I thought, what with there being so many now, that I would do a quick overview of all of the books I have out, as well as the books I have planned for the rest of 2016.

Snowverse

The Snowverse is my urban fantasy universe, including all of the books following the Snow family, as well as their friends and enemies.

Freya Snow

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Freya Snow is a YA/NA series following an Autistic, bisexual Angel who fights Demons and gets drawn into saving the world every so often.

The fifth book, WITCH, is currently available for preorder, and will be the last Freya Snow book out this year.

Lily Snow

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TRAPPED is a novella following Lily Snow, Freya’s mother. It’s a prequel to the Freya Snow series, though there’s no real reading order for it. I wrote it about the same time as WINGS, so that’s probably about as good a place as any to read it, but it doesn’t really matter.

Fate

FS-F

FATE is a collection of short stories following Alice, Freya’s adoptive sister, and is available for free to people who join my newsletter. A new story is added with every new Freya Snow book.

The Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone Chronicles

Anyone who has followed me for any length of time will know the saga of Lady Ruth. A trilogy of steampunk novellas that took me far too long to finish and that has been in editing hell for months now. But there is light at the end of this tunnel! The books will be released together, as soon as the last book is done in editing. But for now, you can get the first book for free through Instafreebie!

Phoenix Saga

Prequel Cover 5

Phoenix Saga is my adult space opera series. I don’t have plans to release any completed Phoenix Saga books until next year, at least, but the first few chapters of the prequel are currently available to read on Wattpad.

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CS Cover 2Hey, look, the first Lady Ruth book is now available on Instafreebie!

The series isn’t out yet, but it’s coming soon. As you may already know, I’m going to release all three books at once, as soon as the final book is done with editing.

But for now, the first book is already done, and it’ll be free when the trilogy releases, so I figured that I might as well share it with you all now.

For those of you who don’t know, Lady Ruth is about an autistic, ace/aro inventor in steampunk Victorian London who builds herself a robot husband to escape the threat of marriage.

Because robots.

So follow this link to get it and start reading!

Full blurb:

Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone never cared much for boys. She was too fixated on fashion or engines to give them much notice. An “inventor’s disposition” is how her uncle referred to it when she would forget basic necessities, like food or sleep. But proper ladies don’t spend their days reinventing the steam engine, so Lady Ruth’s uncle helped her to create a persona – The Owl: Britain’s greatest inventor. The Owl is sought after, but so is Lady Ruth, and making sure that she remains free to pursue her inventions may take every ounce of her cunning.

WITCH is now officially up and available to buy! Get it now!

Or, if you’d rather, here’s another quick look at what you’ll get.

This scene doesn’t introduce a new character, like the last one did, but it does signal the return of Lady Caroline.

Lady Caroline is an odd one. She was originally just a throw-away character that I added to the third book because there wasn’t enough going on towards the end. And now she’s an integral part of the Snowverse. It’s weird how some characters just seem to grow, completely independent from your plans.

Anyway, here’s the scene:

Freya didn’t quite manage the shift home in her weakened state, only managing to get back to the roof of the cafe. She sighed, lying down with her backpack beneath her head, deciding to just stay there until she recovered enough Energy to shift home. After a few moments, she reached into the side pocket of the backpack, taking out a healing potion. She didn’t know that it would help, given that she wasn’t physically injured, but she figured it couldn’t hurt.

The healing potion gave her a pleasant buzz, and the pain seemed to dull a little, but it wasn’t anything close to a real help.After another few minutes, she brought out her phone, deciding that she needed to know about the curse, just in case the Demons tried to use it again. She couldn’t rely on Sarah saving her again. Especially when her Coven Head seemed to want her Witches to have nothing to do with Freya.

After another few minutes, she brought out her phone, deciding that she needed to know about the curse, just in case the Demons tried to use it again. She couldn’t rely on Sarah saving her again. Especially when her Coven Head seemed to want her Witches to have nothing to do with Freya.She rang the contact number for Fate. If Fate didn’t pick up, it was one of her Oracles, but

She rang the contact number for Fate. If Fate didn’t pick up, it was one of her Oracles, but usually Freya got to speak to someone in charge.After two rings, Anna answered the phone.

After two rings, Anna answered the phone.

So, the curse?” Anna asked.

Freya smiled. She liked how to the point the Oracles were. “Do you know anything about it?”

No, but Lady Caroline does.

Freya sighed. “I don’t really want to get involved with Demons in an official capacity.”

Do you want to know about the curse or not?

Freya sighed as she thought, taking a few moments before answering. “Alright, fine, tell me where to go.”

I’ll text the address to your phone. She’ll be expecting you.

Freya rolled her eyes. “I’m kind of out of commission right now.”

Get some sugar in you and you’ll be fine.

“Fine. See you.” She hung up before putting her phone back in her pocket.

She tried to sit back up at that point, wincing at the pain. She decided to shrink the bag back down and put it back on her belt, rather than trying to get it on her back. She shifted back down to the street below, though she found herself unable to glamour her armour. It was black and red, so it wasn’t too outlandishly obvious. It looked kind of… rave-y?

She didn’t care, she decided as she wandered into Tesco. No one was going to look twice at her. They would assume it was cosplay or performance art or something.

She quickly grabbed a bottle of Irn Bru and a bag of custard doughnuts. Then she grabbed a snack-size pork pie for good measure.

As soon as she was out of the shop, she ate the pie in two bites before washing it down with half of the bottle of Irn Bru. Anna had been right; it did make her feel better.

She opened her bag of doughnuts as she walked towards the address Anna had texted to her, taking one out to eat before putting the rest of them into her backpack.

She, by some miracle, managed to avoid getting custard all over herself as she ate the doughnut, walking all of the way to the address by the time she had finished, without having to shift.

She wiped her sugar-coated hands on her leather trousers before wiping her mouth on the back of her hand, using her phone’s selfie camera to check that she looked okay. Once she was sure that she was presentable, she walked into the building, seeing a woman at the front desk, despite the late hour.

“I’m looking for the R.C.E. office,” she said, giving the name that had been on Anna’s text.

The woman nodded, indicating to the lift. “They’re on Level Five.”

“Thanks,” Freya said before heading into the lift and hitting five. Within a few seconds, she was outside an office with a sign that said R.C.E. North-East. The door was, surprisingly, open, revealing a bunch of desks beyond, with no obvious receptionist. There were lots of different scraps of paper stuck to the walls, some tied together with string. If she squinted, Freya could see that the subjects of the photos sometimes had wings or fangs.

She knocked on the door, though the office seemed empty. “Hey,” she called. “Fate sent me.”

A door opened across the room, revealing Lady Caroline. She was wearing the same black military jacket that Freya had seen her in last time, but this time Freya recognised that the silver birds on the collar must be the symbol of her house.

“Hey, my office is over here,” the Demon said.

Freya nodded, heading over to her. Once she was in the office, Lady Caroline didn’t bother to shut the door behind her.

The office looked sparse, but the bin was filled with various Subway, KFC and sushi wrappers and boxes.

Lady Caroline looked her over, seemingly curious. “You know, when we met in London, I didn’t realise you were the Angel of the North.”

Freya shrugged. “I don’t really like telling people.”

“I kind of assumed the Angel would be Light,” she said as she made her way to the chair behind her desk. She indicated for Freya to take a seat on the sofa in the corner.

“I’m not Light or Dark. I don’t really want to get caught up in politics.”

Lady Caroline nodded. “Smart. But that’s not why you’re here. Fate said you needed information on a curse.”

“Yeah. A Demon cursed me this evening. Apparently the curse latched onto my Demon blood. Fate told me you might have some information.”

“May I?” Lady Caroline asked as she stood up, indicating to Freya.

Freya assumed she meant using some kind of sensing magic on her, so she nodded.

Lady Caroline closed her eyes for a moment, before opening them again and nodding gravely.

Freya had felt nothing.

“I recognise the curse,” Lady Caroline informed her. “It’s essentially used for law enforcement. If a Demon is sent to capture another Demon, they wear a charm that activates the curse if they are seriously hurt, incapacitating their attacker.”

“How did rogue Demons get such a charm?”

Lady Caroline sighed, sitting down before leaning back in her chair. “What do you know about these rogue Demons?”

Freya shrugged. “They attack me for various reasons. Usually to gain power. I know that their actions aren’t sanctioned by the Demon higher-ups, and you guys have better things to do than look after me. I’m not your responsibility.”

“Anyone who has Demon blood is our responsibility,” Lady Caroline corrected. “And they’re not just targeting you because you have the biggest target on your back. What do you know about Lord Uther?”

“Didn’t we first meet after I killed a couple of his men?”

She smirked. “Indeed. Lord Uther has quite the propensity for stirring up trouble. Unofficially, of course. None of his men wear his symbol, and they all swear that they left his service and went rogue whenever we have captured them. But all of the rogue Demons we’re aware of came from his service.”

“But you can’t do anything to stop him?”

“No. We only have circumstantial evidence, and he is the most powerful Demon after the King. Accusing him wouldn’t end well right now.”

“Do you know why he’s after me?”

She shrugged. “Best guess? The King has no heir, so he’s training Lord Uther’s son as a replacement. If you were to claim your place as a Dark Angel, however… Well, the precedent is ancient but it’s there. You could claim the place as heir for yourself.”

Freya snorted. “That’s… Hah! Does he seriously think I would want that? Honestly?”

Lady Caroline smiled. “It’s not about what he thinks you will do, the very fact that you could do it is enough for him to be pestering you with his men. Trying to get an estimation of your powers, perhaps. Or maybe he’s trying to get you so annoyed with Demons that you turn your back on your Demonic heritage. Whatever his endgame, I’m sure it’s because you’re a threat to his son’s position.”

“Yeah, well, his little posh-boy, boarding school, pig-fucker of a son can keep his precious position. I am not interested.”

“I doubt he would take your assurance on the matter. But I am going to get a counter-charm for myself. Some of his men are being a little too loose with their magic around Humans, and I need to be able to reign them in. I can get you one as well if you’d like.”

Freya narrowed her eyes. “Wouldn’t you have to tell your higher ups who you’re getting it for? I don’t know that I’m comfortable with the Demon King knowing what I’m up to. Or having any ties to me, really. Kind of defeats the whole ‘neither Light nor Dark’ thing I have going on.”

Caroline nodded. “I’ll keep it vague,” she assured. “I’ll say that it’s for one of my other team members. There shouldn’t be any questions beyond that.”

“And if there are?”

Caroline smirked. “Look, the King’s a friend. If I ask him not to ask, he won’t. Happy?”

Freya nodded, though it was a little reluctant. “Why are you helping me?”

“Why wouldn’t I? You’re an Angel and we have a common enemy. In truth, I have begun to suspect that you are only one of the directives Uther has been giving the rogues. After all, the ones in London didn’t seem to know you were there until you stepped in. They seem to be doing their best to reveal magic, without it looking like they were trying to reveal magic. Half of my job is now just cleaning up after them. Having you stop them before they do anything is one of the only reasons they haven’t succeeded yet. Anything that keeps you splitting their attention is good in my book.”

“I don’t want to get dragged into a Demonic conflict.”

“You’re already in it, Freya. And can you honestly tell me that you would stay out of it if the conflict spilt over to the Human world?”

Freya sighed, knowing that she was right.

“Anyway,” Caroline said as she got up, “I had better get going if I want to put in the request for the counter-charms tonight. Write your number down on my notepad and I’ll ring you when I get back.”

With that, she shifted out, leaving Freya alone in her office.

Freya wrote her number on the pad before shifting out herself, going straight home.

Get the book now!

Or start reading at Book One for free.

FS5

So, this week’s been… something, hasn’t it?

I think I’ve got emotional whiplash. I can’t believe it’s only Wednesday…

Anyway, the fifth Freya Snow book comes out in less than a week, and I felt weird posting anything about WITCH, given today’s online climate, but it’s out on Monday and there’s the Alice short to come out as well a couple of other excerpts.

And as I was reminded today, maybe now is exactly the time to be sharing stories about disabled, LGBTQ+ and POC women figuring out their places in the world and kicking ass together.

As always, if you haven’t read the series yet, you can get a DRM-free ebook copy of the first book for free from Instafreebie.

So, anyway, here’s a scene from the end of chapter two, featuring Sarah, the new character you may have spotted on the cover of this book.


 

By the time seven o’clock rolled around and they closed up for the day, Freya was about ready to drop off where she stood. She thought that hunting rogue Demons had physically prepared her for anything, but she couldn’t have been more wrong.

Usually her hunts only lasted a few hours. She still had to sleep, after all. Apart from a couple of short breaks, she had been on her feet all day. In fact, she couldn’t actually feel her feet anymore.

“You look a little droopy,” Sarah signed with a smile as Freya leaned against the wall by the now-closed door.

“I feel a little droopy.”

Sarah grinned. “On the plus-side, you just made almost sixty pounds.”

Freya did perk up a little at that, despite the number being paltry compared to her bounties.

“Though, working all day like this won’t be the norm forever. Riley doesn’t like working out front, but she does it Monday to Wednesday. Then I’ll work Thursday, you work Friday, and we’ll both work over the weekends to deal with the rush. At least, until we can convince Riley to get a third person in to help us.”

“How did you two manage it on your own?”

“We didn’t. There was another girl who used to work here, but she’s in her last year of uni, so she left back in October to focus on her academic work. I’ve been trying to get Riley to replace her ever since. Riley’s niece also stepped in on occasion, but she’s still in school so her mum doesn’t like her working.”

Freya nodded. “I think I can handle three days a week during the holidays.”

“Come on, let’s get you home before you pass out,” Sarah said, then offered her hand.

Freya smiled, pushing herself off from the wall, but not taking Sarah’s hand.

“You’re lucky that it was quiet enough before close to clean up. That’s not always the case, and then we have to stay late.”

“Then I am indeed lucky,” Freya agreed. She wasn’t sure how much more standing she could have taken. Not when she still had a Demon to catch.

“Here,” Sarah said once they were in the back room, before picking up Freya’s backpack for her. She faltered a little with the heavy bag. “What do you have in there?” she asked once she had passed the bag back to Freya.
Freya shrugged once the bag was on her back.

Usually she said LARPing gear, just in case anyone saw the armour and weapons, but she had no idea what the sign for that would be and she was too tired for finger-spelling, so she settled for “Books.”

Sarah narrowed her eyes a little, seemingly not quite believing her, but she didn’t otherwise comment.

“I’m returning them to the library now that I’m done with my assignments.”

“Okay.” She still didn’t seem convinced, but Freya decided to leave it.

Even if she didn’t believe her, it was unlikely that she suspected that she had magical armour and weapons in there.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow for the weekend shift,” Sarah said.

Freya nodded, more than a little exhausted at the mere thought of returning for another full day of work. But if she could handle Demons, she could probably handle this, she figured.

As soon as they were out of the door, and Sarah had rounded the corner, Freya glamoured herself before leaping up to the roof of the cafe. She quickly pulled on her armour and put her war hammer over her shoulder before shrinking down her now mostly-empty backpack and attaching it to her belt. The bright orange design looked out of place on top of so much black leather and metal, clashing a little with the deep red runes that kept Freya’s armour from sustaining as much damage as it would otherwise, as well as healing Freya a little. Not nearly as much as she often needed, but enough to keep scratches from bothering it.

The armour had been a “gift” from Fate after Freya’s last job for her, much as the hammer had been a gift for her first. Freya wasn’t sure how she felt about the armour. She still didn’t quite trust Fate, and so wasn’t sure if she should trust her gifts. The armour was of outstanding quality, and it fit Freya perfectly. But it used Demon colours and style. There was nothing on the armour that stated that Freya was loyal to any of the great Demon houses, or the Crown, and it wasn’t as if she hadn’t used repurposed demonic armour from her first few foes before she had known where to get her own, but it did feel a little like declaring a side.

No Angel was inherently Light or Dark. It was a choice. A choice usually influenced by the fact that Angels could be born into any bloodline, and the kind of Energy they had an easier time drawing from was heavily influenced by their dominant genes. Freya’s family had been Humans and Angels on her mother’s side for the last three generations before her, and Amber had been before that. Amber had been Human before she had bonded with the last Ancient, so she didn’t really count as either Light or Dark.

And then Freya’s father had been a Demon.

For all intents and purposes, Freya figured she should be a Dark Angel. She had always had an easier time drawing on Dark Energy, anyway. But the first real friend she had made in the magical world had been Mel, who was a Light Witch. Well, mostly… And Amber had mostly only dealt with Light creatures when she had been alive, so she steered Freya in that direction as well.
It didn’t help that the first Demon Freya ever met had been trying to kill her. He had been rogue, acting against orders from the Crown not to antagonise Light creatures or hunt Humans, but it had still left kind of a bad taste in her mouth.

Freya shook herself from her train of thought, knowing that it would go nowhere. It would only leave her confused and frustrated. Who cared what other magical creatures thought? She was just an Angel. No Light or Dark needed. She didn’t have the time or patience for their petty politics. She was only concerned with making sure that no one stepped out of line and hurt Humans.
She refocused on finding the Demon Fate had told her about. She honestly wished that she had a better description to go on, but she figured that she would eventually find them if she just kept on hunting rogues as usual.

Patrolling was the usual arduous chore. Freya would find a spot and sense for Demonic activity. If she came across a regular, harmless Demon, they usually just waved to her at this point. They were easy enough to spot by the pins somewhere on them that announced which noble they were pledged to. Freya had even started to recognise a few of them. A bird here, a sword there.

The only one she hadn’t seen was the house symbol of Lord Uther. She had spotted it in one of Mel’s magic books once. She assumed that it was supposed to be some kind of dog or wolf, but its neck was twisted around so strangely she thought that it looked like it had broken its own neck while trying to chase its tail or something. Mel had rolled her eyes and told her that she wouldn’t lend her any more of her books if she didn’t take things seriously when Freya had told her that.

Part of her couldn’t help but wonder if, when they weren’t harassing her, the rogues that attacked her wore dog pins. After all, it was strange that she had never seen them before when Lord Uther was apparently the most powerful Demon noble besides the King.

With or without pins to identify them, rogues were usually more than easy to spot by the way they would immediately start attacking her as soon as they saw her.

Freya moved through the city, sensing for Demons and then moving on over and over again. She wished that her ability to sense had a longer range, but when she was searching for something as vague as “Demonic Energy”, she could only sense a three or four streets at a time, and the city was far from small.

It took hours before she sensed any demonic activity, but, when she did, it was like a wildfire burning out of control, clashing against a similar rush of Light Energy.

She immediately rushed towards the fight, wondering who was taking on one of the rogues. Normally the local Light creatures stayed out of it. Guides were so rare that she wasn’t sure that there were any in the city, and the local Light coven kept to themselves, so they never showed. Much like Guides, she assumed the lack of Slayers meant that they too gave the city a wide berth, so that pretty much just left Neutral creatures who would never get involved anyway. Or troublemakers like the Fae, who would be more than happy to watch the rogues cause trouble for everyone else.

As soon as she arrived on the scene, however, she saw that the figure fighting the Demon was indeed a Witch. She seemed to be holding her own with a staff, spinning nimbly in and out of reach in such a way that seemed to be aggravating the Demon, making him sloppy.

“Need a hand?” Freya asked as she jumped in, drawing the Demon’s attention long enough for the Witch to get a good hit in.

Freya followed it up with a blow from her hammer, knocking the Demon down. He definitely seemed like he wasn’t going to get up from that.

“I saw him attacking some Humans on my way home from work,” the Witch explained as she retracted her staff into a wand.

Freya looked up, recognising the voice. Indeed, the Witch in front of her was Sarah of all people.

She really had to start checking the people she met for magic…

She let the glamour on her face lapse, returning definition to her features.

“Freya!” Sarah cried with a grin, pocketing her wand so that she could sign instead. “I knew it!”

“You… What?” Freya said, her hands fumbling as she tried to articulate her confusion.

“I knew that you had magic. And you aren’t part of the coven, and you don’t have a noble pin so I figured you weren’t a Demon… You pretty much had to be the Angel.”

Freya felt a little nervous at it being that obvious even in her regular day-to-day attire. She’d gotten used to most people having figured it out by now, what with everyone having attributed her early accomplishments to an Angel before anyone really knew who she was, but she didn’t exactly go around advertising who she was. That seemed like a good way to bring trouble home with her.

“I guess you caught me,” Freya signed with a shrug. She still felt uncomfortable at the idea. Almost like her breathing was becoming shallow…

“I didn’t mean to get in your way if this was one of the rogues you deal with. Just, like I said, I saw him bothering Humans and-”

Freya shook her head. “It’s okay…” she told Sarah, stepping forward, but the move proved to be a little too much for her. All of a sudden the world spun around her, black spots appearing in her vision.

“Freya?!”

The next thing she knew, the world went black.


Make sure you get the fifth book when it goes live on Monday by preordering it now! (Link will take you to your vendor of choice.)

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I AM ACTUALLY PARTICIPATING IN NANOWRIMO THIS YEAR!

So, the first year that I started taking my original writing seriously enough to participate in NaNoWriMo was the far off time of 2010.

I was in my last year of my GCSEs and I had spent a week earlier in the year on work experience. Of course, the place I was at was super busy and they didn’t trust some teenager to do things right, so all of the work that was supposed to be left for me had been already finished.

So I took in a notebook and I wrote out the first ever Snowverse novel by hand.

(Well, the first time it was ever novelised – these stories originally saw the light of day in a weird almost comic-like format…)

I did actually finish that book, but it was a novella in the end, not a novel.

And then I heard of NaNoWriMo.

The problem was that, in the UK, we have exams in January. And November is right around the time I had to start ramping up revision if I wanted those A*s.

So, I didn’t participate while I had my GCSEs.

And I didn’t participate when I had my A-Levels.

The first year of uni, however, back in 2013, I did participate.

And I wrote 10,000 words of a story that I legitimately don’t remember before I got a job and sacked it off.

Then in second year, my anxiety disorder got all fucked up and I didn’t participate.

Third year was spent recovering from second year.

And now, having graduated, I find myself looking at NaNo and thinking “What’s the point?”

Because during second year, once I had calmed down (long after November had come and gone), I actually got around to writing a novel.

It was another Snowverse title.

After all, my beta readers had liked the first one, but I wasn’t willing to expand on it. I felt like I spent too much time looping back. Those original stories had spanned generations, and there was too much lore bogging the book down.

So, I went backwards, to before all of the lore had been written.

I wrote the first Freya Snow book.

I also started listening to I Should Be Writing at work, and then The Creative Penn, and then the Self-Publishing Podcast…

By the start of my third year of uni, I had two Freya Snow books written, and a third well on the way.

In September, I published the first, deciding to publish one at the start of every term during third year, so that I wasn’t distracted from my dissertation.

The boredom soon got to me, of course, and I still regret not just publishing all three at once.

Oh well.

Cut to this summer just gone, and I spent the whole time still anxious from third year. So, I set myself a challenge. Try to write as many books as possible.

I wrote seven and a half books by the time October rolled around and I started my Master’s.

So, why participate in NaNo when I know that I can write a book in ten days if the mood strikes?

Well, I took October off while I got used to being at uni again.

I figure NaNo is a good way to get me back into writing again.

That half-written book (Freya Snow 8) still isn’t finished, and I don’t want to start on Freya Snow 9 until it is, but I still wanted to write a whole new book for NaNo.

I have two spin-off Snowverse projects that I plan to release this year (in September and October), The Almosts and The Royal Cleaner.

So, this month I’m going to write The Almosts, a magical heist story with an aro, autistic protagonist.

Think Breaking Bad meets GTA but with magic and they’re all women.

I’ve got to say, I’m actually pretty damn excited about tackling a different project.

So add me if you want to. My username is Gohoke, and I am hoping to actually finish this year.

Good luck to everyone else participating!

So, meltdowns and shutdowns.

It’s not a shock that it took me forever to recognise my meltdowns for what they were. Whenever meltdowns are discussed in the mainstream, it’s about the inconvenience to parents. They look like tantrums and are characterised by violence.

That’s not to say that meltdowns don’t sometimes look like that, but mine don’t. I just burst into tears…

But if I had known what they felt like from the Autistic point of view, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

So, if it took me forever to figure out what meltdowns felt like from the Autistic point of view, when I was actually having them, how are you supposed to know when it comes to writing Autistic characters?

Never fear, I took to my Tumblr to ask exactly how meltdowns feel to a variety of different people.

Now, bear in mind that not all of these happen to everyone. Think of this like the Emotion Thesaurus. When you’re writing a meltdown/shutdown, just visit this page and pick a thing or two to have your character experience.

Sensory Experiences/Feelings

These are usually experienced in the build-up. There’s still an opportunity here to avoid a total meltdown, but only if the character acts quickly. They will often continue, in a higher intensity, once the meltdown begins in earnest.

  • Senses feel “staticky”
  • Senses feel turned up to eleven
  • Vertigo
  • Disorientation
  • Feeling faint
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Slower processing time (trouble thinking)
  • Feeling disconnected from the world around them
  • Chest tightening
  • Shaking
  • Loss of co-ordination
  • Temperature fluctuations (feeling warm or hot and cold at the same time)
  • Fight-or-flight kicks in
  • Alexithymia
Sound
  • Noises are like nails on a chalkboard
  • It becomes harder to differentiate between different sounds
  • Might sound muffled and/or distorted, as if far away
  • Trouble processing language (people talking becomes meaningless babble)
Vision
  • Vision fills with yellow static
  • Vision turns grey around the edges
  • Vision becomes blurry (especially if the character’s eyesight isn’t perfect)
Touch
  • Skin begins to crawl
  • Character becomes hyper aware of clothing
  • More aware of small pains
Taste
  • Horrible taste in mouth
  • Craving high-energy food/drink

External Responses

It’s important to remember that these are a reactionary response to stress. The unpleasant sensory experiences will build up until they hit a critical point, at which external responses will start. Much like screaming/increased heart rate when startled, they’re reflexive. Some people, with enough disciple, can stifle certain responses or redirect them into others, but it’s extremely taxing to do so and usually reserved for situations where the reactions can put them in danger (near an abusive parent/partner or near a cop, for example) or have severe consequences for them (in front of a boss). Some people simply can’t stifle or redirect their responses on their own or without careful planning beforehand. How you portray your character is up to you, but it’s important to have an idea in place, as it will inform your character’s backstory/personality/willingness to put themselves in situations where they risk meltdowns.

Shutdown
  • Limbs freezing up
  • Going non-verbal (I’ll do a separate post on this)
  • An inability to process sensory information (you’re aware of sound/movement happening around you but your brain won’t turn it into anything useful)
  • Tensing up
Meltdown
  • Stimming (including self-harming stims, which will have their own post)
  • Bursting into tears (often alexithymia will have also kicked in, so they will feel out of place to the character)
  • Defaulting to echolalia/scripting
  • Going non-verbal
  • Running to a safe space
  • Retreating to the fetal position
  • Tensing up
  • Outward expressions of frustration (hitting, screaming, etc. – as these are the most extreme reactions, they are the most often suppressed)

The Cooldown

Eventually, whatever caused the meltdown/shutdown will go away (or the body will simply give up), but that doesn’t mean that it’s over. It can take hours, if not the rest of the day to recuperate. Whereas the build up and meltdown/shutdown themselves have a sense of panicked urgency to them (much like when you’re nauseous and you know you’re going to puke), the cooldown feels more like a hangover. Your body has already been through the worst and you know that you’re going to recover, but that doesn’t make it pleasant.

Sensory Experiences/Feelings

  • Fatigue (often requiring a nap/full night’s sleep to recover – in extreme cases they might pass out)
  • Senses remain heightened (everything feels raw)
  • Hunger
  • Dehydration
  • Trouble processing sensory input, especially detail or nuance
  • Feeling “hungover”
  • Headaches
  • Guilt – feeling like they hadn’t done enough to prevent it or feeling as if they let their family/partner/friends down or ruined their day
  • Feeling worthless/useless (this – as with guilt – is more of a reaction to the frustration of having had a meltdown/shutdown than something directly caused by the meltdown/shutdown itself)
  • Pain if muscles were tensed uncomfortably
External Responses
  • Seeking out comforting spaces (somewhere dark and quiet)
  • Stimming, though often it’s more subdued than in the lead up (probably because we’re tired) – think more playing a single song on repeat for hours than hand flapping
  • If they smoke/drink, they may turn to cigarettes/alcohol to help them through (I’m going to give alcohol/cigarettes their own post because they’re complicated topics when it comes to mental health)
  • Wearing hoods/sunglasses, etc.
  • Hugging pillows/soft toys/hot water bottles
  • Wearing weighted vests/blankets
  • Crying

Now, after reading all of this, you might be thinking “holy f*ck on a f*ck sandwich, Autistic people really go through that much?”

Again, once more, this is a list of many possible feelings/reactions to a meltdown/shutdown. Your character might experience a lot (or even most) of these, but probably not every single one.

And even if they did, the point here is not to elicit pity. It’s also not so that you can write about how terrible your character’s life is.

Meltdowns/shutdowns are irritating. They’re a nuisance. I wish I didn’t have them.

But, like, in the same way I wish I had chill periods (which I know is something only about 50% of you will understand, but I can’t think of a completely universal analogy).

I don’t like them coming around, but I deal with it and life goes on.

angel-1218605_1920

You know, this wasn’t even going to be the post today. I was going to write about the technical aspects of meltdowns and shutdowns.

But The Accountant is coming out and there have been social media rumblings, so I thought I would instead wade into the waters of Good, Bad, and Morally Grey characters.

This is gonna be an issue with any minority group. You’re going to be coming up against positive and negative stereotypes that you don’t want your work to contribute to. And yes, positive stereotypes can be harmful as well.

Bad Guys

This is where The Accountant comes in. I see a lot of people rail against autistic bad guys in fiction because of the stereotype that autistic people are violent/dangerous, but I think that’s an overgeneralisation.

The stereotype isn’t just that we’re killers (autism seems to be the new hotness when it comes to explaining violent crimes, such as mass shootings), but that we’re capable of such acts of violence because we lack empathy.

I’ve been meaning to write a revised empathy post, but for now let’s simply say that autism =/= lack of empathy, and lack of empathy =/= tendencies towards violence.

In all honesty, using a lack of empathy to explain why bad guys are bad is just lazy writing.

Bad guys aren’t just “bad”. Evil is not a thing people are born into. But this Key Stage One Reading Level style of writing remains. Lazy writers have just replaced “evil” with “psychopath” (doesn’t exist), “sociopath” (also doesn’t exist), and “autistic”.

Even if someone didn’t care about other people and had no empathy towards them, why would they turn to evil/crime? Why risk prison or getting involved with criminals?

“Because I don’t feel bad about it” isn’t a good enough reason to have a character commit crimes. It lacks motive.

Motive is important. Your bad guys should have it.

What do they want and how desperate are they?

Have they been indoctrinated into thinking that their targets aren’t real people?

“Because I grew up in a society where X type of person wasn’t valued” is a better reason for why they felt it was okay to kill someone than “Just because.”

Or “I was simply desperate enough and they were standing in my way.”

Your bad guys can be autistic, but being autistic can’t be the reason they’re bad guys.

Good Guys

Now, your counterpoint to the previous section may be “Fine, then I’ll just write about pure and innocent autistic characters who never do any wrong.”

Yeah, no, that’s too far in the other direction.

Specifically, there’s a line of thinking about a lot of developmentally disabled people that they have no ability to be consciously bad (if they are bad it’s all the autism – much like the devil possessing a child in a horror film – and isn’t actually anything to do with the autistic person making a choice) because they don’t understand right and wrong/are eternal children and therefore innocent.

If you write a character who is good and pure and who has never had a bad thought in their life… Well, that’s just not very realistic. So, instead of demonising your character, you’ve dehumanised them by denying them human thoughts/feelings.

Even Superman – the best of the good guys – has bad days.

Morally Grey Guys

The stereotype that is probably most likely to fall into the morally grey archetype is the manipulator. The character who, for either good or their own gain depending on their mood, will lie to their friends with no qualms simply because they can.

And I don’t know with this one. It’s definitely not an “avoid with all costs” scenario, because I’ve seen it done well (Sherlock in Elementary springs to mind).

But I also think that it comes back to the autism =/= lack of emapthy and lack of empathy =/= being evil/a dick/having a complete lack of any emotion problem.

This is done well when the reason behind the manipulation is explained. It doesn’t have to be romanticed or brushed aside, but it can’t just be for the lulz. It has to be a reaction to something. An emotion/situation that the character doesn’t otherwise know how to deal with.

This is best done in Elementary when Watson calls Sherlock on his shit and he is remorseful and apologises. It works because it’s a flaw of his character, not an unchanging constant that can never be addressed. It’s not just “the way he is”, it’s a maladaptive coping mechanism.

So yeah, I guess the part to avoid here is simply the “with no qualms” part. At least, in the long run. If your autistic character grows and changes then you’re already ahead of, like, 95% of writers.

Alright, well, I guess that’s it for now…

I might think of more points and do a follow up post, but I think this will do for this one.

I will get to working on that post about shutdowns/meltdowns, and I’m also going to put together a masterpost, including all of the links to my posts and to any other resources I know of.

So, I started my MA two weeks ago.

It’s been… interesting. Mostly because I thought I was over my iron deficiency and stopped taking my tablets. Learned that lesson the hard way…

Anyway, the major feeling I’ve come away with over the past couple of weeks is Bloody Hell Am I Young.

The fact that I wear Yu-Gi-oh t-shirts probably doesn't help...

The fact that I wear Yu-Gi-oh t-shirts probably doesn’t help…

Which I hate. I’ve always hated feeling young. I hate the way people treat you when they perceive you as young. I hate the increased possibility of condescension. I hate feeling left out because I don’t have any meaningful life experiences to talk about.

Of course, whenever I talk about work, it becomes obvious that I do have meaningful life experiences to talk about. I’m a mother-flipping author!

But I hate talking about my work.

I know, right? I’m an author who hates talking about being an author. WTF?

But… It kind of feels like a lie?

I mean, it’s not a lie. I am an author. But people kind of assume things about authors. About the level of success that a published author must have. Now, their assumptions are on them, not me, but it still feels misleading to say “I’m an author”.

Even though I am…

Or it feels like bragging. It feels like I’m saying it to impress them, rather than telling the truth. I’m sure there’s some gendered BS in there somewhere… (says the sociology student)

So instead of talking about my writing, or running a business, I instead sit in silence while others talk about their kids or living abroad.

Maybe I’ll mention something I did in high school or the fact that I play D&D, but that just makes me feel even younger…

But then the question becomes When will I be ready to call myself an author?

Once I’ve sold 5,000 books?

10,000?

Once I have 500 fans on my email list?

1,000?

How many Twitter/Tumblr/Facebook followers before I feel legit?

Maybe I won’t feel legit until some trad-pub gatekeeper is at my door.

Maybe I won’t until I can quit my hypothetical day-job (oh the joys of being a student).

Maybe I won’t until I’ve got a Bestseller title to my name.

But that’s all ridiculous.

I wrote and published a book.

That makes me an author.

Maybe it’s time to stop waiting for the next goalpost and accept the title.

Otherwise, when will I?

FS1FS2FS3

Want to read the first three Freya Snow books for free?

I’m currently doing a giveaway of the Pup Trilogy (the first three books, including the short stories) on Goodreads. Just follow this link to enter.

Unfortunately, due to shipping costs, the Goodreads paperback giveaway is only available to people in the US, UK or Canada.

But if you live elsewhere, or just prefer ebooks, you can get the ebook version for free by following this link.

Both of these giveaways will end on the 14th of October 2016, but if you missed them, you can always get the first book for free here, and you can get access to review copies of my books here.