Endoscopy & Colonoscopy

It’s a good idea to use your family’s medical history as a guide to what problems may await you; there’s no escaping genetics.

At the age of 54, I realised that I’d outlived the age my father reached by one year, and that it might pay to check for signs of what killed him—bowel cancer. He knew he had problems for twenty years, but being of a generation embarrassed about anything to do with his bum, he did nothing about it. Had he gone to the doctor, he might well have lived for another twenty years. Bowel cancer is highly treatable, if caught in the early stages.


I had experience of what might be involved in a colonoscopy, as I’d had an endoscopy two years before. This was a precautionary procedure, recommended by my doctor after I visited her on returning from America. I’d shown symptoms of stomach ulcers, while still living stateside, like a hot iron had been pressed to my tummy. It was probably caused by stress from a toxic marriage.

Back in my beloved Cornwall, the attacks diminished, but for some reason, I felt compelled to eat porridge oats and muesli of an evening, lifting pinchfuls into my mouth. I mentioned this to a hedge witch friend, who said it was a folk medicine remedy for ulcers, so perhaps my gut knew something I didn’t.

The endoscopy procedure was simple, though I’d been anxious about having a gag reflex when the cable carrying the camera was inserted down my gullet. I’d obeyed instructions not to eat anything for twelve hours beforehand, and the surgeon numbed my throat with a spray anaesthetic (that tasted of pears!) which made threading the device into my throat easy. I was laying down, unable to see the monitor screen, listening to him say “You’ve had two large ulcers, but they healed themselves really well…I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Cable removed from my throat, I told him about eating oats, which made him look at me like I was a medieval yokel who’d gone to see the medicine woman, before muttering “I’ve heard of that, but didn’t think it would work.”

Relieved at the all-clear, I decided some probing in a northerly direction was in order. My GP was delighted at my sensible decision. I duly received instructions of how to prepare for a colonoscopy. For the surgeon to see the colon, it has to be cleared of what’s lingering there…This meant not eating for a couple of days beforehand and taking purgative salts in water to act as an enema. These worked alarmingly well—inducing shit through the eye of a needle wateriness—I was afraid to cough, taking time off work to stay near the toilet.

I understand that things are easier these days, but in 2008 I felt like I’d been scraped hollow.


Not eating for a couple of days made me giddy, eager to get the procedure completed, so I could have a meal. I turned up at the hospital, where I had to sign waiver forms in case something went wrong. I changed into a hospital gown, exposing my buttocks for access, and padded through to the operating theatre. Where a dozen medical students stood waiting for the show!

Introduced to the surgeon, a shy Indian doctor who asked my permission to be a teaching aid, I went horizontal laying on my side on the operating table. This time, I could see what was happening to my innards, as a large LED monitor screen was in front of me, which I shared with the trainee doctors. Topical anaesthetic cream numbed my anus, so I didn’t feel much as I was probed.

Seeing what I looked like inside was surprisingly beautiful, for the image showing was tinted emerald green as the light shone on the folds of my inner tubes. It reminded me of footage shot by spelunkers who swim through flooded caverns. Occasionally, the surgeon paused to examine a section of colon, but the whole procedure was over in ten minutes. He removed the endoscope, thanking me for my cooperation, whereupon the students gave me a round of applause!

Had he found irregularities, he’d have removed tissue to biopsy, but I was given the all-clear. The worst part of the whole thing was the purging. The procedure itself was a doddle.


On returning to work the next day, I told colleagues what happened, including two middle-aged men who decided to have an endoscopy. They’d been nervous about doing so, but had similar experiences to mine.

If you’re over fifty, it makes sense to have a colonoscopy.


The Pleasures of Pooping!

After my previous recommendations about the healing qualities of urine, I’m in danger of receiving accusations that I’m obsessed with bathroom activities!

I’m not, but peeing and pooping are something we all do, and as it’s not often spoken of, we miss out on learning about some fascinating things.

Image result for outhouse door eyes look

I came across this information in a roundabout way, while researching the vagus nerve, which will feature in my next Cornish Detective novel as a target for a torturer.

The vagus nerve is hugely influential in how the brain, lungs, heart, digestive and excretory systems work.

This fascinating answer on Quora explains why taking a poop can feel euphoric or at least like “that’s a weight off”:


(click on more to read the whole article)

It’s amazing how much the neurons lining our gut act as a second brain—surely the source of the expression ‘gut feeling’.

At the very least, stimulating the vagus nerve by having a poop might remove your writer’s block!

I might be gone for some time.

The Yellow Stuff

I’ve never been more of what the reaction will be, as I start this thread. Many readers will be disgusted—urrgghh!—but bear with me, as there’s food for thought to come.

I’ll break you in gently, with a story:

Back in 1999, I acquired a Jaguar XJS for a bargain price, considering it was a low mileage car with only two previous owners. The couple I bought it off had doted on the car, only driving a few hundred miles a year, and storing it in a heated garage with fitted carpet. Unfortunately, the lack of use and warmth harmed the braking and cooling system by perishing the rubber hoses. Not being able to rely on stopping a heavy V12-engined car, which had become incontinent, meant rebuilding the hydraulic braking system with new lines and replacing all the water hoses.

I’m a competent mechanic, so did the work myself. Access in the engine bay was tight, with some hoses impossible to see, so some unfastening of clamps was done by feel with bare hands. I then replaced the hydraulic hoses, bleeding the system of air. I’d normally wear disposable vinyl gloves for this work, but protected my skin with a barrier cream called Rozalex, cleaning them afterwards with Swarfega.

Antifreeze fluid and hydraulic fluid are dangerous if swallowed, potentially lethal, and they can cause skin irritation. I’d never been troubled before, but this time, a really aggravating postage stamp-sized rash developed on the back of my left hand above the wrist. It was difficult to resist scratching it during the day, as it felt like a dozen ants were biting me. I tried various medicated skin creams and tea tree oil, which provided temporary relief, but the itching soon came back. One morning, I woke with the back of my hand stuck to the sheet with blood from where I’d been digging my nails into the rash.

I’d just acquired my first home computer, so went online to look for remedies, checking the active ingredients of skin creams. Most of them contain urea:


Urea is the main nitrogen-containing substance in mammal urine. Colourless, odourless, highly soluble in water, it’s practically non-toxic. Urea in skin creams is mostly synthetically made, but I had a ready source of fresh and natural urea—me! :D

I dabbed the rash a few times daily with pee on cotton wool, and in three days it was completely healed! I was flabbergasted.

Think about it: would you rather use your own pee or processed cow urine (used in some formulations) or artificial urea containing who knows what? :(Urine is sterile, containing fewer bacteria than tap water.

Urine therapy has a long and rather secretive history, as mention of it produces hilarity and revulsion. It’s one of the facts commonly trotted out about Gandhi and actress Sarah Miles, but rock musicians Keith Richards, John Lennon and Jim Morrison all said they used it.

Urine therapy – Wikipedia

Image result for SARAH MILES ACTRESS
Sarah Miles

As for drinking it, which some swear by, I tried twice, mixing it with orange juice for palatability, but it was still rather rich! At the time, I was in the throes of giving up booze, after 27 years of alcoholism, so my body may well have been releasing all sorts of toxins that affected the taste. I decided I could be doing more harm than good by drinking it. 

After 23 years clean and sober, If I had serious health issues, I’d try it again, for, after all, the Bible says ‘Physician, heal thyself.’

I was reminded of this episode of self-healing by several recent newspaper articles on the benefits of using urine to wash hair:

Mother washes hair in pee after being inspired by woman on Ben Fogle programme | Daily Mail Online

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a urine therapy fanatic, I don’t gargle the stuff, but I do like things that work for free and which are natural.

If you’ve got an annoying rash, it could be worth a try….

(I promise I won’t tell.) ;)

(Thinks: I’d better leave this bit out of my author bio…) 

Barnes & Noble SOLD

Writing blogger Kristen Lamb recently posted a long article about the collapse and purchase of Barnes & Noble, which is worth a read if you’re confused about the current state of publishing and book selling.


Image result for blogger kirsten lamb

It’s worth reading the comments below the article from writers and B & N employees. One of them mentions James Daunt’s appalling attitude to his Waterstones employees’ wages, which is confirmed in this article:


To see him as a saviour riding in to rescue B & N and its staff, customers and the writers that create its product is laughable. He’s a wealthy man out to make money from what he can, one of the 1% who rule the world who favour the best-selling authors who make the most profit. We all know the phrase “It’s just business”—which is doublespeak for “I’ve behaved appallingly to get what I wanted and there’s nothing you can do about it”—book-selling and publishing are businesses…the most vulnerable will be oppressed. That includes authors.

A few random thoughts:

*I’ve always been surprised that Amazon didn’t swoop in to buy B & N, but perhaps they feared further anti-trust investigations.

Seeing as how they’re establishing a bricks and mortar presence, it’s possible they’ll buy some of the old B & N stores.

* Although many people who work in the book trade love books, be they book-sellers, editors, literary agents, book cover artists or publishers, this doesn’t necessarily translate into respect or recompense for the writers on whom the whole business depends. For any surveys that show there’s been an increase in readership, most of the public are indifferent to books and their creators. As an author, it sometimes feels like everyone is against you—even those who are supposed to be on your side.

Writers are the foundation stones of the book business. If we’re not treated properly the whole building will collapse. Imagine if a supermarket chain decided to only stock the 100 best-selling food products, not promoting anything new or unusual. They wouldn’t last long but might start to sell novelty items to bring more buyers in, maybe have a café, as B & N did. If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, why should anyone buy it? That holds true for the author, their agent, the publisher and then the book shop.

* At the moment, I’m at a crossroads with my writing career. After being with Smashwords for years, I recently transferred to Draft2Digital. I’m happy with their efficient operation, but feel like my Cornish Detective series might sell better on Amazon. Some authors have made millions from being on Amazon.

But, I resent their controlling ways. Effectively, they’re an intelligence agency gathering information on their traders and customers. This blog is available for whoever wants to read it, but I don’t know who’s got access to it. It doesn’t fill me confidence to know that Amazon is spying on me.

I’m loathe to go exclusive with them for my crime novels. As someone says in reply to Kristen Lamb’s article:

...some authors have figured out a sweet spot to milk a good living out of KDP Select. That’s fine, but having all their eggs in one basket could come back to bite them in a massive way if Amazon arbitrarily decides one day to change the payout structure.

I’ve had some experience of their forceful marketing tactics when they suggested I participate in bundling my titles with other low-selling writers’ eBooks, which would have yielded me about 10c profit for each sale! Books are like light bulbs or bars of soap to Amazon.

* Instead, I’ll be staying ‘wide’ for my book launch this summer. I believe in Ernst Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful approach to economics and to living. I intend to market and publish at a manageable and personal level, going grassroots with my marketing, through local libraries, reading and writing groups, Cornish media, self-publishing my series via the D2D aggregator and also selling directly from my dedicated website.

Relying on faceless corporations and huge book store chains means I’d be giving away the tiny amount of power I have over my career. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t grab a publishing deal with one of the Big 5, as happened to James Oswald:



Image result for author james oswald

For now, though, I intend to self-publish in eBook format, not worrying about POD until it’s requested by readers.

Writing is a lonely task. Many of us yearn for the support and validation of signing with an agent, getting a traditional publishing contract or interacting with Amazon’s ‘experts’ to market our eBooks, but any of those can fail to provide what they’ve promised. Then what?

It would be lovely to see your novel on a book store shelf, but what if they don’t promote it all? What if the whole business fails? It happens, however big the company. Bosses stick their heads in the sand, pretending that all’s well. Even Jeff Bezos predicted that Amazon would fail one day:


Going it alone, I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, but they’ll be my mistakes—easy to correct—not impossible to negotiate with an algorithm on Amazon or whoever chooses what to stock in the revamped B & N.

(Me, selling my crime novels)

The Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution

Reedsy’s comprehensive guide to eBook distribution is worth reading if you’re considering self-publishing:


I detailed my own experiences of digital publishing in an old thread:


One thing that’s not mentioned in Reedsy’s otherwise excellent article is a drawback of ‘going wide’—that is, using an aggregator to distribute your books or doing it yourself, publishing to Apple, Kobo, etc one by one. Should you change your mind, deciding to sign to KDP Select, then Amazon will insist that you take all your titles off whatever sites they’re for sale, before they allow you onto their hallowed ground. In theory, this should happen when you unpublish them on Smashwords or D2D, but in reality, it can take months and many emails to vendors before that happens—meaning your books are in the twilight zone, off most sales venues, but not on KDP Select.

At the moment, I’m contemplating removing my books from D2D to go with KDP Select for my Cornish Detective series, which I think makes commercial sense, but looks like creating loads more frustration for me.

No one said it would be easy (but, why does it have to be so hard?)

Publishing Scams

It’s as well to remember the old adage “if a thing looks too good to be true it probably is” when considering fantastic offers in the world of publishing.

This article by Anne R. Allen is worth a read, especially if you intend to self-publish:


I’m currently trying to get all of my ducks in a row to begin self-publishing my crime novel series, and I was wondering how best to tackle Print On Demand, so I appreciated what she said:

“If you choose self-publishing, you have to give up the fantasy of seeing your book in the window of your favorite bookstore chain.

It might help to forget paper books altogether. I often see newbies obsessing about choosing a POD company and getting bookstore distribution. But they’re worrying needlessly.

That’s because 90% of the successful indie’s profits usually come from ebooks.

Even using respectable traders offering services that deliver, it’s easy to haemorrhage money. I’ve struggled to set up an author blog on WordPress, but at least I’ve done so for free. Feeling frustrated last night, wondering what I was doing trying to master which plug-in was the best to create a ‘splash page’, I totted up how much I could have spent to get to the same point, had I gone with a paid web service provider and bought premium themes and widgets, coming up with £575.

Some people think that paying for something is a guarantee that it will work, which is why there are way more thriving vanity publishers than there are prosperous authors.


Luck & the Writer

Some of you may have seen author and blogger J.A. Konrath’s recent blog post about self-publishing called Your Marketing Plan Won’t Work.


It caught my eye, as in 2019 I’ve forsaken writing the sixth story in my Cornish Detective series in favour of marketing the first five titles—there’s not much point in baking another cake when the rest are going stale on the shelves!

I like Konrath’s grumpy, unfiltered and confrontational style of commenting on the publishing industry, and recognised much of what he says in his assessment of what worked to sell his own books. He sums up by saying:


My career has been all over the place, and I’ve tried so many new and different things. I’ve learned from my many failures, and if I had to do it all over, I’d tell my younger self:

“One brand, one genre, stop experimenting, stop being a perfectionist, and just write five good books a year in the same series. Make sure they are professionally edited and formatted, have great covers and descriptions, keep length under 75k words, and make sure they have updated, clickable bibliographies in the back matter, pre-order pages for the next release, and newsletter sign-up forms.”

That’s it. That’s the sum total of my years of knowledge and experience.

[read the comments below the article]

Broadly, he agrees with the oft-quoted William Goldman:

Image result for “Nobody knows anything...... Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and, if you're lucky, an educated one.”

(from Adventures in the Screen Trade)

Like Konrath and crime writer James Oswald my self-marketing is relying on blogging and having a website devoted to my crime series, with a view to building a mailing list of potential readers to send a newsletter to; my social media presence will be minimal. I intend to follow Oswald’s tactic of making the first book free, self-publishing the sequel at the same time at an attractive price—hoping to get the ball rolling.

Who knows if it will work?

As Konrath says:

It still comes down to luck.

Stop worrying. This is all out of your control.

Stop trying to find the answer. There is no answer. No answer, no logic, no reason, not even any scientific cause and effect.

It’s all luck.

I’ve long had a stoical approach to life, which has come in useful over the last six years since I returned to creative writing. Editing and querying require infinite levels of perseverance.

As for luck, I don’t know, for it’s an elusive sprite that lands on some people while avoiding my own arm!

I’ll keep on keeping on, even though I miss writing, for I reckon that building an author platform online will be more of a help than a hindrance. As champion golfer, Gary Player is reputed to have said: The harder I practice, the luckier I get.

How much do you think that luck counts in your writing career?


Piles of Books—Tsundoku

There’s a word to describe everything. Sometimes the foreign version is more stylish than English—for instance, the French word ennui literally sounds sadder and more boring than listless or dissatisfied.

A few foreign expressions have crept into English in recent years, such as hygge—the Danish word for the feeling of genial comfort felt when sitting comfortably by the fire in the company of friends in winter. Hiraeth is a Welsh word for longing for your homeland or a romanticised past that only exists as a memory.

Collecting an abundance of books is termed bibliomania in English, but the Japanese expression tsundoku sounds less mad! A while ago, I wrote about how books can be friends and it’s hard to turn your back on a friend…even if you haven’t interacted with them for ages. As for newcomers picked up on a whim because of the attractive cover design or because you’ve been meaning to read that author, and you’ll get around to it one day, well, that’s how books start to pile up as all the shelf space is taken.

I’ve reached hoarding status with reading matter a few times in my life—moving home is a great way to reduce clutter—moving countries even better! When I emigrated to the USA in 2000, I gave away 500 books and about 2,000 magazines on classic cars and motorcycles, dating back to the 1970s. It was chastening to realise that had I saved the purchase price of them instead, I’d have been able to afford a decent Jaguar Mark 2.

Image result for jaguar mk 2

Since then, I’ve kept an eye on how many books I hang on to. I give some away to friends or the charity shop, but the charity shop has had a special offer of 4 items for one pound this year, allowing a mix of CDs, paperbacks and DVDs. Inevitably, I’ve wound up with a pile of 50 books on my bedside table—they include recently published crime novels with uncracked spines from never being read—and what looks like a possibly dead reader’s favourite with yellowing pages and dedications when the book was given as a present thirty years ago.

Better that I read them (one day, honest) than they be pulped!

Do you take comfort from the presence of an excess of books?

Probably best not to say that “I’ve got huge piles….”

A. Edward Newton, a writer and book collector summed it up well.
















Fairytale Book Covers

As part of building an online author platform this year, I’ve been coming up with different designs for the covers of my five Cornish Detective novels, as well as monkeying around with Celtic style fonts and producing banners to go across the top of significant pages.

I favour IrfanView to create images, as Gimp confuses me with its complexity.

I’ve been keeping an eye on trends in book cover design, mainly via the excellent The Book Designer website—site owner Joel Friedlander tackles more than just book design—his newsletter is worth subscribing to.

In the last year, there have been lots of covers with the title of the book in big capitals in separate blocks down the cover. It may just be a fad that passes, but it affected my design for the last novel I wrote. It opens with a murdered painter’s body being found encapsulated in a concrete statue in an underwater dive park. The statue resembles the Venus de Milo.

Trawling through copyright-free image libraries, I chanced upon a photograph that resembles the famous statue, so I used it as a basis for a cover. It needs finessing, as the face is obscured and I’ll try changing fonts and colours.


Researching book covers this morning, I stumbled upon a Latvian artist called Aniko Kolesnikova who produces book covers that are dazzlingly beautiful…collectible in their own right.

Fairytale Book Covers By Latvian Artist Aniko Kolesnikova
(click through Continue Reading to see all three pages)


Right! That’s put me in my place!

As part of building an online author platform this year, I’ve been coming up with different designs for the covers of my five Cornish Detective novels, as well as monkeying around with Celtic style fonts and producing banners to go across the top of significant pages.

I favour IrfanView to create images, as Gimp confuses me with its complexity.

I’ve been keeping an eye on trends in book cover design, mainly via the excellent The Book Designer website—site owner Joel Friedlander tackles more than just book design—his newsletter is worth subscribing to.

In the last year, there have been lots of covers with the title of the book in big capitals in separate blocks down the cover. It may just be a fad that passes, but it affected my design for the last novel I wrote. It opens with a murdered painter’s body being found encapsulated in a concrete statue in an underwater dive park. The statue resembles the Venus de Milo.

Trawling through copyright-free image libraries, I chanced upon a photograph that resembled the famous statue, so I used it as a basis for a cover. It needs finessing, as the face is obscured and I’ll try changing fonts and colours.




Researching book covers this morning, I stumbled upon a Latvian artist called Aniko Kolesnikova who produces book covers that are dazzlingly beautiful…collectible in their own right.

Fairytale Book Covers By Latvian Artist Aniko Kolesnikova

(click through Continue Reading to see all three pages)

Leaving Scenes Unfinished

In 1934, a 22yearold aspiring writer called Arnold Samuelson hitchhiked to Key West, Florida to seek advice from his hero Ernest Hemingway.
He recorded Hemingway’s thoughts on writing, storing the manuscript in a drawer, where it was found by his daughter after his death in 1981. She arranged for it to be published as With Hemingway: A Year In Key West and Cuba

While mentoring Samuelson, Hemingway offered an abundance of advice, including this tip:

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

Hemingway was effectively cautioning writers not to worry about a reaching a daily word count which could become a drudge of a task, ruining their creativity.

Finishing a writing session mid-paragraph aware of where the story is going next helps momentum the next day. One’s brain works on the scene, while awake and asleep, which spurs on new ideas.

It’s a technique I’ve used many times, for after all, it’s far better to stop when things are going well than to wait until I’m stuck! I always follow Thomas Edison’s advice as part of the technique:

It’s surprising how many times sleeping on things produces great ideas.

It turns out that Hemingway’s suggestion is based on a psychological phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect. Named after Bluma Wulfovna Zeigarnik, a Russian psychiatrist and psychologist, who extrapolated from an observation her professor made about waiters—that they hold a diner’s order in their minds until the food is served.

It turns out we all remember unfinished tasks better than completed goals, which provides great motivation to complete it.


This year, as I build an online author platform in preparation to launch my Cornish Detective novels as a self-published series, I’ve been working in fits and starts on a novella as therapy, but it’s rather backfired on me. Each time, I’ve stopped writing at interesting plot incidents, sometimes not returning to the story for a couple of weeks, which has turned it into a spiky Rubik’s Cube in my mind!

It’s a great sensation when you’re on a roll while writing, in the creative groove, firing on all cylinders and adding to your masterpiece, but that might be the time to pause for a few hours…

What do you think?