Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Inconvenient Reunion

Ingrid was out in the forest looking for a fox who could answer her a few questions about why it steals -

she had a duel scheduled with a wizard for next Tuesday, and she thought the fox could help her immensely in understanding her opponent

- when she came across a man in armor, lying against a tree, covered in blood.

She stopped and shifted her grip on her staff, ready to use it as a bludgeoning or stabbing weapon as needed. Then she looked closer.

The man was not dead yet, she realized, seeing the rise and fall of his chest. Pity. She'd have to help him. Cautiously, Ingrid approached.

She scooped up a handful of the bloodstained earth and inhaled its scent. It gave her flashes of images: men liveried in gray, with white and red sashes - Lord Ferrus' men, she thought, and wondered what the quarrel was.

Another inhalation: an arrow piercing the left arm; a black horse thundering below, and then gone as if cut away - wait, she thought.

Black horse. A familiar black horse.

Ingrid took a closer look at the man's armor. His helmet had fallen off, so she couldn't see the plume, and his surcoat was ripped...but it looked like the coat of arms was meant to be a bird. A bird of prey.

She couldn't see his face - it was all covered with a mop of hair, light brown, an unremarkable color, only...Ingrid carefully rolled the wounded knight onto his back (he groaned softly) and brushed the damp hair off his burning forehead.

Oh. She dropped her hand and would have tripped backward if she didn't grab onto the tree.

It looks like she'd been right. Indeed, it was him.

Dylan Waldfogel.

Thought, it was the Falcon Knight these days, wasn't it? Last time she'd heard, he was in the Cral Forest. So how had he come here, chased by Lord Ferrus' men?

And wounded, she reminded herself. She'd have to get healing supplies, make inquiries...she sighed. All this right before her duel.

That was just like Dylan, wasn't it? Always dropping in at the most inopportune times. He'd have to tell one hell of a tale to make it up to her.


Written longhand on Sunday. Takes place in the GW world, but a few centuries prior. I daresay you'll be seeing more of Ingrid and Dylan in the future.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good Hunting

I come bearing gifts.
Madame Monet and her Son by Claude Monet
Here are some writing tips from Hilari Bell, author of the Farsala Trilogy and the Knight and Rogue books. Ones that were particularly useful:
A short story: The Lady or the Tiger? I want to draw something based on it.

Stormy Weather by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot
From PCWrede: two posts about subplots; the first says to balance them, the second says how and recommends color coding, which I will try. Another post about getting from the beginning to the middle. She always knows the right questions to ask.

I'd like me some mermaid gloves.

Garth Nix, one of my favorite authors (Abhorsen trilogy, Keys to the Kingdom) talks about his process.

The Bomarzo Monster Park is something that I'd very much like to incorporate into a story.

Casa do Monte - Portugal // 5D Mark II - 24p from Miguel Santana on Vimeo.
This makes me want to spin around in a field in the late afternoon.

I want to dig around on the site Beautiful Libraries.

Mt. Etna. I'll use this as a resource when drawing the Volcano, source of my third grade imaginations.

Eldena Ruin by Caspar David Friedrich

Good weekend. Good hunting.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Medieval Leanings

My kingdom for the one who can tell me the title of the song that plays on this site.

Cemetery by Caspar David Friedrich
All right, Friedrich isn't medieval, but the Romantics like medieval things so this is relevant.

For a school portfolio project, I will read unassigned chapters of my history textbook on the fall of the Roman Empire and the Early Middle Ages.

For myself, I will toss around ideas for the ballad of "the Sorceress and the Falcon Knight". Reading of medieval poetry and epics will be my research.

Tapestries are beautiful things. I would, very much, like to go to my public library and look at the ones hanging on the walls.
William Morris tapestry
The Pre-Raphaelites weren't medieval either, but facts get in the way. They always do.

Good night and good weekend.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love Poems

Valentine's Day is irrelevant to me, since I do not have/want a relationship right now. But I thought I'd give a nod to the spirit of the holiday, and offer some (not) love poems.


When the space between us was tundra
That I loathed with all my ocean-heart’s fury
I dreamed of you

I talked to your specter
Brief exchanges
My dissatisfaction a weed
I could never have enough

You told me not to forget you
I never have but I was disappointed
I was running and you weren’t chasing

You helped me when I asked
I saved you while we fled on foot to the mountains

More often I tried to find you
I found you had secrets
But not what they were

(You told me you missed me)

You made masterpieces and I was as I am
Admiring and jealous
And greedy like a plant for soil and water
And the light of your smile

I tried to talk to you but I couldn’t
(You hadn’t the time for me)
When I did it was about the most mundane things:
Roller coasters and buses
That couldn’t traverse the wide tundra
That never got me any closer to you


Don't Fix What Ain't Broke

It's not that I don't dream
About your eyes and your smile
It's not that I really mind
Staying up late talking to you

But this is better, isn't it?
You are my friend, as I am yours
We talk math and history
Books, and method, and the future

Math especially, because I love it
And you love it and that's the only time
We'll use the word love
(Aside from favorite foods)

I like it this way.
I spent years pining for you
Pathetic, wasn't it, for me
To break my heart that way?

Other girls can talk to you
Dance with you, laugh with you
Hold your hand, hold your gaze
I'm after your brain not your heart

It'd be unfair to want more
Since that's all I'm willing to leave
On the table, at risk of being
Knocked to the floor

Not that I don't trust you
Any less than the next person
But you don't know how much you could hurt me
And you don't need to know

There's a glass wall between us
I can see you just fine
You can see me just fine
We need no more than that

You can't touch me, can't shatter me
Even by accident, much less on purpose
It'll be better this way, won't it?
Don't break what you can't fix


Something of superior quality/marginally happier:

Never Be the Same - Red


Hm. Methinks they both need revision.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What Lockdowns Tell You

Sometimes it's a disturbing thing, to be more writer than person.

Today there was a lockdown at my school - no one got hurt, the threat wasn't carried out, but we didn't know that at first, all we heard was the loudspeaker saying, "This is not a drill."

So, I thought as my friend called her mom from my phone, as the masses of students milled around to the northwestern gate of the football field, to where we'd all been evacuated. This is what it's like, when you first hear of a threat.

You think: no way, this kind of thing can't happen to me.

You think: oh, come on, it's Friday. Nothing bad can happen on a Friday.

You think: my last normal class was PE.

You think: it's a good thing I have a book with me.

You think: I'm not going to die without at least finishing my lunch.

You think: glad I'm not one of the ones who had to leave their backpacks behind.

You think: no one's taking this seriously. Why are they talking so loudly? Why don't I tell them to be quiet?

You think: it's because this doesn't feel real.

You think: I'm going to dissect this and put it into a story.


Sitting with the lights turned off, the guy to your left playing games on his phone and the girl to your right texting her mom. Ahead of you, a book that tosses around the words "deadly" with a glibness that you find you can no longer appreciate.

Thinking about someone you worry about, someone who you haven't seen since fourth period, someone who you'd break into a fortress to rescue, and hoping that that someone is all right.

Wishing you were taller as you and your friend try to find the rest of your class on the football field.

A moment that's the closest you've gotten so far to fear - people behind you pushing, shoving to get to the gates, and tripping over your feet and stumbling and finally, finally regaining your balance.

Standing back as others wait in line to get signed out, standing with your best friend from two years ago and thinking that it is a shame how far you've drifted. But not so far that you can't loan her your phone, can't pat her shoulder reassuringly and say of course she can stay at your place until her mom can pick her up.

Glimpses of people you know, who you didn't know you cared about until you see them safe, and then the relief that is like a cool breeze.

A bloom a gratitude when your sister's friend calls out to you over the mass of people that she's safe, too.

Then anger - why can't you wait? We're responsible for them, they're coming with us until their parents can get them from our house, stop walking so quickly, stop talking about how calm cool collected you were, you're leaving to go get bagels with your friends, are you serious? There will be that person: composed, and insufferable.

Rumors flying around you like swarms of mosquitoes. The story: someone - a name, you hear a name - sending an email to the staff, saying "I've got a bomb."

Ask around, and no one knows this person. Go home, and with the friend who you're taking care of look through last year's yearbook. Not there. The address book from this school year. Yes, there he is, there's the name you heard. Double check with the school email system - yes, you could email the suspect if you wanted, you could.

No one knows him. No one knows him. A story runs through your veins, and sparks down to the paper as you flip the pages of your yearbook, searching for traces you know you won't find.

So that's what being a detective feels like.

Drinking peach tea, trying to play the good host, offering pretzels and seaweed and sesame squares.

When your friends leave, going to the computer. Looking up the name of your school, and the word lockdown. Read the news articles, which are all the same, which don't tell you anything you didn't already know except that the suspect was cooperative. Yes, of course, you think. Who'd use their own school email address to send a bomb threat? He must have been framed.

How? And how is it that no one seems to know this person? You flip open the yearbook again, see all sorts of people you didn't know go to your school. What happened to him? To her?

For the first time, you do fear. Not the split-second panic when you thought you were going to get trampled, and then righted yourself. It is not a fear that adrenaline will help with: you're not scared, just paranoid.

No one knows him. No one knows him. How easy it would be, how easy it is to slip through the cracks.

And because you are a writer, while one part of you fears, while one part of you feels the earth shifting - Judas floors, you think, having just read The Traitor Game - another part of you nods, takes notes on the numbness, the disbelief, the glint in the darkness on rulers the troublemaker holds in case he has to fight, the swarming masses, the school empty as a broken eggshell, the horror of anonymity, the fear, the fear, the fear -

One part of you nods and thinks: yes, I can use this. Yes. Yes.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Revising Utopia Project, part XII

I am officially over halfway done with revising the Utopia Project.


Last time I wrote, it was in late December. Now, in February, I can say that 2012 is starting off as a productive year for writing. Hopefully it will continue to be so.

Since last time, I've written five scenes, over 12,000 words. I credit my logbook, which reminds me forcefully of whenever I fail to make my goal of writing four times a week.

But enough about word counts, scene counts, etc. Though I am a math person, I know that the soul of a story does not lie in the numbers.


1. Know thy characters. I say that a lot, and I know that it's ridiculous for me to want to have a character-based story with a cast of hundreds (literally. But only a small fraction of those are important). But you, the writer, must understand your characters if you want to feel what you are writing.

Find something about your viewpoint character to like, something that resonates with you, so that you can see things from his/her perspective. Find something about your viewpoint character that doesn't align with your views, so that you don't turn the character into your self-insert and get queasy about writing the character as a real, and flawed, person.

*Note: in first draft, that doesn't matter as much. Right now, as I toss around ideas for GW, there's one character who is essentially me. If you're writing for purposes of catharsis, don't force anything, not even good characterization.

2. Know when to end. In one scene I ditched the last two hundred words or so because the scene had, sneakily, behind my back, accomplished what it needed to do.

3. Rearrange. If you write something that sounds really good, but it happens at a different time in the story, copypasta to your heart's content. Nothing you write is wasted. That doesn't mean you have to use everything you write.

4. Writing confrontations is (sometimes) fun. I swore off gratuitous fight scenes since they irritated me so much when I started revising, but fights or hostile encounters that coincidentally show character dynamics or foreshadow stuff have their place. Putting your characters under pressure and seeing how they react is a good way to see what they're made of.

5. Let function inform tone. If a scene is meant to be a respite, take more liberties with pretty language. Just as readers need to take breathers, so do you. Besides, too much confrontation (see above) can get repetitive real quick. Experiment with subtler ways of creating character conflict.

6. Help yourself. I'm finally at the point where my first-draft writing is decent enough that I can use a lot of it instead of writing scenes entirely from scratch. Yes! When you reach that point, enjoy it. I need to stay on guard, make sure I don't get complacent, but I can't deny that it's a relief.


Time to write.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Tribute to the Public Library

I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.
-Jorge Luis Borges

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? But I am here now. I have sought sanctuary, and you have taken me in.

It is said that nowhere can a man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul. If so, I hope my soul is a library.

I love everything here, from the outside architecture to the tapestries in the entryway to the secret passageway painted with books. I have wandered in the bottom floor, the nonfiction section, with shelves after shelves flicking away before me. There are Dewey Decimal numbers I’ve memorized - 188 for philosophy, 808 for writing, 930 for ancient civilizations. I like to scan a shelf and think of all the books there that I want to read.

The children’s section, too, is a sanctuary, if smaller - a well-written children’s book can be medicine for a tired mind. My troubles are small enough that a 150-page chapter book with magic and sassy cats can ease them. I will not speak of the YA section, save that there are some roses in the snow.

The upper floor for years seemed to me a mysterious land, a castle in the air, and even now when I ascend those steps I feel a rush of reverence. I like an empty end desk or the last armchair; I like visiting and rereading sections of my favorite books: In the Forest of Forgetting, the Chosen, and others.

I sit here and I find stillness. I find quiet, and beauty, and a distant longing for summer days. I’d spend the whole day here if I could. If I laid my head on a volume of fairy tales, would it help me sleep better? What dreams would I have if I fell asleep reading Borges? Maybe I’d see the architecture of dead, demented gods. Maybe I would find transcendence.

Books are a comfort. When I am sick at heart, and it seems that I am all too often so, I read to ease the dull ache of stress and obligation. It is no heavy burden on my shoulders, but little things, too, can be sources of joy and sorrow. I seem to have more of a spine when, in looking down a bookshelf I see so many fine examples of such.

Gods, I want to paint the sky right now.

It has been far too long since I checked anything out. I have lists, post-it notes full of lists, forty books or more, and so slowly do I work my way through. I came here thinking to check out three, but I do not know if I can. Soon. Soon I will come and accept your gifts, but no, now the best I can do is sit in this quiet and try to imbue myself with some of your calm, some of your tranquility. I know I need it.

The familiar words, the familiar surroundings calm me, settle me. In the quiet, in the dusty air perfumed with thousands - millions of slowly ripening pages, I find peace. The sweep of stairs, the skylight girders, the arched interior windows, the shelves, the shelves, the shelves! - into these are built happiness.


Apologies for posting a day late. Have a good weekend.