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As chapters are published weekly be sure to search for any unread chapters in the list before reading the current post. Feel free to add questions or comments regarding what you have read.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

How one's world gets turned on its head

Well, it seems that life just threw me a new wrinkle. After all the years with Tate Publishing, and their  questionable ethics, it seems that they are now "in transition." They offered no explanation, but said that their aim was to set up something whereby we, who have been Tate authors, were to be provided some sort of assurance that we would be cared for. Hmmm...

What I do know is that they are not publishing anything at all, and have left no phone number to contact them. They have given us statements that we may sign, which, in effect absolves them of any responsibility. I have not chosen to sign such a statement, for the simple reason that they do owe me money as well as rights to upcoming novels. I guess that I'll just have to find out where things are going from here. It might just be that they are planning to sell out, which would be fine as long as the new owners would make good on what I'm owed. But having been something of a cynic when it come to dealing with corporate entities, I'm not holding my breath.

Ah, well! On a brighter note, I do actually have a book signing event set up for March 11th, at the Rogers public library, 711 South Dixieland Road in rogers, from 10 AM till about 5 PM. I plan to sell what I can of the books in my possession, and besides, I'll have some of my photographic enlargements as well to sell. If you would like to see some of what I've got to sell in the way of photos, I've got a couple of examples here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

If at first you forget...

While I'm thinking about what tomorrow means, here are a couple more opportunities to get to know my books (or to get your friends acquainted with my oeuvre). I'm going to be at a couple more book signing type events in the next few weeks. The first of these is at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Rogers, Arkansas (in the shopping center, across from Lowe's) on Saturday, July 9th from about 12 Noon - 5 PM. This will be a great opportunity to get in out of the heat, to come by, to sit and schmooze, and to share what you like or dislike about books, the world at large and for me to just enjoy your very special company.
And the next opportunity is also in Rogers, AR, at the Rogers Public Library ( 711 S Dixieland) on Saturday, July 16th,  from about 10 AM to 4 PM, at their event, called Create-it Con.  This promises to be a rare and fun event for the entire family. If you need any more information you may obtain it online at: any event, I look forward to seeing you at one or both of the events.
Now just a word about what tomorrow brings. It will be the date in which I officially become a SENIOR CITIZEN.  That's right, I can no longer pretend to just be anybody, but I'll have to pretend to be someone who knows something, even if I can't remember what it is. It seems like a good thing that I know today what I may forget tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Abstract vs Concrete

This has been quite a time for me. There have been some dramatic changes at work, which have gotten me thinking about a lot of what is important to me. I won't bore you with details, but these past two weeks have left me feeling emotionally a bit ragged.

And what have I been thinking about? That is difficult to put into words, so I thought that I would use the nonverbal part of my thinking to illustrate. I'll give you an example.
Here is a photo which I took a while ago, while we were in Utah, at Zion National Park. The photo is all right, but what is it a photograph OF? Well, there are trees, rocks, mountains and sky. But it is not actually a photo of anything in particular. Because it is actually a photo which incorporates all the elements into a design, which is truly nonverbal. If you look at the colors, and the design, without thinking of those particulars, then you get what I got, as I looked into the viewfinder, and snapped the picture.

Now here is another example of what I have been doing of late.
This is a painting which I recently finished, and you would definitely not be asking what it is a painting OF. As such, it is purely and simply a design. There may be recognizable elements in the painting, but it would be missing the point to ask what it represents, apart from its color and design. Now, it is of some interest that both the photograph and the painting are somewhat similar in design. But more to the point, how do each make you feel? What is it about the color schemes that draw your eye?

Which brings me around to my original point about thoughts, and to the nonverbal or more abstract ways of thinking. And it often to those deep places in music and space where I retire when the very verbal and structural world around me begins to make little sense.

Just a thought, eh?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Here's a little taste of what's coming up.

For those of you who may be wondering just what I've been up to all this time, well here's a brief sample of what Center Game (Heir of Drachma, Book Two) contains. This is from Chapter One:

Heir of Drachma
                            Book Two
                            Center Game

               Chapter One

Even to the alchemist, the underground enclosure reeked – of all the years of foul things, done in the name of captivity.  It was almost too much, with the stench and nausea increasing the stress of his own captivity. He was down here, as was the lass. He couldn’t even imagine why the men brought her down here. The only light that reached them came from a torch which was close to the entrance to the underground cavern. Gently, he spoke to her.

“Lassie,” he said, “What is your name?”

The girl turned her head toward the tall man who was sitting down on the lone piece of furniture, an old wine cask. 

“Me name’s Lisa,” she uttered, her voice hoarse from crying.

“Now Lisa, can ye tell me who your parents be?”

“Me Mum’s named Sylvie, an’ we’re stayin’ at the big house up by the castle.”

“And yer Papa…?”

“Don’ know me Papa.”

“Then who be the man you’re staying with at the mansion?”

“Name’s Patronis… Emile Patronis.”

That name stung him. And he had no way of conveying that information to Craycroft.

“Now I’m not goin’ to be in trouble, am I? Me Mum said I was not to tell…”

“Ah, nay, m’lass. You’re not going to get into trouble – not any more trouble than we’re both in right now. My name’s Melchior. And I’m an alchemist… do you know what an alchemist is?”

Melchior could tell that Lisa was relaxing her guard.

“Nay, I know not. What is an al… alche…?”

“An alchemist. What I do is to mix potions – ye know, if ye’re sick and such. These potions help ye heal.”

“D’ye make magic?”

“Nay, lassie, not magic”

“Too bad…”

“Well, I shall try to keep you safe, even though I have no magic.”

Over the next hour, Melchior found out that Lisa and her mother had been in the village of Armaugh, and had tried to find work. Ever since the inn burned down, and they were left destitute, they had been trying anything and everything, and then along came this Patronis fellow, with a plan. If they would pretend to be his wife and daughter, he could find work for them, and they agreed.

She could tell that he was an educated man, by the way he talked, but he pretended to be a simpleton, from the country, and the work they found was at the mansion. There were two men, a Master Guarneri, and a Master LeGace who set them up in their work, and were their employers. It all seemed to go along just fine, until those men just burst into the house, and took her away from her Mum. And then she discovered that it was Master LeGace who was in charge, and brought her over here. She just couldn’t understand what Master LeGace would want with her.

Anyway, here they were, at least for now. With the possibility of escape highly unlikely, they seemed to be at the mercy of their captors. They were on Dunnigan’s Isle – that much Melchior knew - but more than that he could not tell. This underground place had obviously been used over the years to ply the trades of trappers, hunters, and obviously tanners. There were some things from which the smells never seemed to disappear, and tanning hides was one of them. 

Lisa and Melchior had been brought to the island, just as dawn was breaking, and then they were marched through the forest to this place. The house looked no more than a small, unkempt cottage. And there were but a handful of men guarding the premises. But they were taken into the back of the house, where there was a small entryway, which led down into the earth. They were each given a small, stale roll, and a bowl of porridge, and then the doorway was sealed. It seemed hours ago, but who could tell, as there was no light, beyond the torch.

Melchior could do nothing, except talk to the girl, to keep her safe, but he was not at all certain if he could even do that. This was so like the Antoine LeGace he remembered, a man evil to the core, who thought nothing of treating his subjects with utter disdain. If there were anything at all he could do, but there seemed to be nothing. The time dragged on and on.

Eventually, the door opened, and a couple of burly men came down the walkway, and brought with them a fairly large container of water, with a single metal cup. They set the vessel down in their midst. While one of the men replaced the sputtering torch, the other informed them of the rules the two of them were to obey.

“Now ye’ll be here as our prisoners as long as Master LeGace wants. And, as prisoners, ye’ll have no access to the outside, for any reason. We’ll be feedin’ ye twice a day. And any attempt at escape, shall be met with death. Is that understood?”

“Oh, aye,” answered Melchior. But he was thinking of what he could do. For the boredom alone would be a sentence as stiff as any other he could think about.

“Very well,” said their captor, as he turned to leave. The doorway shut again with a reverberating thud.

For a while afterward, Melchior and Lisa just sat, and eventually Melchior got up, and went over to the water vessel, and got a cup full of water, and took it over to Lisa, who was crying again, and said, “Here, Lisa. Take some of the water. I know that you must ache from thirst.”

She took the cup of water, and between sobs, drank it down.

And Melchior silently prayed. He prayed for the safety of Lisa, and he prayed for his own wife and child. And also for himself, that he be granted some semblance of grace to withstand what appeared to be this mind-numbing imprisonment.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fans vs patients - what is the distinction?

As I'm getting ready to go back to my day job (as a physician), and getting ready to leave my avocation (as a writer), some thoughts occurred to me. And the thoughts had to do with a couple of rather distinct groups of people, who share some similarities, and rather profound differences.

Now let me make myself clear - this is my own thinking, and others have some definite differences of opinion. First let me tell you about my patients. It used to be, when I first started in medicine, that I "grew" a group of people whom I considered my patients, and who in turn, considered me their own doctor. These people were extremely highly regarded, and I would do anything at all for them, which included getting up at all hours of the night to see to their needs. These persons were, in turn, extremely loyal, and remarkably forgiving. I did get paid to take care of them, and they were by and large willing to pay for my services. I did get to know them and their families, and together we weathered some remarkable times.

That was then - and now things are quite different. Somewhere along the way, it got to be apparent that things were going to have to change. The reasons for the change were subtle at first, and became much less so as time went by. I found myself an employee of a hospital, and as such, the payment for my services became very indirect and extremely impersonal. Yet I was still putting in very long hours, and getting paid less each year for doing so. And I had to make a decision as to whether I wanted to continue to practice office-based medicine (and as such retain my long -term relationship with my patients), or whether to go to strictly a hospital only practice, and to give up the long-term relationships I had so assiduously developed. Well, I made the leap to hospital-based medicine, and in doing so the fact of being "my patient" became a remarkably evanescent thing. And now, it is even more evanescent, as I'm working shifts, and I "hand off" my patients to another hospitalist coming on. This has some good things going for it - mainly that there is always a physician on site to care for the patient's needs. But it also has some definite drawbacks in terms of relationships.

Now I just came back from the national meeting of The Society of Hospital Medicine, and it turns out that there are now roughly 52,000 + hospital-based medical practitioners (how I despise that term) in the USA. And one of the things that was stressed repeatedly is how we now practice evidence-based medicine, and how this will improve patient outcomes, and lead to more satisfied "consumers." Now, thinking back to when I got started, people were much more satisfied then with their medical care, and if they, for some reason or other, did not get along with their doctor, they could find another. Contrast that with the sick patient who is hospitalized today, and finds that "his or her doctor" does not admit patients to the hospital, and that he or she will be at the mercy of someone who very likely has never seen them before, and they have essentially no say in the matter.

Contrast that with my other vocation as a writer. Here we have a multitude of people who have an alarming number of choices, and a few of them become "my fans." This is purely a matter of choice, and if I continue to produce printed material that they like, they will continue to be my fans. It was refreshing to go to a book signing event this past weekend at which several persons identified themselves as my fans, and eagerly bought my next book. And I was thinking, perhaps it was this which I had been seeking since embarking on this road trip I like to refer to as becoming an author.

Oddly, it felt somewhat the same as it did when I first left residency, and developed my own patient base. Very strange...

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Guido Sarducci, where are you?

Sometimes the things I've got to do are the cause of sleepless nights and enough daytime stress to ruin my week.

Just this week, I had to let one of my colleagues go. And what made things worse was that he 's a really nice guy. I kept telling myself that if he were a real obnoxious dirtbag, things would be easier. But then I was reminded of other occasions where I've had to let go of some other folks who were either not so nice, or truly incompetent, and still it was never easy. It seems that I'm just not one of those Donald Trump or Godfather types, who have no compunction about telling someone that they're fired, or to just let Guido take care of it.

And this whole thing got me thinking again about medicine, and what it has become. Back when I first went into the practice of medicine (in 1981), I remember that I was astonished, having just come from a University training program, that I was respected, just by being a doctor. I will admit, that I did go through a long program of training, and I was now 30 years old. But I was actually incredulous that nurses, lab techs, X-ray techs, and administrators (there were only one or two per hospital in those days) actually listened to what I had to say, and trusted my judgment in medical matters. This had not been true of residency at all, where we were the butt of nursing jokes, and generally looked down upon by any and all persons in the hospital setting, and especially by the attending physicians, who would make their thrice weekly appearances on the wards. There existed a hierarchy of respect, where the attending physicians were the top dogs, and all the other persons were scrambling about in their respective niches, trying to establish themselves. And at the bottom of that pile of humanity were the very lowly residents and interns.

Then when I stepped out into the world of medicine outside of the University, I was an attending physician, suddenly on top of the pile. It took some time for me to adjust.

But what about today? How has that all changed, and why? Now at the top of the hierarchy sit the CEO, the CFO, the CNO and the other occupants of the C-suite. Below them are the "midlevel managers," which include the directors of Quality, Safety, Coding, Billing, Medical records, Computer systems, and the innumerable persons whose job it is to determine whether the actions of physicians meet national standards of quality. Below them are the nurses, who may not realize it (based on salaries), but whose position is that above doctors. And I would note that nurses have their own hierarchy. With the ICU nurses on top, then the OR and ER nurses, and the run-of-the-mill floor nurses.

Now, down near the bottom are the doctors - there among the dietary staff, the environmental (housekeeping) crew, the maintenance staff, and the secretarial staff. And as physicians, we typically have to answer to all those above us in this mad food chain which we call hospital medicine. Nothing really changed as far as physicians themselves (other than residencies have now become too bland), but the world of medicine has changed dramatically. Gone are the days when a physician could just "hang up a shingle" and begin the practice of medicine. Faced with seemingly endless protocols for certain diagnostic entities, as well as the increasing pressure to produce a record of unyielding and unreadable stuff on every patient admitted, which is really only intelligible to medical record clerks and lawyers; physicians have become another cog in this great wheel of managed, scrutinized and frustrating "medical care."

So lies my dilemma. What do you do with a physician who has been deemed (mostly by the nursing staff) to be practicing medicine that is "not up to par?" It seems that there is no wiggle room any more. A physician can no longer have a "bad day." He can no longer be too tired, too stressed, or too fed up with all this. He must practice only elite medicine, be perpetually up, permanently smiling, and pleasant in the extreme.

I do have some thoughts on the origin of all this, but that will be for a later blog post. Right now
I'm looking for Guido Sarducci. I've got a task or two for him to carry out...

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Some decisions I've got to make.

What I've been doing of late (besides my day job, which is quite time consuming, and my writing the fifth book in the Drachma Trilogy) is working with a producer to prepare my work for a possible television series. This has been a bit of an emotional ride for me. And let me tell you why.

The whole idea of my medical/fantasy novel began with a vision, back in 1989. At that time I had envisioned a fairly large-scale epic story, unlike anything that was out there (albeit the idea of a time-traveling physician was not new). But what would set this story apart was its medical accuracy, and its realistic portrayal of the emotions and reactions of its protagonists. So I began to write it down, using my new Amiga computer with its word processor. I did work rather feverishly and obsessively on this project, and the first portion of the story (what eventually became the first book in the series) was completed. By now I had developed attachments to my characters and to their worlds.

But then my own world intervened, and in the process of moving, changing computer systems, and changing jobs, my novel just sat in my office, in a folder labeled "Tim's Novel" from 1990 until 2009. It was not forgotten, and the characters remained real in my own mind at least, when I casually mentioned to one of the women who worked in my office that I had written the beginnings of a novel, and was thinking of incorporating into a blog. She offered to transcribe it into a word-compatible system - and so it was resurrected. And now under the name of The Book of Drachma, the words and emotions of this whole experience again took on new and vivid imagery.

The first trilogy next became a printed reality (the publisher insisted that it should be a trilogy), as The Book of Drachma (Laminar Flow, Coaptation, Turbulence and Restoration) developed something of its own following. But for me (and apparently others out there), the characters became real, and as one person said "they have become family." So, I have now published the first volume of the second trilogy (Heir of Drachma, Book One - The Healer's Defense), and am in the midst of the next book (Center Game), which will be published sometime this year.

Now, along the way, multiple people have asked, "When is the movie coming out?" And my own response (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) has been that I would rather see it as a television series than as a movie. And now, through a series of circumstances, I do have the opportunity to present to "Hollywood" my proposal for a TV series. I have been working with a producer on this project, and she has some suggestions to make it more appealing to the television world. And these suggestions included changes in the character and temperament of some of "my own children." As well as the change in "the present" to be more current (to include cell phones and texting). Well, my own "compromiseometer" only goes so far, and I'm having some trouble with this.

Well, we haven't reached full agreement yet - and I guess that I'll keep you all posted!