Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: April 2014

Bone Density Scan

This entry is part 34 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Today, I had an appointment for a bone density scan. It was made yesterday afternoon for 2:45 PM this afternoon; apparently, they had room to “squeeze” me in this afternoon for whatever reason. This was a VA appointment, and it was for a baseline reading of my bones in line with my cancer after care (the hormone suppressant therapy).

The radiology department is on the first floor (above the ground floor) of . . . I forget which building in the Salt Lake VA Hospital complex. It’s actually a series of interconnected buildings accessible either from the outside or, as I do, from the inside via sometimes extemely long corridors. The “section” of the hospital I had to access is right across from the elevators I usually take up to the first floor—or to AMU for my Oncology stuff. There are actually two entrances to the radiology department, one through a door into a waiting room, or around the “corner” off the main corridor through a double-wide doorway I’ve seen them use for hospital gurneys. I used the door.

They’re remodeling the desk area of the radiology department, so I had to go around a corner to find where they have at temporary setup and get directions on where to go—because that wasn’t, as I thought, my destination. So, down the hall from the double-wide doorway, around a corner, down another hall. At the check in desk, I received questionnaires and a pregnancy form to fill out in the nearby waiting room, which had a door and windows to a parking area.

I filled out the paperwork and waited for about . . . an hour and a half. Why? Because I’d gone early in hopes they’d be able to fit me in sooner. Even after eating lunch in the cafeteria, I still had that much time to wait. I read a book. When the DEXA tech came to get me, I was more than happy to go.

After changing into the sweatpants I brought with me, and putting on the hospital robe (as opposed to gown—it opened in the front and actually fit my plus-size body), I was escorted to the DEXA room. My weight and height were taken, then I was told to lay on a long foam-covered bed, and to ensure I lined the middle of my body up with the white line down the center of the black padding. Then I proceeded to, as instructed, lower my sweatpants to about mid-thigh; their bulkiness and the waistband can cause interference on the X-Ray.

At the foot of this bed was an X-Ray arm. Once I was stretched out on the bed with my fat restrained for the spine scan, the tech had her training-assistant move the X-Ray arm to about mid-abdomen after much verification of where my belly button was. Tech put my lower legs up on a foam wedge and covered my lower legs with another sheet. After ensuring I was comfortable, they set up the X-Ray arm and had it scan my spine from about the point of the sternum to the tailbone. This took several minutes.

Following that, they removed the wedge, turned my whole leg in (which made my hips feel just great—LOL) to get an X-Ray of a narrow portion of my hipbone between the ball joint and the end of my thigh bone, which, according to the tech, is prone to breaking if osteoporosis sets in. Osteoporosis being one of the big side effects of menopause, which my hormone suppressant therapy has thrown me into. For this scan, I was required to use part of the abdominal sheet to pull my incredible roll of fat off where it rested over my hips so they could get a clear picture. They did the scan, first the left, then the right, with a break in between—which I needed, ’cause my right hand started to cramp.

Lastly, Tech strapped my left forearm to a board after positioning my arm just-so; she explained this was the hardest part of the scan to get “right” on subsequent scans because there’s no way to ensure the hand is in the exact same position as it was the first time. They made this scan, then moved the X-Ray arm down my body and helped me sit up.

After we all were certain my head wasn’t going to spin off, I got to my feet and returned to the little half-bath to retrieve my clothes and dress once more. As I had no other appointments up at the VA today, I was free to go, and I was quite happy to do so. I think next time I’ll try to get an earlier appointment if possible.

Diversity In My Writing

Merolén, in my Touched By Kalia series, is black. Xedepria, in my Autocrat’s Rise trilogy, is of Asian descent. Auben sresaph, from Soul of Insurgence is essentially of Indian lineage. As I did with my decision to write LGBT main characters in my fantasy fiction, I made a conscious choice to write characters of other Races.

In all the human countries on Chraest, I’ve determined there are groups of humans who believe racial “purity” should be striven for, so they’ve segregated themselves. All the human races on Chaest have groups who espouse this opinion, and it can get somewhat intense. There are even factions who seek to keep a particular variety of red hair “pure” throughout their group. This is a holdover from their ancestors’ time as slaves to the native intelligence; some of those natives wanted slaves of all one “type” or “race” or “look” so selected and bred for those ideals. The free human descendants have simply self-selected to continue that effort.

And it influences things in the characters’ lives. Merolén is in a position of authority in his country—a land manager who oversees a number of farmer families who work his land, and he has difficulty with a white family who moved in just before winter; the head of that household already holds a low opinion of him. Xedepria had—and will continue—to fight against an upbringing which left her with a superior attitude with regards to other people, particularly those of mixed race, even in spite of the fact the woman she married is of mixed race; and the parents of her wife, Kalyine, fought against their parents in order to marry according to their own desires—this will later influence what happens between the women. I haven’t yet decided how Auben’s racial “purity” will affect his life, but I’m certain something will come up once I start focusing on his novels.

No, racial purity is not one of my personal beliefs. It is simply a method for me to increase the possibility of conflict for my stories. What is my personal belief is that we need more diversity in speculative fiction. More gay and trans characters. More characters of races other than caucasian.

A writer doesn’t need to be any particular race to write that race. Even if I were writing urban fantasy or near-future science fiction, I could still write characters of other races. And I would strive to. It’s necessary. Completely necessary.

It was an easy decision for me to make. Just as easy as it was for me to decide to write mostly LGBT main characters.

Hormone Suppressant Therapy

This entry is part 33 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

On the 18th of this month, I began the last (and longest) phase of breast cancer treatment: hormone suppressant therapy.

This required a visit to the VA Hosp to see my head oncologist, Dr. Colonna. They actually called me just as I was heading out the door to go, and I answered the phone to a request I come to my appointment early. This I was more than happy to do of course, and I had a relatively short waiting time when I was finally shown to a room.

Now, the rooms where I’ve been seeing my VA Oncologists are standard hospital rooms. They have a bed (usually raised for some reason), a computer stand on wheels, and a short exam bed. I think they use the rooms for sleep tests of some sort, ’cause there are signs posted on the walls about having to be out by a certain time in the mornings.

First I saw a resident working with Dr. Colonna, and she and I went over my cancer care up to this point and possible hormone suppressant therapies I may consider. I’ve forgotten her name. She departed, then returned with Dr. Colonna and Nyna, one of the oncology nurses.

Dr. Colonna reviewed everything with me again, then gave me a more detailed explanation of the possible hormone suppressant therapies I could use. There were really only two: the standard Tamoxifen and a combination therapy using a pill with an injection. Considering the possible side effects of Tamoxifen—one I disliked a great deal was the risk of blood clots—I opted for the other program, which was the one Dr. Colonna really preferred to use with me.

We also chatted about the possibility of me having a partial hysterectomy because I have PCOS. Dr. Colonna promised to arrange an appointment with the women’s clinic’s surgeon to discuss the possibility.

After our discussion, she gave me a brief breast exam, and we discussed my upcoming (in Aug) mammogram. She said, considering the density of my breast tissue, she thought it might help to do an MRI of my breasts regularly and promised to consider it. That ended our visit, and Nyna took over.

I like the Oncology department. They’ve given me easy to read printouts of all the information regarding the drugs they’ve given me since the beginning. I wish the other departments did this. At first, Nyna gave me the Tamoxifen paperwork, saying this was what Oncology’s pharmacist had seen was prescribed for me, but that was corrected later.

My hormone suppressant therapy regimen:

1. Anastrozole – this is the pill. I get 1MG of it once a day, and I take it with my night meds.

2. Leuprolide injection – this must be administered by nurse every three or six months; I chose the three-month option because it’s easier for me to remember to make appointments every three months because I can do it on my way out of Oncology. It’s also a little involved. Half of it is powder, which is the medication, and the rest is a suspension system of gel. They must be mixed prior to administration, and my first dose was injected in my abdomen (near my belly button) well below the skin (I have a lot of fat there). The gel dissolves slowly as a time-release function for the medication.

After receiving the paperwork, I went down to pick up my medications. Getting the leuprolide injection took a little time because it hadn’t been entered into the computer for the pharmacist to discuss with me. Once that was done, I went to wait on my meds, then took the injection back upstairs. After a twenty or so minute wait (for the gel to get room temperature from being chilled) I had the injection. The nurse said it was supposed to sting as the needle came out, but mine didn’t start stinging until after I’d fastened my jeans shut. Even now, after the weekend, the spot still stings, but it’s not constant. Most of the time, I feel nothing, in fact, and the stinging has gotten weaker as the days pass.

Then, appointment for my next injection made, I was free to go!

Entertaining Myself

When I write, all I’m doing is entertaining myself. True, sometimes my writing is a method I use to recover from stress, or I pick something to write based on the challenge it represents. However, if what I’m working on at the time, no matter the other reasons why I’m working on it, is not fun, it eventually does the opposite.

I experienced this with the gay romances. I lost the fun of them. And, yes, they were actually quite fun and enjoyable to write when I first started writing on them. It was also a challenge to come up with various situations, do the research, and use them to advance my writing skills and break some poor writing habits (like way too much use of “that,” or all my characters nodding at everything—which, when I come across now, makes me laugh).

Part of keeping myself in the I’m Totally Entertained mode with my writing is taking time away to read others’ writing. It refreshes my mind and gives me fodder for my own ideas. Occasionally, I’ll pop a movie in my DVD player and watch it while crocheting for a break. I used to set up my laptop on my craft table a couple-few times a year to watch movies while figuring out stories—sometimes chatter helps better than music does, but it’s got to be something I’ve seen many times before, to the point of having memorized lines. This year, I’ve been taking my laptop to the coffee shop on the corner across the street from where I live; simple half a block walk, a nice specialty beverage or cup of flavored coffee, and I can spend hours there working on my writing.

This is all to keep writing entertaining. When I’m not entertained, I don’t enjoy my writing, and it depresses and stresses me out. And I do this for one main reason, a reason I’ve had since first putting pen to paper in 1988 when I wrote awful piecemeal Star Trek: The Next Generation “novel” pastiches. Because I was entertained by my admittedly awful fanfiction.

Writing should entertain the author of it.

Why do I believe this? Simple. If it does not in some way entertain its author, how can that writer expect it to entertain anybody else? Granted, it will capture a few readers, but not nearly enough for true success. It may even become a bestseller. However, I have to ask myself before I write: Do I want this to be a bestseller because I followed a trend, or do I want to put sincere effort into entertaining people, even if the only “people” are myself and perhaps a beta reader or two? Believe me, I’ve written some stuff—mostly in my pre- and early-FM days, which, after getting critiques on it—I never attempted to fix. It simply wasn’t worth the effort. The people may have been entertained, but I don’t see how, looking back on some of the work I have from those early-FM years, because it was so laughably awful. Worse than the worst fanfic I’ve ever come across, and I’ve come across some pretty bad fanfic. My early original stories . . . no words to describe them. Just so awful the people who took the time and made the valiant effort to critique probably either wanted to wallbang it or laughed so hard at my storytelling mistakes—beyond mere Mary Sue characters, believe me—they could barely read at some points.

That bad.

I wrote that stuff with a GOAL, though, and it was to Become A Published Writer. So I wrote what I thought people would want to read. It wasn’t until I backed down from that stance when my writing truly began to improve. When I recaptured the ability of writing to entertain myself. I’d lost it as tome point between graduating school and finding FM.

Writing with a GOAL prevented me from learning. My skill stagnated, all my stories sucked. I was writing to others’ expectations, and writing had lost its charm for me. It didn’t take me long to realize the reason why I didn’t want to rework my first few posted stories on FM was because they were not in any way fun to think about, never mind contemplate reworking to make them better. So I moved on to other projects, went to workshops at conventions I attended to learn more, and studied my favorite books to the point of memorizing passages in order to improve my writing. It was all challenging, and fun, and it entertained me.

This is not to say I did not have goals for my writing. I’ve always had goals. They’re just small. First with the gay romances, I learned how to write without using “that” so frequently—I mean it, it was everywhere, when there are quite acceptable alternatives, the main one of which I use is to leave it out altogether, which, for the right sentences, works perfectly fine. I’m still in the process of learning to include description in my exposition. I’ve learned how to tag dialogue without using saidisms every single time—that was as bad as my nodding characters; if their heads weren’t in danger of falling off, they were overdramatic in how they spoke.

But I don’t have GOALS any more. No really BIG things which I obsess over and work to see happen. Yes, I want to publish, even now. Publishing, however, is not the GOAL it was before. That’s another thing the gay romances taught me: I’m not required to publish anything. I can be as happy hoarding my stories as I imagine I’ll be publishing them. Publishing, in essence, has become another of my little goals and is no longer the monumental step it was before.

Why?

Because the idea of publishing my stories is, like writing them, entertaining to me, and, ultimately, this is how I want all of my writing to be for me. It’s like forcing myself to read a book whose characters I don’t care about.

Why do it if I’m not entertained?

Decisions, Decisions . . . About My Knees

Way back on 5 December of last year, I described a little adventure I had in my in-progress quest to have the disability of my knees adjusted by the VA. Well, I found in today’s mail their decision.

Government processes take a lot of time. This is not a complaint; it’s a fact. I began this process back in June of last year according to the paperwork, sent in a bunch of forms and paperwork prior to the 5 Dec appointment, and basically leapt through whatever hoops the Veterans’ Administration wanted me to.

My previous disability rating with them was 0%. This was what enabled me to get a little bit of additional money for my income as well as medical care up at the local VA Hospital. All well and good . . . except my knees had gotten worse over the years since my initial evaluation. I have more pain, they’re stiff in the mornings before I get out of bed and move around, and it’s getting more difficult to get up and down stairs. So, with the aid of one of the VA’s personnel assigned to assist those of us with such issues as I have, I began the process to have my disability rating with the VA adjusted.

For this, I was required to send in various pieces of evidence. Bob Banz, the VA employee who helps with such things, assisted me with writing such things as my initial letter of request for reevaluation and getting paperwork I needed sent in. Some of these were forms I had to fill out, some were forms others had to fill out, and, in addition to my initial letter, another written statement from me as well as the physical examination detailed in the post linked above, as well as my treatment records.

With my reception of the paperwork regarding the decision on my disability, I now have a 10% disability rating for each knee. Their diagnosis is patella tendonitis of both knees.

I also applied to have my mental illness connected, but they did not receive enough information about it, so determined it was not connected to my military service. That’s entirely my fault. Instead of being honest and admitting what was going on with me while I was at my A School, I saw a civilian therapist on the sly . . . and never kept his name for my records. I thought I might be able to find some way around this issue, but cancer treatments got in the way, then I lost what little information I had before I could send it in. So, my fault. At this point, I don’t feel like forcing the issue; I’m pleased with my 10% on each knee decision.

Writing “Soundtracks”

A fair number of the writers I know from Forward Motion for Writers create and use music to help them focus on their stories. One I’m close to (as close as one can get over the net) uses Techno blasted at incredibly loud levels to unhook her mind enough to be able to write. Another creates playlists whose songs either match the “epic” feel of what she’s writing, or specific character emotions and the plot.

Occasionally, I’ll use one song to help me focus on a story or project. For instance, recently, I’ve been listening to “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane to help me write scenes in Degrees of Subtlety. Don’t know why this song is working for me, but it works a lot better than the rest of the playlist it’s from at present, and has been for the past week or so. It doesn’t have any tie to a particular plot point or scene, though it does reflect Arrowroot’s feelings, particularly once he’s separated from Sweetbriar; it seems to be a song which describes regrets and a longing for an earlier time, and though he’s firm on his “need” to be away from Sweetbriar, Arrowroot does nurse these emotions.

On the other hand, when I get ready to read through anything in the Discordant Harmonies series or to do anything related to it, in fact, I’ll put on the full playlist. Recently, I’ve been opening this list and manually selecting the first song to play, which has typically been “Stairway To Heaven” by Led Zeppelin. The only relation to anything in this story the song has is the fact Géta’s father, who is on his deathbed, tithes Géta to the Temple. That’s all. However, the mood of the song is what induces me to play this one first, because so much of Géta’s life as Asthané’s musician rides on the fact he has no choice in his status. Yes, he could have chosen not to accompany Asthané—but at the cost of something he loves dearly, something which gives him peace, comfort, and happiness and which he has always dreamed of pursuing. Another song from this playlist, which I listen to before going to sleep at night, is “Follow You Follow Me” by Genesis. This epitomizes in a lot of ways the way Géta comes to feel for Asthané, particularly in the later books I have planned for this set of books. I don’t listen to “Stairway To Heaven” primarily because the volume of the song fluctuates too much for me to find a comfortable listening level where I can hear all the lyrics without half of them blasting my ears out—something I definitely don’t need when I’m trying to relax before falling asleep.

I typically acquire my story/series specific playlists by turning on my Daily playlist (the one without Christmas music), and announcing to myself I’m listening for songs which seem to fit a specific story. I did this to find the songs which seemed to fit DoS a few weeks ago, when I returned to working on it. The playlist I had at the time for it consisted of fewer than ten songs (I think only about half a dozen, in fact) and some didn’t really fit as I now saw the story. I removed those songs from the list, put on my Daily list, and listened to the randomized music until I finally had a playlist of over ten songs for the story.

I have, once, gone through my Daily playlist with a deliberate intent to hunt out the songs which I thought might best fit a story. I did this for Unwritten Letters. And I found plenty of songs which fit the story. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best solution to finding a playlist. I detested the playlist for the first week I listened to it, but my creative mind refused to work on UL unless I was listening to it, so I couldn’t avoid it. This was not a pleasant experience, though it did not turn me off the story or the music. I did eventually come to like the playlist, but I don’t intend to ever go through my Daily list on a deliberate hunt for songs; I’m much more comfortable with the playlists I develop with my standard “notify subconscious of search” and random play method.

For an example of the reasons why certain songs “click” with a specific story/idea, I’ll provide one playlist and the reasons behind why the songs worked for the story I wrote while they played. (Spoiler Warning)

Story: Brotherhood A: Stirrings

Playlist:

1. “Baby Come Back” by Player – Doéna develops a romantic relationship with another character, and it ends badly; this song describes how they both feel about their separation afterward.

2. “Ballare” by Cirque Du Soleil – Essentially represents how Doéna’s romantic interest feels about him.

3. “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee – Pretty much every prominent relationship in the story.

4. “Hope Has A Place” by Enya – Why Doéna doesn’t give up on anything until absolutely forced to.

5. “Hopelessly Devoted To You” as performed by Olivia Newton-John – Doéna’s conflicting feelings for his prince and his romantic interest.

6. “I Melt With You” by Modern English – How Doéna feels about his romantic interest.

7. “I Want Your Love” by Chic – The reaction Doéna’s love interest has to Doéna’s unswerving loyalty to his prince.

8. “Joanna” by Kool & the Gang – It’s an ode, and if nothing else, Doéna’s love interest is sappy over him unless they are disagreeing on his loyalty to Lorien.

9. “Lost In Love” by Air Supply – Doéna and his love interest . . . when they aren’t disagreeing over Doéna’s loyalty to his prince.

10. “Misery” by Maroon 5 – Lorien’s relationship with Necée; how Doéna feels about his separation from his love interest and, at the beginning, about his unwelcome feelings for his prince.

11. “Missing You” John Waite – How Doéna feels after he and his love interest break up.

12. “Moondance” by Van Morrison – Mood, something which hit the heart of the relationship between Doéna and his love interest—the simplicity their relationship could have had if they hadn’t been at odds over Doéna’s loyalty to Lorien.

13. “One Of These Nights” by Eagles – Doéna’s hopes for all the conflict in his life to settle favorably for himself.

14. “River” by Sarah McLachlan – Doéna’s despair when everything goes badly.

15. “So She Dances” by Josh Groban – How Doéna’s love interest feels about him.

16. “Somebody’s Baby” by Jackson Browne – More of how Doéna’s love interest feels about him.

17. “Still Loving You” by Scorpions – The lingering feelings Doéna and his love interest have for each other after the fallout which separates them.

18. “Suddenly” by Billy Ocean – Apt characterization of the way the relationship between Doéna and his love interest begins.

19. “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin – How Doéna feels about, at first, his prince, then, later, his love interest.

20. “Tender Is The Night” by Jackson Browne – Mood, pretty much fits how Doéna feels about Lorien at first and his love interest later.

21. “Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina & the Waves – Doéna’s moments of joy, when things are going well between himself and Lorien or himself and his love interest.

22. “When It’s Love” by Van Halen – Mood, Doéna’s sappiness over, at first his prince, then, later, his love interest.

Now, if you’re still with me (LOL), I’ll add a bit more.

The more songs I can fit to a particular story, the better my focus on the story. It sometimes bothers me I have so many relationship-oriented songs in my story playlists (this is typical of all of them thus far), but I find I’m better able to concentrate with longer lists, so I try not to fight my discomfort too much. Usually, I find when I start a playlist and get into a scene, the act of writing enables me to focus past any discomfort I may be feeling, which is part of why UL’s playlist worked so well despite me detesting it for the first week or so after creating it.

Sometimes I can listen to my Daily playlist, but that’s rare. The utter randomness of the songs which can go from Enya to Ozzy Osbourne to Danny Elfman breaks into my concentration too much. I’m also for the most part mainstream in my music selection. This is not because I’m afraid of stretching my music tastes, but purely because what little time I spend hunting out “fresh” music to add to my Daily playlist is still, even after years, focused on finding music I’m already familiar with in some way. I’m always happy to find new songs I like to add to my music collection; I simply haven’t found the time or attention necessary for finding them unless I’m passively listening to the radio in a friend’s car or while I’m showering (both methods being the ways I discovered any of the more “recent” songs on my example playlist or mentioned in this post).

Regarding This Blog

This site is a major social endeavor for me. Much of my real life, and even my online life, is quite limited socially. My online activity fluctuates according to my bipolar mood; sometimes I’m very active and all over the net, other times I’m barely on it at all; most of the time, I fluctuate between these two extremes. However, despite the stress keeping up with this site puts on me, I do have fun with it, and I want to keep up with it.

So, I’m going to be switching to posting other things besides cancer stuff, probably starting next week. Not sure what I’ll be doing, but it’ll likely be real-life related for the most part. I’ll still give cancer updates as things happen, but because I’m done the most intensive parts of treatment, I don’t expect to have much to say with such regularity regarding it. So expect a variety of more generic posts about various aspects of my real life.

Since I’ve determined I can keep up with two posts a week fairly well, I’ve decided on a tentative posting schedule. I’ve had it in mind for several weeks now, based on what my habits already are. It’ll never be anything besides tentative, but I figure I’ll do a real-life post on Tuesdays and a writing-related post on Fridays. This is mainly to give readers an idea when to swing around if they’re not getting the posts in email.

There are probably going to be occasional unannounced hiatus periods on the blog. I will do my best not to be “away” from the site for more than two consecutive posts. If I think I won’t be posting for a longer period, I’ll be sure to announce it. Now that I don’t have a driving need to post something (because the major cancer stuff is over), I know I’ll likely have more frequent periods like I did the week of March 16th this year, where, for whatever reason, I won’t post anything. That was because of burnout, and I’ve found it’s generally wisest for me not to force things when I’m burnt out or I end up hating everything to do what I’m forcing and giving up completely.

Mages’ Names In Hatuni Stories

I’m going to tag this under “Why Do I Do Things Like This To Myself?” Really. Because that’s the question I’m asking myself right now. It’s the question I’ve been asking myself since picking up Degrees of Subtlety again.

I could have changed my mind, but, no, I blithely went along, thinking, “It’s only one series of stories. It won’t get that difficult, and, besides, I have a whole list of names for Wizards!”

I was not taking into consideration my subconscious mind’s propensity for slamming me with new and varied characters, stories, and worldbuilding facts.

My . . . . uncertainty? Fear? Stark raving lunacy? Whatever it was, it began when I picked up DoS and restarted it. I did this without first seeking out the writing log for the original version. All I had was the original version of the story, and I thought, in my innocence, I wouldn’t have any problems simply lifting names for the various characters who were to appear from this.

I’d forgotten one extremely important fact about the original version of DoS. This fact? It was incomplete. One lesser, but equally important fact, was that I hadn’t given all the Wizards whom I expected to play roles names yet. So I blithely restarted the WIP, thinking I was all set with just the incomplete original story.

About the time I got to the third scene, which is the first from Sweetbriar’s POV, I realized my mistake. At this time, I made a frantic search, certain I recalled a vast list of names, including some already attached to various characters in the original version, on the back of the logsheet. I looked everywhere. Could not find it. Continued writing, ’cause the story had gripped me. Finally found the logsheet in a spot I hadn’t looked—a nesting stack of sorting trays—they nest or “spoon” together if you don’t stack them properly, which makes them nice for moving. Anyway, I found the logsheet, flipped it over, and . . . found a piddly list of names in the upper-left-hand corner. Maybe half a dozen or so. Certainly not enough to supply the number of characters who I could now successfully envision populating the microcosm of the Government-Funded Wizards’ School in Revustere.

I thought, “Okay, so it’s not here, but I clearly remember making a larger list than this.” So duly searched again a couple weeks later, during an energetic day in the middle of radiation treatments. No luck. Finished the search with a much-neatened desk and a serious case of the confoundeds, because I could not imagine where I’d put that page with the list of names. It had been at least a year and nine months since I’d last tried writing on the original version, and, at the time, though certainly inspired, my heart definitely hadn’t been in it, because what I had in it was definitely lacking in a lot of important ways.

I was not discouraged, though I had reached the point where I was beginning to wonder why I did this stuff to myself. I can be clever with my writing, and make sensible decisions regarding plot. Consistently coming up with names like Razorthorn, Arrowroot, Shadowshale, and Yellowcliff, however? Not quite so easy. I distinctly recall having asked for assistance with this naming convention before, with the original story, because I was enamored enough of it I hadn’t been able to convince myself to go without it, and of course I felt that way now. There are some things my subconscious, especially with regards to worldbuilding, will not give up on, and this was one such aspect, and I knew, though it seemed small, inconsequential, and thus something I should easily be able to change, my subconscious had an excellent plot- or worldbuilding-related reason for clinging to this naming convention.

So, there is a reason why I do these things to myself. I just don’t know the reason at first.

Having requested help previously, back in 2012, when I first conceived of this story, I knew it wouldn’t be an issue to ask it again. So I did. And this time received, like a shaft of light through clouds, something which could consistently help me. A link to a site which generates many things, from character names to, well, I can’t recall off the top of my head, but was certain to be a boon. I went there, ordered up some wild elf names, and . . . mixed and matched the components to create names which were at least halfway decent and sounded like the kinds of names male mages would pick for themselves, though none were as ominous as Razorthorn happened to be (and which I considered one of my more clever names in DoS; second would be the names of the twins Shadowshale and Nightstone—because I wanted names with similar components).

In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m not much good with creating names for characters if they need to have specific components which have nothing to do with an alphabet I created. I do a little better on straight made-up names using the English alphabet, even if I don’t create a specific alphabet for them. The names of all my mundane characters on Hatu Napor are such names, and they come from me combining some words, mangling others, collecting obscure and/or foreign names from real-earth name lists and altering them enough to be fantasy names, and pulling them out of the air at need. With this type of naming, I’ve had years of practice, and I do even better if I have a firm alphabetical system to fit them into.

But names like Razorthorn, Yellowcliff, and Arrowroot? My mind freezes. And, worse, I decided the fairies had nature-oriented names.

This is why I ask myself now, “Why do I do these things to myself?”

But I can’t let these nature-oriented names go, because I now know the reason why Wizards take them. It is, for the Wizards, one of the very few things they have left of the Old Ways of fairy-gifted magic. And the fairies have nature-oriented names because they always have. When they were first created, the ones who created them – mortals with the gift of manipulating nature itself, who adopted nature-oriented names as part of a rite of passage into their full power – gave fairies nature-oriented names. So, even after fairies could reproduce on their own, they adopted on their own or were bestowed by other fairies nature-oriented names.

So, I’m stuck with this naming convention, but at the same time absolutely love it – because of the worldbuilding behind it. And the worldbuilding, my friends, makes all this struggle worthwhile.

Radiation Side Effects

This entry is part 32 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Radiation treatment isn’t a free ride. It also has some side effects.

Fatigue was a big one for me. I usually spend about 12-15 hours a day awake. Yes, I sleep up to 12 hours daily; it’s just the way my bipolar works. Sometimes I can get by for a few days on anywhere between 6-9 hours, but most of the time, I go to bed and spend an hour or three wide awake before finally dropping off to sleep. Depends, as I said, on my bipolar.

With the radiation, I was getting up at ten in the morning; leaving for my two-in-the-afternoon appointment at around noon because I’m on public transit; getting home anywhere from three thirty to five depending on how long treatment (including waiting, if they were behind) took and if I needed to see my radiation oncologist, followed by the trip home; and going to bed between six and seven thirty at night. I typically got to sleep before eight, I was so weary from the combined radiation fatigue and weekday-daily trips up to the cancer hospital. I do not want to contemplate what kind of condition I’d have been in if I’d had to work as well.

With breast cancer, and I imagine pretty much every other type, they’ll tell you to get lotion and offer a list of those which work best. I didn’t get any of these lotions the first week of treatment. I have since concluded I should have stopped at the store the day of my radiation sim and picked up one of the suggested lotions. Neither did I, once I had the lotion, perform the care necessary for preventing radiation burns with it. I developed these burns beginning the third week of treatment.

They aren’t pleasant. They aren’t fun. So, when told to get lotion, I strongly encourage anyone reading this to get the lotion and make sure you use it frequently and with abandon. My radiation burns developed first on the underside of my right breast, from which skin has been . . . um, I want to say peeling, but it’s not dry. It’s gross. More burns developed early last week under my arm, and those have been driving me batty. They itch, have the same gross peeling-skin as the under-breast burn, and are kept in a constant state of raw painfulness because it’s hard to live life with my arm constantly raised (LOL).

Luckily, I started tending to my areola and nipple before the skin on it got bad. Previously, it had a brown appearance, as though it had been deliberately left to tan in the sun. Now it’s pink again, and the skin coming off it is dry and flaky. It occasionally sends spikes of stinging pain through my breast because the nipple is oversensitive and no matter what I do, there’s some level of discomfort involved in its current condition. I don’t dare go without a bra, though; that would make it worse.

I’ve been putting Neosporin on the underbreast burn consistently, and that seems to be helping. Also on the underarm burn, which also seems to be improving. I now lotion the top and sides of my breast and alternate putting lotion and Neosporin on my areola and nipple.

In addition to these side effects, my breast became quite ruddy as a result of the treatment. This, and, according to my radiation oncologist, Dr. Poppe, some tenderness is quite common and to be expected.

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