27 April 2017

On the Subject of Embalming

I am now on the fifth revision of Incorruptible. This time around I am correcting plot problems. I have two major plot problems. Both can be corrected by strategically adding information somewhere within the narrative. They both also require research.

This past week I have tackled the subject of embalming. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I can say my protagonist is a mortician, and I am familiarizing myself with embalming equipment. I’m not sure how much will end up in the novel. There is a delicate balance that I am trying to maintain. A novel is fiction, after all, so a lot of what I write comes from my imagination. Yet, it needs to be realistic, too. I have to keep my readers in mind, so I need to maintain a level of realism without being overly graphic. It is not an easy thing to do.
One of the criticism I’ve had about my writing is that I am not very descriptive. There is truth in that. So I am trying to add more descriptive prose. Yet, I am someone who doesn’t really like a lot of description in the novels I read. I tend to be bored when people describe scenery or physical features of their characters. My mind wanders, and then I find myself pulled out of the story. I also don’t like an author to tell me everything. I like to use my own imagination. So again, I am trying to find a balance in that, be a little more descriptive when necessary, while at the same time, not bore my reader with a lot of unnecessary details. Again, it’s not an easy thing to do.

In the next few weeks, I am going to call a local funeral director and conduct an interview. A lot of the information I need about funeral homes and embalming in general, I have found on the internet. But I need a live human being to answer some of the more interesting questions. I’m actually excited about it. I can’t wait to get into the mind of a real mortician.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

21 April 2017

My Muse Is Back

After a long vacation, my muse is back. I dove into my manuscript and really got to work this week. I'm about two thirds finished, and I've cut over 4,000 words. I hope to cut more with the next revision.

I've now identified the main problems in the story, and I'm trying to fit the solutions into the draft.

Then, I'll need to go through the whole thing once again to see if it all works. After that, I'll examine my sentence structure, phrasing, and grammar. After I'm done with all that, I'll send it off to my editor and then to a proofreader. So right now, I have no time frame on when the novel will be published. That's the good thing about Indy writing--no deadlines.

I've also been doing research--a lot of research, learning from authors, editors, and book designers. I've come to discover just how little I know. And I think back on how I just jumped right into my first novel, as a true novice, and I wonder how I did what I did. I imagine if I had done my research before I wrote the book, I probably would've been too discouraged to even try.

But now with book three, it's important for me to learn as much as I can about writing and publishing. I've made a lot of mistakes in the past, but the important thing is I've learned from them.

I'm also planning a few other things that I'll tell you about when the time is right.

That's all for now.

11 April 2017

Why I Decided to Share My Port-a-Cath Story

I’ve been doing some soul searching, wondering why I feel the need to share with the world that I suffer from Crohn’s Disease and have had a port-a-cath placed to receive my maintenance drug, Remicade. Seriously, I wondered why I wanted to share such a personal thing. I’m actually a pretty private person, yet here I am telling such a personal story on the internet.

I thought long and hard about it. Why did I feel the need to share it?

Here's the story . . . 

Two doctors and two nurses told me to consider getting a port-a-cath. They all said it would make my life easier. Since Remicade is keeping me in remission, I have to stay on the drug. That means infusions every two month for however long it works. That is years of IVs. But I was still unsure. After all, health care professionals don’t always look at the patient. Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Things become routine—patients become routine, too. I am just one of thousands of patients, and a port-a-cath is nothing to them. They see them every day, but they don't live with them.

We are now in an age where we have to be our own health advocates. And that’s what I decided to do.

So, I did all kinds of research on the internet. I even watched the actual surgery of a port placement on YouTube. I read about all the risks and all the benefits, but I was still unsure.

I watched more videos about accessing the port during treatments. I read blogs and went on chat sites. I wanted to know exactly what I was in for. Many of the stories I read were what could go wrong—infection, malfunction, etc, and I was still undecided.

Port-a-caths are usually associated with cancer treatments. Oftentimes, cancer patients have to receive chemotherapy every week or even every day. The port makes the treatments easier. And of course, I thought, I only get my treatment every two months. Do I really need to have a port? Yet, every time I went, I was filled with anxiety. Even if the nurse could find a good vein and start the IV, sometimes it would stop mid-treatment. There was always a fear that one day I wouldn’t receive the drug at all.

Finally, I went to speak to the surgeon. He told me everything I already knew, but it was his wife who finally convinced me. She had had a port, and she could give me a first-hand account of her experience. I think that’s what I was looking for, and I think that is why I wanted to share my own experience--maybe someone somewhere will read this and not be so afraid.

Port-a-caths aren’t just for cancer patients. So many people need treatments for so many things, and many have port-a-caths. At first, I saw getting one as a sign of illness, but for me, it is a sign of wellness—something that will help keep me well. I am not just dealing with the physical aspect of the disease, it is also the emotional aspect, and if I could make my treatments easier, less stressful, and less painful, I was willing to try it.
I had my first treatment with my new port on Saturday. There was absolutely no stress and no pain. I was told that the first few times it is accessed, it might be painful. I felt nothing at all. I should have done it years ago. If I had, maybe my veins could have been saved. But I am thankful I have it now. 

So I wanted to share my story for this reason: You must be your own advocate, search for your own answers, and do what is right for you. Seek out guidance from people who know, and stop listening to negativity from people who don't know. 

While I was debating on whether or not to get the port, I remember telling someone that I shouldn't get it just to make my life easier. I remember he answered something like, "why not?" I was surprised by his response, but it got me thinking--why not? After all, isn't Crohn's hard enough? Shouldn't my treatments be easy, if they can be?

Of course, the answer is yes. And that's exactly what a priest told me a few years ago, when we were talking about suffering . . . Crohn's is a big enough cross to bear, he said, so there's no reason to look for more suffering. 

Yes, everything is connected, and each person I mentioned played a role in my decision. 

And I will admit the doctors and nurses were right! 

I won't say the surgery was painless. It wasn't. I still have pain now and then where the catheter enters the subclavian vein. (I told you I did my research.) But I can deal with that, knowing it is temporary and I can receive my treatments without stress and anxiety.

So now, I will be another port-a-cath story on the internet for someone else to search out. 

04 April 2017

Today is My Anniversary

Yes, today is my anniversary. It is not an anniversary someone would want to necessarily celebrate, but today is the day I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and that was nine years ago.

I never would have thought I could have made it this far, and I’ll be honest, on April 4, 2008, I really felt like my life was over. I was so sick I could barely pull myself out of bed, and when I did pull myself out of bed, I was in constant pain—a pain unlike any I had ever experienced before—or since.

A year later, and after trying several medications, my condition was still out of control, so my doctors sent me to Philadelphia to see an expert in the field of gastroenterology. This doctor saved my life. Okay, I may be exaggerating, but she definitely saved my sanity and my livelihood. I am in remission now, and I have her to thank for it.

On May 5, 2010, she started me on Remicade infusions. Remicade is considered a chemotherapy drug and it is administered through an IV infusion. I won’t go into the hows and whys of this medication, but it works for me right now, and it has given me my life back. For seven years now, I have received these treatments every two months.

Now, I am beginning a new chapter, and I thought I would share it with my readers. Three weeks ago I had a port-a-cath placed in my chest. After seven years of IV infusions, my veins are no longer easy to access. On the recommendation of three doctors, I went ahead and agreed to have the port placed. I will receive my first infusion through my new port on Saturday. I’m not sure what to expect, but I think my new port will bring with it a sense of freedom. I have to stay on Remicade to remain in remission, so I see the port as a necessity.

Since I now have a port-a-cath, I have to wear a medical ID bracelet. I received a silicone bracelet along with a card to keep in my wallet from the hospital right after my surgery. But the bracelet is gray and bland and boring. I needed something more fashionable. So I found myself an Etsy seller who makes bracelets for ID tags. Here are some of my bracelets.  I have to wear my bracelet every day, so I need a bit of variety—and a little bling doesn’t hurt either.

This last is a special request. I asked Michele to make me a bracelet with a Snow White theme--poison apple and all. Isn't it lovely? You can visit Michele's store here. She makes medical ID bracelets, but you can have any of her designs made into a regular bracelet. 

 And here is a fun fact about April 4. It is also Robert Downey, Jr's birthday and that just makes it a great day all around. 

01 April 2017

Surround Yourself With People Who Lift Your Spirit

Last week I was finally able to get together with an author friend of mine. He and I have become close over the past few years, and we are a very strange match. If providence hadn’t played a role in things, I doubt our paths would have ever crossed.    
I won’t go into the long story of how we met, but circumstances put us in the same place and time, and since we are both authors, we have bonded in a way that is very unique.     

So last Thursday, after a few cancellations, we finally met for dinner, and as usual, a large part of the conversation turned to writing—the ups (mostly his attitude) and the downs (mostly my attitude).
And a strange thing happened. I left feeling recharged. Once again, I am reassured about what direction I am taking with my writing. All the doubts have been erased. I owe a lot of my change in attitude to him. He is not just a friend, he is a cheerleader, and whenever we get together, I am reminded of why I am really writing.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s had his share of knocks in his writing life, but it doesn’t seem to get him down. He doesn’t forget why he writes, and that is something I need to be reminded of every now and then.

His positive, upbeat personality has stayed with me, and it has made me realize that we are all affected by the people around us. If we surround ourselves with negative people, negativity begins to seep into us. If we surround ourselves with positive people, we are lifted outside ourselves to something even higher.

My point?

Surround yourself with people who will lift your spirit, not break it. If it taps your energy, rethink it. We all need someone in our life who can talk us through the bad stuff and help us celebrate the good stuff. If you can be that for someone else, great, but sometimes we need someone to be that for us.