How I Spent My Summer Medication


            Note: All of the events recorded here really happened, as currently being vetted by the Guinness Book of World Records (“worst vacation ever”); however, the order and exact date have been changed, due to author laziness in not recording them.

            Day One: Took three full weeks of vacation this summer! I need it: The only job that sees more horror than an emergency dispatcher is Joe Biden’s press secretary.
            Day Two: Stopped at the doctor’s office to double check on the abdominal pain I’ve been having for the last three months. What? I’m a guy.
            Day Two, evening: What the heck’s diverticulitis? Well, a little bottle of antibiotics won’t interfere with my vacation. The doc wants me to get a colonoscopy, so I study up on the procedure with Dave Barry’s humor column and Jeff Foxworthy’s standup routine.
Maybe living with the pain’s not so bad.
            Day Three: Emily’s endometriosis seems to be acting up, although the pain isn’t in the same place as before. I make jokes about us both having abdominal pain, and conditions that end with “is”. It’s a competition! She’s also been coughing since she started taking allergy medicine. There’s irony.
            Day Four: Chiropractor appointments for both of us. It’s nice to do things as a couple. Later we sit on the couch with ice packs as a couple and watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Great musical score, but the pace puts us to sleep. We’ll start our real vacation tomorrow.
            Day Five: Emily gives up several pints of various fluids to the doctor, while I joke that my work’s clinic has become a daily destination. Later we go to the drive-in movies, but bellyaches bother us both. At least we didn’t have to sit through an odd numbered Star Trek movie.
            Day Six: Emily hurts too much to go camping. That’s very bad. My ex-Scout wife lives to do outdoorsy stuff, but we can only manage to build a backyard fire pit out of old chimney bricks. One shows an indentation from my head.
            Day Seven: We spend Sunday talking about what we should be doing on our vacation.
Day Eight: The OB/GYN pokes and prods – Emily, not me – with an increasing look of concern. He should be concerned: If he causes her much more pain she’s going to send him to a plastic surgeon. He makes sure we’re sitting down before declaring she may have a hernia.
            WTF? For you old timers, that means “huh?”
            Day Nine: Emily’s pre-scheduled appointment with a dental surgeon is entirely unconnected to all the rest … we assume. He explains that her one remaining wisdom tooth is buried deeper than a congressman’s soul and is cuddling with a major nerve, and if it isn’t bothering her we should probably just leave it alone. We paid $99 for this suggestion of inactivity. On the brighter side, she has two cavities.
            Day Ten: Apparently I’m dehydrated, because the nurse blows two of my veins – a phrase I find disconcerting. I almost make a joke about her optometrist, but she’s still aiming a needle at my arm. For the rest of vacation I’ll carry a bruise the approximate shape, color, and size of the Mars rover crater.
            Day Eleven: Emily’s cavities get drilled, I have a routine cleaning. The family that stays together … what do you mean, I have a filling, too? And just one? She “wins”.
            Later that day I stop eating. It’s not my idea: Apparently a colonoscopy involves two days of preparation for a twenty minute procedure.
            Day Twelve: I take six doses of laxative. Emily mixes Gatorade and another, powdered laxative into a fifty-five gallon drum, which I have to drink in six ounce increments over the space of three hours. Then I can sleep until my appointment the next day. Hah. There’ll be no sleep tonight.
            Day Thirteen: I’ve never worn one of those hospital gowns before. They’re flimsy, impossible to figure out, don’t cover enough, and are probably expensive, so I promptly dub mine “Obamacover”. Having had much experience with medical facilities, I prefer the other side of the cot.
            I sleep through the procedure, including Emily dressing me and my daughter driving me home. Easiest day of the week. The doctor has removed a polyp near the site of my diverticulosis, a sentence I refuse to examine more closely.
            Day Fourteen: We’re exhausted. We’ve done nothing, gone nowhere, and accomplished nothing, but we’re exhausted.
Day Fifteen: It’s now Emily’s turn to fast. She’s to have a CAT scan, which prompts all sorts of feline related jokes. It’s just a matter of time before she clobbers me, but at least the hospital already has my information.
Day Sixteen: Emily’s chest hurts. Huh. It’s where she had some odd pain as a child, only this time I’m determined someone will figure out what it is.
Day Seventeen: We meet with the surgeon, who explains he will not be operating because, according to Emily’s CAT scan, she has absolutely no problems in her abdomen or pelvis. We’re back to square one. It’s like playing Monopoly for two weeks, only to land on a Chance card that tells you to start over again from scratch.
Day Eighteen: I try to think of some last minute fun thing to do, but it hurts Emily to ride in the car and I think I’m getting a sinus infection … and I’m having some after-effects from the colonoscopy. We’re having a Staycation.
Day Nineteen: Another poking and prodding session, by an old doctor who seems interested in actually finding out what’s wrong. He thinks Emily has an injury to the cartilage around her sternum – thus the chest pain – probably made worse again by her recent coughing. It’s called Tietze’s syndrome. No, seriously. Recovery is a slow process: My wife, who normally loves nothing more than to get out into the wilderness all summer, is pretty much stuck at home. I offer to let her hit me, but she declines. Maybe I’ll start making puns again until she unleashes some stress-relieving injury.
Day Twenty: We schedule another appointment with the girl parts doctor about her abdomen. I’m going to threaten him, or bride him. Probably threaten, as we’ve plowed through our health savings account for the year.
Day Twenty-one: I insist to Emily that tomorrow we’re going to go out and do something fun and vacation-like. She points out that I have to go back to work tonight.
After all those needles, it’s the first time in three weeks that I cry.

fire tragedy in Albion

Tragedy in Albion this morning, with a woman dead and her family homeless after a mobile home fire. Here’s the story and video from Fort Wayne’s WANE TV (that’s me seen briefly, in my position as the fire department public information officer).

How much for your eBook? Research shows the relation between ebooks unit price and sales per unit

How much for your eBook? Research shows the relation between ebooks unit price and sales per unit

WordWranglers: What do you love to write?

WordWranglers: What do you love to write?: You know, I love writing romance. Even more, I love writing (and reading!) women’s fiction. The fact that I’m published in romantic fict...

My stab at poetry ... about writing

Today my blog tour steps into the world of April Morone, where I discuss an art form that mystifies so many, and even take a stab at it myself: poetry. Poetry about the writing life, even. I make no guarantees.

Basking In The Afterglow: Without A Word: Nothing But The Truth

Basking In The Afterglow: Without A Word: Nothing But The Truth

Green Energy ... in The Red


                “Excuse me, President Obama? We have a problem.”
                There will be no problems in this administration, young man; only hope and change.
                “Yessir, but … it seems the Solyndra Company has filed for bankruptcy.”
                What? That’s impossible. They can’t fail – it’s green energy! Green energy is our future, plus it’s really cool. It’s green, darn it!
                “Apparently they couldn’t compete with Chinese manufacturers of more conventional solar modules.”
But didn’t we give them a few million dollars?
                “Um, half a billion. And the state of California gave them twenty-five million, give or take a hundred thousand.”
                Okay, well, just send them some more. What are printing presses for, if you can’t print money with them?
                “It’s too late, Mr. President. All the employees were laid off without accrued vacation pay or benefits, and all the Solyndra executives took off with their five figure quarterly bonuses.”
                Why, that’s horrible. Horrible, especially in these times of all-Bush’s-fault high unemployment. Those people involved should be punished severely, drawn and quartered, hung from the highest, thingamajig the Navy hangs people from – do we know their names?
                “Oh, yes sir. Well, there’s Executive V.P. of operations and engineering, Ben Bierman, V.P. of marketing Karen Alter, stakeholder George Kaiser –“
                Wait – aren’t those people who raised money for my election?
                “Yes, why?”
                Well, I’m sure they acted in good faith and did their very best … why don’t we cut them a break, and restructure the loan so that when the company is liquidated investors get paid before our loan is?
                “But, sir – that’s a half billion dollars in taxpayer money –!”
                Printing presses, my friend. Besides, poor George Kaiser is a billionaire, so isn’t he getting enough stress from our good Occupy friends without having to worry about where his next mansion comes from?
                “But what will the press say about this?”
                Tell them that if this blows up a Republican might get elected in 2012. That’ll quiet down everyone who isn’t Fox.
                “But didn’t you say transparency would be the hallmark of your administration?”
                That’s exactly right: I want everyone to be transparent.  Everyone else. That way I know what they’re up to. Let’s not get silly with it, though.
                “Mr. President, some people are already calling this crony capitalism –“
                Now, everybody knows I don’t like capitalism. Why risk the ups and downs of free enterprise when we can just let the government take care of anyone? Aren’t people in countries with complete social and economic equality much happier?
                “I’ll ask the communists and get back to you, sir. But I was referring to your cronies.”
                Oh. Well, again, let’s not get silly. Look, I don’t understand this. We supported Solyndra, so they can’t possibly fail. Just throw some more money at it. Couldn’t we refinance their loan?
                “We already did, sir, to the tune of an extra $67 million, but they still went bankrupt … even after spending a million of it lobbying in Washington.”
                That just doesn’t make any sense. The government’s never wrong. I mean, not since 2008. I don’t regret giving them the loan. It was a good bet, and they’re green energy, and how can green energy be in the red?
                “Can’t argue with that, sir, what with you paying me and all, but here’s a thought: What about trying true free enterprise?”
                I don’t understand.
                “You know: No crony capitalism or corporate welfare, no risking taxpayer money in private business, no special interest preferences or tax breaks, no taxpayer funded bailouts. Free enterprise.”
                I … you’re not making any sense. How would that work?
                “Well, the government would step out of the way of entrepreneurs and inventors, small business people and job creators. As long as they worked within the law and competed fairly with each other they’d be allowed to sink or swim according to the laws of supply and demand. You know – the way America became great to begin with.”
                Are you insane? How can we control that?
                “We’re not supposed to control the people, Mr. President; they’re supposed to control us.”
                Who came up with that idea? We made another billion dollars in loans to green companies; are you telling me we should just let the people choose what they do and don’t buy, and what companies they do and don’t support? Next thing you’ll be telling me is that we should tell everyone what we knew about Solyndra’s failure. What’s next? Writing laws the average person can understand? Making Congress and the President abide by the same rules as everyone else?
                “What was I thinking, sir?”
                Look, you let me think for the people. You just do what I pay you for: Go out and find out a way to show this is all Bush’s fault. And hurry, I’ve got a fund raiser tomorrow.

20 Easy Ways Readers Can Help Promote a Book

20 Easy Ways Readers Can Help Promote a Book

Short story collection up on Barnes & Noble and Fictionwise

You know what’s cool? When you stop by to browse the Barnes & Noble website and discover your short story collection is now up for the Nook. How cool is that?

But wait, it gets better: Barnes & Noble is calling Storm Chaser Shorts part of the Storm Chaser “series”.
Series! Whoa … little head rush, there. Of course, the ten short stories do indeed take place in the same universe as the original novel, with the first seven set before Storm Chaser, and the last three after. You can have them for just $2.99, which, according to my sometimes questionable math skills, is less than three dollars. The Barnes & Noble link is here:

Both the short story collection and the original Storm Chaser are also available at Fictionwise, which features lower prices for members:

And, of course, Amazon:

And my publisher’s website, .

Although Storm Chaser Shorts is sadly available only as an e-book, if you’d like a print copy of Storm Chaser you can get order it through, or contact me and I’ll let you know where you can pick one up.

Okay, I’m off to do the Snoopy Dance.

A visit to Black Pine Animal Sanctuary

There's a bear behind you! No, seriously!

I haven't been to Black Pine Animal Sanctuary since they moved to their present location, just a few miles outside of Albion in the Noble County 4H Park. They used to be by the cemetery on the west edge of town, and when the lion there roared, it sounded like he was right outside my back window. (That particular beast passed away, and can now be seen at the Noble County Public Library's main branch.) No alarm clock could beat that.
It was humid and around 87 degrees when Emily and I arrived, but at least we weren't covered in fur.

"What are you complainin' about? I can't just take this thing off and hang it up, you know."
I manned the camera, and managed to get a few good shots. Keep in mind that Black Pine's enclosure are more about safety and animal comfort; although they get operating funds through tours and other visitor efforts, this is not a zoo. Just the same, although some of the enclosures aren't particularly camera friendly, you can otherwise see just fine.

"Can't see me, hah! No, really, you can't see me. Stop looking. I've got a reputation to maintain."

Black Pine is a rescue facility: A sanctuary for exotic animals that were surrendered or abandoned by their owners, confiscated by authorities, or retired from entertainment venues. With only three paid staff members along with interns and volunteers, the sanctuary's job is to save and protect animals, and educate humans.
I left feeling pretty educated. For instance, if a tiger pees on you it smells like buttered popcorn. Guess I’ll be snacking on something else for awhile …
I also learned that no matter how thick the glass may be between you and the alligator, when he’s three feet from you it’s still possible to tell what he’s thinking. Or her. I didn’t get up the nerve to ask.

"Hey, c'mon over here, have a seat. I'm just a nice, comfortable log. Honest.


Community support from companies and individuals, a dedicated staff, and often donated supplies keep the place going. Although it may not have the comfy-cozy infrastructure of a big ticket place like a city zoo, the variety of animals, the educational opportunities, and the events that go on make this a hidden gem of Albion, Noble County, and all of northeast Indiana. More importantly, it's fun.
I’m not sure if the animals felt that way, although I can say with some degree of confidence that the chimpanzee thought I was hilarious.

"The slapping, the being called cowardly ... we won't be seeing that Dorothy chick again, I assure you. Or her yapping little dog."

You can go on a self-guided walk about the sanctuary, but I'd recommend the guided tours, which last about an hour and a half. We got to see the bears being fed, and heard personal details about individual animals -- even the nocturnal ones who wouldn't show their heads. I also ran into executive director Lori Gagen, who had a giant cat rubbing against her leg (through a fence, but still) like it was Morris asking for din-din, and who had to nudge a bear out of its nap without the fence. With friends like that, you don’t need pepper spray.
Check out their schedule of tours and special events at, or give them a call at (260) 636-7383. Tours start at $7 for kids -- Emily and I got in for $16. Totally worth it.

"You look very juicy - I mean, friendly. Come just a little closer ..."

Storm Chaser price drop ...

Somebody decided to drop the price of Storm Chaser’s Nook edition to $5.80, and Kindle version to $4.99. (That’s from Whiskey Creek Press’s original $6.99.) I don’t know who makes these decisions, but it sounds good to me.

 Sadly, Storm Chaser Shorts is still not available for the Nook, although you can buy it on Amazon, or as PDF or HTML files at It took about six months for Storm Chaser to work its way onto Barnes & Noble.

Dollar store fail

I walked into Dollar General today and found a whole aisle of Halloween crap for sale. Almost got kicked out for telling the workers I wanted the heads of their corporate bosses on a platter. August 15th. August 15th, people!!! Two and a half months before Halloween. It's criminal.

on men writing romance

Today my blog tour is hosted by Beishir Books, from whence comes many great novels – I’m reading one of them right now. The subject: Men who write – gasp – romance:

Kelly Hashway: What's Your Brand?

Kelly Hashway: What's Your Brand?: *If you are looking for the Summer Giveaway Hop, you can find it here .* Branding is not something I really thought about much. That is un...

Medical Probes for Fun and Profit

            I’m having a colonoscopy tomorrow, and it gave me an idea for how to increase sales of my novel and short story collection.
            Now, hear me out.
            As all fourteen of my regular readers know, I have a newspaper column, and often use my personal experiences as material to fill those 52 pieces a year. But the question is, does anyone want to hear yet another description of one of the most disturbing medical procedures a male ever goes through?
            I think not.
            After all, Dave Barry has already written the ultimate humor column on the subject, while comedian Jeff Foxworthy did a screamingly funny routine along the same lines. (Or maybe he just talked about how it made him scream.) All I could do is cover the same ground and leave my readers possibly smiling, but almost certainly uncomfortable.
            That’s when it came to me: Blackmail.
            That’s right, people. If I don’t sell … I don’t know … ten copies of Storm Chaser and/or Storm Chaser Shorts between now and the end of the month, I will write a column about my colonoscopy. I’ll use a misleading title, so you’ll be three paragraphs in before you realize what you’re reading, and by then it’ll be too late. Yep.
            But if sales pick up – if you call your sisters and cousins and aunts, and beg them, for the love of all that’s holy, to buy something from me before it’s too late – then you’ll be safe. No routines about the “prep”. No fire hose jokes. No comparisons to the space shuttle launching. Not even one mention of “probing Uranus”.
            I’m drinking the prep stuff as we talk, people -- there’s no time to waste. Go to, or, or look me up at , or (where unfortunately the short story collection isn’t up yet).
            Do it for your own comfort. To stop the nightmares. Do it because my health savings account just ran dry. Do it for humanity.

(On a more serious note, this is a more or less routine procedure for me – I’d appreciate your thoughts and prayers for Emily, who’s having a CAT scan early next week to try and diagnose what appears to be non-endometriosis related abdominal pain. It’s been a rough summer.)

From a View to a Thrill: An Armchair Olympics Guide

Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth.

Every four years, the world gets together to anxiously watch a competition that some find fascinating, others don’t care about but can’t seem to escape, and still others just find weird.

No, I’m not talking about the American Presidential election. Although now that you mention it …

Olympic games actually take place every two years, since they separated the summer and winter games. That makes sense – for all intents they’re two entirely different events. For instance, you could try curling on a hot August day, but without ice that game would just sink like a stone.

Many people are startled to learn I follow the Olympics, after often and loudly proclaimed my hatred of sports. Maybe I’m just a fan of big events in general: The only sports I watch annually are the Superbowl (where I schedule breaks so I can see the commercials) and the Indianapolis 500. If I wasn’t a Hoosier and thus required to care by state law, I might not be watching one car race a year, either.

When I was a kid every family holiday gathering involved a football game, which is how I learned to always have a book with me.

And yet I like the Olympics, and the truth is I don’t hate sports (except for basketball); I just don’t care one way or another. You explain to me why I should, and I’ll explain to you why you should be watching Fringe.

During the Olympics we watch many sports that we don’t even realize exist the other three years. The exception is that I don’t watch Olympics basketball, yet I can’t seem to escape basketball at any time. Have the playoffs started interfering with the pre-season games, yet?

The highlight of this entire Olympics – granted that they aren’t over yet – had to have been during the opening ceremony. For those who didn’t watch it, a film shows the current James Bond, Daniel Craig, getting out of a car at Buckingham Palace in London. He’s escorted through the place, then shown through a door. And there James Bond stands, waiting on the Queen of England to finish the letter she’s writing.

Like most people, I thought, “I wonder who they got to play the Queen?” She’s what, 86? Certainly not an actor, Queen Elizabeth leads a private life when she’s not appearing before millions of people.

Then she turns around, and it’s actually her. From clear over here in the colonies, you could hear all of Britain roaring its approval as Her Majesty got up and led James Bond back through the castle. We were treated to a bemused look from Craig, who must have been thinking, “Here I am, playing a fictional character escorting the real Queen of England; what a world.”

The two get on a helicopter, parachute out over the Olympic stadium, and then, in what I assume is a fun bit of trick timing, the Queen is introduced live as she takes her seat. Knowing that woman, maybe it wasn’t trick timing.

I don’t care how jaded you are, that was cool.

The rest of the games so far haven’t been able to match that moment, but not for lack of trying:

In the first six days of competition six world records were set in swimming alone. It’s just a matter of time before Missy Franklin arrives at the stadium, only to discover she’s already won.

Also doing well this year was one of Great Britain’s rowing team, Mark Hunter. I don’t usually follow rowing, but for some reason I’ve been interested; I just like the guy’s name.

The first Olympic sport I ever followed was women’s gymnastics, after falling madly in love as a teenager with first Nadia Comaneci, then Mary Lou Retton. But did they answer my letters? Cancel the restraining orders? Noooooo …

Today I’m still left speechless by the abilities of kids who have got to rank among the best all-around athletes of any sport. They may not be able to take a hit like a footballer, but I’ll bet a footballer can’t do a back spring-half flip-head touching knees spin into a round-off backward somersault – then land on a four inch wide beam.

I’m patriotic enough to be happy about America’s women’s team winning the gymnastics gold for the first time since 1996. Then there was the all-around gold medal, clinched in style by the bubbly Gabby Douglas, nicknamed “The Flying Squirrel” even though squirrels aren’t as flexible and can’t get enough hang time.

I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was that nobody stressed out about Douglas being the first black gymnast to win the all-around. She’d forgotten that herself, until somebody pointed it out to her, and that’s the way race relations should be: Unnoticed. (In an ironic bit of what could be called reverse discrimination, I had trouble telling some of her teammates apart. Or is that age?)

The final attention grabber I wanted to mention was during an interview with Caroline Lind, just after her rowing team won the gold. When asked if she felt they’d clinched it before the race ended, she said, “You never know what can happen in a boat race. You can catch crabs, anything.”

My wife looked at me and said, “Did she just say catch crabs?”

We rewound it three times. Yep. That’s what she said. And I can see how that would take your mind off rowing, especially if you caught them during the race.

A trip to Google cleared it up: “catching crabs” is a term for when you don’t dig your oar into the water just right, throwing off your rhythm and slowing the boat. Honestly, I think it’s time they considering looking for a new expression. It’s as if being thrown off by a loud crowd was called “getting the clap”.

I guess all I can do is watch until the time comes that something I can excel at is introduced as an Olympic sport. Say … Olympic Home Repair Injuries?

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