Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Expanding Your Pool Potential

8 Ball corner pocket
photo credit: photosbyflick via photopin cc

Ever wanted to learn how to play pool? This handy piece of technology actually helps show and thereby teach you all the numerous angles and trajectories needed in order to make the perfect shot at the pool table! Not only do you get to play the game but you can show others how you made the shot too!

There was a scene on Star Trek once (I believe) where Spock had managed to send every ball to their pockets all in one shot- because he knew the geometry and the angles needed. I've always wondered if this was actually possible!

Wrapping Oddly Shaped Presents And Expanding Your Mind

Which present is mine?
photo credit: Randy Auschrat via photopin cc

You are on your own if you try to wrap a guinea pig!

What better way to exercise your brain and increase your own human potential than to learn some new origami this holiday season! I know how to make an origami frog, which comes in handy when trying to entertain your little kiddos, but this is really useful! Want to wrap that really odd shaped present?

Like, maybe you are that super cool parent that got their kid a model Millennium Falcon for Christmas! (yeah, we know you really bought it so you could play with it too!)

 Look what I found on! The Meredith Vieira Show  This is an awesome way to solve this problem!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Book Drive! Books Needed!

Hey everyone! I've got some exciting news to share with you today! PDMI Publishing LLC has just opened their very own bookstore in Albertville Alabama. They are the only bookstore in town and the only bookstore in a 30 mile radius! Now... for the news YOU will like! They are looking for donations of NEW and Gently used books... Do you have a bookshelf full of books you'd like to unload? You'll need more space to put all of your brand new books from Christmas after all!

Are you an author wanting to expand your reach and wouldn't mind donating a book to help start up this independent bookstore?

Please send your donated books to:

 PDMI Publishing, LLC
7032 Hwy 431
Albertville Alabama 35950

Reviewing Jasmines Got Talent

Book Description:
Jasmine the miniature-schnauzer returns in another dreamy adventure! In this one, she's going to show off her talent and maybe win a prize! Join her as she takes the stage in third Jasmine Dreams book.

***** 5 Stars! Perfectly Delightful! *****

I give Jasmine's Got Talent 5 stars for quality, entertainment, and adorable illustrations!
Jasmine's Got Talent is a charming and delightful story written for young children by author Maria Rochelle. This book features awesome 'squeal worthy' illustrations by illustrator Jo Linsdell. My favorite of the characters was the cat, Diamond! Jasmine will surely inspire your little ones to want to be the star of the show too!

Find out more here!

Illustrator website: http://www.JoLinsdell.com

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rounding Up 150 Children With Math

children chart
Children chart
Who's up for another fan extra?
I'm working on a sequel to The Alien Mind, but in order to do so I needed to back track some math to try to figure out how many kids are on the scene, how many are needing to be found, and which ones are available to be rounded up from other scenes. This got so complicated I needed two sheets of notes and three tally mark charts; talk about some writer problems! It was so confusing pulling this all together that I thought you all might enjoy a bit of a peek!

In The Alien Mind an alien group called the Aruk kidnap 150 children originally. During the original captivity and before the Aunantet rescue the children a girl is killed during when her and Rivi are trying to escape, leaving 149 children (including Rivi). At the beginning of the book we find that these 149 children are now being raised by the Aunantet. (You can find out more about the book as well as some fan extras here!)

When Aun is attacked the Children are sent off to safety in 10 ships each with a 20 person capacity. 50 Aunantet join them.

 Because Rivi and Ankh stay behind on Aun to make sure the children's ships get off the planet safely  that leaves 148 children to be divided among the 10 ships with two seats empty.

8 of the ships  are filled with 15 Kids and 5 Aunantet
2 of the ships are filled with 14 kids and 5 Aunantet

One of the ships of 14 kids and 5 Aunantet ends up destroyed (any more information here would be a *spoiler*) 
 Which leaves 127 kids and 45 Aunantet

Later the book says the children and Aunantet decide to split up into 45 smaller groups to better evade the Aruk.

20 of those groups are found and Rivi  is put in charge of relocating 15 of those groups- 30 children of which decide to join some of Earth's new planetary colonies. Rivi then takes 15 of the youngest to the mars colony. However the book never really states how many kids (exactly) are found and how many decide to stay on Aun . (Which is important to me if they are going to be in the second book.)

It does say 75 of the kids are left to be found.

So in order to get a better picture... I ended up breaking out the old pen and paper and drew out the above chart. Separated evenly into 45 groups you get:

12 of the groups have 3 kids to 1 Aunantet
8 of the groups have 2 kids to 1 Aunantet

So working backwards... if you take the 75 kids out of the picture first and leave the 20 groups that end up found you get 52 kids. Rivi is put in charge of relocating 15 of those groups (so 42 kids out of the 52) and we are also told that 30 of her children decide to go to the other colonies. I'm assuming here that the Aunantet took charge of relocating most of the youngest ones thereby deciding to send them to Mars. So with 30 of Rivi's group gone to the other colonies that leaves 5 that were Rivi's (out of those youngest 15) that go to mars and 7 of Rivi's end up staying on Aun!

So... what trouble can I get these children into now?
If you'd like to see me finish this second book so you can find out what happens next, comment in the blog comments with #finishthatstory !

Have any questions? You can ask those in the comments too ;)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rivi Sets Up Her First Christmas Tree- Short Story.

Christmas Tree Angel
V.L. Jennings' Christmas Tree Angel
Well, it took some doing but I finally got Rivi all untangled from the Christmas light disaster. I rolled the lights up neatly around a piece of cardboard, thanks to the idea sent to us by Honi Drown, and went to fetch a chair from the kitchen so I could hang them.

"V.L. do you want me to put your tree together while you are climbing over that mountain of junk?" Rivi called from the living room.

I groaned inwardly, my dining room is stuffed with the contents from our old house's shed and it is begging to be emptied. I'd already missed Thanksgiving dinner with my in-laws because we didn't have room for everyone, and I felt terrible! I resolved then to get the new shed cleaned out and to make room for all this stuff before Christmas.

"Sure Rivi, don't bother with connecting the lights though, I'll do that when I put the angel on top."
I made my way over the mountain of shed stuff with my folding chairs and entered the living room to find Rivi levitating the middle section of the tree very carefully over the lower section. She also managed to hold all the branches into their folded position so she could set the section pole down into the pole from the first section without the branches blocking her view. The third and final part of the tree went up just as easily.

Rivi made a few motions with her hands then held them wide and I watched in amazement as the whole tree unfolded itself and the branches reached out gracefully! She'd managed to fluff the whole tree in mere seconds!

"Ok, that was awesome! Fluffing the tree alone would have taken me a bit over an hour or so!" I exclaimed.

"That's what its called! Fluffing!" Rivi laughed. "Now what do we do?"
"I'll climb up there and connect the angel and all the light strands together. Now where's that angel box?" I said.

"Here you go," Rivi answered passing the angel box over to me.

For those of you who haven't heard about my angel, she was passed down to me from my parents. For years she sat neglected on the mantel (I say neglected, but only because I really wanted to see her on the tree). When they sent her to me she was in need of a good washing and my grandmother recommended vinegar which did the trick in no time! She looks white and new once more! Now, every year I wrap her inside a plastic trash bag and then place her carefully in her own box to keep the moths from infesting her and the dust from yellowing her again. Pulling her out of her plastic bag is always a bitter sweet moment for me. I sat there for a moment remembering Christmases gone past before I reached up to put the angel on the tree.

Rivi noticed the reminiscing vibe and quietly set to work finding space on the shelf across my living room for the various snowmen I seem to have accumulated somehow. I had just found the last light connection in the tree and caused the whole tree to light up when my three year old squealed in delight over the sight. I laughed.

"Just wait till you see what it looks like decorated!" I said to my son before looking over to see what Rivi was doing over at my bookshelf.

"Wow, there's more? I thought the tree looks nice as it is." Rivi said moving to block my view of what she was working on.

"Just wait! You'll see!" I answered.

Just then we heard a knock at the door. My cats hurried over to entangle themselves around my feet as I tried to let our new visitor in. 

"Daddy's home?" My youngest called out.

"No, shouldn't be." I answered.

Feeling suddenly shy he hid behind Rivi's skirt. Rivi picked him up and tickled him instead.

I laughed at their antics but gasped as I opened the door to find none other than Laurie Kingston on my doorstep!


Question for you all... should Laurie be afraid of cats or would she like cats? (The thought goes through my mind every time I have a new visitor at the door simply because I have had some visitors freak out pretty badly.) Answer in blog comments section please :)

Also... if you would be interested in reading a sequel to The Alien Mind , please comment write #finishthatstory in the blog comments... I'm trying to decide whether I should give this up and try something new or continue writing the second book ;) 


Find The Alien Mind on Amazon!

Did you like this post? If so you might enjoy my book!

For adults and teens alike, it is truly a science fiction adventure for the whole family!

If you'd prefer an autographed copy straight from the author you can buy one here as well!
Autographed Copy:$13.00 + Shipping

Friday, December 12, 2014

Getting to Know Jo Linsdell and Maria Rochelle

Book tour banner!
Jasmine's Got Talent book tour!

Jasmine's Got Talent and the rest of the Jasmine's Dreams books are all available on Amazon!

About Jasmine's Got Talent: A miniature schnauzer has a dreamy adventure and dreams she's in a talent contest. 

Maria Rochelle, do you mind if I ask you and Jo a few random just for fun questions? :)

~What was your first job?
My first job was at Chick-fil-A as a cashier, and I also worked in food prep. I had a great time working there my senior year in high school. 

~My first job was a waitress and cashier too- be kind to the food industry workers, you never know what they might accomplish in a few years!

~What is your favorite movie?
Just one....I like so many. Braveheart and Pretty In Pink are two of my favorites.

~Hmm I've never seen 'Pretty In Pink' but 'Braveheart' was awesome!

~Who designed the cover and illustrated the book?
Jo Linsdell designed the cover and illustrated all my books. She has been wonderful to work with. 

~ Jo is awesome! I've been friends with her for quite a few years- its been awesome watching her illustrating talent grow!

Illustrator Jo Linsdell,

~What was the hardest part of working on this series?
Some of the animals were easy to do but with others it wasn't as simple and straight forward. A lot depends on the photo I have to work with. Then there's the simple fact that not all animals are easy to transform into the style used in the series. Certain breeds are easy to identify from the strong characteristics they have. When the animal is mixed breed and has lots of markings it gets more complicated. Those with lots of markings for example are hard to simplify whilst still putting in the details that make them who they are. I then need to add accessories to them to put them "in character". The end product needs to be clutter-free in keeping with the style used. Like I said, not always an easy task ;)

~I always love hearing about everyone's different processes. I absolutely adore your illustrations- even at the pencil sketch phase! Have you ever thought about doing a more realistic story book, sorta like your first round photo like sketches?

~What is your favorite color?

~NO WAY! Mine too! I like dark blue... well that and fuchsia... I think I have a tie...

~Who is your favorite artist?
Tough question. I love so many of them. Salvador Dali is definitely one of my favorites. I remember when they did an exhibition of his art here in Rome. I went twice and spent hours in there each time. I love how creative and imaginative he was. Eccentric and attention grabbing both in his art and in life. As well as the surrealist work he is most famous for, he was also a very good sculpture, and photographer.

~Oh cool! My personal favorite is Vincent Van Gogh- I ADORE his 'Starry Night'. On the rest of his paintings I love how he uses streaks of color and blends them all together to create the picture! Of course after seeing him 'come to life' in Doctor Who... that was the best!

~Where can people find out more about working with you?

At my website http://www.jolinsdell.com/. On site they can find information on my "work with me" page, read testimonials from people I've worked with, see examples of my work, and find out more about the projects I'm involved with.

~Awesome ladies! You two are major inspirations! Maria I am so honored to get a chance to meet you; and Jo- you are always welcome on my blog! I really enjoyed the inside look into how your illustration projects come together in last week's blog. Keep on inspiring the next generation to reach for the stars ladies!

If anyone has any questions for Jo or Maria, I've been told they may just stop by ;) So ask away!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

V.L. Jennings Movie Rating System

Your Ending Killed Your Story

 I  rate movies (and books) on an A- C scale. Sure Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble all may try to force me to use a five star system... but really- if you are unfortunate enough to need a one or two star well then I typically don't bother because numerous other people have probably already told you how awful it is and it wouldn't be kind of me to heap on extra helpings of shin kicking.

The same rating system that helps me review movies and books also helps me decide whether they are interesting enough to buy.

My husband and I share our ratings with each other after watching movie trailers, "That will be a B movie". Then after we see the movie we often compare how we would change our keep our rating.

I treat my potential reads the same way- though in this case I'll typically read the back of the book blurb and the first and last pages (I know... I'm odd).

So... Here's My Review Rating System

Volcano image
photo credit: ierdnall via photopin cc
We can just tell a C movie by watching the previews, if it doesn't look like it will interest us then we typically won't buy them until they are in the super cheap bin. If I somehow watch a C movie in the theater- yeah I really regret wasting the money.

If the book back copy, first and last page don't interest me then I don't typically pick up these sorts of books to read.

If the book gave me a hard time following the story line, it barely interested me, or was really formulaic then you will earn yourself a C.

volcano image 2
photo credit: ierdnall via photopin cc

B movies I'd be much happier getting when they hit the stores- we might go see it in theaters if we have nothing else better to do.

These movies atleast strike our interest in previews.

If you manage to hold my interest, I can finish it, and it takes me on a fun journey without too many readability issues- then you earn yourself a B. I Typically don't read B books again, unless I am bored.

Volcano image 3
photo credit: ierdnall via photopin cc

'A' movies I WANT to watch in the movie theater and then also buy as soon as they hit the stores!

These are the movies that ROCK our socks off in previews!

These are the books that I can't put down, the ones that I want to read over and over again!

The most important thing about a book or movie?

The ending must be perfect for the story like- it is a make or break it, all or nothing experience! The ending should blow me away and leave me feeling satisfied.

See the thing is... when a book or movie starts out at as an A and then the ending totally doesn't 'do it for me' well, yeah, it sorta cuts the whole experience down a rating notch for me.

Am I the only one?

 Case in point.... the movie Pompeii.

I loved the movie! (Right up until the end.) 
It had everything I love about these types of movies, action, love interest, a bit of historical politics thrown in there, and a heart pounding destruction scene! One by one the characters get killed off- heck this is Pompeii, we all know what happens by now.

Right until the end- our main hero couple finally looks like they are going to get away! YAY! Then the horse bolts and they stand there to die. *groan*

I disliked that ending. However, the epicness of the movie was high enough that I didn't regret watching the movie. I probably won't buy it on DVD though. (Which is saying something because I happen to love collecting disaster/end of the world type movies. Because yes, I'm weird like that.)

As an author, bearing all this in mind, I see it as a major risk to go killing off your major characters at the end of the book when you have asked your readers (or in Pompeii's case- your viewers) to fall in love with them. If you are going to do so you better make sure the rest of the story is super, or that you left your readers with other favorite characters to keep loving in their dreams.

Walking Dead, for example, can get away with killing off the lovable Beth character simply because there are plenty of other characters that we will all show up next season for. Why? Because we love them too and want to watch their story play out.

The last book that disappointed me? Off the top of my head I'd have to say Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince- killing off Dumbledore almost made me not want to go back. I did, and I am glad I took that chance, but still- that was disturbing to sit with for an entire year. Risky J.K., risky!

Anyhow... what was the last movie or book you finished that started off as an A and then the ending just really left a sour taste in your mouth? Please share!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Rivi- Tangled in Christmas Lights- Short Story

tangled christmas lights
photo credit: bloomgal via photopin cc
A Christmas Mini Story
Featuring the characters from The Alien Mind

Every year I set up our family Christmas decorations the weekend after Thanksgiving. I had just climbed into my attic to drag down the Christmas boxes when I heard the familiar chime of our door alarm. My heart stopped. The door was supposed to be locked, I'd checked it just moments ago!

Thoughts raced through my mind of my three yr old playing Tron on the Wii in his room. I looked around for something in the attic I could snatch up to use as a weapon.

Plastic driveway candy cane? Eh, seems decently hard enough.

"V.L.? Why are you in your ceiling?"
Ugh, I'm still not quite used to the name change! But wait! What's SHE doing here?! She's not even supposed to exist!
"Um- Rivi, is that you? How did you get in here?" I ask, hanging my head through the open attic door.
"I can manipulate matter remember? I just flipped the inside of the lock. I did try ringing your doorbell first." Rivi answered quickly.
By this point I had recovered sufficiently enough from the shock that I was ready to play along with whatever delusion was playing out in my head.
"Oh yeah, I forgot- we still don't have that fixed yet." I grabbed one of the smaller boxes from the top of the decoration boxes stack and dropped it through the attic door, "Catch!"
Rivi caught the box by levitating it mid air and lowered it carefully to the ground.
"Weren't you afraid of breaking the ornaments in there?" Rivi asked. "I mean, I caught them, but what if I hadn't?"
I shrugged before I realized she couldn't see me from down there.
"That one is just a bunch of tangled Christmas lights." I answered.
"Christmas lights?"
"You've never seen Christmas lights? Hold on! You'll love this!" I answered while crawling back over to the attic ladder.
Once I made it down I pulled out the wad of Christmas lights and stuck the outlet end into the wall.

"Oh WOW neat!" Rivi exclaimed as the wad of wire and tiny bulbs lit up in multiple colors. "Want me to untangle them for you?"
"You can try if you'd like. I'll go get the rest of the boxes."
Rivi held her hands over the tangled ball of lights and levitated them off the floor. Back and forth she waved her hands around the ball loosening it little by little. I climbed down the ladder with the second box and looked around for Rivi... she wasn't in the hallway any longer.

Now, my house isn't very big so I didn't have to look far to see her standing in the middle of the living room with a ginormous moving web of lights over her head. She'd loosened the ball, that's for sure but now it was just an even larger unmanageable mess!

"Rivi- Wait!"
"I've got this," She said, "Um, wait, no, Oh NO!"
Rivi lost control of just a few pieces of the unwieldy web and suddenly it came crashing down all around her entangling her in the middle. Lights were everywhere, both of my cats freaked out. One cat darted off down the hallway and the other arched its back and hissed like Rivi was something that now needed to be pounced on.

I couldn't help it, I laughed and laughed and laughed.

"Not funny," Rivi said glumly blowing her hair out of her face from under the tangled web of lights.

"Next time it might help to unplug the strand before trying to unravel them!" I said still laughing.

"I'm sure your system of storing lights could use some improvement too!" Rivi said with a motion toward the box the lights had been unceremoniously shoved into the year before.

She has a point...


Hope you enjoyed this little holiday scene- I plan on inviting more of my other characters over for my holiday party this year so don't be afraid to come on over and join the fun!

While we are at it- what is your favorite way of storing those strands of Christmas lights... does your method keep them from getting tangled?


Find The Alien Mind on Amazon!

Did you like this post? If so you might enjoy my book!

For adults and teens alike, it is truly a science fiction adventure for the whole family!

If you'd prefer an autographed copy straight from the author you can buy one here as well!
Autographed Copy:$13.00 + Shipping

Friday, December 5, 2014

Illustrating Jasmines Got Talent

Tell us about your latest release?
Jasmine's Got Talent! has just been released in both kindle and print formats. It's a children's picture story book written by Maria Rochelle and illustrated by me. This is the book blurb:

"Jasmine the miniature-schnauzer returns in another dreamy adventure! In this one, she's going to show off her talent and maybe win a prize! Join her as she takes the stage in the third Jasmine Dreams book."

How was this collaboration born?
Another client of mine, Kathy Mashburn, told Maria about me at a writers group they both attended and showed her a copy of A Birthday Clown for Archer. Maria then got in touch and we started work on the first book in the Jasmine Dreams series.

What's the hardest part of illustrating this series?
The fact that the characters, both animals and people, are based on real life animals and people. Maria sends me photo's of them and then I turn them into the characters in the book. It's not just some random dog. It's a specific dog with a personality and owners that are excited about their pet being in the book. I have to capture the real dog whilst also keeping to the style of illustration used in the series. Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes it's a real challenge.

How do you go from photo to finished character?
I usually start by doing a sketch based on the photo I'm sent. This helps me get a feel for the animal and gives me a clearer idea of the basic form. These sketches are done pencil on paper. I then scan the sketches so I have a copy on my computer to use as a guideline when creating the digital version of the character. Using Adobe Illustrator, and the sketch, I then create the final character. I simplify the sketch and add colouring to adapt it to the style used in the series. Afterwards I add the accessories and develop the personality of the character. I then send the character cards to Maria for approval.

Where can people get a copy of the book?
It can be found on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PO3Y3JM

Where can people find out more about working with you?

At my website http://www.jolinsdell.com/. On site they can find information on my "work with me" page, read testimonials from people I've worked with, see examples of my work, and find out more about the projects I'm involved with.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

An Overwhelming THANK YOU!

V.L. Jennings books
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You Guys ROCK!


Click here to visit Amazon- order your copy today!
Announcing the re-release of V.L. Jennings' two books, Visionary From The Stars and The Alien Mind, newly published by PDMI Publishing LLC. and their imprint Rara Avis! 

Book release tour ran from from October 20th to November 30th, 2014

Did you miss a stop and want to catch up?
 See Tour Page! 

While you are catching up on all the tour stops I want to take a moment to graciously thank all of my wonderful hosts and all of my friends that helped spread the word about the releases!

To those who participated in the book cover blasts and flew my book covers as their profile pictures for the duration of the tour I salute you! (THANK YOU SO MUCH!)

Skye Hoffman
Ali Lewis
Edward Frank
Kevin/Honi Drown

To all those who hosted me on my tour these past two months- words can not express my gratitude!

Dianne Gardner
Clay Gilbert
Skye Hoffman
Jo Linsdell
Writers &Authors
September Oaks 
Second Annual Novel Wine Tasting Arts and Literary Festival
Tracee Ford
Cindy Koepp
To all of the people who follow my facebook page- you all have been such great friends! I've noticed each and every one of your shares, comments, and likes - thank you for all of your support!

To my fellow PDMI peeps- you guys just rock! Thank you for your help and support- each and every one of you!

And finally! Thank you to all who participated in the Rafflecopter!

Our rafflecopter winner is Elizabeth Chang!
Your card is coming in the mail! :)

gift card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It is because of all of your support that my books made it onto Amazon best seller lists in the first two weeks they were out! One of them made it all the way up to #14 on one list! Now, they are certainly not there now- because everyone has been busy eating turkey ha-ha! However, if you'd like to help me climb that list again, well, my books make excellent gifts for all ages- especially if you have a middle grade teen in the house that loves science!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Speculating on Pectus Excavatum

"Its not just cosmetic..."

Well, the good news and the bad news- I'm sure you've noticed less and less of my posts lately, I've been a little distracted; researching and trying to help my 10yr old.

Apparently the motrin and now the steroids have not helped to bring my son's pain down. He's on his last day of his weeks worth of steroids and today he woke up at a pain scale of 7-8 this morning. I'm going to give him some motrin and hope it works enough for school. *sigh*

They are saying the pain is due to something called Costochondritis more due to the fact that they don't know what is causing his pain than anything else. It came on suddenly and without explanation.

What is Costochondritis?

Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage joints in your chest. It is typically caused by a sudden increase in strenuous exercising, or 'over doing it'. You can also get it from bending, twisting, or lifting something sharply or in the wrong direction. Athletes have been known to get it from time to time.

However, with my son it is more than just the areas with cartilage that are hurting, and it started before any major PE stuff had started at school. His actual ribs hurt him all the way out to the sides.  Add in the constant pulling in of the rib cage due to what I can only assume is a growth spurt and you now have Pectus Excavatum that has turned from being just a cosmetic defect to something that now hurts worse than any pain he has ever had in his life.

To see this picture you can tell why!

Pectus Excavatum
Those aren't muscles or moobies- thats all rib cage!
Hint: its supposed to be flat.

This is the first time he has hurt this much this early in the morning- and yes the pain has been getting worse, even through all the restricted activity, motrin, icepacks, heating pads, and now a full week on steroids which were supposed to bring the inflammation down. We've been dealing with this pain since August of this year. He also doesn't have the stamina to participate in gym or sports like he did even just last year, instead he gets dizzy and feels like he has to gasp for breath. Frankly, the sudden and progressive severity of these symptoms, especially the pain, is what has me the most concerned. Thankfully we are scheduled for testing soon to get the pre op stuff set up.

What is Pectus Excavatum?

Pectus Excavatum is a disorder where the cartilage grows faster than it should and causes the rib cage to bow inward. Some of the more typical symptoms are shortness of breath and dizzyness upon exertion and chest pain. Others have difficulty swallowing, irregular heart beats, and even passing out in some cases. In most cases the heart is even pushed off into the left lung space or compressed by the sternum.

In order to figure out if you are a candidate to have Pectus Excavatum repaired you will need of a CT scan. From there they can determine the amount of space in your chest which they label the Haller index.  Anything over a 3.2 is considered severe enough to warrant surgery.

What kind of surgery?

The most common repair if you are symmetrical and anywhere from 8-14 yrs old (they prefer to get you before you stop growing) is the Nuss procedure. With this they make a small incision and slip a metal bar under your rib cage to push it out and brace it for 3-4 years. You will be in the hospital for almost a week (which seems to be the norm for any chest surgery).There is a lot of pain and a month long (or more in some cases) recovery time but the pain does go away. Some people continue to be a little tender in the area of the stabilizers on the side until the bar is removed.

 At the end of that 3-4 yr period they open that same small incision and slide the bar out, you get to go home the next day. You can find out more about the Nuss Procedure here where it was developed. 

If you are asymmetrical, or if you are older, than sometimes the Ravitch procedure is used. More on the Ravitch Procedure here.

 The surgery doesn't remove the root cause of the problem, which is the overgrowth of cartilage- it just sets the rib cage back out to encourage it to grow correctly again. Few doctors specialize in handling the effects of Pectus Excavatum and don't really know how to treat the symptoms or the root cause of the problem. Due to this, there have been rare cases where Pectus Excavatum has come back... even after surgery.

My child has Pectus Excavatum... now what?

First things first, ask for a CT scan if only to get a base number to keep an eye on as they get older.

Second, ask for a referral to a pediatric surgeon who specializes in chest wall repairs, specifically the Nuss and Ravitch procedures.

Take pictures for records

Preferably once a year in a dimly lit room- the shadows help show the depth of the issue. I've found the best pictures can be taken from the side angle when the child is laying flat on the floor. Angle the camera so that you can see the full side view of any flaring of the bottom of the rib cage, bring the camera up just enough so that you can see into the bottom of the indent. Allow shadow play to highlight the indent as you take your picture.

Bear in mind that while a picture may speak a thousand words the defect is often much worse under the surface. In my son's case, his skin stretches over and hides the deepest part of the defect.

Don't let them feel down about themselves

(Decide which approach will work best for your kid.)

*For us, we just didn't mention it very often and our son never really grew to think twice about it. In our case though he isn't around many other male children with his shirt off. We have him wear T-shirts to the beach because my kids burn easily, and any time he was in a pool it was only ever around family. In school they don't change in the locker rooms, and he is not in school sports yet that would require him to change at school. We have done recreational department baseball during the fall but all the kids wore their uniforms from home and never had to see each other shirtless.

*Your case could be completely different if your son has brothers or friends without Pectus Excavatum that may see him without his shirt on. To help alleviate the concerns over appearance I have noticed that some parents will help their child find a silver lining of sorts. Namely, using their indention as a snack holder or resting a cup in it for fun. The kids seem to enjoy this.

Now I know this is more of a personal post than the typical sci-fi related material that I normally post but it has come to my attention that Pectus Excavatum is not a very well known condition and I'd like to do my part to help.  I have yet to find an all inclusive website that compiles all the research and medical journals into one place but Google has been really helpful. There are also many groups on facebook that you can join where people are more than willing to share their stories and let you know what worked for them.

I'll be sure to keep you guys posted...
If you have any suggestions or questions I am all ears.