Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: gay romances

Difficult Day

My headache continued through today, and so did the queasy feeling it brought. I bowed out of MTG this evening because I’m afraid I might be contagious, though this reminds me of a much more severe seasonal allergy I had some years ago in North Carolina, when my family moved out to a rural location near an airstrip populated with lots of blooming weeds. Pretty flowers, but what they did to me was downright awful. What I’ve got now is like a much milder version of that illness.

Today started out difficult. When I tried to login to the site’s backend, I found myself blocked. When I finally made it into the backend, I discovered some random jerk had basically stolen my account. I’ve done what I can to patch it so they can’t affect anything, though I’m not sure how effective it is. Still working on workarounds for it all, since I can’t actually access the Gravatar account the jerk apparently used to change the username. The entry codes go to a phone I no longer have access to, and I’ve lost any backup codes I had, as well as the original login password. So, yeah, I’m pretty well screwed there.

I’ve managed to write a bit today, though. Not a lot, but enough. I’m bouncing from one project to another, all of the damn things gay romances, but, eh, I’ll go with it.

And I’ve been reading a favorite book by a favorite author. Need to get more of her stuff . . .

A Day Late

My mini for Kit's games.

Xylorian!

I fully intended to post yesterday’s report last night, but I was exhausted and totally zoned it before I went to bed, so here it is now.

Monday was an unintentional exhaustion day. I was so excited over getting Xylorian on Sunday, I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t wait to show him off at Monday’s D&D game with Kit. Yeah, I know his paint job isn’t the best, but there was actually a point where he looked worse. LOL

Over the course of the morning hours, I wrote a couple scenes on something new. It was fun, even though it’s a gay romance. Really trying to go with the flow with these and doing my best not to be negative about it in my commentary about what I’m currently writing. I also read a bit.

We had a bit of a snafu with getting the game together. Kit woke late and had to do laundry, so we didn’t get started until 13:00. Katie wasn’t able t join us ’cause she was not feeling well, so we floated her character, which was fine. There weren’t any battles, but she missed the wonderful job Kit did with the temple where my character was raised and trained. We packed up the game around four or so and I hung out with Kit until his ride came to pick him up.

Back at home, I wrote some more, on the same story I’d worked on before going out. Then I stayed up until around 23:00 before realizing I wasn’t going to write any more.

Character Bios

My writing habits have changed over the years. I started out writing longhand, and I never made any character or world notes outside of what I put in my projects back then. Though I’m sure I had to pretty frequently skim or reread what I’d written to find plot threads and established worldbuilding and characterization info for later reference, I don’t recall doing so. Then again, it’s long been a habit of mine to reread my projects with some frequency as I write them, though as they get longer, I generally read only the four to six most recent chapters.

In recent years, I’ve developed the habit of writing worldbuilding notes in their own files. Now before, even with writing on a computer, I would have had issue with doing this. Previously, making a conscious effort to do this would have interfered with my ability to include the information, particularly if it related to a character in some way. This, however, has changed since I got back into writing my Fantasy and Science Fantasy.

These days, I’m much more comfortable with making worldbuilding notes from everything from deities to magical systems, to plants and animals—and even characters. It’s especially notable with the characters. Before, writing anything on them would have blocked my ability to depict them in my stories as I’d described them to myself privately.

A number of factors made this possible, I think.

The first, I think, is that I’ve matured as a writer. I needed to find my way into this ability, and part of that meant developing writing skills to the point where having a written-out character sketch would be helpful to me, as opposed to a list of characteristics and personality traits that felt like they meant nothing. To be able to do this, I needed to be able to see my characters as people, and I don’t think I did that quite so well before I got into the gay romances. See, the gay romances challenged me to come up with characters with different personalities, and I can recall as I wrote them how I began to do that—and how I began to comprehend my characters as individuals. This doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to individualize my characters before, this is just an indication that it became easier for me to see their natures and personalities with a clearer eye.

With this new ability to really see and differentiate my characters for myself came the ability to consciously create their personalities separate from the stories they were in. This was rather important for me, because, previously, I could see the characters only in relation to their story, and their backstory and personality traits came out as I wrote, which made for some characters who weren’t always consistent, no matter how hard I tried to make them be. They were a bit floppy in the realm of characterization, and that read, for a lot of my characters, as wishy-washy on things to some extent. They made decisions that didn’t make sense for the characterization I’d developed for them previous to the inconsistent decisions.

Since starting to write the gay romances, I’ve grown into the ability to preplan my characters’ personalities to some extent. When I got back into speculative fiction and started TPOM1, for example, I knew Géta was going to be a bit shy and uncertain once he was away from his home city and friends there. I also intended to do my best to make Asthané seem unsympathetic with regards to his relationship with Géta but also had very clear ideas on how to make it obvious he was really only gruff and grieving and not deliberately cruel, and that, though he lacked a lot of social graces, he was willing to do his best to rectify situations if notified of his trespasses and given an opportunity to do so.

With writing Masks, I’ve had to stretch my writing skills into new habits. One of the bits of advice in How to Write a Damn Good Mystery, one of the books and articles I’m reading on how to write mysteries, the author advises us to write out a character backstory summary of the murderer’s physiology (physical description), sociological dimension (background), and his psychological dimension. This, combined with a bio list from a friend’s roleplay website, has combined to give me just what I need to develop characters, and it’s working very, very well so far with Masks. The bio list has enough aspects to get me going on the summary below it.

I think another thing that’s enabled me to start writing things like this out is the fact I can see how helpful it is to have this information somewhere easily accessible. My mind isn’t always able to remember whether a particular character has a facial scar, or if a particular character has a personality that lends itself to being led; these are the things I used to have to skim over my previous writing for. With the bio list and the summary, all I have to do is bring up the file in Scrivener and read over the summary and bio and I have what I need.

Rathers

Get any group of writers together, regardless of genre, and if they’re the type to write a little each day, or have a set wordcount goal a week, you’ll eventually hear them discuss what they’d rather be working on. This isn’t a negative desire as in “I’d rather be at home reading than working my paying job.” This is the writer full of a fresh (or not so fresh) new (or maybe not so new) idea which is currently firing up their creative mind to the point where that one idea is the one they want to focus on.

Some writers are fairly good at lining up all their story ideas and saying, “I’ll write you in this order and no other way.” It’s just the way their minds work. Others aren’t able to be quite so organized or patient and bounce from one project to another until they eventually start completing stories.

But there’s always those Rathers. Even when if a writer is the type to bounce, it’s that Rather speaking.

I’m generally able to line my writing up and say “I’ll do you in this order.” This does not preclude me getting an attack of the Rathers, however. I’m in the middle of one right now in fact, with A Life of Note, the story (set) which follows pretty much right after events in TPOM. Well, within a year or two of events from it. ALON has been a rather well-behaved idea most of the year, to be honest, waiting patiently for me to get close to finishing TPOM’s three books. But it wants to be written. I can tell.

‘Cause I’d rather be working on it right now.

To explain: Last year, when I started on Unsought Gifts, the first book of TPOM, I did so with the assumption ALON would be book two of the (at the time only) trilogy planned with my characters Asthané and Géta. I thought UG would be about 90k-120k words, then I’d take my characters back to the Capitol to do their thing, then have a third book concerning a major war with an ancestral enemy. No problem. Simple!

Except, not quite so simple.

I wrote UG and book two of TPOM in one individual file, and it quickly became apparent that, though UG itself was only around 50k-60k words, the rest of the story was going to exceed pretty much all expectations for putting it into one book with UG. So I did the wise thing and cut UG from the wip and put it in its own file and wrote what is now the second book to TPOM out to completion. The second book, tentatively titled Severe Notes, is about 110k words, with a few missing scenes I haven’t been able to write ’cause I haven’t known the ultimate ending of the trilogy. I’m looking at book three to come out around the same length.

This of course necessitated me setting ALON aside, since there was (is) no way it can fit in this trilogy. It’s had a year to get “ripe” for writing. This means I now have plenty of scenes for at least one book sitting in my head, with quite a number of plot points and a variety of other ideas which may or may not get used once I start hammering things out.

As a result, every so often throughout this past year, I’ve looked at ALON and thought, “I’d rather be working on that.” I simply haven’t been able to since it requires me knowing where TPOM ends for the MCs on an emotional basis. Now that I’m getting close to that ending, I’m feeling the Rathers very strongly. My mind is turning more and more to ALON and what I want to do with it.

Even with my ability to organize and line up my wips, ALON has been getting antsy to be written, and I’m enjoying the process of going batty with anticipation of working on it while finishing up TPOM’s third book. I have to say, after the experience I had with the gay romances, this is not as annoying as some other writers might find it. I’m glad to have my Rathers and be toying with the next major project I have planned.

Enthusiasm

A few years ago, before 2008, when I first started writing the gay romances, I wrote Fantasy regularly. All the time. It was what I wrote, what I had written for years, since branching away from badly-written Star Trek: The Next Generation pastiches and my first unhappy forays into original Science Fiction stories I discovered I had an anal-retentive and obsessive desire for the technical knowledge to make them “realistic.” I found a freedom—and a challenge to make my worlds logical and rule-abiding—in Fantasy stories which even the handwavium technology of Star Trek couldn’t match.

I loved writing Fantasy.

I have no idea why I segued into gay romances, but I did my best to use them to learn. I taught myself how to power through the middles to the endings and completed more unoutlined gay romance stories than I ever had unoutlined Fantasy stories. I taught myself how to outline, to give myself a better chance at completing the stories I started, with the gay romances, and thus completed even more stories than I ever had before. I taught myself how to cause my characters real conflict, both physical and emotional pain, and how to connect my characters’ actions to their emotions with gay romances. I learned.

My writing is better now than it ever has been before, in spite of the way I destroyed it with my mental illness and trying to force my first Fantasy stories written here in Utah into the mold of a restrictive religion which, while I loved it, did not offer me the freedom to accept myself or, more importantly, my writing, which was, to be honest, my one link to sanity at the time. I wrote myself into my Fantasy and vague attempts at Science Fiction stories as I slid down the slope of Bipolar Disorder into nonfunctionality. Religion pulled me enough out of it, with the half-helpful wrong medication (I’d been misdiagnosed as Schizophrenic), to return to writing, and I proceeded to destroy it on the altar of Catholicism. I still claim a Catholic soul, but my body, my heart, and my mind are still decidedly secular, and since they outnumber my soul by two, I heed their guidance and learned also, through writing the gay romances, that I could heal both myself and my writing without the structure of religion.

Perhaps, in some ways, the gay romances were my psyche’s way of proving to the rest of me that I needed to follow my heart, not my desire for a spiritual home.

With my return to Fantasy, which really hooked me in December of last year, filling me with enthusiasm for and excitement over a brand-new, almost-completely-conceived story, I entered into a whole new world, with a brand new magic system developed from my own search for a spiritual home, and sped through the first book of the trilogy I’d thought up.

I thought I could fit all of TPOM into one book. Ha. The first book is just under 60k, but the second book is longer. Book three may be even longer than book two. And I had great enthusiasm for the whole trilogy up until about the time I started losing my enthusiasm for Brotherhood. So I stopped writing TPOM’s third book, in part because of that, and in part because I needed to figure some things out. However, I never doubted I’d come back to it at some point.

I eventually had to even stop working on Brotherhood because I lost enthusiasm in even it. I’ve explained what I’ve done recently with it, and I have to say, to be completely honest, I was afraid of cutting it. I was half-certain that my lack of interest in my two primary writing projects indicated that I was still trapped in the same rut I’d left when I stopped writing Fantasy earlier. Previously, I’d start Fantasy projects with a great deal of enthusiasm, but I’d get only so far before losing interest in whatever story I was telling. I thought I’d come to that point again with both TPOM and Brotherhood when I realized I no longer felt happy about the latter project and hadn’t touched TPOM in over a month.

I was afraid cutting Brotherhood wouldn’t work. I feared I’d just be delaying the inevitable. But I made the cut anyway, spent about a day away from the project, then tried working on it . . . and my excitement over it and enthusiasm for it came back. I was amazed. And so very, very happy. It may be, as I said, slow going on Brotherhood, but I’m happy with it again, and that means everything to me. I’m feeling excited over nearly every scene I outline, never mind write, and in the previous version, I wasn’t even feeling enthusiasm for writing the scenes. It just wasn’t there, and I got to the point where forcing the scenes out was the only way they got written before I lost interest in doing even that.

But with the cut, I’ve regained my love of the story. I’m even able to feel enthusiastic about TPOM again, and that I was desperately certain I’d lost interest in for good. I love outlining and writing when nearly every scene is a candybar scene (scenes a writer looks forward to writing with a lot of anticipation), and even those which aren’t such induce a thrill when it comes their turn for me to write them.

I’ve said all year, since my return to Fantasy December 21st of last year, that I’ve found happiness in my writing again (I was so not happy writing gay romances—did so only because those were the only ideas coming to me, and I doubted I’d come up with any new ideas with every new story I conceived). I’ve got my joy back, my confidence back (now I’m certain I’ll get fresh new ideas to write—because they’re Fantasy ideas), and most of all, every bit of fun I missed in writing the gay romances, I’ve rediscovered in my return to writing Fantasy.

Fantasy became my niche in the mid-90’s. Now it’s my home, and I’m glad to be back.

Writing Downswings

One of the really great things about my bipolar disorder is the writing downswings it causes. /sarcasm

Actually, sarcasm aside, it does serve a purpose. It keeps me from getting burnt out on what I’m writing and enables my subconscious mind to catch up to what my conscious mind has been doing with my writing. I just wish it wouldn’t happen. There are times I wish I was more like average writers, whose minds generally don’t go on hiatus in the middles of projects.

Usually I have this wish when I’m in the middle of a writing downswing. Like I am now.

I’m kind of glad this one’s happening now, and I’m hoping it won’t last more than a week or two longer. I’ve been struggling getting plot cards on both my current projects since the fifth of this month, and it’s now the fourteenth. That’s nine days. As writing downswings go, this isn’t too bad yet. I’d like to be back to creating by the twenty-fifth, so I’m “willing” to hang out doing nothing on my writing for about another ten or so days.

With any luck, I won’t come back into writing focused on the other genre I spent a small number of years writing. Gay romances. Nothing wrong with them, except I spent the entire time writing them full of anxiety. I was afraid of so many things, not the least of which was that I was going to completely run out of ideas to write. No matter now many new ideas I got, I had that fear. I also hated writing them, I was just so desperate to write anything I wrote them. They weren’t as fun as Fantasy is for me. Neither were they challenging; I love the fact I have to keep an eye on making my worldbuilding and magic systems consistent in Fantasy. I also don’t doubt the ideas; I’m much more confident I’ll get fresh, new, fun to write ideas when I’m writing Fantasy.

I simply love writing Fantasy, and I think it shows.

Even when I was writing the gay romances, I got writing downswings. They were just more frequent, and, in some ways, more traumatizing. Probably because I wasn’t writing what I really wanted to write—but I just wasn’t getting any Fantasy ideas. I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t find any joy in the gay romances, but I don’t want to go back to that, even on a temporary basis. When I swung back into Fantasy writing last year in the middle of December (after a Nano where I forced out Yet Another Gay Romance via outline), it was a great relief. I was happy again.

This year, since starting writing Fantasy again, I’ve had one downswing. Sometime early in the year. At the end of May, before which I segued into writing the gay romances again. On June first, however, I was back into Unsought Gifts, the first book of my Power of Music trilogy. And Fantasy’s all I’ve written since then.

What I’m really hoping is that this year is an example of a trend with Fantasy writing. That it’ll be something I’ll spend more time writing, that I won’t have as many writing downswings with it, that my confidence level and joy in it will fuel the fires of inspiration enough to prevent too many severe writing downswings. After the hell of last year where I didn’t make substantial progress on anything unless I had an outline and was participating in some sort of mass writing event (Julno, Nano), and where I was absolutely miserable and depressed with what I was writing, I really want my return to Fantasy to be something of if not unalloyed goodness, at least something I can count on to keep me going.

And I’ll say this. I’ve written a couple scenes on Brotherhood since the downswing began. The outline makes it easy. I mean that. It’s easy to write outlined Fantasy scenes, even in a downswing. Every gay romance scene I forced out last year was forced. I had to work to write them, and I felt disconnected from the writing, and I was always surprised at how well the scenes turned out. I’ve had none of that on the scenes I’ve written in Brotherhood since the downswing began. My only issue is that I’m not coming up with plot cards because of the lack of muse, I guess you could say, induced by the writing downswing.

I think last year was my rock-bottom in writing. I was miserable and spent most of the year in a writing downswing. It was depressing, not just figuratively but literally as well. This year has been the complete opposite. I’m happy. I’m enjoying writing like I used to. I have my confidence back—and that is a great thing. It feels wonderful.

So I think I can weather this and other writing downswings as long as I can feel confident I’ll be returning to Fantasy following it, and I do.

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