Friday, 14 August 2015

About Face - thoughts on disability in fiction


Too often in fiction we like to see characters with a disability as "brave" or "tragic" - something that can be mended, or magicked away, or ignored, or overcome. Sweet, and gender-neutral, and slightly romantic, but broken: a thing not quite right, that can be made "right" - and socially acceptable - by an external agency, under the right circumstances. Because that's the point of fiction, isn't it? We can edit out the things we don't want to know about, airbrush over the horrid bits, especially in historical fiction.

Well, I've been reading a lot lately about the soldiers in the first World War who suffered facial disfigurement, and the reconstructive surgery they were (and weren't) offered. It's been an ongoing battle in my head, around Thankful Russell, hence the research around facial disfigurement. Because it's so hard not to slip into romantic hero mould and have him just lightly damaged but noble, like a sort of 1640s Heathcliff - dark and brooding and, well, Ross Poldark. After all, he's handsome, right, our Russell? Fair and elegant and rather stunning from the right side - he can't be too disfigured, not so it shows: that's not how it works in books, he's got to be just a little bit enigmatically damaged.

And he ain't. The stories of those young men in the early twentieth century were heartbreaking - young men who'd lost their beauty by shrapnel, by machine gun, by fire, and who came home to find their sweethearts turning away, or that nurses didn't want to remove their bandages because they didn't want to see underneath. Their children cried to see them. Many of them turned to drink, many committed suicide because they were -
"..not meek and biddable, He was not grateful. He was sullen-mute and his cheek was an agony for most of his waking hours, itching and burning and throbbing. He whimpered and sobbed through most nights. He was barely worth the pennies Parliament paid for his care." ( -A Cloak of Zeal)

I used to work with a man, some years ago, whose face had been badly burned in an incident at his old workplace and who had ended up having to be redeployed because he could not bear to be looked at. He'd grown a beard, which was possibly not one of his better ideas, because it had grown in patchy and fair over the scars. (He was rather gorgeous, actually, with or without the scars, but he wouldn't have believed me if I'd told him.)

I had a really interesting review of the short story in which Russell meets the lady who will eventually become his wife (which is called "Si Tu Dois Partir" and it's available in the anthology "Steel and Lace" HERE) in which it was described as the story of two less physically-fortunate people who manage to find a touching and meaningful love. I get that, I get that absolutely, but why on earth should the fact of Russell's scarred face preclude him from romance?  Imagine a hero who isn't sure if he can still kiss a woman, who slurs his words when he's tired, who's not prepared to meekly put up with being stared at by the curious and patronised by the great and the good. Imagine a man with a conspicuous facial disfigurement who's still got a sexual identity, who is bloody good at his job, and who, every now and again, falls off the wagon when the strain of conforming to everybody else's normal is too much for him.

Thankful Russell's not pretty, not any more. Get used to it.

Friday, 7 August 2015

To His Coy Mistress, Some Lines After the Battle New-fought at NASEBY


Why court'st thou death instead of me?
Why, mistress, must thou prove thy worth
By putting all thy foes to flee
Despite the virtues of thy birth?

For lady, spurn me as you must
I know and love thy bravery
That's never failed to keep thy trust
In th'face of the King's knavery

Yet may I hope, my mistress gay,
My plea your fair ear reaches:
You dress yourself in fine array
And put on skirts instead of breeches?

I dare not test, lest what I find
Is frailer yet, a bubbled glass
That shatters in a changing wind
Or withers, like the mower's grass

Yet, lady, your secret's secure
- As yet is mine: that I am yours.

If you wondered what Luce was writing during A Wilderness of Sin....

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Smoke of Her Burning - and a bargain!

 


To celebrate Yorkshire Day, an exclusive cover reveal of the new book, The Smoke of Her Burning, set in Selby 1644. And to celebrate the cover reveal, the first three books in the series will remain at 99p each till the end of August! - help yourself here.


I hope there's a good explanation for this, Colonel Babbitt," Fairfax said, with a sigh. 
"No," said Hollie honestly, "but there is an explanation." 

There's a lot of miles between Essex and Cheshire.... 

...and newly-promoted Colonel Hollie Babbitt is cursing the most recent additions to his company, for every step of them. 

A scarred lieutenant with a death wish, and they don't call him Hapless for nothing. 
Captain Drew Venning. And his dog. 
Captain Penitence Chedglow, last seen smashing up the inside of Worcester Cathedral in an excess of godly zeal, and his new companion in bigotry, the silent but violent Webb. 
The mysterious Trooper Gray, a one-man insurrection. 

Forced to leave a posting to Cromwell's Eastern Association as a result of some more than usually scatter-brained chivalric meddling by the posh poet Lucey Pettitt, Hollie finds himself up to the elbows in freezing mud at Nantwich, mired in intrigue and insubordination. 

When Hollie's old nemesis Prince Rupert relieves the siege at Newark, freeing up a cavalry force to hammer Fairfax’s garrisons in Yorkshire, it looks as if the gallant Parliamentarian defenders will be overwhelmed in the North. But after a fierce attack is repulsed, the Northern Royalists retreat to their foothold at Selby, with its vital strategic command of both the Ouse and the road to York. 

It will be hard. It will surely be bloody. But Hollie’s rebel rabble may be the difference between victory and defeat for Parliament in the North.

Follow by Email

Awarded for Excellence in Research by 17th-Century Specialists

Awarded for Excellence in Research by 17th-Century Specialists