Apr 7 2014

Annoyances and updates


(Click images to embiggen for better legibility)

image1 image2 image3 image4 image5

However, the good news is: Today was my last dose of Taxol.  That’s the T in the TH of my current chemo regimen, and it’s the culprit in the peripheral neuropathy.  So, whatever increase in side-effects I get in the coming week will be the last increase.   Then it’s just a question of will it go away?  And if it does, how long will it take?

Meanwhile, the usual steroid crash I get after these is due, probably by tomorrow night, after which I will lie around like a plate of particularly uninteresting aspic until, oh, Saturday night.  But also on the upside: I only got that massive dose of steroids because of the Taxol, and this was my last Taxol.  Sooo … after this, also no more steroids or steroid crash.  That will be nice.

Going forward, we just have the Herceptin every week (which does not knock me back as much as the Taxol), then surgery in May, and recovery, and soon after that, radiation therapy.  Which will be a whole new adventure.

In other news:  I missed the window for getting the ebook of The Language of Power completed before this week’s chemo and steroid crash.  So, it’ll have to wait until Sunday earliest for any further progress; ditto with the non-kindle versions of the ebooks.

One thing that ate up time was my taxes!   While in theory it could have been simple, it was complicated by the fact that I actually did get some miniscule amount of money from Del Rey on the paperback versions of my books.   I do have the rights back, and they’ve stopped selling my works — but the delay in their accounting system meant that I was still owed money from before I disengaged from them, and this money was paid in 2013 and I had to include it in my income.  Using the Profit or Loss from a Business 1040-C form.  I wanted to do it right, and be beyond reproach for 2013, because 2014 is going to be crazy-time, what with income from various streams, and all sorts of business expenses, as well as the Day Job that provides my health insurance.  It’ll be complicated.

And I had to get the taxes done before Chemo and steroid crash, because although I’ll probably be past the crash by Sunday, I might not be, given that it takes longer to recover each time, and it’s possible my down-time might extend into the tax-filing deadline.  So I wanted to do the taxes while I still had a brain I could count on.

Unrelated info:  Sabine and I have been watching Continuum on Netflix, which I quite enjoy.  They put a lot of work and thought into the future-scenes, and the acting is pretty good, the storyline complex.  Don’t let the synopsis fool you: “Cop from the future chasing terrorists.”  Bleagh.  Doesn’t cover it.

Also: I’m currently reading  The Little White Dove by JM Barrie (of Peter Pan fame).   This was a book I had stumbled upon ages ago when I was house-sitting in an old historical home, which had all sorts of fascinating old literature and scrapbooks lying around.  I found the book hilarious and sweet at the same time, and I love the narrator.  I just picked it up in a massive Kindle compilation of all of Barrie’s works, with cost next to nothing.  I’m glad to see that I’m enjoying The Little White Dove as much as I did the first time.

Apr 4 2014

Delia Sherman knitted me a little hat.


Because bald=cold.

I want to wear it all the time.

Slightly large, but she told me how to shrink it…

It’s comfy, warm, and my favorite color!

Gosh, thanks!

(Okay, back to the ebook conversions… I have 3 days before the next chemo, when I will be knocked flat again.)

Apr 1 2014

Many thanks! Plus: Bumped by the blizzard


I want to thank all the people who jumped right in and bought copies of the ebooks for The Outskirter’s Secret and The Lost Steersman last week — My royalty check for the month of March is going to look very pretty!   And since my disability payments are only a fraction of my regular wage, the royalties help me a whole lot — so, again, my thanks to you all.

(Yes, Amazon pays out royalties on a monthly basis.  There’s a two-month delay between the month’s final calculation and the actual payment, so I’ll get paid for March at the end of May; but I can see what my sales are, and what my royalties will be, in as close to real-time as makes no difference.  This is VERY different from traditional publishing.)

I’ve emerged from my steroid crash, and am once again awake and alert.   So, The Language of Power ebook will be out before the end of this month.

In other news: I was supposed to get my Herceptin-only infusion on Monday, but to everyone’s surprise, the day dawned with rain, hail, sleet and snow coming down in remarkable amounts at astonishing speeds.   Last day of March!   You know the proverb about March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb — but apparently this year “going out like a lamb” refers to some poor lamb being born in a blizzard (which I understand does happen) and then DYING OF EXPOSURE to the cruel elements before the the shepherd manages to find it and carry it to the shepherd hut to warm up (I’m picturing Granny Aching from Terry Pratchett’s Wee Free Men series, here).

We tried to get out to the hospital, but every route we tried had a spinout, or an accident, or a bus spinning its wheels, unable to make it up an unplowed hill.  We had to turn around.

So, doing it today instead.  The Chemo suite is jammed with people: Tuesday’s regulars, plus those bumped from Monday.

The trend is still generally good — the tumor’s shrinkage means we’ll be doing a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy.   This is excellent.  However, lumpectomies “come with” radiation therapy, as my oncologist puts it.   Previously we’d thought we might be able to do without the radiation.  But this is a trade-off I’m happy to make!  Because: no mastectomy.

One fairly inconvenient thing: a significant percentage of patients being treated with Taxol have a side-effect called peripheral neuropathy, where they develop pins-and-needles sensations and numbness, which starts at the tips of the fingers and toes, and can sometimes creep further and further up.    I’m one of those patients, unfortunately; but fortunately, my symptoms are comparatively mild.

But, a further downside: it can be permanent.   We won’t know if it’s permanent in my case, unless it actually fails to go away — and even the temporary kind can take many months to clear up.   But I count myself lucky that it’s no worse than it is.   Because: Hey, I’m not dead!   I win!

Other good news:  when my pal Brian was here filling in in as caretaker while Sabine caught some sea & sun in Florida, he discovered a good Indian restaurant just down the street from me.  Excellent, another win!

It’s Wins all around, basically.

Mar 25 2014

And here’s another bit of good news…

That's right.

That’s right.

It’s the ebook version of The Outskirter’s Secret, now available on Amazon.

Oh, and also:


TLS cover small

That’s right. I said, that’s right.


Also available on Amazon…


And in celebration — what the heck, let’s drop the price of Book One:


Now only $2.99

Now only $2.99

A good time for new people to give this a try!

Also on Amazon only, so far.

And what about book 4, The Language of Power?  Well, I’ve just finished getting these two out, and now I’m due for a serious post-chemo steroid crash.   I expect to be largely asleep for the rest of this week; I got these done just under the wire.

But with the experience behind me I am absolutely certain that The Language of Power will be in Kindle form in the month of April.  I’m shooting for the first week, but if I miss that, I’ll have another down-week to deal with, and I’ll only have the energy back by the third week.  So, one of those.

For non-kindle ebook readers — I beg your indulgence.  We really are working on solving that, and we’ll probably go through Smashwords, which will send the books out through all the non-Kindle outlets.   I can’t yet provide a timeline, sorry to say…

But there it is, for now.

Really must get some sleep now — it’s 4AM on Tuesday, but it feels pretty good to get these out in the world!

More later.



Mar 24 2014

Use it when you’ve got it


Last week was Herceptin-only, which made it a much easier week, physically speaking. No massive doses of steroids, no Taxol.  A walk in the park, comparatively, although I do get wiped out, now and then.

But having some time during which I’m fairly energetic, I had to put that time on the most urgent things.   About which I’m sure you can guess…

Meanwhile, today back in the chemo suite for the big guns.   With the Taxol, I’ll be okay today, winding down tomorrow, more so on Wednesday and the mostly asleep until Sunday.

I don’t mind the chemo infusions themselves… as you know, I use the stuck-in-one-place time to good effect.

Today, while writing various things, I was listening to Pandora on my earphones  — but pulled ‘em out when this gentleman came in:

John P Shannon Jr, soothing the weary chemo patients

JP Shannon Jr, soothing the weary chemo patients


It’s lovely to have some non-TV sounds in the Chemo Suite, and JP has some nice chops.   Instrumental only, and just acoustic, which is pretty much what I’d want while getting chems dumped into my port. I’ve also caught him playing in the more public areas of the hospital, when he uses a very nice amplifier that really makes the tone on that Taylor guitar shine.

As well as the usual instrumental suspects, JP has some unusual choices — for instance,  a version of Paul Simon’s Scarborough Fair/ Canticle that not only uses Simon’s accompaniment (which I always loved playing, because of the interesting fingering that makes the left hand go into this gentle rocking motion between positions), but also includes every sung note of the melody, AND every sung note of the Canticle  descant.   All on one guitar.  This definitely made me sit up and listen!

JP tells me he gets a lot of work at hospitals, nursing homes, recreation centers and the like. Which is what many of my folkie pals from New York did, and still do, to augment the non-existent remuneration of the hot folk music scene.

(And here’s his contact info, should you need to hire an instrumental diversionist in Southern New England:  johnpshannonjr@gmail.com)

If pure guitar is not your thing, here’s what Pandora fed me, literally just before John showed up:

One of my Pandora channels is called “Arrogant Worms” because that group served as the seed for the station.   And what did Pandora think was similar to The Arrogant Worms?  Barenaked Ladies, of course, and They Might Be Giants, but also Moxy Fruvous — who Sabine and I first heard at Newport Folk Festival, ages ago.

What is it about those wacky Canadians?




Mar 12 2014

Still here…


Yikes, I just realized that it’s been two weeks since I blogged!

This is not due to me being completely under the weather, do not fear. It’s due to me being partially under the weather, and then trying to use my up-times to get some work done on the ebooks. I would love to get the rest of the Kindle versions out by the end of this month. The epubs are in process, as well, but less speedily…

Meanwhile, I had TH chemo on Monday again. It’s a lot of stuff that goes in.

premeds 03-10-14

And this is just the stuff they use to prep me before  the Taxol and Herceptin, the big guns.


I don’t actually feel bad during the infusion… I just chill out and read and surf the internet, write a bit,  make notes, listen to music.   Thank goodness this hospital has free wifi!    They have TV’s at each infusion station, too, but bleagh.  Daytime TV?  No way.

Sabine’s going to be taking a week’s vacation from me, hooray for her!   She’s had to do a lot.  Our pal Brian is coming on Sunday do fill in for her and be my minion, and Sabine will be basking in sunshine by the sea.   About which I’m jealous, of course.   At least the  weather around here, while still swinging wildly, is hitting some nicer numbers on the upswing.  I try to take a walk for about half an hour, on days when I can.

Meanwhile, hey, I’ve got radioactive blood!  Yesterday they did a MUGA scan (Multi-Gated Acquisition Scan, also known as radionuclide angiography), to test my heart-valve functioning.   They do this every three months in order to track a not-common but possible side-effect of my treatments.  They want to stay on top of it.  I’ll know the results on Monday next.

Naturally, many jokes with the radiology tech person.   I was leaning toward Spider-man, she tending toward the Hulk.   The student in attendance, a young foreign gentleman, was a bit puzzled at us.

The new chemo has a huge dose of steroids to accompany it, but for a shorter period than previously, meaning that I’m moving into a crash-mode right now.  Last time, Wednesday was the hard day for the crash, with other attendant annoyances and pains — so, more to come shortly,  I suppose.  Fortunately, I’m off work, so my calendar is clear…

Minor but annoying side-effects:  I cannot play the guitar!  This because the AC portion of my chemo had a cumulative side-effect of dehydrating my skin so much that no amount of lotion prevented my fingertips from being crazily-sensitive to any kind of friction, and actually sometimes cracking.  I  believe this was exacerbated by all the paper-handling in my day-job, which I was still working at that point.  Also, as a finger-style guitarist, I use my nails to play… and the other common side-effect is that your nails start growing in weird.   And freakishly painful.  Like having a tiny, tight vise on each finger.

That’s starting to diminish now, although the fingernail thing, while hurting less, remains peculiar.   And kind of creepy, with multiple subsurface colorations.

When I signed up for Worldcon in London, I told them I was interested in doing a 20-minute musical performance… I’m hoping I’m back in the musical groove by then, but if I have to back out of that part, it’s not the end of the world.  Heck, I don’t even know yet if they’re going to give me a slot at all.

Meanwhile, my oncologist is still pleased with my progress,  the surgeon’s happy, and I’m just movin’ on down that track toward getting this thing to be gone.

In other news: yes of course I watched Cosmos!   Love Neil deGrasse Tyson.  I thought it was delightful and moving.  And I agree with most reviews I’ve read, that the animated bit about Giordano Bruno ran a bit long… but it did serve as a reminder that there were times in history when disagreeing with religion could get you killed!

Wait, that’s still today, isn’t it?  Depending on where you live, that is.





Feb 27 2014

You know what? This stuff actually works.


I had an MRI last week, and the good news is that the tumor has shrunk.

Significantly.   To just over one-third of its original size.

And my lymph nodes all look normal.  Which they did not before.

So… wow.

I was confident before that things would improve, and that science rules.   But it’s so lovely to actually see the results.

I still have plenty of chemo to go, but we do know that we are on the right track.  For sure.

Meanwhile, I sort of overdid things last week, trying to get my Day-Job ready for me being out for an extended period.   This involved lots of sudden creation of documentation for the more arcane procedures that I do weekly and monthly.   The company did not bring anyone in to cover my work — they’re just shifting it around to other people.  All these other people have jobs of their own to do.   I’m not sure how high a priority they’ll make the additional tasks.  I suppose that time will tell.

So, I actually put in over 40 hours last week, including Saturday, which did wear me down some.    But as of this week, I’m out of the office for a good long time.

On Monday, we switched chemo from one combination (Adriamycin plus Cyclophosphamide, called AC) to another (Taxol plus Herceptin, called TH), but since the side-effects of chemo do accumulate, I’m still feeling the build-up of all that AC.   I’m very run down, and this is a week were a lot of sleeping is taking place.

Reading is tiring this week (as is concentrating), so I’m mainly doing audiobooks.  What I’m listening to:  Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon &  the Journey of a Generation, by Sheila Weller.  I mainly bought it because of Joni Mitchell, who was so, so influential in my life; but I’m finding Carole King’s story just as fascinating, and Carly Simon’s illuminating in a different way.  King was lower middle-class/working class, Mitchell was solid, stolid middle-class Canadian Prairie, and Simon’s background  was upper middle-class, and very privileged.   Between the three of them, serially and overlapping,  they cover a period when women’s lives and what was possible for women to accomplish were changing wildly — and the hippie culture, and drugs, and birth control were all coming in around the same time.

The author, Sheila Weller, is a bit uneven, occasionally overblown, and seems sometimes to heavy-handedly speculate towards the most dramatic interpretation of ambiguous events… But mostly she’s fine, and is revealing exactly the sort of information I want to hear.

Ebook update: No ebook update this week, sorry to say.   Just too beat to accomplish anything worth reporting.    Next week is an off-week for chemo (only the H of the TH combo), and I’m hoping to get a bit more energy in the next few days.

Lastly:  Here’s a TED talk I liked when I first heard it,  recently heard again, and found I still like it just as much.


Feb 19 2014

Con or Bust auction: All the Steerswoman books, plus map and jewel


I finished my offering for the Con or Bust auction, and it’s up for bidding right now!

Here’s what you get:

all the books.  A map.  A mysterious jewel-like object

all the books. A map. A mysterious jewel-like object

These are the trade paperbacks, published by Del Rey.  The first book, The Steerswoman’s Road combines The Steerswoman and The Outskirter’s Secret in combination, so with these three books  you get all four volumes of the series.

The map is Rowan’s world as of the beginning of Book 4, so it includes the Dolphin Stair from The Lost Steersman.   The map is framed in a shadowbox, and I’ve included an example of the so-called jewel that started the whole story back in Book 1.

If you win the auction, I’ll ship these to you anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.  (South of the equator, shipping costs get crazy.  I’m looking at you, Australia and New Zealand.  If you really want these, have me ship to a pal of yours in the Northern Hemisphere, and you and he or she can work it out from there.)

Secret fact not mentioned on Con or Bust, known only to you: the paper on which the map is printed was hand-made by me, back in my paper-making days.  I think it came out pretty nice.  And I’ll include a blank sheet of that same paper for your own use.

And naturally, I’ll autograph the books at your  request.  You can choose just the autograph and date, or I’ll personalize it (“To YourNameHere, SomeNiceComment, etc.”)  Sometimes people don’t want autographs  to be personalized, since it affects the book’s resale value — and these books are now out of print, and very hard to find.

So, if you want these, head over to the Con or Bust auction, and put in a bid.   Bidding ends on February 23 at 5PM Eastern Time.

And while you’re over there, browse through the other items up for auction.   There are some lovely, interesting, and exciting items and services donated by all sorts of people.   If you look at the tags list in the right-hand column on the Con or Bust page, you can browse by categories — or you can just continue to click through page after page of random cool stuff (my preferred method of exploration).

And don’t forget Delia Sherman’s auction offering: a critique of your novel, via Skype!

Feb 13 2014

Snow day! Plus: halfway through chemo. Extra flash: Delia Sherman’s Con or Bust offering!


No work today!  I was not up to driving to work in this mess, nor willing ask my poor sister risk life and limb hauling me off to the day-job.

I stayed home, and mostly worked on the proofing for The Outskirter’s Secret ebook — kindle version.   (Sorry Kalessin — and other non-Kindlers!  It’s about all I can handle at the moment.)  And it’s quite weird how many oddities of formatting show up from what looks like a clean copy, once it’s actually compiled.  Some back and forth is required.

For the non-Kindle formats, I’m going to try to recruit some assistance — about which, more soon.   It’s become clear that in my current compromised state, I just can’t handle everything myself.

Chemo number four was on Monday, and again it took a little more out of me than the previous, and the effects are lasting longer.   But as of now I’m halfway through the chemo process, so even while it’s getting harder, the end is in sight and approaching.  My final pre-op chemo should be in early April, followed by chemo vacation!   Four weeks with no chemo, in preparation for the surgery, in May.

I’m gettin’ a little tired of the steroids, too — they pep you up, but they also puff you up, and I’m starting to feel like a stuffed sausage!   For four days.  Then I go back to normal.  Except, sleepy.

I’m missing more and more day-job days.   Next week I’ll have some talks with Human Resources and discuss time off, and short-term disability issues.   Everybody at work thinks I’m nuts for still going in most days, and I’m starting to come around to their way of thinking.  Might be time to regroup and hunker down.

In other news: hey, it’s Con or Bust auction time again!

Don’t know about Con or Bust?  From their website:

Con or Bust helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions (how to request assistance; upcoming cons). It is administered by Kate Nepveu under the umbrella of the Carl Brandon Society, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. Con or Bust isn’t a scholarship and isn’t limited by geography, type of con-goer, or con; its goal is simply to help fans of color go to SFF cons and be their own awesome selves.

Con or Bust is funded through donations and an online auction held each February.

Every year I’ve offered something for auction – I don’t want to miss this year, but I’m way behind (because, as the saying goes, reasons).  I might not be able to get a hand-bound blank book done in time, but over the weekend I will put up something, possibly involving trade paperbacks and maps.

HOWEVER — Check this out!  Delia Sherman (of my old writer’s group the Fabulous Genrettes) also has something up for the Con or Bust auction and it is: a critique of your novel.   She will Skype you to do this!  That’s how cool she is.

This is a rare opportunity, folks.  Delia is an amazing writer, teacher, font of wisdom.  She does adult fantasy, YA fantasy, interstitial.  She’s edited anthologies –  She knows her stuff.   You should go and bid.  When will you ever get a chance like this again?

As a member of the Genrettes, Delia provided a lot of insight while I was working on The Lost Steersman and The Language of Power.  I can’t praise her enough.

Oh, and other authors are also offering critiques of stories or novels in the auction.  Here’s the list — and it’s impressive.

Well. Must go now.   Getting kinda worn down, and it’s day-job again tomorrow.    Then snooze most of Saturday on my steroid crash.





Feb 5 2014

Predictably… Plus: ebook update


I want to thank everyone for the comments and emails of support and encouragement. I’m not able reply to each one immediately; I hope you’ll be patient. Comments in this blog are likelier to get a quick response, just because it’s one-stop-shopping, so to speak. But it means a lot to me that you’re out there; I can’t thank you enough.

I did finally manage to reply to every comment made on  my original post about the cancer.  So, if you commented, and you don’t know if I’ve replied — check back on the post.

Predictably, the last chemo hit me a bit harder than the previous; and my Saturday “steroid crash” was a lot crashier. (They give you steroids to pep you up for a few days after chemo. You feel feisty, and ready to duke it out with all comers! And then it wears off. And you sleep.)

So, I’ve missed more of the Day-job work days. But I did manage to do the all-important sending out of 1099′s to subcontractors. A task which only I seem to know how to do. It’s not a big company.

I’m trying to prepare them for the fact that at some point, possibly soon, I’ll need to be out for extended periods. Fortunately, we have short-term and long-disability insurance. I’ll be having Conversations with HR in the coming weeks.

In other news: ebooks update! Three things I need to do before I can release these guys into the wilds of ebook-land:

1. The map. Each book has a different map. Fortunately, they are all based on the Secret Master Chart which contains much more of Rowan’s World than anyone has seen. The idea is that each book’s map shows Rowan’s world as she knows it at the beginning of the book; taken in sequence, you can watch her explorations and knowledge grow. This was less evident in the omnibus print version of The Steerswoman’s Road, since I had to combine maps from Book 1 and Book 2; but for the ebooks, the progression should be clearer. So: maps.

2. The cover. Fortunately, each book’s cover is based on the portion of the map pertaining to that particular book, with additional objects from the story. So, when the map’s done, the cover is half-done! Unfortunately, half is not whole, and I was seduced by the first book’s cover. It was so easy, and came together so swiftly! Piece of cake, thought I. I can do this. Alas, subsequent covers are coming together more slowly. With my time and energy limited, I’ve bowed to necessity, and I’m scaling back. I have to let go of the perfect accuracy I wanted and just go for the general impression, a more symbolic representation, along with as much good design as I can manage. I want these book to be available, as soon as possible.  I might replace the covers with better ones down the line, if I can get some time.  And as it happens, updating the cover is simple for ebooks.

3. Extra final proofing, which is currently underway. So we don’t have stupidities like “fWith” happening again. None of us want that.

It’s hard for me to pin this down to an exact date.  I frankly thought I’d have the second book out by now, at least.   A bit of a learning curve as to what can and can’t be accomplished at this time, as I said.

I’m trying to get it done before the chemo side-effects catch up with me.  They’re closing in… but with the cover comprises, I feel like it’s doable.

not the real thing, but similar in weirdness

not the real thing, but similar in weirdness