I Am Still Alive

The blog has been quiet for a long time. Today is my “blogiversary”, so I’m mostly just posting to say that no, I am not dead. Not for lack of trying – more on that later.

First an update on some projects: The Father Chessman series is still in progress. Book 3, Oaths of My Fathers is written and is sort of ready for beta readers… kind of. Book 4, Crimes of My Fathers, is in progress, but it ran into problems. The final book 5 is still pending. The sequel to Hell Bent, Stone Killer, is near the end of its first draft but hasn’t been updated in a while… for reasons.

OK, so why the silence and all the delays? In short: bad health, both physical and mental.

I’ve been in the hospital a lot with an ongoing series of small-bowel obstructions, i.e. the plumbing keeps getting jammed up in the most inaccessible space. I’ve had thirteen now, I think, but I’m starting to lose count. It might be more. I’ve had two surgeries attempting to fix it, and who knows, there might be a third in my future. The mortality (aka “Will this kill me?”) goes up with age, so it’s just going to get more dangerous.

On top of that, when I went into the hospital for my most recent one, I tested positive for COVID-19. It was asymptomatic, and I have since tested negative after the recommended isolation period where I was limited to two rooms of the house, all on my lonesome. I appear to have come through unscathed, but I have a followup with my doctor soon to check for any lung/heart damage. My message to you: Wear your mask!

I should also say that somewhere in the early 2010s I sustained a back injury – more accurately several repeated back injuries – that have left me with herniated discs and chronic pain. Oh, let’s not forget the migraines that I’ve suffered since a concussion as a teenager. While they have become about half as intense, they’ve made up for it by becoming near constant, 24/7. (Yes, I’ve had an MRI, and to quote Arnold Schwarzenegger, “It’s not a toomah!”)

Despite all that, I tend to think of myself as being in moderately good health. I’m overweight, but I exercise regularly, including 3+ miles on the treadmill at least five times a week. So, most of my health problems are the hidden, pain-in-the-ass kind of stuff.

The mental health side of things… is hard to talk about, but the more of us who talk about it, the more it’s supposed to help those who are also suffering in silence. The short of it is that I’ve had chronic anxiety and depression for somewhere between fifteen and fifty years. On top of that, I ended up with a bad case of PTSD because of some stuff with my kids – that’s a whole ’nuther story – complete with persistent tremors, full-on flashbacks, and panic attacks. A real shit-show.

So, a few years back, I decided to make my mental health a top priority. (Yeah, “a” vs. “the” top priority… don’t get me started.) So, I’ve been jumping through the medication hoops and doing EMDR therapy and in general putting other stuff aside. Things have improved a lot, but it also meant I didn’t write, paint, or do much else creatively for quite a while.

I did start writing again late last year, starting into Crimes of My Fathers as my 2019 NaNoWriMo project, but that petered out as the pandemic hit. Since I’ve been working from home for 20+ years, my day-to-day routine didn’t change much, but that “world is on fire” vibe dried up the well in short order. I have just recently started writing again, but it’s on a side project that may never see the light of day. Still, it shows me that the machinery is still there and operational. I hope to return to the Father Chessman series soon.

Anyway, there’s more to say, but I’m going to cut it here, lest this slip the schedule and end up as a 2021 update instead. Hopefully it won’t be another year before I can update again.

Smarter Artist Summit, plus me in a kilt

I’m at the Smarter Artist Summit this week having a great time. I’d thought about wearing my kilt, but I didn’t want to freak Dave out. Still, a few folks asked me if I had Scottish heritage — which I do — because they could easily imagine me in a kilt.

Well, imagine no more, because here I am in a kilt:

As for everything else, yes I’m making progress on the cover, and I’m nailing down a few last formatting issues on Debts of My Fathers. I’d hoped to have it done before I came to the Summit, but it was not to be.

Not Quite FUBAR (but other acronyms apply)

"Shattered" (c) Dan Thompson 2006

I got an email from a reader recently basically asking if I was still alive, which reminds me that I haven’t posted to the blog in about four months. (Bad blogger. No donut!) He wasn’t asking for much and even said:

Even if you blog FUBAR us Veterans will get it.

Well, I’m not a Veteran, but I do know what FUBAR means. Unfortunately, I also know what PTSD means and from first-hand experience. Yeah, it sucks. My symptoms for it started about two and a half years ago, even though my first full-on “episode” was only last May.

I don’t want to get into the details of the T in the acronym here, but I will say that it’s almost embarrassing, since it doesn’t rise to the clear intensity of combat, assault, or even car crashes. It’s more akin to the frog in the pot of boiling water, and after long enough, the heat got to me. I am getting professional help (meds and therapy) and doing all the things you’re supposed to do when your brain goes wonky, so I’m on the best path reasonably available. I just have to watch out for certain noises in the meantime, and it makes a lot of simple tasks much more difficult.

So, yes, I’m alive, but the last few months have been particularly rough with this PTSD thing. I have made big changes to remove myself from the T part, but my therapist tells me that I’m now dealing with the P part, the maddening hypervigilance for a threat that is no longer there. As a result, I have made zero progress on Getting Books Out The Expletive Door (GBOTED). And no, I am not in a contest with George R.R. Martin to see who can drag it out the longest. That said, I’m actually pretty damn close. The sequel to Ships of My Fathers, titled Debts of My Fathers, is in final text form, i.e. final draft, post-copyedit. I just need to format it, slap a cover on it, and GBOTED. For my earlier books, that was a 3-week process when I didn’t even know what I was doing. So, I’m really only about 3 weeks out from GBOTED.

Which is exactly where I’ve been since April. Hence the Expletive in GBOTED.

I’d like to say I’m turning the corner. I mean, really, I see all the stuff that needs to be done, and I have a plan to do it. Which, again, is exactly where I’ve been since April. Hence the Expletive in GBOTGDMFD!

So yeah, not quite FUBAR, but only because I am too stubborn to accept the Beyond All Repair part. I’ll try to post more often here, and you can also follow me over on Google+ where I post pictures, revel in my geekiness, and occasionally rant a little about politics. I’ve also been doing a walking podcast in a similar vein to Nathan Lowell’s Talking on My Morning Walk. The walking is for my mental health (doctor’s orders), but I fit in 15-20 minutes of chatter at the end of it. Right now there are over a hundred episodes in the bank, and once I GBOTED, I’ll actually start getting them posted and provide links.

Health Hiccup and Copyediting

Surgeon_wikicommonWell, I just spent the last week in and out of the hospital with an on-and-off bowel obstruction. I’d say it’s grist for the mill, but I’m not sure I can be that cruel to any of my characters. That shit (or lack thereof, technically) hurts like nothing else I’ve experienced, and this is coming from the guy with two herniated discs in his back. Anyway, I am theoretically on the mend now, but I still have two more days to go on an all-liquid diet. I swear, by Monday, I’ll be looking at pizza and asking, “Can I make a smoothie out of that?”

In the meantime, my copy editor Karen Conlin has started into Debts of My Fathers. If you want to follow along with her, you can follow her twitter as @GramrgednAngel. And if she comes across anything grammatically juicy, it will show up on Google+ in her Broad Daylight Editing collection.

I’m also finishing up the new cover for Beneath the Sky and working towards the cover for Debts of My Fathers.

2015 In Review, and 2016 Goals

calendarpagesMy overriding goal for 2015 was to get books out the door. I actually made a lot of progress, but I don’t have much to show for it. I did put a story out in a Christmas anthology (Demon’s Delight), but that is my only publication this year. That story is something of a prequel to my urban fantasy novel Hell Bent, but that hasn’t been published yet. Mostly, it was a year of editing, but I’m mostly done with two books. Hell Bent is back from the copy-editor, and I’m working on the cover and production now. Debts of My Fathers (the very-long-awaited sequel to Ships of My Fathers) was just handed off to the copy editor today. So while I say I made some progress, I ended the year with the same number of books in the queue as I had at the beginning of the year: six.

2015 was also the second full calendar year that I’ve been suffering from this chronic back pain. Specifically, I have two herniated discs on either side of the T7 vertebrae. I had a total of four cortisone injections, but they were not very effective. I did a lot of physical therapy. It improved things, but I kind of plateaued with merely moderate chronic pain instead of severe chronic pain. As a result hitting that wall, the physical therapy folks kind of fired me. Looking back on it, I think I hit the wall because they weren’t pushing me hard enough, i.e. the necessary strength training wasn’t using enough resistance to get the results they wanted. So, I’m looking at physical therapy again with an eye towards pushing to more strength training.

2015 was also the year that I caught a lucky break and found almost-but-not-quite-yet colon cancer while it was still in the PREcancerous stage. Had I not been suffering from all the chronic pain and doing lots of extra tests because of it, we would not have seen this for another 3-4 years, by which time it would have been stage-3 or stage-4 cancer. The doctors were able to excise it with clean margins in a fairly simple operation that only kept me off my feet for a week or so.

And 2015 was another tough year for me and my special-needs kids, especially with my oldest son. We’re now getting additional help from the state and county organizations, and I have hopes for greater levels of intervention in 2016.

So, my goals for 2016 are about the same as my goals for 2015: Get Books Out The Door! I think I have a much better chance of achieving that this year though. Two books are approaching the finish line, and then I have the rest of the year to do more. I’ve been heads-down on getting Debts handed off to the copy editor, so I have not yet done proper planning for 2016, but it’s quite conceivable that in addition to Debts of My Fathers and Hell Bent, I might also get their sequels out before the end of the year. So after a couple of years with virtually no publications, I might manage four books this year. But like I said, I haven’t done proper planning for the year yet.

Still, I can confidently state that I will get Debts of My Fathers and Hell Bent out this year, probably in Q1. I’ll make another post later on once I’ve sat down and planned out the rest of the year.

Moving Right Along

It’s been another month, and things are moving along. I handed off all my stuff for the Christmas UF Anthology today, and I’ve reviewed and approved some of the Hell Bent copyedits as part of that since the anthology will include an excerpt. Of course, none of that matters to you folks who have been waiting for Debts of My Fathers.

So at this point, the deck is clear for Debts of My Fathers. I’m not going to do another round of beta readers at this point. I think I’ve fixed the main issues raised by the first round of beta readers, and I’m just going to have to believe that my fixes are good. I still have a few details to hammer out, and then I’ll do the language pass where I look out for my problematic words and phrases. As each book goes forward, I’m catching more and more of these, and the most recent, “towards”, was caught by my copyeditor for Hell Bent. So anyway, I’m pushing towards that and then handing it off to the copyeditor sometime next week. At least, that’s the plan. It might need through next weekend as well, but as I’m already on Plan G, I’m trying to avoid Plan H. I still think I’ll get it out this calendar year, but it’s going to be tight, particularly on the cover.

I also have the final art for the new Beneath the Sky cover, so I’ll be pushing that out soon, but to be honest, it’s taking a back seat to my edits to Debts of My Fathers.

When it does finally go out the door, I will be sure to send email out to the list, so sign up if you want to be notified.

As for my health, October was a really painful month with extra stress to my back from stuff around the house plus two business trips.  It’s gotten some better in November. The pain is still there a fair amount, but the back spasms have mostly stopped, and they were the source of the worst pain. That is, the steady state pain is in the 5-7 range while the spasms took me up to 9 and a little beyond. I haven’t passed out yet (the definition of 10), but I have seen stars.  We’re running a few more tests, and I’m meeting with surgeons, but that’s mostly to confirm the non-surgeon opinion that the herniated disc is not operable.

Still kicking and notions of a walking podcast

calendarpagesAnother hectic month has gone by, and yes, I’m still alive and making progress. Drafts are done and edits are coming along. I even have full copy edits for one thing. If all goes well, I’ll have two novels out by the end of the year along with being included in a Christmas themed anthology.

Right now the part that’s most behind schedule is the art for the covers, but it’s progressing. Right now, Beneath the Sky is getting a brand new cover, and I’m searching for the artist to do the Father Chessman series and another to do the Herald of Pittsburgh series. In a pinch, I could to the next Father Chessman cover myself, but I’d like to put a pro on it. As much as I want to start painting again, I haven’t rendered or painted in a year or two, so I’m too rusty to do a good job, especially on a deadline.

Ironically, as tight as time is, I’m actually contemplating starting a podcast. It would not be a high production value show with interviews, etc. It would be much more in the vein of Nathan Lowell’s “Talking on my Morning Walk” podcast. Specifically, I’m trying to get on the treadmill more often and for longer, but an “hour-long” episode on Netflix is only about 42 minutes, and that doesn’t even get me to two miles. I’m aiming for three miles, three to six times a week. I figure I might just empty out my brain in audio form for that last mile or so.

Like I said, it won’t be high-quality intellectual exploration, but it’ll be something, hopefully centered around stuff that I’m working on. Of course, I’m sure I’ll also be talking about the show I just watched as well as everything else going on in my life, but I’ll try to keep it from being a narcissistic tour de force. I actually have about all the equipment I’d need for it (Zoom H4n and a headset). I just need to make the time to get back on the darned thing and keep walking. That’s probably my main reason for doing it is that it’s another reason for me to get back on the track towards better health, and it sort of lets me blog more regularly without taking time away from Getting Stuff Out The Door. (Yes, that’s capitalized around here these days.)

I don’t know what I’m going to call it, but my working title – as in I just came up with it a minute ago – is “The Third Mile”. With some luck, I’ll have an episode ready to go later this week, but I’ll probably spin off a separate blog for it so as to not clutter this one up with them. And yes, for the one or two people who might actually want to listen to it, I’ll be sure to post a link back over here somewhere.


This is the fourth anniversary of the blog.  I started it four years ago, though back then, it was actually on MakingItUpAsIGo.com.  The first couple of years ripped along pretty well, but the last two, not so much.

Still, stuff is happening.  Books are moving in an out of the editor’s hands, with publication coming later this year, provided I get all the other ducks in a row.  I would say more, but honestly, right now I’m face down in the work and can’t spare much time to talk about it.  I’m too busy doing it.  Hopefully I’ll get a little breathing space in October, but not much.  (And then November will come along and probably suck me into another NaNoWriMo.)

But as I said before, I’m alive and stuff is happening.

Still Alive, and Things Are Happening

calendarpagesSo yeah, it’s been a while without an update. My health is OK. No sign of the butt cancer. My back is still hurting an annoying amount, and there’s still some mystery abdominal pain that we’re tracking down, with the gall bladder still a leading contender.  Oh, and I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, so I’m now sleeping with Bane’s mask from The Dark Knight Rises.  It’s annoying, but on the bright side, in the few days I’ve been using it, I’ve been shockingly alert throughout the day, despite pain killers and other stupor-inducing medicines.

It was also a crazy summer with my three special needs children, but they’re back at school now.  That has come with many more hours of scream-free focus, most of which gets spent on the day job, but things are happening on the writing/publishing front.  I don’t have time to say much in detail at the moment, and until I’ve passed another couple of milestones, I’m wary of making promises, but things are moving forward at a rate not seen for a while around here.

I hope to say more soon, so I’ll see you around!

The State of Me

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any kind of an update, so here’s the short version: I don’t have cancer.

I said a little about some abdominal pain back in January. Getting off of Advil helped reduce that, but it didn’t go away entirely. So we scheduled an endoscopy to get a look at the inside of the stomach. The doc figured that as long as he had me sedated and on the table, we should try for a colonoscopy as well. I’m 47, and that exam is typically ordered at 50, but he figured he’d save me a trip. Well, the insurance dicked around for a couple of months – for the endoscopy, not the colonoscopy – and I finally had it done in late April.

They found something. The stomach lining was agitated, but there was no obvious reason. Biopsies turned up negative both for cancer and for H. pylori. However, in my colon and rectum, they found a couple of polyps, one of which looked quite bad. “If that’s not already cancer, it will be within six months.” Well, the biopsy for that came back as a high grade dysplasia. That’s the last visual change it makes on the road to cancer, and once it’s cancer it still looks the same. But at least what they took in the biopsy hadn’t turned to cancer yet.

Looks like cancer, smells like cancer, but isn’t cancer yet.

Of course, that was just the biopsy. They hadn’t been able to remove it all during the colonoscopy because it was in just the wrong nook for them to get at with those tools. So, we scheduled surgery using the Da Vinci robotic surgical system. That was May 6th, and the surgery did what it needed to do. They got it all, got a clean margin, and the final pathology report showed that none of it had turned to cancer.

So, I really dodged a bullet. If I’d waited until I turned 50 for that exam, I might have already been at stage 4 colorectal cancer before then, which means we’d have been talking about chemotherapy, radiation, and five-year survival rates. As it is, I’m just looking at a lot of butt exams in the coming months and years.

In the meantime, I haven’t gotten much of anything done. I finished off a few things at work, but the writing has suffered. I have continued to make some edits on Debts of My Fathers, but not much.

Basically, I’ve felt like I’ve been yanked back from the path of a bus, and for the last six weeks, I’ve been watching that bus pass by four inches from my face. Now, at last, I think I’m starting to see the tail end of that bus go by. Time horizons are expanding past the next doctor appointment, and I’m starting to get things done. I don’t have enough yet to make promises about schedules, but I am at least editing and writing again.

And that’s it for the moment.