Apr 012015

antique typewriter 21What to do, what to do…

So, here I am. Not quite a cancer survivor, not exactly a cancer patient.

I’m not classified “in remission” but the primary tumor is supposedly gone. I’m lucky they caught the cancer, I’m unlucky in that my life, career trajectory, everything I thought was true, has been turned upside down.

I’m in limbo; not real sick, not exactly well either. Slowly but surely, I’m getting used to this new body. Often, I long for the days when I had cancer and felt fabulous. Yeah, I know. I only think that after a particularly bad day.

But that’s beside the point, I suppose. What bothers me the most is what has happened to my personality.

I was always a “ready, fire, aim” type person before the cancer. Now I continually second guess myself. I proceed carefully.

I sometimes find reality to be crushing, sobering, overwhelming.

Sure, my chances of five year survival are OK. Docs are watching the liver and lungs. Considering I don’t have much colon left, my chances of actual colon cancer showing up there are rather small. Now, we watch for mets.

But it’s confusing. Docs aren’t exactly skilled at communication and as I approach my second cancerversary, I’m not looking forward to reliving my cancer nightmare once again.

When I was diagnosed, docs told me if they hadn’t removed the tumor, I would be inoperable in two years, dead in five. In a month, I’ll enter year two.

Which brings me to writing.

In the past, I’ve always used copywriting to finance my fiction career. After taking a good look at the prospect of death through a Vicodin haze, I’m not sure I want to do as much copywriting anymore.

Throughout my writing career, my mantra has always been, “chase your dream, don’t compromise.” And I’ve done that… most the time.

Except now, time suddenly feels precious. I find myself avoiding various projects I used to jump at. I find myself longing to return to my roots and enter the worlds of imagination I’ve often forsaken, instead taking the safe route of financial security. But I can’t seem to do that now.

I love writing. Cherish it. I adore my characters and the worlds they inhabit. The stories they tell amaze me.

And so, today I explore. I wonder. I tentatively take a step back and become the writer I wanted to be way back in the days before surgeries, scans, slick seminars, mentors, and tumors.

I’m terrified yet far more hopeful than I’ve been in a long time. But through this, I find writing fun again. And I suppose that’s what counts, eh? I hope you join me on this interesting adventure.

If you haven’t signed up for my VIP newsletter, please do so. I’ve got a couple awesome freebies set to go… more coming.

But most of all, enjoy life. Love living. Hug someone you find precious. :)

Oct 292014

My how times change. The magazine ads after the jump are… interesting.

We’ve got fannies, diarrhea plagued playboys, “chubby” girls, women who would shoot themselves in the head due to a bad hair day, cocaine tooth drops, phallic gaming equipment, inappropriate use of a child in advertising, and a very young Nick Nolte.

Go figure.

Enjoy the mayhem after the jump. :)



Oct 132014

Fantastic weekend.

First, on Friday, on our regular morning walk, little Rudie (the Doxie Cross) found a dollar in the middle of the road. Ha. I’d never been paid to walk before. I gave her strict instructions to find a few more bills, but she didn’t listen. Dang.

Second, on Saturday morning, my dh, Rudie, and I attended the first annual Caribou Coffee 5k walk/run.

Now, I walk a lot. Usually, I vary my path, making sure to get enough steps to fill my daily allotment, careful to make sure weather isn’t a factor in my return trip. If it’s too cold, life becomes unpleasant. If it’s too hot, my elderly dogs are miserable. A quick plan before heading out generally results in a pleasant experience.

I’ve never walked an official 5k on a track before. A couple thoughts came to mind while doing so.

1. It’s weird to walk in circles. How do people do it? We just went round and round twelve times. At first it was fine, then I got a bit concerned at the boredom creeping into my mind. Then I began to carefully tick off each lap, waiting for the end.

I liked the 5k. I didn’t like walking in a circle. But that’s just me.

2. I appreciated this event. It was held at the same location as the Relay for Life, yet this one felt different. Perhaps it was because all the coffee donations went directly to the oncology center I frequent. Perhaps it was because an additional 20 percent goes directly to cancer care. Perhaps it’s because I really like our local Caribou Coffeehouse.

It was fun… a very personal event that felt more hopeful, and less sickness oriented, than the previously mentioned fund raiser.

3. Cancer changes everything. Absolutely everything. I’m back at work more than ever since the cancer, but it’s still rough going. I don’t have much to say. That’s a bad thing for a writer. If I don’t have anything to say, I generally don’t send out an issue of Writing Etc.

So, my editorial schedule is still quite flexible. By necessity. Despite all the laps around the track, I still couldn’t figure out what’s going on when it comes to writing. But I’m finding my way. Hopefully.

Finally, the weekend ended with my dh finishing a few outdoor projects. Turns out he left the outside door open. So, when I entered my office today, I had at least four flies buzzing around my desk.

After hunting them down, one by one, I had one final bug to annihilate. He evaded me for over an hour before the buzzing stopped. Suspicious, I searched for his location. I finally found the pesky creature perched on the fly swatter. I let him sit.

Well played, wily fly. Well played.

Oct 072014

I remember the warm summer day when, during our regular walk, my family and I discovered the monarchs. Now, when I say monarchs, I’m talking thousands of them, all fluttering in their orange and black glory. It was an indelible moment that I will never forget. That moment may never happen again.

Today the winter monarch colonies, which are found west of Mexico City, in an area of about 60 miles by 60 miles, are a pitiful remnant of their former splendor. The aggregate area covered by the colonies dwindled from an average of 22 acres between 1994 and 2003 to 12 acres between 2003 and 2012. This year’s area, which was reported on Wednesday, hit a record low of 2.9 acres.

Why is this happening?

Reasons for the decline are multiple, including: out-of-control ecotourism, extreme weather and diversion of water. Two threats loom above all others: the destruction of breeding habitat in the United States because of the widespread use of powerful herbicides and genetically engineered crops, and illegal logging in Mexico’s high-elevation Oyamel fir forests.

Deforestation has always been a dark shadow lurking in these beautiful mountains, and it has never been adequately dealt with by the Mexican government. In the 1980s, horrified television viewers watched footage of loggers armed with chain saws felling trees covered with butterflies and log-laden trucks crushing butterflies as they drove down the mountains. That led to the establishment, in 1986, of the Monarch Butterfly Special Biosphere Reserve, within which logging was outlawed. But still it continued.

How could ecotourism hurt them?

Ecotourism is an important part of the local economy, but we must make sure that its costs in habitat degradation and increased butterfly mortality don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg. The Mexican government has made strides in reducing much — but not all — illegal logging, and needs to do more. The United States, for its part, should re-examine the extent to which industrialized herbicide-based agriculture is destroying the flora in the Midwestern United States that monarchs depend on in the spring and summer. In addition to all of this, we simply need better data on the butterflies.


We are fortunate to have experienced the magnificent overwintering phenomenon over more than three decades. We hope that better stewardship will allow the monarch butterflies to continue to festoon the Oyamel forests of Mexico for generations to come.


Oct 032014

This piece from The Onion hits pretty close to home.

I have always been a big proponent of following your heart and doing exactly what you want to do. It sounds so simple, right? But there are people who spend years—decades, even—trying to find a true sense of purpose for themselves. My advice? Just find the thing you enjoy doing more than anything else, your one true passion, and do it for the rest of your life on nights and weekends when you’re exhausted and cranky and just want to go to bed.

Ouch. Sounds like my life sometimes!

It could be anything—music, writing, drawing, acting, teaching—it really doesn’t matter. All that matters is that once you know what you want to do, you dive in a full 10 percent and spend the other 90 torturing yourself because you know damn well that it’s far too late to make a drastic career change, and that you’re stuck on this mind-numbing path for the rest of your life.

This raises an interesting question. How do you pursue your dream if you’re busy living life?

I can’t stress this enough: Do what you love…in between work commitments, and family commitments, and commitments that tend to pop up and take immediate precedence over doing the thing you love. Because the bottom line is that life is short, and you owe it to yourself to spend the majority of it giving yourself wholly and completely to something you absolutely hate, and 20 minutes here and there doing what you feel you were put on this earth to do.

I totally admit there’s more than a modicum of truth in this whole scenario. You have to really, really want to succeed at your dream to make this kind of sacrifice worth it.

Really, the biggest obstacle to overcome here—aside from every single obligation you have to your friends, family, job, and financial future—is you. And I’ll tell you this much: You don’t want to wake up in 10 years and think to yourself, “What if I had just gone after my dreams during those brief 30-minute lunch breaks when I was younger?” Because even if it doesn’t work out, don’t you owe it to yourself to look in the mirror and confidently say, “You know what, I gave it my best half-hearted shot”?

Kudos to the writer… who probably is  actually writing for a living. Success is hard. It’s a never ending pursuit. Markets for paying writing are tightening. Those are the realities. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me writing is the fact that I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It’s an illness that has no cure.


Oct 022014

Oh boy. Fasten your seat belt for a twisted story. I’ll let Publisher’s Weekly present the introduction:

After months of claims and counter claims about its financial situation, erotic romance publisher Ellora’s Cave has filed suit in Summit County, Ohio, against Jennifer Gerrish-Lampe, aka Jane Litte, and her blog, Dear Author, claiming libel and defamation. The suit asks for injunctive relief from the blog for posts regarding Ellora’s Cave, and its owners. Ellora’s Cave is asking for “no less than” $25,000 in damages.

Woah. Details are rather interesting, starting with this:

Ellora’s Cave has been plagued by financial problems since late 2013. Among other issues, authors began complaining about late, or missed, royalty payments. More recently, complaints have surfaced about a decline in authors’ book sales and the layoffs of many of the house’s editors. Marks has blamed the royalty payment problems on the implementation of new accounting software. Addressing the decline in sales, Marks has acknowledged that the publisher has been moving fewer titles through Amazon, but she has not been able to identify why this is happening.

Yeah… I can see why a publishing house would downsize. Publishing has gotten rather tight these past few years. I know, after my cancer diagnosis, I made a point to be super careful with all my publishing duties, always mindful to make sure I got all our core activities done. The last thing I needed was to lose my business, the trust of my authors, and reputation.

It’s really not that hard. You sell books, you pay the author. Pay everybody who works on the prepub activities up front. If you don’t have the money to put a book on the market, you don’t do it. That’s been the secret to keeping Filbert Publishing afloat. That’s also why we’re small. It’s by design.

But, I guess not all publishing houses work that way.

I’ll dismount my high horse now.

You can get updates on this situation from Writer Beware.

Oct 012014

I found a number of gems in this collection of quotes.

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” ― Dorothy Parker

I’ve quoted a version of this one to many newbie writers:

“I am always chilled and astonished by the would-be writers who ask me for advice and admit, quite blithely, that they “don’t have time to read.” This is like a guy starting up Mount Everest saying that he didn’t have time to buy any rope or pitons.” ― Stephen King

And this one’s courtesy of one of my heroes:

“You either have to write or you shouldn’t be writing. That’s all.” ― Joss Whedon

You can find tons more after the jump. Enjoy. :)


Mar 142014

This thing was all over my Facebook feed. Awkward, cute, strange. I watched it, curious about the backstory… who would think to do such a thing? With over 46 million views as of this morning, it’s a viral sensation, capturing a moment of pure… something.

But then things turned a tad curious.

The New York Times best summed up the situation with a story reporting the beautiful, viral vid was, indeed, an ad for a clothing company.

Melissa Coker, 35, the founder and creative director of the clothing company Wren, commissioned the video to showcase her clothing line’s fall collection for Style.com’s Video Fashion Week. Style.com had created the video series for brands that might lack the financial wherewithal to put on a runway show during Fashion Week.

Did it work? Yup.

Ms. Coker said that there’s been a “significant bump” in sales on Wren’s online store since the video made its debut. And the song accompanying the video, Soko’s “We Might Be Dead by Tomorrow,” sold 10,000 copies in North America on Tuesday and Wednesday. Her album also sold an additional 1,000 copies, said Bryan Ling, the co-president of Community Music, which licensed Soko’s album in North America.

In her defense, there’s this:

And Ms. Coker said that there was no intention of hiding her company’s involvement. The video flashes “Wren presents” at the beginning and also mentions the company in the credits. “There was no part of it where this was a secret,” Ms. Coker said.

So… good? Bad? As a copywriter, I’d say it was rather good. The fact they didn’t hide the branding, to me, makes the project one heck of an effective viral ad effort. The fact people didn’t really notice the whole “Wren Presents” at the beginning makes it an even more interesting case study, considering the jump in sales.

Down side? The people in the vid weren’t “walk off the street” folks. They were evidently models and/or actors. Also, the branding at the beginning of the film? The whole “Wren Presents” thingie? Yeah. It’s on the vid for a very short time. So, it could be construed as a tad misleading.

Either way, I have a hunch we’ll see many more of these in the future. Heck, we’ve even got a parody, giving the original vid even more traction. NSFW, btw:

Additional links:


Interesting quote:

Turns out, at least some of the attractive strangers (why are they always attractive strangers?!) are actually models or actors. Slate has identified a few of them, which makes us feel better knowing that not every person plucked off the street looks like he stepped out of an Urban Outfitters catalog.

WREN Twitter

Wren Fall 14 – First Kiss Video

To celebrate the debut of our Fall 14 collection, we asked 20 strangers to kiss for the first time


Interesting quote:

True love is dead and everything is just a cynical plot to extract your money, it emerged today, when the First Kiss video featuring “strangers” making out was found to be just a commercial for an autumn/winter clothing line.

Jan 142014

It’s been a while since I’ve updated. Thing is, life got a bit overwhelming after the cancer diagnosis. I must be feeling better because I’m feeling a bit riled for Lisa Bonchek Adams. Here’s her story:

Lisa Bonchek Adams has Stage IV breast cancer and has been documenting her experience dealing with the disease. She’s tweeting and blogging, sharing the ups and downs, giving her readers a taste of her current life situation.

No big deal, eh? A person writes. Other people can read.

Well, everything changed this week when journalists Bill and Emma Keller decided they didn’t like Lisa’s tweets.

The brouhaha began when Mrs. Keller wrote this:

Lisa Bonchek Adams is dying. She has Stage IV breast cancer and now it’s metastasized to her bones, joints, hips, spine, liver and lungs. She’s in terrible pain. She knows there is no cure, and she wants you to know all about what she is going through. Adams is dying out loud. On her blog and, especially, on Twitter.

“Dying out loud.” I’m not sure I’d describe Lisa’s activity as such, but to each their own…

Are those of us who’ve been drawn into her story going to remember a dying woman’s courage, or are we hooked on a narrative where the stakes are the highest?

Will our memories be the ones she wants? What is the appeal of watching someone trying to stay alive? Is this the new way of death? You can put a “no visitors sign” on the door of your hospital room, but you welcome the world into your orbit and describe every last Fentanyl patch. Would we, the readers, be more dignified if we turned away? Or is this part of the human experience?

From Mr. Keller:

In October 2012 I wrote about my father-in-law’s death from cancer in a British hospital. There, more routinely than in the United States, patients are offered the option of being unplugged from everything except pain killers and allowed to slip peacefully from life. His death seemed to me a humane and honorable alternative to the frantic medical trench warfare that often makes an expensive misery of death in America.

And this:

Her digital presence is no doubt a comfort to many of her followers. On the other hand, as cancer experts I consulted pointed out, Adams is the standard-bearer for an approach to cancer that honors the warrior, that may raise false hopes, and that, implicitly, seems to peg patients like my father-in-law as failures.

Steven Goodman, an associate dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, said he cringes at the combat metaphor, because it suggests that those who choose not to spend their final days in battle, using every weapon in the high-tech medical arsenal, lack character or willpower.

Now… as someone who has intimate knowledge of this whole cancer thing, I suppose I have a tiny opinion on this situation:

Nobody should tell Lisa how to deal with her cancer. Period.

If she wants to tweet, let her tweet in peace.

I’ve discovered there is a TON of misinformation about cancer floating around the Internet. For Lisa to peel away some of the mystery is likely a good thing. After my diagnosis, I searched high and low for even one tiny, reliable shred of usable, readable information and what I found was a ton of quackery.

I found a dude named Chris who used a crazy raw food diet to beat his colon cancer (funny thing is that he had surgery to remove a good portion of his large intestine after his diagnosis). I found a woman named Chris whose diet consists of all organic plant foods who “stopped” her cancer in its tracks. Only thing is she has a super-stable version of her cancer that likely won’t do anything for at least 15 years. Of course, both of these people are selling “make your body cancer-proof” information.

Then I found a woman named Jan who is raising money to pay for her alternative cancer treatment. Updates are sparse and discouraging. I have a hunch her blog will simply disappear.

Personally, I decided to not write about my cancer much. It’s simply too overwhelming. I can’t seem to put into words the incredible mind f*ck this disease is.

Which brings me back to Lisa. A part of me mourns that a large portion of our world can’t seem to handle the rougher realities of life. Another part of me gives her a tremendous high five for demystifying her treatment. I’m thrilled people are talking about this, perhaps quietly deciding what they’d do if/when they find themselves in a similar situation.

Either way, the decision as to whether she tweets, blogs, and Facebooks should be hers and hers alone. That said, Kellers are certainly welcome to their opinion. However, if they don’t like her tweets, perhaps they should remove themselves from her feed rather than make a difficult situation even worse.

More information:

From CBC

New Yorker

Oct 082013

Summer’s basically over

I’ve gotta say, summer 2013 was pretty bad. Gitting hit with cancer surgery first thing out of the chute really put a crimp in any plans I may have had.

But the silver lining is that through it all, I was somehow able to hobble around town with the two pups. And oh, aren’t they gorgeous.

Jake the Min Pin turned 13. It’s hard to get him to slow down enough to snap a pic, but I managed to nab this one.




Rudie the Doxie Cross is now seven years old. I remember the day she came to live with us, she was the tiniest little girl I’d ever met. Her sweet nature makes her one of the nicest canines who has ever lived with us.

It’s tough to watch their faces turn white. The silver fur has begun to creep from their faces, down their spine. But with each new color change comes a new dimension to their continually developing personalities.


I like my dogs.