Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I’ve been on a break. Maybe you noticed.

For the last two months I’ve been trying to decide whether to admit that I came down with a case of shingles during my fall book tour. We’ve talked about the roller-coaster ride that is sometimes the lot of an author, so you deserve to know.

Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by a virus in the body. Almost half the cases occur in people 60 and older. It’s believed that stress can contribute to an outbreak.
When I embarked on my publicity campaign for It Started with Dracula: The Count, My Mother, and Me, I knew I’d sometimes be leaving my comfort zone behind. Many of the things I did—and have written about in this blog—were new. However, I was no stranger to new challenges, or to stress; my career as an editor had included plenty of both. The idea of speaking to crowds wasn’t new, nor was it intimidating. I certainly hadn’t broken out in shingles as a result. So, what happened?
One morning in November, just before my Atlanta trip, I woke up itching. Two little bite-like areas had appeared on my midsection. They looked like chigger bites, so I put clear nail polish over them. Then, because I’d been in bed, I thought, “Bedbugs!” They’re a hot traveler topic these days, so I stripped my bed and sprayed the mattress with Lysol, but found nothing.
By the time I was ready to leave Atlanta for home, my two itchy “bites” had developed into what appeared to be a raging case of hives. The rash began over the right side of my rib cage and wrapped all the way around onto my back. I was a mess. I was beginning to suspect shingles, and my doctor confirmed it the next day. Even though I received treatment, the condition lasted for weeks, taking my focus and energy. I did very little writing.
I think the shingles were related to the book tour—not the times when I had a blast, speaking to groups and meeting people who said they loved my book. Not the times there were actual lines for my autograph. It was the other events, the ones that are the “downside” of the author’s roller-coaster ride, the ones attended by only one or two people, or—this is the worst—seats filled by bookstore employees because no one else came. It happens, you know, and you still have to perform. That was what did it, in my opinion.
It made me hesitant to go back out on the road, but I went. Last week I had a very successful trip to South Carolina, where I spoke at a college. Slowly I’m returning to my routine, so I hope you didn’t give up on me.
If you’re concerned about shingles, there is a vaccine. It won’t do me any good, but you might want to check into it, especially if you’re of a certain age.


  1. Jane, I'm so sorry to hear of your bout with shingles. I hear it's a terrible thing to experience! At Christmastime, when all my family members were here, I suddenly noticed an itchy spot on my back... just one little bump. It was very uncomfortable, itching most of the time and the worst thing was, I couldn't reach it to scratch. How frustrating! My grown children always have to joke so someone decided I had "a" shingle, and they started asking, "How's your 'shingle' today?" They thought it was funny, but I didn't. Anyway, mine turned out to be a new mole. The doctor was going to take it off, but it stopped itching and I told him to forget it for the time being. Sorry yours wasn't that simple. Hope you're feeling much better. Glad you're back! Peggy~

  2. Hi Peggy,

    Thanks for the good wishes. I'm better now. I have to say that your story of the single shingle was funny to me, too--maybe because now when I have anything that itches, I immediately think, "Oh, no, not more shingles!" Of course, it would not have been funny at all if you had developed shingles for real. I'm glad you didn't.