…….because it is a huge part of who I am and how I perceive the world. And since Novel Now Finished is about a woman who ‘sees’ the world differently and is told from her Point of View, it seemed like the ideal place to incorporate this part of my personality.
Is the Narrator herself on the spectrum? No, I didn’t write her to be Asperger’s, or even autistic, both of which were the furthest thing from my mind when I originally conceived the character and her story. However, like me, she sees things that others don’t – I can see patterns and energy within events and people and make connections. The Narrator works in a cemetery and sees and interacts with ghosts (which I think is far more fascinating than patterns and energy, but that’s just me).
It was only lately, in the last year or so, that I decided to make Asperger’s an unofficial part of the Narrator’s personality. To do this, I try to find similarities between my abilities and the Narrator’s and what aspect of my Asperger’s might fit within that scope. So far it’s been an interesting experiment and one that I hope to utilize more effectively in revision.
Which brings us to the question – how do I see the world?
Differently than the norm, would be one way to put it.
As described in other blog posts, I have had difficulty in reading body language and social cues or I have a tendency to be a little too open. The best analogy I’ve been able to come up with that others can understand is that it’s like having a paint pallet, but only half or even a quarter of the colors available. Sometimes it’s like walking around in an unfamiliar room in the pitch dark, with no idea of how to navigate around items that may or may not be there.
Like the Narrator, I’m also empathic – I’ll know by people’s energy if I want to be around them (if it’s a bad vibe, it’s like getting a stomach ache). I can ‘feel’ if someone’s lying to me, which is like getting sucker-punched; I can ‘feel’ other emotions that people try to mask with behaviors that contradict what I’m sensing, which is extremely confusing. When that happens, I have to sit back and observe for context. Often, however, I get overwhelmed by other people’s energy and I’ll end up spending days at home, just to recuperate and recharge.
Because of this, I tend to sit back and observe people and my surroundings. The details I pick up without even trying would astound you. I don’t think twice about it.
The most interesting challenge about incorporating my Asperger’s into the Narrator isn’t so much giving her those traits. The challenge is being able to observe my Asperger’s in such a way that I can identify what will work and what won’t. In other words, I have to be far more analytical than I already am.
As the Great Dane Scooby Doo would say, “Ruh, roh!”
The Autistic Brain – Temple Grandin
Thinking In Pictures – Temple Grandin
……because I love reading and have more books on my To Be Read shelf than I’ll ever be able to finish. I dream mostly about books I’ve already read, but on some occasions, I’ll dream of titles I’d seen, but never really intrigued me enough to actually pick up. When those books show up in my dream, I go out and get them – either from the library or the bookstore.
Case in point – years ago, I dreamt that I was driving along a highway that merged into another highway. Underneath the overpass was a dry-docked tall ship – it was in perfect condition, but abandoned. Somehow, I was able to park my car and climb inside the ship, which I took my own sweet time exploring (because, really, who wouldn’t?). In the captain’s cabin, I found two books – Outlander and Voyager. I recognized them immediately, since a friend worked in a bookstore and I’d seen them on the shelves.
I immediately picked up those two titles (first and third, respectively), as well as the other two titles that were available at the time. I read them in about a month (yes, I know they’re bricks, but I read IT by Stephen King in three days, so…….) and was wiped out with the breadth and depth of the characters. Although there have since been several more titles (and a TV series) released, I stopped at book four.
I guess I got what I needed out of them, although to this day, I’m still not sure what it was I’d been looking for in those books.
Most recently, I’d dreamt about Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. I’d read a number of Koontz’s books over the years, but I’ve always preferred Stephen King. No disrespect intended – I just don’t mesh with Koontz’s style in the way I do with King’s. That said, my subconscious chose that title to communicate with me about something in my waking life.
How I came upon the book in my dream was interesting – I was as I am in the Here and Now, in an antique store. A friend whom I grew up with was also in the dream, only he resembled his high school age self, with some of his intellectual and emotional growth as an adult. The shop did not carry books, not even used ones, but on one shelf was a row of books, all brand new and I pulled out Odd Thomas. I remember thinking I could get it used at my local used book store, but it seemed imperative that I get the book immediately.
So I did.
And, in case you were wondering, I did indeed pick up the book a few days later.
Used. From my local used book store.
And I’m pretty sure I know what my subconscious mind was telling me.
…..and words are my business. I’m highly attuned to how word choice can paint a picture entirely different than the one you might intend. If you use the word ‘argue’ rather than ‘talk’ to describe how you’ll make a decision between Choice A and Choice B, it suggests that conflict is the driving force behind most of your conversations. I’ve been told more than once that I often read too much into things that are said, and perhaps the speaker might not have been intending to say what they do, but it is revealing of their mindset or perspective of the world.
Words have power. Make no mistake about it. They can be used to uplift and unify or incite and split. The words you choose can either have a positive impact on those around you, or they can have a negative impact. I often bemoan the fact that I don’t have better words than ‘should’ or ‘let’ or ‘give’, because it implies that (A.) I have control; (B.) it’s my right; and (C.) I am entitled to the other person’s life or a specific outcome.
Nothing could be further than the truth and I feel very conflicted using those words to express my thoughts or feelings. There are a few others, but those suffice to make my example work and get the point across. This is why it’s always a good idea to reflect and take care in the words you use. Often, however, we use words that seem to have a positive aspect to it, without stopping to really look and examine what it actually means.
This leads me to a word that is commonly associated with romance, whether it’s novels, films or even real life – desire. On the surface, it seems like a positive word to describe the hero or the heroine or even the situation. The sexual tension, the passion, the heightened senses – this could easily be under the label of ‘desire’. But what does ‘desire’ really mean? Take a look at the image above – that is the dictionary’s definition of desire (I included desirable, because it has a similar meaning).
“To wish or long for; crave; want.”
That sounds like the definition of need – needing something or someone outside of oneself to fill in the insatiable emptiness and hunger gnawing at one’s soul. It does not sound in the least bit romantic or even a remotely healthy emotion to have in a relationship. I do not wish to be ‘owned’ or even regard as a ‘possession’ in any relationship, let alone a romantic love relationship.
So, for me, the word ‘desire’ has a dark and negative connotation – it implies ownership of the desired object (or person). In the context of love, it expresses the exact opposite of what the user may intend (who believes they’re being romantic) or it is what they subconsciously and genuinely feel about the person they’re in a relationship with.
Under the context of ‘desire’, there is no potential for growth, both as an individual and within the context of the relationship. ‘Desire’ is stagnant and stale – it wants what is to remain as is for as long as possible, to put the object on a shelf and take it down as needed. I can already feel myself edge towards panic as I recall a similar relationship – where I was desired, but only when it was convenient.
“So, exactly what is a description of positive, healthy love?” is a question I’m hearing pop up right….about….now.
In my experience, the best examples of what love – genuine, healthy, authentic love – is, are found in the absolute truths in the cliches. Love will lift you up; it will inspire you; it will not make you compromise your inner truths or force you into a box; it will not ask you to be less than you are, it will encourage you to be the best version of yourself. If it’s genuine and authentic love, then with the right person, you will feel free to be just as genuine and authentic. You will be present in the moment, in yourself and within the context of the relationship. This is conducive to growth – both for the individual self and for the relationship itself.
In the interest of fair play, I’m adding in the definition of love from my trusty (if old) dictionary that has served me so well in the last few years.
Please take a moment to view both pictures for ‘love’ (which started at the bottom of the page and continued on the next column) and the one for ‘desire’. Please take a moment and really read both definitions in this post. Please note the differences in both emotions.
Notice, if you will, the words used to define both ‘Desire’ and ‘Love’. In my mind, the words used to define ‘desire’ are hard, sharp, unyielding. The words used to define ‘love’ are soft, warm and soothing.
Each one describes the intense, passionate and romantic emotions of Person A for Person B, but only one objectifies Person B. Only one views Person B through the prism of ownership and possession. Only one can actually be hurtful, either intentionally or with purpose.
Desire is not love. Desire is dark, it possesses, it claims ownership, it does not allow for breath or growth or freedom.
Love is its exact opposite. Love is freedom within and without to be your truest, most beautiful and strong self. It encourages you to fly, to be wild, to explore and grow and then, when your wings are tired, Love provides a safe harbor for you to rest.
…….and that’s not as easy or as fun as it sounds. Trust me on this – I am the over-thinker extraordinaire and getting out of my head is a task unto itself. Embracing solitude and being alone with your thoughts can be intimidating or even frightening – my observation has been that those who fear or are uncomfortable with their own thoughts tend towards unhealthy or toxic situations and habits. For me, solitude, being solitary and alone with my thoughts is as natural as breathing.
Also, thinking is how I get my brilliant story ideas, so at least there’s a trade-off.
I’m a solitary introvert with the occasional social tendencies. This means that, while I tend to prefer the company of Me, Myself and I, there are times when I also want to be in the company of others and share in conversation or experiences. I’m also an Asperger’s, which may be why I’m comfortable with being solitary, but it’s also high-functioning and I’ve got the tools to navigate the social world. Somewhere, there is a post about the times I enjoy socializing and the pros and cons of such an effort, but this is not that post. This post is about solitude, why I enjoy it and the frustrations of trying to communicate this bit of joy to those who thrive on social interaction.
So, here goes.
Being solitary is my nature. It’s something I don’t put a lot of thought into and it certainly never had a negative impact on me. I’m free to entertain my own schedule and alter course as I please. I can be as excited and energized over something I enjoy as I want – likewise, I can also be as introspective and contemplative as I want. In neither case do I have to worry about a person being uncomfortable in my presence.  When I go on my mini-road trips, I have no responsibility to anyone but myself and I am therefore able to see the details around me that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Details like dragonflies and hummingbirds flitting by; a sea otter playing in the bay; the sounds of gulls and seals arguing over property rights; waves crashing over a jetty; silence wrapping itself around you while walking along a dirt path; the smell of wet earth and the canopy of trees shielding you from the sun.
In my world, being solitary is heavenly, energizing in a way that I can only compare to working on a play – which involves people. There’s a kind of synergistic high as an actor when you connect with the audience and your fellow actors. The fact that I have a literal script to follow is an absolute bonus – as someone with Asperger’s, this allowed me to see structure in social interaction.  This is probably the reason I thrived in theater for so many years – I had a literal blueprint for something that confused the hell out of me off-stage. As an Asperger’s, having a script that told me what to do, what to say and when was a HUGE relief and it was probably the most social thing I ever did. I not only willingly chose to participate with other people, but I also felt comfortable enough to keep separate at times without drawing criticism. 
Being social in other environments requires me to wear a mask, so that I can at least pass for ‘normal’ – whatever that means.  The pressure I feel to be just the right amount of social and Self in order to go out and mingle with people is so stressful that I’m already exhausted before I set foot outside my bedroom, let alone my house. It’s sensory overload, or the anticipation of it, anyway.
How can I describe this, so that you, the person reading this, understands? Because language is very important when communicating, I make an effort to find the right words. I have many friends who are extroverts and thrive on social events. I have an equal number of friends who are introverts and thrive on their own company.
People who are extroverts, and are used to being stimulated by external influences, may find solitude depressing or even frightening. An extrovert friend mentioned something along those lines to me and I suggested that perhaps it’s because when you’re alone, you’re faced with yourself – no distractions, no filters, no smoke and mirrors. Just you, your Self and your thoughts.
And that can be frightening – what kind of person are we when we’re alone? Are we really the person we think we are, hope we are? Or are we less than we hope to be?
It’s something I’ve reflected on, consciously and unconsciously, my entire life. I’ve never been uncomfortable being on my own or alone, because that’s my constant state. It has always been that way. Do I want to share my world with someone? Of course, I do. But I’d like it if people would stop automatically assuming it’s because I’m lonely (“You need to learn how to be alone”) or that I don’t have a life (news flash – just because my life doesn’t live up to what you think it should be, doesn’t mean I don’t have one) or some other lame-ass opinion.
If I’m inviting you into my world, it’s because I think you’d not only enjoy it, but that you’d add to it, just as my presence might add to yours. 
Being alone is my preferred state. I am not forced to be in a box to make others comfortable, I am free to be as elemental as I want and, while occasionally frustrating, my thoughts are perfectly suited as company. I lack for nothing in my life as a solitary person – I have my own beat, I have my art and stories to research, I have horses and cats and the occasional foray into social interactions. I also have my adventures to plan.
And the best adventurers are usually loners……with the occasional side-kick.
 I’m aware that what other people think of me is A. none of my business and B. who gives a fuck.
 Real life needs to be scripted. It also needs to be accompanied with a music score, so that one could more easily recognize certain situations for what they are. A bad situation in alley is easy to recognize – a bad situation surrounded by people whom you know, not so much.
 I was once cornered at a table by two people whom I’d known for at least three years in the same social setting. They knew of my Asperger’s and the techniques I utilized to take care of myself when feeling overwhelmed in social settings, and yet chose to be critical of me and those techniques. My crime? Sitting by myself, writing in my journal about the day I’d had, the enjoyment I’d felt and the people I’d chosen to share it with.
 I’m aware of the fact that others may feel overwhelmed and stressed in social gatherings, but they can either tell their own stories or be quiet. Dismissing and/or talking over someone who is opening up and trying to articulate their discomfort, their feelings and experience as best they can is disrespectful, to say the least.
 Before you make assumptions about someone, it’s best to look at why you’re making those assumptions.
…….while in the throes of going over edits is why the process of writing a book takes so fricking long.
In answer to so many questions that I’ve been getting when I mention that Novel Now Finished is in Round 7 of edits:
1. Each manuscript is different and requires a different amount of time and effort to get it to where it should be.
2. Each author/writer has a different method to their writing madness.
3. Each editor has their own questions and methods of communicating notes.
4. This is literally the second editor I’ve ever worked with – the first charged over a thousand ($1000-plus) for two hours (TWO!!!) worth of work. Had I known my current editor eight years ago, things would be different.
5. This is the first editor I’ve worked with on a consistent basis. She’s amazing and helpful and supportive and everything you’d want in an editor. In my own editing business, I hope to be just as amazing as she is.
6. If you think writing is so easy-peasy to get done and published, then please, by all means, get some paper and a pen and start writing.
7. Writing a book is a full-time commitment. It’s not for the faint of heart or for those who lack discipline.
8. The amount of research I have to do before, during and after writing the first draft would qualify me for at least three MAs/MFAs and/or a PhD.
9. There are days when I just want to quit and torch the lot of it. This is normal.
10. ^^^Then I give myself a shake and get over it. I’d rather be writing and working in my fictional worlds than anything else, so the frustrations are a small cross to bear.
11. Writing is not a hobby for me – a hobby is something you take joy in to escape the realities of life. While I love and enjoy writing, it’s often frustrating and annoying and I don’t escape the realities of life – it finds its way into my stories.
12. Art is political, it is angry, it is savage and ugly and hard to look at – but it also inspires, gives us joy and shows us the beauty in the human spirit.
…..something I’d always done up until about seven years ago, when I switched entirely to writing my novels and scripts directly onto a Word or Final Draft document. This was in large part due to a trauma that affected me in such a way that writing in long-hand felt too intimately connected to my brain. It would take three novels and a stage script before I found my way back to using pen on lined paper again.
I think it would be fair to say that the project that drew me back to writing in long-hand was, perhaps, a little ironic. The setting of the story is in the 1920s, decades before computers would replace the typewriter, a time when pencil or pen was also a more commonly used method to write down ideas, create poetry, stories and develop essays. This particular story is about passion, sensuality and love between two people, a particularly intimate story that has presented many challenges.
And that’s how writing long-hand is to me – an act of pure intimacy between the mind and the page. I love watching as the ink swirls across the page, forming words or shapes or quick sketches of horses. It’s almost never planned, those words or images – I often allow myself to go into a kind of trance and allow my subconscious to go where it wills. There’s something hypnotic about the way my pen feels in my hand, pressed against paper, as I try to keep up with the story playing out in my imagination.
…..in the English language (and its subsequent foreign equivalents) is the word ‘should’, as exhibited in the photo above.
It’s a very bossy word – I mean, look at its definition. ‘Must’, ‘shall’, and ‘ought’ are used to describe the underlining meaning of the word, so how can it not be bossy? It’s the kind of word that tends to shut one person down and give an illusory authority to another. This word has a tendency to make me tune out, so I can only imagine how it might sound to someone else.
Which is why, when that Particular Word is about to pass forth from my lips, I always preface my comment with, “I really hate the word ‘should’, because it sounds like my idea is the only one, but maybe you should try (fill in the blank).”
And I always cringe over That Word, because it is so bossy and know-it-all.
The project you’re working on that previously seemed to flow with ease and inspiration is now suddenly, inexplicably, choking and sputtering to a halt. You curse the blank page, the blank canvas, the uncluttered sheet music, and attempt to plow through.
But nothing comes out. Or, if it does, it’s only in spurts, like a car lurching forward, eating every last drop of gas and oil.
This happens to me more than I’d care to admit. I still work the story, still write down questions and notes that spring to mind, but the actual writing of it feels like plowing through quick-dry cement – slow, painful, suffocating.
This is where I turn to another creative form, to replenish the artistic side and allow my subconscious to work out the knots in another way.
This is helpful for every creative art form that you pursue – whether you’re a musician, singer/song-writer, painter, potterer, you name it – if the flow is not there, it’s time to rest that muscle and seek some other artistic outlet and let your imagination play.
My favorite thing to do, when the muse refuses to speak, is to do water colors or sketch or just doodle on scraps of paper.
Like this guy:
That took me about ten minutes or so to sketch out. Because I’m a writer, I always have a notebook handy, either to write down plot ideas or bits of dialogue. Most of the time, however, I doodle.
The horse to the left is an example of my doodling. It’s relaxing, takes me out of my logic center and the best part is that I’ve given myself a chance to unhook from the current project I’m working on.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a recognizable figure – a lot of the time, my doodles resemble swirls of…….stuff.
Other times, I simply push aside all projects involving the written word and just do ART.
Lately, I’ve been inspired to create on canvas the worlds I write about. Not necessarily the people, although I’m sketching out a couple of ideas, but most definitely the locations. This helps me define the geographical features of the area, as well as give my stories life in a new form. I always start out with a sketch, just to get the general idea of what I want it to look like out onto paper. This is something I’ve learned to do – it saves time and energy when painting the images onto the canvas.
What you’re seeing to the right is a rough sketch of my fictional town of Wolf’s Head Bay, as featured in my novel, Secrets & Howls. I’ve always known that it would be a coastal town, that there would be a lighthouse and a harbor, where the fishing boats were docked. I also knew that the mountains that loomed over the town had a distinct look to them – wolves howling at the moon above.
The featured image of this post is the final result – only, there is no lighthouse and no harbor. The sketch is of a more recent view of the Bay, whilst the painting visualizes what the area looked like prior to settling.
Except…..is it unsettled? Look closely, there might be a fire.
So, the upshot of this post is this – whatever your main medium of creative output, don’t close yourself off from other creative outlets, even if it’s completely the opposite of what you do. It will give you another way of tapping into your subconscious and allow you to find your connection to your main creative expression.
For me, it’s painting and sketching, with writing as my main creative outlet. For you, it might be pottery or singing or photography. Every creative skill you can find will always benefit the one you have passion and drive for.
In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes. In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy. Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with two new, unusual allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
Finders Keepers (2016)
“Wake up, genius.”
So announces deranged fan Morris Bellamy to iconic author John Rothstein, who once created the famous character Jimmy Gold and hasn’t released anything since. Morris is livid, not just because his favorite writer has stopped publishing, but because Jimmy Gold ended up as a sellout.
Morris kills his idol and empties his safe of cash, but the real haul is a collection of notebooks containing John Rothstein’s unpublished work…including at least one more Jimmy Gold novel. Morris hides everything away before being locked up for another horrific crime.
But upon Morris’s release thirty-five years later, he’s about to discover that teenager Pete Saubers has already found the stolen treasure—and no one but former police detective Bill Hodges, along with his trusted associates Holly Gibney and Jerome Robinson, stands in the way of his vengeance….
End of Watch (2017)
For nearly six years, in Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, Brady Hartsfield has been in a persistent vegetative state. A complete recovery seems unlikely for the insane perpetrator of the “Mercedes Massacre,” in which eight people were killed and many more maimed for life.
But behind the vacant stare, Brady is very much awake and aware, having been pumped full of experimental drugs…scheming, biding his time as he trains himself to take full advantage of the deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.
Brady Hartsfield is about to embark on a new reign of terror against thousands of innocents, hell-bent on taking revenge against anyone who crossed his path—with retired police detective Bill Hodges at the very top of that long list….
The first Stephen King novel I read was Carrie. I was ten years old and it captured me in a way that not much else had, at least not until Shakespeare, but I wouldn’t get to him until I was twelve and on a visit to my grandparents’ house. I’ve been reading King ever since, the most recent novel being Revival. There are my favorites (readers of my blog know of my love for IT, but others are The Dark Tower series, The Shining, ‘Salem’s Lot, and The Stand, to name a few) and there are those that are not my favorites (the early Bachman books, Gerald’s Game, Duma Key, and a few more). There will be a time when my least favorite of King novels will end up being on my favorites list (this happened when I read Christine), but that’s another post.
I’d heard a lot about the Bill Hodges trilogy, especially when the TV series aired. But it wasn’t until I saw warnings about connections to King’s latest novel, The Outsider, that I decided I should read the trilogy. It took a couple of weeks to work my way through Mr. Mercedes, but it’s the first act of a three-act play – that’s always the toughest part. Characters are introduced, their stories are established and clues are dropped about how things will pan out later on in Act Three.
By the end, however, I was hooked.
I had had the foresight to pick up a copy of Finders Keepers shortly before finishing the first book. This one was finished on the morning of Friday, July 13th. Within hours, I had a copy of End of Watch in my hands. At around eight o’clock on the morning of July 14th, less than 24 hours after I’d bought it, I had finished it.
So – here are my thoughts, such as they are.
Bill Hodges, a retired police detective, is joined by Holly Gibney and Jerome Robinson as he tries to track down first the Mercedes Killer; then tackles a case involving two unpublished novels; and wraps it up with a series of deaths that aren’t quite what they appear to be. The twists, the turns and the uncertainty play out as I cringe with each act of violence, worry over a particular character’s choices that may not be the best ones or weeping at the final words of the story as a whole.
From start to finish, I was on a literary joyride. I had no desire to go about my daily life – work, hang out with my horses, talk to friends, for example. All I wanted was to curl up and live inside these tomes, taking part in what Stephen King himself describes as a portable magic. When I pick up a Stephen King novel, I don’t merely read them – I breathe them, live them, inhabit them as I follow each character down their unique path. I can almost taste the air they breathe, feel the dirt that digs itself into their clothes or under their nails.
There have been times when I would come out of reading a book, having tuned out the world around me so completely that I felt like I was surfacing from the deep blue sea.