Friday, May 27, 2011

Is Your Blogging Persona You?

I have ideas of what people expect me to be like.

Because of my day job, I should be professional, serious, and industrious. Caring and selfless to the point of being part-Mother Theresa. Scientific but with a soft touch. Definitely the best red-tape cutter and paper-pusher you ever saw.

But online when I blog, I'm not that person. I express my love of reading and writing. I draw silly cartoons to go with my blog posts. I joke. I'm creative. I have writerly self-esteem issues.

I can't deny that my medical career is a huge part of who I am. But I'd also argue that on my blog, I'm more "me" than I am in the office.

To be honest? That's liberating.

And what's more, all of you who read my blog have embraced this part of me, and for that I'm in debt to you.

What about you? Is your online persona you? Or just a portion of your whole self?

Also, I'll be taking Monday off for Memorial Day. See you guys next Wednesday!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Writing Theory of Relativity and the Waiting Game


The first thing you learn about the traditional publishing world is that the time-space continuum actually follows different rules. Einstein forgot about the Writing Theory of Relativity:

PA=IWT - T1/2H

and it's corollary: IWT=AWT x 10

(That's Published Author=Imagined Writing Time minus half a head of hair (from stress, of course)).

And Imagined Writing Time = Actual Writing Time (time it takes to conceive an idea, write, revise, revise and then revise) x 10. Obviously.

So what to do with all that waiting time? Here are a few words of advice, depending on which stage of the game you're in.

1. Have Shiny, New Idea and afraid it will take a millennium to produce first draft.
Stop wasting your time reading my blog. Go write.

2. Have First Draft, now letting it ferment happily while waiting for the revision stage.
Ah, the abyss between stages. Now is the time to throw away the dead fish in your fish tank because you were too busy writing your first draft to feed them. Also, clean house. Compost dying house plants. Feed self. Feed children. Shower. Remember that stuff?

3. Done revisions, waiting for crit-partner/beta feedback.
Now is a fun time to read other books, so you can compare yourself to other writers.
It will either
A) feel like you're yanking off fresh, new scabs (if the book is awful, because hey, it's taking forever to get your far more excellent stuff out there) OR
B) feel like you're yanking off fresh, new scabs (because the books you're reading are so kick-ass it tortures you).

4. Querying, waiting for Agent Demigods to respond to you.
Go seek therapy. What did you think I'd say? Go seek a beer? For goodness sake, I can't be responsible for making a bunch of alcoholic writers. Yeesh.

5. Waiting for Agent Demigods to read your manuscript after partial/full requests.
Have therapist move into your house. Seriously. Hey, did you shower yet? Is that an empty beer bottle in your sink?

6. Waiting for Publishing Deities to buy your manuscript.
No idea what this feels like. Since I have an imagination, I'd guess that fire ants and vinegar on flayed skin might feel better than this particular stage.

7. Waiting for Shiny, New Book to emerge on the market for purchasing.
Okay, I have no sympathy for you guys. This is where you need to buy ME a beer. Or bacon. Or chocolate.

I'm probably missing a few stages here, and I know I didn't include the journey made by those amazing souls who have circumvented traditional publishing to get their stuff directly out there.

In any case, the therapist now living in my basement bathroom thanks you for letting me vent.

Please take a moment and visit Deb Salibury's blog, where she answers this month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question on how to deal with the loss of your writing mojo! Check out Laura's previous post and mine (Writing Mojo No Mo), and Sarah Fine's!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Medical Mondays: Head Banging Redux

Our poor characters. How many times must we whack them in the head?

Answer: Plenty.

I get lots of questions about amnesia and head trauma in fictional scenarios. Now, before you think it's cliché to have characters suffer from traumatic brain injury, or TBI, let's review some facts.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), TBI is a major, worldwide cause of disability and death. In the U.S., 1.7 million people sustain a TBI per year.

The causes include motor vehicle accidents, falls, being struck/striking head against something, and assaults.

And the groups most at risk? Ages 0-4, 15-19, and over 65.

So for many of us writing YA, this isn't a completely random, pull-an-injury-out-of-a-hat situation at all.

So on to our question! This week, Melody asks:

If hit with a blunt object (in my case, a gun) that knocked them out, how long would be a reasonable amount of time for someone (a teenager) to be unconscious, and, most importantly, how would they feel when they woke up? And is there any way to have a concussion and not lose memory?

Great question, Melody. She's already read my earlier posts on head trauma (getting shot in the head) and types of amnesia after head trauma.

First of all, let's define TBI vs. concussion. This is a little confusing. Mild concussion may be considered a type of TBI, where there is clear neurologic impairment at some point in time (confusion, amnesia, difficulty concentrating or feeling slowed down). Being unconscious isn't necessary for the definition of concussion, FYI.

Mild TBI is defined as a person who, 30 minutes after the trauma, knows who they are and where they are; can open their eyes spontaneously; and obeys commands.
In mild TBI/concussion, most people won't lose consciousness. If they do, it's for less than a minute. If Melody need her character to be unconscious for longer, the character would have to pay the price by having more issues with amnesia and other symptoms, and it would have to be clear that the hit to the head was quite severe.

Many people with mild TBI/concussion may have a loss of memory surrounding the incident. Even without losing consciousness, it's common for the sufferer to repeat questions over an over again ("What happened? How did I get here?"). However, that may not last for long. However, the longer the person stays unconscious from the trauma, the larger the period of time they might suffer from amnesia.

How would they feel when they woke up? Here's a run down of some common symptoms:
  • pain or swelling (the goose egg!) in the area of the injury; possibly broken skin over the scalp and a good bit of bleeding (scalps have a rich blood supply)
  • headache
  • dizziness and/or vertigo
  • stumbling; possibly unable to walk a straight line
  • nausea and vomiting
  • emotions out of proportion to situation
  • slurred speech
  • disoriented
  • inability to concentrate
  • vacant staring
  • slowed or delayed speech
Hope this helps, Melody, and thanks for the great question! And all of you out there--wear helmets when you should, and please avoid being pistol-whipped. I wish I could with the same for our characters, but then the stories would be less interesting, wouldn't they?

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 is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Internal Consistency

Actually, I'm not going to be talking about molten chocolate lava cake, or even the softness of your internal organs.

I'm talking about your characters.

It's come up occasionally in my writing, or my crit partner's writing. Just yesterday, I was discussing the HBO series the Wire with some friends and we had a friendly argument. Was Ziggy's murderous breaking point in keeping with what his character? My friend and I thought not; our spouses disagreed.

Incongruous behavior. When you see it, you get a funny feeling. The "that's not right" sensation that throws the reality of that world into question.

Do your characters ever suffer from it? Have you ever read a passage in a book where you thought, "That kind of came out of nowhere, and it makes me not believe what's going on."


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Have Conference Phobia

First of all, a huge thank you to everyone who participated or dropped by for the Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogfest. It was a huge success and just...amazing. THANK YOU!

Now, on to today's post.

I think I've almost gone to a writer's conference four times in the last year. Really. They seem like a great idea. ARCs and meeting writers and agents, oh my.

But every time I'm ready to hit the REGISTER button online, I freeze.

I can't do it. Why? Well, since you asked, here's a list outlining my neurotic reasoning.

1) Guilt for leaving my family
2) Guilt for spending money
3) Guilt for...guilt's sake
4) What if they call me a fraud/wannabe and march me out
5) What if they say, "You have a decent day job, give it up girl!"
6) What if they notice my big pimple and say I can't play in their reindeer games
7) Fear of actually pitching a live human agents

Sigh. One day, one day.

What about you? Do you have conference phobia? If you got over it, got any tips for me?

In the meantime, please take a moment and visit Sarah Fine's blog, where she answers this month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question on how to deal with the loss of your writing mojo! Check out Laura's previous post and mine (Writing Mojo No Mo), and stay tuned for Deb's next week!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogfest!

First off, a huge THANK YOU everyone who's joined in the Blogfest and to Leigh Moore, my partner in laughter. I'm so excited to see all your jokes today!

All right! Let's get on with it! The rules of the blogfest are few and very breakable. We wanted people to poke fun at themselves. Maybe as writers, maybe in their present occupation--or just offer a laugh.

I work part-time as an internist. In the medical world, we internists have a certain, er, reputation that's partly true, and partly embarrassing.

My job today is to reinforce that stereotype. Laugh away!

Joke #1: How many internists does it take to screw in light bulb?

Answer: Three. One to consult a light bulb specialist, one to consult a light-bulb installation specialist, and one to bill it all to Medicare.

Joke #2: An internist, a surgeon, and a pathologist went duck hunting together. A flock of birds flew overhead. The internist scratched her chin and observed, "Can't say for sure, but they don't look like pigeons. Too small for geese. I'll have to run some, er, duck-calling tests, to make sure they're ducks." While she pondered this, the flock flew away and another passed by overhead.

The surgeon then aimed his shotgun, fired, and a hundred birds rained down dead around them. He then pointed to the pathologist, and said, "You. Go find me a duck."

Have fun visiting the other blogfesters (festers? that's not quite right, but anyway) and see what jokes they have to share! And make a few new blog friends, to boot!

Friday, May 13, 2011

TBR Book Contest Winners, Zombie Ants, and LITBMB reminder!

Boy, did Blogger have a mild neurological/circuitry hiccup, or what? I'd prescribe some aspirin, personally.

Okay! So I finally did my random numbers and the winners of my TBR Book Giveaway and their books of choice are:

Heather, at Heather's Odyssey! She chose HOURGLASS, by Myra McEntire which comes out next month. Hey, that's on my TBR list too. :)

Emy Shin, who chose LEGEND, by Marie Lu and PLAIN KATE, by Erin Bow. Got to pick one of these, Emy! Let me know.

Christine Danek, who chose SHIFT, by Jeri Smith-Ready. I hadn't heard of this one, but it sounds great.

Okay guys, email me at lydiaykang (at) gmail (dot) com for deets. Congrats!

On another note, this week I got 1500 hits to my blog in three days. Was it my fantabulous writing? Did CNN hear about Medical Mondays and want to syndicate it? What?

So I searched my StatCounter account to figure out why so much traffic was coming my way. And it was because of this picture:

Yes, all those people came to my blog to read about Mind-controlling Fungus and Zombie Ants. I think there were a few new science articles that went on the web, and whammo. Searches for Zombie Ant pictures led them here. Here's the original post from last year, in case you're interested.

Have you ever had some weird searches lead people to your blog?

On one final note, this coming Monday the 16th, Leigh Moore and I are hosting the Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogfest! It's still not too late to sign up--click on the image at right for the Linky.

I'm so excited to see what everyone has in store for their jokes. I can't wait! See you all there!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writing Mojo No Mo

This month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question was supplied by Laura Diamond, who asked:

"What do you do when you lose your writing mojo?"

Man, I know what this feels like. I posted on the NoMoJo Society before, but Laura is so smart. She probably remembered that all I did was complain in that post, instead of figuring out how to get out of that metaphysical writing funk.

So what do I really do?

I tell myself to stop thinking about the plot glitch, the scary revisions, the rejections, or the feeling of being in writing purgatory (you know--lots of writing happening, no publishing to go with it).

Do I relax? Kind of. (Truth: no, I still stress out).

Do I stop thinking about my WIP? Yes! (Okay, that's a blatant lie. I mean, I try. There are times when I must think of other things [family, work]. But other times? Nah.)

Do I get all Oprah-y and live in the moment and count my blessings for perspective? Of course. (And then I go back to thinking of my WIP immediately after. It might be hours later, days later, or one minute later, because let's face it. Cleaning out a poopy potty is not a live-in-the-moment thing I need to dwell on. My poop-to-writing perspective is just fine, thanks.)

In the end, the relentless thinking about how to make my writing better usually gets me some inner peace, some new found energy, and a kick in the rear to be a better writer. And voila, the mojo comes back.

What do you do to get your writing mojo back?

If you missed it, check out Laura's excellent post from last week and stay tuned for Sarah Fine's and Deb Salisbury's posts in the coming weeks!

And time's a running out. If you haven't had a chance, feel free to enter my book giveaway contest and join our blogfest next week. Links are on the right!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Medical Mondays: Heroin Today, Problems Tomorrow

Our question today comes from Laurel Garver. She's got a great blog called Laurel's Leaves, so check it out if you've never been by.

Laurel asked, "What kind of long-term medical illnesses might a former heroin abuser have? What kinds of symptoms might they suffer from?"

Great questions. Sadly, this was easy for me to answer, as intravenous drug addicts and past users were often seen at the hospital where I trained in residency and medical school.

Heroin is a semi-synthetic drug derived from morphine, which is itself a derivative of the opium poppy.

Chemical name: diacetylmorphine

Street name: dope, horse, smack, tar, dragon, hero, Hera, white, black, brown, chiva, junk, among many others

(Slight aside: did you know morphine was named after the Greek God of Dreams, Morpheus, son of Hypnos, the God of Sleep? Cool.)

As for long term illnesses, I'm going to focus on purely medical ones, rather than long term issues involving addiction itself.

Many injection drug users do not use sterile technique and may share needles with other drug users. This has several consequences.

1) Heart problems. The dirty needle can "drag" bacteria living on the skin's surface into the blood stream. These types of skin bacteria have a penchant for infecting the valves heart. This infection is called endocarditis, and can gradually or acutely cause valve problems. A past heroin user might have damaged valves from a past endocarditis infection, which could later put them at risk for another endocarditis infection (say, after dental surgery), or heart failure (symptoms include shortness of breath, tiredness and fatigue, leg swelling and fluid build up in the lungs).

2) Hepatitis. Hepatitis B and C are blood-borne viruses that are easily transmitted via shared needles with an infected person. Both can cause cirrhosis of the liver (liver scarring and poor function) and eventual liver failure, as well as liver cancer. Symptoms of cirrhosis include fatigue, yellowing of the eyes, wasting of muscles, an enlarged abdomen from fluid in the belly cavity, reddish palms and little, spidery blood vessels on the skin, and occasional confusion. They can also have problems with vomiting blood or rectal bleeding.

3) HIV. The human immunodeficiency virus can be transmitted for the same reason hepatitis is. Carriers may be completely asymptomatic until the virus kills off enough of one of the body's natural infection fighting cells (the T-cells). When that happens (the lapse time can vary widely--2 week to 20 years), certain infections can take the opportunity to attack the individual (called opportunistic infections, or OIs). This is when the diagnosis of AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) occurs. These OIs include herpes, thrush (yeast in the throat), tuberculosis, and pneumonias, among others. They are also at risk of certain cancers, including lymphomas and Kaposi's sarcoma. Luckily, there are excellent anti-viral medications available today that are effective in controlling the virus, though there still is no cure or effective vaccine.

Okay, this post is getting way too long and I am getting flashbacks of working on the inpatient HIV/AIDS ward from my training. Whew.

There is a quote from the movie "The Crow" that is oddly fitting to close here, especially since yesterday was Mother's Day. The paranormal hunk a.k.a the Crow a.k.a Brandon Lee, says to an absentee mom/drug addict:

"Mother is the word for God on the lips and hearts of all children. Heroin is bad for you. There's a little girl on the streets, waiting for her mother."

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 is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.

Friday, May 6, 2011

TBR Book Giveaway Contest!!!

Okay, part of me is being lazy because I couldn't think of something fun to blog about today. So I figured, "Eh, I'll give away some books!"

I'm waaaaay behind on having a contest to thank all my blogging friends for hanging out here for the last few months.

You guys have been great, and I really appreciate your comments and meeting so many new bloggers!

It's an easy contest.

Leave a comment telling me what book is next on your To Be Read list (one that you don't yet own).

Next Friday, May 13th I'll announce three winners (by random draw) and their book choices.

I'll put your name in the bucket an extra time each for blogging, FB, or tweeting the contest.

Simple and easy, no?

And the coolest thing is, we all get to see what everyone has next on their TBR list!

I can't wait to hear what everyone want to read. :) Good luck!

Also, don't forget to sign up for our "Laughter is the Best Medicine" Blogfest on May 16th!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Blame Game

I blame Anne of Green Gables for making me want to put an "e" on the end of my name, even though it would look stupid to do so.

I blame Madeleine L'Engle and Mrs. Who for making me quote Pascal, in French, at inopportune moments.
(Le cœur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connaît point. The heart has its reasons, whereas reason knows nothing.)

I blame Laura Ingalls Wilder for making me think salt pork, cornmeal, and molasses should be a staple in my pantry.

I blame J.R.R. Tolkien for introducing me to Legolas. I am still bitter that I don't have half-elven children.

I blame Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for making me wish the Whipple Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight bar actually existed.

I blame J. K. Rowling for making me really, really, really hate doing the dishes by hand.

Just wanted to vent a little. Fiction is hard on me sometimes.

What about you?

Don't forget to check out Laura Diamond's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog post on what to do when you've lost your writing mojo. My turn to answer is coming next week. :)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Medical Mondays: Done in by Fava Beans

This is not related to Hannibal Lecter's famous meal of liver, fava beans and that oh-so-nice Chianti.

(Does anyone drink Chianti without thinking a little bit of Dr. Lecter? Just wondering.)

Favism is a disease where people's red blood cells rupture (called hemolysis) when they eat Fava beans.

The basis of the disease is a deficient enzyme called G6PD (glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase) which is necessary for red blood cell membrane health. It's linked to the X-chromosome, which means mostly men get the symptomatic disease.

During a hemolytic crisis when a person's red cells rupture, the sufferer can have symptoms such as jaundice (yellow eyes and skin), paleness, weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting.

People with G6PD deficiency can have the same reaction to medications such as anti-malarials, sulfa-containing drugs, aspirin, and some antibiotics.

Favism has been known since antiquity as a cause of anemia. The ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras recommended abstinence from Fava beans, possibly to avoid this disease.

This would be a pretty elaborate way to incapacitate a fictional character who was susceptible. Hide some Fava beans in brownies, 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 fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.