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Me on The Librarians

Back in April, my car (actually Kate’s car) and I got a call from the extras agency for the new TNT show The Librarians, to work as background for a street scene in “Washington DC” (the Capitol in the first shot below was digitally inserted). I’m pleased to say that the one scene I worked appeared in the premiere episode — you can see me at about 6:53.

David Librarians 1

David Librarians 2

David Librarians 3

I thought the show as a whole was cheesy fun, but I don’t know if I’ll be watching the series.

Home from the Hospital

We came home from the hospital on Thursday and have been mostly trying to catch up on our sleep since then. Thank you all for the good wishes/support/meals/cards [cookies!] you have sent. Om nom nom, really truly.  

Kate is very tired and has difficulty communicating, but she is improving every day. She got out of the ICU and then home from the hospital more quickly than anticipated, a very positive sign. Her sister Sue left this weekend, but will be back later this week. We will be meeting with various doctors in the coming week, and will know more about our schedule going forward after those meetings.

We would welcome visitors at just about any time we are home and awake. Conversation and distraction are wonderful, but we do need to keep an eye on our energy level, mine as well as Kate’s. It’s also very pleasant just to have someone around who is reading or knitting or working on a jigsaw puzzle while I run an errand or take a nap.  

If you would like to come by for a visit or bring/send food, our friend Bo O’Dell has set up a page on a site called “Meal Train” which you can use to schedule yourself. Please contact him (youknowmeasbo at gmail dot com) for information on the site.

HOWEVER, if you find yourself able to pop by, day or evening, please text or call my cell (503-806-7562) and we’ll let you know if we are up for visitors.

You want to take 5 minutes to call? Just call.  

One thing that is really important is to understand that this is going to be a long haul — we are looking at weeks and months of treatments. We really welcome your help now, but will be needing it even more later on as people burn out. So it’s really, really okay if you can’t come by this month.  We will still need your help in 2015.

I’m also trying to get back to my writing, and we’re looking at setting up regular writing sessions with other writers, either here at home or possibly at a coffee shop nearby (which might involve scheduling another person to be with Kate while I’m offsite). If you’re interested in joining in, email me.

Thanks again for your help in this difficult time.

Update on Kate

Kate is out of the ICU and into a normal room. She is recovering quite well from the surgery and we anticipate that we will be going home today.

We got the histology report on the mass and it is a malignant tumor. We have met with two oncologists and the treatment plan under consideration involves both radiation and chemotherapy.

We will be needing lots of love and support over the next six months or so, especially meals, transportation, chores, and logistics. Please contact Bo O’Dell (youknowmeasbo at gmail dot com) if you can help.

Please do one thing for me. Don’t say “fuck cancer.”

fMRI

Had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat yesterday, and had lots of fine conversation with some of our oldest fannish friends. It was a good time. We will get through this.

I had wondered what happened during the functional MRI. Kate said that there was first a general MRI (just holding still while the machine banged and thumped), then a finger-tapping exercise (tap a finger for 30 seconds, then hold still, then tap again), then an exercise of nouns and verbs (given a noun, think of the corresponding verb), then an exercise of concrete/abstract (given a verb, think of whether it is concrete or abstract), then another exercise she doesn’t recall. It was all kind of boring and repetitive and some of the tests had to be done over because she dozed off, though they still finished it all up in just under the scheduled two hours.

The answer to the question “how is it that they can ask if you are claustrophobic and also say that you have to be able to read text five feet away??” is that she had an angled mirror in front of her eyes and the words were shown to her on paper cards (some printed, some hand-lettered) held up near her feet.

The paper cards and hand-lettering tell me that the tests vary a lot depending on exactly what brain areas are being examined for the particular patient, and also that this is a very new type of test. This also suggests a reason for the whole deal with the contact lenses — they are still figuring out how to effectively administer this test. Perhaps in five years the prompts will be displayed on a screen and they’ll have a rack of glasses with all-plastic frames in a variety of common prescriptions.

I’ll just leave you with today’s XKCD:

From Kate’s brother

Kate got this note from her brother:

Don’t let this opportunity go unrealized:
Sudden craving for pad thai and pickles? “Brain Surgery”
Caught watching “My Pretty Pony”? “Brain Surgery”
Tell everyone it was a sunflower seed you put up your nose when you were four, or an absorbed twin.
When you come out of surgery, don’t recognize anyone and claim your name is Ethel Shapiro.

Happy Thanksgiving, all.

Thanksgiving eve

Kate had a successful functional MRI today. The biggest problem, she said, was not falling asleep during the long boring stretches. The new contact lenses worked well enough, and she managed to get them in and out before and after the test. She may not ever use them again, but they did the job.

She brought wooden knitting needles and a ball of yarn, but didn’t get to use them.

We don’t have “results” from this test, nor did we expect to. I believe the purpose of the test is to map out the parts of her brain that Kate is actually using, so as to properly avoid them during the surgery. There will be an additional MRI, called a “stealth” MRI, during the surgery itself — the neurologist described this as “a GPS for the brain.”

Kate’s language and cognitive skills are generally better than when we went to the ER, thanks to the steroids I think, though she does definitely still have some interesting issues, such as coming out with exactly the opposite word from what she meant. “It would be fascinating if it weren’t happening to me,” she says.

We have had much love and assistance from many friends, especially Bo (coordination), Ariel (laundry and beef stew), and Sara (more than enough delicious food for four meals for the three of us, left in a cold-bag on our porch while we were at the MRI), and double-especially Sue, as well as many good wishes from farther afield. We’ve also received one anonymous gift, a knitting-themed tote bag via Cafe Press, for which thanks. I may not be able to keep up with the individual thanks as things get hairier, but please know that you are all appreciated more than you could ever know.

In some ways this experience, terrible though it is, is kind of… cleansing. All my priorities have been reduced to two: 1) This has to be done NOW; 2) Fuck it. I have, with great reluctance in some cases, canceled or postponed almost everything we had been planning to do through January. With luck that will be sufficient.

I cannot imagine doing this without cell phones, text messages, and mobile email. I took three phone calls and uncounted text messages during a one-hour consultation with the nutritionist.

At one point, while waiting for some doctor, I began whistling the Jeopardy theme. Right at the end, where the last low “dum DUM” comes in the song, my phone sounded an incoming text message. We laughed and laughed.

We are still laughing.

We expect to attend Thanksgiving dinner with our fannish friends. Everyone have a good Thanksgiving, and hug your loved ones.

Kate’s surgery scheduled: 12/1

Okay, we have a date for Kate’s brain surgery. It’ll be in the morning on Monday 12/1. The surgery will be probably about 3 hours and she’ll be in the hospital for 3-5 days after that, of which at least one day will be in the ICU. If you can provide assistance, comfort, and food any time during the hospital stay or during the weeks of recovery at home thereafter, please contact Bo O’Dell (youknowmeasbo at gmail dot com) to coordinate.

We have a functional MRI scheduled tomorrow afternoon. During this test Kate will be performing several daily functions, including reading, while they look at her brain to find out what parts she’s actually using (I guess to make sure they leave those bits alone). But reading in the MRI machine is problematic because you cannot have ANY metal. So this means she has to wear contact lenses.

She does not wear contacts. Never has.

Ever try to get contact lenses prescribed and fitted on one day’s notice during Thanksgiving week?

The people at Hawthorne Vision Clinic have been exceptionally helpful so far. Just heading there now. Thanks too to Kate’s sister Sue, hero of the revolution.

More news as it develops. Thank you all so much for all of your good wishes and offers of assistance.

Kate in hospital

Yesterday Kate was having difficulty finding her words, and couldn’t write a check. We took her to the emergency room, where they gave her an MRI. The MRI found some kind of mass in her brain (3x3x3 cm). We don’t yet know what it is, but it has to come out.

They have her on steroids to reduce the swelling, which is already beginning to help with the aphasia, and will do more detailed scans before performing surgery. Surgery is yet to be scheduled but will likely be either Wednesday or Monday. (Dr. O’Neill at St. Vincent’s.)

At the moment we are in Providence Hospital in NE Portland, but hope to be discharged today after consulting physical, occupational, and language therapists. After that we’ll be home until the surgery, whenever that is.

We are okay-ish for now. We have insurance. We have money. Kate’s sister Sue is here.

Where we will really need support is during and after the surgery. I don’t yet know what kind of help will be needed but will welcome food, a supportive shoulder, and other forms of aid and comfort. I’ve asked Bo O’Dell (youknowmeasbo at gmail) to coordinate scheduling.

More news as it happens.

ETA: Returned home Sunday evening. Thanks for all the good wishes.

Show vs. Tell

Over on Facebook, a friend asked “is it always poor writing to tell and not show?” Here’s my reply:

If you had an entire story that was nothing but “show” it would be overlong and tediously detailed. I interpret the maxim of “show, don’t tell” as applying to the most important parts of the story: the characters’ motivations and emotions, the key bits of worldbuilding, the pivotal moments of the plot. When the character is only driving across town? It’s okay to just tell us that part.

World Fantasy Convention 2014: Welcome to the Machine

WFC Hyatt LobbyLast weekend I attended the World Fantasy Convention in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, it was the same weekend as my local con, OryCon, and I’d had a tough time deciding between them. But, as it shook out, I made exactly the right choice.

You might think that the difference between the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and World Fantasy Convention (WFC) is obvious from their names, but it actually isn’t. It is true that WFC focuses on fantasy rather than science fiction, but it doesn’t exclude SF and the Worldcon doesn’t exclude fantasy. The real difference between the two is that the Worldcon is a large (5000 people or so) convention by and for the fans, whereas WFC is a smaller (1000 people) professional conference for writers, publishers, editors, and agents. WFC generally has excellent programming, a dynamite art show, and a dealer’s room focused on books, but the real reason most of the attendees are there is to schmooze. There is a hospitality suite, but the real heart of WFC is the bar where everyone hangs out.

My first WFC was one in Seattle back in the 20th century, when Kate and I helped out our friend Debbie who was running the hospitality suite. We thought it was a great con, but it seemed that there was this invisible web across the con of deals being made, and spending time with our writer friends felt as though we were keeping them from important business. Although fans are welcome at WFC, the con isn’t really about them, and we didn’t go to another WFC for years after that. But WFC changed substantially for me when I started selling my fiction professionally, and became one of my favorite conventions.

This WFC was a whole different animal for me, now that I’m a cog in the publishing machine. I met with my editor (my editor!) Moshe Feder, Tor’s art director and head of tor.com Irene Gallo, and Tor’s head of publicity Patty Garcia (she was bartending at the Tor party at the time, but very generously took some time to chat with me as well). I also bent the ears of many of my writer friends, who offered congratulations and sage advice. Several people commented that I was adorable with my puppy-like enthusiasm, and I have to own that.

I did hang out in the bar, a lot, and had many professional breakfasts and lunches in the hotel restaurant. I think I had five meals outside the hotel in six days, all within walking distance, and otherwise didn’t leave the hotel at all.

I came out of the con feeling like my brain was rattling around in my skull, and I’m still on East Coast time. I have an enormous list of things to do for Arabella of Mars, and #1 on that list is to write the sequel. (I did manage to write every day of the con, even if it was less than a hundred words some days, but I missed a day after coming home when I found myself asleep at the keyboard.)

Publishing is a machine, yes, but it’s a machine made of people, and WFC is where the gears are lubricated. I had a blast and I’m already looking forward to next year’s WFC in Saratoga Springs.