Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: August 2017

Taking A Break

With the completion of posting of Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale, I’m taking a break from posting this week. It got a bit hairy for me toward the end of the book, with me barely keeping up with my weekly post and scheduling posts of the book. I managed to finish edits on it a few weeks beforehand, but apathy struck, and it was a fight the whole time. Sadly, that apathy about posting here is still with me. I’m hoping that taking a deliberate break from the onus of posting, however brief it may be, will prevent an unanticipated case of full-blown bipolar apathy regarding the site. I’ve done this before, with mixed success. Here’s hoping my blog absence will last only a week.

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 11

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale

Asthané assured the guard—it was always a different one who brought him to his palace chambers—he was capable of stumbling to bed on his own. Following a minute’s hovering hesitation, the woman departed, and he watched her go, waiting until she disappeared around a corner. Good. He could relax now.

This Council meeting hadn’t been so bad. Of course, he’d spent most of it sitting outside the chamber while other business was taken care of, but he still had a head which felt like someone had used it for a drum and knotted guts. He wasn’t sure just how much of the fine supper in the room beyond this front door he’d be able to eat, especially cold—he’d learned long ago, most foods eaten while sick with Gift reaction tended to lack flavor if left cold—and he wasn’t inclined to use his Gifts to heat anything up. It might be best to skip supper altogether.

He turned the handle and forced himself to move into the room. Bless the soul of whoever watched over these chambers, they always left the fore chamber well-lit, the gaslights bright. Maybe someone who understood about Mages was monitoring the use of this apartment. Whoever it was, he wanted to thank them. He shuffled in, edged to the side, and shut the door as he leaned against the wall, tipping his head back as he closed his eyes. Bed was just across the way, in the next room, but he needed a break to register he truly was free for the rest of the evening.

“Thané?”

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Redefinition

Way back when, and up through the early 2000’s, my definition of “working on my writing” was actively getting words on my stories. I think I’ve mentioned before how I did this. I was a pantser—someone who wrote without an outline—for all of that time and beyond. It’s only been within the past five or six years that I’ve made any efforts at outlining stuff. But even with that, my definition of “working on my writing” remained getting new words on any given project.

Because this habit was so ingrained, I had difficulty divorcing myself from the idea that the only definition of “working on my writing” was getting new words on a project. Almost 20 years of defining something a certain way will make changing that definition hard for almost anybody, and it was especially difficult for me, I think, because I identified so strongly as a writer. That was, quite literally, all there was to me, at least in my mind, until recently (we went over this in last week’s post).

As a result, I’ve been struggling for years to redefine “working on my writing.” I knew it needed to be done, I knew that everything I did, from background work to actual writing to editing could be defined as “working on my writing,” but I just couldn’t convince my conscious mind to include all that stuff. Though I knew I seemed to some people to include all that stuff, I really wasn’t thinking it all was included. For me, “working on my writing” was still very much just getting new words.

I think that’s why I had such a difficulty with my self-identification as a writer for so long. The two were irrevocably bound up in each other. A reason, I suppose, I despaired whenever I didn’t actually add new words to a project. In essence, I was pretty much a mess over my writing.

And then I had that epiphany, that I’m not just a writer. Like a shaft of sunlight through storm clouds, I suddenly had a brand new perspective on all of my writing, not just my self-identification as a writer.

Which has led me to my new ability to include everything related to writing in my definition of “working on my writing.” This has been very freeing. The whole thing, from my initial epiphany about my self-identity, to realizing that whatever I do with my writing, whether it be dumping notes into a journal to editing that work, is “working on my writing.”

Essentially, all this means I don’t beat myself up any more. If I don’t write anything, from a blog post to fiction, no big deal. I have and am other things to work on. Now, writing a blog post is something I define as “working on my writing” because, well, I’m writing. If I choose to edit a chapter from one of my stories, I’m “working on my writing.”

Yeah, this is a big epiphany for me. Something friends have been pointing out for months if not years, other writers and nonwriters alike. Ashe, if you’re writing plot cards, you’re “working on your writing.” Yeah, I can be a bit of a dunce sometimes. But then, sometimes I need other things to click before the obvious things like this can sink in.

What this means is that now I don’t stress getting fresh words. If I do, yay! If I don’t, no big deal. More than likely, I’ve spent at least a few minutes (if not much more) on contemplating my stories. Which is, yes, “working on my writing.”

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 10

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale

Géta kept his gaze on the two trunks at the foot of his bed as he dropped his class things on his desk; the shelves were blocked by the trunks now. One was new, burnished yeru from the lot his parents had purchased for that trip to the lake when he was six. When he crossed to look at the address on it, he found his mother’s handwriting as he expected, and he knelt to unbuckle the straps holding the lid shut, using his parrying dagger to cut the knotted bits of twine which his mother had apparently deemed suitable as a security measure. His armor lay on the top; bits of plate for arms, with a mail tunic. Two letters and a leather-bound book lay on top of the mail tunic.

He fanned the pages of the book, but they were all blank. A journal, then. After taking notice one letter was from his mother, he picked up the other, from Alénil, and opened it. It said little, his best friend choosing not to go into detail about a life he knew Géta was very familiar with, then introduced the journal with the suggestion Géta use it as a kind of notebook to keep records of events he wanted to write home about. Géta set the letter on top of his clothes and picked up the journal again, opening it.

He gazed at the blank pages, considering what he could write in it right now for a few minutes, then made himself close the journal and set it on top of his clothes. Opening his mother’s letter enabled him to acquire the key to the trunk, but he didn’t read the note with it yet. The half-hour bell chimed, so he needed to get out to the Weatherfield gate or he’d be in trouble.

He locked the trunk, then added the key to the leather strap of his keyring and collected his flute. No time to straighten things up, and he’d have to ask about what to do with the trunks when he unpacked them later. He hurried out to the gardens and trotted up the path he usually took to the Weatherfield gate.

And came around a bend with a tall hedge right into the trio of bullies who had been after him.

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Not Just A Writer

I’m changing. Or, perhaps more accurately, my perception of myself is changing. I’ve given you my background more than once, and I believe I’ve mentioned it on my About: The Author page, about how I first started writing back in the very late 80’s.

That was actually part of my problem. Maybe I hadn’t started writing until my high early high school years, but the habit quickly became ingrained. Back then, when I first started writing, my only initial aspirations to be published related to breaking into the Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise, which I pretty much gave up when I moved into writing my own original work. But by then, I already strongly identified as a writer. It honestly didn’t matter to me through my high school years if I ever got published. Sure, it would have been nice if I’d been able to write that one glorious book that broke me into the publishing world sometime soon after high school, but I was much too content with just jotting my stories down to worry much about doing much more than sending the odd short I managed to complete to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies. I think I sent two. Maybe three. All were rejected. Far from broken, I just shrugged, filed the rejections, and went on writing my daydreams down.

And thus was my writing life up until I was forced to give up writing by homelessness in Denver, Colorado. I still daydreamed, even though I didn’t get back to my writing until 2002, when I returned to North Carolina after being discharged from the Navy. Restless, at the top end of a slow slide into insanity, I had difficulty holding down a job and tried to make it on my own again. And almost ended up homeless again.

But I was still a writer. My first years here in Utah were hell for my writing. I was insane, which was not at all helped by my search for a spiritual home, and I killed my writing by trying to force it into a mold it didn’t fit.

And yet, I was a writer. Even when I finally shelved my writing to focus on getting mental health care and an at least semi-decent job. So, for a few years, I didn’t write. Not until my mom came out here to help me. First, she shipped the old Kitchen Imp computer we’d had in our trailer for years, since sometime around 1988 or ’89—the computer I found Forward Motion on with my first search for “writers’ websites.”

Because I was still a writer I promptly turned to my writing. Mostly healed from my torturous experience with trying to reshape my writing into something it could never be, I dove into the fantasy stories I’d once loved to work on. I had one real-world job after another, rebounded into one I’d had previously when a “better” job fell through, and wrote.

Through it all, I identified as a writer. So strongly, in fact, that I’ve struggled the past few years since my return to writing speculative fiction. Because I’d developed the habit of writing daily prior to losing my mind, I was still stupidly focused on that aspect of my writing. Yes, I was happy when I wrote, no matter how few days I wrote out of any given week or month, but I suffered depression and fear whenever I didn’t write. I mean, real, paralyzing terror that one lone day of not writing was the herald to never writing again. Ever. I was a writer, after all, and I’d once been able to write almost every single day. This shouldn’t be impossible for me now, right?

Yet, it was. What I had failed to see was that with the change in my mental health, a natural consequence was a change in other aspects of my life, including my writing habit. Those days on which I wrote I judged as good, great, fantastic, wonderful. And the days on which I didn’t write were bad, okay, pathetic, or dud days.

And this year has, up until quite recently, such bad days. This year, I have spent more time days not writing than I have in typing new words to stories. And that was the only progress I counted, because I was “preset” to think of only new-word days as good writing days.

So it was quite a surprise to review my goals posts from last week on FM’s forum and see how I’d declared pretty much every day of the week—during which I wrote not a single new word on any fiction project—as a good day. These days I did other things. I practiced and learned Spanish. Playing with my new cat was a fixture of each day, as was tending to his care. For the first time ever, I considered merely getting out to a psych therapy group and my volunteer shift on Thursday as a good day. Not a single new word that day, yet it was a good day.

I honestly don’t know just what to attribute this change in perspective to, but I’m glad I’ve had it. This new view of my life was very much needed, because I was tearing myself up over not writing. See, I’ve expected, all these years, to be able to just leap back into the writing habits I had back before I went to Colorado, and I foolishly pinned my entire self-identity on that ability alone, so when I couldn’t for some reason write on any given day, it killed me. I became, in my mind, a failure, if only for a day or two, because I hadn’t written on those particular days.

And it has been wonderful to realize this change in perspective. I am not merely a writer. I am so many other things, I can do so many other things and consider myself a productive person. This, I think, is a very important step in my mental health recovery. With this development, I can accept that I may never write daily again and not feel despair or fear. I have faith that, no matter how long my fiction is away from me, it will return. Maybe it’ll be absent only a day. But now, if it’s gone a week, I know I can survive without it and be happy. And I know I can now go a month or longer without being terrified that it’ll never return. It just cycles, like my bipolar, and I can accept that each day, week, month, year is going to be different for my writing side, than the one preceding. And that’s okay.

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