Friday, April 29, 2011

Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogfest

Hi everyone! Leigh T. Moore at That's Write and I are hosting a blogfest on Monday, May 16th. The idea came from one of Leigh's post featuring a joke that really got me laughing.

So we thought, how about a joke blogfest where we can make fun of ourselves a little?

Rules are pretty lax. This is fun, after all!

1. Post a joke that pokes fun at yourself, or writing, or your job (including parenting, of course!), or anything personal. Or if that's too much work, any joke that you think is funny will do.

The point is to laugh a little. And the posts ought to be quick and fun, so you can hop from post to post and lower your stress level a little.

Because let's face it. Laughter is good for you and has very few side effects (aside from shooting out food particles from your nose or spraying coffee at your computer screen).

All I can say is, you've been warned. ;)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writing Software: It takes a Village?

A friend of mine recently got a free trial of Scrivener. She raved about how great it was in helping her organize her thoughts for her current WIP.

I myself do this while I revise:

It's an insane compilation of note cards, color-coded outlines, and sticky notes. A huge mess, but it's worked so far.

But what about using software for all this? After a brief but dizzying internet search, I found countless—and I do mean countless—software applications for novel and screenwriting. Here are a few links before I gave up because there were just too many.

Scrivener 2.0 for Mac
New Novelist
Character Pro
Writer's Cafe
Write it Now

Many of these applications have free trials, and they boast a bunch of features such as:
  • ability to edit multiple documents
  • easy ways to take notes, like on a corkboard
  • files to put random snippets, picts, ideas
  • outlining program
  • electronic sticky notes
  • writing references (grammar, thesaurus, dictionary, etc)
  • novel templates
  • text analysis
  • read back and dictation
I find this all very dizzying. I'm not sure I'm ready to take the plunge.

Have you ever thought of using a software program to write?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Medical Mondays: Foreign Accent Syndrome

I had a friend in med school who would study her neuroanatomy in an English accent, just to help it stick out better for memorization. (She passed with flying colors, so I guess it worked!)

That was different.

Foreign Accent Syndrome is an extremely rare problem (0nly sixty cases ever reported) caused by head trauma or stroke, affecting the speech areas of the brain.

Sufferers do not suddenly pick up a new language, only what appears to be the accent of another culture using their own native words. Idioms are not picked up (so my cartoon is a bit off, sorry). In fact, the pronunciation of certain letters and vowels are off enough to make the listener think they are hearing a particular type of accent.

A brief search told me this hasn't been seen prominently in any novels. This one is truly up for grabs.

In any case, this is yet another example of how remarkable the brain is and what unusual things occur when the wiring goes awry.

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, April 22, 2011

Do You Mary Sue?

This isn't a marriage proposal.

A Mary Sue is an idealized, near perfect character who is a fictionalized, wish-fulfillment on the part of the author writing a character.

Sometimes it manifests as a character that looks a lot like the author; sometimes it's superpowers or abilities that the author wishes he/she had. Oftentimes everything seems to go their way. Life can be pretty perfect for Mary Sue.

Apparently the Mary Sue term originally came from Star Trek fanfiction in the 1970's.

So tell the truth you Mary Sue?

And if you're not sure, there is a very funny Mary Sue test you can take to see if you are an anti-Sue, non-Sue, borderline-Sue, Mary Sue, ├╝ber-Sue, or irredeemable-Sue.

All fun and games, though. As for me? I do Mary Sue, but not in extremes. ;)

One last thing--Leigh Moore and I are going to host a quick and easy blogfest on May 16th called "Laughter is the Best Medicine Blogfest." The joke will be on everyone for this one. Details to come!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cussing Ad Lib

*Check out this website with a comprehensive, alphabetized list of swear and cuss words. It'll make you blush. Then insert swear/cuss of choice into the following blanks.*


I have a problem in my WIP.
Oh cussing. So ----- annoying. If you cuss too much in your writing, you get blamed for being so ----- rated R, or being shocking for the sake of being ------shocking.


I mean, really? -----!

I have some cussing in my YA WIP (the age range is 13 and upwards). I throw an F-bomb here and there. The inflammatory excrement word starting with "s" is occasionally used. But I'm paranoid that it's too much.

I've read plenty of reviews that people won't read certain YA because of cussing. I've also read that substitute cuss words (Like in Beth Revis's Across the Universe) sometimes work, sometimes don't, and those that don't like it prefer a good old fashioned swear word instead.

What's your take on cussing in your writing? In your reading?

Also, please take a moment to visit Sarah Fine's blog for her take on this month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question: Does each book/story you write have an overarching theme, and if so, do you think of it ahead of time or discover it after? If you missed it, check out previous posts by myself (Theme Me Up, Scotty!) and Laura Diamond, and stay tuned for next week's post by Deb Salisbury!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Medical Mondays: These Lips Are Sealed...For Now.

Happy Monday! Jen Daiker at Unedited has a great question for today. She asks:

"I have a main character who only speaks when it while that doesn't really matter for someone who lives in Oregon or Washington but for someone who lives in sunny LA that could took forever.

My question: How long could one go without speaking? Would something happen to their vocal cords?"

Well, this question stumped me. I'm going to answer as best I can, but I do have an ENT friend I consulted on this, so when I hear back from him I'll addend this post.

I think Jen is talking about is a problem called Selective Mutism. Adults and children (but more kids are affected, in general) with this condition cannot talk in certain situations (usually social situations) because of anxiety. Often, it's not that they choose not to speak, but that they are forced into a mute state by their extreme anxiety.

(Think Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, or the character Charles Wallace in A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle)

Sufferers are fully able to talk and understand language when the problematic situation goes away. Jen's character, for mysterious reasons (fascinating, right?), would start talking again when it rains.

But what if a person couldn't/didn't speak for a really long time? As in, months or years?

I did my best to find case studies of long term, exclusive mutism, and nothing came up. Nothing! So I'm left with hypothesizing instead.

Phonation, or the ability to produce sound is extremely complex. Speech is additionally very complicated. It's not just about the vocal cords, but the multiple soft tissues, nerves, and different cartileges that comprise the "voice box", AND the throat, the lungs, air pressure, the mouth, teeth and tongue, the brain of course, and the speech centers...

My best guess is that without talking for months and months, the first time someone did talk they'd have some difficulty. Possibly some hoarseness, from atrophy of the muscles related to phonation; possibly some dysarthria (poor enunciation of words) from lack of practice and all those other anatomic items you need to speak well. I'd guess that speech would be slow as well.

Thanks Jen for stumping me on a Sunday. Again, if my ENT friend gets back to me, I'll probably addend this post.

In the mean time, speak up and wish everyone within ear-shot a Happy Monday!

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, April 15, 2011

Know your Character: The Iceberg Test

Cultural competency is a hot topic in many workplaces, especially in the medical world. But have you thought about how culturally competent you are with your fictional characters?
When we meet a person (in fiction or real life), what's visible to us is like the tip of the iceberg. Skin color, hair color and texture, facial features, speech, clothes...we make snap judgments, conscious and unconscious, about that person.

In real life, the only way to get below the surface is to ask the person and/or spend time with them. As writers, we have the ability to delve deep below the surface to inform our readers as well.

Have you gone deep below the surface to delve into the culture of your characters?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Theme Me Up, Scotty.

Today I tackle this month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question from Sarah:

Does each book/story you write have an overarching theme, and if so, do you think of it ahead of time or discover it after?

What a great question. With my writing recently, I've found that I do have a theme in mind when I start outlining my story. With my last novel, it was this:

Super-survivalism may protect your body, but won't protect a fragile heart.

In my most recent WIP, it's this:

Physical perfection/imperfection is nothing compared to a strong mind.

(Hmm, I'm starting to see a theme within my themes.)

I may not have been able to say it with clarity when I started planning the books, but it didn't take long before the overarching idea was obvious.

How about you? I'd love to hear how you answer the question!

Don't forget to check out Laura's post last week if you missed it, and stay tuned for Sarah and Deb's post in the coming weeks!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Medical Mondays: When Good Intentions Hurt

Happy Monday everyone. Today's question is from the lovely Paula at Write Now:

"Two of my teen characters are involved in a car accident that involves a lot of jostling, spinning, car crunching. They both have seat belts on and both have air bags that deploy. I'm trying to figure out what a realistic injury would be where they may need rest for five or so days at home but nothing that would stop them from walking around and functioning."

The first thing I wondered was, if a car is relatively intact after an accident, how else could the passengers be injured?

What about the safety mechanisms? Could they hurt the passengers?

(This may be obvious but it still is worth repeating: seat belts and the supplemental safety of airbags drastically reduce risk of death in car accidents. Period. This post should not scare you into not using your seat belt!)

Three-point seat belts (what we all use today) could cause injuries to the spine and abdomen. The can be as severe as requiring surgery for internal organ damage or spinal paralysis, but for the accident that Paula has in mind, we could make these mild enough they didn't require hospitalization or surgery.

Air bag injuries.
Air bags deploy at high velocity and expand via hot gases from a chemical reaction. The following are a list of possible injuries Paula could choose from to keep someone home for a few days, but without causing serious injury:

  • Hearing damage. The airbags are really loud (160-170 decibels, akin to fireworks exploding or Boeing 747 engines on takeoff).
  • Broken bones (fingers, noses, hands, arms)
  • Head trauma (concussions, contusions)
  • Eye damage
  • Skin burns from the hot gases if the air bag punctures
  • Skin abrasions
This was really fascinating to research. Every detail we're aware of (and not) in daily life is fodder for our stories.

Happy Monday everyone, and please, don't be scared to buckle up!

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, April 8, 2011

Epistolary Novel

Hi guys! Have you ever read an epistolary novel?

It's a story that uses letters, found notes, diary entries, newspaper clippings, etc., to help tell a story. They can be
monologic (all letters/entries from one character), dialogic (from two characters), or polylogic (multiple).

The great thing about this type of novel is you can get different view points without using an omnicient narrator. Also, it can seem as if the story is non-fiction, when it isn't.

, by Bram Stoker is an epistolary novel written entirely with documents such as these. Even if it's not a novel, I can't help but mention Love Letters, a play by A. R. Gurney which I really enjoyed from a while ago. The two characters sat side by side the whole play and read letters to each other that span decades.

Many other novels will use documents to aid in the narrative, but won't have the entire story via documents, such as Stephen King's
Carrie or Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere.

Fictional diaries
are also a type of epistolary novel. Think Bridget Jone's Diary, or Flowers for Algernon.

Do you have a favorite epistolary novel?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Meet Me in_____

I've been blogging for a bit over a year now, but I haven't met any blogging buddies or online crit partners in person.

Most of my very close writing friends are nowhere near Nebraska. Since my town isn't exactly a favorite vacation spot, I doubt they're coming my way any time soon. My next best bet would be a writing conference, but my timing is always off.

I'm curious. How many of you have met the people behind the little Blogger icons, or your online crit partners?

Also, if you have a moment please visit Laura's post for this month's Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog question:

Does each book/story you write have an overarching theme, and if so, do you think of it ahead of time or discover it after?

Next week, my post is up, followed by Sarah and Deb!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Medical Mondays: Death by Insomnia

I've been chatting with the lovely Erica Mitchell-Spickard about her WIP, and the topic of sleep deprivation came up.

Losing sleep isn't fun. We all have experienced it once in a while. The dark circles, irritability, and exhaustion are bad, but then we catch up with a few Zz's (or the infant finally starts sleeping through the night, ha ha).

But did you know insomnia can kill?
Fatal Familial Insomnia is an inherited disease (half of the kids who have an affected parent will inherit the gene) that manifests in middle age. It is now though to be a prion disease. 

The sufferer, for no obvious reason, begins to have worsening problems with insomnia. Sleep medications actually make things worse, instead of helping the sleep come on.

During the first few months when the insomnia worsens, the person becomes paranoid, irritable, and suffers from panic attacks and phobias.

In the next few months, hallucinations set in.

By month 5-9, the insomnia becomes constant and the person rapidly loses weight.

By month 7-18, the person become demented and unresponsive, and soon dies.

What a horrible disease. Sadly there is no cure, but genetic testing is available for diagnosis. And luckily, the disease is extremely rare.

It made me think of Insomnia, by Stephen King, the sleepless wanderings of Heathcliff on the moor, and the insomnia that plagued Macbeth. Have you come by any insomniac characters lately in your reading?

Sleep tight! Don't let the bed bugs bite (eh, that's for another post. ;) ).

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, April 1, 2011

Give me a Break

No this is not a Kit Kat commercial, or is it about that sitcom with the saucy Nell Carter.

Today, I'm giving myself a break from doing all responsible things and will instead spend my free time revising. Not blogging, not doing laundry, not cleaning dishes.

Okay, I will feed my kids, I promise. ;) Crap, and I might check a blog or two...

On that note, here's a quote that makes me chuckle:

If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster. ~Isaac Asimov

Have a great weekend!