Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Thank you all for participating in my 900 Followers Contest. If all goes well, I'll have an epic 1000 Followers coming in the next few months. Whee! picked the lucky winners, and they are:

Deb Salisbury, who chose Soulless, by Gail Carriger. What a sweet cover!

Lenny Lee, who didn't pick a particular book but I will make him, as he is the sweetest kid blogger you've ever met, and if you don't know Lenny, you need to. I'm so thrilled he won!

Oy. Where was I? Oh yes, the third winner.

Peggy Eddleman, who picked Divergent by Veronica Roth. Great pick, Peggy!

And finally, I'm doing another winner outside of the random picking. That is for Gail, who requested that if she won, she'd rather I donate a book to a local library or school. For that selfless suggestion, I'm pledging to donate books to both my local library and my kids' school library. (Maybe one last trip to the Borders blow-out sale won't feel so guilty now!) Gail, you are a sweetheart. :)

Thanks to everyone for joining in!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Medical Mondays: Snake Oil et al

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks for all the well wishes while I was on vacation last week! My brain is in peak condition again. It's no longer feeling deep-fried and is back to it's naturally squishy state.

So lately my hubs has been interested in antique medicine bottles. You know, the pretty clear/green/cobalt ones with funny stuff written on the side.

Snake oil was a remedy that originated in China and was said to cure arthritic conditions. Snake oil (yes, that's Extra Virgin Expeller-pressed Chinese Water Snake. Yummy!) is now a synonym for quack medicine, or anything touted with extraordinary promises but possessing dubious benefits.

(Photo credit: Early Vermont Medicines)

After the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, the American version of China's Snake Oil's active components couldn't be verified, and it was then considered a hoax.

In the search for the bottles that contained these old time remedies, we found this funny but true list of cure-alls.

Bird’s Lung Cure (For those who Tweet so much they get short of breath)

Bohemian Catarrh Cure (For Stevie Nicks Wannabes with that less-than-sexy phlegmy cough)

Electric Brain Food Cure (What does this cure? Electric brains? Or being a brain-eating zombie?)

Gantner’s Magic Chicken Cholera Cure (I personally wouldn't cure anyone of their magic chickens. I'd like one myself, but the diarrhea part might be a deal-breaker.)

Keeley’s Cure for Drunkenness (Duh. It's an empty bottle, right?)

Kitchel’s Wind Puff Cure (For the long-winded, over-bloated, and fabulously flatulent.)

Man, I would write a novel just so I could sneak in these remedies. They'd be great chapter headings, wouldn't they?

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. This is for fictional scenarios, only! Please check out the boring but necessary disclaimer on my sidebar --->

Also, don't forget to stop by Laura Diamond's Mental Health Mondays and Sarah Fine's The Strangest Situation for great psychiatric and psychological viewpoints on all things literary!

Ooh, and one last thing--August 30th is the last day to enter my 900 Followers Contest! Win a book of your choice...enter now!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Author Spotlight: Shelley Moore Thomas

Welcome to this week's Author's Spotlight featuring Shelley Moore Thomas. Don't you just lurve that tiara? Anyway, enough about my jewel-envy.

What is the most distracting thing that happens when you're working on a book?

Um…everything! I mean, I work full time and have three kids, so just about everything that happens is a distraction from writing. Thus, I have to be very good about being able to write in unusual places, because I never know when I might get the chance to crank out a scene or a few lines. I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go, just in case. (I actually wrote one of my picture books whilst waiting in the car for my daughter to finish her catechism class.) I also write during my lunch time at work.

But, because I lead a life filled with distractions, I am very lenient with myself. I get done what I can, and that will have to do. I can’t make more hours in the day.

Pen, pencil, or typing?

Yes. All three, depending on where I am and what my mood is.

How do you keep notes on the future projects swimming in your brain?

I keep an “idea page” in my writing notebook as a place to list new little things that buzz through my brain. If the idea just won’t leave me alone, I open a word document in my computer and try to get down all I can so that the information will be there when I decide to go back to it. Mostly, the notes are very rambly and confusing, but sometimes I can understand them.

Which Harry Potter House would they be sorted into?

Hufflepuff. Oh yes, though I might long for Gryffindor, I know that truly I am Hufflepuff. And I’m okay with it.

(That's okay. Because in addition to being the most loyal, it is less widely known that Hufflepuffians can dance a mean salsa. Really. Didn't you know that???)

The sixth adventure of the Good Knight and his dragon friends. This time, it's a road trip!

Available on Amazon

If you don't already follow her, you can find Shelley at her blog, The Storyqueen's Castle and on Twitter!

Keep an eye out for her new middle grade novel, THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET (FSG MacMillan) which will be released Fall of 2012. :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday Tidbits

Why is Wed-nes-day pronounced Wendsday?

Why is ophthalmologist spelled so impossibly? Couldn't it have been EyeBallologist?

Just thinking, er, blogging out loud.

I'm still on vacation, so apologies for not being able to stop by blogs this week. A few notes:

  • This Friday the lovely Shelley Thomas is my Author being spotlit (why does that sound odd?)
  • And in one week my 900 Followers Contest is over. So please TweetFacebookGooglePlusVandalizeTheInternet as needed to get the word out!
  • Today is Deb Salibury's turn to answer the Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question: Do you have a Genre-Crush? Check out previous answers by Laura, myself, and Sarah!
Have a great WENDSDAY. (Typing that felt so wrong.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fried Brain Break.

Yes, that's a brain up there sizzling away. Sometimes, the brain feels fried and one needs a little neurological SPF for a while, you know?

I'm on vacation and will be back next week with another Medical Monday. I've got a great Author Spotlight post coming up this Friday featuring the Storyqueen herself, and I'll be back with another Medical Mondays next week.

In the meantime, please feel free to join my 900 Followers contest. I am itching, in a non-contagious way, to give away some books. :D

Have a great week, and see you guys soon!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Author Spotlight: Heather McCorkle Tells A Secret!

Welcome Heather! The Author Spotlight series continues. Every Friday is starting to feel like a party here! Okay. I'm dying to know Heather's secret, aren't you?

How do you "know" your manuscript is DONE?

When my editor approves it to move to the design stage. Oh wait, you mean before that? ;) That's a really tough one to answer. I have a thorough editing process with five steps that helps me polish it to the shine of a diamond. And yet, my editor still finds things to fix. So is it ever really done? I'm not sure. But at the end of my process, it goes to the editor. If I didn't have that process, I'd never send it.

Do you have a favorite social network?

Oh yeah, I LOVE Twitter. I mean seriously, I might be addicted. ;) But that's because it's where the people in the publishing industry hang out. You'll find editors, agents, publishers, authors, and aspiring authors all gelling together. Plus there are live chats for writers almost every day of the week. In fact I co-host one every Monday at 6pm PT called the #WritersRoad.

What is the oddest thing you've done for research?

I'm not sure if it's odd, but it's definitely not the norm. I started learning to speak Irish (Gaelic, though they don't like you to call it that) to enrich the feel and language of my historical fantasy set in ancient Ireland. I'm so glad I did. I love it!

Do you believe in aliens?

Absolutely. I write fantasy/sci-fi after all. It's kind of a requirement. My husband swears I might be one in fact. ;)

What's a secret/interesting thing about yourself that most people don't know, or would be surprised to know?

I was a Reserve Police Officer for three years in two different cities. I had to draw my gun~but thankfully never use it~three times.

(Okay. Didn't expect that. Wow!!)

Following the tragic death of her parents, Eren Donovan moves to Spruce Knoll to live with her aunt. Little does Eren know the entire town of Spruce Knoll is filled with “channelers”~a magical group of people who immigrated to the small Colorado town when they were driven out of their own lands.

Channelers are tied to the fate of the world. As the world slowly dies, so do they—and they alone have the power to stop the destruction of Earth. Now, Eren learns she not only lives among them, but she is one. When she meets local boy Aiden, his charm convinces her that being a channeler may not be all bad.

Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

And now, more fun stuff!

Heather is giving away tons of stuff--some great books, swag, and a $50 gift certificate during her blog tour! To be included, you must be:
  • a follower of this blog
  • comment below
You can also get extra points for commenting at other blog tour stops along the way!

Click on the here for full contest details.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

900 Followers Contest!

I can't believe I've got 900 followers! Thank you times 900 being so awesome and supportive!!!!

I asked the Twitterverse what I should have as prizes for this contest.

Most answers involved the number 900.

900 dollars was too much.

900 pennies was too little.

And 900 bottles of beer was too...intoxicating.

So instead, I'm going the way of my last giveaway.

Please tell me what you'd LOVE to read next, and I'll pick three lucky winners to make their TBR book shelf a little heavier (or their e-reader a little more stocked.)

Also, please don't pick a $300 textbook, or an original copy of the Gutenberg Bible. Because if you do, I'm certain that will randomly NOT pick your book.

Throw your name into the hat a few more times by:

+1 Tweeting
+1 FB or Google+ it
+1 Putting on your sidebar
+2 Blogging about it

Add up your points, put in your email address, and away we go!

Contest is open until August 30th and three winners will be announced August 31st!

Also, please stop by Sarah Fine's blog where she'll answer this month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question: Do you have Genre-crush? If you missed it, check out previous posts by Laura and myself! Deb is up next week. :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Medical Mondays: Think Outside The Species

Today's post is a walk down memory lane. One of my teaching attendings told me this story a long time ago in med school. I'm sure I'm about to mess up some of the details of this story, but anyway, here goes.

In the 1980's, a young man in this twenties came into the ER on an almost weekly basis. He would show up in the waiting room, vomit a quart of red blood all over the floor, and get ushered into an ER slot immediately.

He complained of excruciating stomach pain and terrible dizzness. After getting IV's placed and labs drawn, the ER staff would find him dangerously anemic. He'd get blood tranfusions immediately, perhaps 2 or 3 PRBCs (packed red blood cells, or concentrated red cells).

As soon as he was stable, they'd offer him an emergent endoscopy (a camera down his mouth into his stomach under light anesthesia) to find the source of the bleeding.

He always refused. He'd tear out his IVs, and leave AMA (against medical advice).

To the frustration of the GI, Medicine, and ER staff, he kept coming to the ER.

He kept getting vomiting blood.

He kept getting transfused.

He kept refusing the life-saving diagnostic test that might save his life.

Finally, one day after another ER visit, a curious medical student asked if he could look at the vomited blood under the microscope.

This is what he saw:

See, the blood the guy vomited all had nuclei in the red cells. Human red blood cells lose their nucleus during the maturation process. They look like little red bags with nothing in them.

What was wrong with this guy? And why did his blood look like that?

Well, the smart medical student also looked at the patient's real blood (a sample taken from his vein) under a microscope too. And it looked normal, like the blood on the left side of the picture.

Turns out, this guy was donating blood for money. Afterwards, he'd go to a local slaughterhouse, buy a few pints of chicken's blood (avian blood always has nuclei in the red blood cells). Then he'd go to the ER, drink the lot right outside the door, walk in and make some noise about his stomach hurting, then hurl chicken blood all over the place.

Let me tell you, there's nothing like a man vomiting a ton of red blood to make the ER staff jump up and take notice.

As always, his lab test would show he was anemic (because he'd just donated); the ER would stabilize him by transfusing blood; and he'd disappear before the endoscopy.

Then, his veins plump with new, transfused blood, he'd head for another Red Cross center and sell off the pints of blood he'd just received.

Is that crazy and brilliant and awful, or what?

Lesson learned. When thinking of a weird medical situation for your story, also consider thinking outside the species.

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, August 12, 2011

Author Spotlight: Medeia Sharif and her Impending Alien Abduction

So far, I'm loving these spotlights! It's great having authors answer the odd and interesting questions that my commenters brewed up.

This week, welcome Medeia Sharif, author of Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. Take it away, Medeia!

Do you believe in aliens?

I do. When I was a teen in the 90’s, I watched real-life alien abduction/UFO shows and read all of Whitley Strieber’s abduction books. It was hard to sleep after reading or watching those things. I used to be afraid to look out of windows at night, because I believed aliens might be lurking in my backyard.

iPhone or BlackBerry?

Blackberry. I had an iPod touch and thought the keypad was tricky, so I didn't want the phone version. A physical keyboard makes me feel more in control. This is also handy because when I don’t have a notepad, I easily input new ideas and other reminders to myself.

Cake vs. Pie?

Cake, all the way. Cake is richer and more solid, and I love basic chocolate or devil’s food. I’ve had mini pies, but they can’t beat cupcakes.

(Luckily for Medeia, I'm pretty sure most aliens have a penchant for pies, so she won't be top of the list, abduction-wise. She simply won't be their favorite flavor.)

When writing, noise, silence, music, people around?

I usually have music playing in the background. I mainly listen to alternative rock and New Wave, either from my collection or Slacker Radio. The only time I have people around is when I’m working on my balcony (I’m on a busy street) or if I take a hardcopy or Kindle version of my manuscript to the laundromat.

Book blurb:

During Ramadan, we're not allowed to eat from sunrise to sunset, for a whole month. My family does this every year, even though I've been to a mosque exactly twice in my fifteen years. My exercise-obsessed mom—whose hotness skipped a generation, sadly—says I could stand to lose a few. But is torture really an acceptable method? I think not. Things wouldn't be so bad if I had a boyfriend, but my oppressive parents forbid me to date. This is just cruel and wrong. Especially since Peter, a cute and crushable artist, might be my soul mate. Figures my bestest friend Lisa likes him, too. To top it off, there's a new Muslim girl in school who struts around in super-short skirts, commanding every boy's attention—including Peter's. How can I get him to notice me? And will I ever feel like a typical American girl?

Bestest. Ramadan. Ever is available at Barnes and Noble!

You can find
Medeia at her blog, here
and on Twitter. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Hi all! This month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question is from yours truly:

"I have a genre-crush on______"

What genre or category of writing do you wish you could tackle, and why haven't you?

I really sort of shot myself in the foot with this one, because there are waaaaay to many genres I would like to write that I haven't.

So far, I've stayed within the lines of YA (a dash of historical; a dabbling in sci-fi and urban fantasy) and MG. I've also written creative non-fiction that's almost always medically related.

What would I love to write? In no particular order, here they are.

1. Historical non-fiction. I would love to write something like Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, or Salt: A World History, or Guns, Germs and Steel. I've always wanted to do a history of contraception, but only got as far as a 20 page essay in medical school (who knew rocks were the first IUDs... for camels? And that women used squeezed-out lemon-halves as diaphragms?) Anyway, I digress...

2. Romance. I love a good happily ever after! And there are so many different flavors of romance out there. But I'd blush too much writing the romance scenes. For now I'll leave it to the many other writers out there who are far more talented than I am in this genre.

3. Horror. I'm such a wimp, I can't even watch the horror movies that make fun of horror movies. But I have an arsenal of knowledge about so many ways people could die gruesome's a shame I'll never tap into that knowledge in my fiction. So in the meantime, I'll just help other writers think of gruesome ways to kill off their characters on Medical Mondays.

4. Good old-fashioned, adult literary fiction. In time, in time. For now, I'm entranced with YA and MG, so I'll let myself run with that.

How about you? Do you have a genre-crush? What have you always wanted to write, but haven't?

If you haven't had a chance, check out Laura's post from last week, and stay tuned for upcoming posts from Sarah and Deb!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Medical Mondays: Finding the Inevitable

Instead of working on my WIP, I spent time this weekend indexing my Medical Mondays posts in a handy tab, up there. See?

(I should get a medal in procrastinating, or at least a degree. PD, Doctor of Procrastination. Can you imagine? It would take 30 years just to finish the thesis!)'s question comes from Elizabeth Arroyo. She asks:

"My character suffers from something that is slowly degenerative and ultimately kills her. She's been sick for about five-seven years. She has on and off moments, so she gets better than sick again until finally her body can't take it anymore. Too much meds and her insides are failing. We see her through the eyes of her daughter and I don't need anything specific to give the reader, but a name would be nice. She's currently about 42 years old."

Okay, so I picked out a few diseases for Elizabeth to choose from. The main thing they had to have in common was that it has to be potentially fatal; degenerative; hit women (and/or men) in middle age. Here are the awful contenders:

  • Lupus. Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (SLE) is a disease whereby the body attacks itself and can causes all kinds of problems involving the skin, heart, joints, blood vessels, nervous system and inner organs (basically--almost everything). Most of the time it's manageable with medications that suppress the immune system, but can have life-threatening flares and can "wear down" the body causing kidney failure and other issues that can eventually kill.
  • Multiple Sclerosis. MS is caused by a loss of the special fatty sheath around nerves of the brain and spinal cord. It can cause a host of neurological symptoms, and is often managed as chronic illness. Many patients have long and productive lives. However, there are a subset of patients that progress faster and might not tolerate the medications used to control the disease. Elizabeth's character might be one of them.
  • Huntington's Disease. This is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes jerky body movements, psychiatric symptoms and eventually dementia. It is inherited by 50% of the children of those patients with this disease. Heart attacks, pneumonias, and sadly, suicide, are all causes of death. Generally, though, people live until about 20 years after the start of their symptoms, which usually start in early middle age but can occur even earlier in some.
  • ALS. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, is also a neurodegenerative disease. Unlike Huntington's Disease, most cases of ALS are not inherited. The symptoms include muscle weakness, twitching, difficulty talking, swallowing, and eventually breathing. Most people with ALS die within 2-3 years of diagnosis, and usually of pneumonia or respiratory failure. This disease may move too quickly for Elizabeth's fictional needs.
  • Cardiomyopathy. This is a bit of a baggage term for anything that causes the heart muscle to be "ill." There are several causes, but the one that might fit Elizabeth's situation is dilated cardiomyopathy, whereby the heart muscle degenerates and balloons out, causing heart failure symptoms. Causes include viruses, alcohol, toxins, and unknown causes. These days, dilated cardiomyopathy can be controlled as a chronic condition with medications, defibrillators/pacemakers, and even heart transplant, but even so, it can be a very difficult disease that can kill. Other organs can take a hit from the effects of a poorly pumping heart, like the kidneys, for example.
This is by no means a comprehensive list for Elizabeth's fictional situation, but it's a start.

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, August 5, 2011

Author Spotlight: Kris Yankee and an Eyeball Story

Today's Author Spotlight features Kris Yankee! Take it away, Kris. :)

A huge thanks to Lydia for having me in her Author Spotlight- virtual chocolate chip cookies to her!

(Nom, nom. Fanks, Krifff!)

The Writing Process: How do you write? Is there noise, silence, music, people around?

I started writing when my kids were really little and my grandma would come over and watch them. They were all so loud that I took to listening to my iPod while at the keyboard. I still write that way many, many years later – even when I’m in the house alone. For each new project, I create a playlist of songs that reflect the storyline and the characters. Recently I started an edgy YA and my playlist was filled with Eminem songs. After awhile I had to stop listening to that playlist because it was too depressing and negative – which was not what I wanted to come across in the story.

The Publishing Process: If you decided to self-publish, what was the final push that allowed that decision?

It was my agent, Christine Witthohn, who pushed me over the ledge. She suggested that I get Saving Redwind: A Wallpaper Adventure out while we waited to hear back on stories that were already out on submission. Admittedly, I was reluctant. I’ve always believed that if my writing wasn’t good enough for NY, then I needed to hone my writing skills. But I believe in Christine, and she believes in me, so I did what she told me to do. Saving Redwind is out in print and digital formats. Here’s the back cover blurb:

All eleven-year-old Nick Stevenson wants is an adventure like his dad’s. Oh, and for the creepy ceiling in his new bedroom to stop storming and spinning. When he’s asked to help save a world that exists inside his bedroom’s wallpaper, Nick thinks he’s found his very own adventure. But he has no idea it will involve talking rocks, dream-stealing birds, and becoming friends with wizards. Can Nick save Redwind and his new friends before his mom calls him home for hockey practice?

Writing and Food: Strangest food you’ve ever eaten.

Okay, this is a weird one and I’m sure there will be a few groans (because even I groan now when I think about it). The answer is …ta da…a fish eye! Wait, before you judge, let me explain! I had just arrived in Portugal with a group of girls from our University of Michigan – Cornell, Junior Year Abroad Program. We’d just spent the last 30 days in Madrid and we had a week off before we were to meet up in Seville and move into our host families homes. We had no idea we had this week off, so we decided to go to Portugal. We’d heard that there were cheap hostels and beautiful beaches. We didn’t arrive in Portimao until very late – almost 2 am. We found a hostel, and there was a bar next to it. The bar owners were very excited to showcase their “famous” dish to a bunch of American girls, as well as treat us to all their local wines. After several drinks (read bottles), they brought out a huge fish. They told us that the eyes were considered a delicacy. Maybe they were kidding, but I took the dare from the rest of my companions and ate one. I don’t remember what it tasted like, just that there was a little rubber ball left in my mouth after all of the squishy stuff was gone. Gross, I know.

Random or Weird questions: What’s your favorite guilty pleasure?

If you’re still with me after that question above, thank you. I’m not that strange (at least not anymore!). My favorite guilty pleasure has to be the summer TV shows on USA. I love Royal Pains, Burn Notice, Necessary Roughness, and Psych. A glass of wine (or a bottle of Summer Shandy), my DVR, and I’m all set.

Thank you Kris! I hope those were chocolate chips in my cookies and not fish eyeballs. Bleah!

Kris's middle grade novel, Saving Redwind is available as a print book, here on Amazon.

And here, as an e-book.

Please visit Kris at her blog, Adventures that Score, and she's also on Twitter!

Oh, and I forgot to mention...It's Kris's birthday! Happy Birthday Kris!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I am a Vulture (RIP Borders)

I went to Borders this past week. My kids are always itching for new books (that's my excuse; the truth is that generally, I'm far itchier than they are) so we went.

The parking lot was packed. Inside, shelves were in disarray and shoppers had that hungry look in their eyes, looking for the best discounts.

I might have had that hungry look too. And I was embarrassed that I was out for a good deal.

Once we brought our purchases to the front desk, the clerks had these empty expressions on their faces.

"Look at how many people are here," one checkout guy said to another. The other guy just shook his head.

"When did you find out?" I asked, as gently as I could.

"Same time you did. No warning. None."

I took my bag of purchases and corralled my kids to the exit. The Borders employees kept working, looking tired, sad, and filled with disbelief.

I used to go to Borders to write sometimes. No more. I'll miss you Borders. Sniff.

How has the impending closing of Borders affected you?

Also, please take a moment to visit Laura Diamond's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog post on genre-envy: what genre/category do you wish you wrote (but don't) and why?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Medical Mondays: What To Ask

I get weekly email medical questions from writers about diseases that affect their characters.

Often, I find myself replying with a slew of questions for the writer. With anything as complicated as a choosing a diagnosis to suit a character and plot, it takes sleuthing to figure out what's going to be a good fit.

Here are some of the questions I often shoot back to writers after I get an email.

1. Age. In order to pick out a good diagnosis, many diseases are age-specific. It wouldn't make sense to have a young, healthy 16 year-old have a stroke out of the blue, for instance.

2. Baseline status. Are they healthy? If I have a character who's already saddled down with high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and is addicted to smoking and alcohol, it's very easy for me to figure out what diseases they'll fall prey to. A perfectly healthy person who suddenly got a life-threatening condition? That narrows down the diseases significantly.

3. Impairment. How "out of it" or impaired do you want your character to be, leading up to the dramatic diagnosis, or after? Do you want someone suffering from memory loss? Because that will be a major issue in a first-person POV, won't it? Not impossible, but it brings up serious plot issues. What if they're bed-bound from a serious motor vehicle accident? It might get tedious to have every single scene around a hospital bed for many chapters in a row.

4. Timeline. How do you want the timing of the disease or problem to play out? I get a lot of questions along the lines of "I need them to die within 6 months of finding out they're sick." FYI--the shorter life span they have, the more limited diagnoses I have to use.

5. Physical symptoms. Related to impairment, above. Are they going to be visibly affected by the problem? Are we talking bulky tumors sticking out out their neck, or wasting away to a skeleton? Is the author okay with the character being exhausted all the time, or having rashes and stuff?

6. Playing the Odds and Believability. If you want me to pick a particular disease, I'll tell you if it's just not believable. If a disease only targets only women, I'm not going to suggest it for a male character. There are exceptions, of course (for example, men get breast cancer. They do.) But you'll have to make it work with your story.

7. Think out of the box. We tend to gravitate towards cancer as a dramatic, life-threatening diagnosis to throw at our characters. But heart disease, emphysema, diabetes, rheumatologic diseases (like lupus), neurologic diseases (like multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease) and many, many others are also killers in their own, very particular ways. Our poor, overworked, fictional oncologists! There are a lot of illnesses out there that can kill and disable. But I can help find some of these diseases with you.

8. Is the character willing to be treated? The natural history of how a disease plays out is hugely affected by whether the patient will do all the treatments necessary. So a disease that's usually well-controlled and won't kill in the short-term (like type 1, insulin-dependent diabetes) can kill if the person refuses to take insulin. That's a twist that many don't consider.

So just a warning. If you ask me a question, likely I'll multiply it five-fold when I email you back!

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.