I just finished cleaning up my website’s database, so to celebrate I am posting an old sketch that I found in my folders.
Happy Easter and U.S. Federal Tax Deadline, everyone! My health condition has finally been stabilized after finding a new physician, leaving my day job and consulting with my psychiatrist. Now that I’m feeling better, the team and I are back to work on Rasputin Catamite at full speech. In our newest eComic, Sasha gets an IQ test that changes his life and Dima gets reunited with his dead girlfriend, Aleksandra. If you are ready for the drama that ensues, get it Amazon’s Kindle Store!
Due to a factors related to stress, the death of a beloved pet, the suicide of an old burlesque peer and an extended illness, my schizophrenia has worsened to the point where an independent and self-sufficient lifestyle has become physically impossible. Because I was forgetting to do things like religiously take allergy meds, monitor allergens, sleep, do my art therapy, meditation/prayer/relaxation regimens, etc., both my physical and mental health started to collapse rather precipitously and in tandem. Currently, I am on a course steroids and antibiotics to help my severely taxed lungs, as I recover from a series of viral and bacterial infection that have ravaged my body for over a month.
It seems that at this moment, I can no longer hold a regular day job with hours beyond my control, regardless of whether it’s part-time of full-time. This was incredibly devastating because my employment as translator has been extremely wonderful and spiritually enriching. My boss went out of her way to accommodate me, and my workplace was wonderful beyond words. Unfortunately, I have reached the point to where I am now disabled and may get worse if I continue pushing myself in employment activities that don’t directly contribute to self-care. I am still relatively high-functioning for a schizophrenic, but not at a point where I can live a fully independent life without further modifications to my lifestyle. My therapist and I will be discussing what that will look like in the next three weeks.
I’ve always prided in being fiercely independent, so getting this bit of bad news is pretty hard to process. Sadness is a gross understatement. Thankfully, my life as a Christian, my faith community, friends, family, pets, and the therapeutic nature of the art I make, have been keeping me safe during this very difficult time. I am especially grateful to my husband, Mandarr, Ram and our newest illustrator, K.M. Claude, as we work on ensuring future Velvet Rasputin comics happen.
Wish me luck, blessings or whatever you are comfortable with as I do my best to deal with this disruptive ordeal.
My health has been atrocious to say the least. Ram and Mandarr have also been struggling. January has been a stinky month to say the least. Thankfully, we continue to work on the comics and I am optimistic that we’ll have something to share next month. Meanwhile, enjoy this beastie Mandarr designed for me with input from Loki and I. It is based upon the seven headed serpent in Revelations.
Hope you all like it!
Ram and I have been missing in action for a while, but it’s for good reasons. I got a wonderful new job as a construction manual translator for an alternative energy firm. Ram has been dedicating a lot of his free time doing animation and enjoying it very much. Not surprisingly, our priorities in life have changed considerably.
Things have been hectic on both our ends, so the comic projects have gone to the wayside. Don’t worry, we are still working on the Rasputin Catamite project and Velvet Rasputin, but not as fast as before. Behind the scenes were producing some of your stories, and I can’t wait to share them when we’re ready to unleash them on to the world. Mandarr, will be doing covers once again so it should be need to see what happen.
I’ll have more news sometime in January. Happy Holidays everyone!
Social Media Anxiety
I am not particularly concerned about my social media numbers, because honestly, my comics are more about therapy than anything else at this point in my life. I’m semi-retired, and my household has the money it needs to run smoothly. Plus, my friends on social media are absolutely amazing. Their company is the main reason I am there. Alas, there are a lot of comic creators who are extremely anxious about who follows them on social media. Perhaps, you are one of these individuals, and are struggling with the following concerns:
- You feel that your social media follower count is embarrassingly small
- People belittle you because you don’t have the follower counts that they do
- You feel that you will never be a social media influencer
If this is you, I have some solutions, insights and tips to share.
It’s Easy To Increase Your Follower Count (You Just Need Time)
A few months ago, we had over a thousand followers on the old Velvet Rasputin Twitter account. Sadly, a lot of bad stuff happened last spring and summer, and we ended up having to reset our account as a result. The aftermath of virtually starting over proved devastating for our follower count, and emotionally difficult because we lost track of many beloved friends. Recovery from that social media disaster is a slow process, but not an impossible one. Here’s proof:
On September 17, we had around 333 followers. I decided that for the sake of fun and of proving something to myself, I would make it a goal to reach 400 followers in a week. The plan was to accomplish this without purchasing Twitter ads, or paying for followers. Velvet Rasputin is a highly specialized niche comic publisher, and incredibly difficult to market. Waiting for followers was not an option. Perhaps, you have a brand new webcomic, or have very little experience marketing, so you may be stuck in a similar situation. This is why I’m going to share how I made it to 400 by September 21. I didn’t even have to resort to using shady “get more follower” apps, or wading through the wasteland that is #TeamFollowBack.
The Steps I Took
- Carve out some time in the day to work on your social media presence. I chose to spend at least two hours a day searching for people to interact with. You don’t have to spend that much time meeting new people to grow your social media accounts. Just make sure that you schedule at least a few minutes a day to seek out new connections. Consistency matters here.
- Step outside of your usual social circles or field of expertise by using the search or discovery features in your chosen social media sites. If you are a comic artist, don’t just stick to comic-related hashtag or topics. Look for keywords that reflect your comic’s story, your personality, or the kind of people that you want to attract in your life. Strike up conversations with people that seem interesting, strike a chord with you or, share similar values. This seems like it goes against the conventional wisdom of targeted marketing, and it does. But instead of finding compatible demographics, you’ll find relationships worth building. When you are selling a story, knowing the whole person matters more than a getting fleeting eyeballs.
- Look for people asking questions that you know you can answer. This is a great way to make new friends and put your expertise to good use. This is an especially great technique for people who are not socially gifted, because when answers help people, everyone benefits.
- Don’t just look for popular folks to follow. Sometimes, newbies with few followers can provide higher quality engagements than folks who are popular and too swamped to pay attention.
- Don’t neglect your existing followers. Getting new followers should not be an excuse to abandon your old friends. If you want to grow your follower base, you need to make sure that your old friends don’t get lost in the shuffle. You don’t need to follow every tweet, but make sure to say hello and chat for a bit, if you run into one of your old friend’s tweets.
- The more quality conversations you have, the more likely it is that your new acquaintances will follow you. Never hesitate to ask those chatty folks to follow you, or keep in touch in the future. Even if they don’t end up following you, other people will notice, which may help you gather goodwill with existing followers, and even earn some new followers who enjoy what you do. And of course, there are some people just need time to get to know you before they follow you back. Patience is key here.
- Avoid getting openly angry or disappointed if someone unfollows you, blocks you, or if you need to unfollow or block someone. It happens. It might be sad or enraging to let go of an old follower, but it’s all a part of establishing personal boundaries. Not everyone is going to get along.
- Run and contest or freebie promotion and post it on freebie or contest sites. This is a great way to get your first 100 followers. Unfortunately, this tactic is also a great way to get stuck with a bunch of unengaged followers that won’t interact with you long-term, as I learned the hard way when the Velvet Rasputin Twitter account was still the Rasputin Catamite account.
- Be sure to follow back if you see new followers that you feel are a great fit! Returning the favor is part of the fun.
This process of gathering new can be frustrating or tedious and it takes time. However, it’s the most effective, ethical and proven way to find and keep new followers. Feel free try one or more of these steps, if you want to increase your social media presence.
All That’s Followed Isn’t Necessarily Popular
It looks great doesn’t it? It does seem to have all the things a great social media account should have, doesn’t it?
- It has 592 followers
- A cool product
- A nice header banner
- A profile icon showing art from the book rather than a default image
- A diverse group of followers with interesting tweets
- Only five tweets
Wait a second, something seems fishy here. This account has only existed for three days. Unless someone is already a household name celebrity, getting that many followers in a that short of a time span is impossible without quality interactions. Here’s what the account looked like when this experiment started:
Oh no! Maybe we should check to see if any of these accounts are bots. Everybody knows that all fake followers are bots. Right?
Weird! All of the followers seem legit. Let’s compare this to my other account, where I obtained my followers the honest way.
Oh no! My real account has more fake followers than my dummy account? How can this be?
The Dirty Secret
It doesn’t make sense that my real account has more bot followers than for the account that has paid followers. I bought my bots fair and square, right? WRONG! None of these fake followers I bought for this experiment are bots. This is possible because there are websites where brokers pay real people to like and follow their clients.
Yes, an account with this many followers will attract people, and a portion of the followers of the fake account here are real. Yet, the rest of them were purchased from follower brokers on Fiverr.
For as little as $5, you can get anywhere between 100 and 3000 non-bot accounts to follow your account. I don’t recommend doing this at all, but I did this for the fake Tsarkias account so you can be aware of how easy it is for a business or individual to create the illusion of social media success.
Sometimes, individuals with a thousands of followers will belittle people with less followers. The often repeated mantra is that if you don’t have thousands of followers, then your social media presence is somehow less valuable. However, the truth is today’s follower brokers have gotten so sophisticated, that it’s almost impossible to tell their clients apart from people who legitimately earned their followers. Since there is no easy way to tell who earned their followers or not, social media users can’t automatically discern popularity or influence of a social media presence just by looking at follower numbers alone. Believe it or not, it is possible for someone with only ten followers to have more legitimate social media influence than someone with ten thousand followers.
Make no mistake, there are rarely any meaningful interactions behind purchased follows. None of the accounts following will likely belong to people who would actually buy the book that my dummy Twitter account is advertising. None of these accounts will yield meaningful networking or opportunities for friendship. The majority of this fake followers are there to create the illusion of popularity. The number of followers in this account is completely meaningless. Yet, in spite of the inherent uselessness of buying social media popularity, famous people often resort to tactics. Again, inflated follower counts are all about image, and for the image conscious, this illusion is worth the potential risks. I personally, think that these types of activities are a waste of money that could potentially destroy your reputation and hard work.
If you are ever tempted to resort to this dirty trick for gaining social media followers, you’ll be better served using that $5 to support a fellow creative’s crowdfunding campaign. That single interaction will go a much longer way in establishing positive and long-lasting relationships with your social media following. Plus, instead of you creating the illusion of being popular in social media, you’ll create the reality of being an awesome person in social media.
Influence Is About Relationships Not Numbers
Influence is hard to quantify. Just one kind word to one person by an unknown, can change the world. Today’s celebrity can become tomorrow’s obscure person overnight. But, as long as you keep in mind that the main point of social media isn’t to sell, but to be social, you’ll have some influence even if your circle is tiny. One one or two great friends on social media can be an endless source of validation and enjoyment, if you are engaged and supportive. Likewise, there are people with thousands of friends who openly complain about being lonely and not having enough followers. Numbers don’t sell products anywhere near as well as trust, relationships, and great marketing techniques. If selling or creating awareness for your creative output is one of your goals, work on being social first, while you study the art of sales. In the long-run, this will improve your chances of financial success. But, if that’s not your priority, then simply enjoy your hard-earned social media followers with pleasant conversations and fun times. You’ll be glad you did.
A lot has happened since my last update. Here is a rundown of what’s been happening, and what to look forward to:
- The Rasputin Catamite webcomic has been discontinued. The Groovy Kinda archives will remain as is. The webcomic version of Wildman will remain online until at least, next year. Lacey Investigations is currently on hiatus until further notice. All discontinued Velvet Rasputin webcomics will still be available as eComics on Amazon.com,
- I’ve had to restart physical therapy because of chronic pain issues, so taking care of the site and writing the comic has been something of a struggle. This situation had a huge impact on my decision to conclude the Rasputin Catamite webcomic. Making full-stories available as eComics rather than worrying about a weekly update schedule, is a lot more manageable for me, and it ensures that readers don’t have to worry about the comic suddenly stopping in the middle of the action.
- I’ve actually been extremely busy in the community and in my household lately, so I haven’t been online as often. This is a great problem to have.
- The upcoming Rasputin Catamite eComic, A Body To Die For is debuting on 8/24/2016 along with the cover art for Blood On The Ice and Blood Sacrifice, our upcoming fall eComic releases.
- The Third Rasputin Catamite Collection be enjoying a limited print release just in time for CONtraflow, and will be available for its mass market release on 11/27/2016.
That’s all for now. Here’s a collection of old Rasputin Catamite related sketches that I made back when I had a second job, for your viewing pleasure.
Before I begin, if you want to see pretty drawings, just scroll to the bottom. Otherwise, I thank you for reading this long post. A lot has happened since my last note, so here are some updates of what’s been going on:
- Sadness and a massive lack of motivation have been problems during the last few months. Thankfully, my faith and a support network of loved ones, have been incredibly helpful in overcoming this slump for the most part. I’ve been going through grief counseling as well as therapy to deal with the negative symptoms of schizophrenia and a few very sad changes in my life. Thankfully, I’ve been making a lot of progress with those mental health issues. I am happy to report that I am no longer suffering from psychosis or hallucination, so the situation is manageable. I still have to work through some more stuff, but I should be back to a happier and more enthusiastic soon. Depression is tough, but I am stronger.
- The United States decided “help” Puerto Rico by undermining our democratically elected government and officially installing colonial rule. They did this to allegedly bail my homeland from the enormous debt that was incurred because of the Federal government’s questionable wisdom. They forced us to loan money to billionaires and multinational corporations at nominal interests rates. They forced us into a food import monopoly with a single American fleet They basically declared a tax-free zone for vultures corporation sucking out money out of our nation and destroying our agriculture and industry. They also forced us to allow illegal immigration in our Island in such a chaotic manner, that the it had to reissue everyone’s birth certificates, the crime rate has gone completely out of control and, the influx has caused a major healthcare crisis. I live in the States, so this doesn’t affect me as much as it does the people living in the island. However, there is something extremely demoralizing about knowing that much of my family are now subjects in a colony rather than equals in their United States citizenship. I write against tyranny, so this political change rubs me the wrong way.
- I am working on making more changes on the site to make it simpler (for visitors, and for me to maintain) as well as more functional. I removed the old announcement blog and guest artist interviews, as fixing at these sections would’ve been too much of an investment for the return I was getting. Thankfully, this means that the site is fully operational again. I am still ironing out glitches, but I’ve reached a point where it’s manageable.
- Political stuff as of late has been infuriating. There’s too much irrational extremism on both sides of the political aisle, and identity politics have gotten completely out of hand in general. It’s soul sucking for me as a historian who prides zirself on objectivity, to deal with the infantile tone of our current political climate. There’s too much useless propaganda and not enough digging into sources, context or even basic logic. If I haven’t been on Twitter as much, that’s why.
That’s all for now ,
P.S. If you are a so-called progressive, and you think that you are going to stop institutional systems of oppression by employing the same tactics used by those in power, then I suggest you start reading about Stalin and reflect about how well that ended.
Disclosure: post contains affiliate links.
Well, it’s been a crazy month of renewal and rest for me. It’s funny how there can be so much change in such a short period, especially when you are forced into it. I would like to give thanks to the following individuals and groups:
- The team at Velvet Rasputin for being supportive during this ordeal, including our kind donors. I’d like to send a special thanks to Ram Lama and Loki Kaspari for spending long hours helping me to sort out the future of the collective, both logistically and spiritually.
- The folks at HostGator for helping me sort out an unimaginably complex mess in the aftermath of the hack attack took weeks to fix, and for going above and beyond the call of duty in providing satisfactory customer service and technical support resolutions.
- To SOTP Church, and especially my Mentorship Triad, and the unnamed small group. You have taught me amazing lessons about tolerance, community, and grace. If a non-binary counterculture metalhead like me can get along with conservative small town Lutherans, and we all can learn from each other, then there is hope for the rest of us.
- To my families, both of choice and of circumstance. You have been my constant throughout this storm. I love you all very much, even if it’s not always obvious.
- To the Sanctuary International Matrix Community, I am grateful for your help in keeping my mind off the things that don’t serve me, and for helping me focus on what matters. Thank you for reminding me that God is always in control.
Now that that’s out of the way, here’s a status update on my the art journal. It’s not really possible for me to bring it back the way it was before. There are just too many entries and too much stuff to sort out, in relation to my available time. However, I will repost some of my favorite sketches, along with some new ones. There will be commentary too, as per usual. For now, I’ll just reset this journal, and hope that we’ll enjoy our journey together. I hope you don’t mind.
I have more to say about the situation at hand, but I will do that a later time. For now, please enjoy this clothing design sketch of Zoya. Why? Because, I love creating art for folks I love. Who do I love? Queer, weird, pure, prude, rude, pervy, nervy, skeptical, credulous, confused, blessed, big, small, et cetera; I LOVE YOU ALL!