The Creature

Wulf wrapped his fingers around the rock. It was jagged, and dirty. He felt its rough edges cutting against his palm, but he didn’t care. He cared only about the weight of it, and the truth of his aim. He lifted his weapon slightly off the ground so that the blades of grass barely brushed against the bottom and his fingers. They were like little bug bites, and he lifted his fingers a hair higher, the heaviness of the rock pulling at his muscles at the awkward height. Wulf forced himself to ignore the discomfort – the beast was more important.

The beast was a creature unlike any he had seen before. It’s dark, hollow eyes crackled with lightning. Its teeth were bared, yellow and red-tinged as though they had recently torn flesh. It’s thick body was covered in fur-like spike, and each of the three toes on its four legs were equipped with curved claws.

It stalked him. He knew it as he saw its eyes locked keenly upon him from his hiding place behind the boulder. Had it been following for days, or had it only now picked up his scent? Wulf was unsure. If there was anywhere to run to, he was neither a fool nor a coward and he would choose the easiest route to safety. There wasn’t. There was only the tall, waving grass of the prairie and scattered boulders. No, he would have to stand and fight and die if necessary, and all because he had been reckless and failed to look for darkness lurking in the high grass.

The beast’s nostril’s flared as it ducked its head and prepared for a pounce.

Wulf, too braced himself – ready, waiting. The rock in his hand itched and he was ready to bludgeon the creature’s brains in. The head and legs seemed the only vulnerable parts of the beast, and even those were protected by tooth and claw. His chest tightened, but he forced himself to take long, deep breaths. There was no point in panicking – here he was and he had to make the best of the situation.

If he panicked, even for a moment, he would surely die.

Dry grass crackled as the beast dug its rear legs into the ground, and launched.

In the same moment, Wulf rolled out from his hiding spot, watching as the creature flew over him in the air. He flattened himself to the ground as the disgruntled beast noticed its error and landed ferociously. Every moment was crucial. He brought himself up to a practiced battle stance.

They stood off, facing each other, spending barely a moment in silent strategy, before the beast pounced again.

Wulf lifted his rock high, bearing the only weapon he carried with dangerous pride, and charged the creature.

(Prompt: Bludgeon)

I am Not Immune to the NaNoBug (but I Have to Wear Bugspray)

I love NaNoWriMo.

I love the deadline, and the knowledge of winning.  I always win, you see.  But I simply can’t do it anymore.  Ah, NaNo.  We had five glorious years together and produced eight delightful “books”.

But yet, that’s the problem. “Books” not books.  Because what I write for NaNoWriMo comes from the sputtering of “two thousand words, two thousand words”.  It’s not quality.  Quite often, it’s rambling.  It’s the very worst of “I don’t know where I’m going with this, but hey look, words!!!“.

NaNoWriMo has its perks.  It forced me to put down stories that had been bouncing around in my head for ages.  Absolutely Mad, for one.  My Wonderland tale had been in my head for several years, but never made it to paper.  Oh, I have others still trapped in there: a tales about Greek gods sentenced to a mortal life, an Egyptian demi-goddess trying to prevent a genocide.  An apocalyptic tale about a girl who could astral project.  A story of two time travelers that is so insanely outlined it’s intimidating.  Not to mention: three more books for Sparky Jones, at least another for Ariella Masterson, and Princess Jessica and her crew are nowhere near done.  Oh!  And there’s a sequel for Lucy Brown shoved up there as well.

None of this means anything to anyone but me.  Why?  Because rewrites.

I wouldn’t dream of sending any of my stories to an agent, or even self-publishing them, because of horrendous typos, gigantic plot holes, and inconsistencies galore.  I need to delve back into each and every one of the stories and do it again, but better.  I’ve done this a couple times – with Fate and Strange – and all I’ve learned is, “it’s  better, but not good enough.”  Fate is too big for its britches and Strange has too many inconsistencies and I’ve been told that frankly, Ariella isn’t particularly likable.  So there’s work to be done still.

How can I start a new project when my others lay abandoned?

So thanks for the memories, NaNoWriMo, but for the time being, I’m afraid I must wash my hands of you.

(Good luck to all you NaNo-ers out there!  Knock ’em dead!)

The Dark Tower

I was not one of the lucky ones who saw the leak of the Dark Tower trailer on October 10th.  I am still waiting on the edge of my seat, waiting for the official release and hoping – praying – it does homage to the original series.

It’s a difficult thing, separating book and film.  On one hand, I appreciate the creative team warning us that this film is not going to be the books, but a sequel to them.  It allows expectations to be adapted.  On the other hand… this means we won’t see the Calla, or Susan Delgado (most likely, rumors abound of a TV spinoff if the film is a hit… but honestly who are we kidding?), or possible Eddie or Susannah.  I hate knowing those things, knowing that even if the film is successful, the writers and others involved can do anything they want and all we get is Roland, Walter, Jake, and the Tower.

I’ve been listening to the audiobooks lately and thinking about how I love Eddie’s accent, and Susannah’s spitfire, and how I’m going to miss them in the film.

And Oy.

Sharing Books

It is an interesting experience to be sharing the books I grew up loving with my husband, who has never been a reader.  Since we both work in the same office and our commute is 87 glorious miles each way, I’ve adopted an Audible subscription without regrets.  Audio books are wonderful for long car rides, because the best audiobooks are performed.  This brings a level of interest to the stories that some have difficulty replicating when they read books… which is why so many people flock to films and skip novelizations altogether.

The first book I entrapped my husband with was Eragon by Christopher Paolini.  He listened through the entire series, then went looking for more.  I was thrilled.  I tossed him Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and he loved that too.  Enjoying Wil Wheaton’s reading, he sought out Fuzzy Nation all by himself.  After that, things started to get rocky.

I tried out a personal favorite, The Amulet of Samarkand on him, and while he liked it, he couldn’t get through The Golem’s Eye.  I wanted him to listen to the Artemis Fowl series because I knew he’d love it, but he couldn’t get past the delightful Irish accent of the narrator.  We tried The Gunslinger and The Queen of the Tearling (which he liked, but he gave up on the second book).  Feed was a success, once he got a hang on the lingo.  American Gods he liked (and now that it’s becoming a TV series, he’s very excited)… but when I turned on The Golden Compass he was firmly against it.

“No,” he said, arrogance or ignorance or something else infuriating resonating from his tone.  “I can’t understand what’s he’s saying.”

Phillip Pullman narrates his own novels.  He has a very slight British accent.

For whatever reason, I was in no mood to humor him that day. “Listen harder,” I suggested.  He rolled his eyes and did that thing which I assumed meant he was going to tune it out.

A few weeks later, as we were walking in from the car, he announced, “I like Iorek Byrnison.”

It was like hearing that ding-ding-ding that goes off on old game shows when you’ve won.  I suddenly realized that I could overcome his objections to the stories simply by leaving them on.  All sorts of new doors were opened to me!

Right now, we’re a little over halfway through The Amber Spyglass together, and he’s listening to Lireal by Garth Nix on his own. … I think we’ll try Menagerie by Rachel Vincent next….

A Story of Another Time

One of my favorite books in the world is Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.

I read it first in fifth grade.  It was a mountain to climb at that age, because it was one of the thickest books I had ever seen.  The copy I borrowed from the public library had a faded yellow cover with red and black typeset, all wrapped a clear protective shield.  The pages were browned and musty, as though the book had not been checked out for quite some time.  I remember spending hours during a lonely summer sitting at the little desk in the bedroom my brother and I shared, knees up against the desk, the book settled on my lap.  At the time, I understood very little of it.  Nonetheless, the novel held a special place in my heart because of the journey I took through it, every page a new challenge of complicated adult literature.

I did not revisit the novel (the film, yes.  Vivian Leigh is perfection in her role!) until 2014, nearly 15 years after my initial exposure.  It was around that time I adopted an Audible subscription, a welcome distraction when you sit at a desk all day.  The Recorded Books audio book version of this story is one of the best readings I’ve heard of any book.  The narrator brings the characters to life… but none more than Scarlett O’Hara.

The complicated, multi-layered characters found in classic novels are very different than the heroes and heroines you find in recently published stories.  There are so many layers to Scarlett, Rhett, and Melanie.  They are motivated by different things at different times and constantly react differently than you would expect.  The surprises behind these rich characters animates them in a way that seems to have been lost over time.

I think that the vibrancy of these characters is due to the shift in primary entertainment.  Gone With the Wind was written in 1936.  These days, even watching television seems old school – no we’re all about the streaming media on our portable devices.  Back when Gone With the Wind was written, literature was one of the primary sources of distraction and both a story as well as its featured players needed to be intricate and intriguing.  These days, a novelist is fortunate to hold anyone’s attention, and much of what graces bookstore shelves is “fluff”.

This is not to say that “fluff” doesn’t have its time and place – I daresay more than half my personal library can be qualified as such.  But for those with the time and patience to absorb the beautiful language of writers from fifty, one hundred years ago… it does not hold a candle.

I completed my latest journey from Tara to Atlanta and back again recently, and it felt utterly like being tugged through a window to come back to this humdrum world.  That is how beautifully these tales from long ago are written.

And that is just one of the reasons why I love them.