Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Illness Takes a Holiday

(Note: Wonky spacing due to the fact I wrote this in gmail and blogger doesn't like that. I did what I could to fix it.)
I wasn't going to post. I didn't think I had anything to say, but then I compared the latest vacation to the one that came before and what a difference! Definitely noteworthy.

In March 2013 we flew out to visit family and I just about died. I struggled with fatigue and actually had a few days where I couldn't function. I had to go back to bed even though that was the last thing I wanted to do!

Fast forward to Vacation 2014 and I had none of that adrenal BS. NONE! 

I even worked while on vacation and wrote 1/3 of the novel I'm trying to finish.

It is amazing to me how sloooooow recovery is from HPA axis suppression. At least for me.

Anyway, remember how I was exercising so vacation wouldn't kill me? We did NOTHING. Mostly because it was 93F with 95% humidity 24/7. I was not prepared for a tropical climate. None of us could function as our area has had a very cold summer this year, even dipping down into the 40s at night. (See also, my pansies were still alive in July and still would be if the house sitter had watered them.) 

We were/are not used to such intense heat. We didn't even have the right clothing. I brought my jean capris which were miserable to wear in that heat. By the end of our vacation, I just wore my ratty workout shorts everywhere. 

We spent a lot of time basking in air conditioning and avoiding going outside. The lizards we saw always went for the sun,but we were sidling up to any a/c vent we could find. 

Another thing I didn't understand about tropical climates, the water during summer is as hot as you are. It doesn't cool you off. The only way to cool off is to jump in the pool and then go sit in air conditioning.

Worse, that super fancy hotel my husband and I stayed at? It was infested with smokers. I couldn't even use our ocean front balcony because of all the smoking. The outdoor furniture reeked of cigars so I couldn't sit in it. People smoked by the pool, so swimming was out too. 

The area we stayed in is a huge party haven so we had to avoid the main drag due to all the smoking. We still had a good time, though. I just didn't realize how bad the smokers were. None of the guidebooks or trip reports I read mentioned it.

For future reference, if you have asthma and your vacation destination is party central and also a hot spot for Europeans and/or Latin Americans...you will have problems. They all smoke. A lot. 

Also, hurricane season isn't just a risk of hurricanes, it means rain every day. Don't go to the tropics in the summer. Stay way north of the equator. We were rained out several times and even got stuck in some of the worst storms of the summer. We saw rain worse than any blizzard, which, naturally, we had to drive through.

Truth be told, I failed completely as a vacation planner. Ha!  Instead of a good time, we had an interesting time, which is still okay in my book. We learned what not to do and the whole adventure certainly gave us a lot to talk about.

We go back in the Spring. Let's see if I can do a better job planning that trip!

Okay, now that that's over, let's get to writing gossip.

1. I came up with a concept for a group project, and once again, people are trying to benefit from my ideas as if I don't exist. I've had to have some uncomfortable (for them) discussions with people as, at least this time, I retained leadership of the whole thing. (I'm learning!) They joined the project, then dropped out and thought they could still use my idea for their own benefit. I don't bring things to people for them to use for their own purposes. I am always cooperative and I expect everyone to conform to that (pretty well established) ethic. 

Granted, my expectations are unenforceable, but there are other factors that matter to people more than what I think. Such as all the other authors can see them being greedy and it won't look so good if they make sure they maximize their return while turning their backs on a group they had originally agreed to work with. (I phrased it much more politely but that was the gist.) That's a great way to not be invited to join any future projects as well as have your peers ignore you just in general. 

Oh, you have a new release you would like me to share with my readers? Sorry, I didn't see your email/post until too late. Maybe next time!

Reputation matters in this industry. You can get away with a lot, but eventually, a lack of integrity will catch up with you. So don't be an ass.

I don't want to have to use a contract, but I may end up requiring NDAs or non-competes going forward. I don't provide 100% of the value, but I am pivotal in making that 100% possible. My value is in spotting trends early, gathering people together and facilitating mutual success. Not everyone can do that.

In the interim, on my latest idea, I specified that this was not something for them to pass on and that participants were hand chosen, the project isn't an open call. Hopefully, people get a clue.

2. Some of the project dropouts above are driven by skeevy group politics. I don't know the lay of the land yet, but the factions are solidifying and people are getting cut. I've been cut from a few inner circles, and have, likewise, been cutting people on my end (the asshats). Sales are down across the board and people are looking for life rafts. As one of my author buddies says, this is when you find out who has integrity.

3.Sales are even worse. Ha. People are starting to panic, including the bigwigs who've made, literally, a million dollars in this biz. We shall see what the future brings. 

FYI now is not a good time to get into Indie publishing. In case you were considering it. The industry is completely restructuring and Amazon's God Complex is at Defcon 5. Wait until the dust settles.

And if you're already publishing...keep writing and try not to panic when you stop making money. The storm will pass, a path forward will appear. It's just a question of when.

By the way, there's more shit ready to hit the fan that isn't even public yet. I only know because someone broke their NDA with the mighty Zon. Even more change is coming. I feel like I'm starting all over in terms of industry knowledge. That's how big the changes are.

The good news is there is no easy or cheap replacement for authors (yet). So we're still very much a necessary cog in the wheel. Booksellers can't treat us like we don't matter without paying a price themselves. If we don't earn, neither do they. Eventually the booksellers will figure that out. Again (and then they'll forget and the cycle will repeat).

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

An Episode of Survivor

Earlier this month, I realized if I didn't whip myself into shape, our family vacation was going to kill me. Thanks to the gall bladder removal, I had totally deconditioned once again. While I'd been walking regularly and gone swimming a few times, I hadn't exactly been getting my fit on.

But since that 'exercise or die' moment, I've been biking, swimming and walking, sometimes all in the same day. Three weeks later, I can finally see some improvement. Mainly, I've stopped having to take naps after working out. (That is not even an exaggeration. I've been pretty bummed about the face plants I've been doing into my couch. I mean, sheesh, what am I? Eighty? Apparently!)

It hasn't been easy to come back from the comfort of soft, fluffy couch potatoville. The walking was fine, but kind of pointless in terms of upping my fitness game. The swimming left me sore and lethargic, but at least I enjoyed it. I hated the biking. And I do mean hate. A seething, frothing, motherfucking, suffering succotash kind of hate.

I don't know what changed or why, but biking has just become a special brand of misery for me. The first week, I kept wishing I would crash into one of the five-gallon-bucket potholes littering the roadway, fall off my bike and hit my head. Then I could quit and not feel bad about it, right?

The last person I knew who hit a pothole while riding their bike was carted off in ambulance. I would have welcomed that.

Anyway, that didn't happen and ever so sloooowly (and by that I mean about the speed at which watched pots boil and paint dries....in rain) bike riding got easier. Not more fun. Not pleasant, but better.

Finally today, I managed a four mile ride. I'm still slow, but in larger increments. Now I hate my bike, which I think has been the problem. I need something built for taller women with a cushier ride. I can't get the ergonomics quite right between the seat height and the handle bars.

Until I get a better bike, I don't think I'll push to increase the mileage. Unfortunately, right around mile three, my cheapie bike seat starts to wedge itself up my ass. Apparently, my bike doubles as a rather sadistic butt plug. Who knew? So I'm calling it a win at 4 miles and next time I have any extra income, I'll look at acquiring a nicer bike.

The swimming I love and I'm sad there's only a month to go before the pools close. Plus, it's  a great work out and probably the one thing that most increases my strength.

I haven't lost any weight because I don't care. Fit doesn't mean skinny. Not for me. But I have toned so my clothes fit better and I'm eating a lot of ice cream late at night without gaining weight. As far as I'm concerned, those are both wins.

So this is what things look like from the upswing side of health. The only downer? My knee is still a problem. Even biking. Even swimming. Even walking. I'm trying to work up the energy to start pursuing whatever needs to be done for it, but....blurgh.

Writing update:

1. Published a new book. It flopped. As predicted. Amazon glitched, just to add insult to injury. On the bright side, at least Amazon screwed over a flop and not my next big seller.

2. My income is at a new low. Yowza. I'm now squirreling away money to subsidize my income in the fall. Look how low the mighty have fallen!

3. The industry is changing, which erodes income further (at least in the short run, long run is still TBD). Kindle Unlimited is the first serious foray into a subscription based model for books. $10 a month and you can read something like 20 books. If it's successful, it will likely reduce revenue across the board. Which is sad. I hate the race to the bottom when it comes to art. Like 99 cents is too much to ask? Or $2.99? Clearly, artists should be selling lattes. Those go for $5. I'm in the wrong business!

4. I'm writing as fast as I can, but I'm really not a fast writer. I need time to think about what I'm doing with a story. My current project, I know the entire plot, but I need to think through who the characters are and what the interplay between them will be. I may have to start the second book even just to square away some of the interpersonal dynamics.

However, this book my readers will like. I can't say if it will break out, but it should be a solid performer based on what I know of the market and the reading tastes of my fans. This is a good thing. Hopefully, Amazon and  I got flopping out of our systems with the last book.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Gastropause: 'The Change' No One Talks About

Having your gallbladder removed is the equivalent of menopause for your GI tract. Gastropause is what I call it.

You are forever changed. The change can be good, bad, or somewhere in between, but you are never the same.

Also, you constantly worry about what is going to come out of your ass next. Crass, but true.

That being said, things are trucking along over here. The bile dumping has stopped. I'm off the cholestyramine powder. I still don't seem to digest fat all that well, but salad has been better received (I think).

I can eat pretty much anything I want with impunity, but I also have an increased tendency to develop what I call 'reactive GERD,' meaning food directly triggers the GERD. I really shouldn't be eating anything at night or tomatoes or peppers or other foods that upset my system.

Life is hard without tomatoes and peppers.

It hurts with them.

I have a hard time deciding what consequence I want to deal with. Eat them or don't eat them, I can't seem to commit one way or the other.

Unless I have heartburn from eating tomatoes and peppers.

Then I am full of acid driven regrets.

"You should know better," I scold myself.

"Yes, I should," I agree, shamefaced.

And then I do it all over again. I say I won't eat them, but follow through is a bit weak.

There is no hope for me.  I will forever burn with GERD.

Writing update: Sales are in the toilet. I'm frantically writing to get something published. Also, I'm pretty sure my readers will hate my next book. It's different in tone and subject matter, but maybe I can find new readers with it as it's still quite mainstream. I guess I'll find out if my marketing mojo can carry a book my readers are likely to feel very 'meh' about. (My husband LOVES this book by the way, but I don't have the heart to tell him that is probably a bad sign. He is nowhere near my reader demographic.)

I'm thankful my winter sales were so strong as they will carry me financially into September and cover all my genre flubs. Hopefully, I will have new books to publish by then, ones my readers will like. In the interim, I'm organizing some fun book promotions with other authors to try and bolster sales as much as I can.

The business thing is chugging along. No major news to report there.

I will be meeting a reader in real life for the first time. I'm alternating between looking forward to the meet and being utterly terrified.

Thanks to my book royalties, I am taking my hubby away to a beach resort for two nights. It's the most I've ever spent on a hotel in my life and I could not have done any of it without writing. I'm also taking the whole family (me, hubby, kiddo)  to the beach for two weeks.

I hope they will remember those sun soaked days when I'm growling at them for talking to me when I'm in the middle of writing.

Also, I hope I'm never sick again because life right now is pretty awesome. I will cry so hard if the asthma fucks up my adrenal glands again.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

All Medical All the Time

Gah. No wonder I write fiction. Real life has too many medical procedures.

Dog is going to the vet this morning. I've lifted her a few times. It's okay. Not great because my strength isn't back yet, which means the incisions hurt and my lower back twinges, but it's doable.

My husband would love to help. We both love this dog to pieces. He's not a jerk, but his boss is, so figuring out a mid-day vet appointment and the corporate politics is a huge pain in the ass.

Even if he could figure out his boss' weirdness, he can't help now anyway.

Guess who stepped on a nail right about the time they needed a new tetanus shot? For extra fun, it all went down after hours.

Yep, my hubby was in the ER until 4am last night. His day is all borked up now.

And we are all short on sleep.

Me more so than others. We are ALL tired. The kiddo from summer camp, the hubby from his ER visit. As for me, I haven't been sleeping well since surgery. I'm restless. I wake up a lot. My eyes are closed, but I'm not really asleep. And this is with taking something like a Tylenol PM. At first, I thought it was all the drugs, but those are surely out of my system by now. I read somewhere that the stress of surgery can mess up sleep so I wonder if that's it?

Either way, at this point, we're all just limping our way to TGIF.

 Musings on writing to follow...

Fear of success. I had an interesting insight recently. Let me see if I can write coherently about it. Note, no quality sleep and I've yet to caffeinate my brain this morning so this may go south quickly.

I started writing for money in a genre I didn't care about, so it wasn't threatening to me. I didn't need or want to be a HUGE NAME AUTHOR in this genre, it was just a paycheck, a throwaway. I would tell people, "I write the genre of my paycheck," and then laugh. I didn't notice any fear of success until a short story I wrote sold 15,000 copies and earned me $5,000. The next month, it sold even more. At this point, I knew I could make a living. That writing was a real thing for me.


As the industry changed, I switched genres, angling myself so I was more marketable and kept going. This new genre also wasn't one that I'd ever wanted to be a HUGE NAME AUTHOR in so any performance anxiety was fleeting. Also, I didn't have a breakout book for almost a year. It's hard to worry about success when failure is looking much more likely.

(It's funny how, no matter how the writing is going, there's angst on all sides. It's never gone and endlessly morphs to fit a writer's current circumstances.)

Then things went well enough that I realized, I could probably do well in any genre. I have a voice  that people are willing to read.  More importantly, I get marketing. I know what it takes to build a brand and sell it.

I could go after the genre of my heart.

Cue fetal position.

Now, it's going to sound like I'm going off track, but stick with me. There's a point. Maybe. Honestly, I'm not so sure I make any sense. I can't tell anymore. I really just want to go to bed, but have to keep myself awake for the vet.

My kiddo is a perfectionist who falls apart at the first obstacle. Yesterday, I tried hard not to show my amusement at the fit she threw over practicing piano. In loud wails, she told herself the following things:

1. I can't play piano.

2. I will never play piano.

3. I hate piano.

She focused solely on the failure and her feelings about it. She resisted my best efforts to coax her into a forward motion that would yield a productive piano session. I guess six is too young to understand you have to move forward no matter how defeated you feel. You pick up your hand, put it on the keys and bang away as best you can. Hard things don't get better if you walk away.

She doesn't get that. Sometimes I despair that she ever will and fret about how she will cope as an adult who falls apart at the tiniest hardships. (Although, apparently, in public/school/camp she's much more composed and capable. At home, we get a version of the kiddo that has a lot in common with a tornado siren that has an electrical short. When she lets her hair down, it screams*.)

So the point is, I have to ignore any feelings about success or failure. They don't matter. What matters is doing the work.

Do the work.

Just do it. (Ah Nike, such an unsung sage.)

*Some of this is the neurological stuff she has. She can't moderate emotions as well as kids without neurological stuff. At least she keeps it together in public, but doesn't hold back at home. Usually she's so cute in the extreme, it's hard to be annoyed. Usually. And yes, we do all the parental things parents are supposed to do to guide her and give her coping skills/appropriate social behavior.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


The universe will not leave my stomach alone. It's like there's a bullseye on that sucker.

I almost had to run again. Idiot parents were too busy smoking to notice their itty bitty toddler in the street. I started calling out the first time I saw the kid edging to the road and when he stepped off the curb, I went into the street, thinking 'how the hell am I going to run?'

The kid was four houses away. Even if I did run, I doubted I would be fast enough to get to the kid.

Naturally, there were cars coming, too, and they were closer to the kid than me.

Just as I was about to go for it, whoever was in charge of the kid (parents? pothead babysitter? random idiots off the street? aliens from Pluto?) finally got a clue and managed to scoop the kid up.

I noticed they didn't even set their cigarette down. How nice for them!

I know perfectly nice, intelligent people smoke. It's just that none of those smokers live on my street. I would describe my neighborhood more as a heavy user of social services (and drugs and cigarettes and stupidity).  I hold out hope that rising gas prices might someday gentrify the area, as outlying suburbs are less economical when gas is so expensive. Or that I can stay perfectly healthy for the next five years, at which point, we should be able to bail even if we have to take a loss on the house.

(Health: It can make or break you financially. The more you know, right?)

Then, one of our dogs developed a nasty eye infection. She weighs 55lbs and is so frail with old age, she has to be carried up and down stairs. So my hubby and I have been pow-wowing over how that's going to work because I don't think I can carry her to get her to the vet. Maybe once, and that's a big maybe, but definitely not the four times that's required to get her in and out of the house and the car.

Fortunately, we have some eye cream from the vet that we've been using. It was for a previous eye infection that wasn't actually an eye infection (long story, you don't care) and if we're lucky, that will clear it up without a vet visit.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to lift as many things as possible and see how it goes. Multiple bags of groceries are okay. How much of a gap is there between that and 55lbs of dog that doesn't like to be carried and goes all splayed ninja cat on you? I don't know and I'm nervous to find out!

(I met my writing goal today, which is the only reason I'm on here. So...yay?)


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Notes from a Gallbladder Removal Part 2

My incisions are healing beautifully. Barely perceptible, bordering on invisible. If I was one to wear a bikini, I could prance off into the summer with no one the wiser. It is amazing how tiny the incisions are.

By comparison, it looks like a butcher operated on my wrist. Those scars make doctors ask me if I was bit by a rabid dog. I don't know why the default is rabid dog. Do not ask me things I do not understand. All I can tell you , is I'm happy to have ugly scars if it means getting back the full use of my hand. No complaints from me, but the contrast between the abdominal incisions and my hand is interesting. Closing up incisions has come a long way in the last 14 years.

I still have a lot of abdominal muscle pain/weakness. I have NO idea when that will resolve. Neither does the surgeon.

I feel like I am slow to recover and that I had more pain than most people experience. I do not know why that is and it frustrates me. I want to fix it.

I'm tireder than I thought I would be as well. It's not horrible, but I sure do tucker out. I'm not quite up to a full day of mommying, working and exercising yet. I get overwhelmed quickly especially on the days when digestion isn't working like it should.

It will improve with time, right? I'll just be over here tapping my toe and looking at my watch. Don't mind me!

The surgeon suggested I try life without the cholestryamine in a few weeks and I'm eager to do that.

The most interesting thing about life without a gallbladder is I can now tell how active the biliary duct is. It spasms constantly and in patterns that feel a lot like gallbladder pain. Sometimes it spasms high up in my chest at what I assume is the juncture with the pancreas. I get that sword-through-my-shoulder-blade feeling along with the pulsing of what I assume is the sphincter.

Also the duct and sphincters feel huge, like a fist or a thick python squeezing me from the inside. I know this must be a tiny piece of anatomy, but when everything is spasming size is magnified.

So now I guess we wait and see what the duct and sphincters do. Will it give me pancreatitis again?

Sphincter of Oddi Dysfunction is no joke. The gallbladder removal addressed part of the problem, but it's not the whole solution.

Quick writing update:

1. I will never share any of my pseudonyms here. Thank you for asking, but no. For one, I have too many anonymous hate comments to take that risk. Two, my readers don't need to read this blog, it's not part of my brand. Three, if I tell  you who I am then I can't tell you any of the behind-the-scenes. So enjoy the gossip and peek into the inner workings of a writer's life.

2. I'm making like, zero money this month. Sigh. I have to get back into the trenches. Time to crank out the next book and hope it's a hit. I have some cool projects lined up for fall, but summer has been an unintentional dead zone and my income now reflects that. Yikes!  Time to hustle.

So I will try to be scarce on here.