Posts Tagged ‘college life’

Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know that I am on the autism spectrum, and that I’ve had opportunities to speak about it a couple of times, including a widely-circulated video which I posted back in March. I was able to get my job partially because of my autism, and a lot of the work I do involves working with, accommodating, and advocating for people with disabilities in the workplace, including but certainly not limited to autism. I don’t go around everywhere broadcasting my diagnosis, but it does come up on occasion.

One of those recent occasions was for my organization’s newsletter. I was asked to write a short essay, about a page long, about having a disability, about the program that helped me get a job in my organization, and what that’s been like. That article was published recently, along with a couple of other testimonials, and it’s been getting around. A lot of people have been coming up to me and thanking me for being so open with my story.

Today, I got an email from someone in my organization who had read the article, and had contacted me asking for advice. His adult nephew had been diagnosed with autism a couple of years ago, well past the point where intervention can be at its most effective. And in the  years since his diagnosis, his life has not gotten easier. I won’t go into details, but it was heartbreaking to read the man’s email and to hear about his nephew’s suffering.

At the end of the email, he asked what could be done for his nephew, and if maybe the program that helped me get my job could help his nephew.

What do you say to something like that? What sort of comfort can you give when there’s already so much pain?

I don’t know if I ever meant to be an advocate for people with disabilities. But over time, that role has kind of been molded around me. A good part of this has been because of my job. As I said, I have to advocate for people with disabilities in the workplace. To that end, I’ve learned how to market to people who are able-bodied why they should hire more people with disabilities. I can tell them that people with disabilities have a much lower turnover rate than the general population, 8% compared to 45%, that getting them accommodations rarely gets anywhere near the $500 mark, and then back all that up by talking about my own satisfaction with my position, and how the only accommodation I’ve needed for my ASD was permission to listen to my iPod or audiobooks while doing certain tasks. I’ve also been asked to do essays, like I did for the newsletter, and the video I recorded back in March. And sometimes it just comes up, like when explaining how I got my internship in Germany (yeah, my ASD played a part in that), or using it to illustrate a point in conversation, or a hundred different scenarios.

One way or another, it seems like I was meant to be an advocate, especially at this point in my life, when I’m doing so well at work, living on my own, and even as a writer.

But as a giver of advice? I’m not sure I expected that. And I get why it’s happening. Autism is a scary diagnosis for anyone to get, as well as for the loved ones of those diagnosed. It’s a disorder that varies widely from person to person, it can never be cured, the cause is still unknown,* the number of people being diagnosed with it has grown exponentially with improved diagnostic tools. Depending on what traits are present or what other disorders are present with autism can also affect everything from therapy to school choices to possibilities in adulthood. And when the diagnosis is made in adulthood, as happened with the young man whose uncle emailed me, it can be a sort of terrifying that no horror story can tap into. With all that in mind, hearing from someone who not only has the same diagnosis, but is successful in the real world, can be a soothing balm for the mind and soul.

I just wish I had all the answers. Or that I was more confident in the answers I have to give.

But if I’m going to give any sort of advice, it’s that we shouldn’t deny or try to hide our diagnoses. We shouldn’t try to be “normal,” because normal doesn’t exist, especially not for us. We process the world so differently than everyone else, but that doesn’t mean we have to be ashamed or afraid. I’m able to succeed and do the things I do every day because I process differently. So embrace your different. It may be called a disability, but it can be an asset too. Some of the greatest innovators and creators the world has ever known have been on the spectrum. And once we learn to work with the issues we have, we can learn to become those great innovators and creators.

And don’t be afraid to look for or ask for help. Even if you’re diagnosed later in life, there’s still plenty of resources for you. Many states, including my beloved Ohio, have programs that offer help and direction for people with disabilities and families, whether they be children or well into adulthood. Many schools have or are adding programs to ensure the disabled can take full advantage of their educations. More and more employers are recognizing the importance of hiring people with disabilities, and what they can contribute. We’re not being left alone like a ship in a storm. There is help.

Living my life strong, no matter what my diagnosis is.

And it’s important to be open about your diagnosis, especially with your friends, family, coworkers and teachers. Keeping it a secret has never helped anyone get by. It’s better to be open, so that those around us are better equipped to work with us, and join us on our journey as we work our way through life. I know it’s scary, and you don’t want to be any different than anyone else. But remember, there’s no normal. We’re all different, and many of us wear it on our sleeves. Might as well display this different too, if only to make life a little easier.

I hope you find this helpful. I hope the man who emailed me today found my advice helpful. And if you or someone you know has autism, I hope that no matter what, you or your loved one is able to hold their head up high and know this: you are great the way you are.

*And if you’re about to comment saying some bull about vaccines, let me tell you a story, since anti-vaxxers seem to value testimony more rather than scientific consensus: my mother has told me a few times that I was different from the day I was born, well before I received my first vaccine. I was nothing like the baby books predicted I’d be, and it wasn’t until my younger sister was born that she saw any of that stuff. I trust her word, so that means vaccines had nothing to do with the way I am. And if you still insist that vaccines had something to do with the way I am, you may be calling my mother a liar, and them’s fighting words.

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It’s always satisfying to finish a manuscript. No matter the length, it’s satisfying to know that you’ve put in so much time, sweat, blood and creativity into writing a story and that it’s finished, that you were able to get over your fears before starting, keep going, and see it to the end. And after attempting a third draft a little year ago, failing miserably, and taking a year to work up the courage to try again, it’s especially satisfying. Hell, I even bought fancy honey-wine to celebrate this momentous evening.

Now if you’re unfamiliar, Rose is a novel I originally wrote as my college thesis. It follows an amnesiac woman named Rose whose body starts to go through incredible, terrible, magical changes. The only source of information on her condition is a man who claims to be her boyfriend, but he’s got some terrible secrets and isn’t all he claims to be. It’s a dark and bizarre story, with themes of dependence and abuse, perception and memory, in a story influenced by Stephen King’s Misery and Japanese mythology.

It’s also been the most challenging story I’ve worked with. I had to scrap my first attempt to write it because I made the story too bizarre, sprawling and complex, then go back and make it a bit simpler and contained. Then I had to write an entire first draft, then a second draft within a few months. Then I had an internship in Germany and a job search, followed by an attempt at the third draft. That draft, as I said before, was a complete and utter disaster due to the lack of routine I had at the time. I took it up again back in late June, after I needed a break from sci-fi and Full Circle and, with a routine, I managed to get through the draft in about four months, incorporating the suggestions from my thesis advisors to great effect while I was at it.

And I’m very proud of this draft. Every time I’ve worked on this story, it’s changed significantly. Plot points, emotional connections, characterizations, they’ve all gone through some incredible rewrites. With this particular draft, I feel like I’ve been editing the work of a different author, giving his work a much-needed makeover. I even added an original chapter to the manuscript, which also took the top spot as the longest chapter in the novel (I spent two week with Dragon Speech-to-Text software writing that chapter so it wouldn’t take a month or longer). And while this story is far from “done” (my high school English teacher said that stories are never “perfect,” because that’s impossible. But they can be “done,” where you can’t do anything more to improve it. It’s just “done”), it’s definitely in a much better shape than it was at the end of the second draft. It’s a draft I’d actually be proud to show other people.

Now before I show you what’s up next for Rose, indulge me in my bad habit of looking at page and word counts. Which with this novel is actually necessary: my advisor told me to double the word count of the novel when I did the third draft (I’m pretty sure it’s double the word count now, not add ten or twenty-thousand words). So how did I do with that? Well, at the end of the second draft in spring of 2015, the page count was (with 8.5″ x 11″ pages, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font) 164 pages. With the third draft, the page count is 266 pages, an increase of 102 pages. With the word count, the second draft was a whopping total of 48,914, a respectable novella-length story. In the third draft, I got the word count up to 84,677, a good-size novel,  just a bit shorter than Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And I like to think that every new word was necessary. I really had the chance to delve deeper into the characters, as well as the events that made them who they are. All in all, I think it’s a more fleshed-out novel.

Of course, critics, readers, and editors are free to disagree with me. We’re a democracy, we’re allowed to do that, even if others don’t like that.

And that brings me to what’s next for Rose and for me. And I have a few ideas on that:

  1. No return to Full Circle just yet. I’m still not ready to return to the world of Reborn City and finish the trilogy. Yes, the first draft needs ending, but I need a bit more time and a bit more horror before I do any more sci-fi. And since I don’t exactly a legion of fans breaking down my door to know when the story will be out, I think I can afford to take some time (George RR Martin wishes he was me in that respect).
  2. Beta readers and submissions. I have a couple of beta readers who have agreed to take on Rose, read it and give me some feedback (I’m sending the manuscript to them right after I’m done with this post, as well as backing up my flash drive so I don’t lose the novel). The plan is to take their feedback and incorporate it into the novel if I feel it works for the story. And after that, I’ll start submitting Rose to publishing houses and agents that specialize in horror. Hopefully it’ll find a home soon, and I can get it published. After that…well, I’ll see when I get there.
  3. Some shorter works. I have a list of short stories and novelettes that I keep so I don’t forget any of the fabulous ideas I have. It’s currently 57 pages long and closing in on 800 ideas. I figure I should at least get through some of those, as only a few of them are crossed off with at least having a first draft written out. I already have another list of stories I’d like to work on in particular, and I’ve picked my first from that list. I might even get started on it in the next week, after I do a bit of research for it. And maybe after a few of these stories are written, they’ll get published. Fingers crossed, right?

And that’s where things stand right now. I hope you continue to stay with me as I move onto the next stage of this novel’s evolution, and maybe write the next stage of my writing career. Until my next post, goodnight Followers of Fear, and pleasant nightmares.

Wow, thought it would take at least a couple more nights for this happen. And again, it’s like an hour before I’m supposed to go to bed! Ooh boy. At least if I’m tired tomorrow morning getting into work, I’ll have a good excuse as to why it happened.

For those of you who don’t know, Rose is a novel I wrote as senior thesis in college, and which has had quite the crazy time just getting edited (click HERE to read my last post on Rose for more background on this crazy time). The story follows an amnesiac girl who wakes up one day and finds herself suddenly turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). It’s as bizarre as it sounds, but also very dark. Not as comical as it might sound if I were to tell you about it at a party.

As I’ve said before, the last time I tried editing this story, it took me months just to get through a couple of chapters. Now, it’s been just over three weeks since I last posted an update on Rose, and I’m two-thirds of the way through the story. The latest chapter, I managed to get done in one sitting, in only an hour and a half, with a cup of tea on my bedside table and a New Age spiritualism lecture on YouTube to keep me focused on the writing. Consider my normal writing/editing speed, I consider that a really big deal. May the last seven chapters be as easy to edit as this chapter.

Though to be honest, I’m really enjoying the editing process. The story feels new to me, like I’m discovering the characters and twists for the first time as a reader. And going over it, seeing where the descriptions can be expanded or the language brushed up and improved is a pretty satisfying experience. It’s going to be really interesting to see what happens in the last seven chapters, which contain some of the biggest revelations of the story, and most of the scenes I’m looking forward to expanding/making better.

If I’m lucky, I’ll even be able to make good on my thesis advisor’s suggestion to add about ten to twenty-thousand words to the novel (or did he say  double the novel? I forget so much in my young age).

Speaking of which, time for me to annoy you with page and word counts. At this point in the second draft, the number of pages in the novel (8.5″ x 11″ paper, 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced) was a total of 103, with the word count measuring up to 32,765. In the third draft, I’ve expanded the story to this point to 137 pages, and 42,768 words. That’s an increase of 34 pages, and 10,003 words. I think I’m doing quite well. The second draft was only a couple thousand words longer than where the third draft is now, so once I expand it, I could get it beyond sixty-thousand or maybe even seventy-thousand words. That would be pretty incredible, wouldn’t it?

Well, I’ve probably taken up probably enough of your time and/or phone data. I’m going to head to bed and savor this milestone as I sleep. Goodnight Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares!

As promised last week, I’m pleased to announce that What Happened Saturday Night has been published on Wattpad. I’ve been working on this story, on and off, since my final year of college, so I’m really glad to finally have it out there for you guys to read. Plus, check out this amazing artwork by friend, author, and ardent Follower of Fear Joleene Naylor (if you haven’t checked her out, why haven’t you yet? What’s wrong with you? CLICK HERE ALREADY!!!)! It gets right to what this story represents. And what does this story represent? Read the description:

High school is hard enough. But Louise is different from other teens her age. For one thing, she has feelings for her best friend Nicola. Feelings she knows she shouldn’t be having.

Another thing: she’s going through changes, but these aren’t the sort of changes teen girls normally go through. Louise is a werewolf. And her biggest fear is what might happen if an episode like what happened on Saturday night happens in front of Nicola.

I’ve been told it’s a touching story about coming to terms with yourself, in more ways than one.

Based on the results of Gynoid (which, if you haven’t read yet, here’s Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I’m hoping that even more people will respond to What Happened Saturday Night (or WHSN, as I’m going to call it from now on). I’ve put the same amount of work into both stories, so hopefully all that will pay off like it did with the former story. And they contain similar themes and elements, so that will probably help.

I also think people will be drawn to it because it’s a coming out story. As an out of the closet bisexual man, I know how scary that is. I know what it’s like to feel weird in your own body because of the way you feel, because of whom you’re attracted to. I think there should be more stories that not only explore that issue, but help normalize it to some degree. What I mean is, coming out should not be scary. It might be my delusions of grandeur, but if WHSN can help do that for some readers, then I’ll be glad that I published it.

If you would like to check out WHSN, follow this link for a read. And if you like it (or don’t), let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love reader feedback, and it helps me in the log run to make me a better writer.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

It’s unusual that I give an update on draft progress when I’m in the middle of the third draft. Usually after the first draft, I only give updates when the draft is finished. However, given the unusual journey and evolution Rose has gone through, as well as the all the work that still needs to be done, I feel that giving an update at the one-third mark is warranted. Let me explain:

I began work on Rose during my senior year of college as my thesis project. I had been sitting on the idea for about a year by that point, and had done quite a bit of thinking into what sort of story I wanted to tell. I started in September 2014, went back and started all over again when I realized the direction I was going in was all wrong for the story, and then finally managed to finish the first draft in January 2015. I then banged out a second draft in time for thesis discussions in April 2015. At those discussions (which you can read more about here), I was given a number of suggestions on how to improve the novel for the third draft, after which I could probably start thinking about publishing.

One of those suggestions, which I did not mention in the post about the discussions, was that I add a whole lot more words to the word count. Like, ten to twenty-thousand words more.

Yeah. I know. Even seasoned authors might find that a difficult challenge to accept.

In any case, I planned to get back to this story eventually, just not immediately. I first went to work in Germany, and then went through the job search. During that time, Rose was never far from my mind, but I never felt it was the right time to work on that story. After I got my new job and moved into my own apartment though, I did feel like revisiting the story. And I utterly floundered trying to edit it. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, moving had entirely changed my routine, and without being able to get that routine back, I was unable to edit as I used to. Thus, it took me three months just to get through five chapters. After that, I had to stop and reevaluate what I was doing if I was to continue writing at all.

And then two months ago, deciding I needed a break from work on Full Circle, I began working on Rose again, even though I thought I wouldn’t get to it until after my Boston trip. With a new routine in place, I managed to get through the five chapters I edited last year in weeks rather than months. And then I got through Chapter 6, and then finally Chapter 7, finishing edits on that about an hour before I left to go see The Dark Tower.

And now I’m one-third of the way through the book. And it feels almost like I’m working with a totally different story, like this is the first go-around with Rose rather than the third draft of (and the fourth dive into) the story. Hence why I feel it is necessary to write a progress report at this point in the third draft.

So if you’re new around here, you’re probably wondering at this point, “Okay, but what’s the novel about?” To put it simply, Rose is about an amnesiac girl who finds herself turning into a plant creature. It is as bizarre as it sounds, more bizarre than I remember it. But it’s also a very dark story, exploring themes like abuse and dependence in relationships, as well as how truth, falsehood, and memories shape our perceptions of our ourselves and others. So yeah, as bizarre (and possibly comical) as it sounds, it is still a scary story.

And I have to say, editing is going very well. I’m incorporating as many of the suggestions from my thesis discussion as I can, and I’m definitely seeing an improvement in the story. The characters definitely feel like they’re actual people in this strange situation, and I feel like if this book does get published, people will really respond to it.

As for that suggestion to add ten to twenty-thousand words, I’m actually doing okay with that. I’ve thought about scenes I’ve wanted to expand, and I’ve even looked ahead to certain parts of the book to see where I can make some additions. And in the first seven chapters, I think I’ve done a good job of that. Let me break down the numbers (already I can hear my longtime readers groaning about that, they know I love to do this): in the second draft, the first seven chapters measured up to 44 pages (8.5″ x 11″, 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced) and 13,579 words. In the third draft, I’m at 70 pages (same parameters) and 20,990 words. That’s an increase of 26 pages and 7,411 words. And I like to think none of it is unnecessary.

So what’s next? Well, I’ll get to work on the next fourteen chapters, and hopefully be done with the end of the draft by the end of September. I’ll also try to add another three-thousand to thirteen-thousand words, if I feel that amount would help with the story. After that…I’m thinking beta readers, more editing, and then maybe an agent/publisher. We’ll see.

Well, it’s late, so I’m off to bed, my Followers of Fear. You have a pleasant night and pleasant nightmares. Until next time!

 

I was tagged again by my friend Kat Impossible from Life and Other Disasters. Well, technically she tagged anyone who’s a writer who read the post, but I’m pretty sure I at least crossed her mind as someone who would do this post. Anyway, let’s get started.

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Well, there’s an easy one. Horror stories, of course (though I do like the occasional dive into science fiction). Usually my stories revolve around teenagers and young adults finding themselves in fantastical and terrible situations, usually ones involving the supernatural. However, they’re often human stories where the characters are growing and sorting through an internal conflict while dealing with an external conflict. At least, in the novels that’s how it is. With the short stories, it may just be me writing a story and trying to leave an impression on the reader.

How long have you been writing?

Probably since I could string two words into a sentence on a page. *laughs* But I don’t think I started writing seriously with the goal of being a great author until I was maybe ten or so. I think it was a conscious decision that I liked to write, so I should make that my life. But it could have easily just been a gradual thing where I found myself entranced by storytelling, doing it often, and then someday knowing that this is what I want to do.

Why do you write?

Besides the fact that I enjoy storytelling? Well, I have a pretty active imagination. I spend a good chunk of each day in stories, whether they be books, movies, TV shows, or daydreams. While they’re up in my head, they can be pretty fluid and volatile, changing and shifting and God only knows what. I’m neuroatypical, so while I love being an eccentric, I do like a little order in my head sometimes. Writing these stories down helps to exorcise them from my brain and make them static. It’s freeing, in its way.

Plus, I just LOVE sharing my stories with people and getting their feedback (it’s an author vanity thing. We all have them, to some degree).

What is the best time to write?

I’d like to say, “Whenever.” However, I find the evening is the best time to write. Since high school, evenings have often been the only time available to me to write. Yeah, sometimes in the afternoons or even the mornings opportunities to write come upon me, but often it’s limited to the evening, especially after so many years of doing this. Perhaps if I ever become able to write full-time, I can work on being more flexible, but for now it’s not until after dinner that I’m able to effectively summon those creative energies.

What parts of writing do you love and hate?

I love:

  • Being able to tell a story and exorcise them from my head.
  • Share my stories with people.
  • Be as creative and dark as I want to be.

I hate:

  • How easily ideas come to me but how hard it is to get even one of them on the paper
  • Not having a large audience

How do you overcome writer’s block?

Usually when that happens there’s a problem somewhere in the story and I need to go back to fix something before I can move forward. That’s usually how it works, anyway.

Are you working on something at the moment?

At the moment I’m editing my college thesis Rose, about a girl who starts turning into a plant. I’m in the middle of the third draft, and I’m nearly a third of the way through. I hope after this draft I can start having it looked at by beta readers, but we’ll see where we are when I’m done.

What are your writing goals this year?

Finish the third draft of Rose and get a few short stories written and published. And if I can manage it, I’d like to reach a thousand followers.

I TAG YOU, BLOGOVERSE!

Do you write? You do! Great, you’re tagged. Have fun, and make sure to link back to me when you do.

I actually almost missed this milestone. I was going to bed Saturday evening, and I was like, “Wait a minute, that’s Monday! Note to self: write a blog post in the morning after cleaning the bathroom.” And now that the bathroom is squeaky clean (as well as the kitchen, which also needed a touch up), I’m taking the time to talk about this milestone and ask myself, “Has it really been four years? Blimey, it feels longer.”

So if you don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, here goes: about five years ago, during my sophomore year of college, I started putting together a collection of short stories. I was still editing Reborn City at the time, and I wanted to have something to work on while the editing process of that took its time, as well as something to release and test the waters of self-publishing. A short story collection felt like a good idea. So I wrote five scary stories in about a couple of months, edited them and had other writers/horror fans look at them, and designed a cover. On July 17th, 2013, I published The Quiet Game: Five Tales to Chill Your Bones on Amazon and Smashwords, later putting them on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

The five stories in the book are: Addict, about a man dealing with trying to kick his sex addiction; I’m Going to be the Next James Bond, about a bunch of kids who go to an abandoned hospital to hunt for ghosts; In the Lady Ogre’s Den, about an autistic child’s stay in a hospital; The Quiet Game, about a Catholic school that finds itself cut off from the world and deaf all of a sudden; and Samson Weiss’s Curse, about a senator being stalked by a spirit known as a dybbuk.

This has been by far my most commercially successful book, not only because it’s been out the longest, but because it’s a very quick read, and costs less than my other books do, e-book and paperback. People who might not necessarily want a long read see this little collection of short stories, and that it’s received positive reviews, and they’re like, “Okay, let’s check it out.” For the most part, people love it. So for someone still growing an audience, that’s a pretty good achievement.

Speaking of reviews, this is also my most reviewed work. I think that the reasons for that are the same ones for why this has been my most commercial work to date. And as I said previously, it’s had some pretty good reviews, with a score of 4.1 on Amazon based on 14 reviews. Here’s what people have been saying about the book:

5 wonderfully crafted tales! I purchased this as an eBook originally and put off reading it for quite a while, I really wish I hadn’t waited. Sometimes when one purchases a collection of short stories you expect some of them to be less entertaining or of lower quality than the others, but none of these disappoint. Well worth the money, especially considering after you read each story the author gives you creative insight into what inspired him to write each tale, which is really wonderful.

–Jeff D.

This is not my genre, but since I know the author [:-)], I read the stories. Each one was very unique and created its own atmosphere and mood. My favorite story was the Quiet Game but I found the ending a little confusing since I didn’t really know the literary reference at the end; what I loved was the world created in the story and the message it conveyed. I look forward to the author’s improving his craft, and I will certainly read more.

–Gefilte63

Imagine if you will a young Stephen King penning dark scenarios inspired by his youth, and what you get is this anthology. Through this collection of short stories, Rami Ungar brings us into the world of dark urges, childhood traumas, ghosts, phantoms, and dark psychological thrillers. An inspired creation, and definitely a good intro to this indie author’s world!

–Matt Williams, author of “The Cronian Incident”

I especially like that last one calling me a young Stephen King. Always love being compared to him.

If any of this makes you want to read The Quiet Game or check out more reviews, I’ll include the links for the book below. An if you do end up reading the book, please make sure to leave a review. Positive or negative, I love feedback, and it helps me out in the long run.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I may have a new review out tonight, so keep an eye out for that. Until then, have a good one.

The Quiet Game: Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & Noble, iBooksSmashwords, and Kobo