Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBT+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: Hatu Napor

Recurring Themes

I’ve recently noticed that I have a number of recurring themes in my writing. I don’t mean theme in the traditional sense of the word when discussing writing themes, but in things I typically include in my stories.

One of those themes is some sort of codependence. This comes from growing up with a codependent single parent. I saw more than one example of how her—and thus my life and my sister’s—imploded whenever our mother got involved due to her codependent nature. I don’t know why, but now I seem to have to work out this aspect of my upbringing in my stories. Frequently, the mages in my stories will have some sort of codependent bond which in some ways affects their magic. This is not always a reciprocal bond, either. In my Hatuni stories, where Whispers on the Wind happens, the “assistance” of the bond goes only one way; for one member of the bond, their magic is given some sort of additional control they don’t have on their own, but for the other half of the bond, there is no real benefit. In fact, for Shi’u, who offers this ability to control his magic to Khamu, there is only trial and tribulation, as first Khamu refuses the bond, then subsequent bondmates are lost for various reasons.

Another theme common in my stories is the Search For Faith. Dajhir, in No Affinity (set on Obryn), doesn’t believe in any of his world’s gods at the beginning of the series. I rather force him into the role of believer, but at the beginning, he really doesn’t believe. From his perspective, all the gods may as well be dead, because the only one who’s ever influenced his life—as he sees it—is the Goddess of Death, and he doesn’t see that influence as anything that deserves to be repaid with his faith in any deity.

The third of my “most common themes” is political intrigue. I do love to read a good story with political intrigue, and I find special enjoyment in entwining my characters’ lives in politics. It may be actual governmental politics, or it may be the internal workings of a school or temple or other system or place my character is introduced to. Some stories have more political intrigue than others, but most of them do have at least a little bit of it, even if it’s only a distant influence which doesn’t seem to have any direct power over my characters.

And, lastly, I have a habit of writing stories involving lovers who meet, become separated, and reunite at a later time. The lovers aren’t always lovers when they first meet, or during their first time together, but that is how I see the relationship developing later. Sometimes circumstances beyond the lovers’ control separate them, sometimes they become separated due to some action of one or the other. I even have a pair of lovers who meet, separate, meet again and become lovers, separate, and reunite under conflict when the trustworthiness of the one is in doubt and the other must decide whether to believe his warnings—this story isn’t complete yet.

Now that I’ve seen these themes in my writing, it’s given me new insight. I’ve found myself better able to plot out my stories. Now I’m also able to consciously employ these aspects of my stories to create better plot lines. It’s an enjoyable challenge to come up with different ways for these aspects to play parts in my stories, even if it means I’ll be writing a lot of “the same, but different” books with them.

Two-Year Novel 2015

This will be the third year in a row I’ve started the Two-Year Novel Course developed by Lazette Gifford. The first year she offered it on the new Forward Motion site, I got cancer, and that kind of blew keeping up with the course out of the water for me. It was all I could do to keep up with writing regularly.

Last year, I started it again for 2014; that time, a late-summer move and the resulting insanity interrupted my progress. I did try to catch up, but by the time I got to the sections where writing was to happen, I couldn’t get Xedepria’s story to move. At all. And I really wanted to write it for November. In the end, I decided to work on the one project that was moving, and I had fun with it, but getting the first Autocrat book going is still out of the question. I’ve read my stuff set on Chraest, gone through stories and plot cards and the 2yn exercises for Xedepria’s story, but nothing set there is going right now, and I’ve even actually passed out of the mood where I even want to look at stuff set on that world. It’ll come back; I just have to be patient and remember that pushing myself to work on projects I have no interest in whatsoever in working on Does Not Go Well for me. Even if I want to bury myself in those stories.

About two weeks ago, I thought I wouldn’t be doing the 2yn course this year. I had no ideas for new worlds, and didn’t really want any. No ideas for stories for new characters, and didn’t really want any. And I was at a total loss as for ideas to use for a magical system (besides one based on plagues I can’t seem to pin anywhere at all, no matter where I try), and didn’t really want any.

Then, Jennifer Amriss returned from an unannounced hiatus from Forward Motion and I cornered her in IM to discuss with her the fact that my creative mind had for the past several weeks been presenting me with a magical concept she uses in her God Jars books. We borrow off of each other, and don’t mind it, but I wanted her input because I was simply not seeing the angle my creative mind wanted me to take with it. If I remember right, I over the course of that conversation opened an old, old wip I wouldn’t have had access to without a program called Open Freely which opens a basic editor for obsolete files.

And that conversation and the old manuscript of a defunct story which went nowhere gave me the seeds I needed for my 2yn15 project, Whispers on the Wind.

Those seeds were:

1) Basic magical system. And I mean very basic. Just what two of the three types of mages were called and nothing at all on the third type.

2) Notions about the deific pantheon. And those were extremely vague.

3) The shadow of a new character, who Jennifer Amriss gave me the initial name, Shivanni (iirc), for. All I knew about him was that he was one particular type of mage.

4) And the fact two of the three types of mages regularly bond.

In the week or so since those first conceptions, I’ve developed my primary Main Character, Shi’u, started a constructed language file to name All The Things, developed a society based loosely on Ancient Egypt, and filled in some of the holes in the magical system. I’ve been hard at work on this project in part because it’s the only thing my mind wants to focus on. The rest? It’s simply been a great deal of fun working up these things.

I’m hoping this year I can keep up with the 2yn course. I’m not going to save WOTW for writing specifically during Nano, and may actually set it aside for the duration of that month. This is the world I’ve transferred the name Hatu Napor to, and it’s got a long way to go, though I already have the inklings of ideas for other stories set here.

So wish me luck. I want this one to go.

Regarding Hatu Napor

Worldbuilding is something of a fluid process. Sometimes things happen which require changes to various worlds. Recently (like within the past week), I conceived of a new world with a new magical system, and I realized the world-name of Hatu Napor fit my new development much better. So, the world formerly known as Hatu Napor (where Degrees of Subtlety is set) will in future be known as Vrythea.

To be honest, I never felt very confident the name Hatu Napor precisely fit that world, so I’m glad to have figured out where the name fits better. I don’t expect to be changing any other worlds’ names at all in future, so don’t worry I’ll start doing major overhauls of them.

I don’t know how far this initial story for the new world I’m naming Hatu Napor will get, but I think it’s a trilogy. It’s a combination of new ideas, ideas borrowed from a friend’s concepts and twisted for my purposes, and resurrected worldbuilding from a fizzled-out project that never went anywhere and doesn’t actually fit the world I tried to place it on.

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

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.

Mages’ Names In Hatuni Stories

I’m going to tag this under “Why Do I Do Things Like This To Myself?” Really. Because that’s the question I’m asking myself right now. It’s the question I’ve been asking myself since picking up Degrees of Subtlety again.

I could have changed my mind, but, no, I blithely went along, thinking, “It’s only one series of stories. It won’t get that difficult, and, besides, I have a whole list of names for Wizards!”

I was not taking into consideration my subconscious mind’s propensity for slamming me with new and varied characters, stories, and worldbuilding facts.

My . . . . uncertainty? Fear? Stark raving lunacy? Whatever it was, it began when I picked up DoS and restarted it. I did this without first seeking out the writing log for the original version. All I had was the original version of the story, and I thought, in my innocence, I wouldn’t have any problems simply lifting names for the various characters who were to appear from this.

I’d forgotten one extremely important fact about the original version of DoS. This fact? It was incomplete. One lesser, but equally important fact, was that I hadn’t given all the Wizards whom I expected to play roles names yet. So I blithely restarted the WIP, thinking I was all set with just the incomplete original story.

About the time I got to the third scene, which is the first from Sweetbriar’s POV, I realized my mistake. At this time, I made a frantic search, certain I recalled a vast list of names, including some already attached to various characters in the original version, on the back of the logsheet. I looked everywhere. Could not find it. Continued writing, ’cause the story had gripped me. Finally found the logsheet in a spot I hadn’t looked—a nesting stack of sorting trays—they nest or “spoon” together if you don’t stack them properly, which makes them nice for moving. Anyway, I found the logsheet, flipped it over, and . . . found a piddly list of names in the upper-left-hand corner. Maybe half a dozen or so. Certainly not enough to supply the number of characters who I could now successfully envision populating the microcosm of the Government-Funded Wizards’ School in Revustere.

I thought, “Okay, so it’s not here, but I clearly remember making a larger list than this.” So duly searched again a couple weeks later, during an energetic day in the middle of radiation treatments. No luck. Finished the search with a much-neatened desk and a serious case of the confoundeds, because I could not imagine where I’d put that page with the list of names. It had been at least a year and nine months since I’d last tried writing on the original version, and, at the time, though certainly inspired, my heart definitely hadn’t been in it, because what I had in it was definitely lacking in a lot of important ways.

I was not discouraged, though I had reached the point where I was beginning to wonder why I did this stuff to myself. I can be clever with my writing, and make sensible decisions regarding plot. Consistently coming up with names like Razorthorn, Arrowroot, Shadowshale, and Yellowcliff, however? Not quite so easy. I distinctly recall having asked for assistance with this naming convention before, with the original story, because I was enamored enough of it I hadn’t been able to convince myself to go without it, and of course I felt that way now. There are some things my subconscious, especially with regards to worldbuilding, will not give up on, and this was one such aspect, and I knew, though it seemed small, inconsequential, and thus something I should easily be able to change, my subconscious had an excellent plot- or worldbuilding-related reason for clinging to this naming convention.

So, there is a reason why I do these things to myself. I just don’t know the reason at first.

Having requested help previously, back in 2012, when I first conceived of this story, I knew it wouldn’t be an issue to ask it again. So I did. And this time received, like a shaft of light through clouds, something which could consistently help me. A link to a site which generates many things, from character names to, well, I can’t recall off the top of my head, but was certain to be a boon. I went there, ordered up some wild elf names, and . . . mixed and matched the components to create names which were at least halfway decent and sounded like the kinds of names male mages would pick for themselves, though none were as ominous as Razorthorn happened to be (and which I considered one of my more clever names in DoS; second would be the names of the twins Shadowshale and Nightstone—because I wanted names with similar components).

In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m not much good with creating names for characters if they need to have specific components which have nothing to do with an alphabet I created. I do a little better on straight made-up names using the English alphabet, even if I don’t create a specific alphabet for them. The names of all my mundane characters on Hatu Napor are such names, and they come from me combining some words, mangling others, collecting obscure and/or foreign names from real-earth name lists and altering them enough to be fantasy names, and pulling them out of the air at need. With this type of naming, I’ve had years of practice, and I do even better if I have a firm alphabetical system to fit them into.

But names like Razorthorn, Yellowcliff, and Arrowroot? My mind freezes. And, worse, I decided the fairies had nature-oriented names.

This is why I ask myself now, “Why do I do these things to myself?”

But I can’t let these nature-oriented names go, because I now know the reason why Wizards take them. It is, for the Wizards, one of the very few things they have left of the Old Ways of fairy-gifted magic. And the fairies have nature-oriented names because they always have. When they were first created, the ones who created them – mortals with the gift of manipulating nature itself, who adopted nature-oriented names as part of a rite of passage into their full power – gave fairies nature-oriented names. So, even after fairies could reproduce on their own, they adopted on their own or were bestowed by other fairies nature-oriented names.

So, I’m stuck with this naming convention, but at the same time absolutely love it – because of the worldbuilding behind it. And the worldbuilding, my friends, makes all this struggle worthwhile.

Going with the Flow

Last year, following one of my writing dowswings, I came back to writing with a mind focused on gay romances. I fought this for about a week, then fiddled with it, and, eventually, picked up my fantasy work again. Right now, I want to say I’m out of this most recent writing downswing, but it ended just about the same time my radiation treatments began and they’ve kind of eaten my writing mind.

But I’m going with the flow.

Part of this means when I do write or work on my writing, I don’t force myself to focus on Chraest’s projects, much as I’d rather be working on them. I’ll be honest and admit I wasn’t happy to come back to writing focused on Hatu Napor’s initial project. I’d decided to let it set until I was done getting my year’s-worth of Chraest’s books done first. However, sometimes my muse throws me curveballs like that.

And the reason why I went with it, instead of forcing myself to work on Chraest’s projects?

I really don’t want to make myself depressed. Because, when I force myself to work on something my writing mind isn’t focused on, I don’t make any progress at all on anything, and I drive myself into a moody, bitchy, depressive mood swing, which just exacerbates everything. I’m not a nice person when I’m like that, to myself or anybody else. It’s not a fun experience at any time, and I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that writing should be fun.

It’s not fun to try and force my creative mind to do something it doesn’t want to.

And even with that, I’ve been happier with this focus than I was any time from 2009 through 2012. Because I’d come out of my downswing focused on the genre I want to write.

And this focus hasn’t lasted long. About two weeks. Last night and the night before, I opened various Chraest projects. I’m reading through them, refamiliarizing myself with the stories, characters, and world. More because of the length of time I’ve been away from them (Eight weeks! Yikes!) than because of anything else. I’m starting to feel excited about working on stuff set on Chraest again.

So I’ll keep going with the flow and see where it leads.

Curveballs from the Muse

In each of my minor downswings last year, I was creative. I also came out of them focused on Chraesti stories. I had other worlds I’d written stories in, with other magic systems, in various states of worldbuilding, but nothing about them called out to me. I even dropped the one non-Chraesti project I’d been working on for the Two-Year Novel Course, Degrees of Subtlety.

This time, when my writing mind fully surfaced for more than a gasp of air, I found myself focused on this project and world. I was not expecting this at all. The writing urge has tapered off (likely due to the new phase of cancer treatment, which I’ll blog about later), but I spent a number of days last week writing on DoS and worldbuilding for it.

Then I got the concept and basic storyline for another story set in that world.

Unlike Chraest’s stories and worldbuilding, this other world, which I’ve tentatively named Hatu Napor (one guess about where I got the first half of the name), is pure fantasy. No history of spacefaring humans, no alien species and backstory relating the humans’ current situation.

Hatu Napor isn’t the only pure-fantasy world I’ve got which my writing mind could conceivably have decided to focus on. I have one which is tied to our world through places like the Bermuda Triangle; this I’ve called Elindu, and it has vampires, dragons, and a small variety of elven races. There’s also Nahela, where all mages have twins, and all true priests, whether they adhere to a religious philosophy or not, have more than one soul.

But this time, the Muse decided to remind me of my characters Sweetbriar and Arrowroot and their story. It’s been fun working on Hatu Napor and this story and the new idea. They’re markedly different from my Chraesti stories, which makes working on them a nice break. For one, while Chraest’s humans are in a verge-of-industrialization-level society, Hatu Napor has passed that point to some extent. Electricity is present. New weapons are being developed (guns), the automobile has recently been invented and is attainable by those of some financial prominence, though they aren’t exactly reliable. They have factories, and different religious factions vie for prominence. Where in Chraest’s stories homosexuality is almost universally accepted to some extent, in Hatu Napor, or at least the country where these two stories occur, it isn’t quite as welcome.

It’s definitely a nice change.

I’ve restarted DoS and am about four or five chapters in. It’s been a fun rewrite. The original partial manuscript left much to be desired in plotting and characterization, and I’ve been able to make both a bit more complicated this time around. I’m right now doing one or two plot cards per scene written on it while I work on the outline for the other story set in the same country/world. I’m experimenting with this a bit, too: doing two scenes per chapter from one character’s point of view before switching pov for the next chapter. So far, it’s working out well, and I’m going to try the same thing with the other story, only it looks, so far, as if I’ll be doing three scenes per chapter in it. It’s also a nice challenge.

All in all, I’m glad I came out of my most recent downswing with a focus on my fantasy work, even if it isn’t what I’d anticipated working on. It’s proved to be challenging, fun, and a nice break from the intensity of some of my other fantasy work. I also look forward to seeing what other ideas I come up with for Hatu Napor. I’m sure they’ll be just as fun to work on.

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