ER Visit and Attendant Life Changes

Or, How Doctors Like to Scare the Shit Out of You.

So last Saturday, I had a pleasant enough day.  I drove to Napa, had lunch, drove the 1.5 hours up to Clearlake, CA, where my mother is buried, and left flowers on her grave, and then came home.  All in all I drove about 200 miles.

When I got home, I sat and tried to write for a time, then gave up on that and started to play some games.  At about 11:30 I decided I was tired, and stood up–and nearly doubled over in pain.

The pain was centered in my chest.  It wasn’t radiating, but it hurt.  Now, I’ve had a couple of scares with my heart.  In 2004 I suffered pericarditis for several days before going to the campus med center, then to the ER at their insistence.  In 2014 I discovered I have a recurring arrhythmia that causes atrial fibrillation, which is now controlled with medication.  But this didn’t feel like either of those things.  My wife was in Alaska, so I let her know what was going on and then called 911.  The ambulance that responded found my blood pressure was 190/130, which… yeah, that’s bad.  They took me to the ER, where I laid all night, awake.

In the morning they admitted me to a room.  The doctor who came in said he wanted to make sure I didn’t have an aortic tear, so they did a CT scan.  It came up clean.  He scheduled a stress test for the next day, because the CT contrast in my system made it impossible to do it safely that day.  But he assured me that the CT scan, and my EKG, meant I had not had a heart attack, but that they had to check some more things.

Two hours later, a cardiologist came in with the blood test results, and said it was possible I’d had a minor heart attack.  “You’re okay,” he assured me, “but we need to do an angiogram to make sure.”  They canceled the stress test and scheduled an angiogram for the next day.

Then the on-duty cardiac surgeon said “Fuck that, we’ll do it today,” and called his team in.  They whisked me away to do the angiogram.

Now, they’d done an angiogram in 2004, too, and it found my heart to be perfect, with no plaque and no blockages.  This time was slightly–but only slightly–different: there were still no blockages, but there was some plaque buildup–not enough to have caused my pain, though, and not needing any kind of intervention, but something to keep an eye on and address with some dietary changes.

So now they were left with another bout of pericarditis seeming to be the cause, so they got an echo-cardiogram.  And that clinched it: Pericarditis.  So they gave me medication for it and told me I would probably go home in the morning, if the pain went away.

Keep in mind that at this point, I’d been in fairly excruciating pain for 21 hours. This was partly my own fault for saying no to morphine.  The doctor pointed out that was stupid, so I took it.  It didn’t make the pain go away, but it made me float in my head.  But once they started the anti-inflammation meds, the pain faded away.

By Monday morning I was pain free.  I had barely slept, so I was cranky and irritable, but pain free.  They cut me loose at 10am and I went home.  My aunt came to stay with me until Elli and Tegan got back from Alaska (they’d tried to come home early but couldn’t).

And now I’m left sitting here pain free, but aware that I need to be kinder to my heart.  I’ve already been working on losing weight, but I’d begun to backslide on my diet.  Well, no more.  More fruits and vegetables, less fried food, less processed stuff.  My family is working on getting back to cooking more and eating together more.  I still need to lose about four inches on my waste, as well as my belly, and lose/exchange for muscle about 90 pounds.  It’s going to take hard work, and determination, but I’m going to do it.

Because yes, I was scared.  When the first cardiologist told me I’d had a heart attack, it shattered me.  I was sitting there alone, with my neighbour and his entire loud family laughing on the other side of the curtain while I was trying not to fall to pieces on mine.

My beloved grandmother, whom I called “Mimi” because I used to hold my hands up to her and say “Me! Me!” to get her to pick me up, died of a heart attack when I was four years old. She was only 50, but she smoked and she ignored advice from her doctor.  It has affected my entire life.  Two years later, my mother died of a combination heart attack and pneumonia at 25 years old.  So it’s not something that I’ve been unaware of, but my heart has always checked out as healthy even though I’ve gained a lot over the last decade.

But now it’s not enough to be okay.  I have a child, a ten year old, and while I can’t guarantee I’ll be here her whole life, I can’t check out because of something I could have prevented.  I’m not going to leave her talking to her memories of me because I was too proud to struggle at the gym, or because I’m too in love with bad food to give up Carl’s Jr. And I don’t want any possible grandchildren growing up now knowing me, either.  I want that lovely relationship Tegan had with my grandpa, and the one she has with her grandparents on Elli’s side and with her Nana and Papa, my aunt and uncle.   The loss of my grandmother and mother so young has been a shadow over my entire life.  I still sometimes break down in tears over it.  I refuse to do that to my child if I can help it.

I’m not stupid–I’m not going to give up all bad food, forever.  That’s not realistic.  But I’m going to be giving up most bad food forever, and the remaining stuff I’ll partake in only rarely.  But Carl’s?  Never again.  That shit’s just awful for you, and even I know it.  No more fast food lunches when the school year is going.  I’ll either make something in advance from home, or if I have to eat out, keep it healthy–and actual healthy, not “foot long sandwich that only pretends to be healthy.”

And I’m getting back to daily gym visits as soon as I’m cleared to do so, which is next week.

I can do it.  I must do it.

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The Dark Tower Movie: Not as Bad as I Feared

So I saw The Dark Tower, and… I guess I’m not sure why so many people seem to hate it. Caveat: I haven’t read the books, which I’m working on rectifying now, but I’m familiar with the basic plot and some of the events of the series.

It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t amazing, but the story wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, and the acting wasn’t terrible for the most part.  About the only thing I didn’t really buy was the ease with which Jake puts aside a certain incident that would tear most young boys apart.

Idris Elba was fantastic as always.  Matthew McConaughey did a decent job as the Man in Black, though the script doesn’t give him a lot to do other than be menacing and throw a few offhanded evil bits as he passes people on the street–one of which, making a young girl having a happy moment with her mom in the park hate her mom, bothered me more than even the people he killed.

But a lot of the complaints I’m seeing in reviews just don’t make sense to me.  People claim the plot doesn’t make sense–but it made sense to me.  Others complain about specific story choices, as if the fact a writer/director did it differently than they did makes it bad.  Well, if I had a nickel for every time a movie I liked went in a direction I wouldn’t have gone, I’d have a nice stack of money and wouldn’t need a day job.  But “I wouldn’t have done it that way” doesn’t mean “This is bad.”

The movie was clearly being set up to lead to more films as well as a TV series.  Sadly, the response of most fans means that’s unlikely to happen.

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Re-outlinining: The Bane of My Existence

Holy crap, I last wrote here on June 19th.  That whooshing noise was July.  It said hi.

So, in my last post, I talked about re-outlining The Year of Rage.  And I was happy with it.

Then I put it all down in writing, set it aside, and came back to it.

And it still sucked.

So this past week, I sat down with the story beats, rearranged a few, dropped a few others, added some new stuff that suddenly popped into place, and now I’ve got a new outline.

We’ll see if this one sticks.

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Writing the New Project

I’ve spent much of the last few days shaking off the 2016-2017 school year.  It wasn’t a bad year, as teaching years go, but it still takes a lot out of you.

But, it’s over, and now is the Writing Time.  And the house-cleaning time, and the child-raising time.  But without work-time, those other things go smoother.

I’ve been looking over my plot outline for _Year of Rage_, and … wow, it was bad.  Whole chapters had to go.  Luckily, I’ve been on a roll writing new chapter outlines, so I think the book will be okay.  It just needed some adjustments.  A character was cut, but I think she was superfluous, and a new character was created that will fit into the plotline even better than her predecessor.

The hard part right now is answering questions about the stellar nations in the book.  Why is the T’lari Alliance so interested in the Boundless Empire?  Why did the Matuush Ascendancy stop innovating so long ago?  Why did nobody explore Khuta in the 1400 years it’s been a dead world? What happens if the Emperor of the Boundless Empire dies without heirs (hint: They’re tanists).

It’s exhausting, and often the questions are answered, then a note saying “Gods below, don’t ever put this in the book!” is appended.

Right.  Back to work.

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Reporting from the Query Wars

Queried: 38 Agents, 3 publishers
Form Rejections: 30 (28 Agents, 2 publishers)
Requests for Partials: 5 (all agents)
Personal Rejections: 3
Still out: 3 Agents, 1 Publisher

Neither publisher got past the slushers, near as I can tell.  And that’s okay; I expected that.  I haven’t had a partial request since last summer, which is wearing on me, but them’s the breaks, and as a friend has said, it’s basically a numbers game.  40 queries is still in the little league of novel rejections.

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Tor Books Submission Reply (Spoiler: It’s a no)

Which is to say, “We are sorry to say that it’s not right for us at this time.”

Which I expected.

Still sucks.

Okay.  Back to it. But later.

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What I Want as a Writer

Every writer has a dream of what they want for their career.  For some, it’s riches (ha!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!), for some, it’s getting a place at the table that is SFF Publishing and fandom, and for others it’s fans.

Me?  I don’t hope for riches, though I certainly won’t say no if the option ever comes to me.  A place at that table would be nice, but not all writers get that, either.  Fans?  Yeah, sure, but that’s secondary to what I really want.

I want to entertain readers. More than that, though, I want to affect them.

I want to make readers weep the way Melanie Rawn, Anne McCaffrey, and Harlan Ellison made me weep.  I want to make readers think the way Harlan’s introductions, or Asimov’s robot stories, or even Star Trek made me think.  I want to make readers so eager for my next book that they haunt bookstores (or, I guess, book sites these days), the way I checked for the next CJ Cherryh or CS Friedman novel.

I want teenage readers to be so in love with my work that their parents see my name on a book and know it’s a good choice for their kid, the way my aunt knew that buying me a new book by Anne McCaffrey was a good choice even though she never read the stuff.  I want to make people second-guess their lifelong beliefs once in a while.  I want to make them laugh.  I want to make them smile, sit back, and say “Man, that was a good story.”

And I want to create book evangelists, who shove one of my books into their friend’s hands and say “No, really, read it, it’s awesome,” in the same way I insisted my friends read Ian McDonald’s Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone or Children of Dune.

I want to write passages so achingly good that they make the reader cry not just the first time they read it, but every time, just like I still cry when I read the ends of books 2 and 3 of The Books of the Last Herald-Mage trilogy, even though I see the flaws in those books, too.

I want to console people drowning in grief just like Steven Gould consoled me through Jumper, and how Neil Gaiman did in just about the entire run of Sandman.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I want to be for others the same thing so many writers were for me.  I want to be their clown, their muse, their lifeline in moments of self doubt, and their solace in times of grief.

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