Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction


Recurring Themes

I’ve recently noticed that I have a number of recurring themes in my writing. I don’t mean theme in the traditional sense of the word when discussing writing themes, but in things I typically include in my stories.

One of those themes is some sort of codependence. This comes from growing up with a codependent single parent. I saw more than one example of how her—and thus my life and my sister’s—imploded whenever our mother got involved due to her codependent nature. I don’t know why, but now I seem to have to work out this aspect of my upbringing in my stories. Frequently, the mages in my stories will have some sort of codependent bond which in some ways affects their magic. This is not always a reciprocal bond, either. In my Hatuni stories, where Whispers on the Wind happens, the “assistance” of the bond goes only one way; for one member of the bond, their magic is given some sort of additional control they don’t have on their own, but for the other half of the bond, there is no real benefit. In fact, for Shi’u, who offers this ability to control his magic to Khamu, there is only trial and tribulation, as first Khamu refuses the bond, then subsequent bondmates are lost for various reasons.

Another theme common in my stories is the Search For Faith. Dajhir, in No Affinity (set on Obryn), doesn’t believe in any of his world’s gods at the beginning of the series. I rather force him into the role of believer, but at the beginning, he really doesn’t believe. From his perspective, all the gods may as well be dead, because the only one who’s ever influenced his life—as he sees it—is the Goddess of Death, and he doesn’t see that influence as anything that deserves to be repaid with his faith in any deity.

The third of my “most common themes” is political intrigue. I do love to read a good story with political intrigue, and I find special enjoyment in entwining my characters’ lives in politics. It may be actual governmental politics, or it may be the internal workings of a school or temple or other system or place my character is introduced to. Some stories have more political intrigue than others, but most of them do have at least a little bit of it, even if it’s only a distant influence which doesn’t seem to have any direct power over my characters.

And, lastly, I have a habit of writing stories involving lovers who meet, become separated, and reunite at a later time. The lovers aren’t always lovers when they first meet, or during their first time together, but that is how I see the relationship developing later. Sometimes circumstances beyond the lovers’ control separate them, sometimes they become separated due to some action of one or the other. I even have a pair of lovers who meet, separate, meet again and become lovers, separate, and reunite under conflict when the trustworthiness of the one is in doubt and the other must decide whether to believe his warnings—this story isn’t complete yet.

Now that I’ve seen these themes in my writing, it’s given me new insight. I’ve found myself better able to plot out my stories. Now I’m also able to consciously employ these aspects of my stories to create better plot lines. It’s an enjoyable challenge to come up with different ways for these aspects to play parts in my stories, even if it means I’ll be writing a lot of “the same, but different” books with them.

And Another New Project

After Nano, my creative mind took me for a brief tour of WOTW, where I did some worldbuilding, mainly working on the conlang for Mukhamutara. I did this in a desultory way for the most part. Also figured out the calendar system and printed out the plot points I’d listed in a Scrivener file with the intent to transfer them to Scapple. I never got around to that, though.

Now, a few weeks ago, Zette and I tried to give Necia Phoenix, another chatter at FM, ideas for a story that ties in to Necia’s real life hobby/obsession of snakekeeping. And, about a week or so ago, I tried to add ideas to that basis—and ended up siccing plotbunnies (as we call them) on myself. I ended up with a main character, his serpentine familiar, and the basics of a new magical system.

I have since then been building this world. Very quickly, I realized this was a science fantasy story, set on an earth about 1k or so years into the future. It is, however, a future unlike we’re taught to expect. Not because of the progress made, but because of the way things have regressed. Cities as we know them have been long abandoned and people have resettled in “primitive” agrarian communities. I’ve got the basics of how this happens down now.

When I mentioned in chat having bunnied myself with this idea and that this was set on a future Earth, and the basics behind the animal familiars which are common in this story, Necia suggested I might write a family saga about the End Of Society as we know it. Which of course caused another character to jump into my mind. I’ll have to flesh her out later. I want to focus on the current story right now.

Well, no, what I’d like to focus on is any of my other WIPs—the ones actually already in progress. Creative mind is having none of that, though. I’ve tried working on WOTW a little more, but only upset myself. I’ve read Masks, but though I want to read it to its end, I don’t want to work on it, ’cause opening it to do so leaves me cold. I don’t even want to look at MOTS1.

I haven’t been able to work on much the past couple days. Appointments which I’ll discuss in future posts have taken up my days. It’s all stressed me out to the point where I’m not interested at all in my writing. I’m worried this may be the beginning of a writing downswing, so I’m mentally lining up movies I’ll watch so I can crochet and books I’ll continue reading while I’m not writing if the writing downswing does happen.

Before these two stressful days, I felt enthusiastic about the new project. I’ve got to do a lot of research for it. I need to figure out animal personalities for the most part, but I also need to figure out just where this new country is, ’cause all I know is that it’s “somewhere in North America” right now. I’m thinking somewhere west, a little inland. Will have to see, but I’m getting vague notions for putting the community somewhere on or near the Columbia River or one of its tributaries.

So, lots of research required. Don’t know when I’ll get to it all, or really where to start. But I’ll get it done!

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.

Working On My 2YN15

I’m in a weird creative place right now. I want to call it a downswing, but I’ve been too creatively productive (on the Other Genre) with wordage to be able to claim such. Also, I’ve been working ahead on my 2yn15 project, which is fantasy; in part because of my possible jury duty next month but also because I’m having fun and wanting to work on it.

Currently, I’m stuck on exercise 9. In week 9, we’re supposed to figure out what would bribe our character to stop pursuing their goal. I have this figured out for Khamu (whose goal is to reunite with Shi’u), but I’m having difficulty figuring out what would bribe Shi’u. As I see it, things are going to gradually be taken away from him over time. And no, I can’t make it something like “be reunited with Khamu” because Khamu is the one keeping them separated—there’s something operating on his end of the separation which he feels he can’t break free of. Shi’u’s primary goal is to reconcile the Palace with the Temple, and Khamu is actually only a small part of what’s preventing this happening, so using him to bribe Shi’u probably wouldn’t work very well. Not only would Shi’u not be inclined to back down on his stance, but Khamu actually agrees with him and would stand with him and not do anything to convince Shi’u otherwise.

So, I’ve got a nice little corner for myself.

In addition to working ahead on the 2yn15 course, I’ve been conlanging to name my characters. This is a somewhat functional conlang, because I’m creating names like Einpaokhis-Nrn-Thmousisal. I decided that since I’m lifting a fair amount of the background for Mukhamutara from Ancient Egypt, I’d go the extra mile to create names that approximate names from Ancient Egypt as well. To create this language, I went to a names site that happened to have a list of Ancient Egyptian names and picked out the various letters and letter combinations which went into Ancient Egyptian names. I came up with a little over 100 such letters and combinations and use them as a sort of alphabet to create the names.

Of course, some of the names sound mixed up or from other cultures, but I am using a base “alphabet” for them, so at least things will be somewhat uniform. What I do to create a name is formulate a name in English (She-Was-Born-With-Sorrows), then I create the different words, which sometimes requires conjugation: She-Was-Born became Einpaokhis = einp (past tense: was) + aokh (born) + is (she). Once I have the rest of the name (in this case, Nrn-Thmousisal = With-Sorrows), I ensure all the name components are entered in a master dictionary, then add the full name to a master glossary for the translation before writing the Mukhamutaran version in place of the English version on the Character List and choosing a nickname for the character (in this case, Thmousisali). After deciding that Mukhamutarans habitually add the base gender suffix (i = female; u = male; o = neuter/indeterminate) to the nickname, I take a little time figuring out which word from the name sounds best with the base gender suffix. It is, in Mukhamutara, seen kind of as a diminutive as well, like -let or -kin in English.

Yes, it’s a bit involved, but I’m enjoying this. Most of the time, my name creation doesn’t involve meanings of the names, so I’m having fun with this.

Two-Year Novel 2015

This will be the third year in a row I’ve started the Two-Year Novel Course developed by Lazette Gifford. The first year she offered it on the new Forward Motion site, I got cancer, and that kind of blew keeping up with the course out of the water for me. It was all I could do to keep up with writing regularly.

Last year, I started it again for 2014; that time, a late-summer move and the resulting insanity interrupted my progress. I did try to catch up, but by the time I got to the sections where writing was to happen, I couldn’t get Xedepria’s story to move. At all. And I really wanted to write it for November. In the end, I decided to work on the one project that was moving, and I had fun with it, but getting the first Autocrat book going is still out of the question. I’ve read my stuff set on Chraest, gone through stories and plot cards and the 2yn exercises for Xedepria’s story, but nothing set there is going right now, and I’ve even actually passed out of the mood where I even want to look at stuff set on that world. It’ll come back; I just have to be patient and remember that pushing myself to work on projects I have no interest in whatsoever in working on Does Not Go Well for me. Even if I want to bury myself in those stories.

About two weeks ago, I thought I wouldn’t be doing the 2yn course this year. I had no ideas for new worlds, and didn’t really want any. No ideas for stories for new characters, and didn’t really want any. And I was at a total loss as for ideas to use for a magical system (besides one based on plagues I can’t seem to pin anywhere at all, no matter where I try), and didn’t really want any.

Then, Jennifer Amriss returned from an unannounced hiatus from Forward Motion and I cornered her in IM to discuss with her the fact that my creative mind had for the past several weeks been presenting me with a magical concept she uses in her God Jars books. We borrow off of each other, and don’t mind it, but I wanted her input because I was simply not seeing the angle my creative mind wanted me to take with it. If I remember right, I over the course of that conversation opened an old, old wip I wouldn’t have had access to without a program called Open Freely which opens a basic editor for obsolete files.

And that conversation and the old manuscript of a defunct story which went nowhere gave me the seeds I needed for my 2yn15 project, Whispers on the Wind.

Those seeds were:

1) Basic magical system. And I mean very basic. Just what two of the three types of mages were called and nothing at all on the third type.

2) Notions about the deific pantheon. And those were extremely vague.

3) The shadow of a new character, who Jennifer Amriss gave me the initial name, Shivanni (iirc), for. All I knew about him was that he was one particular type of mage.

4) And the fact two of the three types of mages regularly bond.

In the week or so since those first conceptions, I’ve developed my primary Main Character, Shi’u, started a constructed language file to name All The Things, developed a society based loosely on Ancient Egypt, and filled in some of the holes in the magical system. I’ve been hard at work on this project in part because it’s the only thing my mind wants to focus on. The rest? It’s simply been a great deal of fun working up these things.

I’m hoping this year I can keep up with the 2yn course. I’m not going to save WOTW for writing specifically during Nano, and may actually set it aside for the duration of that month. This is the world I’ve transferred the name Hatu Napor to, and it’s got a long way to go, though I already have the inklings of ideas for other stories set here.

So wish me luck. I want this one to go.

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