My Own Personal Grey

Goodbye 2011… y’bastard


This is incredibly long so if you don’t want to read it I’ll understand….

Well, 2011 is going out with an apologetic giggle and a pratfall–which is much better than the a lot of the year has been. Ah… my year… let me tell you of it….

First off, some background: back in November of 2010 I made the decision to change agents. This was an amicable split, a business decision on my part based on my comfort going forward. I still have good relations with my old agency and they are doing gangbuster business–which couldn’t make me happier. It took five months to finish up and straighten out all the paperwork and hanging chad, which was nerve-wracking and frustrating, but it’s par for the course and if you ever want to know some of the things I wish I’d known about how to go about changing agents with as little disruption as possible, drop me a note and we’ll discuss it. It’s no secret, it’s just… frankly boring details. But it slowed my work down and dominated the early quarter of the year.

In January we were still settling into our new (old) boat and not a lot happened aside from fixing things on board. Mr. Kat did most of the re-wiring of the 110-volt electrical system.

In February we sold out old sailboat to a friend we knew would take good care of it and helped him move it to a new slip in Bremerton. Beautiful motoring all the way on after a bad start the week before when the engine conked out. Later in the month, I flew to Toronto to visit my friends Ken and Ana and also have a meeting with the sub-rights staff of my new agency–also located in Toronto. Had a grand time just hanging around after an initial bad start with a 2 hour delay in Seattle due to exceptionally cold weather that iced up wings and runways and there was only one plane de-icer on our end of the terminal. Still, wonderful relaxing hanging out with friends, which was a luxury about to become a precious rarity. And the meeting with my new agents is fantastic and fun. Sadly it’s also the month I got the first inkling something was wrong with my health, as I started to be sick to my stomach frequently….

In March I completed copyedits on DOWNPOUR with a new copyeditor–not the one that brought me to tears over LABYRINTH–and things went pretty well, although I still miss Adrian Liang. I went to Rainforest Writers’ Village retreat and spoke on a couple of topics near to my heart: Setting and Voice. It was my first time “teaching” and I thought I did horribly, but the attendees seemed to get a lot out of it and it was a great weekend. I met Sandra Wickham and had a ton of fun. I tried to concentrate on proposals for the new agent, but was too easily distracted and didn’t get enough writing done I will admit. A boat-warming party we had planned was canceled when I got sick and the marine head locked up in the same week. Mr. Kat heroically fixed the toilet, but nothing could fix me. I also moved out of my old office on land and into a temporary desk in the new boat.

In April I finished proofing the new book. I had a marvelous time at Norwescon with Jim and Shannon Butcher, Stina Leicht, and Rhiannon Held among others. I finally met Jayne Anne Krentz/Amanda Quick–of whom I am a ridiculous squealing fangrrl and got her to sign a book for me. Little did I know this was the last relaxed writer time I was going to have for a while.

So in May, the agent transition was completed, business started back into motion: the Uk decided to pass on more Greywalker novels, which made me sad but is understandable and the publishing industry is still in an uproar and having a horrendously bad year, so of course things immediately fell apart on the personal front. I was violently ill right after Mother’s Day and Friday before my birthday was diagnosed with gall stones–lots and lots of them apparently in danger (I later found out) of rupturing my gall bladder. I needed surgery. I feel very lucky to have great health insurance through my husband’s place of work. I could never have considered the surgery otherwise.

But as I was contemplating the gallstone business, my mother was diagnosed with an extremely agressive breast cancer–it started out ping-pong ball sized in April. I’m pretty much the only family member in the area and due to a lot of blah-blah-blah, my mom has pretty much no crowd of supportive friends to help her through this. So I was elected unilaterally and became my mother’s “health care advocate” and legal representative if she was unable to express her wishes… or died. (I need to add here, that my mother and I have a rather rocky history, so the situation was… umm… what’s the word I want here…? Complex? Horrifying? God-ducking Awful? Feel free to choose your own adjective.)

We put aside my surgery until we had a handle on what my mother’s care would require and I attempted to get to work on my next Greywalker novel for which I did not, at that point, have an actual contract–though my agent and I had negotiated a “deal memo” with my publisher–which is the first step in that direction.

Let me just say that attempting to concentrate on a story that is built on subjects like shipwrecks, ghosts, murder, and insanity is not fun or easy when you’re looking down the barrel of medical nastiness and possible death in the family. But I call my sister, who the biggest heart in the world; I believe her spiritual totem is the marshmallow wrapped in tiger-print silk–with razor sharp wits and tiny little claws that are none the less sharp for being well-concealed and used insufficiently for her own good. E agrees to come up and during her summer break and help me out with the complexities of getting mom moved closer to the hospital, managing the treatments, and all the general stuff that goes with this situation.

Near the end of May the marine fridge broke down, venting ammonia into the galley. It took three days to get all the fumes out of the boat. Our friend with our old sailboat helps us take the broken fridge to the dump and there is much rejoicing. I talked to my publicist about the “minion project” but the writing work I meant to do was put off.

In June: Mom’s Lump grew to the size of a lemon. The oncologist told my mother on a Monday in the middle of that month that she needed to start chemotherapy Thursday of that week. And there would be a surgery on Wednesday to “install a port.” As if Mom were a machine that needed a hardware upgrade. And other fun things had to happen in between, including more tests.

I acquired a dog: Bella the Pupzilla who turned out to be a lot more work and trouble than I’d ever imagined–who knew a dog could have a bladder infection for 5 months? But in spite of it all, I love her very much.

We launched the “Minion Project” and the rest of the month vanished in a blur of medical stuff. The manuscript for SEAWITCH reached a mere 5,500 words. Since I had a deadline of October 1 on the previous contract I was a little worried, but not panicking. Yet. That would come later. The Minion Project was not quite as exciting as I’d hoped and details were fraught with complications, but in the end 24 official Minions of the Greywalking Horde were selected (20 in the US and 4 in the UK) as well as some recognition given to long-time minions for a working total of 49 minions worldwide.

I cancelled all my public appearances and conventions except the local ones and those arranged by my publisher. Things began to get ugly…

July arrived and I kind of missed Independence Day. I still can’t recall what we did but I think it was “nothing.” Chemo continued weekly as did many other Mom-related work, bills, problems, and an old legal issue of hers came back into play, further complicating things. The dog had problems I couldn’t seem to resolve and my husband was very unhappy about it all. I made an appointment for my gall-bladder surgery on the understanding I’d probably be sent home the same day. E arrived from Los Angeles to help me with (or rather she got stuck with taking over) the mom stuff and ended up having to move Mom to a new apartment on the weekend I was in the hospital with an inability to stop throwing up after my surgery.

I had arranged for friends of mine with trucks to help Mom and E, but only one of them had even met her before and I wasn’t there to help. Somehow it got done: Mom and a small portion of her stuff were moved to Seattle and the rest put in storage. And to the friends who helped I owe eternal and unending thanks. And to E, who managed it all while I was sick as a dog…

And speaking of the dog, Pupzilla decided I was in need of protection after my “illness” and became overly-protective for months. No one was allowed near me if they seemed at all questionable. This was a bit of a problem since living in a marina there are a lot of folks around who seem “questionable” to a dog, You know: people wearing hats.

SEAWITCH grew to 11,000 words by the end of July. Somehow I managed to: take my sister out for her birthday, get my hair cut and nails done, spend a day with very old friends, and spend some time with my husband on our anniversary. But the dog kept peeing on things she shouldn’t in spite of a lot of drugs.

In August, DOWNPOUR was released in hardcover and the paperback edition of LABYRINTH also hit the stands. My local grocery store buried it on the bottom shelf, face in, but it did well elsewhere. the hardcover did well wherever I actually signed books, but the opening numbers were not exciting. The Minions picked up slack where they could, saying things about the book on line and occasionally showing up at conventions in their t-shirts and distributing my book cards. Thank God for the Minions! I had a grand time as always in Huston and came home to take up the reins of Mom’s care while E returned to Los Angles to go back to school.

SEAWITCH reached 30,000 words. Which sounds great until you realize I do 50K a month in a normal year and I still thought I’d have to turn in the book October 1. Panic begins to rear its head….

In September: Begins with a horrified phone call to my editor which results in my deadline being extended to December 31 for the next 3 books. The contract is finally on her desk and will be on it’s way to my agent by the end of the week. At last!

My weeks became a blur of chemotherapy sessions with my computer on my lap, dealing with the vet and dog classes, managing things for my mom, and trying to wedge in other book promo that rarely came off. I sprained two fingers on my right hand while falling in the boat and one on my left while walking the dog and was unable to type for most of a week.

Mom started to have serious trouble and at one point I had to take her to the ER for, of all things, a bloody nose that wouldn’t stop. Her oncologist decided she needed a blood transfusion. She freaked out at the thought of a stranger’s blood and insisted on mine. It couldn’t be done. Finally we talked her into working with the Puget Sound Blood Center and he had her transfusion. All went well and she was doing much better…

until she started having chest pains in the middle of the night and called me to take her to the ER again. I had to tell her to call 911 as I couldn’t help her if she was having a heart attack. Mom called 911. They came and discovered she was not having a heart attack but was having something equally bad: a blood clot caught in her lung. So off to the ER again.

Mom’s medical condition became complicated by the blood clots and she had to go on a very expensive medication that wasn’t fully covered on her Medicare insurance. Since her only income is SSI, she couldn’t afford it and had to jump a lot of paperwork hoops to get the company to provide it for her as a financial hardship case. Panic now hits me full-bore. Work comes to a screaming halt. I went to Portland for a writer event and can barely remember it now.

In October I went to a book event I also can’t really remember. Then I filed my taxes, which is always a nightmare. Mom had several appointments related to her legal case and needed to go to court in Silverdale for a repeat of the previous two hearings on the subject. We spent a lot of time on ferries…. The dog continued to have health problems. Mom’s car was repossessed. I became Mom’s chauffeur. The rest is a blur.

In November we finally figured out what has been making the dog sick and begin a 6-week course of meds. We decided to fix the heating system before the weather went bad, but were too late and the problems were worse than we thought. Nothing could be done on it until December. Mom was finally done with all her chemo and after some tests, her surgeon scheduled a radical mastectomy of the right breast for December 6. I had a three-day migraine. We had Thanksgiving out with friends at a restaurant in Capitol Hill, but had to cut it short so we could look after the dog. I took mom out for her birthday to see The Nutcracker ballet and didn’t enjoy it since I couldn’t stop worrying about everything else.

I tried to catch up on the novel by doing NaNoWriMo, but failed when I only managed another 29,300 words for the whole month. SEAWTICH was standing at 73,300 words total and needed 85-90K minimum. I wanted to die. I was sure I was about to shoot my career in the head and watch it die.

In December the dog was finally declared free of the persistent infection she’d had since we got her. Yay! Mom went in for surgery and my Aunt Susie came to help her for a few days so I could rest and work. My contracts and on-signing check for more Greywalker novels arrived on the 16th. I sent my sister a paella pan for Christmas. Mr. Kat and I spent Christmas Eve very quietly at home and dropped off a watercolor of a bunny playing jazz piano (two of mom’s favorite things) by Lea Hernandez with Mom on Christmas Day. I know she was disappointed we didn’t take her out, but I was still too tired and had just received bills that ate a lot of the on-signing check. The furnace turned into a special kind of nightmare, but after a lot of re-work it’s finally functioning mostly correctly. We’ll have to replace some hoses, one heat register in my office, and a couple of other parts in the next few months, and it cost a bundle (another big bite out of the on-signing check), but it’s done and the boat is finally warm and dry. Mom’s schedule became nasty for a few weeks after my aunt left, but it’s now settled down to one appointment per week for a while and she is able to take the shuttle to her appointments herself.

I finished the manuscript for SEAWITCH in a marathon of writing and sent it off on December 29 at 96,676 words: 22,600 words up from November.

This morning I took the dog out for her First Walk of the Day and we walked up the hill to the dog park at Golden Gardens. Bella has been working on her problems with other dogs and today was the first time she was able to really play with other dogs. She had to stay on one side of the yard divider and they on the other, but she actually had fun running back and forth at the fence line. She didn’t get in any fights (well she would have gotten into one with Lincoln, but that’s just a personal issue, not an aggression problem.) She was having a ball and then I had to remove her so someone else could use the restricted area.

That’s when she knocked me over and I fell backward…

in a perfect pratfall down the hill on my ass, top over teakettle like something from the Three Stooges. The nearest owner called out to see if I was OK, and I got up laughing. “I’m fine! I landed on my padding!”

So I caught Bella and put her leash on and took her home, laughing all the way.

It may have been a stressful, rotten year in a lot of ways, but at least it ended well.

Here’s to a much-improved 2012.