Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBT+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Taking A Break

With the completion of posting of Discordant Harmonies 1: A Pitch of the Scale, I’m taking a break from posting this week. It got a bit hairy for me toward the end of the book, with me barely keeping up with my weekly post and scheduling posts of the book. I managed to finish edits on it a few weeks beforehand, but apathy struck, and it was a fight the whole time. Sadly, that apathy about posting here is still with me. I’m hoping that taking a deliberate break from the onus of posting, however brief it may be, will prevent an unanticipated case of full-blown bipolar apathy regarding the site. I’ve done this before, with mixed success. Here’s hoping my blog absence will last only a week.

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 11

Asthané assured the guard—it was always a different one who brought him to his palace chambers—he was capable of stumbling to bed on his own. Following a minute’s hovering hesitation, the woman departed, and he watched her go, waiting until she disappeared around a corner. Good. He could relax now.

This Council meeting hadn’t been so bad. Of course, he’d spent most of it sitting outside the chamber while other business was taken care of, but he still had a head which felt like someone had used it for a drum and knotted guts. He wasn’t sure just how much of the fine supper in the room beyond this front door he’d be able to eat, especially cold—he’d learned long ago, most foods eaten while sick with Gift reaction tended to lack flavor if left cold—and he wasn’t inclined to use his Gifts to heat anything up. It might be best to skip supper altogether.

He turned the handle and forced himself to move into the room. Bless the soul of whoever watched over these chambers, they always left the fore chamber well-lit, the gaslights bright. Maybe someone who understood about Mages was monitoring the use of this apartment. Whoever it was, he wanted to thank them. He shuffled in, edged to the side, and shut the door as he leaned against the wall, tipping his head back as he closed his eyes. Bed was just across the way, in the next room, but he needed a break to register he truly was free for the rest of the evening.

“Thané?”

Continue reading

Redefinition

Way back when, and up through the early 2000’s, my definition of “working on my writing” was actively getting words on my stories. I think I’ve mentioned before how I did this. I was a pantser—someone who wrote without an outline—for all of that time and beyond. It’s only been within the past five or six years that I’ve made any efforts at outlining stuff. But even with that, my definition of “working on my writing” remained getting new words on any given project.

Because this habit was so ingrained, I had difficulty divorcing myself from the idea that the only definition of “working on my writing” was getting new words on a project. Almost 20 years of defining something a certain way will make changing that definition hard for almost anybody, and it was especially difficult for me, I think, because I identified so strongly as a writer. That was, quite literally, all there was to me, at least in my mind, until recently (we went over this in last week’s post).

As a result, I’ve been struggling for years to redefine “working on my writing.” I knew it needed to be done, I knew that everything I did, from background work to actual writing to editing could be defined as “working on my writing,” but I just couldn’t convince my conscious mind to include all that stuff. Though I knew I seemed to some people to include all that stuff, I really wasn’t thinking it all was included. For me, “working on my writing” was still very much just getting new words.

I think that’s why I had such a difficulty with my self-identification as a writer for so long. The two were irrevocably bound up in each other. A reason, I suppose, I despaired whenever I didn’t actually add new words to a project. In essence, I was pretty much a mess over my writing.

And then I had that epiphany, that I’m not just a writer. Like a shaft of sunlight through storm clouds, I suddenly had a brand new perspective on all of my writing, not just my self-identification as a writer.

Which has led me to my new ability to include everything related to writing in my definition of “working on my writing.” This has been very freeing. The whole thing, from my initial epiphany about my self-identity, to realizing that whatever I do with my writing, whether it be dumping notes into a journal to editing that work, is “working on my writing.”

Essentially, all this means I don’t beat myself up any more. If I don’t write anything, from a blog post to fiction, no big deal. I have and am other things to work on. Now, writing a blog post is something I define as “working on my writing” because, well, I’m writing. If I choose to edit a chapter from one of my stories, I’m “working on my writing.”

Yeah, this is a big epiphany for me. Something friends have been pointing out for months if not years, other writers and nonwriters alike. Ashe, if you’re writing plot cards, you’re “working on your writing.” Yeah, I can be a bit of a dunce sometimes. But then, sometimes I need other things to click before the obvious things like this can sink in.

What this means is that now I don’t stress getting fresh words. If I do, yay! If I don’t, no big deal. More than likely, I’ve spent at least a few minutes (if not much more) on contemplating my stories. Which is, yes, “working on my writing.”

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 10

Géta kept his gaze on the two trunks at the foot of his bed as he dropped his class things on his desk; the shelves were blocked by the trunks now. One was new, burnished yeru from the lot his parents had purchased for that trip to the lake when he was six. When he crossed to look at the address on it, he found his mother’s handwriting as he expected, and he knelt to unbuckle the straps holding the lid shut, using his parrying dagger to cut the knotted bits of twine which his mother had apparently deemed suitable as a security measure. His armor lay on the top; bits of plate for arms, with a mail tunic. Two letters and a leather-bound book lay on top of the mail tunic.

He fanned the pages of the book, but they were all blank. A journal, then. After taking notice one letter was from his mother, he picked up the other, from Alénil, and opened it. It said little, his best friend choosing not to go into detail about a life he knew Géta was very familiar with, then introduced the journal with the suggestion Géta use it as a kind of notebook to keep records of events he wanted to write home about. Géta set the letter on top of his clothes and picked up the journal again, opening it.

He gazed at the blank pages, considering what he could write in it right now for a few minutes, then made himself close the journal and set it on top of his clothes. Opening his mother’s letter enabled him to acquire the key to the trunk, but he didn’t read the note with it yet. The half-hour bell chimed, so he needed to get out to the Weatherfield gate or he’d be in trouble.

He locked the trunk, then added the key to the leather strap of his keyring and collected his flute. No time to straighten things up, and he’d have to ask about what to do with the trunks when he unpacked them later. He hurried out to the gardens and trotted up the path he usually took to the Weatherfield gate.

And came around a bend with a tall hedge right into the trio of bullies who had been after him.

Continue reading

Not Just A Writer

I’m changing. Or, perhaps more accurately, my perception of myself is changing. I’ve given you my background more than once, and I believe I’ve mentioned it on my About: The Author page, about how I first started writing back in the very late 80’s.

That was actually part of my problem. Maybe I hadn’t started writing until my high early high school years, but the habit quickly became ingrained. Back then, when I first started writing, my only initial aspirations to be published related to breaking into the Star Trek: The Next Generation franchise, which I pretty much gave up when I moved into writing my own original work. But by then, I already strongly identified as a writer. It honestly didn’t matter to me through my high school years if I ever got published. Sure, it would have been nice if I’d been able to write that one glorious book that broke me into the publishing world sometime soon after high school, but I was much too content with just jotting my stories down to worry much about doing much more than sending the odd short I managed to complete to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies. I think I sent two. Maybe three. All were rejected. Far from broken, I just shrugged, filed the rejections, and went on writing my daydreams down.

And thus was my writing life up until I was forced to give up writing by homelessness in Denver, Colorado. I still daydreamed, even though I didn’t get back to my writing until 2002, when I returned to North Carolina after being discharged from the Navy. Restless, at the top end of a slow slide into insanity, I had difficulty holding down a job and tried to make it on my own again. And almost ended up homeless again.

But I was still a writer. My first years here in Utah were hell for my writing. I was insane, which was not at all helped by my search for a spiritual home, and I killed my writing by trying to force it into a mold it didn’t fit.

And yet, I was a writer. Even when I finally shelved my writing to focus on getting mental health care and an at least semi-decent job. So, for a few years, I didn’t write. Not until my mom came out here to help me. First, she shipped the old Kitchen Imp computer we’d had in our trailer for years, since sometime around 1988 or ’89—the computer I found Forward Motion on with my first search for “writers’ websites.”

Because I was still a writer I promptly turned to my writing. Mostly healed from my torturous experience with trying to reshape my writing into something it could never be, I dove into the fantasy stories I’d once loved to work on. I had one real-world job after another, rebounded into one I’d had previously when a “better” job fell through, and wrote.

Through it all, I identified as a writer. So strongly, in fact, that I’ve struggled the past few years since my return to writing speculative fiction. Because I’d developed the habit of writing daily prior to losing my mind, I was still stupidly focused on that aspect of my writing. Yes, I was happy when I wrote, no matter how few days I wrote out of any given week or month, but I suffered depression and fear whenever I didn’t write. I mean, real, paralyzing terror that one lone day of not writing was the herald to never writing again. Ever. I was a writer, after all, and I’d once been able to write almost every single day. This shouldn’t be impossible for me now, right?

Yet, it was. What I had failed to see was that with the change in my mental health, a natural consequence was a change in other aspects of my life, including my writing habit. Those days on which I wrote I judged as good, great, fantastic, wonderful. And the days on which I didn’t write were bad, okay, pathetic, or dud days.

And this year has, up until quite recently, such bad days. This year, I have spent more time days not writing than I have in typing new words to stories. And that was the only progress I counted, because I was “preset” to think of only new-word days as good writing days.

So it was quite a surprise to review my goals posts from last week on FM’s forum and see how I’d declared pretty much every day of the week—during which I wrote not a single new word on any fiction project—as a good day. These days I did other things. I practiced and learned Spanish. Playing with my new cat was a fixture of each day, as was tending to his care. For the first time ever, I considered merely getting out to a psych therapy group and my volunteer shift on Thursday as a good day. Not a single new word that day, yet it was a good day.

I honestly don’t know just what to attribute this change in perspective to, but I’m glad I’ve had it. This new view of my life was very much needed, because I was tearing myself up over not writing. See, I’ve expected, all these years, to be able to just leap back into the writing habits I had back before I went to Colorado, and I foolishly pinned my entire self-identity on that ability alone, so when I couldn’t for some reason write on any given day, it killed me. I became, in my mind, a failure, if only for a day or two, because I hadn’t written on those particular days.

And it has been wonderful to realize this change in perspective. I am not merely a writer. I am so many other things, I can do so many other things and consider myself a productive person. This, I think, is a very important step in my mental health recovery. With this development, I can accept that I may never write daily again and not feel despair or fear. I have faith that, no matter how long my fiction is away from me, it will return. Maybe it’ll be absent only a day. But now, if it’s gone a week, I know I can survive without it and be happy. And I know I can now go a month or longer without being terrified that it’ll never return. It just cycles, like my bipolar, and I can accept that each day, week, month, year is going to be different for my writing side, than the one preceding. And that’s okay.

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 9

Géta followed Udé into the dining hall. His friend had announced the kitchen always set out a sideboard in the afternoon, primarily because Mages finishing afternoon practice generally required some sort of sustenance. The sideboard was actually an abbreviated selection of foods set on the counter where meal components were set out, and Udé lifted the lid of the soup tureen at one end of the collection of food, rattling the ladle about.

“Dregs. Who eats the soup before I get here?”

Chuckling over the complaining tone of voice his friend had spoken in, Géta wandered over to the left and collected an orange and a couple sausage rolls. The crusts were a little hard, but that didn’t matter. Udé followed his example, collecting four of the rolls into a hammock made with the bottom of his tunic and selecting three apples instead of oranges. Géta finally found a position with his arm and collection of music which supported the food he’d taken, and the pair headed for the door to the hall leading to the Mages’ and musicians’ quarters, him in the lead.

“So how was this practice?”

Continue reading

The Cat, Pt 2

I’ve lived in this building twice before, and previously, I had to go get a form for my psych doc to sign stating that I needed to have a companion animal, so I contacted my landlord about it. During a conversation in the laundry room while he did his laundry, he told me that such things aren’t required any more and that all I’d need is proof of licensing and shots. Needless to say, I was happy to hear this. I explained that one of the places I could adopt from required a note from the landlord stating that animals are permitted on premises, and he got that to me.

When I called Anita to ramble about the cat some more, she offered to take me to PetSmart. I picked up everything I thought I’d need and took it home. The first thing after getting in, I put together the carrier/crate I’d gotten for my future cat.

So, on Tuesday, the 11th of July, I went to get my cat.

My original intention was to get an adult cat, maybe a couple years old. I was, however, keeping my mind open. When we arrived at the Salt Lake County Animal Services, I handed in the application I’d already filled out and the note from my apartment’s manager. The receptionist had a minor issue with the note—it lacked a letterhead. She stated that she’d have to contact the manager to verify, and I said that was fine and completed the applications process then went back to look at the cats.

They had three rooms with adult cats, two sets of kennels with individual cats, and one kennel-cage with a bunch of kittens. Since I didn’t know if it was okay for me to go into the rooms with the adult cats, I only peered in at them through the windows. None of them seemed to care I was there. The individual cats in the kennels didn’t take much note of me and my friend Anita, either, though one took a swipe at her and managed to scratch the back of her wrist; I definitely didn’t want that cat. And honestly, none of the kittens seemed to take much note of us either, but there was one who was trying to play with its kennel-mates. I watched it for a few minutes, then decided that I wanted it.

Back out to the reception area of the building to tell them I’d chosen. The receptionist told me to meet another employee back there to tell them which one I wanted, so I hurried back to do that. Out came the rambunctious kitten, and the employee scanned his chip and told me to go back out front to receive him. I went back to the reception area to receive my kitten. By this time, the receptionist had verified that pets are permitted where I live and made a copy of the note Tom had written. She commended me for coming prepared—with a carrier—as the employee who brought him out to me tucked him inside.

 

My cat, Einstein

Einstein the Cat

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 8

A while later, another knock came on Géta’s door. He shifted to eye the panel, wary now because of Asthané’s visit. The Mage could have returned. Why, he couldn’t fathom, but he didn’t fancy the idea of opening the door. Still, when the knock came once more, he got up to do so.

Shélan smiled at him. “Hello, Géta.”

Unable to restrain his joy at seeing the Priest, Géta opened the door and beckoned him in. “Hi, Shélan! I didn’t expect to see you again.”

“Why ever not? Did you think I could forget you?”

The tease made him bob his head, cheeks warming. “A little.”

“Well, you made quite an impression upon me, young man. May I sit?”

Continue reading

The Cat, Pt. 1

I moved into my current apartment, in case you don’t recall, sometime in August or September of 2014. It took me about a year to settle in and when I did, I went through a nesting period. I hung things on the walls, organized my books, etc. And one of the things I wanted to add to my home was a pet. Specifically, a cat. At the time, I didn’t feel quite emotionally—or financially—ready for the responsibility. I had a bunch of financial stuff to clean up, and I still balked at the idea of taking responsibility for another life. I still had a bit of growing to do.

Fast forward to this year—yearning over the duration—to the mental health group I was convinced to join. Some background here. My regular therapist attempted to get me to go, but I refused, even though it was only temporary. This was before I started budgeting the month’s transit fees with the rest of my bills, so I really had no idea how much money I’d have left for “extra” transit trips each month. So I said no. Well, the primary facilitator of the group called me directly and reasoned me into going. I forget what she said about it, only that the way she explained it made it sound like it would be worth a try.

Besides the point, I’ve made mental health progress in that group, and had a number of epiphanies about my personal and interpersonal lives through it.

One of those personal epiphanies was realizing how much I wanted a cat. This occurred during our group session last week, when it was only the primary facilitator, her assistant, and me and one other patient. I forget how we got on the topic, but he passed around his phone with a picture of him with a Husky puppy hung over his shoulder. The yearning hit hard right then, and I mentioned wanting a cat.

Everyone looked at me and the facilitator asked, “Why don’t you have one?” in disbelief.

And I realized something. I’d been holding back for bogus reasons for the past couple years. I’d managed to straighten my finances out enough to where I still had a bit of a savings even after a bunch of spending I’d been doing. I felt emotionally ready—in other words, the thought of taking responsibility for another living creature didn’t scare the living daylights out of me—seriously, this was almost an anxiety issue before, and still is in some respects.

The remainder of the group was spent discussing how pets can enrich our lives. By the time we left, I was high on the idea of getting a cat. I even had it all planned. I’d get a young adult cat, maybe one or two years old. Preferably black, but I’d take any who seemed eager to leave the shelter with me. Male or female didn’t matter; as I discovered over the intervening days, I was as likely to refer to the expected cat as “it” as I was as “he” or “she,” I really didn’t care.

I wrote little, slept poorly due to excitement, one or two nights not even sleeping at all—especially that first night when I was so full of the thrill of giving myself permission to get a cat. And I talked almost incessantly abut the cat I wanted to get to my closest friend—to the point where she’d joke about how obsessed I was. I made a list of cat supplies and accessories the cat would need, considered names (in case the name the cat came with was unappealing to me), researched shelters where I could go to adopt, and set the ball rolling on getting permission to bring the cat into my home (I thought I needed to have my therapist or psych doc fill out a form for my manager). Also, I researched prices on expensive items, ingredients in the various foods I learned my local Smith’s store carried, and polled cat-owning friends on what to avoid and what to do for my cat. I even typed up a list of Kitty Care Questions for me to ask the veterinarian I planned to take my cat to (the same one my mom’s dog goes to).

So, as you can see, I went from ready to prepared.

To Be Continued . . .

A Pitch of the Scale, Chapter 7

Géta’s stomach kept sending up mouthfuls of lunch as he waited, by turns gazing into the garden in hopes of seeing the Mages and staring out over the field wondering if they’d already passed. It hadn’t been one yet when he’d left for the gate to the Weatherfield, but he was afraid he may have missed meeting them. Pacing a little, he continually swallowed as he hugged his flute to his side. He hadn’t bothered to take it out and put it together and had spent a few minutes in indecision, wondering if he should bring the music he was learning before deciding this couldn’t be counted as an official practice. This was real performance, and it chilled him despite the humid heat of the day.

He turned away from the field and saw four people on the path from the Temple. The woman at the head of the little group wore a tunic with a V-bent arrow through crescent with the points down on the front; an orange, yellow, and blue spiral filled the space between the arrow and bottom of the crescent. The others he could see wore different colors; one with yellow, another with blue, and the last he couldn’t see from where he stood with the others blocking. Géta caught glimpses of red hair, but that was all.

Continue reading

« Older posts

© 2017 Ashe Elton Parker

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑