Of March Madness, Nutrisystem, Miley “Twerking” to “The Rains of Castamere” and the Grand, Quiet Time of the Aspiring Writer’s Soul

Otherwise known as “the time after you ship your recently (or not so recently in my case) completed, e-formatted novel off to a handful of Beta readers and your editor but before you decide on a cover, typeset it and upload it to Amazon.com for sale.” Yeah. I figured that “the grand, quiet time of the aspiring writer’s soul” was a bit more eloquent, not to mention a blatantly obvious shout-out to Douglas Adams’ “The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.” You may agree. Or not. Either way, its your prerogative, Bobby Brown.

Seriously, though? If it wasn’t for March Madness right now I’d be going completely stir crazy. Few sporting events get me more excited than the prolonged, three week orgy of basketball, brackets, beer and wings that is the NCAA Tournament. Sadly, this year’s “orgy” involves following the action primarily on my phone and my computer, mourning the first day loss of one of my Final Four teams (curse you, Lobos!), drinking glass upon glass of water (already up to five, today) and eating Nutrisystem Mexican-Style Tortilla Soup.

Regarding the latter, a few words to those of you that are considering adopting Nutrisystem as a means of dropping a couple of pounds before an event like, but not limited to a wedding: The food’s not bad. Taste wise its all pretty good. But the portions are tiny as f*ck. They’re made even tinier when you follow the instructions, only to have your already minuscule container of Mexican-Style Tortilla Soup blow it’s load all over your microwave. You are left with a bit less than half of your original meal. Were it not for the multi-grain tortilla and two pieces of cheese I brought as a “Smartcarb” and the apple I brought as a “Powerfuel” I’d be screwed until snack time. Is starvation a part of the Glycemic Index? If so, then this diet is working phenomenally! I’m down six pounds since this past Sunday. But I think my stomach is beginning to eat itself. If I break 10 pounds by this Sunday I’ll already be 75% of the way to my “goal weight.” Know what that means?

You’ve got it, guys! Wings and beer for the Sweet 16!

Basketball and dieting aside, this really is a quiet time in my life. One of the quieter ones that I can remember. I don’t know that much has changed. Responsibility-wise I’m in the same boat that I was in a year, two years, and even three years ago. Sure, I’ve got an extra little one to care for and sure, my three and a half year old is no longer as portable as she once was. But things aren’t that different. It really does come down to the whole writing thing. I’m not actively working on anything right now, be said “anything” Endworld – A Novel, one of its planned sequels or something else. In truth? The only thing that I’m doing right now is updating my blog. While that technically is “something else” its different. Discrepant (one of my favorite words that I never get to use). Discordant? Only if I’m trying to sing a duet with my three year old. I swear that kid already has a better voice than I do.

Hence the fact that I’ve been pumping out two blog entries each week for the last couple, a fact which hopefully isn’t getting too tiresome. What can I say? I need to be writing. Its ingrained in my DNA. My Biological? He was… is a writer, though his style of writing is a  wee bit different than mine. He was always very talented at describing a scene in the least amount of words possible. Me? People have told me that I’m too wordy in my descriptions. Some have told me that my strength is writing believable dialogue, something that my aforementioned Biological was never able to do well. Mind you, I haven’t read anything that the guy has written save for a few letters in the last almost 20 years but based on their content? Yeah. His writing style hasn’t changed much since he crossed the proverbial line from “Father” to “Biological” (he hadn’t been “Dad” in a while). He was always more James Joyce than Stephen King.

Me? I’m a mutt. I’m the bastard offspring of a dozen different writers and their styles. I’m the aspiring author Frank Snow of Broomall, Pennsylvania. If you have no idea what that means I urge you to subscribe to HBO and watch “Game of Thrones.” It’s the best show on television. You have until next Sunday, March 31st to get caught up before Season Three begins. Seasons One and Two are only 10 episodes long each. Plenty of time. You may have to sacrifice a game or two of the Tournament but I promise you that you won’t regret it. It has something for everyone. Even boobs and a**. Why boobs and a**? Trust me: You’ll understand by the end of the first episode.

Furthermore, don’t just watch the television show and accept it as canon. Read the books. There are five of them so far with two more too come, and “A Game of Thrones” is just the title of the first one. The others are “A Clash of Kings,” “A Storm of Swords,” “A Feast for Crows” and “A Dance with Dragons” (author: George R R Martin). I know that reading for leisure is, for many younger people as tortuous as watching paint dry and the prospect of reading something longer than 1000 pages is almost, but not as frightening as watching Miley Cyrus “twerk” in a unicorn suit. But try it. You might be surprised. I used to consume 1000 plus page books like “It” for breakfast when I was a young “whipper snapper.” I read the Bible for fun. Books like those? They not only made me want to be a writer, they made me lust to be one. ‘Course, if the prospect of reading something longer than 200 pages doesn’t appeal to you, you likely won’t purchase my novel when it becomes available (423 pages, pre-edit and pre-typeset). And if the process of making money for a living appeals to you? Well, you can still make money as an aspiring author but guess what? You won’t be doing it as a writer. You’ll be doing it as a Retail Manager. Or an Office Manager, and you’ll be writing in what little spare time you have.

I’m not trying to discourage you from following your dreams, guys. I did. I still am. I’m simply stating the facts as I see them. The unabashed truth on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Let me take this opportunity to say thanks for reading “Random Musings,” even though many of you may now be departing for that really spiffy cat blog you saw beneath my URL on Google. For those of you that decide to remain, I promise that I’ll keep updating this site, even after Endworld – A Novel goes “live,” whenever that ends up being. Some days, the long road from conception to publication, self or traditional really does seem endless. People told me that, but I never believed it. Until now, that is.

Ah, the grand, quiet time of the aspiring writer’s soul. I’ve been here before, and I forgot how incredibly dull it is. On a happier note, my March Madness bracket–which took a beating yesterday–is looking better over the first slate of games of today. I figure if I can get out of today with five or six total losses in the first round (I currently have four) and still only one team out of my Sweet Sixteen eliminated (curse you again, New Mexico!), I’ll be able to make up many of the points I squandered yesterday on teams like the aforementioned one and Pitt (the last stand of the Big East? Come on, Pitt! For f*cks sake, it was Wichita State!), even though I’m also -1 in my Elite Eight and -1 in my Final Four. On an even happier note, I just consumed a piece of Nutrisystem chocolate cake and my stomach has, for the moment, stopped eating itself. I am feeling less starved than I was feeling a few hours ago. Might this whole Glycemic Index thing actually be working? Survey says: Probably not. I’m likely just getting used to the emptiness.

No sooner had I written the last paragraph than Ole’ Miss went on a run and is currently leading another of my Sweet 16 teams–Wisconsin–by six with a minute and a half left to play. Make that seven. Well? You can’t win ’em all, I guess. Some days, though? I wish I could travel to the future. In doing so, I would be able to:

1. See who wins this year’s NCAA Basketball Tournament and adjust my bracket accordingly. Maybe then I’d not risk something as sacred as my Sweet 16, my Elite Eight and my Final Four on a mid-major school like New Mexico or a proverbial disappointment like Wisconsin. It seems that every year, one of the regions of my bracket begins, right around this time on the second day of the Tournament, to look like the scarred surface of a battlefield. This year is no different. The West? Yep. It’s lost. On a happier note, I’m still perfect in the Midwest and the South, and I only have one loss in the East. A man can dream. A man can…

2. See what happens in Season Three of “Game of Thrones.” Okay, I’ll admit that I already know what happens and all I’m going to say to those of you that have A.) Never read the books or B.) Not made it through “A Storm of Swords” yet is this: The Rains of Castamere. That may hold no significance for you now but trust me when I tell you that by the end of this season, it will. As will boobs and a** for all you young “whipper snappers” that watch it and everything else on HBO for… well, boobs and a**. I think I’m more interested in seeing the reactions of the people that have never read the books to what happens than I am in actually seeing it. Their reactions? That would be enough to get me to travel into the future. Yet while I’m there, I think I’ll…

3. Check and see if adopting Nutrisystem was really worth it. How do I look at the wedding? Do I look “tight” or do I still looked like a stuffed sausage wearing pinstripes? If the former, hooray. I now have motivation for sticking it out until the end of the program. If the latter? Well sh*t. I might as well just stop on the way home and pick up a bucket of wings, a jug of blue cheese and a case of Yeungling to watch March Madness on my phone and my computer with. Because really…

4. I could see if it was all worth it. All the writing and revising; all the waiting and wondering about whether or not people will like Endworld – A Novel. Beta readers are great, and if you utilize them right you get a good cross-section of your potential audience (young adult mixed with new adult mixed with middle agers mixed with ole’ timers) to give you feedback before you go “live” with your book. But if I traveled to the future, I’d be able to see the finished product: The cover, the interior et al. I’d be able to read the reviews that people have given it on Amazon.com.

It may seem to many of you reading this blog that I devote a lot of time to talking about my novel, and very little time actually working toward getting it published. Trust me: I’m working my a** off. So much so that when I’m not being an Office Manager or spending time with my family its all that I’m doing. That’s what makes now so strange. I feel like I should be working on it. But there’s not much that I can do at the moment. The book? It’s in good hands. I need to be patient. After all, I have all the time in the world to do this. Why not do it right? I assure you that I will be talking even more about it as the next few days, weeks and months pass. Hell, I’ll likely be marketing it here on “Random Musings” one it goes “live.” I know, that cat blog is looking more and more appealing by the word, isn’t it?

Sadly, I can’t travel into the future. I can’t see the outcome of the Tournament, I can’t see myself in a mirror and I can’t know based on the opinions of a few people if my book is going to succeed or fail. What I can do is cheer for the teams that I picked that are still playing. I can drink my eight plus cups of water a day (up to seven, now), consume my “Smartcarbs” and “Powerfuels” and force whatever I choose as my Nutrisystem Dinner Entree down my gullet. Most importantly, though? I can “just keep writing, just keep writing,” even if two blog entries a week balloons into three. I can’t allow myself to get rusty because once Endworld – A Novel is, blessedly, done and “live,” there’s a second and a third book to write. Maybe more. Who knows?

In closing? Well, I can do this one of two ways. I can post the video of Miley Cyrus “twerking” to Flo Rida’s “WOP” or I can post the lyrics to “The Rains of Castamere.” Both represent an ending: One to a career (sorry, Hannah Montana, but this is the low point of your ever diminishing career) and the other to… well, no spoilers. Obviously I’m more inclined to post the latter, but the masochist within me really wants to post the former. I know! Someone needs to overdub Miley’s “twerking” video with Bronn singing “The Rains of Castamere” pre-the Battle of Blackwater. Then? Well sh*t. If anything can penetrate the grand, quiet time of this aspiring writer’s soul, that’s it.

Get on it, Youtubers. And everyone? Have a great weekend. Winky emoticon. Smiley face.

Of Doctors, Dieting, Elbows and A**holes.

“Five ear infections in nine and a half months. That has to be some kind of record.”

So read the text message that I sent my wife this AM upon finding out that our youngest is yet again suffering from an ear infection. The good news? At least this one is not a “raging, double ear infection” like the last one. Seriously? Some doc’s watch too much “Grey’s Anatomy,” i.e. they’re incredibly over dramatic about the conditions that they diagnose. They treat every sniffle like Ebola and every case of Pink Eye–Conjunctivitis if you want me to get technical–like the Plague.

That is by no means an indictment of every doctor that coexists with me, here in my subjective reality. My wife, for example, is a PharmD and she’s not over dramatic though she was, once upon a time, an avid follower of the “Grey’s Anatomy” soap opera, both onscreen and off. One of my best friends is a doctor and he is arguably the straightest shooter that I know. But many of them? I’ve encountered my fair share over the course of my 37, almost 38 year life on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence and let me tell you something: I’m not over exaggerating. I’ve wondered often if the whole “see a doctor, see a specialist” thing isn’t an elaborate, money making scheme that they learn about on day one of med school, along with the Hippocratic Oath and the difference between an elbow and an a**hole.

Am I wrong? Who knows. Whether I am or am not is irrelevant. Perhaps it’s all legit and above the board. This might just be a brain fart–an accumulated bubble of Mental Flatulence that I’ve been mulling for years. While I can’t speak accurately on the topic of whether “specialists” are a limb of the many tentacled conspiracy that is health care in 2013 (and I wouldn’t want to; after all, I did vote for Obamacare by virtue of voting for Obama), I can say with a good degree of certainty that the drama? It exists.

Consider: There is a whole generation of doctors like my wife and my good friend the straight shooter that have entered the working world in the last half decade. Many of them were inspired to become doctors by television shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scrubs”, along with older ones like “ER” and, in a few isolated cases, “St. Elsewhere.”

Okay, really? If you’re a doctor that has entered the profession in the last half decade due in part to the impact that “St. Elsewhere” had on you there’s something seriously wrong with you. I know med school takes a while but “St. Elsewhere” went off the air in 1988. Assuming you were of the Age of Reason–seven–in 1988 you would need to be at least… what? A 27 or 28 year old Resident at the least? That means that by the time you’re done your Residency you’ll be approximately 30. Guess what? Unless you’re in spectacular shape things start to go downhill after you hit the big 3-0. I’m not saying that your hands shake and your body gives out, but your mind begins to get a little wonky. You develop conditions that you need to go and see a “specialist” about. You feel the cold, rubber encased and lubricated index finger of time diddling your a**hole and you realize that even Doctor Doug Ross had gray hair by the time “ER” went off the air in 2009. Don’t believe me? Just wait. Your time will come.

All I’m saying is I that there’s no way in H-E-double hockey sticks that I’m letting a mid-30 something, new doctor care for me. I like my doctors one of two ways: Young and inexperienced or old and grizzled. That’s it. If one of my mid-30 something friends came to me tonight and said, “surprise, Frank! I’ve been secretly attending med school for the last six years. That’s why I missed ‘Kilt’ night (as in the Tilted Kilt in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania) this past Saturday but good news: I just graduated and I’d love it if you would be my first patient.”

Well, guys? Despite my loyalty to that friend I’d either A.) Come up with an elaborate excuse not to see him or her or B.) Throw another of my friends under the bus. “Oh, thanks BLANK. I feel great despite the volleyball sized tumor protruding from the side of my neck but I hear that BLANK needs a Proctological exam. You should really call him.”

Interesting. In this hypothetical scenario, am I a good friend for sending business the newly minted doc’s way or a bad one for denying him or her mine, and recommending that he or she recruit one of my otherwise healthy friends to be a medical guinea pig? Along the same lines, another question: Why am I suddenly obsessed with a**holes? I’ve gone whole blog entries without mentioning the Chocolate Starfish but now? It may end up being a Tag by the time I’m done. Note to self: Try and resist referring to “a**holes” in what remains of this blog entry. And please resist the urge to use it as a Tag. That may be easier said than done. Once you get an a**hole on your mind, its tough to get it off. SHIVER. 

I have no idea. The only thing that I know for sure right now is that I’m tired because my youngest has another ear infection and hasn’t slept well since last Wednesday (it is now Monday night). Said exhaustion is compounded by the fact that I am currently dieting in an attempt to shed a few, extra pounds before the wedding I’m going to in two and a half weeks and am this close to chowing down on one of my limbs. I’d drink another cup of water but I’ve already downed six today. I feel like Violet Beauregard from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” The Oompa Loompas are singing “drinking, drinking, all day long” in my mind. Seriously? I’d make love to a bag of Doritos if you put one in front of me right now. Think I’m kidding? Try it, and please: Avert your eyes.

Which reminds me of something my wife told me last night. No, not about having intercourse with a snack food. This:

Begin parenthetical aside: I generally don’t think much of these when they clutter up my Facebook Feed. I think about as highly of them as I do of the “specialist” that informed me a few years ago that I had Fybromyalgia, only to inform me during our second appointment that he, too, suffered from it and “by the way, Frank: There’s a support group that I’m the chairman of that you can join for an annual fee of BLANK.” Shockingly? I was cured from that day forward and have never even mentioned FM as a condition that I suffer from since.

Until now. Consider yourselves lucky, guys. “Hi. My name is Frank Marsh and I suffer from a condition of exclusion called Fybromyalgia. I don’t know if its real or not but my ‘specialist’ told me that for X-amount of dollars, he’d diagnose me with any condition–exclusionary or otherwise–that I want.” He should have just told me that I was tired because I was overweight and out of shape. Maybe I would have dropped the weight I’m trying to shed now then. Maybe I’d be eating a bag of luscious, mouth watering Doritos right now and not a Nutrisystem, “Thick” Crust, Personal Pizza. Ever eaten cardboard with cheese melted on top of it? Trust me, guys: It’s more filling than this. I feel like a contestant on “Survivor: Delaware County.”  Yes, Broomall. The tribe has spoken.

Dieting? It’s a bitch. If you’ve ever tried it you feel my pain. If you’ve never had to diet good for you. And screw you. I want your rubber stomach and your skinny genes. No, not “jeans.” Stuff me into a pair of those things and I’d look like an over-microwaved hot dog. End parenthetical aside.

Back to the Rheumalogist that told me I had Fybro. That guy? He’s the guy that I think of when a doc tells me or one of my loved ones that we need to go and see a “specialist.” Regarding my youngest’s predicament: I understand that it’s in her best interest. I further understand that doctors, even the over dramatic ones that model themselves and their approach after the “Grey’s Anatomy” derived approaches of Doctor McDreamy and Doctor McSteamy. By association, “specialists” are a necessity in a world filled with sniffles and Conjunctivitis and, to a lesser extent, Ebola and the Plague. The whole thing may very well be an elaborate, money making scam, perpetrated by members of the medical profession but that doesn’t change the fact that as a dad, I’m locked in. I want the best for my children–I could give a sh*t about myself–and if “the best” includes taking them to multiple PhD’s, PharmD’s et al and not just one apothecary? So be it.

As I write this, it is 10 in the PM. Across from me, my wife the PharmD sits playing Candy Crush Saga on her phone. She’s waiting patiently for me to finish and I don’t want to disappoint her. About an hour and a half ago, I put my youngest, five time (“five time! Five time!”), ear infected daughter to bed. She’s whimpered once or twice but for the most part, she seems to be sleeping peacefully. That’s not to say that she won’t be waking up in the next hour or two. If she does? She does. Occasional sleepless nights are a part of being a parent. As are “raging double ear infections” and Conjunctivitis. She has an appointment with an ENT (Ears, Nose and Throad) “specialist” tomorrow AM which I will be attending. Hopefully the doc will offer my wife and I a less invasive solution than placing tubes in her ears. Who knows? About the only thing that I know for sure is that I want her to get better, and if that means giving into the slimy embrace of the many tentacled conspiracy that is health care in 2013? Well sh*t. I may be an a**hole sometimes, but I love my family.

Just no Greenhorn, 30-something year old medical professionals, please. Either under 30 or over 50. Experience optional for the former, but imperative for the latter.

“Doom-pa-dee do.” G’Night all.