Lessons From the ICU: Simple Joy.

I just took a shower. And changed my socks. And I’m eating dinner.

I got to come home tonight.

Ooh! Ooh! And I’m going to brush my TEETH when I’m done eating!!!

After over 48 hours of none of those things……..this feels damn good.

Published in: on December 29, 2010 at 9:36 pm  Comments (5)  

Halfway Out Of The Dark. . . For Some . . .

Just watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special, and overall it was delightful and charming. I’m really starting to love Matt Smith’s portrayal of The Doctor, and as an added bonus, they even kept Amy and Rory offstage for most of the story! (They really should do that more often.) The line-by-line writing was solid (especially The Doctor’s ramblings, which are always my favorite part of the show), the acting was spot-on, and the music was just gorgeous.

But one thing was nagging at the back of my mind throughout the entire episode, slightly interfering with my ability to completely get behind it.

On EVERY world? WHEREVER people are? Throughout time and space? The middle of winter is celebrated as Christmas? (Even when it’s renamed as something as transparent and disingenuous as “The Crystal Feast”?)

So, I’m completely familiar with the tradition of the Christmas Special with Doctor Who, and I have no problem with it; it’s usually delightful.

But tell me: What kind of ethnic apocalypse happened before the expansion of humanity in the Whoniverse that EVERYONE celebrates the middle of winter by celebrating the birth of Christ?

What happened to the Jews? The Hindus? The Muslims? The atheists, for goodness’ sake!

Does anyone else find this more-than-vaguely disturbing?

Published in: on December 27, 2010 at 4:44 am  Comments (16)  


Today I convinced a man to let someone cut his leg off.

It will happen tomorrow.

The trust people put in me terrifies me sometimes.

Published in: on December 25, 2010 at 8:35 pm  Comments (10)  

Yes. This.

My adoration for xkcd would be unhealthy in its overwhelming magnitude……if it weren’t so unabashedly brilliant. Its genius is in its simplicity, its profound and unassuming wisdom, and its ability to make me want to jump up from my chair and shout, “EXACTLY!!!!!!!” Every. Single. Time.

(Well, once I do the research to figure out what he’s talking about, sometimes…..)

So there seems to be an illness in Mr. Munroe’s family, and some of his recent comics share some of his reflections about the nature of illness and healing.

And they’re just resounding in my soul. Because……EXACTLY.

All the best to you and the people you love, Mr. Munroe.

Published in: on December 23, 2010 at 5:29 pm  Comments (5)  

Ain’t It Funny How The Night Floats

It’s late morning. I’m about to eat dinner and go to bed.

Yes, I’m on Night Float. In the ICU.

Zombie Grasshopper.

This is why I’m ignoring you.

Just thought I’d explain myself.

Good night, Interwebzes!

Published in: on December 21, 2010 at 4:30 pm  Comments (1)  

You Look Bored.

It’s my fault, I know. I’m not entertaining you adequately.

Sorry bout that.

Let me make up for it.

If you’re on Facebook. . .

Oh, don’t you DARE recommend one of those stupid Farmville games. They suck out your soul and spam your friends and sell your information to people who would sodomize babies if they thought it would make them an extra dollar or two that quarter.

Um . . . that wasn’t what I was going to recommend.


It is a game that’s played on Facebook, though. I mean, it uses Facebook as a platform. But it’s manually run by a friend of mine, using one of the features ON Facebook.

It’s a captioning contest. And it’s a LOT of fun. Especially because, you know, we’re writers and stuff.

Here’s how it works.

Look for and join the group called “Pikchure Imperphect”. (There should be only one of them.)

Every week, Dave posts a captionable picture in the “Photos” section of the group. When that happens, one of those throw-away announcements pops up on your feed, like with any other thing that happens on Facebook. (And if it gets buried [as it often does in mine], you can always just go to the group page and pull it up.)

Then people write their entries in the Comments section under the photos.

At the end of the week, Dave contacts last week’s winner, and they’re asked to pick their three favorite captions from the current week to be semifinalists.

Then Dave creates an “event” for voting. He assigns each of the possible RSVP responses (“Attending”, “Maybe Attending” or “Not Attending”) to a quote, and posts them. You vote for your favorite quote of the three semifinalists by clicking on the corresponding RSVP response.

Then Dave announces the winner, and the cycle repeats.

So. Much. Fun.

I haven’t had much time to keep up with it lately, but it’s always good for a chuckle. There are some incredibly clever people playing.

Here’s the Pikchure for Week 44. I know you have something funny to say about it!

Go thou and play, fellow writers!

Published in: on December 14, 2010 at 10:41 am  Comments (5)  

Cross-Training. Not Just For Athletes.

My college fencing team was awesome. Just awesome. I owe them a lot, and not just a bunch of fun memories. In fact, I took my first steps toward Actual Genuine Self-Confidence with my teammates metaphorically holding my hands. (I was an easy target for bullies for my entire life up till that point.)

So yeah. Good times, great people, fun activity, and many life lessons learned.

One of these lessons: Any movie where you have to fight Sting at the end is A Good Movie.

Another of these lessons: Cross-training can be just as important as training in your own sport.

Fencers tend to develop a muscular asymmetry after a while, because the fencing stance is asymmetrical.

I WAS going to put up a picture of real fencers... but this was way too much fun to NOT drop in here. Anyway, we're all geeks, right? If you want to see what real fencing stances look like, you can do an image search rather handily.

But it’s important to keep all muscles duly exercised when you’re an athlete. And here’s where the cross-training comes in.

The serious fencers in my club all had another sport that they practiced almost as hard as fencing. (I was not a serious fencer. Hobbyist, at best.) And each of their sports improved their performance in the other one.

For the same reason, our team warm-ups didn’t start with fencing-specific exercises. They’d start with soccer. Or basketball. Or the unbelievably delightful and overwhelmingly popular Chaos Ball (which is exactly what it sounds like.)

THEN we’d stretch and do lunges and squats and six-to-four-to-six circles and all those other things that make fencer folk all happy and lop-sided.

Relevance, Your Honor?

Coming right up!

So, just like cross-training is important for athletes, I feel like it’s vital for writers, too.

One of the most common pieces of writing advice I’ve gotten is to read a lot, and read widely.

(Purveyors of such advice often pause here to give me a significant stare and add: “That means OUTSIDE of genre fiction, too.” Whereupon I often sigh in resignation, force myself to pick out a book of Literature-with-a-capital-L or non-fiction, and invariably find myself sucked in completely and sad when it ends.)

Besides exposing you to really, REALLY neat ideas that you may not have encountered otherwise, reading outside your genre can shake some cobwebs out of your ruts and get you thinking about your own work in a completely different way.

And cross-training doesn’t stop with reading outside of the box, either.

As a matter of fact, some of the most powerful illustrations of powerful writing concepts come from art forms outside of the literary world. I plan to share a couple of examples that amazed me, from music lyrics in particular.

You know, later. Gotta keep you coming back SOMEHOW, right?

I don’t think my friends were just humoring me last month when they said that I was right to switch from output mode to intake mode for a while. I think all creative types need to cross-train by experiencing other people’s work. And that benefit is that much more valuable if the experiences are outside the creative types’ respective realms of expertise.

So….cross-train. If you’re a writer, read a lot. And read outside your chosen genre.

And if you’re REALLY brave….

CREATE outside your chosen genre, too. Cross-training without the training wheels! (Eh? See what I did there? 😀 )

Write romance.

Write Literature-with-a-capital-L.

Write haiku.

Write erotica.

Write something in your second language, if you have one.

Write a song.

Paint something.

Throw pottery.

Join a sports team.

Teach someone how to read.

Start a blog about something non-writing-related that you feel passionate about.

ALL of these things will make your writing in your chosen genre that much stronger.

PS: Any post where you have to fight Sting at the end is a good post.

(This was the only part of that fight scene I could find on YouTube. Sorry.)

Published in: on December 9, 2010 at 1:32 am  Comments (5)  

Take it off!

If you’re like a lot of writers, you know EXACTLY what your character looks like.

Eye color. Hair color. The shape of his mouth. The curl of her hair.

You may even know what he’s wearing. You may even have been tempted to describe his wardrobe, down to the tiniest detail.

But here’s something you may not have considered:

What does he look like UNDERNEATH his clothes? Unless you write romance and/or erotica, you probably haven’t given this much thought.

One of the things that I’ve learned from being a doctor is that naked people will surprise the hell out of you.

Random chunks of flesh could be missing from their legs. They may be missing organs, and you can tell which ones from the pattern of their surgical scars. They could have a really out-of-character-seeming tattoo. They could be collecting their urine through a tube and into a bag hanging from a strap around their leg. They could have a sheathed knife taped to their back for easy access.

It’s unbelievable some of the things that you find. And the lengths some people go to in order to hide them from the world.

So here’s a character-building exercise for you.

Come up with one thing for each of your characters that is usually concealed by their clothing.

A scar? A weapon? A talisman? A pet?

How does it affect their behavior? Are they proud of it or ashamed of it? Do they try to hide it? How do they accomplish that? Is it obvious or very subtle? Who knows about it?

You may discover hidden depths in your character that you may never have found otherwise.

Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 6:10 pm  Comments (13)