A couple weeks ago my friend Becca nominated me for the inspiring blogger award. The idea that I’m inspiring to anyone is still new and unsettling, but it’s very encouraging to know that there are people out there who actually pay attention to – and care about – what I write. So thanks to everyone who listens to the small things I have to say.
As part of this I’m supposed to tell you seven things about myself, but I think lists are boring so I figured I’d change it up a little and turn it into a game. We’re going to play Two Truths and a Lie. I’m going to tell you nine things about myself. Six of them will be true but three of them will be lies. If you think you can spot the tall tales, give it your best shot in the comments. All clear? Then let’s play.
I’m over a foot shorter than my husband.
The first car I ever hit was a Jaguar.
The first stitches I ever had were in my tongue.
I’m a Texan by birth.
I have a hot foot and a cold foot.
I have eaten kangaroo, alligator, crocodile, veal, octopus, squid, swordfish, and bison.
I have sky-dived, bungee-jumped, and white-water rafted while here in Colorado.
I was a crew member on a 135 year old tall ship.
My husband proposed to me under the Century Tree at Texas A&M (our alma mater).
Any guesses? Stay tuned next week for the answers.
How amazing is it that this quadriplegic can pick up a pencil again. Or brush her hair. Or pet her dog. Or do any of the millions of things that we take for granted every day. I’m constantly floored by the incredible leaps and bounds being made in fields like physical therapy and bioengineering.
I can’t help but think what the implications could be for me. I mean, I can walk just fine, and I only use the char when I’m tired or I’ve got a pressure sore. But the implications… I’m imagining a chair with legs. Wheels are great but they can’t climb stairs, hills and curbs are a pain, and grass and underbrush are nearly impossible. With my striding chair I’d be able to hike through the wilderness, climb to the top of a lighthouse, and navigate the rubble at the end of the world (by the way, I’m still here, how about y’all?).
Also, the article mentioned how her reaction speed and strength were equal to normal reflexes, but one of the common thoughts for robotic prostheses is that one day they’ll be better than what the rest of us have. Better, stronger, faster…and all that. So how long will it be before people are voluntarily chopping off limbs to replace them with shiny titanium or carbon fiber bits and bobs? The article mentioned Luke Skywalker but what about the Borg? We’re no longer limited to what we can just strap on our bodies. These prostheses are actually integrated into human flesh, using the framework and electrical signals our bodies provide. Why would I need a striding chair when I could replace my faulty legs with awesome walking machines?
Don’t worry, I’m not ready to lop off bits of me yet. But I will definitely be interested to see what the future holds.
Bent Not Broken by William R. Potter is a contemporary romance about a man with OCD finding the girl of his dreams and the struggles he faces, both in the world and in his own head, as he courts her.
I picked this book up as part of the research I was doing for my latest project since I have no experience with OCD, and my main character has a pretty severe case. But I picked it up as a reader as well as a writer. The premise was so intriguing. I love romances of all flavors, but I also love wounded or flawed characters. A character that has to fight against himself in order to win a chance at love? Let me at him.
As I’ve said before, I think an important aspect of portraying disabilities is the details an author gives. And there were plenty of details in this book. I was never in doubt of what Dwayne was feeling. His mental state was laid bare for the reader to see no matter how hard he tried to hide it from the rest of the characters. In fact, I almost feel like there might have been too many details. It read like a report with the author listing everything that Dwayne was thinking and feeling. I guess I would have liked more showing and less telling. This could have been a deliberate choice on the author’s part – a way to illustrate Dwayne’s state of mind. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell. And if I can’t tell, then that choice hasn’t really been made clear.
There were also quite a few loose ends that seemed to blow in the breeze and their flapping was very distracting. Things that were mentioned that I assumed would be important ended up being left forgotten by the end of the book. Little things and big things alike. For example, the girlfriend’s cats. Dwayne is supposed to take care of them while Dee-Dee’s gone, but he falls into a drunken stupor for four days, forgetting about the cats. Dwayne and Dee-Dee fight, she comes home, they make up – but the cats are never mentioned. Not even so much as a “Hey, I’m sorry I killed your pets.”
And in the end I was disappointed with the depth of the story. There were so many places where the story could have been more vibrant, but instead of pulling out the shovel and digging into the things that made the book unique, Potter merely skimmed the surface. For instance, I wanted some discussion about the fact that Dwayne refused to treat his OCD, instead self-medicating with alcohol. This could have been a really interesting flaw, providing room for character growth. But it was a depth left unplumbed.
Overall, I did like the story. I thought the relationship was cute, and I was left wanting to know what happened next, which is mostly a good thing. I found myself really sympathizing with Dwayne; I felt his panic and his frustration with himself until he finally wanted to change so much that he sought the help he needed to become the man he wanted to be. And the descriptions of his OCD were so vivid that I wanted to reach in and cuddle him and intervene for him with the other characters. “Look what he’s going through. Can’t you see how hard it is?” But I was left with mixed feelings. I think this novella could have used a couple more drafts before hitting the press.
A few weeks ago I caught this stand-up routine on Conan O’Brien. Samuel Comroe is a brilliant comedian and actor with Tourette’s Syndrome (I freely admit, I had to look up how to spell it). I thought his act was amazing and wonderfully done.
I’ve always been drawn to comedians with self-deprecating humor, but I think there’s something particularly courageous about not only using your disability as comedic material but standing up in front of complete strangers and drawing attention to your differences. Too often we’re ashamed by our differences; we either try to cover them up or ignore them. Comroe actually highlights them and makes us laugh along with him.
As y’all know, I’m all about finding humor in crappy circumstances, so it’s no wonder this guy caught my eye. But what made me sit up and watch was that Comroe isn’t just laughing off his struggles the way you laugh off the twisted ankle you got tripping over the dog on your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. He uses his disability to his advantage. Check out how he works with the ticks and pauses to effect his own comedic timing. The Tourette’s becomes a part of his style of humor.
So all in all I was really impressed with this guy. And impressed with Ricky Gervais and Conan O’ Brien for recognizing his talent and giving him an opportunity to showcase it. I’ll definitely be looking forward to more of Samuel Comroe.
So last Wednesday was the last installment of the Accessible Excerpts series, bringing Merry, as a character, full circle. With this series, I wanted to show how I use disabilities in my stories to create unique yet believable characters. It’s my hope that in these protagonists you can see real life struggles and flaws, traits that help them step off the page and into your mind.
I realize that those of us with disabilities are a minority and the experiences of these characters are not necessarily universal, but I also hope that by spending so much time in their heads and finding things in their thoughts, feelings, and experiences to relate to – you can see that we’re not all that different.
It’s not my intent to ram a certain agenda down your collective throats, but I did have a purpose going into this project. I want to empower those of us who read tales about heroic feats and think, “I can’t do that”. I want to examine what it takes to be a hero – an important question whether you have a disability or not – and who it is that steps into that role. And finally I want to promote understanding. Everyone has their problems and it’s not any one person’s place to rank those, saying “Oh, my struggle is harder than your struggle”. This creates division, we become us and them, or you and me. I think this is a gap that needs to be bridged.
I hope you guys have enjoyed seeing this deeper look at Merry. I know I learned a lot more about my character than I realized when I first wrote her. And thanks for all your comments and feedback. They’ve been very encouraging. Maybe we’ll see Merry and some of her compatriots again further down the road.
I'm an author and avid reader living in Denver with my very tall husband, a lazy black monster masquerading as a service dog, and my first attempt at progeny. I like to talk about writing, reading and life with a disability - and how those three mix.