My Hero Hento

Some time ago, I mentioned that my dog Hento saved my life and I wanted to tell you all about it. I actually wrote out the story in late April, but I didn’t post it at that time because I wanted to give it a proof-and-tweak first. Unfortunately, almost immediately after I wrote it, my recovery took a nosedive into the toilet and the resulting brain fog left me incapable of reading, much less proofing, anything of that length.

Now it’s so much later that parts of what I wrote are no longer completely accurate, but I like the idea of presenting the post as-is, like a time capsule; this is where I was on April 28th, 2020.


So, uh, apparently I had cancer?

I figure there’s no delicate way to come at that.

For a very long time now, I’ve had chronic pain and nebulous health issues that it just wasn’t really worth it to me to get into with a doctor. (Tried before, was ignored/gaslit/told to simply lose weight, no answers, moving target, comes and goes, periods of no/poor health insurance, I can live with it, so on and etc.) But the thing about meeting my fantasy dream husband and starting our life together is that suddenly my health and mobility matter in a way they never mattered before – to me and to the fantasy dream husband.

After the wedding in the fall of 2018, when I finally had health coverage again, he begged me to get serious about finding a doctor and getting to the bottom of things. I agreed but put it off a while longer while I concentrated on publishing Mornnovin.

But then, through a series of cascading escalations, my body insisted that I pay attention. By the end of summer 2019, I was deep into physical therapy for Degenerative Disc Disease while trying to figure out why I’m always tired and in pain, why my body doesn’t want to digest anything I eat, and what the heck continues to be wrong with my liver despite my never having been a drinker and eating a fairly “clean” diet for decades. Oh and also what was up with this big squishy thing on my thyroid that had suddenly decided to start getting bigger.

We did all the tests and ran all the scans, but as far as my larger chronic issues go, that’s still a great big shrug. So glad I wasted even more time and money on that for nothing.

The problem is that… we can’t really nail down the problem. Blood panels get mildly weird but non-explanatory results, while imaging continues to show nothing wrong. Yeah, my thyroid was getting bigger and had some obvious nodes, but function was okay-ish, by the numbers? And the molecular tests were inconclusive?

As 2019 wound down with no answers, still, and other things on my mind (holidays, work, finances, mental health and some interpersonal stuff, and the upcoming fundraising push for my second book,) I put the whole thing on the back burner again for a while. I’ve been living with chronic pain and tiredness since 1997; a few more weeks or months off from tests and doctor’s visits didn’t feel like that big a deal.

But that frigging thing in my neck.

All along, in the course of monitoring the thyroid issue, my PCP had been asking if it hurt or made it hard to breathe or swallow. The answer had always been no. But sometime in January, I realized that that had changed and I couldn’t say exactly when. She ordered yet another ultrasound. It was into February before I could get in for it. Then it took a few more weeks for the results to come in and for my doctor to get back to me. I missed the call, repeatedly. (I am literally never awake at 9 a.m., Doctor. I’m sorry. That’s just not my schedule.) I’m bad about returning phone calls because I hate them.

Abruptly, one night in late February, my dog Hento completely changed his bedtime routine.

While he is very pack-oriented and loves to snuggle and hang out no more than a couple feet from us at all times during the day, Hento has always been somewhat solitary after he comes back into the house from his bedtime potty trip into the yard. I’m not sure about his reasons – maybe it’s literally just because he’s got a massive coat and it’s always a few degrees cooler downstairs than it is up in the bedroom – but when he comes in at bedtime, he has a little drink, asks for a cookie, gives me an affectionate headbutt to the thigh, then settles down into his preferred sleeping space between the accent chairs and the coffee table in the living room. His den, I call it. He is truly, deeply, a creature of habit.

So I began to be alarmed by the sixth or seventh night of Hento coming in at bedtime, performing the rest of his goodnight routine, and then sticking on me like glue when I went back upstairs. Refusing to leave my side as I got ready for bed. Not even waiting for me to settle under the covers before jumping up onto the bed and stretching himself out along the length of my left side. Staying there sometimes all night if he could bear it, or relocating to the floor next to my side of the bed if it got too hot for him after a while.

Hento never jumps on the bed, and certainly doesn’t sleep there.

By the time he’d been doing this for three weeks, the thing in my neck was choking me in my sleep and I had to admit that it was time to be serious about returning my doctor’s calls. COVID-19 had already upended things, but she found a slot for me to come in within two days. I absolutely took that as an ominous sign.

The visit was brief and to the point: the most recent ultrasound had shown that the node was even bigger than the last time we’d looked at it, on October 29th. It was sitting right against my trachea. She didn’t like it. She’d consulted with an endocrinologist who also didn’t like it. They both agreed we needed to get that thing out of there. When I shared the news that the thing was now choking me at night, she was alarmed and adamant: get it out now.

Even with everything non-essential shutting down due to the pandemic, I asked her?

She was perfectly steady and insistent on the subject: yes. Immediately.

This news was… Well, I didn’t like it. I’m sure no one likes being told they need surgery, but I’m autistic and I need time to adjust to change. Not gonna lie, I spent a week or so shellshocked and trying to ignore the situation.

But Hento kept sleeping way up in my shit, night after night. Not just at the foot of the bed, where there was room. On. me.

Hento stretched out along my left side in bed. There’s no room but he’s insisting on it anyway.

Meanwhile, the bastard thing in my neck kept choking me. I developed a honking, irritated cough from the pressure against my trachea. In the age of COVID-19, try having a loud, persistent, dry cough. There is no one it doesn’t frighten – including yourself. But apparently, neither my scans, my doctor’s urgent referral, my described symptoms, nor the awful awful sound of my cough over the phone was enough to convince the ENT to even look at my case.

“Don’t you realize we’re in the middle of a pandemic?” the surgeon’s people snapped at my husband over the phone. I could hear the angry condescension from across the room. Of course we do. This is at her doctor’s orders. “We’re not scheduling anything, just because you think your wife’s situation is important.” Blink. Her thyroid is slowly choking her to death. “Sir, if your wife is really choking, tell her to go to the ER!”

Jon wants to call them back now that I’m safe and inform the nasty woman on the phone that it was cancer, you assholes. I can’t say I blame him. She was really terrible.

Obviously, I did not want to go to the ER, and much of the time I talked myself out of the urgency of the situation. I told myself it might not come to that, if I could just wait until services and healthcare were functioning more like normal again. Sleeping was dicey, but somehow I could handle the realities of choking in my sleep better than the vague prospect of turning up at the ER for them to do… what exactly? My thyroid and I were playing a game of chicken and I can be very stubborn indeed.

But Hento kept on me 24/7. And I mean this guy was really keeping an eye on me. There was no pretending that he wasn’t worried. After a particularly bad night, on April 7th, I decided to have mercy on his poor tender heart; I went to the ER.

That was exactly as weird and horrible as you might imagine turning up at the ER in the middle of the COVID-19 lockdown to be – with a strange cough to boot. We were intercepted in the parking lot by people swathed in head-to-toe PPE, who screened me and told Jon to wait in the car. I passed through several layers of interrogations where I had to assure those asking that my cough was definitely not COVID-19 before they would let me further into the system. Every time I had to stop to cough because of the irritation to my trachea, I was scrutinized with suspicion. Finally, they ran some tests but ultimately declined to admit me because I did not meet their tightened criteria. (Plus side, we do now have a very nice CT scan of the DDD in my neck.) They did, however, send me off with a fresh list of different ENTs to try calling, if the first one was refusing to see me.

I guess there’s something about the aura of saying you’re calling from an ER referral, because we finally hit paydirt – an ENT willing to speak to me and even schedule a tele-visit. Even luckier, after this guy looked at my scans, he didn’t like them either.

FINALLY. Results.

Even so, he wasn’t optimistic that the OR scheduler would put me down any time soon, just because of resource allocation as healthcare in Pennsylvania braced itself for the outbreak. He absolutely did want to get the chokey thing out of my neck as soon as possible, he just couldn’t say when that would be. He advised me to hunker down and manage my symptoms as well as I could and he’d try to get back to me before the end of the month. Two days later, on April 9th, I got a phonecall asking if I could do surgery on the 16th.

Holy crap when things start moving they really move. Honestly, that gave me some emotional whiplash that kept me dazed just about until the day of surgery. (Which was three days after my birthday, by the way. I know just about everyone has had a weird birthday experience in 2020, but that was extra.)

To abruptly end an already long story, the surgeon was planning to remove only the left thyroid lobe, but when he got in there he ended up taking it all. Everything. The whole thyroid and a couple of nearby lymph nodes to be safe. It looked bad, I guess. The pathology report, a few days later, confirmed his instincts.

And Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, but that’s further down the page.

How do I feel about this?

Well, we’ve already followed the recommended course of treatment for this type of cancer: full thyroidectomy. That’s that, case closed. So honestly, I just feel vindicated after the first surgeon’s office implied I was being an attention-seeking drama queen trying to tie up needed resources during an international health crisis.

Also, enlightened. That’s why Hento was so freaked out. Cancer’ll do that. Dogs have amazing sniffers.

Trying not to get up in my feelings about having an ongoing condition now (no thyroid) that will require medication for the rest of my life.

I’m still dealing with some choking for the moment, unfortunately, as I wait for the swelling to go down. But at least now I know I will stop choking. I don’t have to be scared anymore that the thing in my neck might squeeze the life out of me while I’m sleeping. And Hento can relax.

He slept on me when I came home from the hospital all woozy and sporting a nasty neck wound, and he slept on me the two nights after that. But I am pleased to report that apparently I’m now healthy enough for Hento to be back to spending the night in his little den in the living room between the accent chairs and the coffee table. That’s how you know I’m on the mend.

Really, I only wrote all of this out because I wanted you to understand that Hento saved my life. I absolutely would have kept pretending that the thing in my neck wasn’t that big a deal and would have tried to wait it out until it killed me. Hento was the one who convinced me I was really in trouble. Dogs don’t know how to bullshit you, not about stuff like this.

He was scared, and he told me so, and I’m cancer-free today because I listened to him.

My wonderful dog hero, looking up at me with love.

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020


So It’s the Middle of August

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Friday August 14th, 2020:

Whew, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been out here tearing it up and living my best life, but that would be the utter opposite of the truth.

In reality, in June my post-surgical recovery ran into a ditch big enough for a megalodon to peacefully nap in, and I’ve been spending all of my energy each and every day trying to claw my way back up and out. There was even an ER visit.

I also wish I could say that I’ve tenaciously continued to do the pre-publication work that needs to get done before the book launch in November, but that would be a gross exaggeration of what I’ve actually been able to manage during the last two and a half months. I mean, some things that needed to get done have been done. At the very least, I am now sitting on a hoard of physical copies of Trajelon like a particularly nerdy dragon.

So many books. It’s a beautiful sight.
And a beautiful book.

So there’s that.

And, hey, absent being able to manage any of the heavy mental lifting necessary to do promotion, I did finally get around to creating a merch shop for branded Asrellion and Dogwood House swag. There’s still a lot I want to add to it, but I’d been meaning to just make the shop for a long time and kept getting distracted by other things, so it’s nice to have taken the plunge. If any of you happen to have a favorite line of dialogue or something like that you’d wear on a shirt, let me know and I’ll think about incorporating it into the shop.

Also, requiring no additional work from me, the Kirkus reviews for both Mornnovin and Trajelon are in. The reviewer loved Mornnovin. As for Trajelon, I feel the review neglected to mention certain critical aspects. It paints a somewhat breezy picture of the action, and for the sake of covering my own butt I want you to go in completely forewarned that this is an adult-rated novel with dark themes.

But hey, I’ve got a blurb for the release poster!

I’m maybe? starting to get my recovery back on track (knock on wood), and there are wonderful people trying to help me with the pre-launch work I haven’t been able to manage myself. The paperbacks, as I said, are already here. One way or another, to greater or lesser fanfare, this book is coming out on November 24th. (If the world hasn’t utterly imploded by then. I guess I shouldn’t dare 2020 by speaking with too much certainty about the future.)

Thank you for being patient with me and for believing in my stories! Please keep talking them up if you can wherever possible. I need all the help I can get driving interest in the world of Asrellion before the release, since I’m decidedly not up to the big marketing push I’d hoped and planned to do.

And remember: Hento loves you and wants you to stay safe.

Still Alive

2020 hat

Still from What We Do in the Shadows on FX. The hat is cursed.

It’s been… oof. It’s been a lot lately. As my last couple posts probably indicated.

But I’m still here, still trying to figure this shit out, still surviving. My thyroid replacement dose is now at a much more livable level, the brain fog has started to lift a bit, and I’m getting better at preventing major crashes. We’re still not sure what’s going on, but we have a couple of promising leads. Getting to the bottom of this is going to require the help of at least two more specialists, and I really struggle with the phone calls necessary to get that sort of thing rolling.

Meanwhile, ugh, the medical bills that are piling up around here. I’ve gotta say I hope you’re doing better than I am on the Working in Pandemic Times front, Reader, because I earned 92 whole dollars last month.

My brain is now functioning just enough for me to feel like I really need to be getting on with the promotion for this new book I have coming out in a few months, but not enough for me to actually do any of the things. A wonderful friend of mine who has PR experience is trying to point me at the tasks that need to get done, but I suspect it’s probably a lot like trying to get a kitten that’s all jacked up on catnip to study for a college physics exam. Sorry, Nova. ❤

So, yeah, I don’t have a lot to say today. I just wanted to poke my head up out of the muck to state that I’m still alive and kicking. Things were pretty dicey for a while there, so this seems important to say.

I hope you’re all still alive and kicking too, and staying safe.

And hey. Buy my book.

Syncope

1024px-pietro_longhi_027

For those keeping score, I can now add fainting to the list of health bullshit piling up around here as I adjust to life without a thyroid.

I actually have a lifelong history of fainting from some undetermined underlying cause, and then being fine afterward, but it’s been a while and this time my husband says I was turning blue. So that seems bad. And I can almost always track what (admittedly nonsensical) factor led to the fainting, but this time it happened after nearly no provocation.

Ten minutes, tops, kneeling down to pull some weeds. Felt weird, so I stopped. (I honestly am making a very real effort not to push myself and to be mindful of my current limits.) Went up to the porch to sit down. Next thing I know, my husband is in my face urgently instructing me to breathe and I guess it’s been about five minutes. He’d called an ambulance.

The rest of my Saturday sucked.

greetings from the eye of the storm

For those of you who’ve been wondering if I’m doing all right, following my full thyroidectomy and surprise cancer in April, I’m afraid the answer is no, I’m really not.

It’s funny. You expect these things to be so much more linear than they end up being. Have problem, identify problem, fix problem, problem all better. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaah no.

There is this very nebulous post-surgical phase that I glossed over in one of my previous posts that can easily be summed up with the innocuous words “once we get my med dosages under control.” The ease of naming this phase is in directly inverse proportion to the difficulty of actually getting my med dosages under control. More euphemistically and also more accurately, I’m currently trapped in post-op Hell.

There was an earlier, more blissfully ignorant time in my life – about three months ago – when I imagined that adjusting to having no thyroid gland and relying on a carefully-prescribed dose of ingested thyroid hormone wouldn’t be all that dissimilar to living with an under-performing thyroid that had been slowly trying to kill me for at least twenty-three years.

I was so, so wrong.

For the first, I don’t know, three weeks after the total thyroidectomy, I felt like I was making slow but steady progress toward a new kind of normal that wasn’t all that different from my previous normal (which was nice but also sort of disappointing – I want to feel better now that I’ve addressed a persistent health issue, not the same!) But then, oof, things started getting weird. New symptoms showing up every week, a regular freakshow of bodily dysfunction.

Hair brittle and falling out. Eyebrow dandruff? Can’t touch hot things. Can’t touch cold things. Jitters. Freezing all the time, except at night when I’m drenched in sweat no matter how high we crank the a/c. Nausea. Weird new plant allergies. Intense hunger pain. (To clarify, I had not experienced the sensation of physical hunger since summer 1996. Lost it during the first trimester of pregnancy and never regained it until now — really suddenly and grippingly.) Vertigo. Blurry vision. Trouble focusing my eyes on a single object. Vocal weakness. Mood swings. Shoulder blade pain and crackling. Breathlessness. Weird leg pains. Hand tremors, body jerks, and lack of fine motor control. Brain fog. Tiredness. Tiredness. Tiredness.

Oh and by the way, the scar really itches.

neck scar 3 months

It’s looking pretty good, though.

Probably the worst thing I’ve been dealing with has been the brain fog. There are days when I feel like I’ve never woken up. Days when opening my eyes takes more energy than I can summon. Days I can’t remember because I was so unfocused through the whole thing. I often struggle to read anything longer than a single sentence, because my brain can’t connect two thoughts to each other. When I try to read a paragraph, my eyes wander to another spot on the page. I feel like I can’t generate original thoughts or synthesize information. I’ve had to all but give up on the notion of making any kind of plans. I have no way of predicting when I’ll be functional and when I’ll be only semi-conscious.

Sometimes it’s worse because it’s been more than three hours since I last ate; sometimes it’s worse because I just ate something that I apparently can’t metabolize now. I’m having severe reactive hypoglycemia crashes that render the entire day useless. I was not hypoglycemic before. I have been on a gluten-free/dairy-free diet since 2004; the list of foods that I can’t tolerate anymore is growing at a cancerous rate by the day.

Right now, as I type this, it is the end of a brutal week in which I’ve fought tooth and nail to try to get to the bottom of just what foods are knocking me flat and what I can eat now for the energy I need in order to think straight and not get the shakes. I crashed yesterday but not today. Thursday but not Friday. It’s always a step forward, then another step back. My husband has been the real hero of this story, ever ready to leap into action when he can see my blood sugar taking a sudden massive nosedive.

For the moment, my mind is as clear as it ever gets these days, so I’m taking advantage of the pseudo-clarity to get some thoughts down. Most of the time now, I feel like I’m disappearing.

Apparently white rice in all its forms is now The Devil, which comes as a real blow and a major challenge to a gluten-free lifestyle. Also, apparently, oatmeal and a banana is okay for breakfast, except when it’s not, and a small glass of orange juice is Right Out – except as a pick-me-up when I’m having a major crash. Potatoes seem to be safe for now, but onions live on the edge of Dangerville, and shrimp are okay when I cook them this way but not that way. Fruit smoothies are good, but not for breakfast. Eggs are safe. Sugar is not. Honey is eeeeeeeeeeeh. Green leafy vegetables, walnuts, and grapefruit mess with my meds. It’s a frigging minefield.

And now I’m all bogged down in food talk, but that’s not the point. The point is that my own body is now an uncharted land that I have no idea how to navigate, and hooboy is the terrain inhospitable. My last visit to the doctor was in early May, and my next one won’t be until the end of this month. That’s a great big wasteland of what the hell is going on and what am I doing. I’ve had two med adjustments and one liver ultrasound in the interim. After looking at my latest bloodwork, the doctor called to ask if I was even taking one of the meds prescribed, because I guess my levels were shockingly low. The current state of my health is, in sum, a total shitshow.

So, ha, this notion I was sold that I’d have my thyroid removed, be down for “a couple of weeks,” and then be able to “resume normal activity” was a gigantic fat lie of mythic proportions. I needed to have it done, but some realism from the professionals on this subject would have been nice. When will I actually be able to enjoy something like normal health again?

* huge shrug *

Naturally, this has all really sucked right in the middle of the time I was supposed to be using to craft and implement my marketing strategy for the BOOK you might remember I have coming out later this year. It is, for the record, intensely difficult to perform businessy functions when you’re barely literate from brain fog and can’t process the information you do somehow manage to read. Marketing plan? I barely even know what those words mean right now. A friend of mine very helpfully threw together a pre-launch timeline for me and it looks like they wrote it in a foreign language.

I’m actually, no lie, amazed that I’ve been able to type all of this out. This is the most I’ve been able to process words in months. I fully expect to be back to near-delirium tomorrow.

So for now, here’s me waving to you from the eye of the storm. Here’s hoping I wind up being Dorothy in the end and not the witch smashed flat under a crashed house.

When I have my words again for another brief spell, I want to tell you the story of how my dog saved my life.

Things are moving along

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2Thursday, June 4th, 2020:

Hi guys. Quick update today.

The third proof of Trajelon finally arrived, and we have a winner! I’ve approved the files with the printer for distribution, and you can see that the book is now listed for pre-order on Amazon! I’ll be placing the order with IngramSpark for your copies here in a minute.

The first of two Q&As is scheduled for Saturday, June 13th at 1:00 p.m. EDT. I’ve emailed everyone from the Elf Friend tier upward with the link, so if you were expecting the email and you haven’t seen it yet, maybe take a look in your spam folder. Any questions that you’d like to see me answer should be emailed to me by Monday night (the 8th), so get questioning!

As a final note, it would appear that everyone has received their custom elf jewelry or stationery box. I’m very pleased with these creations and I hope you are too! Having to shop for crafting supplies online was weirdly stressful and a lot harder than I expected it to be — how can you know you want to work with something unless you can hold it in your hands, see it in the light from all angles, feel its weight and texture? So in the course of browsing craft supplies in a sort of daze, I stumbled upon the world of resin casting and I was immediately obsessed with the idea that I had to use it on at least ONE reward. To leave you with the image of something pretty, here is the result of that obsession.

Ron's box 2 sm

Shiny.

More Rewards Shipped and a Hint of Q&A

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Thursday, May 21st, 2020:

After another, smaller Post Office run today, the rest of the Ítaja-level rewards are in the mail — three more pieces of jewelry and two stationery boxes. Their intended recipients have been messaged with the tracking numbers.

I… had no idea what I was getting myself into with those boxes. They were way more labor-intensive than I expected. Oof.

So now in terms of rewards yet to be delivered we’re down to those two fancy maps, which I am going to begin designing this weekend; a live Q&A session; the bookmarks, which will go out with Trajelon; and the actual copies of Trajelon, out 11/24/20. We’re getting there!

As far as the Q&A goes, I talked before about the possibility of doing two instead of just one after the book release, because screw it I make the rules and I like you people. Now that everyone has had (or will soon have) access to their own copy of Mornnovin, and many of you have read the short stories, that will give us plenty to talk about if we were to do a Q&A, say, next month. General writing questions are also welcome, of course, although my answer to those is likely to be something along the lines of “lol I don’t know how to write are you kidding?”

So here’s what we’ll do. I’ll look at the calendar and figure out the best time to take a couple hours of an afternoon to talk to all of you about the world of Asrellion and stuff. Then I will email all of you who backed at the Elf Friend level and above with more information about the when and where, and an invitation to send me your questions in advance. So start thinking! Cool? Cool.

And because I know this reward has already reached its destination and been ogled by its recipient, let me leave you with this last glimpse of something elfy and pretty that I made.

Danika's necklace sm

 

Shipping Has Begun

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Tuesday, May 12th, 2020:

the first transport is away

Yay!

Just a quick update today: I wanted to let you know that I’ve gotten a huge first round of physical rewards into the post. That’s all of the signed paperback copies of Mornnovin for everyone who is due one, and six out of the eleven Ítaja/Galvaí jewelry or stationery box rewards. I’ll be private messaging everyone involved in this shipping round shortly with your tracking numbers. (It’s a reeeeeeeeeeally long receipt.)

I’m pretty pleased with the pieces of elfy jewelry I’ve produced so far and I can’t wait to hear what you think of them! And happy reading to anyone who is about to sink their teeth into Mornnovin for the first time.

This is an important post with a surprise inside!

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Friday, May 8th, 2020:

Holy moly, we’re already a week into May!

As I’m sure you’ve all observed, time has been doing some awfully weird things lately. According to this nifty countdown timer I made last night, it looks like we’re 28 weeks and 3 days out from the release date of Trajelon. That feels like both forever and not long enough, as there’s still so much to do!

Among other things, I’ve been made aware that in my pre-surgery haste, I forgot to send out the Mornnovin eBook download codes to the entire Fantasy Fan reward tier. I’ll get on that immediately, so if you backed at that level, expect an email from me shortly with a digital code for an eBook download. Many people who already own a digital copy of Mornnovin have been gifting this download to friends and family, trying to hook more people in, and I think that’s fantastic. Gift away and spread the fantasy love!

Now as we enter the doldrums of the pre-launch period (still slowly doing the work and waiting on so many things,) I want to give you something nice. This is probably a little premature, as we’re still just a hair over six months out from the launch date, but would you like to see our wonderful cover? I’ve been dying to show it to you all this time and I feel like we could all use some beauty in our day.

I present to you – behind a cut for added drama – the absolutely gorgeous cover of Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, art by Scott Baucan.

Click here to see loveliness.

Take a moment to gasp, because I know I did the first time I saw it.

This is the art that will be featured on the bookmarks. I’ve had one of them sitting on my desk next to my computer for several weeks now, and I have to say it really pretties up the terrain.

So there we are. Enjoy looking at that stunning cover and have a happy Friday! I’ll talk to you again soon.

Back in the Saddle Again

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Saturday, May 2nd, 2020:

Hey, friends. How are you doing? Crazy, stressful times, but I hope you’re finding ways to cope.

It’s been completely mad over here, too. After several months of buildup, my medical situation finally exploded into an emergency early in April and now the dust is settling. Not to get too much into it, but I’ve had a full thyroid removal in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, because it was slowly choking me to death, and it turned out after the fact to have been cancer.

Drama!

Also apparently I had (Have? Had? Is it the kind of thing you can ever be rid of, even if you no longer have a thyroid? I’ll have to find out.) Hashimoto’s disease. So, whew! Glad that thing’s out of there.

To head off any concern, that’s that. No further worries or ongoing cancer treatments. For all intents and purposes, as much as anyone can ever say this about any cancer, I’m “cured.” Now it’s just about the recovery and settling into the right dose of the meds I’m going to have to be on in perpetuity, going forward.

While this whole episode obviously sidelined me temporarily, a few things have still been happening on the book and I’m slowly starting to get back to work.

I did manage to get the emails sent out with the short story and Mornnovin eBook download links before I went in for surgery, so if you didn’t already get yours, let me know.

I also spent the last hours of my pre-op time working on a new page at my blog where all of the Asrellion short stories will live permanently behind a give-what-you-think-is-fair paywall. You can find that here. It will continue to be updated as time goes on and more stories are written/added, so consider that a living page and check back often. For the time being, the reward short stories for this fundraiser (“Witness” and “Black Books”) will remain available only to those who backed this project at the relevant reward tiers. Probably until after the book release.

Also – and this was a lovely get-well-present – the first proof copy of Trajelon arrived the day I came home from the hospital. It looks amazing, inside and out. I did submit an updated cover file because the alignment of the spine was a bit off, but other than that it’s perfect. The second proof is in printing as I write this.

Given the current pandemic situation, Kirkus has shifted to a digital-only review model until further notice. Meaning, they’re not accepting physical book submissions at this time. That being the case, there was no reason for me to keep waiting on a perfect proof copy and I went ahead and submitted Trajelon for review. That was incredibly scary to do and felt super legit. There’s obviously no predicting how that will turn out, but a good review from Kirkus would be a big deal for an indie publication. Fingers crossed!

And because I’ve already got the book in to Kirkus and have my estimated review due date in hand, that means I am now in a position to announce a solid release date for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2. This bad boy will hit the market on Tuesday, November 24th, 2020. Backers can expect to receive their copies at least on November 17th if not earlier, mail systems willing.

Luckily, I’ve got some time to work on the other backer rewards. While I am beginning to feel more myself, I discovered this week when I tried to begin work on some of the jewelry that my hands and focus are still a bit shaky. That’s getting better all the time, but it was a reminder that I need to allow myself to keep a reasonable schedule on all of this and not push. I definitely don’t want to put a pen to that lovely parchment I ordered for the maps while I still have shaky hands!

So that’s where we’re at on this first weekend of May. Waiting on the second proof, waiting on Kirkus, waiting on my body to heal. Waiting, waiting, waiting. This is probably a good time to look into other review and publicity options, while I’m not quite ready to do much else and it’s still too early to know whether or not I’ll be able to make launch party plans.

I will also, as my feeble meatsuit allows, begin in the coming days to package up and send off the paperback copies of Mornnovin that are due to backers. Do feel free to message me with any questions about the project or the world of Asrellion in general and avail yourselves of the lovely FAQ. We’re going to get this thing done.

I’ll talk to you all again soon, and please, please: take care of yourselves and stay safe.

presents for all

Tolkien’s hobbits have a delightful tradition that I’ve always admired: they celebrate their birthdays by giving gifts to others. I love giving gifts, which is at least half of why Christmas is my favorite holiday.  Of course, I also love receiving gifts. So this year for my birthday, I’m giving all of us something lovely that I’ve been meaning to for a while now.

Anyone who happened by my blog yesterday may have noticed a new page under construction up on the menu bar:

new page

That’s right! After talking about it forever, I’ve brought the first wave of Asrellion short stories to the web for your reading pleasure. Because I am a starving artist, they are of course behind a paywall easily unlocked by a couple bucks on PayPal.

At this time, there are three stories loaded up and available to all, with more to come as the published canon catches up/ I decide to release some hostages. (The fourth and fifth titles listed on the page, “Black Books” and “Witness,” are currently available only to backers of the Trajelon Kickstarter project, probably until after the book’s November release.)

As of now, I’ve written eleven (eh… ten and a quarter) of these suckers and am always open to new prompts — and I still owe two unclaimed tailored pieces to backers of the last project! Frankly, I love filling in the little bits of the lore of Asrellion, and these shorter pieces have been a nice way of going about that. I might also, possibly, be willing to make the working Elven dictionary-in-progress viewable this way.

So consider this post the Open For Business sign of the Short Stories page. I’m absolutely delighted to be sharing these with you, and hope you enjoy peering deeper into the world of Asrellion with me.

TftW cover

Project Week One

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Sunday, April 12th 2020:

It’s been a hell of a week.

The Kickstarter funds did come through finally! Yay! I immediately placed an order for the first of the supplies I need to begin making backer rewards. (The vellum for the maps has already come in and it’s glorious.) And by Wednesday, I had submitted my files to the printer, which were approved on Thursday, at which time I placed an order for a proof copy of Trajelon.

Why did it take me until Wednesday to get the files in? There may have been a tiny, terrifyingly dystopian trip to the ER in the first half of the week there. And I maaaaaaaaay be scheduled now for an urgent surgery this coming Thursday as a result. (Yes, in the middle of a pandemic. Yes, that’s as awful as you imagine it might be.) The second half of my week has been consumed by surgical prep and the attempt to have a little fun in the midst of all this because it is my birthday on Monday.

I’m going to be okay, and the book is still going to come out as planned in November or December. Just. Please bear with me over the next few weeks about the other backer rewards.

It had been my intention to get the short stories out this past week, which obviously has not happened. The longer of the two stories, “Black Books,” is ready to go, but the shorter piece, “Witness,” is undergoing one final beta read before I upload the file for you. The promo code for the free digital copies of Mornnovin is all set up – it’s just the email blast I still have to create. I’m going to try my damnedest to get this phase of rewards out and away before I go under the knife on Thursday, if for no other reason than because I’ll be able to rest better with it done.

Tl;dr: don’t be alarmed. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that everything is under control, but everything is being managed. Expect an email from me in the immediate future with your digital content.

And to those who celebrate it, Happy Easter.

fuzzy Dogwood face

March was, truly, The Longest Month.

At the beginning of it, I was halfway through my fundraiser, just focused on raising the money to do my art. Working with my cover artist. Starting to make publishing plans. Feverishly writing project updates to keep up the momentum.

By the middle, I’d secured my funding but was in limbo waiting to receive it, while having to shift my focus to changing how we go about our daily lives in the midst of a growing pandemic. I threw myself into formatting the novel for printing, researching art supplies for backer rewards, and of course following the news as it changed by the hour.

By the end, we were fighting to figure out how to protect my husband at work, because he doesn’t get to stop going just because there’s a deadly disease tearing through the world community. Still waiting for my funding after what felt like an eternity of processing time. Wondering how we’ll manage without my income for the foreseeable future, because no one needs a dog walker when they’re stuck at home. Like everyone, struggling to obtain necessary supplies in the post-apocalyptic landscape that our grocery stores have now become. Trying to help my husband figure out how or if he’s going to be able to make the movie he was supposed to start filming this summer. Square into survival mode.

All the while, the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head in the form of a non-COVID-19 health issue that I’m not able to get treated for right now because local health services are closed to everything but emergencies. When will my thing become one? Big shrug. Who knows. The minutes tick on.

And now that we’re four days into another month (my birthday month, incidentally,) it already feels like March was a lifetime ago. An eternity of waiting, of wondering, of holding patterns and hope and disappointment and sudden loss that we’re all experiencing together, in our own ways. Planning is one thing that’s especially painful for an autistic person to have to give up on. Indefinite uncertainty is not something I do well. All we get to do right now is react and that’s… exhausting.

That’s why we’re all so tired.

Already I can’t remember what my larger point was going to be when I decided to write this post. I had one. But that was half an hour ago, and in April 2020 time, that’s like at least a week. All I can remember is that I wanted to share something good with you in the midst of all of… this.

I wanted to show you this lovely thing that was made for me by my wonderful artist daughter-in-law, Katelynn Cuciak.

Last year (by which I mean 2019, not March,) when I was getting ready to publish Mornnovin, it was my intention to secure a logo for my publishing imprint before the book went to press. That didn’t end up happening in time, but now it is my absolute delight to present to you the logo of Dogwood House LLC, the publishing house of The Way of the Falling Star:

Dogwood House logo badge border

You may recognize the handsome model.

model

Hento basking in the sunlight under his favorite window.

I think she did an absolutely stellar job of turning my beautiful buddy into a lasting icon. From now on, this excellent face will be appearing on all of my books.

And that’s what I wanted to leave you with on this the nine hundredth day of the year C-19. Stuff is scary right now, and weird, and there’s so much to worry about — and I still, still don’t have my funding (although I tentatively expect to see it hit my account on Monday.) I’m off to go sew some homemade face masks because that’s apparently what we’re doing now in this dystopian timeline, but first I wanted to give you something nice: the fuzzy face of Dogwood House.

Stay safe, stay healthy. Stay home.