Wednesday, June 28, 2017

How I Spent (Part of) My Summer Vacation

I had a vitrectomy. I’m not going into the gory details here (Google “vitrectomy” if you want those). Personally, I preferred not to have too clear an idea of what the ophthalmologist planned to do to my left eye.  If it had been surgery on my ankle or heart, that would have been different. But thinking about someone messing with your eye … that’s creepy.  But the simple answer is, the surgeon takes some fluid out of your eye and puts in something else. No, not a micro-miniature bathysphere or an alien spore. In my case, it was a gas bubble.

The actual procedure was a breeze. I recall being wheeled into surgery (at a hospital, because, terrifyingly, the surgeon wanted to be sure of having "tools that are long enough"--a phrase one does not like to hear applied to one's eye surgery). I noticed I was in a large room with a couple of other medical personnel in it (I could hear their voices). And then I had a drape over my face and Dr. R. said something like,

 "Hand me the cat grader"*.
The reply was "Not the heron wader*?"
 "No, the cat grader."

And no, that isn't actually what they said but it was all Greek to me. 

*Actually, as everyone who is familiar with the rigging of 18th century British naval vessels knows, the cat grader secures the mizzen mast to the catstick and the heron wader performs the same function for the fore-mast and the twiddle-poop.

At one point I thought of something witty to say ("Are we having fun yet?") but decided it might be a mistake to move my face if he was using a cat grader. It wasn't until I got to the recovery room that I realized that I'd missed five probably rather fraught minutes when I was given two shots to ensure that I didn't feel anything. And I only know about the shots because at the appointment at which Dr. R. scheduled the surgery, he told me there would be two shots and that I would be given something to relax me beforehand. When he said I wouldn’t remember afterward, it was not particularly reassuring. Yeah, yeah, I thought, but I’ll be aware of it at the time.  

But there was absolutely no sense of ANYTHING having happened between arriving in the operating room and the moment I found myself admiring black and white geometrical patterns (I’d have said, inside my eyelids except that my eyes must have been open, since Dr. R. was … doing something to one of them).

I arrived in recovery and the recovery room nurse said, “Let me take the pillow out from under your knees”.

I said, “Why, however did that get there?” I hadn't understood how thoroughly I wouldn't recall and how efficiently it works.

The procedure was easy. I never had any pain. I’ve had more discomfort from an ingrown toenail.

The ordeal was the week of face-down recovery. Apart from 15 minutes for meals and five minutes an hour to get up and go to the lavatory or simply walk around, you have to be face down. You sleep on your stomach. That was the worst part of the whole thing. I never sleep on my stomach. I’d wake up once or twice or three times a night and have to sit up (face down) for a while, listening to audio books. You’re discouraged from reading, which makes your eyes move too much.

I’d rented recovery equipment, a sort of modified massage chair with a variety of face support and other cushions and a device for supporting my face in bed. It included an angled mirror which would have allowed me to watch TV. However, the TV was in a different room than the massage chair, and moving either one was not an option. Fortunately, I’m not a big TV fan, and I had lots of audio books. I also spent some time thinking deep thoughts: is there an easy way to convert Centigrade to Fahrenheit in your head? What, exactly, is Ottoman silk? Could I use curare as a poison in some future novel set in the 18th century?

If you have to have a vitrectomy, unless you have a live-in Jeeves or Bunter, stock up with food that doesn’t need preparation, apart from a quick heat-up in the microwave. I made a big batch of Irish oatmeal, the steel-cut oats kind, which reheats better than  rolled oats oatmeal. Those lunchbox size cups of pudding, Jello, yogurt and apple sauce work well. So do pre-cooked bacon or deli meat, entrees from the freezer case, some of which aren’t bad. Salads (pasta or fruit) from the deli case are a possibility. None of these are things I’d usually ingest; I almost always cook from scratch. But 15 minutes is not a long time to eat even a rather minimal meal; any prep for it should not take more than 2 or 3 minutes. You will not have time to make a salad—or anything else, really—from scratch. Maybe a scrambled egg—but then you’d have the clean up to do. Trust me on this: I have a wonderful roommate, a former R.N., who was extremely helpful. But we don’t eat the same kinds of things on the same schedule. It was just easier to have stuff in the fridge I could zap. She did bring me a gift of chicken tenders, however. They were delicious.

I’m still recovering. The gas bubble will take time to dissipate. The left eye will improve, I hope, but it will take weeks. It’s been a week plus two days, so I’m no longer face-down, and I’ve almost finished weeding out my junk email. I haven’t tried reading yet, except for the labels of the four eye drops I’m using and the occasional news alert online. I’m supposed to take it easy for a while—no hiking, hoicking around heavy loads, going up in airplanes, etc. In a few days, I plan to resume the edit of the first draft of my next historical romance.  And that’s how I’m spending my summer. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Mike Rendell, The Georgian Gentleman: excellent source of Georgian research

The Georgian Gentleman (source of some of my research material) kindly invited me to submit a guest blog. Here’s the link:

Monday, June 5, 2017

A must-read for readers and writers of historical fiction

Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders: A Writer's (and Editor's) Guide to Keeping Historical Fiction Free of Common Anachronisms, Errors, and Myths by Susanne Alleyn

For anyone who enjoys historical fiction, this is a good, fun read. For anyone who writes or wants to write historical fiction, it's a must-read. Nowadays there is no excuse for a writer getting basic historical facts or details of life in one's chosen time period egregiously wrong (an 11th century knight smoking a cigar--one of Alleyn's examples--is as much a sign of bad, careless writing as an inability to write a coherent English sentence). I'm putting it on my list of necessary research materials. And I'll be getting her novels, too.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Today my novel, An Unsuitable Duchess, was featured on POTL: All Things Books, Reading and Publishing. This is exciting stuff, as I recall the days before the Internet, when the most thrilling thing I ever encountered was the sight of a book I'd written (pseudonymously) on the rack at the bookstore.

POTL (Princess of the Light), the creation of N.N. Light, a husband and wife writing team, features book reviews, writing tips, and promotional services. The latter should be of particular interest to writers who, like me, have little or no experience in promoting their own book. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

An Unsuitable Duchess

Back in 2013, when I was writing An Unsuitable Duchess—and only about 17,000 words in—I wrote a post about Time Travel to the Year 1740. An Unsuitable Duchess came out today, May 19, 2017, published by The Wild Rose Press, Inc. at

It’s been a long, peculiar three and a half years.

Things I’ve done that I never expected to:

Received a contract offer 44 days after submitting my query letter. When I first began submitting work (back before home computers, the Internet and cell phones), getting a response from a publisher routinely took six months. Agents? They were often too busy to respond at all.

Had an “author photo” taken. Helpful hint to new authors if you find yourself in the delightful position of needing a photograph but feel you are insufficiently photogenic. Wear large or ridiculous headgear—an exuberant garden party hat, a pith helmet or an “Indiana Jones”-type hat. Holding a cat up is also a good move.

Loved the cover art! Almost exactly what I had envisioned, thanks to RJ Morris of The Wild Rose Press, Inc.

Bought a DVD of John Rocque’s 1746 map of London and Westminster. This is a treasure for anyone who needs to know the streets, yards and docks of mid-18th century London. A modern map is almost useless—so many streets and landmarks have been destroyed or re-named. You will not find Wych Street or Craven Buildings Yard on a modern map.

Ordered promotional business cards and postcards.

Set up a Facebook page for my book:

And yes, in spite of a bad case of nerves, I’m thrilled.