Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Members Only

No, I never had a Member's Only jacket in the 80's. Not sure if that makes me cool now, or a dweeb then.

Lately, I've been part of a closed writers' forum on Facebook. I'm also part of a locked forum on Rallystorm. Though I'm also active in the Querytracker forums, there's something nice about being able to celebrate/complain/babble on a private forum.

It's been both a stress reliever as well as a place where I don't have to worry about asking stupid questions.

Do you belong to a locked forum online? Where do you go when you need to vent privately about writing, without the universe listening in?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Medical Mondays: Step into Outer Space

Today, I'm tackling Fiona L's great question from a few weeks ago:

"My fictional scenario has to do with space. Or generally, when you take oxygen out of a room. What will happen to the person? How long will it take for them to realise they can't breathe? What symptoms come first and how long before they kaputz... And out of curiosity, why oxygen? What's so special about oxygen that we need? Why not any other types..."

Oxygen. How I love thee, let my brain count the ways...
See this formula?

C6H12O6 + 6 O2 + 38 ADP + 38 phosphate → 6 CO2 + 6 H2O + 38 ATP

In non-chemistry speak, that means "sugar + oxygen = energy."

This is one of the many equations for why we're alive. Without oxygen and glucose, you can't live.

And out of curiosity, why oxygen? Why not nitrogen, or helium? (See the Botanist's great comment below--well said!) Without getting all Carl Sagan-ish on you, basically, that's how life on earth simply is. Life is based on carbon building blocks (like sugar, and protein, etc) and oxygen as the means to make it run. Perhaps on another planets or systems, things could evolve to run on other elements? I'm sure a chemist would laugh at me for saying that, but it's fun to imagine.

When you take oxygen out of a room, what will happen to the person?
So your body needs oxygen, particularly your brain. When it doesn't get enough blood supply (meaning the delivery of oxygen), it stops working = you pass out. In an oxygen-less environment, that might take a minute, more or less.

What Fiona's question is dancing around, though, is what about if you were in a vacuum? Like in outer space? That doesn't mean a room without oxygen, or even a room with a Hoover. It means a room without ANYTHING, including pressure and air.

If a person took a foolish, naked step off the Space Shuttle, they'd encounter the following:
  • no oxygen
  • no pressure
  • extremely low temperatures

Living on earth means we are in a tightly pressurized cocoon of oxygen and other gases, courtesy of our atmosphere, which sticks to the earth because of gravity. At or above the Armstrong limit, around 62,000 feet above the earth's surface, the lack of pressure will cause oxygen dissolved in human blood to form bubbles. Yeah, that's boiling blood.

Now, at 62,000 feet, your body's tissues and skin are tough enough to keep up the pressure within the body so you don't explode, but you will start to have serious symptoms of altitude sickness, caused by these forming bubbles in the blood and tissues. Also, if it's a sudden exposure, the symptoms are worse.

In space, what would happen?
  1. Without a spacesuit and with full body exposure to space's vacuum, you'd last maybe with 15 seconds of consciousness.
  2. If they could get you back on the shuttle immediately, into a re-compression chamber and with intensive medical care, you might survive.
  3. Before you passed out, you'd notice your saliva boiling off your tongue (this is not "hot," temperature wise--it would be the sensation of liquid quickly bubbling and vaporizing away), fluid/blood frothing in your lungs, mouth and eyes, and maybe the extreme cold temperature (well below zero).
  4. Soon, your heart would stop (asystole, or "flat lined" at the 2 minute mark, or probably earlier--see my comment about the Soyuz 11 disaster in the the comments section), and the entire time, gas bubbles would expand in your body. Blood vessels would pop through your skin as your blood vaporized into space. Some of it would coagulate on your skin or air passageways. Your lungs would suffer from popped air passages filling with boiling and/or coagulating blood.
  5. At the five minute mark, your heart and brain are permanently damaged and frying away. And yes, at this point, you're probably very dead.

A fascinating, if not ewwww-ish topic for today. Thanks Fiona!

There were a few references I used to research this topic.

Can you survive space without a spacesuit? This is a good one. In the sci-fi movie Sunshine, a guy takes a spacewalk with a suit and survives. This article explains how it might have made sense.

Ebullism at 1 million feet: The human struggle with altitude. There are examples of people surviving explosive decompression above the Armstrong limit. I did not make up the boiling saliva comment, it's from this reference.

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. :)

Now follow Medical Mondays on Twitter! #MedMondays

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Interview! Neuroses, blogging, silliness, oh my!

Hi all! Laura Barnes over at Laura B Writer kindly invited me for an interview.

I shall discuss things such as my eleventh toe and its dubious existence, cold fusion, and Elvis, amongst other things.

Oh, and real topics, like blogging, writing, and momming. (Yes, I made up a new verb, just for this interview! What fun!)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Looking For Solace

I like to joke that I can somehow squeeze 25 hours into my day, but lately it seems more like 26 and I'm still not getting everything done.

I recently joined The Lucky 13's blog of 2013 debut authors, which I'm thrilled about. There's a new (and exciting) project at work. Then there's family. And exercising. And errands. And blogging. And finishing my MG novel. And starting on the sequel to THE FOUNTAIN. And the upcoming turkey I'm going to kill (metaphorically, as in, burn into a bird-shaped charcoal briquette). And those unplanned, Most Highly Inconvenient Viruses that like to settle into our household. (Yes, I capitalized that. They deserve that kind of respect, the little monsters.)

Sometimes I wish I could be here again:

Temple of Dendur
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
(photo credit)

Back in college when I felt melancholic in that emo sorta way that only college kids can, I'd go here with my journal (STOP LAUGHING AT ME) to write and sketch.

I loved the silence. I loved the beauty. I loved that self-imposed isolation.

Don't get me wrong--the craziness of my life is actually a blessing. I'm very, VERY lucky to have all these First World "problems."

But sometimes, I'd love to transport myself hundreds of miles in a blink, just to spend a few hours in that Temple. No iPhone, no laptop, no pager, nothing.

Okay, maybe a good book. :)

How about you? Where do you go for solace?


I'll be taking a blogging hiatus for a week to spend time with family and analyze the best way to denature a Meleagris gallopavo just so (aka, cooking a turkey).
In case you missed it and want to sound all smarty-pants at Thanksgiving, check out my Medical Mondays from last year on Turkey and Tryptophan.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Déjà Vu Blogfest!

Hey guys! DL Hammons had this great idea for a blogfest, and together with Creepy Query Girl and Nicole Ducleroir, we bring you...

The Déjà Vu Blogfest

Ever feel like you know you missed that one kick-ass post of a favorite blogger somewhere, somehow?

This is your chance to do some major catching up, and re-post a favorite blog post of your own that NEEDS to see the light of day one more time.

All you have to do is click on the Mr. Linky below to sign up. Please spread the word with our blogfest badge above!

And on December 16, re-post your favorite/most informative/most life-changing announcement/most ANYTHING blog post you want to re-share with the world.

Don't let a great post fade away into the ever-expanding blogosphere without one more shout-out!


Aaaand, don't forget to stop by Sarah's blog where she answers this month's question of "Are you NaNoing? Why or why not?" Check out previous answers by Laura and myself, and stay tuned for Deb's answer next week!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Medical Mondays: Foxglove: Pretty. Helpful. Deadly.

I've had a fascination with herbal medicine since before I was in medical school. Isn't it interesting that a pretty flower in your garden could also be on the shelf of your local pharmacy?

Case in point--Digitalis purpurea, or Foxglove. Also known as:
  • Bloody Fingers
  • Dead Man's Bells
  • Fairy Folk's Fingers
  • Lamb's Tongue Leaves
  • Lady's Gloves
Foxglove is a beautiful, ornamental plant with pointed, oval leaves that are slightly hairy. The leaves, flowers and seeds all contain the compounds digoxin and digitoxin, which affect the heart.

It was first reported in medical literature by William Withering in 1785 as a treatment for irregular, fast heart rates (most likely atrial fibrillation) and dropsy, which was an English term for leg swelling that often accompanied congestive heart failure. Historically, it may have also been used to treat epilepsy, though this has since been proven to be ineffective.

Today, it's still used to treat both atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure under the names digoxin, digitoxin, Crystodigin, and Lanoxin. It has not been proven to reduce mortality in these illnesses, and is currently being used less and less frequently.

Digoxin/digitoxin also has a very narrow therapeutic index. Too little of the drug and it doesn't help; too much causes serious toxicity. The window between these two thresholds is very tiny.

Toxicity can cause:
  • death
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • jaundiced "yellow" vision
  • blurry vision
  • dangerous arrythmias, including slowed heart rate
Here are some interesting factoids about "dig" (pronounced "dij,"as we call it in the medical world.)
  • Vincent Van Gogh may have been treated with digoxin. Some theorize that his Yellow Period was due to digitalis toxicity, and the blurry stars of "Starry Night" might be evidence of toxicity as well. (photo credits)
  • In 2003, Charles Cullen murdered 40 patients by administering fatal doses of digoxin while he cared for them as a nurse.
  • The antidote to dig toxicity is called Digibind or DigiFab, which is an antibody that binds to digoxin.
  • Reports of poisoning have occurred after children drank the water from a vase being used to display foxglove.
  • The plant is toxic to cattle, dogs and cats.
  • Poisoning has occurred in people brewing tea from foxglove leaves after they mistook them for innocuous comfrey leaves. Both plants have similar appearing furry leaves.
  • Foxglove was one of the many herbs used in the prehistoric Clan of the Cave Bear books by Jean Auel.
Neat huh? Next time you see Foxglove in a garden (or need it in a novel) remember this post!

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. :)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Author Spotlight: Jessica Bell!

I've known Jess almost since the day I started blogging. This is a woman with so many facets to her talent, she's practically a walking disco ball, but way cooler. :)

Today is THE day to help Jessica Bell's debut, STRING BRIDGE, hit the bestseller list on Amazon, and receive the all-original soundtrack,
Melody Hill: On the Other Side, written and performed by the author herself, for free!

All you have to do is purchase the book today (paperback, or eBook), November 11th, and then email the receipt to:

She will then email you a link to download the album at no extra cost!

To purchase the paperback:

To purchase the eBook:
Amazon USA

To listen to samples of the soundtrack, visit iTunes.

If you aren't familiar with String Bridge, check out the book trailer:

Rave Reviews for String Bridge:

Jessica Bell’s STRING BRIDGE strummed the fret of my veins, thrummed my blood into a mad rush, played me taut until the final page, yet with echoes still reverberating. A rhythmic debut with metrical tones of heavied dark, fleeting prisms of light, and finally, a burst of joy—just as with any good song, my hopeful heartbeat kept tempo with Bell’s narrative.
~ Kathryn Magendie, author of Sweetie and Publishing Editor of Rose & Thorn Journal

“Poet and musician Jessica Bell's debut novel String Bridge is a rich exploration of desire, guilt, and the difficult balancing act of the modern woman. The writing is lyrical throughout, seamlessly integrating setting, character and plot in a musical structure that allows the reader to identify with Melody's growing insecurity as her world begins to unravel…
String Bridge is a powerful debut from a promising writer, full of music, metaphor, and just a hint of magic.”
~ Magdalena Ball, author of Repulsion Thrust and Sleep Before Evening

Jessica Bell is a brilliant writer of great skill and depth. She doesn't pull back from the difficult scenes, from conflict, pain, intensity. She puts it all out there, no holds barred, no holding back. She knows how to craft a scene, how to develop character, how to create suspense. This is an absolutely brilliant debut novel. I look forward to reading her next novel, and next and next.”
~ Karen Jones Gowen, author of Farm Girl, Uncut Diamonds and House of Diamonds

Connect with Jessica:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Contest Winners & A NoNonsense Nod to NaNo

Thank you all for participating in my giveaway and spreading the word. After hitting the button on, I'm happy to announce the winners!

Nicole Ducleroir: $
20 Bookstore Gift Card
Julie Dao: $15 Bookstore Gift Card
VB Tremper: Lauren DeStefano's
Meredith (@ Fairytales and Cappuccino): Jennifer Donnelly's
LC Frost: Jackson Pearce's
Sisters Red
Carol Riggs: Franny Billingsly's
LisaAnn: Jandy Nelson's
The Sky is Everywhere
Rachel Searles: Query critique or first five pages critique

Congrats, and thanks to everyone for participating. I'll be emailing the winners with more deets on the prizes. :)


Let's move on to this month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question from Laura:

"Do you do NaNoWriMo? Why or why not?"

NaNo and I don't mix well. Kind of like drinking orange juice after brushing my teeth. It never works, no matter how often I think it might be okay. I mean, brushing teeth is okay, as is orange juice. But the timing is just off.

Every November, I'm always either revising (remember NaNoRevMo?), or outlining, or nearly finishing another project.

This year? I'm doing all three in the month of November.

So I tip my hat to you NaNoers. Or, since hats look profoundly stupid on me, I'll do my NaNo nod (akin to a bobble-head puppy). Good luck guys!

How about you? Do you NaNo?

Check out Laura's answer from last week, and Sarah and Deb's in the next weeks!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Medical Mondays: Traumatized into Blindness

This week's Medical Mondays question comes from Margo Berendsen, who asks:

"Can you explain how a person might go blind after a severe trauma, rather than by disease?"

Excellent topic. What used to be called
hysterical blindness is now more correctly called conversion disorder, which is a subset of somatoform disorders, according to the DSM-IV.

In order to be considered a true case of conversion disorder, the person cannot be deliberately faking it and the symptoms cannot be explained by a known medical/neurologic illness. There is usually an associated trauma that is linked to the symptoms, sometimes many years prior to the onset of the symptom. This trauma could be a conflict, stressor, or other severe emotional trauma.

Besides blindness, other types of symptoms have been observed, such as:
  • inability to speak (aphonia)
  • paralysis
  • numbness
  • siezures
  • fainting
  • loss of hearing
  • movement problems (like getting stuck in a position, or having a tremor)
Often, these symptoms can be treated by identifiying the traumatic cause, with treatment of any associated anxiety or depression, with psychological and psychiatric therapy, as well as physical therapy.

Thanks Margo for the great question!

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. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Author Spotlight: Maranda Russell and her Ravenclawish Tendencies

Weeeeelllllccccommmmeee! (Hmm. I sound like Mrs. Which from A Wrinkle in Time.) Say hello to Maranda! Isn't that a great picture? Where can I get a hat like that? Should I stop asking questions so we can get on with the interview? Yes? Okay.

1. If you decided to self-publish, what was the final push that allowed that decision?
I have been published traditionally and more recently, done some self-publishing. I think the reason I decided to do some self-publishing is because I like having full control over the process. I like getting to decide what goes and what stays, what the graphics look like, and how much it costs. Self-publishing wasn't very practical when it was so expensive, but now that ebooks can be self-published for free, the only investment you have to make is your time, hard work and the ability to market your books yourself.

2. How do you juggle your personal life with writing?
It is a challenge sometimes. I used to work as a substitute teacher, take care of foster kids and write. Now I have had to cut back on the teaching and focus primarily on my responsibilities as a foster parent and on my writing career. Writing and foster parenting are what I am most passionate about, so it doesn't feel like such a sacrifice when I have to go above and beyond the call of duty for either.

3. Do you snack when you write? And what is that snack?
I do snack when I'm writing, especially when the words aren't coming easily or I get stuck. When I am in the flow I can get so carried away I even miss meals, but that only happens occasionally. My favorite writing snacks are definitely sweets: candy, ice cream, cookies, sugary cereal, etc.

4. Which Harry Potter House would you be sorted into?
Probably Ravenclaw.

(I'm going to interrupt for a *squee* moment. I think I'm a Ravenclaw too!)

I'm not courageous or always hard-working, in fact I can be downright lazy. I can be ambitious, so maybe Slytherin, but I am more intellectual, so I figure Ravenclaw would be the best fit. I am in love with Severus Snape though, so I definitely wouldn't mind being placed in Slytherin!
Kaley Jergins loved her life. She had it all, the perfect family, good friends, and the talent and passion to be a great ball player. However, when tragedy strikes and the person she loves most of all is no longer there, will she ever be able to play again?

Told with warmth and feeling, this story comes from an author who knows what it is like to deal with loss at a young age. Nothing is ever the same after a tragic loss, but maybe life can go on. Includes an afterword by the author about grief and how to deal with it in a healthy way.

Available on AMAZON

Find Maranda at her blog and on Facebook!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The EPIC Giveaway of Maximum Splendiferousness

I couldn't think of a post today. What do I do when I have blog writer's block?

Give some stuff away, that's what.

I have two things to celebrate (oops, I almost spelled that "celebart" which sounds like something I don't want to eat, smell or purchase anytime soon):

Reaching 1000 Followers and selling my book. Time to share the happiness!

What's up for grabs?

1. $20 Gift Card to a bookstore of your choice.
2. $15 Gift Card to a bookstore of your choice.
3. Lauren DeStefano's Wither
4. Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution
5. Jackson Pearce's Sisters Red
6. Franny Billingsly's Chime
7. Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere
8. Query critique or first five pages critique--as gentle or ruthless as you'd like.

The contest rules:

1. Leave a comment on my blog with your email addy
2. Let me know if there's something in particular you want to win, or not win
3. Extra points for blogging>FB/Google+ >sidebar>tweeting. Let me know what you're doing, and I'll throw lots of extra points in. I'll even do the math for you.

Contest ends on Tuesday November 8th at 6PM. Winners will be announced Wednesday November 9th.

Spread the word like it's the most contagious rash you never want to get.

Because I want to give some stuff away!


Okay--also, don't forget to check out Laura Diamond's Sisterhood post on "Are you NaNoing? Why or why not?" Next week, I'm up!