Update: Ristretto Rain

I just had my first invoice from the book distributors. It appears, as of yesterday, I have sold 52 paperback versions in the US and 7 in the UK. The digital / Kindle numbers are not in yet.

If you have not been in my shoes as a writer, this number will sound pathetic, but it’s really not. I think I saw a statistic that over 90% of published books never sell over 100 copies. So, I am deeply grateful for those who have trusted me enough to buy the book.

The number of sales also is with no advertising, except by word of mouth and notices I’ve put here and on FaceBook.

I will wait to invest in advertising until I know if I have a good product to promote. I think I do. The six reviews on Amazon have been positive. I realize that there was a shortage of books at first and some, including me, have waited two weeks and still don’t have your copy. Once you get it, I do hope you will read it, although I appreciate the generous act of just buying a copy. When you get done reading it and you had a positive experience with it, leave a review on Amazon.

If you didn’t like the book, please don’t just be silent. Send me a private message about what you didn’t like. If I have several negative messages, I will not waste money in advertising. If I get a lot of negatives, I may give up writing completely. If there is a theme to the criticism, then I know that I have to change as a writer. I am working on chapter 14 of my new novel and I still have plenty of time to adjust my voice and my style.

If you do think this book was a good book, please share it on your Face Book page and recommend it to your friends. As a no-name author it is very hard to get a positive return on paid advertising. For example, I spent $500 on a google ad with one book and had $8 royalties from the sales of that advertising campaign. So, word of mouth is what makes it work for us.

Thanks again,

Mike

Ramblings: Gnostic “Truth”

I read an article the other day and the writer used the term “Gnostic Truth” to describe something (and I can’t remember what it was) in the news. He used the term correctly and started my mental wheels turning again. I am in the infusion center awaiting chemo and have nothing better to do than write. Look out, I just had steroids and those make me more wordy (wink).

I have a great interest in the process of finding truth. The philosophical term for this process is epistemology. I’ve stated before that we are living in an age that has lost its sense of truth in the classical sense.

While this fragmentation has always been around, it has been intensified in the age of social media, where there is a choice of realities to live in. I call it niche realities. So, we have lost the concept of universal truths (what I call TRUTH) and sold out to personal truths. We re-label those “truths” as “God’s Truth,” or in the political realm, where your political orientation (red or blue) is “true” and all other perspectives are “fake news.”

Honestly, I’m sick and tired of politics. I would love to do away with the Republican (my old party) and the Democratic parties. I like to create two parties. One would be called the party of liars and haters (POLH) and the other, lovers and truth seekers (POLTS). There would be some Republican’s migrating to each of the new parties and some Democrats doing the same. Then the choice would be clear and the debate over. The POLH could live in their conspiracy driven world of fantasy and hate and the POLTS would seek TRUTH no matter which political policies it would help. For example, do a good study and if you find assault weapons don’t increase violence and murder, then allow everyone to have one. If regulations are proven not to protect the environment or the workers or consumers, then get rid of all of them. I’m tried of not being able to talk about TRUTH without accused of being political.

One big conspiracy movement that was griping the evangelical movement when I was part of it in the early 1990s, (but now has gone much further now), is the idea that there is this big boogie man called “Liberal Media” that is out to deceive us, turn our children against us (or turn them gay or atheist), and to destroy the judo-Christian culture this country was built upon.

While I would love to talk more about this, I will quickly move to the point of this discussion and that is in the one finite area of Gnostic truth. At one time I was doing a long series on the loss of TRUTH, but I could tell that readership was waning. It is somewhat of a “Catch 22” that people aren’t interested in the loss of TRUTH anymore because, of the consequences of the loss of TRUTH on them previously. I would love to write a book about the journey of TRUTH in our society, but no one would buy it and read it. But if you are interested in this historical journey of Evangelicalism, I recommend Mark Noll’s book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. If you are interested in a totally non-political story that is moving and refreshing I recommend Ristretto Rain (how do you spell “Plug”?).

Gnostic Truth has roots in the very early Christian church, although this article (mentioned above) was using the term to address political ideas. The Greek root to the word “Gnostic” mean’s knowledge. But what the groups within the early church meant was a knowledge that was supernatural, that came directly to them from God without any need for study or thinking. While this sounds sexy and spiritual, it is a very lazy (intellectually) way to arrive at TRUTH and it is very easily abused to manipulate and control other people. The Bible says our psyche is the most deceitful thing on the planet, so do you really fully trust that inner voice without more evidence?

The reason that parts of the early church adopted this approach in the first place was that they had already erroneously adopted the dualistic philosophy of Plato and the mystic religions in the region. If you are a Christian, I will say that this adoption was tragic and not Biblical at all. But it claimed that the universe was divided between the “seen” or material and the spiritual. The material was inferior to the spiritual or possibly even evil. The spiritual was always supernatural (outside the laws of nature) and therefore closer to God’s intention because anything natural was inferior. But a more Biblical view is that God created everything, the seen and the unseen, the understandable and the mysterious and they are ALL good.

If you think that the pursuit of TRUTH is a minor issue in Christianity, then go back and read your Bible. TRUTH seems to be God’s highest priority. Even Jesus defined himself as “The Way, The TRUTH (classical sense not dogma), and the LIFE.” Now if you say that love is God’s greatest calling, I will say, all hate or lack of love stems from lies and misinformation. The foundation to all love is factual truth or TRUTH.

Today we mark the one year anniversary of the El Paso slaughter, directed at Hispanics. It was fueled by lies about Hispanics coming to America, taking our jobs, bringing crime, drugs. TRUTH allows love to flourish. All racism is based on lies.

Now if you say that love is God’s greatest calling, I will say, all hate or lack of love stems from lies and misinformation.

When it comes back to knowledge, the Gnostics believed that their intuitive (what they called “spiritual” truth) was superior to anything they could reason or observe through reading, hearing from teachers, and learning, because it was from this higher “spiritual” realm. They believed that reason and learning itself was of this inferior material world.

Lies=Hate=Murder in El Paso

If you want to know how dangerous Gnostic truth is, it alone was most responsible for the Dark Ages and all the suffering that came with that period. Also, all cults begin with a leader who uses Gnostic truth to control and separate out his or her followers from the herd.

In the modern, non-Christian world of politics, Gnostic truths are best expressed by conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories are not the exact same as Gnostic truth, but one builds on the other.

Conspiracy theories are where a confident person, usually with charisma, comes up with a theory that is attractive to their political cause. That theory is usually completely baseless but has “curb appeal” to people with a particular political perspective. Then it is easy to create “evidence” for that theory and they put that out on social or mainstream media. There is a psychological phenomena where if you believe something, you will eventually start to see evidence to justify that belief. People are drawn to just conspiracy theories because it supports their political ideology and it makes them feel smart and special. “I know something that the mainstream doesn’t know that makes me smarter.”

Common political conspiracy theories without supporting evidence (at this point) are:

On the Left;

Donald Trump has sex with his daughter Ivanka

Deutsche Bank has laundered hundreds of millions of Trump family crime money

Donald Trump raped many adolescence girls with the help of Jeffery Epstein

Donald Trump planned with the Russians how to win the election because they had a video tape of him with prostitutes in Moscow.

On the Right;

QAnon

Voting by mail is full of fraud

Our failure to respond to the COVID pandemic was Obama’s fault

Scientist are suppressing the truth that hydoxychloroquine cures COVID.

I love science because most scientists pursue real TRUTH at all cost. They are doing God’s work. Most scientists are good, honest people. I worked in research full time for four years. It was incomprehensible that someone would fudge data to prove something they believed. We followed the data, wherever it took us because we were invested in TRUTH. Yes, sometimes there are biases brought into science, but it is not that common. Those who oppose science, such as unfortunately the evangelicals, the far political right and sometimes the left, and those in alternative health. My gripe with alternative health is when they make claims that either the evidence doesn’t support or has disproved. Testimonials are notoriously wrong because our own psyche’s are deceptive. You can get anybody or any small group of people (patients or doctors) to say anything, and they will do so for money or just because of their own biases. That’s why large placebo-controlled studies are the gold standard and when done right always reveal the TRUTH.

I had a friend who was an editor of a national medical journal. He told me that he got complaints from people in alternative medicine that he is biased. He said he would love to publish a good study showing that a non-pharmacological, natural treatment was as good or better than drug treatments. He would make the leading article because that is everyone’s hope. But the problem is the people in alternative medicine refused to do the same quality of studies that he required of published work from other scientists. I will say, I saw that he published a good article from a group of chiropractors this year and it was well-received by most because the science was done well. I will add that “western medicine” is far from perfect and as a patient I know that far too well. I want to write more about that when I get the chance.

But these people mentioned above often promote a conspiracy theory that science is biased and corrupt through and through. By demonizing good science, it give oxygen to their baseless ideas which science as refuted. It is magical thinking.

Simple science is based on mathematical principles called the scientific method. Virtually all our discoveries, interventions, and things that have made our lives better are based on this method. Now, some people don’t want to believe in the scientific method or even math. In my opinion, mathematics is the language of God. It is the foundation of the universe and that’s why it consistency brings us to the TRUTH.

The church, in my opinion, reached its zenith during the Enlightenment. It was during that brief period that the church and science were aligned as both wanted TRUTH and sought it with passion. But that period was short-lived. But then something happened. It is too complicated to explain here, except for a “thumbnail” version.

One of the things that happened was the the church in America (and some other regions) felt threatened in the early 20th century from the scientific community. One big example was new geological theories that dated the earth as much older than the church dated it. Remember, the Bible say absolute nothing about the age of the earth. Then, Darwin introduced his theories that life forms adapt and change (he was not promoting an atheistic theory of evolution at that time). The church started to resist, criticize, and then over time, declare war on science. To do so, they had to create their own conspiracy theories about science, none of which are true. Now, sadly, science is the arch nemesis to faith. That must break God’s heart, the creator of science. It is like having two children you love who are always fighting.

Speaking of children, as a child, I was somewhat of a science prodigy. I won our district’s science fair (all of NE Tennessee) when I built a working radio out of a pineapple. The next year I got second place, loosing out to a kid who developed a brand new method for measuring the height of geological features on the moon using observation points of the earth during the moon’s orbit and measuring the length of those feature’s shadows. And this was the days before computers and he had to use a slide rule.

About 20 years ago I was asked to be a judge of a local science fair of a Christian home-school group. It was at the high school level, the same as the fairs I had entered. When I walked into the church’s gym, where it was held, I was totally appalled. While this was a senior high school fair, the work I saw would not be allowed in a typical elementary school science fair. One was a simple can with aluminum foil around it, creating the familiar volcano. The student put in soap water and a chunk of dry ice and it foamed and came down the sides. Then I asked her about volcanoes and she knew nothing about them. Then I asked her why did the dry ice cause the bubbles and she had no clue. Then I asked her what is dry ice and she had no clue. Another entry was a tropical fish in a bowl. The student knew nothing about the species. That was a science fair entry? It was an example of the church’s total disinterest in real science. Sad was too weak of a word to use. Personally, I love science and math BECAUSE I believe in God, not in spite.

Notice that this girl is doing the same “experiment” but she is in elementary or middle school and she has good posters. She is using baking soda and vinegar but I bet she knows something simple about how the two interact (acid and base giving off CO2 byproduct).

One of the best examples of this conflict between conspiracy theories and science is the present (this week) controversy over the role of hydroxychloroquine in preventing or treating COVID-19.

Here is the real TRUTH about it, as the scientific community has determined through good research. I will talk only about the prevention aspects. I reviewed all the studies once again last night. There have been two major studies where people exposed to COVID-19 were given either a placebo or real hydroxychloroquine at high or low doses. Over 2000 patients were studied. There was no difference in the number of patients who got COVID between the two groups. That is the math talking. Now, it is a fair question to ask, what would happen if you were taking prophylactic hydroxychloroquine before you were exposed? That would be a hard study to do, but someone should do it with hundreds of patients. I, or no one, knows the answer to that question.

Now I this juncture I will mention that one study published in The Lancet was found to have some false data. The pro hydroxychloroquine group quotes this all the time and exaggerate about it saying “they had to pull many studies due to false information.” This single study was not about prevention but treatment of serious patients. The false data showed a higher death rate for the hydroxychloroquine patients. This false data was supplied by a data processing company. Their motivations are still unclear. It could be political, such as an anti-Trump bias, but more likely it was just sloppy work. But even this bias was called out and Lancet retracted the study.

Now, COVID-19 should never have been political because being so it has caused the deaths of 50-100 K people (the rest of the deaths would have happened anyway). This is why these things piss me off. It is not because I want to be right, but I hate seeing people suffering and dying out of ignorance. The shooting in El Paso pissed me off.

Early on, Donald Trump promoted hydroxychoroquine as an effective treatment for COVID and now, Trump followers believe the pro-hydroxychloroquine narrative that it works, is practically a cure and that information is being suppressed by the evil scientific community. Pro-trump organizations and people like far-right personality Steve Bannon, have this agenda because of 1) Trump said it therefore we must make it true even if it’s not, and 2) If we can orchestrate the idea of a COVID cure, then the economy will bounce back just in time to get Trump re-elected.

The laypeople are left thinking, “Well, there are two sides to this story. I will listen to both and decide because they are equal.”

These sides are not equal! You have the entire research community of infectious disease experts who are honestly looking at data and coming to conclusions. These thousands of doctors, treating tens of thousands of patients are on one side. Then on the other side are a handful of doctors (I’ve looked at their backgrounds) and they are strongly aligned with the political right and either don’t practice medicine at all any more or have limited experience seeing patients in Urgent Care, aesthetic or weight loss clinics. There is absolutely no comparison.

If you are on the right and want to believe what Trump said, then do the damn studies and get away from the testimonials and theatrics. Steve Bannon has the money. Trump, Inc. has the money to support such a study. But it has to be done fairly. For us who work in medicine (or did work) and research, the “Front Line Doctors” press conference was done in such a flaky way that red flags went off like fireworks and could not be taken any more seriously than a “professional wrestling” match.

Here’s how you will convince most of us. Take 1,000 people, put half of them on whatever dose Donald Trump is promoting, and the other half on an identical looking tablet and wait six months. Ad the end of six months measure COVID-19 antibodies in the two groups. Then you will know if it works as a preventative. And it might. There is a little scientific explanation why it could work.

If I had the resources I could get 20 doctors to say that horseshit up your nose cures COVID-19 and put that on TV or FaceBook.

What frustrates me the most is this conspiracy theory nonsense that the scientific community is corrupt because they don’t support your worldview. I wish like hell that hydroxychloroquine worked. It would radically change my life. I don’t give a rats ass if it makes Trump look good. . . or bad. This whole fiasco is the really sad loss of TRUTH and the introduction of Gnostic Truth, ideas without real evidence.

What do we do about it? If you really want, stop being so gullible. Repent from your hate. Stop hating Hispanics. Stop hating blacks, even stop hating Donald Trump. Seek truth at all cost and not just the truth that you want to hear, but the real, provable TRUTH. Math never lies. And stay away from the damn conspiracy web sites on the right or the left.

Mike

Ramblings: Zen and the Art of House Painting

I hate painting houses with a passion. Yet, that is how I’ve spent my summer so far. Up on ladders, brush in hand, paint on my nose. But it is nothing new. I painted our houses in Marquette, Michigan, Duluth, Minnesota, Spring Valley, Minnesota, and our previous house here in Anacortes. I never painted our apartment in Cairo . . . or did I? I did build a tree house in Egypt. But this house is even more challenging than the others because in one spot it is three stories (walk out basement plus two more floors) and it is on a very hilly place. Unleveled ground makes each ladder placement like landing a rover on Mars, an inch that way is disaster and an inch this way is a mess.

But the reason I’ve always painted our houses is that I worked as a professional house painter in college, and in graduate school, I had my own painting company. So why wouldn’t I paint our houses and save us thousands of dollars? I’m sure that people who were plumbers in college do their own plumbing. Wait a minute. I do our own plumbing too. My brother was a plumber and my father was a manager of a plumbing supply shop so I guess that counts.

I also hate plumbing, especially late at night on a Saturday when the hardware stores are closed and water is everywhere. But that’s another story.

Our house really did need painting. It was the color of a lemon, a faded and worn lemon. I wanted it paint it green or blue. Denise wanted yellow. So, we compromised and I am painting it the blue of a banana (wink).

The reason I decided to take on this momentous job is the same as before, however, this time there was even more at stake. I was even more motivated because, if cancer was not enough, I got laid off from my career because of it. While I did have some disability payments, a small portion of what I was earning, I dropped from being the main bread winner and that was painful. So, Denise and I decided that I would make up for not earning income by doing things that would save us money. . . like painting the house, fixing the cars, and etc. That seems fair, however, I would much rather be taking care of headache patients.

My motivation to not paint the house was also enhanced this year. Before I got my bone marrow results just a week or so ago, I didn’t know where my cancer stood. I could have been on the threshold of sudden decline into death. Wouldn’t I hate to spend my last 12 weeks on this planet doing something I hate?

Also, I’m not the man I used to be. It is more than age. While age is the reason that my knees ache from climbing ladders all day. The renal failure has caused me to have some significant neurological weaknesses. My legs sometimes gives out when I’m perched up high. And then there’s my friend diarrhea. While much better now, It is not that uncommon to get all my supplies up on the roof and then I am poised to paint and it hits.

With all of that said, I am happy that I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to Eli’s help. Normally when you paint house, you start at the highest point and work your way down. But my 24 foot ladder would not reach the highest point, plus there are some places that I could not figure how to get to. I am down to those bad spots. Sitting precariously like they are daring me to paint them.

My ace in a hole is my son Tyler, who, like me was a professional painter. I was expecting him to have a way to reach those last spots and he could do them for me. He came to look yesterday for the first time and he is as puzzled as I am as how to do it.

“Tyler,” I said. “I thought you were a professional and would know what to do?”

“Dad, hard spots like you have are the reason I got out of painting.”

All this above is the introduction to what I really want to talk about and that are some things I learned as a painter. I will first state that I have a “hyper-rational” fear of heights. What I mean is, I don’t have an irrational fear of heights. I mean, I can climb ladders, cross bridges (Deception Pass bridge doesn’t scare me) and I have even rock and mountain climbed. I’ve stood on the edge of a 200 fool crevasse with just crampons and a thin glacier rope holding me. But I do like to be very safe. For example, I’ve had friends who had no qualms about free climbing (without gear) up the face of a cliff. I would not do that.

Back when I first started painting, I was working with a Presbyterian pastor friend of mine. If you know theology, Presbyterians emphasize God’s sovereignty over everything. God is the master puppeteer and we, and everything on this earth, His puppets.

This guy, I will call him “Ted,” also was one of these people like Alex Honnold who seemed to have no fear of heights. It has to be genetic. But Ted spiritualized it (as evangelicals tend to do about everything) that my hesitation of climbing to ridiculous heights in precarious rigging was because “You lack faith.” He always made me feel so horrible about myself. . . as evangelicals often do.

Now, let me explain these painting situations. Ted started contracting doing the most dangerous painting jobs because they paid better. For example, we did a big church with steeple that must have been 60-70 feet in the air. The only way we could reach it was to take our biggest ladder (40 feet?) and put it on the roof of his Dodge van. Then take our next longest ladder and tie it on the end of the big ladder with a rope. It was crazy! However, if I did not go up these ladders, he would make it a spiritual issue, that I was not trusting God. He said that he didn’t have fear because he trusted God completely (again, I think it was genetic, the way his and Alex brains are wired).

To make a long story short, right after I left the company, Ted had a terrible fall, fracturing his spine and pelvis and almost killing him. It is a miracle that he could walk again. He says that fall was God’s will for him. Really? Does physics play any role here? What about reason? I believe both reason and physics are part of God’s wonderful creation.

I do think for 2,000 years, the Church has often put God in a box. That box is “God is in control.” Now, that sounds sexy and spiritual and by me even bringing this topic up again will cause some to doubt my faith. But it is not an issue of faith, but of understanding God and the world. It really is a metaphysical problem.

I now believe that God has created a world full of wonder . . . and thorns. That we humans have been given the mandate to care for this world and to make it better and to watch out for, and eliminate the thorns when we can. Those thorns could be the dangers of falling, environmental disasters, or systemic injustices that plague our societies. We must intervene in our own life experiences and the shape of history.

Too often people become paralyzed in the notion that “God is in control, so I do nothing.”

You can make the jump at this juncture over to cancer. I’ve read some things and a few people (very few) have suggested things that are troublesome. To me, it seems like people like cliches more than they like to really think things through. For example, “You do understand that God gave you cancer for a reason?”

Bullshit.

“You don’t need to worry about your tests (or doing anything to change the course of my disease) because God is in control.”

More bullshit.

To raise this question causes people to point at you, like Ted did, and say, “You are a man of little faith.”

Extra Bullshit.

No, I’m a man who thinks these things through and tries very hard not to define God or put Him in a box or to reduce Him to a genie.

In a surreal place, my cell phone just rang and it was my brother Gary. I called him yesterday. He is gravely ill. He told me just now that he has hours, not days. We had a long talk. He is mad at God for not giving him more time on earth (he has gotten to live 7 years more than I have, so far). I told him how much I related. I was not mad at God, but I was very disappoint when at barely age 64 and I was told I was dying, that I would loose my life and my dreams.

However, it would have been stupid of me to have told Gary that this was God’s plan for him. But I could say that this world is full of thorns and is not fair. It isn’t fair for any of us. It frankly sucks sometimes. But it is still glorious. I told him that I will still pray for a miracle for him, but if one does not come, I hope to see him on the other side of the grave. I pray that he can come to peace with God before that departure.

I told him that I had come to terms with death and if I died in my sleep tonight, I would not be bitter. But I do fear suffering. Having tasted it, I found it to be worst than my nightmares could have framed. The terrible nature of suffering is that the further you go into it, the lonelier it becomes. People stop listening to moans that are piercing to their ears. The medical comforts become inadequate. When doctors don’t know what to do, they often blamed the patient. So, I pray to God that Gary will not suffer. . . nor I again. These are the worst thorns on this planet.

I will not say the thoughtless cliche that they say down south, something along the lines of “God took him home because Heaven needed a good plumber.” No, if he is not spared, he died from leukemia. A horrible thorn on this earth, a dis. . . ease. We should fight against these things, not accept them as a gift. We are not puppets. The gift that God gave us is our will and our minds. We have the opportunity to change who we are and what the world has become. That’s our calling. I believe that is God’s plan.

Regarding the “Zen,” no I’m not a Buddhist. But Zen offers meditations into the true nature of our minds and things with the purpose of benefiting others. That idea I can embrace with this exercise . . . and the adventure in painting.

Mike

Ramblings: A Sunny Sunday’s Hodgepodge

I’m not sure what it is. A bright sunny day in a cloudless sky, perhaps. The perfect temperature (at our house as it varies widely on our little island) of 74 degrees. Maybe it is the fact that I lived much of the past 15 months in suffering and fearing that the end was near. . . and now, not so much. But I feel this wave of optimism. It isn’t just about me. My future, even with bone marrow results that I’m happy about, is not so assured. Nor is the life of any of us. I talked about having discussions with my oncologist about my mortality. He was trying to give me a few years. He was 15 years younger than me and in excellent health, but was killed by a thoughtless act of a drunk driver. It was surreal. I was envying his longevity and now he’s gone.

Did I mention that I went sea kayaking on the sea (aka Puget Sound) for two days straight? It used to be my # 1 sport. But after my diagnosis I was too weak to paddle. Then too weak to carry a kayak. I had enough strength as of three months ago, as I did kayak around our lake and now do so almost daily (if I’m not sailing). But the hold up was not having a rack to carry the kayak to the beach. Yesterday, I took the three hours to re-tool my Defender’s rack so it would hold a kayak.

I feel optimism about this mess that the world is in. With change, there is always suffering and struggle. The world is changing, and I hope for the better. I think it was the conservative hawk Donald Rumsfeld who said (about Iraq at the time) that Democracy is messy.

The thing I don’t feel good about and that’s the distortions and lies that comes with the present world of social media and niche realities (pick your news outlet and you pick your reality). But I do hope that we have reached the bottom. That people will seek truth again, real truth. Not the comfortable truth or a niche right wing or left wing truth, but facts without distortions. Truth does exist. If you listen to the real historical Jesus, factual truth was his highest agenda. All sin begins with a lie somewhere. But the so-called followers of Jesus are some of the greatest distorters of reality.

Someone asked me once if I wanted to write Christian novels? Nope. Never. The reason is because I love reality. In order to write a Christian novel, you have to distort reality so far, it really should be a type of science fiction. I tried to write a Christian children’s book once and received the guidelines from several Christian publishing houses. Now these guidelines were not just for their children’s genres but even adult fiction. But there could be no “swear words” used, even by the bad guys. The bad guys must always lose and the good guys always win. Then there were all these crazy things, no alcohol mentioned, no smoking mentioned, women submissive to the men and on top of everything, the main characters must smile and be a peace all the time. That’s my example of the distortion of reality.

About Writing

Speaking of writing. For my own writing enhancement, I’m trying to digest a novel or two per week. I went for a long time picking novels based on them being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. I discovered a long list of fantastic novels, with my top three being; The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, and Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. These authors wrote other books that were not as good as those I’ve mentioned. I’ve been chewing on Stones of Summer by Dow Mossman for about a year. Great book, but long and I keep loosing it.

Then I took a detour into books that were highly successful, financially and by sales. That literary tour was like getting off the scenic byway (think of the North Cascade circle route via highway 20 or the Blue Ridge Parkway out east) and venturing into a dirty eight lane freeway around LA. Those highly successful books were a huge step backwards from the really good books I had been reading.

I just returned to the award winning books and the first author I discovered is Gilly Macmillan and the book is Odd Child Out. It is like driving off that dirty, smoggy, busy freeway and back onto the gorgeous two-lane black top highway. It felt so good to be back to fine writing that I started to listen to the book before I went to bed last night and ended up listening to it for most of the night (and thus little sleep).

I’ve finished fourteen chapters of my new novel Retribution; Aleayn Bialeayn (BTW Aleayn Bialeayn is Arabic العين بالعين for “an eye for an eye.” I want each book that I write to be better than the one before. I’m looking forward to learning what I got right and what I got wrong with Ristretto Rain (Boy do I miss those characters. While writing it, Halem and Winston were my best friends).

I do feel very sad for my brother Gary and think of him daily. He is suffering horribly and knowing how that is, makes me feel his grief. Now that I know suffering, I know how horrible it can be. Even worst than death. According to him and his doctors, he is in the process of dying form his own blood cancer. I still pray for a miracle.

A Word on Book Reviews on Amazon

A dozen people have now told me that they’ve done book reviews on Amazon but it is not showing up. Sometimes it can be tricky. They have algorithms to stop abuse, so that an author or Amazon seller doesn’t just load up fake reviews.

To write a review you have to log into your Amazon account. If you purchased Ristretto Rain on Amazon, be sure and use that account. Then simply go to the product your purchased, the paperback or Kindle version, scroll down past the reviews and you will see a button that says “Write a Review.” Select that button and fill in the blanks. Be sure and hit the “Submit” button.

Now, to make this process even more complicated, there are many sellers of anything who use Amazon. Some of them are book sellers. They buy the book the same way Amazon does, but then sells them at a discount (>60% of the price of the book is Amazon’s mark up). You may not know if the book you bought was from Amazon or one of the sellers. But then Amazon will send you an e-mail to “rank this product” or something like that. That is not the book itself review but the review of this third party seller. I think many well-intended people wrote, what they thought was a review of the book here, but they were reviewing this third party seller. Just do what the above paragraph says and you will nail it.

I am so grateful for those who take the time to review the book. As I’ve said, this gives me personal feedback and it also allows me to move to the next step of marketing. I can’t market the book until it has had 10 reviews or more on Amazon (in most cases.)

If you are a member of Good Reads, you can also write a review there.

Update: Bone Marrow

The bone marrow is the best way to evaluate my kind of cancer because it is a cancer of the bone marrow. We do other (blood) tests that give us a general indication how we are doing. Those blood tests have been stable since my transplant one year ago. The reason we don’t do bone marrow tests every month or so is because they hurt like hell.

In my case, the blood tests told us that the cancer was still there. I would have to have been one of the really lucky people to have the cancer disappear after a stem cell transplant (complete or stringent remission).

I had asked you to pray that the percentage of my bone marrow being cancer as under 10%. The one (before my transplant) was 12%. The one 90 days after my transplant was 8-10%. If this one was 10% or higher, it would mean that I would have to change course in treatment. Another bone marrow transplant? Perhaps.

My test came back at “3.5-5%,” which is very good news. It means that I’m in good remission and I don’t need any other changes in my treatment, just continuing on my present chemo, which is working out well. This could change on a dime and I could get into trouble, but for now, it seems so stable that the oncologist is going to start seeing me every three months. It was weekly for a long time.

Figure, Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy...] - PDQ Cancer ...

The cancer itself does not cause symptoms. I have a plethora of symptoms related to kidney failure and the mild side effects from the chemo. I keep praying that my kidneys will heal.

But thanks so much for your prayers. It would have been really bad news if the bone marrow results were worse.

Mike

Update: Writing (not so much health)

One week ago today Ristretto Rain was released to the public. I was the first to order a paperback and I just got mine yesterday. I’m sure there were plenty of Kindle users who got their copy instantly. So the paperback readers have hardly started and the Kindle users may be finished or still in the middle of it.

When I first started to write, I sought out positive reviews. You know, my mother, my best friends, and my dog (if she could only type). The reason was, I wanted the attention of the public and the best way to get that is through positive reviews. I have known of some writers that “buy reviews,” which are fake but do grab people’s attention. I heard that the first Beatles’ record was bought out by their manager and given great reviews by him, then radio stations started to play it.

I have matured, so I hope. I desire reviews greatly, but honest reviews. Okay, I like positive reviews. I realize that Amazon (like Air BnB) is skewed to the extremes (if you like something you give it a 5 star and if you didn’t, a 1 star). What is more helpful is that if someone doesn’t like Ristretto Rain, that they would write me a note to tell me why, so that I can improve. But if they do like it, then the best hope of getting it into the hands of others is a positive review. This keeps me writing! I think I said all of this before.

Writing, like all art forms, I’m finding is in the eyes of the beholder. I, personally prefer novels on the “artsy” side, whose narrative reads almost like poetry. This is in great contrast to the highly successful novels of Daniel Steele and James Patterson, which to me are horribly written but sell by the tens of millions. I am finding editors to not be that helpful. Maybe I haven’t found the right one yet. Once I hired two different editors to work on the same manuscript. They said, in many cases, almost the opposite, “There’s too much detail” or “I love your detail!” It is in the eye of the beholder.

I am trying to find my voice as a writer. Ristretto Rain‘s early manuscript was far too artsy, almost a stream of consciousness approach. That idea was poorly received. It just didn’t work (most readers were lost). Then I did a total total re-write after reading dozens of Patterson and Steele type books to help me dial in what people want. I hope I found the balance.

So, like all writers. . . or all artist for that regard, I sit and wait for the verdict. Did I get it right? Is it a piece of art. . . or a total disaster? The readers of the final manuscript seemed to favor the former, unless they were just being nice. Once this first round is finished, where I have a dozen or so readers giving feedback, I can decide if it is worth marketing to a larger audience.

My book Retribution now has 13 chapters completed. I will probably have 20 when I’m done. I will need to go back and add texture and color (figuratively speaking). But it is a project that I’m really excited about. It is a thriller in the Jason Bourne vein, but dealing with a lot of ethical questions. The protagonist is a PA. Maybe he’s my wannabe, not who I really was.

Health Update

Okay, if you don’t care about the writing crap, but just my health, here goes. Tomorrow I finally get the results back from my bone marrow biopsy. I am praying for less than 10% cancer involvement, which means I can stay the course. More than that means a change.

I have been feeling well five days a week. The other days, like the past few days, I feel quite ill. I’m sure it is from the chemo. Yet, it is much better than it was. That’s why I hope I don’t have to change.

I am debating if I return to my ramblings. I looked yesterday and I had 18 drafts of articles I had written but never published here. I like thinking and writing those things. However, the down side is the heartburn it creates in others. Seriously, I’ve lost a lot of friends and family over things I’ve written here. I thought it was no-brainier things, like racism is bad. But with each post, there is a cost and there are days I don’t know if it is worth speaking up any more.

Mike

Gratitude and Update

I really want to thank all the kind people here who have purchased Ristretto Rain. My goal was to have a big enough audience to keep on writing. Writing helps to fulfill that big void I have from suddenly loosing my career. I feel that I have accomplished this writing goal at this moment.

Now, I need your feedback. Reviews on Amazon are extremely important and some bookstores will not even carry a book unless it has had a certain number of reviews (from 10 to 20).

I realize that some of you people, because you are so kind, bought the book . . . well, out of pity for me. But even if you did, please read it! If you liked it, please write a review on Amazon. If you didn’t like the book, that’s helpful to know too. Send me a message about what you didn’t like about it. I am always trying to do better.

Medical Update:

I have had all my tests done, except for two types of full body scans (Dex scan and full body MRI bone marrow). I’ve been trying to get these test done since May 18. The blood tests, so far have been relatively good. The cancer is there, but how much is not clear. The bone marrow (which I had last week) will tell us directly how much cancer is there when I see the reports next week. And the scans, if I can ever get someone to do them, will tell me if I have other lesions outside my marrow. I had one such lesion prior to my transplant.

My labs that look at my immune system show that it is virtually healthy, healthy enough that I started my childhood immunizations all over again on Tuesday (I had seven shots). I’ve felt crummy since, but that’s not a big deal.

I still ask for prayer for marrow involvement to be less than 10%. More than 10% means there is big trouble that needs further aggressive treatment.

Mike

Ristretto Rain is Here!

Simply put, I’m asking you, okay begging you, to please buy my new novel Ristretto Rain. Reviewing it on Amazon would be nice too. Passing on your recommendation, if you think it is a good book, to your friends and family would be even nicer. If you don’t like it, but I think you will, return it to me for a refund. All the ordering information can be found on my home page here.

I have been writing for thirty years, first articles for magazines and Ristretto Rain is my sixth book, third novel. Writing has been one of my favorite hobbies. I was diagnosed (as you know) with Multiple Myeloma last year. I had the full intention of getting a bone marrow transplant, working hard to recover, and going back to a fulfilling career. To my shock, as I was returning to work, I was unexpectedly laid off and my clinic closed. I was then preparing to start a new headache clinic in Bellingham when our “dear friend” Mr. COVID flew in from China, or wherever, with guns a blazing. That was the death-nail to that clinic’s hope.

I never anticipating my career ending like this nor the end having such an impact on me personally. This year, I began to turn to my writing in earnest since medicine abandoned me. I profoundly love writing. Like any artist, you want an audience. But for me to continue, I must see enough readers to justify the effort. (I’m already halfway through my next novel.) When I write, while alone in my house, I imagine an auditorium full of people listening. I want to bring them literary pleasure. I want to imagine smiles on their faces. I am continuously working to improve my craft but with Ristretto Rain, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Thanks so much,

Mike

Bone Marrow Biopsies and Other Pastimes

I’m sorry for posting too much lately. I will calm it down soon. I know how much I hate signing up for a business newsletter and then receive mailings multiple times per day. But I wanted to update, the bone marrow is done (photo of the procedure this morning is below, Denise was there, wearing the newsie and crouching at the side). The results of all the test will be in toward the end of next week, telling us where the cancer is exactly and future treatments. I will have to say that bone marrow biopsies are the most painful experience I’ve ever had, although brief. This was bad, but not as bad as the last one six months ago. I’ve had a total of five. I think my poor brother (suffering from leukemia) has had double that.

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