Friday, June 22, 2012

Interview: Susan A. Royal

Cyrus: Hey, Everyone. This week on Distant Shores I want to introduce you to someone who helped me along considerably in my writing career. Susan and I first met minds at Critique Circle over my first novel Becoming NADIA, which went on to be published by MuseItUp Publishing. She was an invaluable crit partner, providing new points of view and invaluable feedback, and I’m proud to say her own debut novel Not Long Ago is now available through—guess who? MuseItUp Publishing! Okay, everyone, tap your “insert” keys repeatedly for historical novelist Susan A. Royal.

Susan: First thing I want to do is thank Cyrus Keith for allowing me to guest on his blog.  I met Cyrus way back when we were both newbies on Critique Circle, a great online critique group I highly recommend.  I was immediately drawn to his WIP, which went on to become his award-winning debut novel, Becoming NADIA.  I soon discovered it was not just another action-packed thriller.  It was deep.  I also found myself invested in his main characters, Nadia and Jon.  His supporting cast was just as complex and interesting.  A great book, and if you haven’t read it, you’re missing out.

Cyrus: Wow, thanks for the kudo’s, Susan. I’m glad you enjoyed my work. But we’re here to talk about your book and your characters. So ‘fess up. Let’s have the scoop, as it were. 

Susan:That brings me to one of my favorite things about writing, and that is developing characters.  And not just the main characters, either.  When I first envision things, the hero/heroine are the force that drives the story line.  They have their jobs cut out for them from the beginning, so I have to make sure their personalities match the part they are going to play.  

Not so with the supporting characters.  For instance, in Not Long Ago, which is a time travel adventure with just the right amount of romance, I introduce a character early on who was originally intended to stay on the sidelines and appear from time to time, but only when needed.  “Along with a disreputable shock of orange hair, the gangly, young man possessed an ingratiating smile and a pleasant manner.”  His name was Arvo, and he was the tailor’s son my time traveling heroine, Erin, met on her way to the castle, where she hoped to find answers to why she was transported to this medieval time.  Even though Erin falls victim to Arvo’s irresponsible attitude almost immediately, “the minute the two men left our side, Arvo winked, telling me he’d see me later, and disappeared. His escape was no doubt one of the reasons he and his father clashed so often” she can’t help but like him, because of his wit and cheerfulness, plus the fact that he was privy to castle gossip.

Arvo’s character evolved until he became an integral part of my story.  When I decided Erin needed a confidant, Arvo fit the bill.  Lat on I needed to invent a way for her to attend the ball, once again, the tailor’s son was perfect.  His character expanded and his personality gained dimension.  Arvo kept showing up, and before I knew it, he became a well-rounded character who made my story even better by his presence.

Cyrus: Isn’t it strange how secondary characters can develop so much color? I had that same thing happen to me. Tell us about your big debut.

Susan: A little more about Not Long Ago:  While doing research for a novel set in the Middle Ages, Erin and her employer, March, are transported to a time where chivalry and religion exist alongside brutality and superstition. Things are not quite right at the castle, and Erin and March feel sure mysterious Lady Isobeil is involved. Erin must cope with crop circles, ghosts, a kidnapping and death before the truth of her journey is revealed.

Forced to pose as March’s nephew, Erin finds employment as handsome Sir Griffin’s squire. She’s immediately attracted to him and grows to admire his courage, quiet nobility and devotion to duty. Yet, she must deny her feelings. Her world is centuries away, and she wants to go home. Despite that, Erin can’t stop thinking about her knight in shining armor.
Arvo is only one of the things that makes Not Long Ago memorable.  Please join me and travel along with Erin while she journeys to another world, filled with other amazing characters
Not Long Ago is currently available through MuseItUp Publishing, Amazon and B&N. 

You can view Not Long Ago book trailer here.       

Cyrus: That’s awesome, Susan. Folks, I can attest this is a book you’ll like. I’m not a fan of *shudders* romance, per se, but Susan managed to crank out a rich, colorful story that doesn’t overpower us with rippling muscles and vivacious curves. Her characters are real enough to touch, and her settings are well-researched. She’ll draw you right into her world and keep you wanting more.

Anything else you want to add, sis?

Susan: Just so you know, you’ll be seeing Arvo again.  Along with some of my other supporting characters, he’ll return in the sequel to Not Long Ago, my current WIP.  Here’s an unedited excerpt:

     I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Gone was the tall, gangly young man with orange hair shooting in every direction at once.  In his place stood a well-dressed merchant whose air of self-assurance fit him like the tailored clothing he wore.  Speechless, I could only gape.
     “Well now.  I did not expect a reaction such as this.  Are ye that surprised to see me again or merely weak from the shock of my appearance?”  He fixed me with his brown eyes and grinned, instantly transforming into the Arvo I knew. 

My thanks, Cyrus, for hosting me on your blog.  It’s been a distinct pleasure to count you among the friends I’ve made on my journey to become a published author.  You are a unique individual in this world, a generous person who always gives more than he takes. 

Cyrus: Wow, how do I follow that up? Thanks to Susan A. Royal, for coming by to show us all a little of herself. You can check out Not Long Ago and a couple hundred other awesome titles at Stop by and see us there.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Epilepsy, Part 2

Guys, I know there’ are conspiracy theories to recount, but I need to add one more thing to last week’s post, and that’s first aid for the epileptic. Doing the right thing at the right time can make the difference between life and death for a person having a seizure, and at the very least prevent injury.

There are two different types of seizure activity. Tonic-clonic seizures are more commonly called “grand-mal) (French meaning: “Big Bad”). They show up as violent, uncontrollable jerks and body convulsions. As the seizure begins, the victim seems to space out and their eyes glaze over (a phenomenon called an aura). Within seconds, they lose consciousness and fall to the ground, and the muscle convulsions begin. They can last up to a minute (in rare cases, longer). The victim is at risk for injury from slamming into furniture, or from biting their mouth and tongue. Often they can throw up, and the risk is great that they can inhale vomit into their lungs.

What you do in this case is:

1.       NOT to panic. Stay cool and do the right things, and they’ll make it through.
2.       Don’t try to restrain them. Just clear the area, and make sure they don’t hit something that can hurt them.
3.       DO NOT put anything in their mouth. You may have heard you need to keep them from biting their tongue. Once again, don’t try to pry their mouth open or put anything between their teeth. All you’ll accomplish is getting something broken, if you manage to keep all your fingers in the process.
4.       Speak to them in a calm, quiet voice. I have an uncle who we can talk down from a seizure that way. The external stimulus can (not always) help them fight out of it.
5.       After the convulsions end, roll them over onto their side. Bend their top leg and bring that knee forward so they can stay there. Bring the bottom arm up under their head. That’s called “The Recovery Position.” It means they are in a position that takes no effort to remain in, and if they throw up, they can get rid of it rather than backing it up into their lungs.
6.       Call 9-1-1

The other type of seizure is called “petit-mal” (“little bad”) or complex partial seizure. These are much less dramatic than the  tonic-clonic seizures discussed above, but no less dangerous to the patient. The aura mentioned above precedes this type as well. The person may get intense feelings of déjà vu or vertigo, or become disoriented. My younger sister would often simply lose track of who she was or where she was, and at least once she simply wandered off from our group. She wouldn’t respond to speech or touch, and I ended up just following her around Wal-Mart until she came around again. If she grabbed at anything, I just let her handle it until she put it down.

Once again, talk to them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Don’t get in their way unless they are heading toward a dangerous situation. Then, just get between them and the hazard. See if you can get them to sit down until they can interact with you on a reasonable level. Stay with them until family or other help can come and take them home. DO NOT let someone drive who’s recovering from such a seizure. They can remain disoriented for some time afterward.

Some of these steps may be stupid-simple for some of you fine folks, but maybe someone picked up something new. In that case, my job is done. I hope you understand a little more than you did before.

Next week, we resume our previous insanity. Look for it.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Divertissement: Epilepsy

Lately, we’ve been looking at ways a Pinnacle-like organization can exert their will on an unwitting world through subterfuge, lies, and propaganda.

This week I feel led to take a little side-trip to a more serious topic, one that has impacted my life in more ways than appropriate, and that is Epilepsy and other Seizure Disorders.

You see, recently the son of one of my Muse sisters was diagnosed with epilepsy. Another dear friend and Muse sister has a different type of seizure disorder. My younger daughter has been struggling against epilepsy most of her life. My younger sister also had epilepsy, and it is featured at various points in both mine and my wife’s family trees.

One reason I want to discuss this is because so many people have no idea what epilepsy is, or understand the dangers of a seizure disorder or what happens. So as I’ve had fourteen years plus of up-close and personal experience, I want to do my part to help you understand just a little more about it.

First, let’s look at the brain: six billion neurons and synapses, all holding within them who we are, thoughts, personality, sensory analysis, and the command center for the body. Each body function or command is centered in a different part of the brain. Speech, taste, vision, intuition, creativity, etc. all have a “home” in a different corner of that grey miracle inside our skulls.

The brain operates on electricity generated naturally within the body via a delicate balance of Sodium and Potassium. This activity can be measured and recorded in a process called an Electroencephalogram, or EEG. Thirty-two tiny wires are attached to the skull with conductive paste, and the brain’s electrical activity is read. Normally, the brain operates on about 250 microvolts of electrical charge, and these six billion neurons are all firing signals at each other as they receive impulses from the rest of the body in a happily random scramble of information.

In an epileptic brain, there are bundles of neurons (brain cells) that occasionally refuse to tow the random line for a variety of reasons, like old head injuries, chemical imbalances, and other causes. These bundles start firing at a higher voltage, and at regular intervals. These are called discharge events, and they come in two types, called “spike” and “wave,” named for the types of patterns they draw on an EEG. The voltage can reach as high as 750 microvolts, which can be dangerous to healthy tissue. In other words, these pulses can and do cause brain damage every time they fire off. In some types of epilepsy, these bundles can cause other bundles to synchronize their activity to the pulse-rhythm as well. The damage cam then spread across the brain like crabgrass, and a seizure is initiated.

Let me say here that there are over forty different types of epilepsy. Forty different ways the brain can go wrong. Seizure activity can show as anything from mild “spacing out” to major tonic-clonic, or “Grand-Mal” seizures that leave the victim a twitching, helpless wreck for up to a minute at a time. Remember, throughout all these events, brain tissue is dying, no matter what the severity of the seizure. And sooner or later, the patient simply runs out of functional brain, and it quits. Early death is common if not treated.

So yeah. Epilepsy and seizure disorders in general are a nassssty sack of Bagginses and we hates them forever (Sorry, Professor Tolkein). Treatment can be tricky. First of all, the neurologist has to determine which type of disorder the patient has, and which medicine to administer (or surgery to perform) to get the seizures under control. Each type of disorder has a different molecular code that will help the cells to maintain their random firing rate, and each of these meds has its own baggage that comes along with it. Dilantin, Phenobarbital, Carbatrol, Zonegran, and Topamax are just a few of these. Implanting a vagus nerve stimulator is like a pacemaker for the brain that calms the signal pattern and restores the random pattern of the brain.

In any case, a vigorous vitamin regimen can help to restore the damage done. Folic acid, Vitamins B, C, and D, Citric Acid, and Omega-3 fatty acids promote healing and proper neural health. Zinc, Chromium Picolinate, and magnesium are minerals that also play an important part.

Anyway, thanks for hearing me out. If one person reads this and finds the information useful in any way, the hassle is well worth it. As someone in an Epilepsy Foundation ad once said, “Time lost is brain lost.