Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBT+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Tag: TPOM (page 1 of 2)

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.

Fear of Finishing

When my creative mind wakes up again, the WIP I’d most like to focus on is TPOM3. I stopped working on it a while back for a few reasons: 1) I couldn’t figure out how to carry on the outline from the card where it stops; 2) my creative mind decided to focus on something else; and 3) I’m afraid to finish it.

I go through this fear at some point with all my writing. Sometimes it stalls me longer than it does other times. With some stories, I’m able to power through; this works best with my short stories, especially since I tend to enjoy seeing how they end. While I enjoy seeing how my longer works end also, I also start to balk at completing them. The longer the project, the more I balk.

Someone suggested I may be afraid of completing my longer WIPs because I’m afraid I’ll miss the characters—writing about them, that is. I don’t think this is the case with TPOM3. This is the culmination of only one particular story I want to tell about Asthané and Géta. I even already know how I want to open the next book, A Life of Note I: Antiphons.

The Power of Music is the absolute longest project I’ve ever worked on—at least, up to this point in my writing life. I expect ALON to be longer, and Melodies of War to be even longer. These are epic stories, though I don’t think they precisely follow epic fantasy’s “rules.” Quite frankly, I don’t care about whatever rules I may be breaking.

I think at least part of the reason why I’m afraid to complete TPOM3 is because it’ll mean I can succeed as a writer. This will be the first major project I’ve ever completed from any genre of writing. It also means that I’ll have to make good on the “promises” of writing ALON and MOW, and, right now, I’m not sure I can do that. There’s a part of me which cringes at the idea of completing anything more than TPOM3, even though that alone isn’t the entire story of Asthané and Géta. Géta has much more to do magically speaking, and Asthané has a lot of learning to do. I also want to see them and their Empire through the major conflict they’re going to have with Ghulia later on. They have much, much more to say than what I could possibly fit in TPOM.

I think the plot card which I stopped outlining with is a turning-point, though. Both for my story and the characters in it as well as for me. Back in November, I started to get inklings of a way to deal with the block, and those vague notions came stronger when I recently read through the plot cards I have. I’m currently in the middle of a writing downswing, but it’s been mild, and I’ve been getting clearer ideas for my MCs’ lives onward from the ending of TPOM3 than I’ve had before now.

All this is making me anxious to finish TPOM, and hopefully I’ll find the courage to do so. Maybe holding up starting on ALON will help me. Maybe this writing downswing will send me into a writing upswing which will enable me to blast through my fear to complete TPOM. I don’t know. All I do know is that I want to complete TPOM so I can start on ALON.

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

Writing Goals 2014

This is a bit belated, but I’ve only recently gotten myself organized enough to determine what I want to write this year. It isn’t a complicated writing goal, just a heavy one. The following are the writing projects I want to have done by 31 December 2014:

Discordant Harmonies Ennealogy

The Power of Music III: Measure of Resistance – Currently working on outline, adding one plot card per scene written.

A Life of Note I: Counterpoints – Write outline and book.

A Life of Note II: Antiphons – Get outline written.

Touched by Kalia Duology (At this point, it’s only a duology. Waiting to see how long that actually lasts.)

Book I: Unwritten Letters – Currently working on outline; trying to get two plot cards a day.

At least title book 2.

Sense of Balance Trilogy

Book I: Exemplar – Do research necessary on it and at least finish outline.

Autocrat’s Rise Trilogy

Back from the Dead – Keep up with this project’s Two-Year Novel course exercises and finish book before end of year, perhaps write at least part of it during Nano.

Right now, I’m in a severe writing downswing. Severity in the length of time it’s been around, not depth of down it is. I’m still actually able to work on various other aspects of my writing and have had a few odd days of writing and plot card progress, but not much. Those days are sporadic at best, so I’m not counting on them. I think it’s Real Life stress getting to me, which I probably shouldn’t be surprised about, considering. I’m actually surprised this hasn’t happened sooner. This downswing began on about 15 January this year, and it’s lasted over a month so far. It probably won’t go away for at least a few days yet (much as I hope otherwise).

Writing Ramble

I think Real Life has finally caught up with me. I haven’t written consistently since the fifteenth of this month. As writing downswings go, this hasn’t been at all severe, which is good. It’s just taken my muse, but not so much I haven’t been able to work on any of my writing at all.

In the past two weeks, I’ve actually gotten a lot of writing-focused things done. Things which needed doing. For far too long I’d put off dealing with officially completing the first two books of my TPOM trilogy. Both had been languishing for months with missing scenes. I also needed to go through the second one to make sure I kept up with all the plot threads and had no discrepancies in characterization or worldbuilding. The latter was rather important, as I started writing on Chraest with these two books, flowing right into the second from the first in a single file because I didn’t originally see where I could cut the first book and start the second. I hadn’t built a Fantasy world from scratch in about three years, and I needed to make sure that with all the changes I’d made to the worldbuilding recently I’d kept up with things in the edits.

Since starting TPOM1 in on 21 Dec 2012, I’ve done several things with the worldbuilding. I’ve started collecting lists of spells for the Mages to perform. I’ve established some facts regarding Mage training in books like TPOM2 and a prequel novelette. Another thing I’ve done is established Chraest is not a world humanity evolved on and created a calendar and timekeeping system to reflect that fact. Since determining humans are “new” to the planet, I’ve figured out there’s a native intelligence, determined some of the humans’ history on the world, and begun building a conlang purely for fun and entertainment.

I do know the humans of Chraest, at least those on the continent where I’m writing these stories, are completely aware they’re not native to the planet, and that they’re followers of Gods who led them from the planet’s other continent where they were enslaved by the native intelligence. Part of the background is that the leader of the Gods helped free a number of humans who wanted freedom and led them back to the site where their ancestors’ ship crashed to collect knowledge and other things from the ship. They then, as per their agreement with the majority of the native race, built ships and sailed away (assured there was another continent by information on the ship) to settle where they knew they would be safe. Part of the agreement with the native intelligent race is that they won’t follow the departed as long as the Gods don’t lead anybody back over to free the humans who remained on the first continent. The native intelligence is not technologically advanced, never invented even sailing ships, and has no other way to cross the ocean. They were actually rather happy to get rid of the troublesome Gods and be relieved of the uppity humans who had enough memory of humans’ history to foment the remainder into rebellion for freedom. I may write this story in some detail at some future point, but it right now is far back on the list of stories I have planned.

I’ve decided to treat Chraest as a Fantasy world with some hints of Science Fiction for the present. This is not the first time such a thing has been done by a writer. Some many years ago, I collected the Darkover books by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and those are described as Fantasy with hints of Science Fiction, or Science Fiction with some hints of Fantasy. For now, the main hints of SF on Chraest will be the calendar, timekeeping, and mentions of the fact the humans aren’t native to the planet. I don’t intend to bring spacefaring humans in for a while yet, but I do have plans to do so. I need to make a wealth of decisions about it first, and I still have quite a bit of basic worldbuilding to do on Chraest before I’ll be willing to take the time to really focus on the SF aspects.

Now I’ve gotten the edits of Stirrings and the first two books of TPOM done, and have established this much worldbuilding of Chraest, I feel like I’ve accomplished quite a bit. There’s still a lot more for me to do, though. I need to do a lot of research of religious institutions’ organization (particularly that of Catholicism, I’m thinking) and military structure and behavior for one of my started projects. I also need to work out the timeline of my stories and the foundation and building of the Édalain Empire, Lissau’s history, and figure out the essentials of Ghulia’s governmental and societal structures for my 2YN project.

So, as writing downswings go, this has been a very productive and fun one. I may not be writing or doing plot cards regularly, but I’m getting lots of other writing-related stuff done, and I’m having a ball with it all.

Writing Insanity

There are times I think I’m more insane than being bipolar makes me. Like right now.

I have, at this moment, a total of five writing projects pulling me in various directions.

Five.

Main project I’m working on is Unwritten Letters. This is the one where I want active wordage on as close to daily as I can make it. Missed yesterday due to a variety of reasons, not the least of which was because I hadn’t been to bed the night before, but have written every previous day since Sunday and will get another scene on it today. I’m outlining two plot cards per one scene written on this project, as is my usual habit with writing now.

I’ve “set aside” Casi/Vel, whose title is now Sense of Balance and looks like it’ll be a trilogy, possibly with both characters’ points of view. I’m debating POV while I consider what I need to research to make this project roll. Usually I balk at heavy research; what I can’t take care of on an “as needed” basis usually scares me off of a project, but I’ve known for a long time that all I needed was to conceive a project whose characters grabbed me by the creative-mind’s throat and held on. SoB is that project. So, as soon as the snow starts melting and I’m done with cancer treatments (which may happen at about the same time depending on what radiation research study arm I end up in), I’ll be heading up to the public library to start my research. Can’t go ’cause of snow and ice on sidewalks right now, and taking the bus is a waste of money when I can walk there (and need the transit money for trips to cancer treatments and other appointments). So this story is “set aside” but very much on my mind, and I intend to make a list of plot points over the duration I’ll be waiting until I can start the research.

Third project is going to go a bit slower. This is the first book of Autocrat’s Rise. I’m writing this according to to the steps in the Two Year Novel Course written by Lazette Gifford. She’s teaching it now on Forward Motion For Writers, and since I have to basically build Ghulia from the ground up, I decided to join the class. This will be a slow process: one class a week, so I should be able to keep up with it (provided I don’t have any more major unplanned events like last year, which caused me to drop out of it). I’m not too worried about moving fast on this project, so using the 2YN course should do me fine by it.

I’ve picked up on TPOM3 again, too. Been getting about two plot cards a day on it, and that’s been my goal for five days this week. I need to organize the cards I have, so I know what all I need to get done. For this, I’ll probably finish the outline before I pick up on active wordage for it, then I’ll have to go through and add in all the (few) unwritten scenes in the first two books before I can call the whole trilogy complete. Then I’ll have to go through and correct age/time/date references since I finally completed the Calendar and age conversion tables (which I may write more on later). Once I get done with this, I’ll start work on A Life of Note, which follows the same MCs into different situations.

For my final project, I’ll be spending the next week or so going through Stirrings. I spent all day yesterday reading it to get an idea what I need to do to fix it, and Jennifer Amriss read through it for me and told me what I needed to know in order to do a full edit run on it (verdict was I didn’t make any character completely unlikeable and I don’t need to do too much work to emphasize certain plot points). Basically, the major issue is correcting all the age/time/date references and picking out typos and other minor things like making sure everything makes sense (came across a sentence earlier which I needed to correct). This shouldn’t take much time, though, so I should be officially DONE with it within a few weeks at most.

And these are all in addition to things like reworking the Timeline for the stories/world and Real Life Things and finding time to read and work on other crafts (namely, crocheting). I want to get UL and TPOM done before this fall, when I plan on going to college. I’d like to have ALON and AR outlined by November and be at least starting on the outline for the first book of SoB by then, too. I’m trying to learn to treat my writing professionally now, so when I’m able to start publishing, I have a backlog of outlines and story ideas to do background work on as well as write.

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.

Possible Prework Method

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to begin outlines before I begin writing the stories I come up with. Typical method is for me to write a few scenes, then reverse outline them on plot cards in Scrivener before continuing on with a preworked outline. Once I get to this point, I typically do two plot cards per one scene written as I progress through the project. This method is far from perfect. Not only do I get confused between what I’m writing and outlining, if I hit a block in the outline, I don’t feel confident enough to continue writing scenes, especially when I have few outlined, and it stalls the project—as it has with TPOM3 at the moment.

I think, however, I may have discovered a method I can work with. It’s how I figured out the last portion of Brotherhood A’s outline.

Basically what I did was create a new text file in Scrivener and typed in all the plot points which were required to complete the story. This was about ten or eleven plot points, and I typed them up out of order, so the next step was putting them in the order in which I wanted them to happen. After I did this, I handwrote the scene summaries on 5×8 index cards—again, doing them out of order, as the ideas occurred to me. Once I had these done, I organized them then read through them over and over until I came up with interim scenes to fill out the outline a bit and tie in plotting I’d already outlined or written out. These cards, I tucked into place in order despite writing out of order, because I was basing them in part on the big plot-points cards. With the outline completed in handwriting on index cards, I then entered the plot cards in Scrivener, then read through the last portion of the outline and the rest of the story to make sure I was picking up all the plot threads I’d opened in the manuscript and numbered outline. I ended up adding a card or two, then numbered the new cards with an epilogue summary card at the end.

This is not the most speedy method I could have come up with. The whole process took me a couple days for about fifteen plot cards, but it was both fun and helpful. I plan on using this method with the next story I do after I finish Brotherhood A, starting with it before I actually write any scenes out. I’d like to develop a completed outline using this method.

Now it’s just a matter of deciding which project to work on next. I have quite a few in line, but none are calling strongly enough to really grip my attention. I’ve already got a plan for what to work on after I’m done with TPOM’s books—the first and second books of the trilogy have some missing scenes I can’t write until I know how the third book ends. That will be A Life of Note, which will either be one long book or a trilogy. Not sure which at this point and probably won’t have any idea until I get to working on its outline.

I’d kind of like to work on a couple different books/trilogies after Brotherhood A. I also need to work up a timeline of events so that I can keep everything straight in the books, because most of the ones following TPOM kind of follow upon one another. Even the book I have planned of the changing of Lissau’s government from empire to hierocracy ties into the overall scheme of the Édalain Empire’s longstanding animosity with Ghulia and its ruler, the Autocrat.

The Humble Miracles trilogy and Brotherhood B don’t directly tie in to that relationship, but they are about conflicts which must be ended for the greater good of the Empire. I see Brotherhood B as the last Empire-centric story set during Empress Yulée’s rule. I may write a “sequel” to Brotherhood A; it should be one book, and it ties in to Brotherhood A a few years following events in that book.

I really need to get the timeline worked up. That’ll help me with organization of this mess of ideas. LOL

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 Habits

One of my writing habits known among my writer friends at Forward Motion for Writers is the logsheet I keep. Call me anal-retentive, call me OCD, I keep a record of the dates, times, and amount of words I write during any particular writing session.

Brotherhood Logsheet

The logsheet I’m currently using for Brotherhood.

The picture is page two of my current logsheet for Brotherhood. As you can see, if you look at the very bottom, I’m almost done with the actual writing log entries on this page. The asterisks going down the right-hand sides of the first and fourth columns are chapter indicators; chapter count is on the first line in the Notes section—that set of 20+ tally marks. I’m keeping all of Brotherhood in one file and copy-pasting the different sections or books of the series into their own files as I finish them, but not marking them on the logsheet, primarily because I didn’t find the cut between the first two books until recently. The times listed are beginning and ending times—I try to start on any given five-minute mark—and I list them in military time because it’s less confusing to me than writing AM and PM after the times, particularly since I sometimes stay up all night and write in the wee hours. As I currently write, each set of times and the total (small) wordcount following indicate one scene written.

On the right, in the Notes section, you’ll see all my notes, including a total from two scenes written on the very top line, continued from the first page. In fact, this story has overrun the allotted notes section, and you can see where I’ve written more in around the outlines of the actual log area. I expect I’ll be dropping a few of these notes on the next logsheet; I generally copy all notes which remain pertinent from logsheet to logsheet so I don’t have to constantly shuffle through them to remember things. If you look close, you’ll even see the notes I’ve made in pencil on the bottom left and near the top left side, which are my “bookmarks” for read-throughs of Brotherhood and TPOM.

Most of the notes I keep on the logsheets are interim notes. There because I need them during a certain period of writing or to carry me through a number of scenes. There are some on this sheet, though, which I’ll be transferring to my permanent note files for the Empire Brotherhood is set in. The note on Pelau, beginning in the lower-left corner, for instance. That’s an important thing which may have some bearing on other stories in the world and location, because I do have lots of other stories planned for this world. I’ll also include the note about the Imperial Coat of Arms being a red hind rampant, because that may come up at some other point. I don’t, however, expect to put these notes in until I’m done the project and go through all the logsheets for this story. For now, it’s easy enough to use them for reference if necessary.

And so many paper clips? I use them to keep the pages from curling up at the bottom, which drives me batty.

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