Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Author: Ashe Elton Parker (page 2 of 4)

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.

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 9

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale

Géta followed Udé into the dining hall. His friend had announced the kitchen always set out a sideboard in the afternoon, primarily because Mages finishing afternoon practice generally required some sort of sustenance. The sideboard was actually an abbreviated selection of foods set on the counter where meal components were set out, and Udé lifted the lid of the soup tureen at one end of the collection of food, rattling the ladle about.

“Dregs. Who eats the soup before I get here?”

Chuckling over the complaining tone of voice his friend had spoken in, Géta wandered over to the left and collected an orange and a couple sausage rolls. The crusts were a little hard, but that didn’t matter. Udé followed his example, collecting four of the rolls into a hammock made with the bottom of his tunic and selecting three apples instead of oranges. Géta finally found a position with his arm and collection of music which supported the food he’d taken, and the pair headed for the door to the hall leading to the Mages’ and musicians’ quarters, him in the lead.

“So how was this practice?”

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The Cat, Pt 2

I’ve lived in this building twice before, and previously, I had to go get a form for my psych doc to sign stating that I needed to have a companion animal, so I contacted my landlord about it. During a conversation in the laundry room while he did his laundry, he told me that such things aren’t required any more and that all I’d need is proof of licensing and shots. Needless to say, I was happy to hear this. I explained that one of the places I could adopt from required a note from the landlord stating that animals are permitted on premises, and he got that to me.

When I called Anita to ramble about the cat some more, she offered to take me to PetSmart. I picked up everything I thought I’d need and took it home. The first thing after getting in, I put together the carrier/crate I’d gotten for my future cat.

So, on Tuesday, the 11th of July, I went to get my cat.

My original intention was to get an adult cat, maybe a couple years old. I was, however, keeping my mind open. When we arrived at the Salt Lake County Animal Services, I handed in the application I’d already filled out and the note from my apartment’s manager. The receptionist had a minor issue with the note—it lacked a letterhead. She stated that she’d have to contact the manager to verify, and I said that was fine and completed the applications process then went back to look at the cats.

They had three rooms with adult cats, two sets of kennels with individual cats, and one kennel-cage with a bunch of kittens. Since I didn’t know if it was okay for me to go into the rooms with the adult cats, I only peered in at them through the windows. None of them seemed to care I was there. The individual cats in the kennels didn’t take much note of me and my friend Anita, either, though one took a swipe at her and managed to scratch the back of her wrist; I definitely didn’t want that cat. And honestly, none of the kittens seemed to take much note of us either, but there was one who was trying to play with its kennel-mates. I watched it for a few minutes, then decided that I wanted it.

Back out to the reception area of the building to tell them I’d chosen. The receptionist told me to meet another employee back there to tell them which one I wanted, so I hurried back to do that. Out came the rambunctious kitten, and the employee scanned his chip and told me to go back out front to receive him. I went back to the reception area to receive my kitten. By this time, the receptionist had verified that pets are permitted where I live and made a copy of the note Tom had written. She commended me for coming prepared—with a carrier—as the employee who brought him out to me tucked him inside.

 

My cat, Einstein

Einstein the Cat

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 8

This entry is part 09 of 12 in the series Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale

A while later, another knock came on Géta’s door. He shifted to eye the panel, wary now because of Asthané’s visit. The Mage could have returned. Why, he couldn’t fathom, but he didn’t fancy the idea of opening the door. Still, when the knock came once more, he got up to do so.

Shélan smiled at him. “Hello, Géta.”

Unable to restrain his joy at seeing the Priest, Géta opened the door and beckoned him in. “Hi, Shélan! I didn’t expect to see you again.”

“Why ever not? Did you think I could forget you?”

The tease made him bob his head, cheeks warming. “A little.”

“Well, you made quite an impression upon me, young man. May I sit?”

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The Cat, Pt. 1

I moved into my current apartment, in case you don’t recall, sometime in August or September of 2014. It took me about a year to settle in and when I did, I went through a nesting period. I hung things on the walls, organized my books, etc. And one of the things I wanted to add to my home was a pet. Specifically, a cat. At the time, I didn’t feel quite emotionally—or financially—ready for the responsibility. I had a bunch of financial stuff to clean up, and I still balked at the idea of taking responsibility for another life. I still had a bit of growing to do.

Fast forward to this year—yearning over the duration—to the mental health group I was convinced to join. Some background here. My regular therapist attempted to get me to go, but I refused, even though it was only temporary. This was before I started budgeting the month’s transit fees with the rest of my bills, so I really had no idea how much money I’d have left for “extra” transit trips each month. So I said no. Well, the primary facilitator of the group called me directly and reasoned me into going. I forget what she said about it, only that the way she explained it made it sound like it would be worth a try.

Besides the point, I’ve made mental health progress in that group, and had a number of epiphanies about my personal and interpersonal lives through it.

One of those personal epiphanies was realizing how much I wanted a cat. This occurred during our group session last week, when it was only the primary facilitator, her assistant, and me and one other patient. I forget how we got on the topic, but he passed around his phone with a picture of him with a Husky puppy hung over his shoulder. The yearning hit hard right then, and I mentioned wanting a cat.

Everyone looked at me and the facilitator asked, “Why don’t you have one?” in disbelief.

And I realized something. I’d been holding back for bogus reasons for the past couple years. I’d managed to straighten my finances out enough to where I still had a bit of a savings even after a bunch of spending I’d been doing. I felt emotionally ready—in other words, the thought of taking responsibility for another living creature didn’t scare the living daylights out of me—seriously, this was almost an anxiety issue before, and still is in some respects.

The remainder of the group was spent discussing how pets can enrich our lives. By the time we left, I was high on the idea of getting a cat. I even had it all planned. I’d get a young adult cat, maybe one or two years old. Preferably black, but I’d take any who seemed eager to leave the shelter with me. Male or female didn’t matter; as I discovered over the intervening days, I was as likely to refer to the expected cat as “it” as I was as “he” or “she,” I really didn’t care.

I wrote little, slept poorly due to excitement, one or two nights not even sleeping at all—especially that first night when I was so full of the thrill of giving myself permission to get a cat. And I talked almost incessantly abut the cat I wanted to get to my closest friend—to the point where she’d joke about how obsessed I was. I made a list of cat supplies and accessories the cat would need, considered names (in case the name the cat came with was unappealing to me), researched shelters where I could go to adopt, and set the ball rolling on getting permission to bring the cat into my home (I thought I needed to have my therapist or psych doc fill out a form for my manager). Also, I researched prices on expensive items, ingredients in the various foods I learned my local Smith’s store carried, and polled cat-owning friends on what to avoid and what to do for my cat. I even typed up a list of Kitty Care Questions for me to ask the veterinarian I planned to take my cat to (the same one my mom’s dog goes to).

So, as you can see, I went from ready to prepared.

To Be Continued . . .

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 7

This entry is part 08 of 12 in the series Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale

Géta’s stomach kept sending up mouthfuls of lunch as he waited, by turns gazing into the garden in hopes of seeing the Mages and staring out over the field wondering if they’d already passed. It hadn’t been one yet when he’d left for the gate to the Weatherfield, but he was afraid he may have missed meeting them. Pacing a little, he continually swallowed as he hugged his flute to his side. He hadn’t bothered to take it out and put it together and had spent a few minutes in indecision, wondering if he should bring the music he was learning before deciding this couldn’t be counted as an official practice. This was real performance, and it chilled him despite the humid heat of the day.

He turned away from the field and saw four people on the path from the Temple. The woman at the head of the little group wore a tunic with a V-bent arrow through crescent with the points down on the front; an orange, yellow, and blue spiral filled the space between the arrow and bottom of the crescent. The others he could see wore different colors; one with yellow, another with blue, and the last he couldn’t see from where he stood with the others blocking. Géta caught glimpses of red hair, but that was all.

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A Slight Shift in Things Here

Well, I fully intended to reserve this site only for writing topics on Tuesdays, but I didn’t honestly believe I’d run out of them so soon. My last scheduled post, RIP Ferodoxis, went up last week, and I was already frantically trying to find a writing topic for this week—just this week at the time. I have not come up with anything.

As a result, I’ve been considering what I might do. I’ve been looking at the sites and blogs of writers I know and follow, and realized they pretty frequently have personal posts, such as I used to post here. Some are more political than others, some focus more on writing than others. But they all include personal posts. I’ve not wanted to share my political views here (though they’re probably at least somewhat obvious, considering the subtitle of my site), but I have kind of missed posting about my real life here. So, with those things considered and realized, I’ve decided to go back to posting about my real life on this site. These posts, if they show up, will come on Tuesdays, so readers will either see a writing-related post, or something about my real life.

I will not be posting about real-world politics here. There may be a rare comment or retweet about politics on Twitter, though I’m not often there these days—and, in fact, personal stuff I’m gearing up to write about may well appear on Twitter first, depending on how willing I am to risk catching a glimpse of unhappy news there, but I likely won’t linger long, so follow @AsheEltonParker there; I’ve also added my Twitter feed to my sidebar, just scroll down a bit.

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 6

This entry is part 07 of 12 in the series Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale

With a sigh, Asthané flopped onto his sofa, placed his hand on his head, and cooled the temperature of his scalp in an effort to alleviate the pain. At this point, exerting his will to cool the temperature of his head wouldn’t do much to aggravate the headache. Using what little of Teesar’s Gift he had would aggravate the headache, because he wasn’t very well practiced with those skills and had to exert a bit of concentration and access the Obnubilate Codicil in order to effect changes.

At least, thanks to this four-hour session of nonstop weatherworking, he had a very firm grasp on the trick to reducing temperature. He sighed again, this time with a bit of a groan as the cool sensation caressed his skin, taking some of the pain away. Still, he didn’t feel so bad, even with the sick-headache from using his Gifts for so long without a break. Poor Héforth had been dry-heaving between his attempts at killing the wind and precipitation in Asthané’s spell. Only practice would reduce the reaction, and the boy was going to get plenty of that with Asthané around. And maybe Asthané wouldn’t end up with awful sick-headaches at the ends of these sessions in a month or so. He could use the stamina all this magic-practice was going to give him.

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RIP Ferodoxis

Ferodoxis is one of the worlds I wrote in the longest, just counting years. I conceived of this place sometime in the mid-90’s, a few years after I came up with Elindu. Ferodoxis was supposed to be my signature Science Fiction world, plus magic. With stories written from the natives’ point of view—they weren’t human—I planned on highlighting some aspects of human nature that I’ve long been unhappy about.

My premier story/series from this world was supposed to be about a young female’s preparations to become the ruler of one of the last few nations left on Ferodoxis. She would actually come into power after the events of the series—which were supposed to culminate in a human invasion of her world. Of course, I had other ideas for this world, but this story was the one that I’ve always had for the world.

Then I went to Colorado and joined the Navy. When I returned to North Carolina in 2003, I was never the same. Neither was Ferodoxis. Over the next couple of years, I tried to finally make a decision about the bodily structure of the natives of Ferodoxis. I lost interest in working on the conlang I’d been developing for the nation where most of my stories occurred—a necessary step because they had concepts we don’t and thus have no words for. But the main sticking point was the physical form of the natives.

So, on and off, I worked on stories set in this world. I wrote a number of shorts, rewrote, rewrote again, and continued to continually rewrite the main story I saw for this world. I loved the MC I conceived for this story, Peikigi, and the style of her voice, in whose first person pov the story was told in. Her story turned out to be one of my most literary, in style, that I’ve ever written. And it was speculative fiction. After a while, rewriting her story took on an almost ritualistic feel for me. Unfortunately, I never made it very far beyond perhaps the middle of her first book. It just wouldn’t go.

Oh, in this was a period of a few months when I broke my mind and my writing over adding LGBT+ themes to the world,. mostly due to religious influence. There were also moments when I made the Ferodoxans more animal-like, other times when they may as well have been human, and other brief periods when they were humans. None of these permutations ever felt right for them though.

I also struggled with pronouns. An odd thing, I know. But I kept trying to decide if they’re actually male/female/bigender, or of no gender designations we understand—requiring more than two member to mate, or them being parthenogenetic in reproduction somehow—with the resultant confusion regarding pronouns. For a while, I contemplated other different uses of pronouns as well, most of which I’ve forgotten.

But I loved Peikigi, her stories, and the society she lived in.

Until, one day, I didn’t. Not as much as I had before. I realized I’d made such a mess of Ferodoxis, and particularly Peikigi’s culture, that I no longer had any idea just what I wanted to do with it. And I honestly didn’t care to figure it out. Much as I want to, I can’t even say I may one day resurrect this world in some small way.

So it’s RIP Ferodoxis.

I’m already piecing it out. So far, I’ve moved the concept I’ve long had for a society of people highly trained to be servants, bodyguards, and priests to another world, and I like what I’m doing with the concept. To be honest, I’m a little tired of the original concept, in part due to its attachment to the now-defunct Ferodoxis. I’m interested again, and adding this social group to this other world has actually helped increase my interest in the world and the story I’ve got going in it. Of course, I’m changing things around a bit, but the basics are there—they’re still highly trained servants/bodyguards/priests. But now they add color to a world that lacked detail, and that’s a good thing.

For a long time, I had in mind dismantling Ferodoxis like this. I honestly did not want to give up on it. And, in a way, I do regret doing so. But at the same time, I’m very, very happy with the decision. Ferodoxis had become a burden. By chopping it up among my various worlds as the old worldbuilding will fit, I’ll be able to enliven other worlds of mine, and the stories in them. This, I think, is only a good thing.

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 5

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale

Géta hurried to his room after his practice-lesson and put his flute and music away, then opened the window as quickly as he could. The letter from Alénil had been on his mind the whole afternoon, and he wanted to write a reply to it as soon as possible. He threw his tunic onto his bed and dropped into the chair.

Right in front of his incomplete composition homework.

He glanced from the scattered pages of music and the pencil and eraser on top to the letter laying on the near right-hand corner and back again several times as his enthusiasm cooled. It took a few minutes of consideration before he groaned and got up, untying his cravat and loosening the collar of his shirt as he retrieved his flute. He hadn’t gotten ahead of his schoolwork at home by slacking, and he’d driven the habit in deeply enough to feel uncomfortable letting his homework be ignored now. The thing here was to stay ahead of lessons as much as possible, so he’d have all the time he needed for practices and studying journals. And today, in addition to the remainder of the music he had to compose, he had mathematics homework, so he collected that as well before returning to his desk. To prevent distraction, he hooked his tunic and covered the letter with it, leaving them on the bed. There. Hopefully his mother’s adage of “out of sight, out of mind,” would prove true right now, because he didn’t know how he’d get through all his homework if he couldn’t focus on it.

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