Everyone has a breaking point, even Elain

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“Hey, do you want to know how Tony got that black eye?”
Alissa raised an eyebrow.  “Well, I wasn’t going to ask, but sure.  Did Darian finally sock him?”
Rory shook her head.  “No, it was Elain, believe it or not.”
“Elain!”, said Alissa.  She raised her head from her textbook.  “I can’t picture it.”
“I am not kidding!  It was at last night’s frat party when Tony started yelling at everyone.  You know what a belligerent drunk he is.  Elain tried to calm him down and he called her bossy.  She kept her cool until Tony poured the rest of his beer on her.”
“Fucking Tony,” said Alissa. “I can’t believe I wasted even just a month on him.”
“Elain finally came around.  They’re done.”
“Good for her.”

Longform Fiction Update 4/17/17

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In the car on the way to the mall two days ago, I was discussing the outline of “The Sinner of Mosskey” with my boyfriend.  After a few questions, he asked, “Aren’t you just writing Swan Lake?  You even have a character named Odelle.”
“I’ve never read the story of Swan Lake.  I just know the basic plot and the name of a couple of characters.  Are you saying I’m subconsciously writing Swan Lake?”
“There’s nothing wrong with a retelling,” he said, “Just be aware that that’s what you’re doing.”

So I guess my next step is researching or watching Swan Lake.

I didn’t get to spend as much time outlining “The Sinner of Mosskey” as I wanted, thanks to the video game Persona 5 and catching a bad cold.  That left me about five days to work.  I’m working on the religious themes in the story.
My questions are as follows:
What gods exist in the world?
How do the Imperial gods interact with the pagan gods?
Do the humans have any misconceptions about the gods?
What role does Evelyn, a lake nymph, play in this religious system?

However, one question spun my plot to a grinding halt: Can Evelyn be injured, and what would happen if she dies?  What’s preventing some over-zealous villager from trying to kill Evelyn?

That locked me up for hours.  Multiple possible answers spun in my head.  Maybe I could work an assassination attempt into the main story.  If not, it could be a part of the backstory.  It seems like an inevitable event, so I need to deal with the idea in some way.

Back in two weeks with another update!

The Last Moment

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When the high-pitched buzz of the heart monitor sounded the death knell, Estella stopped saying her prayers. The rosary dropped from her shaking hands and clattered on the tile floor. She moved her lips to wail, but her throat closed and would not let any sound through. Instead, she picked up the rosary with numb fingers.
Estella’s son, a grown man of forty-four, sighed and said, “I’ll go get the priest.” He ran his hand along the dead boy’s arm then quickly left the room. Estella knew he was going somewhere private to cry, maybe the bathroom. He was never able to cry in front of other people. Estella’s daughter-in-law, however, had no such reservations and began to sob anew, her eyes already red and puffy. The dead boy’s little brother continued to hold his limp hand, as if letting go would mean releasing his soul to the afterlife.
Estella wanted to run away, so she did. The dead boy’s little brother called out “Abuela!” as she opened the door to leave, but she didn’t hear him. She left the hospital room and followed the directory to the cafeteria three floors below. She thought of nothing except walking forward. In the elevator, she watched the numerical display count down to the ground floor as she descended. The rosary hung from her hand for the entire journey, swaying gently to the rhythm of her steps.
In the hospital cafeteria, Estella ordered a tea and sat down at the table in the farthest corner. As she sipped the tea in silence, she wondered if she should feel bad. Had she abandoned her family just now? Estella felt guilt pinch at her heart. She was the matriarch. She was supposed to provide strength when everyone else had fallen to despair. But she was so tired of being strong, so she tucked the guilt away behind the mental dam along with the resurging memories of her grandson.
When she finished her tea, Estella stood up and dropped the paper cup into the trash basket. After a moment’s consideration, she dropped the rosary in as well before heading back to the elevator.

*NEW* Longform Fiction Update 3/31/17

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I created this blog as a place to post my writing exercises and flash fiction, but I also have four ideas for novels or novellas.

They are:
The Sinner of Mosskey (novella) – a fantasy romance about a man falling in love with a nymph, and the religious conflict this causes in the town.

Rising Tide (novel) – an unfinished NaNoWriMo project.  An illegitimate mermaid daughter of the king discovers  a plot against the kingdom and seeks help from a suitor in a neighboring country.

Unfound (novel) – a fantasy/detective story.  When a famous actress goes missing, demonic detective Quidaiba is hired by the actress’s family to locate her.

The Coup d’Etat (novel) – a knight’s quest for revenge is interrupted when the ruling family is overthrown and he must help the former prince establish a new life

 

Longform Fiction Update is going to be a biweekly feature where I discuss what progress I’ve made on these projects and how I plan to proceed.

I’ve decided to focus on “The Sinner of Mosskey.”  I’ve read quite a bit about outlining in the past month, and I think I’m ready to buckle down and try this.  My old notes could use some updating, but they’re seven months old, so that’s not surprising.

The notes for “The Sinner of Mosskey” contain the basic premise, some setting and character notes, and a skeleton plot blocked out.   There’s a lot of work to do, though.  The main character is the least developed one so far, which is a major problem.  Also, a few blocked out, pivotal scenes aren’t interesting enough for their importance to the story.  The scene that comes to mind as I type this is the first meeting between the main character and the nymph, Evelyn.

I’ll come back in two weeks with another update!  Let’s see what I can get done.

 

Book Review: Heartless

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I’ve decided that it’d be good practice to write book reviews and post them here.  This will not be the main purpose of the blog, nor will the reviews be a regularly scheduled feature.  I read books slowly, so expect maybe 15-20 reviews a year if I keep this up.

Okay, let’s get this started:

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 5 Stars

Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan of Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass.  Neither the books nor the various movies really appeal to me.  That being said, the blurb for this book made me curious enough to download a sample, which led to me reading the entire book.
My main concern for this book was that Catherine’s metamorphosis from hopeful young girl to the tyrannical Queen of Hearts would be abrupt and not built up properly.  After all, we already know how the story ends, so Cath’s transformation is the whole point of the book.  I needn’t have worried.  Cath shows signs of the “Queen of Hearts” personality in the early parts of the book: she is temperamental and easily frustrated.  And at the end, her new role and personality emerge from a tragedy that no one else in Hearts is really willing to empathize with.  After all, she is now a queen.  What life could be better?
The story is solid and makes good use of various parts of the Lewis Carroll mythos (with a nursery rhyme thrown in).  However, I did guess one of the major twists less than halfway through, so the plot can’t be called subtle. There are a couple of subplots and some elements that all tie together neatly during and after the climax.  Cath’s love interest, Jest, fits well into the world of Wonderland, which is difficult to do with an original character.  Even so, at first he seems a little too perfect, so it’s a relief when he starts displaying insecurities and hesitation.
I believe that my main issue with Wonderland is that the original books and further adaptations are a little bit too whimsical and dream-like, which leaves me with nothing to relate to.  Marissa Meyer hits a sweet spot here.  The Kingdom of Hearts feels like a real place, while still being whimsical and colorful enough to be identifiable as part of Wonderland.  An interesting point to note is that the Kingdom of Hearts still has forms of magic which are unknown to it.  You’d think the outlandish would be mundane in Wonderland, but its characters are still capable of being amazed, bewitched, and terrified by the impossible.
Overall, I would highly recommend this stand-alone book.

Escape

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It was the night before Prince Desmond’s royal wedding to Queen Lyni of the neighboring coastal queendom, and the prince was making his escape. He had only a map, a compass, some food, a canteen, and a horse. He had traveled for hours to reach the forest. The prince abandoned his horse at the tree line and ventured in. His plan was to cut westward through the forest and hide out in a border village until Queen Lyni found someone else to marry. He knew it was a sloppy plan, and that he’d be in enormous amounts of trouble when he returned, but his parents and the ministers had not bothered to ask him his opinion of the royal match in the first place.
Prince Desmond settled into the shaded hollow between two trees and closed his eyes. He was prepared to sleep through the dawn. He had almost fallen asleep when he became aware of the chiming of bells off in the distance. At first, the prince was wary and confused. This part of the forest should be uninhabited. What were these bells, to be ringing in a forest in the early morning hours? But the longer he listened, the more his wariness and his weariness melted away. He felt refreshed. Prince Desmond rose to his feet. The bells were enchanting, and he felt compelled to search for them. He turned back onto the trail and followed the chiming. After a few minutes, the canopy became thinner, letting in the starlight. Prince Desmond slowly realized, as the music grew louder, that it had lyrics. It was not bells ringing, but rather, a woman’s melodic voice. He strained to listen as his feet drew him closer to the source. The tune was unfamiliar and the words to the song were in a different language.
The trail crossed a river, and here Prince Desmond broke away and followed the shore until he finally found what he sought. Sitting at the river’s edge was a young woman dressed in the finery of the nobility. She saw him and stopped singing. The prince thought she might be looking at him with curiosity, but it was hard to tell her expression behind the sea-green and sapphire ballroom mask she wore.
It felt awkward to stand there saying nothing, so the prince began. “Your song is lovely.”
The woman tilted her head. “Thank you, stranger.”
“What is the song about?”
“It is a traditional ballad about two sisters who longed for the same man. The older secretly murders the younger, but her crime is discovered shortly before she is to wed her beloved. She ends up on the gallows.” Prince Desmond grimaced, yet the woman looked pleased with herself. “But what are you doing out here at night? Only brigands and bandits roam these hours.” Her accented voice mingled with her safflower and verbena perfume. The sensual combination drew Prince Desmond closer despite the rules of propriety.
“One could say I’m escaping fate,” he said. Without realizing it, the prince was now sitting at the woman’s feet.
“According to the old myths, that is impossible. To deny your fate is an act of hubris and an affront to the gods.”
“I was never very religious.”
“That is unfortunate,” she said. She dipped her fingertips into the flowing water. “Yes. The river sings to me. It tells me that what I lost is to be found here if I only look.”
“What did you lose?”
“A very prized possession.” The woman began to remove her shoes and stockings. Prince Desmond blushed. “I think it’s here. Will you help me wade into the river so I may retrieve it?” The prince didn’t want to seem hesitant to aid a lady despite his apprehensions, so he gingerly took her hand and waded with her into the river. She guided him deeper and deeper until the water reached their knees. He figured this possession must be valuable, since she didn’t seem concerned about her dress. “Stop.” The prince tried to let go of her hand, but her grip tightened. The woman’s strength seemed to triple in an instant. Despite the moderate current, she used one arm to wrest Prince Desmond into an embrace. With her other hand, she removed her mask. The prince gasped. He had seen this face before, in portraits and icons around the queendom.
He screamed and tried to struggle away, but the woman’s grip was too binding. Furthermore, he found his earlier exhaustion returning, which was sapping his strength. The woman’s elaborate dress dissolved into dust, leaving her in only a bodice. Her skin turned a pale silver and her legs fused together and grew scales and fins until she had a fish tail with a deep blue sheen. “It was an admirable attempt, but I’ve had wilier husbands than you.” Queen Lyni smiled, showing off white sharp teeth. “No one leaves me at the altar.”

Author’s Note: Inspired by the prompt “Mask” found at The Daily Post

Fireflies

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I’ve walked the firefly glades of the Underworld countless times, and yet my feet always find their way back here, season after season.  At my approach, the leaves and trunks of the trees burn with light.  The fireflies gather around me, the new ones eager to tell their stories to their queen.  I no longer cry at their tragedies, but it is not impossible I may grant a blessing to those deserving.
The first firefly lights on my hand.  She says her name is Oenone, and that Prince Paris abandoned her for someone younger and more beautiful.  But the consequences were more than he could bare, and he begged for her to return.  I ask if she accepted.  She says no.  She says Paris died and she hung herself rather than be taken as a war captive.  I ask if she regrets her choice. She says no.  I dismiss Oenone.
The next firefly’s name is Thisbe.  She sings of how her family kept her away from Pyramus, but not even solid Babylonian walls could keep their love from growing.  On the night of their elopement, they had agreed to meet under a mulberry tree. But when she arrived, a feasting lioness was already there. She accidently dropped her veil into the bloody jaws of the lioness as she ran away.  When Thisbe returned, Pyramus had found the bloody veil.  He had fallen upon his sword in the Babylonian tradition, prematurely chasing his beloved into the Underworld.  She had followed, unable to imagine life without Pyramus.  Their blood mingled as it stained the mulberry fruit that night.  This story I find worthy, and I decree that mulberries, formerly white, shall now be red as their blood.  It is a small favor.
The mood strikes me to hear a story that doesn’t want to be told.  I run through the glade, looking for a firefly that avoids my hand.  I catch one, and force it to speak.  This one used to be a man, a king of Cyprus named Cinyras.  He says his life was ruined in a single night.  His wife was away, and a maidservant approached him, telling him of a beautiful maid about his daughter Myrrha’s age who was consumed with passion for him.  He asked if she was comely, and the maidservant replied yes, very much. So in the darkness of his bedroom he made love to the young maid.  Afterwards, as the maid hurried to leave, Cinyras was struck with a dark suspicion.  He forced the maid into the light, and discovered the one who had desired him was Myrrha.  I don’t let him speak further.  I crush Cinyras in my hand and drop him, wings broken and light sputtering, to the ground.
The fireflies scatter as Hades’ voice calls for me.  I am his ever-loyal wife.  I must attend.
Author’s Note: this was inspired by Eros & Psyche by Tony Single