Dis-Ability Writes




verb: diss

1.speak disrespectfully to or criticize.

“I don’t like her dissing my friends”


noun: diss

1. disrespectful talk.


People with disabilities are as capable as anyone else. The one way that they are not the ‘same’ as none-disabled is this: – People with disabilities are more likely to be bullied than their none-disabled peers!

I met a woman who was confined to a wheelchair for 90% of each day. She had a degenerative illness. She was well educated, very funny with a rude sense of humour and loved going to concerts. She told me once that she went to a music festival where she was harassed by a couple of festival attendees, then… they pushed her over in her wheelchair! I was gobsmacked when she told me this. In my naivety, I imagined that because someone had a physical disability, other people would have enough empathy to realise the difficulties they had were enough to be getting on with, thank you very much, without adding to them. If you are a none-disabled reader, imagine,if you will, struggling to get your body out of bed, into the shower, into clothes, onto the bus and into class/work. You’re exhausted before even beginning to learn/work. And then after a long, exhausting, frustrating (because you couldn’t see what was on the menu and no-one was gracious enough to tell you what was available in the canteen) day, someone calls you names; they diss you.


Words are amazing, and scary. I say scary because sometimes we might say or write something that is taken the wrong way by others. In a country that is hyper aware of political correctness (UK), we often find ourselves tiptoeing around, ‘people of colour’, ‘black’, ‘people with disabilities’, ‘girl/woman’ etc. I remember growing up with words that are no longer used in the UK today; and my teenage daughter finds abhorrent and shocking when she hears them. You can still hear some of them on American TV shows, words like spaz – from Spastic (which was the word used in my childhood for people with cerebral palsy). I cringe when I hear this word now. My next door neighbor and childhood friend had cerebral palsy, I only knew this because my mum was a nurse and told me. ‘L’ was like the rest of us, we gave her no quarter, if we had to run as part of a game, then ‘L’ was on her own. But, and this is shameful, I still used the word ‘spaz’ to insult other kids.

I am ‘mostly’ comfortable around a variety of individuals as I work in an educational establishment that has staff and students from many different countries and cultures; so we’re a mixture of skin tones, and people with a variety of visible and invisible physical and/or learning difficulties. If in doubt, ask; not a specialist, ask the person you are trying to make a connection with who is ‘not like you‘.

This year, I am working with a student who has not one, or two, but three physical conditions: Visual Impairment, Cerebral Palsy and Autism. I’m learning a thing or two about myself! It got me thinking about writing and writers, how many had/have disabilities? Because, when you buy a book or get one from your local library, you really have no idea how long it took to produce and the circumstances of it’s author. So I had a little look around to find authors with disabilities.


Helen Keller

Keller became blind and deaf at just 19 months old, after contracting scarlet fever. Despite her disabilities, she learned to read in multiple languages and went on to graduate college. She was the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.  Keller was well-travelled and outspoken in her convictions; a member of the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World, she campaigned for women’s suffrage, labour rights, socialism and other similar causes.

Keller wrote a total of 12 published books and several articles.


Christy Brown

Brown, an Irish author, had cerebral palsy which left him severely paralysed, and was only able to write or type with the toes of his left foot. His memoir My Left Foot details his life with the disorder. Brown’s success is a prime example of not letting society’s preconceived notions about disabilities set you back. When he was born, doctors urged his parents to commit him to a convalescent hospital, but his parents decided to raise him at home. That decision gave Brown the opportunity to become the artist he would one day be.


Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Wrote a 700-page book, whilst suffering from a rare form of temporal lobe epilepsy. Dostoyevsky kept records of 102 epileptic seizures and used his experiences to create characters who also suffered from epilepsy. He also, of course, produced some of the finest literature the world has ever known. Dostoevsky was affected by physical and mental disturbances following a seizure (This is also called the ‘post-ictal ‘state), sometimes it took him up to one week to recover fully.  His chief complaint was that his ‘head did not clear up’ for several days and symptoms included, “heaviness and even pain in the head, disorders of the nerves, nervous laugh and mystical depression”

Dostoyevsky’s works of fiction include 15 novels and novellas, 17 short stories, and 5 translations.


Jorge Luis Borges

Borges became progressively blind from a genetic disorder, losing his sight completely at the age of 55. He never learned braille and was unable to read for the rest of his life. Borges continued to write and let his blindness inspire his writing. He also developed a logical approach to how his writing would change with his new disability. In an interview for a newspaper he said, “I have to dictate. I can’t write. And that’s why I have fallen back on classic forms of verse. I find that sonnets for example are very portable. You can walk all over a city and carry a sonnet inside your head, while you can hardly do that with free verse.”

Borges wrote more than 20 books.


Patricia Polacco

Children’s author and illustrator Patricia Polacco didn’t start her first book until the age of 41. She didn’t do well in school, and wasn’t able to read until the age of 14. Patricia suffered from undiagnosed dyslexia until a teacher recognized her disability.

She has over 50 published children’s books.


Octavia Butler

Octavia Estelle Butler was one of the few African-American women in the field of American science fiction; the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant in 1995. But Octavia was diagnosed as a dyslexic. She also loved to daydream and was very shy, as a child an almost paralyzing shyness made it difficult for her to socialize with other children. She dealt with her shyness by working past her dyslexia and losing herself in books, as well as writing her own stories as early as 10. She developed an interest in science fiction at age 12, sparking a lifelong talent as a science fiction writer.

She has over 20 published works.


Caiseal Mór

Bestselling Irish fantasy novelist Caiseal Mór is on the autism spectrum. Before his autobiography was released, he kept his disability a secret from the public. He was diagnosed as a child, not speaking until he was four, and was taught to be ashamed of his autism, worried that he might end up institutionalised if people knew. Caiseal still struggles with conversation as an adult, preferring to communicate via the written word.

He has at least 16 published works.



Further reading:-










Sharkpunk 2

The ‘SHARKPUNK 2’ Kickstarter launches tomorrow, Saturday 28th January.

Brought to you by Jonathan Green, editor and author (of many, many books ranging from Steampunk to Sci-Fi, fusion of classics to Fighting Fantasy titles), who gave us the original ‘Sharkpunk’.  Mr. G and publishers, Snowbooks, are bringing us a second anthology of killer shark stories, with extra bite!

sharkpunk_1-cover                                sharkpunk2-mock-up-cover
Didn’t want to go in the water anyway…                    but now the skies are no-go too!
Some of the authors from the first anthology will reappear in Sharkpunk 2, and this time I myself might be appearing, though not in the PB version. There was an idea mooted that a Sharkpunk 2.5, an electronic version with ‘extras’, would be published, including stories the editors liked, but could not include in the PB. I was absolutely delighted to have been selected for this possible publication  as I will be rubbing shoulders (or fins) with some actual, real, established authors, including, Gavin Smith, Gav Thorpe and Sarah Peploe.
You can contribute to the publication of this new title by visiting the Kickstarter site tomorrow, midday (GMT).

Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge

Soldier of Hope


“Fall back!” yelled Sergeant Julius T Montgomery into his comms mic.

There was a stench in the air, a stench that had now become familiar to the men and women fighting on Terra II; ammonia, rotten vegetation and burning; burning tic-tic flesh. They unreservedly slaughtered their own kind to get to the humans. Well go right ahead, thought Montgomery, I won’t be putting any of my squad in your line of fire.  His soldiers retreated, smoothly, through the ruined town that was breaking forth in vines.

When the tic-tic first arrived, they had taken over the desert areas; their seemingly reptilian hides preferring the heat. Within a year, they had invaded cooler climes with their machines and wearing protective clothing.  No-one knew where they came from, no-one knew what they were called; there had been no attempt at communication, just arrival and slaughter. They had been quickly dubbed ‘tic-tic’, from the clicking sounds they made to each other. They had scattered their vine spores throughout upon arrival. The vines grew at an exponential rate, like nothing Montgomery had seen before. The spores had wriggled and crawled into every small space before sending forth their green spears, penetrating weak points in man-made structures.

Montgomery kept one eye on the advancing machines, the other on the road as it vibrated; hairline fractures appearing beneath his feet. He and his squad were moving residents out, or attempting to, when this new wave had attacked.

“Blakely! Get those people to the shuttle! Kim and Nails, with me.”

“I’m on it serge. Move it!” Corporal Blakely responded. She signalled to the five other squaddies and moved off at speed; sheltering the terrified civilians between them.

Montgomery knew Blakely would get the citizens to safety, if it was the last thing she did. Montgomery, Kim and Nails would bring up the rear, ensuring the rest of the squad and the twenty or so civilians had moved beyond the zone perimeter, where the tic-tic and their disturbing plant life had yet to reach. He took his eye off the advancing enemy for a fraction of a second. Pain shot through Sergeant Montgomery. At first, he could not identify where he had been hit; the pain was so great. Simultaneously, a white, blinding flash caused him to automatically raise his arm to shield his eyes. He thought he could hear Nails shouting behind him. Brandon Cartwright, otherwise called Nails; because he was ‘hard as’, screamed; he shrieked like a tortured cat, and Montgomery felt his stomach somersault.

Montgomery staggered, dragging his left foot and half blinded, towards his screaming comrade.

“Nails!” he called, “Cartwright, can you hear me?”

Montgomery blinked the fug away, finding he was about to step on his radio operative, Soo Kim; or what was left of him.

“Fucking tics.” Montgomery growled. He could make out Nails lying approximately fifty metres away; but didn’t notice the dark slash in the broken road surface. Julius Montgomery plummeted over the edge of a fissure.

Montgomery opened his eyes. It was dark, eerily quiet and cold. He went through the checks and discovered that he had sustained no serious injuries, other than the one in his lower left leg. He turned on the light on his right shoulder, taking in the surrounds. Montgomery surmised that the tic-tics had fired one of their ‘white-out’ explosives, killing Lance Corporal Soo Kim instantly, whilst injuring Nails and himself; must have opened up this crack too, he mused. He directed the light up.


Corporal Blakely probably assumed he was dead. He could hear an eerie whistling high above that he recognised; there was a storm imminent; no chance of anyone coming anytime soon; if at all. Montgomery knew that his leg was broken and that he had little hope of getting out. He couldn’t call out, he might attract any remaining tics and that would certainly be the end of Julius T Montgomery.

“Okay soldier,” he spoke out loud to clear his head, to order his thoughts; to keep himself company. “Anything you can use here?” he searched about. His rifle was just beyond reach, on a tilted shelf of rock. He yanked his upper arm-guard free and using his shawl, splinted and bandaged his lower leg and ankle. That little manoeuvre had tired him somewhat; Montgomery rested his head back on the cooling rock.

Sergeant Montgomery closed his eyes. The wind was whipping up now and bits of debris began to fall and swirl down into the crevasse. He spat and squinted upwards. The sky was beginning to grow dark, twilight, Montgomery’s favourite time in the evening. The sky was the most gorgeous purple-blue, a crack of sky bordered by inky black; almost ten metres away. He would wait until the storm had passed before attempting to make a move. By the middle of the night it would be too cold for the tic-tics to be out. For now, rest.

Montgomery hauled himself to his feet, excruciating pain shot through his leg. He clamped his mouth around his uniform sleeve; stifling the yell. He immediately slumped back down suppressing the cry that threatened his tight throat. This part of the crevasse wall was almost smooth. He couldn’t put weight on his damaged foot, it was hopeless. Finally, becoming cold from being still for so long, Montgomery urged himself to action. He leant against the rock and felt about above him for a handhold, his fingers gripped something. The spear of an alien vine protruded from the rock, Montgomery gave a sardonic laugh and he heaved, scrabbling with his able foot.

“Come on Jules,” he harangued himself, “If you can just get yourself to that next ledge.”

After what seemed like hours, but he reasoned was probably minutes, he made it to the next point and then the next; slowly, steadily, catching glimpses of the starry sky; one small step at a time. Sweating and shivering in turns he crawled up through the darkness until eventually he clawed and rolled his way over the lip and onto the deserted roadway.

“No time to rest soldier.” He limped, and then crawled towards the nearest cover; vine riddled buildings with gaping windows. He kept dragging himself, experiencing the most horrific pain he had ever known.  He lost count of the number of times he passed out.

“You can make it to the next building,” He urged himself, “You can make it to the zone perimeter.” Throughout the night, Sergeant Montgomery dragged himself from shadow to shadow, house to house, always alert to the possibility, no matter how small, of the tic-tics coming back; using Kim’s rifle as a short crutch.


In New Anglia Hospital Unit, Julius Montgomery was woken by the Private calling the mail deliveries. Slim data pads were distributed amongst the injured and the visitors.

“Morning Serge.” Blakely smiled at him from the utilitarian chair at his bedside. “You had us worried for a bit there.” Montgomery strained to look down the bed. “You still have it.” Blakely assured him. She gently patted his left leg. “Here.” She handed him the data mail pad. “Who did you get?”

“Um,” he was still feeling fuzzy around the edges.

“Mine’s a ten year old from Old Yorkshire, Milo Ainderby; one sister, mum and dad, hamster, likes football and fried eggs.” Blakely grinned.

“Er,” he looked at the name on the heading of his data mail. “Anya.” Montgomery replied, through dry lips. He raised the pad in his right hand; Dear Julius

“I’ve been looking forward to getting these letters,” Blakely was saying, “It makes me feel that we’re doing some good out here, hearing what they think about us back on Earth.”

“’Course we are Corporal; always.”

“I’m really glad I put my name down for this project, connecting the Terra II soldiers with the children back home.”

“If you don’t mind, I think I’d like to read this alone.”

Corporal Blakely stood swiftly, almost to attention Montgomery thought, smiling.


Dear Julius, My name is Anya, I live in Mumbai.  I am eight years old. I like maths, art and dancing. I like cartoons and using my dad’s computer to play office. I have drawn you a picture, I hope you like it. I have a cat called Mimi, she is poorly, mummy will have to take her to the vets. When I grow up I want to be a doctor. Be safe, Anya.

Montgomery looked at the drawing. It was a green and purple cat lying in a circular basket. It had a bandage around one leg.  He stared through the long window at the end of the ward; soldiers passed by on foot, in wheelchairs, on crutches; men and women who had come up against the tics and paid for it. Was Terra II worth it? He took up the pad and hit Return.

Dear Anya,

Hi, my name is Julius T Montgomery. I am a Sergeant in the Unified Special Regiment on Terra II. The USR is a special group that does not fight, unless it is necessary, we go in to war zones and try to rescue the people who are trapped there. Three days ago, on a rescue and retrieval mission my unit was hit by a bomb. A piece of shrapnel stuck in my leg and then I fell into a deep hole. I was alone for a long while, but after a lot of hard work I managed to get out and made it back to my base.  I was rushed to hospital. I had an operation and was feeling pretty sad, but today I got your message, I love your drawing of your cat, Mimi; it brought a smile to my face to know that a young girl in India took the time to wish good luck to someone she doesn’t even know. Thank you, Anya. You really brightened this soldier’s day. I hope you get a chance to write back and I hope Mimi recovers soon.

Take care, Julius.





Dicking About…

I’m supposed to be writing – after all, I am a writer (I think, no I am, really). I’m supposed to be working on the novel I began for National Novel Writing Month, you may remember I wrote a couple of posts on this, during and at the end. It was a frantic time, but I met the 50,000 word mark, I was delighted with myself.

However, it needed completing. I’m not a complete twit, I do know that 50,000 words does not a novel make, especially if it is of the fantasy/sci-fi fiction genres; these tend towards the ginormous (not that I am ever going to create anything ginormous), 100,000 – 115,000 seems to be typical. Writers Digest.com has some good examples of how long your future creations should be.

In short:
80,000 – 89,999:       Totally cool
90,000 – 99,999:       Generally safe
70,000 – 79,999:       Might be too short; probably all right
100,000 – 109,999:    Might be too long; probably all right
Below 70,000:           Too short
110,000 or above       Too long

So you can see where I hover at the moment – Totally Uncool! Even though I wrote another 10,000. I also scrubbed an equal amount.

Then my daughter, home from Uni for Christmas, went and threw me a curveball. She asked three questions, THREE, that’s all. Two, I could answer (just), but one threw me for a loop. I hadn’t actually considered WHY, the society I was building, was doing what it was doing. In my fevered-little-writers-dungeon of a mind, it just was. Ah, now I was stuck. So I decided to ignore that problem (for the moment). Then I found another problem, this was equally as hard to answer, but from a science/techno perspective – how does one get a second sun on planet Earth???!!! Ah, stuck again.

I kept ploughing away at other sections/chapters – I don’t tend to write in chapters per say, and because I had not resolved two or three issues, it has ground to a halt. I have decided I need to step away from this one, let it rest a while and work on something else ( I generally have a few things going at once)

And so, we’re back to – I’m supposed to be writing. Instead I have been checking my FB account, my Twitter account, looking at other people’s blogs and trying to put my face onto a Star Trek character. I know, that last one piqued your interest didn’t it? There are a number of sites where you can squish a photo of your lovely self into a gap where the well-known characters face should appear;




These are three of them, in case you’re interested. It all began on FB, where someone had done one of those ‘quizzy’ things, What’s You Identity in Star Trek?


I got Captain. YAY! (Have you guessed yet that I’m a Star Trek fan?!) and proceeded to massage my ego by putting myself in Captain Janeway’s body. There was barely enough room in there for one woman, let alone herself and a sad middle-aged woman with middle-aged spread. But finally, I squeezed my stupid face in. And now it’s about three hours later, and this – Word Press – is all the writing I have done today. I have my writers group tonight and will probably own up to having dicked around all day, I’m like that; I have little shame.

Oh, and here’s the result of todays ‘dicking about’…

Worth it eh?!




                                Spot the difference!


The Joy of Book Swaps

Currently reading/read it. Book review – The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie.

So, I just finished reading the above title; ‘The Blade Itself’ by Joe Abercrombie, #1 in the trilogy The First Law. I obtained the book via my writers club annual book swap, an idea I introduced when I joined, after having run a one off many years ago, when I worked for a well-known book sellers.

What you do: find a bunch of like-minded bookish types, oddities like yourself helps, but if pushed, colleagues will do. You select a book that you have enjoyed reading, something that you wouldn’t mind sharing with someone else. You know when you meet people and one of you says, “Did you see the latest (–fill in the gap–) last night?” or “Catch that Superman/Batman/Catwoman/Froglegged Bee Keeper Man movie?” How often do people say, “Hey! Read any good Philip Pullman recently?” generally NOT!

Sorry, I digress. So, you get your well-thumbed copy of whatever you have enjoyed. You wrap it in plain paper. Everyone else in your nerdy group does the same. The disguised books are put into a box (or whatever) and then you all take one out – no not your own idiot! You read that already, look at the wrapping paper! You take it home, unwrap it and hey presto! You have a new title to read, free!

Now here comes the good bit. Initially you might go, “Ugh! What the —-! I’m not going to read that!” and fling it aside. But hold on there just give it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised. I haven’t had a dud yet ; which leads me to the current title.

I opened my grubby brown paper package and first off I went, “Ugh!” I hated (and still am very unsure of) the cover. If I saw it in a book shop, I would definitely ignore it; dull, brown, with a clichéd, surly, tangle-haired ‘thug’ on the front. then the person who had dropped it into the swap box informed me, it is the first of three. Really? Did I want to spend my time reading this, well-thumbed…The End…that’s how it begins, oh, okay…four pages in and…I quite like this, I think. When I was introduced to the second character, the writing had changed gear. This was a vastly different individual to the first, physically, mentally, emotionally; and the writing matches it. Some reviews I read revealed readers were divided, many thought the writing ‘clunky’. I think it suits the format perfectly. Abercrombie has altered, only enough, the feel of the writing to represent the different characters point of view, as much as writing the POV itself.

Its a fighting/fantasy world, where men are men and women are thin, pale and decorative (except for the odd one or two!) The initial protagonist has a slightly crappy name – Logan, hmm, too much like ‘Logan’s Run’ or Logan the Wolverine I think, but, beyond that, he’s not 2D, as some of the other characters believe him to be. Logen Ninefingers is an infamous warrior with a bloody past. He has plans to settle a blood feud with Bethod, the  King of the Northmen. He spends a lot of time, for a hulking brute saying, “Still alive.” There’s more to him than meets the eye. Then there’s Inquisitor Glokta, a cripple, a former fencing champion, now a torturer extraordinaire. A truly brilliant creation, you have to love him – no really, just wait and see…we get a lot of Glokta’s internal thoughts, in italics, running alongside his conversations and can’t help but admire the ability to keep two trains of thought going, an obeisance in his expression, whilst wanting to vomit all over the person he may be speaking to. Finally, Captain Jezal dan Luthar; in the words of Glokta, “…an arse…”  he is also a nobleman and would-be fencing champion. He is vain, shallow, selfish and self-obsessed, one wonders why the important bald chap who arrives in the Agriont needs him.

I love how Abercrombie weaves the separate lives across the landscape. There are multiple protagonists in this tale, along the lines of Game of Thrones, but what each of them wants becomes unclear, which I liked. How they will succeed in their initial task is unknown, I will have to read #2 – and I will. Definitely. I think it is hard in these times of Game of Thrones on TV, fantasy ‘heroes’ on the big screen, to get a book in this genre noticed. Fantasy writing is a massive market, with hundreds, possibly thousands of would-be-authors of the style out there. Abercrombie has grabbed my attention, and that’s a rare thing these days.

So, for the New Year, go and run a book swap, you may find a hero wrapped up in that package!

P.S: other covers are available.

P.P.S: apparently, there’s a graphic novel series too!