Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Does this cliché make me look fat?

People are so clever. They've thought of a million ways to describe things using an analogy, or a few interesting words. Problem is, the sayings are so clever, they get overused.

Thus, the cliché is born.

The term cliché comes from the French word "clicher" or "to stereotype". It's actually a term that originates from the printing press technique of making a plate of a commonly used phrase. It would save time instead of resetting the same letters over and over. Apparently, the sound of the matrix hitting the molten metal in casting the printing plates make a sound that the word cliché came from.

Neat, eh?

Here's a fun website where you can punch in a word and find a list of clichés that go with the word.

And one handy trick in trying to avoid a cliché? If you start the phrase and anyone can finish it for you, it's probably a cliché.


1. It's raining _____ and ______
2. Rags to______
3. Throw the baby out with ______

I've found I tend to use them in my writing when describing something, and then go back during revisions and replace them with something original from my own brain.

But there are other clichés lurking in our writing that have nothing to do with a few words.

Maybe you've heard of these:
The mean high school cheerleader
The dangerous and dark 'n handsome love interest
The quiet and shy but intelligent girl who's more beautiful than at first glance

Do you have clichés lurking in your writing?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Medical Mondays: Saving the Human Popsicle

This week's question is from Yvonne Osborne. She asks:

One of my characters falls through the ice far from civilization and is rescued but not before hypothermia sets in. Would she be confused about where she is and who she is? Memory loss? I've heard (and have written it so) that the best way to warm a victim after such trauma is to get them out of the wet clothes immediately and into a sleeping bag or under blankets, ideally with a healthy, warm individual who could best share their body warmth by disrobing and lying with the victim. Is this an accurate assumption? It makes for a steamy situtaion but I don't want to be too far off the logical track.

Steamy, indeed! But before the romantic body warming begins, let's talk about hypothermia.

Being immersed in near-freezing water, a human's chance of survival decreases the longer they're in it. So your character, assuming she needs to survive this catastrophe, would have to be in less than 20 minutes for the best chances possible.

Diving into cold water causes the "Mammalian Diving Reflex" which causes the blood in the body to be shunted to vital organs, namely the heart and brain. The heart rate will decreases and the blood vessels to the limbs constrict, keeping the warm blood circulating in the center part of the body.

The symptoms of hypothermia depend on how severe it is.

In mild hypothermia (core temperature of 90-95 degrees F), she might have difficulty walking straight, uncontrolled shivering, fast breathing, difficulty speaking, and impaired judgement.

With moderate hypothermia (core temperature of 82-90 degrees F) she might have a slow breathing rate, sleepiness and grogginess, the inability to shiver, and something called "paradoxical undressing."

As for the treatment?

With mild hypothermia, passive external rewarming is the treatment. It includes taking off any wet clothes and just bundling up the person in warm, dry clothes and letting their own bodies rewarm themselves.

With moderate hypothermia, you can do active external rewarming, namely stripping the victim down to the skivvies, and having a warm person do the same (steamy moment coming soon...) and have them make a human burrito in a sleeping bag.

Fan yourselves, readers!

The key is to rewarm the person's core, before you work on their extremities. If you rewarm the arms and legs first, that cold blood has a lot of acid in it from the poor circulation, and flushing the heart with that cold, acidic blood quickly can cause fatal arrhythmias.

For severe hypothermia, there is also passive internal rewarming, using warmed IV fluids and flushing the stomach and colon with warmed fluids. I know, I know. I'll say if for you. Eww. They can even flush the cavity surrounding your intestines and lungs too.

So Yvonne, you're all set for the scene. Except for the memory loss, which isn't a usual symptom, everything else looks good to go. It makes the best sense to make the romance happen that way. Why, he's saving her life after all!


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 fictional 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, June 25, 2010

Guest Blog on Breaking the Rules of Writing

Hi all! I'm guest blogging at Christine Fonseca's blog today on the topic of breaking rules in your writing.

Christina has been a great writing friend since I started writing fiction. Not only does she write YA, but her nonfiction book Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Outbursts is being published by Prufrock Press and set to come out this fall.

So have you broken any writing rules? Then come on over to my guest blog post!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Awardapalooza on Steroids

Hi everyone! I've been seriously hoarding awards lately. In a bad way. So I want to heartily thank the wonderful people who've given me awards, and send them right back out at people!

I got this one from the lovely Emily Ann Benedict.

And this one from Stina!

Tricia O'Brien so sweetly bestowed this award upon me.

Candyland gave me this award: the Baldfaced liar award

Susan Fields gave me the blogger Journey Support award!

I got this award from a bunch of lovely bloggers. You guys are awesome! A big hug to:
Peggy Shumway
Sharon Mayhew
Erica Mitchell-Spickard
Renae Mercado
Stephanie Thornton

I received this lovely award from Melissa at Through the Looking Glass.

And I just got this one from Stina Lindenblatt (she let me choose this one, like a kid in a candy store!) And it's my second one from Stina! You are too sweet!

I am so overwhelmed by the support from you guys. Thank you so, so much! And in return, I'd like to give an award out to many people. I usually give a single award to five people, and since I received, um, a lot of awards, that 5 x A LOT. Which equals, uh, A LOT. So hold on to your seats people. Take a potty break if you need. I hereby bequeath one award to each of the following people.

To each of the lovely bloggers who gave me an award above--Stina, Emily, Tricia, Candyland, Susan, Melissa, Erin, Peggy, Sajida, Sharon, Erica, Renae, Stephanie, and Bec! some great blogging friends:
Alesa Warcan
Maria Zannini
Yvonne Osborne
Anne (PiedmontWriter)
Karen G
J. M. Neeb
Jamie Grey
Nicole Murray
E. Arroyo
Joanne DeMaio
Holly Ruggiero/Southpaw
Writing Nut
Olley Mae
Julie Musil
L. Diane Wolf
Terri Tiffany
Talei Loto
Carol Kilgore
Rachna Chhabria
Heather McCorkle
Jess of All Trades
Sherrie Peterson
Bethany Elizabeth
Corey Schwartz
Karen Lange
Ed Pillola
Roland Yeomans
Mohammed Mughal
Theresa Milstein

My fingers hurt!

Each and every one of your blogs has made me smile, for a unique reason, and I have truly enjoyed your company on this blogging journey.

Please pick one award of your choice from the above awards, which you haven't gotten before (thanks Stina for the idea!) and pass on the love. And the steroids. Just kidding.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Writer's Magic 8 Ball

I want one of these.

I need one of these.

I am pretty wishy-washy when it comes to making decisions and easily swayed. I'm a Libra and don't believe at all in astrological signs, yet contstantly blame my Libra-dom on this personal failing.

My question is always the same.

What in heck should I do right now (about my WIP, about querying, about blogging)?

Here's what my Magic 8 Ball would say when I throttle it.

Eat chocolate. Ask again later.

My sources say read a new novel.

Signs point to sending a query.

Stop complaining and get back to your WIP.

Turn off the internet for 3 hours. Do it, girl.

Don't ask me. Ask your brilliant writing friends. I am just a ball of toxic blue fluid.

Don't ask me. I'm not responsible for your life decisions. Slap yourself and get on with it.

Well, well. There's my 8 Ball. Does your 8 Ball say the same things?

Remember to take a minute to see this week's blog chain post on writing goals!

Zoe Courtman is posting today! And check out Danyelle Leafty's post last week, my post, and Laura's response too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Medical Mondays: BBQ Ribs

This week's post is courtesy of Tricia J. O'Brien. She has a BBQ (Broken Bruised Question) about the ribs. Sorry if that made you hungry. But it got your attention, didn't it? :)

One of my characters has fractured a rib and has a contusion on her lung. She is taken to ER where she is scanned. Can you tell me what the ER doctor would do first? Once it's determined she is in danger of respiratory distress, would she be put in ICU? And what would they do to a semi-conscious, weak person with such an injury--oxygen, IV, any thing else?

Great question. I'm not sure what caused the accident, but someone with rib fractures and a pulmonary (lung) contusion probably recieved a strong, blunt trauma to the chest. These days the most likely cause is a motor vehicle accident.

In the ER, when a person comes in with trauma, shortness of breath, chest pain and a history of blunt trauma, several things will probably happen at once. The sicker the patient looks, the faster it happens. If they came in by ambulance, some things may have already been done (neck immobilized in a hard brace; IV running already, part of the history obtained.) They might be strapped to a hard board to keep their spine straight and help transfer the patient.

1. A nurse (or several nurses) will get vital signs. The patient be hooked up to a monitor to show blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rates, and an oxygen monitor will be placed on their finger. A nurse or technician will probably try to insert an IV and obtain blood tests. Likely oxygen via facemask or nasal cannula will be given. Once the IV is in, fluids will probably be administered. The neck may be immobilized until there is evidence that there is no cervical spinal injury.

2. A doctor or triage nurse will obtain a history about what happened. If the patient can't tell, the family, witnesses, or ambulance crew will be giving this info.

3. Another doctor will start examining the patient while this is all going on. They'll assess how the patient is breathing, check the vital signs, listen to the heart and chest, and check for signs of trauma to the head and neck, do a neuro exam.

4. As for scanning, a portable chest X-ray might be done in the middle of this. The team will scatter to avoid the radiation for a few seconds and come back to the bedside. In some major trauma centers, if the patient is stable enough, they'll just take them directly to get a CT scan of the chest. Sooner or later, the CT will eventually be done.

5. Some trauma centers may also do a bedside ultrasound to look for air between the lung and the chest wall (pneumothorax) or fluid around the heart (pericardial effusion or tamponade).

I'd assume that this patient is so sick that they have signs of a pulmonary contusion (blunt damage to the lung) and AT LEAST 3 broken ribs. If the ribs are broken each in two places, they might have something called a flail chest, when a chunk of the ribs don't move in concert with the rest of the rib cage.

If the patient is very short of breath, has low oxygen sats (hypoxia), they'd need to be admitted for observation. If the breathing problems are very severe, the patient would need to be intubated or put on a breathing mask to help. Anyone intubated would automatically be in an ICU setting. There, they would receive IV pain medicine and fluids. The respiratory status would be closely monitored. Antibiotics would be given if there are signs of infection (fever, developing pneumonia).

If the patient is semi-conscious, there has to be a reason for this. Pain medicine making them sleepy or a little fainting is one thing; semi-concious because of the accident is a signal that head trauma may be a factor, and that's a whole other kettle of fish! (or post, whichever!)

More likely, the patient will be anxious, short of breath, and in terrible pain. If you want them to have head trauma, you'll have to write that in too!

Hope this helps Tricia. And I'm sure I didn't answer all your questions, but 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

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, June 18, 2010

Stewing in your WIP

Okay, I know I posted about getting all organized to outline a new project.

But my current WIP still calls with more revisions. So I'm back in that stew, thick with sentences that need trimming, dialogue that needs tightening, and a beginning that needs a revision.

My fingers are pruny.

How do you refresh when you've been stewing in a WIP so long you can hardly see straight? Do you take a break and work on something else, or just immerse yourself until the deed is done?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What's Your Weakness?

I know, I know. This picture assumes that as writers, we are superheroes. Let's just pretend, shall we?

As I've written more and more, my crit partner has noticed that I have an interesting flaw (among many others). I don't like to write action scenes. I hurry through them ("To get to the kissy-kissy parts!" she tells me). But the truth is, they are not my forte, and I need to work on them.

Do you have weaknesses in your writing that stand out? What's your Kryptonite, my superhero writing friends?

Remember to take a minute to see this week's blog chain post on writing goals!

Danyelle Leafty is posting today! And check out my post last week, Laura's response, and Zoe's next week.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Medical Mondays: Smells like Alzheimers, but...

Happy Monday! This week's question is from Anne (Piedmont Writer).

Is there any other kind of disease that could be misconstrued as Alzheimer's? And if there is such a disease, is there a magic pill that will take care of it? My character has the signs of Alzheimer's but I don't really want her to have it, I want her to be curable.

Great question Anne! There are a few classic problems that can easily be mistaken for Alzheimers, and (usually) do have a magic pill.

B-12 Deficiency
B-12 (or cobalamin) deficiency is a cause of symptoms that mimic dementia. A patient with such a deficiency might be elderly, pale "lemon" colored from anemia and bilirubin (pigments from broken down, abnormal red blood cells), have a shiny tongue and be mentally sluggish. They might also have a wide, shuffling gait, personality changes and numbness of the hands and feet.

The treatment? B-12 pills. Or, if they cannot absorb B-12 orally (due to stomach surgery, pernicious anemia, or low acid in the stomach from being elderly) then a shot of B-12 in the arm will start fixing things. Usually these patients need B-12 supplement for life (by monthly shots or pills).

The textbook hypothyroid patient has a metabolism that has seriously slowed down. They are sluggish, tired, slow-thinking, slow-talking, and often have weight gain. They might appear depressed and can't remember things well. Their hair will be coarse, their skin cool and clammy, and their limbs appear puffy.

The cure is giving thyroid hormones via pills. Levothyroxine (trade name Synthroid, among others) is given and titrated over several weeks to until blood tests and symptoms normalize. This is also usually a lifetime medication.

Okay, there is no blood test for this unlike the other diseases discussed today, but depression in the elderly can easily be mistaken for dementia, especially when symptoms appear as sluggishness and mental slowing, poor appetite and difficulty concentrating. Usually a good evaluation (along with screening for the above problems) can help diagnose this. And there are different antidepressants that really are modern miracle pills to help this condition.

A very late manifestation of untreated syphilis is called "late neurosyphilis". Syphilis is really not around in the post-antibiotic era, but it definitely pops up once in a while. The symptoms are progressive dementia over a few years, and sometimes psychiatric symptoms like depression, anxiety and psychosis. They may have tremors in their face and hands, and slurred speech.

A blood test can pick this up, the definitive diagnostic test is a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).

Okay, Anne! Have fun picking your diagnosis! And let us know which one you choose!

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, June 11, 2010

Literary Devices Part 3: The MacGuffin

Okay, I was going to do this eventually but since Laura Diamond brought it up from last week's post (and this is a momentous week--I have linked to Laura on each of my posts this week!), I thought I'd tackle the MacGuffin.

It's not the MacGyver (though I should have an ode to him, I had such a crush on that guy in high school). And it's not a McMuffin either. Nor a McLovin'. It may possibly be a White Castle burger, though.

The MacGuffin is usually an object that drives the plot. Part of its importance is that everyone in the story seems to want it. It was coined by Alfred Hitchcock, who explained is as such: "It is the mechanical element that usually crops up in any story. In crook stories it is almost always the necklace and in spy stories it is most always the papers." (Oxford English Dictionary)

Some famous MacGuffins?

The Ring in the LOTR books
The Sorcerer's Stone, JK Rowling
The sugar bowl in the Lemony Snicket books
Ice-9 in Cat's Cradle
The Maltese Falcon by Hammett

I had a MacGuffin in my first novel, which is now resting peacefully in my hard drive. Have you used a MacGuffin lately? Or read a book recently featuring a MacGuffin?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog: My Big Fat Goal

So today, I'm to tackle what my goals are. Danyelle thought up this topic for the month, and check out Laura's response last week, and Zoe's next week!

I've written two novels thus far, shelved one, and on the cusp of querying another. And now I'm in the plotting stage of novel number three.

Each step along the way, I learned stuff. But probably one of the biggest problems I've had is not having a good bird's eye view of my plot.

I thought I was a planner.
I thought I was an outliner.

I wasn't really. Those efforts were fairly mediocre. And so I couldn't see the plot problems until I'd already written the darn things and my betas said, "Whoa. Plot issues galore."

This time around, I'm going to do an extensive outline, character sheets, and detailed notes on world building. Any plot revisions will occur before I actually start writing.

This is a big deal for me, and may make a huge difference in my story telling. Because up until now, I've found that:
1) I'm not a bad writer.
2) But I'm not a great storyteller.

I need to work on that. And planning like a fiend is going to help me there. That's my new goal!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Medical Mondays: The Secret Blood Club

Hi All! Today's questions comes from Susan Fields!

She asks, "Is there a blood type/quality/whatever that would make it very difficult to find a donor? Is it possible they could do this transfusion right there locally, from one student to another?"

There are 30 ways to type blood, but the most important, for the sake of transfusion, is the ABO and Rh (+ or -) typing. There are eight blood types (see cartoon above) based on the special proteins found on the surface of the blood cells and the antibodies we make.

You can't just give blood willy-nilly (who the heck is Willy Nilly?) from one person to another. We carry antibodies to people with different types. In fact, some mothers carry antibodies to their own baby's blood types and must receive a special injection just before giving birth or the baby's blood will get attacked by the mom's antibodies during birth.

To make a long, long lesson in blood typing short, here are a few important factoids:

AB+ blood are universal recipients. So all eight groups above can give blood to this type of person. They are 3.5% of the US population.

O- are universal donors. This blood can be given to any of the eight above without causing a reaction. O- are about 6.6% of the population.

AB- is the rarest blood type. Only 0.6% of the population have this. However, they can receive blood from A-, B-, AB-, or O- people.

So to answer Susan's question? She needs a recipient AND a donor that are relatively rare. In the end, the best answer was that both characters needed to be O-.

As for Susan's second question? In the modern world, there are no direct person-to-person transfusions anymore. It's simply unheard of now (the last time I saw it was in the movie Bram Stoker's Dracula). Blood must be tested for all kinds of diseased first, like HIV, hepatitis, among others, and blood must be tested for compatibility first.

But in a small town that's searching for a difficult blood type, it's easy to imagine that the blood bank lab could "slip" the identity of the donor to the recipient. And these days, people do bank blood for themselves or family members to plan for surgery.

Okay, on last thing. I get asked this all the time during my day job. Can you ask your doctor to figure out what blood type you are, just in case?

Answer? Not unless you want to pay out of pocket for it. Docs only check blood type for two reasons: when they expect to transfuse you (before surgery, or during a bad illness), or when you are pregnant, to plan for the possibility of incompatible Rh factors. And of course, you can donate blood to find out!

So if you really want to know, and you've already had a baby, your OB's office will probably have that on record. For the rest of you, you'd have to wait until (gulp) you needed surgery or (bigger gulp) you were in some sort of trauma or succumbed to an illness that caused a terrible anemia. Or if you qualify, donate blood!

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, June 4, 2010

Literary Devices Part 2: Chekhov's Gun

It's seems I'm doing a series on plot twists and literary devices. Check out my first one on the Deus Ex Machina in which I make several false statements which I'll outline on this post. Sorry about the mistake, but I'm learning along the way too.

Hey, it's a blog, not legal document! Here are your grains of salt (...) :)

I'm learning along the way, so I appreciate the comments and support!

Anyway, on to Chekhov's Gun. It was so named after Anton Chekhov (no, NOT the guy from Star Trek) the Russian writer, playwright, and physician who once said, "Medicine is my lawful wife, and literature is my mistress."

Anywho. He did say in a few letters, that "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."

Chekhov's Gun eventually came to mean an object (or person) which seems insignificant or unclear, but later becomes a crucial element of the plot.

So my mistake from the earlier post?

The eagles saving Frodo and Sam at the end of LOTR is more of a Chekhov's gun. They are mentioned earlier a few times in the book but it's unclear how they will take part in the battle of good vs evil.

And in Harry Potter? Fawkes is kind of a Chekhov's gun too. We meet him early on, but he just seems like a fancy, mythical office pet. Actually, HP is filled with Chekhov's guns. The snitch, Mrs. Figgs, the locket...there are more I'm sure, but I can't remember them all!

Do you have a Chekhov's Gun in your plot?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Is Writing Your Outlet?

Many of us write because we love the creative process. Other like it because we get to play god and manipulate the worlds and lives of our characters. We can experience a fictional first love, first kiss, save a dystopian universe. And of course, we can get lost in the hope of becoming published, a powerful force of motivation.

For these and other reasons, writing can be the ultimate outlet and escape.

Or are you one of those people whose writing is so intense, you need to escape back into the real world to run away from the pressure of imperfect plotlines, creepy characters, and a gazillion revisions?

Which camp do you fall into? Do you need to escape to your writing, or escape from it?

Don't forget to check out this week's blog chain post on Goals! by Laura Diamond!