Mental Health, writing

2019: The Year NaNoWriMo Kicked My Butt (And Why I Don’t Even Care)

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Okay, I know it may seem a little premature because we still have a whole week of November left… But I am officially throwing in the towel on NaNoWriMo.

But here’s the thing: I really don’t think I care.

As of today, I am hovering around 27,000 words, and I just know I won’t be able to get even close to 50,000 before November 30th. Though, again, I’m not sure I, in fact, give a damn.

Yes, I’m not only announcing my quitting, I’m not regretting it.

Here’s a fun bulleted list of reasons why:

  • The new website sucks. This isn’t mere subjective opinion; this is a cold, hard truth. Between numerous software glitches and the overall tone of the new site just not being encouraging anymore, I’m really discouraged. Every time I proudly entered an update on my word count, the stats page only reminded me of how far I had to go, how much I hadn’t done. What the hell happened to the lovely little messages we used to get above our charts: “Well done, Nanoling! Keep going, you can do it!” They’ve been replaced with a robotic, “364 words needed today.” Go shove it, algorithim.  I just slaved away for 2 and a half hours to produce nearly 1400 words! WHY DON’T YOU APPRECIATE THAT?!
  • Does anybody else remember the days when we could send notes to our buddies with the digital equivalent of cake and puppies, and it was all so inspiring and built the comraderie and made you want to push forward, despite aching all over and just wanting to sleep? Now either they’ve done away with that, too, or I have simply become a technological dinosaur and cannot figure out how to communicate with other people on the new site. This lack of encouragement hurts my heart. Yes, we’re all on social media, cheering for each other; but somehow it doesn’t feel the same, and I am breaking.
  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The fact we destroy ourselves for an entire month and then have to buy our own prizes is straight-up bollocks. I can’t even afford most of the items in the shop, even with a winner’s discount. After choosing to inflict this torture on myself for 30 days, I want a FREE mug and t-shirt and trial edition of Scribner. Delivered to my door by a unicorn with a rainbow mane, damn it!
  • Apart from December or May, November is the WORST month to participate in such a crazy endeavor as attempting to write most of a novel. There are parent-teacher conferences, birthday parties, early freak snowstorms, Thanksgiving, and just a dozen other things getting in my way of writing at least 1600 words every single day. Why can’t they hold this contest in January or March, when there’s so little going on people are getting bored out of their wits?
  • All of these factors combined are resulting in the joy for finishing this manuscript being sucked right out of me. Fire and Wind started as a passion project for White Fang, but I always intended to finish, and publish it, in a timely manner. That was now well over 10 months ago, and this is absolutely not the moment to lose enthusiasm. I am about halfway through this novella, and there is no (good) reason to abandon it. Other than intense, unnecessary pressure from a sociopathic website. And that is not good reason.

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All of this makes me so literally TIRED as well, it isn’t even funny anymore. The other night after work, I sat down to take off my shoes, and just stared into space for about 10 minutes (not exaggerating, either!), wondering how to fix my potential plot holes. Muffin was whining because he wanted dinner, none of the chores were finished yet, and I had almost no energy to keep going. I was properly drained. And that was when it hit me: NaNo isn’t worth it anymore.

As is the risk with all sorts of competitions, my goal had shifted from completing a task I really wanted to wrap up, to just wanting to see the numbers go up.

My approach had significantly altered, to something that was no longer healthy and productive.

I wanted that back, as well as my time, and the control over my life.

Yes, it was feeling that bad.

So, where does this leave me going forward? Well, as far as anything NaNo goes, probably…zip, nada, zilch. I truly think I’m done with the whole exercise, in any month. But for Fire and Wind, it means I did at least get a good amount of this beat into submission, and it’s the first time in several months I’ve actually been close to finishing a draft.

But, also, now I really want to tackle my TBR, and get back to working on Volume 4, and maybe even start thinking beyond my current series. No, this is not to make fans of The Order of the Twelve Tribes panic. Though what I’ve realized in delving deeper into Fire and Wind is that there is so much more to explore in this world, and continuing to limit myself to the perspective of one small Annex won’t satisfy this moth indefinitely.

And there shouldn’t be a strict time frame on creating. I firmly believe that now. I’m not done with Fire and Wind on November 30th because the stats page claims I am. It’s done when reach the story’s natural conclusion, and feel confident that this tale is complete.

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Mental Health, reading

Moving On, And No Regrets…

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So, for the past year and a bit, I’ve been attending an adult-fiction-only book club at my local library. I gave it a go because I’ve enjoyed belonging to book clubs in the past. A book club sounds like any bookworm’s dream come true — gathering among fellow avid readers, usually over some sort of (free) food, discussing plots and characters and which fictional world you’d like to live in.

However, I have discovered over this last year that: Not all book clubs are created equal.

Here’s why I’ve now decided that 14 months is enough time to declare that I’m not interested in going back to this particular meeting:

It turns out I really don’t like most adult fiction. When I was in my early 20s, I went on a big chick lit and cozy mystery series kick. It was largely because I was “too old” to keep reading juvenile fiction, and my genre of choice — fantasy — was generally too high-brow for my taste. These were the days of epic fantasy taking over everything (with the exception of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman), and the whole “they’re spending 700 pages walking on a quest?!” scene did not appeal to me at all.

Then, just about the time I’d exhausted the chick lit/cozy mystery selections of the time, the “new” YA was taking publishing by storm. So I spent several years engrossed in the plethora of dystopia released then, Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters universe, pretty much everything by Marie Liu and Maggie Stiefvater, and the Warriors saga. By the time I came out of that (rather joyous) haze, I realized I was…gulp…nearly 40…and genuinely unaware of what grown-ups were reading lately.

So, I opted into this book club.

I am now feeling the intense pain.

Of all the titles I read for this group, guess how many I actually enjoyed?: A big fat zero.

They were all too long, or too boring, too inaccurate, or too unrelatable. I felt like a 15-year-old reading the same books the “grownups” were to get attention. It got frustrating, and almost embarrassing.

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To some people, any sort of social gathering, even one with a specific purpose, remains primarily social in nature. And quite frankly, I got tired of sitting around for 40 minutes, waiting for the actual discussion on the book to begin. And even then, trying to keep people on topic was consistently difficult. You expect things to get a little sidetracked, but when only about 25 minutes — of an allotted hour and a half — is spent covering the actual book, that is just too much unnecessary distraction for this moth.

And then there are the know-it-alls. More than once, I really wanted to throw the book at the wall (literally) when someone had become an instant expert on a subject after reading one, very poorly-written novel. It also drove me crazy that some people would refuse to see any point of view other than their own, extremely misguided line of thought. And I’m not talking about very subjective issues, like whether the writing style or narration type was effective. I mean stuff like not learning the facts behind a historical event presented in the book, and assuming that everything the author wrote was dogma.

Example: When someone announced, after reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (a novel that I cannot stand), that they had become illuminated on the “disease of autism,” I practically had a stroke.

Feeling like voicing your unpopular opinion will get you no respect just bites. No matter the title, it seemed if I didn’t like it, I was in the definite minority, and there were certainly instances when people looked at me like I had two heads because I found something pretentious, dull, or simply nonsensical. I’m a writer myself, for heavens’ sake, I know why I like what I like in style and genre. Disagreeing with the rest of the group shouldn’t be a crime.

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So, why did I keep going for so long?

Maybe I was hoping it would get better. Maybe I just got used to the routine.

Or, most likely, I was subconsciously worried that it was just a me thing, that I wasn’t “getting it,” and now that I was 40, I needed to suck it up and learn to deal with the heavy topics and the boring, long-winded diatribes in adult fiction.

Well, I can honestly say now that: I. Don’t. Care.

I’m content with my tastes, my preferences, and with my desire to not waste any more of my precious free time on stuff I just know I’m not going to want to read.

I will stick to the genre book club, where we gather at a pub and share a wide range of opinions on the literature, and laugh a lot more.

And where I’ve never worried that the entire table is assuming I have more than one head.

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Mental Health

A Perfect Autistic Vacation

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I’m not much of one for traditional vacations. Apart from the fact I can’t even afford a haircut right now, typical summer holiday spots can be rather intimidating to this moth. It’s the crowds, the noise, the not being familiar with where you’re going, or what the place will be like when you get there.

Oh, I can survive all this, and I have, on many occasions. But now that I’m older, and definitely not as willing to brave the unknown as previous times in my life, I can say, with a fair amount of certainty, that I have some pretty firm requirements for my future vacations.

Ideally, it will be someplace I’ve been to before. This doesn’t limit me for choices, in fact, since I’ve been to several states, and England as well. And there are many areas I’d like to go back to, for the second or even third or fourth time.

I’m going with someone I know. This is how I get around the tricky things like trying to attend Realm Makers (because no matter how ready I convince myself I am, a boatload of anxiety would result). It really doesn’t matter that I haven’t met in person anyone I know from blogging or social media who also goes to this event; the fact that I would recognize them, and they me, and that I’m at least somewhat familiar with them, and vice versa, would be enough to get me on the plane and to the hotel.

Indoor locations are prime. Outside things scare me more. (Camping is totally a no.) So anything held at a hotel — especially with air conditioning — or that involves a lot of time spent inside buildings (minus unpredictable insects and weather) will be much more attractive.

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As long as it isn’t too extended, I can handle going by plane or train. I would actually prefer this to a long car ride (anything over 2 hours one way starts to grate on my nerves). I can deal with turbulence on a transatlantic flight, or a train ride up to around half a day. This means that I don’t have to restrict my destination to somewhere within 50 miles of my house.

It needs to be a place I can seek out some peace and quiet. Amusement parks, concerts, and sporting matches are waaaaay out of my comfort zone. All that yelling and strange people jumping around, and speakers turned up to 11. And I can’t do rollercoasters (I’ve never been on one in my entire life, and that will most likely never change).

Museums and art galleries, historical sites, the ballet or theatre (where people are expected to keep their lips zipped during the action) all sound a fantastic getaway to me.

I get to stay on dry land. I love the sound and smell of the ocean. I love watching those David Attenborough programs about the sea and marine wildlife. I love doing all that from the safety of my own home, or at the very least no closer to the water than 6 inches away. I can stand on the beach and watch the waves roll in and out for quite a while. Then I’ll go swimming in the heated pool in the hotel.

Look, do you guys realize just how many scary creatures there are in the oceans? And some lakes and rivers, for that matter? I’ll never go to Disneyworld or Universal Studios Orlando because I am petrified of swamps and alligators and giant snakes. You shalt not catch me anywhere near the Everglades. I’ll go to California, because there I can safely tour Harry Potter land far, far away from the sharks in the Pacific.

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There have to be a variety of dining options. I’m not as sensitive an eater as many on the spectrum, but I still need to have plenty of choices. I need to be able to gain access to restaurants that won’t automatically put condiments on my sandwich or salad, will offer non-spicy foods, vegetarian alternatives (when I’m feeling stressed, sometimes a tofu or mushroom dish really hits the spot), and won’t give me a hard time about any of this.

I can’t have unfamiliar roommates. So sorry to anyone who’d ever like to volunteer to share a room with me at, say, Realm Makers; but if I do this, I will become a puddle of utter sadness and desperation. At the end of the day, I have to get control of the noise level in my space, the TV (and the remote), the phone, and who else I’m around (i.e., no one after a long stretch of extroverting).

(When my family’s driving me crazy, I sometimes indulge lush fantasies of checking into a local hotel all by myself. True story.)

The natives have to be English speakers. I’m aware this really reduces my chances of ever going to Europe (and I would secretly loooove to go to Paris and Prague), but I just don’t have a wide enough slot for managing jet lag and language barriers.

(Maybe I can one day sell enough books to hire a translator to come with me??)

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My last guideline is actually the least problematic — I prefer cooler places. That means California in January, not June; Cape Cod in September (it’s still beautiful in the off-season); Australia and New Zealand in fact have winter during summer for us, so if I went there now, I probably wouldn’t sweat to death. And England only gets really hot for about two weeks a year, and the rain truly doesn’t bother me, so I’d be golden on that at any time on the calendar.

And there we have it! Maybe next summer I’ll pitch a tent in my own backyard and fill up the air mattress, and when we’re stargazing I’ll pretend we’re actually afloat on a replica pirate ship off the coast of Barbados?

(Or maybe I’ll get super lucky and Realm Makers will be held about an hour from my house.)

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blogging, books, Encouragement, Fantasy fiction, Mental Health, reading, writing

The Life of a Self-Published Author

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So, I am quickly discovering that writing a novel and getting it ready to print through the company of your choice may be the easy part of being an indie author. (And it’s probably the most enjoyable — most of the time.) After the printing part comes the part where you need to sell several (at least) copies, to help pay for the costs of everything, so that you can justify writing more because, see, your first book sold!

This means marketing and advertising. Are there ways to go about this for free? Thankfully, yes. There are blogs (your own or somebody else’s), social media, and my new personal favorite, becoming a Goodreads author and developing a profile/page there.

Goodreads is an amazing tool. The site is pretty user-friendly (take it from me, who only understands the very basics of how to do things like customize a webpage), and you can do stuff like have discussions with the community, host giveaways (with the minimum amount of work on your part), and connect with other self-published authors. All of this helps build your reader base (if I use the word “fan” here, I’ll start freaking out too much), and spreads the word about your publication(s), and it can be free if you wish.

The instructional section aside… I am beginning to flail a little — both good and bad — with regards to how much effort must go into the marketing part of this whole deal.

First (to get it over with, and give you something to look forward to) the bad: There are moments when doing this all by myself feels rather daunting, and it makes my blood pressure go up, and it’s a bit hard to catch my breath. Sometimes when I look at the list of readers who have added my book to their TBR, I am still shocked, and amazed, and utterly terrified — because what if they don’t like it?! 

That’s a chance any author takes, though — whether they scraped and saved every spare penny for 4 months to get their novel to print, or whether they have a six-figure salary coming from a big-name publisher and plans for book tours established. And, remember, you can’t please all of the people all of the time — so, it’s just a fact that, based on personality or preference for style/genre/how many dragons are in a single book, some readers just won’t care for your work.

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And when you don’t have a signed contract through a big-name publisher, resources will be limited. You may need to be in the employ of something other than “writing” to help keep the literal lights on, which means that time to write/plan/market may be a valuable commodity. Book tours just won’t happen if you can’t even afford a bus ticket to the nearest big city. And if you’re a family man/woman — like I am — there are other things to take care of — school, cooking, cleaning, homework, doctors’ appointments, needing to be home at certain times of the day to let the physical/speech/occupational therapists in.

Before all of this makes you hyperventilate, remember the immortal and so important words of Douglas Adams: DON’T PANIC.

There is always a silver lining. Always another way, it just requires slowing down and breathing and repeating the above phrase a few times.

So, here’s the good of this situation — When you’re a self-published author, you have complete control over the entire venture. Nothing gets edited out of your work that you really, really wanted to keep. Don’t feel like going on tour to St. Louis or Minneapolis or Baltimore right now? Don’t have to. You only interact with the Goodreads folks as much as you choose to. Hosting a giveaway is not essential.

I didn’t even start off with an e-book. (I’m working on it right now, but when I first started the proofreading/typesetting process, I knew tackling two formats at once would be the metaphorical death of me. So I decided to focus on hardcopy to begin with, and just wait for the digital stuff.)

The important thing is to recognize your limits, and not take on too much.

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Otherwise, it is an extremely satisfying thing to bring up at dinner parties — “Yes, actually, I wrote a book. I’m a self-published author.” Self-published — meaning your literal sweat and tears (and maybe blood?) went into creating this actual physical thing (in traditional or e-book form) that people can read and share. It’s like having climbed all of the mountains in the Adirondacks, or graduated from a Masters degree, or raised multiple children — it’s quite an achievement. Be proud of it. You earned it.

(By the way, I’m giving myself a lot of this same advice.)

So, as I go back to working on Volume 2, nervously awaiting the feedback on Volume 1, getting the digital copy together, and reciting DON’T PANIC like a mantra, I’ll also do my best to remember that this is just the start of something I’ve been waiting a very long time for.

Sure, there were bumps in the road. But I survived. Honestly, I still can’t quite believe it. But now that cool things are happening in spite of the negatives…well, believing it may become easier.

There’s still a lot to do; but also so much that I have now completed.

And that is certainly worth celebrating.

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Autism, blogging, community, Mental Health

The Extra Brutally True Stuff About Blogging

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The other day, something that I at first thought was amazing happened to me — there was a huge jump in my stats for this site. It had been a rough day — my oldest woke up very sick, and the toddler was acting as if he was headed that way, too, and I had a ton of chores and errands to accomplish in spite of all that. So, the spike in views was exciting. It made me feel less mundane, less worn down by all the adulting.

But then, later, in social media, I saw some posts indicating other people were having big problems with spammers and trollers — people who behave like robots, who go through the internet trying to get unwitting and nice bloggers to buy their silly sponsored product, or commit to a life of evil worshipping the Great Sea Urchin King of Doom. Okay, yes, I made that last part up. But this is a sad fact of being on the internet. We are exposed to people who want to sell us refinancing at 45% interest, or verbally attack us because we like otters, or subscribe to you just so you will subscribe to them. Even if they are making weekly sacrifices of conch shells to the Great Sea Urchin, and you want nothing to do with them.

Most people I know just brush off such encounters and move on. (They get more concerned about nasty comments and people being really mean for no good reason. I so understand that, too — and more on that later.)

Anyway, my point is that, after the day I’d had, it was really encouraging to think that lots of people were visiting my site and enjoying my content. But, wait — there was no evidence of the enjoying of the content. By investigating my stats page, and realizing that, for all the views, there were no comments or likes, the situation became more clear. After 2 years in the blogisphere, I know that non-robot human beings who read a post that affects them in some way, will, more often than not, leave some sort of feedback.

And then, as I already mentioned, some of my online folks were going, “Hey, wait a sec, what is up with this?”…over similar circumstances.

So, after putting two and two together, and feeling very down, I’ve decided to say the following:

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To the spammers and trollers who persist in the verbal attacking ridiculousness, even though we repeatedly tell them to knock it off — Knock it off. This is just like schoolyard bullying or picking on a kid with a disability — it’s senseless and truly there’s no payoff. Believe me, there are much more blatant and impolite ways that I could address this topic. But, I am going for being the “bigger person” here…

To those that only subscribe with the intention of “I did this for you, so do it for me” — Just stop. Seriously. I can only speak for myself here, but if all you’re after is getting your numbers up, then go somewhere else.

To my fellow bloggers who are bothered by this type of thing (I’m being nice now, I promise) — Remember that there are tons of really kind and true human beings on the internet, and if only a handful of them have found their way to your site, you are blessed. Don’t lose faith in humanity, because those respectful, interactive comments did come from a living, breathing Muggle. (Or maybe a dragon, if you’re really lucky.)

(And remember, this is coming from someone who innately doesn’t understand a lot of human emotional reactions and would go with practical solutions nine times out of ten, and say hang the emotions, because running your life based on emotions makes no sense.)

The internet is a paradox — it can be full of awful, nasty, fiendish, gross and just terrible things that you’ll strive to avoid in the same way Julius Caesar hoped to skip the Ides of March. But it is also full of wonderful, comforting, beautiful, touching and downright lovely things that you won’t want to miss out on. And just like everything else in this world, there is always some bad with the good. The key is to aim for more good than bad to come into your life.

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Although I just said I’ll be appearing on this platform a little less in the next few weeks — because real life is simply doing a lot of stuff — I greatly appreciate what I get here, from the non-robots. For an autist, this can be a difficult and not very rewarding search. It honestly makes my day when a living, breathing human leaves me a nice comment or shares one of my posts. Knowing that there are Muggles out there, somewhere, that do accept, and even like me, is a massive thing.

And now, with these words, I do take my leave. For writing, for children, for slight obsessing over my TBR. For preparing my ARCs, for meetings, for actually reading.

And while I’m on the outs of the latest online debates, frustrations, and shenanigans — be kind to each other. Please.

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Autism, blogging, family, Mental Health

The Brutal Truth

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So, here’s a slightly heavy topic for a weekend. But it’s necessary. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.

When I first started The Invisible Moth, it was my goal to post about all sorts of topics that interest me — my kids, the arts, cats, theology, history, travel, even which cookies are best paired with which type of tea. After my first several months in the blogisphere, though, I realized this was probably not possible. Or rather, not possible to maintain a solid subscriber base that way.

And, indeed, this was part of my plan — since I’ve always intended to become a published author (and once self-publishing became a real deal to the average person), I found that a lot of indie authors are using blogging and social media to build a reader base. I’d never tried blogging before 2015, and didn’t really know just how far and wide the reach of this platform could be. Since I tend to stay close to home, don’t like to physically be around lots of people, and don’t have the financial resources to travel the globe promoting my future books, this sounded ideal.

But as I tried to build my community (which meant blog-hopping, commenting, sharing others’ posts, developing contacts and familiarity with other bloggers), I learned something else — that blogs “need” to have a category. You “can’t” write about the book you’re working on and what your toddler destroyed this week; you “can’t” have a blog that covers new YA releases and the styles of dance you’ve studied.

This has been the story of my life; I tend to have somewhat diverse interests, and a lot of people don’t like that. They like to have things they can easily categorize and “pigeon-hole.” They get a little nervous around “divergence.” (Yes, I mean the new-dystopian trilogy in this reference.)

But for me, for The Invisible Moth, this simply doesn’t jive. I need to be able to discuss any and all things that I want to. This is my space, after all. My own little corner of the platform, and I should be allowed to talk about my current WIP, whether wombats would be good soccer players, or if I think my 14-year-old should start his own programming company, on a weekly whim.

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Haven’t we been having this conversation across the span of our society for the last few years? We need to “diversify” our stock portfolios, our educational prospects, our career choices, our plans for buying a house or car, our modes of transportation, our places to stay when we travel. “The world is changing,” we hear all the time. We need to become “more flexible, more open.” We need to determine that there can be many methods to achieve the same result.

Then why is so much of our society resisting this? Why do so many people still want to carry on in the way “things have always been”? Including the tendency to categorize every single blazing thing on the face of the earth?

Aren’t I supposed to be the more “rigid thinking individual”? Then how come the concept of “thinking outside the box” comes so easily to me?

All of the other blogs I follow do have specified themes. Now, most of the bloggers I read are indie authors or book-bloggers, and these are simply the things they choose to post about. I don’t hold that against them for an instant. It’s their online space, it’s their decision. But I really want to be respected by others for making my own decision — even if it doesn’t “fit” with the rest of the puzzle. (In a square world, I am an octagon.)

I do think this is a bit of a problem among the blogging folks. The desire to conform, to reach certain stats milestones, to be seen as a success by one’s peers, seems to have transferred from high school to the blogisphere and social media.

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For me, it’s a bit of a double-edged sword as well. I want to sell my books, ergo it would be very helpful to have several hundred people ready to do so at the drop of a hat. But will I consider myself a failure as an author if I only sell, say, 50 books in the first 6 months after publication? From a totally objective point of view, I would say no — because if I’ve sold any copies of the novel I poured my (literal) blood, sweat and tears into, then it’s a success. However, would it be nice to hit quadruple-digit sales? Oh, my, yes.

So this is where we come to the more dicey issue: Is it worth “playing the game” of conforming in order to, for example, sell a lot of books?

Is it worth it emotionally, spiritually, mentally? Is it worth it in terms of what it may demand of your personal time, energy, limits? Where do you draw the line?

Lately I’ve seen several different posts describing the pressure bloggers are under — to reach 10,000 subscribers, to constantly post fresh, witty, fun content, to read and review ARCs in the time it takes most of us to mop the kitchen floor. To be more, better, even epic. And most of these posts have said the same thing: It is not worth it.

Whether it’s because I’m on the spectrum, or whether it’s a preference developed over my adulthood, I will continue to vote for finding ways to reduce my stress, to obtain happiness without risking my sanity, and to not have regrets like, “I wasn’t paying attention to my kid’s concert because I had to tweak that gif and get it just right.”

And that means my blog will continue to be a place where I will discuss whatever I want to, whenever I want to.

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community, Encouragement, Fantasy fiction, Mental Health, writing, Young Adult fiction

How To Get Through Those Writing Quandaries

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So, you’re a writer. You know this to be true because you have completed a novel, a series of short stories, a graphic novel, picture book, or magazine articles. (Yes, it all counts. You deserve the title.) Anyway, as all writers are aware, sometimes there are, shall we say, difficulties with undertaking our task. You just can’t think of how to make that character three-dimensional, this plot twist believable, or figure out where the next bit of backstory should go. Does this create occupational issues? Yupper.

And we have all been there. No matter how long you’ve been doing this, or how brilliant you are, eventually one of these challenges is going to smack you in the face and leave you reeling. It’s just a sad fact.

Today, however, I am going to (hopefully) provide some insights into how to overcome such obstacles. (If any of these actually work, please do let me know…)

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Step away from the document causing so much heartache. Yes, truly, this makes sense. When the inspiration just isn’t striking, you simply can’t force it to appear and be amazing. And if you do attempt to force it, most likely it won’t be your best work, and your whole project could suffer.

Stop worrying about what “has” to happen, and let the story tell you where it’s going. Don’t be afraid to make those notes in your notes — that a certain character has to change his/her destiny (the destiny you assigned), because it would be too cliche, ill-fitting, or not authentic. That’s important. Change can be good.

Be productive with something else. Leave your document/notebook/laptop someplace safe and go for a walk, take your kids to the movies, or go on vacation to Shanghai. Some time and space away will help refresh your neurotransmitters.

Do some independent research. By “independent,” I mean skip the traditional routes — like encyclopedias and peer-reviewed publications — and try flipping channels or surfing fanfiction sites. I’m completely serious. This has worked in my own endeavors. While suffering from a long-lasting case of writer’s block, I sat down with junk food and the History Channel, and heard an archeological theory about a topic I was interested in that I’d never heard before — and it spurred me onwards to delve deeper, and ultimately come across a unique perspective for one of my plot twists.

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Ignore whatever’s bugging you about your WIP. Remember that this is a fictional world, that you created, and you do have the ability to put it on hold (without causing it to crash into the sun). When you return, renewed and less annoyed, it will still be right where you left it (in terms of plot holes and flat characters) — but you’ll be better equipped to correct it. Realize it doesn’t matter if it takes you a day, or even a week, to figure out what to do about that potential love triangle, or whether shifting your setting in this chapter is actually necessary to the flow of the story.

Don’t try to follow a formula. For example — it is not required to write a YA novel that features stereotyped characters and a cliche plot (ill-planned love triangles, cardboard female protagonists who swoon over the first cute guy to grace their path, or an underground rebellion to squash a tyrannical government). Further thoughts — if your story is genuinely about a girl torn between two great guys, find a unique way to address it. (Maybe one love interest leaves her, but she doesn’t want to choose the other by default, so she ends up with a totally new guy 5 years later?)

Be bold in your editing. It is totally okay to decide, “Wow, that’s really crap,” or, “Hey, it’d be so much better if I…” when you’re going through your first draft again. Not only are there no laws stating you can’t change your mind about your goals for/views of your masterpiece, it’s healthy to do so. Your characters may let you down, or you realize the setting just isn’t as cool as you first hoped, or your passion for version A of the plot just fizzles out. All of this is perfectly acceptable, and none of it means you can’t hack it as an author.

Happy writing, everyone!

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books, community, Encouragement, family, Mental Health, reading, writing, Young Adult fiction

It Is Not Too Much To Ask For A Happy Ending

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Welcome to the latest instalment of “I complain intensely/humorously (we hope) about current trends in fiction that annoy the bananas out of me.” Apparently this is turning into a theme recently…

Personally, I like a happy ending. I understand that not all stories will have a completely happy ending, because sometimes that’s part of the point of the tale. And I am not against a few deaths/sad events/bad things happening, especially since most stories would be pretty boring and the characters wouldn’t grow without it. Also, life is not all rainbows and jello; so it’s not very relatable for fictional characters to never suffer.

However. Do we really have to have the entire weight of the world come down repeatedly on a single character? Do we really have to have all the worst possible scenarios occur in the same book?

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I say no. I say we can totally have a tale like this: An orphan flees a cruel foster family and gets captured by native “savages,” who turn out to be nice, but they all die from an unexplained illness; so the orphan gets scooped up by a roaming band of misfits who are in search of buried treasure. With an ending like this: The orphan finds the treasure before any of the misfits do, digs it up in the middle of the night, and comes across a native survivor of the illness; they make it to the nearest town, where they tell the authorities about the misfits, and the orphan and the survivor go to a beautiful island to raise hedgehogs.

Okay, so as all you flail over my imaginative genius (and sorry, I probably won’t write this in the near future — don’t you remember my last post?)… My point is that more books like that need to be available on the market. Especially for YA and MG target audiences.

Yes, real life is tough. There are times it flatout sucks. I know that; I have not lived in a flower-filled meadow my entire existence. But what keeps me going when it seems Mordor is about to swallow the whole galaxy in absolute darkness? Hope. The possibility for something positive to happen.

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We have to have hope. Or stubborn determination to get through the horrible stuff. Something. 

We need something to look forward to. And we need imagination. Having realistic expectations for life is important (in fact, it’s kind of necessary). But when you’re talking fiction — which most of the time equates to entertainment — a little fluffiness is not only fine, I truly think it should be the everlasting standard.

And purposefully including a happy ending in your tale might encourage others to get to the other side of their own struggle, whatever it may be.

So, don’t be the person who blows everybody’s reading world to smithereens. Be the one who inspires us to reach that goal, obtain that promise, seek that fresh horizon.

Please.

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Autism, community, Encouragement, Mental Health

The Meaning of The Invisible Moth

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Recently I was mentioned in a post by Rachel McKee of Illuminated Literation, via the fact that the title of my blog is one of her favorites.

Along with feeling downright flattered upon reading that comment, I did start to ponder what she said:

“Why can’t I see the moth? How is an invisible moth different from the other (visible) moths?”

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Well, the answer to that is a bit complex. For one, when I was trying to choose a name for my blog, I wanted something that reflected how I felt about myself attempting to relate to a world that I often don’t understand, and that frequently doesn’t get me.

However, in admitting that I was joining this platform, I was drawing dangerously close to the light, and risking making myself be seen by potentially many (and potentially not nice people).

So I wanted to do what I could to keep myself at least a little under the radar. It’s not just about privacy concerns, though. It’s about not being under a glaring spotlight that may bring with it things I will simply never be ready for.

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I am literally very sensitive. In a Sensory Perception way. Loud noises, sudden occurrences, bright lights, and unexpected textures all take their toll. Everything from someone shouting, to thunder, fireworks, cold water when it should be warm, the touch of a frog or snake, someone coming up behind me when I’m not ready for it — all of it frazzles my nerves.

Although everyone has the same five senses, some people refuse to accept that how mine perceive things is valid to me. I have been ridiculed, mocked, libeled, and slandered, by people in school, on the street, in authority, supposed friends. All of this means that staying invisible to the world is a very attractive idea.

I take a very big risk every time I make a post, since that brings me to the attention of a possibly volatile world. There are very good reasons this moth chooses invisiblity.

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But access is granted to a select few, those who arrive in this corner of the blogisphere either by chance or through reference, and when they stay, they do so with an open mind, with tolerance for someone who experiences things differently than they do, and a willingness to find common bonds.

So, for those of you who are already good friends to this blog, you’re certainly welcome to stick around. And for any of you who were wondering, this is how this moth came about her title, and it will stay that way.

But if you tap gently on the door and give the right password, feel free to join us for as long as you wish. Personally I hope it’s a while. I’ll be sticking it out.

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Autism, blogging, cats, community, Fantasy fiction, humor, Mental Health, reading, writing, Young Adult fiction

Things I Don’t Like About Writing

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Okay, I know I’ve whinged all week about the impending start of NaNo… But I just can’t help myself. Also, due to my participation in NaNo, my appearances on this blog may be a bit irregular in November. Everybody, follow me on Twitter, because I’ll be popping in there, and eventually I’ll get new posts out here (I promise, don’t throw things at me).

So, today, before I force myself to be really positive about this whole experience, I’m going to be a mardy mandolin, and espouse about the things about writing that bug me.

For example, shipping. For those of you who aren’t aware of this book blogging term, “shipping” means reading a book and deciding which characters you think should end up as romantic couples. I have rarely done this while reading, and most of the time I just go along with what the author has established, because, hey, it’s their work and they know it best, right?! Turns out this is not the case. There are still tons of readers in the book-blogisphere who, in fact, aren’t necessarily happy about Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter, or about how people paired off in The 5th Wave trilogy, and apparently hearts are still breaking for fans who desperately wanted Bella to be with Jacob (Twilight) and for Katniss to be with Gale (The Hunger Games).

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As I write my characters and their plans/interests/goals, I am far more practical than trying to figure out who they’re in love with. I am much more concerned with how their family will view their choices in life, how their decisions will affect their career or relatives and friends, and whether they need to change their major or their fashion style. Not their boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe it’s because of the autism spectrum thing, but I am self-admittedly terrible at determining that two of my characters are a perfect love match because of the wooziness and risking everything for each other and all the emotions. 

So, I’ve already decided that my readers will be shipping for me. Seriously, the beta readers I choose for the rest of the series can give me feedback on who they think should be together and the whys. It’s just better that way.

Real life getting in the way of creating a literary masterpiece. Okay, this probably isn’t a novel that will be a gold standard of fantasy/YA fiction a century from now. But to me it is the entire world, and when I desperately need to reach a 1,000 word count by the end of the day, I don’t need to care that I had pretzels and minestrone soup for breakfast, or that my children may not have had a veggie with their supper. Someone else can take care of the pesky things like paying bills and tidying the kitchen and letting the cat out of the basement.

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Crafting the villain. This is one that probably many writers can relate to. You want your antagonist to be believable, but still an evil (insert bad words here), and you don’t want him/her to be cliche, super-scary but yet not impossible for readers to connect to their motivations/reasons for committing the horrible things. Voldemort is a great example. He was terrifying, and yet you could see that he thought he was doing the right thing — in a very sick and twisted way. The villain you love to hate.

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After reading Warriors, I have a few really good examples of villains to look to — Mapleshade, Thistleclaw, Hawkfrost, Darkstripe, Brokenstar, and definitely Tigerstar. (Look up my review of Warriors: Omen of the Stars for the details of my feelings on these particular devious beings that totally deserved to wander alone forever in the Dark Forest.) Ahem…

Obvious plot holes slipping through my fingers. This is exactly why I take notes when I write. There are scraps of paper on my desk/kitchen table/forehead that make no sense to anyone but me, but that’s all part of the plan. As I edit my draft (which is already on its 57th incarnation), I see another missing piece every day. ARGH!!! I mean, at least I’m catching them now before I’m heading to the printers…

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This is the first time I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo, and I’m certainly not doing it alone (waves to all the fellow bloggers also freaking out right now). I’ve got my outline prepared (mostly), and supplies like plenty of pens (even if I have to steal them from other rooms) and extra paper (hey, White Fang won’t need all of it for school), and plenty of PAW Patrol on TV these days to keep Muffin occupied.

So, please keep me in your positive thoughts and well wishes as I undertake this craziness. And if, on December 1st, you happen to come across me looking like this…

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…just bring me a fuzzy baby swamp dragon and tiramisu. I’ll perk up soon enough.

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