Today I’m posting early because my wife and I are heading to the big city about an hour away.
We’re not taking the girls, but it’s (unfortunately) not a date trip. I have an appointment at a hematology/oncology clinic for a CT scan.
Whenever you say “oncology” people tend to think cancer for obvious reasons. I haven’t been diagnosed with cancer, but I’m being monitored to see if I might be developing it.
See, about a year ago, I was having stomach pain coupled with this feeling of something swollen near my rib cage. I went to the doctor about it, and he noticed on the CT Scan an overall swelling of my lymph nodes around my stomach. Now, this was not a huge swelling, but abnormal nonetheless, so the doctor referred me to the aforementioned hematology/oncology clinic for further treatment (or observation, which is mostly what they have done).
I’m sort of at the midpoint of the 2 year plan to observe me, take my blood, and scan me to make sure that I don’t have a slow-growing lymphoma.
I haven’t really told that many people about this, and I honestly don’t even think about it that much because I don’t feel sick and nothing’s been diagnosed. And so far, everything has stayed the same. Apparently, it’s sort of common to have chronic swollen lymph nodes for a variety of reasons – I’ve had mononucleosis and Strep B, and both of those can contribute to someone having lifelong lymph node swelling.
But, here we go, off today to check this out once again. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous or anxious. I am. I’ve written before about how I tend toward the darker side of thinking realistically, so obviously, the thought of getting bad news today is weighing on me.
I hate to leave this on a bad note, but I needed to do a blog post today, and this was on my mind. I’ll make sure to update the post later today when I get back home.
But isn’t it just like my wife to mention yesterday that this was sort of like a date? She has this habit of labeling any time we’re not with the kids as a date, even when I sliced the top of my finger a few years ago and cut a tendon.
She had to drive me to urgent care to get it stitched up. Only Liz. But I guess when you have four kids, you look for "date nights" wherever you can find them.
For the sake of this post, I'll post results when I get back!
So I went and got my CT Scan. Unfortunately, the results weren't what I would've wished for. They found 1 or 2 lymph nodes that are bigger than what they were. The nodes are intertwined with my intestines so he couldn't just grab a biopsy with a needle. The doctor gave me an antibiotic to see if that would cure the swollen nodes. I go back in 4 weeks. If the nodes are still swollen, then I will have to have surgery to remove them. Keep praying!
I love winter. Those that know me, know this about me. And if they didn’t before this statement, they do now.
But what I think that gets overlooked is that I like other seasons as well. I don’t only love winter. I like the other seasons as well.
I like spring and the rain it brings. I miss the fact that my daughters can go out and run around without coats. I miss the sounds of birds. After seeing brown snow for the last month, I miss the green that follows.
I am ready for spring to arrive.
I am ready to go outside and be active once again. Over the winter, I felt as if my body were wasting away. So in order to combat this feeling, I had to go out and buy a chin up bar.
I miss being able to clean our car (both inside and out). The back seat is… unsanitary is the closest word I can think of. It has been my two oldest daughters’ personal space since the fall, and I’m not about to vacuum the car in 10 degree weather.
I went outside yesterday to take some pictures for an interview on a blog, and I thought… I miss shooting my bow.
Over the winter, we bought our girls bows, and I will be teaching them to shoot as well. These are things you can’t do with several feet of snow on the ground. That's another reason why I’m ready for spring.
My wife said, “Oh, now you’re tired of the winter.” I said, “No, all I ask is for summer to be summer, winter to be winter, spring to be spring, and fall to be fall.”
You see, I don’t like warm days in January or cold days in the summer (though I don’t like really, really hot days ever.)
So, with that being said. Spring can come. I think I am ready for it.
The book release party for Scar of the Downers was Saturday. Going into it, my wife and I googled around quite a bit to see what other authors did for their parties, but, having never been to one, we had to put our imaginations to work in planning it.
(Normally, I wouldn't really include details like this, but since we learned a lot about launch parties from Author blogs, I thought it might be helpful to have this out there for other people who might be researching the same thing.)
Reserving the Community Room at a local library seemed practical for three reasons: A library seemed like a fitting place, it’s in a central, well-known location, and it was free. The room could hold 40-45 people, and so, not knowing how many people would attend, we opted to do a drop-in, reception-style arrangement.
We decided to have two scheduled times for book readings and Q & A sessions, and we put those times on the flyers and invitations so that people would have a choice as to when they would attend. And we also decided to have some door prizes. We gave away two books, two mugs (we had them designed with the cover and a quote from the book), and four $5 Starbucks gift cards.
Overall, we had between 75-80 people show up, I sold 25 books (and signed even more, since a lot of people brought theirs), and I even made a few contacts with a couple of other local authors. Some good friends made us a cool cake, and my sister and brother-in-law sent flowers and balloons since they live far away and couldn't make it.
Liz introduced me before each Book Reading, and I read a selection that was about 6-7 minutes long. Then, the guests asked me questions. Honestly, there were a lot more questions than I thought there would be, which was a good thing! People who were reading the book asked me specific questions about the plot, the characters, etc. Then, I also had questions about the writing process. It was kind of a blur, so hopefully I made sense when I was talking.
Afterwards, we were all exhausted, which I'm sure you can imagine. We feel the party was a success, though, and we were thankful for all of our friends and family who showed up and supported us!
Everyone has a story. It doesn't matter if the person is real or fictional. The person's story is his or her's defining experience. In writing, we call it backstory, and writers think a lot about it because it is an integral part to a story.
Who is this character? What are his relationships like? How did he end up where he is at this exact point in the narrative? Questions like this plague authors. The answers to these, and others like them, determine everything about the character, and, if that character is the main one, determine the arc of the story itself.
You must know where I'm going with this. If all of our fictional characters that we read about (or write about) have a back story, so do all of us. Part of the interesting thing about life is learning the backstory of those close to us. Which, when we learn this backstory, makes us feel even closer to these people.
So, then the question every writer has is, how to reveal the back story. Do you do it all at once (or at least the main points), do you wait until the end (the big revelation as part of the climax), or do you space it out in spatterings like a Jackson Pollack painting (kind of like a mystery novel)?
If we're mirroring life here, sometimes you get a little bit of all three. You meet a person, and you might ask questions about where the person is from, how many siblings he has, where he went to school, etc., etc. You are basically asking for his (abbreviated, superficial) backstory. Or, as Lajos Egri would categorize it - the sociological part of his story.
The deeper you go into someone's backstory, the more you understand him and perhaps see why he made the choices he did and ended up in the place where he is. The fascinating thing about this is that it feels infinite. I'm still learning new backstory details about my wife, and I've been married to her for almost twelve years.
Then, from the writerly stand point, there's the moment when you find out something from someone's backstory that seems to change everything - sometimes for good, or possibly for ill. This is the Moment of Discovery. Very, very important in storytelling. Because in that moment your story changes, and you are forced to take everything to the next level. Your character must make Big Decisions that will impact her life and shift the path of her future.
So, thanks for enduring my ramblings on backstory. Now, I urge you, if you are a writer, don't neglect this element of your narrative. And, for anyone out there, I urge you - find out the backstories of the people around you. In this way, your relationships will grow and you will have greater understanding of those people who inhabit your sphere.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.