Saturday, June 30, 2012

Celebrating Disabilities in Fiction

This post is a celebration of people in fiction suffering from disabilities but still managing to be heroes anyhow.

There's a lot of people out there who are disabled. And not always visibly. Bipolar, Depression, Autism... these are all conditions that are just as difficult to live with as an obvious physical disability. I know so many people who suffer from one or more inhibiting factors, who still live interesting, exciting, adventurous lives that would make fascinating stories.

Yet it's hard to write a hero that is limited. Because it limits the writer and what they can do with their story. So I'm not coming down on writers for not including more disabled heroes, I recognize the difficulty of it. Still, it seems as though even minor handicaps like wearing glasses could be a bit more common, doesn't it?

Still, this means that the writers who do decide to write a fiction story with a disabled hero have to work harder to make the story fit what readers want to read when they pick up a fiction novel. So lets take a look at those who have crafted memorable heroes and heroines with handicaps.

Lisbeth Selander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Aspergers
Tyrion Lannister (A Song of Ice and Fire), Dwarf
Bran Stark (A Song of Ice and Fire), Paralysis
Ivy Walker (The Village), Blind
Barbara Gordon "Batgirl", "Oracle" (Batman Comics), Paralysis
Charles Xavier "Professor X" (X-Men Comics), Paralysis
Jeanne Marie Beaubier "Aurora" (Alpha Flight Comics), Dissociative Identity Disorder
Matt Murdock (Dardevil Comics), Blind
Harry Potter, vision impaired
Dr. Gregory House (House M.D.), Leg infarction
Sherlock Holmes, possibly Manic Depressive, Aspergers or Psychopath (depending on interpretation and adaptation).
Xander Harris (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Comics), Blind in one eye
River Tam (Firefly), mentally unstable (exact condition unknown/non-definable)
Sue Thomas (Sue Thomas F.B. Eye), Deaf
Robert Reynolds "Sentry" (Marvel), Agoraphobic (thanks Isaac!)
Percy Jackson (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), Dyslexic
Max Braverman (Parenthood), Aspergers
Toph (Avatar: The Last Airbender), Blind (Thanks Valia!)

(Source Credits - Thanks to Wikipedia for exact terminology for many of the disabilities)

These are all characters with pretty obvious handicaps, all of which play some role in their respective stories, often quite a large one, and has a deliberate impact on their characterization. Many of them are memorable not because they have a handicap, but because how that handicap creates their unique personality.

Who's missing from this list? Let me know if there is an iconic and well realized character I didn't include that should be here, and I'll add it (crediting you, of course!)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Tale of the Cat Food and the Raccoon Thief

So ever since we became a dog-less farm, we've had a lot more rodents messing around with our animal feed. Usually they don't get into the bins if the covers are on right, but this spring a really clever racoon or something managed to get the cover off.

Every. Single. Night.

Now cat food is not the most expensive food in the world, but it sure adds up and we're not in the business of fattening up 'coons. So we tried different things like using wire to hold down the lid, but nothing really worked.

Then my father and I had simultaneously (but separately) the brainstorm of stringing the feed bucket up from the barn rafters on a pulley. We set up the system on Saturday, and it's now Wednesday and the food remains safe.

Plus it's really fun to hoist and lower the bucket from the rope. So win-win!

Sorry Mr. Coon. You're going to have to find somewhere else to make your dinner reservations.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stress and sick and forgiveness

One thing about bad health is that you learn just how many things in life affect you. Seriously, there are a lot of things that can make me sick.

So I'm coming to terms with is how emotion effects me. And not just mine, I can internalize the emotions of others as well. So I have to be careful about feelings, and holding on to negative ones. I guess there's a good reason why God tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger, huh? It's not just about relationship health, it's about physical health too!

A problem is that I get very protective of other people. Maybe I can release a grudge of my own okay, but if someone else is affected, that's generally harder. Maybe because I feel like it's more justified to be angry on someone else's behalf? I don't know. So I'm having to work harder at that.

Don't worry, I am doing better. But 'doing better' for me is still far from perfect and getting sick can still lay me out for a couple of days.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

So I've been slightly addicted to Game of Thrones...

But because it's so very R-rated and not for those who aren't comfortable withe explicit everything, I'm not blogging about it here.

However if you're a fan of the series and would like to see my thoughts, I am writing about my reading experiences over on my tumbler.

(In general my tumblr is geared towards a more mature and less conservative audience than this blog.)

In other news, I've been doing a ton of sewing and not nearly as much writing as I'd like. Guess writing will have to wait for my downtime on my summer adventure...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Baby Daddy

It's been nearly a year since I first started watching ABC Family shows, and other than Pretty Little Liars I've  enjoyed and become a fan of them all. More mature and complex than the Disney Channel, but geared towards a young adult audience and their parents, it has some surprisingly entertaining offerings.

Baby Daddy caught my eye with its fun premise - a single guy and his roommates raise his baby daughter. But would the execution hold up? While not as witty as The Big Bang Theory or as complex and subtle as Modern Family, Baby Daddy nonetheless packs a ton of humor into 22 minutes. It's over the top humor but it made me laugh out loud constantly (despite the annoying canned laughter track). And it was delightful to see these young people falling in love with a super cute baby. Although the guy characters were acting as though they were terrified of babies, you could tell that the actors actually love babies and are very good with them, which will be awesome to watch as the show develops.

It's aimed at mid 20-somethings so younger teens won't find it as interesting, but in the pilot episode, at least, it was on the cleaner side for a sitcom.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Grad Parties of the Midwest

In the Midwest of the US of A, we typically celebrate a high school graduation by opening up our houses, making a lot of food, and invite everyone who has been a part of our graduate's life. The grad gets a bunch of cards, money, and some gifts, and sometimes we have a fun party in the mix.

However, as we've talked to our friends and family who live in other parts of the country, they explained that grad parties are not common tradition in their area. Apparently it's just a midwest thing.

Is this true? If you're from another part of the country (or world), how does your community mark the graduation from high school?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

God Gave Me My Father

Today is the day when everyone says they have the best dad. And you know what? It's true. God gives us the parents we need, or the parents who need us. We might fight with them, and some of them might be really aggravating, but they're still the father God wanted us to have.

My father is the best father I could ever have. He has supported and loved me through so much, showing and modeling patience, forgiveness, and faith. I am so thankful that God gave him to me, because I would not have made it through this last year without him. My father is a testament of God's faithfulness to his children.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Marvel's Disabled Superhero

I'm deaf. So yes, once I was a little girl who didn't want to wear her hearing aids because they itched, or sounded funny, or (in the really old days) had long cords that went down to a box I had to wear on a belt around my waist. Yeah, try playing in the sandbox with that on.

There are still little deaf kids who don't want to wear hearing aids, but this little boy has a pretty interesting reason... he doesn't want to wear hearing aids because superheros don't!

Well that's not a really practical reason to put family and friends though a lot of difficulty, but thankfully, Marvel Comics was more than happy to answer this poor mom's plea for help.

I think they are the real superheros. And as someone who is part of the disabled community, it means so much to me to see a company whose work I really enjoy and admire, reaching out to us. But maybe it's not so surprising after all. They're the ones who created the X-Men, a group of people who face discrimination and misunderstanding because of physical changes in their bodies that make them different (and often look different) from the rest of the world. And yet despite that, they still go on saving those in need. Which is why they're my heroes. It means so much to see Marvel practicing the message they've shared for so long.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Writer Must Research? Alas.

I'll be honest, I'm one of those writers who doesn't particularly enjoy the research portion of the process. It's unfortunately a vital piece, because even if you're writing a modern day romance there will still be some aspect you have to fact-check. And while the science-fiction genre allows me a bit of latitude in the time travel bits of my current novel, I still have to do a lot of research if I want to send my heroine in the past for more than ten minutes.

So I try to mix it up. Write up some notes, then get back to plot and dialogue, fudging it where I have to and tweaking facts later. I know enough about most of the periods I'm writing in to do the fudging bit, or at least to easily track down any random facts that plot points hinge on.

And sometimes my research has unexpected results. Last week I found a beautiful recording of the old Scottish song "On the Bonnie Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond" and it proceeded to get stuck in my head for the rest of the day - and the night too (that was a weird night!). Also, since my characters are currently traveling the normal way (in a car, in the present day) they are stopping at lots of different places to eat. So there's a lot of food. And that makes me hungry for British tastiness. Hmmm...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Good updates!

It's always the weeks when I have the best post ideas that I have the least time to write! Thankfully this week my absence is not about health! I'm actually working three jobs right now, nannying, writing and sewing (both commissions and for YLP) and planning a major trip this summer. I'll be gone for a month over July and August, and I'm thrilled to report that I've got my travel costs at under $240 right now. Whoot whoot!

So anyhow, things should calm down a bit more after I am done nannying on Friday, and since the trip is mostly planned that should be less stressful too. And then more posts from your much beloved blogger! (Or at least, I'm assuming I'm somewhat appreciated by my regulars, else why do you check the blog every day as so many of you assure me you do?)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

More about Lord Peter and introducing Miss Harriet Vane

I've gotten kind of addicted to Lord Peter Wimsey. Yeah, "Murder Must Advertise" was good, but it was nothing compared to "Gaudy Night." Which apparently should have been read after "Strong Poison" and "Have His Carcase" which I quickly followed up with. I love Lord Peter, but he's double awesome when paired with Harriet Vane. Those two are a power couple and an utter delight to read. "The Thin Man's" Nick and Nora are perhaps the most famous detective couple, but I found Peter and Harriet to be just as loveable, and somewhat more cerebral.

The thing about Dorothy Sayers is that she doesn't just write mysteries. She writes stories about people. Harriet and Peter aren't just detectives to unravel a puzzle, they are a man and woman going through personal growth, grappling with difficult subjects. But don't worry, there's humor in there too!

As a long time reader of all (well, most) things Austen, I have a lot of experience with other people trying to take up another author's characters and writing style and attempt a sequel to their work. Most of the time it doesn't work so well. So I was rather skeptical when I saw that Jill Paton Walsh had written three sequels to the Peter and Harriet novels.


Except I know Jill Paton Walsh. Her "Parcel of Patterns" has been read multiple times by me and much enjoyed. I know she's capable of writing something more than romantic fluff or adrenaline packed mystery thrillers. There's a similar deepness to her as there is in Dorothy Sayers.

Then there is the fact that her first venture was not a totally original work - it was a completion of Sayers unfinished "Thrones, Dominions" and was commissioned by the Sayers estate. I haven't read "Thrones, Dominions" yet, but I was very satisfied by her third addition, "The Attenbury Emeralds" which I highly recommend (but do read in order, please! I'm too impatient for my own good). It's a well twisted mystery with interesting details and features Peter and Harriet exactly as I think they would have aged under Sayers hand.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Lets Talk about X-Men: First Class 2

Remember how skeptical I was of X-Men: First Class? How I wrote that humorous piece about the trailer? And then how I ended up loving it?

Yeah, you're not surprised that I'm writing a speculation post about the sequel. Now that we've got a release date (July 18th 2014) we can start counting down for the next two years and throw out ideas about what the second movie is going to be about.

What do we know?

(Wikipedia has the best summing up, so I'm going to quote it here. You can find sources for all the data at the Wiki Page)

 Matthew Vaughn and Bryan Singer will return to direct and produce the sequel, respectively.[63] 
Hurrah! Vaughn and Singer did such a brilliant job on the first movie, I would have been heartbroken and very skeptical if they'd turned down the sequel.

On how First Class 2 could open, Vaughn said: “I thought it would be fun to open with the Kennedy Assassination, and we reveal that the magic bullet was controlled by Magneto.”

 My friend Paul and I discussed this, and although it's a very catchy idea, we're skeptical about it actually going through, as it could be very offensive to a lot of people. This quote is from quite awhile ago too, and later interviews seem to indicate a different direction, as you'll see below.

Continuing that a First Class 2 would not necessarily follow the traditional comic-book sequel route of adding more characters to its roster, Vaughn added: “We will only have one more new character. I won’t say who he… I won’t say who he or she is! But we will only be bringing one more new character in, because, I think, as Professor X is in a wheelchair, Magneto needs to have a nemesis he can fight with. Someone that will be his equal. I know who it is. It would be nice if I could say something, but I can’t, mate!”[65] 

I very, very strongly want this other person to be Polaris aka Lorna Dane. For those of you who don't know her, she is the biological daughter of Magneto and possesses his power of magnetism. She also has green hair. AND she is the love interest of Alex Summers aka Havok, which would fit her in perfectly here. Also, the X-Men team is currently ALL guys and I think it would be really really weird if we didn't get another woman on their team in the sequel.

Alas, I think this is very unlikely. They'll likely want a really intensely powered man of mature years. If this is the case, then I'm seriously hoping for Sinister as the new character. We've yet to see him on screen, and he's got a huge place in X-Men history.

However, Fox recently registered the title "Days of Future Past" which is a time travel story from traditional X-Men canon, and would require quite a different roster if it is indeed the First Class sequel and not the rumored X-Men 4.

Vaughn has speculated that a sequel could be set in "in the latter part of the 1960s where you’ve got The Stones, The Beatles, Flower Power."[66] 

Sounds fun to me! Can't you just see Alex and Sean rocking out and Hank just giving them annoyed looks and asking them to turn the music down?

Actor James McAvoy said he has a contract for three movies,[67] and expressed interest in seeing Charles Xavier get “really messed up” in the sequel and speculated that a third film could show his transition into a character closer to the one played by Patrick Stewart in the original trilogy.[66] 

I don't like Xavier particularly in the comics, but I do love the movie incarnations and would like to see them do more with this.

Producer Lauren Shuler Donner has said that the sequel may be set in the 1970s.[70] Writer and executive producer Bryan Singer has stated that it could be set around the Civil rights movement or the Vietnam War,[71] and that Wolverine could once again be featured.[72] Hugh Jackman has said that he would like to return.[73] 

Ughugh no more Wolverine, please? I'm fine with giving him a bit part tied into the Vietnam War, but I would be utterly dismayed if he got a leading role. Nothing against Wolverine, it's just whenever he shows up, he takes over everything and it becomes "The Wolverine Show!" Unless Joss Whedon is in charge, he keeps Wolvie properly equal to everyone else.

Simon Kinberg who co-wrote X-Men: The Last Stand and co-produced X-Men: First Class will write the sequel.[74]

*skeptical eyebrow* Seriously? No one from X-Men: The Last Stand should touch anything to do with any X-Men movie every again.

Actress Jennifer Lawrence has expressed interest in reprising her role as Mystique in a sequel.[75] Rose Byrne and Álex González revealed that they had signed on for one or two more films in the X-Men franchise.[76][77]

Hurrah! I desperately hope we'll get Byrne back as Moira!

January Jones has said that she would love to do another film.[78] 

No offense, but if they don't beef Emma up and give her plenty of snark, they're going to be in huge trouble. I'm willing to give Jones another chance, but I'd rather they recast and give the role to someone with a more commanding presence.

Lucas Till has said that he would like to reprise the role of Havok.[79] 


Jason Flemyng has expressed interest in exploring the origins of Nightcrawler.[80] 

I think all the fans will throw hissy fits if Nightcrawler's origins are not at least alluded to. Even if it doesn't happen until the third movie, they should still set up at least a friendship.

So. Yep. That's that. I don't want to have my expectations too high, but I think this sequel has a lot of potential. My only worry is Emma, my dream is Polaris.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Whatever Happened to Worship Dancing?

I was wondering the other day why dance isn't a commonly utilized form of worship anymore.

I don't necessarily mean in church - sacred spaces are sacred after all. But the Bible is full of people dancing for the joy of the LORD. David danced in the streets of Jerusalem, and Miriam led the women of Israel in dance after the crossing of the Red Sea.

In some charismatic churches there is dancing, and I know it still exists in certain Jewish congregations. But it's not a typical feature of American Christian worship. Why? Are we so self-conscious? Dancing is hugely about ignoring what other people think of your movements and letting every atom of your body jump in praise to God. And we Americans are pretty big on how others perceive us.

Some friends of mine have a praise and worship ministry that utilizes a lot of ethnic music in their songs. At least once a year they lead the worship at my parents' church and it is really a unique experience. There is one song where the youth and youth leaders will jump up from the pews, grab hands, and dance down the aisle, pulling as many other people into the chain as they can. It's amazing. And then we fall back into our seats, red-faced and out of breath, hearts beating fast, and utterly exhausted from dancing for the LORD.

I wish that happened more often.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

New Writing Fuel

In the winter I boil a pot of tea made with lightly caffeinated Jasmine (my stomach can't tolerate heavy caffeine). Since the weather's turned hot, I have felt less inclined to consume steaming beverages in the middle of the day. So I've taken to making a concoction of iced Jasmine green tea, lemon juice, agave, and homemade raspberry juice. It's extremely refreshing and has that perfect little kick to spur on the writing process.

What is your favorite writing fuel?