Monday, April 5, 2021

Shadowland

I am quite sick today, but not as sick as yesterday (or as dizzy or as perpetually asleep), and for some reason, my brain said, "Perfect timing!  Finish that k-pop mix and write a story!"

Yes, I'm still making these, although much more slowly.  I actually have a mix album before this that I haven't posted, because the story is potentially much, much longer.  Really, these are more like mini-prompts for me, though I hope you enjoy them as well.  This one is slightly different, stylistically, with one song per independent clause (mostly).

The challenge is: 

1. Have a well-balanced mix-album

2. That can make a coherent story

3. With tonally appropriate songs  (For example, Carnival of Lunacy had songs with circusy sounds and this one has songs with creepy sounds.  Not universally, but noticeably.)

4. That I like.  No picking songs because the titles are cool!  I must actively like the song.


Anyway, here we go:


Shadowland Part 1


“Please,” Dawn begged her parents, “don’t leave me alone.  It’ll call for me” (Paranoia).

Her parents exchange a strained look.  “Sleep well,” they say, and turn out the light (Good Night).

Dawn huddles the blanket close, trying not to look, or to think about what might emerge from the mirror (Monster).

But all too soon, the whispers come (Think Hole).  “Your soul is ours,” they tell her (Seoul), and by now, she’s heard it so many times, she’s begun to believe them (Déjà Vu).  “Stop resisting,” they whisper beguilingly (Say Yes).  “Come” (Go Beyond the Barrier).

Dawn closes her eyes, but she cannot block out the voices, and so she obeys (Into the Mirror).

The moment she steps through the Mirror, new life blooms upon her (Blaze).  She spreads her arms and throws back her head, dancing in the strange mirror land, under the pale moonlight (Moondance).

From the shadows, the one who summoned her watches admiringly (Tight).  He is the Master of this place (Master), and what he wants, he takes (Give me dat).  But even as he steps out and reaches for her, the sun rises beyond the mirror (Think of Dawn), and she dances back to her own bedroom (Adios).

No matter; the Master is content to wait for the night to come again (BingBing).

 

Shadowland Part 2


The sun rises and falls, and night comes again—and not just any night, either (Full Moon).  Once again, Dawn begs her parents not to leave her alone (Rewind).  She fears that tonight of all nights, the monsters will be able to trap her in their mirror world forever (One (Monster & Infinity)).

Her parents tell her that it’s her imagination (Impressionable) and leave her to her fate (Dead or Alive).  As if in a dream, she again passes through the mirror (Silent Night), under the watching eyes of the Master (Romanticism).  He smiles secretly to himself, for on this night, his power is so great that he can keep her with him forever (Checkmate).

But Dawn, too, is different in this mirror world, and she laughs and dances without seeing him (La Di Da), until he steps out and takes her hand, joining the dance (Hello).  They spin around, and he admires her power in this place (Time to Shine).  “Be my wife,” he tells her, along with many fine promises (Piano).

Dawn, vibrant and unimpressed, laughs.  “No” (No).

The Master is angry and shocked (Dangerous); and in his confusion, Dawn skips away and vanishes into the night (Blind).

As he watches her go, a mysterious smile comes to the Master's lips, and he finds himself vastly pleased (Secret Door).  The night is long, and it seems he has at last found his equal (Endless Night).



1.       Paranoia – Kang Daniel

2.       Good Night – Dreamcatcher

3.       Monster – SuperM

4.       Think Hole – B.A.P.

5.       Seoul – Ghost9

6.       Déjà Vu – Dreamcatcher

7.       Say Yes – IZ

8.       G.B.T.B. – Verivery

9.       Into the Mirror – Victon

10.     Blaze – Rolling Quartz

11.     Moondance – B.A.P.

12.     Tight – Leo

13.     Master – TVXQ!

14.     Give me dat – Argon

15.     Think of Dawn – Ghost9

16.     Adios – Everglow

17.     BingBing – Oneus


18.     Full Moon – Dreamcatcher

19.     Rewind – B.A.P.

20.     One (Monster & Infinity)  – SuperM

21.     Impressionable – Taemin

22.     Dead or Alive – Oneus

23.     Silent Night – Dreamcatcher

24.     Romanticism – Leo

25.     Checkmate – Boyz

26.     La Di Da – Everglow

27.     Hello – TVXQ!

28.     Time to Shine – AboutU

29.     Piano – Max Changmin

30.     No – CLC

31.     Dangerous – E’last

32.     Blind – B.A.P.

33.     Secret Door – Block B

34.     Endless Night – Dreamcatche

Friday, March 19, 2021

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Why did the egg cross the road?  It wanted to be first.

Why did the coward cross the road?  She was a chicken.

Why did the rooster cross the road?  To get to the chicken.

Why did the farmer cross the road?  It was almost lunch time.

Why did the paramedics cross the road?  It wasn't a crosswalk.



. . . I amuse myself

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Goblin Hitchhiker

Prompt: hitchhiker, goblin (10/26/20)


The trucker bobbed slightly alongside his music.  Hard rock to hit the spot—nothing else could keep him awake this late, after three miserly hours of sleep and more road construction than clear highway.

“One hundred forty-six miles left,” he reassured himself after a glance after a glance at the GPS.  “That’s hardly—what are you doing?”  With a sigh and a grumble, he eased the truck to a stop a dozen yards in front of the ped.  He didn’t bother pulling onto the shoulder, with no one else about.

The slight, hooded figure he’d spotted hurried forward.  A woman or a child, he figured, and prepared to jovially berate either one.  But when the hitchhiker clambered up, the trucker found himself looking at a wizened face, and a deformed one at that, with a tumescent nose, beady black eyes, and washboard chin.  Worse, he looked greenish under the cab lights.  Sick? the trucker guessed.  He’d better not be contagious!

“Hi, there,” the trucker said.  “Cold night for a walk.  Hope you don’t mind the music.  Driver’s choice.”

“You are much kind,” the fellow said, and the trucker mentally added "foreign" to his list of deformities. 

“Name’s Erik, by the way,” the trucker said, his foot reminding the accelerator who was boss.

“I am Fritch,” replied the ugly fellow with a movement like a seated bow.  “I saw much thanks to you.  Your truck,” he added earnestly, “is much pretty white.”

Erik laughed.  “Not my choice—company color.  I’d rather red and gold.”

“No, no,” Fritch said, shaking his head.  “White pretty.  White good.  Bad does not prefer white.”

“Is that so,” said Erik, and turned up the radio.

Fritch took the hint and did not speak again.  He sat and fidgeted and, after a time, took out a furry thing like a rabbit’s foot and rubbed it.  Erik thought he now and again mouthed a word, but that was foreign people for you.

One hundred forty-six miles came and passed, and Erik pulled into the parking lot of his cheap motel.  “End of the line,” he told his passenger.  Against his better judgement, he added, “You gonna be okay?”

“Many thanks,” the little fellow said, clambering down from the truck and giving Erik a proper bow.  “I remember this in my restore.  When you have much bad, I will make good.”

“Right, thanks,” Erik said with an awkward laugh.  He watched Fritch walk crookedly into town and then shook himself, laughed again, and went to check into his motel.

He forgot Fritch after that, except for when swapping tall tales of strange hitchhikers with his fellow truckers.  He didn’t recognize him a decade later, in the lobby of the hospital where his daughter lay on the edge of death, or think of him when the broken smoke alarm somehow came to life in the middle of the night, or in the heart-leaping moment when his truck hydroplaned on ice at the pinnacle of a bridge.  Why should he?

------------------

Author's Note: what is it about me lately, that my protagonists are kind of jerks?  (Erik isn't that bad, mind; I'm also referencing some stories I haven't posted, but which you'll see eventually.)  I don't know.  But though as an author I am sometimes snide about it in my narration, I'm also sort of enjoying it.  I used to play Apples to Apples in a nursing home every week, and after months of that, it was a great relief to play Cards Against Humanity . . . for about four hours, after which my brain rebelled and I took on the challenge of making everything I played as nice as possible.  So you may be getting some sweetheart protagonists after a while.  Not the overly sticky sort, though.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Trollhenge

So, NaNoWriMo is finished, and I did successfully meet my goal. :)  I also managed to write a couple of longer short stories with which I am immensely pleased and polishing up for varying purposes that I won't go into here yet.  But I thought I might sporadically post a few smaller ones.  They won't be polished but they should be fun.


11/11/20.  Prompts: The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer; Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher.

 

There is a henge on the edge of town.

            It sits atop the hill behind the churchyard, its stones crouched atop swaying grasses up to your hip.  Unlike other henges, the stones aren’t particularly oblong, and the wind (it is quite windy) hasn’t worn them smooth.

            There is a lot of local lore around those stones, and the local postcards show them against the sunset, but no one knows who built the henge or what it’s supposed to do.

            At fourteen, Catherine had played at the henge plenty of times and was nearly old enough to know better than to meet Jeremy Sea there after dark.

            “I’ve seen it by daylight, of course,” Jeremy had said cunningly—he was new to town and, though seventeen, had immediately picked out Catherine.  It possibly had to do with the way her long, long ash-blond hair flowed behind her when she walked.  “But I didn’t want to go alone at night.  I wanted to go with someone special.”

            So there Catherine was, just before eleven, shivering in her light summer jacket at the bottom of the hill.  The moon shone fatly above, casting the land in its ghostly light.

            Fifteen minutes past, then another thirty.  In tears, Catherine turned to trudge home alone—but as soon as she reached the road, she saw Jeremy’s car parked there, dark and abandoned and . . . oh, no!  She’d made a terrible mistake—or he had.  He must have been waiting on top of the hill rather than at the bottom! 

            Catherine ran back, eyes rolling with a different sort of tears.  She swiped them away, embarrassed and hoping the darkness would hide the evidence, and panted up the hill.

            She slowed to a walk three-quarters of the way up, heart pounding in her throat.  Why was she suddenly afraid?  It made no sense.  But afraid she was, and that fear stopped her from calling out Jeremy’s name or breaking the silence.

            She stopped fully a pace before cresting the hill.  Something is wrong, she thought, and didn’t know why she thought it.  Catherine tried to shake her uneasiness, but it wouldn’t budge, and she found herself slowly creeping around the top of the hill, looking inward for any person-shapes.  She saw no one, but the feeling of wrongness grew and grew until it finally burst upon her what caused it:

            The stones had changed.

            Some that had before crouched low stood straight and moved to the edges like sentries.  The rest had clustered near the center of the hilltop, as if bending over something.

            Catherine took a step back down the hill a step, then another.  She turned and ran, but her foot caught on a low stone, and she tumbled head over hills down the hill.

            The grass cushioned her fall, and she kept her breath.  She never even stopped moving, just rolled onto her feet and fled, not looking back, the half-mile home.

            The henge watched her go.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Short story + NaNoWriMo

 

“Honestly, Simon.  Sometimes I wonder whether the fairies switched you out at birth.  How else could we have such a perfect child?”

            Simon beamed up at their parents, all guileless blue eyes and soft golden curls.

            “You’ve got it wrong, Bet,” said their father.  “He’s the one the fairies tried to make away with but failed.”

            “Of course, dear—they’d never let him go if they’d had him.  Ha, ha!”

            “Ha, ha!”

            Jim clutched his fork and kept his head down.  He had tried, in the first few days after their mother had come home from the hospital with Simon, to privately ask his parents whether the boy wasn’t maturing too quickly.  But the more he pressed his point, the more his parents either patted him on the head or became angry and started accusing him of being a jealous ingrate. 

            In their calmest moments, the moments they were most like themselves, they explained, “We don’t love you any less or Simon any more because he’s our natural-born son.  We’ve never regretted letting you make your home with us, and we never will.”

            Jim believed them: they were that sort of people.  Loving, overly generous, and fair.  Under normal circumstances, circumstances in which they stayed in their right minds—

            He clutched his spoon and kept his eyes down.

            “Aren’t you going to try some, Brother?” Simon asked charmingly—Simon, who had been born a month before.  Simon, who had just served them the four-course meal he’d made himself.  Jim had been wondering when he’d make his move.

            “My stomach’s upset,” Jim said.  “Maybe later.”

            “Don’t be offended, Simon dear,” their mother said; “he’s never been a big eater.”

            “I understand,” Simon said, tears pricking his eyes.

            “Really, Jim, I’d think you could try some!” said their father.

            “Please,” said Jim, “may I go lie down?  I’m not well.”  He got up, deathly pale—but he’d always been pale; iron deficiency, the doctor said—and made his way to his low-ceiling attic bedroom.  He lay down on his bed and waited, certain Simon would come.

            He was right.  Simon came to his room just before midnight, perhaps thinking to wake him, and began poking around Jim’s belongings—the gifts lavished upon him by the people who let him call them Dad and Mom.  His family.

            “I wasn’t sure before,” Simon said—so perhaps he did know Jim was awake.  Adult flatness had replaced the sweetness of his voice.  “It isn’t unusual for human children to be jealous of us.  But you really can see through my glamour.  Can’t you.”

            “Earthworms and dirt water,” Jim said, sitting up.  “How dare you feed them that, how dare you treat them like that when they’ve taken you in and giving you their love!  Don’t your kind have laws about guests and hosts?”

            “There’s no virtue in their caring for me,” Simon said comfortably; “I didn’t give them a choice.  Besides, they think I’m their spawn.  They think I’m perfect.  I don’t notice them calling you that.”

            “Because I choose to honor the integrity of their minds!”

            “Because you aren’t good enough.”

            “They invited me into their home,” Jim shot back.  “You kidnapped their child and put yourself in his place.  What have you done with the real Simon?”

            Simon shrugged, picking up a picture of their parents.  There were no pictures with Jim—he didn’t photograph well—but the room was full of candid shots of friends and family.  “How should I know?” he asked.

            Fury flashed Jim’s vision red, and he flew across the room.  He caught Simon’s neck, fingernails drawing blood.  “Let’s try again,” he snarled.  “This is MY family, and I will rip out your throat and drink your blood before I let you abuse them.”

            Simon struggled and squeaked, but Jim’s grip was like iron.

            “Where.  Is.  The real.  Simon.”

            “I don’t know!” the boy gasped.  “I wasn’t in charge of that!”

            “Then you will help me find him.”

            “I won’t.”

            “You will,” Jim said, slowing down his words and forcing Simon to look deep into his eyes.  “You will help me find Simon and restore him to my family.  And then you will leave us alone until and unless I call for you.”

            “Yes,” Simon whispered, face slack, “master.”

 

----

 

What on Earth was that nonsense?  Let me explain . . .

 I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year.  For those of you who don’t know, November is NationalNovelWritingMonth.  Basically, writers around the world write 50,000 words in a month.  Doing NaNoWriMo “properly” means writing this as a new novel.  I have done it this way, but I’ve also used it for rewrites. 

 I mean, I’m an 11-time participant.  I’ve done it a lot of ways.  If you’d like to be my buddy on the site, I’m eversearchingtraveler.

 Anyway, this year I’m writing not a novel but a series of short stories.  I’m also counting total words written, not final words written.  So for example, this morning I wrote a short story in my notebook and they typed it up, rewriting and editing.  The handwritten version was 600 words; the typed version 700, so my total count was 1300. 

 The reason I’m writing short stories is I felt my brain getting clogged up and I was having trouble writing.  I needed to clear it out.  I work with prompts, but I have trouble finding prompts until they’re assigned to me.  So I am using a system.  It goes like this: my prompt for each story is the first two or three books by different authors that I own in each letter of the alphabet.  Like this:

 

A: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.  (from which I took “hitchhiker” and “goblin”)

 B: (I skipped this one, actually.  I’m rarely allowed to skip one and only one.  I wrote an unrelated 6,000-word story that I'm rather excited about)

 C: Keeper of Dreams by Orson Scott Card, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (omnibus) by Lewis Carroll, and The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (“dream keeper” “Lewis” “five languages”)

 D: Boy by Road Dahl, The Secret Country by Pamela Dean, and Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney (“dahl/doll,” “Dean,” “Witch.”  I messed up here; Tigerheart by Peter David was misfiled).

 E: The Knight’s Castle by Edgar Eager and The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards (“knight/castle,” “worm = dragon”; "eager",  "Edwards").

 F: The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer, Darkhenge by Catherine Fisher (“troll,” “henge,” dark tone)

 G: The Changeling War by Peter Garrison (a penname of Craig Shaw Gardner) and Prisoner of Vampires by Nancy Gardner (“changeling,” “prisoner,” “vampire”).

 

That’s the one I just wrote.  Some turn out better, some worse; some longer and some shorter, but never under 500 words.  Tomorrow is Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly + Scottish Myth’s and Legends by Judy Hamilton.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Night Fell

 Night fell.

He'd been falling since at least 5:27pm, and supposed he couldn't fall much further without being completely in the dark, since this hole had neither stars nor fireflies and had yet to invent electricity.  He therefore sighingly inflated his i into an o and fell onto the hole rather than into it.

Night oofed rather as he scrabbled along the glassy surface.  He gained his footing just as one of the screeching things that had been chasing him screeched past.  It flailed but, failing to correct its preposition in time, thudded to the bottom of the lightless hole, never to be seen again.

More things screeched above, and Night caught enough of their language to know more were coming, things with wings and talons and beaks and eyes that cast light enough to see by.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Powered or Overpowered?

So, as those who’ve been following this blog know, I’ve been engaging with a lot of Japanese media lately, and especially anime and light novels (with a bit of manga thrown in).  As in, I’ve read over 100 Japanese novels in the past six months.  This is relevant because in the particular subgenre I read, I’ve noticed a trend.  It goes like this:

1. Protagonist is weak (or pretending to be weak)

2. Protagonist gets strong (or is revealed as strong)

3. Protagonist easily overcomes all struggles with his power and story is boring.

This usually happens after it's clear the author's original ideas have been used up, and now they just want to keep writing to make money / they can keep getting praise for how awesome their protagonist is.

(On which note, check out my post on Telling Your Reader Your Character Is Epic.)

But see, the thing is . . . super powerful does not equal overpowered.

Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci is literally not only the most powerful enchanter in the world but possibly in the multiverse, and he isn’t overpowered.  Why?  Because he can lose.  He can be outsmarted or teamed up on or caught off guard.  He doesn’t instantly know the answers to mysteries.  Other magic users may use magic with which he is unfamiliar or for which he is unprepared.  The stakes are real.  Regardless of power level, a character is overpowered when their power negates the stakes.  If the stakes are real, the character is not overpowered.

I’ll make three examples here of characters that look overpowered but aren’t.

1. Character seems super powerful but actually isn’t.  Glenn from Akashic Records of The Bastard Magic Instructor is introduced as a third-rate magician.  At first, I expected he’d be revealed to be super-powerful as a magic user, but NOPE.  What he has are such a good understanding of magic theory and so much cleverness that he can somewhat compensate for his lack of magical power.  But only somewhat.  He’s definitely the weakest person in most fights, and he can lose.

2. Character is super powerful, but the antagonist is his equal or slight superior.  Light from Death Note is possibly the smartest guy in the world, an expert at charm and trickery and deduction; furthermore, he has a supernatural power.  His antagonist, L, however . . . is barely his intellectual inferior, and has many more years of experience plus funding and support from the world’s police and a secret network.  This makes them equals or even gives L the edge.

3. Character is, in fact, the most powerful—but this doesn’t solve his problems.  My favorite example of this, because it’s so ridiculously extreme, is The Misfit of Demon King Academy: History's Strongest Demon King Reincarnates and Goes to School with His Descendants. Anos Voldigord, demon king of old, reincarnates with all his memories and powers two thousand years later.  Everyone else seems to have forgotten powerful magic, whereas he is so powerful he can literally kill someone with the sound of his heartbeat (and then immediately revive them if he so wishes).  In any contest of strength, he instantly wins.  But see, the stakes revolve not around who is the strongest, but around whether he can convince people of who he is and solve a 2000-year-old mystery.  (Note: I’ve only read the first 2-2/3 novels; the rest haven’t been translated yet.)  So although ridiculously powerful, he isn't overpowered, because his power doesn't negate the stakes.

So, yeah, I’ve been having fun thinking about that. :)