Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: April 2015

Before the Surgery

This entry is part 41 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

I keep forgetting I had surgery for my breast cancer just a couple years ago in 2013 and thinking back to when I had my gall bladder out some few years more ago. The preliminary procedure was pretty much the same as those other two times this time around. I was much less anxious about getting around the hospital to the various places, primarily because I didn’t have to have any sort of heart testing done, so I didn’t have to hunt out the place where they do the EKG or whatever. Apparently, the test had been done recently enough that my doc didn’t feel it was necessary.

First, I saw Dr. Rose again. We discussed the surgery, and I asked a few questions. I’m not actually having a hysterectomy of any sort—that refers only to the removal of the uterus, from what I now understand, though I’ll probably continue calling it a partial hysterectomy. What I’m actually having done is the removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Dr. Rose gave these ectomies names particular to each of them, but—and I’m kicking myself now—I didn’t think to write them down. I’ll see if I can get the info from someone later on. I spent about half an hour or so with Dr. Rose, signed a permission form for the surgery to take place, and received an Advance Directive form to bring home and fill out. I’ll be taking that in tomorrow, to sign in front of the Women’s Clinic’s LCSW and another, non-medical witness.

After my visit with Dr. Rose, she sent me on my way to the lab to have blood drawn. It was around lunch time, so I expected it to be a little busy, but it wasn’t at all. I pulled a number, sat waiting for less than five minutes, and went in to have my blood taken. According to what the lab person who saw me said, Dr. Rose had ordered a CBC (Complete Blood Count), and she loaded two vials with my blood and sent me on my way.

Next stop was a chat with a nurse in the Same-Day Surgery ward. For this, I had about a 20-30 min wait, and I ended up going to the restroom while doing so, and came out to the announcement the nurse was ready to see me. When I got in, the Nurse went over a form with me—and discovered Dr. Rose hadn’t ordered a Chem test, which was apparently also required prior to surgery. I asked the nurse if I’d be kept overnight to be monitored, and that got us on a discussion about the likelihood of Mom staying with me. In the end, the nurse made a note that it might be a good idea to keep me overnight. That completed my interview with her, and I went back to the lab.

When I entered, the phlebotomist who’d drawn my blood before was at the computer checking people in, and she looked at me and said, “Weren’t you just here?” I joked that I liked the lab so much I had to stop by to give more blood then explained that the doctor had neglected to order Chem labs. Someone else drew blood this time, a lab guy who I’ve gotten familiar enough with that I didn’t bother asking if he’d use a butterfly needle like I usually do; if his hands weren’t so steady and he wasn’t so good at preventing the standard needle from moving in my arm, I’d demand a butterfly needle, but he’s very good, so I kept my mouth shut and let him get to work. As he bandaged me up, he asked if this was my last stop, and I said it was, so he wished me a good afternoon.

Having had two surgeries the past ten years has definitely helped me this time around. I’m not as nervous or scared as I was even for the lumpectomy back in 2013. LOL—I feel like I’m actually getting to know the staff in the Same-Day Surgery ward, too. LOL

Distracted

I’ve been taking it easy with my Camp Nano project, Masks this month. I set the wordcount goal to 25k and haven’t been freaking out if I don’t write on it for a few days. This, I think has been a good thing, because it’s allowed my creative mind to relax. If you look at my Camp Nano stats, you’ll see I’m at the end of a surplus of wordage, though, and part of the reason for that is because I’ve gotten distracted.

Over the past week or so, I’ve taken a tour of most of my incomplete fantasy works, mainly because I got hit with a desire to read them. As is sometimes the case when I make a tour of my wips, I had a desire to read only those which were incomplete. Over the duration of this tour, I came up with ideas for some of my wips, and I felt a vague desire to write on one or two of them, primarily Unwritten Letters.

So that’s what I’ve been doing the past few days. I had about 27 plot cards outlined ahead on UL, so I’ve been taking it slowly and doing a scene every two or three days. I intend to write on Masks tonight, but it’s been good to get a break from it. I’m thinking Maybe, if my mind still wants to play with UL when the next month of Camp Nano comes up, and I’m able to make progress on plot cards for it, I’ll write on UL for that month.

It’s felt good to get back into Merolén’s head. It’s a story that makes me glad I’ve started outlining my stories, even if I don’t do complete outlines for them all at first. Because of the outline, I’ve been able to bring romantic subplots into the story, and I don’t think I’d have been able to do so if I were writing it without the outline. Basically, what I’ve been doing with Merolén is my best to surround him with romances, because, from the first, I’ve seen Unwritten Letters as a kind of romance in absentia. The reader knows things that Merolén is unaware of, and that’s been fun too. I like giving the reader tidbits the MCs either had no knowledge of whatsoever, or have only partial or faulty knowledge of. It’s supposed to heighten the tension—and that’s another thing that the outline helps with.

As for Masks, part of the reason why I’m not writing as much on it is because I’ve left behind a major subplot that I can’t seem to resurrect. I want Eirni to to be a lot more resistant to working with Yavaniel, and it’s just not working out that way this time around. After this month’s Camp Nano, I think I’m going to go through and do some heavy editing, because if I try to continue with things as they are much longer, I’m not going to be able to make any progress on it at all. It should be easy to fix. I just need to read through the wip and pinpoint places where Eirni can be an ass, to put it bluntly. I’ve always seen Masks as mostly Eirni’s story than Yavaniel’s, primarily because Eirni has a lot of growing and changing to do over the course of the investigation. I’ve also been toying with the idea of including the pov of one or more of the conspirators, and I need to figure out how the ringleader is going to make the conspiracy an act of vengeance on someone who she believes ruined her happiness when that red herring has little to do with what they’re actually doing. I may have to change things a great deal. It’s going to take some thought, and I’ll probably have to cut the story back to the point I cut it before in order to make all these plot points work like I want them to.

I don’t really mind all this work on Masks. It’s a totally new genre/subgenre for me. Fantasy, yes, but also a mystery, and I’m enjoying all the work on it. This is part of the reason why I’ve always wanted to write a mystery story. It’s been fun, and that, to me, is what counts most. It’s always been my view that if I don’t have fun writing these stories, my readers won’t have fun reading them.

My Mom + Bryce’s Dog

I spent about two and a half hours on the phone this afternoon on phone calls to my mom and to a friend I met via Bryce. Anita and I have been keeping in contact since his death, and hang out together every so often, and today she brought up the subject of Bryce’s dog Candy. Bryce’s mom has been looking for someone to take Candy in. One prospect got another dog for herself before Bryce’s mom could suggest she take Candy, and another prospect is someone she has no connection with whatsoever; the friend of a groomer she knows, and she feels uncomfortable passing Bryce’s beloved pet off to someone she has no knowledge of.

Mom’s much-beloved dog Poopie died in November of last year. While she’s growing accustomed to being alone, Mom dislikes it. She’s always had someone to care for, whether it be her children or her pets, and I know she’s been missing the companionship of having a dog. Mom’s considered getting a cat, but she’s very much a dog person these days, and I know she’d be happiest with a dog. Though she’s looked online at shelter dogs, the fees charged for adopting a pet have turned her off—she’s not desperate for a dog, but she has been considering adopting one.

When Anita brought up to me the fact Bryce’s mother was looking for a good home for his dog, I tentatively suggested my mom might be a good candidate. I was a good friend of Bryce’s, his mother can get my mother’s pet-care history from me, and she wants to have a way of hearing how Candy’s doing, which I’ll be more than happy to provide.

As things stand, they’re still up in the air. Last I heard from Anita today was that Bryce’s mom would talk to her husband about passing Candy on to Mom. Anita’s fairly certain things will go through. Mom, though willing to take Candy in, isn’t counting her eggs; she’s given it to God and told me that if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen, and she’ll accept whatever decision Bryce’s mom makes.

Overall, it’s been an enjoyable afternoon. I think Mom’s readier for another dog than she believes she is, and I think Bryce’s mom is ready to let her go. I do know that Mom told me she couldn’t bear the thought of Bryce’s beloved pet being given to a shelter again (he adopted Candy from one), and I’m fairly certain Bryce’s mom will appreciate knowing Candy’s gone to someone who adores dogs. It’s fitting, I think, that if Bryce’s mom decides to give Candy to Mom, they’ll be going to each other, and I hope this is the outcome. They both deserve to love and be loved.

Masks and Music

I’ve said before in previous posts that I typically work up a pretty extensive playlist for my stories. Usually, I’ll find these just listening to my computer randomly play songs. Once, I went through the entire list of music on my computer and created a list—for Unwritten Letters, if I remember right—by picking the songs deliberately, andI at first hated the list, but was driven to listen to it in order to make progress, which was a weird experience.

Masks has proven very, very different, though. I’ve been able to find only two songs which work for it when I want the boost music gives me for writing. I had them listed on my Nano page last November. One, which I don’t listen to much, to be honest, when working on Masks is “Time Space” by Chang Jing; I don’t know why it works, but if the other song just isn’t working or I can’t stand to listen to it, “Time Space” does the job—it’s an adequate patch.

The song I listen to most for writing on this project is “Heavy In Your Arms” by Florence + the Machine. This song has a mood and a feeling that just resonates with me and the story in such a way that I find myself able to do my little hyperfocus thing and get things done on Masks. Sometimes it’s a little difficult to work past the “I can sing along to this song!” enthusiasm I occasionally have when I first turn this song on, but once I do, I’m able to come up with plot cards and write to it. I’ll even take myself to my bedroom and really focus on the Masks by having “Heavy In Your Arms” playing on my mp3 player while I lay with my eyes closed.

That’s what’s odd about this story. I can’t seem to find any other songs to make this story go. It’s either one or the other, and I much prefer “Heavy In Your Arms,” to the point where if I can’t stand to listen to it, I don’t work on Masks at all.

I suspect I’ll have a similar issue with other books in the JID series. I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a different song to push me along in each book, though, instead of being stuck listening to “Heavy In Your Arms” for them all. That would soooo suck.

And I thought it sucked being stuck with the same list of songs I have for the Discordant Harmonies series. At least that’s a variety!

The Flute

I mentioned my flute before, in my post On Being an Aspiring Writer. I’ve actually had the instrument for several years now, since at least 2009. I got it, the music lesson books I own, a music stand—just had to have the music stand!—and a special fancy flute case after saving up for it all. At the time, I was determined to become a great flutist in addition to a great writer.

Yeah, that didn’t go so well. LOL

I haven’t gotten rid of the flute or any of the other things I got with it because, in the back of my head, I have this idea that I will one day pick up my flute and learn how to play. Sometimes I do actually do this. I’ll set aside a couple hours a day for practice and carry on with it for two or three weeks, or maybe a month. Inevitably, something happens to interrupt this habit, and I let it fall by the wayside in favor of writing. Writing has long been and will always be my first love.

But I refuse to give up the flute. Sometimes I look at the flute, in its case, and feel guilty for not actually practicing with it like I tell myself I want to. Most of the time, I make excuses for not playing it. It’s not the right time, the timing has to be perfect, I absolutely must have at least one month free when I can really ingrain the habit of practice into my habits. Whatever. But there it sits, waiting for me to pick it up, unzip its fancy case, and assemble it to practice on.

The biggest thing I tell myself—it may even be a lie—is that I’ll get a teacher. Some nebulous half-conceived day in the future, I’ll suddenly have enough money to pay a flute teacher to come teach me to play. This, more than anything, is my ideal situation. I imagine I’ll come by the money for this teacher from a job, when, the truth is, if I work, I’ll have to do it full time in order to have any hope of making ends meet. And, while the structure the job will introduce into my life will be a great asset, it will also take a lot of time, and what little time I have left, I know I’ll want to devote to writing. Yet I dream, and I imagine having this wonderful full-time position that will allow me to have a teacher come tell me how to play my flute, when the lesson books I have are perfectly capable of doing that. I even bought a lesson book with a CD of the lessons being played, with a drumbeat and everything.

I haven’t actually picked up my flute in over a year. Almost two years now, in fact. I intended to do it last year, but things always got in the way. I also intended to pick it up in 2013, but then I found the cancer, and it was all I could do to write, never mind introduce a hobby of playing music into my life.

Part of the reason I keep the flute is simply because I love it. I can imagine myself playing it, and the sound of it I hear in my head is enough to convince me to keep it. The rest of the reason why I keep it is because I want it to be there if I should someday decide to stick with it. I’d like to learn to play to give myself another creative outlet, something to exercise my mind. Even though I don’t know right now if I’ll ever pick it up again. It’s a comfort just knowing its there.

I’m in the middle of a period of thinking of picking it up again right now. Each day, I think about hunting out my lesson books. I consider setting up my music stand to put them on. And I imagine opening my flute’s case and assembling it to play.

Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe.

Camp Nano Masks Going Well

Well, my rewrite of Masks is progressing quite nicely. I’m doing two plot cards per scene written, and taking my time writing. This generally means I spend a day or two writing scenes, then a day or two conceiving plot cards. The Plot Points list I made is helping, and I color-coded it in highlight colors to make it easier for me to pick things out, since sometimes huge blocks of text can overwhelm me to the point of anxiety.

What this basically means is that I have a list of main plotpoints and a series of subpoints that derive from each of the main points. Some plot points and their subpoints are all one block of color, usually because they’re main plot thread info. Other plot points are in different colors, or have subpoints in different colors, to indicate whether the information in question is ongoing info (for the series), tied to the main plot thread in this book, a subplot in this book, related to something my sleuths uncover in the pursuit of info regarding the various victims, or a red-herring.

In the scene I wrote a few days ago, I introduced the main red herring and one of the culprits, which was fun. Also threw my sleuths a curveball in the form of a cooperative anti-Maireadi Chancellor who doesn’t want to ruin his reputation as someone who abides by the law and is more than happy to cooperate with investigations. This is the same Chancellor who wooed his way into close (but not romantic) friendship with a previous Chancellor who was subsequently rightfully convicted for skimming public funds for his private use. Yavaniel thinks the anti-Maireadi chancellor has the funds still missing from that investigation, and doesn’t realize one of the others he meets is the one who actually received the funds—and is now using them to pay the other two conspirators.

I’m having a lot of fun.

In my original version of this WIP, I had a lot more conflict and animosity between Eirni and Yavaniel, most of it coming from Eirni. There hasn’t been quite so much this time around, but I’ve been working on what of the outline I have to insert more, which is part of the reason why I’m going so slowly with things and why my CampNano goal is for only 25,000 words. I’m not going to let Yavaniel complain about Eirni to their superiors, because Yavaniel needs Eirni too much for their investigations. What I’m going to do is probably save Eirni’s eventual suspension for another book, for a time when it’ll be even more difficult for Yavaniel to function without him. Well, it may happen in this book, but I’m not sure I can make it reasonable. The thing is, I want both my sleuths to forget about that suspension hanging over Eirni’s head until Eirni does something to induce someone besides Yavaniel to write him up the third time, and right now, it’s still very fresh in Eirni’s mind and one of the few things inducing him to cooperate at all with someone whom he’d far rather not have to associate with at all. As much as it would drive him nuts to be suspended, it would also be a relief to him, and I don’t want to make things too easy for him. And, as I said, there’s the possibility of making things more difficult for Yavaniel later on—or having Eirni disobey the restriction and risk getting in trouble to investigate when he’s not on payroll. Depends on what the story requires.

And, as if to prove I’m on the right track with this version of Masks, I’m plotting a lot of scenes I look forward to writing and writing a lot of favorite scenes. That’s always a good sign that a story is going the right direction for me.

As I said, much fun.

Adventures in Arranging April’s Oncology Appointment

This month is my quarterly checkin with my oncologist, only it’s going to be a bit different this time. The 17th is my typical day for going in and seeing her, and getting my injection, but I’ll only be going in for the injection on the 17th this month.

My regular Oncologist, Dr. Colonna, will be out for maternity leave when I come in for my injection. This necessitated the arrangement of an appointment with a substitute doctor, and that is a story in itself. If I look closely at the printout of all my upcoming VA appts, I can remember the mess arranging this appointment—and that for this month’s injection—turned out to be.

First, back in January, I made my standard appointment with my regular Oncologist and at the same time, for the same date—the 17th—arranged to have my injection done. Perfectly normal. Two or three weeks later, the VA called me to notify me that Dr. Colonna would be out and why, so I willingly rescheduled to see the substitute Oncologist on the same day. Then, a couple days later, they called again to tell me that doc would be out until the following week, so I rescheduled both appointments for the 22nd at 1400 (2pm) and 1430 (2:30pm) respectively. After that, a couple days later, I remembered my usual days for going in for the injection were for the 17th, because it’s a three-month dosage, and I wasn’t sure it would be wise to wait a full week after that date for the next injection, so I called the VA to reschedule my injection back to the 17th. Then, in a “may your life be interesting” in the curse kind of way, someone else at the VA (we suspect in central scheduling, which is different from AMU scheduling, where the Oncology visits and injections are done) canceled the substitute Oncology visit I’d made for the 22nd.

I was not notified of this cancellation. I discovered it on a previous printout after a mental health or physical therapy visit. So, I called the VA’s AMU people again and asked why this had been done. What I learned was that my substitute Oncologist wasn’t coming back the week of the 22nd—she was going to be out until the week of the 29th. So that’s when I rescheduled my appointment with her. While I was on the line with the AMU people, I asked why I hadn’t been notified of the cancellation, and that’s when it was determined someone in central scheduling had done it—a notification had popped up on their computer that my appointment was during a period of time when the Oncologist I was to see would be away, and the scheduler canceled it, then forgot to call and notify me of the cancellation; apparently the specific clinics don’t receive this notification, only central scheduling, and I think that’s because we Vets are supposed to do all our phone-scheduling via central, not directly with the clinics.

All I can say about this is that it’s a damn good thing I go in only every three months. It gave me plenty of time to straighten this mess out! LOL

No Post Today Again

Missing Bryce a lot right now.

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