Around the horn

I haven’t done one of these in a while, so I thought I’d hit you with some awesome links and a bit of my fiction (gulp!).

First up, three blog posts you might want to read:
  1. The World SF Blog re-posted a piece by Aliette de Bodard, an excellent fantasy and science fiction writer who happens to be very smart and outspoken. Though I often agree with her rants, I often cringe at their tone. What do you think?
  2. John Scalzi, another great science fiction author, is quite inventive with his methods of revenge. Over on his blog (Whatever), he describes how he’ll go about putting a burr in someone’s well-deserved ear.
  3. And here’s a post on the craft of writing by Hugh Howey that I found quite reassuring. Also, check out that Third Shift, the latest in his Wool series, is out!
Second, I suppose I should update you all on my writing progress.

As many of you know, I’ve abandoned the novel I was working on last year. Though it is finished, it is in need of re-writing and re-structuring. A process I went through all of last year. I really don’t have the stomach to do it again this year. So, it is on hold.

Surprisingly, the farther I get away from it, the better I like my story and the more I think I might make baby steps back towards it to try to fix it. Maybe. I still haven’t made a commitment  but I am definitely thinking about breaking open the file.

Regardless of whether I do or not, I did have a novel outlined and ready to go for this year. I had planned to start it last month, but it never got on my list of things to do. For some reason, after re-reading the outline, the spark for it had died. I still really like the story and the characters, but it just never got on my priority list. Instead, I found that Crossed Genres have started to pay professional rates and I got the urge to try to get something accepted in one of their themed, monthly magazines.

Let’s be clear. I, in no way, think my writing is of professional quality. I believe I am a barely capable amateur (note: I did say capable). But I want to try. I think by doing so, it will force me to use the lessons I learned from my writing coach.

You’ll be happy to know that I submitted my first entry last week. It is called Sky (for no clear reason I can discern, heaven help me), and while I struggled with it, by the end of it I thought it was okay. I am working on a story for this month’s theme (She). My story is called The Price of a Princess. Inspired by this post by Deby Fredericks of Wyrmflight, I think it will turn out okay, too.

Okay, now to ante it up a bit around here…

As Mr. Howey mentioned in his post about writing, he said to keep trying and to share your work. Egads, I hate doing that. I really do. I have no problem sharing my work over on SFFWorld.com, because that’s like going to a public classroom. I might get some jabs, but I also get a lot of encouragement. Though it is hard to believe, my writing has improved and those guys/gals know just how much.

Anyway, I used to share my stories on this blog, but not many of my readers enjoyed them. You know that line of stars under each post? I never paid any attention to them until folks started rating my fictional stories. (shudder) It was ugly. Unlike the feedback one gets from other writers, the rejection from random readers was like a stab to the heart. I took down my stories and promised myself not to do that again until I’ve improved.

I can’t say whether I’ve improved enough that someone who doesn’t know me would say they liked something I wrote, but I think I should share just to get it out of my system. Then I can go crawl back under my rock again.

(sigh)

I’m stalling, aren’t I?

Here’s a flash I wrote last month for the flash fiction contest over on SFFWorld.com. No one got it, but some did like the imagery. I figure that’s a step in the right direction. 🙂

From TurboSquid

The Girl Who Ate Worlds

“What are you doing here?” a voice as large as the universe says.

The sound swoops across the glass surface of the pond, marring the velvet water and lapping it onto Carina’s mary-jane shoes. She drops the sweet, shiny marble from her lips as a shiver runs up her spine. Standing up from the bench, her appetite gone, and says, “This is my dream. I belong here. How dare you question me?” As an afterthought, she adds, “And who are you?”

A rumbling shakes the ground beneath her, and she looks out across the desert towards blue mountains sprouting at a distance impossibly far. Snow gleams from their razor peaks and lightning erupts from the clouds forming above them.

“You know who I am,” the voice whispers, a sound so clear and near she swears she could hear it in her bones.

Does she? Carina thinks. Do I know who the voice belongs to? It sounded familiar, and since this was her dream, it had to be a part of her, some fragment of her subconscious. Her ID, perhaps?

She closes her eyes and directs her words inside her. “And I know who I am.”

* * *

Leaving fourth period chemistry, Carina walks apart from her classmates, her head held high. The end of her ponytail brushes against the back of her neck, reminding her it was hotter than the sun.

She had been dreaming during class again, and spoke out loud. The teacher had asked her to the front of the classroom to explain herself.

I know who I am…” a boy says behind her in a low, dramatic tone. A cackle of giggles follows.

Carina spins around, holding her school books tight to her chest. Under her star-white glare, the laughter ceases and the boys scatter, except one.

Jimmy approaches her, the mirth gone from his face. He tilts his head to one side and asks, “What’s wrong with your eyes?”

Glancing around the empty hallway, she opens her mouth and eats Jimmy.

Afterwards, she burps and says, “Tastes like squirrel.”

* * *

Millions of apple-sized orbs lay beneath the glass top of the pool. Each one calls to Carina in a way that demands she slip her fingers into the icy water and caress them with her fingertips, palm and inner wrist. Some pulse with contained fire, others buzz against her skin. Their warm radiance reminds her of the light in Jimmy’s eyes. Her brow creases and she thinks, Or anyone else’s eyes, for that matter.

She plucks a globe the color of mustard and coneflowers. Thick water drops cling to her arm, falling as slow as time. Lifting the precious fruit to her lips, she readys to bite.

“You don’t belong here,” the same voice says.

A dark bird the size of a house snatches the world from her fingers, flying towards the shifting mountains, Carina’s meal clutched in its talons.

She feels the pull of the world at the pit of her growling belly and reaches with outstretched arms. Groping for her lost meal, tears blur her vision.

“No! I need that!” she says.

“For what? You are full enough. You can barely contain the worlds you have already consumed. Their power floods you.”

Carina turns towards the voice. A tree hovers over the desert, its tangled roots resting atop the sandy surface as if it could skitter across the land like the wind. Its bare limbs clank and knock in a breeze she couldn’t feel.

“Power?” she says to it. “I don’t know anything about that. I’m just hungry.”

“After so many?”

“I’ve only had six.”

“And the boy. Can’t forget Jimmy.”

Carina narrows her eyes at the tree. “That…that wasn’t real. This isn’t real.”

“Is it not?”

She looks to an inky, jewel-studded sky. A warm breath caresses her hot cheeks and she thinks of Jimmy. He hadn’t even screamed.

“What am I?” she whispers.

“You know who you are.”

Tears travel along Carina’s cheeks, cooling the fever within. She lifts her hands and for the first time, she notices their glow. Her hands form fists, and lightning crackles along her knuckles.

“Yes, I suppose I do. But…who are you?” she asks.

The tree seems to sigh, then says, “Your enemy.”

With a flash, Carina lashes out at the tree, burning its core. Thunder shakes the fabric of the universe. She rockets into the sky, reaching an impossibly dark space. A small smile tugs at her lips when she feels the gnarled digits of her enemy groping after her. Twisting away, she dives down into the center of the pool. Her mouth opened wide, ready to devour worlds.

“You can’t do this,” her enemy says, in a voice so small Carina thought she hadn’t really heard it.

“You can’t stop me,” she answers.

The very air seems to move out of Carina’s path, creating a frigid void. The pool and desert disappear, and she cracks into hard obsidian.

* * *

Carina hides under the bleachers. Her black hair sticks to her forehead and her eyes are unnaturally dark. Her breath comes in ragged gulps. A thousand broken bones send lashes of searing pain throughout her body. But the hunger remains.

A group of students march past her. Some talk. Others look down, hands in their pockets, intent on their own small thoughts. None see her.

She watches them, and picks a small group to follow. In the growing twilight, she drags her body after them and thinks, she’d have to make do with a nibble.

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18 thoughts on “Around the horn

    1. That’s a good question. I guess, as someone of mixed race, I bring my own insecurities about the subject to mind. While I understand talking about these issues is important, I feel like…like she’s blaming writers. But, if she and others don’t bring it up, well, they’ll keep perpetuating the stereotypes, won’t they? We have to talk about it to understand it and get rid of it. I guess, she just seems angry to me. But again, that just may be me reading into her words how I feel.

      1. I can understand cringing at the prospect of being called out as a writer–but that should be more appropriately labeled as shame and an issue on the writer said rather than on the arguer’s. The reason I came over here is complaining of tone in arguments is a technique of dismissing the validity of the argument itself (see any argument featuring Requires Hate).

        It’s not Aliette’s or anyone else’s job to teach writers about their own prejudice or the perils of using stereotypes in their work, and thus I think Aliette and others are completely justified in any anger they may feel. What’s odd is Aliette so often *isn’t* angry in her rants. She’s calm, reasoned, and far more forgiving than what is often justified by the situation. So when someone else refers to a ‘tone’ I’m left baffled.

        But if you feel your own rage at the situations she’s describing, then that would make more sense. Be angry. Be furious. Every time a writer uses ‘almond shaped eyes’ to reference someone of East Asian descent they’re not just being racist, they’re also being completely and terribly wrong (both in terms of actually describing what eyes look like as well as it being bad writing). Every time someone uses the word ‘exotic’ or claims to be writing ‘diverse’ characters while using various food items to describe skin tone, we should all take out our flamethrowers and burn that sh** to the ground.

        Oh, and the last time Aliette de Bodard got angry, she wrote Immersion. We should celebrate her fury. Not cringe at it.

      2. Blah… couldn’t really reread the comment to check for errors so pretend I said “an issue on the writer’s *side.’ Not even really sure where that ‘said’ came from.

      3. No worries. I figured out what you meant. 🙂

        I just went and re-read her post.

        And, you’re right. She isn’t angry. I guess, it angered me that she had to create that post to begin with.

  1. A mixed post, blogs to read and a flash too! Well I’ve read the three linked items. Aliette, good rant, no tone for me, in fact quite calm, just mildly annoyed, with lazy, foolish, racist writing. Will take Hel’s recommendation and seek out Immersion.
    John Scalzi, inventive and interesting to see how it goes.
    Hugh Howey, excellent, personal, creative process analysis, similar to my own method, though I think my first drafts are not as rough as his, but then I am not as persistent as he is with the refining, yet! Key to his process, reading GOOD stuff. Read bad stuff and the whole process will lead nowhere! (Refer back to my first comments on your blog, re: writers.)

    Now to the painful truth, your work! No, really, no pain…it’s mostly good. 🙂 A little strange and surreal for my taste, but I still wanted to know more of who or what the main protagonist is, so it drew me in a bit. It went well with the art of the desert tree. Rated 4/5.
    The only mild criticism was a slightly clunky, descriptive feel to some lines and phrases, the narration interfering with natural flow of the story which should follow the character very closely, not pull back from the close-up. (To use a movie analogy) It is the sort of thing Hugh Howey spoke of smoothing the flow, by removing what grates or jars as you read it back. The only way to perfect that is persistence and reading GOOD stuff, exactly like he says.

    For instance, “…her appetite gone, and says,…” Why ‘and’ there? why not she says, or she demands. (Too tired to come up with better.) The sentence that follows is a little awkward too. When I read them, I feel a little twinge in my mind that takes the edge of what is otherwise a well crafted and beautifully descriptive intro to the character and story. A few refinements of small things and I would rate it 5/5, even though I’m not that into the genre.

    1. Wow – I can’t believe you made it to the end of the post. You deserve a star!

      No, seriously, thank you for reading and your comments. It is very much appreciated. I’ll try to incorporate your suggestions into future writing. 🙂

  2. I liked the story a lot (imagery) but I am unsure of the over arcing idea (i.e. who Carina is) since there are several possibilities, which may have been your intend. Just some cleaning up on the first part would make it a winner to me (tense changes and perspective changes). Quirky and surreal and possibly philosophical.

  3. I think it’s an excellent idea to post your stuff here, Nila. I mean, if I’m doing it, surely there’s no reason you shouldn’t be, right? Nothing wrong with your stuff, and in this story’s case, like I mentioned on SFFWorld, I would have appreciated a more evil, bad slant to her character other than hunger. But little to quibble with. I liked it. 🙂

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