Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: May 2015

There are Times I Wish . . .

. . . my creative mind would do what I want it to do, instead of haring off after whatever it wants to.

This is one of those times.

Back around the 9th-18th of May, I came out of a writing downswing with a focus on TPOM3. I spent those 9 days making important breakthroughs on the plot—the kind of breakthroughs that I’ve been waiting for, it seems like forever now. The last time I’d touched TPOM3 had been back at the end of January, when I was forced to give up working on it when I couldn’t force any of the breakthroughs I needed so much to come to the front of my mind.

Then, February 4th, my friend Bryce died. That threw me into a two-month writing downswing. I surfaced briefly in April, fiddled a little with Masks and a couple other projects, then dropped into another writing downswing until May 9th. When I came out of that with TPOM3 on my mind, I was happy, and even more excited when some different chats with friends brought me the breakthroughs I needed on it.

Then another—brief, thankfully—writing downswing hit.

I came out of this one slowly. Someone said something in chat, my mind flashed on a proverb about those who lie with dogs get up with fleas, and I had a brand spanking new character who didn’t seem to fit anywhere I’d already created. When I couldn’t figure out where Mutt fit, I gave up trying to force him into any mold and waited for him to talk to me.

I ended up writing the first scene that came to mind on the 24th. I had little prework done on the project, barely knew Mutt, and had no freaking idea where his story would go. Then, to my surprise, three more scenes followed the same day. I had all of a ten-minute break between the first and second scene before a major character spoke up.

Between the third and fourth scenes, I named characters, taking a naming “alphabet” from a list of, if I remember correctly, Norse names. I changed a couple aspects of it to give it its own look and started applying the list to everything I needed to. By yesterday, I had a rudimentary magical system, a number of characters named with brief bios, and plans for a number of religious factions—as well as enough plot points to tell me I have two, possibly three, books in this series, which as yet has no title.

And, as happy as I am that my mind is running on this new idea—I try to be grateful that I get creative ideas at all—I still wish I was focused on TPOM3.

What is Right for Me

I have a brief, and somewhat contentious, history with the Catholic Church. I believe I’ve mentioned aspects of this relationship before. The contention isn’t between myself and any particular individual of the Church, but with the Church, as a religious organization, herself. More specifically, with her doctrines, especially those regarding the LGBT community. While it’s true the current Pope has expressed a mind more open than previous Popes regarding LGBT people in general, it still isn’t quite in line with what many of the Church’s LGBT children require of their religious organization.

Now, some LGBT Catholics, especially among those born in the Church, don’t wish to leave the Church, but they do. Either they abandon all religion, convert to a more welcoming denomination, or form and attend breakaway churches which follow the Catholic traditions and liturgy. When I last departed the Catholic Church “for good,” I attempted to attend a Metropolitan Community Church at first; this religious organization is a generic Protestant church of no particular denomination, and it was formed by and specifically for the LGBT community and its allies. However, I didn’t attend it for long; a few months at most, because I wasn’t comfortable in the congregation—that’s in the congregation; I was quite comfortable with them—because I missed the formal, ceremonial, and participatory aspects particular to the Catholic Church and couldn’t invest myself in the worship of God with any of the solemnity I’d come to learn in my chosen church, primarily because I could not accept the MCC church’s differences from the Catholic Church. I eventually abandoned religious practice altogether because I felt I could not exist in the faith I wished to and felt uncomfortable elsewhere because of my firm belief in Catholicism.

I have always missed Catholicism though. There was not a day, a Sunday, a religious holiday when I did not consider returning to it. This desire was stronger at some times than at others, though those intense feelings of longing for Catholicism didn’t regularly coincide with any particular celebrations or solemnities within the Catholic Church. It was more than missing the people, or the ceremony of it; it was missing my place in a spiritual life.

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I’ll say it now: I have always felt my spiritual home is in the Catholic Church. I was baptized and raised Lutheran as a child, up until around age ten or eleven, when we moved out of the city where I was first introduced to church, but I always held a secret envy for the one Catholic girl in my neighborhood. Not because she got to go to private school, but because she was Catholic—and I didn’t at that time have even a vague notion of what Catholicism was about beyond what very little I’d learned in school and seen on TV. My desire for Catholicism was encouraged when I was about 13 or 14 years old, when I happened to be flipping through our cable channels one day and happened upon a movie wherein a character was in Confession. I don’t know what about that particular activity so enamored me, but I knew I wanted to do that and watched the rest of the movie in the hopes of seeing this character involved in more Catholic activities.

I’m not sure of the year any more, but I finally realized my dream of converting to Catholicism in the middle of the first decade of the new millennium. I joked the entire time I was undergoing Catholic education in RCIA that I was being “cheated” of my Catholic baptism because the Catholic Church accepts Lutheran baptisms, and enjoyed a lovely confirmation ceremony. I felt so happy when I had my very first Catholic Communion, and I can’t describe the excitement of my first Confession before it, though I do recall clearly how freeing it felt to admit my sins to someone and not be judged for them.

And I unfortunately became a hypocritical zealot during that first religious experience. I broke away from the Catholic Church within a few years, certain I did not belong, if it turned me into that. I tried other things, primarily paganism, encouraged in it by a close friend, but was not happy, though I did learn quite a bit about religion in general. I didn’t stay pagan for long, though I came away from it with a new respect for the faith.

When, a few years later, a friend who’d been pagan with me expressed a desire to convert to Catholicism—because I started talking about returning to the Catholic Church—I willingly rejoined. I sponsored her into her new faith with joy and, though I was more mentally stable than I had been during my first Catholic experience, I eventually broke away from the church because I realized I was not what Catholicism expected me to be—namely straight or cisgender. I was in good counseling up at the VA at this time and had begun unwrapping the aspects of myself I’d hidden from myself for my entire life and I knew I needed to focus on those things, and I felt absolutely certain there was no place for me at all in the Catholic Church, given its then rather inflexible views of LGBT people.

So I departed the Catholic Church again. “For good.”

And that is where I stood until very, very recently. This second time, over the duration of which I attended that MCC church for a brief while, I’ve had a growing feeling. I don’t know how to make it happen, but I am absolutely certain that there can be no change for LGBT people in the Catholic Church if we don’t do what we can to fight for that change. I’m not talking about being militant here, or violent. I’m talking about participating in the religion as an openly LGBT person who is fully accepting of the self and of the place they have in God’s love. I’m talking about living by example and advocating for ourselves to seek change in the Church’s treatment and expectations of its LGBT members. As I said, I don’t know how this can be done, but I’ve discovered I’m willing to return to Catholicism with this in mind.

This does not mean I’ll stop writing LGBT characters in my fiction. This does not mean I’ll start pasting Catholicism into my religious structures. As has always been my goal with my writing, I’ll continue to develop interesting cultures and religious organizations for my characters to live in and experience, and I’ll continue to keep my characters true to themselves, whatever part they may play in their worlds. Most of all, this does not mean I’ll abandon my fantasy and science fantasy writing. This stuff is, above all, even Catholicism, my first love, and I’m not giving it up for any reason, even if the Catholic Church would not condone the relationships my characters have (as a great many of them happen out of wedlock and are, of course, between LGBT characters).

I am mentally stable now, and I know myself far better than I knew myself when I first converted, so I doubt I’ll slip into hypocritical zealotry again. I’m returning to the Catholic Church with open eyes, aware of its flaws as well as its assets. I recognize now that I can do only what is right for me, and I believe being Catholic as I’m accepting of my trans* and gay aspects will keep me balanced and open-minded. I am where I belong, both spiritually as well as secularly, and all I can do is my best to see that both aspects of myself are well-tended.

Visit with the Substitute Oncologist

This entry is part 43 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

Well, I think I described the scheduling issues that happened before I finally got last Friday’s Oncology appointment scheduled. All this is because my regular Oncologist, Dr. Colonna, is out on maternity leave.

This past Friday, I arrived early like usual and got checked in and my vitals done like usual. They didn’t need blood taken or anything, so I didn’t need to visit the lab.

I was drowsy because I hadn’t slept well the night before, due to worrying about being up in time for the appointment, because it was at 11:00AM, a time I don’t usually go in for appointments. I’d gotten myself a caffeinated beverage at the coffee shop near the elevators I took to the floor where Oncology is, and I drank that while I waited, dozing between swallows. It helped; I was more alert and felt refreshed when I was finally visited.

That visitor was a Physician’s Assistant who works with the Oncology docs, Nancy Fong. The designation after her name is PA-C, and I’m left to assume the C stands for cancer given she’s working in the Oncology department. I’ll try to remember to ask her what it stands for if I see her again. Anyway, she did a breast exam and we discussed my vitamin regimen; I’d been taking 1 Calcium and 1 D3 vitamin a day with my meds and the Senior vitamins I started taking this month, but she wanted me to up the Calcium and D3 t0 2 pills a day, which I’m happy to obey. I don’t want my bones to deteriorate either.

After she finished with me, she left to go fetch the substitute Oncologist I was to see, Dr. Charles Parker. I was not expecting the doctor who came in. Not because he had an unusual appearance; he was tall, slender, wore glasses, and white-haired, so pretty normal that way. No, he couldn’t seem to say a single sentence without two or three umm pauses. Between that and his soft voice, I had difficulty following what he was saying.

Essentially, however, I no longer need the Leuprolide injection since I’ve had my ovaries and tubes removed. I’m still on the Anastrozole because there are some other organs which create a teeny-tiny amount of female hormones, and there’s concern my fat might also produce some. The Anastrozole is to prevent it creating another cancer.

He couldn’t speak on the possibility of having my breasts removed because he’s not my primary Oncologist, so I didn’t bother asking about that. It’s something I think Nancy may have known about, but I didn’t want to confuse Dr. Parker.

After Dr. Parker’s visit, I spoke briefly with Nancy again. She filled out a form that tells me when my next appointment is due (September) and wrote notes regarding the additional vitamins I’m to take and continuation of Anastrozole. They’re also going to arrange for me to get my next mammogram at about that time as well—and I asked about that, since I wasn’t sure if my primary care doc would have to put the order in, but Nancy explained it would be the Oncology department.

What Happened to “Solid First Drafts”?

As some readers will recall, I felt compelled to write about how I typically write solid first drafts back on the 14th of November of last year. I waxed poetic on my writing history and basically boasted about my writing skills.

Masks shot that all to hell.

I wrote the first incomplete draft of Masks in November of 2014—last year, the very same month I wrote that bragging post about solid first drafts. Of course, at the time, I thought I was well on my way to creating that solid first draft I bragged about. Oh, I was aware I’d have to do a bit of work on it—that it wouldn’t be perfect—but I thought I could handle the challenge of writing my first mystery book without too much trouble. Yes, it was a challenge, but it wasn’t beyond my abilities.

Since then, Masks has been cut to a scene I find acceptable twice, then rewritten from that point. I’m pleased to be able to say the second cut happened at a scene that happened later in the manuscript than the first cut did, though not by much. Maybe two or three scenes after the initial cut was made.

The first time I cut Masks, I did what I had before, and started working on the plot cards as I wrote. Since I was doing this rewrite over the course of the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I had to meet a specific wordcount goal each day. Since I’d set my total goal at 25k, I had to get only about 834 words a day. If you check my stats, you’ll see how inconsistent I was, and part of that, particularly later on in the month, is because I was struggling with the story again.

Yes, again.

I had a vague notion what the problem was, but since I was on a deadline with words, I tried to push through and continue writing. Unfortunately, the outline wasn’t moving any more, and I ate that up after a few days of writing, so I had to stop and consider things. I was looking at failing Camp Nano if I tried to force things as I had been doing. So, after much thought, I forced myself to cut everything I was dissatisfied with and start from the new cut-point. As is obvious, I did meet the 25k word goal, and that’s because I saved my cut words since I had after all written them over the duration of the writing challenge.

I copied and saved the plot cards I was keeping (those I’d already written out as scenes) and did my 2-plot-cards-per-1-scene-written habit since I was still at the tail end of the Camp Nano challenge and still needed words. This time, I put more thought into my plot cards as I wrote them.

In the first manuscript, I lost track of a number of subplot threads that fed into the red herrings I needed to establish in the mystery. In the second version, I lost track of the conflict Eirni was supposed to keep dragging into his relationship with Yavaniel. Because I want both these elements, I need to take the plotting of Masks slower. I see that now. Rushing through like I do on my standard books won’t serve me well here; I’ve got to spend time on the background work—I actually have to list out all those plot points I usually try to keep in my head! And then I actually have to employ them in the WIP. I’m not used to doing things this way (though I must say since I started this habit with Masks, it’s serving me equally well with my non-mystery stuff).

Masks is on hiatus right now. My creative mind has decided it’s time to work on stuff from Chraest, and I’ve made a number of breakthroughs on TPOM3 the past couple weeks, so I’ve been working on that as time and attention allow (I’ve been rather out of focus since my surgery, but things are starting to settle into place like I want them to). I also seem to be in a bit of a writing downswing; it’s creative, to be sure, but I’m just not writing as much as I’d like, though I’m trying not to push myself.

Salpingo-Oophorectomy

This entry is part 42 of 44 in the series Breast Cancer Posts

That. That title right there is the official name of the type of surgery I had last Tuesday. I had a double-case of it—both my fallopian tubes and ovaries were removed. I’d like to say I have exceedingly clear memories of events leading up to the surgery and following, but the truth is, I don’t.

I do recall arriving at the hospital at about 6:45 AM for my 7 o’clock surgery prep time, and was taken back to my little prep “room” early. Here, I do recall some things. Mom was with me, for one; they allowed her to come back with me. The little prep “rooms” are rooms only in name. In the ward, they line up against an outer wall of the hospital, so they all have windows. I’m not sure what the view is, but Mom noticed a tall building and made a jokey comment about people spying people undressing for surgical prep, and I told her all the hospital’s windows are reflective on the outside; she didn’t close the blinds, so I guess she believed me.

I got dressed in the hospital gown and the funky socks with grip treads on top and bottom they provide for keeping feet warm. I don’t know about anyone else who goes into surgery at the VA, but I’m always very glad for those socks, ’cause my feet get cold easily. Nurses hooked me up to an IV, checked my vitals, went over my allergies (none). I was starving by this time, but I couldn’t eat because they didn’t want me choking in case stuff came up, and the last time I’d had anything to drink was a small sip of water around 5:30 or so, to take the morning meds that had been approved by Dr. Rose. I should mention here that I hadn’t been taking my multivitamin for about a week because it has a high dose of Vitamin E and that’s a blood thinner, but I did take my Calcium and D3 as well as my morning antacid, bladder pill, and levothyroxine. I didn’t take my morning Ziprasidone because I need to take it with food, or it won’t work like it should; it’s a booster dose, anyway, so missing it one morning wasn’t so bad.

After they finished prepping me for surgery, they wheeled me into the surgical room. I didn’t get much chance to notice things, so I don’t want to say too much about it. I wiggled onto the surgical bed and was out before they even got the things they put on my lower legs to keep circulation going on me. They were not messing around.

I came to in recovery a few hours later. My lower abdomen hurt, an internal kind of pain that felt like an incredible stitch in my side that would not go away. Once they saw I was awake, they discussed with me the possibility of sending me home, and I explained (again) that Mom couldn’t stay with me because she had to go home to her dog, and I couldn’t stay at her place because she has nowhere to put me. No way in hell was I going to try to wrangle myself into and out of a low bed consisting primarily of an inflatable double-high mattress. They said they’d have to keep me overnight, to monitor my condition because of my CPAP machine, and asked if I’d brought it, and I explained Mom had it. Then they had to see if they could find me a room to stay the night in, and I suspect they were extremely relieved when they could.

They wheeled me down a hall, and we picked Mom up on the way. She explained to the nurses about everything again, because they asked her as well, and they got me into the room I would spend the night in. Mom half-folded her little aluminum-and-fabric grocery cart, taking my CPAP (in its carry case) out to set in the bottom front of the narrow locker where the nurses told her to put it, then hung out a bit to make sure I was comfortable. When lunch came, Mom took her leave so I could concentrate on eating and resting.

Now, getting up and laying down were challenges, but I had to shuffle my butt to the little bathroom (not shared with any other rooms, yay!) to try to void my bladder, which was another thing they were monitoring, to make sure the anesthesia didn’t have any severe side effects. Getting up (still) includes rolling onto one side or the other so I can dangle my legs over the edge of the bed. Then I push myself up with my arm, until I’m seated upright. Next is actually rising and that was actually about the most pleasant part of the entire experience, even though I felt (and still feel) a bit of a burn in the right side of my abdomen. Laying down, I sit within two feet of my pillow and tip to the side where the pillow is while swinging my legs onto the bed. All this effort really does help avoid a lot more pain.

Dr. Rose came in to see me after I’d eaten lunch and checked up on me, then explained she’d be in the next day to discharge me. After that, I was left mostly to myself. On a number of different excursions to the little bathroom, I fetched first my mp3 player, then books and the sandwich I’d brought out of the closet. At bedtime, I got my CPAP out, but couldn’t find the Smart Water bottle I’d filled with distilled water. I ate supper, and the nurses brought me snacks to have with my medications.

One thing I’ll say here: Dr. Rose listened. I explained that I likely wouldn’t take any narcotics prescribed, and she asked what I would take, then prescribed me ibuprofen from that list.

They had someone from Pulmonary come up to set up my CPAP, and he brought sterile water for my machine, which was good. I’ve still got the bottle of sterile water; they let me bring the remainder home. I actually slept better than I thought I would. I was the only one in the room, and I shut off the other side’s light, but left mine on (but turned up to face the ceiling), and a nurse apparently came in at some point because when I woke up at 5:00AM the next day, my bed’s light was off, and the one for the vacant space on the other side of the room was on. I had breakfast (it had been so long since I last had bacon, it actually tasted good), then while I waited for Mom to arrive, I put my CPAP back in its case and took everything I pulled from the little closet (I’d eaten the sandwich sometime around midnight because I woke up with an empty stomach—I can’t get to sleep deeply if I don’t have something in my tummy) into Mom’s folding cart (it’s very lightweight).

The nurses were pretty pleased I was moving around so much. Dr. Rose came to discharge me, then Mom arrived and I got dressed. Apparently, Dr. Rose doesn’t do a lot of discharges, because there was some difficulty with the paperwork, but the nurses let us go with the promise they’d get her to finish it up; they said they had her verbal go-ahead for me to depart, so I was free to go. I suspect Mom would have tried to march me right out of the hospital whether or not I had permission to leave, though. LOL

Now, as for my wounds. I have three small incisions. One on each side, on the lower curve of my belly (I’m rather fat), and one in my belly button. The wounds themselves don’t hurt that much (unless I lean against the edge of my kitchen counter too hard on my belly-button one), but what really hurts me is the right interior. Dr. Rose said she had no complications from the surgery, so I doubt the pain comes from any difficulties she had removing my right ovary and fallopian tube; it just hurts more because it just does. It’s a kind of burning sensation, and if I”m not careful, it’ll flare up. It doesn’t like me using the toilet, or getting into bed, or out of bed. Coughs for the first couple days after the surgery were hell, but now sneezes are killer if I don’t have a chance to curl up around my abdomen so the muscles aren’t strained. No, I don’t have a cold; my throat was phlegmmy after the surgery because of the breathing tube they put to my lungs, and I have pollen allergies and my windows here at home open, so I’m sneezing when the wind kicks up. All in all, though, the pain isn’t so bad; it’s only intermittent, and it decreases a little more each day.

Wow, I guess I remembered more than I thought I did. LOL

Looking for Encouragement

For years, I tried to get my mom to encourage me in my writing. She was, to say the least, disinterested in encouraging this habit of mine. At times, she was even firmly against it, as if she didn’t think I was willing to do the things required to make a living.

Granted, writing has long been an escape for me. I think it is to some extent for every writer. It’s also a way we use to understand the world, even though it may seem odd to use the habit of making up stories to help us do so.

I can’t say I had no encouragement at all in my writing those years. My Star Trek friends were supportive, but I had little contact with them outside of club events. Even my closest friends, Ronald and Gerald, whom I’d regale with monologues about my plotting and worldbuilding and character creation were mostly noncommittal on active support of my writing habit.

But what bothered me the most was the fact Mom would not understand I had no aversion to working and paying the bills. She agreed to get a computer only after I proved that I was willing to work hard for it, which, I now think, was reasonable, but I also think, in a way, she shouldn’t have required proof of my willingness to work.

And I worked hard, not only at my paying job, but at my writing as well. I wanted more than anything to become a published writer those days, and the only route to that goal was to publish traditionally, so I wrote short stories and submitted them while working on longer novels. None of my stories were ever bought, but each rejection fueled my determination to succeed in the publishing world.

And Mom never really encouraged me. If I talked about getting a story published, she shot it down. Writing, in her mind, was a career to nowhere and nothing. No matter what I said to argue this point of view, she wouldn’t listen. I could see her point of view—that she thought I was unwilling to work because, in her mind, all I wanted to do was drown myself in my writing—but her opinion never changed even after I proved to her I was actually quite happy to work. I understood the need to do work besides writing.

It was an uphill battle to retain my writing habit with Mom standing against it. The more she railed against it, the more determined I got to do it and to make it succeed. This, I think, helped in the long run. Without Mom’s resistance to me spending most of my free time writing, I’d have given it up long ago, particularly when my short stories were regularly rejected.

But it gave me a kind of negative mentality about it. I’ve fought Mom so long on my writing that I didn’t realize I didn’t have to do it any more. Not until Thursday night. I’ve been writing for seven or eight years since getting SSDI/VA Pension and Mom’s not said a word against it—I’m fairly certain because she doesn’t see me as requiring a paying job.

But Thursday, when I was out with friends, I mentioned my writing, and got encouragement. Open, vocal support of my writing endeavors. Ross wants me to rush out and publish things right now apparently—LOL. It was an odd experience, because the most I’ve gotten from friends before is silent acceptance of my hobby. And I realize now my current friends have been encouraging about my writing pretty much since I admitted I do it. Open, vocal support of it, often encouraging me to publish it somewhere. It’s left me spinning for the past day, this realization.

One thing my friends’ encouragement has done is made me realize I don’t need Mom’s encouragement in my writing endeavors. I’ve gone this long without it, after all. So I’m still spinning, but I’m enjoying the ride. It’s nice to be enthusiastically encouraged in my writing.

Surgery Today

I’m going in for my surgery today. I’m not sure if I’ll be coming home afterward, or, if I do, whether I’ll be capable of doing anything more than laying in bed.

April 2015 Camp Nano Winner! (And May “Plans”)

Camp Nano April 2015 Winner!

April 2015 Camp Nano Winner’s Banner

April’s primary goal was to participate in Camp Nano, which I did. I was a bit concerned at the end, because I hit a block in my writing and ended up having to cut a fair portion of v1.2 of Masks. I wouldn’t have done this except that the block was such that I could not convince myself to write on the project until I “fixed” the issue I saw. I did save all I’d written from the first, and I added that with my new words on v1.3 when I validated the novel.

I liked the way the Nano people changed the camp system. It was nice to be in a cabin with people I know, who at least posted stuff to chat even if they made little or no progress on their Nano projects. I think my cabin met the cabin-wide goal count mainly because of one of our overachieving writers wrote around 100k over the course of the month. Without her wordage, our cabin wouldn’t have met its goal.

I’m letting Masks rest for a bit now. In part because real life is going to intervene next week with my partial hysterectomy, and in part because I’m starting to feel a writing downswing coming on. I intend to go with the flow on this and do what I can but not push myself. The plan is to do a lot of reading. My hope is that by going along with it since I’m mindful enough to feel it coming on it won’t last as long and I’ll be back to writing about the time I’ve recovered enough from my surgery to spend more time at my desk.

Things I plan on fiddling with throughout may include Tricks and Traps, the second in a series of novelettes/novellas featuring a mercenary team, set on Elindu—actually, in the Heartland there, where Masks is set, though they’re set in different eras. I’d like to get a good number of plot cards on Whispers on the Wind (Shi’u’s story) as well; this is something I really need to get crackin’ on because I want this to be my November Nano project. Also, I’m considering working some on Degrees of Subtlety because I read through it the past couple days and I’m finally seeing things I need to in order to make progress on its outline; in fact, last night, I spent some time moving the unwritten cards over to a new file so I can rework what I have of the outline, though I’ll probably be brining in a number of the “discarded” plot cards over into the new outline; and another thing I need to do is spend some time working out the plot points for this story, which I feel I can do now since I’m seeing things more clearly.

I know that sounds like a lot for a month when I’m not going to push myself, but it’s where my creative mind’s been flitting the past week or so. I’m just not holding myself to any hard-and-fast goals for the duration.

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