Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: February 2015

Jodalur Investigative Division Series

I finally got around to adding Elindu and my Nano ’14 project to my Projects list. Not only did it pass 10k, but I also won Nano with Masks.

Over the course of November and December, I came up with a whole list of other projects for the Jodalur Investigative Division series. I’ll be honest though: in a lot of cases, all I know about the particular stories behind the titles listed on the JID page is that little teaser line. Due to this fact, I have a suspicion the JID books will be written rather more slowly than average, though I’d like to have three or four by the time I get to publishing any of them.

One thing I don’t want is for my stories to have my sleuths operating in a vacuum. I want them to grow and change and for their lives to have ups and downs. I know some mystery writers do this, but I can’t recall any I’ve read who did. In a way, it would be easier for them to exist in a kind of timelessness, where they don’t change, but I enjoy showing the characters’ non-working lives. I need to show just enough to provide hints to character and push plot forward whenever possible, and there’s a lot of plot to push forward, though some of it won’t come into play right away. I have to foreshadow things a bit, because there’s a subtle subplot that’s going to arc through the first 4 or so books of the series.

Since December, I’ve been stalled on Masks. I couldn’t figure out why at first, but I had a recent epiphany on the project. Apparently, my creative mind stopped working on it because it hadn’t had a chance to come up with some vital things. Masks previously stood at 58,611 words. It was bloated, and I’ve cut over 46k words on it. Now that I know who all the suspects are—both those who are the actual perpetrators as well as those who are the diversions—I’ve decided to write from a particular point about 12k or so words in. I feel very good about the cut, and about my prospects for streamlining the story from this point on, though, if I find I need to, I will cut to a manageable point again.

Love Your Neighbor

A fair number of religious people—and I’m not talking about just Christians here, but of all religions which follow a single deity referred to as God in one way or another—base their rejection of the LGBT community on their faith. It’s their perfect right to do so, but I think they’re not considering something when they claim God doesn’t want us LGBT people.

First of all, why would God, who has sole (I’m arguing to the religious folk here) purview over life and the bestowal of it, create something He doesn’t love?

Think about it. God’s greatest injunction, from what I understand, in any religious text encouraging to worship of Him, is to love. I know for certain that Jesus has enjoined all Christians to Love Your Neighbor, and I know with equal certainty, He did not qualify that command with who we may exclude or deny our neighborly love. If I am wrong in this with regards to things like Judaism and the Muslim religion, please feel free to correct me, but, in all I have heard, Love is the greatest commandment God gives to His followers, no matter what religion He’s speaking through.

God has no reason to create an entire society of people He hates. If God didn’t want us to be here, none of us would be born gay, or transgender, or in any other way queer. God does have the power to eliminate aspects of gender, personality, and character He doesn’t agree with, after all, so why wouldn’t He eliminate homosexuality, gender dysphoria, and other gender/sexuality issues at some point between conception and birth if He didn’t like it?

And don’t anybody try to tell me God doesn’t make mistakes. Of course He doesn’t! Nobody alive on this planet, in the past, present, or who will live in the future, is a mistake made by God. It’s we humans who make mistakes—all the time. God just loves us enough to let us do so, because He hopes we’ll learn from our mistakes.

And, that is what I think we LGBT people are. Lessons. For ourselves and each other and for everyone else in the world. God put us here to test all of humanity, to see if we’re obeying His highest command of loving one another.

Feminism and women’s battle for equal pay is part of God’s test of how well we love one another as well. People born with mental illness or some sort of learning disability are also God’s test of our love for one another. The consciousless people who murder—and those who do so for whatever reason they contrive besides being consciousless—are God’s test of how well we love one another. Drug dealers, thieves, gang members, and every criminal is God’s test of our capacity of loving our neighbor. How we treat the homeless is another test of God’s in loving our neighbors.

Sometimes showing God we love our neighbors may require we forgive them—but God doesn’t then demand we forget the offenses given, and He’s willing to let us protect ourselves from further similar mistreatment if we wish. At times, God asks us to stand up for someone else, someone who is weaker, or afraid, or in some other way challenged to prove our love for our fellow man. And sometimes God just wants us to treat our fellow humans with respect, dignity, and courtesy to show Him we love our neighbors.

To be clear, one doesn’t need to adhere to any particular religion to do this. I’ve known several nonreligious people who managed to love their neighbors quite successfully without the aid of a holy text or spiritual leader to tell them what to do. Conversely, I’ve seen strict adherence to religious texts and/or the words of a spiritual leader mislead religious people regarding the injunction to love our neighbors. Sadly, sometimes the very religion we seek to obey clouds God’s will for us; the key, I think, is to remember to the best of one’s ability the injunction to love above all other things.

I would like to see everyone strive to love their neighbor. The world would be a much more peaceful—and happier—place.

Bryce

I’ve been in a depressive funk for the past week or so. I rarely have depressive phases like this, where there’s little hint of the manic side of my typical mixed state. Most of them happen naturally, but this one I was thrown into by the hospitalization and subsequent death of one of my best friends.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve slipped progressively deeper into the depression. The week of Bryce’s hospitalization, I was able to keep a mostly positive mood going—until I heard of his death on Thursday the Fifth. To be honest, I had a phone call from another friend of Bryce’s, Anita, the night before, but I’d already gone to bed and had no interest in getting up to answer it because I was certain the call was from her to announce his death, which had been a foregone conclusion since he’d been taken off life support.

I stayed in bed and went to sleep, too tired to dwell on the bad news I was certain I’d hear the next day, but when I got up and got settled at my desk with my cup of tea the next day, I called Anita for the news. It was a shock, and, after we hung up, I immediately wanted to call Bryce to tell him what had happened—then remembered he was the one who’d died.

I have issues with attachment to people, but Bryce was one of those I was most attached to. We talked nearly every day, whether he was down south with his parents or up here. He was bipolar too, the more typical cyclic kind, though I can’t recall if his was Type I or Type II. All I know is that, periodically, anywhere from once to three times a year, he’d go through a severe depressive phase where he wouldn’t answer calls from anybody or make any unless he absolutely had to. So, there were periods of weeks or sometimes even over a month when we wouldn’t communicate, even if he was up here during a depressive swing.

But he didn’t have any such phases over the duration of this winter. He went down south in late October, if I remember correctly, and we commenced our near-daily phone calls to each other. Sometimes he’d have busy days and didn’t answer my calls, but he always made sure to call me the next day.

Bryce was kind of a brother in my eyes. I could discuss with him things I couldn’t discuss with anyone else but my therapist. It felt good to be understood by someone outside the psych care world, someone who knew what it was like to be bipolar. He was a writer too, and we frequently discussed our projects with each other. I trusted Bryce, I think, more than I trusted anyone else. I even felt comfortable discussing my gender dysphoria with Bryce, my asexuality, and my strong attraction to gay men, primarily because Bryce was gay too.

More than that, Bryce was a kind, generous, loving man. He was open-minded and never said a cruel thing about anyone in my hearing. No insults passed his lips, and he was able to quell my incessant digging-for-dirt personality simply by refusing to talk bad about anyone. Bryce made me a better person simply by being himself, and I tried to live up to the example he gave all without meaning to.

He had a lot to give, and a lot to say. Some of my favorite times with him—in person or on the phone—were those when he would tell me of his history. He did a lot for the gay community here back in the ’80’s, and encouraged me to get more involved in it these days. Frequently, he’d said he’d done his service already, but that I should get involved because of the good it would do me.

I don’t know what I’m saddest about regarding his loss: the fact he’ll never complete any of the in-progress fiction he was working on, or that he’s no longer around to share his wit and wisdom with those of us he left behind. He died halfway through his own story, and the hardest thing is knowing that it will forever remain incomplete.

Writer’s Block or Project Block

If you’ve followed my blog any length of time, you know I suffer from an unpredictable, periodical, and severe form of writers’ block, driven by my bipolar mood swings, which I call “writing downswings.” I happen to be in the middle of one of these right now, and while it hasn’t been completely dry creatively, it has pretty much wiped out my creative mind. What little progress I have made, on my 2yn15 project, has been stilted at best; I’m in the middle of a series of exercises meant to help me build the world of Mukhamutara, and it takes me days to figure out how to meet the expectations of the lessons given.

But this is, for me, inherently different from another, milder form of block which affects specific projects or, more frequently, all the projects on one particular world. I’ll call this Project Block, and I think it may be just as driven by my bipolar as my writing downswings are, which means it’s never going to be controllable.

Typically, in my writing, things go like this: My writing swings “up” out of a downswing with a focus on one particular world. Sometimes with a focus on one particular project in any given world. Regardless, this does not permit deviation from the particular world I’m focused on. So, if I come “up” out of a downswing focused on, say for example, TPOM3, I’m unable to work on anything besides other Chraest stories.

I may read every single stalled project I have set in each and every world I have a Scrivener file for. This includes even those Scrivener files where I’ve just copy-pasted old wips from years before that I plan on looking into completing at some later date. I will frequently even come up with ideas for the storyline, characters, or other things related to those stories, and I write these notes down. But I don’t actually write on these stories, or in these other worlds.

So, typically, my focus remains either TPOM3, or possibly some other Chrest project or two.

Rarely does my creative mind provide me ideas for plotting/writing on projects set in two different worlds; that’s generally when my writing is running a bit manic, and it’s more frustrating in some ways than it is helpful, because it makes it impossible for me to focus on one or another particular project enough to make decent progress on anything at all.

Much of the time (though not all), I’m happy with my creative mind’s willingness to focus on one particular project or a number of them set on one particular world. That’s when I make the most progress on anything. So, for the most part, Project Block is helpful. There are times when it isn’t, but those are rare, and that’s typically when I have the desire to write, but no ideas for plotting or handling plotted out scenes, and this is something I can’t get moving even if I move to a project I happen to be pantsing for the most part (I do have a project or two for which I have no outlines—but they usually have notes and other background work).

The frustrating thing is when my Project Block migrates from world to world. This happens pretty frequently—sometimes even more frequently than I post about on Twitter or here on my blog. I’ll be happily writing on one or more projects on a given world, then, over a number of days, I’ll lose creative focus, then come out of the fugue with a focus on another world.

I’ll be honest here. I really wish I could be like those writers who can focus on one project from beginning to end before moving on to something else. I’d probably have a lot more books done if I could do that. And I have tried to do that. More than once. Each and every time, I ended up hating my writing, and I stopped forcing the words so I wouldn’t drive myself into depression. I do not want to be depressed and in despair over my fantasy writing. It’s my first love in writing, and the work I really want to make work, so I’ve learned to go with the flow. If my creative mind doesn’t want to work on something, I don’t force it. I know I’ll eventually come back to it, and I’ve learned to accept that.

Patience and My Parent

Late last year in response to something Mom said to me during one of her visits to my home to drop some things off in early December, I decided to be a little more patient with her. Up to this point, I hadn’t been. I’d cut her off on the phone, interrupt her if she tried to describe TV shows or movies she’d watched, and generally didn’t listen to her as well as I should have.

Her heated comment of, “This is me!” in response to my statement I wanted to hear about her and her day made me aware I’d been disrespecting my mom. That was not a comfortable realization to have.

I wasn’t sure how things would go, though, to be honest. What I’ve learned is that I generally have to make myself be a little more patient—with both Mom and myself.

Mom’s primary hobby is currently watching TV. Her secondary hobby is playing Farmville on Facebook. Both subjects bore me to death, generally. For the most part—at least with Farmville—that hasn’t changed. However, since exerting a little patience and enduring her TV and movie rambles, I’ve learned some interesting things.

One of Mom’s most recent Netflix binges has been WWII movies and documentaries. Tonight, we actually got into a pretty interesting and fun discussion about WWII based on what she’s learned from these media and what I’ve learned from my books and DVDs regarding the German side of the war. I won’t call it a debate, because I deliberately resisted the urge to insist upon things as I do at times. We were on the phone for over an hour on this subject, and had spent most of the previous hour discussing other topics unrelated.

Two hours. I’ve never enjoyed two hours chatting with Mom so much. Well, maybe when she reminisces about her life and childhood. I like it when she talks about her life growing up and stuff. But I’ve never enjoyed a conversation about something (mostly) unrelated to her history or life so much as I did that WWII chat.

And it’s been like this a number of times since opening my mind to listening to what Mom has to say. I’m now glad Mom got angry at me that day in December and snapped what she did. I’m sure there will be discussions where we have disagreements again, but now I know to pay better attention to what Mom’s saying. I’m not sure just where this new respect for Mom will take me, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

No Post Today Either

Learned this morning my close friend Bryce has passed away.

No Post Today

I’ve had some bad news about a friend of mine, and I’m having trouble focsing on things besides this news, so there will be no post today.

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