How important are architecture and décor to the way we perceive the world around us? How do these things impact our comfort? These questions came into sharp focus in my mind when my mother decided to update the house I grew up in. Truth be told, she never liked the shingled décor of our house, a fact I only recently learned. Fortunately or not, the opportunity to correct what she saw as a flaw in the building’s original design came when the last coat of paint refused to adhere to the house’s fifty-year-old shingles. Each time the rain fell water seeped under the paint, first bubbling then peeling the thin coating. Neither sanding nor repainting alleviated the problem. Finally, mom decided to take bold action. The house is currently being resurfaced with stucco.
There is no doubt; we live in a visual world. For most of us our eyes are the first sensory organs to take in and interpret our environment. But, what is this world like for someone without sight? How are things sighted people take for granted perceived by those without sight? Are they?
In my Blind Traveler mystery series (Blind Traveler Down a Dark River and Blind Traveler’s Blues) the protagonist, Douglas Abledan, is a blind man who was born sighted. Before losing his vision, Douglas developed an appreciation for art and architecture. I wanted him to keep those interests in his newly darkened world, but I had to figure out how to do that.
I studied the other senses people make use of: touch, smell, taste, and hearing. I decided to show my readers that a widely held belief, that remaining senses become stronger when one sense is lost, is a myth. To do this, Douglas had to learn to pay closer attention to his remaining senses. So, in order to acquaint himself with his environment and learn about the architecture and décor around him, Douglas uses his hands. He pays attention to what his fingers tell him. He feels the textures of artworks and buildings. He reacts to the temperatures various materials relay to his fingertips. So, if Douglas were visiting my house he would pay close attention to the materials used to construct the building. He would feel the roughness of the stucco. His fingers would perceive every curve, nook and cranny of each architectural feature.
Filed under Life, Writing
The other day two things happened. First, I had a radio gig that I had been eagerly anticipating. It went well despite a timing snafu and I was happy I did it. I enjoy doing radio interviews. They keep me on my toes, thinking and I enjoy the idea that many people will hear what I have to say. So, the thing went great, until I heard back from the interviewer the next day telling me that the show had not been recorded properly and would not air. I was assured this had happened to several of the guests that day so I shouldn’t feel too bad, but I did. I asked if I would have an opportunity to be re-interviewed. Still waiting for an answer.
On the other hand, I was sent a pre-release review of my book, Blind Traveler’s Blues, and I think when the review comes out people will be happy with it. I sure was. I’m always happy to get reviews. What author isn’t? What makes me even happier is that each time I get reviewed the reviewer finds a different aspect of the book to concentrate on. This time it was the environmental aspect. I enjoyed reading what she had to say. And, in a follow-up email I received she said she would be picking up my first book, Blind Traveler Down a Dark River, as well. How cool is that!!
I had every intention of doing some writing on my next Douglas Abledan novel. I’ve been doing some outlining and know somewhat where I want the story to go. I even know some of the subplots I plan to incorporate. Unfortunately, today was not the day to do it. Sometimes when you have a disability the day is just too painful. That’s the kind of day I had today.
Every inch of this body, which I refuse to call MINE anymore, just hurts. I’m sure many of you have had days like that. I’m sure many of you have days of utter agony, and trust me when I say I feel for you. Pain blocks the mind. It intensifies the senses so everything internal and external just hurts
The character in my Blind Traveler novels, Douglas Abledan, has days like that too. He pushes through them as best he can to be sure, but there are just days when he doesn’t want to do anything. Days when he just can’t. From a personal perspective I can’t tell if blindness physically is painful, though I suspect aspects of it can be. I’ve not asked any of my resources if they experience physical pain, though I do know they have many days of emotional and psychic pain, days they just want to curl up.
But, here’s the thing, in some ways I suspect society EXPECTS people with disabilities to just curl up and give up. We do in some respects live in a paternalistic society where people are supposed to take care of those they deem in need of taking care of. I may be wrong about this. I may be saying this because of how I feel today. I may be speaking out of depression and pain. But, if I am right, the point is….we CAN’T!
It’s not that we have to show the world we are better than the others, but it is that we have to show we are all equal to the task of living life to the best we can, no matter our physical, emotional, or psychic condition..
by Deborah Harter Williams
Leading the pack in environmental sleuthing are the Park Rangers. It’s a very popular conceit for setting up an ecological drama and they come in all locations and styles. The settings themselves are enough to make an environmental point even if the plots and motives are more personal. Some of the descriptions are breathtaking and make the books worth a read just for that.
. . .
For a more urban take, set in the near future, you can follow Robert P. Bennett’s blind computer expert in Blind Traveler’s Blues. Out to solve the murder of a bio-scientist he met on a plane to Chicago, he tangles with a group determined to make a deadly ecological statement in a world where the corn crop is dying off and earthquakes are an everyday occurrence.
. . .
But the best environmental mysteries may be the ones being written for kids. Jean Craighead George offers Julie’s Wolf Pack and The Missing Gator of Gumbo Limbo. Carl Hiaasen scores with Scat and Hoot, and Claire and Boris Datnow have created The Adventures of The Sizzling Six: Eco Mysteries that feature two teenage girls and their friends. In the third book of the series, The Living Treasure, the authors have added QR codes to take readers from the printed word to video clips online to let readers see and hear what the characters in the story are seeing and hearing.
If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime: Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012. Registration is only $225 & day passes can be purchased for $75 for Friday and Saturday panel sessions. Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Deborah Harter Williams works as a mystery scout, seeking novels that could be made into television. She blogs at Clue Sisters and was formerly a mystery bookstore owner.
Tagged as: books, Eco mysteries, environment, mystery
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Sometimes it’s good to wear your emotions on your sleeve. Sometimes it helps other people to see how you feel. That idea was reinforced for me today. I learned that someone was compiling a series of articles about fathers and sons into an anthology. I thought about it for a while and then decided to offer a contribution.
You see, some years ago, when my father passed away, I wrote a short article about his battle with cancer and disability. I wrote about the fact that he and I had something in common, my struggle with my own disabilities and now his. I decided this article might help others to deal with not only death but also disability. I wanted readers to see that sometimes these things can bring people closer together, to bridge a gap of understanding they may not have been able to understand before. So, I submitted this article and shortly thereafter learned that it had been accepted and will be a part of this anthology.
I see it as a dedication to my father.
Filed under Life, Writing
Okay, I just entered my 52nd year (birthday 51 was yesterday). Time to get something done.
I’ve started thinking about, and writing, a new Douglas Abledan short story. As of yet it is untitled, but I know it will take place in the rehab hospital shortly after Douglas is shot and blinded. Now, rather than just being a patient, he has to learn about his new, dark world and how to live in it.
So, anyone with any suggestions please feel free to leave a comment.
What kind of paces should I put Douglas through?
Is it too soon to give him a mystery to solve?
What is it about Wednesdays that makes a person slow down? I’m sitting here trying to think about what I want to write next. Alas, my brain is in full-blown revolt.
I have a thread coming together for the next Abledan book, but it is still only a tiny thread. Keep finding new information about Antarctica and new technologies for the blind (like a “smart” white cane complete with cell phone) that I think would be cool for the new book, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.
I’m thinking I need a vacation, but who can afford that these days.
Filed under Life, Writing