Sunday, October 20, 2019

Know Your Novel - A Gold-Starred Crown

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You may remember from last year when I joined Christine Smith's Know The Novel link-up - and, once again, despite having zero intention of taking part in NaNo (I'm going to be on Pediatric Wards for all of November...which usually means pre-dawn to post-dusk steady work without much in the way of breaks), I am joining again!

And even though I'm still working on the one I discussed last year (Prevent the Dawn), this year I'm going to talk about A Gold-Starred Crown.

1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?
WELL, it all started when I read the story of Tam Lin. I forget which version it was, but a Scottish rhyme about a heroine who saves her prince with attitude and charm while pregnant? I was intrigued. 

Does the story have issues? Yes. Depending on which version you come across, rape and planned abortion are present; all of them involve pregnancy prior to marriage. But some versions are fascinatingly Christian, with the heroine saving her beloved with faith and a Bible, not elements explicitly named in many fairy tales.  

Anyway. I promptly started working on a Kingdom Adventure retelling that involved Tam Lin as a secret resistance leader who convinces the heroine to save the crown prince by telling people it is her own baby. Then I added his best friend, who actually was not in the original tale at all, but who fit right in with a nice touch of mystery.

But then I started wondering...what if it was a modern story? And these two were pop stars? In a multi-ethnic Celtic Rock band? And then I started writing that version too.

2. Share a blurb!
Rhiannon Blake may have been sane once, but rumors about her control over and relationship with the members of her Celtic Rock band The Changelings can no longer be contained. As lead vocalist, J is at the height of fashion and fame when he realizes his talented guitarist and childhood best friend Tam Lyns has made the single wrong step that will destroy everything. With the help of his no-chill stylist, Janey, can he save the love of Tam's life, Magdalena, her unborn child, and Tam himself, before everything falls to pieces, or will the attempt merely add his name to the list of casualties?  

3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting? 

Mostly on or back-stage. It's a little loose settings-wise, but we'll see how that changes as I rewrite it. XD 
I like writing the scenes on stage - the way the audience fades as the music takes over...the things that manage to break the concentration of the musician...the lights and the drama. XD 
Oh, and the costumes. 

4. Tell us about your protagonist(s). 

Jane. The original heroine goes by several names, but I decided to use Janet as my inspiration this time around. She happens to be smart and creative and a brilliant designer hired to be part of the clothing/makeup team for the band...and like her inspiration, she is the key to saving Tam Lin.

Magdalena. Because I added a best friend, Tam Lin's true love is Magdalena, inspired by the Margaret version of the original tale. She is the one who is pregnant, she is the one whose father owns land (ie she brings the money), and she is the one Jane gets to work with to rescue their boys.

Tam Tam Lin, charming and talented musician whose band owner/manager is about to ruin his life after he breaks his contract by falling in love with, marrying, and having a baby with Magdalena.

J. The fourth and central corner of the story is Tam's best friend, brilliant band leader who was not actually inspired by the original tale. So. He gets to be the wild card. :D

5. Who (or what) is the antagonist? 
OOoh...Rhiannon Blake. Named from a Celtic word meaning Great Queen, and a Welsh legend, she comes from the Queen of Fairie in the original tale, who kidnaps Tam Lin, gives him everything he could ever want, and then decides to sacrifice him to hell. 

6. What excites you the most about this novel?
...that it's finally coming together. I wrote the novella about 2 years ago, but couldn't figure out what I was missing...I finally found the missing POV, though, and I think it's actually going to work this time around. XD 

7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?
Well...standalone...I'd considered adding it to my fairy tale retelling series on the moon (yes, my sci-fi series is a thing and it's going to happen at some point), but right now I kind of like where it's at. And there are no similar stories rattling around in my head at the moment. 

8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?
eh. Well, considering I already have one of the story WRITTEN and now I'm just rewriting it, I guess for once I actually have an outline. Not what I usually have. We'll see how this works out...XD 

9. Name a few things that makes this story unique.
....Find me another modern retelling of Tam Lin where the main characters are part of a band and a J exists. XD

Actually, the most similar story I know of is a Phantom of the Opera/Beauty and the Beast retelling by Arielle Bailey. We both had main characters inspired by the same singer, so there is that. XD But she has big cats and a curse, so...

10. Share a fun “extra” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

Rhiannon, Magdalena, Tam, across the top in black and white, and Jane, J next row. XD

Also, I have newly made my pinterest board accessible! Enjoy. XD

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Author Interview: Mirriam Neal

Some of you may remember Mirriam Neal from previous interviews on this blog - like this one, from back before she was published but when I knew she was going places, or this one from when she published Monster, or this one from when she published Paper Crowns. 

Well, guess what? It is about that time again, and I am delighted to bring her back for another interview! 
What has she written now? 

graphic via Morgan Farris

Yes, it is now time for Dark is the Night to be published. As you might have guessed from the above, it is a book about vampires. Werewolves. Shape-shifters. Hunters. And someone who might possibly be my favorite fictional preacher. Like all Neal's books, it is an incredibly unique mix that manages to capture your imagination while provoking you to further consider spiritual truths in a new way. 

(Because what, you may say. Kate. You don't read vampire books. And in general you'd be right. So what it is about this one that made me read it? Let me get back to you on that later this month. XD) 

But, without further rambling, please welcome Mirriam and enjoy reading her answers to my random questions!

What is one song that sets the mood for Dark is the Night

I would say ‘Bad Moon Rising,’ but both versions – CCR and Mourning Ritual. I’ve long held the dream that if Dark is the Night were a movie, the opening credits would be set to Bad Moon Rising. It’s just perfect. 
It is! The song brings instantly to mind the first chapter of Dark is the Night and the feel of the book in general, you guys go.

Okay, so why Christianity and Monsters? 
I feel monsters and Christianity have always been tied very closely, both in reality and metaphorically. The Bible is rife with monsters, from humans to angels to the inhabitants of prophetic dreams. I feel like monsters give us a special way to explores heavier themes. The concept of monsters – what makes them, whether or not the state of being a monster is permanent – has fascinated people forever for a reason. We can see ourselves, our human struggle, the desire to be better and the consistency of our failings, in monsters

Favorite redemption arc in a novel, yours and/or someone else's? 
This is HARD. Redemption arcs are my jam and I have multiple redemption arcs of varying kinds in almost every novel I write, but as far as redemption arcs I’ve written, I might have to say Kirikizu in The Fading of the Light. I took my time with that particular arc, and technically it’s still going even now, but I felt very close and connected with it. As far as someone else’s novel….that’s tough, because I can’t actually recall a favorite written redemption arc. I tend to find better redemption arcs in television than anywhere else, oddly enough; and if I’m allowed to dip into TV for this answer, I would say Sebastian Monroe from NBC’s Revolution and Alex Mahone from Prison Break win.
I was actually thinking of Kirikizu when I added this question, and wondering if you would pick him. His story hit me in ways I absolutely was not expecting and augh. You guys. Wait until The Fading of the Light is out.
Also, it's true that I can more easily think of TV redemption arcs than written arcs myself, even though I'm not familiar with either of the two you mentioned...I may have to look into them...

What does "redemption" mean to you in the context of vampirism? 
I felt when I started this book that vampires had the most symbolic potential for redemption. The concept of blood is a powerful symbol, no matter how common, especially when tied with Christianity. Metaphors for sin, salvation, redemption, for (again, a common theme) the struggle against our base nature with our desire for the divine. So I would say ‘redemption,’ in the context of vampirism, would equal some kind of mighty sacrifice; the willingness to die rather than harm another, the willingness to lay down your life for someone else
When you initially switched from the more nebulous "energy vampires" to full on classic vampire lore, I was concerned - mostly because of how easily our culture romanticizes the more concerning pieces of that lore. But then along came your exploration of sin nature and and I could have cheered out loud because it works so well the way you chose to do it. You don't have to be preachy when the themes are sitting right there. 

What are you most passionate about? 
If I had to answer this in a way that encompasses everything, I would have to say depth. I have an insatiable desire to study every angle of everything, to turn over every rock and refute every unfounded prejudice. The truth is more important to me than anything else, and I would rather trip and fall looking for truth than sit metaphorically at home and never look

Are there any scenes directly inspired from your life? 
The town of Salvation itself is directly inspired from my life, specifically a few places in South Carolina. None of the scenes are directly inspired from life, although the characters themselves certainly are in the way every character is somehow inspired by the author’s inner workings

If you had to chose: would you rather be a vampire, a shifter, or a werewolf? Or a preacher? 
I would definitely choose a shifter, as much as I enjoy my werewolf reputation. The ability to change my appearance at will is one I would enjoy probably too much. (Also, being a preacher = way too stressful.)  
I have to say, if you guys follow her instagram, you'll see how close to being a shifter she already is. XD I love the recent wig trend especially. Also, yes, I totally agree that being a preacher would be more stressful than any of the others. (Maybe this is why the preacher is my favorite part of Dark is the Night...)

Characters in Dark is the Night you would be willing/most want to meet, marry, or become? 
I would be willing to meet all of them, but if I had to really pick I would say Angel. He might be obnoxious to get to know, but he’d make for a great night out. As far as marriage goes, I would say the unexpected Husband Material in this book is probably Jackson. Just trust me, he would be.  
Now I have to reread it just look at Jackson as Husband Material... 

The thing you miss most or the thing you are most glad you changed from your very first draft of Dark is the Night?  
Honestly? The setting. I love the pseudo-Victorian Gothic genre as a rule, but changing the era and location brought everything to life for me. 
The mist and the gargoyles instantly caught my attention and I hope they're coming back in a different novel, but I love the way the setting itself became another character and everything fell into place once the story moved to South Carolina. 

And for those who read it immediately and need to know what happens next - how long until the sequel is out?  
So far I have a standard three-years-between-novels schedule, entirely by accident, but I’d like to say ‘less than two years.’ If at all possible, I’d like to optimistically say ‘next fall,’ but I try not to make promises I can’t keep. 
Next fall would be awesome...but we'll try to stay patient meanwhile. XD

Thank you so much for having me + asking rad questions. I had a GREAT time.

Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on some of the background themes behind Dark is the Night! I am looking forward to rereading the story as soon as it is released on the 25th! :) 

And for those of you who missed my previous interviews and do not know...

MIRRIAM NEAL is an author frequently masquerading as an artist. When she’s not scrubbing paint off her hands, she’s thinking about writing (actually, if she’s being honest, she’s always thinking about writing). A discovery writer, she tends to start novels and figure them out as she goes along and likes to work on several books at the same time—while drinking black coffee. She’s a sucker for monsters, unlikely friendships, redemption arcs, and underdog protagonists. When not painting fantasy art or writing genre-bending novels, she likes to argue the existence of Bigfoot, rave about Guillermo del Toro, and write passionate defenses of misunderstood characters. 

To learn more about her fiction and art, visit her website:, where you can find a full list of all her social medias, or join the Citadel Fiction newsletter: 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The way it feels

Sometimes I think I am melodramatic...and sometimes I think I am numb. 

I read things like this: 
"I’m starting to appreciate more just how scary it is to be a doctor.
You have a patient come in with a stomach ache, nausea, feels tired and sort of generally miserable, no other obvious characteristic symptoms.Out of 100 patients like this, 90* will be a minor gastroenteritis or whatever, maybe you ate something bad, here’s some nausea medication, go home and eat bland foods and get enough fluid and sleep it off.And 7 will be appendicitis or gallstones or pancreatitis and need to be admitted to the hospital, 1 will be a heart attack with atypical symptoms, 1 will be the first sign of cancer, and 1 will be some weirdo disorder with a name like “Coleman’s 4268py deletion snydrome, Type II”** that you never heard of.
If I were a doctor, this would make me terrified to ever tell a patient “maybe you ate something bad, go home and sleep it off.”  Even though that’s usually the right answer, and even though it’s a waste of time and money to do an EKG and CT and 4268py test on everyone with a tummy ache–it’s got to be anxiety-provoking to not be certain that you aren’t missing something.  And at some point you will send someone home only to get a call the next day that they collapsed and now they’re in the ICU (or the morgue).  And it’s got to be really hard to go back to work after that and say “go home and sleep it off” to your next patient, even though that’s still usually the right answer.
I’m understanding more these days how tough it is to live with that kind of risk and responsibility." -

or this:

"...we’re taught to play it down, and get on with it. We’re taught to accept it. We joke, and we rant, and we talk about the funny side with our nonmedic friends and family and partners, because we don’t want to scare them. Nobody wants to be that depressing person. 
But it leaks through, and it manifests in the littlest ways. 
For example, for me, the longer I work in medicine and deal with the dying, the more dark my humor gets, and the more frequently death steals into my conversations, so casually I barely even notice until it’s pointed out. But also, the more I dwell on the ties that bind; on the unbreakable love I see at work between patients and their loved ones. I can’t  even explain how touching some of my patients and their families have been. How tangible their love feels when you work with them as we do. When you’ve seen real, deep abiding love, the kind of love that lasts a lifetime, through illness and through the spectre of death itself,  you can accept no less." 

or this: 

"Two hours ago I was in a trauma room doing compressions on a toddler. The mother’s screams mixing with the sounds nursesdoctorstechs calling out, the beeping monitors telling us what we already know. Now I’m sipping a raspberry vanilla latte out of a mug with red birds riding snowflakes listening to some 80s music. The baby inside of me is kicking. My hands still smell like gloves and hand sanitizer."

and I find they are starting to put into words the things I am still trying to put into thoughts. I've been better with writing than with speaking for a long time, but the deep things, the true things, the hard things...I've always done better putting them into fiction than...simply throwing them out into the open, stark and plain. 

And these things are so difficult to describe...from the very first unreal moment of standing in a basement of corpses with sixty other wildly uncomfortable young people as the smell of formaldehyde seeps into your clothing and you realize that nothing about this is actually normal.

From there it snowballs. 

There's the way you feel when a code fails, when there's no other thing you can try...and the way you feel when a code works and there's a living person where a dead or dying person was a moment before.

There's the way a failing heart looks on an ultrasound, the faint flutter of the valves opening and closing, the defiant clapping, a last desperate attempt to hold to life as it fades slowly the away...and the fact that every time you see a healthy heart on ultrasound you're brought back to that fading moment and what it was like to stand wordless beside a young child who has lost their parent and wish desperately for a comfort that was not there. 

There's the way it feels to watch as parents are told their child will most likely never recover and the way it feels to watch that child walk out of the hospital on their own two feet, knowing they has no idea how many days the stranger smiling at them watched flattened brain waves trace across a paper and prayed over their bed. 

There's the way it feels to be told by attendings you respect that you know what you are doing and you have correctly worked up and taken care of a have patient after patient tell you, "You are a good doctor."

And there is the way it feels, the way it felt last night, cheerfully talking to a patient at 2am and then walking out with his face burned into your mind thinking, "If he dies, I killed him." 

It is sometimes utterly, beautifully incredible and sometimes achingly hard and always surreal. I don't know how to put it into words that others can feel because sometimes I don't know how to put it into words that I can feel. It simply is and I am living it. Step by step, day by day, prayer by prayer. 

It has been 27 months since I started residency and it will be 20 months until I finish residency.  Maybe by then I will know how to say it. How to feel it. How to live it.

Meanwhile I will take my days off when I get them and write when I should sleep and marvel at living in such a time and place as this. 


Thursday, October 3, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday

click the picture to join the link-up! 
Okay, so sometimes I want to do a thing, but I don't want to do it properly. [....make that most times...]

Currently, the thing is joining the Top Ten Tuesday linkup on "Book Titles With Numbers In Them". [And on a Thursday, no less.]

I got as far as Across Five Aprils and went...but I'm not very passionate about these number-titled books. Which makes for a sadly boring post. Also, I have slipped up on my book list keeping lately...but mydramalist has a very handy list of every drama I ever thought I might someday watch.

So. Here are ten dramas with numbers in their titles. And like I say, if I had to read subtitles, I read that thing. XD

The K2
Oh, yes, let's start with the one that should have been so much cooler. ^ Isn't a great music video, but it does portray the most interesting relationship in the series and what should have been the core of the story: is it possible for a good, if terribly broken (kudos to the show for portraying PTSD), man to save a bad, and equally broken, woman with the power of his friendship? 
Unfortunately, they thought a ridiculous lot of action, a few good actors, and the potential for awesome could save an 11th hour gutting of the best parts of the drama in favor of an absolutely idiotic (and entirely inapropriate) loveline with a actress who could not hold her own against the other leads. 
It did not work. 
I will say the action scenes are still fun and the OST is one I still enjoy, though. Right along with the glorious speculation on what could have been. XD

7th Grade Civil Servant
...'k, and this was a DNF. It was a stupid, slapstick spy comedy that even fans of such (of which I am not one) did not enjoy. I was hoping, because it had Joo Won in, I could barely make it through the beginning. 

If you want to see the reason I tried watching 7th Grade Civil Servant at all...take a look at Bridal Mask/Gaksital. It is one of the best Korean dramas I've ever seen, even though it can be hard to watch - it is dramatized history, but the worst parts of it truly happened. But it is a glorious and tragic story of a country being systematically destroyed and the people who rose up to fight for freedom and hope, and it is the gut-wrenching story of one man who committed unforgivable sins before truth and love got a hold of him. It brilliantly shows his change of heart and the following slow battle to become a hero.

And, because one leads to another and I'm not going to say how far down the rabbit hole just thinking about this drama took's another.


Two Weeks
Okay, I liked this one. It is a drama not really for children or the undiscerning...but a good story in multiple ways. It's not to level of epic that Bridal Mask reaches (come, you have to combine the stakes of a country with the soul of a man to reach epic), but it was good. And I'll copy what I said from the last time I did a drama tag (Shhhhh, I didn't carry over two from that one, what are you saying...):
This is one of those incredible redemption stories that I adored but that which is slightly harder to recommend to everyone indiscriminately. Basically, the MC made a terrible choice in attempting to protect someone he loved, and his life was destroyed. When the story starts, he is in a very bad place, and the story doesn't shy away from the depths to which he has sunk. When his ex-girlfriend finds him and tells him that she actually had the baby he demanded she abort, and that baby is now a young girl dying of leukemia who needs him donate stem cells...his life takes a different turn. Watching him fight step by step to believe that he can change, that he can become the person those he loves need so desperately, and come to a full understanding of what exactly he has done in the's incredible. {There is a scene where he ends up helping a stranger deliver her baby, and the moment it truly hits him what he almost forced his girlfriend to do and that he might never have met his daughter if his girlfriend had followed through...gah.}
This ^ scene, sure, might lose a few points for why is a man on the run from the police and the bad guys helping a random lady deliver a baby of all things? and is this too on the nose in forcing him to make up for not supporting his own family when he should have done so? But it all depends on how you feel about symbolism. XD

Also, I just discovered, doing my usual fruitless search for a good MV of Two Weeks, that Japan has also done a version, which stars Miura Haruma. Which A) brb, watching that now, and B) that leads directly into:

5 Minutes to Tomorrow
A man enters the twisting reality of a highly concerning pair of twin sisters...which one died and which one came home as his wife? 

This also counts as a DNF, I guess, because I have tried to watch this movie 2-3 times and fallen asleep promptly every time, which is not a great recommendation for any kind of murder mystery. To be fair, the Chinese or Japanese movies I have watched have been few and far between. 

All of the latter, however have been the fault of the following drama:

Bloody Monday 1-2
This is totally cheating and I really don't care. 
But there are rare Korean or Japanese shows with seasons, so I'm utilizing that unique aspect. 
Anyway, it's been a while since I watched it, but I highlight it for 2 reasons: Miura Haruma and Sato Takeru.  
Okay, just kidding. But I keep checking out and then dropping Japanese films and shows in hopes of one or the other of these two will be in another show as brilliantly addicting as this one. So far, Sato Takeru is the only one who has managed it. 
What made Bloody Monday so good? Plotting, pacing, characters. It is a j-drama/dorama, so be warned that compared to the k-dramas I tend to watch it is a little more graphic in terms of language, death, clothing choices, subject matter...but if you're looking for a fight-the-terrorist-save-the-world story utilizing a genius hacker and his best friends and a brilliantly charismatic villain..this is it. The villain subconsciously inspired a decent amount of my Contract to Time Travel character Ja-Il - his intelligence, his charisma, his relationship with his siblings...but one of the main reasons I love it is that the MC is so resoundingly true. When it comes down to saving his country or betraying his principles, what choice will he make? Tactically he may be stupid, but he's still practically a child, and the strength of his convictions matters to me. 
Also, I loved that season 2 did not pick up with everyone the same. It showed how people were hurt, how people were changed, how people grew up, from season 1. It hurt, but it felt real. 

No video, because SPOILERS.

Queen for Seven Days
Speaking of watching new dramas because of who is in them...Park Min Young SLAYS in every drama I've seen her in (including rom com, which I DO NOT EVEN WATCH but which I have watched for her and pretty much died laughing over)...and Yeon Woo Jin ( that I think about it...I have watched a rom-com with him in it too...yikes...this is not me...)
Maybe I'm an idiot for wanting to ruin the two rom-coms I've enjoyed in my life by seeing two of their leads in a tragedy, but...I have heard nothing but high praise for every aspect of this drama except the trailers, and once I get past my current stack of tragic historical dramas, I'm definitely going to watch this one. (And I will repeat that trailers never do these shows I don't expect them to...but it IS likely that there is undue weight placed on childhood crushes. Fated love is a thing in a lot of Korean dramas, and sometimes ridiculously so.)

Five Fingers
This one is on be honest, I only ever wanted to watch it because of the opening sequence of piano music, which I watched. All I know is it's about pseudo-brothers and revenge and pianos? And there's a fire in there somewhere? 
Which sounds like a fun combination, but I'm not sure as a story that has enough weight to pull me completely in. I might do better with my time to just learn some piano music for myself....

38 Task Force
Okay, for something not a revenge tragedy...this weirdly named show is for fans of Leverage and Seo In Guk. 
The relationships weren't quite so well done as I'd hoped, and the cons (which then became the point of it all) were minimally memorable.
I remember one of them involved the main conman giving a speech at a fancy place...and another involved him coming up with a car out of thin air...and another had something to do with antiques and throwing money everywhere. So. I remember enjoying it enough to watch it...but not much else. Rating: Eh. 

School 2013 more drama that is neither tragedy nor romance. It's a school drama about guilt, honesty, dreams, the impact of adult role models on troubled children, and a David-Jonathan friendship that went horribly wrong. As such it is a lot less weighty than most of the others on this list...yet while you're watching it you forget that the only thing at stake is the friendship of some high school boys and possibly their futures. Which I think is something Korean dramas sometimes excel at - is the tragic destruction of a friendship going to destroy the world? No, but when you're in the situation it might feel like it is, and the drama manages to pull you in so that you feel what they're feeling. 
No video here either, though, because I can't find any that don't either give the entire story away or don't, uh, add slash scenes to the video that weren't actually in the drama.

Six Flying Dragons
Sooooo....back to tragedies....*cough*  Caveat: I have not yet finished this. But just the first few episodes plunged me into the founding of a nation and the creation of a man - I love how Korean dramas are not afraid to spend the time setting up the world and showing you exactly what choices were made to make someone the person they became. And maybe it’s a bloody mess of history but it’s tragic and fascinating and even if largely fictionalized there is so much to learn from history, let alone about story-telling. I’m looking forward to watching this one as a whole.  

What is your favorite story with a number in the title?
Which of the above sounds most interesting to you? XD

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be doctors

I recently read this article, and had to laugh a little bit. I didn't go into medicine for the money (I'd have needed to pick a different specialty), and if I had, it wouldn't be worth it. You can't BE paid enough to be a doctor, in my opinion. (Because I don't think money is worth what we see and experience and deal with - though admittedly we get paid more than say, policemen and social workers, who also get plenty of trauma from what they see.) Some time ago I came across a medicine tag (I think from here, though I cannot find the original poster) and started filling out my own version just for fun and because it asked some good questions. XD

Why did you choose medicine as a profession?

I was told numerous times in high school and college that I should not choose medicine if there was anything else I could imagine myself doing and being happy, because if medicine was not basically my deepest desire, I could never make it.  
I know multiple who are in medicine because of their family, because of money, because of reasons that are not "medicine." And some of them are very good physicians, doing relatively fine. [It's residency, none of us are loving this, come on.] There were and are so many things I could see myself doing that I imagine would be easier than what I'm currently doing.
But I'm here because God opened every door for me and I found medicine fascinating, challenging, and a way that, in that most cliche of all medical school and residency application personal statement cliches, I could help people in a way that intrigued me.

When did you know you wanted to go into medicine?
The short answer to that is when I was about 16 years old and my mother was insisting that I was going to turn 30 no matter what happened, and I might as well become a doctor before that happened because what else was I going to do with my life, I discovered a program the next state over that would let me cut 1-2 years off my training, and so I finally agreed to at least try for it. (Of course, it took me a year to make it happen and then I chose a specialty requiring an extra year, so the year I saved is not gonna get me there any earlier, but hey.)

The long answer involves a million stories about healers filling my childhood and a recurrent argument with God on whether or not it would be horrifying to be a doctor or not but also wanting to prove a lot of people wrong.
(I mean, on the one hand I know there was a moment where I listed off my greatest I-don't-want-this-future fears, and it involved blindness, central Africa, and being a doctor...but I also have a snarky little memory of a skinned knee and a cousin snatching a bottle of hydrogen peroxide out of my hand and saying, "Let me pour it - I'm the one who's going to be a nurse!" and myself thinking...but what about what I'm going to be? lol)

Which specialty do you want to practice/are you practicing?
 Internal Medicine/Pediatrics, best of all worlds. I may or may not be considering narrowing that down to a fellowship (2-3 more years, hilfe mir. We'll see what my thoughts on that are next year.)

Which specialty did you want to practice when you started med school?
 Hee. Family practice. But that's because I didn't know Med-Peds was a thing. XD

What was your worst moment in medicine?
Wow, just go for the throat...I almost deleted this question, but it's also important to think of those moments. 
Med school, tbh, was one long torture event...
The time I burst into tears in the office of one of the high-level faculty...
The time I was called in to speak with several faculty members because someone had said a whole bunch of truly awful things about me and basically requested I not return to their hospital system - I went home and told my mom and cried so hard I couldn't speak. (I still kind of think I should go back and talk to them when I finish residency and ask them WHAT THE EVER-LOVING EARTH WAS THAT ABOUT AND WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME? Because there was zero explanation.) 
The time I thought I was going to fail step 1 and stressed myself completely out.

But none of these were really about medicine. 

On the one hand, I think I've been shielded from certain events that would have scarred me for life. We have had truly horrific things happen at our hospital (as they happen at all hospitals) and I have not been on call those days. 

On the other hand...things that would have broken me apart in medical school have become fairly common place and I have to actively fight to not become/not stay calloused to the pain and suffering that constantly surrounds me. There's a few things I plan to write about at some point, but I'm not ready yet.

What was your best moment in medicine?
 It's interesting that the worst moments that came to my mind are very personal/related to myself as responsible party. 
Best moments are more team-based - one of the unfortunate things about medicine is that it takes an entire team to save you, but one person to kill you. 

But of the times that stand out to me...the entire El Salvador trip stands out...the time a medical student thanked me for taking the time to talk through some difficult things with them...the times patients have thanked me for my time and explanations...and especially the time we talked through worst case scenario with a child's family (one that hit close to home for me because of my sibling's medical history) and expected death for a week, only to watch the kid walk out on their own two feet a month later. 

There's nothing like getting to watch a miracle happen before your eyes.

How does the medical education system in your country work? 
Does it, though? 
Just kidding. 
But we do college after high school, then try to get into med school, graduate as an MD, then try to get into residency, get board certified, then possibly try to get into fellowship, get board certified in that too, and finally try to get a job so we can finish paying off the hundreds of thousands that medical school cost. 
Meanwhile, my friends from other countries went straight from high school into medical school, which was longer than ours, and have no debts because either the government paid for their schooling or, like me, they owe their parents in the future. 
Random pro-tip I got from my mother and have since greatly appreciated after meeting those whose mothers did not give them this tip: don't go to a med school in the Caribbean no matter how smooth that sounds. It complicates your future life and medical education in many ways. 

Favourite medical fun fact? 
^ you fall asleep = you die
So there's something hilarious about realizing that Ondine's Curse was the most incredible crazy thing when I first heard about it in high school and now I'm like...central sleep apnea, yeah, so? 

I have no idea what my favorite is, but a totally random thing that I love is that tears have antibiotic properties. That's just super awesome to me. XD

What is your best study advice?
 DO IT. Don't care how/when/where. Just do it.

Do you study at home/at the library/elsewhere?
 Usually home. I get distracted there, yes, but I get distracted everywhere, so...

How do you treat yourself when you achieved a goal?
Comfy clothes, sweets, and stories, whether reading/writing/watching. Occasionally, I will buy books. XD (Or shoes. Yes, I turned into that person when I grew up.)

How do you handle failure/bad critiques/mistakes?
 Oooh, good question...and kinda the same as above. LOL With a little more whining and caterwauling to my mother, who usually hauls me up short with an extra ration of common sense. 
Plus let me clarify - bad critiques are everywhere in residency. I've been called up and yelled at for things not remotely related to myself ("WHY HAVEN'T YOU DEALT WITH THIS TEST?!?!? YOU'RE THE RESIDENT TAKING CARE OF THIS PATIENT!!!!!!!" "actually, no, I did a consult on this patient - I do not know anything about that particular test because I discussed the patient's lungs with the attending and we never ordered a kidney ultrasound. I'm consulting, not primary." "YES YOU ARE!" "......excuse me?") and if I got bent out of shape over all of them I'd be a basket case. 

Mistakes, though...
a) pray God you never make a serious mistake and beg Him every day to watch over and heal your patients and show you what to look for and do and work to learn everything you need to and keep track of all details that might harm the patient or slow their healing

b) thank anyone who shows you a mistake or near-mistake
c) don't ever blame someone else or try to shrug it off
d) beat yourself up so thoroughly when you make one that your attending takes pity on you and explains why it wasn't that big of a deal
e) proceed to continue beating yourself up with whatever knowledge or double-checking parameters are necessary until said mistake never happens again

Favourite hospital movie/TV show?
Having not watched all of them...or barely any of them...

My favorite show involving a great deal of doctors even though the medicine was kinda non-existent is Descendants of the Sun. (It was just ridiculous good fun). (But, like why do you have CPR with kissing? Also what is that CPR besides garbage?)
Do not watch for medicine. XD

I've seen a few episodes of House that amused me (and that helped me get obscure PREP questions right, so LOL) but AISH. That is not how medicine works, guys. Good grief. 

A lot of people in medicine say Scrubs is the most realistic, but maybe that's why I just couldn't get into it...

I think I got scared off because I actually really enjoyed the beginning, but figured the medicine would be garbage...but I do intend to continue watching New Amsterdam. It's kind of a doctor's fantasy hospital (unless you're a cardiothoracic surgeon, heh. To be fair, I actually know a few who should be fired, even though OBVIOUSLY it's rude to paint a department that way. But billing or not, people actually need surgery, so...fantasy show.)

Worst hospital movie/TV show?
Worst I've seen definitely The Resident. I only saw like 1 episode, which was hysterical but complete garbage. And OH, when people say "You're resident? Like the TV show??" I could cry. It's so bad, you guys. IT'S SO BAD.

Which patient’s/relative’s behaviour annoys you the most?
 Annoys? Not as in makes me furious (abusing children), tense as all get out and dread coming in (getting screamed at), but annoyed? Probably when people don't take responsibility for their own health and just passively want me to fix their life. I spend hours on the phone, I research and read and contact specialists, I try to get people whatever help they need whether it takes my sleeping time or not, but when people refuse to even try to take care of themselves...I can get a little annoyed. Does that make me a bad doctor? Not until it stops me from doing my part on their behalf. Or from seeing the things that prevent them from taking care of themselves. {Social determinants of health, rah. I should have gone into city planning, deleted vehicles, and made walking accidentally mandatory if I really wanted to fix people's health...XD}

What would you do if you didn’t work in medicine?
 ...I honestly have no idea. Which is why I work in medicine. XD
Back-up plans tossed around included biomedical engineering, nursing, physician's assistant, horse-training, running a bakery, and writing novels. 
The last of which I fully intend to do while working in medicine. :) 

What do you like to do when you’re not in school/hospital/studying?
When would that be? XD JK. 
Last weekend I went and rode my horse. The weekend before I went hiking. I've read a few novels and am working on writing two others and editing a third. I've been boating, swimming, skiing, gardening..I've done a decent bit in the past 2 years.
Mostly though, if I have free moments in a week, I play with my ever-growing succulent garden, cook (rarely), exercise (even more rarely) write, read, watch movies, and try to fit sleep in somewhere.

Do you have somebody that inspires you?

I already did a post on my heroes, and SURPRISE SURPRISE, there were 3 physicians on that list. 
But any time I see someone being excellent...I'm a little bit inspired. 
There's a neurologist at my hospital whose personality is pretty much the opposite of mine (she's known far and wide for her reactions when people screw up in taking care of her patients), but I am awed by her dedication to being the best that she can be and doing every possible thing to get good outcomes for her patients. 
There's a primary care doctor at my hospital who always impresses me with his attention to detail, care for patients, and broad knowledge of medicine, and every time I work with him I come away wanting to know and work like he does. 
There's an intensivist at my hospital who meets every panic-worthy emergency with a smile and a joke and a stack of evidence-based papers to back up his plan, and while I don't ever want to be an intensivist, I want to be a doctor like him. 

A lot of these questions are transferrable...and I'm curious how you guys would answer them. 
What's your favorite medical fact and who inspires you? :) 

Monday, September 16, 2019

If you can dream can do it

Graphic designed with FotoJet

or so they say.

I have a complicated relationship with this idea. 

For some people, including me, hope does spring eternal, and I resent anyone and anything telling me I cannot do a thing. Not when Scripture itself states "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I mean, that's pretty all-encompassing and definitive, is it not? 

Even as a general principle, I am a pretty strong believer in, "See you a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before obscure men" - I truly believe humans are capable of incredible feats, things many would call impossible unless they saw it done. God has made us in His image and humanity is an incredible and amazing creation capable of mind-blowing achievements. Even those who deny the existence of or who do not know God as God are able to perform and discover and create awe-inspiring things because the Lord is still Himself and the gifts He has given remain, even if they do not know the Giver.

But. And actually a fairly large and painfully important but. It is not just enough to want a thing. To believe you can do a thing. Not even enough to have faith that God has called you to do a thing. 

Specifically, say, when it comes to writing.

I know a decent number of Christian writers, which is to say I grew up with a fair number of individuals who claimed the name of Christian and the title of writer. I came to know of a good deal more through internet circles, and a decent Amazon search reveals a seemingly endless supply of the same. 

"God gave me this story." 

"I was called to be a writer. 

"I know this is what God wants me to write." 

Under certain circumstances, there is some flip part of me that wants to point to Revelations 22:18 and ask if people are sure they're transcribing the Word of God...but also I know what it's like to feel God's call on my life. I know what it's like to fall on my face before Him and know the direction He is leading. I also know what it's like to have something pour from my heart into words and to be dizzyingly delighted with the magic of a story. I do not want to make light of how God communicates to His children - it is a marvelous and wondrous thing.

The but remains. 

I do not think anyone can argue that there is not an absolute ton of objective trash currently being marketed under the label of "Christian." Music, movies, pictures,'s rubbish and we know it. We just all like to think OUR contribution is separate because "God told me to share this." I hear people insisting themselves or lapping up without hesitation when others tell them that they are talented authors when they are at writers. I hear people saying editors should not be listened to because "You as the author are the ultimate authority" or advising self-editing for a similar reason. I hear people absolutely writhing against the idea that their first book is not publishable, or that they might need to write and rewrite and rewrite again, or take a course, or do anything except...write and publish and share their gifts with the world as soon as possible.

In my case, God has called me to be a physician. I'm more sure of that now than I ever have been, and this is after 3 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 2 years of residency. 

Know what? Medicine does not coddle. The training environment of medicine is broken in many ways and I can attest to the brutal nature of it despite having found myself in some of the kindest and most supportive groups of people I could have imagined for both medical school and residency. There is not a lot of space for individuals who are unwilling to sacrifice and work hard and do whatever it takes to become competent in the knowledge and skills required.

Given that, can you imagine what people would have said if I had started college by saying, "The Lord has called me to be a doctor"? If I had walked into my medical school interview and announced, "God led me to this school and therefore you need to accept me"? If I showed up at residency and told patients "Jesus is going to heal you through me"?  All of this might very well be God-created reality, but is it enough if I simply say it? Or do I need to truly believe it and act on it by doing whatever it takes to make it so? Faith without works is dead, and if I do not show my faith by my works, then what am I doing? 

Either I am good at my job or I am not. Either I am correct in how I treat the patient or I am wrong. Either I am saving lives or I am losing or even actively destroying them. I cannot bank on or rest upon God's calling without actively utilizing every single resource He has provided and allowing Him to equip me to serve Him in the way He has directed. 

I said I wanted to be a doctor, and my college advisor said, "All anybody wants is one more entitled pre-med student sitting in their class." I said I wanted to do med-peds and my medical school advisor said, "You don't have a snowball's chance in hell of getting one of those residencies." I opened my mouth in residency and the number of times I have been shot down...well, if I had to pick a balloon to represent myself I'd choose the Hindenburg. 

The fact that I'm still here is not a tribute to my skills or my abilities or my giftings or even my hard work - it is definitely because of my God. Not to the swift, the race; not to the strong, the battle...Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. It is because of Him that anything in my life is going right at all, let alone that I'm sitting on 3 rotations' worth of excellent feedback and my last session with my program director was practically a glowing review. 

And it is partially because of this that I do not believe in gate-keeping. I do not believe we need a certain heritage, a certain degree, a certain title, a certain skill set or even ability level in order to do great things, or that those who do not seem "appropriate" by other people's standards are unworthy of following their dream. But I do believe in excellence and self-regulation and discipline and the pursuit of perfection and the directive that states, whatsoever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord.

You've heard the saying, God does not call the equipped; He equips the called?

You might be talented or gifted or amazing or you might not be. But if you believe you have been called by your Lord to do a thing, does not that include learning how to do that thing for His glory, no matter how difficult it might be? Are you allowing Him to equip you to fulfill the calling He has laid upon you? 


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