Sunday, April 9, 2017

Spiritual Sundays 1

The BIG Why? (A Psalm of Sorts)

What caused the Creator of the universe
To create a creature
Who often forgets to praise?
For even the flowers of the field
Open up to smile at the Artist in the sky,
And mountains exalt the Name
Of the One Who their peaks point to.
And when the birds' sweet cantabile
Echoes from the trees,
There's not a single doubt in my mind
That they sing of their Creator.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Playing With Plays

Act One of a Currently Nameless Play

  • Miles Rhode: the oldest, trouble-maker, musically talented, charming, more bravery than brains
  • Chuck Rhode: the youngest, low-maintenance, taller but skinnier, smarter than he is brave
  • Dr. Jedadiah Morgenstern: Mysterious and suspicious psych ward doctor
Act I, Scene I

A purple VW Corrado driving down a road in Ohio. Forest and mountains are on either side of the road. Two brothers ride inside it. The one in the passenger's seat is holding up a map.

CHUCK: (puts down map he has been studying, still looking at it) Dude, I dunno. I think we're lost.
MILES: (scoff) Your big brother never gets lost.
CHUCK: Oh, yeah? Then where're we goin'? (raises eyebrows at Miles) Huh?
MILES: Well, we're um... (peers at a sign on the road, chuckles, points) We're 15 miles from Celeryville, dude. Come on! Get it together, Chucky!
CHUCK: (sighs, frowns) Me? "Get it together"?! I didn't even wanna go on this stupid trip with you anyway, Miles! And stop calling me "Chucky"?
MILES: Aw, why not?
CHUCK: Because! Because I'm not some stupid, murderous doll!
MILES: But you do have his hair color. (reaches over to twirl his brother's hair) What number is that? L'oreal 6.66? It's sinful.
CHUCK: (smacks Miles's hand away) Hey, man, I'm already pissed at you!
MILES: Chuck, look, I'm sorry I dragged you along, dude.
CHUCK: "Dragged me along"? You snuck into my dorm room, Miles. You-you freaked the heck outta my room mate--
MILES: You mean--uh--Bob Marley back there? (points behind him with thumb) Nah, the guy was in the middle of an MJ trip.
CHUCK: --covered my head with a blindfold-- (holds up a blindfold)
MILES: You tellin' me you still haven't been hazed yet?
CHUCK: --cuffed my hands together--(holds up cuffs in other hand)
MILES: They're just toy handcuffs, dude. (cautionary sideways glance at Chuck)
CHUCK: (puts both items down, staring angrily at Miles) AND?
MILES: AND anyone could've broken out of them! (under breath) Well, everyone except for you, Wimpy McWimpstein.
CHUCK: I cannot believe this! I can't believe you!  (shoots brother angry look, has a sudden idea, holds stomach) Miles. Miles, could you pull over, please?
MILES: What? Why? You gonna arrest me, cuff me with those crappy things. I'm telling you, man. Everyone but you. Even this one chick that I--
CHUCK: Dude, just pull over unless you want Acid Chowder all over your seats! 
MILES: No way, man. Just got Shirley here detailed. (starting to pull over)
CHUCK: (frowning at Miles) Shirley?
(Car stops on the side of the road. There's a few feet of dusty, pebbly ground before the forest starts.)
CHUCK: (opens door and steps outside, still holding stomach)
MILES: You don't need me to hold your hair, do ya, sweetheart? (gets out of car and joins Chuck)
CHUCK: (turns around and punches Miles in the face)
MILES: (stumbles, turns back to Miles, holding face where punched) What was that for?
CHUCK: What wasn't that for?! You-you legit kidnapped me to go on a friggin' road trip with you one week before finals! Are you insane?!
MILES: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Easy, bro.
CHUCK: No, man! Everything was going great for me until you showed up! I've been working so hard for my GPA! I made a few friends! I had a hot date tomorrow night, Miles! I've never scored better in my life.
MILES: A date? A week before finals? I've taught you well, my brother, haven't I? (sigh) I can now die peacefully.
CHUCK: (rolls eyes, holds up a fist) Do you want another one?
MILES: No, man, I'm good. I'll admit I deserved that first one, though. Where'd'ya learn to hit like that anyway?
CHUCK: (holds palms up and out, drops arms) When you're a gangly ginger, you learn a few things.
MILES: (nods thoughtfully) Hey, we even?
CHUCK: Yeah, sure. But you'd better make this road trip worth it.
MILES: Hey, what'd'ya take me for, huh? (puts an arm around Chuck's neck) Beers, girls, and the world's greatest music festival with all the newest hits! This is gonna be the best, most epic trip of our entire lives!

Act I, Scene II

The lights are low. Chuck is sitting on a chair in the middle of what looks like a hospital room, dressed entirely in white. His hair is outgrown and his face is somber. The door opens and in walks a middle-aged male doctor with a white lab coat.

DR. MORGENSTERN: Charles? Charles Rhode? (hesitates for an answer, doesn't get one) Hello, Charles. My name is Dr. Morgenstern. (sits down on bed, facing Chuck) Charles, do you know why you are here? (waits for response, none) See, the thing is, Charles, we think you may have hurt someone, but we don't really think that you meant to do it. So you are here so we can help you get better. So you don't have to feel like you need to hurt anyone ever again.
CHUCK: (whispers) You son of a bi--
DOC: Charles, why are you using those words with me? Those words, this attitude, they're not going to help you get out of here.
CHUCK: I'm not the murderer, a-hole. You are. (Chuck gets up, tries to attack the doctor.)
DOC: Easy, there (sticks him with a syringe)
CHUCK: (passes out)
DOC: Easy. (Lays him on the bed, exits room, calling for a nurse.)

Trying My Hand at Terza Rima

Literary Wingmen

I think I fell in love that day;
And though it happened fast as light
I fell in love, it's safe to say,
Although I thought I never might.
Those honest words, that friendly smile
Forced fear of love to shrink so slight,
And as we sat there all the while
In minutes' time turned out our souls.
We heeded neither clock nor dial
Nor he who our "adieu" cajoles.
He knows it not, the way I feel,
The way my heart his being extols.
The way my mind spins like a wheel.
My wingmen, Lewis, Dickens, Wilde,
I thank you for my bookish zeal.
Though scarce I listened as a child.
Now do I seize your themes so dear
And stand amazed as one beguiled,
One seen as one with thoughts so clear,
With mind so made, with soul refined,
That one out of my league might hear.

This is based on a day I met a young man and had literary conversations with him. I immediately found him interesting when I learned he reads Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde "for fun". Though I did not actually "fall in love" with him (he was, indeed, way outta my league), I felt like I could talk to him about themes in classic literature forever. We even exchanged must-reads from our "favorites" lists.

Terza rima is a lot of fun to write in. The set rhyme and meter made it a little constricting, but it tested my lexicon and ability to arrange the words in creative ways.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Word Count Friday

What am I working on?

I am working on a play. I must admit that binge-watching Supernatural over Spring Break has lended a hand in forming the roles in this somewhat thriller-style play, however I write what is on my mind and honestly brotherhood is always on my mind. Being the 7th in a family of 8, siblings mean so very much to me, and in this play, I wanted to rekindle a bromance between two brothers when their mother calls on one of them to take the other on trip, afraid for his sanity. We do not know of this reason until it becomes clearer later on in the play, but in the second scene of act one, which we figure out is the present day, the brother has ended up in a mental facility and is accusing his doctor of murder. It is a work in progress, and I feel like I need to rearrange the order of events, maybe get the full scope of the situation first. 

I am also working on a short story of a young man who explores the abandoned Southern plantation house he has seen in his town all his life. He has heard legends of its creation, its inhabitants, and its downfall. I am thinking of linking the idea of the fall of this house to the fall of a man or a civilization using flashbacks, newspaper articles, and belongings in the house to uncover stories of those who have lived in it throughout the years. I love the idea of plantation homes being so rustic and yet elegant, common (in some areas) and yet so mysterious. I have yet to explore one myself, but in my small town of Moorpark we chance to possess a house near some shops in our downtown area that looks rather like a Southern plantation manor, white pillars and all. I used to romanticize the notion that generations of wealthy families have taken shelter in that house. I wondered what their stories were and what they lived for. I even wondered if any of them haunted the walls of the house. Now I still have not done my research, but I decided to write my own story. Sometimes that is closure enough.

I want to get started on a novel about a young lady (or a man, still haven't decided) who hunts down lethal cults. In my novel, I want the main character to stumble upon one that gives her a run for her money. I still need to do a TON of research on cults. It is not exactly common knowledge on how these things are ignited, discovered, or dismantled. From what I can recall about real, historical cults, they were usually found when alas a number of people were killed in one apocalypse-paranoid act or another. I plan on researching documentaries and studying what convinces one's psyche of the need to listen to one man and his truth, especially when it puts his or her own life in danger. This will not be a pleasant read, nor will it be easy to write, but I plan on gripping my readers through the narrative perspective and possibly allowing the heroine to emerge victorious. If I wanted to take a darker, less cliche route, I might want to watch the chick fall into the lies of the cult leader herself, and push psychology upon my readers instead of heroism. Still haven't decided, so ideas are welcome...

How I feel about it?

I like the ideas I get, but when push comes to shove and I need to character-build, world-build, and fact-check when I just want to get my story rolling, it is difficult for me. I am beginning to think pantsing will not be an option, seeing as I am currently enjoying realistic situations and settings, but I am usually a pantser by heart. Now it seems I will need to be a plotter by mind. I suppose I favor pantsing because I want to be as surprised as my readers are when there is a plot-twist or someone does something they normally would not. As a plotter, you are no longer entitled to experiencing the surprise, at least not in the same way a pantser or reader might. 

What am I reading?

Redwall and (finishing) Me Before You

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle ~ Book Review

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is one of the most perplexing books I have ever come across in my life!

I got through it in a matter of days, which is saying something for me, being the type of reader that likes to soak in material word by word, phrase by phrase, concept by concept.

I was immediately in love with Meg and Charles Wallace. I gotta admit, it was difficult to picture a five year old boy with the lexicon and intelligence of Charles's. But his unconditional love for his family and friends helped me to better see the child in him. From his tiny frame to his lovable personality to his witty remarks, he kind of reminds me of Freak from Freak, the Mighty.
In many ways, I can relate with Meg. First of all, her lack of confidence mirrors mine pretty much perfectly. Others' expectations of Meg's failure hit readers point blank in the insecurity bull's eye, though we all hate to admit it. I also admire L'Engle's decision to give Meg a tiny lack of common sense and some of the most basic kind of knowledge. This makes her at-times stupid answers amusing and engaging. These and her stubborness make me reminded of an older Junie B. Jones. The fact that she holds the key to the resolution gives all readers hope. We don't all need to be as ridiculously smart as Charles Wallace, nor as charismatic as Calvin. We don't have to be acculturative drones like the twins. (I think that is the very reason she made the unimportant, unheroic siblings twins: to show how conformative they are. That or so that they can be losers together!) We can be our own, welcoming our uselessness as much as we treasure our usefulness.

I was quite reminded of the first book of Narnia as I was world-hopping with Charles Wallace, Meg, and Calvin. I am just glad I did not need to feel the bone-breaking, numbing, coldness that the tesseract puts ordinary people through. The sight, sound, and smell of every world are vividly described. Even the culture, appearance, and personalities of the natives of each planet are unique. My personal favorite were the creatures of Ixchel. I love how they cannot see; I was scratching my own head trying to formulate the sense that is Sight into words. But they FEEL everything, and that makes all the difference. Even the resolution was a matter of feeling (love for Charles Wallace) and not seeing (the gift from Mrs. Which).

This storyline had me all over the place! I am used to picturing the books I am reading in my head like a movie. But the sequence of events, even dialogue and the characters' feelings were completely unpredictable in the classic way literature is allowed to be. What I could not get over, to the point where it bothered, nay, frustrated me, was that it was as if no one except Meg understood the concept of mind-control or bodily possession, as though the concept is extremely new and not construable. Or that such a thing would not be possible, as if traveling through time and space is. Like Meg, I would have known exactly what was happening, but this is mainly because of my fascination with sci-fi/fantasy, dystopian, supernatural horror, and mysterious thriller stories and films.

So, it is probably easy to tell, but there are more than one biblical nuance throughout the story. Some are not too noticable, such as the part when Meg was sitting down at the table with Aunt Beast and all the other beasts, the author writes: "She felt that she was being measured and found wanting" (L'Engle 189). This is a line from the famous story of Daniel, King Belshazaar, and the hand writing on the wall (Daniel 5:27). Put into other words: "You have not been doing right by your life." But this line was slipped into this scene in the novel so subtly, I almost missed the echo.

I enjoyed it! There were parts of it that were playful and jolly, making me smile (and I rarely respond to what I read with emotional faces). Other parts were heart-breaking and difficult to get through. And then there was this extraordinary element of something very sinister. It did not take L'Engle too many words, not even so many descriptive phrases, to make this uneasy feeling erupt in me as I read through the darker parts of the story. It gave me the feeling I had when I was reading Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, like although dark things can speak in formal language and be dressed in coat tails, somehow they are still twisted and insidious. I appreciate that this was mainly a book written for children, but the author is trying to inform [puzzled] adults about the world we live in and how to save our families. It is very "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, if you will: Even if Life sucks, at least we will live a sucky life together before we die. The one thing everyone has is family (and these come in many shapes, sizes, and situations); we just need to hold on to our families as hard as we can and never let go the way Meg never gave up on her light and love, her baby brother Charles Wallace.

{I am still mind-blown. And still upset that the dad couldn't do more. What's a dad for if he cannot make you feel safe from evil?}

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Word-Count Wednesday

What I'm working on:

Just finished an in media res chapter about a winged girl in a cage hanging from the sky in the middle of a thunderstorm and the elaborate way she must escape. Might continue with that.

Word Count: around 500-1000?

How I feel about it:

I like this character/concept has been on my mind for a while, and that I was actually able to turn it into something and expand on the character herself.

I would need to work around this scene, since the character never questioned why she was where she was, nor did she hint at her capturer. (Either way, I may need to squeeze those details somewhere into the scene.

What I am currently reading:

A Wrinkle In Time
Me Before You
Love, Rosie
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Monday, March 13, 2017

Fallen Bird: (In media res + Escape)

            It was two o’clock in the morning when Lindy Burks woke up on the cold, iron floor of a swinging cage. It was suspended hundreds of feet up in the air, hanging by three chains half made of steel, half of fog braiding down, link by link, from the massive cumulonimbus overhead. Thunder grumbled and rumbled. Lightening flashed on and off in the distance, as though some pesky giant in the sky were playing with a light switch.
            Lindy raised herself to her feet, which stubbornly refused to stand. She wobbled before she collapsed back onto the iron floor. She sighed sharply as she sat up.
            “Work, you stupid things!” she said, massaging the feeling back into her legs and feet.
            The thunder was getting louder, the lightning brighter. It was cold up there in that cage. Gusts of wind blew at Lindy as if she were a flame on a wick, and the air was heavy with mist. Lindy soon realized that up here in the clouds, she could never get dry. And what bird with weighty, wet wings had ever found a way to fly?
            With the strength having finally returned to all six limbs, Lindy pulled herself back up. “Okay, now to find an exit.” The cage was twice her height vertically, with a diameter of about ten feet. It was completely empty, all except for her of course. Its bars were jagged square beams of iron, and it had absolutely no door. This made Lindy wonder how she even got locked in. She looked up at the ceiling of the cage and saw something hanging on a chain from the very center of the dome. It couldn’t be, could it? Lindy squinted her eyes at what appeared to be a key.
            “Huh.” Needing a key to escape, cliché. The key being poorly hidden within the confines of her prison cell? This was new, and just a tad fishy. Still, it was her one hope of a way out. And where there was a key, there was a way out.
            Keeping her eye on that chain, Lindy unfolded her wings and poised them above her back. She lowered into a readied squat, balancing herself with two fingers on the floor as she focused all her energy and concentration on the key. This task would have been easy in any lower layer of the atmosphere, preferably the ones that would not house a swelling tempest. But never in her life did Lindy waste her time hoping that a situation’s level of difficulty matched her set of skills and experience. She was smarter than to even wish life was anything like a game.
            “One…two…” she whispered. Lindy pushed off the cage floor with all her strength, swinging her wings down for extra lift, one arm extended.
            “No!” she dropped clumsily back to the ground flat on her side, her wings limp and heavy with water. She knew they didn’t feel right, but it was still worth a shot. She sat up and sighed, glaring up at the key.
            “A broomstick or a jet pack would be nice right about now. And to think, a winged human existed before any of that fictional crap…” She rolled her eyes and cloaked herself with her massive white wings. At least if she had to wait out the storm, she was going to be warm doing it.
            Suddenly, veins of white lightning lit the sky, only feet away from where the cage dangled from the clouds. Lindy shrieked and jumped to the side of the cage farthest away from the lightning.
            “Geez--,” she said between gasps of air. “Now I really gotta get outta here.” She used the bars to pull herself to her feet. Then, gripping the bars, she jumped and attempted to hoist herself up the bars.
            “Crap,” she said as she felt herself slide down the slippery wet bars of her prison. She wiped her hands on her jeans and tried again and again. She even attempted to dry the bars, but the rain came down hard on every side, immediately drenching what she had dried.
            “I knew this wasn’t gonna be that easy,” she said as she frantically began to shake every set of bars. She jumped and stomped on each cubic foot of the floor surface, hoping she would just magically fall through. When that didn’t work, she went to the bars again and slammed her hands against them in frustration. Feeling defeated, she slumped her forehead against two bars. It was a habit of hers to go through every possible scenario and after a few moments, she recovered a detail she had missed. She looked up at the ominous grey clouds from which the cage hung, the chains swaying ever so slightly…
            She turned her back to the bars, gripping two of them behind her tightly. She raised her head and with a look of utter determination, she ran. She threw herself into the opposite wall of bars, holding on as tightly as she could to steady herself. Pushing off the bars, she ran back to where she had first begun. And then back to the opposite wall. She started fast, knowing the momentum would only begin evenly if she could follow through and run to the other side soon enough. In a matter of seconds, the chains began to squeak as they swayed to and fro, back and forth across the sky, Lindy and the cage swinging at their ends. It was a few more rounds before Lindy felt her legs quiver and shake. She willed herself to keep running, to keep moving. She forced her legs to stay balanced, though she was offset by her lack of food, rest, and warmth. She had never tested her stability on unsound surfaces with such heavy, useless wings. But her gift was surviving. It had to be, being what she was. And survive she would, at any cost.
            Finally, she had gained a tempo she could work with. With the cage swinging to a slant, she was getting pelted with larger, more frequent raindrops, so she had to choose her time of ascension fast. As she raced to and fro, she would watch the other side approach. She planned out her steps. She had studied every detail of her jump during four more runs before she chose her moment.
            This was it.
            The other side of the cage came at her with every sprinted step she placed. The last step arrived and she pushed her heavy body off the ground, aiming her other foot with her leg curved at a single bar. Though her foot slightly slid with a squeak against the metal, she somehow managed to gain enough air and cover enough space and reach out her arm far enough to just grasp the key. Her hand enclosed around a silvery chain.
            There was no key. Only a loop of chain. A loop of chain she did not let go of, and split seconds later, she was hanging onto this chain, spinning while the cage continued its slowing sway back and forth, back and forth.
            For a moment, Lindy thought she was going to hurl. Then she thought she would just about tear her fingers off. All her weight on her palm against this thin chain called for more grip strength than she knew she had.
            Lindy let out a cry to mirror the excruciating pain she was feeling. It was more than she was willing to do for a dead end. She let go.
            Falling is a funny thing. It is an illusion of time. We do not know how not to exist in the element of air. What form do we take? What feeling do we have? Should we be scared, or should we feel safe? Is it thrilling, or is it frightening? Or is it peaceful?
            Lindy was falling through the air, lying on her back, her wings tucked in close. Her loose, blond curls were being blown upward. They framed her vision as she caught a single glimpse of her bottomless cage evaporating into the mist of the clouds. Not even a whole second later, a beam of lightning flashed where it and Lindy both would have been.
            Lindy Burks was falling to earth. Every second felt like an eternity of its own.

            Though no longer incarcerated, the bird girl’s wings were still soaked. How would she get out of this one?