I have been trying very hard to get through this more-complicated-than-anticipated book that I’m writing, and I finally made it. The book isn’t finished, not by a long shot, but I now know what all the bits and pieces are and how they fit together. All that remains to do is go back and put in all the layers I left out.

The way I write has changed in the last couple years. Back in the day (love that phrase, and really don’t know why), I wrote the way I did the last third of this book: get it down on paper and then go back and fix it. Now I prefer to write a chapter at a time, and don’t move on until the next until I’ve added all the layers (background detail, action, character development, emotion) — until that little piece of the story is as complete as it’s willing to be, in other words. I think of it as writing from the inside as opposed to writing from the outside, which is me merely blocking the thing out. The new way requires a lot less rewriting than the old.

However, I was running out of time. Fast and dirty got the job done.

The past several months have been full of distractions. The economy. The election. Lee’s been back and forth to Ireland way more times than usual, so he’s either been recuperating from twenty-four-hour-plus travel expeditions or getting ready to do it again; and I’ve been either getting used to him being here or not. And then there was this extremely annoying business with my eyes.

It started with blurring vision and light sensitivity. I thought that was due to cataracts. I’ve since learned that cataract symptoms don’t come and go, which this did. The next step was waking up in the middle of the night with acute pain and finding it difficult to open my eyes.

I thought that was dry eye. This little adventure continued until I wound up with an ulcerated cornea.

It turns out that I have something called ‘map dot fingerprint dystrophy’. Here’s what the National Eye Institute website has to say about it:

“This dystrophy occurs when the epithelium’s basement membrane develops abnormally (the basement membrane serves as the foundation on which the epithelial cells, which absorb nutrients from tears, anchor and organize themselves). When the basement membrane develops abnormally, the epithelial cells cannot properly adhere to it. This, in turn, causes recurrent epithelial erosions, in which the epithelium’s outermost layer rises slightly, exposing a small gap between the outermost layer and the rest of the cornea.

“Epithelial erosions can be a chronic problem. They may alter the cornea’s normal curvature, causing periodic blurred vision. They may also expose the nerve endings that line the tissue, resulting in moderate to severe pain lasting as long as several days. Generally, the pain will be worse on awakening in the morning. Other symptoms include sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, and foreign body sensation in the eye.

“Map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy, which tends to occur in both eyes, usually affects adults between the ages of 40 and 70, although it can develop earlier in life. Also known as epithelial basement membrane dystrophy, map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy gets its name from the unusual appearance of the cornea during an eye examination. Most often, the affected epithelium will have a map-like appearance, i.e., large, slightly gray outlines that look like a continent on a map. There may also be clusters of opaque dots underneath or close to the map-like patches. Less frequently, the irregular basement membrane will form concentric lines in the central cornea that resemble small fingerprints.”

I’ve no idea how long I’ve had the condition. It’s been exacerbated by dry eye.

There are various treatments available starting with drowning myself in eye drops and hoping the condition will eventually go away, and ending with laser eye surgery. I’ve opted for the latter, largely because I can have my distance vision corrected at the same time.

Plus, I’m getting very tired of putting drops in my eyes a zillion times a day.

Which is why I’ve been so frantic to get the book done. The surgery is being done one eye at a time, with the right eye being operated on today. Once the first eye has healed sufficiently – for most people, two to three weeks; I have my fingers crossed – then the second eye is operated on. The doctor says that in the meantime I’ll be able to both read and drive. The literature says my vision will be blurred. I have no idea what to expect, but was determined to get to the end of the story before I had to set it aside. Maybe some people can abandon a project and return to it later without difficulty, but I’m not one of them. And this particular project has been difficult from day one. Sequels are tough.

I suspect I’m going to be very pleased this sequel when it’s finally done.

Surgery is scheduled in a little less than two hours. I’d be chewing my nails if they were long enough.

The procedure will only take five minutes or so.

Unfortunately, I’m required to be awake.

They’ve promised me lots of valium.