Sunday, December 16, 2012

Recycled Mondays: A Blog Event and Free Story Ideas

UPDATE: due to the fact that 'Linky' now wants money for what was once free, Recycled Mondays has been cancelled.

Asperger Syndrome doesn't mean Sociopathy

As a person with Asperger Sydrome, I face certain challenges--- just like you do if you have bipolar or diabetes or ADHD or cerebral palsy or five kids. Today my challenge was the talking heads on my favorite news channel reporting that the school shooter was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome and spreading misinformation about what that means.

They were saying that people with Asperger Syndrome were weird, odd and no one wanted to be around them, that they have no friends, ever. And they said that people with Asperger Syndrome were like sociopaths in that they lacked empathy--- they could hurt or kill others because they weren't capable of caring how other people feel.  WRONG!!!

Empathy means to feel what another person feels. If your sister's baby is stillborn and she feels grief, you feel grief too. When people say a sociopath lacks empathy, they picture someone who could look at his sister, crying over her dead child, and feel nothing. Or laugh.

Empathy also involves the ability to pick up certain non-verbal cues to tell you what another person is feeling. People with Asperger's have a harder time noticing these cues, and don't necessarily trust their own ability to interpret them when they do notice.

Other people look at aspies like me and say 'how could they behave like that when it's obvious that I'm angry/sad/happy?' Well, it's not obvious to us.

And when we aspies do notice the emotions of others, we don't know how to react in the way other people expect. So when we act in ways that show empathy, more judgmental people look at us and say we didn't really care because they don't like the precise form in which we expressed the sympathy. I think that shows a lack of empathy on the part of those judgmental people.

So: people with Asperger Syndrome DO care about others. We feel bad when our friends are sad. We cry at the ending of sad movies. We only lack INFORMED empathy--- we may not detect how others are feeling. And we may not express our empathy in a way that other people can detect--- which is their problem, not ours. People must not be so socially rigid that they cannot perceive an expression of empathy and fellow-feeling unless it is done in exactly the right way (in their opinion).

Here is the reality: all of us are different. All of us need to learn to accept the differences of other people. My friend Pete often offers to come to my house and fix stuff for me. He never does. I've learned to accept that about Pete--- I no longer expect him to keep such promises, but just take them as expressions of kindness from him.

My friend Magda has a temper. When she directs it at me, I go away. I wish she would seek mental health help to see if it is more than just temper, but she won't. So I just accept that this is the way she is.

People need to accept the differences of those with Asperger Syndrome. You need to accept that your aspie friend doesn't make eye contact well. You need to accept that your aspie friend has problems with social interaction--- it may be up to you to initiate doing things together every single time, or the aspie may be calling you or dropping by your house too often and you will have to set some limits--- kindly.

When you need a hug, you will have to tell your aspie friend that in words, and your aspie friend may not be a hugger. Your aspie friend may not be able to tell you when he needs a hug, so if you are able to detect their non-verbal cues.

In addition, aspies are different from one another. I myself don't like mathematics but other aspies are brilliant at it. Some aspies have large circles of friends, while I don't have much in the way of real-world friends (which is why I love the internet). Some aspies also have anger issues or maybe even a rage disorder, I'm often calm when normal people would be freaking out.

In case you missed the verbal and non-verbal cues, now is a good time to show off your own ability to show empathy and say something nice to someone with Asperger Syndrome or autism, or to reassure the parents of same. It's tough enough without media 'experts' getting everything wrong.

Writing assignment, especially for aspies: Write down words about your feelings and experience relating to others misunderstanding Asperger Syndrome. Write them as a poem ( or a short story or novel or novel series, but those will take longer.) Share the poem with others by some means or other (submitting it to poetry zines counts as sharing.)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Writing Diary: Automatic Writing

Today I started out working with a technique Lawrence Block calls automatic writing*. (Write for Your Life, Lawrence Block) It's also called fast writing or free writing. Rachel Ballon calls it the Fast Flow Writing Method. (The Writer's Portable Therapist: 25 Sessions to a Creativity Cure, Rachel Ballon, Ph. D.)

This is what it is: you sit down at your keyboard and type fast. You don't stop to make corrections. You don't censor yourself. You don't rewrite anything. You just keep moving forward. If all you can think of writing is 'this is stupid, I can't do this', that's what you type--- right in the middle of something if you have to.

The point is to keep the words flowing. Most people find that at some point they are going full speed ahead with the best and most authentic writing of their lives.

When I tried it today I followed the specific instructions in Rachel Ballon's book, which call for some relaxation techniques beforehand, and also ask you to write everything in first person and present tense to put 'you' into your writing.

I did that. I was amazed at the spelling errors and typos I made. I had no clue I was doing that so often. One result--- after the session I downloaded a typing-teaching software to work on my accuracy.

I decided to work on a writing project--- I picked an older one I'd been thinking about recently. I made up a new YWriter file which I entitled 'current writing projects'. (What I intend to do is to start projects here. When they grow to a certain word count and look like they are going toward completion, I'll take them off into a new YWriter file. While in this file, each novel or story will be a chapter and the different parts of it are going to be scene files.)

Rachel Ballon recommends doing automatic writing for 20 minutes. I did 3 sessions of 20 minutes, with 10 minute breaks in between.

My results: I got more words than I usually do in 3 sessions of 30 minutes. The first scene featured one character (as yet unnamed) and I wrote her story in the first person. The second scene had a different character, but following the instructions I wrote him also in first person.

In spite of the massive number of typos it went well, it was very strong writing. I will have to go back through it to make corrections of the spelling, change to third person narration, and give characters their proper names. But considering how much work I got done in my writing time, I don't mind having to do that.

Having tried automatic writing, I think I will be doing it for my major writing work this month. Even though I didn't feel like I was really writing in the zone, in the flow, passionately and intuitively, it was a lot closer to that kind of writing experience than I am used to. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

Should you try automatic writing? It might be a useful exercise, especially if your writing feels inhibited or dull at times. Or if you just have a hard time making your word count goal. If you do try it, you might come back to this blog and drop me a comment, tell me how it went.

* automatic writing--- this is also a name for an occult/spiritualist technique, also called channeling, which is sort of like a Ouija board using pen and paper (or, these days, keyboard). Most people believe that the entities that write the messages in automatic writing are just something from the writer's subconscious, and not real ghosts or demons or anything. Back when I was a Pagan, I did the occulty kind of automatic writing and it seemed like subconscious stuff to me. But the automatic writing that is the subject of this blog post is not similar to the occulty kind in any way--- it's you at work and you are allowed to know it's you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Wanted: Writers with Writer's Block (and Asperger Syndrome or ADHD)

As research for a current writing project of mine*, I'd like to hear from writers who have experienced writer's block, writer's procrastination and similar issues. Since I have Asperger Syndrome myself, I'm particularly interested in hearing from blocked/formerly blocked writers who have Asperger's and other autism spectrum disorders, attention deficit disorder, bipolar, obsessive/compulsive, Down Syndrome or any other difference/disorder. What do I want to know from you? Well, mostly what you feel free to share with a random internet stranger like me. I could do with some general info about you and the kind of writing you do (or try to do), your diagnosis, if you have one, and treatments for said diagnosis, if any are worth mentioning. Then: what does writer's block mean to you? How do you define it? What color and shape is it? What do you do about it? Are there any good methods that work for you? How long have you had it? Do you ever feel you were born with writer's block? What, in your opinion, cause your writer's block issues? One thing I am wondering about is if certain differences/disabilities make a person more prone to writer's block and similar issues. And perhaps if different fixes for the problem are in order, depending on the person's difference/disability. If you are willing to help, you can send me a private message on Facebook: I'm at The next best thing is to email me at, but I don't check my email there much. Doing it on Facebook is really better if you can. (You don't have to be my Facebook friend to send me a private message, I think. However, feel free to send me a friend request, just mention in your private message that you are doing it so I know who you are.) *my writing project is expanding my book of poetry that I self-published in 2010 by adding ten to twenty chapters on the subject of using poetry writing for dealing with writer's block. The current working title is: "Where the Opium Cactus Grows: Poetry Writing Self-Therapy for Writer's Block." (I'm working on making the title longer.) ;-) The poems which were once the point of the book are now mere illustrations.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

advice to the shopworn

the truli modern poet will
always!!! carry a beeper
///in case/// of poetry emergencies
GLeeMing down the stairs at 3 am
      *to insert a radon paradox
      (or) delete a rude cauliflower*

(c) Nissa Annakindt, never you mind what year.

A poem from Where the Opium Cactus Grows, which is soon to go out of print.  This was written during a phase of my life as a poet in which I did a lot of monkeying around with peculiarities of typesetting and spelling. Some of my poems from this period have to be altered before posting online because they turned out to do weird things to HTML.

This poem was shared at Poets United's Poetry Pantry #127.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hold Out for a Hero

Nanowriter series, post #3

In a previous post in this series, I state that the best way to organize your writing idea into a plot for nanowriting is to consider it as a Quest. Your main character is out to obtain some treasure--- the Holy Grail, the Maltese Falcon--- or perhaps the love of a good man or the capture of the real killer.

Who should the main character of your Quest be? For easiest nanowriting, I'd suggest holding out for a Hero. By 'Hero' I don't mean that your Hero has to be a muscular warrior type like Conan the Barbarian or Hercules of the Legendary Journeys. You have to have just the right kind of Hero for the Quest at hand. Conan may be a tough guy, but Scarlett O'Hara has a much better skill set for winning the love of Ashley Wilkes.

What does your fictional Hero need? Strength, for one thing. It need not be physical strength if the Quest does not require it. Miss Jane Marple doesn't wrestle alligators as a hobby, but she has the right kind of strength--- inner strength--- for the Quest she is on.

Heroes can have varying levels of physical strength, but they must have enough for the Quest at hand. Imagine a sword-and-sorcery tale in which the Hero is a weakling

Friday, December 7, 2012

How Holly Lisle gets her Books Reviewed

This is what Holly Lisle does to get some reviews of her books on venues like and Barnes and Noble.

She asks, on her very lively and well-commented blog, for a group of reviewers who will receive a free PDF copy of her book. They read it and, Holly hopes, review it.

They send to Holly a link to the review and she checks it out. If they don't trash the book or indulge in personal vitriol against her, they are eligible for a free PDF copy the next time around.

She's hoping, in this way, to have a stable group of 25 reviewers to help her promote her books.

You can read more at: Nine Reviewer Openings for Warpaint. | Holly Lisle: Official Author Homepage. In fact, I recommend you stay and read a lot of things from Holly's blog, and become a regular reader of it, since Holly good at mentoring beginning writers through the information she provides there.

What is the lesson for the many of you out there who have a book out there--- self-published, traditionally published, small press, and need to get the word out?

Gather some reviewers by offering a free PDF copy of your book. I know that with my WP software, Open Office, it's pretty easy to make a PDF file.

Ask your readers, if they can, to post reviews in and like places. Ask them to contact you with the link to where they posted. Those who do can be the start of your own little inner circle of readers/reviewers.

One of my writer friends, Amanda Borenstadt, first contacted me when she found my blog, and she offered to let me have a free e-book copy of her book 'Syzygy' if I would review it. I accepted it, but I dreaded reading it because I was sure that a self-published book would be quite bad.

It turned out to be a great read and one I would recommend to others. And Amanda stayed on to be a regular reader of my blog and my number one commenter here. We've also become friends, which is kind of strange for me, since I have Asperger Syndrome, I don't have much experience with having friends.

Reading about Holly's reviewer-roundup method, it makes me wish I'd done that when my book came out. I may still do that, since I've long wanted to withdraw 'Opium Cactus' because of a few typos in it I didn't catch, and add some new poems, three short stories, and some articles on writing poetry from this blog.

I'm open to suggestions from my blog readers on what all will go in 'Opium Cactus: Bigger, Longer and Uncut' (or whatever I call it), and I'm also looking for a few volunteers who might like a free PDF copy and might be willing to write a review for me.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Writer Beware Blogs!: Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division

Writer Beware blog writes:
"Yesterday, venerable trade publisher (and one of the Big 5) Simon & Schuster announced the launch of Archway Publishing, a self-publishing services provider." Read more at: Writer Beware Blogs!: Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division

OK, writers, to get published you don't have to pay one thin dime. The publisher pays you.

If you've submitted to all the royalty-paying publishers and been turned down for that particular book, and you'd like to see it in print, you still don't have to pay. Go to for print books or Smashwords for e-books, and you can share your work among friends and to your mother for free.

Publishing for a vanity press or subsidy press is NOT 'the way all the real pros got started'. It isn't 'the way you have to go to get started these days'. If you mention your vanity press novel as a writing credit, you show yourself as a clueless amateur.

Plus, vanity/subsidy press books don't sell. When was the last time you bought a self-published book that wasn't written by your cousin or someone in your writers group?

The article above mentions that there is a current trend for respectable publishing houses to create these 'self-publishing' divisions, names some names of these vanity press divisions (including a Christian publisher), and gives more info.

I wonder how that will work out in the real world of writing. For the publishers that still accept some unsolicited manuscripts, will they be sending the rejected writers a flyer about their vanity press division. Worse, will they tell the clueless writer that their novel, while rejected by the publisher, has been 'accepted' by the vanity press? And the hapless would-be author is suckered in to paying the bill because Simon & Schuster told them to.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Why be a Nanowriter?

This is actually the first article for the Nanowriter series. I wrote and published the second article first. 

Have you ever participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November? This is an event, started by amateur writers, in which one attempts to write a 50000 word novel in 30 days. This requires working at a pace of 1667 words per day, or a little under seven pages per day. (Writers from the typewriter age tend to express their output in typewritten pages per day--- the standard conversion rate is 250 words per page.)

While writing at this pace is often described by the amateur participants as 'madness', this writing pace is actually not at all unfamiliar to the career novelist.

Michael Moorcock, in the early days of his career, wrote a great number of his

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Baby Faces Blogfest

Writing Off the Edge blog is participating in the Baby Faces Blogfest, and in case you want to go and do likewise, here are the rules.

1. Between Dec. 2nd and 3rd, post a picture of yourself as a baby, and/or
2. Tell us a story about when you were a baby. (No doubt you can't quite remember it yourself, but you've probably heard some stories from other members of your family.

It's hosted by Trisha at WORD +STUFF blog. Go and sign up if you don't believe me!

Here is my contribution:

When I was a baby, I made my mom miss her sister's wedding. You see, when my mom knew I was on the way, she had her sister delay the wedding until Oct. 4th to ensure I would have already arrived.

She did not expect that I would be a procrastinator right from the start. She had to miss the wedding because she was otherwise engaged in having me. I was born at 5 am on the 5th of October (and haven't got up that early since.)

I have also heard that the original delay to my aunt's wedding caused my cousin to be born early--- less than nine months after his parents' wedding. But that's another story.

In the interests of national security, I'm not posting my baby picture. So here is a gratuitous kitten picture.

Charting your December Writing Progress

November is over, and the writing goals we had for that month have either been achieved or.... not. We have won or lost NaNoWriMo, perhaps.

But this is a new month and time for a new writing challenge: writing steadily and daily at a more modest minimum pace of 1000 words per day, which works out to about 4 pages per day if you are comparing it to the writing paces announced by old-time writers like Lawrence Block, who claimed to average 5 words per day.

I like to chart my month's work on a nice clean document I created on my OpenOffice word processing software. Illustrated above is this month's version. (If you would like to use mine rather than make your own, you can download a PDF version.) I pin the current month's chart on the frame of my desk so it's to the left of my work area and at eye level. Other month's charts are stored--- well, pinned in a stack on a bulletin board--- to remind me of how I've worked when I'm being harsh with myself.

For each day you have a daily word count goal, and a running total, to enter. I compose my fiction using the free YWriter software, which at the bottom of the screen tells you not only the running word count of your project, but how many words you wrote that day. (The software also has you sorting out your work into chapters and scenes, and so if you get stuck you can skip ahead to some other scene you feel more ready to write.)

These days many authors consider keeping up with their author blog a part of their working day. I have put in a section called 'Blogging WC', to give myself credit for that. I write many of my blog posts offline in my YWriter software and so know the word count. You can write the number of blog posts instead.

There is also a section for notes. I'm not quite sure what I'm using mine for. Perhaps for check marks for the number of writing sessions in a day, since I'm trying to get in the habit of dipping-in to my novel more often during each day. I'm a morning writer, and when I get caught up in other activity in the morning, it usually means my writing session doesn't happen. That must change!

The important thing is to set goals for yourself that are a challenge, but ones you can meet. NaNoWriMo is a challenge that gives us a set word count of 1667 words per day (around 7 pages). If you don't normally produce that kind of output, it can be a good challenge.

But for a non-NaNo month, you are free to set yourself an easier goal. I chose 4 pages a day because I often don't have it all that easy getting to 1000 words, but it's not as difficult as 1667. I may choose slower paces yet in a future month, as well as having more challenging months.

For me, this year's NaNo was a struggle. I started a novel, got some better ideas, and deleted the few thousand words I had to start again. The second version only got to about 5000 pages--- and it needed to be scrapped and begun a third time. I still hope to get to it. Just not this month. I want to give it some time to percolate in my head for a while.

Starting fresh this month feels right. As you can see from the worksheet which presumes starting with a new novel in the running total WC goal column. (If you are creating a worksheet for a month of continuing an already-begun novel, just add your already existing word count in for the total WC goal column.)

I've been making up these charts for a while now. I think I make more progress by setting a goal each month and making a chart reflecting that. It helps keep me on-task, and the thrill of putting in my WC each day is a tiny reward.

Have you set your December writing goals yet? What in particular are you planning to work on? Do you have a good method to record your daily progress?

Saturday, December 1, 2012 A Field Guide to Genre Fiction Writers' Organizations

A number of the major genres have their own writers' organizations. In addition, there are general organizations like the Authors Guild. Below is a link to an excellent article which gives you more info on these organizations. Do read!

A Field Guide to Genre Fiction Writers' Organizations
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