Dec 9

Anna goes byebye

I darn near forgot to make a post today. It’s not that it’s been a terribly busy day, but it has been one where I’ve had about zero free time to myself. Jack had a ton of errands to run in the morning, so I was on my own with Anna. I can get housework-type stuff done when it’s just the two of us, but it’s not great for trying to sit down at the computer. Then the afternoon was tied up since we had to go to the first birthday party for my youngest step-grandson. Anna never took a nap during any of this time, instead waiting until 5:30pm to crash. Usually once it gets past about 4pm I don’t bother with a nap for her, but tonight I had sat her down in front of the tv to watch the “Wiggly Wiggly Christmas” DVD because I was just desperate to get some time to finish reading an article, and when I looked back at her she had her head on her little stuffed chair and her butt up in the air and she was out cold. I transferred her to the couch, and then tried to wake her up about 45 minutes later in the hopes that I could still get her to stick to her normal bedtime, but she wanted no part of being conscious. By this time Jack was home from his second round of errands, and so he just took her upstairs and put her to bed.

I fully expect her to be wide awake at 4am.

Dec 8

My favorite writer blog at the moment

I’ve been on a roll lately reading Tess Gerritsen’s blog, even going back through all of the archived posts. I can’t even remember how I first stumbled across it; I’m not sure I would have specifically gone looking fot it since I’ve never read any of her books. (Which will change once I get the free time to do so.) However, her blog is written in such a fresh, welcoming, and sometimes brutally honest way that it’s become one of my favorite reads.

Especially when I’m going through a phase of hating my writing like I’m going through now. I’m in rewrites of my novel right now, and I haven’t touched it or looked at it for over a week. This is because about a week ago I reached a point where I was certain that every single word of it stunk. That it was shallow and predictable and dorky and uninteresting. That it was unspeakably obvious that I am a talentless nobody who is suffering delusions of the grandest order that I might actually sell this thing, and even more delusions that a few thousand people might want to pay for it and read it.

But reading Ms. Gerritsen’s blog has felt like a breath of fresh air and a slap in the face all at once. She writes honestly and frankly about her qualms and fears and insecurities, as well as about professionalism, hard work, and persistence. This woman is a New York Times Bestselling author, and she admits freely that she too reaches points in her writing where she hates what she has written, where she isn’t sure that she can salvage it and make it work.

And it was such a relief for me to hear that. Maybe I think my book stinks because it really does stink. Or, maybe I think my book stinks because I’ve been putting close to four hours a day of work into it for several months now and I’m just burned out on it.

Either one is equally possible, but it’s comforting, for me, to know that at least there’s an option besides, “I suck.”

Dec 7

A drawback of the Q

Don’t get me wrong–I still really love my new phone. It’s sleek and cool and does lots of things.

But I discovered one unfortunate defect yesterday. I was on my way home, listening to the radio, and the DJ came on with a “guess the sound clip” contest. And I knew it! I knew that answer. So I yanked my phone out and readied myself to dial in, and then the DJ gave the number: 260-DIVA.

I looked down at my phone, and realized that I had absolutely no idea what the numericals were for DIVA.

I don’t have a regular numeric keypad anymore! I was stuck! I desperately tried to figure it out, but then I couldn’t remember if the letters started on 1 or 2, and I knew that one of the numbers had four letters on it, but I couldn’t remember if it was 1 or 9. Would you know? Without looking? Would you be able to figure it out in your head (remember, I was driving, so I didn’t have the luxury of trying to write it out)?

In mild desperation I called my husband. “Jack!! What are the numbers for DIVA?!”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

I attempted to explain. Then I had to make sure he knew that it was D-I-V-A, not B-I-B-A, and then had to wait for him to look at his phone and figure it out. Finally, he gave me the result and I dialed the station.

And I got through! “Diva 92.3, care to make a guess?”

“Yes!” I cried with glee. “It’s Steve Carell!”

“That’s right!” He replied. “Unfortunately, someone already guessed it. But there’ll be another one tomorrow!”

I mumbled something appropriate and hung up. I coulda had it if I hadn’t wasted several minutes figuring out what the frickin’ phone number was. A contest lost for the lack of a traditional numeric keypad. Sigh.

Dec 6

An hour on the table

Her body rests naked and supine on the metal table, eyes half-open, lips slightly parted. The hair on the right side is matted with blood and vomit, the flesh mottled and red from where the blood has pooled. It is obvious that she was lying on her right side because of the pattern of the lividity as well as the impressions on her flesh, like the wrinkles from a pillow embedded into our cheek in the minutes after we wake up. But these impressions will not fade on her; there is no circulation to restore her flesh to its original state.

I take my pictures of her, standing on a stepladder and leaning over her, moving the stepladder down so that I end up with a series of overlapping images. I then take closeup pictures of her face–right, front, left. The hands next, back, palm, fingernails. And then any marks or scars or tattoos. Every defect, every identifying feature, every trauma is documented and photographed. We roll her to her side and I photograph her back, placing a towel over her face to catch any fluid that might spew from her mouth and nose when she is turned. Then she is returned to her back.

Her eyes seem misted over, but that is merely because they are drying out. I take the needle and slide it into the side of her eye to draw vitreous fluid, and if I look down at the eyes I can see the tip of the needle through the pupil.

The pathologist helps me get the block underneath her. He lifts the body at the shoulders and I slide the thick piece of wood below her shoulder blades, leaving her arched over it, head hanging back but not quite touching the table.

He starts the Y-incision, filetting the flesh back with practiced ease. I pick up the long-handled loppers, the kind that you would use to trim branches from your trees, and I begin to cut through the ribs. I start at the side and angle up toward the top of the sternum, crunching through each rib as I work my way up. Once I’m through the ribs he cuts the ribcage section away and sets it aside.

He begins to remove and examine the organs, and I take another block of wood and prop her head upon it. She has long hair, and I part it as carefully as I can, from ear to ear over the top of her head, then take a rubber band and secure the top section, draping the ponytail over her face. I make the cut then, along the part I just made, but even being careful I still cut sections of her hair, and long strands of brunette drop down to the metal table. I cut from ear to ear, down to the skull, then I begin to peel the scalp back, pulling and tugging, slicing the tissue that holds the scalp to the skull, and eventually folding the top of her scalp all the way down and over her face. Then the bottom section, peeling it back the same way, and folding it down, exposing the entire top of her skull.

The bone saw is next. I put a filter mask and a plastic face shield on for this. The saw whines as I cut through the skull, taking off the top of the skull like a cap, and I am glad for the mask and shield because the saw kicks up a lot of bone dust and blood spatter. After I cut all the way around, I take the t-shaped tool, called a skull-breaker, and wedge it into the cut made by the saw. A few hard twists and the skull comes loose with a loud crack, and I then pull the top of the skull off, peeling it off of the top of the brain. I set the skull cap aside, then begin to cut the brain out, slicing away the nerves and connecting tissue, and sticking my scalpel down by the brain stem and cutting the brain away from the body. It tips out into my hand, a few pounds of flesh that control everything, slimy and gooey, and I put it into the scale for the pathologist to examine.

He finishes his work, and now it is time to clean her up. The organs that have been removed go into a plastic bag that rests between her legs. I replace the section of ribcage and then take a long piece of thick white string and begin to sew the y-incision back up, long inexact stitches that merely serve to keep everything together until the funeral home can do their work. The needle becomes hard to handle about halfway through, becoming greasy from having to slide through the layers of subcutaneous fat, and I have to be careful that I do not poke myself with it.

Then the skull. I replace the skull cap and pull the scalp back down and over the top of the head. The scalp is harder to sew, the flesh is thick and rubbery, and the hair makes it hard to see where the point of the needle is.

She goes back in the bodybag then, and back to the cooler. She is skinnier now, with her organs removed, and her chest looks odd because the section of ribs never sits quite right with nothing to support it. But the funeral home will take care of that. They will remove all of our crude stitches and fill her with formalin, enough so that she will last through the funeral. They will clean the vomit and blood away, comb her hair over the incision in her scalp, dress her and apply the cosmetics.

It used to bother me, seeing the needle slide into the eyes, or watching the scalpel part the flesh, but I’m inured to it now. Perhaps because I know that there’s no pain, no fresh bleeding, no flinch or reaction. I can hold the brain or the heart, pull back the skin for a closer look, because it’s not the Person anymore, just the flesh container that once held them. I’m not so sure I’d be so inured if the flesh still held life, if I knew that the gash in the flesh was causing pain.

I clean up afterwards, hosing the table off, and washing the blood and gobbets of flesh away. Everything is wiped down and cleaned, though the room is far from a sterile enviroment, and never will be. I pull my plastic smock off and the paper apron over it, wadding both up and dumping them into the trashcan with the red liner. The gloves and shoe covers come off too, then I go and change my clothes, back to normal office-wear. Back to normal life.

Dec 5

More strange phone karma

Well, the day after I had to get a new phone, my husband’s phone also died, and once again I trekked to the Verizon store to get an early upgrade. (Our contract rolls over at the end of January.)

So, I walked in, and informed the perky salesgirl that I needed an early upgrade on my husband’s phone. She pulled his number up on her computer, and then gave a tragic sigh and told me that since his number was a 9.99 plan, it wasn’t eligible for an early upgrade.

This is when I put on the Very Friendly Smile. I was wearing my floor-length black leather coat and my black boots, so I felt slightly more badass than I usually feel. (And loyal readers will know fairly well just how badass I usually feel on an average day.)

I leaned forward slightly. “I have six phones on my account,” I said, still smiling. “I pay Verizon an obscene amount every month, and I pay it on time. I’m a very good customer. I would really like it if you could find a way to make this work for me.”

She swallowed, and then said, “Well… this is the kind of thing that only a manager can take care of.”

I increased my Very Friendly Smile a few degrees. “Could you please find a manager then?”

She was more than delighted to locate a manager for me. He came over, and she gave him a whispered rundown of my desire, and then pointed to her computer screen. “That’s what she pays every month,” she said in what might very well have been a shocked tone.

I turned my VFS onto the manager. He was slightly immune to it, being a manager, but he also seemed to recognize the value of keeping a happy customer happy. I ended up getting my early upgrade, and then turned around and bought the new VCast LG 9900 phone along with all of the bells and whistles and packages, so I was happy, he was happy, and my husband is incredibly happy. This phone is not a PDA phone, but it’s perfect for my husband–the man who had to have the big screen HDTV, had to have Every Friggin Movie Channel, had to have every game of every baseball team in the nation piped into our living room. It’s a handheld media center that is just as cool to him as my PDA phone is to me.

We’re a phone-happy house now. And yes, we’ve spent the evening sitting across the room from each other calling each other to get all of our nifty settings just right.

Soulmates. :)

Dec 4

Two decades to Q

I am with phone again, and since I am something of a geek, I decided to upgrade to a PDA phone while I had the chance. And, since Verizon is offering all sorts of deals on the Motorola Q, I went for it.

This phone totally Rocks. It does all the regular phone stuff, but also does all the PDA stuff, with email and web access and all sorts of other nifty cool stuff.

But it wasn’t until I was driving back to the office after leaving the Verizon store that it really started to hit me just how incredibly amazing this phone is. Okay, not necessarily this specific phone, but just the whole technology that’s wrapped up in this slim little package. Ten years ago, the web was in its infancy (or at least its early toddlerhood.) I had a very rudimentary website, with my first online journal (no one called them blogs back then), and in the US there were more people who did not have email than who did. In just ten years I’ve gone from a computer with a 486 processor (that I paid a fortune for!) that accessed the internet via a 56k modem to a piece of technology that can kick that 486’s ass and can also fit into my back pocket. And everyone has email.

Am I the only one who occasionally just feels blown away by how fast everything is evolving? Heck, not just the computer end of it, but the phone end too. In ‘96 the phones were big and clunky and airtime was heinously expensive. Today, I don’t even have a landline at my house. We never used it, and it was expensive.

Okay, let’s go back twenty years. I was mid-high school then, and our family was “first on the block” to have a computer. We had a Commodore Vic 20, and we even paid extra for a big plastic card that stuck onto a slot in the back that gave us 5 extra K of memory! It didn’t even had a disk drive. It had a cassette tape drive, and I used to get a huge kick out of playing the saved data on a regular tape player and listening to the wierd screechy noises. We later upgraded to a Commodore 64, and then later an Amiga that ran a CPM operating system. By that time I was starting to take a couple of college classes while I was still in high school, and when I took my first programming class–Fortran–my class was the very first class to NOT have to use the punch cards to enter our programs into the computer.

So, in a span of only half of my life, we’ve gone from nothing, to a computer in my pocket. With the speed of information exchange now, I just don’t think it’s possible to predict where technology is going to be even just ten years from now. I can’t even begin to conjecture what it’s going to be like when my daughter’s my age. I wonder if the communication device will even be a physical item at all.

Dec 3

The only Bush I can stand at the moment

Yeesh, no, not W, and not the coming-out kind either.

I’m referring to Reggie Bush, who had a terrific day today against the 49ers. Mom and I went to the Saints game and cheered New Orleans on to their 8th win. Unless they totally fuck up the rest of the season I think it’s a pretty fair bet that they’ll be in the playoffs. Used to be that you could almost count on the Saints fucking it up somehow, but these just aren’t the same Saints that New Orleans has always known. The coach is savvy, the quarterback is smart, and the rest of the team seems to really gel under the two.

So, it’ll be fun to see how far they manage to go.


Before heading over to pick up my mother I dropped by my sister’s house.

Actually, I have to go back in time just a bit farther, to yesterday afternoon. After my workout in the morning, I’d put my water bottle into my gym bag, but somehow failed to have the cap completely secured onto said water bottle. This was unfortunate, because my cell phone was at the bottom of my gym bag. Which meant that my cell phone suffered catastrophic damage, and thus I was without phonage from about noon on. After many consultations with Verizon, I determined that I could not get a new phone until Monday unless I wanted to pay full price for the replacement. (My contract rolls over in January, and so I’m supposed to get a free new phone then, however, they’re supposedly going to push that date up for me.)

Anyway. Since I knew I would be phone-less, I used my husband’s phone to access my voicemail and change my outgoing message to, “This is Diana Rowland, my phone is dead which is why you can’t get hold of me. If this is an emergency, you can call my husband at #.”

About ten minutes after I recorded this new message, Jack’s phone rang. I heard him ask, “Is this an emergency?” Then he rolled his eyes and handed the phone to me. “Imelda Marcos has an emergency.”

It was my sister, calling to tell me that she had several dozen pairs of size eight shoes in the trunk of her car that she would allow me to pick through before she gave them to a church garage sale.

But see, I understood completely the magnitude of this, because these shoes came from the closet of my sister’s neighbor whose wife passed away a couple of years ago. And this woman was one of those incredibly elegant, stylish women who always looks well put together and terrific. And I knew that it would be very VERY worth going through those shoes. So this morning before the game I went over to my sister’s house to do just that.

And I was right. Not only did this lovely woman have a terrific collection of designer shoes and purses, but she also took fantastic care of the same, with the majority of the shoes in plastic boxes or wrapped in cloth bags. I think I easily snagged a thousand dollars worth of shoes. I also made off with several purses–two Coach purses and several others of various designer origin.

I’m not going to need to buy shoes or purses for years!

Dec 2

Getting to know yooooou

I wasn’t paying attention yesterday when I posted my first Holidailies entry, and thus completely missed the fact that there are daily “prompts” and that yesterday’s prompt was to introduce ourselves and our blogs/journals/whatevers to our new readers.

So, I’ll just do mine a day late.

Name of the blog-thing, as you can see, is “Writing, Life, and the Stuff in Between.” I’ve had an online journal type of thing since 1996, though I’ve had a couple of hiatuses in there due to various Life Crap. It used to be called “Contradistinctions” mostly because I thought it was a cool word. But the new title seems to fit me a bit better, I think. I’m a writer, but I also have a life outside of writing, and there’s a lot of other stuff that happens to me as well. Though with my present job I’ve been tempted to change it to “Writing, Death, and that Life stuff too.”

The basic facts about me: I turned 40 this year, which really doesn’t bother me since I kinda like the whole bit about being taken more seriously. I’ve been married twice, still married to #2. I’m #3 for him. We have one daughter between us, Anna, who is a bit older than 2 ½. He has five other kids ranging in age from 30 to 18, as well as four grandkids, ranging in age from 5 to 1, with another on the way. I get alone really well with all of the kids, probably because I never tried to be their “Mom.”

I have a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Georgia Tech. Completely Useless Degree.

Back when I was still married to my first husband I worked in the Casino business, working my way up from dealer to Pit Boss over the course of about six years. After I divorced #1, I finally got tired of dealing with drunks and assholes and doing nothing to make the world a better place, and finally quit and became a cop, taking a 60% pay cut in the process. I still dealt with drunks and assholes, but at least then I was able to do so with the aid of a gun and pepper spray. And, I could do my little part to make the world a slightly nicer and safer place. I was a street cop for a few years, then a detective for a few years, then I worked in the crime lab doing computer forensics, digital analysis and video enhancement, as well as the regular crime scene investigation type of stuff.

This year I was approached by another agency, and after a short period of “wooing” I left policework and went to work for the Parish Coroner’s Office to do their IT work and forensic photography. For a lot more money. And less micromanagement. So I STILL deal with drunks and assholes, but now they’re dead.

I attend every autopsy and take pictures and fingerprints, and I’ve also been learning the basic morgue tech stuff which I will go into more detail about later on since that definitely merits an entry of its own.

I write as well. Mostly Science Fiction or Fantasy, though the novel that I’m clawing through rewrites on right now is a paranormal mystery. (Gee, it’s not like I have any practical experience for writing mysteries, y’know?) I’m in the last throes of this novel with probably a month of serious work left on it before it gets sent out to some first readers. I’ve made two professional short fiction sales as of this date. The first was a story called “Extant” that was published in the anthology The Age of Reason–Stories for a New Millenium, and it earned an honorable mention in the 17th Annual Years Best Science Fiction. The other sale was my story “Schroedinger’s Hummingbird” which won first place in the 3rd Quarter of the Writers of the Future contest. Writer’s of the Future Vol. XXII is out in all of the stores now, and my story starts on page 235.

So, there you go. I think that’s more than enough to get you started.

Dec 1

Morning Conversation

“This woman was complaining about having to pick up an incontinence control device off of the floor.”

“A what?”

“Well, I hate the term ‘Adult Diaper’ so we call them ‘incontinence control devices.’”

“How about ‘Adult Protection’?” Or ‘Linen Protection’, since that what you’re ultimately trying to protect. I mean, when I hear ‘incontinence control device’ I think ‘Butt Plug’.”

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