Archive for March 11th, 2013


Well, I was going to be practical and start this blog a whole lot earlier in the evening.  My plan was to talk about the historical research I’ve done for my novels.

Instead I got hooked on a CNN report.

It was a long one about our very broken health care system, but what really got to me was the profile of a young soldier.  There are far, far too many like him in our country these days: with broken bodies, in physical pain, and suffering from PTSD so bad we civilians can’t even imagine their private hells.

The additional bad news was, this vet – who could just break your heart – emptied a grocery shopping bag full of prescription medications.  These were all the drugs he’d been on, he said with disgust.  And they weren’t helping.

The good news is, this same “southern redneck” vet from Louisiana who’s likely to “shoot a gator” is now off all those medications and getting better.  Not cured, but at least getting better with…

… Acupuncture, yoga and meditation.  All of which he receives at Walter Reed.

The CNN report also showed other vets in physical pain receiving acupuncture and how some got instant relief from it.  The treatment is better than their medication and doesn’t have dangerous side effects.

In a way, I’m not surprised.  Years ago I had a co-worker who was a nurse and a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard.  She would tell me of her recent trips to Washington to attend military medical presentations, and yes, that included reports on things like acupuncture and cellular memory (such as when someone receives a transplanted organ and seems to inherit a couple memories from the dead donor).  The military, it appears, is often on the cutting edge of medical research and treatment and is way ahead of the corporately-run health care system the rest of us get.

Still, I had no idea that the military was actually providing acupuncture, yoga and meditation techniques to its vets.  I mean, the expectation for most of us is that the military by its very nature is arch-conservative and rigid.  Yet its medicine is in some ways radical.

My point is, I think we writers and readers love to be surprised and see how our expectations can be turned upside down.

Take Stephen King.  In Dead Zone, the protagonist’s mother is a close-minded fundamentalist Christian who seems to be only bad news.  Yet this same woman makes a couple of eerily accurate, insightful predictions that reveal she has some true wisdom deep down.  King can surprise us this way in many of his stories and even with minor characters.

A writer who I think does not have this gift is Dean Koontz.  Yes, his stories are well paced and suspenseful.  But I got so sick of his simplistic characters and how they’re either completely good or dirty rotten evil that I gave up on him.  His obsession about absolutely no sex before marriage ever ever it is so evil it’s better to die than give in to it also annoyed the hell out of me.

What kind of expectations do you like seeing turned upside down in stories?  Have any novels really surprised you?