Good-Bye to 2018. An okay year for me. Not a great one. Not the worst. But sadly, it’s ending on a very down note.
After exhibiting weird symptoms over the past few months — such as facial swelling that looked like a reaction to a bee sting or spider bite, but wasn’t — my sweet dog, Sorcia, has been diagnosed with an advanced case of lymphoma. The mysterious swelling, as it turns out, was an auto-immune response related to the cancer. Although blood tests in September showed no signs of an elevated white blood cell count, x-rays taken two days ago indicate a large tumorous mass in her chest and other small masses spread throughout her organs.
Sorcia is 11 years old. The disease is greatly advanced. We have elected not to put her through traumatic surgeries and chemo therapy in the hopes of dragging this out for months. Instead, she’s under sedation, and we’re saying a gentle good-bye.
Until this past week, Sorcia suffered no pain. There was that weird facial swelling, but it bothered us more than it did her. (more…)
I’m currently charging through revisions on my WIP — on page 120 out of 236 Tuesday night — so slightly over halfway there! At this rate, I’ll have a draft ready for beta readers in about a week. It feels really good after struggling with the first draft for so long. Yay!
Rather than lose the momentum by trying to write an intelligent blog post, is it okay if I indulge in a bit of squeeing over my upcoming January release? It’s either that or more cute cat and dog pictures …
The Inquisitor’s Mark has received several good reviews so far, but my favorite one is from Kirkus:
As a Transitioner, 13-year-old Jax Aubrey is one of an elite group of people who enjoy an eighth day of the week. While some Transitioners use the eighth day as a playground, others, such as Jax and his friends, understand the gravity of their responsibility. Transitioners must maintain the Eighth-Day Spell, which protects the world from the dangerous Kin. Jax, as the only vassal of the Emrys family, understands this charge more than most. When one of the most deadly Transitioner families claims that he is part of their clan, Jax is torn between his loyalty to friends and ties to family. Combining both modern intrigue and ancient magic, this second volume in what continues to be an inspired series does not disappoint. Salerni expertly handles the charge of expanding the Eighth Day universe as well as deepening her characters. Jax is an endearing mix of heroic and awkward as he struggles with his new identity. Supporting characters offer comic relief, romantic angst and delusions of grandeur. Readers will want to read this series in order, as the summary of the first installment is sparse and confusing. An exciting blend of Arthurian legend and organized crime. (Fantasy. 8-12)
Awesome, huh? I’m wondering if that’s the first time “Arthurian legend” and “organized crime” have been used together in the same sentence.
And because I love you all, here are the dog and cat pictures anyway.
Got your tail!
No, really. Got your tail. Chewing on it, in fact.
A German Shepherd can be an intimidating dog. My Sorcia has frightened away many door-to-door salesmen (yay!), and the UPS guy is so scared of her, he only comes halfway up the walkway and gently tosses packages at our porch before sprinting back to his truck. He’s afraid we might open the door and she’ll get out. She does have a ferocious bark and a tendency to lunge at the door when someone rings the bell or knocks.
Front feet planted against the window.
Slathering jaws snarling in the face of whoever dares to approach our threshold.
Most people are surprised to know that our very fierce Sorcia is afraid of butterflies. Or being in the yard alone. If we put her in our fenced-in backyard by herself, she just stays by the door, whining piteously and nosing the door handle.
“Please come out. I can’t play without you.”
Don’t get me wrong – she loves being outside! If she had her way, she’d play outside all day, chasing the shadows of butterflies, growling at her favorite blue ball, and cooling off on the top step of the pool.
The top step is as deep as she will go.
But only if there’s somebody with her.
For back up.
What if a butterfly attacked?
Watching for bumblebees. They are tasty and just a little spicy!
She’s wary of being tricked. Like, if someone escorts her out and then goes back into the house. So she keeps a close eye on her people. If I’m in the pool or sitting by the goldfish pond – if I’ve got a book or laptop with me – she’ll run around and play. She knows I’m going to be there for awhile. She’s very smart in that respect. She actually watches to see if I open the laptop before going off to play!
“You left me!”
But if I stand up, even for a second, she stops and scurries over to make sure I’m not going inside.
It’s pitiful, really.
Can anybody shed some light on this strange German Shepherd behavior? Does anybody else have a pet with crazy insecurities?
So many of you expressed your concern about my dog last week, I thought I’d give you an update. Sorcia had one small cut on her leg which almost healed on its own TWICE, but she kept gnawing at it and tearing off our bandages. When it became infected, we had to take her to the vet, which resulted in antibiotics, steroids, antiseptics, and the Cone of Shame.
Yes, she does look sad and dejected, doesn’t she? But the fact is, she’s going to have to stay in that stupid thing until the fur grows back, because every time we take it off, she slinks out of our sight and starts gnawing on her leg again.
Once, when we took it off so she could eat her dinner, we took our eyes off her for just a minute, and she re-opened the wound. Now, a member of the family is assigned to WATCH her eat and stick the cone back on immediately.
She already answers to “Sorcia” and “The Dog” and “Beetlejuice” (long story, don’t ask). Now she also answers to her new nickname, “Cone Head.”
In other news, I was very thankful and appreciative to the staff at the Exton, PA Barnes and Noble for helping me launch THE CAGED GRAVES — and very grateful for all the friends, family, and co-workers who came out to support me!
So last week was the “launch week” for THE CAGED GRAVES, although the launch party itself only happened last night. (And I’m writing this on Saturday, so I can’t see into the future to tell you how it went.) But this was what happened last week:
I had editorial revisions due to HarperCollins, but no sweat on that. I had already sent them in on Sunday night. I was more worried about the bridal shower we were throwing for my co-worker after school. I don’t think we fooled her. She saw through our ploy for getting her out of the way while we set up, and she told me afterwards that I didn’t look her in the eye or speak to her all day. But she was happy and excited anyway, and she loved the money tree we made for her honeymoon fund.
Release day for THE CAGED GRAVES, which I celebrated by … going to work, just like any other day. Really, Tuesday was ridiculously normal, except for the dozens of congratulatory Tweets that lit up my phone all day. Thanks, everyone!
Oh — and there was also an astonishing sight at recess duty: something that looked like a rainbow ring around the sun. After one of my co-workers googled it on his phone and assured us it was NOT a sign of the apocalypse, kids and teachers all enjoyed the beauty of it.
Phew. It would stink if the world ended on my release day.
A special treat from HarperCollins arrived in my in-box – a sneak peek at the proposed cover for THE EIGHTH DAY. I had asked if I could share it with my class, since they have been following the development of this book from the first day of school. Both reading classes were over-the-top excited at this preview and were literally shouting over one another, trying to give me feedback for the HarperCollins design team. And the design team was thrilled by their enthusiastic response.
Sorcia goes to the vet for an infected cut that she won’t stop picking at and comes home with a battery of antibiotics, steroids, disinfectants, and the Cone of Shame.
I panic right before I have to leave for work. Sorcia is listless, and I realize she can’t even get a drink of water with that stupid cone on her head. The day is supposed to be hot, and I’m afraid she’ll be dehydrated. I impose on my brother-in-law, Larry, to check on her during the day, and I go to work unhappy and miserable, wondering if I should’ve taken a sick day to stay home and watch the dog sleep.
I feel guilty for the better part of the day, until my husband arrives home from his business trip and texts me that the dog is perfectly fine. She actually CAN drink out of the swimming pool (just like always), and he suggests that her listlessness in the morning was a big ol’ act – a sulk-fest because she didn’t like the cone. He might have been right, or maybe the steroids had perked her up in the meantime.
We’ve decided to change Sorcia’s dinner time, and she doesn’t like it at all.
Sorcia is usually a pretty agreeable dog. She doesn’t beg for table scraps; she doesn’t steal food, and she’s at least *partially* obedient. Her usual feeding time is right before the family dinner, but we’ve been having a little trouble every evening with something we call the Farting Hour.
I’d heard jokes about dog farts before, but until we had our own dog, I never knew how potent they could be. Every evening, around nine o’clock or so, Sorcia starts to let loose. The first sign is some member of the family gasping and hollering, “Oh, Sorcia!” That’s the time to grab a sofa pillow and cover your nose – or maybe just leap up and leave the room.
And there’s never only one. It’s a treat that goes on and on.
Since it always happens at the same time, I suggested moving her dinner back by an hour or two. That way, the Farting Hour wouldn’t begin until we’d put Sorcia out for the night. My daughter Gina mentioned that, according to a book she had on training German Shepherds, the dog should be fed after the family anyway, to establish her rank in “the pack.”
So, I shifted her feeding time – and Sorcia let me know right away she didn’t care for the change. She started following me around the kitchen while I made dinner, butting my rear end with her head – trying to herd me toward the garage where her food is kept. Yes, that instinct to herd sheep is bred into the dog, and I wasn’t crazy about being treated like a sheep.
Maybe Sorcia didthink she outranked me!
Currently, I have to put Sorcia outside while I make dinner and we sit down to eat. She watches us unhappily through the kitchen window, ears down. In case you think we’re being cruel, the new procedure only shifts her dinner back an hour, so I doubt she’s starving. She’s just lost the high rank she had in her own mind.
And for the most part, we escape the Farting Hour.