Thursday, April 17, 2014

Diary of a Prostate Wimp

The book I've been writing on my experiences of how the medical world dealt with my prostate is now almost ready. It only lacks a cover, an ISBN and a CIP (the National Library of New Zealand's Cataloguing-in-Publication Data - each country has their own version of these). All these are all in the pipeline in various ways. So I may make my deadline of the end of April after all. 

I've had a brilliant editor who went through my 'final' draft with such a fine toothcomb that he found things I hadn't thought were even there. Though I must add that I also found a couple of tiny things he missed - but then he was working, as usual, on about six other things at the same time. Nevertheless the final text is correct in ways I wouldn't have achieved on my own. 

I've sometimes had some qualms about whether the information in the book is too personal, too in-your-face (especially if you're not a bloke), too intense, and too-a-variety-of-other-things. Time will tell. The book is partly based on a series of blog posts I wrote back at the time the events were happening, and at that time I began to read - but never finished - a book called Please Leave the Seat Up by Brian Turner. Brian was an Englishman who'd gone to the US with his wife to take over a branch of his company. It was going to be a highly successful time, and he would have done very well. Within weeks he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and all his plans fell apart. While I was putting my own book together over the last few months I actually read Brian's book. If I had qualms about anything in my book being too much in your face, then Brian's book showed me that when it comes to talking about health, almost anything is permissible! Not only is it permissible, it's essential to tell the readers the details, because the medical profession doesn't. 

This was one of the big things I learned about having something seriously wrong: the medical profession knows a lot of what can go wrong, but prefers to wait until it goes wrong before they tell you that it's not abnormal, and that thousands of other people have been in the same boat. The only thing is that few of those thousand people have written about their experiences and passed on what they've learned. 

Still, I often got more help and information from friends and colleagues who'd either had the same experience, or something similar. The doctors and nurses would be helpful if you asked (generally) but they tended not to provide information if you didn't ask. And how would you know to ask until you found something strange was happening? I'm not blaming the medical people - some of them were extraordinarily helpful and I thank God for them - but it sometimes feels they think that less information is better than more, even when that little bit more information might have allayed a lot of your concerns. 

I was fortunate to get through the experience; many, as I show in the book, have much worse times than I did. Prostate issues, and prostate cancer, are amongst the most common problems men can have in later life. Hopefully this book will help some men before they find themselves involved in such difficulties. 

By the way, it's called Diary of a Prostate Wimp. You'll have to read it to find out why!





Friday, April 11, 2014

Absurdity

I came across this wonderful extract this morning...delights my heart!

Usually I spare myself from the news, because if it’s not propaganda, then it’s one threat or another exaggerated to the point of absurdity, or it’s the tragedy of storm-quake-tsunami, of bigotry and oppression misnamed justice, of hatred passed off as righteousness and honor called dishonorable, all jammed in around advertisements in which a gecko sells insurance, a bear sells toilet tissue, a dog sells cars, a gorilla sells investment advisers, a tiger sells cereal, and an elephant sells a drug that will improve your lung capacity, as if no human being in America any longer believes any other human being, but trusts only the recommendations of animals.

Odd Thomas
in Dean Koontz' Deeply Odd

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Progress on the next book

Making good progress on my prostate book, and hopefully will get it off to a friend who has an editorial eye some time this week. Hopefully, too, this time it'll get published initially without mistakes. Grimhilda! went out thoroughly proof-read, we thought, and with all the typos sorted out. Nope. The same friend, when he read it, discovered a bunch more - lots of them minor and mostly unnoticeable - but there all the same. It takes a fresh eye to see them sometimes.

Anyway, one of the things I've still got to sort out is a cover for the book. I saw a great photo that's doing the rounds of the Internet (see at the right) which, with a few alterations of the words and a couple of additions (such as the name of the author) would have been ideal. But I couldn't find the owner of it, and those who'd used it seemed to think it was available for anyone to use. I'd like to be sure of that first.

Apparently it's been used as a political poster by the US Tea Party, amongst other things, although now that I go to find a version used by them I can't see it anymore!


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

PIffle

When someone tells me I can own some of the most expensive real estate in Miami (or anyone else) I tend to look at them and say, If you say so. Plainly they haven't realised that my pension hasn't increased that much - although it is getting a little rise at the beginning of next month, of a bout $4 a fortnight. That means I can afford to go out and buy one more coffee every two weeks. 

Anyway, One Sothebys in Sunny Isles Beach is the one claiming I'm only a few dollars away from residing in a super expensive location. Why go so far, I ask myself? If I want an expensive location, I can go to Auckland, where a house that my grandmother would have thought rough and ready is going for more than half a million dollars. 

Much of this prime real estate in Miami doesn't come with your own backyard and swimming pool. Nope, it consists of an apartment in a high rise: you may be up on the 31st floor. Yes the view is lovely but you can't open the windows in case you fall out. 

New Zealanders haven't yet got to the point of thinking that an apartment up on the somethingth floor is a good idea; for them it's the old eighth of an acre (or its current metric equivalent), a place where you can plant a few veges, or mow the lawns, or pull the car apart, or dig in some lovely bushes that will one day knock over the fence between you and your neighbour. 

Piffle to living in a high rise, I say!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Uploading to Smashwords

I'm just about to upload my book, Grimhilda!, to Smashwords. Or rather, I was going to, except that I needed to ask them one question, and now have to wait until they get back to me. Which hopefully won't be more than 24 hours.

It's been an interesting process. The original document I used for uploading to Kindle wasn't able to be used for the Smashwords site, not even as an epub version. I had to strip the Word doc right down to the bare bones and start again, which was a bit of a pain, as it meant putting in italics and bolds and such all over again, and reformatting the headings and taking out colour. This version is the super simplified one, but at least it should be of a quality that it will adapt to any e-reader going, pretty much. That's the Smashword promise.

I spent Friday reading through the enormous Smashwords instruction page - I'd already worked my way through the e-book, Smashwords Style Guide, while reformatting the book, so I was familiar with a lot of what was in the instructions page, but there seemed to be considerably more detail, and repetition. Anyway, I went through it and marked it and made notes and updated some things on my file, and so on. All in all, I'm hoping that the document I now have should be ready to be uploaded without any hitch. But we'll see. Both the book and the instructions page warn that it's normal for the first upload to produce a few Autovettor 'errors' which have to be repaired before you can proceed.

Patience is required. At least I'm not waiting around for months before the book appears. That's one of the great wonders of the digital age that we can produce books (of varying kinds) in such a short time. Such services as Eoncode web to print solutions make the process remarkably speedy. Of course, you still have to have something ready for the printer that will pass muster, but that's all part of the learning process. This year has been full of learning curves, and I don't suppose they're over yet.


Chess online

I've been playing chess online with one of my sons, and with a young fellow in India, via Chess.com. The games we've been playing have been spread out over days, because I'm not always ready to commit to spending a half an hour playing someone in real time. I've done this once or twice and find the pressure rather high!

But the long slow games, rather like the old correspondence chess, which my father used to play in his heyday, are difficult to keep track of, for me. I don't have the greatest of chess brains, and can't come back to a board and remember how I got to where I am and what I planned to do next. Chess.com allows you to play back through your moves, which is helpful, but I still make more mistakes than I would in a face-to-face game. (Although my face-to-face games seem to have got worse since I started playing online.)

I need the concentrated focus that comes with a game where you're playing a real live opponent and can see what they're doing with their body language. That shouldn't make a difference, but it does. I guess it's a bit like poker, where you're trying to read what's going on in the mind why the way the other player's body moves.

Years ago I used to be involved in a chess club here in Dunedin, but only in their round robin games that various four-men groups would play around the city. This part of the club was called Chess for Fun. I had one opponent who could spend long minutes at a time sweating over the right move, breathing heavily, and oblivious to the rest of the world. It wasn't fun to play with someone going so slow, but on the other hand I did win one or two games against him, as I recall. Much to my surprise and his, since he was a much more experienced player.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tuxedos

Even though I've been involved in many theatre shows and concert performances over the years I've never actually owned a tuxedo. I'm not even sure if I've ever worn one, though it's possible I have at some time and have now forgotten. Furthermore if I've made it this far without needing a tux, it's unlikely that I'll have a need for the services of such a site as www.tuxedosonline.com at any time in the future.

I'd like to wear one, although the figure isn't quite as outstanding as it once was. (Or perhaps that should be it's more outstanding than it once was.) It helps also to have the kind of build that a tux suits: someone who's heading for 5'9 and up is preferable. Us smaller blokes look just a teensy-bit not so hot.

So if I haven't used a tux, what have I worn? Well, for the most part I've got away with wearing a decent suit. Things have changed over the time I've been performing, and tuxes are quite so de rigueur as they once were. For the most parts my suits have been unostentatious, but I did have a light blue suit back in the seventies. I loved it, even though a friend of ours called it my 'pansy-blue' suit. He was obviously jealous.

I got married in a light purple suit, and occasionally wore this for some years after, until it decided I was too large for it. (I was a skinnymalink when I got married.) But I still have the shirt I wore on my wedding day: it's purple too, a great colour, but regrettably rather too seventies to wear any more. Such is life. And fashion.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Upside-down bucket list

Somewhere, possibly, there's an administration officer of a retirement village making use of a senior housing software program which will enable him or her to decide how much it will cost to house me in the year 2000 and whatever, and whether I'm going to be worth it to them to take in and care for.

There have been a few things in my life that I've said I really don't want to do, an kind of upside-down bucket list. One of them I talk about in my prostate book, which hopefully will be appearing by May/June this year; you'll have to wait and buy the book to find out what that was, because somehow it managed to take itself off my upside-down bucket list and put itself on my bucket list, where it didn't belong.

One of the other things is I don't want to do is go into a retirement home. I've had some experience of these: my wife worked in one for a number of years, and I've seen people who seemed lively and full of beans go into them and wind up sitting in a chair ground down by the general depression of the place.

Yes, I know that's not how they're advertised. But like it or not, retirement homes are the one of the last stages before departing the earth entirely, and if none of get out of this life alive, then a retirement home is where that not-getting-out starts for many.

Yes, they advertise swimming pools, with jaunty silver-haired people diving and rollicking about; they show the same silver-haired people enjoying the privacy of their own home or the social club atmosphere of the communal area. They show the extensive library, the gym, the whatever else is fashionable.

They don't show the hospital area, or the constant roll call of missing faces - turnover is high in retirement homes.

I realise I may not have a choice about going into one of these places - or worse, into a rest home. Circumstances may decide things for me. Perhaps if I take it off my upside-down bucket list and put it on my bucket list, fate will get fooled and let me depart in my own bed in my own home.

Time will tell.









The Death of Dalziel

I only really discovered the writer Reginald Hill last year, after reading Exit Lines, one of the Dalziel and Pascoe series of crime novels. I had read a book of short stories, some of which were a little odd, some brilliant, and of course I'd seen some episodes of the TV series on DVD. So I was familiar with Hill, in a sense.

Not every Dalziel and Pascoe book is created equally. I tried two others last year and couldn't get into either of them. Hill likes to vary his style quite a bit, and one of these started out as a Grand Guignol piece that didn't suit my taste at all. The other began with two or three men being killed before the first couple of pages were out, and again that didn't seem like Hill's best work, but I could have been just not in the mood.

Anyway, while we were in Christchurch we came across a secondhand copy of The Death of Dalziel, a story, as you might guess, that was written late in Hill's career. No point killing off one of your main characters if you're planning on more episodes. This book is vintage Hill: the wit, the literary quotes, the scatological humour that just avoids the gross and no more, the superb pace, the beautifully-drawn characters - from the well-known duo, to those who feature regularly, to those who were new altogether.

The book has a wonderfully convoluted plot, and shows that Hill as a master of his craft in every respect. Early in the piece, Dalziel and Pascoe are checking out a set of terrace houses that are on their last legs, and in which PC Hector (the world's dullest policeman, who also featured in Exit Lines) thinks he's seen someone threatening someone else with a pistol. Just as Dalziel decides to explore the situation, the place explodes, setting fire to all the terrace houses, and almost killing Dalziel in the process. At this point Dalziel retires from action in the book, and is only seen, as it were, inside his head - he's in a coma for most of the story. Pascoe is forced to take over in his place after recovering from his own injuries, and then finds himself in the middle of all sorts of shenanigans with Muslims, ex-SAS soldiers, the secret force that's supposed to be dealing with terrorism, Knights Templar, a TV chat show that goes wrong, assassinations and more. 400 pages and not one that's inessential.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Promoting Grimhilda!

I've been working hard on promoting my ebook, Grimhilda!, but it takes a lot of time, of course. Still, the great advantage of ebooks is that you don't have piles of unsold stock lying around eating up your income.

At present the book is restricted to Kindle, but from the 20th April will be available much more widely. I'm hoping this will make a difference in its sales. I've been working with a company called Wheelers, too. They supply ebooks to libraries around NZ, and possibly Australia. (I think they supply to Australia, but trying to find where I saw that is proving a little difficult.) They've been very friendly and helpful, and respond quickly to emails. Grimhilda! is now in their capable hands and hopefully will begin to make her way around some of the NZ libraries from mid-April onwards.

I won't restrict my next book to Kindle - it's restricted to them for the first three months, if you choose that option, an option that's supposed to make it more visible, but obviously hasn't. Some advice I got from elsewhere has suggested that even though Kindle appears to be top-dog in the ebook world, it isn't, in fact, and there are a wide number of other opportunities out there. I'm preparing Grimhilda! for Smashwords too, at the moment, so it's all go.

I've hammered away at promoting on Twitter and Facebook, and have had some interest there...and a few sales. It's slow, but then Grimhilda! is competing against thousands upon thousands of other titles around the world, so she's got her work cut out.

Sales here in Dunedin have been rather sluggish, which surprised me considering that the musical version was presented here, and had good feedback. Several people have told me they'll get a copy, but it's easy to say that and then forget. Perhaps I should purchase a number of large vinyl banners and get the City Council to hang them from their banner poles around the city. Might be a slightly expensive option, considering the skimpiness of my advertising budget!

The other thing that's held up promotion has been the writing of my other book, on my experience of having a prostate operation. It's difficult to write and promote at the same time, something I've always had a problem with. I'm better at writing than promoting, although I do the latter because I have to, and a great deal of the promotion for the musical version of Grimhilda! fell into in my hands. A steep learning curve, as the cliche goes.

Anyway, that's where things are at present.  No doubt there'll be more news in due course!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Physio

Back to the physio today, after ten days of not seeing him. I've improved and then gone backwards, and then improved and then gone backwards. Several times. A bit erratic, you might say.

I put my back out over a month ago, was in agony for a day, sort of came right, but my right leg played up as a result, and when I got an appointment with the osteopath on the Monday morning (friends in high places) he realigned me, but it didn't fix the leg. Sent me to the physio in the same clinic.

Apart from sticking several needles in me in an acupuncturist sort of way, and manipulating various muscles, the physio has given me different exercises which I've been doing quite a bit. They've helped, there's no doubt. But I think he's been taking it quietly, not wanting to overload me.

Dog in shades due to Dunedin sun
Today I went for a walk with the dog before heading down to town to see the physio. It turned out to be a disaster on one hand, because my leg, which has been behaving itself increasingly, decided to go on strike, and I struggled to get back home from the walk. The dog was very patient with my extraordinary slowness. On the other hand it meant I was able to pinpoint more readily exactly where it hurts when this walking problem occurs (it doesn't happen every time I walk, for some reason) and that was useful. For me, if not for the physio, who might have wondered if I wasn't conjuring a bunch of new pains up for him, to keep him happy.

I don't really think that's how he saw it. But he introduced a couple of new exercises, both of which involved staring at myself in the mirror while trying to do what he asked. The mirror made things doubly uninspiring: seeing some old bloke struggling to do something relatively simple is embarrassing. And I seemed to be at cross purposes with him on one of the exercises in particular - what he called forward seemed to me to be backward. Anyway, hopefully I've got the hang of it now.

Came home feeling somewhat better but worn out. Time for an afternoon kip, I think.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mattresses

One of my projects, when I finish all the others, is to write a book on memorisation, and techniques for memorising things, such as poems, Scripture, play scripts, speeches. I haven't yet seen a book that really gets to grips with most of these, though it may be out there hiding from me.

I was reminded of this (memory technique!) by seeing the phrase memory foam topper. I had to go and check it out. Turns out it merely means material that, when you put your hand behind it, retains the shape of your hand. Or, more correctly, when you're trying to get to sleep, it takes on the contours of your body. It sort of sounds useful, though I'm not entirely convinced. In the same advertising there's something called convoluted toppers, which turn out to look like a large extended egg carton that you sleep on. You can use the peaks up or down, depending on your preference. I don't see me sleeping on this stuff personally, although no doubt there are people who swear by it. I'd probably have nightmares about being an egg whose shell was breaking.

We've got a good solid mattress on our bed that we've now had for a number of years; it has give in it, but not enough to give way, so you're always feeling firmly supported. The bed at our daughter's house in Christchurch (where we were babysitting for the last few days) is similar: you have none of that awful sinking feeling when you get into it. The mattress we had for a number of years (before the current one) used to throw us together in the middle of the bed. This has its points but isn't ideal long-term.

I'm not sure that mattresses that take on the shape of your body are actually better for you than ones that give you firm support. Each to his/her own, I guess.

Sticky

Blogger is very sticky these days. Yes, I know, all you people who use that other popular site (so popular the name has gone right out of my head) will all say that I should switch to WordPress - just remembered it.

But WordPress has that annoying thing that when you want to comment and then find out who else comments, you have to sign up to the individual blog post. Weird. Blogger will tell you if you're getting comments.

When I say 'sticky' I mean that it opens up and then waits and waits and...waits. And then you type in your blog post, and save or publish and it waits and waits....waits. You want to go to the page you've just uploaded. W&W&W.

It can't just be that my computer is getting a little antiquated, because there are plenty of other programmes that work well. Maybe they're not so big and bulky as Blogger? I don't know, but it didn't used to happen with this programme, and I've been using it for a very long time - Internet-wise.

Anyway, rant, rant, rant (or R,R,R, if you insist on saving space).

Quite Interesting

Now here's a line to conjure with. It's like some sort of code: Seagull Entourage CW GT QI Acoustic-electric guitar at Guitar Center.

Let's take it one step at a time: Seagull. Well, we know what that is: a bird of various sizes and shapes that tend to congregate near the sea. Some congregate near humans if the latter are eating. They congregate until it's the seagulls that are eating and not the humans.

Entourage: a congregation of seagulls following the leader. And congregating.

CW: This could stand for anything, but here are some possibilities. A TV Network producing such hits as Arrow, Beauty and the Beast, etc. An abbreviation for Morse Telegraphy. (Yup, I wondered why too.) There are about forty others listed, including some that seem to make no more sense that the Morse one. Cook Islands?

GT: My favourite meaning for this acronym is GigaTexel which apparently means one billion filtered textured pixels. You really wanted to know that, didn't you.

QI - Only about twenty listed for QI. Plainly not such a popular combination of letters.  However, it's quite interesting that QI is an acronym for Quite Interesting. I think.

So, some marketing person put all these things together and connected them to an acoustic guitar. The world is full of puzzles. Including why someone would write a blog post about it. There is a reason for that.

Travelling on the long-distance bus

We went to Christchurch and back on the bus. Six hour trip. First time we've used it together, I think, and my first time since I had a very unpleasant experience of not taking the opportunity in Ashburton to go to the loo, and then finding I was very sore when I got to ChCh an hour and a half later. Though admittedly this was in the days before I had my prostate operation, so that would have been part of the problem. (My book on my prostate operation experiences is well on its way - should be out by mid-year, I'd expect).

The driver of the northbound bus (from Dunedin to Christchurch, for those who don't know what I'm talking about) was very pleasant, did a bit of spiel about different towns and gave us the list of rules without being too high-handed about it. These included what you couldn't eat on the bus (which turned out to be a bit of a nuisance as we'd brought lunch with us and coffee, and had to wait till we got to Oamaru, about an hour and a half into the trip, before we could get our lunch) and the fact that you needed to wear the seatbelts provided. It's the law in NZ he reminded us. Law or not, very few people put their seatbelts on.

The driver on the southbound trip was much more blunt, and when I asked if he stopped anywhere for comfort stops and a bit of stretching the legs, he replied, Nope. Stopping in Timaru for twenty minutes. This was about half way on a six hour trip, so if you were desperate you would have had to have made a considerable fuss to get him to stop for you. The other driver had made five-minute stops at reasonable intervals, which made sense to me. Driver number two was troubled by the fact that he had a lot of pickups along the way, and a detour to Waimate, so comfort stops were out of the question. As it was he made it into Dunedin a quarter of an hour ahead of time. And never mentioned seatbelts.

It's certainly more relaxing on a bus; if you want you can look at the scenery. Or you can go to sleep (though sleeping upright has never been a great preference for me), or you can read, or can listen to a CD story, or...whatever takes your fancy within the confines of the space allotted to two passengers. No problems with driving, or other drivers, or sitting with the foot on the accelerator for six hours at a time. And the luggage allowance is far superior to that allowed when travelling by air. No restrictions, effectively. You can take what you want inside the bus, and leave the rest in the bus' hold. A European couple who were travelling with two small children, managed to get two very large bike-cum-stroller things in the hold, though I think it was a bit of a pinch. But there would have been plenty of room for the kitchen sink, if you so desired.

We were untroubled by any difficult or noisy passengers, except in the last hour or so when two male students sitting on either side of the aisle just behind us (with two young girls - not connected to either of them - seated in the adjacent window seats) began to talk about things that shouldn't be spoken about in public. They'd been discussing all sorts of other young male interests before that, mostly geek sort of stuff, but then one of them got onto his private life, and not only did he reveal more than anyone wanted to hear, his vocabulary whittled down to what my wife said was only five or six basic words. That might have been a slight exaggeration, but it was certainly surprising that someone was so unaware of other people that he could speak so openly without any sense that it might offend those around him. Fortunately the general noise in the bus obliterated some of it, but not completely. Amazing how self-focused some people are that they don't think that their words are being heard by far more than the intended recipient.