Sunday, December 11, 2011

Good News and a Stern Warning (Heart Sick, Pt. 4)


First allow me to apologize for taking longer than I had planned to write this. I genuinely didn’t mean for so much time to pass before continuing. All I can say is that it’s right near the end of the school year and I’ve been quite busy. And now…

To recap… the doctor who had first diagnosed me wasn’t even my own primary care physician. But I had called their office – unable to do anything but breathe very shallowly – and another doctor in the office saw me that day. It would be tough to complain about that level of quality service, and I won’t. The doctor realized there was something amiss with my heart, not my lungs, and took an x-ray of it.

Let me be clear. I saw it. It was huge. When I was referred to the cardiologist, he ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed that I had an oversized heart and that there were going to be complications and problems.

I have an arrhythmia. In my case, it takes the form of an atrial flutter. This means that it might, for no good reason whatsoever, simply start racing. The risk of sudden death, of going into congestive heart failure is minimal. It can happen, but it would have to get up to about 300 beats per minute and stay there.

There is also an increased risk of stroke, which is why they’re pumping me full of Coumadin and trying to thin my blood out.

On its own, an atrial flutter can be managed by medication, which is the goal.

While the doctors were learning what was wrong with me, I encountered a situation and had to visit the emergency room (story told here). The ER doctor who took care of me (I think I’m going to have to call him Dr. Doug Ross because… well, he was handsome) made sure I stayed there until my heart slowed and the beat got stronger. Before I was discharged, my heart had slowed to 94 beats per minute – the lowest it had been since this whole blasted thing began. He said the rhythm was strong and the beat was steady, and it was safe for me to return home. And he also gave me some really shocking news.

I’ll get to that in a moment.

A few days later, after I’d spent time at home doing nothing but thinking, I went to the cardiologist’s office for a previously scheduled appointment. The first thing he did was order an EKG. I sat through it and waited until the results were in.

It beat at 75 beats per minute – strong, steady, and constant. He smiled at me and said with some real deserved pride, “We are now chemically maintaining your heart.”

It’s better than it sounds. It means that the various pills I’m taking had taken hold and started working. As of right then, we are able to count on having my heart working like it is supposed to. I’ll have to keep taking the various medications for some time, though he and my primary care physician both said I may not have to be on them for eternity.

There is always the chance that the atrial flutter will kick in again and my heart will start racing, but the experts say the chance of that is much less now, and will be even less in the future. Apparently a heart in rhythm wishes to stay in rhythm.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned is the first thing that I was told – about my enlarged heart. There’s a reason for that. In the emergency room, Dr. Doug Ross told us that my heart, actually, was not enlarged.

My jaw dropped, and my girl and I immediately started questioning him. He insisted that he could tell the heart wasn’t enlarged. In fact, he had the hospital’s tech take two separate x-rays of my chest, to make sure. I asked him about the first x-ray taken and described what I saw. He made a point of telling us that if a chest x-ray was taken at an angle, it could ‘shadow’ and make the heart and heart cavity look much larger.

Between leaving the ER and seeing the cardiologist, we wondered if a terrible mistake hadn’t been made. Was that first one nothing but a shadow? Why did I have a hard time breathing the first time? Was it a racing heart that sent me to the ER or just a mad, bad panic attack?

With a list of questions written up and ready to go, I waited until the cardiologist had given me all the good news and started to ask…

No. He was firm about that. The ER x-rays were not accurate. I have an enlarged heart, he insisted. I gave him the same spiel that Dr. Doug Ross gave me about angles and heart cavities and misrepresentations…

No, the cardiologist said. An x-ray is like a shadow animal made on a wall – you can see the outline and shape of what I’m doing, but you can’t actually see what’s wrong with my hands.

Assuming that’s right, I asked, what is the best way to see what’s wrong with my heart? An ultrasound, he answered. He’d already given me one.

He reminded me of the same thing that Dr. Doug Ross had reminded me – I could seek a second opinion. I decided that everything would wait until I saw my primary care physician and see what he said. I had a chance to do that a little less than a week later.

He strongly suggested that I listen to the cardiologist. This is what he does, he said. He is a cardiac interventionalist. It’s his job to intervene and save peoples’ lives.

Neither my primary care physician nor the cardiologist said anything nasty about Dr. Doug Ross’s findings. Instead, they pointed out as an emergency room physician he knew a lot about a lot of different things. But a cardiologist is a specialist who basically knows everything there is to know about his specialty – which I fell into.

I’m still considering getting a second opinion, but I haven’t yet. It’s not because of what they disagree about; it’s because of what they agree on. An atrial flutter can be managed by medication, and that’s what we’re doing. But it can also make a pre-existing situation worse… which is why I don’t think the second opinion matters that much.

I weigh too much. Up until mid-October, I was a somewhat-regular smoker of cigars. I don’t get enough sleep, I wallow in too much stress, and I’m not getting enough exercise. Oddly enough, I do eat pretty healthily, but that’s about all I’ve got going for me, healthwise.

Whether or not my heart is enlarged – and for the record, let me state that I suspect it is – it doesn’t really matter. I need to continue to make some sweeping changes in my life. Improving my heart health happens the same time that I improve my all-over health. The doctors all agree that the best way to shrink my heart is to improve everything. The more weight I carry, the harder my heart works. I’ve quit smoking entirely, so my lungs will begin to return to a like-new condition and I’ll get more oxygen into my system with less effort. Getting sleep, removing stress… these keep my heart beating well, strong, and slowly.

I received good news. It just happened to come alongside a very stern warning: fix this or nothing will change.

I’m fixing this. I’m making the changes.

More next time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

From Bad to Worse to Pretty Good, Actually (Heart Sick, Pt. 3)

Click here to catch up on what's gone before.
November 10 went wrong from the moment I woke up. Within minutes, my heart started to race. I couldn’t breathe. My thoughts muddled then sharpened. I was upstairs and needed to be downstairs. Since I was brushing my teeth when this began, I left the bathroom, grabbed the nearest clothes and my phone, and hurried down to the living room.
As bad as I hate to say it, I have suffered a panic attack once or twice in the past. Needless to say, I didn’t like it. I was familiar with the feeling of helplessness and anxiety, the racing heart, and that adrenalin-fueled desperate need to fight or fly that marked a panic attack.

I don’t think this was it, but I’m not so naïve to fail to note the similarities.

I thought I was dying. Trying to take deep, calming breaths, I sat on the couch in the living room and tried to take control. My breathing was shallow and difficult – like it was the first time – but my heart beat so quickly that my fingers began to turn red and when I tried to pick up my phone, I was unable to operate it.

I dropped the phone and sat for some time, doing nothing but taking controlling breaths, as long and deep as I could. When I had control of my hands, I picked up the phone and called my doctor. I left a message about my condition and asked for someone to call me back.

I hung up and still sat there. Taking those controlling breaths, I realized I should call 911.

I didn’t. Just about the moment I’d decided I needed to do it, I couldn’t. Oddly, I focused on the realization that I had managed to grab a few little bite-sized chunks of control, and I held onto that. It seems to me that the moment I realized that I held some control, my heart slowed just a bit.

I knew that if I called 911, I would lose control. I’d be on their schedule, I’d have to get them in the gate, and go with them in their bus, and do whatever they wanted me to. And, speaking with complete honesty, I didn’t think I’d survive that.

I needed that control.

I called my girlfriend at work and told her what was happening. I asked her to get here as soon as she could, but safely.

She did. Knowing that she was coming gave me a bit more control. Very slowly and deliberately, I took the meds I was scheduled to take a bit later. I put the pill bottles in a zip bag, grabbed the clipboard with the pertinent medical information on it, and even let the dog out to handle his early-morning business. I put on my shoes and waited.

My girl picked me up and got me to the emergency room very quickly. I sat in the passenger seat and took those breaths and tried to ignore the rapid beating.

I survived, but I’m guessing you already knew that. The staff at the hospital was tremendous. They got me triaged and in to see someone in about a minute. I grew calm and my heart slowed down. By the time I was laying in bed with all the little various wires and whatnot attached, by beats per minute were down to 94 – which is almost 40 points lower than the last time they’d checked it with an EKG.

I was exhausted, freaked out, emotional… and my heart was beating better than it had since this whole thing had begun.

My girl was as frazzled as I, if not more. I may have been the guy in bed, but she was the one sitting there next to me, asking good questions of the doctors and putting things in perspective.

We went home that night, and I had orders to stay mellow over the weekend. My doctor called the next day to tweak my meds and reminded me that I had an appointment to see the cardiologist.

The emergency room doctor had given me some shocking, but wonderful news. The cardiologist had a different take on things… but it was still good.

Next time: The Good, the Bad, and the Unimportant.

Read "Heart Sick" here.

Read "Heart Sick Pt. 2: Pills, Pills, and More Pills" here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pills, Pills, and More Pills (Heart Sick, Pt. 2)


I’m having health issues. We’ve established that now, right?(Go here to read “Heart Sick.”)

One of the annoyances of chemically trying to manage one’s heart – besides the possibility of it all just going feet-up with no warning – is actually taking the medication that’s been prescribed. I’m on a few things right now. Most of these I’d never heard of before being diagnosed, but now I’m becoming good friends with them.

As one of those people who really would benefit from some nifty single-payer insurance, I opted to go ahead and get the generic of everything, providing it did the same thing – which it does.

Having the name brand didn’t mean a darn thing to me. It’s not like I was going to be showing off my pill-bling at the 7-11. I just went with what was effective and what was relatively cheap.

Everyone knows these blasted things by their bling names, though, and it’s easier to just refer to them that way. So when I say I’m taking the blood-thinner Coumadin, I’m actually taking the generic version Warfarin. And let’s be honest, that has a much cooler name.

I’m also taking Digoxin and Cordarone to keep my heart beating regularly and slowly, and on Furosemide to get excess water and salt out of my body. And I’m taking a metric poo-ton of Potassium, because that also tends to get washed out by the water pills.

It’s the combination of side effects and warnings that are the most fun. These cover most of the usual medication side effects: nausea, dizziness, dry mouth, you know the kind. But they also have some really spiffy ones, like possibly losing short-term memory, liver damage, and… something else. I can’t remember.

That was a joke. Rest easy.

I can’t have ibuprofen or aspirin, since those may affect the blood-thinners. So when I get a nasty headache, I have to take Tylenol instead. As far as I’m concerned, that’s like a painkiller on training wheels.

I also have to watch how much leafy greens I can have. I can’t have cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, grapefruit juice, or grapefruit. And – even better! – I get to have blood drawn at least once a week to see how all these are working.

Woo boy. Good times.

I can’t stand needles. I used to be phobic about them, but over time that’s gone away. I still don’t like them. I also don’t like taking excess medications. Grapefruit juice and cranberry juice are two of my favorite things. And when a migraine comes roaring in, I want nothing less than real aspirin to go to work on it.

But those are fairly unimportant in the scheme of things. If it will help keep me going, I’ll make all those changes, take all those pills, have blood drawn every week, and miss out on all the rest.

Man, I want some cranberry juice.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Heart Sick


I am sick. I found out on Halloween that I have an enlarged heart. This discovery has already forced numerous changes in my life – none of them I am really happy about, but all of them I must accept.

Because not only is my heart oversized, according to the cardiologist, it’s also weak and arrhythmic, beating two or three times as fast as it should. If the doctors are unable to come up with a plan to treat me, and I am unable to commit to that plan, it’s a certainty that this big heart is going to kill me.

IT’S BEEN A LONG WEEK

Tuesday before last, I attended a journalists’ awards ceremony in San Diego. My throat was a little sore, but I felt fine. By the time I drove home, I had started to feel bad. Wednesday morning I was sick – quite sick. I left home only on Friday night, to attend a math class and take a test that simply could not be made up.

Made me happy, that did not.

But I survived, and still feverish, went home that night and collapsed. Saturday was little better. Around 3 am on Sunday morning, my fever finally broke and I fell into real sleep for the first time in days. Sunday was a good day – I did laundry, ran errands, felt great.

Monday morning I ran down two flights of stairs, grabbed some towels and a bath mat from the dryer, tossed my t-shirts and socks into the same dryer, and ran back upstairs to shower. After that, I took my fine dog, Adam, for his morning walk – and ended up just a bit winded. That’s unusual, since I love to walk, but I ascribed it to the lingering tendrils of illness.

After that, I ran downstairs, grabbed my t-shirts and socks, and ran back upstairs…

I thought I was going to collapse. I couldn’t breathe. I simply had no wind. I had to sit on the bed for almost ten minutes, trying to catch that breath. I am no dummy, so I walked slowly back downstairs to my phone. I was breathing hard when I got downstairs.

An hour before my noon aquatic class, I called in and said I couldn’t attend. An hour after that, I was on the phone with my new doctors’ office, trying to get an emergency appointment. At 3:30, I arrived at San Diego Sports Medicine to meet with a doctor who was helping out mine. I assumed there was an asthmatic or bronchial problem that had to be addressed.

After listening to my heartbeat, he said he wanted to do an EKG. I’m a firm believer in doing what a doctor wants, so I said “sure.” Already deeper into this than I imagined, I lie still while they did their work. After that, the doctor said he also wanted to do a chest X-ray.

I was starting to worry, but not that much. After all, I’d had a full physical in June, had my blood tested, and have seen a doctor about every six months for years.

I’ve never quite felt a bomb go off in my lap – not until the doctor told me, “You have an enlarged heart.”

He showed me the X-ray because it was clear I didn’t believe him. To my best visual estimate, it was somewhere between one-and-a-half and two times as large as it should be.

It turns out that the shortness of breath wasn’t a bronchial issue. My heart is so large that it is pushing against my lungs, stealing my breath. When I wheeze or cough, it’s not because of my lungs, it’s because of my heart.

I have no real history of heart disease in my family. My family has always trafficked in cancer. But my girlfriend’s dad – who I was never able to meet, but would love to have – died of an enlarged heart. I knew this was serious.

WHY WRITE ABOUT THIS?

I’ve spoken with several people who would be impacted by this. I have the blessings of my parents to do this, and a slightly concerned blessing from my girlfriend. Khari Johnson, the editor-in-chief of Imperial Beach Patch, said that he was okay with doing this, but insisted that I don’t allow it to become a stressor.

Max Branscomb, my journalism professor and the publisher of the phenomenally bad-ass Southwestern College Sun that I write for, told me to go ahead and do this if I wished, but he also made it clear that it should never take over my life.

It’s not going to. Let me assure you of that. I felt an urge to write about this, and I still have that urge. I need to make clear why I’m doing it.

There have been blogs and essays and brilliant writings by people who know they are going to die, and there have been even more versions written by people who are working to recover.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. I will be making two or three trips to San Diego each week for a while, having tests done and medications tweaked. Right now, we don’t really know the exact nature of the problems or if they can be fixed at all.

This could end in a few weeks or it could go on for a long time. I have no way of knowing. I am writing this believing that it’s going to end in one of two ways – with me happily detailing my new lifestyle and continued existence, or with a short note on this blog saying that will be last one.

I’m crying a bit as I’m writing. I rarely cry. I think that’s why I’m writing it down. Because I just don’t know.

WARTS AND ALL

One thing that I knew from the beginning was that this was going to be a “warts and all” version. I’m not going to gloss it over. I want no part of a glossy, easy-on-the-mind version. I want people to realize how fast, and how hard, this can be. If you are willing to stick with this, I see no reason why I shouldn’t be honest.

For the sake of privacy, I’m not going to name my doctors. They didn’t sign up for this, and all of them have done, or are doing their best to keep me alive. I’m going to return that respect.

Here we go…

I am a big guy. And by big, I mean, “really tall and really fat.” I am the guy that comes into a room and causes people to say, “Holy crap, that’s a big guy.” And they don’t always mean that in a good way.

I get that. I understand. I’ve been a “big guy” since my college days. I held it to a minimum for about a decade, but a series of sedentary jobs created a situation where I ate, ate, and ate, but never got enough (or in some jobs, any) exercise. I blame no one except myself.

But for the past fifteen years, my health has actually been pretty good. I’ve seen doctors pretty regularly, I’ve eaten better than you think, and I’ve kept tabs on my various issues. This past June, my doctor did a full battalion of blood tests on me. My blood sugar count was outstanding and my cholesterol total was about 117.

A few years ago, I started working to lose weight. Nothing happened. I started eating much healthier and getting more and more exercise. I didn’t expect to be svelte for swimsuit season, but I did think I should lose a few dozen pounds without any problem.

Never happened.

Last winter, a doctor suggested I try the lap band to lose weight. I told her I preferred to lose weight on my own if I could. Since then, I think I’ve lost a few pounds, but not more than that. During that time, I’ve eaten much less, walked much more, and started spending a couple days a week in the pool, swimming and exercising. By any human standard, I should have lost a lot of weight. It hasn’t happened.

So my June visit also included a look at my thyroid levels. According to the test results, there’s no problem with my thyroid. My blood sugar and cholesterol are excellent. I was told that both my heart and lungs were strong. But I was fat.

Quite possibly, at the time I had an enlarged heart.

LONG-TIME OR RECENT?

The cardiologist informed us that either my heart has been growing a long time, or that a recent viral infection could’ve caused it. I worry about both.

The long-term scenario seems impossible. In the past 15 years, I’ve been examined by four different doctors – none of whom reported anything about it – and I was seen in two different emergency rooms (for unrelated issues). Nobody said a thing about my heart, except that it always beat strong.

The recent scenario seems more likely, particularly if this illness last week may have triggered it, or somehow made an existent problem worse.

But I worry that if my heart can swell and grow and affect my lungs the way it has within a week…. then I worry that it is even more dangerous to me right now.

WHERE ARE WE?

For now, I have been told to rest and not exhaust myself. That’s extremely hard. There’s a lot that exhausts me right now. Starting Monday and Tuesday, I went from taking no regular medications to taking five. I have medications to slow my heart, medication to remove water from my system, and medication to thin my blood. 

They’re afraid of clotting causing a stroke, you see.

Personally, I don’t expect that this will last long. The first action of the cardiologist was to get me on meds to stabilize my heart so I can breathe easier.

I suspect that very soon I’ll be breathing fine again. But I’ll still have an enlarged heart that’s both arrhythmic and weak, and I’m going to have to follow any course of healing that will salvage it.

I have at least two visits to doctors next week. One is a follow-up visit to the cardiologist. I have questions about the medications, about what I can and can’t do, and about the road we’re traveling.

The other is a lengthy visit to my primary for tests and a new, complete workup.

And there we are.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

I Return to the Southwestern College Sun, and I Return to Writing About Proposition R Construction

So... as much as I'd like to come up with an excuse as to why I haven't posted this, there isn't one. The truth is that I simply forgot. I've been stupidly busy and this simply fell off my radar.

I have little to say, except that this is my most recent piece for the Southwestern College Sun.

I'm back, writing about construction and money issues related to the $389 million dollar Proposition R projects on campus.


And while you're at it, check out the Southwestern College Sun website. Our brilliant staff has redesigned it from stem to stern and has a new URL and a new host for it.

In case you want them, these are earlier pieces from the same Proposition R series:

"Board Orders New Audits on Contracts, SWC Foundation" (April 14, 2011)

"Delays, Controversy Again Stagger Corner Lot Project" (May 27, 2011)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I Won't Blog About 9/11

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I’m not going to blog about it. I’m not going to write an essay, or a reflection, or a news puff piece. I’m telling you this because I don’t want people to think I’ve forgotten, or that I don’t care, or that I think there are more important things out there.

But already my life is inundated with essays, reflections, photos, opinions, and news pieces. Everyone with a blog feels that they must do this go on the record with some anniversary content that will end up being just twaddle.

I’m not going to do that, because frankly, there are some people out there you should listen to, and I’m not one of them. I’m just a guy with opinions, and mine don’t matter enough to fool with – not more than yours.

I’d like you to know that I don’t feel I need to broadcast my thoughts to you, but don’t think for a moment that I'm not thinking about it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Summer of Hoop-Jumping (Dealing With the Administration at Southwestern College, Part I)

I know a few college professors. To be truthful, I know a lot of college professors. They are as different from each other as any population, but like any subset of the people, they have their own recurrent topics of conversation.


One such topic, of course, is “students.” As a smaller part of that subject, another frequently mentioned discussion topic is ‘student excuses.’

“My student says they were dropped without warning while they were trying to register.” “Well, my student claims his financial aid package just disappeared.” “Oh yeah? Well, I know one who says…”

I’ve heard a lot of them: the comments, questions, disbelief. In one instance, a professor of my acquaintance described a situation that a student had with financial aid as “impossible.”

The same thing happened to me.

Don’t think I’m castigating the instructors – I’m not. Not everyone has yet had that student who was able to explain things, to clarify exactly what happened. I suspect that eventually all of them will, because frankly, this system is deeply flawed.

As a result of that flawed system, some students will never get a chance to try again. Some simply fall away from college, because they were wrongly dropped or rejected, or because “they” put up one last hoop, one too high for the student to jump through.

(This article also appears on the Patch network.)

A SUMMER OF HOOP-JUMPING

I applied for financial aid in May this year. I knew about what classes I wanted to take, and by that I mean I had a vague idea, but I was bound and determined to actually get that education. I want that degree I’d never acquired, but the education was my goal.

Okay, the degree really is the goal, but I didn’t want to muck about and try to game the system to get that degree with as little work as possible. I wanted to take those blasted classes and learn something.

I applied near the end of the spring semester. Things began to go wrong immediately. Every day I checked my email with a vague sense of dread, wondering what hoops Southwestern College had for me to leap through this time.

On two separate weekends, I received trios of emails in the middle of the night, starting late Friday – three days of three emails. Both times the format was the same: two emails that read “Congratulations! You’ve been approved for financial aid at SWC!” followed by one that said “We’re sorry, but you’ve been rejected.”

I’m a writer. I can handle rejection.

But each rejection including a line that read (and this is a quote): “…you are not eligible for the program due to the following reason:”

And… nothing. No reason, just a blank line.

Each time that happened, I packed up various documents, records, schedules, tax forms, and so on and hauled it all down to SWC’s financial aid department. Each time I was told, “Whoops! That’s a computer glitch. You shouldn’t have had to come down here. You’re fine.”

That happened twice.

On two other occasions, I received emails that read, “Your application for financial aid at Southwestern College has been received. However, the documents listed below are required to review your file.”

And… nothing. No documents listed, just a blank line.

Of course, these happened at different times than the terrible trios of emails occurred. So again, each time I packed up the document box and hauled it to SWC. And again, each time I was told, “Whoops! That’s another computer glitch. You don’t owe us anything.”

On my fourth and final trip to SWC this past summer to account for documents they didn’t need and to find out why I was eligible, eligible, and ineligible, I asked the employee at the financial aid desk if I needed to provide anything.

“No,” she said. “Your file is closed. You don’t need to bring anything else. We’ll review it and you should be set come autumn!” (I’m paraphrasing here. I didn’t know I’d need to record the conversation.)

Autumn arrived. I’d selected my classes and on the Sunday afternoon before I went back, I suddenly had a feeling of dread. I logged into the campus computer system to see how things were going.

They weren’t.

YOU NEED TO BRING THIS!

There was nothing there about a grant – nothing at all. The school had no record of it.

Had I discovered this during the week, I’d have broken land-speed records getting back to campus to find out just what the hell was going on. As it was, I didn’t get the chance. Stuck at home on Sunday, I dug around the various files and links attached to my records, and through a link titled “Documents,” I found that SWC needed a copy of my high school diploma.

I was actually speechless, until the swearing began.

Diligently, I’d brought copies of everything, including my passport, to the school. As far as I knew, I’d accounted for everything. What high school did I attend? When? Whom do we contact? Can we get copies of your high school transcript? Yep, yep, sure – I filled out all of it. But sometime late this summer, someone decided they wanted that one document.

I accept that. I also have it.

However, no one at SWC ever sent me an email informing me. In fact, no one ever contacted me about it at all. They apparently assumed I’d discover this need on my own. But then another question appeared.

WHO IS “THEY?”

Let me preface this by stating for the record: I don’t hold the SWC employees responsible. With all of California’s budget slashing going on – and thank you so much to the conservatives for making that happen while preserving those precious tax breaks for oil companies that have quit hiring locals and have moved many of their operations to countries with non-existent minimum wages – the campus employees are shorthanded and overworked. Each time I went there, I tried to be polite and reasonable, hence the reason I brought every document I had with me when I went.

But who is “they?” Who sent out these alerts? Who decided to send me ridiculous requests for nothing and constant trios of acceptance and rejection?

The computer system did. It’s all automatic, I’m told.

Seemingly, the computer system outranks the employees, and sends out what it wants at the time, whenever it wants to do it – except when it doesn’t. When it decided that I needed to jump through one more hoop before receiving any grants, it apparently chose to not let me know, and to rely on my scavenging through its innards to find out on my own.

Had I not done this, I never would have known about the damn diploma.

COMING NEXT TIME!

Students clutter up the campus, the Dean of Student Services ignores me, computer systems that are meant not to talk to each other, and how this is all my fault.



Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Kizuna: Fiction for Japan (a charity anthology) is out!

It is with great pleasure that I announce that Kizuna: Fiction for Japan is out! This charity anthology is unlike any other. Featuring a mix of authors - the known and the unknown, created and developed to be released and read online, but designed to also go into print, Kizuna: Fiction for Japan is a labor of love of 76 different writers from 11 different countries - all of whom are taking part in helping the victims of the earthquakes and tsunami in Japan this spring.

I'm not exaggerating when I say this was the brainchild of American-born, Japan-based writer Brent Millis - who alone developed the idea of a charity anthology and then started seeking the opinions of people he knew online.

Brent and I have known each other on Twitter for a couple of years, and on Facebook for nearly as long. We've never met, but we have a clear respect for each other's work and ability. And following this, Brent has my highest level of respect as a man able to do what few others have ever even attempted.

This is from his press release:


The earth shook. The waters rose. Japan cried out...

And we listened. After the devastating earthquake, people from all over the world have found ways to help, and Kizuna: Fiction for Japan is one that is new and unique.

Kizuna: Fiction for Japan is a mixed-genre anthology of short fiction, most of it 1000 words or less. It boasts internationally-known authors like Michael Moorcock, Ken Asamatsu, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, John Shirley, Shinya Gaku, Vittorio Catani, Robert M. Price, Joseph S. Pulver Sr., and Alvin Pang; genre authors like Bradley Sands, Jason Wuchenich, Andersen Prunty, and Garrett Cook; and independent authors like Trent Zelanzy and Glynn Barrass. An astonishing 76 authors answered the call to help and approximately ninety percent of it is original work written specifically for this anthology. 100 percent of the proceeds will go to helping orphans in the disaster-devastated areas of Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima via the NPO, Smile Kids Japan.

Smiles and Dreams

Smile Kids Japan and Living Dreams (NPOs/social benefit organizations) are working together on Smiles and Dreams, a program to help the orphanages in the worse affected prefectures of Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate. From helping with immediate needs, to setting up long term programs to empower the children to dream again and help them realize their goals, Smiles and Dreams is a grassroots project that gets the money directly to those in need.

From the editor's [Brent Millis'] introduction:

"I turned to my friends in the writing community. Would they contribute? Sure they would! Soon I had ten authors. Then twenty. Thirty... Author friends of author friends were submitting. Authors from Spain, Singapore, Japan, Italy, New Zealand, Germany, France, America, the UK, Australia and Canada all stepped forward. I was stunned. Even now, as corny as it sounds, the gratitude I feel at their selfless desire to help makes me very misty-eyed."

Please help spread the word of Kizuna, a word that means "bond" in Japanese, and create your own bond with the people of Japan.


So You're Involved?

If it seems I'm proud to be involved with Kizuna, let me be clear: I've never been prouder to be involved with anything like this. I think the concept is brilliant, the goal is unbelievably worthy, and the people involved are tremendous.

I've donated my short story, "Ploughman," to Kizuna: Fiction for Japan, for as long as Brent sees fit to use it. It's a good piece, I think, but I honestly could not consider ever using it for anything as good as this.
 
So what's in it?
 
I swiped this from the Kizuna website:  horror, humor, human drama, science fiction, fantasy, absurdist, bizarro, weird, new wave, bugpunk, Cthulu, Sherlock Holmes, historical fiction, and more.
 
So who's in it?
 
Legendary English fantasist, godfather of dark fantasy, and creator of the "Eternal Champion," Michael Moorcock. He gave us Elric, Corum, Dorian Hawkmoon, and Jerry Cornelius, popularized the entire Law versus Chaos notion of fantasy (played and AD&D lately? - that's where Lawful/Chaotic comes from)...
 
Cyberpunk/science fiction/horror writer, screenwriter, and lyricist John Shirley...

Award-winning British fantasy and science fiction author Jon Courtenay Grimwood...

Critically acclaimed Singaporean poet Alvin Pang...

Japanese novelists Shinya Gaku, Ken Asamatsu, and Fumihiko Iino, Canadian novelist Katherine Govier, acclaimed horror author/poet Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Italian science fiction writer Vittorio Catani, Spanish romance/fantasy author Lucía González Lavado, science fiction writer and author of "Night of the Living Trekkies" Kevin David Anderson, Italian essayist/novelist Danilo Arona, American theologian and writer Robert M. Price, bizarro author and editor of "Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens" Bradley Sands, Doctor Who short story writer Richard Salter, Italian writer/scientist/translator/gamer Davide Mana, Japanese novelist and video game scriptwriter Midori Tateyama...

...And about a metric ton of other writers, including all those I failed to list... and me.

So Why Get It?

This is for charity - for a good cause. In fact, at the same time that Brent Millis was compiling and editing these stories, he sought out the charitable groups with which to be involved. And he asked us what we thought. He kept up a dialogue with the writers about what we felt and who we wanted to be involved with. This is not only a good cause, but it's one that the editor chose with great care, and one we all had a hand in selecting.

Kizuna: Fiction for Japan is available for download on Amazon.com for $9.99 or 7 pounds (sorry, Blogger doesn't seem to want to import my "pound" sign right now).

Amazon US here.

Amazon UK here.