Thursday, January 31, 2008

CJ on The Rap Sheet!

Check out my fun conversation with Ali Karim on The Rap Sheet!

We discuss how hard it is to write fictional bad-guys, especially after dealing with ones in real life.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Patry Francis Blogday: A Life with No Buts

Today is dedicated to Patry Francis and the release of the paperback edition of her debut novel, The Liar's Diary. Go here to see what it's all about and here to read Patry's blog and here to buy the book.

One of the things remarkable about Patry and her battles (to be published, to fight cancer, to continue sharing her work and world view) is that she has learned to live a life without "buts."

No, not that butt, the one brought on by holiday over-indulging. I'm talking about the more insidious, poisonous one that infests our society and prevents so many from daring to dream, much less live their dreams.

You know what I'm talking about. The "but" that starts so many conversations…and brings them to a screeching pre-mature halt.

"But, you don't understand, I can't…"

How many times as a physician have I heard that from patients and parents who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and decisions? Who deny themselves the chance at a better life with a simple three letter word, "but."

My own life has included encounters with death (my own, my family's, my patients'), head-long collisions with "facts of life" (which often turn out to be nothing except urban myths cloaked in authority), and scrambling, tooth and claw escapes from poverty.

We've all lived through hard times. We've all had plans go awry, dreams lost, hopes dashed. We all feel sometimes that it takes more than we have to simply struggle out of bed each day and trudge through the routine we've substituted for our life.

I dare you to go read Patry's blog chronicling her current fight, then return to your own life ready to challenge your own "buts."

Try it. Banish three letters from your vocabulary, eliminate that one tiny word from your thinking for one day, and see what dreams you can set into motion!

While you're at it, don't forget to pick up a copy of The Liar's Diary and visit Patry on her website or blog.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Karma strikes writer!

No, not me (although I've had my share of karmic fortune, good and bad) but a wonderfully talented fellow writer who just won the short fiction contest at Once Written.

Click here to read her story, "The Comic Who Couldn't Laugh"--you'll be glad you did.

And watch for more from this award-winning literary talent!

Friday, January 18, 2008

10 things everyone needs to know about the ER

If you think you might ever, ever, ever make use of an ER, read this first!

Very sound advice from someone on the front lines...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Switching Gears

Ever feel like your brain is just plain tuckered out? The writing goes stale, nothing you read is pulling you in….heck, even your fav authors aren’t engaging you, much less inspiring you to get back to work.

Try taking a break from processing words and switch gears to more visual pursuits. Grab some paints or crayons and create some art (no one has to see it except you). Or re-cycle those old magazines by cutting out photos and creating a collage. For those more computer savvy, make a video.

Think of your story as you work, use it as your inspiration. Relax. Have fun. After all, it’s not writing, it’s playtime.

You might be surprised by your results! I know I was.

I created this video that I posted on my MySpace page ( as a way to think about my characters and I like it enough that I’m going to see if my editor can use it to give the sales staff a visual handle on my cross-genre book. I think it nicely captures the romance, suspense, medical elements and that this book focuses on the women characters.

Switch gears and return to your writing rejuvenated and refreshed!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Why we do what we do....

Everyone's probably heard about CNN's Beck and his hemorrhoids surgery gone awry. For those who haven't, basically he went in for an outpatient procedure, woke with uncontrollable pain that the surgeons weren't able to control and ended up spending 5 days in the hospital.

Then he went home and produced a video tape about his experiences and how awful they were. His conclusion:

"The politicians are right that we have a health care crisis in this country," he said. "Where they're wrong is that it's not going to be solved by government, it's not going to be solved by getting the HMOs out, it's not going to be solved by a new marbled-lobby health center," he said. "It's by hiring people that understand about caring for people."

Right....we doctors spend four years in college, four years in med school (at the cost of $100,000 +), four to seven years in additional training working 80 hour weeks for peanuts, just so we can face the threat of malpractice suits, insurance company hassles, and patients like Beck who think they're the only patients in the world....Why?

And what about the nurses--don't even get me started on the long hours, low pay and crap they have to put up with.

Seriously who would want a job like this? Who would want to work every holiday that your family has off, nights/days/swing shifts, weekends, be on call to drop everything to answer a summons from a patient? Does that sound like the kind of job you would want?

Unless you cared.....which of course is why we do what we do.

And why, if Mr. Beck felt less than appreciated by the numerous medical personnel he was involved with, then he might want to either look in the mirror at his own actions and attitudes as well as what it is about our health care system (the system he says doesn't need any government or HMO intervention to make constructive change) that has sucked the life and compassion from people who have sacrificed so much in the name of caring?

No, medical providers aren't perfect. But we wouldn't be doing this if we didn't care....

Friday, January 11, 2008

Into the Woods

This post originally appeared at Romance Worth Killing For where I blog monthly about fun medical facts for your fiction.

We all love to throw our Heroes curve balls, move them out of their comfort zones, give them physical challenges to overcome, and place them in life or death situations.

One of the most common of these is the wilderness--the stuff of Grimm fairy tales, boogey men and primal nightmares. But what to do once we get our characters out there in the deep, dark woods-- how do we realistically get them back to the ranch in one piece?

Let's use an example from one of my old manuscripts. The hero, Lucky, is a city boy, an ATF agent whose cover has been blown by some renegade militia types. Poor Lucky, he's been shot, the bad guys are hot on his tail, and the only place to go is into a wilderness area. Oh yeah, it's January and a nor'easter is heading right toward him.

What does our hero need right now to ensure his survival?

The most important survival tool is attitude. Not just a stubborn will to live, although that is vital, but also the ability to focus and prioritize, to accept that something bad has happened and move on, and to improvise, think outside the box.

Aron Ralston, the climber who amputated his own hand when pinned beneath a boulder, didn't waste time on self-recrimination. He spent five days improvising various methods to either move that boulder, attract help or free his arm. At the same time he also attended to his other physical needs: temperature stability, water, food.

Top of my wish list if I was stranded anywhere: duct tape.

Got a broken arm or leg? Duct tape holds your splint together. Deep cut or gunshot wound (as in Lucky's case)--duct tape holds the edges together or secures a dressing. By the way, your heroine can really help out if she's prepared for that time of the month-- maxipads make ideal dressings.

Need to build a shelter? Or make a pair of sunglasses so you don't go snow blind (punch a small hole in the duct tape for each eye to look through); wrap it around your ankles as gaiters to keep snow or water out; tape up a sprain; make a sling; blaze a trail; patch up some blisters (once applied, try not to remove it until you're back in civilization or major ouch); you can even fashion clothing from it!

A few trash bags can also come in handy. Lightweight, easy to carry, cheap and versatile. Got rain or snow--instant rain poncho. Need a shelter to bivouac the night in? Fill one with dry pine boughs or leaves, and you've got an itchy but warm sleeping bag. Or cut it open and use your duct tape to fashion a "pup" tent. You can also cut strips to blaze a trail or to use as lashing. Caught wearing sneakers in the snow? Make goulashes.

For first aid it gives you waterproof dressing material, also use the bag part (Ziploc bags work great for this as well) to flush out and irrigate wounds or burns. Just cut the corner off the bottom of the bag, fill with water, hold the top tight (or duct tape it) and poke a hole in the corner, and you have a high pressure irrigation system. And if you need to carry water but didn't bring your Camelbak, you can haul as much as you can carry.

What if you are caught out in the woods with "nothing"? Do a quick inventory, you'd be surprised what you really do have. Nasty gash on the scalp-- tie the edges together with your hair; it worked for the frontier pioneers. Got a broken arm or collarbone? Use the cuff button to attach your shirt sleeve to your collar and viola, instant sling.

Bitten by a snake and no Acewrap handy to use as a compression dressing to stop the venom flow--use your sock. (Note: compression means you can slip one finger beneath it--NOT a tourniquet, and please, no cutting and sucking snake bites! Depending on the kind of snake, almost half are "dry" or venom free, and all you're doing is making it worse by adding a laceration and your dirty mouth germs to an area that's already damaged.)

Fall in the water and need a flotation device? If you're wearing anything water repellant, take it off, tie it like a balloon and blow it up. This technique is one of the reasons people in Alaska swear by Carhartt clothing--there have been several people there literally saved by their pants!

Need lashing for a shelter or to make a splint? Shoelaces or your belt. Need a signal mirror--wearing any jewelry? Want a compass--use your watch, or make a "sundial" compass with a stick. Got matches but no dry tinder? How about the lining from inside your coat or fuzz from your socks?

You get the idea. Remember, attitude is the most important survival tool there is, followed by imagination. Writers, with our positive, no quit attitudes and familiarity with the realm of possibilities, should make for the perfect survivalists!

Anyone with their own wilderness survival techniques or stories? I'd love to hear them!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


I know I haven't posted in a while, but it's because I've been working hard to get my new website up and running.

Check it out at and let me know what you think!

I'll also be moving as many of my older wordpress blog posts over here so everything will be in one place. So if you're trying to find something and it's gone, please be patient.