The Light Flickers Within Our Hearts

A close friend of mine is struggling, and she’s much younger than me.  For her birthday, I got her the book All the Light We Cannot See.  It’s a beautiful metaphor for life.  As an aside, it’s an amazing book. Anyway, I went searching for an inspirational quote to put inside the front cover, but I couldn’t find one that fit her specific situation and used light as a metaphor.  So I wrote some inspiring words for her, or at least I attempted to do that XD

“During the bleakest moments we walk in the shadows, fumbling around in our search for answers. If we look hard enough we’ll find that the light is within our hearts. Sometimes it is buried under so many layers of grief and sorrow it seems an impossible task to uncover it, but it has always bee there. Never give up. Even if we can’t see it, the light flickers within, a bastion of hope in the desolate landscape of life.”

Inside of the Book Cover 

dedication2

I cut the names out for obvious reasons.  I could probably write something better if I spent enough time on it.  I just realized I used the word “within” twice.  Oops XD  Hopefully she likes it 🙂

I’ve been away for a bit.  It’s a combination of things.  I became addicted to the literary critque site Scribophile.  I’m editing the umpteenth draft of my suicide story, and will then submit it to a few literature magazines.  I’ve started on another short story.  I’m getting an MRI + contrast/lidocaine injection on Oct. 14th.  My hip surgery may have failed, and I’ve cried so many tears over it.  It might not be so bad without the partial dislocations, but they are frequent, sometimes happening 4+ times a month.  It’s as painful as it sounds.  My husband’s family is coming over from Japan in October.  I’m so excited 😀  I haven’t seen them since I hurt myself seven years ago.  I’m still working full time as a retail pharmacist, which can be very stressful.  My parents moved to the other side of the country, and our relationship has improved.  In the midst of it all I’m trying to get pregnant XD   I’ve been having issues with anxiety, but I try to just take each day as it comes.  I find it helps me cope with life.

Haiku Attempt #1

I thought I’d try writing some haikus because I love prose.  I’m not a poet by any means though, so suggestions are always appreciated 🙂  I tend to be overly verbose, so I thought this would be a good challenge for me.

Haiku 1

As night advances

The sun falls on bloody knees

A final goodbye.

Haiku 2

The plip-plop of rain

Echoes throughout the garden

In tune with the frogs.

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.

I’m Not a Writer but Someone Who Loves To Write

My parents are moving to the other side of the country after living in the same house for about 15 years.  They asked me to come over and sort through my stuff, so I could take what I wanted.  I’m going through my old schoolwork and trapped underneath a mountain of the most vibrant shade of purple prose was a budding writer.  I was using metaphors at ten years old even though I didn’t know what a metaphor was until I was much older, and there were bits and pieces of insightful prose in my high school essays.  It means something to me because I feel like a fraud among other writers because I didn’t spend my whole life writing.  I’m not a writer, but instead someone who loves to write.  A distinction with a big difference.

Unlike a lot of other writers in the blogosphere, I didn’t spend my whole life writing fiction and/or fanfiction.  As a child I wrote lots of stories about ponies, unicorns, and princesses, but after age eight I didn’t write for fun anymore.  I’m not sure why I stopped, but I lost interest in it.  However, I’ve always had a voracious appetite for books.  Margaret Atwood touched my heart in 11th grade.  Her prose was so gorgeous, and I just fell in love with her as a writer.  There’s some neurochemistry beyond my ability to put into words that happens when I come across poetic prose.  It’s just ummmmf * -*

In 12th grade AP English I realized how much I enjoyed writing, but I wouldn’t branch out on my own and start writing fanfiction till I was in my mid-20s.  Last year I made the transition into original fiction, and that’s when I became aware of the fact that I was different from most other writers.  After going through all of my old schoolwork, I realized I always had the heart of a writer so maybe I’m not the black sheep of the writing community like I thought I was.

Here is my high school tribute to my 12th grade AP English Class.  Even then I had a penchant for angst and poetic prose though it would be years before I could write something decent.

I thought about writing a dedication to each individual, but I don’t think that’s necessary. In the big scheme of life names become a blur and memories fade. At the moment high school seems so significant, but in a while it will be just an indistinct memory worn away by time. I wish to address the larger picture. I would like everyone to know that in some way or another they had a positive influence on my life. There are a few of you who have become very close friends and intertwined your lives with mine. I need not mention who you are because I’m sure you already know. Then there are also some of you that have caused me pain, but it doesn’t matter now. . . I don’t wish to dwell on bitter memories because in the end I have benefited from each and every one of you. It was nice because I’ve been in class with so many of you for four or more years now. Since I have moved so much in my lifetime, I’ve never really had a chance to enjoy seeing my classmates mature. Although I had a really difficult time when I started school in this district five years ago, I now feel at ease around every one of you. Surprisingly, English is my favorite class, and at the heart of it is you Mrs. X [name removed for security purposes]. I never really got to know you personally, but in many ways I feel like we have a close relationship. You helped rekindle my love for writing and perhaps I have found a bond with you in that way. There will never be a time again in my life quite like this; a time of decay and a time of growth.  I thank all of you for being such a large part of my life. I will probably never see most of you again after graduation, and your distinct identities will most likely fade into obscurity, but as a group I will remember you. . .

Weekend Writing Warriors #11

wewriwa

This weekend I’m participating in a blog hop known as Weekend Writing Warriors.  It’s fun.  It’s something I do sporadically when I have the time.  A bunch of writers share 8 sentences from a story they are writing or have written.  If you would like to participate, here is the link: http://www.wewriwa.com/

This snippet comes from a short story of mine that is about a man searching for redemption in this life and beyond.  The resulting non-linear narrative is about his memories, reality, and delusions as he is dying.  Without going into more detail that’s about all I can say XD  This is actually towards the end of the story.

XXX

He washed up on the shore sopping wet with a mouthful of gritty sand. The moon, pale as milk glass, hid among the clouds. He stood up, brushed the debris off of his clothing, and headed towards the lights of civilization. His parent’s house was only a few miles away.

He looked up at the sky. After Emma died the stars had lost their luster. He saw them now for what they really were, molten spheres of plasma floating in the cold expanse of the universe, millions of miles away from each other, utterly alone. It sent a chill down his spine.

XXX

Work has been kicking my butt physically and emotionally so my writing has been sporadic as of late, but things seem to be getting better again.  This snippet comes from a short story I’ve been working on for a while.  I’ve rewritten it like ten times XD  It’s taken that long to get it right.  It finally has the feel that I was looking for when I originally started writing this piece.  I’m working on the final draft right now so I can submit it to a few literary magazines.

Mr. Nobody, A Lesson in Avant-Garde Storytelling

“If you never make a choice, anything is possible.” ~Nemo Nobody from Mr. Nobody.

I watched a movie over the weekend called Mr. Nobody.  What initially attracted me to the movie was Jared Leto because I’m a huge fan of his band, 30 Seconds to Mars.  He’s so cute X3  Anyway, I convinced my husband to watch it with me because I don’t like watching movies in general, and especially not alone.

Mr. Nobody

It was a non-linear story, so it’s hard to describe the plot, but I’ll try.  It’s about a man who is the last living human on earth as everyone else has telemorized into digital representations of themselves.  He recounts his life story to a journalist, but instead of one life he goes through all the different lives he could have had based on decisions he made in the past.  The ending does give a more definitive answer to what life he really led, but I won’t spoil it for those that want to watch it.

There’s a certain beauty in the non-linear format as it breaks down reality and shuffles the pieces to create a story.  This generates a surreal and dream like effect where the viewer wonders what is real and what isn’t.  Just as you think you understand what the film is about, you get yanked out of it and put in another reality.  It had me asking questions like which one is real?  Are any of them real?  It really puts you into the head-space of the narrator as you go on this journey with him through infinite possibilities.

It was really well done.  I think one aspect that I liked was how the different segments bled into each other.  Certain themes were carried throughout the film like water, pools, and drowning, which represented man’s powerlessness in life.  Nemo’s obsession with water and swimming, despite the fact that he couldn’t, symbolized the resilience of humankind  The leaf was a manifestation of the butterfly effect, basically that a minute change in the present can have a huge effect on the future.  One of the central themes was about the randomness of the human experience, and I think the chaotic nature of the film helped the viewer not only understand that point but feel it as well.

Non-linear stories aren’t for everyone.  I really love films and stories like this.  I wish I had seen it prior to writing my suicide story, which is in a non-linear format, because that is what I wanted it to be.  I wanted reality and delusions to bleed together so the reader wasn’t sure what was really going on.  Although I did accomplish that to some extent, and it confused people XD  I wanted to take the reader on a journey as my protagonist loses his grip on reality.  I didn’t just want the reader to know that my character was dying, I wanted them to feel him dying, if that makes sense.

There are some limitations of the non-linear format.  You run the risk of alienating viewers/readers because it’s often confusing, and some give-up before the story gets traction.  Other people just aren’t going to like it because it can come off as choppy and disorienting.  This is why it might be awhile before I write another non-linear story.  It was more difficult than anything I’d ever done before.  If my story was too organized the whole premise of it being from the POV of a dying man would fall apart, but if it was too messy no one would understand it.  To walk that thin line between those two was challenging.

I wanted to finish it by Feb. 28th so I could submit it to Glimmer Train, but I don’t think I’ll make that deadline.  I’ll finish it by the end of February, set it aside for a month (at least) and tweak it a bit more.  The old sections have been revised enough.  It’s the newer parts I’m concerned about. . .   I can submit it to Glimmer Train later, like in June or something.  I only get one shot at it, so I don’t want to rush things and have part of it coming off as unpolished.  I can submit it to other literary magazines in the meantime.  Then I can move onto writing something else 8D

Writing Snippets from the Deleted Scenes of a Short Story

I did some major reworking of my suicide short story, which included ripping out an 1800 word chunk and rewriting it as something different.  I used to have a difficult time throwing away a large chunk of something I had written.  Even still, it took me like several drafts of this story to realize that it wasn’t working and I was forcing it in.  I think part of that is because I didn’t want to just throw it away.  I worked hard on some of those metaphors.  So I’ll post some of it here XD

I may end up using it in some form in another story, but I’m 99% sure it doesn’t have a place in this one, so it’s safe to post it for now.  These three are from the same snippet, so the first two are connected but the last one isn’t.  Just for context, the protagonist’s girlfriend was killed in a car accident.  I have some more I might post in the next few days.

“His grief was so immense that it felt like his heart disintegrated, leaving an all-consuming emptiness in its stead. His friends and family were sucked into the void, drained of their energy and affection until they had nothing left to give but apathetic condolences.”

“Alcohol was the only friend he had left. They had been together since his freshman year in college, and over time their relationship intensified. It dulled the pain and made him comfortably numb. After the booze-induced coma wore off, his emotions washed over him like a tidal wave, pulling him under until he was drowning in sorrow. He tried to keep his head above water, but it felt as if he was swimming in wet cement, and he was tired of fighting just to stay alive.”

Weekend Writing Warriors #9

wewriwa

This weekend I’m participating in a blog hop known as Weekend Writing Warriors.  A bunch of writers share 8 sentences from a story they are writing or have written.  If you would like to participate, here is the link: http://www.wewriwa.com/

This snippet takes place a long time after the snippets I previously posted about Zack and Cloud’s escape from the lab.  Without giving everything away, a series of traumatic events shatter Cloud’s psyche.  His friend and eventual girlfriend, Tifa, helps put him back together, but he’s not the same.

XXX

The alarm pierced through the chill morning air. Bleary-eyed, she reached out, fingers fumbling until she found the snooze button. With a sigh, she slipped back into her warm blanket cocoon.  Cloud slung an arm over her stomach and pulled her close, as if he was scared she was going to slip through his fingers like everyone else in his life. She squeezed his hand in reassurance.

The scent of mako permeated the room, a sharp metallic tang that overpowered the essence of cherry blossoms and magnolia diffusing from the air freshener.  Years after the experiments, mako still coursed through his veins, imparting an unnatural glow to his skin, and it seeped through his pores, clinging to the air like the smell of wet earth after a storm.  Even now it evoked painful memories, thoughts she tried to bury under the guise of a happy housewife, but if one looked closer they could see the crack in her smile.

XXX

The next part goes into a bit more detail about why she hates the smell of Mako.  Also, I know this opening is a cliche XD  I wrote it a long time ago before I knew that you can’t start a story with the character waking up, so yeah, it is what it is I suppose :$

I haven’t participated in a while because work has been crazy.  It’s been about two months since I have written or read anything, so I’m a bit rusty.  Things have settled down a bit, so I’m trying to get back into it again 🙂

Writing: Getting from Point A to Point B

So I came across a problem the other day.  My characters needed to travel, basically getting from Point A to Point B.  Actually, most of the story is spent travelling.  And that is the difficult part of writing a story.  Sometimes the inspiration isn’t there, but you have to pull it out to move on with the story.  I wanted to just say, “They walked through a forest and now they are in town.” I mean that’s how little inspiration I was feeling XD  But obviously that wouldn’t do, so I tried to add some personality to the forest, but it took me forever to think of something.  I’ll post the story excerpt below.  You don’t need to know about the characters to understand it.

They packed up, Zack taking care to survey the area to make sure nothing was left behind.  Zack strapped on his backpack, and then wrapped Cloud’s arm around his neck, and they set off through the forest, walking slowly through the dense undergrowth, dragging their feet, stumbling along the way like vagrants sentenced to wander the planet for eternity as penance.  While the world around them was being sapped of its life energy, foliage decaying into dust, thick clouds of smog blanketing the sky, frogs dying belly up in stagnant water, this forest seemed to stand in defiance of modern innovation, an artifact from another time, before the era of Shinra.  The trees towered above them, reaching up to the heavens, praying for a salvation that would never come.  The atmosphere was quiet and somber as they passed through, much like a funeral procession, deference to something greater than themselves.