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How My Bearded Dragon Accidentally Became a Support Animal

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How My Bearded Dragon Accidentally Became a Support Animal

How my bearded dragon accidentally became a support animal

Anxiety is no joke.

I’ve suffered from general and social anxiety for almost as long as I can remember. Actions that come naturally to others—such as looking people in the eye, regulating my tone, not overthinking every little interaction—take a lot of work for me. And although I’d love to have a therapy dog, I have neither the space, or the funds to give a puppy the life it deserves.

Some years ago, I met my first bearded dragon, Timóteo. He belonged to a friend, and the first day I met Timóteo, he climbed up my arm and spent an entire afternoon cuddling against my neck. His owner, Carlos, said he’d never seen anything like that, and his wife, whose name is also Diana, remained amazed at how Timóteo just stayed there for hours, even as I played with their lovely (but eager!) rescue dogs.

I fell in love with bearded dragons that day.

Before I got my own, however, I did some research. They were relatively cheap to maintain, and most owners said they tended to be calm and friendly so long as they were handled properly.

As soon as I got my first paycheck, I got my own beardie. The breeder everyone recommended happened to be running a promotion (making the terrarium extra affordable), so I went there to see the newly hatched dragons. I stuck my hand in the terrarium where all the babies were, and this tiny fella just jumps onto my finger and hangs on. He wasn’t a girl, like I’d initially wanted, but the breeder wasn’t finding any girls in the clutch, and I didn’t have the heart to put back the beardie back.

That little dragon was Norbert.

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Baby Norbert!

I’m going to skip the part where my parents threw a fit, and my mother refused to come to my home for half a year. I set up the terrarium, prepared the eye-dropper with water (baby beardies need to be given water that way until they learn how to drink it from the bowl), looked at the box of roaches with determination and dismay, and set to raising a dragon.

For the first too weeks, I couldn’t take him out of the tank. He was too small, and still not acclimatized to a new home. So I’d sit at the edge of my bed, arm in the terrarium, talking to little Norbert while I petted him. Trying to pick up roaches with tweezers was an exercise in frustration, and that eventually won over disgust. I started hand-feeding him roaches every two days, and vegetables once a week. Young beardies, unlike adult ones, eat mostly insects—so it was… fun. I never thought I’d go through so many boxes of roaches, but roaches are the best source so. Yay.

Note: if you’re going to raise a bearded dragon, handling insects is non-negotiable. Bearded dragons need a lot of protein growing up, so giving them roaches and/or crickets is mandatory if you want them to be healthy. Once, while coming back from shopping for groceries, I came across a guy walking his beardie, and after I unapologetically screamed, “OMG A DRAGON I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE!” we talked for a bit. I thought the beardie (Stevie was his name!) was a juvenile because he was so tiny. NOPE. He was a rescue whose previous owner had refused to feed him insects.

Back to Norbert.

Once he was used to me, I started taking him out every night. I’d put him on my lap, I’d kiss him, I’d cuddle with him. We formed a bond. He started looking up when I came home from work and called his name. He was hand-fed, but because feeding wasn’t all I used my hands for with him, he wasn’t attacking my fingers thinking they were food. Because yes, if you hand-feed your beardie but don’t pet and handle them, they will associate your hand with food and strike at it.

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Young Norbert, already showing he inherited my love for technology

When the good weather came (by February—thanks, climate change!) Norbert was around six months old. No longer the size of my finger, I could take him outside to enjoy actual sun. Naturally, that’s what I did.

There’s a nice park near my place where I used to hang out a lot as a student. There are tons of dogs after 6 pm, but it’s pretty chill before then. I took my notebook for some writing, my Kindle for some reading, got a towel to sit on the grass, and took Norbert with me.

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Norbert on an outing

I had to be extra careful, but most of the time, I found that Norbert just sat on my lap and basked in the sun. Some people screamed when they saw him, but I was surprised to see most reactions were positive. Grandmothers came to me with their grandchildren and told them, “Look, a dinosaur!” It was adorable.

And Norbert? He just sat there and took in the attention. Whenever a loud noise spooked him, I held him to me—eventually, he got so used to it he started climbing up my arm and nestling on my shoulder automatically. Soon, he was no longer bothered with loud noises, and he closed his eyes when strangers showered him with affection.

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He was very upset no one was petting him at that moment

 

Then, I begin noticing something strange.

Usually, when a lot of people surround me and speak at me, I have panic attacks. When I’m alone in conventions and gatherings (like the Lisbon book fair,) I feel like a stupid dork wandering around, and my anxiety leads me to think everyone MUST be looking at me, even though I know they aren’t.

With Norbert, that all went away. Sure, I had more people than usual approach me, tons of people staring at me—except with Norbert, I know it’s not me they’re looking at, or me they’re curious about. It’s all him. So much so that when I have Norbert and someone comes near, I immediately think it’s for him.

And it is.

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“Can we take photos of your dragon?”

Thanks to Norbert, I’ve experienced some beautiful moments at the Lisbon Book Fair, at the park, at cons. Things that would’ve given me a crying attack no longer did. I had an entire class of 4th graders and their teacher come to me and ask about Norbert. I had a mom and her daughters come talk to me because the eldest girl had just done a report on bearded dragons and had never seen one. I ended up talking for hours with two random strangers from the same college I went to because Norbert decided he HAD to climb onto this guy’s lap and sit there. When I locked myself out of my house and had to call the police to break into my own home, four grown men lost their shit when they saw Norbert. To this day, I haven’t been charged for their intervention and I suspect that was all on Norbs.

I also found myself looking at people in the eye, something I’ve always struggled with and have been scolded for. I don’t find myself obsessing over what I’ve said or done, because most of the things I’ve said or done are related to Norbert, and Norbert is perfect.

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I was in NYC when Paula Hawkins’s book launched, but too shy to meet her. Not the case in Lisbon!

I also had less beautiful moments. A lady found a cop in the garden and wanted him to arrest me. My own mom wishes Norbert would die because she hates him. I overheard people I knew from college saying, “She just wants attention,” when attention is the last thing I want and the exact reason I bring Norbert is to deflect it from me and onto him.

I can’t handle people as Diana, the person. But I have no problem talking to anyone as Diana, the dragon wrangler. And when I do get nervous, all I have to do is look down at Norbert and see him looking up at me.

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Norbert being a book slut at the Lisbon Book Fair

There are limitations to bringing bearded dragons with you. For one, you can’t take them out if the weather’s too cold. If you do bring them, you have to make sure they catch at least 3 hours of sunlight, so there’s a lot of standing in the sun. But when you can take them, they’re wonderful, quiet, calm animals that ground you. It’s like they come with their own shield against anxiety. If Norbert was a pet in Pillars of Eternity 2, he’d give you +2 Resolve and resistance to Resolve afflictions. And yes, I’m still bummed I didn’t have enough money to pledge to name a pet in that game because in-game Norbert would’ve been A+.

Still, if you can’t have a dog, and only need a support animal for periodic situations, a bearded dragon might be perfect for you. I know Norbert is perfect for me.

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~so happy together!~

Additional notes on bearded dragons:

If you want a healthy beardie, make sure to feed them insects! Crickets and roaches are great. If you can get silkworms and hornworms, give them those too because they’re high in protein—unlike mealworms, which are mostly fat.

Beardies require 12-14 hours of light exposure when in tanks. You’ll need an UVB and a heat lamp, and renew that UVB every 4-6 months. They lose efficacy and need changing regularly! If you have a yard you can release them in without worrying (or a yard you can stay and supervise), then 3-4 hours of daily, real sunlight should suffice.

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Jubas booping a bathing Norbert

Don’t use sand as a substrate, especially if you’re raising a hatchling! Beardies can be very messy eaters, and they’ll eat sand, causing impaction. I use paper towels and they’ve served me well.

Mist your beardie daily, or give him baths every week.

Beardies brumate in winter! They’ll be less active, and eat less as well. When he’s brumating, Norbert eats once a week, then as the temperatures go up, he starts eating more.

Give your beardie veggies! Green beans, dandelion greens, parsley, and coriander are some great staple foods. There are a lot more you can give them, just be sure to check! Norbert, for instance, loves hibiscus flowers. He also loves figs when they’re in season. Also, melon, papaya, mango, sweet potatoes, bell peppers (especially red ones), courgette/zucchini, kale, and so on.

If you get your beardie used to pooping in the bath (I did this accidentally by giving Norbert baths every 2-3 days when he was growing up) they will actually ask to be taken out of the terrarium so you can draw them a bath for them to poop xD When we’re outside, he’ll ask to be put down so he can poop as well.

Beardies also grow according to their terrarium, so try to have one that’s on the bigger side.

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Sushi meets Norbert for the first time while Jubas ogles in the background

If you have other pets, be sure to monitor all interactions. Some dogs are very OK with beardies and won’t harm them (my vet has a Pit Bull that LOVES beardies and will let the lizards hop on him and won’t move until the lizards do), but either way, take extreme care. With my cats, Sushi completely ignores Norbert, but Jubas isn’t the same. I can never leave the two of them alone because while Jubas knows he can’t touch Norbert, sometimes he’ll get too playful and might accidentally do something to poor Norbs. So they’re never, EVER alone together, and when they are, I’m always nearby and paying attention.

Beardies live for about 10 years, give or take. They’re not a short-term pet.

 

 

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Commissions + Critiques Fundraiser

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As some of you might know, my cat Jubas suffers from bladder stones. Luckily we caught it in time, and he won’t require surgery like he did the last time. BUT he’s still on a special diet that is incredibly draining money-wise (a 5kg bag is €49 and it lasts half a month, plus vet visits and blood/urine tests). Norbert also needs two new lamps (a heating lamp, which is €7, and a UVB lamp, which is €35). This is Priority #1.

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Adding to this, I got accepted into the wonderful Rainbow Weekend at the Writing Barn. I’ve applied for a scholarship, but it’s not guaranteed, AND the flight alone will be around €1000. Priority #2.

So, in an effort to help me come up with the funds, I will be offering art commissions at discounted prices, as well as query, synopsis, and submission package critiques.

Art Commissions

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Sketches: €5 per character without color, €8 with basic coloring
Turnaround time: 24-48 hours

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Portrait “speedy”: €25 per character if color, €15 if black and white
Turnaround time: 3 days

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High-Res Portrait: €45 per character with color, €35 if black and white
Turnaround time: 5 days

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Full Body: €70 per character with color, €60 if black and white
Turnaround time: 1 week

 

Critique Services

I used to offer these on Fiverr. You can check out my page for reviews and testimonials! I’ve also mentored on Nightmare on Query Street, and was a judge for QueryKombat.

Query Critique: €5 per pass
I will work with you on your query using Word Track Changes, addressing character, stakes, conflict, and clarity.
Turnaround time: 2448 hours

Synopsis Critique: €15 per pass
I will work with you on your synopsis using work track changes to make it clear, concise, and no more than 2 pages long. If you have a 2-page synopsis already, then the price is €8 per pass
Turnaround time:
48 hours

First 5 Pages Critique: €15 per pass
I will work with you on polishing those first pages, addressing grammar, consistency, and if it’s where your story should begin. Please attach your query when booking this so I know what the book should be about!
Turnaround time: 48 hours

Submission Package: €25 per pass
I will work with you on your query, synopsis, and first five pages as described above!
Turnaround time: 3 to 5 days
Rush fee: €10 for same day delivery

Sensitivity Reads: €200 for a novel
I will read your novel for potential harmful tropes relating to: bipolar disorder, depression, social anxiety, self-harm, suicide, bullying, bisexuality, and growing up on the spectrum without a diagnosis.
Turnaround time: 2-3 weeks
Rush fee: €75 for same week

Contact me!

Payment are accepted via Paypal. Please send all inquiries to pinguicha[at]gmail[dot]com.

Sightwitch Blog Tour!

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Hi everyone!

Long time no updates! I should be better at updating this blog, especially since I’ve been producing a lot of portraits. So here! I cast Raise the Dead, prompted by this Sightwitch Blog Tour!

I got an e-ARC for the book from TorTeen, and I got to reading it right away. It’s an excellent addition to the Witchlands universe, and told in a rather unusual format: diaries, with illustrations to accompany it.

I adored Ryber’s POV, and learning how Sightwitches and their little society worked was fascinating. We get to learn a lot more about Ryber, as well as Kullen, and the book does a nice job expanding the world. I don’t want to spoil, but it hints at a very big mystery and now I can’t wait for Bloodwitch.

So here are my contributions! You might have seen Ryber already. I experimented with Gradient Maps and Brushes to make her skin have that gold/green hue.

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And a new one! Ryber’s heartthread, Kullen! I used Teddy Sears as a reference when painting him, so any similarities are intentional 😛

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Blurb:
 

Before Safi and Iseult battled a Bloodwitch…

Before Merik returned from the dead…

91QrCSFmO3L.jpgRyber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight.

Years pass and Ryber’s misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight―and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain.

On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.

About Susan Dennard:

Susan_square1I’ve come a long way from small-town Georgia. Working in marine biology, I got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (I’ll get to you yet, Asia!)—before I settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.

I’m the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the New York Times bestselling Witchlands books, Truthwitch and Windwitch, and if I’m not writing, then I’m busy slaying darkspawn or earning bruises at the dojo.

I live in the Midwestern US with my French husband, two spoiled dogs, and two grouchy cats. Learn more about me and my cookie-addiction on the blognewslettertwitterinstagram, or pinterest.

Links:
Goodreads
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books A Million
Book Depository

Massive Game Giveaway!

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Once again, cleaning out my spare keys from Humble Bundle. Please enter ONLY for games you don’t have!

Giveaways for:

The Walking Dead (Season 2):
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Knights of the Old Republic:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

LIMBO, Amnesia, Sword & Sworcery, and Psychonauts Steam Key
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Dark Eye: Chains of Satinav:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

FEZ:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Deponia:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Gamer dragon and kitty wish you all the best of luck!

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Happy Holidays! Here’s a 5 Query/Character Sketches giveaway!

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All right! To celebrate the holidays, I’m giving away 5 Query critiques and 5 Character sketches (portraits)! Note that these portraits can be anything – even fanart, if you’re so inclined.

You can see my artwork here.

As for queries though I’m best at Science Fiction/Fantasy, any genre/age is welcome!

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway

FAITHFUL Release Spotlight!

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The next volume in the Birth of Saints series is available now!

Following Grudging–and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall–religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck’s Birth of Saints series!

 


A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.

Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?

On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.

What they find instead is an old woman.

But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.

A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.
Faithful– November 15, 2016
Harper Voyager

Also enter to win a signed paperback of Grudging, the first book in the series: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.



GRUDGING
November 17, 2015
Harper Voyager


Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads


Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two kids in college. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow.

Her Birth of Saints trilogy, starting with Grudging and Faithful (November 15, 2016), is available from Harper Voyager. Another epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. She’s repped by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary.

Have some FROSTBLOOD Fanart!

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Meet my version of Ruby, Frostblood’s fiery heroine!

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For those interested in specifics: this took me around 20 hours on Photoshop. I used my go-to stock account, faestock, for a pose reference because hands and I do not get along well.

FROSTBLOOD will be out in January 2017 from Little, Brown (US) and Hodder & Stoughton (UK). It’s a lovely, amazing book, and deserves to be read so add it on Goodreads!

Pre-NaNo warm-up: My Crazy Tips

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I’m tackling NaNoWriMo again like I do every year. Winner or no, 50k or no, I find that NaNo helps with several things, from productivity to rising from a slump. These past couple years, I don’t think I’ve “won” Nano, but it’s such a fun time it’s impossible to never join in.

This year, I’ll be attempting to write at least 50k on my new novel, Eat Me, Drink Me. It’s going to be YA Dark Fantasy, because it’s what I love to write, and goddamn Bloodborne, of all things, inspired this one. Note that I say “of all things” because, if you’ve known me for a while, you also know I thought I wouldn’t like Fromsoftware games because they didn’t present a story in the traditional sense. Hell, there’s not much story going on in Bloodborne, but the atmosphere, the soundtrack, the gameplay… they’re all so terrific, by the time I realized what was happening, I was planning a Lovecraftian YA Fantasy. It wouldn’t die, so instead of Cat Dragons (a MG Fantasy I was working on), or yet another re-write of Sightless (my YA Contemp Fantasy that really won’t die), I decided to go for this one.

So yeah, Bloodborne is amazing, you should play it if you can, etc. But I digress.

If you’re thinking about doing NaNo, but the 50k-in-a-month scare you, well, I HAVE YOU COVERED. With tips that these, it’ll be amazing if you don’t have 50k by the end of November.

My Crazy NaNo Tips

(or how I get 50k+ in a month when I try)
  1. It helps if you plot beforehand, even if you never intend to follow said plotline. But if you’re a pantser, well, just work your panster magic!
  2. Whenever you have free time, be it one minute or one hour, write. It doesn’t have to be spectacular. It just has to be there.
  3. If you’re a student (I was, during my GLORIOUS Nano winner years) and already know you’re going to sleep through class anyway: write. This is actually terrible advice on an academic basis, but I probably wrote most of my Nano words during Complex Analysis and Systems Modelling classes.
  4. Carry a tiny notebook and pen/pencil at all times. Whip it out during bus stops, commutes, coffee breaks, anything! Every word counts!
  5. If all else fails, write on your cell phone. I have around 2000 words of A Trace of Madness on small notes in mine.
  6. Take writing material to places you normally wouldn’t. Like the bathroom. For real, you’d be surprised at what magic can happen while your body is, well… working its digestive system magic.
  7. Drink copious amount of coffee/energy drink of choice. In the Lisbon NaNo meets, I’m known for being the chick who drinks 3 giant cups in an hour and a half. If you start getting jittery, worry not! That just means your blood’s become half-caffeine, and we all know that’s what writers run on anyway.
  8. See if you have a NaNo group nearby, and go to the meets! I was sooooo scared the first time I decided to attend the one in Lisbon, but it turned out to be incredibly fun! It was also where I met some of my great friends!
  9. If you’re rolling around in bed and can’t sleep, get up and write. You were going to waste that time to insomnia anyway.
  10. This might just be me, but walking helps a lot with idea flow/plot blocks. If you’re feeling stuck, go for a walk with your soundtrack of choice!
  11. Find and join word sprint groups (or do it by yourself, if you can – I can’t!) If you’re competitive like I am, these will help you get words down without worrying about if it’s actually crap.
  12. Don’t go crazy and start editing. This is super hard for me, because I like editing as I go. However, during NaNo, it’s a no-no. A BIG ONE.
  13. If you’re stuck on a scene, it’s fine to skip ahead. Likewise, if you really want to write that magic cookie of a scene that you’ve been imagining, skip ahead and do it. DO IT!
  14. If you cat/dog/dragon starts throwing a tantrum because you’re ignoring them over writing, be sure to indulge them before they climb onto your laptop and erase your lifeblood from the screen.
  15. Alternatively, let them climb onto the screen and sneak in some ninja “aaaaaaaaahhhh” and “jjjjjjjjjjjhjhjjjjj” words for you. That’s their way of showing pity for their human.

 

And that’s it! Be sure to add me to your NaNo buddy list and maybe we can sprint together!

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Norbert, Dragon to the Southern Portuguese Nanoninjas, dares you to take part in this year’s NaNoWriMo! 

 

Why I Write in English

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I’ve been asked this often, both by native speakers and non-natives, which is why I decided to share my (in)finite wisdom today. I’ve spoken about it briefly on my “Getting the Call” guest post on Michelle Hauck’s blog, but here’s a longer version.

It’s not a secret I’m a huge, huge video game fan. Until I was 12, I’d only had basic English classes at school (basically, two years of learning basic verbs, numbers, how to say the English alphabet, and some questions/answers such as “What’s your name?/My name’s Diana”). Not knowing English on a fluent basis was a very big barrier to my enjoyment of video games, and when I got Ocarina of Time, the world, characters and story were all so vivid and wonderful, I found myself wanting to understand everything. So, like the stubborn little girl that I was, I armed myself with a dictionary. I noted down words I didn’t know to memorize them later.

Now, if you’ve played Ocarina of Time, you know the ending. You also know that any incurable romantic like me wanted more. Zelink is life. Zelink needs to be cannon. I also got hooked on Resident Evil, and the Chris/Jill pairing that everyone knows it’s secretly real at Capcom.

Then I discovered fanfiction.

I lurked on ff.net a lot. I eventually discovered the Resident Evil fic of this wonderful lady named Louise. We started talking. I told Louise that I’d love to write, but there was no point in doing it in Portuguese because no one would read it, and I was afraid of writing in English because mine was so broken. Louise, being the awesome kick-butt lady she is, told me to do it anyway. So, I did.

My first fics were shit. They were riddled with grammar errors (I will never forget my iconic use of “Zelda runned”). Still, people somehow liked them. Errors aside, they liked the story, and kept encouraging me. And I kept writing.

By then, I was in 7th grade and had this wonderful English teacher who nurtured my then-above-average English. I’d ask her to translated some game passages when I was stuck, and she’d do it. I remember learning verb conjugations from her, and finally, I understood that the pas of run, was ran. Similarly, my Portuguese teacher (who I hated back then, but eventually realized I was being a little stupid shit) told me to write more, because he always enjoyed my short stories. So, I did.

At 14, while on an away hockey match, my parents bought me Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. This was significant, because they hate video games, but since yours truly was a model student, and we’d just won the hockey match, they gave it to me as sort of a prize.

You have no idea what sort of doors that game opened. AoD brought on a pivotal change to my life, and it came in the shape of the KTEB. I joined their forums and met the most amazing group of people, some of whom I’m still friends with. My English still had problems, but they never mocked me for it, and they gave me support when I needed it most. I probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. My Sanistas and Manistas are my second family, and they inspired me in many, many ways. A lot of them wrote amazing Tomb Raider fanfic, and I found myself thinking “I wish I could be as good as they are.” I would never have met them had it not been for video games, and my need to learn English.

Now, school was not easy for me. I was a straight-A student, the kind who’s also good at sports. I was bullied, terribly. People gave me hell for playing video games. People gave me hell when I said I learned most of my English from video games. I got spat at in class, hounded at recess, and this obviously caused me to withdraw.

Cue to more video games, and subsequently, better English. I started drawing just because I enjoyed it (my drawing saga in itself deserves another post, but for now, just know that everyone said I’d never be good). I wrote so much fanfic, it was embarrassing. I played Planescape: Torment and it made me realize games could have amazing, complex stories, with great writing to boot.

PS:T is a work of genius and everyone should play it. Seriously.

By then, I was 15, and my English was pretty damn good. So good my parents decided to send me to summer camp for two weeks in Cambridge as a reward for my good grades. It was expensive, but my parents, in spite of all their flaws, never held back when it came to my education.

I went to summer camp twice: first in Cambridge, then in Manchester. Met incredible people there, and my teachers back then also encouraged me to write more. And that second year in Manchester, I got to meet some of my Sanistas in person. It was amazing.

When I was in 9th grade, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out after a long wait. You think I was going to wait two more months for it to be translated in Portuguese? Hell no! It was the first book I read in English, and I got much use out of my dictionary. Same thing went when I discovered Juliet Marillier’s new book was out in English while the Portuguese release was 6 months away. Wait? Hell no!

(In case you don’t know, Juliet’s my favorite writer, and her books are made of magic. READ THEM.)

Fast-forward a couple of years, and I read an amazing Knights of the Old Republic fanfic by Trillian4210 (who I discovered now writes romance under the name Emma Scott). Its scale and scope inspired me tremendously, and after playing Neverwinter Nights II, I decided to try my hand at something epic. If I could commit to it and finish it, I’d then try to write a book.

That fanfic’s still up. It’s called Full Circle, and yes, you guessed it, it’s complete.

I was in college for Computer Engineering by the time I finished it. By then, I’d realized I wanted to write, and went to Engineering to pursue game development. But Engineering is hard, especially when you’re so engrossed in your hobbies you forget to study, so it took me a while to get that damn degree. But I did it.

Halfway through my Bachelor’s, I asked my parents to pay for my Proficiency in English exam, just to have it. They thought I should have some classes first, so I went to Cambridge School in Lisbon and took their test. I started Proficiency classes next week.

I had about six months of classes. Once, our teacher, Harry, told us to write a short story. He loved mine so much he told me to quit Engineering and go to an University in England (he recommended Sussex) and get a writing degree. Unfortunately, my parents couldn’t afford it, so couldn’t, but that was when I decided to pursue writing seriously.

After that, I decided to do NaNoWriMo. At first, I thought I’d do it in Portuguese. Then I met Leonor, fellow animal-lover and Juliet Marillier fan. Friendship immediately struck. Thanks to her, I gained more knowledge of the Portuguese publishing industry – enough to not want to give it a try.

Fantasy (which is what I write) doesn’t sell very well in Portugal unless you have a TV show or a movie. And then there’s the fact that most of the books we get are imports, and not from national authors. If you write Crime novels, then you might have a shot, or Historical Romance. I’ve heard of an established Hist Romance author who sells well, but her editors refuse to even read her fantasy manuscripts, because “Fantasy doesn’t sell.”
So I gave Portuguese a big middle-finger and went on with writing in English. After years of fanfic, it came surprisingly easy. In fact, it started coming easier than Portuguese itself. But I was still afraid my knowledge of the language wasn’t good enough.
Now, I could try the Brazilian Portuguese market, but Brazilian Portuguese, while very similar, has some differences from European Portuguese, and I’ve watched enough Brazilian Soap Operas to know those differences are significant. I could’ve researched, true, and learned how to write in Brazilian PT, but I felt I had a better shot with English.

Soon, I had a book (which was crap). I learned about the submission process in the US. I queried. I got rejections. But I also got one of the most surprising responses, and it came from Russ Galen – who reps Juliet fucking Marillier. He passed on the novel, obviously, but gave me great advice that I follow to this day. He also said he didn’t believe I wasn’t a native speaker, because my English was better than most of the submissions he read.

Ego boost gained. I stuck to English. I didn’t give up.

I wrote another book. Then another. Finally, on my fourth try, I got rep (the wonderful Natalie Lakosil at Bradford Lit).

So, here’s the gist:

I started learning English at school. I got better because of video games.
I started writing in English so people would read my fanfics.
I kept writing fanfic in English. I got better.
I met the most amazing group of people. Interacting with them made me better, both as a person, and as an English speaker.
I started writing in Portuguese, but gave up when I found out how hard it was to get an unknown author’s fantasy book read by publishers.
I wrote in English because, believe it or not, getting an agent abroad is easier than an unknown getting published here. Especially in Fantasy.
All my support was mostly from English speakers, and it was easier getting feedback if I wrote in that language.

So, there’s why. As for the how:

Ultimately, I practiced. And ultimately, I got better to the point no one knows I’m not a native speaker – unless they actually hear me speak. Accent: I have it.

Query + First Page Giveaway

Standard

Okay!

I’m in sore need of an excuse to drop my 3DS and Fire Emblem. Since my desktop broke and I (sadly) can’t do a lot for Lakewater Press until it’s fixed, PitchWars is right around the corner, and the competition helped me meet some of the most amazing people ever…

Giveaway time! Click on the link below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Why would you want this?

I’m a nobody, really. But I somehow convinced an agent (the wonderful Natalie Lakosil at Bradford Lit) to represent my novels, so I might know a bit about queries and first pages that work. Might. If you do win, take my word-spew of a critique with a grain of salt (for your sanity).

I write mostly Fantasy, and mostly YA (though I’m trying to write a MG book at the moment). However, I read pretty widely, so anything’s welcome.

And now I leave you with a picture of Norbert on top of my controller because a) he’s a DRAGON and b) HE’S A DRAGON.

2016-01-04 16_06_05-Diana Pinguicha (@pinguicha) • Instagram photos and videos