Rebirth of a Defunct Project

I think most writers who write for any length of time ends up with a collection of story ideas and starts that go nowhere. The Rose’s Thorn, a single scene I wrote some years ago was one of those for me. The premise was good, I thought. Girl with no relation to nobility ends up in the royal/imperial court and is the instigator of change. It goes on from there, with a vague idea of a sequel somewhere in the distance, but I had a solid concept for the first book, which opens with the MC having a roadside chat with the incoming imperial bride.

And that’s all I had. I forget when I wrote the initial scene. I’d have to hunt out its original logsheet or the 5″x8″ index card I started the log on, whichever it was. I can’t remember any more, and I have no idea where to find it even if I did. The project had no “place”—was just a random bit of fluff that I wrote off the top of my head without any sort of anchoring world to put it on. I had a hint of culture (bound feet), and a vague notion of the surrounding territory (forestland). Written in first person, it started and stopped with that “First Scene.”

Every so often over the past few years, since coming out of the gay romance fugue, I’ve revisited The Rose’s Thorn. Every time, I considered the first person pov as unalterable and tried to think of the next scene from that point. The thing with my writing, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, is that my scenes build upon each other to some extent. One flows, in my mind, into the next, and then the one after, and so on, until I have a complete story. This wasn’t happening with this story. I had the “First Scene” and notions of what I wanted to do with the rest of the story, and that was it. No next scene.

For years.

A few nights ago, I thought I figured out where this story belongs—the world it belongs to. Doesn’t actually fit there, because I’m getting inklings of a magical system I don’t have the impression “fits” on the world I put it, but I’m leaving it there for the present because it’s in Scrivener, and it needs to have a place to go or I can’t write on it—and I’m not going to write it in Open Office because I need a place where I can put the story’s accompanying notes I develop on it with the story file for easy transfer to another Scrivener file (plus having more than one Open Office file open at a time bugs the crap out of me unless I’m constantly clicking between them for some reason).

Anyway, I’d thought I figured out where this story belonged and happily transfered a copy of it to Scrivener. Then, because I’d had some better notions about the society and the MC and the imperial bride, I rewrote it. In first person. And there the story stopped again. This was frustrating, to say the least, but I decided to go with the flow, certain I wouldn’t have been driven to work on it at all if my creative mind wasn’t working on a way for me to get past the block.

And, that night, an idea hit. Scene Two. The next scene. But! It was in third person pov. I didn’t like the idea that I should switch povs like that. I didn’t think it would work very well for the story, and, furthermore, the notion felt, uncomfortable to me. No, switching between first person and third person wasn’t the right way to go with this story. So, that left me switching the first scene to third person. This didn’t feel precisely comfortable to me, but I had no other choice.

So, the next day, I got up and wrote the first scene for a third time, this time in third point of view. I had to do some other things, then later, I wrote the second scene. Then the third scene. Started off pantsing this thing, apparently. But it’s flowing well, even though I have no idea what the point of the story is.

My Year In Writing, Thus Far

Since 2012, I’ve been highly conscious of how my writing goes over the course of the year. I keep an eye on when I write, and how much I write, and how long I take to write it. Recently, I even went so far as to create a logsheet for my blog posts, which I should have been logging long before now. I use my logsheets to monitor just how my writing’s going.

Normally, my writing fluctuates wildly. I’ve discussed this fluctuation here before, I think. I’ll go through periods where I’m writing daily, or nearly so, and I’m racking up tons of words. Then I’ll have times where I don’t write at all, do very little creatively, and generally wail about my lack of creative urges with regards to my writing.

So far, this year has been different. Things haven’t been quite as dramatically different as before, and I’m not quite sure just what to make of it.

My creative urges have been more consistent. I say creative urges because it’s more than just adding new words to projects that I’ve had going. Generally speaking this year, on days when I haven’t written, I’ve done other things with regards to my writing. I’ve worked on character sketches, or brainstormed for different stories. Or I’ve drawn sketches of different aspects of the story, usually clothing concepts, as I’ve taken up drawing. No matter what I’ve done, I’ve done something creative on the days when I don’t add new words to some writing project.

And it’s been nice. I’ve enjoyed this steady flow of creativity. I don’t get as frustrated about not writing when I’m doing other things related to the writing. Sure, I’d like to add new words to some project or another, but it doesn’t dig into me and drive me batty no to do so. It seems that as long as I’m doing something to express myself creatively, no matter what that thing is, I feel content with my creativity.

I hesitate to predict what this means. What I’d like it to mean is that my mind has stabilized to the point where more steady and regular creative expression will happen. That I won’t have any more of those maddening dramatic swings from creativity to non-creativity. I want this to mean I’m returning to the state of mind required for me to write daily. But I hesitate to make that declaration, mainly because I don’t want to get comfortable with this mental state only to, in the next few months or so, fall back into those dramatic swings. This is a plateau. I’m doing my best not to get my hopes up that it means things are “normalizing” for me now.

Though, to be honest, I’d be very happy if this were the new status quo. It’s been wonderful so far.

Dear VHA, An Open Letter

Dear Veterans’ Health Administration,

You know me as one of your patients. I won’t provide my real name, but I will say that I am a Transgender patient, and I have a bone to pick with you.

The VHA's boast

The VHA’s boast.

The picture above is something I’ve seen posted at my local VA Hospital’s outpatient mental health building. They move the sign about; sometimes it’s in the entryway, other times it’s positioned somewhere inside, where we can see it as we enter. I didn’t take a picture of the entire poster, because the only part that concerns me is the portion which I included. Allow me to write it here, just to be clear. Clarity is important here, at least for me.

“Excellent care has no boundaries. VHA is committed to serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Veterans.”

Now, I know this sign was approved somewhere in the hierarchy of the Veterans’ Administration, so that’s not at issue. What is a problem is the fact that, as of the date of this post, Transgender Veterans, whom you claim to serve without boundaries, do, in fact, have a major boundary in their health care through the VA system.

This boundary?

We have no access to surgical options for our health care. Specifically, Male-to-Female Transgender Veterans cannot have sex reassignment surgery to correct their condition, and Female-to-Male Veterans cannot receive mastectomies and whatever other surgery is available for correcting our condition.

As I said, a big boundary.

Now, I know, I know, this was posted in the outpatient mental health building. That, to me, means nothing, for two reasons. First, because of the claim of “no boundaries.” What about denying surgical options to Transgender Veterans translates to “no boundaries”? That’s like saying, “We care about you, but don’t really accept these specific needs you have.” Why can’t Transgender Veterans have sex reassignment surgery and mastectomies? You gave that option to Active Transgender members of the military a few months ago. When will we Transgender Veterans have this option? Why couldn’t you approve this option for us at the same time you gave the actively-serving members of the military this option?

This is hypocritical of you.

Second, the claim, in the statement, comes from the “VHA.” The Veterans’ Health Administration, not “Veteran’s Mental Health Administration”. That means it comes from the overall service, not just whatever branch there may be which oversees our mental health care, if things are so divided. So that means the VHA is actively denying what can be life-saving health care to Transgender Veterans. I’m pretty easy-going, but not all Transgender individuals can make themselves be as “comfortable” in their birth-bodies as I can make myself be. Add gender dysphoria on top of some other mental dysfunctions, and that’s a recipe for suicide for a Transgender Veteran.

This is hardly “Excellent” care. Truly excellent care would offer us the surgical option many of us require.

In short, I find your commitment to serving we Transgender Veterans to be deeply lacking. I also find it extremely hypocritical for the VHA to brag about the “Excellent care” and its “commitment to serving” us when we do not in fact receive that excellent care or have that commitment.

Signed,

An Unhappy Transgender Veteran

Making Sense of the Insensible

On Wednesday of last week, I became a little philosophical after quite a number of hours awake (30+). As one afflicted with bipolar disorder, this sometimes happens, though not always with the philosophical turn.

But something had been on my mind since that morning. Once again, my mom had affirmed her belief that “what goes around comes around” and I was struck—again—by how simplistic a view of life this is.

Now I’ve heard about Karma, but “what goes around comes around” seems to be a simplistic view of even that. From my (admittedly limited) understanding, I’ve never gotten the impression that Karma will unfailingly swing around and bite the offender in the butt in this life. My impression of Karma is that, yes, sometimes it takes a direct approach and hits the offender in this life, but that it’s more likely to mean that the offender, in the afterlife or next life will suffer for the offenses they gave in this life, as a way for them to learn the lesson they failed to learn before. I could be wrong, but this is the impression I’ve had of what Karma is for a long time. Since my teen years at least.

When my mom says “I’m a firm believer in what goes around comes around,” she always means, without fail, that she expects that the offender will experience some sort of bad luck or unhappy event in this life. Their comeuppance is on the way. She may not know when, but she’s absolutely certain it will happen.

And that, to me, is a very simplistic view of life.

The fact is, life is not that simple. Life is by its very nature uncertain. It’s insensible—sense cannot be made from it. Not any real, true, firm and unalterable sense. Sure, we can make sense of some things, but these are all little things, minor things—like, I can make sense of my mom from my own understanding of myself and the choices I’ve made that have brought me to a point where I can see into her a lot more clearly than I think she realizes. But even that doesn’t give me the ability to understand everything about life. I can make some sense of it all, but not complete sense.

And that’s because the world is complicated and uncertain. And I accept that life has those qualities. All I can do is my best to understand what I can. But for people like my mom, those complications and uncertainties are frightening. So she, and they, seek a simple way to understand it.

We all want to understand life. But I’ve realized something about this search for understanding of life. There are two basic ways to “understand” life. One can take either a simplistic view, such as “what goes around comes around,” or one can set out to really work on gaining a deeper understanding of oneself, the world, and life. This requires a number of things, chiefly the willingness to be mindful of oneself.

Now, it’s no secret I write. And I freely admit my writing is, at its core, little more than me seeking understanding of life. I’m trying to make sense of the insensible with my writing. But! It is far more complex than tacking on a simplistic “what goes around comes around” view of life and being satisfied with that. I could never be satisfied with such a simplistic view of life. Life is far more complicated and uncertain than that. Life doesn’t tie things up that neatly, not even when it seems to be offering a neatly-wrapped package tied up with a pretty ribbon.

Life is messy. Life is insensible. No one can make complete and total sense out of life, because it is always uncertain. There are any number of philosophies we can adopt or adhere to in order to try and make sense of life, but the fact is, those philosophies are only the beginning. Clinging to them as the end-all and be-all of Understanding is a dead-end. Yes, it can be comforting to adopt the focused view of life religion and philosophy seem to offer, but if that’s only as far as it goes, it’s not doing much good.

I realized one major difference between myself and my mom on Wednesday. My life philosophy changes day by day. Sometimes only a little, sometimes a great deal. But it’s always in flux. Mom’s life philosophy is, to me, frighteningly static. And, I think it has been most of my life. Where she clings to the mere beginnings of comprehension, I have made efforts, in part because of my mental illness, and in part because I simply want to do so, to push myself away from those beginnings. I started doing this back in 1988, when I wrote my first Star Trek “novel” in a series of pocket folders with prongs, on college ruled notebook paper. Back then, I didn’t realize just what sort of inner journey I was embarking upon; all I knew was that it felt good to write, and I enjoyed it immensely, and it gave me a better escape from the difficulties of my life than even reading had up to that point offered. But it taught me to really look at people, to gain a deeper understanding of their motivations. Through my writing, I’ve gained a far deeper, more complete and complex, and much more nuanced understanding of life than I think my mom has ever had.

And even with that, I still can’t make sense of it. But that’s okay. I don’t need life to make sense in order to be comfortable with it. All I need to do is keep doing my best to learn, and I don’t intend to ever stop doing that.

Using Scapple

I bought the Scapple application pretty much as soon as it came out. I needed more help with organizing my outlining process, because up until this point, I was writing random plot points in a text file in Scrivener, which wasn’t doing much to help me. I’ve discovered that seeing my plot points in a text file tends to drive up my anxiety. So, when Scapple came out, I eagerly purchased the program to help me with my outlining process.

When I first got Scapple, I developed a pretty simplistic method of organizing the plot points. Simplistic, but ultimately more complicated. Now, Scapple is mindmapping software, but I use it to organize the plot points I type up. Usually, I do this by determining all the pov characters and assigning a specific note design to each of them, then I proceed to go through and make plot points related to specific characters, tying them to each other with the connecting options available in Scapple (click on Mots example below for a larger image). What I end up is two to five columns of plot points that end up being a total mess.

MOTS plotpoint image

But that method wouldn’t work for a project like my first Jodalur Investigative Division project, which is a mystery. This meant I had to develop a different method of entering the plot points. Ultimately, what I decided on was a more linear format. I follow the main plot instead of individual characters (click on JID1 example below for a larger image). These main plot points are connected by a solid line with an arrow on it, while the subpoints, which reveal information about the scene are connected by dotted lines without arrows.

JID1_Masks plotpoint image-001

This method has turned out to be much easier for me to keep track of. I like that I have everything I need for a particular plot point all in one spot. I think I’ll be using this method of mapping out my stories for all my projects.

Pondering Something

Sorry there haven’t been any posts for the past few weeks. Two of the past few weeks, I just didn’t care about the site at all. Bipolar getting in the way again. The other week (the one between), I was down with a pretty severe cold. I wrote during the cold, and I don’t know how, and the fiction’s strong, but I couldn’t think of any decent topics for my blog during any of those weeks. Well, at least not something that would have ended up being maudlin or gripey. And I mean gripey. If I’m going to gripe about something, I prefer it to have a point. None of these gripey posts would have had a point besides bemoaning the fact of my depression and physical illness.

So.

Over the past several weeks since my Decisions About the Site post, I’ve been debating one major change. Major for me, that is. A time or two, I’ve mentioned in passing that I also write gay romances under another pen name. I created a pen name for my romance writing years ago, with some help. It was much more along the lines of “If I ever go back into writing romances, I’ll use this as my pen name for them” and nothing so organized as me sitting down and brainstroming pen names. I took my name from Spanish classes through high school, with my last name’s initial, and the random surname a Central American exchange student in one of my other classes wrote after it and voila! I had my romance story pen name, which, when I started writing gay romances (the name was originally intended as the nom de plume of het romances) I promptly attached to those stories.

So there you have it. I write PG-13 fantasy and science fantasy, and explicit gay romance. I do not go into graphic detail of sex scenes in my fantasy and science fantasy, and most of my gay romances cannot in any way be termed “sweet” (a designation in het romances which indicates there’s maybe kissing, and, if that much, it’s simple and sweet). I’ve even written quite a few squick factor stories, even though I have lines there I will not cross at all.

Which I think makes it understandable why I’ve wanted keep these genres separated in every way possible.

This, however, has gotten much more difficult since my Creative Mind has decided to pretty swiftly and smoothly swing between the PG-13 stuff and the gay romances. I cannot predict, from one day to the next, what I’ll be working on in any given creative period. This makes it difficult to keep up with a separate site for my gay romances, which I created when in the midst of writing them exclusively and have not been able to keep up with since the fantasy stuff swung back in. Oh, I can return to that site for an occasional post and some site-updating and whatnot, but for the most part that site is ignored.

Now, my history with the gay romances is not all sunshine and roses. I started writing the contemporary gay romances early in 2009, and wrote them pretty much exclusively through 2012. But 2012 was Writing Hell Year for me. I did not want to be writing gay romances exclusively any more, and those were the only ideas I’d consistently gotten for the three years leading up to 2012. This meant that by 2012, I was pretty much spiritually debilitated by the genre I was writing. I spent most of 2012 in a writing downswing because I did not want to be writing the gay romances and could not get any fantasy ideas. There was a bit of a bright spot in August or September, when I wrote a fantasy short, but besides that, I was in despair of ever writing fantasy again. So, at the end of November, when I managed to scrape up just over 50k words of a gay romance for Nano, I shelved all my writing. I simply could not write any more if all that I was going to be able to write was gay romances.

And, by this time, I knew that gay romances could be rather lucrative if I published them. I had no interest in doing so. I hated writing that genre by the end of 2012, and wanted nothing more to do with it at all. Feh.

So I shelved my writing. I existed for about two weeks in a kind of relieved haze. Then, suddenly, in the middle of December, I conceived the initial notion for TPOM1. I saw a blond youth standing in front of his bedridden ailing father, being told he was being sent to the Priests because he hadn’t decided on a career to pursue and his parents were fed up with his indecisiveness and his father wanted to atone for not following any of the gods. That was Géta there, and I was so happy to have a fantasy idea that looked like not just one novel, but a whole bloody trilogy, I leapt back into writing without hesitation.

For most of 2013, I focused on fantasy and science fantasy. Whenever gay romances reared up, I tried to fight them off, but ended up writing on them just to get them to shut up, then promptly swung back into the fantasy stuff. 2013 and 2014, I wanted nothing to do with the gay romances. I detested them. So much so that I couldn’t bear to look at those I’d already written and left abandoned unless absolutely forced to by my Creative Mind. 2015 was a little better, but I spent a fair amount of it in mostly non-creative writing downswings. I think now, that’s because I was resisting my Creative Mind on the gay romances.

This year, it’s been easier. I’m not fighting the gay romances. I’ve gained confidence that my mind won’t focus on them exclusively. I’ve seen a “pattern” develop. No, it’s not regular; my bipolar won’t let it be. But I’ve noticed how I’ll spend some days writing gay romances, and more time with the fantasy stuff.

But that means the blog I created for the gay romances gets neglected. I’ve also got a Twitter account under my gay romance pseudonym.

I think I’ve finally come to terms with the gay romances. I’m able to read them. I can write on them without feeling like I’m tearing myself in half. I’ve reached a point where I’m just as happy to get a gay romance idea as I’ve always been to get a fantasy idea.

So now I’m deciding what I should do with my neglected gay romance blog. I’m not sure merging it with this site would be a good idea, bu it’s impossible to keep such things secret and separate forever. People will find out eventually, especially if I am ever able to publish any of my writing from both genres.

So I am seriously considering merging the two together. I want to decide this before I do any major overhaul of this site, so that I can plan what I’ll do for the gay romance side of my writing. Keep the blogs separate, but link the two? Bring the gay romance stuff over to this blog and wipe out the old gay romance blog completely? If I merge them on this site, do I demote both pen names to sections on the site while using a different name for the overall site?

Decisions, decisions.

The Saga of the Camp Nano Project

I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month. Up until the last week of last month, I wasn’t sure I’d be doing it. I’ve been expecting a writing downswing to hit. It hasn’t yet, so I’m going with the flow and writing.

My original intent was to work on a story set on Obryn. This was a new project that spoke up about two weeks ago as I neared the end of Dagjhir’s first book. The MC of the new project will appear in his life later on, and the new story is her backstory. I originally intended when I realized she’d be appearing later just to gloss over her backstory, but I wanted to know the story of how she ended up heading to the capitol in the first place. This combined with a character concept who’d been drifting around my mind for a few weeks, and a new antagonist with a vendetta.

So I was all ready to write on this story for Camp Nano. I’d been writing on it already, and was somewhere close to my goal of having 15 plot cards ahead of where I’m writing done, and I was pleased with the wip as it had already gone. Once I had the basics of this story, it leapt to my mind nearly complete, so I was making a lot of progress on all aspects of it, including worldbuilding for it.

Then my enthusiasm for it fizzled out. Rather suddenly, too. I started one day with eagerness to work on it, made no progress on it despite that, then fell to reading old incomplete projects in search of something better to do. In fact, I thought this might be the beginning of a writing downswing. Then someone who’d returned to FM made a post about her return, and it hit another vague story idea that had been floating around for about a month.

Abruptly, I had three characters and the basics of a new plot with a great deal of enthusiasm for the new idea. This, by the way, happened on Nano Eve—June 30th. Which meant I had nothing. And this story was set on a whole new world.

But it’s what I had enthusiasm for. I set up a new file for it in Scrivener, naming the world Rumere and set to getting the notes in my head down. I named the goddesses, my characters believe in, the country, listed characters, sketched the mages’ uniform, and got two plot cards on it just on Thursday. On Friday, I spent the day away from home and sketched another outfit—civilian woman’s—and came home to write a scene.

12 July 2016 UPDATE: Well, the original project I had for this kind of fell through. It wasn’t completely well thought out, so my creative mind decided it was time to focus on something that was better thought out. I’m now working on a different project and have changed my Nano. I’ve updated the links below.

So I’m working on various projects for my Camp Nano project this month.