Wednesday, September 12, 2012


-I wrote this last month. I posted it on my other blog. I think. I just found it here, unpublished. -

I haven’t written a worthy word in two weeks.  Maybe it’s been a little longer.  I haven't felt well.  I’ve done nothing for my novel and the only thing I’ve done for my writing is that I’ve joined a writing group, and that took an enormous amount of tugging at the part of me that knows three months from now I’ll be happy I did it.  When I agreed to be a part of it, did I want to be part of it?  No.  But I know that I have to do things I don’t want to do or I get lost in a part of addiction behavior that becomes very dangerous for us addicts.  It’s called isolating.  Since as far back as I can remember I have enjoyed -and to be completely honest, preferred- my own company.  I’m delightful, really, but this is not healthy behavior and I know it.  I mean, I know it now that I’m sober, I didn’t know it before.  Before I thought it made me QUITE fascinating.

So, when asked if I wanted to participate in the writing group I smiled and blurted out a big and most probably overly emphatic ‘YES!’  Perhaps this all happened in my head and my yes wasn’t as sincere as I thought it should be, or actually wanted it to be and knew it wasn’t.  Thank heavens that these people I will be writing with are in the very, very small circle of people that I can honestly say I trust and can also honestly say I can be myself around.  That doesn’t mean I am myself around them. They have only caught glimpses of me so far.  I’m like Sasquatch, very hard to spot directly.  You will see more of me out of the corner of your eye because I won’t think that you are looking.  I’m certain they know what I'm talking about and that's why I adore them. 

But here I am right now, writing and enjoying every tap on every letter of this keyboard I‘m writing on. I’m looking at them, the letters, as I type these words and I know, and I feel and I remember how much I absolutely adore words and sentences and all this coming together to form ideas and a story.  How terrible to feel that I have nothing in me.  No inspiration to do anything but lay on the couch and see how high I can get my score to go on Bejeweled.  I’ve experienced The Block before in my life. It has lasted longer than a couple of weeks but this time, this time it was really complicated and it felt really scary.  It feels like suffocation.

Here, I am an addict and I am 47 years old and I have Hepatitis C.  That looks like this:
There’s a lot going on there.  AGAIN, let me be clear before I go on; I am not complaining because I am after all exceptionally healthy.  The only annoying thing that happens is that I start accumulating a lot of days of uncomfortable-ness.  Because of pain, because of hormones, because I'm me.  For the past few months I haven't had much of a break in any of those, so like I wrote the last time I actually blogged, I went to the doctor.  I received medication which in the addict world are called meds, and I bet in the regular world that’s what they are called too.  How would I know anything about regular?  I started taking an antidepressant pain killer called Cymbalta.  It’s one of those drugs that has a cute commercial in which 95% of the ad is taken up by the ubiquitous drug side effects that ultimately end in “may cause death”.  At a certain point of feeling uncomfortable for a long time, death seems like a valid option.

The pain, which isn't really pain it's just an annoying pressure, disappeared the next day.  I usually think this is all psychosomatic and that if they sent me a placebo the pain might have disappeared with that too.  Maybe that’s true, I don’t care one way or another.  The pain is gone and for that I’m truly grateful.  BUT, -Jennifer Lopez butt-  there are a couple of side effects that are worrisome, like anxiety and the nightmares I have when I actually fall into something that must be sleep otherwise how could I be dreaming?  They might be hallucinations because it doesn’t seem like I’ve slept in two weeks, except that strangely enough I’m not really all that tired.  But the horrifying, most terrible side effect of all, is the complete lack of interest in writing.  Up until yesterday I was even having a hard time answering emails.  

-later that day

how frigging complicated, huh?  Wah, wah, wah.  The pain is back on my side.  I was just saying how great it was that it was gone, and it's back.  Mother effer.  I knew it would happen.  I received a very minimal dose of the Cymbalta and so it will need to be 'upped', which is how addicts say increased and yeah, I know that's how everyone else says it too.  I hate that word for some reason.  So, I'm worried it will screw with my writing for another two weeks until I get used to it again, but then the pain will not come back and all will be fine and super dandy.  Might I dare to hope that when it is increased it will make me feel that sweet euphoria I felt that first day I was on it?  And by sweet euphoria I'm probably referring to feeling normal.  

Nah, don't worry, I don't know anything about regular but by now I've caught a glimpse or two of normal (which ain't, but wink wink, you know, normal) and I really do want that euphoria.  It was pleasant and really not normal or regular at all, but most definitely what normal should be.

Holy, Moly miss Molly.  I guess the meds are making me a blathering fool, too.  ha ha ha!!  It's OK, folks, because at least I'm writing again. 

Next day... Guess what?  Doctor told me no uppity-up on the medicine yet.  And the pain?  It's gone sugar puffs.  And I still feel like writing. 

Big Smile.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dip Your Spoon

I haven't written in a couple of months.  I mean, I have a little bit here and there but I didn't want to publish any of it.  I am part of a writing group now and this was my first assignment.  I'll explain some other time why I've been blocked, but I wanted to get this out here.

Talking Banana

Dip Your Spoon
By Olga Naranjo

In those times when I’m feeling particularly shitty, and I happen to be outside at night – actually that combination is more common than particular - I find my eyes drifting upward looking for a cluster of stars called Omega Centauri.  The best time of year to see it from the side of the earth’s hemisphere that I’m usually standing on is during May and June, but my emotions aren’t always in sync with the stars so I sometimes miss how this colossal wonder of the universe puts me in my place.  Who am I in this great and vast collection of space and time and infinity to be morose?

That cloudy mass of dots in the sky is host to more than 10 million stars.  That’s ten million stars shining for 12 million years, and before that and in the meantime and after it, other super nova’s will create more clusters of stars and more distant suns will burn out and become black holes and I will have ceased to have existed even as a species.  All this I have known since I was ten years old.  Back then I rode my bike to the library and looked at actual hard copies of encyclopedias and dictionaries and thick, practically unyielding tomes featuring the solar system and Einsteins physics.  Everything was written in the language of mathematics which I still can’t understand but still, I looked anyway.

My brother Henry owns the Dip Your Spoon.  I like to joke with him that the name sounds like one of the old massage parlors on 42nd street in New York.  I mean the 42nd street of thirty years ago that our mother used to unsuccessfully try to shield our eyes from whenever we would drive through it on our way to our Uncle Pete’s house in Queens.  The “Come on in, sir, dip your spoon, if you know what I mean” barking 42nd street, not the spectacularly neon, new one.  Indeed, my brother’s place is a parlor of ice cream, not massage, located on the corner of Main Street, smack dab in the middle of Vanillaville, in Smalltown U.S.A.   This is the same town that we grew up in and as you can imagine it is many, many miles from the Hudson River, literally and figuratively.

After Henry graduated high school, he got a job at the local canning factory and he stayed there saving his pennies until he’d collected enough of them that when combined with the small business loan my dad co-signed for, bought him the 1200 square foot piece of prime real estate on which is erected 900 square feet of squares.  I mean it.  The building is square.  The floor inside is tiled with black and white linoleum squares.  The tiles running up the walls are red and white ceramic squares.  The stools are chrome with red nylon squares.  Square white tables.  Checkered black and white table cloths.  Square scones - the kind that light up.  If you can imagine it, even the handmade-fresh-everyday sugar cones are square.  And this next might be even harder to imagine than the Doctor Seuss inspired creamery; all that my brother Henry ever wanted to do was serve ice cream.

For as long as I could remember all I wanted was to leave; a breach baby born with one foot reaching across the border of our town to the next just so that I could get a head start.  I didn't even go to my high school graduation.  The night before the ceremony, I filled a duffel bag with a couple of jeans, some t-shirts and packed the rest with underwear and socks figuring those were more important than outerwear.  I walked out of the house I grew up in and out of the town I had spent eighteen years practicing my goodbye for.  I know my parents applauded when the principal called my name and I can see them shaking their heads knowingly when I didn’t walk up to pick up my diploma.  It’s not like it was a secret.  I’m surprised they even went to the auditorium.  I suppose hope is something divine sometimes, like stigmata.

The specialty at the Dip Your Spoon is Taylor's Famous Banana Split.  Taylor is my ten year old niece.   I've never eaten a banana split, not even Taylor's, so I couldn't tell you if there is anything special about it except, well, except that this one happens to be served by a very happy, talking banana.

I wonder sometimes, like I’m wondering now as I'm looking at my brother zipping up that yellow flannel costume, giggling like he does every time, sliding the coned yellow hoodie that tapers off to a green, stem point, adjusting it to be sure it has just the right arc; how are we so different?  From a corner I watch this graying, 47 year old, overweight man dressed in this ridiculously absurd costume, turning red with laughter every time he looks in the full length mirror.  He doesn't get tired of the joy.  He doesn't get tired of how simple his life is, married to his chubby high school sweetheart Emma, who used to be ‘my bestest friend in the whole wide world’ when I was ten and who confessed that she would come with me when I left.  But she fell in love with my brother instead.  He has three amazing kids: Alice who got married to Burt last year and just found out she's pregnant; Elizabeth, who just started teaching first grade at the local elementary school; and Taylor of course.  A surprise, he says.  A gift in their later years.  Taylor has Down’s syndrome, but there's no such thing as a handicap in my brothers family.  I don't think he knows what that word means.

I do, though my handicap isn’t physical.  It isn’t mental either.  It’s much bigger and much smaller than those, respectively.  

How are we so different?  Why am I always looking up for Omega Centauri instead of sliding on a stupid banana suit?  Why do I insist on searching for what he has always had to spare?

He glances at me, winks and says what he always says as he walks by me out towards the square ice cream tubs, “Dip your spoon, Charlie,” he giggles, laughter that rises up from deep in his belly where it’s perpetually being turned out, a spring as eternal as the night sky,  “dip your spoon.”  I smile and find myself inevitably thinking what I always think, 'Today, maybe I will.’  Maybe whatever I’m looking for is buried in Taylor's Famous Banana Split.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

I like to post on Sundays, or if I can't make it by then, I try to hit Publish on Monday at the very latest but I had a hard time collecting my thoughts last week.  For the past month or so I've been feeling under the weather (if by under the weather one means 'like jumping out the window').  In a good month I'll get perhaps a week where I'll be running - I won't say 100% because to be honest, I don't ever remember running at 100% - at 90% and that is feeling pretty darn great.  The rest of any given month is iffy but one thing is certain, that above average peak doesn't last as long as I'd like it to.

This past month though, not only have I not reached the peak, I haven't even been able look up to see if I can catch a glimpse of it.  I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on T.V. but I have plenty of opinions and patience, (though since I'm being honest here, I happen to also be experiencing a major drought on the latter), so I think I know what's going on.

Most people that know me know that I have Hepatitis C.  I think I talk about it pretty freely because as in with addiction I think it makes things a lot easier for people to know that someone else is experiencing something they or a family member is experiencing.  Going through stuff together makes it easier for me and I know we like to hold hands as often as we can, even if (and sometimes even better maybe when it can be anonymously) its cyberspace hands.  There is a great on-line support group for all liver disease which has been of tremendous emotional help to me.  I have posted a link below.  In my opinion (like I said, I have plenty) I think we learn more from one another that are actually going through the difficulties than we do from doctors.  I like doctors, I mean, a doctor saved my life, but, well, a doctor also almost killed me.

There used to be a stigma regarding HCV similar to the HIV stigma because of the intravenous drug use connotation.  Hopefully that isn't the case anymore.  I haven't taken any polls lately but I certainly hope the general public understands that the only people catching HCV are not intravenous drug users as surely as people aren't catching it either by using a public toilet stall.  It's transmitted like HIV, open wound, blood to blood ONLY.  I have no idea how I caught it but I never mainlined anything and I still caught it so... there you go.  We can all catch HCV.  We can all be homeless.  We all have belly buttons.  Nice to know some things don't discriminate, huh?  It doesn't much matter now anyway, right?  Blame isn't going to get me anywhere.  I have it and I move on.

Many moons ago I underwent a treatment for it with a medicine called Peg-Intron (the Pegylated Interferon and Ribavirin cocktail).  If anyone with Hep C reads this and is pondering whether or not they should try this treatment, I can tell you that it has wiped this virus out to the point where it can't be detected from many, many people that I know personally.  They are now living healthy, normal lives.  It's not an easy treatment to undergo, so I know it's scary, but if your doctor thinks its time for you to try it because the virus is aggressively attacking your liver, please consider it and visit the website below for support (or write me).  Unfortunately, and I like to think its because I am so effing special, I was non-responsive to the treatment. 

My doctor doesn't want me to go through the treatment again because interferon is a pretty rough drug and well, look, I feel like crap but I'm really, really healthy.  See what I mean?  SPECIAL.  Not everyone knows right away that they contracted Hep C.  Some people go twenty years and don't know anything about it until their liver becomes cirrhotic.  The virus can only be specifically detected with a special test.  Your liver enzymes might be elevated but a doctor won't know for certain that the virus is present unless its tested for.  I started experiencing symptoms early on; I felt achy, had extreme fatigue and apparently my eyes were yellowing though in hindsight I find it hard to believe that it was that obvious.  When I went to my first gastroenterologist they barely knew anything about the C virus.  I remember him counting off the Heps: Hep A, Hep B, Hep C, Hep D, I think he got all the way to G.  In the 90's incidences of Hep-C were reaching pandemic percentages so not surprisingly research moved rather quickly (and I think they were able to divert and use alot of the research they were already conducting for HIV).  Within two years of my diagnosis I was referred to the Peg-Intron trial though to no avail. That was over 12 years ago.    

And now?  I wait.  I saw my specialist in February and he insists that I wait for a new treatment scientists are testing that combines four oral medications and does not include interferon.  He tells me he could run me through another round of the Peg Intron treatment but because I was non-responsive the first time, there is a huge percentage of a likelihood that it won't work.  So wait, he tells me. 

Back at the ranch, Olga feels like crap and it isn't getting any better and she's starting to wonder if she should pick up some Advil stock because she's going through those pills like Raisinettes at the IMAX.  And further more ladies and gentlemen, Olga is probably entering menopause, so not only is she achy and feels like someone has lodged a football under her ribcage in her belly, she also feels like strangling her husband.  And everyone driving with a phone to their ear.  And the guy turning left at the light that won't pull up so that we can both turn.  HELLO! 

Then it gets tricky.  Because I am an addict, remember? and I want some relief but the idea of taking medication to ease my discomfort petrifies me.  There is a bottle of SOMA that's been sitting in my bathroom for 3 years.  Do you know why I took only one?  Because it's a muscle relaxant.  Well, that's only partly true.  The main reason is because I am extremely unreasonable.  SOMA is probably as strong as the over the counter pain reliever that I bought in Spain a few years ago.  I am being a scaredy cat and maybe unnecessarily, but I need to be kind to myself too and note that I had a pretty hairy time because of my addiction so it's ok too that I'm being careful.

Anyway, I'm off to the doctors, yes plural.  The bottom line is that I need relief and I can't abuse my body any longer because of fear, that's almost as bad as abusing it with alcohol.  I think I've tried everything I can think of to avoid medication but I need to give in and take care of myself.  After all, I have books to publish and I need to be 90% as often as possible.  Also, my poor husband doesn't deserve it.  The guy turning left?  Um, Kung Fu you. 

© All Rights Reserved by John Godsey

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Man, my brain feels like it consists of crispy Chinese noodles.  Do you know how fattening those things are? 

Seriously, writing a novel is an undertaking of enormous proportions.  It's taken me 6 years to get to where I am with Existence, where I can finally let it go. I've probably gone through 5 drafts and that's not counting the times I've gone in (let's look at this a minute, I use this term, "gone in" quite a bit, as if I'm doing something dangerous like mining.  But it really is like an excavation...)   to each of those drafts to correct grammar and flowage.  Sometimes the grammar is fine but the cadence of a sentence within a paragraph won't feel/sound/look right.  Have you read your novel out loud to yourself?  Yes, I have.  Not the whole book, I'm not insane.  I am crazy enough though to read some of it poised with a skull in my hand, "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.  He hath bore me on his back a thousand times, and now how abhorr'd in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Blech(this part is improvised) "

Did I tell you Shakespeare is one of my faces of Eve? And that Eve is one of the faces of Olga?  I'm feeling particularly schizophrenic today - not sure why.  I have my manic moments though let me be clear that I have not been diagnosed bi-polar and am most definitely not making light of it.  I do, however, believe that we (artists) do experience on occasion a certain degree of non debilitating mania and perhaps certain levels of other um, eccentricities that would probably qualify as insanity if someone saw us while we are alone.  OK, look, I'll only speak for myself. 

I used to picture Stephen King bent over his Olivetti typewriter pounding away non-stop at the keys like the Phantom at his organ (if you know what I mean).  Day and night.  No time for rest, he has a thousand pages to write in 6 months and in the meanwhile, the next insane horror is lurking in the shadows and getting bigger and bigger.  I think he wrote as Bachman just to curb the crazy.  How can I believe that King, THE MASTER OF HORROR, ever fumbled with his writing the way that I do?  How can you write something like The Stand and have time to go back to review and edit it?  (Approx. word count 450,000 - KABOOM head just exploded.)  Yeah, sure, by this time in his career his editor was salivating to get his/her hands on the draft, any draft.  But, how do you go from this here, where I'm at today to that place where he's at where he isn't bent over but sitting up nice and straight in front of his PC now daintily typing out a perfect draft every time.  Is that how he works, you think?

Imagine writing a novel, from beginning to end with out any interruptions and then just handing it off so that someone else can tightened it up and make it all pretty for you?  It must be the way it works for Koontz, I believe he published 72 books last year alone (OK, mild exaggeration, but it sure seems that way).  I know we should all have our personal editors but I can't yet afford to have someone get to know me enough that I would trust them to know what I mean to say and how I mean to say it.  Grammatical editing, OK, but who is going to tell me to change something in a novel I've been working on for 6 years?  You?

So, 6 years later am I done?  No, because wait, since there seems to be a snowballs chance in hell that a traditional publishing company is going to consider my book, and wait, hold on some more, because the word on the street (Internet Boulevard) is that publishing companies are bending their authors over their respective laptops without even buying them dinner first, I have to publish this baby myself. 

So, what's the big deal Olga?  Just load it onto Amazon and bingo-bango, your done.

Uh, no.  Not exactly.  I guess now that I know what it entails, I'll format Magician correctly so that I won't have to go through everything I'm going through now.  Like I said before I can't afford to send this off so it can be 'packaged' and made pretty professionally.  I'm really knocking my head against the wall this first go around.  Every time I view the product there are formatting issues.  Paragraphs aren't aligned correctly, page breaks are missing, and I haven't even gotten the first draft of the cover art.  After a while of looking at it, over and over again, I start getting cross eyed and start becoming cranky because of my poor little novel.

But please don't think I'm complaining.  I'm not.  This is about being honest.  Is it worth it?  Yes.  Even if I sell one copy and it's to my sister, it will all be worth it.  And all the stuff I have to do?  Delicious.  I am after all a control freak. 

Let me tell you a story.  One night last year I was walking my dog (my little shihtzu/cocker spaniel Molly, not my bigger mutt of unknown origins, Queen Boadicea - please call her Bodie) and this older gentleman neighbor happened to see me picking up her shi-cocker ca-ca.  Impressed by this action I hear him say, "now, that's what I call love."  I didn't realize that my picking up the dog poo qualified as love but I guess it is definitely something like that.  I like to think that Molly would do the same for me if she had to.  (Queen Boadicea, for all her regal-ness, would probably just eat it.)   My point is, I will go to great lengths to get this novel as polished as possible because, well, if you haven't noticed by now, I love it and I want readers to love it.  You might hate the way that I write, but if you were to like the way that I write but found the formatting appalling and therefore decided to have nothing more to do with me, I would never, ever forgive myself.  For me, that is the equivalent of leaving the dog poo behind.  Instead of hearing, "now that's what I call love," I would hear, "Aw, crap I just stepped in dog shi! Hey, Pasta Fazul, lady!!" 

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I haven't written about the process of my attempt at getting the novel published in a while and though I was procrastinating for a couple of weeks, I have actually been formatting it so it will be "clean" when it transfers over for Kindle viewing.  (Let me interject to say that the new iPad update for the Kindle app is beautiful. Thank you, powers that be.)  The way that I've written all my novels is that I've created a separate word document per chapter and kept the novel in a folder.  In the case of my novel Existence, that's over 90 documents I've had to combine.  I'm not sure if there's an easier way of doing it other than copy/paste, but doing it one chapter at a time has given me another excuse to take yet one more look at it.  As usual, some stuff I love, some stuff makes me stare at the screen for a while before I hit delete and rewrite.  This time around though, that barely happened.

It was interesting to note that even though an ms word document can look clean when you view it, there are a lot of little hidden cues fixing the document in the background, like a Merlin gremlin, without us even being aware of it.  It's a great system but it appears to be a nightmare for html conversion.  I will be taking an html course eventually.  I tried it once about ten years ago but at that time I had no immediate use for it. Now it seems like a pretty good idea to understand what's happening to my words when I send them off to college.

dot dot dot

I reached the end of Existence and am now formally formatting the layout. i.e. title, dedication, page breaks, chapter headings, etc.

Do you know what that means?  I wrote the last chapter.  I wrote the The End (and then deleted it because I thought it looked cheesy). 

Let me share this because I find it, always, really interesting.  I imagine it's hard to look at - I'll gather all writers in together with me - our work objectively, right?  I mean, we love it extremely or hate it intensely.  For me that can happen within the same chapter and sometimes it can happen even within the same paragraph.  Like I said above the dots the other day, some stuff is like, WOW and other stuff is like meh.  Is that normal?  No se.  But, BUT like Beyonce, when I read the last few chapters of my novel yesterday, I broke down in tears.  There are a couple of reasons for this, one is obvious and one sneaks up on me every time I get close to the end.

The first reason is that everything comes to light for my protagonist, Erin Keane, at the end of the book. There are truths revealed that he wasn't capable of confronting until he'd had some clean and sober time and the trip through that process isn't an easy one for him.  The truth can sometimes be a hard pill to swollow unless your chasing it down with a little Stoli.   While this story is not an autobiography, I can obviously relate.  I mean, as much as it isn't about me, these characters are entirely me.  We go through the storms together, and we find the peace together.  I want my readers to experience the same thing, of course.  I want everyone to cry as they reach The End.

The second reason, the one that chokes me up even as I write about it now, is that it's done.  I'm finished and will have to cut the connection.  Do you see what I'm saying?  The relationship is over.  It's not over in like, I hate you, I'm taking the dog.  It's not over in like, it's not you it's me, but we can still be friends.   It's over in like, you can't touch me anymore; I'm with someone else now.

I found myself holding my breath sometimes as I reached the end of certain chapters.  I found myself involved in their lives again, again.  What I did not find was the need to change any of the story lines.  I wrote the last chapter and it was easy.  It felt natural and right and it basically wrote itself.  So, yeah, I'm afraid it's over between me and Existence.

It's okay, Magician is waiting for me with open arms.  I am not a player, not a beyotch.  Erin is over and Jeremy needs me to finish his story now.  Soon, I will be falling all over again.

I am frigging STOKED!!