Saturday, October 29, 2011

On the road again: a long trip, day 4
World Fantasy Con, San Diego, day 4

This is the con my sickness ate.

I hate it.

Each night when I go to sleep, I think that I will wake up in the morning having turned the corner toward good health.

Each morning, I wake up worse.

This morning was no exception. I saw every hour last night with a mixture of drainage and fever. It sucks.

Nonetheless, I decided I would keep all of my day's commitments. So, I got up early to take advantage of a gracious invitation from the redoubtable Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press to join the annual WFC breakfast. I was moving slowly, however, and so ended up arriving over an hour late. I apologized to Bill and moved on.

A few of us ate breakfast at another table, but I couldn't handle much. My sinuses were draining wildly, and my fever was spiking. I went to Dave's panel on krakens from the deep, but after stewing in my fever sweat and sinus drainage for an hour, I headed back to the room in defeat. Eventually, I ended up canceling a dinner I had very much wanted to attend. Aside from about two hours outside this morning, I will have spent the whole day in my room.

As I said, this sucks.

Today, though, has, I believe, brought the right combination of treatments to let me get better: antibiotics from the doctor for the sinus infection, Benadryl to stop the insane amount of drainage, and aspirin for the fever. (Don't suggest ibuprofen; I can't take it.) I am still measly, but this time I am confident: I will wake up feeling better tomorrow.

That's good, because I am going to the WFC banquet.

For now, though, I'll go back to stewing and feeling lousy.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On the road again: a long trip, day 3
World Fantasy Con, San Diego, day 3

Today, probably aided by the antibiotics, my body went to war against the sinus infection that has robbed me of most of my voice. The good news is that I'll benefit from this battle in the end. The bad news is that today was pretty hellish.

I slept and worked until as late a lunch as I could manage. When sick and headed for a panel, you stick to health food, of course, so I had two hot dogs and some Coke Zero.

Thus fortified, I moderated my panel on the role of the misfit in fantasy. Thank goodness Jennie had persuaded the con Operations team to bring in a mic, because without it no one in the audience would have been able to hear any of us. The panel went reasonably well, the roughly 75 folks in attendance seemed to enjoy it, and I was generally pleased.

The one downside was that partway through the panel my forehead broke into a sweat as a fever overtook me.

After watching the next panel, I checked out some of the art show and then rested in the room for a while before dinner. Aspirin helped the fever, but my body is clearly not a happy thing right now.

In the evening, I went to a Baen dinner and then the WFC group signing, in which each writer sits in front of a folded sheet of paper with her/his name on it and hopes desperately that someone will bring by books for autographing. I'd had a pretty decent crowd the other night at The Mysterious Galaxy, so I wasn't expecting many folks tonight--and my expectations were correct. At least a few folks came by, which is better than some past years.

I'm fighting the fever again, so it's off to more rests. I sincerely hope for a better health day tomorrow.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On the road again: a long trip, day 2
World Fantasy Con, San Diego, day 2

The antibiotics arrived today, which is good, and I am now taking them. I have to moderate a panel at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, so I am hoping my voice is far closer to normal than today's version, which sounds a lot like a large frog croaking. At least you can hear me now from more than three inches away.

Most of the day went to work, but I did get to make a pass through the dealers' room (always a treat) and spend about two minutes browsing the art show. I plan to spend more time on the latter tomorrow.

The con highlight of the day was a presentation by some very entertaining and knowledgeable folks from the (deservedly) world-famous San Diego Zoo. They brought with them many very cool animals, including a great horned owl, a three-banded armadillo, a North American porcupine, a white-bellied tree pangolin, an African serval cat (which would never come out of its travel crate), and a binturong. Seeing them all in person was a great treat, and the lead presenter from the zoo made sure we were always entertained. The room was full of writers, everyone there no doubt making mental (and sometimes physical) notes for use in future works.

Tomorrow, I hope to have more voice back and to feel much better!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On the road again: a long trip, day 1
World Fantasy Con, San Diego, day 1

I hate this hotel's bandwidth. Hate it. Ready to go kill someone over it.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

I woke up after two and a half hours of nightmare-filled quasi-sleep. I was more tired when I got out of bed than when I entered it. Clearly, I'm having a stress crash.

Further evidence was my almost complete lack of voice. I coughed up green in the shower, my voice is still barely present, and I have to moderate a panel in well under two days. Oh, boy. The good news is that Rana persuaded my doctor to call in a prescription for antibiotics, and they will reach me in the morning.

The plane flights were reasonable. I was lucky enough to score an upgrade on the first leg, so I had space and all the water and Diet Coke I wanted. I also managed to doze fitfully.

On the second, I had an exit row aisle seat, and bandwidth was on offer, so I worked the entire flight and for a short focused time didn't worry about having almost no voice or a tumor in my face.

San Diego is, as always, an absolutely beautiful place. The hotel is lovely, the room is fine, the breezes are amazing, the balcony overlooks a pool...and the bandwidth sucks. Blows. It is the worst I've had in a decade, worse than the nightmare that was the blasted Omni in Austin. Amazing. If I can find other places on the grounds to work, I may be able to get by, but otherwise, I will have to find a local bandwidth source and spend time every day in it.

In the early evening, I paid the insanely high fare to go to the wonderful Mysterious Galaxy bookstore for a mass signing/party/author drop-in event. The staff were wonderful and gracious to all. The book selection was lovely; with a smaller crowd and some time, I could have dropped some serious coin there. To my pleasant surprise, half a dozen or more folks sought me out and had me sign books. Most of them had four or more books for me to sign. I was floored and grateful each time.

I dream of becoming a bestselling novelist whose autograph line stretches around the block. I don't expect that to ever happen, but if it does, I hope I am always and forever grateful to each person who shells out his or her hard-earned money for my books. I am now, and I think every writer should be.

Dinner was back at the hotel, followed by work and now, the crashing. Man, do I need some sleep.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Three Musketeers

Many movies are messes, unkempt things with weaknesses sticking out of them like unbrushed hair and dirt all over them and key bits in tatters. The fact that a film is a mess, however, does not mean it won't be fun.

After all, there are many kinds of messes.

The Three Musketeers is a very big mess that also just proved to be very big fun, at least for me. (The reactions among our group of eight were highly variable and ranged from "I can't believe I wasted my time on this" to "I loved absolutely every second of it.") The frequently silly plot was a mess, but the dialog was far worse. The steampunk tech was a mess that disregarded all real-world concerns. The comic relief was entirely too predictable. And so on; you get the idea.

Yet I enjoyed the movie.

Much of the acting was scenery chewing, but not all of it. Milla Jovovich was a pleasure to watch, delivering a relatively subdued performance, given the action and dialog, and actually showing a range of expressions. Matthew Macfayden and Ray Stevenson were reliably good. Orlando Bloom was better as a silly bad guy than he's ever been as the hero.

Sure, the younger cast members generally performed about as well as cardboard cut-outs of their faces, but they were also not particularly offensive.

The film's look and basic good heart, however, carried the day. A diver emerging from a Venetian canal. A hidden Da Vinci vault. Airships with cannons. Swordfights in slow-mo in a courtyard with peasants cheering the action. Silly fun, but fun indeed.

If you are looking for that fall film that will challenge your mind and enrich your soul, definitely skip this one. If you're willing to snack on some extremely pretty empty calories, though--and tonight I was--check out The Three Musketeers.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The tumor is benign

My doctor called me a few minutes ago. The expert who analyzed my cells had called him, so he was being nice and calling me to relay the news.

To the best of the expert's ability to tell, the tumor is benign. There were no malignant cells or signs of trouble in the entire rather large sample.

This is excellent news. I am very happy.

The news actually gets slightly better.

The cells suggest the lump is most likely a Warthin's tumor. This type of tumor is highly unlikely to turn malignant and also unlikely to recur. Oddly, smoking is associated with it in several places I've read, and I've never smoked--though perhaps I'm paying for years of childhood secondhand smoke.

The other possibility is that the tumor is an oncocytoma. This type of parotid tumor is also benign, unlikely to recur, and unlikely to turn malignant.

I still have to interview doctors for the surgery and then have major surgery on my face, but this news makes today a good day.

Weird shit brings needles to my face

The tumor news story of the day was my visit this morning to my doctor for what's known as a fine needle aspiration biopsy, or FNA. The idea is simple and useful: get some cells from the tumor so a specialist can stare at them under a microscope and declare them benign or malignant (and if malignant, ideally to name the type of bad cells they are).

The process sounds nasty: The doctor sticks a needle into your face to numb the skin. Then, after waiting a bit for the numbing to take hold, they stick in another needle and withdraw a bunch of cells.

The doctor also warned me that it would hurt like hell.

Consequently, when I entered the doctor's office this morning, I was expecting a rather unpleasant stay in his chair.

To my pleasant surprise, the FNA was no big deal. The numbing needle barely hurt at all, and the FNA needle, which was in my face for close to 20 seconds, hurt even less. I have to give my doctor credit; he did a great job. If this was all the tumor cost me, I wouldn't care at all.

Of course, that's not the case. What the tumor will at the very least cost me is major surgery on my face--and, of course, a ton of time and emotional energy.

The results of the FNA are likely to tell surgery is the end of the story. Three outcomes are possible.

The first, which is the least likely to happen, is that the results are "not diagnostic," i.e., the specialist who studies the cells can't tell what they are. In this case, another FNA is probably in order. I could live with that.

The second, which is far and away the most likely to happen, is that the results show benign cells. Over 80% of all parotid tumors are benign. In addition, everything about my tumor--no symptoms, cleanly defined mass, location on the superficial node of the gland--argues for it to be benign.

This is the outcome I want.

The third option, of course, is that the tumor is malignant, i.e., cancer of some sort. I'm still focusing on the belief that this one will not happen--and all the data so far argues against it.

No matter what, of course, I'll have surgery. I'm already set to interview my first doctor the day I get back from the upcoming thirteen-day trip.

I won't know the FNA results, sadly, until at best Friday, so until then I'll be on pins and needles a bit hoping the tumor proves to be benign. Thanks to all of you who have sent me notes of support; here's hoping the FNA brings good news!

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Critics love it. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 93% fresh as I write this. The 79% audience rating is worse but still respectable.

The movie certainly looks the arthouse part. The shots almost scream, "Look at me: I'm art!" Though it tries too hard to be cool, I still liked its look.

Ryan Gosling showed that it's possible to go an entire film employing fewer facial expressions than Steven Seagal or Jason Statham. He had two expressions: blank, and blank with a creepy smile. In one flashback, he actually yells and shows emotion, a moment so jarring with authenticity that you can't help but wonder if it was an accident.

Almost all the actors were so muted that you had to believe that the dead emotions were the director's intent.

The film makes sure you know that it has things to say about life. I get the meanings. I really do. I appreciate the value of bringing cool style to action flicks. I see the film's appeal.

Which brings us to the problem.

I didn't care at all.

Not once, not for one second, did I give a shit about any of these characters.

Go see this one for its look, but don't expect to walk out touched or moved.

Drive is all art and no heart.


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