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I am low-energy, distractable, lazy, diffident, tentative, and easily discouraged to begin with. I began 2016 thinking I would ride the energy and optimism from my lovely new knees to Get Things Done, Get In Shape, and Get A Job.

I was doing pretty good until February, when I got the cancer diagnosis.

seriously this is just a long organ recital and for my own records, so don't read it )
So anyway, 2016 was for me like many others mostly a loss. I haven't mentioned much about the big world because others have more, and more eloquent, things to say about tt. I'm still alive, of course, and I still have a house. Also I have a pile of writing I'm sort of working on for several days at a time before I collapse in on myself for a few days again.
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I am writing this month, but I can't do Nanowrimo for reasons. One: I don't seem able to focus on very large projects at this time. I'm just grateful I can write at all! Anything longer than a short tends to get lost in the underbrush of a no-longer-chemo-brain. So I'm writing shorts, cleaning up old stuff, submitting a bit. I decided that since it's really unlikely for me to make enough money to be thrown off of Medi-Cal in the near future, it's dumb not to submit. Actually--did I explain this?--being thrown off Medi-Cal is not the thing I fear. What I'm afraid of is getting put into the grey category where they don't throw you off Medi-Cal but they require you to pay several hundred dollars (for some people, thousands!) before they will pay for anything. It would be better to get thrown all the way off and pay the (newly) normal subsidized premiums and copays, but that doesn't happen immediately. Worse, I have no idea what would trigger which alternative. So, just as in the case of facing up to cancer, etc., I just have to live my life.

I already submitted two things--one at the end of last month, but I'm counting it in this month. That was a near-future sort-of fantasy about a woman who is being moved out of her inundated neighborhood to find that her new neighborhood is pretty watery itself. And also pretty strange. The other is "John Brown's Body," which is ten years old and looks it, but it's going to a reprint market and its datedness might be interesting in the light of how things are working out, politically, these days. I mean it's sort of the opposite to everything!

I wrote a flash piece but my first reader (you know who you are) said what I was feeling--that the story felt like the unshot gun on the mantle. So now it's turning into a novella. I think it's kind of a time paradox story, but maybe not: some mysteries are not to be understood by the author. An old lady returns to the mysterious coastal village she spent a summer in during her childhood, and finds things to be somewhat different from how she remembered them, but some things are entirely too similar. The best part is the setting, of course. I think, despite what I said about my brain not being able to handle longer projects, that this is not too much for me to handle. Again, there are parts of the story that can't decide whether they are near-future sf or fantasy.

During the summer I was working on two short novels, but due to chemotherapy I could only move them forward a bit. One was about girls who save the world by means of their special relationship with crows and pigeons respectively. Honestly, the hardest part of that one is working out a believable mechanism for them to save even a shred of the world. And yet, parts of the world do get saved on a regular basis.

The other is low-fantasy in that it is set in the same fantasy world--but a different corner of it--and it is unlikely that much of the fantasy elements will come to bear on the story. It's an enemies-to-lovers story happening in the interstices of a larger drama of bandit freedom fighters and also referencing the earliest days of the motion picture industry as experienced by eager innovators in other corners of the world. But not our world. Informed by the last years of the Ottoman empire but in no way an analog for it.

On other fronts: I am a third of the way through radiation therapy. The only bothersome effect is my own body's ridiculous response to any postural demand, which is to spasm painfully somewhere. I have to lie in a comfortable position on a well-constructed individualized support for less than half an hour a day, and my body's response to this is to develop stiff painful areas in my neck, back, and arm. Not the side being radiated. The other side. My radiated breast is a little red, and maybe a bit sensitive, but not so as I'd care, especially with this other crap going on.

Continuing with the health care theme, I've restarted physical therapy. I'd gotten de-conditioned and I'd gained weight during chemo, because I spent a lot of the day sleeping or lying in bed reading. Now my energy level is back to its normal (kind of low) levels, and I'm getting more exercise, but there's some damage to undo. Also, I've been using the BiPAP machine for two months and it is not creating as dramatic a difference as one might expect. However, the doctor has some suspicions about my oxygen uptake which we're going to measure next week & discuss next month.

AND last but not least in this theme, today I got cortisone shots in both thumbs to fight severe trigger finger. It's the second round. The first wore off two months ago but the PA's not willing to give me shots more often than every six months. So if this happens again we're looking at surgery. I'm not afraid of surgery. I'm afraid of being the little old lady who collects all the surgeries, and also the fact that I've been enjoying my surgical experiences feels a little perverse to me, so I drag my feet for that reason too.

It's time to go to radiation or I'd expound about Zluta and the state of my house, but that will have to wait for another day, because after radiation Zluta and I will take a walk and after that I will want to clean house a bit before time for dancing.
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I have this persistent problem that I can't get Libre OpenOffice to convert two hyphens to an em dash in text that I have imported from Google Docs. I have Auto-Correct set to do this (it's the only thing in that category I have checked-boxed).

Fake edit: I can retype the bit that needs it, add in an extra letter and space, and it will convert, and then I go back and delete the extra letter and space. But this is cumbersome and I ionly discovered it after the last submission went out with double hyphens because I got desperate & hadn't thought of this yet.

Real edit: there are two instances that won't convert this way either. They are before and after the word "end" at the end of the file.
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Reading The Global Pigeon by Colin Jerolmack. It's research for the girls who save the world from fascism through their magical connection to urban birds book. It was recommended to me by none other than Donna Haraway who I met through Katie King at FOGCon. It does not have in it what I intended to be looking for but it has all sorts of other things that I didn't know I needed. That last category is a mark of a felicitous reading choice, I think.

Other than that, I'm trucking along. I find it is better for me to work on a bit of this and that right now because I can't concentrate very well what with the sleep deprivation and the chronic intestinal issues. Oh yes and now I have a very mild neuropathy too, so that takes some of my focus away as I obsess over its progress--if it gets to a certain level we have to stop chemo to prevent its becoming permanent. As it is, my dose has been dropped. This phase of chemo is just to be sure anyways: there's reason to think that in many cases the first round withn the adriamycin/cytoxan is all a person needs. But survival rate is higher and recurrence is lower for people who've had both, so that's where we're going. But yesterday was 6 of 12 doses, so the light is at the end of the tunnel either way. The oncologist says most of her patients make it to dose 9 or 10, but some make it all the way to 12. I would like to get to 12 just to be sure (and also quite honestly so I can feel so very tough, but I don't admit to that often), but I'm fine with following her advice.

We've been repairing the outside of the house and clearing foliage because the painters are coming on Saturday. I probably shouldn't own a house because I'm not houseproud enough to do what needs to be done. Honestly when stuff gets broken or dirty I don't care enough at all. It's weird because I used to take pride in just doing what needs to be done and in mechanical competence. But I'm kind of broken a bit myself, I guess.

While at the library I also picked up a Tobias Buckell book because I keep bouncing off his writing and I want to like his work. And another book called Watermind by M.M. Buckner that was near it on the shelves because it looked interesgting and I've never heard of it or the author. I want to read more genre stuff that's more recent but it's hard at the library because most of the requests for material seem to be coming from the grognards.

Emma told me there's a magnificent petrified forest in Chemnitz and now I want to go there more than ever. My dream itinerary for next spring is: Eastercon, a couple weeks with Frank and Hana in Loughborough, some days in Paris with Andrea, and then on to Chemnitz, Prague, and maybe a bus tour of Poland and if my bro-and-sis-in-law are in Langaland, a few days in Denmark. I imagine it would be summer before I got back home.

I would also like to travel in the States some: to Portland to see my aunt and a friend or two, and maybe the Woodstock Memory Hole if anything is going on there right now: to LA to see my other aunt: to Houston to visit Nancy Zeitler, a friend who's been living there for years & I've never visited her there: to Silver Spring Maryland to visit Katie King, who I visited over a dozen years ago: to Chattanooga to visit Sharon Farber, who I visited 29 years ago: to Philadelphia, just to see it again after 50 years gone from it: to New York, to visit Phil Josselyn, who I've never visited & when he visits me I realize how much I miss him: and to Boston, to visit Mary Porter, who I visited 26 years ago but never in the house she lives in now.

That's a lot.
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If I was a fanfiction writer there is a thing I would do.

Last night I was high as a kite on dexamethasone (a steroid I take prior to taxol infusions so as to ward off the possibility of neuropathy) and I couldn't sleep at all. So having run in to the radio play of "Jacobowski and the Colonel," I listened to that. Being shorter than the Danny Kaye movie I imprinted on as a child, it didn't have all the bits, but it was good.

Today I'm thinking that if I were the fanfiction type, what I'd want to do would be an AU retelling in a science fiction landscape (because that's where I feel most comfy, no other reason), in which Jacobowski and the Colonel end up paired overtly, Marianne throws them both over for being two complicated to deal with and picks up with Szabuniewizc--this is almost canon, as the former two do leave together on the ship to London and Marianne and Szabuniewizc stay behind to wait for them in France--but also, along the way they lose the ridiculous macguffin of the idiot-ass plans and spend the plot development time breaking partisans and refugees out of capture and leading them to the Pyrenees-equivalents (as Jan Yoors was doing with the Roma family he adopted himself into)into the Spain-equivalent, so that the Colonel's bravery and ridiculous honor mentality and fatalism and Jacobowski's resourcefulness and flexibility and stoicism continually come into play in high-stakes action leading inevitably to an entirely different scene at the docks where it makes more sense for Jacobowski to be grandstanding with cyanide pills (which do not feature in the radio play unless I dozed off a bit there at the end).

Actually the thing to do would be to file the serial numbers off completely since the structure of the plot has now changed a lot in which case everybody can go back to having non-romantic relationships with a dollop of tenderness in there with the conflict. Also, Szabuniewizc gets to be much much more of a person! And maybe a woman.

On another front, my left hand feels funny right in the skin layer. I am noting this because I am watching for neuropathy because it terrifies me. I am thinking it is the amazingly dry skin I have there because of the taxol, and I am moisturizing a million times a day. But watching. And I told the nurse about it, though I said I didn't think it was neuropathy because of the area that feels funny, and because there is no numbness or clumsiness. I forgot to mention my wobbly legs after sitting too long on the toilet because I got lost in a phone game (Jewels Star Mineral, the only jewels game worth playing), but I don't think that's neuropathy either, I think it's pinching the sciatic nerve sitting like that in such a doofus fashion for so long. Recording it here so when I think about it again in the future I can find this date.

The hand-foot syndrome I previously recorded as being so very very mild has developed in a doofus way also. All the pain and disinclination to move went away pretty quick and then I thought I was getting away with nothing at all because the peeling took a long time to start. Now more than a month after the last adriamycin infusion the bottoms of my feet are quietly and painlessly--but grotesquely--peeling right off in great flapping sheets of parchment. I'm tearing off the easy bits so they can go into the garbage without getting all over the floor and into Zluta's greedy little mouth (yes, dogs are gross, so what else is new), and scrubbing with the brush after showers and sponge baths, slathering thick layers of cocoa butter on to them, and wearing socks all the time if I can bear it (sometimes it is too hot). My hands have a suede-like texture because the calluses are not so thick there and the peeling is very fine-grade, but as I said, I think it's making them feel odd. Not painful, not numb, not tingly per se, just kind of dry and prickly.

Other than a lot of missed sleep and incoveniently-placed make-up sleep and about two and a half days of delayed-onset excruciating abdominal pain last week my first taxol went uneventfully, and this week looks to be the same, though I hope for less pain since I did discover that tramadol helped a lot last time. I don't think of pain medication for sometimes quite a lot time, usually just planning to ride it out unless there are exercises for it. This is not always wise. If I had taken tramadol earlier last week I might not have needed to miss folk dancing again.

I just read that paragraph and it's not clear why I think last week was uneventful, especially noting that I didn't list the digestive upset. Maybe because the sleep disturbance and digestive upset are par for the course if you're injecting systemic poison into your carotid artery for a couple hours a week? And because it was clear they were self-limiting? And not really huge in the scale of things I'm concerned with at the moment?

Anyway, I'm not writing the Jacobowski and the Colonel rewrite fic, at least not now, but I'm pleased I can think of it.
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Today's blood test results came shockingly fast. My blood counts have been only just barely out of the normal range, and today they are almost all just a wee bit closer to normal.My last dose of adriamycin/cytoxin was a little less than the doses before, because of my hands and feet bothering me, so maybe that's why I've started recovering already (it hasn't been very long).  Which doesn't explain why I'm so tired and have so little stamina. I'm starting to think that's in my head and maybe I should ignore it.Even the shortness of breath when I climb stairs. Maybe that's from indulging the tiredness. So maybe I should push myself more. I've already started making myself go for more walks instead of just taking Zluta to the dog park every time and sitting on the bench while she runs around.  But the walks have been shorter. And I missed a couple weeks of dancing and then  only danced a couple-few times because I felt like I'd run upstairs after each dance.

So maybe this is a self-created problem and I should power through it  I'll play around with it and see how I feel.

On Wednesday (five days from now) I start Round Two of chemotherapy--taxol. I'm taking it at the "less dense" option because the side efffect I'm trying to avoid is neuropathy, which I am more bothered by than nausea. But the less dense option is a weekly dose for three months instead of a biweekly, stronger dose for two months. So we'll see how that goes.

While I'm complaining: my tastebids have not returned to normal. Currently green vegetables mostly taste bad except for broccoli, starchy food mostly tastes weird and half-tasteless, and sweet things have no taste except for a hint of bitter. I end up only wanting protein foods with a fair amount of fat in them. Well, and porridge, which has a comforting mouthfeel even though it doesn't taste like much of anything. I just don't bother to sweeten it any more. Shredded wheat is okay too.

It looks like I'm writing again, slowly  but surely, one good day a week and several less sterling ones with some wordage in them. Also still researching, because I don't know enough about crows and pigeons. Though I know a lot more now. Yesterday I fell down a sartorial rabbithole trying to determine what some comfortable working class teen boys would wear in almostlike the thirties in almost like Central Europe and even though Google failed me egregiously (somehow returning every decade but the thirties, and no, I didn't put a minus sign there), I did finally find a vintage photos site whose tagging system worked for once and finally saw enough children and teens to form an opinion. Plus fours were a thing, apparently, and therefore, I can use them to differentiate class identification. I don't have to research the Sokol this time because I fell down that rabbithole a few years ago doing military history in Czechoslovakia and I still have my notes.

It's maybe going to be a darker book than the previkous one, buit I have to remember that these girls are going to save the world. So that's all right, right?

On another front, as Zluta matures she has decided that it is positively her job to chastize abnormalities in the night. Unfortunately she believes that if she can hear it, it is abnormal. Fortunately she seems to think that her barking is only effective if she performs it downstairs, so barricading the stairway caused her to give up and go to sleep.  She's pretthy insistent about me getting up pretty regularly, which is what I got her for. But for some reason she's letting me lounge and write as the case may be this afternoon.
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Yesterday was a productive day. I did a lot of housework, mostly disinfecting things, and I rode my bike to the library and got a couple of (ultimnately somewhat disappointing) books about pigeons for the book I'm working on, and oh yes, I worked on the book--almost a thousand words, which is approaching normal! And I am beginning to have an understanding of the plot.

Yesterday started at 5 am. Today, 6, though I didn't write till 7.

My gosh, the crows are vocal this morning.

he point is, that when I look at the book, I don't see a white hole where my story brain should be. That was really disconcerting this last month or so. It was really rare that I could contemplate a story and see the warp and weft of it, or the lines of movement, or pull anything new out of it. It was like part of my brain was just missing. I suppose it was that "chemo-brain" phenomenon people talk about, but different. I haven't been more forgetful or vague about responsibilities--in fact I think I have been more responsible than normal--but this vital function of myu mind has been just absent. I was afraid it would not come back, and I'd have lost it all before I got it, again.
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Had my first infusion today. It went very smoothly. Every time you talk to someone they have you say your name and abirthdate over again. Maybe ten times over the course of the morning? I undersand why and I appreciate itt ( no mistakes is a good thing!)m but it's still hilarious.

But I'm sleepy, so I will nap soon. Gosh, maybe right now...I just had to clean up a bunch of gibberish from where I fell asleep with my hands on the keys.

Still struggling with a story about weird doings in a freezer plant, but that'll have to wait till I wake up.
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Today or tomorrow, the surgeon said, we should get the pathology results from the surgery. I thought the oncologist said it would take longer than a week, but maybe she said it would take longer than a week to get started with the next phase of treatment.

Anyway. The way it goes is that there are two possibilities. Either the margins are good or they are not. If the margins are good, I don't need another surgery. If they are not, the surgeon needs to go in and take out more flesh. And beyond that there are two possibilities. Either the lymph nodes are free of cancer, or the lymph nodes have cancer in them. If the lymph nodes have cancer in them, I need chemotherapy before I have radiation. If the lymph nodes are free of cancer, there are two possibilities. Either the cancer cells from the breast have a high oncotype score, or they have a low oncotype score. If the oncotype score is high, I will have chemotherapy before I have radiation. If the lymph nodes are clear and the oncotype score is low, I will go directly to radiation and thence to taking hormone blockers for five to ten years depending on another string of possibilities.

The numbers are with me in each of these if/then situations--I mean, it's more likely than not that the margins are good, the lymph nodes are clear, the oncotype is good. If that is all the case, then I suppose I advance from "cancer patient" to "cancer survivor"--or do I do that at the end of radiation? I'm not sure. If any of those things are against me, I stay a "cancer patient" for that much longer.

I just want to open the box and see which I am, but it's not even 8:30 so I need to be patient.

Meanwhile, my brother-in-law is insisting on paying to paint my house  but the problem with that is that he's insisting on doing things his way, which means insulting the professionalism of the painters and insisting on breathing over their shoulders while they work. I almost fired him and started thinking about how to get the money for it myself, but then I used my cancer situation as a lever to get him to slow down instead. I'm going to use the time gained to figure out how to get him to trust the painters to do their job. He refused to consider Zack's painter, I believe because he doesn't trust Zack, and got three folks off of Yelp: the first two are kind of bros who started painting irregularly and independently but a long time ago so they're licensed and they have crews now. The third is a woman who got where she was by working for another painter for a long time and studying for various certifications before she took over the business.  Myself, I feel I have reason to trust any of the four of them (including Zack's painter), but if I'm choosing and I can't throw the business to Zack's guy, well, I think you can guess which one I want.

I have a bad head cold for the first time in years. I forgot how stupid and sleepy a cold can make me. I'm good for a few hours in the morning, when I do a bit of housework, take the dog out, and write a little. Then I doze and struggle to do anything at all for the rest of the day.

And now I am off to pick up my Grey Bears vegies and walk the dog and visit my friend Glen, which will take up the rest of the morning. I did poke a little at one of my projects this morning, but I am soooo slow and stupid that I made little progress. I did realize how little I know about horses (hence th previous post).
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This surgery wasn't quite as entertaining as the orthopedic ones, but I didn't expect it to be. There was some problem with the wire locator insertion. This is a thin wire, the size of beading wire but stiffer, that they thread through a fine hollow needle (lengthwise, not through an eye), and ine up with the titanium marker that they put in when they did the biopsy. I had two markers because I had two biopsies, and the doctor had to confirm that it was the cylinder and not the hourglass one-I knew that! but the techs answered, of course. By the way, the techs are great. They are so competent and professional and considerate, you couldn't ask for more.

It was hard for the doctor to get it to line up properly and then it kept bouncing out of position before the confirmation photos could be taken and the wire could be taped down on the outside. And then there was also some problem with the mammorgram machines, one of which wouldn't take pictures at all reliably. So a half-hour procedure took two and a half hours and we had to move three times (once because of the racalcitrant machine, once to change to another type of machine so I could lie down and gravity wouldn't be affecting the wire or something, and finally back to the original machine which the techs were told had recovered from its sulk, though I noticed that it two three tries to get the machine to taken the final picture). But that wasn't too bad from my perspective. Just for a while there my toes were complaining about standing in a fixed position for a long time while encased in ohmydear shoes.

The dye injection wasn't bad. It was supposed to happen first, but there was some issue with being able to get the nuclear medicine room (btw: recall how all the right-wing people you meet on the internet are always raging about how MRI had to have its name changed because ohmydear nuclear couldn't be in a medical name? But--here I am, going to the fourth floor to the Nuclear Medicine department, and later I'll be going to the Radiation Oncologist, so what's with that theory?) and they sent me downstairs to radiology/breast imaging first. Then when we finally got the breast wire taped down we went back upstairs and got the shots.

By the time we got to the hospital proper it was the time I was supposed to already be under anasthesia in the operating room but nobody was upset about it. One of the nurses said it happens all the time, which I can clearly imagine.

I had a different anasthesiologist, which would have been a mite disappointing but I liked him a lot too. He read me the Act about getting myself checked for sleep apnea (because of how I stop breathing when I'm given sedatives), so somehow I have to get that squeezed in between the hand therapy and the cancer therapy (& by the way, the cortisone shot in my right thumb has all but cured it, so it's not so bad that I haven't gotten the hand clinic lined up yet, I guess: I might ask for a repeat in the other thumb as it's getting pretty bad too).

As I said, the surgery itself...well, what do I know, I was unconscious, but to all accounts it was unremarkable and I certainly feel fine now. One good thing I wasn't expecting is that the incision for the lymph node removal isn't in the armpit but a couple of inches below. This way they don't cut the arm muscles, they just retract them, and the area is dryer than the armpit so it heals better. It might be why it doesn't hurt.  I haven't had any pain medication because I honestly don't need it, and so therefore instead of being woozy and tired from that, I'm having the same kind of happy rebound I get from giving blood.

On another front, I had an entirely pleasant revelation. I can submit to non-paying and token-paying markets this year, instead of piling everything up for next year (I'll still pile up some stuff, and my main writing time is going to two books I swear they will be short enough to write in a year). But it does mean I don't have to completely lose momentum. Not that I had much.

So therefore I am writing short stories about Crow Girl and Pigeon Girl! (Libiena and Mily, respectively)

Also, yesterday there were entirely too many yellow wild oats and foxtails for the end of March and there is no rain on the horizon  and this is a blot on my otherwise sunny mood. It is way too soon for summer to start.
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My friend Glen Fitch decided I needed to read Master and Margarita so he ordered it for me and I regret that because it's a nice hardcover edition and it couldn't have been cheap but...I didn't last fifteen pages. I am allergic to stories where the Devil shows up to caper around and claim that whoever the author doesn't like is in cahoots with him. And I just didn't like it as a block of stuff to read. Not much of an Ambrose Bierce fan either, which it reminds me of. When it comes to satire, I kind of like stuff more on the line of The Good Soldier Schweik (or Švejk) or Iceland's Bell (as difficult as that can be to read: it's pretty grim).

What I bought myself is an immense tome, part cookbook and part social, ecological, and economic history: A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright. I love it. I'm on the second pass. The first pass I read the parts I thought would be most interesting first--it's really immense and I was a bit daunted--and when I had read all of the book in that piecemeal way I started again at the beginning. You can probably tell I love it. I got it at the used bookstore for $7.50! That's downright amazing. I already had what I think is a fix-up of notes he took while researching the book (though I don't know this for sure), Mediterranean Vegetables. That one is in encyclopedic form and it drives me crazy because it is so raw and unedited and full of errors I can catch (the pointless little errors that arise when you're doing a large work very fast) but it's also magnificent and lots of fun to reread and I do reread it frequently. The bad editing made me worry about A Mediterranean Feast but I've only found a couple of that kind of errors in it so it's more relaxing to read. His main premise is that historically the Mediterranean was anything but a feast, and it's the poverty of the land and people that drove history in such a way that it seems to be the center of a lush life now.

It's interesting how shallow the Mediterranean food tradition is. I've already wondered foir a long time what the food was like there before tomatoes--it seems it was completely, utterly different. I would have thought that tomatoes would have pushed out other fruits in traditional sauces and it seems like that is not the case. People weren't eating the same sauces with plums or something in the tomato position. And while durum wheat and dry pasta has been known in the Mediterranean for centuries, it wasn't such a popular thing in Italy and elsewhere until the nineteenth century.And so on.

He looks at the cooking history of Spain, Italy, Egypt, Turkey, and Tunisia, with peeks at other places--he picks these five because of the documentation that exists and their importance at various times in the history. He includes a little information about classical Greece and Rome, but there's not as much information that far bacl and the story really gets cooking in the thirteenth century an on. The sixteenth century is a big focus. The book is arranged according to topics, and each region is visited in each topic, and their interrelationships are heavily explored too.

I heartily recommend the book, and now I have a hunger for similar books about other places.  The food I've been most interested in these days is Central/Eastern European and Western/Central Asia, and I enjoyed reading Please to the Table, about Russian cooking, but it's not anything like as deep or scholarly as A Mediterranean Feast. Any suggestions? Mostly for things I can get from the library...

On another front: I bought my membership to FOGCon. There is a story behind this I'll tell later.

Still another front: Zluta Zluta Zluta all the time. If it was up to her, we'd be walking ten miles a day. She is almost a year old and has become markedly mellower but she's still excitable and high energy and she demands something every forty-five minutes to an hour and a half.

Oh, and I'm like a day or two away from having the semi-final draft of The Drummer Boy ready for beta readers. If you were thinking of being one of them, contact me. I'm actually finishing off another few of my bagatelles also, so that I have something to do when I have to stop and think about the main project.

I have more evidence that Affordable Care is an imperfect system and we really need single payer, but I'll give that its own post.
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The chapter I am working on is maybe the penultimate chapter of the book, depending on how many words it takes to write the things that are happening now, but it is more likely the chapter before the penultimate one. Oh, I'm sure it is, no matter how long this stuff goes, because certain things need to be in their own chapters.

oh how I do go on about writing insecurities )

I kind of read Octavia Butler's Fledgling this week too. I skipped ahead to the trials because I am a wuss. It made me wonder just how much of her work is about blending. I will have to read more and re-reading more and figure this out. Also I read Emma Bull's Finder, which was fun enough that I inhaled it but I was also annoyed by its callowness.

On another front, I'm cleaning up the yard to make it pleasant for Frank and Hana when they come later in the month and also so I can see just how much progress I've really made back there. Which is a lot. I have planted a line of coreopsis along one side of one section of the brick path from the garage to Zack's, and parsleyalong the rest of it (and it's still not quite enough parsley for all Zack's and my needs). The front yard is almost cleaned up. After my hand heals from the carpal tunnel release surgery I'm having on Monday, I'll plant the two different abutilons and the one salvia I have in the corner by the almond tree. I have a couple of California milkweeds to plant--they have mousy looking litttle white flowers but they haven't, unlike the other milkweeds, been sprayed with BT to fight light brown apple moth. It's the law, but it makes the milkweeds toxic to the Monarch caterpillars too. So if I had bought one of those pretty ones I would have had to put a net over them for some time--a few months? I forget--to keep from poisoning the animal we're planting it for...

and I also go on and on about my new knees )
On the Zluta front, even though I don't know what I'm doing, we're reaching a place with the backyard barking that is bearable, I'm able to let her go out there freely for many hours a day before she decides to try to provoke the killer dog next door. My current method of breaking that up is to almost silently head her off, distract her with thrown apples, and herd her or carry her inside. Less shouting--which ramps her up-- and no hose spray--which excites her and is actually a reward, However, when I water the yard, I let her play in the hose as much as she likes. Yes, it is still warm enough for her to get wet outside. Though I turned the heater on today. It's set in the low sixties: I think 66 for a period in the afternoon.

Speaking of communication, she is using the wiggle method of communicating her needs much more than the open-mouthed, toothy swarm method. I try to respond immediately but sometimes I'm in the middle of a thing and she has no patience. I've had to exile her only once every couple-few days this last two weeks (it was getting to be two and three times a day, which is too much). Of course, part of this is her general greater contentment now that I am driving again and getting her to the dog park five days out of six.

She has an unfortunately tender stomach, apparently, and apparently I guessed wrong about her food, so that's a work in progress.

7-7-7 game

Sep. 17th, 2015 07:27 pm
ritaxis: (hat)
So I don't even know where I saw this, but this is the latest version I've seen of "post a bit of your work:" you go to page seven of what you're working on, count down seven lines, and copy the next seven.

This is what I get if I consider the whole novel as one manuscript instead of the various chapters independently:

"I have breeches," Yanek informed his sister, "But Zhenny wouldn't let me wear them because I wore them yesterday when I played the drum."

This led to an enthusiastic telling of the events of the day before. Yanek confided that he had had beer and herb-liqueur the day before, and he relayed some of the more puzzling things he had seen and heard as if he had understood any of it. Ludmilla countered with some of the grander events at the palace, and Sasha announced that he also had breeches and he wore them all the time, and he had a drum, too, which had little rooster soldiers painted on it.

This is the best I can do if I consider the chapter I'm on: it hasn't gotten to 7 pages yet, so these lines are from page 6:

"It's just coincidence. It'll all go away when this is over," Yanek said. "A week or two from now I'll be back at work at the glass factory." If I live, he thought.

"You think you're getting back to Boem in two weeks?" Krenek asked. "Well," he added to Honza, "I can certainly understand why you don't want to come with us. Garlo stayed behind for similar reasons. But we'd better go now, the sun keeps moving even when we don't."

The other workers in the field had already started loading the wheat into the wagon, so after embraces for all the soldiers, Honza turned back to join them. Yulaida lingered a little longer.

The strikeout words are going away because thanks to [livejournal.com profile] heleninwales I now know I did all the harvests in the book wrong and I have to go back and correct them. I didn't realize about stooking: I thought it was just hay that got that treatment. Definitely not "writing what I know" here. Just "learning about what I write." Also, the second passage looks boring to me on its own like this.
ritaxis: (hat)
So downstairs I am still plodding through The Island of the Day Before: I have 148 pages left. The experience is mixed but it does reassure me about a couple of things. Like the idea that there is an appropriate time and place for huge great lumps of information. And the idea that a story doesn't have to live right under the skin of the main character, and that the narration and the point of view do not have to be one and the same. Or that there doesn't have to be just the one point of view in the narration.

So there's that.

Upstairs I am zooming through The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. This morning I suddenly realized what's going on. It's like--you're in a Zelazny type of world, but seeing it from the point of view of the populace who have to put up with the grandstanding bastards Zelazny writes about so entertainingly. This is the second book of a trilogy but you know how libraries are.

On another front: Zluta's been sleeping today, which probably bodes ill for later or for tomorrow, but I've been pretty good about getting work done in the meantime. I wrote the bit where Yanek reaps several fields of wheat in literally no time for reasons he doesn't understand, and now I'm about to write the part where he raises the dead. Well, I wrote the bridge to it once, and wiped it, because the first way I wrote it I thought he was going to look at where he's ended up and know why he was there, but once I saw that on the screen I decided it would be more consistent and more enjoyable to write if he is surprised.

Yesterday my writing was a bit interrupted by the sudden need to know at least something more than I do about using a sickle and binding wheat sheafs without a combine. I was unable to find very much but I'm hoping to find at some point a beta reader who does know about pre-in dustrial and early industrial agriculture. I almost had a combine in that field, but after I did some research and laid out the logistics I decided it was better not to. The analogous era in our world had a complete mishmash of automated and non-automated harvest techniques. Even the tools could be bought from modern factories or cobbled together by your uncle.
ritaxis: (hat)
I took three books out of the library: another of Paul Stametz's mushroom growing books, Tanith Lee's The Dark Lords, and Lisa Goldstein's Tourists.

I'm a bit disappointed in the mushroom book. I thought that since it was promoted as being more for the home grower than the other one, that it might therefore have more information about the kind of garden cultivation I am trying to do, but it doesn't. It has even less information about it than the other one, and quite frankly I am not planning on getting into large-scale cultivation.

I've been warned that it is "too soon" to be very detailed about being appalled at and not enjoying a book of Tanith Lee's, so I'll leave it at that. Well, I'll hint: sexual politics, race politics, class politics, esthetics, and story structure.

Lisa Gildstein's book would have been written a wee bit differently now, I think, but it stands up (publish date 1989, a momentous year). Americans in a fictional Middle-Eatern/Central Asian sort of country for the father's research become embroiled in a complex magical/national/political crisis, where "nothing is as it seems" in an interesting way. I like that while the teenaged girls' presence is catalytical for the history of the country, they aren't the story at all, in the long view. I mean they are not the American Saviors. Magical forces have simply slotted them into the patterns that are being worked out and fought over. Literally, patterns are key here. There are many things I love about this book. The girls have been engaged for years in developing an imaginary landscape with warring countries, including making up their own languages for them and producing stacks of notebooks with mythologies, histories and literature for them. The older girl has withdrawn from the "real world" to escape the pressures of gifted child adolescence, The younger girl has withdrawn from the imaginary world to take on the practical challenges of keeping her dysfunctional family together (a task which is less hers than she imagines it to be). All of this is extremely relevant. The mother, who gave up her career for marriage, drinks to deal with her disappointment and her difficulty dealing with things. The father wants to do nothing but his research and hides as much as he is able from the problems of his family.

I could go on for hours about how the different pieces of the story interlock and move about in different directions, but a lot of you people care about spoilers and I don't really understand well what constitutes a spoiler and what doesn't, so I'm going to leave this here and say it's a yummy book.

Also I finished it in the wee hours of the morning the night before last because I couldn't sleep for reasons that escape me. And then I started a strange duck of a little story which I am now having trouble finishing. Although the story doesn't have any of the same elements except that language does a thing in it, I think the story is inspired by the book.

Next I will go back to the library and find something else to read, I don't know what.
ritaxis: (hat)
I'm feeling a bit more cheerful today because I have apparently found my brain again. I spent a bit of time discouraged, and then a bit of time on a deliberate writing vacation, and then I had no thoughts whatever in my brain and that was frightening: I was actually empty. It was so weird. Anyway, I just chose a project at random and now I'm back to producing, slower, but a few hundred words a day is okay. The project I ended up working on is the amorous haunted nightstand one. I'm feeling tentatively optimistic on it.

more about the last couple weeks than you want to know, probably )

Oh! It's Wednesday. I should talk about what I'm reading. Um, Growing Gournet and Medical Mushrooms by crazy man Paul Stamets. Today I'm picking up another of his books at the library. There's a lot of information in this tome, and it's superficially laid out in a sensible and accessible way, but in reality when you go to read it, the information is scattered around in all of the places you don't expect it and also there are a lot of frankly odd bits of hyperbole and strange claims. But I am figuring out some stuff from reading it, and the occasional blurry black and white photo of his cute kids holding mushrooms as big as themselves is amusing too.

All of my friends who never had dogs are getting them.
ritaxis: (hat)
Last night as easier because she was farther away from the trauma of surgery and the anesthia had had some time to go away, but I still had to give her vicodin... well, I expect that the next day after surgery I might need some vicodin on top of the basic pain meds to sleep also.

This morning she was ready to go but I was not taking her on any adventures at this point. She has an appetite: not a big one and she still won't eat anything but boiled chicken, but I don't particularly care right now. As long as she eats a little and drinks water, I'm satisfied.

She went in for her checkup and the ver said her sutures were lovely and she looked good, also that her kidney function had returned to normal right after surgery (which means her Addison's is under control again and was only off because of the stress of the hematoma on her spleen). She was terrified at the vet's office and really wanted to leave, but once we did leave she calmed right down. My experience from before is that the PTSD from the surgery lasts a few months.

On another front, I am now paying my friend Cassandra to do my pruning and other such work, and I spend the time she's doing that in working on other garden taks. So that's finally coming together. My plum tree is blooming, as is my almond tree. The Euro plum is not, yet, nor is the apple. Emma's Satsuma mandarin is also blooming. It needs to be moved into a sunnier spot. Everything needs to be fed.

Once we've got a handle on what we've got here, I will look into getting other fruit trees, maybe, though the space for them is smaller than it used to be, because of Zack's house.

On the writing front, I am still struggling with the story of how Elisabeth and Melissa, my lesbian mechanics from A and A Salvage, met up in the first place. It involves a vengeful ghost resident in a Subaru two-seater, but probably nothing else that you imagine with that. The story's kind of kicking me around, but I figure witrh persistence I will pin it.
ritaxis: (hat)
I'm going to need a story checked over for stupidity in a week or so. Let me know if you have any experience with mechanics and their workplaces, and especially with automitve electrical.
ritaxis: (hat)
I'd really like to be able to initiate a discussion about the thing I wrote about the other day--how language about inclusion can either support or undermine inclusiveness--but there's no actual venue for doing that now. Either you have a widely-read blog, or you talk to five people. The problem with usenet was, of course, that if I started such a thread, on, say, rec.arts.composition, within two days some person would be saying that what I really wanted to do was Regulate Language and Institutionalize Literature and, of course, Execute Kulaks (I am not kidding. I once said that I approved of better traffic planning and it was not long before a particular person who many remember as "the reasonable, polite, and humane conservative" was drawing a connection between the statement and Stalin's actions in the Ukraine, not at all subtly accusing me of complicity in the latter  by my support of the former). Which is why we've become atomized.

I could say something on an open thread at Making Light, but the format for comments is only amenable to short notes. And I think a comment to the extent of "Some of these publications have really murky and unwelcoming language which I thnk undermines their expressed determination to bring underrepresented writers into the fold" is really not enough.These ideas need more room for developing. So, here I am, hoping that someone with a wider-read blog will become interested in the subject and bring it up, so that we can all talk about it.

The example I brought up the other day was not the worst. There's one out there which is so specific in its demands, and yet so long-winded, that I gave up before I had read the whole thing. Many guidelines are simply too long, which dilutes their message. Others include in-jokes or unlinked references to possibly famous pieces of critique. Excessively specific peeves and favorites are not as helpful as the editors think they are.

I do have some positive suggestions. It would be nice if I had any way of talking to the editorial world in general, because I'm certainly not going to copy this and send it off to all the editors who inspired this. I'm not out to pick a fight, I just want to have a better time submitting things.

Here are the things I've been thinking about, which I think would make things better:

One: write short guidelines. You do not need to write out a detailed and descriptive list of every trope you don't like very much if you're going to write over and over again that you could be persuaded by the right story, You could list maybe three things you really don't want to see, and three things that are "hard sells," but don't go on and on about them. The reason is not that writers don't want to know whether you want to see the kind of story they write: it's that all of that stuff runs together when there's too much of it and they end up confused. Just like it does in fiction, see?

Two: if you want to include your critical or political jargon to send a message about the tone and aspirations of your work, don't assume that everybody knows it as well as you do. You don't have to be condescending in defining the terms, just scaffold them (that is, embed the definitions in the text).

Three: when you post your formatting demands, try to make them possible. One venue out there demands that the writer use style sheets, which I don't think very many writers know how to use. Yes, Word does them. But most writers only use them passively by way of the automatic scripts that Word employs by default. Writers who use other word processing programs may not be able to use them passively like that. Along that line: don't demand docx. Not everybody can give it to you. Accept doc or rtf files too, and you're golden.

Other publications which have been accepting (sometimes only) electronic submissions still talk about the manuscript format as if it were on paper. This can be frustrating as the writer tries to figure out how to translate your directions into what's going to happen in the text file.

That's the most important part. On thew tone front, some of these guidelines sound like the person who wrote them hates writers and also like they hate other publications in the genre. That's a little daunting. When you've got an idea for a theme you think is underrepresented, why not just say "We can never get enough of this" or "We want to see more of this" or "This is what moves us," along that line, instead of saying it's never been done before, or never been done well before? Because you're most probably wrong on that front. When you talk about what you do and don't want to see, try not to make it sound like you have only seen two good stories ever.

Anyway, that's what I would be saying to the SF community in general, if I had a way of addressing the community in general. I'd want to talk about how the writers most vulnerable to the discouraging effects of these things are the writers that we've lately been talking about wanting to recruit in larger numbers, and I'd want to say that my suggestions are not difficult to implement.
ritaxis: (hat)
There's been a nice healthy conversation going on lately about how editors can recruit marginalized writers to submit to their magazines, websites, and anthologies. Tonight I hit head-on to a barrier that I don't believe has been discussed lately: the actual language of the submission guidelines. I seriously had to guess and google several terms, including one that simply didn't appear anywhere until I input the whole phrase it was in. Well. The string of letters showed up, but in every result they pointed to cell phone technology, and I was pretty sure that wasn't the thing at issue.

I'm an old-timer, which means I know a lot of jargon but also that a lot of jargon sprung up while I wasn't looking. I'm also a lot more bullheaded than I was when I was younger--I might have given up after the second paragraph, even though there were sentences meant to reassure the potential submitter that they didn't have to be a particular type of person. But. It was quite clear that when the guidelines were written, the editors had simply assumed that anybody who fit their desired demographic and was interested in these issues just would know these words. They hadn't questioned themselves at all on what being inclusive means, in the larger sense.

Imagine this: you're a young person and your pockets are burning up with that great new passionate story you've written that seems like it maybe fits that anthology you stumbled on. And there's a whole pile of stuff in the guidelines you think you can guess at the meaning of, but you're not sure, and oh well crap, they probably only want somebody who can use those words correctly anyhow. What next? What fantastic new writer will not be submitting to that anthology?

Don't assume that everyone who wants to submit to your publication is a Tumblr or facebook activist or has had queer theory classes in a high-tone liberal arts college. By this I mean, don't use buckets of jargon and words which mean one thing in context and another thing in general language without defining them for the newcomer. Assume that you might be interested in very young or very old working-class writers who might even be new to the internet, let alone your specialized vocabulary. Welcome them by giving them a bridge. Define those terms in a casual, friendly, accessible way.

I definitely do not mean "don't use the vocabulary your cohort has been carefully developing to make it easier to talk with precision about things that matter to you. I mean do enrich your prose with embedded definitions so you don't make people do crazy google search term gymnastics just to know what the hell you're talking about.

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