Monday, October 1, 2018

October's Free Short Story

I've just posted the latest free short story for you. This one's a little mash-up fan fiction I hope you enjoy!

The next new story will be posted the first Monday of November.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Short Story As Promised

As I said, a new short story is available under the "Free Short Story" tab. These are little tidbits I've written over the last few years. Some, like "Shattered Her with Hope", were written for a specific anthology, but were rejected. Others are doodles no one has seen before.

A new story will be posted on the first Monday in October.

Hopefully, these will whet your taste buds while I finish a few novels!

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Back in the Saddle Again!

I've been on the new drug regimen for a full month now, and it hasn't been as bad as I feared. Hot flashes are up, which was expected and makes me wish longingly for snow. (And I'm not a big fan of the white stuff! LOL)

The side effect most unexpected was the change in my taste buds. Salty things taste saltier. Sweet things are sweeter. And some foods are simply "off", like steamed broccoli and pizza.

In the meantime, the plastic surgeon has kindly suggested I lose weight. By kindly, I mean he said, "Your current BMI is X, and for the best odds of a transplant success, it needs to be between Y and Z," instead of "You're fat, lady!" I definitely appreciated the pep talk instead of the finger-wagging I usually get from health professionals.

"Transplant?!" I hear you all saying.

Actually, the plastic surgeon said I'm a good candidate for a new technique where he would use my own belly fat and skin to create the new breast. Science is totally, fucking AWESOME!

(I say that even though ANY reconstruction means hospital time, and it's going to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch. And I'm still on the fence about what I want to do.)

In the meantime, Darling Husband has been walking with me in the evenings he doesn't have any soccer games (he runs the clock and spots for the announcer at our local high school). We've made a concerted effort to stick to healthier foods (though we definitely slipped this weekend). Our general practioner is happy with our progress over the summer. In fact, he's lowered one of my blood pressure meds.

Any long term changes need to become ingrained habits, which takes time and effort. The plastic surgeon's guidelines also means I have time to make my final decision. No intentional surgery is going to happen before the end of the 2018 calendar year.

What does that mean for the writing and publishing?

September through December is when traditional publishers put out a ton of books, mainly for holiday gifts and in preparation for the winter snuggle-down-and-read-because-the-weather's-bad. Indie releases have a tendency to get lost in the white noise of the New Hallowthanksmas season (a term coined by my former colleagues at a Houston Hallmark).

So my plan is to keep writing and editing books through the fall. The good thing is I'm getting back into my regular rhythm, and I'm almost back to my first quarter word production.

The first drafts of the first two books of the 888-555-HERO series are done. I'm roughly a third of the way through the first draft of Hero De Novo. Then I'll finish the last three books of the Bloodlines series and jump back into A Matter of Death.

I'm planning (fingers-crossed nothing else untoward happens!) to publish starting in January. So the 2019 release schedule will essentially be the 2018 schedule that was rudely interrupted.

In the meantime, I have more than a few unpublished short stories that I simply haven't had time to find homes for. A new tab will be up at the top of this page on Monday, September 10th, called Free Short Story. There will be a never-before-published short story each month, culminating with a Justice Thalia story in December.

Happy New Hallowthanksmas, everyone! And thank you for your patience!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Tossed from the Tempest onto the Beach

It's been four weeks since I posted, but those weeks have been a whirlwind of opinions, tests, second opinions, consulting with my regular doctors, and follow-ups. Seriously, this is first week I don't have one damn appointment since the first ten days after I was released from the hospital.

The good news is that I won't have chemotherapy or radiation in my immediate future. YAY!

The bad news I will have to add more drugs to my daily regimen. BOO!

Seriously again, I'm amazed how far treatment has come since the '80's when my grandmother was diagnosed. Or even the '90's when DH was diagnosed.

In my case, I had genetic testing that wasn't available twenty-five years ago. It showed that my odds of recurring cancer with chemo was the same as without chemo. To me, science is totally fucking AWESOME!

But those same genetic tests also showed that my lady hormones are what fed the original cancer. So I'll need to take a drug to suppress the hormones for the next five years. And since one of the side effects of that drug is osteoporosis, I'll need a drug to prevent that.

Also, I have to stop taking one of my maintenance drugs because it doesn't play nice with the suppressor. When you already have a delicate balance between health and meds, any changes can rock the boat.

Where does that leave writing and publication?

If you've been watching my posted word counts, the total for Hero Ad Hoc has been climbing in fits and spurts over the last month. The story has passed the 80% mark, which means the big final battle between the heroes and the villains is about to begin. Since this is a relatively quiet week (other than Genius Kid's 18th birthday), we've worked out a schedule to give me the maximum amount of writing time to finish the first draft of this puppy.

So why haven't I finished editing Hero De Facto because the first draft been done for months?

Because editing uses a different part of the brain than writing. And that part has been dealing with the insurance company and providers. I mean, it's totally amazing some of the shit these people will pull and the sheer level of incompetence.

Then there's the factor of the new drugs on brain capacity--as in, I have no idea how they will affect me. I already know statins, the class of drugs used to lower cholesterol, really messes with my short-term memory. I need a huge chunk of uninterrupted quiet time when I am editing.

Uninterrupted quiet time is in short supply because I need to be able to answer my phone--lots of calls from doctors, etc.

And then there's the decisions I need to make regarding possible reconstruction and the health of my other breast. I'm reconsidering the original proposed plan. In fact, I had to have a talk with both my husband and my oncologist about their biases and preconceived notions about what they think is best for me.

I won't lie. The left mastectomy hurt like a mother-fucker, but the inability to work was the worst part. Any reconstruction would involve more hospital time, more drains, and more recovery time. Plus, invasive lobular cancer is statistically more likely to spontaneous occur in the opposing breast (as in a whole new cancer, not the original cancer spreading). So should I go ahead and have a prophylactic right mastectomy?

These are the thoughts swirling through my brain right now. There's no perfect answer. Nor can anyone give me one. Those thoughts simply color my mental flow as I live vicariously through my heroines.

So right now, it seems best that I write while I can, see how things shake out with the new drugs, and contemplate the pros/cons of the follow-up surgeries and if/when they occur.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Summer Shorts Sampler

I'm not in this promotion, but a couple of writers I know are. Lots of good stories, but I highly recommend Joseph Bradshire's "Fire Flower" and Stuart J. Whitmore's "Wolf Block".

Even better? All the stories in The Summer Shorts Sampler are FREE!

So load up your phone, tablet or e-reader before that Fourth of July roadtrip. This is a great way to try some new-to-you authors!

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

I'm Still Here

It's been simultaneously busy and boring since I got out of the hospital.

Bills are starting to roll in just from the initial scans and biopsies from April and the first half of May. Despite having insurance, we're talking several thousand dollars worth of items with deductibles or stuff the asshole insurance company is flat-out refusing to pay for.

For example, United Health Care is trying to say any ultrasound or MRI is an "experimental" procedure. Mind you, lobular carcinoma is notorious for not showing up on x-rays.

So it's a matter for writing letters to challenge the UHC's bullshit. And calling various providers to set up payment plans.

Before anyone makes a comment about why we don't have savings, let me point something out--we did. We'd been saving for a down payment on a house. That's gone now, swallowed in the miasma of cancer treatment costs.

In the meantime, my typing was down to nil, thanks to my Jackson-Pratt drain. When the surgeon takes such a large swath of tissue, like in a mastectomy, fluid collects under the sown-up incision, especially blood and lymph fluids. My drain was a couple of inches beneath my left armpit. Unfortunately, there's no rhyme or reason for how long a person might need to keep the drain in. As my surgeon said, there's no correlation between age, gender, size, or type of surgery.

No worries, right? I could sit in my recliner with my laptop, right?

However, when I tried typing on my wip the second week after my surgery, my left arm would rub against the drain. Think of the type of rubbing of a new shoe that causes a blister on your foot. Within three days, the pain was unbearable. I had to stop. I even tried typing with just my right hand, but I'd get so immersed in the story, I'd start typing with both hands until the pain made me halt.

So I left my laptop on the desk, propped up my left arm, and watched too much TV.

The drainage petered down to where the surgeon felt comfortable pulling the drain on Monday. Yay! Freedom! I could write again without pain. And I did peck out a couple of pages Monday night.

However, my appointment with a oncologist here in town is next Monday, roughly four weeks from my surgery. I'm also looking to get a second opinion from an oncologist in Detroit. I don't know what's going to happen next. Radiation? Chemo? A combo of both? Neither?

Basically, I need to write (type) as much as I can over the next few days before the next step. But to be perfectly blunt, I'm reconsidering reconstruction after all the bullshit with the drains.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Tumors, Tubes, and Superheroes

I have breast cancer.

Four words I really never thought I'd say.

The last two months since my annual mammogram have been a whirlwind of tests and doctor visits and raw rage. I had a plan mapped out for releasing eight books this year, and I'm so fucking furious my writing/publishing plan has been blown to hell. However, this isn't the first time cancer has upended my life, though it is the first time I'm on the receiving side.

Jo, one of my writing friends, helped me put together an alternate plan. I keep writing as best I can through the surgeries and treatments, and I don't worry about the production side of things, like editing and formatting until I get through treatment. I don't have to worry about the covers because the lovely Elaina Lee of For the Muse Design already completed them last year, which I'm forever thankful for.

As I write this, it's been ten days since my first surgery, the mastectomy of my left breast. I have Stage II-B lobular invasive carcinoma. While it is the second most common breast cancer, it only affects 10-30% (depending on which literature you read) of diagnosed patients. The five-year survival rate is over 90%, which means I have a damn good prognosis.

When I rolled into the operating room last week, I thought I'd hit acceptance mode. But as I sit here in my recliner, minor irritation is transforming back to rage. My incision site has hit super-itch mode, and my arm rubs against the Jackson-Pratt drain sticking out my side a couple of inches below my very smelly pit.

Which is that way because I can't shave or use antiperspirant right now, and I really can't stand the smell myself, much less want to go out into public. And yes, I am showering.

What does this all mean? When are the books actually coming out?

I'm looking at another four weeks of healing time from the mastectomy. Then comes the radiation and/or chemo. I'm not sure which treatment or combo is likely because the tumor turned out to be larger than what the surgeon and radiologist estimated from the MRIs, the only decent pictures they could get. I haven't talked to the oncologist yet. Worse case scenario is twelve weeks of follow-up treatment, assuming I have no complications from the treatment itself.

There will be another four to six weeks of recovery from the radiation/chemo before the first reconstructive surgery. Four to six weeks of recovery from the first stage before the second reconstructive surgery.

And that takes us roughly to February of 2019 before my life returns to a relatively normal position.

I can hear y'all thinking, "Wait a minute! We have to wait nine months for a new book?"

I don't know if that will be the case. The timeline may be shorter. It may be longer. Despite the mental and emotional bullshit of the last two months, I wrote 42,000 words. I finished the first draft of Hero De Facto, and I'm roughly halfway through Hero Ad Hoc, the first two books of my superhero series. The real question is how much can I get done before chemo brain sets in because that's the real danger to my writing productivity. I can't promise any specific release dates because I can't guarantee what will happen next.

And as they wheeled me into surgery last week, my husband whispered, "You'd better live. You need to finish A Matter of Death."

See? Y'all aren't the only ones ticked with me for leaving A Modicum of Truth on a cliffhanger.