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Short stories

I just finished a new story and submitted it, making three that are out now (and four that have not yet been resubmitted after rejection).

It seemed like a good time to look through the stories in progress, and do a first-lines meme a la Elizabeth Bear. It turns out I have eleven stories that have words written (not just notes or outline), and here they are (some with final titles, some with working titles):

The Antonym of Rainbow: A can-can line of blue elephants gyrated through the wormhole void.

The Dirt of Denela: Loredana Ney’s troubles ended here, up against a red-toned crater wall, with the dirt of Denela under her fingernails and poison lining her throat.

Learning to be Terrestrial: I cupped the full mug of coffee in my hands, the memory of warmth enough to keep my fingers wrapped around a cold cup.

Tapestry: The angel arrived in the afternoon.

Kitchen, Arthur, Fragile: The kitchen glowed. Sunlight streaming through the windows blended with the shine of the small fire on the hearth and both bounced off the clean whitewashed walls until the whole room shone with directionless radiance.

All the Leaves on Mars: Whisper-thin sheets of stainless steel piled to the ceiling, compulsively stacked, impeccably organized.

Alpha Says Omega: Misha laid her hand over Tom’s, formed a smile so practiced it appeared spontaneous.

The Future is Drawn in Maps of the Past: The knock echoed through the office. Jim jumped, long and painful experience pulling his hand away from the paper taped to the drafting board.

Oyster: “I’m going to find a blue one!”

Gray: The sky was gray, as smooth as if it had been airbrushed, the same shade as the dishes she slid into the matching cupboard.

Carnival Glass: I tied a bandana over my hair, glad I was alone in the house so nobody could see it.

Each step is forward

It’s over two weeks since I’ve poisoned or irradiated myself, and I feel as good as I’ve felt in 2014. It took a week and a half for the tiredness and digestive issues from the radiation to mostly fade, and as I understand it that’s pretty fast. My brain is even starting to work properly again. (Whew!)

I still haven’t much stamina, and my yoga practice reminds me daily that 28 doses of pelvic radiation does nothing good for your flexibility or muscle tone, even if you did yoga the whole time. My fingers and toes are still numb: they improved noticeably the first few days off of the Xeloda, but the rate of improvement trailed off over time. It’s still getting better, but frustratingly slowly. I wanted to do some longer walks and some jogging during my “free time,” but numb feet make that uncomfortable and even unsafe. (I’m still walking the boxer a mile or two a day, much to his delight.)

The medical appointment rounds started up again on Wednesday, with a very wet drive to Danville to meet with my colon surgeon. It was three and a half hours of driving (oh hi unexpected torrential downpour), and nearly an hour waiting around, for a fifteen-minute meeting in which I didn’t learn anything much.

The plans for my autumn are solidifying, though. My likely surgery date is September 23, much later than I’d hoped due to the insurance company screwing around, and late enough to jeopardize my World Fantasy attendance. Before then I have a follow-up with my medical oncologist, a follow-up with my radiation oncologist, an MRI, a CT scan, and the third colonoscopy of 2014 (there oughtta be a law!), plus a pre-surgery physical.

The only worrisome thing out of all that is the CT scan: if there are bad changes (tumor growth, or reappearance of the little lung spots that disappeared after chemo), I may get sent back to do more chemo before surgery, or even be declared a poor surgical candidate. So: scanxiety.

On the really good side, though, I had a CEA test this week, the first one since before the radiation.

10. That’s 1 0 – ten. TEN.

There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world for that number. Yes, the normal level is less than 3.5, but at diagnosis mine was 2200, and it spiked to nearly 4000 when I started chemo. It was 42 when I finished infusion chemo, so it’s less than 25% of my previous test. The science, it is working.

So I will continue forward under the assumption that I will have surgery, and it will remove the large tumors, and then I will probably have more chemo to mop up any lingering evil, and then I will be cancer-free and do ALL THE THINGS.

Found!

Quilla was located yesterday, up a very tall tree, but is now back where she belongs, much to everyone’s relief.

Thanks to everyone who shared the lost cat information.

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Lost cat: Park Forest area, State College

Spreading the word for my friend Tamie Veith:

Lost: female cat, Quilla
1 yr old, spayed, short-haired, tabby
distinct grey stripes with crisp white paws and belly.
all shots current. not a wimp! but very friendly usually.

got out Monday Aug 11 into the Haugh Preserve Woods, near Valley Vista Rd and Carnegie.
probably either got chased by something and then confused about how to get home OR got stuck somewhere that blew shut during the storms OR someone took her in for safe keeping.

her brother is beside himself with worry.

Quilla cat

Quilla cat

Quilla cat

Zap-zoom!

My trusty black Sharpie has crossed off all the days. That must mean I’m done!

treatment calendar

That would be 28 days of radiation (blue) and 34 days of poison peach pills, aka Xeloda (peach, of course). (Technically I have one more dose of Xeloda to take tonight, so I’m not really done, but close enough.)

The radiation oncology office agrees with my count, fortunately.

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It wasn’t horrid: I never got the extreme fatigue or extreme diarrhea that pelvic radiation often causes. I’m tired and my digestion is sub-optimal, but neither is debilitating. Also, with the radiation I may finally have hit the no menstrual periods jackpot, rather than chemo-induced horrid ones. That would be okay, really.

The Xeloda hasn’t been so bad either. All the skin is still attached to my hands and feet, which I am terribly happy about. The main side effect for the poison peach pills has been numbness in my hands and feet. It’s a good thing it’s time to stop taking them, because the numbness has spread to the point that it’s problematic instead of just annoying. It retreats a bit on pill-free weekends, giving me hope that I have not inflicted permanent nerve damage on myself in the name of staying alive.

I haven’t been exercising as much as I’d like, obviously, since I can’t really walk to work and back when I need to be at the hospital every morning. I probably shouldn’t commit to that much walking anyway. I’ve been walking the boxer and doing yoga, pretty close to daily for both. It’s clear to me that I’ve lost both flexibility and muscle tone. I’ve done pretty well not losing more weight, even with radiation sickness (reliably from two hours post-treatment and lasting five hours, at least; often it’s completely gone by dinner time, but not always). (Cancer treatment: where losing two pounds is cause for comment by a nurse, a PA, and a doctor. “Are you sure you’re eating?” “Yes, positive.”)

What’s next? I get some time off to heal and recover. I have an appointment with my surgeon in two weeks (the 20th) to plan what’s next. The optimum window for surgery is 4-6 weeks after radiation, and I imagine there will be a CT scan and probably a colonoscopy before then. (Which makes three colonoscopies in 2014; there should be a law!)

In a couple of weeks, I shall be going on a sushi and cocktails expedition, because both of those have been forbidden to me (compromised immune system, liver-damaging drugs; neither has been very bad, but I’ve been being good). I’ll be sleeping, kayaking, reading, and trying frantically to get caught up on my work goals for 2014 before I’m out of the office for two months, while trying not to fuss about how everything is going to fall apart without me. (Not at work; work is well-organized. At home.) I’m not worried about the surgery itself, but about the two-month recovery period. Eeep.

Reading: I will be exerting great willpower to avoid diving into two things I’m saving up for post-surgery recovery reading: the complete run of Shadow Unit, and the complete run of C.E. Murphy’s Walker Papers series. I’ve read large chunks of both, but both series are now complete, and I highly recommend them.

Snowmen in August

The Clarion West Write-a-thon ended Friday. I haven’t totalled up the words yet, but am pretty sure I fell a bit short of my 5,000 word goal. I missed a couple days of writing, too, for Confluence, and another day lost to exhaustion.

Tamie not just agreed to having her story posted, she insisted that I post it.

So here you go, a quick lunchtime flash. The prompt words were: chard, middle, snowman, hairball, frizzle-inator.


Winter Wonderland
by Sarah Goslee

Parsley curls were not good snowman hair: the poor guy looked like he’d been hit by a frizzle-inator. She wanted her winter lawn art to
look edgy but attractive, not like a hairball left by a giant vegetarian cat. The snowman anchored the middle of the display,
flanked by a snow platypus and a snow pangolin with sculpted scales. If she could get the hair right, her punk snowman and companions would
be the hit of the winter festival. Her neighbor Sam was sure his snow velociraptor was going to win, but dinosaurs were so 2013. Mel looked
around to make sure the tarps were still shielding the yard from view; she didn’t want Sam to see the parsley disaster. She’d never live it
down.

Mel dashed for the kitchen, returning with a handful of chard. Rainbow mohawk, and best of all, she wouldn’t have to eat the stuff.

Ooops

The Clarion West Write-a-thon ends Friday, and I am NOWHERE NEAR my 5,000 word goal.

Or am I?

I have 2,694 words of outline and prose so far, just over half of the 5,000 word target.

But I also have 2,351 words of character notes, 7,766 words on place notes, and 41,485 words of other research notes. Ahem.

I really can’t count those unless I go through and sort out my words from those copied from other sources, since the research notes chunk especially is both my notes and things I wanted to save verbatim for later.

I also have a mind map, though I have no idea how to translate that into equivalent words.

I’ve done better on the “writing every day” plan, though a few days were more research than outlining. I also took a break this weekend while at Confluence: I have not enough brain and energy to do the con and write both.

So pretty good on that front, but I have a lot of words to write by Friday!

To distract you from my lack of progress, here’s the first 150-word sponsor story. All of you lovely people who sponsored me, you need to give me your ideas! Otherwise I get to pick, and, well. Heh. This sponsor chose weaving, perfume, and alchemy, and this is what resulted.


Peace Surpassing
by Sarah Goslee

Strands wound together in a riotous tapestry, under and over, with areas of around and through where soumak mixed with plain weave. The warp of plain white linen was nothing special. The weft, though, was an alchemical marvel, beauty and science blended. This portrait of the city skyline would be the focal point of a new museum exhibit of science-inspired art. Each distinct color of yarn carried not only visual impact, but an olfactory message as well. The weaver meant her tapestry to be touched: a gentle stroke of fingers across cloth would release a carefully-tuned symphony of scent evoking the strengths of the city and its myriad cultures: its food, its gardens, all supported by undertones of concrete and steel. Lurking beneath the perceptible, embedded pheromones would permanently rewire the brains of all who toured the gallery, encouraging them to tend their home and make it
flourish.

Oh. My.

The table of contents for the Genius Loci anthology, edited by Jaym Gates, just went live.

I’ve known since about 3am (yes, I check my email in the middle of the night if the velocikittenraptors happen to wake me up) that I have a story in the anthology.

What I didn’t know was the whole table of contents. That’s quite a list, yes it is. Quite. A. List.

*dies*

*is ded*

*reanimates as a zombie with a bad case of impostor syndrome*

I’m utterly thrilled, of course, to be part of this ToC and to be working with Jaym again.

Zap zooie: midpoint

Today marks the completion of 14 of my 28 planned radiation treatments. I’m half done with this phase of my current learning experience.

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(Blue is radiation, and peach is poison peach pills, aka Xeloda. Percentages are for radiation treatments.)

I’ve been meaning to write up the details for the curious; now seems like a good time. And because of the insurance SNAFU, I’ve gotten to experience the two main kinds of radiation therapy.

Both are in the same room with the same equipment, it’s just how the equipment is used that differs. Either way, I drop trou and lie on the table with my legs in a custom-molded cushion to hold them in just the right place. The techs tug on the sheet covering the table to scoot me this way and that, until my tattoo dots are lined up precisely with the laser lines running along and across my body. The techs flee the room, then take a quick image of my innards. The table position is shifted remotely to make absolutely certain I’m in the right place.

The simpler approach, 3D modeling, used the detailed CT scan they took originally to develop a plan. The x-ray head, an enormous thing that can rotate 360 degrees around the table from its mount at the head, is positioned at three different angles, and from each delivers an approximately five-second burst of x-rays. The beams intersect in the tumor, giving it maximum radiation with as little damage as possible to my innards.

The fancy version, IMRT, instead orbits the head around me, zapping all the way, but finger-like projections are constantly moving to adjust the size and shape of the x-ray beam based on an even more complex 3D model. Science is SO COOL!!! A complete circuit takes about 18-20 seconds, and they do two. I don’t know the beam intensities, but the IMRT provides more time of radiation, and I believe more total dosage as well, while spending even less time over any particular bit of healthy tissue. IMRT is the better of the two because it can deliver more radiation with fewer side effects.

And indeed, the side effects have been fairly minimal. I’m queasy starting about two hours after treatment, and lasting 4-5 hours. So I’ve been eating large nutritious breakfasts. I was on an afternoon schedule for a while, which meant I was feeling poorly from late afternoon through bedtime, but I should be on early mornings for the rest of my treatments, meaning I feel lousy at lunchtime (notice me blogging instead of eating?), but have recovered by late afternoon and can eat a normal dinner. There have been changes in bowel function, but not yet serious diarrhea, and I’m also not experiencing the intense fatigue that radiation can cause (yet?).

The Xeloda, though… I haven’t had the predicted skin problems on hands and feet. I’ve been diligent with moisturizers and not washing the dishes much. Instead, I’ve developed tingling and numbness in my fingers and toes (peripheral neuropathy), which is not usually a Xeloda side effect, though obviously it’s possible. This is tremendously annoying, and runs a risk of becoming permanent if it gets too bad, so I’m now taking Xeloda only on days I receive radiation, rather than seven days a week. This weekend was the first I’d tried that, and the numbness receded somewhat by Sunday evening, a good sign. (Also, numb fingers: if there are typos in this post you don’t need to tell me, because I really don’t care.) I can type, walk, etc, but had trouble trying to warp a loom on Saturday.

So, you know, nifty science and not unbearably difficult so far. This young and healthy thing continues to work in my favor.

Wow, you all!

I’m amazed: I signed up for the Clarion West write-a-thon on a whim to provide motivation for myself. I didn’t expect anyone to actually sponsor me, and yet here you are. 

Thank you! Inordinately! 

 I really do want to write you all stories, but you have to pick the topic. Otherwise I’ll choose something, and it will probably be utterly inappropriate. 

So how’s it going, you might ask, being entitled as a sponsor to investigate my writing progress.

Well, let’s see. My goal is to have a complete outline of Book of Phantoms by the end of the write-a-thon, of at least 5000 words. I have six weeks to do this thing, from June 22 to August 1.

So far: I have worked on the outline every day since June 22. Some days that involved hours of research, brainstorming, and note-taking, while other days contained only a few minutes of jotting. Still, every day.

And the 5000 words? The outline itself is currently 539 words, and I have 1403 words of actual prose that I’m totally counting. Why do I get to count that? I need to write the characters to understand how they react, so that I can do more and more evil but realistic things to them later in the book. So that would be 1942 words, or 39% of my goal, as of July 9 (I haven’t written anything other than science and blog posts yet today), or 42% of the time. So I’m a bit behind, but not too bad. 

Oooh, wait! I’m not behind at all, because I have more outline on the iPad that’s not counted in the total. There might even be the 158 words I need to get caught up.

I also have a LOT of words of character and place descriptions and historical background that will make it into the main text in artfully placed tidbits here and there, but I’d have to sort out my own words from those copied from various sources to count them, and I’m too lazy. Also, I’d rather spend my time writing than 

I have a complete if sketchy outline of the main plot, and am filling in subplots around it while also expanding the main plot. Novels have a lot of chapters. Never is that more obvious than when you’re trying to figure out what each of them should contain.

I’m still totally in love with this book, or at least the idea of this book. (Someone remind me of that when I’m slogging through the middle of the first draft, okay?)

In other writing news, none of the five stories I have out right now has been rejected yet, and one is actually shortlisted for the anthology for which it was written.