A Broken Back Means Your Dead, Right?

The last blog I published talked about writing, and I finished it before I had my accident. I went ahead, posted it with the idea that I would address the accident on this blog.

A week ago, a potentially life-changing occurrence happened to me. I walked outside, lost my balance, and fell on the brick steps to our home. But, I do remember bits and flashes. The bits were colors, and being a long-time gymnast, I remember how things looked as I fell, twisted to save myself, and landed. The flashes were visual sparkings of when I landed on my side and back.

The thing I remember most was this: muscle memory works, but I also have limits. I could not help myself the way I would have twenty years ago. After the ambulance came and I found myself in the hospital, I still felt like I probably bruised myself significantly with a possible rib fracture.

I have no idea how bad the bruising was as I did not look at first because I couldn’t, and I didn’t think about asking anyone else. The doctor said the most feared possibility of internal bleeding did not occur. That statement both surprised and relieved me. The surprise came from the pain I had in my side. The relief was self-explanatory. What happened next took me back.

The doctor continued about how my head was not traumatized (thank you, gymnast), and I didn’t have a broken rib. Yay! But I did have two fractured vertebrae L1 and L2. He checked with a neurosurgeon, who said there was nothing he could do. I was to go home and rest and wait for it to heal. That’s right. He figuratively patted me on the ass and told me to go home, have a nice day. Oh, he did give me some pain pills, but somehow, I expected a little more.

Arriving home I began trying to heal in my easy-chair. I did try to follow up with the VA. After a tense conversation with them, we settled on me going that afternoon, Monday. That doctor told me it would be two weeks before I’d be able to walk. They sent me home, but in fairness, they did kick the system in the ass to put a ramp and railing on those steps. I’d asked for them four years ago, by the way, and if they had installed them when I first requested and the system authorized, the fall wouldn’t have happened. Also, the VA will pick up the tab as I am already a disabled vet because of my lower back.

I spent the week lying back, watching the kids and thinking.

Meanwhile, I received word on both of my books. The metaphysical book failed to elicit dollar signs in the publisher’s eyes, and they took a pass. The fiction submission gave me some useful feedback. The publisher saw things they did not like that are integral in both The Sigma Factor and the new Factor book I’m currently writing.

Now, with all my newfound convalescence, I had time to think. Do I ignore that publisher? How about scrapping that novel that I sent off and the current one? Should I change the current one and proceed? Do I need to stop writing?

The last question became the focal point. Did I need to stop writing? Had I guessed wrongly at what should be in my novels?

This conundrum came at a horrible time, as I was already a bit off-kilter. This mental debate could bring blood. The thing was, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and the more I did, the less I liked where it headed. It was similar to jumping with a bungee-jump and then, after airborne, deciding the idea of it was absurd. However, like bungee-jumping, I did get snatched back into the dispute again when things started to go awry. I questioned my writing abilities, my sensibilities about trying to publish, and my determination to succeed.

The week was brutal.

Then, yesterday I woke with a determination. I’m a writer. It is not only what I do, but it is my way of life. My wife thinks it is a hobby because the field is so challenging. It is not a hobby to me. Like I’ve said before, I may never sell another book, but I know I won’t if I quit. Besides, after I’m gone, someone may stumble on them and pick up one. If that person likes what I wrote, then my spirit will be happy.

I’m a writer, author, and novelist. That is what I am and what I will be. That’s how my brain works, and it won’t shut off. Trapped, I am, in a world where my mind continually comes up with plots, twists of plots, dialogue, witty repartee, and ribald humor. Isn’t that lucky? To paraphrase an old advertisement: for the US Army, I have more fun before nine o’clock than most people have all day.

It’s too bad everyone can’t be like that. It’s mighty entertaining. Anyone have any popcorn?

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The Villain of Infamy

Have you considered how important the antagonist is to a story? A good story needs a bad guy, or girl, as developed as the protagonist. It takes continual conflict between the two throughout the story. The villain must have at least as much chutzpah and skill as the hero, maybe more so. Certainly, they cannot have any less.

The evildoer may, or may not, be present at the beginning of the story , but their effects have to be felt early on. The significance of the mischief-maker becomes more and more pronounced as the story builds, especially so in a thriller or suspense.

The rising action oftentimes lasts the greatest part of the story. It is during this time that the tension ratchets up. I’ve seen this part of stories and novels described with ladders, stair steps, an inclined plane, all sorts of visual aids. The bottom line is this, there has to be an increase of stress or tension to pull the story to a more intense place. Most commonly we refer to it as building action, thus the visualization of the ladders, stairs, et cetera.

This is where your inner stress and conflict begin to eat you up, where it’s not unheard of for a moviegoer to scream, “Watch out!” in the middle of the theater, much to their embarrassment.

This rising action is the reason that novels and movies don’t fit in the three-act structure of the theatre. The first act houses the: action before the story, the exposition, the introduction of characters, and the catastrophe that begins the actual story. The second act houses the rising action and the continual complications of the catastrophe. In a poker game, we would call it upping of the ante. The gambit of increased tension. The third act is where the climax resides. After that is the denouement – the final resolution. Look at it like the unraveling of a skein of yarn that is magically made neat again.

The novel and/or movie doesn’t fit neatly in the three-act form. The rising action continues to build to, and in some cases on, the last page, or the last scene. That way the tension can continue until it is almost unbearable.

A very good friend of mine, a college roommate, once attended the movie Wait Until Dark, an excellent thriller made in 1967. He was on a date and later told me he didn’t want to be embarrassed. While standing in the lobby, waiting for the previous showing to end, he heard a lot of screams near the end of the movie. He made a mental note not to scream because he knew it was coming, and he wanted to look studly, macho.

There was indeed a scary part near the end and when he saw it he was prepared and ready. What he did not know was there were two scary parts, and of course, the second event was much more terror-filled. After he was successful the first time, he relaxed. Then came the final horrifying instant for which he was not prepared. He screamed, “Oh shit!” like a sissy, stood up and ran from the theater. Embarrassing.

Well damn, once again I got sidetracked. I’ll dive back in.

The rapscallion’s effects need to be felt throughout the story, or at least until the climax. This doesn’t mean that the villain has to be alive throughout. Hell, the damned blackguard might have died in the beginning during the catastrophe that started the whole thing, but the effects certainly never end there.

Now here’s the crux. By the end of the rising action, the anti-hero’s effect on the story needs to appear much greater than the hero’s ability to counteract those effects. Then, with a sudden twist, preferably as yet unseen, or perhaps seen before but with insignificant effect, the hero gains the upper-hand and corrects everything, bringing things back in line with the proper world.

The villain needs as much attention to developing infamy as does the hero to altruism. In The Sigma Factor, there are several villains in varying degrees, but two antagonists produce more evil than any of the others. Between them, the world crashes around Ol’ Stan.

I hope many of you took advantage of the sale at Smashwords. $1.50 was not a bad price for an e-book. If you bought, thanks. Now for those of you who only like to read page-turning paper books. I’ve finally succeeded in getting The Sigma Factor into paperback. It has taken this long for me to accomplish this since Rebel ePublishing closed their door. It should be ready by this Friday.


Like Eating Grass

I thought everyone with kids knew what the word nummy meant. I was wrong. During my time working in a self-contained special-needs schoolroom, I learned how wrong I’d been. More than one of the kids there had no idea what it meant, and if they didn’t know, how the living hell could they teach their parents?

The word is a derivation of Yummy. I trust everyone is familiar with that term. Nummy , a cuter, more child-like way of saying it and adding a smidge of fun. My kids know exactly what the word means, and it is a normal part of their vocabulary.

This is the season for tasty food, and this recipe is very nummy. It is a favorite of the whole family. I originally planned on writing a recipe for my potato soup. It’s hearty, warm or cold, and very filling. But this past week we Americans had our feasting holiday and along with all of the traditional items, I fixed this. My Father-in-law, who happens to be younger than me, (isn’t that a mind twister) but age doesn’t mean anything much. We’ve both been around for a few decades. Anyway, My father-in-law calls it grass and weenies. kind of catchy. So, here is the recipe for my nummy Grass and Weenies.

GRASS AND WEENIES (Kielbasa and Cabbage)
This recipe is half of my normal recipe. I cut it in half because most people don’t have twelve mouths to feed. This is plenty for six.

  • 1-large head of green cabbage (about the size of a toddler’s head)
  • 1-can of Rotel (I use original) For those of you who are not familiar with this. It is a product that has diced tomatoes, onions, and jalapenos. If you cannot find such an item, I invite you to experiment with these.
  • 4-cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2-of a sweet onion 1-large
  • pkg of kielbasa (one large package contains 3 lengths of sausages)
  • 6-strips of hickory smoked bacon
  • Puckett’s all-purpose seasoning (Any seasoning you are fond of will do)
  • Tony Chachere’s saltless seasoning (Any cajun seasoning will do. I use saltless because my doctor prefers that I do.)

Now to business. To do this the exact way that I do, you will need several kids, each with their Nummy,brand of adorability, charm, and godawful persistence that distracts and annoys. If you have all these things in place, please be careful. You will want to protect all of your digits, your face, and your respective things that jiggle. (You decide what parts I’m talking about on that last thing there.)

  1. Clean, strip, and dice the 1/2 onion. Place in a large stock pot, or at least a 4-quart Dutch oven.
  2. Dice and crush four cloves of garlic. Place in pot with onion.
  3. Fry the bacon until crispy and set aside. Save the bacon grease. This step can be done ahead of time if you care to. Use a small bit of bacon grease to sauté the onion and garlic.
  4. Clean and Chop cabbage in half, cutting through the cabbage heart and then again to quarter the head. Slice the heart free from all four portions. Next slice each quarter cabbage three times lengthwise, and holding the three parts together slice 1/2” to 1” portions until the cabbage is completely chopped. If you have your own way of chopping cabbage feel free. I added all that because I worked with a couple of old-school cooks who would get pissed occasionally and say, “Don’t try to teach me how to cut the cabbage!” Anyway, put the chopped cabbage in the pot with the sautéed veggies. Stir everything. (Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble … Shakespeare’s — Macbeth. I couldn’t help myself. I love the Bard.)
  5. Open and pour in the Rotel (juice included). Stir again.
  6. Pour in all but a little bacon grease.  Cover and let everything stew and simmer on medium heat. Cover the pot.
  7. Cut all the kielbasa on a bias. In the pan you crisped the bacon, fry the kielbasa. Liberally season it with the Puckett’s seasoning while it fries. Keep it sizzling until most of the sausage appears burned. It cannot be a cinder, but you want it to look like the char on a grilled hot dog or brat looks just before the skin breaks and you take it off the grill. If that direction makes no sense, make it at least one shade darker than you think it should be. At that stage dump it into the pot with everything else. Keep going until all of the kielbasas are done. It is very important to cook the sausage darker than you ordinarily would. It enhances the flavor.
  8. While the pot simmers you need to stir it occasionally and make sure you do not let it burn. Once most of the cabbage has wilted turn it down to a simmer.
  9. Chop and dice the bacon until you have bacon chunks and set them aside.
  10. Once the desired texture of the cabbage is reached, go ahead and serve with your fresh bacon chunks sprinkled over the top. Do not worry about leftovers. I find the extra time it sits in the fridge adds well to the scrumptiousness of the overall dish. It is very filling so be careful. You might overeat.

While you are enjoying this nummy food it is time for an update on my book. Rebel E Publisher closed their doors and The Sigma Factor is not available online anymore. It will take a few weeks before I can publish it myself. However, I have a limited amount of hard copies of the book and will be glad to sell you one. Leave me a comment and I will get back to you.

Also, I will have a new book out soon. It is full of thrills, suspence, and son-of-a-bitch, what the hell was that’s! Set in Hawaii, Louisiana, and Wyoming, it has a cast of gun totein’ characters that are at once full of purpose and mystery, and dead set on finding out who is trying to kill them. Somebody ends up dead, others get meaner.

The Great Zero Sum is almost ready for Beta reading. Beta readers have a chance to not only read my book for free, but they have a chance to lend input too. I have a few who succumbed to the allure to be even better well read and agreed to help me, but I can still use a few more. Please let me know if you are interested. It’s a spanking good (did I say spanking?) It’s a marvelous story of which I am proud.