Sunday, July 31, 2011

School as a Dementor

I'm worried.

For me, school starts tomorrow. Band camp, actually, not classes, but it amounts to the same thing: my summer is over.

As always, I approach the coming academic year with both anticipation and trepidation. More trepidation, this year, for a number of reasons.

The main one is fear of losing my soul.

--

Freshman year was fun. I made friends, joined a club, marched at the last two football games, complained about teachers, did homework in the band room during recess, studied for history tests, passed notes to friends in class, switched from flute to euphonium, got bitten by mosquitoes, and did a whole lot of other stuff.

So, a successful year, right?

No.

--

I did not draw.

I did not write.

I did not even read.

--

Yeah.

Horrifying, right?

All right, those were exaggerations.  But not by very much.

I don't want that to happen again. I was happy, I suppose; I remember being happy. But I also remember feeling awkward and fake almost all the time, and I remember wasting hours on the internet, and I remember getting a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I thought of how long it had been since working on one of my stories.

I remember abandoning the story "Iris" after just three chapters - the reasons I gave would have been valid if they were reasons, but they weren't, they were just excuses.

I forgot that writing is what I do. I forgot that I need it.

--

This year will be different, I swear. I'd thought about not posting this since it's "too personal," but I need to be held accountable. It's so easy to dodge vague wishes, so I will set them down as promises:

I will read.

I will draw.

I will write.

I will study for tests and I will do whatever is needed of me for school but I will not neglect the part of me that is most important: my art. Art defined as my creative output.

Art defined as my soul.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ode to Notebooks

I do love you

Sheets of paper that tear everywhere except the perforations
Twisted spirals that warp and bend
Worn-away back cardboard cover
And all

I don't mind that you are lined
Because what are lines for but to be crossed

And I don't mind that there's no backspace key
Because crossing things out gives such a satisfying feeling
(Even when it cuts straight through the next page)

I can write large when I feel bold and small when I feel unbold
(this is the best I can do when I'm not with you)
And underlining things with pencil or pen
Is so much more satisfying than typing "<u>" and "</u>"

So what if I can't read my own handwriting sometimes?
So what if my words crash into one another?

I can draw circles and lines -
Real ones, not like --------> that

And if I don't like what I've written
I can tear out a page
(That will perforate cleanly for the first millimeter)
And crumple it
And toss it

(Into recycling, of course, so they can make more like you)

And start again on a page unsullied by the memory of

"highlight"
and
"delete"

--

What do you guys think? Finished or unfinished?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Summer Explodes into Art

Summer = more time. More time in which to draw. To break out of the art rut that usually besets me for, I don't know, the entire first half of the year. -_-

But that's all past. Let us roll.


Thaddeus MacGregor, a character from my GW story. He had no characterization at the beginning of the summer, whether in looks or personality, but he has developed both since then.  I really question my colors in this piece.


Renee Montero, another GW character. She is somewhat evil, but hey, she was fun to color.


Lady Euphrosyne, so named after my euphonium. She's a character in a story that I'm writing longhand in which some sorceresses apprehend a thief who has been sent to steal the silver torch of Prometheus. That's pretty much all I have of the story so far, but Lady Euph will be a bamf.

The composition of this picture kind of burns my eyes. x_x


Toto Menoir and Madge Lobolinskaya from the Utopia Project. They both have forceful personalities. In hindsight, perhaps they might have thought it out a bit more before merging their groups...power struggle holla.


GW sketches. Considering it doesn't have a plot yet, GW sure takes up a lot of my drawing time. Clockwise from top left: Andreas Kale (nice healer kid), Thaddeus MacGregor (this is his final evolution design), Amedea Lewis (the reasonable one), Andreas again, Oyvind Linden (Vin or the Mind Butcher), and an older Andreas. Yeah, Andreas is fun to draw.


A sketch. Wavy hair is hard to draw.


SF sketches. Clockwise from top left: Teresa, the leader of a revolution; Carla, a girl; Stefano, the eldest son of the head of the ruling family of the city-state that recently conquered the town from which Teresa is leading the rebellion (whew!); and Lorenzo, who is Stefano's knight/best friend/bastion of support+loyalty and Carla's brother.


I can't quantify my love for the ocean except with infinity.


"Adelaide, Adelaide, you need to quit quit making a scene."
-"Adelaide" by Anberlin
She does, she really does need to quit making a scene. She also needs to stop lying, manipulating her "friends," and betting illegally. I present you Adelaide Merle, of GW, a most troublesome girl. As if sorry is any consolation.

--

This year, I challenged myself to draw three full pictures in both June and July. I'm one picture away from completing that goal. This post is partially for my benefit - so I can see that I have, indeed, made progress. And I have. My color choices are considerably less awful.

Onwards! To new vistas of improvement over the jagged rocks of self-criticism!

--

So, uh, care to leave an idea for what my last piece of the summer (I don't count August for a number of reasons) should be?

--

Quick housekeeping note: I'm considering changing my posting schedule to Monday-Wednesday-Friday instead of Sunday-Tuesday-Friday. Thoughts?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It's Not Necromancy If It's Not Dead

...and magic isn't dead.

But it is tired.

"That's my name, don't wear it out."  Its name has become worn out.  Used to describe vacation spots, skincare products, kitchen appliances shilled by overenthusiastic dudes with blinding teeth.  It's practically a joke.  You see its name everywhere you turn but none of it is the real thing.

Let me tell you how to find it again.

--

How I find it, anyways.

Because it's different for everyone.  Magic a distorted reflection in a moon-filled pool glimpsed from a fast train in the dead of night.

Vedrai che vedi e vedro' che vedo.

--

There are types of magic that are everyday, that sidle in like a cat whose bell-collar has fallen off, that curl among your newspapers and sun themselves on baskets of undone laundry.

My magic is not like that.

I'm an old-fashioned sort.  I like moldering old books with that beautiful aroma of yellowing pages.  Lists of obscure ingredients.  Spell-words.  Apothecaries with herbs drying from the rafters and skeletons laid out in repose under dusty glass.  Shelf-tops crowded with odd assortments.  Mirrors with the silvering worn away, in which you see ghosts as often as yourself.  Lanterns.  Scrying glasses.  A method to the madness of a crowded house.

My magic cannot be tucked away into plastic bins from Costco and stowed in the garage.  It is altogether too obvious, and its trappings - the "stuff" - must be acknowledged.

Am I a packrat?  You bet.  The voice in my head that tells me that it's more pragmatic to throw away the box with odds and ends has never been held captive by fairies.  What would I bribe them with if not that heavy marble, that clay bird's head?  So I keep.

Step one: know.  Know what magic is to you.  Know what you need to work your spells.  Could I hold onto magic if I trashed all my "useless" things?  If I donated all the books on my shelves?  Maybe my objects are a crutch.  But that's how I brush with wonder.  With stuff.

--

When I was eight, magic was a place.

I will not name that place, because to name something is to call it into being and I will not have this place transmuted into pixels.  But I can describe it.

The playground sloped down to meet a fence bordering a tennis court.  On this fence grew thick vines.  Before this fence was a shallow, concrete-lined ditch leading to a grille-covered drain.

Rain did not flow down this ditch, as everyone else thought.  Oh, no.  Lava ran here, but we could swim in it and find bottles and potions and anything we needed because we loved this place and it loved us back, and we set out sacrifices for the plants.  I will not give their proper name either.

On the shores of that mighty lava river we built houses that burrowed deep into the earth.  We traded rust-colored rocks and we became dragons and flew.

Step two: unage.  Just because you've forgotten your promise always to hate that boy who's better than you at math, just because you don't run everywhere, just because you don't dare to hope to be a full-time writer - none of this can stop you from going to those bleachers and unearthing the necklace with the butterfly pendant that you and your best friend buried when a girl could wear basketball shorts to school without being talked about.

(But you shouldn't dig up the necklace because you were sure that it was cursed, and better safe than sorry when it comes to cursed objects.)

--

And what is step three?

Three's a magic number, you say.  There's got to be a third step, or else it won't be magic.  Triangles are the strongest shapes there are.  Come on.  What's the last part of this trifecta?

And I say: I don't know yet.  If I did, perhaps I'd be able to call up storms and talk to my cat and tell the future.  I can do none of these things (yet).  But if I could tell you the third step, then it wouldn't be magic anymore.  In those leatherbound spellbooks ancient sorcerers can lay out all the steps, but none of that matters if you don't have the affinity for it.

There's always something missing, no matter how hard you look.

So wait with me.  Perhaps one day a dragon not a plane will come roaring down from the sky to carry us into a place where I can call up storms by spinning with my hands locked with other weather wizards, and you can do whatever magic is to you.

But perhaps not.  Perhaps we could wait forever and nothing would happen.

I don't think so, though.  To accept that would be to say that magic has died, and it hasn't.  You can't reach something that's beyond death; you can't let something you want die even in your mind.

So maybe I do know step three, or have an idea as to what it is.  And that is believe.  Going through the motions is not enough.

--

Know.

Unage.

Believe.

--

Someday, I swear to the oceans and stars, I will walk again through the termite door and I will find by the banks of the mighty lava river magic, lying still in a bed of jasmine and lilac.  I will shake its shoulder and it will awaken, and do you know what it will say?

"I've been waiting for you too."

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Much Fairy Tale is Left for You?

Well, that depends.  Are you:

-Royalty?  Good for you, you get to go on all the adventures.  It might not turn out all that well for you, though, if you are

-An older sibling.  Since you're a lazy jerk, the third/youngest sibling is always going to win.

-Beautiful+courageous+kind?  (These traits seem to come as a 3-for-1 deal.)  Then don't worry, be happy.  You're going to suffer a lot but you'll get your happy ending.

None of the above?  Don't worry, you can also:

-Help talking animals.  They'll repay your debt with lots of interest.

-Follow instructions.  Especially if your spouse tells you not to open a door.

-Rely on magic for everything.  This is where those talking animals come in useful.

-Be careful with promises.  If you make one, keep it.  Better not to make any in the first place, though.

But most of all,

-Trick people.  Trick them for all you're worth, damnit.

And when you're sipping champagne with your prince/ss in that sparkling castle, remember to be grateful. I like dark chocolate and Ivan Bilibin illustrations, in case you're curious.

Whosoever knows from whence the title comes gets half my kingdom. *hopeful*

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Double Vision

There I was again, at the top of the tower, looking down at lawns sweeping to a broad flat river in the distance. In front of me was an old text, the pages thick and yellowing.

No. I was actually sitting at a corner of the library looking out at the grounds of the local community college. And the textbook, which was for finite mathematics, is quite new.

But isn't the first version so much more pleasant?

It seems to me (and others) that as writers, we're always living a double life.  When someone talks to me I am "there" but occasionally I resent being pulled out of my daydreams.  Superimposed atop of "regular life" is another life, one that steals from stories and is therefore more exciting but at the same time neater, simpler, without any of the drudgery that makes an escape necessary.

There's no room for petty thoughts and actions, no room for small gestures.  Perhaps I do not need this other world to alleviate my boredom.  Perhaps I need it because there, I can imagine myself as better, more important, more deliberate than I am here.

This thought strikes me as at once terribly depressing and hopeful.  Double vision: seeing yourself as you are and as you could be.

Clearly, I need to organize my thoughts some more.  What do you guys think?

Friday, July 15, 2011

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.

--

Written November 2010. Prompt: "If Only."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Featured AAAAAAAH (take two)

Alexa, the highly talented poet of Illiterations, has featured me yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyy *spazzes*

Thanks Alexa! To the rest of you, stop lurking and go read her poetry.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dare

Evan was bored. And when Evan was bored, as his mother said, things “happened.”

Usually not good things.

It was a lazy day in the capital for all the squires, and Evan was strolling along the city’s wide streets, trying to whistle. After three bars of the national anthem where the notes all sounded the same, he gave up and cast his eyes around, trying to find something to do. His eyes passed straight over the beggars reaching out thin hands to this well-dressed boy, hoping that he would be a good sort.

Evan was not what most people would call a “good sort.” In fact, he –

“When’s the next meeting, Tiberius?”

“Today, Lionel, it’s today. How did an idiot like you get into the Order of the Dark Storm?”

– looked up with sudden interest at the words “Order of the Dark Storm.”

All the squires had heard of the Knights of the Dark Storm. Evan’s own knight, Lord Davide of the Dot, said they were louts. “Mark well, Evan,” he said. “Those Dark Storm knights are no good. They support the throne of Quasiland, oh, yes, but they lack chivalry, they lack morals, they lack honor. They destroy without discrimination. They kill women and children – and they accept bribes. Imagine!”

Evan, pressing fingers into the bruises the other squires gave him on a daily basis, had imagined. He had smiled, too, the kind of smile that the sharks he so loved have.

He smiled again now, as he observed the two men standing in the doorway of an apothecary – one tall and properly craggy-faced, the other short, bespectacled, and with disappointing ink-stained fingers. This second one looked more like a scholar or wizard than a knight.

“Usual place, usual time, Lionel. Don’t forget, or Samuel will have your head,” he said, and strode away. Evan’s smile faded. He didn’t even have a mysterious-looking cloak – never mind the hot weather, didn’t they have an image to maintain?

Oh, well. Of the two, Tiberius seemed the more competent one. He would be sure to be going someplace interesting, Evan decided, and seeing as he had the rest of the day off anyways, he might as well follow.

But he hadn’t been dogging the man for two blocks before Tiberius stopped, turned around, and said, “You, boy, why are you following me?”

Evan was honest. “Because I overheard you saying you were a member of the Order of the Dark Storm, and I want to join,” he said, putting forth his most self-assured smile and standing up very straight.

Tiberius raised an eyebrow and asked, “Why should we accept you?”

“I’m a fair swordsman,” said Evan, his confidence starting to waver under Tiberius’ condescending look. “And I’m very good at magic.”

At which point Tiberius turned around and started walking away.

“Hey!” Evan shouted. He was fourteen already – he should not be treated as a child. “I can prove it!” The knight, if indeed he was a knight, paid him no heed. He even began whistling – the same tune Evan had tried and failed to whistle, but pitch-perfect.

Rage boiled up in his stomach, a thick black stew that made his teeth clench and his hands become fists. Would no one ever take him seriously? The other squires who always whispered that he was just a weak little rich boy who didn’t know about the “real world” – Lord Davide, who preached endlessly about chivalry and valor – and now, this scrawny “knight.”

Evan was angry. Though he had a temper it was frayed and worn, and it snapped.

He forgot that he was a squire and that attacking a knight could cost him his job. He even forgot about the short sword hanging in his belt. Instead, he reacted on the instincts of an ocean magician, dropping his hands back and carving a path forward through the air in the shape of a wave.

A wave was what appeared, roaring up quite suddenly over Evan’s head. The rushing of water made Tiberius turn around, and Evan’s face shattered into a smile as the man’s jaw dropped. He was about the let his hands fall, making the wave crash onto the knight’s head, when from behind him came a shout.

“What’s going on?” It was the other Knight of the Dark Storm, Lionel, and his exclamation distracted Evan. His hands fell, but without the sense of purpose that all spells need to take effect. The water disappeared back to wherever he had stolen it from.

“It wasn’t my fault,” snapped Evan, whirling around, his mind suddenly clear and aware of what he had almost done. “He –”

“Your control of your magic is superb, but your control of yourself is terrible,” said Tiberius slowly. “However, you have passed my test.”

Evan turned back to face Tiberius. “That was a test?” he asked, feeling the not-entirely-cooled embers of his fury stirring again. “You were testing me?”

“Yes,” Tiberius said, but something in the way he said it this time let Evan know that he was lying. He had not imagined the fear slackening the man’s jaw – in those moments, charged with magic, Evan could taste his terror.

His shark-smile let Tiberius know that he knew.

Tiberius cleared his throat with false casualness and said, “Well, boy, you may be Dark Storm material. I am a senior weather wizard for our Order, and I can recognize potential where I see it. Know, however, that you will be tested many times over before you are initiated.”

“You may have magical talent,” said Lionel, “but to be one of us, you need many more qualities. Willingness to kill, for one. Unfailing loyalty, for another.”

Evan did not miss which characteristic came first, but he didn’t give it much thought. Excitement hissed over his skin. The Order of the Dark Storm wanted him!

It was a dream come true, he thought, and conjured up all the stories he’d heard – a Knight of the Dark Storm going berserk and slaughtering hundreds of enemies in the war with Enouras two generations ago, another one bringing a hurricane down on the Dot when it was still under the possession of Maran and then using mind magic to get the Maranese to sign over ownership of that southern island, and a dozen others detailing different exploits that all had one thing in common: power.

Everything he had ever wanted.

“Boy,” said Tiberius. “At sundown, we will be passing through the Thieves’ Street on our way to the meeting of the Order, and if you are there we will take you with us. The offer of a lifetime has been extended to you. Do you dare take it?”

Evan grinned. Oh, yes. He dared.

--

Written October 2010. In this piece, Evan is a few years younger than he is in the Quasiland story proper. Prompt: "Dare."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Revising Utopia Project, part IX

Wow, the last time I did one of these progress posts was way back in March. Lots of ground covered since then.

The spring was a pretty horrible season for writing, all around. I wrote only twice in May (ouch). With the start of summer came more time, and while I often get less than 500 words in per session, at least I'm writing more or less regularly.

Scenes finished: 10 (!) All six countries have a finger in the kidnapping pie, and the repercussions on friends and family are starting to be felt.

What have I learned?

1. Momentum is king. That's what I wrote on Friday, that practice is a cycle of virtue/positive feedback loop. I lost momentum and gaining it back is painful.

2. Keep going. Revision is twice the work and half the joy as first-drafting.

3. If you've found your voice, don't lose it. I know that having long sentences with lots of clauses sounds weak and halfhearted and generally bad, but I keep doing it. You! Stop doing that!

4. Trust your reader. Why am I explaining things so much? My target audience is intelligent enough not to need hand-holding.

5. Quality > quantity. In other words, meaningless fight scenes suck.

6. Know where you're going. For the first draft, having only the vaguest idea of where the story is taking you is perfectly fine. But now I look at what I have and I don't know whether to keep or toss the scenes that aren't part of the main storyline. My solution was to make a rough outline of the entire series and go from there.

7. Logbooks are less than three. For the six weeks of June 19 - July 30, I drew up a plan in a graph paper notebook with boxes for the stuff I want to get done. Maybe this is my quasi-OCD talking, but crossing off those boxes is quite satisfying. Just like taking apart a camera with no idea of how to put it back together is satisfying.

8. Write something new. Revising is difficult because the thought of being stuck in the same story you've spent three years writing the first draft of, even if you love that story, is stifling. To let off steam, I write a lot of random scenes from entirely different non-stories. Is that taking away time I could be using on this book? Yeah. But it's also keeping me from going crazy.

--

Notice: this week I'm going to repost two of my short stories because I'm going to create an index of all my writing on this blog and they were connected to posts with too much "et cetera" content. I hope you enjoy them.

Friday, July 8, 2011

On Practice

Practice -> joy.

There, that's the point of the post.  You can go and play with your cat/do something else now.

Unless you want to make me happy, in which case go read on.

--

I am a creature of habit.  I take comfort in the little rituals (I take off my glasses before a test.  Always), I eat the same lunch almost every day, I don't need the menu at my favorite restaurant because I only ever order one thing.

Also, I'm eversoslightly addicted to playing my euphonium.

Actually, as I type this I keep glancing at the clock on my computer.  Let's see...think I can squeeze in half an hour before my sister gets back from work?  When am I going to go get batteries for my tuner and valve oil?  Who cares?

I always get a bit irritated with myself on the days where I don't do anything, but if I get in a solid 30 minutes to an hour of "practice" (read: playing random songs in the lowest key I can manage, unless I want to kill myself on high notes) then the day is not wasted.

I'm actually going to go play some euph right now.  Brb.

--

50 minutes later: grinning.

Practice is satisfying.  Whenever I finish practicing, I feel so much more accomplished.  My intonation can only have gotten worse since the summer started, but all the same I feel as though I'm getting better.  I'm getting something done.

When I don't practice for a few days at a time, I start getting twitchy.  To continue the metaphor, I get euphonium withdrawal.  It's like sand is under my skin, and the moment I pick up Euphie and my lovely deep tuning note (the one note that's consistently pretty-sounding) comes out, the sand is washed away by a great slow-moving river of brass.

(Okay, "great slow-moving river" describes David Childs' tone, not mine, but to a parched throat tap water is just as good as a dragonfruit vitaminwater.  So there. What did I just write?)

The point is, I have to practice. Otherwise I just feel wrong.

--

Last summer, The Utopia Project was my euphonium.

This summer, it is...not. It's not like in the spring when I would get in a session once every three weeks, thank heavens. But I don't need it, need it so strongly that I get out of sorts when I haven't written in a few days. It's not necessary to my stability.

Slowly I'm writing more, but all too often it's an afterthought. And even then I'm focusing on word count, page number, more than the actual writing. Sentence-facebook-paragraph-tumblr-sentence-deviantart-two paragraphs-goodreads. I write in fragments. I've lost momentum.

But I remember what it was like when story flowed through my veins. I'm listening to Breaking Benjamin, which was the soundtrack of those mad three months where I racked up thousands of words each week, and it's bringing me back. I have not given up on myself or this story.

I will write.

(To assuage my guilt.)

(To give my story what it deserves.)

Because I will not bow, I will not break...I will not fall, I will not fade, I will take your breath away.

Peace.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Some Favorite Poems

Whoa!  It's Tuesday already?  I, for one, was caught off guard, and so have no post ready.  Well, next best thing - have some of inspiring poems. : )

--

The Chambered Nautilus

Oliver Wendell Holmes

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main, --
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.

Its webs of living gauze no more unfurl;
Wrecked is the ship of pearl!
And every chambered cell,
Where its dim dreaming life was wont to dwell,
As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell,
Before thee lies revealed, --
Its irised ceiling rent, its sunless crypt unsealed!

Year after year beheld the silent toil
That spread his lustrous coil;
Still, as the spiral grew,
He left the past year's dwelling for the new,
Stole with soft step its shining archway through,
Built up its idle door,
Stretched in his last-found home, and knew the old no more.

Thanks for the heavenly message brought by thee,
Child of the wandering sea,
Cast from her lap, forlorn!
From thy dead lips a clearer note is born
Than ever Triton blew from wreathèd horn!
While on mine ear it rings,
Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings: --

Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!

--

Invictus

William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

--

Is it legal for me to post these?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How Great is my Love for the Ocean?

Endless.

Yesterday I went to the beach and posted about it on Tumblr. I wrote:

Went to the beach today

It was overcast, but all the more beautiful for that.

The beach is not about the sand or the sun or the rocks (and definitely not about the people. Oh hell no).

It’s about the ocean, and if I could I’d just stand there forever staring at the waves coming in, blocking out all else because the ocean is more than enough.

It’s everything.

And then I posted an absolutely beautiful video:


OCEAN from Sarosh Jacob on Vimeo.

And I said:

We are so hopelessly terrestrial.

Because we are. We are. The sea was not made for humans. In one of my stories I had a god of the sea, Lord Deep Ocean, but after yesterday I decided I absolutely had to get rid of him. No one rules the ocean.

If I'd been alone I would have fallen on my knees. But I couldn't do that because everyone else on the beach was throwing frisbees, or building sand castles, or digging holes, or lounging on beach chairs reading, or talking as if their words were more important than the rushing of the waves - in short, their eyes were not on the ocean, which means they don't feel compelled to watch it, which means their hearts do not line up with mine.

So much hides beneath the surface. I've written about my drowning dreams, which I treasure above all else, and what I like most about them is that I can pierce some of the mystery of this place that draws me in so deeply.

I don't know if the ocean is magic, but I don't believe so. I'm inclined to think that it is older than any enchantment we could deign to understand.

We will fade.

But the ocean is always.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Read in June

I did a lot of reading in June. I'm not going to talk about the summer reading books here, since I wouldn't have read them by choice and I'm probably going to rant about them later. Instead, you get lots and lots of recommendations! Yay!

First of all, Hilari Bell's Knight and Rogue series.  Usually I read the first book of a series and then feel series fatigue and give myself a break before reading the others.  Not here.  I tore through the three books that are currently out one after the other because they were just that good.

The books are, in order:

The Last Knight (Knight and Rogue, #1)
Rogue's Home (Knight and Rogue, #2)
Player's Ruse (Knight and Rogue, #3)









If you like humor with your action and suspense with your fantasy, go read these books now.  The two main characters, knight-errant Michael and his reluctant squire Fisk, are both extremely likable; their symbiotic character development is one of the highlights of the series for me.  More books, please?

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I also read Kit's Wilderness, by David Almond.

Kit's Wilderness (Readers Circle)This reminded me of Lord of the Flies set in a mining town with a whole lot more optimism.  Kit was a pretty good main character, lacking in confidence maybe but with a quiet courage that suited the story well.





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The best book I read this month was The City of Dreaming Books, by Walter Moers.

The City of Dreaming Books (Zamonia #3)It had me at the premise and kept on delivering past my expectations. Simply the description of the catacombs - underground passageways with books! - had me swooning. Optimus Yarnspinner's narrative was engaging, a matter-of-fact voice whose contrast with the unfamiliar settings/situations enhanced rather than crushed the wonder. It also somewhat dampened the horror of some of the very horrific fixes into which Optimus got himself, but since I have little stomach for terror that was not necessarily a bad thing.

A finer blend of whimsy and action I have not read.  You probably haven't either, so why are you depriving yourself?  Read this book.  Go, go, go.

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Hey, look who's trying to be all deep and philosophical?  I was, reading the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.

The Meditations of Marcus AureliusThe version I read had only 61 pages. As far as I can see, Marcus Aurelius recommends only a few basic tenets: that to look within yourself is enough, that you can't let obstacles stand in your way, that everything must go according to nature, that death is not to be feared, that arrogance/affectation are bad, that you should not be distracted, etc. However, I disagree that people should have no imagination/passion and that everything individual must be sublimated for the majority.

Oh yeah, I laughed at this passage:
"In the morning when thou risest unwillingly, let this thought be present - I am rising to the work of a human being. Why then am I dissatisfied if I am going to do the things for which I exist and for which I was brought into the world? Or have I been made for this, to lie in the bedclothes and keep myself warm? But this is more pleasant. Dost thou exist then to take thy pleasure, and not at all for action or exertion? Dost thou not see the little plants, the little birds, the ants, the spiders, the bees working together to put in order their several parts of the universe? And art thou unwilling to do the work of a human being, and dost thou not make haste to do that which is according to thy nature?"
To all non-morning people: touche.

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Of course, I can only go for so long without plunging straight back into fantasy.  Hence: Ash, by Malinda Lo.

AshDefinitely not a conventional Cinderella tale. This book drew me in with fairy tales (as in, tales of the Fair Folk) and a mysterious atmosphere, but disappointed in other areas. I'd expected to be blown away, but being entertained is good enough.





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Dystopia!  This book's been on my sister's shelf for at least five years now, but this was the first time I read Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry.

Gathering Blue (The Giver, #2)Not too remarkable of a book, but I liked it.









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So far I've been mostly positive.  But I cannot lie and Eyes Like Stars, by Lisa Mantchev, was not a good book.

Eyes Like Stars (Théâtre Illuminata, #1).All right, I thought this book was great for the first half. But then things started to bother me.  Characters started to bother me, and it's really hard to like a book when the main character does absolutely nothing on her own and the plot rambles and and and...

It's a shame, really: the writing was good but the content disappointed. The premise is so cool; if Bertie hadn't been so inane and useless and whiny, and if the plot had taken a firmer direction, this book could have been so much more impressive. It had everything except what really mattered. If there's a sequel I will read it, because I can't stand the thought of such a premise going to waste.

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Talk about subverted expectations.  The first time I read Dianna Wynne Jones' The Merlin Conspiracy, I didn't like it at all.

The Merlin Conspiracy (Magids, #2)Things have changed.

10-year-old me: Computers? In my fantasy book? Sacre bleu!

14-year-old me: Magic + technology = pretty damn cool. Refreshing.

10yom: Multiple magic systems? Booooo.

14yom: Multiple magic systems? Awesome layering effect.

10yom: Roddy and Nick are both unheroic heroes who whine!

14yom: It's interesting how characters who are perfectly sympathetic when viewed from within their own POV can seem difficult or annoying from the other person's POV. Besides, their shortcomings are realistic. And their descriptions of what it's like to be disliked/looked down upon/hated/disdained strike uncomfortably close to home - a sure sign of strong characterization.

10yom: Random plot threads! Digressions! RAEG!

14yom: In the earlier part of the book it is rather difficult to see the big picture. It's only at the end that there's cohesiveness - and, as Nick noted, it's interesting to see how small things caused big changes.

10yom: Why didn't anyone realize [important thing]???

14yom: ...that's a fair point.

10yom: I didn't like the ending line.

14yom: I didn't either.

10yom: This book was boooooring.

14yom: No, it wasn't. It was actually pretty interesting. And you, dear younger self, are a brat.

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I picked up the last non-summer-reading book on a whim.  Dust City, by Robert Paul Weston, was quite interesting.  I consider myself lucky to have found it.

Dust CityPremise: world evolved from fairy tales. Awesome.

Characters: not so awesome, but it could have been worse.  The plot was "gripping," as they say, and if you like urban fantasy and are willing to overlook the obvious furry connections this was a pretty good book.