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words about words

Archive for the tag “Glitched”

Bad Blood – A Short Delay

hemoglobin-respiratory-molecules-one-molecule-can-bind-up-to-four-oxygen-molecules-34888190This might be the only blog post on the Internet that’s not about T Swizzle. By “bad blood” I mean that my actual blood in my actual body is bad. It’s anemic and my hemoglobin is waaaaay too low. This whole time I’ve been so worried about my white count and if it would get so low it would delay my chemo schedule. So, there I was, at the hospital for my very first Herceptin-only “maintenance” infusion. Feeling like a recent grad visiting her old high school during the first week of school. You know, feeling pretty good. Maybe a little smug. My appetite had just returned and I’d had sushi for every meal for two days. (Except breakfast of course, because I don’t do breakfast. Breakfast food is beyond delightful. It’s eating it in the morning that I object to.)

Delicious Sushi

Anyway I get in there for my appointment that’s supposed to last 30 minutes. And I discover that Dr. Cap has snuck me onto his schedule. “He probably wants to yell at me about my magnesium,” I groaned to the nurses. (NOTE: Dr. Cap doesn’t “yell.” He might actually be incapable of raising his voice.) I can’t remember if I wrote about this before, but my magnesium was wicked low right before my last round of chemo so Cap put me on 800 milligrams a day of the stuff. And I was really good about taking it. And YET this was not reflected in my blood panel! How, I asked, could I be ingesting two 400 mg tablets of that crap every day and it not show up in my blood?! Cap told me to eat magnesium-rich foods. Well, at that point I wasn’t eating jack shit, so I just kept taking the pills and took long baths in magnesium sulfate (bath salts, baby) which I’d read that you can absorb through the skin.

Now, I’ve been anemic for basically ever, which doesn’t make sense to me. I eat red meat. The only veggies I like are the green ones. There’s no frickin’ reason for me to be anemic, but I am. I was a decade ago, I was while pregnant with Allison, I was 18 months ago at my regular doctor, and I have been throughout chemo. Everyone and their dog told me to take iron pills. And I ignored them because they upset my stomach and clog up the works. If you know what I’m saying. Hashtag no poop. Anyway, I wasn’t worried about it, but apparently I should have been.

Because Dr. Cap told me that my hemoglobin was too low for surgery. *sad trombone* To tell you the truth, I wasn’t even sure what the hell hemoglobin was. My first thought was a Spider-Man villain. Apparently that’s not quite right. It is “the iron-containing oxygen-transport metalloprotein in the red blood cells.” It looks like the fourth of July!

hemoglobin¬† Dr. Cap said we should delay surgery for a few weeks and I needed to start taking the iron supplements seriously. He told me that the official call on surgery belonged to Dr. Supe (my surgeon), but with hemoglobin that low (7.5 if you’re curious. Normal range is 11.3-15.5) it just wasn’t safe. He told me that if the iron supplements didn’t raise my levels we’d have to give me someone else’s blood. Yikes. So I’m taking the dang iron pills and they suck. But I take them twice a day. Surgery has been rescheduled for October 8.

The good news is that my heart is just fine. This is confirmed by an EKG and an echocardiogram. There wasn’t any damage from the Herceptin.

A couple days after starting to take the iron (and more than three weeks passing since my last chemo!) I had an excellent day. I felt good. I ate food. I had energy and did a bunch of housework. I did, however, have a bit of a meltdown at the party store. Gunny and I went to get a Harry Potter costume for Allison and I found this cool pink lady wig.

Bee tee dubs it looks like dogshit on me. I have olive skin and it doesn't go with pale pink. :(

Bee tee dubs it looks like dogshit on me. I have olive skin and it doesn’t go with pale pink. ūüė¶

Now that it’s Halloweentime, all the cool wigs are out and since I’ve got barely a hint of stubble on about 1/3 of my head, it looks like hat and wig city for a good while. I said something to the cashier about how the wig was for me and blah blah bald head and she told me she’d had breast cancer twice. They’d missed something the first time and she got more lumps and had to go through all the treatment again. “You’re going to be okay,” she told me. And I got all teary-eyed. And I asked her “Are you able to make plans for the future?” and as I said this, I lost it and started crying and–thanks Herceptin Drip–my nose ran right onto my shirt. She leaned across the counter and hugged me. “It’s going to be okay,” she said. “I promise. I swear to God it’s going to be okay.” Then she gave me her phone number and said to call her if I wanted to talk.

You just never know when you’re going to break. And I don’t know if I was crying because of cancer and future and will I EVER have peace of mind or because Antoinette at Everything Party¬†reached out to me with kindness when she didn’t have to.¬†BTW she told me that it took her a while, but now she is able to think about and plan for a future.

First Day of 1st gradeSchool has started again, and with the homework packets and library books, Allison brought home the first cold of the season. In the old days, pre-Cancer, everyone would get sick to some degree while I would have a half-day of sore throat and then be fine. My immune system was a rockstar. Well, no more. I got pretty sick. Not go-to-the-doctor sick, but sick enough to stay in bed and watch Columbo episodes on Netflix. I’m feeling better now, but that cough/cold knocked me on my butt for a few days–and just when I was feeling good again!

sick and Columbo

I don’t have to go back to the doctor until the first week of October for a pre-op consult with Dr. Supe, and then my Herceptin action the next day. So in the meantime I will concentrate on whipping my blood into shape, getting Glitched out in paperback, and maybe perhaps I hope doing some work on my next Lexy story which I haven’t touched since July 7.

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My New Book Has Arrived!

Lexy4CoverSmallHip hip HOORAY, my new book is now available! It’s the fourth full-length Lexy Cooper mystery. You can pick up the eBook right now at Amazon, or you can wait for the paperback this summer. Any questions?

What if I don’t have a Kindle?

You’re in luck, cowboy. You don’t need the dedicated eReader to enjoy Kindle books. All you need is an electronic device with a screen. You can read Lexy books on your PC, your tablet, or your phone. Just download the free Kindle app for your weapon of choice.

I’m thinking about trying Lexy books, but where should I start?

Start at the beginning, grasshopper. The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first page of Schooled. All books in which Lexy appears are in this order:

  1. Schooled 
  2. Pwned
  3. I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa (short story)
  4. Griefed
  5. Summer Wind (Mike Malick #1)
  6. Glitched

TriplethreatColorFinalsmall copyYou can actually pick up the first four of these in one package: Lexy Cooper Triple Threat. It’s available¬†in eBook and paperback.

Well, crap, I thought I was up-to-date, but I haven’t read Summer Wind. Do I need to read it before starting Glitched?

Heck no! There are a couple of things that happen in Mike’s book that are referenced in Lexy’s book, but not knowing¬†them¬†will not¬†prevent you from following or (hopefully) enjoying Glitched.

I’ve read all the books, but can’t keep track of what’s what and who’s who. Can you help?

Yes indeed, young Skywalker. My dear friend Wendy wrote this Lexy primer to help refresh your memory.

Glitched came out at midnight last night and I’m already finished. What’s next for Lexy?

Yikes. You, sir or madam, are hardcore. And I love that. Lexy will next appear in a short story called Hurricane Lexy that picks up immediately after the end of Glitched. Then she will make an appearance in the second Mike Malick book You Go to My Head this fall. The next full-length Lexy mystery novel a.k.a. “Lexy 5” will follow in the first half of 2016.

Billable Hours – A Writer’s Day

Okay, novelists don’t really have billable hours. I worked in a PR agency for a brief, miserable period and keeping track of how much time I spent on every little thing was a massive pain in my ass. That 15 minute chunk of time when I was staring out the window watching pigeons have sex on the neighboring roof? Which client can I bill that to?

Anyway, I got to thinking, now that I’m only working for me (and my readers), what if I had to account for every quarter-hour of time? So, today, I kept track. Submitted for your approval, my non-billable hours or

A Semi-Productive Day in the Life of a Novelist

8:30 – 8:45 Screw around on Facebook. Check email. Read over yesterday’s work. Post Instagram of Hiatus Project.
8:45 – 9:00 Select and post a snippet from Glitched on Lexy’s FB page

9:00 – 9:15 Source reference photos for Hiatus Project
9:15 – 9:30 Write Hiatus Project
9:30 – 9:45 Watch Magic Mike XXL trailer.
9:45 – 10:00 Tell reader via Instagram that Glitched will release March 31

Magic Mike XXL10:00 – 10:15 Send email to editor and proofreader about trying to hit March 31
10:15 – 10:30 Log into Lexy’s twitter account and follow-back new followers. Also, post Gronk photo.
10:30 – 10:45 Write Hiatus Project
10:45 – 11:00 Research makes and models of Mercedes-Benz sedans (for project, I swear!)

Gronk spike

11:00 – 11:15 Realize plot of Hiatus Project has similarities to popular 90s film. Text best friend to confess.
11:15 – 11:30 Curate appropriate playlist to inspire Hiatus Project writing. Fall down a “Stripper Anthem” rabbithole.
11:30 – 11:45 Fold laundry while pondering the temperature of imminent Hiatus Project sex scene
11:45 – 12:00 Write Hiatus Project

Gronk shirtless12:00 – 12:15 Realize this is an early release day for school. Panic.
12:15 – 12:30 Write Hiatus Project furiously until mind starts to wander…
12:30 – 12:45 Watch YouTube videos of Gronk spiking footballs
12:45 – 1:00 Rewrite chunk of chapter two of Hiatus Project so chapter nine won’t be fucked up.

IMG_09311:00 – 1:15 Google “Gronk shirtless”
1:15 – 1:30 Write Hiatus Project
1:30 – 1:45 Eat lunch while playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood
1:45 – 2:00 Write this blog post

2:00 – 2:15 Kindergartner arrives home. Work day is finished.

All in all, I did get some stuff done. I wrote 1,948 words on Hiatus Project, my editor says March 31 is good with her (still waiting to hear from my proofreader), and I totally Gronked out.

Arrive Gronk Leave

All About That Pace

keep-calm-and-pace-yourself-24Let’s talk about pacing, i.e. the action in your novel. Does it start slow and build to an action-packed climax? Do you hit on your main themes in a regular pattern? Do you sprinkle humor here and there?

I wasn’t sure how I did it. I’ve had readers comment that they like the pacing in my books, so I guess I was doing something right. But to be honest, I don’t consciously think about pacing much. Well, except for the first Lexy book in which I was convinced each chapter needed to be 5,000 words and I distinctly remember saying to myself, “Hmmm Lexy hasn’t gotten laid in a while. Better fix that.”

But I know that pacing is important and I was curious to see what exactly I’m doing and when I’m doing it. So, as I reviewed and revised my new book Glitched, I kept track of certain elements of¬†the story¬†and where¬†they appear. This is what it looked like:

Glitched Pacing

There were quite a few pacing relationships I was particularly interested in. Sex vs Romance is one of them. Maybe they’re not different for you, but they are for Lexy. At least in Glitched.

Also, Sleuthing and Skills. This fourth Lexy mystery is different in that alternating chapters are not in Detective Malick’s POV. In fact, the murder isn’t even Mike’s case. This is the first time that Lexy is actively trying to solve a murder. Now, she hasn’t hung out a PI shingle, and she’s still working at Xenon full-time, but neither is she stumbling on evidence or just lending Malick a hand. In this book–and going forward–it’s important for Lexy to have agency. For her to do things on purpose with intent instead of have things happen to her. Ergo, sleuthing is when she’s investigating the case: talking to witnesses, doing research, staking out a location. Skills is when she’s purposely trying to improve her sleuthing. Mainly recalling something she’s learned from Malick about being observant or getting reluctant witnesses to talk.

stake out

Then there are the ongoing story arcs: her relationships with recurring characters. So, Romance hits on her interactions with a certain character (no spoilers) and Rivalry hits on her interactions with Agent 54.

When you’re writing a series there is also a fair amount of Backstory or references and reminders to what has happened in previous books, and Set-up, laying the groundwork for the next book: introducing characters and situations who will be important in Lexy 5.

A couple other things I tracked were Humor and Trouble. Humor’s pretty obvious, and there are funny (I hope) Lexyisms throughout, but these were situations I included solely for comic¬†relief. Trouble refers to situations when Lexy purposely does something knowing it will get her in trouble or stir the pot. Just because she’s Lexy.

Chowder

Lexy’s new roommate?

I also tracked her use of drugs and alcohol, and her smoking. She’s always been a closet stress-smoker and when she’s upset she indulges. If you check the grid, you see that she smokes less as the story continues. Is it because I forgot to put a cigarette in her mouth? Nope, it was that she was busy chasing baddies and had other stuff on her mind.

Looking over this, it occurs to me that I did a pretty fair job pacing this without much planning. The question is, do I want to track as I go with the next book (potentially leading to “hmmm Malick hasn’t gotten laid in a while” thoughts) or do I just keep on keepin’ on?

Finishing touches: Getting your novel in top condition

This post isn’t about that final-final review when your manuscript has already gone through professional editing and proofreading. This is about getting your manuscript ready for the next step, whether that’s beta readers or your editor.

Getting to the end of the first draft and typing “The end” is a fantastic feeling and nothing should diminish that sense of accomplishment. But you’re not done yet. At least I’m not. Because I’m the kind of writer that appreciates momentum over all. If I’m writing a scene, I don’t¬†like to stop and look up¬†a fact, ponder a new character name, or go back through my story to verify a date or time. I type XXXXXXX and I move along.

So, once I’ve written my final scene, and after some celebration, I need to go back and fill in those blanks.

Filling in the blanks

Since I use the multiple X convention, all I have to do is search for it in my document and there’s a list of all my unfinished business. I can methodically go through and replace X’s with the good stuff. (Here are some tips on character names, btw).

Next up–and this is especially important in the mystery genre–is making sure all my dates and times match. Ensuring that the Time of Death pronounced by the medical examiner in the beginning of the book is the same window in which my suspects must account for their whereabouts. In short, if the victim was killed between midnight and four a.m., my sleuth doesn’t need to check alibis for noon to three p.m. To that end, I created two calenders: one shows all the action in the book by chapter and the second shows the details of the crime. What happened when, where each suspect was, and when evidence is revealed.

It's blurry by design. No spoilers!

It’s blurry by design. No spoilers!

Sometimes the facts that need checking are of the real world and not the fictional world I’ve built. For my upcoming book, Glitched, I’ve verified quotes from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Supertroopers, names of Pokemon characters, the color of Top Pot Doughnuts carry out boxes, tracks on Frank Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours album, the number of city blocks between Pioneer Square and the Seattle Police Department headquarters and whether one says “on Maui” or “in Maui.”

And, of course, as I go through this process (printing out chapters, making edits in pencil, and then doing corrections in the Word doc), I find stuff that bugs me. Awkward phrasing, or unnecessary sentences. Other times I make additions that clarify the action or make it more powerful.

This is the part of the creative process that feels most like work, but in the end will make my book better. And may even¬†save me money! The less time my editor has to spend checking my facts and cleaning up sloppy shit, the fewer hours she’s going to bill me.

The most important part of this phase is to stay focused. Here are my top three techniques for the finishing touches:

  1. Bite-sized chunks. I do three chapters and then take a break.
  2. Block out the real world. Noise cancelling headphones, isolation booth, hotel room.
  3. Be extra nice to your spouse/housemates/friends. When you’re not hunkered down, nose to the grindstone with music blaring in your private headspace you’re probably thinking about the¬†book and not really engaging with your humans. You are kind of an asshole right now. Once you hand off to your editor, please cook¬†your people¬†a nice meal, take them to the movies or otherwise reward their patience and understanding.

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