Updates from Quarantine

Like many others, I’ve been shut away from the world (except for some supply runs) during the Covid-19 pandemic. School has been cancelled until the end of April (though I expect that to extend) so the kid is home. My partner is working from home, and my search for gainful employment post-graduation has been halted. In a way, it has taken a lot of weight off my shoulders, but added a burden in others. It was almost blissful at first, not having to stress over my son’s grades or putting myself out there. I got a lot done at home. I’ve started gardening more. I had only planned to plant a few things, like tomatoes and herbs to round out our collection, and some flowers, but with so much changing, almost overnight, it became apparent that it would be prudent to grow more of our own food. So, I’ve been starting more seeds for produce we can use. At least, what I know I can grow–there are a few things that require a little extra care in our climate and I don’t want to overwhelm myself.

Getting all that going has taken a lot of my time that I hoped to turn to writing, and the rest of the time, it’s the endless ADHD struggle of switching focus or feeling adrift in internal chaos. I probably need to reevaluate my daily schedule to return structure to my life with everyone stuck at home.

I did make some progress on my plans, however! In addition to working on The Dollmaster for publishing, I’ve also decided to turn some of our other stories into episodic adventure series on Wattpad. I’m starting with the “Voyage to Ertia” storyline and we’ll see where that goes. I made some solid planning last month, but it will take me building structure and discipline to see it through. As long as my partner is working from home, he’s laid claim to our office, so I’m working in the living room at the couch and coffee table, either sitting on the floor or curling up on the couch. May my back forgive me.

Last month (February, that is), I made progress building the wiki, planning out stories, and giving myself some direction with the wealth of characters and storylines I have at my hands. I intend to lay some of that out in another blog. I also want to post some of my other writings from school here. I have some short fiction and non-fiction and poems I can share to round out my “portfolio.” So, look out for those!

2020

It’s not so much of a resolution, but reality kind of kicking me into gear. With the start of the new year and a new decade, I realized that all the dreams I started working on for Aserra in the last decade have not really gone anywhere. While I did give myself the opportunity to pursue my education, and with my writing courses I gained a lot and made a little progress, I’m still not even close to completing my first manuscript.

Mental Health

In my personal life, and even a bit in public, I’ve talked quite freely about my ADHD. This is something that has affected my entire life, but only in the last decade did I start to recognize it, and it took until last year to get a proper diagnosis and start medication to manage it. It is frustrating to look back on my struggles through high school and my twenties and know that there was this huge piece missing that could have made it easier for me to get through it. I was misdiagnosed as bipolar in high school and prescribed inappropriate medication that only killed my creativity, enhanced physical tics, and didn’t produce results. In my twenties, I floundered. I managed to get my high school diploma through an alternative school. I was crippled by anxiety and depression, not helped by a toxic relationship that made me question my self worth. Finally, in my thirties, divorce shot me forward like an arrow. I started attending community college and I dove in 100%, going straight through to get my Associate’s and a transfer degree. After a one term break, I started University to complete a Bachelor’s. Now that that’s done, I got a little lost. I spent a lot of that post-graduation time seeking help for my mental health, and I had to fight tooth and nail to finally get diagnosed as an adult. It is a massive relief to come out the other side vindicated and medicated properly.

It’s helped, but I’m still working on myself every day. Most people think of people with ADHD as unable to sit still and focus, but it’s so much more than that. The worst part is executive dysfunction. Executive function is a process in your brain that allows you to regulate and control other processes. It’s basically the cognitive equivalence of a manager who directs their assistant managers who direct their employees who interface with customers. Well, with ADHD, your manager doesn’t know what the fuck their doing and the whole business is in shambles. Executive dysfunction can paralyze by leaving a person unable to comprehend how to even start simple daily activities. Added onto that, we have a poor grasp of the passage of time and constant chatter in our minds. Undiagnosed adults often find coping mechanisms to get by and function in society, but historically ADHD has been poorly understood and severely underdiagnosed in girls and women. I’m one of those who fell through the cracks because I didn’t present like they expected me to (like a boy) but the signs were there all along.

I’m getting the help I need, but these hurdles will always been something I have to deal with. It’s getting easier to get over them at least. Depression and anxiety are often co-morbid or a direct result of ADHD symptoms. I have been on anti-depressants for several years, which have been helpful, and I now take in combination with ADHD meds. Anxiety is one of my coping mechanisms. I’m usually early to appointments because I’m so anxious that I would be late (re: unable to register the passage of time on my own) that I wake up early, prep early, and leave early to stave off my nerves.

And then there is deadlines. I usually make deadlines, but at the same time, I cannot seem to do the work without the looming pressure of a deadline weighing down on me. If I got an essay assignment that was due in a month, I would tell myself that I would work on it a little at a time over that month, but as soon as I got home, I would forget. Or I would look at it, feel uncertain of how to even start it and put it off for later, then eventually forget. Then, when the deadline was approaching, I would realize that “oh shit! I need to do this!” and hastily through together a half-assed essay.

Thankfully, my half-assed is generally A material, so it never reflected in my grades. I even worked as a writing tutor–though, I advised my students to do as I said, not as I did.

Lots of students use this method of course, I’m not unique in that. However, the thing is, I really would try to work on it earlier and be completely unable to focus without the pressure. There’s this thing about executive dysfunction–if your motivation to do something is fueled by the need to be accountable to someone else, it acts as a work-around. I suddenly had the pressure of the approval of my teachers and my grade that affected my student loans (because if I failed, I would suffer the consequences of losing funding and dealing with bureaucratic red tape to fix it). If I have an appointment, I have an obligation to show up for the sake of another person (my doctor, adviser, social worker, etc.).

In the same way, that’s why I think our collaborative fiction-style RPs worked so well for me. Not only was it a hyperfixation to immerse myself in a creative endeavor (hyperfixation is another ADHD thing), I was accountable to my RP partners to progress the story, because if I didn’t show up, they would leave.

Progress on Aserra

This is where it comes back to writing. If I just sit on my own and try to hammer out a whole book, it falls apart pretty quick. The potential accountability in the long term doesn’t register with my brain, I need more instant validation. I got this in my writing classes where I would workshop a chapter, get feedback, and then feel motivated to continue–but our classes were only ten weeks long, which was really only enough for one chapter or short story. By the next writing class I took, I might see a handful of familiar faces, but the majority wouldn’t see a continuation from the chapter of the previous term.

I need the accountability I once had with role-playing, but at the same time, I don’t want to just put my work that I plan to try to publish traditionally out there for anyone to read. Sometimes I would send a chapter to a single friend (usually Rory) but one person’s feedback isn’t enough, especially if it’s overwhelmingly positive (still, thank you for humoring me, Rory!). A counselor suggested to me that I release what I have done to a group of people, which I put off because I got myself stuck in an over-editing loophole, but with the start of the year, I realized I really had to do it!

I put the prologue and first two chapters of The Dollmaster up on Google Docs and invited a handful of people familiar with the story to come and read. I’ve only gotten a little feedback so far, but I’m trying to work on the next chapter. If you have been invited, please read what I have up and give me a little feedback, whether that’s a private message, a comment on the file, or what have you. Intend to add more content every month, but I am working on building better work habits writing daily. I think I’m doing good so far! I only was able to finish one scene of chapter three for January, rather than the whole chapter, but I just need more practice to build up momentum.

As a note, I am only inviting people that I actually know to this beta-read. I don’t expect anyone outside the Aserra family to read this blog, if anyone at all, but it is public, so I just want to say that.

Planning

Now, I had intended to do more work on TDM chapter three this week, but instead I wanted to set down some plotting for the whole series, and I hyperfixated over that for the last few days. I have decided to pursue five of our other stories following Dollmaster. There are yet more to be told beyond that, but I’m trying to weave this together so that there is interconnection and characters can crossover between stories. This will include Atissran’s Tower, Cursebreakers, rehashing the Vampire Hunt story from EKD, a story following Thalia, Avion, and Talen to find Avion’s mother, and a story set in the Forsaken Land around Sevrina and Gale.

Also, I have wanted to make use of Wattpad to get some exposure, and I was considering how to go about it. I don’t want to put TDM up there, but what I’ve settled on is working on some of our more episodic stories, such as the Voyage to Ertia adventure, the magic school, and Alera’s inter-dimensional vessel.

I really, really hope that I can manage all this at the same time. I want to put these stories out there, I believe in them. I love my characters and I want them to exist outside our little role-plays.

Addressing Concerns of Ownership

I don’t want to use any one’s characters or concepts without their permission. For everyone who has a role in Dollmaster, I have contacted them for permission to use their characters, and I also intend to credit you as a contributor (and potentially offer you a small piece of the pie if I make it). If you do not want your character in my hands for any other stories, please let me know and I will honor that.

Also, in plotting the other stories in this first phase, I have tried to trim down the number of major characters. I didn’t trim many, but I did opt to replace Kiras in Cursebreakers with Nat/Varien (who I am settling on the name of Taniel for). I want to reuse characters from previous stories as much as possible and intertwine backgrounds to fulfill their personal stories. If you don’t want a character used in a story, I can re-cast their role with another in a relevant way (if not drop them all together).

I still want to do this…

Every term ends and I think that maybe I’ll have the time and energy for this.

I’m almost done with my BFA. I should have 3 courses and a capstone left, then I should hopefully graduate in spring. While I don’t look forward to paying back all those loans I took out (YOLO?) I am done. So very, very done. Maybe one day I’ll consider graduate school, but it is not this day.

I’ve been having some problems with mental (and physical) health. Or, for the most part, I’m addressing pre-existing mental health problems. My partner and I took a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway from Oregon to California, and then to Las Vegas. It was tons of fun, but when we got back, I suffered one health issue after another (and some on top of each other). It was rough. I thought someone might have cursed me. I finally received a diagnosis for ADHD and I deal with some pretty frustrating shifts in my focus and mental health with my menstrual cycle. In attempting to regulate it with birth control, my problems became exponentially worse, so I quit birth control and I’m pretty much back to normal–which isn’t great, but better than what the pills did to me. I’m still looking for an option to help regulate me, but for now, just the normal bi-weekly ups and downs of the menstrual cycle. Hooray.

I did have some writing success over the summer though. I completed a revision of my Dollmaster prologue. With the fall term, I wasn’t able to move forward on the book. I have been working on a short story for Pharen for a class, but it’s turned into a disaster. We’ll see how it ends up when I revise it for my final portfolio.

So much for blogging…

Didn’t get to doing that. -_-

Anyway. Winter term is over. I did a short story for my writing class based on my character Aroal’s background that got some great reviews. It was much more constrained, as I had a maximum of 10 pages. It kind of suffered at the end, but most of it ended up being pretty good.

I submitted my Dollmaster prologue for workshop. I got some good feedback, but I knew that I would have to whittle down a lot of it. There’s excessive exposition and other bad habits that my writing suffered in the past. I didn’t have to do a revision for this writing class, which was great for reducing my stress for finals, but I tend to get shit done better with a deadline! I still need to prepare my portfolio for graduation anyway, so I should present a few chapters anyway. Next term I’m taking another fiction course and will hopefully work out my first chapter. I feel as though there’s a lot that I need to fix there.

After these last few terms, my writing has definitely improved, which makes me more confident that pursuing my degree in writing was the best thing I could do.

2017 in Review, Looking Forward to ’18

Happy New Year!

While 2017 may have been a political dumpster fire, my life was actually pretty good this year. I began attending university after getting my associate’s degree. I’m now pursuing my bachelor’s in fine arts for creative writing. In my personal life, this was the year that a relationship I’ve been patiently waiting for finally crystallized. I moved in with my partner and my quality of life has been substantially improved. I’m more focused and aware of my own mental health, less overwhelmed.

As for Aserra, I’m starting to make progress on building The Dollmaster story. I have some more world building ideas too. Now that my general studies are done, I can focus more on writing, and my writing classes have provided me with more stability. I think when I’m writing using the backbone of our RPG, it’s more challenging than just letting a story flow. I have to revise what’s already been written and put it into a coherent voice.

My writing classes also give me an opportunity to explore other ideas and write some short story ideas that have been bouncing around in my head. Last year, I wrote a couple short stories for character backgrounds that I had been wanting to explore. I wrote a couple personal pieces in different styles. I also wrote¬†“Changeling,” a story that had been kicking around in my head about a man kidnapped by fairies, then unwittingly falling in love with his half-fae daughter after he leaves the fairy world.

Some world building ideas are percolating too. I’m toying with adding another Idayn (or elf) race, which will be Asian in appearance. They will be the descendents of Idayn and humans in the aftermath of the War of the Gods, who make their own sylvan society in western Thiskel.

This winter break, I’ve also been looking at doing some revisions of several races. Iengi (giants), Kiar (hobbits? gnomes?), and Kuzo (goblins), which are all close cousins to humanity. Iengi, rather than being dumb giants, are being given a deeper background and more intellect. They age 33% slower than humans, which includes early childhood development. Aside from this, their challenge in the world is that they are not as sociable as humans (a bunch of introverts), which led to the downfall of their ancient civilization and their current decline as they live as solitary, feral survivalists. However, they have the same intellectual potential as humans.

Kiar and Kuzo are now tied together. I wanted to consider a new origin for Kiar rather than placing them in Kalesten from the start. So, they began in mountain valleys in Ageond (the destroyed continent). They age 33% faster than humans, giving them a short life span and the potential for rapid reproduction. During the War of the Gods, the dark gods created the Kuzo from the Kiar to serve as foot soldiers for the Danaij. With the short lifespan, rapid development from childhood to adulthood, and quick reproduction, the Kiar were an ideal base to start with. The surviving Kiar are descended of refugees who fled Ageond during this time and settled in Kalesten.

So, there are some of my ideas. I also never updated after I workshopped chapter 3 of The Dollmaster, either. After editing, it was clear that chapter 3 would be better broken into two chapters, so now it’s 3 & 4 and the one that I began is chapter 5! The prologue will introduce our villain, Voris. Chapter 1 is Naclia and Terin’s arrival in Kosony and meeting Laban and Rayina. Chapter 2 is Talen meeting Adra and his reluctance to marry being overcome. Chapter 3 is the introduction of Pharen and Thalia, written primarily from Pharen’s perspective, as they go to Talen’s wedding. Chapter 4 is primarily Thalia’s perspective from the beginning of the ceremony to Adra’s kidnapping and the decision for her, Pharen, and Talen to attempt to rescue her. Chapter 5 is then the arrival of Naclia and Terin in Talen’s hometown and the reunion of the one-time lovers at the worst possible time! Avion will likely be introduced in 5 or 6, depending on how things go, and 6 or 7 will be a chapter focusing on Adra and Voris.

The Move – Progress Report

My move is almost completed! I spent most of last week unpacking and organizing. My partner and I also bought a new car sooner than expected. I had been expecting to borrow my mom’s new car (which I had been driving to school) while she kept the old one until my partner was ready to buy one in December. Between moving in, car shopping, and school starting for my son, this has been one crazy week! My partner also hadn’t fully “moved in” to his own house, so unpacking and organizing was also a lot of breaking down his boxes of stuff. The stack of boxes I just took to recycling was probably enough for a small forest.

Anyway, I’m still settling in. The office is the last room that will really need organizing. Most of my notes are still packed, my main computer isn’t set up (and he is getting ready to build me a new one to replace my old laptop), and I also still need a new office chair, since my old one broke and was abandoned at my mom’s house. I still have my surface and phone, but I’m not quite ready to get back to work! My brain is tingling with the need to write though… just not enough hours in the day.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

I’m going to be moving shortly, and I’m looking forward to a fresh start in my life! However, writing projects are sidelined for a few weeks as I settle into my new routines. I’m hopeful that a new, clean space and a stable routine will be nurturing to my creativity. My living situation has become a bit chaotic with all the animals my mom and I care for, but I will be taking with me only my son’s two mice and a kitten, so there is less work involved there. The new house is only ten years old, so it has less of the problems that my mom’s 60/70 year old house has–drafty windows, mildew/mold from condensation on the walls in winter, less pests.

I was a little reluctant to leave the space I’ve established for myself, but this move was motivated by my son’s need for a better education. Apparently, his current school rates 3rd to last in the state (which means less funding, which means it only can go downhill). He’s been frustrated and depressed by the bare-bones education he’s been receiving. I couldn’t let this continue for another year, so when the opportunity arose to move into a better school zone arose, I had to take it.

I’m excited for this new chapter in my life!