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Poison 101 at LTUE 2020

About a million years ago (actually it was the early 1990s), I worked as an environmental analytical chemist for the State of Idaho. Technically, we were the forensic lab for the Department of Environmental Quality, but we also consulted on criminal cases—the state police’s forensic lab was in the basement for the first few years I worked there.

After I left that job due to certain health effects, I started noticing this weird thing in books, movies, and other entertainment.

People were not portraying poisoning correctly. And over the years it didn’t get any better. So in the early 2000s, I wrote a workshop to teach people the biochemistry of poison, hence Poison 101.

I gave this workshop in my local area for several years, and even at the RWA National convention in 2005 and the Emerald City Writers Conference a few years after that. However, it’s been at least a decade since I last gave it, and the recordings are no longer available.

And then RED 2 did the stupid-stupid-stupid 5-second thing with a knockout drug in 2013. This. Does. Not. Happen. Le Sigh. For dog’s sake, the Bulgarians injected writer Georgi Markov with ricin in 1978 and it took him four horrible days to die. Four. Days. May he rest in peace.

So. It is time for this workshop to be presented again.

On February 14, 2020, at 6 p.m., Poison 101 will be presented at the Life, The Universe, and Everything conference in Provo, Utah. If you’d like to attend, here’s the website: https://www.ltue.net

If my workshop is chosen for video recording, you might be able to find it on the LTUE YouTube channel later. If this happens, I’ll post a link to it.

Writing, writing, writing

Progress report: In two weeks, I have a net gain of three thousand words (which includes rewrites, expansions, and cutting material that is now redundant or no longer part of the story at all). I’m getting there, slowly but surely. I have to get it done by the end of October, because…

I’ve also started plotting work on my “NaNo” book; the story I will be working on in November, as part of National Novel Writing Month (fondly known as NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for the truly lazy). This is going to be something completely different: a historical romance about a duke who isn’t quite a duke and a ruined baron’s daughter who isn’t really ruined.

I never thought I would try to write a historical romance, but the characters popped into my head and wouldn’t go away, so here we are, LOL.

One other thing —

For writers who publish independently: I attended a workshop called the Indie Unconference October 12-13. It was mostly about marketing, but there were also discussions about the latest developments in wide vs. Kindle Unlimited (Amazon exclusive), and the best way to do print-on-demand now that Createspace is no more (may it rest in peace).

Back to the work in progress,


RWA National Conference

I had planned to go — purchased a plane ticket, paid for the conference, reserved a hotel room, the whole thing. I even went shoe shopping (shudder). Then Spooky Man’s new medication didn’t show up.

Spooky Man is one of the world’s youngest Vietnam veterans — he turned 17 in early February 1975 and enlisted the next Monday. He was barely out of boot camp and training to be a tank gunner when the conflict ended. He has a service-connected disability rating of 60%, some of which is due to PTSD (I’d say why, but it’s classified), for which he takes antidepressants.

His VA psychiatrist recently changed his medication because it was becoming less effective, and then upped the dose the week before the RWA national conference. And then the new medication didn’t show up. It still hasn’t shown up and I am not amused (for god’s sake, the regional VA medical center is across town; it’s not like it had to come from Seattle or something).

I wasn’t about to leave town with him in this state. So I canceled what reservations I could and ate the other costs, because my husband, my life partner, having a crisis is more important than an event that will happen again next year. It’s sad that I wasn’t able to meet and connect with people I follow on Twitter or know via e-mail listservs, but I think they would understand that my family’s health comes first.

For what it’s worth, I cheered all the Golden Heart and Rita winners as they were announced on the RWA tweet stream and even teared up a little when Brenda Jackson received her lifetime achievement award (which was much deserved).

And while I was on the computer that night, I wrote rough cuts for the Newtonian, Einsteinian and Quantum Mechanics lectures for the online class I’m supposed to teach (Modern Physics for Writers), starting August 6th.

Luckily, the new shoes will still fit next year.


Emerald City Writers Conference 2011

I have napped and recovered from my two 60-hour weeks, so there’s a good chance this post will make more sense than the last one. (I knew my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders yesterday, but there had been two weeks of radio silence from Valworld. Oy.)

My workshop proposal “This Is Your Brain On Love” was accepted by the 2011 Emerald City Writers Conference, being held at the Bellevue Westin October 28-30. Luckily, they sent me the e-mail on March 31, or I would have thought it was an April Fool’s joke.

It’s kind of funny. I submitted a workshop proposal on craft, a workshop proposal on publishing business, and a workshop on brain chemistry. They picked the one on brain chemistry, which I figured would be the least useful for writers.

After all, who cares if infatuation is triggered by a dopamine cascade in the midbrain, as long as it works for the characters?

Maybe it was the short description I sent:

“Covers the biochemistry of love, from initial attraction to infatuation and on to long-term attachment, including the major hormone cascades: phenylethylamine, dopamine, norepinephrine, endorphins, oxytocin, vasopressin. Includes functional MRI and PET studies as well as differences in the hypothalamus of monogamous and promiscuous voles. There are also side trips to waist-to-hip geometry, pheromone theory, sniffing dirty t-shirts, and…did I mention the voles?

“Plus, because deep down I’m a mad scientist, I figured out ways of faking each of the stages through available medicinal compounds. You know, just for fun. Because we all have dopamine agonists lying around the house, right?”

Just for the record, I don’t have dopamine agonists lying around my house. They’re only available by prescription, for Parkinsons disease and Restless Leg Syndrome. Neither Spooky Man nor I have either of those maladies, for which I’m thankful.

If you’re going to ECWC 2011, feel free to stop into the workshop and heckle. I haven’t had to sound like an expert in front of strangers for several years, so friendly faces will be welcome.

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