Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBT+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Confluence of Ideas

It’s about 10:40AM on Sunday, the 11th of June as I write this. Sleep didn’t come to me last night because I took my night meds too late, and my second wind hit before they did. So I’m up, and I’m fiddling on the computer, opening random Scrivener files and reading incomplete wips to the point where I have the most desire to read to. I do this pretty frequently with my incomplete wips. A sudden desire to read a particular scene will hit, and I’ll start at the beginning and keep going ’til I get there. Most often, I’ll read to where the story abruptly ends, in a spot where it really shouldn’t end, but does because that’s where my creative mind gave out, either in the outline, or directly in the wip where there’s no outline at all.

I did that until around dawn, when one of my writer friends came into Writing Groove’s chat. NPhoenix and I will often ramble at each other—her rambling has a way of triggering thoughts on my own stories. This morning was no different, and I think I have to thank, in part, my exhaustion for that, because, to be honest, I’ve made the most progress on any of my writing, no matter what I’m working on, when I’ve been exhausted this year.

So she started rambling about one of her shelved projects she hasn’t been able to figure out for a while, but for which she got hit with some big ideas last night in a shower before bed. I can’t take the liberty of explaining precisely what sparked my creative mind’s ideas beyond saying one of the major plot points hit me hard.

And reawoke interest in a story I’ve long struggled with.

Honestly, I forget exactly when I first wrote the original opening scene to “The Rose’s Thorn,” but I do know I did so long before I got Scrivener, because I had to get a program called Open Freely so I could even access the scene, never mind edit it. When I did that, I transferred it to Open Office, as that’s the only text editor I had at the time that I could write in. And there it languished for years, with me opening it occasionally to read as vague notions—or just a simple desire to read the scene—struck.

In the meantime, I got Scrivener, and I eventually moved “The Rose’s Thorn” into that program. Last year in September, I rewrote the opening scene (twice) and tacked two more scenes on the version I liked better. In those scenes, I came up with the official title of The Veiled Court. Shortly after writing them (by a few days, that is), I decided those additional scenes didn’t fit, though they read well, and I liked them, which is generally a good indication that I’m on the right track with a story.

After that, I let it languish. Mostly because the ideas ended with that third scene, and I blocked myself on the story by declaring two scenes I liked unfit for the wip.

But NPhoenix’s rambling reminded me of an aspect of the story . . . and built upon it on the 11th of this month. So I opened the file after she was done rambling and posting snippets from her shelved project. I read through what I had of the story. More ideas surfaced, along with the opening of book 2. For one POVMC, The Veiled Court will end on a cliffhanger. That seems to be my “thing” with novel series. Heck, even in the one duology series I have, book 1 ends on a mild cliffhanger that could actually be a passable (if mysterious) ending if I didn’t already have ideas for that story’s book 2.

Beside me on the floor between my plastic drawers and my rolling drawers-and-file cart, I have four brand-new story journals that I haven’t written in. I’m planning on opening up one of these and scribbling what I think of for The Veiled Court today. Because this is the most interested in any story I’ve been in weeks. I honestly don’t expect this period of inspiration to last beyond today, but I’m going to run with it, for it feels good to be thinking about any stories right now, especially one that’s languished so long.

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 4

The heat felt oppressive, thick with humidity, and Géta opened his room’s window in hopes of a relieving breeze the moment he got in, not even setting his flute and the new music he’d been given down first. A little breeze did come in and he inhaled the fragrance from the vaila flowers a few times before crossing the room to set his things on the shelf. He treated his flute with more reverence than it had ever before received, and the music with equal care. This first lesson with his flute teacher had been the most grueling he’d ever experienced, but he felt bright with happiness, for he’d been praised for his skill and given some difficult music to learn. His instructor, a weathered old man with agile fingers and a far greater skill with the flute than Géta felt he’d ever attain, seemed to think he was some sort of prodigy.

Géta removed his belt and laid it on top of his stacks of clothing, took off his tunic and hung it on the back of the chair, and flopped onto his bed. Perhaps he should have been tired after the long day, but he wasn’t. His mind wouldn’t stop running, going over the day from the first hour in the library. Groaning, he stretched, wiggling a little to work out kinks left over from holding his flute to his lips well over four hours straight. It wasn’t that he’d never practiced so long before, it was just the fact it had been more intense than ever.

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Extended Writing Downswing

By “extended writing downswing” I mean in regards to getting plot cards and fresh words on projects. Over the past few months, I’ve done little with my writing beyond editing and the new brain dumping stuff. Sadly, I consider “actively writing” primarily to be getting plot cards and new words on my stories.

This has not been a completely dry period for my writing though. I have been scribbling notes for various stories in my journals. In addition to the three stories on my projects page, I started a journal on another story, a fantasy mystery called Return of the Moribund God I: Life After Tavrinia. In this story, the ghost of one of the sleuth’s friends awakens him one night, and he and his roommate go to retrieve her body from the river. This is one of my particular favorite stories, mainly because I just adore the MC I conceived for this series, Pliutius, who is a 48-year-old mage who’s serving his second deity—and is about to stir the interest of a third.

I’ve also started a “general notes” journal. So far, it has only one note, but that probably won’t last. I have intentions of going through all these 200-300 index cards I have notes for various stories written on. Some of these notes are just random ideas that don’t yet have a home that I’ve jotted down. A lot of sorting needs to go on.

Also, I need to go through my scrap paper notes and new Scrivener files to create folders for my World Folder Drawer to put those notes in. There’s a few hundred or so names written down on these index cards and some scrap paper sheets that don’t have a particular home that I need to jot down in my, oh, 30-year-old name notebook. Actually, I think I’m going to switch the name notebook to one of my hardcover journals—I picked up a few more at the office store earlier this week as the current notebook is a literal notebook with a soft cover that’s in danger of tearing from the wire spiral.

Oh, I have plans for these story notebooks, should I ever complete the stories I’m working out in them. A number of my writer friends and people I follow have Patreon accounts, and I’ve decided it would be a cool idea to use my note entries, and, ultimately, the notebooks themselves, as rewards for patrons. There’s a bit of other financial stuff I need to figure out first, though, so we’ll see. And, I also need to complete these stories and series and publish them somehow. If I don’t do the Patreon thing, I’ll more than likely find another way to share the notes to these stories and the notebooks (sets) with interested readers. We’ll see how this stuff develops.

But for now, I’m just working through the dry spell with writing. I can feel stuff working in the back of my mind, and I know my Creative Mind isn’t completely ignoring the writing aspect because I’m able to get notes for my journals. I’m also reading through various incomplete stories of mine, both old and new. And there’s also the editing. The worst writing downswings always make me disinterested in working on my writing in any way. So, I think this year is being just as productive as last year, simply in a different way.

I hope you’re enjoying A Pitch of the Scale. There are two more books (thus far) after this book, but I won’t be posting them here. If you want access to them, sign up for a Wattpad account and visit my profile there. I post updates about what’s happening with the DH series there regularly.

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 3

Géta got through breakfast without trouble. Apparently, few were up at six when the dining hall opened, and he had his pick of the offerings and eyed the few others present before sitting by himself. Most of the others were adults; Priests or Mages. After returning his tray and dishes to the kitchen, he ventured into the school proper for some exploration.

Like the dormitory, the school halls consisted of one major artery with branches off to either side. Géta checked the paper he had and found the rooms where his book-learning classes were, then sought the weapons-practice room. It was off the main hall and had double-doors. Mirrors had been attached to the large room’s left-hand wall, and various weapons hung on the right-hand wall. Circles had been painted on the floor; the wall opposite the entrance bore more weapons and had a door slightly off-center.

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You’re a Fraud!

I’ve heard it said that all skilled and/or successful writers experience a feeling of fraudulence in their writing lives. Now, I don’t know how true this is all across the board, but a number of the writers I associate with regularly do suffer Impostor Syndrome of some kind, at least a little. Sometimes they don’t even need to be in any way successful.

For the longest time, I didn’t think I went through this. I examined myself and my emotions whenever I added new words to a project. Neither did I feel it in relation to any success I’ve had with my writing. Negative comments don’t really have the power to make me feel like a fraud either; I just figure the problem with my story lies with the reader, not the story.

The things is, I’m extremely confident in my writing skill. I know my stories are good. They’re strong, they don’t have (many) plot holes. Since I started outlining my stories, my writing has only gotten better and stronger. If nothing else, I have supreme confidence that my writing is good and that I write well.

But I do suffer Impostor Syndrome, and feelings of fraudulence. When? This took a little examination of myself when I wasn’t actively writing on any projects, because I feel this way when I’m not adding new words to a project. No matter how much I may preach to other writers, who are newer to writing, or more uncertain of their skills that as long as they write at all, no matter how frequently they’re able to do it, they are a writer, I just can’t seem to internalize it for myself.

It’s really been hitting me strong this year. More than once I’ve nursed negative thoughts or shared negative opinions on my worthiness as a writer since I’ve not been writing as much as I want to. Every so often, the thought, “If I were a real writer, I’d be able to focus on something and complete it” or “I should be writing. A real writer writes almost every day” slides into my mind.

And honestly, I don’t really feel like myself unless I am writing. This has always been the case. I enjoy worldbuilding. Developing characters is fun. Plotting things out is really entertaining. But. None of these are writing.

But it’s the way my writing mind swings these days, and it’s elected to be mostly in “downswing” mode so far this year. Not enjoyable, fun, or entertaining. I’ll survive though. Making it through 2012 proved to me I can survive even complete lack of creativity for an extended period of time. At least right now I’m able to be creative during my downswings. That’s something good, right?

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 2

The final portion of his journey involved crossing Capitol Lake to the largest island. Actually, the largest island was cut by canals, and Géta got a nice view of the Empire’s Capitol City from the steamboat’s deck. He was too worn by the journey to feel much awe and his eyes blurred more than a little a few times, so his memory of the trip through the canals to the center of the island was a little hazy. When the ferry docked, his Priest escort came to fetch him, and he wandered down the plank to the dock with a feeling of smallness.

Here, the roads were much better than those in his home city had been, so there were no jarring dips into potholes. The carriage rode smoothly, an issue with the Temple’s insignia of a trio of three-armed spirals, in an inverted-triangle pattern, on its doors. It wasn’t very fine, but it was more comfortable than the taxi carriage he’d ridden to the train in back in his home city.

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Brainstorming

I’m always looking for ways to help improve my writing, either in the technical aspects, or in prep, or post-writing. Over the years, especially since getting back into fantasy in December of 2012, I’ve tried a variety of new writing techniques. Some have had better success than others.

One of those techniques was trying to brainstorm “privately.” A lot of my brainstorming happens in “public,” in chat rooms and in IM conversations with friends. While this is useful and helpful, there are certain aspects of the stories I need to work out on my own, and these usually take quite a while to sort themselves out—it’s not a great deal of the reason why it takes me so long to finish projects, but it can become a major stumbling block, particularly when it causes me to stall out mid-wip. And this happens whether or not I’ve got plot cards on the story.

So, I’ve tried a couple different methods of brainstorming. The first was simply randomly throwing plot points to stories in a file in Scrivener. When in the flow, I can go from typing to highlighting related plot points (which can be extremely useful for my mysteries). Unfortunately, this format is extremely troubling to me; it causes my anxiety to surface, often to the point where I simply cannot deal with the mess of text, even if its highlighted or otherwise color-coded.

But that was in a text-based file. At about the time I realized that I couldn’t function well with a wall of text in a computer file, the makers of Scrivener came out with a brainstorming/outlining software called Scapple. So I gave this a try.

My first projects in Scapple were total messes. Everything looks random, there’s no particular order, and even where there is order, it’s still confusing and messy because of the way I’ve manipulated the notes in the file. As I’ve grown more comfortable with the program and its capabilities and learned to think about how I want to use the program, I’ve gradually gotten more orderly and comprehensible files. So far, Scapple has turned out to be slightly more successful in helping me brainstorm, there are some things I leave out of it. Like worldbuilding. Like characterization. Like motivations. Thus far, I’ve used Scapple purely as a plotting device, and while I don’t object to this, I’m still writing reams of notes on random pieces of paper to keep up with things in Scapple, and one of my long-time personal goals has been to organize my notes better.

As a result, I’ve been looking for a different method of brainstorming, and recently came across a new method. One of my friends on FM decided to try and shave “a few” years off her own writing process. It took her twelve years to finish book one of a duology (between working and family and debilitating permanent/chronic health issues). She found a book that described brainstorming by longhand, and she combined it with cognitive therapy and started writing down her story ideas and plotting and such for book 2 in Superhero journals. Basically, she begins with a premise, and then questions her way through the plot.

Now, I liked the idea of this method for a number of reasons. One, and fairly important, is that this is a way of keeping all the notes on a story, from plotting, to worldbuilding, to characterization, all in one place. Another reason why I liked it is because it separates me from using the computer as my primary tool of plotting/writing for at least one part of the project. Third, I thought that writing my story-related thoughts out i longhand would enable me to get past the aspects of my stories that cause blocks. And, most importantly, I might not get as overwhelmed by my own handwriting as I am by walls of text in a computer file, mainly because when I started out writing, I did it all longhand—all the way up until 1997.

Thus far, this method seems to be working. Because of the low level of productivity my Creative Mind is putting out, I’m making only slow progress, but I have been able to read what I’ve written. It doesn’t overwhelm me like the text in computer files does. Not only that, I’ve been able to work past issues that would have blocked me for weeks (at least) if I’d gone straight to outlining these stories somehow. And I’m having fun doing this, changing ink color, thanks to the 100 gel ink pen set I bought a few months ago, with each page. I’m using thick journals, of at least 150 leafs (300 pages counting both sides)—one an an old tooled-leather journal, the others Ecojot journals out of Canada.

I think this new method of brainstorming is a keeper.

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 1

“We don’t know what to do with you. We’ve done everything we can.”

Géta bowed his head, hands loosely clasped behind his back. His father pushed up a little on the bed, trying to prop himself against the pillows supporting him better, and collected the blankets closer to his chin. The room was unbearably hot—the stuffiest in the house, and a fire roared in the fireplace. If it hadn’t been the hottest weeks of summer, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but this heat was almost enough to suck the breath from Géta’s lungs and he panted a little.

“Well.” His father coughed a few times, a dry hack which made Géta wince a bit in reaction. It had come with the rest of his father’s illness: A weakening of the muscles, a lack of appetite with stomachache, and a general fading into sleep, accompanied by headache and an intermittent fever. It wasn’t far progressed yet, but death was guaranteed within the next two months. No one who got Wasting ever lasted a year once it struck, and his father had been fighting the illness for weeks already. “We’ve decided to send you on.”

“On?” It was almost a breathless word, a whisper, and Géta cleared his throat. “On to where, Father?”

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Notes Regarding Chraest’s Year

Chraest’s year is 540 days long.

Its days are twenty-eight 60-minute hours long.

Each minute on Chraest is approximately 60 seconds long, as with our planet.

When writing about the age of a character on Chraest, I use the Chraesti age, not the Earth one.

As a result, a character who is 15 on Chraest is approximately 26 Earth years old.

A character who is 16 on Earth is approximately 9.3 Chraesti years old.

If you’d like to perform your own figuring for Chraesti Ages, the formulae are as follow:

Chraesti = (EAge*8760)/15,120

Earth = (CAge*15,120)/8760

2017 Writing Goals

Well, last year, I outlined some goals for my writing in January. This year, I wasn’t quite up to it. At the time, I was struggling to come to terms with the new, lower, level of my Creative Mind’s functionality. I honestly was in no way prepared to establish any even tentative goals for my writing then. My Creative Mind still isn’t functioning even half as well as it was last year, but I’ve finally gotten used to its new lower level of productivity.

Allow me to amend that. I’ve gotten used to its new focus of productivity. While I haven’t been making as much forward progress on actual new words for stories this year, I have been extremely creative. I’ve conceived several new stories and magic systems, and I’ve been doing a lot of editing and prework stuff. Also, I’m doing much better, on a mental and spiritual level with regards to my writing. I think, if I’d had a deep downgrade in new-word productivity before 2016, my spirit would have suffered a great deal more than it is this year. Not that I’m happy with this lower level of new-word productivity, but I’m actually handling it well. This is a very, very good thing.

With my acceptance of this situation, I think I’m now ready to set some goals. They are as follows:

  • Write 300,000 words in 2017. This goal may not be attainable, even if I am able to complete November’s Nano with 50k or more words. LOL
  • Outline every story I work on or begin. This means creating an outline of 15-16 cards ahead of where I’m writing and then outlining one card per scene written. This also means going through stories I haven’t outlined and doing reverse outlines on them (ugh).
  • Make some sort of writing-related post to AEP regularly. To meet this goal, starting June, I’ll post once a week, probably on Tuesday.
  • Share some of my writing on AEP. I’m thinking these posts will fall on Fridays, and I’ll also be posting these stories (and others) on Wattpad.
  • Do prework on DH4—this story is fighting me and has been for a couple of years now.
  • Do prework on TPOV2—this story is just complicated. So far, I’ve had to add about three or four plot cards to the middle of what I have of the outline because I keep on realizing I need to include different things so that later events in the book will make sense and won’t seem to come out of the blue.
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