Aphelion Issue 234, Volume 22
November 2018
 
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Last week my wife asked me a simple question that I couldn't answer. At first I was ashamed that I did not know the answer. Then I was angry because the answer she needed was directly tied to the reason I couldn't answer her question. The fact that I got angry about it also ties into the reason I couldn't answer. And that makes me quite sad. I spend a lot of time pretending that I have completely recovered from the automobile accident we were in back in 2007. But deep down I know that I am not the same man I was that morning when I woke up, several hours before we were rear-ended buy a teen who was driving far too fast to notice that our car was stopped in the road, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear so we could make a left turn. When I woke up the second time that day, in the ambulance, i knew something was wrong with me. Something besides the broken collarbone the seat belt caused. My mind was rather fuzzy. I had suffered a concussion. I have no memory of the accident itself. One minute I was sitting in the car with my foot on the brake and the turn signal on, watching someone dash out of the road we wanted to turn into in an attempt to beat the three cars we were waiting for to proceed past so we could make our turn. I remember thinking "that was dumb thing to do, those cars are too close for me to turn in, I wouldn't run a stop sign to try and get ahead of them..." The very next thing I remember is waking up in the ambulance hearing my wife telling the EMTs that they were NOT going to cut her new pants off of her so they could check her for injuries. I may have laughed out loud at that. But my thoughts were "at least she is all right..."

Lyn had what several CAT scans determined was a very mild whiplash, muscle strains, and a bruise from her seat belt saving her life. I had a broken collarbone, broken glass in the back of my head, minor cuts and bruises, and a serious concussion. It seems that I was directly in front of a bag of canned goods from our grocery shopping when the kid rear ended us. Several of those cans smacked me in the head as they exited our car through the front windshield. Thankfully, Lyn wasn't hit by any of them. An MRI at the emergency room revealed that my brain was swelling up from the impacts. I was concussed, in other words. I spent the next several weeks unable to wear my prescription glasses, because the swelling was so serious that it had compressed my eyeballs back into a shape that was almost normal, resulting in my having 20/20 vision again for the first time in 45 years. Gradually, the swelling went down, and I eventually returned to my accustomed nearsightedness.

But I noticed that I was far more absented-minded. My formerly encyclopedic mind was having trouble forming long-term memories. I noticed more aphasia as well. I would be talking, and had to grope for the next word I wanted to say. Sort of like one of the forms of stuttering, as I am told. The upshot of all the above is that I forget a lot of stuff now. Things I should remember, but simply don't. Stuff just disappears. Like today, I couldn't remember what we did with the paperwork concerning the various doctors and physical therapists we went to right after the accident.

People whom I have met since 2007 never knew the man I was before. So they have no way of knowing that back in the day I could remember far more trivia and important details absorbed over my many long years of life. People I knew well before the accident are aware that I am a bit different nowadays. No doubt the mark down my frequent lapses of memory to "senior moments," or are too polite to come out and say that I'm slightly brain damaged since the wreck.

"But- your stories, your music, the ray guns, stuff we know you did after the accident!" I can hear people thinking that.

Yeah, that's me after the thump on the head. I have to write a lot of stuff down now if I want to remember it later. Not being able to remember every little detail now without making notes doesn't keep me from being creative. It mostly makes editing something I wrote a journey into mystery. "I don't remember writing that!"

Most of the time I pretend I am the same as I ever was. Sometimes I am forced to accept that I am something less than I used to be. As handicaps go, this one isn't anywhere near as bad as those I have seen others cope with on a daily basis. I was lucky, actually. I could have lost so much more than some few of my memories, or ability to lay down new memories easily. I'm alive, Lyn is alive, I can cope with having to use notebooks to remember little details so long as we are still living.

I was lucky. Could have been far worse, really.

And just what does this slice of biography have to do with writing, you may ask.

I have a better understanding of the duties of EMTs at accident scenes, what goes on in Emergency Rooms at hospitals, and what aftercare at a doctor's office is like. As with anything a writer experiences, these real-life details can enhance the reader's experience when they encounter one of your stories. Adding in details a reader can relate to can, if used correctly, bring them closer into the story as they read. It makes the story more real to your readers.

Every bit of a writer's life can wind up being mined for those moments the readers can connect to, can understand implicitly, and which serves to make a story feel more accessible to your readers. It can also be therapeutic, in a way, to work through something that was so difficult to face for yourself, but that your readers might empathize with more easily. You have your own feelings, your own frustrations, your own experiences to draw upon in order to bring a story into vivid life in the mind's eye of your readers. You might be laying your sole bare to them, but working through that trauma by using your fictional characters to convey your personal experiences can, in some small way, help you learn how to cope with your own ghosts. But that is a bonus to using your personal experiences to guide the characters you create for your stories. Something that makes your characters more real to your readers.

If I were to write a story wherein a character has to cope with the death of a loved one, or has to cope with a crippling injury from a traffic accident, or has to learn how to deal with handicaps due to some injury, or has to rediscover who they really are due to brain damage from some horrific injury, or deals with physical therapy after an accident, then my writing would be more vivid and accessible because I actually have lived such a life. I can relate to such a character more intensely, and I hope I could write such a character with more feeling and emotion. These honest emotions can help you write in a way that your readers can connect to more easily.

Now, I am not saying that you have to have a deceased parent, or child, or crippling injury in order to write characters who have been damaged by their lives. But I am saying that if you can cope with the mental anguish of having suffered something yourself, you can bring to your writing a unique perspective that will not only make your writing stronger, but may actually help a reader who has experienced some sort of parallel to your own, personal experiences. Don't be afraid of using your personal life to create characters who undergo any manner of horrible experiences, or joyful experiences as well. Births, deaths, school, work, parties and weddings and funerals, each has equal value in bring your writing into the experience of your readers. Don't be afraid to write something that makes you cry because you know the pain of having it happen in your own life. And don't be afraid of writing about things that brought you joy, as well. We are writers. We have each lived and experienced things that could make gods weep, or shout with happiness and pride. We are human beings. Our readers are human beings as well. We must connect with our readers on all emotional levels.

Make them laugh, make them cry, make them afraid, make them rage against injustice, but above all, make your readers feel! They will understand, and they will look for more of your work.

Now I better shut up and let you get to reading the September issue.

Dan


BOILERPLATE:

First off, if you do the Facebook thing, feel free to join us on the Aphelion page there. The link is Aphelion Webzine. As an aside, the Editorial Mafia and I have found Facebook to be very useful. Given our different locations and schedules, it's come in handy as a way to discuss production details of new issues. Sometimes there are several of us using Facebook at the same time, so it's almost like the old chat room days.

Dan's Music Page This is my promo page here at Aphelion. All the links below, and more information about the albums, are located here.

The Never Bank On A Learning Curve CD on the Create Space website. My first album, with a wide range of styles and genres, covering the past three years of my working with the MAGIX Music Maker programs.

The Second Helping CD on the Create Space website. My second album, with just as wide a range of different musical styles, showing just how much I've learned in the past three years.

Dan's Studio-D Page on the Bandcamp website. Digital downloads of the albums, or each individual song if you prefer it that way. Just click on the album cover thumbnails and you'll see a list of each song on the album. Next to the song titles are links to read the liner notes, or to download the individual song. You can listen to each song for free. There is also a link to download each entire album at one go. I cannot say enough about Bandcamp! This is an amazing website. I have Rob, and many other friends, to thank for finally talking me into checking it out.

Here are some links to pages I have up promoting my music. When my book comes out I'll add those links to the promotion page, too. So far, there are links on that page to the Create Space Preview songs, the Create Space page for each album, the Amazon.com listings, and the link to the digital downloads page.

And here's a link to my Sound Cloud page:

Dan's Sound Cloud Page where all my music has been stored for your free listening pleasure. These are not as high a quality recordings as the ones on the CDs or on Bandcamp. But SoundCloud does have the virtue of having everything collected together in one place.

Check those links out, buy a CD or download if you like what you hear. And once again, thank you for your time,

Dan all my music has been stored for your free listening pleasure. These are not as high a quality recordings as the ones on the CDs or on Bandcamp. But SoundCloud does have the virtue of having everything collected together in one place.

Check those links out, buy a CD or download if you like what you hear. And once again, thank you for your time,

Dan


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ON THE COVER

Title: "X" Structure at Core of Whirlpool Galaxy (M51)
Photo Credit: H. Ford (JHU/STScI), the Faint Object Spectrograph IDT, and NASA.