a bunch of corrections, from typos and grammar errors to questions about word usage and catches on continuity errors, like characters’ eye color changing. I fix the problems, answer the questions, and send it back. Then it goes to proofreading. I again get the proofread manuscript to check and do my own proof. Then it goes to ARCs – Advance Review Copies. These are sent to reviewers, and may have errors. My first book’s ARCs had a MISSING CHAPTER. (Usually errors are not that bad.) This part takes about three months, I think. Finally, the finished book comes out, and everyone rejoices.

As you can see, a big difference between traditional and self publishing is time. You do most of the same things either way— writing, editing, proofing, formatting, getting a cover, sending out review copies, etc— but because there’s so much less waiting between tasks with self-publishing, the whole process is significantly faster.
rachelmanija: (Sakura)
( Dec. 5th, 2014 12:59 pm)
I totally failed to do this last year, due to, if I recall correctly, a stalker making the prospect of posting a source of dread rather than enjoyment. Sorry, people whose questions I never answered! You can ask them again if you remember what they were.

I am posting this in the hope that 1) I will actually answer them this go-round, 2) ensuing conversations will remind me that the internet includes friends and good conversation as well as stalkers and threats.

I'm putting this up for January, as I need to be working on deadlines and my Yuletide story (have not yet started reviewing canon; BEARS) rather than LJ posts. Propose a topic for a day, and I will attempt to write at least one paragraph about it.

1. Yuletide reveal
2. The process of writing a book.
3. My first Yuletide.
4. Media I'm looking forward to in 2015
5. Best and worst things about collaborating
7. Best experimental/fusion food
8. Favorite children's or YA sff discovered as an adult
9. Favorite and least favorite literary tropes
10. Favorite h/c tropes.
11. Emergency preparedness.
12. Narrative therapy.
14. Five most horrifying plot twists
15. New or new-to-me Gay YA.
16. Favorite AUs or tropes
19. What do you like about post-apocalypses? What would you like to never see again and what would be something you'd like to see more of in them?
20. Church architecture.
26. Lizardable anime/manga recs.
31. My favorite book of the year.
rachelmanija: (Default)
( Dec. 5th, 2014 12:00 pm)
I totally failed to do this last year, due to, if I recall correctly, a stalker making the prospect of posting a source of dread rather than enjoyment. Sorry, people whose questions I never answered! You can ask them again if you remember what they were.

I am posting this in the hope that 1) I will actually answer them this go-round, 2) ensuing conversations will remind me that the internet includes friends and good conversation as well as stalkers and threats.

I'm putting this up for January, as I need to be working on deadlines and my Yuletide story (have not yet started reviewing canon; BEARS) rather than LJ posts. Propose a topic for a day, and I will attempt to write at least one paragraph about it.

1. Yuletide reveal.
4. My first Yuletide.
10. Favorite h/c tropes.
11. Emergency preparedness.
12. Narrative therapy.
14. Five most horrifying plot twists.
15. New or new-to-me Gay YA.
16. Favorite narrative tropes or AUs.
26. Lizardable anime/manga recs.
31. My favorite book of the year.
I am writing to order for the monthly question meme. There are a few slots left, if anyone has anything else they'd like to know or think would be amusing to see me write about.

[personal profile] oyceter, unsurprisingly, asked about my best recent food discovery. That would be New Orleans cuisine! My parents and I visited New Orleans last month, and stayed in an apartment in the Marigny (rhymes with "marry me," more or less) where we could stroll and admire the cool little houses with lace-like trim, painted in bright colors.

But mostly, we ate. The food completely lived up to expectations. Everything we ate was good, even completely random little neighborhood restaurants. We were sadly unable to make reservations at Cochon, but it did become a running joke that were eating like cochons.

As everyone suggested, we had beignets at Cafe du Monde, with chicory coffee. I'm not sure I really tasted the chicory; it mostly tasted like strong, somewhat bitter coffee. Maybe the bitterness was the chicory? The beignets, little fried dough pillows, were nicely doughy on the inside, covered in an avalanche of powdered sugar. We also had beignets elsewhere, but I liked the Cafe du Monde ones the best.

I had several po boys, of which my favorite was the crawfish at, IIRC, Acme Oyster House. I was very impressed with the bread in general, which is a sort of French loaf, but very light and fluffy, with a crust almost the texture of a creme brulee top; it shatters when you bite into it. The crawfish were very lightly breaded and fried, not at all heavy or greasy, with some lettuce and exactly enough dressing (a spicy mayo) for flavor and moisture, without anything getting soggy.

Another great meal, though not specific to New Orleans - lots of restaurants in LA serve this type of Asian fusion food - was at the Three Muses, with live music and an amazingly good appetizer of pork belly on a scallion pancake.

However, my single favorite thing was the shrimp and tasso Henican appetizer at Commander's Palace.

Commander's Palace in general also lived up to my rather high expectations. It was in a gorgeous converted house dating back to the 1800s, which reminded me of an old riverboat. The service there was the best I have ever experienced in my life - one of the few times when I've ever enjoyed the service for its own sake. Let me put it this way: I was offered a black napkin because I was wearing a black dress. It was very old-school, but fun rather than stuffy. Our waitress was introduced as "Miss Margaret," which made me expect an old lady in lace. She was actually a young, enthusiastic foodie with opinions on the entire menu.

I had been vaguely expecting the food to be rich but more delicately flavored, I think because I associate restraint with formality. The flavors were actually very bold, which I prefer. The shrimp and tasso Henican consisted of perfectly cooked shrimp skewered on crispy ham, in a sweet-spicy-tangy-hot sauce that made me want to lick the plate. (The wine waiter helpfully produced a basket of bread for sopping purposes.) If I'd been in New Orleans by myself, I would have gone back the next day and just had the shrimp for lunch.

We also had a mini-serving of three soups, gumbo, turtle, and apple-squash. All were good, but the turtle was fantastic, served with a splash of sherry poured on tableside. It was thick and murky, distinctly reminiscent of the river from whence the turtle probably came, with strands of mysterious greens and shreds of meat, rich and complex and tangy. The famous bread pudding was also good, more of a souffle, very light, not overly sweet.

I left a little bummed at LA's lack of turtles, crawfish, po boys, and this style of cooking in general.
Okay, I'll do it for January. Pick a day and ask me a question, propose a topic, etc, and I will write about it on that day. (I have started it with January 1, because I know for sure that's what I'll be posting on.)

1. Yuletide!
2. Best recent food discovery.
3. Why I love Los Angeles.
4. Emergency preparedness.
5. Current thoughts on the User's Guide to PTSD.
6. My favorite pair of shoes.
8. Dragonriders of Pern.
9. What I remember most about Japan.
10. Favorite song.
11. Favorite and least favorite literary tropes.
12. How therapy school has changed me.
13. My favorite books by Robertson Davies, Dick Francis, Georgette Heyer, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Mark Saltzman.
14. My cats.
15. Creation of identity.
16. The weirdest thing that ever happened to me.
17. Food and travel.
18. Clothing.
19. Martial arts.
20. Influential books.
21. The best movies I've seen this year.
22. Nail polish.
24. How I found fandom.
25. Three people I'd like to meet.
27. Fast food.
28. My hobbies other than writing.
29. College, young and old.
30. Shounen manga and slash.


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