Sometimes, by accident, we get a little lost along the way.
Adrien Elis René Quertis, who’s always been a bit of a strange duck. But at least his brother’s always understood.
We left on Saturday and had our aforementioned plane misadventures, and we returned on Friday. All in all, I think it was an ideal sort of vacation: one where I genuinely enjoyed what we did, and being there, and the whole experience, but also one where I am glad to be home again. I’m not tremendously looking forward to going back to the dayjob tomorrow, especially while I’m still trying to deal with jetlag, but we can’t have everything, huh?
I meant to be more up to date on keeping up with any sort of writing while we were gone — at least keeping some notes, or else writing in the hotel in the evenings, but it just never really happened. I barely managed to keep up with even the short daily flash fiction segment I post to my tumblr, usually doing that in the mornings before we went anywhere. I had ambitions of working on lazily self-indulgent stuff and not worrying about any deadlines until after we returned to Seattle.
But as it turned out, none of that really happened. It isn’t as if we went on intense touristy things; we didn’t snorkel or scuba dive or anything like that (I had certain monthly health reasons holding me back for one), but we walked a lot, we explored a lot, and overall when we left our hotel, we would return hours and hours later to simply shower and then go to bed. Of course we did a lot of shopping, especially for souvenirs for our friends — we went to the weekly swap meet at the Honolulu Stadium (correct me if I’m misremembering the place); we went to the fancy strip malls in Waikiki; and we went to both kitschy overpriced tourist stores as well as little holes in the wall. Those were certainly less glamorous than most of their surroundings, but also honestly kind of a relief compared to the Rich People Society we were otherwise surrounded by.
Even though I took no notes, there’s a lot that I have taken away from this trip. When I first told my mom that my friends and I were planning this trip, she immediately and enthusiastically agreed. “It’ll be a good learning experience,” she said. “It’ll be good for your writing to go see new places like this.” I’m a pretty sedentary person; if it’s not money that’s an issue, it’s the lack of inspiration to go on my own. I’m not a traveler. I love my city and my home; I love the familiarity I have with my neighborhood and the surrounding places. True to my name, I put down my roots and I am happiest staying with them.
And on the trip itself both my roommate and my girlfriend kept telling me that they hoped I was getting lots of story ideas.
The truth is, I didn’t. I took some notes on the plane for something, but that was an idea I’d been tossing around before we left. I did not, at any time, get hit with anything that felt like the germinating seed of a story plot. In fact, I barely thought about my writing at all while we were gone, which is something I mildly regret, having returned to home and two deadlines by the end of the month, haha. (Obligatory reminder that I’ve got a new story coming out November 1st! The other one’s release date isn’t set yet, but I’m very excited for that one when it comes.)
What I did take away, though, was more individual experiences that I can utilize later.
The minor mundane disaster of missing one’s flight. The way volcanoes look, stretched out wide and dark and steaming under the plane. Seeing feral chickens running around a parking lot. The different ways strangers can be friendly, whether it’s by chatting or just silently leading you to your hotel. The way an actual five star hotel room looks, both for a “standard” room and an upgraded presidential suite. The surprised joy of walking along a path and turning your head to see turtles casually swimming alongside you. Dealing with people so rich that it’s like some invisible wall exists between you and them — but also, people who are incredibly friendly and patient in spite of the vast amount of confused and lost tourists they must deal with daily. The way the waves yank at you when you let your guard down, because they’ve been small up until the point where they’re not. The way the ocean looks as the sun sets, less like water and more like silk stretched over sand dunes…
And honestly, the way one’s cat gets extremely excited when his people come home after a week and spends the next two days YELLING!! at the top of his lungs anytime he loses sight of you.
Those are the things I think I can keep and use, sometime in the future.
Today is going to be a relatively quick sort of thing! I’ve gotten a little off track with what I’ve wanted to talk about on this blog, though part of that is also just because life keeps happening. This past weekend especially has been a bit of a travel adventure.
We’re in Hawaii today! Specifically the Big Island, though we’re headed to Oahu tonight. That was our original destination, in fact, but most of yesterday was a whole insane cluster of trip mishaps that have somehow worked out pretty well in the end.
As it turns out, when airports have a cutoff time for baggage check in, that time is down to the exact second — which means that because of the thirty second delay between scanning one person in our group and the next, we were suddenly unable to check our second person’s bag. Which meant that while two of us were cleared to run for the plane, the third one could not.
So at first our options sounded pretty grim. Because there were three of us (myself, girlfriend-roommate K, and roommate M), and because for some reason everyone ever wanted to go to Hawaii this weekend*, our options looked to basically be, “MAYBE two of you can go and the third one can fly out tomorrow for additional $$$” or “the three of you go home and fly out Monday for $$$.” The lady who worked with us at the assistance booth was extremely nice and patient, and I am incredibly grateful that she was willing to work with us to figure out the best possible options for our trip to work out.
(* I know the Iron Man triathlon was going on, but the “problem” with that was that it takes place on the Big Island and all the flights to Oahu specifically were booked completely full.)
But we’ve been planning this trip since technically last year, when the suggestion was made; our concrete plans for this particular week started in April. We’d gotten some help from Roommate M’s dad, who lives on Oahu, and since our trip was for a week (we’re returning Friday), cutting ourselves off to a Monday start, or getting our party split, was pretty disappointing.
Eventually, in desperation, I asked if we could get a flight out to one of the other islands, with the intention of making a connecting flight back to Oahu either later that day or possibly tomorrow (which is now today, Sunday). And it turned out, there was! We still had to pay $$$, but I’ve been saving for this for a year — traditionally, I save money from the dayjob paycheck all year to indulge for my birthday… which was on the 12th. So I had the money to immediately pay for it! And off we went. (With another close shave, to be honest, since we boarded the plane about five minutes before they would have closed the doors. Do not be us.)
And so far, I think this has actually turned out for the better. M had wanted to do some island-hopping anyway, and with some help from her dad, we have secured a trip to Oahu (and our proper hotel) for tonight, which gives us the whole day to basically go around the island, do some sightseeing, and then head up to meet the other half of our vacation group (who traveled separately and managed to get to where they were supposed to go).
So on the one hand, it was a whole lot of abrupt stress, and it was a lot of money — but it was money we had available (and can be paid back), and everything has turned out pretty much as ideally as possible for this detour. I’m pretty sure I would have been pretty miserable trying to go this alone, but since I have my two best friends with me, this has mostly been an adventure. (It will certainly make for silly travel “horror” stories in the future.) Everyone we’ve met so far has been extremely friendly and nice, the scenery is gorgeous, and even if I’m languishing a little with the weather (I’ve been living in the Pacific Northwest for 12 years at this point, and it’s pretty jarring to go from 52F to 83F), I’ve been having a lot of fun.
Right now it’s 8:45 a.m. local time, which because of timezones feels more like 11:45 to me. We still have almost 12 hours before we have to travel to our final vacation destination. We’re trying to make plans to get some wandering around (with M’s dad helping out again, so a big thank you to him), and then we’ll figure out what we’re doing for the rest of this week.
I’m feeling pretty good, though! I hope everyone else is doing well.
Sometimes, monsters are closer than we’d like to think.
(A little behind schedule this week! We’re off to Hawaii tomorrow and this whole week has been a blur of trying to get ready while fighting off sickness.)
When I was a kid, my dad’s favorite saying about life (and, honestly, this is still something he likes to say to me today) was all we could do was just muddle through. He’d say that any time life happened so much: any time things seemed overwhelming, he’d shrug and tell me to just put my head down and muddle through.
I follow that advice a lot less gracefully than I’d like to admit. My habit tends to be to catastrophize for at least a day or two; even small things start to feel overwhelming when they all come at you at once. I’ve started utilizing Mondays to just write myself a to-do list for the whole of the week so that I have something concrete to come back to and reference whenever I can. The current state of the world notwithstanding (I do try to keep an eye on things to stay informed, though I also often find myself having to disengage some just to keep from going out of my mind), my daily life is also pretty intense right now.
It isn’t all bad, even when the specter of potential calamity looms close by. My birthday is on Thursday, the 12th! I have a new story coming out November 1st! (If you’re interested, preorders are 15% off until October 31st.) Next Saturday, we’re headed off to Hawaii for a week, for the first Real Vacation I’ve taken in over two decades. We’ve been planning this for the better part of the year, and I am pretty excited for all of these things.
On the flipside are the lows that come with those highs. I’ve talked before about how anxious I am about the story that’s coming out, and I’m deeply hoping that readers new and old will give me the benefit of the doubt.
I’m a little disappointed that I can’t take my birthday itself off because of the vacation, since taking the actual day off has been my present to myself literally since I started my dayjob. And going on any sort of vacation, let alone somewhere touristy, is going to cost a lot of money. And while I have been saving all year and we’ve gotten help from parents, I’m still pretty nervous about how much is enough — I want to enjoy my vacation but not push myself into debt. We’re in cleaning and prep mode, so everything else I’ve been planning to do has been kind of set aside for now.
And then, yesterday (Saturday the 8th), we noticed our cat, Merlin, was having some significant discomfort walking and sitting. He was fussing obsessively over a spot under his tail and getting progressively unhappier about it through the day. It was too tender for him to let us get a good look, but what we did see, even through all his thick fur, looked bad. So we rushed him to a 24-hour emergency vet, and while it turned out to be easily treatable — one of those gross but common enough things — that was an extra expense slapped on when I wasn’t expecting it. Life happens so much.
But it isn’t even the money that is the issue. I have savings for things like this. The bill was high, but nothing compared to what we had to pay when our poor other cat was sick. So Merlin charmed the vet and techs until his brief procedure, and then they sent him home with us with a passel of painkillers and a stiff “Elizabethan” collar. A cone of shame. He’s got to wear it for two weeks, and when we come back from Hawaii we’ll have to take him to his regular vet to get his stitches removed.
The poor guy’s having a hell of a time navigating the house right now, though. Even when we can’t see him we can hear him, and the soft scuffle-thud of his cone smacking into walls and bags. He’s much more cautious about jumping onto the bed or the couch.
Of our household of three humans, Merlin is “my” cat more than anyone else’s, and I’ve fretted about leaving him for the vacation, I admit. A friend will be checking in on him, but it’ll be the first time in 8 years where he’ll be mostly alone. I knew I was going to worry about him even before his little health scare, and now that concern has been amplified. I know that he’ll be fine, and that this is fairly standard. We have an easy plan of action and he’s already back to mugging for food and sassing me about how much he hates his cone. I’m hoping that we can schedule getting his stitches out the day after we get back from Hawaii so that I won’t have to juggle work even more to make it happen. It’s going to be more money. I have edits I need to do as well as rewrites I want to make happen; I have a story that I really want to submit that is this close to being finished. I have my dayjob and its changing expectations; I have new things I want to start writing.
Life happens so much! But I’m still trying to do the best I can, with what I can, and what is available to me.
I’m putting my head down, and I’m muddling through.
Last week I started a new thing on my tumblr, where I will be posting 200 words of a (very) short story a day, Monday-Friday. My goals with this are
- To experiment with much shorter writing than I usually do
- To try and have more finished fiction to share
- To dabble in genres I either don’t have confidence or longer story ideas for
- And honestly, because I want to have fun with shorter things!
While these will be posted on my tumblr daily, somewhere between 5pm – 7pm PST, I will also be posting the fully-compiled version on Wednesdays to this blog.
Today, I’m sharing a story about two girls in love.
But it’s a new month, so I’ve got some new plans. I have a notebook where I write out my productivity goals for the week and month to help me keep things in mind. And of course, a lot of that just involves writing plans about writing, as it were.
At this point my offline life is in a bit of a crunch. My household is headed to Hawaii in a couple of weeks! We’re leaving on the 14th and we’ll be back on the 20th, and while I plan to allot a lot of time to being a completely lazy person and pretend I’m a fancy lady, it does mean we’ve been pretty busy trying to get things ready in the these upcoming weeks. There’s cleaning, buying stuff for the trip, and arranging for someone to come take care of the cat while we’re gone. We’ve hit the point where we’ve realized how little time there is left, and how much there to do.
That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been trying to keep up with things! Writing Plan Number One started last week, where I decided I would write a very short story (1000 words) a week, posted in 200-word increments a day. Obviously these aren’t grand sprawling epics (or even your garden variety novella, the format I’m most familiar with), though I can definitely foresee linking stories together. On top of that, I definitely want to write some connected to my novels as supplements and additions, so for me, that’s all pretty exciting.
For now I’m posting the daily segments on my tumblr, and I will be trying to get those out in the 5-6pm pst hour. (Not so coincidentally, 4:30pm pst is when I get out of my dayjob and head off to write before going home.) My goal is to post the full compilation here when they’re done. My original thought was to do that on Saturdays, but since I write and post regular blog entries on Sundays, I’ve rethought that a little. The new plan is to post the full compilation on Wednesdays, just so that there’s a little spacing.
I’ve enjoyed it, honestly! I am currently working on revising large chunks of a draft finished back in 2016 — a story about a young fantasy-world priest coming to grips with his personal tragedies and his own destiny. It has a lot of things that I like: mythology, unreliable characters, world-ending plots, and kissing. However, I wasn’t terribly happy with the overall story once I was finished and couldn’t determine why. Several insightful betareaders and workshops later, and I finally have an idea of where to go with it! And that’s extremely exciting.
Which means my general writing schedule is a bit skewed as I start pulling out the guts of the story to rework them. But it’s also very nice to have these smaller, shorter pieces to do daily during the week as a break from the bigger project. There’s a different set of challenges in trying to write that short, since every ‘scene’ is exactly 100 words. I tend to overwrite, and one of the things I hope to accomplish with these weekly stories is learning how to be concise. I still very much want to write bigger, longer stories; my writing plan encompasses at least seven pieces that I want to write at least novella-length, if not longer. That’s not including the piece that is almost ready to go, nor the priest story mentioned earlier. Going by that alone, I’m ready with ideas for the next couple of years.
But the honest truth is that I don’t want to do Just One Thing when it comes to writing. There’s a decent amount of advice that notes how the best chance of writing success is to pick a niche, however big or small, and to stick with it. I don’t think it’s bad advice, or wrong advice, and I’m very aware of what I would consider my niche. (Queer fairytales or stories with strong fairytale elements, usually with some sort of either Regency-to-Victorian era aesthetic.) It’s not a bad place to be, either; I love fairytales, and I love writing them. I love working them into what I’m working on in some fashion.
That doesn’t mean I don’t want to branch out, now and then. Or even often! There’s a lot of stuff that is out there that I would love to try. The other genre near and dear to my heart is horror. I love an effective scary story, and I’m always happy to find a new well-written piece of creepypasta. I’m only a very casual dabbler in sci-fi and contemporary stories. Mysteries are great but also out of my element. While I don’t really think I could conceivably write a lot of these things in 1000-word self-contained stories in a week, I’m hoping that making a practice of it will help me get to experiment.
And hopefully, these writing plans will entertain readers, too.
Any time it rained when the sun was shining, my mother would tell me, “The fox is getting married.”
I grew up in Texas, which for many years I considered part of “the South,” as it were. Geographically it made sense, and a lot of the people I knew would instead say “the devil is beating his wife,” which always struck me as both extremely unpleasant (why would domestic violence even be a name for this sort of thing?!) and incongruous (the bright sunny day with the rain coming down felt like a best of both worlds scenario, and why would something so beautiful have such an ugly name?).
I vastly preferred the fox idea. Though to be honest, I had no idea what a wedding really was like; my experiences with those were limited to watching processions on TV — my parents are big fans of the original The Sound of Music so we certainly watched that plenty of times — and one dimly-remembered instance of a wedding at my grandmother’s church. As I recall it now, the service was itself a more USA-style wedding (the bride in white and the minister speaking his blessings) but the entire ceremony was in Korean. And as a kid, I knew more than I do now, but it still wasn’t enough to keep up with what was going on… not to mention a five year old in the audience of a wedding ceremony isn’t going to be paying the most amount of attention.
Still, in my mind, I imagined a fox’s wedding to be a strange and bright thing: of course it had to be, with the weather conditions necessary for one to happen. Of course there’d be a lot of white involved in the decoration and in the outfits of the marrying couple. Of course there’d be food and music, and by the end, at least one pair of foxes would be lawfully bonded.
But once I established that image, I wondered if perhaps they held large group weddings. Sunshowers were a rarity where I lived, and it seemed rather unfortunate if that was constrained by the whims of the weather and the need to go one at a time. Did the wedding end specifically when the sunshower itself did? Were they still allowed to celebrate afterwards? As a child (and even now as an adult, having been to more weddings and having a better idea of what they’re like), the celebration with the food afterwards was the part that appealed to me, personally, the most. Of course I care about my friends being happy with their Officially Sanctioned Partnerships, but I always have — and I assume always will — look forward to the food and socializing after the most.
And surely foxes, clever and hungry and also wanting the very best for their loved ones, would also want to have the part that comes after the wedding: the part with the food and the friendship. It seemed a little cruel to force them to contain all of the elements of “a wedding” to just the period of time for a sunshower.
Like I mentioned last week, when I was a kid, foxes were my favorite animals. The fact that most of the stories I knew painted them as villainous in some fashion didn’t really register to me; I liked that they were small and scrappy and clever, which was something that I (small, soft, and at least smart for my age) admired. I liked that it took brains to defeat them, not a simple show of strength, and I liked that they were not a single set character: it was not simply Fox, in this one story or series, bound by a set personality and arc — it was the fox-sister, leisurely devouring the livers of her borrowed household; it was Fantastic Mr. Fox carrying off his daring chicken heists; it was the fox-courtesan who seduced the Emperor to live a life of hedonistic luxury until she was discovered and dealt with.
I imagined they had their own humanlike societies, hidden away from our view, and every time my mother would say the fox is getting married, I’d think about them breathlessly watching the sky, ready to set up the festivities to go in a heartbeat. Would they pause, the way sunshowers sometimes paused, their heads lifted and hoping for the rain to continue, so that the wedding could as well? If the clouds cleared up and faded, did they simply pack up the party and go home?
Of course, I always pictured a happy ending for all of these foxes. Back then, like now, I always liked those the best. Surely the whole wedding wasn’t dependent on this; surely they just needed the sunshower as a catalyst, a symbol of good luck for the union, but not necessary to keep going.
Somewhat related, I’m planning on trying out a new writing experiment for the upcoming week — one that I can hopefully make into a regular occurrence. My hope is to write a short (1000-word max) story a week, just to practice with flash fiction, and to post 200 words of it a day onto my tumblr and pillowfort. I will be trying to compile them here on this blog for the Sunday blog.
And I’m thinking a fox’s wedding might be a fun place to start.
I had a lot of ambitions about writing about foxes this week, because that’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart. When I was a kid, foxes were my favorite animals; I decided this in the way that small children sometimes do: I read a story that I thought was cool and latched onto it. This was still a point where my friends and I were enthusiastically playing pretend every day, so of course when I had to pick an animal to pretend to be, it was a fox.
I meant to talk about that, and some of my favorite fox stories, but then on Thursday I started getting sick, and pretty much from then on it’s been a blur of sleeping a lot, taking meds, and wheezing pitifully whenever I was meant to talk. It’s not really conducive to any sort of focused time to sit down and write, so my plans for working on this blog post for today kind of fell by the wayside. I could talk about the home remedies that my family utilized when I was growing up — we never did chicken soup, though my mom would make <I>jook</I> whenever someone had stomach troubles, and while there were OTC medications, my parents’ first and foremost response was to make tea of some sort. Ginseng was the most popular, and also (for me as a kid) the most awful.
But that also involves being able to sit upright and focus. This post so far has already taken more concentration than by all rights it really should. Normally, getting words out isn’t a struggle for me; sometimes I drag my feet and mutter about it, but I don’t actually have that much trouble once I’ve actually sat down and omitted to working. But today I’m still sick, so I’m still honestly trying to stay focused and upright without degenerating completely into incoherency. Yikes.
So in lieu of anything like a full blog post, I thought I’d just go ahead and share a bit from a story that I’ve been working on, off and on between larger projects, over the year. (When I say off and on, I do mean off and on; this is the story that I wander back to when I am between working on larger projects. According to my outline, it’s about halfway done, which given all its roadblocks, is pretty exciting.)
And hey, it kind of ties back into what I was going to talk about this week — foxes. Though the fox itself doesn’t come into the story until much later. This is one of those stories that I’d classify as YA, except I think the protagonist is a bit younger than I think normally fits into the genre. Like nearly everything I write, it wants to be a fairytale, of some sort.
Writing about the tiger
The last time I wrote about tigers, it was about how a particularly greedy selfish one helped to create the sun and the moon, and whose blood dyed buckwheat roots red. This was the very first story I can remember hearing about tigers when I was a kid, and so I spent a lot of my childhood thinking that they were sort of the Big Bad Wolf equivalent — the predatory animal that lurked in the shadows to eat misbehaving children.
And while in Korean culture, tigers are considered benign guardian spirits, some aspects of Buddhism considers them a symbol of anger — whether the transformative sort or the mindless kind. Sources vary, of course. But for my own (very basic, at this point) research, it seems like that is the thread that reconciles the stories I heard growing up versus the much more noble and dignified beast that one sees in the wider cultural beliefs.
Because see, other than the sun and moon story, the other two folk stories about tigers that I remember from my childhood were all kind of — not. There’s one that I don’t like very much, about a man who is so angry at his puppy for essentially being a puppy that he leaves it for tiger bait. The story ends happily for the man (and for the dog), but not so much for the tigers.
The one that charms me till this day, though, is the story of the tiger versus the dried persimmon.
(As a side note, I really dislike dried persimmons. That is not a taste I ever acquired. These days I really do like red bean and sesame candies, though it took me years to get over my childhood betrayal, where I bit into a red bean popsicle thinking it was chocolate.)
The dried persimmon story, though, goes a little like this:
One night, a tiger was slinking around a small human village. His hunting that day had been poor, and his belly was empty. His pride was low enough that he was hoping some of the humans had left something out for him to scavenge.
But as he was searching, he heard the sound of a young child crying, and he was drawn to that noise. As he lurked, he could hear the mother, increasingly frazzled, trying to soothe her child. Finally, perhaps driven to a snapping point, she cried, “If you don’t hush, I will feed you to the tigers!”
Of course this excited the tiger very much. While he was not a man-eater by preference, he was very hungry, and a child was far easier than an adult. He lurked as close as he could, his stomach growling and his tail lashing as the child began to cry. He could hear the mother moving around the small cottage and he was certain that at any moment, she would open the door and bring the child to him.
Instead, the mother said, “Shhh, shhh, here’s a dried persimmon for you.”
And at once, the child stopped crying.
The tiger was stunned. What sort of thing could be so incredible, so terrifying, that it would stop a child’s tears more than the threat of a tiger?! Surely this dried persimmon was a beast so great that — even though he had heard of no such thing — it might even pose a threat to him. He held his breath and strained his ears, but still he heard nothing. The dried persimmon had succeeded where he had not.
This in turn weighed on his mind as he turned to look around. What if the dried persimmon was also lurking in this village? He had to be sure to avoid it. So he flattened himself to the ground as best he could, and began to carefully creep his way out. As he went, through, a sudden weight dropped upon his back, nearly knocking him to the ground.
The dried persimmon had come for him!
So he ran as fast as he could out of that village, as fast as his legs could carry him, thrashing as he ran to try and knock the dried persimmon off his back. He bucked, he reared, and he roared; he ran straight into the woods and it was only after that he was able to free himself from the terrible being pursuing him.
And once he was free, he swore he would never, ever return to that village ever again.
(As it turned out, the thing that had fallen upon him was a thief who meant to break into the house he was lurking around. The poor man had dropped down, not knowing a tiger was under him, and once holding onto the tiger, he was too frightened to let go, knowing that the beast could easily attack him in its confused rage. It was only after the tiger entered the woods, and the thief was able to grab a tree branch, that they were both saved.)
And now, my own personal writing tigers — the beasties that I am torn on how to tackle, lest I be sacrificed to the dried persimmon.
Which is to say, I’ve honestly been going back and forth on what I want to do with this blog. I miss blogging! I miss writing in my own voice, versus my narrative voice. But as far as writing meta goes, I don’t think I’m the sort who can give advice; nor am I someone who’s great at writing reviews. I feel like I do a lot better giving that on a 1×1 basis. I’d like to do some blend of short flash fiction and chatting about the thing.
If anyone else has input, I would love to hear it. ╰( ･ ᗜ ･ )╯I’d love to write more short things, but I’d also like to be able to chat with people. Please let me know!
I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and my own relationship with it lately.
There’s a story about a woman whose life is consumed by constant worry. One of her two children is an umbrella seller; the other makes and sells straw sandals. During the summer, one of her friends remarks on how nice the sun feels.
“But I am worried,” the woman said. “My son who sells umbrellas needs the rain, and he must be having a difficult time.”
Eventually the seasons shifted and the rains came. The woman’s friend commented that it was now surely the season of the umbrella seller.
“But I am worried,” said the woman. “My son who sells sandals needs the sun, and he must be having a difficult time.”
So her friend said to her, “You have to stop fretting about such things. Rather than worry, when it is sunny, think, ‘oh, how nice! My son will be able to sell a lot of sandals today.’ And when it is rainy, think, ‘oh, how nice! My other son will be able to sell a lot of umbrellas today.'”
And the woman learned the power of positive thinking from this, and was forever happy.
…Sounds kind of nice, doesn’t it? Like all we’d need is to always think on the bright side of things and then everything will be okay. We’ll be happy forever.
But of course life is more complicated than that. A few weeks ago I mentioned that the general state of the world has been really difficult on my creative drive. And since then I’ve definitely been able to pick up the pace somewhat! I’ve actually started writing regularly again. I’ve got a story about a hapless cambion who’s getting pulled in against his will to care about a very charismatic almost-vampire, and I have a story about a newly-awoken incubus who keeps accidentally seducing people. He tries to cover up incidents with clumsy owl imagery. Beyond that, I’ve got a story that just needs a final edit pass before I can submit it, about a princess who isn’t really a princess falling for the fairy who kidnapped her prince. (All of my writing wants to be a fairytale on some level.)
I even have a brand-new story for preorder, a fairy tale about a guy who wants to be a knight and goes to rescue a prince, only to find the situation is very different from what he expected.
And this is something that I am extremely nervous about, because — for one, it’s a much shorter story than I usually write (about 25K words) and deals with some elements of transphobia. And while I had people read it over for sensitivity issues, that isn’t a guarantee that I will have written it properly or well. I can think of a whole host of things that I am anxious about within this story alone. (Though, let’s be honest, I feel that way about anything I submit, whether it gets accepted or not.)
And honestly, I’m really scared about that. Of course my friends will give me the benefit of the doubt; they know me, and they will trust that even if my best isn’t as good as it could be, that I’ll learn and move forward from that. But as soon as you write something and submit it, it becomes part of the larger, wider world. I have no guarantee that anyone will read it, and I have no guarantee that they’ll like it. Of course I would love it if they did; hell, I’d be ecstatic if everyone read my stories and everyone loved them. Unrealistic as it is, that’s the not-so-secret wish in my heart.
I’ve talked to a number of people about this story since the jitters about it started. I’ve talked to friends with more experience in the field, I’ve talked to my girlfriend (who is my first beta reader in everything original I write), and I’ve talked to friends experienced in other fields of art. They’ve all been very lovely and encouraging, and I’m doing my damned hardest to try and actually believe them. It won’t be the end of the world if a story pans, or if I made mistakes in how I handled the subject matter.* I’m still writing and I’m still trying to get stuff finished up and sent and pushing forward.
* I should note that I would very much like to learn how to improve my handling in the future. I know it’s not anyone’s responsibility other than my own to learn, and I am definitely committed to that.
“Instead of thinking, yikes, there’s a story that’s coming out and what if people don’t like it, I want to think, ‘oh, how nice! I’ve got a new story coming out, and hopefully people will like it.” …Is what I know I should be telling myself, but it’s hard.
How do you handle your nerves? What are your methods for happy distractions?
Or, the sun gets a dog. Building off from last week, and because I am trying to get into the swing of writing shorter (1000 words or less) contained fiction, have something relatively short as a first try.
(And the eclipse.)
On Friday, I jokingly said to my girlfriend that everything about my heritage is “the South” before I moved to the PNW — I was born in Florida, raised in Texas, and both sides of my family come from South Korea. My parents met in an arranged group date, then hooked up again a couple of years later after they both came to the US for schooling, and there they stayed. According to my mother, she clashed with baby me a lot in trying to have pride in a heritage that felt extremely distant and alienating, growing up in a series of very white-populace bubbles.
Ultimately, though, the way my mom won me over to caring more was by buying me a couple of books on Korean fairytales, folklore, and legends. From very early on, I’ve been into fairytales, and folklore, and general mythology; even my interest in the horror genre centers a lot around urban legends, and the modern day mythology that our society builds. As much as I grew up reading very European-centric fantasy and genuinely enjoyed it — still do! — I do find myself going back to those first stories I remember reading.
For example, thinking about the eclipse that’s coming on Monday, let’s talk about how the sun and the moon came to be.
Of course every culture has their own take on this, but the Korean take goes that a single mother is devoured by a tiger on her way home from something — work, a market, something that required her to travel some distance from her home — and the tiger, greedy for more, decides it would very much like to eat her children as well. It disguises itself as her and manages to trick the children, a brother and a sister, into letting it enter the house, but as soon as they realize what’s going on, they flee. As it pursues the children, they pray for the heavens to send them a rope to help them escape.
“For those who are pure of heart and intention, let this rope be strong and steady, but for those who are wicked, let it be frayed and brittle.”
That was the gist of it. And of course, being good kids, they were able to climb all the way to heaven, while the pursuing tiger falls to its death. (Incidentally, this also supposedly explains why buckwheat roots are red: the tiger’s blood stained them that color forever. That was in the version I read, though the variations I’ve read since don’t include that fact. I remember it, though, as one of baby-me’s first exposures to how casually brutal and capricious the world of mythology and fairytales could be.)
But the children do escape. They make it to Heaven safely. But they cannot simply stay there without contributing to the society above the clouds. Ultimately, the Emperor sets the boy to driving the sun and the girl to driving the moon, but the girl, kindhearted but timid, is afraid of the dark and has to switch places with her brother. And she’s a very modest girl, too shy with all the people looking up to admire her, so she began to shine brighter and brighter, until it became impossible to look at her straight on.
(That’s also a thing that later versions I read don’t usually mention. But I’ve always thought it was a nice touch; sun deities are usually bold and proud, so one would assume they would want for people to look at them! Instead it’s this shy young girl who isn’t sure what to do with the attention she’s getting.)
On the other hand, the story that Korea has to explain the reasons behind an eclipse was that the king of a dark kingdom — maybe the underworld, or maybe some strange distant land — is sick of suffering in the darkness, and so he sends a pack of his dogs to steal the sun and the moon for him. The problem is that when the dogs bite at the sun, it’s too hot, and when they bite at the moon, it’s too cold. Eclipses result from the attempts to fetch these things for their master, but those are doomed to fail because of the temperature of those bodies.
In this story, the personification of these heavenly bodies is absent, though I like to think that perhaps there’s some proactivity going on with that brother and sister. I mean, they escaped a tiger that had gone a step further than the Big Bad Wolf; surely they could do more to protect themselves.
You know what? I’ll come back to that one.
I’ve been having a hard time of things lately.
And that feels sort of wrong to say when, in terms of my actual personal day to day life, things are fine. My partner is loving and supportive, my friends and family are healthy or getting help, my day job is boring but steady, my cat is cuddly. Even the hellish weather we’ve had in Seattle for the past couple of weeks has cleared up to cooler smoke-free air (for now).
But if I’m honest, I’ve been having a very hard time engaging on a wider scale since November 2016, and I’m sure people can get why in two guesses or less.
Of course I’m not naive enough to think that it’s a shock that racists still exist in the US. I grew up as one of maybe six Asian students in a “rich white bubble” community in Texas. I was the only Korean. The kids got better about it as we got older — or maybe they just learned to hide it better — but that’s not really the sort of thing you just forget, even as time goes on.
Except I guess it is, on a national level.
Again, it does feel stupid and overdramatic to put it in blunt terms: that ever since the 2016 US presidential elections, my creative drive and drive to socialize have dropped to a trickle, if even that. In my heart I really want to do this thing! I have achieved my dream of being an Actual Published Author and past-me would be in awe and jealous. But there’s also the social aspect of it, where one has to network and do what one can, both to help out others in the community and promote oneself and in that… I have completely flubbed. Both my girlfriend and one of my oldest friends have told me it’s not too late to start doing it, but it feels incredibly daunting, especially in the light of the world right now. How can I talk about “hey, buy my novel, buy my novella,” when the country seems to be on the verge of imploding and taking the rest of the world with it?
(I realize this might be dramatic, again. But to try and keep abreast of politics in the world today is to be exposed to constant doomsayers, and it’s difficult to pick what is the “truth,” such as it exists. Maybe things aren’t so bad. But especially in light of what happened in Charlottesville yesterday, that’s especially hard to believe.)
I’ve finally started taking steps to start writing more seriously again — I have been doing the bare minimum since November, with occasional better days and (much more frequent) cheat days, where I just used things I was editing instead of actual fresh words. And that does feel pretty good! But the writing has always been the easiest part for me. It’s the part where I have to overcome my own inclination towards shyness and wallflowering that has always been difficult, and remains harder than ever.
And that also feels selfish to say. I’m not the only writer who’s shy and anxious. I’m so far from remarkable in that that it’s laughable. The problem is that I have been letting it get the better of me — pretty much since Ravenhearth was published. I keep expecting that magical moment to come where it’s like yes, this is what I should do, this is how I engage! and that’s silly. I know it’s silly. Plenty of others have managed it, and I admire them immensely. Just maintaining a twitter feed with other writers is amazing to me. Those people are so cool! I want to be among their number someday!
But it’s hard to reconcile selling my stuff (softer things, fairytale stories, worlds where the issue isn’t if a boy kisses another boy or a girl kisses another girl but always something else, societal or personal) when we’re in a world where politicians are blustering us to the brink of nuclear war, and the government hems and haws about condemning actual literal white supremacists murdering people in broad daylight.
This isn’t really an excuse. I know that in the end it’s on me to either step up and deal with it, or else resign myself to being unknown and glossed over. I’ve known that for a while, and I’ve been trying my best, at least, to pull myself up out of that even in spite of the disaster of the world outside. I’m doing it slowly, and who knows what will become of me, but I thought at least I should lay that all out, as an introduction and an apology and maybe a greeting.