Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Better Progress on the Writing Front

Well, as the title says, I’ve had better progress on the writing front. Most of this has been over this month (November), but not for the obvious reason, which is NaNo. I didn’t participate in National Novel Writing Month this year.

Instead, I’ve been working on reverse outlining and outlining a couple of different mystery stories. Back in October, I started with working on Independent Investigations 1 again. You may all recall this as being titled, “Boost.” Well, in early October, I realized why I wasn’t working on it—the story I originally conceived was too dark. I used to be able to write dark stuff. Not only that, I actively sought dark ideas to write in my stories. However, I just could not maintain the level of darkness necessary for making the POVMC, Mat, suffer a downward spiral into drug addiction as originally planned. So I rethought things, and realized a way to make it more optimistic while keeping the basics of the story. This was aided by my fiancee, Tess, who made some suggestions about discoveries Mat could make outside of xyr focused investigations into murders. The series is still Independent Investigations, but the new story is titled Acid Reflux.

This meant I basically tossed everything I had of the original story. Outline, notes, all but one of the scenes I’d already written. All of this went into files I’m going to mine for future stuff. Then I restarted the outline in Scapple, without looking at the original outline overmuch. I basically took off from what I remembered of the original manuscript and notes and developed a brand new style of developing stories in Scapple to fit the mystery genre, and I’m writing directly from the Scapple file’s outline instead of transferring the salient points to a plot card in Scrivener. Mainly because most of my Scapple outline notes have too much salient information for me to be able to do that with any ease. Right now, I can’t recall just how many plot points I developed in Scapple, but in about the first week of November, I started writing the new second scene at 500 words a day. Sadly, I didn’t complete it before moving on to something else, but even with the more optimistic future for Mat, the “present” in xyr story was still dark, especially where I was outlining ahead. I just couldn’t make myself go on, and I had fresh ideas for another mystery, so I moved on to that one.

Which one? Masks. To be honest, I hesitated two or three days before digging into this, mainly because I wasn’t sure I wanted to make the leap—or any of the changes to Masks I was already considering. No changes in what I’d already written, aside from edits and stuff, but changes to the latter portions of the story. In order to refresh myself on the project, I did a read-through, then started reverse outlining what I’d written—in detail, and in Scapple, using the new Mystery Outline Method I’d developed for Mat’s story.

I’m still working on the reverse outline, getting about one a day. One of those things took me two days, mostly because it had a lot of information to unpack. I’m being as detailed in these as I have been with the standard outlining I’ve been doing for Mat’s story, and it’s turning out well. Not only that, I’ve come up with a few minor changes for the series Masks kicks off. For one, Yavaniel’s mother is still alive; I decided to make her the source of Yavaniel’s Sublunary Elven heritage. I also realized that my original concept for how the overarching subplot develops needs some work—it was originally crammed into too short a time period. I haven’t quite decided how to handle it, but knowing what needs to be done has enabled me to make progress on concepts and ideas for finishing book one at least. Also, I’ve sketched up a map of Jodalur as a whole so now I have a better idea where specific things are located in each of the different districts. Not all of the districts are named, but I have determined a couple things about the city: 1) They’ve kept up the habit of walling new areas as they’re annexed or settled; 2) Most of the walls around older more central districts are intact to this day; 3) public transit availability varies according to district; and 4) the Maireadi District is actually one of the largest districts, and is comprised of several smaller districts whose walls fell into disuse and disrepair before the section was granted to them by an earlier First Chancellor of Jodalur over 100 years ago—and they’ve rebuilt and repaired the sections of the Wall that lie between their district and Jodalur “proper” in order to give themselves some protection from mobs who periodically gather to invade the Maireadi District.

The past couple days, I haven’t worked on it due to real life stress and stuff, but I plan on getting back to it this weekend. I’ve got some relaxing activities planned that should put me right back into a good mindset for working on my writing. Sadly, these days I don’t seem to be able to use writing as a way to relieve my real-life stress as consistently as I used to be able to.

Universal Waite Tarot Deck

This entry is part of 2 in the series Tarot Deck Reviews


CONTRIBUTER(S): Original drawings by Pamela Colman Smith under the direction of Arthur Edward Waite; Recolored by Mary Hanson-Roberts; conceived by Stuart R. Kaplan

PUBLISHED BY: U.S. Games, Inc.

AVAILABILITY: Universal Waite on Also on the US Games, Inc. site.

ABOUT THE DECK: This is a newer version of the classic Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck that has been recolored by another artist. The deck comes with two insert cards, one with the name of the deck with pertinent information about its designers and publisher, and one advertising a nonfiction book about Pamela Colman Smith.

GUIDEBOOK: The guide book is more of a booklet. It fits with the deck, which came in a tuck box.

CARDSTOCK: The cards are thin and very flexible. It’s a little difficult to shuffle these in my preferred manner because their flexibility makes them springy so they tend to fly about a lot. However, they do very well with overhand shuffling due to their glossy smooth surface. In measurement, the cards are standard tarot sized.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS DECK: I previously bought the Original Rider Waite Tarot Pack on Amazon, and those cards never really resonated with me. This deck does. The colors are bright and this makes the imagery clear. I also like the fact that the backs of the cards are done in a design which makes it impossible to tell which cards are upside down, as I’m also learning to read reversals; I’m not inclined to flip the cards over so they’re all oriented the same way.

Universal Waite Tarot Cards, Fronts and Back

WHAT I DISLIKED ABOUT THIS DECK: I wish it had a book instead of a booklet—I feel this version of the deck should be showcased as a good alternative to the original RWS deck.

CLOSING REMARKS: I resisted getting a RWS deck for years because the examples I’d seen I didn’t like the art of. I didn’t realize until recently, it was the coloring of the cards that turned me off of them so much. This deck makes the cards much more accessible to me. The imagery is beautiful with Mary Hanson-Roberts’s choices of colors. I would recommend this particular version of the RWS deck for anyone who wants to learn about the original symbolism in the deck.

The Bottanical Deck

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Tarot Deck Reviews
Bottanical Deck Box
Bottanical Deck Box

WHERE PURCHASED: I backed this particular deck on Kickstarter a few months ago, and received it this past Friday, on the 23rd of August.

CONTRIBUTER(S): Jessica Bott

PUBLISHED BY: Jessica Bott

AVAILABILITY: It will shortly become available on Jessica Bott’s site. She also has an Instagram.

ABOUT THE DECK: This deck is a plant-themed tarot and oracle deck consisting of 22 Major Arcana cards represented by Trees; 4 suits of Minor Arcana cards represented by, variously, Flowers (Cups), Crops (Pentacles), Spices (Wands), and Cacti (Swords); 60 Oracle Cards divided into five suits represented by, variously, Poisons, Herbs, Medicines, Mushrooms, and Carnivorous; and 2 single cards, The Unknown – Seedpod, and the Ace of Tea. And, yes, Bottanical was spelled that way deliberately by the deck’s creator, using her last name of Bott.

GUIDEBOOK: This deck comes with a guidebook particular to the deck. The cards are listed by their names or nicknames (also on their cards), along with their scientific names, keywords, and factoids about the plants depicted.

CARDSTOCK: It feels thick enough that I continually check the cards to make sure two aren’t sticking together. A little stiff, but flexible enough for me to use my preferred shuffling method without too much difficulty. Picking these cards up from a flat surface is a little easier than with other decks I have, and I don’t feel like I’m abusing the edges if I have to employ my fingernails to do so.

WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THIS DECK: I find the deck absolutely beautiful; even organisms which I wouldn’t normally find attractive have been depicted in such a way that I can see the beauty they possess. The colors are vibrant and varied—this is not a monochrome or black & white deck by any means (see images below). The cards have a matte finish which isn’t coarse at all, and the finish actually aids me in my preferred method of shuffling.

Sharp Contrast Bottanical Deck Cards
Three Random Cards from the Bottanical Deck

WHAT I DISLIKED ABOUT THIS DECK: The design of the labels at the bottoms of the cards means they don’t always lend themselves to easy reading. My first experience with this deck, in going through the guide book to match the cards to their listings therein, was complicated by it being night time and my living room, where I viewed the cards, being lit by a fluorescent light. This poor lighting and the poor contrast (see images below), made some of the plants’ names and other designations somewhat difficult to read. Personally, I would not use this deck in a dimly-lit room or a place where the ambient light isn’t bright enough to make all the colors in the cards pop.

Poor Contrast Bottanical Deck Cards
Three Cards from the Bottanical Deck

CLOSING REMARKS: While I feel the white background of the cards’ labels could be made more opaque for easier reading, I love this deck. The Bottanical Deck is unique and colorful, and I’m sure will be fun to read with, whether or not I use the extra oracle cards that came with it.

Fits and Starts Whee!

Well, the title says it all. My writing hasn’t been steady. I either have a god flow of ideas, or none at all. This wouldn’t be a problem if I could wrap my head around my plot cards like I’ve sometimes been able to do in the past, but even those aren’t helping.

I’m not working on my speculative fiction either. My brain switched gears hardcore toward the end of July, and I’m not working on gay romances. My usual habit with these has been to run with an idea and write on the story until it fizzles out because I don’t have a solid ending. Yes, the goal is to get the couples matched up by the ends of their stories, but I need to know the details as each story ends a different way. I’ve also been trying to insert some discipline into my gay romance writing and have been doing plot cards before starting to write on the projects. Not yet perfect, but I actually think that’s unattainable at this point, so I’m telling myself to be pleased with the successes I’ve had.

However, I will say that when the ideas flow, I write pretty much every day. I got I think about two weeks (5 days each) of writing in when I did write. One story I’m rewriting from an older version with updates to my style and skill, including moving the conflict to the spots where it needs to be instead of deflating that aspect of the story within the first few chapters. I like what I’ve gotten so far on that rewrite, and I’ll probably make the original version available as a freebie somehow if I ever publish the new version.

Other than that, I’ve not been doing much with my writing. This focus is so complete I can barely even make myself read the off-the-shelf D&D campaign I’ve got to prep for—2 weeks left for that and I just cannot get into the campaign book ’cause I’m so focused on gay romances. LOL

Unplanned Hiatus – Again

I didn’t finish out my July Camp Nano goal. This was mostly because I realized I was writing a longer story for my fantasy project than I originally thought. I’m not sure if it’s just going to be a doorstopper, or if it’s part of a series, but I need to figure that out and determine what the end of the book is before I can continue on it.

Since then, I’ve not been working on any of my writing. Apparently, if I don’t have any wordcount goals to meet, the rest of my writing stuff goes totally off the rails. I’m not sure how to correct this, but I’m trying. Unfortunately, not knowing what to do doesn’t help, so I’m basically floundering about.

Recently, I’ve been opening my Obryn Scrivener file, though. This is the one with my character Dagjhir’s story. I’ve written some notes about character goals and have turned my thoughts toward figuring out book 2 of this trilogy. With luck I’ll actually make progress on it.

So that’s where my Fool’s Errand stands at this time.

Too Busy to Write

Sadly, I haven’t written since the 16th. It’s been a very busy week for me since Tuesday. Lack of sleep hasn’t helped, and that’s all my fault.

When I have had a chance to write, I’ve been working on the background stuff for DH04. While I’m glad to be making progress on this at last, I also don’t want to lose track of Soul Sucker. It’s just that background stuff is easier than writing when I’m having busy, stressful weeks with an upset sleep schedule.

I’m going to be more disciplined next week, and do my best to get a minimum of 500 words on Soul Sucker five days.

Soul Sucker

So, I haven’t written a Fool’s Errand update post since May. Wow. I haven’t forgotten, just been struggling with depression and thus to write. Once again, I’m going to tentatively say things seem to be improving, and my writing has been going exceedingly well for the past few days.

First, my July Camp NaNoWriMo project. I settled on writing Soul Sucker for my July Camp Nano. Well, for the most part. There’s some random gay romance words in there that I hope to be able to replace with my primary project’s wordcount. The gay romance was just what wanted to run at the beginning of the month before I managed to wrangle my creative mind back onto my primary project.

Soul Sucker is progressing nicely now. Yes, it’s a new project, not something that’s languishing in wait of being completed, but a combination of focus and the right inspiration at the right time got me going on this for my Camp Nano project. And yes, I know this isn’t the project said I’d work on next, but Gildas clammed up after a few plot cards and refused to budge, so when Leopolda started talking, I decided to work on Soul Sucker instead.

For this month’s Camp Nano, I’m using a somewhat redundant system of writing brief notes about the scenes in Scapple, then expanding upon those in plot cards in Scrivener before writing the actual scenes. I don’t do one after the other, though. I’m about 15 or so Scapple notes ahead of where I’ve got plot cards written, and I’m about 5 plot cards ahead of where I’m writing. Thus far, this has been a successful system, and it’s been methodical—and flexible—enough that I’ve been able to add in stuff that needs to come in earlier in the Scapple notes as it occurs to me. Some may scoff at all the “extra” work I’m doing just to write one scene, and some may try to tell me I’m writing the book 3 times with this method, but it fricking well works for me. Also, a number of the plot cards I’ve got have been in some cases vastly different than the Scapple notes due to what I’ve already written changing things when I got to doing those plot cards, and more than one scene has been significantly different from the plot card, for much the same reason, so far. I think I’ve finally accepted that neither of these prework steps are immutable, a concept I’ve struggled with for a couple of years now.

So, as things stand, I’ve got about 22.4k words written on Soul Sucker, and about 4,500 of that is Nano count. I need to tear through some words to cover for the ~4,500 words of gay romance that I want to replace. That’s doable in a few days, and I’m looking forward to catching up!

Hiatus May Be Over

I’m tentatively going to say this hiatus may be over. The depression seems to be lifting, and if it is, I’ll be happy. In any case, I felt like giving an update on things.

First off, I have been writing. I did April Camp Nano, and managed to get my goal wordcount after fudging a little, adjusting it down ’cause I hit a period of apathy near the end of the month. In case you aren’t familiar with National Novel Writing Month and its offshoot Camp NaNoWriMo, these are writing challenges that happen a few times annually. Look them up for more information. For Camp in April, I worked on a new version of MOTS1.

After a week or so, I got back on the writing horse and went back to my original main project, Unwritten Letters. My original goal with that was 250 words 5 days a week, and for the past 2 or 3 weeks, I’ve kept up with that goal. I’m nearly done with it, too, in the penultimate scene.

Camp Nano happens again in July, and I’ve already chosen my project for it: Gildas’s story, now titled Misdeeds and Dishonor. I’ll more than likely be starting it in June, before Camp Nano. I’m not sure if I’ll chapter it out as I write, write it as a series of scenes and chapter it out in later edits, or do one scene per chapter as I did with the original version of this story. Either way, I’ll be working on this project fairly soon.

Still Some Depression

So I decided that this week would be the one where I got back on the goals horse. It wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped it would be, but I think I’m still dealing with some depression. Regardless, the week started off fairly strong, which pleased me. Then I had a rough night of sleep Wednesday night, and that threw everything off. I didn’t get much done Thursday, and got even less done Friday as I spent a good portion of the day trying to catch up on the sleep I’d missed both Wednesday and Thursday. Much of the month has been like this, which is part of the reason why I haven’t been posting even my Fool’s Errand updates on Saturday.

I think, however, I’ve finally settled on my next project. Little as I want to do a story I won’t be able to post on Wattpad, I’m going to work on MOTS1. The Masters of the Schism series is one that I’ve wanted to make progress on for a long time. It’s a for-fun series that’s close to my heart. I figured out what I wanted to do with book 1 last year and have been trying to figure out how to handle the rewrite as I wrote past book 1’s natural ending and need to fill in more detail. For the past couple weeks or so, I’ve been reading through the scenes I’m keeping, and writing up notes in Scapple for the future outline. It’s been fun.

My original plan was to increase my wordcount goal from 250 a day to 500 with the new project, but I’m now undecided on that. There are some benefits to increasing the wordcount, but I don’t know if it would be wise to increase the count yet, especially since I’m dealing with depression. Not that I’d beat myself up about not writing or not getting the goal, just that until I’m sure I’m out of the depressive fog, it may be wisest not to do too much for my writing goal. That’s something I’ve got to think some more about, but I’ve got some time.

February and Now

I didn’t update here during February because it was a rough month, starting with the last week of January. I dropped into a depressive phase in January and struggled until I finally gave up keeping up with things. Nothing of my everyday tasks really got done. I was too depressed to care, and I didn’t even bother doing task lists or anything through most of February. This was all complicated by an out of town trip I had to make with my Mom, and, yeah. It was a tough month. I didn’t even write for most of it.

But this past week I managed to get back on the horse, after a fashion. I’d have to say I’m barely back on, but I’m clingint tight. I managed to make some progress on UL, though it wasn’t much. It felt good to write on it though.

Also, I’ve been working on a couple new story ideas. Just taking notes and doing worldbuilding for the most part. Can’t wait to dive into one of them, but I’m waiting to see if that mood passes. I’m liking the return of my discipline that I developed last year, as I’ve not started writing on these projects yet. My main goal, as it has been since October of last year, is to focus on Unwritten Letters.

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