Man, How I Missed Me

I have some strong feelings about prescription medication right now. I’m taking more than I ever thought I would and I need each one. It sucks, but what can you do, right? Assuming your doctor is competent, he/she wouldn’t prescribe something unless you need it.

As much as I don’t like it, I take my meds and bitch about it in private. However, I don’t think I should keep my recent experience to myself. So I’m going to share. Before I start my rant, I want to state that every person can react differently to a medication. Just because someone has a bad experience doesn’t mean you will too. Don’t let what you read here scare you but do let it remind you to be cautious and vigilant.

I’ve been taking gabapentin since 2016. Six weeks after my back surgery (spinal fusion), my toes were suddenly on fire. Or they itched. Or both. I didn’t know exactly how to describe it. The doctor at a small clinic said peripheral neuropathy. She explained that some nerve damage was common after surgeries such as mine. It could be temporary or permanent. Guess which mine was?

She wrote a prescription and told me to notify my pain management (PM) doctor as he would be issuing every RX for it after this one. My PM guy agreed with the first doc’s assessment, and I added this new med to my pillbox.

At first, I was happy. The pain went away; of course, I was thrilled. I didn’t even have many side effects. I read everything I can find on adverse side effects because I’m often one of those .0000002 percenters who have weird reactions. Luckily I only had weird, extremely vivid dreams. I thought I got off easy.

Fast forward a couple of years. I was always a little forgetful, but I became what I referred to as ‘flighty.’ It got worse as the year went on and I started to worry. I was writing less and less because I couldn’t seem to concentrate for longer than ten minutes at a time. There were days when I had to think hard to remember if I’d taken a shower in the last day or two.

I was feeling down almost all the time. At the time, I refused to use the word depression because I didn’t think I needed to see a shrink. I was a dumbass. As long as I didn’t use that dirty word, I didn’t have to take it seriously.

Brain fog is how I would describe what happened in my head. Anger was my number one emotion. It’s easier to be pissed off than scared.

Dizziness and headaches were frequent. Anxiety reared its ugly head. I cried more often than I ever had. I was restless and at times, unsteady. You know when you get up too fast, and you get dizzy and unsteady? It was like that, but the unsteady would stay for a little while.

Soon I started feeling weak fairly often, and I had trouble sleeping. I was a mess. Most of these symptoms I ignored or just dealt with them. But there were a few that bothered me more.

My lack of concentration was a big deal. I couldn’t write. I could start but never get far. It seemed like I couldn’t access my muse. ‘She’ was locked up in solitary confinement, and I could only wave at her.

Anxiety always sucks but to feel it as often as I did, sometimes with no explanation was horrible. But the worse symptom was the one that started me on the road to fixing this situation: depression.

Everyone has times when they are down, and a lot of people go through depression at some point in their lives. For me, I never stay down for long. So feeling this way for at least a year was strange, wrong. Of course, I’d never been through chronic pain depression, which is what I thought my problem was.

I read all about what prolonged pain can do to a person, and I thought ‘oh crap, I guess I have to live with this.’ I was almost to the point of asking my doctor if there was anything that would help. If you know me, you know that’s a big step I never want to take.

One of the medications I take is Tramadol. It is a synthetic opioid. I react badly to hydrocodone and meds like it so Tramadol is all I can take. Since it’s a ‘big’ pain reliever, I became convinced it was the source of all my troubles.

A lot of the adverse reactions that could happen with its use described my life! Part of me was relieved. I believed I knew what the problem was. However, I was screwed! I couldn’t take anything else, and my only other option is another spinal fusion, which wouldn’t completely fix everything. Well, there is one more drug I can take, but it’s some serious shit. The kind of thing they give you in the hospital after surgery. NOT HAPPENING!

Around the time of all this research I realized I was overdue for a physical. I made a massive list of all the things I needed to talk to the doctor about and made an appointment. I told her all my symptoms and asked if she thought it was Tramadol and if she had any suggestions.

Her answer changed my life! She said: “Actually, I think it might be the gabapentin.”

I’m not exaggerating when I say I almost fell off the table/bed. She pulled up symptoms on her computer and read some off to me. My mind and my heart raced. I barely heard her when she said there were other medication options. She said to talk to my pain management guy and told me to have hope.

I did both.

The next day I was sitting in the PM doc’s office, describing my symptoms while the doctor nodded in agreement. They took me off gabapentin (slowly) and put me on Lyrica (also slowly). It sucked because my toes expressed their displeasure in the form of the weird itch/burn. I was warned that Lyrica could cause similar reactions, but there are a lot of patients who react badly to one of the two meds and fine to the other.

I’ve only been on the new med for a few weeks, but so far it’s incredible. For the first time in about a year, I feel like ME again. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until the symptoms went away.

Brain fog, what brain fog? Memory issues? Well, my memory always sucked, but it’s back to a reasonable level. Concentration? I haven’t gotten distracted once while writing this post, so I’d say I’m okay there. I even know when I’ve showered, lol.

I haven’t felt anything resembling depression. For the first time in a long time, I have hope. Last week I sat down to write three different days, and it worked. I wrote, a lot actually, on each of those days. I’m going to write (fiction) today as well. Hopefully, that writing won’t have as many compound sentences as this post, but words are words, and I’m happy for any that hit the page!

I have no way of knowing if the new medication will cause the same issues, but I figure I have a little time. The gabapentin didn’t wreck me until I’d taken it for two years. I hope Lyrica won’t destroy me too, but until (and if) I start having bad symptoms, I’m going to live my life and enjoy being me again.

Again, I want to state that everyone is different, and just because I had a bad time with these meds doesn’t mean you or your loved ones will. My step-dad and my Grandmother are both on gabapentin and aren’t reacting as I did. In fact, my step-dad has been taking it for much longer than I did and is fine.

I do want to stress vigilance and knowledge. Learn as much as you can about anything you put into your body. Don’t let what you read scare you, though. You may never have the possible side effects, but if you do, you’ll know to talk to your doctor about the medication.

Wish me luck as I get back to writing!

Sidenote: to give you an idea of how different life is for me now, this post is over 1400 words. Even two months ago I either wouldn’t be capable of writing this, or it would take me hours or days. This took about 20 minutes.

Photo by kgrkz on Unsplash


Everything Update – 5/25/2017

It’s been a while since I’ve posted and I thought I should write an update, so everyone knows I still exist. The last few weeks have been a bit crazy and unsettling for me, which affects everything I do, as I’ll explain.

Writing: The Writer’s Academy starts in less than two weeks. My nerves are on high alert. I received an email containing homework. The people in the class were asked to talk about ourselves, our projects, etc.

I put it off for two days because I was horrified. It wasn’t as bad as having to introduce myself in person to a room full of people, but I was still nervous about it. When I did answer, I got ‘yelled’ at by Alexandra Sokoloff, (author and one of the instructors) and it was hilarious! Let me explain. I’m a starter, and not always a finisher. I’m aiming to change this, which is part of the reason I’m taking the class.

I admitted to having twelve projects in various stages of completion, and she said exactly what one would expect. She told me to pick a novel and stick to it until it’s complete. Then she gave concrete reasons why. The irony is I haven’t even chosen which project I’ll be working on for the course! I hope I have it figured out soon.

Other than avoiding preparing for the academy, I haven’t done much writing. I wrote a piece of flash fiction and have thought a lot about writing. Mostly my mind is on my fantasy trilogy, so it’s currently the top contender for the class.

Reading: Pern, that is all.

Food Issues: Salicylates suck and avoiding them now rules my life. After several strong reactions to foods containing the nasty buggers, I decided it was time for a pantry/fridge/joy purge.

It was as painful as it sounds. I started with a list, well two lists on one piece of paper – front and back. Good on half of one side and Bad on most of the rest. On the bad list, there are foods I would never touch along with foods I will forever miss. Oranges, almonds, peanuts, mustard, basil, oregano, corn, all tomato products, tea, olive oil, rum, and many other things I regularly consumed. Okay, I haven’t had rum in over year because of pain meds but still!

The bad list is even worse than it looks at first glance. I mentioned corn. This means no corn products, except corn starch. Do you know how many things have corn syrup or corn meal in them? Blo-Pops, along with almost all hard candies, do. Soda, chicken bullion, most hamburger buns, any of the good frozen meals (I know, a rarity), and lots of cereals have one or the other as well. No more popcorn either.

Losing tomato products was painful as well. I’m a sucker for A-1 steak sauce, I’ll dip bread in that stuff, but I can’t have it. BBQ sauce. I live in TEXAS for crying out loud! Talk about unfair. No more ketchup, hell, no more Raising Canes sauce. Actually, Raising Canes uses paprika so I couldn’t have it anyway, but that’s not the point.

At least I can still eat garlic! I might have terrible breath if you ever meet me but I’m seasoning everything within reason with garlic, salt, chives, parsley and soy sauce from now on. Perhaps not all at once. I’m also happy to report I can consume pecans, limes, potatoes, and green beans. The world would have ended if these were taken from me.

The important thing is I feel different now that I’ve given up the foods I should have cut out a year ago. I’m less tired, less foggy, more energetic, etc. I’ve even lost a few pounds. The symptoms, besides major reactions, were much like the ones you would encounter with hypothyroidism.

Medical: My back hurts, as always. I won’t see any of my doctors unless I think I need to.

Everything Else: I’m obsessing/worrying about my packing list. The one I wrote five months ago. This is normal behavior for me when I go on a trip so nothing to be concerned about.

That’s all for now. I’ll post another update once I decide on a project.

Everything Update – 4/8/2017

I still exist! It seems like so much is going on, but really, there isn’t much to tell.

Writing: Nope. Nada. Zip. Well, this isn’t technically true. I haven’t done much actual writing, but I’ve done some prep work. I did a mini-workshop that was designed to help with ideas. Actually, I haven’t finished it. There is three days worth of material, and I did day 1 and 2. Then there was a revised day one release, so I backtracked and need to go through it again.

This worked out for me because I despised the story ideas I came up with on the first go-round. Pain has kept me away from my desk, but I plan to work through it this weekend and the beginning of next week.

Last night I had a new idea pop into my drugged mind. First, let me clarify. I do not do street drugs. I’m talking about Tramadol, which is a powerful pain med, but not even a narcotic one (which I can’t take). Still, the adjustment period for Tramadol is long and miserable. I have taken a nap, which I hate, almost every day since I started taking this junk.

The meds make me feel cloudy and flighty and sleepy and nauseated. It hardly seems worth it, but the pain has gotten so bad I am doing it anyway. I’ve taken this medication previously, before my surgery, so I know most of the bad side effects will go away soon. I can only hope my concentration level will be better this time. There is a chance I’ll stop taking it soon, but I’ll explain that in the next section.

So, back to my new idea. It’s not very developed, but my muse must really want me to write it because it was strong enough to come through the drug fog. So I’m sitting on the bed, playing a game on my phone when the story pops into my head. It started with a name and grew into the seed of a character in a couple of minutes.

I don’t know why I did this, because it’s not my norm, but I started thinking out loud at my husband. Just a few brief thoughts, then I asked if it sounded stupid. He’s a smart guy, so of course, he said it didn’t. Then later as things came together more in my head, I said more. As I spoke, the ideas changed and grew and became more clear. Eventually, I jotted down everything I could think of because I don’t trust my memory right now.

This new story is nothing like my regular stuff. It is fantasy, but it’s not serious. Instead, I plan for it to be light and fun. I’m almost positive the two main characters are teenagers, though it’s not YA. It is about two girls, no romance. Though I am leaving room for them to meet people who could catch their romantic interest. It would only be a side story though. They will grow and change so who knows where it will all lead!

It will have a couple of unwise wishes, a witch, characters who get themselves into a lot of messes, and an unexpected ending. Actually, the ending is probably not the end. At this point, I envision a series of longer short stories, maybe even a serial. It depends on how much trouble these girls get themselves into. I like the idea of many adventures along with common issues young people have to deal with but set in an old school fantasy setting.

One of the girls has a name and a few basics, like where her home is and her lifestyle. The other has all that but a name. I haven’t worked out personalities yet, though I have ideas.

I’ll update more as the story develops.

Medical: My body hates me. I’ve been in so much pain I can hardly think straight. Then I started taking big pain meds, which does not help with clarity of thought but does help with the pain. The disk above my fusion is giving me problems.

Scar tissue from the surgery could be one of the reasons it’s hurting so much, as well as it being smushed. The plan is to do an injection that might help relieve some pain. They are adding something that will dissolve some of the scar tissue. I don’t think I will be pain free afterward but if there is any relief I’ll call it a win.

I’m scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. I’m trying not to get my hopes up. Previous injections in the area didn’t do much for me, but everything with this disk is different than the other.

The doctor wanted me to look into implants. One is a low dose, all day drug delivery. That is not happening. Morphine all day? No thank you! I wouldn’t even be myself anymore.

If the procedure helps then I hope to get back to regular writing.

Other Medical: Remember when I said my body hates me? It’s proving it with tea. I am sensitive to salicylates (look it up, it sucks). Tea, which I drink every day, is high in them. My body has decided that I’m done with tea, I think. I’ve been having weird symptoms, and I’ve suspected tea was the culprit for a while. I denied it for quite some time because I didn’t want to face the facts.

Tea has become the enemy, and I love the enemy. Drinking soda would do me less harm than tea. Also, coffee is also high in salicylates. I don’t like coffee, but if it were safe to drink I would develop a taste for it. How on earth am I going to feed my caffeine addiction?

So I guess I’m going to slowly cut out the tea and see what happens. If my symptoms change, then I did the right thing. I will miss it, but I won’t miss what it’s possibly doing to me.

At this point, I hope it is the tea causing the problems. Caffeine headaches won’t be fun but not drinking tea would be an easy fix. If it’s something else, I’ll have to go through the same process with every suspicious food, cosmetic, and hair care product I use.

Reading: Did I mention I’m on Tramadol? During this adjustment period, reading is mostly off the table. I try. I am attempting to reread some books by Mercedes Lackey, but it’s a struggle. I picked her because I like her characters but also I don’t like some of her descriptions. There is something to be learned by studying writing styles you don’t like as well as ones you do.

My issue is the detail she puts into describing clothing. Four paragraphs for each person? UGH! Also, the inner dialog when something trying to solve a problem is excessive. Even with these things, I love her work. The plots are simple but well done. There are some surprises, although the set up sometimes needs work. Her resolutions are satisfying.

Now, if I could only concentrate on what I’m reading! I’ll keep trying. With me getting used to the meds, it will be easier soon.

Everything Else: I’m getting ready for the West Texas Writer’s Academy. It’s two months away but I made my list months ago. I’m slowly gathering things together in a central location. It sounds silly, but this method keeps me from forgetting stuff.

I also have a list going for our yearly vacation. We are driving to New Jersey, so the list is quite a bit different than the one for my class. When I get back from the first trip, half the stuff I take will not be unpacked, which will be nice. It doesn’t matter how long my travel sized lotion and extra glasses, etc. stay in a bag.

My desk needs to be cleaned off, again. I plan to purge my closet and the kitchen soon. Some rearranging might be in order for my workspace. I’m going to irritate my kids with demands for deep cleaning around the house.

I’m trying new recipes. I am the ultimate creature of habit and if I don’t think about it, I’ll make the same five things over and over. It’s time to switch it up.

That’s all for now. I’ll post an update sometime after my procedure.



Everything Update – 3/21/2017

Writing: My goal is to revise book one of my fantasy trilogy. I’ve worked a bit on it, but my lower back and a cold have kept me from doing much.

I used Grammarly to do a quick HA, not so quick check on grammar and spelling. I learned I have comma issues and I use too many compound sentences! The word ‘but’ is the bane of my writing existence.

When I opened Grammarly, I was shocked to see it found 900 critical issues! I almost fell out of my chair, seriously. As I went through it, I found it wasn’t as bad as I first thought. One issue the program has is it wants you to use more identifiers than I want. It’s a personal preference and not likely to change.

Another problem is sometimes it is flat-out wrong. There were times it wanted me to say ‘she’ or ‘he’ in place of her or him. It was wrong, I was right, and I clicked ignore on those.

I spent more time than I wanted on this and now it’s probably wasted time. There are some plot points I need to expand on, ideas I need to add and a few things I need to cut. My goal is to write the extra scenes, rewrite what I have to, then use Grammarly again.

It doesn’t matter that it’s not a perfect tool. The thing finds more of my mess ups than I do so I’m glad to have it!

As for the changes, there aren’t as many as I feared. There was a subplot I wanted to use in the beginning but chose to leave out. Now, I think the story needs it. I already have the notes and adding it won’t alter too much of what follows. I’ll have to change a few scenes, but mostly it’s adding new ones. It turns out my muse must have known because I inadvertently set it up as I went along.

The hardest part will be changing two character arcs. One of my most important characters is boring. He simply has nothing to do. He needs to be knocked down and dragged for a while. I don’t even know what torture I’ll put him through, but it will be bad.

Another change is the kinship of two of the ensemble. They are brothers, and I think they need to be cousins or half-brothers, or something that will make their relationship more complicated.

I have a character named I’maari who is probably the most interesting of the bunch, but she isn’t the main character. I need to dial her back a bit.

It sounds like I have a lot to do, but it’s not too much. It will be tedious work, and with all my medical issues it will take a long time. I’ll keep at it until I’m done. Then I’ll write book two, I think. There is a chance I won’t want to look at this story again for a while.

There are no plans for what I’ll work on if not book two but I’ll update when I figure it out.

Writer’s Academy: In three months I’ll attend the West Texas Writer’s Academy for the first time. It is a week-long intensive class, basically an expanded continuing education course. The one I chose is on plotting. I despise outlines, and this method uses index cards or sticky notes instead of a classic muse killing outline.

I’ve used the method a couple of times but I think seeing it demonstrated and being able to talk to an expert will help me with some rougher spots. I’m super excited about it. I’ve already made a packing list! Actually I made the list months ago, but that’s how I am.

Anyway, I’m transitioning from the kind of writer who writers by the seat of their pants to one who does at least some planning. I’m discovering as I go along how much I need.

Medical: This is the crappy part of my update. I have visited two doctors in the past week. First was my neurosurgeon. He said I’m still healing extremely slowly. Also, the fusion is not the cause of my pain. It’s disk above. In fact, I’m in more pain than before my surgery. He said to go see the pain management doctor, which I did today.

  1. I can’t say I’m happy with how it went. I have many options and all of them suck.
  2. Another fusion, preceded by another painful discogram.
  3. A neurostimulator implant. This is kind of like a TENS machine but on the inside.
  4. Targeted drug delivery. This is another implant, a drug pump. We’re talking continuous morphine.
  5. Pills.
  6. Injections.

As you can see, none of these options is appealing. Number four is out of the question and I’ll avoid surgery for as long as possible. The other implant might go on my last resort list. For now, unfortunately, they gave me pills. I was put on Tramadol and an injection semi-soon is likely.

The medication will make me sleep most of every day for the next two weeks. I’m starting with a half dose, once a day. I’m supposed to build up to four times a day. If I end up needing that much then I’ll schedule an injection. I cannot express enough how much I hate taking major meds. Tramadol isn’t a narcotic but it works very much like one. I won’t get addicted but I might not really be ‘me’ for quite some time.

So with all that said, I hope I can meet my writing goals!

Everything Else: I’m doing a lot of reading. I started rereading The Green Rider series by Kristin Britain. I didn’t want to read anything new because then I wouldn’t be writing, or new stuff could inject itself into my own writing.

However, with all this pain junk, and the new meds, I might read new to me books. There are several on my list, some of which are not in my normal genre. There are several people in my writing group with published novels and I own them but not read them yet. If my creativity shuts down for a while I’ll start on those. The genres are sci-fi, cozy mysteries, paranormal romance (vampires), and even some fantasy (YA). I think there are eleven novels I purchased (ebooks) sitting there waiting for me.

I’ll post another update as soon as I’m able. I can’t promise they won’t be loopy rambling. Just know, if the commas are in the proper places, it’s thanks to Grammarly!

Everything Update – 8/22/2016

Writing: I’m writing! This weekend I went to two different writing things. The first was on Saturday. The leader of the Nanowrimo group in my region sets up a write-in once a month throughout the year so we can all keep in touch beyond November. Sadly, I’ve missed every single one, until this month.

I thought I would have to drag my friend but he wanted to go as much as I did. Sometimes I need a little push and the fact he wanted to go insured I went. I’m not saying I haven’t wanted to go in the past. In fact I would have loved to go but life conspired against me. Severe back pain, a couple of major surgeries and a hellish recovery put a stop to most of my extracurricular activities.

There was a point where I decided the pain wasn’t going to strip me of my writing anymore. So, in spite of the consequences, I went to my favorite writing spot (I’m there now) and wrote for as long as I could. What ended up happening was I was so sore from my stubbornness that I couldn’t handle much in the way of extra outings. As I eventually joined a new writing group and went to it every Sunday, the write-ins were off the table.

Now, all these months later, I’ve gone through physical therapy and while I’m not in perfect condition, I am much better and more determined than ever.

The result of making up my mind was unexpected: writer’s block. For a while I thought it was more writer’s funk but nope, I was fully blocked. I have a couple of stories completely plotted and the writing part should have been easy but the tank was empty. I did write a bit but it was all crap.

I tried changing projects and it didn’t work. I came up with something new but then stalled quickly. Writing prompts were a bust. Even my well of undeveloped ideas gave me nothing.

The new idea was slowly forming. When I say slow, I mean slug crossed with sloth slow. It will probably be my project for November at this rate.

Then something sparked. Someone in my writing group posted a picture prompt. Within minutes I had the most ridiculous bad story idea. When I say bad, I mean deliberately bad, because it was funny that way, well at least I think so. Click here to read it. It was the first thing I wrote in weeks.

After I was still not coming up with much but tiny ideas were sprouting. I went to the write-in and after bouncing ideas off my friend and listening to suggestions my new story started growing. I’m still not ready to write it but I’ll develop it a bit and shelve it until November.

Yesterday at the writing group meeting the second spark occurred. Someone saved me from having to give the group a picture prompt by offering to post one. I was thrilled because I would have over thought it and agonized about which picture to use. She found a photo and posted it to our Facebook group right away.

I looked at it and was instantly intrigued. I’m not sure how to explain it. It’s a person, somewhat androgynous made of smoke or more accurately: going up in smoke. My muse metaphorically clapped in glee and my first idea formed. Then the second took over. Next the two ideas merged and a story was born. I’ll be working on it today, maybe for several days.

The length of this one is undetermined. At this point I think it will be flash fiction – 500 words or so, but it has the potential to become a longer short story. Perhaps even a novel. It’s hard to know because I’m in love with the idea. For all I know this could be like a rebound relationship after being dumped. People always jump into them and it rarely works out. That’s probably a bad comparison since my muse took me back after dumping me and watching me suffer for a while. Believe me, I appreciate it more than I ever did now!

If the short version of the story doesn’t suck I’ll post it when I’m finished. Wish me luck, I think I might need it this time!

Physical Therapy: Today I told the guy working with me I was done. I’m not giving up, it just isn’t doing anything for me I can’t do on my own. I’ll admit I feel like they were willing to keep me there as long as my insurance paid, which was for an astonishing 30 visits, whether I needed it or not. Don’t get me wrong, it wouldn’t have been bad for me but if it’s not helping then it’s silly to keep milking the insurance.

I said it nicely and the guy was disappointed but understood. He wasn’t my regular therapist but I work with him a lot. He told me he would talk to my therapist and on Wednesday I’ll go in and talk about what exercises I can and can’t do.

Crunches are out of the question and anything requiring I lean back or twist are a no as well. I know I can’t do anything requiring I lift weight over my head, but I can do ones where I pull down. Basically anything forcing me to put a lot of pressure on my lower back needs to be avoided. I’ll bring a notepad and ask a lot of questions.

My biggest concern is I want to tone my arms but some of the best arm exercises affect the back too. I still won’t be able to do a ton of cardio but if I’m patient I can build into it.

I still have pain but not constant. I know what makes me feel better and what doesn’t. Sometimes I might push it too far but I’m learning to live with it. The surgery didn’t completely fix me but it certainly helped. So I’ll figure out what daily life is going to be like now.

Everything Else: There isn’t anything to report. I drew an awesome dragon and I’ll eventually work on coloring it in. I haven’t done any photography related activities since my vacation but I will soon, unless writing takes over (fingers crossed this happens).

I have an abscessed tooth and need a root canal. I was in agony last weekend but they gave me antibiotics so I’m okay now. I’m just waiting on the insurance company to say yes and figure out how much it’s going to cost and how I’m going to pay for it.

If this update had been written while I was still in pain it would have contained a lot more whining.

Shockingly, since I’m a big wimp with pain, I went to my writing group last week even though I was miserable. This new-found determination is disconcerting haha.

I’ll post the story and another update when I have something to report.

Everything Update 8/12/2016

I’m back from vacation and recovering. It’s weird to think about the need to recover from time off but you know what I mean. Vacation can be a great time but can exhaust you. For me this was doubly true.

We flew from Texas to New Jersey, which started the tiring process and was no fun for my back. I was excited to go visit my in-laws but I was terrified. Before we boarded the plane I realized I’d forgotten most of my prescription medication. The muscle relaxer I could have dealt with but the nerve med was another story. Not only is it a medication you should never stop taking all at once, it also meant the toes in my left foot were going to be on fire in a few days. I had enough to last for three days.

If I’d noticed earlier I could have asked someone to bring them too me but by the time I figured it out it was too late. The pharmacy in NJ was willing to give me a three-day supply but I would have had to skip a dose a day and lower the dose of the remaining two times each day I take it.

Through lots of phone calls, tons of hassle and the efforts of the most amazing woman on the planet (my mom), it all worked out.

Vacation: Now the fun part of my time away. Two days after we got to my in-laws’ house we drove to Philadelphia to visit my husband’s brother and have some adventures. We went to the Philly zoo, the art museum and the aquarium (over two days). The last time I visited a zoo was when I was thirteen and I’d never been to an art museum or aquarium. Each was fun and interesting, plus I was able to take a lot of photos. There was so much walking though!

On the second day I started noticing my ankle was feeling odd. Not quite painful but close. We drove back to New Jersey that evening and by the time we got there I was quite uncomfortable. The next morning my ankle flat-out hurt and the pain shot up into my leg. To be honest, I wasn’t sure where the pain originated. My mother in law asked if it was my shin but I couldn’t give a good answer. I could feel it from the middle of my lower leg to down into my foot by mid afternoon and it hurt to walk.

We figured I twisted my ankle or something until I realized I could feel a little discomfort in my other leg. I still don’t know what it was but my mother in law had some herbal pain relieving massage oil that helped a lot. She originally told me to try arnica but that is a salicylate (which I can’t go near) so I had to settle for the next choice.

For two days we did very little and when it was necessary to get out I wrapped my ankle. By the weekend I was fine. It still hurt but I could walk without making it worse. I was even able to roam around the abandoned Boy Scout’s camp I wanted to see and take pictures. It was creepy and a little scary but I got some interesting shots. I also managed to avoid being attacked by all the poison ivy we had to stomp on to get to the cabins. My husband held tree branches out of the way so I could watch my feet haha.

Our flight home was on Tuesday. There was a ton of walking to get to our gate and then a ton more getting between terminals for the second flight but my ankle/leg held up. My back hurt from sitting in airline seats but I’ve recovered from that.

It was a great trip but I was so glad to sleep in my own bed. Plus make a demon hunter in World of Warcraft, since the patch allowing this landed on the same day we did.

Back Home: The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door on Tuesday was the kids had actually cleaned. It wasn’t perfect but effort was made so no yelling or mom looks were necessary.

My dogs each turned into Tigger, with their bottoms made out of springs. I didn’t get as scratched up as I thought I would but my husband did. Since we’ve been back the dogs hardly leave our sides.

Writing: I am still suffering from semi-writer’s block. The closest I’ve gotten was while we waiting for our first flight to take off on Tuesday. We were delayed because of a mechanical issue. There is a plastic ‘boot’ covering the wires connected to the inflatable slide on the main boarding door of the plane. This boot was busted and the wires were exposed. We couldn’t take off until they got parts (from a different terminal). There was a real danger of the slide inflating mid-flight if they didn’t fix it.

We took off an hour late and with little complaining from the passengers once they explained what was happening (after 30 minutes of sitting there wondering). Several people missed their connections but we were lucky. When we booked we had to decide between a 50 minute or two and a half hour layover. We chose the longer, just in case. So when we finally reached the Houston airport there was no rush. We got lunch and sat around for 45 minutes.

So, while we sat on the plane, not knowing anything besides there was a ‘minor’ mechanical problem, my muse tentatively raised her hand. Everything from pixies messing with the door to a dragon egg being found in the cargo hold were presented as reasons for the delay. Several what if questions led to a steaming suitcase, containing the egg (which was now hatching). We couldn’t very well take off when a newly hatching dragon needed heat right? The luggage loading crewman who found it would have known the absolute cold of the hold while in flight would have hurt the creature.

Then my muse went back into hiding and I prepared for take off. This consisted of death gripping the arm rest and my husband’s leg. I hate take off!

Drawing: A new category! I don’t know what made me do it but one day, months ago, I decided to draw something on the dry erase board we keep on our fridge. The contents of this board change all the time. Someone will draw something, then another family member will alter it. Then another, then another and so on. There have been some interesting results.

I’ve done this before, but will little effort. I never really thought I could draw, despite several art classes. The problem was I could duplicate stuff but only with a lot of effort. I didn’t think I had actual artistic skill. Just copying skill, not tracing, just redrawing what I see.

Anyway, most of the things I drew were ridiculous. A fat camel, a dog a child could draw, etc. But that time I decided to draw Kim Possible. If you don’t recognize the name, it’s the title character from a cartoon I watched with the kids. One of the few I could tolerate actually. It took me most of an hour and in the end you could tell it her but I felt like it looked like an older version or something.

Man that bugged me! I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist but it irritated me that I couldn’t get it quite right. It didn’t matter that I was working with dry erase markers, I wanted it perfect! I put it on the fridge and waited to see how the kids would change it. They didn’t. The shock of who drew it must have been too much. So I added Rufus, the naked mole rat (also from the show) to it.

He turned out better. They still didn’t change it. By this point we had two dry erase boards on the fridge. So I grabbed the other one and started searching for other cartoon characters to draw. Nineties cartoons were either drawn very simply or too elaborately. I ended up picking a character drawn in the same style as my first attempt. Danny Phantom. I have to admit, of all the cartoons my kids watched, this was my favorite. If they watched it in the living room today, I’d probably sit down with them and watch a few episodes.

This drawing turned out much better. Well, the first attempt at it sucked, but when I started over it was good. The kids did eventually alter it. He gained then lost a mustache. His eyes became bloodshot and some impressive wrinkles showed up.

Since then I’ve drawn several more cartoons on the boards and two on paper. I look up “how to draw…” and duplicate what I see. The things I do on the boards sometimes get altered and other times don’t. Cosmo from The Fairly Odd Parents got some kind of disease leaving him with red spots.

The deliberately badly drawn dog eventually became a demon dragon thing. Eeyore didn’t get touched. The Last Airbender got some much-needed color and Squidworth was deemed too much of a masterpiece to be altered.

I did a few drawings on paper: Shego from Kim Possible, which was much harder than I thought it would be, Harley Quinn, a hatching dragon, a few flower sketches and a large dragon. No one was more surprised than me when I learned I could do it. Also, it’s much easier to fix flaws when using a pencil than the dry erase markers!

Here are my examples, and pardon the old beat up dry erase board:

Clearly there are flaws in both. You can see my mess-ups on Harley Quinn because I pressed too hard and erasers can only do so much in that case, also I know I can’t draw a circle haha. Still, I was able to make corrections and while it’s not perfect I didn’t get angry. With angry Ang, well, you can’t see how bad it was before but trust me when I say it is hard to get something right with a fat marker, stupid ears! The kids and my husband added the color and no one touched it afterwards.

I’m not a great artist but I’m getting better. In fact, I need to erase the instructions for while I was on vacation I wrote on the board and draw something new now that I’m home. I’m sure my children would rather see a drawing than what they have to clean.

Photography: I took about 1200 pictures on vacation. There is a shot of almost every animal we saw at the zoo, multiples of the super cute ones. I probably took fifty photos of sharks at the aquarium but maybe 10 turned out okay. I took macro shots at my in-laws’ house and a bunch at the abandoned camp.

I didn’t take as many pictures as I thought I would but at this point I’m happy with what I got. Last year in New Jersey I was only able to take about 20, including the selfie I took in the hospital before they took my appendix from me.

I’ll start going through them all tomorrow and probably post a few after. There is one from the camp I really love that I’d like to share.

Physical: I’m doing okay. As previously mentioned, my back was hurting from walking a lot and long plane rides but I feel back to my normal right now.

I went to physical therapy yesterday and it was hard but not unbearable. They told me I’ll be doing it through all of August and after that I have ten more visits covered by insurance if I need them. I’m impatient to be better but PT is a necessarily slow process.

I went to the doctor on Wednesday to check my thyroid levels as well. My prescription didn’t change and for the first time, possibly ever, I don’t have a giant bruise where they took blood!

More Writing: I keep thinking about the dragon hatching in the suitcase. I may have to write that story, hopefully today. My plan is to try to write some flash fiction over the next couple of days anyway. If I’m lucky this will break my block. I think half the problem was I was in planning/packing mode, then vacation mode.

It’s time to get back to work and I’m going try everything I can to coax my muse back out. I’d rather work on my trilogy but I’ll whatever writing I can get! I’ll post an update as soon as I have one.

Sidenote: I forgot I did one more drawing for the fridge before I went out of town. It started out as Stewie Griffin. This is what it looks like today:


When I got home it said “butt rock, oc, do not steal” (no clue so don’t ask what or why) and the teeth were square. I changed it to say “bite,” made the teeth pointy and added the bottom tooth. I was told it went through many alterations before reaching this point.

It’s silly but it’s fun with my offspring and I love our weirdness. I say bond with your loved ones any way you can.

Other sidenote: Being this post is so long, I clearly have a lot of words in me. Now if only I can convince my muse to put them into some fiction!

My Vacation So Far

Well, flying was terrible and wonderful. It was terrible because my back was killing me but wonderful because it took half a day to get to my in-laws house instead of a three day drive.

We haven’t done much yet for three reasons:

  1. It was rainy, which was a nice change for us after coming from dry west Texas.
  2. We we exhausted.
  3. I forgot most of my medication.

Number one had the effect of making spectacular photo ops. I got a really cool shot of a wet spider Web.

Two meant we went to bed early.

Number three started a stressful escapade that ended with a pharmacy here giving me a small amount of the nerve medicine. I’m SOL on the muscle relaxers but I did have a few with me so I’ll use them when I’m desperate.
We’re going to Philadelphia for a couple of days soon. I’ll be taking thousands of pictures there. We’re going to the aquarium and the zoo. I hope to find tacky souvenirs for my kids.

We are also going to a local place with waterfalls. From what I understand, there are multiple levels. Pictures will be forthcoming.

I haven’t written anything but I did draw a decent dragon. I’m not posting a photo of it! Well, not until I’m completely finished.

I’ll post another update when I can.



As the title implies I am distracted today. By what? Everything it seems. It doesn’t help  I’m feeling indecisive as well. Actually, I suspect the indecisiveness is the cause of how easily distracted I am.

I’m seeing squirrels everywhere in the form of people sitting down to eat or coming in and out of the two doors I can see from here, wind moving tree branches outside, the really nice girl who cleans the tables and chats with me a bit, the other girl who cleans tables who has no use for me, the lady sitting in front of me who has the most annoying ring tone set to her texts, etc.

Could this be avoidance? Fear? I have my suspicions but it doesn’t help. I went out to write because I figured I’d be distracted at home, by kids, dogs, life, whatever. I’m not sure I’ll get much done today. Now that I think about it I was the same while working out. Maybe it’s just one of ‘those’ days.

My plan is to work on a loose timeline for my entire trilogy. I have the initial story board (index cards) set up but I made so many changes in the last few months I need to adjust it. Instead of trying to sort through the old one I’ll make a new one using the other as a guide. I’m keeping roughly three-quarters of it but with some additions and minor changes to the keepers. What it boils down to is I’ll have to take down over half the cards, even though I’m keeping most of the planned scenes. I’d rather start over and avoid confusion.

Since I’m not at home I took a picture of the boards and I’ll write up my timeline and planned cards here and make the adjustments that are bound to come up, such as plot holes or time holes. Then I’ll make the real scene cards at home and pin them up on my giant cork board wall. Each book is a three act story and my wall is already set up for it.


See? These are 12 inch cork squares (cheap if you want to try it). The top row is for character info or whatever extra stuff I want to see everyday. The bottom two rows are set up the way screenplays are done. Three acts, eight sequences. I don’t actually need the labels anymore but I set this up when I first tried this method. I was a bit enthusiastic, but it turned out for good reason.

The three act structure doesn’t work for every story but it does for this big one so I’m glad I went all out. The middle row is about eye level (I’m 5’8″) so it’s perfect for me. This wall was being used for nothing and it faces my bedroom door. I see it everyday, each time I come out of the room. It’s so easy to see what is missing once I pin up all the scene cards I’ve done.

If you’ve never tried this method I highly recommend buying Screenwriting Tricks For Writers: Stealing Hollywood by Alexandra Sokoloff. It’s $3.99 for the ebook and $12.17 for the physical copy – an 8 x 10 paperback, on Amazon. I understood the three act structure before buying her book but using the 8 structures and modeling a story after a screenplay was something I’d never tried. I fell it love. I’m not an affiliate and get nothing out of someone purchasing from this author. I’m just a huge fan of this book/method. I’m sure the picture above made that obvious haha.

So, I have to make my basic timeline so I can make my story board for the first story. I will make ones for the other two stories but they will be on poster board and pinned over my bed, which is the only blank wall in my room. The others are covered with nerdy stuff, tall book cases, and more cork boards.

Well, I better get to work! I’ll post an update on how it goes next week.


Everything Update 7/12/2016

Writing: I’m struggling a bit. I want to write, I need to, but once again, names are distracting me from the actual act of writing. This time it’s place names. I started with placeholder names such as: the central realm, the desert city/state, the glass desert, the forgotten race’s valley, Vanaiya’s realm (west), the northern realm and the icy wastes.

I figured if some good names came to me I would find and replace those. There was no hurry as I know it’s hard for me to come up with the perfect names (yes, I overthink and I’m picky). However, today all I can think about are these places.

I’m logical/experienced enough to know this is fear. I’ve spent so much time preparing to write, I’m nervous about getting on with it.So my muse throws out new novel ideas, stuff from books I’ve put on hold, short story plot seeds, and now, after dodging those roadblocks, out comes the desire for details in this project. I don’t need to do this right now, but I want to!

Did I mention I also keep thinking about object and smaller place names? For example: the seaport town, the twin trading villages and the capitol. There is an important scepter in this work. At present I refer to it as the God Scepter. I’m not going to keep the name but it works for now. I also refer to a group of horses as the God Herd and where they live is the God Herd grazing grounds. There are several more places and items beginning with ‘God’ as well. Again, this is so I can go back later and just find/replace when I figure out their real names. I guess today could be the day.

Now I know some of you out there will be appalled these people, animals, places, and things didn’t have names from the beginning. First, we all write different and there is no correct way or order to do it. Second, this story is fairly sprawling and I was exciting to jump in. I didn’t want to spend weeks trying to figure out every detail first. Third. I started this story in 2003, back when I was still afraid to write and being actively discouraged from doing so. All I really wanted was to write as much as possible before I inevitably gave up on writing again. Thankfully I’ve changed and kicked the discourager (probably not a word) out of my life.

The story is nothing like the idea I had all those years ago, which is good. I’ve said this before and I maintain I was not good enough to write the story I wanted to write back then. Once I let myself just be a writer, the story evolved and now I can finally write it. I’m actually glad it was on the back-burner for so long as my fear has lessened while my skill has grown. If I’d stuck with it I wouldn’t have written 80 short stories and 12 novels (at various degrees of completion).

So back to the names issue. I don’t know what I’ll do about it. Maybe I’ll spend some time this morning trying to figure out a few and then try to write some scenes involving whatever I’ve named. I might do some short stories involving these places/things just to give me a feel for what they want to be named. If I do, I’ll post some soon.

What is clear is I’m not ready to jump just writing the story today. At least not in a linear fashion. Perhaps if I jump around to write about my trouble places or items, I can trick my muse. If you are also a writer then you know you can’t bully a muse. It has to be enticed, cajoled, placated or tricked. If you’re not a writer, trust me on this. Forcing one’s muse is a good way to ensure writer’s block.

I definitely will not be working on any other project. The triple E story is calling to me but it will have to wait. Even The Order of Life is trying to worm its way into my head but I’m shutting it down. Today is The Glass Desert day, no matter what part of it I do.

Photography: I decided not to do the advanced photography class until after my vacation. With my writing work in progress going mostly well, I know I won’t have time to dedicate to an involved class. I believe the next time it’s available is September. That’s actually perfect because by then my kid will be back in school and I should (fingers crossed) be finished with the first draft of my novel and hopefully be working on revision.

I signed up for a Photoshop and a Lightroom class. Both start right before my vacation but they are work at your own pace classes so it will be fine. What is not fine is my copy of Lightroom is the devil. It won’t load, it won’t uninstall and I can’t figure out how to fix it. I’ve tried so many things I want to scream. Hmm, perhaps this annoyance is why I’m so distracted with my writing today. I shouldn’t have tried with the damn program again this morning.

I haven’t been out to take pictures in weeks but I have the very best excuse. I live in west Texas (south plains, but more northern), and it’s been hot. We’ve had days top out at 109, but mostly around 105. I’m not only a wimp in the heat (look up weird facts about redheads) but I also burn easily, even with sunscreen on. No picture is worth that!

Reading: I read a little last week but not what I thought I would. I have a novel by a friend to read but I was in the middle of a long series when I got it. I had put the series down but when I wasn’t feeling good last week I picked it back up. One day I read half a book. I never have time to read that much!

I read for 15 minutes twice a week after physical therapy when they hook me up to the stim machine and have me lay on the hottest heating pad thing on the planet (and if I’m early I read in the waiting room). If my back starts hurting during the day while I’m at home, I’ll pick up my book and read for 10-20 minutes while I lay down. If I have an appointment I’ll take a book and read while sitting there. Oh and occasionally for a bit before bed. That’s it. The rest of my time alone is spent working on my own book. It was nice to read a little more than normal though.

Working out: I still go to the gym every day, except the day I was feeling so yicky last week and I haven’t gone yet today. Since I’m still in physical therapy I only do cardio, mostly on an elliptical, but occasionally I get on the recumbent bike. To keep from hurting my back I do 10 minutes at a time, then pace around for a minute or two. I always do at least two sets of that time but the third depends on how I’m feeling. If I feel no pain I do another 10 minutes or get on the bike for five (it hurts my tailbone to do longer).

If I do the bike then I tend to get back on the elliptical afterward for 6 minutes. If I’m in pain then, depending on how much, I either stop or do one more set for 6-8 minutes.

It’s so complicated with back pain. Sometimes the pain means I haven’t done enough and other times it’s too much. I can normally tell the difference but I’ve been wrong and in this case, being wrong seriously sucks!

Physical Therapy: Speaking of sucks, PT is not going well. In the beginning I felt pain from between my shoulder blades down to my surgical site (lowest disk). The higher pain is only occasional now but the mid back pain (muscular) is about the same. The lower back pain hasn’t gotten better since the initial week or two. Therapy works but only to a point. I’m almost at 6 weeks and I’m disheartened at the fact that it no longer works for me.

I did have a little setback when one of the therapist did some stuff that hurt me. I’m hoping this is the issue because a setback doesn’t mean I’m done, it only means I have to keep going a little longer. However, I don’t believe it’s the problem, but we’ll see. Oh, and that guy won’t even look at me now.

Other Writing: NO! At least not for today. I’m sticking to my WIP! Maybe later in the week I’ll try to write some flash fiction. What I need is some really good ideas or writing prompts. Even my own prompts aren’t working for me. I think I’m simply not in flash fiction mode.

Everything else: I got to see my Grandmother last night. I don’t see her very often so it was great. I’m in pain from sitting on her couch, which desperately needs to be replaced but it was worth it. Actually, that couch is the reason I went out to write before going to work out. I was getting ready and kept thinking maybe I would just work out and go home. Then I thought maybe I would just stay home. These thoughts kept evolving, making me stand in the middle of my bedroom hesitating.

When I realized there was a chance I might do only one thing this morning, I chose writing. If I don’t go to the gym I’ll survive because I have physical therapy today. I’m due for them to make it harder anyway. If I didn’t write, well, everything from writer’s guilt to getting further behind would be the result. Not happening! So I took some Tylenol and got in the car.

Before I started writing I caught a Pokemon lol. I got curious so I downloaded the silly game. The one I caught was sitting on my laptop. I took it as a sign to put the phone down and get to work!

My daughters are playing the game and since I’m a cool mom, I took the youngest around to all the stops so she could get stuff, which meant I got stuff too! I won’t play for long but for now it’s cute and fun.





I haven’t written a thing since Friday. Well, that’s not completely accurate. I did do a bit  of plotting on a new story on the 4th but I’m not counting it because it wasn’t for my WIP and it was maybe 10 minutes of writing out plot cards.

It all started with my husband taking Saturday off. He’s normally off on Sundays and July 4th was a holiday. So he was home much more than normal. I don’t write much, if any, when he’s home. Partly because it’s a change in routine and partly because I want to spend the time with him.

My mother had a family barbecue at her house on Monday we spent eight hours there. She has a pool but I didn’t want to swim. I spent most of my time either inside doing not much, or roaming around taking pictures periodically. I’m not really an outdoors kind of soul but I wanted to be around the family members I don’t get to see very often. So I sucked it up and ventured out a bit while the sun was out, getting my yearly dose of vitamin D. Once it was dark I spent more time outside.

While there I kept having story ideas. For the wrong story. I’m considering writing a serial here on my blog and That story kept rearing its, as of yet, unformed head. It doesn’t have a name yet, I refer to it as E, E, & E. The ideas I have for it are intriguing but I’m trying to stick with my current work in progress. E3 seems determined to intrude.

If I believed I could work on both I would. Perhaps pick one day a week to dedicate to the E’s and the rest of the days I write I could concentrate on my trilogy. The problem is I don’t believe I can do it.

Too many things have pulled me away from my WIP and I want to finish it, at least the first book, before I get sidetracked! My muse has other ideas. I’ll keep you updated on the battle I’m waging with myself.

My husband is off on Wednesdays (which is a new thing and I’m still adjusting), so that left this past Tuesday to write. I didn’t. I only came up with the prompts for Write Anything Wednesday and scheduled it.

I probably could have found some time to write but the day was what I like to call ‘a day.’ It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. I had to go to physical therapy early due to also having to go to court. I normally do PT at 3 pm so it was strange. Also, the back pain is worse in the mornings and evenings. That is why I normally work out in the morning, since it helps with the pain so much.

Therapy, theoretically, should have helped that morning. However, I didn’t take into account the eight hours sitting on couches, recliners, and lounge chairs at my mom’s house. So therapy was hard, painful and didn’t help at all. It was bad enough that they didn’t make me do certain exercises I always do because I wasn’t tolerating others. I did everything they asked but I guess my face showed what I was feeling.

After the torture session I went home to eat lunch and change before leaving for court. It was really just a check-in for my ex-husband because he’s so behind on child support. To my surprise it went well but those benches in the courtroom suck.

By the time it was over I was useless. I drove home, got into my Batman PJ’s and read. For a very long time. I don’t actually know how long but I read half a book. I didn’t even like it but I kept reading.

I should have tried to write yesterday. I rarely work on my novel but I try to write short stuff or free write on Wednesdays. I haven’t done it since my husband’s schedule changed, giving him Wednesday off.

So here I am, in my favorite writing spot, writing a blog post. This might not be a story but it’s making me happy to do it. It’s funny how one can seriously miss writing when life gets in the way. I don’t know what I’ll work on today but I’m thrilled to have the chance to work at all.

I have two hours to write as much as possible. Wish me luck, I probably need it!

Sidenote: I actually did do some writing while waiting for court to begin on Tuesday. It wasn’t much, just figuring out how each character is introduced in the E, E & E story. I’m going to count it!