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Brief update on Kate

Just a brief update to let you know what’s happened with Kate since she got out of the hospital on Sunday August 16.

First the bad news: while I was at Worldcon, Kate tripped and fell on an uneven bit of sidewalk near the library. Her face and knee got pretty banged up, and they gave her a CAT scan to make sure nothing was wrong inside her head. She also had to have some teeth splinted; the splints will stay on for 6-8 weeks and there might be more dental work needed after that. I have to emphasize that this was nothing Marc could have prevented, and I’m sure it would have gone down exactly the same way if I had been there.

Now the good news: Marc and Kate were kind enough to not call me about the fall until they knew she was stable and I wouldn’t have to come home early from the con. Kate is healing up nicely; the stitches have come out, and the bruises on her face are almost all gone.

She has done very well learning to monitor her blood sugar and give herself her own insulin shots. Her blood sugar numbers are pretty much under control now, and the various symptoms of high blood sugar are almost completely gone. She is definitely done with chemo! And we just got the results of her most recent MRI, and what’s inside her head is stable or somewhat improved (one spot of enhancement we’d been keeping an eye on seems to be gone). From here it’s just a matter of taking it easy and healing, with MRIs every two months to make sure everything is okay.

Thank you to everyone for your support, both practical and psychological. You have no idea how much you have helped already, and continue to do so.

My Worldcon schedule

Following several days of thinking that the Worldcon was increasingly unlikely for me, followed by the unhappy certainty that I would not be able to make it, a generous friend has stepped forward and I can attend the convention after all (though without Kate). And I got back to the program committee before they deleted me from the schedule, so here is where you can find me at the con:

The Best Writing Advice I Was Ever Given
Wednesday 12:00 – 12:45, Bays 111A (CC)
What writing advice have you received that you’d share with others? How did it help make you a better writer?
Bobbie Benton Hull (M), David Gerrold, P. C. Hodgell, David D. Levine, Derryl Murphy

Autographing – Elizabeth Bear, Patricia Briggs, Wesley Chu, Tanglwyst de Holloway, David D. Levine
Wednesday 14:00 – 14:45, Exhibit Hall B (CC)

Reading – David D. Levine
Thursday 13:30 – 14:00, 303B (CC)

Steampunk: Aesthetics vs. Content
Thursday 15:00 – 15:45, 302AB (CC)
Steampunk is known for being pretty, but what about real content? Is it that dramatically different from other genres? Or are most steampunk stories like one genre with a veneer of steampunk?
David D. Levine (M), Matthew Dockrey, Sarina Dorie, Grá Linnaea

Writers Workshop section 05
Friday 13:00 – 16:00, 201A (CC)
Fifty-plus entrants submitted speculative fiction manuscripts in advance to be constructively criticized by industry professionals. In this section, a few of these entrants go on the hot seat to hear what the pros have to say. All workshop sections are closed to non-participants.
David D. Levine, Madeleine Robins, Diana Pharaoh Francis

Kaffee Klatche – David D. Levine
Saturday 13:00 – 13:45, 202B-KK3 (CC)
Join a panelist and up to 9 other fans for a small discussion. Coffee and snacks available for sale on the 2nd floor.

Game of Thrones: Expectations of Gender and Sexuality
Sunday 12:00 – 12:45, Bays 111A (CC)
After five seasons, we have expectatons of Game of Thrones as having a lot of female nudity and graphic violence. But, at the same time, it has some very strong female characters, and, among some of the characters, a more modern view of sexuality. Do these contrasting views work against the show or enhance it? What are some of the bigger surprises?
Perrianne Lurie (M), David D. Levine, Lauren Roy, Valerie Estelle Frankel

Update on Kate – no Worldcon for us (ETA: I can come!)

STOP PRESS: I WILL BE AT WORLDCON!

Extremely generous friend Marc Wells has just stepped forward to take care of Kate while I take his wife Patty to the convention, saying “you and Patty need to be there, I don’t.” Marc has the experience to help Kate with her insulin and I trust him completely.

This is so overwhelming I am in tears. But I will be at the convention.

Original post follows:

The short version: Kate spent four days in the hospital last week, coming home Sunday, and we won’t be able to attend the Worldcon.

The long version: This started over a week ago, with tummy troubles that came and went. Thursday at 1am it was back, even worse, to the extent that I called 911 at 5am; paramedics came, gave her an intravenous drug for nausea, and took her to the ER.

At the ER she got more intravenous drugs and a CT scan, which showed some bowel irritation but nothing major. With the drugs she perked up pretty quickly, but the doctors decided to keep her overnight for tests and observation. They also gave her injections of insulin to bring her steroid-induced high blood sugar down. (We had just started metformin, an oral blood sugar medication. As long as she was in the hospital they decided to use the stronger stuff.)

She stayed in the hospital from Thursday to Sunday. Each day she felt better than the day before, but every night she had trouble in the early AM. Tests for C. Diff, norovirus, Shiga toxin, bacteria, and the most common virus for stomach bugs all came back negative. Finally the enterologist suggested that the symptoms were consistent with “autonomic diabetic neuropathy” — basically, high blood sugar weakens your sympathetic nervous system so that your GI tract doesn’t work right, especially when you’ve been sleeping for hours.

Getting her blood sugar down (from 408 Wednesday to 149 Sunday; normal is 140 or less) and giving her Imodium brought the trouble mostly under control, and she went home Sunday. But her sugar has been so high that metformin isn’t going to cut it, so we will have to inject long-acting insulin every morning, and test her blood sugar and inject the appropriate amount of regular insulin before every meal. Also we need to change our eating habits — reduce carbohydrates, increase fiber, eat more smaller meals, you probably already know this drill. We were already doing pretty well on this score but will need to do even better.

Kate is absolutely not up for travel this week. We considered whether I could go to the Worldcon without her, but with this new and complex drug regimen to manage, plus follow-up visits with the doctor, it doesn’t look as though I can go for even one day. Kate can’t manage this by herself right now, it isn’t something I could ask a friend to do, and I don’t want to leave her with strangers (we would have to find, interview, and hire someone in just a day or two). It might be different if we were more experienced with the routine of blood, drugs, and pointy things, but not in the first week.

So… no Worldcon for us.

To say that I am disappointed would be a severe understatement. Shattered, more like. Also angry, sad, and resentful. Not at Kate, but at the terrible situation we both find ourselves in.

Kate’s progress: July

As faithful listeners will no doubt recall, Kate’s treatment consisted of surgery, six weeks of daily radiation and chemo, a month off, and six months (or more) of monthly chemo. Well, she just finished up her sixth round of monthly chemo and at the moment it looks like that will, indeed, be it. Which is a good thing, as the nausea and fatigue, while never completely debilitating, have been getting a little worse each round and this one was pretty bad. So, even though we’re not out of the woods by any means, we can celebrate the end of treatment for the cancer per se. I hope that as we get further away from chemo Kate will see her energy levels increase and spend less time napping.

This month, though, we learned that steroid-induced hyperglycemia (aka steroid diabetes) is a thing. Diabetes, it turns out, is a condition with multiple causes. Type 1 and type 2 (formerly known as juvenile and adult-onset diabetes) are basically two different diseases, and gestational diabetes is the third well-known cause of the same condition. But there are many other causes, and apparently taking “pharmacologic doses” of dexamethasone for a long time is one of them. This explains Kate’s headaches, dry mouth, and some other symptoms that have cropped up recently.

As with gestational diabetes, usually steroid diabetes goes away along when you stop taking the steroids… but that isn’t likely to happen any time soon, so the oncologist suggested using diet and exercise to try to bring her blood sugar down. We met with a dietician, who recommended whole grains, plenty of colorful vegetables, and a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in every meal and snack… which is basically what we were already trying to do. As for exercise, that’s difficult because of chemo fatigue and steroid-induced muscular atrophy. We will just have to try to be more consistent in eating right and exercising, and see how it goes.

I mentioned last month that we were working with a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist. They were all helpful, but all those appointments were tiring, so we decided to discontinue the speech and occupational therapy and continue with the physical therapist every two weeks. (Did I explain the difference between physical and occupational therapy? The line is fuzzy, but basically occupational therapy covers anything you do with your hands and physical therapy is everything else you do with your body. Both occupational and speech therapy can include cognitive stuff.)

However, life continues. We have signed with a contractor to properly bolt the house to its foundation for earthquake resistance; we visited Seattle to hang out with friends and attend a Clarion West party; I’ve been soliciting blurbs for ARABELLA OF MARS (some awesome ones have come in already) and plugging away on writing the sequel; and I recorded an Act of Whimsy video for a charity fundraiser which required having a fabulous English Regency men’s outfit made. I’ll be wearing that outfit for my readings when the book comes out next year.

The bottom line is… we keep on keeping on. Kate is weak, wobbly, fatigued, and has some memory and cognitive issues, and I’m kind of fatigued myself, but we are doing our best to take care of ourselves and each other. Anything you can do to help would be appreciated.

Thanks to Janna, Mark, Cynthia, Kate & Glenn, Hal & Ulrika, John, Shannon, Tempest, Elsa, Elizabeth, Cole, Melissa, Michelle, Len, John, George & Brian, Page, Tina, and everyone else who came for a visit, helped with a task, or joined us for a meal. It may not seem like much, but it really helps.

An Act of Whimsy to benefit Nora and Bob

A couple of months ago, my friend Mary Robinette Kowal contacted me for help. Nora and Bob, friends of hers from the Oregon Regency Society, were involved in a horrific car accident far from home. They both barely survived and wound up in the ICU, with terrible fractures and multiple surgeries. They have insurance, but obviously neither of them is able to work and they will certainly burn through the insurance money before they are well. So their friends set up a fundraiser at http://www.gofundme.com/Nora-Bob.

Mary asked me to help publicize the fundraiser by contributing an Act of Whimsy — something to amuse Nora and Bob, make people laugh, and engage the community. She suggested that I read a scene from my Regency interplanetary airship adventure novel Arabella of Mars (coming from Tor in June 2016). I considered reading it wearing a Regency dress, but after some discussion with Mary and ORS member Julia Grim, we thought that might be disrespectful. So Julia very kindly donated her labor and made me a complete Regency gentleman’s ensemble.

It all took a while, but now the ensemble and the video are done, and you can see them both right here (YouTube link: https://youtu.be/HLMV0eH-9hg).

I hope you enjoy the video, but more importantly I hope that you donate to help Nora and Bob at http://www.gofundme.com/Nora-Bob. Thank you for your consideration.

Meet me at the old abandoned paper mill (photos)

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This weekend I took a hard-hat tour of the former Blue Heron Paper Mill in Oregon City.

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We started off with a brief introduction by Dr. John McLoughlin (1784–1857) who gave us a little history of the site. Oregon City was once the capital of the entire territory (San Francisco’s plat was filed here, and is still on display in the city museum) and this site was one of the area’s first industrial facilities. A sawmill was the first use of the river’s power, followed by a grist mill, a salmon processing plant, one of the country’s first municipal power plants, and finally the Blue Heron Paper Mill, which went bankrupt in 2011. The facility has stood vacant ever since.

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Eric (center), an intern for Metro, was our guide for the rest of the tour. The site is currently in the design phases for redevelopment. “Long-term plans include a public riverwalk along the edge of the Willamette River and a thriving, connected, downtown Oregon City with room for housing, public spaces, habitat restoration, education and employment.”

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Many aspects of the site stand exactly as they were when the mill shut down. Others have been salvaged (the giant paper-making machines are all gone) or are substantially decayed.

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Leverage, Grimm, and The Librarians have all filmed here, and in fact The Librarians was filming that day. Any scene you’ve seen in any of those shows that took place in an old abandoned factory was likely filmed here.

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You might recognize this “Die Impuro” graffito from an episode of Grimm. The site was otherwise surprisingly free of graffiti.

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My main interest in the tour was a photo opportunity for many cool images of industrial decay. I can’t tell you very much about what you are seeing in most of the rest of these images, except that they struck me with their crumbling beauty.

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OWC Lit Lounge 7/15: Writing a Fiction Series

At the Oregon Writers Colony Literary Lounge on July 15, 2015, authors David D. Levine, Cindy Brown, and Angela Sanders will discuss and answer questions about writing a fiction series. They will also talk about working with big publishing houses, small presses, and self-publishing. Ed Goldberg of All Classic Radio will moderate.

The event happens from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 15 at the June Key Delta Community Center, 5940 N Albina Street, Portland, Oregon.

A publication, a translation, two podcasts, and a reprint! And a publication date! And paper books!

What with everything else that has been happening, I have been absolutely terrible at posting my writing news lately.

  • A new hard SF story of mine, “River of Ice,” was published at the Chinese website SF Comet in Chinese and English.
  • My Bigfoot story “Primates,” which originally appeared in Asimov’s, was podcast at The Overcast, read by me!
  • My dog story “I Hold My Father’s Paws,” which originally appeared in Albedo One, has been reprinted in the furry anthology ROAR 6.
  • My Venus Noir story “The End of the Silk Road” was requested by the StarShipSofa podcast, also to be read by me, and will appear there some time soon… once I finish editing it.

I suppose the good news here is that things that would have had me over the moon when I was starting out as a writer now happen so frequently that I can forget about them for weeks at a time. I’ll try to be better about posting writing news when it happens.

Speaking of which… did I mention that I have a publication date for Arabella of Mars? I do, and it is June 2016. This is a much longer lead time than usual, to accommodate my life circumstances, and because we have so much time until publication Tor printed up some bound manuscripts to send to writers when requesting blurbs. (And the blurbs are coming in now, and they are fabulous, and I can’t wait to share them with you.) These are even earlier and cruder than Advance Reading Copies (ARCs); they are just my own un-edited words, printed and bound in plain paper covers. But still… real books! And I got five of them!

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Given that the book doesn’t come out for an entire year, I’m not sure how to use these bound manuscripts to publicize it effectively. Any ideas?

Kate’s progress: June

IMG 4552Things are going pretty well around here. In the last two weekends we attended the Locus Awards in Seattle and the Westercon in San Diego, and both were fun, if quite laid-back for us. I was on a lot of programming at the Westercon; Kate attended a couple of program items a day and spent much of the rest of the time napping or relaxing in the room. But we had many fine meals, hung out with friends, and enjoyed the weather (paradoxically, San Diego was a refreshing 68 degrees and overcast while Portland was an unpleasant 90+ degrees and sunny).

Kate had another bi-monthly MRI, which was almost identical to the previous one. Although we had hoped to see some healing, given the typical behavior of this type of tumor “no news” is definitely good news. She has also completed another round of chemo — round 5 of 6 planned monthly doses, and at this point the doctor still thinks we will stop after round 6 — with minimal side effects. Her biggest problems now are muscular weakness (from the steroids), fatigue (from the chemo), and memory issues (most likely from the radiation), and we’re working with a physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech/cognitive therapist to try to improve those. Her speech and right-side weakness seem to be better than in previous months, but it’s hard to say… the improvement is very slow and subtle, and not on a constant upward slope.

In general, it’s hard to say whether she’s doing better or worse overall. By comparison with the first few months after the surgery, her energy, mood, and ability to communicate are substantially better. But the fatigue and weakness are worse, the memory problems are new and frustrating, everything varies depending on time of day and energy levels, and we don’t know whether or not to expect them to get better. What progress there is, is sometimes hard to observe. We persevere.

Thanks to Geri, Janna, Mark, Cynthia, Teresa, Ariel, Page, and everyone else who’s come by for a visit. We are almost always open for callers. Also, Kate would love to get out of the house more, so if you can come by to take her to a park (in the morning when it isn’t too hot) or shopping or any such thing, please do contact me.

Announcing the release of Managing Mailing Lists with Mailman

“Managing Mailing Lists with Mailman,” the second of two video courses I recorded last month for lynda.com, the online training company, has just been released. Here’s the first video in the course:

Here’s the course description:

Mailman is an open-source alternative to commercial mailing list managers and it’s administered through an accessible web-based interface. This course will show you how to administer and operate Mailman, and start maintaining subscriber lists of your own. Author David D. Levine covers navigating in Mailman, configuring replies and notifications, adding and removing subscribers, and setting up the interface where subscribers view their list options. He also covers adjusting privacy controls, moderating posts, controlling archiving, and managing lists via email.

Topics include:

  • Creating lists
  • Setting basic list attributes
  • Managing mass subscriptions and renewals
  • Sending and receiving lists messages via email
  • Using Mailman’s digest mode
  • Viewing and managing archives
  • Setting max message size and other options
  • Controlling bounce processing
  • Approving and rejecting posts by email
  • Managing attachments and formatted messages

If you or your employer or institution are a lynda.com subscriber, you can watch the whole course as part of your subscription. If you are not yet a subscriber, you can can watch a half-dozen chapters for free, and sign up for a free trial of the whole lynda.com training library, here:
http://www.lynda.com/Hardware-tutorials/Managing-Mailing-Lists-Mailman/360737-2.html