The Dog Days Are Back: This Author is in a Drought!

This is a quick post and is in no way representative of my writing abilities but I want share with you a brief update into my life right now. I’ve completed my Office Surgery Inspections contract (my first with the State of Florida) and now I’m just trying to get caught up on the daily duties of my job that have fallen behind due to writing a contract (which is very time consuming, might I add). Because of that and other life events, I haven’t had the time to even think about personal writing. On top of my work life, we are definitely back to the dog days of summer with Miss Annie.

A few weeks ago, Kyle and I went on a date (a rarity for us lately) and were only gone for two and a half hours. When we returned to our apartment, we were greeted at the door by Annie making her “Uh oh, I did wrong” face. We walked into the living room to find her bed covered in staples. Yes, staples. Like those sharp metal things that you use to bind paper together. Where did she get the staples? Your guess is as good as ours. Oh, but she got them, alright. She tore the box apart and tore the staples apart. They were chewed and gnarled and literally everywhere. After picking up each individual staple that we could see, we vacuumed the carpet and her bed and combed the area for any lingering staple. I called the emergency vet line to find out if we needed to take Annie to the vet immediately since she probably had ingested a few staples. The vet on-call said that it wasn’t necessary because of her size. She would probably pass the staples in a few days with no problem. The vet did warn that if she began vomiting or showing signs and symptoms of a more serious condition, we should bring her to her regular vet immediately. Annie was alright for the first day after eating the staples but, of course, on Monday morning, we awoke to her hurling her poor puppy guts up. She was sick. I called into work, took a day of hard earned sick leave, and called her regular vet for an appointment. The vet asked questions about the staple eating incident and then said that the only way they could tell if she was sick from staples was to do x-rays. Shortly after the x-rays were taken, the vet came in and said, “Well, she definitely ate staples. A lot of staples.” The x-rays were displayed on the computer screen and I could clearly see that the staples were in there. And the vet was correct, Annie had eaten A LOT of STAPLES!


 

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My first question was, “What can we do?” The answer, of course, was surgery. She told me that she could take Annie into emergency exploratory abdominal surgery as soon as we were ready but she wanted to check another option first. Apparently, there was a new specialist in town who did doggy endoscopy and our vet said that she thought it might be a better option for Annie than surgery. Of course, the less invasive you can be, the better. The price, however, was extraordinarily invasive into our pocketbooks. The specialist did agree to take Annie as a case, so I drove her right on over to their office for a consultation. They didn’t waste any time in getting her evaluated and the specialist (an internal medicine specialist with a Scottish accent) said that he wanted to put her on IV fluids overnight, have her stay in the hospital, and then determine whether or not to do endoscopy in the morning after a new set of x-rays were taken. At this point, we didn’t have any other choices other than surgery so we agreed to leave her overnight. I had to pay a deposit to leave her which cost several hundred dollars and I also had to sign a waiver stating that I wanted her to be revived if she went into cardiac arrest. In the morning, the vet called and said he would have to do endoscopy to remove the mass of staples that was stuck in her pylorus. For those of you who do not know what the pylorus is, it is the part of the stomach that connects to the duodenum (or small intestine). The rest of the staples had moved out of her large intestines and into her colon so they would be coming out in her next bowel movement. The staples that were stuck weren’t going to go anywhere without help. The endoscopy was done fairly quickly. She was up and running by that evening, even though she was quite drowsy from the anesthesia. Annie is perfectly fine now–no more staples. Fifteen hundred dollars later and we have a happy healthy dog again. Oh, the joys of being a dog owner! We’ve now officially made it through our first year of having Annie in our lives and it may have been one of the most stressful, most expensive, and most fulfilling years of our lives.

That being said, thank you for your continued support and love! If you want to read more of my work, go buy my book! It’s 99 cents on Amazon Kindle or the free Amazon Kindle Reading App for almost all mobile devices and tablets! You can download the free Amazon Kindle Reading App from my Works page or by clicking on the image below. What a steal of a deal! It’s also in paperback as well if that is more to your liking. Check it out!

FREE Kindle Reading App

Just In Time for the Kentucky Derby 2014

Churchill DownsAround this time last year I had the pleasure of traveling to Louisville, Kentucky with my husband for a conference. We spent several days doing the “conference thing” but before we left we visited Churchill Downs. It was a cloudy, but warm, Sunday in mid-April and the place was virtually empty. On television during the Derby, Churchill Downs looks just like an any other big-named racetrack. In person, though, it is much, much more. Although there were no horses there at the time due to Derby repairs and preparations, it was still magnificent.

I’ve always been a fan of horses. In fact, my favorite animal is the horse. When I was younger I used to ride horses (or rather, ponies). I rode a particularly spunky pony named Chelsea. She was stubborn and thick-headed. In order to make her move at all I had to carry a riding crop. I didn’t have to use the crop, only show it to her. When she saw that I meant business, she would listen to my commands. Sadly, when I began swimming for my school in the 6th grade, I had to make a choice: swimming or riding. Since my school didn’t have an equestrian program, I chose swimming. I still miss riding, though, and I have never lost my love for all things horses.

As I gazed at the twin spires towering over Churchill Downs that cloudy Sunday, and looked around the empty grounds, I was inspired to write a short story. Upon our return from Louisville, I began to formulate that story in my mind and feverishly type away. I attempted to get the piece completed by the 2013 Kentucky Derby but due to work (yes, I do have a full-time day job) and other distractions, I was unable to accomplish that goal.

Twin Spires

The Twin Spires are a hallmark feature of Churchill Downs. Although it was a cloudy day, I managed to capture a decent photograph of the spires towering above me.

Now, as the 2014 Kentucky Derby fast approaches, I am elated to be able to share The Woman In The Zebra Hat with you. It is absolutely FREE! I’ve included a small blurb about the story along with the FREE download below. If you enjoy the story, feel free to pass it along to others and share a little bit of happy with the world. Read and enjoy!


zebrahatcoverimagesampleSue has always dreamed of being the woman in the zebra hat. From her very first Derby, she fell in love with the sights, sounds, and fashions of women in the grandstand. Year after year, she dreams of her perfect zebra hat, black dress, and lace gloves. Her childhood goal of becoming a racehorse owner comes true when she buys Old Earl, a pace horse with no racing experience. Join Sue and Old Earl as they follow their dreams and find out where they truly belong. The Woman in the Zebra Hat is an inspirational short story about family, dreams, love, and self-discovery. It’s the perfect lunchtime read, short and sweet, and will have you laughing, crying, and feeling uplifted.

 

 


The Woman In The Zebra Hat

Portable Document Format

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(Click the PDF icon to open/download)

 

 

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F.lux: A Life Hack for Writers Who Write Late at Night

I recently wrote an article for my new website venture, Prognosis Hope, that discussed the benefits of utilizing a free computer program called f.lux. As a writer, I found this program to be particularly useful since I do most of my writing at a computer and later in the evening before I go to bed. I wanted to share this little life hack with other authors out there who might get some benefit from it. I am going to re-post the article here and also include a link to the original article on PrognosisHope.com. Please feel free to comment and make suggestions or let me know if f.lux works for you. You can also visit me at PrognosisHope.com to read more articles of mine.

Enjoy!

Here’s the link to the original article: http://www.prognosishope.com/2/post/2014/03/life-hack-your-circadian-rhythm.html


LIFE HACK YOUR CIRCADIAN RHYTHM

iPadLightStudies have shown that increased unnatural light in the evening increases melatonin suppression which decreases sleep. Have you ever noticed that you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep after you have been browsing your Facebook Newsfeed before bed? Do you ever feel unrested or less rested after a full night’s sleep when you fell asleep watching a movie on your backlit tablet? In this age of increasing technology use (and dependence), our natural circadian rhythms are at risk of being thrown off balance by unnatural light. I speak for myself when I say this (but I would venture to say that others can relate), I use my iPhone as an extension of myself. I don’t go anywhere without it and if I do forget it somehow, I feel like I forgot something essential like pants or underwear.

I also have a Microsoft Surface Pro now which I use as my computer/tablet/puzzle board/movie player. When I’m not sitting at my computer at work, I’m sitting at my Surface Pro at home. The increased exposure to the light that is emitted from computer screens and other backlit electronic devices can seriously disrupt my sleep cycle and circadian rhythms. It may not even be noticeable but at the end of a work week I feel absolutely exhausted. I don’t do any manual labor or anything like that but I do sit and look at a computer screen for 9 hours a day. I have had more headaches and my eyesight has even gotten considerably worse.

The American Medical Association (AMA), in a report titled Light Pollution: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting, made the following conclusions:

The natural 24-hour cycle of light and dark helps maintain precise alignment of circadian biological rhythms, the general activation of the central nervous system and various biological and cellular processes, and entrainment of melatonin release from the pineal gland. Pervasive use of nighttime lighting disrupts these endogenous processes and creates potentially harmful health effects and/or hazardous situations with varying degrees of harm. The latter includes the generation of glare from roadway, property, and other artificial lighting sources that can create unsafe driving conditions, especially for older drivers. More direct health effects of nighttime lighting may be attributable to disruption of the sleep-wake cycle and suppression of melatonin release. Even low intensity nighttime light has the capability of suppressing melatonin release. In various laboratory models of cancer, melatonin serves as a circulating anticancer signal and suppresses tumor growth. Limited epidemiological studies support the hypothesis that nighttime lighting and/or repetitive disruption of circadian rhythms increases cancer risk; most attention in this arena has been devoted to breast cancer. Further information is required to evaluate the relative role of sleep versus the period of darkness in certain diseases or on mediators of certain chronic diseases or conditions including obesity. Due to the nearly ubiquitous exposure to light at inappropriate times relative to endogenous circadian rhythms, a need exists for further multidisciplinary research on occupational and environmental exposure to light-at-night, the risk of cancer, and effects on various chronic diseases.

In light of these conclusions (pun definitely intended), the AMA stated that it “recognizes that exposure to excessive light at night, including extended use of various electronic media, can disrupt sleep or exacerbate sleep disorders, especially in children and adolescents.”  The AMA suggests that the negative effects of this light pollution can be “minimized by using dim red lighting in the nighttime bedroom environment.”The normal light that a computer gives out is actually bluer than natural daylight. The blue light is not necessarily bad for you during the daytime, when you would see a less intense blue light if you walked outside on a sunny day. The blue light can negatively affect you at night when your body needs an adjustment in light to balance its natural circadian rhythms. Ever wonder why you sleep at night and wake/work/play during the day? It’s biological.


“Light is the most powerful stimulus for regulating human circadian rhythms and is the major environmental time cue for synchronizing the circadian clock” (AMA, 2012).

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If you find you have trouble with this, there is a life hack that can help at least a little bit. There is a program out there called f.lux that actually adjusts the light being emitted from your computer screen to be warmer in temperature. With f.lux, the temperature of light that is emitted from your computer screen adjusts just like the light in your home would. You may open windows to let in natural daylight during the day but turn on lamps at night. The warmer temperature is better for your eyes in the evening and before bedtime.How do you get f.lux?You simply download the free application to your computer or iPhone/iPad, set your location and type of lighting, and let it do the rest of the work for you. The screen lighting will adjust to the time of day and location so that is brighter/cooler during the day and warmer at night. At night, it has a more amber glow to it, whereas during the day, it looks like a warm daylight. The good thing about f.lux is that you can turn it off whenever you want, in case you are doing something on your computer that is color sensitive.


Here is the link to download f.lux: http://justgetflux.com/

Also, here are several of the studies done on this topic for you to examine for yourself:

Cajochen, C., Frey, S., Anders, D., Spati, J., Bues, M., Pross, A., … Stefani, O. (2011). Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance. Journal of Applied Physiology, 110, 1432-1438. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00165.2011

Figueiro, M., Wood, B., Plitnick, B., & Rea, M. (2011). The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 32(2), 158-163.

Duffy, J. & Czelsler, C. (2009). Effect of light on human circadian physiology. Sleep Med Clin, 4(2), 165-177. doi: 10.1016/j.jsmc.2009.01.004

American Medical Association (2012). Light Pollution: Adverse Health Effects of Nighttime Lighting. Report 4 of the Council on Science and Public Health (A-12), 265-279. Retrieved from http://www.ama-assn.org/assets/meeting/2012a/a12-csaph-reports.pdf


Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with f.lux in any capacity and do not recommend the product for personal gain in any way. We also don’t encourage or discourage use of the product to help/treat any medical condition. We are not doctors. If you are experiencing medical issues, it is best to consult with your physician prior to doing any life hacks or self-remedies. This is only a suggestion and something that we use in our own personal lives to increase our quality of living. We are simply sharing what we know with you for you to use as you see fit. We also have no affiliation with any of the studies that are listed here. We simply wish to provide some basis and reasoning for our personal use of this life hack.

MerryChristmas

Merry Christmas to You and to Yours

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote something creative. Sad, I know, but true. In the past two months, my husband and I moved, I got settled into a new job, we traveled to Texas for a wedding, Washington, D.C. for a conference, and Louisiana for a surgery. It’s been hectic, to say the least. Now that I’m back, though, I want to wish everyone a merry Christmas and happy New Year as 2013 comes to a close.

My first year as an author has brought home a total of about $87 from ebook sales and paperback sales combined. It’s not a lot, but it’s more than I have ever made as an author before. My hope for the coming year is to finish at least one of the projects I have in progress and publish it, but first, I would like to get some feedback on a story I’ve been working on called Waltzing With Raindrops.

Waltzing With Raindrops is a story about a woman named Anna who returns home to take care of her aging father after he’s suffered a stroke. While home, she runs into old high school classmates, some who’ve remained the same since they last met, and others who’ve changed. One such childhood acquaintance is John Miles. In high school, John was the nerdy, pimply faced adolescent boy who everyone made fun of. Now, he’s Dr. John C. Miles, MD–no pimples, no glasses, with a chiseled jaw line and hard muscles. He’s dreamy, for lack of a better word to describe him.

Want to know what happens next? So do I! I need to get some feedback on what I have thus far… I am going to post just a snippet, the first chapter of the story, and hopefully you guys can, and will, tell me what you think and if you would want to read the rest of the story. How does that sound? I truly appreciate and will take to heart your honest feedback because I want to write a story that people want to read. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and to yours!


Waltzing With Raindrops

“If you can’t waltz with the raindrops, who can you waltz with?” Daddy would always say. I found it a funny saying but I guess it was his version of dancing in the rain. When I’d ask him what he meant, he’d tell me, “The raindrops will never turn you down if you ask them to dance. They will accept you, no matter who you are.”

The rain fell hard upon the window of the train as it crossed the countryside. The sky was gloomy and gray and I could only see so far out through the heavy sheets of precipitation. A single tear dropped from my cheek onto the small window sill which roused me from my memories.

“Next stop, Halston,” said the conductor over the loud speaker.

I could faintly see the station in the distance and remembered the first time I traveled by train. I was only a small girl at the time, and Daddy took me along on a business trip to Virginia. I loved going with Daddy everywhere he would let me. We were the best of friends, partners in crime, and Mama got jealous of our relationship sometimes. This particular trip, Daddy decided we would travel by train, so we packed our bags and headed down to the Halston Station. Halston is a tiny town in West Virginia. I usually describe it as being out in the middle of nowhere. There’s not much around but mountains and countryside. We bought our tickets to Virginia from the nice old lady at the ticket window and sat down to wait for the train to arrive. I could hear the train blowing its horn a ways away, before I could see its light shining yellow on the mountainside as it came around the curve. I felt the vibrations under my feet as the train approached the station. It came to a creaking stop and let out a loud steamy sigh as the doors opened and the passengers filed onto the station deck. I waited patiently, holding Daddy’s hand until it was our turn to board the train. The conductor announced that it was time for our section to board and we gathered our bags and stepped aboard. The train was crowded with fellow passengers trying to find their proper seats. We crept along slowly, behind a line of people shuffling forward. Daddy grabbed my hand, pulled me into a row of seats, and instructed me to sit down next to the window. He stowed our bags away in the compartments overhead and sat down in the seat next to mine. Swinging my legs I looked out of the train window at the busy station. The conductor came around and checked our tickets and before long, the train began to move. As we picked up speed, it was hard to keep my eyes on just one thing. Everything moved by the window so quickly, I had to turn my eyes away so I wouldn’t get dizzy. The motion of the train was relaxing and it rocked me to sleep almost instantly. Before I knew it, we were stopping at another train station, and then another and another. When we arrived in Virginia, I had slept through almost the entire trip.

I didn’t sleep a wink this time, though.

The train came to a slow stop and the passengers around me began to gather their belongings. I wiped the tears from my eyes and cheeks, grabbed my bag, and got in line to get off of the train. The familiar smell of Halson Station hit me as I stepped off onto the station deck. I hurried through the crowd and out onto the street to hail a cab.

“Where to, ma’am?” asked the friendly cab driver as he loaded my suitcase into the trunk.

“I’m heading to Miner’s Memorial Hospital,” I replied.

“Oh, you got a family member there?” the cab driver inquired, trying to make light-hearted conversation.

“Yes sir,” I said in response. “My father was taken there last week and this is the first time I was able to get away from work and make it home to visit.”

“Oh, I see,” said the cab driver.

The remainder of the ride to Miner’s Memorial was a quiet one. I guess the driver could sense my tension and took the hint that I was in no mood to talk. I paid my fare and waved as the cab drove off down the street. I turned slowly towards the front of the hospital, grabbed my bags, and walked through the double doors into the lobby.

Miner’s Memorial Hospital is a small hospital and the only one in Halston. It has two main halls and the emergency wing and operating rooms are in the back. I looked around and my mind was flooded with memories. The last time I was in Miner’s Memorial was when Mama passed. The sterile smell filled my nostrils and my eyes welled up with tears. I took a deep breath and walked towards the reception desk.

“Can I help you?” asked the familiar face behind the sliding glass window.

“Denise?” I asked, surprised to see my old childhood friend looking back at me.

“Anna?” she inquired in response.

“Wow! It’s so good to see you!” I said, relieved to see an old friend.

“It’s good to see you too, Anna,” she said in a less than elated manner.

My excitement quickly turned to dread as I saw the look on her face. Was it Daddy? I wondered. My heartbeat quickened in fear of what she was going to say next. Please, God, don’t let me be too late!

Seeing the terror in my eyes she changed her expression to one of sympathy and understanding.

“You father is doing alright,” she said. “He is stable for now. He suffered a pretty bad stroke, though, and Dr. Miles is doing everything he can.”

“Dr. Miles?” I questioned, recognizing the last name.

“Sure,” Denise replied. “You remember John, right?”

“John Miles?” I asked, a bit surprised.

“That’s the one,” she said.

John Miles was also a childhood friend of ours, although I never imagined he would become the town doctor. He was a nerd in grade school and all of the kids in school made fun of him most of the time. I always felt bad for him, though.

“Your father is in room 309,” said Denise.

I nodded and thanked her as I headed down the hall to the left towards room 309 to see Daddy. I knocked gently on the door, not expecting a response but knocking none the less. The door creaked open a bit and I peeked through to see Daddy in the hospital bed, hooked up to all sorts of contraptions and machines. It took my breath away to see him like this—so helpless and weak. He had always been my hero, the strongest man I knew. Suddenly, I wondered if I had come into the wrong room. Surely, this man with the machines and the drawn, gray, expressionless face couldn’t be my Daddy. I backed out of the doorway to check the room number once more. The small plaque on the door read “309”.

I gulped. That man in there was my Daddy. I felt as though my whole world had been turned upside down. I dropped my bags on the floor and leaned against the wall outside of the room. Fighting back the tears, I slid down with my head in my hands. I stayed like this for what seemed like ages, trying to remember the man my Daddy once was.

He wasn’t a big man, but he sure was strong. He could do anything and everything, or at least I thought he could. His cheeks were always so rosy and his eyes had a glint of mischief in them. Daddy was well known around Halston and the neighboring towns. He was a traveling salesman for Sears and Roebuck back when there was a Sears and Roebuck. He upgraded to selling automobiles after retiring from S&R and did less traveling once Mama fell ill.

He was a kind man and he always took care of me and Mama. We were the luckiest two women on the planet. Mama got dementia which was later diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. There was no cure for this horrible disease but Daddy did everything he could to make sure her last few years of life were comfortable.

I heard a voice that brought me back to reality.

“Ma’am,” a deep, kind sounding voice said. “Can I help you?”

I looked up through my tears, wiped my eyes, and sniffled a bit. The voice had come from a handsome man who was kneeling on the floor beside me. How long has he been here, I wondered? My cheek blushed red from embarrassment. The man reached out a hand to help me to my feet. As I took his hand, I glanced at his attire. He was wearing a long white coat with a stethoscope hanging around his neck. Clipped to his pocket were two black ink pens. My eyes scanned to the embroidered name on the pocket of his white coat. It read: “Dr. John C. Miles, M.D.”

Once I was fully on my feet and stable enough to stand on my own, I looked at his face. This must be a mistake, I thought. The beautiful blue-green eyes, perfectly tanned skin, and chiseled jaw line looked nothing like the John Miles I grew up with. The nerdy kid with terrible acne, huge, thick glasses, and a nasally voice couldn’t have possibly grown up to look like the doctor who now stood before me, could he?

“Anna?” asked the doctor as I reached down to grab my bags from the floor.

“Yes, sir,” I replied, politely.

“Sir?” he asked, sounding a bit amused. “Don’t you remember me?”

I looked at the doctor again, trying to wrap my head around the fact that this was the John Miles from grade school. I blinked a couple of times and cleared my throat before saying anything more.

“Um, sure,” I said, unconvincingly. “We went to grade school together, right?”

I hoped I was right. If not, this could be completely and utterly embarrassing.

“Yes!” he said, excitedly. “It’s great to see you! Boy, you are even lovelier than I remembered. You were the only one who was ever nice to me when we were growing up. I still appreciate that, you know.”

I smiled at him, still amazed at the dramatic transformation that John had made from grade school to now.

“Are you ready to go in and see your father?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, shakily.

“Anna,” John said softly, “I have been taking good care of him and I know he looks like he is in bad shape right now. He is recovering every day but he did suffer a major ischemic stroke caused by a cerebral embolism. Because he was rushed here fairly quickly after the onset of the stroke symptoms, we were able to reverse most of the stroke effects and get him stable enough to have a double bypass. We are monitoring him as he recovers from surgery to evaluate the possible brain damage caused by the stroke and so far, we have found that he has a partial paralysis on the left side of his body. He has been responding to verbal commands and seems to understand what we are saying to him. We haven’t taken him off of the ventilator yet due to weakness in his lungs but he should be able to breathe on his own within the next day or so. At that point, we will start to evaluate his ability to speak. He is a strong man, Anna. He still has some time left with us here, and we are doing everything we can to help him make a successful recovery.”

I nodded my head but I was still having trouble taking it all in. John opened the door to the room and I followed him to Daddy’s bedside. He took the chart off of the hook on the foot of the hospital bed and flipped through silently. I watched the machine breathe for Daddy in a slow, methodical manner. In and out went the air. Up and down went his chest. It was unnatural and disconcerting to watch so I turned my eyes to John. He was combing through the chart with such care and concern it touched my heart. Feeling my gaze on him, he looked up and smiled as he set the metal clipboard carefully back on its hook.

“Looks like everything has gone well today,” John informed me. “His vitals look strong and his numbers are normalizing.”

My knees started to grow weak as I looked at Daddy’s withered body in the bed. It had been years since I had been home to see him, but I never imagined he would have changed so much in such a short time. I glanced around for a chair to sit in before I lost my balance. John noticed my distress and helped me sit in the chair next to Daddy’s bed. He stood there beside the chair and put his hands in his coat pockets. We both looked on in silence as the ventilator breathed for the frail man in the hospital bed. The only sounds that could be heard in room 309 were the beeping sounds from the monitors and the steady mechanical breaths from the ventilator.

I felt the tears begin to fall again, hot on my cheeks and cool as they dropped from my chin to my bare knees. I shivered a bit and I was suddenly cold in this seemingly lifeless room. John stayed by my side until I heard him being paged over the intercom. He touched my shoulder with a warm, strong hand before he quietly walked out of the room, leaving me alone with Daddy.

Sitting in the uncomfortable plastic covered visitor’s chair I tried to keep from breaking down. Daddy was all I had left since Mama died and I had made excuse after pathetic excuse when he would ask me to come home. I was bitter about the way Mama died. She was dead to me long before she took her final breath. She didn’t remember who I was after a year or so from the onset of her disease. Daddy would try and remind her and sometimes I would see the light in her eyes brighten at my name but it was only a glimpse before it faded to gray again. This place held too many memories of Mama for me to stay around for long. I used to come home for a few days here and there, but I eventually became consumed in my job and my life in Atlanta and stopped making the effort to come back to this place.

There was a light knock on the door and a soft voice said my name. It was Denise, and she opened the door just enough to bring in the cart to check Daddy’s vital signs. It was dark in the room and my eyes hurt from the sudden brightness as Denise flipped the light switch to turn on the harsh fluorescent fixtures. I squinted as she rolled the cart to Daddy’s bedside. The scratching sound of Velcro seemed to echo in the silent atmosphere. The blood pressure cuff was strapped gently around Daddy’s arm and Denise worked calmly and quickly through each vital check. Once she had completed updating the chart, she turned and looked at me with an empathetic gaze.

“Are you alright?” she asked with concern in her voice.

“I’m sure I will be,” I replied.

“Well, look,” she said, “if you need anything, just let me know. Okay?”

“Thanks,” I said as I looked at her with a grateful smile.

A minute or so went by and she remained in the room with me and Daddy. It was nice to have another warm body to fill the coldness of the sterile hospital room. I was thankful for her and for John for being so kind to me.

“So what do you think about John?” Denise asked, clearing her throat a bit.

“Who?” I asked, still feeling overwhelmed by the whole situation.

“John,” she said again. “You know, the doctor?”

“Oh, yeah,” I replied, remembering my initial encounter with the grade-school-nerd-turned-handsome-doctor, John Miles.

“So,” she asked again, “what did you think? Isn’t it just unbelievable?”

“I can’t believe he is the same John Miles we grew up with, that’s for sure,” I said in response.

She went on to tell me the whole story about how he left Halston after graduation and traveled the world volunteering in medical clinics in places like Africa and South America and India. It was a relief to listen rather than having to talk. I was already dealing with enough emotions to institutionalize an elephant. I needed a break from reality, and I welcomed Denise’s gossiping with open arms.

What I learned from Denise was fascinating. The nerdy John Miles left home, became a philanthropic volunteer at third-world medical centers, went to college in Europe, medical school in the Virgin Islands, and moved back home to Halston to work at Miner’s Memorial. He came full circle and he also lost the acne, got contacts, and a few muscles before returning home.

Denise finished telling me the story of Dr. John C. Miles, M.D., just in time for him to check in on Daddy one last time for the night. As Denise exited the room, she turned and gave me a wink and an encouraging smile before closing the heavy hospital room door. John took a look at the chart to check the vital signs which Denise had just recorded. He nodded and returned the chart to its home on the foot of Daddy’s bed.

“Are you staying here tonight?” he asked me, breaking the silence.

“I’m not sure where I’m staying, actually,” I responded honestly.

I hadn’t given that much thought yet since I came directly to the hospital after getting off of the train. I still had my bags with me, so I could stay at the hospital if need be.

“Do you think I should stay with him?” I asked.

“He seems to be stable and you look like you could use a good night of sleep,” he replied. “You won’t get too much sleep here with the ventilator and the monitors. Plus, a nurse will be in every few hours to take his vitals. It’s up to you, though.”

I thought about it for a few seconds and wondered if any hotels would be open in Winchester—the closest town big enough to have a hotel. Before I could finish my thought, John chimed in.

“If you would like, you are welcome to stay in my guest house tonight,” he proposed. “I have a guest house out by the pool that is empty and I’m on call so you could ride with me back here if anything changes with your father’s condition.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t want to barge in on you like that,” I said, still thinking about possible hotels to try.

“It’s no imposition,” he assured me. “It would be nice to have someone stay in that old guest house for a change. There’s a comfortable bed that has your name on it. You won’t be bothered at all so you can get some rest.”

“Are you sure,” I asked, a bit skeptical about his insistence.

“I’m positive!” replied John with excitement in his voice. “It’s just me and Jack at home and I’m sure he would be pleased to have some company.”

My heart sank when he said this. “Just me and Jack at home…” he said. John was so handsome and kind, I should have figured that there was a reason he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. He was an eligible bachelor. The only problem was that he apparently wasn’t looking for an eligible bachelorette.

I thought about it for a few seconds more and decided that in my emotional state, it was probably best that he wasn’t looking for a female companion. Feeling safe about staying with John and his “friend” Jack, I agreed to spend the night in his empty guest house.

As the hospital changed shifts and the night nurses and staff took their places, John came in to Daddy’s room and grabbed my bags for me. I followed him out of the back of the hospital to the staff parking lot. The lights blinked on a black fancy looking sports car in the back of the lot. The car was sleek and manly, with a light tan leather interior, dark mahogany wood paneling, silver accents, and gadgets galore. The car smelled of Italian leather and expensive cologne. John opened the trunk of the car to load up my suitcase and faux Louis Vuitton travel bag. Even his trunk was impeccably clean. I suddenly felt dirty and a bit ashamed of my appearance as he opened the passenger side door for me to get in the car. I tried not to touch anything so I wouldn’t transfer any of my perceived uncleanliness to his flawless existence.

The engine of the car purred as it came to life. John got in behind the wheel and drove smoothly out of the parking lot. I was nervous the entire ride to his house. All five minutes of it were spent in uncomfortable silence.  What do I say to him? I wondered. My heart was pounding so hard it hurt. All of the moisture in my mouth seemed to evaporate and it was difficult to swallow. I slid my clammy hands under my legs for lack of a better place to contain them. Staring straight ahead, I hoped that John wouldn’t attempt conversation because I was sure I would make a fool out of myself.

He guided the purring car around a large curve and up to an intimidating gated driveway. Rolling down the window, he pressed a button and entered a code that opened the massive wrought iron gates, revealing a long, canopied drive that looked like something straight out of Gone With The Wind. The driveway was dark with only the car headlights to show us the way. Up ahead, I could see a clearing and lights from gas lanterns on the front of a large white house adorned with columns as big around as tree trunks. We drove up around a circular drive and then veered off to the left of the house to be greeted by a four car garage. John pressed a button on the console of the car and the first garage door opened slowly. He pulled the car into the garage with easy and turned the engine off.

“Here we are,” he said, rhetorically.

He got out of the car and walked away leaving me in the pitch black darkness of the night. Suddenly, the blackness was pierced by the yellow glow of the designer light fixtures on the ceiling. I blinked a few times as my eyes adjusted to the change in brightness. His garage was more like a home for his precious purring car. Shelves lined the walls with everything a car aficionado would have. One wall had what looked like a washing station with shammies and terry cloths and waxes. Another wall was stocked from floor to ceiling with shiny imported tires and polished rims. The remaining wall had bottles of expensive motor oil and assorted tools. Everything was in its place and perfectly clean.

John came around the car and opened the passenger side door for me. He was the perfect gentleman. After opening my door, he gathered my bags from the trunk and led me into the house.

It was silent all throughout the large mansion-like house. I followed John down a hallway just off of the kitchen that ended in a cozy sunroom overlooking the pool deck. Through a wall of windows I could see the gas lanterns flickering on either side of the guest house door. John turned on the pool lights and motioned for me to go outside.

When I thought of a pool, I imagined a small backyard pool or something of that sort. I never would have guessed that John’s pool was more like the ones found at beach resorts. It had a sloped entry on one side with small fountains bubbling out of the shallow water. Around a perfectly manicured tropical garden snaked a lazy river that traveled around the enormous backyard and looped back to connect with the main pool. The water twinkled as the stars reflected off of the tiny ripples made by the soft wind. As we walked, the lights came to life around us. John informed me that they were motion-sensor lights but it was more like magic to me. I followed John along the path and over a quaint little bridge crossing the lazy river. We entered into a tropical paradise of palm trees and brightly colored flowers in full bloom. Crossing another small bridge, we made our way to the wrap-around porch of the guest house.

Once inside, the guest house was much less intimidating. It was homey with an open floor plan, a fireplace, a brown suede sectional sofa with a cream chenille blanket draped over the corner. The floor was dark hard wood which echoed in the empty house as I walked. Down a short hallway was the bedroom adorned with a vaulted ceiling, beautiful crown molding, and a comfortable looking king sized canopy bed. It was like a dream, beckoning me to join it in all of its splendor. The lighting in the room came from a gorgeous crystal chandelier hanging down through the sheer drapes of the canopy bed, casting intricate shadows on the walls all around.

I gasped when John touched me on the shoulder. I had almost forgotten he was here with me. I gave him a gentle smile and directed him to set my luggage down in the closet just off of the master bathroom. When he returned to my side, everything felt just right. How romantic! I thought to myself. Caught up in the moment, I turned around and almost threw my arms around John’s strong neck. At that moment, I remembered about Jack. Where is Jack, I wondered?

Before I had time to inquire, John turned to me.

“Are you hungry?” he asked.

“I am not sure,” I told him. “It’s been such a long and emotional day, I had completely forgotten about food until now.”

Almost on cue, my stomach grumbled. John gave me an understanding smile and led me back out through the garden, over the pool, and back into his insanely clean main house.

“I don’t have much around here,” John said as he rifled through the refrigerator drawers.

“That’s alright,” I said. “Really, it’s fine.”

“No, you need to eat and I’m being a terrible host,” he insisted.

Just as he said this, he managed to find some frozen lasagna in the freezer and pulled it out for me to see.

“How’s this?” he asked.

“Oh that’s great,” I reassured him.

He turned on the oven and began to prepare the food for us to eat. My stomach continued to growl at me, angry from being neglected all day long. My thoughts wandered as the smell of cheesy lasagna wafted through the kitchen air. I looked around at John’s pictures, noticing no sign of another companion in any of them.

“Where’s Jack?” I asked John as I glanced at his family photos from long ago.

“Oh, Jack!” said John, excitedly. “He’s in the back. I was so consumed with getting you in that I almost forgot to let him come out.”

Let him come out? That seemed a bit strange to me but maybe it was just something that the two of them did. John walked down another dark hallway, turning on lights as he went. I heard a door open and then another sound. Metal? Chains? Panting? Completely confused by the noises I heard coming from the room down the hall, my heart began to pound. What have I gotten myself into? I questioned my judgment and my sanity. This perfectly nice, handsome doctor was some sort of a freak who kept his significant other in chains and bondage during the day. I started to back away involuntarily, feeling for the door.

Suddenly, a loud clambering sound came down the hall, getting closer and closer. I reached out and grabbed the first thing I could get my hand on—a butter knife. Just as I braced myself for an attack, a big, slobbery-faced, tail-wagging, bulldog slid across the wood floors, ran into the wall, gathered his senses again and commenced to lick and smell me up and down. I put the butter knife down carefully and reached down to pet the vivacious pup. John walked in and the dog turned to look at him.

“Anna, meet Jack, my crazy English Bulldog,” he said with a smile and a nod.

I felt foolish for thinking that Jack was another man. All of this time I assumed that John was not interested in women because he had Jack at home. Now, I became even more uncomfortable than before. What if John really was interested in women? What if he was interested in me? My palms began to sweat again with nerves. I knelt down to pet Jack and get my mind off of the possibility of romance. The oven beeped and John pulled out the delicious smelling lasagna dinner. He set the table and fixed both plates of food. I was instructed to sit down, which I gladly did. I was more tired than I had let myself feel earlier. My eyelids were heavy with exhaustion by the time John returned to the table with two wine glasses and a bottle of Napa Valley Pinot Noir. He poured just enough wine into each glass, corked the bottle, and sat down across from me. We began to eat our food and I found that my stomach was aching for more. After a second helping of lasagna, another half-glass of wine, and a hot piece of French bread, I was almost asleep sitting up.

Picking up my plate and glass, I walked over to the sink to clean the dishes.

“Oh no, you don’t,” said John firmly. “You are a guest here. Let me walk you back out to the guest house so you can get some rest.”

He didn’t have to do much convincing and I soon found myself falling into the cozy king sized bed, curling up, and falling fast asleep.


Football Goals

The Art of Setting Goals: It’s Not Always “Go Big or Go Home”

This article was a guest blog post on The Book Designer in June. In the article I look at the goals that gradually brought my book to fruition, and I extract some wisdom at every step of the journey. If you would like to see the original article, click HERE. I hope you enjoy this re-post! Happy weekend!


The Art of Setting Goals: It’s Not Always “Go Big or Go Home”

Goals are the destinations to which we journey in life. Goals give us a sense of purpose when we are working—something to achieve or strive for.

Sometimes without even knowing, we set goals and achieve them, giving us that feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment. Writing is no different from any other life or work endeavor and, therefore, goals are essential—a means to an end.

Have you ever started a writing project without an end goal? Maybe you didn’t realize you had a goal but somewhere in the back of your mind, you had a purpose for writing. It happens to me all of the time, so there’s no need to feel out of place.

When I started writing my book, I had no idea it would actually become a book, published on Amazon, and purchased by others. It was simply a story I had in my mind and I decided one day to put it down on paper.

My first time sitting down and writing, I truly didn’t have a goal for the book or chapters. I wrote three chapters at first and didn’t do anything else with it for a while.

It was never my dream to become an author. I never imagined that it was possible for me to write a book. This is where goals come in to play for me. I’m a goal-oriented, future-focused kind of woman. I set my sights on a goal and I work, work, work until I achieve that goal.

I did the same thing with writing a book as I did with running a half marathon. I set my end goal in the beginning and I worked towards that goal until I reached it. I’m going to do a bit of self-reflection and share with you my goals, show you how they changed over time, and how those goals led me to become a self-published author of a twenty chapter novel.

GOAL #1: Write a Book

My first goal, when I actually had it in my mind that I was going to write a book, was to write as much as I could each day that I had a chance to write. I didn’t have a set amount of words I wanted to write per day or a number of chapters I wanted to complete per week. I didn’t even know how long the book was going to be.

The problem with this goal was that it was big. I couldn’t see the end, which led to boredom. Because I grew tired of writing I took long breaks, sometimes even months at a time. With such a large goal, it was difficult to keep focused on my final destination.

  • TIP: Set your writing goals realistically, break your book into smaller goals, and find a style that works best for you. If you work well with word counts, then set a daily word count goal. If you work best with chapter completion, then set a weekly number of chapters goal. If you are not good with either one of those things, find what works for you and go with it.

GOAL #2: Publish

My second goal came when I was around chapter 15 of the book. I had now written more than I had ever written in my entire life and I had invested quite a bit into the story and characters. I started looking into publishing avenues and read a couple of “how-to” articles on traditional publishing.

During my research, I came across an article on self-publishing an eBook through Amazon. I hadn’t really given this much thought before, but the article was pretty convincing. I looked into Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and decided that I wanted to take this route to publish my book. Once I had set publishing as my end goal, I had more motivation to write the remaining chapters of my book.

  • TIP: If you don’t want to publish your work, you don’t have to, but it is helpful to have an end goal in mind for your writing project. Maybe you just want to write a book without publishing it. If that is the case, then set your end goal as the completion of your book.

GOAL #3: Set Launch Date

I finished writing the book, all twenty chapters and an epilogue, and let it sit for a month or so. I knew I wanted to publish my book on Amazon but I had no time frame for publishing. The book needed editing but I had worked so hard to finish writing that I had no desire to go back and read over it.

I needed a break so I took one. When I felt up to the task, I sat down and read over the book. It had errors and plot holes as I had expected but it was a quality story overall. The editing and formatting process took time, and I didn’t know when I would reach the end. It was March and I finally decided to set my publishing date around the end of May.

  • TIP: If you are self-publishing, setting a launch date will give you a time frame in which to complete everything. From there, you can set due dates for different parts of this process. This will help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed as you take on the roles of author, designer, formatter, and publisher.

GOAL #4: Format

Over the next month, from March to April, I researched best practices for self-publishing an eBook. I read about everything from cover design to formatting to marketing. I hadn’t realized how difficult the self-publishing route would be to do it all on my own. I had a deadline of the end of May to complete everything.

Formatting was a nightmare and it made editing look like a piece of cake. I tried templates and suggestions from blog posts and websites, etc. to get my book formatted correctly in Microsoft Word. It was a tedious process—format, convert to HTML, convert to .MOBI, test on Kindle Previewer, find an error, repeat.

I did this formatting dance countless times before I finally found Scrivener which made my life so much easier. The formatting was done, saved, and I was ready to produce the final product.

  • TIP: Formatting an eBook for Amazon may not be a problem for you. There are people out there who will do it for you for a fee. If you don’t want to spend any money, invest in Scrivener. It changed my life and made the daunting task of formatting much easier. I’m pretty computer savvy but formatting apparently isn’t my forte. You can find the Scrivener application and even try it out for free at http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

GOAL #5: Sell Book

I had a discussion with my husband a few weeks before my launch date about my goals of selling the book. What I wanted was to publish the book but I hadn’t thought about what happens after I publish it. I didn’t have a big following of readers who were anxiously awaiting the launch of my book. In fact, I didn’t really have a following at all.

I decided that it didn’t matter to me how well my book sold, so long as I could sell at least one book. The end of May came and I launched my book, The Last Navigator, on Amazon Kindle. I can’t even begin to explain how good that felt to have accomplished my goal of publishing a book.

Once it went live, I sent the link out to family and friends and waited for the purchasing to start. In the first few days, I had 5 purchases which would have been really great considering I had a goal of selling at least one book.

Somewhere in between the time I set my original selling goal and the time I started selling, I had let my imagination run wild with the possibility of becoming a best-selling author. This was a mistake. The 5 purchases I had in the month of May were as follows: my husband, me, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, and my dad. I hadn’t thought about the fact that all of the purchases might be family members who were just trying to support me. I was discouraged about my book sales even though I had technically accomplished my goal.

  • TIP: To avoid getting discouraged, set your goals smaller. It isn’t very likely that you will become a best-selling author overnight if you aren’t well known in the world. Don’t let this stop you from dreaming big, though!

Defining Goals and Starting Small

I shared my story with you as an example of real-life goal setting by someone who isn’t a professional writer or experienced author. I fell into the trap of “Go Big or Go Home” and I want to warn others that it’s easy to fall victim to this notion.

If I could have gone big, I would have certainly loved to do so. It isn’t a reality for me, at least not yet, and I needed to set my goals to reflect my current circumstances. After a week of severely slow sales, I came home and cried to my husband. I was a ball of self-pity and couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel anymore. I was fully prepared to take my ball and go home when he gave me this nugget of advice.

He reminded me of my original goal to sell just one book. He told me that if I had changed my goal, I needed to come to terms with that and work harder to reach my new goal. He advised me to try to set realistic goals for myself and not expect to become a best-seller overnight.

I reflected on this for a while and came back to him later on in the night. My goal had indeed changed and it was an unrealistic goal that was only going to lead to disappointment. When I told him this, he smiled and told me that I just needed to sit down and define my goals—starting small and celebrating the little accomplishments.

With a deep breath I embraced his advice and set my first real selling goal as follows: to sell my book to one person with whom I am not related and have no relationship. I got a call from my dad the next day who told me that one of his former students (with whom I have no relationship and I am not related) bought the book. Goal accomplished! I set my next selling goal to sell at least 10 books during the month of June and have made it almost half way already.

  • MY ADVICE: Start where you are in life and make changes as your circumstances change. If you go big, you may end up going home.