Pittsburgh filmmaker Jonathan R. Skocik talks about Mornnovin as an allegory for coming of age on the autism spectrum.
|Today in the howling dystopian wasteland that is America of 2019, it is the day after Black Friday, also known as Small Business Saturday.
The idea was, ironically, originally conceived of by credit card giant American Express as a way to encourage people to support their local businesses during the holiday season. A good idea, even if the source and their motives are questionable.
This year I find myself in the position of, well, being a small business on Small Business Saturday.
I am also, as you might imagine given my last post, sort of drowning in medical bills. I’d like to call your attention to this little page detailing how you can support this indie author on SBS, and point out that there is almost definitely someone in your life who would love to be gifted a fresh new fantasy novel for the holidays.
You know that thing where you feel fine all week, but then as soon as you hit the weekend/your time off, you crash hard with some sudden mystery illness? Only you weren’t actually fine before, you were just managing to push through because you didn’t have a choice, and then when you finally have a minute to rest, your body can’t keep pushing anymore?
Yeah, that thing?
That happened to me in a big way after my rather naïve post about not having anything major on the horizon for the first time in forever. I should have known. I should have known.
The health stuff hit me hard this past June and has not let up.
The truth is, I’ve been doing my best to push through chronic pain and snowballing health issues since *checks watch* oh, about 1997. Back then, doctors told me I was too young for [insert symptoms I definitely actually was experiencing despite their dismissal] and that I just needed to focus on losing my pregnancy weight. That was, of course, total bullshit.
I’m still whirling around on the diagnostic carousel at the moment (and trapped in insurance bureaucracy Purgatory,) but there is mounting evidence that in fact I was right all along about what I tried to tell my doctors I thought was happening and now the matter has come to a head.
So, that’s neat.
This of course is my way of explaining why I utterly, completely, and in all other ways abjectly failed to do any of the book promotion that I had every intention of doing over the summer. Sorry, Mornnovin. I love you, but you have sort of become the neglected firstborn child. Because now it is time for me to begin thinking about all of the pieces, parts, and processes that will go into bringing Book 2 to life.
While still juggling this health crap.
I do have hope that we’re approaching some answers and a treatment plan that will see me starting to feel more human soon. In the meantime, it’s book-planning season.
Well, it’ll be three months on Tuesday since the official release of my debut novel, Mornnovin. I’ll admit to slacking off on the business side of things once I got all of my Kickstarter backers taken care of, but wow the whole thing was a lot of work. I’m a writer, not an entire publishing house including a marketing branch (except as an indie self-pub, that’s exactly what I have to be. Ugh.)
So, I said I’d look into setting up a Patreon creator account so that people who want to support my writing going forward into this series would have a way to do that with their money and not just with nice words of encouragement – which are also welcome. It was my nebulous thought that I’d begin releasing some of the Asrellion short stories I wrote as my 2015 NaNoWriMo novel this way. Buuuuuuuuut. When I decided to finally get serious and deep-dive into the Patreon ToS, I tripped over this:
I’m no lawyer, but that looks like a bad contract to me. I certainly don’t have a good feeling about it. Like, I’m honestly sort of confused about how it is that they actually have creators willing to sign that…? They go on to explain that this is so they can market your work to potential patrons, but the language of the agreement is so broad. And I just can’t get past the “irrevocable” thing.
Unless that clause changes and becomes less yucky at some point in the future, Patreon is going to have to remain a big nope for me.
Which leaves me back at Square One on the question of monetization and how best to let people purchase my short stories/support me as an artist. I could add a PayPal button to this blog and release the hostages as password-protected posts – an inelegant but workable solution – but the cost of upgrading the blog to the minimum package necessary for that would mean an additional $60 a year, which could very well negate any payments that might come in.
In other words, I’m not sure at this time what to do. Needs more thought. Patreon off the table, other suggestions welcome.
And hey, while you’re here: you could buy my book (or review it if you already have?)
To close out on a high note, here’s a photo of my husky wearing my husband’s glasses.
Apparently this blog has ghosts? Or some kind of brain fever? Because it spontaneously decided this morning, without any instruction from me, to republish an old post (and republish it badly.)
Apologies and carry on.
To be blunt about it, the last few years of my life have been crazy. It has often felt like I was caught up in a hurricane — a sense of rushing wind, of not knowing where I was being swept to or how fast or where I would land. Some of that motion has been of my own making, but it has been no less disorienting or tumultuous than the storms that came from elsewhere.
Earlier this month, after finally delivering the last copy of Mornnovin to the last Kickstarter backer who was due one, I found myself suddenly between chaoses long enough to take a much-needed beach vacation with the best man in the world.
As I was sitting on our shady balcony in the nice sea breeze with the soothing crash of the surf in my ears, I realized that for the first time in I-can’t-remember-when, there would be no major thing waiting for me upon our return home. There would just be… life, such as it is.
After swimming dizzily in the void of that realization for a few minutes, I decided it was a good moment to take a breath and have a look behind me. I opened up a Word file on my laptop and started a bullet-point accounting of everything that had led to me being in that moment with that man on that beach.
The resulting list starts with Jiro’s death in December of 2013, ends with leaving for vacation on the 6th of this month, and pared down for brevity is ten pages long. So many things were happening to me or needed to be done that it’s no wonder I felt like my whole world was in the air.
Our return home did not end up being quite as leisurely as I expected, what with an immediate dog crisis and the revelation that there are ongoing issues with the hardcover edition of Mornnovin (ugh), among one or two other annoyances. (Why does the office suddenly smell like vomit?) But once the dust settled even from those issues, it is still true that for the first time maybe ever, I’m getting to just kind of go along and mostly do my own thing for a minute.
I’ve got stable housing, a supportive partner, a great dog, I live in a climate that isn’t killing me, and for the first time in my life I’m more or less earning adequate money to handle my expenses. I have to spend more of my time than I’d like every day running around satisfying the demands of capitalism, but we all have that. It’s pretty much just me, my guy, our doggo, and our art.
In some ways, it feels like my fantasy series and my life are both starting Book 3 at the same time. And maybe that’s why I’m not sure yet where it’s going to go.
It’s going, though. They both are.
Perhaps finally at something like my own pace.
And it has been a veeeeeeeeeeery busy day, so for the moment I’m going to have to skip the dancing and champagne. Right now I just want to leave you with a HOORAY! and an OMG! and a couple links in case anyone wants to snag themselves a copy.
If you’re wanting to buy the book from as close to the source as possible, (and in so doing, put the most profit into the author’s pocket,) then that would be Aerio, which is the storefront arm of the IngramSpark publishing machine.
If you prefer to obtain your books through more conventional channels, Mornnovin is also available at every one of these retailers:
Including, obviously, many people’s mostleast favorite source, Amazon.
I’m actually ready to pass out onto my pillow right now, but I still have to iron out some jackassery with the eBook download for my international Kickstarter backers. So.
Please carry on the OMG HOORAY!-ing in my stead.
(Holy shit, I’m a published author.)
Okay, yeah, I dropped the countdown ball. It’s because 1.) I am bad at this, and 2.) there has been a lot to do as far as actually getting ready for launch. I spent an entire evening this week signing book copies, and then spent the next two days getting shipments packed up and sent out. Not all of them, I’m afraid, but many. As many as I could do in the time I’ve had. I will continue to chip away at it as I can.
But I mean. Check this out.
So, I do actually have some more work today, finishing the special hardcover edition for the two people who will be receiving it. But before I turn my attention to that, and because I am a nerd, I want to spend a little time talking about conlangs with you.
What is a conlang? some might ask. Boy do I have your back.
“Conlang” is an abbreviation of “constructed language,” a term used to refer to a language that was deliberately invented and planned rather than developing naturally. The most widely-spoken conlang is Esperanto, but other examples include Klingon (Star Trek,) Dothraki (Game of Thrones,) and, of course, all of the languages created by J.R.R. Tolkien.
It has become more common, especially in the age of moving media, for storytellers to create languages — or at least just enough of one — to lend their work a greater element of verisimilitude. But in fact, Tolkien is on record as having stated that rather than inventing languages for his stories, he invented stories to explain and lend context to his languages. “The invention of languages is the foundation. The ‘stories’ were made rather to provide a world for the languages than the reverse. To me a name comes first and the story follows.” (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien)
As a lifelong word-nerd and language fan, I have always been utterly charmed and delighted by this approach. I actually think this is one of the things that first drew me to Middle Earth when I was very young. It is completely unsurprising, then, that within minutes of having drawn a map of Asrellion, I was already thinking about my languages.
Obviously, I was very young then. What has eventually evolved into my Elven language bears nearly no resemblance to those early scribblings. (Neither do my names, although the places and people are the same places and people they’ve always been.) Honestly, what really kicked my language-development into high gear was when I began to study French in the eighth grade and, at the same time, my extremely exacting English teacher was having us memorize our Greek and Latin roots.
Oh, that’s not to say that the Elven of Asrellion is Fantasy French — not at all. Just that, for the first time, I was really starting to peek behind the curtain of grammar construction and the relationships between vocabulary elements. It made me realize how small I’d been thinking. From that point onward, I wasn’t just pulling a word here and there out of thin air. I was building a coherent linguistic structure, thinking about how words related to each other and what roots they might have come from, and the sort of sounds the culture I’d created would use to express itself.
And doing that, organically, led to me thinking more about the philosophies of the culture I’d made. How those philosophies would manifest in the language, how they would have shaped its development. The language grew from the civilization, but the civilization also grew from the language.
I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say, like Tolkien, that the language comes first and the story is secondary. I am after all my own writer with my own voice, my own process, and my own stories to tell. But I do very much feel him when he says, “To me a name comes first and the story follows.”
All of this is to say that in two days, when Mornnovin officially launches, it will bring a brand new conlang into the world with it. I hope my fellow word-nerds and language fans are just as excited by that as I am.
We are six days to launch and I was expecting the first shipment of my books for distribution to my Kickstarter backers this morning. They still hadn’t come by the time I had to leave for my day job (dog walking), so I left a note for UPS and hoped for the best.
Naturally, when I got the delivery ping as I was driving between jobs, I had to do the whole steering wheel-throwing, tire-screeching course change and stop home to check.
There are now dozens of books with my name on them sitting in my living room, and they look gorgeous, and I am so excited to share them with you.
Today it is seven days to Book Launch, and it is also World Autism
Awareness Acceptance Day. This seems like a good moment to call your attention to this blog’s header.
That’s right! We’ve got an autistic person on our hands here! And I can assure you that it has most definitely shaped the writing I do. How could it not? Autism is not a thing I have, it’s a part of who I am.
I was twenty-five years old when I received my autism diagnosis. At that time, my life had been decomposing at a snowballing rate for the last several years and I’d been trying to get to the bottom of why I couldn’t handle very basic everyday things that everyone else seemed just fine at. In retrospect and placing it within the larger context of my childhood moving forward, the diagnosis of autism seems super obvious. At the time, it was a revelation that helped me slowly begin to get my life under control.
By then, I’d already been writing about the characters and cultures of Asrellion for a decade and a half, so they were already fully-fledged even so long ago. And without knowing it or even doing it on purpose, I had written what my friends would later observe (as if it were glaringly obvious) was an autistic protagonist. Not just that, but an entire autistic culture.
I remember an occasion early in my first marriage when my husband-at-the-time was raging at me about whatever had flown up his nose that day. The angrier he got about the subject, the more vital it had seemed to me to remain calm and rational. Someone was going to have to do something about this thing that was enraging him, and I didn’t see how it could be either one of us if I started foaming at the mouth the way he was.
But the calmer I remained, the more intense his rage grew. He asserted that I obviously didn’t care about [whatever damn thing it was] since I wasn’t getting worked up. I explained my thinking to him. In a towering fury, he spat that I was “a damn Vulcan!”
He had meant it as an insult (which, what?) but refusing to take it as one, I simply replied calmly, “I think you mean elf.”
Needless to say, he wasn’t amused, but this isn’t about that jackhole. The point is that even then, and without quite meaning to, I had developed a culture and worldview that functioned in a way that made sense to me as an autistic woman. I’d invented a society of, essentially, Vulcan elves. And how my elves and their culture fit into what is for all intents and purposes a larger neurotypical world is a major ongoing plot element in the stories I write.
I don’t want to do too much telling before any of you have had a chance to read the novel, but I do think it is obvious, relevant, and interesting how my atypical neurology plays out in the world of Asrellion through my characters.
On this World Autism Acceptance Day 2019, as we count down to the launch of Mornnovin, I invite you to ready yourselves for a fantasy world and protagonist that are unashamedly neurodivergent. To restate the old saying, this novel is about us and by us.
As a postscript, April being Autism
Awareness Acceptance Month, if you are feeling any inclination to get involved with autism charities, outreach, education, or activism, as an autistic person I implore you to steer well clear of Autism Speaks. They are among the worst (if not outright seizing the title of Absolute Garbage Nightmare Worst) offenders in the predatory, disreputable charities department.
Instead consider giving your attention to one of the wonderful groups being run by autistic people for the benefit of our own community, such as The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network or the Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network.
When I was running the Kickstarter campaign to fund this publication, I shared several updates about my fantasy setting and the characters who appear in this first installment of The Way of the Falling Star. This seems like a good moment to bring those introductions off of the Kickstarter page and into wider circulation.
As the day draws near for Mornnovin to permanently enter the world we live in, I thought I’d start to build a little excitement by talking about another world:
I was ten years old when I drew the very first version of this map to impress a cool new girl at school who I wanted to make friends with. At the time, I was OBSESSED with Tolkien to the point where I could actually draw the full detailed map of Middle Earth from memory. It should come as no shock that my first stories of the adventures in Asrellion pretty closely mimicked the tales and faces from Tolkien’s world.
That was a long time ago, and my stuff is now my own stuff after taking a meandering detour through a lot of Shakespeare, various fantasy greats (Roger Zelazny, Tad Williams, Guy Gavriel Kay, Neil Gaiman, Susan Cooper, Stephen R. Lawhead, and Lloyd Alexander among others,) a smattering of sci-fi, and a loooooooooot of fanfiction over the years.
Now, the world of Asrellion has become the world I’ve needed to see in fantasy and haven’t until creating it myself. I guess you’ll see what I mean if you read the book.
“Don’t like it, make your own!” the jerks like to say.
Okay. I did.
Strap in for Ye Olde Creation Legend.
Confession time, internet: I’m a writer.
That is to say, what I am is a writer not a typesetter, a publisher, a business manager, a publicist, a social media coordinator, or any of the numerous roles I’ve taken on in order to get Mornnovin published and out in circulation. I absolutely respect the work that publishing houses do in order to fill the world with books. I’m just a storyteller, a painter-with-words.
In short, I really don’t know what I’m doing.
AND YET. Somehow, despite my ineptitude, physical copies of my book are being printed as we speak and will shortly be on their way to me, and I think they look pretty damn good. I’ve completed all but one last reward for my Kickstarter backers (and that one is only still incomplete because I was working on it and it broke and I had to start over.) I’ve set up my author profile on Goodreads. I’ve done the necessary official business with the copyright and my publishing imprint. I’ve set up an ad for the book in the upcoming Ingram Advance catalog that bookstores and libraries do their ordering from. I’ve already made contact with my local library about scheduling an author event. I’ve set up global distribution for the eBook through the following (rather extensive) selection of online retailers:
The paperback book release is currently set for April 9th — just in time to be the best birthday present I’ve ever had. I was pretty damn excited when I checked on a couple of those sites to see if they’ve already gotten the listing memo and I saw this:
So… this is happening. I’m publishing a book.
But because I’m just a writer and all of those other things are way, way out of my wheelhouse, I’ve been so consumed by the one primary task of making the physical book (and the eBook) happen that it has only just now entered my sphere of awareness just how profoundly I’ve neglected to do any of the sort of pre-launch publicity I ought to have been doing. Like. To the point where I don’t even know what pre-launch publicity I would even do. I just haven’t had the focus to spare for any thoughts of what would happen once I’d made the book become real.
Hey, I’m just a fantasy author, okay?
Holy shit, I’m an author!
I guess I’d better wander off and try to figure out how to promote this book in the little time I have left.
But not without a final squee.
The proof copy of Mornnovin was supposed to arrive today, so I was pretty excited as I checked the mail. In fact I opened the door, looked down, saw a package, and literally squeaked.
Let’s get this bad boy inside!
Well that does look pretty book-shaped. Let’s see what–
OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!
THIS IS MY BOOK. WHAT THE FUCK‽‽‽
So yeah. Um.
I made a book and I am not calm about it. You must excuse me while I go hyperventilate.
Having shared this first with my backers on my Kickstarter page, and then having taken a moment to finish screaming, I’d like to announce that my debut novel, Mornnovin, has a (tentative) release date of April 2nd, 2019.
This is obviously tremendously exciting. There’s still a lot to be done and shockingly little time left in which to do it, but let’s just all scream together for a moment, yeah?
HOLY SHIT, I’M PUBLISHING A NOVEL! LOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL, REAL COVER!
So, yeah. Stay tuned for more about this VERY EXCITING thing that is happening. Like, I’d actually like to do a post about the backer rewards I’ve made, because I’m pretty proud of them and I want to share, but for right now it’s all about the fact that at this very moment, somewhere in the world, a physical copy of my novel actually exists and is in the mail on its way to me for my final approval, and how that’s so surreal and wonderful that I can hardly breathe.
Starring Hento the handsome, happy husky who just celebrated one year being adopted into our household! (Co-starring the handsome husband and several shots of my hand.)