Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Month: June 2015

Spiritual Epiphanies

On the 26th of May, in the post titled, What is Right for Me, I stated that there can be no positive change for the LGBT community in the Catholic Church if we don’t do what we can to “fight” for it. I was running on enthusiasm and joy when I wrote that, and hadn’t really thought things through. Since then, I’ve realized something.

This isn’t a fight I want to engage in.

It occurred to me that if I am able to make my transition, I may be fighting for more immediate needs, like my housing and/or job (if I have one by then). Having the right to marry whomever I wish, should I wish to, does not mean the fight for LGBT rights is over, and, to be honest, trans rights tend to lag behind anything the gay/lesbian community gains. As a transperson, I’m already at greater risk of being the victim of a hate crime than almost any other subset of society except perhaps being another minority (and African-American transwomen are even more likely to be the victims of hate crime than I am).

In a way, I wish I were strong enough for this battle. I really want to see the Catholic Church change its opinions on the LGBT community. If not for marriage rights being won, I might still have hope that I could make a real difference, but the church’s reaction to SCOTUS’s decision has killed that hope. Instead of reaching out and trying to come to terms with the facts about LGBT people, the church is huddling behind its past stance.

Maybe I was being a bit naive before. I do still think LGBT people need to advocate for themselves, to fight, in a peaceful way, for their right to be Catholic. It’s just not something I feel capable of doing.

And I’ve come to realize something. Definition #2 of catholic on Merriam-Webster’s site states it means “Comprehensive, universal; especially : broad in sympathies, tastes, or interests.” The Catholic Church is not an organization that is broad in its sympathies to people. If it was, it would already welcome LGBT people without restriction or reservation. We would have access to all the sacraments, and we wouldn’t be counseled not to be true to ourselves.

So I’m looking into other alternatives, trying to find a different religious organization where I can feel comfortable. I don’t want to do it, but I do want to fulfill my spiritual needs, and those require that I be a member of a congregation of some sort. I could be a spiritual person on my own again, but that didn’t satisfy me enough before; I need the social aspect as well, and I’ve realized that the social aspect is what I’ve really been craving. I just need to find a better place to fit than the Catholic Church.

It’s Almost July!

And I’m not prepared.

I haven’t been working on TPOM3’s outline enough to get it finished over the past few weeks due to the distraction of other stories. I think I have maybe five or ten more plot cards left to get for the outline, maybe a few more.

Today, I did a bit of work on the outline, though. I finally figured out the interim scenes between the numbered cards and those cards I’d “numbered” with ## to indicate that I didn’t know their precise placement in the outline. All I did know was that they came at some point after a few more points of conflict for my MCs, and I got those cards today. This enabled me to officially number those cards, and now the count stands at 90 cards. I expect at least five more cards to finish off the book, possibly ten, but not much more than that.

For prep, I have the scenes plot-pointed out in detail, so it should only be a matter of ensuring they’re logical for the characters and situation, then basically copying everything into official plot cards with any necessary adjustments made. After that, it’ll be a couple scenes to wrap up the entire trilogy, with a vague pointer toward what my characters are going to be doing over the interim between the ending of TPOM3 and the beginning of ALON1, which I’m very much looking forward to getting into . . . just not right away. I need to do prep work on it, which means naming a number of characters and writing up plot points. I also need to figure out where ALON1 ends, and it’ll likely be a bit of a cliffhanger like the ending of TPOM1 was, which I don’t mind. Sometimes I have all three of ALON’s books clearly in mind, other times, like now, I can grasp only the very beginning of the entire trilogy.

But for now, I’ll be happy if I’m able to complete TPOM3 during July Camp Nano.

Housing Inspections

I live in government subsidized housing, specifically on the Mod Rehab roster of housing units managed by the Salt Lake Housing Authority. Basic setup is that the owner of the building is contracted with the Housing Authority to provide discounted housing for those like myself, who are on a limited income and cannot afford a regular apartment at market rent. The Mod Rehab roster is a list of buildings which have been “rehabilitated” for residency, and my building used to be a hotel which was apparently pretty classy back in the day, to judge by the tiling and marble in the lobby. From what I understand, it’s been a member of the Housing Authority’s Mod Rehab program since before the turn of the century.

In any subsidized housing, whether it is through a specific program, owned by the Housing Authority, or a regular market apartment or structure (may be a duplex or mobile home), the resident is responsible for paying one-third of their income in rent. The Housing Authority pays for the difference. In my building, my garbage and utilities are included, and I understand this may also be the case in some HA-owned buildings; typically, a resident in a regular market apartment complex (or a duplex or mobile home) is usually required to pay for their own utilities and garbage.

Also in any subsidized housing, no matter it’s “source,” the resident is subject to inspections. They can be part of a generic, random HUD process (to ensure the units are kept up to a specific standard or the owner will lose the contract); or for the annual recertification of the individual resident.

A recertification inspection focuses a number of things. Is the Tenant keeping the home up to livable standards: How much clutter is there, and is it kept to a minimum so the home is not hazardous to the Tenant’s health and does not pose physical danger in the form of too much clutter stacked against the walls? Is there food left out; is there a pest problem? Is the Tenant’s companion/helper animal clean, and is the Tenant cleaning up after it if it leaves something to be cleaned? Are the appliances clean and in good operating condition; and if they aren’t, has the management done their best to repair them? Is the heating/AC system functional, and if not, is it a problem with the tenant’s unit, or, if it’s controlled by a central unit, is that unit being taken care of by the management/owner?

Generally, a Tenant wants to have their place as spotless as possible before an inspection, and I’ve been gearing up for the cleaning by getting chronic problems out of the way (clothing left unfolded on the bed, and clutter on odd pieces of furniture). I’ll have help getting the rest (cleaning the bathroom because I have difficulty with certain aspects of it) done tomorrow, because my inspection is scheduled for the 25th, between 9AM and 1PM. It won’t take long to get the apartment up to snuff now I’ve gotten most of the clutter out of the way. All I have to do is inspect my vacuum tonight, clear off a last few things from my sofa, and fold a few odd shirts I took from my closet to put on a shelf with the rest of my tees.

When “Abandoned” Projects Rise Again

The first time I woke up this morning, somewhere, oh, about two or two thirty, I thought, briefly, of one of my “abandoned” stories. The thought was fleeting, more of an impression than any fully-formed words, and it faded from my mind rather quickly as I tried to get back to sleep.

I haven’t touched this world in any substantial way in recent memory. Most recent writing I’ve done on it is back in early-mid November of 2010, when I started a full rewrite of a partial manuscript I got stalled on. I have a teeny bit of worldbuilding for this world, and a couple of vague concepts for other stories set in the same world. It needs a lot of work to make go, though I do know the basics of the very first book, which is that one with the partial rewrite. It’s been so long since I looked at any of these projects that when I looked at the first book of Married to the Moons today, I had to download a program called Open Freely in order to open the original manuscript I started the rewrite from so I could read the entire thing.

As always when I get the urge to look at old writing and the worlds its written on, I made a search for all the info I could find on it. Luckily, it’s all in one place on my thumb drive. I was also able to open the two worldbuilding files I have on this world—one of which includes the deities and what parts of magic they represent. I read these two files as well.

And now the project won’t shut up. Married to the Moons was the very last fantasy projects I worked on before getting deeply into the gay romances. Some parts of it—even from the old, original draft I was rewriting from—have always been extremely clear to me, even before I spent this afternoon and early evening reading both versions of it.

I know I stopped writing on the original version of MttM because I suddenly realized that it was a longer story than I’d planned. The original draft has over 47k on it, and I realized where it is now storywise is actually the end of the first book of a full trilogy, and that I left out a whole lot of backstory and building-up-of-reasons-why that are necessary to make the whole premise a reasonable one. I basically started off with the correct opening, then skipped over a wealth of important scenes which explain how my two MCs end up trekking through the rain forest together when they can barely stand each other throughout most of the trip. The rewrite starts off with the same opening (though much better written, if I do say so myself), and provides all this background I skipped over in the original 47k manuscript.

I should be honest here. With regards to my fantasy and science-fantasy works, I never ever really completely give up on them. I always expect—and want—to come back to them at some point, because I love them all, and I desperately want to see their stories all written.

It felt good to read what I have of both versions of MttM. I would just like it to go back to the recesses of my creative mind and allow me to concentrate on other things right now. Whether it’ll listen is another matter.

Surgery Follow-Up Visit

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

On the tenth, I had my surgical follow-up appointment with Dr. Rose. To recap, she performed my salpingo-oophorectomy surgery on the fifth of May.

I arrived at the women’s clinic an hour or so early, like I usually do for my VA appointments. The waiting room was vacant, and quiet but for the receptionist talking on the phone with someone about an appointment which had to be rescheduled. I read for a bit while waiting.

The nurse came and fetched me, then took me to be weighed. I forgot to ask when we got to the consultation room—the same one I had one of my pre-surgery meetings with Dr. Rose in—if I’d lost or gained weight since the last time I’d been weighed. All my other vitals were good, and I was left alone in the room.

After about fifteen minutes, a resident came in. He went over the basics of my surgery and then asked to see my wounds from the surgery. This necessitated me rising to move to the exam bed in the corner, and I unfastened my shorts so he could look. He judged them to be healing well and invited me to sit in the chair again while he went to see Dr. Rose.

He wasn’t gone long, and he returned with Dr. Rose. She sat down and checked the records of my vitals, and discussed with me my healing. When she was satisfied with my report, she asked me to get on the exam bed so she could look at my wounds, and gave them a more thorough examination. They all were pinkish-to-purplish, she said, which was good, and that none of them showed any signs of infection. When she finished, she told me to button up, then asked if I had any questions.

And I had one question. On either side of my belly button (where the camera wound is), there were two perfectly circular scars on my belly, and I’d been wondering about these since first seeing them. I pointed them out to Dr. Rose, and she explained they were from a string or cord or something they use to hold the abdomen up away from the interior organs, so she’d be less likely to accidentally injure an internal organ. Apparently, the string is passed through from one spot to the other; I’m not sure how they suspended the ends, and now I wished I’d asked; it would have been interesting to know.

After that, I covered my belly with my underwear and buttoned up my shorts, then moved back to the chair and we finished up our meeting in short order.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is one of the most important things a writer does for their writing. This is where real writer multitasking comes in. A brainstorming writer doesn’t always look like they’re brainstorming. Of course, all writers spend time sitting at their desks contemplating their writing. Sometimes, though, writers are actually brainstorming while doing other things.

The thing is, a writer’s mind is always running. The only times it doesn’t (consistently) give us story ideas is when we’re sleeping, though I have known myself and other writers to have vivid dreams they’ve incorporated into stories. Generally speaking, most of our waking time is taken up not only with getting errands done, working, and attending to household chores, but also working on our writing.

What makes this possible is the versatility of the human mind, and, in particular, the creative mind. The Creative Mind is always watching, always picking things up, always thinking back behind the writer’s conscious thoughts. In fact, I imagine it’s the same for pretty much any creative person.

Writers absorb all kinds of information from real life. We read for further input. In fact, the more input we have, the better our ideas are. We may not execute them in our writing all that well, particularly when we’re beginners, but by taking in everything we possibly can, we do learn.

All this goes into our brainstorming. I think most, if not all, writers have a habit of verbally/textually (if online) brainstorming things. It’s something I’ve always done, and nearly all my writer friends I’ve come across do the same thing to some extent. Some do best in a directed situation, where they have to explain everything up to the point where they’re stuck, others, like me, are more free-flow with our brainstorming. I also know some writers who brainstorm by typing things out in private notes no one else sees (I do this too), who use timelines and guided brainstorming techniques like the snowflake method. In fact, a lot of writers use a variety of methods for making progress on their writing and worldbuilding.

Frequently, a writer, to an outsider who is a nonwriter, may appear to be doing nothing. We writers blithely announce we’re going to go work on our writing, but when the nonwriter peeks in on us, we don’t appear to be busy. We’re not typing, we’re not reading. We’re sitting or pacing, possibly muttering to ourselves. This is when we’re brainstorming.

Back when I first started working, I deliberately chose manufacturing jobs for a number of reasons, the most important of which to me was the fact that I thought I’d have plenty of time to brainstorm. I was right. Jobs like dish washing in restaurants are another good job for brainstorming. Pretty much any task that doesn’t take a lot of brain power to complete is a good real-world job for writers who want to brainstorm on the job. I’ve even folded, labeled, and repackaged clothing and worked in a book bindery/printers and found plenty of time and opportunity to brainstorm. I’m sure there are many more other such jobs out there.

Of course, not all writers can or are able or willing to go to that extreme. It’s not absolutely necessary, either. I’ve also had jobs where I’ve been at a desk all day, working with people, or taking surveys on the phone and been able to get ideas. It’s just a little different, and I have to be mindful of what I’m doing in the real world so I don’t lose track of things, which isn’t difficult. And there are writers who thrive on such jobs, who come home after a long day at a white-collar job and sit down to jot down all the ideas they got while at work. Every writer is different, and a writer’s needs are different at different times.

The important thing is for the writer to get some brainstorming in, whether they take time out of their day to focus on it somehow, or do it best with distraction of their conscious mind at work. The writer who doesn’t brainstorm doesn’t make much progress on their writing, and anyone who cares about their writing will ensure they do at least a little as frequently as they can, no matter when.

Final Physical Therapy Appointment

I went to my physical therapy appointment early today, as I am wont to do with all my appointments. I actually left around 1 and got there at about 1:30 for a 3 PM appointment, so I sat and read for a while. My physical therapist, Scott, came out at one point to tell me he was full up until 3, which was nice—then he came back at 2 to tell me that his patient wouldn’t be in.

We didn’t spend as long at it today. Mainly, I think, because I’ve been doing nearly every exercise he had to give me. I told him I switched the 4-times-a-week exercises to every-other-day, and that I’ve been able to keep up better with those that way. He was pleased that I’m not feeling any pain in my normal everyday activities, and seemed a little concerned that my movement is still limited in some ways.

After having me lay down so he could put pressure on a different muscle than before, Scott had me get up and showed me the last exercises he had available for me. Essentially, the exercises, using yellow resistance bands, are similar to drawing a sword and holding it over my head, then sheathing it; and holding a phone to my right ear with my left hand and casting it behind me as though throwing it away. He gave me two resistance bands for this so I don’t have to worry about constantly tying and untying one from the post of my bed. Scott did this on his own initiative, which pleased me, though I’d been about ready to tell him I was a little uncertain about constantly having to climb up and down chairs to tie the band on the upper part of my one bed post.

He ensured I knew how to do the exercises correctly, then escorted me back to the waiting room. On the way out, we agreed that there was little use in me coming to PT any more—I basically told him that unless he was going to give me new exercises each time I came in, I didn’t see a point since I can do all the exercises at home on my own, and he agreed. I think he was rather relieved that I wasn’t going to whine about having to do things by myself.

Out in the waiting room, he gave me a sheet to fill out describing my mobility and pain issues with various activities while he went to print out the new exercises. I stuffed the resistance bands in my purse and went to fill out the form, then waited for him to come back out. When he did, we traded and said farewell, and I thanked him for helping me with my arm.

Tomorrow, I’ll tie the resistance bands to the one post and foot of my bed which is closest to the door (the only place in my apartment where I can do this and still have room to actually do the exercises). The new exercises are for 3 times a week, so I’ll do them on the same days I do my other non-daily exercises—every other day.

TPOM3 in July

I’ve decided to finish up TPOM3 in July for Camp Nano. It’s the second run of the summer series of National Novel Writing Month, and TPOM3 is a project that desperately needs to be completed. It’s been on hiatus or otherwise languishing most of the time since October of last year, the last time I spent any substantial amount of days writing on it. I managed a bit in January, then again in May, but not nearly enough to get it done.

In going over the outline I have now, I learned that I have nearly the entire ending plotted out. I have to reorganize a bit—I think Géta gives in to something too easily—and fill in the blanks I have with more war-conflict scenes. Right now, the Bremmans surrender a bit too quickly. I want them to drag the conflict on (because they’re led by stupid commanders who don’t know what they’re doing) until they’re forced to give up because they keep losing battles (it gets much more difficult for them once the Imperial Army shows up) and they can’t send or receive messages due to the solidity of Imperial Mage shields around their camp. They’re expecting reinforcements, but those reinforcements get held up at the border by the contingent of the Imperial Army who was sent to prevent their arrival at the border post.

So I know what I need to do. I also have plot points written out for the ending, which help. I’ve got most of a month of time in which to get this endgame plotted out to my satisfaction. Things are looking good.

And, best of all, I’m excited about the prospect of finishing TPOM3.

Anxiety

I’ve mentioned my bipolar before. I may have mentioned my unspecified anxiety disorder as well. Though I am on medication for the bipolar, and I have mindfulness and theraputic methods I can use to control the anxiety without medication, these both affect my life adversely, and neither has proven completely conquerable.

Most of the time, thanks to my medications, my bipolar remains relatively stable. I can’t recall if my bipolar is considered to be rapid or slow cycling, but it is consistently mixed-state, meaning I present and endure symptoms of both hypomania and depression at the same time. Only occasionally do I notice one, the other, or, sometimes, both become more prominent.

The unspecified anxiety is a bit more difficult to endure. I can’t predict what will trigger it and have known anything from filling in forms, to cooking something, to meeting new people to come with a palpitating heart and inability to perform the challenge I face. Last week, I quit the coffee-and-donuts hour following the church service after eating my donut and drinking my juice because I couldn’t find the courage and confidence necessary for approaching any of the groups of people I saw at a few of the tables through my anxiety. Most of the people seemed to be in family groups, and that intimidated me to the point where I couldn’t even force myself to ask if I could share their table, never mind talk to them.

To be honest, facing people has long been a major difficulty for me, and socializing with people I don’t know or haven’t yet met is one of my demons. Sometimes I can do this with ease, and I’ll strike up an unimportant conversation with someone at the grocery store; generally speaking, the fewer people I have to talk to, the more confident I am, the more capable I feel, and the easier it is for me to convince myself to approach someone. It also helps, particularly when I’m meeting a group, if we all have some sort of activity, besides holding conversations, to do. When I first joined the square dance club I’m secretary for, I found it easy to get involved because we spent most of the evening learning to dance, and I felt reasonably confident that I wasn’t required to socialize between tips, so I felt free to go sit by myself until the next lesson.

I don’t tend to reach pure panic-attack heights with my anxiety, which I’m glad for. However, I have noticed that the more social stress—that’s purely just social (without other activities) stress—that I experience, the greater my anxiety becomes. I tend to avoid parties. I have been known to have to retreat to bed after intensive social interaction with people I know, never mind people I don’t know well or at all. Usually, spending a little time laying in bed, listening to a favorite song on repeat, with my eyes closed in a state similar to meditation sets me right again, because sometimes, after interacting with people, if I come home and try to do other stuff, even though I’m now alone again, I have difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly. I don’t feel calm unless I take the time to lay down, close my eyes, and let music flow into my brain for a while.

My anxiety is also the primary reason why I wear headphones almost all the time outside. I have to have some sort of upbeat song going when I’m out most of the time in order to distract myself from my nervousness. Silence is another thing that tends to drive up my anxiety, unless I’m about ready to drop off to sleep, so I usually have music playing all the time when I’m up (unless there’s a thunderstorm or heavy rain on the windows), and when I first go to bed. I even play music when I shower—which, oddly, tends to drive my anxiety up into greater heights if all I hear is the water, and no, I can’t explain why this is necessary; it’s just one of my little anxiety tics.

I think, sometimes, to some small extent, my bipolar disorder drives my anxiety. Usually at times when I’m feeling more manic, I’ll suffer stronger anxiety, and that tends to drive me to retreat. I avoid going out, I talk to only a few select people on the phone, I lay down daily to recover from the stress of socializing online. Going out can aggravate the moody, bitchy temperament I develop when my mania is up (I’m not a bipolar person graced with the happy, confident, I-can-do-ANYTHING manic phases, which I’m actually kind of grateful for; I can only imagine what stupid crap I’d do with that kind of mania influencing me), and that in turn can drive my anxiety up, because not only am I dealing with general being-out-among-people anxiety, I’m also suffering I-don’t-want-them-all-to-realize-I’m-a-bitch-right-now anxiety.

And, there’s even times I’ll get anxious just reading a book. And I don’t mean the average anxiety everyone feels for the character. I have known myself to put down a book when it reaches an intense situation, or one which I fear is dangerous for the MC, and not pick the book up again for up to several months, because the thought of reading through that situation or danger frightens me so much. I think I do this because, unlike with watching a movie, I’m able to more deeply immerse myself in a book, so I tend to “feel” the danger or intensity more deeply than I do when watching a movie. I have to mentally prepare myself for such depth of intensity.

Overall, I consider myself pretty lucky. I may have some anxiety, but it’s not severe. It’s manageable without medication, and there are so many others who aren’t so blessed. Though it may not be predictable, it’s also not so debilitating that I’m unable to come back to something that previously caused anxiety and do it again later. A little mindfulness about my anxiety and what’s causing it and some meditation and self-coaching generally take care of my anxiety.

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