Monday, September 29, 2008

Rejected

I received two rejections in today's mail. Two! Isn't there some karmic rule that says the sick guy gets a reprieve from rejection until his heart is strong enough to handle the disappointment? No? Damn.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Recuperation

I'm not sure which part of the recuperation process bothers me most, but I'm particularly frustrated by my lack of independence, my lack of stamina, and my lack of creative thought.

I live alone and am not yet supposed to drive. I must rely on others to run errands for me and, of course, nothing is ever done quite the way I want it done or when I want it done. I'm frustrated by my lack of control over my life, and by my lack of independence. Where once i could jump in the car to run errands whenever I felt the need, now I must coordinate everything with family and friends.

Yesterday, for the first time since surgery, I went to the grocery store. The trip through the store was probably the most time I've spent on my feet since returning home--despite daily walks--and I was frazzled by the time I returned to the car. I have become one of those people who clog the aisles as we toddle along, not quite sure where we're going or what we intend to purchase. I've discovered that it's just as frustrating to be one of those people as it is to be caught behind one of those people.

Although I've managed to spend some time working during the past week, most of my work has been editing and proofreading, tasks which require knowledge and attention, but which do not require any particularly creative skills. My intense desire to write, the urge to push ideas from my head through my fingers and onto the page, has abandoned me. I've had no new story ideas, have had no desire to create imaginary worlds populated by characters that spring from my mind, and have had no happy-ever-afters desperate to reach the page. I know I'll regain my independence, I know my stamina improves every day, but my lack of creative thought frustrates me most of all.

After all, I self-identify as a writer. If I'm no longer writing, what am I?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Agent first

I opted to query an agent first, one I met last summer when we were both featured speakers at a writing conference. Perhaps she'll remember me; perhaps she'll be interested in the manuscript. We'll see.

Finished

The novel is finished. I only added 1,000+ words before I was satisfied with it. The word count is iffy, though. If I use the "traditional" method of counting words--250 words/manuscript page--the novel is a few thousand words long for the intended market; if I use the word count provided by Microsoft Word, then it's almost 4,000 words short.

It's a romance novel based on a "meet-cute" provided by my second wife. (She died in 1994, less than two years after we married.) I found the first 32 pages in my files in February, 2006, and spent much of that month expanding the story. I picked it up again in February, 2008, and again spent much of that month expanding the story. I returned to in May, and by the end of that month I had much of the novel written. Unfortunately, I had a gap between the first 3/4s of the manuscript and the ending scenes. In early August, the non-writing friend I've previously referred to as my "plot monkey" read what I had written and gave me a list of suggestions that would fill in plot holes and bridge the unwritten gap. By the end of the month I had a complete draft. I spent the past couple of days proofreading, editing, and polishing, and I'm printing the final draft as I type this.

Why a romance novel? Several reasons. Although I've written short fiction in several genres, I've had my greatest success writing crime fiction and women's fiction. One of my four previous novels--and one of the two with the best critical acclaim--was a young adult romance. The "meet cute" is solid and the setting is one with which I am intimately familiar.

After I finish printing out the manuscript, I'll proofread and edit the synopsis, revise my bio to emphasize my experience writing women's fiction, and polish my cover letter.

Then I have a decision to make: Do I submit directly to the target publisher or do I seek an agent?

Maybe I'll make that decision another day.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Music to recuperate to

Mott the Hoople. Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople's former lead signer). Bad Company (co-founded by former Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs). Aerosmith (no connection to Mott the Hoople that I'm aware of).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A novel excuse

On August 30--four days after I woke with a crushing pain in my chest--I completed a draft of a new novel. The manuscript sits on my desk next to my computer monitor. It's a few thousand words shy of meeting the optimum length for its target market, but is otherwise complete. All I need to do is add a few new or expand a few existing scenes to get it to the appropriate length. Then it'll need one last editing/proofreading pass before it'll be ready so submit. It'll be one of the first things I do once I regain a decent attention span.

I haven't written many novels. This is my fifth. All four previous novels were published by small presses--two received great reviews, two others were also released as audio books--but none sold particularly well. The novel sitting in front of me has the potential to sell to a larger publisher, and I have reasonably high hopes for it.

During the last few weeks spent finishing the draft of this novel, I also started outlining another novel, one intended for the same publisher. Although the outline is quite rough at this point, I think I'll be able to complete it in a reasonable amount of time once I can return to the keyboard.

Does this mean I'm abandoning short stories? Not hardly. Short stories are my bread-and-butter and are likely to remain so for quite some time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Progress

Progress is slow but steady. Each day I walk a little farther, sleep a little better, think a little more clearly. I spend a little time at the computer each day but have not yet felt the desire to write.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Rejected

Hidden among the several dozen e-mails awaiting my return home were two rejections, and today's mail brought another. Perhaps the next few days will reverse that trend.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Where's my damn epiphany?

If I were writing a story based on the recent events in my life, this would be the point where my protagonist has an epiphany--that character-altering moment when he vows to be a better person and save the world from injustice. So where's my damn epiphany?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Published again and again and again

The mail certainly stacked up while I was in the hospital. No acceptances were awaiting my return, but contributor copies were:

My story "Night Shift Nookie" appears in the October True Romance. My stories "Love at First Fright" and "Wild Card" appear in the October True Love.

I can't keep up

I can't keep up with the volume of e-mail my recent escapades have generated, so please know that I appreciate all of the kind words you've posted here or sent directly to me. Thank you, also, to those of you who have forwarded this information to various groups and lists where I have been active and where others may be interested. I haven't the attention span nor the energy to do all that myself. For now, this will be the only source of updated information.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Quadruple bypass

I entered the hospital on September 9 expecting an angioplasty and, perhaps, insertion of as many as two stents.

The best-laid plans went to hell immediately. Two of my arteries were 100% blocked and my body had, over the previous 10+ years, rerouted my blood flow to accommodate the blockage. Angioplasty was immediately halted and I was scheduled for bypass surgery on September 10. Quadruple bypass.

I was released from the hospital earlier today and am at my son's home. It may be only a few days or it may be as much as a week before I return to my own home.

The doctors and nurses all tell me how lucky I am. Apparently, what I had could have killed me at any time during the past few years and the fact that it didn't--combined with leading the life of a non-smoker--means this surgery could add 30+ years to my life.

At the moment I don't feel lucky. At the moment I feel like I've been run over by a bus.

But I am lucky in many ways. During the past week, family, friends, colleagues, and clients have provided emotional, physical, and financial support far beyond anything I ever expected.

And that lets me know how lucky I truly am.

Thank you.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Words escape me

I've never been a touch-typist, nor a particularly fast typist, but I've always been able to get what's in my head onto the page with minimal errors. Until lately. Somehow, what I think I'm typing and what's actually appearing on my screen doesn't match up as well as it used to. In fact, I had to redo the first sentence of this paragraph three times.

I've also noticed myself losing words when I speak. I spent a bloody long time this evening trying to remember the phrase "garbage disposal" while standing at my son's sink.

I don't know if this is a physical symptom of my heart not pumping properly or if it's an emotional reaction. Or maybe I've always been like this and now I'm just extra sensitive to my own foibles.

Regardless of the cause, I hope it it clears up soon.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A sobering dose of reality

At 4 a.m., Tuesday, August 26, I woke with a painful, crushing sensation in my chest, a pain worse than anything I'd ever felt before.

Once, about a year earlier, I'd woken with a similar pain, but it went away after a couple of hours. This time it didn't go away.

At 10:30 a.m. I drove myself to the emergency room, where they took blood and urine, and attached me to a variety of monitoring devices. The conclusion, after several hours, was that I was not having a heart attack. However, that did not rule out other possible heart problems, so the doctor scheduled me for a stress test.

Tuesday morning, September 2, I took a nuclear stress test. Parts of my chest were shaved, making me look like I have mange, and I was again attached to various monitoring devices. Then I ran on a tread mill in an attempt to raise my heart rate.

I was unable to raise my heart rate enough. My chest pain, which had never fully gone away, returned. I started sweating heavily, and I felt dizzy. They removed me from the tread mill.

They induced stress chemically, injected me with a radioactive isotope, and then I spent twenty minutes lying still while my heart was videoed.

I returned on Thursday, September 4, was again injected with an isotope, and this time had my heart videoed while it was at rest and under no stress.

Then the two videoes were compared. The result? I have 17% blockage in the left ventricle of my heart.

Tomorrow, September 7, I turn 51. Tuesday, September 9, I am scheduled for angioplasty.

I may have a balloon inserted to open my artery and may have a stent inserted to keep it open. If all goes well, the procedure is over in about an hour. I might be released that day or I might be kept over night for observation.

If the procedure does not go well, or if there's more blockage than the tests reveal...well, I'm trying not to think too hard about that.

Most people seem to ease into their 50s. Sometime in their 40s they start falling apart, leading to radical changes in diet, daily ingestion of prescription medicines, operations, and whatnot.

Not me. My body waited until it was 50 and then kicked me in the ass.

In some ways I've led a charmed life. My blood pressure and cholesterol level, while slightly elevated when I had them checked for my 50th birthday, have led to a moderate change in my diet. I have no other medical problems of which I am aware and, until last week, did not take any prescription medications on a regular basis.

All sorts of thoughts go through my head at this time, but, given the nature of this blog, let's deal with this one: What about my writing?

The past few months have been both fertile and successful. I've been writing much more than I had been the previous several months, generating new ideas and finished manuscripts, and I've been selling at a high frequency again after a fallow period.

Writing is not a particularly strenuous physical activity, so I don't anticipate physical interference with writing, but what about the mental and emotional impact? I shot through a range of emotions when I learned my heart required medical intervention. Which of these emotions will prevail next week? And, if I am writing, will I be able to use any of those emotions in my writing?

We shall see, we shall see.

Thursday, September 04, 2008