As always, I consider September to be the start of a new year, not January. But who would read a new year post in September?

I kind of can’t believe that I’ve been doing this for long enough to have another new year post to look back on, but I do and it’s weird.

So, how have I done in terms of achieving my 2016 goals?

Graduate

This was a big one for me last year. I had failed one of my first semester modules and I was heading into an anxiety spiral, which I kind of doubted I would return from.

However, thanks to beta-blockers and some good, old-fashioned determination, I graduated in the summer with a 2:1 in urban planning.

Starting a Master’s Degree

My graduation brought with it the opportunity to continue my studies, allowing me to move closer to my goal of studying autism from a sociological standpoint. Though, as the cold months of living with my parents and subsisting on nothing but my student loan and royalty cheques go by, I more and more regret giving up the salary I might have gained from the world of full-time employment.

Grow my YouTube Channel

Well, technically I’ve YouTubed this year… And I seem to have hit a sweet spot where YouTube suggests my videos to people without me giving it too much new content.

Publishing the Next Four Freya Snow Books

If 2015 was the year of me learning how to publish, 2016 was the year of me learning how to sustain a series. I did, indeed, write the next four Freya Snow books, as well as going back to clean-up the first one, and writing the prequel novella. 2017 will be the year of expansion, I think…

Starting Two New Writing Projects

Well, I did start them, but 2017 will be the year that Lady Ruth and The Aspects make their appearances.

So, What’s to Come in 2017?

Good question. As I said before, 2017 is going to be the year of expansion. Academically, I don’t have any big goals, since I’m doing my Master’s over two years, so all of the focus will be on my writing and my other internet stuff.

Sustain my YouTube Channel and Writing Autistic

Yep. More YouTubing for me. Over the past year, I’ve moved all of my social media focus to Tumblr, this blog, and YouTube, all of which I want to keep going steady throughout the year.

Maintaining This Publishing Schedule:

January

Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone and the Clockwork Suitor

Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone and the Parisian Thief

Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone and the American Escapade

February

Freya Snow Book Six: Enhanced

March

April

May

Freya Snow Book Seven: Reaper

June

July

Drowned: A Snowverse Novel

August

Freya Snow Book Eight: Trident

September

The Almosts: A Snowverse Novella

The Damned: A Snowverse Novella

The Redeemed: A Snowverse Novella

October

The Royal Cleaner: A Snowverse Novel

November

Freya Snow Book Nine: Kingsguard

December

The Aspects: Book One

The Aspects: Book Two

The Aspects: Book Three

I’d say that this is impossible, but I’ve already written about two-thirds of it, so I’m pretty confident.

What you might notice is that The Phoenix Saga is missing. That’s because I am not confident in my ability to finish any of those books by the end of this year, and they’re so long and take so much finesse to write that I don’t want to rush them and ruin them. I will be working on The Phoenix Saga throughout the year, but I won’t give any solid release date details until I at least have the first draft of the first book ready.

For now, here’s to hoping that 2017 will be better than this dumpster fire 2016.

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?

One of the most difficult parts of being disabled, I think, is the lack of consistency.

I like consistency. Hell, liking consistency is a trait of a couple of my disabilities (autism and anxiety).

But life is rarely ever consistent when you’ve got a disability (or lots of them…).

You want to say to people “Well, based on my abilities in the past month, I think that this will be possible,” but you have no idea if one month will look like the last.

So, this summer I decided to dedicate myself to righting the ship. Over the past year, I have let a lot of things slide. Writing Autistic updates have been months apart, my YouTube videos have been dead since before Christmas, the fourth Freya Snow book has been pushed back by a month or more…

But it all seemed doable. Once I had my marks and I knew I would graduate with a 2:1, my anxiety dropped off and I had all of the free time in the world until the end of September.

So, I started the Summer Write-a-thon, I started a new Tumblr, I committed to being consistent with my Facebook page, I said I would post videos on YouTube throughout August…

And then last month I got a stomach bug.

Not surprising when you have an anxiety disorder. My immune system is a mess.

It wasn’t really a big deal. I mean, it wasn’t pleasant, and it might have actually been cholera (one of my lecturers had just come back from India with it and I had seen her the day before), but it came and went in a couple of days. The problem was that, while I was vomming up my insides, I couldn’t take one of my medications.

It was only for a couple of days. It shouldn’t have been a big deal, right?

Well, it’s now roughly a whole month later and my medication still hasn’t gone back to doing its job properly. In fact, at this point, I probably would have been better off not taking it at all.

So, now I’m tired all of the time. I’m not physically tired. I can still go for walks to catch Pokemon and I don’t much feel like sleeping. But it’s a mental lethargy. One that feeds into my dyslexia and dyspraxia, making writing coherent sentences a nightmare.

I’m drinking as much caffeine as I dare, to keep my concentration, but too much and I start having panic attacks.

But I’d promised that I would tackle all of these things. Because if my disabilities had stayed in the same state they were in a month ago, I would have been able to do it.

But they didn’t, and now I’m staring at my computer screen, unable to write more than a couple of words. I’m downing Coke Zero, and it’s barely touching me, just fuelling the anxiety around not being able to do things.

It’s one of those odd things that no one really teaches you about being disabled. Learning that there is no consistency. You can’t predict what you’ll be like a week from now. You can guess from outside factors. Obviously, when I go back to uni, I’ll probably have a spike in anxiety for a while. But beyond obvious external factors (that you know are coming) you can’t predict anything. And that can get more than a little frustrating…

Thinking about years from the Gregorian calender perspective is weird for me.

I’ve spent the last 17 years of my life in academic institutions with no break (and hopefully will continue this trend for three more years).

For me, new year is meaningless. It’s arbitrary. It’s a time when I wear headphones to avoid the noise of fireworks and maybe have a drink before being pressured to stay up past my preferred bedtime.

For me, the new year starts in September. It always has.

But who the hell is going to read a new years resolution post in September?

So, let’s get on with this one by looking back at all the stuff I’ve done in 2015.

MyAutisticPov.com has exploded from just a hundred or so followers to over 1500! I love that I’ve been able to contribute to the community on Tumblr and it has truly become a second home to me.

I launched my YouTube channel where I look at examples of autism in media and it’s reached over 100 subscribers in the six months it’s been active.

I published my first book! Hunt coming out has been an incredible experience, especially with all of the positive feedback it’s been getting. I just hope it continues with the second book.

Alright, so, what’s ahead for 2016?

  1. Graduating
    This is the last year of my BA, and I’m hoping to graduate with a 2:1. It’s definitely going to be strange to leave the undergrad world behind, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the future brings.
  2. Starting a Masters Degree
    With the completion of my BA, I will most definitely be avoiding the world of work like the plague. This means hopefully starting a Masters in sociology, where I can continue looking at autism through that lens.
  3. Continuing to Grow on YouTube
    I love the little Tumblr community I’ve built up and it’s happily ticking along, so while I would be happy to reach 2500 followers by the end of 2016, I want to focus more on doubling the number of subscribers I currently have on YouTube.
  4. Publishing the Next Four Freya Snow Books
    Yep. The next four. I’m hoping to have a three month gap between each, with the second one coming out in February. The initial trilogy (the series will be divided into four trilogies) should be out by early summer, with the second finishing in early 2017. If you haven’t read the first Freya Snow book, it’s now available for free to those who subscribe to my newsletter.
  5. Starting Two New Writing Projects
    Yep. You read that right. On top of the four Freya Snow books, I’m hoping to also publish the first two novellas in the Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone Chronicles and to get the first novel in a sci-fi romance series out (though I’m currently torn between a YA and an adult idea). Don’t worry about me taking on too many projects, though, I have decided that I’ll only ever have three series running at once and I’ll alternate between release dates so that no series goes untouched for too long.

So, that’s my plan for 2016. What about you guys? Have anything exciting planned? Any resolutions to stick to? Let me know in the comments below and happy new year!

In the grand writers tradition, I am going to deal with my writing problems by blogging about them, instead of actually writing…

I’m editing the first draft of the third Freya Snow book and it’s the messiest first draft I’ve written in a while.

But, as I’m sitting down to sort through it all and wonder what was missing, I’m realising that I didn’t really know what I wanted from the story.

It was literally:

Thing A happens.

And then Thing B happens.

That was all I had.

This very much drives home the idea that I am not a pantser. I used to be, but then my old stories would often end up in as much of a mess as this one.

There’s no structure or narrative flow. Things happen without foreshadowing. Plot points appear at the end which have barely been touched on before the final chapter…

This is all fixable with editing, it’s just been a while since I’ve had to be this extensive with my edits. Since I’ve looked at something and gone “yeah, bloody hell, this is a mess.”

Book three exists to resolve a plot thread that has been going since the first book.

But it had no focus beyond that. Freya had no arc other than resolving this thread, and side characters had arcs that just sort of appeared and then disappeared.

So editing is now about finding that focus. Figuring out where characters are and where I want them to end up.

And, as with every time I wrote one of these books, I’m probably going to pull forward a storyline from a later book, because I really can’t put it off during the events of this one.

So, the last Hunger Games movie came out and, with it, came criticism for the ending.

Katniss, the great and brave warrior woman, is now reduced to a lowly wife and mother? GASP!

So, yeah.

Honestly, if Katniss was neurotypical, I would get it. Romance wasn’t the focus of the books/films and so the ending would feel like they just couldn’t comprehend a happy ending for a woman that didn’t involve MARRIAGE and CHILDREN because that’s all women are good for, right?

But Katniss isn’t neurotypical and this critique is very much an example of women in a position of privilege assuming that their experience applies to ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE.

It really doesn’t.

Disabled women aren’t often forced into feminine roles.

They’re often denied them.

Able-bodied and neurotypical women have to deal with the pressures of being told that they have to marry and have children to live fulfilling lives.

I have to deal with people assuming that I am fit for neither.

I was diagnosed as Autistic at nineteen. Before that I was pretty much “person most likely to opt for working part time so that she could spend more time baking cookies for her children.”

Now, the same people who (kindly) teased me about being too much of a mother hen, tell me that it’ll take a saint to marry me. My future partner will be “putting up with” me, or will have to also be Autistic.

They went from assuming that I was going to have children to assuming that I wouldn’t.

Now, if I talk about it as a possibility, I’m told that children are probably too demanding for me to deal with.

These are people who have known me for years, and yet my diagnosis completely changed their estimation of my future.

I’m no longer a woman to them. I’m just Autistic.

Katniss ends The Hunger Games series with PTSD.

For a neurotypical woman, getting married and having children is the stereotypical ending.

For neurodivergent characters, the stereotypical ending is death.

Living a life that most able-bodied/neurotypical women take for granted is a happy ending for her.

And it’s not an anti-feminist one.

I’ve been trying to write a new blog series for weeks now, but I give up every time.

Not this time (hopefully).

Let’s get one thing clear: this is not a “down with trad-pub!” post.

As far as I’m concerned, whether you try traditional publishing or do it yourself is a personal choice.

And my choice would be to hybrid it. But, right now, indie is where I’m at.

So, why?

I Write A LOT

I tend not to participate in NaNoWriMo because it clashes with my academic timetable. This year I might have been able to manage it, but the point is to write a 50,000 novel. This month I’ve been editing the second Freya Snow book, I was already half way through writing the third one, and the projects I’ve started have been novellas.

But 50,000 words in a month is an easy target for me. And I write a lot of YA and novellas, so that’s about a book a month (sometimes more). Add another month for my edits and a third for beta reads/pro editing, and I have a three month book cycle. I’ve also managed to fine-tune this, so I usually write another book while waiting for edits to come back. I am a book machine.

I have a manuscript at query right now with agents. But I’m not going to sit on my hands in the mean time when I have a whole bunch of other manuscripts waiting to go.

And, speaking of novellas…

I Write in Weird Genres and at Weird Lengths

Let’s look at my three latest projects.

Freya Snow

The thing is, once a genre hits big, everybody gets fatigue for a while. Trying to sell anything to do with wizard schools, vampires (or replace vampires with any other paranormal creature because gods know that there were more than enough “Twilight with werewolves/fallen angels/etc.” for a few years), or dystopians right now is difficult. You had better have the best damn manuscript anyone has ever laid eyes on.

Freya Snow is not that.

Freya Snow is a fun romp through familiar ground with an Autistic character.

Is it going to change the literary world?

No.

Is it a fun read?

People seem to think so.

I knew it was never going to be my GREATEST WORK EVER and I’m fine with that. Sometimes fun is okay.

But yeah, publishers were never going to be convinced.

Love/Hate

So, this one is at query, but I have to admit that I’m not that hopeful.

It’s YA sci-fi and is perhaps best described as “Steven Universe meets RWBY”.

I’ve gone in the complete opposite direction from Freya Snow with this one.

Instead of going for a genre that has been incredibly popular and everyone is fatigued on, I went for one that barely exists.

Seriously, the bestsellers in the genre are all dystopians.

What was the last YA sci-fi you read that wasn’t a dystopian or Enders Game (which was written before YA was a thing, and so was just sci-fi)?

Lady Ruth Constance Chapelstone and the Clockwork Suitor

It’s a novella.

The thing is, I really like novellas. They’re a good length for me to work in. And people like reading them, because they’re a good reading length.

But print publishing has figured out the length novels should be in order to maximise return on the price of the paper.

As of me writing this, I think Tor is the only publisher with a novella imprint and agents won’t even bother taking a look at a manuscript that they could only ever possibly sell in one place.

I’ve Always Been a One-Woman Band

If I wasn’t capable of doing this myself, I wouldn’t. If I didn’t have time for marketing, etc., I wouldn’t. But I can, so I do.

I’m Writing Autistic Characters

Look, other people have talked about diversity in publishing from far more experienced backgrounds than me.

But, at the end of the day, it’s a crap-shoot.

You might find an agent or an editor looking for diverse manuscripts in your genre. Or you might struggle for them.

Publishing yourself takes that uncertainty out of the equation.

But that’s not even my main point.

My editing process usually looks like:

Editor: Shouldn’t you refer to her as having Asperger’s, not autism?

Me: No.

Editor: What about this bit here… This body language bit makes no sense. People don’t do that.

Me: Autistic people do.

In the end, these conversations are time consuming and do nothing to help my work. At least when I’m publishing the book, I get the final say. Imagine how much more taxing that conversation would be if that weren’t the case… Especially once you’ve factored in marketing people with their love of phrases like “brilliant but autistic”.

I’m Anxious and Autistic

Publishing is uncertainty. That is always true.

Doing it yourself?

It’s less uncertain.

You have the full control, you’re not beholden to deadlines. If anxiety gets on top of you, you can step back for a week and regroup.

You set the deadlines and you are in control of everything but whether or not people buy or like it.

It Made Sense to Me and the Data Seems to Back Me Up

If I was looking to have any other kind of creative career, I would start online.

Music, art, etc. Most creatives put their work online to build an audience before asking someone else to help with distribution/marketing.

That seemed like the best plan to me. Waiting in slush piles for someone to take a chance on me made no sense when I had a way to prove that I was capable of building an audience beforehand.

And it turns out that indie authors from the last few years are doing better than their traditionally published counterparts and the trend is only moving more in that direction.

So, you know, at the end of the day, this isn’t a bad place to be and I’m doing alright.