Report of My Death . . . an Exaggeration

To paraphrase Mr. Clemens, “the report of my death [in Arizona] was an exaggeration” — but not by much.

Yes, it’s true I spent a few days incarcerated in the local ICU four weeks ago. No, it’s not true that one of my disgruntled rellies bashed my head in.

For those of you with ADHD, here’s the Twitter version: Heart attack, cardiac arrest, stent, 4 days in ICU. Now home and on a truckload of meds. Otherwise, doing better than expected.

For those who want all the gory details, trek onward:

Mr. Lucky

Mr. Lucky

Mind you, having a semi-private nurse and staff at my beck and call 24 hours a day wasn’t too bad — except the ICU has zero privacy (the door is all glass and my room was across the hall from the elevator, placing me at center stage; thus, the disguise), no bathroom, and I had more cables and tubes tethering me to the bed than a console in a steampunk studio.

Vampires visited me several times a night, leaving my arms (and belly) with more tracks than a meth-head.

The cadre of medical pros controlled everything that went into my body, and monitored everything that came out. With all the hovering about, I felt like a queen about to give birth to the royal heir, and the family gathered around to ensure no skullduggery takes place.

Cool red socks.

Cool red socks.

But I am not complaining. I don’t see how I could have received any better care. And I managed to give the nurses and doctors a few chuckles now and again. (Sorry, I can’t help my bent toward gallows humor.) I even got a cool pair of red socks. (For which I’m sure the insurance company was billed an exorbitant price. After all, the socks do have that non-slip stuff on them.)

One nurse dubbed me Mr. Lucky.

Lucky, indeed.

All the pieces fell into place perfectly for me to be writing this missive today. I shudder to think about the alternative. Especially after I called 911 (no, I did not play the macho man and lie down, thinking I’d feel better in couple of hours) — and got a recording: “You have reached Verizon Wireless. We’re sorry, but you have tried a number that cannot be connected as dialed. Please try again.”

I was home alone — Janis was birding in Arizona — and so weak I could barely lift the phone. But not so weak I couldn’t curse Verizon. I hit redial (same recorded message) and got a realization — when punching the numbers, I had hit 8 and 9 simultaneously, so it went out as 8911. One would think Verizon might have an error-correction algorithm to intercept and correct such things.

I got through on the third try. And the dispatcher put me on hold. But only for a moment while she transferred the call.

The EMTs arrived in about 3-4 minutes (giving me time to pack an overnight bag; yes, the paramedics rolled their eyes when I asked them to bring it along). They had me at the hospital in about 15 minutes, the trip being accelerated with the aid of the siren.

Good thing. The ol’ ticker stopped tocking a few minutes after the medicoes had me laid out in the ER and wired up for an ECG.

In case you’re wondering, I did not see the proverbial “white light” — only a swirling black hole. As I drifted closer to the vortex, I fell into a sleep-like state and dreamt that a troupe of midgets were using my chest as a trampoline.

When I awoke, I had a number of faces staring down at me, all breathing sighs of relief. I looked at the clock on the wall and noticed that several minutes had elapsed in what seemed to me like a few seconds.

A nurse asked me, “Does your chest hurt?”

I took a deep breath. “Not really.”

“It will tomorrow,” she said.

I shot her a quizzical look and she added, “We did CPR and defribbed you — twice.”

Then they wheeled me into the Cath Lab, jabbed my arm with Bowie knife (hey, that’s what it felt like), and implanted a stent in my RCA (right coronary artery).

Yes, my arm, not the groin. It’s the latest thang. Speeds up patient recovery. As soon as they had me in the ICU, I could sit up rather than lying on my back, sandbags compressing my bladder for 8 hours.

This “event” seems so odd, because my GP gave me a clean bill of health less than a year ago. I’ve never smoked, I have exercised fairly regularly my entire life, I pretty much quit eating red meat and saturated fats 40 years ago (yes, I cheated now and again), and Janis and I eat so much kale and chard we’ve created a global shortage. My family has a history of long-livers and dying of old age or cancer, but not heart disease. My biggest fears were skin cancer and macular degeneration.

Even the doctors were mystified. So I asked the cardiologist, “What’s the deal?”

He said, “I’ll explain it to you in precise medical terms: Bad luck.”

Turns out that a piece of plaque had broken loose and a clot formed around it, plugging up the artery like Hoover Dam.

As Archy McNally says, “One never knows, do one?”

“What’s to stop it from happening again?” I asked (the cardiologist, not Archie).

“Medication, diet and exercise.”

“Exercise?!” I said. “That’s what got me here in the first place.”

My attempt at humor did not elicit even a hint of a smile out of him.

But it’s partly true. I had been hiking in Tecolote Canyon, and the myocardial infarction began as I trudged, uncharacteristically out of breath, up the last half mile of what I now call Heart Attack Hill. By the time I reached the house, the other symptoms emerged. (Luckily, I had cut the hike short, for no other reason than I was feeling lazy that morning. Had I done my usual, longer route, my first attendants would most likely have been of the furry, four-legged variety, yipping at their good fortune.)

Not to be out done by my light-heartedness (please excuse the pun), the cardiologist said, “It is true that you are something of an anomaly.”

“Oh?” I replied.

“Yes, you are the first person I’ve ever seen with coronary arteries occluded by Ranch salad dressing.”

Touché. (OK, I made up that last bit. But I know he was thinking it.)

I confess, I do have a weakness for Ranch dressing. I blame Costco, which sells the stuff in large bottles as a twin-pack. Hey, it’s a bargain! And I challenge you to name one thing that doesn’t taste better (especially kale and chard) with a dollop of Ranch dressing on it. Or course, we say that about butter, too — and bacon.

Now doing well, all things considered. (I returned home looking — and feeling — like a punching bag. I will spare you those images.) Resting, reading, taking walks and regaining my strength. While Janis monitors my every breath — for which I am grateful. As the love of my life, she certainly gave me something to live for.

I used the opportunity to tune out the world for a few days, enjoying the foibles of Archy McNally and his “discreet inquiries” (for the third or fourth time) before returning to work. (You do know about my asshole boss, yes?) My sternum and rib cage have recovered to the point that I no longer feel as if I’m being knifed every time I sneeze or laugh or roll over in bed (no broken ribs, fortunately).

As a bonus, I shed 10 pounds while in hospital. But I don’t recommend this as a weight-loss program.

One more thing: the ER doc? The one who trampolined my chest? Turns out he’s also an author — and, heaven help us, a fiddler. Best of all, at least from birder Janis’s perspective, the doctor’s surname is Thrush. More items for the Small World Dept.

Now, where’d I leave the bowl of oatmeal?

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The Making of a Best Seller . . . and Other Myths

Re: Iowa Bookseller Pumps Up Sales for Author’s Memoir

A best seller? Seriously?

If I understand the math correctly, June Melby’s memoir, My Family and Other Hazards, became a New York Times best seller (sports) through the sale of the astonishing sum of—wait for the drum roll—roughly 500 copies.

In the past, I have thought of the NYT lists in terms of 1,000s of books sold, if not tens of 1,000s of books sold. But a measly 500?

I find this ironic in that those in the NY publishing establishment denigrate Amazon “best sellers” as not being legitimate because (1) Amazon has so many narrowly defined lists, and (2) a handful of sales can put a book into the Top 100 within that narrow category and be dubbed a best seller.

I now fully understand why the actual sales numbers of newspaper best-seller lists are not disclosed—because the numbers, in fact, may be pitiful. (The numbers are also manipulated, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled for the author. Yet, I can only imagine the pop-eyed dismay of the NY establishment at seeing an actual figure—the 164 books the Iowa book seller brags about peddling—disclosed to a discerning public with electronic calculators close at hand.

How does Amazon rank the book? A best seller, yes, but hardly scoring well under par by book-world standards:

  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #57,638 in Books
  • #6 in Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Sports & Outdoors > Golf
  • #80 in Books > Humor & Entertainment > Humor > Parenting & Families

Truth be told, best-seller lists are marketing tools for publishers and book sellers, the denials notwithstanding. That’s what I find refreshing about Amazon. Its honesty. Amazon’s brazen, in-your-face style of marketing books not only embraces that concept, it flaunts it. And New York be damned.

If the hidebound book publishing industry spent more time looking to the future and less time at its glory days, perhaps it would be more adaptable to the evolving marketplace and spend less time attempting to maintain its T. Rex imperiousness.

I suggest that for authors and publishers, the true value in this story lies not in the best-seller aspect, but in how this Iowa book seller helped the author promote the book.

For you indie authors/publishers, however, please note that this book still came from one of the Big Five, not independent publication. Otherwise, that Iowa book seller may not have given it a first glance, let alone a second.

Still, as Archie McNally says: “One never knows, do one?”

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Amazon vs. the Cartel

Carolyn Kellogg makes several excellent observations [What Amazon's e-book numbers are and aren't telling you, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 4, 2014] regarding a recent blog post from Amazon.

Yes, Amazon leans toward hyperbole. However, there is substance to the underlying message. As a publisher, I know that, over the long haul, it costs less to produce an ebook than a print book. The production is a one-time cost, and adding an ebook to the mix is comparatively inexpensive once the print book has been produced. Nor does the ebook have the recurring cost of printing.

So there is no reason other than corporate greed to price an ebook as high or even higher than a paperback (comparing it to a hardback is disingenuous, IMHO). As Kellogg says, readers have budgets. And if they can buy two or three or four ebooks for the price of a print book, that makes perfect economic sense. Will it result in more total sales of a title as Amazon claims? Hard say, because there are other variables involved (quality of writing, topic, etc.), but logically it would appear to be the case, to a point (priced too low and readers may not buy it either). Is $9.99 the “sweet spot”? That debate is still broiling.

One of Amazon’s contentions (assuming Amazon is being genuine) is that more of the revenue should go to the “content developers” (authors), and Amazon believes its approach can achieve that and still allow the publishers to achieve a reasonable profit. I agree with that wholeheartedly.

The real issue here is control of the market—and the New York publishing establishment is losing that battle. Books are not diamonds. These days anyone can produce a book. If the corporate-driven wannabe book cartel — Hachette, et al. — does not like the Amazon business model, perhaps it should find or create an alternative?

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Thank You, Te Mana Cafe, for Fun Evening with Books

I and two other authors — David Ward and Douglas Grant — had a good evening talking about our books at the Te Mana Cafe in San Diego’s Ocean Beach neighborhood.

Authors (l-r) Douglas Grant, Larry Edwards and David Ward discuss their books at the Te Mana Cafe in San Diego (Ocean Beach)

Authors (l-r) Douglas Grant, Larry Edwards and David Ward discuss their books at the Te Mana Cafe in San Diego (Ocean Beach), August 1, 2014

Good food, good books, good fun.

Thank you, Marguerite.

More photos at Dare I Call It Murder?: A Memoir of Violent Loss

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New Book: Murder Survivor’s Handbook

Murder Survivor’s Handbook
helps family members adapt to
and navigate the aftermath of murder.

Release date: September 25, 2014

Murder Survivor's Handbook: Real-life Stories, Tips & ResourcesWhen a loved one is murdered, the survivors—the co-victims—are plunged into a head-spinning world of traumatic grief, criminal investigation, criminal justice, and the long-term consequences of violent loss. Sensational news coverage may compound the trauma of their loss.

Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-life Stories, Tips & Resources helps these survivors wend their way on this overwhelming journey they never chose to take.

Written by Connie Saindon, MA, MFT—along with many other voices—the book will be formally released on Sept. 25, 2014, to coincide with National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims.

The book will be available in print and ebook formats.

Saindon’s professional as well as personal experience have given her a unique perspective that few others have. Not only did she learn first-hand about criminal death following the murder of her sister, she learned that she is a Survivor in every sense of the word. However, she also found that little was known about the impact of murder on survivors.

Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-life Stories, Tips & Resources fills that void for the survivors, the co-victims of murder. It provides information, resources, and strategies for learning to live with the aftermath of a homicide, including safety issues, dealing with the criminal justice system, addressing the news media, and coping with traumatic grief, while preserving the memory of a loved one.

Also in the book, Survivor Writers describe their own experiences and, through their tips and suggestions, lend a helping hand to those who follow in their footsteps.

The Foreword to the book is written by Edward Rynearson, MD,
Medical Director, Separation and Loss Services Program, Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, WA, and the author of Retelling Violent Death.

Praise for the book:

This is exactly the book I would have loved to have had so I wouldn’t have made so many mistakes; I would have had some idea how this entire process works.

—Dayna Herrroz, Survivor/Co-victim
Peer Advocate/Violent Loss


This book is wonderful. You covered all the steps that victims have to deal with. The chapters are broken down and very easy to read and follow. The resource section after each topic is great.

—Rose Madsen, Families &
Friends of Murder Victims, Inc.


This book is fantastic! It will be so helpful to survivors, professionals and our colleagues working with Homicide Survivors.

—Director, Crime Victims Assistance
Unit, District Attorney’s Office


• Nonfiction: Death, Grief, Bereavement
• Publisher: Wigeon Publishing
• Wholesale distribution: Ingram
• Publication date: September 25, 2014
• Size, print edition: 8.5 x 11
• Pages: 244
• Formats:
• paperback; ISBN: 978-0-9896913-0-7; $19.95
• e-book: Kindle, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, etc.; $7.99

About the Author
Connie Saindon, author, Murder Survivor's Handbook: Real-life Stories, Tips & ResourcesConnie Saindon is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and among the few specialists in the field of violent death bereavement. She is the founder of the nonprofit Survivors of Violent Loss Program in San Diego, which began at the University of California-San Diego outpatient clinic in 1998. Her commitment to violent loss bereavement is related to the murder of her sister, aged 17, in 1961.

She is author of The Journey: Ten Steps to Learning to Live with Violent Death (2008), an adaption of the Restorative Retelling Model for adult self-help and paraprofessionals. She also is a contributing author of Violent Death, Resilience and Intervention Beyond the Crises (2006).

When not pursuing her professional interests, Saindon may be found kayaking in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, skiing, walking her dog, or taking photographs. A native New Englander, Saindon splits her time between Boothbay, ME, and San Diego, CA.


For additional information or to schedule an interview:

Larry Edwards
(858) 292-9232

Connie Saindon

Learn more at:
Murder Survivor’s Handbook: Real-life Stories, Tips & Resources

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Violent Loss Can Rip Families Apart

My sister’s birthday. We used to always make time for a phone call on our birthdays. We were best of friends. But no longer. Violent loss, a criminal investigation, and sensational news coverage—which ideally would bring families together—all too often rips families apart, destroying that safe harbor family members need during traumatic and highly emotional times.

Dare I Call It Murder? - A Memoir of Violent LossThis is one of the issues I address in Dare I Call It Murder?: A Memoir of Violent Loss, because I have learned that, sadly, this phenomenon seems to be all too common. This is such an important factor I open the book with it, and I address the issue in detail in the closing chapters.

My fervent wish is that when a loved one dies a violent and/or criminal death, particularly in the case of murder, that family members come together to support one another rather than increase the trauma by bickering among themselves.

Read an excerpt from the book . . .


Dare I Call It Murder? — A Memoir of Violent Loss
Book Event, August 1, Te Mana Cafe
Facebook Page
Book Blog

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Book Signing, August 1, Te Mana Cafe, San Diego

Another book event on the calendar: Te Mana Cafe, a friendly place where the motto is “Aloha in a Cup.”

If you’re in the area and can come by to say hello, it would be great to see you. (And Marguerite would appreciate your patronage.)

I may even break out the fiddle.

Te Mana Cafe
Friday, August 1
6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

4956 Voltaire Street
Ocean Beach (San Diego), CA 92107

Also appearing at the event:

David Ward, San Diego Book Awards winner for the memoir Accidental Immigrants.

Douglas Grant, author of two novels: Imaginary Lines and Preemptive.

We hope to see you there.


For further updates, please visit:
Dare I Call It Murder? — A Memoir of Violent Loss
• Book signings in Kirkland, Seattle and San Diego
Reading selection by book clubs
Facebook Page
Book Blog

Again, thank you for your support and kind words.

Be well, do good, and may you have fair winds.


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