Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Review: Silent Pain

I grabbed this book on a bit of an impulse. I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so a testimonial of somebody who has recovered completely from the condition is obviously going to be intriguing for me. That was the claim made, although a closer reading of the text made me realize that the author, Helen Germanos, had just barely recovered when she wrote the book and as I can tell her from bitter experience, relapses are all too common.

Silent Pain is short, only 81 pages, and some of that is just filler. Germanos gives a brief personal history, reviews the causes and symptoms of CFS (multiple, with a configuration that is different for each individual), and informs us, based on the reading of a single study, that the cause is damage to the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to virtually every system of the body. She then discusses treatment, with a very heavy emphasis on esoteric methods. I confess to a great deal of skepticism in this regard, but her point that among the multiple causes of CFS, emotional and spiritual problems could also play a significant role is well taken. I can't entirely dismiss her recommendations because she has made a remarkable recovery from a very severe case of CFS. I will mull the whole thing over. For what it's worth, I have also made a good partial recovery by discovering a couple of my root causes and dealing with them: a very severe iron deficiency and an undiagnosed intolerance to grains and legumes, especially wheat. I am still trying to pin down other causes, which explains my interest in this book.

Should you read it? Well, if you are relatively uninformed about CFS, it might be worth going over it so you can understand how diverse and multiple the causes can be and some of the channels worth exploring in seeking improvement. If talk of karma and chakras and subtle bodies turns you off, you had better not. That's where the bulk of the emphasis is. The book is not exhaustive, definitive, or authoritative, but as a summary of one person's experience, it is of some interest.

Disclaimer: I received a free temporary electronic copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Find me now at janetursel.com. Book reviews, flash fiction, and several ways to throw rocks at me.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Negativity and reality

Let me tell you what she's really like! Take a quick look at your thoughts right now. You don't know what I'm going to say next, but you are sure of one thing -- I am going to be dishing dirt. And why do you know that? Because you know, I know, everybody knows, that the dirty stuff is the real stuff. Good humour, charitable donations, devotion to family, talent: it all pales beside the dirt. That's what's real. Right? And yet it's a funny thing. None of us wants to be judged on those terms. When it comes to ourselves, we want the positives to weigh heavier in the balance. We want people to define us by our virtues, not our faults. And so I'm asking you -- and yes, I've done my own soul-searching on this matter -- how do you define the people closest to you? What would you say your husband is really like? Your boss? Your kids? Which are you more afraid of: being hopelessly naive or unjustifiably cynical? The chances are very, very good that the one you are the most afraid of is the one you are least in danger of. Try tilting the other way for a while. The perspectives you gain could be invaluable.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Two sides of the same coin

But have you ever tried to look at both sides at once?  Go ahead, I'll wait.

No, I can't either.  I can carry that coin in my pocket, wear it on a chain around my neck, pull it out and contemplate it as often as I like, I can still only actually SEE one side at a time.  The other side is always there, I always know it, but...  All I can do is flip it over regularly.

And when you think about it, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

I pulled out the manuscript of my first novel the other day to get an idea of how hard I would have to work to bring it up to publishable standards.  And I fell in love with the darn thing all over again.  I kept saying, "I wrote that?" And glowing a bit. For a while I believed I actually had some talent.

Then I tried to work at my current manuscript.  And I felt like it stunk.  Granted, it's still at first draft stage and the first manuscript has been through several rounds of editing.  And there you have it, the two sides of the coin.  When I feel like I can't produce anything worth reading, I need to flip the coin and remember the proof that I can.  When I feel like a genius, I need to flip the coin and remember how hard I struggled to produce something worth reading.

And this applies to a lot more than writing or even evaluating our own capacities.  I'll bet you can think of two or three ways you can apply this in the real world, in your creative endeavours, wherever.  Tell me about it.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Interesting experiment by the UN

Female peacekeepers in LiberiaThe UN is trying something new in Liberia. The conflict-torn country is being patrolled by the first ever all-female peace-keeping force. Liberia, as you may recall, is one of the countries in which UN forces had been accused of sexually exploiting the inhabitants they were supposed to be protecting. Hardly reassuring if you are a woman in a country where rape is already the most prevalent of crimes.

The UN's response was innovative and effective. The Indian contingent arrived in 2007, and it is probably no coincidence that female enrollment in the Liberian police force has climbed since then. That can only be good news for the women and children of Liberia, who obviously have not been able to count on effective protection in the past. And it is always encouraging to see something that actually seems to be working.

Note: I'm closing this post to commenting because of excessive enthusiasm on the part of spammers. Email me if you have something vital to say. ;o)

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Thank you, USA

Sidney Crosby celebratesThank you for a wonderful game that had us scared right till the very end.

But what really made me proud was when the Vancouver crowd cheered for American goalie Ryan Miller as he received his medal. And when the Canadian crowd cheered the American women's team as they received their medals. It's wonderful when your athletes do you proud, but it's even nicer when your people do you proud.

And having watched these Olympics from the US, may I say I was very impressed by NBC's coverage. It was done with a warmth and a generous spirit that I really enjoyed.

Canadian or not, it takes the Olympics though to make me watch two hockey games in one week. I watched the Canada-Russia game and the gold medal game and they were well worth watching.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Container Gardening for KidsMy apologies for the long silence. I got floored by some rather extreme exhaustion and let my Internet presence slide pretty well across the board. I'm now trying to catch up on the backlog, which is intimidating. The good news is I'm starting here.

For today, just a quick rundown on recent events.

The children's book I mentioned earlier, has been out for some time, and so my name is in a book for the first time, courtesy of Mitchell Lane Publishing.

And in more important news, our first grandchild was born November 4. In keeping with my policy of respecting my family's privacy on this blog, I'm not naming names, but isn't he a little cutie?... His father was born with that full head of hair also, so the inevitable remarks about him looking just like his daddy are coming in. But the face is not quite the same, so I'm confident this little guy will be his own person. Likely a very colourful personality, with the parents he's got. Bland conformity is not likely to be on the menu. Unless, of course, he does it just to bug everybody... ;o)

Wishing all of you a very happy New Year and wondering: what were the major events of 2009 for you?

Friday, 11 September 2009


Novel MattersWell, well, well. I was one of the six winners at the Novel Matters Audience With an Agent contest. The six lovely ladies who write for that blog (and who are all with the Books & Such Literary Agency) sifted through a slush pile of applicants and selected six to be forwarded to agent Wendy Lawton.

OK, you might be saying, why do you need a contest to query an agent? And the answer is: you don't, of course. But I suspect an agent is going to take a closer, harder, longer look at queries (complete with synopses and first chapters) that come with a recommendation from six people whose taste in writing she respects. She is also promising feedback, something you don't normally get with a query. So I am well-pleased, and very grateful to have been selected.

And, as any writer knows, a shot of affirmation now and then is a wonderful thing. Especially when it comes from professionals.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Gift horses

It might be time to rethink that old proverb "Never look a gift horse in the mouth". Or that seems to be the theme of today's Odd News.

So here, for your entertainment and edification, are three reasons why you might just want to have a look at that horse mouth after all.

#1. Because if you don't, it might bite you. Floridian police use stimulus money as a lure to catch criminals. They say it's a lot safer to draw the criminals to them rather than go after them in their homes.

#2. Because it might be a Trojan horse. Several state governors received unexpected laptops they didn't actually order. After the first shipment, they suspected a mistake. After the second, they called in law enforcement. None of the laptops were ever actually turned on. Turns out they were ordered with bogus accounts. It will be interesting to find out what kind of Greeks were hiding in there.

Fake moon rock#3. It might not even be a horse at all. Dutch officials are dismayed to discover their treasured moon rock is just a piece of petrified wood. So did the US ambassador know it was a scam when he gave the "moon rock" to the Dutch prime minister? Looks like somebody is going to have to pull out all their diplomatic skills to explain this one.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Further thoughts on writers' conferences

Ah, if Janna says jump, we jump. What is it about that girl?

So here are my thoughts on writers' conferences, as far as they go. Please keep in mind that this is based on my very limited experience, so feel entirely free to correct me or expand on what I've said.

If you are well-informed on the publishing industry and how it works, if you read the blogs of editors and agents, frequent online writers' forums that include experienced professionals, read books on writing and participate in some form of critique groups, chances are you won't get a whole lot out of the scheduled workshops, or at least not most of them. Aspiring writers are the bread and butter of these conferences, and much of it caters to them and is therefore at a pretty basic level. But not all of it. I found Jeff Gerke's continuing workshop for novelists to be thought-provoking. I bought his book The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction and will probably buy his interactive DVD The Writer's Foundation. I found the exercises he had us do in the workshop (which were taken from the DVD) quite useful.

Actually meeting an editor was also useful, if only to hear the near-surprise in her voice when she said that I had an interesting premise. She also gave me the distinct impression that it was not right for her publishing house, despite her favourable impression. Oh well. There are other publishing houses.

The main value of most conferences is the opportunity to network, both with fellow writers and with industry professionals. To get the most out of a conference in that regard, you need to choose a conference at which the participating professionals are ones who are most likely to be interested in and knowledgeable about the kind of book you are writing. And you probably need to go for the duration of the conference. The one-day, in-and-out kind of thing that I did is really not the best way to go about this. I did manage to make some connections, but I think it would have worked much better if I'd had more time to develop them.

So there you go. Any wisdom to add?

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