Autism, family, Parenting, reading, writing

The Indistinct Howls and Grumbling Edition

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Seriously, this is what you people most want to read about? Well, I guess I asked for it when I included it as an option in the latest Twitter poll… But, sigh… And, well, I suppose this post is off to a good start.

Here’s what I’ve been grumbling about lately:

Muffin has been bingeing Dreamworks movies, particularly How to Train Your Dragon and the Ice Age series. He is presently obsessed with dragons. (I can hear some of you applauding his good taste.) I love dragons, too, and Ice Age. But every once in a while, it would be really nice for him to stop interchanging the discs at a nearly frantic pace, and watch something else for a little bit, maybe…

My writer’s playlist has run dry, feels hackneyed, and my ears are tired of it. Not that I’m never going to listen to any of these songs again. It’s just that, right now, I want something different, and I’m rather finnicky when it comes to selecting stuff like music…

I can’t seem to finish my tea while it’s still hot. It used to be mostly because of children, but nowadays it appears to have become its own thing. Groan…

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Work is progressing on Volume 2. Some of that results in lots of mumblings and complaints to self and the occasional howl…

I’m practically stalking my Goodreads page, hoping for amazing stats on Volume 1. It is being well-received, and there are some impending reviews which I know are going to be good. More than 170 people have entered my Goodreads giveaway (which ends Wednesday), and for a debut author, this is truly incredible. I guess I’m a little worried about this planing off, though, and that definitely results in howling…

I’ve hit a reading slump. I’ve knocked everything new off my TBR, except for Dawn of the Clans, which I don’t feel like starting right now. None of the new releases this spring are grabbing my attention, and this is generating a vaguely unsettling feeling…

The season finale of Riverdale was last week. This is now one of the only TV shows I regularly watch. Honestly, I don’t mind having to wait for the new season, I’m not 12. But the realization hit me that by October, by the time all the new episodes will be premiering, a whole lot will most likely be different in my life…

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Muffin will be starting preschool by the fall, if not before. While this is all good, because he’ll be able to receive all his services in one place, and I’ll certainly have more time to write, or even think about going back to teaching dance, it still means a big upheaval in our daily lives. That creates howling for a bunch of reasons…

As I think about the future, the fact that White Fang will be in high school in September is also not far from my mind. WHAT. HOW. DID. THIS. HAPPEN. I swear he was Muffin’s age just last month. Okay, it was more than 10 years ago. I am old. More than that, I just… How did he become so much his own person, who has this mind and personality and life that I’m learning about as we go — rather than being the expert on my small child? Because he grew up and discovered who he is and what he’s into, that’s why — and isn’t that what I tried so hard for over a decade to achieve? Insert wolf impression here…

My husband finally started reading Volume 1. Yes, it is among the great ironic moments of my life that some of the last people to read my first release are my immediate family. But the reason this is so momentuous for me is because my husband does not read fantasy or speculative fiction at all. (He once picked up a Frank Peretti novel circa 1995, and never finished it.) I’ve had to explain to him what a TARDIS is, that “faery” is a correct spelling, and the significance of Shroedinger’s Cat. He is so not a geek. Anyway, the fact that he got through the Prologue of Volume 1 and said, “This is really good!”, has intense personal meaning.

A-owwwwwwwwww…

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There are also some big personal things happening for a few people I know, and this gets to me, because I want to be able to help, and in some instances, I just can’t. Either I don’t live close enough, or it’s not my place to step in, and there’s really not much I can do other than stand back and watch developments unfold. I am a do-er, I like to participate in situations resolving, and know that it’s all going well. Especially when it concerns people I care about. So this is a tough bit.

A-owwwwwww…

Anyone have time to post a glowing review of Volume 1 to make me feel better?

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Autism, books, children's fiction, family, Parenting, reading

A Few Words on Children’s Books

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So, as part of my degree (Early Childhood Education), I had to take a course in Children’s Literature. Really, not that surprising when you think about it. But what did surprise me was that, on day one of the class, the professor said, “Just because it’s literature for children doesn’t mean it’s good literature.” And when you start to look at the criteria for determining the writing/reading quality of a book, this makes a lot of sense.

Throughout the 20th century, there was much debate among families and educators about what counted as “good” children’s books. As a parent (before I was a teacher), this is a subject that was constantly on my mind in bookstores and school book fairs and libraries. There really is a lot to consider. Is the style age appropriate? Does it fit with where your child is developmentally? Will the content have lasting meaning? Much more than just, “Oh, these pictures are cool.”

And even books are not one size fits all. Autistic children may be very picky readers. They may take issue with everything from the look of the illustrations (are they too bright? too unrealistic? too simple and boring?) to the content of the text (if it makes them sad, will they actually have a breakdown over it?).

When was younger, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I had a very sensitive constitution, and reading about certain topics were just plain off limits (for example, animal cruelty, war, people with terminal illnesses). This means I do not (and probably never will) read publications such as Stone Fox, The One and Only Ivan, Bridge to Terabithia, and Shiloh, and most likely shall continue to avoid them all at costs. (We were assigned The Giver one semester, and I literally threw it at the wall after 50 pages.)

But, (thankfully), there are still plenty of books that I can read to my own kids, that I think are great for all kinds of children, and that I’d definitely recommend as a parent and as a teacher.

Exhibit A: Dr. Seuss.

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Anyone who says Dr. Seuss is “outdated” because “nonsensical wording is harmful to the development of our children’s brains” has obviously never interacted with an actual human child. They do nonsense things on a regular basis. They use words that do not exist in mortal tongues. They take pride in this behavior. So, quite frankly, we should build more statues and grant more awards to the man who figured out just how to speak their language, and then was kind enough to write it down so that parents could get in on the gig.

Exhibit B: Diversity stories that focus much more on the story than “look, it has diversity”.

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In the mid 20th century, a whole lot of picture books were about Johnny and Jane, riding their bikes in the field while Daddy went to his office job and Mommy baked cupcakes all day. Simply not relatable to a ton of the American population after about 1900. So, when picture books including all the ethnic groups and city life and single parents who were janitors started becoming a real thing, many people were happy about it, as they should be. Books that simply represent different cultures or societies as a natural part of the story (like the works of Ezra Jack Keats, or the Knufflebunny tales) are very valuable to increasing literacy and growing tolerance.

Exhibit C: Animals behaving like people to teach kids everyday lessons.

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One of my personal favorites for White Fang was Franklin. This little turtle was just an average guy, trying to get through very normal mishaps like a misunderstanding with a friend, not wanting to follow a rule, or being nervous about starting something new. Now he’s considered a classic, along with the creations of Sandra Boynton and Suzanne Bloom, all still very relatable choices for internet-era munchkins. The fantastic thing about using animals instead of people is that kids from all sorts of backgrounds connect to the feelings and situations, without there being an obvious ethnic/cultural gap.

Exhibit D: Books that use metaphors or symbolism discreetly.

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Little kids don’t like allegory. They don’t understand it, it doesn’t have meaning, and it often leads to MG/YA students resenting whole genres (or even reading itself), for adults trying to force it on them. That’s why a story like Where the Wild Things Are — which targets Max’s bad behavior and his desire for control, the consequences of his breaking the rules and his plan to escape, his eventual acceptance of the situation, and his mother’s forgiveness of the mischief, all within the idea that he may or may not have visited a remote island of monsters — is brilliant.

(And if you weren’t aware of the deeper meanings to that story, find a copy and re-read it for yourself.)

Exhibit E: Characters that have ongoing appeal, and therefore, significance to many generations.

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Just because Winnie the Pooh and friends first appeared nigh on a hundred years ago doesn’t mean kids today don’t understand the silly ol’ bear. The same goes for so many other “dated” tales, especially where the focus was always much more on things like friendship, problem solving, and considering the feelings of others, than the time period the original author wrote in. After all, there are some things we hope to teach every generation, regardless of whether they’re living in the 1980s or the 2020s.

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Autism, blogging, Encouragement, family, Parenting, writing

Mothering and Writing

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So, this was the next most-voted-for on my Twitter account poll. For those of you who don’t follow my Twitter feed and may be wondering what the blazes I’m going on about, I’m referring to the fact that, while I was sick, I truly had no energy/time/inspiration, but knew that eventually — like, when I was no longer sick — I would desire to post something on the blog (if nothing else, so you all knew I was alive). Anyway, I decided that the honorable tradition of asking your readers really wasn’t such a bad notion; so I placed a poll on Twitter — “what do I post about next?”

And, here we are: *mothering and writing*.

As most of you know, I am beset on a daily basis by two underage beings, one small, one taller than me, who are both under my charge and my jurisdiction. In human speak: I am a parent. (To three if you count the cat.) So, I spend a fair amount of my time cooking for the small thing, cleaning up after his destruction, making sure he participates in his physical and speech therapy home sessions, and that he doesn’t conquer Mars without a signed permission slip. (Oh, who are we kidding, Muffin sets no score by what I grant him permission to do.)

And White Fang, when he’s not in school, needs constant reminders to finish his chores, finish his homework, eat something, and prepare his dirty laundry for the washer, because he is a teenager and Minecraft is more important than anything else. And so, between all of this, there are days when writing (which I have now turned into my livelihood) becomes the challenge.

How do you balance being a parent with being a writer? the unnamed pollsters were undoubtedly yelling at their screens (and praying for answers they could use in their own lives). Well, I truly hope I don’t cause more yelling, but the fact is, not one thing works for everybody, and I can only relay what has worked (generally) for me, and honestly wish you blessings on your schedule and accomplishment.

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First, it’s all about time management. If your kids are in school, then you have the chance to dedicate the morning or the afternoon (on that day with no errands or chores or appointments) to writing, or editing, or goofing off on the internet and calling it “research.” But, no, seriously, when you have the opportunity to work, don’t squander it on trying to find the best middle name for your protagonist or determine what breed of dog their great-uncle owned in 1989. Just write — the major stuff, like the plot — and even if you end up cutting out a lot later, know you’re at least you’re making progress.

If your kids are still small (like Muffin), and need more attention than the ones who walk and talk and can do a lot for themselves, take advantage of naps, or find a babysitter for Wednesday afternoons — just write when you can. If you need to type everything because of ease or quicker achievement, do so. (Personally, I prefer to start with paper and pen, because working around the random scribbles when a pen was stolen, or an occasional grubby fingerprint on the page, is a lot easier than trying to cope with the computer being turned off when you’re halfway to your word count goal for that day.)

If you can, take a short vacation by yourself, and create your own writer’s retreat — send the kids to grandma’s once a month, or go to a favorite cafe once a week. (The latter sort of thing never works for me, because I can’t concentrate when I’m around other people vocally debating whether they want mocha or vanilla shots in their espresso.)

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Something that really helps me organize and plan my schedule and my plot is participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (which isn’t the contest, but more like a workshop). You can find like-minded individuals to bounce ideas off, whine to, or cheer each other on. Thank heavens it’s only twice a year ( because I also need to do marketing, and blogging, and take showers and even leave the house once in a while). But every few months, it’s important to make sure I’m on the right track with my WIP, and not wandering off into Neverland following a totally unrelated minor character or origin story for their pet lizard.

And it’s a really big deal to remember why you write. Is it a hobby, something you can put off for weeks at a time, and honestly be all right with? Or is it a sort of calling, a venture that you feel is necessary to include in your life? Do you dream of seeing your work in print, for the world to share? If so, then you truly need to put in the effort.

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Autism, cats, children's fiction, Fantasy fiction, movies, music, reading, Science fiction, writing, Young Adult fiction

My Writing Influences

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Good morning, everyone! Per the poll on my Twitter account, oh, only about a hundred months ago (no, really, about a week, I think), I will be selecting the next few blogging topics based on the feedback from those of you who actually read these posts!

The top choice was *my writing influences*. So, I present you with the answer to said subject. (Disclaimer: I did warn you ahead of time that you asked for this…)

Cats. And other animals, but a lot of cats. The tricky thing about trying to write about animals is that, as humans, we can only get inside their heads so much. Or, so I believed.

For a long time, I’d wanted to include talking animals in my writing, and my attempts fell flat. Then I started reading Warriors by Erin Hunter. I’ve waxed poetic plenty about that series in other posts, so I won’t go full throttle here, but suffice it (for the sake of this topic) to say that it completely changed my mind on what was possible.

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Mythological creatures and tales. Since I was old enough to read on my own, I was hunting down stories of the ancient Greek legends, Grimm’s fairytales, and pretty much anything involving unicorns, dragons, and mermaids. I gobbled up almost everything I could find centering on all the species of faeries and animals that don’t exist. I’ve adapted what parts of the legends work best for my story when it comes to The Order of the Twelve Tribes.

Music. I do have a writing playlist (which changes to fit with my current WIP). As those of you who have read Masters and Beginners will know, I’ve placed song lyrics at the start of each chapter throughout the novel. These are homages to my playlist while I was writing/editing Volume 1. So, that will be different in each installment. But it gives you a pretty good idea of what I’ve been listening to.

My previous life in England, and all the English authors I’ve read since forever. Charles Dickens, Peter S. Beagle, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling — it’s a kind of a small miracle there are any American authors on my shelves. (And, yes, there are a few.) But these Brits developed my craft, the type of pacing I follow, the use of (hopefully) clever humor, and reinforced my passion not just to tell a story but to tell it well.  

And since I spent 4 years in Great Britain, I’m just used to thinking in both American and the Queen’s English at the same time, and so many of my characters started morphing into people who originally came from London/Cornwall/Oxfordshire/Edinburgh, and I didn’t fight it.

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Doctor Who. I would flat out be lying if I claimed my writing hadn’t been influenced by Doctor Who. (I have at least three TARDIS references in Volume 1 alone, for the love of Gallifrey.) And while it may seem a bit too ambitious, I truly hope that some day, in some way, I can create something on a parallel with the beauty of some of the early episodes of the show’s reboot.

Warehouse 13. If any of you have seen that TV show, you’ll probably recognize bits of the Warehouse in the Annex, and the sort of structure of the Regents in the idea of the Council and the Order’s hierarchy. (And this is as close to spoilers as I get, I swear.) I’ve had a few really favorite programs, but few have truly stayed in my heart as much as DW and WH 13. 

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Theories on lost knowledge or cultures. Again, for those of you now familiar with the plot of Masters and Beginners, you’ll know that I’m fascinated not only with the mythology and legends of different civilizations, but you may have noticed that I’ve dug pretty deep to find some unique twists for my story. My ideas about the origin of faeries and the Nephilim are actually not completely my own; they’re developed from some very old (think the Middle Ages) and rather obscure Celtic and Hebrew lore. But I took the jist of a lot of research and bent it and molded it until it was shaped like The Order’s world.

Autism. It’s impossible for me not to see life through the lens of autism. And since I’ve read about 62% of the YA/fantasy novels ever printed, I can tell you with some authority that there really aren’t that many healthy, realistic depictions of autism out there. So I decided to write my own. In Volume 1, I’ve introduced not one but two characters on the spectrum (one it’s stated early on, the other will probably be a surprise to most of you). In Volume 2 and beyond, there will be a much greater focus on them.

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My furry angel. You’ve all seen this picture by now, as Toby is my muse for the artwork on the series. (Feel free to ooh and aaw over his cuteness.) Having a real life model for cat behavior was very helpful for putting together the characters of Jules and Sammy.

Pretty pictures. It sounds almost trite, but if you think about it, it’s really important to surround yourself with beauty when you’re hoping to be creative — especially when you’re writing about really serious things like discrimination and losing loved ones and staring down your own imminent demise. (And here you thought I was just writing about fun and glittery faeries and talking cats!) It helps to remind you that — as Samwise Gamgee would say — there is good in the world, and it is worth fighting for.

So, there we are! I hope this appeals to your sensibilities of what you wanted to know about what influences my fictional work! Don’t forget to put a specific question for me in the comments for next week’s post, Author Q & A!

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Autism, blogging, books, cats, children's fiction, Fantasy fiction, reading, Young Adult fiction

Warriors Update: The Prequel, The New Series, and Upcoming Extras

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Wow, it’s been, what, approximately 364 years since I did a Warriors update? (Please, no one double check the archives for an actual date. I just know it was a while back.) Anyway, I was doing really well at posting pretty regular updates with my progress on this epic. Then I hit the snag of: I joined NaNoWriMo, I was trying to get Volume 1 published, and I wanted to read other things (not just juvenile fiction) for a little bit.

And (moment of personal weakness being admitted here) I got really, really nervous about how I’d feel about the prequel series, Dawn of the Clans. So, I’ve been avoiding it. Yes, I know, bookdragon sin committed. But the further we go into the advancing of the new series (more on that in a minute), the more I’m realizing that the authors are definitely hinting at: we are about to come full circle. The whole series will probably soon draw to a close.

(Of course, everybody also thought that after The Last Hope — book 6 of Omen of the Stars, which we all figured was going to be the conclusion. Then last year the publisher started releasing A Vision of Shadows.)

So, anyway, what I’m indicating is this — I am an intense bookdragon when it comes to Warriors, and the idea of it all actually, officially coming to an end… Sorry, that distorted sound you hear in the background is aching, broken, Vulcan tears.

Yes, I am totally aware I could just start re-reading from the very beginning — and catch up on all those novellas, super-editions, field guides, and manga I am behind on. (Never let it be said that this publisher leaves their fans wanting more.)

But my point at the moment is: An unfortunate part of being an autistic bookdragon is struggling more than the average bookworm when a favorite series finishes. (And don’t we all know that this earth-shattering event is difficult enough to deal with?!) So, I’m honestly hoping (probably a bit too strongly) that the authors develop a spinoff somewhere in the near future (like, by 2018).

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Also, Warriors is the only series that has totally sucked in my heart and soulAfter I completed The Prophecies Begin (the first 6-book set in what became the much greater series), I sat in a daze for about three hours, and had these thoughts: How in the world am I ever going to read anything else, ever again? Nothing can possibly compare now. And, how can I write something even a tenth as good?”

These authors found a way to make you care, deeply, passionately, obsessively, about what happens to this group of fictional feral cats. Most adults would see that it’s told from the animals’ point of view, and that it’s labeled as juvenile fiction, and go, “Okay, a fun thing for the kids,” and never think of picking it up themselves. But trust me, Warriors has more than enough drama, heartfelt moments, and subtle discussions on serious issues to satisfy “grown-up” readers, too.

I’ve waxed poetic about this series in several other posts. My obsession — er, my devotion still stands. Recently, we received #3 of A Vision of Shadows (the newest set of will-be-6 consecutive novels) on the actual release day (because I was smart and pre-ordered for a change). White Fang got it first (because I’m nice like that); but will be getting #4 first. Trying to get him not to give me spoilers was a NIGHTMARE.

Here’s White Fang reading it in his room: “WHAT?!?! NOOOO…. OH MY GOSH!!! Twigpaw!!! Onestar!!!”

Here’s me in my kitchen (with my hands over my ears): “LALALALALALA…”

Yes, really, I’m almost 38 years old.

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And here’s White Fang about once a month: “You know, Mom, you haven’t finished Dawn of the Clans yet.”

And I bought him the box set as a late birthday present, so now I don’t have the excuse of having to wait for the library to have them all in.

Blast it.

On top of all this, I have successfully whittled down my Goodreads TBR to almost nothing. I actually completed my GR challenge, before May, people! So now I’m down to only a few more re-reads I wanted to do in 2017, and then I…I will actually have nothing new to read.

We all know this is the absolute worst scenario for a bookdragon.

Except, with the entire set of Dawn of the Clans sitting there on White Fang’s shelves…

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Hey, on the plus side, when I do finish it, I can write a post about it (and how much it destroyed me).

Then I’ll be able to wipe away the guilt from my conscience because I don’t get the references in the fan art for the prequel.

But then, what will I write next about Warriors? Because I know the next instalment isn’t for sale until November (sob!!!).

Uh, super-editions, novellas, field guides, manga, that I just mentioned a few paragraphs above?

Okay, I get it; I’ll stop being such a baby.

Look for a review of Dawn of the Clans to hit this space in the near future.

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Autism, Children's Health, community, family, Parenting, The Invisible Moth

Mind the Gap

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Note: As usual with my more serious discussion posts, I have attempted to soften the blow with some very lovely pictures.

Do we all know what “mind the gap” means? When you step onto a train, and there’s a space between the edge of the platform and where the actual floor of the train car begins? And they have signs and warnings, “Mind the gap,” because they don’t want anyone to accidentally get hurt?

The reason I chose that title for this post came from thinking about things where there are major gaps between one issue and another, gaps that really need to be bridged if we’re going to get anywhere.

So, when I was a young mother, and had a primary-grades child diagnosed with autism, I heard a lot about how autism was “bad.” It would create major obstacles for him in school, in future life, in trying to get a job, get married, have a career, function on his own in society.

And, feeling an immense amount of society-induced guilt, I tried my hardest to get my child to change his natural behavior. Encouraged him not to stim (even though it cut back on anxiety), forced him to try to conform, insisted he not spend too much time alone.

After a couple of years, I saw that none of this was working. And more than that, it was beginning to dawn on me that I was reliving a dangerous pattern.

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When I was young, I behaved differently than my peers, and I was told not to. Teachers felt my desire to play alone, to engage in solitary pursuits, was harmful. I was instructed to read less and take up more interactive hobbies, try a sport, join a club.

So I tried. And I was miserable. I couldn’t understand some of the social cues, and that made me sad and mad, and that led to worse inner experiences, because I couldn’t understand or deal with all the emotions I felt.

So I gave up trying. By the time I was a young adult, I just wanted to be left alone to behave how I wanted to.

Then White Fang’s father — and a bunch of other stuff — happened. Not only did it change my life forever (because White Fang was born), but it also started me on a path of self-discovery.

Having a child that shares the same spectrum I inhabit, but doesn’t rest on the same space I do, and only occasionally visits, has made part of this path more complicated. One of my first questions was — if it was so easy to diagnose him, why not me? What’s the big difference?

It turns out there are many, many women who are now adults that either were suspected of being ASD as children and weren’t diagnosed, or were considered “in an introvert or geek phase,” and therefore passed over for diagnosis. 20 years ago, most psychologists in North America were looking for autism based only on a very specific set of criteria; so if a female child wasn’t showing significant language delays, or regularly made eye contact or was able to tolerate social interaction, they were deemed “probably not autistic.”

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This idea was totally wrong.

Mind the gap…

Though we’ve entered a new age of research regarding autism, I truly don’t think we’re yet at a new age of how we approach and understand ASD. Quite honestly, it concerns me. I want my kids to grow up in a world where differences from the norm are accepted, where ways they perceive and react to life is just viewed as part of the whole grand human experience.

I don’t want my son to be told he can’t go to this or that church because he’s an abomination that “needs to be cured”. I don’t want him and his future wife to be told that, since they “run the risk” of having a child on the spectrum, they should engage in pre-natal genetic testing that may “help” them decide whether or not to bring this life into the world.

Mind the gap…

I don’t want Muffin coming of age in a culture where he has to constantly shout into the void that his brother is not a freak. I don’t want to live out my remaining days surrounded by neighbors and acquaintances that keep giving me funny looks, or determine my value as a person by how many public events I attend. I want to know that the struggles and achievements of Temple Grandin, Cynthia Kim, myself, mean something good for the future.

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Most of all, I want to know that for whatever purpose God put me on this Earth, with autism, it has been served.

“Sometimes even shooting stars find wishes that missed their marks… But when the night gets too dark, and the road home seems too far… We’ll see the sun come up again… We will climb higher than we’ve been… We’ve got a fire that burns within” — Dragonhearted (by Try Hard Ninja and Captain Sparklez)

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Autism, blogging, community, Mental Health, reading

Time for the Autistic Reader Disclaimer

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For those of you who are new around here, you may have noticed that I write a lot about autism and how those of us on the spectrum view the world. Mostly my goal is to bridge the gap between awareness of medical symptoms, and awareness of real life experience, in the general population.

My whole life, I knew I was different from my peers, but could never figure out why; it turned out this was because how I experienced the world and how they did was vastly different, neurologically and physically. (It’s called “sensory perception disorder”.) But I honestly didn’t realize until I’d spent several years learning specifically about the Autism Spectrum — after my oldest child was diagnosed on it — that most of my struggles (social anxiety, extreme sensitivity to loud noise or sudden occurrences) also fell under the “umbrella” term.

Anyway, I’ve posted in the recent past about how certain things just really make my skin crawl, or just don’t click with my mind or emotions, and how this affects what I read. It means that I won’t read particular genres or styles to help avoid triggers, and I’ve tried to make it clear that while this does limit my possible choices of reading material, it’s purely a personal preference, and it doesn’t mean I think anything I decide not to read is rubbish.

I am currently having a big, intense feeling of guilt over this issue. The fact is, I’m starting to feel bad over opting not to read novels recommended to me, or written by people in my community — or maybe I do read it, and I appreciate the skill, the amount of work the author clearly put in, but it may not move me emotionally. And when there are other people in the community — people I respect and like — flailing over these novels… Well, that creates this odd, twisty sensation inside me.

Often when I explain things about having autism to people who do not have it (also known as Neuro-Typicals), I find it necessary to defend myself (and my fellow ASD-ers), because we have so frequently been persecuted and struggled against the prejudices society has developed regarding our natural state of being. But today I feel the need to apologize for something that I can’t change.

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And what my preferences/triggers are will probably be different from another (or 10 other people) on the spectrum. That’s just what a “spectrum” means — a range of things that have certain core issues that are the same, but otherwise can vary greatly in how they’re experienced. For example, some autists may not get bothered at all by horror novels, knowing it’s just fiction and that any of the violence or gore involved isn’t actually happening. Then there’s me, who faints when I get a hangnail that starts bleeding.

Most of what bugs me when I read is stuff that bothers me in real life. If I’m around people who swear profusely, the harsh sound of constant profanity (or in “music” or as part of movies) gives my ears fits. Too much blood and gore makes me squirm. Too many emotions — yes, emotions — do my Vulcan soul in. Do I understand the basics of love, empathy, compassion? Yes, of course (I’m part Spock, not part Khan). But some of the more intricate details, and their relevance, are lost on me.

There are women who simply adore a fictional man who proposes to the heroine by renting a whole restaurant, strews rose petals on the floor, lights a million candles, and then gets down on one knee with an elaborate speech about how amazing she is to him, and a diamond ring the size of Gibraltar. If I read or watch a scene like that, here’s what I’m thinking: “Good grief, how much did all of this cost? What if she slips on those flower petals and twists her knee? They could burn the place down with all those candles, for heavens’ sake!”

Here’s something displaying a lot of emotion that I will totally get and appreciate: A heartfelt monologue about the beloved’s traits and why the hero needs her in his life, about why having her by his side makes him a better person. And then they proceed to attack the spaceship about to destroy a whole planet of innocent civilians.

(Sorry, guys, I am married.)

And now I’m getting slightly off track…

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But my biggest point here is this — I really, really don’t want anyone in the blogisphere to think that I thought their work or recommendation was rotten raspberries just because I failed to connect to it on a deeper level. I have a very specific set of standards for what I give 5 stars, purely due to how my neurotransmitters fire. And maybe it’s the result of this “unusual” programming, but I can also separate the quality of work from what I prefer, and establish that something is quality, although I am not getting all mushy over it.

(I just don’t do mush. Not very much. Small animals and truly exceptional people break that rule. By truly exceptional, I mean someone like Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley, or Firestar and Yellowfang, or the Death of Discworld. So please don’t feel bad if you don’t see yourself among the mush-making list, either. There are tons of people whom I honestly love and feel deeply for, even if you don’t see the gushing — just remember that one time Spock actually smiled at Kirk in the original Star Trek series.)

So, I have probably confused you, but I hope that I at least gave you a little something to laugh over. With any luck, my apology makes the smallest amount of sense. Have a great day, moths.

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