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Friday, November 22, 2013

Free stuff giveaway! Forget-Me-Not's coming out, and it's about...

Since her mother vanished nine years ago, Anamae and her father have shared a quiet life. But when Anamae discovers a brooch identical to her mother's favorite pendant, she unknowingly invites a slew of trouble into their world. When the brooch and the pendant are worn together they're no longer pretty pieces of jewelry -- they're part of a highly developed technology capable of cloaking the human form. Triggering the jewelry's power attracts the attention of a secret society determined to confiscate the device -- and silence everyone who is aware of its existence. Anamae knows too much, and now she's Enemy Number One. She's forced to leave her father behind when she's taken in by a group determined to keep her safe. Here Anamae searches for answers about this hidden world. With her father kidnapped and her own life on the line, Anamae must decide if saving her dad is worth risking her new friends’ lives. No matter what she does, somebody is going to get hurt.

This is a YA spec fic that I've actually read and enjoyed back in its beta-stages, so I can actually say I know what I'm talking about. It's coming out February 17, 2014, from Entranced Publishing's Rush imprint, so ADD it to your goodreads and squeal.

Or don't squeal, actually. That's annoying. Just add it.

Here's the link to the giveaway I promised! Free things!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, check out Stacey's website at stacey-nash.com. There, and in the book, you will meet characters like these!

This is the guy I don't want Annamae to fall in love with. He's the "bad boy." (Or he thinks he is = P)

This is the guy I originally liked for Annamae, but after a while Jax's coolness kinda ruined it (dangit!):

 And this is the troublesome pendant that starts it all:
So what are you waiting for??? Add this to your goodreads! I like this story. So do what I say!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Meaning Behind The Story: I Am Disease

Some of you have read my short story, I am Disease, published in the PMM anthology Bleed. If you haven't, of course, you can go support cancer research by checking it out here, but in the meantime I really just wanted to spend an honest minute sharing what it means. Not because I'm some kind of guru of fantastic and great wisdom, but because there's a something in it that's important.

Bleed called for horror stories where the monster represented cancer. In I Am Disease, you read from the point of view of the cancer itself, pulsating with hungry, visceral desires to consume good and normal cells. It's a zombie who wants to eat your brains—a pretty obvious tie. What makes I Am Disease a little different from a lot of monster stories is that (spoilers!) the zombie isn't killed in the end—but he doesn't win, either. When we normally think of chemotherapy, we think killing cancer cells. What if we could come up with a therapy that changed them back to normal? That's the hope behind this zombie fairytale.

But I Am Disease isn't only about cancer, and it's this “not only” that I want to share with those of you who don't have cancer.

Fun-fact: I Am Disease was originally titled Zombie Pornography.

Yeah, like, what?

The story isn't just a biological metaphor, but also a psychological and spiritual metaphor. The zombie represented addiction.

Le gasp.

I'm not going to go into sordid details here, because life isn't about me, but I do want to be honest with you. I'm a fallen person and I struggle. I need. Addiction was a real experience to me. And I think addiction is something we need to talk about. Because honestly, addiction and cancer at their most fundamental, metaphysical level are the same. They're both a part of you that isn't you that's trying to take you over. One eats your body, and one eats your psyche and soul, but it's the same concept: self cells grow out of control and no longer do what you want them to do.

And you become a zombie. Anyone who's experienced this knows what I mean. And that's where the psychosexual, cyclic, repetitive high-low-need imagery of the story comes into play. You feel sick. You feel like you're only alive every high, when you're not on chemo and you're not fighting and the thing that's killing you has you in its grip, and the rest of the time you feel so...monotonous and hungry and moaning.

But we don't have to stay there.

In the end, the hunter with the medical dart who cures the zombie is a researcher, an oncologist who believes you don't have to be destroyed—that murderous, out of control cancer cells can be saved. The hunter's also pointing me to another kind of doctor. This doctor will put himself in harm's way to awaken the life in me and walk me through my internal struggle. This doctor's not a psychologist or therapist or any other kind of thing that waits in a chair for you to come to them: he seeks you out, and he's not going to stop until you're cured, no matter what it costs him, no matter what it costs you. My grandmother used to call her chemotherapy “mean little pills,” and sometimes it's like that! But my hunter sticks much, much closer than a brother, closer than even your own heart, and he loves your healing.

So, I've said three scary buzzwords—addiction, pornography, and spoilers!--in one post, and I'm about to say another. I should really quit while I'm ahead, but here goes:


That's all. That's all 'cuz that's my only hope.

Kay I'm gonna go hide from this post now. It's just that since I worked hard to make the story itself not preachy and obvious and dumb, I wanted to share my heart with you a little here. Whether you like my interpretation or not, I hope you got something out of the story, and I love you! I love you and believe your zombie—whether it's cancer or addiction or Alzheimer's or self-image issues or a horrible relationship or just a bad day—can be beaten. The doctor's here!

See you soon.

--love, a recovering zombie

Friday, November 8, 2013

The plague on our words: How we're sapping the meaning from our sentences

Something's laying heavy on my heart tonight. It's 2:35 AM, and instead of sleeping I'm haunted. Please, I beg you dearly, think about this haunting with me. We stand in the midst of a plague, a passive-aggressive invasion that penetrates beyond the words we type into our very hearts—and lives may depend on this.

They may not. 

What on earth am I talking about?

Awareness movements all over the world this month culminated in words on twitter feeds and Facebook posts and comment threads, orgasming into “awareness” without ever giving birth to action. And it's not just this month. It's this year, this decade. Do we as writers—and as citizens of the internet in general—spend so much time thinking about social issues we forget to actually solve them?

How many breast cancer victims were helped this month by girls writing about their bra colors on Facebook? By boys dressing in pink tiaras to crack jokes about boobs? Now, how many possible breast cancer victims were saved by an actual conversation about self-exams, or donations to cancer research? Do we see the difference between the cancer researchers and educators and the “I'm wearing lacy black” gagtivists? Yes? No?

Bear with me a second, please please please, and let's keep questioning. There's a thread of sorcery here.

Do you write about racial equality? You that person who signs petitions, incorporates race issues into your fiction, lets your blood pressure rise with every race-based news story you read? Okay, great. But what do you actually do about it? When you're feeling fired up about inequality, do you go rant about evil racists on Facebook? You do know that doesn't make much difference, right? 

You vote or whatever? That's cute. But my dear friend do you know what makes real difference in inequality? Stepping away from the keyboard for a little bit and making things more equal. Give some of your stuff away. Mentor a kid who's disadvantaged. Donate to scholarship programs—it's easy to do stuff like that if you drink a little less Starbucks or even just buy the cheap ham instead of the good ham for a month. If you're part of a disadvantaged minority, promote equality by showcasing your awesomeness in your community with volunteering programs, local art projects, whatever you can think of—because no matter what color you are, ranting does not make nearly as much difference as helping disadvantaged youth, or celebrating you by representing the best to the world. Create good “stereotypes” by becoming the model you want people to think about. Yes, people suck. But you will only overcome evil with good. With action. Not politics. They could make five hundred thousand million laws about hate and it will change nothing if people’s hearts don't change, and only local, personal action changes hearts.

Another question.

Do you write about religious bigotry? You know, you've got that asshole character or that “societal pressure” you're decrying all the time? Great, but what are you actually doing to combat religious bigotry? Penning sordid stories of child abuse, priests, and bombed abortion clinics doesn't count. That's all talk. Are you actually forming relationships with close-minded people to love them into your point of view?

This is where you go “what the hell no,” and this is where I point out that I had a rough time ideologically in high school, partly because everyone else was an asshole, and partly because I was an asshole. Do you know what didn't help me tone down my ideologies? An entire school bus of people yelling at me. The extremists in my class sitting behind me making fun of me every time I opened my mouth. Stuff like that made me into a real asshole for real. You know what did help me? Kind people being kind to me in college while I was getting my ass kicked by personal stuff. If you want to make an actual, real-life difference to combat social stigma, you need to make some crazy religious friends and love them. You need to be that thing that surprises them into saying, “oh, huh, this kind of person isn't all bad.” And maybe you'll find they're not all bigots, either. We stereotype what we don't know: you could be stereotyping people even while you're fighting stereotypes with your satire, and that would be sadly ironic, wouldn't it?

How many times do you and I post stuff like “pray for Haiti” or “remembering the victims in this and such place” but we don't pray, and we don't donate to help the victims, or send them anything, or do anything at all except talk?

Maybe it's too much work for too little return. Writing an award-winning novel's hard, but it's more fun and fame than walking into a broken neighborhood to hand out hotdogs. Getting that kick-ass short story about race and religion into the Paris Review propels me towards my dreams way faster than spending an hour tutoring an mentally retarded kid. And that's just it. 

We use popular causes to power our glory and make us feel “aware.” And maybe emotionally we do “care.” But caring isn't a feeling. It's a 'nuther-freaking action, people! 

My dear future self reading this, my dear present friends, please understand—it's absolutely awesome to incorporate causes into your fiction and internet presence. That's kind of my modus operandum. But there's a Greek word for people who pretend to care about something, or even care a lot and tell other people to do things about them, but don't do anything themselves. The word literally means actor, a guy who get up on stage to be something he's not. That word has made it into the English language. You know what it is?

It's hypocrite.

Dear God, please let me not be that. Let me be a person who actually does shit, not just a dreamer and watcher and talker. Let me be a live-er.

Then I'll have something to write about.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Medfacts #2: Getting stabbed in the chest part 2: Surviving right side pneumothorax

Last post we left our heroine with pneumothorax after she got stabbed in the right side of her chest. If you're a writer, you now want to write either a realistic death scene, or a realistic rescue. Here are some basics to remember as you do the latter.

Somehow, you need to get that air out of her chest. Doctors now-a-days will stab a tube into the space below her ninth rib, towards the front—this is called her ninth intercostal space—and suck that air out. They put it in the ninth space (under the ninth rib), towards the front, so they don't hit your liver. That ninth space is actually just below the border of your lung and above your diaphragm normally, but now it's way below the border of her lung since her lung's all shriveled up. Doctors will sometimes wait to get an X-ray to make sure this is the problem before doing this, but if your heroine's clearly dying—her pulse has stopped, or she's turning blue from lack of oxygen—they'll go ahead and do this without waiting for those pics.

Doctors aren't just careful about which space they insert into. They're also careful to insert the needle in the right part of that space: in the bottom half of the intercostal space, but above the rib. There are important blood vessels under the top rib that you want to avoid, so you try to move closer to the top of the lower rib—but there are some collateral blood vessels there, too, so you don't insert right at the border of the bottom rib, but rather a little above. So if you're writing some kind of tragedy, or from the point of view of a medical student messing up for the first time, you could either have them accidentally insert the needle and chest tube into the wrong space, or make them insert too high and burst a blood vessel into the space so now she's filling up with blood on top of air and MAN THAT WOULD SUCK DON'T WRITE THAT. If your heroine's lying on a fantasy battlefield far from medical care, maybe your magical healer can “sense” the air in her lungs and find some makeshift way to suck it out. A needle and a bamboo straw, I dunno.

After you've gotten the excess air out of her chest, you want to close up that hole. If you can, you want to close it up with a valve so air can get out, but not into her chest. Her lung should now be able to expand enough to allow oxygen exchange, even though it's punctured, and now that it's configured in more its normal shape instead of shriveled like a kitchen rag her body can try to close up the gap in her lung by building new cells there. She may need to be on a ventilator, but at least now her lung can expand, even if it's got a little puncture, so your battlefield heroine may survive without the machinery. As you can imagine, a lot's going to depend on the size of the hole in her lung, since every time she breathes in she's letting air into that thoracic space. That's why it's good to have a valve, so air can get out of her chest but not in. If you've gotten all the air out of her chest cavity without complications, her survival goes way up, and while she'll need to rest—too much stress and pressure can make her lung want to collapse again—her body can take it from here.

Now what if we're not talking a nice stealthy little knife between the ribs? What if you got her stabbed with like this GIANT GIANT SWORD that penetrated more than 4 cm and left a HUGE GASH in her lung? 

Here, go to the next post in this series.

Tune in next time.

All information from Grant's Atlas of Anatomy, Lippincott's Illustrated Q&A of Anatomy & Embryology, Moore's Essential Clinical Anatomy Third Edition, and the January 2010 article by Nishiumi N., et al, on pulmonary laceration in the Annal of Thoracic Surgery. It's med school.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Medfacts #1: Getting stabbed in the chest, part 1 (right side pneumothorax)

It happens to the best of us. Whether you're an action-adventure lady-in-black slipping through dark alleys with criminals hard on your tail, or a fantasy princess in the front lines giving her life for her kingdom, sometimes we get stabbed in the chest.

As a writer, do you actually know what happens next? As a reader, are you taken in by pretty falsities or can you tell if she should have died or not? Let's go nitty-gritty.

So where you get stabbed matters. 

First, let's say the knife goes in on the right side, anywhere along the body wall between the first and eighth intercostal spaces. Intercostal space means space between your ribs. Because your ninth rib (like all your ribs) curves downward, only the very top part of the eighth space, above the ninth rib, and towards the back, counts with the rest of the stab area we're talking about: we're talking an area roughly from your collarbone to about a hand's-width and a half below your breasts, on the right side. (If you want to be more exact, you can count ribs by remembering your collarbone is about above your second rib, and moving down from there) In this area, on the right side, your evil bad guy only needs to jab his knife between two ribs about 4 cm in to hit a lung. Then what? 

As soon as you puncture your heroine's right lung, it will begin to shrivel up. Why? Two reasons. First, now there's a hole in her chest wall letting air in, and that air will push on her lung, crushing it. Your body works hard to maintain a perfect negative pressure to allow you to breathe, and that's totally thrown off when there's a puncture in the wall creating a positive air pressure. Second, you punctured her lung, so now it doesn't have the air in it to puff it up and help it push back against the air coming in through that hole. If you hadn't punctured her lung, at least when it was full of air it could push back a little. Every successive breath she'd be shrinking her lungs, letting more air in through that hole in her body wall to crush her lung--but at least she'd have a few successive breaths. But we're not talking about that. We're talking about your heroine with a punctured lung. Because there isn't really any space between your body wall and lung anyway—the space that exists is a “virtual space,” and it's just a little layer of mucous cells—it's highly unlikely that you'll puncture the thoracic wall and somehow manage to stop JUST ONE CELL LAYER SHORT of her lung. If she's super-lucky, or she's got a divine protection thing going on, that's something else, of course.

So your heroine's chest will fill with air—that's called pneumothorax. She'll feel a heavy, pressurized pain like there's a refrigerator crushing one side of her chest, or like something's sitting on her, or maybe like something's trying to get out of her chest every time she breathes. If she's got inner demons or a magical realism religious situation going on, you can incorporate that into this feeling. If your heroine's in the 20-21st century era or afterwards, the scifi wizard/spaceship's doctor will see her chest X-ray present with two uneven black hollows where lungs belong. In one side, the black hollow will look really large, and in the other it'll look pretty small, with the air tubes and the heart squished into each other like little white blobs.

What's the prognosis? (How likely is she to survive?) Well, if you don't get her medical help, she's breathing with only one lung, and she'll begin to feel dizzy. The pressure build up will eventually get so bad that you're crushing the non-punctured lung. Her heart will begin to work really, really hard, because it detects that her whole body isn't getting enough oxygen, and your heart always thinks not enough oxygen is its fault. The harder her heart's working, the more oxygen it needs. That sucks, because there isn't enough oxygen for it, so now you've got heart cells closest to the blood vessels eating up all the oxygen, and the heart cells downstream will suffocate and die. That's called ischemia, and it's how you get cardiac arrest. The harder her heart's working, the more her chances of survival plummet—the Annal of Thoracic Surgery found that survivors of lung lacerations tended to have a heart-rate of 107 bpm, which is still elevated, but not as high as the 130 bpm average for non-survivors. Bottom line, you can't breathe with only one lung. Eventually, her heart will die, she'll lose oxygen to her brain, and she will die. Because she can't breathe and her heart-rate's freaking out, she's likely feeling panicky, even if she's a super-calm person.

How will you save her? 

Tune in next time to find out.

Next post in this series.<<Click There!

All information from Grant's Atlas of Anatomy, Lippincott's Illustrated Q&A of Anatomy & Embryology, Moore's Essential Clinical Anatomy Third Edition, and the January 2010 article by Nishiumi N., et al, on pulmonary laceration in the Annal of Thoracic Surgery.