Poetry: “Remembrance of You”

Remembrance of You

I lie in bed, eyes closed to avoid light’s jagged edge,

my mind blazing with thoughts of you.

Years have passed since I last saw you.

The features of your face are fading into a blur.

The scent of roses wafts through the air

and pervades my thoughts,

but only for a moment.

Memories tarnished by time.

Your fingers interlaced with mine.

Salty skin that smelled of patchouli and amber.

The low timbre of your voice as you said, “I love you.”

The buzz of silence is maddening, cutting into my thoughts, and my eyes snap open.

In my heart the fire still flickers, the flames licking at my sanity.

As desire swells I cannot escape

my burning passion for you.

The scent of roses turns rancid,

and my eyelids grow heavy

 thinking of you.

***

I originally wrote this many years ago before I even started creative writing.  I revised it recently.  I’m not a poet by any means though XD  If anyone has any thoughts, advice, or constructive criticism you are welcome to share 🙂  I keep going back and forth on the line “Memories tarnished by time,” and “My memories are tarnished by time.”  I think the latter is grammatically correct, but it doesn’t flow as well with the rest of the poem.  I love poetic prose, but poems are very different from short stories and novels.  Maybe I’ll try to write some more poems in the future.  Guess that means I have to incorporate some poetry into my reading.

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Hooked By the First Line

An interesting point I’ve seen critters focus on is the importance of the opening paragraph, especially the first line.  I typically give books several pages before I decide whether or not to continue reading, but I can usually tell from the first few lines whether or not I’m going to enjoy it.  I thought it would be kind of fun to compile a list of opening lines from some of the books I have.  Some stories have dedications on the first page or two, which is why they don’t start till the third page or so.

“When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he’d reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him.  Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one that what had gone before.  Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. ” ~The Road (published 2006) by Cormac McCarthy, page 1.

“At dusk [leaflets] pour from the sky.  They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between houses.  Entire streets swirl with them, flashing white against the cobblestones.” ~All the Light We Cannot See (published 2014) by Anthony Doerr, page 3.

“Sitting beside the road, watching the wagon mount the hill toward her, Lena thinks, ‘I have come from Alabama: a fur piece.  All the way from Alabama a-walking.”~Light in August (published 1932), William Faulkner, page 1

“The Salinas Valley is in Northern California.  It is a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into the Monterey Bay.”~East of Eden (published 1952) by John Steinbeck, page 1.

“‘Corruption?  I’ll tell you about corruption, sonny!’ The old man glared into the flames in the fireplace and trembled all over, biting so hard on the stem of his pipe that it crackled once, sharply, like the fireplace logs.” ~October Light by John Gardner, page 1.

“Snowman wakes before dawn.  He lies unmoving, listening to the tide coming in, wave after wave sloshing over the various barricades, wish-wash, wish-wash, the rhythm of heartbeat. He would so like to believe he is asleep.” ~Oryx and Crake (published 2003) by Margaret Atwood, page 1.

“It was Wang Lung’s marriage day.  At first, opening his eyes in the blackness of the curtains about his bed, he could not think why the dawn seemed different from any other.  The house was still except for the faint, gasping cough of his old father, whose room was opposite to his own across the middle room.” ~The Good Earth (published 1931) by Pearl S. Buck, page 1.

“The escalator crept along slowly, straining upward  In an old station like this, what else could you expect?  But the wind swirled like a wild thing inside the concrete pipe–ruffling his hair, tugging the hood off his head, sneaking under his scarf, pressing him downward.” ~Nightwatch (published 1998) by Sergei Lukyanenko, page 3.

“I had seen her just the day before–a day of pale blue skies and summer breezes. We had stood on the lawns beneath the chestnut trees and she had said: the leaves are talking to me Charlie.”~The Piano Man’s Daughter (published 1995) by Timothy Findley, page 1.

“It was love at first sight.  The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.  Yosarrian was in the hospital with a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice.”~Catch-22 (published 1961) by Joseph Heller.

“In the shade of the house, in the sunshine on the river bank by the boats, in the shade of the sallow wood and the fig tree, Siddhartha, the handsome Brahmin’s son, grew up with his friend Govinda.  The sun browned his slender shoulders on the river bank, while bathing at the holy ablutions, at the holy sacrifices.”~Siddhartha (published 1922) by Hermann Hesse, page 3

“Mabel had known there would be silence.  That was the point, after all.  No infants cooing or wailing.  No neighbor children playfully hollering down the lane.”~The Snow Child (published 2013) by Ewoyn Ivey, page 3

What many of them have in common is that the pull the reader into the world that they have created, and make us care about what is happening.  The first few lines also set the mood for the story.  After reading the intro for The Road, you can already tell the story is going to be dark and full of angst.

An interesting point is that when you compare the introductions of older fiction to their modern counterparts, it’s obvious that modern audiences expect more of a hook.  Maybe that has something to do with the fact that people have less patience now.  We are always looking for faster and more efficient ways to accomplish things.  It only makes sense that this would extend to fiction.

Out of curiosity, based on these intros, which books would you want to read?   I’ve read all of these so my choices are biased.

Celebrating the 8th Anniversary of My Marriage

Taka and Jessica 2

This is a picture of me and my husband from our early days of courtship.  I had flown over to Japan to meet his family, who were incredibly sweet and welcoming.  I was a huge otaku at the time, so it had always been a dream of mine to visit Japan.  I might talk about it in a later post, or maybe I already did?  I’m blonde and six feet tall, so everyone stared at me like I was an alien XD  They would openly comment about me assuming I didn’t speak Japanese.  I didn’t, but my husband (boyfriend at the time) did.

I met him when I was 17 years old.  We were both going to the same college, and I saw him sitting at the lunch counter.  I was taking Japanese, so I put that book on top and sat next to him, hoping he would notice and it would start a conversation.  Well, it worked XD  I’m shy and socially awkward, so I’m glad he was the one to initiate a conversation.  We started dating shortly after that.  He was my first real boyfriend because I didn’t date in high school.  We broke up about three years after dating, and then got back together, and got married about a year after rekindling our relationship.

I was anorexic when we first met.  You’ll notice in the pic I am wearing a coat because I was always freezing.  We’ve been together for over 10 years and in that time period I’ve had two bouts of anorexia, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, hypothyroidism (now treated), three hip preservation surgeries, debilitating chronic pain from multiple joints, and an Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome diagnosis.  There have been some tough years.  Living with someone that has a physical and/or mental illness is exhausting.  He didn’t always believe me (no one but my sister and closest friends did), but now he does.  Our relationship is in a good place now 🙂

He came into my life when I hated myself so much I wanted to disappear.  I remember thinking God sent him to be my guardian angel because he helped me through so much.  I don’t know if I still believe that, but I feel lucky we were both in the cafeteria at the same time on that particular day.  We’ve both changed a lot since we first met, but we’ve grown closer together again 🙂  We’ve both become better people, at least in my opinion.  Growing up I used to think that I would marry someone who was a tortured soul like me, but he’s pretty much the opposite.  Sometimes you don’t know what you want until you are older, at least I didn’t.

Cecil the Lion and Why God Cares

I don’t like talking about politics because it is going to upset some people regardless of one’s viewpoint.  I’m not into forcing my beliefs on others because I don’t want others to force their beliefs on me, so it’s generally a topic I don’t talk much about.  But I have to speak out on Cecil’s behalf as both a cat lover and a decent human being.

For those of you that haven’t heard, an American dentist, Walter Palmer, shot a sanctuary protected lion from Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. As more details emerge, the story gets even darker.  Cecil was lured out of his sanctuary, wounded with a bow and arrow, and then killed 40 hours later with a gun.  Conservationists predict that the new lion that takes control of the Cecil’s pride is likely to kill most or all of Cecil’s 24 cubs.

This matters because Lions are a Vulnerable species (see chart below), which is one step about an Endangered species like tigers.  If we aren’t careful, wild lions will be nothing more than archived pictures on the internet.  According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, there has been a 42% decline in the world’s lion population in the last 20 years.  This isn’t like hunting deer where the hunter eats the meat.  After Cecil was killed he was skinned and his corpse was left to rot.  Lions are at the top of the food chain, so they are much more prone to disease and parasites than herbivores, so it’s not advised to eat them.  This man not only tortured a lion for fun, but effectively killed 25 of them because something is lacking in his own life that he has to kill a lion to feel powerful and important.

Conservation

“Status iucn3.1”. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Status_iucn3.1.svg#/media/File:Status_iucn3.1.svg

I found this great article that talks about the issue from a Christian perspective.  God gave us dominion over all of his creatures, but they are his property, and he expects us to treat them with respect.  Torturing a majestic beast from a Vulnerable species does not fit into God’s plan.  This man needs to answer to God for what he did.  America is looking into prosecution.  RIP Dear Cecil 😦  There is even a memorial to him outside of Dr. Palmer’s office.

Oops, I Joined Another Literary Critique Site

I joined another literary critique site, Scribophile, about a week ago.  I posted my short story about three times on Critique Circle, and I wanted some fresh eyes on it before I submit it to literature magazines in August.  One advantage of Scribophile over Critique Circle is that you get reputation points for being a good critter.  I put a lot of effort into my critiques, so it’s nice to be recognized for that quality.

I actually had to use a real name to sign up (they wouldn’t let me use Paper Butterfly), so I used Tessa Brant.  I guess that is my pseudonym now XD  Previously, I was debating the names Ella, Tessa, and Janna, but I felt like a Tessa when I signed up, so that’s who I am now.  It’s still kind of weird when people call me Tessa because I’m not used to it.  I never wanted to publish under my real name because I’m still a bit scared my cyberbully will come after me.  I guess if I ever become popular then my real identity will come out, but I’ll cross that bridge if it ever happens XD  Scribophile is bigger than Critique Circle so there are more writers and critters.  The nice thing about that is that no one person dominates the forums and/or critiques.  Since it is so large there are more writers.  I already found a few other writers that love poetic prose and flailed around like a fangirl 8D

A benefit that both of these sites share is that they are locked unless you have a user ID and password.  This allows you to post your stories without exposing them to the whole internet.  Most literature magazines will not take a story once it has been blog published or published anywhere on the internet.

I think I’ve definitely improved since joining literary critique sites.  It helps to read the critiques of other writers, and then you get a better sense of what works and what doesn’t.  I’ve become more critical of my own writing in the process.  I don’t think I’ll be joining more than two of these sites because it’s more than enough to keep me busy.

Research Needed for a Short Story

One of the less fun aspects of writing fiction is research.  The amount that needs to be done depends on what you are writing because some stories necessitate more than others.  It makes for a more authentic story.  This is a list of the research I ended up doing for my 6,000 word story about a man that kills himself.  I don’t want to mention the name of the story because I’m going to submit it to literary magazines in August.  I probably used like 5-10% of the info that I read about.  If you try to cram in too much technical stuff the story sounds forced.

By far the worst scene of the whole story was the car crash.  I hated writing it.  Action scenes are hard to write, and this one was intense.  How do you convey the horror of getting in a car crash and watching your girlfriend die in a fiery cage of twisted steel?!  Ugh.  I gave it my best shot XD  I have a few weeks to distance myself before I submit so I may come back and revise that part.  My favorite scene was probably the intro where he shoots himself.  I guess that sounds morbid XD  I mean I enjoyed writing it.  Perhaps because I have been on the brink of suicide before so it was cathartic to write about it.

List of Research Topics 

1. Pictures of compound fractures (The pictures gave me nightmares D:)

2. Accounts from people surviving near death experiences

3. Accounts from car crash survivors

4. The taste of different vodkas

5. Guns, what they look like and how to shoot one

6. How long can someone survive after a bullet wound to the chest

7. Videos of car crashes (I hated this.  It was awful)

8. Videos of drunk driving

9. Treatment for a gunshot wound

10. What year the Seattle Seahawks were playing the Superbowl (random I know XD)

11. Jail time for manslaughter due to drunk driving (I ended up not using this info)

Fanfiction Culture

I finally finished the tentative final draft of my dandelion/suicide short story.  Originally I was going to start writing another short story about a little girl with an abusive father, but I might write a short fanfic story instead.  Since I’m submitting these short stories of original fiction to literary magazines there is this pressure to make it perfect.  It took me about a week or two to write Short Story D and several months to edit it XD  Granted, I was writing intermittently (more off than on) for the past few months, but it still took a long time to revise.

At one point, I thought I would never write anymore fanfiction because I didn’t want to be in a vulnerable position again.  But my heart still belongs to the characters of Final Fantasy VII, Cloud and Zack.  I decided I won’t write another fanfic novel, but I will probably write short fanfic stories occasionally as inspiration strikes.  I created a new fanfic profile for myself because I wanted a fresh start.

Cloud Strife

A picture of Cloud 😀  How can you not love this face?!

It’s interesting though because there is a certain culture within fanfiction and it is often in stark contrast to the world of original fiction.  I thought I would point out a few of those differences.

1. Drama, drama, drama

There is so much drama in fanfiction, and it’s hard to segregate yourself from it.  A few years ago I was yanked into the middle of a huge fanfiction war that involved several popular authors.  Even though I  wasn’t directly involved in it, I was friends with people on both sides, and because I’m so emotionally fragile, I was being used as a sacrificial lamb.  I was so upset and disgusted afterwards that I couldn’t write fanfiction for a year.  But eventually I came back only to have history repeat itself. . .

The last fanfiction war I was dragged into was really bad.  Without getting into details, it suffices to say another writer made it her mission to destroy me.  It got to the point that I was so upset I nearly relapsed into anorexia.  That’s when I left and pulled all of my stories down.

Part of the problem was that I could not fight back because she was good at playing the victim.  She was accusing me of pretending to be the victim when I was really a bitch.  And she was blackmailing me and using her profile to attack me.  Even after I left she tried to follow me.  Good god, she and a friend made up multiple identities to contact me and all of my friends because I kept blocking them.  Actually, they contacted everyone I had ever known in the fandom.  And they were still doing this for months after I pulled all of my stories off of my profile and left.  They were so delusional that they were trying to convince my best friends about what a horrible person I was.  Seriously, WTF?  I developed a mild case of PTSD from that incident.

2. Lack of Feedback

The majority of the members in fanfiction communities are readers or occasional writers.  This means that most of your interactions are with people who have no idea how difficult it is to write.  My fanfic novel had about 500 reviews for 30 chapters and 56,000+ hits, which is about 100 hits per review.  Most people that read, favorite, and/or like will never leave a comment.  Writers are more inclined to review a story that they like because they know how much work goes into it.  I’ve noticed that since Archive of our Own became popular, the ratio of reviews to hits is even lower.  No one writes fanfiction just for reviews or attention (or at least I don’t think so), but half the fun of writing fanfiction is fangirling over the characters with other like-minded people.  That was the whole impetus behind my fanfic stories.

3. Constructive Criticism is Poorly Recieved

Very few fanfic writers want constructive criticism.  Even if they ask for it they don’t want it.  I’ve learned that the hard way.  Ironically, it’s only the best writers that are receptive to concrit XD  Hell, some of the fans of a story will criticize you for giving concrit to an author.  And no, I never flamed anyone or gave them a review I wouldn’t want to receive.  I’ve been flamed before myself, so I would never hurt an author like that.  On literary critique sites writers are more open to concrit, but maybe that’s because the sole purpose is getting critiques.

4. Lots of male/male pairings

There’s a lot of slash (male/male) pairings in fanfic.  I like slash and het pairings (male/female) as long as it’s not fluffy romance.  I’m not sure why there isn’t more slash in original fiction.  Maybe this is due to the fact that most fanfic writers are female?

5. Most Fanfiction is Written By Women

That brings me to another point, most fanfic writers are girls, and I’m not sure why this is.  Maybe it’s the perception society has of fanfiction.  I’m sure this various somewhat by fandom, but I’ve seen quite a few and most of the writers and readers are females.  Not that its a bad thing.  Girl power XD

6. Fanfic Writers Aren’t Perceived As Serious Writers

The look people gave me when I used to tell them I wrote fanfiction was a mix of disbelief and bewilderment, as if writing fanfiction was some sort of guilty pleasure.  While it is true that the majority of fanfics are horrible, there are some amazing writers.  Some of them move on to original fiction but others stay because their love of the characters supersedes their love of writing.  In my opinion, being a successful writer is independent of the medium.  There are some incredibly talented fanfic authors, so it’s not just a place for beginners.

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7. Rape

Because this isn’t an adult blog I’m not going to go into details, but it’s a big problem in fanfic.  It’s one of the reasons I hesitate to recommend it to others.  I rarely see it in the world of original fiction.  Rape happens, but it’s the way that it is dealt with in fanfiction that is upsetting.