Top Ten Facts Behind the Fiction–CORRODED

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1. The acknowledgement section for Corroded is full of people, but the one that stands out the most is Laurie Halse Anderson. Yes, THE Laurie Halse Anderson. I was blessed to win a full manuscript critique during a fundraiser for the Joplin, Missouri tornado victims in 2011, one of the last full critiques she was able to do. I’ve been in contact with Laurie both before and after the critique and she’s been nothing but supportive. An ultimate mentor—my thanks, again!

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2. Mary Weber is the character that changed the most from how she was portrayed in the original drafts. She’s stronger and more relatable than she was to begin with, thanks in part to honest critique partners and beta readers who shared their displeasure of her with me.

3. In both of my books, my secondary characters vie to over-run the main one, and Corroded is the ultimate example. Ben Thomas was so well-loved by beta readers and my critique group, the story finally morphed to include his own point-of-view chapters.

4. Ben’s sensory issues are influenced by the sensitivities of several people on the autism spectrum including my son and the autobiographical tales by John Elder Robison, Temple Grandin, Donna Williams, and Erin Clemens (who the book is dedicated in part to.) But Ben’s story isn’t a one-size-fits-all autism story. Autism is a spectrum disorder. Each person on the spectrum is unique and lives with a different set of skills and sensitivities, just like anyone else.

5. Weighted blankets can help calm people on the spectrum and other individuals with sensory-related issues. Does it work for everyone? No, but it’s worth trying because it’s a safe, drug-free option to ease anxiety and quiet meltdowns.

6. Ben originally had one obsession—The Avengers, with a focus on Thor because I’m a Marvel girl. As his role expanded, he became more complex with his interests and the history geek emerged.

7. The town in Corroded, Santo Cordero, is based on the Rio Del Mar/Aptos area in Santa Cruz County where I lived during high school. The school I attended had a Mariner mascot—that’s where the idea for Sailor Suzy came from.

8. There was a place on campus called “the pit.” Photographic evidence: that’s me in the middle, rocking my flannel shirt and white moccasins in 1993.

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9. I found the Steinbeck Wax Museum on Cannery Row in Monterey totally creepy when I went there, but what else could you expect from a wax museum in a basement? It did not disappoint, in that regard.

10. I have two older sisters who are much cooler and more interesting than me. While growing up, I almost always shared a room with one of my siblings, but I did have my own room for about two years before my sister closest in age moved back in and I was forced to share my space. I played up those two experiences for Mary and Barbara’s relationship trouble.

Fueled by Live Music

Last week I sent out my newsletter, so for those who get that you’ll already know I completed the first few drafts of my Gothic Horror work-in-progress. It’s currently out with some beta readers and I’m trying to patiently await feedback. Trying.

First draft

First draft

 

The other highlight this month—besides finishing that behemoth draft of 882 pages—was attending a Boston concert with the whole family. It was my oldest and youngest kids’ first rock concert and I’m happy to say all enjoyed it and there were no sensory meltdowns.

Boston concert, August 4, 2016

Boston concert, August 4, 2016

 

I played it safe and did back row, but with Boston their sound guys are constantly checking things and the audio is excellent, as is their visual. Awesome show, every time! (It was my fifth Boston concert in twenty-one years.)

Me, rocking my word count.

Me, rocking my word count.

 

Now, I’m balancing to keep my work-in-progress fresh in my mind and playing with the possibility of returning to a different project I wrote two years ago (middle grade contemporary) and tinkering with a few new ideas. In other words, I’m on the verge of creative insanity. What are you up to?

Corroded in the Wild

Corroded, April 12, 2016.

Corroded, April 12, 2016.

Today’s the day! You can get your copy of Corroded, a young adult contemporary novel, on all e-reader platforms or in paperback. Last week’s Kindle pre-orders pushed it to the top spot for “Hot New Releases in Teen & Young Adult Christian Social Issue Fiction” category. WooHoo! Ordering links can by found on my BOOKS page. In case you’ve missed the news, here’s what it’s about:

 

Fifteen-year-old Mary Lou Weber is suffocating in her sister’s shadow. Though she struggles to break into the light and claim her own identity—and the attention of the cutest guy in school—something always seems to pull her right back down into the role of Barbara’s little sister.

Down the street lives seventeen-year-old Ben Thomas, a lonely introvert who is captive to a sensory condition that makes it nearly impossible for him to stand in sunlight, much less talk to people whom he thinks could never understand his difficulties.

A new year kindles the friendship between a guy who pushes away a world and the girl who’s striving to find her place in it. Can the relationship help Mary and Ben find balance in a world that frequently seems too much to handle?

 

Like my other stories, I incorporated my love of music into the writing process for Corroded. The following is the complete soundtrack, with songs from both Mary’s and Ben’s perspectives. You’ll see some of my favorite musicians, but also a few surprises. I’m just highlighting a few of them with links, but search the others out yourself—they’re well worth it.

 

Hello, Mary Lou” Ricky Nelson

“The Very Thought of You” Ricky Nelson

“You Are a Tourist” Death Cab for Cutie

“Burning Down Inside” Tyketto

“Dying to Be Alive” Hanson

“I’m the One” Mitch Malloy

“Somewhere I Belong” Linkin Park

“Start From the Dark” Europe

Keep One Heart” Nelson

“Brave and Beautiful Soul” Europe

Life” Rick Nelson

 

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post or any of my books. Comments, questions, and reviews are welcome. Happy reading!

Music: The Sensory Edition

If you know me, or have followed this blog for any amount of time, you realize that I love music. I use music for mood alteration, inspiration, and escape. My preferred listening method is live, in concert. For sanity sake, I try to attend at least two live performances a year but life doesn’t always allow that.

My second and third choices for listening are earphones and in the car—alone. 100_4829

Having songs plugged into my ears is great for tuning out exterior noise, but it isn’t always practical when supervising children. Plus, I don’t want to subject those around me to my butchered attempts when singing along.

When driving, I usually have my nifty homeschool kids in the car and they like music, too, just not always the same stuff I like. I used to put the “Children’s Music” playlist on shuffle when we went anywhere but I found myself getting a little snappy after fifteen minutes. So now the whole iPod—which is attached to a cassette adapter because I’m so last century—gets put on shuffle when we go.

A Disney song = the kids happy, or most of them, and often me.

A little Mitch Malloy = me happy, and sometimes the kids.

Queen = everyone is good.

Sesame Street = one happy kid.

The Beach Boys = all good, for most songs.

And on, and on.

There are a few times it’s easier to skip to the next song because the natives are noisily protesting, but most of the time they settle down when I say “it’s Mommy’s turn.” When a song I love comes on, my immediate reflex is to turn it up, but with boys with sensory issues in the car, they drown out the music with their own shrieking of discomfort. (That or I get “What’s Mommy singing?” from my teen with autism, as if he can’t tell I’m trying to sing the song that we’re listening to. Funny kid.)

All this—and more—is why my favorite non-live music experience is in the car. ALONE. I can turn it up as loud as I want and sing off-key without annoying people. (I’d also say without embarrassing myself, but I never know who is watching from the outside of the car.) Listening in a vehicle is a step above earphones because the music cocoons your whole self, not just your ears. At times you can feel it, but it’s an immersive experience and the steering wheel makes a good keyboard or drum.

What’s your listening habit?

Light it Up, Softly

Sensory issues are often the crux of the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders, and because most people spend their waking hours with their eyes open, visual problems are often the most tiresome. Light sources, rather natural or manmade, can be a blessing or curse for those with this sensitivity. 100_4588

In the U.S., we’re on the verge of a possible lighting crisis. The turn of the New Year will mark another reduction in light bulb options, closing the choice of yet more incandescent bulbs at stores around the country. Fluorescent lights, whether long strip bulbs or the compact swirly ones (which are terrible for the earth—read the disposal warning on them), are often visual triggers for susceptible people. The flicker, harsh glow, and even the hum of the offending bulbs can cause headache, eye fatigue or emotional meltdowns for those with sensory difficulties.

The same thing happened, not long ago, in the United Kingdom. You can read one account of it here. http://www.autism.org.uk/working-with/leisure-and-environments/architects/light-sensitivity-and-autism.aspx

This an important situation for me, as myself and loved ones suffer from light sensitivity. Ben, one of the main characters in CORRODED (one of my fictional labors of love, yet-to-be-published stories) has to deal with this as well. Here’s a little peek, from Chapter Ten, when Mary and Ben are at his house playing a round of Battleship.

“You never explained to me why you don’t go outside during the day,” I said.
“I go outside. Remember the first day we met? I sat on the porch with you and your mom.”
“Oh… well, then why don’t you go for walks and stuff?” I asked.
“I’m sensitive to sunlight.”
“Like, you burn easily?”
Ben shook his hands like he was air-drying them. “No, it’s my eyes. Bright sunlight causes sensory overload and I can barely function. Fluorescent light does the same thing. It’s common for Aspies.”
I looked up at the soft white glow of the over-head lights. “So, going to schools and office buildings must be difficult.”
“The worst. That’s one of the reasons I homeschool. If I do have to venture out for a medical appointment or something I wear sunglasses inside.”