Reflections

It’s hard to reflect on the situation when you’re in the middle of it. I have been trying to write a blog post for months, but have been coming up short. Some of it is the sheer amount of writing I’ve been doing this quarter. Fiction and creative non-fiction, which are demanding in different ways. I like both of my professors for their strengths. I have also had good luck with the groups I’ve been assigned for writing critiques.

I’ve had no small amount of challenges this quarter. Taking two writing intensive classes was a good way to set myself up for insanity, and then I threw in a debate class, which is a realm to which I do not belong. Despite my obstacle course, I have made headway in all three classes. I even got an A on my first debate, which is the highest grade I’ve made in that class thus far.

I realized something, which is that I’m not letting these classes make very deep impressions upon me. In my fiction class, my teacher has been assigning stories that are well outside the range of what I read on my own. The stories are challenging, upsetting, or worse, pointless and boring. Those are by far the worst, where I can’t figure out why a college professor would assign it as reading. But that’s the thing. I’m just dismissing those writings as useless and stupid. And maybe, maybe they are. However, I do tend to think my professor is good enough to determine a poorly-written story from a challenging story to make me think. I just haven’t figured out how.

What is it about the human mind that writes off situations it doesn’t understand as stupid, trivial, or in some way minimized? Why can’t we admit our weakness and accept that this is something we don’t understand, and needs more thought? The brain budget for new thoughts tends to have deeper reserves than we want to admit to, but it takes time to convince it to pay out.

My stories have been developing. I posted a couple of flash fictions that I turned in as assignments in class. It’s harder to post longer pieces here, but I can post excerpts of other things I’m working on. I used to do post flash fiction all the time, but it’s amazing how much concentration it takes to churn out a work, even a short one.

I published my third novel, Typhon Inc. I have been meaning to post it here, but that’s just how busy it’s been. I hope that people take a peek; it’s an improvement on Bento Box. I figure the difference between book sequels and movie sequels is that authors are continually learning their craft, and movie sequels tend to try to extend a story that wasn’t intended to be.

And now to take on the end of the quarter.

 

Seafoam

A little flash fiction for you… careful, this one has teeth.

*

Ashore, a tangle of long hair the color of seafoam streamed around the form of a beautiful creature. Tiny plastic beads clung like scales to the fair skin of her legs, amid the damp sand that glittered in the moonlight. Ocean water hung from black eyelashes like beads of dew on grass, until her eyes fluttered open and she took in the view.

The beach extended a mile in either direction, white sand visible until the night swallowed the land. Tire tracks left dents in the ocean-smoothed grains. She smiled. It is what she hoped to find.

She stepped with delicate feet onto the marks the tires have made. Walking is a new sensation. Wobbly, short steps take her to her destination. She looked north, then south. The tire tracks continued in both directions. She makes a choice.

Facing north, she walked perpendicular to the beach, until she found the manufactured ground of the humans. There is a man sitting in a divot on the ground, in the sparse grass growing along the bank of the human rock river. He stared with wide open eyes, then looked at the glass bottle he is holding, then stared at her again. He stumbled to his feet, from where he had been sitting cross-legged on the other bank of the manufactured rock. Satisfaction takes hold when she saw that even creatures used to such ungainly tools have trouble using them.

“Who are you?” He asked, crossing the space between them, his eyes making a feast of her. “Are you lost?”

She shook her head, a gesture she has seen the humans make. She has no voice.

“Do you need help? Someone has got to be looking for you.” He grinned lopsidedly. “Unless they’re not.”

She leans in, and he matched her motion. Perhaps he believed she wishes to kiss him, as she is clad only in moonlight and seafoam. She snarled, and wrapped him in her arms, drawing him in close. She opens her mouth wide to bite his throat. Blood welled up like ocean water from a fierce tide, his screams ringing in her ears. With a savage jerk that tears the flesh and frees his blood from his veins, she drops him like a stone.

He is long in the dying, lying by the side of the road, begging her to fetch help, cursing her in turn, trying to crawl away. Finally, he lay down in the grass and goes quiet.

She considered kicking him but her strange feet aren’t protected. Perhaps she could find something such as the dead man wore. Humans are delicate creatures, after all.

Casting a glance back at the ocean, she reflects on her next move. To leave her message and go, or stay and make certain they know why she is here. If she left now, the humans would not know why she had come, and she needed them to understand. This was just the beginning.

The Sea Witch was wrong. She could communicate perfectly well without a voice.

Class Assignment – Borrowed Form

This is a short story based on the form of a Craigslist job form. It’s a rough draft I whipped up this morning but it’s fun, so I thought I’d share.

***

Confidentiality Required

 

job title: Can you see what’s written in the stars?

compensation: contract job – negotiable

employment type: part-time

telecommuting okay

Needed immediately: anyone who has the ability to read the future. Foretelling by the stars preferred, other methods will be considered on a case-by-case basis. (No sacrifices, please.) Are you someone who has always been able to foretell what was going to happen next, but was afraid to tell anyone? Are you someone who has visions of calamity, who has barely sidestepped their own fate because of this ability? Your secret is safe with me. I can pay you via Paypal, to any email address you like. I will not be doing background checks. Your words will be held in the strictest confidence, by me and by you. I will, however, require a demonstration that your power is as you claim, for verification. Once verified, I will require a weekly write-up of my future, and any way my actions could affect the future. These reports will be seen only by me and archived in a secure database with no outside access to the Internet. You must be timely and you must be accurate, and your payday will prove to be so as well. What are you waiting for? Submit a 300-word prediction of what will happen next week. If it proves true, I will contact you the following week with further details.

 

One Down, Five to Go

I have successfully concluded my first quarter. And, while my grades won’t be officially submitted until next week, I have reason to believe I’m getting A’s and a B. In January I would have sworn to you I was doomed for D’s, so it’s nice to be pleasantly surprised.

Registration is done for next quarter and my schedule is… expedient. I am going to take classes I enjoy, but one will be interesting. I’m not looking forward to a debate class. My husband almost fell off the couch laughing when he heard I’d signed up for one. If nothing else it should be a source of amusement at my expense, but I’ll live with that. Awkward human brings forth awkward humor.

On a completely different note, I am watching The Flash on Netflix and I am genuinely enjoying the storytelling. The cast is fantastic, they have a great style and energy. The storytelling is complex, which you could expect, both from a superhero point of view and a timey-wimey point of view. Time travel always opens so many cans of worms at the same time, the complexity is easy to mess up. They are doing a fine job with it, though.

Things are going well on the writing front. Finals week took out my momentum at the knees, but as I approach Spring Break I have days devoted to finishing Typhon. Finding time and space to read out loud without bothering people has been challenging, so I’ve been working on other projects while I wait for break. I am working on a strange marriage of a sci-fi setting and an epic fantasy. I like where the story is going, but I’m worried about the voice. It doesn’t have the stylized speech patterns of an epic fantasy, which it did when I first started the work. On the other hand, the story is solid, so perhaps the stylized fantasy aspect was holding me back from finishing the piece. Ah, the life of a writer. Much like the complex storytelling aspects of time travel, if you’re going to try to work in two genres, you’d better be prepared to get both genres right. If you can’t write Pern, you’d better stick to one gun or the other.

But now, I must go. My son’s coding club is having an open house for parents today, and I’m going to investigate. He’s had so much fun in this club, we’re going to miss it while it’s on break!

Onward Spring

Last week the snowpocalypse showed up, snowing in my husband, my son, and me. My husband constantly physical, and being indoors for seven days was a trial. My son does love video games, and we took him to play outside, but after such a long time even he was missing school. My school, which never closes, was closed for three days, and my teachers cancelled classes even on some of the days the school was open. I was ready for a change of scene by the end of the week myself.

I’m going through some big shifts this first quarter at university. For starters, my grades aren’t where they’ve been at Whatcom. It’s frustrating, going from a school where I was on the Dean’s list to belly-flopping in the grade pool of Western. It’s also motivating me to find new ways to student. I’ve been blessed with a husband who knows many forms of getting information drilled into your head. He’s been coaching me along, giving me good suggestions for how to study more effectively.

Learning new techniques has been helpful. It’s also taught me a lot about what a good student really is, compared to what I thought being a good student was. I’ve had to face up to my prejudices and the standards I’ve held myself to, then take a step back and recognize that my old standards were crazy high and needed to be reset.

The time management has also become a thing – my schoolwork requires more time, which means that there’s less time for my son, my husband, and my house. I keep reminding myself that sacrifices would have to be made to get through school. This isn’t supposed to be forever, after all.

This does however put a shift in my blogging, as well, as I usually write about what happens to me, and currently there isn’t much going on with me outside of school and home. I don’t even have much time to write, which is ironic. I still try to make time to write, despite my challenges.

I took a walk with Toby yesterday. It was fifty degrees and felt balmy compared to the cold we’d had the week before. The sun was out, and we managed to see signs of spring. The lilac leaves were budding, and it looked like the willows were sprouting forth their fuzzy white buds. One neighbor had just mown his lawn, and the smell was divine. Seeing signs of life amidst the winter bracken gave me some hope that the next season would be coming quickly, with new sights and new stories.

Tetris, author edition

Today was insane, and an excellent example of how my days run currently. It’s all a balancing act of school and home. I had a huge pile of homework and a huge pile of housework and then of course I had to play Legos with my son because kids need attention too. My car had to go to the shop and I rented a car for the first time in my life.

I took a test today, and I estimate a high ‘B’ but we’ll see what the prof says. I always prefer to do better than a B but with the day I had today, I think a B will be outstanding.

University is a lot harder than community college. Of course, I’m a junior now (OMG) and 300 level courses are supposed to be harder than 200 level. I’m just feeling the level up this time around.

It’s a challenge to find a time to work on my writing. Even though this is the end result, wanting to do that for the rest of my life, there are so many obstacles to getting it done. Working and moonlighting as an author was easier. The take-home work is insane at university. I spend a lot of time on it. I had to read a Shakespearean play, a chapter on phonology, and study for a test today.

What’s gratifying is that this work seems to be paying off. Allie, a friend and colleague, pointed out the difference between my prior work and what I’m doing now at the last writer’s group, and it was good to be acknowledged, and to see that these hours spent are hours that are worthwhile.

Of course, there’s always the blog itself, which keeps me from writing my novels. However, I enjoy writing up blog posts. They are much faster than crafting a novel, or even a short story. They can be dashed off, which is sometimes a necessary form of writing. They clear the mind for deeper work.

I have so much going on, that it is difficult to find time to do anything else. I feel lucky that I can find time here or there to talk to a friend on the phone, or maybe my parents. I am worried that I’ll burn out before I make it to the prize.

Balancing my schedule requires a finesse one expects from playing high-level Tetris. Every day I try to find a way to work on my writing, but sometimes one just has to accept that they’ve been given a long piece when they needed a square.

 

 

High Note

We’ve almost made it through another year, and everyone is resetting. Everyone is looking at the new year as a new hope, and they’re trying to be positive. This is why I love the new year. I love it more than Christmas, more than any other holiday. Because at the end of the day, people are looking forward to something, whatever that might be for them.

Yes, bad things happened this year. A lot to celebrities that I respected died. Musicians like Leonard Cohen, Prince, and David Bowie. Advocates like Carrie Fischer. And honestly, celebrities I just felt attached too, like Alan Rickman and Gene Wilder. We live in a world where everyone is so visible to us. I am glad that I will have albums to listen to with Leonard’s rich, velvety voice when I feel sad. I am glad that I have Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I’m glad that I have Star Wars on Blu-ray. They are permanent reminders.

The new year is a time to take stock, to see where we are as we begin a new year. It feels like so little has gone right this year. However, when I looked back on it, I realized there are things to be proud of or happy for.

  • I graduated from college with my AA degree, after making straight A’s for the school year
  • I am staying on my path and headed for a Bachelor’s degree next
  • My relationship with Toby has improved
  • My husband’s construction company is growing
  • I wrote a book this year! It’s the next installment of The Gray Hat series and I’m excited to see it moving to the editing stage.
  • I had a wonderful talk with my editor regarding my next steps for my career

I’m sure there are more positive things, but it’s more usual to get lost in the day-to-day of managing life; appointments, maintenance, responsibilities. Not everything stands out but I know I’ve had more than a few good days this year.

Which is why it’s good to take a moment and look back and appreciate the good.