Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: February 2014

TPOM3’s Final Confrontation

It’s always a great feeling when I solve a plot issue.

The one I’ve been working on for the past few months is the final confrontation between Géta and Enemy Mage in TPOM3. Pretty much since beginning TPOM, I’ve known I want Géta and his enemy to have a little private face-off all on their own. Unfortunately, until recently, I hadn’t seen a way to get that without taking the plot of the story into unbelievable events.

My original concept? Have Géta and Enemy Mage face each other under shields between their respective fighting forces. Not only was this unbelievable, it defied logistics. If Géta steps out of protection, he’ll be captured, no matter how powerful the shields protecting him are. If Enemy Mage dares enter the fortified area of the Temple post, Géta’s people wouldn’t hesitate to incarcerate him. So, that was a no-go.

Worst part of it? Without figuring out the final confrontation, I didn’t know the ending to the story—essentially, where on an emotional level Géta finished the story, and I needed that in order to help me decide when/where/how to begin ALON’s outline.

But!

I have figured out the final confrontation. I know now pretty much how things will go, so now I can finish the outline and complete TPOM. This pleases me a great deal. While I do have great faith in my ability to complete stories I start when I’m writing this kind of fiction, I was wondering how long it would take me to work through this problem, and I feel, if not for the help of Jennifer Amriss, I wouldn’t have come up with this brilliant solution at all.

I wasn’t able to do anything with my writing yesterday because I had an afternoon appointment for cancer stuff (which I’ll write about in the next two or three weeks) and had to go to bed early for more cancer stuff this morning, but today I’ll have plenty of time to get to work on TPOM3’s outline. Perhaps even write a scene or two. It’s so wonderful to see the ending!

Radiation Setup Appointment

This entry is part 28 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Last week, I went in for my radiation therapy setup appointment. This was a bit involved; after an initial meeting with my Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Poppe (pronounced poppy) and a young doctor (forget if he was a resident or actual doctor) who saw me for a few minutes prior to Poppe’s visit, the staff showed me to a dressing room. I of course received two breast exams.

As always, I requested a plus size gown. I’m so glad this place has them. Makes wearing the suckers much less troublesome and embarrassing (for other people; I don’t really care all that much who sees my breasts, and I’m usually required to wear them while my bottom half is still dressed in street clothes). Anyway, I took my happy little plus size gown into the changing room. This had three or four curtained-off changing areas, each with a bench and a mirror, and about five or six lockers. My boobs are good for something; after donning the robe open in front, I overlapped the edges and tucked the sucker up under my breasts to keep it closed while I stowed my removed clothing and satchel in locker #3.

Back in the corridor, I met the nurse who’d showed me to the dressing room and she led me to the prep chamber. Here, they had me lay on a PET scanner bed and uncovered my right breast, having me remove my arm from the hole. Then, Female Tech went over to prep a mixture which would harden to serve as a guide for my radiation visits. While she did this, Male Tech described the procedure. When FT came back, she had me sit up enough to put the plastic-bagged substance beneath where I lay and told me to rest with my arms up around my head and my head turned to face to the left with the explanation I was to remain in this position until the substance in the large square of blue plastic solidified to make a mold of me laying this way. After they had me organized so they could put me into the machine, they taped the edges of the molding stuff around my arms so I’d have some support. This does not mean they wrapped the corners and edges of the blue bag with the molding agent up over my arms, but that they ensured it would provide support so I wouldn’t grow weary and thus possibly interfere with my future radiation treatments. The molding agent was exothermic, and it grew almost unbearably hot while I lay on it, but even that wasn’t too hot; the room we were in was quite chilled due to efforts to keep the scanner from overheating.

Thus trussed, the techs then marked my skin with ink and stuck little metal stickers on me. These were all meant to guide their scanning and other procedures which I’ll describe a bit later. After applying these things, they scanned me, using the stickers as pointers to plan where to put the majority of the radiation, I guess. I couldn’t see anything as my head was still turned to face to the left. Scanning done, they pulled me out of the machine and paged Dr. Poppe.

When Dr. Poppe arrived shortly, he came with the young doctor who’d seen me earlier. Poppe checked over everything, then noticed my porta-cath was still in. This displeased him a great deal, because he dislikes them being in place during radiation, apparently because they cause some interference with correct dosage hitting the spot; see, my breasts are so large, the breast tissue goes right up to my collarbone, particularly with the right breast, which is about one or two sizes larger than the left. I asked Dr. Poppe if he wanted me to see if I could get the port removed prior to treatment, and he fervently agreed with that plan, discussed things with the techs some more, then departed.

Female Tech remained, announcing she would tattoo me next. I asked what this was for. Apparently, they use little dot-tattoos as guides for radiation treatment. After explaining the tattoos would only look like little moles or skin blemishes, she put one on each side under my arms and one in the center of my chest between my breasts. This involved very little. She inked my skin, then I felt a little pinprick she warned me I’d feel so the ink would enter my skin. I didn’t even bleed.

After, Male Tech came back and they removed the stickers and mold, which had solidified at last, and helped me sit up and cover myself. I returned to the changing room and dressed once more, then saw the head of the Radiation Research Study, Crelley, who had me sign a form to join, then made sure I had the okay to go before leaving.

Have talked to Crelley since, and she said I was randomized into the 3-week arm of the research study, where I’ll be getting a higher dose of radiation. This pleased me, especially since Dr. Poppe expressed concern I may not be able to get into the study at all due to consistency of breast tissue and breast size.

Writing Goals 2014

This is a bit belated, but I’ve only recently gotten myself organized enough to determine what I want to write this year. It isn’t a complicated writing goal, just a heavy one. The following are the writing projects I want to have done by 31 December 2014:

Discordant Harmonies Ennealogy

The Power of Music III: Measure of Resistance – Currently working on outline, adding one plot card per scene written.

A Life of Note I: Counterpoints – Write outline and book.

A Life of Note II: Antiphons – Get outline written.

Touched by Kalia Duology (At this point, it’s only a duology. Waiting to see how long that actually lasts.)

Book I: Unwritten Letters – Currently working on outline; trying to get two plot cards a day.

At least title book 2.

Sense of Balance Trilogy

Book I: Exemplar – Do research necessary on it and at least finish outline.

Autocrat’s Rise Trilogy

Back from the Dead – Keep up with this project’s Two-Year Novel course exercises and finish book before end of year, perhaps write at least part of it during Nano.

Right now, I’m in a severe writing downswing. Severity in the length of time it’s been around, not depth of down it is. I’m still actually able to work on various other aspects of my writing and have had a few odd days of writing and plot card progress, but not much. Those days are sporadic at best, so I’m not counting on them. I think it’s Real Life stress getting to me, which I probably shouldn’t be surprised about, considering. I’m actually surprised this hasn’t happened sooner. This downswing began on about 15 January this year, and it’s lasted over a month so far. It probably won’t go away for at least a few days yet (much as I hope otherwise).

Following Final Chemo

This entry is part 27 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I’m glad I had only four cycles of chemo. I had it relatively easy and I know it. My friend JA Marlow‘s mother has a very invasive and aggressive form of brain tumor. Early last year, Mother Hen, as JAM’s mother is called, had surgery to remove the original tumor and radiation. She’s been receiving chemo in pill doses at home. Unfortunately, the tumor has regrown, and it’s in an area which is affecting her much more than the original tumor did.

By comparison? My experience with breast cancer is nothing.

It has been my hope that putting my experiences up online would inform and assist other people with breast cancer, if not other forms. With that in mind, I’ll expound a bit upon my last post-chemo experience.

The fatigue was as profound on Wednesday as on most other previous days. I spent most of the day in bed, but was able to get up, eat, and putter around a little bit, though I was never up long enough for a cup of tea with water properly boiled in a kettle. I drank orange juice most of Weds and Thurs, as that was quick, easy, and tasty—so tasty, in fact, I drank my first two gallons before my three-week cycle period ended. It’s probably what helped me avoid getting sick about a week or so later, as I felt the beginnings of symptoms of an illness my mother recovered from just prior to her visit the week after chemo week, to drop off homemade burrito makings and an apple pie.

On the Friday of chemo week, I went in to see my new official (and hopefully permanent) Oncologist, Dr. Colonna (not sure that’s the correct spelling, but will correct it in later posts if it’s wrong once I’ve seen her again), who is specializing in breast cancer up at the VA. She’s the one who sat and talked to me and Mom all those months ago, answering the many questions my mother and I had about various things to do with my cancer diagnosis. She was pleased with my progress and sent me on my way with encouraging words.

The next week wasn’t as bad, PottyTime wise as previous cycles. I think it may be because I entered a heightened mixed-state phase (my bipolar is mixed-state, meaning I have symptoms and presentations of both mania and depression at the same time) and spent two nights out of that week awake because I couldn’t sleep. I don’t suggest this as a method of shortening the duration of the diarrhea, though that’s what it seemed to do for me. By the end of the week, my PottyTime phase was pretty much over as well, but I was not in any kind of condition worthy of being called “human.” I wasn’t a raving lunatic, or abusive, or temperamental. I was Jell-O. And this despite my two sleepless nights not following one right after the other. There were one or two nights where I actually slept between them.

I finally got fed up and shaved my head of all the straggling hair leftover from chemo-balding. Now I have stubble and fuzz. I did this with my women’s fancy wire-wrapped razor in the shower (the wire wrapping is important. Would not have done this without it) since I don’t have an electric shaver I could have used dry as I generally don’t shave my legs, and that’s what I’d use it for if I had one.

Chemo mouth was more severe. The cycle previous, it had spread to throughout my mouth, and this last cycle, it did the same, only drier. For the first time, this part of post-chemo treatment annoyed me. Could not eat anything spicy, as I learned one night when I made French toast (I put pepper in scrambled eggs, and in my Ft egg mixture with cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweetener, with a dash of salt and a few tablespoons of milk), because I think I exhaled flame after that meal. My mouth hurt for several minutes during and after eating that French toast. Hot temperatures were just as prominent, so drinking my tea while it was still very warm was out of the question; tepid was the hottest I could handle. Also, it felt as if my tongue had numerous cuts on the top, though I don’t think that was actually the case. I tell ya, between heat killing the top of my mouth and even the softest, blandest food torturing my tongue, I’m rather amazed I ate at all. LOL

Earlier this week, I went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for my radiation setup appointment; I’ll write about it sometime next week.

My Indie Publishing Career

It has long been my intent to go to college to gain skills for a good-paying job. Some few years ago (’09-’10 or thereabouts), I determined to go to community college for an Associate’s Degree in Accounting. That plan fell through one day because I couldn’t convince my mother, who’d driven me to the community college’s main campus to finish my applications process, to park where the parking lot attendant told her to. Upon hearing we couldn’t park in the cordoned-off area where students, staff, and faculty were permitted to park (provided they had the appropriate sticker or tag or whatever), Mom turned the car around the watch post with the declaration, “I’m not walking all that way to get to the building, and it’s too hot to sit in the car!”

Then again, Mom was never exactly supportive of my goal.

I let that setback beat me back down to the point of not bothering, and it was compounded a couple days later when I went to the financial aid site anyway to apply . . . and had an anxiety attack. Not a severe one, but I could not for the life of me get past the first few boxes I had to fill in with my name and other pertinent information required. It did not abate until I closed the site and went to read to get my mind off the stress of preparing for school, which I’d previously determined I’d find a way to get into no matter what it cost.

It remained in the back of my mind, though. Over the intervening years since my failed attempt, I researched careers, doing a better job this time, and finally settled on Medical Coding and Billing as the career I’d enter. I found the community college’s page with the listing of the class requirements on it and bookmarked it to revisit every so often to inure myself to the idea of going to school. I set a goal: I’d start school in Fall Semester of 2013.

Then I was diagnosed with cancer in August of last year, and all the appointments required for everything from examinations to surgeries to consults for chemo treatment took up that time I needed to apply, prepare, and attend classes. So I set back my college goal to Fall Semester of 2014. I would go to college in 2014, no matter what.

This entire time, I had the plan to Indie Publish my writing. I had that “all” set up in my mind. I’d finish a set number of books, then release them as soon as I had a paying job with my new Medical Coding and Billing skill. This thinking, I have to admit, was carried over from my old, abandoned, Trad Pub goal days. That goal was born in the Nineties. I’d have/get a full time job, write in my off-time, and send my finished product on the rounds of agents. And become Published.

I should say, these were the days when I was much more mentally stable without medications than I am now. I could have handled the Trad Publishing route then. My Bipolar, which I’m certain I presented to some extent in the Nineties (and probably even before, possibly as young as my teens), was not severe. I could sleep nights without assistance from even over-the-counter sleep aids. I was able to hold down a full-time job, and I appreciated all the “free” time my manufacturing positions gave my mind to play with story scenes and ideas, because I’d spend second shift working preplanning one or more scenes in my head, running them through over and over again until they were very nearly edited to perfection in my mind, then go home to spend the hours between midnight and three in the morning actually typing them out on Kitchen Imp, the computer Mom bought, which we put on a desk in the kitchen. A Trad Pub career for me at that time, if I’d been able to launch myself into it, may well have been successful. I was driven, and I was dedicated, and I intended to set the world on fire with my fantasy stories.

And I clung to that dream. Desperately. Get off of Government support. Get an education. Get a good-paying job. Then launch my publishing career. I had other goals wrapped up in this. Namely transitioning as far as possible and buying my own home. And those are still my goals. However, they’ve never been as powerful as my goal to become Published. And, even when I switched my goal to becoming Indie Published, the strength of my desire to be Published never flagged.

But I had an epiphany last week. At some point. I’m not sure what day any more. Probably at some point during the all-nighter I pulled in an attempt to reset my circadian rhythm. Such epiphanies as this generally hit me when I’m exhausted. Being overtired frees my mind, and I make progress on writing if I’m lucky, or have epiphanies about other things to do with my writing or, sometimes, as this one was, regarding my Real Life.

It occurred to me I could launch my Indie Publishing Career any time I want. I could launch it tomorrow, though I’d be woefully unprepared, and my books wouldn’t have covers, and half a hundred other things which need doing and need time to be done, not the least of which is completing radiation treatments. But I could launch my Indie Publishing Career tomorrow if I wanted.

It took several days for this flash of realization to really sink in, though, and I spent those days totally amazed at it, stunned, unable to believe the audacity of the thought. Any time I want. It, frankly, terrified me at first, this thought. As much as going to school terrified me. And I had to let that terror fade before I could even consider the option without freezing and experiencing a deeper anxiety than trying to fill out the financial aid form years ago gave me.

Once it faded sufficiently—a few days ago—I drew J.A. Marlow, the resident Indie Publishing Expert at Forward Motion for Writers into an Instant Messaging chat to discuss what I needed to do to begin the process of establishing my Indie Publishing Career from my current financial status. She had much good advice, and it got me thinking about things I need to start thinking about now if I’m going to make my Indie Publishing Career fly.

No, I’m not scrapping my college goals. They’re being set aside for the nonce, but not forgotten. First things I need to do are talk with Social Security about my SSDI and the VA about my Pension to determine what’s going to happen with my income. This is of prime importance. I need to know what to expect so I can plan for losing at least a part of this income once I start earning any money from sales of books, even if it’s only one or two sales a month. I can’t do this until after my radiation treatments are done, because it’s going to take at least half a day for five days a week anywhere from three to six and a half weeks to get this done—I won’t know until my contract to join the research study is signed and processed and the arm of the study I’m to go in has been randomly selected. Once I’m done radiation treatments, I’ll have the time I need to visit with representatives of Social Security and the VA to discuss this with them.

So, for the next several weeks, I’m going to create a list of questions to ask. I’m going to formulate a tentative Indie Publishing Career Plan, which I will set into motion before I’m certain of anything, because my goal to Indie Publish will remain no matter what, and no date is carved in stone at this point.

I will say this, however: My instinct is to scrap the school-and-paying-job goal and run with the Indie Publishing Career goal. I feel more strongly about this than about any other goal I’ve ever set or claimed to have. Even transitioning. Yes, I want to transition. I’d also very much like to buy my own place to live. But I don’t want either of those things with the same burning fire in the pit of my belly as I want my Indie Publishing Career. As terrifying (and, yes, I’m still deeply terrified of my Indie Publishing Career goal), as it is to think I may be able to get my Indie Publishing Career off the ground from where I’m at right now, it’s also exciting to think about. I feel more anticipation about this than about any other personal goal I’ve ever had. I want to go out and get it done right this minute and have felt this way, in some small way, from the moment I realized I could have my Indie Publishing Career any time I want.

It’s a big risk, an even greater challenge, but I feel better over this possibility than I’ve ever felt over my school-and-paying-job goal. That never excited me; I felt more dread over it, and trapped, and quailed at the thought of forcing myself to endure an uninspiring job. Starting my Indie Publishing Career absolutely thrills me, and the thought I could live my dream of sharing my words with people within two or three years instead of four or six fills me with such joy I don’t think I’ll ever forget the feeling.

But I’m not going to leap without looking, and I’m not going to do it without knowing what I can expect when I start publishing. I have plenty of time to research things and make a well-thought-out decision about this. It’s just that I feel far, far more certain about my Indie Publishing Career goal than I ever did about my school-and-a-paying-job goal.

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