Monday, November 29, 2010

Medical Mondays: Gun Shot Wounds, 101

Before we start, a big, hearty thanks to all for the Turkey Support System that followed last week's post (which I may have to formally host on an annual basis). Your TSS gave me the confidence to tackle the pale and intimidating gobbler. I can comfortably say that I took that turkey down and showed it no mercy till it was golden, crisp and...dare I say it?

It was the BEST turkey I've ever had.

Yes, I owned that turkey. (Well, yeah, of course I bought it, but you know. I mean owned in a more lordly kinda way. Ahem.)

Okay. On to today's post!

GSW=Gun Shot Wound (aka, ballistic trauma)

Likely there will be more future posts on GSWs. After all, fiction (and the occasional wild turkey) has quite the propensity for high velocity injuries. (See my first post on gun shot wounds to the head).

So, on that note, we'll tackle a couple of question from Amanda from A Fortnight of Mustard:

A character is shot in the back of his calf by a rifle. How long would it take to heal, until he could walk and eventually be able to run?

The severity of GSW depend on many issues. So, a few basics:

1) Velocity. Generally, the faster the bullet travels, the more damage can be done, for instance, rifles shoot bullets at a higher velocity than handguns.
2) Mass. The bigger the bullet, the more damage is done.
3) Fragmentation. Some bullets are designed to break apart on impact, and thus cause more damage to a larger area.
4) Penetration. How far the bullet travels into a body part will affect what and how badly it's damaged
5) Cavitation. This is the shock-wave like effect of the bullet. This damage is more apt to occur in certain body parts, like the brain or liver, rather than muscle.

So, if this person got hit in the calf, the healing depends on the type of injury. The great thing is this is fiction, so you can decide how bad of an injury you want. Sort of like ordering food at a restaurant.

Would you like a shattered bone with that bullet hole? A side order of nerve injury?

So. If you want an injury that's really severe, you may want a severely broken bone (probably the tibia). Also, a torn artery would need surgical repair, and severe muscle injury (if the bullet was very destructive) would cause a lot of muscle damage. Then there's the possibility of nerve damage. Sometimes this can be surgically repaired or healed naturally; sometimes it cannot and cause permanent problems. We're talking about a person walking on the injured leg only after perhaps 8 weeks, running after 4 months, or even longer if the healing process doesn't go smoothly, or with permanent disability for any of the reasons above and no running, ever.

However, if you want a simpler injury, a non-fragmenting, clean shot through the "meat" of the calf, with no major vessel or nerve injury, could be recovered from pretty quickly. As in, walking in a week and running in only a couple of weeks.

Is it true that guys in combat can somehow still run and function right after they've been shot? Do they not feel pain because of adrenaline?

"Stress-induced analgesia" is a term that describes when pain is masked by a stressful or life-threatening situation. It's thought to be related to endorphins rather than adrenaline. Endorphins are naturally occurring chemicals that resemble morphine in our brains and can mask the pain of a severe injury during a stress response.

Okay, sorry for the super long post! Have a Happy Monday!

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice (see sidebar disclaimer).

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankfulness and Confessions

Hey guys! In honor of Thanksgiving, a list and a confession.

I'm thankful for so many things this year.

My family.
My health.
My job.
My writing.
My home.
My writing.
(And a ton of other things too...)

And I saved one of the best for last--my friends. Old ones, new ones, and all of you guys. I have a lot of new blogging friends, and you guys have welcomed my crazy blogging into your world with open arms. For that, I am very grateful.

Okay, confession time.

I have never cooked a turkey.

I'm petrified! MCAT, SAT, board exam, board recertification, residency, whatever. Nothing compared to this.

I am afraid of roasting a turkey!

Please send some turkey-roasting luck my way.

Will resume blogging next week. Happy Turkey Day!

If you have a moment, please check out our newest sister, Deb Salisbury, who is posting on her favorite childhood book. Take it away, Deb!
If you missed the, check out Danyelle's, Laura's post, and my post from the previous weeks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Medical Mondays: Turkey, Tryptophan and Tom's Revenge

Hi guys!

In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to address this whole "Post-Turkey Drowsiness" thing that has been blamed on tryptophan, an amino acid.

Here is our fictional scenario.

Tom is a quiet nine year-old boy who dreads Thanksgiving. No, it isn't because his Aunt Prudence's turkey is so dry it could be used to start the fire.

It's because of his cousin, Brutus. Brutus is a twelve year-old suffering from Know-It-All-itis. And poor Tom spends a whole day, once a year, subject to an all day tirade of "let's see how much Tom doesn't know."

But this year is different. Because Tom has you, his Fairy-Geek Mother.

Brutus is chucking marshmallows at Tom's head right now, just after dinner.

Brutus: "Hey pigeon-brain, know why people get so sleepy after Thanksgiving?"

Tom, plucking marshmallows out of his hair, doesn't answer, because why bother? Brutus will tell him anyway.

Brutus, with a lordly air: "Tryptophan. That's why. It's in the turkey. Bet you didn't know that, eh?"

And here is where you, the Fairy-Geek Mother, swoops in to flick Tom on the noggin with this bit of brilliancy.

Tom, his face transformed by knowledge:

"Actually, tryptophan levels are no higher in turkey than any other meat. The post-meal drowsiness is due to an indirect mechanism whereby the high carbohydrate content of the meal induces an insulin surge, resulting in a low uptake of tryptophan in cells, which then causes an increase in melatonin production."

Brutus: "Uhhh."

Don't forget to check out Laura's Mental Health Mondays, too!
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

500 Followers "LOVE YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE" Giveaway!

Hi guys!

I can't believe I've made it to 500 followers! I can't think of a better way to celebrate than to give away some stuff. I have a favorite local bookstore, the Bookworm, and wondered if you all had a local store you loved as well.
So, in honor of your favorite bookstore, I'd like to give away...

FOUR $15 gift cards to the local bookstore of your choice.

To enter into the giveaway, you must:

1. Be a follower of my blog
2. Please leave a comment with your email address and the name the local bookstore that you'd like to celebrate!

For extra drawings:
+3 for blogging
+3 for Facebooking
+2 for tweeting
+1 for mentioning it on your sidebar

This contest will run for two weeks and ends on December 3rd and is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only. Sorry!

Good luck, and three cheers for our indie booksellers!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Book Pile = My Brain?

The other day Meredith blogged about her pile of books needing a bookshelf. We need a gigantic bookcase at our house too. Like, a year ago.

Meredith's pile is neat and sweet. Mine exists in a lonely closet of our basement and appears as if a good old-fashioned Nebraskan tornado hit it:

(FYI, I only showed you the neatest part of the mess. I have some degree of decorum.)

I can't help it! I go in that little room and rummage around for books and leave a wake of utter chaos behind me. And then I just shut the door.

Let's just hope this isn't representative of how my brain is organized.

Are you guys neat freaks with your books?

Also, don't forget this weeks's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog post by Danyelle Leafty on her favorite childhood book. If you missed them, I posted last week, and Laura posted the week before. Next week stay tuned for some words from our new Sisterhood sister, Deb Salisbury!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Medical Mondays: Ergot and St. Anthony's Fire

Today I'm going to tackle a fascinating thing called ergot.

The first time I heard about ergot was as a teen reading the book Firebrand, by Marion Zimmer Bradley. In the story, there is a scene when Cassandra and her aunt, Penthesilia, travel through a village with a mysterious illness causing birth defects.

A strange fungus (ergot) growing on the rye turns out to be the culprit.

Ergot can grow most commonly on rye, but occasionally on wheat and barley.

When consumed, it causes a disorder called St. Anthony's Fire, named so because the monks of the Hospital of St. Anthony in the middle ages became a center for treating the malady.

St. Anthony's Fire is also called "ergotism" and the symptoms include a burning sensation in the limbs, delirium, spasm, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations, mania or psychosis. Some can even have their fingers or toes die from gangrene, as ergot is a potent vasoconstrictor (a chemical that makes the blood vessels tighten and restrict blood flow).

Ergot poisoning has been blamed for cases of "bewitchment" in the past.

The "Great Fear" of France in 1789 at the start of the French Revolution has been theorized to be caused by ergot poisoning.

Ergot was first used in 1938 to make LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide).

It is thought that historically, ergot may have been used in cult-like rituals for its hallucinogenic properties. It's been found in the stomachs of the "bog-men" from the Iron age. Some believe that the poem Beowulf (translation: Barley-wolf, related to the German translation for ergot: "tooth of the wolf") is somehow related to such a cult-related ritual.

Considering this colorful history, ergot is curiously found in modern medicine. Ergot derivatives are used to treat migraine headaches (Cafergot). It is also used to treat Parkinson's Disease (Pergolide [withdrawn from US market], Cabergoline).

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice (see sidebar disclaimer).

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

Where Else Has Your Creativity Taken you?

I know many of you write fiction, and some non-fiction and poetry. I do all three, but not equally.

I dabble in some pathetic crocheting and knitting. I love to cook and when there's time and I'll play some very depressing Sense and Sensibility-type songs on the piano. I love drawing though I haven't picked up a drawing pencil in a while.

But what I want to know is...what else do you do that is creative?

Dish, please!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Favorite Childhood Book

This week's question comes from Laura Diamond. If you missed it, she posted last week on her excellent choice! Next week, check out Danyelle's post, and the week after, our new Sisterhood sister, Deb Salisbury!

I had so much trouble coming up with a single book. There were just too many.

My choice is Margaret Hodges' What's for Lunch, Charley?

I was so bummed to find it's no longer in print and the hardcover is on sale at Amazon for almost $100!

It's a story about a boy who eats a boring lunch every day (sandwich; fruit; milk; cookie). One day, a new girl named Rosabelle Ruggles shows up. Unlike his friend Jane Lane, she has curly hair and pink nail polish. And in her lunch? A fried chicken leg, a thermos of piping hot tomato soup, a glass jar of fruit salad, a piece of layered chocolate cake, and (gasp!) a CLOTH napkin!

Later that week, he forgets his lunch and decides to eat at the super-fancy King George Hotel Restaurant instead where he orders...guess what? Fried chicken leg, tomato soup, fruit salad, and chocolate cake.

He's treated like a king. But who will pay the whopping $3.50 bill? And in the end, will it be Rosabelle or plain Jane who receives his affection?

The book is so fabulous and has some of the most memorable food scenes ever. Sigh. This was my childhood equivalent of the movie Babette's Feast.

How about you? What is your favorite childhood book?

And is there anyone out there who's read this book too?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Medical Mondays: Your Lonely Spleen and an Interview!

First up, the very sweet Lisa Gail Green at Paranormal Point of View is posting about yours truly today! So if you want to learn some random factoids about me, go check it out!

And on to today's Medical Monday question. Clara at Pinches of Madness is looking to give one of her characters a hard time! She asks:

What are the symptoms of a ruptured spleen? I've checked the web and I saw that it causes blurry vision, lightheadness, but also quick heart pacing as well as abdominal and shoulder pain. Is this correct?

A ruptured spleen is often seen in blunt trauma to the abdomen, especially the left upper belly area just under the ribs, where the spleen lives. People with large spleens (because of certain blood cancers or anemias, for instance) have a bigger risk of traumatizing their spleens.

The symptoms of a ruptured spleen are:

-abdominal pain in the left upper belly area
-pain in the left shoulder (this is called "referred" pain, similar to why people having heart attacks have pain in the left arm...will need to do a whole post on this later, I think!)
-symptoms related to bleeding internally from the ruptured organ. Bleeding steals blood from your blood vessels. As a result, you don't get enough blood supply to your head, causing dizziness, blurry vision or a darkening sensation of your vision, which happens before you pass out. Your heart compensates by pumping faster, and thus you may feel like your heart is racing.

A few other questions may pop up from all this spleen talk, so I thought I'd head them off.

Can you live without a spleen?
Yes, you can. But you will be susceptible to certain kinds of bacterial infections (some very severe and life threatening) and would need special vaccines if you lost your spleen.

What the heck does a spleen do besides take up bodily space, like an uninvited house guest?
Ah, the hopelessly under-appreciated spleen. Here, have a hug. (*squish*). Okay. The spleen does more work than a loafing guest. It clears away old and dying red blood cells, and it's a bit of a garbage collector. Bacteria that have already been "marked" by your immune system for death are picked up here and disposed of. Other cells coated with antibodies are also removed here.

Hope you found this interesting, and everyone with a spleen, please pat your upper left belly and say thanks to a rather under-appreciated chunk of your body.

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

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, November 5, 2010

When My Muse is a Dominatrix

My muse is a pretty nice gal, usually. She works with me; helps when I need it, pops in to add a few ideas when I'm not looking for them.

A tea-and-toast kind of nice lady.

Except on Monday night. I was working on a new outline for a novel. And okay, so I had a leetle too much caffeine that day. What did my muse do?

She took off her granny cardigan, strapped on some black leather and took out the whip.

Yes, she went all dominatrix on me. I could not fall asleep until 4 AM. Voices and plot lines, subplots and subterfuges, descriptions and world building swirled around and wouldn't let go.

(Just to be clear, I am NOT manic. This just happens once in a while at the beginning of project.)

I'm still recovering from the sleep deprivation. But man, does she crack the whip hard when that happens.

So. Does your muse ever get too tough on ya?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Three Act Plot Structure

I came across the three act plot structure about a year ago and I have to say I'm a bit of a convert. It's roots come from plays and drama, which is why there is so much crossover to screenplay writing.


In Act 1, we meet the main characters, find out how the world changes for the MC, and what thrusts them into a new experience.

In Act 2, we see development of the characters and what brought them there. The conflicts are brought to a breaking point and then...

In Act 3, we see the climax and then the denouement (or resolution).

Here are some links that have more info about this structure.

Wikipedia for a basic run through.
Michael Hauge takes it to a six-part structure.
Free Spirit Universe goes into more depth.
Peder Hill has another great explanation.

Hope this helps! Do you guys use a three plot structure?

Also, don't forget about visiting Laura's blog for this week's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog on what is your favorite childhood book, and why.