Sunday, April 24, 2016

And now for something completely different...breast cancer

I know this isn’t my usual blog about writing, but sometimes life smacks you up against the head and you have to pay attention. One in eight women will get breast cancer. This year, I became one.

Think about that: one out of eight. If you know eight women, you know someone who’s had or will have breast cancer. Maybe even you. Cancer doesn’t care if you’re young or old, if you eat right and exercise or not. It just happens and no one really knows why.

You’ve probably heard the slogan “early detection is the best protection” and it’s true. The smaller the tumor is when it’s found, the better the result can be if you’re treated right away. I’m not done with my treatment yet. I was only diagnosed in March, but I had surgery immediately and my tumor was very small.

I wish I could tell you I was religiously doing my self-exams, but I wasn’t. My doctor told me to get a mammogram when I was 40, so I did that. It was normal at the time. I do, however, get my yearly gynecological exams. My last one was normal too. The only reason I found my tumor was I happened to wake up one Sunday morning lying on my hand in such a way that I felt a tenderness in my breast. I thought “That’s weird.” I felt around the tender spot and wondered what a lump would feel like. Would it be round like a bead? This didn’t seem to be round, but it did feel like a knot of tissue that was harder than the surrounding area. And it hurt when I pushed on it. I had never noticed it before so I thought I’d watch it that day and see if it changed. It didn’t.

I went to work on Monday thinking I needed to call for an appointment and have it checked. Then I got busy at work and forgot about it. The next day it was still there and I finally called. It would have been an easy thing to ignore for awhile. There was no rash, no weird breast appearance, nothing on the surface. I felt perfectly fine. I was convinced it was nothing. I think the only reason I went in was because I’ve been told all my life, if you find a lump, get it checked! I guess I’ve been well trained.

The nurse practitioner I saw was pretty sure it was normal too, but referred me for a mammogram anyway, thank goodness. It wasn’t normal, which goes to show you, no one knows what’s inside you by only touching the outside. Not even a health care provider.

Since then, I’ve had ultrasounds, MRIs, biopsies, blood tests, and surgery, all in less than two months. Once the result is positive, they don’t mess around. I was potentially facing chemotherapy too, but the doctor decided the size of the tumor was small enough (less than 1 cm) that I can just have radiation treatment for it. After that will be chemo-prevention drugs, to reduce my future risk of a recurrence. I may need to take that for five years or more, which I will gladly do. The drugs reduce future risk by 50%.

I’m not going to lie to you. It’s been a scary couple of months, learning about all this stuff. I’m already sick of getting poked with needles. Waiting for lab results is grueling. Getting bad news is even worse, but not knowing is worse than knowing. All in all, I know am very, very lucky. I found my own tumor. I felt it only because there was a larger area of pre-cancer around it and I don’t have much breast tissue, so it caused the tenderness I was feeling. Women with more tissue may have felt nothing at all and ended up with a much larger tumor. That’s why mammograms, self-exams, and check ups are so important ladies! I know mammograms are uncomfortable and awkward, but all the technicians I’ve had are women. You can handle it, I promise you.

If you’ve got a family history of breast cancer, (aka you have family members with breast cancer), start your yearly mammograms at 35 years old. If you have no family history like I did, you can wait until you’re 40, but start your self-exams right now, today. Women in their 20s and 30s can and do get breast cancer. Men can too, in case you didn’t know. I want you to be healthy and take care of yourself (no smoking), but if you ONLY do one thing, DO your self-exams!! If you’ve never been taught how, check here.

Even though I feel like I dodged a bullet now, breast cancer will be with me for the rest of my life. I have to go through radiation treatment. I’ll be on medication, have mammograms every six months for awhile, and professional breast exams twice yearly. If it returns, I’ll have to have more treatment and surgery. I feel extremely fortunate to have a good job and insurance to pay for all of this because the price of this treatment without insurance is already pretty unbelievable and I’m not even done! I can’t imagine what it must be like for cancer patients with no insurance. My local hospital actually has financial advocates that help patients through the insurance process, set up payment plans and find financial assistance if needed. I can only hope all hospitals are so helpful and that no one ever hesitates to get care if they need it.

Still, even with all that ahead of me, I have a good life and a lot left to do, including a few more books to write. No matter how scary, the treatment is worth it. I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. I intend to fight like a girl and kick cancer’s butt. And if it ever happens to you, I hope you will too.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Spring 2016 YA Scavenger Hunt Fun!! #YASH

Hey! Welcome to my stop on the YA Scavenger Hunt Trail!


This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are NINE contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the TEAM GREEN –but there is also a red team, a gold team, an orange team, a teal team, a purple team, a pink team, a silver team, and a blue team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve hidden my favorite number in the post. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the indie team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 3, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.




Rachel Shane is the author of YA books ALICE IN WONDERLAND HIGH, KASEY SCREWS UP THE WORLD, and RHYTHM & CLUES, plus the New Adult Romance series that begins with PREMATURE EVACUATION. She's been a computer animator, an ebook creator for a publisher, and now she works as a Project Manager for a software company where she enjoys telling people what to do. She lives in NJ with her husband, young daughter, and a basement full of books. Visit Rachel at for more!


Seventeen year-old “Moxie" Crane's mother ruins her social life without ever stepping foot into her school. As if driving away her father and lying about it all these years isn't enough, Moxie's classmates discover her mother moonlights as a stripper, branding virginal Moxie with a reputation she can never live up to. Instead of getting upset, she gets tough, owning her outcast status and putting up a care-free front. But loneliness and a band audition advertisement lead her to Gavin Tully, a teen homeschooled for mysterious reasons who defies his parents’ strict rules to secretly start a band.

They each have something the other wants: he's enamored by her free-spirit life, and she’s jealous of his overprotective, yet supportive family. Moxie teaches Gavin how to rebel and Gavin makes her feel like part of his family…until his parents catch them and force him back under their prison-like rules. Desperate to be a free spirit like Moxie, he takes the rebellion too far and runs away from home, leaving behind a breadcrumb trail of clues only Moxie can decipher.

But when Moxie discovers his parents aren’t just strict…they're in hiding from a dangerous enemy, she sets out to find Gavin and rescue him the way he saved her.

~Deleted scene from RHYTHM AND CLUES~

The hotel clerk reaches under her desk and pulls out a box of tissues. “Calm down. What’s your brother’s name?”

Sabrina grabs a tissue, then blows her nose. She abruptly stops crying, peering at the clerk over her tissue. “Gavin Tully.”

The clerk types away at a computer. She purses her lips. “It says he checked out yesterday.”

Sabrina’s eyes widen. “Wait. What?”

“Oh.” The concierge taps a few more keys. “What’s your name?”

Sabrina gives it to her. The clerk bends underneath the desk. She places a puffy envelope on the counter and slides it toward Sabrina. “He left you this package.”

Sabrina snatches it from the counter and waves for us to follow her. My heart thumps as we leave the hotel and crowd around Isla’s SUV. Sabrina tears open the envelope, exposing Gavin’s audio recorder.

His mp3 recorder? I lean against the car to keep my balance, my nerves rocketing. He would never give up these precious items unless he had a good reason.

Predictably, a post-it note covers the front of the audio recorder. It says: Play the files in order. Don’t let anyone else hear. And be careful. If you got this envelope, it means this whole thing is up to you now.

Panic climbs up my spine. If this is all up to us now…did that mean Gavin was in trouble?

Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on Team Green and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize! I've always been pretty good at keeping secrets.
I could probably tell you 8 secrets right now. ;)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Happy Spring!

I'm so glad winter is over! This one sucked, big time. I just want to get out and see some flowers and grow some tomatoes finally. I'm getting a new greenhouse, so it's only a matter of time until I can.  Whee! Happy Spring peeps :)

Crossroads and Character Building in Your Writing

Everyone of us makes choices. Every day we make probably a dozen small choices, so small we may not even realize we're doing it. But every now and then we look up and find ourselves at a crossroads, faced with a  major life choice that will tip the balance of our fate one way or the other and have repercussions for many years to come.

Do I go to college or go directly to work?

    Do I finish high school or drop out?

          Do I have kids? Do I get married?

     Do I follow my dreams into the unknown or do I stick with the tried and true?

               Do I allow others to dictate my choices or do I go my own way?

It's said our choices make us who we are. The same is true of our favorite fictional characters. Every main character should have a pivotal choice to make in your story, and that choice should make all the difference in how the events unfold.

In Vessel, Alana is a slave, but she makes the choice to free the prisoners that help her escape too. If Alana never made that bold choice, the story would not have come to pass and she would have died a slave. Certainly not as thrilling as striving for something more, is it?

What is the major crossroads your character starts at and how will their choices make or break the story?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Dog's Tale

You know that feeling when you wake up and someone who's been with you for 13 1/2 years isn't there? It sucks.

This week we said goodbye to our Daisy girl. She first showed up, dumped at our house in the country, in January 2003. I never thought in a million years I'd own a bully breed. I know why someone dumped her. She was crazy wild destructive. I got her fixed and kept her in my laundry room to keep her quiet. She tore that room up like a Tasmanian Devil, including ripping the molding off the door jam, stepping on a nail, and smearing blood everywhere. I borrowed a metal dog crate and she bent the bars with her teeth, trying to get out. I tied her out with a horse rope lead and she chewed through the rope. I had to resort to a choke collar, which seems cruel, but it was the only collar that she couldn't slip off over her ears. It didn't hurt her. Her pain tolerance was sky high. I would have given her away, but I didn't want to saddle someone else with her bad behavior. I just knew they would hate me, or worse, end up dumping her again. So she stayed with us.

Daisy loved to chase cars. It was a pathological compulsion for her. I tried to keep her tied up, but when she ran loose, she was always chasing cars. I'm sure my neighbors hated us some days. Honestly, I always thought a car would get her one day, but she was wicked fast and always managed to avoid being seriously hurt. She also had a naughty habit of finding all sorts of nasty, dead things and bringing them home to chew on. She was a great mouser too. She really was a dog's dog.

Daisy wasn't spoiled, but she had a really great life, running through the brush, digging in the dirt, getting into trouble. The vet said she was probably a mixed breed pit bull. Like I said, I never wanted a pit bull, but I got one. Daisy taught me a lesson that's true for people and dogs alike. Never judge someone by their appearance. She was a pit bull, but she was also a sweetheart. 

Goodbye sweetie~ have fun running with Jakey and Snickers~ give them doggie kisses for us~xoxo love you forever

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Groundhog Day ~ Here I am Again

When we're young, we think our lives are on a trajectory from low to high. We start small and life just keeps getting easier and better we go on, right? Now, looking back on what is most likely the first half or so of my life, I'm starting to believe the trajectory is more like a circle. We're constantly circling back around to the place we were before, just a little wiser than the last time.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Heart in a Box Book Tour~

Welcome to my stop on the Heart in a Box Tour!
Be sure to scroll down for the giveaway and read about 
 Catherine's  inspiration~

~About the Book~

Heart in a Box by Catherine Stine
Publication Date: December 20, 2015
Publisher: Inkspell Publishing

Each heartbeat leads Joss closer a shocking truth that will change everything.

Joss Olstad wins the fight to switch from her private school to a public high to “find her pieces” she lost when the Indian artist father she never knew died. There, Joss struggles with a slutty friend, who flirts with her new love; Indian Culture Club girls who press her on her past, as well as her stoner mother’s lies back at home. Armed only with her handmade heart boxes that hold private messages, Joss’s search for identity leads her to a scary industrial section of Queens, and a shocking family secret that changes everything.

~About the Author~ 

Catherine Stine writes YA and romance. Her novels span the range from futuristic to supernatural to contemporary. Her YA sci-fi thrillers Fireseed One and Ruby’s Fire are Amazon bestsellers and indie award winners. Her YA, Dorianna won Best Horror Book in the Kindle Hub Awards. She also writes romance as Kitsy Clare. Her Art of Love series includes Model Position and Private Internship. She suspects her love of dark fantasy came from her father reading Edgar Allen Poe to her as a child, and her love of contemporary fiction comes from being a jubilant realist. Visit her at and subscribe to her newsletter for news of releases, workshops and appearances.

Catherine’s website:

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Catherine’s Amazon author page:

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~Enter the Giveaway~

The prize pack includes:

A $40 gift card, 2 hand-painted heart-boxes with secret treasure inside, a signed paperback of Dorianna by Catherine Stine, a signed paperback of Heart in a Box by Catherine Stine, a great YA ebook pack of novels: Tiger Lily by Wende Dikec, When Sorrows Come by Katie M John, and Time Runs Away with Her by Christine Potter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

~Author Guest Post~

Greetings, Lisa and dear readers,

My new YA romance Heart in a Box is very close to my own heart. The main character Joss is different from me in some ways yet very much like me in other ways, so it was both a challenge and fun to create her. She is brave yet vulnerable, outspoken yet shy, artistic and a true romantic. And she never hesitates to expose secrets and lies. It is this spirit that leads her to unearthing a longstanding family secret.

People ask what my inspiration was in coming up with the plot. It was a combination of things. I lived in New York City’s East Village for a while and there are a bunch of import-export shops there that also sell bongs and paraphernalia. I started to wonder what it would be like to have a hippie-come-lately mother who smoked a lot of weed and owned this type of store. And then I kept asking “what if” questions. What if the mom also had a side to her that was very overprotective and so the daughter, Joss had to sneak around? And what if Joss had a biracial boyfriend, Will, who the mom was leery of? This would lead to a series of mom-daughter landmines they’d have to figure out ways to navigate through.

One of my favorite themes is the sweet romance between Joss and Will. I also love the theme that art has an inherent power to heal. Joss deals with her anxiety and upset through making heart-boxes, which her artist dad made. She never knew him, but this act of creating the boxes helps her feel close to him. She writes little messages in them. Here’s my favorite one:

Lost, frightened and struggling.

You find a celestial map on an invisible highway.

It will lead you back to your truest self.

Making the heart-boxes and writing the messages is also how Joss inches toward finding out a huge family secret, which of course, I won’t reveal here. LOL. So, the other part I relate to is in being an artist. I sold my paintings in galleries for years, and I still do illustrations. In fact, the tour prize giveaway includes my hand-painted heart-boxes!

Lisa, thanks for letting me guest host for the heart in the Box tour. I love hearing from readers, so if you do read the book, I’d love to hear your take on it.

Hugs and Happy New Year, Catherine