Raven's Pen

Writing, Reading, and Ruminating

Category: Writing (Page 2 of 3)

The Little and the Big

This post is going to be a bit different than usual…

Today, my family and I drove to a different part of the state to pick up a load of hay. The road we took is the type where passing ten or twelve cars can be counted as traffic. Hedged by farmhouses and ranch land dotted by the blobs of cows and fences, the small town that we passed through along the way used to contain a post office along with the rest of its buildings, but I believe that it closed down about a year ago. Our destination was a second town along the same road- amid the stretching and mountain engirdled, horizon landscape – with fresher fields and far more green– horses are the occupants of almost every third or forth field– but the majority of space is used for agriculture.

It might sound slightly dismal, but people actually seem to be doing very well.

We have been buying hay from the same people for the last few years, and they are relatively transparent about the state of their crops (a fact that I had not truly noticed until my mom pointed it out on the way home). Like so many people in the melting-pot that our state is, they cobble together their lives as they see fit- agriculture, horse breeding, working a more traditional job ect. Some things are done for necessity, but many are done for pleasure as well as making a living.

The people that we buy hay from chose to own agricultural land, and it is a conscious choice that they have kept. I think that is important to this post because of one main thing: I think it is easy to forget that what is often considered ‘normal’ is just one (typically) socially acceptable version of living life.

So many people in this world live in cities where the everyone seems to be trying to race time. There is the always the larger objective, the giant new challenge that must be accomplished by a set date, or the action that has been done a thousand times and now must be repeated. An exhilarating rush for the people who love it; a dull roboticism (that isn’t a dictionary approved word, but maybe it should be) for the people who despise it. So is the life of the corporate.

Alright, let’s get back to the point, shall we?

I love hearing stories of people who are slightly quirky; artists chasing their dreams as though they cannot live without it, and perhaps, they cannot. There is something beautiful in a slower world. Or perhaps, it is simply a more connected world.

More connected to the expanse of whatever is around you; instead of the next deadline that someone else has set.

Of course, all of this ties into a different discussion about passion that I hope to post soon. But, I digress.

Corporate situations fit many people, and so they should. But there must also be a place for someone who is not interested in being the next big CEO of a brilliant company; someone like a distant neighbor of ours who works out of their home and keeps goats for fun- and as a second source of income, or the family that I began this post with.

I am not saying that aiming for something large is bad, or that deadlines are unimportant: quite the opposite. Deadlines are usually necessary to accomplish goals on your own, and reaching as far as possible for you dreams is something that should always be done.

Seriously, go for your passions.

Not everything needs to be large and fancy. If the goal of a life is ‘living well’ and happily/with passion, than why should we try to shove anyone into tiny boxes? There should be room for simplicity. And simplicity in contentment. Or visa versa. Whatever you find yourself floating on.

Isn’t happiness part of what we all want? Of course, stability is often on many people’s minds as well, but surely the two can work together.

Perhaps I am biased, this post is certainly colored by my own opinions, but I think it is important to remind yourself every once and a while that a life is what you create. It should not be ‘lesser’ to be pleased by little pieces of a larger accomplishment; or to aim for something that could be considered an ‘old-fashioned’ way of living. Not everyone’s grand wish is to be a great doctor or a brilliant scientist; although, surely there are many people in the world who aim for just that. No one is lesser than anyone else simply because of what they want to accomplish in the world.

This post is heading in circles- or maybe it is just my thoughts. Seriously though, there is freedom in this world as long as you are willing to look for it.

So… to condense this post into one sentence: There is no shame in being different.

Also, there is no shame in wanting something different.

As long as you don’t harm anybody.

Yeah. Let’s make peace trendy again.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have the temptation to comment…

Until next time! (You can bet that a similar discussion will be continued- with more writing stuff added along. It all arcs around.)

I’m Backkk!

My goodness!

It has been a looong time since I last posted.

Today is the last day of July. It has been one crazy month; I managed to accomplish most of what I wanted to though- thankfully! Camp NaNoWriMo is officially at its close, and I finished at 100,198 of 100,000 words. I apologize that I have not posted regularly, and I am hoping that I can get back into it within the next few days or so.

So far, Camp has included many, many late nights (writing is more important than a good night’s sleep after all), copious amounts of caffeine and chocolate (of course!), a few moments- or more- of questioned sanity, and slightly sore fingers. All in all, it has been a great month.

I hope that everyone else who is participating is having a great time! Remember: if you are consistently sitting down to work than you have already accomplished so much more than you realize!

Jack London said that “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” As far as creative work goes; I think this is a great motto. However, it is important to remember that sometimes rest days are important. Sometimes you just need to let things sit- it is perfectly valid. Silence can be a tool, just as long as it does not last forever.

Well… there is always something more to accomplish, and there are very few things that are impossible- or perhaps none at all.

Hopefully, I will have another post for you soon. Until then…

Don’t forget to save your documents!

(Also, cookies for whoever manages to figure out the reference in the title of this post…)

‘Till next time!

For Everyone Currently Editing

A quiet reminder for everyone navigating the editing swamp right now…

  • It’s okay to take breaks.
  • It’s okay to be confused.
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect on the first, or second (even ninth) time through.
  • It’s okay to work on another project at the same time.
  • Just because finishing might seem impossible right now does not mean that it is.
  • Half of accomplishing anything is getting up to work even when it’s the last thing you want to do.
  • YOU’RE AWESOME. Keep going and soon you’ll reach the great mountain at the end of your journey.

Writing with LGBT+ Characters Pt. 2

Whew, it’s been a busy week!

Today’s topic is about myths; those pesky little stereotypes that are best avoided.

Myths are incredibly prevalent in our society, whether they are classical or contemporary, and they often find their way into books. (Okay, more then often. They’re like a giant weasel burrowing admix everything. Or maybe that is just my plot holes talking…)

As you can see by the title of this post, this is the second half of my whole thing about writing with LGBT+ characters. Let me be entirely honest for a moment; this is a post that I thought would be far easier to write than it actually was. For one, there are thousands of different ways to approach this topic. There are also a lot of questions.

When writing about ‘minority’ groups, it is easy to say that all humans are humans and they should be treated as such. However, there are always certain things to avoid. That is where stereotypes come in.

Yup, those.

Everyone knows that it’s frustrating when someone stereotypes you; no matter who you are. One of the problems with LGBT+ characters in media and books is the number of stereotypes that are repeatedly used again and again. I think at least a few of the more recent queer characters that are starting to show up are finally avoiding many of these stereotypes, but they can still be a problem. Stereotypes have a way of sticking around.

On the heels of that, let’s get into the actual discussion…

Before I get into my over-passionate list of a few stereotypes, let’s go over some basic stuff:

According to the New Oxford English Dictionary (third edition), sexuality is defined as: a “capacity for sexual feelings,” or, “a person’s sexual orientation or preference.”

So… what are the most commonly used sexualities?

Lesbian: A woman who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to another woman. (Gay is also an appropriate term in some areas. It mostly seems to be based on personal preference.)

Gay: A man who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to another man.

Bisexual: Someone who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to two or more different genders.

Transgender: Someone whose gender is something other than what they were assigned at birth. (While trans is not exactly a sexuality, it is certainly a valid LGBT+ identity.)

Pansexual: Someone who can experience romantic and/or sexual attraction to multiple different genders. (While this may seem very similar to bisexuality (and it is), pansexuality is an entirely separate identity. Pan and bi can occasionally be used interchangeably, but it is entirely based on personal opinion and there is a debate about whether or not they should be, most people seem to stick with whichever one they feel more comfortable with.)

Asexual: Someone who does not necessarily experience sexual attraction. Most people who identify with asexuality experience romantic attraction,

All right, now that that is out of the way: what are some of the basic stereotypes to avoid?

Note: these are based off of things that I have run into around the net, and they are undoubtedly influenced by my own opinions. There are probably some mistakes as well, please let me know if you find any. I will be happy to read your comments.

The butch and girly-girl lesbian relationship. Surprised? I know, they’re cute. But it’s just one version of a relationship involving two girls. It is true that there are many lesbians who fit the butch stereotypes, but everyone else needs representation too. To be clear, this is not on the list because it is a bad one, it is here simply because it seems easy to fall into.

The sex craving gay/lesbian/bi/pan etc. While physicality can have a major place in many written relationships (just think about a lot of the popular books out there right now), relationships are about the emotional not the physical. To be honest, this is something that can easily be overdone with straight relationships as well, but I think it can be a major problem with LGBT+ relationships, especially since there is some phobia out there about LGBT+ people being attracted to everyone they meet: entirely not true! Simply put: if you are not writing in a genre that asks for a ton of sexual stuff, this is something that I highly recommend avoiding.

The feminine/stylish gay man. This is very similar to the first one I mentioned; not all gay men wear flamboyant clothes, talk in high voices, or giggle. While there are some gay men who may fit this stereotype, there is also a large majority that does not. Let’s mix it up a bit shall we?

The greedy bisexual/pansexual. Bi and pan people have the capacity to be attracted to multiple genders, it is certainly not a mark of greed. It is an ability. Bi and pan people are not attracted to everyone they meet, and being bi or pan does not mean that they wish to be in multiple relationships at once.

The confused bisexual/pansexual. This one mostly seems to stem from a lack of understanding that bi and pan are both valid sexualities. While some people might be confused, the chances are that someone who is identifying with any of the LGBT+ terms probably knows whether or not the term fits them. To be clear: writing a character who is questioning their sexuality is an entirely different (and absolutely appropriate) thing!

The tragic death. Okay, this is probably the worst one of all. It is tempting to kill off one half of a relationship for drama and *ahem* mental torture (I am guilty of falling into this plot trap). However, this is entirely overdone in LGBT+ relationships. There are very few (but more than there used to be!) LGBT+ characters who get a happy ending, and I think that this is stereotype that should be broken. Do you remember what I said about books showing people the world in my last post? Everyone should be able to read about characters in relationships that they identify with who get to have happy endings!

All right, there it is in its mess and confusion. I know that I strayed off of the path of strictly talking about writing characters at a few points, but hopefully that did not occur too much.

Again, if you have any comments or corrections, please let me know!

Until next time!

(And a cute puppy gif, because that was pretty intense):

puppy tennis

Writing with LGBT+ Representation Pt.1

With the legalization of queer marriage last year, it seems like equality is far closer in this country than it has been for centuries. But there is still a ton of work to be done.

Why am I bringing this up now, and in a post about writing of all things? Because LGBT+ representation is still extremely scarce, both in film and books.

Of course, there are many different ways to approach representation of anything, and I cannot possibly cover everything in one post. Nor do I know everything. But one of my goals for June is to talk a bit about including ignored sections of society in books.

When speaking about any group that is not traditionally considered a majority (at least in modern times), there is always a lot of debate. I think it is common knowledge that people are afraid of things that they do not understand; no matter what it is.

Part of what books do is help to create understanding around topics that might not necessarily be talked about around a dinner table. This is not the case for all books, nor should it be, but, whether the author intends it or not, books often carry messages.

The topic of this post is a tiny splinter of a much larger one, and it is only part of one side, but I believe that it is an important thing to talk about. I have run into many things around the internet about how some people see a ‘queer or gay-agenda’ being shoved in their faces; I find this ridiculous. But I’ll talk more about that in a separate post.

While I could easily go on a very long rant about my own views, I am simply going to harp on the fact that it is still hard to find good representation of minority groups in film and books.

It is true that there are far more LGBT+ characters in TV nowadays, and the number in books is rising as well; however, it is still quite hard to find books with good queer role models.

Yes, the rising amount of representation is extraordinary and wonderful, but there is a difference between the what media sees as ‘queer’ and the actual diversity of the term.

In my cloistered little world, I may not know very much, but I hope that I can at least recognize a few of the major questions relating to dealing with queer characters.

I know that a lot of people who have not written many queer characters often wonder where they should start:

How is writing queer relationships different from heterosexual ones?

How should they go about defining who has which role in a partnership?

How can they avoid offending people, including the LGBT+ community?

To start with an overview of each:

1. Queer people are still people; in short, it is a pretty safe bet to start writing their relationships just like you would any relationship. It has highs and lows, understanding and confusion, just go with it.

2. Who says there should be roles at all? Not everything needs to be defined in black and white or male and female.

3. Try to become at least slightly familiar with the typical stereotypes that you should stay away from. Do a bit of research. There is a ton of material available.

Clearly, there is much more to say about each of those, but I am going to start with a few general questions before really getting into the more nitty-gritty stuff…

First off: why include representation anyway? This is pretty self-explanatory, but I’m going to talk a bit about it anyway.

A bit of a personal story: One of the first fantasy books that I remember reading more than once is Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series. I started reading at a late age, but I quickly started searching for chapter books; the Song of the Lioness series was one that I absolutely fell in love with. The main character, Alanna, is fierce as hell and just as strong. She follows her own heart and passions despite what society expects her to do, and she manages to grow stronger with each mistake she makes. She is also incredibly stubborn. Reading a book with such a strong female main character was, and still is, a major inspiration.

What does this have to do with LGBT+ representation?

Representation is all about showing people that something is possible. Every community and group of people needs its heroes and heroines. Including diverse characters in anything is a way of showing the people who are different that it is okay to be them. Having an entire world with strictly hetero-cis-white representation would be extremely diminishing to everyone who does not fit those confines.

While this world is not one with strictly white-hetero representation, it is the majority of what people see in media (film or books).

Now, clearly this conversation could reach straight into equality as a general concept, but I’m going to try to bring it back to books.

My view in this post is mostly focused on America since it is the country that I am the most familiar with. The book that I started in April for Camp NaNoWriMo has very few straight characters; this was not an accident.

Over the past month or so, I have been occasionally searching for books with LGBT+ characters to add to my to-be-read list. The number of books that I am finding with characters who are something other than gay/lesbian is pitifully small.

I very rarely read anything that is solely (or even mostly) romantic, and that undoubtedly makes the number of books even thinner. But, even when including romance, there are still very few.

For a world, and a country, with a large number of people who identify on the queer spectrum (whether it is gay/lesbian, pan, bi, trans, asexual etc.) this is something that I find sad.

Now, I know that my approach in this post may be slightly heavy handed to one side, and I have not even gotten into the writing part of the discussion yet, I think that there is very little that should be skipped over.

Because I am trying to keep each of my posts on this topic relatively small, I am going to end here for now. I hope to tackle an question that better pertains to actually writing next time.

Hopefully you will bear with me through my plethora of posts regarding representation… and I will try to keep my personal rants out of the way and to a minimum.

Until next time…

The Ups and Downs of Editing Pt. I

Editing a full book has always seemed like one of those fairytale-esque ‘someday’ things.

I think it is relatively common knowledge that once someone writes a manuscript, the next thing to think about is editing. Well… that world of editing is a complicated one. I am sure that you have some experience if you have ever had to edit a paper or a short story; but the truth is that novels are different. At least, that is the case in my minimal experience.

Before finishing Subliminal, I had dabbled with editing my other manuscripts. But I have never been able to got past the first few chapters.

Now that I am seriously attempting to edit Subliminal, I have run onto something that I have heard at least a few people talk about:

The phases of editing.

Rather, the things that end up going through your head after finishing a book and reading through it again. It seems to go something like this:

“This is a mess.”

“What was I thinking?”

“Actually, this is not as bad as I thought it was.”

“I wonder if anyone would actually like reading this.

“You know,  I think this might have a lot of potential.”

“Who knew I could actually be funny!”

“This is not bad.”

“Oh sh*t.”

“What the hell was I thinking?”

“This is horrible.”

“How could this ever become publishable?”

And on and on…

Essentially, it is a circle.

The most important thing to have is hope.

But… that circle is part of the reason why I have not done much editing in the past two weeks. All right, I have been extremely distracted by everything else that has been going on; and everything else that needs to be done. But it is always possible to make time to edit, even if it is only for a few pages.

One of the dangers of the editing circle is the amount of head-space it takes.

So… here is one piece of advice before moving onto the next part of this post:

One of the easy things to say in response to the editing circle is “just get through it”, but “get through it” is something that is rarely helpful unless you are telling yourself. I think of editing as a mind game. That does not mean that it is easy, quite the contrary.

Editing requires a very different type of focus than writing does.

Which is way I think it is important to have another project going on at the same time.  Fortunately, I am not only one in the house who is trying to edit; my mom is also working on her own book. This has brought up some interesting conversations, as well as a few conclusions (and always more questions). One of those conclusions is that editing is a process that requires breaks.

You know those times when you type a word, and every moment that you stare at it makes the spelling seem more and more incorrect? Unless you are in a very small group of people, editing without breaks can actually do more harm than good.

Good stories have a flow that pulls the reader in and floats them down the stream. Great stories are things that the reader can live inside of; and I think that beautiful stories are always the goal.

The best stories need good writing.

I think good writing is defined by the reader. Everyone will argue for their opinion and say that they are right; in the end, no one can entirely agree.

Of course, there are a few basic things:

  • Proper grammar.
  • Correct spelling.
  • Paragraph breaks.

In the end, the truth is that you can never please everybody. You can try, but the word perfect simply does not exist.

I think this is true with life as well as editing. As Leo Tolstoy Said, “If you look for perfection, you’ll never be content.”

So… when is a book ready to be published?

Because I am still trying to figure out the answer, if there is one, I can only speculate.

I would like to think that I will know when Subliminal is ready to be published. And I assume that I will, but I think it could be boiled down to a few things (in our special cauldron of course):

  • Other people will be able to read the entire book and understand what is being said.
  • I will have a fair amount of comfort with the story; but not too much.
  • There will be as few errors and typos as possible.
  • There will be an acknowledgment of imperfections.
  • The story will fit the characters.

In many ways, a book is much like a life. The lives that are lived, truly lived, become good stories.

A book may have perfect writing, or a perfect plot twist. But, if you truly think about it, anything that is perfect is impossible. So… edit until you and your compatriots agree that your book is ready, but do not try to erase every single imperfection because you will never be finished.

All right, that is speculation. I intend on posting a more in-depth exploration of editing and what makes a good book over the next few weeks.

If you have any thoughts of your own, please leave a comment. I would greatly enjoy reading them!

Short Pieces Week: Light in the Window

This is my short story for yesterday’s prompt… short stories have always confounded me, but I actually had a lot of fun writing this. Hopefully you will have fun reading it as well.

Light in the Window

The train station is almost too crowded to think. The click of suitcase wheels echo across the room along with half finished conversations. A woman with a sick son cuts in front of us. We smile at them, but they do not seem to notice. We shrug to each other as we climb onto platform five. The train is ten minutes late; or so says the billboard.

I drape my coat over my arm; the train is late again. I swore I would not complain. They keep changing the billboard to say that will arrive in ten minutes. But anyone knows something is wrong when they have been standing around for close to an hour. Something must have happened on the tracks. I am going to be late again.

A train horn blows behind us. We try not to move and are momentarily deaf. We keep our hands close as a crowd swells around us. We have to keep our heads down. We try not to hold onto each other. For once, we can be thankful that no one ever seems to see us.

You would think people would plan ahead. My phone rings and I try not to shriek as I yank it open. Candice’s shrill voice is even worse when I am listening through a phone’s speaker. I tap my foot and keep track of time as she berates me for a full five minutes. She can complain and threaten me as much as she wants, but everyone knows that she needs me. My specialized skills are entirely irreplaceable. And she has the sense to recognize that.

The billboard has not changed. Our hands become clammy as we try not to wring them in worry. We cannot be late. We have the sense to know that no good will come of showing up even a moment late. They do not trust us with cell phones. It will be our fault if we show up later than expected. The ten minutes listed on the billboard revert back to fifteen and we want to throw up.

I snap the cell phone shut. I do not want to think about Candice. My briefcase feels far too heavy, but I do not dare to set it down. Damn these trains, it is like the entire world wants me to fail.

We move closer to each other and clamp our hands together. We do not want to think about what will happen when we arrive at our destination. We do not want to think of anything at all. We do not have a choice; the thin threads that tie us together cannot stand the snip of a large pair of scissors. No matter what we do, scissors will always be in front of us.

I was supposed to be at the office twenty minutes ago. These damn trains. The people here should at least try to be honest. I suspect that the train will not arrive for another half-hour. If only I had another way of getting to the office. This transportation system is far too simple for such a large town.

We do not know what we will do. We are late again. We cannot come up with an excuse. No one will believe us if we say that the train was late. The train station is buzzing, but platform five stays still. People shuffle their feet and a child cries out in front of us. We try to stare straight ahead and hope that it will make us invincible.

The train finally arrives and I jostle my way into the right car. I take a seat by the window and hold onto the briefcase with both hands. My phone buzzes in my pocket and I curse the invention of such a ridiculous device. Candice starts yelling at me as soon as I answer. I ignore her pitched tone and nod along to the horrible elevator music dripping down from the ceiling.

We breathe a sigh of relief as the train arrives and we hurry to the last row of seats. We press our clenched hands together. The train car is silent. Attendants stand in the entrance to the next car. We keep our heads down and try to move as little as possible. We would whisper if we could, but even our breathing sounds too loud.

A man toward the front of the car breaks into a coughing fit. An attendant hands me a cup of water. I scowl as the briefcase starts to slip off of my lap. The water spills across the front of my shirt as I grab onto the briefcase and yank it back. The attendant immediately flies toward me and thrusts napkins into my hands. I begrudgingly wipe the water off of my shirt and try not to wince at the cold. For once, I wish that the train had been later than it was.

We move our feet in impatience. We stop as a couple in homespun clothes look in our direction. We try to be silent and still. We will not cause a riot.

My assigned car is larger than most on the train. I am part of a majority, and thank all the things that be for that fact. It may be the second to last train car, but it is by far the best cared for. Most of the people surrounding me are only here because of their grandparents’ decisions. Everyone is in their respected cars because of their origins.

We do not have choices to make. We wish that the train had never arrived. Perhaps we could have left platform five and found a different place to work. We wish that we could make different decisions than our grandparents; and we wish they had had a choice. We do not have the right to wish. But we do anyway.

All of these damn people. All of them are sitting in their cushioned seats without an inkling of how lucky they are. A simple life would be too much for most of them. They just want their gold platters and their damn briefcases.

We hold our breath as the train stops. The door opens and we scurry into the train station. The wooden platforms underneath each door are rotted and speckled from the chemicals in the occasional rain. We thank our ancestors for the clear day and make sure to hold onto each other.

An attendant bids me farewell as I climb off of the train. The briefcase feels like a bomb in my hand. God, what I would give for a moment to actually look at the city. The train station is far busier than I am used to. It is a good thing that I already know where I am going. Any traveller would be lost in the fray. I yank the briefcase to my hip as I climb to the skyscraper stairway. I wish I could avoid the passages that will take me to my employer.

We follow a woman with a toddler to the stairs. Our legs are aching by the time we reach the first landing. At least the staircase is quiet. The skyscrapers reach high above us. The city is large enough that no one ever touches the ground. We try to comfort each other even though we know that we will not be able to. We keep our hands together and move slowly.

Candice will have a fit when I finally arrive at the office. At least the briefcase I am carrying guarantees my safety. For the moment at least. I am moving slower than usual. But I refuse to pick up my pace. Footsteps climb the stairs behind me. I look over my shoulder as I reach the next landing.

We try to keep our distance from the person in front of us. But our shoes make too much noise for us to go unnoticed. The person in front of us meets our eyes and we no longer know where we are.

The people behind me stare right back. I try to think of something to say, but it would be pointless anyway. They are probably workers for one of the houses on the upper levels of skyscrapers. I stop as they continue to climb forward without loosing eye contact. They seem too young to be caught up in the lines around them, but their worried eyes tell a different story. And yet, their joined hands prove that they still have the ability to cling onto the world.

The person in front of us stops walking. We stop when we are on the last step before the landing. The person clutches a shiny brown briefcase and turns to the door on the other side of the landing. We hold our breath for a moment before following. The person grips onto the door as though it is the cause of a lifetime of pain.

The two people follow me. I pull open the door and push it to the side. The two people stand behind me as I step out of their way. I wait for them.

We stare at the door and wonder why it is being held open. We step through it after a far-too-long moment. The person with the briefcase follows us into the narrow hallway on the other side of the threshold. The door swings closed and we cannot keep our heads down as we watch the person with the briefcase across from us.

I stare at the two people who are waiting for me to make a move. I shrug to them after a moment and turn away. I look over my shoulder to see them turn in the opposite direction. They walk in step with each other. Their hands are clenched together tightly enough that they could be on the desk of a ship in the rotation of a hurricane and not break apart.

We look over our shoulders when we are sure that the person with the briefcase is not watching us. The briefcase is still shiny. It seems to weigh the person down like a ship’s anchor. It seems to be just as heavy as an anchor. The person with the briefcase is determined enough not to let go. Our joined hands keep us in place as we stare. We turn back to the hallway and wonder why our feet no longer seem to be slogging forward at the pace of a river stone.

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Finding Motivation, and an Update on Subliminal

I apologize for not posting sooner!

Why have I not posted? Well, my focus has been diverted to the rest of the things on my list for the year. But those things have been moving very s-l-o-w-l-y.

The new year always seems to begin with this low of oh gosh I have so much to do and I am not sure how to accomplish it. Lately, my parents and I have had a lot of conversations about the things on our lists… mainly: how to begin and keep moving forward. As Stephen King said, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

A large part of any creative life is the ability to begin on your own. Nowadays, almost everyone’s life is heavily directed by either their job or the school that they are in.

Because of this, much of the world seems to be based off of deadlines. Like many people, I tend to do things at the last moment when a deadline is in front of me. No matter what that deadline is. The thing is, when you are doing your own work, you usually have to set those deadlines for yourself. You are your own supervisor.

So… how does one stay motivated? And how does one find motivation when it has been dropped?

Because I am talking about writing: the list may be slightly smaller than it would otherwise. However, there are always thousands of ways to do something. The list that I have here is slightly based off of a post from September (you can find it here).

So…

You write because you love it, right?

Creative work almost always comes from passion… and if you love something, you can usually find the motivation to do whatever that thing is. So, maybe a loss of motivation can be distilled (by ancient alchemists) into two things:

  1. Questioning how much you love what you are trying to find motivation for.
  2. Not knowing how you could possibly accomplish anything, because- by the gods and goddess- this world is very large and very scary and you are tiny.

Assuming that it is possible to distill questions: you must now face whichever one of those is your fear.

If you are questioning how much you love something: well… you simply need to ask yourself what your life would be like without it. Would it be better or worse? Do you yearn to do the creative work that you are questioning? Can you go a day without thinking about it?

If you do not know how you would ever be able to accomplish anything: look at what your dream is and start following it. Do your best and see what happens. If someone tells you that what you are trying to do is impossible, it simply means that it is impossible in their mind. Who knows, maybe you will end up doing something extraordinary!

Once you know why you are stuck: How does one actually find motivation?

Explore like the great adventurer that you could be.

Here is a list of things that might be good to try:

  • Read something that you never thought you would. You know those times that I have mentioned reading when not writing? Yes? That is where this comes from. Personally, I have spent a lot of time reading this month. Also, reading can be counted as research.
  • Move around. So something active. Seriously, it will help.
  • Learn something new. Whether it is what happened in the Geneva revolution of 1782, or a new knitting style, learning new things can bring ideas… and ideas can bring that theoretical muse.
  • Look for inspiration. Maybe find a few good quotes or a writing prompt that will give you at least a few lines. It is okay if you do not like what you are writing in that moment, you are writing something and that is what matters.
  • Go outside. Remember that tree that you always end up staring at? The one with the crooked branches and the perpetual bird droppings? It just might end up becoming a major plot point.
  • Go somewhere new. Explore. Step into an unfamiliar museum and study one of the artifacts; you never know when that knowledge might become come in handy.
  • People-watch. You can see some strange things when watching people. That woman to your right with the puffy hair could be your main character’s grandmother. Coffee shops are great; do not forget about the coffee and hot chocolate… those are always good. People-watching is always better with a mug of something hot.
  • Play games with yourself. Look through a dictionary and find a way to write with the first word you see.
  • Read the news. Maybe you will end up staring at an old newspaper, or maybe you will end up laughing at the ridiculous politics that surrounds us. But you might end up finding a good idea among the musty pages.
  • Motivation is often linked to inspiration. So, all of those tools that you may have collected to gather inspiration can also get you started.
  • Daydream. I know, I know, this is probably the most counter-intuitive thing that I have ever mentioned. But you must dream to accomplish something, right? Think about how wonderful it will be to have a finished manuscript, or a reader contacting you and asking you why your main character is the way he or she is. Dream; and then step back and figure out how you can make at least part of that dream a reality.
  • Find a way to have fun. Often, when you loose motivation, the entire world seems to press down on you. But do not let that stop you from getting up and having fun! Even if it is for a brief moment. You do not even have to get up: watch one of your favorite TV shows or listen to music. Do something that will free your characters and start your brain up again.

Just like an old train: parts need to be greased and coal needs to be added.

Alright… that is one more list that could be never ending, but I will stop there because so much of everything else I could add are details. Customize your own list. Try things and see what happens.

And if you have anything that you would like me to add (or any suggestions), please leave a comment.

Now… onto the next part of this post…

Remember how I mentioned that I am planning on publishing Subliminal this year? Yes?

I still am.

So far, editing is very slow (which is part of the reason why I have not been around much), but I am slowly working through the entire book. I hope to have a full second draft by the end of this month.

I am also hoping to publish by the end of the summer. Of course, that may not happen. But I can wish and dream.

Before I disappear again: I have a cover to share with you…

Subliminal cover option

 

I am still not sure if I will publish under a pseudonym or my real name, but that is a post for another time…

Short Story: The Girl of Rivel Visits Fairyland

It is rare that I write short stories, especially of this sort, but I had a lot of fun with this one!

I hope you enjoy reading it!

The Girl of Rivel Visits Fairyland

The snow falls thickly. Kara scowls at the frosted windowpane and stomps one of her feet on the floor, “Why does it have to snow today?” Her father drops a box onto the kitchen table, “Well Kara, it is the holiday season.”

Kara continues to scowl as she turns around, “That doesn’t mean that we should be stuck inside because of some ridiculous snow!” Her father gives her a sideways look, “You’re not stuck inside Kara; you could run out and play if you wanted to.” She slumps into her chair at the table, “But it isn’t fair, I wanted it to be sunny today. That way I could ride into town with the Sommers.”

Her father pulls a pie plate out of the box, “You could still go outside Kara, and see if the Sommers want help with their Christmas decorations. You had fun helping them last year, remember?” She sinks lower into the chair, “I don’t want to have anything to do with Christmas this year. In fact, I don’t want to have anything to do with any of the holidays. I just want it to be summer again.”

She stomps out of the room before her father can come up with a response; and politely tell her that she was complaining about summer from January through September.

Kara flops down on her bed and tries to ignore the happy shouts of the children across the road. She crosses her arms over her chest with a scowl, “This is not fair!” But her bedroom walls do not answer and she grits her teeth together. She gets up with an exasperated sigh and stomps over to her window, “This isn’t fair at all; I want it to be summer! I would do anything for it to be summer again!”

“Anything can be a dangerous word you know.”

She jumps at the unexpected voice and stammers for words, “Who- what- h-how did you…” A small woman in a long white dress peels herself off of Kara’s bed, “Well, you know, you did say anything Kara.” Kara stumbles backwards and wonders if her eyes are going to jump out of her head and run around the room “H-how do you know my name? Are you an angel?”

The woman raises an eyebrow, “An angel? Goodness no! The word ‘angel’ would imply that I am better than someone else; no Kara, I am simply someone.” Kara crosses her arms over her chest, “But everybody is someone. That doesn’t make any sense.”

The woman shakes her head and smiles, “It only makes sense if you allow it to Kara.” Kars scowls, “What are you doing in my bedroom?” The woman’s smile widens, “Now that is the right question Kara; what am I doing in your bedroom indeed? I am here because you said that you would do anything; and I happen to be an expert in anything. Where do you want to go? I can take you anywhere that you wish to be.”

Kara opens her mouth to argue, before realizing that she truly does want to be somewhere else, “I- I want to go to a place where it is always summer; no, wait… I want to go to fairyland.”

Her words are prouder than she intended, but they seem to fit remarkably well; and she rejoices in the fact that she has chosen the one place that most girls her age wish to be.

The woman studies her for a moment and sighs, “Alright, whatever you wish. Grab my hand and hold on tightly; this will be a rocky journey” Kara does as the woman asked before she can talk herself out of it. She holds back a shriek as the room rocks, and then she is floating in darkness.

She can still feel the woman’s hand in her own, but she cannot see anything. She tries to gulp back her fear as they float forwards; and then down and down. They float until she is sure that an entire day has passed. And she wishes that she could do something, anything to pull her out of her boredom.

She starts to wish that she was back in her kitchen and watching her father make dough for dinner rolls. But her wish does not change anything as they continue to drop downwards. Her feet finally land on something hard, and the woman steps into view as the pitch dark blackness fades. She finds herself standing in a forest of trees with candy cane trunks and sugar leaves.

The woman sighs again as Kara looks around, “Well, here we are Kara. Everything else is up to you now; but you should know that you simply have to call for me twice and I will bring you back home when you are ready. There are a few times that I may not hear you, but those are rare enough.”

The woman lets go of her hand and steps back; Kara is so engrossed in the trees around her that she does not understand the woman’s words until she is alone. Kara jumps and clenches her hands in fear, “Wait, what do you mean? What happens if I can’t call you?”

But the woman does not answer even though Kara wishes until her teeth ache. She gulps and looks around again as she resigns herself to the fact that she is alone, “Well… if I’m stuck here, I might as well try to explore.”

She shoves her hands into the pockets of her pants as she starts walking and hopes that she is going in the right direction; whatever the right direction might be.

She starts to shiver as a glowing sun heads toward the horizon, “I should have brought a coat.” Somehow, talking makes the candy trees seem less frightening. She swallows thickly as she tries to list all of the reasons why she should have brought a coat, “I could wrap it around myself to stay warm; I could use it as a blanket or a pillow if I need to sleep; I could use it as a bag in case I need to pick candy apples; I could cover my rabbit with it, if I had a rabbit…” She trails off before she can start listing all of the reasons why she should have asked her parents for a rabbit as a present.

The candy forest becomes darker and darker; and she stumbles on with her teeth chattering from the cold, “M-maybe I sh-should have thought of b-bringing a h-hat too.” She stops walking as her legs start to ache. And she settles down at the base of a tree to wrap her arms around herself, “W-why did I ever choose to come t-to fairyland; this place doesn’t seem like fairyland at all.”

Her words seem to even more true once they are spoken and she realizes that she is entirely alone. She chokes back a sob as she wonders what a fairyland is without any fairies. She should be surrounded by fairies right now; there should be a feast with all sorts of wonderful things and dancing and pixie dust and unicorns and…”

She trails off again as sobs break out of her. Why oh why did I want to see fairyland? But maybe she is not in fairyland at all… maybe she ended up in the wrong place. Her face brightens as she remembers that she could simply ask the woman in white to bring her back home; but she sags back down to the ground as she realizes that she does not know how.

She curls back into a ball as gusts of wind sweep through the trees and make the sugar leaves rattle. But she does not seem to have a reason to stay where she is, and it only seems fair for her to stand up and start walking again. She does not know who it would be fair to since she is alone; but fair is fair.

She curls her hands into tight fists as she starts walking again. She hopes and prays that she will run into a town or a village. Or even a single house. Her feet seem to be walking forward on their own as the glowing sun starts to rise again, and she rubs her eyes. She stumbles onto a road as the sugar tree forest suddenly ends and spits her out.

The road is covered in dark asphalt; she jumps back and forth from one foot to the other as it burns her bare toes. She cannot contain her joy as she sees a gate ahead of her with hundreds of chimneys peeking above it. The candy tree forest moves farther away from the road as fields with grains of all kinds take the trees’ place. She stops as she sees a small man with dirt smeared across his face chopping cornstalks into piles.

She waves to him with a grin, but he barely glances at her and she feels her stomach sinking. What kind of fairy is not happy? She scowls as she heads toward the gates and stops suddenly as they loom above her. They are made out of dark strands of licorice that have been woven together and hung from pretzel poles; and she takes a deep breath as she steps forward and knocks.

The gates slowly open; she stands in shock as she stares at the dark web of streets in front of her. Dirty cobblestones cover the ground and reach toward the doors of houses and shops with half covered windows; people walk to and fro with worn baskets on their arms or bags slung across their shoulders.

Kara moves forward as the gates start to close and she stares at the dirty and patched clothing of the people around her. Everyone seems to be about her height; but they do not look like fairies at all. No one is smiling and there is no music or dancing or feasts. Everything is simply dreary and dark. If she is standing in fairyland; then it must not be the right fairyland. Perhaps there is more than one fairyland and she has ended up in the wrong place.

She takes a deep breath as she hurries into a crowd and plucks at the sleeve of a woman with a covered basket, “Excuse me, where am I?” The woman looks at her blankly, “Yureve; the biggest, the best city of all. The town of joy where everyone dances and sings.”

The woman keeps walking and Kara scurries to the side as a flood of people hurry toward her. Something is wrong; this is not fairyland at all. But maybe it is… what has happened? This town seems to be opposite of joy, and no one seems to notice each other. Everyone seems to be walking purposely without knowing where they are going; no one shakes hands or stops to talk. And everyone avoids each other without looking up.

Kara tries to swallow the sour taste in her mouth as she plunges back into the streets and allows herself to be swept into the crowd. If she is standing in front of a mystery, she might as well try to figure it out.

The crowd of people grows larger as it she is swept through the streets. The cobblestones slowly open up to a large square with a decorated platform. Kara finds herself standing in the middle of the crowd as everyone faces the platform and the square becomes unnaturally silent. A thin woman in a long dress and a patched coat climbs up to the platform and approaches the edge.

The woman opens her mouth a few times before speaking, “My great citizens of Yureve, today is a celebration; we have finally caught the thieves that have been wrecking our city. And today is the day that they will face the justice they deserve.” The woman’s words are flat and her voice is filled with sorrow, but she smiles a large smile and people lift their hands in agreement.

The woman steps to the side as a line of prisoners are marched onto the platform with chains running from their arms and legs. The woman’s smile grows wider, “Rejoice citizens of Yureve! This is the day that our streets become safer and our minds are brought back home! Rejoice citizens: it is time! Rejoice for the execution that we are about to behold!”

Kara shivers and starts to back up, but she bumps into a small man behind her. He does not seem to notice her, and she turns around in a tight circle as the entire crowd seems to become a field of stone figures with grins on their faces as they stare at the platform.

The only people who do not seem to be dreaming or sleepwalking is the line of chained prisoners. Kara swallows as she stares at them; they should do something. They should plead for their lives or break the spell everyone in the town seems to be under.

But they do not do anything. They barely move as sharp blades are lowered down to the sides of the platform from the sky and slide toward each other in a giant arc. The prisoner’s heads tumble to the ground before they can speak, and the head of the woman who was announcing follows a second later.

Kara lets out a shriek as blood spills across the platform. The crowd turns in one giant wave and sweeps her back down the streets. She scrambles toward the first shop that she sees and throws herself inside as sobs break out of her.

This cannot be fairyland; a place where everyone moves at the same time and no one talks or smiles unless there is an execution is not fairyland. A place like this must be the opposite of fairyland. She hides behind a shelf covered in candles and rocks herself back and forth.

Where is she? She cries until she cannot cry anymore. She leaves the empty store just as a pale woman walks inside with a torn bag in her arms. Kara stares at her feet as she hurries down the street and toward the center of the city. There must be someone who is not sleepwalking. There must be someone who can tell her where she is and how to get back home.

She stops as she finds herself standing in a second eerily silent square. Laughter soon comes through the door of a large building on the other side of the cobblestones. The noise makes her jump, and she bites her lip as she heads toward it. The door opens as soon as she knocks; a long grey hallway stretches out in front of her with antique lights lining the ceiling.

She takes a deep breath as she starts walking. The hallway opens up to a large powder blue room with dark wooden benches lining the walls and chandeliers hanging down from the ceiling. A large desk stands in the middle of the room with a small man behind it, he grins at her as she walks toward him, “Welcome! Welcome traveller! If you are looking for room and board, I suggest the tavern on sixth street; and if you are looking for a meal, I suggest the quaint place on first street with the green awning. Otherwise, you could always try one of the other taverns for lodging and one of the other restaurants for a meal. Everything is perfectly suited to a traveller like you. And if you are looking for entertainment, I have many places that I can suggest. How may I help you?”

He does not seem to take a breath between the time that he starts talking and the time that he finishes. She clenches her hands by her sides, “I-I was just wondering why everyone outside seems so sad?”

“Sad?” The man shakes his head with another grin, “I do not understand your meaning. This is Yureve; the city of great buildings, wonderful forests, quaint attractions, open places, happy dancing and singing, and all sorts of wonderful things. No one here has a reason to be sad.”

Kara opens her mouth to argue with him. But she is cut off as a small woman rushes into the room with a laugh, “You would not believe it Raph! The Vicereine called; she will be in town in two days with the Marquis!” Raph jumps to his feet, “We must announce it to the town! We must prepare for their entrance with flowers and thousands of jewels! There will be dancing and pardoning and the children will not have school! This is a wonderful day; this is a day to rejoice!”

Kara slowly backs away as the man continues to talk, and he jumps on top of the desk to dance from one end to the other. She finally reaches the doorway and flees back into the square. How could two people in one building believe that everything is wonderful when she saw an execution is the other square? How could anyone say that a city where no one seems to notice that they are alive is the happiest place on earth?

But she is not on earth; she is simply in a place, and it seems impossible for anyone to tell her where she is. There must be two versions of fairyland, and she must be in the worst one.

“Psst!” She jumps as a hand reaches up from a hole in between two cobblestones, “Psst! Girl outside! I can tell you where you are.” She gulps and bends down to look closer, “H-how did you know what I was thinking?” The hand grips the side of a cobblestone, “I didn’t, but you’re the first visitor who has been here in centuries.”

The hand pulls back and she bends down to press her eye against the open space, but it is too dark for her to see anything, “Who are you?” “I’m the last person who came here. Now I’m just like everyone else.” She catches sight of a dark shape and pulls back, “What happened here?”

“The same thing that happens everywhere else; or maybe it was something completely different. If you come and find me, I can help you get back home. But it won’t be easy.” She jumps, “I-I want to go back home. But- but how can I find you? You’re underground.”

The hand reaches back up and scratches against the cobblestones, “No, I’m in a prison. If you find me and break me out, I’ll take you back home. You’re world is my world too, and I have been waiting a long time for someone to come here.” She gulps, “I-I don’t-“ “I can’t tell you anything else right now. But I will once you find me.” The hand pulls back again and she drops to the ground to search for it. What if whoever it is can actually take her back home? She should at least try; breaking someone out of a prison in a city where everyone is sleepwalking should not be that hard.

She gets back to her feet and starts walking across the square; she just needs to find the prison. The streets are empty as she walks without knowing where she is going. The glowing sun is starting to dip below the horizon again as she heads toward the city gates. She shivers and wraps her arms around herself; but they are torn away from her body as someone grabs her and yanks a bag over her head.

She screams, but it is cut off as a knee hits her in the stomach. She looses track of her feet as she is hauled forwards and then down. Someone tosses her to the side and she hits a hard floor. The bag is yanked off of her head and a door shuts with a clang. Her face presses against a dirty blanket as she tries to stay as still as possible.

“So… it looks like it was pretty easy for you to find me; although, being caught wasn’t exactly the best idea.” The familiar voice pulls her to her feet, and she scowls as the small, suffocating room that she finds herself in, “I didn’t want to be caught.”

“Well, now you have been. You might as well try to make the best out of a bad situation. You might be here for centuries you know.” She draws herself up as high as possible, “People don’t live for centuries, and I don’t intend on spending my entire life in this box.” She stomps her foot on the ground for emphasis and winces at the pain.

The familiar voice laughs, “Time works differently around here. I was nineteen when I left my home, and I’ve been here for centuries but I’ve hardly aged. You spend a few days here and you realize that you might be able to live forever if they don’t kill you first. They’re paranoid about spies and you look a bit too much like one.”

Kara shivers, “I-I don’t like the idea of dying. I-I don’t want my head to be chopped off.” The voice is silent for a moment, “Well, you might not have much of a choice unless you can escape. I’ve tried every way that I can think of, but you might be able to have more success. Take me with you when you leave, will you?”

She nods even though she knows whoever it is cannot see her, “Wh-what is your name?” “I’m Ndidi, or Nee if you want to shorten it. Nice to meet you.” Kara shivers again and sinks against the wall, “Wh-what should I do?” Ndidi sighs, “Well, you need to find a way out… if you want to, of course. But I recommend trying. Wasting time easily becomes a habit around here; just ask me, I spent the entire morning reciting all of the names I know that start with the letter K. Does your name start with K? I’m getting tired of the list I have.”

She gulps, “Kara; My name’s Kara.” Ndidi sighs again, “Great, now I have another name to add to my list. Kara, Kara, Kara. No, I don’t think that I’ll forget your name anytime soon. That’s going to be a shame when you leave. I won’t be able to forget you no matter how hard I try… that’s another reason for you to take me with you. If you’re able to find a way to escape that is.”

She wraps her arms around herself, “Won’t they just let us go eventually?” “Humph, I’ve been here for centuries Kara; do you think that they’re planning on letting me go anytime soon? No, and that’s something that I can be sure of. Doubly sure, triply sure.”

She falls asleep when Ndidi does not say anything else, and she wakes up again with her teeth chattering, “N-Ndidi, a-are you still th-there?” Something rustles on the other side of the wall she is pressed against, “Where else would I be? Of course, I’m still here. What do you want?”

She swallows, “I-I think I might have an idea.” Ndidi snorts, “That’s good; you might want to get on with it though. The longer you stay here without doing anything, the easier it will be to stay forever.” She gets to her feet and shakes her head; she does not want to stay in a box forever. But the truth is that she does not have a plan. Maybe it would be easier if she did; but she already feels like she will never be able to see anything outside of her tiny dark box again. No one would even need to lock the door; she would be happy to stay right where she is until she keels over.

She shakes her head and walks to the door; it seems impossible that it would be open. But what if it is? What if she can simply walk out and find Ndidi and return home? What if there is a simple solution to everything, and fairyland truly is a happy place?

No, she is thinking of ridiculous things. The door could not be unlocked. But what if it is; oh, what if it is? She turns away from the door, before turning back and yanking on the handle. But it does not move no matter how hard she yanks on it. Perhaps she truly will be trapped forever.

She needs a way out more than she has ever needed anything else in her life. She needs a way out, and the door must open. It must. She grabs onto the doorknob and yanks back as hard as she can while she turns it; it must be open. It will be open. It has to be open.

She tumbles out of the room as hinges creak and the door cracks open. The hallway on the other side is dark and damp with old lights lining the walls and packed dirt forming the floor. She gulps as she rushes to the door on her left before she can wonder if it is open as well. She presses her face against the edge of the door, “Ndidi? Are you in there?” Ndidi sighs, “Where else would I be Kara?”

Her hands fumble as she yanks on the door and it slowly creaks open; bright eyes look back at her and Ndidi stumbles out of the room, “Ah, so you finally found a way out after all. I was wondering when you were planning on putting your idea to use. Come on, we need to get out of here before the alarm is turned on.” She gulps as the lights flicker and Ndidi grabs onto her hand, “Wh-what alarm?”

A sharp buzz cuts into the walls and Ndidi yanks her into a run, “That alarm. Come on- hurry! We need to get to the gate before morning if we want to get out of the city anytime in the next few days.”

She reluctantly follows. Ndidi yanks her down another hallway and up a flight of stairs that continues on and on until she can hardly feel her legs. Both of them are gasping for breath when they reach the top; and Ndidi yanks her onto a street and through a rough doorway, “Wait here for a moment Kara. I’ll be right back. This used to be my house, but I’m not sure what it looks like now.”

She gulps as Ndidi lets go of her. Something rustles, and she shivers as she wraps her arms around herself. A lamp flickers as Ndidi walks back to her with a burning candle, “Shh Kara, we need to be quiet. The person who is living here now is asleep upstairs; I’ll try to find some food and clothes for us, but we can’t spend the night.”

She opens to her mouth to ask where they will spend the rest of the night, but her words come out in a squeak as she sees Ndidi’s face. Thin iridescent scales line two thirds of Ndidi’s face and neck, before surrounding bright eyes with large pupils. Ndidi stares back at her, “I think I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like when people see me; but at least you haven’t started running away yet.”

She gulps and stumbles back a step, her shin bumps into something hard and a crash rings through the room. Ndidi grabs onto her arm and hauls her out of the house as they hear someone yell, “Who is there?” She can barely catch her breath before Ndidi is dragging her down the street and into a narrow alleyway to hide, “Well, it looks like we’ll have to steal food and clothes from a different place.”

She pulls away from Ndidi and gasps for breath, “Wh-what are you? You’re- you’re not human.” Ndidi shakes its head, “No, I’m not human. But I used to be a long time ago. You see, everything that has happened here has one very simple explanation. But you’re going to have to listen for a moment.”

She reluctantly nods in consent and moves closer to the wall, “If- if you show me how to get back home.” Ndidi nods again, “We have a deal. This place used to be fairyland; but a mean joker cursed it and now no one knows where they are.” She gulps and finds herself drawn forwards, “But you know how it happened right? You know how to fix it?”

Ndidi sighs, “No one knows how to fix it, and anyone who might was swallowed by the joker’s spell. As for me, I was here before fairyland was cursed. I went home for a few months; fairyland changed only a few weeks after I returned. I was normal until a few days before I was thrown in prison. I’m not sure what happened, but I know that this is what I’ll continue to be. You can imagine how the way I look now wouldn’t help me in a human world. There used to be so many strange people here that no one cared if I was different; but it seems that some things always end up changing. Soon fairyland will disappear forever.”

She clenches her fists and shakes her head, “But there must be a way to change it back. There must be a way to make sure that fairyland does not disappear.” Ndidi draws a long breath, “Well… maybe it would be possible for me to remember a way. I used to know much more than I do now. But you might not be able to return home; you’ll have to make a choice: either you decide that retuning home is the most important thing, or you decide to try to do something that no one has ever managed.”

She opens her mouth to answer, but she snaps it shut again as she realizes that she does not know what to say. Ndidi looks up at the sky, “You don’t have to decide right now; if there’s even a decision to make. Before we talk anymore; I haven’t been this hungry for a long time. And you look conspicuous in those clothes. I think I might have an idea of where we could steal what we need; just follow me and try to be quiet.”

She reluctantly follows Ndidi down the alleyway and from shadow to shadow. They creep forwards and she presses a hand over her heart to try and quiet it. What is she supposed to do? She wants to return home. Oh how much she wants to return home.

But fairyland should not be allowed to fade away; and what if she can save it? Will she give up on her own life to try and save fairyland?

Ndidi tells her to wait as they crouch underneath a windowsill. She hides her hands in her pockets as they shake; she is only ten years old, she should not have to make choices like this. How is she possibly supposed to decide what is important to her? She barely knows what she wants to do the next day.

She can plan things for years in the future; but she can barely decide what she wants to have for breakfast. She should not have to decide between returning home and trying to save fairyland. But… maybe she does not have to make a decision at all. Maybe it does not have anything to do with what is important to her. Maybe the only question is what is the right thing to do?

She stands up as Ndidi sneaks out of the house and tosses a dress to her, “Here; put this on.” Ndidi turns around as she yanks off her top layer of clothing and pulls on the patched dress; it hangs down to her ankles and swallows her in fabric. Ndidi nods with approval, “It’ll work, for now at least. Now we can work on getting you back home.”

She straightens up as far as she can, “I’m not going home.” Ndidi stops and narrows its eyes, “You want to stay? Even though you know that you might never be able to return home again?” She nods and clenches her hands, “I’m going to stay. And I don’t care what you say; I’m going to do the right thing. I want to save fairyland.”

Ndidi stares at her in silence for a moment before chuckling, “Well, it looks like you have more spirit than anyone else who’s come here. Alright, I’ll help you if I can.” Kara turns around as Ndidi changes into different clothes and tosses a cheese sandwich to her. She eats it in two bites and Ndidi grabs her hand, “Come on, I might have an idea; but we’ll have to move quickly because no one will ignore the fact that two prisoners escaped. Especially when one of those prisoners is a foreign girl.”

Kara gulps as Ndidi leads her down the streets and toward the gate. She gasps as Ndidi pulls her into a narrow building that is entirely filled with books. Books line the walls and form dusty piles on the floor; they climb up to the ceiling and cling to flimsy shelves. Her shoes become gray with fallen plaster as Ndidi leads her in between the mountainous stacks, “I think there might be something helpful here. If only I can find it.”

She starts coughing as they stop. Ndidi rummages through one of the piles, “It must be here somewhere; I know I hid something here a few centuries ago, or maybe it was the librarian. Either way, it must be here somewhere.” She covers her nose with one hand, “What are you looking for?”

Ndidi moves to the next pile and spreads the books across the floor, “A book; a book of magic to be exact.” Kara stifles another cough, “But I don’t know how to do magic.” Ndidi lets out a contented sigh and picks up a thin book with a blank cover, “You will soon enough.”

Ndidi grabs her arm and pulls her deeper into the building, “Magic is a matter of association. You might not know how to do spells; but fairyland was cursed with a spell and someone needs to do a spell to break it.” She gulps and skips to keep up with Ndidi, “So… you know which spell we need to use?”

Ndidi stops and motions her closer, “Not yet; in fact, I don’t even think that I can do whatever spell you need. You’re the one who wants to save fairyland; and you’re the one who will need to do the spell. I might be able to figure out what it is. But you should know that I’ve been a prisoner for centuries and I’ll probably be caught again. You can escape because people might not remember you and you’re small enough to hide. Either way, whoever does the spell must believe in it with every fiber of their mind.”

She gulps, “Otherwise… Otherwise it won’t work?” Ndidi flips through the book and holds it out to her, “You should keep this with you; it’s almost morning and I think they’ll be looking for us soon.” She wraps her hands around it, “I-I don’t know what to do with it.”

Ndidi sighs, “Bah, you know enough. And anything that you don’t know you’ll learn.” Ndidi grabs onto her arm again and leads her out of the building; she digs her feet into the ground, “You’re- you’re not leaving are you? You said you’d help me.” Ndidi shakes its head, “I’ve been here long enough to know that I can’t stay free; but you can. The prison’s a mind game, and you already have the makings of a magician. I can’t help you learn the spell you need because magic is between the person doing it and their beliefs.”

She gulps and shakes her head, “But… but I don’t know where to go.” Ndidi smiles a fish smile, ‘That’s easy, you need to go to the center of fairyland. That’s where magic is the strongest. Now, I need to go before they find us.” Ndidi turns to leave and she briefly wraps her arms around Ndidi’s scaly body. It seems strange that she would become attached to a fish-scaled human so quickly; but she feels entirely alone as Ndidi walks away and disappears behind the corner of a building.

She bites her lip and tightens her grip on the thin book. She did not think things through as well as she should have. She did not expect Ndidi to leave her alone without showing her how to save fairyland first. She stomps her foot on the ground; she does not know how to do magic. She does not even know what magic is.

She is a foreigner; she does not know what the center of fairyland is. She grits her teeth as she hides behind a trashcan and opens the thin book. Thin cursive fills the center of each page; the words are lopsided and close enough that they seem to string themselves together. Her face wrinkles as she stares at the open pages, “How am I possibly supposed to use this?”

She expects Ndidi to answer; and she snaps the book shut in the silence, “Right; I’ll just have to figure everything out on my own then.” She starts to throw the book away, before shoving it into a large pocket in the side of her stolen dress. Who knows when it might be helpful. She frowns as she starts walking and wishes that she had more to eat.

Someone said that Yureve is the best city of fairyland, but no one seems to notice where they are or even what they are doing. How can she possibly find the center of fairyland when she cannot ask anyone and expect an honest answer?

She scowls as she starts walking toward the gate and slips through. What is magic anyway? She starts walking down the asphalt road with the candy forest on her right. Maybe she should have simply decided to return home. But she is trying to do the right thing; and the right thing is always the best thing to do, right? It must be. She believes it is.

Her feet kick up dust as she walks, maybe there is no such thing as the right decision. Maybe it is impossible to do the right thing. Does it even matter? She steps off of the road and curls up at the base of a candy cane tree with the book on her lap. She takes a deep breath as she opens it; she still cannot make sense of the words, but the book seems to grow heavier and heavier. She gasps as it starts to expand across her lap.

The pages grow thicker and wider, until the book drips off of her knees and onto the ground. She flips it open as it stops growing and her eyes widen. The letters have entirely rearranged themselves; they crawl across the pages and grow darker as she reads the first line.

Once a long time ago in a place that is now forgotten, there grew a tree; it had lived for a hundred years in the solitude of a deep meadow.

She moves to the next line, but the words fade before she can read them and the book snaps shut. It shrinks back to its tiny size; and she shoves it back into her pocket. What she is doing? What if she is looking for a tree? What if the center of fairyland does not exist? And how is she possibly supposed to use magic from a book that will not let her read it? She starts walking again and tries not to think about the life that she has left behind.

She cannot go back; or perhaps she can. But she truly wants to do the right thing. And the right thing is saving fairyland. If only she knew how. There must be a way… Ndidi said that she might be able to become a magician, and she most certainly needs to be one now. But how can anyone become a magician? She does not want to stay in this messed up version of fairyland forever.

Ndidi said that he had been in prison for centuries; how much time has passed since the woman in white brought her to fairyland? Is time the same in both places? And what if- what if it is not? What will happen when she returns home? But maybe she will never return home; maybe she is at the end of everything.

She lifts her chin as she continues to walk; no, she will find a way to save fairyland and she will find a way back home. She must. And anyone who tells her it is impossible is lying. They must be; otherwise she will not know what to believe in.

Ndidi told her that most of magic is belief; perhaps she truly can save fairyland if she learns quickly. But what is she supposed to believe in? And how is she possibly supposed to come up with a spell? Spells are supposed to be words that hold meaning, but she does not know the right words. She clenches her hands tighter, she will simply have to come up with the best thing that she can. Her feet ache as the sun starts to rise.

The problems that she used to complain about seem small compared to what is in front of her; and perhaps that is the point. Everything that you think is irrelevant becomes important when it is gone. Oh, how she wishes that she was not alone. If wishes are magic, maybe they can come true.

But wishes are still wishes; and she still does not know what magic is. She shakes her head, “I will figure this out. I will!” She stomps her feet on the ground, “And no one is going to stop me!” She expects someone to respond, but the road is silent. She shivers as she starts walking again and closes her eyes. She needs to find a way to the center of fairyland.

She starts to fall asleep as she walks and the sun dips toward the horizon. She stops as she thinks of the woman in white, “I would do anything to get to the center of fairyland.” She waits for a moment, but the woman in white does not come. It should work. She should carry me off and grant me my wish.

But Kara is still alone. She scowls as she starts walking again and pulls the book out of her pocket to wrap her arms around it, “I’m going to the center of fairyland!” She wraps those words around herself as though they are the only thing that can keep her alive. I will I will I will.

She stumbles backwards as dust gathers around her feet. A shriek is sucked out of her lungs as she is swept off of the ground and surrounded by a swirling cloud of dust. She gasps as she hits the ground and the dust sweeps away from her.

Dull grass buries itself in her clothes as she stands up and tries to brush the dirt off of herself. She stops as she realizes that she is standing in a meadow; maybe there is such a thing as magic. Or maybe she is simply dreaming… but she does not remember falling asleep. She was wishing that she would end up in the center of fairyland.

Maybe… maybe she truly is in the center of fairyland. Thorn bushes ring the center of the meadow in a thick dome. Kara gulps as she moves toward them and pulls at the first of the thorns. It reluctantly snaps off, and she drops it on the ground as she reaches for the next one.

Her hands are bloody and scratched by the time she finishes clearing a small tunnel through the thorns. She crawls to the center on her hands and knees and stops at the edge of a green pond. Leaves float across the top as she stands up and gapes at the tree that rises up from the center of the murky water.

Is this the center of fairyland? Does everything turn back to a tree? She shivers and wraps her arms around herself; what am I supposed to do? She walks to the very edge of the pond as she realizes that she wants to see what fairyland used to be like more than she thought. She already decided that she does not need to return home; will she have to make another impossible decision?

She wants to return home; but she is willing to let that go. She wants to do the right thing, but what is the right thing? Would she do anything to save fairyland if she could? Yes, she would; and that has to be the right thing. It has to be. But she does not know the right spell. She does not know any spells at all.

If a wish brought her to the center of fairyland, is a spell the same thing as a wish? She bites her tongue, I want fairyland to come back. She wants for something, anything, to happen. But the dome stays the same. Can she return home if she decides to? But she has to try her best to save fairyland; even if it is because she told Ndidi that she wanted to. And she meant it. Oh, she meant it more than she has meant most of the things that she has said in her life.

She cannot help but feel like she owes Ndidi more than she knows; and maybe saving fairyland will help Ndidi and everyone else be free. And maybe, just maybe, she will be able to return home.

But she still does not have a spell. And she cannot guess; or perhaps she can… perhaps she has the right to try. She clenches her hands and tries to dig her feet into the ground, “I want fairyland to come back because everyone here should be able to control their own lives and make their own choices-“ She stops and shakes her head; a spell is not the same thing as a reason.

She clenches her hands tighter, “Fairyland needs to come back. I’ll stay here forever if it’ll make fairyland come back; and maybe… maybe I’ll stop hoping that I can return home. If I’m willing to leave everything I used to know behind to bring back fairyland, fairyland can’t stay away. It has to come back. It has to.”

She breaks into tears and covers her face with her hands. She does not know what she is doing; how is she possibly supposed to come up with a spell? She is alone and she does not know what is going to happen; and the future seems to be the only thing that matters.

She needs a spell. And she needs one now. And then she will find a way to ask the woman in white to take her back home, and then… No, she should not think about what might not happen. She needs a spell. She needs a spell more than she has ever needed anything before. Everything else is irrelevant; it does not matter if she cannot return home, how could fairyland possibly become such a horrible place?

Fairyland is not supposed to have a prison underneath its streets. And fairyland is most certainly not supposed to have executions where everyone claps and returns to their sleepwalking chores without thinking. That is not a fairyland. And she wants the real fairyland back!

Her tears turn into sobs and she stomps her feet on the ground, “It’s not fair! It’s not fair at all!”

“Kara! Kara, you did it!” Kara jumps as the voice and peels her hands away from her face as she turns around. The woman in white smiles at her from the other side of a small thorn bush, “You did it Kara; you managed to change fairyland back. Everyone will have to find their way again, but now they have the choice to do so.”

Kara swallows and shakes her head, “B-but how? I-I just wished.” The woman in white’s smile turns into a grin, “A wish is more powerful than you know Kara. Now, do you want me to take you home?”

Kara nods and looks over at her shoulder at the tree before accepting the woman’s offered hand, “Yes; yes I want to go home. B-but will I be able to return again?” The woman in white nods, “You will have to decide. But that is not a matter for today; go home Kara, and decide what you will do from there.”

The woman in white leans closer as they are swept off of the ground, “Everyone has a choice you know.”

Copyright © 2016 ravenspen.com

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The Beginning of the Editing Swamp

Another week has passed… I think that I am still in a post-NaNoWriMo and post-traveling time warp. Oh well!

The twelfth chapter of Beautiful Cracks has been posted now though. Going on trips seems to add spaghetti to calendars. Maybe the calendars are made out of spaghetti. Or maybe time is a large bowl of spaghetti.

Well Time, the blame is not entirely your own. (I am still looking for that secret postoffice though.)

I have very exciting news: I finished the rough draft of Subliminal!

The mad scientist always creates more problems than solutions… but this is a book and not a kindhearted monster named Frankenstein; and I am not a mad scientist. Right? I truly hope so.

Back to the news: This means that I might actually be able to publish Subliminal next year… It also means that I have a lot of editing to do.

Editing can be extremely troublesome. Actually, I think that might be an understatement. Editing is a train that is trying its hardest to stay on a wobbly track.

I am new to editing; I have started editing a few of my novels, but I have finished editing any of them. At the moment, Subliminal is a mess; just like so many other first drafts.

Countless people have said that first drafts are usually a mess, it is always something to remember, because staring down an unedited manuscript can be extremely daunting. It is hard not to think about the many pages that you have ahead of you and all of the errors that you will have to fix.

Because of that, mind games are important… so is trying to imagine what it will look like when it is done. I think that it is also important to let a graft it before editing it; even if it is only for a short amount of time.

It is easier to edit without too much judgment if you distance yourself from what you have just written first.

Let your draft sit in a drawer or on your desk. Maybe look at it every once in a while  to admire it, or maybe forget about it entirely. Either way, I do not recommend reading through more than a few paragraphs right after your finish, it is often a downhill slope to ‘what kind of horrible thing have I just written’.

Try not to go there, it is extremely dangerous. You have been warned.

Alright… now, how does someone edit?

The same way you write: sit down and stare at your paper, and eventually you will be able to get somewhere.

The magical recipe for editing seems to be about the same as it is for NaNoWriMo and creative work in general:

  • Persistence.
  • Determination.
  • If you wish: A partner in crime (imaginary or not)… whoever this is should also have the ability to deal with episodes of frustration and multiple page long rants.
  • A dash of craziness.
  • Oh, and much more determination.

Just like every other recipe, it is important to stir well. The type of pot or cauldron you use is entirely up to you. I recommend keeping the ingredients around at all times. Just in case.

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