Filed under: Amazon, Bipolar, Connections, Faith healing, Flu, Predictions, Religion, Science, Science Fiction, Wales, Writing stuff | Tags: blogging, Communion of Dreams, Darnell Sidwell, fire-flu, free, Her Final Year, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, Llangelynnin, memoir, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, travel, Wales, writing
With a little luck, this week I’ll finish up another chapter, one I have been slogging away on for FAR too long. As is plainly clear to anyone who even casually reads this blog, I am not one of those writers who is able to just jump in and dash off page after page of text. I spend days thinking through scenes, how they integrate into the overall story. I’ll spend hours researching stuff which seems just completely tangential to the narrative, because I want everything to actually fit together properly. And I’ll often labor over a couple hundred words of text, trying to capture just the right tone. Whether I accomplish those goals in the end is another matter altogether.
So, for me at least, and for most of the time, writing is just hard work. And as I have noted both here and in personal communications, there are times I fear I have lost my way completely. That I am fooling myself to think that anyone will ever have the slightest interest in plowing through all that text. I’ve felt that way a lot over the last year. Gah.
And then, there are days like yesterday.
When, in about 90 minutes, about 1200 words just flowed out of me and onto the screen. When months of set-up and research all came together. Here’s a bit of that:
The back doors of the van were open, and there, cradled by her mother, was a little girl, about 8 years old. Her rich Indian coloration couldn’t hide the fact that there was already a blueish hue to the skin of her face and hands. With no hesitation, Megan stepped forward, glanced at the mother, and asked “how long has she had this color? The cyanosis?”
“Not long,” she said, in a plain Midwestern American accent. “Maybe 15 minutes.”
Megan looked to Darnell. “They didn’t give us any oxygen. About the only thing we have which might help are A.C.E. inhibitors, and I have no idea where those are in the crates they loaded. And they take too long to really work.”
Darnell studied her face, then turned to Joey. He started to say “I’m not sure …”
“Dar, wait,” said Megan. She looked at the girl, then at her parents. “There may be something else we can do.”
“What?” asked both Darnell and Joey, at the same time.
“Llangelynnin isn’t far,” said Megan.
“We passed through there just half a mile or so back,” said the girl’s mother. “But there’s not much there.”
“Not the town. The old church, up in the hills above. It’s about two kilometers,” replied Megan, looking from face to face. “It was a place of healing. Particularly for healing children.”
And the next bit, which I wrote today? It went back and referenced something I had planted in a scene 11 chapters ago. And which ties in to a critical scene in Communion of Dreams that I wrote about a decade ago. Even better, all of that was intentional — pieces of a much larger puzzle, finally falling into place.
Writing a novel is just brutal hard work. At least it is for me, most of the time.
But I no longer feel like I have lost my way.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Hospice, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Science Fiction | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, humor, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, promotion, Science Fiction
Except fish. Fish don’t like books. At least as far as I know.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Brave New World, Connections, General Musings, Guns, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Science Fiction, tech, Violence, Writing stuff | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, free, Guns & Money, Her Final Year, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, laser, Lawyers, National Interest, naval, predictions, promotion, railgun, Robert Farley, Science Fiction, technology, warship, writing
The biggest reason to build big ships may be the promise of electricity generation. The most interesting innovations in naval technology involve sensors, unmanned technology, lasers, and railguns, most of which are power intensive. Larger ships can generate more power, increasing not only their lethality (rail guns, sensors) but also their survivability (anti-missile lasers, defensive sensor technologies, close-defense systems).
Unmanned technology. Lasers. Railguns.
Tell me that ain’t living in a science fiction future.
Filed under: Marketing, NPR, Promotion, Science Fiction | Tags: blogging, Communion of Dreams, flash fiction, Flight MH370, free, Her Final Year, jim downey, NPR, promotion, Réunion, Science Fiction, short story
She stood there before the large table at one end of the closed hanger. The whole space was brilliantly illuminated by the lights high overhead, but additional work lights illuminated the piece of debris on the table from several additional angles, so that there were almost no shadows cast. The white paint had been abraded. There were smudges of something like algae here and there. Barnacles were clustered along joints, where they could get purchase either on the flaperon itself, or on other barnacles which had attached before them. There were even bits of seaweed, still drying.
“It looks fine to me. I mean, just what I would expect after more than a year in the ocean.”
“So, it’s from Flight MH370. What’s the problem? Why’d you call me in?”
The man handed her a clipboard containing a paper report. She took it, glanced at it. “I don’t read French. What’s it say?”
“Well, among other things, the barnacles are dead.”
“I guessed that from the smell.”
“Yeah, but what’s interesting is that the lab determined that the barnacles were more dead than they should be. I mean, they had been dead longer than expected.”
“Oh? Why? What killed them?”
He reached out, as if he were going to touch one with his gloved hand, then thought better of it. He continued to look at the encrustations. “Starved to death. Seems they couldn’t digest the plankton there off of Réunion.”
“Why not? That’s where the barnacles are from, aren’t they?”
“Yep. That’s exactly the type found there.” He turned to look at her again. “Just one problem: these barnacles can only digest left-handed proteins.”
She sighed, looked down at the clipboard out of habit, even though she knew she couldn’t read what was there. Then she looked back to the man. “Mirror lifeforms. Dammit.”
“And they promised — PROMISED — that this wouldn’t happen again! OK, I’ll alert the Council.”
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Connections, Diane Rehm, Health, Hospice, Kindle, NPR, Science, Society, tech | Tags: Alzheimer's, Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's Association International Conference, Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, amyloid plaque, blogging, care-giving, CNN, Diane Rehm, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Keith Fargo, Kindle, Lauran Neergaard, Liza Lucas, Murali Doraiswamy, Nancy Donovan, NPR, science, tau protein, technology
It’s been seven and a half years since my mother-in-law passed away from Alzheimer’s. A couple years later, we published Her Final Year. Since then I have kept an eye on ongoing research concerning the disease, and have mentioned it here when I thought appropriate. This week, there are several new promising developments to come out of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington, D.C.
First is a saliva test for metabolites which indicate brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s. From this CNN article:
Researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada analyzed saliva samples of fewer than 100 people, divided into three groups based on cognitive ability: 35 with normal aging cognition, 25 with mild cognitive impairment and 22 with Alzheimer’s disease.
Using protein analysis technology, researchers examined the saliva of each individual, analyzing nearly 6,000 metabolites, which are small molecules that are byproducts of chemical reactions in the brain.
The team then discovered specific biomarkers (or patterns of metabolites) in the groups with known Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment, in comparison with the natural aging group, and tested the biomarkers as predictors of cognitive performance.
It’s a very small study, but if additional research into this area bares out the results, this could be a quick and inexpensive screening tool to help determine who may be at risk for Alzheimer’s. Because, as discussed in a very good segment on the Diane Rehm show this morning, early detection helps even though there are limited treatment options for Alzheimer’s (and other age-related dementias). That’s because there are things you can do to prepare for managing the disease: establish necessary legal protections (things like family trusts and durable power of attorney), educate family members and caregivers, investigate daycare and assisted living options, participate in drug and treatment trials, and similar.
Speaking of drug and treatment trials, the Alzheimer’s Association has a very useful online tool for Alzheimer’s patients, care-providers, and family members:
Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch is a free, easy-to-use clinical studies matching service that connects individuals with Alzheimer’s, caregivers, healthy volunteers and physicians with current studies. Our continuously updated database of Alzheimer’s clinical trials includes more than 225 promising clinical studies being conducted at nearly 700 trials sites across the country.
This is just one of the new tools which have been made available since we cared for Martha Sr. Because in the last 7+ years, there has been a lot of research and a growing awareness that Alzheimer’s will touch nearly every family at some time.
One of the other pieces of information to come out of this week’s is that women seem to be more susceptible to the disease, and experience a faster decline in their mental abilities than men:
Older women with mild memory impairment worsened about twice as fast as men, researchers reported Tuesday, part of an effort to unravel why women are especially hard-hit by Alzheimer’s.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
At age 65, seemingly healthy women have about a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s during the rest of their lives, compared with a 1 in 11 chance for men. Scientists once thought the disparity was just because women tend to live longer — but there’s increasing agreement that something else makes women more vulnerable.
There are a number of other factors which can have an impact on those numbers, of course. But even accounting for differences due to education, lifestyle, and social status, the discrepancy between men and women could not be accounted for. And having close family who had Alzheimer’s is a substantial risk factor, about doubling your chances of developing the disease. As is having any kind of major health crises requiring either hospitalization or surgery under general anesthesia. In each and every case, men seem to fare better than women.
That may not seem to be a “promising development”, particularly if you are a woman in the high-risk category/categories. But it is, in the sense that scientists are now coming to understand the disease much, much better than they did just a decade ago. When we cared for Martha Sr, there really wasn’t a good diagnostic tool to determine whether or not someone had Alzheimer’s — it was a diagnosis confirmed postmortem. Now there are very good imaging tools available for amyloid plaque and tau protein, as detailed at the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative.
As I noted above, there are still very limited treatment and drug options, though even there some hopeful results have been reported at the Conference. But real progress has been made. Alzheimer’s no longer needs to be a devastating diagnosis, something to be feared and hidden. If you, or someone you love, is showing any signs of memory or cognitive impairment, seek help. It’s even possible that through participation in some of the clinical trials you can be part of the solution.
PS: As noted previously, the Kindle edition of Her Final Year is available as a free download on the first of each month.
Filed under: Connections, Constitution, Fireworks, General Musings, Government, Kindle, Science Fiction, Society | Tags: Amazon, America, blogging, Civil War, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, Fourth of July, free, freedom, history, Independence Day, jim downey, Kindle, promotion, Science Fiction
I wrote this nine years ago, and posted it to this blog seven years ago. It seemed like a good time to repost it.
Thoughts on This Day
One birthday, when I was nine or ten, I woke with anticipation of the presents I would receive. Still in my pajamas I rushed into the kitchen where my parents were having coffee, expecting to get the loot which was rightfully mine. My father happily handed over a small, wrapped box. I opened it eagerly, to find a little American flag on a wooden stick. My father said that since my birthday was July 4th, he thought I would appreciate the gift.
Horror-struck first at not getting anything better, then a moment later at my own greed, I guiltily told my parents that I thought it was a fine gift.
After a moment, of course, my folks brought out my real presents, and there was a fair amount of good-natured teasing and laughing about the little trick they had played on me.
That was almost 40 years ago, and I can no longer tell you what presents I received that day. But the lesson in expectations and perspective my dad taught me that morning always remained with me. My dad had been a Marine, fought in Korea, and was a deeply patriotic cop who was killed while on duty a couple of years after that birthday. I have no idea what happened to that little flag on a stick, but I do still have the flag taken from my father’s coffin, carefully and perfectly folded at the graveside when we buried him.
I’ve never looked at the American flag without remembering what a fine gift it really is and, as so many others have written, what it represents in terms of sacrifice. I love my country, as any Firecracker Baby is probably destined to do. You just can’t ignore all that early training of patriotism, fireworks, and presents all tied up together.
But that doesn’t mean that I am blinded by patriotism. As I’ve matured and gained life experience, I’ve learned many other lessons. Lessons about tempering expectations, living with occasional disappointment, accepting that things don’t always work out the way you plan no matter how hard you work, how good your intentions, or how deserving you are. Still, you learn, grow, and do the best you can. This, it seems, is also the story of America. I believe we are an exceptional people, holding great potential, with our best years still to come. But nothing is guaranteed. We must honestly, and sometimes painfully, confront our failures, learn from them, and move on. The original founders of our country were brilliant, but flawed as all humans are flawed. Some of their errors led directly to the Civil War, that great bloody second revolution of the human spirit. That they made mistakes does not negate their greatness; rather, it shows us our potential even though we are not perfect. They knew, as we should know, that only we are responsible for our self-determination. Not a king, not a God, not a ruling political class. Us.
Today we’ve been gifted with a small box with a flag inside. A token of our history. Let us not take it for granted. Let us not think that the thing itself is more important than what it represents. Let us look on it and declare our own responsibility, our own self-determination.
Happy Independence Day.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Connections, Feedback, Health, Hospice, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, caregiving, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, health, Her Final Year, hope, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, literature, memoir, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, writing
Playing a bit off of the title of my previous blog post …
Why? Because offering free downloads is one of the basic promotional tools on the Kindle platform. It’s a way to generate sales and interest in a book. And also because it’s important to get the books to readers who may not be able to afford even the modest price of an e-book. For someone struggling as a care-provider, sometimes even a $2.99 price tag can be hard to budget for. Likewise for people who find themselves on hard times, and need a little hope and escape … something which I like to think Communion of Dreams can provide.
So we’ll give this a try. If you know anyone who might enjoy either or both books, let ’em know that they can download them for free tomorrow. And July 1st. And August 1st. And …