Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Excerpt: Copper On Her Lips

Now Playing: Joe Hisaishi - Dragon Boy (Spirited Away OST)

[Introduction].

Some people might not know this--unless you followed the book community closely as this novel was being talked about--but this one's a bit controversial. It's a fantasy steampunk book inspired by Japanese culture and mythology. When it came out, there were two kinds of reviews for it--this book is so cool and amazing and I love it, and, this book is a blatantly racist example of cultural appropriation.

A lot of people have debated over it and whether or not Jay Kristoff had a right to write about a culture that isn't his, if he had the right but if he didn't pay enough respect/do enough research, if there's no issue at all, etc. Things get kind of personal and complicated and I don't know if I'm in the best position to discuss them. Just know it's there and it is important to talk about.

There's something this book does have going for it: it is very well written.At least in my opinion. It does a little too much with the environment descriptions--to the point where it takes pages and pages of set-up and establishing of the setting before things happen--but I didn't mind as much. Good writing can carry me through anything.

The very best is when action gets going and it's somehow complete chaos without ever disorienting the reader. It was difficult to chose a specific section because so much of this book is written so well, but I decided on one that happens early on and illustrates the whole Chaos With Clarity .

(original cover art from the first U.S edition).

Onto the deck. Light blinding above them, bright as the sun. Too close, heat curling the ghost-pale hair on her arms, leaving behind tiny black cinders. A roar, terrifying, crackling across the rigging with ruinous, hungry hands. The nightmare sound that woke cloudwalkers in the dark, stomachs in knots, soaked in sweat. Fire. 
Fire in the sky. 
The balloon was ablaze. The canvas had spilled wide open, the hydrogen within clasping hands with the lighting strike and giving birth to a conflagration, sucking the very breath from their lungs. The heat of a funeral pyre beat upon their backs. Screaming men, feet running across the deck, panicked voices. The hiss of rain, great gouts of pitch-black smoke rising in a veil from the marriage between fire and water. Vertigo swelled, the clutch of gravity denied by the speed of their descent. Falling. 
They were falling. 
Dragged up the ladder to the pilot's deck, vice grip on her wrists, press of bodies all around her. Across the shifting wood, steering wheel spinning free, Captain Yamagata's voice rising above the din. 
"Masaru-san! Quickly!" 
She felt hands on her, dragging her through a metal hatchway, the volume of the world dropping to a dull, reverberating roar. The smell of sweat, tang of iron in her nostrils, copper on her lips. Yukiko blinked away the blood, looked around her, trying to focus. She was surrounded by heaving, sweating bodies, packed into the confines of the life raft fixed to the Thunder Child's stern. It was filled to capacity, two frantic cloudwalkers working to uncouple the small beetle-shaped pod from its burning mother. 
"Hurry up, we're going down!" 
"Lord Izanagi, save us!" 
Hissed curses. The sound of iron crashing against iron. And then she heard it. A vibrato scream of fear, of rage. Louder than the thunder, tipped with the electricity, grating across the back of her skull. 
"Oh no," she whispered. 
She turned to her father, pawing the blood from her eyes. 
"Father, the arashitora!"
- Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Blog Challenge: Something Awesome

Now Playing: Uh Huh Her - Not A Love Song

Don't have a great deal of updates on the situation I talked about on Tuesday. Not one that won't send me into rage.

So instead of that, I'll share a somewhat amusing anecdote involving my mom, especially since I didn't get to mention it on the Dune post. Because that's a better way to open the post :)

A few months ago, when I was still trying to plan out what excerpts to take from where for the Monday Excerpts thing, I asked my mom what her favorite scene from Dune was to compare with my top choices. She gushed for a few minutes, and there did end up being some overlaps. (One of the ones I remember is [SPOILER ALERT] when Alia, as a freaking toddler, kills the Baron. I'm still not 100% convinced that even happened.)

Anyways, I told her about the scene I really liked--especially the whole, "getting scolded by Stilgar" part. We were eating dinner when we were talking about it, so my brother asked to elaborate a little and I gave a somewhat vague explanation.

And then my mom spent like five minutes explaining how the sandrider thing even works and what it was, in that specific moment, that Paul messed up with to get Stilgar momentarily mad at him.

I had to point out that, in my giant edition of the book, this scene is maybe, oh, I don't know, a page and a half? And yet she remembered exactly what moment I was talking about and what the lines of dialogue were. The only real reason I remembered it in somewhat good detail is because I'd been rereading sections for the Excerpts thing. She hasn't reread the book in years.

That totally proved it--she'll never stop being obsessed with Dune. She's probably got entire passages memorized.

Even though I have favorite books, I don't think I've come across one I love that much. It'll be kind of cool when I find one.

Anyways--on to the challenge.

Week 15: Something that Excites You and Fills You With Joy.

What an interesting question to have this week. I'll just make a list:

Family and friends.

Video games?

This month/week's library haul*
The library and requesting an infinity number of books. (Not really, but I haven't hit my limit yet.)

Discovering new music that I listen to over and over again until I'm sick of it. (Specifically, discovering new music through movies, shows, and video games.

Parking at a cafe for hours.

The library again. Libraries are awesome.

Driving at night had been nice.

Sense8? The Carmilla webshow? John Oliver's This Week Tonight?

The Lunar Chronicles and The Broken Empire and The Reckoners series. Being reminded of Breathtaker and Serena because of them.

The Hugos not sucking this year despite ample opportunity.

Finally reading some Octavia Butler.

Fall and winter. The seasons of cute winter hats and knee-high socks. Summer needs to end already.

Thinking about Halloween. And the general holiday season.

NaNoWriMo. That makes me happy despite the pain.

Okay. That's all I can think of right now.
~Becky

*sorry for the weird angle and lightning. That window/table stand isn't kind to crappy phone pictures.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

We got robbed...

I don't even know if I am allowed to write about this but if I get any second thoughts I'll delete it. I'll try to keep personal details to a minimum.

Basically, in the decade or so we've been living in this neighborhood, someone finally decided to fuck us over and rob us.

Someone smashed one of the windows of our car (a goddamn 2009 Toyota Corolla, not a fucking Porsche) and took off. When my parents got up Monday morning to drive to work, it was gone. They called the night guard, called the tow company that took away one Honda the night before, called the police to figure out what to do, called me to ask where they might have parked the car, or, hell, if best case scenario I took it somewhere without telling them.

After they were told to wait for the police, my dad went upstairs to search for some papers. My mom said she'd wait downstairs for the police.

So I took the stairs down and she was sitting in the steps facing the street, right at the side of our building. When she saw me, she just started crying. So I figured I'd sit next to her but all that amounted to was both of us crying on the sidewalk. Much to the confusion of passing neighbors.

It's not an expensive car. It's scratched up at the side because we've never bothered to paint it, it's not too old, but it's not exactly in mint condition. It's the only car we have, the only one we've managed to pay in full and keep from totally breaking down. Buses in this city are shit and Miami is so big it takes you about an hour, minimum, to get to places in time via public transportation. Mostly, my mom cried because we've been trying to save money to finally buy a house and. . .that's. . .gonna get put on hold. Again. Because something always happens to put that house on hold.

Unless we somehow find the car somewhere--and I doubt we will--we'll have to buy another car and I have no idea if the insurance we have will cover everything for it. So no house.

Again.

After the police came, after we called the insurance, after all that, somewhere around midday, my parents went to work. It took them like two hours minimum to get to their jobs and then took them two hours to get back. They couldn't even afford to take the day off since they'd already asked for vacation time to drive my brother to university and help him move in. (Since that stupid fucking university was so kind to working people; move-in days could not be during the weekend. They had to go during the work week).

After they left to work, I couldn't stop thinking about two things: 1) an old Italian movie called The Bicycle Thieves that's just oh so cheerful and 2) something an ex-boyfriend said to me once--one of the many reasons we broke up. He was one of those fucked up people who sincerely believed society was composed of people who "deserved" to be at the top and slackers who'd done nothing and therefore too "deserved" to be at the bottom. So the world was divided between the leaders and the "sheep." When I took offense at that (not as much as I should have--because I was a naive little girl, still unaware of all the fucked up abusive shit he'd said and done already), he clarified that no, no, my parents aren't sheep, they've just hit a bad spot! But others like us. They totally deserved the shit that comes to them.

I wanted to strangle him. I still want to strangle him. And never did I want to do that more--to him and any other asshole out there who's ever even thought something of the sort--on Monday. Because I realized that as much as my parents suffered out of this, no one will think of them. Not the people who robbed us and have no idea how much we've been relying on that car, not the people who might see them scrambling to get to work the very morning they got robbed, no one really. (08/26 EDIT: Let's add the police to this list, given how they treated my father today.)

Some will try and we'll be thankful for their sympathies (and I do mean that). But most won't bother and others will find reason to judge. My parents are alone in this.

In some ways we are privileged--I went to university. My brother is going to university. We've got a roof over our head and food in the house.

But it hurts. It really hurts to have this happen to us.

When I went to bed Sunday night, I was buzzing with energy. I finished another book. It wasn't perfect; the ending got rushed as all hell, the side characters are in trouble, got a few plot holes, need to tweak the reveals better, must do more research. But I was happy. Writing is this mixed concoction of crying and laughing and getting angry at your own words, but nothing ever compares to the happiness a writer feels when they get that last sentence down in the first draft.

And I went to bed thinking--it's okay. I don't have a job yet, but it's okay. I'm in debt, but it's okay. I don't have anything to query agents, but it's okay. If I can finish this book, I can finish revising and editing the next one. And I can get a novel out there.

But when I sit down to work on that other book, to look up cafes in Chicago or antibiotics needed to treat knife wounds, I feel this overwhelming guilt swelling in my chest. I shouldn't be writing. I shouldn't be researching. Even ten minutes of it is time wasted.I should be looking for more and more jobs, every five minutes, until I can help my family in some way and get out of this pit circumstances just threw us into.

It's not even rock-bottom yet. But I'm so afraid we'll get closer and closer to it some day and I won't have anything to help us out. Instead, all I'll be is dead weight hanging onto them.

I don't know what I'm going to do. And I don't have any good parting words or lessons or "but I'm sure it'll all work out." I'm sure somewhere down the line, however far it may be, things will be fine. But that doesn't negate that this is our life right now and this is what we have to deal with.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Monday Excerpt: Flinging His Name Against the Sky

Now Playing: Trevor Morris - Journey To Skyhold (Dragon Age Inquisition OST)

I might as well title this post Missed Opportunity--this is what I should have featured on my mom's birthday, not Ender's Game. 

Dune is her favorite book. By the time I got around to reading it, she kept checking up on me every thirty minutes to ask me what I thought so far. And of course I loved it. I wasn't totally in love with the pacing at times, but I admire it for its atmosphere. It's written like a historical fantasy novel, but it takes place in a unique sci-fi universe. (Also, Lady Jessica rules).

I picked this section because, well, it's fun. I dare anyone to try to deny it. He's riding a giant desert worm! He even gets chewed out a little bit earlier for forgetting to do something important the first time around. It's so cute.

Those are my favorite parts of Dune--when Paul's actually given the chance to act like the teenager he is before he has to go back to being The Messiah. It humanizes him.

Mild spoiler warning since this section is near the end of the book.

(Paul Muad'Dib by Sebastian Giacobino)

Paul glanced down at the scaled ring surface on which they stood, noted the character and size of the scales, the way they grew larger off to his right, smaller to his left. Every worm, he knew, moved characteristically with one side up more frequently. As it grew older, the characteristic up-side became an almost constant thing. Bottom scales grew larger, heavier, smoother. Top scales could be told by size alone on a big worm. 
Shifting his hooks, Paul moved to the left. He motioned flankers down to open segments along the side and keep the worm on a straight course as it rolled. When he had it turned, he motioned two steersmen out of the line and into positions ahead. 
"Ach, haiiiii-yoh!" he shouted in the traditional call. The left-side steersman opened a ring segment there. 
In a majestic circle, the maker turned to protect its opened segment. Full around it came and when it was headed back to the south, Paul shouted: "Geyrat!" 
The steersman released his hook. The maker lined out in a straight course. 
Stilgar said. "Very good, Paul Muad'Dib. With plenty of practice, you may yet become a sandrider." 
Paul frowned, thinking: Was I not first up?  
From behind him there came sudden laughter. The troop began chanting, flinging his name against the sky. "Muad'Dib! Muad'Dib! Muad'Dib! Muad'Dib!" 
And far to the rear along the worm's surface, Paul heard the beat of the goaders pounding the tail segments. The worm began picking up speed. Their robes flapped in the wind. The abrasive sound of their passage increased. 
Paul looked back through the troop, found Chani's face among them. He looked at her as he spoke to Stilgar. "Then I am a sandrider, Stil?" 
"Hal yawm! You are a sandrider this day."
- Dune by Frank Herbert

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Novel Completed!

Now Playing: 

AHH, IT IS DONEE. I'm making this post sync up with the exact same hour and minute I finished--11:19 pm of this day!

Title: Vanguard's Exodus
Genre: Science Fiction
Protagonist(s): Amber Jackson and Miranda Delatour.
Started: November 1, 2014
Finished: August 23, 2015
Word count: 155k words (43 chapters, 545 Word pages).

What Happened:

Oh my sweet Batman.

Somehow I got this book's entire first 50k words during last NaNoWriMo, and then I spent the next NINE MONTHS writing another 100k words, picking up speed, slacking a lot, trying to write in between papers, short stories, required readings, exams, graduation, occasional lapses of good judgement, too many trips to Dunkin Donuts, moving back home, a summer of eternal job applications, two computers trying to die on me, too many music choices, plot bunnies attacking me for separate stories-

Ghaaaa. My original plan had been to finish in June or July and spend the rest of summer and fall working on something else. But this book did not want to end. I kept thinking about some of the plot holes, entire scene problems, questioning certain characters, going over some of the reveals. It was a mess. It is a mess. At one point, I couldn't figure out which side the ship was on and what time it was in one of the planets. My head almost EXPLODED.

I said months ago that if the plot didn't slip through my fingers, this could be the best written work I've made so far.

And I don't know about the last half of that statement but...

AHAHA. CONTROL OF THE PLOT. That's so funny. That's...so funny.

But I FINISHED! I am done with the first draft.

Things I Learned:

I do really love the hell out of robots. This is the most fun I've had writing them, probably because it's my first real, full-on attempt.

Problem is, the robots in this story are so varied that it actually made my world building very difficult. I need to narrow a lot of things down in subsequent drafts--how far do their abilities extend? Their chance for growth? What makes A.I's like Isadora and Luna all the more special? I hint at how society has utilized them and even how they might feel about them, but I don't show enough of that. And that's the golden writing rule--I can't disregard it.

Despite the fact that I had an outline, I also winged a lot of things, particularly as they involved more technological aspects of the story. I spent all of October preparing spread sheets and journals and word documents and sticky notes, all with planning material--and it was not enough. There is still a ton I need to go back and rewrite. Still a ton of things I need to research on and tweak.

The great thing is--I got to know these people. I thought I already knew Amber and Miranda, but this was one of the most interesting writing experiences I've ever had. There are some characters that feel two-dimensional even to me. Who I thought they were during planning never appeared in the actual text, so I'll have to go back and really analyze them, from the day they were done until the last moment of the book.

Oh and I rushed the ending. Again. I can't figure out if it's too confusing, too short, or what, but that's gonna be killer to edit. Actually, since this book ended up so long, editing is gonna be...extensive, let's say.

Also, I don't know if this counts as helpful or not, but the Pinterest for this was kinda fun. Might have actually kept me sane a while back there.

I'm tempted to open one out for other books, even those I'm revising rather than drafting. It does drive me nuts that sometimes people repin without deleting or altering the captions, but at least others share my pain; I love finding writer's boards. Sometimes they have excerpts of their novels and, for the most part, they pin a lot of faces to represent their characters. . .though sometimes, some tend to have an unparalleled number of white people in their cast. (What? It's weird >.>)

Here are some favorite pics that went up:

(file names should have the artist...although I couldn't find some of them, so if that's the case, then the file name is just...incoherent string of text. If I find the artists to credit, I'll put them up, I promise.)

Finally, I want to say this, having saved the best for last:

I love dual narrators. I didn't realize how much I loved that kind of set-up until this book. It is honestly as a direct influence of Halo 2, and I spent an entire presentation for a creative writing class talking about that. When I wrote Redemption at thirteen, Hitomi was supposed to be the one and only character. But then, out of nowhere, Bellatrix showed up in the second chapter and took over part of the story. It became a pattern then for me to switch between the two, watching their stories unfold in a parallel until they finally met at the climax of the book.

Ataraxia started as just Caesar's story, but Sonya's voice sneaked in when he couldn't be present for certain moments or couldn't speak at all. It became as much about her struggle as it did for his. Millennium Girl's was more subtle, but I don't think that first draft would have half as much potential if Wendy hadn't taken the reins of narration from Lilith on occasion.

In here, it was going to be Amber and just Amber. But she was in cryosleep for those first few chapters. I always knew it would start with Miranda, but I didn't expect her to stick around and fight so much throughout the story. She may not be able to fire a gun or battle giant robots in an alien planet, but she led the narrative all the same.

I'm proud of those two. I'm happy with what they showed me. I don't know where this story will go or when I'll get to work on it again, but I'm so thrilled I got to finish it.

What's Next:

Obvious answer is obvious. Millennium Girl >_>

>.> It's weird how a three week break from that novel was not enough. There was so much to do and I felt so overwhelmed. "Giving up" on it, moving on, planning and writing this other one--it all has given me a lot of hope. Now I feel ready enough to go into revisions for MG. I've thought a lot about it while writing VE. I can tackle it once more.

So...I'm done for now. No celebration pizza this time.

So instead, have a bunny:
(\(\
( - -)
((') (')

JK I'm still gonna have celebration food. I bought chocolate chip cookie dough, so I shall bake half and munch of little bits of the raw dough. Weeee.

But first, as this is really, really late Sunday night, I'm gonna go sleep for like twenty thousand hours and then keep jotting down revision ideas for MG. And then eat cookies.

Work never ends. Ever.

(Even when I could be playing Witcher 3.)

Happy reading, happy writing :D
~Becky

P.S: Sorry if this post is a total incoherent mess full of typos and weird sentences. You see, as it is late at night and I'm really tired, I am currently an incoherent mess of typos and weird sentences. Ahh the glamorous life of a writer.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Blog Challenge: Food

Updates first!

As I mentioned before, my brother moved out to university on Monday. It was apparently a very tiring, rushed move, so I guess Tuesday morning sucked for everyone in the family. I wasn't there to help with the move-in, but here in Miami, I was ten minutes late to an important thingy because the metro in Brickell stopped working. Flats mutilated my feet in the ensuing walk >:(

Family suffered too because of unfortunate purchases at Wal-Mart. Rushin' back and forth trying to find a fridge of a good size.

I got a few quick pictures before they left. One of them illustrating how unfair it is that my brother is now the same height as our dad yet I am still shorter than our mom.

And then my dad sent me this on Tuesday afternoon:
Apparently my brother almost died twice trying to climb out of that bed? Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. Hopefully he doesn't die for realz.

Pointless stuff to follow: Silvia came over on Tuesday to gift me cupcakes and play Final Fantasy X and I tried to braid her hair. I debated putting up a picture of the four strand braid I managed, but we have really curly, short hair, and I am still bad at braids, so it doesn't look that great >_> Actually, it doesn't look like anything except...more curly hair in the curly hair.

So instead, have a picture of my awesome new shoes:

yes. I modeled them for the blog.

That's it! Back to the challenge.

Week 14: Relationship to Food.

Love it? Can't live without it?

I think I've been pretty lucky to always have a pretty good relationship with food. College was the somewhat exception of that because I always felt infinitely more hungry there than I did elsewhere, but aside from that, I quite love food. Even veggies! Not all of them, and only in somewhat specifically prepared ways, but I still like them. (Sadly, I don't like them enough to make them the main part of my meals).

Favorite foods and drinks are:
  • Brown rice California sushi roll
  • Beef steak with mashed potato and broccoli
  • Orange chicken with fried rice
  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Cheeseburger
  • Brownies!
  • Chocolate chip cookies with milk
  • French vanilla coffee.
  • Iced caramel macchiato
  • Iced white chocolate mocca
  • Mozzarella cheese
This list is probably kinda lame. But I'm not fancy >.> I just like what I like.

I'd say my favorite restaurant is probably Umami, which is right up my street. We can't afford to go all the time, but we went the weekend before my brother had to leave and got bento boxes. They were so gooood. I have a feeling I'm not allowed to say I like Chinese food because I've obviously only ever tasted the one here in America, but y'never know. I might like actual Chinese food some day, if I ever get to taste it.

I'm not that great at cooking stuff. Whenever I do have to cook, I just throw everything in the somewhat appropriate kitchen cookware and attack it with salt and pepper. Like I said, I'm not fancy. I also sadly cannot bake anything that doesn't involve cake mix, although I think I managed some pretty good brownies and chocolate chip muffins once. That's not the norm, though. Even my salads are kind of lame and just four or so vegetables randomly chopped up and mixed.

Oh well. It keeps me alive and happy.
~Becky

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Death Is A Teenage Girl

Now Playing: How To Destroy Angels - Is Your Love Strong Enough

My brother left for university on Monday D: I miss him already but I wish him the best. I was going to put that on Friday's challenge, but that's about the only update I will probably have to give. For the most part, I've been writing and reading and reviewing and cleaning and applying. So I'm taking a break to write up a short post today. See, I've been thinking. . .

If I actually went ahead and worked entirely on that not-project of mine--which is probably (or not) called Death Awakens--would it technically be considered YA if my version of Death takes the corporeal form of a teenage girl? That'd be amusing. Then again, tone is everything. And Death is kinda...old.

A few months ago, I was procrastinating on some real writing work with Pinterest when I came across a ton of Lorde picture edits. I do really like her music despite the fact that I'm not particularly drawn to pop, and finding her interviews was interesting. She's very level-headed without ever not being a teenager--she laughs and she has snarky remarks and yet she's very reserved. Her live performances are fascinating too.

It's all kinds of little things--the strength of her voice in contrast to her age, the image she's crafted for herself, her presence on stage, the way she's always playing with her hair or how she sways to her music, the content of her lyrics--that can make her so mesmerizing.

I'd been trying to settle on a look for Death since I started jotting down snippets. Watching Lorde perform Buzzcut Season and Royals on Studio Q kind of cemented an image in my head. (Seriously, look at her hands as she sings. Also, the fact that she's bathed in red light and dressed in black probably helps.).

So whenever I think of my Death, I think of Lorde.*
(an edit I found on Pinterest. I love that line).
Gaiman's Dream design was based off The Cure's frontman Robert Smith and Bauhaus's Peter Murphy. And Murphy in turn partially inspired the design of Eric from The Crow. (It's all connected!).

Those might be graphic novels--and I still need to read Sandman--but it feels like I'm honoring some sort of tradition.

Anyways (if it existed) Death Awakens doesn't have a plot yet. For the most part, I just have snippets. She's as finicky as a real teenage girl--can't really decide if she's willfully evil or just passing by and doing what she thinks is right. I don't know if that's a character trait that will stick or if it's just me trying to figure her out, but it's progress.

Other manuscripts are still my priority, of course. Vanguard's Exodus is kicking my ass and Millennium Girl thinks it's funny when I cry in frustration at edits, but I like having side stories just floating around, waiting. While thinking of Death Awakens, I also realized this: my fictional body count has gone down a lot.

When I think about it, more than half the cast of Redemption had planned deaths before I was even at the halfway point of the first book. That duology was going to end in death after death after death, and it was a direct contrast of how pretty much everyone makes it out alive in the first book.

The justification was that I was writing about a war. There really wasn't a way around the death of my characters. As time has passed, however, it's changed drastically. I didn't take out that many people in Ataraxia, and that might just have been because the cast was smaller.

I'm wondering what changed. I don't think I've grown softer--in fact, I think the level of brutality in my stories is pretty much the same as it was when I was thirteen, just discussed differently. I wrote about graphic things back then, I'm still writing about them now.

This whole thing got me thinking about a conversation I had with a friend, Silvia, shortly after she read Wintergirls. We were talking about how much we dislike it in books when characters die and literally five pages later, the surviving cast just doesn't care. They forget, they keep going, whatever the case. It's never mentioned again--or just in passing--and nobody dwells on it. Wintergirls was about the only book that dealt with the death of a character properly.

And the thing is. . .Wintergirls spends the entire book dealing with the aftermath of a death (the main character's best friend). It changes the protagonist, it messes with her, it's the entire driving force of the story. The dead friend haunts the book in every way imaginable.

I'd like to think that's why my death count has gone down so much. Partially because the stories are different--I haven't written about a full on war for some years now. But also because it's the kind of thing that can't be just a passing mention. It can't be background or fodder for some tension. It needs to hurt and it needs to linger to the point of it being unbearable.

I'm not sure yet how this will play into Death Awakens, but it certainly gives me some perspective for other stories.
~Becky

*This sentence is really weird with alternative spelling/punctuation. Just putting that out there.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Monday Excerpt: Resurgam

Now Playing: Joe Hisaishi - The Name of Life (Spirited Away OST)

[Introduction].

Here's yet another one of my favorites. Like Frankenstein, this is another book I read in college, although this one actually was part of the required reading for one of my lit classes. Because it was the super rushed six-week summer semester, my professor scaled down the number of pages we needed to read and had us start the book when Jane gets to Thornfield.

But I refused to jump in the middle. Despite the limited time given, I started at the beginning and completely had my heart broken by the section I picked out today. It's strange; Helen and Jane's friendship in only lightly touched upon, but I still feel much more connected to that than Jane's eventual romance with Rochester.

Some early spoilers for Jane's time at Lowood Institution.

(cover art from the Vintage Classics edition)

"You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane." 
Again I questioned, but this time only in thought. "Where is that region? Does it exist?" And I clasped my arms closer round Helen; she seemed dearer to me than ever; I felt as if I could not let her go; I lay with my face hidden on her neck. Presently she said, in the sweetest tone - 
"How comfortable I am! That last fit of coughing has tired me a little; I feel as if I could sleep: but don't leave me, Jane; I like to have you near me."
"I'll stay with you, dear Helen: no one shall take me away." 
"Are you warm, darling?" 
"Yes." 
"Good-night, Jane." 
"Good-night, Helen." 
She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered. 
When I awoke it was day: an unusual movement roused me; I looked up; I was in somebody's arms; the nurse held me; she was carrying me through the passage back to the dormitory. I was not reprimanded for leaving my bed; people had something else to think about; no explanation was afforded then to my many questions; but a day or two afterwards I learned that Miss Temple, on returning to her own room at dawn, had found me laid in the little crib; my face against Helen Burns's shoulder, my arms round her neck. I was asleep, and Helen was - dead. 
Her grave is in Brocklebridge churchyard: for fifteen years after her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word 'Resurgam.'
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday Blog Challenge: Someone You'd Want to Meet

Now Playing: Florence + The Machine - Breath of Life

Week 13: Someone You've Always Wanted To Meet.

Nuuuh. I should have saved the JK Rowling answer for this one. This is what I get for not looking ahead.

I don't think I could truthfully answer this question the way most people answer it. I wouldn't want to meet any of the people I admire in the books/film/video game industry because I wouldn't know how to not enter fangirl mode. I'd probably be super obnoxious. I doubt I'd be able to keep a conversation going, which would be a shame, since most of the people I would theoretically want to "meet" are really interesting people.

But I guess if by "meet", you mean, "awkwardly ask for a picture and/or autograph and then make sure to thank them and leave them alone", I'd like to meet:
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Marie Lu
  • Marissa Meyer
  • Trent Reznor
  • Joss Whedon
  • Sebastian Cordero
  • George R.R. Martin
  • Hayao Miyazaki
  • Elle Fanning
  • Gael García Bernal
  • Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori
  • Yoko Kanno
I think the one exception to this list is maybe David Gaider and Rhianna Pratchett, in the sense that I'd actually want to talk to them rather than scamper off after a fangirl moment. David is one of the main writers for the Dragon Age franchise and he's written a couple of the companion books, like the one that centers on Cole (squee), called Dragon Age Asunder. (Unapologetic Cole fangirl here). Rhianna wrote the first Mirror's Edge and the Tomb Raider reboot.

Because of the general state of the gaming industry, Bioware is such a miracle that I'd probably sell my nonexistent soul half a dozen times so I could work for them in some shape or form. And even if I wasn't so into the writing in the first Mirror's Edge, I do like that Rhianna has written for female-led video games (with women who aren't overly sexualized!) I loveee that they're both interested in diversity within the industry. People like them make the chance of more character-oriented stories in video games a legitimate possibility. And isn't that just awesome?

Hmm. Actually, I think I'd like to regular-meet Marie Lu for that too. For both those reasons--she's interested in diversity and she worked in the video game industry. Oh, and Marissa Meyer is clearly interested in diversity too, and I loveee her Lunar Chronicles. (Robots! Science fantasy! Creativity!) I guess I wouldn't let her go either without a few words of conversation.

So regular meet and actually talk:
  • Marie Lu
  • Marissa Meyer
  • David Gaider
  • Rhianna Pratchett
Oh! And, I don't know if I'd really be such a great conversationalist with her, but I'd definitely try and talk to Malala Yousafzai if I ever met her. Or, at the very least, I'd shake her hand and tell her she's awesome.

I'd probably still end up saying something stupid. That's my talent.

Non-famous but equally impossible: My great-grandfather Victor (my paternal grandmother's father).

I mean, he's dead and stuff, but if he comes back as a somewhat intelligent zombie, I guess it'd be awesome to talk to him.

Although zombie!Spanish might be harder for me to manage than regular!Spanish....
~Becky

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Excerpt: A Sensation of Madness

Now Playing: Hans Zimmer - S.T.A.Y (Interstellar OST)

[Introduction].

Just like I did my last two favorites back to back, I'm going to do the same here and do my other two favorite books back to back.

Confession: I delayed this because I couldn't pick a section. At least with Lolita, deep down inside I knew I'd lose the fight and just succumb into picking the opening paragraphs. With A Clockwork Orange, it was just a matter of choosing between Alex at his highest or at his lowest. (And lowest is always much more fun).

Here, I was torn. At first, I wanted to quote from the middle sections, when the creature is finally given the chance to speak. But I ended up gravitating to another moment, one where you can imagine Victor and the creature's horror equally.

Throughout the entire book, there's the constant feeling of isolation and fear until it just turns into despair. And it's what connects Victor to his creation.

Some spoilers for the second half of the book.

(artwork by David Ho).

I trembled and my heart failed within me, when, on looking up, I saw by the light of the moon the daemon at the casement. A ghastly grin wrinkled his lips as he gazed on me, where I sat fulfilling the task which he had allotted to me. Yes, he had followed me in my travels; he had loitered in forests, hid himself in caves, or taken refuge in wide and desert heaths; and he now came to mark my progress and claim the fulfillment of my promise. 
As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice and treachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged. The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew. 
I left the room, and, locking the door, made a solemn vow in my own heart never to resume my labours; and then, with trembling steps, sought my own apartment. I was alone; none were near me to dissipate the gloom, and relieve me from the sickening oppression of the most terrible reveries. 
Several hours passed, and I remained near my window gazing on the sea; it was almost motionless, for the winds were hushed, and all nature reposed under the eye of the quiet moon.
- Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Blog Challenge: Someone You Miss

Now Playing: Brazil - Candles (Cast Long Shadows)

Week 12: Someone You Miss.

I miss a lot of people.

As consequence of being someone who got switched around to wayyy too many schools and had like a million and a half online friends I've lost contact with, there are plenty of people I miss. You'd think it'd be easier in today's digital age to find and talk to them again, but even if I had the required social media profiles (and they had the exact same ones too), I don't think I'd really contact them. People change so much over the years that after even a few months go by without talking to someone, it can be difficult to pick up friendships again.

That said, because middle school was such a horrible time of horribleness, I have fond memories of the friends who stuck by me. There were a few of them, but I was especially close to two girls: Maria in 6th but especially in 7th grade, and Yaziris in 8th grade.

Maria and I had a bit of a rocky friendship in 6th grade, mostly because of the influence of another girl we both knew. I regret that I wasn't as great a friend toward her as she was to me, which is part of the reason I wouldn't try and contact her again nowadays even if I could find her online. She was a good person, very smart, with a ton of imagination and a dark sense of humor. About a year after she moved and switched schools, we exchanged letters to one another through snail mail. (She didn't have internet at her house so email and chat weren't an option). I still have the letters. At thirteen, I put them all away in a time capsule box I'm not supposed to open until I'm twenty-three, so I won't get to reread them until then.

Side note: the way I found out about Maria moving sucked. She told me about a month or two in advance that her mom was thinking about it and I didn't want to believe it. I think I got angry and told her not to let it happen. (As if either one of us had any control over that crap).

Some time went by without mention of it. Then one day, after we'd had a Teacher Planning day or something (or maybe it was a holiday--basically, we didn't have school on either a Monday or a Friday), I went back to school and she didn't show up for homeroom. So I started calling her house. I think I even called in the morning, while walking through the halls to first period. I must have been using the first cell phone I had because I didn't want to wait until school let out to get in contact with her. Eventually her mom answered and she recognized my voice (I'd called their house a dozen times) and said something in Spanish like, "Rebeca, listen, we moved."

That ranks as the worst freaking, fraking day in all of my middle school years, and considering how crappy those were, that says a lot.

Maria's part of the reason I started to write full-time. I wanted to give her and our mutual friend something special for Christmas, so when I wrote the first novella-length draft of The Night Kingdom, I dedicated it to both of them and burned it into a CD for them to read. I don't know if Maria still has it, but she was one of the first people to finish it. That year she also wrote me a story in a composition notebook she called Violet, and she even let me illustrate it. Months later, long after she'd moved away and after I got put in another middle school (we were still talking on the phone and through letters) she sent me another book she'd typed up called Labels. It was much longer in length--I think a good 50k words--so in turn, I sent her something I wrote with a friend of mine during 8th grade. That friend being Yaziris.

As I said, I got switched around to a different middle school during the summer between 7th and 8th grade, but then after that I got pulled into some random charter high school no one else in my school was going to attend. Yaziris also got moved around a lot and I think she went back to Puerto Rico for the 9th grade year. So once again, a friend and I got dragged in opposite directions.

But during 8th grade, our time together was pretty fun. She read The Band while I scribbled it down in a composition notebook, and got really excited at different plot developments and arcs. (During one of our breaks--winter or spring or something--I texted her telling her I was writing the kiss scene between the two leads. She texted back with total excitement, adding something like, "I'm jumping up and down, I can't wait!" and gave me some ideas too)

We wrote a story together called The Apple Tree--also in a composition notebook--about two teenagers in a psychiatric hospital. Not to give away too many personal details, but that one had a lot of components we'd based on real life, from situations to actual people. I mailed it to Maria that year, and she read it and loved it. In the letter that followed, she had a whole section telling me that writing is what I had to do and what I was meant to do.

Like with Maria, Yaziris and I had really similar tastes in music. I shared favorite songs and bands with both of them, and they introduced me to a lot of stuff too. I planned the initial chapters of Redemption with Yaziris. I think she helped with a few of the early sketches of the characters as well. By the time I got around to writing it as 9th grade approached, we weren't in as much contact as before. Eventually, we stopped talking all together.

I miss both of them a lot. I miss our friendship. I don't think I could ever stop missing them nor would I want to. I just hope they're both doing okay and I hope they have as fond feelings toward our time together as I do.
~Becky

Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday Excerpt: Translucent Threads

Now Playing: Chelsea Wolfe - Feral Love

[Introduction].

Ah, Marie Lu. I will probably always read her books. I got into her Legend trilogy just as its sequel was coming out and I stayed until the end because she did a favorite thing of mine: dual narrators. I adored reading June and Day's perspectives. That trilogy is also really good at action so originally I was going to try and find an excerpt that reflected that, but while rereading sections of her books, I came across a much quieter moment elsewhere.

After writing YA sci-fi, Lu moved to fantasy with The Young Elites, which had some polarizing reactions from the people I followed on Goodreads. Even I wasn't sure if I loved it or if I was apathetic toward it. (Certainly didn't hate it--although it could have used without the odd snide remarks at sex workers). There are moments where the talk of Adelina's "inner darkness" get to be a little too much, but they don't bother me as much when I see the book as a whole.

Quite often, the magic in this world feels really unique, like it's begging to be part of something bigger. And because of how the first book is written, I trust Marie Lu to continue to expand her world and characters.

I like this section because of that--it feels very inviting to something otherworldly. Not just because of the content, but also the word choice and attention to detail.

(Era One - Concept 8 by Simon Goinard).

"Right now, in some small way, you're connected to everything in here. The mirror, the walls, the air. Everything. Even the gods."
His words stir my memory. I think back to the night of my father's death. When I suspended everything around me, the raindrops and the wind, the world had turned black and white, and translucent threads had glistened in the air. During my burning, I'd seen the color drain from my execution stand before it all came rushing back. 
"Most people don't have enough energy to manipulate their connections to the world. We weren't meant to. But when the fevers affected you and me, something changed in us. Suddenly it linked us to the world in a way that our bodies were never meant to be linked." Raffaele turns my hand so that my palm faces upward, then runs his slender fingers along the inside of my wrist all the way to my fingertips. My skin tingles at his touch.
- The Young Elites by Marie Lu
"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.