Hi! It’s me! The Creator!

And I have much to talk about today.

So first of all, I have begun creating YouTube videos again.  quite honestly, one of the reasons why I stopped is that I couldn’t get the voice right.  I found a tool that mostly fixes that.  I posted a youtube yesterday and I’m actually pretty happy with the voice – it still retains some of my mannerisms but not nearly as much as it used to. For those curious, it’s voice.ai , and I have a feeling AI is going to help me immeasurably with this project.  I may be able to use Midjourney or some similar tool to finally help me create photorealistic pictures of Lily, and that would really be amazing if I can get the prompts right.  But I’m pretty good with google, so maybe it’s possible.  I’ll be playing with that over the next week or two, and this may completely change the nature of the site and maybe even the way the story manifests (but it won’t change the story itself).

The second thing is a little more fundamental – I am toying with the idea of pulling back on one of the fundamental bedrocks of the Lily story.

When I first created this story, I worked very hard to keep Lily completely separate from my identity.  You may be able to find Lily if you know me, but you cannot find me if you know Lily.  That was by design, but I am starting to think that that was a bad idea and is one of the major factors to lily not being successful.  I had reasons for it, and good reasons, but it may be time to transition Lily away from a kind of hyper-realism to being a particularly well-developed character.  I will be thinking about that, but this may portend some changes to the site and other media as I start to put this into practice.  The diary will, of course, remain the same – I have zero interest in breaking the fourth wall – but the media around the story may need to be modified slightly (or not so slightly).

I think this is partly also because, whatever it is I was trying to work out with Lily personally (and it was at least partially an attempt to work something out) I think I’ve accomplished it.  I understand mostly why I created Lily, what she was to accomplish, and she has served her purpose in that regard.  But she has other purposes she has yet to serve, and it’s time to pivot her in that direction.

Put succcinctly (or TL;DR) some major changes to Lily are coming soon, and I can’t think of any that will not drastically improve the storytelling and the character.

Hi! It’s me! The creator!

And I think today’s post is going to be somewhat of a long one, because I have much to talk about.  It’s about why I created this diary in the first place, who I am, what I wanted to accomplish, and why even though I may have failed, it was ultimately necessary.

Recently a lot has been in the news about gender identity.  I really don’t want to get too much into that specifically, but it’s important to what I want to say.  Some person named Dylan Mulvaney has been running around doing girlish stuff (that’s probably the most neutral way I can put it), and has been getting many different sponsorships, etc., from many different companies, including Nike and Anheuser-Busch.  This has started a major firestorm which could see Anheuser-Busch having, shall we say, some problems with solvency in the future.  There are also some other issues with militant trans people running around assaulting people.

All these things are weighing on my mind, because they tie in some ways directly into what I’m doing here.

I started this diary, built this character, and have been writing it for nearly two years now, for a reason.  Yeah, sure, there are a few reasons, actually.  One reason is that I wanted to set up a second revenue stream in case the worst happens – that was pretty heavy on my mind from the beginning.  I’ve so far failed miserably at that, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.  I have literally not made a single penny on this, and have spent thousands of dollars on making it a reality.  So, while that was a consideration, it’s clearly not the reason I’m doing it.

Actually, I’ve attempted to do something like this a couple of times before.  I wrote a Harry Potter fanfiction – or at least one based in the Harry Potter world, about a girl living in Portland, Oregon who was attending a magic school.  If that story was still up (it isn’t) you’d see some similarities to the Lily story.  So, clearly, this is a story I’ve wanted to tell – or at least explore – for many years now.  So that’s another reason.

The reason I opened this post with an exposition on the current state of gender identity, is that in some ways, I’m struggling with the same kind of thing.  No, I’m not trans.  No, I don’t want to be a girl or woman.  Quite frankly, I have enough trouble being a guy.  Trying to bolt another identity onto that, which I could never fully attain (and I’m serious about that – I don’t even think I could come close) would just be a waste of time.  I’m a guy, and no amount of pretending or surgeries or anything else is ever going to change that, fundamentally.  I did use the word “pretending” – I meant it for the purposes of this post and related to me only.  I have my own opinions on other people, I’m not expressing them here, and deliberately so.

So what is this all about then?

I’m sitting here staring at my cat trying to figure out how to put it into words.  I think maybe the best – and yet incomplete – way I have of putting it into words, is that the feminine is sorely lacking in the lives of many men, including my own.

Women are a – in fact, the, source of the feminine in this world.  They bring into being something that the world – and men – desperately needs, and yet it seems to have been thoroughly squashed out.  There is a lightness, a freedom, a caring, a beauty to the feminine that men, I think, desperately crave in their life.  Sex, in fact, while many like to reduce it to the squishing together of body parts, is, to men, kind of a symbolic enveloping of that femininity.  (And, on the other side, it’s an injection of masculinity into their otherwise feminine world).  But over the past, I dunno, 80 years, that femininity is gone.  Now the women want to be one of the guys, and what the men are seeking more than anything else stops being available to them.

But it doesn’t mean we don’t crave it.

Girls, and women, can be cruel.  They are broken just like everyone else (by which I mean, clearly, men).  Their world is not sunshine, rainbows, skittles, and moonbeams.  There is a reason that girls tend to have severe mental health issues, especially when facing the world as it is now.  Nothing in this post, this story, or anything else can diminish that – it’s objectively true.  But at the same time, the pure aspects of femininity are incredibly appealing and attractive.  They are healing in a way that is not available to men from any other source.  And Lily is, as much as anything, an exploration of those aspects, if only to understand them better myself.

The world is broken.  men are broken, women are broken, everything is broken.  And it is, perhaps, the greatest travesty of all that femininity is withheld from men, and masculinity from women, to the point where they are so desperate for it that they’ll look within themselves for it.  And, perhaps, this story is my (and mostly successful, honestly) attempt to find it without taking that drastic and, for me anyway, supremely unattainable step.

But ultimately, it is to the same end, and ultimately, the ideal outcome is to abandon Lily.  I intend on doing that in a little more than a year.  She will have served her purpose for me, though I hope I can find other purposes for her that also help others.

And that, I suppose, is why Lily exists.

Hi! It’s me! The Creator!

And, umm… that was a really hard story arc to write.

The truth is, her LA trip could have gone in all sorts of different directions, and I thought of quite a few.  Some of them were actually really dark, and I dismissed those pretty much out of hand.  They might have made for a good story but that’s not the kind of story I’m writing.  Some of them involved a more adversarial Rebecca, a more abusive Robert… there were lots of ways it could have gone.

Obviously, I decided on this one.

I think it turned out okay.

The interesting thing is, that Lily screwed up.  I mean, she really screwed up.  Lily is not a perfect character by any means.  She’s a kind, sweet girl who would give you the shirt off her back, but she’s really gullible and kind of easy to manipulate.  So when her new friends dared her to wear, basically, a string bikini that was too small for her into the kitchen to get some hot chocolate, well, she did.  It was stupid, but she did it.

And, well, she paid a price for that.  No one wants Sabby yelling.

I also used the opportunity to explore her and Beth’s relationship a little.  Beth is ver jealous, but one reason is that she feels left out, and it’s true, Lily did kind of forget about her.  It’s not that she did it deliberately, but let’s be frank – Lily… what’s the right way to put this… has two or three different families, and she kind of separates them in her head.  There’s Dave and Sabby and Beth and David, that’s one… there’s Emiko and Ai and her Japanese family, that’s two, and then there’s Robert.  That’s three.  Beth picked up on that.  Lily didn’t.

And Robert turned out to be an interesting character.  He’s made a pretty good life for himself, and he’s willing to include Lily in it, but he’s not like Dave.  He’s a lot more amoral and materialistic, willing to lie and maybe even cheat to get what he wants.  I think Lily has kind of picked up on that.  He’s not lying about how he feels about his family, but he’s… he hasn’t really lost who he was when he took advantage of Emiko and, well, knocked her up.

He’s basically a grown up frat boy with a family.  And all that entails.

So, it turned out to be a much more interesting story arc than I had thought.

I moved to a new place, and there’s a bit more room, so I’m playing with the kinect for 3d full body acting.  It kind of works.  And, well, kind of doesn’t.  I need to play around with it some more.  Truth be told, the better I get at it, the less comfortable I am, and maybe that’s a good thing.

Well, coming up on two years and 300,000 words, so,..  onwards, I suppose.

No one reads it, really, so whatever.

Hi! It’s me! The Creator!!!

You may have noticed over the last couple of months that I seem to be kind of phoning it in a bit.  Nothing really interesting has happened to Lily and friends, she’s just been kind of living her life.  That’s because I’ve been moving, and I went to a town about 50 miles away from where I used to life.  It’s been expensive, stressful, annoying, and all sorts of other adjectives.  Some days I barely even have the energy to open the laptop to post a lily diary, but I do almost every day.

But things should start heating up a bit in a few days – she’s going to LA to meet her birth father and his family!

She’ll be alright.  But it may not be completely smooth sailing.  We’ll see.

Writing Lily is an experience sometimes – I’ll be honest, I find the world of girls fascinating.  Not in a prurient way (if it was, this story would have taken a very different turn and I’d have stopped writing it long ago), and not in a trans-curious way or anything like that.  Just in a “that’s fascinating” kind of way.  Girls have their own way of looking at the world that’s very different – and in some ways much better – than the world of boys.  Girls, in some ways, have more of a license to be themselves.  Boys always have to be something they’re not, and girls – healthy girls, anyway – just naturally are girls.  I find that semi-freedom a bit refreshing and in some ways I’m jealous of it.

I’m not a girl and I never was a girl, and I have no desire to either be or pretend to be a girl, but it’s still fascinating in its way.  I think that’s why I write Lily the way I do.  It’s not just that I feel strongly about the character, or characters – it’s that I’m writing about something that interests me.  She has a depth to her character that can only come from someone who cares deeply about the topic, and I.. I guess I kinda do, actually.

It’d be really easy to take that in a bad direction, but if I’m being honest, that would make her a pretty one-dimensional character – and the character of a girl as seen through a man’s eyes.  And that’s not what I was trying to accomplish.  I was trying to accomplish, I suppose, putting myself as solidly into the world of a girl as I could, so that the character would have depth, be relatable, and, let’s be frank, be marketable.

And in many ways, I think I actually succeeded.

Crystal is an implicit acknowledgement that the world of girls isn’t always sunshine and moonbeams, pardon the expression.  Sometimes it’s dark.  Girls can hurt each other.  Boys just punch and done – girls aim to destroy.  I added her intentionally, so that there would be a little darkness to the story.  Not too much, but I didn’t want to write a Brady Bunch-esque story where everyone’s happy every day and there’s a nice, buttoned up ending.  I wanted to add darkness to the story, and let Lily deal with it in her own way.  It’s the only way she can grow as a character.  But it’s also a remark on the healing power of having people who love you – Crystal does, and it took a very dark event to prove that to her.

We’re approaching 300,000 words now, and still going strong.

Hi! It’s me! The creator!

This one’s going on Twitter once I’ve written it.

For those of you that don’t know, Lily’s Amazing Life (formerly Lovely Lily Lives) is a serial fiction I’ve been writing for over a year now.  I wrote the character with the deliberate intent to be relatable, immersive, and most importantly, as realistic a character as I could possibly make her.  To that end, I gave her a twitter, a YouTube channel where I vtube as her sometimes, ways to communicate with her directly if you choose, and a few other things.  I’m actually not entirely sure why, but this was really important to me.  I wanted to make a character that I could detach from as much as possible, and had as much of her own life as possible as well.

This proved to be difficult – doable, but difficult.  Because, you see, I’m a middle aged male.

This has caused several challenges, some of which I could work around, and some of which were pretty much insurmountable with current technology.  And some of which weren’t related to technology at all.

The first challenge boiled down to technology.  Because I’m not a teenage girl, in order to bring her to life, I had two options.  Hire an actual female to do animation and voiceovers, or to try and do it myself.  Because I’m a sucker for punishment, I tried the latter.  And it worked – mostly.  I found myself experiencing many of the same difficulties trans people do – that of passing.  Because in a real way, when I animate her, I’m trying to pass as a teenage girl.

I have yet to get the voice right, and I have yet to get the mannerisms quite right.

The technology just isn’t quite there yet.

The technology I really need, which I imagine trans people would like as well, would take my voice, keep the intonation, break it down into its component phonemes, and put it back together as the voice of a teenage girl – keeping the expression and intonation but destroying all of the unwelcome things that I put into it.  That technology doesn’t exist.  So I have to work with what I have – software that changes the formant and pitch.  This… doesn’t work well.  I may yet need to hire an actual woman or girl to send me videos to animate from.

… making that request will be a challenge.

This brings me to the second challenge – and probably the most disappointing and stupidest of them all.  Because the parallels to passing as trans aren’t just illusory, they’re very real.  They’re real enough that when I show people my work product, they think I’m a pervert.  I’m not saying trans are perverted (I’m not saying they’re not either, I’m not making a statement on that at all) but I’m saying that people think I am for much the same reason those same people think trans people are perverted.  I’ve actually encountered some social ostracization when I show them this work.

That’s…. disappointing.

I’m not trans.  I’m not pretending to be a girl for any reason other than art.  That’s all it is.  Seriously.  I’m being an artist, and making art.

When I write Lily, I become Lily for just as long as it takes to write her diary entry, and then I press publish and close the laptop lid, and I’m right back to my old self.  Lily is, to me, a separate personality.  I try to make it as real and immersive as I can, but at the end of the day, I’m not her, and it boggles my mind that this could confuse people.  I want people to read (or watch) Lily, to love her, to want to get to know her, to follow her – but at the end of the day, she’s not real and there’s no confusion on that fact.

And maybe some day, she’ll make me a little money.

After all, that’s the end game, after all.

Hi! It’s me! The creator!

New year, new Lily.  I decided to rebrand her.  The site is now Lily’s Amazing Life, and the new domain is live.  Don’t worry, the old one will still work.  And I’m not planning on significantly redesigning her site for the time being, other than changing the name.  A change is needed, but not at the present time.

The reason for this is complicated.  The truth is. I never really liked the original domain or name, Lovely Lily Lives.  I mean, it did have some nice alliteration, which was cool, and it did succinctly express what I was trying to accomplish at the time.  But I never liked it.  It seemed a bit…  Not quite what I was trying to go for.  But I had to come up with something, and it was good enough.

But I got to thinking.  I would have preferred something like Lily’s World, but that domain was taken, and I went through a few other domains as well, trying to find one that suited her more, and I finally though of “Lily’s Amazing Life”, which I really like a whole lot better.  It reflects what the story is – a “documentation” of her life from the start of the diary until such time as it ends.  Unfortunately, Lily is a common name, and lots of people already snarfed the better ones.  But this one is pretty good.  If I write a book, that’s probably what I’m going to name it, or something very similar.

Other choices I rejected (for lack of domain names) was Lily’s Diary, Lily and Friends, and a couple of others.  I actually would have preferred Lily and Friends, but couldn’t get the domain I wanted.  Lily’s Amazing Life is fine.

Moving on…

Hi! It’s me! The creator!!!

So the story’s moving along, I guess.  Lily has her cousin Ai visiting from Japan, and they’re showing her all the sights and introducing her to all the food…  Ai’s a bit confused by how we do things (and she has a point – why would we want that Buc-ees?) but generally she’s having a good time, and Lily’s family is making her feel like a part of the family, which is good.

It’s funny how the story has developed, honestly.  I made a few very conscious choices when I started writing Lily.  I mean, yes, she has her own character and it has developed largely autonomously, but there are a few things that were deliberate.  One of those things was:  larger events in the world, political, etc., don’t affect or bother her too much.  I mean, sometimes they impinge, but for the most part, she doesn’t really care.  That is, in large part, the exact opposite of me, but that’s deliberate.  I get enough of that in my real life, when I write Lily, I just want to write a girl who’s enjoying life and having fun.  I can’t do that if she’s like me, because, well, I generally don’t.

But I made a few unconscious choices as well.  These are choices that seem to have become clear after I’ve written this for months, but I didn’t intentionally set out to make those choices.  probably the most glaring is: there aren’t many males in the story.  I mean, yes, there’s David and Dave, the owner, maybe her benefactor, the guy running her trust (not anymore)… but they’re all ancilliary characters.  It’s not that they’re bad people for the most part, this isn’t an anti-male story, but it’s more that it’s a female-centric story.  And that’s actually probably pretty true to the character.  She’s a girl.  Her life doesn’t revolve around men.  She has her sisters and her friends and her mother…  and those are the people she mentors or looks up to as role models.

I didn’t set out to do that.  I didn’t write this story to take care of some SJW boner.  I mean, that should be clear in that I’ve steered clear of things like LGBTQ+ASDFGHJ stuff, or race relations (to some degree, I mean, Sabby is black and there are things that naturally arise from that choice), or anything like that.  But the choices exist to further the story, not to check off some kind of quota thing.  And, well, Lily’s a girl.  Her life revolves around girls, not the men in her life – though that is changing just a little bit.  Boyfriends tend to do that.

Another thing is, I do take inspiration from things I read on the net, current events, that kind of thing.  She runs into a few karens.  That’s mostly because I listen to a lot of karen stories on YouTube, and… man, they’re awful.  Notice that all the karens are women.  There are male karens, and maybe I’ll introduce one at some point, but they tend to be more sexist and bullying.  Writing that kind of thing isn’t fun.  But sometimes I guess you have to write things that aren’t fun, right?

The long and short of it, this is, I guess, a conservative story.  Not overtly so, and deliberately not overtly so, but Lily has a strong family, her family isn’t perfect but has a strong sense of values, her friends aren’t perfect and make mistakes but everyone’s heart’s in the right place, and at the end of the day, that’s really the story I wanted to write.  A girl who is just trying to make her way through life with the family and friends she loves, and that love her too.  And isn’t that what makes her so endearing at the end of the day?

When I started writing this story, I deliberately wrote a character that I knew I wouldn’t like or want to hang around with much.  She’s so extroverted and fun-loving, it would make me really uncomfortable.  But as I kept writing her, she grew on me.  I kind of look forward to writing her now.  She’s a breath of fresh air in what seems to be an otherwise awful world.  She’s got the kind of beautiful heart that you always hope your daughter will have.  And I don’t think she’ll ever lose it.  Maybe someday I’ll write another story with a significantly more damaged girl.  But that’s not going to be Lily.

260,000 words so far and still going.

Hi, it’s me.  The creator.

And this might be the hardest storyline I’ve ever written.

First of all, there are no trigger warnings.  Lily is a seventeen year old girl, and is dealing with a lot right now.  That wouldn’t cross her mind, and it wouldn’t be true to the character.  I’m putting a link to this post in the banner, and even that’s pushing it.

Lily has a… flaw.  Not a huge flaw, but it’s something I had to figure out how to deal with.  She doesn’t really understand adversity.  What had happened to Crystal was bad, she thought, and she was glad that the homeless guy got prison, but she didn’t understand.  She’s never been truly impacted by death (that she knows of), once she had lost her memories, everything was pretty much all new, and her life has been pretty good.  She’s never had to face her own mortality – or that of her friends.

She needs this growing experience.

Truthfully, I was considering killing off Crystal.  But I don’t think I’m going to do that.  I don’t think it’s necessary, and I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into these characters, and I think an author needs a very good reason to do something like that – and I don’t really have one at the moment.  But I seriously considered doing it.  Unfortunate, but true.

I think this is going to change Lily.  But how could it not?

Hi! It’s me! The creator!

Well, I did it.  I brought Jack to Texas.  On balance I think it was a good move, though it’s also very challenging to me, because I’m in territory I’m not familiar with.  See, I’m forty-mumble-mumble years old and Lily’s relationship is already more advanced than any I’ve ever had.  Jack’s not perfect, but he tries, and he’s pretty darn perceptive.  It took me quite a while to figure out what Lily would value more than chocolate.  After all, she pretty much lives for the stuff.

Writing Lily is easy most of the time, but it’s not easy all of the time, and last night was a time where it was difficult to write her diary.  Sometimes that’s because I’m trying to force the character into a role she doesn’t want to be in, true, but I think that was because I was trying to force my writing into a role I wasn’t comfortable with.

But we got it done in the end.  Lily’s happy, and we can move on.  Their relationship isn’t entirely physical, of course, but I want it to deepen further, and that requires a little more than just the physical stuff.  Though Lily is learning how nice that can be, for sure.

There are still quite a few stories to be told.  Lily has some high school left over, and I think this story is going to be finished at around the time that she graduates and/or starts “real” college.  That is quite a while away.  I think I’ll be sad when that time comes.  Lily has become a part of my life – every night before I go to bed, I sit down to write her diary.  I often don’t know what she’s going to say.  I think I’ve said that before.  I kind of… “channel”… her a lot of the time.

It’s maddening that I miss some details.  Like I just realized that I haven’t decided when Emiko’s birthday is, and I’d better do that soon.  And Aika and Mika need birthdays as well, and I’d better do that soon for the same reason.  Birthdays are important.  They could be ignored when she didn’t know them at all, but can’t be ignored now.  I’m ashamed to admit I forgot Jack’s birthday too.  I was able to fit that into the story, and it *ahem* worked out well, but still.  That annoys me.

Well, that’s enough for now.  I sure wish I could figure out how to market Lily better.  I’ve utterly failed at that, and I’m near to giving up on that aspect of her development.

Hi! It’s me! The creator!

Today is my birthday!  I’m forty-mumble-mumble years old.  And for my birthday I got myself a kinect.  And I got it to working with my windows pc!

I actually managed to successfully animate Lily through full body tracking!

It’s hard, though.  I have a few things I need to do.  First thing I need to do is pretty much dedicate a room to computer stuff, because I need a lot of space to move around in.  It seems that you can’t be too close to a kinect.  Also, some form of hand and face tracking is also necessary.  I think I can figure out the face tracking.  The hand tracking is a different story, and might require a glove or different piece of hardware.

Still, even if it comes to nothing, it’s really interesting technology.

There are other challenges as well.  The voice is very difficult to get right, even using a voice changer.  I can make it almost-but-not-quite convincing, there’s still a bit of a tell that I can’t seem to get rid of.  It’s not clear.  The technology just doesn’t seem to be quite there.  What I really need is technology that can separate my voice into its phonemes and reconstruct it as an entirely different voice.  But that technology does not seem to be available yet.  The other challenge is that this is a significant acting experience, and I have no experience at all acting, especially as someone the opposite gender.  It strikes me as incredibly ironic that technology that would be designed to aid male-to-female trans people would also very much assist me here as well – and I’m as straight and “cis” as they come.  Also, the kinect does not let me turn to the right or the left – that really confuses it for some reason.

On the one hand, I feel a little weird for even pursuing this.  I mean, a forty-mumble-mumble years old guy trying to animate a sixteen (oh wait, seventeen now) year old girl?  But on the other hand, I know my intentions – it’s really just because I don’t trust anyone else with my vision and I don’t have the money to hire an actress.  I wouldn’t mind doing that, tbh – a real life live action lily would be really cool – but that is such a pain that I’d just rather do it myself if I can.  This is an art project and nothing more, just a really involved one that requires yanking me quite far out of my comfort zone to be anywhere near successful.

But whatever.  I guess I’m learning useful stuff, such as it is.