Wiki Mulholland died yesterday.

Wiki was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer a few months after me. We went to the same book group. We didn’t attend together very often. I worked nights, mostly, and she traveled for work. And she was busy. Always busy.

She was busy because WIki changed breast cancer treatment for everyone in NZ.

Unluckily for WIki, pretty much right after diagnosis, she was recommended to start on Ibrance (Palbociclib). But Ibrance wasn’t funded in New Zealand.

Ibrance cost NZ$5800 a month. 

On the New Zealand median salary, you’d have to work 6.5 weeks to buy one month of Ibrance.

So Wiki cashed in her retirement savings and bought herself some time. 

And then she organized a march on Parliament, and a petition, and dedicated herself and her time and her family’s time to changing the way medications are funded in NZ. Dedicated herself to getting Ibrance and Kadcyla funded by PHARMAC. She didn’t only think of herself. She thought of everyone. 

Wiki always thought of everyone else first.

In May 2020 PHARMAC started funding Ibrance for metastatic breast cancer patients. So this year, when Tamoxifen stopped working for me, Ibrance was an option.

I  picked up my next month of Ibrance the same day Wiki died. That’s it in the photo there. See that cost? Five dollars. That’s $3.41 in US monies.

Wiki did that.

Wiki is the reason I get to be here right now.

When life is short some of us write gay ghost stories. But people like WIki change the world around her to make it better for everyone. To make it fairer. 

Wiki was funny, and sweet, and even when she was tired and sick she radiated warmth, and joy, and love. 

Rest easy, Wiki. I’ll catch you on the other side.

I’m still here

On March 30, 2019, I wrote:


The average life expectancy following a stage 4 diagnosis in New Zealand is 16 months . . . Going by US figures, median survival for my age group is 39.2 months, which statistically gives me until mid-2021.”


I did it.


I’m here.


I made it past median survival.

My first-line treatment – Tamoxifen – stopped working at the beginning of 2021, and my cancer kind of took off with a hiss and a roar in June. I’m on Palbociclib (Ibrance) and Fulvestrant now. These weren’t even options in NZ before May 2020, and I’m incredibly grateful to the women before me who fought to have them funded through Pharmac. My treatment team doesn’t have enough data yet to really judge if they are working, but there are other drugs if they’re not helping – or not helping enough. I try just to think about one week at a time. My job helps me focus on getting done what needs to get done.


I’m so lucky to have the job I do and I do not regret leaving academia for one second. I work with amazing people and the pandemic has expanded the scope of what I do enormously, in ways that give me the deep satisfaction of service.


I wish I’d looked beyond beating my head against a brick wall at universities for so many years. I got hyper-focused on what I thought I wanted, instead of looking at the daily misery I was actually going through. But this is a thing I cannot change and I will not waste time regretting it now.


I like my small town. At rush hour it’s 12 minutes from home to work: I timed it. It has an indie bookstore and wonderful cafes. Because I am not living in Auckland I am escaping the worst lockdowns, and there’s still a sense of a semi-normal life. I finally got my COVID vaccine shots in July 2021, which was right before our Delta outbreak in August.


In 2020 I released two books, and although I haven’t released one yet in 2021 I do hope to have one out in the next 6 months. The words still tick over slowly.


In 2019 I also wrote:


The five-year survival rate – i.e. till 2023 – is 36%, which isn’t negligible. There’s definitely a good chance I will make that.


I have a great chance. I’ll see you back here on 20 March 2023.

Strongly recommending this documentary on the attempted 2021 US right-wing insurrection

Hi friends. NightDocs on YouTube has curated a 90 minute documentary on the attempted coup at the US Capitol Jan 6, 2021, made entirely of live YouTube/Instagram/FB live/news footage, showing a “minute-by-minute accounting of the events leading up to and on January 6, 2021 when Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to stop the counting of the electoral votes cast by the states to certify Joe Biden as the next president of the United States.” YouTube has made this video age-restricted, non-searchable, and non-sharable. which is a crying shame, at it’s excellent.

Video cannot be embedded due to those sharing restrictions, but if you click on the “Watch on YouTube” link below it will take you to the site to see it. Watch and share. NightDocs states “this video is not intended to be political commentary, rather it is meant to lay out a factual accounting of the important events of the day.” Time codes for key events are in the description.

PS This is totally how the setting for The Arroyo starts.

New release: Savior

Garrett

The second I see Colt I know he’s the boy for me.

But Colt’s shipped in to be Sponsored by Hank Fisher, the local Company rep. Five years with Hank and Colt will make contacts, learn how the Company works, and more importantly, pay off his debts so he can live free. Stars, I want Colt for mine, but I can’t offer him what Hank can. I’m no-one.

I run Caffeine Savior, a coffee shop on Demeter, an icy rock in the Carina Constellation, serving indie miners and gas rig workers escaping the close confines of their two-month shifts, with millions burning a hole in their cred chips.

Once I see Colt, I know I’ll wait for him, no matter how long it takes. But when Hank proves himself unworthy of Colt, I have to step in. Colt needs to be treasured and kept safe, no matter what it takes.

Savior is a 33,000 word m/m romance novella with insta-love, very mild hurt and a whole lot of comfort, hand-feeding, and coffee. You can buy Savior here or read it on Kindle Unlimited.

***

Caffeine Savior. That’s what started it.

Over lockdown I missed my local coffee shop the most. I’m an introvert, and I work 4pm to midnight, so I don’t have a big night-time social life, and I don’t like shopping in physical stores, and I don’t play sport, and I don’t have many friends here to miss seeing. What I did miss was going to the coffee shop each day to write.
Here in NZ we were so, so lucky in 2020. We entered lockdown on 25 March, and it was the most restrictive in the world. Only a few national chains of supermarkets were allowed to open, and pharmacies, and medical care providers. No takeaway foods were allowed, and no online shopping, except essential supplies. But because it was a comprehensive lockdown, it was short. From April 28 we were allowed to buy takeaway coffee, ordered by app only, and on June 9, when we went back to level 1, we could go to a coffee shop again. Or brunch.

When I was writing Home there was originally a whole section where Vic and Ryan turned the pub into a coffee shop. Thematically it didn’t work and I cut it out, but the idea lingered. This year I’ve also been thinking about Mars colonization, and this had me wondering exactly how much rich people would be prepared to pay for real coffee, in space.

Home is dark, and I after I finished writing it I needed something floofy and light, with insta-love and snuggling and coffee, so naturally I wrote a Space Coffee Shop.

That book is Savior and it’s out now.

Savior is not an M. Caspian book. It’s not dark. This is a comfort read, where two men fall in love and get together to have kisses and sex and the bad guy loses. So it’s under my A.L. Anderson pen name, because with A.L Anderson you know no-one’s going to get eaten alive by ants.

Frances McDormand is life goals

I did something incredible last night. I drove to my local indie cinema, stood in a queue, bought tickets, filed into a theatre, sat beside a stranger, and watched France McDormand hold us all spellbound in Nomadland.

We ate ice cream. No-one wore a mask. There was no social distancing.

Because there is zero community transmission of COVID in New Zealand.

I know how lucky we are. I hope it lasts. This new strain sounds wicked and it looks like NZ is about to introduce pre-arrival COVID tests for travelers from the UK and US, even though everyone entering NZ spends two weeks in quarantine.

The vaccine is tantalizingly close yet I’m already horrified by noises of doubt, scepticism, and hesitancy coming from my co-workers. My throat closes with despair at the thought of having a vaccine people refuse. I don’t know how we solve this.

My fervent wish for 2021 is by this time in twelve months everyone in the world can stand in a queue, buy a movie ticket, eat ice cream and wonder at the perfection that is Frances McDormand.

South Korean street food fantasy, and thank you

To relax I watch a lot of videos of South Korean street food vendors, and small specialty shops making exquisite treats. I can’t get over how spotless everything is compared to indie NZ food stores, and how much love and care and time is put into the food. And I marvel people can cover rent and food costs and OMG the labour costs, and still make money making small batches by hand.

It really only crossed my mind this weekend, when I was watching a documentary on growing household debt in South Korea, that maybe they’re not actually making money.

At 27:15 there’s a snack shop owner talking about his financial ruin, and mentions his machine for trendy ice creams cost US$9700, which he funded borrowing from third-party lenders at 28%. (The subtitles say ‘stick’ ice cream, but whoever wrote those wasn’t hooked on YouTube food porn, as these were actually Jipangyi, or ‘cane’ ice creams, popular around 2015-2017.)

Here’s the machine that makes the cones, which explains why he spent US$9700. (Well, not why, but you can see this kind of food engineering is spendy).

He says he “couldn’t use” the machine after a month and I have questions. Because cane ice cream was no longer fashionable? Because it broke down? Because his business has gone under by then? I vote it broke down, because that equipment looks like Finicky Trouble

Exactly how many ice creams was he expecting to sell, and at what price, to make enough to cover that kind of investment for a fad product, in an industrial city that might on paper have a high GDP per-capita, but that figure is generated by the world’s largest ship-building yard, the world’s largest car assembly plant, and the world’s third-largest oil refinery?

Because the vendors on the street food-porn channels I watch make the food service industry look idyllic, I want to believe they make a prosperous living for their owners and workers: enough for a happy, peaceful life. Watching the debt documentary brought home to me that’s very likely not true. That instead, the workers are underpaid and exploited the same way they are everywhere in the world, and the owners lie awake at 2am stressing about overheads and negative gearing. And although this is a weird way to get there, it makes it so happy I have a basic call-centre job that covers my living costs and makes me enough to commission a book cover now and then, and lets me write books I want to write, and I don’t have to worry about those books making any money. I have a tiny, happy, peaceful life, which is a gigantic privilege. It means so much to be able to put the stories in my head out into the world. Thank you so much to everyone who bought Home. And who pre-ordered it, even! You’re incredibly kind, and I just hope you enjoyed reading it.

My daughter used to work at a pub, and her colleague said there was a ghost in the pub, stuck there, hanging around, and immediately Ethan popped into my head, and I knew I had to write Home. Although Home will never fund the repairs to my leaking roof, it’s out there in the world, and if even one person likes it, that’s enough. And I didn’t have to borrow $9700 from loan sharks to see my vision turn into reality. Wooo!

May you all experience happy, peaceful lives this week, friends, especially those of you in the United States. Be kind to yourselves, and stay safe.

‘Home’ now available for pre-order

Hi, friends. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well. 

I am so goddamn happy to announce October 23 2020 is the release date of my novel, Home. You can preorder on Amazon at this link.

One week. Just one week, and Ryan will be out of his backwater hometown for good. Sell the farm his grandmother bequeathed him, clear his debts, and start fresh with his high-flying boyfriend. That’s that plan.

What’s not the plan? Brooding bar owner and high-school crush Vic Ward, community hostility, and mysterious reminders of perfect Ethan. Ethan, who had everything Ryan ever wanted. Ethan, who fled Stockyard Point to pursue his dreams. Ethan, whose memory now dogs Ryan’s every step.  

The longer Ryan stays in the Point, the more demons of his past surface, and the more Ryan is haunted by the life he could have forged.  

Will Ryan stick to his plan? Or will the siren song of his past draw him home?  

This is a dark gothic m/m romance of 84,500 words.

In March I announced this book with a May release and then COVID happened. But despite 2020’s best efforts, my book is here!

I cannot tell you how happy I am to release this story. Two and a half years ago my greatest fear was there would be no more time to write books. But there will be time. I am doing awesome. My tumor markers are down from the beginning of the year. I have zero tumor growth since March, and no change to my lymph nodes. Fuck you, cancer: not this year. There will be time for more stories. I’m so damned lucky to have the chance to share Home with you. And thank you, everyone who took the time to comment on my blog with your kind words of encouragement. I almost always felt it would be better to quit rather than continue, and only through the support of all you amazing humans out there was I able to press on.

Thank you, friends. This one is for you.

EEEeeeeEEeeEeeEE!! It’s coming out! 

Kia Kaha, my planet

It means “stand strong”. I’m healthy, and dear universe, I hope you are all healthy too. I’m an essential worker so I’m still heading into the office every day although I’ve been seconded from my usual work to do governmental COVID-19 response stuff. What a fucking month, huh? We will get through this to the other side, however changed that may look from our previous normal. *giant contact-less hugs*

Well, that was a week.

I did not achieve 30 hours of writing this week, only 26.5, mostly because since midday today I lay on the sofa and ate an entire pack of Oreos and watched a tranche of Netflix and YouTube documentaries on SARS and H1N1 because I am a moron. But still, I am about to send my story to my beta reader, universe bless her wonderful brain.

I bought my ticket yesterday to Gay Lit Oz in Sydney in March 2021 (Australia’s own dedicated LGBTQ+ genre author event) so I can go and squeal at amazing authors and buy many books and generally fangirl with windmilling arms all over the show. Tickets are an incredibly reasonable AUD$20 per day so if you’re in Aussie (or NZ) consider going along .

I was working overtime yesterday when Jacinda announced everyone – everyone – entering NZ must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. I came home exhausted and experiencing other people’s generalized crushing anxiety. Fucking mirror neurons. My gut clenches and my brain circles around “what if,” “what next” all without any input from my logic circuits and I’m ridiculous. I haven’t been this glued to news websites since September 2001. Going forward I am allowing myself 2 x 10 min news updates per day and that’s it.

I understand the reasoning. I understand we need to flatten the curve. But I have people in my cancer support group saying they won’t be going to their oncologist appointment this week because it’s “too dangerous” to expose themselves.

cattening the curve

 

This is a long-haul journey. An effective globally available vaccine is reportedly a couple of years away. Australia is making noises that their copycat travel restrictions will be in place for at least 6 months, so I guess ours will be about the same. We can’t put life on hold for 6 months. And yet I grok the reflex jerk.

Goal for the week:

Acknowledge anxiety and release it. Let it drift past as the universe flows on.

Keep writing, every day.