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.

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 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.

Feeling better but not 100%

apollo11I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve been having bad back and rib pain.  Well, it got a lot worse in November and December, and by the end of the year, it had expanded to severe abdominal pain as well.  For a while it looked like my gall bladder was going to have to come out, but so far all the various scans have been negative.

I’ve already had a couple of cortisone injections in my back for the pinched nerves there, but it wasn’t feeling much better.  Of course, tracking this stuff down by where it hurts can be hard since the place you feel the pain for a pinched nerve (around T7 if you’re curious) overlaps heavily with the areas you feel the pain from ulcers and gall bladder problems and other issues around the stomach/duodenum/small-intestine.

But given how much pain killer I was taking for the pain — and how long I’d been taking it — there was some suspicion that all of that ibuprofen might have been causing damage similar to an ulcer. So, the GI guy asked me to go a week or so without the ibuprofen and rely exclusively on the Vicodin.

I was expecting a week of blissful drooling under the heavy opiate haze, but instead, I found that by the second day, I was hurting a lot less, and wehn I say a lot, I mean a LOT!  Pain dropped from the 8 to 10 range down to the 3 to 6 range.  It still gets worse as the day progresses, but I’m typically not needing any of the vicodin until the end of the day.

So, my productivity has gone up a lot in the last week or so.  Mostly, I’ve been pouring that extra energy into my day job and my family.  I say this with apologies to my increasingly-less-patient readers, but I’m woefully behind at work, and my wife had been trudging along in “least sick adult” mode for weeks, verging on months.  But I’m making good progress on both of those fronts, so I hope to add my writing back into the mix soon, possibly this week.

I’m loathe to post specific goals or schedules just yet because I want to see how well my health holds in the coming weeks.  I still have some more tests coming in early February to see what kind of damage my GI tract might have sustained, and those might signal more procedures or therapies that will interrupt any workflow I set up.

But for now, I’m feeling much better, doing physical therapy twice a week for my back, and getting stuff done.  For that, I am thankful.

2014: Year in Review

CalendarObliqueThis past year has been a mixed one at best.

The bright point of the year was that I got a job, which relieved a lot of financial stress. On the other hand, though, it took away a lot of my writing time.

My goal of writing a million words fell flat on its face, mostly because of the job. I think before I started work, I was on pace for about 650,000 and accelerating, so it’s conceivable I could have made it, but the second half of the year pretty well tanked in my writing. I did manage a NaNoWriMo, but mostly due to a Herculean effort over the Thanksgiving holiday. Anyway, I stopped keeping good records in the later months, but I’m pretty sure I ended up in the neighborhood of 450,000 for the year.

But I did not get a single book out the door this year, and for that I consider the year a failure. I now have six – yes, SIX – novels in the queue. Two are technically still in the draft phase, but they’re close to done. Mostly everything is held up in edits, which I suck at. And alas, most of these aren’t the kind of edits I can hand off to an editor. These are essentially writing additional scenes and rewriting others to fix story problems. The actual grammar and language stuff goes pretty fast, and I DO get professional help with those.

But I get stuck on these story-level edits, and I’m still trying to fix that as a process problem. It’s not that I don’t know what needs to be fixed. I’m just having a hard time making progress on them. I once quipped, “I spent about forty hours this month not editing that book.” That is, I dedicated forty hours to the work but got virtually nothing done in that time. This is probably one of those things that I’ll eventually figure out, and once I do, I’ll look back on my lame excuses with the same scorn that I currently do for things like, “I don’t have the time to write” or “I don’t have any ideas”, etc. But in the meantime, I’m pounding my head against this wall of edits.

It’s also been a very rough year for me personally. I have special needs kids. I don’t talk about them much – at least not in specifics – but it’s been a hard year, especially with my oldest son, but even my youngest son has caused his share of gray hairs. My daughter, on the other hand, has been a delight. Still, I worry for her, growing up around her brothers who are causing me plenty of grief, even with thirty-six more years of emotional experience and perspective.

I’ve also been having a tremendous amount of physical pain this year. What started as an intermittent stabbing pain in my ribs in September 2013 has blossomed into near-constant agony throughout my torso. There are people out there hurting worse than me, so I feel lame complaining, but I also realize that I’ve probably only had three of four days since summer that the pain has not required a dose or two of Vicodin, just for me to function.

In the last couple of months, it’s gotten even worse while the source remains a mystery. A back specialist thinks the pain is being caused by pinched nerves. Apparently, I have herniated discs on either side of my T7 vertebrae, though how I did that is yet another mystery, since that part of the back is generally immune that this kind of problem. But after a couple of cortisone injections in my back, we’re starting to think there may be multiple sources to this pain. So I’m now being sent off physical therapy as well as a GI specialist. Apparently, there’s some chance the culprit is that bilious bag known as the gall bladder.

But whatever it is, I’ve spent much of the year exploring the upper ranges of the pain scale, determining the finer shades between an 8 and a 9. For those of you in similar situations, I highly recommend the alternate pain scale by Hyperbole and a Half.

So I go into 2015 with a few vague plans and a lot of an

Progress on Debts and the Possibility of NaNoWriMo

I’m finally making good headway on the edits to Debts of My Fathers. I’m behind schedule again, but I’m moving quickly at last. My target is to get it to the state of its second Beta by the first of November. I have a punch list of things to address, and I’m working my way down that list. Still, my goal of December looks more like January now, which will suck. But we’ll see.

Part of what’s driving me towards getting those edits done by November is that I’d like to take a stab at NaNoWriMo again this year. I don’t think I’ll be properly starting from scratch, though, but I do have an unfinished project that could use another 50,000 words. It’s the sequel to Hell Bent, tentatively titled Stone Killer, and I won’t take Hell Bent to the polish stage until its sequel is at least first-draft complete.

Still, Debts is my primary goal. If I get beta-reader feedback before November is up, it will take priority over the draft of Stone Killer. If I can get Debts polished by the end of November, then depending on the copyeditor’s schedule, a late December release is still a possibility.

In other news, my back is continuing to give me a lot of pain. The doc has me on anti-inflammatory steroids at this point. They’re helping some, but it’s a matter of dropping the pain from a 10 to an 8. Which is to say, when it seizes up, I can now sometimes keep my eyes open as I scream. Not fun, but I guess it’s something.

End of September/Mid-October Update

Again, I’m running behind. The flu or cold or whatever I had in September pretty much sucked up my entire month and kept my energy down in early October as well. However, I am starting to make some progress again, and I hope to get Debts of My Fathers out for its second round of beta readers at the end of this month. I’m also considering NaNoWriMo next month, but not unless I can hand Debts off by November 1st. I have a little less than two weeks to do that, but I’m working hard on it.

I’m also having problems with my special-needs kids, and I’m having a persistent pain in my back and ribs all along my right side. In its steady-state, it’s only about a 4 or 5 on the pain scale, but it frequently seizes up and flares to a 9 or 10. In more qualitative terms, it feels like someone is pressing a putty knife against my ribs 24/7, and every now and then, they stab me with a spearhead. So, that’s been something of a distraction. For the record, we’ve done x-rays, chiropractic adjustments, and deep tissue massage, but nothing has made it better. Whatever it is, it appears to be a soft-tissue injury, and wrangling my ever-growing boys probably reinjures it on a regular basis. I suspect physical therapy is the next step, but I don’t have a schedule for that yet.

So, the work continues, just never as fast as I want it to.

End of February Update

CalendarObliqueI’m two months into the year and doing that accountability thing against my goals for the year. Also, by coincidence, this is my first real post for the relocated blog.

So, for the big writing/publishing goals, it’s been a so-so month. In February, I wrote 55,192 words and “published” 15,826 of them. Let’s break it down.

Email/journaling/private: 3755 words. This was mostly email, but it did include the notes for an award presentation I did back at the beginning of the month.

Blogging/social media: 15,826 words. The bulk of this was over on Google+. The blog here had a lot of downtime while I managed the move. Part of this was that I didn’t want to stack up a lot of “scheduled” articles when I wasn’t sure when the move was actually going to occur, but mostly it was just that blogging fell off the priority list.

Fiction: 35,611 words. This was entirely work on Oaths of My Fathers, which is now just shy of 53,000 words and is quite thoroughly behind schedule. My original deadline was February 24th, and then I pushed that out to March 6th, but I can’t see how I’m going to hit that one either. Missing that one is going to be very problematic, because then I slide into spring break with the kids. So, I’m still pushing on this one, but it’s getting hard.

Overall, I’m at just over 98,000 words for the year, but I should be closer to 165,000. I went into February behind because of time spent editing Debts of My Fathers, and I had hoped to catch up with the drafting time on Oaths of My Fathers. Unfortunately, that’s been slow going. The one comfort is that the problems have not been book-specific issues. That is, I’m not floundering. I know where the book is headed, and I’m not running into any big problems on the way.

No, the problems have mostly centered around some health problems with me and my kids. As I’ve said before, I have special needs kids, and this month has been more trying than most for the oldest boy. That has been quite stressful for me and has negatively impacted my own health. Anyway, everyone is seeing the doctors they’re supposed to be seeing, so hopefully we’re on the right track, but it meant there were about ten or twelve days in February where I hardly wrote anything at all, let alone whacking off 3000-4000 words on the new novel. For what it’s worth, though, three of the beta readers have finished Debts of My Fathers, and I’m trying to schedule time to get their feedback.

Published: This is the 15,826 words mentioned up top, and it’s all been social media and blogging. It meets the “get it out there” requirements of my annual goal, but it’s not the kind of publishing that pays the bills. But Debts is moving along and hopefully Hell Bent will be right on its heels, so by summer, I should be much closer to my goal.

Meet up with other writers I know online: I haven’t done much on this one this month, but I did go to ConDFW and spoke with another indie writer who is local but that I had not really talked to much before. He’s further down the road than I am with about ten books out, but he’s gotten them out in the last few years, not the last few decades. In other words, he’s had the productivity that I have not yet managed. I’m also making some progress in getting the rest of my local writing group onto Google+, which is almost this goal in reverse, but hey, it’s something.

Beef up the website: Hey, actual progress! It turned out to be about two weeks of research and emails only to discover that the move took only two or three hours of real work. The old website will continue to exist for another year or two to keep old inbound links alive, but no new contact will be posted there. Now that I’m here, I can get started on some of the improvements, including a mailing list to let you folks know when books finally get out the door.

This has been holding up a surprising number of other tasks, actually. More than just the mailing list, I’ve been waiting on this for a number of other publishing issues. Specifically, I have held off on spreading my books to the Nook and Kobo because the books link back to my website, and I didn’t want to put them out with a soon-to-be-old link. It’s also held off an updated cover to Beneath the Sky, again for the same reason. And believe it or not, it was going to hold up the release of Debts of My Fathers and Hell Bent if I hadn’t gotten it done by May. So, with this big item checked off, hopefully a lot more tasks will start moving.

Improve my health: Well, shit. If anything, I’ve gone backwards on this one. However, I’m trying a couple of new medications with my doctor as well as some other changes. I also found a new chiropractor who is a lot cheaper and much easier to get in to see. After three visits, my back and ribs and giving me a lot less pain, which is amazing given that I reinjured them this month in a kid-related incident.

So that was it for February. We actually started to get some spring weather, but the occasional cold snap have kept me from reseeding the yard just yet. Hopefully, March will be warm, wet, and quiet.

Oaths of My Fathers, Day 10

Alas, I fell woefully behind over the weekend. It was a packed weekend, and with my kids, I don’t get a lot of sane time on the weekends. I actually did get some writing done, but it was for a completely different project – I was presenting something of an award on Saturday night and wrote up a couple of pages for it. But other than that, zero new words on Oaths. I did hit the word mines again today, and while my numbers were not earth-shattering, they were almost respectable. Well, no, they weren’t actually, but they were better than the weekend.

However, in a flash of inspiration, I did work out a problem for the end of book 5. I don’t exactly have these planned out in detail, but I knew mostly how I wanted the climax to go down. No spoilers here, but it was of the form: after A happens, we get to do The Big Thing. The only problem was that I had never quite worked out how A was going to happen in such a way that The Big Thing was not only possible but not a leap of incredulity. Well, now I know how it’s going to happen, and I was able to jot down about 750 words to help me remember it when the time comes at last.

It’s time to head for bed, but I might manage a bit more on my laptop before lights-out. I’ve got a plumber coming in the morning, so I might not be in full swing until the afternoon, but I am making progress.

One distraction, though, is that my upper back is really hurting these days.  And by “really hurting”, I mean screw-my-eyes-shut-and-cry hurting.  I suspect it’s partly from poor sitting posture at my desk, but I think I also strained something wrestling with the eldest boy last week. This isn’t the part of the back that the treadmill seems to help much, but I’ll at least be giving it a shot tomorrow.