It’s been a while since I’ve written anything new, so I decided to jump back on board with a story prompt from a writing site; it’s a little experimental but that’s part of the fun. I’ll leave the actual prompt undisclosed; if you read, read for fun and see what the story says to you. 🙂
View from the Open Sea
Our dreams are but crystal drops falling from eyes tearing with joy or sorrow; their pings can be heard for miles around; their echoes bounce back to bless or to haunt. One droplet, the best droplet, shone as a white flare for a moment in time; smiles frozen on celluloid; romantic poses pasted into a sticky album and boxed away for latter days…It was just a tiny, liquid drop of youthful expectation collected in a bucket yet it promised the biggest prize. Of all those constrained in my little sea, on that cornerstone I fashioned my house knowing that, one day, I could look back and see it still shining like a beacon amongst the millions of other drops that had since collected.
I am older now. Yet, not so old; I sneak a look back now. My eyes are aflame with the whiteness of silk and chiffon, skin brushed by lace so carefully chosen; it had meant so much to me, then. There was a waltz when I floated in arms so strong—a man in penguin white and black, and me nestled in expensive soufflé. The songs of strings and woodwinds carried us to the heavens; elevated us beyond the mountain-tops until we touched the essence the clouds. But, as with all aspirations too golden, too pure, we soared too high–nearly kissed the sun. And wax melts. It becomes slippery, elusive, trickling through trembling fingers until we can only fumble with the broken pieces of our once brilliant wings and, like ash, our blackened bodies fall, careening side by side to predetermined doom.
I am adrift in a tiny raft, staring at the bucket’s broken walls. They lied. Once, they had promised shelter, encircling this unsteady pool like a womb. But I have learned that walls, no matter how high or how thick, are destined to come down and that its stones crush those below who foolishly staked their peace in them…
The empty space beside me has long grown cold; the invisible imprint remains. Occasionally, a new form lies in its place. Different, it is cut from another cloth and yet I find it fits, perfectly. Will I be damned for tearing down the walls of my cage with my own two hands? Or will the light of that elusive sun at last touch this sallow face?
I will drift.
And I will wonder.
I will drift again.
And I will wonder some more.
But right now, as I bounce upon the lilting waters, the whole world appears as a limitless sea…
So this is really cool. Yesterday I went to my old high school, Trafalgar, to drop off a copy of my book, The Purple Morrow, for their library. It was weird to go back since I haven’t set foot in there since 1992. The school is so different. People are smiling and happy in there! lol Even the students!
The librarian took me up to the library. The surface of the school may look different after all this time, but its bones are the same–it’s amazing how many memories came flooding back in the 20 minutes I was there. Anyway, the visit turned out to be a great experience: the librarian is also a writer and she introduced me to some writing conferences and other resources in our city and the surrounding areas I was not aware of, as well as asked if I would be interested in visiting the students to talk about writing and whatnot, possibly even participating at their Career Day event next spring. The prospects terrify but also excite me. My high school English teacher’s encouraging words as she presented me with a package of some of my favorite short stories from that year stayed with me, and years later I ended up achieving my writing goals. Perhaps these activities can help me return the favor and help another budding writer find their own path to their dreams.
When it comes to my book, I can be a little shy about promoting it in person. I went into that meeting with no expectations, almost deciding to just drop off the envelope at the receptionists’ desk and walking out. But I took a chance and decided to follow the thing through. I ended up being blown away by what could happen when you take chances: doors can open.
Again, this confirms to me that though social marketing and networking are powerful tools, actual contact with people is so much more validating. Nothing can replace seeing the smile on a person’s face or the affirming nod they give when then like your book, or the pleased tone in their voice when they complement your work. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Well, it’s ‘just a school contact’, that’s small fries.” But you know what? I felt and still feel like a million bucks about it. And here’s one more cool story I have to share with my kids about how Mom took a chance, reached out, and saw one more stone set in place for her to move forward towards furthering her dreams. That’s hard to beat. 🙂
How do you feel about getting out into the community to network or to bring your brand “to the people?” How have you been received when you’ve tried it?
Stephen King is noted for saying that if a writer doesn’t read he doesn’t have the tools to write (paraphrase). It’s a bold statement, one that I find hard to swallow at times because I don’t have the time to read as much as I’d like these days. Luckily, I’ve always loved to read, a passion that started when I was very young. Growing up as a voracious reader, I liked to challenge myself by tackling the hardest books I could find. I remember feeling so proud when at the age of 12 I finished the Lord of the Rings trilogy in a week, and at 15 spent most of biology class immersed in The Fountainhead, andso on. Did I fully understand everything contained in those books? Heck, no. But that’s not the point. What is, is that from early on I was feeding my brain on quality writing.
Despite my love of the English language, I wasn’t an ace English student. In school, anything more complicated than understanding what adjectives and verbs were became like trying to understand Chinese. You’d mention the word ‘clause’ and my skin would crawl (which still happens to this day!) Asking me to explain the metaphors in a story gave me the shakes. Give me a story assignment, though, and I could out-write anyone in class. But there is a difference between writing a story and writing a story well, and I always wanted to be of the latter group. I believe that because I read so much and that the quality of what I read was good, though I might not have been able to explain the rules of grammar and syntax, somewhere deep—deep— in my brain, I managed to understandhow to apply them. Was it by force of constantly seeing similar (word) patterns over and over, or perhaps I had a good memory? Don’t know, don’t care. It just worked and I’m thankful for it. And I’m still building on that foundation now, even though I read less than I ever did.
There was a time when I wasn’t writing at all. The drought lasted roughly 10 years. For someone who lived to write and who considered it an escape as well as therapy, it was a difficult time, to say the least. Mercifully, it ended and I started writing! Only what I produced wasn’t very good. I had to relearn what I had forgotten as well as find inspiration and motivation to keep working at getting better. How did I do that? I read. Classics. I wanted to reconnect with good writing structure, well-laid out, organized ideas, proper grammar and syntax, and all of it un-tampered by some of the gimmicks found in more modern reads. Essentially, I went back to the basics.
I know, I know. There are good modern and contemporary books out there I could have learned from, but I admit that with the advent of self-publishing (which is a route I, myself, have chosen) and the varied levels of editing out there, and after reading more than my share of disappointing books with worse editing, I felt going back to the classics published by established publishing houses was the safest way to go in order to achieve my learning goals. (I hope I haven’t offended anyone by this, but at the time, this is how I felt).
I learned and still learn a lot from reading quality books. I sometimes get into ruts where I reuse the same sentence structures over and over, or can’t for the life of me think of a new way to describe something mundane. When I need inspiration, reading introduces me to other ways of expressing ideas and other styles. Sometimes I’ll see something done that I had no idea you could do. Who knew that it was okay to switch POV (first person to third limited) in the same book?Say what? Yup, it’s been done. I’ve seen people break the established rule of ‘NO head-hopping’ (switching POV in the same scene)—I’m reading a book like that now, and it works. Often, I would stop mid-read to analyse how an author did this or that thing, or try to figure out how to adapt a new skill or technique to my skill box. Once, I read a book by a master writer and the things she did with words were incredible but defied conventional grammar and story structure as far as I could tell. Who knows? Maybe they weren’t ‘correct’, but to break the rules and still create a work that is flawless and easy to understand, one has to know what those rules are to begin with.
Last thought: I’m a terrible oral story-teller. The thought of making up something on the spot while making it interesting freaks me out. But the idea of crafting a written piece is another story. I like the word craft because it implies that when writing, I am not just throwing any old words on the page, but am actively thinking about each word and phrase and how they are put together. That I’m looking for the right flow and metre, adding beats or removing them when necessary. Or, playing with tone and mood to evoke emotion, or considering when to end the story or to let it roll. Everything in a story should have a purpose. I think I learned to do that from spending time analyzing books.
I’m probably coming off as a book snob, lol. Sorry about that. Please know that I have read and love all kinds of books. Trashy romances, pulp fiction, thrillers, suspense, action-adventure, comic books and more have been a part of my reading life since I was young. And I readily acknowledge that there are quality books in these and other genres just as there are literary fiction books and classics that aren’t so great. I focused on classics because that’s what worked for me. Each writer has to choose what works for them. There’s so much to learn. Luckily, there are so many books out there to help us out.
How do you feel about the connection between reading and it’s effect on writing? Do you read as much as you’d like, and if not, do you notice a drain on your skills or creativity?
So this is new for me: I’ve been invited to participate in the “My Writing Process” blog tour. I thought this was a really cool activity as I’m constantly thinking about how I write, what makes me tick, and how I translate my ideas into a story so I figured why not try and get some of that down on paper, so to speak. Many thanks toGlynis RankinandAmanda Staley , two wonderful writers who thought to include me in this tour. Both of these women have been wonderful supporters of Dropped Pebbles and my writing, so it was an absolute honor to be contacted by them for this activity. Please click on their hyperlinks to find out more about them and what they are working on. You won’t be disappointed!
Rules: Answer the four questions below, link back to the person who invited you, and name the people who will be posting the following Monday
1) What am I working on?
Right now, I am currently re-writing Wolf’s Bane the sequel to my fantasy novel The Purple Morrow. The book was actually considered ‘finished’ for a long time only I realized while writing book 3 (still un-named) that Bane needed some revising so I went back and rewrote sections. It wasn’t a tough decision to make—I believe the changes are improving the book. In any case, I am enjoying how it’s turning out; I feel like new life is being breathed into the story and I’m eager to finish it. Aside from that, I’m also actively contributing to my writing blog, Dropped Pebbles, where I share about the lessons learned about the writer’s life and it’s up and downs, as well as doing what I can to promote other writers and their work.
2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
The Rise of the Papilion Series was written based on what I would have liked to have read when I couldn’t find anything matching my expectations in the stores. I wanted something clean, well-written with believable, deep characters that included fantastic and action-oriented elements. The series is important to me as it is very much a multi-cultural/multi-ethnic world. The evolution of languages, cultures, mythologies and lore were fun to explore. I also gave myself the freedom to play with style, voice, POV, as well as trying my hand at a love story as well as swordplay and action sequences. The book has a bit of everything I love to experience in books. As the series progresses, so does the reader’s immersion into the world of Marathana, and new elements are added: magic and spirituality, and other people groups, for examples. In the end, I think I produced something that reflects me as a person and as a writer.
3) Why do I write what I do?
Writing is communication! I write all kinds of things from novels, short stories, flash fiction and sometimes poems. I like that when I write I can say what I really think or feel about things, or explore ideas. I also appreciate the opportunity it creates to open a sort of dialogue with readers by trying to connect with them on an emotional basis. When someone writes that they were affected by a piece or that they could relate to one, that’s such a great feeling–mission accomplished. It’s also fun to be creative! I love working out the best way to present a scene, how to draw out certain elements to define character or plot-related elements. I love crafting through writing, playing with the various skills in my toolbox to achieve something neat. As long as I’m not afraid to try I feel I can do anything.
4) How does your writing process work?
I don’t know that I have a specific process that I follow each time. I basically write when I have time. I spend a lot of time thinking about a story, its themes and symbols, and characters sometimes for a long time before I ever sit down at the computer. When I pen a short story or flash fiction, I almost always write and edit in one sitting—unless it’s a story over 3K or so which requires a few mental breaks, especially for the editing aspect. As compared to novels, there is something satisfying about creating something in one shot as opposed to over the course of a year, which is one reason I enjoy writing ‘shorts’ so much. Contrary to common wisdom, whether it’s a book or story, I DO edit while creating. I don’t plan my stories to the nth degree so if something feels off, or the story takes an unexpected turn, there are times I feel I have to go back and address the issue before I am able to finish. Other times I simply get stuck in the logic of the story, so rereading while fixing plot issues enables me to finish. I like puzzles and, to me, managing all the elements required to write a story is like completing a puzzle or untangling a knot. When the problem is ‘solved’ and the story is completed, it’s one of the best, most satisfying feelings in the world.
Thanks for reading everyone! It’s been so great sharing a little about My Writing Process with you. See below for a quick preview of what coming up in the next few weeks:
Phil Partington, an author, editor and blogger. He’s a writing enthusiast of many years, though he’s only spent the last five of them honing his novel-writing skills. Phil’s focus tends to be fantasy, horror and suspense. The Siren’s Lyricis his first novel.
Cairo Amani, who hosts the blog The Hungry Page. Cai tracks her journey to publish Speculative Fiction with Queer POC Main Characters. Her WIP is called Hand of the Silver God.
Phil Partington and Dyane Fordethought it’d be a fun exercise to start a Campfire story where different bloggers from around the web, add a chapter to a continuing story. A few weeks ago Phil got the ball rolling. Today, I throw my hat into the ring with Chapter four….The Land of Doleman. Catch up with the story so far by following the links below.
James didn’t answer, he couldn’t. His body burned with the fire of the pyres in his dream. His parched mouth felt as dry as the white sands he laid upon and his body ached from shivering all night in the desert chill.