Today is the last day of the challenge. Phew! May is going to be an intense month, so one less daily task will make a big difference to my sanity. But it’s been fun, even if my brain has zigzagged all over the place. So many things happened in April, it’s not hard to believe how fast it flew by.
On the home front, we’re awaiting a zoning decision that may greatly impact the direction of our lives (or at least, the direction of my parents’ lives). My fingers are crossed that the zoning commission is able to make a case with the city council about modifying the new regs for short-term rentals. In the meantime, we’ve developed a good list of contingency plans but are hoping we can move ahead with our original plan. Either way, my parents will be moving into their new home on June 1. Can’t wait!
And with that, another AtoZChallenge is in the bag. I’ll be updating the blog much less regularly, but I hope you’ll check back now and again. Every Monday, you’ll see a new #WhatsYourStory segment about an aspiring or published author. Drop by and introduce yourself to some great new reads!
Thanks for reading J
G. Bennett Humphrey’s historical non-fiction/memoir: BREAKING LITTLE BONES, Triumph and Trauma, The First Cures of Childhood leukemia, (2016) describes his one year spent as a clinical associate on the children’s leukemia ward, 2 East, at the National Cancer Institute, NIH, from July 1, 1964 through June 30, 1965.
From 1966 to 2005, he pursued a career in pediatric oncology. He has been a visiting professor in the US, Europe and Japan and was listed in the 1993-1994 edition of Who’s Who in the World.
In retirement, Ben’s activities included; long distant cycling, hiking, canine care, outdoor adventures in Colorado with grandchildren, and writing, and publishing prose and poetry. One poem from his chapbook, The Magpie Cries, (2016) resulted in his being named Senior Poet Laureate of Colorado for 2013, and he received a welcome review of BREAKING LITTLE BONES by Kirkus Reviews in 2017 and a positive judge’s critique for the 25th Annual Writer’s Digest Contest 2017.
I was a very ambitious and very immature boy in 1955. I wanted a career in academic medicine and I was lucky enough to be accepted into the University of Chicago’s MD/PhD program. Nine years later I had: my MD, a PhD in biochemistry, completed an internship and two years of residency in Internal Medicine, and studied for one year in a research lab in Germany. I’d been a busy boy, and I was still ambitious and immature. I had to complete the last year of residency in internal medicine and a two-year fellowship in the subspecialty of my choice, Hematology. I’d be 35 years old before I could look for a job.
Big Problem: The Vietnam war was heating up, and the military needed doctors. Two years of military service would be a zip on my Curriculum Vita, one’s job resume in academia. There was an alternative possibility: the Yellow Berets. The National Institutes of Health, NIH, had a program for clinical associates: two years as a commissioned officer in the U. S. Public Health Service. An appointment to NIH was a big deal - an anti-zip. I applied and got in.
Bigger Problem: I was one of three physicians to work on the pediatric leukemia ward, called 2 East, at the Clinical Center on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. All of my training was in adult medicine. What did I know about children? -Zip. One of my colleagues was also an internist, Jerry Sandler, and the other was a pediatrician, Rick Lottsfeldt, who had completed his fellowship in pediatric oncology. During wars, friendships are forged under fire watching friends die. Our friendship would be forged on this unit, under fire from senior staff, and the friends we’d watch die were the children on 2 East.
Even Bigger Problem: Adult patients have relatives; children have mothers. Mothers! What did I know about mothers? Nothing. For me as an internist, a mother was a caring adult having years of experience with a pediatric person. A knowledgeable woman who could understand an illiterate infant’s needs, whose day was filled with interruptions and dirty diapers and who for some inexplicable reason wasn’t an alcoholic.
But my problems turned into life experiences that began on day one. A nurse introduced me to my patients. In the first room, a three-year-old boy sat among a zoo of stuffed animals. He appeared in no distress -- apparently indifferent to the dried blood covering his face and hands. He clutched a teddy bear also coated with blood. When Billy offered me his bloodstained bear, I took it, pretended to examine the abdomen, and returned the bear with a smile. He smiled back. In the past, as an internist, I was often given a bottle of booze by a grateful patient. Now a child had trusted me with his most prized possession. The nurse told me that not everybody was allowed to hold that bear. I was deeply moved, and my year on 2 East would be full of such encounters. Kids are neat; they cope better than adults. It’s a privilege to be taken into their world, to bond with them.
I had much to learn about caring for patients and much of that would come from the nurses. Doctors treat; nurses care. At the end of rounds on that first morning, I took a moment to reflect on the nurse. Her name tag read “Morgan.” A short, peppy attractive young woman, she had touched each child on the shoulder while introducing me. It was a little gesture but an important bridge of love between a patient and nurse. I would witness these acts of caring for the next year.
The mothers would teach me, among other things, about the daily task of living one’s ethics and discovering the hues of love. I would stand in awe of these compassionate women who used a variety of coping styles. One of the few things God got right was creating Mothers and Nurses.
“What’s my story?” In addition to the above, I would be part of two events. Firstly, a paradigm shift in the medical attitude towards childhood leukemia. Generally considered a uniformly fatal disease, the chemotherapy under investigation at NIH would result in a 15 percent cure rate. A few cures are hard to see when most of your patients die. Secondly, I would undergo a transformation from an internist interested in basic research to a physician who would leave internal medicine, retrain and become a pediatric oncologist devoted to clinical research.
For 50 years, I’ve known I’ve wanted to capture this one pivotal year, 1964, of my life in a memoir. But how would that be possible? I had absolutely no training in creative writing, and I would have to deal with a lifelong disability -- dyslexia. I had written scientific articles, clinical reports, book chapters and even books in pediatric oncology. Good practice in dull writing.
Ironically, my introduction to creative writing started with five years, 2005 to 2010, of studying, reading, workshops and publishing poems. Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, Kentucky, even published a collection of poems, The Magpie Cried, 2013. One poem from that collection resulted in my being named Senior Poet Laureate of Colorado for 2013. What a wonderful way to spend one’s time and energy.
In 2010, I started to work in prose. My goal: capture that one pivotal year. I was lucky in have valuable feedback and critiques from over 20 authors, six of whom deserve special mention because they read multiple drafts of my manuscript: the members of the Fort Garland Literary Society, Mary Lampe, Francie Hall, and Rhonda Borders; Annie Dawid, award-winning author and retired Professor of English, who was my tutor in writing; Summer Wood, award-winning author and recipient of the 2012 Willa Award; and Pat Nolan, poet, artist and a mother who has had to endure the loss of a child. The manuscripts went through 15 drafts. I’m not very bright, but I am tenacious.
After a year of corresponding and meeting literary agents who felt no one wants to read about the death of children, I had a very enjoyable experience self-publishing with the help of the CreateSpace staff from Amazon. Breaking Little Bones was published in 2016. There have been 22 Amazon reader reviews, and positive critiques from Kirkus Reviews and the Writers Digest 25th annual contest.
I’m still ambitious. I’d like to find a small press or a literature agent for Breaking Little Bones, but my immaturity gave way along time ago to gratitude for spending my academic career in pediatric oncology.
Breaking Little Bones
In this profound, complex story, G. Bennett Humphrey, MD, PhD, chronicles his year on 2 East, a pediatric leukemia floor. Doctors are fighting a presumedmortality rate of 100 percent, but the cost of finding a cure weighs heavily on their hearts. The cure rate for the children of 2 East in 1964 will turn out to be 15 percent.
With almost no training in pediatrics and no experience with chemotherapy, the author confronts an entirely different world. From the beginning he is amazed by the strength of the mothers, the compassion of the nurses, and the admirable ways the children themselves cope with this devastating illness.
Breaking Little Bones combines the personal and the scientific in poignant moments. It is both an overview of the revolutionary medical progress made in treating acute lymphocytic leukemia in 1964 and an honest narrative of what it was like to be there. Humphrey knew these kids. He knew Todd, who loved words, and Polly, who held her bald head proudly. He formed a brotherly bond with his team members, and he had to figure out his own unique way to cope with the grief.
This transformative look into one of the most heartbreaking areas of medicine digs deep, revealing what we can learn about truly living from those facing an early death.
Check out G. Bennett Humphrey's website here!
Where to Buy Breaking Little Bones
A few years ago, my son’s music teacher taught them the words to Yellow Submarine. I’ve always loved their music teacher. He introduces them to music that they might never otherwise have heard, and my children have developed all sorts of opinions that are both awesome and hilarious. For instance, during their Beatles lessons, my son declared that “John is the best Beatle”. We bought my son a Yellow Submarine ornament for the Christmas tree.
One of the first songs I learned to play on my ukulele was Coldplay’s Yellow. That song speaks to my soul, and I can’t tell you exactly why. Maybe it’s because my dad wrote a song about the color blue and it got me to thinking about the colors of feelings. People usually associate anger with the color red, but for me anger is more of a fiery orange. And yellow, which for some people might resemble fear, is a sunshiny happy color to me. As I’m thinking about the new house, I see yellow, even though there’s not a speck of yellow in the house.
Xenial is word used to describe a friendly relationship between two parties, as in host and guest. Usually, I would choose a cheat word for this category…like Xtra or Xactly. And my husband suggested that I make this post about egg puns because we’ve been pretty obsessed with those since my daughter had to recite Shel Silverstein’s poem “Eggs-rated” a few years ago. BUT, I chose xenial because when our home improvement is all said and done, we hope to have xenial relationships with our guests.
Today’s topic is appropriate for two reasons. First, tomorrow I am flying to New Mexico – get it, winging it. I feel like there’s not enough time to do everything I want to do before I go, so I’m having to reevaluate. Just hoping I can get the important things in.
Which brings me to reason #2, I am completely disorganized and discombobulated today. So I am literally winging it with this blog post, with packing for the trip…you name it. I can’t seem to stick with structure right now, and I’m looking forward to letting everything go tomorrow and just being present with my family. Because honestly, I can’t quite keep it together this week.
Winging it. Brought to you by the letter W. And in case you're wondering why I don't just end this challenge a little early, it's because I think I can finish this. And there are so many things right now that I'm just not able to do...it helps.
By necessity, my last few posts are going to be short. I’ve got about 36 hours to make arrangements to get to my cousin’s out-of-state funeral, and prioritization of tasks is key.
The two things I focused on this week in my new novel were setting and character, specifically the development of my antagonist. When I think of villains, I often come around to the most exquisite Don John from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. He has no particular reason to cause trouble except that it suits his mood. In real life, I don’t believe that this type of villain is common. Humans are complex and there are many reasons for the way we act and react. In fact, one of my pet peeves is the use of the word “monster” to describe criminals. I think that labeling someone a monster marks them as so “other” that we relieve ourselves of the responsibility of trying to understand them. And if there’s one thing I do believe, it’s that ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. Humans who commit crimes do so for a reason, and understanding that reason helps us to understand how to help them OR prevent them from doing it again.
Yesterday, I was feeling frustrated and I used my T day to vent. Then, in the afternoon, my mother called to let me know that my cousin Tiffany died and I’ve got to tell you, I felt the weight of my petty frustrations like an elephant on my chest. So, today, instead of talking about writing or home improvement projects, I’d like to talk about unconditional love.
One thing that I’ve always cherished about my family is the way we love each other. We’re all so splendidly flawed, but not a day goes by when I don’t know that I have their love and support lifting me up. We make mistakes, but we find a way back to each other. I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world.
As I’m writing this, my thoughts are with Tiff. No matter what was going on in our lives, I always felt that she loved me. The last time I spoke with her was after her birthday. We shared milestones last year. I turned 40, she turned 50 and my mother turned 60. I sent her a card and then we exchanged texts. The last thing I said to Tiff was “I love you” and for that, I am so grateful. I hope she knew how much I loved her.
Death has a way of making us think about the people we love, the ones who have left us and the ones who remain. As I process Tiff’s passing, I will do my very best to reach out to those people and make sure they know how much I love them now, and will always love them. The love I have for my family is unconditional, and my heart is full with them.
I despise Monday mornings. Not the whole day….just the mornings. Trying to get the kids ready for school and out the door is so much more challenging when they’re both asleep on their feet. My daughter literally falls asleep at the breakfast table sometimes. And neither my son nor my daughter is particularly pleasant.
When my sweet little angels are on the bus and off to school, I find that my step has a little bit more spring in it. The thought of getting to work is actually amazing! And I ride that high all day.
Unlike many people, I am most productive on Monday’s. I can get a million tasks done because I am finally free to do so, relieved of the tyranny and oppression of my demanding cherubs. While they’re off learning, I’m writing, and planning, and checking things off my to-do list like a madwoman, completely content despite the fact that we’re at the start of an uphill climb to the next weekend.
Monday mornings are torture, but Monday afternoons are pure bliss.
Does anyone else feel like this?
Where’s my coffee!?!
(T is also for tomorrow, when I will quit all my complaining and write about writing and home improvement again :) ).
Avery Daniels was born and raised in Colorado, graduated from college with a degree in business administration and has worked in fortune 500 companies and Department of Defense her entire life. Her most eventful job was apartment management for 352 units. She still resides in Colorado with two brother black cats as her spirited companions. She volunteers for a cat shelter, enjoys scrapbooking and card making, photography, and painting in watercolor and acrylic. She inherited a love for reading from her mother and grandmother and grew up talking about books at the dinner table
When I first began writing, there were plenty of stories I started. It took a few years of studying writing craft books and taking writing classes to learn how to do more than just start a story.
I am very appreciative to all those who share their author expertise with newbies like me. They are the reason I have two cozy mysteries published, am editing a suspense thriller novel, and plotted the third cozy mystery in the series.
The suspense thriller is one of the early ideas that stood out and I felt was a story I really wanted to tell. I have learned so much over the years. It seems like such a simple idea to write a story, just write a beginning - middle - and end. There is so very much more involved than taking all the ingredients and throwing them together. The process is part alchemy, part art, and part science.
I am finally getting that early idea for a suspense thriller finished up, edited, and close to finished. Even though this is my third book to complete and publish, there is always a sense of pure magic to have a finished book that others read and enjoy. I don't think I will ever get tired of that feeling.
My inspirations are different depending upon the genre. For my cozy mystery series, I start working from the victim and murder method then develop the rest from there. But the Suspense Thriller novel, which will be a trilogy, begins with a current event or concept that my imagination has run with and built a big plot idea. Then through in a few levels of complexity. Both are fun but very different to me.
My motivation for writing is simple. I want to create the type stories I enjoy reading - where I get caught up in the world of the book and loose track of time. I had read many stories and thought to myself, "What if the story had gone in this direction?" Thus began the kernel of the idea to write some novels myself. I found I enjoyed the writing process, coming up with characters, plots, and twists.
I am so appreciative of getting to take the ideas that keep coming into my mind and write them into complete novels.
I have been very fortunate to meet Jeffery Deaver and Rhys Bowen. I would like to meet and discuss writing and books with David Baldacci and Daniel Silva because their suspense and thriller novels are among my favorites.
Thank you for letting me share a little about my writing with you.
Nailed (Resort to Murder #2)
Julienne is snow bound in the middle of the Rocky Mountains with a killer striking at will.
Julienne LaMere gets to attend a Resort Management conference at a prestigious ski resort in the Colorado Mountains. What should be an enjoyable getaway attending workshops by day and shopping and enjoying the resort by night comes to a screeching halt when a loud-mouthed guest is murdered plus the roads and town shut down for an epic blizzard.
In addition to attending the conference, dodging a smitten teen boy, and seeking clues among the gossiping - and increasingly tense - guests, her best friend’s heart has warmed to an unlikely man and may get broken. As if her mind isn’t already fully occupied, Julienne and her new boyfriend Mason are skiing down troubled slopes in their relationship. Will Julienne put the scant clues together and unveil the culprit before a murderer gets away?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Avery-Daniels/e/B0719JXY83
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AveryDanielsAuthor/
Where to Buy Nailed
First, a funny tale from last night’s sleepover. My son, who is a huge introvert, has become quite the socialite lately. So yesterday, he had a playdate and then a sleepover with two different kids in one night. I was exhausted. This morning, I go to wake up the boys. I say, “I’m going to take a shower and then I can make you breakfast.” His friend says, “Can you lock the door when you take a shower?” I raise my eyebrows and say, “Why? Are you planning on walking in?” And he says, “No, just lock it please.” Umm…
I’ve convinced myself that this request is the result of school discussions about privacy. Otherwise, I don’t want to know.
On a house note, we found a great sectional for the new house. I was really concerned about how we were going to manage to get a couch up to the 3rd floor suite in our 100+ year old home without damaging something. Luckily, my friend just got a new sectional and she mentioned that it came in about 15 boxes and I thought “Hmm…something that breaks down into tiny pieces would be really really good.” She bought the couch at Lovesac. I didn’t even know they sold couches. Yesterday, my husband and I went into their mall shop to do some information gathering and we came away with a sectional that is going to be amazing in that space. Plus, we got to play with wooden blocks. Score!
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
Be My Guest!
#WhatsYourStory? Are you an author? I'd love to hear your story and so would my readers. Email me for more information.