Sunday, September 23, 2012

Typing with One Hand Tied Behind Your Back

As many of my regular readers know I had a stroke back in May. I figured two or three months of really hard work would give me at least some use of my arm back...WRONG! Just like before, the possibilities for stories in my mind are filling with characters and story lines, etc now being put on the back burner. I can't help it...I'm a writer and LOVE doing it.

My major malfunction this week was extreme pain. I rarely take any pain medicine at all, but awoke in tears one morning and had no choice. Now top this with the maximum dose of Baclofen you can take orally, Zanaflex ( another potent muscle relaxer), and Valium for my spasticity plus pain meds, and you have a real live zombie in front of you. I could almost be the cover of my next horror book. No, not really. I mean it should have been pain-free considering I had much easier movement with the Botox injections. I couldn't figure out why my shoulder hurt so bad.

A light bulb went off in my head. I had taken a fall outside onto my concrete walkway a few months back right after I got home from the hospital. One of my cats had zipped between my legs and set me off balance. At the time I assessed my condition like any trained nurse and paramedic would do as I lay on the concrete. Everything worked that had worked before the fall, no severe pain anywhere...okay so get your butt up and continue life as the new abby normal. With considerable effort, and trial and error, I got back up on my feet, brushed off the debris from my body, and went inside. The next day I was sore, but that's normal considering my age. I didn't think twice about it, but did tell my therapists and doctors that I fell.

Now it was a couple of months later and I was still in pain. I called my neurologist because I wasn't sure whether it was stroke related pain, or something else. I asked whether I needed to see an orthopedist. I wanted my new occupational therapy regime to work, but not irritate something undiagnosed.   Well x-rays were taken, an MRI performed...don't you just love being in a metal tube with someone beating on the outside with a hammer? The results were I indeed had hurt my shoulder in the fall. They called it an AC separation. It's the ligament that holds the clavicle to the shoulder. A painful shot of steroids into the joint and my arm in a sling while exercising except for therapy. Shots to be given every two weeks until healed. Time-up to four to six months without surgery. I'm not a huge fan of surgery since my heart stopped twice during my last major surgery.

This is me trying to type one handed. Okay so the picture is of a woman with a fax machine, but it amounts to the same amount of effort. I've researched various sites and youtube videos of typing one handed trying to make typing with easier and faster. The finger positioning feels unnatural with your fingers centered on the f,g,h,j keys on a qwerty keyboard. I investigated a one-handed keyboard to buy ouch! The prices between $600-$2,000. I still hope to be typing with two hands again and couldn't justify the expense in my mind so I muddle through.

As many times as I've told writers to turn off their grammar and spell checker I'm finding I had to turn mine on again. My brain just isn't capable of doing those processes yet, but I'm hopeful. I'm using my writing as therapy for both cognitive and speech therapy. I'll write a sentence and read it aloud. I've caught a lot of errors that way. I'm still searching for words that I know are in the file cabinet in my brain. My writing is semi organized. It's mainly getting the thoughts into my computer. Time to organize it into coherent sections later.

I typed my 10,000th word yesterday. Try doing that with one hand tied behind your back! Now, only 60,000 more words to go. LOL This book will possibly go to the standard publishing route. Anyhow I'll shop it around. While it holds no images the visual imagery of the words is hilarious. Another excerpt soon.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Obstacles in Writing the Next Great American Novel

Everyone says they have the great American (insert your country) novel rummaging around in their mind. I've visited this subject before, but it's time to do it again. The most often heard of why they don't get busy and write is 1) time, 2) skill and 3)fear. I'll take them one at a time.
1) Time- Every person on Earth has twenty-four hours in a day, seven days a week, and three hundred sixty days in a year. It really depends on what YOU want to do with that time. Sure we work 40-50-80 hours a week. What about the rest of the time? Sleep, eat, care for yourself and others, But in between all of that isn't there a few moments when you veg out in front of the TV? Read or listen to something other than work related stuff? Just goof off? Sure, we all have those moments. We take vacations, and spend hours each month on commuter conveyances like, buses, trains and planes.  What do you do during those times? Could you possibly have a recorder or laptop to be writing? How about dialog or those quick comebacks somebody says to someone else? An outline? A character study sheet? Maybe ten lines of sentences about a scene? This is how EVERY author starts a story. They get a flash of lightning that starts the creative juices flowing into a story. Maybe it is something you saw on the news or an overheard conversation and the what-if motor starts churning in your brain.

2) Skill- Many people lack grammar an spelling skills to sit down and write two or three coherent sentences. The main point is skill is learned behavior. Nobody was born with the know-how to walk, or talk, or for that matter eat. I found this out recently when I lost quite a few of my learned behavior skills with a stroke and I am still fighting to relearn everything. You can learn proper grammar. You can learn how to spell. You can learn how to write fiction, nonfiction, article...everything. Don't have time to take a class? The library and bookstore have tons of materials or for that matter hire an editor..

Didn't you have to learn the skills to perform your current job? And that's something you have to do not what you want to do. Many new or wanna-be authors dream of staying home and do nothing but write...this is a pipe dream that many authors will never fulfill. I've been writing for over 30 years and up until recently kept my full-time job. Age does have some privileges. Your first story may never see publication...possibly even your first five, but keep at it.

In a section of my new manuscript, Don't Get Your Panties in a Wad, I write about bucket lists. Those things you plan to do when you get around to it, but rarely do because you think you're immortal? Then on your death bed or near death bed, "I wish I had of done _____." Do you really want to be one of those type people? Death is the absence of  learning, folks.

That brings us to the last topic I'm going to cover today, Fear. What if the book is lousy? What if it doesn't sell? What if _____? You fill in the blank. Be honest. My answer to this is simple...nothing ventured is nothing gained. Yes, nobody is perfect and you will be leaving yourself open to criticism for something you created. Something you put every ounce of creative juices in. Your baby. Your story. Even with one of the big 6 publishers behind could fail. Remember your first job interview? Were you scared? Did you get the job? Did that one interview stop you from trying to find another job, no. You kept plugging away until you got one. The same is true with writing your novel or book. I have an author friend named Thomas Wilson. He is a hard working tire company manager and family man, so much so it took him ten years to write his first book. He self published it and then wrote another,and another,and another. He always says he knows his first novel will be his worst and he was right,but it's still selling. As he builds skills toward becoming a better author he is fulfilling his dream. Remember fear and faith cannot live in the same person or spirit. Take a chance and take the first step. Make a commitment.

Thomas Edison when building the first light bulb failed (in some people's eyes) two hundred times before he perfected the design. His response was he learned two hundred ways how not to make a light bulb. We'd be in the dark now if he let fear stand in his way.

So what's holding you back?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Escape from Scon Eden Revisited~Mailbox

In light of the Embassy in Egypt and the American ambassador killed in Libya, I've had numerous emails about embassy life. So I know some of you read it. I get on average of sixty emails a day between three accounts about my novels. There is a danger in writing what you know.

There are a differences between Consulates and Embassies. Embassies deal with political issues between the host country with Marine guards in place as well as some local security, while consulates deal with issues like expatriates, tourists, vital statistics of in this case Americans. Both of assist with Visas. Embassies are located in the nation's capital, Embassy Row in D.C, whereas consulates can be anywhere within a country like in California.

You may ask where were the Marines I mentioned in the novel. Consulates often are not guarded by that country's military. In the case of Libya, the attack was planned for when the ambassador was visiting the consulate. Since the names have not been released yet I can almost guarantee one or two Marines were there. Most times where the Ambassador goes so do the Marines.

Something like doesn't happen without a lot of planning before hand. Like the Japanese consulate kept waiting in the outer rooms with a declaration of war prior to Pearl Harbor, US had prior communiques about these attacks to coincide with 9/11/2001. As in Escape from Second Eden threat analysis is done constantly. Today since 9/11/2001, it is difficult to sort through the chaff to find the wheat. Just like the novel, I am constantly questioned what really happened and what my creative mind conjured up to move the story forward. All you can do is send me a query with the scene and I'll answer with a yes or no.

For me personally. it brought back every little thing that happened in Sri Lanka between 1969-1971. Nightmares abound and all the ghost which I dug out of the closet in writing the novel resurfaced in graphic detail. Even my father, the head of the Marine security force, say there is not a day that passes he think about what occurred. This is a Marine who served his country for thirty-two years plus reserve time. Who was reactivated for flight marshal after the World Trade Center. A Marine who fought in Vietnam, Korea, and few dozen times of coming home, packing his duffle bag, and kissing all of us. "See ya when I see ya," and out the door for a week or months at a time.

It was a rough life but one filled terror, love, and family values. God first, family second, and everything else takes a back seat.

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

News and an Excerpt

Well another week or so has passed and time for another update. The Botox injections are done with some startling results. The spasms I had in my bicep have all but stopped. These have been constant since my stroke in May. So I start back in occupational therapy again this coming week. Now if I can just figure out why and how I've lost my shoulder movement, I might actually be able to regain use of my arm.
AFO I now wear

My neurologist ordered something called a Walk-Aid for my drop foot. It ain't cheap, but insurance may cover most of the cost. Instead of a heavy plastic boot with Velcro straps which has to be strapped on and inserted into a shoe before I can stand or walk, it's a small belt that send electrical impulses from the nerves in my leg and foot to my brain. This is a vast improvement especially on those urgent early morning mother nature calls.


I never knew it existed so of course I looked it up on the internet. I also ran across a device for the hand and wrist from Bioness. This thing is coolio. The whole thing about stroke recovery is developing new pathways in the brain to take over the damaged part. Both of these do that. I've said from the beginning...I want recovery not adaption.

Now that my news is finished here's an excerpt from Don't Get Your Panties in a Wad. (c) JoAnn Mefford 2012 All Rights Reserved In case y'all noticed I'm adding another pseudonym to my growing list of names. And yes, the cover author name will be changed. My previously traditionally published works will appear in this name rather than the name I used with my publishers when I buy the rights back since they are all nonfiction. Anyhow on to the except of the beginning...Enjoy!

As a way of introduction I'm reminded of an old jump roping rhyme during my youth.
"When I get married who will it be?
The butcher,
The baker,
The candlestick maker,
The rich man,
The poor man,
The beggar man,
The thief,
The tinker,
The tailor,
The doctor,
The lawyer,
The merchant, or
The Indian chief."

I did one better with my life. I became all of them at one time or other. Or at least it felt that way at the time. The butcher and baker came about as a caterer and chef. The candlestick maker and merchant, well that was after my degree in aromatherapy and an herbalist. I dabbled in all things natural based including soap making, and candle making/carving. The rich man (woman), was when I was a corporate trainer and international marketing consultant. It's also my wealth of knowledge and a loving family. I have wallpapered walls with my degrees. The poor man (woman) was after my divorce having four children and on welfare. The beggar man that had to do with fundraising for several charitable organizations I worked for and self publishing. Although I've never been a thief, I did play one in a school production of "Oliver." The tinker, I've puttered around for years creating something out of nothing with recycling old products everything from broken glass to metal work. The tailor, I've been knitting, crocheting, needlework of all kinds, and sewing for almost fifty years. The doctor, I spent years as a life/rescue nurse and Dr. Mom. But I did not play one on TV. The lawyer, for the first thirteen years after my divorce I had filed thirteen contempt of court charges against my ex-husband plus worked for county law enforcement, and was involved with several other court based suits. Need I say more? The Indian chief will be a stretch. I've lived in India and am 1/16th Blackfoot Indian. While I may not be a chief, I'm definitely a queen of my domicile and when I say off with their heads. It's done... especially with the chickens. So you can see I'm the Jill of all trades but master of none. I can relate to any work force. Now, or until my stroke, made my living as an author and ordained minister. I'm over everything: over-creative, over-achiever, over-motivated, over-dedicated, overworked, over-stressed, overweight, over- educated and just over the hill. With all of these skills I wasn't prepared for the devastating effects of a stroke.

My momma always told me, "If you can't laugh at yourself, who can you?" I firmly believe you can adapt to anything and laughter has healing powers. Sometimes it is better to laugh even if it's to keep from crying. This book is not filled with adaptive self helps although there maybe a few I've learned along the way. It is filled with stories of accomplishment that I've learned along the way. Something all stroke survivalists learn with humorous thoughts along the way whether the person is male or female, or young or old.
End of except

Keep writing and loving the Lord.