Front Matter

The Adventures of ASPIE MOUSE is a blog being developed into a Graphic Novel using “comic book” panels. Its goal is to help “kids” on the Autism Spectrum see their “unexpected” behaviors rewarded, at least most of the time (vs. always challenged & criticized). “Kids” are loosely defined: while the target age is likely 10-15 — as for most graphic novels of this type — older teens and young adults have responded well to the blog. That’s not surprising, since the emotional age of those on the Autism Spectrum is generally 2/3 or 3/4 of their chronological age

The ten chapters (Pre-A through I) are designed to be read in alphabetical order and are sequential (each builds on the prior chapter) — EXCEPT:

(1) Chapter A is meant to be read first as a (mostly) simple warm-up cat-mouse chase chapter. In terms of how Aspie Mouse “got there” (why he needs a new home), the chapter really fits between Chapters G and I. This is resolved when material from Chapter A is repeated in Chapter H, thus showing Ch. A’s material “in context.” However, to make Chapter H worth reading, a whole new subplot is added, doubling Ch. H’s length vs. Ch. A.

(2) Chapter Pre-A is really a preface, explaining the philosophy and origins of this work. It’s primarily for parents and teachers, but “kids” who like graphic novels — on and off the Autism Spectrum — may find it useful for learning more about Autism. Originally planned as Chapter A — a preface disguised as “Chapter One” — it was recently moved to Pre-A when the original Ch. H (originally Ch. J) was split into two chapters, current Ch. A & H (per #1 above).

(3) In the blog, the latest chapter posted or substantially revised is placed first, then Front Matter, then Pre-A (preface), and then the other eight chapters in sequence. Ignore “Posted” dates — they’re manipulated to keep the Chapters in their intended order.

Chapters A through I have “Notes” and “Questions for Discussion/ Reflection.” If a chapter is complete, the Notes focus on concerns that might arise for readers, along with any back story about certain situations, names, comments, etc. For incomplete chapters in this blog (F, G & I as of 12/31/2020), the notes primarily fill in the plot for what’s not yet posted. The Questions for Discussion/ Reflection are designed for use by teachers and parents with their “kids” (loosely defined). “For reflection” means these questions would also be appropriate for those with Autism to ask themselves, with or without encouragement of teachers or parents.

While these Notes & Questions appear at the end of Chapters in this blog, the intention is to have them in separate location so they don’t interrupt the flow of the story line from chapter to chapter, nor to make this graphic novel look too much like a textbook! These Notes/ Questions may appear in an appendix in the published print and online versions, or — if the 80 or so pages they’re expected to take up will make the print version too big for the publisher’s comfort — they may be made available online only, but easily obtained by purchasers of the printed book.

Currently, the most complete “sample” chapter in all respects (including having a full set of Questions) is Chapter D, “X is for Exterminator.” Chapters A, B, C, E & H are also complete, though: most pages in B & C need upgrading, re-sizing, panel separations & expansion; Ch’s. A & H are newly written (actually re-written, formerly Chapter J), as is Ch. E (just finished). Except for Ch. D, they’ll all need a little tweaking prior to formal publication; they may also need to be “inked.” Pencil smears, but it’s also easier to erase (and then re-do) and allow “shades of gray” (the technical term is screens) vs. all black and white. Chapters F, G & I are incomplete, and they will be finished before B & C are upgraded, re-sized and re-paneled. The aim is to have all chapters complete in some form by March, 2021.

For a more in-depth explanation of the author’s intent in writing The Adventures of ASPIE MOUSE, read past the Table of Contents below; the notes after Chapter A; and check out the section of the blog entitled “About Aspie Mouse Blog.”

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TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THE “CHAPTERS” IN THE ASPIE MOUSE BLOG ( & Graphic Novel)

i-iv         Front Matter: Title Page; Dedication & Copyright Page; Table of Contents & Overview

12 pp.  Chapter Pre-A: Introducing Aspie Mouse (Preface – Major Revision 4/2020, update Oct.)

12 pp. Chapter A: A New House, a New Cat (Old J 1/19; rvsd 10.25.20; Ch. H repeats w/ new mat’l)

12+ pp.  Chapter B: Leaving the Nest for “MIT” (Posted 4/2019; First 4 pages revised 8/20, will add)

24+ pp.   Chapter C: There Goes the Smartest Cat That Ever Lived (Posted fully 10/2019, to re-do)

24 pp.    Chapter D: X is for Exterminator (Posted 4th & final version – pre-pub – 10.7.20)

16 pp. Chapter E: Therapy Dog Needs Therapy (1st 3 pp. posted 7.20.20 … last 4 pp. 12.31.20)

16 est.    Chapter F: Klumsy Kat, But Only When Anxious (1st 2 pages posted 8.1.20; next to finish)

30 est.   Chapter G: Parade of Visitors: Feline, Canine, Rodentine & Humine (1st p. posted 7.28.20)

24 pp. Chapter H: New House, New Cat, New “Nay”bors (Posted 1/19 (J), Rvsd as H, 10.27.20; see A)

30 est. Chapter I: At the Zoo During a Pandemic (First 6 pages posted 5.18.20; Last page 10.23.20)

Appendix: Chapter Notes & Questions for Thought/ Discussion – Ch.’s A-I (partially done for most chapters, included with Chapters in blog), Ch. D complete; Chapters A & H are pretty complete.

All ten (ex-9) chapters of “The Adventures of Aspie Mouse” have been posted in some form. Chapters Pre-A, A, B, C, D, E & H are complete. The other three chapters (F, G, I) are plotted, with anywhere from 1-7 early pages posted. After posting Ch. D’s final (4th) version and then Ch’s. A & H (original Ch. J), the manuscript has now been submitted to agents to pursue print publication. If no favorable replies are received, another group of agents will be contacted once ALL chapters are complete in some form (March, 2021). As noted elsewhere in this blog, once the graphic novel is published, completed chapters will be removed from this blog, except for Ch. Pre-A & the first page/ few pages for each of the other nine chapters. Comments remain welcome even post-formal publication! Once all ten chapters are complete, new chapters for a projected sequel will be added as developed, and posted here in full until they too are published.

Any artist (especially one on the Autism Spectrum) who thinks s/he can improve upon the artwork in this blog is invited to contact the author (chris@aspiemouse.com) ASAP about submitting samples, potential compensation, etc.

Most of Ch’s B, C and pre-makeover H (J) were initially posted spring, 2019, before the author realized he’d sized them to be shrunk down to fit a “standard” 6 x 9″ trim size, vs. today’s graphic novel standard trim size of 5-1/2″ x 8″. All pages posted since 10/19 have been sized correctly.

Additional post-10/19 upgrades: putting space between panels; making boxes larger & words more readable when shrunk down (still a need for more consistency in size of “type”); new material added, & spread out existing scenes to increase art to word ratio. Result: Ch. Pre-A was 4 pages, it’s now 12; Ch. D has grown from 8 to 24 pp. in 4 stages. (All counts exclude Notes & Questions.) Expected: Ch. B will grow from 12 pages now to 16-20. New Ch’s E, F, G & I (only E is complete) should collectively average 20+ pages. Chapter I is anticipated to be the longest, perhaps 30 pages; Ch’s Pre-A & A are tied, at 12 pages each for shortest; Ch’s. E & F should be on the short side (16 pages). Ch’s. C (already expanded once) & G will likely exceed 25 pp in final form; Ch. H is 24 pages (double Ch. A or its Ch. J forebear), due to a major new sub-plot around social class & bullying.

With a projected average chapter length of 20+ pages — plus Front Matter — the author reduced a more ambitious number of chapters to ten, aiming for a typical print graphic novel length of 200-250 pages (80 pages more with Notes/ Questions). The author’s modified chapters as developed to reflect what’s current in society, especially its impact on those with Autism. So Chapter E (Therapy Dog …) touches on Black Lives Matter concerns, albeit modestly, along with loneliness and the use of therapy animal. Race, social class and “difference” issues come up again in Chapter H, in which Aspie Mouse has uncomfortable interactions with four mouse brothers who initially don’t trust him; Ch. H also confronts bullying. Chapter F (Klumsy Kat) features a character with “multiple disabilities (differences?).” Chapter I is set during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a focus on Aspie Mouse’s interaction with zoo animals — especially the often awkward social interactions those with Autism often have with peers (for him, other rodents), building on Ch. H.

Thanks for all the feedback I’ve received! Art upgrades; moving Chapter H (ex-J) material up to create a new Chapter A; paring down dialogue, are among the many suggestions made so far that have been implemented. I encourage you to keep them coming! It’s so easy for me — when I get excited by an idea — to lose perspective as to how it might “land” on others. So I’ve learned I need feedback (especially from Neurotypicals). Having learned not to take criticism personally, I WELCOME ALL FEEDBACK — especially on my IMPACT on others! I’m also learning to become a witness and not a judge of my own behavior and the behavior/ words of others (a Jungian concept that I’d heard for years before I “got” it). It reduces my feelings of anger and shame, allowing me to learn from what I’ve done and move on, vs. getting “stuck” and not letting go of past negativity.

If I don’t implement your suggestion, it wasn’t ignored; nor did I reject you as a person! Goes back to when I was a textbook acquisitions editor: I observed that when I got my successful academic authors “peer reviews,” they were good at separating the wheat from the chaff. They knew what fit — or even improved upon — their vision, yet passed on other well-intended reviewer suggestions that didn’t. As 12-step programs suggest, “Take what you like and leave the rest!” My less successful authors often (a) ignored reviewer suggestions, (b) were unable to implement them, or (c) tried to appease reviewers by doing everything they suggested, leading to an unwieldy mess. My intention is to do what my successful authors did: take to heart what fits — and leave the rest! I’m not doing this so much for my personal gain (though it has been such a gift for me in my marriage and elsewhere in my life to constantly ask, “What’s the impact of my behavior or words on YOU?”), but for the benefit of my newly discovered/ adopted “tribe” — fellow “Aspie’s!”

December 31, 2020 Christopher R. Conty

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