Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When a Necklace Breaks

I have no excuses, only jumping thoughts.

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Comparison: Inn-n-Out v. Five Guys

Better burgers: Inn-n-Out

Better fries: Five Guys

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Hanging out with friends: fun. I am heavily introverted but sometimes, prowling through Anthropologie gasping at the high prices and poking gentle fun at the "How to be a Lady" books is just what a girl needs.

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Ambitious non-fiction-writing time-involved projects that are stewing in my head:

GW-related:
-full map
-manuscripts for major magic systems
-pantheon with hierarchies + myths

General stories:
-band picture (hint: look for protagonists in the lower brass)

Other:
-LARPing based on hometown + local areas of interest + Rick Riordan books
-become a chessmaster
-decide what I want to be in ten years

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I went walking on Monday, and at several points thought: in a dream, this is when I'd fly.

And: as long as I can see the moon, I will be okay.

--

Until Friday.

--

...the beads scatter.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dark Waters of the Mind

Housekeeping first: My posting has not followed the schedule recently. Apologies for that. Further disruptions will come in June, since I'm going to China for over two weeks. Next week I will post Tuesday (5/29) and Friday (6/1) as usual; the next post after that will be Tuesday, 6/19.

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What did I want to talk about today? Right. I wanted to talk about rest, and how I don't see much of it in the future. Ever.

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Really, though, what did I want to talk about? This is the moment a writer fears: when, with a blank page in front of you, nothing is waiting to come out.

What do you do?

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When you are a writer, and your soul is bleak, it can be tempting to say, "Forget it, I'll go read something. Or sleep. Or drink tea and play with my cat."

None of the above are bad things, necessarily. But I know that personally, if I have the opportunity to write and I don't, then I will feel terrible. Reading a couple of short story collections recently has added to this: I want to sit down and write one short story after another, worlds and people melting off the page into self-contained vessels each with their own individual flavor.

It reminds me of my (as yet unfulfilled) desire to try out all the flavors of gelato at the sweet shop.

Go read some short story collections. Or, simply remember what Ray Bradbury said: "Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come." And then remember that he said he wrote a short story a day for a while. You may feel the same.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

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I suppose my meaning today is discontent. I haven't been putting as much effort into posting quality as I should be, and I project six more months of work on the Utopia Project. The story is deeply ingrained in my soul, and I love it, but that is a long time to work on only one story.

I suppose what I am searching for is variety. A change of scene; a change of pace. But is that enough reason to turn from the great wheat field I am threshing to gather wildflowers?

I posted last September about Natalie Goldberg's book Wild Mind. I revisit, and my eye lands on this quote:

"A novel is a big dream, a whale of a dream. You have to go under for a long time into the dark waters of the mind and stay there."

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Ah. Yes.

For the longest time I have been uneasy because I have had no drowning dreams, which, to me, represent the courage to go deep. This current urge to write unrelated short stories is, perhaps, the desire to come up for air.

No.

I must go fearlessly into the depths even as the people about whom I write traverse the vast sea. I must sink, sink in, sink into the darkness of their hearts, dig out the shipwrecks in their souls, and lay bare the contents, whether they be gold or skeletons.

I am not religious, but I do feel as though my faith is being tested. My faith in what? In my "crazy story", my Utopia Project. The lights on the surface are tempting, and the vistas to be found on land. But I will fight my natural buoyancy because this is where I belong, six miles under, in the great mystery that is the deep ocean, in the dark waters of the mind.

Because the shark is my brother/ and the anglerfish will light my way.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Monster of the Deeps

It has been dead for a while.

But you may not think so. Under the ocean, the currents move at the whim of the moon, and the dead beast is pulled this way and that. The long tentacles sway, reaching farther down into the darkness of deep ocean than you can tell.

The main body - a bulbous, distended organ that resembles some poisonous fungal growth - is more static, hanging suspended in the eerie twilit blue. That is how you know it is dead. If it is living, why would it hold so still as fish chew away at its pale flesh?

It has a head, though you'll have to search to find it. The beast is large, many times larger than a ship - and even so, it is small, unimportant, in the infinite vastness of the sea - and you must move past miles, it seems, of gray-white flesh - skin, it must be, only skin does not usually look so rotted - to find a change.

Then, on the upward side of the body, you see something. If it were on the other side, you'd think it was a barnacle (and there are many, feeding off, living on the corpsemeat), but the dark thing is alone, a smudge on the top of the beast's body. The sunward side, it any sun reached this far deep.

You approach, carefully, coming up slowly to the dark shape. Finally you arrive, and there you see two slits above the thing you saw. A hole, you think, and then, glimpsing teeth, a mouth.

But something is wrong. Those teeth are, in fact, teeth - not the baleen of a whale, nor the serrated rows of sharks. These are human teeth. Human teeth.

And slowly, you notice something else from your peripheral vision, and look. The tentacles have drifted up around you, though the current would pull them down. And - you turn back to the head - there are bubbles streaming, sliver and sparkling, from the open, breathing, mouth.

The eyes open.

--

Written in English class. I love the ocean - and yet it is so vast, and we know so little about it. The scariest monsters, to me, are the ones that combine the human with the alien.

Illustration a classmate did based on the above description:

EAL's Monster, by E. D.

Not quite what I had in mind, but it will do.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Revising Utopia Project, part XIV

I last wrote about the Utopia Project in early April.  Some thoughts:

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Psychology to the rescue:

The scene with which I was having trouble, which I talked about last time, resolved itself quite neatly when I realized that, in terms of Jungian psychology, the POV character was approximately my shadow.

Thus, it seems fitting that the scene I just finished, with which I also had difficulties, was resolved when I realized that the POV character was approximately my animus.

Also of note: I disliked both these characters a lot. Not so much when I wrote them the first time around, but during these recent revisions I was repulsed, feeling a disgust for them visceral enough to make me consider kicking them out of the story entirely. I'm glad I didn't: perhaps the characters we dislike reflect our unsavory traits, and writing through them is one way of coming to terms with those defects.

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Looking around the corner:

I took a week to read ahead a few scenes and make notes for revisions. Since this is my first time revising anything this long, I don't know if this method is ideal, and I certainly know that all writers work differently. But here are some examples of the notes I make to myself:
Scene 91:

-language barrier - just starting to overcome - J makes effort to talk Neutsch, A to talk Krev
-less about school, more about gen. life
-every winter must relearn how to deal w/ the cold
-watch the dialogue

Sometimes, while reading ahead, I'm disappointed because the scenes I loved while I was writing them no longer seem good. But I am also heartened, because there are some parts I can use as-is, and it's good to see improvement.

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How:

For once, English class was useful. We had to do some exercises with short stories identifying how style affects meaning, since next year AP Language & Composition is all about rhetorical analysis. It was eye-opening: paying attention to how something is written allows us, as writers, another set of dimensions with which to work.

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Giving you a name and taking away the number:

Go melodramatic. In my first scene back from reading ahead, my writing was stumbling. (A week off writing is just like a week off practicing anything else: "where did all my progress go?!") To get my words back, I thought about the scene, wrote about writing it, and then decided that the best way to summarize the theme of the individual scene was thus:

"Birth of a monster."

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I numeri:

Scenes: 4

Words: 13,000 +

Landmarks: 2/3 point; ~100 pages left

--

Good writing, friends.

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Mild Fantasy

Tonight, I meant to write about my progress on the Utopia Project, or share what I've learned so far from the fascinating book After the Ice, by Steven Mithen. But it seems that will have to wait for next time, and the time after that. It's been a tiring week, and I am in need of rest.

For a while I've been mulling over the concept of "energy" as it applies to focus and mental space. Recently, my energy has been all over the place: European history, finance, the world from 20,000-5,000 BC, my future. I am not adhering to the law of foci.

Small wonder, then, this exhaustion.

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Let's play a game. It only requires the imagination. If you had a day with no obligations and no plans, what would you do?

I'll go first:

I'd wake up late and read in bed: Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, or Don Quixote.

Then, a slow breakfast in the sun: cream cheese on toast, and wheat thins.

Going for a long walk around the neighborhood, and coming back in time for lunch (something simple, like a sandwich, also eaten outside).

Going for another walk, to the library, where I'd write whatever I want.

Home around 1600 for a snack (an orange) and reading After the Ice.

Writing: the Utopia Project revisions, and a coherent blog post or two.

Dinner: eaten inside, but still something simple. Like winter melon soup.

Reading, drawing, dreaming, relaxing.

Sleep. Sleep. Sleep.

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The semester is winding down and there is much to do. Tomorrow, I will not be able to follow this schedule; nor the day after that. But in my mind, at least, I am sitting at an armchair in the top level of my library, a notebook on my knee, as late-afternoon light slants through the windows.

There are, perhaps, airships, or dragons, or submarines. There will be heroes trudging through jungles and swamps and tundra, or assailing vast fortresses of metal and stone. And I, the creator, will be at rest, gathering my energy and letting it seep out onto page, where perhaps it will do some good.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gathered

(source)

I've never been one for flower-picking, but so long as the flowers are figurative, I'm game. A bouquet of interesting things for you:

A Brief History of Monsters by Theodora Goss.

From the blog Domythic Bliss, ocean-inspired decoration and floating houses.

Awesome picture, awesome title:
Greek Stoic Philosopher Athenodorus Rents a Haunted House
(source)

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.

This project seems at a standstill, but the concept is fascinating: Baba Yaga and Communism.


On writing briefly.

"Then We Will Go to Europe", by Paul Kingsworth. Hecatedemeter has fantastic taste in poetry.


"Where Good Ideas Come From" - Steven Johnson

Do you know who Anonymus is?

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Ciao.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Festival

Let's play a game.

Take a dream, set it to a song, and go.

--

I'll go first:
Flying over field and forest, dancing with [insert a boy's name] in Africa after telling him his clarinet playing is out of place 10/7/11
Song: "Summertime Sadness" by Lana del Ray

Note: I don't remember this dream at all. Time to let my characters do the talking. Contains slight spoilers for the GW story.

--

"May I have this dance?"

Thaddeus scowled, and his clarinet made a sound like a duck. Melusine looked at him sideways, then out on to the dancing floor where Amy was grinning shyly and taking Gunter's proffered hand.

"Certainly," she said, in her usual matter-of-fact voice. But she was blushing, or seemed to be. Thaddeus told himself that it was because in the Lion Country, even nights were hot in the summer.

He forced his eyes away from the two of them, back to his sheet music. The sixteenth notes that greeted him were unwelcome, but better these than the sight of Amy swirling around the dance floor on Gunter's arm. That sight would only make him angry, and Gunter was a friend, Thaddeus didn't want to want to punch him.

They finished one song, and began another, and then another: a lively song that invited twirling and jumping. The drums took an extended solo - Thaddeus thought he could do better - and he could not keep his eyes away.

He also could not deny that Gunter and Amy had been dancing together for three songs in a row, unless they'd switched in the second song. But he didn't think they had. And they were still smiling at each other, still laughing.

By the Fire Wife, she was beautiful when she laughed.

Andreas elbowed him and mouthed, "one measure left". He brought the clarinet back up, and played his part perfect, perfect, perfect. After all, he could do some things right, even though a lot of things he got very wrong.

One last song finished the set. Music started up from the east corner of the field: a brass quartet, with a trombonist who was nowhere near as good as Amy. Thaddeus closed his music folder and tucked it under his arm, then gave his clarinet over to Melusine so he could take the stands back. He didn't look at the dance floor.

In the musician's tent, he put everything right where it was supposed to be. Normally, he'd leave the stands in a cluster right at the entrance, and throw his folder somewhere in the vicinity of his jacket. But tonight he lined everything up, put his clarinet away as soon as Melusine handed it over to him again, and even put his music back in order.

Anything to delay.

"Are you going back out?" asked Andreas. His two cases were open on the table in front of him and, with the briskness of a Goldberg machine, he put his instruments away as chaotically efficient as possible.

Thaddeus pretended to consider it. "No."

Andreas nodded. Melusine looked as though she was about to say something, but Thaddeus was glad when she didn't. The drummer shrugged and said, "I'm going. Got my eye on a girl who I'm eighty percent sure isn't a Gelfionite. I'll tell you how it goes later." He walked out jauntily.

In the silence of the drummer's departure, Thaddeus could feel his friends looking at him. He didn't meet their eyes. It was a hot night, and outside the skillfully laid wards he could hear the drone of mosquitoes. The torches lit the dance floor with their brilliance, but in the musician's tent there was only a small lamp.

After a long pause, Andreas said, "I think I'll go too. For the pastries, though, not the dancing." He clicked the clasp shut on his flute case and left.

Melusine set her case upright and sighed. Thaddeus knew she was going to say something, now. It took her a moment, though, and then she said only, "You'll be all right" before she, too, left him alone.

The tent-flap swung shut, shut out the light and the music. In the dimness, he stood with his hands on the table to either side of his open case. A faint breeze rippled the sides of the tent, and the image of Amy and Gunter dancing together lingered in his mind: their clasped hands. Her smile. He repeated Melusine's words to himself: "You'll be all right."

A moment passed. Then, his hands convulsed, fists before relaxing to claws. The lamp flared up: the flames shot straight through and around the metal lid, then retreated just as quickly leaving only the lamp glowing dull, red, angry.

Thaddeus slammed shut his clarinet case. He took a deep breath, and gave up trying to master himself. In a few long strides, he crossed the tent and threw back the exit away from the dance floor.

The night, he thought, would be kinder.

--

As I finish writing this it is nearly midnight. Certainly this could use some revising.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Refuge

It promises to be a busy month.

Without going too much into the particulars, I will have lots going on as we come up to the end of the school year. One AP test, a band concert, at least a few projects, a slew of finals. Homework. Reading After the Ice, by Steven Mithen, which is immensely interesting but also extremely long.

Since I am after all only a sophomore in high school, I won't complain any further. But I do miss earlier years, when I could relax some more. Better get used to being this busy.

Or, better get working on coping mechanisms.

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I alluded to this in my last post: the creation of inner refuges. It's a concept I've borrowed from the awesome Theodora Goss, who calls them sanctuaries.

The terminology is not important. What is important is the creation, or the finding.

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For example:







And such.

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If your characters live in your head, you can go visit them sometimes. The Sorceress has an enviable home:

Princesses may be trapped in towers. Sorceresses choose to live there, so that they will not be disturbed.

She was a sorceress, and so she chose this, the cold gray stone - sea stone, it was, with the imprints of shells and fish bones in the walls - and the lonely hearth and the window to the west and the rolling ocean. Because she was an artist, she painted the walls rather than hang tapestries. It was lovely d├ęcor, but she was often cold.

She was often cold, even when she sat by the blue-green fire - for fires burn strangely in the home of a sorceress, even if they are not fed by driftwood - with a cat or two on her lap, and a mug of tea steaming on the side table, and a thick soft blanket holding her like a mother holds a child, or the ruins of an old temple hold secrets.

Of course she must have a library:

One flight down, Dylan paused. The entire floor was dedicated to a library, and the perfume of old pages made him suddenly nostalgic for the university of Asterra, where he’d sometimes gone to meet the girl he’d then been courting.

It was a beautiful room, with large windows facing east. Now thick curtains were drawn across them, embroidered with mountains and icy wastes. Below the window were a sturdy desk and a high-backed chair. Several books were stacked on the desk; also, a candle, and a glass vase holding three white flowers. In the darkness, they seemed to glow, as if they drank the moon.

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So there I am. Sitting atop the ruins of Uruk, or in the Sorceress' observatory (she has one, of course, on her roof), breathing: air of the hot desert or laced with the sea. My study sheets and scribbled timelines: forgotten. There is time for them tomorrow, but for this moment I will set them aside.

Because the breeze is blowing and I've found refuge, and I want to paint the sky.