Let’s Talk About Sex – Good Sex

Warning – This post is going to be highly NSFW and not for the viewing of anyone under the age of 18. I am not responsible for your innocence.

In fact, this is probably not going to be safe for anyone who thinks sex is icky and ewwy, or meant to stay behind closed doors. So, my dear reader, if sex talk makes you all the wrong kinds of hot and bothered, please enjoy these kittens.

Some background on the sex that shaped my world view. When I was ten, my grandmother started letting me read her Harlequin romances. If anyone had met my grandma, – one, they never would have taken her for a romance junkie, and two, they would have never believed she’d be letting her ten-year-old granddaughter read those kinds of stories.

Those cheesy, often sappy, sometimes tear-inducing books armed me with new vocabulary and an appreciation for men who were dominant, yet ultimately kind and caring. (As an aside, perhaps this is why so many women near my age went gaga over the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I did not, and we’ll get to why in a bit.) It was an education in what happened after kissing.

A few years after my grandma’s Harlequins, I discovered those thick, historical romances affectionately known as bodice-rippers. You know the ones, the books your mom, aunt, or the lady on the bus tried to hide so no one could see the bare-chested Fabio look-a-like on the cover. I was sold!

If I had thought those little Harlequins were hot and steamy, the bodice-rippers took it to a whole, new level. My early and mid-teens were spent day-dreaming of well-dressed men or pirates who were secretly misunderstood Lords, who would jerk me up against them, tear away my Hot Topic shirt, and ravish me silly.

If you want to watch the evolution/revolution of sex as a healthy thing that women want just as much as men, you can see it unfold in historical romances put out over the last thirty years.

Back in the day, everyone was fairly modest in writing about sex. In the beginning, after the swooning kiss, the eager couple disappeared behind the bedroom door, and we, the readers, were left hanging, wondering if it was as hot as we hoped. These were the days when just having the word penis in a book was fairly titillating.

Over time, writers evolved into using words like tool, manroot, and appendage for the men, and flower, hot cove, and tight passage for the ladies. Sexxxy, right? Yeah, not so much. I can remember more than once saying aloud as I read, “Just say the damn words!”

My love of historical romance waned for a good ten years, once my real life exploration far outpaced what I was reading. On a whim one day I picked up a book titled, When He Was Wicked. I discovered writers like Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Teresa Medeiros, Sarah MacLean, and other more modern Regency Romance writers and fell in love all over again.

These ladies were/are bringing sexy writing into the twenty-first century, and have continued to evolve, writing heart-racing sex scenes that don’t leave you wondering if the author was verklempt with every penis she inserted.

[However, I have idly wondered if after writing a particularly good sex scene, if they don’t sit back and cackle with delight at their masterful sex-writing skills, which I may or may not have done one or a dozen times.]

I truly knew times were changing when I saw the words cock and pussy used for the first time. Lately, I’ve even caught sight of that fantastically filthy word cunt being used in a sex-positive scene, rather than as an insult. Phew!

Sex is finally being treated like it deserves to be treated, as something innate to being alive. Lust, passion, desire – all good. What a disservice we have done ourselves by trying to keep sex this dirty little thing that was the sin of sins outside the locked bedroom door of a married man and woman.

Most writers are catching up, but we’ve got a ways to go when it understanding what makes written sex good. To explore that more, for myself, some years ago I joined a writing group dedicated to erotica in all of its various forms. Now, I’m not talking brown bag erotica that you read or watch and feel slimy about afterwards. I’m talking sex written in ways that made you stop and think about what you had been missing all of your life. Good Sex. Real, fleshed-out stories where sex played a glorious role.

It was that experience, combined with years of romance reading, and my own true life escapades that taught me how to write a sex scene that is both important to the story, and hot enough to leave the reader at least a little bit flustered at the end, if not in need of a good shag.

So, here’s what I’ve decided and/or learned as a reader, a writer, and a woman. Good sex rides a fine line between sexy and raunchy. Too many writers opt for raunchy. They throw in as many sex words as possible, all the cock and pussy you could ever want to read about, and that, to them, is hot sex. Their characters are jamming and ramming and grunting all through the book.

Now, I’m not saying those words can’t be used. Use them. Just don’t overuse them. Let them be words of impact. But, and this is a huge but, definitely make sure the words before and after them support sexiness, and not a groan of embarrassment for you, the writer. Grab a thesaurus and dare to be different.

It takes a lot of practice and a great deal of finesse to write a sex scene that doesn’t read like a bad porn. (Hint – jizz, spunk, splooge, yadda yadda – not hot. Ever.)

“Shove your big, hot throbbing cock into my tight, eager little pussy!” – No finesse. Not hot. No one needs that many adjectives in one sentence.

Look, you can use all the hard, blatant words all you want. Tits, asshole, balls, cunt – whatever floats your boat. Used in the right way, written sex can result in some highly enjoyable physical reactions. But, if you don’t support them with really solid writing, they’ll quickly shift from being page-turners to entire passages someone like me skips over.

Unfortunately, on self-publishing platforms everywhere, and even within the pages of traditionally published works, badly written sex is being put out there as good, and people are buying it. Why? Because we’ve shown them bad sex is fine. I mean, it’s published, right?

Which brings me, inevitably, to that aforementioned Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E.L. James.

If you are a fan of these books – turn back now. You aren’t going to like what I have to say.

I’m not going to delve into whether or not it’s a story of abuse. I am extremely well-versed in BDSM and there are plenty of platforms out there that have already addressed that aspect of this Twilight fanfic. What I’m going to talk about is the sex in this book, and the quality of the writing.

My overall opinion on the quality of writing in these books is – Dear Writing Gods, please don’t let the next generation of writers, and those older writers just getting brave enough to publish, believe this claptrap is good writing.

Fifty Shades is not a well-written book. It must have been through some divine bit of luck and timing, or her legion of Twilight fanfic readers ready to buy this book in published form, that it made it onto bookshelves. Otherwise, I have to believe the agents, editors, and publishers were all high on crack, and thought they were selling this as parody porn.

Fifty Shades became a thing, and again – lucky woman. She may not be a great writer, but she filled a need right as that need became a niche market, and boom, she’s uber-rich. I would have hoped her follow-up book would have proven that she had used some of that money on a writing class, but even reading excerpts on BadBooksGoodTimes (funny reviewer, check him out), all hope is officially lost that she will ever understand what good sex means.

TENSION

For written sex to be good, the biggest must-have is tension.

The audience has to believe these two people want each other. They need what that other person promises. Tension needs to be built from the very first encounter. This can be done with a one night stand just as easily as it can be done with a longer build-up, as long as the writer knows how to work that palpable heat between the two characters.

You can write a good, hard fuck as raw and nasty as you want without it reading like a skeevy excerpt from a penny porn. Unless, that’s your jam, then more power to you. It’s all in word selection and everything you’ve written up to that point.

You must be a good writer to be a good at writing sex, and that takes reading a lot of books with sex written out in them, and practice writing them for yourself. I think we all know that, yes? When you write something you have never experienced, or something you’ve only done cursory internet searches on, it shows. So, just like learning an instrument or how to take a beautiful photograph, you must practice, practice, practice. Reading as much sex-filled stories in your chosen genre also aids in setting up your guidelines, what turns you on, and what turns you off.

EXPERIENCE

Having experience is also a big plus when it comes to writing a memorably steamy scene. That doesn’t mean you need to have slept with a hundred people to blow your next sex scene out of the park. Quantity doesn’t always equal quality. But, what you do have to have is a real idea of how a situation feels.

If you’re going to have X spank Y, I want to know you understand what the flesh on X’s hand will feel like and the sensations Y experiences as his/her skin is struck repeatedly. Don’t just tell me, “X slams his palm against Y’s bubble-butt ten times. Y moans in ecstasy.” Meh – give me some reality.

When I read the sex you write, I want to think, damn, this writer gets it.

If you’re going to write about two would-be lovers standing close enough to kiss but not doing it, you want to be able use words that make the readers fall into that moment with them, until the air in the room is gone, until their hearts are beating just as hard and erratic as the characters, until it’s their lips tingling as they feel that almost kiss happen.

Seduce your readers. Be the lover, in words, that they’ve always secretly wanted. Write your sex scenes in a way that when it’s over, your reader is going to need .. a .. minute. Thank you.

[Tangent pause] Orgasms – Please, please write it out as come/coming. For the love of all that is sexy. Get your characters off as often as you feel it’s called for, but again we’re seducing minds here, not throwing poorly written stroke-fiction at our readers. Unless you’re into writing stroke-fiction, and in that case – stroke away.

AUTHENTICITY

Remember, sex is dirty, sweaty, lusty, fun stuff, and it almost never plays out like a well-choreographed ballet. Don’t be afraid to get them tangled in clothing, bang a knee, re-position, or have good giggle mid-coitus, every now and again. There’s nothing like a mind-blowing orgasm after a good giggle, when things have slowly slipped back into that intensely intimate space where two people are completely feeling each other, in every way.

If you aren’t sure what turns people on, start asking them, ask them which books with sex got them hot and bothered, no matter the genre. Start reading stories with sex, and discover what works for you.

Experiment in the bedroom. Hell, you can even interview sex workers, or people who openly do whatever it is you’re interested in writing. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We’re animals, and animals are sex-driven creatures.

If you’re writing a sex scene and you aren’t sure if it’s hot/sexy/authentic, etc… Hit me up – I’d be happy to read it and give you my feedback. I’ve read and written thousands of sex scenes over the last twenty years. I’ve got no issue with helping another writer out.

At any rate, just a bit of rambling for today.

xo
– H

Creating Characters

Who Am I?
1998 Tricycle Gallery, London – Selected works from first solo exhibition – Linett Kamala

For me, when a book takes shape in my head, it’s usually because one of the MC’s has rented room inside my mind and won’t rest until I’ve allowed him or her , they or them, to breathe. They come running from the darkest recesses ready to take on the world. I’m just there to give them the transportation, maybe to guide them along their adventure.

My characters come alive, become thinking, feeling entities inside my head. I know them so well that after a few chapters they take over and I just go along for the ride, usually with a few, “Oh, so that’s what you’re going to do, huh? I hadn’t been thinking of that,” comments along the way.

Personally, I feel like to bring a character to life, I want to to begin with as many details about them as I can. Sure, they’re going to evolve, but that’s what editing is for. I’ve had characters start with one personality and show me they were someone else, entirely as the story took shape. You really just have to be willing tot go with the flow.

Trying to force a character into a box they don’t want to be in will only lead to stagnation and a lot of frustration.

Let your characters surprise you, amuse you, disappoint and horrify you. It’s the plunge I’ve taken that has been the most enjoyable and rewarding as I’ve grown more confident in my writing skills. Maybe your heroine isn’t your heroine after all, maybe it’s that secondary character you thought was just coming along for comedic relief, etc. Or, maybe the heroine royally screws up, gets her ass handed to her before she plays to the arch of redemption.

Whatever it is, let it ride. You might be surprised how much better these new paths may be.

As far as character sheets, you name it, I probably write it down. Names, birth-dates, parents,s their birth-dates. Appearance, skin, freckles, blemishes, scars, tics, quirks, likes and dislikes. I’ll even include favorite foods, music, movies, and games.

If it comes to me, I have to put it down. I even try and do a little section on their memories. I may or may not use any part of these character details in the final piece. I just like knowing it’s there. I like knowing my characters.

Do you base your characters on people you’ve met? Parents, siblings, friends, enemies, etc? When it comes to general appearance, I might take a cute identifying marker and apply it where wanted, but overall, they tend to tell me what they look like and I go with it. I’m pretty obsessive about trying to find photos online that capture the overall look of who I’m writing about. In my current novel series, each character has a photo and I keep the photos up as I write. I helps keep in their headspace.

[I never use real photos of regular people, only images of stock, model, actor/actresses.]

How you keep track of your characters is up to you. I know some people keep charts, tables, spreadsheets, and the like. However, I tend to keep mine in a regular file. It reminds me of the days pre-computer when I would fill endless notebooks with characters and story ideas.

I am fairly neat about it, though. I separate by family groups and keep important characters close. I also end up doing sub-groups. For example, in my new series my MC has more than one romantic relationship, and so I have a document titled “Aaela’s Boys.”

In another sub-group I have her extended family, including those unknown to her at this time. It just helps me keep it straight in my head. Which is surprising, since I fall into the organized disarray category of stereotypical creative person with ADD.

How about you? Where do your character inspirations come from? How do you keep track of your characters? Are you obsessively neat or someone who flourishes amid disorder? How do your characters reveal themselves to you?

Let me know down below!

x – H

The Tortured Writer

The tortured writer is me. Today. Typing these words. I want to work, but work won’t come. Why? A million little reasons.

In the last 12 months, I wrote six books. Words poured from my fingertips. I could not stop writing. I had to let them all out, these characters flitting about my brain like a cloud of fireflies. And, then I made the mistake of stopping for a heartbeat to relish my good fortune, following it up with a, “I shouldn’t say anything, I’ll probably get writer’s block.”

Guess what? The crash came swiftly behind those words, sweeping down the plains of my written-word verbosity like some great and much-storied Oklahoma wind. I should have learned my lesson by now.

Now, I’m eeking out lines, and forcing myself to edit. I’m reminding myself a dozen times a day – it only matters that you do something. Anything.

If I can’t write, I think to myself, I’ll work on building my social media presence. That counts, right? I mean, you can’t sell your work if no on knows you’re working.

Social media is weird for me, not natural. I’m an introvert. I know I need to be out here – networking, meeting peers, building a base. But, isn’t that why I’m a writer?

Communication is excruciating, so says my anxiety. Let the words do the talking, I tell myself. But, then I sit here and wonder, “What even is my voice?” What if my voice has the same rhythm and form as all of the others? Who will hear me? No one will.

Carving out a niche in this wild, infinite sea of other writers all longing to be heard, to be seen, to be READ, is maddening. I’ve tried it before and washed out after a couple of weeks. How do you find your chosen few, your tribe among all these other voices, when they seem so much better able to contend with … all of it? And you, you’d rather be plucking out your fingernails with pliers.

Between the blogs and other social media postings, when do they ever find time to write actual novels? Magic? Voodoo? Soul sold? Helpful doses of crack? Help an introverted, anxiety-riddled writer out. I am in foreign territory, a traveler in a strange new land, one I don’t particularly feel welcome in.

This whole – you must blog, tweet, Insta, etc … Exhausting. Social media is talking, pushing yourself to be bigger, brighter, funnier, sharper, edgier, a never-ending pageant to stand out. I can be as witty, sharp, snarky, and hilarious as the next person, I just can’t seem to do it on cue.

All I want to do is sit in my comfy room and write books, so that other people like me can perhaps read them and get lost for a while inside characters who aren’t always riddled with the pains of perpetual anxiety and the relentless cacophony of, “Is it even worth it?”

Now, see. All that blue-tinged word vomit above is my anxiety talking, again. I know it is. I know that to be successful you have to sell not just your work, but yourself. I know, more than ever, writers are expected to be their own PR firm.

It’s not that I don’t believe in my talent as a writer. I’m happy with my work. I love the stories I’m telling. I can see the potential in every piece. But, vicious anxiety will never allow me to wallow in the comfort of believing my own work is good, for too long.

“Oh, you’re bragging about how many books you’ve written this last year? You really dig what you’re writing? You think it’s good? Aren’t you special. Well, let me assure you, you’ll never get anywhere with them. Look at how many people are out there, all longing for the same recognition as you. You’re a good writer. I loved your work. Right. Get it straight, pretender. You’re not good enough. You read three different blog pieces today from writers who are far superior to you. You’ll never make it out of this comfy room. You aren’t a people person. The only one who thinks you’re funny is you. You might as well give up now. You suck. Why don’t you go buy a cake and stuff your feelings down with buttercream icing?”

My monster isn’t beneath the bed or hiding in the closet. My monster is the voice in my head, the one always waiting to kick me off a high and remind me I’m just a woman in a room recording words that no one really cares about.

I’m not just a writer, tortured, or otherwise. I’m a warrior, always fighting the unseen enemy, the one who whispers until I can’t think, can’t work, can’t sit still, can’t get away from. But, I’m always fighting.

I’ll get it together, back the enemy up until its in a box. I’ll hide the box in a deep recess and build a wall around it. And, I’ll be okay again until it knocks the wall down, slithers out of the box and sneaks back in to try one more time to convince me I don’t have a voice, or a platform, or a worthy talent.

I’ll keep fighting the good fight of every tortured writer, artist, poet, every lonely teen, and pageant winning beauty queen, and Pinterest loving SAH mom. Every former high-school football star, and every could have, would have, and should have been.

And hey, I wrote today. I wrote this. It’s a start.

My Kid, The Artist

Speaking of local artists, I share a home with a rather talented one. She’s started offering a few things for sell on Redbubble, and I’m hoping you’ll take a look. There’s something for everyone, just about, with more on the way. (The really good stuff I beg her to show the world.)

She just happens to be on the spectrum and is saving up for a service dog to help her live even more independently. So, – take a look, give her a like, a follow, a share – whatever feels right. Thanks!

https://www.redbubble.com/people/cursedcorvid?ref=artist_title_name

The artist as a wee baby – she’s still pretty cute!

Creating Character Profiles

We’ve all been there!

When I’m browsing a writer’s group I belong to on FB, I often see new writers asking for tips on how to build their story from the ground up. They have ideas, but they don’t know where or how to start writing those ideas into book form.

Seriously, I would never dream of calling myself an expert, and I’m pretty sure I spend just as much time fielding anxiety as I do getting actual work done. But, I’ve always been someone who enjoys helping others, and I always seem to have answer to those questions, so I thought – why not start writing it down somewhere?

The first thing I’m going to talk about is creating character profiles. I am a huge believer in them. In fact, I can’t get into a story without knowing WHO I’m writing for. Because, I’m one of those writers who’d tell you that I don’t write my characters, they write themselves.

I’m positive that if you’re writing fiction, you already have an idea, the overall story in your head, and the main characters that will feature throughout. Get them down in a file titled something like Working-Title-Here Character Sheet. There are a billion character templates out there, but I prefer creating my own documents. It’s just easier for me. You do you!

The following are some of the things I do for my own books. Keep in mind, I may go a bit overboard, but I absolutely believe too much is better than too little.

  • Tentative Character Name
  • Age/Birth-date
  • Place Of Birth
  • Height/Weight/Eye and Hair Color (Look, you  can go vague with hair and eyes, or go detailed. Depending on the character I do both.)
  • Skin Tone, Ethnicity, etc … 
  • Voice Style (Are they foreign? If so, where are they from originally? If your character is from a place that has many different vocal inflections based on what part of a country they’re from  – use  that.)
  • Where do they live now?
  • Who are their parents?  Siblings? (If they’re in the book, they’ll each get a character sheet, grouped with the MC.)
  • Are they in school? What grade? If they’re college, what classes would they be enrolled in? If an adult, do they work?  What kind of  work do they do, etc..
  • What are their likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, etc ..
  • Do they have any notable tics/habits?
  • Do they have mental illness of any kind – if so, what type, and why?
  • What is their backstory?
  • Where are they at in life Right Now? 
  • What is your tentative story arc for this character?

Keep in mind, you can revise, add, and change your notes, as needed.

I do this for each and every character in my books, right down to the some of the more interesting passive characters. I may not go as in-depth on a tertiary character as I do a main or secondary character, but I still like having that background feel for them. In my mind, you can never know when you might want to reference something in passing, or when you might want to pursue an avenue you hadn’t had in mind at first.

I begin with these basic ideas and as I write, and the character takes life in my head, they inevitably begin to tell me their story. I don’t force a character into a mold I dreamed up. If they’re telling me to go through door B even though I planned on door A for month, I go through B.

I love writing character sheets. The reader may never know that the character once fell of their bike and that’s where the small cut on their knee came from. But, for me, it just helps to flesh out this character and allows me to get a better understanding of who they are and how their story might unfold. I revise and update throughout the entire writing process.

Don’t be shy with your characters. I remember in the beginning feeling almost embarrassed for having so much information on my characters. Each book I write is my baby. Wouldn’t you want to know everything you could about your baby? Of course, you would. So, don’t be shy. No one needs to ever see your character sheets but you.

The more you find out about your character, their likes and dislikes, their quirks, their heartbreaks, their achievements, etc., the better you’ll capture their voice. It will begin to come naturally to you and before you know it, they’re dictating, and you’re simply ghost writing.

This is just a little taste of what I do to prepare to begin writing a fiction novel. Stick around – there’s more to come.

Until then – Keep Writing!

Please Support Our Work (Buy The Book)

I have to share this.
It applies to writers and I think,digital artists, as well.
#SupportArtists #BUYTheBook #BUYTheArt

________________________________________

Christine Feehan’s thread regarding piracy of an Author’s work:

Hi Everyone, I’ve been trying to keep my head down writing six books a year for everyone and occasionally hitting here and Goodreads and my facebook to post but I heard there was a few people posting about getting books free from sites. These sites are making MILLIONS for the people who put them up. They are driving the authors out of business. Do you really think an author can live on books sold for free or 99 cents? they can’t possibly make a living. If you’ve noticed some of your favorites no longer writing that’s why. I’ve struggled to make ends meet believe it or not. Why do you think I’m writing more books per year? The industry is shaky right now. Why? Because pirate sites are everywhere. I’ve never had people blatantly advertise them in my community. They’ve always immediately pointed out to others that if you don’t support your authors they disappear and people, they do. Why would we keep keep writing and working other jobs to pay our bills? We do have bills just like everyone else. There are very few authors that get paid like one sees in the movies. That’s a myth. I’ve yet to be offered a car (‘m still waiting for that). We get a small percentage of each book sold. That isn’t a large percentage. it’s a small one. We have to pay for marketing as a rule and all promo as a rule. All travel as a rule. All those parties at conventions as a rule. Authors struggle to make ends meet. We write because we love it and we want to share that passion with others. Every single book that is stolen and it is stealing to go to these sites and take them free is slowing killing our careers. We get our next contract by our sales. If the publisher doesn’t see that anyone is reading us, they offer less and less until finally its impossible to continue writing. That’s the reason we ask all of you to avoid these sites and educate everyone to support your favorite authors by purchasing the book. If you can’t buy it, then at least use your local library. They purchase the book. So please, here on my site, don’t advertise pirate sites. I don’t mind in the least if any of you want to share this post on any of the other boards on this site. It’s silly to think that piracy is a victimless crime because it isn’t. Those authors you say you love to read are the very ones you’re hurting.
Posted July 19, 2019 at 9:45 am

An Interview with Blue

An Interview with Blue

  1. Q. How old are you?
    A. 20. I’m old. (Snort – H)
  2. Q. What is your favorite subject in school?
    A. Right now, probably paleontology. 
  3. Q. Are you excited to be finishing high-school?
    A. Yes! (Definitely a silent Hallelujah! on both our parts. – H)
  4. Q. Do you intend to keep finishing online classes that are of interest to you?
    A. Yeah. 
  5. Q. Are you ready to study for the ACT?
    A. No, not really. (Me, either, kid. Me, either. – H)
  6. Q. What do you plan to major in at college?
    A. I still haven’t decided. (Art, animals, and geology/anthropology are the considerations. We’ve discussed how she might grow into a career that utilizes all of them.)
  7. Q. At this moment, today, what is your dream job?
    A. (noises) .. something to do with art. 
  8. Q. What’s your favorite color?
    A. Purple 
  9. Q. Has your favorite color changed?
    A. Yep, it’s been so many, but I guess this year it’s purple. 
  10. Q. What’s your favorite type of music?
    A. I like all types of music. I don’t have just one favorite.
    Q2. Do you have a favorite song?
    A. Nah, no, I’ve never understood the concept of having one favorite song. Or, band. I like all songs. 
  11. Q. Has your taste in music changed or grown to include more genres?
    A. Yeah. (She is so forth-coming. /s/ – H)
  12. Q. What’s the best book you’ve read so far and why?
    A. The book Alexis sent me, Eleanor and Park, because I think it kinda helped me through, understanding, I guess going through the breakup and going through stuff like that. It just helped a lot. 
  13. Q. What are you most afraid of?
    A. Heights, and I guess being alone. I think a lot of people feel that way, deep down.
    (They sure do, love. – H)
  14. Q. Where is your dream place to live, if you could live anywhere? Why?
    A. I don’t know. I can’t think of anywhere, at the moment. Uh, all I can think of is somewhere close to the ocean, so I could go to the beach and listen to the water.

    20170825_162357

    Blue’s first glimpse of the ocean.

  15. Q. What is your favorite art style?
    A. Uhh, I don’t have one favorite art style. I don’t even have my own single art style. My art changes depending on what I’m drawing.
    Q2. Are you interested in learning other mediums of art?
    A. I think so. Sometimes. Sometimes, I like where I’m at, right now.

     *Fun Fact – My Blue girl has been creating new art for a FB game for over a year now. They work around her schedule and pretty much accept whatever she wants to give them. It’s been great for helping to teach her that in the real world, work deadlines and quality expectations, along with constructive criticism are all things she’ll have to live with as an independent woman. – H
  16. Q. What do you think is the scariest thing in the news these days?
    A. I guess the fact that we could be going into war any minute. 
  17. Q. Do you think you’re conservative, liberal, centrist, or something else?
    A. I guess something else. We all know I’m not a conservative. 
  18. Q. Do you believe in star signs?
    A. I think they’re cool, but I don’t really believe in them. They’re cool to study, though. 
  19. Q. Chocolate or vanilla?
    A. I like both, but I think right now, vanilla. (Specifically, vanilla frosted sugar cookies from the store bakery. She would eat a package a day, if I’d buy them and let her. – H)
  20. Q. Coffee, tea, or coke?
    A. Sweet tea. (We are southern, after all. – H)
  21. Q. Breakfast for dinner?
    A. Yeah, I like breakfast for dinner. You make good breakfast for dinner. 
  22. Q. Best vacation you’ve ever had?
    A. Uh, there’s a lot of vacations I’ve liked, but I think the one we just had. I’d like to go back to the beach. The water was cold, but a good cold.
    Q2. Do you feel like the ocean played any part in soothing the symptoms of your autism or anxiety?
    A. Yeah, it just felt like I was on a rhythm. 
  23. Q. Saddest day of your life so far?
    A. The break-up. 
  24. Q. What are your goals for the next ten years?
    A. I guess being able to live on my own. And, not having to worry.
    (Don’t worry, kid. I’ll worry for us. – H)
  25. Q. Do you want to be famous? Why or why not?
    A. Uh, in-between. I want to, but at the same I don’t. I want to be noticed, but at the same time I don’t. It’s just too much pressure. (She’s been planning her Academy Award speech for Best Animated Film for years! It always includes, “And, you’ll be in the audience sobbing, right, Mom?” Yes. Yes, I would be, Blue. – H)
  26. Q. Do you believe in God?
    A. No, but I also can’t prove there isn’t one, either. I am agnostic/atheist. 
  27. Q. Do you feel like you were pressured not to believe in God because of who you grew up with?
    A. No. I just feel like it’s just like kids growing up with Christians. It’s just how it was. I wasn’t pressured. I’ve been to church, I’ve seen that. I’m not interested. 
  28. Q. How many kids do you want?
    A. Two. But, we all know I’m going to end up having four. 
  29. Q. What do you hope they look like?
    A. I don’t know. I don’t care what they’ll look like. I’ll love them any way they are. 

    *Fun Fact – She is bi-racial.  Caucasion (Mostly Irish/Welsh & Native American through myself) & Mexican. (We think. Her biological  father was adopted. We hope to do a DNA kit at some point. We always joke about what  her kids might look like. People have thought she’s Puerto Rican, Japanese, black/white, you name it. We get a kick out of it.)

     

  30. Q. What is your favorite T.V. show, right now?
    A. Santa Clarita Diet. That was funny. I liked it. I already know Lost in Space is going to be my favorite.

  31. Q. Top 5 shows?
    A. The Walking Dead, Supernatural, The Good Place, The Good Doctor, and iZombie, oh and ZNation. There’s a lot of zombie shows I like. (Hence the reason my next book includes zombies. – H)
  32. Q. What are your favorite 5 movies?
    A. All the Jurassic Park movies, Zootopia, Moana, Harry Potter series, The Paranormal Activity movies. I really like scary movies. (When she was little, we watched Forest Gump at least 900 times. No lie. – H)

    *Fun Fact – We saw Harry Potter in the theatre when Blue was four-years-old. She was so into it, I barely had to remind her not to narrate the entire movie. There was one particuarly intense moment when Harry seems in great peril. The theatre is silent. Then, suddenly, in that silence came the sweetest, most intensely worried little voice sighing out loudly, “Ohhhhhh, Harrrryyyy.” The entire theatre erupted into laughter. It was the sweetest, cutest moment.
  33. Q. What is your favorite animal?
    A. I like ALL animals. I can’t pick just one. I guess if I did. You know what I’ve always liked since I was little, is tigers. (Seriously, I did not realize it was tigers. I would have guessed snake or shark. She is an animal fact machine. Land or marine life, she’s your go-to. – H)
  34. Q. How do you feel about hunting?
    A. I don’t like hunting as a sport. But, if you’re maybe living off the land, using all the body, respecting the animals, you should go for it if that’s your thing. Cause, I know no one is going to stop hunting. It’s just in our blood, instinctual, to survive. 
  35. Q. If you saw a woman being abused, would you step in?
    A. I would try, too. It would take me talking myself into it. Because, I’m not strong at all. But, I would try, even if it meant putting myself in-between them. 
  36. Q. And, finally, do you understand what autism is?
    A. Just means I function differently from everybody. My brain is on another level, that no one else can understand. That’s neither good or bad. It’s in-between. 
  37. Q. What do you think is the most common misconception about autism?
    A. That all of us are the same, that we can’t talk, can’t take of ourselves. I guess that we can’t do things that “normal” people can do. Everybody seems to think that autism is like Down’s Syndrome. And, even they’re not what people think. People think we can’t do anything, because we don’t do it at the right time or the right way. We’re normal to us. We just have our own way of doing things. 
  38. Q. How does it make you feel when someone says, “You don’t look like you have autism.”?
    A. Makes me upset, because it makes me think what does autism look like to them? 
  39. Q. If you could magically wake up without autism, would you want to?
    A. On some days, I do. But, other days, I’m just like it doesn’t matter to me. 
  40. Q. Do you prefer autistic girl or girl with autism?
    A. Neither. I guess if it had to come up, I’d tell them. But, I just want to be known as Lyli. (I’m sorry it has to come up so often, Blue. – H)
  41. Q. How would you describe stimming to non-autistic people?
    A. You know how you like to tap you fingers on the table sometimes, or bounce your leg? It’s like that for me, but like times ten. It helps me calm my nerves down. Or, it helps distract my mind when I need to be distracted. 
  42. Q. Do you feel like your skin picking is a form of stimming or just related to your anxiety and OCD?
    A. Probably in-between, but also the self-harming kind of thing, the relief. 
  43. Q. What relief does skin-picking give you?
    A. I don’t know how to explain it. It just feels like a wave, just washes over, I guess. I guess it’s like, taking out my anxiety, or something.

  44. Q. What is your favorite food?
    A. We all know I love food. I don’t know why you’re asking. We all know chicken wings are going to be on top. I could eat some right now. 
  45. Q. Lastly, What is your ideal way to spend a day?
    A. You know that answer. Sleep in. And, get up and play video games in whatever awesome video game room that I have. Eating all the food. And, having people over to hang out.

 

Autism Acceptance – We Can Do More.

Today, April 2nd, is World Autism Awareness Day. Everywhere, around the globe, across social media, and in the news, there will be thousands of pictures of much loved kids and adults. Today, efforts will continue to bring Autism to the forefront of peoples minds, and calls for much needed funding and services will be made. People will give likes, and maybe even share posts and articles. But, will they do any more than that?

How many of you will remember autism after the media blitz today? And, how will you  remember autism if it doesn’t effect your life directly? Will you wonder if every kid having a meltdown in the grocery store is autistic? Will you assume every non-verbal or special needs person you  run across, must have autism based on their behavior? How do you recognize autism when it isn’t being shown directly to you? Can you recognize it?

The Autism Science Foundation says, “When people refer to “Autism” today, they are usually talking about Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), which is a brain-based disorder characterized by social-communication challenges and restricted repetitive behaviors, activities, and interests.”

When everyday people think of autism, most are envisioning young, non-verbal children who are hard to manage. This is where the spectrum part of autism comes into play. You see, just like most personalities, autism runs the gamut. Some people born with autism never speak, never learn to care for themselves, may be violent. Other autistics, however, may be hard to spot.  These are the so-called high-functioning autistics who have taught themselves to blend well enough into the neuro-typical box that most people think, Yeah, he’s a little weird, but they don’t ever think, Oh, he’s autistic.

In-between those two types of autistic people are a million other shades of autism. There’s a very popular saying, “Once you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” We learn more and more every day about the autistic brain and yet, we hardly know anything. We are constantly surprised and always searching to unlock what makes these awesome people tick.

No doubt, autistic people need help to achieve their greatest potential. But, they are not broken. They do not need to be cured or fixed. Their brains work differently from ours and that is never going to change. It is why we, the neuro-typical, must be open to changing our own way of viewing the world around us. Instead of trying to fit autistic people into our neat little box, we need to throw the box out and work on broadening the scope of what is considered to be normal living.

I believe in looking at autism for exactly what it is, a delay in brain development in utero that changed the way each autistic person sees and interacts with the outside world. I believe there hasn’t been enough done to bring fruition to a very common wish among autistic people, the wish to be treated just like you and I. They want the same acceptance, the same opportunities to live their life to its fullest potential. We must come together to help them achieve that.

Autism acceptance extends outside of autism to envelope all neuro-divergent people. It asks everyone to stop being afraid of what isn’t the majority and to open their minds to the possibility that autistic people and others who diverge from norm be welcomed and encouraged to be themselves.

If you  don’t know an autistic person, I highly recommend you change that. Do more than like the posts, become a friend and an advocate to the autism community. Encourage lawmakers to continue passing laws of equality and diversity. Volunteer and fund raise for the autism charity of your choice. It’s always needed.

Services for adults on the spectrum, after the age of 18, are astronomical. My own daughter has been qualified for a service dog, a dog that may allow her to one day live a life outside our home without needing me with her as a security device. Service dogs are highly trained and specialized animals that cost between 10 and 20 thousand dollars. No joke.

If you run a business, consider giving autistic people a chance to work for you. Contrary to the movies and television shows, not every autistic person is a mathematical or electronic genius. They need other people in their communities to open their doors and help them grow and learn so they can gain independence through confidence. Welcome them into your life and reap the rewards that these awesome individuals can bring. I promise you they are eager to learn and aching to feel part of society. Yes, they may  have quirks, tics, and the occasional panic attack, but the benefits far outweigh any  perceived drawback.

Let go of assumptions. You are never going to know who is autistic and who isn’t. When you do come across an autistic individual, treat them as normally as possible. If someone is non-verbal, talk to them anyway. Research is showing that they’re in there. They’re listening to you, they’re understanding you. Their bodies may not cooperate, but they are soaking up every word, look, and action. Please remember that.

To accept someone means to let go of the standard expectations and to welcome and love them for simply who they are. It’s not always comfortable. They aren’t going to stay the cute six-year-old kid who tugs your heartstrings. Those cute kids grow up to be adults who need opportunities to learn, grow, work, play, build friendships and find love, and have families of their own someday. Their needs are not unlike your own.

It’s never always easy, but it’s always worth it.

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Best,
H

 

 

My Daughter & Autism

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I’ve been MIA for about two years now. As happens, life decides to get in the way and some things fall to the wayside. This blog being one of them. I hope to change that now, for many reasons. But, today’s blog is all about my daughter and autism.

Almost two years ago my daughter was diagnosed with autism, severe anxiety disorder, OCD excoriation (skin picking in layman’s terms) and depression, as well as Borderline Intellectual Functioning. There were tests. Oh, so many tests and papers to fill out, questions to answer, and interviews. It was a lot. It’s still a lot.

I always knew she might possibly be autistic, but getting an actual firm diagnosis from a doctor with lots of fancy degrees and multiple letters after her name made it official. It was both a sigh of relief moment and a moment of life-altering hard-hitting reality. This is her. This is always going to be her.

My daughter is considered a Level 1 autistic. Yes, even in autism, people feel a need to put other people in boxes, and make them fit, although they often don’t. I strongly feel this is inadequate and does her and every other autistic person a disservice. Because, here’s how it works. The higher level you are, the more services you have access to.

What it really means on paper is that because she has extremely good verbal skills, lots of men with fancy degrees and fancier suits feel she needs less help than someone who is non-verbal. What it means to her, myself, and her therapist, is that she is lost in some gray area where we know she does need more help, but because she speaks so well, on paper that prevents her from finding that help more easily.

Let’s get this straight, a verbal autistic person needs every bit as much help, as a non-verbal person. They simply need it in a different way. And, let me tell you, finding help once a person is over 18 is hard, very hard. My daughter is still in high-school at twenty-years-old. She cannot drive. She would not go in a store alone to buy even one item until this last year. When she did, she would shove all of her money at the cashier, no matter how much it cost. She’s getting better at it. There are still days she will have a meltdown and cry because she doesn’t want to. I won’t let her stop.

She has panic attacks. She is emotionally on the level of a fourteen-year-old. She doesn’t want to leave her room. She has no real life friends. She could spend every day in the same clothes and never care about that. Ever. She has to be reminded to brush her teeth, take a shower, put on deodorant, even now.

My daughter self-harms. Many autistics do. She used to hit me. She doesn’t take change well. She takes everything too literally. She didn’t know how to make or take a joke until she was fifteen. She is afraid of most men. She is still learning her multiplication. She is moody and has bouts of depression. She doesn’t know if she understands love or even if she feels it.

She needs help recalling her phone number, her address, and step-by-step printed guides on how to wash dishes, clean her room. If I don’t push her, those things never happen. And, it never changes.

I could list a thousand things that show why she needs help, a thousand things that highlight her autism. Without help, she will never have her own life, possibly never go to college, never hold a good job, never marry, have children, travel, see the world or conquer it. I am her driver, her cook, her maid, her advocate. Neither of us have the life we envisioned we’d have when she turned twenty-years-old.

But, let me tell you other things about her. My daughter is an artist. She’s been drawing since she could hold a crayon and never stopped. She is a self-taught graphic artist, and is teaching herself animation. A girl who can barely do her times tables is teaching herself how to animate art. Think about that.

She is seriously funny. Her sense of humor may have taken a while to kick in, but once it did, it became this quick-witted, dry sort of humor that keeps me in stitches. Then, there’s another sort of humor, the silliness she refers to as, “the humor of a thirteen-year-old boy.”

She is the sweetest kid on Earth. Loving. Loyal. If she loves you, she loves you and that’s it. You could hurt her a thousand ways and she’d forgive you. For a mother, that’s a scary thing to understand in your child, that she’s vulnerable to being hurt, used. She doesn’t have a bad bone in her body.

And, her fancy tests may say something else by number, but this girl is so intelligent, so smart. She can tell you any and every thing you ever wanted to know about dinosaurs, insects, sea life, and more. If it’s an interest to her, she will learn absolutely everything about it to the Nth degree.

She may not be comfortable at expressing love the way we know it, but she’ll come to me and spend an hour telling me facts. That’s her love. That’s her telling me she wants to be with me. If I hear her singing the ABC song in her room, that means she’s happy, content, and it fills me with happiness, too.

Sometimes, I have gotten down and mourned the life I think I’ve lost, the one where I’m a relatively young woman whose kid is grown and out on their own and it’s all me time. And, then, I hear her singing. And, everything is okay, it’s all okay. And, for her, I would do anything. I would beg, borrow, and steal.

She is smart enough to understand autism, that her brain works differently from the majority. There is nothing more painful than seeing your child realize that the entire world looks at her strangely, that the entire world is always going to underestimate her, think she doesn’t understand their judgement, or their condescension. And, that causes a pain inside of her that I can’t adequately describe.

She wants everything you ever wanted, I ever wanted. She wants to be a “normal” young adult who has friends, goes out, dates, falls in love, goes to college, has a career, marries, has children. All of it. She longs for it and if I could make every one in the world feel that longing, that pain of missing things we take for granted, there wouldn’t be a need for boxes and levels, there would be help everywhere, readily available.

There would be acceptance. And, that’s something I plan to write about in a couple of days. April is coming up. April is Autism Awareness Month. And, April 2nd is Autism Awareness Day. And, while I think we should always keep up with teaching awareness. I think it’s time we started focusing on acceptance and opportunity. But, again, I’ll save that for another blog.

Autism is just one of the reasons I’ve been away. Maybe I will touch on the rest here and there along the way. And, of course, I’ll get back to more posts about my writing.

Best,
H.

 

The Numbers Game

Here is the number one thing I’ve learned since publishing MYRIDDIA. It’s a numbers game like any other business. I’ve become OCD about watching reports on this platform, that platform, driving myself mad over every spike and dip.

The truth is while I researched and read and read, and read, in search of the right things to do when publishing, the things I should never do, it still didn’t prepare me for the stark reality of a day when there is not a single sale.

It’s a numbers game in terms of financial success, but the lack of sales is also a hit to the writer’s soul. Why do we do this, spend hours of our lives tucked away from the world, creating new worlds, if not to share them, to revel in the knowledge that someone else might come along on the adventure and have a great time.

A writer spends months crafting this story, agonizing over every paragraph and then spends weeks chopping it up, agonizing even more over which words to cut, because let’s face it, there are always precious words to cut. When finally the work is done, you put it out there and you wait, hoping to see it soar, not unlike the first time you watch your child charge off to Kindergarten.

And, those first few days are ripe with sales, because hello sister, hello friend, and perhaps friend of friend. But, then the newness is gone, and quite suddenly  is it gone, at that, and you are left with just yourself and this work, waiting for the real public to take notice. You’re waiting for each increase of a book sold, daring to hope for a review that, if not ripe with accolades, conveys the real enjoyment of the reader.

That’s all we really want. That, and to send our kids to college like any other parent.