Friday, August 31, 2012


End of August Musings

August 2012 has been an August to remember.

Now just why is that? Let's count the ways in which August 2012 is one for my personal record books:

1. My little "hospital adventure": 2.5 days cooped up on in the geriatrics wing suffering from the after-effects of my pancreas that apparently had attempted to commit hari-kari. (If more information about this is needed, refer to the Blogpost entitled "Hospital Adventure".) Today, on this rainy last day of the month, I met with my GP who decided to set up a "HIDA scan" to determine if my gall bladder is what enticed my pancreas to malfunction. The main thing I am not looking forward to with this HIDA scan? Having to lay motionless inside a machine on my back for over an hour! Having radioactive isotopes flowing through my veins and then down into my intestinal tract doesn't concern me. No, not in the least! It's having to remain immobile for over an hour! And to be attired once again in a loose-fiting hospital gown to boot! ACK and PTL!

2. Both of my parents needing to vacate their cozy two-bedroom condo where they have lived for nearly 20 years to begin a new chapter in their lives in an assisted-living community 30 miles from the city where they have lived together since 1969! Since this has been happening nearly 200 miles away, I've thankfully been kept abreast of the details via emails with my siblings who have done all of the leg-work, etc. Now the issue of putting the condo up for sale and deciding what to do with all of their things must be dealt with. ACK and PTL!

3. The polshing and then publishing of the second book in The Land of Betrovia trilogy. (For more information, check out this Blogpost: "Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls -- the Process".) Three months ago I promised via The Blog that Lycentia: Harrak's scrolls would be out by Labor Day. And so it was! Is it perfect? No. Does having it "out there" for anyone to read and comment on make me nervous and/or naseous? Maybe. Do I feel as good about finishing it as I did about publishing Betrovia about this same time last summer? Oh yeah, I sure do! ACK and PTL!

4. The fourth-straight month of nearly no rain to hit the ground in MidMO. The word "drought" has been used even by the national media to describe what we have been suffering through all summer here in MidMO. Thankfully, though, today, on the last day of the month, there's almost 2" of the glorious wet-stuff in the rain gauge on the deck! Even though it took the remains of Hurricane Issac which just two days ago dumped nearly 25" on Louisianna and Mississippi to break this long dry spell, the relief is much-needed! ACK and PTL!

5. And last but not least: the beginning of the defense of my Fantasy Football title in the FF league I organized 4 years ago. I have sorted The PreDraft List. I have written a note and placed it on the table next to my computer desk to remind me of when the online draft will happen. And what if I get, for some out-of-this-world reason, FIRST PICK in the draft? Who will I pick? I don't know! I just don't know! Last year, I got to pick last of 12 "managers" (which means I also got the 13th pick as well). ACK and PTL!

I suppose it would be important to add that in the middle of all this, I still worked every day for MFA Freeburg (at least a little bit each day!) or at church (my part-time job). Do I wish September 2012 to be just like August 2012?

NOT IN THE LEAST! ACK and, most-importantly, Praise the Lord!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Little Hospital Adventure!

Last Monday afternoon, after enjoying another great "brown-bag" lunch at work (lunch consisting of my normal fare: a processed-turkey sandwich, some baby-cut carrots, etc.), I started experience an unusual amount of intestinal gas. By that evening, the gas had moved into my lower abdomen and was causing a great deal of pain. By midnight, Wifey convinced me that it was time to visit one of our local ERs. So, by 1AM Tuesday morning, there I was, stretched out on a cold ER gurney, still in a great deal of pain, where a handful of ER techs poked, proded and pricked my swollen body to their liking. Over two hours later, an ER doctor came into my "stall" and told me that I was experiencing acute pancreatitis. Wonderful, I thought; now that this pain has a name, how about giving me some relief from it? After he left, a nurse returned and pumped a few CCs of antacid into my veins. Now, I do know what heartburn, etc. feels like and this sensation was definitely not heartburn. So, after about another half-hour, I told the ER staff that the pain was still there. And it wasn't too much longer until one of the nurses introduced my body to about 50 CCs of Demerol. This was one fine medical invention that the nurse liberally pumped into me. In less time than it takes to remember my home phone number, I was so dizzy that I could not even open my eyes without causing the ceiling to spin wildly. Wifey was seated not more than 3 feet to my left. But as she talked to me, she sounded like she was a hundred feet away. And when I was actually able to create some coherent vocalizations, all I remember saying was "I don't like Demerol." Oh, do I need to add that for the first time since that previous afternoon I was "feelin no pain"?

By 4AM, I was admitted to the hospital and for the next 2.5 days, I lived in the "geratrics" wing of St. Mary's hospital, just a few feet away from the oncology ward. As far as I could tell (from when my IV-tree buddy and me took our little walks around the third floor) i was the youngest patient on that floor. My roommate was a 72-year old former school bus driver who had been in-and-out of the hospital since January. Charlie the school bus driver was so weak that he could not get out of bed or even back in on his own. And when he did stand up, his BP would drop from something like 110/70 to a scary 80/38! Wednesday morning, Charile's doctor told him that he was going to give him some new meds to help increase his energy level as well as to raise his BP.

Each morning around 6:30 a gastro-intestinal doctor told me about my gall bladder being the cause of the pancreatitis. She stressed during each visit that it needed to come out within the next six weeks. Tuesday morning my GP said that he wanted to wait for the results of the ultra-sounds (which occured later that morning) before pinning the blame on my poor gall bladder. Wednesday morning, my GP returned to say that the ultra-sounds showed that I was blessed with a "slushy" gall bladder (which is what a 2004 ultra-sound also revealed). He went on to say that since there were no stones, he wanted to prescribe one more test which would have to happen once my pancreas had calmed down (which is going to happen the morning of Aug. 31). He added that because the pancreas was surrounded by intestinal gases, its condition could not be effectively-analyzed via those ultra-sound images. Thursday morning the GI doctor said that even though the most-recent blood samples showed a slight increase in pancreatic enzymes, it was nothing to get excited about. So she said that I could be leaving the hospital as soon as noon that day.

Even though Charlie's condition was obviously more-serious than mine, ironically he had more freedom than I did; I was not allowed to eat or drink ANYTHING from the time I went into the ER until breakfast-time Wednesday morning (even though one of the night-nurses stuck me a cup of delicious ice chips late Tuesday night!). However, Charlie could have anything he wanted for his meals. But because he was struggling with staying awake and lucid, he hardly ate anything. While the nurses gave Charlie access to oxygen, he wasn't tethered to both an IV tree and a vitals-monitoring device like I was. Too many times, I had to call the nurses' station to complain that the IV monitor was beeping; most of the time it was malfunctioning because I bent my arm and therefore constricted the flow of the magical fluids. It would also beep when it was time for a refill. Every 4-6 hours (depending on how much fluids the hospital staff surmised I needed) a new bag of lactose was hooked up to that noisy contraption. And just about every 4-6 hours I had to make a trip to the bathroom! Sure glad that IV tree was on wheels! Woot! Something else that was on that IV tree was a small pump full of Demerol (have I mentioned that Demerol is nasty stuff?). The nurses told me that whenever I pushed this little button, I would be blessed with 5 CCs of pain-killer. They also explained that the computerized pump would not allow me to have more than 15-20 CCs per hour, just in case I happened to "lay on" the button a bit too much. So, from Tuesday morning until about 9 that night, I pushed that button off and on. But from 9PM on, the pain was basically gone (for which I am very thankful!).

Now to continue with my hosptial diet: Wednedsay morning, I was allowed plain-liquids: hot chicken broth (hot water flavored with chicken boullion cubes), apple/cranberry juice, frozen orange juice (not sure if it was intentionally frozen for my benefit) and jello. And I could drink as much water as I wanted as well as even a can of Sprite with each meal! That was my menu for all three meals on Wednesday. But because my pancreas did not act up after eating that wonderful food, they allowed me pancakes, cereal (with fat-free milk) and decaf instant coffee for Thursday's breakfast. By the way, decaf coffee is just hot brown water; I had not ingested any caffeine from early Monday morning until Friday morning when I endulge myself with a cup of REAL coffee! Three cheers for Folger's Coiombian! I don't think I have gone that long without caffeine (from Folgers or otherwise) since I was in high school!

Right after breakfast on Thursday my day-nurse said that it looked like I could be discharged at noon. Now that was good news! But she cautioned that once I left the hospital, I was still to be on a low-fat diet. My GP didn't visit me that morning, but he did send one of his associates. This doctor concurred with my GP that the out-patient gall-bladder test (he told me the exact title of it but I really wasn't listening well enough to remember it) still needed to be implemented. Around 10AM, the discharge nurse brought my discharge papers on which I signed that I was allowed to leave at noon. And here is where I must confess that I've been a bad out-patient of St. Mary's hospital: the discharge papers said that I could return to work on Monday the 20th. Wifey and I were back home here on Merry Lane by 1PM and I was at the MFA in Freeburg around 2PM and did not get home until after 6PM. I washed windows from 6:30 to nearly noon on Friday and then went to my "other" job at our church and worked there until almost 5. Yes, I was pretty tired last night, but I went to bed about 9:30 and stayed there until 6 this morning. By 7:30, I was back at church where I worked until noon.

So what to think about all this? The test scheduled in my GP's office for the 31st seems to be the pivotal point in the life of my slush-producing gall bladder. Since 2004, I've talked to some people who no longer have a gall bladder and most have said that the out-patient procedure is quick and relatively-painless. But a handful have said that the after-effects were infections and digestive problems. Now I don't want either of those, that is for sure! So if this test reveals that I can keep that ol' gall bladder for awhile longer, what should I decide to do? I definitely don't want to spend another 2+ days in the hospital nursing an inflamed pancreas! It most-definitely will be a serious prayer issue.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls -- the Process

A few months ago I thought I would have Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls to the point where I could kick it out the door and feel that I had done a good job with it. Three days ago, I realized that there was only one more chapter/scene to flesh out before the novel was ready for publication. Yesterday morning, even though the temperature was a balmy 57 degrees, I forced myself to grab the keyboard and hammer away on that one persnickity chapter. By 1PM, it was done which includes formatting it for both Kindle and Createspace (paperback). The last steps, uploading them to the respective servers, was a fairly-simple process (since I've had lots of practice uploading refinements of Betrovia!).

Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls is the second book in The Land of Betrovia trilogy. Last July, after publishing the first book of the trilogy, most of book two was already outlined. But instead of jumping right into drafting book two, I spent the next 4 months refining Betrovia, creating a "book trailer" for Betrovia, creating a map for the book, as well as writing and publishing a few short stories. Around Christmastime last year, I got to work on drafing Lycentia. By the end of February, the book totalled 4 chapters. The plan at that time was to have at least 14 chapters, and around 70K words, by Labor Day. Yesterday, as I finished that last chapter (chapter 13 was the one that needed more "detail"), I realized that the novel was going to have nearly 75K instead of just 70K. Now, 5000 words is not that much (about one more chapter), and I've been "researching" that for a novel to be labeled a "novel" it should be at least 60K words long. Lycentia is definitely not a novella (the supposed-correct label for something less than 60K).

Somebody commented a few weeks ago that he was amazed that Lycentia's cover was already finalized; this is something I learned through trial-and-error with Betrovia. Since publishing as an "indie" writer, I need to get images as well as blurbs/excerpts of the novel onto the Interwebz months before the novel is released. This time, I used Facebook primarily to accomplish this; when Betrovia was done, there wasn't even a Land of Betrovia FB page! I was so naive this time last year.

I've enrolled Lycentia in Amazon's Select program (the Kindle program that allows me 5 "freebie" days in a 90-day period to promote the novel) like I did with Betrovia and the short stories. A major stipulation with Select is I have to agree to not sell the ebook version of the novel(s) through any other venue. One of Lycentia's beta-readers today told me to reserve a Lycentia paperback for him since he owns a Nook (which is unfortunately chained to Barnes and Noble). So, when do I plan to "promote" Lycentia with a few free days? My research of the last year dictates that the novel should have at least 5 4-star or better reviews before setting it "free." Betrovia sold fairly well last March and April after a few free days even though it only had 3 total reviews (averaging 4.5 stars). But no reviews came from those free days or the subsequent sales which was a bit disheartening. But, as someone wrote: "Sales lead to reviews and not the other way around." So, even though I feel the Betrovia Kindle sales were respectable, not enough copies were sold to garner reviews.

So, to answer the question: I haven't decided yet. Right now, I'm lising Betrovia at $2.99 instead of its regular $3.99 price while Lyceentia is listed at $3.99. I suppose I could lower Betrovia to $.99 and keep Lycentia where it is and then get the word out about the "great deal" for both books. Still, the idea of how to get "good reviews" lingers in the shadowy realms of my brain. Two of Lycentia's beta-readers asked for copies of Betrovia, so they could read what happened in the major plotlines before reading Lycentia. I could ask them to review Lycentia. I suppose I could...

Now onto book three: Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation (which is still a working title). I do not plan to create any book trailers, nor a map, for Lycentia. I want to "beat" my deadline of publishing Ahnak by June. A few months last spring, I averaged close to 15K per month. So, if my goal once again is to have a total of 70K for Ahnak, and I can crank out that many words per month between now and , let's say February, there should be at least 70K on the hard-drive. So I suppose that is my goal: 70K words by the end of February.

As a side note, Ethan, our oldest son, is heading for the agrarian community of Guangfu located on the eastern side of Taiwan. The interesting thing about this move is that he will be less than an hour's trainride from where he was born! He will be working with the OneHope organization. Here's their website if more info is needed: OneHope. He will be flying out of Kansas City this Tuesday. He has a six-month "contract" with the organization but hopes that it will be extended this winter.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review of Tycho by William Woodall

Tycho a sci-fi novel set not too far into Earth's future, focuses on the adventures of Tycho McGrath and a small group of family, friends and associates who are faced with a tremendous challenge: stay on Earth and most-assuredly die or steal a spaceship and relocate to the moon that was "terra-formed" a half-century before.

Once Tyke and the others make it to the moon (even though some perish in their ship's crash-landing), the next big challenge is to learn how to survive there. Even though it has an atmosphere similar to Earth's, the drastic changes in weather, etc. make it very difficult for the former residents of Earth to refer to the moon as a "home away from home."

Before long, Tyke discovers that the scientists who turned the moon into a little Earth were a bit too enthusiastic about the enduring effects of the drastic transformation.

Woodall tells an interesting sci-fi story, through the eyes of Tycho the young scientist, of what might happen to Earth if someone releases a virus - intentionally or not - that can kill every creature on the planet that has lungs. The novel's first chapters are interesting as Tyke and more than a few others develop the plan to steal the spaceship and head for the moon. I was hoping for a bit more tension here - as well as more description - of how the Orion Strain was rapidly making its way around the globe. I suppose I was thinking about the novel The Andromeda Strain as well as its film adaptation as I read the beginning chapters of Tycho. Woodall also uses the first two-three chapters to reveal how intelligent Tyke is. Learning that the narrator was not a typical nerdy/goofy/uppity teenager was a pleasant and welcome surprise!

Now the part of the novel that feels too much like a summmary (where it seems that Woodall wanted to "run through" the section as fast as possible to get to the "fun stuff") was the middle part. Let's just say that the summary part begins right when the characters fall into a routine of living on the moon to when another Orion Strain disaaster occurs.

But right about when Tyke convinces enough people that the moon is not a good place to raise a family to the very end of the novel (not including the epilogue!) is the best part of Tycho. Woodall paces the life-and-death action scenes with effective and mature dialogue. Getting to the last third of the novel made wading through the first 2/3 worth the effort.

Editing-wise, Tycho is relatively free of anything that detracts from the plotline. I also appreciate that the novel is completely free of any use of gratuitous profanity, etc. If this were a movie, it would have to be rated PG (and that is only due to a few places of blood and gore that is standard fare for all action/adventure novels).

I was given a PDF version of Tycho in exchange for my honest opinions about the novel.