Category Archives: Introduction

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…

Brush With Cancer

I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer four and a half months ago. My thyroid was removed on Sept. 30th and my cancer was gone. I lived with a cancer diagnosis for about two weeks, and then it was over.

I am a “cancer survivor” but I don’t really feel like one. Cancer is something disruptive. It requires surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy, and regular follow-ups. I have known many people with Cancer, including my own family. Some won their battle, and others did not. I didn’t have a battle.

Talking about this with one of the members of my life group he called it “cancer with a little c”.  It’s not that thyroid cancer isn’t serious, it’s just very slow growing. I could have lived for 20 years or more with this cancer living inside me before there was an outward sign. As it is, this cancer was only discovered because of a blood test reading being slightly off. There was a whole series of dominoes that fell before an actual diagnosis, but that blood test was the start of it.

I’m lucky and I’m grateful for it. The only consequences of this brief period are a three-inch scar at the base of my neck which should fade with time, and I have to take a pill every day the rest of my life. That in itself is kinda cool, they took out an organ, and all that my body needs is a tiny purple pill to replace it. How weird is that?

I don’t know what to make of this experience, even after a number of months. It went by in a flash, relatively speaking. The thing I was most worried about at the time was my voice (I like to sing and the thyroid sits on top of the vocal chords). A day or less after the surgery I was speaking normally. Singing’s a little different, the shape of my throat has literally changed, but I’m getting used to it.

I was working on my third novel at the time of the diagnosis (trying to get it done before the surgery which ended up not happening). The last thing I wrote before the surgery was a prayer. My character had been through a great deal of trauma himself and was on the cusp of a final crisis. My character doesn’t really know how to pray, so his conversation is very informal, basically just saying what he’s feeling at the time, and asking what he should do. The specifics require more explanation than I’d care to go into here (this is at a point 90% through the book after all), but a lot of my feelings at that moment came out through my character. I read it back to myself for the first time today. It was a good reminder of how I was feeling, but it didn’t really have any answers, because I didn’t have any then.

I don’t want to obsess about this episode, but from time to time I think about it. Why did it happen at that particular time? How has the experience changed me?

Again, don’t really have an answer right now, but if I find one worth sharing, I will.

Have you had an experience like this one?

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ePublish or Perish

I’m debating whether to self-publish or to find a literary agent.

This is not a new debate, hence the label of “Internal Debate 42”. I’m not sure if I have 41 other things I am debating about my writing career, and there are some who might dispute my use of the word “Internal”, but to me this question gets to the center of “Life, The Universe and Everything.”

We’re living in an interesting moment. Just in the last week:

  • James Franco sold his first book exclusively to Amazon
  • Apple is expected to announce they are selling eBooks
  • eBook sales are up, but so are print books

This last point is one of the ways I frame this question. If I self-publish, it’ll probably be an eBook, possibly print on demand but not at first. If I go through a literary agent and on to a publisher, I will have a physical artifact of my work, one that I can feel the weight of, share with friends and sign for fans.

But, that book will probably cost $15-$25 and take at least another 1-2 years to come out if I had a literary agent right now (which I don’t). I don’t mind the waiting so much, but the money is a factor.

I like used books. I rarely pay more than $5 for a book, electronic or otherwise. Often I get things from the library (which you can do with print or eBooks). A publisher has costs they need to offset by charging more for the book. Self-publishing is a different story. On Amazon, I could sell my book for $5.00, keep $3.50 for myself and have my book out there in as long as it took to upload.

But right now, who would read it?

Publishers come with publicity and experience and they are the gatekeepers of what is “good fiction”. I don’t dispute that it takes a certain standard of writing to be published, and I might not be there yet with this book. But I also know that publishing is a business, one subject to market tastes, and that rejection or even lack of immediate success has little to do with whether the book is good.

If I self-publish I can promote the book as long as I want. I can change the price myself, write more timely material, and keep control of a lot of things like formatting and editorial vision.

I’m still thinking about it.

Do you prefer to read printed books or electronic ones? Did you get an eReader for Chstimas? Do you think it will change how read?

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Where I’m Coming From

2011 was the best writing year I have ever had.

Actually, the second half of the year was the best, the first half was one of the slower periods of my writing thus far.

The first half of 2011 was devoted to the same thing as 2010, revising my novel.  Revision can be a bear.  There are times you wonder if you are really making things better or worse. After a while your mind gets to a point where you want to change everything just to create something new.

Sometimes these impulses are good; they can send your story in a completely new direction you’d never thought of before and it can make your work all the richer for it.  Other times, it will take the good parts of your book and replace them with gimmicky or tired plot-lines that just look fresh to you since you’ve been staring at the same words for a while.

I needed to feel creative again.

I’m a pretty simple guy. Complicated plans are not the most effective way for me to get things done. For the second half of 2011 my goal was simple: “Write every day”. Actually, write 1000 words or more a day (the goal increasing by 200 words every 30 days).

After 107 straight days the only thing that stopped me was surgery. By the end of the year I had a finished rough draft and had also completed NaNoWriMo for the first time on another project.

And now here we are.

I want 2012 to be even better than 2011. I started the way most people do, I made goals. I made checklists. I tried to think of everything.

It’s been a week. I’m already revising my plan.

I have a first book to get through “final” revisions and shop around, I have a second that needs to go through its first revision, and I need an audience. Between the three books I have drafted I have written more than 500K words (a short Wheel of Time book), but only a few others have read them.

That needs to change.

What has the last year brought for you? How has what you have or have not accomplished changed your goals for this year?

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