Monthly Archives: November 2012

Nano Wrap Up

Today is the last day of Nanowrimo so I thought I’d give you guys a rundown on how it went.

I was pretty solid with my word-count for the first couple weeks and I even managed to get ahead before Thanksgiving (after four years I know full well that family plus turkey does not equal much writing time). But despite that head-start I somehow hit the second week slump in my fourth week. I managed to reach 50,000 words on Monday but it was an uphill slog. And since my personal goal was to write 75,000 words this month, I didn’t quite make it. At least I learned something. I have a very hard time working on two projects at once. Whaddaya know? I’m human after all.

One of my favorite parts of Nanowrimo is the community. My writing partners and I get together once a week at the library and have our own write-ins. Hard at work above are my sister and Rebecca Green Gasper, who was kind enough to answer some questions for us last week along with Susan Oloier. Becca’s been one of my critique/writing partners for a couple years now. If you haven’t checked her out yet, you should take a look.

So, I’m coming out of this side of November with half of a new novel and about 8,000 words of a devotional (that was supposed to be 25,000, I told you the dual projects thing didn’t work, right?). Not bad all things considering, and I’m really looking forward to finishing up The Robber Bridegroom. So far it’s been a blast to write. The devotional has been more of a battle but just as rewarding. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me this next year.

 

Here’s a sneak peek at The Robber Bridegroom:

“The building was large and imposing. Until now it had always meant fear and danger to me. Along with the rest of the Reaper’s crew, I had avoided it for the last ten years. I swallowed and mounted the steps. One, two, three, four, five steps separated my past from my future. Such a small distance for such a huge leap of faith.

I couldn’t keep myself from turning one last time to glance behind me. Across the street, Clarence and Aalan stood watching. Clarence’s lips were twisted in a contemptuous sneer but Aalan’s eyes were wide with horror and disbelief. Like the Reaper, he didn’t believe I would do it. He didn’t think I had it in me to throw away my whole life, everything I’d ever known, all the family I had, just for an ideal.

This was the end. If I took this step, I’d be hunted. I’d go from being the Reaper’s employee to being his next target. No forgiveness, no leniency, no second thoughts. I’d made my decision a long time ago but this was the moment it would become real.

I lifted my chin and stepped into the police station.”

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Accessible Excerpts: Full Circle

This is an excerpt from my novel, By Wingéd Chair, one in a series of posts in which I try to show how I use disabilities in my writing. Click here for my intro to the series.

Merry and her companions encounter a creature who has the ability to make them relive their worst memories.

 

An invisible hand reached out and grabbed hold of my mind, dragging me deep into the darkest corners of my own thoughts.

My horse was leaping, a move I could feel was faulty even as she left the ground. She stumbled as she landed, and my foot came loose from my stirrup, my weight shifting and the edge of the gully rising to meet me as I fell.

A darkness I remembered all too well, the black behind my eyelids as I refused to wake, refused to face what I already feared might be true.

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m afraid she will never leave this bed again. You may as well get used to it now. It will make it easier in the years to come as she realizes she will never live her life as a normal person would.”

“Papa?”

“I’m here, Merry-child.” His voice was broken, and I opened my eyes to see why. His face hovered over mine, his eyes red-rimmed with pain and exhaustion.

“Papa, I can’t feel my legs.” I tried to sit up but my balance was all funny, and Papa put his hand against my shoulder to keep me from trying anything more. I fought growing panic and threw the blanket back so I could see my legs and feet. They were there, everything was where it was supposed to be, but I couldn’t feel anything below my waist.

“Papa, what’s wrong? I can’t move.” I tried. I tried harder than I’d ever tried anything in my life. The desire was there, I was doing exactly as I had the day before. The signal was leaving my mind but it was blocked. I told my toes to wiggle. They didn’t. I told my knee to bend. It remained limp against the bed linens.

“Papa!”

“I’m sorry, Merry. I’m sorry.” There were tears coursing down his cheeks. I couldn’t look at him; I could only turn my face to the wall and scream. The bed sagged as he sat beside me and gathered me into his arms. His chest heaved with his sobs, but I couldn’t tell under my own shrieks of pain.

I could feel two sharp personalities present in the back of my mind looking on in horror as I relived the moment I’d realized I would never walk again. I don’t know how I recognized Zev and Whyn. There were others there too, though less distinct.

This wasn’t anything like the memories I’d relived with Zev before. I’d never given him anything so personal or painful, and they had never been this vivid. I struggled to regain control, like I did with Zev

With a gasp I was back in my chair, feeling like I’d been thrown there, the frigid air flooding my lungs and making me cough. Zev crouched, quivering beside me, holding his head. Someone was crying, and I turned to find Lans holding a distraught Vira-we to his chest. I looked for Whyn and found him still sitting opposite me. His hands shook and his eyes were glassy, but he met my gaze.

Zev collected himself and stood, raising defiant eyes to glare at the creature who had accosted us. “You have gone too far, Elder. In attempting to prove how wrong I am, you broke a sacred trust. You had no right to take those memories from these people. You fed on their experiences without permission and for that you are no better than the Vachryn.”

“These humans do not deserve the respect we grant our own kind.”

“They are thinking, rational beings like us. Some are evil yes, but some are noble and worthy. These,” Zev said gesturing to Whyn and I. “These are mages. Like the ones we used to partner with. How dare you say they are not worthy?”

“These are the least worthy of all,” the elder said, his voice raised. “They aren’t born with the magic inside like the enchanters of old, so they steal it with cunning tricks. The enchanters would never have let their Realm fall like this. They would have weeded out pain and suffering from the human race long ago.”

Saints, the arrogance in his voice was almost tangible. I wanted to grab it and shove it down his throat. “You idiot,” I said.

“Excuse me?” His incredulous tone boomed with an intensity that willed me to back down, but I stood my ground.

“We shouldn’t inflict pain on others, and I’m sorry there are those who do so willingly. But if we avoid challenges and difficult situations just because we might experience pain how will we ever grow? Suffering tempers us. You feed on memories, experiences, life. Life is nonexistent without challenge, without pain. What you seek is only the shadow of life.”

The misty figure leaned down to look at me closer. “And would you say you are tempered by your suffering? Are you made stronger by your horrible experiences?”

“Yes,” I said and swallowed. I hadn’t admitted it to myself yet and it was wrenching to do so here with so many listening, but the truth of it swelled up through me. “I would not be who I am today if I hadn’t gone through everything that I have. I am grateful I’ve had a chance to grow and appreciate the things that have made me stronger. I pity you in your safe, comfortable existence, always running, never standing to fight and grow.”

“You pity me?” he asked, his voice rising with disbelief.

“Yes, I do,” I said. “The next time you want to dig in my memories you will ask first. Is that clear?”

 

I had a really hard time writing this scene. The first couple weeks after my injury are very blurry due to pain, drugs, and a dizzying procession of doctors and therapy. So I don’t actually have any memory of a specific moment that I became aware that I couldn’t walk anymore. Which made it excessively difficult to portray how Merry felt in her own moment of realization. I think she ended up with something like an entire year’s worth of my emotions crammed into about five minutes of story.

I wanted to bring Merry full circle with this scene. This is the moment where we see that not only has she accepted herself and her limitations, but she sees how strong she is. She can finally acknowledge how her experiences have shaped her to be who she is.

 

As always, comments and criticisms are appreciated. What did you think? What did you like, what did you dislike? Did I accomplish what I set out to do?

AE: Easier Said Than Done                                                Not All that Different

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The Lovely Ladies from Moxie Writers

Today I’ve got a couple special guests over from Moxie Writers. Rebecca Green Gasper and Susan Oloier are both young adult authors out on their Break Out Against book tour.

Rebecca is the writer of young adult fiction. Before becoming a writer, she was a high school special education teacher working primarily with students with emotional disabilities. She also worked as a tutor and coach. Rebecca grew up in the mountains of Colorado. She now resides outside of Denver with her husband and two children.

Susan is a mom, a wife, and a writer of YA and Adult fiction, as well as non-fiction. She has been published in Inside/Outside Magazine as a columnist, at http://www.fertilesource.com/, and in Cliterature Journal. She just finished a travel memoir about her family’s year in the national parks.

Rebecca and Susan take on some of the tougher issues in young adult fiction nowadays and I thought you might like a closer look at what they write and how they go about writing it.

Where did you get the idea for your book?

Rebecca: Break From You started with a dream about a fire and a cowboy, and another element I can’t tell you about because it will give away the book. Eventually the idea developed into a story about dating abuse and became Brooke’s story. I did a lot of research about dating abuse, abusers, and victims.

Susan: Outcast has been a part of me since junior high. I was the victim of bullying in both junior high and high school. The experience of being picked on and singled out has been with me my whole life. It was a book I needed to write. Initially it was for catharsis, but it later turned into something more.

How long did it take you to write?

Rebecca: It doesn’t take me long to write once I get going. Break From You took around two or three months to write. The editing and publishing took a lot longer.

Susan: I started Outcast in 2001. It went through many drafts, edits, and revisions over the past 11 years.

Are you a planner or a pantser? (do you plan your novel before writing or do you write by the seat of your pants)

Rebecca: I plan, but not always on paper. I will make notes and write some scenes. I also write out a brief outline, but for the most part, when an idea comes, I spend a lot of time brainstorming and developing the story in my head long before I start writing. I also spend a lot of time researching. For Break From You, I did research on dating abuse, victims, and abusers.

 Susan: When I have an idea, it brews in my mind for 4-6 months. The characters become real to me in that time, as do the details of their lives and situations. Then I begin taking notes and write a rudimentary outline. With two of my books, I wrote detailed outlines (Outcast being one of them). So I’d say I’m a plotter, but I always leave room for the characters to do what they want—as they always seem to do.

Do you edit as you write or wait until the first draft is finished?

Rebecca: I do some editing as I go, but most is done when the story is finished. I find that I need the whole story laid out in front of me before I can start working on the editing.

Susan: I am notorious for editing as I go, which is why it takes me a year or so for a “first draft” to be finished. I always go back and reread what I wrote, then revise and edit before the version is ever complete. Writers as a whole seem to frown on this, but it’s a process that works for me.

Was there any part of this project that gave you more trouble than the rest?

Rebecca: Brooke’s emotions gave me the most trouble. Brooke has strength, but she also displays a lot of weakness and showing why she made the decisions she did was a very difficult task.

 Susan: I didn’t like a lot of Noelle’s choices. They weren’t things I would do in a million years. So letting her get involved in decisions I didn’t approve of and allowing her to plot revenge were really hard for me.

Where can we find your books?

Love shouldn’t hurt this much…Brooke Myers wants to believe she has it all: the perfect guy, the perfect relationship, the perfect life. She wants to believe it so much that she’s willing to overlook the fear, the isolation, and the pain her boyfriend has caused her. She knows it isn’t right but tells herself that love isn’t always easy. However, when a fire destroys the restaurant during homecoming dinner, she forms an instant bond with the boy who saves her, one her boyfriend wouldn’t like. With the pain of a concussion reminding her of how bad things can get, she is forced to re-evaluate the relationship she has with her boyfriend and face the ghosts that haunt her. Brooke once believed love was all it took…but is it enough? Is it truly love when you’ve lost yourself in it?

Amazon- http://www.amazon.com/Break-From-You-ebook/dp/B009YLW5NG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1353426083&sr=8-2&keywords=break+from+you
Smashwords-http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/249896
Barnes and Noble-http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/break-from-you-rebecca-green-gasper/1113712532?ean=2940015898903

Website- rebeccagreengasper.blogspot.com
Twitter- @rgreengapser

Noelle dreams of a different life, one where Trina Brockwell doesn’t exist. Trina has bullied Noelle since junior high. Now she’s tired of it. With the help of her black-sheep aunt and a defiant new classmate, Noelle seeks revenge. But vengeance comes with a price: Noelle risks friendship, her first love, and herself to get back at those who have wronged her.

Amazon- http://www.amazon.com/Outcast-ebook/dp/B009Z5A3PI/ref=sr_1_cc_2?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1353426297&sr=1-2-catcorr&keywords=outcast+by+susan
Smashwords-http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/250017
Barnes and Noble-http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/outcast-susan-oloier/1113779699?ean=2940045052269

Website- susanoloier.blogspot.com
twitter- @narrawriter

Thank you, ladies for stopping by. If you want to see more from Rebecca and Susan, stop over at moxiewriters.blogspot.com and be sure to follow the rest of their tour as it’s sure to be interesting.

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Accessible Excerpts: Easier Said Than Done

This is an excerpt from my novel, By Wingéd Chair, one in a series of posts in which I try to show how I use disabilities in my writing. Click here for my intro to the series.

After working with the Disciples of Ammon to fight the Vachryn, Merry feels more confident about herself and her abilities, but her work places her back in the situations which caused her so much trouble before, and she can feel her old mindset waiting to trip her again.

 

I smiled and accepted the thanks along with the others, but inside I was shaking. Too many people crowded me, their curious and sometimes pitying looks sending barbs into my heart. There was nothing nasty or rude behind their expressions, but it felt like I was right back at Madam Francine’s, with the girls giggling about me behind my back.

I’d thought I was done with that part of my life. The Disciples didn’t look at me with those all too familiar expressions. I’d thought I wouldn’t mind them anymore. But here I was, with the old mask creeping back across my face to hide the feelings that welled up inside.

Nothing had changed. I’d just been avoiding the realities of my life for the last couple months.

I wheeled myself out of the crowded house and into the crisp night air. I stopped at the edge of the light spilling from the windows and tilted my head back so I could see the sky.

A step behind me made me turn, and I saw Whyn coming toward me from the house.

“You left the party,” he said. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” I said, avoiding his eyes.

“No, you’re not. I saw the way you looked back there. What’s wrong? I thought things were better.”

“It’s nothing, okay? I just don’t like people.”

“You like us just fine,” he said, not letting it go. “You like most of the Disciples.”

I looked away. “They don’t act like I’m some kind of abomination.”

Whyn nodded. “We treat you the same as everyone else. They treat you like you’re different.”

“It’s not their fault,” I said, realizing I believed that. “They’re not used to seeing someone like me.”

“If you understand, then why were you so upset?”

“I can’t help it. I understand, but I still don’t like it. I don’t like who I am when I’m around other people.”

“Who are you?”

“Someone who’s always angry. I want to be mad at everyone else in the world because they can’t possibly know what I’m going through. I hate them for not understanding. I hate them for being able to do the things I can’t, but in the end I hate myself more.” Tears pricked my eyes, and I blinked hard, trying to get rid of them.

“Marion.” There was a catch in his voice that made my heart jump. He crouched in front of me so he could take my hands and look straight in my eyes. “You shouldn’t hate yourself.”

“But I do,” I said. “I shouldn’t feel that way. I know better, but I can’t help it.”

The light behind me illuminated his face. There was no pity there, only sympathy and understanding. “I think I know what you mean,” he said. “There really isn’t any kind of shouldn’t or should when it comes to feelings. They are what they are. But sometimes we can steer them in another direction. When we first met you, I concentrated on one thing, and that was finding and destroying the Vachryn. I was so single-minded I shut out everything else, including my friends and everything I’d ever enjoyed doing.

“I didn’t even realize what I was doing until Lans told me they were going to leave me at the Refuge the next time they went out hunting. My whole life had revolved around this one thing and suddenly it was taken from me. Without it I had nothing, and I realized I didn’t like what I’d become. You said I was holding onto my grief to avoid living. Called me a coward.”

I gasped. “I said no such thing.”

He smiled. “No, but that’s what I heard because that’s what I was.” He pulled something out of his pocket and looked at it for a long time. When he passed it to me, I saw it was a child’s jumping jack. The paint was worn thin and the wood was smooth, as if it was handled every day.

“That’s Gisa’s,” he said. “I gave it to her the day she died. I used to hold it when I got upset or overwhelmed. When the memories were too much, feeling it under my fingers would help calm me down. After you told me to let the wounds heal and leave grief behind, I used it to remind myself to be patient. Now every time I hold it I remember the life I’m supposed to be living and the person I want to be. It’s helped me get there. You helped me, Marion.”

I couldn’t look away from his earnest eyes, and my breath caught in my chest. His hand pressed the toy into my palm.

“Maybe it can help you now,” he said. “Any time you start feeling like you’re that person you don’t like, hold it and take a deep breath. Concentrate on it rather than the irrational reactions and when you have yourself under control, remember who you want to be.”

I didn’t know what to say. His confession and his gift had left me breathless with emotion. I didn’t want to consider the way my heart pounded against my ribs, or the way the light caught the white streaks in his eyes.

He squeezed my hand and stood. I watched as he walked back into the house, leaving me sitting in the dark holding a child’s toy.

 

I’ve had a really hard time explaining what I was feeling the first year or two after my injury, but Merry’s confession comes pretty close. It’s frightening and depressing to hate the complete stranger who opens the door for you just because he can’t possibly know what you’re going through. Maybe part of it was that I felt so isolated. I was facing something none of my friends or my family had ever had to deal with and in a strange, twisted way I felt entitled to my pain and anger. Look, I have a right to be pissy, so just back off and let me wallow. But since then, I’ve realized I’m not the only one who’s ever hated themselves for something they can’t control, whether it’s frightening emotions, mental illness, or just the shitty situations life sometimes deals out.

I don’t have any pithy advice for the people who feel like this. I don’t know what it was that helped me crawl out of the mire. It probably wasn’t any one thing but several. I do know that at some point I realized if I hated who I was, there was absolutely no reason I should keep being that person. Easier said than done, right? But it’s the first step. Knowing you have a choice. And knowing you’re not alone.

 

As always, comments and criticisms are appreciated. What did you think? What did you like, what did you dislike? Did I accomplish what I set out to do?

AE: Worst Case Scenario

 

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Nano Pep Talk

So, how is everyone doing on their nano novel? I figured it was time for an update myself, and time to spread a little encouragement to my fellow writers.

Miraculously, I’m on target. But the next couple days are going to be hard as I try to get ahead for Thanksgiving. We have family coming into town and I know myself well enough to recognize that I won’t get any writing done while they’re here. With that on the horizon: full steam ahead.

We’re coming up on the end of the second week, which means we’re still making our way up the hump. Week two is probably the hardest part of Nanowrimo. You’ve lost some steam after week one, you’re staring at the blank page thinking “I have no idea what happens next”. And in week three everything starts to sound like it was written by a drunk zebra. But don’t despair. Remember it’s quantity that counts in this race, not quality. If you’re behind, there’s still time to catch up. And it gets better. By the end of the month you’ll be taking charge again. In that rush you’ll remember exactly why you wanted to write this novel in the first place, and the going will be easier.

So, keep plugging along. Don’t let the mid-month slump discourage you. And above all. Keep writing.

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Accessible Excerpts: Worst Case Scenario

This is an excerpt from my novel, By Wingéd Chair, one in a series of posts in which I try to show how I use disabilities in my writing. Click here for my intro to the series.

Merry and her companions are still on their way to the Refuge when they are attacked by bandits.

 

I’d seen the three of them in action before and figured the fight would be short. Five bandits wouldn’t even come close to a couple Vachryn, but it soon became clear these men were well trained. Maybe they were mercenaries or deserters from the royal army. Whatever they were, they worked as a team as they surrounded Lans, Vira and Whyn, attacking them on all sides.

I whipped around, wondering how I could help, and grabbed the one thing that came to hand. When the bandit in front of me came into range, I swung as hard as I could. The hot frying pan clanged against the man’s head, and our dinner went flying through the air, only half cooked. My victim screamed and stumbled against me, tipping my chair over so that I was flung to the ground.

My heart was already beating fast, but now it slammed against my ribs, as if trying to leap from my chest. Boots stomped around me, missing my fingers, and blades clashed above my head. I tried to crawl out of the way of the fighting, using my arms to pull myself along the ground. My skirt clung to the dead-weight of my legs, catching against leaves and bushes and slowing me down.

Another man stumbled into my victim, and they both fell across my overturned chair. There was a heart-rending crash, and they rolled away from the wreckage they’d caused.

I gaped at the pile of broken wood and upholstery while a wheel spun in the air at a crazy angle.

“Whyn,” Lans called, pressed hard against a tree by the bandit leader. “Get Marion! Get her away!”

Whyn grabbed his attacker’s arm as it came around to slash him and sent a bolt of energy into the other man’s body. The bandit fell down screaming, and Whyn’s eyes snapped up, searching for me. His gaze found what was left of my chair and he went white.

I cried out and he finally saw me lying in an awkward pile on the leaf mold. He dashed over and hoisted me up, hugging me to his chest, before he strode off into the trees.

As the sounds of fighting faded away, I turned my face into his shoulder and convinced myself I wasn’t going to cry. It was just a chair. It was a tool. My father was not manifest in the wonderful contraption he’d made just for me.

 

First off, I’d like to point out I wrote this scene about six years ago when I first envisioned the story that would eventually become By Wingéd Chair – way before Tangled came out.

This idea came from a couple different places. From the very beginning I wanted to see what it would be like to get a character in a wheelchair through a fight scene. She’s been in a couple conflicts so far but nothing as physical as this, and as you can see, she doesn’t make it out unscathed.

Also, with character driven fiction we like to ask the question “what’s the worst thing that could happen to this character?” For Merry, that would be losing control of her own movement, having to rely on others for even the basest necessities. She’s been doing pretty well with the anger thing, so let’s see how she reacts to this new challenge. It’s evil, I know, but a character can’t truly prevail unless there’s something to prevail over.

 

As always, comments and criticisms are appreciated. What did you think? What did you like, what did you dislike? Did I accomplish what I set out to do?

AE: A Risky Kind of Fun                                                     AE: Easier Said Than Done

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The Universe at her Fingertips

The Ship Who Sang by Anne McCaffrey

Given her physical deformities and acute mind, Helva is chosen to become a “brainship”. She escapes the confines of a human body but there is still the matter of her human heart.

 

This is going on my shelf permanently since the last story in the book, “The Partnered Ship” kept me from meeting a deadline. Anne McCaffrey has been one of my favorites since I read Dragonsong in 8th grade, and she continues to be a best-loved author to this day. But my Pern collection is just going to have to scoot over to make room for this one.

Helva was born with some staggering physical challenges. I couldn’t tell what her disabilities were supposed to be specifically, but McCaffrey’s vivid description paints a pretty hopeless picture for Helva. However, with the help of some futuristic technology, she becomes the “brain” of a spiffy new spaceship, achieving more power and more control than any human has. She goes from being an embarrassing drain on society to a huge asset with the universe (literally) at her fingertips. In fact, several times throughout the book, when someone expresses pity for her situation, she states that she likes herself just fine and she’d never trade her titanium hull for a real body. She even pities the fragile “brawns” who get hurt so easily.

Yet Helva learns that physical hurt is the least kind of pain the universe can dish out. Her body might be protected by an impenetrable shell but her heart and mind are just as vulnerable as those of her more fleshy counterparts. And like any character, Helva learns, changes, and grows from her experiences, becoming a stronger, better person than she started.

I was worried that because of Helva’s technology she would be too powerful to be interesting. She’s a ship; she can just run from trouble, right? She can just use her super sensors to sniff out trouble and stop it before it can advance the plot. But I was wrong. McCaffrey created a strong, powerful character, but she also put her in situations that tested her abilities realistically and in some unexpected ways. She can’t always pull out all the stops because she is limited by her human companions. And she still experiences prejudice and misunderstanding from the highly evolved world.

We even get to see Helva save the day without her phenomenal resources. As a result of the inattention of one mentally and emotionally abusive partner, Helva is stolen from her ship and her sensory and movement connections are disengaged so she can’t see, hear, or move. For the first time in her life she is truly disabled. Yet she withstands the sensory deprivation and tricks her captors into giving her enough control so she can save herself and the others trapped with her.

I found it interesting that while Helva would never trade her ship for a body – and while borrowing an alien body she even thinks “how limiting mobility is” – her goal through most of the book is to find a suitable partner. She may be impenetrable, well adjusted, and confident in herself and her abilities but she’s still lonely. She still longs for companionship. And in the end she finds her own kind of love – a partnership that’s beautiful and fulfilling even without the possibility of ever being able to hold her beloved.

Exploring the bounds of humanity is not a new concept in science fiction, but what a unique and stirring way to ask the questions “what makes us hurt?” “What makes us human?”  Well done, McCaffrey.

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Accessible Excerpts: A Risky Kind of Fun

This is an excerpt from my novel, By Wingéd Chair, one in a series of posts in which I try to show how I use disabilities in my writing. Click here for my intro to the series.

On their way to the Refuge of Ammon, Merry and her companions stop to help out some villagers.

 

“Why are there wheels on your chair?”

I jerked in surprise. It was the bold little girl from before, standing beside me and frowning at my chair. “Excuse me?”

“Your chair has wheels on it. It looks funny.”

My spine stiffened and my face went blank. What an impertinent child. My first reaction was to say something sharp that would tell the girl I wasn’t interested in answering rude questions. Then I saw Whyn watching me, waiting for my response.

I took a couple deep breaths and tried to look at it from her perspective. My chair really was strange. And most invalids were confined to their homes, so she wouldn’t be able to guess what was wrong with me. Her question wasn’t rude; it was the result of someone who wanted to know the answer and wasn’t afraid to ask. Huh, kind of like me.

“It’s because my legs don’t work like yours do,” I said. “This helps me get around.”

“Oh,” she said. “Is it fun?”

“What?” Was it fun to be bound forever to a chair? My tone of surprised incredulity would have scared off a lesser child. But not her.

“Is it fun?” She pointed at my wheels. “I bet they go fast. Like the rich people’s carriages. We had a goat cart once and we got it to go really fast down hills.”

“I-I don’t know. I’ve never really thought of it as fun before.”

Whyn had a really strange look on his face. If he laughed, I was going to punch him.

“Well, come on, you should try it.” She dragged at one of my arms until I followed her. At the end of the village, the road sloped down a gentle hill, and the girl stopped at the top.

“We sled down this one in the winter. It’s not as good as Deadman’s Hill, but that’s half a day’s walk.”

I was thinking this was plenty steep enough, and we didn’t have to try anything called “Deadman”.

I cleared my throat. “What if it’s too fast?” I asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

“You steer with the wheels, right?” she said, grasping the mechanics of my chair. “You can just grab them to slow down.” She climbed up on my lap, apparently coming along for the ride.

“But once I’m down there how will I get back up the hill?”

“Easy, I’ll push you.”

I rolled my eyes at her. “Are you always this good at solving problems?”

She grinned over her shoulder. “Da says I’m either a blessing or a menace. He hasn’t decided which.”

I stared down the hill, slightly daunted by my precocious passenger. I could just imagine Whyn standing behind me with raised eyebrows. I couldn’t back down now, not with him watching. I had the fleeting hope if something went wrong, he knew a spell that would keep me from plummeting to my death. An image flashed across my mind: this stretch of road, except now it was called “Deadgirl’s Lane”.

I took what was surely my last breath and pushed myself over the crest of the hill. We picked up speed, and the wind of our passing blew my hair out behind me like a war banner. My wheels clattered, and the chair shuddered as it shot down the packed dirt of the road. My passenger flung her arms out to the sides and shrieked with laughter. I closed my eyes and hung on for dear life, longing to grab the wheels to slow down but not daring to. My gloves protected my hands, but even they wouldn’t be able to withstand this kind of friction.

We hit the bottom of the slope and rolled to a stop.

“You can open your eyes now.”

I did and was a little surprised to find myself still among the living.

“See, wasn’t that fun?”

I had to wait until I no longer felt like I was going to have a heart attack before I could answer. But then a grin plucked at my lips, and I found myself saying, “Actually, yes.” And, in a sort of death-defying way, it was. She hopped off and started pushing me back up the hill.

We were greeted by a chorus of voices. “Was it fast, Sara?”

“Faster than sledding, but bumpier,” she answered.

“All life and limbs still attached?” Whyn asked.

“Yes…”

“Why do you sound so wary?”

“Because I think I want to go again.”

 

I like to find the joy and the fun in life’s little setbacks. Every now and then there are some advantages to disability and wheelchairs are one of them. It is a risky kind of fun – I’ve learned through personal experience there’s a reason for the seatbelts on wheelchairs – but what’s the point in having wheels if you can’t fly down a few hills?

This is a big step for Merry in her emotional journey. Just being able to stand back from her pain and see how she might look to others is a huge difference. And being able to see something other than anger and bitterness in her situation shows how far she’s come.

 

As always, comments and criticisms are appreciated. What did you think? What did you like, what did you dislike? Did I accomplish what I set out to do?

AE: A Choice                                                                          AE: Worst Case Scenario

 

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Ready, Set, Nano!

So, if you haven’t been paying attention, yesterday was the first day of Nanowrimo. I got off to a good start, met up with some friends for a write-in, met my word quota (though didn’t get any extra written like I’d planned). If you were thinking about joining in but feel like it’s too late now, think again. In 2008 I started my first Nanowrimo nine days late. I heard about it at church and decided that afternoon that it was something I couldn’t miss. I finished on November 30th with about 50,200 words of a book called In the Company of Pirates. Still hoping to do something with that one someday.

My point is, you can still take a flying leap onto this bandwagon. Roll call in the comments, who’s in? If you’re already taking a chance with all the rest of us, you’re probably feeling excited and maybe a little overwhelmed already. Here are some last minute tips I forgot to include two weeks ago.

  • Don’t write in OpenOffice. OpenOffice has this weird word count voodoo where it counts quotation marks as words, inflating your word count and causing a panic on the last day when you realize you’re three hundred words short. Not a happy moment. Don’t do it. Use Scrivener or Microsoft Office. Avoid panic whenever possible.
  • Update your word count on Nanowrimo’s website often. Multiple times a day if you can manage it. This can be a bit distracting (especially if you get sucked into the “procrastination station”) but I find it really helpful to see progress and Nanowrimo makes this tangible with a handy dandy status bar. Super cool to watch it fill up. Scrivener’s project targets dialogue box is great for this too.
  • Word padding is a completely legitimate, accepted, touted, effective, and overall not cheating strategy. This is your chance to get away with all those pesky things you’re not supposed to let sneak into your writing. Throw in as many adverbs as you want, give your readers a lecture about the mechanics of REM sleep, repeat descriptions until you’re so sick of them you can’t help but come up with new and interesting ways to say flying, purple, gyrating kangaroos.
  • Tell everyone you know what you’re attempting. That way you’ll be too embarrassed to quit halfway through. Sounds kind of shallow but it works.
  • Never end a day not knowing what comes next. It feels all nice and neat to wrap up at the end of a chapter or a thought, but it’s very hard to get started the next day when you have no idea what the next scene or even sentence is going to be about. Some people say end in the middle of a sentence, but I have a little OCPD in me that makes this maddening.

So, what are you waiting for? Get busy and I’ll see you in a month.

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