Novel Updates

Discounted book about Alzheimer’s!

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The eBook and audiobook of Requiem for the status quo will continue to be available on Amazon until the end of 2019. I am going to self-publish the paperback version through my publishing arm, Words Matter Press so as of March 1, 2019, you will not be able to purchase a paperback copy for your bookshelf until Words Matter Press’s Spring 2019 release on Amazon.

 

In the meantime, the Amazon paperback price for the month of February has been reduced so those who want to add this book to their library can do so at a discounted price before supplies run out. If you are a Prime member, shipping is FREE! 

Let these recent reviews encourage you to get your copy today!

Rubies My mother recently died from Alzheimer’s, and I could really relate to everything she wrote about. All her information is very accurate, and I felt like she was on the journey with me.

Vicki T. Olson draws in the reader, introducing us to the Quinn family, including protagonist Colleen, daughter and primary caregiver for Patrick, her beloved father, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The author deftly weaves together the stages of this dreadful disease throughout her fast-paced narrative and in so doing, educates us on the progression of this always fatal disease. The characters are down-to-earth and believable, the story sprinkled with both humor and the pain of loss. A must-read for any caregiver whose loved one has been diagnosed with dementia.
Ann H. Irene Frances Olson does not flinch from the specific cruelties of Alzheimer’s disease in this novel, and I admire that very much. It is devastating to lose someone you love, bit by bit; devastating to watch them struggle to think as their brain is constricted by plaques and tangles. That said, this is also the story of how taking on the role of caregiver can be incredibly meaningful, even though it is also impossibly exhausting. In this case, an adult daughter is caring for a father she loves, and their mutual affection is made very poignant by the toll of the illness.

 

Gone but not forgotten

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Having completed my second novel, currently titled BRIDGED BY BETRAYAL, I packed up all the research I used for my first novel, REQUIEM FOR THE STATUS QUO.

An early version of my 1st novel circa 2014
An early version of my 1st novel circa 2014

REQUIEM spotlights a family that struggles with the tangible and emotional elements inherent when battling a disease that is always fatal; a disease that gives you daily – if not hourly – reminders of its devastating effects.

I could not write about the fictional family’s journey without incorporating some of my own stories from my years as Dad’s caregiver. I also included other people’s stories as told to me through my work as an Alzheimer’s caregiver support group facilitator, and as a Washington State certified Long-Term Care Ombudsman. (Names and facts altered to protect those directly involved.)

My Dad and I on a picnic, Spring 2005.
My Dad and I on a picnic, Spring 2005.

The research materials I packed away this past weekend consisted primarily of the caregiving journals I kept while being my father’s primary long-distance caregiver while he endured Alzheimer’s disease.

That research also included reams of paper I organized into multi-tabbed folders containing the various doctor’s reports and findings from the seven years of dad’s disease journey.

I was not prepared for the emotion with which I was blanketed when I pulled out the large waterproof chest that had resided in my writing space the past three years. Placing my research in the chest, shutting it, and returning it to its original under-the-stairs location was extremely difficult for me.

In a certain sense, I felt I had betrayed Dad because I wasn’t just packing up some paper, I was putting away the physical evidence of his seven year battle of brain function loss.  Read the rest of this entry »

Second novel … completed!

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Female writer with streak of gray hairYes, it’s true, I finished my second novel at approximately 3:30 pm PST November 25th, 2015. I wrote a 60,201 word novel (10,201 words above the required minimum word count) in 25 days as a participant in the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) event.

Is the novel ready for publication? Hell no. Now begins the editing, fleshing out, adding and subtracting of content, and fact-checking drudgery required of a book fit for representation and publication.

But I did it! I averaged 2,408 words per day; yesterday alone I wrote 3,879 words in five and a half hours.

It’s all in the preparation, Bay-bee, at least for me it was. For the first time, I used a novel-planning software called Snowflake Pro developed by Randy Ingermanson. This software isn’t writing software per-se, rather, it’s planning software that helps you craft all the necessary elements for your novel.

The greatest realized benefits occurred in Step Three (wherein you create a list of characters and flesh out their storyline) and Step Seven (where you’re forced to answer forty-seven questions about each of your characters.) These questions are quite thorough, from stating the height and weight of your character, to best and worst childhood memory, to religion and political leanings, to how the character sees herself and how others see the character, and much more.

Typist caricatureArmed with these character profiles, the writing came easy for me. Of course I changed some of the initial answers as I completed one chapter after another. As is usually the case when drafting a novel, I found as I got to know the character better, I needed to redesign its destiny, but without a preliminary resume of sorts, I would have found myself floundering – not a comfortable position to be in when you’re on deadline. Yep, I’m certain I would not have experienced the same outcome without the software’s guidance. Read the rest of this entry »

First step for any endeavor: START

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man with binocularsYou have an idea that turns into a personal goal. You plan for it, making a list of To Dos and To Purchase, or whatever lists are required to put your idea into motion.

Then you’re paralyzed: when do I start? how do I start? You begin to second guess your idea, your plans, your goal.

Perfection is stagnationParalysis by analysis sets in. You freeze in place. You do nothing for a day, a week, a month, eventually discarding the project about which you were initially very excited.

Doubt sidelined your goal.

For me, taking that first step can be the beginning of failure, and because it is, oftentimes it’s a step I choose not to take.

I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, in August or September, I don’t remember. I purchased book-drafting software called Snowflake, and went through every step needed to prepare an outline and/or book proposal for a novel, my second. I was extremely excited about the novel’s concept.

I kept receiving NaNoWriMo emails, counting down the days until November 1st when that novel writing month would commence. The second week of October I questioned the sensibility of subjecting myself to completing a novel in thirty days. The third week of October, I ceased all preparation. Monday of the fourth week of October, I decided not to participate. Read the rest of this entry »

12 Lessons Learned From a Debut Author | WritersDigest.com

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12 Lessons Learned From a Debut Author | WritersDigest.com. I’m a debut novelist so I latched onto the attached article pronto! In writing this article, Anne A. Wilson managed to describe emotions I’ve been experiencing for the past several months.

Female writer with streak of gray hairWhat makes Anne’s story even more relatable for me, a somewhat older novelist, is that Ms. Wilson wrote her first novel six years ago at the age of forty-three.  That’s not the novel that actually got published, but herein lies my point: it took years for her to write a publishable book.  Also, Ms. Wilson had no creditable writing education or experience when she decided to write a novel.  Like me, she was “starting from scratch.” Read the rest of this entry »

Setting aside our perceived limitations

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Movie director clapboardEarlier this year, Richard Glatzer, co-director of the award winning movie, Still Alice, died at the age of 63 after battling ALS for four years.  It would have been unfortunate if he had gone with his first reaction when approached to adapt Lisa Genova’s novel into a movie.  (Evidently, he almost turned down the project.)  Fortunately for us, he did not.  One article on this subject indicated that it was Glatzer’s personal connection to independence-robbing illness that gave Still Alice a greater authenticity.

From what I understand, Mr. Glatzer used one finger – using a text-to-speech app – to communicate every directive.  I don’t have to know anything about film directing to understand that doing so with his “limitations” would have been extraordinarily clumsy and time consuming.  I wonder if his decision to accept the project was made in part because he believed he was the best person for the job.  Did you see the movie?  Wouldn’t you agree?

Leaping over a hurdleYet all of us are faced with far less daunting struggles than those experienced by Mr. Glatzer and we cave in to our well-honed ability to find every reason not to pursue a task that requires exceptional action on our part.

I’m ashamed of all the excuses I’ve come up with to postpone – or to avoid entirely – new ventures that required more of me than I was willing to give.  Ugh – I grieve those lost opportunities when I think of the benefit to me and others such ventures would have provided.  But crying over spilled milk won’t undo the past.

Going forward I can commit to seizing new opportunities and disregarding the emotional and physical hurdles in my path.

I can, but will I?

Will you?

 

 

 

Rejection: part and parcel of the writing craft

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Labyrinth redGetting Out of the Labyrinth: Part 6 – Submission. The attached article on the submission process of trying to secure a literary agent, was written – and experienced – by now successful author, Kate McIntyre.  This exceptional article is Part 6 of a series that so painstakingly and accurately describes the writing journey of a debut author.

God help my withering writer’s soul and those of other struggling writers that perish in publishing purgatory.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rejection is a passing fantasy

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Enevelope greenHave you ever been rejected? Read the attached NY Times article: Accepted? Rejected? Relax You’ll see that the article was retitled since it first appeared so when you click on the link, you’ll see the subject matter as being about college admissions.

Rejection affects all of us: it’s not just about college admission policies.

I’m a writer; I should know.

I’ve only been looking for an agent for 30 days, therefore the 15 rejections – or what I like to call not interesteds – I’ve received out of 60 submissions sent is only 25% of the total so far.  Wow, 75% of the agents haven’t turned me down yet! Read the rest of this entry »

Requiem for the status quo

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Allow me to reintroduce myself:

My name is Irene.  I am the author of the upcoming novel Requiem for the status quo.

Some of you know me as a family member, friend, or casual acquaintance.  Others are familiar with me as the author of this blog, a writer who has posted hundreds of articles over the past several years.  Still others know me because of my professional connections as a volunteer advocate for vulnerable adults living in long-term care (LTC) facilities, or because of my years as an Alzheimer’s Association support group facilitator.

Typist caricatureI’m here to announce that in addition to being the family member/friend/acquaintance/volunteer/co-employee of the past and present, I am also the novelist who has something to say.

“Oh my gosh Irene, I didn’t realize your book was already published!”

It’s not, but I’m actively pursuing agent representation by contacting several agents per day until I no longer need to.

“Why should people be interested in your book?”

Because I have an engaging way of writing about Alzheimer’s disease – a disease that will affect each and every one of you because until a cure or vaccine is developed to eradicate it, this disease is here to stay.  Whether a person’s diagnosis falls into the actual Alzheimer’s category, or into one of several other dementia such as: vascular, lewy body, frontal temporal, Parkinson’s, or dementia resultant from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), there’s no escaping its effect on the unpaid caregiver (that’s you and me) and the person being cared for (spouse, partner, mother, father, brother or sister).

And here’s a fact of which some of you may not be aware: Alzheimer’s is not just an older person’s disease; an increasing number of people are being diagnosed well-before the age of 60.

“Say it isn’t so, Irene.”

I can’t do that.  What I can do, however, is tell you a wee bit about my book: Read the rest of this entry »

Entering the arena of vulnerability

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Arena colliseumNow that my novel is finished, I decided to re-post an article I wrote about daring greatly. Everything we do requires a certain amount of risk: walking across the street, going on a 1st date, changing careers. But if we don’t take a calculated risk, we’ll never see the inside of the arena; we’ll never know what we missed.

I hope you enjoy reading this article that served to remind me that as I start to look for agent representation for my first novel, I should do so with the confidence that my vulnerability will one day pay off.

Living: the ultimate team sport

It’s not the critic who counts; it’s not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles; or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

re-enactment of a gladiator fight in the arena... (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The credit goes to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly and who errs and fails, and is sometimes victorious.  But when he fails, at least he does so daring greatly.

The above is an abbreviated quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech, Citizenship in a Republic a/k/a The Man in the Arena, delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris, France, on April 23, 1910.

Brené Brown, PhD, paraphrased the above when appearing on Oprah Winfrey’s show, Super Soul Sunday.  I admit – I’m addicted to the types of shows that challenge the way I think, and/or that validate the way I think.  This particular show that…

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Do you believe in magic?

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Horoscope chartMy December 29, 2012 Horoscope:

Today is a 7.  Now’s perfect to start a new writing project; no need to wait until next year.  Put down your thoughts without worrying about form, one word at a time.

Prior to 12/29/2012 I would have stood by my belief that Horoscopes are merely faulty predictions by faulty people provided to those of us who are humored by such baseless declarations of personalized present and future outcomes.

But that personalized declaration for Irene on a day in late December 2012 was right on the money.

Computer stationThe backstory: During the summer of 2012 I made the decision to write a novel that focuses on the lives of caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementia.  The focus would be split with equal attention spent on the person with the disease.  My book’s mission: to put a personal face on those every day people (that’s you and me) thrust onto the memory-removing disease journey.  Once I made the decision to write a book, I set January 1, 2013 as the start date for my project.

That start date was moved up based on the extremely accurate Horoscope (see above) for this wannabe author whose birthday fell under the sign of the bull: Taurus.

I obeyed the directive and sat at my computer that very day and managed to write page after page of content.  Wow!  I’m writing a novel!  It was quite exhilarating being able to spew page after page of fictional story line based on experiences I had with my father, my sister-in-law, and the many people with whom I became acquainted during my years of work with vulnerable adults.

I finished the “final” version of my manuscript earlier this month and set the timeline for next steps: starting January 1, 2015 I will actively seek representation for my novel.  Oddly enough, that seems to jive with today’s Horoscope (2 years after the first timely Horoscope) if you force a few of the jigsaw puzzle pieces to fit what’s currently going on in my life.

My December 29, 2014 Horoscope:

Today is a 6.  Hide away somewhere peaceful and you can get some productive thinking in.  Inspire intuitive leaps.  Creative work pays well now.  Don’t squander an enticing opportunity.  Meditate on it, and your choice comes to you.  Nurture your physical health with exercise, good food and rest.

Glass Now TAMI guess I may as well get to it based on previous personal declarations that brought me to this stage of my writing career.  Seriously, why wait when I can do it now?

If you’re interested in how this all pans out for me, I hope you’ll Follow my blog for updates.  If you’re already a Follower, stay tuned for more predictions and/or fabulous outcomes.

 

 

Pooped in your pants lately? How’d that feel?

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Were you eating breakfast in bed at the time? 

Or perhaps while sitting in the easy chair next to your bed, you tried your very best to ignore the urge to purge … but you couldn’t wait any longer for someone to assist you so you let it all out, leaving you in a shameful way, sitting in a mushy pile of excrement while a stream of urine puddled at the base of your chair.

Welcome to the life of a vulnerable adult living in a nursing home.  From coast to coast across the United States skilled nursing facilities (SNF) are filled with adults needing the greatest amount of assistance with their activities of daily living (ADLs) – toileting is one of those ADLs.

The following true scenarios occurred recently at a nursing home in a Seattle suburb, and at a similar facility in a suburb of San Francisco.

A handicapped toilet in South San Francisco, C...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man who is fully reliant on mobility assistance pushed the call button near his bed to register a need for assistance.  In this case, he needed to go “Number 1” and “Number 2” and had the audacity to require assistance while the staff was busy attending to other residents’ needs – but not his needs.  When a staff person finally entered his room an hour later, she did so to simply indicate that she didn’t have time to take him to the bathroom so he should just go in his pants.

A woman equally as vulnerable needed the assistance of a staff person upon waking in the morning and – knowing that breakfasts were brought around to the rooms at 7 a.m. – the 91 year old started to press her call button at 6 a.m. hoping to have her morning pee prior to the arrival of her breakfast tray an hour later.  That “luxury” was one that would not be afforded her; instead, a caregiver brought a breakfast tray to this patient in the seven o’clock hour and when the patient asked if she could receive help to the toilet prior to eating her breakfast, the employee told her to just go in her pants because no one had time to help her at that moment.

I can’t help myself – here’s another incident:  A staff person helps a woman to the toilet first thing in the morning.  The woman who is clothed in a lightweight nightgown finishes using the toilet and is ready to receive assistance back to her bed – but lo’ and behold, the staff person forgot to place the call button within close reach of the patient so she is not able to alert someone of her desire to go back to bed.  Enough time has passed that by this time the patient is shivering and screams for help – screams that went unnoticed for a quarter hour.  In desperation this elderly woman somehow managed to lean far enough forward to push over a metal trash pail which she then kicked repeatedly until someone finally arrived to see what all the commotion was about.

These stories don’t paint a very pretty picture do they?  They depict a low quality of life that no one deserves.

What does Quality of Life mean to you?

  • Eating at fine dining establishments?
  • Having a clothing wardrobe that rivals the catwalks of Paris?
  • Driving in a luxury vehicle that provides amenities previously only found in limousines?

For most of us, quality of life boils down to leading a dignified existence in which we are allowed to take advantage of the basic necessities of life.  For me, those necessities should include a safe living environment, sustenance, the inclusion of loving family and friends in my life, the freedom to make choices about matters that are important to me, and being on the receiving end of respectful behavior from those with whom I come in contact.

The most vulnerable among us should expect no less than those basic necessities, but “the system” isn’t working to guarantee those basics.  Try to imagine, if you will, your own grandparent, parent, spouse, partner, or other family member in any one of the above scenarios.  How comfortable are you with that type of day-to-day existence for them?  You’re not comfortable at all – as a matter of fact you’re feeling a bit uneasy about this whole subject matter.  I’m sorry to place doubt in your mind about the care your loved one is receiving but I’ll just bet that you need to get out of the comfort of denial you’ve been enjoying and into the eye-opening role of resident advocate.

Lack of caring = lack of care.  Nursing home management is a tough job to do correctly, but I know it’s possible because there are some reputable and well-run facilities out there – not perfect by any means, but fairly acceptable.  So yes, some nursing facilities employ stellar care staff but there are also those employees who just don’t give a damn.  “I go to work.  I go home after work.  I get paid.  What more do you want from me?”  Caring – that’s what we want.  You’ve chosen to work in this particular type of environment so don’t act like you didn’t know what you were getting into.  Withholding proper care for those who have no recourse but to depend upon you is not only unfair, but it’s illegal.  And how about answering these questions about your own aging prospects: Do you think you’ll somehow skip the journey into old age?  Do you not realize that you too will be as old as the patients whose care is entrusted to you?  What type of care will you hope to receive?  Does it resemble any of the scenarios I’ve illustrated above – or are you under the impression that you’ll be at a “Champagne and Chandelier” type of place where you’ll be waited on hand and foot?

Not gonna happen.

This article just scratches the surface of the sub-standard care that can be found in nursing facilities.  I only mention the toileting issue because it’s been front and center in my experiences with some of my acquaintances lately.  One place to start getting some positive traction where these matters are concerned is the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center where you’ll find links to advocacy programs in your state.  Call those local representatives and report any concerns you may have about how your loved one is being cared for, or not cared for, in their nursing facility, assisted living facility, or group home.

If you act on behalf of your loved one, you’re also acting on behalf of everyone else in the facility because trust me – your mom isn’t the only one being neglected on her nursing home floor.