LGBTQ Myths and Facts

This was written as an op-ed piece for submission to my local newspaper – which ran an article discussing how 3 West Virginia state lawmakers support and even endorse the idea that LGBTQ people are “the next Ku Klux Klan.”

It came to my attention that there are now 3 lawmakers in West Virginia who endorse the idea that the LGBTQ community is on the same level as the Ku Klux Klan.

So I thought it would be helpful to debunk some myths about the LGBTQ community.

Myth #1: “LGBTQ people are neo-Nazis!”

No.

It’s widely known that Nazis hated and persecuted Jewish people. Less well-known is that Nazis persecuted LGBTQ people, as well. Nazis would mark them with a badge bearing a pink triangle. Those with the pink triangle would be sent to concentration camps, just like the other “undesirables.”

Part of the reason the Pride flag has a pink stripe is to honor that history. Think of the POW MIA “You Are Not Forgotten” flag. That’s the same sentiment for why pink is in the Pride flag. It’s also a way for the LGBTQ community to reclaim the color pink as a positive color, not a color to be used to persecute them.

Myth #2: “LGBTQ people are terrorists like the Ku Klux Klan!”

No.

The Ku Klux Klan doesn’t just chase after black people, though that’s their most obvious target for their hate. The KKK is not a fan of LGBTQ people, because of their “sinfulness” and “perversion.” The KKK is an extremist Christian terrorist group. They takes the concept of “love thy neighbor as thyself” to mean “love the neighbor that’s most like me,” and to “correct” or eliminate anyone who does not fit their standard.

However, this leads to the next myth…

MYTH #3: “The LGBTQ community is violent!”

Are you talking about the Stonewall Riots of 1969? Because those riots were against a police force who had been actively targeting LGBTQ people, especially transgender folks, and shipping them off to prison for violating dress code laws. (Yes, dress code laws were a thing. Dress code laws were partially why women wearing pants was unheard of pre-1960.)

Nowadays, LGBTQ people are no more or less violent than the general population. But it is noteworthy that the most common defense for LGBTQ people accused of being violent is “self-defense.”

MYTH #4: “Political correctness is too rampant! That’s why gay perversion is allowed!”

Let’s make one thing clear: “politically correct” means to have actions and motives in line with whoever is in power at the time. Our current president has made it clear he does not tolerate LGBTQ people, by banning transgender troops from the military and repealing many laws that protect LGBTQ people from housing and job discrimination.

In this era, the politically correct thing to do is to discriminate, even hate, against the LGBTQ community because that’s the standard the President and Republicans in Congress have set. They are the ones in charge (for now).

So, if you want to be politically incorrect, and go against the people in charge, wave the Pride flag. Be friends with your lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender neighbors. And above all, don’t kick out your children who come out to you as one of these qualifiers. And don’t send them to conversion therapy, either. Conversion therapy is politically correct because that’s what the President and Republicans in Congress want.

What Does a KickStarter Scam Email Look Like? Well…

You come across a LOT of junk mail and bull-crap whenever you run a KickStarter campaign, whether it’s your first time or your tenth.

As it turns out, The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 1 is my tenth campaign on KickStarter. And, true to form, I’ve been getting messages from total strangers saying that they “can help boost this campaign to millions of people” and that they know “the best outlets to promote this KickStarter to” so I should “reply to this email ASAP to jump on this unique opportunity.”

But there was ONE email that I got recently that stood out to me… for all the wrong reasons.

First, this is not the first time this guy emailed me. He had sent a previous email starting with, “I get it. You’ve seen thousands of messages from people saying they can help your campaign” (which I have). But the difference was this NEW guy emailing me called himself “a guru in crowdfunding.”

Pro tip: never call yourself a guru of anything. You sound pretentious and it’s step number 1 of making sure I delete your email.

But shortly after that one, he sent me a NEW email.

Here, I’ll show you a screencap of this thing. Don’t worry, I’ll censor out the guy’s email, name, and face. Just pay attention to the email text:

In case you can’t see it, the email says, “we’ve chosen The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 1 as our weekly “what could this campaign be doing better?” round table discussion.”

Already off to a bad start. I know what I can do better. This is my TENTH campaign. And I already made the fixes before this dude sent me this message.

And he adds, “We choose one very lucky campaign and go through it top-to-bottom to see what you can do better.”

This is the most slimy sentence I’ve come across.

And I’m saying this as someone who’s sat through brutal art class critiques and read thousands of pages of copy other people have written to promote their work.

I’m saying this as someone who studied marketing and promotional materials during college AND after. That sentence is slimy.

Why is this sentence slimy? Because it is preying on the email recipient’s insecurity about their campaign.

Whether you’re running your first campaign or your hundredth, there will always be a bit of insecurity that you feel when you launch. Will this thumbnail stand out? Did I make enough rewards? Did I overprice one of these tiers? Etc.

That sentence in that email is designed to snag onto that insecurity and make the email recipient feel like they NEED help.

Trust me: you do not need help from a guy like this.

I’ve had better luck getting help from ComixLaunch, and I found that program to be very hit and miss for me. Again, I’ve run ten successful KickStarter campaigns, and The Legend of Jamie Roberts, Chapter 1 is looking to be my eleventh successful one.

Never trust a dude who would use sentences like that, no matter how professional or “well-meaning” the rest of the email sounds.

I hope this helps you if you’re looking to start crowdfunding – or even if it helps you spot similar emails in the future. I hope this blog post has helped you spot what kind of language to watch out for and what to avoid.

Best of luck to you, and thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Chaco Canyon, and Historical Preservation

Notre Dame cathedral in France caught on fire. And that got me thinking.

Specifically, it got me thinking about the importance of cultural preservation, how we got to caring about Notre Dame cathedral so much, and how we can carry that attitude moving forward.

We as an American/European culture got to caring about Notre Dame cathedral mostly because of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame – or, in the original French, “Notre Dame de Paris.”

Believe it or not, that book has nothing to do with the love “triangle” of Quasimodo, Esmerelda, and Frollo. That dynamic was more due to later interpretations and adaptations of the novel to the movie screen. (For more on that, check out this video by Lindsay Ellis if you haven’t already.)

No, the original book is a lengthy essay about the importance of architecture to a culture and how architecture outlives and outlasts the people who live around it.

So, if you ever read the book and wondered, like teenage-me did, why the characters are so unlikeable and why there are entire pages devoted to the flying buttresses… well, now you know.

In short, Victor Hugo’s book was written in an attempt to preserve Notre Dame cathedral at a point in time and history when cultural preservation wasn’t even a concept. Keep in mind, too, that when Hugo wrote the book, Notre Dame cathedral was practically a shell, having been looted and torn apart multiple times until he wrote “Notre Dame de Paris.” This book was written with the intent of telling people why this cultural edifice was so important, and urging people to restore it and preserve it.

I’m glad we now live in a world where historical and cultural preservation is a thing. And I’m glad to live in a world where the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral is considered a tragic event because of the historic significance of the landmark.

That said, don’t worry too much about Notre Dame Cathedral. Now, I’m saying this as an American Pagan and not a French Catholic. I’ve never seen the cathedral in person, and my only visual memory of it is the Disney adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. However, Notre Dame Cathedral has the Catholic Church and the support of millions of Catholics around the world to restore it. Notre Dame cathedral will be fine.

My hope is that we remember the significance of cultural landmarks like Notre Dame Cathedral, and we carry that attitude with us towards monuments and landmarks that are at risk.

Like, here in the United States, we have a lot of cultural parks at risk at the hands of our current government administration, who are more focused on resource extraction than on cultural or historic preservation.

As an example, let’s take a look at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. This site is not only a culturally significant site to MANY Native American tribes. It’s also the home of the oldest Pueblo ruins in the United States.

And the problem? The largest of those ruins, Pueblo Bonito, was excavated, but nearly half of it was buried again under a landslide. All of that work, and all of the artifacts left to excavate, was lost.

And my concern? Right now there are fossil fuel companies looking to build mines, or god forbid, go fracking, in the lands in and around Chaco Canyon. The earthquakes that those operations cause could bury more ruins and make us lose more history.

My hope? I hope we remember the example of Notre Dame Cathedral and we carry that momentum forward, to protect the cultural landmarks that contain our history.

Chaco Canyon and Notre Dame Cathedral mean different things, depending on your religious outlook. But they are both significant landmarks that have outlasted and outlived the peoples who originally built them. My hope is that we remember the significance of places like Chaco Canyon and we treat it with the same care and respect as we do Notre Dame.

Thank you for reading.

You. Are. Awesome.

P.S. If you would like to find out more about Chaco Canyon, here’s their official website (if you have the means to, they also accept donations). And be sure to check out (and if you can, support) The National Park Service, the organization that protects sites like Chaco Canyon nationwide.

How Did the Patreon Pledge Drive Do?

patreon pledge drive patreon screencap

Last week I ran a pledge drive for Patreon.

If you don’t know what Patreon is, that’s ok: Patreon is an online subscription service that lets you support your favorite artists, often for as little as $1 a month.

To clarify: I have a Patreon page for the comics I write and illustrate under the Fantasyville Productions label. These comics include, but are not limited to:

  • Thoughtful Dinosaur
  • The Case of the Wendigo
  • and the upcoming The Legend of Jamie Roberts.

There’s a separate Patreon page for Validation and its related stories (including Mr. Dino & Friends, Roxie Comics, and Tiny Unicorn). That’s because the Validation comics are a collaborative effort with Christian Beranek and myself.

Funding for my Fantasyville Productions comics does not go to Validation, and Validation funding does not go to Fantasyville Productions comics.

I ran the Patreon pledge drive for my page (not Validation’s) because the comic shop I currently work at has cut my hours severely. Like, now I only work there 5 hours a week.

So I ran the Patreon pledge drive to see if a) I could get new patrons to b) help cover the lost income due to my hours getting cut.

The goal was to jump from $180 a month to $250 a month. My goal for the end of the year is to make $500 a month on Patreon alone, so to get to $250 by the half-year point would have gotten me closer to this goal.

By the end of the week, we went from $170 a month to $201 a month.

It didn’t make my goal, but it’s still not bad at all, especially for only having a pledge drive that lasted a week.

What surprised me more was the current patrons I had who increased their pledges – often by an extra $3 a month! That’s amazing!

We also got a new patron on board, which is marvelous, and so immensely helpful.

And so, with the combination of the new patron plus the increased pledges from current ones, we reached one of the Patreon goals listed on the page: at $200/month, I’m now going to draw a patron-exclusive The Case of the Wendigo desktop wallpaper!

Honestly, it’s just amazing that folks who love my comics were willing and able to chip in and help during this tough time. This will help make production of The Legend of Jamie Roberts go just that little bit smoother.

If you would like to pledge support, and help bring The Legend of Jamie Roberts to life, please check out my Patreon page. You can adjust or cancel your pledge at any time.

Even if you pledge $1 a month, you get to see behind-the-scenes development of the comics I do.

For example, here’s a post about Jamie and their two best friends; here’s another post about the dragon Norsa; and here’s a post about two gods in the Jamie Roberts universe, The Voice and The Messenger. These three posts were made free during the pledge drive, to give a taste of what rewards patrons can get for pledging support.

If you’re broke, that’s totally ok, because Patreon is optional. If you would rather make a one-time donation, there’s a Paypal donate button on the side of this website, or you can purchase a convention goody from my online store.

That’s all for now. Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.

My Personal Dos and Don’ts of Selling At Shows

(CONTENT WARNING: There’s swearing. Because I get really passionate about this shit.)

I am not an expert. I have sales experience under my belt, from doing caricatures at Cedar Point for 3 years, and doing comic conventions for the last 5 (really kicking into gear in the last 2). But if there’s a World Sales Martial Arts Tournament out there, I’ve never participated in it, much less gotten a black belt or 1 million Zenny. With that said, don’t take too much salt with what I’m about to say, especially since what I’m going to suggest flies in the face of what a lot of “experts” will say.

Here’s what works for me when I sell my comics, prints and other sundry at conventions:

1. Opening with “How’s It Going?”

Tyler James, I know you don’t claim to be an expert but I’m going to call you out for a second because I remember one episode of ComixLaunch that pissed me off. Here’s why:

The advice in one of these podcast episodes was NOT to open with “Hey how’s it going,” but to open with “Do you like to read comics?”

At a comic convention this is about the same thing as asking if water is wet.

Not to mention that I tried this “Do you like comics” exactly once, and the guy looked me in the eye and said, “No thanks.”

I am brutal when it comes to sales tactics. If it fails even once, I will never use it again. So guess what opener I never used?

I’ve mostly trained myself into this new habit instead – when I ask, “How’s it going?” and someone answers something like, “Good, you?” I can follow that up with, “Well, I’m just selling my stuff today.” THAT is what gets people to stop 99% of the time.

Every once in a while, someone will answer with a “Good,” and nothing else. That’s fine. Conventions are big enough to allow passers-by and it won’t hurt you. Some people will want to tell you their life story. That’s fine, too: let them stick around because seeing someone at a table will entice other customers to come over. Also, you never know when that someone telling you their life story is going to give you an idea you can put into your comics. Just make sure the person is not a Time Bandit (more on this in a minute).

2. Ask the Customer About Themselves.

Now, the ONE episode of ComixLaunch I actually liked was one that Tyler didn’t host himself – it was hosted by Josh Dahl. Here’s a link to the episode. I internalized ALL these things just before Awesome Con and it resulted in my biggest sales jump yet. Plus, I got to try a technique I hadn’t used in years, and it re-inspired me to use it again.

The technique? Get the customer to talk about themselves.

You are there to meet new people. Show some goddamn interest in other people.

Don’t just talk about yourself and your work – ask the other person about what their T-shirt is referencing. Ask them if it’s their first time at the convention you’re at. Ask what they’re most excited to see at the convention. Ask, ask, ask.

Get to know the other person you are talking to. Even if they don’t buy from you, they will remember how outgoing you are.

Also, tying into this, throw out compliments. Throw ALL THE COMPLIMENTS. Even if the person is just walking by your table, throw a compliment at them.

Keep it genuine. My personal favorite thing is to compliment a cosplay, especially if it’s something I recognize.

3. DO NOT TALK POLITICS, DAMMIT.

I think it’s because I have rainbows on some of my art pieces, but there are (once in a blue moon, at least) people – usually dudes – who will approach and ask something charged.

There was one particular show at a local comic shop I remember. There was a dude who came up to me and it started when he asked to friend me on Facebook. I said, “No, I like to keep my Facebook friends separate from my art page, especially because my personal page can get political sometimes.”

Well, one thing led to another and eventually this dude spent literally 10 minutes trying to get me to engage in a conversation about how “naturally weak” women are because of some statistics about women tennis players vs. men tennis players using numbers that I’m 110% sure he pulled out of his ass.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened to me – back in my caricature days, I remember one teenage girl looked me dead in the eyes and asked me, “Do you believe in hell?”

So here’s a pro-tip from someone who gets asked these sorts of questions a lot: if someone asks you a question that YOU KNOW will lead to a heated discussion, say this:

“I’m on the clock right now, so I can’t really talk about that. If you want to talk with me outside of work, here’s my business card.”

And the best thing is, by doing this you guarantee that the person will not actually contact you outside of the show with those questions. Because they ask you those questions to get you riled up in the moment.

Brush them off. You are not there for them. You are there to find Your People. If they ask you politically charged questions and you know it’s to rile you up, they are not Your People. Move them away ASAP.

4. Play Whose Line Is It Anyway: Con Style

Maybe it’s because I’m really good at improvising, but my favorite thing about going to conventions and talking with people is going off-script.

See, there’s usually a script in mind when I pitch my comics and work to folks. But if given the chance, I would rather improvise and go off-script. This will make you appear more approachable. Yes, having a script is nice (after all, people expect you to know what it is you’re selling). However, I would rather activate my senses and gauge whether the person I’m talking to is even interested or not.

You can usually tell when someone is just looking and they don’t intend to buy from you – they don’t make eye contact, they scan but don’t touch, and their responses to your questions are short. Let them look. If someone else is nearby, talk to them.

Improv is about energy. You want to keep your energy up and engage with the “Yes, and.”

(For those who don’t know, “Yes, and” refers to the idea that when you build a joke, you keep “no” out of your vocabulary. If someone asks “Isn’t the sky kinda purple today?” You answer with “yes, and” to build the energy in the scene.)

Saying “no,” even non-verbally, cuts the energy off. You want to engage with people, not walls.

5. Beware the Time Bandits.

Grace bless teenage boys, because they don’t entirely know when to stop talking about what it is they’re obsessed over. Teenage boys are not the only culprits of being Time Bandits, but in my experience, Time Bandits tend to be that demographic.

Time Bandits are people who will demand your attention for as long as humanly possible. There was one case at a local show in which a Time Bandit stayed at my table for TWENTY SOLID MINUTES babbling about Invader Zim.

(FYI, I did not like Invader Zim before the Time Bandit, and I sure as shit do not like Invader Zim now.)

Time Bandits are life-draining to your table. They will scare away any potential customer because the Time Bandit will do their damndest to keep your attention on them AND ONLY THEM.

Other customers will want to talk to you, but the Time Bandit will demand your acknowledgment so often that you cannot peel away to talk to the other person who came up to you. Or if you try to peel away, they’ll give off this vibe that they’ve been rejected, and they’ll sulk.

My advice – have a table buddy as often as humanly possible. Your table buddy can help you divert the attention of the Time Bandit, or talk to the other person who has approached you who wants to engage with you.

If you are at your table by yourself, encourage the Time Bandit to visit other tables. This DOES require that you know who else is at the show and what stuff they have. You don’t have to have extensive knowledge – just enough to know if there’s something out on the floor that would more closely pertain to the Time Bandit’s interest. Direct them that way as soon as you fucking can.

Because the worst thing is – Time Bandits don’t buy from you. I think they operate under the assumption that “oh, I can’t buy something from this person. Maybe if we talk about something we like for a few minutes, that would make this person feel like my time here was worth something.”

To any potential Time Bandits who may be reading this – I appreciate the gesture, but it’s not necessary. I go to conventions to talk to as many people as possible because I want to add to their experience. By trying to keep my attention on you, you are depriving me from making someone else’s convention experience awesome. It’s selfish and you need to stop.

6. Be Fucking Excited

Don’t just be excited. Be fucking excited. Show your nerd love emblazoned across your forehead.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking only about your numbers (i.e. “ok, if I make $XX that’ll make back the table. Selling X number of X books will make back the cost of hotel. Let’s see how many of these I can sell before the end of the day”).

Take this bit of advice from someone with anxiety – this is anxious behavior. STOP.

Deep breath in. Be in the present moment.

Because holy shit, you’re at a convention! There’s costumes and comics and manga and so many fucking nerds with the same interests as you! Revel in that.

Take in the excitement and the joy. Be genuinely excited about things at the show, and have fun. Trust me – that enthusiasm will bleed into how you approach your future fans.

I hope this helps.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.