Saturday, August 11, 2018

All About My Stims

Like some other women in their 30s and 40s, I'm starting to realize I have traits associated with the autism spectrum. I'm pretty sure I don't show enough traits to qualify for a diagnosis. If I did, that wouldn't be a bad thing. It would explain a lot, actually. I think I fall in the gray area between neurotypical and autistic.

One of my newly discovered traits: stimming. I say newly discovered because I didn't realize my lifelong habits had a name. Now that I know about stimming, I've been re-framing many habits and incidents in my life in that context.

When I was in daycare/preschool, I chewed on my lips. I chewed to the point where my lips would bleed, and someone at the daycare decided to intervene. Every day, when the other kids went to snack time to enjoy graham crackers or celery with peanut butter, I was pulled aside with a staff member who smeared Vaseline on my lips and the skin around my lips. With my sensory issues, it felt awful, but I was threatened with not getting my snack if I wiped or licked it off. When I did get my snack after this daily torture, the food took on the slimy texture of the Vaseline with a funny taste. The tactic didn't work. It only made me miserable. To this day, I still sometimes bite at my lips, or rub and press them together.

When I was a bit older, I played soccer. My parents say that while I was on the field, I systematically plucked hair from one spot in the back of my head until I had a bald spot. They took me to a hairdresser who styled my hair to hide the spot. I remember one such appointment, when I was told why my hair was being cut in this way. I also remember my confusion because I had no memory of pulling out my hair.

I was an obsessive nail-biter as a child. My mom told me, with exasperation, that I bit my nails because that's what my dad did and I had picked up the habit from him. My nail-biting resulted in teasing from my classmates until, in sixth grade, I made a conscious decision to stop.

Over the years, the nail-biting morphed into knuckle-cracking and picking at my cuticles. Now, as a 41-year-old woman, my cuticles are often ripped and sometimes bleed from my constant picking at them. I find that if I keep a small bottle of nail and cuticle oil handy on my work desk, I can spread the oil over my cuticles that satisfies my stimming need without the self-harm.

I also play with the hairs in my eyebrows, especially when I'm concentrating. One time, a few years ago, I overheard two of my co-workers laughing about this habit of mine and mocking me for it by imitating it in an exaggerated way. They didn't know I could hear them. I didn't say anything because, well, I'm not great at advocating for myself.

Another habit I've picked up recently is to press a hand firmly to my breastbone, just below my neck. The pressure helps me concentrate, especially when I'm under stress.

There's probably more, but those are the main ones.

In my research, I've found a lot of women like myself. It helps me to read about their quirks because it makes me feel like I'm not so uniquely weird. Maybe someone else will come across this post and feel the same way.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Stuff and Fluff

What is that you say? It's been too long since I've posted an update?

Well, here you go:

Since February, I have written at least 200 words a day, every day, until this week, when life kicked me in the teeth. When life does this, it throws my emotional equilibrium out of balance. When that happens, I can stare at the story-in-progress on the laptop screen for an hour and not be capable of writing a single word.

I went through this for about a year, as I struggled with depression. It's only in the last three or four months that I've been writing again, and it has felt good. Events in the past week have brought that progress to a halt. Temporarily, I hope.

My current project is a short story for an invite anthology. I took a break from the novel to make sure I submitted to this project.The submission window is open now. I have time to finish, revise, edit, polish and submit the story before the window closes, but this week certainly hasn't helped matters. I hope to get back on track quickly.

I finished Jeff VanderMeer's "Annihilation" last night. I saw the movie first, which sparked my curiosity enough to pick up the book. Which is better? I enjoyed them both in different ways because they are different stories. It's like two writers started with the same basic worldbuilding and premise -- a group of female scientists enters into a mysterious zone known as Area X -- and built their own stories from there. Overall, I enjoyed the book more because of its slower pace and VanderMeer's poetic language; it's unsettling without being frightening. I don't do well with horror, and the movie was pretty darn scary at times.

Before "Annihilation," I read "The Rook" by Daniel O'Malley. I'd heard good things about it. I ended up feeling meh about it. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. That's a result of my own preferences and not a reflection on the quality of the book. I can see why the book is popular and has fans. It's just not my thing.

Everything Else:
The "Hotel Haunted" anthology should be coming out soon. It includes my story "Unfinished Business." I will post information when I have it on how you can order the book.

Spring is coming! Yeah! But this is what my neighborhood looked like this morning, which meant the cancellation of the kiddo's soccer game.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Story Sale! To "Hotel Haunted" anthology

I've signed the contract, so it's time to share the news that I'll have a short story in the upcoming anthology "Hotel Haunted," published by WolfSinger Publications.

As you might guess, the story, titled "Unfinished Business," takes place in a hotel and involves the paranormal. I was grateful for the invitation to submit to the anthology for a couple of reasons. First, I like the theme. Second, it got me to put my butt in the chair and finish a story for the first time in months. This story kickstarted me into writing again.

The anthology will come out sometime this year. I'll share more details as I get them.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time

I finally got around to seeing "A Wrinkle in Time" today. The critical reviews and general reaction were lukewarm, so I went into the movie with low expectations and, surprise! I loved it.

For me, the movie hits the right tone, and it mostly gets right the themes and characters. The young actress who plays Meg (Storm Reid) does an excellent job portraying her spunk, intelligence and insecurity. The three Missus are fun. The costumes, makeup and special effects are gorgeous. This is a movie that benefits from seeing it on a movie screen.

The changes from the book were minimal and didn't bother me. The Murray family is streamlined with the elimination of the twins. The centaur is instead a giant flying leaf of lettuce with a head. Aunt Beast is gone (which is fine with me because I didn't think that chapter added anything to the story and was weirdly uncomfortable, anyway).

The one scene in the book that has stuck with me since I was a kid, of a suburban street with ball-bouncing children, was brought chillingly to life on the screen.

All in all, the movie worked for me.

In my small group, there were two other reactions.

The first one, from those who hadn't read the book: They had difficulty following the plot and, "The last half-hour, I felt like I was on drugs."

The second one, from those who had read the book, was that the movie didn't capture the essence of the story and changed too many things.

It's been awhile since I've watched a movie that generated such divergent opinions.

Next week, I plan to take the kids to see "Black Panther." Our first attempt to see this one ended in disappointment when every showing was sold out. That was opening weekend, and this is more than a month later. This time, I predict success.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I'm not Irish, and mostly this day means avoiding the downtown parade route and the epic traffic backup that it causes every year. Still, have a happy St. Patrick's Day.

I'm at work today, at the assignment desk alone except for my cold virus, listening to scanner traffic and hoping the city refrains from fires, shootings and general mayhem. Mayhem is difficult enough to deal with when I'm healthy, which I'm not.

Work update ... I wrote the above sentence about three hours ago. Since then, the news updates have been steady but not crazy-busy. My station shares a helicopter with the other three major Denver stations. We usually don't launch on Saturdays, but we did so today for a fire in a small town on the plains east of the metro area. The chopper is now headed toward Boulder to shoot video of the area where a hiker fell earlier today and sustained bad injuries. Also today, I've updated information from three of yesterday's stories: two shootings and a wildfire that evacuated 250 homes overnight.


Writing update: I've been working on the novel every day for a month, at least 200 words that usually turns into 300 or 400 words. The total word count so far: about 11,000. I'm happy with that. For me, this isn't about huge word counts but about consistency, and writing every day.

Reading update: I finished reading "A Swiftly Tilting Planet" by Madeline L'Engle, which is my least favorite of that series so far. My son and I finished "Children of the Fleet" by Orson Scott Card last night, and with my daughter, I'm reading "Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children" by Ransom Riggs. On my own, I'm now reading "The Rook" by Daniel O'Malley.


In other news, this is the newest member of the Hicks family:

He belongs to one of the kiddos, who continued to ask for a guinea pig for six months before my husband and I finally relented. Turns out, I like the little guy. His name is Thunder, and the kiddo takes very good care of him. Best of all, the kiddo's anxiety attacks have eased considerably since Thunder came into our lives. I never would have thought a guinea pig could serve as an emotional support animal, but this one does.

I have to close here because the day job will occupy the rest of the evening, with a shooting, possibly a homicide. Such is the way of the news industry. You can be blogging about your family guinea pig one minute and calling the police department PIO about a shooting the next.

Have a good evening, all.

Thursday, March 1, 2018


March 1. Woot! For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we've made it through the coldest and dreariest part of the year, otherwise known as January and February. Welcome to the light at the end of the tunnel.

I surprised myself this month. After my short story attempt blew up, I spent about a week not writing anything. In the last two weeks of the month, however, I've written the first 5,000 words of a novel. Yes, a novel. If that's not surprising enough, here's more: It's mainstream fiction, not speculative, and I'm working without an outline. This feels like, "Hey, why don't you jump into the ocean without a life jacket and dog-paddle back to shore?" It's daunting and exciting.

Also in February, I read a couple of books, "Six Wakes" by Mur Lafferty and "Roomies" by Christina Lauren. I'm currently about a third of the way through "The Swiftly Tilting Planet" by Madeleine L'Engle, which I'm not enjoying as much as the first two books in the series, but it's still good.

It's amazing how much I've managed to get done, considering the other demands on my time. There's the day job, of course, and my 2e teenager is requiring more attention recently, as well. Speaking of the day job, I need to go do that, so I'm cutting off this post here. Have a wonderful day, all.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

End-of-January Progress Report

A couple weeks ago, I posted my goals for 2018. Mostly they are monthly goals. Let's see how I did in January:

One new story completed and submitted every month. In January, I completed a story and submitted it to an invite-only anthology. The editor accepted the story! That's my first acceptance of the year. I'll share more after the contract is signed.

I immediately jumped into another story and was 3,000 words into it. That's when I started reading an SF book that came out last year and is getting attention in awards circles. My story and that novel have too many similarities in premise and execution in the opening pages. This happens sometimes. There are no new ideas. In this case, any editor who would see my story would think I was copying at best, stealing at worst. So it's with quite a bit of frustration that I'm abandoning the half-finished story, at least for the time being.

Resuming my involvement in writer groups? Hasn't happened yet.

Read at least one book I haven't read before every month. I read "The Book of Dust" by Philip Pullman. I also reread two books I last read when I was about 10, so it was like reading them for the first time: Madeline L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time" and "A Wind in the Door."

Take Care of Myself. Well, no. I haven't done this. I haven't had time to think about me. Unless you count taking an actual sick day when I had food poisoning instead of going to work. I did go see "The Post" with my dad one morning while the kids were in school. Does that count?

The end result: I was half successful on my resolutions in January.