Friday, May 28, 2010

Qualifier Chucking Party

I am a perpetrator of qualifier overusage. Have you leaned on these guys lately in your writing?

sort of
kind of
a bit
a little

Qualifiers are like the "ummm" of writing. They're comforting and it's easy to lean on them, especially in first drafts. They can be a clearing-your-throat type of thing, too.

I'm trying to chuck the particularly useless ones out of my writing. And what will I do with them? Why, recycle them into the most annoying paragraph ever, of course.

I'm sort of thinking I maybe should stop using some very overused qualifiers. It's rather silly, kind of dumb, I guess, because I seem to need them, and they're quite handy. It's totally a crutch, a definitely stinky security blanket of sorts, in so many ways. I'm somewhat wierded out, though, by the quite distinct feeling that I'm wanting to slap myself a bit. You know, a pretty hard slap, because a little more of this is GOING TO DRIVE ME FREAKIN' MAD.


That was annoying. Anywho, in honor of Memorial Day, and so I can recover from that headache-inducing paragraph, I'll be skipping Monday's post. See y'all next Wednesday!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Scientist's View of a Writer's Thick Skin

My skin is growing thicker by the day. How thick?

Hubbie asked me yesterday if I'd read my one-star reviews on Amazon if I ever got published. I puffed out my chest, and proudly declared, "Hell no."

Hmm. I thought I was at the green layer (above) but I think I'm still thick in the Overcooked Salmon layer.

Will I ever get to Superman level, titanium-alloy, Kevlar-strength skin?

I doubt it.

So what layer are you living with right now?

P.S. Ignore the unwaxed, unplucked, unshaved hair above. It's not my skin. This is for TEACHING purposes.

Don't forget to check out Zoe Courtman's post today on her "A-Ha Moment" in writing! And if you missed it, see our previous posts by Danyelle Leafty, me, and Laura Diamond!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Medical Mondays: Willow Bark has a Bite!

I'm fascinated by herb lore and its relationship with modern medicine. So I'm going to do a series of posts on herbal remedies that have valid usage in modern medicine and make cameos in literature as well.

Willow bark has abundant amounts of salicylic acid, the precursor to modern day aspirin. It's been used for thousands of years, in cultures as varying as ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Americas.

In the Medicine Cabinet

The modern day aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid, which I made in chem lab in college without lighting the lab on fire, was first synthesized in 1853 and later marketed by Bayer in 1897. It was considered to be easier on the stomach, which makes me laugh, because every doctor knows that taking aspirin is a major risk factor for causing bleeding in the stomach.

Nowadays, we use it for headaches, reducing fever, pain, and it's well known to be helpful for prevention of strokes and heart attacks.

In Books

I just finished reading Ash by Malinda Lo, and in it, the greenwitches use willow bark tea medicinally. Also, in the Clan of the Cave Bear books by Jean M. Auel, Ayla used willow bark tea for aches and pains as well.

In English folklore, the willow tree is somewhat sinister, and that seems to be reflected in the characters of Old Man Willow in the LOTR trilogy and the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter. There are also references to willow in Shakespeare's Hamlet and Othello.

So, got a headache? Have a cup of willow-bark tea, but beware. The tree may smack you in return, and give you a stomach-ache to boot.

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!

If you've got a medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at

All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Contest Winners & Double Espresso Deus Ex Machina

Congrats to the winners of my 150 Follower Contest! I used to pick the lucky numbers...

Winner of Barnes and Noble Gift card: DL Hammons

Winner of the book, A Northern Light: Laura B. Diamond

Winner of the Starbucks card: Renae

Please email me your addresses at LydiaKang (at) yahoo (dot) com and I'll send you your gifties soon. Thanks again to all for joining in!

Today I wanted to talk about the plot device called deus ex machina. Pronounced DAY-us Ex MAK-in-ah.

And I checked. It is NOT a double espresso maker from Europe. But it should be.

It means "God in the machine" (okay, for all the caffeine junkies out there, maybe God is in espresso makers) and refers to many Greek tragedies in which a seemingly horrible ending is avoided by intervention of the gods. A more modern take is when a tragic ending is resolved by "a contrived and unexpected invention of a new character, ability, or object." Quoting Wiki, here.

A few examples:
- 1st, 2nd and 4th Harry Potter books (Harry's mom's love saving him from Quirrell, Fawkes showing up out of nowhere, and the priori incantantem spell saving him from Voldemort)
-The Stand by Stephen King
-Lord of the Rings trilogy (the giant eagles miraculously rescuing Frodo and Sam).

This type of plot device can be unsatisfying for many. A perfect ending that comes out of nowhere? You can imagine the reader may feel tricked, since nothing substantial in the plot set this ending up.

On the other hand, it does make for a juicy, surprise ending! And a kick-ass cappuccino, to boot.

It occurs to me that some of the examples here are more a Chekhov's Gun type technique rather than Deus Ex. Please see my other post on Chekhov's Gun!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to Write the Perfect Novel, for $7.99 and Free Shipping

Don't forget to check out Check out Danyelle Leafty's post on her "A-ha" moment in writing. And if you missed it, last week I posted about Upping the Stakes in your plot. Last week was by Laura Diamond, and next week will be Zoe Courtman!

Okay. On to today's post!

I know there are methods D-Z folks. Cut me some slack. I can only make the picture so big.

Personally, I fall smack into Method C category for novel writing. But there are so many books out there touting how to do it, and do it well, or get on the best-sellers list, etc.

Heard of these?

Stephen King's On Writing. Part autobiography, part lessons on writing.

Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel. Some swear it's the Bible of novel writing, others think it's churning out author-bots.

Thomas Monteleone's The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel (Not to be confused with the Partial Idiot's Guide to Writing Half-Baked Books)

And there are so many more out there. I've learned a ton in the last year or so about writing novels. And if every gem was contained inside one single book, I would have bought it.

Did you use any books to help you learn the process? If so, please share!

And don't forget, there are two days left to enter my 150 Followers Giveaway!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Medical Mondays: Hole Hearted

Happy Monday to you all. This week's fictional medical question comes from Christina Lee.

Can a child die from a hole in the heart (nowadays, with the latest technology available) and if so, how? Bacterial infection etc.?

A "hole in the heart" usually refers to a defect of the wall between the left and right chambers. Between the atria, or chambers that accept blood into the heart, patent foramen ovale (PFO) and atrial septal defect (ASD) are the common defects. Between the ventricles, or larger pumping chambers, a "hole" would cause a VSD, or ventricular septal defect.

Illustrations are from NMT Medical.

A Patent Foramen Ovale, or PFO occurs when a natural opening in the heart (necessary for the growing fetus) doesn't close after birth. About 25% of adults and kids have a PFO. Yes! That's one in four of you guys! But the good news is, this rarely causes problems for children. In adults who get strokes for unknown reasons, the cause can sometimes be a PFO, where blood clots escape to the "other" side of the circulatory system and cause strokes.

An Atrial Septal Defect, or ASD is a common heart malformation in babies. In moderate to large holes, they can cause problems with shunting (blood traveling the wrong direction). But nowadays, these are easily repaired.

And finally, a Ventricular Septal Defect or VSD is often managed with medications but can be surgically repaired if causing serious symptoms of shortness of breath and heart failure.

So for Christina's question, can someone still die from these, in this day and age? Without repair, many with serious ASD and VSDs can have heart problems as kids and later in life. There are plenty of circumstances when kids can't get adequate medical care and these problems could potentially become deadly. With repair, they are still at risk for infection of the surgical site (bacterial endocarditis), but most people get antibiotics to prevent this (such as before dental work). And PFOs usually don't cause trouble at all in kids.

The bottom line? A hole in your heart is often not as deadly as we think it might be. But they make for good pop songs (cue cheesy Extreme song from 1991). Hope this answers your question. If you have more, feel free to email me!

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!

If you've got a medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at

I will usually answer your question by email within a day or two, but post later so you don't have to wait a long time to get back to your WIP. All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!

And don't forget to enter my 150 Follower Giveaway!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Prizes! I made it to 150 Followers!

This Contest is now closed. Please see this post for the winners!

In honor of having a full 150 followers, I will be giving out three prizes, a week from today. The first is a $15 B&N gift card!

Second Prize is:

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly is a favorite of mine, a fragile and beautifully written YA historical that melds fact and fiction.

And the third Prize is a $10 gift card to Starbucks. Because let's face it, there's nothing like a little caffeine to juice up the creative instinct first thing in the morning!

To enter the contest, you must leave a comment and be a follower of my blog. And you can increase your chances to win!

+2 If you're already a follower
+1 If you're a new follower
+2 Twitter about my contest
+3 Post on FB about it
+4 Blog about it!

I'll use a random number generator to pick the three winners next week on May 21st.
Thanks to everyone for being so supportive and welcoming!
Good luck, and spread the word!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Five Fives for Thursday

I got tagged by Jemi Fraser and Zoe Courtman! Whee! I get to answer five questions five times.

1) Where was I five years ago?
-Living in Westchester, NY
-Commmuting into Manhattan (it once took me two and half hours to drive home)
-Working at Bellevue Hospital/NYU where I did my med school and residency training
-taking care of only two kids instead of three
-Living with far fewer wrinkles

2) Five years from now, I'd like to be
-Working on my fifth book
-Agented and published
-Still working part time as a doc
-Finished my family history project (it's taking forever!) and getting it self-pubbed to share with family and friends
-Still happy in Omaha

3) On my to-do list today
-get the sprinkler system working
-plant hostas in backyard
-eat my first home-grown, organic garden salad
-swing on the swing set with the kids and get dizzy
-take a deep breath and appreciate my life

4) 5 favorite snacks
-a hunk of cheese
-a hunk of sopressata
-rice crackers, the spicy ones
-Oreos and milk
-raw veggies with Bleu Cheese dressing

5) If I was a billionaire, I'd
-Donate a lot. Cancer research, the local free clinic, the arts in Omaha, Susan Buffett Foundation...
-Take my family and extended family on a shopping spree.
-Quit my job and volunteer in above free clinic instead
-Pay off my mortgage and the kid's future tuitions as well as all my nieces and nephews
-Get solar panels for my house

Cool. Now I'm gonna tag a few more people out there:

Rebecca Knight
Stephanie Boman
Paul C
Yat-Yee Chong

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Upping the stakes: My "A-ha" moment

Today it's my turn to talk about my most recent "A-ha" moment in writing. Check out last week's post by Laura Diamond, and stay tuned for upcoming posts by Danyelle Leafty and Zoe Courtman!

I've been trying to ratchet up the intensity of the relationship between my MC and the love interest. As I was doing so, a good writing friend pointed me to this post by Nathan Bransford. I'm a visual person, and graphs are like a second language to me so it was all I needed for perspective.

What I needed was this:

See how the swings grow in intensity as the story progresses? How the stakes are higher, so each low is so much lower, and the highs more intense? And the question mark is for well...we want it to end on a high note, but who knows? Gotta read the book (if it's ever published someday) to find out! Well, here's what I had, before revisions:

Which is why it's taking me so long to do revisions. I am basically rewriting vast passages of my MS to keep the stakes high and up them higher as time goes on.
So, thanks Nathan for the ideas and letting me rework your graph. A valuable lesson!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I'm going to spread the sauce. The love. The support. I've only been blogging for about two and half months, and I love this blogging community. So here we go!

Jana Hutcheson gave me the Sunshine Blog Award.

It goes to:
Saumya Dave
Krista Ashe
Heather Dougherty
D.L. Hammons
Sherrie Peterson

Cipherqueen gave me the Awesomesauce award!

V.M. Pettingill
Anna Staniszewski
Amanda Borenstadt
Alison Beightol
Erin Jade

Amparo Ortiz gave me the Blogger Buddy Award

I'd like to give this one to:
Creepy Query Girl
Nicole Ducleroir
BE Sanderson
Valerie Geary
Rena Jones
Matthew Rush

Thanks to Cheree for her award!

This one goes to:
Victoria Dixon
Janna Qualman
Emma Michaels
Medeia Sharif
Terresa Wellborn
Janet Sumner Johnson

Got this lovely one from Shannon O'Donnell

Passing this one to:
Suzette and Bethany at ShootingStars
Cynthia Reese
Lola Sharp
Tess Hilmo
Mary McDonald

Another lovely one from Jayne, thank you!

For these great bloggers!
Lisa Maliga
Samantha Bennett
Jemi Fraser
Stina Lindenblatt
Tina Laurel Lee

And a final thanks to Gretchen McNeil. I won a book, ASH by Malinda Lo. Cool!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Medical Mondays: Mmm, I'll have a side of dirt with that burger.

Today's post is about pica, a medical disorder where people eat non-food items. Pica comes from the latin word for magpie, a bird known to eat all sorts of weird substances and objects.

People with pica may have cravings for and eat an assortment of non-food items, such as soil, coins, chalk, paper, coal, feces. They may have an odd craving for food items that aren't usually eaten in large quantities, such as ice, salt, flour, or raw rice.

Pica is thought to occur because people have a mineral deficiency (usually-iron deficiency) that causes cravings. It can also be a culturally-specific craving. For instance, white clay (kaolin) has been observed in some African and African-American populations and is not associated with any pathology. Kaolin ingestion may actually be protective, absorbing plant toxins or alkaloids.

In kids, pica can lead to lead poisoning or parasite ingestion, especially with eating dirt of feces of animals.

Who has pica? Typically it's seen in kids, pregnant women, and children with developmental disorders.

I think it's fascinating that our bodies could see food in the objects around us if the conditions were right. It's bizarre yet life-affirming at the same time.

And I thought of the old fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. Maybe that wasn't a gingerbread candy house. Maybe Hansel and Gretel were poor, malnourished kids who just had pica. Maybe?

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!

If you've got a medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at

I will usually answer your question by email within a day or two, but post later so you don't have to wait a long time to get back to your WIP. All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Serial Rereading Syndrome

SRS is kind of a disease, I guess. The publishing industry is probably really pissed at me. I'm waiting for Random House to knock down my door and steal my stash of worn books. I do buy and read a lot of new stuff. But I can't help but go back to my old friends.

It's embarrassing, really. Here are a few that I must have read anywhere between 4 and 20 times—some recently, some not so recently:

The Little House books
A Wrinkle in Time
Jane Eyre
All the Austen books
LOTR trilogy and the Hobbit
The Thorn Birds
Memoirs of a Geisha
The Interpreter of Maladies

And this is the short list. It's a bit of a random mix.

Do you have SRS? Which books tempt you to read them over and ever again?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Trying on a new outfit

Sorry if any visitors are getting confused. I'm learning how to manipulate the HTML codes of my blog and having fun with design.
It's still the Oyster, just tweaking the ribbons and bows!
I found this background on Simply Chic Blogs.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


First, don't forget to check out the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog post for the week on "A-ha moments in writing!" by Laura Diamond! Also, see earlier posts by the other sisters, Zoe Courtman, Danyelle Leafty, and posted and myself.

Okay. On to querying. Boo! Did I scare you?

Are any of you out there afraid of querying? Possibly making up excuses to do yet another edit or revision before querying?

Because, let's face it. Querying will always involve rejections. I think I've gotten a thick skin from querying in the past but still. When you put our your nice, new, shiny manuscript out in the worlds, inevitably you WILL see those words.

Thank you for your interest in our agency. I'm afraid I'll have to pass on your novel, MY BABY, THE LOVE OF MY LIFE, THE FRUIT OF MY LOOM, METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING. The publishing world is very subjective and yada yada yada.

Any of you ever get palpitations hitting that send button while querying? Or needed a glass of wine/Xanax/transcendental meditation to do so?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Medical Mondays: Good Morning. How's your function?

Diseases get lots of airtime in the media. Horrible things, like leukiemia, Alzheimers, and what we call bread-and-butter problems like heart disease. But did you know your doctors also think about whether you can manage laundry?

The ADLs (Activities of Daily Living) and IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) are lists of thing you need to do in order to survive.

ADLs include bathing, brushing teeth, eating, dressing and undressing, going to the bathroom, and getting in and out of a chair.

IADLs are more complicated necessities of life: doing light housework, managing your money, grocery shopping, driving, taking meds, using the phone.

When patients accumulate enough medical problems, doctors start thinking about whether they can handle their ADLs and IADLs. If not, then things like nursing homes, home aides, getting more family help, etc start entering our minds.

How does this relate to writing?

On a character level, does your writing show your MC or others doing their ADLs too much?

Megan woke up, yawning. She shuffled into the bathroom, brushed her teeth and dutifully applied her zit-cream. After a quick trip to the toilet, noticing once again her little brother forgot to change the toilet paper...

I mean, does this stuff really further the story? I used to put ADL stuff in my writing, realizing I was boring my betas to death.

How does this relate to authors?

Just a word of advice. I'm sure you're all bathing and eating, but please don't forget to perform your IADLs when you're totally absorbed in writing! That brain fog can get really bad sometimes. Pay the bills! Make sure the milk doesn't go sour in the fridge! Or your doctor just might have to get you a home health aide.

Can you imagine?

"Hi, I'm Lydia. No, I'm not sick, it's just I need Lola the Home Health Aide because, well, I'm a writer."

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice!

If you've got a medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at

I will usually answer your question by email within a day or two, but post later so you don't have to wait a long time to get back to your WIP. All I ask in return is that you become a follower of my blog and post a link on your blog when I post. Easy peasy.

Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!