Thursday, May 31, 2012

Writing with Dyslexia

This is a huge topic to tackle because a lot of people don’t understand it. Dyslexia isn’t just a straightforward “disability;” it has many flavors and extremes. It’s taken all of my life to understand it, and to be honest with you, there are days where I still don’t understand what my brain is doing.

First of all, let’s clear up some definitions. There is Dyslexia, where you have trouble with letters and then there is Dyscalculia, where you have trouble with numbers. I have both unfortunately. It wasn’t until high school that I knew I had it and I actually was diagnosed with Dyscalculia first.

I not only inverted numbers, but I also invert the operations of problems. If the problem said I should multiply, I would divide and vice versa. So I would get the problem right, if the operation was reversed. I stood and argued with a math teacher one day while she tried to get me to understand what I did wrong and it hit me like a slap in the face. Suddenly I realized why I was nearly failing that class and my teacher had sympathy for me for the first time ever.

Now for Dyslexia there are so many different ways it can affect you. The most simple is the obvious inverting letters. Children often get ‘b’ and ‘d’ mixed up (I will actually write b when I want d and vice versa to this day), the whole ‘i’ before ‘e’ totally throws me. I mean when I write the world field, it looks wrong to me, I want to write it “f-e-i-ld” but thankfully Word auto corrects that for me.

Another way it gets people is what I refer to as the “assumption dyslexia” where you’ll see the start of a word and your brain assumes what is it and is wrong. One example would be “cornflakes” and “cornstarch”. I very rarely do that one.

One that I do without thinking about is similar to "assumption dyslexia", if words are out of order on a page, I can totally read them as if they aren't. So if a sentence says, "You're this reading wrong" I can totally see that as, "You're reading this wrong." I've been told a lot of people without Dyslexia can do this one though, so I'm not sure that's an actual symptom.

One that totally throws my husband off is when I’m very, very tired I can take one syllable of one word and a syllable of the next word and switch them around. Kinda like the saying “knucking futs” (sorry, I couldn’t think of another commonly known one! Lol!). I cannot do it if I try and I cannot do it if I think about it. I just do it without thinking.

But my most common and frustrating trait of my Dyslexia is misusing homonyms. People think I just don’t know the proper meaning or possibly I’m not using an editor or proof reader, but really it’s that I’m mixing up the words. Here is a list of the words I most often mix up:

It’s and its
Heel and heal
Past and passed
Affect and effect
Led and lead
Peal and peel

I’m sure if you ask my proofreader and beta readers, they would tell you there are more, but these are the ones I am aware of. I know the definitions of all of these words, I know the difference, but when I go to write them, I think I’m wrong and go for the wrong word. It’s a vicious cycle. I actually have a bright pink post-it note on my desk with the definition of “Its vs It’s” so if I find myself questioning my choice, it’s right there for me to see.

When I finish a book I do a search for every occurrence of those words I listed and check to see if I used them right. I often have to change all of them. In my YA series my characters almost never wear heels so I can almost guarantee I’ll change any occurrence of that one. I had someone give me a hard time after posting a bit of flash fiction (didn’t send it to my proofreader, it was flash fiction for goodness sake!) because the character was wearing heels and I said her “heals click-clacked on the tiles.” I know the dude didn’t know me and didn’t know I had Dyslexia; it was just his choice of words to point out my mistake. It was kinda bully-ish. I mean, why be mean about something? Then when I point out that I’m dyslexic, you sounds like a jackass rather than like you were trying to help me. Anyway.

So how do I deal with my Dyslexia while writing? I just do. I got through high school and college with it – pulling my teachers aside at the beginning of the year each year to tell them about my problem – now that I’m an adult I have no one to tell to help me out or give me some slack. I know it’s a problem, my proofreader and editor knows about it and my betas know about it so they tell me when they catch the mix ups. I keep a list of my most common mix ups and do the search function to make sure I caught ‘em all and then just pray there weren’t any other I missed. At least I can always update and reupload if I missed one or two.

And seriously, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m totally forgetting things that have just become commonplace to me now.

But I’ll tell you one thing: I will be the first to catch the misuse of your and you’re and two, too and to.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ren Faire 2012

I’ve told you in the past that I love going to the Renaissance Faire. I’m sure some of you thought, “yeah, that’s cool, like going to the county fair.” Nope, not at all. When I do Ren Faire I go all out. I have costumes and accessories and a character all worked out.

Shauna as a fairy

Sometimes I’ve gone as a fairy 
Fantastickal Fairy
but this year our faire was lucky enough to get the Fantastickals to come out and spread their special brand of magic and I didn’t want to upstage them so I stuck with pirate and privateer.

My hubs actually really enjoys faire. When we were first dating I convinced him to go, he was a very good sport and agreed to go in costume with me (once he found out about the eating, drinking and being allowed to carry a weapon all day). Little did he know how cool he would find it. Yes, I found his nerd flag and I made him fly it. It would be a couple of years before we would go again because back then it was way down in San Bernardino and that was a good 3-4 hour drive depending on traffic. Now it’s in Irwindale, still an hour and a half drive, but totally doable in a day. So over the last few years we’ve been putting our costumes together, getting better and better pieces and adding to them until they became pretty darn respectable. I even found an artist in England that did replicas of “Letters of Marque” and he personalized them for us and switching out all the King George stuff for Queen Elizabeth. They’re even bound in leather, so freaking cool! So as long as we have them, we’re privateers, not pirates.
Honorable Mention Winner!

We didn’t get to go last year because we had both lost our day jobs and decided to start our own businesses and it was an expense we just couldn’t justify. This year I wasn’t sure we were gonna be able to go, partly for the expense, and partly because we are both so busy (a blessing). But I entered the photo contest, as I do every year, and managed to get honorable mention in one of the categories and scored some free tickets! Huzzah!

Juanita and BF as first time pirates
So we went one weekend and brought two of our friends who were really excited about the idea of going, though a bit hesitant about dressing in full costume. Luckily, they were good sports about it, took some of our loaner pieces and they looked awesome! That beauteous lady is Juanita, one of my often mentioned beta readers and her boyfriend. Don’t they look great? So proud of them. Oh, and now they’re hooked! They’ve promised to start putting their own costumes together to make it an annual thing with us! Huzzah!

Shauna and Marica
The next weekend I decided we had to have a girl’s day at faire. Ladies, I cannot explain how much fun it is to go to faire with just the girls. I swear in the first ten minutes we must’ve had our pictures taken half a dozen times. 

This time I brought another newbie with us, our new friend Marcia and just look at her! What a natural! 

Juanita and Marcia
And when the men fawned all over my girls (and can you blame them?) the girls were adorable, though I wish I had gotten a picture of Juanita blushing when a lord tried to snatch her away from us!

Shauna and Moonie the Magnifi'cent
We had cider, fried foods, ice cream, caught a few comedy shows (that’s me and Moonie the Magnifi'cent, if you can ever catch his or Broon’s show, I highly recommend it – they both travel with the other faires). 

I got sunburned despite the sunblock. Bought a witch ball. Just a good time all in all.

I highly recommend it. 
Go in costume. It’s worth it.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kickstarter Campaign for Water!

Being an indie or self-published writer is very much like being a busker on the street trying to entertain the passing masses, hoping to catch people's eye long enough that they'll toss you a coin or two. All the while trying not to flat out beg for money, waving your books in the air, screaming like a crazy person. It's a delicate balancing act, let me tell you.

I absolutely love being a self-published writer. Part of me wishes that I had been one of the first to jump on the bandwagon back in 2010, but I knew my books weren't ready, so it was for the best that I waited. But sometimes it's really hard to be a self-published writer; you have to absorb all upfront costs of production, and sometimes are harder than others to do so. And then there was Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is this amazing website for artists of all medias, to set up campaigns for their fans (new and old) to help them with the cost of their production. Basically it works kinda like a pre-order program for fans. One other draw back as an indie writer is that the big book sellers wont allow us to set up our books for pre-order like the traditionally published writers, and that's fine, it's cool, maybe they will in the future. So, we turn to Kickstarter. 

I have set up ten levels of donation/rewards to help fund the production of Water. It will be a 30 day run, ending the day before Water is published. Your donations will help me with the costs of proofreading, editing, cover art and printing and shipping the paperback copies of the book. In return for your pledges, you'll get stuff! Cool stuff, if I do say so myself. I've listed it all on the campaign page. There is just one catch: I have to, have to!, reach my funding goal of $1,500.00 by the end of the campaign otherwise it counts as a fail and I don't get any of the money pledged. So that means even if people pledged $1,499.00, it would count as a fail and I don't get that money. Simple as that. So if you can't afford to help pledge, don't worry, I totally and completely understand, but you can help by spreading the word about my campaign. Again, it's a delicate balancing act of advertising and enticing versus begging and running people down on the streets. So if other people help, it's not quite so obnoxious.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Naming the New Furry Addition to Our Family

It is amazing how difficult it was for us to pick out a name for our new puppy. When we adopted our first dog, I knew my hubs wanted a cool, surfer name, being a cool surfer dude himself. I really, really, really wanted to name him after Sirius Black because he was a black dog and he looked a lot like what Sirius looks like when he’s Padfoot. But no, hubs didn’t like that. So back to surfer names. During the first five minutes of thinking of names I thought of “Brody” and it was like no other name could do once my hubs heard it. He was going to be our little bro!

So this time I insisted on a literary name. He got his cool surfer name, I get my nerdy name! Wisely, the hubs agreed. Our new puppy is a miniature schnauzer (mixed with some other tiny breed) so I wanted an appropriate name for him. He’s mostly grey with some white and brown in his scruffy coat. Now I had to decide which book to choose from.

I checked Neil Gaiman, but most of the guys in his books have normal names, well except for Bod, but that wouldn’t work. So I went to Tolkien. I really liked a lot of those names: Pippin, Gimli, Frodo, Bilbo, Samwise, even Gandalf the Grey! Hubs really only liked Samwise, but I knew it would bug me if people started only calling him Sam instead of Samwise. So we moved on.

Next we went to Shakespeare, but the only name we both liked was Puck. It seemed fitting, we both liked it, but we didn’t have that “Yes!” moment like we did with Brody. So we kept looking. I stopped on The Labyrinth for a moment – I know, not a book, a movie, but it’s my favorite so I had to! But the only names that work (in my opinion) were Hoggle, Sir Didymus, Ludo and Ambrosious. Hubs didn’t like any of them – I think because I kept saying “Ludo” as Ludo says it in the movie: Luuuuudooooo (in a deep creepy voice). I also thought of Jack for Jack Skellington but there are a lot of dogs named Jack.

Logically we went to Harry Potter. It is amazing how many options for names there really are in those books when you take the time to think about it. So I’m just going to write out the list for you to see what we were debating over:
 1. Sirius (of course I wanted it, but our dog Brody would’ve been a more appropriate choice for this name)
2. Draco (I’ve always liked this form of “dragon” but I would’ve liked it better if he’d been an all-white dog)
3. Malfoy (It’s a cool name, right? But see argument above)
4. Lupin (our little puppy looks like a little wolf right now, but that might not last)
5. Fang (Our dog shouldn’t be more than 20 inches tall – how funny would this be? But Fang Granger sounded off – yes, we’re that lame about this)
6. Scabbers (He’s scruffy looking, it works, but… eh?)
7. Merlin (short for Merlin’s beard! Schnauzers eventually have long beards when they get older! So funny and a historical figure in Harry Potter’s world and I love the stories of Camelot)
8. Weasly (The best family ever!)
9. Fawkes (It’s a cool name and it’s after Guy Fawkes, doubly cool!)
10. Hagrid (Another funny one, name the tiny puppy after a half giant!)
11. Neville (the underdog that became the cool hero! I really liked it, but hubs wasn’t too keen.)
12. Niffler (bet you forgot about these cool things, huh? But hubs strikes again. Which was fine, I wasn’t that excited about it.)
13. Fletcher (Mundungus Fletcher – also means someone that steals stuff – we both liked this one, it was from Harry Potter but not obvious and it was a cool name)
14. Norbert (ruled this one out because he becomes Norberta later)
15. Filius (I liked this because it’s the little charms professor’s first name, but I didn’t want people to call him Phil)
16. Kingsly (Loved this! Loved it! But I didn’t want people to call him King and hubs admitted he would probably be the first to do so.)
17. Grimm/Grimmwald (Hubs loved the name Grim and I thought Grimmwald would be a good homage to Sirius but again our dog Brody would’ve been a better fit for this name)
18. Hos (Heir of Slytherin – Hilarious for a tiny dog but I didn’t really like “Hos” and it would be a long explanation)
19. Muggle (We both liked this, but our neighbor has a dog named Mr. Muggles, too close)
20. Paddy (short for Padfoot – Another good one but not the “Yes!” moment)
21. Fluffy (You and I would know it was for Hagrid’s three-headed dog, but most people wouldn’t get it – it would just sound like one of those frivolous tiny dog names)
22. Bane (Eh, liked it, but…)
23. Firenze (We both liked it, but it’s a little awkward. You’d be amazed how many people can’t pronounce Granger in spite of Hermione Granger, I can’t imagine Firenze)
24. Felix (for the potion, but its kinda average)

 Anyway the list goes on for a bit so eventually we started crossing off names and we came to the top five:
1. Fang
2. Merlin
3. Fletcher
4. Kingsley
5. Grimmwald

 Hubs saying he couldn’t keep from calling him “King” eliminated Kingsley for us. Then realizing that our big black dog would’ve been better for any of the Sirius or Grim related names eliminated Grimmwald for us. Hubs really, really liked Fang, but I wasn’t sold.

So we were down to: Fletcher and Merlin. Hubs finally said he liked Merlins Beard Granger best. The idea that he’ll have a long beard when he’s older just cracked him up. So! I give you, Merlin!