Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Book Cover Reveal & What It Means to Me

Not the book cover; just a meaningful image.
This Halloween is the cover reveal date for the anthology my latest short story will appear in! I hope it always feels this exciting. It's an anthology of short speculative fiction stories called On Fire, published with Transmundane Press.

Yes. 

On Fire.

If you know my personal story, you understand why I clarified that they were works of fiction. And lest you don't find it funny, I assure you that gallow's humor is the bread and butter of recovering serious pain and moments of facing one's serious mortality.

October 31 will also be the second anniversary of my being on fire. Of when I was on fire. I never quite know how to put it. Words seem to fail the experience.

I'm not big on anniversaries as a rule, but the fact that this accident fell on a holiday makes it a bit more difficult to distance it from the upcoming calendar date. It's not like I'll be like, oh last Tuesday was the anniversary. I forgot. Not ever. But it's a day. It's just a day. It will pass. And someday it will pass and fire will not be the first thing I think about.

And this year there is a happy note to the day. The story in this anthology is the first story I finished after my accident, while I was early in recovery. My latest work, "The Last Seven Tribes of Ketchari", contains a thread related to my journey, the thread of finding courage in a hopeless situation and rising above it to become something more than you imagined possible.

In an original, fantastical world, it's about how we adapt to survive.

Friday, August 11, 2017

And Lo, the Pinkie, It Doth Straighten!

This is my right hand after a skin grafting and almost two years of healing. The thick ridging is mostly smoother out. My new skin is thickening, though it is still thin enough to act as a barometer, changing color in hot or cold. But I want you to look at my crooked little pinkie. I had contraction bands on the underside, which didn't allow me to straighten it at all.

Considering that I almost died, that I almost lost my legs (I didn't), and the months it took me to walk independently again, a crooked little, fire-eaten pinkie seemed a small sacrifice. The most trouble it gave me was that any time I tried to type an apostrophe, a semi-colon came out. My pinkie simply couldn't stretch enough to reach it. That's what 'find and replace' is for.

I can still remember waking in the ICU to my hands bandaged up in tight balls, wondering if I would ever write with my hands again. ::shudder::

My surgeon, Dr. Joan Dolinak, is a miracle worker. Upstate Hospital in Syracuse has a new scar laser for burn treatments. She said she could break up the contraction bands and some of the thicker scar tissue. I just had my first treatment-slash-surgery on Thursday. After all my skin graft surgeries I was nervous about going under again. Dr. Dolinak promised me that I would be able to take the bandages off today and shower.

She was right.

I won't even go into the transformation in my legs except to say it was more than I hoped for and I wept. I sobbed. It was amazing. And when I took the wrap off my hand, my pinkie straightened IMMEDIATELY!!! It pulls from being immobile and I have some physical therapy work to do with it to get it to flex up again. But it is the most beautiful fire-eaten straight-ass pinkie I have ever seen.

My hands are my craft. My hand speak works my lips cannot put form to and for a while I was scared that their ability would be compromised. And it was. But I am doing my work, as well as my Work.

The rewards come. My semi-colons are apostrophes again. I even had to correct the over-reach I had unknowingly adopted because, for an hour tonight, all my lower-case Ls were apostrophes.

Look at that beautiful pinkie finger. Fire doesn't just have to be an ending. It can also clear the way for new beginnings. Imagine all the stories my hands have yet to write.

Can you? I can.

Monday, July 31, 2017

A Post-Accident Milestone

Last week I sent out five stories to answer submission calls. Now I just have to wait and see if they intrigue the editors enough to want to buy them. It's a writing and waiting game.

And sometimes you win.

I just sold the first story I wrote after my accident!

That makes me happy on many levels. It means the work I've been doing to get my hands back in shape and regain discipline around writing every day has begun to harvest results.

I'll post more information about the sale after I sign the contract.

*

I always mean to write on the blog more but I spend all of my free time writing my stories.


Whatever it is you dream of doing, just start doing it. May it consume all of your time until it becomes your vocation.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Year and a Half Later

May 1st marked a year and a half from the day of my accident. It was just another day of rehab and walking and working and editing and sleeping and resting. A couple weeks on and it hit me emotionally. I could be dramatic and say it was the toll-of-it-all that threw me but I was exhausted muscularly.

I've hit a new level of physical ability. I leveled up. But now I am at a new hard beginning. I'm doing it, but it's whooping me. So I took a month off from writing. I binged on The Handmaid's Tale and American Gods episodes when I would usually be working. For full disclosure I also watched Penny Dreadful, The O.A., Grace and Frankie, Orange is the New Black, and Stranger Things.

Today came the last possible rejections because I have no more stories floating about for submission. That sat uneasy in me. So I wrote down the ideas in my head I'd been avoiding. I wrote when an old story idea cracked open and became a full novel.

I sent a story out to a reader and their critique was perfect. I love them. I'm keeping them secret. (At least until they get through a dozen or so of my stories.)

I have found my inspiration to write again in the same place I always find it. In nature. I spent the day looking up submission calls and choosing stories to send out and fleshing outlines down for a couple more I want to write. It feels good again. The itch-to-write feels in my body the way it felt before my accident.

I'm going to need that.

I spent the spring writing down things here and there about my coma adventures. I have been writing them out, telling the details, and I have needed more comfort come bedtime. But I am a writer and this is how I process. I write. So in my heart I am writing as a means of healing. It is mostly taking the edge off of the difficult emotions surfacing.

There are still deeper waters left to tread but it doesn't feel like drowning.

It feels like liberation.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

When Family Reads Your Work

While visiting with my family for the holidays, we talked about my latest published story, "The Keepers of Madleen," and they gave me their honest feedback, which I always appreciate. My dad said it was his favorite story of mine yet.

That doesn't suck to hear, especially as my skills improve with each story I write.

The best moment came when I told them that I had a bunch of stories set in the same world, weaving themselves into being within my head. I told them I could see it becoming a book of short stories. And then I told them what happens in the first moment of the very next story.

The look of surprise/shock that crossed both of their faces was the best gift I could have gotten. It meant that my story was effective!

Keep writing. Keep creating. It's a tough road but it keeps going.
So do I.

So can you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

NaNoWriMo: Daughter of Margaret

It's National Novel Writing Month and if you are doing it then you are also feverishly pounding words into the keyboard, praying that at the end of fifty thousand words some of them make sense. I started participating years ago for the discipline of it, to train myself to do distance running, rather than a series of sprints.

I've tried a different genre of fiction each year, from science fiction to classic fantasy to urban fantasy to literary fiction to supernatural horror. And this year I went a different route. This year I'm working on non-fiction.

I'm writing out the story of the worlds I crossed while comatose. I'm drawing the ways I was able to maintain a positive outlook after I woke up. I'm being vulnerable and sharing a deep truth I would be a fool to ignore. Why waste a good life-defining experience with denial?

I'm writing a lot. The more I flesh out the more my brain remembers. I think if I wrote out every detail of my coma memories, it would tell a year-long tale, far longer than the three weeks I was under. That's disturbing, but also true. I accept it and move on. And it's why I'm writing it.

Maybe after giving it breath, some of it will fall away.

If you're doing NaNoWriMo, you can find me as Daughter of Margaret. I allowed myself a moment to write this out because I'm totally including it in today's word count. But now it's back to my non-fiction. The title is still a work in progress. It doesn't have a name yet.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Recovery Road

It's been a year since the accident that almost took my life. How could I not be thinking about that tonight? In many ways it's been a very long year. And in another way, I don't feel like I have a lot to show for it.

Except I can walk, talk, write, make myself food in the kitchen, put my shoes on by myself, use the bathroom, wipe myself, check the mailbox, climb stairs, cough, etc. I had to relearn all of it. And I did, like a champ. From the outside now, I move slowly, but you wouldn't necessarily know something so almost-devastating had happened to me. Most days that is enough to make me happy.

My recovery has taken me longer than I expected. The more honest answer is that it has taken a lot more out of me than I expected. When I get most frustrated, my brain sighs heavily and says, "You were a pillar of fire."

I was not in a fire. I was the fire.

I spend most of my time preparing-to-do-things, like getting clothes ready to put on, or getting ready to wash up, or getting ready to make the bed. And then I can do one thing to cross off my list. I keep making plans of five things to do a day, but I forget to start the list with all the things I already have to do before any of the extras can get done.

If I get one extra thing crossed off, one new thing done, I call it a win.

And then, at the end of the day, when my exhaustion-induced-naps are over, I write. But two months ago it would have been, "I try to write," so I will embrace the improvement. And my writing spurts sound more like my old voice, and more easily so on my first try. It's not that I had any damage to my brain. But when your body is still using processing points to remember how to step up on a curb, it doesn't want to divert power to imaginary world-building.

And I learned that even then, it's not about desire. It's not about want. It's about can't.

So you have to ride it out. Or you could fight it, but I'm pretty sure that will just tire you out more, requiring more naps than now, and if now is very frustrating to you, it's probably not the best choice.

I have managed to write a few new stories and submit some of my pre-accident ones. Within the last month the story muse has been singing faster than my healing hands can type, so I'm getting better at choosing what to work on and catch-in-the-moment. Better discernment is a good skill to have.

I like to note my silver linings. They make the pain worth something.

I even found a story I sent out the morning of my accident. I couldn't recall the storyline. Once I read it I remembered having the idea for it and drafting it, but I couldn't remember how I ended it at all. How many writers get to say they read one of their own finished stories for the first time and didn't know what was going to happen?

Three of my recent submission responses were we-really-liked-your-story-and-held-it-for-further-consideration-but-it-didn't-fit-with-our-other-selections, and two of my responses were sales. That feels really good. I am not back to where I was, but I am back on track. I lost momentum for a while but I didn't lose my creative mojo.

A year ago I was on fire and they thought I was going to die. Today I am putting pen to paper and birthing a new world. These are good things.