Archive for the ‘Book’ Category

As time flies at my current assignment –  I’ve begun planning for my next writing assignment – to Central America this spring.  It’s too early to nail down some of the specifics like housing, or begin making appointments for interviews – but it’s never to early to test out my equipment.

For each trip, as I gain more and more experience with the more technical aspects (photography and video), I’ve upgraded my cameras and other equipment.

With my first book – I didn’t know enough to even realize how ill-prepared I was – to capture the images and the moments that now serve as some of the most breathtaking and rewarding parts of my work.    I used a borrowed camera and didn’t even have a laptop – I spent all of my evenings in various internet cafes transcribing my notes.

Cartagena, Colombia

Some of my more lasting images – like the photo above, which served as the cover of the first edition of the Cartagena book were just luck.  My camera was a hit-or-miss affair – that sometimes worked, and sometimes didn’t.

But as I continued writing, and working – I learned from my mistakes.  One (borrowed) camera became (with the help of eBay), two cameras.  Then two cameras, and video..

More importantly, I learned to become more aggressive in my photo-taking.  Take ten – if you want one good one..  Lean in more to get the shot, use a stool (or two) if needed – and use the Zoom!  Stop worrying if you are annoying the surgeon* with photo-taking – and get in there to get the shot that matters.

photo from first Cartagena visit

photo from first Cartagena visit

Now the photo above – is a good example.. It’s edited (for patient privacy and such) but the unedited version shows the surgeon making his initial incision.   Of course, I got this photo due to an accommodating anesthesiologist who encouraged me to get in there and get close with my zoom lens.


by the time I took this photo of Dr. Vasquez in Mexico, I had learned what I was doing (sort of).

Now, I will never be a professional photographer, which takes years of training – but I have now taken thousands and thousands of photos, so I am learning little by little.  I’ve also upgraded to better equipment – which allows me to experiment with different lens and manual settings such as shutter speed and light settings.

With my latest camera – I have been going out on every possible occasion to practice, practice, practice.   I had a three-day weekend, so we headed out-of-town for just that purpose – kind of “a photography adventure”.

Marti Gras 2013

Beads fly in the Marti Gras parade

Now, we’re in the south for my current assignment, so we thought it would be interesting to capture some images from the Marti Gras parades – lots of color, movement and an interesting cast of characters.

It’s easy to find some of the flaws in my photos, but it was good practice (and fun too!).

galveston 105

Now I love this next photo – I just think that this dancer (in the center) projects such confidence and star power..

Marti Gras stunner

But my very favorite, is probably this next one..

Marti Gras parade

My husband also likes this more formal composition from this weekend – away from the parades, beads and celebrations..

Bicycle built for two

But he’s a bit of a romantic, eh?

Hopefully, all this practice will serve me in good stead on my next writing project.  In the meantime, I’ll keep snapping away.

For more Marti Gras photos – see my slideshow..

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* Before, I was often SO timid that I was too shy/ embarrassed to get some of the photos I needed.  (If I hadn’t been so shy – and had just asked – I would have realized – that most of the time, (as long as you are not completely obnoxious – or bursting the flash all over the place) that most surgeons are pretty oblivious during surgery – because their focus is elsewhere (as it should be.)  So they don’t mind if you take tons of photos..  (Notably, I also only very rarely, use my flash in the operating room – because I do think that is very distracting! – and of course, I ALWAYS ask permission..)


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Free pdf:

Mexicali! a mini-gem guide to surgery in Baja, California

The pdf has been uploaded to Google books, and several other sites.

Low-cost e-format:  I managed to work out a kindle format, but Amazon.com won’t allow independent publishers to offer our books for free (except as part of a limited trial on KDP select.)  However, I have received several emails specifically asking for the Mexicali book to be placed on Amazon.com – so I am reluctantly doing so.  Please note that this e-format version is priced at the minimum – of 99 cents with a free download trial period.  (In case you are wondering, Amazon.com collects 65% of that.)


Paperback book:  The paperback version of the Mexicali book is now available!  I had hoped to offer a color version (for fans of medical photography) but for small-run books, it was going to be 28.00 a book, which seems excessive to me.  I’ve priced it at just above the cost to produce and offer it on Amazon channels for less than 7.00.


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Celebrating book completion with Carla Luna, co-author Carlos Ochoa, and contributor Joanna Calzada.

Celebrating book completion with Carla Luna, co-author Carlos Ochoa, and contributor Joanna Calzada.

So the free pdf version of the book is complete – and available for download.  (It was hosted on the Smashwords site, but their software reformatted the pdf into a bit of a mess, so I’ve posted the original here.)

I am still working on print versions in both color and black and white for readers who prefer paper versions.  Unfortunately, the cost of printing color photos is outrageous – so please note that this is the direct cost – no profit added.

I would love to have an electronic book available but with the extensive footnotes – it’s quite an endeavor, and since I can not afford to hire someone, a little out of my reach right now.

Mexicali book


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Back in Mexicali but just for a few days – as I pack up the apartment and get ready for my next journey – to Texas, of all places!

As I mentioned before, leaving Mexicali is hard – it’s a city, and a people who get under your skin.  I’ve lived (and traveled to) a lot of places, but this has been the most bittersweet of all.

In the meantime – I am (finally!) finishing up the last bit of editing  – with much help from friends –  for the Mexicali guide to surgical tourism book.   I hope to have it finished – and available on-line for downloads before the end of the year.

I’ll post links and directions for interested readers once it is ready.


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Well – this book has gone through the first-pass round of editing.. Now it’s on to the second step (another round of editing) before final formating and publishing.  As I’ve mentioned previously – I will be offering free pdf downloads at multiple outlets for interested readers.  (I would love to be able to offer it as an e-book but it costs quite a bit to have it professionally converted – and my previous efforts to convert books to electronic formats were exercises in extreme frustration.)

I wanted to take a minute to thank my additional content contributors:

Dr. Joanna Calzada, MD and Dr. Cuauhtemoc Cairo Robles.

Their assistance and contributions have been invaluable!  Dr. Calzada absolutely threw herself into helping me uncover the life and history of Mexicali – and as a second-generation Mexicali resident – her input was amazing.  We crisscrossed the city several times to get information to include in the book for our readers.

with Dr. Joanna Calzada, MD – book contributor (life & culture of Mexicali)

Dr. Robles, a professor of architecture at the Universidad Autonoma Baja California, and expert on Mexicali architecture was equally outstanding.  Not only did I use several of his publications as references and resources on public buildings – but Dr. Robles stepped right in to offer photographs, stories and local history on all of the amazing houses and other buildings I fell in love with (such as Mexicali’s Graceland.)

Lastly, special thanks to Elizabeth A. Warren – who is currently editing my book.  She is my former college roommate (and thus has been editing my writing intermittently over the last 18 years.)  She is also an English teacher in Memphis, Tennessee where we attended college together.

I felt quite the poor friend when I offered her the ‘opportunity’ to edit my book for free – (since I am budget less at the moment.)  But, as always – Libby was up for the challenge.  (Let’s home my improper use of grammar doesn’t get the best of her.)

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into the 110’s (and higher) it’s been an interesting week in Mexicali.  I’ve definitely entered new territory in my book writing venture.  In the last books, I basically didn’t see the forest for the trees – meaning that even as I raced around, and enjoyed the cities I was living in – I didn’t include any of the information about the cities themselves.. Just the surgeons, and surgery.

In retrospect – I think that was a mistake.  While I know the beautiful multifaceted Bogotá, my readers don’t.  At the time, I didn’t want to duplicate the efforts of the many talented travel writers out there.  But on consideration – living in a city is so much different from visiting one.   It takes months to see and fully appreciate the nuance of many locations – especially cities..  Anyone can talk about the historic church built in 19 whatever, but it takes time and familiarity to see the beauty of Mexicali’s Graceland, or the changing canvas of the UABC museum.  It takes time to collect the stories that bring the city to life.  So now, I am trying to do that – in a small fashion with everything I’ve collected since coming here in March.

I am not Frommer’s.. I am more like his awkward, quirky little cousin. I don’t have the manpower or the resources to talk about the hundreds of restaurants here (more than 100 Chinese restaurants alone!) but I can tell you some of my favorite places; for a casual lunch with friends, or a night on the town.  I can’t give exhaustive listings on all there is to see and do in this thriving city, but I can show you the heart of it.  I can tell you about the things that make Mexicali more than just spot in the hard-baked earth; the things that make this city real, and make it a fascinating place to be.  I can make your stay; whether just a few days, weeks or months; interesting and informative.

It’s been a fascinating and amazing journey to discover these ‘pockets of life’ and living history – and now that I am outside my realm (of medicine and surgery) one that would have been impossible without the numerous people who have embraced me, and shared their wisdom.  (It’s becoming quite the list – and I’ll share it with you all soon.)

But I certainly hope that my future readers enjoy the journey as much as I have.

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I was in the United States most of last week (at my reunion) but I didn’t stop working.  While a reunion may not seem like the most ideal situation for a medical writer – it’s actually a great opportunity to talk to people and get their opinions about health care, medicine and surgery.  After the first few minutes of catching up – talk naturally turns to everyday life, and for many of us – ‘everyday life’ involves worrying about the health of our families.. Also, many of my classmates – and old friends have been some of my biggest supporters of the blog (and my other work) so it was good to get some critical feedback.

Bret Harte class reunion

The book is coming along – almost continuous writing at this point.  While I (always!) want more interviews with more surgeons, I am now at the point where I am filling in some gaps  – talking about the city of Mexicali itself.  So I am visiting museums, archives, and talking to residents about Mexicali so I can provide a more complete picture to readers.  Right now, I would really like some information about 1920’s -30’s Mexicali – I can find a lot of interesting stuff about Tijuana, but Mexicali is proving more elusive.

It’s a bit of a change from my usual research – finding out about decades old scandals (even local haunted houses), visiting restaurants and nightclubs, but it’s been a lot of fun., even if it seems frivolous or silly at times.  I hope readers enjoy this glimpse into Mexicali’s rich history as much as I have.

Finished the cover – which to me, is critical at this point.  (I use the cover to inspire me when it comes to the less than thrilling stage of copy editing) so I am posting an image here.

cover for the new book

Meeting with an architect later this week – to learn about, and write about some of the variety of styles here in Mexicali.  (There is such a surprising array – I thought it would be nice for readers to have a chance to know a bit more.)

Now there’s one house I’ve dubbed “Mexicali’s Graceland.”  I don’t know why Graceland comes to mind every time I go past this home (it looks nothing like Elvis’ home in Memphis) but the term has stuck.  I am hoping to get some of the history on this house because it just looks like a place where even the walls have stories to tell.

The pictures aren’t the most flattering – but I’ll post one so you can tell me what you think.  (It’s actually far more lovely in person – with the contrast between the pink walls and the white scrollwork, as well as some of the more classic design features.) I guess my imagination tends to run away with me – with images of grandeur and elegant ladies sipping champagne in the marbled halls of the past – but then – most of my usual writing is technical in nature, so I have few outlets for my creativity.

Mexicali’s Graceland

Meeting with my co-writer today to go back to the archives..

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