“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.” Mark Twain

Friday, September 21, 2012

Am I Jaded or Is Something Missing?

Being a writer has changed the way I read books. That's a good thing. And a bad thing.

Good things:
  • I can more easily recognize and explain what I like about books.
  • Plot twists delight me more.
  • I better appreciate a well turned phrase more.
Bad things:
  • I can more easily recognize and explain what I don't like about books.
  • It's easier to predict the plot.
  • Lots of writing fails to draw me in and engage me with the characters.
It's that last bullet that I think about the most.

I've been reading on my own for 50 years. Libraries are a way of life for me. I adore bookstores, especially used bookstores where I can afford to buy something. I tend to gravitate toward the classics and literary contemporary books of various genres. Not so much bestsellers. Things like Jane Eyre. Authors like Steinbeck and Dickens. And L'Engle, Leguin, And of course there are many more that escape my memory.

These days I'm reading my indie-author peers quite a bit. There are slews of us in every genre. Unfortunately, I'm find a common flaw with many of the books I'm reading.

I don't care as much as I would like about the protagonist. It's not that I don't like them as...people. They're nice with goals I understand. They're just not deep enough, three-dimensional enough, not emotionally there enough. They tend to think the same things over and over.

Romances are easy to come by on Kindle for free. I kind of hate to admit, as a person who would love to live by my writing one day, that I get most of my books for free. But I try to leave a review, especially if there are not many posted. And I talk about what I liked.

So, I've been reading contemporary romance. Because that's sort of what I write.

And most aren't satisfying. I don't feel the loneliness of the protagonists before they meet the one, or the elation or the frustration when they do. The characters experience something, but not deeply enough to pass on to me. I'm kind of like, Meh, that's nice. Or Really?  Or, That's too bad. Life goes on.

Kind of like watching a movie while doing something else and realizing I'm getting enough of the story to know what's happening so I don't have to stop what I'm going to focus. And the movie doesn't do enough to make me want to stop what I'm doing, so I don't.

Like I said earlier, I've been around the library stacks quite a few times, and around the  proverbial block. Somethings just don't get to me like they used to; the old been there done that. But a good romance should, don't you think? Am I not still a woman? Is my heart not still beating? Last time I checked, yes to both.

For a little while I thought, well, it's just me, I'm jaded. But then I remembered some books I've read lately. South of Bixby Bridge by Ryan Winfield. Trevor pulled me into his life completely. Another is
Into the Free by Julie Cantrell. These books weren't like, "Well, I guess I can read a little now." They were like, "I've GOT to read. Now!"

New books, new authors who know how to engage readers.

I'm still going to support my fellow indie authors by reading and reviewing the books that appeal to me. And I'm still reading each one hoping it will hook me so I HAVE to read it.

With most of my life behind me, and as a writer, I don't have time to waste on what doesn't compel me to keep reading.

What about you? How do you engage with a book? What sucks you in and holds you? What disappoints you it it's not there?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Warning: Hotties Ahead. Casting David.

Now for something completely different.

When I write a book, I visualize the appearances of the characters, just like readers do. It's fun. I don't like having images of people on my cover(s) because when I've read books where the image doesn't match my idea, it detracts from my enjoyment much like when images in a movie adadptaion don't match my preconceived vision.

But, I imagine most writer's these days fantasize about their book being optioned for a movie, then actually made. Even better would be to be asked for input on the actors.

But I'm not there yet. However, that doesn't mean I can't think about it.

Now, not many people have read Another Place on the Planet. Yet. But if you have, you can tell me what what you think of the first character I'm casting. David Briggs.

David is about 26 when Lily meets him at the age of 42 on the same night she meets Charlie. I described him as Adonis Junior. Charlie is Adonis. (I had a student named Adonis one year. Seriously.) David is tall and slender (Sorry short and chunky guys. You don't make it into romance novels just like chunky girls don't. That's a topic for another time.) David has dark hair and eyes. He's an up and coming actor, poised to be the next "it" boy. Well, ya gotta read it.

This is Henry Cavill. He's Superman in the upcoming flick, Man of Steel, I do believe. He would need darker eyes, but that's no biggie. I would have to see how he smiles.
 I'm not sure who this cutie is, but I'd give him a screen test. And dinner. And keep reminding myself I'm married. But if he doesn't get David, there's another role for him to look at.
 I think this is pretty much how I pictured David at the time in his life when he meets Lily.

This guy is a definite contender. Love that smile. With dark contact lenses, yes. He's a South American actor who would have to speak English without an accent.

Who would you chose? David will play a large role in Lily's life later on. You'll have to read Another Place on the Planet to find out how their relationship begins.

It's FREE on Smashwords until 8AM PST Sunday morning, 9/9/2012. Coupon code is QH63K.

We'll cast Lily and Charlie in future.

Comment, please!

My Cancer Story: Bad Ass Cancer Survivor

In honor of September being Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I'm sharing my story of living with leukemia. The WHOLE story.

Part 4

How do I live with this? Am I still angry or scared.

Before I was diagnosed, I had started a new growth phase of my spiritual journey as a Christian. For a few years previously I had been doubting a few things about what I believed and the whole Christian culture thing.

 Someone I worked with at the time invited me to his church, so I went to their Wednesday evening services for about 6 months. Their faith experience was different than anything I had previously. I received prophecies and then finally the overwhelming acceptance that God really does love me.

By his good grace, I knew that when I was diagnosed. And even though I had my human doubts, I also had a new sense of well-being, that whatever happened would be okay. I didn't want to die--most people my age don't!--because at the same time I was discovering my writing gift and was excited by the possibilities. And I had lost a bunch of weight--over a hundred pounds all told from my highest. I had hope.

But this spiritual journey can be a whole other series. Suffice it to say now, I got what I needed. And be careful when you pray for more faith. It doesn't just come. You have to go through something to earn or to realize it was there all along.

I was a little angry, however. Especially at the fact that here I was, getting serious and being successful at taking responsibility for my health and WHAM! I'm broadsided by something out of the blue. So like my life. I joked if I ever get to my goal weight, something will probably kill me the next day.

But then, I took onto account as far as cancer goes, I'm lucky. Treatment has been easy and accessible. I don't need chemo that makes me sick and knocks me out of all of life for a year or more. Right now, it mostly just a pain in the butt.

But not even a big pain. I've talked to others who were diagnosed later in the progression of the disease (It has 3 phases--chronic, accelerated and blast crisis) and needed more aggressive treatment. Mine was caught very early, it seems. For some, side effects of Gleevec are difficult to live with and thye need to try one of the other treatments. Anxiety and other psychological issues make it a harder journey for some.

I don't know how this will play out, where God will take me with it. It's been a bitter sweet experience, but at this point in the journey, now that all the flurry of frequent doctor visits, etc. is over, I can see lots of good that has come from it.

Tomorrow: Blood Cancer Awareness Month and YOU!

Ps-the dog is Faith the Bi Ped Dog. In case you're wondering how she came to be here.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

My Cancer Story: Lucky?

In honor of September being Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I'm sharing my story of living with leukemia. The WHOLE story.
Thanks again to zazzle.com

Part 3

When last we saw this intrepid blogger, she wan in the office of an oncologist, having just been informed she tested positive for Philadelphia + Chronic Mylogenous (or Myeloid) Leukemia.

And I was scared and angry. At that point, mostly scared. I started crying, not full out sobs and wailing, but tears and sniffs, anyway.

Most people aren't comfortable with other people's tears. Not even medical professionals who's job sometimes involves giving people bad news or helping them cope with it. My doctor, however, took my and and said, "There's no reason to be scared. It's very treatable." And we scheduled me for a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the blood test results. I was given a booklet from the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and sent on my way.

I'm the kind of person who knows a little about a lot of things. So it was a challenge to read and understand what was going on with my rebellious blood cells.

There are two basic types of leukemia, acute and chronic. Acute, of course, progresses quickly. I've talked to people who felt sick for a few weeks and got to the doctor just in time to be treated. Even a few more days delay would have been fatal. Chronic takes it's time. It can still progress to the fatal level but does so more lowly.

CML, though a rare form of cancer, is most common in the elderly, but can occur at any age. At this time there are about 23,500 people living with CML. Only about 2.9 percent of that are children or youth. In my age range, only about 2 in 100,00 people have it.

Thanks to the National Cancer Institute
I'll spare you the details about the five different types of blood cells. Suffice it to say, they all come from stem cells. What happens with Ph+CML is chromosomes in the stem cells, for some reason still unverified, go whacko. Pieces break off the bottoms of the 9 and 22 and translocate. The little bit left of 22 and the little bit of 9 that attached to it is called the Philadelphia Chromosome because it was discovered by researchers at the U of Penn in Philly. This is the cause of CML.

So the resulting new little mess directs the production of a mutant protein that causes an abnormal amount of white cells to be made. When left undetected and untreated over time, the mutant white cells don't mature enough to do their job and don't die off normally, leaving an overabundance of useless cells that crowd out healthy red cells.

Treatment for this kind of leukemia used to involve all the horrors of chemotherapy, and for people in advanced phases or those undergoing bone marrow or stem cell transplants, it still does. I, however, am LUCKY.

Lucky because in the early part of the last decade, a new therapy was approved that targets the production of the mutant protein with relatively minor side affects. I responded well and early and was declared to be in remission less than 9 months later. I have a good prognosis of surviving long enough for something else to kill me in my advancing age.

From Cancersymptomspage.com
My treatment, Gleevec, is the first generation and was considered the magic bullet. Two slightly more advanced drugs have been developed, Tasigna and Sprycel. Each has side effects that are mostly manageable and often go away completely. Each have possible serious side effects as treatment continues. The general consensus among oncologists is for the patient to remain in treatment as long as possible. When stopping treatment after remission there is a 50/50 chance of the cancer returning in a more aggressive form.

Even though I'm not "cured," I've come to be satisfied with where I am. A bone marrow or stem cell transplant might cure me for good, but since I'm older and have other medical conditions, the rigor of chemo and totally destroying my immune system after I'm in remission might be deadly.

I was also lucky I had very good insurance at the time of diagnosis. Gleevec is over $6000 a month! Now I have access to a patient advocacy program that provides Gleevec for me at a minimal monthly cost.

If you would like more information about CML or any other type of blood cancer, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society is the best place to go.

Tomorrow: How do I live with this? Am I still angry and scared?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Cancer Story: The Big Infection and What It Told Me

In honor of September being Blood Cancer Awareness Month, I'm sharing my story of living with leukemia. The WHOLE story.

Part 2

So, where was I? Oh yes, in pre-op, all prepped, hearing my WBC was 28,000 and praying they wouldn't cancel surgery to give my lap-band to help me lose weight.

Dr. Blackstone
They didn't. Surgery went as scheduled and it was great. BTW, my surgeon was Dr. Robin Blackstone of Scottsdale Bariatric. She's one of the foremost in her field with a comprehensive program of education and support.

In a few months, I lost 77 pounds, and felt great. Things were going fine. Just fine. I was on my way.

To another infection. In February, over the course of a week or two, a burning feeling developed in my lower left leg along a vein. It was like a burning robe there. When I finally went to get it checked out by my PCP, she had me see the venus ultrasound dept. first. The tech did her thing and gave me the report, folded and stapled to take right to my doctor. Not good. I snuck a look at what I could on the elevator between floors and discovered I was headed for the hospital.

It turned out I had a dandy case of cellulitis, which is a skin infection under the skin. A few little germies sneak in through a minute loss of integrity in your hull, so to speak. Then they set up a happy little colony where the sun don't shine and proceed to be fruitful and multiply, in my case along a vein where the circulation stank to begin with.

I was admitted to the local hospital. Remind me to post the hilarious diatribe I wrote about that stay sometime. IV's of intense antibiotics were my fate. Despite the 4 days of heavy IV antibiotics, they weren't totally pleased with my progress so I ended up with a PICC--a surgically placed venous catheter that allowed me to go home and adminster my own antib's and go about my life. It happened over the long February weekend so I only missed like a day of work. I'd missed about a week in December for the bariatric surgery and I didn't want to miss much more.

But even after the hospital and their toxic waste medication, my white count only went down by 3000 to 25000. Distressingly curious, especially since I was treated at home for three weeks. When the count didn't drop after that, well...

The next step was to the hemotologist. I had forgotten hemotologists are also oncologists so I ended up on the floor when I called the hemotologist and they answered the phone with, "Oncology," said in a chipper voice. I booked an appointment. And there were tests.

In the meantime, as the curious and smart are prone to do, I researched my symptoms. I googled "causes of high white blood count." I ended up here. I clicked through most of the links and decided Chronic Mylogenous Leukemia (CML) was the best fit. Click here for the list of symptoms.

Everything fit pretty good. Well, fatique, I was born tired but was feeling pretty good since I had just lost weight. Night sweats. Sure, but I was menopausal. But the infections. I had rarely been sick and it had been years since I been on anitbiotics for anything. Then, like five in less than a year? Fishy. And losing weight before surgery. My PCP had prescribed an appetite supressor to help with that but would only let me stay on for so long because it's addictive. Even after I stopped, I continued to lose weight without trying too hard. And I have to WORK to lose weight. That was fishy, too. And my skin was pale, almost see-through.

So, when my oncologist (or onc for lazy typists) told me she was pretty sure I had Philadelpia + CML, I wasn't shocked. I was scared and angry. But not shocked.

Tomorrow: How bad and what to do?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Lookie What I Did!

Broken Conversations

I'm not a political person. I tried. But since I'm non-confrontational by nature, can listen and analyze and can see value in each side, there seems to be no spot for me.
More us than them, at this point.

What we tend to hear about through the media are the extremes. Conservative and liberal alike. And there's been a lot of hatred spewed the last few months. It's rife on the social networks. If you don't agree with some view, you're branded as anything from intolerant to some variation of the f word.

I listened to Romney's acceptance speech last night. It's easy to give speeches, especially if you have a speech writer. I could give an speech accepting the nomination from my political party to run for president. A bunch of well-turned promises put forth with energy, enthusiasm and charisma. I have enough acting skills for that.

Putting that to work after the elected takes office requires more than acting and a pretty words.

Next week will be Obama's speech. He'll do the same thing. Surrounded by his supporters, he'll spin well-meaning promises into votes. Whether or not enough remains to be seen.

It's a broken system. Maybe because the country is too big. Maybe because we have lost the art of conversation. We no longer sit down and listen. We stand, shake our finger, call a name, and walk away.

You're against abortion? You're a woman hater!

No, I want more women to be born.

You're for gay marriage? You hate families.

Gay people want to have families, too.

I'm not proposing to know the answers. I'm just saying we need to sit down and listen to each other and stop behaving like children whom we try to teach to behave like we don't.

The only minds ever changed by name calling are weak ones. I believe it's unwise to be so single-minded about a cause that you can't even listen to another person's argument against it. Listening doesn't mean you're weak or you have to change your mind. It means you care.

I'm not sure this post is saying what I want it to. But I'm tired of the hateful language and immature stances of leaders and citizens.

This is my call to action: Listen with love. Speak with love.