rachelmanija: (I wrote my own deliverance)
2017-05-06 02:12 pm

Guess Who's Back?

Spoiler: For the first time in two years, I have good news!

I hesitated over how to write this, partly out of superstition (if I say I’m better, I will immediately relapse) and partly because I wasn’t sure how many details to give (no matter how much I say I don’t want advice, if I give any details whatsoever, I get advice).

So please: NO ADVICE. If you find yourself writing, “I know you said you don’t want advice, but I just couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t advise you to…” delete the goddamn message. I have gotten hundreds of them, and 100% are 100% useless. Unless I’ve asked you for your advice, I DON’T WANT ADVICE.

As some of you know, since July 2015 I’ve had a horrific mystery illness that made it extremely difficult and often impossible to work, have fun, socialize, enjoy life, or do any normal life activities. I lost more than a quarter of my bodyweight, could barely leave my apartment, and looked like I’d just gotten out of a POW camp. I started out thinking it would be cured at any moment, then thinking that it was permanent but treatable. By the end of the year I thought I was probably going to die. Then I hoped I was going to die.

I am not giving details to avoid advice, but I will say that while the illness was legitimately mysterious, it was not bizarre in any way. There was nothing about it that should have provoked the reaction it did from doctors, which was to call me a liar, say it was all in my head, and accuse me of being a drug addict. I don’t mean that they implied those things. They outright stated them. Here are some verbatim things doctors told me:

“You’re a liar and I want nothing to do with you.”

“You’re just looking for drugs.”

“There’s nothing I can do for you. See a psychiatrist.” [I got this and the variations below at least 30 times.]

“This is caused by anxiety.”

“This is caused by stress.”

“See a therapist.” [I was already seeing a therapist.]

“Your story doesn’t add up.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“You’re not underweight. Your BMI is normal.” [I got this multiple times when I said that I’d lost over a quarter of my body weight. This shows the problem with using the BMI as if it's some kind of Word of God, with zero reference to the individual patient. In my case, I am on the muscular side and so I could lose that much and still squeak into a "normal" range if you don't consider any fucking context whatsoever.]

“My diagnosis is based on the fact that you’re female and in your forties, and this illness is common in people in that demographic.” [I got this at least three times, from doctors who presented a diagnosis after I’d said about two sentences about my symptoms, in response to me asking what the diagnosis was based on. You cannot, in fact, diagnose based solely on demographics.]

“No, I’m not going to treat you. No one can treat you without a diagnosis. There’s an 80% chance you’ll never be diagnosed in your lifetime.”

“Maybe you thought you were happy, but you were in denial of some deep emotional issues.” [This was a surgeon who had met me for the first time five minutes ago. Five minutes later, he told me that he was involved in a love triangle and advised me to study the Kabbalah with Madonna’s rabbi. He was one of the more amusing of the terrible doctors I encountered, but was otherwise typical in his unprofessionalism and total lack of helpfulness.]

“There’s nothing wrong with you other than that you’re worrying about being sick. See a psychiatrist.”

I did see a psychiatrist. He said that anyone in my situation would be anxious and depressed, and that it would be abnormal if I wasn’t, and advised me to see a good diagnostician. (They do not appear to exist in the US.)

In short, hysteria is alive and well as a diagnosis in modern America. I had both good insurance and plenty of savings to spend on medical expenses, and my medical “care” was still absolutely abysmal. I am not at all surprised by America’s wretched statistics on health. My only surprise is that I thought that was due to poverty, lack of good medical care for poor and uninsured or underinsured people, and racism. It turns out that it is additionally caused by sexism and the prevalence of absolutely terrible doctors.

I spent 50% of my total income – out of pocket – on medical expenses last year. Nearly all of it was completely useless, and two-thirds was literally me paying to be verbally and emotionally abused.

In the meantime, I was deluged with useless, obnoxious advice from people who did want to help me, but were unwilling to do what I told them would be helpful (that would be anything but giving me medical advice.) I got advised to jump on a trampoline, pray to gods I don’t believe in, take about a billion different supplements, eat nothing but bone broth, not eat anything heated in a microwave, go on every bizarre diet in existence, (all of this when they knew I was drastically underweight), and see a quack doctor in Mexico who treats AIDS by shoving magnets up your ass. (Fucking magnets, how do they work? Cancer in its malignant form is caused by the infection with the leprosy bacteria. By placing magnets that eliminate the pathogens, Dr. Goiz claims that cancers should resolve by themselves.) I am not making any of this up.

However, I also had people who were actually helpful. This is a long story which I may tell at some point, but with a little help from my friends—okay, a lot of help—I travelled to Bulgaria where I stayed with Egelantier and had tests and surgery performed, gave the results to several other friends who did research for me, obtained medication in shall we say various ways, and had another friend impersonate my fiancee. (Yes. There was fake dating.)

As a result, I am now feeling much better, am working and eating and exercising again, and most importantly, am actually enjoying life again. Photo proof!

The price of this is a medication which costs $100/week and is not covered by insurance. However, since I can now write again and so make money again, I should be able to keep taking it indefinitely. Mildred of Midgard found it by researching medical journals—only part of literally hundreds of hours of research she did on my behalf—and probably deserves another doctorate for it. I don't want to give the actual probable diagnosis because of the advice issue, so I'll just say that it's a physical, non-psychological, non-psychosomatic illness which was not caused or affected by any psychological issue whatsoever.

To everyone who helped me, whether in those concrete ways or just by respecting what I said about what would and would not be helpful, I am forever grateful.

Meanwhile, since I had no fun for the last two years and feel like I need a year-long vacation, I am going to Las Vegas this weekend! I haven’t gone in over ten years, but am certain that I will have much-needed fun and relaxation.

Once again: NO ADVICE. Unless it’s advice on what I should do in Las Vegas or do for fun in general. I don’t have any restrictions on diet or activities. Any unasked-for diet advice will be killed with fire. That’s “diet” as in “restrictive and/or supposedly healthy diet.” Advice on delicious things I ought to eat for enjoyment would be welcome.

Maybe later I will come up with something deep to say about the whole experience. Mostly I’m extremely angry at the medical system, individual doctors, and the toxic social beliefs which made an incredibly awful experience even worse by blaming me.

But for now, all I really have to say is that I didn’t think I’d live another year (and definitely hoped I wouldn’t), and now I’m hiking and seeing plays and going to Vegas.

So have a poem instead. It’s “The Moment,” by Patricia Hampl.

Standing by the parking-ramp elevator
a week ago, sunk, stupid with sadness.
Black slush puddled on the cement floor,
the place painted a killer-pastel
as in an asylum.
A numeral 1, big as a person,
was stenciled on the cinderblock:
Remember your level.
The toneless bell sounded:
Doors opened, nobody inside.
Then, who knows why, a rod of light
at the base of my skull flashed
to every outpost of my far-flung body—
I’ve got my life back.
It was nothing, just the present moment
occurring for the first time in months.
My head translated light,
my eyes spiked with tears.
The awful green walls, I could have stroked them.
The dirt, the moving cube I stepped into—
it was all beautiful,
everything that took me up
rachelmanija: (I wrote my own deliverance)
2017-05-01 11:19 am

Not throwing away my shot

I waited in line for nine hours yesterday, starting at 6:00 AM, and emerged triumphantly with Hamilton tickets... for my birthday, no less. (October 29.) I hadn't intended that, but couldn't resist when I finally got to the end of the line and saw that it was one of the available dates.

It was a surprisingly non-annoying experience. I was luckily standing with a very cool person, with whom I ended up exchanging phone numbers, a former aerialist who shared my taste for youtube videos of cute animals. We spent some time screening videos of sugar gliders, bats, hedgehogs, etc, until we realized that we were going to be in line for longer than we had thought and had to save our batteries, as we were also trying to get tickets online in case they ran out by the time we got to the head of the line.

While in line, I read Red Havoc Rebel (Red Havoc Panthers Book 2), a paranormal romance by T. S. Joyce (enjoyable but would recommend her hilariously titled and covered but actually quite good Lumberjack Werebear (Saw Bears Series Book 1) over it) and Gail Calwell's New Life, No Instructions: A Memoir (well-written and interesting memoir about having a hip replacement after having polio as a child, but I'd recommend her outstanding first memoir, Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship, about her friendship with another writer, Caroline Knapp, over it). And then my Kindle ran out of battery and that was it for reading. (I did have a backup paper book, The Other Ones by Jean Thesman, about psychic kids, but went back to chatting in line after a chapter or so.)

It soon got very hot (90 degrees) and they moved the line inside the theatre, where they had air conditioning and were playing the soundtrack. When we got inside it was at "The Election of 1800," and by the time we left the audible area it had played all the way through, stopped for a while, then begun again by popular request and was on "Guns and Ships."

I also chatted for a while with a guy who was in line for his eleven-year-old daughter. Who knows, but that might be an experience she remembers fondly for the rest of her life. I told him how I'd somewhat randomly decided to go on a school field trip to see Shakespeare at Ashland, Oregon, and it changed my life. I went in intending to be a biology major and become a veterinarian, and I left intending to be a theatre major. I've never regretted it.

I then went to Thai Town and grabbed take-out Thai food for me and Sherwood (pad se-ew (stir-fried rice noodles with dark soy, egg, and greens), rice with ground pork and dried olives, and greens with crispy pork), and for just me, sticky rice with coconut milk and fresh mango and Corvette-flavored cupcakes (rice flour cupcakes in three somewhat mysterious floral flavors, the color of a pink Corvette (probably rose), a green leaf (probably pandan) and yellow (God knows.) Then Sherwood and I saw Baahubali 2, which was amazing and epic and amazingly epic. I highly recommend it. Here's her review and here's the trailer.

Me in line, 6:00 AM.
rachelmanija: (Princess Bride: Let me sum up)
2016-03-04 03:30 pm

Guess the canon!

I will give some sort of prize to anyone who can guess the canon (author, etc) from whence I just read this line of dialogue: "I don't know what else they do in that lab except fertilize other people's elephants from a deep-frozen mammoth…"

Hint: The speaker and person being addressed are hang-gliding into Russia.
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2015-06-26 11:46 am

The US now has same-sex marriage nationwide!

Says it all.

I look forward to summer weddings and news outlets filled with photos of happy couples.
rachelmanija: (Sakura)
2015-01-25 11:11 am

I PETTED A HEDGEHOG

Some of you were lucky enough to receive maniacal emails from me yesterday with headlines like I AM AT A BOOK SIGNING WITH A HEDGEHOG and photo proof.

Yes! My friend Halle, of the Jim Henson Company, co-wrote a book, Jim Henson's Enchanted Sisters: Spring's Sparkle Sleepover, in a series of adorable books on seasons personified as diverse and adorable little girls, all of whom have cute pets including a fox, a hedgehog, an armadillo, and a Pegasus. The company decided to make their book signing truly memorable by including a Pegasus fox, hedgehog, and armadillo, courtesy of a company that provides animals and handlers for movie and TV shoots.

The handler discussed the animals' lifestyle and kept them in nice traveling cages in a quiet back room except for the brief period she showed them off. They were former pets, given up due to the owners thinking twice about having exotic pets, so were used to being handled.

Armadillo

The armadillo squirmed a lot, so this was the only picture I managed to get that wasn't too blurry to keep. It is Armando.

Cindi hedgehog 1

This was the part where I started emailing my friends.

Hedgehog close 1

The hedgehog was literally the cutest thing I have EVER seen. Its wee paddling legs! Its little twitching nose! Unreal. Sadly you cannot have them as pets in California without a special permit. It is Brutus. No idea why.

Hedgehog me 1

I PETTED THE HEDGEHOG. The spikes are bristly, not sharp. So cute! SO CUTE. (We also had people making flower crowns.)

Me fox 1

This is a fennec fox named Jasper. It bites, so we did not get to pet its undoubtedly soft and fluffy fur. This photo was taken thirty seconds before the handler packed up and left. You can see how done she and Jasper are with the whole thing, contrasting to my demeanor of "WHEEEE!"
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2014-09-04 12:40 pm

That's Right, You're Not From Texas (But Texas Likes You Anyway)

Sherwood Smith and I will be Guests of Honor at ConDFW, at Dallas in February. Anyone here from Texas?
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2013-04-17 03:04 pm

My collection has been published!

My newest book, A Cup of Smoke: stories and poems, is now available for purchase for $ 4.99, at Amazon here A Cup of Smoke: stories and poems, and in epub format at Smashwords. It contains six short stories, twenty poems, and a rodent zodiac.

In a steampunk Wild West, women with nothing left to lose walk into the desert, and emerge soul-bonded to giant robots...

A pair of bickering angels try to re-create Heaven in a Tokyo subway station...

A woman warrior matches swords and wits with a many-headed demon in mythic India...

These stories and more appear in "A Cup of Smoke." The anthology includes the Rhysling Award-winning poem "Nine Views of the Oracle" and the Rhysling nominee poem "Minotaur Noir."

Contains lesbian gunslingers, prophesying ravens, a martial artist on an interplanetary mission of revenge, three golems, and a one-eyed, hopping sandal.

Two of the short stories and eleven of the poems are original to this collection. The other stories originally appeared in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk I, Strange Horizons, Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, and Cabinet des Fees. All the short stories have new afterwords by the author.

The lovely cover is by Stephanie Folse. Huge thanks to Cora Anderson and Larry Hammer for doing the surprisingly difficult formatting.

Please feel free to link to, tweet, or otherwise publicize this book.

If you would like to review it, please let me know and I will give you a free copy. I don’t usually read reviews and am so busy right now that I’m almost entirely offline everywhere but my own sites, so please review honestly. I am highly unlikely to ever even see it, and I do not expect everyone to love everything in any collection.
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2012-09-18 08:55 am

Our novel, "Stranger," has SOLD!

I am delighted to announce that Stranger, the post-apocalyptic YA novel that I co-wrote with Sherwood Smith, will be published by Viking (Penguin Group) in Winter 2014.

The acquiring editor is Sharyn November. I have wanted to work with her ever since we met twelve years ago, at World Fantasy Con in Corpus Christi, Texas. She said that she was reprinting classic children's fantasies. I grabbed her by the shoulder and said, no doubt with a mad gleam in my eye, "Lloyd Alexander's Westmark! Elizabeth Wein's The Winter Prince! Patricia McKillip's The Changeling Sea" She smiled and said, "We're doing all three. Got any other suggestions?" Sharyn, thank you so much for championing our book.

Also, thank you very much, Eddie Gamarra and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein of the Gotham Group!

Yes, it's the Yes Gay YA book. Here's a little more about it:

Many generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, "the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. "Las Anclas" now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble.

There are five main characters. One is Ross, who knows all about prospecting, fighting, and desert survival, but hasn't had to interact with other human beings on a regular basis since he was twelve. The others are teenagers from Las Anclas: Mia Lee, introverted genius and town oddball, who can design six different weapons before breakfast; Yuki Nakamura, an aspiring prospector who is dying to get out of his small town and explore the rest of the world; Jennie Riley, Changed telekinetic and over-achiever, who must choose between becoming the teacher of the one-room schoolhouse or joining the elite military Rangers; and Felicite Wolfe, the Mayor's narcissistic daughter, who likes to spy on people with the help of her pet mutant rat.

And yes. Yuki is still gay. So is his boyfriend, Paco Diaz, the drummer in the town band. And Brisa Preciado, who has the power to make rocks explode, is still dating shy Becky Callahan, who works after school waiting tables at the saloon. As you can see, this isn't so much a "gay book" or a "straight book" as an ensemble book.

Sherwood and I wanted to write something fun and exciting, with adventure and romance and mutant powers and martial arts and a vivid sense of place. And we wanted it to be about the people who are so often left out of those sorts of books: Latinos and African-Americans, Jews and Asian-Americans, gay boys and lesbian girls, multiracial teenagers and teenagers with physical and mental disabilities. We didn't do this to fulfill some imaginary quota, but because we wanted to write about teenagers like the real ones we know, the real ones in Los Angeles, the real ones we were.

We hope that, however flawed it may be, our novel will make even a few of those teenagers happy.

This is a very personal project for me. People often ask me if I'm ever going to write about coming back to America, after spending most of my childhood in an ashram in India. In a metaphoric sense, this is that book. To tell the story of what it was like for Ross to come to Las Anclas, I drew upon my own experiences of stumbling into an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar rules, beset by memories I couldn't bear to recall and reactions I didn't understand, longing for connection but with no idea of how to relate to people.

Stranger is a post-apocalyptic adventure, not an issue novel. But all stories have their genesis somewhere, and for me, it was my wish to say, "It's okay. You're okay. You'll get better. You'll make friends. You'll fall in love. You can be a hero." I hope it finds its way to the people to whom it will speak.

If you would like to be notified when the book actually comes out, please comment to this post to say so. I will reply to your comment when the book is published, and you should get an email notification. Or you can leave your email address in a comment. (I can copy the address, then delete or screen the comment.) If you're not on LJ/DW, you can comment anonymously (or email me) with an email address where I can reach you.

Incidentally, I am putting out an e-book anthology of my short stories and poetry in a couple months. If you'd like to be notified when that's available, please comment to say so.

If you're interested in reading our book, you may also be interested in this list of YA science fiction and fantasy with major LGBTQ characters. And here's a list of YA fantasy and science fiction with protagonists who aren't white..

I would be happy to answer any questions you might have, about the novel or anything else.

Finally, please feel free to Tweet, link to, or otherwise promulgate this post. Lots of people mentioned during Yes Gay YA that they would like to know what happened to this book, but the vast majority probably don't read my blog.
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2011-08-15 11:30 am

I got in!

I was just accepted to Antioch for their MA program in clinical psychology, with a concentration in trauma. (I will take the MFT exam after that.) I start in early October!

I am thrilled to bits. Of all the programs I looked at, it by far seemed the best match for my beliefs and interests. Plus, I can bicycle to school! Seriously. I will buy a bicycle.

For anyone who hasn't been following this saga, no, I am not quitting writing. This will just be my new day job, or rather, my new fulfilling other career.
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2010-07-13 12:25 pm

I came in third in the Rhysling Awards!

I realize that I am mentioning this a bit late, but nobody told me until [personal profile] asakiyume congratulated me.

"Nine Views of the Oracle" came in third in the short poem division! I am astounded, flattered, and thrilled. Especially since it was switched from "long" to "short" at the last minute, which I was certain would torpedo its already unlikely chances. Thank you to everyone who voted for it!

...I should write some more poems! I am thinking of crows and ravens and associated mythology, as a gift for an (offline) friend who likes them a lot. Anyone have any scraps of inspiring crow lore? Anyone recall any that's Indian? (As in India, not as in Native American; the idea with that is to jog my own memory with things I might have already known but forgotten.)
rachelmanija: (Default)
2010-05-01 01:22 pm

How I met Paul McCartney's drummer!

Last week I was at the Jim Henson Company, and a guy I know, a musician who works at the music studio which shares the lot, came up and said, "Got fifteen minutes? Want to see something amazing?"

I followed him into the music building, where I got to watch and listen to Abe Laboriel Jr, a drummer and the son of a famous bass player, drum on a track that was being recorded for... a singer-songwriter whose name I didn't recognize, sorry. His drumming was amazing and he moved like a dancer, like he'd lost himself in music, so fluid and impassioned and graceful that I could have watched him with the sound off.

I wish I could share that session with you all, but since I can't, have some videos instead, though they don't do anything like justice to being able to watch him from ten feet away, in bright light and with nothing between us but a pane of glass:

Assorted videos.
rachelmanija: (OTP LA: skyline)
2010-05-01 01:11 pm

How I met the guy who drums for Paul McCartney, Sting, Eric Clapton...

Last week I was at the Jim Henson Company, and a guy I know, a musician who works at the music studio which shares the lot, came up and said, "Got fifteen minutes? Want to see something amazing?"

I followed him into the music building, where I got to watch and listen to Abe Laboriel Jr, a drummer and the son of a famous bass player, drum on a track that was being recorded for... a singer-songwriter whose name I didn't recognize, sorry. His drumming was amazing and he moved like a dancer, like he'd lost himself in music, so fluid and impassioned and graceful that I could have watched him with the sound off.

I wish I could share that session with you all, but since I can't, have some videos instead, though they don't do anything like justice to being able to watch him from ten feet away, in bright light and with nothing between us but a pane of glass:

Assorted videos.
rachelmanija: (OTP LA: skyline)
2010-05-01 01:11 pm

How I met the guy who drums for Paul McCartney, Sting, Eric Clapton...

Last week I was at the Jim Henson Company, and a guy I know, a musician who works at the music studio which shares the lot, came up and said, "Got fifteen minutes? Want to see something amazing?"

I followed him into the music building, where I got to watch and listen to Abe Laboriel Jr, a drummer and the son of a famous bass player, drum on a track that was being recorded for... a singer-songwriter whose name I didn't recognize, sorry. His drumming was amazing and he moved like a dancer, like he'd lost himself in music, so fluid and impassioned and graceful that I could have watched him with the sound off.

I wish I could share that session with you all, but since I can't, have some videos instead, though they don't do anything like justice to being able to watch him from ten feet away, in bright light and with nothing between us but a pane of glass:

Assorted videos.
rachelmanija: (Autumn: small leaves)
2010-02-02 12:14 pm

Three Letters to the Prince of Falling Leaves

The very first poem I ever sold is now up as as Editor's Choice at Star*Line.

Three Letters to the Prince of Falling Leaves.
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2010-02-01 01:02 pm

I am a Rhysling nominee!

My poem Nine Views of the Oracle, published by Abyss and Apex, has been nominated for a Rhysling Award!
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2010-02-01 01:02 pm

I am a Rhysling nominee!

My poem Nine Views of the Oracle, published by Abyss and Apex, has been nominated for a Rhysling Award!
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2010-01-11 12:48 pm

My poem "Minotaur Noir" up at Goblin Fruit.

The winter edition of Goblin Fruit is up, with poetry by myself, Shweta Narayan, J. C. Runolfson, Larry Hammer, Sonya Taaffe, and more! I am still reading and listening, but what I have read and heard so far is great.

Please forgive my own reading. I have never read my own poetry before, and made the recording in great haste. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] yhlee for actually doing the recording, and patiently pronouncing Greek names for me. That'll teach me to fill a poem with words I'm not sure how to say!
rachelmanija: (Naruto: Super-energized!)
2010-01-11 12:48 pm

My poem "Minotaur Noir" up at Goblin Fruit.

The winter edition of Goblin Fruit is up, with poetry by myself, Shweta Narayan, J. C. Runolfson, Larry Hammer, Sonya Taaffe, and more! I am still reading and listening, but what I have read and heard so far is great.

Please forgive my own reading. I have never read my own poetry before, and made the recording in great haste. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] yhlee for actually doing the recording, and patiently pronouncing Greek names for me. That'll teach me to fill a poem with words I'm not sure how to say!