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.

Writing Dilemma

Recently, I read and commented on a blog post about How to Write Protagonists of Colour When You’re White. If you don’t want to read the article or scroll all the way down to the comments to find mine, I’ll post it here:

This. I needed this article. I’ve been debating writing PoC and Indigenous characters in my own stories, and having doubts of my ability to do so. The very first question you posed in your article made me really think about it for the first time, and made me realize my reasoning was dubious at best; at worst, it’s insensitive and racist. Reading the entire article enlightened me to the justifications I’d been employing.

“Thank you. You opened my eyes to my own limitations and a good way of helping get more sincere and accurate books about PoC and Indigenous people onto shelves and into the hands of readers–by reading and boosting the visibility of those WRITTEN BY People of Color and Indigenous people.

I’ll be completely honest here. There’s a part of me that’s been screaming, But I don’t write contemporary characters! They’re all set on secondary worlds!

But I do tend to draw on real-world cultures to create the cultures for most of my fantasy worlds. For instance, I’ve got a story set in a culture somewhat based on Ancient Egypt. I’ve changed the pantheon a bit, but outlined a river-based country set in a desert; they bury their dead rulers in caves carved out of cliffs and the river system floods annually as rains come in over the mountains from the east. People in this type of region would naturally be brown-skinned. If I’m not writing characters of color, what do I do with this entire story series? I’ll write on it, because it’s impossible to stop my creative mind from leading me back around to it eventually, and forcing myself to not write something is as emotionally and spiritually debilitating as writing something I have ideas for but wish to write. But should I sell the stories if I ever complete them?

And then there’s Chraest, one of my science fantasy worlds. I have written previously and planned on writing characters of color. My justification for it before was that the humans are very far removed from our cultures here. Their ancestors landed on Chraest, and the native intelligent race enslaved them all, and some even proceeded to “collect” slaves of certain specific “types”—like redheads with green eyes and freckles, or people of a particular Asian appearance. Eventually, some members of the native intelligence come around to the conception that slavery is bad and free their slaves, which starts a movement. They and their freed humans are eventually exiled to the continent Chraest’s native race had pretty much denuded and abandoned, and the natives who’d freed their slaves accessed the remains of the ancient human spacecraft to collect information and whatever else they could to help the freed humans settle the denuded continent. Some humans kept the mindset of the collectors and segregated themselves as “pure,” a concept that continues to cause tension and strife among the Chraest-born free humans throughout the years. What do I do with these stories?

I want to add diverse characters where they have an opportunity to exist. I do not want to do it in such a way that is offensive to People of Color and Indigenous People. I also don’t want to allow myself to justify my writing of diverse characters. But what do I do with the worlds, the stories, and the ideas that include characters of color? I won’t stop having them, and I’ll write them, if only to lay them to rest for a period of time. Do I share them? Do I sell them (if I get that far)?

I just don’t know.

Decisions About the Site

When I started my hiatus from this blog back in February, I was in the middle of slowly changing the site around a bit. Mostly in regards to my Projects section. I thought, at the time, that the reason why I was feeling disinterested in my site was because I didn’t like how it was set up. To be quite honest, I found the original way I had it set up too labor-intensive. I also didn’t really like having so much of my work on display, even if it was only excerpts. In an effort to try and make the site a bit more self-sustaining and less strenuous on my attention and time, I decided to remove the excerpts and started a redesign of the entire Projects section.

Well, I’m now not sure just what I want to do with it. One of the things I want to do is go through it and see what I was doing and at what point I stopped. I may decide to keep it in the format it’s in right now, with projects sorted by which world they’re on, or I may do a complete overhaul and figure out something different to do.

Part of my issue is that a lot of my projects are long ones. Trilogies at the very least, if not longer series. And, with the way my creative mind ducks out periodically and randomly hyperfocuses on things without my will, most of these will be in the works for years to come. For example, my creative mind is currently hyperfocused on something I haven’t touched since June of 15. I could not predict my mind would return to this project, and I don’t know how long I’ll be working on it. I’m just going with the flow here.

Add to that issue the fact I’ve got about 14 worlds with stories in various states of progress on them. Yes. I said 14. Could even be more at this point, I haven’t counted them in a while, and I’ve added one or two new worlds since then. I’m seriously tempted to throw up a full project list on my website to show what’s going on in my writing.

So, that’s what’s going on with the site. I’m hoping to get some work done on it in the next few months, but that really depends on where my creative mind goes and how much time I have.

We’re Not Going Away

I spent most of Sunday internalizing the Orlando shooting for the most part. I made some limited commentary and retweeted a thing or two on Twitter about it, but largely remained silent. This here, now, is my reaction to it. Sometimes it takes me a while to process things.

With regards to the shooting itself, the targets the shooter chose, and the fact it happened at all, I’m not really surprised. I’ve been rather expecting something like this to happen since we got marriage rights. The legislative efforts of various lawmakers are just the polite version of transphobia and homophobia. There are many more people outside of the government who, like the shooter, have access to weaponry they can use to kill multiple people at once, and the lack of mental stability which makes doing so seem like a reasonable way to express one’s fear and hatred of the LGBT+ community.

But all this is beside the point. The point is, the LGBT+ community has value. If it didn’t, if it were still hidden and secret and underground, it would be easy for society at large to ignore us and the contributions we make to that society. Society did this before, for decades, as it tried to crush us out of any sort of public existence. It wanted us to conform, to hide ourselves. It wanted us to accept its definition of LGBT+ people as valueless if they refused to do so.

If the LGBT+ community did not in fact have any value at all, we would not be getting noticed like we are. Society at large—the religious right, the conservative politicians, the closed-minded bigots who hate us for their own reasons—wouldn’t be fighting back so hard against the advances we’ve made for our equal rights. We have political clout now, enough to make the president of our country command schools to allow trans students to use the locker rooms and restrooms which coincide with their gender identity. We’ve won the right to marry. A community without any sort of value doesn’t get these rights. It remains hidden, secret, conforms to the status quo, and thus tacitly agrees to the opinion that it is a valueless community which has nothing to offer society at large.

But now, our contributions are recognized. Not just politically either. We’re recognizing LGBT+ art and literature. We’re working to gain wider and better representation in media overall, particularly in film and TV. We’ve established places where we can feel welcome, included, and valued as individuals. We annually have rallies, throughout the summer, celebrating our very existence and our pride in that existence. We have a history, are living an active and vibrant present, and are proving to everyone who hates and fears us that we have a future. We’re telling society at large that we’re not going away.

This shooting in Orlando wounded us. But it also made us stronger and more determined. Some—many—of us may be afraid, but we have the courage to continue fighting. We’ve won too much to stop now. We’re here to stay.

We’re not going away.