Post Surgery Update Day 8: First ENT Checkup

My first post op exam was this morning. The highlights:

I am healing very well, considering the secondary infection from the breathing tube, and the rough night I had Monday.

I won’t have an audiology test for 6 weeks, but my hearing has obviously improved. My surgeon says he didn’t have any worries on that account; the placement of my implant was “perfect”.

I still have gel packing in my ear that needs time to dissolve, and I’m still healing, so it will be up to three months before my hearing stabilizes to its eventual level.

I didn’t spend enough of the last week resting. My surgeon said that even without the damage to my throat during the procedure (which he said isn’t unheard of, but isn’t common either) I’m still recovering from a major surgery, and he basically made at face at me for not having spent that whole time on the couch, being taken care of. Apparently most people would have just accepted that their bodies were healing from grevious injury. It just didn’t feel like an option for me.

After a couple of days of overwhelming super-hearing, I ended up having more input than I could take, Monday night. I had a terribly physical reaction, nausea and tinnitus so loud I didn’t get to sleep until after 4 am. On top of that, my implant felt out of place, and heavy, like someone had hung a fishing weight from my eardrum; I couldn’t get comfortable, even after two Percocet. Tuesday morning I woke up — and it was so quiet. I couldn’t hear out of my right ear at all.

As the day went on, it slowly mostly came back. I haven’t quite regained my super hearing, and my ear is still popping a lot (like when you change elevation) but I think if I’m careful, it will heal. Given a choice — because I’ve been reminded now that it’s one or the other — I’d rather hear too much than not at all. It was scary to think I’d screwed up and maybe lost the hearing I just got. That’s not an experience I want to have again.

I’ve run out of disability time off, so it’s back to work for me. I’m still taking the antibiotics for the infection, until they run out, and now I’m started on an antibiotic drop for my ear that should help dissolve the packing. I have to be gentle with myself, and maybe do a little less than I’ve been trying to get done, at least for a few more days.

Well, I’m supposed to, anyway. But I have a family to take care of, a day job, writing and editing to do… A week off was already too much. I’ve got people asking me why things aren’t done yet; did I mail that check to my mother? did I get that email about that project? do I know where the key to the prescription cabinet is at work, because my coworkers are texting me?

Recovery time is nice in theory, but real life doesn’t work that way, for me.

What’s An Introvert To Do?

I’ve been at my new day job for seven weeks now. In that time, I’ve posted on Twitter or Facebook only a handful of times; published three blog posts here; checked my email occasionally, but not nearly as often as before. In the past, I’ve gone quiet when I’ve been overwhelmed with life — gone into hiding, in a way, from everything that threatened to topple over and bury me under its weight.

This is  not that.

I work in a place that provides a wide range of services to members of our community, most of whom don’t have other options. Continue reading

Writing Process Blog Tour

Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam invited me to join this blog relay on writing craft. Her post is here.

1. What am I working on?

I’ve got three big projects right now, as well as a couple of short stories I need to revise, and my editing work. I’m concurrently writing two novels and compiling a mosaic novelette of SF poetry. The working titles are:

  • Sonnets for the Rocket Queen – 144 Shakespearean-style sonnets about love, loss, and space ships.
  • Shades of Gray – first person, female protagonist, modern day, ghost story. Urban fantasy without the tramp stamp. Miéville noir with a female lead.
  • Caudal Ballad – third person PoV, multiple protagonists, surreal/interstitial. Borges meets Nabakov, with traces of Burroughs and Poe.

Shades and Caudal are set in the same universe, same town, at the same time, and explore a series of events from very different perspectives. They don’t need to be read together.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

No one else has read what I read, in exactly the same way, or lived my life, or shares my exact sense of humor. That’s true of all of us. For that alone, I’d like to think what I write is different. When you add to that mix that I write because I have a story in my head I want to get out — instead of for fame, money, respect, or notoriety — and that if I’ve read the same story elsewhere I no longer want to write it, then what I do produce fits into a small space occupied by not much else.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Have you ever read something and thought, “Oh, yeah, that is true”? You learn some fact you didn’t know before, but based on everything else you know, this thing makes sense. I love to read fiction that has that resonance of truth, and I don’t want to put any of my own writing out into the world unless it speaks to me in the same way. It has to answer a question, or provide a viewpoint which clarifies a confusion you didn’t even know you had. I want to feel more alive, more knowledgeable, when I’ve finished a piece of reading. Even if the knowledge is sad.

I’m also interested in mixes of genres or the places where multiple genres lean against each other. I think that when you work in solid, simple, mainstream, genres, whether it’s literary or epic fantasy or hard science fiction, you’re more likely to be retreading the same old ground. There are stories which slip between the cracks, tales that don’t quite fit, and are therefore told a lot less often. Those are the stories I want to tell.

4. How does my writing process work?

My current writing process was developed over years of failing to produce consistent work. Ideas, I have. Ideas are easy. They’re everywhere. I’m lucky that my subconscious, what I call my lizard brain, is strong enough that I can decide I want to work on a story, spend a little time thinking about it, and then move on to another task, another piece of writing. Meanwhile, my lizard brain will keep writing, until one day, it taps me on the shoulder and says, “Here you go.”

The hard part is always writing it down. I’m chronically overbooked, overworked, and exhausted. I don’t have time to read for pleasure, be with my family the way I’d like. So, how do I find time to write?

I carefully manage what I have, and the rest I need, I steal. The managing comes from being organized — two white boards at home, online spreadsheets, Field Notes books in my bags to scribble down thoughts, post-it notes on the wall, documents saved to Drive so I can work on them anywhere. I manage my time like I structure my writing, so I’ve got spreadsheets for how much time is spent on each freelance project, to do lists, and even my daily word count.

Doing that means I’ve got everything I’ve written down whenever I want it, and knowing whether I’ve spent enough time on other projects that day tells me how much I have left for writing. If it’s not enough to get out the part of the story I’m ready to write down, I take what I need from other places. I write instead of going out. I write instead of getting to bed on time. I write on my lunch breaks, before work, while watching tv, during dinner. Not all of those times every day, but whatever I need to make sure that every day, I am writing.

I’m a better writer because of it, and I think that I more fully enjoy the times I spend with my family, partner, friends because I know what I give up to write, and what I give up to be with them. I cherish everything. To me, making time to write feels like having it all.

* I was supposed to tag two more writers who’d then complete this meme and pass it on. Instead, I am tagging all of you. Write your own posts, and leave me a comment with the link so I can go read yours too.

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Celebrating National Poetry Month the SF way: In the Beginning

April is National Poetry Month in the United States, and I’ll be celebrating one of my favorite forms of writing by talking about speculative fiction in poetry. I’ll be exploring themes and structures, poetry and poets I admire, how to bring SF/F/H elements into poetry effectively, and sharing my own work. I’ve been cobbling together these blog posts for a couple of months now – on lunch breaks, between writing or editing other projects – so I’m excited to finally see them publish to my website. Please feel free to comment, ask questions, or suggest work you think I’d like to read.

Where do we start? With history, of course.

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets throughout the United States band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture.

Though a recent creation, this “holiday”, poetry has been a vital part of American culture since before there was an America. Poetry has existed longer than writing, longer than what we think of as culture. It is a living, breathing, exhalation of humanity.

Speculative fiction – that umbrella term which covers fantasy, science fiction, horror, slipstream, surrealism, and so much more – has existed just as long. The oldest known spec fic poem is “Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor”, a Middle Kingdom Egyptian text about 4000 years old. In it, a sailor nervously confides in a servant that he thinks the king will kill him for sinking a ship. The servant tells his master a story to reassure him: previously, the servant had been a sailor, and sunk a ship, and washed up on an island ruled by a giant serpent. This serpent spoke to him of family, gave him gifts, and inspired him to return home, where the sailor told the king his story and was considered a hero.

This is the basis for most of the storytelling which came after: the accidental quest, the mythic beast/figure dispensing wisdom, the hero’s journey. We find this framework too, the storyteller being presented in a contemporary setting, and then telling a story about someone or sometime else within the tale we’re reading or listening to. Like Scheherazade’s creator, the author of the ancient servant’s tale embeds a narrative into the frame story, which ends in a moral lesson. It’s a structure we see in both fiction and non-fiction, over and over again, for the next the four millennium, with great success. (Read the Bible? It’s in there, too.)

The moral here? The serpent tells how he lost his family when he was off adventuring:

It happened when I wasn’t there —
burnt when I wasn’t among them!
Then I died for them
when I found them as one heap of corpses.

If you are brave, be stout-hearted,
and you will embrace your children,
kiss your wife, and see your house.
This is better than anything.

Since today I got to kiss my man, kiss my child, and feel both safe and loved, I can tell you – the serpent was right.

#SFWAPro

Update – Sales, Award Nominations, Car Wrecks, and Massive Debt

First, the good news. I’ve sold two stories this week:

  • “How To Recover a Relative Lost During Transmatter Shipping, In Five Easy Steps” to The Journal of Unlikely Cartography (Unlikely Stories #9), due out June 2014
  • “Image Du Monde: Myrrour of the worldes” to The Starry Wisdom Library anthology from PS Publishing (Britain), September 2014

“Five Easy Steps” is a short story I started last year (I excerpted my work in progress here). The editors didn’t quite love the unreliable narrator as much as I did, but liked the story enough to send me a rewrite request. My policy on those is always “Yes, thank you for giving me the opportunity”, so I thought on it for a few days, came up with a framework that left my original story mostly intact but gave some of the perspective the editors were looking for, and resubmitted it. They bought it! It’s my first appearance in Unlikely Stories, and I’m sharing the ToC with a bunch of authors I like and respect.

“Image du Monde” was a commission – the editor had heard of my work from someone else, and contacted me through my website. It’s a flash piece written in the style of a catalog entry, mixing my background in books at art objects with obscure history and Lovecraft. I was happy to do it, and the editor called the finished piece “fantastic!” which is always great to hear.

Note to editors: I’m always open to commissioned work. Fiction or non-fiction (editor Nick Mamatas wrote about me getting involved with his essay anthology here). Please contact me with proposals and information.

Also, the SHE WALKS IN SHADOWS project got funded, so I’ll be writing a story about Anna Tilton (“The Shadow Over Innsmouth”). The story is due at the end of the year, and the anthology will be out in 2015.

Seems I’ve been suggested for the “Best Fan Writer” Hugo award. This isn’t a nomination, and I’m not going to be nominated (my personal vote is for Natalie Luhrs) but in the process I was asked for some examples of my writing on genre, fandom, and writing. If you’re new to my work, start here:

wreck

The bad news…

Monday morning, I totaled my car in an accident. It wasn’t my fault – I slid down a hill due to ice, the other driver was speeding and couldn’t stop in time. The police declared it an unfortunate accident, one of three in the same spot within a few minutes, and no one was ticketed. (They did warn the other guy about “speed under conditions”.) I ended up with bruises, trouble breathing for a few days (hit the steering wheel/airbag), and a minuscule fracture in one of the little bones of my hand.

hand

Colorful!

It’s been pointed out to me that I should be grateful to be alive, and I really am. At the time, I was shook up and didn’t put the pieces together – the front of my car was mangled even though I was only going 20 mph, the impact was so bad my airbag deployed and my rear window was popped out of the frame, and the other driver couldn’t fully stop until he was a block away. When I started going down the hill to the intersection, I’d applied the brakes – and nothing happened. I stood on the brakes, saw the other guy coming, hit the horn (how my hand ended up between me and the steering wheel), and none of it helped. Standing on the side of the road, couldn’t stop crying, the smell of gunpowder on my clothes from the airbag, I kept thinking about how I’d done everything I could, even veered to the left at the last moment to make sure I hit the guy’s back end instead of his passenger, and none of it mattered.

Except, maybe it did. If I entered the intersection two seconds earlier, maybe one, he’d have hit my driver’s side door going 50. Instead, we all walked away.

The really bad news…

I’ve got $1000 in deductibles (medical and auto) to pay. I’ve got the difference between my car’s value according to the insurance and what’s left on the loan. Since I’d just traded in my old car on a 2014 three months ago, that’s a couple of thousand (I’ll know the exact amount next week). I missed a day of work at my office job, and because I needed to come home and rest every night, I’ve lost at least one editing job, maybe two. I’m still recovering, still depressed about all of this, going to sleep at 8 or 9 pm every night, and I haven’t got the energy to check my email. It took me four days to put this post together.

I have to find a way to get the money to pay off the bills and loan, just so I can break even. Then I have to get another car, because where I live, I can’t not have one. There’s a bus that would get me to work and back (three buses, technically, but I don’t mind that) but none that go anywhere near my son’s afterschool program. The trip planner program actually recommends taking a bus from work and then walking a mile through the woods. Pick him up, walk another mile with the child on a road with no sidewalks, catch another bus, transfer, and walk another 1/4 mile home. I could do that most nights, depending on the weather, but my son can’t.

I’ve worked so hard the last few years, building myself up to a place where my bills were paid, I had a car, Dagan Books projects were getting paid off and Lakeside Circus wrapped its first issue. I was sharing a 1 bdr apartment with my son to save money and working two jobs but I was getting there. Even the new car was because I was getting my life together – my old one had a loan with a higher interest rate, I couldn’t refi it, but I could trade it in for its full value, get a new car with a lower rate loan, and keep paying the same amount each month so I’d pay my principle off faster. Every bit of spare cash I’ve had in the last few months, I paid toward my car. Being responsible.

Now I have debt, no car, and no idea what to do next.

At least saying all of this makes it so it’s not something I’m worrying over and focusing on; what I need is a plan, hope. The possibility of getting back on track again. I’ll be okay once I know how to make everything okay. Hard work doesn’t scare me. Not knowing does.

#SFWAPro