Archive for April, 2014

Anti-Jump Muscles

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Let’s talk about OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A lot of people say they have OCD because they, for example, like to keep things ordered or do things in a certain way every time–the kind of people who separate all their M&Ms by color before they eat them, that kind of thing. That’s not OCD, that’s just “being really organized.” Actual OCD, the mental disorder, is crippling and dangerous and potentially deadly.

When my brother was first diagnosed with OCD, and described the symptoms to me, I was shocked. His brain would tell him to do things, like throw himself down the stairs or punch the wall until his hand bled, and he was literally compelled to do it–as in, manipulated by an outside force. When your brain tells you to do something it’s every bit as un-ignorable as when your body does it. Imagine that you have to pee, and you try to ignore it, and it just gets worse and worse until you’re squeezing your legs together and dancing in place because if you don’t go pee RIGHT NOW you’re going to explode. Now imagine that instead of peeing, you get the same urge with the same intensity about making your head bleed. You have to make your head bleed RIGHT NOW or your entire life will be a disaster, and come on what are you waiting for you’re miserable and horrible and your head needs to bleed and why won’t you let it because it would make everything better just do it. You know, objectively, that making your head bleed is wrong, and harmful, and a bad thing. But your brain is sick, and it wants what it wants, and you have to live like that for the rest of your life.

I remember an old comic by the cartoonist R. Kliban, who did a lot of stuff in the 70s and 80s, including several about cats that you may have seen somewhere. The one that always stuck in my mind was “Anti-Jump Muscles”:


The idea of muscles that work in reverse is funny, but this is the reality that people with OCD live with every day. When my brother’s brain tells him to break his hand, or hurt himself or (on a couple of terrifying occasions) his family, it takes all his willpower to not act. His Anti-Jump Muscles are fully flexed, day in and day out, just to live a normal life. It is scary and lonely and utterly exhausting, and he is only one of millions of people in the world who have to suffer through that.

If you know someone with OCD, give them a hug or send them an email, and tell them you love them. Tell them you support them. Do what you can to help.

And if you’d like to help my brother, and to raise awareness for other people with mental health issues, take a look at our Altered Perceptions campaign that just opened today. Dozens of amazing authors have contributed alternate versions of their published works to an anthology, and none of us are getting a penny from it–every cent goes to help Rob and, if we reach our goals, others like him.

Altered Perspectives: the awesome anthology I’m helping put together

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

I finished my book! Or at least the first draft, but still: I am very happy. And now that it’s done it’s time to move on to the next project, which is what I’m here to tell you about today.

My brother, the illustrious Robison Wells, was diagnosed a few years ago with a severe panic disorder, was has since blossomed (or perhaps ‘metastasized’ is a better word) into depression, agoraphobia, OCD, and a whole host of other mental illnesses that make it impossible for him to live a normal life. I could talk about this for hours, and in future blog posts I will, but for now I’ll limit it to two main points:

1) Rob’s illnesses have put him into a lot of debt. He writes books, and they are excellent books, but this is not exactly a lucrative profession, and a panic disorder does not work well in an office environment. Watching Rob struggle with disease and debt made me want to do something to help.

2) Mental illnesses are WAY MORE COMMON than most people think. In the US alone, statistics suggest that most of you know someone with a psychosis, and all of you know someone with depression. If you don’t, look harder–you probably know two or three. This is a big problem, and we as a culture and society are not doing nearly enough to help. An American with a mental illness is ten times more likely to be in prison than in medical care. This needs to change.

I wanted to do something about these problems, but I didn’t know what. It was Brandon Sanderson, a good friend of both Rob and I, who came up with the idea: “let’s do an anthology,” he said, “full of authors who know Rob, and use it to raise funds. First we can pay off Rob’s debts, and then if we get enough interest we can keep going and try to help other authors with similar problems.” I thought it was an awesome idea, so we did it. And we put a cool spin on it that I think you’re going to love.

I am proud to announce the science fiction/fantasy anthology ALTERED PERSPECTIVES, which is kind of like a bonus DVD full of deleted scenes and alternate versions of some of your favorite authors’ books. Check out this amazing list:

Ally Condie, the foreword
Dan Wells, the introduction
Annette Lyon, An unpublished chapter from her retelling of the Finnish fairy tale, THE KALEVALA
Aprilynne Pike, TBA
Brandon Mull, Deleted scenes from BEYONDERS 2
Brandon Sanderson, five completely rewritten chapters from THE WAY OF KINGS, where Kaladin makes the opposite choice of what he makes in the published novel
Bree Despain, an alternate ending to THE LOST SAINT, and an alternate beginning to THE SHADOW PRINCE
Brodi Ashton, the first chapter from her YA novel about an unwilling alien fighter who has to rescue the boy she loves
Claudia Gray, a deleted scene from A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU
Dan Wells, the original John Cleaver free-write that inspired I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
Erin Bowman, a deleted scene from TAKEN
Howard Tayler, a creative non-fiction story about life with mental illness
J Scott Savage, three original chapters that led to writing FARWORLD
Jennifer Moore, a deleted scene from BECOMING LADY LOCKWOOD
Jessica Day George, a deleted scene from PRINCESS OF GLASS, where the main character plays poker with a witch
Josi Kilpack, the original opening scene to TRES LECHES CUPCAKE
Kiersten White, an original short story, set in a dystopian, sci-fi world
Larry Correia, a deleted fight scene from SWORDS OF EXODUS
Lauren Oliver, two deleted scenes from PANDEMONIUM, plus a hilarious scene about the plotting process
Luisa Perkins, a short story, “Seeing Red”–a modern-day retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.
Mary Robinette Kowal, deleted scene from VALOUR AND VANITY (the scene was cut because readers thought the scene was trying to depict depression)
Nancy Allen, bonus scene from BEAUTY AND THE CLOCKWORK BEAST
Robison Wells, an epilogue to FEEDBACK and the VARIANT duology
Sandra Tayler, a creative non-fiction piece called “Married To Depression”
Sara Zarr, a story featuring characters from one of Sara’s previously published novels
Sarah Eden, “Farewells” for LONGING FOR HOPE and HOPE SPRINGS
Seanan McGuire, The original opening for DISCOUNT ARMAGEDDON
Shannon Hale, “Ravenous,” a previously unpublished scifi short story
SJ Kincaid, the original first chapter of VORTEX, before it was entirely rewritten

You’ll also get to read personal essays and comments from each of the authors, explaining their own connection to mental illness and the many ways it’s changed their lives.

This anthology goes up on IndieGoGo on Monday, April 21, where you’ll be able to buy it in hardcover or ebook, along with a ton of extra perks like manuscript critiques, dinners with your favorite authors, and the ever-popular “die horribly in one of Dan’s books.”

We,re really proud of this anthology, and I’m incredibly grateful for the hard work and amazing kindness of the authors who helped make it a reality. I hope you love it as much as we do.

Entitled: The Disney Princess One-Word Title Game

Saturday, April 5th, 2014

A few days ago I mentioned on Twitter/Facebook my dislike of the new Disney movie naming pattern: instead of just giving the movie the same name as the fairy tale it’s based on (ie, “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast,” etc.), they’ve started using one-word titles like Brave, Tangled, and Frozen. Brave is an odd case because Brave was a) not based on an existing story and b) a really stupid title. The character was, indeed, brave, but that’s not what the story nor her character arc were about: she was just as brave in the beginning as she was in the end, so calling the movie “Brave” is about as descriptive as calling it, say, “Celtic,” or “Redhead,” or even just “Girl.” Tangled and Frozen upped the game by using their title to underline–in a cutesy way, of course–the exact emotional obstacle the main character needs to overcome. Rapunzel has severe mommy issues and feels tied down to her old life? Combine that with the hair motif and call it Tangled. The Ice Queen is emotionally stunted and needs to learn how to break free? Combine it with the snow motif and call it Frozen. So yes, they’re more clever than Brave, but they’re way too on-the-nose. You can’t just call out the exact theme of your story, reduce it to a past participle, and call it a title.

Or can you?

As a matter of fact, that is EXACTLY what we’re going to do! I joked online about retitling “The Little Mermaid” in the same style, and was flooded with delightful suggestions, including everything from Beached to Silenced, with plenty of awesome non-past-participle answers thrown into the mix (I suggested Speechless, and my brother-in-law made me laugh out loud with “Shellfishness”). So, that’s what we’re going to do: retitle all the Disney princess movies with one-word titles that wear the character’s main arc, or the movie’s main theme, as clumsily on their sleeve as possible. For the purposes of this exercise we are looking ONLY at Princess movies, so no Aristocats or whatever, and we are imagining a world in which each princess is actually the main character of her movie (in other words, your title for Aladdin will be about Jasmine, because if they made that movie today that’s exactly how they’d do it). You get points for describing the character, extra points for describing the character’s arc, more extra points for incorporating the movie’s visual theme, and even more extra points for making me laugh. Past participles are preferred (mostly that means ‘words that end in -ed,’ but there are exceptions), but don’t let that stop you from laying down a gem like Shellfishness. You can rename one or all, and enter as many times as you like, and–why not?–I’ll pick a winner and give them something awesome. Probably a book, or maybe a T-shirt, or maybe I’ll name a corpse after you in the new John Cleaver. MAYBE ALL OF THE ABOVE. The winner, by the way, will be chosen by me, based on whatever criteria I so desire. I can do whatever I want, because the title of my own personal movie is “Empowered.”

Without further ado, here’s the list of movies:


The Core Set:

Snow White
Cinderella
Sleeping Beauty
The Little Mermaid
Beauty and the Beast
Aladdin
Pocahontas
Mulan
The Princess and the Frog
Brave (because seriously, it needs a new name)


Princesses Disney tries to forget about because their movies are dumb:

Eilonwy (The Black Cauldron)
Kida (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)


The BEST Disney Princess, who is totally a princess, even in-world, but who doesn’t get included in their marketing because even their marketers know she would never be caught dead in a lame-o Disney Princess product:

Megara (Hercules) (I kind of have a thing for Megara)


Other movies it might be fun to rename in this style, even though they’re not about princesses:

Pinocchio
Dumbo
Bambi
Alice in Wonderland
Peter Pan
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
The Sword in the Stone
The Jungle Book
Robin Hood
The Brave Little Toaster
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Lion King
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Tarzan


And why not? Disney owns this now too:

Princess Leia (Can you even imagine the Star Wars trilogy remade as a Disney Princess franchise? That sounds so terrible that I CAN’T HELP MYSELF I WANT IT RIGHT NOW.)