Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Excerpt: In the Moonlight

Now Playing: Mikolai Stroinski, Marcin PrzybyƂowicz, and Percival  - Silver for Monsters (Witcher 3 OST)

[Introduction].

Uh. So.

Okay.

I. . .don't think very highly of this book. Read it two years ago, raged at it, read it again after I found the first three books at the library. My Goodreads review of it is just a string of never-ending questions because it is is just that baffling to me. This entire series just does not understand anything about assassins. It's borderline mystifying that it could get so much wrong and not show a single sign of improvement.

But this scene. . .is awesome.

(Although after speaking to my brother about it, he questions why the monster was aiming for her legs and not, y'know, her throat, but we're operating on Rule of Cool here, people).

The writing actually improves a lot more in the following books, but this is one of the better, more memorable moments of the first one. So I've included it! What? I don't have justify myself to anyone >_>

Mild spoilers ahead, after Celaena discovers the identity of the murderer.

She dropped her cape to the floor. 
With a roar that shook the castle, the ridderak ran after her. 
Celaena remained before the door, watching as it galloped at her, sparks flying from its claws as they struck stone. Ten feet away, it leapt straight toward her legs. 
But Celaena was already running, running straight at those black, rotting fangs. The ridderak jumped for her, and she hurtled over the snarling thing. A thunderous, splintering boom erupted through the chamber as the ridderak shattered the wooden door. She could only imagine what it would have done to her legs. She didn't have time to think. She landed and whirled, charging back to where the creature had crashed through the door and now sought to shake itself free of the pile of wood. 
She threw herself through the doorway and turned left, flying down the stairwell. She'd never make it back to her chambers alive, but if she was fast enough, perhaps she could make it to the tomb. 
Celaena hit the landing, ran for the tomb door, and prayed to gods whose names she'd forgotten, but who she hoped had not yet forgotten her. 
Someone wanted me to come here on Samhuinn. Someone knew this would happen. Elena wanted me to see it--so I could survive. 
The creature hit the bottom landing and charged after her, so close she could smell its reeking breath. The door to the tomb was wide open. As if someone had been waiting. 
Please--please... 
Grabbing onto the side of the doorway, she swung herself inside. She gained precious time as the ridderak skidded to a halt, missing the tomb. It only took a moment for it to recover and charge, taking off a chunk the door as it entered. 
The pounding of her feet echoed through the tomb as she ran between the sarcophagi for Damaris, the sword of the ancient king. 
Displayed atop its stand, the blade shone in the moonlight--the metal still gleaming after a thousand years. 
The creature snarled, and she heard its deep intake of breath and scrape of nails departing stone as the ridderak leapt for her. She lunged for the sword, her left hand wrapping around the cool hilt as she twisted in the air and swung.
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Our Lord and Savior On The Omni Loop Metromover

Now Playing: The Cure - Last Dance

Atheism is a funny thing. A ton of people--dead or alive, even people I admire, like Isaac Asimov--claim "atheism" is a term that shouldn't even exist. Both religious people and atheists have claimed that the title itself is meaningless because you can't define yourself primarily on the exclusion or absence of something else.

Which I think is kinda bullshit? Society at large is still mostly religious. Most people fall under some set of beliefs, follow a church, pray a little on occasion. I see the term "atheism" the same way I see the term "childfree." In today's society, people, especially women, are expected to have children. The absence of that isn't the norm, and it even causes confusion and sometimes hostility from others. It's only natural we'd create a term for the outliers.

I've never been against identifying as an atheist. Never had a problem with the term. I've just certainly been pretty silent about it.

This is mostly because I noticed a lot of hostility in high school on the occasion that the topic would arise. Almost like if I personally didn't believe in a heaven, it meant I was actively fighting the idea of it and taking it away from people who believed. I found the most acceptance from one kind of people: non-Christians. There was some Pagan idiot who became the exception, but for the most part, people of different faiths outside of Christianity or no faith at all were very kind to me. My friend Saba, a Muslim, was probably one of the most accepting people I ever met, and my closest friends are either atheists too or people who don't think all that much about religion.

My parents saw that same hostility happen with other family members and friends. My mom still keeps things quiet so her family won't hassle her about not being religious. She pretends to be Catholic to avoid recommendations of Christian churches from other people. (You'd be surprised to hear how often that happens). I think she's on the fence--her and my dad are probably more agnostics than they are atheists. Out of the four of us, my dad went through the most doubt and fear and questioning. My brother might have too, but I think he doesn't care now and likes to mess with people. Even when he's not sure if he believes or not, he likes to get into arguments with friends about religious subjects and once told a friend's mom he was an atheist just to see her reaction. Which--as he later told me--was that she scolded him. We thought it was funny.

I've tended to keep it on the quiet side too. I was technically born into a Catholic family but I never did much with that faith. Never had a baptism, a communion, anything of the sort. In bible studies I never made it past Cain and Abel. My parents didn't even get married by the church. The last time we went to a church was ten years ago, when Pope John Paul II died.

Because of some of that never ending hostility, I don't exactly tend to broadcast my atheism. Part of it is that it honestly doesn't come up all that often. Not because religion isn't a part of every day life but because it's easy to not mention it or find a way around the subject. Oh sure, I've gotten invited to churches sometimes and I get a "may God bless you," often enough (especially with where I work now--surprisingly enough), but it's nothing major.

Mostly, I just refuse to bring up atheism because I don't have the energy to deal with people's offense.

Over the last two weeks, I started to think about it again. Mostly due to two events, one of which, while weirder, I am at better liberty to discuss in length. Also, both of which involve bearded men.

I take one bus ride, two metromover rides, and a car ride to get from work to home on most days. It's mildly exhausting but I use the time to read and write and ponder over the day and everything I still have to do. Also, music and audiobooks. Those are my saviors.

Public transportation in major metropolitan cities seem to have one thing in common: there's so many people, so much noise, so many weirdos, you just learn to tune everything out. Blast music directly into your ears, shove a phone in front of your face, keep a book handy. It's like this in Miami, in Chicago, in New York City. On one afternoon, I actually forgot my earphones, so all I had was my library book to keep me preoccupied. That's usually a good shield--though it doesn't always work.

The metromover rides are my favorite part of the day. While Miami isn't my favorite city in the world (because I hate heat and humidity), Downtown is my favorite neighborhood. I discovered a lot of my futuristic cities are somewhat mirrored off of certain components of Downtown Miami. Mostly, I love being in tiny shuttles that slip through buildings, flying above the congested streets. I've never been particularly afraid of heights. I tend to favor them actually, and I do love urban skylines. The scenery makes the rides all the more fun and I guess I love the metromover because it feels both modern and futuristic.

So I get pretty comfortable there. I usually try and lean against one of the windows so I can read without having to lock my arm around one of the poles.

In the afternoon, they tend to get crowded. It's mostly made up of construction workers and people in suits and college kids, but I guess that's also a good time for the occasional, well, weirdo to wander in. The day I forgot my earphones, the metro was somewhat crowded with a very diverse cast of people.

And I met Jesus. Or at least, I met a guy who claimed he was Jesus.

He was somewhat short--no more than three inches taller than me--dressed all in white. White shoes, white pants, white shirt. He had a bit of a beard and his hair was pulled back. He'd even draped a white scarf around his head and had a bunch of crosses looped around his neck. He was actually kind of handsome--wide dark eyes, brown skin, symmetrical features. When he spoke, he had a very nice voice. Instantly charismatic.

He stood beside me at one point, having already addressed someone else. I heard him say, "Jesus wouldn't like that," at something else and a few people were staring at him. I just focused on reading, thinking I could probably ignore him. It didn't quite work.

Our ensuing conversation went as follows:

Him: "What are you reading?"

Me: (thinking this is how a lot of strange people open conversations with me) *shows front cover of Uprooted*

Him: "It's about magic?"

Me: "Yeah. Fantasy."

Him: "Oh, I know. Because I know everything. Quick, guess who I am."

Me: "Who?"

Him: "Guess."

Me: (smiling) "Tell me."

Him: (smiling too) "Guess."

Me: "Tell me!"

Him: "Okay. Who's the guy who's up on the cross?"

Me: "Jesus!"

Him: "That's right! That's right. I don't always tell people. But they know and they get this look about them. It's all: *Widens his eyes, stutters for a second*. They don't usually recognize me--because I'm not always in white like I am today. Or they think I'm joking. They're all, 'nah man, get out of here.' But like, you're gonna pull that on me? On me? You think I don't see through you?"

Me: "You must get a ton of reactions."

Him: "Oof! Like you wouldn't believe!"

I don't really remember this next part--but he went on this little speech of how I'll know it's him because the Pope and Obama are gonna mention him and show his face soon when they're together, broadcasting to America. And he was all--

Him: "Look, here's how you'll know I'm the real deal. Next week? A missile's gonna hit New York. Then another one's gonna hit Miami, which is why I'm here."

Me: "To save us?"

Him: "Ahhh. Some of you. I'll save the good people. The ones who believe. The angels will come to help out. And, pfft, there'll be demons. Of course. Demons."

He was still talking by the time the shuttle reached my stop. So after I looked around and realized I had to get out, I had to interrupt him and say something like, "Well, it was nice meeting you." (What a failure, by the way. Legit Jesus would have known what my stop was).

He got all wide eyed, stopped for a second, and said, "Remember my face?"

Me: "Oh, I will."

He didn't follow me off the metro, so I'm really thankful for that. All in all, that whole thing could have gone down a lot worse.

When I told my mom about it, she said she might have ended up freaking out a little bit if put in my situation. Religious talk kind of puts her on edge and she has way too much experience dealing with public transportation weirdos. Previous to this, few years back, I had a guy offer me his church card on the bus, and when we got off on the same stop, he stopped me to talk about the church and ask me if I thought I'd go to hell or heaven. (I said purgatory on a whim without elaborating and he looked a little confused). I talked to him, as I talked to that guy on the metromover, and my mom thought that'd been a mistake back then. She thought I should have shut him down outright and told him to leave me alone. She didn't scold me this time, but something tells me she would have preferred it if I'd done the same in the metro ride situation.

But honestly, as weird as I find it, that whole talk with Jesus of the Omni Metromover was mildly amusing. I did see how freaked out other people looked, giving us stares, kind of blankly watching him and me talk for a bit. I wonder now how they might have handled him. (Or what they thought was going through my head).

Sometimes (and only sometimes) I don't see the harm in playing along. If anything, I figured that was the safest option. If I can't ignore them, I indulge them a little bit. I figured, if he thought I believed him and I was polite, we could probably keep it to a casual conversation. I don't know what I would have done exactly if he'd tried to follow me off the metro. I probably would have sprinted to the nearest crowd. (I do that with creepers. At sixteen, when I got followed by a construction worker asking if I could be his girlfriend and refusing my "uh, no thanks", I said fuck manners and ran across the street till I was farrrr away from him).

But this time, this brand of weirdo didn't follow me. So I get to look at that whole conversation with moderate chuckles rather than ridiculously hysterical giggles.

And the thing is, I do buy that Jesus of the Omni Metromover gets a ton of extreme reactions. Not just because people are  suddenly aware that they're probably dealing with an unhinged guy who honestly believes what he's saying, But also because. . .it's gotta be excruciating to even try and play along.

Say you do believe in Jesus. Or at least believe in something that's somewhat connected to the guy. If some dude on the street took Being Weird In Public Places and threw some blasphemy into the mix, you'd blow your fudge, man*. You'd tell him to piss off, to prove it, you might even argue with him for a good ten minutes. I know because I've seen religious arguments break out and it's never pretty, no matter who's arguing what. (In fact, one broke out just this Thursday. I found that more annoying so I just listened to music and ignored them. Attention seeking hogs.)

It used to happen a lot in school. For some reason, preachers (and a ton of fuckface pro-lifers) were allowed to throw out sermons and put up posters in the Oglesby Union square of FSU. It was so annoying.

While it can vary, I get all uncomfortable and teeth grinding and eye-rolling at things like preachers. Especially when they don't stay in their fucking corners and go to my university.

Whenever people would set up random sermons in the middle of my campus, I'd want to go around and rip their pamphlets to pieces and tell them to piss off. But what honestly annoyed me more was seeing crowds form around these assholes. It was bad enough to catch people sitting casually around them and paying attention to them. It was worse when they drew in an entire, enveloped circle and even got other students to jump in and argue and preach. Then I was suddenly 100% okay with the idea of a meteor hitting the campus and denting the Earth with a nice little crater.

Alright. See how aggressive I get over that than over some deranged guy in a metromover shuttle?

I guess what I'm trying to get at is--my relationship with religious people and religion in general is complicated. I want to be respectful and sometimes I am. But am I respectful for the right reasons? Or am I doing it out of obligation or the occasional mild panic? And who exactly do I grant that respect to? What even dictates that? Does it matter if it's internally genuine or not?

After the metromover incident, a second thing happened at work that also involved a bearded guy who started up a conversation with me. (Cute more than handsome, really tall, a little adorably awkward, definitely not claiming to be the guy who died for your sins. Not a Christian, but religious. Religious for sure.).

That hasn't gone anywhere yet and I'm not really at the place to discuss it. Plus it's still developing. But it has gotten me thinking about me and my set of non-beliefs, how far I can truly and honestly respect people, how far I feel they might respect me.

I legit wish atheism was a non-issue. I wish religion in general was a non-issue. But I'm thinking that's a wish born out of laziness. I don't want to think about it, don't want to discuss it, don't want it to torment people. That's not really things I can hope for.
~Becky

*I stole that from Spoony. It makes me giggle.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Blog Challenge: Five Passions

Ughhh this entire blog post disappeared and I'm so lazyyyy that I'm just going to make a quick list.

Week 20: Five passions
  • Women's Rights
  • Most people's rights, actually. LGBTQIA+, racial minorities, etc.
  • Storytelling
    • In any medium, really. Film, video games, literature, theater, television.
  • Robots/Artificial Intelligences.
  • Serial Killers
I had like mini points here and everything >_> Stupid blogger. Hiss. Hiss.
~Becky

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Excerpt: Of Gentle Hunger

Now Playing: Bear McCreary - There's a Storm Coming (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles OST)

[Introduction].

Here's something odd--I don't think I ever talk about Fahrenheit 451, except for that one post I made right after Ray Bradbury passed away. It's strange; it's one of my favorites. I read it at the age of thirteen, quite apprehensive when I started, pleasantly surprised when it ended.

I've heard some people criticize Clarisse for not acting entirely like a real person. It hurts to admit it, but the older I grow, the more I have to somewhat begrudgingly agree with that criticism. It is somewhat clear to me now that Bradbury wrote her to jump start Montag's arc. At her expense, no less.

And while it bothers me, the language makes her character and her introduction so effortlessly beautiful rather than completely contrived. If this scene hadn't happened so early on, I don't think I would have fallen so quickly in love with this book.

The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and the leaves carry her forward. Her head was half bent to watch her shoes stir the circling leaves. Her face was slender and milk-white, and in it was a kind of gentle hunger that touched over everything with tireless curiosity. It was a look, almost, of pale surprise; the dark eyes were so fixed to the world that no move escaped them. Her dress was white and it whispered. He almost thought he heard the motion of her hands as she walked, and the infinitely small sound now, the white stir of her face turning when she discovered she was a moment away from a man who stood in the middle of the pavement waiting. 
The trees overhead made a great sound of letting down their dry rain. The girl stopped and looked as if she might pull back in surprise, but instead stood regarding Montag with eyes so dark and shining and alive, that he felt he had said something quite wonderful. But he knew his mouth had only moved to say hello, and then when she seemed hypnotized by the salamander on his arm and the phoenix-disc on his chest, he spoke again. 
"Of course," he said, "you're a new neighbour, aren't you?" 
"And you must be"-she raised her eyes from his professional symbols-"the fireman." Her voice trailed off. 
"How oddly you say that." 
"I'd-I'd have known it with my eyes shut," she said, slowly. 
"What--the smell of kerosene? My wife always complains," he laughed. "You never wash it off completely." 
"No, you don't," she said, in awe. 
He felt she was walking in a circle about him, turning him end for end, shaking him quietly, and emptying his pockets, without once moving herself. 
"Kerosene," he said, because the silence had lengthened, "is nothing but perfume to me." 
"Does it seem like that, really?" 
"Of course. Why not?" 
She gave herself time to think of it. "I don't know." She turned to face the sidewalk going toward their homes. "Do you mind if I walk back with you? I'm Clarisse McClellan." 
"Clarisse. Guy Montag. Come along. What are you doing out so late wandering around? How old are you?" 
They walked in the warm-cool blowing night on the silvered pavement and there was the faintest breath of fresh apricots and strawberries in the air, and he looked around and realized this was quite impossible, so late in the year. 
There was only the girl walking with him now, her face bright as snow in the moonlight, and he knew she was working his questions around, seeking the best answers she could possibly give. 
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday Blog Challenge: Bag Contents

Week 18: Someone You Miss

...hey...I already answered this question! I'm not answering it again >.> so instead, I'm going to skip a number and we can pretend this is week 19. And then continue on as normal. 

What? So what if it's somewhat cheating? It's my blog and I didn't notice the original blog challenge had a repeat >.> I do wat I want.

Week 19: What's In Your Bag.

I have many bags, yo. But I guess I use a couple primarily.

Since I've started working at an office, I've begun to carry around this giant tote bag everywhere I go. I miss my smaller handbag and blue messenger bag, but for the next few months or so, I'm mostly just going to be using this bag.

This is what I was carrying throughout most of this week:


So, here we go:

1) Small black journal. Sometimes I get a few minutes of a break at work and I've got a 30 minute lunch break, so whenever I can, I like to write a few things here and there, mostly related to my writing and MG. (I am still revising, after all).

2) Pens. Pretty blue pens. Although I usually end up using the ones I have in the office already.

3) Folder with a bunch of stuff. I opened it up to show a bit of the contents. It used to just carry my resume and copies of my diploma, but now its got some notes I made about my work, bunch of sticky notes in the pages, and a list of extensions we use at the office.

4) Mini toothpaste. Errr. For some reason. I'm not sure why I carry it. I don't have a mini toothbrush anywhere.

5) Wallet, of course.

6) Library book. This changes depending what I'm reading but earlier this week it was Uprooted. My commute takes forever with all those buses and metro mover rides so I might as well have something to read. Plus, I read during my lunch break if I have nothing to write.

7) Keys. Lots of keys. For the apartment, for work, for my bike's lock. It's also got attached pepper spray and the mini library card.

8) Umbrella. Cuz Miami is mean and might drench me.

And that's it! In university and high school I used to carry my laptop everywhere but, uh, I don't want to drag it around Miami without cause anymore. That's what the journal is for.
~Becky

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Merit

Now Playing: Type O Negative - Green Man

During my first year at university, I saw Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy's oddly complicated but interesting documentary about a dozen different things: himself, street art, Mr. Brainwash and their friendship, other graffiti artists, their work and influences, etc. It's complex, but only because it's so ambitious. Not to give too much away, but as it closes, it takes an almost cynical look at the merit of art, and it leaves you with a lot of questions: What is art? What makes art good? Are there people who just don't understand art? Are there artists who don't deserve that title?

I didn't start Millennium Girl after Exit Through the Gift Shop. But I found Wendy and Yukiko a few days afterwards. (They showed up before my protagonist. They were also, at first, a lot younger).

I've grown up surrounded by artists of all kind--musicians, painters, photographers, writers, a handful who tried sculpting. The closest friends I made in middle school and high school had some kind of connection to the arts, and I think a part of me somewhat admired how unpretentious they all were. And how utterly disinterested they were in trying to be shocking or controversial or critical in their work. No one regularly aimed for philosophical themes or painted deeply political subjects that criticized the government and society.

There were artists in the school who did that--used their mediums as a way to talk about or analyze something. And, you know, sometimes it's not entirely avoidable. I've done it by accident, I've done it on purpose. I've been that kind of writer: start with a theme then go off into the story.

But I wasn't friends with the critical, political, philosophical artists. I was friends with the artists who drew fantasy character designs and dragons, who painted cats with really colorful geographical shapes or sculpted them out of tin foil.

It doesn't mean I don't admire people who are deeply critical of society through their art. Social commentary is important and art is a powerful vessel to deliver that. I know there's merit in that, I'm not here to discredit something like Orwell's 1984.

But on a personal level, the only people I've really ever been drawn to are people who would answer the question "why do you paint/draw/create?" with "because it's fun."

Not "because I have something to say" or "because it's how I am critical of society." Again, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I just think I am somewhat drawn to people who just find art fun.

I think that's how Wendy become so important to me and Lilith. She is my friends, or at least, she's the culmination of their artistic sides. She runs around Chicago late into the night and tags every brick wall imaginable because she likes it. She knows someone's gonna roll in with a giant paint bucket and cover it up in a few days, and she still does it because she likes the process.

That basic love is important. That's supposed to get you through the tougher times of your artistic career. Love for the craft = perseverance. You're just supposed to keep going because you love the thing you're creating.

And that's. . .a nice sentiment, but it isn't always realistic. At least personally, I have trouble writing when I have other things to worry about. In those times, writing makes me feel guilty because I'm "wasting time" or am not good enough yet or I'm just chasing a pipe dream. Or I'm just too exhausted.

I keep writing but it's not exactly an enjoyable process the whole way through.

No matter where I am, I fear failure. Even if I'm doing something just for fun and I think "it's okay, this isn't leaving my computer," I still fear failure. I don't know how not to come up with a dozen possibilities of how my writing career fizzles out, cools indefinitely, or never even remotely gets a start.

Then two weeks ago--in between running around Miami Beach for errands--I read The Disaster Artist, the book Greg Sestero wrote about his involvement with The Room. And The Room is, for those who don't know, a movie that excels at being terrible. It's incoherent, it's stupid, it's a masterpiece of horrible filmmaking. It's...bad. It's just bad.

And I was expecting the book to be funny given the subject matter, but I wasn't expecting it to hit me so deeply. I talked more about it in the review I did, but basically, the book kind of becomes this intricate look at how being determined and stubborn isn't always a good thing.

The book is about a very specific kind of artistic failure. Not commercial failure since, in the strangest of real life twists, The Room became a smash hit. But a more personal kind. It's a failure because the artist doesn't achieve his intended goal. Tommy Wiseau didn't write and direct some heartbreaking drama filled with the complex relationships of three-dimensional people. He wrote and directed some melodramatic, incoherent, unintentionally funny piece of trash.

But he did it. He started it, he finished it. He was a terrible person the whole way through, but he got it done and it saved him. Making that movie saved him. And it does reveal a lot about him--about how he sees people, what he cares about, his wishes and his fears.

He may be a terrible person and an even worse filmmaker, but he's still, somehow, an artist. And he did that movie because he loved it and he needed it.

It's easy to say this and then get crushed by doubt and fear tomorrow, but I want to say it anyways. If only because I really do believe it right now (even if I won't believe it tomorrow): I could be a terrible writer. And there may come a day when people confirm that little fear and let me know what I've labored over has completely failed.

But even if all I produce is terrible, all my stories are going to have some kind of merit. They're going to say something about me--how I saw the world, how I interacted with people, what I cared about. And they won't have to be deeply philosophical in nature or critical looks at society (although some might be) to be introspective.

I guess that's how I'm going to try and come to grips with failure. I've always known it's going to happen and it's not going to be pleasant and I'll have to deal with it. But even then, there'll be something worthwhile in my work. If not in the end product, in the process. If not in the process, in the inception. If not in the inception, in just the love I had for writing in the first place.

There's merit in that, right? However small that may be.
Becky

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday Excerpt: Tendrils of Wind

Now Playing: Trevor Morris - In Your Heart Shall Burn and Calling the Inquisition (Dragon Age: Inquisition OST)

[Introduction].

I figured because last week I featured an excerpt from an author I'd already showcased, well, then, there's no harm in doing it again! I promise, after this, I'll feature someone new. I'm not going to put a new rule of, "no repeated authors", but it would help to bring some variety.

Here's my reasoning for why I'm including this: it was my second choice already for my Divergent series pick a few weeks ago. I went with that scene of Allegiant because it managed to be really powerful in just a few paragraphs--two pages in print. That's admirable.

But this scene is fun. And I like fun things. This was one of the moments in the first Divergent book that made me grin. I read somewhere that this zip line scene and the Capture the Flag game weren't in the original manuscript for Divergent. Veronica Roth wrote them at the suggestion of an editor--her first version just had a ton of focus in the hardships of initiation, and the editor thought it would make readers question why Tris wanted so badly to be part of this faction if it looked like it was all just a one-note journey of misery. I'm glad she took the advice to sprinkle some fun in the book. If anything, this is the kind of thing the other books needed; some breathing room for thrill and amazement. The writing really shines here.

He looks down at me and says, "Ready, set, g-" 
Before he can finish the word "go," he releases the sling and I forget him, I forget Uriah, and family, all and the things that could malfunction and lead to my death. I hear metal sliding against metal and feel wind so intense it forces tears into my eyes as I hurtle toward the ground. 
I feel like I am without substance, without weight. Ahead of me the marsh looks huge, its patches of brown spreading farther than I can see, even up this high. The air is so cold and so fast that it hurts my face. I pick up speed and a shout of exhilaration rises within me, stopped only by the wind that fills my mouth the second my lips part. 
Held secure by the straps, I throw my arms out to the side and imagine that I am flying. I plunge toward the street, which is cracked and patchy and follows perfectly the curve of the marsh. I can imagine, up here, how the marsh looked when it was full of water, like liquid steel as it reflected the color of the sky. 
My heart beats so hard it hurts, and I can't scream and I can't breathe, but I also feel everything, every vein and every fiber, every bone and every nerve, all awake and buzzing in my body as if charged with electricity. I am pure adrenaline. 
The ground grows and bulges beneath me, and I can see the tiny people standing on the pavement below. I should scream, like any rational human being would, but when I open my mouth again, I just crow with joy. I yell louder, and the figures on the ground pump their fists and yell back, but they are so far away I can barely hear them. 
I look down and the ground smears beneath me, all gray and white and black, glass and pavement and steel. Tendrils of wind, soft as hair, wrap around my fingers and push my arms back. 
- Divergent by Veronica Roth 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Blog Challenge: Heartbroken

Now Playing: 4 Non Blondes - What's Up? (Sense8 soundtrack)

Week 17: Someone Who Broke Your Heart

Now here's a question I don't know how to answer.

Most of the time, this kind of thing is supposed to be taken romantically or something. I don't really know why--I guess our modern society in general places great emphasis and importance on romantic love as it being the one true love above all else. When it goes awry in any way, then that's the most painful thing that can happen to you. That is the pain that makes it feel like it's literally tearing your heart in half.

But I'm trying hard to think of a time I knew someone that either hurt me directly or indirectly enough to make me feel that level of pain...and I don't think it's happened yet. Romantically or nonromantically.

I don't know what that says about me or what I still have to experience. I've had troublesome and oddly powerful friendships. I've known fucked up people, interacted with them--romantically and nonromantically--but I wouldn't describe the pain they caused me as "heartbreak." PURE RAGE is more in line of how I'd put it.

I've cried over things that have happened with people, to people, or the like. But no one's broken my heart yet. Not even by accident. Not in a way that really sticks out for me.

Does that make me lucky? Or does it mean the worst is yet to come?

I guess I'll have an answer for that when the heartbreak finally comes crashing down on me.
~Becky

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Planning Updates #2

Now Playing: Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori - Exclusion Zone and First Challenge (Destiny OST)

This is going off Tuesday's post.

I haven't gotten much more planning done with Breathtaker and Serena's story, though I'm still considering tackling it sometime this or next year. It could be this year's NaNoWriMo, but since November is close and edits on Millennium Girl are still my priority, that's a very slim possibility. (Plus, work's keeping me busy).

If anything, I think I'd have an easier time working out a plot and world for the fairy tale retelling than I would trying to figure out what the hell the Crusader gang is up to. (Honestly, I'm not sure how I'm going to work a shape shifting dragon into that universe. That's another thing--science fiction dragons? Yay me, way to steal from Anne McCaffrey without even reading her books).

I did figure something out, courtesy yet again of The Lunar Chronicles.

All the "magic" in the Chronicles world is based off the previously discussed bioelectricity, which basically grants certain Lunars the ability to mess with people's minds. Lunars use "glamours" to change perceptions of their own appearances or trigger emotional responses from people. I found it admirable that so much of the worldbuilding in the Chronicles relies on that ability--who has it, how it works, how it has affected people, what it says about Lunar and Earth relations, etc.

In the short story I wrote based off Breathtaker's childhood, the Crusaders studied "ancient magic" to power towns and villages, explore ruins of the precursor civilization, and even defend themselves in combat. The slow reveal in Pulse was that the ancient "thunder and lighting" magic was just electricity and, to that extent, our technology. Therefore, even though Magnetic Truth was called a "Wayfarer Witch" by the village people, the work she did was akin to that of an electrical engineer.

I want to embrace that more. Elemental manipulation in general might be too much for me to tackle, but I think I could build a Crusader society that involves not just good old fashioned electrical engineering, but actual electrokinetic powers. It would have to extend far more than just shooting lighting out of your fingertips--different people should have different variations. Different abilities based off the same foundation.

And going off of that, let me say this: I was watching the Screen Junkies' Movie Science video and got another idea. This one also related to Breathtaker's story. . .and some random annoyance at Destiny. (Purely my fault and killer coincidences).

In the video I linked, Dr. Clifford V. Johnson, an astrophysicist, spoke about the Invisible Woman's power from the Fantastic Four. He said that "maybe what she's doing is bending light around her. . ."

really like that. I've known about the whole force field and invisibility thing, but I like the simple explanation of just bending light around you to project what's behind you. I don't know how well exactly I could work into that with the electrokinetic powers of the Crusaders, but I've been blanking on Sunbreaker's power for ages. Then it clicked. Sun = sun rays = light. Break the light. Bend the light :D

This also might help me with a problem I encountered a few weeks ago >_>

Earlier this year, while playing Destiny, my brother found a pair of gauntlets called Sunbreakers. This was after we'd named his Guardian/Crusader, so I eloquently texted back, "oh shit." While it worried me, I thought, this is probably safe? It's such a minor thing, I'm sure it can technically count as an homage rather than a rip-off. It's not like I'm hiding the fact that the world of Destiny is an inspiration for my book.

thEN.

THE TAKEN KING,

IN ADDITION TO ALL THE CRAP I ALREADY HATE IT FOR

(overpriced, that Luke Smith interview, that whole "some exotics are getting moved others aren't" business, the fact that Destiny in general sucked at feeling like a completed project and now they're just milking money out of us gullible fans),

IT HAS ADDED: The Sunbreaker Power.

Let me explain.
(Gameinformer September 2015 cover)
In Destiny, there are three main sources of power the Guardians have: solar, void, and arc. Arc basically being lighting based powers and solar being somewhat like fire. And void being. . .err. . .purple.*

In the original game, a Guardian of a particular class gets two out of the three subclasses. For Titans (like my dad), their two primary powers are Defender (void) and Striker (arc). For Warlocks (like my brother) the powers are Sunsinger (solar) and Voidwalker (void). For Hunters (like me), the powers are Gunslinger (solar) and Bladedancer (arc).

The Taken King opens up a third subclass slot: Hunters get a bow and arrow in the form of Nightstalker*, void subclass, Warlocks get the electrical based power Stormcaller, arc subclass, and Titans get some fuck-all hammer of Sol for their new power called SUNBREAKER, solar subclass.

. . .

There's a lot to unpack here >:(

One, why are Titans called Sunbreakers? D:< It's not like the other powers are Voidefender or Arcstriker! This is bullsheeeet.

Two, my brother and I decided Breathtaker's family ship is called The Void Specter. Void. VOID. FUCK. As if I didn't already feel uncomfortable with the fact that Bladedancers technically have electrical powers (since it's the arc subclass).

Three, Breathtaker's eventual  best friend uses a bow and arrow in my story. Now, Bree's Destiny counterpart is (hypothetically--if I buy TTK) getting a bow and arrow. It's just too close to home!

Fourthe new hunter subclass is called Nightstalker**. Night. Like Breathtaker of Nightfall. (Okay, it's not like "Night" is the most uncommon word in the universe but ugghhhh why meeee....?)

Five, Warlocks, which is one of the subclasses of the Guardian counterpart for Sunbreaker, are getting electrical powers now. NOW. And our Sunbreaker!Guardian is already an exo. A robot. Robot-brother. The similarities just won't and can't end.

AND

SIX.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

SUNBREAKERRRRR???

I can't use it anymore! T_T it's too much! I could get a perfect gymnastics score and jump and cartwheel and flip through excuses trying to justify its existence, but at this rate, I might as well just dump all my own world building and write this as a Destiny fanfiction. (With dragons***????)

Ghaaa.

Thankfully, because of that whole. . .bend the light thing, I've settled on Sunbreaker's power being light manipulation. Which is somehow connected to the electrokinesis--I'll need to work out the details.

I've been racking my brain for ages now trying to figure out how he earned his name, and that's perfect: he can turn invisible! And since I need to change his name, I could have it better fit his ability. Breaker can stay, Sun might need to go. I ran Lightbreaker by my brother and he's kind of okay with it, but it might end up as a place holder until I think of a better Crusader name.

I'll also probably have to change the ship name at this rate. Don't know if I could keep Void Specter there in good conscience.

Oh and Bree is never picking up Serena's bow and arrow. She can stick to her sniper, thank you very much.

Breathtaker, Lightbreaker, and Magnetic Truth. . .one big happy family. . .in danger of being called rip-offs.

You cannot imagine the level of stress this has caused. And all this for a story I haven't even started. Hell, since this is all still planning, 90% of this crap could get dumped. Or it could stay and cause so much anger out of Bungie they find reason to sue me and make me cry. Or maybe the finished story won't ever sell and no one will care enough to call the comparisons.

Yay?

See what I say about inspiration? It's dangerous. Such a fine line to thread.
~Becky

P.S: I will say the actual content of The Taken King expansion pack sounds somewhat awesome. Personal silliness aside, I think Nightstalker's probably gonna be really fun to play with. I just wish I had more trust in Bungie now to believe the amount of money they're asking for is worth it. It seems to be a staple of gaming nowadays to release games half-finished then "expand" on them through DLCs, even though they're things that should have been there from the beginning.

I don't know if we'll be buying that DLC. My dad, brother, and I are feeling kinda betrayed by Bungie >_> Like most players. We payed for Destiny full price, on release date, and it wasn't enough. So we'll see. . .

*Okay, that makes me sound dumb. But they're Exactly What It Says On the Tin. Void powers are void powers.

**Props to the Bungie guy that picked that name. I don't know if it was on purpose, but it makes me pause and remember it was the title given to known serial killer Richard Ramirez. Guess it strikes fear into the heart.

***Watch the next Destiny expansion pack features an alien race of creatures that look like dragons. I think I'll just cry.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Planning Updates #1

Now Playing: Marcin PrzybyƂowicz and Percival - Sword of Destiny (Witcher 3 OST)

These are just a few updates related to some writing ideas and recent reads. (I had to divide this post up because it got gigantic, so more will follow Thursday.)

Over this past year, I've read a couple of interesting series: The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence. I love all the books so far, not just because they're beautifully written and/or have amazing characters, but also because of the worlds. Or specifically, the genre. All three seem to be very unique variations of science fantasy, a genre that's seldom explored in today's market outside of film or video games. Books stay in their individual speculative fiction corners a lot more than other mediums, but it can get difficult when you're dealing with very imaginative universes. In The Reckoners, for example, it's sometimes categorized as science fiction because it involves human beings that acquired powers after the sudden appearance of a celestial object named Calamity. It's the comic-book superhero feel to it that makes it feel like science fantasy--Epics are known to be able to violate known laws of physics and Calamity, despite being a celestial object close to our planet, hasn't altered Earth in any way except with its granting of supernatural powers. That's a more fantasy-ish approach than a science-fiction one.

The Lunar Chronicles might have androids, cyborgs, satellites, space ships, and solar radiation that causes powers, but the set up of the monarchies and nods to the fairy tale inspirations keep the tone in the fantasy side. There's an explanation given for why Lunars harbor bioelectrical powers, but said powers are sometimes treated like dangerous magic. Plus there's princesses, evil step mothers, and damsels in towers, emperors and arranged marriages, elaborate dances, that kind of thing.

The Broken Empire is difficult to explain without giving away a very awesome reveal of the world, so I'm not going to into it that much. But let's just say, this is the hardest book to categorize by far.

So all this combined, this is what I've been thinking about:

I said a few weeks ago that sometimes when I encounter a story that fully utilizes its concept, I automatically find it impossible to ever do something like it. In my example, I cited Avatar: The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra and The Lunar Chronicles as being the kind of story I admire but could never imitate for fear of taking too much from them. With ATLA and LOK, my mind has cemented an  image of elemental manipulation as being closely tied to martial arts and its philosophies; I cannot even imagine a different approach by now. And so I'll probably never write a story that involves the "four" elements (fire, water, earth, and air), even if I do a variation of it. (More on this on Thursday).

As for The Lunar Chronicles, even before I started reading the books, I've been pretty apathetic toward fairy tale retellings. I don't think they work very well a good chunk of the time. There's only so many times I can hear a variation of Cinderella before I want to rush through, wanting the fairy tale plot points to happen already. Because Lunar Chronicles is a unique genre blend, however, it works. I don't want to hear a fantasy variation of Beauty and the Beast because the original is already fantasy. I don't want to hear a contemporary variation of it either because it's been done so many times before and mostly will end up borrowing just plot elements and not add anything to the atmosphere of the story.

So I've been interested in the way Marissa Meyer wrote The Lunar Chronicles.

About a month ago or so, I got an email from her newsletter saying there was a fanfiction contest for the release of Winter. I hadn't planned on writing anything until I remembered an old Russian fairy tale I've always liked, Vasilisa the Beautiful. I didn't know how I'd implement it but I was bouncing ideas around my head until I got a second look at the contest rules: the fanfic has to be based off a Grimm fairy tale.

So that attempt died before it got started, but I really like the idea of taking Vasilisa's story and reimagining it in a science fantasy novel.

I'm left with a big problem. One of being wayyy too inspired by Marissa Meyer.

See, in the fairy tale, Vasilisa receives a doll that advises her on things. For about three years now, I've been wanting to base a character off the doll my mother made me when I was little. I've taken a dozen photographs of her--the doll of pink hair, different eyes, one arm, plaid dress. I've been jokingly referring to her as having a cybernetic eye before I got the idea of an android that looked like her--short pink hair, plaid dress, sensor eye, one arm, inhuman white skin. I had the image but I never had a story. And now it feels like I do.

But...science fantasy, fairy tale retelling with robots as principal characters?

Seems like a dangerous line to dangle over. I wouldn't be basing anything from The Lunar Chronicles, but I wouldn't want anyone to think I'd taken her concept and then pretended it was all my own doing. The rest of the world would have to be radically different for the story to stand apart, to be an inspiration rather than a, well, blatant rip-off.

I'm bouncing that idea around in my head. I haven't decided anything, but it's something I'm considering.
~Becky

Monday, September 7, 2015

Monday Excerpt: Dining with the Dead

Now Playing: Ramin Djawadi - Take Charge of Your Life (Game of Thrones OST)

[Introduction].

I know I featured GRRM and an ASOIAF book here already. It might not be so imaginative to feature him again, but I couldn't help it.

This is what happened: I started thumbing through the second book just a few weeks ago, trying to find a particular line from the Battle of the Blackwater. It's a line I've memorized, actually ("The kiss of wildfire turned proud ships into funeral pyres and men into living torches"), and halfway through rereading part of ACOK, I thought maybe I should find the excerpt around that line to put it up here.

I did find it. It apparently slipped my mind that the entirety of that battle takes place over several chapters, not just because it's the biggest battle during the War of the Five Kings but also since it's jumping through various POV characters. So while the paragraph it's in is great, it's not as great as other parts of ACOK. I kept trying to find the defining paragraph(s) of the battle and I couldn't--it's just too massive. (Although if it could be summarized, it would be with that line).

It was while going through the book, however, that I ran across another scene, one I'd completely forgotten about and didn't think of much the first time I read it. It's odd how quickly it filled me with dread upon encountering it again, especially now that I know of the events that follow.

Massive spoilers for...pretty much all the first three ASOIAF books. Especially if you can read into foreshadowing.

That night he dreamed of the feast Ned Stark had thrown when King Robert came to Winterfell. The hall rang with music and laughter, though the cold winds were rising outside. At first it was all wine and roast meat, and Theon was making japes and eyeing the serving girls and having himself a fine time[...] until he noticed that the room was growing darker. The music did not seem so jolly then; he heard discords and strange silences, and notes that hung in the air bleeding. Suddenly the wine turned bitter in his mouth, and when he looked up from his cup he saw that he was dining with the dead. 
King Robert sat with his guts spilling out on the table from the great gash in his belly, and Lord Eddard was headless beside him. Corpses lined the benches below, grey-brown flesh sloughing off their bones as they raised their cups to toast, worms crawling in and out of the holes that were their eyes. He knew them, every one; Jory Cassel and Fat Tom, Porther and Cayn and Hullen the master of horse, and all the others who had ridden south to King’s Landing never to return. Mikken and Chayle sat together, one dripping blood and the other water. Benfred Tallhart and his Wild Hares filled most of a table. The miller’s wife was there as well, and Farlen, even the wildling Theon had killed in the wolfswood the day he had saved Bran’s life. 
But there were others with faces he had never known in life, faces he had seen only in stone. The slim, sad girl who wore a crown of pale blue roses and a white gown spattered with gore could only be Lyanna. Her brother Brandon stood beside her, and their father Lord Rickard just behind. Along the walls figures half-seen moved through the shadows, pale shades with long grim faces. The sight of them sent fear shivering through Theon sharp as a knife. And then the tall doors opened with a crash, and a freezing gale blew down the hall, and Robb came walking out of the night. Grey Wind stalked beside, eyes burning, and man and wolf alike bled from half a hundred savage wounds.
- A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday Blog Challenge: Regret

Now Playing: Nine Inch Nails - My Violent Heart

Week 16: Something You Regret Not Doing In The Last Year

I feel like this is a question I need to consider later, because at some point I'm going to phrase it as, "What's something you regret not doing your last year in university?"

I have plenty of regrets, but I have no idea if they're justifiable or not because I haven't gotten enough distance to be certain. I look back and I can't really decide what I would have truly done differently and actually consider the consequences of that choice. Sometimes I wonder if I can categorize all of university--good or bad? Neutral? Necessary? I did learn a lot, but is that enough? What did I really buy? What did my education really give me?

There are good days when I have good answers. There are bad days when I don't even want to think about the whole thing. It's been a bad couple of weeks, so you can probably figure out where my head has been.

I think I said, sometime in the week of May, shortly after I graduated, that I'd write a reflection on my college experience after a few weeks of thinking over it. That I'd write about what I learned, what I liked, whatever. But I feel too drained to do it. That's what it left me as: tired. Mostly with the knowledge that I'm not that into school to begin with. (If I did go back, I'd probably do it to pursue a Library Science masters, but, again, I don't really want to do that right now and don't know if I will in the future--it's just one of a dozen ideas that swirl through my mind).

Maybe if it'd been any other year, I'd have a concrete answer for this question. But university happened, so I really don't. Not yet.

I guess I regret not reading more. And that's like, a perma-regret. I always need to read more. Even if I read 500 books a year, I'd still need to read more.
~Becky
"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.