Tag Archives: Novel Research

PSA For Indie Authors – Part 3: Genres and Cover-art

Image Description: a picture of a wooden table with (from left to right in a clock-wise circle) a piece of paper, a pair of thick-framed black glasses, a pine cone, a dusty green-leather bound book, a green vintage type-writer, an open blank notebook, a wooden stick, a small tan-coloured rectangle with black writing on it and an empty glass ink-well.
This post is about self-promotion and marketing for Beginner Writers who want to write Genre Fiction or Genre novels, so if that doesn’t appeal to you, fair enough, feel free to pass on this post. This post will be covering basic tips and advice so this post may come across as stating the obvious, however, we all have to start somewhere.

I would recommend watching these YouTube Videos by Jenna Moreci
~How to Choose a Genre for your Book
~Marketing Basics for Writers
~Skills You Never Thought You’d Need as a Writer

I think one of the most important elements of writing is figuring out what type of book you’re writing, as the genre of your book will determine a lot about what type of book-marketing you’ll be engaging in, and which agents and/or publishers you plan to pitch to. Like Publishing houses, Literary Agents will usually have submission guidelines on available on their websites, so you should check those out first before you contact them.

One of the things that Literary Agents advise is to investigate the genre of books an Author is writing in. This is where the advice “read widely within your genre” comes into play, you need to read the good and bad books within your genre, and you need to be informed of the visual art-style that is associated with your genre.

For example: My Work-In-Progress novel series Pushing Boundaries comes under a hybrid category of Genre, it fits into the Contemporary Crime genre, so lets break those categories down and have a look at what type of Cover-art Style is involved in the Crime, Mystery and Contemporary genres.

~Goodreads: Crime

~Goodreads: Mystery

~Goodreads: Contemporary

When you examine certain genres, especially Crime and Mystery together, there’s a distinct trend of book-cover art displayed on the most popular novels. For example:

Crime:
~a vague silhouette of a person, usually from a distance
~empty wide-shot landscape pictures with One Point Perspective
~Large, bold, and brightly coloured book-title and author title
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.

Mystery:
~There’s a lot of overlap between Crime and Mystery, but Mystery covers tend to be more colourful in design, Crime tends to be a dark/bland cover with colourful text displayed on it to act as contrast.
~Partially obscured faces
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.

Contemporary:
~There’s strong and liberal use of colours to make the covers pop-out, the cover and title text are usually bright contrasting colours
~Models on covers are predominately female-coded or a cishet-coded male and female couple.
~if a woman is on the front cover, it is displaying the back of her head.
~The predominate sub-genre of Contemporary is Young Adult, so the use of live models on covers are of 14-18 age-group.

Personally, I dislike the popular book-cover designs of Crime and Mystery, I think the Contemporary covers are much more eye-catching and engaging. In saying that, I have no idea what to make in the rising trend of displaying the back of a woman’s head, I have no idea how that could possibly convey to the reader what that particular book is about. I can only presume that The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Goddesses, and Everything We Keep are all very different books.

Now, it could be argued that best-selling authors like Chris Brookmyre and James Patterson can get away with unappealing book covers involving shadowy silhouettes, people are going to buy their books regardless, unfortunately not all aspiring writers will achieve James Patterson-level of success, so I would recommend putting some effort into the thought-process behind what the book cover should look like.

I’ll use my book-cover for Canis Major as a case-study (Kim made this for me, aren’t they amazing? Of course they’re amazing! You should check out their stuff).

Image Description: book cover of Canis Major - Volume I of the Pushing Boundaries series. The cover is picture of the constellation of Canis Major, as depicted in the Southern Hemisphere (the nose of Canis Major is positioned in a downward direction).

Canis Major:
~Point One: The design is a simple black and white colour scheme, easy for the reader to look at and comprehend

~Point Two: I’ve chosen the constellation of Canis Major (the Great Dog) for multiple reasons. Constellations are seasonal, so the constellation of Canis Major will look different in Southern Hemisphere countries, like Australia, than in comparison to Northern Hemisphere countries like the UK.

~Point Three: James, one of the main characters of my novel, has a special interest in Astronomy, he shares this special interest with his step-father Robert, it’s a bonding thing they have.

~Point Four: Another reason for the choice of Canis Major is because a big inspiration for writing this book was to address a lot of the problems and objections I had with the novel The Curious Incident of The Dog In The Night-time by Mark Haddon (here’s a review by Disability in Kidlit that goes into why this book is super problematic).

~Point Five: The theme of Constellations as book-cover art will apply to all the books in the Pushing Boundaries series, Volume II will be Orion (the constellation of Orion is right next to the constellation Canis Major) and Volume III will be Scorpius. I plan for Pushing Boundaries to be a trilogy but I’m aware that every time an Author declares their project a trilogy, it somehow turns into a trilogy of four.

~Point Six: My novel is a Contemporary Crime novel, so just like with a crime, you have to put together all the small points in order to see the bigger picture. See? It’s Deep and Meaningful.

Here’s the thing though, while I think this cover is great and it’s exactly what I wanted, is this particular book-cover design marketable? It’s generally recommended that authors get feedback from their target audience, which was something I didn’t do. Another element to consider is that, while I think Kim did a great job, I do need to acknowledge that Kim doesn’t specialise in Graphic Design, and that it’s generally recommended to authors that they hire a professional (here’s a list of book cover designers via The Creative Penn).

So, authors need to figure out what their genre is and research what books within that particular genre look like, however, just because a visual idea is popular within a particular genre, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good. Get some feed-back from your target audience and be willing to shell out some money for a professional book-cover designer.

If you’re an indie-author and you’ve got a .jpeg of a book cover, drop a link to the book-cover image in the comments section below and we can have a chat about the pros and cons of visual design.

Links:
~9 Tips to Building the Book Cover Design You Always Wanted by Jane Friedman

The Beautiful Books #27: August 2017

Image Description: The Beautiful People for Writers - Writing Goals

It’s time for another edition of The Beautiful Books, where I write a blog-post discussing how little progress I’ve made on my WIP Novel Project, Orion – Volume II of the Pushing Boundaries series, YAY! Let’s begin with some writing advice, if you need some, check out the links bellow:

Jenna Moreci:
~Tips For Writers

Katytastic:
~WRITING / OUTLINING / REVISING

For this post, I’ll be focusing on Beth and James, hopefully that will make things easier. On with the Questions!

What are they addicted to/can’t live without?
Beth: Caffeine (tea and energy drinks). Beth has a stress-eating problem, but she’s more inclined towards cheese and biscuits, or say, having and enormous tub of Greek yogurt and eating it with savoy-biscuits like dip (IDK, honestly, straight Greek yogurt tastes super weird to me).

James: sweet treats and desserts. James (like Beth) has a stress-eating problem, James will stand in the kitchen and just eat a whole packet of dark-chocolate digestive biscuits without thinking about it.

Name 3 positive and 3 negative qualities about your character.
Beth:
01. Positive – Beth is helpful, she’s willing to help volunteer her time (sometimes overly so) if she perceives someone else needs it.
02. Positive – It takes Beth a while to get attached to people, but when Beth cares about a character, she really cares and they’re willing to do a lot for other people.
03. Positive – Beth is eager to learn new things.
04. Negative – Beth can be overly helpful, sometimes giving too much of her time (not being able to see that a project is doomed to fail or being taking advantage of), sometimes taking over a situation completely without asking, she can also come across bossy because of this.
05. Negative – Beth is introverted to a socially awkward level, it can make her insecure and prone to negative thinking.
06. Negative – Beth doesn’t really know what she wants and she’s incisive about things that should be easy to figure out, which is a difficult thing for her to admit to.

James:
01. Positive – James is honest, sometimes too honest, but I consider it a positive thing.
02. Positive – Like Beth, it takes James a while to get attached to people, but when he cares about a character, he really cares and they’re willing to do a lot for other people.
03. Positive – He’s very protective of his younger siblings, sometimes a little too overprotective, he really does care about them, but he finds it easier to display it with action rather than say
04. Negative – James can be super controlling about stuff, like his food and his environment, it’s bad coping mechanism and I’m hoping (over the course of the series) to help him grow out this behaviour and be able to let some things slide.
05. Negative – James can be petty about stuff.
06. Negative – James tries not to to be, but he does get jealous of Dominic, mostly because it seems like Dominic has all the things James has always wanted (a stable job, family acceptance and his own place), I’d like to write a chapter where James eventually resolves his perceived issues with Dominic.

Are they holding onto something they should get rid of?
Beth: Emotional Baggage with both her parents

James: Emotional Baggage with his parents and some guilt/resentment issues with Mac (with what Mac has become and the way Mac is not-dealing with the situation). James also has problems with the way his mother refuses to not-deal with Mac, despite the fact that his mother is the exact opposite with him (his mother is nosy and tends to pry a bit with regards to James).

If 10 is completely organized and 1 is completely messy, where do they fall on the scale?
Beth: Beth is more of a 5 or 6, she’s naturally a messy person, but she tries really hard to be neat and organised
James: James is more of a 8, he’s organised but it’s also part of a coping mechanism and is connected to his anxiety, so it’s not a natural thing.

What most frustrates them about the world they live in?
Beth: Beth gets frustrated by a lack of empathy or not noticing (or refusing to acknowledge) a problem, the more obvious the problem more irritating it is.

James: Communication with Neurotypical people. They don’t mean what they say and the don’t say what they mean. Conversation is where casual ableism usually shows up as well.

How would they dress for a night out? How would they dress for a night in?
Beth: Out = pretty vintage style dresses Mary has made for her, In = casual wear (like tracky-dacks and a t-shirt)

James: Out = overly formal, In = overly casual (track-pants, t-shirt, fluffy robe, thick slippers). James does wear a binder during the week when he’s at work.

How many shoes do they own, and what kind?
Beth: an excessive amount of shoes, wide variety of types, but Beth is prone to gravitate towards brightly coloured shoes.

James: a nice pair of black lace-up shoes for formal events, a pair of nice business shoes for work, a couple of pairs of running shoes, and a couple of pairs of work-boots (one for the farm, one for home).

Do they have any pets? What pet do they WISH they had?
Beth: Beth tends to gravitate more towards dogs than cats, but she doesn’t mind either.
James: he has a calico cat named Sarah Jane

Is there something or someone that they resent? Why and what happened?
Beth: Her mother Claire, for being an alcoholic and being an abusive parent, as a result of Claire’s abusive behaviour, Beth has nothing to do with her. Beth also resents her father because, at the time, Isaac came across as taking her mother’s side, so there’s this unspoken resentment between them.

James: James does harbour some resentment towards his mother, he lives with his grandmother instead of her and he feels she should have made more of an effort in getting Robert’s half of the family to accept him as he is. *Upcoming spoilers* James’s biological father dies in a car-accident and James resents how he has to navigate all the complicated social conventions and social rituals for a person who pretty much abandoned him at five-years of age.

What’s usually in their fridge or pantry?
Beth: snacks, like yogurt and crackers and cheese. Beth likes to have dried pieces of fruits because she forgets to eat fresh fruit and it goes bad

James: James can be kind of anal with his food, so everything is in organised Tupperware containers with labels or ziplock bags with labels. His fridge is most likely to have vegetarian stuff in there but also stuff to make smoothies with. James will often have enormous container of carrot-sticks.

So yeah, let me know in the comment section if you’re working on a Novel Project, I’d love to hear about other people’s projects (that way I don’t have to think about mine).

Dying In The Wool by Frances Brody

Image Description: the book cover of Dying In The Wool by Frances Brody.
Title: Dying In The Wool (Book #1 of the Kate Shackleton Series)
Author: Frances Brody
Social Media: Blog, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Piatkus
Format and Price: Paperback at $7.31
Rating: 4 out of 5

About The Author:
Frances Brody’s highly praised 1920s mysteries feature clever and elegant Kate Shackleton, First World War widow turned sleuth. Missing person? Foul play suspected? Kate’s your woman. For good measure, she may bring along ex-policeman, Jim Sykes. Before turning to crime, Frances wrote for radio, television and theatre, and was nominated for a Time Out Award. She published four sagas, winning the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin Award in 2006.

About The Book:
Take one quiet Yorkshire village, Bridgestead is a peaceful spot: a babbling brook, rolling hills and a working mill at its heart. Pretty and remote, nothing exceptional happens. Until the day that Master of the Mill Joshua Braithwaite goes missing in dramatic circumstances, never to be heard of again. Now Joshua’s daughter is getting married and wants one last attempt at finding her father. Has he run off with his mistress, or was he murdered for his mounting coffers? Kate Shackleton has always loved solving puzzles. So who better to get to the bottom of Joshua’s mysterious disappearance? But as Kate taps into the lives of the Bridgestead dwellers, she opens cracks that some would kill to keep closed.

General Observations:
~Novel Research: After a long time-period away from the Genre, I’ve recently been attempting to re-immerse myself with the Crime genre, specifically Scottish Crime Novels written by Scottish Authors (I thoroughly enjoy listening to Scottish voice-actors via audio-books). I thought it might be a good way to do indirect Novel Research and maybe help me get back into writing.

It turns out that, despite the novel time-period being after World War One, the novel is set in Leeds (in the United Kingdom), which is only one hour and forty-five minutes away (I know, only an Australian could think that isn’t too long a car-trip). It was interesting to get some history of the area.

~Sliding Scale of Plot VS Character: Due to the Historical Fiction elements, this novel is mostly Kate Shackleton and her assistant Jim Sykes interrogating/weaselling information out of people, which means the book leans slightly more towards the Character end of the spectrum. This is fine when it’s done well and I believe Frances Brody does this well.

It seems, at times, that Kate Shackleton’s interrogation process is like pulling teeth, but this is more because her subjects are reluctant to reveal what they know, which is often the case. The plot had excellent pacing, not giving the reader all the clues at once, but enough to keep the reader engaged, and while the ending was a little predictable, the resolution was satisfying enough and it tied up enough loose ends.

All in all, the Historical Fiction elements and Crime combining into an interesting and engaging narrative, I’ll be looking into book two of the series and I’m happy to recommend to anyone looking for some escapism.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

The Beautiful Books #26 – The Author Writing Process Edition

Image Description: The Beautiful People for Writers - Writing Goals

How do you decide which project to work on?
I’m actually pretty terrible at focusing on a singular project and I’m often working on multiple projects at once.

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?
The Pushing Boundaries series is the only project thus far I’ve been able to focus on long-term. I wrote a rough draft for Canis Major – Volume I for NaNoWriMo 2015 (November) and had it edited and self-published by November 2016. I know a year doesn’t sound like a long time, but it felt like a long time because I was focusing on it for a core unit of my degree and needed the eBook published in order to graduate.

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?
No, unfortunately, although I am trying to organise myself into the ritual of getting a cup of tea and lighting some tea-candles and an essential oil burner before starting and seeing how that goes.
Image Description: from left to right, a triangle shaped tea-light candle holder with purple flowers painted on the front, a small glass tea-light candle holder, a white oil burner from Dusk with a tea-light candle inside and another small glass tea-light candle holder.

What time of day do you write best?
I generally struggle in the morning and tend to work better in the afternoon and evening

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?
As I’m an author who is just starting out, I have no idea, personally I think this is something you’d have to ask a reader rather than a writer.

Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?
Looking back, I began fan fiction writing as a coping strategy for dealing with… well, Life in general, I suppose, however, it also allowed me to experiment with writing possible narratives that could occur within that already structured world, most of these narrative possibilities contained the idea that the canon narrative could have gone in a different direction than the one the author chose. It’s a safe way to explore narratives and characters. But, eventually, the novelty of fan fiction (and the lack of quality control) made the cons of fan fiction out-weigh the pros.

I also realised that if I spent all my time playing around with other people’s narratives and characters, I was left with neither the time or mental capacity to work on my own narratives and characters (although characterisation is still an area I need to improve upon). The reason I keep writing, I guess, is because I’m constantly coming up with new ideas, which is kind of frustrating because I’d like to be able to work on the projects I’ve already started, but we all have our own creative processes.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?
During the editing process, I was trying to get my character Beth to convey some plot/character related information to another character Mac, in the original manuscript this took place over three chapters, however, with the assistance of my editor Kim, I managed to transfer this information in three lines of dialogue. It was so frustrating and annoying at the time but it was a good learning experience.

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?
probably my Lake of Tears project, which is a SFF (Science Fiction Fantasy) Dystopian cross-over involving elves, gods, mages, dragons and time-travel. I am nowhere near the level I need to be (as a writer) to write it, that and I need to do some more research into time-travel and paradoxes.

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?
I wanted to have written Orion – Volume II written, edited and self-published by the end of the year, but that goal has become laughably out of reach due to personal circumstances and issues with mental health.

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!
Image Description: a Labrador-dog, wearing a red tie, is sitting at desk with a laptop. It looks as though the dog is typing on the laptop. The picture is captioned with white capital text, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING.

The Beautiful Books #23: March 2017

Image Description: The Beautiful People for Writers - Writing Goals

Welcome to another installment of The Beautiful Books, where I bather on about my current WIP Novel Project, which would be Orion – Volume II in the Pushing Boundaries series (yeah, I know, it says Scorpius is the title of Volume II on the Pushing Boundaries link page, clearly I need to change that, Scorpius will be the title of Volume III instead), however, there have been some complications with the plotting and outlining process.

I’m supposed to have a finished outline for Volume II by the end of March so I can use it for Camp NaNoWriMo in April, but right now it’s just super hard to sit down and think about what I want to happen in Volume II, let alone write it down. One of the numerous problems is that currently I don’t know what’s going on with Beth and James, so for the mean-time, I’m just going to focus on Mac and Cassie and, hopefully, that’ll work out instead. On with the post!

What’s their favourite book/movie/play/etc.?
Mac: Mac enjoys Marvel and DC Comics (the whole Marvel/DC rivalry doesn’t make any sense to him), so he’s enthusiastic/passionate about Comic-to-Movie adaptation, he likes being able to explain the adaptation differences and domino affect it would have on the plot-line.

Cassie: Cassie enjoys cheesy romantic-comedies but her favorite movie would be The Notebook

Is there anything they regret doing?
Mac got Cassie pregnant when she was seventeen and he was twenty and, while they don’t regret getting pregnant per say, they regret the circumstances and events that happened around the two of them at that time (so it’s more of a “guilt by association” type thing).

Mac: When Cassie first told him that she was pregnant, Mac went to James for assistance and James and Justine offered to help discreetly arrange an abortion for Cassie, which is something they both objected to (Cassie didn’t want to get abortion and Mac was supportive of her choice, he was willing to provide whatever Cassie needed), however, Cassie’s family eventually realised that she was pregnant and organised to have Cassie “sent off to a relative” when her pregnancy became more noticeable and for parents to adopt the child. Mac objected to this attempted to (for lack of a better word) rescue Cassie from this arrangement (Cassie was pretty much being forced into giving up the child, but she have a small say on who the adoptive parents could be, Mac didn’t get a say at all). James found out about this and, with Justine’s help, tracked Mac and Cassie down and brought Cassie back to her parents.

Cassie: Cassie doesn’t regret going through with the pregnancy, but sometimes she does wonder if she should have had an abortion (would it have spared Mac all that turmoil and stress?), Cassie also regrets not being able to talk to Mac about the situation, Mac just assumed that they would be a continue to be couple and they would automatically become a family, Cassie wanted to be Mac and she loves him very much, but she realizes now that she didn’t want to be a mother at that point in her life and she’s afraid of saying anything about it because she doesn’t want to sound like she doesn’t care about Mac or the daughter they have. So Yeah… A lot of angst there.

If they were sick or wounded, who would take care of them and how?
Mac: Emilia is a little precious with Mac with when Mac is sick

Cassie: Cassie normally just takes care of herself (depending on how bad it is, usually she’s not that bad), her mum checks on her but her mum is more the aloof/distant type.

Is there an object they can’t bear to part with and why?
Mac: Mac has sonograms of his unborn daughter tucked away safely, but he also has a copy of them on his phone, for obvious reasons.

Cassie: Cassie wishes she had sonograms (her mother took her copies from her to give to the adoptive parents), I’m planning on writing a depressing/touching scene (depending on my writing skills and reader’s perspective) where Cassie finds them on his phone.

What are 5 ways to win their heart (or friendship)?
Both Mac and Cassie have a strong sense of loyalty to their friends (it does manifest in different ways, Mac is more aggressive and willing to pick a fight, where are Cassie is more passive and willing to do stuff on another person’s behalf). Beth manages to win them both over being nice to them and cooking them food.
Mac: Mac is more of a common interest type person, Duncan and him have been mates since secondary school and while they both have an interest in drawing, Duncan no longer has time to pursue it (busy with work and a girlfriend), Beth has more of an interest in manga than comics but she knows enough of a general overview of Marvel and DC so that she had keep up with Mac. Beth also has a list of Marvel movies and TV shows she’s been meaning to catch up on.

Cassie: Cassie is pretty tolerant of people, but she won’t accept homophobia and, even though she’s rather timid when it comes to defending herself from her brother Mark or Donoghue, she is quick and sharp to call Mark and Donoghue out on their bullshit. Cassie can be a little clingy, although she doesn’t always realise it, Seamus sometimes has to remind her when she’s being too clingy with Beth.

Describe a typical outfit for them from top to bottom.
Mac: work boots, flannel shirt (usually in a shade of blue with a navy blue singlet underneath) and jeans.

Cassie: feminine method of fashion, pastel colors (pink and blue), likes to where knitted items of clothing and make her own items of clothing.

What’s their favorite type of weather?
Mac: Summer and spring, but mostly summer, Mac would love the idea of Australian summer, which generically speaking involves wearing shorts and thongs (the shoes in case that wasn’t clear), going to the beach and having a backyard barbecue

Cassie: Cassie likes spring, she loves the smell of roses and flowers in bloom, she also enjoys hiking and walking trails

What’s the worst fight they’ve ever been in?
I suppose it wasn’t a fight, but more the absence of a fight, the pressure of things left unsaid. When James and Justine came to collect Cassie from the caravan-park they were holed up in, James held Mac in a head-lock until he passed out (James made sure to get Justine to stay with him to prevent him from chasing after Cassie), so neither of them got a chance to say goodbye and get proper closure from the whole incident. The lack of closure affects them both, it just affects them in different ways, Mac gets drunk and lashes out, while Cassie takes to selling drugs so she can get away from her parents.

What names or nicknames have they been called throughout their life?
Mac: Mac doesn’t have any nicknames because he’s name is already so short, although Beth does develop the habit of calling Mac “Macca” (which she does to annoy him, although it annoys James more than it does Mac)

Cassie: Cassie’s full name is Cassandra, but she prefers Cassie

What makes their heart feel alive?
Mac: Being with Cassie

Cassie: Being with Mac

So Yeah… that’s about it thus far, now I just have to sit down, and figure out how to shove all of those past events into a 60 000 novella *manic and slightly panicky laughter.

My Treasure Chest – Part 3: What I Got For Christmas

a collection of gifts wrapped in Christmas themed wrapping paper (I’ll go into detail within the post). What can be seen is a large Kids &Co. multi-coloured large bouncy ball, a pink pig critter puff, a pink and yellow slinky, a large blue balloon filled with flour, a pink circle with raised dots on it and multiple zip-lock bags with telephone cord hair-ties inside them.

Photo courtesy of K. A. Cook

Image Description: a collection of gifts wrapped in Christmas themed wrapping paper (I’ll go into detail within the post). What can be seen is a large Kids &Co. multi-coloured large bouncy ball, a pink pig critter puff, a pink and yellow slinky, a large blue balloon filled with flour, a pink circle with raised dots on it and multiple zip-lock bags with telephone cord hair-ties inside them.

Not to sound like I’m bragging, but I got some awesome stuff for Christmas, some of it was Stim Toys and general stuff from Kim but I also wanted to include gifts I got from other people as well :D. I also wanted to include somethings I bought post-Christmas too.

Books: 
Image Description: from left to right, a copy of The Princess Bride (the novel) by William Goldman and a DVD of The Princess Bride. Image Description: from left to right, a copy of The Princess Bride (the novel) by William Goldman and a DVD of The Princess Bride.

I was so happy when Kim said they had a copy of The Princess Bride on DVD that they no longer wanted, I’ve been meaning to do a “Book VS Movie Review” for The Princess Bride for ages! My partner has never seen the movie or read the book, so I figured I could remedy at least one of those problems.

Image Description: a collection of four books, the books are The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce Image Description: a collection of four books, the books are The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce

Kim’s given me so many Tamora Pierce books, I’ve had to make a Book list so that I know which ones to read in order, but I’m really looking forward to reading them :).

Beaded Jewellery:
Image Description: two necklaces with black cord, four chrome-coloured small loops and a key ring with beads on them, from left to right, the first necklace has purple-orange-blue-orange-purple coloured beads. The second necklace has light blue-dark blue-purple-dark blue-light blue coloured beads. Image Description: two necklaces with black cord, four chrome-coloured small loops and a key ring with beads on them, from left to right, the first necklace has purple-orange-blue-orange-purple coloured beads. The second necklace has light blue-dark blue-purple-dark blue-light blue coloured beads
Image Description: from left to right, there are two necklaces with shorter cords that look like two cords intertwined together. The first one is a short brown cord with two brown cords intertwined together, with four gold-coloured small loops and a gold key ring with light blue-dark blue, green, yellow, amber and red coloured beads. The second one is a short black cord with two black cords intertwined together, with four silver-coloured small loops and pink-green-black-green-pink coloured beads Image Description: from left to right, there are two necklaces with shorter cords that look like two cords intertwined together. The first one is a short brown cord with two brown cords intertwined together, with four gold-coloured small loops and a gold key ring with light blue-dark blue, green, yellow, amber and red coloured beads. The second one is a short black cord with two black cords intertwined together, with four silver-coloured small loops and pink-green-black-green-pink coloured beads
Image Description: two necklaces with white cord, four chrome-coloured small loops and a key ring with beads on them, from left to right, the first necklace has green-yellow-pink-blue-pink-yellow-green coloured beads. The second necklace has white-orange-yellow-orange-white coloured beads. Image Description: two necklaces with white cord, four chrome-coloured small loops and a key ring with beads on them, from left to right, the first necklace has green-yellow-pink-blue-pink-yellow-green coloured beads. The second necklace has white-orange-yellow-orange-white coloured beads.

I love beaded jewellery, I especially love the rainbow and pink-green-black-green-pink beaded necklace (should be the second picture), while I like the texture of the black and white rat-tail cords, I love the texture of the shorter necklaces. I wore the rainbow necklace with one of my rainbow unicorn and narwhal t-shirts (pictured below) for Christmas Day.

Telephone-cord Hair-ties:
Image Description: six telephone-cord hair-ties; a blue one with small pink crosses, a robin’s egg blue one, a purple one, a pink one, a telephone cord that looks like a peppermint candy and a red one. Image Description: six telephone-cord hair-ties; a blue one with small pink crosses, a robin’s egg blue one, a purple one, a pink one, a telephone cord that looks like a peppermint candy and a red one.
Image Description: six telephone-cord hair-ties in black. Image Description: six telephone-cord hair-ties in black.
Image Description: six small telephone-cord hair-ties, with one coloured with red and blue with the rest coloured blue and white or pink (it kind of looks like pink). Image Description: six small telephone-cord hair-ties, with one coloured with red and blue with the rest coloured blue and white or pink (it kind of looks like pink).
Image Description: two groups of telephone-cord hair-ties from left to right, group one is four small telephone-cord hair ties; two are orange and purple, one is red and blue and one green and purple. Group two features three telephone cords grouped together; a pink one, a yellow one and a green one. Image Description: two groups of telephone-cord hair-ties from left to right, group one is four small telephone-cord hair ties; two are orange and purple, one is red and blue and one green and purple. Group two features three telephone cords grouped together; a pink one, a yellow one and a green one.
Stim Toy Box: miniature silver-coloured deep-fry chip basket
Stim Toy Box: a horde of telephone cord
I love these and I love to wear telephone-cord hair-ties that match my shirt and beaded-jewellery necklace, for example: blue shirt, blue beaded-jewellery necklace and three or two blue telephone-cord hair-ties on my wrist (though I prefer three, I sometimes have to settle for two, depending on colour availability)

Fake Kinetic Sand:
Image Description: a small clear Tupperware container filled with green fake kinetic sand. Image Description: a small clear Tupperware container filled with green fake kinetic sand.
Image Description: a small round container filled with blue fake kinetic sand Image Description: a small round container filled with blue fake kinetic sand.
Image Description: a clear zip-lock bag with a colourful collection of fake kinetic sand moulds and tools. Image Description: a clear zip-lock bag with a colourful collection of fake kinetic sand moulds and tools.

My partner and I bought a kinetic sand-kit for his god-children (although technically he is only the godfather to one of the children) as a Christmas present, however, I pretty much spent the whole time playing with it instead while my partner and the children fired water pistols at each other. It’s fucking brilliant! I can’t wait to get back home and play with my own fake kinetic sand kit, although I truly recommend a medium-large tray and a clear work-space.

Miscellaneous Fidgets:
Image Description: a small pink and yellow slinky Image Description: a small pink and yellow slinky
Image Description: a pink rubber-circle with raised dots on it. Image Description: a pink rubber-circle with raised dots on it.
Image Description: a two pack of pink and yellow play-doh Image Description: a two pack of pink and yellow play-doh
Image Description: a pink and blue Liquid Motion Bubbler. Image Description: a pink and blue Liquid Motion Bubbler.

Another slinky to add to my collection, which is great, and the pink circle is apparently a dog-chew-toy but it does feel good to run my fingertips over the raised dots. More pink and yellow themed play-doh, which is always good, but I’ve found that I often use the Liquid Motion Bubbler to either measure time or help me refocus when I need take a break or just relax.

My expanding collection of Piggies:
Image Description: A small furry purse that resembles a pink pig Image Description: A small furry purse that resembles a pink pig
Image Description: Tiny figurine of a pig that is pink and yellow Image Description: Tiny figurine of a pig that is pink and yellow
Image Description: Two pink sponges in the shape and form of pigs with pink fronds. Image Description: Two pink sponges in the shape and form of pigs with pink fronds
Image Description: Two pink sponges in the shape and form of pigs with pink fronds exiting them with a small coin purse in the shape of a pig just beneath them. Image Description: Two pink sponges in the shape and form of pigs with pink fronds exiting them with a small coin purse in the shape of a pig just beneath them
Image Description: A critter-puff in the shape of a pink pig. Image Description: A critter-puff in the shape of a pink pig

Aren’t they all adorable? I already had the coin purse in the fourth picture but now that I have the trifecta of Daiso piggies, I can probably use them to summon the Hogfather (maybe?), they are adorable regardless. The little figurine is a little fragile so it was wrapped in bubble wrap and, me being me, I spent more time playing with the bubble-wrap than with the figurine (I fucking love bubble-wrap). But I put the figurine inside one of the sponges, then put that sponge inside a coin purse, resulting in a Turducken of Piggies.

Stress-balls and Fidgets:
Image Description: a large dark-blue balloon filled with flour sealed in a clear-plastic zip-lock bag. Image Description: a large dark-blue balloon filled with flour sealed in a clear-plastic zip-lock bag.
Image Description: a small rubbery yellow stress-ball with a winky face and pink woollen hair Image Description: a small rubbery yellow stress-ball with a winky face and pink woollen hair
Image Description: a black and white patterned soccer-ball. Image Description: a black and white patterned soccer-ball.
Image Description: a colourful collection of small bouncy balls in a clear plastic zip-lock bag Image Description: a colourful collection of small bouncy balls in a clear plastic zip-lock bag
Image Description: a large Kids & Co. Bouncy ball that looks like multiple bits of colourful plastic string interwoven together to form a large ball (like a colourful bouncy ball of twine). Image Description: a large Kids & Co. Bouncy ball that looks like multiple bits of colourful plastic string interwoven together to form a large ball (like a colourful bouncy ball of twine)
Image Description: A perfectly formed Rubric cube with the red, blue and yellow sides showing Image Description: A perfectly formed Rubric cube with the red, blue and yellow sides showing
Image Description: Two spikey balls, from left to right, a blue spikey ball and a green spikey ball Image Description: Two spikey balls, from left to right, a blue spikey ball and a green spikey ball
Stim Toy Box: Xie Wei Sports Toys
Stim Toy Box: mini sports/prickle balls

These are all great, but I’m quite fond of the Kids & Co. multi-coloured bouncy-ball (it’s from K-Mart), I’ve already had a good play with it at home, it’s larger size makes it easier for me to catch. I really like the spikey balls as well as as the soccer ball.

Special Confectionery from Holland:
Image Description: two boxes of confectionary from Holland that is put on toast, you will need to ask Kim for more details, links will be provided. Image Description: two boxes of confectionary from Holland that is put on toast, you will need to ask Kim for more details, links will be provided.
According to Kim, you sprinkle the chocolate flakes on freshly buttered toast and is most delicious when the chocolate flakes are softened (but not melted completely). Kim has also informed me that they can be found in specialised Delicatessens but the expiry date might be a bit iffy, although they’re still good even if they are past their expiry date.

Christmas Presents I Received From Brendon:
T-Shirts From Tee-Turtle:
Image Description: a black t-shirt with a unicorn waring shades with a rainbow in the background, with doughnuts and slices of pizza floating in the background Image Description: a black t-shirt with a unicorn waring shades with a rainbow in the background, with doughnuts and slices of pizza floating in the background
Image Description: a blue t-shirt with a mermaid riding a unicorn side-saddle with the text 'I live in my own reality' printed beneath Image Description: a blue t-shirt with a mermaid riding a unicorn side-saddle with the text ‘I live in my own reality’ printed beneath
Image Description: A blue t-shirt with a unicorn and a narwhal posing in front of a rainbow with the word 'YASSSS' printed in rainbow text underneath them Image Description: A blue t-shirt with a unicorn and a narwhal posing in front of a rainbow with the word ‘YASSSS’ printed in rainbow text underneath them
*SQUEEE!* Brendon got me these from Tee Turtle, he’s amazing :D. I wore the unicorn and narwhal t-shirt with the rainbow beaded-jewellery necklace (pictured above) on Christmas Day.

Random Stuff I Bought:
Image description: two necklaces made from seven coral-pink and maroon-red hexagonal silicone beads strung onto and coral-pink and maroon-red cord with a black breakaway clasp. The necklaces are a clear plastic zip-lock storage bag with a silver ring for hanging on a hook. The barely-visible silver text on the bag reads “clothing and co”. Image description: two necklaces made from seven coral-pink and maroon-red hexagonal silicone beads strung onto and coral-pink and maroon-red cord with a black breakaway clasp. The necklaces are a clear plastic zip-lock storage bag with a silver ring for hanging on a hook. The barely-visible silver text on the bag reads “clothing and co”.
Stim Toy Box: seven aqua hexagonal silicone beads
Kim recommended these on their Stim Toy Box blog (they got an nice aqua coloured one), I was aiming for pink, but these were the closest I could find. I’ll see how these go for use as a subtle Fidget. I also bought some other stuff from K-Mart such as a pink make-up blending sponge and a watermelon plushie for Kim (although I will be the first to admit the fact that the watermelon plushie does look a little demonic). I was tempted to purchase a Munchy (for myself) but I refrained and got some play-do instead.

Stim Toy Box: Snake Puzzles
I bought two small snake puzzles from Smiggle and a blue-pink-purple snap-bracelet with spikes on it (I’m currently wearing it on my left wrist beneath my pink-orange-and-yellow telephone-cord hair-ties), every time my partner snaps it onto my wrist, I giggle, it just feels so enjoyable to hear the snapping sound combined with the pressure sensation (I know that sounds weird, but I don’t really care).

So yeah, that was my Christmas, I hope my readers also had an awesome (and below 30 degrees) Christmas and if you want to talk about Stim Toys or Christmas gifts (or both), let me know in the comments section.

Links:
~Eldritch Esoterica – “Ambiguous Pieces: outfitting and equipping nerdy stimmers since 2016.”
~Stim Toy Box – Homepage
~Stim Toy Box: Australian End of Year Sales Stimmy Round Up!
~Princess Aspien: What I Got For Christmas (YouTube Video)

Audio Stimming: Postmodern Jukebox

Image Description: The keyboard of a piano with a single page of sheet music on top of it
In my family, Music is a big deal, and every Christmas I would make Mix-Tape Style CD’s for my friends and family. Unfortunately, one of my parents would regularly work Christmas Day, and would listen to the CD on the way to work. My father is a walking encyclopedia on the History of Music. If you give him the name of a band, he will rattle off the band’s history and placements of specific songs on radio charts. My partner on the other hand, as kid, did not possess an interest in music. He had limited exposure to FM Pop radio stations and ABC on AM, which didn’t change until he finished secondary college and moved to the “big city” of Bendigo for University access. The only time he listened to music regularly was in the car as he and his step-father traveled into Melbourne together.

This was a strange idea for me to grasp when my partner told me this. It was very difficult for me — a person who is sometimes overwhelmed by sound — to comprehend that for my partner, bands and songs were not distinguishable from each other, but rather blurred together to form one large homogenized blob of decade-associated-noise. Which is why my partner and father will occasionally have weird moments, such as when I play a song my partner vaguely recognizes and I tell him it’s (for example) by Fleetwood Mac. He’ll raise an eyebrow at me and say “That’s Fleetwood Mac?” (though in his defense Fleetwood Mac does change it’s vocal-line up frequently). My father will be incredulous at my partner’s inability to detect a particular band’s style by a mere few bars of music. My partner will shrug non-nonchalantly (“What are you getting all riled up for? It’s just music.”), which will naturally annoy my father further.

Although, I have exposed him to my weird and strange assortment of music, I must confess it mostly consists of 90’s alternative rock — I am a product of my time period in some ways. As my partner’s car is a Japanese import, it can only access AM radio stations, which makes it a little difficult to keep up with modern music. So, it has only just recently come to my attention that auditory stimming is a thing. I hadn’t realised it until I saw a tumblr post mentioning a list of stims, and “listening to the same song over and over again” was one of them, which is something I’ve been doing since I was kid.

The thing is, I still do this and I’m starting to think it might be one of my “feel good” stims (as opposed to my “stress relief” stims which are fidget/hand orientated) and I hadn’t realised it until now. It’s funny, I’ve been trying to figure out “feel good” stims for my characters in my Pushing Boundaries series, and I should have realised sooner why I was having such difficulties. If I couldn’t figure out my own ones, I could hardly figure out ones for my characters. At this point, while I can figure out Mary’s “feel good” stims, it’s going to be more difficult for a character like James, who mostly listens to audio books and classical music, and I have a feeling that it’s going be a process of elimination.

So, for the last two days, I’ve been listening to Youtube videos made by Postmodern Jukebox, and these videos have been helpful for character development and Auditory Stimming:

The Original Artist:
~All About That Bass by Megan Trainor
~Bad Romance by Lady Gaga
~Closer by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
~Habits by Tove Lo
~Hotline Bling by Drake
~Lovefool by The Cardigans
~Stacey’s Mum by Fountains of Wayne
~Sugar, We’re Going Down Swinging by Fall Out Boy
~Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood
~Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys and Barbie Girl by Aqua (the 90’s was a weird time)

The Postmodern Jukebox Version:
~All About That Bass – Postmodern Jukebox European Tour Version ft. Casey Abrams, Haley Reinhart, Morgan James and Ariana Savalas
~Bad Romance – Vintage 1920’s Gatsby Style ft. Ariana Savalas and Sarah Reich
~Closer – Retro ’50s Prom Style ft. Kenton Chen
~Habits – Vintage 1930’s Jazz ft. Haley Reinhart
~Hotline Bling – Vintage ’40s Swing ft. Cristina Gatti
~Lovefool – Vintage Jazz ft. Haley Reinhart
~Stacy’s Mum – Vintage 1930s Hot Jazz ft. Casey Abrams
~Sugar, We’re Going Down – Vintage Big Band Style ft. Joey Cook
~Sweater Weather – Vintage French Pop / Edith Piaf-style ft. Cristina Gatti
~Barbie Girl – Vintage Beach Boys Style ft. Morgan James

This is just a small sample I’m working with. I’m hoping if I use a small sample, it will make it easier to focus my attention. I am so easily distracted by noise and sound. There are way more songs available from the enormously talented singers and musicians that work with Postmodern Jukebox.

All About The Bass: I’ve already written about my issues with the Megan Trainor version (link is here), however I can’t deny I enjoy listening to this version of the song. Morgan James also changes the line to “go ahead and tell those skinny ladies that”, and coupled with her delivery of the “Naw, I’m just playing, I know you think you’re fat” line sort of makes it more tolerable? IDK, it’s up to personal interpretation. My favourite part of the song is when all three ladies harmonize together (which is audio catnip for me). The first time I listened to this song, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and sigh; I was not aware I was doing that until my partner raised an eyebrow at my behaviour.

Bad Romance: The funny thing is that Lady Gaga herself is a self-taught pianist, so she often performs Poker Face in this style, which I think is great. If anything, I encourage artists to be able to sit back and strip down their music to the essentials. Ariana Savalas and Sarah Reich work great together as a team, with Sarah performing tap dancing. I would have thought the tap-dancing would make it distracting, but it’s complimentary (or at least that’s the case for me).

Closer: While it’s clear that the guy from The Chainsmokers could not sing to save his life, this is not the case with Kenton Chen and the other vocalists Mario Jose and Vince Cannady. They provide lovely tenor and countertenor harmonization. But this song highlights the fact that talented musicians and vocalists are still restricted by the song. The lyrical clunkiness of the chorus is highlighted because these are talented musicians and vocalists. Much in the same way that Elvis Presley’s bad acting was highlighted further by surrounding him with a cast of talented actors. But, getting back on topic, I just love this style of music. Amongst my favourite songs are I Only Have Eyes For You by The Flamingos, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) by The Four Tops and Why Do Fools Fall In Love by Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers.

Habits: I love the Haley Reinhart version of this (I’ve replayed this countless times over the last two days). I adore Haley Reinhart’s smoky/raspy Mezzo-soprano voice, or at least I think that’s what it’s classified as (I am in no way a music expert). Haley Reinhart is an engaging performer and she is exquisite to listen to.

Hotline Bling: While I despise the original version of this song, I do enjoy the Hotline Bling memes which are hilarious (the Star Wars one is the best, no exceptions). But much like All About That Base, when Cristina Gatti sings this song, it somehow becomes more tolerable (is that the right word?). When I asked my partner to listen to it, he said “Great, now I have to take this song seriously.” He described it as “like Amy Winehouse”, to which I replied “Why do you say that like it’s a bad thing?”, especially since I also love Amy Winehouse’s music such as Rehab (I play this constantly), Back To Black and Valerie (I know this is Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse, but you get the general idea)

Lovefool: As stated previously, I adore tracks performed by Haley Reinhart, but I also really like the original as well. It’s one of my favourite songs, I think both versions are good, but my partner thinks this version is too close to the original. Let me know in the comments section if you agree or disagree.

Stacey’s Mum: This song is a bit of guilty pleasure of mine, and while I enjoy both versions, I’ve got to say that Casey Abrams is mad talented.

Sugar, We’re Going Down Swinging: Although I am a big Fall Out Boy Fan, I love it when female artists do covers of songs originally sung for/by men. After all, despite the fact that Otis Reed originally did sing it, Aretha Franklin’s version of Respect is the one that’s most well known, and it’s obvious Aretha Franklin’s version is the better one (not sorry in the slightest). Joey Cook’s version does not disappoint, it sounds just like I imagined a vintage big band to sound like, and the black and white visual adds to the jazzy atmosphere.

Sweater Weather: While I do like the original, I prefer Cristina Gatti’s version, not just because she is lovely to listen to (singing in French!) but also because, unlike the original song, the music composition is consistent throughout the track, the original track slows down the melody for some weird reason near the end. This reminds me strongly of Dancing With Myself by Nouvelle Vague, although I do also enjoy the Billy Idol version of Dancing With Myself as well.

Barbie Girl: With regards to Aqua, I actually have a copy their first album (I give full permission to laugh) and while Barbie Girl was most certainly overplayed, it wasn’t Aqua’s best song, my preferred Aqua songs would be Good Morning Sunshine (even though it has a weird rap moment?) and Happy Boys and Girls (if you could turn Diabetes into a sound, I’m fairly certain it would sound like this). With regards to The Beach Boys, I think Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys is an overrated and, quite frankly, jarring song (there’s a reason people only use the first minute and thirty seconds of that song). I feel that Wouldn’t It Be Good (one of my favourite songs) and I Get Around are better examples of The Beach Boys trademark harmonizing vocals.

And this is why Youtube is both a terrible and wonderful thing. For the last two days, I’ve been feeling happy whilst listening to music, but feeling positive and feeling productive are not the same thing. It’s impossible for me to write and sing at the same time (I’ve tested this). Words can be distracting to productivity, which is why one of my PWE teachers recommended listening to instrumental sounds while writing like cinematic soundtracks or classical music instead.

I have found that I’m more productive with music playing in the background with speakers. I’m not as productive when I’m listening to my mp3 player and headphones, but then again, I live with just my partner and me so that’s possible for me to do that (I understand that’s not possible for everyone). If using Youtube, make use of the playlist function, I found that the playlist function was super helpful and I didn’t have to worry about what video to play next, it automatically went to the next one. This way I could just run it in the background while I did the dishes and the laundry.

So, let me know in the comments section down below if you’re into this type of music or if you like an alternative cover version of a song.

Links:
~Queer Without Gender – Experience Atypical: Sound
~Sensory Processing Disorder Checklist: Signs And Symptoms Of Dysfunction
~Todd In The Shadows: Closer by The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
~Todd In The Shadows: The Best of 2013
~The Rap Critic: Hotline Bling by Drake
~When you try all the sounds and beats on your synth while only playing coldplay – viva la vida
~Auditory Stimming

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