Tuesday, January 31, 2017

a year in music : i


click here for playlist
click here for playlist


i. round and round
[ heize ]


ii. astoria
[ marianas trench ]


iii. closer
[ the chainsmokers ]


iv. excuse me
[ bestie ]


v. we can never go back - acoustic 
[ joy williams ]


vi. boom boom
[ seventeen ]


vii. love brought weight
[ old sea brigade ]


viii. lay me down
[ the oh hellos ]


ix. stay with me
[ chanyeol & punch ]


x. beside you
[ marianas trench ]


xi. limitless
[ nct 127 ]


xii. honey bee
[ luna, hani, & solar ]


Saturday, January 14, 2017

ttf2-pride_and_joy.exe

“Who, Cora? She’s headed straight to Boston University. Our little doctor,” my brother says in a snide voice. He’s somehow proud, posturing, and bitter in the same sentence. I don't know how he does it.

“We always knew she would make it into a good school; we’re so proud of her,” my mother says, preening like a bird of paradise on display. "After all, she is a guardian."

“She’s come a long way from the little girl who wrote silly poems and believed fairies were real,” my dad chuckles to his friends, all with broad shoulders built for holding responsibilities. "she's growing up."

I don’t say anything. I can’t. Besides, I don’t have to. From my corner of the living room, eighteen year old Cora chooses silence over the guilt and shame of disappointing others. She just disappears. The younger version of me would have screamed. Anything to make them stop looking at me like that. I'm not a young god. I'm just a girl.


The clouds hang like dirty snowbanks in the November skies. I watch them glide by through the front bay window, clutching my knees with bony fingers as I sit in the shadows. The tree branches are naked and shivering in the wind, and I shiver too, goosebumps pimpling my skin even though the house is cozy and bustling with people. Instead of stepping away from the chilled glass, I press closer, closer, until my breath creates a soft fog. With every tired heartbeat, I want to escape—not just this house, but the expectations that come with it.

Dad was right; I don’t believe in fairies any more. I don’t believe in anything.


***

“How’s my little doctor?”

I almost put the phone down at the sound of that saccharine sweet nickname. Three years later, and it still grates like nails on a chalkboard. I resist the urge to correct her, to remind her that her pride and joy wasn't smart enough to become a doctor. Guardian or not, I'm just a nurse, and that's all I'll ever be.

“Cora?”

“Hey, mom.”

She sighs in relief. “I was beginning to think you’d dropped off the planet! I haven’t heard your voice in ten days!”

On purpose. Avoiding my mom was a fine art that I'd only perfected over time. “I’m fine, mom. Just busy.” I wave at the reception girls as I head toward the front doors. They smile at me automatically--that smile you’re trained to give people like me, the one that reaches your eyes but only because it’s a habit. A chill settles over my stomach.

“Too busy to come home?”

“I’m working double-shifts. Gotta get that internship credit.” The door slams shut behind me, and I press into the brisk, fresh air. The cool clean taste of autumn wipes away all the death, decay, and defecation I’ve endured over the past week.

I love helping people. I love it. Really, I do.


Mom begins complaining about something dad said yesterday, and I look up, taking immense pleasure in how idyllic the sky is. The lilac between day and night tinges the heavens, and the clouds are like golden foam around the setting sun. Somewhere, a couple is kissing for the first time. A happy family sits down for supper. A baby takes its first breath, probably in this very hospital.

“Cora? Are you listening to me?”

I shake my thoughts apart, almost terrified she’s heard them. Images of scalpels and IVs and blood transfusions fill my head instead. This is your life now. Accept it.

“Yeah, mom? What were you saying?”

She hesitates, like she knows I’m not all here. That I don’t want to be leaving the hospital late on a Saturday, or on the phone chatting with her. I want so much more than this. But she can’t know, because the next thing she says is, “Come visit soon,” and I know she means it kindly, because I can hear her loving smile from all the way across the state, but still—I feel the threat in my blood. Come home. Do this. Go here. Become that.

I am their puppet. All too happy to dance to their strings.


“Sure, mom.” Even though it’s the last thing my aching heart wants, I’ll do it. Look at how far she’s come, they’ll say again, and I’ll smile and nod because that’s what I do. Little do they know that twenty-two year old me isn’t any better than the eighteen year old I once was; if anything, I’m worse.

But I’m their pride and joy, and that must mean something, right?

***


“What do you mean, you’re coming home?” My father’s indignant rage threatens to break free from the telephone line and strangle me. I’m already choking, thankfully, struggling to breathe around the lump of guilt and shame that I can’t seem to shake aside.

“How could you throw away all that you have?” My mother is confused, hurt, but not angry. She’s trying to process this, even though she should have seen it coming when I stopped talking about work during my uncomfortable visits, and then when my smile stopped showing up at all. But it’s not her fault that all she saw in me was the ideal talent, not the pointless wonder.


I can’t do this any more.

I don’t want to be some great doctor. I don't want to work at a big hospital famous for being staffed with talented guardians.

I just want to save lives.

I just want to help others, like I'm fated to do.

I don’t want to work myself to the bone trying to make you happy.

I don’t want to be your pride and joy.

I don’t want any of this.

So I’m coming home, to be where I belong. In a little town, in the middle of nowhere.

These are the things I have to say to them, but as I’m staring at the bus station timetable, my future riding toward me on a dirty Greyhound bus, all my words fail me.


“I’m sorry,” I choke out instead, barely holding my shattering self together. “I’m so sorry.”

And then the bus pulls into the lot, and I let the line click dead, severing the umbilical cord to which I’ve always clung to with terror. Even though I return to where I began, I am somehow no longer a puppet.

Not this Cora Hart.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

beautiful books : 2017 writing goals

at the beginning of 2016, I didn't really have many writing goals. yes, I planned on working on the great ones pretty seriously, and I hoped to have a chance to give some of my plot bunnies the time of day, but mostly I wanted to actually start writing again. 2015 was a great year because I finished the great ones, but it was also a hard year writing wise. I had no motivation, no drive, and no inspiration. in 2016, I was able to fix that--I feel like I'm slowly finding my love of writing all over again.

I felt like this for a lot of 2016. it was great.
it makes me so  sentimental to look back at all that I did last year--and so excited to make plans for this coming year. hopefully when 2018 comes around, I'll be able to look back at this goals and feel content and accomplished. *crosses fingers*

SO LET'S DO THIS THING

1.  what were your writing achievements last year?

last year, I solved a lot of plot dilemmas with the great ones and the general, wrote a little bit of cor, my for fun fantasy novel, and finished Tethered for NaNoWriMo--the first time that I have ever written a complete novel in one month. overall, it's not a ton of writing (except for the last two months), but I am very happy with the content of what I wrote. the amount isn't pertinent.  



2. What’s on your writerly “to-do list” for 2017? 

I want to finish draft 2 of Tethered and potentially start editing it.
^^I want to find more beta readers as work on this goal^^
I want to outline that cyberpunk novel that has been sitting in the back of my mind for a year now.
I also NEED to research for said cyberpunk novel.
I want to continue with the great ones and the general, slowly but steadily.
I want to stay in love with writing, and I want to make time to write. 

3. Tell us about your top-priority writing projects for this year! 

Tethered has become the #1 project in my mind these days. I am really passionate about it--I love it in a way that I haven't loved anything since I started the great ones and the general. my cyberpunk idea Thrice, which is a futuristic look back at one of my favourite eras in history, is also a priority of mine, just because I HAVE TO GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD. it's been floating around there since February of 2016, but I just haven't had the time to dedicate to it--mostly because it will require a fair amount of research...which I am deplorable at doing.  
 
I really hate research, sue me.


4. How do you hope to improve as a writer? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2017?
 

I really hope to find satisfaction in my voice. last year, I fought against my inner editor and won; this year, I want to feel comfortable and content with how I write things. my voice and writing style needs improvement, but I can already see changes that I like, and that makes me confident that 2017 will be good for me in that regard. at the end of 2017, I hope to be a more confident writer, both in my writing and in the bravery to show my work to others.  



5. Describe your general editing process.
 

generally, I take a few weeks away from the novel, then read through it once, only marking the things that I like. then I'll go through and cut out what needs to be removed for the story's sake or add new things to fill in the wholes. then I go deeper and look at every sentence, every word, instead of just from a scene/chapter perspective. at this point I try to get feedback from others. none of this is concrete, of course; my editing process changes more than I change my plot. which is also a lot. 

6. On a scale of 1-10, how do you think this draft turned out? 

I'd say a solid 7. I know it's not great. I've already changed a lot of things--for the better, I hope--but I feel like it has got characters that you want to love and a story that makes me happy and excited to write. 
 
overall I'm very happy.


7. What aspect of your draft needs the most work?
 

ALL THE THINGS. The plot has changed a fair amount--I need to revise my outline, work to develop Cora's character a LOT MORE and figure out my villain in a more tangible way.  

8. What do you like the most about your draft? 

writing from a female perspective was the best; I hadn't done that in ages. I also loved the visual image I have of Halloway in my head. I've never had that strong of an image of a story location before, and I really think that helped me get into the story quickly. and finally, I just really loved Neil. I fall in love with his character a little more every day--while I didn't quite have Cora figured out until the very end of the month, I solved the mystery of how to write Neil within a few days. he's so much fun to write, and I just want to make him take a nap, you feel me? my poor exhausted reaper son. 



9. What are your plans for this novel once you finish editing? More edits? Finding beta readers? Querying? Self-publishing? Hiding it in a dark hole forever?
 

editing and eventually finding beta readers. so far the only people who have laid eyes on that horrifying draft are me and my sister, and I'd like to keep it that way until it reaches a more concrete state. right now, it's basically jello. not even jello that has been in the fridge for an hour. soupy jello. and there's nothing worse than soupy jello writing.  



10. what is your top piece of advice for those who just finished writing a first draft?

don't rush it. after finishing NaNoWriMo, I was really tempted to begin editing right away--in fact, I printed off my novel within a week of finishing it, but then I decided to put it away. I still thought about it--I had ideas that needed to be written down, plans that I had to make sure I didn't forget--but I didn't try to edit or begin my rewrite or even try to revise my outline until a week or so later. I'm still working on that. I think it's important to stay in love with a project, but don't try to force yourself. let your brain cool down from 30 days of writing, and you'll probably find yourself with a better grasp on your story.  



what are your goals for 2017, writing-wise? do you plan on working on fixing up your NaNoWriMo novel like me, or are you directing your attention to other projects? do you have any plot bunnies hopping around these days? I'd love to know.

random life update: I am officially two days into my first semester on campus! keep me in your prayers, because I think Finite Mathematics might kill me yet.



have a great week!!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

ttf1-the_reapers_son.rtf

“Hey, freak.”

If he calls me that one more time, I'm going to scream. No one ever greets me with a friendly smile or a “Hello, Neil!”any more.  Instead, the teachers flash friendly grins when I walk by them in the hallway. I know they're forced--their tightly raised chins and dead eyes say as much. The kids don't bother with pretending; their burning scowls follow me everywhere I go. The bathroom. The classroom. The cafeteria. Every day. It never changes.

Neil doesn't exist to them. It's just me, a freak.


My fingers dig into the edge of the table as my teeth grind together, biting back the raw urge to scream, or better yet, burn this place down. Before me, the cold cafeteria food mocks me; the dry meat and oozing potatoes turn my stomach sour, and I've barely had a bite. How could I, with his footsteps drawing closer and closer with every panicked heartbeat? The kids at the other tables quickly turn to watch me, eager for the afternoon’s entertainment. The girls huddle together in tight, judgmental knots. They whisper and wrinkle their noses at us in indignant disgust, but they stare all the same, waiting for what comes next. Unable to look away. The same boys who steal my gym clothes  and who scratch crude drawings of me on my desk jeer loudly for a fight as they hang back on the sidelines. They don’t dare touch me right now. In the cafeteria, I am his prey and his alone.


My shoulders brush my burning hot ears as I slump, that giant red target on my spine weighing heavier than usual.

He's here. There's no escape now.

“Freak.” Wilson’s thin fingers cut into my arm like piano wire. My eyes stay trained on the wall before me, but I know he's looming over me with trademark sneer.  “Hey,” he says again, his grip tightening. “Look at me when I talk to you, freak.” Without warning he shoves my face down with his left hand, straight into my full tray of food before I could even think of a retort. Mashed potatoes block my mouth and nostrils like a gag, and the cold metal of the fork presses against my cheek, the sharp tines sparkling dangerously close to my eye.

A normal kid would pull themselves out of the mess and sit up proudly in attempt to save face. A brave kid would fight back. But I am neither, and so I stay still, holding my breathe tightlymore afraid of the coming storm than being thought of as a coward.

Being a coward is the least of my worries.


Wilson’s fingers wind through the coarse black hair that spikes from the crown of my head and jerks me up. His spit spatters the back of my neck when he hisses angrily. “What did I say?”

Potatoes fall from my face as I whisper, “Look at you when I talk.”

I don’t want to look.

He grabs me by the chin and yanks my head around, forcing me to stare straight into his beautiful brown eyes. Framed by an angry army of freckles running along his snub nose and round cheeks, they glow with an unearthly brightness; soft blooms of golden light shine around his pupils, softening the icy concentration that threatens to freeze his handsome features. Even to me, the victim of four long years of torture, his maliciousness screams of righteous justice. It can't be helped; that's who he is. It is everything I can do to keep looking him in those horribly beautiful eyes, instead of cowering and begging for his judgement. It is what I deserve, after all. But the inhuman in me springs to life as his pale lips twist into a snide smile, and I raise my chin, ever so slightly. “What do you want?” I ask, staring boldly. If I look away, I lose it all. Pride. Anger. Courage. I have to cling to the little that I have left, or I'll disappear. A ghost of a human.


He sneers. “You see that?” he hollers to his adoring audience. Their eyes glow with enthusiasm as they watch him put the pariah in his place, but they lack the glow of his angelic grace. “The reaper has finally found his tongue!” The crowd's raucous boos fill the cafeteria. Not a single teacher looks our way. They sit at their table, pointedly ignoring the commotion, even though Wilson now has my arm bent backward, his fingers digging like iron into my soft, warm flesh.

“I’m not a reaper,” I grit out. Just saying the word makes my face sting with embarrassment. I'm not.

He shrugs and yanks my arm sharply, laughing shrilly as he does so. “Reaper’s kid is just as bad, freak. Where is your dad, by the way? Is the big bad reaper gonna come save his stupid kid?”

An angry burst of strength allows me to jerk my arm free, and I glare venomously at him. He smirks, because he's winning.  My response means he's struck home--even though he already knew the answer to his question. He knows where my dad is, and he knows that he’s definitely not coming back for his useless excuse of a son. He made that clear the day he left.


Wilson draws conspiratorially close to me, the stale pepperoni of his breath washing over my senses. “Besides…” His lips bump against my ear, and I shiver at the touch. “You’ll be a reaper someday. Your dad may love that pretty student of his more than you or your mom, but he'll come back for. You're still his little reaper brat.Your dirty blood can't deny that.”

My father's arm around a different woman's shoulder, her black hair fanning out like liquid onyx down her  back. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm not supposed to see this.

This isn't supposed to happen.

“Shut up!” The scream rips apart the murmurs, the ceiling, the invisible bonds holding me back. My chair falls to the ground with an aluminum clatter, and he falls with it. Everything goes white, like the white at the center of a flame, and then suddenly, I am on top of him, scratching at his face, at those freckles, and his eyes. Those horrible, glowing eyes. “Shut up shut up shut up!”

Adult hands haul me off him and press me into the cold, gritty floor, like a criminal with telltale blood on his hands. Something in my nose gives, letting out a hollow crack, and the iron taste of my own blood fills my mouth.


Five seconds.

It took them five seconds to take me down.

And yet they hadn’t even tried to stop him.


The same hands that thrust me into the concrete smooth Wilson's rumpled clothes and wipe away his tears. “He attacked me,” he sobs into a female teacher’s blouse as she runs comforting fingers through his shining auburn hair. “I don’t know what I did to set him off.” They all nod and murmur reassuring words into his ears, even though they saw the whole thing. They heard every word he said, but somehow I am still the villain.


Because how could a guardian do wrong when a reaper's blood was in the room?


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

the_tethered_files


this past November, I wrote a book. a wonderfully terrible book. it was supposed to be scary, but it ended up more like a road trip where my characters never left their small town. this book was about a town filled with secrets, a girl who just wanted to be herself without anyone's expectations riding on her shoulders, and a messenger of death who feared death itself. ghosts and creepy 7-11's run rampant in this book, and there might have been some haunted house antics (I'm a sucker for a good carnival scene). my book was supposed to be just fun and a little creepy to write, but it actually meant a lot more. you see, this book ended up being about prejudice and stigma, about light and dark not always being what you think they are, and about the fact that broken people are still people. I'd never written anything like this, and I am proud of every terrible word--and there are exactly 71,960 of them.

that novel, right there. my child.

this book is Tethered, and it's time to start sharing it with you all.


throughout the month of January, I'll be sharing short stories from the Tethered universe--some are actual passages or chapters from the book and some are little bits and pieces I wrote for fun. you'll get to see Neil as a kid, Cora as she struggles with all that she is and has to be for the world, the people of Halloway through the eyes of the town itself, and the event that forced our main characters into each others paths. hopefully, you'll fall in love with them as much as I have. as of right now, I'm restraining myself to just January, because I have no idea how school is going to change my blogging habits, but I definitely hope to be able to continue these stories beyond just one month. we'll see, though.

(and yes, I am totally copying the format of the Mr. Robot episode titles. fight me.)


while you're waiting for the first short story, which is also the first scene of Tethered, here's a somewhat vague blurb about my precious little ghost novel. enjoy!

the sun rises when the moon sinks; the everlasting connection between them has always existed, but no one ever notices.



Neil Ruthers didn't sign up for being a reaper. After his father's death, it was thrust upon him at the young age of fourteen. Now, as an adult, he is rejected by society thanks to his penchant for death. Trouble follows him wherever he goes, as well as a constant horde of spirits, desperate to be cleansed from this world and transported into the next. He withdraws from life in an attempt to avoid the stigma assigned to his unwanted profession, but when he drunkenly stumbles into a 7-11 one dark and stormy evening, everything changes.


Cora Hart was born a guardian, born with talents and protective powers that make her constantly sought after and coveted as a good luck charm. She believes that being a guardian is her true calling; however, she cannot deny the unrest that lurks within her, especially when her duty as a guardian denies her wishes as a human. A chance encounter with a reaper and the darker side of Halloway open her eyes to the things that guardians reject and ignore, and Cora must quickly come to grips with the fact that everything she knows and trusts may be built upon a lie.


With ritualistic murders, dark spirits, and the heaviness of coming chaos occurring more and more in the small town of Halloway, Cora and Neil must learn to overlook the lines between their worlds and work together to stop whatever it is that brews in the darkness--or the humanity they try so hard to protect will be destroyed, forever.


the_reaper's_son will be posted on Saturday. *dun dun dun* see you then!