Day 18, Cycle 5: Waterworks

The scarf is from Ysharros.
The scarf is from Ysharros.

Today I had a biometrics appointment at the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services as part of the naturalization process. That means fingerprinting and photo, again. When I got to the USCIS office I pointed out that I’d just been there in March to get the very same for my green card renewal, and was told “Oh, that’s a completely different department!” (Same place, same few people, same equipment, I swear it was in fact the very same machine!)

Then the (very nice) technician asked me to take off my scarf.

I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it coming.

I asked to keep it but no, no head coverings of any sort on USCIS photos. And I started crying.

I couldn’t stop, I just kept weeping through the entire process. They had a hell of a time with my fingerprints too, because the skin of my hands has peeled off entirely and the new skin is very smooth. (The skin of my soles peeled too, by the way. All of it.) And all throughout, I’m bald and tearing up.

The personnel was very nice (they must be contractors? When the agency was INS, the personnel was awful.) It’s not their fault, there are the requirements, plain in black and white. I was embarrassed I’d made them uncomfortable. And I don’t know why I wasn’t braced for this. Maybe because I’m getting weaker through the chemotherapy process; this time, I was very tired all throughout, even now when I am at top recovery. Low red blood cell and platelet counts, you see.

Since I walked out of there I have been feeling embarrassed, ashamed on the street and at the store when we stopped on the way back for some grocery. I felt I should be hiding.

I really hadn’t seen this coming.

Our friend Phantom

Phantom_shelterTwo years ago today, Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue posted on Facebook about Phantom, a black cat who had been left at a San Francisco animal shelter, reportedly after spending fifteen years with the same people. An older black cat with a blemish (a supposedly benign tumour above his right eye), terrified of the brouhaha at the shelter and therefore not responsive to humans: he didn’t stand a chance. He was was going to be euthanized unless someone stepped up immediately to adopt him. Fortunately, a friend (thanks, Brian!) re-posted and I responded that Edmund and I would take Phantom. It was a Saturday; the volunteer from Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue later said that if we hadn’t piped up right then, Phantom probably would not have made it to Monday.

Phantom was terrified of his change of surroundings at first, and not too keen on sharing the house with two other cats, but he has the most amazing growl and established his little space. (No actual cat fights occurred, just occasional Sturm und Drang.)

Later visits to the veterinarian revealed that the first vet we saw, who had dismissed the tumour as benign, was an idiot. It was a mast cell tumour, and although our (current, really good) veterinarian removed everything she could, the tumour was too deep to completely excise. It’s slow-growing but some day Phantom may have full-fledged cancer.

But in the meantime, oh! What an awesome cat! He is such a lovely friend. He loves to follow us around, curl up in physical contact with us, especially between Edmund and I. Edmund is his favourite but I do get quite a lot of cuddles too. We’re so glad he came to live with us! Thank you, Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue volunteers.


Day 15, Cycle 5: Representation

I had an interesting reading experience yesterday. I’d been waiting for a certain graphic novel to be on sale and it suddenly was, so I downloaded it. The first page hit me like a ton of bricks, and I thought “She’s like me!

I remember being a kid, of course, and being excited when I could find adventure books featuring girls. And I keep picking up and circulating stories on social media, illustrating how important representation is. But I didn’t expect at my age to feel it again as a raw emotional response. And that’s only a small taste of what it is to a child — maybe a girl, brown-skinned, amputee, autistic, trans — who sees themselves represented for the first time!

It gave me a fresh desire to help in any way I can to lift the cloak of invisibility society has thrown on too many people.


Day 7, Cycle 5: Blargh

2016-07-11 11.32.59This is my official complainy bitchy post.

It’s that time of the chemotherapy cycle when I’m weak and have little appetite. Everything aches or itches, I have mouth sores, my tonsils feel look two prickly pears jammed down my throat.

I had trouble swallowing the crushed nuts on my muffin this morning. I’ve been struggling for half an hour to eat the lunch in this photo — cream of corn, four saltines, peach yogourt, banana, and lemon-ginger tea. So far I have been able to ingest half the soup and one saltine.


RPG a Day, 2016 Edition

Once again it’s time for the RPG a Day challenge! In the last couple of years this was a personal project by Dave Chapman but this year he is too busy to run it. However, the good folk at BrigadeCon will be carrying the torch this year! As usual, the challenge runs from August 1 through August 31. The topics have been posted so you can start mulling over some answers.


The challenge feels more difficult to me this year because of my health issues and because the questions invite more complex essay answers, but I’ll try to answer as many as I can.




Day 3, Cycle 5: Chugging along

Dressing up for chemo
Dressing up for chemo

This is just a quick health update. I had my blood sampling on Monday (yes, on a holiday), infusion on Tuesday, and MUGA scan on Wednesday. Everything seems to be going well, although of course I will be getting weaker over the next few days.

Dressing up for MUGA scan
Dressing up for MUGA scan

I’m trying to wear as many of the lovely scarves I’ve received as I can. I don’t have good photos of all of them “from the runway” yet, but I’ll post them as I go.

I also do some writing and some convention planning in-between appointments and naps. I can’t say that the production rate is impressive, but I try to keep at it.

My appetite continues to be reduced but I’m done with some (but not all) of the medications that affected my sense of taste so food tastes a little bit closer to normal. Yay.

JoAnn's Cafe: They were nice enough to give me a half-portion when I asked, even though it's not on the menu.
JoAnn’s Cafe: They were nice enough to give me a half-portion when I asked, even though it’s not on the menu.

My cats continue to administer felinotherapy, and Edmund continues to take care of me. I can see how stressed he is so if he’s on your friend list, send him some kind words. You can read his perspective on the treatment and my illness on his blog.


War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus is a 2016 ENnie Nominee!

ENnies 2016 Nominee
The 2016 ENnie Awards nominees were just announced and War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus has made the list in four categories:

  • Best Art, Interior
  • Best Family Game
  • Best Rules
  • Product of the Year

It’s up against high-quality, popular releases but it’s so nice to be on the list. (Now I know that at least four people read it!)  ^_^

I am so very fortunate that on my first professional writing gig in the role-playing world, Evil Hat Productions let me create a book the way I wanted to, with the support of their fantastic knowledge and staff resources. It doesn’t get any better!


How to discourage me from playing your game: Part 3

AaaarghThis is the third of a three-part rant discussion on things publishers do that turn me right off their role-playing games.

A big challenge in role-playing games is that they are usually read several times in greatly differing circumstances. In this section I focus on their ease of use at the game table. I’m not talking about system choices and mechanics, but strictly about how well the book supports game play.

3. Use in Play

At the game table, the reader will be trying to find specific information quickly, particularly rules information.

Continue reading “How to discourage me from playing your game: Part 3”

How to discourage me from playing your game – Part 2

Aw-noThis is the second of a three-part rant discussion on things publishers do that turn me right off their role-playing games.

Naturally, a single mistake probably won’t do it unless it’s ginormous and egregious, but a few too many and I’ll move on to the next game on my long wish list.

2. Readability

A big challenge in role-playing games is that they are usually read several times in greatly differing circumstances.

  • The leisurely reading you do on the bus when you just received your book from a Kickstarter campaign.
  • The selective reading you do to familiarize yourself with the setting and make a character for next Friday’s meeting with your gaming group.
  • The studious reading your friend is doing to prep for that same game as game-master.
  • The frantic reading in the middle of a game session to locate a particular piece of information or interpret a rule.

I know first-hand how difficult it can be to address all these needs; for example, a book may be perfectly well organized to present the setting information in an orderly fashion, but make it a nightmare to retrieve in a hurry at the game table. Today, I want to examine the ease of reading proper, all the kinds of reading we do when we are not actually playing.

Continue reading “How to discourage me from playing your game – Part 2”

How to discourage me from playing your game – Part 1

Scary-BookI’m a gaming junkie, especially where it comes to role-playing games. I’ve been gaming for decades, I have played or run at least 177 RPGs as of this writing, not counting different editions, playtests, or homebrews, and my shelves are overflowing with more I have yet to play. All this to say, I want to love your game. But it’s amazing how many published games still turn me right off because of mistakes that could be avoided with moderate effort, and sometimes even quite easily.

Not that that writing games is that easy, I know! There will be competing objectives, budget and schedule considerations, and so forth. But there are also some elements that can be incorporated in the planning, and hurdles that are make-or-break. In our cottage industry of devoted hobbyists, some mistakes are being made over and over. Even free games can be ruined so thoroughly by some of these mistakes that they lose the chance for a good review, which can’t be why you’re putting them out there!

One big challenge for game publishers is that there are several ways to approach the reader or, if you want, several opportunities to lose a gamer, so let’s look at them separately.

I’ll post the other sections over the the next few days.

Continue reading “How to discourage me from playing your game – Part 1”