Microphone Check

*TAP* *TAP*

“Hello? Is this thing on?”

So…yeah. Yes, I am still alive. No, I haven’t moved to Canada (but more on that later.) And, yes, Misdirected has lain fallow for nigh on nine months now.

So, where the heck have I been, exactly?

Funny you should ask that…

In The Beginning, Was NaNoWriMo

So, in what has become a yearly ritual, I participated in NaNoWriMo last November. This attempt to write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in a single month has turned into a yearly nightmare of outlandish expectations and frustrating failure. Every year I fail. And, every year, my failure leaves me paralyzed with Impostor Syndrome for months afterward. (Yes, Impostor Syndrome is a thing. Google it if you are unfamiliar.)

My most recent bout left me unable to produce just about anything until March. Just sort of sitting around, whistling Dixie, waiting for the lights to turn back on in my brain. Everything I wrote was crap, and immediately disposed of. Everything I read seemed an order of magnitude above anything I could ever hope to produce. Good times.

So, this year, I have declared my liberation from NaNoWriMo. My wife and my family members have specific instructions: If I start making noises about participating in NaNo this year, they are to strike me firmly across the face multiple times and then tell me to go lie down until the feeling goes away.

I am sure that NaNo is an awesome tool in the right hands. One of the members of my writing team (BTW, I hate you, Joe) uses it to draft the entire novel he will be working on for the next year. But, alas, it is not a tool for me. Under normal circumstances, I can easily produce 50,000 words in a month. They just can’t seem to be all related to the same project.

So, if that brings me up to March of this year, what the heck have I been doing since then, you might ask? Oh, nothing much. Just supervising a literary explosion.

The Summer of Ash Falls

Since 2016, I’ve been working on a little project called “Ash Falls.” It is a setting I share with several other very talented authors, all telling tales of dark doings and grim forebodings in a fictional city in Oregon.

I kicked the whole thing off with the novel Inheritance. Then, for a year and a half – not a peep has been heard out of the city. I’ve added authors, edited books, rejected short stories, and generally made a nuisance of myself for two years now, waiting for the whole project to come to fruition.

And this Summer, it arrived. Hoo, boy, did it ever.

Somehow, it worked out that every single one of our initial novels (with the exception of my original one) was completed within a few months of one another. Instead of a measured release schedule of one or two novels a year, we suddenly were dealing with the release of FOUR novels within a four-month period.

Thus was born the “Summer of Ash Falls” event – a celebration of Ash Falls exploding from one lonely novel to a full back catalog of five novels, with two more on the way before the end of the year.

Since March of this year, I have been editing. I have been suggesting revisions. I have been hammering on release dates and looking over the shoulders of frustrated authors. In general, I have been shepherding this project along like a nervous mother dropping her “gifted child” off for their first day of Pre-K. Sure, I recognize the inherent genius in my authors. But will the rest of the world agree?

So far, the answer has been “Yes.” Pre-orders and sales have been really good, despite our having about $2.49 in Marketing funds to work with.

So, like the proud parent that I am, let me introduce you to my “kids.”

The Lineup Of Unusual Suspects

Never Bring an Axe to a Gun Fight

Surely you need a police procedural featuring werewolves, drunks, and immortal serial killers, yes? Then you need Holly, by William Aime.

What Heaven Didn’t Want, Hell Couldn’t Handle.

What is left when all you ever loved is taken from you by forces you don’t understand? Revenge. In another place and time, Rob, the protagonist of Reborn by Corinne Kunz would be a superhero. In Ash Falls…not so much.

Don’t Look For The Lost

Take one secretive coven, one morally ambiguous witch, and one BIG mistake, and you have Coven Ascending by Joe Mankowski.

And, coming this September to round out the #summerofashfalls event: the immortal bikers of J.M. Koczwara’s A Dead Sun Rises.

And we still have two more titles on the horizon: The Perpetuals and Fallen will be hitting the shelves before the end of 2019. And, if you are so inclined, you could always head back to where it all began and pick up a copy of Inheritance.

The Future’s So Bright…You Know The Rest

And that, gentle readers, brings us to today. The books are written, the editing (mostly) completed, and we are ready to look forward to 2020. Are there sequels coming? You better believe it. We won’t just leave you hanging on the fates of Brian Drake, Lydia Pike, and the rest of the residents of Ash Falls.

As far as Misdirected is concerned – yes, I should be getting back to a semi-regular writing schedule now. I will talk about what I am writing, what I am thinking, and what I am observing as usual. And I will NOT participate in NaNo this year. Nope. No sir. Not me.

As far as fitness-related info is concerned…there is not much to report. The results of the bariatric surgery are still holding up pretty well. I am all the way up to 189 (from 175), mainly due to the lack of dedicated physical activity that results from sitting in front of a monitor 24/7. But, my waistline is down to 34 inches and I can still hike 10 miles without collapsing afterward, so I am not terrifically worried. I just need to buckle back down and put in some time at the gym instead of just walking around the neighborhood to clear my head.

Thanks for all the concerned inquiries about where I’ve been and what has been up. I look forward to re-engaging with all of you in the weeks and months to come.

Sharpening My Pencil And Putting On My Sunglasses,

  • Jeremy

Oops!

Yeah, I know it is the NaBlogWriMo project and everything, but some days stuff just gets away from you. Not to worry, though! I have plenty of opinions to share on yesterday’s elections, and will be sharing them with you tomorrow. Sorry for the delay!

Too Much Editing, Not Enough Writing,

* Jeremy

…And Here We Are Again

Jason Aldean Quote

I had a blog post ready to roll this morning. A charming little piece, talking about back-sliding and goal setting. Just the thing to inaugurate our re-focus on all things fitness here at Misdirected.

And I woke up this morning to a Facebook report from a close friend who had been at the Jason Aldean concert in Las Vegas last night. “Active shooter situation Mandalay Bay dozen or more shot shooters on 32nd floor…confirmed one officer down with GSW to neck.”

The Morning Brings No Answers

His post was dated seven hours ago. First, I confirmed that he was ok – he was still posting to FB as of a couple of hours ago, so I can breathe a sigh of relief that someone I really care about – someone who has been a surrogate son to Lor and me – is currently out of harm’s way. I quickly checked to see if my cousin, who also lives in Vegas, had checked in. Using the Facebook “Safety Check” he, too, had declared himself safe. Another sigh of relief.

Then, turning to CNN, I found out that a whole lot of other loved ones are not OK this morning.

Deadliest Mass Shooting in US History.” I won’t repeat the details here. I am no journalist, and you can get far better info than I can give you. But, once again, a single person (apparently) has decided to act upon their rage by attacking a large group of innocent people.

I don’t know what this person’s motivations were. In truth, I don’t particularly care. There is no motivation that justifies attacking thousands of people whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Yes, that sounds like Queensryche, and no, I don’t particularly give a damn about that either right now.)

One man. More than 8 rifles. Thousands of fans enjoying Jason Aldean.

And now we have more than 50 people dead, and better than 400 injured.

And, today, my own perspective has shifted. These weren’t just random strangers I feel sort of vaguely bad about. My own family members were among those in harm’s way last night.

A Harsh Slice Of Reality

And the damnable thing is, I am a gun owner.

My guns are securely locked up in a gun safe miles away, but they are still mine.  I am part of what gets referred to as “gun culture” in the U.S.

You know, the same culture that works tirelessly to protect the rights of people who want to haul multiple rifles into a hotel room in Las Vegas.

I am sure that, as the days and weeks roll on, we are going to hear about the various laws that are already on the books that this shooter broke. The new gun control laws that would have had no effect, the existing laws that weren’t properly enforced…all the usual tropes and quotes that emerge after another mass shooting.

Yeah, there’s the rub right there, isn’t it? “Another mass shooting.”

And, in response, the families of nearly 500 people will be asking why something wasn’t done to protect their loved ones.

Kurt and Jeremiah, I am so thankful that you are safe.

But half a thousand other families have nothing to be thankful for this morning.

The gun control debate is about to get rolling again, and I am no longer sure I am on the right side of it.

Pray For Las Vegas,

Jeremy

 

VNS: Very uNexpected Surgery

Welcome to this special Wednesday edition of Misdirected!

I know – two days late, right? But I have been busy. Like busy, busy. Like the kind of busy a bee would aspire to if it aspired to be a busy bee.

Holy smoke, how can someone fit that many uses of the letter “b” in three sentences?

Anyway, to draw back the curtain a bit, here is what has been happening since the last time we visited…

A Little Background Music

As most of you know, I suffered from massive, life-changing clusters of seizures from 2004 until 2009. These seizures were so debilitating that I required 24-hour care. Like, diaper-changing kind of care. My parents actually both took early retirement from their professions so they could commit themselves to being my full-time caretakers – presumably for the rest of their lives.

Thanks to a very forward-thinking neurologist, we discovered a potential treatment – the Vagus Nerve Stimulator. It is an implant that is surgically inserted into the chest, with two leads attaching to the vagus nerve in the neck. Every 5 minutes (or so) an electrical impulse gets fired off from the VNS, up the vagus nerve, and into the brain. This impulse somehow regulates the electrical activity of the brain, bringing over-excited neurons back down to a normal state.

It sounded like science fiction to me. At that time, fewer than 10,000 people had this procedure performed on them. But further research performed by my mother seemed to support my neurologist: this thing worked. Especially in cases of “temporal lobe epilepsy with intractable clusters of seizures.”

I will give you three guesses what my official epilepsy diagnosis is.

In March of 2009, I had the implant installed. By the end of the year, I was already no longer suffering from clusters of seizures. I still have seizures, but they are no longer day- or week-long events. I have a seizure, I recover, I move on. And I have an almost normal life.

Almost.

The Price of Loose Skin

Now, the VNS is installed at the top of the left breast, almost directly above the heart. This gives the implant a steady shelf to operate from and gives the leads emerging from it an almost straight shot up into the neck to attach to the vagus nerve.

So, the human breast is a muscle (the pectoralis major) covered by a sheath of fat and skin. (This is true even for men, boys.) A pocket is carved into the tissue on top of pectoralis, the implant is installed on top of the muscle, and the whole thing is sewn back up. Within a year you have a lump on your chest underneath a fairly impressive looking scar. 8 years later, the scar isn’t even that noticeable.

Now, you did notice what I said the covering of your breast is, right? Skin and fat.

You know, the kind of fat I just lost about 120 pounds of thanks to my bariatric surgery last year?

So, what happens when you remove the material making up the majority of the pocket that your VNS sits in?

This:

VNS Sideways
No, the VNS is NOT supposed to be able to do that.

When I woke up one morning a couple months ago to find that my VNS had turned completely sideways and was popped up under my skin like a circus tent, my immediate thought was “Maybe I should see a doctor about that.”

So, I demonstrated the problem to my neurologist last month. He turned a very unusual color, swallowed hard, and immediately started making phone calls.

And, so, here we are – with me scheduled for VNS replacement on Friday. This week has been spent getting blood tests, meeting anesthesiologists, etc. All the normal precursors to surgery.

A Week On My Back

Now, it isn’t as bad as all that. A VNS is a battery-powered device, which means I was going to have to get it replaced sooner or later anyway. Usually at around the 10-year mark, which is only 2 years from now. So, in one respect, I am just advancing the timeline by a couple of years.

On the other hand, this is happening right in the middle of one of the busiest periods of my life. My novel is getting ready to be published. I am scheduled for my Personal Trainer certification exam next month. I have my 1-year bariatric follow-up appointment in 12 days!

Just at the time I am wanting to spend every day at the gym to make sure I am in the best shape possible, I am going to have to spend about a week on my back.

This does give me a chance to really sit around and study for the exam, so that is good. I also have a lot of Fiction Vortex correspondence and reading to catch up on. But, seriously, I am faced with the possibility that I may go in for my one-year follow-up no longer at my lowest weight.

I am torn between irony and embarrassment, really.

Someone (probably me) will let everyone know how the surgery turns out, either on Friday or Saturday. I expect no issues or complications – the procedure itself takes less than an hour. We should be back to our normal publication schedule on Monday.

After all, I will have nothing else to do, right?

I Am Spending My Life In Waiting Rooms,

Jeremy

Split Personality

Split Personality - The Dual Existence of Misdirected

They say each day brings new opportunities.

“They” forget to mention that a new day also brings new problems.

As my schedule has filled up with writing, family visits, and prep for my Personal Trainer exam, a few other details have been sort of left unattended to. Ignored, even. One of those little details has been the current identity of my website.

Not a week goes by that I don’t have some version of the following conversation: “Man, I went looking for info on your new fiction books, and all I found was some blog for fat people.”

Or, alternately, “I was trying to find your books on bariatric surgery, and some dude with your name is writing stuff about vampires.”

Welcome to the world of a multi-platform writer.

The Surgical Solution

The problem, of course, is that my website, jeremycschofield.com, currently exists only as a platform for Misdirected. This is where people come to find info on our surgical journey(s), life experiences, and ups and downs. Anyone looking for info on my fiction works finds…nothing.

On the other hand, anytime I talk about my fiction writing, I get a certain amount of push-back. “I don’t care about your novels, when is your book on bariatric surgery coming out? Stop wasting time with that other stuff and write about important things.”

My supporters on Patreon are even more confused: “Am I supporting your health and wellness blog, or your fiction writing?” (The answer is “Yes”, by the way.)

So, yeah, I would say that the time has come for a bit of an overhaul. Time to get things straightened out in the world of personal marketing.

Which is going to mean some revisions to the website that I have been putting off for fear of the project taking over my life.

The Literary Truth

So, here’s the skinny: Misdirected remains my main project for plugging into people who are going through or interested in bariatric surgery. There is also going to be a book talking about my experiences with bariatric surgery.

That book has just not been written yet.

See, my other project, the episodic Urban Paranormal novel Inheritance, has been taking up all my writing time. I have finally completed the storyline, and the first four episodes have already been released into the wild at Fiction Vortex.

What clearly needs to happen is that I need a home for each of these projects. I have even flirted with the idea of writing two entirely separate blogs, but that way lies madness. Instead, I will have to re-engineer the current website so that a new visitor gets deposited at a front page where they can choose between wanting info on my fiction writings and my health/wellness writings.

Given that I have completed the entire storyline for Inheritance, this is probably the time to start working on that project. Then I can write the first of my bariatric surgery books. Following which I can begin work on the sequel to Inheritance.

My head hurts just thinking about it.

Strap Yourself In

So, be prepared! Changes will be made. Things will probably break. Web pages will look funky. The days when I actually created websites as a programmer are decades behind me. I am bound to screw things up.

But, at the end of the project, we should have a lovely landing page where people can head safely to choose between my offerings. Fiction readers to the left, Misdirected subscribers to the right. Something like that.

As my fiction begins releasing as complete novels, they will be available on the website. Once the health/wellness books start releasing we should have access to those as well.

I hope.

I have some minor surgery coming up in July (battery replacement on my VNS implant), so maybe I can sketch out my changes while I am lying around recovering.

While I am not studying for the PT exam, that is.

And not editing my fellow Ash Falls authors.

And not outlining the sequel to Inheritance.

Sigh. See what I mean?

First World Problems,

Jeremy