Well, last time was a great deal of fun, shall we do it all again? This time with chapters 15-29? No?
Going in and unstringing a story and drudging up old pasts is painful. Worth doing every once in a while. It can be an interesting learning experience, in so far as showing me where I was and how far I’ve come.
I’ve been in a really good space for the last few weeks, post dealing with “major anxiety issues” and medically induced PTSD. I have some suspicions of being autistic; however, when I obtained a referral for a diagnosis, I found the one office I could go to films all interactions to use for training, conferences, and journals because they are “a teaching hospital” and that just set off a ton of red flags. Paranoid and anxious? Maybe. Not wanting my face to represent some issue where people can get hold of it and then I get to deal with ex possibly finding me…well, I made decisions I’m living with.
Been working with a therapist for the last month. Well. Not really working, maybe working? Not sure how talk therapy is actually supposed to work, so it doesn’t feel like I’m working on things in the session, but the fact my mood is getting better probably means it’s working. She asks about a lot of history that I’ve listed here, but doesn’t give me deep advice. She wanted to try EMDR therapy with me for the PTSD, but that can trigger seizures for me.
During the first interview I asked if she had any knowledge of working with people with suspected autism. Not a lot of therapists do, as I found in trying to get a test recommendation, so I did not go into it with expectations. She said I couldn’t possibly have it because I understood humor and could keep up with a conversation. I asked if her experience was with “male” or “female” autistic presentation. She admitted she had never seen or worked with a “female” autistic presentation, about what I expected.
Look, I’m trans FTM, doesn’t mean I’m not aware that some “biologic” things need to be taken in to account when managing medicine and therapy for me. Go through being religiously brainwashed for 18 years about your place in society. I’m a bit testy on this one.
This was one of the videos I found that I just went “ohhhh”
Last session I asked if she had any good pointers for coping with anxiety attacks and she switched to a different childhood history question. Sigh. I don’t mind working through that, but I sought out a therapist to help with the medical ptsd, not the rest of it that I’ve already worked through myself, thanks. So, I went and looked up how to handle anxiety vs. what an autistic overload looked like. Pretty much, with each session I have with her, I end up going through a weekend of decompression and looking up answers to my questions. Maybe that’s what these sessions are supposed to do is give me questions that I need to resolve for myself. I’m motivated and want to quit having immersive flashbacks because someone touches my wrists or I have too much weight on my legs.
(Had a pair of angiograms back to back in the week of my brain surgery. Second time around, being strapped to the angiogram bed and having the lidocaine needle hit bone and them go through the hand I asked them not to go through, and them dismiss the seizure I was having, it just all turned into a horror show for me. So getting tied down and subjected to pain is this lovely little flashback that likes to pop up and toss me into overload territory. Things happened in that week that shouldn’t have. I’m alive at least.)
For the last two weeks I’ve been using cool down techniques, fidgets, letting me stim as a test to see if the autism tricks work, because the anxiety fix ones can go freaking jump in a lake. I haven’t had any seizures or “anxiety attacks” in two weeks. If I feel like I’m dancing on overload, I say so to my family and I step away. Textures, sounds, smells, any of it.
I have a quiet space with all my houseplants and no one disturbs me. I use my fidgets. Usually my brain stops feeling itchy and my general sense of impending doom lets up after half an hour to an hour. Traveling can cause those same issues and having some of those coping fidgets helped tremendously the other day.
So, I think I might be on to something and that is extremely relieving to know what is going on and that I can control some moments. Being okay with speaking up about foods (texture heebeejeebees and bitter flavors) I don’t like – not something I really had the option to do as a kid. Being able to say certain clothes suck because they feel wrong and know I’m not insulting someone. Not being embarrassed for needing to burrow under a ton of blankets to keep me from getting all wirey-energy-uncomfortable. Letting myself be okay with not having to look at people’s faces because I’m “supposed to.” It’s weird, that freeing moment when you go “oh, I’m okay. I just need to process a bit different.”
I’ve had a song on repeat for weeks now for where my mood has been: Porter Robinson – Look at the Sky. I wanted to share that it’s getting better, seeing as the rest of the book summary is going to look super bleak in a minute.
Okay. This is going to seem like a really odd thing, but the bungalow was home. It was comfortable. Probably because I grew up with my folks moving into a different place every 2-3 years until I was about 13. They liked remodeling. It was their thing. So, I remember ripping out nasty green carpet and helping peel walls of gold foiled wallpaper and that weird smell of mold. I remember the little cubby kitchens and mudrooms and built in pantries somehow being twice as deep as you expect. They always looked out on little backyards where a lonely tree and some low bushes sort of died. I lived for a time in an area where it snowed, and I was short as a kid to begin with, so the snowbanks would be as tall as me. We didn’t have a woodstove though.
When I was 17, we had one of the worst ice storms to hit our state in decades. Power was out at the house for several days and the temperature was like 10F. We had a wood burning fireplace, but the house, being built in the 70s, had no heat retention to speak of. Honestly, lighting the fire made the house colder. Eventually the school opened and I was able to go in to warm up. I walked to the community center where they had set up a homeless shelter after school. Called my folks and told them I’d come home when the power got turned back on. The power had been on since noon, they just didn’t think to call and tell me this and it was like 7pm at night when we had this conversation.
Wren grew up using a woodstove as the main heatsource for his house with his family. So when Wren and I bought our own house, we installed a woodstove. I never wanted to experience that cold ever again and he wanted the woodstove because it was safer than an open fireplace. To me, that woodstove in the book, and I know it sounds stupid, but it was safety. That silly bungalow in the book was the feeling of childhood and that woodstove was safety.
This whole section was, in some really weird way, me coming out to myself, to my childhood self. To being safe, in familiar territory. Where I had friends and love and safety and where I could actually talk about self-discovery. To be real. I needed to speak up, even symbolically before I could really talk to my in real life family. I needed to know there was someone who wouldn’t let me fall if I took the mask off.
Uh. Well. Intense moment. If you’ve been following along with most of this book being my therapy, you’re probably going “the hell? Did your parents beat you, the fuck man?” No. My parents didn’t. They were trapped in some religious mindsets they were slowly getting out of. I grew up with my folks having some opinions about the lesbians who lived across the street. I came out when they were talking about them again in reference and I was sick of hearing them say shit. When they realized I was pan and I liked men, women, non-binary, undefined, they listened. They realized. A lot of what I fight with is my mental “childhood parents on religion” and the internalized homophobia and racism that was prevalent in their generation. They really have changed since my divorce and since I got through college, especially in relation to my degree.
At this point, we all are in preservation mode when it comes to extended family. I don’t know why they still try, but everyone has their own level of being able to let go of things. I still am uncomfortable with the idea of asking them to use my preferred pronouns and explain I’m a guy stuck in the wrong body. And yet, I keep my relationship with them. Most of this experience gets explained in Subgalaxia though, so I’ll quit with the tangent.
Nat and his dad. That was a very low level fear. One where I knew it wouldn’t happen to me. I’d walk out and go to a shelter and figure it out from there if that happened even once. The ice storm told me I could do that. No. Nat and his father had to do with watching other kids in high school come out and the abuse they went through. Teachers are supposed to say things, keep them safe if they notice.
Kid came in to school with his jaw wired shut for a month because his dad had shattered it. He sat next to me in biology. He was a mouthy brat with a major attitude problem, but seeing that happen to him. It…really affected me. We were by no means friends and he wouldn’t talk to me without belittling me for something, but no one deserves that.
I’ve seen a lot in the American public school system. Kid on my bus stopped showing up to school. A few months later his mom was arrested. They’d found his skeleton out in the desert because she couldn’t take the fact he was special needs any more. One of my best friends cut because she couldn’t handle being in yet another abusive foster house and her siblings had been sent to other people yet again. The one openly gay kid went missing over a summer and there was a group of us in a panic thinking he’d committed suicide, to find he’d moved to LA with his “way-older-than-him” boyfriend and had scored a job and was finally living his best life because he’d escaped hell.
Watch. Listen. You’ll learn a lot about people. And I had to process this, because, for some reason, a lot of people used me as their therapy. I spent senior year working with special needs kids with English. The crap they went through with their homelife. Worked with one who was volatile and I had to back out for my own safety. His dad used his arms as ashtrays. The rest of the kids in my English group used me as a sounding board for a week for processing all his horror stories when he was removed from the class.
Am I in a position to tell Nat’s story from the point of view of someone who lived in an abusive household? Probably not, but I did, and I’m not apologizing for it. I needed to process too many other people’s stories and this is where I unraveled them.
Cashia turned into that strong, but not perfect, older been-there-done-that mentor I needed while grappling with the fact I was in the lgbtq+ world. I needed someone to not just say it was okay, we’re still friends. At that point, I needed someone to straight up say I was still lovable, and that they didn’t care what I was. I didn’t need it “to be okay”, I needed for someone to go “so what else is new?” That really brutally bland expression of love. The type where my hang up was less important than breakfast. I needed to know it could be the least of my problems.
- eisteacht liom – listen to me
- mas e do thoil e – please
- ta naire agus eagla orm – I am ashamed and afraid.
- mo run – my secret
- Abair e sin aris, le do thoil? Say that again, please?
Okay, so this chapter was me having a moment with romance books. The whole bit where people write in a male MC just taking over a woman’s independence entirely and not giving her the ability to safely make her own decisions. I wanted to address the fact that I had forced this whole “here, host my mate without your permission” thing I had written as a trope in romance novels. Consent. It’s a major sticking point for me. A lot of it has to do with having read romance books as my one instruction on romantic relationships and those damn things are BROKEN. They never mention clean up, after care, on a rare occassion they might address birth control. Seriously though, how often in a romance novel or even in erotica do the people literally sit down and discuss who they are and what everyone wants from a particular relationship? Most of them kind of just go with the whole “build up the emotion and tension to justify the actions.” This is probably why I hate when people say I write erotica and why I’m even leery of having romance applied to my work. A lot of writen romance is really jacked up and tramples all over people.
Romance genre is one of the first introductions to sex ed for a large segment of the population, at least in America, because our education system is crap. When all you’re fed is that women are subserviant and effeminate men are just women with penises and that as long as some strong guy can rule over them and get away with it because he has abs, it can really mess with your concept of what is a healthy relationship and what is abusive. My characters aren’t perfect, and neither are their intimate moments. I do make an effort at constructing those scenes to address some of these issues.
I fully realize, in releasing my books, that I might be someone’s first interaction with a romantic relationship, and I am desperately trying to be responsible about that. I wish more romance and erotica authors did that. Really, really wish. I think that’s why I’ve taken a liking to webcomics recently outside of publishing industry standards. More and more people are releasing self-pub and indie webcomics that actually address developing healthy relationships.
I guess that’s why I write the scenes I do. It’s my soap box. It’s something that I want to protect people from experiencing what I experienced by giving them tools and knowledge and an ability to know what they’re expecting and that they have a say in what is going on and if they don’t, it’s not a healthy relationship. I can go on. This is part of why this book has multiple scenes, where as the rest of my books have one-maybe two.
Also, I despise love angles and love triangles. Nope. Everyone in a room together. Don’t give me that pining crap. Another story from high school. (I had a lot of crushes just fyi). Guy I had a crush on was dating this girl I also had a crush on. They’d been together since middle school, so this was a really long crush. Yes, one of those couples. Again, I seemed to be the councilor in the friends group somehow. He calls in a complete mess one evening out of the blue during high school. Has no freaking idea what to do because he went and got laid by another guy while on a family vacation. A: not sure how anyone can escape family for five minutes to do that. Descriptions happened and hello moment of realizing I’m not normal here. Anyways, he’s having this moment of not sure how to explain this to his girlfriend back home. I told him to be honest. Explain what happened and let the chips fall. Don’t make up excuses. They both told me thank you a few days later, still all starry eyed with each other.
They dated for a few more years through high school before splitting for a different reason and she found a woman who loves her if I remember right and he’s had a couple different types over the years and I watched this whole thing going “Hello? Ya’ll left me hanging here?” Sigh. I know I told them I was interested, but when they said they weren’t, I backed off and we left it as friends. I wasn’t their type. Glad they found who they needed though.
So. Love triangles in my writing are a no. Everyone in a room or at least everyone isn’t jealous. Thank you.
Clarification time – Cashia, Tereza, and Nat are all pansexual. I’m still not sure what Hana is. She likes Tereza more, but I don’t think she’s lesbian. Weird how you can write a story and not actually know some things about your characters, huh? Maybe there’s a word for her. I don’t know what it is.
And pronoun switching when Tereza comes out. Just. Just shoot me. I went with what made sense in my head. I crafted over those instances very carefully as Nat and Tereza switch between each other and still have some moments with going “why brain, just why???”
Another trope that is freaking prevalent in romance books: confident men. Dude, no. Men can be shy about intimacy. They can be unsure of what they are doing. Writing every guy in like they’ve gone and done it with forty people before getting to the MC is just…? Look, people are clutsy and awkward and don’t know what they’re doing half the time. People fall off beds and trip over their trouser legs.
I just want to write what I wish people had written for what I was learning from. A bit of reality. A bit less golden and a bit more people being human.
The whole bit with Zola and Sun Hee going after Yeller. That had to do with a bunch of gossips trying to get really friendly with the openly gay kid in high school and just not really getting the concept that he didn’t want to talk about his first time with them. They meant well and were trying to be inclusive. It was awkward for the rest of us watching him flounder and trying to get them to quit.
Chapter 19 – 20
Go to the end of the book. I have the poem for What the Wolf Howled Over Me there. I had an assignment in high school to write a history poem for my Senior English class. We had been analysing music about the Vietnam War and things like that as symbolism. So, I went with what I was familiar with. World War II. This one deals with the Navajo code breakers. Symbolism within symbolism.
I wasn’t suicidal in school. I did, however, hear more than once in quiet whispers behind doors kids who often went deer hunting about ‘plans’ they ‘joked’ about with regard to inviting along ‘other people.’ It was sick. I was too nervous to rat them out, but I know I warned a couple kids about not to be duped if the hunters ever tried to get chummy. Nothing ever happened that I was aware of, and maybe I was just being overly sensitive. This scene was that internalized fear. The one that really sealed my lips shut for years about coming out of the closet.
The summer of 2020 when I had my stroke, I did go in and out of major suicidal ideation a few times. Before that, there were minor floating thoughts about it, that sort of quasi-state unactive misery. Something about the cost of brain surgery and the stress and worry I was causing my family and self-worth. Those types of thoughts get really dark, really deep, and really scary, but they were thoughts, not active, not planned. I have to give respect to people who get help if they are planning, because that fight is extremely hard to admit to when it’s just ideation.
- gra mo chroi – love of my heart
- ta tu go halainn – you are beautiful
- dia – god
- taim ag teacht ~ I’m coming (not quite accurate)
- Duil mo slat ~ Lick my *
- an bhfuil pain ort – Are you in pain?
- ta me go brea – I’m fine
- bi curamach – be careful
- Ritheann tu Yeller. Sabhail an grupa. Beidh me a fhaigheann tu. ~ Run Yeller. Save the group. I will find you.
- ta tu a ghortu – you are hurt
- dean e – do it
- Diabhall – devil
I also apologize for this chapter.
Some of this was fears I had about dark alleys and walking home on my own. About what could happen. When you’re raised to fear strangers, stuff like this haunts your mind. Getting kicked in the stomach, that’s more a personal history thing. Don’t really remember everything that led up to it, but I do remember it was middle school and I was on the ground on the school playground after school. Folks worked late, so this was a babysitting service the school provided. anyways, the monitor was off somewhere else and the one clear memory I have is pebbles under my finger tips and these three boys kicking the every living crap out of me. The monitor got to me and sent the kids inside. Nothing happened to them, no suspension or anything. There was that, and a different time when a kid in middle school brought a pocket knife to class and threatened to slice me when we got partnered for some group project if I didn’t go along with what he wanted. Let’s just add insult to injury. I’ve also been put into a pretty painful headlock that just about made me pass out. My throat hurt for a freaking week and I had vocal fry for a while. I was pretty nervous about my throat for a while. So, here, have fun. This was me dealing with middle school.
- siad – they
- ta a fhios agam – I know
- go nimhneach ~ ow (hurts)
Info dumping as a melancholic coping mechanism and to give a breather between the rollercoast set of scenes. Also to make up for the fact the next 4 chapters are pretty much a bunch of intimacy and me working through what intimacy looks like to me.
This one came about because I was in the midst of a set of research papers on the Pacific theater, the Boxer rebellion, and a couple other wars that took place in and around China. So, I went all predictive pattern analysis for a bit.
Yes. Still trying to figure out romance and intimacy and how the whole thing works. I feel like you’re probably getting tired of that analysis. I needed in these chapters to acknowledge that I had a past and going into a new relationship meant facing a bunch of fears again. That things could go in directions I couldn’t predict.
- conas ata tu – how are you
- te – hot
- Dijete – child
- tog go bog e – take it easy (I’m sorry)
- ta tu go halainn – you are beautiful (Yeller keeps saying this because I have a firm belief that any gender can be beautiful and should be told such)
- ta tu ar cheann chun labhait leis – You’re one to talk
- go reidh, le de thoil ~ I’m ready, please.
- Ni feidir liom irracht a dheanamh ach. Anail, mo ghra. – I can only try. Breath, my love.
Okay. So, why did I think this was necessary? I could have left this scene out. Could have. But I left it in. Why?
Romance novels can really get under my skin. Just because a couple are intimate once doesn’t mean you’re fixed. It doesn’t make the whole world perfect. This was me having that conversation. The one that acknowledges that people can say yes and still have flashback. That some things will trigger. That sometimes you go along with doing things and say yes when you feel obligated, even if you aren’t entirely sure of a situation. That sometimes intimacy isn’t perfect, it can be messy and difficult. I could have faded to black on this, but that wasn’t the message I was trying to make. I wanted to point out that saying yes doesn’t always mean consent. Consent can only be given if there is a safe option of no.
Thing is, Cashia would have taken no. It’s how I wrote his character. This was that moment of pointing out that even if no is safe, sometimes the partner who says yes may not be in the mental position to feel like they can say no because they are internalizing a bunch of crap about themselves. To that person, in that moment, because of how their mind is working, no isn’t the option.
Too many romance novels gloss over this fact. That people will go along with things because they feel obligated. It takes a long time for people to be okay with saying no to lunch with family, to saying no to a party, to saying no when a coworker tries to fob their duties off on you. When a partner asks. When its safe to say no and it won’t upset anyone. They’ll still say yes. This isn’t healthy, and yet we do it.
Okay, this I did up shortly after a trip to Dallas. Jeez, that city is huge. I ditched my manuscript for a good eight or nine months and turned over to writing Fyskar as a webcomic and Subject15 clicked into place at about the same time. I dived on those two books and got them written in that same span of time. This freed up some of my expectations for Subgalaxia. Long road trips give you thinking time.
I came back to Polaris Skies, sat down, and asked myself what I needed to do to resolve what I had done to my characters and why I couldn’t just delete that scene and move on.
I wanted them to acknowledge the interaction. To not brush it off and act like everything was fine. I wanted resolution. I wanted them to talk and really be open about what had happened. For Nat to admit that he recognized that he had issues that he wanted to address. I wanted to recognize that I had some dark spots in my history that I needed to come to terms with.
I don’t think there’s much to discuss by way of symbolism here. Slow, calm, explanations. Things Nat needed. That relationships are dependent on people communicating. That people can still be uncomfortable doing some things in a relationship. That it’s still messy, even with the best of intentions. That actions and words and a frame of mind can help start building a foundation, but that happily ever after isn’t automatic. That its work, perpetual and changing and all parties involved need to be willing to be a part of that work.
Hey look, I can actually not write intimate scenes, what a concept. No wait, this one is a ton of protective emotions. And we learn a bit more depth about the Glendwellers, the Bai, and the fact that Nat is psychic.
Uh…don’t hate me. Go read Subgalaxia, I promise everything is okay.
I am a writer and artist working through the Kavordian Library series. I write sci-fi, fantasy, lgbt romance.