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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Short Synopsis Of Heading The Wrong Direction Without The Brain

As in taking a tumble. As in WHHHHhhooooosssshhh! with no bungee cord. As in going splat.

This is very a very bad position to be in, especially if you're a roofer. And especially, if you hadn't planned on it. But really, when had anyone planned on heading the wrong direction?

I've made unwise decisions before, as have you, I'm sure. Sometimes, it's just a mundane one, like looking at the drip edge and waddling along the roof and not checking whether someone had slipped a piece of tar paper under another without tacking it. Twenty years in the biz and you'd think I'd see that amateur mistake. But life is like that. You can check and avoid slippery sawdust and sand; you can tread carefully when it rain. You EXPECT trouble when you see certain things with your experienced eye, and if you still slipped, well, at least you saw it coming, and perhaps, was able to negotiate the least painful way while sliding off your feet.

On Sunday, no such thing happened. I was there and then, suddenly, I was not. The paper under me was solid, and then, suddenly, it was not. And when it took off under my feet, I understood, in that split second, that this wasn't any magic carpet ride, and that there was nothing between me and the concrete poolside below.

There was no time to panic. I didn't even manage a squeak of surprise. All I heard was my partner's very loud surprised curse while I was heading the wrong direction...straight down and with no control over my body. You know, usually, when you're slipping or sliding, your brain is looking for solutions for you. Your hand automatically reach out to brace yourself. You scream, as if to warn yourself or someone around you to save you. You bend your legs to stop the sliding.

Not this time. My brain was still up on the roof. The rest of me...WwHHHHoooshhh. And in half a second it was a WWwwHHhhacK. That was my head. Saying hi to that concrete. Brain was still gaping in astonishment. Me? Well, like I said, I registered the shout from my partner. Everything else was silence.

And in that silence, the WWWwwwwHHHacK echoed really loudly. I never lost consciousness. and then this sound erupted from inside and was torn from my vocal cords. I'm not sure what it was. I'll call it my Spontaneous Moan. Do you remember those ghost stories your nasty older brother or cousin told you about during Halloween, about walking in the dark, with nary a soul in sight, with things brushing up against you, and then this long unearthly moan came out of nowhere? Well, that's how this sounded, coming from somewhere inside me, but not from my brain, somewhere else--perhaps the soul, or even a more primitive consciousness within--rising out of me like some kind of magical portentous thunder.

And my brain? It heard me. Because I distinctly remember that clear thought at that moment from somewhere outside, that "that sounded absolutely scary-horrible and I'd better shut myself up." And immediately, in a flash, my brain was back inside my head and I could hear my partner rattling the ladder against the wooden pool fence in his hurry to get to me. And my brain was registering that not more than ten or fifteen seconds had probably just passed.

My body had already told me that I was in pain. But how seriously was I injured? I mean, would someone dying be thinking so logically? As in..."Ouch, that hurt. Stop that stupid moaning. And wow, wait till the readers read about this on the blog."

I turned. The sky was still blue and yes, I'm breathing. Deep breaths. My partner was walking toward me and calm as the pool waters not five feet from me, I told him, "I'm okay."

As if I'd know! But that was how I felt. Very calm. In pain, but not the kind that makes you go OW OW OW! or #%*&F*#K%!!! or even whimper. Just my brain and me, looking around.

"Is there blood?" I asked, although I was pretty sure there wasn't any.

He shook his head. I think he was in shock. I sat up slowly, gingerly touching myself. It hurt but I was moving. I took inventory. No dizziness. There was a goose egg on my head but seeing that I'd expected a smashed watermelon, a goose egg was good. I walked. No stumbling. I even stretched a little and found that my ribs hurt.

I thought, and this was a silly and odd thing, about my first nasty fall as a kid, down a very long flight of cement stairs, and how my grandma picked up a shoe and started rubbing my goose egg very, very hard with its sole. I remembered how she made me bawl even more, since I expected some loving hugs and reassurances, not a torture mush with the wrong side of a shoe.

Anyway, after ten or fifteen minutes, I was back on the roof, finishing up my job. Of course, I pointed out to all that someone had kindly retacked the same spot with just one fucking nail and my partner was standing on it. Sheesh. Must I show them again the danger of doing that????! Men. They'll never learn.

The next 24 hours, I was carefully monitoring myself. The goose egg disappeared in a matter of hours, which surprised me. I had developed a headache and neck ache, which didn't. My ribs had stiffened up and I found other slight bruises but everything is a surprise to me because I was expecting much, much more.

I put off sleep, chatting with y'all on Twitter and Facebook, telling you about my little adventure, so that I could see whether my headache would worsen or whether I'd feel nauseous and out-of-sorts, which would indicate serious concussion. I understood the risk I was taking but you know, a two thousand five hundred dollar deductible in one's health insurance is still a two thousand five hundred dollar deductible whichever way you think of it. I wasn't THINKING of that, mind you, but it was one of the reasons, and not the MAIN one, that made me decide to just take it easy for a while. So don't go all mommy on me, okay? I may still go see a doctor and may still take a brain scan.

And oh. Two days later, I'm still trying to remember how I landed. Did I really land on my head? I couldn't have, or I wouldn't have just a goose egg, right? So did I land on my side first, then hit my head? If so, why is there no bruising? And how did I hurt my ribs when my partner said he saw me on my back? The mystery is "killing" me, yuk yuk, yuk.

One last thing. While googling about head injuries, like any silly Internet-dependent Twerp would do, I came across a site talking about children and falling down, how there was an old wife's tale to rub the bump on the child's head hard and that THIS WAS NOT A BAD THING TO DO because it was meant to stop the bleeding, if there were any, and to tell whether the bump is a lump or a concave thing. My grandma knew more about brains than I thought.

And Brain? That was pretty funny how I caught you by surprise the other day. You didn't even manage a squeak!

Bear with me while I learn. The first button likes the POST. The second button likes the BLOG site. Please help me by "liking" me. Thanks!


Mo said...

Jenn, Glad to see your amazing sense of humor was not injured in the fall. :) AS for rubbing the "goose egg" vigorously, not only does it tell you if the injury is concave and put pressure on the bleeding spot, it probably also distributes the blood, relieving any possible pressure points that could cause trouble later (blood on the brain type of thing).

Frankly, you are very lucky and I am very glad you are ok.

HannaMich said...


I have to go mommy on you, I'm an ICU Nurse and deal with head injuries and the badness that happens. Pluuueeeezzze, any persistent headache, double vision, nausea, numbness, etc....... head into the ED for a scan. These symptoms can appear even weeks after a head injury if a slow bleed is occurring. Life and an intact brain so that you can enjoy it beats out the deductible. Okay, pulling back the mommy now. :-)

You were incredibly lucky and I'm thrilled that you and your humor are still neurologically intact *S.

Please be safe and feel better soon.

vince said...

I won't go all mommy on you, and I absolutely understand the money issue, but please, if there's the slightest doubt, get checked out.

But I'm glad you can blog (and could tweet) about it, which hopefully means you're basically fine.

Mary Stella said...

Jenn, I'm glad you're okay and I'm still going to go all mommy on you. What the hell is wrong with you and Ranger Buddy that you did NOT go to the hospital and get checked out???

If you had a developing brain injury you would not have had time to call for help amid your fbing and tweeting. You'd have been unconscious and then dead.

Two words, my friend: Natasha Richardson.

I get the high deductible thing but some things you shouldn't screw around with -- your brain and your life being two of them.

Rant over. Love you, my friend.

kim said...

you are very very lucky and i am glad youre ok. my best friend in hs's father slipped on some black ice in a parking lot one year (we lived in buffalo) and fell and hit the back of his head. when he woke up he could no longer speak properly, walk properly or write. He slowly learned how to do all of the above but even several years later still sounded and moved like a stroke victim. just a simple slip and fall in a parking lot.

Deborah Blake Dempsey said...

If your sense of humor is still intact then I'll take it as a good sign. I hope you had a good talking to with the goober who made the mistake.

Tziedel said...

All I can say is "oy" and "vay" and OMG.

Anonymous said...

Glad you are OK. A coworker just feel backwards (she has MS) at home and bled like crazy. They took her to the ER and GLUED her scalp together. So for you to fall all that distance AND land on concrete, unbelievable.

Blogger kept telling me incorrect password so I finally gave up and used anonymous.


Athena said...

The way you describe the fall makes me think the fact that your head was still up on the roof is what saved you. Your body was so startled it didn't do any of the things we normally do, like tense up. Believe me that can make a difference. That's why a lot of drunk drivers aren't as injured as the drivers/objects they hit. Their bodies are limp so the reaction time is slower. Imagine a tensed body as a branch or twig; easier to snap. A limp body is flopped about but can go basically unscathed. If your neck for example had tensed during the fall, on impact you could've gotten that nice watermelon effect or at least a broken neck.

Gennita said...

Hi everyone (and mommies),

Thank you for the scolding and the good wishes. I know, I know. Yes, I know! Really.

I promise to take care of myself. Sometimes it's mostly shock that keeps people from doing what seems logical at the time and sometimes it's because we're dumb roofers ;P.

I like the explanation by Athena about being too "surprised," and thus my body was relaxed. Not that I'm advocating drunken driving or drunken roofing, heh.

I know I was incredibly lucky. Incredibly, incredibly lucky.

Gennita said...


Yes, I'll take extra care monitoring myself. Headache's gone, just neckache. Vision is fine. I read that one should be careful if the headache starts on the OTHER side because that usually means Bad Stuff happening. I'm still sore but walking.

HannaMich said...


Correct, symptoms of a problem typically occur on the opposite side of a head injury. For example, if you hit your head on the right and a potential bleed is on that side then your body would typically have deficits on the Left side such as weakness, numbness, paralysis. Another early sign of a problem is changes in pupil size/response.

I can only imagine just how sore you are, the best part is that you are moving!


Gennita said...

I'll let you know when I can full out do the Twist again! :D

Fanciful Fern said...

I remember my grandma doing the same with the sole of a soft slipper too! Apparently, it's to keep the goose egg from rising. Didn't work then either.

Hope you get better soon!


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