Friday, November 9, 2012

Author Interview--Sandra I. Bordenca

Good Friday,

Normally, I’m all about fiction (Fiction Friday), but this week I’m switching it up a bit.

I’m honored to introduce Sandra I. Bordenca, a recently self-published author. She’s with us today talking about herself and her book “It’s Okay to Laugh…(Sometimes).”

As I said, this is not a fiction work. Some things, however, do never change. Enough of me. Here’s Sandra.

-Introduction: About You

I think parts of the Prologue will help answer this question:

I was born in the ’60s with a disability known as cerebral palsy (according to Wikipedia, “an umbrella term encompassing a group of non-progressive, non-contagious motor conditions that cause physical disability in human development, chiefly in the various areas of body movement”), which affects my legs only. Subsequently, I have been in a wheelchair since the age of three. Throughout my life, there have been tears, fears, multiple operations, and multiple hurdles to overcome. Luckily, I was able to do that with the love and support of the best parents on earth, my wonderful sisters, my extended family, great friends, and an amazing husband.

Other than the multiple operations I have had to endure, I would have to say that my childhood was happy—full of laughter, tears, and the “normal” (whatever that means) childhood bickering that goes on among families and sisters as they go through their growing pains. I have had enough unique experiences in my life to write an autobiography and share with you the challenges that I have faced growing up in a wheelchair, but I decided against that. Instead, I decided to write about the unique and funny experiences I have had growing up in a wheelchair.

I learned a long time ago that in each situation, it is not what happens that determines the outcome; it is how you handle it. I have also learned throughout my many years that life is too damn short, so why not laugh when you can? I mean really laugh. The kind of laugh that makes tears flow from your eyes and drinks come out through your nose, or maybe even the best laugh of all, the one that makes you forget your troubles for a while.

So the goal of my book is simple. To make people laugh. To help people see that being in a wheelchair doesn’t have to be tragic. To help you see that if you look at challenges in a positive way, you can overcome anything and even laugh and laugh often.

-What inspired you to write this book?

Through non-fiction stories that have happened throughout my life I wanted to send the message to the disabled and non-disabled alike that disability does not mean disadvantage in a humorous/inspirational way.

-About the book?

Through non-fiction stories that have happened throughout my life I wanted to send the message to the disabled and non-disabled alike that disability does not mean disadvantage in a humorous/inspirational way. There is a section of the book called – Situations that stop and make you think – I hope. Here are a few of them:

In all my years, I have found that dogs enjoy being patted on the head, not people, and especially not people in wheelchairs. So if you get the urge, please look for our furry friends, and not my head.
If you grow up and one arm is longer than the other, don’t blame it on Mother Nature. Blame it on your parents for the times you were curious (as every child is) and tried to ask a person in a wheelchair a question like “Why are you in that thing?” and your parent pulled you away by the arm before you could. Parents and guardians, please allow the children you are with to be curious. It is natural, and speaking for myself, I love to answer their questions. Remember, children fear what they are taught to fear, and if they are allowed to be curious about the unknown, they will grow up teaching their children the same.
Sometimes, when I am waiting to be seated in a restaurant, the hostess will say, “Two and a wheelchair.” I know they mean no harm, but if I’m going to be referred to as a chair, I would much rather be called a “Queen Anne chair” or a “loveseat,” anything but a “wheelchair.”


It’s No Trick, Just Treats Please

Halloween was an interesting adventure for my sisters and me. Going to houses on our own street was no problem as everyone knew us. It was when we ventured off to the surrounding streets that the challenges began. You see, none of the houses in our neighborhood were handicapped accessible, except mine, of course, so when we approached a house, my sisters would have to carry my candy bag as well as their own, and I would wait at the bottom of the stairs. My sisters would take turns carrying my bag. So when one of my sisters went to the door with two bags, some people would get angry at her and tell her not to be so greedy. I would then have to yell from the sidewalk that the second bag was for me and that she was my sister. The people would then give her a crooked smile and put one treat in each bag. There were times when I felt bad for my sisters because they were doing something nice for me, and they would continuously get yelled at by strangers. Even though there were times we didn’t find it funny, we did laugh when we saw expressions on people’s faces when they realized the situation. The people that felt really bad would give us extra candy by the fistfuls, and to a kid on Halloween, that is everything. If I haven’t thanked my sisters in the past for this, I will now: Thanks, love you guys!
~ ~
One day, I was visiting with one of my friends in her dorm room when her boyfriend came in. I introduced myself, and my friend said she had to leave the room for the bathroom. So I stayed with her boyfriend to keep him company until she returned. When he left later that day, she came into my room laughing hysterically. I asked her what was so funny, and through our laughter, she began to tell me what her boyfriend said when I left the room.

She said he asked, “What’s wrong with Sandy?” And she said, “Why? What did she say?” He said, “No, I mean what’s wrong with her?” And she once again said, “Why? Did she say or do something to offend you?” His voice got louder with frustration and said, “Why is she in the wheelchair?” She began to laugh again as she told me she completely forgot about me being in a wheelchair. I then began to laugh and hugged her, telling her how much that meant to me.

-For aspiring writers/storytellers, any tips?

If you are writing non-fiction, at the beginning, just let the stories flow. Don’t worry about content or punctuation, and write from your heart, good stories and bad. Don’t write what you think people want to hear, write from the heart and you will be amazed how easily and naturally the words will flow.

-What’s your favorite type of book to read?

I like Nicholas Sparks and Autobiographies.

-Any parting words of wisdom?

No matter how long it takes, never give up on your dream of becoming an author. When your book is finally completed and out in the marketplace, it is an amazing feeling that is hard to describe.

Want more from Sandra?

Visit her website.

Want to buy “It’s Okay to Laugh…(Sometimes)?”

Find it at Amazon,, or

Or call 1-888-795-4274 ext. 7879.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tag, I'm it!


Tag, I’m it!

Hope your shots are up to date… I’ve been tagged by Nikki Hopeman in a game of author infection!

The rules are simple. Search your work in progress for the first use of “look”. Copy and paste that paragraph and the ones immediately before and after into a blog post. Then tag five other authors.

You know that urban fantasy with the half-dryad main character (Vern Sumac) I keep talking about? Here’s a sampler. This comes from Chapter 1. The case around which the story revolves is being introduced.

I fisted my hands at my sides. You are not allowed to tackle your boss no matter how hot he is. “So,” I said instead, “what does the great wizard need his humble assistant to do today?”

“NYPD called last night after you left,” Warren said. It was always straight to business with Warren. “They got a call about some missing items at the Greenwich Pottery House on Jones Street, and they asked us to take it. Apparently it looks like magically assisted theft.”

“Apparently?" The desire to rip Warren’s clothes off diminished. “What did they mean apparently? Magically assisted theft is usually pretty obvious as magically assisted.”

Wednesday Word Tally

As I announced last Wednesday, the urban fantasy project has been completed in rough draft form. I’ve spent the last week (among other things) revising and doing a preliminary search for agents. As of right now, the first eighteen chapters have gone through Round 1 edits.

Word Count Before Edits: 93,414
Current Word Count: 97,060

And probably going up.


It’s difficult to write 50k words in one month. It’s really difficult to write 50k words in one month when your project is “Miscellaneous short stories and other projects.”

As of yesterday, though, I’m ahead of the game. My count is just over 10k, and my projected finish date was Nov. 28. I’m sure it’s changed since midnight (I haven’t done anything yet today), but here’s to lots of writing.

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Language of Mieville

Good Monday,

A couple of weeks ago for class, I read “Embasseytown” by China Mieville. For those who haven’t read the book, it’s heavily dependent/driven by language and what language really is/means. Mieville weaves a complex tale of a girl (Avice) who tells (through first person) the story of the Ariekei (a non-human race) and their demise and eventual saving through language.

This is my post from class. I talked about…you guessed it…language.

“What is she without words? With them she can think, have ideas, be reached. There isn’t a thought or fact in the world that can’t be hers.” – Anne Sullivan of Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker”

And truly what would she, or anyone else, be without language?

This quotation popped into my head many times while reading Embasseytown. The most prominent place was when the oratees (what the Ariekei are referred to when they become addicted to Language) finally realized that there was language other than Language. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m going to focus on language, and I’ve got quite a bit to say. It’s going to come in four sections that are as follows: strangeness of words beside certain other words, what are we without words, language as science fiction, and Avice.

-Strangeness of words beside certain other words

At the beginning of Embasseytown I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer mass of “new” words. I’m defining “new” as “made up by the author” for my purposes. There were just so many, and they just kept coming. “Automa,” “altoysterman,” “Dominday,” “Kedis,” “Shur'asi,” and the capital H on “Hosts”—all foreign. Never mind the reference to “a women” and “a men” and “shift parents.” There was just so much of “other” in Proem alone. I felt I should have been bothered by it, but, oddly enough, I wasn’t. Upon reading Proem a second time (before continuing to the rest of the book) it made much more sense.

Terre—Avice’s home. Interesting little place. And so on I read, chugging along very happily, fully accepting that I wasn’t on Earth.

“I was reminded of Laurel and Hardy, of Merlo and Rattleshape, of Sancho Panza and Don Quixote,” (Mieville 95).

Huh? I thought I wasn’t on Earth? Did I miss something? Don Quixote is clearly an Earth-culture thing. The feeling came again much later when a reference is made to “Lotus-eaters.” That’s a very specific reference to Homer’s Odyssey. Again, I felt I should have been very bothered by this, but I wasn’t really. The feeling was more of just a strange curiosity. It hit me that it was odd seeing such blatant classic literary culture (Don Quixote” and “Odysseus”) alongside talk of “shift parents” and “Hosts.”

The resulting question was “is this okay?” Clearly Mieville made it work, but at what cost? I finished the book. I did enjoy the book, but the nagging thoughts stayed at the back of my head. I suppose it’s possible for such references to travel great distances through space, but the concept just jumped out at me as weird.

(NOTE: It was brought to my attention through class discussions, that “Terre” is often used in science fiction to symbolize “Earth.” I’d recognized it as close to the Latin for “Earth,” but I hadn’t known about the sf tendency.)

And then there were the very human/Earth cuss words. That drew me into the story on a level I could relate to. Something bad happened, response “F*ck.” Perfect.

-what are we without words?

Anne Sullivan asked the question of Helen’s parents, and I asked it of Mieville.

The response, in both cases, violent, untrusting, misunderstanding. I had the pleasure of playing Anne Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker” my senior year of high school, and it was interesting viewing Helen Keller through her eyes. Sullivan was presented with a six-year-old girl with no means of communication, no way to know herself or her world.

When Mieville identified the oratees as “the deaf,” I found it fitting. We gain 80% of our sensory intake via sight and (I can’t find or recall the exact percentage, but it is the next largest amount) through sound. Imagine your life for a second without these two senses. Without sight (as I can partially attest) there is still the spoken word. There is whatever language we grow up speaking. Without sound there is signing, but even signing is limited. It’s flat. We don’t realize it, but we use so many vocal emotions in a day—a conversation, and the slightest shift in our voice denotes a completely different emotion. That is lost with sign language.

Now imagine a life without either. There is Braille and signing into a person’s hand, but how difficult must that be? Without sight or sound we are reduced to what is within arm’s reach. The world shrinks so quickly. And without language—without the ability to communicate, we are nothing but entities floating in space.

Now add addiction to a limited form of language, and you have the oratees. Not a pretty picture. Before she learned to communicate and broke free of the shell confining her to herself, Helen Keller was angry, frustrated, lost. Until the oratees realize there is another form of language available to them, they are much the same.

And this segues nicely into my third topic.

-Language as science fiction

Science fiction challenges its readers to look forward at what we could become. It begs the question of what it means to be human. I’d like to argue that Mieville has answered this question in a unique way. Rather than focusing on the physicality of what makes us human or the brain function or the moral code, he has chosen to focus on something that is unique to mankind.

“Their language is organized noise, like all of ours are” (Mieville 55).

There are thousands of species on Earth. Many of them have basic languages. Language is not just giving names to things. It is being able to communicate. Humans have words for things. Dogs bark. Birds chirp. Bacteria do whatever the heck they do.

But that is all words, barks, chirps and whatevers allow for. They allow us to speak in the here and now. “This is a table.” “I see the table.” The next step comes in furthering what “table” means. This brings me back to my undergrad senior seminar and the painstaking hours it took before the professor got his points across. Here’s where I’m honest to a fault. I never thought I’d use this class again and hated the class with a burning, fiery passion. So, here goes.

Birds, dogs, and bacteria have language. They do not have a language system. What’s the difference? I just explained language. A language system is taking that language and applying it to things that are not right in front of us. If I’m standing in front of a table and I say “table,” everyone knows what I’m talking about. It’s right there. But if I’m in a room devoid of furniture and I say table, everyone else in the room immediately brings to mind their own vision of what a “table” is. That is a language system. The ability to apply words to things that are not present. In short, this is called conceptualizing.

“Yes. Something in the new language. New thinking. They were signifying now--there, elision, slippage between word and referent, with which they could play” (Mieville 310).

Conceptualizing—that’s what happens when Avice finally makes her breakthrough. The Ariekei become “human” in terms of language. They are no longer restricted to the here and now. They can conceptualize. And it is in this way that Mieville addresses what it means to be human. He says, and I whole-heartedly believe this to be true, that to be human is to be aware of the now, the before, and the will be.

And isn’t that what science fiction is about too? It is the genre that begs its readers to come with it, embrace it, follow it into a great and unknown future where anything is possible. It needs its readers to be able to conceptualize the current impossibilities it lays before them. It requires what the Ariekei gain—the ability to see what does not exist and accept that it could exist. Mieville has not only commented on the human condition, he has commented on the very heart of science fiction. And he has shown how the two are so much alike through one race’s journey from having language to having a language system.


Avice—interesting choice of name. I wonder if it was intentional.

Vice - An evil, degrading, or immoral practice or habit.
A slight personal failing; a foible
(Taken from the Free Online Dictionary)

Avice is defined many ways throughout the book. One of these ways is “simile.” As a simile she represents what holds the Ariekei back. While plagued by simile the Ariekei do all manner of terrible things. They are addicted, insensible maybe, but still do bad things (applies to first definition).

At the same time, simile is an imperfection in the Ariekei. It keeps them from understanding what they can be (second definition).

So when Avice (A-vice) breaks through to them, they give her (simile) up. They change to metaphor. They stop having to compare themselves to things they know and begin to be their own entities. By breaking “a vice” they grow.