Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Snippet #3: Project: Darkbelly – A Short Story

Merry Christmas and/or Joyous Greetings of Whatever Season You Celebrate. Here’s a little gift from me to you. A third snippet from “Project Darkbelly,” so named because the working title is “Into the Dark Belly.”

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Continued from Snippet #2.

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“HE STIRS.”

He didn’t understand the words at first, and then they slowly seeped into his oozing awareness, along with underlying smells of smoke and earth and wood.

“Yes. Fetch their chief. And bring fresh water.”

It was some form of crude Gurtham dialect that bled into his cultivated Fahani ears and rearranged themselves to make sense.

Barely in the world of the living, Tisarian frowned. Was he a prisoner? He struggled to move, his limbs leaden. His spirit seemed to have journeyed from some faraway place to come back to a dim gray semblance of life. He had the will to rise, but not the strength. In due time however, his faculties cleared and he managed, at last, to turn his head toward the light.

A long moment passed as Tisarian blinked to clear his vision. He realized eyes were watching him. Intense. Thoughtful. Reflecting tongues of flame. He grasped at reality and stared back at a woman. She sat close by, orchid-cheeked, her crimson skin flickering in a red and orange glow, studying him with her chin resting in a slender woad-swirled hand as her kohl-rimmed eyes reflected firelight. Her hair was loose and dark as shadow.

The female’s arm suddenly moved over his head and plumes of amber, of earthy roots, and a sweet animal-musky scent floated out, swirling over him. It was intoxicating.

He heard soft liquid sounds, trickling. Droplets fell on his face and he blinked. She placed something cool on his forehead.

Tisarian reached up and took hold of her hand. Warm. Flesh. Not some delusion of undulating scarlet and bronze. Her soft skin in the flickering firelight, her earthy animal scent, it stirred him, even in his worn out state.

“Do not move,” she spoke in the common Trade tongue of the Eastern Kingdoms. Her accent was heavy, clipped. She withdrew her hand.

The woman emanated confidence, as one inclined to issuing orders and having them obeyed without question. “You are still quite ill,” she said.

Tisarian tried to speak. Discovered he could not. Sensing this, the woman said, “You will have water soon. Just rest.”

And so his thoughts turned back to what he could last recall.

The enemy at the walls of Varna Sestus. An ominous ocean of shields and spears and steel; primal war-bellows from thousands of bestial throats echoing in the pass, rending the skies. He threw his magic at them, but it was not enough. The sestus fell, and he lay, completely spent, in the snowy rubble, waiting for death.

Then there was Marcus, scooping him up, and all this running and the occasional pause as his friend issued a roar and Tisarian would hear the Iridian blade’s subtle hum—a sound only his skein[1]-trained ears could hear—followed by yells of pain.

They fled into the wild.

Days came and went. More fighting. More running. He recovered for a while and used his magic against the enemy warbands that dogged them, but then came something dark, something comprised of Drear and evil intent. It visited his dreams at first, tickling him like spiders against his flesh, but then it sent out much sharper tendrils, and they came not at night but during his waking hours. When he tried to send back his own magical feelers to discern the source of this troublesome thing, he was struck terribly ill.

But he was quite certain he had discerned something, out there, in the cold and gloom. Something dire…and horrific…to behold…something…

Daylight fell across Tisarian’s face and he squinted up into it. The light was cut off by a dark shadow that stood in the doorway, and then he saw the familiar face of his friend.

Marcus Grivna was extraordinarily tall among his people, owing to his father, a former knight born of Valhaldar, who, in his twilight years, had married a young and beautiful Fahani noblewoman. Marcus was gifted with the long and powerful frame of his father’s people, as well as the hair, eyebrows, and downy beard, pale almost to whiteness, and large blue eyes that gleamed like twinset gems. But rather than the coarse features, blunt nose, and convex brow that marked most of the Valhaldi, Marcus possessed the fine features, the straight nose, high forehead, and sensual grace that were markedly Fahani.

Still, the travails of their journey had taken its own toll on the young knight, albeit a lesser one than it had on Tisarian. Marcus’s long unbraided hair hung down in wisps around his face, which was cadaverous, sunken-eyed, and melancholy.

“How is he?” said Marcus in the Trade tongue. He handed the woman a clay pitcher.

The woman looked at him, then at Marcus, and shrugged her narrow shoulders. She took the pitcher and poured fresh water from it into a bowl.

Marcus frowned, but waited as the woman emptied more of the pitcher’s contents into a small cup, then she looked up at the knight. “Maybe we should speak outside?” she said.

He made a grim expression and nodded.

As the woman went to dab Tisarian’s forehead with the wet cloth, the sickly skeinwielder weakly grasped her hand and nudged it away. He tried to speak, but once again found he could not. He coughed softly, letting go of her hand, and pointed at the cup.

The woman nodded and placed it against his lips. He took a long sip. The water was cold and eased the itchy dryness in his throat. Tisarian rasped faint words. “Evil. Much evil…here. We must…”

“I know, Ri. Let me speak with Nagala outside and then we’ll figure out what to do.”

Tisarian shook his head. “N-no…you need me.”

“No doubt we do, so just be still and regain your strength.”

Tisarian clenched his fist and slammed it down on the side of the bed. His arm—his entire body actually—felt as heavy as lead and it was fairly all he could do to raise it. Part of his fist struck the bowl in the woman named Nagala’s hand and water splashed all over them both.

Marcus stepped forward. “Tisarian—” he said, reaching out.

“You dumb ox! Get me…up…or I’ll, by the Pillar…I’ll ignite this whole—!”

Nagala had backed away, making room for Marcus to kneel down by Tisarian. She seemed to be watching with a mixed expression of stupor and amusement.

“Very well! Just…wait.” Marcus put a reassuring hand on Tisarian’s bare shoulder. He then looked over his friend and noticed his nudity beneath the blankets. “Light, Tisarian,” he said. “First, let’s at least get you dressed.”

 


[1] The skein is the energy that binds all of existence together. It is used by practitioners throughout Khaladune to wield magical forces, for good or for ill.


All fiction and snippets contained herein are © 2009-2010 J.M. Martin. Do not copy or distribute. All rights reserved.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Movie Review: Avatar

Avatar-Teaser-Poster“I see you.”

If you are a native of Pandora, one of The People called Na’vi, then those three words—“I see you”—mean a lot more than what they actually say. To tell someone “I see you” is to say something deeply spiritual, basically “I know who you are on the inside, in your heart and spirit.”

I don’t know filmmaker James Cameron, but he has given us all something very special. Before today, he gave us The Terminator, Aliens, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, and yes, even Titanic, among others. I grew up with these movies. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen Aliens over the years. Thirty perhaps? It’s such a timeless film, and Sigourney Weaver is just so darn cool in it!

Yes, over the decades, Cameron has shared his unsurpassed imagination in brilliant, enduring, and even award-winning ways. But on December 18th, 2009, he gave us his everything. He gave us what I perceive will be applauded as the finest performance of a true master filmmaker’s career. He gave us Avatar.

“Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world and in here is the dream.”

To me, James Cameron is more than a director, more than a filmmaker. He is a visionary. He had to wait 10 years before he felt confident that digital rendering of photo-realistic CGI technology was up to the challenge of the film he had in mind. Much due to Peter Jackson and the WETA crew for their rendition of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films, Cameron has been noted as saying he knew at long last he was going to be able to make Avatar. The result is nothing short of magnificent. If you know everything or nothing of the technology of film, it makes no difference. It won’t even occur to you whether you’re viewing live action or CGI, because the integration is perfectly seamless.

Suffice it to say, the rendering of the extremely biodiverse scenery and characters of Pandora are breathtaking. I’m not going to go into the film’s story. It’s just too redundant, and countless other Web sites have already done that part perfectly fine. But I will say that Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldaña shine as the romantically paired Jake Sully, a paraplegic Marine, and Neytiri, the “princess” of the  Na’vi Omaticaya clan, who are destined as soulmates. The chemistry between these two is so pure, so well-acted, and so believable, that you will completely forget you’re watching CGI versions of real life actors. Personally, I fell in love with Neytiri, meaning Saldaña was so good that my heart was captured by a 10-foot-tall blue alien. That’s sort of saying something right there.

Avatar's Neytiri as played by Zoe Saldana
Avatar's Neytiri (Saldana) ready for action
Avatar's Neytiri (Saldana) and Jake Sully (Worthington)
Layer on top of Worthington and Saldaña the stellar performances of Sigourney Weaver (Dr. Grace Augustine), Joel David Moore (Norm Spellman), Michelle Rodriguez (Trudy Chacon), CCH Pounder (Mo’at), and the bastardly Stephen Lang (Col. Miles Quaritch)—sorry, I can’t think of a better word!—and we are surprisingly treated to one of the finest casting assemblies since the aforementioned The Lord of the Rings. These aren’t the only memorable characters, either, but I’ll forego typing out the entire cast and crew of this film. It’s worth mentioning, too, that it’s very cool how the three Avatars whose bodies are created for their human counterparts to inhabit actually look like the humans. Every time I looked at Sigourney Weaver as a Na’vi, there was no mistaking it. That’s Sigourney Weaver.
“You’re not the only one with a gun, bitch!”

If it seems like I’m gushing, I am. As we departed the cinema, my wife asked me what I thought. I said, “I’m still on a high, but I’ll go ahead and say it. That film was probably the greatest movie ever made. It was perfect.” So, yes, I’m gushing a little bit. And by saying it was perfect, I meant it was perfect FOR ME. Not everyone’s a huge fantasy nerd like myself, so while my wife’s initial comment was merely, “It was much better than I was expecting,” mine was “Perfect! James Cameron is unequivocally the best filmmaker ever.”

Not only that, but Cameron’s environmental message is clear. While the humans prey on this new-found world, the native race consort with the nature of Pandora to fight back. James Cameron 2009

In a December 11th Associated Press release, Cameron says, “There's a sense of entitlement [in the film]: We're here, we're big, we've got the guns, we've got the technology, we've got the brains, we therefore are entitled to every damn thing on this planet. That's not how it works, and we're going to find out the hard way if we don't wise up and start seeking a life that's in balance with the natural cycles of life on earth.”

Very well said. The fact that the year of the film is 2154 A.D., and mankind is in desperate need of new resources—a character says about Earth in the film “There’s nothing green back there"…”—means that Cameron feels, as I do, that we really need to start taking better care of our planet, and soon!

So, yes indeed, Avatar is topical, and it’s also an epic masterpiece, from the emotional scenes of Jake’s and Neytiri’s bonding, to the majestic heights as we soar through the treetops or on the backs of ikran, to the edge-of-seat turbulence of the battle sequences. I honestly feel that Avatar, not Titanic, will be remembered as James Cameron’s magnum opus.

Go see it. I plan to, again, and next time I’ll check out some of that newfangled 3D technology.

FIVE STARS.

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View the trailer for Avatar below.

 

Visit: Official Avatar Movie

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nobody Home? The Streak Has Ended

I use Google Analytics to track visitors to my blog. Don’t worry. It doesn’t give me your e-mail address or bank account pin number, but I can track where you’re from, when you visited, what pages you visited, and even what pages sent you here. I can tell your browser, your connection speed, and even the keywords you typed into the search engine that brought you here. For example, some poor sap typed in “martial arts film jade princess” and ended up reading my snippet and probably thought, “Where’s all the dang kung fu?” Sorry, buddy.

But, it’s pretty awesome. I know I’ve entertained American visitors from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky (of course), Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, and California. I’ve also somehow reached overseas, with visitors from Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Taiwan, and even Vietnam (Hi, Brian). This even breaks down to the city. Hey there, Saginaw, MI. How’s it hanging, Provo, UT? Round Rock, TX, I hear you got it going on! And how about you, Oslo, Norway? Can I come hang out for a week or two? Ah, well, that’s very nice of you, Ho Chi Minh City, to offer up your pad. I think I just might.

Silliness aside (which is hard for me sometimes), the reason I’m writing is because I guess I’m a little bummed. You see, on December 15th my site had zero visitors. Nunca. Zilch. None. That breaks a streak of 42 days where someone either purposely visited, or at least some hapless “fassbender hicox review” seeking Web surfer from Prospect, Pennsylvania somehow managed to find themselves on the ol’ Ranting and Raven blog.

Maybe this is the start of a new streak, though. One can dream.

Persian exclaims, "My arm." Stelios says, "It's not yours anymore."

“Then we shall fight in the shade.”

More to come…

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Project Skeincrafter: An Expert on the Case

I’m elated to have found someone who knows their crossbows! I came across DW (aka Dirtwitch) yesterday while perusing George R. R. Martin’s blog. She’d posted a link to her Flickr photostream and right away I jumped at the opportunity to drop her a line. DW was willing to let me run some snippets by her—from one of my projects called “Project Skeincrafter,” which is about 130 pages of fantasy fiction set in Khaladune—and I’m already feeling infinitely better about getting my terminology right. A good example is how DW pointed out details on arming the weapon, saying: “You SPAN a bow, and LOAD a bolt! Spanning being the act of pulling the string up...” As someone who has never used a crossbow in his life, but wants to write about them like he has, this kind of stuff is really good to know.

My concern started because a main protagonist in Project Skeincrafter heavily uses his military crossbow, “a 34-inch utterly black death-dealer of oak and steel,” and I’ve been trying to find someone to set me straight on the nuances of various parts and pieces and pull weights… It’s more info than I probably need, but it’s better to have more info and not need it than to need it and not have it (and come off looking like a total ig-no-ra-moose, which I do well enough on my own). So, as luck would have it, my love of GRRM’s work led me to DW.

Note: George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” is some of the greatest fantasy ever written and is a consistent New York Times Best Seller. Currently, the Game of Thrones pilot just wrapped filming for HBO (which is why I’ll be picking HBO back up in the future; I’d canceled it after Rome ended). They’ll know in March, 2010, if the series will be picked up. I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed.

The full cast of the pilot for A Game of Thrones:

If you haven’t read any of it, here’s where to begin:

  • A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book I) on Amazon.com

And, of course, to check out some of DW’s beautiful crossbow handiwork:

  • Click here to visit her Flickr photostream

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Project Darkbelly: A Few Notes

“Project Darkbelly” is the codename for a short story I’m working on, since its tentative (placeholder) title is “Into the Dark Belly.” This is subject to change, and it probably will. I’ve found my stories usually don’t find their rightful title until I’ve written them. This one isn’t proving to be any different in that respect.

I need to give credit where it’s due, though. This story features a pair of characters created in a small group of friends who come together ever so often to game or just hang out and play video games, drink beer, shoot the proverbial bull, what-have-you. Tisarian was created by my friend, Eric Wolfe. And Ser Marcus Viridius Grivna is my own character.

The game itself is run in a world created collaboratively between Tony “Tone” Parsons and myself. The world is called Khaladune. We started coming up with various maps and concepts a long time ago. Honestly, Khaladune’s world building process has been a long evolution spanning years. Tone has been content over this time to toss out ideas during our brainstorm sessions and to archive various e-mails and other world building documents, though I believe his most important additions have come while running our game sessions.

I, on the other hand, am a writer at heart, so my contribution has always been in composing fiction. It seems I’m not satisfied unless I have at least two or three running projects, and in 2007 I was fortuitous enough to capture the notice of one William H. Horner, the publisher at Fantasist Enterprises, who accepted the submission of “Tisarian’s Treasure” and published it in the pages of Sails & Sorcery: Tales of Nautical Fantasy. The good news here is that William so enjoyed “Tisarian’s Treasure” that he’s offered his editorial services for Project Darkbelly, which means the snippets posted on my blog are by no means the final rendition of this particular tale.

As you might have noticed (if you’ve read the snippets), I’ve peppered footnotes throughout the story, which I’m planning to carry over into print if this tale should find a publisher. Among the primary comments I receive from alpha readers, most of which are not your typical fantasy fans, is the unfamiliar terminology. I think footnotes go a long way in helping ease readers through the tale, so I’m fairly convinced they’re essential to the story.

I should be wrapping Project Darkbelly soon. School tends to get in the way of my writing progress sometimes, alas. And then, of course, my own darn inability to write anything of less than epic proportions. I went over the word count with “Tisarian’s treasure,” but William liked it enough to still include it in his anthology. I also set out to keep Project Darkbelly around 6,500 words and it’s now over 9,000…so, when I have it closed off to my satisfaction (hopefully no more than 12,000 words), it will be crossing William’s desk shortly thereafter. He’s a fantastic editor, so I have every confidence that his suggestions will take it from a rather good yarn to an absolutely stellarific one! Just you wait and see, by gum!

Now I’m off to grab some shuteye (and I still haven’t passed this damnable kidney stone, so a trip to the loo is my first necessity!).

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If you’re interested in reading some of “Tisarian’s Treasure,” I have several snippets posted on my Goodreads profile.

Snippet #2: Project Darkbelly – A Short Story

Continued from Snippet #1.

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“HAIL, SIRE, AND GOOD MORROW,” said Ser Lasrien Falcor, the last remaining son of House Falcor. The Lord Marcher Falcor and his other son, Lasrien’s elder brother, Lukas, lay on the ice-rimed slopes of Mount Riva, roughly twenty leagues[1] away. They lay twice-dead, his father now headless, and his brother tossed from the cliffs into the ice-cold sea.

For a young man who had slain his family less than four days ago, Lasrien seemed rather lively.

“Good?” said Marcus.

“Yes. Every day we serve the Light is a good day, Avin[2] Willing.”

Where is Avin now?, Marcus asked himself. The thought caused him to grimace. After all, he wore the black and white tabard of the Avinon Order[3], emblazoned with the six-pointed golden estoile[4]—the symbol of the Dayseer. As a matter of fact, they were often called the Knights of the Harbinger, as if they hailed from the Golden Gate[5] itself.

Young Ser Falcor—Marcus thought it funny to think of Lasrien as young, since he was actually a year his senior—was a knight of another order, from the rank and file of the Luminary Knights[6], typically placed in command positions within the legion.

In spite of the past few days of running and fighting, Lasrien still cut a dashing figure. He was trim and graceful. His helm, tucked in the crook of one elbow, exposed a handsome face with lean masculine features and tired, red-rimmed eyes beneath close-clipped black hair. Lasrien wore his panoply of plate armor well, the breastplate fitted with a gold and silver image of the Bestia Lumina, the Illuminated Beast, a golden phoenix encircled in a halo of light. His tattered blue cloak also bore the same symbol embroidered in gold and silver thread.

It was said the Beast represented a rebirth of men’s souls. Marcus used to consider this concept a wondrous thing. But upon witnessing all that he had seen in Gurthkam, a rebirth of the soul had taken on an entirely new meaning for him—a marred and grotesque one.

He glowered at Lasrien until the knight blanched.

“Sire?” The knight looked at Marcus with a questioning glance. “Have I offended you?”

“No.” Marcus hadn’t realized his brooding thoughts were etched on his face. “No, good ser,” he repeated. “I was just lost in thought.”

“Very well, sire. The Gurtham scout, Sidgur, has informed me the way forward into yonder vale is clear, but it seems trails of smoke rise up from the woods beyond. He says he thinks it’s the Volgawud. What are your orders, sire? Shall we delve further?”

Marcus glanced over to where his friend and companion sat on the edge of a large boulder. Tisarian was wrapped in a tattered brown cloak with the hood drawn up, hiding his face except for his beardless chin. Dark green trousers and black boots were his only other apparent garb.

“Just tell everyone to stay put,” Marcus said to Lasrien. He didn’t wait for the knight to reply or salute, but rather walked toward his friend. Tisarian had his cloak tight about him and was visibly shivering. His head hung low. It was more than just the cold of the Forsaken Lands. He had evidently taken ill.

“How are you feeling, Ri?”

Tisarian’s head rose quickly, surprised by Marcus’s sudden presence. “Eh?”

“I asked how you’re feeling. Are you well enough yet to move on?”

Tisarian knuckled one eye and suppressed a yawn. He stood up and gave Marcus a faint smile. “Ready,” he said.

Marcus gripped Tisarian’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “We have to keep moving. Every moment we delay—”

“Is another moment Ekron’s forces get nearer to Falahan’s borders. Yes, I know,” said Tisarian. “Let’s move on, then.”

Marcus’s concern grew and he hesitated. Tisarian had always been slender, but now he looked perfectly frail. His body took on a stooped posture as he pulled his cloak tighter around him. The hood pulled away from his face and Marcus could see his blue lips. In addition, Tisarian’s skin was pallid, nearly gray. His eyes looked tired, the whites a sickly pink hue, the lids drowsy.

Tisarian took a few steps and turned to see Marcus standing in place, watching him. “Well? Are we going? Or are you just going to stand there imitating a—oh, I don’t know—a Cathedral goon[7]?”

Marcus’s eyes narrowed. “That’s the best you can do? Something must truly be wrong.”

“I’m not necessarily on top of my game today, Gray. A wee bit cold and tired.” Gray was Tisarian’s childhood nickname for Marcus, which he once explained was derived as a combination of the surname Grivna and Marcus’s tendency to lack ‘color’ and ‘dimension.’ He added one time, during an uproarious bout of barroom camaraderie among soldiers, ‘quite honestly, he’s a bit of an oaf, which has nothing to do with color or dimension, but he is one nonetheless.’ Said in jest, of course. In social gatherings, Tisarian’s incessant need for attention had his friend often playing the harlequin.

Marcus started moving again, stepping toward Tisarian. “Truly, Ri. Is something wrong?”

“Oh, no, I’m as fierce as a famished wolf, hardy as an oak. Can’t you tell? Or is it because I look like I’ve been dragged through nine icy, wind-blasted hells by the Carrion King’s own bung-sniffing cart driver?”

“Uh, well—”

“Because that’s how I feel right now. But let’s not mull it over. We need to keep moving, so please let’s do.” Tisarian waved his hand, gesturing Marcus to walk ahead of him.

“You’re not yourself.”

“By the Pillar, would you leave off?” Tisarian took two steps and stumbled.

Marcus barely managed to catch him before he hit the frozen ground.


[1] A league is measured as the distance a person can walk in one hour, commonly about three English miles; hence, 20 leagues approximates to roughly 60 miles.

[2] Avin is the greatest and most popular champion of the Illumination. He is referred to as a paladin, wizard, and priest, who wrote the Inspiratum and established the Church of the Illumination. He ascended into the heavens at the celestial point of his life, and the path of his ascendancy is still evident in the city of Veranda, where a great beam of light, called the Prophet’s Pillar, still shines bright to this very day. He is most commonly referred to as the Champion of the Light and the Shining Prophet.

[3] Avinon Knights, also called the Harbinger Knights, are charged with guarding the faith against the corruption of Drear.

[4] In terms of heraldry, an estoile is a six-pointed star with wave-like rays. The Avinon Order uses a golden estoile, representing the Dayseer (the sun), as well as the Six Points of the Sacred Covenant, per the Inspiratum.

[5] The Golden Gate is represented by the sun, which is the portal through which all the souls of the departed must journey.

[6] Luminary Knights are the highest position of officers in the Luminary Legion and are considered the regulars among the rank and file of all Fahani knights.

[7] Cathedral Knights, also called Temple Knights, are charged with the defense of large churches and places or relics considered sacred in the eyes of the Church.


Read Snippet #1 here.

All fiction and snippets contained herein are © 2009-2010 J.M. Martin. Do not copy or distribute. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Like some junky cosmonaut…

Dag-gone. Yesterday was a new experience. You see, I ended up in the ER.

It started innocently enough, while sitting in class, listening to our new teacher go over the syllabus for our Intervention in Neurological Rehabilitation class. About 30 minutes into class I began having spasms in my lower back, posterior ribs, and bladder area. At first I thought it was just a muscle cramp. I tried straightening my posture, shifting positions, and finally I stepped out of class back into the lab to stretch it out.

But it kept getting worse. I couldn’t find a comfortable position. Within minutes I was seriously teetering on the brink of dialing 911. It was bad. Something was definitely wrong with me. I decided to seek out Dr. Craig, one of our on-site docs who happened to have also been my anatomy teacher. He stepped out into the hall with me and I told him what was going on. Needless to say, his diagnosis ended up being spot-on. He’s good.

But going back, the spasms started around 9 am. They ramped up to where they were hitting once a minute every minute. The pain sometimes spiked up to a 9 out of 10. I’d grit my teeth, hunch over, breathe deep, say things like, “Dag-gone!” Dr. Craig took my BP and it was around 200. My heart rate was over 100. So I pretty much knew I couldn’t drive, and my wife was already at work. Luckily, my dad was able to come to school and take me to The Christ Hospital of Cincinnati’s emergency room.

They got me back relatively quickly. Thankfully, the ER wasn’t very busy. By 11 am I had seen the doc and the nice nurse had IV'd me to administer pain meds (toradol) and shot me up with a muscle relaxant (norflex). They took a urinalysis and whisked me back for a C/T scan. The meds really did the job, man. I was so happy! The spasms had finally subsided. That was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life. No joke. I felt kind of like a pansy telling people this, but it was true.

The C/T results showed a kidney stone lodged in my right ureter, and more stones were just sitting in my right kidney, lurking, waiting for their turn to strike. I remained in the hospital on a saline drip, as I was seriously dehydrated, before I finally got to go home around 4:30 pm. Overall, I was hospitalized about five to six hours.

Today, I'm on a regimen of vicodin and lots of water, still trying to pass the lodged stone. At least the spasms are gone. I wouldn’t wish them on anyone…well…maybe some people…like on terrorists and rapists. But, dude, I have an even greater respect for women in labor—and that respect level was already super high having witnessed my wife go through it twice. A nurse at the hospital told me she’s experienced natural childbirth and she’s also had kidney stones, and she said if she had to choose between one or the other, she’d have another baby.

I guess I’m not a total pansy, then. My pain’s legit.

Dag-gone.