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Month: October 2017

Autism and Navigating Social Needs and Desires

I recently took my boys to a birthday party at a friend’s house. The party theme was movie night and the kids were given shoe box size plastic containers containing a plate with pizza, a drink bottle, a plastic popcorn box, little containers of candies and crackers and such, and glow-in-the-dark necklaces. They’d originally planned to have the party outside and project a movie onto the side of the house, but rain drove everyone into a basement room that was set up with pillows and cushions and little chairs. Adult-sized chairs lined the back wall and a sheet hung on the wall to serve as the screen for the projector. It was quite well put together and very clever.

Parents got all the kids settled downstairs, and the dad started the movie. After making sure Scott and Jeb had their boxes of food and drink secure in a way that they wouldn’t spill, I went back upstairs with some of the other moms to get myself some food and a drink when, minutes later, 11-year-old Scott came stomping upstairs carrying his little plastic box.

We’d already had an issue with the pizza. The mom had checked with me beforehand about what brand of pizza to get (we go to Bible study together, so she was very careful to make sure that Scott would eat dinner that night), but they’d bought a thin crust instead of a regular crust, and he would NOT eat it (which was a bit frustrating because she’d gone to such careful lengths to make sure Scott would enjoy himself). So, we were already on the edge with his coping skills, because he was hungry and starting a spiral.

It took me several minutes to understand the gist of the problem. As the dad set up the DVD and the projector, he let the previews play on the screen. Scott saw the preview for a Disney movie he’d never seen (Ratatouille, I think) and wanted to watch that instead of Toy Story. Like I said, he was already starting to spiral, so normally he’d grudgingly accept the movie and go on with life, but not this night.

Not wanting to force an issue in a crowded room with a bunch of kids, I hugged him to give him some joint compression (because that releases dopamine and norepinephrine – which help him chill in a spiral) and talked him into making himself a big plate of veggies and ranch dip – then gave him another bag of the (never served in our house but always longed after) Doritos. Then I settled him on the couch and handed him my phone.

Something about his demeanor gave me pause, though. Despite the fact that he was about to sit back with unrestricted YouTube power, something seemed off. I said, “Are you okay with this?”

He shrugged and said, “I mean, I guess.”

Again, that didn’t feel right. So, I said, “Scott, how do you feel about being up here instead of downstairs with the other kids?”

He moved his little plastic box off his lap and set my phone down, then drew his legs up and covered his face with his hands. “I feel so left out!” he wailed.

That really made me stop.

There is an assumption that we’d incorrectly made in that even though Scott doesn’t outwardly exhibit a desire for a social presence, and even though he often removes himself to be alone, that didn’t mean that he NEVER wanted to be socially active. He just didn’t know how to make it happen at this moment because so many things (in his mind, so they’re valid points) had gone “wrong” with the evening.

So, I took him into my lap and squeezed him some more, and said, “Hey, if I go down there with you, will you sit in my lap and watch the movie with me? It’s been so long since I saw Toy Story and I’d love it if we could watch it together.”

He jumped up with much enthusiasm. “Okay!” he said, and I carried his box while we went back downstairs. Thankfully, a big chair against the back wall wasn’t occupied, so I settled into the chair and Scott climbed into my lap. A little while later, a chair next to mine was empty, and Scott, obviously resettled after so much contact with me, moved into that chair.

After the movie, we sang “Happy Birthday,” gathered cupcakes to take home, and left (we were the only non-homeschooled family there, so it was a little late for a Monday night and we left with the party still ongoing.) Scott and Jeb both proclaimed how it had been the best birthday party ever, and talked about it even the next morning.

Social situations are difficult for many autistic kids., and Scott is no exception. Other kids are loud, they understand social cues, and they don’t always want to play by Scott’s rules. So our assumption has always been that he simply did not seek it out and did not want it.

How many times have I unintentionally perpetuated a situation where he ended up feeling “so left out!”?

I worry now, a bit, that since I’ve never forced social situations beyond gentle encouragement, that I might have been keeping Scott from doing something he really wanted to do but didn’t know how to make happen.

I’ve now resolved to ask him, with clearly defined questions, how he feels about interacting or not interacting with peers.

Since isolation is so often the preference over everything else, the questions won’t be “would you rather”, because almost always, he’d “rather” be on his own with a screen. Instead, it will be, “How do you feel about —,” which will give him an opportunity to analyze and try to convey what it is that he’s feeling — either, “I don’t care” or “I feel so left out” – or anything in between.

Because now I know that I need to ask.

 

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Monday Morning Chat – Writing About Satanic Cults and Spiritual Warfare

Hello! Welcome to Monday morning coffee and chat!

I really appreciate all of the questions that I get from my readers. Today I’m answering two questions:

Was it too risque to write about a Satanic cult leader in A Harmony for Steve?

and

Why did you never finish the story about the character Charles in A Harmony for Steve?

Nothing like easy questions, is there? 😉 I hope you learn more about me as a writer through my response:

 

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Interview with Author Ada Brownwell and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m excited to bring you Ada Brownwell. Reading Ada’s interview in the “about” section, I felt like I’d been swept back in time to an old west story! I would have loved to seen her town when she first moved there! I enjoyed all of Ada’s interview and hope you do, too. She’s giving away an ebook of her latest release, so read on to see how you can enter to win!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I became a writer when the Lord sent us to the Utah desert. Three bars and you could buy groceries in two of the bars. No church, but a motel, a schoolhouse, a post office, the railroad depot where my husband worked as a telegrapher/agent, an acid plant, a uranium mill, and 100 people.

I thought we’d missed God’s will until He got a hold of my heart, put fire in my Spirit, and I received permission and started a Sunday school in the school. God sent a friend to help me within a week after I prayed God would send someone. She was a wonderful Christian, my age, and a wonderful helper.

I also began writing for Christian publications and became a newspaper correspondent in the five years we lived there. God changed my life and my future.

Tell us about your current release. In my western historical romance, Peach Blossom Rancher, the leading man, John Lincoln Parks, yearns for a wife to help rebuild the ranch he inherited. He eyes Valerie MacDougal, a beautiful young widow who homesteaded, but she also is an attorney who hopes to help those wrongly held in the asylum. One of those she hopes to help is a physician who had one seizure.

Will the doctor ever be set free from the asylum? Will John marry Valerie or Edwina Jorgenson, the feisty rancher-neighbor he constantly fusses with? This neighbor has a Peeping Tom whose boot prints are like the person’s who dumped a body in John’s barn. Will John even marry, or be hanged for the murder?

If you knew ahead of time your book would benefit only one person on their spiritual journey, would you still write it? Probably. At first I said “absolutely.” But I can’t say what I’d do when I’m not in that position.

Do you feel pressured to compromise your standards in order to reach a larger audience or be more successful? No way. The only reason I write is to be a blessing to others. My brand is “Stick-to-Your-Soul Encouragement,” and if I compromise spiritual standards, I’d be better off writing wellness and health books and articles, which I could do because I spent seven years on the medical beat at The Pueblo Chieftain. I picked a lot of brains and attended many illuminating health conferences.

What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? Some of it isn’t a worthwhile investment of a reader’s time. I like a story that is more than romance. To be enjoyable there must be deep suspense. The leading character should have a significant goal and numerous people and circumstances stand in the way of reaching that goal. Along the way to achieving what he needs or wants the character meets someone special–and love blossoms. The character should grow spiritually and mentally throughout the book.

Some fiction labeled “Christian” flirts with obscenity because of writers who like to create “sexual tension.” Other Christian books don’t have enough redeeming value to encourage a reader when the story is completed. I love to feel spiritually uplifted by what happens (not long preachy sections). Reviewers often mention my character, Polly, who has a major part in Peach Blossom Rancher, because their hearts dance with Polly when she dances a little joyful circle. Her feet go to dancing when she talks to the Lord or a scripture blesses her.

With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down? I take notes and then sit down as quickly as possible and write as fast as I can. The first draft of The Lady Fugitive was finished in five weeks.

What’s the first major news headline that you can remember and what do you remember? The first time I saw television news I was at a neighbor’s house and Castro’s men took machine guns and mowed people down in front of a pit. They dropped and soon a bull dozer covered the mass grave. Made me know Communism and false religions are a threat to Christians and I should know all the scriptures I can in case my Bible is taken away. I also need to be ready to meet God at any moment.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write? I have a general outline and character descriptions. In the Peaches and Dreams series, I create characters that have experiences similar to what some members of my family have gone through. The Lady Fugitive idea came from my maternal grandparents. Peach Blossom Rancher continued with some of the characters of The Lady Fugitive. The next book with the working title Ritah reflects some of the things that occurred in my mother’s life. She was born in 1900, so fits the era I love to read and write about.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book?  Yes. Now I’m going to shoot for 75,000 words because paperbacks are cheaper to print when they’re shorter. With The Lady Fugitive, the first book in the Peaches and Dreams historical romance series, I had 75,000 words when I pitched it to an editor. She was excited about it and suggested I make it 100,000 words. I did it, submitted it, but later the editor told me I didn’t make the cut for the number of historical romances her traditional publisher planned to publish that year. The bad news was those who made the cut already had been published by that house. With the downturn in the demand for paperbacks and publishers and bookstores losing money, their book budget had been cut. So I was fortunate to have the book picked up by a subsidy publisher where the author pays part of the publishing costs, yet the publisher is royalty paying. When I found that publisher it was an amazing connection because soon the small Christian publisher, Elk Lake Publishing Inc., became royalty paying only (no subsidy) and published the second book in the series, Peach Blossom Rancher.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Observe life, study how good writers show instead of tell.  Choose a character and write down everything you can think of about him and his problems. Always add complications to his or her life even though you hate to let that happen. Stick in a character who will bring in humor, too.

Find Ada online:

Her website, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon

Find Ada’s latest release online:

Ada is giving away an ebook of PEACH BLOSSOM RANCHER. See below how to enter to win!

halleeLOGOspinefinal


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
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Monday Morning Chat – We’re Talking Cookbooks!

Hello! Welcome to Monday morning coffee and chat!

I really appreciate all of the questions that I get from my readers! Don’t forget that November 6th, I’ll be doing the chat with my boys and we’ll be discussing autism. So, if you have a question for Scott (who is autistic), Johnathan (who has a brother with autism), or me (as a parent with an autistic child), then make sure you click the link in the sidebar, which will take you to the Google form and you can ask your question!

Today I’m answering the question:

What is your favorite of the cookbooks?

Love the question! I hope you learn more about me as a writer through my response:

 

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I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
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Interview with Author Julie Coulter Bellon and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m so happy to bring you Julie Coulter Bellon. Julie writes action-packed military suspense! One of the reviews on her Amazon page for her latest release is titled “Really Intense”. I love fiction like that! AND — Julie is giving away a copy of her latest release, THE CAPTURE. Read on to see how you can enter to win!

Tell us a little bit about yourself: A little about me? Hmm…I’m Julie Coulter Bellon, wife, mother of eight, and author of more than a dozen books. I’m Canadian, married to an American, and definitely have the best of both worlds. (Can you say two Thanksgivings every year? Win for everyone I think.) I have six boys and two girls, and my life is never boring. I love to travel and my favorite places I’ve visited so far would probably be Crete, Paris, London, and Ottawa. I would really love to see Hawaii someday. And Scotland. And Australia. Well, you get the idea. My claim to fame is that I got to meet Princess Diana when I was twelve years old. When I’m not writing, you can find me reading, playing with my kids, eating Canadian chocolate, or watching Hawaii Five-O, not necessarily in that order.

Tell us about your current release: My current release is The Capture. It’s about the head of an elite task force named Julian, whose girlfriend is snatched by an international terrorist at the same time Julian is buying an engagement ring. He uses every resource he has to find her and get her back, but when he does, they have a long journey ahead of them to put the pieces of their love story back together. There are emotional conversations and dealing with some darkness, but the thing I like best about this story is there’s always hope, always light, and the possibility for healing is within reach, but they have to grab for it. And that’s what keeps us all going in the end, isn’t it?

Have you always wanted to write? I always wanted to write and won second place in a writing contest when I was in second grade. That cemented my dream of being a writer. I graduated with a secondary education English teaching degree, I taught journalism, and wrote my first novel. It was rejected by all the publishers I submitted it to, and I was so sad! I put it under my bed and tried to tell myself that my dream wasn’t going to happen. It was over. But a year later, I dusted off that manuscript, made some changes and tried again, and received an offer within ten days. I wish I hadn’t wasted so much time wallowing in self-pity and just tried again!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? My advice to aspiring writers is this: The only difference between an unpublished writer and a published one is that one didn’t give up. I really believe that! Never give up. Find a genre you feel strongly about, finish a manuscript, find a writers group that will give you an honest critique, and figure out the best publishing path for you and your book. It can be a long hard road, but very worth it.

What medium do you use to write? I usually combine writing on my computer, but I change it up with writing in a notebook. It’s a thing from my journalist days, I think, that I can gather thoughts and dialogue a little easier with a pen and paper. And if my notebook isn’t handy, I’ve also been known to write on programs, napkins, boxes, whatever a pen can write on. I’ve learned to keep notepads close by wherever I go.

What were some of your favorite childhood books? My favorite books series when I was a girl was Nancy Drew! I read every single book there was, and my favorites were read over and over. I also enjoyed the Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys, but Nancy was my go to.

Do you write your books for your own enjoyment or more for what you think people would want to read? The things I’ve treasured most about being a writer is the people that I’ve met and who have been good enough to send me letters telling me what my stories meant to them. One woman wrote a letter about how her daughter had been touched my domestic violence and my story Love’s Broken Road gave her hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and happiness can still be part of your life when you’ve lived through something like that.

One of my most tender experiences, though, was when I had a Marine and his platoon answering my author questions so my military aspect for Iraq and Afghanistan could be realistic. They would come back to camp after defusing roadside IEDs and were good enough to go through all my research questions. During this time, they mentioned that they missed candy from home, like Skittles, and that they sometimes felt forgotten by people at home. I resolved then that at all my book signings, I would collect food and hygiene items for our soldiers, but especially Skittles, and I named it Skittles for Soldiers. I collected over 900 lbs of food and other needed items for our men and woman overseas because I never wanted them to feel unappreciated or forgotten. An older gentleman came to a book signing and watched me for a minute before he approached. He had a hat on that told me he’d served in the military at one point in his life. His eyes filled with tears and all he said to me was thank you, but as I shook his hand, I cried, too, and thanked him for his sacrifices and service.

So, a very long answer to your question is yes, I would write a book even if it only helped one person, but really, that one person is probably me. I have changed and my heart has grown so much with my experience being an author. And it’s so worth it.

Find Julie online:

Blog, Twitter, Facebook



at iBooks:
 

at Barnes & Noble:
The Capture (Griffin Force #3)

 

 

 

Julie is giving away a copy of THE CAPTURE! See how you can win below.

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I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
You can also become a fan on Become a Facebook Fan Facebook or follow me on Follow me on Twitter Twitter. I would love to see more of you!


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Monday Morning Chat: More of the Jewel Series

Hello! Welcome to Monday morning coffee and chat!

I really appreciate all of the questions that I get from my readers. Don’t forget that on November 6th, I’ll be doing a video with my two sons, and we’ll be answering your questions about Autism – about parenting autism, having a sibling with autism, or in Scott’s case, dealing with our world through the autism filters. So, if you have a question for us, click the link in the sidebar and submit it in the normal way!

Today I’m answering the question:

I’m a new reader. Will there be more of the Jewel Series?

Here’s my exciting answer!

 

halleeLOGOspinefinal


I’m so grateful for your visit, today.
You would bless me if you added me to your Subscribe via any Reader feed reader or subscribed Subscribe via Email via email.
You can also become a fan on Become a Facebook Fan Facebook or follow me on Follow me on Twitter Twitter. I would love to see more of you!


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