Thursday, December 30, 2010

Revising ProjU, part IV + ProjU Art, part I

Art feature! Today I've only worked on scenes set in the country Massif Central (located in the Massif Central of France), so I'll feature art of characters from that country (and my lone sketch of a kid from the Alpine Kingdom).

These first pictures were drawn I think in November-December of 2009. The left side shows the character in the world of ProjU, and the right in a more advanced setting, the setting that I first had them in when I was a fourth grader trying to draw a manga series.
Bone Maron started out as the main character of that manga series and is based off the personality one of my friends gave to his toy cubone. Bone is hard-working, strong, and a natural leader, but this leads him to take a lot of responsibility for himself and blame himself when he can't protect his friends.
Her last name is actually just "Zucca" now. It's a joke because she's based off the a toy that my friend (same friend as above) had, which was a cat standing on a pumpkin. If you can see, in the picture on the right she has three ponytails. She's pretty and popular, but inside she's really quite weak.
To break for a moment from the series, this is her again. Yes, her original first name was Gattina, but I realized how silly that was and changed it. Now, back to the series.
I have a lot of art of this young lady pssh lady? HahahaNO, even though she's not really that important. Her name is now Ranna Sade, but she gets to keep the nickname of Rat because my friend from above had a toy rat. Really, she's an unpleasant person, but she has a lot of family/personality issues that she needs to work through.
This piece is from a long time ago. She's not actually this cute-looking...and as I said, she's not Japanese anymore. Or, well, she does have some Japanese blood, but why would she still have a Japanese name after 1,500 years of her family living in France?
This is what she actually looks like. But she wouldn't let a rat sit on her shoulders, she'd probably flip out and burn the poor thing. Hm, looking at this makes me want to draw more stuff with the 2B pencil I used to do this.Last but...all right, least. Wilson Smith is a nice guy, he likes plants, and there's not too much else to him. Really, there isn't. I guess his normalness could make him a foil for, say, Rat and Bone. Maybe even for Gina.
Nevermind, Wilson's not last. I almost forgot about Otis - "Oats," he prefers to be called. He's from the Alpine Kingdom, and a throat infection when he was very young has made him mute. He communicates with hand gestures. Also, he's very smart, but also naive - which makes sense, as he is only twenty-five seasons old (they measure their age in seasons).

Okay, back to writing now. I combined ch. 4 with part of ch. 5 so the new ch. 5 is more cohesive.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Archives

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Revising ProjU, part III

All I got done today was reading over what I have so far. Probably not the best of ideas, but it's the next-best after actually working on revisions.

And the art feature is coming, but since it'll take a while (I have a lot of ProjU art) I'll wait until I can sink that kind of time without feeling guilty. It's not like anyone's actually waiting for it, anyways.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Revising ProjU, part II

I am making some headway. "Some" meaning I'm on page 20 of a 366 page novel. You know, I'm starting to think that my estimates for how long this would take were way off.

I'm taking a little time off because the scene I'm working on is...well, it's a bother. Two scenes full of plot-irrelevant fighting/training which together almost make 5000 words. Most of those, however, are trash and so I'll be happy to settle for 2000 good words that introduce three characters that will be important later and an event that will have significance for another character way down the line.  Quality over quantity and gratuitous fight scenes suck, that's my lesson for the day.

A lot of characters have changed a lot since their first appearance, so I'm working to keep things consistent - but not too consistent, because characters need room to grow.

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?  No, because names matter. After renaming, I can take the characters more seriously.  A sampling of the improvements:

Formerly-France (really early on) -> Forfra (for the majority of the story) -> Massif (Massif Central)

Louis Lobolinsky + Lois Blitzkrag (so cheesy)-> Lazar Lobolinsky + Annika Blitz

Kuroko Takeda (why is there a Japanese name in France after 1,500 years?) -> Ranna Sade

Jack Pell -> Janek Pell (I have another character [storyless] who has a stronger claim to the name "Jack")

Vegas Agua -> Valerie Abascal

Much better!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Revising Project Utopia

What is the problem with improving a lot?

Writing from three years ago looks really, really bad.  "Open fist"? Really?

The horrendously tin-eared dialogue is begging me to rescue it.

I've cut or condensed a lot of scenes that ramble on and on and don't DO anything.

An astonishing amount of scenes are told in fly-on-the-wall (there's probably a more literary term), with no commitment to any one POV character, thus rendering them entirely soulless and bland.

I will play hackey-sack with the current timeline so seasons do not last for half a year.

I'm writing a lot of new scenes completely from scratch because there were characters that I created later on that ended up being way more important than ones that I focused on in these earliest chapters.

Difficulties aside, this really is a lot of fun. It's as though I threw down a lot of paints and now I'm painting over what I don't like and bringing out more of what I do.

And a note: There's this one scene very late in the story - the closing scene to chapter twenty-four, actually - that I've reread at least three times by now which makes me think, hey, maybe I'm not a horrible writer after all. It's scenes like that that keep me going through the "open fist"s and terrible, terrible soap-boxing.

Maybe I'll do a feature of ProjU art later on. There certainly is a lot of it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

One-Word Prompt

Revanche: revenge, or political policy to regain lost land/standing.  Hm, I thought.  This looks promising.  But then I started getting off topic and writing about an unnamed member of the Order of the Dark Storm bleeding to death in an alleyway and thinking about his life. Maybe that idea needs a little longer to be explored.

Ahimsa: to do no injury.  Hey, look, five contradicting ideas.

Apopemptic: sung or addressed to one departing.  Ah-ha.

Apopemptic

Just go. Turn around, and run, because that’s all you’re good for. That’s all you’ve ever been good for, and I don’t expect that will change now when I need you.

Never mind that all I’ve done is be here for you. Never mind that you’ve relied on me for everything.

Do you expect me to stand here like a wall? I am not here just for you to lean on. Someday, I’m going to get tired of this and I’m going to turn, and I’m going to walk, and I’m going to be so much happier for it.

Then you’ll be the one watching me leave.

Winter Break + Ode

Finals week is over; I have a few weeks in which I will catch up on sleep, get a head start on an English project, draw, and, most importantly, begin my surface revisions of Project Utopia. It's been a pretty difficult four months being unable to work on it.

I don't think I've uploaded a piece I wrote for a dA group contest, even though I finished it a while ago. I did, I just forgot. Some information below.

Part of the inspiration was from my anger at how I drifted away from a friend; part of it was from the experiences of one of my characters from another story, given the working title "Shadow Fissure." I drew some sketches of the main characters, but I'm using a different computer from normal so I can't upload them here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Quietly Going Completely Mad

My mind will not settle.

One of my friends says that she saw something that greatly troubles me, and I haven't been able to get a hold of the person it involves.

I feel too cold, and then I feel too warm.

My back door was open when I got home today, and a badly placed mirror keeps reflecting light from a window.

Everything feels scattered. I close my eyes and I see myself sitting in the middle of a pile of papers flying in all directions, and the sky is overcast and I'm laughing.

What is wrong with me?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chapter Three

I have the feeling that this will be the last finished chapter for "Iris" for a while. For one, next week is dead week and then the week after that is finals, so I'll be studying more than writing. Then, with the start of winter break, I'm going to be working on reading through ProjU and doing my surface revisions so I can email it to my patient friends and get their feedback, hopefully.

Somehow I don't feel that guilty for putting "Iris" on the back burner. I don't know - I've been in a writing slump since...well, if I'm honest, since the end of chapter one. However, this last chapter went by pretty well, so I am once again letting myself hope to finish this story.

Got to do some homework now.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Notes on Image Types

I upload a lot of images onto the interwebz, both on this blog and on my deviantART account.  I've found that not all image types are created equal.

To avoid: JPEG and BMP.   I know JPEGs are standard, but they take up too much space and look really fuzzy.  BMPs are worse - they too are overlarge, and furthermore they have limited color quality.

TIF: this has been my default for quite some time, given the clean picture quality, but you can't upload TIFs onto Blogger.

The best image type?  PNG.  These take up less space than TIFs and are more versatile. I can't edit them (i.e. cropping) on my computer in this format, but it's not hard to change it to a TIF and then back when the picture has been finalized.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why the Sea is Salty


Und der Haifisch der hat Tränen
Und die laufen vom Gesicht
Doch der Haifisch lebt im Wasser
so die Tränen sieht man nicht

In der Tiefe ist es einsam
Und so manche Zähre fließt
Und so kommt es dass das Wasser
in den Meeren salzig ist

And the shark, it has tears
And they run down its face
But the shark lives in the water
so no one sees the tears

In the depths it is lonely
And so many a tear flows
And that is why the water
in the seas is salty”

-"Haifisch" by Rammstein

(translations from Herzeleid)

Also found on deviantART.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I Feel Like the Prodigal

I got 673 words down on "Iris" today! Now, in my ProjU days, that would have been laughable, but I'll take what I can get. Even after three months, "Iris" feels like a very new project. I've been feeling ridiculously uninspired by it, writing in fits and starts. Not all the blame lies on my busier high school schedule: I haven't managed my time effectively.

You know, I just haven't been writing very much at all recently. My journal entries were always brief, but lately I've even been leaving out the descriptions of the people who annoy me. Yesterday, however, I wrote a short piece for a deviantART prompt "If Only." It's a rather emotion-based piece, which I always have trouble with, but I combined my experiences with those of a character in a still-developing story and produced this.

Ode to Someone Who Forgot Me

Sometimes, I really hate you. I see you smiling and laughing and perfectly fine, standing around with your new friends who can see you every day but can't see what you were before I lost you.

Except I haven't really lost you, have I, because technically, technically, I could just go up to you and say hello and maybe you'd say it back to me. Except, then what would we say?

"I miss you." Too forward. Some days, the days when I hate you, I think you've forgotten who I am. You forgot my last name, didn't you, that one time two years ago? I think I walked home that day in a shock. I was catatonic, and I knew that you didn't miss me.

"How has your life been since you left me behind?" I've shown more weakness to you than to almost anyone else, and though you haven't turned around and stabbed me where it hurts, you've done something that, in a way, is worse. You've taken this piece of me, rough around the edges and unpleasant to look at, and you've tucked it away without another thought.

And yes, that does hurt. How do you think pictures feel when they're taken off the wall and set aside behind some too-large cabinet to snatch the dust from the air? Nothing, that's what, because they're just pictures and they lack the blood vessels and nerves that I have. They lack the ability to feel.

Sometimes, I envy them for that.

"Did you know that I loved you?" Because I did, and sometimes I think I still do. You'll smile, even if not at me, and my breath will stop. I'm sure my heart stops too, so I turn away because I don't want to die and I don't want to see who you're smiling at instead.

"I get so insanely jealous over you." But why? You're not mine; you haven't been for at least three years – probably longer than that. I can't own you, I can't hold you down, I can't catch you so I just stop and watch you run off into the distance with what we used to be, until you couldn't hear what I have to say even if I screamed it.

I need to get over you.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Guilt

I haven't worked on "Iris" since Thursday of last week. I haven't worked seriously on it since a lot longer than that.

What is wrong with me? I've actually thought about ending this story a couple of times, but I know I can write a novel since I did it with ProjU, and then I remember how a couple of times in chapter one I felt the magic of a fantasy story. But then, magic has become such an overused word. It has lost the mystery that it was so imbued with when I was a third grader and is now just cheap. It's tasteless. I can't stand looking at it.

Time for an analysis: what did ProjU have? Characters (lots of them) who interested me, pain, death, anger, power, bad things happening to good people, bad things happening to bad people.

"Iris" was supposed to be lighter than ProjU, and its setting does not lend itself to waves of characters dying off horribly. But I think that what I may do is offer a sacrificial lamb until I can figure out a way to raise the stakes in my stories without loading on the melodrama of a life.

Iris, the character, is whiny and spineless. Good thing I have Irina, but her intense "right and wrong" radar is intimidating. I may end up writing some scenes from Farrokh's point of view since I identify with him the most. Wait. Rotating perspective? Character death? Where have I seen this before?

I guess I was wrong. I thought I learned how to write a novel, but all I learned was how to write Project Utopia.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quasiland New Style

Warning to all my characters: you may be a guinea pig for a new style of drawing.

First victim: Quasiland.
Princess Art talking to the messenger fairy Carine. There's a lot of Art in the following art because my best friend, upon whom Art is based, had her birthday recently.

She's a very kind person. See, look, here she's teaching me (Sera) how to read. Honestly, though, I think the technique on this picture is worse than on the others.

Likewise this one, though after careful consideration the cleric costume isn't as bad as I'd thought it was. At least the irl Art liked it.

Here I am again, in both my Quasiland incarnations (who hate each other). I had another sketch of Evan showing him more sympathetically, but I decided it was too srsbsns for this drawing style. The Rammstein song "Haifisch" is seriously the perfect song for him.
Finally, to make up for the ill-will of the last picture, we have Princess Art and her fiance by arranged marriage, Prince Orion (nickname Orio). This is probably the cutest of the bunch.

I suppose I have to get back to work on my Of Mice and Men essay now. I'm not stuck through lack of ideas - I'm stuck through lack of ways to keep the essay cohesive. Oh, gossamer-thoughts, will you not return to me?

...now I'm just dawdling.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

E is for Euphonium

Etymology of euphonium: the Greek word euphonos, which means "of good sound."

I'd say so.



Why am I mentioning this? Next semester I'm going to be switching from flute to euphonium. Upper woodwind player going to lower brass? When said woodwind player has barely even touched a brass instrument? We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

6 Advantages to being a Polyglot

1. It makes you (seem) smarter.

2. You can listen in on conversations.

3. You can mutter to yourself (and others) and lower the risk of people knowing what you're saying.

4. Grammar makes more sense: split infinitives are wrong because in many languages the infinitive is one word.

5. You can figure out the meanings of words.

6. You can appreciate the way languages fit together.

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo

I'm not doing it. I've thought about it, debated a little, but...no. My current WIPs are not in a place where I can really NaNoWriMo them.

Then, also, there is the method. 50,000 words in a month sounds very, very enticing, but I have other obligations. Can I afford to carve out two or so hours of writing each and every day? I wish.

Maybe some other time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One Word Prompts

Using the Random Word Generator (plus) (with the word complexity set to "obscure"), I wrote some snippets in a more flowy style. Enjoy.

--Anagasta

She was not one for butterflies. To others, they may have represented rebirth, or transformation, or light, or the soul. To her, they were simply pretty things. Something about their colorful fluttering seemed altogether too transient.

Moths, however…

They were like her, weren’t they? Unselfconsciously ugly, though some may have credited them with a rough-edged and plain handsomeness. And their determination she admired, guiding always, always to the light.

--Laniary

It was a simple fact, one that he had never even thought to question: he was made to destroy.

Specifically, to butcher.

More specifically? To butcher minds.

That one day when he was walking home with the girl he was courting – what was her name? It had been years – and a man swathed in black cloth jumped out at them, and he held out his hands and, motivated by some strange instinct, grabbed the robber’s head…that had been his awakening.

The man had fallen to the ground, screaming and begging him to stop, stop the nightmares! I want to be real! And that was all right – more than all right.

The girl ran away, sobbing in fear at the boy she had once thought to marry, but that was all right, too. He had found a new love, and its name he would never forget.

Power.

--Epeirogeny

Underneath the earth’s crust, a woman was singing. She was made of hot gases and magma, and her voice was the hissing of the settling cracks of the earth. Her song wound its way along a seam, and gently tickled the ear of a beast that had been sleeping for Always and Before.

There were no words, just a rumbling and a groaning as the beast shifted its smoking scales. Its eyes, an unbelievable color unseeable by other creatures, opened with the whisper of Eternities.

The soft sweet curve of the woman’s smile was echoed by the hard sharp curve of the beast’s back as it stretched, working out the places where its joints had melted in smooth. Fractures ran down all across the beast’s flanks, but it gave no notice as it arched and twisted and let out a sigh.

Above, the land sloshed to and fro; the towers toppled like little twigs; the ground twisted and swayed; the screams of lesser beasts filled the choking air –

And everything was Fire.

--

I've written better, but that was interesting.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Quasiland

What is Quasiland?

Quasiland is a question mark-shaped country with a singular tradition: when the heir to the throne turns sixteen, he/she will take the reins of the country for one year.  Crown Princess Artemisia's "Ruling Year" is coming up - what could possibly go wrong?

--

Pictures of major characters:

Princess Artemisia



Cleric Princess Artemisia of Quasiland. A very responsible and reasonable young woman who constantly has to deal with the antics of her friends and the problems in her country. Would rather just be called Art.

Note that "cleric" is used in the Maple Story way - someone with healing/holy powers. These are represented by the wings.

Iki Midnight



Iki Midnight, keeper of dragons (in peace and war) and court jester. She excels at both, while I do not excel at perspective.

Sera



Woodcutter's daughter, very loyal, but quite violent when she needs to be. She's illiterate, but Art is working on that. She's also unemotional and oblivious to stuff that everyone else can see (namely, that the Princess Art is in no way angry about her arranged marriage to Prince Orion of Enouras), but nothing's going to change that soon.

Evan Squall


Read on to find out what his deal is.

--

Dare

Moved here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

La Vita e' Bella

Or "Life if Beautiful". A really great Italian film that combines humor and seriousness perfectly.

Premise: A hilarious but financially challenged Italian Jew named Guido goes to the town Arezzo and falls in love with a teacher who comes from a rich family. Right before WWII.

Different elements of the story intersect in surprising and funny ways.  For example, a horse painted green with the words "Achtung! Cavallo ebreo" on it (cavallo ebreo = Jewish horse) gets ridden straight through an engagement party.

Some parts are pretty sentimental, but it's highly recommended.  If you're a crier, bring tissue.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sketches

Project Utopia:



1. Silviu Mesui. A serious guy.

2. Saline. A favorite of mine. He's fun to color.

3. Otis "Oats" Studebaker. Mute genius.

4. Madge Lobolinskaya. These pictures are not from the world of ProjU.

5. Steering devices used for some boats in the story. Used to get around my lack of knowledge of seafaring vessels.

6. Jodet Sienna. Smart, pretends to be nice, really a jerk.

7. Gina della Zucca. This also isn't in the ProjU setting. Pretty, popular, perishes.

I'll feature finished pieces over winter break, when I start revising.

Other:



1. Irina Rybakova.

2. A fencer. Drawn in under a minute just for kicks. The writing says "On guard, ready, FENCE!"

3. Anastasia. A princess and warrior enjoying the breeze.  Not sure what her story is.

4. My cat.

5. Evan Squall, a Knight of the Dark Storm. I like his coloration and probably will get around to putting up the short story I wrote about him soon.

Monday, October 4, 2010

An Assortment

Some things that inspire:

I can't work without music.  These are three of my current favorite songs:

-"Amour" (Rammstein)
-"E Fuori e' Buio" (Tiziano Ferro)
-"The Walk" (Imogene Heap).

The book Characters and Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card (author of Ender's Game), makes me twitchy with desire to write. It's part of a series, Elements of Fiction Writing, which fluctuates in quality from book to book.  This and the Description one are the best of the ones I've read.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Short Guide to In-Class Essays

I don't like in-class essays. I tend to pour hours into my work, and that's not possible in the 50-odd minutes we have of class.

So how to write something decent in a short time period?

Know your own writing habits. My first drafts sprawl everywhere, so when presented with a list of prompts it would make the most sense for me to choose the prompt with the narrowest focus.

Make an outline. I don't mean the kind with Roman numerals and numbers and capital letters and etc.  Those can be useful for a research report, but with a short time period it's better not to have something so unwieldy.  A more efficient method is to write down the requisite number of points you want to cover, then provide a couple of examples for each.  This step is best done beforehand, if possible.

Pace yourself. Everyone writes differently, so I'm not going to prescribe a set proportion of time you should dedicate to introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion, but I like to leave myself five to ten minutes before the end of class to read what I've written.

And that's important - read everything over at the end.  Mostly this is a psychological thing - "tying up loose ends" or what have you, but I've also caught some grammar/spelling mistakes this way.  Since my handwriting is terrible, this is also when I fix that.

I now have some pointers for essay writing in general.

Friday, September 17, 2010

You Should Breathe Ink

http://breatheink.proboards.com/index.cgi

This is a writing site that I joined recently. There are very few members currently, but anyone who is interested in writing should check it out. We are all very nice there, and just reading about other people's projects is quite inspiring.

EDIT: The site has now been shut down.  :(

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Iris

Irina Rybakova, after dying, finds herself in the Land of Flowers, an afterlife ruled by the King and Queen of Flowers. When a living girl, Iris Teichmann, digs up valuable "power stones," Irina and other spirits are sent back to Earth to retrieve them. But Irina has other plans for the power stones - revolutionary plans.

Irina Rybakova was 34 years old when she was killed.

As a child, she had been part of the Orthodox Church, trotting every Sunday through the snow to the onion-topped church to listen sleepily to the sermons. As an adult, though, the baptism water had evaporated and she followed no religion. So on the day she died, she had no clear idea of what she was expecting from heaven. Whatever it was, it certainly was not what she got.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What Next?

Project Utopia is done, and now I'm facing a blank white wall with two words on it:

What next?

I have lots and lots of story ideas, which I will refer to by their working titles.

Iris, which I have done the most research for recently but which still has a really weak main plot (honestly, the supporting plot is way more interesting. Maybe I should switch it so that it's mostly from Iris sibirica's POV, or maybe albicans [though honestly, I should change that to persica]). I might start in on this one next - but it's the most obvious choice, so I'm going to reserve judgment on this.

The fairy-tale based story has maybe the next most planning - I've even got the first few scenes down, but mein Gott the main character annoys me. I cannot get excited about that particular story.

I've also got a massive idea for a story that's a melting pot including several concepts and the setting of my third-grade recess time. Of course, this will require me to make a map of said setting, find some plausible way of incorporating all the various threads, and hash out various background details. And though I'm smiling just thinking about it, the amount of work is quite daunting, and I want to get to writing.

Then there are my million urban fantasy stories. (Just kidding; there are only seven.) I actually have a good idea for one of them, to have it be set in a California where Mexico won the Mexican-American war. But argh, research! This one strikes a chord with me - and not an ugly out-of-tune chord, either.

My worldbuilding-experiment has failed, but I'd like to go back to the drawing board on this one and see what I can salvage. I did not cover the highlights of a hundred-odd years of history to throw it all away.

I'm going to wait on one story I'm thinking about set in the same world of the fairy-tale story, but in the "Italy" - specifically, a powerful city-state based kind-of-sort-of-not-really on Florence. While I have (finally) created some characters that I like (or, rather, scavenged them from a manga I tried to start in fourth grade), I think I need to do lots of more research, so I'll leave it to build up some more before taking it on.

Giant worms? I've got some country names and pronunciation/spelling idiosyncrasies already plotted out, a handful of characters, and hey, look, no plot at all.

For the time being, I'm probably going to write short stories with weak plot/worldbuilding set in Quasiland, a question mark shaped country run by teenage girls, just to give myself some time to figure things out with the iris project.

I'm also making myself wait before reading through Project Utopia. Honestly, I need a break from that - which, coincidentally, is why I'm not jumping straight into book two.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Five

I'm done.

I'm done.

By food, I'm done.

It's very hard right now to keep my excitement inside, but somehow I'm doing it. I wonder if I'm feeling emotional enough to cry. Maybe, maybe not.

Don't expect anything coherent from me right now.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Four

With this, I officially have only one (super-short) chapter to go in my utopia project. I'm thinking that for an actual title, I could just switch those words around and call it "Project Utopia." Not too much of a spoiler, and I like the ring. What would the second and third books be called? I want to incorporate other synonyms for Paradise. Surviving Arcady for book two? [a word] Elysium for book three? No idea.

Anyways, about this past chapter. The first two scenes proceeded more or less on schedule, but at the end of scene 105 I moved and didn't have access to the computer for a while. I think I finished that scene, the second of this chapter's three, in a 2-hour spree wherein I spewed out ~1,800 words. The last scene of the chapter was quite fun to write, because I got to write about my favorite of the crazy genius trinity from the point of view of another character I like.

Through a combination of factors, I did not run into too many emotion problems while writing. In scene 104 I think I handled the feelings of the characters fairly well; in 105, the viewpoint character was removed from the major personality clashes anyways; and in 106, I...all right, I can't write elation that well.

Other issues: I feel as though I overuse the words "now" and "so." And I've well and truly run out of ways to describe the ocean. Thankfully, I haven't had need to write "a smile tore across his/her face" in several chapters. I think I describe eyes and faces too much. Then there are interjections. Since religion has no bearing on the story, I can't have any characters saying, "Oh my God" or "Holy -" (I don't permit any swear words worse than damn or hell, either). My favorite of my made-up curses is "By food!"

More colloquialisms that I like: "lamer than a Light Sector veteran." "The crops don't grow at your command." That's pretty much it, though I have a few lines of a Water folk song.

This next chapter will be the last one. By food!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Strangest Things Inspire Me

For my Utopia Project, it's maps. Especially geographic maps of Europe, because that's where the action starts out. This is mostly out of a desire to worldbuild.

For the story that's coming after the utopia project, the one about Iris spirits, it's looking at houses with interesting architecture.

Looking at the weaponry section of The Grammar of Warfare makes me want to draw. So does staring at my sister's colored pencils. As does reading Talking With Artists (there's a volume number, but I do not remember it). And watching Soul Eater.

...I should get to work on the Utopia Project now.

UPDATE: 1,666 words.  Yay!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapters are getting shorter as the end draws nearer. 12,212 words, over a thousand less than last time.

What have I learned this time?

Writing emotion is not my strong suit, as I feel I've said every time. If a person does something that goes completely against her moral code, then why doesn't she read as guilty? At the end of the scene, circumstance exonerates the guilt, but no change is apparent. Note to self for when I revise: fix this.

I keep forgetting where things go, physically. Chekhov said, "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it." I would like to add this: "One must not put a knife on the stage if it will disappear later on."

I did not particularly want to dwell on scenes 101 and 103, and it shows. Especially for 101, my message feels all over the place.

In all, I did not really like any part of this chapter in particular - except that one confrontation at the end of 102.  The first version made a very confident guy into a pushover, so I rewrote it to give him back his dignity.  If a scene feels wrong, change it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cheap Books and Jokes

Don't you love libraries?  Today, my town's public library had a book sale at insane (and wonderful) prices. The most expensive book I got, a massive volume about Renaissance Italy, was $3. All the rest were either 50 cents or $1. I decided against getting a gigantic book about medieval warfare, though. Should I regret that?

Oh yeah, and it was interesting to read Amerika while listening to "Amerika." (Former by Franz Kafka, latter by Rammstein).

Friday, July 9, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Two

When you stick a girl in front of the computer for 4-5 hours a day, miracles (and procrastination) happen.  Namely, a 13,919-word chapter (longest!) in half the time as the previous one.

I think it is one of my better chapters, as well. At the very least, it was fun to do my customary read-through at the end. Most of scene 96 was written in a mental explosion in the hours after a pretty fun block party.  I was in "the zone."  Scene 99, though, was certainly my favorite. It involved two of my favorite characters and an idea that I got for them a long time ago.

But there are still problems. My perennial enemy, writing emotion, plagued me this chapter just as it always has. How do you build up and then crush hope?

Scene 97 has a subtle pun that plays off two characters' names, but "subtle" in this case may really an-inside-joke-I-have-with-myself.  Note to self: it's not funny if you're the only one who gets it.

Events in scene 98 have justification, but I haven't laid the groundwork for that in earlier scenes. Note to self when I go back to revise: make sure to write in clearer examples of X character trait.

On the I'm bliiiiiind bright side, I have the rest of the book planned out. Three more chapters should do it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chapter Twenty-One

13,635 words - my longest chapter so far. I think it has turned out pretty well. With this chapter, the first half of my second main plot arc is completed. If I keep a consistent pace, then I should finish in four or five chapters.

But there are still many issues I need to deal with. Again, emotion. Scene 95 was the closest I got to crying in this entire project, but why doesn't it reach up out of the screen and throttle me with everything my characters are feeling? They get hit with a proverbial sledgehammer to the stomach; even if the POV character has some emotion-suppressing issues, she should have a reaction.

I get what I write, but there were at least three lines that I just had to delete because they wouldn't make sense to anyone else. You are your own brand of crazy. Clarity is essential to exporting it to everyone else.

I think I actually did a decent job of pacing it this time. Wow, that never happens to me.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure how I did it.

Lastly, I'm starting to get the sinking feeling that my story is unpublishable. POV changes every scene, the eight distinct plot threads at the start have just multiplied as the story goes along, and all those characters. I myself need an excel spreadsheet just to remember basic information.

Still, even if this won't ever land on an editor's desk, my writing is definitely getting better because of this story. For me, publication isn't the main goal. I'm just here to write.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Paint Chips

I would take paint chips
From the shelves of Home Depot
And arrange them

By color, worried
at different shades green, for
Seafoam and olive

Should not be neighbors
And what about the colors
Not in the rainbow?

What of brown and black?
Eventually I learned
To group them by their

Numbers, but that made
The paint chips lose their magic.
Strangely, now when I

Go to Home Depot
I touch the paint chips and I
Get a paper cut.

Blue-Eyes

Your eyes are stars, supernovae
But like black holes they pull me in

And implosions happen when I see you
Which is good because explosions

Are messy like finger-paint
And if I were five

I would choose my bluest crayon
To draw your eyes

Except they would be too round
And I would think of Neptune

Discovered by calculations
Existing as speculation before being found

A Roman god, a knockoff Poseidon
But that just isn’t you

Tell me what you mean
Tell me who you are

And, actually, I don’t even know
What kind of blue your eyes are

Blue like ocean under sun or
Blue like blood under skin

Because I keep forgetting
Even when I remember to look

For the black hole swallows even light
And under those bright supernovae

Color doesn’t really matter
Does it, blue-eyes?

--

Used to have "Paint Chips." That has been moved to its own post.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reading

Dear School System,

Summer reading is supposed to encourage a love of literature.  However, taking notes on a book while reading it is a tiresome experience, and greatly detracts from the reading. Also, I am lazy and do not want to do this.

Sincerely,
EAL

Regarding reading in general: Every since piece of writing advice I get seems to start with, "Read a lot." It is good advice, because reading increases your vocabulary; equally important, only through reading can I find out what works and what doesn't work in writing. Only through reading can I find something to which I must aspire.

On the other hand, sometimes the books I'm reading steal time away from the book I'm writing. This is especially true because I'm trying to incorporate more nonfiction into my reading diet (nonfiction books take me a lot longer than fiction does). Recently, I finished Collapse, by Jared Diamond. Great book, but a with average print size and fewer than 600 pages a book should not take me week.

Despite the time conflicts, though, my reading and my writing have a symbiotic relationship. Mutualism, you could say. My writing benefits from my reading - that's a given - but, less obviously my reading benefits from my writing. My appetite for nonfiction mostly stems from my writing project, which for convenience I will refer to as the Utopia-project from now on, and nonfiction has led me to some very interesting books.

Virtuous cycle, no?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Break

Work on chapter 21 has been going a lot slower than for the other chapters because for about a week I was tied up in a scene that I was trying to force to go one way when it really wanted to go another way. Well, I've learned my lesson: bow to the story.

Rough beginning aside, it has been one of my favorite scenes to write. I can get into the viewpoint character's head pretty easily (he's crazy.  This bodes ill for my own sanity) and after I decided on the more in-character route, the writing came - not easily, but well. It ended up as a rather dark scene and I hope I have done it justice.

Worries: Perhaps 93 and 95 will be too similar.  The flow can get pretty off. Scenes are too self-contained; chapter divisions are mostly arbitrary.

To celebrate: In my current format, I should hit page 300 sometime late this week or early next week. In three chapters or so, I might get to 200,000 words, meaning I'll need to do lots and lots of condensing. But, and I feel like I'm repeating myself, all I need to do for now is just write.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Just When You Think You're Done...

"Edit" is too soft a word for the work I needed to do on my essay. "Surgery" would be better. I moved an entire point from one paragraph to another, tore up my conclusion and put it back together in a newly improved version. And yes, it was fun, but I had better get a good grade on that essay.

In my story, I wrote about 700 words yesterday but I need to rewrite maybe the last 100 because the viewpoint character would not have reacted like she did. I'm not entirely sure where this scene will go, but I have an idea - and I'm going to stop writing this post now because I want to get to writing that story.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Progress

Chapter Twenty of my crazy story is done, at 13,396 words in three scenes. Temporally, this chapter was quick - it took just over a month to write, in fact. But in some ways it dragged on. For example, the second scene (scene 90) was one of the most difficult to write in this entire project. Scene 91 was not easy, either, but it was really fun to write and I got some nice imagery in there.

Problems?  Yes.

Pacing: I feel that some parts should be elongated and some parts condensed. When I'm reading a book, I can tell when the pacing is bad, but I've never taken notes on when it's done right. I should start keeping track of what I can learn from the books that I love.

Emotion: Mein Gott. How is it that I am so bad at this? Maybe it's because I don't get emotional very often and I've never experienced anything like what I'm putting my characters through - but that's what empathy is for, so I'm not using that excuse.

In scene 89 one guy is supposed to completely snap, but I don't think I built up to it well - in pacing or in emotion. Scene 90 has one character receive a figurative slap to the face. She doesn't read as shell-shocked. My only "emotion" success story is scene 91, when the deterioration of a friendship is actually done fairly well, if I may say so.

I really need to figure this one out if I ever want my books to feel human. All the writing advice I see says to "put yourself into your stories," but what if there isn't anything to put in?

Oh, yes - I'm finally done revising my language arts essay. It actually isn't as bad as I thought it was - or rather, it became less bad after I threw an hour of editing at it. I'd like to think that I've a talent for fiction, but for essays and nonfiction the A's are won with lots of work.

I could probably go on, but after reading some articles on the Holly Lisle site, I am excited to keep working on my novel.

Forza!
Los! Los! Los!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Something Wicked That Way Goes

Work on my insane story is progressing well - I'm up 46 kilobytes from the beginning of the month. I slogged through a scene that I didn't really want to write, and the one I'm working on right now is less pointless. Yet even so, I'm not really feeling the writing. What makes this scene stand out? Why is it important that I write this scene and not another?

I thought I had figured it out. But 3000+ words in, I'm still not sure what the heart of this scene is. And I need to know, or else I cannot reach in and yank it out.

But - and again things change - I have a better idea now. My book is dark. Death and betrayal are everywhere. A good character, one who I'm going to have to show more in earlier scenes to establish as sympathetic, is starting to go bad. His friend, whose POV this scene is from, is going to feel the brunt of his change.

So this scene is about a friendship souring. It's about how strong gravitates towards stronger, and how the weak are left behind. It's about ugliness. The ginormous sea snake is definitely not the only monster.

And isn't that what the whole book is about? It's about fear and hatred and danger and tragedy, if I can pull those off. Oh, there's a more positive moral waiting at the end of the road, but for now I'll have fun putting my characters through all sorts of hell.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Essay

Normally, I adore essays. I like the feeling of stitching sentences together and using reason. When I write a good conclusion, it is heaven. Revising my own essays is unbelievably rewarding.

However.

My current language arts (it'll be strange to call it "English" next year) essay says to compare my experiences/conflicts/traits with the main character from my reading novel. All right, good. So why is it so stupidly difficult to write this essay? We have a format - a strict format - to follow. There's a formula. Just plug the numbers in, right?

Of course it isn't like that. And yet - every new point seems like a reiteration of the old ones, I'm not even sure if I'm following the prompt correctly, what is the difference between a concrete detail and a commentary, why does the example essay use "this shows" and "this reveals" when those phrases are the equivalent of a wooden leg, are they supposed to be there just to get the actual writing going, how am I supposed to revise when I can't even think of a conclusion...

Then again, the last essay involved multiple hours of work. I can't expect to get this one done effortlessly. But honestly, I've had enough of it for today and I'd rather work on something that does not cause me pain.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Worldbuilding, Sort Of

I've been both a reader and writer since about first grade; since then, I've read tons of books, many fantasy. Something about that - though I am usually highly scornful of cliches, I do not mind medieval settings at all. I don't really care much about the lightly sketched cultures of some books I've read (not naming names because I can't think of any right now), about the inconsistencies that I'd surely find if I looked closer.

That's not a good thing.

As a writer of fantasy, I need to pay more attention to worldbuilding. My current project is let off the hook for now because it's set in the future (another setting that I worry will be cliched soon, what with Sleator's Test, the Hunger Games, and such), but with the ones that I have lined up fully half of them started out as medieval. One, since it's a fairy tale reworking, can stay. Another I'm doing serious worldbuilding in, and with names like "Adak Empire" and "Jepalefr" I don't think we'll be seeing any knights in shining armor.

The one about a society based on card suits may have to have Kings and Queens and Jacks, but I'd like to make it really outlandish if I can. Another one feels like it could be set in the present-day equivalent of a society with magic. Honestly, I have no idea on that last one. And then I have my urban fantasies, which I'm going to smash together into something. Steampunk or modern? I'm undecided on this one, too.

Something I'll probably have to watch out for is knowing what is necessary to "build" and what isn't. With the one I'm doing serious work on, I have about 10 countries/political entities that I have yet to plan out well enough, a couple hundred years to fill in on the timeline, and still no idea what the plot/characters are, and sometimes I'm actually scared to work on it because of no rational reason.

...which is why I'm glad I have my crazy story, which, it turns out, is actually the eye of the hurricane. Funny how things turn out, hm?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chapter Nineteen

...of my crazy story. It's done! Longer than 18 by a couple hundred words. I think I must have listened to "Ich Will" at least five times while writing the last scene. Good motivational music, that. Did anyone know that listening to music you like will help you concentrate?

Anyways. This has been a rather educational chapter. First of all, things go bad. A couple of people die/will die because of events in the scene. I'm worried that all my [spoiler] scenes are starting to feel repetitive, so for the next chapter I'll start out from the POV of someone in an entirely different situation. Crazy though it sounds, I think I may have to make up some new characters (you know, to add to the 100+ named that I already have?) because I have not written from [highly important location] since its people [spoiler event].

How else has chapter nineteen been informational? I've come to the definitive conclusion that I am not a strategist. Not in chess, I already knew that, but not in writing either. Meaning that when I finish and get around to revising this thing, I'll have tons of work to do. Worldbuilding, cultures (I can't wait to get the Dark Sector cultures rolling), plotting out the mainland path. The main storyline (read: the only one I've focused on thus far) needs some support from the WAR storyline, which has pretty much been neglected.

I've also learned that projecting my relationships to others onto my characters doesn't really work that well. After all, I've never conspired with another person to [spoiler], and I don't remember what it's like to have a hatred-rivalry with someone who actually is worthy of respect. And anyways, I'm not [spoiler]. It works better if I pretend to be the character and write some pages in first person from their POV before editing it back into third person.

There are still many things I need to work on:

-transitions. Mine are...quite sloppy. I got a comment about bad transitions on an essay I received back in school, actually.

-balancing characters. Also known as figuring out how people interact.

-coming up with original events in a closed system. I realized that scene 86 and 88 both had people react similarly to vaguely similar events. Happily, this particular example is partially justified in that they deal with two different views of rivalry.

-not overusing words/phrases. This is a big one for me.

-writing emotion. A guy thinks he might have killed someone else. The guilt/tension should hang over the rest of the scene like a cloud of flies around a carcass. It doesn't.

-move the story forwards in more than the chronological sense.

Hopefully I'll hit some really good fight scenes early next month. I can only imagine that writing about person A beating up on person B will be cathartic during STAR testing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Poetry

Recently, we've been looking at poetry in language arts class. I used to write a lot of poetry in fifth grade (most of it bad) and while I don't scorn it like some people I know do, my personal experience has lent me a certain perspective.

Couplets: I dislike this form. Two lines is too brief for me, except when it's not.

Freeverse poetry: this was my form of choice in elementary school. No rhyme scheme, no rhythm scheme - the latter point is what really annoys me nowadays. When there are no rules, it is easy for the quality to drop sharply. Half of my old poems make me wince because, when I read them, the awkwardness of sound is just that bad.

Haiku: these are pretty easy, but as with couplets I usually can't stuff an idea into seventeen syllables. In fifth grade I wrote a pretty good multistanza haiku about tapeworms. Related is the tanka, which is 5-7-5-7-7. I remember writing two as a starter in seventh grade history.

Sonnet: my introduction to this came in seventh grade language arts. To date, I've written two. One was a mashup of iambic pentameter lines about the Apocalypse; the other, which I like a lot, was written for algebra class and is about linear equations and math in general. Of all the forms, this is the one I'll most likely write if I decide to start writing poetry again.

As a whole, poetry is far from my favorite medium to write or read. Analyzing poetry in language arts is actually kind of fun, but I would not actively seek out poems on my own. Maybe it's because there are so many bad poems out there, full of affectations and dripping with saccharides that would make a dentist cry.

There are, however, some poems I really like. "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley. "Solitude" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (I wrote an essay about this, actually). "The Fool's Prayer" by Edward Rowland Sill. If a dentist cried over these, it would be from being touched.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Languages

Arabic: ...no. Just no. My handwriting has, however, garnered comparisons.

Chinese: I fail at it, even though it's my ethnicity. I really should start trying harder at it.

English: I speak/write it well. This should not be surprising. Work on chapter nineteen is progressing, even though the scene I'm writing right now is from the POV of an annoying, whiny girl. I'll probably switch after another few paragraphs to the POV of someone else in her group.

French: Bon jour. Adieu. That's the extent of my knowledge.

German: ich empfehle es. It's rather interesting: I'm trying to teach myself by using my mom's old German textbook and listening to Rammstein. Dude. "Alter Mann" and "Rosenrot" are so~ cool.

Italian: Essay finished. For some reason, I really like learning Italian grammar.

Japanese: Ningen wa tabemono desu ka?

Russian: I know three words of it.

Spanish: Yo non hablo espanol. (Just pretend there's a ~ over the n.)

Ich voglio shuo many languages simultaneously.

Da/Nyet?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Chapter Eighteen

...of the "crazy story." It is done. At 13,268 words, my longest chapter yet. I think for the next chapter I'll move away from the [spoilerspoilerspoiler] people, and focus instead on the [differentspoilers].

I started this story maybe two years ago, in sixth grade. The end is not quite in sight, but it is coming. A whole slew of issues will face me with revising, but it will be fun. Hopefully. I think it will: refining my own writing is quite an enjoyable experience. I'm not even thinking about publishing at this point. Well, that's a lie. I am thinking about that...but I know how much more stuff I have to do before I get there.

And then I have two more books "planned" for this group of people in this setting, and then tons and tons of more ideas. There's a fairytale-esque story (it's planned to be ~50,000 words) about Dorothea Ross, a girl with lots of troubles already and more coming her way; a story with humans bonded to dragons that I've done a lot of barely-scratching-the-surface worldbuilding for, which will be an epic (whether it turns out to be epic is another matter); maybe something involving a medieval society divided by the card suits; giant worms; secret societies, betrayal, and swordfighting; a boy sent to a reform school because of the bigotry of his classmates finds friendship and peril; mice going to culinary college; and a girl who just cannot leave well enough alone and awakens the peril of a group of iris spirits, the leader of whom was totally not based on me.

But my crazy story comes first. Sorry, other ideas.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Free Books and Italian Essays

Today, I found that the free books box at my school library has been refilled. Thus, logically, I raided it, picking up several books, only one of which I've read before - Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. Of course, because I have miscellaneous events/projects going on at school (a math "textbook" covering two chapters, a language arts project about The Pearl, and a few tests), it will be a while before I get to all the lovely old books I've picked up. Such a shame.

That brings me to my next topic: writing an essay in Italian, for a contest going on in my state. Because I've been studying Italian for less than two years, my grasp of the language is nowhere near expert, and it's enlightening to have to write from such narrow confines.

My "insane story" from the last post is progressing well. Some of my favorite characters are having conflicts...fun stuff to write.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Crazy Story

(I must be on some sort of blogging roll - this is my third post in a seven-day span.)

In a wrecked future of Earth, the continents have lost contact of one another, forgotten the past. On Europe, a war consumes lives uncountable from both sides, the governments of the countries in what used to be Western Europe are completely incompetent, and corruption runs rampant.

But the real story is this: in the Appalachian Mountains is a country, and that country's vizier has made a new world. Some years ago, nine people were sent to the new planet. These people are thought to be dead, and so the vizier is trying again - and this time, she is looking across the ocean for subjects in her experiment.

This is the plot of the story I'm currently working on. I'm planning for it to be a trilogy, but I'm only (very) roughly 3/4 of the way through book one, with three months of story left to cover. Still, this is a story I feel very strongly about, and so I most certainly plan on finishing.

It is equally certain that the story as it stands would confuse anyone - even me, were I not the author. But I am, and because I write for myself I'll worry about making it make sense for everyone who isn't the same kind of insane as me later.

"Location: the ruins of the Eiffel Tower.

Date: It is winter. There is snow on the ground. As to the exact day-night and month and year, no one really cares anymore. There is just light and dark and war."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Does listening to words help produce them?

I listen to a lot of music while writing (and studying), and find it difficult to write without some sort of music going on - for example, right now I'm listening to "Paperthin Hymn" by Anberlin. The tone of the music can help with writing certain scenes. In chapter 13 or 14 of my current project, I listened to "Give me a Sign" (Breaking Benjamin) for all the scene ends to try to lend to them some poignance. Did it work? I certainly felt that the ends came easier that way.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Witch

Iron bars, arching over her, large enough for one as thin as her to slip through if not for that hag's enchantments. The girl stared unseeing at the meaningless lock, half-metal and half-magic, its solid square shifting ever so slightly even though no wind stirred the musty air in the room.

And then, it broke, splintering into uncountable shards.

None hit the girl, but she jerked away, eyes filled with a sudden wariness. She looked around, her hand yet straying to her waist – but no, it had been long ago that the old woman took away her belt with its weapons, sharp knives for cutting, a special blade for the head – as she stood, bent over despite the height of the cage.

Another sensation quickly replaced the caution. Hunger roared in her, sending a thrumming from her legs to her stomach to her arms. She fell through the cage bars, collapsing onto the ground in exhaustion, skinny wrists feeling as though they could snap like twigs. All around her, dust swirled, eddying.

Slowly, so as to avoid hurting herself, the girl stood again, head swimming, and lurched towards the door of the storage room. If the lock broke…her mind cleared away the cobwebs and the haze, and thought. If the lock broke, that meant the magic had ended, so then the hag would be…

Her hand shot out and smashed dead a spider creeping along the wall, wooden unlike the saccharine outer walls. A lesser creature, lower than a dumb beast, to be sure, but its smear of blood gave her energy as she licked the gore off her fingers. Now, then. Something more substantial, something to restore her to her former strength, was in order.

She stumbled out the room, up the rickety old stairs, hands grasping to pull her along, arm swinging and sending a heavy glass jar of gumdrops shattering to the ground. Eyes glazing and clearing as she made her way up. Helplessly, she fell against the wall and closed her eyes, breathing hard. Getting up again. To the hag's room.

And there she lay. Soft doughy face, spun-sugar hair, plump hands folded over a round stomach, her dress a patchwork of bright hard-candy colors. Worry flickered briefly through the girl – the woman was fat, she'd be heavy. But somehow the girl hauled the woman over, pulling her down the stairs on one of those odious patchwork quilts. To the kitchen, now. The hunger swelled, and her hands began to shake.

Dumping the corpse into a chair.

Throwing wide the door to the iron stove, its black dust coming off on her hand.

Tossing in a few logs, lighting it on fire.

Hurry, hurry. The hunger would not be contained. Shuddering, the girl took two deep breaths before looping her arms around the old woman and dragging her to the mouth of the stove. Pushing the body in, kicking it, feeling the heat against a face used to cold. Collapsing into the same chair occupied only moments ago by the corpse. Every hair on the girl's skin pricked; every centimeter was lit on fire, eyes blurring again from the anticipation, foot tapping a nervous tattoo on the kitchen floor.

And then the scent of burning flesh.

Her eyes snapped open wide. Mouth open, the girl turned to face the stove, eyes fixed on the great iron door, her hands holding tight to the sides of the chair. Hunger, hunger, hunger. Legs trembling, shaking, a jittery up-down of nerves clacking like so many teeth.

Red-brown meat, delectable despite the aging, despite the toughness. Fat dripping from the dark hanks of flesh. Meat enough to last her a week, yet it was gone within minutes – too long, her hunger had been contained for too long, it had been more than half a year ago when she had been put into the cage, given only soft foods, sweets, vegetables, not even a bone to gnaw on since summer. Why should she not compensate?

She ate her. She ate the old woman, and took her house and the woods around it for her own.

Every day, she would use the hag's magic – slowly, learning the art little by little – and make sure the house was in good working order. If it had rained, she used a spell to make the gingerbread outer walls fresh. When the candy cane window frames began to bleed their red into white, a charm made them once again bright and crisp. Do not spiders repair the holes in their gossamer webs?


"Hansel, I'm hungry."

"It's all right, Gretel. Don't you smell that gingerbread?"
--

Written in January.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sanity

They called her Happy-Go-Lucy.

It was not really an apt moniker. While Lucinda Prospero often possessed ridiculous cheer, she also exploded into other emotions. Her accountant brother’s financial records brought her to raging tears and her best friend Maureen’s poet younger brother compared her to a sky that could go from cloud playground to tempest in mere moments.

Maureen herself was the only person in their grade – sixth – who could stand to be in Lucinda’s presence for more than an hour at a time, and even if it meant Maureen’s locker was full of tissue boxes, it was a solid friendship.

But, as per Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong will.


“Good morning, Mara!”

The sunlight slanted through the windows of their science classroom, lighting up numerous posters of volcano cross-sections made by the students for a recent project. Lucinda was standing by a plaster model made by one of the other students, having been regarding the sloppily painted magma before greeting Maureen.

“Morning, Lucy,” Maureen said. She swung her backpack onto her desk and took out her binder. “What was the homework?”

Slumping against the wall, Lucinda wailed, “The entire chapter in the workbook. That’s twenty pages, Mara! Twenty!”

Maureen wordlessly held out a tissue, which Lucinda took with a flourish. She should try out for the school play this year, thought Maureen. Or some sport. Where does Lucy get all that energy?

Having finished her fit, Lucinda said, “Thank you, Mara. I suppose that it is not quite as bad as what Dickens’s protagonists go through, but still! It took me so long to finish, leaving me no time whatsoever for all the other things I wanted to do! Really – and I’ve wanted to weed the garden with my dad since forever.”

Tempest indeed. Still, her misery – however overblown it may have been – was genuine enough, and Maureen did not like to see her friends unhappy. “You know, Lucy, maybe there won’t be a lot of homework tonight, and then you can spend some more time with your family.” Maureen nearly cringed as she spoke, for her words sounded horribly sentimental. Even so, it seemed to work, for Lucinda grinned.

“Oh, I hope you’re right! Won’t it be fun? Spending time with family is the best, no offense, Mara, but you know how it is,” she said.

Maureen was about to open her mouth to reply when she heard a whisper from her left, saying, “Happy-Go-Lucy had too much sugar today, again.” Hoping that the whisper had not reached Lucinda’s ears, for she’d surely go into a rage, she replied, “None taken. Family is the best.”

“Friends are great too, though!” said Lucinda, and enveloped Maureen into a bear hug before spinning off to her own seat.

The plaster volcano looked like it was exploding.


It was a sweltering day, the fifth of March and already boiling. The very fabric of the universe was melting on the blacktop tar. Inside the hallways, though, it was cooler, a calm and placid shelter from sun and sound, at least until classes were let out, when it became a cacophonous battleground – sometimes almost literally.

Such as this day.

“Why does Mara hang out with Happy-Go-Lucy?” whispered Sara Tall to her friend. “I mean, I used to think that Mara was pretty cool, and she’s good at volleyball, but her taste in friends is horrible.”

Her whisper was too loud. Lucinda, walking (or rather skipping) by, whirled around, letting the binders she held in her arms clatter to the floor. Her eyes shot dagger-like towards Sara’s, and in a low voice she said, “What did you say about Mara? Did you just insult her best friend?” With each word she took another step towards Sara, who despite her name was less than five feet in height.

“Hey, stop blocking the hallway,” someone told her, but Lucinda brushed him off with an angry flap of her hand.

“I didn’t insult Mara, I insulted you,” snapped Sara. “Mara’s normal, so why is she friends with a loser like you –”

Lucinda’s hand shot out and shoved Sara’s throat against the row of lockers behind. The metal was cold, having been cast in shadow for the entire day. A growl seemed waiting to tear its way out of Lucinda’s throat, and her other hand, now a fist, seemed waiting to find its way to Sara’s stomach.

But before Lucinda could punch Sara, a hand fell on her shoulder. She half turned, a retort on her lips, until she saw who it was.

“Mara!” she said. “This…this foul-mouthed harpy was insulting you! And me, but that’s all right, but it’s not all right if it’s you.”

“Lucy,” said Maureen with a sigh. “Come on, let her down – we’re going to be late for class. I don’t want you to get in trouble.” She gave a small smile.

Dropping Sara to the ground, Lucinda spun to face Maureen with a wide grin. “Oh, Mara! What would I do without you?”

Maureen picked up Lucinda’s binders and handed them to her. “I’m sure you could manage.”

“No, no!” said Lucinda. “I’d be completely broken!”


Broken, huh, wondered Maureen as she waited at the crosswalk, staring at the red stoplight and willing it to be green. She sighed. Volleyball practice had run late, again, and with her father working late and her mother at her brother’s basketball game – it’s always about him, whether it’s poetry or basketball or singing – no one had the time to go to school and pick her up. If only everyone appreciated me like Lucy. Ah, there’s the green light.

She stepped out onto the street as the car came skidding around the corner.


The funeral was on a cold day.

It only made sense, for in her coffin Maureen’s hands were like iced porcelain. It only made sense, for the car that had hit her was made of metal, cold, cold metal – like lockers, thought Lucinda. Just like lockers. Throughout the ceremony, she was quiet, her face drawn and expressionless. She rocked back and forth, saying lockers over and over with more breath than voice, as airy as the feather from a dead bird, more zephyr than tempest. On the outside, at least.

Inside, the plaster volcano became real. It erupted, lava spurting out of the crater, the side vents, just like blood, like Maureen’s blood…

Lockers, she whispered to herself. Lockers. If only she were as frigid as them, then maybe she wouldn’t want to tear her heart beating out of her chest. Maybe she wouldn’t want to tear her hair, claw out her entrails, beat her fists against the ground until they were red and raw.

The people – those people, this is just a job for them, isn’t it – had finished speaking. Now they were covering her, lowering the coffin into – what were they doing?

“No!” screamed Lucinda, and she ran, thrusting aside the grasping hands, like brambles, remember the time you went hiking with Mara and the rest of the kids at camp? Remember, past the faces that seemed just like masks, fake, what are you people hiding?! You’re hiding Mara, aren’t you, that’s why you’re putting her into the ground, she never wanted to be underground, she loved the sky, she…

Lucinda kicked the shovel away from that person’s hands, half-jumped and half-fell into the hole, the grave, and pried desperately at the cover, ignoring the dirt that showered down everywhere onto her back. Scalding tears carved down her face. Who cared that she was getting her dress dirty and torn when they were burying Mara, they were burying Mara.

It hurts, she thought. It hurts.

Do lockers hurt?


“Lucinda, how do you feel?” The counselor’s face stared earnestly at her from behind the round glasses.

“I do not feel.”

“Would you like to explain what you mean?” he asked, leaning across the desk.

She looked over the counselor’s shoulder to the filing cabinet behind him. “Lockers are made of metal, so they can’t hurt, even if you run over them in a car, because there are no nerves. Coffins are the same. There’s no brain to interpret the signals, but there are no signals anyways, and coffins don’t have hands so they can’t bury people. Since they’re made only to hold corpses, they don’t have any future. It would be better if they were empty, like lockers in the summer. Maureen Murphy’s locker is empty.”

Blinking far too rapidly, she whispered, “Empty lockers have nothing inside.”

And then she screamed.


Two days later, Lucinda Prospero was admitted into an asylum.

--

This is a story whose original premise was developed sometime in early 2008 and heavily revised over the summer of 2009.

(Also found here.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Purpose of this Blog

Yes. What is the purpose of this blog? To promote my own writing/art.

Who am I? An aspiring author who also enjoys to draw. And play flute, and read financial magazines, and read. Writing, however, is what I am most serious about.

Really, I feel quite narcissistic for making a blog for myself, but is not self-promotion a useful skill?

Now I feel like I'm talking to a wall. Well, then, I shall stop here for this first post.