The Mystery of the Meniscus

Nine years ago I made the painful discovery that my right hip had worn down due to a congenital malformation. The ball and socket were one third the size they should be, and they were both flat on top.

I should’ve realized something was wrong when I needed heel lifts on my left shoe, but the pain in my left knee was the first presenting symptom. Eventually pain in my right hip became excruciating. I had a hip replacement. I was told that most people grow an inch because their body had been twisting around to avoid bothering the painful hip. I went from 5’6″ to 5’7″.

Unfortunately, although my legs were now presenting at the same length my muscles and tendons in my left leg had gotten used to being an inch shorter.

I wish someone had warned me about all the symptoms that followed. For the first year and a half after the hip replacement I could not drive for more than 20 minutes without searing pain in my foot. And I suffered a torn left meniscus not one, not two, but three times. When the meniscus — a tendon inside the knee — was not torn, it was still sore. I spent a great deal of time wearing an ace bandage on my left knee and I was extremely leery of ladders, because those were what caused the tears. The tendons in my knee were never damaged enough that I needed surgery, and they eventually healed in their own. Healing took a lot of time because of my age. The main thing I had to do was stay off my feet.

I now realize, with 20/20 hindsight, that this was my body trying to deal with stretching my left leg a whole inch. But what’s wonderful is I seem to have finally finished stretching and the pain in my knee is going away.

I’ve had a few people give me a hard time about my weight, but it’s been extremely difficult to lose weight when I couldn’t even move without risking another tear in my knee. I had to content myself with at least not gaining any extra weight.

Complicating matters was the fact that I was diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. Before my diagnosis I had no energy because the type of A-fib I have caused my blood to not oxygenate properly. Then, once the arterial fibrillation was diagnosed and treated, I had to be careful not to overdo it when I did exercise.

I seem to have gotten the A-fib stabilized. My blood thinner levels are stable, and I understand that they aren’t easy to stabilize for most people so I’m grateful for that. My blood is oxygenating properly. I’ve also learned what foods cause my heart to speed up or slow down. The main thing I have to watch out for is salt, which can slow my heart down to the point where it will stop and I’ll die. Needless to say I’m on a delicious low-sodium diet, which is no big deal since I was in a low-sodium diet anyhow, but now I really have to be careful. But I’ve learned what to watch out for, and they say that I will NOT need a pacemaker. The cardiologist is extremely pleased with my progress, and has approved certain types of exercise.

So now, I need to slowly get back into shape. Slow and steady wins the race. I can’t just sit at my computer and write or edit all day; I need to get up and move. So that’s what I’m doing, slowly and carefully. It seems to be working, because I have more energy.

I’ll keep you all posted.

Did You Know I Offer Editing Services?

During my tenure at Abyss & Apex Magazine I’ve had the privilege of helping so many writers with a rewrite of their story. I just had another one thank me, because he felt it was rare for editors to take the time to help writers improve their stories to the extent that we do. He said:

I’m sure that I thanked you for accepting my story, but I realized that I failed to thank you for something that you did that I really appreciate and admire.  You offered me the opportunity for a rewrite.  I’m sure it’s because of the pressure of so many submissions, but I feel like many publishers just look for reasons to reject stories to reduce the size of their slush piles, and ignore good stories that are flawed but easily repairable.  I think that there are probably many wonderful stories that are never read and good writers that are never published because of easily correctable errors in execution.

Not all of them are easy. Last month I did an A&A rewrite via a four-hour videochat with a college professor who was quite conversant with literary tropes but not with those required to publish in SF &F. She was equally grateful; I was excited to get her story into shape because I saw what she was trying to do. It was ambitious, but she was not quite hitting all the notes. Now you’re all going to love her story.

And I have recently started working on A&A Patreon rewards where I am editing short stories for our patrons. Finally, I have editing clients who send me their stories and we work on them, back and forth.

It’s what I do. If you need help with a story I’d love to work on it with you.

Another snippet from WTES

This is from the chapter in Writing the Entertaining Story on What Not to Do, which also has advice on what to do, instead:

So, what Cheney is saying is that—for short stories, at least—she does not stop to research things while she is writing. She marks that research is needed, keeps writing, and comes back to fill in the items needing research later. I’m guessing its one of the reasons she is such a prolific writer.

She adds,

If you’ve ever run across an author who gives tons of details about things that don’t seem to have anything to do with the plot, it’s likely they researched first, then tried to fit all their research in.

Don’t be that person who clutters their prose with unnecessary detail that distracts and bores the reader. Any extra research serves a purpose,  but bulking up your story or book is not what it’s for. It provides a subconscious sense of depth and weight to your story, like this iceberg:

The reader only sees what’s above the waterline, detail which is necessary to further the story, but you as the writer know so much more. And, trust me, the reader can sense an assurance that a writer knows what they are talking about. It gives it weight.

(Note: This is also why derivative works fall flat: the copycat writer is only copying that which is, as it were,  above the waterline.)