Archive for September, 2017

TT: Ah-Choo!

September 7, 2017

JANE: So, Alan. We’ve been very literary of late. What high-brow topic shall we discuss next?

A Little Hoarse

ALAN: I have no idea. I’m currently having a massive sneezing fit from an allergy attack and my brain has turned to tomato soup

JANE:  Wow, to tomato soup?  That’s amazing.  I have allergies, too, but I’ve missed the bonus tomato soup element.

It just occurred to me that I’m dealing with autumn allergies, and you’re dealing with spring allergies.  Mine include tumbleweed, amaranth, and the omnipresent juniper.  What’s getting you?

ALAN: I don’t really know. My doctor calls it Non-Specific Rhinitis, which means that I sneeze a lot, nobody knows why, and every so often I turn into a rhinoceros. Now that he has given it a name, he feels that his job is done.

You seem to know exactly what causes your allergies to flare up. How did you find out?

JANE: I had a test – or perhaps what should be termed several tests, since what they did was draw a grid on my back and then poke me with tiny bits of various allergens to see where I reacted.  I still remember the nurse coming in, examining my back, and saying “Well, your pets are safe.  No reaction to any animal allergens.”

I was actually a little angry, since merely being allergic would not be reason for me to get rid of my animals – not if I could find a way (short of death) to manage the allergies, at least.

I’m also very attached to where I live.  Much of what I’m allergic to is common west of the Mississippi, uncommon “back East,” so I suppose I could try moving.  However, I really love living in New Mexico.  So, as long as I can manage my allergies, I’ll stay in the land of tumbleweed, amaranth, and much, much juniper.

Have you ever been tested for your allergies?

ALAN: Yes, I have. The test was similar to yours but on my arm rather than on my back. The nurse was very nervous. I was her first ever allergy test patient and she was worried in case she made a mistake. She carefully painted my arm with various common allergens and then scratched each stripe with a needle. After about five minutes, various of the scratches came up in itchy red lumps. The nurse was ecstatic. “I’m doing it right!” she yelled, her face wreathed in smiles. I was very pleased for her, but much less pleased to have an itchy right arm. The nurse measured the size of my lumps, smothered me with soothing cream, and wrote a report for my doctor.

JANE: That sounds as if you should have received definite results.  Why was the diagnosis “Non-Specific”?

ALAN: The tests were actually a little inconclusive because the allergens were spread across such a broad spectrum that it was hard to be precise about exactly what was affecting me. The pollen stripe, for example, was a mixture of common pollens, so goodness knows exactly what it was that I was reacting to. The only positive thing that came out of it was that I definitely wasn’t allergic to the cats.

Springtime pollen is the worst culprit, as you might expect, but I get attacks all year round, so obviously there is something else going on though nobody is quite sure what.

When I get a bad reaction, Robin is always very sympathetic, but she herself does not suffer from allergies at all, so while she realises that an attack is very debilitating, she doesn’t really understand just how it feels.

What about Jim? Does he have allergies?

JANE: Yes, he does, both plant and animal.  When we started dating, several of our mutual friends informed me that Jim was allergic to cats.  At that point, I had six cats.  I decided that, no matter how appealing I found Jim, I wasn’t going to give up my cats – and he’d better know that.  So, one day when he was visiting, we had the following exchange:

Jane: “I’ve heard from several people that you’re allergic to cats.  I feel it’s only fair to make clear that my cats are a non-negotiable element.”

Jim: “I was allergic but, maybe because so many of my friends have cats, I seem to have gotten better over the years.  Still, if I start having problems, well – I hate needles, but I’d get shots.”

ALAN: I’d certainly do the same as Jim. Fortunately I’ve never had to. Whatever it is that sets me off, it isn’t connected with the balls of fur that I wait on hand and foot.

JANE: I will admit, that exchange was when I started thinking Jim might be more than another pretty face.  And Bast, Goddess of Cats, was kind to him.  In the twenty-some years we’ve been together, he’s never had a bad reaction (even though a couple of our cats have decided that they must sleep on his pillow) and so he’s been able to avoid shots.

ALAN: It has been suggested to me that I might save myself a lot of misery by embarking on a course of injections to de-sensitise me to whatever it is that sets me off, but I’ve never bothered. My allergy attacks aren’t very frequent – perhaps once every month or so if I’m going through a bad period. So even though they do tend to knock me out and dehydrate me (I once used up six boxes of tissues in a single day; at least I think I did. My tomato soup brain was losing the ability to count…), I’ve never taken the suggestion any further.

Have you ever considered a course of de-sensitising injections?

JANE: Oh, that’s a complicated answer.  Can I save the response for next time?

ALAN: That’s probably a good idea – I’ve just come to the end of a box of tissues, and I need a cup of tea…

Enough Time

September 6, 2017

I caught something vicious and determined at Bubonicon, and have been in the world of sore throat, headache, wobbly, sniffly, exhausted, definitely-not-the-best for over a week.

Enough Time

As I struggled to drag myself through my obligations, the one thing I wanted to do more than anything else was write.  If I could slip into that other place for a while I would feel – if not precisely “better” – not so bad.

On Tuesday, as I downed hot drink after hot drink (fresh limeade was best), I found myself thinking, “But I don’t think I’ll have the energy to sit at the computer for very long.  I guess this is going to be a wasted day for writing.”

Then I found myself thinking about the SnackWrites panel I’d been on at Bubonicon and, how much I was able to write in just five minutes.

(You can find two of the exercises we did here.)

I realized that having a prompt had helped, so I designed a prompt for myself by re-reading what I’d done the day before, then turning the material over and over in my cloudy brain until I knew where I needed to start.

This worked surprisingly well.  I didn’t write a lot on Tuesday, but I did write.  I tried the same tactic on Wednesday, then on Thursday, and each day I managed to write a little.

The most memorable day was Friday.   After struggling and struggling to write, I stretched out on the sofa and thought myself through all of that day’s false starts.  I nearly drifted off to sleep a couple of times, but eventually I realized my “prompt” was wrong.  After about a half hour, I hauled myself upright, turned on the computer, and wrote a thousand words in about a half hour.

So, why not just take “sick leave”?  After all, I don’t have a deadline for this piece.

Well, as I mentioned above, writing was a great way to escape feeling horrible.  Another advantage was that I never “lost touch” with my piece.  I’ve talked to many writers about how, when you’re away from a project more than a couple of days, it often takes as many days to get back into the mindset in which you’d been writing.

I’m accustomed to taking weekends “off,” so two days wouldn’t have mattered much, but if I’d taken a week, it’s likely I would have needed another week to get back into the flow.  Since even as I write this, I’m still battling the bug, I’d be feeling pretty discouraged.  Instead, I’m already designing today’s prompt, part of which is going to involve some research reading.

“Not enough time” is one of the most common excuses I hear for people never starting a beloved project – whether writing or drawing or singing or whatever.  I’m learning that five minutes can be enough, and that that thirty can be a good day’s work.

Now…  Off to down another mug of hot limeade and then to write!

FF: Reading as Medicine

September 1, 2017

I caught some sort of con-crud this past weekend at Bubonicon (sore throat, fever, aches, congestion) and have turned to stories as part of my treatment.

Ogapoge Wonders He Could Be a Minion

For those of you just discovering this feature, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.

The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

A Dangerous Place by Jaqueline Winspear.  Audiobook.  Masie Dobbs and the Spanish Civil War.

Fairytale by Hiro Mashima.  Manga.  Volumes 1-3.  So far this is good enough I’ll try more, but it may not hold me.

They Came to Bagdad by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  Spy thriller with an ironical awareness of some of the conventions of the genre.

In Progress:

 Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon.  Middle-grade,  lightly humorous fantasy.  So far, I’m enjoying.

Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie.  Audiobook.  One of her best non-Poroit, non-Marple tales.  Built around Christie’s thesis that catching criminals is not about punishing the wicked, but rather about protecting the innocent.


Beginning of the month has brought in some new magazines.