Signs of Life

I am alive. I am well. I graduated nursing school; yes, I am a nurse. Not licensed yet, but a nurse.

I’m looking into a solution for this website which may mean it’ll move again in the next few days. Jut FYI.

Categories: Editorials

Advanced MedSurg: Round 2

Today I find myself in the same spot I was a few months back. Tomorrow I take the final exam in Advanced MedSurg for the second time, and for the second time it all comes down to this test. It’s very simple: pass the final, pass the class. No other way around it.

Everything is riding in this exam. It’s not just the class, but also my continued attendance at MDC School of Nursing, since I can only retake a class one time and that’s it.

Better not to think about it.

One exam. Sink or swim.

I’m swimming. Here’s hoping I reach the shore.


I cannot properly convey how tired I am.

It’s just about the end of the first half of the semester, the end of Advanced MedSurg, and I am wiped. You may see me up and about doing stuff (I try to do my best around the house even if it isn’t a lot) and studying (not today Friday, but seriously, I’ve never studied this hard ever before) and working out (I’ve been running regularly for the past three weeks), but I am beyond depleted. If I had a little battery icon like my phone, I would be in the red.

The sad thing is that I’ll get to sleep tonight and tomorrow during Shabbat, but it won’t really help. Yes, I’ll feel somewhat refreshed and renewed, but in light of the two days after, during which I need to finish studying an entire semester of Advanced MedSurg for my final on Tuesday and ATI (standardized) test on Wednesday, it will simply be a like bandage on an arterial bleed.

Still, I have no option but to continue ahead and hope copious amounts of coffee will be enough to give me energy and focus.

A Recipe For Coquito

December 16, 2012 Leave a comment

This creamy drink might camouflague as eggnog but it is something all its own. The mixture of evaporated and condensed milk with the coconut milk and cinnamon water produces a sweet flavor that is a perfect compliment for the rum that goes along, creating a mildly sweet but deceptively strong drink perfect to share with friends. Make it ahead of time so that it gets very cold, a great refresher for tropical “winter” nights.

Yields 5 cups.

1 cup of coconut milk
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup white rum
1 cup of water
3 cinnamon sticks
4 egg yolks, well beaten
Ground cinnamon for decoration

1. Toss the cinnamon sticks in the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 2-3 minutes, turn off the heat, then allow to cool to room temperature. Remove the cinnamon sticks.

2. Combine all the milks and the rum in a blender or food processor. If you have an immersion blender (motorboat), even better.

3. Combine all the other ingredients (except the ground cinnamon) and blend until well-mixed.

4. Pour into containers and chill. Puerto Rican tradition has it coquito must be stored in glass bottles, but I have buckled tradition there a few times. I leave it up to you where you store it.

5. Serve chilled with ground cinnamon sprinkled on top.

If you want to enhance the coconut flavor, use a bit more coconut milk or use
coconut rum. Adding an extra 1/2 cup of condensed milk increases the sweetness, if you like that (and I do). You can also make the cinnamon water ahead of time and chill so that the finalized coquito has less time to go in the fridge before it is ready for drinking and sharing.

I have made coquito following the above steps and also just blending everything together at once with my immersion blender. Both times the coquito has been fantastic, so feel free to try that as well. Lastly, double up all the ingredients to make about 1/2 gallon of coquito, a perfect amount for a small party or to share a few cups with friends. If you’re having a medium to big party, be ready to make 3 or 4 times as much, because coquito goes fast. You’ve been warned.

Categories: Editorials Tags:

The End of NaNoWriMo

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

This year, unlike last, I did not “win” NaNoWriMo. On November 30, I ended up with a reported 29,170 words out of the 50,000 needed to complete the challenge successfully.

You know what, I’m perfectly fine with that.

Yes, I would’ve liked to win NaNoWriMo again, but even if I didn’t, I now have 30,000 words (I’ve kept writing) that I did not have at the start of November, and a story that I did not know I needed to tell a month ago. That is priceless right there.

Now is where the real work begins, where there’s no gimmicky challenge to get me to write each day but simply the need to tell this story completely, to finish this thing I started. Now is when the writers keep going.

And I’m still writing.

Categories: Writing Tags:

Using Pinterest For Your Novel

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

NaNoWriMo 2012: Deirdre Pinterest Board

Pinterest is a fairly new social network where you can create virtual pinboards and collect images and videos. Though it is very popular with people into cooking and arts & crafts, the scope has continued to widen as greater number of members join. I have been a member for about a year and have grown to love the site for what it does, give me a place to collect visual inspiration for a number of different topics. When I started this year’s NaNoWriMo novel, I immediately created a Pinterest board for it, even though at the moment I did not know what I would pin to it. That uncertainty did not last long.

When creating a board for your novel, cast your net wide in terms of what you put into it. The general idea of such a board is to give you, the writer, a place to free-associate visual cues. You could put pictures of locations associated with your story, or images of actors/models that you would consider for an ideal casting, or perhaps music that resonates with the story or that characters listen to. The board is not meant to tell the story in your head, but it should help you call up ideas and concepts that are associated with what you’re writing. A board like this can serve as an interesting “backstage” look at the brainstorming process of writing, or as a bonus meta-look at the finished tale.

If you visit my NaNoWriMo 2012: Deirdre board (pictured here), you’ll find a variety of pictures showing locations in the novel, music videos for songs that have inspired the story in one way or another, as well as other images and videos that somehow relate to the tale of Deirdre Morrison. As I think of, or come across, things that tie to Deirdre’s story, I pin them there for easy reference. When I feel a bit at a loss about my story, whenever I feel I need to reconnect with my character as I write her story, I go to this board and remember why I pinned each item there. This in turns refreshes my mind and helps me get back to the tale of Deirdre.

Give it a try for your next work of fiction, and see how it can help you out.


The Greatest Story

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I came across this remix of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know,” a song that I really like and about which I have written before. Take a look.

Watching the video, seeing the story of this couple play out, all I was thinking was, “What happened that brought them together, then apart?” Which then brought to mind what I consider to be one of my little quirks: as much as I like reading the whole gamut of speculative fiction, when it comes to writing fiction, I naturally gravitate towards relationship stories set in the real world.

I have tried my hand at fantasy and science fiction before, yes, but overwhelmingly, the stories that I prefer to imagine, develop and write are those where I am following the process of a relationship, whether it is the beginning, middle or end. Relationships interest me. It’s why I love romantic comedies, actually. The endless factors that feature into two distinct people coming together, staying together, and sometimes going apart, are simply fascinating. As the creator of these stories, it’s like I get to fall in and out of love over and over (which can actually be very draining when you consider what I wrote about being a method writer). Even better, it is a story that can be told across any milieu, whether real world, the far reaches of space, or lands ruled by magic and dragons (seriously, “The Ballad of Hal Whitewyrm,” the Burning Wheel roleplaying game I’ve been playing with my friend Judd, for all the awesome fantasy stuff it has going on, can be summed up as the story of a love triangle, which is why I absolutely love it).

That’s why to me the greatest story will always be that of the process of love between two people. And I look forward to many years of exploring this story in my fiction.

Categories: Writing Tags: , ,

Being A Method Writer

November 14, 2012 1 comment

There’s a very popular style of acting called Method Acting, in which the idea is that the actor embodies the character to be played, and draws on his or her own experiences to achieve a better portrayal. It is a style usually classified as immersive, and it can lead some actors to stay in role even after the performance has stopped.

I am not an actor, but I have discovered, and accepted, that I am a method writer. The definition found in Urban Dictionary nails it:

A writer or author who uses a technique of writing in which he/she identifies emotionally with a character in the story and assumes that character’s persona in the telling.

When I am writing a story, especially a longer one, I get into my protagonist’s head space so I can understand them better and thus achieve a better narrative.

The one problem with this approach? I get into my protagonist’s head space.

I’ve come to terms with the idea that I write stories in which I have a personal stake. While I am able to churn out a few pieces to specification for a freelance assignment or writing challenge, I mostly write stories that possess me and *must* be told. And more often than not, the way that these stories possess me is via a character, who becomes like an alternate personality until I am able to exorcise them onto the page.

This also means that I live with these characters, and that their lives affect me. When they are happy, I am happy; when they are sad and angry, I get sad and angry. My facial expressions change as I’m writing to match the mood of the scene and sometimes it gets to be too much, too draining, and I need to walk away, remind myself that *I* am the real person, not my character.

The novel I am writing now features a protagonist who was a supporting character in my first novel. She stayed with me long after the novel was done, daring me to find out her story so I could tell it. Her story isn’t necessarily a happy one, and it is taxing to get into the mind of a person with major depressive disorder. But I have to tell her story, so I, we, push through.

Method writing isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. I cannot fathom writing any other way, and if that means that my fiction output is greatly reduced, that’s fine as well, because I know the stories I will tell are those that *had* to be told by me and no one else.

Categories: Writing Tags:

Writing A Female Protagonist

November 12, 2012 2 comments

The novel I am writing for this year’s NaNoWriMo features a female main character. What’s more, it’s written in first person, so not only am I writing a female character, I am writing her from inside her mind.

I bring this up for a reason. Because of the online social circles I frequent, because of the people I know, because of the classes I have taken and life I’ve lived, I’m sensitive to issues of gender, cultural appropriation, and privilege. These are lenses through which I filter life, especially things I create. So I’m sitting here writing a novel with a female character, it didn’t take long for a voice to erupt in my head saying, “You have no right to do this.”

I am a guy, after all. I might be a member of two minorities (Hispanic and Jewish), but I’m a guy. And I can already hear in my head comments about me putting words in women’s mouths, about me misrepresenting women, about me acting all patriarchal and stuff by controlling this female character. Mind you, no one has said any of this, but what if they do (with “they” being people I know, or people I don’t know)?

This paralyzed me somewhat as I started to write. It even shut me down completely one day. I briefly considered just scrapping the whole idea and moving on to something else. Then I thought better about it.

I hope no one feels that way after reading my story. I hope that I bring an honest voice to my female protagonist that sounds true regardless of her or my gender which will make any comment like the ones above superfluous and unnecessary. I am for nothing less.

Thing is, I can’t worry about the ‘What ifs’. There will always be someone who doesn’t like your work, for whatever reason. It may be that reason is even a valid one. But I can’t let that stop me from writing. My protagonist (Deirdre in this case, but really, any protagonist) is a person, an individual, with hopes and dreams, skills and limitations, who makes good and bad choices. She isn’t meant to represent an entire gender any more than my actions represent my entire gender. So if Deirdre does X or says Y, it reflects only on Deirdre, not on all women.

I’m being slightly paranoid in even thinking that I need to state all this upfront, I know it. In truth, this post isn’t for anyone out there, it’s for myself. It’s so I can get this worry out of my head, where it is blocking the flow of ideas. If it happens to speak to someone else, even better.

If you’ll excuse me, now that I got that off my chest, I need to go back to writing.

Categories: Writing Tags:

Early End of Fall Semester and Plans

November 5, 2012 Leave a comment

I was hoping that this post would come in mid-December, but that was not to be. As I mentioned in my last post, I was barely scrapping by in Advanced MedSurg, with my chances of passing resting on two exams on the final week of class. I took both, and the combined scores left me below the cut-off point for a C (which in Nursing is a 77/100). So Friday afternoon, home after the final exam, exhausted from non-stop studying over the past week, I got the email from my professors that confirmed I had not passed the exam, and therefore failed the class.

It was like a punch to the gut.

I’m feeling better about it now. I’ve gone through the five stages of grief and accepted that there’s nothing I can do about it now, so I need to move on. It sucks, yes. I’m not used to failing, and I had to fight hard not to let an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness overtake me. But I’m good.

Today I met with my professors, discussed the situation, and made plans for the future. The paperwork still needs to be processed on the administrative end, but I will be joining the next session of Advanced MedSurg, in January, which will put me on track to finish my Nursing degree in March. So it’s not so terrible, it’s not like I have to wait another six months for the upcoming Accelerated Option class. I did pass my Advanced MedSurg Clinical, so there’s that silver lining.

In the meantime, I suddenly find myself with lots of time once more. I am putting together a plan of action that will structure my days off, so I don’t get too rusty, but I’m also going to rest and recharge, and do some of the stuff I have neglected due to school, like writing.