Carl Griffis--April 28, 1940-October 31, 2014

I put this post off for a while--not an easy one to make. Carl Griffis was my father.

Back in March, Dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It was at stage 2b, which his doctors viewed as early enough to be treatable, so they went at it with chemo and radiation, and successfully killed the tumor. (Esophageal cancer is caused by acid reflux apparently. Dad wasn't a smoker, so it wasn't that type of cancer.) The tumor had narrowed his esophagus, which made it difficult to swallow, and the treatment made the area in his esophagus extremely irritated, so he was being fed through a tube into his small intestine.

The next step in treatment was surgery on July 14th to remove the damaged part of the esophagus. What was expected to be the removal of just a portion of the esophagus turned out to be the removal of most of it, as the damage was greater than the doctors had thought. His stomach was stretched to take the place of the missing esophagus. The biggest problem with that was the removal of the valve that keeps stomach contents from going back up.

The hoped-for nominal two week recovery never materialized. Setback after setback cropped up, and two further surgeries were required, one to insert a tracheostomy tube to protect his lungs when bile reflux from his stomach entered his lungs and gave him a persistant case of pneumonia, and the other to correct a twist in his intestine that was suspected of keeping his stomach from emptying properly. The extended use of the tube feeding left him malnourished, as it was only intended to be a temporary thing. He did not thrive. Three and a half months after his surgery, he passed away.

I don't celebrate Halloween anyway, but his dying on the 31st would have killed the holiday atmosphere of the day if I did.

There was a memorial for him November 18th at Engineering Hall on the University of Arkansas campus, where Dad taught for more than 40 years. Quite a number of colleagues and former students showed up, and a bunch got up to talk about him. It's nice to know that he was truly loved by so many people. My sister, who shared caregiving duties with me and alternated days with me taking Mom to the hospital to visit Dad, had put together a slideshow using family photos. The hardest image to look at was the last, which was taken the week before he died. He was smiling and waving at the camera, but we knew what had come before, and what came shortly afterward.

I'm glad he is no longer in pain.

He will be missed, by a whole lot of people.


And we have audio!

Rio Star has just been released as an audio book.

In an email conversation I had with the narrator, she mentioned that it must be very strange to hear an alien voice inhabiting the world the writer created. It's been very interesting hearing the voices she's given my characters, and the many different accents she had to use. I never really gave much thought to the number of nationalities that show up in Rio Star. My only quibble is that I wish someone had asked me about the pronunciation of Patty's husband's name, which is Irish Gaelic and doesn't sound the way it's spelled. (It also explains why I managed to have two characters with the same first name without realizing it, because they are pronounced so differently.)

Otherwise, the narrator, Kathy Bell Denton, did a fantastic job, and it was a real blast hearing my characters speak and Patty's thoughts given voice. As a writer, you never really know how your work is to others until you hear it read out loud, because it strips away what you think is there and shows you what really is there. I quite enjoyed it, but then, I'm biased, lol!

Rio Star is available as an audiobook from Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes, supposedly.

Speaking of Patty, she's been whispering in my ear lately, so maybe there's still hope for more from her.

Some recent reads:

To finish off the Hornblower run--

C. S. Forester:

Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies--This is a series of short stories following Hornblower's adventures commanding the West Indies fleet, trying to control pirates, smuggling, and renegade French soldiers.

Robert Goldsborough:

The last two of his Nero Wolfe books:

Silver Spire
The Missing Chapter

Michael Pearce:

The Mamur Zapt series:

The Camel of Destruction
The Snake-Catcher's Daughter
The Mingrelian Conspiracy
The Fig Tree Murder
The Last Cut
Death of an Effendi
The Bride Box--This one is new, available only as an ebook from what I could see.

The Sandor Seymour Mysteries:--A second series by Michael Pearce, featuring Scotland Yard detective Sandor Seymour. Set, as with the Mamur Zapt books, in the years just prior to WWI.

A Dead Man in Trieste
A Dead Man in Istanbul
A Dead Man in Athens
A Dead Man in Tangier
A Dead Man in Barcelona

Agatha Christie:

After the Funeral--Poirot

I did finally finish The Jamaican Affair of 1805 (see previous post), at a point when I was between batches of books. My opinion is unchanged.

More later~~


Getting the year off to an ice start...

How to make a white car blend into its background...

This has been an ice winter. (And no, that's not a typo.)

I imagine a good 2/3s of the US is sick of winter by now. I know we were sick of it all the way back in December. We're getting thunder sleet just now, preceded by freezing rain and to be followed by snow. Predicted low tonight of 4. Ugh. Good reading weather, though.

There is an interesting psychological thing that happens locally when icy stuff is expected. Freezing stuff usually stays on the ground a couple of days once it's fallen--usually the temperature is warm enough to melt it off quickly, though the last snowfall we had was on the ground for a week and a half. Not what you would think of as highly dangerous circumstances. But the few days before the storm often sees people in panic mode, buying enough food to survive a month of isolation in their homes. I'm very glad I don't work at a grocery store.

There appears to be some movement on the audiobook front. (Did I mention that Mundania bought a small recording company and is putting its books out in audiobook format? I can't remember.) We'll see how it goes.

Speaking of books, here's some recent reads:

Robert Goldsborough:

More Nero Wolfe~~

Murder in the Ball Park
Death on Deadline
The Bloodied Ivy
Fade to Black

C.S. Forester:

Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
Lieutenant Hornblower
Hornblower and the Hotspur
Hornblower and the Atropos
Hornblower During the Crisis
Beat to Quarters
Ship of the Line
Flying Colors
Commodore Hornblower
The Hornblower Addendum --Five Hornblower short stories

Michael Robertson:

Moriarty Returns a Letter --Latest in the Baker Street Letters series, and the first of these I've read.

Michael Pearce:

A Cold Touch of Ice --Part of the Mamur Zapt series. Good stuff.

John Mahon:

The Jamaican Affair of 1805 --I have to emphasize that I bought this out of curiousity. CS Forester died partway through writing Hornblower During the Crisis, so the story was unfinished. This book a) was written and published with the approval of CS Forester's sons to finish the story, and b) has a very fan-fictionish feel to it. There are many ways that Hornblower does not act and think like Hornblower in this, at least to my mind. There was an attempt to turn Hornblower's common dandelion-like wife Maria into a rose, and it was almost as if an effort was made to teach Hornblower lessons in humility. I stopped reading this at a certain point, and am uncertain if I will finish it. There is a second story out there that purports to finish Hornblower During the Crisis, but I'm already gun-shy about it and don't know if I'll risk the money on it.

Dean King:

A Sea of Words --This is a lexicon of words and terms used in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series that may be unfamiliar to modern readers, as they are often sea terms used in the 1800's, along with definitions of sails and rigging and stuff. Very interesting. A slow read, though. Nice in small doses. I have not finished this yet, but am working on it a bit at a time.

Current Read:

Lord Hornblower

If you haven't read the Hornblower series, you'll notice that the book that Forester didn't finish is in the middle of the series. That's because Forester actually began writing the series with Beat to Quarters, and eventually circled back to write the early career of Hornblower. It makes for a bit of a jolt when you start at the chronological beginning of Hornblower's career as a Midshipman and move forward until you reach Beat to Quarters. It can feel as if two different people were writing the series, since those first-written books are fuller of detail than the latter-written books.

Enough of this for now. I hope winter ends soon, and that you're not under a blanket of snow at this moment. Brrr.


Recent Reads

And now, for some long-delayed recent reads:

Agatha Christie:

The Murder at the Vicarage
Death in the Clouds
Dumb Witness
The Hollow

"Richard Castle":

Frozen Heat Once again, based on the series Castle, as written by the show's star. (actually written by Dan Brown. Someone had to do it, lol!)

Laurie R King:

Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. Holmes meets his match, and his wife.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice
A Monstrous Regiment of Women
O Jerusalem
Justice Hall
The Game
Locked Rooms
The Language of Bees
The God of the Hive
The Pirate King
Garment of Shadows
Beekeeping for Beginners Short story, tells the meeting of Holmes and Russell from Holmes' point of view.

Charles Todd:

A Question of Honor Bess Crawford
Cold Comfort: A Novella Ian Rutledge short story

Ngaio Marsh:

The Nursing Home Murders

Ruth Downie:

Semper Fidelis The fifth Ruso novel, set in Roman Britain at the time of Hadrian's visit.

Robert Goldsborough:

Picks up where Rex Stout left off...

Archie Meets Nero Wolf: A prequel to Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe Mysteries
Murder in E Minor
The Last Coincidence

Patrick O'Brian:

The Aubrey/Maturin series, set during the Napoleonic Wars:

Master and Commander
Post Captain
H.M.S. Surprise
The Mauritius Command
Desolation Island
The Fortune of War
The Surgeon's Mate
The Ionian Mission
Treason's Harbor
The Far Side of the World
The Reverse of the Medal
The Letter of Marque
The Thirteen-Gun Salute
The Nutmeg of Consolation
The Truelove
The Wine-Dark Sea
The Commodore
The Yellow Admiral
The Hundred Days
Blue at the Mizzen
21: The Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey Three chapters of what would have been the next novel, had Patrick O'Brian not died when he did.

The movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is a sort of conglomeration of incidents from the books, and makes up a sort of 22nd adventure, since it really doesn't follow the plot line for any of them.

These were a mix of ebooks and paper.

Winter hasn't been pleasant for any of us this year, it appears. Looking forward to it ending.

More later~~