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 


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.

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.

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.

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)

Submitting a Short Story: Cover Letter

I’ve set a tentative goal to submit my suicide short story to about 2-3 literary magazines in late February.  It’s been through 8-9 drafts so far, but it feels like it’s almost there now.  I need to write the final draft in a week or two and then let it rest for a week or two before submitting.  It was my first real short story of original fiction (prior to this I had just written fanfic), and there was a lot of stuff about writing I didn’t even know I didn’t know.  Now I know some of what it is I don’t know, so I guess that’s progress, maybe XD  It feels kind of weird to still be working on this thing (though I took a 4 month writing/reading hiatus for my new job), but hopefully my next short story won’t need such a grueling editing job.  Although my next short story won’t be told from the POV of a dying man having delusions, so that already makes it easier.

Apparently you need a cover letter which freaked me out a bit because I don’t know of a good way to summarize my story or the reason I wrote it without sounding too emo or macabre.  It looks like you don’t need to go into detail though.  The story is more about finding peace and redemption than it is about suicide, but it’s a sensitive subject, and I don’t want to upset anyone with my cover letter.

I’m also in the process of coming up with a pseudonym.  For now I like the name Ella Hall, but that may change in a week or two.  I love the name Ella, but I’m not sure about Hall.  I’ll probably dedicate an entry to why I’m not publishing (more like attempting to publish XD) under my real name, but that’s beyond the scope of this entry.  For others who are curious or in the same boat I found some helpful articles on the subject.

Links to Helpful Blog/Articles About Cover Letters:

Writer’s Digest: Literary Journal Submissions 101

Freelance Writing: Cover Letters For Short Stories

The Review Review: Your Perfect Cover Letter

David Fitzpatrick’s Examples of Good and Bad Cover Letters

If anyone has another good resource about this issue, please share 🙂

Weekend Writing Warriors #10


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.

This snippet takes place after last week’s snippet.  It was about Tifa and Cloud going through their morning routine, but it’s anything but normal.


Nighttime was always the worst. In those few seconds before falling asleep she was defenseless against the monsters of her past, which feasted on her fear and gnawed away at her sanity.  She hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since the day Sepiroth destroyed her village, Nibelheim.

Barely escaping the inferno, she chased after him, legs moving so fast it felt like she was flying amidst the ruins.  She followed him into the mako reactor, her feet clunking across the steel floor.  He turned around and smirked, his eyes as cold as a Nibelheim winter, the spark of humanity long extinguished.  Perhaps she was a fool to think a mere mortal with a mastery of martial arts could take on a demi-god, but she just saw a little girl burnt beyond the point of recognition, and she wasn’t about to let him get away with it. As she wound up to deliver a roundhouse kick, his sword sliced into her flesh like she was made of butter, and she crumpled to the floor.


I just wrote this today (technically it’s a revision) so it isn’t as polished as last week’s :$ If you have been following along you may have made the connection that this is the same event I wrote about earlier from Zack’s point of view.  Tifa and Cloud both come from the same village and were childhood friends.  What happens after Nibelheim’s destruction changes their lives forever.

I struggled with the tense here because she was kind of having a memory/flashback.  If one were being grammatically correct they would add “had” to each verb because the story is already written in past tense, but it sounds so awkward like that.  This is something that came up in another short story I wrote, and I used some advice I had read online, start with “he had cooked,” and transitioned into “he cooked.”  But I got a few people commenting that was awkward too, so I don’t even know XD  I just left it past tense here.  Meh.  It’s pretty short so I could italicize it, but some people hate that -_____-  Any advice on this issue would be appreciated 😀

Weekend Writing Warriors #9


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:

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.


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.


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 🙂

A Pattern Emerging In My Writing

I put the suicide story away for now.  I’ll come back to it in a few weeks and do the final revision.  I started the editing process on the other short story I wrote about a woman who donates her deceased son’s heart to a little girl.  I ended up lengthening the memory/flashback in the beginning to give more insight into both the mom and the son.  That’s when I realized a pattern was emerging.  Both of these short stories are employing flashbacks and death.

My huge fanfic novel also relied on flashbacks and death.  I didn’t plan for it to turn out like that, but it just did XD  Two out of my next three stories don’t have any flashbacks or death, and only one of the short stories isn’t angst.  I don’t want my writing to all be flashbacks and death, but for some reason I naturally gravitate towards it.  I’ll show you what I mean. . .

Future Short Stories

1.  A soldier with PTSD adopts an abused cat and they heal each other (Angst/Flashbacks and death)

2. A little girl copes with an abusive father and ends up blaming herself for it (Angst/No flashbacks or death)

3. A Japanese man comes across a katana in America and tries to give the spirit peace (Not angst/No flashbacks or death)

Already Written

4. A mother donates her son’s organs after he dies and keeps in contact with the girl that gets his heart (Angst/Flashbacks and Death)

5.  A man kills himself after a long spiral downwards with depression and substance abuse due to his fiancee’s death (Angst/Flashbacks and Death)

See a pattern?  XD  Story #3 is actually based on something that happened to my husband.  The details will be changed to make it different, but I was humbled by his devotion and respect to the fallen Japanese warriors in WW II.  I love reading and writing angst, but I already knew that.  It was my preoccupation with death I didn’t realize till now.  Part of the reason I love angst so much is the potential for emotive and poetic prose.  I’m not sure why I am writing about death.  Maybe it will come to me later.

I guess this post is more of an observation because it’s hard to change the subject matter you want to write.  McCarthy writes angst almost exclusively.  It’s just who he is as a writer.  A friend of mine pointed out that just because I’m writing depressing stories now doesn’t condemn me to the same thing in the future.  Perhaps, but I think I will always gravitate towards angst.  I have written humor in the past, but I haven’t been inspired to do that in a while.

Anyway, my job starts tomorrow, and I’m excited 😀  The first month will be tough, so I may not get much writing or reading in.  But once I’m settled I’ll be in a better place to write.  I’ll try to keep up my reading though or my technique will deteriorate a bit :/