At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Thursday, March 21, 2013

To Overcome

One of the grand aspects of writing is choosing a protagonist that has a certain niche about him. In my murder mysteries, that hero is Cameron Ballack. Ballack has a stratospheric IQ, a photographic memory, an ability to dissect what should be done--whether asking a penetrating question or analyze a Gaelic football match--and a need to complete his puzzles every day: Sudoku in the morning, the Jumble in the afternoon. But there is one more piece to the situation that makes Cameron Ballack unique.

He can't walk. He gets around in a wheelchair. Granted it's a top-of-the-line wheelchair that can hit top speeds of 9-11 mph.

But he's got a problem. He has X-linked myotubular myopathy. His fine and gross motor skills are such that he cannot fire a gun, or slap the handcuffs on a criminal, or pull a runaway thief to the ground. Much of his job occurs in weakness that he has to find a way around.

I tell Cameron Ballack's story that way because he has many like him on earth. One such young man is my son, Joshua, who bears myotubular myopathy (MTM) in his muscles, is wheelchair-bound, and shows a quirky side of him as well. Our late son Jordan also faced every day of his life with this genetic disorder coursing through his muscles. There are many boys in the MTM community who are not promised tomorrow. Few afflicted boys live past the age of ten. Many die early on.

So why make this part of Cameron Ballack's stories? Simply because of the wider context of the series itself. Hardship, evil, difficulty, weakness, pain. These are real parts of life, but we can either sit there and be overcome by them, or we can overcome those obstacles. Ballack chooses to overcome them by any means necessary. Not to survive, not to balance out and hope for the best, but to solve each case and bring justice. To win.

It's my hope that as this series (beginning with Litany of Secrets this autumn) comes out, people will enjoy the story itself. But I also hope they will be touched by the character of someone (and many who face more daunting challenges of MTM) with a passion to overcome.

I can think of no better way to finalize this point than to direct you to this video of Paul and Alison Frase. They spearhead fundraising and research efforts toward a cure for the afflicted boys of MTM. Paul (a former NFL lineman) and Alison lost their own MTM-afflicted son, Joshua, on Christmas Eve 2010, but they haven't stopped the desire to overcome. In fact, that was the mantra of Alison's words at Joshua's funeral. I implore you to watch it. Warning: Make sure you have some Kleenex nearby.

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