My Cancer Week

As some of you may know, a few weeks ago, I had bladder surgery. Everything went okay, but while operating, my doctor spotted a tiny mark on my bladder. Like, teeny tiny. Less than half the size of my pinky nail. It was a spot rather than a lesion. Still, she wanted to check it out, and it was so small that when she tried to biopsy it, she just took the whole thing.

It looked like nothing, but it was cancer. Malignant, angry, fuck-off cancer.

If left to its own devices, it might have killed me. Bladder cancer is sneaky. Doctors often don’t spot it until it’s already well on its way to killing you. And they usually spot it because of blood in the urine. But I have kidney stones, so that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow for me, let alone a red flag.

Like the grandpa in “The Princess Bride”, I feel like I should tell you that I don’t get eaten by the eels at this point. I’m okay. They checked the rest of me, and I’m cancer-free. To help us both calm down, here’s a chicken that looks like it’s wearing pants that it made itself:

So, now that we’re breathing, they checked the rest of me for cancer but found none. And now I will get regular checks on my bladder for the rest of my life. But for a week or so, I had cancer. I didn’t tell anyone but my family. I’m sorry if anyone’s feelings are hurt because I didn’t include them. It doesn’t mean we’re not close. I felt like if I said it too loudly, it would come back.

My fears don’t really listen to me when I tell them they’re ridiculous. Maybe someday, they’ll learn.

I know this is some heavy shit. To help you catch your breath again, here’s my dog Polly in a Wonder Woman cape:

Got your wind back? Okay.

I’ve had lots of thoughts since my cancer week. There were a couple agonizing waiting periods between tests. There have been lots of feelings. Do I feel lucky? Yes. Extremely. Was I scared? More than a little. But having a chronic pain condition already prepared me a bit. I didn’t have to go from zero to cancer. I was already “sick.” A very irrational part of me was happy. Why? Because the part of me that’s always looking for a reason behind my various illnesses thought, “Great! Cancer is probably the cause behind my RA, my anxiety, and my PCOS. And when they get rid of that, all those other problems will go away!” I also fantasized that I wasn’t really overweight but had a fifty pound tumor, and when they removed it, I would have the body of my dreams…

Like I said, irrational.

Did the whole experience change me? I still haven’t decided. Living every day like my last isn’t really possible, not when it’s not actually the last. I mean, the dishes still have to get done. I did decide that if I didn’t have much time left, I would spend quite a bit of it writing because I have so much more I want to say. And if I don’t finish the Godfall series before I die, several people have threatened to come after me in the afterlife, sort of like a reverse haunting. No one wants that.

Time for another pic. Here’s my mom’s cat being zen:

Ah, so soothing.

I am happy I don’t have to go through cancer treatments. Not yet, at least. Hopefully never. I am happy that I get to live more, to write more, to love and be loved more.

I had cancer for a week. Does that make me a survivor? I think I always was one, just not in a cancer-y way. That feels important to say.

Also important: I’m going to see Wonder Woman tomorrow night.

What are you looking forward to?

Small press vs. large press, a question for the ages

ConDFW went off without a hitch last weekend. A modestly attended con, but still an attentive one, it left me with ample opportunity to talk with readers and other writers. Most of my panels were well attended, and I picked up several new blog and twitter followers.

All in all, a big hooray.

Except…

There were lots of small presses in attendance as well as authors (like yours truly) that publish through other small presses. There were some indie authors as well, and quite a few set up tables in the dealer’s room alongside bookstores selling the wares of larger presses. I did not join them as I hate sitting still for hours, and for someone who only has two books available, I don’t think I’d see the sales needed to justify the cost. Some of those who had several published books seemed quite busy.

Except…

Even to someone like me who loves my small press and has had a wonderful experience, there is a whiff of legitimacy about books from large presses. Their authors don’t have to hawk their own books. (But they do have to do all their own marketing online.) To a lot of people, this makes them seem more…real.

Never mind the fact that I know for certain that my books are sold at major bookstores around the country. They’re just not sold at those stores in the south, where LGBT prejudice is still very easy to stumble upon. But it was because my books weren’t available at the con that I think many people automatically equated me with “not as good.”

We all know this is shit. As the big houses continue to coalesce and falter, small houses rise. And you can get stories from the small houses that you can’t get from the large ones. (Like lesbian princesses, for example. As a side note, there are definitely other gay fantasy main characters, but their stories are usually tragic in some way because of their gayness. Finding a no-big-deal tale like mine is a little harder. Just throwing that out there. ^_^)

Many small presses continually put out quality work, and people know this, they acknowledge it, and still that legitimacy stench comes creeping out. One person at the con (who I know is in favor of small press) expressed the opinion that small houses must be easier to “get into” than larger presses, like they’ll take anything that comes along. When is the last time you ever heard of a publisher being desperate for things to publish? Yet small presses seem a healthy target.

I fell into the trap myself, watching people pass over small press tables in order to spend their hard-earned cash at the bookstores. People had told me many times over the weekend how entertaining I am. They loved my buttons and my cover postcards. I can hope they’ll buy the ebook or order the paperback online. But they ambled right up to the stores and handed over their money.

I suppose some of it could be subject matter. Though my books aren’t graphic sex-wise, some people get weird about two women falling in love. But I have to wonder how much is that legit-vibe. I even thought, Gee, I have to try and sell something else (something non-LGBT) to a major publisher again, which means trying to get an agent, which means boarding the rejection train, a pit of despair from which many writers never escape.

It would mean throwing all my hopes and dreams and hard work at the feet of a crumbling industry, all for the hope that a bookseller in Texas would deign to carry me at SF cons.

Well, when I put it like that…

Writers, if you’re published through a small press or if you publish your own work, do you ever feel this way? Readers, do you pass over indie or small press books because you assume the quality is lower, despite what your own experiences might be?

As another aside, my time with Bold Strokes is and has been fabulous, and I hope to keep publishing with them for a long time to come as I have many many LGBT stories to tell. And they are one of the largest LGBT presses and one of the largest small presses there is. I guess I’ll just have to form a thicker skin when it comes to comments thrown around at a con. 😉 And I’ll have to turn more people on to LGBT fantasy stories, one reader at a time.

Another another aside, this was one of the first times at a SF con (as opposed to a lesfic con) that someone showed up to see me. Thanks @shadowriver, you made my day. ^_^

A public service message about Windows 8 and Word 2013

Recently, I got a new laptop that runs Windows 8. Let me just say that Windows 8 for the PC makes no freaking sense AT ALL. It was clearly made for the Windows surface or phone, and Microsoft didn’t want to make different versions. It is incredibly difficult to run two programs at once on Windows 8 and not have to switch back and forth between different screens. Ross had to actually break the program in order to make it so I can have two windows open at once on my desktop. Seriously, wasn’t that why Microsoft invented Windows at all? Multiple programs running at the same time? Argh! My head is sore from all the times I slammed it on my desk while figuring out Windows 8.

To all PC users out there struggling with Word 2013 (new with Windows 8), here’s a tip about Track Changes. If you were struggling with strikethrough issues like I was (where you want a deleted word to appear in your manuscript after you’ve deleted it, just with a line through it), you can reset Track Changes to be more like the version you were used to.

Look under the Review tab in Word 2013, then find Track Changes. It’s almost in the middle, next to Show Comments. Just to the right of Track Changes, there are three drop-down menu options. The top one is Simple Markup. Click the little drop-down arrow next to Simple Markup and you’ll find a list of options. The last one is: Original. Click that and you’ll find all the reviewing options you’re used to are now back, including strikethrough.

Unfortunately, I haven’t yet discovered how to make this the default and have to remember to turn it on every time I start Word 2013 if I’m marking up a manuscript. I never realized before how much I depended on strikethroughs to tell me where I (or anyone critiquing me) made changes in the manuscript. Like most Windows 8 changes for the desktop, it doesn’t make any freaking sense.

Why change Windows from the ground up EVERY SINGLE TIME they release a new version? And this version of Windows is worse because you can tell they are just catering to tablet users. Are there really more tablet users out there than lap or desktop users anymore? And you can tell by their commercials that they aren’t even pretending they give a damn about anything but tablet sales. Though I did notice that the Microsoft commercial about the Surface where people are dancing across what is probably a campus doesn’t feature anyone actually USING the tablets. Maybe they hate it too, and the dancing is actually people writhing as an agonized unit. The only commercial I’ve spotted where someone uses it is where the little girl draws and shows pictures to her absent dad. Who knows where he is. Prison? For flinging his laptop at someone in Microsoft?

Stop trying to be hip, Microsoft. The kids won’t fall for it and the older people have money. I had to import the old version of solitaire just so I could play it AND have a chat window open at the same time.

Sorry for the long computer rant. I’ll have more writerly news soon as well as updated schedules for when you can come and meet me, and we’ll rant about Windows 8 together. If you have any other hot Windows 8 tips, Word 2013 related or not, send ’em on to me. We’ve all got to stick together on this.

IWW: It ain’t always easy

Perhaps you’ve seen this in stores?

It’s a firefighter and police officer, though I use those terms loosely. (Where ARE the sparkly-skirted police officers?) The separation of the pants is supposed to convince you that you’re getting more for your buck. But as it comes, it looks like you’re getting the saucy firefighter:

"Who's first to be rescued, lovahs?"

And the short and sparkly skirted police officer,

"Perpetually bendy arm would be great if I had a gun!"

who’s probably chasing this woman:

"MARDI GRAS!!!!"

Best money I ever spent.

Halloween 2011

I really like the Barbie “I can do…” series, but they’re cutting a lot of corners here. Taekwondo Barbie is pretty complete. She even comes with accessories.

"Come at me, and it'll take a surgeon to remove this water bottle from your ass."

The diver, however, lacks some essential gear.

"The mask and weight belt are all I need, right?"

And the astronaut is a little shortsighted.

"Kiss my ass, radiation."

It’s a race to see what kills her first.

For firefighter Barbie, even if I put the Mardi Gras pants on her, she still looks like a bad costume.

Is anyone else seeing Michael Jackson circa Thriller?

Belly shirt, pleather coat, and culottes. I’m pretty sure all firefighters wear this. Or at least, the sexy ones do.

At least there’s paleontologist Barbie. She’s pretty complete.

SPARKLY BONES!

Still with action culottes, but what are ya gonna do?

Whose with me for Halloween 2012? I call sexy firefighter! I hate pants anyway.

IWW: The Love Triangle

Action movies take three to tango, a wild dance of hero/villain/captive culminating in some serious high-wire fighting over pits of rabid crocodiles.

Am I right?

The villain has more style, loves a shiny, jagged knife (because she wants that shit up close and personal), and has a pet that’s cooler than yours. Not a dog or a cat, something more…MORE. Like a baby panda.

Also, she builds her lair beneath an active volcano

Nailed it.

The hero’s in black ops, which I assumed meant she wore lots of black. She’s ex-CIA, ex-military, ex-coast guard, and an ex-librarian because I like to read. She uses a gun because killing from a distance is somehow humane.

Doesn't need to see the light die in your eyes

But because we’re hard fucking core, we can’t use weapons to hurt each other. That shit’s for babies who don’t KUNG FU.

Ditch gun!

Lose knife!

Battle royale under an exploding volcano…full of crocodiles (not pictured, but trust me, they’re down there)!

Body slam with pithy comment!

Mind if I drop in?

Flying kick with lamer comment! (The villain is always cleverer than the hero. See: Schwarzenegger, Arnold.)

Sorry, I've got to take out the trash!

After several death defying jumps over lava crocs, the hero wins, saves the captive and either kills the villain or leads her away in cuffs.

Let's get this panda back where he belongs!

Scene.

But…I’m disturbed. My three-way tango? Not so much. You see this?

Sigh

That’s not a tango-er, that’s a helpless muppet. It’s more like a love…line, than a triangle. All the conflict, all the passion is between the hero and the villain. This thing hanging behind them could be a giant plastic pear for all the ways it drives the plot.

The villain may have tried to seduce him. The hero may have realized that she wanted to live/retire/random epiphany because of him, but in the end, he’s a tool, in more ways than one. He’s a plot device, not a character, as replaceable as they come.

Let's get this panda untaped from this pear

And in the movies, that was always a woman.

What the shit? I didn’t want to be hanging in the villain’s lair under the volcano. I wanted to be swinging by my whip and cutting fools with my light saber. I wanted to kick ass on my own time, my own way. I’d already started on the path to writing strong female leads, and Barbie was going to help.

Did you ever put yourself in movies or television? Which role did you covet? (It’s all right if you wanted to be rescued. ^_^)

Quickie part a million

Just a quick post to tell you I’m still here. I’m working on another IWW (I Write Women) post for Friday with more battlin’ Barbies.

In the meantime, I’ve heard from my troll again. Letty said, “Methinks Barbra has bo idea what she is talking about.”

Where do I begin? With who uses methinks? With the misspelling of not only my name (which is in the banner) but the word no? Seriously, Letty, I’m losin respect for ya here.

OMG, aren’t we all busy right now with one thing or another? I haven’t met one person who doesn’t feel run off her feet. And how many people think we’re absolutely going to die this summer because it’s so mild right now? Maybe we’ll freeze, instead.

You’re not so busy you can’t leave me a line or two of comments, right? Tell me what you’ve got going on.

IWW: Origins

Today is the first of a series I hope to get many miles out of, my I Write Women (IWW) series. It’s the story of how I came to write adventure stories where women stab the shit out of things.
To help me write about writing women, I’ve enlisted the help of my fav toy of all time, Barbie:

"Happy to be here! Can't wait to stab shit."

I never got the whole, “little girls will grow up with unrealistic expectations of what their bodies should look like.” I remember someone telling me that I shouldn’t expect to look like Barbie someday. No shit. For one thing, my toes aren’t one high-heeled piece.

These are very useful for kicking, however.

She’s freakishly disproportionate. She’s made of hard plastic and wasn’t huggably soft like a real human being. As a child, I wondered if this common sense was hard won for the poor deluded soul who told me I couldn’t look like Barbie. I pictured her horror when she tried to speak to Barbie and realized that Barbie would never ever speak back.

I loved adventure stories, fantasy/sci-fi or otherwise. And even though most of the adults I knew were women, there were very few women in the stories that I loved. And if there was a woman, she was almost always captured and had to wait to be rescued.
But I didn’t see this as a male/female thing. I saw it as an odd-man-out thing. The lesser represented gender gets captured. Got it. Well, I had fifteen Barbies and one Ken.

It just made sense.

Did you notice skewed gender/race/sexuality roles in the stories around you as a kid? Did you change them in your play? Maybe you just preferred matchbox.

What we hide

On January 2nd, the Bloggess posted this little gem of a blog post about depression, both with a bang and a whimper.

It’s about depression, about how people struggle with it silently, but survive. It’s about how when folks overcome depression, they feel they can’t celebrate because they’re too ashamed they were depressed in the first place.

I celebrate you everyday, Jenny. You’re my goddamned hero, which is so much better than being a regular hero. You put yourself out there , and you’re funny. Among the trolls of the internet who do anything they can to bring someone down, you have the balls to get out there and tell jokes, to lead a war on William Shatner and to net a giant metal chicken a gazillion facebook followers.

The fact that you can admit something you’re ashamed of can only make me love you more. And I know you know, now more than ever, that you’re not alone, but I’ll say it again. You’re not alone. Never will be. I for one will stalk you forever. Comforting, huh?

And to everyone else, no matter what secret battles you’re fighting, you’re not alone either. Even if I don’t share your personal pain, there is someone out there who does. You’re all my heroes, the silent masses who struggle with depression, with self-harming, with eating disorders, or with what I went through when I finally admitted to myself that I find women just as attractive as men. (That may come as a surprise to some of you, or not, but I’ll just throw it out there. If it means you don’t want to be my friend anymore, we probably should never have been friends in the first place.) <–See? That's what I'm talking about when I'm talking about shame.

It all comes down to shame. We don't let our pain out because we're afraid of what people will think. When I finally admitted both the above struggle and my issues with food, I was amazed at how wonderful and supportive my husband is. If you don't have a support team, I support you. I'm with you. And if you do have a support team in place, I'm with you still, one more voice helping out. One more voice telling you that you're not alone. I see you. I hear you. I am you.

We're all gonna get through this together.