The Past Five Years

3 comments Written on June 6th, 2023 by
Categories: Plugs

On the sixth of June, 2018, my comfy DayJob of nearly seventeen years went away. I think it was a Wednesday.

I was called into the office of the newly promoted CEO. My supervisor accompanied me. I knew what was coming. I had been the Director of Research for a small medical center for all those years. We focused on treating individuals with substance abuse issues and mental health issues throughout Philadelphia. None of the other providers in the city had a Director of Research, and the new administration decided that the perks of having me do the work did not outweigh the costs.

I was given a week to finish up paperwork and pack my office. I was also given a very generous severance package. The following Tuesday was my last day. On Wednesday I flew to China, the second of what would be three trips, to hang out others from around the world and be part of a workshop sponsored by an agency trying to bring education to some very rural regions. It was an incredible experience. All of the authors wrote a piece of fiction inspired by the experience. Mine, “The Rule of Three,” went on to be nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

Seventeen years at a job can make you complacent. Honestly, the work had stopped being fun a few years earlier and I’d repeatedly considered quitting, but the money was simply too good to walk away from. That, and as it was only a half-time job, I had plenty of time to write. I’d typically show up in the early morning when the maintenance crew unlocked the building, work for four or five hours, and then head off to lunch at KFC, and then settle in at my booth and write for the next several hours.

Having my job vanish basically changed my status to “full time author,” which as it turned out took me more than a year to really get comfortable with. And too, the Universe began to unveil its plans for me.

In the five years that followed I released 40 books (twelve with co-authors). Some of these were re-releases with new publishers so the number isn’t quite as impressive. I was nominated for four awards (and won two of them). I had my third trip to China where I was one of several authors who were Guests of Honor at a national convention (as part of which I spent a wonderful time talking about Klingon to a group of high school students). Soon after returning to the USA, I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable form of cancer. I had the first of what would become many hospital stays as a surgeon shoved a titanium rod into my leg to shore up my left femur. I had my cells harvested and received an autologous bone marrow transplant (and went into sepsis and nearly died). The transplant gave me a new immune system, which in turn pushed my cancer into remission, where it was kept for most of four years by means of daily chemotherapy. I shut down the small press I’d started in 2006, as well as nearly all other time sinks so I could focus on just three things while I fought MM: my wife, my dog, my writing. More slowly, I began limiting my involvement with the Klingon Language Institute (an international organization I’d created back in 1992), transitioning it to a new Board of Directors to take the reins. In October of 2022, I was diagnosed with Leukemia. I began an extremely aggressive treatment (and included another nearly fatal round of sepsis and my first experience of delirium) that after six months culminated in an autologous stem cell transplant with an anonymous 27 year old donor in Israel with whom I amazingly matched with on 12 of 12 genetic markers. I named his cells “Dave.”

As type this, I’ve been home from my last hospital stay for two months. I have weekly (originally twice-weekly) outpatient visits to check on how things are going (quite well), if my body is attempting to reject the donated cells (it’s not), or if the cells are attempting to attack my body (one small flare up, but otherwise great). I’ve spent a lot of that time being stupidly tired, frustratingly weak, and struggling with some cognitive limitations and brain fog. In the last ten days, these issues have greatly receded and I find myself able to take long walks and to write again. A bone marrow biopsy performed a month ago found no sign of either cancer.

What will the next five years bring? I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was stranger than fiction.

3 comments “The Past Five Years”

I’m glad you are doing well. I loved the Barsk books. I currently reading The Soup of the Moment. I have a nice problem — trying to decide which of your books to read next.


tugh bIpIvchoHjaj!

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