I am taking the scary step of crowdfunding the publication of my novel!
If you like my writing (original or fanfic) head over here to support my original novel Night Draws In.
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.
Every so often, one of the people who reads my work will write me a review that says something like, “This shouldn’t be funny, but it is.”
I’m an EMT, a person who has chronic depression and a person who had untreated Lyme disease for twenty years. For all these reasons, my sense of humor is deepest black.
One thing I notice when I watch dramas, especially medical dramas, is that there is often an unremitting seriousness to the character’s interactions. It heightens the tension, but it is an example of how fiction misinterprets humans.
In real life, none of the helping professionals you meet during an emergency will be nearly as upset as you. To the cop, the EMT, the firefighter, the nurse and the doctor, the worst day of your life is merely Tuesday.
This does not diminish what is happening to you. It is still horrible and you are entitled to your fear/rage/shock/pain/whatever you feel. It bears remembering however: humans are incapable of maintaining that level of seriousness day in and day out. Unless they are actually clinically depressed and that’s a whole other blog post.
Spend any amount of time around people who have lived through grim circumstances and you will notice they all have a gallows sense of humor. The worse the circumstance, the darker and sicker the humor. Have you ever been at a funeral and wanted to laugh? This is NORMAL. Human brains are wired this way.
It does not mean we don’t care. It doesn’t mean we don’t understand that this is awful for you. It means we need to keep our shit together so we can not only help you, but we can also help the next person.
If you watch British comedy, you’ll notice a thread of darkness that underlies a lot of it. My parents grew up in the UK during WWII and they both had a pretty grim sense of humor. A cultural legacy, I think of having your first memories be of going to the shelter during a bombing.
After an especially bad call, you might hear helping professionals laughing with each other. We try to do it out of sight of the public, keep it in the squad room or break room, but it happens.
Why are we laughing when something horrible has happened?
Often, it’s because we’re on the first hour of a twelve to sixteen hour shift. Often, it’s because it’s cold and we just tumbled out of bed and we’re still a little bleary. Often it’s because we’re trying to keep up our own morale.
Sometimes, it’s because if we don’t laugh, we will sit down to cry and not stop.
The current title for my novel.
Current description: A girl returns from the Faery Realm suffering from acquired brain injury. A young trans man with dark premonitions wishes he could channel lottery numbers. A teenage mage refuses to believe in magic.
They’re going to save us.
Feedback about title or description welcome.
It is dark here in New England. No real snow, so we don’t even have the reflected light of snow cover to help.
Last time we spent the holidays at home, we had a massive snow storm that knocked out our electricity for days. One appreciates how bloody dark and cold the winter is when that happens. Even if you are prepared for outages as we are, it is jarring to find yourself living in the 19th Century. It gets old real fast.
One of my favorite posts about the true meaning of the holidays can be found here.
It’s a lovely essay about how all of our celebrations are in essence partying against the darkness.
Keep your loved ones close on this longest night.
The first fantasy novel I ever read that had a physically disabled character was Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey. I was quite ill that year and it meant a lot to me. Especially since the character had something very similar to what I had. This was way the heck back in 1989.
For this, Mercedes Lackey will always have a special place in my heart.
This character, though physically weak, is intelligent, loyal, courageous and an all around asset to the party. He is even sexy. One of the protagonists remarks that he makes her want to climb into his lap and purr.
He has to be careful about his limited energy. He takes pretty strong painkillers. He’s gotten on the wrong side of his monarch who punishes him by assigning him the coldest and draftiest of the palace rooms. Eventually, he nearly gets assassinated and has to flee for his life. He takes A LOT of painkiller to get through this.
The heroes get caught in a snow storm and since he is something of a burden to the others, he decides to take a bit of an overdose. He has a lot of tolerance, so its not as dangerous as it sounds. The painkillers make it so that the party doesn’t need to stop (they are on horseback) and if they find shelter he’ll be fine, albeit with a hangover. If they don’t, in all likelihood, the cold will kill him but the others won’t be slowed down by his condition
However, about the last third of the book loses me. The character is magically healed from his ailment. I tried very hard not to be sad about it, but goddamn it, it hurt my feelings. At the time, I couldn’t articulate to myself why, but I’ve had a long time to think on it.
It’s still really hard to find people with disabilities in fantasy and science fiction. There’s Professor Xavier from X-men, but he’s no shit differently-abled (I personally hate the term differently-abled unless you are a goddamned telepath). There’s Oracle, but they fixed her spine three years later. There’s Daredevil, but he has that radar thing so he’s not completely blind. There’s Toph, but she sees with her feet. There’s Geordi LaForge but he has his visor.
Note: they all have a “but…” after their disability. Something that negates their disability. Makes it so they can pass as able-bods. And somehow this doesn’t cause any crises in these people’s heads. We don’t see Barbara (for instance) agonizing over her restored mobility as a HUGE shift in her self concept.
The most realistic depiction of disability amid miraculous technology I have ever read was a story called Blue Champagne by John Varley about a woman who was paralyzed as a child. She has an amazing prosthetic; a beautiful golden electronic exoskeleton that enables her to move. The woman goes around saying things that my disabled friends and I have always said. Things like, “If you are not a cripple yourself, you can’t use that word.” and “Don’t you dare help a disabled person unless you are asked.”
When the device malfunctions on her, she must find a way to have it repaired. The woman was a media star who makes “feelies”-that is empathic recordings that allow people to feel what the performers feel. She ends up selling her experience of falling in love with the protagonist to a megacorp, thus betraying her lover’s trust. I remember reading it and thinking, “Well, yeah.” The story is told from the lover’s POV, and hurt feelings ensue, but all my sympathy is for the woman.
Okay, his feelings are hurt and she probably should have asked his permission, but without her exoskeleton, SHE CAN’T MOVE. She agonizes, but eventually decides that being able to move on her own is better than a catheter and a wheelchair. One of the other characters helpfully points this out.
She could have made her choice differently of course, but would her lover have stayed with her if she did? She’s only known him a few weeks. The woman he fell in love with wasn’t actually disabled due to the magic tech. Disability often ends marriages.
Her lover gets that, in the end. Sort of. She sends a letter of apology and a “feelie” of what it’s like to be her
Something else I liked: the underlining of an able-bodied privilege that doesn’t get much discussed. It is easier for disabled people to make “feelies” because the technology and the constant observation don’t make them self conscious. Because privacy is one of the FIRST things you lose when you are disabled. But that’s another post.
That magical healing thing always feels like a bait and switch. The disabled person is magically or technologically healed, or their disability doesn’t ever interfere with their functioning, so they can “pass”.
Disability is as much a part of one’s identity as the color of one’s skin. If you are suddenly cured, or your disability is somehow negated this has HUGE ramifications for you. It doesn’t go from, “Yeah, I’ve been disabled for years.” to “Lalala! They fixed me! All is well in my world!”
The reason Blue Champagne doesn’t give me that bait and switch vibe is that the tech is not easy, nor is it cheap. She would love to tell the megacorp to go fuck the hell off, but she can’t if she wants to keep her privilege as an able-bod. She is aware how much of herself she is sacrificing to pass.
So, I have a complete manuscript. A little rough around the edges, not quite final draft (does any manuscript ever really become a final draft until it is out in the world in published form?).
Now, what to do with it?
I could pitch it to agents, try to go the traditional publishing route. Of course that includes lots and lots of rejection. And few people ever make an actual living from writing books.
I could put it in ebook form and sell it on Amazon and other platforms. Again, not a lot of people make a lot of money from selling books that way. But less rejection. Other than bad reviews.
To be fair, most authors don’t make any money until they have a bunch of books out there.
In order to feel okay about putting my manuscript into published form, I need to hire an editor (not cheap). Most of the advice to would be authors tells you to hire a professional editor whether or not you are going the traditional publishing route or not.
Perhaps a Patreon account is in order.
At the moment I have one complete YAfantasy manuscript. A half completed book on Paganism and the sequel to my fantasy started. I also have a bunch of other books in the concept stage (maybe a book about Lyme disease. Possibly a book about professional etiquette.), so I have plenty to say. I can just throw it at the wall and see what sticks.
I’m actively recruiting beta readers at the moment, so if anyone has the time, please contact me!