Posts in category Workshops

NJRW Conference in a nutshell

So this year, for the second time, I got to do something cool… and this year was the first year I’d done something quite like this, so it was really cool that I was able to do it twice.  Back in March, I was asked to speak for the Washington Area Romance Writers and give a workshop.  I was still reeling over the awesome of that when I got another email, asking if I’d be interested in doing a workshop for the New Jersey Romance Writers at their annual conference.

I did a workshop on Writing Hot, since that’s kinda one thing I know.  I also figured out a way to expand on the exercise I do in that workshop and make a whole new workshop–character sketches… :)  So, hey, I’m ready to do this workshop/speaker thing again.

The good points with NJRW:

  • I didn’t fall on my face with my workshop!
  • People laughed and seemed to enjoy it
  • I met some new people which is always cool
  • Hung out with a bookclub that came down to visit
  • Sat in on some very good workshops and wished I had a double so I could be in two places at once
  • Had a breakthrough during Madeline Hunter’s synopsis workshop.
  • Thanks to the synopsis workshop, I plotted out…four…I kid you not…four books on the drive back home. Yes, it’s a synopsis workshop, but hey.  My brain works weird.
  • Very much enjoyed the workshops by Connie Brockway & Eloisa James, Carla Neggers, Margaret Mallory and the talks given by Diana Crosby, Virginia Kantra & Connie Brockway.

All in all, it was a great weekend.  I went out to dinner with some readers Friday and Saturday night, hung out with Jane Porter a little-we never get enough time to talk, but she’s a sweetheart.  Talked with a bookseller & fellow writer friend Stacey out of NYC.

Bad points? Not a one.

Many, many thanks to the NJRW group for having me out.

If you’re looking to go to a workshop-say you’ve been dying to try Nationals, but can’t swing it, but New Jersey is more doable?  Go.  You’ll get a wide variety of workshops geared for both the pubbed and unpubbed writer.  You’ll meet a lot of people and trust me, these are wonderful ladies, very welcoming to the newby.

 

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Writing a more believable medical hero/heroine…day 4, handwashing, sore feet, etc

Medical image

Image © Shannon Matteson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

This is going to be a hodge-podge.

But things I never see come up in a book with a medical professional…

  • We are always washing our hands
  • We tend to have very sore feet
  • We like pens–we have to write a lot and the pens disappear

Handwashing

From the CDC’s website… because I can’t resist the chance to educate…

Handwashing

  • It is estimated that washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50% 1.

  • Researchers in London estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, a million deaths a year could be prevented 2.

  • A large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands. Appropriate hand washing practices can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and other infections 3.

  • Handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16% 4.

  • The use of an alcohol gel hand sanitizer in the classroom provided an overall reduction in absenteeism due to infection by 19.8% among 16 elementary schools and 6,000 students 5.

Now nurses know this stuff.  And hospitals (and doctor offices) are dirty places.  People get sick there.  So we are always washing our hands.  We carry alcohol sanitizer in our pockets.

Want your nurse or doctor be believable? One way to add to that? Have them washing their hands more.  We do it between each patient.  We do it before and after changing bandages.  We do it all the time.

If it’s in the workplace, there are probably posters up… they are all over the place in the health care setting. Posters on how to wash your hands… it’s not just shoving your hands under the water for fifteen seconds. You don’t have to detail the handwashing, but if she sees the poster on handwashing? That’s just another way to craft a believable medical character, showing things that she’d see every day.

Sore feet & pens… eh, I can’t really give you hard and fast facts on the sore feet thing or pens, but we spend most of the day on our feet, usually on tile floors.  If you’ve ever worked on your feet, you can imagine how tired your feet get.  We like comfortable shoes. And my pens were always disappearing or getting swiped.  By a doctor, another nurse, left in a room. Sometimes, though, I was the pen thief.

Things that you see that don’t really happen:

  • Getting it on in various parts of the hospital.
  • Nurses who still wear all white — or, hey that cap thing.
  • CPR on beds, with bent elbows
  • Giving aspirin for all sorts of shit-other than a heart attack

Sex in the workplace…

Remember how I said hospitals are dirty? I meant it.  I don’t think you could convince me to have sex in a hospital.  There are things like MRSA lurking there.  What is MRSA?  (Link) Nasty, nasty, nasty superbug.  One that is resistant to antibiotics…writing about nurses and doctors getting it on tells me that you don’t know much about nurses and doctors.  Nurses and doctors don’t want to pick that kind of infection down in those places.

The white hat

I haven’t seen a nurse in a white hat since my clinicals and there was only one nurse who wore it.  She said she’d worked too hard to get it and she’d continue to wear it, thank you very much.  I’ve been in a lot of hospitals.

When I was talking about this on twitter, I asked for feedback…none of the nurses, EMTs, doctors I know can think of any place that require the white hat, or for that matter, for the nurses to wear that stereotyped white uniform.

CPR on a bed/bent elbows

On TV, you’ll see a person give CPR and their elbows are all bent, the patient will start talking after… you’ll see CPR taking place on a bed…

CPR has to be on a flat, unyielding surface to be effective.  The person administering CPR has to lock their elbows.  CPR is brutal.  We’re told when we get the training-and we get it often…I take it every two years-you might hear a crack…ribs can break.  You can’t get the force you need to jumpstart the heart if the patient is on a nice, comfy bed or if you have spaghetti arms.  

Sidenote, while I have fortunately never had to administer CPR, when I was flying back from Alaska years ago, a passenger on the flight needed CPR.  We had to touch down briefly to get him off the plane after they’d managed to get his heart started.  A few people were freaking out… they didn’t get him breathing, he’s still dead…  CPR isn’t pretty.  People don’t stop breathing, lose their pulse and then have somebody pound on their chest and come back from that two minutes later and jump up, ready to dance.

Aspirin

Know why they tell you to use aspirin if you suspect you’re having a heart attack, your guy, your mom, neighbor, etc, etc?  It thins the blood, helps prevent clotting. So it can buy time on the way to get emergency help.  That’s not a bad thing…in the event of a heart attack.

But say you’ve got a head injury.  Do you want to give something that can thin the blood and predispose you to bleeding?  So why does a doctor or nurse give aspirin to a person complaining of a headache after a head injury?  What about somebody who has had an ulcer?  A bleeding disorder?  Aspirin isn’t the drug of choice for a lot of reasons, but these are just a couple of them.

Hat tip to Lillie A… she read through my posts and gave me a few more points.

FYI:  None of this, absolutely none of this is to be construed as medical advice.  I’m not a doctor.

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Writing a more believable medical hero/heroine…day 2, confidentiality

Medical image

Image © Shannon Matteson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ever heard of HIPAA?

If you’re writing a medical hero or heroine, you should have heard of it.

Also, if you’ve been to the doctor’s office in the past umpteen years, you have heard it.  You just might not realize that is what it is.

In 1996, HIPAA, also known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was endorsed by Congress.

Why does this matter when writing a doctor or nurse? Because your doctor or nurse should have a basic understanding of it. You don’t need to go throwing that term in there, because your readers might not understand it.

But your medical readers, and there are a lot of us, will laugh or roll our eyes or get downright irritated when you trample all over confidentiality… because that is what this is about.

Confidentiality.

Confidentiality has always mattered to an ethical nurse or doctor, but after HIPAA came into being, it got more important. Talking about a patient in the cafeteria, where other people can hear you can lead to serious trouble.  Looking through records you have no business accessing can get you fired. (Link)

Facebooking about a patient can lead to big trouble.  Nurses get fired over this. (Link)

And while this case here – the woman took photos for pete’s sake – look at what is under the header…referred to the FBI.(Link) That FBI thing should clue you in… confidentiality is no joking matter.

I cannot tell you how many books I’ve read where the hero or heroine is somehow connected to the medical field…a doctor, nurse, EMT, etc and will be in the cafeteria, talking about Ms. Shaw and her hip, in the elevator, talking about cranky old Mr. Roberts and his dialysis, etc, etc.

Yes, the staff will talkBut…the smart ones, who value their jobs, aren’t going to do it in public where anybody but staff can hear.

And it shouldn’t be gossipy.  Say a nurse in ICU hears you’ve got a hunky cop on the med-surg floor.  She comes up and wants details… yes, this is totally believable, right?

Do you know that if you are overheard discussing those details, you can get fired?

Basically, you share only the necessary information with the necessary people.

So if you’re overheard discussing patients at yoga…in the supermarket…with your BFF…that’s a no.

You might think this is too restrictive to your story, but if you want to make your medical character more believable, then you can find a way to work it.

Basically:

  • No gossiping, especially not in public spaces
  • You can’t have the hero/heroine pull the doctor or nurse aside for info on a patient.  Unless that patient has given permission, and the staff should check, that doctor/nurse is risking his license, his money, possibly his freedom by giving out those details so easily.
  • The same goes goes if a character out of the blue asks the doctor/nurse for info…unless that doctor/nurse knows the patient has okay’d that release of information, they aren’t going to give it.  They like having their license, the money from the job…and yeah, not being investigated, thrown in jail, etc, etc.
  • If your nurse/doctor goes digging for personal data, s/he’s doing it at the risk of losing his/her job, possibly her license. Since many records have gone digital, this can be tracked…and it often is.
  • Only the minimum amount of information needed for patient care is accessed.  Again, say I’m working a med-surg (medical-surgical) floor and there’s a patient in ICU, I can’t go flipping through their file.  I have no business doing it. Again, that information can be tracked.
  • Violations can and do lead to fines and/or jail time, so this is serious shit. Nurses/doctors/CNAs/Aides they all understand this…we don’t take it lightly, neither should your characters.

 

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Writing a more believable medical hero/heroine… Day One

Medical image

Image © Shannon Matteson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

A few years ago, I attended a conference.  One of the workshops was on romantic suspense and building a more believable bad guy.

This is good stuff, I thought, stuff I needed to know. So I trotted on to the workshop, notebook in hand…it was a handy notebook. I still have it.  I made notes on the villain I came up with, because sooner or later, that will be a story.

The last…eh…thirty minutes or so weren’t bad.  She gave useful info and I was able to use some of the info she gave me to help build more believeable bad guys.  Like the one in the Ash trilogy.

Normally, I’d be all over buying her backlist, because her info was solid…as far as that goes.

She lost me out of the gate, though.

All because of this…

So when I decided I’d be writing a romance with a doctor for a heroine, the first thing I did was order eight seasons of ER.

And UP goes my hand.

I tried to be nice. Really. It was her workshop.

But that was some bad advice and I couldn’t, in good conscience, let a bunch of writers think that ordering ER was solid research.

She looks at me, smiles… and I go… “Ah, ER is really not very useful for medical research.  Maybe you could try talking to doctors or nurses.”

And she tells me… doctors and nurses are busy.

Okay, then. To be fair, I did buy her book. I read it. And yep, even though trauma isn’t my thing, the medical stuff didn’t come off as remotely believable. Not from a nurse’s POV.  If she’d asked a nurse, or asked a doctor, a few little things here or there, would have made it more workable.

TV is a piss-poor excuse for research.  I’m not a cop, but I’m not going to assume that Law and Order is seriously what happens in law enforcement.

The only medical show I’ve ever watched that didn’t make me want to either laugh or bang my head was House. Grey’s and ER often just made me snicker or roll my eyes so I didn’t bother watching.

But House? That one I liked, because the main character was such a bastard. I loved him.

Some (possibly little known/understood) info about the medical profession, and nurses in particular:

  • In order to practice as a nurse, you gotta go to college.  Take the boards. Pass the boards…and get licensed.  It’s not like applying for a job and just somebody there liked how you interviewed.  It’s more complicated.
  • Nurse doesn’t equal bimbo.  Contrary to how we get portrayed on a lot of TV shows.
  • We don’t tend to view every doctor as possible marriage material. Fact of the matter is, quite a few of us want to get away from that when we leave the job. Marrying a doctor means we take it home.
  • Our feet hurt. A lot.
  • The education thing doesn’t stop at college.  It differs from state to state, but most of them have CEUs, Continuing Education Units, where you have to do just that… continue your education.
  • Quite a few nurses stopped wearing white and those little caps a long time ago. It’s scrubs and tennis shoes or clogs now.

This is just an opening.  Tomorrow, we’re going to going to get down to the nitty-gritty. First thing we’ll talk about? Confidentiality.  That can kill a nurse’s career in a heartbeat.

 

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Left Behind…?

PBW/Lynn Viehl used to do a Left Behind and Loving It workshop every week during nationals.  I only participated once.  I can’t always think of good ideas.  But I had a book come across my way not too long ago that inspired an idea.

I need to do a workshop on nurses and romance books. Doctors and romance books. Any kinda medical professional and romance books. Because the medical professional does tend to show up as a hero or heroine.

And man, some folks get it so fricking wrong. Which leads to people like me (a nurse) rolling my eyes or throwing the book.

This isn’t going to be anything super in-depth, but I’m doing a couple of mini-posts next week, while some of my friends are away partying/having fun/getting their toes pinched in cute shoes at RWA’s national conference.

Me?

I’m going to talk about why I can’t stand to read a book where the main character has anything to do with the medical profession.

If you write/or want to write romance/any book and plan to have/ever have a nurse/doctor/anything medical related, feel free to drop by and see some of the stuff that inspires my rants.

Medical image

Image © Shannon Matteson | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Thursday Tips…Bookbloggers & Readers

m4s0n501

Thursday Tips-geared toward the newly contracted/newly published author.  If you’ve got comments or Qs, feel free to leave them in comments.

Book bloggers…they are your friends

Besides librarians and booksellers, another group of people you don’t want to neglect or abuse?

Bookbloggers.

This doesn’t mean going and totally schmoozing it with them.  While some may be totally into that, chances are it will annoy others.

Just talk with them.

When I say talk, I don’t mean hit their blog with

Hi, I’m Shiloh Walker and I write erotic and paranormal romance, with some romantic suspense thrown in and I see that you like Lora Leigh, JR Ward and Linda Howard.  Because of that, I think you should give MY work a try.  If you’re interested, I’d be happy to send you a copy for review.

Folks…this isn’t talking.  This is basically invading a blog, and most authors who use this spiel almost always do it where there’s already a conversation going on.  So not only to do they intrude on an active conversation, they are doing to pimp their own work, and coincidentally, they are throwing around big names in hopes of catching interest.

Does it work?  Well, you might grab a little bit of interest.  But you’ll also annoy a number of readers—you’ll alienate them.  If you’ve alienated them, they are less likely to try your work, whether or not they say anything at the present time.

On the other hand, if you actually just talk…well, you can build up some friendship, or at least friendly relationships and that will do you a heck of a lot more good than the bit of interest you might gather from heavy-handed promo.  Because when you leave a good impression, people remember you, they talk about you and not in a—holy crap, did you see how she just totally interrupted us to pimp her shit-how rude!—sort of way

When I say TALK, I mean… TALK.

Something like…

Oh, man…. Linda Howard?  I love Linda Howard.  One of my favorites from her is Son of the Morning.  That woman can write.

Readers tend to get aggravated when an author invades on conversations just to promo-whore her stuff.  So despite what you might hear from some sources, I really don’t think it’s going to do you any favors to try that route.

Here’s an example:  If you were having conversation with a friend at the bookstore and somebody suggested a book they liked, or a book they’d loved by an author you were discussing, chances are you wouldn’t mind.  This might even be something you have done.

But lets say this person more or less shoves her book at you…

Oh, wow.  I see you’re looking at the latest Lora Leigh.  Wow.  I write just like her, or so people have told me.  I think you should try my stuff.

Folks, this isn’t a good sales pitch.  It’s heavy-handed, it’s awkard.  Some authors can work this sort of thing into a conversation.  Others?  Can’t.  Many of the ones I see online?  They can’t.  They are the ones who intrude on messages boards at Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, all in the name of pimping their stuff.

When authors use this sort of tactic, it brings about…an awkwardness, we’ll say.  Some people may be unsure what to say, period.  Some aren’t going to say anything for fear of hurting the author’s feelings.  Some just don’t like conflict.  And…um, well others just might tell you off to your face.  But it puts a strain on what had been a pleasant, open conversation and they can no longer freely discuss things.  This isn’t going to help endear you to them, and again, despite what some people think, I really don’t believe it does a big promo boost either.

On the other hand, if you can just talk to readers and bloggers about the common ground we’ve got?  Which is a love of books?  That can do you a world of good.  If you can be genuine.  I never set out to build a huge network of bookblogger friends.  I was just talking to people about books, because…well, I kind of love to talk to people about books.

I don’t really talk about mine—I feel weird talking about my books.  If somebody asks questions, yeah, I’ll answer.  But when I’m at a book blogger’s blog, a reader’s blog?  I’m there to talk books.  If I’m at another author’s blog, I’m either there as a guest… I don’t mean a guest blogger-those are different rules, I mean as in a guest in their house…or as a friend.  It does us well to remember courtesy.

However, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t help get my name out.  People ended up at my blog because they saw me talking at other blogs.  I’ve had people tell me they bought my books just because they saw me recommending other people’s books—and no, this isn’t why I do it.  If you can’t be honest when you’re out there in blogland, don’t bother because, people?  Readers aren’t stupid and when you’re putting on a front, it comes through a lot more clear than people tend to realize.

Just remember that readers and bookbloggers… They are people…treat them with courtesy and respect, and they’ll give it back.

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