Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pardon the Silence

Huges meeting with the head honcho at the DDJ today, been preparing all week and haven't had time during day to post, and I practically never get time at night on normal weeks. Didn't post over the weekend because I had just been started on another course of antibiotics (damn bug is persistent and still lingering in my bladder, apparently) and was both tired, worn out, stressed, and irritable. Didn't feel like sharing that with the on-line world. Regular posting should hopefully resume tomorrow, though the DDJ is still going to be insane after this meeting and the antibiotics and other stressors will still be there. So who knows...

Friday, August 25, 2006


I'm actually regularly taping a show so I can watch it later. I haven't done this since The West Wing. Eureka airs during my writing group, and I make it a point to tape it so I can watch it when I get back, even though I know SciFi will re-air it later that night and on Friday afternoons. I don't want to take the chance that they won't re-air it.

The concept of the show intrigued me: average guy is the sheriff in a town full of mad scientists. The pilot was a bit busy as they tried to pack a lot of the "townies" and the culture into the two-hours in addition to the basic show plot. That and the actors either mumble a lot or the show doesn't do a whole lot of voiceover in post. But it was still pretty fun.

The next two episodes were even better. We're slowly getting to know other elements of the town and the characters, and the story of each episode is a good mix of fun science and sleuthing. I really enjoy watching the characters interact. Especially Henry. Actually, that might be more the actor than the character. I've loved everything this guy has been in that I've seen. He brings such an honesty to his roles. Eureka's also done a great job of twisting the "computer as character" gimmick that Star Trek started. In Eureka, the computer is the sheriff's house, and she's very needy as well as a bit too helpful.

I'm still on the fence on the whole "Section 5" series arc/plot that they're developing. There are times it seems intriguing and times it seems a bit over the top or cheesy or just beyond the rules of the world they've set up. But it does keep the conflict going from episode to episode, so it's working on some level.

My only confusion with Eureka is the show that airs just before it, actually. SciFi has done so little promotion for Dead Like Me. It seems like a fun enough show from the little scraps I catch before Eureka. It really makes me wonder why it got such a raw deal. They don't even promo Dead Like Me during Eureka or during the SciFi Friday lineup. Very confusing.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Perfect Novel

I have come up with an idea for the perfect novel. Of course, I have no recollection of the particulars of said novel. Did I mention that I had this moment of creative genius while I was in the hospital? And that this spark of writerly brilliance occurred over the course of my worst night? Yeah, so feverish delirium + percocet + morphine + fenergan + antibiotics = savant.

Seriously, I remember piecing together a novel in the semi-conscious breaks during my one night in med/surg (where I was at my least lucid). But I have absolutely no memory of any details that would help me write said novel such as characters, plot, theme, you name it. As far as I know now, the idea went something like this:
I introduce this character, someone flawed yet sympathetic. Then I totally put her in some serious trouble, something that hasn't been done before. As she's fighting to put things to right, she royally screws up and probably has a dark moment in which she questions everything. But eventually she finds a way to fix things, and she's grown and learned something along the way.

I really wouldn't be surprised if that's what I came up with. Not so much the perfect novel as it is a recipe for your basic novel.

Regardless of what the idea was, it carried me through the next day and made the transition from med/surg to the ICU less scary. I often came back to the thought of my perfect novel that day, telling myself that when I got out of the hospital, I was going to write the pants off that thing. By the next day, during my Adventures on Ambien, I realized that I didn't have any clue as to the specifics of the idea anymore, if I ever did, and I think that's what made that day particularly rough fro me.

Maybe one day I'll reconnect with this perfect book. Maybe I won't. But I will say that a nebulous, flawless novel is a bit better for a drug-induced flight of fancy than having Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the spaceship Serenity tell me to get up and pump my breasts. Note to self: always mix percocet with morphine, never take alone.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Goofing Off, Writer-style

So last night I stayed at my writing group longer than I had intended. My health is still a decent bit from 100%, and I had pushed myself a bit too hard at work earlier that day. I had meant to stay at group for an hour and then go back home for bed. But my writing group is fun, and I was enjoying getting into the meat of the pieces that were brought. So I stayed an hour longer than I had planned. I was getting ready to leave then when the group convinced me to stay because the next piece was only three pages.

Well, by this point, we were all a bit punchy. The jokes were zinging left and right, giggle fits were looming on the horizon. It helped that it was a really good piece that we read. If it had required more work, I'm sure we wouldn't have had the attention to spare much beyond critiquing the writing. But we did have the attention to spare.

Thus we were able to have a good time with the usual evil of "eyes resting on the floor" instead of "her gaze lingered on the floor" or something. It's a common writer mistake and one that very often makes it into print because, while it may be incorrect and physically impossible for your eyes to be resting on the floor or traveling up someone's body without severe pain and, well, blindness, everyone knows what you mean. Doesn't make it any less of a mistake, of course, but it's easy to overlook.

While most of us were making fun comments about locomoting eyeballs, though, one brave soul was endeavoring to provide serious feedback about part of the piece. The part involved a letter, and the critiquer was curious as to whether the writer had created the letter herself or if she had found it in her research and it was actually source text. Unfortunately, our intrepid writer responded by saying, "Yes, I made it up. It came out of my head."

I think I waited a beat before saying, "Do you have writing coming out of your other body parts?" We all giggled and carried this a bit further until I made the inevitable comment. "Well, if you think this writing is good, you should see the stuff that comes out of my ass!"

Yes, yes. Very clever. And had we been just a group of pals joking it up, it probably would've stopped there. But because we're writers, I no sooner had said the line than I followed it up with "Oh, that's fun. I gotta work that into a book somewhere." And then someone else said, "Wait, that's totally something that Travis would say," referring to a character from someone else's work-in-progress that we had reviewed that night.

Even low-brow humor isn't just low-brow humor for writers. Sure, we'll laugh at it, but we'll also be matching it up to our writing somehow. So be careful with that ridiculous knock-knock joke or bawdy limmerick. It just might come back to haunt you in print.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Where in the World was Kellie Hazell: Prague, 1992

See my previous posts: East Germany, 1988, and Berlin, 1996.

The travel agencies that catered to the American military in Europe had a particular type of trip that must have had a clever name but that we called the "shop till you drop" trips. They were bus trips to one of several nearby cities. You'd sleep on the bus, tour and shop during the day, then sleep on the bus back home. If you've ever tried to get a regular night's sleep on a bus, you understand why this might not be the most enjoyable traveling experience. But the trips were a big success for the single military member or the young couple, and, of course, the occasional odd family such as mine.

In the summer of 1992, the four of us grabbed one of my uncles and my grandmother and went on a shopping trip to Prague. Or at least I think my uncle was there. This is one of those "memory is fuzzy" moments. We stuffed the six of us into a car, drove to a bus pick-up spot, the bus drove us to a coordinating center for several of these trips to various cities, and then we got on our bus to Prague. The bus was garishly purple, and that led to the moniker for this trip: the Purple Bus Ride from Hell. At first I thought my seat was comfortable, but shortly after we got underway, I managed to find fault with some funky footrest thing. It was a long night.

We had breakfast at some special place. We did a bus tour. We saw a couple of sights. Then we were turned loose on the shops to buy crystal and the other items that were fairly cheap in the city. At some point during the day, we went up to either a castle or an entire older, walled city on a hill. There was some changing of the guard. There was a great view of the city. There was Franz Kafka's house. I think I had just read The Metamorphosis, so I was tickled by this sight. I also remember it the clearest as I had a picture taken just outside his door. (Good ol' Franz was very, very short.) And then we piled back into the bus for the return trip.

Believe it or not, this was the part of the trip that I'll never be able to forget.

I actually slept well at first. The customs stuff at the border woke me up, though I don't think we had to do anything. I could be wrong there, as I think I remember my mother and father being annoyed or saying that someone was being overzealous or something. I slept fitfully after that. A commotion at the back of the bus woke me fully. I couldn't understand what was happening. There were some exclamations that were pretty muffled by the time they made it to me at the front of the bus, but a lot of people seemed to be going or looking back there.

We made an unscheduled stop at Nuremburg Air Base (I think), and everyone got off. I think this was the point where my mother explained to me that someone was sick. An ambulance showed up, although it was a German one, not an American one, which was odd because I know we were on a military base because we were sitting in front of a Burger King and something else that was specific to the military bases at the time. It's possible that this base was closed or closing to the point where it didn't have an emergency services hospital, but that doesn't seem right either.

The paramedics (or whatever the German equivalent is) boarded the bus and brought the sick man off the bus. He wasn't moving, he wasn't conscious. They put him in the ambulance and tried to work on him a bit there. That wouldn't have been a problem except German ambulances have fairly big windows with about three-quarters of frosted glass. I remember watching the paramedic bobbing in and out of the clear portion of the glass as he performed CPR. I don't know how long the ambulance stayed there, or how long all of us stayed off the bus watching. It seemed like a lot longer than it probably was. I'm not sure anybody really slept for the rest of the trip home.

I found out later that the man had just stopped breathing on the bus ride. There were three nurses on the bus, and they took turns doing CPR to keep his body alive until we could stop. I'm not sure anyone ever found out why a healthy man in his thirties just up and died on that bus. And due to the whirlwind nature of the trip, it's very likely that only a couple of other people on that bus had even talked to him the entire day. I wrote a story about it for my ninth-grade English class. I probably still have it somewhere. There was a little blurb about the death in the paper, which I feel in retrospect I should've cut out. At least then I might remember this man's name and who survived him. It seems odd that I was in such close quarters with a man who lost his life in my presence, and I can barely recall what he looked like.

Next week: Stratford-upon-Avon, 1995, definitely more up-beat

Monday, August 21, 2006

Best Medicine

The six days I spent in the hospital weren't fun for a number of reasons. But the best part of every day there was the few minutes each morning and evening when Mark brought Drew to say hi. I wasn't able to hold Drew at all (he's so curious and grabby that my IV wouldn't have lasted for a minute with him in my arms), and he was more interested at all the new sites than puzzling out who the crazy lady in the bed was. Still, I couldn't help but smile whenever I saw him.

Part of the reason I was so miserable the last two days of my stay was because I felt well enough to be home and wanted to be home so I could see more of my smiling guy and actually put my arms around him and hold him while he drank a bottle. The world of difference I felt between my last day and the hospital and my first full day at home was probably due almost entirely to Drew.

It was the hardest thing to spend all of last week at home and not keep Drew home with me, but doctor's order are doctor's orders, and there's no way I would've been able to get as much rest as I did if I had been chasing after the Drew Monster all last week.

We have lots of pictures of our little guy, but most of them are digital (the perils of having a digital camera and no printer). I wish we had printed more pictures so I could've put Drew's somewhat toothy grin on the little tray by my bed. Maybe that would've kept my fever's down or something. It certainly would've made me smile more.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Odd Sunday Check-in

Still not back to 100%. I've only been up for three hours today, and I'm ready for a nap after doing simple grocery shopping. I go back to work tomorrow, but I'm not sure I'm going to make it a full day. We'll see. Other than the energy levels, though, I feel fine. I've got several follow-up appointments this week and next, and the docs will give their Final Word on how I'm doing after the recent medical insanity. One of the follow-ups includes an ultrasound of my kidneys. Fun.

In non-health business, I've done a lot of reading and TV-watching this week. The books were OK, but nothing that really absorbed me and Did It for me. It'd be nice to read a really good book. I've got a hardback that I picked up that I've been shying away from even though I really like the first chapter. Sounds silly, but I was reluctant to heft such a tome this week. I'll probably get over it, though, as I really want to get into a good book and that one seems to be the most promising.

As for my writing, I did manage to get a good bit done this week. About 4K. And I should have the energy to write more today and tomorrow as well. I need 5K more by tomorrow night in order to be fully "caught up" to my minimum goals after the hospital stay, but I'm not going to push myself to make it. If I get there, I get there. If I don't, it's OK. Health has to come first at the moment.

So that's been my week. I wish I was a bit more healed, but I'm hoping that getting into the swing of my regular life will trigger the rest of the energy to return. Some times that's what it takes.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Details of the Recent Medical Joy

Remember that kidney stone that was so funny ha-ha back at my six-week postpartum check-up. Yeah, not so funny anymore. Apparently I passed the stone recently. I didn't feel a thing. Didn't notice anything that could be remotely odd that would have indicated the stone had left my kidney and wandered its happy route out of my body. Unfortunately, the passing of said stone made conditions perfect for a little E. coli (not the icky one you hear about people dying from due to bad food) to wander into my bladder. Again, I didn't notice anything. My body is still protesting that whole pregnancy thing and is taking its sweet time letting everything get back to normal. The bacteria had a grand ol' time in my bladder and decided things looked even sweeter in my kidneys. That's when I finally noticed something. Back pain. Unfortunately, I attributed this to severe menstrual cramps. Then I got a fever and a terrible headache and started vomiting. Finally, I called the after-hours line and they told me to get in to the ER.

The ER docs quickly diagnosed me with a kidney infection, pumped me up with some antibiotics (took them forty-five minutes and three techs to get the IV in me), and sent me home. Things only got worse the next day, so back we went to the ER. They admitted me to their observation ward (IV was amazingly a one-stick deal this time; that nurse is my hero), and the round of chills to fever to headache to backache continued while they kept up with the same antibiotic. Sometime during that stay in the observation unit, they realized that the infection had found its way into my bloodstream and there was evidence that the lovely little E. coli were already starting to chomp away at my red blood cells.

This concerned me. So much so that I don't think I shared it with anyone. The destruction of my red blood cells, that is. I mentioned I was septic to Mark and family, but I think I kept the image of munching bacteria to myself. I'm not sure what I told to whom, though. That whole fever and drugs thing.

So they transferred me out of observation and into their med/surg wing. I got a new antibiotic, and by now the docs were closely monitoring whether the antibiotic was actually doing its job because the last one hadn't been. Unfortunately, this wing was so busy, that I got very spotty treatment. It took them four hours after I vomited and started spiking a fever before they came in with anti-nausea meds and Tylenol. Therefore, I understandably got worse during my one night in med/surg, and they transferred me down to the ICU the next day.

In the ICU, they gave me another antibiotic in addition to the second one that they started in med/surg. And they put a cooling blanket underneath me to prevent more spiking temperatures. They also put these odd cuffs on my legs to massage me and prevent blood clots. They made the mistake of giving me Ambien to help me sleep one night. I've never been so out of it. If you called on Wednesday of last week, don't believe anything I said. :)

The ICU nurses were great. I particularly enjoyed my night shift nurse. She took very good care of me. She even tried really hard to keep my glasses from falling into a pool of my vomit. Wasn't quite fast enough, but she did get them all cleaned up for me afterward. She's also the one with whom I made a pact to get an IV back in me after my first one "fell" out. We made said pact after four techs had given it a go, one of them with an ultrasound machine to help her find the veins (she stuck me twice without success). We made this pact even after some idiot from the ER tried to stick me in a vein that already had seven pokes all in a nice row from the course of blood draws over several days (when he stuck me there, I came off the bed screaming and crying). And she got the IV in me in one try.

By the way, it is ever so much fun coming home from the hospital looking like a junkie. Both of my arms are black and blue.

Once it was Friday, I was pretty much out of the woods, except for the whole concept of an oral antibiotic I could take so I could go home. I mentioned that the E. coli was resistant to the first antibiotic they tried, and that it took two separate kinds to actually start making progress in my bod. The new problem was that the primary candidate for oral antibiotic was a derivative of a drug I was allergic to. So I was watched closely Friday and Saturday morning while on the pill antibiotic, with a steady saline drip through my IV to keep the vein open just in case things took a dive.

At last they discharged me, and now I'm at home, trying to get my energy and appetite back (I don't recommend this particular diet, but I did lose 10-15 lbs over the course of this illness). I'm hoping that this is the last of the crazy medical dramas in my life for a bit. I was pretty scared for a bit there last week, and I think Mark and a few others might have been biting their nails, too. I'm ready to be healthy for a while now.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Mark's phone interview went well. Now it's back to a waiting game to see if they want an in-person interview. I'm thinking they will, but I'm not exactly the most objective person around. Mark's feeling a bit antsy now that he just has to wait. He really likes this company, really likes the positions they have open. This job encapsulates just about everything we're looking for in this job search for our family goals. That's a lot to be waiting for.

I'm trying my best to keep him calm and relaxed about it. It's hard, though, because I really want him to get this job so I don't have to work and we can settle into Arizona. But I'm setting that aside as best I can to keep him sane so he can still keep up the job search and follow-ups so we get him launched in his career. The point isn't to get the perfect job but the best job for his career that is available. But when that perfect job is sitting right there, and he's a step closer than he was toward getting it....

Keep sending those happy thoughts and keep those fingers crossed.

Monday, August 14, 2006

This Period of Silence Brought to You By: Urosepsis

OK, so why hasn't Kellie posted in over a week? Kellie was in the hospital from last Sunday until this past Saturday. Yup, six days. Fighting a kidney infection that had made its way into my bloodstream. And the little bacteria bugger was resistant to the first couple of antibiotics they tried, and then of course, I was allergic to the next couple on the list that would work. And on this went for six days.

I'll have a much more detailed report of the whole affair a bit later in the week (I've been ordered to take the week off and recover). Of course this latest round of medical bliss has completely wrecked my brand spanking new writing plan. But I do have some really good news that's come out of this bit of non-posting: Mark has a phone interview tomorrow with his top choice company. Send happy thoughts for him and maybe a few for my continued recovery, eh?

Regular blogging to resume next week.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Yet Another Writing Plan

Last week I got frustrated with my writing. Frustrated in the sense that I knew I was good enough to be published right now, at this very moment, except that I didn't have a completed novel of publishable quality to get published. In the odd logic that permeates such frustrating moments (and keep in mind I was having a bad week at the DDJ and was irked that I couldn't spend the time on my writing that I wanted), I decided to go ahead and pitch the Velorin series to the Luna line without a finished first book. No, I didn't go right out and act on said piece of insanity. I let it stew. I discussed it with Mark. I considered all of the various problems that could arise if I did this--and it was very telling that my only option that would not land me in some sort of trouble was if the pitch was rejected.

So I put my frustration to better use and formulated a do-able schedule that would allow me to finish a draft of SoZ by the end of the year (with hopefully enough wiggle-room to accommodate the insanity of moving, whenever that should hit). It involves committing myself to at least 1000 words every time I sit down to write. This shouldn't be a problem in that I tend to write 1,200 to 1,500 words in every session. But to put the goals in writing, with the expected weekly goal of at least 3000 words (I get three nights to write each week) and the expected monthly goal of at least 12,000 words, should help me make steadier progress. I know where I'm going with the book, I have an outline of everything I've already written, I have a plan for getting where I want to be by the end of the year. I am going to stick with it.

Also on tap with the writing is to make a similar plan for getting my two short stories out in the world. Right now they're stalled because I'm unsure of the turnaround time at the magazines I'm shooting for and with the uncertainty of our move.... I just have to analyze my options and make a decision. As for my other writing ideas, I'm going to put them into a reward structure for meeting my 12,000 a month goal. Also, all writing business items (such as the blog), will be taken care of one night a week to prevent me from wasting my other writing time doing post in advance and such. By putting aside a specific time for that every week, I should limit the distractions and such that would prevent me from meeting 1K a session or even writing SoZ at all in a session.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Marketing that Goes Too Far

Getting to your audience is a vital part of developing your writing career. You can write the best damn book in the world, but if it's not getting into the hands of people who want to read that stuff, you'll crash and burn. That's why writers need to develop some method of promoting themselves (websites, con appearances, newsletters, etc.). Sometimes it can go too far, though. Or just be so transparent as to be annoying.

Case in point is the recent re-release of a book originally published by a small press: The Expected One. Riding on the last gas of the DaVinci Code hype, the marketing for this book takes things one step further. I don't know how the story came out (publisher put this info in a press release? author created her own press release?), but it caught and spread to the point that even the booksellers were using it as a marketing ploy to get folks to buy the book. This novel is about the modern-day descendent of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ, which puts it right in the Code pack, but the publisher or author or both are trying to distinguish it by making it known that the author herself thinks she is the descendent of Mary Magdalene and Christ. Maybe I'm too cynical for thinking it, maybe it has nothing to do with selling books, but I heard this and thought about how I could hype my books with similar tactics.

For all of my SF books, I could claim to see the future, and that my books are basically transcriptions of my visions. For all of my fantasy novels, I could claim that they are loosely based on my experiences in my past lives--you know, sort of like a Million Little Pieces semi-fictional memoir.

Nah, too much effort to try and keep all the stories straight or be ready with an explanation any time I might slip. Too much effort. I'd rather put that energy into writing really good stories that don't need gimmicks to sell.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Where in the World was Kellie Hazell: Berlin, 1996

Last week I posted my first installment of the "Where in the World was Kellie Hazell" series: East Germany and East Berlin in 1988.

As mentioned in that college-paper interview, I went back to Berlin in 1996. Instead of driving, I took the train. (About half of my European adventures were accomplished via train; I miss that transit system.) And I went with my then-boyfriend instead of my family. I think we were on the faster-than-average train but not on the fastest available. I tried to find a distinction between the former West and East Germanys similar to what I had observed before, but I couldn't see it. There was no drastic change in the color scale, there was no sudden difference in building style. Maybe the disparity of those elements was much more prevalent right up against the border during the times of the Iron Curtain? Times like these I wish I hadn't been so young during that time.

I said it in the interview: the only real distinction between East and West Berlin was the shocking number of construction cranes dotting the eastern side of Berlin. The wall was only there in memorialized slabs, and the sterility of the border on the former East Berlin side of things was all but gone. I found it oddly disappointing that there wasn't still a bigger stretch of it left so I could see the past and the present and the future in greater relief. That and I really wanted to chisel out a piece of the wall with my own two hands.

We only had part of a day to explore Berlin. I don't remember much about the trip aside from a few scattered images of the train ride, standing in subway stations, those cranes, and the Brandenberg Gate. Last week I talked about how you could only see it from a distance, and even then it had the garish Berlin Wall marring it in the background. But on that trip we could walk right up to it, and the only thing detracting from its history and beauty was the marketplace of cheap tourist souvenirs that had sprung up at its base. Ah, how perfect a juxtaposition of memories: the cold, cruel leaching of color and life from the communist era against the chaos of capitalism in its most opportunistic venue. I should've bought a T-shirt.

I wish I could remember more about this trip. Berlin has so much history and beauty; surely we had enough time to see more than I remember. But it was 1996, I was a senior in high school. I spent most of that school year in a disconnect, eager to "get on with my life" and experience college and take the next step toward my dreams. There's a lot that happened that year that I only half-remember or remember as if it happened to someone else. I had the ridiculous notion that that year had to be perfect because it was my last year of being a child. I never daydream about reliving my youth, but there are times that I wish I could whisper some advice in my younger self's ear, namely, "Pay attention here."

Next week I'll detail my journey to Prague in 1992, when it was still the capital of Czechoslovakia.