Monday, October 28, 2013

A Release Date, New Reviews, And How I'm Not As Comfortable With Zack's Autism As I Thought

First, some writing related news. Things Slip Through, my first collection of short fiction, has an official release date. It will "hit" the "streets" of Amazon November 15th, and there'll be a special pre-release sale through CreateSpace, starting November 5th.  Here's hoping that all the great pre-sale buzz will generate a productive debut...

Second, I came across another review last night, from fellow local author Joseph Falank. My favorite bit is the following:
The ultimate success of Things Slip Through is in its tone. These are some dark stories. And it's a credit to Lucia's talent that Things keeps moving. In his restraint, Lucia keeps us present with the people of his town instead of hammering us with too many thoughts or over-explanation. Writers do tend to be wordy, but Lucia keeps it lean and mean. That speaks of his confidence in his material.
What I love most about this review is the "lean and mean" part, because in all honesty, I've always struggled with too many thoughts or over-explanation.  I've labored intensely over the past few years to trim my prose and focus my word choice, and while I'm no Hemingway or Ray Carver, I think I've made some progress, and it's nice to see others thinking that, also.

Third, it's interesting that my novella, Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, has picked up some praise lately.  I also came across this review on Goodreads:
This is not your average tale of horror and Kevin Lucia is not your average author. It's a non-stop page turner that will grip you from the first page right through the epilogue. I could not put it down and you won't be able to either.
By no means have I "forgotten" about Hiram Grange, but it's been three + years since its release, and the reviews really don't come in anymore, so it's nice to see folks still stumbling across it.

But in other news...

This blog has always been about how our lives and writing intersect, or about writing, or about our lives in general. For awhile there, I blogged a lot about Zack's autism, (past posts here), and I haven't recently only because things have leveled off these past few years. Zack still has autism and life for us is far from normal (or rather, our "normal" bears very little resemblance to everyone else's "normal'), but things aren't nearly as hard as they were. Two things happened recently, however, that reminded me of a sobering fact: our son Zack is autistic. And we have no idea what the future holds for him.

First, several months back: one Sunday I had to stand-in for Zack's aide in pre-sechool church. And I've gotta say how thankful we've been for how our church has met Zack's needs. Some churches don't handle special needs well, but the folks at our church have gone above and beyond to meet Zack's needs. But one Sunday a worker was sick, and they needed me to fill in and watch Zack during Sunday School.

I thought I'd gotten pretty accustomed to Zack's autism. Thought I'd gotten past feeling embarrassed at how he behaves in public. And for the most part, I have - because in public, who cares, right? As long as he doesn't bother anyone else, I don't care how loud he is. And at home, I've pretty much turned a deaf ear to his verbal stimulation, because I know that's just how he needs to vocalize sometimes.

But in a classroom setting? Where I had to be responsible for his behavior?

Completely different story. I'm ashamed to admit that I was...well, embarrassed. At the way he ran around and wouldn't listen to the lesson, at how he stimmed, acting out his latest obsession from TV, at how he screeched and hollered and whooped. And I was ashamed then, too, because I thought I'd gotten past all that, gotten past feeling embarrassed. And because I felt embarrassed, I almost got angry, and that made me feel even worse.

And it sent a sobering message home. Right now, we're in a great place. He's transitioned well from the Children's Institute to Whitney Point Elementary School, he's done wonderfully, he's succeeding, and all his teachers love him.

But Zack is still autistic. And really, we have no idea what the future holds for him OR us. Abby and I operate (we have to, just to survive day to day), on the presumption that Zack will eventually (albeit slowly) gain the tools and skills he needs to manage his autism. We be able to manage it totally, that maybe he'll never live a completely "normal" life. We hold that potential truth far from us, not denying it, really...but giving it a wide berth.

And that day in church made me face that truth, head on, and it wasn't fun, at all.


Secondly and more recently (yesterday) while Madi and I were working on our little pumpkin lanterns for the front walk and Zack was making his usual rukus in the next room, Madi asked very quietly and matter-of-factly: "Will Zack's autism ever go away?"

Wow. What a question for an  eight year old to ask. She went on to say: "I just wonder, because the older grades don't have special classrooms for autism, so what will he do then, if he still has it?"

I answered with the truth: that Zack would always have autism, that it wasn't like a sickness that would go away, and that eventually, hopefully, Zack would learn ways to control his autism. She then answered in again a very mature voice, "That means I need to be a good example for him, don't I?"

I didn't show it, but this about broke my heart...because I don't want Madison to EVER think such a heavy burden rests on her shoulders alone. I explained to her that Abby and I and Zack's teachers were ALSO working hard to teach Zack, so she didn't have to worry about it all resting on her.

Pretty heavy stuff, huh? Driving home two very sobering truths:

1. My son Zack is autistic. He always will be. It's not something he can be "cured" of, it's something he'll have to learn how to combat every single day of his life.

2. In the face of all this, writing hoopla means very little. All the buzz surrounding the release of Things Slip Through has been amazing. The blurbs and reviews, the enormous response of local folks, the write up in the paper, this week's signing...these are things I've been dreaming of since 8th grade. But in the end, they pale in comparison to Zack's daily and future struggle, and his uncertain future.

But that's what family is for, what Faith is for, and what writing is for: to stand as bulwarks against the whirlpools of life...