Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Nothing in life worth doing is easy.

Many articles and blogs tell new authors to become an "expert" in something to engage their readers.  I'm knowledgeable about a lot.  And I'm weird.  I suppose I could be an expert at being odd.

Then I realized I am in a somewhat unique position of being both odd in nature and odd medically.  I'm like the newly found bug in a jar to be studied and never understood.  That gives me a platform.

It should be obvious by now that I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and have survived breast cancer.  I have host of other secondary conditions, such as autonomic dysfunction of the heart, bowel, and bladder, asthma, migraines, early stage congenital heart failure, and degenerative disc disease (to name a few).  I am hypersensitive and my body decompensates for any strong emotion, good or bad, and stress, which manifests in physical form and in cognitive impairments.  I walk with a cane and will look ghastly ill when I push myself too hard.  While shopping yesterday, a store clerk actually asked me if I was ok.  I wish I could say that's the first time, but I can't.

For the first time since The Arrival's release, I am opening up honestly about how I'm doing.

2017 has been a particularly stressful year.  My best friend (soul sister) and informal caretaker passed away suddenly after the New Year.  I was lost without her.  No friend.  No caretaker.  I missed her so much.  I still do.  It hurts.   It sucks.

I wore myself into the ground, got sick, and wound up in bed for 3 weeks.  In my grief, I ate junk food and gained 10 pounds.  Then I got back to my normal, healthy diet and lost 10 pounds.  My husband's job got super stressful and he had to make the difficult decision to retire his K-9 partner.  During all that, a worrisome cyst was found on an ovary, and I'm high risk for ovarian cancer (and bladder cancer and colon cancer, and, well, cancer is always the first thing my doctors rule out now).

I spent 3 months planning our first real vacation in a decade - literally tackling one medical need per day to cover all my bases with the airline and destination.  I was burned out on vacation before we ever left.  My husband chose to pursue a new career outside of law enforcement once the K-9 stuff was all worked out, and that was pending when we left on our trip.

We went to a beautiful resort in Ft. Lauderdale, luckily the only place in Florida left largely untouched by Hurricane Irma.  Boy did we need it.  But this is what it took to carve those 5 days of peace and relaxing from our lives:  we got back late and I'd taken my bedtime meds on the plane, so I was a zombie when we got home and crawled upstairs to bed.  At 8:15 a.m., my husband dropped me off at the hospital and I went to Radiology to get three veins blown and one successful IV placement for an abdominal MRI to find out if I had ovarian cancer.  Meanwhile, my husband returned home, got his squad, picked up his K-9 partner from the doggie spa, and took him home, where he got the dog settled and then swapped vehicles back to our car to meet me at the clinic in neurology where I was awaiting trigger point injections.  After those lovely dots of torture, we returned home, I went to bed, and shortly thereafter, my husband went for his formal interview.  In the short time he had afterward, he raced home, swapped vehicles again to the squad to take the dog to the vet because he'd had a benign tumor cut off his leg several weeks prior and he had a follow up given some healing complications.  Then my husband came home, and I can only assume he dropped onto the couch to sleep, because I was still out.  I'm fairly certain he made dinner, because I know I didn't.  (He got the job, the dog is happily retired, and I don't have ovarian cancer.)

I have at least one medical appointment every week, but usually 2 or 3, and for months this summer I'd been doing physical therapy every week.  We had to juggle our schedule drastically, as that one day illustrates, just to take a 5 day vacation.  It's crazy insane.  Just like the bar scene in Weird Science.  Crazy.  Insane.

So, in addition to all that, I published The Arrival, my husband's dog retired, my husband switched jobs, and over the course of all this, I've had issues with no appetite, low blood pressure, fatigue, and malnutrition.  Oh, and some mysterious thing with my knee that no one can solve, but that results in my femur being bruised, which is common in athletes, but is happening to me when I get into bed.  I don't know about you, but for me, getting into bed is not a contact sport.  I am pending a 2nd MRI to look at the bruise since I injured it again a few weeks ago.  It'll be the 6th MRI for 2017.  I can't count the number of add'l ultrasounds and x-rays.

What does all this mean?  It's stress.  All of it.  Publishing my book is good.  My husband getting a new job is good.  But it's stress.  And I'm not handling it well.  It's beyond my control.  In addition to the MS effects on my body and brain, I tend to stop eating when I'm stressed.  Starting the year off with the death of the person closest to me should indicate how stressful 2017 has been.  I must have gotten to a point where my body went into starvation mode in a way it never has before.  I already had problems with low bp and fatigue, and lack of fuel only made it worse.  And I've been healing from my last surgery, too - surgeons had to redo my breast reconstruction in October 2016 due to complications with MS and scar tissue.  I was inpatient for 7 days (it's an out-patient procedure).  and I still feel the effects of that recovery.

So, how bad is bad?  I forget that my dog is a dog.  I call my cats by the names of the cats that preceded them.  I thought I put the car into park in the garage . . . but I put it into drive.  Luckily, I had my foot over the brake.  The last time . . . I wasn't even in the car.  It parked itself in my husband's grill and shattered an antique table being stored in the garage.  This is known as my "don't burn down the house" state (yeah, I forgot candles are burning and will leave on errands).  We call it that because I literally started a fire at our house when I forgot I was cooking something and disappeared into another room distracted by some other task.  I need Post Its to remember just about anything, I have the attention span of a squirrel, I mess up or forget meds, and my husband and I have the same conversation several times over the course of a day.  I can't follow written or oral instructions, I get lost easily, and I've fallen 3x in the last 2 weeks from blood pressure drops, and another several times from my MS messing with my legs.  I'm tired all the time and hit impassable fatigue walls, yet I suffer from insomnia - which explains why I'm up at 0213 writing this even though nearly every medication I take before bed is sedating.  I should be blissfully asleep, but my brain won't shut up.  It's racing on the hamster wheel down a steep incline that never ends. 

I'm not complaining.  This is my life.  It's just how it is.  I know I'm in a danger zone (cue Archer) and I'm slowly tackling things one thing at a time.  One doctor wants me drinking high protein Ensure (check), another added another antacid to my meds (check - do you remember the movie The Disorderlies with the Fat Boys?  And how they played poker with the old dude's meds?  Yeah, I could do that.).  I'm eating dinner every night, even if it's just cereal, and I'm napping when I need to.  I've canceled all my appointments for this week so I can have a week off and I'm under orders to take consecutive "chill" days and to do things I want to do and not necessarily things I need to do (such as play a video game instead of cleaning the house).  I've been in bed a lot reading (when I can focus on it).  Otherwise, I vegetate to Netflix under a mound of blankets and cats.

I have the good fortune of having excellent doctors.  Doctors who actually worry about me and care.  And understand.  That is key!  But, I'm lost.  To be perfectly honest and frank, I'm lost.  I keep hitting a mental block and can't move past it.  And when I get like that, it's hard coming back.  I'm trying to do what I need to.  I will get through it.  I have in the past.  I've been dealing with this since 2008.  But this is the worst I've been in a long time.  My therapist said I haven't been like this since before I had to quit working. 

I was worried about that with publishing the book.  I had doubts I'd be able to handle it.  Or be able to publish the next one, which is written and edited.  My biggest concern is being able to write the 3rd one.  It's in pieces and I have to have a brain I can trust in order to write it.  But you know, that's a future issue that I can tackle in the future.  For right now, I'm doing what I need to do and when I get better, I can start adding stuff back in. 

So there's a look at my current state of life.  No complaints, just forging ahead.  Because really, that's all we can do.  Despite it all, I'm happy.  I love my husband.  And I love that he's happier at the new job.  I love the dog (it's my first dog, ever) and I love my cats (my herd).  My life isn't easy, but if it was, it wouldn't be worth it, would it?  Nothing in life worth doing is easy. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Nerdy is as Nerdy Does / Geeky is as Geeky Does

No matter what I write (text, blog, book, email, or whatever), I ramble and pepper in obscure references or homages.  And when I talk?  Be prepared to interpret geekspeak.  Only bring up DC or Marvel or Sailor Moon or any other obsession if you're prepared to stay awhile.  Like, more than an hour or five.  It's best to have an exit strategy (as many of my friends do).  [smile]

Never bring up XMen 3.  [serious]

I'm a nerdy geek.  I grew up in the age of National Geographic, He-Man, Star Wars, Atari, and the Tandy PC.  And by the power of Greyskull, it's the core of my being.  I'll whip out a Batman this,  Bleach that, quoth the Raven here, or a Get Schwifty there.  Here a Rick, there a Rick, everywhere a Rick, Rick. (Infinite universes, you know.)  And oh, by the way, did you know Shinigami love apples?  [wink]

If you are a gamer, or an anime or manga fan, you will undoubtedly uncover stuff like this in The Arrival.  The more hardcore you are, the more you'll find.  Some are deliberate little Easter Eggs and some naturally occur within my voice.  Sometimes I'll forget about them and rediscover them later.  Some are so obscure or unintentional that even I miss them most of the time.  And there are others that I look for but were cut during edits.  [sad]

Homages may be obvious or invisible.  These are respectful acknowledgements to the influences that helped shape character traits or items, or are nods to stories that I love.  Spoiler free examples?

**Paresh and nature?  Toss up between Snow White and Sleeping Beauty

**Eric's general affect?  Loosely based on Vampire Hunter D (Hideyuki Kikuchi) 

**Eric's affection and desire to protect?  Influenced by Endymion/Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask (Naoko Takeuchi) and Ichigo Kurosaki (Tite Kubo)  

**Lord Endymion's appearance?  I see him as Orlando Bloom as Legalos in Lord of the Rings (JRT . . . also, Leggo my Eggo unless you're 11)  [I don't even like waffles]

The historical references in The Arrival are generally fictitious interpretations of real events and places.  But that's another post.  And there's a historical note at the end of the book.

Other references are more personal and are meant for family and friends.  A specific example:  "Kabuki" lived in my aunt's pond.  Other references include places, locales, names, and a favorite restaurant.  The most personal reference, for me, is in Confessions and no one knows what it is.   

And then there are Easter Eggs camouflaged as plain text.  I love those the most because they fit in naturally.  My favorite is "speak with the dead" and I'm not giving away where it's from.  But I will say there's a sister reference on the previous page and the two go hand in hand (the clue is also a reference!) [mischievous glint]   

Obviously, when writing a book, I can't just blurt out, "Let the wookie win!"  I mean, I could if I was writing about Star Wars and had permission or the rights, but . . . why would Chewie be involved with vampires?  Eric has an apparent dislike for chess anyway.  (For the record, always let the wookie win.) [serious]

Now, this isn't meant to say I don't take writing seriously or that you're going to read an endless string of pop culture references.  I did far too much research and spent decades of my life on this story.  I love it too much to dust it over with silly quips.  But they are fun little asides or inside jokes that I enjoy, so I hope the egg hunters out there enjoy finding them.  [big grin]

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Play that Funky Music!

I love music.  I write, play, and clean to music - heck, in the hospital, I even slept to music!  My tastes run the gamut.  It's difficult for me to say what I like because it changes so frequently.  My husband informed me that I like whiny and flow-y music - like Coldplay or X Ambassadors.  To his credit, Torches was playing at the time on my flash drive (I don't listen to the radio, woe-oh-radio).  Four points to you for catching the reference.

While writing THE ARRIVAL, my playlist changed very little and included mainstream music (like Stone Sour's Through the Glass during Chapter 2 from Eric's POV), classical (Beethoven's Sonatas), Enigma (album MCMXC a.D.) and anime and game soundtracks.  And therein lies another gamut of options:  Bleach, Blood+, Trinity Blood, Hitman (love Jesper Kyd), Martian Successor Nadesico (Dearest during the latter part of Chapter 7), Devil May Cry, Ghost in the Shell, Mirage of Blaze, Monster, Speed Grapher, Witch Hunter Robin, and Texhnolyze.  Just to name a few. 

I mixed and matched based on scene and mood.  Enigma had just released MCMXC a.D. when I had the nightmare/dream series that birthed THE ARRIVAL, so it fit in anywhere (and still does).  It's a safe assumption that readers could loop only Sadeness and Mea Culpa and hear the book's basic soundtrack.  When I write, it's like watching a movie in my head, and movies use music to invoke certain emotions.  My writing style is no different.  Chapters 2, 4, 7, and 14+ required special playlists to keep my mind and the scenes in sync.

With that in mind, some readers have asked about a sequence in the last few chapters.  No spoilers, I promise.  

I did have a short list of certain songs, in a specific order, looped for the scene in question.  Most were classical-esque or opera-y (like Ave Maria sung by Christina England).  However, two were key:  White Room & Main Title by Jesper Kyd (Hitman's OST - game) and Good by my Master by Yoko Kanno (Ghost in the Shell's OST - anime).  If you listen to these two songs during that moment, you'll get it.  ^_-