Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

"In simple obedience to duty as they understood it," reads the inscription at Arlington's Confederate Memorial. "These men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all — and died."…/one-thing-veterans-want-yo…/ar-BBkdinr…

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Dry Eye and The Writer

Eye Fatigue, Burning, Dryness?
Writer's Health Alert
Dora Machado

I'm not a doctor and I don't play a doctor on T.V. Gosh, I don't even write about doctors. I'm not a nurse either, or a medical assistant. Disclaimer established, let's talk about dry eyes and the writer. Whether you're young and gorgeous, old and glorious, or something in between, if you're putting on the writing mileage, you're either about to experience, experiencing or recovering from a skirmish with dry eye syndrome.

The term "dry eye" applies to a wide range of symptoms, from simple eye fatigue to severe, systemic eye disease. For me, it began a few years ago, with tired eyes that burned and itched. I didn't think much of it. We writers stare at the screen all day long, all night too, if you're a night owl like me. I frequently clock twelve to fourteen-hour days on my computer. Given the long hours and the increased use of digital devices, more of us are suffering from what has been termed "computer vision syndrome."

According to, computer vision syndrome affects about 50%-90% of computer workers and is responsible for up to 10 million primary care eye examinations each year.

You and I? We are not alone.

My problem worsened as my symptoms progressed. The burning and itching became worse. Then my eyes began to ache. Sometimes, when I scratched my eyes, the capillaries broke. Not pretty. Eventually, my eyes felt as if they were coated with a perverse mix of glue and sand. My vision became blurry. The light hurt my eyes. Working was hard. Sleeping was even harder. When my eyeballs began to stick to my eyelids at night, I figured it was time to pay a visit to the ophthalmologist. 

Yeah, I know, a little late, but I'm dense, so zip it. 

Once he finished his examination, the doctor made it official. I'd made the leap from computer vision syndrome to severe dry eye syndrome. He explained that, left untreated, dry eye disease can lead to complications, including scratches in the cornea.

"Oh, you mean those little squiggles?"

He sighed. 

It was going to be a long appointment.

The American Optometric Association defines dry eyes as: 

"A condition in which there are insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or have a poor quality of tears. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults."
Personally, I think they should amend this entry by downplaying the part about "older adults"—which is true, of course, but would fit in better with my personal denial patterns. I also think they should add that, based on anecdotal information collected on writers' forums everywhere, dry eyes syndrome affects lots of writers, young and old. I'm just saying. Maybe next time around? 

Back to my appointment. My doctor said that dry eyes are more susceptible to infections and chronic inflammation, which is the culprit of severe dry eye syndrome. To treat the problem, he recommended inserting tiny silicon-based plugs in some of my tear ducts to keep my natural tears in the eye for as long as possible. The procedure was simple and pain free, but within a few weeks, one of the plugs came out. I decided against replacing it. Other options included surgical procedures to permanently close the tear ducts. Since the words "surgical" and "permanently" give me the heebie-jeebies, I held out.  

The doctor also prescribed one of the only medications available to treat the underlying inflammation associated with dry eye syndrome. He mentioned that it doesn't always work for all patients. It was very expensive, health insurance only covered a portion of it, and it took weeks before I noticed some relief, but over several weeks, the medication did provide a measure of relief.

In addition, the ophthalmologist recommended a regimen of preservative-free, over-the-counter, eye drops, at least four applications throughout the working day. A quick foray into the world of eye drops revealed that everyone has their favorite brand and what works for some doesn't work for others. I tried many different brands to identify the ones that worked best for me. I would recommend you do the same. By the way, cooled eye drops offer a quick reprieve to the tired eye. I keep mine in the refrigerator. 

Also very important, the doctor insisted that I should look away from the screen several times each hour, allowing my eyes to focus on other things. He told me to blink and blink often. He explained that tear production is stimulated by blinking, which is something that we can "forget" to do when we spend our days staring at backlit screens.

Geesh. Leave it to me to forget to blink.

If you feel you might be experiencing the symptoms of severe dry eye disease, head out to see your ophthalmologist. Tell him Dora sent you. If you are new to writing, if you're smart and you want to prevent damage to your eyes, here's a quick list of things you could do to protect your eyes:

·         Blink, blink, blink.
·         Keep your eyes moist. Apply preservative-free eye drops several times a day.
·         Take breaks away from your computer. Several websites advocate the 20-20-20 technique. Look away every 20 minutes, at a distance of 20 feet, for at least 20 seconds.
·         Adjust your computer settings for brightness, contrast and glare.

Here's to clear vision and rested eyes for busy writers everywhere!


Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She is one only a few Hispanic women writing fantasy in the United States today. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. When she is not writing fiction, Dora also writes features for the award-winning blogs Murder By Four and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers. She lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her at , email her at, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

The Curse Giver's Amazon's Link:


Thursday, May 14, 2015

New opportunities for writers, and the future of NY publishing

In my best Jennifer Coolidge voice, HEY EVERYBODY! I just love Two Broke Girls and her character of Sophie. And believe me, these days I need a few laughs. I said over on my blog that one day soon, when I have the energy, I will fill everyone in on what's going on. And I will do so on Mb4 too. Until then, just know that I am staying busy. *enter mysterious music here*

So-- how about yall? Who's writing? Who's submitting? Who's self publishing? I read an interesting article this morning at and wonder how fast I can get on the new gravy train called "services for writers".

It is becoming apparent that this opportunity is growing in popularity and at a fast pitch since self publishing has now become more of a norm rather than an exception.

I think I could do content editing, or keeping continuity, or advising an author on how NOT to get screwed (let's face it, this industry has a LOT of crooks).

At any rate, it is going to be the wave of the future in my opinion. Either you write, or you work for a writer, because NY publishing is hurting again, or still. According to the May 2015 Author Earnings report, "In the last three months, the Big 5 publishers have seen a 26% reduction in the number of titles on Amazon’s Best Seller lists. This means fewer titles are selling well enough to make these lists, and it also means fewer titles are receiving that added visibility." The article goes on to say that the reason could be that they pricing structure used by NY publishers is way too high and few people are buying at those price points. Good article read it here : Author Earnings Report

What do you think?

Monday, May 4, 2015

Thank you, Writer's Digest!

Hi, folks!

I am proud to announce that our collective writing and book lovers' blog, Murderby4, has won the 2015 Best 101 Writing Websites award. This is the SEVENTH year in a row that we've been honored. Congrats to all who have contributed, especially Kim Smith, Dora Machado, Marta Stephens, and S.w. Vaughn.

Murderby4 has opened up our content to include writing articles about any genre now, and we welcome guest blogs about industry trends, reviews, writing tips, how-to articles, writer's journeys, and more. The bottom line is, if you love to write or just plain love books, you are welcome to join us and you'll enjoy the variety of articles we feature.

Here you'll find interesting articles, author interviews, essays by guest bloggers, reviews, free excerpts, and an insider's look at the publishing world. So pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee, and dive in!

Aaron Paul Lazar


Friday, May 1, 2015

Seven Secrets - from Lazar to you!

Hi, folks!
Writer extraordinaire, Polly Iyer, tagged me to list 7 things about my writing people might not know. So, here I go, revealing my deepest secrets!

1) In Double Forté, my first book, I didn't have a love interest for poor Gus LeGarde, who has been mourning the loss of his soul mate for four long years. My wife convinced me that he NEEDED someone, so I came up with Camille, Gus's secretary's daughter who splits her time between counseling teens and coaching the drama club.

2) I rewrote Upstaged a few years ago, and changed the name of the darling Down Syndrome character, Ethel, to Cindi. I also changed the plot and let her live. In the end, I couldn't bear to have her fall victim to that horror show of a psycho. 

3) Mazurka was written based on my experiences when I lived in Germany. It features all my sensory memories from Paris, Germany, and Austria. 

4) Tremolo features a script that my maternal grandfather used when showing his slides of the life of his Magnolia tree. He chronicled all of the stages of his beloved tree, and had lovely words to go with the photos. I still haven't found the slides, but I have his notes. Oscar Stone is the reincarnation of my grandfather in all LeGarde Mysteries, and he's the one who delivers this slide show to the guests at Loon Harbor. 

5) For the Birds was my first book written from a woman’s POV. Most of my fans say I did a pretty good job getting into a woman’s head – LOL. But I had lots of experience because I lived with my wife, mother in law, and three daughters! I wrote this book because I had a vivid dream about Ruby (a ring necked parrot) where I was taking her to a bird show in the Adirondacks. I couldn't get it out of my head!

6) I found a real green marble in my garden one day which prompted me to imagine Healey’s Cave, the first of the “green marble” mysteries. My wife urged me to write segments from “the killer’s POV” and thus I had to get into the head of a very nasty villain. ;o)

7) I fell in love with Young Living Essential Oils when I was writing the sequel to For the Birds, Essentially Yours. It was just natural that my characters also discovered and learned about the oils and their amazing properties! 

I tag Holly Jacobs, Barb Caffrey, Dora Machado, Kim Smith, Uvi Poznansky, Eileen Register, Maria Dougherty-De Vivo to answer these questions about themselves!

You can see all my books at:

And you can see Dora Machado's Seven Secrets here!