Wednesday, November 26, 2014

WEDNESDAY REVIEW: The Broken Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy Part 2) by N.K. Jemisin

In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a strange homeless man on an impulse. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. And Oree's guest is at the heart of it. . .


THE BROKEN KINGDOMS, the second novel in The Inheritance Trilogy, is the rare middle book in which is equal to if not stronger than the 1st novel, THE HUNDRED-THOUSAND KINGDOMS—which I found outstanding. That bodes well not only for the likelihood of an even stronger final book, but for Jemisin's career, and the enjoyment of all fantasy readers who hunger for authors that strike out into original territory every time.

First off, the second novel--even though having read the first definitely adds texture and and enjoyment to the story--is a true stand-alone to the point that there was no need for an info dumping or "What came before . . ." type prologue. Jemisin deftly weaves in what needs to be known from the previous book in the course of this always forward-moving story.

Blind street merchant Oree lives in Sky, the capital city for the entire planet, and sole location on the planet where godlings--powerful immortals who are not one of the three original Gods--are allowed to visit from their otherworldly realm. In fact, Oree is still heartbroken from an affair she had with one. Suddenly, godlings began dying and disappearing and Oree unwillingly becomes embroiled in the search for who or what is responsible. But her quest is forcing her to question not only the godling she still loves, but her ability to paint dazzling pictures despite being blind . . .

If you are looking for well-written 1st person POV stories in non-quasi-medieval setting featuring a strong, but not always "certain", lead female character who overcomes incredible challenges without following the well-worn paths of becoming a mighty enough sorcerer/swordsman, finding the magic talisman, or turning out to be the Chosen One, will enjoy both

Review by Carlyle Clark for Heroines of Fantasy

Monday, November 24, 2014


As many of you know, I have recently ventured out of my cozy niche of romantic fantasy and edged into contemporary romantic fiction. In doing so, I have come into contact with many new writers who have a whole different sort of experience and overview of the writing world. It was this pool I dipped into when seeking out a guest poster for this week.

Sarah Hegger writes in many genres, most specifically contemporary and historical romance, but she has a deep love of fantasy, and discovered a fabulous thing I've never even heard of to indulge in it--Wattpad. I'll let her take it from here. Sarah?

Before you yell “Imposter!” let me just say—Terri said I could come.

I write what I love to read, which is romance. And as I have the attention span of a goldfish, I write in both historical and contemporary romance. But, I have another great love, and that’s fantasy. My first contact was Anne McCaffrey and her Dragons of Pern, and I’ve never looked back. Stephen Donaldson, Robert Jordan, David Eddings, Robin Hobb, David Gemmell—love them all.

When I first started writing, I wanted to write fantasy. I sweated two years over a book that ended up being almost 500,000 words. Yeah, I know! And before you ask, I truly feel that every one of those words was totally necessary. Which brings me to why Terri let me in here today.

I am reworking that monster into a number of smaller books. But I’m doing it on Wattpad. For those of you who don’t know it, it's kind of like FanFiction, in that it works the same as FanFiction.  Anybody can contribute and anybody can read your work and comment. The difference is that the content is original, not using existing characters from other stories. And lots of published writers use it as a platform to reach more readers.

I wanted to combine my two loves in an episodic fantasy romance series. Fantasy can often be largely plot driven, whereas romance is more about the characters and their inner journey. What if we could have a cracking good plot, driven by characters—and because I’m primarily a romance writer—falling in love against a backdrop of one of those epic fantasy “Good vs. Evil for the World” battles?

The fun part is writing it episodically. One chapter a week, published every Thursday faithfully. I already have the framework (all 500,000 words of it) and the broader picture. Now to make each episode a compelling enough read to bring the person back next week for the next installment.

Wattpad is totally free for both readers and writers. This is what the front end stats say on the site:

75 million stories to read.
35 million Wattpaders and growing.
9 billion minutes spent on Wattpad every month (this one is a bit meaningless to me, as my math is suspect at best)
85% mobile across all devices.
The big surprise to me is how professional the look of the thing is. I am getting a cover designed for the series, just to fit in with the other folks doing the same.
Why am I doing this?

For the sheer joy of writing a Fantasy novel is the first reason. And, secondly, how cool would it be to develop a readership on such a huge platform?
And the freeeeeeeedoooooooom.
There are no genre rules, no maximum word counts, no ‘selling points’. It’s me and whoever wanders over to read my story. Readers can leave comments, like your story and interact with you while the story unfolds.

The challenge as a writer is delicious. You have to draw that reader in and keep them coming back for more, while making sure you keep the entire plot and the bigger picture straight in your head.

And I’m writing about dragons, my favorites in fantasy. Great winged magicians who draw their powers from crystals, and need their human counterparts because with all that magic, they lose their five senses and need to ‘piggyback’ off a companion.

If you’d like to check out my embryonic effort Companions Gorge: The Return, pop on over to my Wattpad page to see.
I have 16 reads and 2 followers. Yay, me! I believe you need an account to read, but you can read any story off just about any mobile device. And like the website stats say, you have 75 million of them to chose from.
You can have a look at what I do in the more traditional published world over on my WEBSITE.
Who am I?
Born British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A hot Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble.

Mimicking her globe trotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother.

She currently lives in Draper, Utah, with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books.
        She loves to hear from readers and you can find her at any of the places below.

Sarah has two published medieval romances: The Bride Gift and Sweet Bea with another releasing next year, My Lady Faye.
On the contemporary front, she hase three books in the Willow Park Romance Series, beginning with Nobody’s Angel in March 2015.



Monday, November 17, 2014


I started writing a blog post about coming back after six months away from blogging on Heroines of Fantasy, about the turn of the year and the creativity winter inspires...then I went to World Fantasy Convention in Washington, DC last weekend, and my tack shifted.


What do those numbers mean? Well, my dearios, those are the ratios of male:female guests of honor, of male:female toastmasters, and of male:female World Fantasy Award novel winners who have been honored at the World Fantasy Convention since 1975. These numbers come from The official WFC page.

Pretty staggering, eh? If you look over the nominee lists for the awards, the predominance of the male nominees outweighs the number of female nominees by an even greater margin. I got the inkling to look into this while in DC last weekend, when Karin (Gastreich) whispered to me, upon sitting in on one particular panel, "Why are all the panelists men?"

To be fair, there was generally a pretty good mix-up of male and female panelists. But it got me thinking about the WFCs I've attended alone, and I realized most of the GoH have been men. Just look at the Guest of Honor list for this year:
Guy Gavriel Kay (m,) Les Edwards (m,) Stuart David Schiff (m,) Lail Finlay (f) 3:1
Hmmm...Thankfully, our Toastmistress was the formidable and fabulous, Mary Robinette Kowal.

Let me make one thing clear--I have nothing against men, these men or any others. They are brilliant and beautiful and grand. Guy Gavriel Kay happens to be one of my all-time favorite writers. The talented gentlmen who have been dominating the industry for so long don't do so because they lack talent. In fact, the onus does not lie on the winners and honorees, in my opinion, but on the committees, editors, and voters that choose them.

Whether we like it or not, the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres still seem to be male-dominated. But do these numbers ring true? Really? I could tick several dozen talented, successful female writers in the genres without stretching. Maybe it's because I am a woman who reads and writes books I, myself, would like to read, but I never seem to be lacking for reading material penned by others of my sex. So why aren't we winning more awards? Being honored in our field? It made me inordinately happy to see Patricia McKillip (my ALL-time favorite writer) had won the very first World Fantasy Award (Forgotten Beasts of Eld,) but where is Jane Yolen? Like Diana Wynn Jones and Connie Willis, she was given a Lifetime Achievement Award, but never won for best novel. Susanna Clarke (Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell) thank goodness, won her year, but where is Cherie Priest? Erin Morgenstern penned the extraordinary Night Circus, a book that spent seven weeks on the NY Times Bestseller list and won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and wasn't even nominated. With all the monstrously talented women out there writing amazing things, why do they keep falling short of the prize? Worse, why are they not even being considered for the prize* in the first place?

This is a debate that has been going for about as long as there have been men and women. I have no answers, even if I have some inklings. At the very end of it all, it makes me truly appreciate the small and wonderful press I am with. Eric Reynolds didn't set out to create a female-centric press. It happened slowly, over time, as he got more and more amazing manuscripts by women, about women, and largely written with the female-reader in mind.

Since Eric's time in "the Alternate Universe" (his reference to the coma after his stroke) Hadley Rille Books has been on a forced hiatus while we Heroines of Fantasy learned the ropes and held things together. As he recovers and we come closer to publishing again (March!) I am reminded of the amazing work we've done, of the incredible books we've published, by talented writers who might never have been read otherwise. Being at WFC last weekend reminded me how important it is for presses like Hadley Rille Books to stay alive, to keep publishing, and to work to change the ratios in whatever way we can.

*My focus was World Fantasy. I did not look into the Hugos and Nebulas for the purposes of this blog post, though I am pretty sure of what I would have come up with, had I done so.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

REVIEW: No Earthly Shore

Title: No Earthly Shore
AuthorJilly Paddock
Genre: SF
Price: $1.99 (ebook)
Publisher: Cathaven Press
Point of SaleAmazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

I frankly don’t remember how I found out about Jilly Paddock’s novella No Earthly Shore, but I did, and I’m glad of it.  Set in a far-future universe, this gentle story is that of Dr. Zuzana Aaron-Jones, Zuzu to her friends, and Boadicea Nantucket, Boodie to her friends. 

Boodie is a young teenager on the human-colonized world Yemitzov Five, and she claims that the squilts – masses of gray tissue that float in the local oceans – saved her from drowning.  More importantly, she claims the squilts are sentient, which could force the human colonists to pack up and leave.  Dr. Zuzu and a team arrive from Earth, and quickly start to investigate.  While they are investigating, romance blooms. 

I found this novella near perfect.  There’s conflict, both between the Earth team members and internally (Zuzu doesn’t want the humans to have to pack up and leave) but no great violence.  The characters are well-rounded, and although the colony bears a striking resemblance to an English seacoast village, the setting worked.  I found myself at the end of the work wishing for more.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Power of Elegance

One of my favorite titles by
Patricia A. McKillip.
I was very lucky this year to be able to attend the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, D.C. All it all, it's been a great weekend, in part for the ongoing discussions about fantasy, but most of all for the opportunity to get together with a lot of friends and colleagues that I haven't seen for a while, including sisters at Hadley Rille Books Terri-Lynne DeFino, Julia Dvorin, Heather McDougal, and Amy Herring.

One of the under sung events of fantasy conferences are the author readings. For me, author readings are one of the most delightful aspects of the cons, yet they are woefully under-attended. I've discovered many great authors by attending readings. There's just nothing like hearing an original tale told well by its author. Moreover, because readings rarely pack a meeting room, you have a much greater chance of one-on-one interaction with the presenter than you do at any panel.

It was one of my extraordinary privileges this past weekend to listen to a reading by Patricia McKillip. As you may imagine, McKillip did pack the room, but it was still a pretty small room they had set aside for her half-hour session. Yours truly had no problem securing a front-row seat, just a few feet away from the great author herself. McKillip read from a new novel in the works, a modern adaptation of the Arthurian legend. (Mark, I think you will go nuts over this novel when it's released. I know I will!)

All of the readings I attended at WFC were excellent, yet McKillip rose above the rest. More than excellent, she was spellbinding. Ever since hearing her, I've been trying to put my finger on what set McKillip apart.

She did few of the things many of us do to liven up our readings. She played little with the voices, kept facial expression and hand gestures to a minimum. She explained the context of the scene, something I've been told one should not do at a reading. Once she started reading, she made no eye contact with the audience, another no-no on my how-to-do-a-reading list. Her passage was long, a full 25 minutes. So often I've heard one should never allow a scene to last more than 10 minutes. Yet if we hadn't been kicked out of the room at the end, I'm certain all of us could have gone on listening to McKillip for hours.

In short, McKillip's lacked a number of the conventional public reading "pizzazz" factors. She simply gave us her voice, her presence, and the words -- these last unhurried and pure, weaving their spell in a way that only perfect (or near-perfect) story telling can do.

I will be mulling over this experience for some time, because the truth is I want to uncover McKillips secret and infuse it into my own public readings. My sense is that it's a combination of the quiet confidence of her presence, the humble joy she takes in sharing her work, and the simple power of the words she uses to tell her stories.

In the end, I summed it up in a single concept: Elegance. As a reader, elegance of words and presentation is something I deeply enjoy. As a writer, it is a state of being I hope to aspire to.

All this to say: Next time you're at a con, attend the readings!

Not just the big name readings, but the full spectrum from first-time authors to tried-and-true veterans. The best moments of SFF community get togethers are not the literary analyses or the discussions of publishing or the drinks at the bar. The best moments are the stories we tell.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Wednesday Review--The Romances of George Sand

Title: The Romances of George Sand
Author: Anna Faktorovich
Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press
Publication Date: 2014
Genre: Historical Fiction
Price: $2.99 ebook, $14.00 paperback
Where to Purchase: Amazon
Reviewed by: Cybelle Greenlaw
Description: The Romances of George Sand takes the heroine from a childhood in the aristocracy amidst the Napoleonic Wars, to an unhappy early marriage and eventual divorce, to her careers as a country doctor, pharmacist, lawyer, and most successfully as a romance novelist. This is a story about the revolutions in a woman’s heart as she goes through dozens of love affairs. It is also about George’s involvement in violent, political revolutions of her time, including the July and June Revolutions and the 1848 Revolution; in the latter, she served as the unofficial Minister of Propaganda. The story is full of military battles, coup d’etat maneuvers, duels, malevolent plots, infidelity, artistic discussions, monumental legal cases, and reflections on the nature of love, family, romance, rebellion, and femininity. The history behind each of the events depicted is researched with biographical precision, but liberty is taken with some events that have been contested by historians, including the lesbian affair George had with Marie Dorval and the identity of the real father of her second child. Students of literature and history will recognize many of the central characters, as George befriended Napoleon I and III, Alexander Dumas pere and fils, Frederic Chopin, Alfred de Musset, and a long list of other notables.

Good morning! Cybelle here again with the Wednesday review. This week, I read The Romances of George Sand. The author, Anna Faktorovich, is also the founder of Anaphora Press and holds a PhD in English literature. I was excited to read the book. George  Sand, born Aurore Dupin, was the greatest woman writer of the Romantic Period, and her life has always fascinated me. However, this novel just didn't quite deliver. In the introduction, Faktorovich emphasizes that it is a work of fiction based closely on Sand's autobiography and known facts about her life. I found this explanation to be necessary because the book has much more in common with a biography than a novel.

The first three chapters concern the life and times of Sand's grandmother and parents. She doesn't appear until chapter four. In places, the phrasing is so confusing that it was difficult to understand who the author was describing. A glaring example of this tripped me up in the first chapter: These events untraveled a couple of months after Aurore's wedding to Dupin, and in a few months her only child, George Sand's father, Maurice Dupin, was born, and nine months after this M. Francueil died in 1786, leaving a ruined estate to his wife and young son.  For most readers, this would also be the first major indication that the Aurore introduced in the first few pages was not, in fact, George Sand but her grandmother, also called Aurore Dupin.

For those interested in the period, the author does a good job of creating historical context, but too much attention is devoted to the personal life of Napoleon Bonaparte. Faktorovich struggles to demonstrate a number of parallels between events in the emperor's life and those in Sand's family. A few of the examples work, but most are forced and unnecessary. It would have been more effective to concentrate on the direct impact his actions and regulations had on the family.

My main complaint against the book would have to be the multitude of missed opportunities. The period and people represented in the novel are fascinating in and of themselves. However, Faktorovich doesn't effectively bring them to life. Instead, the characters are subjected to long passages of speculation about their motives, along with paragraphs in which the author seems to be expressing her own (rather stereotypical) views about relationships. This happened so frequently that I found myself yelling, "Stop guessing what happened and show me!" After all, what fun is a historical novel if the author cannot commit to a character's motivations and actions? The caveat has already been given that we are reading a work of fiction.

I'm very sorry that I could not give this book a more positive review. It is clear that Faktorovich has conducted considerable research on the period and is committed to depicting the characters in a truthful manner. To give her credit, some of the problems I've described may have been the result of attempts to imitate the often rambling musings of Romantic writers. Unfortunately, the style just doesn't work that well in a modern novel.  With a few tweaks, though, it could be an excellent work of creative non-fiction.

Our Scary Story

We were SO delighted with the participation in last Friday's Build-a-Scary-Story event. Thank you to all the talented writers who contributed a passage!

Below I've pasted the final product as a single story. I've improvised an ending. It wasn't easy to follow in the footsteps of giants, so if you aren't happy with my denouement, feel free to propose your own!

The Old Witch

There was once a girl who was very obstinate and willful, and who never obeyed when her elders spoke to her. One day she said to her parents, "I have heard so much of the Old Witch that I will go and see her. People say she has many marvelous things in her house. I am very curious to see them."

Her parents, however, forbade her going, saying, "The Witch is a wicked old woman who performs many godless deeds. You are not to go near her lair."

The girl, however, would not turn back at her parents' command. She set off to find the Witch's house.

Just outside the village, as old and superstitious a place as had ever been, the disobedient child found a penny on the path.

"A sure sign I'm in the right, going to the Witch's house!" She picked it up, put it into her pocket, and barely took three more steps before a wind gusted up and turned her about. When she could see again, the path, the superstitious old village, and any wood she had ever known was gone. The girl cocked her defiant head, and in doing so spotted a small, tidy cottage just there, through a thin screen of evergreens.

Nearing the cottage, the girl noticed that it was nothing more than an abandoned façade of what appeared to be a once-prosperous trading post. Upon laying one foot upon its foundation stone, a tingling sensation charged through her extremities so forcefully that she thought it best to leave it behind and continue on her journey to the witch’s house.

With the house still out of sight, and despite the weakness in her legs, she determined to stay on course in order to arrive before nightfall. As she remembered what the townspeople had told her, she assured herself, “The pain of her reign is upon me, but I will not have to walk much longer.” Each step more painful and heavier than the last, she finally fell to her knees as if unable to proceed any further when she glanced up, awestruck, at what stood before her in the distance.

A carriage, regal and black, filled the path. Magnificent as it was, it was the four creatures that drew it that stole her breath away. They were horses, yes, but of a shade of misty grey that seemed to shimmer and shift as they pawed the ground, and each had a giant pair of wings folded on their backs. As she stared, a handsome young man leapt down from the driver's bench and opened the carriage door, revealing a lush, red silk-lined interior.

"Care for a ride, young miss? It will only cost you a penny."

What a marvelous carriage, what glorious steeds, what wondrous luck indeed to happen upon a stray penny.

She pressed it into the young man's hand, then accepted his help into the pure rose-scented bliss that waited within.

Without a word he closed door and a moment later the carriage rattled down the path, lulling her to a midnight rest.

In the back of her mind, so cozy and content, she was sure the witch was hardly a threat. All this was yet another sign she was in the right, going to the witch's house.

She slept on a bed of roses, rocked as in her cradle, her lullaby the horses' hooves, and as she slept, a song rippled through her dreams. A song sweet as spun candy, twisted as a sugar-cane, subtle as spice and cinnamon baked in a pie.

Her grandmother’s voice, sharp as a green apple, spoke through her dreams. ‘And where might you be going, young lady, with one no better than he should be?’

She snapped awake to find herself upon a cold bank of birken leaves. A wolf’s eyes stared down at her out of the young man’s face.

She froze before that amber regard. "And why, pray tell, do you seek the witch's house?" He crouched before her, sharp eared shadow falling on the ring of mushrooms that circled them both. He smiled as she scrambled back from him only to stop, trapped, at the ring, crouching slightly forward. "It's an answer I'll be having, if it's any farther you'll be going."

She trembled at the flash of sharp white teeth in his mouth, but lifted her chin defiantly. "All my life I have heard of the marvels to be found in the Witch's house, and now I wish to see them for myself."

"'Tis marvels you seek, is it?" the wolf-man said, with a grin that held the hint of a snarl. "Well indeed, young miss, the Witch's house holds marvels aplenty for those bold or foolish enough to seek it out. You've crossed her foundation-stone; you've ridden in her carriage; now kiss her faithful servant, and you shall be granted your heart's desire."

The girl was young and defiant, but she was no fool, whatever her mother thought. "A kiss is quite dear a fee, especially as this would be my first. But if a kiss is required it is a kiss you shall have, only after I've seen the witch and come back again to this carriage,gone through this wood and back home again."

"If home is truly your wish, my dear," said the wolf-in-boy's-clothing, "we are agreed."

The wolf scraped the dirt with his claws, and the earth yawned and groaned. The mushrooms disappeared. A chasm opened up below them with a circle of stairs leading into darkness. The wolf bounded down a few steps and then looked back at the girl expectantly.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"Wherever you may lead."

The girl glanced behind her and saw a familiar road leading through the wood to her home. Wind rattled the cold and brittle branches. She understood the choice offered, that from the chasm at her feet there would be no turning back.

"Is she a fine witch," the girl asked, "bold and true?"

"The finest there ever was, and a good teacher too."

What happened then? We cannot know.

Some say she descended to explore that dark cave; others claim she was lost in a woodland maze. One thing is certain: Walk through the forest on a windy October afternoon, and you will hear the high cackle of the witch, the creak of her carriage, the low growl of her hungry servant.

And if you listen very carefully, you'll hear something else. The laughter of a girl, perhaps. Or a mournful plea for help.


This wraps up HoF's 2014 FRIGHT FEST. Many thanks to everyone who participated during the month of October. Look for us again this time next year. We'll be back for more spookin' fun. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

On Illness

I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer back in April of this year. To say this came as a complete shock is both an understatement and a cliché. The simple truth is that I turned 40 in January, and was advised to have my first mammogram. I did, and modern technology found a lump buried so deep that it would have killed me before I ever discovered it on my own.

The rest of the year has passed slowly in a blur of surgeries and chemotherapy, as my wee toxic lump was removed and the resulting conclusion—that it was a dreaded form of breast cancer known as “triple negative”—dictated aggressive treatment, despite the fact that my tumor was very small and did not affect my lymph nodes. Still, the prognosis is optimistic, and I am more grateful than ever that I didn’t put off that mammogram. Otherwise, I might still be blissfully germinating a malignant tumor, none the wiser.

Over the past few months, I’ve done a lot of thinking about the Bigger Issues that relate to this experience: life and death, fate, luck, gratitude. Illness and health. Strength and weakness. What strikes me is that these are the issues I grapple with most often in my fiction. One of the central questions of the Song series is that of fate and choice: do we choose our path, or is it chosen for us? Until that mammogram in March, I would have said the latter. Now, after having undergone a routine medical procedure spur of the moment simply because there wasn't a line to check-in (what I have discovered since is an extremely rare occurrence) I’m not so sure. What stars aligned perfectly to drive me to the mammogram counter that particular day? Was it a deity? The universe? The Force? 

I have also noticed the general lack of illness in fiction, which intrigues me. I admit that beyond the occasional sniffle or magic-related sickness, my characters just don’t get sick. Aside from a general plague or two, I’m not seeing it commonly in other fiction, either. There are a variety of possibilities as to why, beginning with the notion that heroes and heroines are strong of body and mind, which must naturally come with stellar immunity. Perhaps writing about a character’s cold, from which they will most likely recover, isn’t necessary or interesting. Maybe it isn’t important to the story, and like going to the bathroom, doesn’t need to be discussed. 

All good possibilities, but what this last year has taught me is that most of us shy away from serious, long-term illness. We don’t want to have it, see it, or acknowledge it. Illness makes us feel helpless, out of control. It forces us to face our own mortality and limitations. It changes how we see ourselves and the world, and it alters how others see us. Serious illness changes our expectations for ourselves and for others. It shows us what we and our friends, family and acquaintances are made of. We shy away from writing about it and we don’t want to read about it. Most certainly, none of us want to live it.

But failing to acknowledge illness drastically limits our perspective. Illness breeds strength, although it isn’t the strength we normally associate with our heroes and heroines. Illness brings out an inner strength, a kind of enduring grace and dignity, a willingness to get up each morning despite the nausea and the pain and just make it through the day. This kind of strength cannot be tested by anything else; there are no dragons to fight here, just a silent, patient enemy that can only be bested by outliving it another day. This is a strength born of stubbornness. A peaceful protest. No swords, just poison, pills, pillows and the will to survive.

Illness also teaches an abiding joy of the little things. I have learned to appreciate the small acts of generosity, the loyalty of truly selfless friends, the supportive words of strangers. My daughters laughing together. The slant of warm sunlight on a cool day. Hair. The ability to get in the car and drive to the grocery store all by myself. The million little things each day we all take for granted. Illness slows us down so much that we see and appreciate them all.

Cancer has given me an unexpected silver lining. I will be a better woman for this, and a better author. I will no longer keep my characters in perfect health when there is so much more for them to gain by more fully experiencing all there is to know and feel. They will become ill. They will grow. They will be strong.

~ Kim Vandervort