Why I’ll Always be Anonymously Autistic – The Unicorn Theory

This is a great read, whether you are on the spectrum or want to know more about those of us who are. Check out other blogs by Anonymously Autistic too.

Anonymously Autistic

Sometimes Aspies are caught off by my blog’s title. People ask me if I am Anonymously Autistic because I am ashamed of my Autism. My long time readers know me better than than that, but some of you are new. Welcome, please allow me to explain.

I started this blog anonymously because I love my privacy, not out of a shame for my Autism.

In fact, I quickly realized that I needed to share so others could see Autism from my perspective. Some days suck, but over all I love my life and would never want to be “normal” or Neurotypical.

I generally keep to myself with personal things. Speaking about matters of the heart has never been easy for me, so I don’t. This blog became a place where I do something completely out of character – share my feelings.

For me, it is easier if the people around…

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Potential stumbling block: quoting song lyrics

(Note: this originally appeared, in a shorter and slightly different form, in one of my Facebook posts in a private group. I’ve also asked this as a question in LinkedIn; I received the same answer there as I did from the copyright attorney.)

Are you writing something with published song lyrics in it? Guess what: if the song was written after 1923, you have to pay to use the lyrics. Copyright laws on songs aren’t different from literature laws, but the music industry is more prone to lawsuits than the literature industry.

You can (usually) use a line or two from a written work if you cite it as “quote (author, title of work, date)”, but you can’t us a song lyric without paid permission except under fair use, which is generally limited to parody, review, critique, or something similar.

So if I want my protagonist to sing even one line from Jim Croce’s “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” I have to either write, “JD sings Jim Croce’s I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song to Mya”, or fork over some cash to the Croce estate (or whomever owns the copyright to that song). I only want two lines, not the whole bloody song….

I need to do this. One of the books I’m writing has a protagonist with autism; he’s non-verbal and communicates by writing notes or singing. Most of the time I can obliquely reference the song (e.g., he sang something about a watchtower, a joker, and a thief) or directly by title (e.g., “Oh, that’s Behind Blue Eyes by The Who”), but when a critical emotional state comes along and he wants to express himself in a very specific way (see the previous paragraph)… he CAN’T sing because I can’t quote a song. That’s annoying.

I asked for legal advice and that’s the response I got, along with a few names of agencies that would help me get in touch with whomever owns the lyric copyright so I can pay them. At US$30 – US$50 per use (or more!), it adds up.

Or I can write my own songs. I have taken this tack at times, but in some cases (such as the Croce song) the existing written word fits both the situation and the character I’ve written. There are people like that in the real world, so it fits the character’s personality and sets the mood properly. To make the character credible I have to write him as if he were a real person – and real people quote songs they know.

So here’s how I’m doing it. In an author note at the bottom of the page I have the following. “If you want the full emotional experience of this page, pull out a legally-acquired copy of Jim Croce’s “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In A Song” and play it while you read this.” I’ve been assured that’s legal. Kinda loses something that way, though….

Here’s an article on BookBaby regarding this situation: How To Legally Quote Song Lyrics In Books. Also read the GalleyCat article linked in the BookBaby blog; that article quotes a copyright attorney.

I’m not complaining that I have to cite the work of others; I want to give credit where it’s due. My complaint is that I can’t cite, I have to pay a substantial fee. What’s special about putting a poem to music that makes it different from a non-accompanied poem?

To summarize, the advice I was given as to how to use song lyrics in fiction falls into these categories. These are also laid out in the blog entry, the Galleycat article, and comments on those articles and in the LinkedIn discussion I started.

  • Don’t use published song lyrics.
  • Write your own songs.
  • Reference songs by title. Titles are not covered by copyright law.
  • Reference songs obliquely.

Lost in the discussion of “lost diagnosis”

Think about this carefully as you read it; know anyone fitting these descriptions? Maybe not – we get better at hiding it over time.

Chavisory's Notebook

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” wrote William Faulkner, and I couldn’t help being reminded of that line as I read the recent article “Compulsions, anxiety replace autism in some children,” from Spectrum magazine.

An estimated 9 percent of children with autism achieve a so-called ‘optimal outcome.’ But nearly all of these children years later develop related conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, the new study suggests.

“The majority of the group with a past history of autism are vulnerable to developing other psychiatric disorders,” says lead investigator Nahit Motavalli Mukaddes, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Istanbul Institute of Child Psychiatry in Turkey.

So let’s get something straight right off the bat.

There is—so far as has ever been revealed—no such thing as a “past history of autism.”

If children who lose a diagnosis are socially compensating to…

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Staying on task with Habitica

To say I have difficulty staying on task is a bit of an understatement. I get bored or distracted easily and, by the end of the day, I often find I haven’t done half the things I wanted to do that day. There’s a perfectly good reason for that: ADHD.

The name, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is misleading. People with ADHD do not have an attention deficit; rather, it’s an overload of attention. We are aware of many things going on around us most people aren’t paying attention to – and those things cry out, “Look at me!” For example, where most people can screen out distractions, I see and hear lots of things around me they miss. In the words of the titular character of the TV show Archer, I have “total situational awareness”.

It has advantages, of course. I’m rarely surprised. I can carry on multiple conversations at once. I never get lost. I can avoid difficult situations because I see them coming sooner. It’s not all wine and roses, though.

The hyperfocus that comes with ADHD is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it gives me a way to complete tasks quickly. If the task is interesting and challenging enough, I can work on it for hours where most people would run out of steam in an hour or two. On the other hand, once it kicks in it is very difficult to get out of, distractions bother me more than they should (I find a ringing telephone especially annoying during these times), and working 12 – 14 hours on a task leaves no time for anything else – like eating, staying hydrated, and moving around.

I’ve tried numerous methods to combat this: list-making, setting alarms, pocket calendars, planners, Post-Its… the list is nearly endless, and most of them don’t work for very long. One thing that has helped a lot is a website called Habitica.

Habitica, formerly HabitRPG, is a role-playing game that rewards you for completing tasks. You create tasks for yourself in one or more of three categories: Habits, Daily Tasks, and To-Dos. You can plan as much or as little as you like, and it’s free to join. Like any role-playing game, completing tasks rewards you with gold, equipment, and experience. Joining a party lets you go on quests, another incentive to complete your goals and help others in your party complete theirs. Plus, you’re rewarded for “streaks” of completing daily tasks; reaching a streak of 21 consecutive days is a great motivation for doing a daily task.

But it’s more than just a planner and habit-builder; it’s a highly social program. Like any role-playing game, there are guilds to join. Some of the guilds are simply for fun; many, though, bring people together for specific purposes. I belong to several guilds specific to my needs. One of them is an artist’s guild; another is a guild of people with ADHD. Each guild provides challenges to help you meet your goals or make new ones, and a forum to share your experiences with other people. The guilds provide a place to feel like you’re not alone, a feeling of belonging, which is important.

One more thing. Habitica is open-source and encourages members to help make it more fun and useful. There are several ways to contribute, such as writing, music, pixel art, helping other players and, of course, coding. Contributing to Habitica earns you titles (ways to improve your experience even more) and tags for your user ID.

I recommend Habitica for anyone who’s looking to make building new habits and helping plan your day fun. Check it out at Habitica.com. If you do, look me up; I’m Dan O’Dea.

I can’t fix this for you and I can’t tell you what you want to hear.

Chavisory's Notebook

This is to anyone who has ever, ever said to me “You could rule the world if you really wanted to!” who voted for or in any way enabled what happened this week.

I am pretty sure that this statement has never meant anything but a combination of “I have no actual clue either how the political world works, or who you really are,” and “I just want you to fix everything for me without me having to take seriously a single thing you say.”

And I am tired of your excuses and I am tired of you not taking responsibility for your world, and no, I cannot help you now.

Likewise, I never want to be told, ever again, “But you’re the smartest person I know!” or “You’re the most articulate person I know!” by anyone who is not prepared to listen to anything I have to say…

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Why Teaching to the Test is Educational Malpractice

As a prospective teacher I ran into this too many times to count.

gadflyonthewallblog

thumbnail_screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-12-20-50-pmMalpractice is defined as “careless, wrong, or illegal actions by someone (such as a doctor) who is performing a professional duty.”

In some fields it can get you arrested. In most it’s at least frowned upon.
In education, however, it’s encouraged.

In fact, as a teacher, you can be singled out, written up or even fired for refusing to engage in malpractice. You are bullied, cajoled and threatened into going along with practices that have been debunked by decades of research and innumerable case studies.

Take the all-too-common practice of teaching to the test.

Not only do students and teachers hate it, but the practice has been shown to actually harm student learning. Yet it is the number one prescription handed down from administrators and policymakers to bring up failing scores on high stakes standardized tests.

Never mind that those same test scores have likewise been proven to be…

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“Do-Over”: Part Five, Miscellany

At this point you’ve seen the birth of an idea, the basic setting (an Earth-like world), the characters, and some things about how the plot works. This post is a list of bullet points as I summarize some concepts useful to understanding the story. If part of the story was explained in previous essays it will not be covered here.

  • You can trust the science in Do-Over. If you catch me in an error please let me know, but it’s likely from an oversimplification by JD trying to explain something complicated to a person who has no experience with the concept.
  • Ajadi weaponless combat is kung-fu with minor variations. JD’s style is Jeet Kune Do, the style of Bruce Lee.
  • Swordsmanship is medieval English-style. I debated using samurai style with the katana but decided against it because a) I know more about English sword fighting than using the katana or fencing, and b) I know more about how to build an English-style longsword than any other.
  • Domesticated food and livestock are a cross between East Asian and European styles. Lamb, goat cheese, and grape leaves come from Greek cuisine, rice is grown as it is in Japan, etc. I didn’t get too complicated here, but the first time JD uses a wok Mya has never seen one before. Another fun circumstance is the first time a trading caravan brings in two new vegetables: tomatoes and potatoes. JD goes into an ecstatic state as they were among his favorite foods on Earth.
  • Wine is the staple drink with a meal and in inns. It is considered unusual for anyone over the age of 12 to abstain from wine; one of the connections between JD and Mya is that neither drinks alcohol.
  • The land of Ajad is a hybrid of European and Japanese (about 70/30) feudal times.
  • Lukanah’s home country, Jonaheim, is based on Scandinavia when the Vikings ruled.
  • The antagonist of Last Man Standing, Alden, is loosely based on Alexander the Great; his men are a mix of Alexander’s men, the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan, and the Norman invaders of 1066.
  • One and One Make One is primarily about JD’s internal struggles, therefore JD serves as his own antagonist. The few villains each have a particular and limited purpose; most don’t even have names.
  • Names are a key point in any story. I use the following naming conventions.
    • Ajadi names are always two syllables. Female names end in short vowels “a” or “u” (“ah” or “oo”); male names end in long vowels “e” or “o” (“ee” or “oh”). There are no last names, although a profession may be used. Children’s names resemble that of the parents (mom Mira, daughter Mya, granddaughter Mora).
    • Jonaheim names are based on German names. For example, Lukanah derives from the German Ludkhannah, “graceful battle maiden,” and Johanah’s name means “shield maiden.”
    • Names of the invaders in Last Man Standing are the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Greek or Mongolian names. For example, Alden is one English equivalent of Alexander. Why Alden and not Alexander, a perfectly fine English name? Two syllables read faster, and take up less room, than four. It’s a comic, not a prose work, and such things make a difference.
  • The calendar (yes, I have a calendar) is a pure lunar calendar. The year is 364 days divided into 13 months of 28 days each. That makes counting days, and knowing the day of the week, far easier (Sundays are always the 7th, 14th, 21st, or 28th of the month). Time is very important when your characters have to walk everywhere and the province is 180 kilometers (over 100 miles) top to bottom.
  • Speaking of distance and location, the province of Ajad is the northern half of Italy, bounded by mountains to the north and ocean on the other three sides. Main villages correspond to Italian cities; here’s a list, counter-clockwise from the south.
    • Port City, on the southern tip of Ajad, is the equivalent of Terni. In real life Terni is inland; I’ve chopped off the lower part of the boot and made “Terni” a coastal village.
    • Central Village is Florence.
    • The “final battleground” is just north of Bologna.
    • Eastern Village is Venice.
    • Ruko’s mine, the resting place of the Red Dragon, is half-way between Padua and Verona.
    • North Pass Village is Milan.
    • West Village is Genoa.
    • Herndo’s hut is situated roughly where Pistoia would be.

Why Italy? Its geology and geography work for The Dragon Core. Other lands are through the North Pass, a fictional Grand Canyon through the great mountain range which otherwise cuts Ajad off from the rest of the continent.

To make the story distances less of a problem for walking, actual distances are halved for the book. For example, it’s about 210 kilometers from Terni to Florence; in Do-Over, the distance from Port City to Central Village is 100 kilometers (still a 5-day journey on foot).

That’s pretty much it without spoilers. For the rest of the story you’ll have to watch it unfold on its own. I may have a script, but I’m finding as I write, and then rough-sketch, each page the characters take on lives of their own (even the setting does so!) and things won’t be as cut-and-dried as I originally planned. But then that’s part of the fun.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing and drawing it.

“Do-Over”: Part Four, Supporting Characters

Historically, primitive societies are male-dominated; I want my primary female characters to be strong females, not stay-at-home moms, and the net result gives me several usable plot conflicts. In The Dragon Core we meet a strong woman character, Lukanah, who comes from a relatively female-dominated society; in One and One Make One JD and Mya visit her and we learn more about her society.

In many stories, the villains are evil because they are evil. That’s not much of a motivation. In Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha the main villain, Naraku, becomes evil when he is badly injured and being cared for by the priestess Kikyo. He falls in love with her but is unable to speak or move. He gives himself up to demons to heal him so he may profess his love. Once he is possessed he learns she loves InuYasha and becomes jealous. His motivation becomes the desire for revenge on Kikyo and InuYasha. By the time Kagome arrives, Naraku is just an evil, cruel, and power-hungry demon; any other motivation has been lost.

In Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court Hank Morgan is the only character; everyone else is meant to reflect something of Hank’s personality. Hank is therefore both hero and villain. Remember, Twain wrote “Yankee” as satire, and each aspect of Hank’s personality reflects some aspect of society Twain satirizes.

I like the concept of the antagonist having real motivations; that is, from the villain’s point of view he or she is the real hero and the audience’s hero is the villain. This gives the antagonist some depth, some realistic motivations: they are only trying to do what they think is best.

In The Dragon Core this is a situation that’s not clear-cut for a long time. Ruko begins as JD’s friend, only slowly turning into a villain. Without giving away plot points I can’t explain how this happens.

Here are my characters in rough order of appearance. In some cases I’ve paired people because they are paired characters in Do-Over. Minor, one-shot, or rarely-seen characters are not listed even though a couple of them have names.

  • JD. Enough said about him already.
  • Mya, the daughter of JD’s adoptive village head man, a smart, strong-willed, capable woman of 17. She has turned down politically-motivated and other proposals of marriage because she wants to be treated as more than a cook and mother. Mya is literate, a rarity in the society and even more rare for a woman.
  • Kebo and Mira, Mya’s parents. Kebo is the head of Central Village and nominal head of Ajad Province, the last refuge of a once-large empire. Mira is the same type of person as Mya but has given in somewhat to the male-dominated society. She wants more for Mya than she has.
  • Fight Masters Loobe (weaponless combat) and Jobo (swordsmanship). Loobe is very similar to Mr Miyagi in “The Karate Kid”; Jobo is loosely based on R. Lee Ermey’s Sergeant character.
  • Farm Master Kobe, in charge of farming and livestock. He’s loosely based on Daniel Whitney’s Larry the Cable Guy character.
  • Ruko, a miner, at first one of JD’s friends. Over time he becomes the villain, although it’s not his fault.
  • Howroo and Yowl, wolf demons. Howroo is an alternate love interest for JD but is betrothed to another wolf demon; she’s a relative teenager while Yowl is the sober, more mature older brother who tries to keep Howroo on the right (wolf demon) path.
  • Edo and Kaba, demon hunters. Although they have their own growth curve, they serve to mirror JD’s personality and internal conflicts. Rather than have JD tell us directly we learn about his internal struggles by watching how he interacts with this couple. Both are orphans and have been together since Edo was eleven years old. Both are 18 in the beginning, but Kaba is older and turns 19 before the end of The Dragon Core.
  • Herndo the Lore Master. The first Herndo invented writing. He and each subsequent Herndo take on an apprentice who, when the current lore master retires or dies, takes over the name and position. His purpose, of course, is explaining the lore of the land.
  • Lukahah, a warrior from another country. For those familiar with manga conventions she is visually “fan service”, an attractive person who wears revealing clothes. As a character she is a dominant personality, well-versed in combat and weapons use. She comes from a society that’s female-dominated; she disdains most men as less competent than she is.
  • Johanah, Lukanah’s niece. Like Mya she is a bit of a misfit in her own culture. Compared to Ajadi women Johanah is a strong personality somewhat similar to Mya; in her own culture she is considered weak because she is not a fighter. Johanah appears mid-way through One and One Make One.
  • Alden, the antagonist of Last Man Standing. He’s a cross between Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan.
  • Other important characters, such as certain town folk and the other head men of villages, appear when necessary for story purposes. These characters will have names and a backstory which may or may not be presented. I haven’t listed them because doing so gives away vital plot points.

And of course, there’s the main villain of The Dragon Core: the Red Dragon. Above I wrote “an interesting villain is a hero from their own world view and the story’s hero is their villain.” In The Dragon Core we discover the legend of the Red Dragon eating the creations of the other dragons. He does this to stay alive as his Core energy slowly fades. Much like humans need to eat or starve, the Red Dragon has to eat Core energy to avoid starvation. And, much like humans, if that means some far lesser creatures must die, so be it. He tells JD,

We dragons created the universe, therefore we created you, therefore I am above you. Just as you are above a worm I am above your kind. You would not hesitate to kill a worm to survive…

It’s the same argument we might make to a head of lettuce before making it into a salad.

By the way, if that sounds like the Marvel Comics character Galactus you’d be right (another case of borrowing a concept). The Red Dragon is not modeled after Galactus, but his logic is the same as Galactus’. From the Red Dragon’s point of view, destroying relatively insignificant life forms so that he may continue to exist is regrettable but necessary for his own survival.

The next essay, the last in the series, describes some background and details of the story not covered elsewhere.

“Do-Over”: Part Three, Setting

A summary of what has gone before.

  1. Do-Over is a story about a man from modern times cast into a primitive past. The man, JD, is a competent man with an autism-like disorder. In the beginning of the story his “true” age is 67 but his physical age is somewhere around 18-20.
  2. The inspiration for the story come from two widely-recognized sources: Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha and Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (“Yankee”).
  3. Part of Do-Over is deliberately educational.

I’ve established JD in a new universe. How does he know? Suppose you were transported to another universe where the plants and animals were similar enough that you couldn’t tell the difference and the people are humans and speak your language. How would you know you were in a different universe?

The first thing I’d do is look up at the night sky. There’s a reference we can use, and it doesn’t take an astronomer to see it. Is there a moon? Does it look different? What about the stars? We have many familiar constellations: the Dippers Big and Little, Orion, Sagittarius, and in the south the Southern Cross and Hercules. And then there are planets.

For you, then, looking up at the night sky will tell you something’s different. JD’s a scientist and, with his background, would certainly notice small differences you might not. However, to make this point to those readers who don’t look up at night I need more than “I can’t find Arcturus.” In our universe, in a dark rural area with a clear sky, you can see about 2,000 – 3,000 stars on any given night. What could be more obvious than removing 90% of those stars? JD’s night sky has only about 200 stars visible, even with no light pollution and a clear sky.

To reinforce this idea, all of the stars JD sees are very dim and he makes note of that. But there’s another reason for having very few stars beyond the simple “I’m in a different universe”: a plot point. I’ll discuss that in Part Four: Characters and Part Five: Miscellany.

In various parts of the text JD makes an off-hand remark about some scientific concept and tries to teach that concept to his audience (and you, the reader). Sometimes he just explains what it means in a sentence or three. In this way my story has educational aspects but they do not interfere with the story; you can skip them and they don’t affect the story (except when they need to, of course).

As with any work of fiction, the world can either be a part of the plot or not – but if it isn’t it should not interfere with the plot. I decided to make this an Earth-like world, and world-building is the quintessential exercise in playing with ideas.

  • There are no large herbivores, the largest being goats and sheep. This is plausible. North America had only one large herbivore, the bison, for almost 8,000 years between The Great Overkill (extinction of mammoths and giant sloths) and when Europeans brought cattle (Columbus) and horses (Spaniards). I introduce horses to the story in One and One Make One because I need them there; I don’t need them before that.
  • There are no large carnivores, the largest being wolves.
  • There are no dogs or cats. I introduce dogs in One and One Make One as a plot point.
  • This is a male-dominated society; women are for cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing. My main female, Mya, rebels against that in several ways, and JD supports her (my way of arguing against the concept of male domination). There are other strong female characters (see Part Four).

That’s enough for now; there are other things but I’ll let you discover them for yourself. That’s part of the fun, right?

Back in Part One, when I introduced JD I remarked, “he’ll need some survival skills or he’ll die before the story gets moving.” Like JD, you will have to wait and discover those skills over time. However, one of them is critical, and a lot of fun to think about: how does JD communicate in his new universe?

In both InuYasha and “Yankee” the main characters speak the language of their new location: Kagome because she’s still in Japan and Hank because he’s in England. Leaving aside for the moment that Arthur’s English would be incomprehensible to modern English speakers, and even Chaucer’s English is difficult, the language barrier is a common problem in any story placing the hero in a strange land. Usually authors get around this problem in one of three ways.

  1. Use the character’s own language in some unexplained way.
  2. Magic or technology: a translator pendant, a spell, something.
  3. Language lessons.

Language lessons are tedious for the reader. Holding up objects and naming them is boring enough, not to mention potentially confusing. Pointing to oneself and saying “Homer!” could be construed as “My name is Homer” or “I am a Homer,” an intelligent being or a member of the Home society. Authors wanting realism include these exchanges but cover them quickly.

“She proceeded to call out the organs of the legger which corresponded to hers. Thus, the preparations for the meal passed swiftly… she had exchanged at least forty words with him. After an hour he remembered twenty.” – My Sister’s Brother, Philip Jose Farmer.

Do-Over covers JD’s life in some detail, so while I could handle it that way I don’t want to; I want JD to be able to communicate right off the bat. The world in Do-Over is neither magical nor technological so I can’t use those methods, and I want JD in another universe so English is out. What am I left with?

When JD is between universes he receives a set of four gifts from the people who brought him here. I call those beings The Ancients (all right, so I was a little lazy there). We’ve seen one gift: he’s young again. You and JD learn of the second gift, the gift of tongues, early on: JD by accident, you by virtue of the reader’s perspective.

Consider the ramifications of such a gift. JD thinks, speaks, and hears English, but the gift of tongues translates his English into any other language and, in reverse, translates that language into English so he can understand it. Only he has this gift, others do not share it, and it does not extend beyond him. Suppose JD starts in Italy, communicating in Italian, and people follow him as he travels through France, Basque country, and Spain. When he arrives in Barcelona and addresses his followers, what do they hear? All four languages at once? If so, that would be a miracle (magic). It also has no plot value in Do-Over. I don’t want to completely give up on foreign language issues; there are some ideas I can use.

Let’s revisit the example. In Barcelona, when JD speaks to the Italians everyone there hears Italian. To speak in Spanish he has to focus on the Spanish people – and then everyone hears him speaking Spanish. Why is this a useful plot point? If everyone hears JD speaking their own language at the same time he looks like a miracle worker. If, instead, they hear him speaking the language of the people he’s talking to, he’s seen as a normal human being who happens to know the language. There’s another advantage: when JD’s alone (or when he doesn’t know there’s anyone around) he speaks English. I don’t use that too often, but when I do it’s to make things interesting.

This brings up another point: writing. In both InuYasha and “Yankee” the written language is the same as the spoken one. JD writes in English; the language of his new world is a combination of logographic and alphabetic images that isn’t English. In Do-Over, a sign has a picture of something (e.g., the sign for poison or danger) and we understand what that means. The advantage that gives me is the ability to draw signs with one or two relatively simple pictures without having to invent an alphabet or language. On those rare occasions when I need an alphabetic view I’m using a runic-like alphabet, mostly because it’s easy to draw.

You may ask why JD is able to hear and speak the language but not write it. Obviously speech and literacy are two different skills. But, more important for the story, I need some reason to have Mya hang out with JD: she’s teaching him to read and write. Remember, I want Mya to be a strong character who makes her own decisions, not one who swoons over “tall, dark, and handsome.” Some women in the village do; JD considers them shallow and isn’t interested in them. Mya is different: she’ll take her time deciding if a person is a good partner for her.

Finally there is some humor inherent in JD learning to read and write. Consider this example from the book, a letter of apology.

I do not anger, I afraid for you. No excuse shout. I beg forgive.

After several months he’s still writing like a kid.

But enough of that. Part Four, Supporting Characters, discusses characters from allies to villains and everything in between.