Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: May 2014

Re: Posts

Dealing with a fluctuating-toward-depression mood phase which is making it difficult for me to care about keeping up with the blog. I’m doing my best–haven’t reached the point where I feel like I need to withdraw from most of internet life yet. Will do my best to have post this upcoming Tues.

The Guilt of Mental Illness

(A bit of a ramble and a small rant.)

There’s the deep, depressive, dark pit, where I can’t care about anything.

There’s the hypomanic high, where, to be blunt, nothing and nobody matters to me except what I want to do.

Then there’s the in-between. When I’m functional, but not quite all with it. This is the worst. I’m not so depressed I don’t care, and I’m not manic to the point of nothing matters. In this state of mind, I care about every little thought that goes through everyone’s head.

Well, not every little thought.

And it’s actually more a worry. About one thought. I’m afraid people are thinking I’m just using my mental illness as an excuse.

I’ve been in this state of mind for the past several weeks. It’s been pretty consistent, though it fluctuates from easy-to-ignore to I’m-sure-they’re-thinking-it. For most of the past couple weeks, I’ve been feeling antisocial to the point of not even caring to check the mail. I’m afraid I’ll meet another resident of the building who’ll talk at me. Or that someone will pass by the building and I’ll have to greet them somehow while I’m outside. It’s been all I can do to go square dancing.

And both last Tuesday and tonight I sat out the dancing. I read. Buried myself in an ebook. Didn’t talk to anyone except other members of my club. Could not bear the mere thought of trying to talk to someone I hadn’t already known fairly well.

Both nights, members from other clubs came to join us for our weekly night. People I either barely know or had never met before.

Both nights, I had to explain to my friends that I simply could not dance. That the mere thought of socializing with people I barely or didn’t know ramped up my anxiety. No, I don’t have social anxiety. It’s more generalized, and triggers are unpredictable. But this past couple of weeks, it’s been social interaction. Due, in part, to a depressive phase which has made me feel like not doing anything. Not even getting out of bed, though I make myself do so.

It’s hard to explain to people how my mental illness affects me, especially when they’ve never seen me like this before. And it makes me feel guilty. I’m afraid everyone, even my friends will think I’m using my mental illness as an excuse to be rude. Especially when I’m feeling antisocial to the point of ignoring guests.

Part of it was the fact it was a surprise both nights. I went dancing expecting only my club members—and then maybe not even enough for a full square—to show up. Except . . . strangers arrived too. I couldn’t convince myself to socialize last Tuesday, and after attempting to with one person tonight, I couldn’t handle the stress and had to get away from the social interaction.

I feel bad for not being able to socialize. For letting my mental illness control me like this. I suspect this is a feeling only another mentally ill person can understand—this feeling of inadequacy, of “I can do better than that!” I feel. I’m lucky. My friends are kind and understanding. They don’t tell me to “buck up” or suggest I might feel more like doing something if I forced myself to.

(Depression doesn’t work that way. No mental illness does. It’s incredibly rude, inconsiderate, and disrespectful of someone to suggest a depressed person be happy. Or that someone who’s feeling antisocial be social anyway “because it’ll make you feel better.” No, we don’t need advice, or someone else’s attempts to “fix” the issue. If we’re taking care of ourselves, we’ve got a therapist who does that for us. What we need is compassion and a little willingness on the part of our friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers to not treat us like our difficulty is something easily dealt with. Yes, it may all be in the head, but, with mental illness, it’s not simply a case of “mind over matter.” That does not work when there’s a chemical imbalance in the brain.

What makes a mentally ill person feel better is having a hug. Or a kind word. Or simply a listening ear. Or, if they need it, to be left alone to muddle through it however they’re able. . . ./rant)

I’ve been very, very lucky. When I was depressed and antisocial in high school, my mother forced me to join a local Star Trek club chapter. And the friends I made there earned my trust by letting me go hide in a dark room by myself if I felt overwhelmed by the social requirements. The other members of the square dance club I’m now in are the same; if I’m at an emotional point where I can’t induce myself to socialize with people, particularly strangers, they don’t push me.

And I still feel guilty. Because I’m not normal. Because I’m not emotionally stable enough to see strangers and throw myself into socializing with them. Because I feel like there’s nothing worth getting up for right now, and it takes everything I have to get out of bed every day, never mind convince myself I actually do want to hang out with friends who I want to see. My friends don’t need to say anything to make me feel this way.

I’m glad I’ve gone square dancing the past couple weeks. I enjoyed seeing my friends. It was good for me to get out—even if I’m not feeling like it was.

I just hope no unexpected strangers show up to dance with us next Tuesday. LOL

Okay, ramble over. Just had to get that off my chest. So glad I’m seeing my therapist this Friday.

Random Vs. Predictable

When I began writing The Power of Music, I knew I would be working with two points of view. Throughout most of the first volume of that story, I managed to pretty predictably ping pong between the two. I’d write one or two scenes with Géta, then match that number with an equal number from Asthané’s point of view. There were a few places where I didn’t do that, but for the most part, I was able to keep that pattern.

In the second book, that was blown all to hell. I’ve always seen TPOM more as Géta’s story—in fact, the whole Discordant Harmonies series. Asthané is an important point of view, but he’s not the most important one. It’s Géta. Don’t get me wrong. I love Asthané. He has a point of view because what he has to “say” is just as important, in some ways, as Géta has to say. They both have a major hand in the plot and making music for the Mages of the Empire what it’s supposed to become, not just in TPOM, but in the other two books as well.

However, since Géta, as the musician, is pivotal to everything, the focus is primarily on his point of view. His scenes, and that meant I had to accept the fact that I could not tell the story I wanted if I kept up the equality ping pong between his pov and Asthané’s. So, in the second volume of TPOM, I wrote the story I wanted to tell.

As a result, books two and three are pretty randomly divided between the two, with a greater number of scenes from Géta’s point of view. Asthané simply isn’t as influential on the story, and he has much less to go through with regards to plot.

I think pretty much every Chraesti book which has two or more active points of view will fall out this way. These stories are my heart’s stories in a lot of ways, and I don’t want to screw with the technical side too much or they may not come out the way I want to—the way they need to in order for the whole saga I see for Chraest to work the way it has to.

But my Hatuni books aren’t like that.

It’s kind of an experiment what I’m doing with the books set on Hatu Napor. At least with Degrees of Subtlety (I) and Fairy-Touched. When I started outlining DoS, I determined I’d try to make the pov breaks as predictable as possible. They’re random in the extreme in TPOM—happen anywhere regardless of whether or not it’s actually a new chapter. With DoS, I wanted to challenge myself. So, with that in mind, I outlined two scenes at a time for each character. DoS begins with two scenes from Arrowroot’s pov, then the chapter breaks, and the next two scenes are from Sweetbriar’s pov. Each character gets two scenes, and these two scenes comprise a single chapter told from that character’s pov. In Fairy-Touched, I have three scenes from each character’s pov in alternating chapters. So, one chapter of three scenes from POV1 (whose name keeps changing) in one chapter, and three scenes from Kaj’s pov in the following chapter.

Thus far, I’ve been able to keep up with things like this without the story breaking down. I do not want to break this pattern with my Hatuni books. That’s part of the challenge. I want to see if it’s possible for me, someone who changes point of view arbitrarily, to create a comprehensible story which is logical and makes sense plotwise while keeping to a strict, predictable pattern.

I also want my Hatuni books to be stylistically different from my Chraesti stories somehow. I want them to have their own “personality.” Making the point of view changes predictable is the best way I could think of to do it. Dividing the pov changes by chapter makes them even more distinct from my Chraesti books.

I’ve found my Hatuni books require a different mindset. In order to create the divisions between points of view I have in them, I spend longer trying to see pertinent scenes. But the challenge is fun, even if it’s slow-going with them. I’m finding myself able to write deeper scenes than I think I’d be getting on them if I were randomly changing points of view. Writing more than one scene from one pov is also allowing me to deepen their characterization over a longer “period” in the story. I’m also able to focus on plot points better, which means I see more things I can do to add depth and complication to them. Staying in one point of view throughout a chapter also enables me to give both characters “equal” page time, relatively speaking.

They’re turning out to be “neater” books—no matter how much I love them, I’m always going to see my Chraesti duo/multi pov books as “messy.” No rhyme or reason to the randomness of their pov switches aside from the plot requirements. I’m finding I enjoy creating predictable pov switches in my Hatuni books. I’m excited by the difference in the style, and it makes the books challenging enough to plot out that I haven’t lost interest.

Now if only I could switch back to writing these books, I’d be happy. LOL

Bipolar Disorder Is Fun!

The title of this post is my favorite “tagline” for when I make mistakes or do something which my mental illness has had a strong influence in. I say it in a variety of voices, and hear it in my head in a high-pitched, childlike tone similar to the character Columbine’s voice (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show). I can’t quite reach that tone of voice or inflection all the time, though I’ve known it to make me laugh—sometimes bitterly, sometimes with true amusement, and occasionally with a kind of grimness reflective of my determination to make it through the “ride” which Bipolar Disorder is.

I’ve probably been mildly bipolar most of my life, possibly even beginning in childhood. In my adolescence, I experienced periods of debilitating depression which, were it not for my mother, would have induced me to hole up in my room and hide from the world whenever possible. The one thing I will be eternally grateful for my mother for is forcing me to join a local Star Trek club when I was about fifteen or sixteen. It was one of the few things which gave me enough hope to endure a period of my life which I largely viewed from the bottom of a pit.

For me, the depressive episodes of bipolar disorder have always been the most traumatic. Not being a very social person to begin with only exacerbates this condition. Unmedicated Bipolar Disorder, for me, is so far from even the jokey reference to fun in my “tagline” that I’m driven into a state where I simply do not function beyond eating and using the toilet. I don’t bathe, I don’t get dressed, I don’t read, or watch movies, or get on the computer, or write. I lay in bed with the covers over my head, make periodic forays to the bathroom for the toilet, and eat a little once or twice a day. I do not function.

I have brief (extremely so) periods of hypomania when I’m unmedicated. Not quite as severe as true full-blown mania, they nevertheless have me venturing from bed. I get out, do things, participate in activities, hang out with what friends I may have. These don’t last. Invariably, I slide back into nonfunctionality and return to bed.

And I’m Mixed-State, which makes things more interesting. Unmedicated, my long periods of depression are periodically pierced by the manic symptoms of overspending, overextending myself (with favors or promised activities—which never actually ever get done), or unobtainable goals. If I’m forced to socialize at all during such a depressive phase, the “mix” of the hypomania makes me babble uncontrollably, and usually with extreme cheer and a bubbly personality which grates on others’ nerves. If I get to spend most of my time in bed, my mixed state treats me to my own personal auditory hallucinations of people murmuring unintelligibly.

In some ways, the Medicated Ashe is a vastly different person. In other ways, Medicated Ashe is just the same as Unmedicated Ashe.

I’ve been stable—on some sort of medication for Bipolar Disorder—since about 2006-2007. I’m not exactly sure, but I think that’s about right. Things from the period when I was properly diagnosed—and before—are kind of a smear at this point. I suspect it’s a side effect of bipolar disorder. I have some extremely clear memories of my life before my slide into insanity, but most of my mental illness up until I got stabilized is a jumbled blur. I remember things out of order, or not at all, or partially—and never with any kind of attachment to a season, much less time or date. The clearest memory from my mental illness is when I went for my initial evaluation with the VA. It was winter. I got off the commuter light rail, crossed to the correct sidewalk, thought I’d never find my way to the hospital with the directions I had with me, and screamed and whapped the nearest light pole with my cane, which I was at the time using ’cause my knees were extremely faulty. I still have that cane; it’s got this nice, gentle bend in it from when I abused the light pole, which survives to this day with no discernible damage to its shape or paint job.

But Medicated, I get out of bed every day, even when I don’t feel like it. I get dressed—a requirement, because if I hang about, even at home, in sweats or other clothing I’ve mentally relegated to the designation of “sleepwear,” I don’t do anything except lay around my apartment in a down mood with a head which won’t connect thoughts; dressing is an incredible mental/emotional boost for me, so I usually wear jeans and a tee, complete with shoes, unless I’m so sick and cold I’m bundled in bed dosed with the strongest OTC cold medication I can find anyway. Medicated, I write, and I get lots of fun ideas for my stories. I clean house. I keep up with hygiene. I read and look forward to going out with friends and hang out online with my e-friends who are scattered all over the world.

And then there are the “Fun” moments, usually driven by the hypomania. It’s even more “Fun” when I’m interacting on the same level with another bipolar person.

For instance, there was the time an online friend and I were discussing our living situations and how we wished we could improve them. Within three hours, we’d found apartments in my city where we could move as roommates, determined how much it would cost for my friend to drive cross-country with their furniture, and were making relatively firm plans to go with this plan. We were on this quest for a few days, emailing various landlords with requests for info regarding the places we were considering moving to (one, I remember, was a house with the fridge in the living room). I forget the mechanism which gave us the much-needed reality check, but we abruptly abandoned these plans with much resignation to our current living situations.

This is the kind of thing I mean when I say I go “bipolar” about something. And what I mean when I jokily say “Bipolar Disorder Is Fun!”

And I don’t need to be interacting with another bipolar person when I have a bipolar “moment” like this. One of Bipolar Disorder’s manic symptoms is overspending—I mentioned this before. It is incredibly easy for me to convince myself I need something so well I buy it right then. The bipolar friend I mentioned previously, and one who lives local to me part of the year both say they have this symptom. And it can become quite pronounced. I once had a general-use credit card with a limit upwards of several hundred dollars. I maxed that sucker out over a period of two or three months, convinced I had to have each and every item I used that card to purchase . . . and I have almost nothing to show for it. It takes a lot of effort for me to control my spending, and involves me making a budget each month, sending a savings fund to an account I can’t access easily or receive money from quickly, and, occasionally, overspending my “local” funds to the point of scraping by on my “backup food” of canned and frozen goods.

And this is the controlled version of Bipolar Disorder. When I’m unmedicated, I don’t keep a savings account. I don’t even do monthly budgets. I have barely enough for end-of-the-month bills, and certainly not enough money for fresh groceries most of the month, because my budget for those drops to about $25.00 a week—if I’m lucky. If I’m not? I hit food banks, which is a laborious process to undergo from where I now live, which is anywhere from one to three miles away from where most of the local ones are.

And, the most “Fun” aspect of Bipolar Disorder is, for me, the writing swings. I’m in a manic writing swing right now, winging a (ugh) gay romance I’d rather not be working on at all. I’d far rather be writing on my Chraesti or Hatuni stories. My subconscious is throwing gay romance scenes at me instead, and I can’t even make thoughts connect from the plot cards for my Chraesti and Hatuni stories. It just won’t happen. But I relax a little, and I have lots of ideas for my gay romances. I’m reluctantly going along with it with hope I’ll segue to what I’d rather be writing or, if not that, at least another writing downswing. Yes, I’d take another downswing in favor of the gay romance writing. Any day.

So, that’s my little snapshot of my Mixed-State Bipolar Disorder. It doesn’t seem very severe to me, but I imagine another bipolar person reading this will finish it and think mine’s worse than theirs. (I personally think my two mentioned bipolar friends’ conditions are worse than mine, but can’t go into much detail about theirs aside from saying, when looking at theirs from what they’ve told me—neither Mixed-State like I am—I’m rather glad I have Mixed-State Bipolar Disorder.)

Other Projects

I didn’t originally intend to work on Degrees of Subtlety—or on any story set on Hatu Napor at all. My intent was to focus solely on Chraest, where I have the most stories set. It’s still my goal to get 12 Chraesti stories done before I start publishing, in fact.

But Hatu Napor isn’t the only world I’ve previously created and then “abandoned.” There are several others. And they all have stories which fascinate me attached to them. Stories I long to work on, which I’d love to complete.

For instance, there’s Married to the Moons, a trilogy (I hope), and other stories set on Nahela. The primary MC for MttM is a suicidal Voice of the Gods. The Moons he’s married to? The three Sister-Goddesses who direct life in his homeland. I need to do more backstory and worldbuilding on Nahela before I can decide precisely what to do with it, but the “introductory” story, MttM, is still very dear to me, and I’d love to complete it.

Then, on Tzefanya, I have Seeking Knowledge. I’m waiting on my subconscious to provide vital bits of information regarding the storyline, various religious facts about the world’s current state, and more of the backstory/history of the Ahlai, a nomadic people who were forced to abandon their homeland to avoid being enslaved by an invading empire.

And I have Ferodoxis. That’s not it’s real name, that’s what the humans call it. For the natives, at least those in Imotina, it’s Ferodozhe. Don’t ask my why the humans screwed it up like they did, my creative mind hasn’t told me yet. On this world, in Imotina, is set a story about one of the very few—well, she’s not precisely straight, though she marries a male of her race—female POV MCs I’ve ever been able to make real. I hope to get back to The Obscure Child and its following books (whose series title I don’t yet know) at some point in the future. Just . . . not right now (hear that, creative mind?).

And then there’s Mistworld, or Elindu. A continent surrounded by a curtain of mists and referred to by its denizens as the Heartland is a kind of dumping ground of various races from elsewhere on the planet. Outside the mists, in the majority of the world, magic is something if one is lucky one is only deported to “the Mists” for having. If one is not lucky, one is consigned to one of a number of torturous deaths. Technology reigns beyond the mists, but within them, magic is paramount. This world has elves of various types, possibly vampires (some worldbuilding I haven’t quite decided upon), and the auspices of various gods who have been forgotten by those outside the Mists. Farrillan’s story, in Cat Eyes, is set on this world. I’ve written one other story, a novelette, set in the Heartland. Not sure what kind of tech I’ll be giving the people outside of the mists; I’m having enough trouble figuring out the Heartland as it is.

Last, but not least, are my Urban Fantasy stories. I’d love to get these going again, but I’m not ready to do the research necessary for them. I’m also not certain if I want to have my UF Earth tied to Elindu in some way, and if so, how strong that tie should be (for instance, can people pass between them easily, or are there certain requirements or restrictions which make doing so too costly? What would be the effect of tech in the confines of the Mists on Elindu? How long have they been connected, how did they come to be so, and did Earth give Elindu magic, or was it the other way around?). Lots to work on with this yet.

Luckily (for me), my creative mind hasn’t splintered off into offering profound Must Write NOW ideas for any of these other projects. And I hope it doesn’t happen until I’ve finished at least the books for Chraest I want to write for my first year of publishing (at one book a month, if all goes well). I do want to get back to these worlds and their projects. Not right now, though. I have enough to work on as it is just with Chraest, never mind Hatu Napor.

Radiation Follow-Up

This entry is part 35 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

This won’t be a very long post. Honestly, my radiation follow-up was rather anticlimactic, which is what any cancer patient wants, I imagine. I certainly did. Dr. Poppe was pleased with my breast’s condition, as it has made a complete recovery from the burns it had developed.

Over the course of the visit, I saw a resident as well as my doctor. Resident happened to be going through his second residency—he used to be an OB/GYN doc, taught a little, and decided to care for cancer patients. He did not look old enough to have had teaching experience.

Both the resident and Dr. Poppe gave me breast exams, and my doc discussed with me my hormone suppressant therapy regimen. There was some slight confusion, as Dr. Colonna had put in my notes she wants to put me on Tamoxifen instead of the combo therapy I’m on now (she called me about this some few days ago). Once all that was straightened out, Dr. Poppe and the nurse chaperone filled out a form for me to give to the receptionists regarding my next visit for radiation follow-up. It’s to happen a couple days before my birthday in November. LOL

When Plotting Isn’t Going Well

I’ve talked about when plotting is going well for me. And most of the time, it does. I’m not going to lie and say plotting things out is incredibly easy . . . but it’s not extremely difficult, either.

Unless . . .

I’m struggling to see what’s happening next in an outline. Sometimes it’s because I’m in a general writing downswing, as I am now. Been in it for a while, and when I get like this, nothing moves. Not outlines, not writing, nothing. If I’m lucky, the downswing is a creative one, where I’m actually able to work on other aspects of the writing, like worldbuilding, adding things to the timeline, or, since I’m doing the Two-Year Novel Course, the current week’s exercise for the class. This writing downswing hasn’t been a creative one, though. It gave me a spring-cleaning bug instead. LOL

But sometimes I hit a block while still being in writing-mode—no downswing in sight. I have a few methods for dealing with this.

Thinking all I need to do is recharge my inspiration/writing mind, I will go read a book. I should probably do this more often, as it does indeed help me come up with ideas for my own writing. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’ll see how another author handled a particular issue I may be struggling with, whether that issue is the reason for the current block or not. Either way, I get some time away from the computer and, if I go to the coffee shop on the corner across the street, a change of scenery.

On occasion, I’ll take my laptop to the coffee shop as well, and, if there’s a table next to a power socket available, plug in my computer and write a bit. This does the same thing as taking a book or my nook to the shop to read, only it’s not as far a break away from my writing. Being in a new place makes my mind more alert, and ideas come easier, so I’m able to plot and write a little easier.

Another method I like to use to jog ideas loose is going on a walk. This is somewhat challenging in the winter (a couple different bladder issues), but during the spring, summer, and fall, I’ll take myself to the park catty-corner to the block where I live and take a walk with a song on repeat on my mp3 player. Walking or being in a moving vehicle has always helped prod my creative mind, and it’s no different these days, though it’s generally best if I’m not concerned with any particular real-life event or errand when I’m walking or being a passenger. I’m not sure why being in movement works for me, but it always has.

The last most common method of dealing with plotting issues is stepping away and working on a craft. Mostly crocheting. I’ll pop a movie I’ve seen lots of times in my DVD player and listen and half-watch it while I twist yarn into afghans and granny squares and scarves. This is soothing as well, and watching my hands work the hook and yarn calms my creative mind enough for me to focus on things better when I come back to my writing. This, however, is something I have to be in the mood for.

Rarely, I’ll make sure my PS2 is hooked up, pop a game in, and play for a while. This is my Need A Total Break method of dealing with plotting issues. One of my last resorts, I don’t often use this method, as I’m far more likely to get something out of one of my other methods before this will work for me. In fact, I get more out of watching somebody else play video games. I zone better watching them than I do when I’m playing them—it’s kind of like my idea-contemplation meditation. I don’t have to work, but it’s interesting to me—more interesting than most TV shows—and it keeps me distracted enough that I’m not dwelling on the problems I’m having with my writing, which enables me to think past the block. When I’m playing myself, I prefer “simple” games. Things which don’t require a lot of mental output, so I’ll play something like a straightforward quest-type without puzzles. MediEvil and Darkstone are good for this; I can pop it in, pick up where I left off, and bash some enemies for a bit. It clears the mind.

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