Thursday, August 29, 2013

MORE MEDICAL ROMANCE


I am guest-blogging today at Everybody Needs a Little Romance, talking about why I love to write - and read - love stories set in the life and death world of a hospital (I'm a science geek who watches soaps, the intersection was pretty inevitable).

Enjoy an excerpt below...

I love biology, physiology, anatomy. In college, I seriously considered majoring in genetics, but, alas, the lure of the writing life was too strong. (I realize now I probably could have combined both… but that simply didn’t occur to me then.)

I also love the intrinsic drama of a hospital. (This, I presume comes from a childhood – and okay, adulthood – spent watching… General Hospital.)  When I read a hospital-set romance, I love reading about the characters and the progression of their relationship, sure. But, I also love digging into the nitty-gritty medical details.  Exotic diseases, make-shift treatments, heroic sacrifices, fancy Latin terms… who doesn’t love fancy Latin terms?

I love the precision teamwork of a well-oiled Emergency Room machine in action as well as the idiosyncratic brilliance of each individual within it. (Yes, I do enjoy House. But, my otherwise very obliging husband won’t watch it with me, because he says it’s no fun when I figure out the mystery diagnosis halfway through.)

I read nonfiction books set in hospitals, too.  And, I admit, I’ve been known to… borrow a particularly dramatic case or procedure for my fictional work.  My 2000 Dell romance, When a Man Loves Woman, asked the question: Can men and women ever really be just friends? (Since it’s a romance novel, I’ll let you guess the answer to that one.) But, it also took place in a hospital, with the hero an Emergency Room specialist and the heroine a pediatric neurosurgeon.  Sometimes, affairs of the heart had to take a backseat to affairs of the… heart - literally. I tried to weave the medical procedures into the story so that they weren’t merely something for the characters to do in between kisses, but so that what happened inside the hospital and interactions with their patients actually affected the eventual outcome.

And stop by to read the entire piece... and leave a comment... at: http://everybodyneedsalittleromance.com/?p=14367


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

SOAP FANS IN STRANGE PLACES!

When I was asked to contribute a short story to The Mammoth Book of ER Romance, I knew my thirty-plus years (I was one of those precocious kids who started in middle school) of watching soaps would come in handy.

Turns out I wasn't the only one!

Patti Shenberger also has a heart-wrenching tale in the collection.  And look who inspired her!

I’m hooked on Days and Dr Daniel Jonas was my inspiration for Ethan Gregory in Paging Dr Responsible, Mammoth Book of ER Romance.  I used to watch Young and the Restless, but got to the point where it was too time consuming to remember who was doing what on each soap (G). Today I sat down and watched Aug 6th – Aug 26th to catch up on everything I had missed – thank heavens for DVR’s.

Ok, that being said,  Ethan Gregory is a lot less na├»ve than Daniel Jonas,

He doesn’t wear that same necklace in every scene, definitely does not get sucked into every lie told to him, and has yet to throw everything off the desk and ravish another hospital employee (saw that one on of the taped episodes today).  But you never know, it could happen (G). Hm, that gives me an idea for another book.

If you want to read a good book, I suggest The Mammoth Book of ER Romance. Yup, I’m biased as I share the stage with a ton of great authors under that cover.  Each and every one has a great story to tell.

So, if you’re a soap fan like me, give me a holler.  I’d love to hear from you


Read Patti's entire post at Everybody Needs a Little Romance blog, here as well as check out the soaps favored by other romance readers in the comments.

And for more on The Mammoth Book of ER Romance, click the link below!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

EX-ATWT INTERN MAKES GOOD

Once upon a time, Jessica Butler was an intern at As the World Turns.  She went on to be a staff writer for In Plain Sight, and is currently developing a sitcom, Instant Mom, for Nickeldeon.

Listen to Jessica discuss how she got from here to there at: http://friendsonfacebookpodcast.com/post/58657368804/tv-writer-jessica-butler-discusses-how-she-broke

Monday, August 19, 2013

SOVIET & SOAPY

Allow me to turn gushy fan girl for a moment.

Motherhood in NYC is one of my favorite blogs, and Marinka one of my favorite bloggers.

I was very honored when she used her amazing humor and wit to interview me about subjects we had in common, including Soviets... and soaps.

Read an except below, and make sure you check out Marinka's blog for the entire interview... and more!

Marinka: You and I are both married to American men. Did you date Russian men while growing up in America? Did you shun them?

Alina: The same way that having a Russian American Jewish heroine is unusual in romance literature, having a Russian American Jewish me is unusual… everywhere. I didn’t so much shun Russian men as stun them. My ambition to work in TV (soap operas, to be precise) was beyond their comprehension. The fact that I actually then went ahead and did it, moving away from the city where my parents still live and then not calling them several times a day to reassure that I had not been kidnapped merely added to my air of peculiarity (while working in TV figure skating, I not only left the city, I left the country, flying alone to places like Japan, France, Italy and Russia, for Pete’s sake! Also without calling to check in every day). Add to that the fact that my tendency to say anything that pops into my head at a given moment meant that I would never be able to get through even an introductory meeting with a prospective Russian Jewish mother-in-law without putting my foot in my mouth, and American men quickly became my only option.

Read the complete interview at: http://www.motherhoodinnyc.com/russian-and-jewish-and-american-oh-my

And check out an exclusive preview of "To Look For You," my short story in "The Mammoth Book of ER Romance" featuring a Russian Jewish American heroine in the post just below this one!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

(A DIFFERENT) LOVE IN THE ER

So excited!  Just received my authors' copies in the mail of The Mammoth Book of ER Romance, which is coming out this September.

The story of how I ended up contributing (and why I was so nervous before submitting), along with an excerpt, below!

 Originally published 4/10/13

Instead of appearing in the The Mammoth Book of Medical Romance, my original short story, To Look For You, will now be appearing in The Mammoth Book of ER Romance (same anthology, different title), scheduled for release in September of 2013.  Other contributors include Sharon Ashwood, Christine Kelley, Kim Lennox and more.

Though Mammoth reached out to me and requested the contribution, I was still very nervous upon sending it in.  My romance work tends to be rather different from traditional fare - kind of an acquired taste, and not for everyone (see Annie's Wild Ride and When a Man Loves a Woman for examples).

Which was why I was relieved (and not particularly surprised) to receive the following comment from the editor: Really liked it.  Quite different from everything else I've been getting!  

How different, you may ask?

Read the first scene of To Look for You and see for yourselves!

Kosovo, 1999

By the third week of NATO’s self-proclaimed humanitarian bombing of Yugoslavia, nineteen year old Alyssa Gordon, a United States Army medic assigned to the outskirts of the Macedonian border, no longer had any idea if the waves of patients constantly arriving to her make-shift field hospital were the Albanian refugees on whose behalf this military action had allegedly been launched, Serbian civilians whom the UN most sincerely assured were not the intended targets, or the actual Yugoslav soldiers their air strikes were aimed to flush out.  All Alyssa knew was that the wounded and the shell-shocked and the cold and the hungry kept coming, and that it was her job, along with the dozen other equally overwhelmed and sleep-deprived U.S. medics to sort out who was who.  It was also de facto their job to decide who should be referred to a refugee center, who to surgery, who to the morgue.

If truth be told, by this point, Alyssa felt relieved to come across a body with no pulse, lying outside, exposed to the elements. It meant that all she had to do was tag it and move onto the next patient and the next and the next.  It meant she didn’t have to do anything useful.  She didn’t have to rack her brain trying to figure out how to keep someone alive long enough for a stretcher to show up and transport them to the actual hospital just a few yards behind her.  The one that was so filled to the rafters, they’d been forced to perform their initial triage on the wooded grounds around it.  It also meant she didn’t have to, days later, find out how all their manic efforts and diligent following of procedures most of them had only learned a few months earlier, during their sixteen weeks of Combat Medic Training, had, in any case, turned out for naught.

Alyssa was about to do exactly that, classify a young man with a gaping, bleeding chest wound and no detectable pulse as simply Dead On Arrival, when her overdeveloped sense of responsibility – in place long prior to enlistment – overruled her equally pressing sense of exhaustion, and she dutifully went through the checklist she’d been taught.  Only to discern that her patient, though lacking a pulse, was still breathing.  That meant that he, most likely, was suffering from Cardiac Tarnponade.  A sharp object of unknown origin ricocheting through the air with the speed of a bullet had penetrated his heart, filling the tough membrane around it with blood, and preventing the heart from beating. But, he was still breathing. This man could still be saved.  With surgery.  Unfortunately, the time it would take her to summon a stretcher and get him carried to the hospital – not to mention queued and prepped, would also be the time in took to kill him.  Alyssa had no idea how long he’d already been laying there without a pulse.  But, she knew that much longer was out of the question.

She looked around desperately, willing for a stretcher to appear out of nowhere.  The nearest available one was on the far side of the field.  Alyssa frantically waved it over, knowing all the while that they would be too late.

“I help you?”  What did appear out of nowhere was a high-pitched voice just below Alyssa’s elbow.  It had been there for over a week now, ever since Alyssa had cleaned and wrapped some third degree burns on the arm of a remarkably stoic little boy – he was roughly the size of a nine year old, but his ultra-serious demeanor suggested he might have been a few years older – and, as a result, ended up with a permanent shadow.

She’d tried to shoo him away.  A few days earlier, she’d even personally taken him to the US refugee camp where kids like him – she had no idea if he was Albanian or Serb or what, but he was definitely on his own – were commanded to go.  He ran away before nightfall and turned up back at the U.S. base, looking for her with his combination of broken English, deliberate charm, and gritty perseverance.  Alyssa had thought maybe he wasn’t comprehending the situation, and made the mistake of trying to speak to him in Russian, since he appeared to understand that language better – despite her own vocabulary freezing at the level of the ten year old she’d been upon immigrating to America from Moscow.  But, all that seemingly did was pin him to her side even more.

Alyssa had pretty much accepted the boy dogging her every move, to the point where she’d forgotten he was even there.  Except that right now, his perennial question of “I help you?” had suddenly become relevant.

Alyssa had one chance to save the figure lying in front of her.  And she definitely needed an extra pair of hands to so much as try.

“You want to help me, Leo?” Alyssa turned around so quickly that the boy nearly leapt in the air with surprise.

He recovered remarkably though, bobbing his head insistently up and down and assuring, “Yes.  Yes, I help you.”

“Alright.  This is what I am going to need you to do.”  She opened her medical kit, pulling out a thoracic scalpel, a large-blade instrument solid enough to slice through flesh, ribs, and muscle.  It took all of Alyssa’s strength.  She practically had to lay down on the scalpel in order to bluntly cut the fat between the fifth and sixth ribs.  “You,” she indicated the spot to Leo with a sharp jerk of her chin.  “You shove down on the center of his chest – yes, right there, perfect.  I’m going to count, and every time I say a number, you’re going to push, hard as you can, do you understand?”

Leo nodded and, with the same self-possession that had kept him biting down on his lip and not making a sound even as she removed his own charred flesh – a procedure so reportedly painful Alyssa had witnessed combat soldiers break down and scream – did exactly as Alyssa ordered.

She counted off the chest compressions in rhythm, even as Alyssa sliced through layer after layer of muscle until her knife had perforated the chest cavity.  Grateful that she’d just put on a pair of fresh gloves, Alyssa stuck her hand directly into the wound, probing deftly until she found the precise spot where her patient’s heart had been nicked, immediately covering the point of entry firmly with her thumb to keep any more blood from draining out.

She waited, holding her own breath even as she ordered Leo to keep their man breathing.

A beat.  And then, right there against her palm, the heart muscle contracted.

Alyssa exhaled in exhilaration and relief.

"We've got a pulse," she said.

Just in time for the stretcher to make its timely appearance, complete with a two-man crew who promptly took over for Alyssa and Leo, prepping the patient for his trip to the hospital – and surgery in slightly less primitive conditions.

As they took the wounded man away, Alyssa sunk to the ground in a slumped, sitting position, her chin dangling so low it was practically between her upraised knees, the surge of adrenalin draining away as quickly as it had come, leaving her utterly spent and unable to so much as fathom looking at another body.  Not right now.  Maybe not ever again.  Her hands were coated in blood up to the elbows, as was the front of her olive green fatigues.  Crimson specs dotted the dog-tags thumping against her chest, where her heart was now beating quickly enough to make up for the time her patient had lost earlier.

She felt a hand patting her shoulder.  “You good?”

“No,” Alyssa told him honestly, choking on a bitter laugh that came out more like a sob.  “Not good.  Not good at all.”

Leo gave the declaration some thought, then optimistically proposed, “You better soon?”

“Well,” she considered his prediction, clinging to the one fact that had kept her going the past few months.  “I’m going home next week.  That’s good.”

“Home?” he sounded like he didn’t know what the word meant.  And like he knew precisely.

“Not exactly home,” she conceded.  “But, back to America.  Away from here.”

“Home,” he repeated slowly, this time clearly not liking what he’d heard.

“Yeah…” She craned her neck to get a good look at him, finding Leo’s face in that moment utterly inscrutable.  About the only emotion she could clearly discern was anger.  But, Alyssa had a tough time guessing regarding what.  Her?  Was he honestly… What gave him the right to be mad at her?  She certainly hadn’t promised… It wasn’t her responsibility… She didn’t owe this boy anything, after all, not a damn thing.  Who did he think he was?  Didn’t he know what Alyssa had been through already? 

“No,” Leo suddenly blurted, reaching out abruptly and, before Alyssa could stop him, grabbing her dog tags, yanking hard enough to rip them off her neck and into his fist.

“Hey, wait a minute!”  Her hand went to her throat in shock.  She attempted to grab the tags back, but Leo was too fast for her.

Before Alyssa had managed to stagger to her feet, swaying sickeningly from the lightheadedness that ill-advised, hasty movement had engendered, Leo was turning and running away from her, ducking stretchers and leaping over prostrate bodies in a manner Alyssa’s weary legs couldn’t hope to match.

And so she didn’t even bother trying.