Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: October 2013 (page 1 of 2)

Scars and Stuff

This entry is part 15 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I would not have noticed the lump in my breast if it had not been right beneath the skin. In fact, I didn’t notice it for quite a while. The lump seemed kind of large to me, and the fact it had already attached to a lymph node gave me the impression I’d been feeling the lump and assuming it was my nipple being hard for a lot longer than I’d like to admit. I was not doing active breast exams, but I can tell you, finding this cancer has definitely galvanized me to do so.

The lump’s position on my breast was at about ten o’clock when facing the breast, right beside the areola. Now, since the surgery, I can feel the stitches put in to pull the remaining tissue together so I won’t have a void where the cancer was. My nipple is about half-submerged now, due to the pulling of the surgical scar; I don’t know if this will correct itself over time. It’s also a little off-center—my nipple now points in a slightly right-hand direction instead of down. It makes things like folding my arms very interesting now, because it’s right at the point where my arm bends when I do so.

I measured my scars today, too. Just to give y’all some idea what’s there:

I took the remaining steri-strips off my breast scar. It’s approximately four inches long, and is somewhat vertical, edging the areola. It directly bisects the ten o’clock position where the cancer was. A month following the surgery, it is now pink and looks well-healed.

The underarm scar is at least three inches below the point where my arm bends, and is approximately two and a half inches long. A month after surgery, it is slightly purple but well-healed. It feels swollen in that area and higher up under my arm, but it may actually be me feeling interior stitches which haven’t dissolved yet, or part of the neuropathy side effect from the surgery.

Approximately one and a half inches below my underarm scar is the JP Drain scar. This is perhaps half an inch wide and pinkish, well-healed. It no longer itches and when I get goose bumps, it doesn’t hurt as it did before (lots of shivering recently as it’s getting colder).

I have cancer-stuff appointments next week. Tuesday, I’m going to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for radiation prep and on Thursday I’m going to the VA for various tests and to see the Oncologists again. I’m not sure what the radiation prep appointment will include, but I imagine it may be an introduction to radiation therapy and a discussion with the doctor about my condition/status. I called the VA to ask what the Oncology appointment would be about and was told I’d get information on Chemo and how to deal with it and that they won’t start Chemo until after I’ve had two or three appointments with the Huntsman Institute about my radiation therapy so they could coordinate care prior to starting it. Apparently, this system is slightly less cumbersome if one is receiving all their cancer care up at Huntsman (LOL).

Suspension of Disbelief

I’m sure, if you read any kind of fiction, especially Science Fiction or Fantasy, you’ve likely heard the phrase “suspension of disbelief” in relation to how well you’re able to get into and follow along with the books and stories you read.

Suspension of disbelief is also important for writing fiction, particularly Science Fiction and Fantasy. I’m going to go on about Fantasy in particular, because that is the genre I know best, both from a reader’s perspective as well as a writer’s.

As a reader, I have a much easier time suspending disbelief in magic, shapeshifting, and pretty much whatever I’ve come across in most Fantasy books. There are few Fantasy books/stories I’ve started reading which I’ve given up on due to the fact I simply could not invest any faith in the worldbuilding or magical system of the world. If I have given up on fantasy books—any kind, whether they be Urban Fantasy or High Fantasy, or Epic Fantasy—it’s because something else about the book caused me to do so. I can’t recall a single instance where I came across a magical system or bit of worldbuilding in another’s book which caused me to say, “I just can’t believe that, so I can’t finish this book because of it.”

It’s much easier for me to suspend my disbelief when I’m reading another’s story.

When I’m writing stories of my own? Not so easy.

In one project I’d like to get back to but haven’t had a chance to really work on in a few months, which I haven’t even listed here on the site, I have plans for one of the Main Characters to create little spies out of wooden dolls. These dolls aren’t very big, and they’re jointed, and he dresses them, names them, and sends them on spying missions to gain information he needs about the place he lives and the people who are around him. When I originally wrote the scenes depicting these little magical mannikins, I had a great deal of difficulty believing they moved on their own because they were supposed to be inanimate objects—I could not convince myself the magic my character had used to make these dolls functional was “real” in the context of the world, so every so often when writing about the dolls, I froze and tried to figure out how they were moving without muscles. How they were communicating by thought-image without brains.

I can sometimes be a bit too literal.

I’m the same way with shapeshifters. Necia Phoenix, one of my writer-friends, has a world with shapeshifting dragons (check out her site; she’s got a list of snippets with these dragons, and they’re worth the effort). While, when reading, I can believe that these dragons do shapeshift into human form, I have difficulty keeping the belief when I consider whether or not I may want to add shapeshifters of any kind to my own writing. In fact, my first published story, Soul of Insurgence, makes a statement about shapeshifting on my world of Chraest—it’s not possible. Only substitution is possible. A Mage may capture an animal and place it somewhere to fool mundane people into thinking either he’s changed his own shape or that he’s changed someone else’s shape. In truth, however, on Chraest, changing one’s form from human to animal is impossible. The magic doesn’t work that way.

Now, on Chraest, if one has Healing Gifts, one may alter the human shape of their own body. Make themselves thinner or fatter, keep a youthful-looking appearance if they so wish, darken or lighten their skin, grow more body hair (up to and including like fur) or less of it (until they’re completely hairless from scalp to toes). That’s the way the magic works. But shifting to an animal’s shape? Impossible. I can believe in changing one’s own body to suit desires or self-image. I can’t believe in crushing a human’s body mass into an animal the size of a house cat (or something the mass of a traditional dragon into the size of a human).

I’m probably not the only writer with this hangup. It hasn’t stopped me from trying to do things which I know magic can do on my worlds. I’m not sure I’ll ever use shapeshifters, but I do intend to use the mannikins in the story I mentioned above. This character’s efforts at gaining information are too important to the plot, and he can’t go into the areas his magical dolls can—at least not without causing a great deal of suspicion or being caught snooping.

I’ll just feel my writing muscles stretching further. Which is a very, very good thing.

Enthusiasm

A few years ago, before 2008, when I first started writing the gay romances, I wrote Fantasy regularly. All the time. It was what I wrote, what I had written for years, since branching away from badly-written Star Trek: The Next Generation pastiches and my first unhappy forays into original Science Fiction stories I discovered I had an anal-retentive and obsessive desire for the technical knowledge to make them “realistic.” I found a freedom—and a challenge to make my worlds logical and rule-abiding—in Fantasy stories which even the handwavium technology of Star Trek couldn’t match.

I loved writing Fantasy.

I have no idea why I segued into gay romances, but I did my best to use them to learn. I taught myself how to power through the middles to the endings and completed more unoutlined gay romance stories than I ever had unoutlined Fantasy stories. I taught myself how to outline, to give myself a better chance at completing the stories I started, with the gay romances, and thus completed even more stories than I ever had before. I taught myself how to cause my characters real conflict, both physical and emotional pain, and how to connect my characters’ actions to their emotions with gay romances. I learned.

My writing is better now than it ever has been before, in spite of the way I destroyed it with my mental illness and trying to force my first Fantasy stories written here in Utah into the mold of a restrictive religion which, while I loved it, did not offer me the freedom to accept myself or, more importantly, my writing, which was, to be honest, my one link to sanity at the time. I wrote myself into my Fantasy and vague attempts at Science Fiction stories as I slid down the slope of Bipolar Disorder into nonfunctionality. Religion pulled me enough out of it, with the half-helpful wrong medication (I’d been misdiagnosed as Schizophrenic), to return to writing, and I proceeded to destroy it on the altar of Catholicism. I still claim a Catholic soul, but my body, my heart, and my mind are still decidedly secular, and since they outnumber my soul by two, I heed their guidance and learned also, through writing the gay romances, that I could heal both myself and my writing without the structure of religion.

Perhaps, in some ways, the gay romances were my psyche’s way of proving to the rest of me that I needed to follow my heart, not my desire for a spiritual home.

With my return to Fantasy, which really hooked me in December of last year, filling me with enthusiasm for and excitement over a brand-new, almost-completely-conceived story, I entered into a whole new world, with a brand new magic system developed from my own search for a spiritual home, and sped through the first book of the trilogy I’d thought up.

I thought I could fit all of TPOM into one book. Ha. The first book is just under 60k, but the second book is longer. Book three may be even longer than book two. And I had great enthusiasm for the whole trilogy up until about the time I started losing my enthusiasm for Brotherhood. So I stopped writing TPOM’s third book, in part because of that, and in part because I needed to figure some things out. However, I never doubted I’d come back to it at some point.

I eventually had to even stop working on Brotherhood because I lost enthusiasm in even it. I’ve explained what I’ve done recently with it, and I have to say, to be completely honest, I was afraid of cutting it. I was half-certain that my lack of interest in my two primary writing projects indicated that I was still trapped in the same rut I’d left when I stopped writing Fantasy earlier. Previously, I’d start Fantasy projects with a great deal of enthusiasm, but I’d get only so far before losing interest in whatever story I was telling. I thought I’d come to that point again with both TPOM and Brotherhood when I realized I no longer felt happy about the latter project and hadn’t touched TPOM in over a month.

I was afraid cutting Brotherhood wouldn’t work. I feared I’d just be delaying the inevitable. But I made the cut anyway, spent about a day away from the project, then tried working on it . . . and my excitement over it and enthusiasm for it came back. I was amazed. And so very, very happy. It may be, as I said, slow going on Brotherhood, but I’m happy with it again, and that means everything to me. I’m feeling excited over nearly every scene I outline, never mind write, and in the previous version, I wasn’t even feeling enthusiasm for writing the scenes. It just wasn’t there, and I got to the point where forcing the scenes out was the only way they got written before I lost interest in doing even that.

But with the cut, I’ve regained my love of the story. I’m even able to feel enthusiastic about TPOM again, and that I was desperately certain I’d lost interest in for good. I love outlining and writing when nearly every scene is a candybar scene (scenes a writer looks forward to writing with a lot of anticipation), and even those which aren’t such induce a thrill when it comes their turn for me to write them.

I’ve said all year, since my return to Fantasy December 21st of last year, that I’ve found happiness in my writing again (I was so not happy writing gay romances—did so only because those were the only ideas coming to me, and I doubted I’d come up with any new ideas with every new story I conceived). I’ve got my joy back, my confidence back (now I’m certain I’ll get fresh new ideas to write—because they’re Fantasy ideas), and most of all, every bit of fun I missed in writing the gay romances, I’ve rediscovered in my return to writing Fantasy.

Fantasy became my niche in the mid-90’s. Now it’s my home, and I’m glad to be back.

Side Effects of Surgery

This entry is part 14 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I know one thing which is a side effect—and drives me absolutely batty when I go to bed—is the fact I can’t lay on my right side any more. Trying causes a great deal of pain, in both my arm and the edge of the right side of my back, where some of the numbness crawls around. That spot isn’t bothering me much right now; I can actually feel where my bra crosses the area, and where my shoulder strap comes up back there. Sometimes I can’t feel these things due to the neuropathy. This is a definite side effect of the surgery, because, from what I understand, they had to cut a nerve under my arm, and it apparently affects this area in addition to the back of my arm.

What I’ve noticed just the past few days, as underarm discomfort fades since the lumped-up steri-strips have come completely off the healed-up wound in my armpit, is a bruised feeling which extends down the entirety of my arm from the armpit. There are even some faint bruises, I’m guessing left over from the surgery, because I haven’t done anything or been touched where they are (near the inside of my elbow, and just above). It almost looks like someone grabbed my arm and dug in with the full length of their fingers. It hurts to stretch or raise my arm, but not as much as it did when I had the JP drain in. As I said, just a bruised feeling, and the “no, you don’t want to do that too much” feeling from it.

Good news is that the JP drain entry point is nicely scabbed over, and the surgical wound under my arm is well-healed, though a little purple. The cut in my breast is very well-healed; it’s just a pink line right now, though I do still feel some residual pain if I move it too much or press into it, probably due to the stitches under the skin. Sometimes my breast will throb with pain for a few seconds, but it always passes, and usually happens in response to me doing something to cause it, like press my folded arm against my breast. Some few of the steri-strips have come off my breast, but most are still quite well attached. I may peel them off next time I shower so when I visit the Oncologists again, they can see my skin’s healed up there.

The other day, the I got a call from the VA to set up an echocardiogram appointment. I’m to report for the appointment at ten AM. It’s supposed to be a fasting test, which will just be totally wonderful (LOL), and I’ll get to eat lunch afterward, then go do the blood draw they want. After that, I get to spend about two or three hours hanging about because there’s no point in trying to come home when I’ll have to turn around and go right back up to the VA for my three o’clock appt with the oncologists. I’ll definitely be taking books and music. Not sure if Mom will want to come, but I’m thinking not. If she does, she’ll probably come up just before the Oncology appt so she doesn’t have to spend all day at the VA like me.

Progress on Brotherhood

I’m glad I cut Brotherhood like I did. It’s opened up a whole new storyline for me. Same basic plot, but I’m taking things a little differently. I’m cutting one side character out (a Priest Doéna befriended), moving Bréyan into her place, and using the whole switch-around to set up the relationship which develops between him and Doéna.

Right now, in terms of outlining, it’s moving slowly. I’m kind of struggling to come up with plot cards, but it’s not because I lack ideas. I have plenty of ideas. It’s sorting them into something I can use, then coming up with a scene combining a couple different plot factors.

I’m having fun, though, and I’m very excited about the story again. It thrills me no end to be making such progress on Brotherhood, even if it’s going slowly.

My original plan with it was to copy and paste scenes I wanted to keep from the original manuscript. It seemed to make sense, as there will be places where the two versions meet. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I learned how unwise that would likely be the hard way. I came to a spot where there was a scene I really wanted to keep. So I copied it over, rearranging the scenes I already had around it without paying much attention to what I had written. Then, I proceded to rewrite the scene a couple days later, after writing an interim scene.

I’d forgotten I’d already included this particular scene, which was one where Lorien and Necée spend their first period of Visitation Hours together with their respective chaperones—Doéna and the princess’s cousin, Anée.

I didn’t realize my mistake until I read through the wip from beginning to where it ends. Then I tried to cut/paste the scene from the old wip into a workable spot before finally giving up. It just would not fit. I deleted it completely, reread the past few scenes, changed some things which were mentioned previous to when they actually happened, and now have a story I’m well satisfied with.

Sometimes we writers cause ourselves more work than writing needs to be. LOL

Of course, I made the decision to cut the scene immediately after writing the brand new scene (I hadn’t even written the wordcount total for it down, which I should have done). After cutting the scene, I realized my mistake, but had lost only about 208 words in the cut, so just decided to go with it and recorded it on my logsheet. Thus far, the new logsheet I started has more lines used for cuts and totals following them than for actual additions of words I’ve written. Makes me chuckle. My recording of Brotherhood‘s words has not gone well. This set of logsheets was started off with a patch-in of wordcounts because I shredded the 5×8 index card I had the original logs written on before copying the times and chapter counts over to the proper logsheet. That was, I assure you, enough to convince me not to use index cards for makeshift logsheets again.

As for my Nano project, I’m not moving on that. Need to look at it, see if I can get some more plot cards for it before November. I doubt I have enough written on TPOM3 to make it to 50k words, and I’d rather not have to do the outline as I write. Yes, I’ve left it for the last minute, but I’m backbraining a lot of stuff still, so I haven’t been able to make much progress when I have tried.

Then again, I’ve been really into Brotherhood the past weeks, so I may switch my Nano project over to that and go rebel—add 50k words to what I have already. It’s just moving too slowly for me to have much confidence I’ll be able to keep up with Nano if I use it.

Oh, well. I’ll get something going.

HBOC

This entry is part 13 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

HBOC stands for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome. I learned this from the information packet the genetic counselor sent me, which can also be found on MD Anderson Cancer Center. The first link I provided will take you directly to the pamphlet; the second link will take you to the site it’s on. The whole pamphlet is printable. I feel reluctant about including any of the information word-for-word here because it’s copyrighted, and, as a writer, I’ve grown rather sensitive to copyrighted materials and their usage. The pamphlet isn’t very long. I’ve also added the link to the cancer Center to my link list on the right.

Yesterday, someone at the VA called me to set up a radiation evaluation appointment up at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. I’m not sure what all is going to happen during this evaluation, but I suspect they’re going to identify the areas they need to radiate and determine a treatment plan. Even though I may not be going in for radiation treatments for a number of months, they like to set this up ahead of time so treatment can began as soon as they can with as little hassle as possible right after chemotherapy. I’m to be in by 8:30 for my 9:00AM appointment on Tuesday Nov 5.

Made the Cut

This isn’t “made the cut” as in “got selected.” This is “made the cut” as in, I did finally cut Brotherhood back to the last point where I felt really good about the story. I’ve referenced it on Twitter a little the past few days.

Basically, I took the story back to the point where Doéna and Lorien are introduced to Evening Court. This was the point where the story started to get bloated and long-winded. I had to change a few things in the preceding scenes to make things gel with the new plot cards I developed from that point.

Getting the original plot cards up to the point where I cut was relatively easy. Since I use Scrivener, I simply opened the old outline in the left side of the screen and, after discovering the “Duplicate” option by right-clicking, I copied the card, closed it for further editing since the new card is open for editing, and moved it over to the new outline and put it where it belonged. Did this with about 15 or 16 scenes. I’m now up to a total of about 20 plot cards, only a few of them new.

From here, I hope to write richer scenes with more happening in them. This is requiring more thought prior to writing out the plot cards. I’m having to dredge up what I know of the story’s future events from my mind and may resort to the original manuscript to keep track of things, if I just don’t go through it and make notes from it at some point.

There are several things I need to set up, not the least of which is Karé’s influence in Court. I’m beginning to think he’s learned how to function in the Imperial Court—it makes no sense for him not to be smart enough to have figured things out. That won’t mean he still won’t try to force my MCs into rash actions, it’ll just mean he’ll have a firmer connection to Court and the influence he claims he actually has. Another thing I need to work on is making Lorien less easy to deal with. I don’t want to fiddle with his cooperativeness too much, but I do need to have him act less willing to do so more often; his reluctance will definitely color how Doéna responds to Bréyan’s advances, and I need to make that situation more intense for Doéna. What I had in the previous manuscript kind of fell flat. I also need to make the whole marriage between Lorien and Necée more difficult for Doéna to deal with—mainly due to the couple’s reluctance to cooperate with each other, and I think I’m going to change things a little, so Doéna doesn’t realize the princess’s perfidy until he’s told by someone. I may still have the Empress, Necée’s mother, do this, but it may make more sense for someone else, possibly even Karé, just to insert doubt, to do this.

Overall, I feel much better about Brotherhood now. I feel more confident in the story, and I like what I have better. I’m glad I cut it even though it wasn’t finished. It’ll be better this new way I’m writing it.

Bits and Pieces

This entry is part 12 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I have a few things to say here. May have said some of them before, but I thought I’d try to go into a bit more detail about anything like that.

Such as the numb area of my arm. Today, I can tell it goes around to my back a bit. Its borders back there tend to fluctuate, I think depending on whether or not I’m having other sensations. Like itching. Itching is fun. Neuropathic area itches, reach to scratch, realize area to scratch is actually numb to the sensation of touch, so can’t actually scratch the itch. Sometimes those itches settle in the edge of the numb area, where the one I’m trying to ignore right now is. This is a mild annoyance, and not as traumatic as the sensation of pain which sometimes crawls through the neuropathic area. Sometimes this pain comes on its own, sometimes something I do (usually moving my arm up so my hand is somewhere at head level or above) causes the pain to come. This generally strikes the back of my upper arm, is fleeting, but is shocking at times when I least expect it. Other times, it’ll come in and hover for a while.

Really, I’d rather have this than cancerous lymph nodes.

The steri-strips are still on my armpit and breast. The ones under my arm are peeling off at the ends and bunching up toward the middle, right over the wound from the surgery. I think it’s this which is causing the bruised feeling in my armpit, and the sticky areas keep catching on hair growing and pull it without warning, usually at night when I’m laying on my left side. Move right arm to more comfortable position, pull hair.

This is not to complain, exactly. It’s not that much to have to deal with. Just thinking there might be someone out there who might want to know about all the little discomforts which come with cancer treatments.

Yesterday, I received a call from Robin (a nurse, not Robyn, the Physician’s Assistant who came with my surgeon). She wanted to discuss the order Dr. Weiss, the head Oncologist, put in for something called a “porta-cath.” I think that’s what it was called. It’s something they insert under the skin of the chest for long-term chemo treatments, and she said it made sense they ordered it if I’ll be getting such treatments for a minimum of at least four months. It makes administering the chemo drugs easier and less stressful on the body—she said it can be rough on the veins if doing it through an IV. I have to go in at 7:30 in the morning on the 15th of next month for a fasting lab (whee, no eating/drinking after midnight) and report to the AMU clinic for the porta-cath to be inserted. According to Nurse Robin, they’ll sedate me for the procedure, so I’m going to take Mom with me so she can handle the cab. Also according to Nurse Robin, the sedation will wear off after a few hours and I’ll definitely feel like they’ve done something, but it shouldn’t be too painful. We’ll see about that.

If I find out they’re not doing the chemo long-term, I’m to call and tell Robin, and they’ll arrange to do something slightly different. Something about having a tube hanging out my body, and dressings which need to be changed, with a lot of care required. This enthuses me no end, I assure you, so I’m kind of hoping to do the porta-cath instead.

Robin was most displeased I recalled nothing of this being discussed during my last visit with the Oncologists. I could have heard something about it, and it may not have stuck, but she said it was up to them to make things clear, and she was upset I hadn’t received the printouts they promised. So, I’m kind of hoping my visit with them on the 7th turns out to be nothing more than me getting those printouts and hearing again what they’ll be doing, and maybe getting a firm answer on just how long and how frequently I’ll have to be in for chemo.

Today I got the letter the genetic counselor, whose name is spelled “Anne,” sent me. I’m glad she didn’t take her time about it. I have the distinct impression she got back to her office last Friday, prepared all this, and had it in the mail by the time she left the office for the day.

Some interesting facts from the letter she sent me (I haven’t read the printout from a cancer center’s website she gave me yet. Can’t bear to look at that bit yet).

-Most cases of breast cancer are sporadic (not due to inherited factors).
-Approximately 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
-A combination of factors can contribute to development of breast cancer (including smoking, unhealthy living).
-Simply getting older can cause breast cancer—most women who develop it are over 50.
-Approximately 5-10% of breast cancer cases are thought to be caused by inherited predispositions.
-Changes in BRCA1 and BRCA2 can also lead to an increased risk of other cancers, including ovarian cancer.
-In some families, a specific genetic change can’t be identified, but many members do develop cancer (more than expected by chance). In such cases, it’s considered familial, though they can’t identify the specific cause.

Once again, she iterates I should get the genetic test because of my complete lack of knowledge of health history of my father’s side of the family and my young age (39-40) at developing it. She’s going to call me before the 7th to make sure I do want the test, then put the order in for the blood for it to be drawn at the same time I have it drawn prior to my visit to the Oncologists on that day.

On Brotherhood

Brotherhood is incomplete.

It is also too long, and bloated, and needs a word loss plan. I’ve been spending today reading a different project, set on a completely different world, so I would not start tearing apart what I have of Brotherhood to rework it. I’d far rather finish it and get at least one other person’s opinion on whether or not it’s bloated and needs to lose words. I know, as written, about the first quarter is good; it’s a pretty straightforward line for the characters, taking them from their homeland to the Capitol of the Empire. The ending quarter should be decent as well, as I have a clear idea of what needs to happen. It’s the middle two quarters which need the shrinkage.

There are a few problems with the middle. I seem to have written one event per scene in the middle portions. I think I can combine a lot of these one-offs. I also lose track—for thousands of words—of important subplots; for instance, Karé, an antagonist, makes few appearances throughout the two middle portions, and he needs to make more. I also think I need to bring Doéna’s realization of Karé’s “influence” in earlier. I need to make Doéna more active—not calling Karé in challenge, but doing more acting instead of simply reacting to what Karé says and does to him. I need to get Doéna into unarmed self-defense training much, much earlier, and have Karé take risks in his threats—and be more threatening. I may give Karé something of a party of allies in the Imperial Court to complicate things.

One of those complications, I think, needs to be Karé betraying the fact of Doéna’s true birth status. I think it needs to come in earlier, and I think it needs to color the way the Courtiers behave toward Doéna and his prince to some extent. I’ll give them allies who won’t care, but I think I need to add some conflict—or at least some difficulty—to their relations with at least some of the nobles in the Court.

As it is, Brotherhood looks like it’ll come out to about 120-150k words as is. I would like to cut this by at least 30k in the reworking of it. Ideally, I’d like to bring it down to around 100k. I think this is possible in a rewrite from the point where Doéna and his prince arrive at the Capitol.

I’d really rather not cut the beginning quarter out, because it gives what I think is necessary background (the process Doéna’s prince goes through in becoming the “responsible” person he acts like for most of the remainder of the book), and also think it’s necessary to illustrate the depth of the brotherhood between the two. I think without those two things set up in the beginning, Lorien’s behavior would be unbelievable to some extent, especially when things get very difficult for him and he begins to revert to immature behavior. I want readers to see the full spectrum of Lorien’s changes of character, from the day he receives word of his impending marriage to the end of the book. I also think I need to have the depth of Doéna’s brotherhood with his prince shown to make his very real concerns about Lorien’s likely reaction to certain things understandable.

I know the rewrite will alter the ending somewhat, so I’ll probably do an outline from the point where I cut the book through the ending. But that will come after I’ve finished the project and gotten a second opinion.

Genetic Counselor’s Advice

This entry is part 11 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Yesterday’s appointment with the Genetic Counselor went pretty well. She previously got what I knew of my family health history over the phone, and that ended up having a bearing on what she ultimately told me.

We had to meet in the Women’s Clinic of the VA Hospital because the genetic counselors don’t actually have offices anywhere in the hospital itself. Though genetic testing services have been offered for about three years to VA health care recipients, their home offices are actually elsewhere in the city. And, Salt Lake City, Utah, is the only place where the genetic counselors actually see the patients they’re assisting. Every other VA health care center in the us offers the genetic counseling, but only by phone.

Makes me happier than ever I ended up moving here instead of Denver, where I originally wanted to be.

I’m not sure how to spell the genetic counselor’s name. It’s either Ann or Anne. I’ll go with Ann for the post and correct myself if I learn differently later.

She took me back to one of the clinic’s exam rooms, and we sat down. We went over my family history again, and I was able to fill in a few more spots about my mother’s side of the family, but could only repeat that my father died of heart problems in his 40’s and smoked and drank. Ann explained that the total blank of history from my father’s side of the family inclined her to suggest I have the genetic test for the breast cancer gene done. She said, combined with my youth—most women get it in their later years—it made getting the test a good idea. It would give me either peace of mind, or enable me to determine a course of action I could take to prevent further occurrences of breast cancer.

In the course of our discussion, Ann told me the test could have three possible outcomes. Most likely would be, No, I don’t have the gene. Slightly less likely would be, Yes, I do have the gene. Third, and least likely of all—at five or less per cent—was I have a mutation on another gene which they’re not sure indicates breast cancer, but it’s cause for concern anyway.

To explain: The two breast cancer genes they know of are brca1 and brca2. There are specific places on these genes which sometimes mutate, providing the possibility for breast cancer and ovarian cancer. There are a few other genes, which she didn’t name, which may cause breast cancer, but they’re still uncertain, so while they do look at these genes in genetic tests for breast cancer, they can’t provide a definitive answer on whether or not a woman will get cancer.

As I said, Ann told me the most likely response would be No, I don’t have the gene, but she said the complete lack of health care knowledge about my father’s side of the family made it a very good idea to get the test.

I opted to take the test. My next appointment, with Oncology, is on the 7th of November, and before I see the Oncologists, I have to have blood drawn and an electrocardiogram done. Ann said she’d put the order for blood to be drawn for the genetic test to be drawn with the other order, and that I’m to expect the results in two to four weeks from the test.

I’m a little scared.

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