I Stayed Up All Night Writing This

Posted by M. K. Waller

[Forgive me. This post is longer than I intended, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop. I had no idea I’m so enlightened. If you stop reading before the end, I’ll forgive you. But you’ll miss the good part.]

My husband once told me that when I tell stories, I should start with the headline. So here it is.


My CT scan twelve months after completing radiation treatments was clear.

The first time I posted about having cancer, I said I would write about the experience. I am a writer, I said, so I will write, or words to that effect.

The statement dripped with drama. You can practically hear the rolling r‘s: I will wr-r-r-r-r-r-ite.

Such overstatement is normal. We newbie writers are always trying to reassure ourselves. We’re just starting out, we haven’t published much (or anything at all), we don’t make a living from writing* (we may make nothing at all), we ‘re not confident in our abilities, and–let’s face it–much of what we write stinks (and we don’t know it stinks until a member of a critique group tells us).

Established writers encourage us: If you write, you are a writer. Believe it. Say you’re a writer.

We believe it until someone asks what we do. Then we either clam up; shuffle our feet, look at the floor, and mumble, I’m a wmbrl; or declare, too loudly, I’m a WRITER. Then we blush and shuffle our feet. 

After publishing the aforementioned post, I re-read it, then blushed and shuffled my feet. I’m been shuffling ever since.

But moving on:

When I said I would write, I probably had the idea I would learn secrets of the universe and share them in capital letters and red ink.

But I’ve had no mystical experiences. Altogether, it’s been mostly humdrum. But I’ve learned a few things about myself, and about life in general, and I’ll share those:

  • Chemotherapy isn’t the same for everyone. I went around saying the side effects were mild.  When I’d been off the evil drug for a month or two, I realized I had felt pretty rotten. Still, I was lucky. It wasn’t that bad. Surgery wasn’t difficult either. Radiation was nothing: I showed up for twenty consecutive days, let the techs admire my cute socks, and went home. That was it. Lucky.
  • Being complimented on my taste in socks makes me feel good. The radiation techs liked the ninjas and the cats wearing glasses the best. The oncologist asked what the ninjas were; I had to tell him I didn’t know. One of the techs told me. I don’t know why the oncologist was looking at my socks.
  • Phase I


  • I have no vanity. Hats and turbans were hot. I tossed them, went around bald, and discovered my head, just like Hercule Poirot’s, is egg-shaped.
  • It’s possible to survive for months on Rice Krispies, as long as you don’t run out of sugar.
  • If you don’t drink enough water, you keel over in the oncologist’s office, where you went just to check that great big lymph node that popped up under your jaw, and end up in the hospital. If your temperature doesn’t go down, the night nurse comes in and jerks your three blankets off, and you spend the night under a thin little sheet, slowly turning into an icicle, but your temperature goes down. (That’s opposite to the way my mother did it, but whatever.) They call in a specialist in communicable diseases who orders tests, and when you ask the nurse what they found, she comes bopping in about midnight and says, “Guess what! You have the common cold.” And she’s so sweet and so cute, you feel bad about nearly (deliberately) knocking her off the bed while she was trying to do that nasal swab.
  • Airports have wheelchairs. Thinking you can get from gate to gate without one is dumb. Don’t try it.
  • Phase II

    Chemo brain is real. At present I am dumb as dirt, and not in the way mentioned above. I picked up a brochure about chemo brain at the clinic and, I am proud to say, was able to read (most of) it with my forty-five-year-old Spanish. Because I knew what it said before I picked it up: It’s real, don’t worry, talk to your family/friends/counselor/minister/doctor/whoever and tell them to get used to it, make a habit of writing-things-down-putting-your-keys-in-the-same-place-when-you’re-not-using-them-everything-you-ought-to-be-doing-now-anyway, and it’ll go away, maybe. I may have missed a couple of points. If I ever want to know what they are, I’ll google.

  • Chemo hair is curly. I knew it would be curlier than before, but it is c u r l y. I’m tempted to get it buzzed off again.
  • TRIGGER WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AUDIENCES: When a twelve-year-old flat-chested surgeon you have to see because your surgeon went on vacation–my doctors always go on vacation–insists you must wear a sports bra and says, “We’re going to get you out of that pretty lacy bra,” do not hold back. Tell her that pretty lacy bra is made of cast iron, and that all the bras you’ve ever had since like 1962 have been made of cast iron, and that sports bras might as well be made of spider webs, and she can take a long walk off a short pier. You’ll feel a lot better if you say that. I would have felt a lot better if I had.
  • The kindness of strangers is real. When they see a woman with no hair, they understand what’s going on. Women wearing turbans whisper, “Good luck.” People smile. If you wobble a bit, they run to prop you up and offer to help you get wherever you’re going. I didn’t have to take them up on the offers–my wobbling, like my reaction to chemo, was mild–but I appreciated every one of them. Mr. Rogers’ mother told him when things got scary, to “look for the helpers.” She was right. They’re out there.
  • In addition to boosting your immune system, a smile can lift your spirits. It’s good for your doctors, nurses, and everyone else in the clinic as well. Oncologists don’t have it easy. They need all the support they can get.
  • Phase Now

    According to my radiation oncologist, cancer is now a chronic disease. But in one way it’s the same as it was when I was a child: It’s kept under wraps. The word isn’t whispered as it was then, but it isn’t spoken too loudly. That’s one reason I didn’t cover my head. The topic needs to be brought out into the open. People need to see.

  • On the other hand, a little denial can be a good thing. And it can be balanced with acceptance.
  • I didn’t fall apart when told my prognosis, including the average length of survival. I’d always wondered what I would do under those circumstances, and now I know. That time, at least.

Most important, and over and over, I learned that David is good. Not a good husband, or a good man, but good. I knew it when I married him. Every day, he proves me right.

Finally, I learned something else I already knew: There isn’t enough time. We all know it, but the knowledge carries more weight for some of us than for others.

I think of Andrew Marvell:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime….
   But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

And of Keats:

When I have fears that I may cease to be 
   Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain, 
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery, 
   Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain; 
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face, 
   Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, 
And think that I may never live to trace 
   Their shadows with the magic hand of chance; 
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour, 
   That I shall never look upon thee more, 
Never have relish in the faery power 
   Of unreflecting love—then on the shore 
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think 
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

My brain isn’t teeming, and certainly not at the level of a Keats, but I would like to write more than I have. I’d like to do a number of things I won’t have time–would never have had time–to do. Time’s winged chariot is following close. Still, I commit the crime of wasting what I should spend. The post I wrote last month about playing Candy Crush is not fiction. But…

The next CT scan comes in March. Till then, I’ll write what I can, do what I can, and say what Anne Lamott calls little beggy prayers.

The Usual

In other words, I’ll go on with life as usual.





“Statue of Angelina Eberly” by Kit O’Connell is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Via Wikipedia.

The Usual photograph is detail from a statue of Angelina Eberly, the “Savior of Austin,” that stands at the corner of 6th Street and Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. In 1842, following the Texas Revolution, Sam Houston sent Texas Rangers to Austin to remove the government archives to Washington-on-the-Brazos, where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed (and very near the town of Houston). Houston claimed Austin was too vulnerable to Indian attack for the documents to be safe there.

Angelina and other residents of Austin, the capital of the Republic of Texas, claimed Houston was stealing the records because he wanted to make the city of Houston the capital. Angelina knew Sam Houston didn’t like Austin; he made no secret of his dislike, and while president of the Republic, had lived at her inn instead of at the official residence. The fact that the Rangers came under cover of darkness gave more credence to the her view.

When Angelina heard the Texas Rangers up to no good, she hurried to 6th and Congress and fired off the town cannon. She missed the Rangers but blew the side off the General Land Office building. Noise from the cannon alerted the populace, who came running and scared off the Rangers.

Thanks to Angelina Eberly, Austin remained the capital of the Republic of Texas, and is  capital of the State of Texas to this day.

The statue of Angelina Eberly was sculpted by cartoonist Pat Oliphant. The accompanying plaque attributes Austin’s continued status as Texas’ most premier city to Angelina’s combination of “vigilance and hot temper.”


*Stephen King makes a living by writing. Danielle Steel makes a living by writing. Mary Higgins Clark makes a living by writing. Agatha Christie made a whale of a living by writing. Other writers either have a day job or have won the lottery.


Literature does have its purpose. If you doubt it, see my post on Telling the Truth, Mainly: “A Mind Unhinged.” It isn’t as long as this one.

John Keats, “When I have fears”

Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”


I am a writer and I wr-r-r-r-r-r-ite. My short stories appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ crime fiction anthology, Murder on Wheels; in the anthology Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse; and in the Fall/Winter 2012/2013 issue of the online magazine Mysterical-E (which I like to think of as the one with the dog on the cover). Another of my stories will appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ second anthology, Lone Star Lawless, coming soon from Wildside Press. I at Telling the Truth, Mainly and at Austin Mystery Writers.


Post (c) Doris McCraw


Made a trip to Santa Fe this past weekend. A busy time, lots of information gathered, and many miles on the road by myself. I share with you photos and verse.


Quiet of echoes, rising out from land

Rolling of wagons, images lost in mist

Mountains grow – sink, hourglass sand

Ghosts in the mind, voices persist



History beckons, out on the plains

Stories are calling, help they insist

Aged city, feels growth pains

What is mystery, ceased to exist



Time grows short, trip soon done

Will memories fade, post haste dismissed

Voices cry out, before long none

Echoes call, do not desist



Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page:http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL

Lost Knight cover

never cover option


Angel Of Salvation Valley ARaines Web (2)





Lessons Learned From NOLA

This post is by Joe Stephens

As you all know, I got back relatively recently from a visit to New Orleans. I won’t bore you with more details on that trip, but I do want to share some lessons of which I was reminded as a result of my time there.

  1. Time, Money, Horizontal, Speculate, Crisis, DecisionTime is better than money. Most summers over the last several years, I’ve taught summer school. I did it for the money. So what did I do to decompress from a satisfying but long and stressful school year? I did more school. This year I decided that I needed time more than money. Granted, this is easy for me to say in my circumstance, making more money than I need to live. For the first time in my life, I don’t live from paycheck to paycheck, so I have the luxury to make that decision. But my point is that many of us choose money over time because we’re either living beyond our means or we’re just accumulating wealth for no reason other than to have it. I’ve been saying to Jenna, whom I love as a daughter, that I would visit her for years, but for various reasons I just never took the time. This year I decided that I was finished with that and just bought that plane ticket. And when I got there, I spent more money than I probably should have, but I did it without guilt because I got to share some wonderful experiences with someone very special to me. Speaking of which…
  2. 20160706_194525
    Take that trip you’ve been putting off!

    Experiences are way better than things. In fact, other than the small number of things we need to keep us alive and healthy, practically the only reason that things matter is to remind us of great experiences and the loved ones with whom we shared them. I used to try to find happiness with stuff. A new car every couple years, a newer, faster computer, the latest gadget–but they never made me happy. And I sacrificed the ability to do things with friends and family to get them. That’s something I don’t want to do anymore.

  3. Now is better than later. This summer has reminded all West Virginians that bad things come out of nowhere and you never know when a day is your last. So take that visit, make that phone call, stop saying maybe next year–do it now. I’m not saying to go into debt so you can take a cruise. I’m saying that we often choose to put things off because we’re tired or stressed or we’re just too plain lazy, thinking that we have plenty of tiGraffiti, Colorful, Now, Street Art, Mural, Facademe to get around to spending quality time with those we love and seeing the places we dream of someday and, for many of us, that someday never comes. So make someday now.

There you go. I hope you find those edifying.


sunrise cover option 7Joe’s newest book, Dawn of Grace, just debuted on June 9. It’s available on Amazon.

ITS Cover ArtCheck out his third book, In The Shadow on Amazon

kindle cover

Take a look at his debut book, Harsh Prey on Amazon 

Kisses and Lies Cover Michele croppedTake a look at his second book, Kisses and Lies on Amazon

Blessings in Disguise by Erin Farwell

IMG_3021_1This has been a rough summer. There were lots of good times, like visiting family in Michigan and hanging out with my daughter and younger sister on Amelia Island, Florida. But there were less happy times as well.

We had to spend money on things we really didn’t want to. There was the cat that got sick and needed blood work and an ultrasound just 3 weeks after her annual physical. Then there was the call to the exterminator to get rid of a wasp nest, which turned out to be honey bees. It’s illegal to kill them, and you don’t want to anyway since an untended hive will crumble, causing honey to drip down your walls which leads to an ant infestation. So $500 went to send the bees off to a new and happy bees_6home.

Repairs to the house, in preparation of a refinance, have gone slowly and of course costing more than we budgeted. Mike and I are doing as much work as possible, with the help of a wonderful friend who spent an afternoon shoving branches into a wood chipper. We also have a handyman who is taking care of projects that require a really tall ladder. He started painting the second floor window frames when he took a break to have gall bladder surgery. Yep, it’s been that kind of summer.

no-cars-signMy car got sick on the way home from Florida and some awesome people at the Ford Service Shop south of Savannah fixed it for free, but with stern orders to get the car better repaired when I was home. I did as I ordered and, like the cat, 3 weeks later the car got sick again. The air conditioner compressor died and the cost to replace it, and all other relevant parts, is more than we can afford right now.

So, for the near future, we are a one car family.

At first I was upset and frustrated, trying to coordinate my responsibilities around the lack of daily access to a car. I had to back out of a few commitments and everyone has been very understanding. Still, I felt bad about this and am still anxious about how we will sort everything out.

Then I had my “ah ha” moment.

We have one car.

I can’t go anywhere.

My book must be to the editor by mid-November.

I now have a great reason why I can’t do much except stay home and write.

Monday was my first car-free day. I didn’t do much writing but I did a ton of research and sorted out the last of the details I needed for the second half of my book. What writing I did accomplish flowed much better with these final pieces of my writing1puzzle in hand.

I look forward to spending most of the rest of my week living in the world of my creation, with the occasional detour into the real world to write a client’s weekly blog and edit a piece for my brother. These things don’t seem so hard, now that I know I can’t be asked to drop by the school, do a quick grocery store run, or any of the pesky little errands that can eat up big chunks of my time without my even realizing it. Best of all, I can focus and write day after day, rather than having long breaks between sessions.

I miss my car, we call her Little Red, but things are working out okay. There are still challenges to face and we can’t manage as a one car family for too long, but until then I will view this as a gift rather than a burden and see what I can accomplish.

Learn more about me at: www.erinfarwell.com

Farwell-Shadowlands-Final Cover.inddAHE New Cover8149g0+Rz-L._SL1500_

Days Pass Quickly

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

“I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time – all the things I’ve done and how it’s been…The days they pass so quickly now…” So go the words to a song titled “Poems, Prayers, & Promises” by John Denver. Another year has rolled around. Three of my high school friends have celebrated birthdays, and another’s is just a few days away. My birthday arrives in March – all of us are past the half-century mark, closer to 65 than we are to 35. This year marks our 35th high school reunion – where does the time go?!

John Denver’s reflection in that song reverberates in my heart and mind these days. Perhaps because three friends recently found themselves in the crosshairs of cancer – one of them not even 40 years old. The death of a few elderly church members recently also provided pause – our time on this planet is but a blink of the eye, and no one knows when those eyes will close for the final time.

Arch ParkInstead of becoming melancholy, as I easily could, or getting stuck in the “what ifs” and “if onlys” of yesterdays regrets (which I could do even more easily) I am focusing on the future. I am working harder, taking on more projects in the months ahead, in the attempt to dig out of a financial hole that beset my husband and I last year due to less income from his business. Once the debts are paid, then the focus will be on saving more for enjoyment – I want to travel, experience more of America’s majestic landscapes, and spend time with friends and family. Time is more of the essence now than it has been – my parents are in their mid to late 70s and close friends are pushing 60 … relationships are of great value. Yet, I need to work in order to create that financial safety net that will allow me to enjoy those times of travel and camaraderie. I am believing this new year will continue providing new doors of opportunity for both finances and dreams.

AZ saguaroI recently completed reservations for a trip my dad and I will take in September, fulfilling his bucket list of visiting the Grand Canyon. We will see friends during our excursion in addition to some of America’s most breath-taking national parks, fulfilling dreams of mine along the way as well. In March I will be speaking to two ladies groups in Cheyenne, which is only about 90 minutes from Denver. I will take the rest of that week off and fly from Denver to Phoenix and possibly on to California, again visiting friends and taking in amazing landscapes. That trip is my birthday gift to myself, and though I should possibly wait another year and set that money aside, I feel the need to reward myself for the additional work I’ve taken on – the importance of these friends, and my need for some winter reprieve and R&R, is too vital to wait. And, sometimes postponing means never getting around to it. Life is too short to wait these days. I look forward to both the spring and autumn adventures with great enthusiasm!

“The days they pass so quickly now, nights are seldom long – time around me whispers when it’s cold…” so go the words to the above-mentioned song, penned and sung by the late Mr. Denver, who died tragically and before his time in 1997. He would have been 70 years old last month.

Time does pass quickly, and the whisper of cold has been prime this winter in my neck of the woods. My life’s poem, my heart’s prayer, and my mind’s promise is to enjoy the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, as many as I have, with gratitude for the work, the talent, the ability, and the relationships with which I’m blessed.

As we journey through life we take time to evaluate where we are, from where we’ve come, and to where we’d like to go. Set a course and enjoy the journey – even if that means a lot of hard work for awhile … for the days do pass so quickly!

Coniferous Forest Beside a Large Canyon

SIDENOTE: I was and still am a fan of the late John Denver. I was excited to learn that the Leon Gallery in Denver, Colorado is hosting a show of the photographic works of John Denver through March 2, 2014.  A weekend get-away for me down to that big city is probably in order!

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazine, and in the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers. Her future plans include creating newsletter and brochure content for businesses and writing more magazine articles. She also has two more books in the works. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small       Walking_FrontCover_small      Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final

Printing Progress

This post is by Erin Thorne. September 19, 2012 (768x1024)

Many people keep journals for various reasons. They use this medium to inscribe personal thoughts, vent difficult-to-handle emotions, and as a record of special life events. However, a journal is also an ideal place in which to track one’s writing progress.

I recently began to do this as an integrated part of my work. A writers’ group to which I belong has a feature that, once a week, lets us share with other members what we’ve accomplished in the past seven days. At first, my writing journal was strictly utilitarian. There was simply no way I could have remembered what I’d done if I didn’t write it down. By degrees, it became a motivational tool.journal

Some weeks are busier than others. During those that are packed with activities and obligations, I sometimes feel as though I’m not getting any writing done. This, in turn, leads me to feel badly about my lack of effort. To break out of this spiral, I take a peek inside the journal section of my day planner, which is where I enter my daily progress. Often, I’ve found more entries than I expected, and this has given my confidence a boost. On the other hand, I’ve occasionally been stared down by blank pages that I’d meant to fill. This has provided the impetus to do more, and to intentionally make time to write.

Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the results. I have finished projects ahead of schedule, and kept a more positive mindset about the whole writing process. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I feel encouraged. I don’t dread sharing my week’s work with others, because I know I’ve done my best in spite of all the demands upon my time. I’d recommend this technique to others without hesitation; no matter what line of work you’re in, nothing lifts your sprits like seeing how far you’ve come. It inspires confidence, and gives you hope about how far you’ll go.optimism

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

by Alethea Williams

Do you begin your day by logging on to Twitter to see what all your on-line acquaintances are talking about in 140 characters or less?  Do you then follow the URLs to their websites and blogs, and spend time reading and commenting on each one?

To Tweet?

Do you spend even more time looking up your friends’ book listings on Amazon to see how their rankings are climbing?  Do you first check your e-mail accounts and take care of all your mail?  (And you see I assume, if you’re a writer, you have more than one e-mail account!  I also assume, if you’re a writer, that most of the time you spend on social media is work-related or promotional, or support for your writer friends and acquaintances.)

Not to Tweet?

Or is your priority your writing?  Maybe you use your time on the Internet as a reward for a day well-spent.  Two hundred fifty words equals fifteen minutes checking e-mails!  Five hundred words equals a half hour tweeting.  One thousand and you can get on Facebook, but just for one hour!

Time to ‘fess up: Do you jumpstart your day with your own word works, or linger over your promo and the output of others before tackling your most recent writing project?

Follow me on my personal blog: actuallyalethea  On Facebook: Alethea Williams, Author or my personal page and on Twitter: @actuallyalethea Willow Vale available on Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Willow-Vale-ebook/dp/B0075R4IH2/ref=tmm_kin_title_0