I have failed.  Lily has failed.

Oh, that’s not to say I’m giving up on her.  I think there’s still something really good here, and I think there is certainly something to be learned here, and with a bit of course correction this can be recovered from.  But right now, Lily is a failure.

I have been writing Lily for something like seven months now, and she still has almost no regular readers.  Her YouTube channel has one subscriber, and that’s a relative of mine.  She gets almost no views, no exposure, no nothing, even though everyone who I’ve shown her to thinks she’s really great.  But I’ve failed.  She’s a failure.  I don’t know how to recover from this.

And it’s made worse that I’m starting to make continuity errors.  There’s a glaring one between her diary and YouTube channel for last week, and it’s so big that I’m not even sure how to fix it.  It’s impossible to fix without deleting a diary entry and YouTube video, and that may end up what I do today.  But this is a problem.  A huge problem.

I don’t know where to take her, now.  But I’ve failed with her, and I’ve failed her.

Hi!  It’s me!  The creator!!!

So things have been kind of active in Lilyworld.  Story wise, she’s in Columbus right now spending time with Jack and his family!!!  I don’t know if anything momentous will happen while there, but I don’t have anything really huge planned right now.  She’ll just have a fun time!!!  It might move the story forward a bit, but it just seemed like the right thing to do.

But the more interesting stuff right now is behind the scenes.  I’ve been getting a little better at doing the YouTube thing.  It’s not the easiest thing, honestly.  I’m trying to figure out what I can do that is true to the character, fun and believable for the viewer, and that I’m comfortable with.  A few things, believe it or not, I’m not comfortable with.  I tried twitch streaming, and that almost made me panicky for some reason.  I just couldn’t get into it like I can with her vlogs.  So that’s out for now unless I can find a good reason to make the effort.  I also am trying to keep a pretty strong boundary between when I’m playing Lily (acting) and when I’m not, though I do find that a little bit of Lily’s mannerisms sneak through, I think I’ve got that in hand.

I think a part of it is that I’m not a gamer, and Lily really isn’t either.  Trying to fit into the twitch game-streaming mode just doesn’t work.  It’s not a good fit for either of us.  If Lily was a gamer maybe I’d try to make it work for the sake of the character, but there’s no use forcing it.

One of the most difficult things, though, is the current events in the world that are going on.  How do I handle that with Lily?  Does she address it head-on?  Obliquely?  At all?  I think I’ve settled on something between obliquely and not at all.  Ultimately, the calculation is this:  Lily is supposed to be a fun story, and she’s supposed to be a somewhat innocent sixteen year old girl whose biggest concern is which dress to wear on any given day.  Of course it’s a little more involved than that, but that’s the general vibe I’m aiming for.  A fun escape.  I can’t do that if she’s fretting about Russia and Ukraine and all that crap.  Of course it’s a horrible thing that’s happening, but I’m just not interested in throwing the character’s integrity under the bus for the sake of virtue signalling.

So I won’t.

It may get brought up in passing, and if things get particularly harrowing I might include it just to kind of work through things myself, but I’m avoiding that unless it can’t be avoided any further.  Lily is going to stay a fun, relatively light story, and war isn’t a part of that in any appreciable way.  I am creator, I have spoken.

This story is at an interesting time.  I don’t know where to take her, quite honestly.  She’s a vtuber, but she’s not.  She’s a work of serial fiction, but she’s not.  She’s a character in her own right, but she’s not.  She’s a YouTuber, but she’s not.  I wish I could figure it out.

Hi!  It’s me!  The creator!

Lots of interesting things to talk about in the Lilyverse, even though the story itself hasn’t advanced significantly in a couple of months.  There will be forward movement soon, but after the holiday season, poor girl needs a break.

When I first started Lily, I had always had in mind that she was going to be a vtuber.  However, there were a lot of technical hurdles I had to overcome before that was possible.  I did some experiments with live streaming, and it turned out that my poor mac mini just wasn’t up to the task.  Running OBS, 3tene, morphvox, and a couple of other needed apps was making it lag unacceptably.  Plus, since I don’t have a LeapMotion controller and 3tene on the MacOS isn’t really all that capable, I was only able to do facial expressions and the face tracking for mouth movements just wasn’t working right.  These challenges were difficult, and expensive, to overcome.

Plus there are other, more intangible challenges to overcome as well.  I’m a mid 40s guy with a voice for silent films.  Getting her voice right was a real challenge, and I went through like four different (and in some cases, expensive) pieces of software until I settled upon something that was even halfways acceptable.  Plus, being the aforementioned mid 40s guy, playing the part of a 16 year old girl, especially as I have no acting experience and it is very far outside my comfort zone, is very difficult.

There’s a third, even more intangible challenge as well, and that’s that I’m, well, a mid 40s guy playing a sixteen year old girl.  While I know my motivations (which are to create a good character and maybe make some money) putting such a thing out to a wider audience is inviting some, well, unsavory criticisms.  Plus, I haven’t quite figured out her target audience, and YouTube is going to make me choose.  Is she targeted towards kids?  Teens?  Adults?  All of the above?  I think all of the above, but an argument could be made that she’s a kid’s character, and if I choose wrong YouTube could have some choice words for me.  i may need to make sure she speaks in a veiled way about adult stuff just to keep that ambiguity out.

So I have solved the technical problems acceptably.  I will post an unlisted video on this post showing the results of what I’ve so far accomplished.  I ended up spending about $2500 for a new computer with some insane specs, including a Ryzen 9 5900 12 core CPU, 32G of RAM (and I actually use a significant chunk of that!), and a Radeon 5600 XT with 12G of video RAM.  It scores about 20,000 on the cinemark benchmarks, and seems to have plenty of horsepower to do what I needed.  I found a technology stack that works adequately, even though there’s still a little audio lag, it’s acceptable.  The video seems to freeze every now and then, and I have no idea why.

The intangible problems I’m still working on.  I am not yet comfortable doing her voice.  I naturally talk fast and clipped.  I have to slow my voice way down, to the point where it feels like I’m speaking to children and being condescending, before it starts to sound believable.  The hand gestures come somewhat naturally, I think I can put myself into that headspace well enough.  And, of course, being a mid 40s male, I have to be true to the character and imbue her with a kind of innocence that also doesn’t come naturally.   But her character is fleshed out enough that I know what she would or wouldn’t say, so I guess that’s something, right?

I would honestly like a voice software that can figure out what I’m saying it and how I’m saying, but can turn it into an entirely different voice – not having any qualities of my voice at all, but keeping the personality behind it.  But such software doesn’t seem to exist.  Yet.

Without further ado…  meet Lily.

I am rather proud of how that turned out, actually.

This weekend I’ll be producing a real, live video.

I am not an actor in any formal (or up to now, even informal) way, so for not being an actor, this is turning out much better than I had hoped.

Let me be clear:  this is a business venture, and Lily exists to make money.  Some folks might think I have some ulterior motive, but there isn’t one.  She has turned out to be a pretty good role model for children and teens, and I welcome that (if that’s all she ends up being, well, at least I’ve done something good with my life), but she is a character and I, as uncomfortable as it makes me to say, am an actor.  It’s just that technology has advanced to the degree where I can act in ways that haven’t been possible in the past.  If you want to understand my motivations, I just gave them to you.  I know that my actual identity can be determined with some difficulty, but I would be content if the money rolls in (as unlikely as that will be) and no fan of Lily (that doesn’t know me personally) knows who I am, ever.  Lily stands on her own, and that will continue until it’s impossible.  I wish I could hire an actual young woman to play her (and maybe I will have to if she ever goes live action) but I don’t trust anyone with her character right now except for myself.  So I, a mid 40s guy, am playing a sixteen year old girl, and hopefully with some degree of authenticity.  That’s just how it works sometimes.

Thanks for reading!

Writing Lily is not easy sometimes.  I’m not going to pretend it’s a full time job, because it isn’t.  But in some ways it could be.

I don’t do a lot of research for Lily.  Usually it works out.  I have a pretty wide breadth of knowledge on lots of little things, and some of that shows here.  But I make mistakes too.  I don’t, for example, know what the procedure for getting a driver’s license as a teenager is, in Texas.  And I looked that up, but only after I started writing that storyline.  So there are some inaccuracies.  I can go back and edit them, or I can just let the inaccuracies stand.  I haven’t decided which I’m going to do.  But there are little mistakes like that littered throughout the last six months of posts, and it bugs me.

And there is a kind of ebb and flow to the story, too.  The time starting with the Orlando storyline, and ending around New Years, had the revelations and drama coming fast and furious, but the last month has been pretty quiet.  It’s nice to give Lily a bit of peace and quiet, but that doesn’t make for a very fun story.  There are lots of plot points that need to be wrapped up before the story (in this form) ends.  Who adopted her?  What happened to her memory?  Where did her trust fund come from?  And there are also lots of fun things that she is going to do.  Like go to Japan!  And Ohio!  I’m looking forward to writing all those things.

Lily is, obviously, not me.  I’m a single guy in my mid 40s who has rarely even interacted with children, and generally made a right mess of it when I tried.  But she’s a part of me, and she’ll always be a part of me.  Maybe she’s that happy, bubbly part of me that could have existed at one time and got squashed out.  Maybe she’s that feminine part of me that all men have and are afraid to show.  Maybe she’s my way of working out things that bother me.  Maybe she’s all of the above, and more besides.  But I like writing her.  I just wish more people liked reading her.

Lily is a good girl with the best of intentions which don’t always pan out, but that’s okay.  She’s human, too, like the rest of us.

 

Hi!  It’s me!  The Creator!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I’ve got a lot to say.

I started Lily almost exactly five months ago.  In that time, she has evolved a great deal.  She is growing up.  She started out a silly, bubbly sixteen year old girl.  And she’s had so much stuff thrown at her.  By me.  She can’t help but to grow up a little.  In that time, she’s found out more about her life, she learned her birthday, who her birth mother is (and met her), went to Disney World, found a boyfriend, and, well…  she’s not the same girl she was when I started writing this.  Every time I sit down and write her, she surprises me.  She’s a normal sixteen year old girl, but she’s mature too.  I think that’s because she has Sabby to guide her.  Would she make nearly as good decisions if it weren’t for Sabby?  I don’t really know.

But it’s hard to write her sometimes, too.   I get discouraged.  I don’t know how to get word out, I don’t know how to market her, and I’m not even sure I want to in some ways.  Everyone who knows her, loves her, but no one knows her.  And I’m pretty discouraged by that.  I wish people would find her, and read, and fall in love, and follow her, and that maybe I could turn that into both a force for good and an income stream.  But I feel like neither is happening.  Honestly, I’d just take the “force for good”.

And sometimes it feels like she’s a little one-dimensional too.  It’s true that if I’m mirroring a real diary, she’s not going to give a blow by blow account of her whole day, just the important things.  But some of the main characters feel a bit underdeveloped.  Beth, for example.  But because of the format I chose, I really can’t develop their characters past what I’ve already done.  This is a story told from Lily’s point of view.  She only knows what the characters tell her or what she sees them doing.  How can I develop characters when they don’t really have their own voice, short of giving them their own diary?  That might yet happen, but do I really want to double my workload and have to keep so many more things straight just for the sake of realism?

And then there’s the fact that this diary is, currently, the only window into Lily’s world.  If it doesn’t show up in her diary, it didn’t happen.  I guess she could make oblique references to things that may have happened offscreen, but then that’s really not telling the story.  So sometimes I have to have her retell things that would get her in trouble in real life.  Would Sabby like every detail of their life and relationship to be put out to the world?  Not in a real life situation, of course not.  But I have to suspend that, because otherwise, the story can’t get told.  Would that letter she got sent by her anonymous benefactor be best published?  If it were a real world happening, surely not!  It could cause a lot of problems!  But she has to post it, or it didn’t happen.

A serial novel is such a wonderful medium to write in, but it has its own challenges.  I know I need to go back through and close up some plot holes.  Nothing serious (I saw one fic once where a character came back to life and died again with no explanation) but enough to bother me.

Lily is a good girl.  She is a beautiful creation.  I think she represents, to me, what a (mostly) uncorrupted feminine energy looks like.  She has her faults, and makes mistakes, but she’s generally guileless and trusting, and she only wants what’s best for herself and everyone else.  That’s as much a fault as it is a strength, but it’s really fun writing such a lovely character and family.  They love each other, and this seems to be something so missing in the world today.  I think that’s why I sit down at the computer every day and keep writing, no matter how discouraged I am.

But I really hope that people find her someday!  She can’t be beautiful without someone to see!

Anyway, if you’re reading this, thanks.  I’ll try to think up some more Patreon perks, and might try my hand at doing videos or streaming.  Somehow.  I may have to hire a voice actor.  Unfortunately.

Hi!  It’s me!  The creator!

I thought I’d give y’all a bit of a behind the scenes tour of how this story is developed, why it came to be, and what writing it is like on a day to day basis.

At first, I created Lily with the intention of making her a vtuber.  I played around with different streaming technologies, worked on creating an avatar, even poked around different voice changing software.  After a little while, I decided to put that on the back burner.  It’s still something I might do, but it seemed like there was too steep of a learning curve and I wasn’t confident I could pull it off.

So instead, I created a website that was supposed to be her virtual presence, and her diary was really supposed to just be an exposition that would tie into any future streaming, or monetization, or whatever.

But that plan kind of went awry.

I found as I continued to write her, she kind of took on a life of her own.  Very soon after starting to write her diary, I showed it to a friend of mine, and she started to show it to her eight year old daughter.  It was a HIT.  Her daughter loves Lily.  That was a really good indication I was doing something right, but it wasn’t what I intended it to be.  at this stage, you can probably see the tone of the story slightly shift as I started to become conscious of the example Lily was setting for my friend’s daughter.  She became a little more mature, a little less flighty, but kept that, I don’t know, Liliness that made her such a joy to write.

My friend’s daughter is the inspiration for Allison, by the way.  Thus I can’t really provide any further details.  Nor do I want to.

As the story continued, I found it a little difficult to get into a rhythm of updating.  At one point I kept about a week’s backlog, and it took me a while to come up to speed.  One of the beauties of using the platform I do is that I can backdate posts and pretend that they were on time, but we all know they weren’t.

I think I started to take it more seriously at about the same time I conceived of the “vacation” storyline.  That’s also when I realized that I had kind of backed myself into a corner.  I needed to explore some things that a girl Lily’s age would explore, but I couldn’t do it and keep the site safe for my friend’s daughter.  So, after some thought, I created the Patreon account.  That was designed specifically and only (at least at the time of its creation) to block off PG13 content from the eyes of my friend’s daughter.  But it opened up some other opportunities as well, and I haven’t yet fully explored that.

Right now, I tend to write posts one day in advance.  I will write the framework of the post, save it as a draft, then set it aside for a few hours and mull on it.  Then I’ll reopen the post and fill in details I’ve thought of in the intervening hours.  When it’s ready to go, I’ll set it to run at the appropriate time, and then move on to the next day.  That pattern seems to work pretty well for me, and it is close enough to the actual release date to allow me to account for any pressing current events.

I have been running some Facebook ads to try to at least get the word out.  While I’ve had to pay very little out of my pocket (FB has generously offered me some ad credits I was able to use) they’re singularly unsuccessful in any meaningful way.  I think this could be a really cool thing – if I can get the word out to people who might like her.  There have been about 2,000 impressions right now and nearly zero engagement.  Oh well.

I hope eventually people find Lily and fall in love with her like my friend’s daughter did.  Everyone who reads Lily, at least all the way through, seems to love her, and get very, very invested in how the story progresses.  That’s the mark of a good story.  But it means nothing if no one reads it.  Sigh.

Anyway, thanks for reading.  I hope you like these little behind the scenes insights.  Maybe someday I’ll move them behind Patreon, but for right now, they stay free.  Toodles!

Hi!  It’s me!  The creator!

So today marks the wrapping up of one of the most difficult storylines I’ve had to write since I started Lily more than four months ago.  I have had this storyline planned for several weeks, and was actually looking forward to writing it.  I really wanted to write the scene where Lily had her first kiss, and some of the PG13 scenes were fun to write too.  I had to actively top myself from going overboard with that, and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.  The Patreon solution isn’t the best one, but it works for now.

I kinda messed up, though.  I didn’t plan on how difficult it would be to write her heartbreak.

A funny thing happens when you’re an author.  I mean a true author.  The characters start to take on a life of their own, and they start to take on their own identity, separate from me.  They start to assert their own wishes and wills, and it becomes a complex interplay between what you want for them and what they want for themselves.  Sometimes their ideas are good, and sometimes you kind of have to force the issue.  But at no point are you truly in control of your characters.

And when I started to write this storyline, it became real to me.  Lily was on a plane travelling to Orlando.  Lily was at a hotel.  Lily was at Disney World.  There were times when I would think to myself “Oh, Lily would be on the plane right now” or “Lily would be landing” or she would be experiencing a scene that I’d already written.  I was so excited for her.  Even though I was animating her and giving her life, I was taking the trip along with her, and she was sooo happy and excited.

And I got to follow along with her emotionally, as she slowly fell in love with Jack.  I was not originally planning to write the last premium scene, where (spoiler) she came out in her swimsuit and got a little frisky with him.  She wanted that.  Frankly, she really wanted to jump him, and that was the compromise I had to come up with to keep everyone happy.

I was sharing in her joy, I was sharing in her emotions, I was sharing in her love.  But… I also shared in her heartbreak.  And it kind of broke me, at the same time it broke her.  There were several times in writing today’s post where I actually kind of broke down, myself.  I couldn’t bear what I was putting her through.  It hurt me as much as she was hurting.

I did it anyway.  It was necessary for the story.  But I didn’t take any joy in it at all.  I didn’t want to put her through it.  I didn’t want to go through it.

Another storyline is coming up that will be just as bad, in a different way.  I am going to put her through something that is going to thoroughly devastate her.  I’m not looking forward to writing it.  But I need to, in order to progress the story.  She’ll come out alright, and stronger, but it’s not going to be a fun time, for a while.

And I feel horrible about it.

I’m sorry, Lily.  I’m truly sorry.

Hi!  It’s me!  The creator!

I’ve been sick.  I had some major dental work done and have been in significant pain for two weeks – it’s receding a bit now but it’s still been really frustrating.  And then I got my booster and flu shots on Friday, and have had a fever ever since.  I wonder if things will ever feel normal again.

Anyway, I’m really excited for the direction that Lily is going to take over the next month or two – I have a blockbuster storyline planned.  You’ll love it.  Expect significant character growth, significant story advancement, and there’s a scene I’m really looking forward to writing.  I’ve given hints already, quite a few if you know where to look.

I have added another category – PG.  I will never go above PG in this story (at least not for a very long time, and if I choose to go that direction, I will think it through very carefully), but I added it because there are some scenes I would really feel more comfortable if parents read first and maybe discuss with their child if they feel appropriate.  Like Lily says, life is messy sometimes.  Don’t worry.  Lily will be fine.  I have no intentions of killing any main characters off anytime soon, or causing them any significant damage.  (Dave is still prone to pressure washing accidents, the silly billy).  Think of it on the level of one of those “Very Special Episodes” that “Blossom” used to always have.

It is coming time that I start to promote Lily.  I am not sure how, but I am happy enough with the product, and have enough content, that I think I can be proud of promoting her.  I just have to find the right, character appropriate, way of doing it.

This is a wonderful medium to write in.  I don’t really plan all that much, just some of the important stuff, but somehow it all works out, and I honestly like discovering things about Lily at the same time that you do.  It’s funny how that works out.  I set the general direction of her life, but within that, sometimes the characters really do surprise me!

Oh oh oh, I gave a very strong clue about where she lives the other day.  Didja pick up on it?  Now, to be fair, any city has many suburbs and neighborhoods and stuffs, so It won’t be the easiest to narrow it down, but still.

I do think I need to revamp the archives of this site.  It’s not quite how I want it.  But I have time.  I also plan on going back and adding headers and very light editing to the historical posts – but I won’t change anything significant.  There are very few plot holes, but there are a couple, and I need to close them up.

I don’t have many readers at the moment.  I hope that changes soon.  But those of you who are keeping up, thank you.

Hi!  It’s me!  The Creator!

Well the last few weeks have been everything but boringly boring.  Lots of stuff going on.  But you don’t care about that.  I will say that I’ve been dealing with some medical and dental issues that I think (hope!) I’m on the tail end of, and I think I’m on the cusp of feeling better than I have in a long time.  Here’s to hoping.

Four months or so in, and Lily has not ceased to surprise me.  I know that there is at least one person who really likes her, and maybe there are more that I’m not aware of – the CDN that Lily is behind makes accurate tracking of these things difficult, and for the most part, I don’t try.  But something that I started with the idea of being fun and maybe making some money – and it’s still fun and still might make me some money – has proven to have a little more of a deeper meaning than that.  You might have noticed that I’ve been taking a little more of a “very special episode” tack lately – that’s not by accident.  I’m taking great pains to keep Lily child-friendly, but she is in a unique position to talk to children and teenagers about sensitive topics, and open up conversations, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.  This wasn’t planned, but I’m not unhappy with that outcome, if that’s what Lily turns out to be.  She can be fun and educational.

This also means that I need to approach the topic of monetization with a little more sensitivity than I’d originally planned.  I still intend on finding a way to monetize Lily, or something similar.  It would be nice to do this as a full time job someday, or something similar.  But if I were to pivot towards actively catering to younger children and teenage girls, there are regulatory, and other, hurdles that I have to pay attention to, such as COPPA, etc.  I’d rather not, but I can understand why, so it’s just a part of the package.  To be clear – at present, it is not targeted in that way, and I do not collect or encourage collection of any personal data at the moment, but I’d be a fool if I didn’t pay attention to the people who I know for a fact do consume, and enjoy, this content.

If you look on the “about” page, there is an email address that can be used to contact Lily.  Any emails sent to that address, Lily will respond to.  But if you are a child and want to do so, please ask your parents and let them help you.  It helps me, it helps you, it helps your parents, and it helps Lily too.

Let me direct a paragraph to the children who might be reading this, as NOT Lily:

Hi!  I’m glad you’re enjoying this!  I like the fact that kids like you read this and enjoy!  But there are rules I have to follow.  Yes, us adults have rules too!  One of the rules is that I have to be really careful what I do when I talk to you online.  There are rules I have to follow when it comes to your emails, etc.  But I really do want to make this fun and interactive for you and everyone else too!  So when I figure out how to do it, I’ll let you know!  Lily wants to meet you too!  She just needs to know the right way!

We’ll figure it out.  Lily is still, literally and figuratively, young.

Anyway, thanks for your reading and support!

Can you believe I’ve been doing this for over three months?

I’ve been posting irregularly.  This is due to some personal issues that I don’t really want to go into here.  But one of the beauties of creating and bringing to life this kind of character is that I can backdate posts and it still works exactly the same.  A little troublesome for those who might follow, but it is what it is.  We’ll get through it.

I really need to start playing with blender and creating animations or renderings.  I haven’t had time or energy lately.

Three months, though!

Lily has turned out to be a really… dynamic… character.  She’s innocent, happy, cheerful, even when life – er, I – throw(s) things at her.  She’s a good girl.  But the thing is, I kinda do have to throw things at her.  It would be a boring story if she just said every day was “boringly boring”, as she would say.  So I guess her life has to be a little more interesting than yours or mine.  And we haven’t even hit our stride yet as far as her story arc.  We’re still developing the characters, and I think that will be taking place for a while longer.

She’s got a lot of mysteries!  Who was she?  Why did she lose her memories?  What’s that force in the background that seems to be smoothing procedural stuff over in a way that’s, frankly, unrealistic?  I guess we’ll find out as the story progresses.

Anyway, my cat is not giving me a moment’s peace.  No butt-washing for this cat, it’s complaining and beating at the door.  And I should go to bed anyway.  Hopefully I’ll have more news this week.