I love the Back to the Future movies. I’ve watched them about a thousand times each. Over the past year I’ve wished for a DeLorean at least as many times. As of this writing a good friend of mime has been dead almost two years from illness related to contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite on a kayaking trip . It was misdiagnosed and he missed the two week window in which antibiotics could have cured it. He was lucky that he lived another five years afterwards because most people who miss the antibiotics window die.within weeks.I remember the day Nate told me that the doctors had finally realized what was wrong and what that would eventually mean. In that instant I knew how Prometheus felt,chained to that rock as the bird ate his liver except it was my heart If I could I’d go back and beg him to skip that trip, consequences to time and space be damned.
Spring is here again. It happens every year this changing of the seasons, but as the wheel turns again towards the annual rebirthing of the Earth I can’t but think of those who won’t see this spring. Some people view grief as something to be worked through and eventually left behind. I wish I could see it that way but I can’t. Recently I saw grief described as “loving someone who is no longer alive.”This is by far the most accurate description of grief for me and why I refuse to apologize for the tears I shed for people.
Charles Quentin Prophet: Best Great Uncle Ever. We’ll go fishing someday.
Eugene Prophet: I couldn’t ask for a better great grandfather. Lots of people from your generation would’ve been less than accepting of my disability. Thanks fpr lovimg me as is.
Betty Prophet: The Cat Who books aren’t the same without you to share them with. I love you.
Mary Kathrine Megar : Neapolitan ice cream and the story behind the Marlin above the fireplace.
Randy “Shank” Richards : Dad misses you every day and so do I. We’ll have that beer you missed when I turned 21 next time I see you.
Kurby Owen: The closest thing I’ve had to a second father. I miss you doesn’t cut it.
Nathan Fry: I miss you doesn’t cut it for you either, at least you knew that before you died.
When I was a little girl my very first friend who I recognized as “like me” was a young man named Jim. Jim has cerebral palsy to a much greater degree than I do. The only things he can move independently are his eyes and his tongue and the index finger on his right hand if I’m not mistaken. He has 24 hour care and speech using a computer program which gives him a synthesized voice. He and his family were members of my grandmothers church so my mother remembers the first time he got a communication device, the whole church had taken up a collection and then called a celebratory dinner with Jim as the guest of honor. Mom says that there wasn’t a dry eye in the building when he gave his thank you speech. I met Jim when I was four and he was in his late teens or early 20s and I finally moved that there were other people in the world similar to me. Jim has spent the majority of his life speaking through voice that is very obviously computerized. In my head the voice he uses to communicate has never fit him. In my head the mores that I always replace the computerized one with if I’m speaking to him is much like his father’s who has a beautiful baritone singing voice. It has bothered me for years that my friend has been stuck with this cookie-cutter voice that I feel doesn’t reflect the person I know one bit. Yesterday I saw a Ted talk about a project which is creating real world voices for people who use voice synthesizers. I don’t mind admitting that I cried just a little bit because there is now a chance for my friend to have his own voice and not have to rely on a cookie-cutter parrot. The organization is called Vocalid and the basic idea id this: First there is a person who wants a custom voice, this person is asked to provide a short recording of the sound they can make and that recording is blended with that of a “voice donor” to create a unique voice for the disabled person. I can’t be my friend’s voice because I’m a girl and that would be strange, but I have passed the information on to him and his family and I plan to donate my voice so that a girl may finally be able to speak with a voice uniquely hers in spite of having to type the words into a computer first.
So I’ve started work rewriting my manuscript now that I have decided to make the heroine disabled. I also downloaded WriteMonkey a minimal distraction writing software which you can download for free. I love it. You can change your font and background colors as well as font styles if you want. When the program opens for the first time it automatically opens into full-screen but you can put it into a window by hitting escape, useful if you find you need access to the rest of your computer but don’t want to close the program. It also has a “jump” feature which opens a window to the side that logic to search through the files on your computer which may contain elements that you want to place into the project. WriteMonkey also has a white noise feature which can be unlocked if you donate to support the project,the only thing I don’t like is that as far as I can tell there is no way to disable the Markup formatting which I find annoying because I personally don’t write with it. Markup is a system which allows for visual representation of format, such as a pair of asterisk around something which would be in bold text or underscores around something which is supposed to be in italics. I would much rather just be able to bold a word and see it right then instead of a pair of asterisks, but that’s really the only minor complaint I have about the whole thing. So I leave you with the first piece of rewritten prologue that I turned out in my first 15 min. of distraction free writing. Please feel free to comment.
The sound of her alarm clock startled her awake. By comparison the seagulls she often heard cruising past outside her windows were down right melodious. Her “second alarm” was far more pleasant. As she fumble for the snooze button she found herself nose to nose with 60 odd pounds of Golden Retriever will upon seeing her eyes open began to bark enthusiastically. “Okay, okay I’m awake I promise. Go get the chair Reid.” Quick as a flash, the dog had hopped off the bed and across the room, cheerfully retrieving a wheelchair by means of a rope attached to the bar across the back of the chair. For his trouble he received a thank you and a quick pat on the head before continuing on to fetch her a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans. An hour later they left, both sporting backpacks ready to take on the brand-new world of college. It wasn’t until much later after all of the action was said and done that she remembered the forgotten umbrella by the door and wondered how different things might have turned out if she had only remembered it.
Authors Note: Reid was my second choice of a name for my Golden Retriever. I didn’t know for sure until I saw him whether Reid or Gideon would fit better. Gideon won but fictional Reid the Golden is mine pen and ink homage to my buddy.
I think I may have mentioned that the lack of disabled people in the media (book, tv, etc)annoys me. People who read here regularly are probably thinking This again really? I freely admit to having a soapbox when it comes to this. Imagine my surprise when I realize that in over a decade of fiction writing I have only written two disabled characters in my whole writing life. i have heard the writer’s axiom “write what you know” but I’ve avoided writing characters like me for several reasons, the biggest of which is that I’m afraid writing a main character with a disability would mean less interest in the story from perspective publishers and/or fewer readers once it is out there. But then aren’t I feeding a trend I hate? So after much thought and a video chat with the #1 Beta Reader (AKA Mom) I’ve decided to rewrite the female lead as a wheelchair user.She isn’t a carbon copy of me because she wasn’t to start with and the only things I’m modifying are things related to her disability (the apartment floor plan, using hand controls to drive etc.) the main storyline won’t change much. I’m more than a little nervous about the how the rewrite might change people’s view of the story but nothing gained right? Who says a disabled person can’t be the hero in a fantasy adventure?