"I am the author of my life."

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Opus on 1st – Ballad

I miss you, August. You disappeared without warning and left me wide-eyed on the first day of Spring. It ain’t right.

It looks like another month has gone by already… which means it’s time for another Opus, in the footsteps of Jackie’s monthly meme at Lights All Around! Check it out and please join in if you’re interested!

Here’s my little piece for this month’s prompt: ballad. I like dialogue flash fiction because it saves you enough time to get to the gym on time. Time to jet!

Ballad

“It ain’t right.”

“Yeah, it’s not. Roses don’t sigh. Maybe they melt?”

“I’m not talking about your corny lyrics.”

“Which makes you one in a million.”

“Damn it. Quit talking like that, will ya?”

“Like what?”

“Like everything you say is part of a song. I don’t want no part in your next miserable number.”

“They’re called ballads, goofball. Too late, anyway. Should’ve paid more attention to Knotted In. You’re in it.”

“… You’re kidding me.”

The world ain’t ready, ain’t pretty-

“I knew my gut hated that verse for a reason.”

“Well, I wrote it for a reason. You were right.”

“About my gut?”

“About the world. It’s not pretty and my ‘miserable numbers’ aren’t making it any prettier. She can’t hear them.”

“So they really were for her, huh?”

“Everything is for her. Everything.”

“Even this?”

“What?”

“Seven billion people listening to something you wrote for one girl. It ain’t right.”

“Not quite seven billion. But enough.”

“Yeah?”

“Enough to tell her what they heard when they meet her in heaven.”

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Opus on 1st – Yellow

Jackie over at Lights All Around has started a monthly writing meme where people share any type of creative writing around a prompt – on the first day of the month! And typical me, it’s actually an hour past midnight of the 1st in my timezone so I’m unfashionably late (shhhhhh!). Because Camp NaNoWriMo just finished, I was only able to whip up a really quick flash fiction with a lot of corners cut. I’m really excited to take part in Jackie’s Opus on 1st, because everyone needs to get some time away from their main project and I love reading works by fellow bloggers. I hope some of you will consider joining us next month. Check out Jackie’s blog for details!

Here comes my completely timely piece for August’s prompt: yellow!

“Yellow car.”

My frozen fingers ripped up another clump of dead grass. There was no breeze to scatter them. The chill was just there, hanging damp in the evening air and freezing the bottom of my jeans. My brother’s old pair. I had to cut two inches off the legs and couldn’t go out without a belt, but I didn’t care as long as they hid my new curves. Now I don’t even care about that anymore. It didn’t end up making a difference, did it?

“Yellow car,” he said again. When I continued to ignore him, he knocked the grass out of my hands. We watched them fall. Then I reached over and punched him.

“Gotcha.”

“I saw it first, idiot.” I endured the punch he returned. They usually jarred but today my body was so cold and numb I hardly felt it. “You were crying, weren’t you?” he said after a while.

“Was not.”

“Well, don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Cry. It’ll freeze on your face.”

“Is that what happened to you?”

“Nah, worse.”

I looked at him. “You licked a pole?”

He shook his head. “Needed to pee. No toilet.”

“Gross. Get away from me.”

A car alarm went off a few blocks away. It went on forever until we heard someone swear and a door slam. A few moments later, the wailing stopped. “I don’t think that was his car,” I said.

“Might’ve been yellow.” He ripped up a fistful of grass. “Don’t see why you’re breaking them like that.”

“Do you remember that movie? The one with the flying house and balloons?” I knew he did. At least, he must remember how much I’d cried, how I ended up with ugly eyes the next day and spent the walk to school glued shamefully to his back. “We watched it in class last week. A girl said they didn’t just use one giant balloon because lots of little ones floated better.”

He rolled his eyes. He was always doing that when I talked about school. I wondered if I would feel like that when I entered high school. “That’s a dumb idea. They probably just wanted to make it look colourful and stuff.”

I was already too low to care about having my bubble burst. “It’s still the same. Even if you get the house up, it won’t go anywhere if there’s no wind.”

“What’s that gotta do with grass?”

“Dunno.” Maybe it wasn’t about the grass. Maybe it was about me and my brother, and him. Maybe I wanted to believe that we were getting broken just so we could get out of this place.

My brother got up and left without saying anything. The yard felt too big without him. I was so cold.

I don’t know how long it took for him to come back. Smoke heaved out of his mouth like he had been running. There was an old… thing dragged behind him. “What’s that?”

“Lawnmower. Dennis’. He said his old man got a new one so they don’t need this junk anymore.” He pulled it closer until it was right in front of me. I ran a finger along its side, and gave him a curious look. He shoved his hands in his hoodie pocket. “Cut all the grass you want.”

I looked back at the machine. It was so ancient I couldn’t imagine it working – and it didn’t, no matter how much my brother tried. I stood behind him as he wrestled and kicked at it, cursing under his breath. Eventually, I punched him on the shoulder. “What was that for?”

I pointed at the lawnmower. “Yellow car.”

He stared back at me. There was a smudge of grease on his pink cheeks. It stretched out when he laughed. I grinned. He shook his head. “Damn… damn straight it is.”

 –

Don’t ask me why my flash fiction is never happy. I think my muse is secretly a sadist. But don’t tell it I’m onto its trail.

Visit Jackie’s own Opus and be sure to hop around to other participating bloggers. A pinch and a punch for the first day of the month!

Doing Camp NaNoWriMo. For real this time.

NaNoWriMo and I… we’re like two acquaintances who always notice each other on the same train and awkwardly exchange glances, hovering between pretending we don’t recognise each other, and saying hi. Recognising each other would probably mean obligatory awkward conversation between two almost-strangers. Not recognising each other is awkward anyway, but it saves the talking. For years NaNo has smiled shyly (or is it slyly?) at me from across the carriage. Oh, it recognises me alright. But it waits; it waits for me to make the first move.

It knew I was scared of it.

Let me make totally legitimate excuses for myself, before I tear them all down and give my train self a good “Gosh, just woMANly it up and get over there!” throttling.

National Novel Writing Month traditionally chose November to be the month (I almost wrote Novelber…). That’s cool. I was born in November; it’s my favourite month. Only I live in Australia, down under. I’m nearly always in exam period when NaNo comes around, and even if I’m not I’m never quite prepared enough in October to tackle the monster head on. I’ve never done NaNo properly. I’ve never felt that rush or exhilaration of dashing madly for 1,667 words a day. To be honest, I don’t think I ever tried.

Then came Camp. And guess what?

It’s in July.

I just finished my final exam today.

I’ve got nearly six weeks of winter break.

I have a 5-book series idea that I’ve spent a year building brick by brick.

That’s right – it’s time to cross that carriage and chat up a relationship my boyfriend can be jealous of.

Camp feels a lot less intimidating because you can set your own writing goals, instead of standing in that mountainous 50,000 shadow from the outstart. You can count on me to wimp out. Instead, I’ve sold my soul to the devil for 1,000 words a day. That’s 31,000 words by the end of July. This feels a bit weird because I’m so used to NaNo as “30 days and nights of literary abandon”… July does have 31 days, right? Or are my knuckles a lie?

I used to write 10k of fanfiction in a school week. Then life happened. So this holidays, I’m slamming the door in life’s face. No matter what I’m doing that day, I’m giving myself a curfew to go home and write. I don’t think my boyfriend knows what he’s encouraging me to do. Sorry honey. Work calls.

I’m starting my novel from scratch – right from chapter 1. My previous attempts got me up to chapter 4 before I sighed and admitted it wasn’t working. Back to the drawing board. Scrivener got a workout, mindmapping happened, and so did this blog. I stepped into the writing community. And it’s pretty awesome.

Typing ‘writing’ into the wordpress reader and seeing so many aspiring writers out there with their own frustrations and joys is like tumbling through a certain wardrobe. I’d comment on fellow writers’ posts, cheer them on, whinge with them, and quite often just say ditto (in a more verbose way). Somewhere in between, it made me realise something.

“Dudette,” I said to the mirror, “You get so happy for other writers because you pretend you’re living through them. Let’s face it – you’re scared to bring your own story to life. You’ve been sheltered by the conveniences of fanfiction; original stories are hard for you. But until you do it, you’re just writing empty excuses for yourself in other people’s comment boxes. Can you really tell them to ‘write on’ when you’re not even next to them on the battlefield?”

My defensive reflection hid a wince. It knows I’m right. “And?” it asked flatly. It looked me in the eye and for just a second, I think I saw the naive writer we used to be. We’d written terribly and eventually we learned to write not-so-terribly. It was fun. At that moment I realised that my reflection was the writer inside me – it was that naive writer with simple desires. It still was; it had just grown up. Alone, neither of us can become that young happy writer again, and now I’m trying to remember when we even separated into two. But it’s about time we made up our differences.

My reflection crossed its arms like a final threshold. Stubborn. I liked that. We used to be good at it. “And?” it repeated with a glint of challenge. “What do you want to do about it?”

I stared back for a while, thinking. Then I grinned. My reflection blinked slowly. Finally, it began to smirk. It knew. We wanted to be stubborn again, naive again; young again. We wanted to do something that made us feel amazed by ourselves, all over again.

I crossed my arms as well. Now we looked exactly the same. Just like old times.

“Do NaNoWriMo,” I said. “For real this time.”

I Write Like… WHO?!

Scrolling through the reader, I noticed that Kicking the Pants had posted about a website – I Write Like – that tells you which author your style is similar to. I’ve seen this years ago so I instantly knew what they were talking about. I forgot who I got back then (most likely someone uneducated me didn’t know), so I thought I’d do it again. Maybe I’m now more invested in writing and more well-read to appreciate those great author names – after all, I did recently buy Inferno (Dante, not the other Dan), Beowolf and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I just… haven’t read them yet. It’s a step outside my comfort zone, classics. I think it shows. Just leave me be.

Anyway, I put in part of my novel draft, not really caring that I was planning to edit it out anyway. Alas, I did get a name I recognised. I stared at it. And stared. And some more.

I write like
Bram Stoker

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

… That was unexpected. Horror? Vampires? Took me a few minutes to wrap my head around that bone. Then I told myself it wasn’t supposed to be about the content but the writing style. I haven’t read any of Stoker’s works (though I’d been on the verge of buying Dracula last week), so I’ll just take the comparison with the comfort that I at least know the author by name.

Needless to say, Stoker’s books are now on my reading list.

Since it was getting interesting, I figured I’d try chucking in another piece of my writing, this time from a chapter of fanfiction I’ve been working on.

… Actually, I haven’t done that yet. Hang on.

…………………….

Ahem.

Unveiling the red curtain, I’ve got here…

I write like
Jane Austen

I Write Like. Analyze your writing!


… Right. Same reaction again. Except this time I actually own Pride and Prejudice. It was a recent gift from my boyfriend. Yes, I haven’t opened that either.

Well. How very interesting. I’m sure it’d be much more enlightening if I actually read these timeless authors’ books, which I vow to do sometime between now and the next apocalypse. I’m pretty sure I’d get a handful of other names with other sample paragraphs. But even if you take these types of generators with a pinch of salt, I reckon they can still be fun. Have a go if you’re interested! Here’s the link again: I Write Like

Any F. Scott Fitzgeralds or J.D. Salingers out there? I wonder if Shakespeare is in the mix. Geoffrey Chaucer?

Yeah, I totally chose those authors because I was forced to study them in high school.

Have a good one!

✎ (100 Themes) #33 Expectations

33. Expectations

“So. Did you fail?”

Jamie stuffed the paper into her bag. All the way down, scrunched next to the leaking pickle sandwich her father had been so proud of. “And if I told you I passed?”

She didn’t know if she should be offended by the genuine surprise on Lindsay’s face. Was it possible to be smugly offended? Because she was. Very smug.

Lindsay’s milky eyes somehow managed to give her a long, blunt stare. “That’s sarcasm, right?”

“Nope.”

“You passed?

“Yup.” She snapped up the clasps of her beaten bag, and grinned.  “28.”

There was a breathless cough as Lindsay did one of her inhaling laughs. She covered her mouth with both hands, and the smile flooded up to her twinkling eyes. Jamie’s grin widened. “I’m sorry,” Lindsay gasped finally. “I have to ask: what exactly did you pass?”

Humming innocently, Jamie slipped her satchel over her head and freed the unruly curls that had been caught under the strap. The Mickey Mouse keychain she’d had since second grade clinked cheerfully. She’d been meaning to take it off since the first day of high school but two years later, she had yet to do so without her dad noticing and reacting like a kicked puppy. Today, it didn’t seem so embarrassing.

Lindsay tapped her cane impatiently. She was the only person who was genuinely interested in Jamie’s results. After all, she was responsible for pulling her new friend out of a history of suspensions and near-expulsion. The crumpled paper in her bag was the first exam Jamie had taken seriously all year. Still, Jamie wasn’t used to the attention and stalled by guiding Lindsay to the door.

She could have gotten away without saying anything. Lindsay wasn’t the type to press the issue. But the longer the silence dragged on, timed by the soft tapping of Lindsay’s cane, the more Jamie realised that she wanted to talk. She smacked the side of her leg, the way she used to when Preston offered her something she wanted to chicken out of. She breathed.

“Do you know what it’s like to be acknowledged for something you did right, even if it’s a crap mark? To pass everyone’s expectations of you?”

Lindsay’s expression softened. “Not the way you do,” she said. This was what Jamie appreciated most about Lindsay: her honesty.

Jamie gently raised Lindsay’s hand to her own face, letting her feel her smile. It was a little sad, a little hopeful and a little awkward. Real smiles didn’t look as pretty as movies made them seem. A lot of things in life weren’t that pretty. But Jamie was slowly learning that not all things were ugly. Some were priceless, like red pen on math equations and a warm afternoon shared between a blind rich girl and the delinquent who had finally been seen.

“It feels good.”

2 down, 98 to go. Whoo. Sooooo close :P Jamie and Lindsay came out of nowhere, but maybe I can bring them back in future themes. It’s just like me to procrastinate on side projects rather than work on my novel. Still trying to remember what it feels like to write!

100 Themes taken from here. Someone do them with me! I’ll take 5 years to finish them all at this rate.

Check out #1 Introduction here. There’s an unintentionally depressing theme going on… Oops.

Writer =/= Artist

I really enjoy talking about my writing with one of my uni friends. She’s not quite a writer but she’s got the mind of one, and we have lots of “Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel!” moments. It’s cool beans. She told me a story she’d made up when she was little today. It’s my turn tomorrow.

“Let’s go to uni early and chat,” she texted. “Because your story sounds long.”

“Hah,” I replied. “You have no idea.”

Some context: let’s just say that right now, ‘complicated’ is an incredibly optimistic term to use when describing my nonexistent novel.

For convenience and also because I was feeling childish, I drew up a quick reference chart for some of the main characters to help her visualise.

As in…

IMAG0416

…… Yeah. I don’t know what compelled me to do such a thing.

………

Okay fine, so I’m actually quite proud of a few. I’m particularly fond of the two on the top left, and the old dude in the second row. He’s awesome. And the sun! Metaphorical representation of supernatural beings because I got lazy. I reckon she turned out adorable.

Let’s pretend the rest mutilated themselves while I was typing up this post.

..

Does anyone else like visuals for their creative projects? Share your approaches! Don’t worry, me and my body-less characters will cushion any embarrassing art projects.

✎ (100 Themes) #1 Introduction

Wow, I can’t believe how rusty my writing has gotten! Even more reason to take up the 100 Themes challenge in my free time. I’m using prompts found here. Anyone feel like joining me? :)

1. Introduction

“Hi.”

“What?”

“Hi.”

Wisps of grey and an edgy sigh whistled through his teeth. “Don’t be a pain. Get out.”

She fidgeted at the door, her shuffling feet scuffing a scratchy pattern against the torn carpet. It used to have a proper colour, the same way this crumbly shack of a house had once felt like home. “You shouldn’t smoke inside,” she said hesitantly. “Mama will be mad.”

“Is she back?” She shook her head, mousy curls bouncing on her skinny shoulders. “Then leave me alone.”

She didn’t move. Her curious gaze followed the trail of smoke from his lips to the thin haze hovering below the grimy ceiling. She stared at the cracks in the peeling paint, probably expecting in that gullible way of hers for the smoke to seep through and flow into a chimney of rust.

“Can I try?” she blurted.

The bolts of the bed squeaked as he turned. She shrank away as if being looked down at from the top bunk was more intimidating than divine judgement from the heavens. An awkward growth spurt had stretched her into the second-tallest fifth grader, a mess of gangly twig limbs. She looked like a flightless bird caught in crosshairs.

His eyes narrowed. “She hit you, didn’t she?” he asked sharply.

“Did not,” she mumbled.

A low growl rumbled in the back of his throat. “Where?”

“She didn’t,” she insisted. Her arms were crossed behind her back, where he knew her nail-bitten fingers would be flexing nervously into eerie, double-jointed angles.

The hardness of his fiery gaze seemed like it was trying to solder the lie into her tongue. Yet his expression was colder than the ashes in the tray when he wordlessly dangled his arm down to offer her the cigarette. She stared at it in surprise. Then she anxiously licked her lips and took it with her pale fingers.

A tentative puff was all it took to send her into a wheezing spiral. Tears sprang into her eyes. His strong jawline shifted beneath his skin, murky eyes flickering. Folded into herself, she shakily held the cigarette back out to him. He passed her the tray. “Put it out.” She obeyed with desperate regret, still choking on bitter fumes.

He looked steadily at her. “You won’t try that again,” he said. The stern lines in his face might have resembled their father. They might not have. You couldn’t tell that much from a torn photo. “Understood?”

She nodded tearfully.

“Swear it.”

She did.

In one resolute movement, he threw the tray out the open window. It clipped the edge of the frame with a crack and wobbled drunkenly through the air until it shattered loudly in the middle of the driveway. They both winced.

“Mama will…” she began to whisper, then trailed off into silence.

He rolled back into his initial position, ignoring her. Smoke continued to circle languidly above his head even as a chilly breeze swept through the window. All of a sudden she didn’t want to stand where he couldn’t see her, so she climbed up the creaky ladder and peered down at him. “Are you angry?” she asked in a small voice.

He didn’t open his eyes. “What do you think?”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t become like her,” he muttered, almost to himself. “Just don’t.”

She didn’t want the lonely smoke to get to him, so she waved her arms above his head until they felt heavy and the grey wisps left his motionless, uncaring figure alone. Then she curled into a small ball in the bottom corner of the bed, at the foot of his warmth, and lay there until ashes blew into dust and settled into a smoky blanket around her shoulders.

feature image from ~Maizzi

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