fiction

Mice and Rats: A Flash Fiction Piece

I sat at the train station. Something moved on the tracks. It was nighttime, so I couldn’t see what it was. It might have been a rat.

            Unlike most people, I’ve always found mice and rats fascinating. I stood up and stared at the movement. Yup—it was a rat.

            I wished I could take a picture of the critter. But everyone would’ve consider me crazy. While I still didn’t mind mice and rats, I couldn’t pull my phone out of my purse.

            Just a few weeks ago, my husband had called an exterminator for a rat. He had fit in with the majority, who disliked mice and rats.

            Anyway, the exterminator had come. He’d been about to put out rat poison when I’d seen the rat and had said, “Before you put out that rat poison, I’d like to take a picture of the rat.”

            The exterminator had looked at me like I’d had five noses. He’d put out the poison before I could even photograph the rodent. And I hadn’t wanted to take a picture of it after it’d died.

            Not only had the exterminator considered me crazy, but so did my husband. I was aware that mice and rats carried disease. Nevertheless, I’d still considered them interesting.

            If I were ever alone, and I saw a mouse or rat far away from me, I would love to photograph it. But I was never alone in Queens, not even in my home. I lived in an apartment. While the others were in their own sections, I could still hear their voices, TV’s, music, and more.

            I hoped to move out and live on Long Island at some point—in a place of my own. Purely for me.

Writing

Save Time with Shorthand Writing

My handwriting has always been sloppy. I have also written big and not very quickly. Sometimes, in school, I fell behind in handwriting assignments.

I also have preferred to handwrite my stories at times. Why? Because there are no computer distractions, such as the internet, and I found my handwriting speed to be, ironically, faster in recent years. However, because of the quicker motions, my hands often hurt. So I couldn’t write as much as I wanted, even if I abbreviated things (i.e. u for you).

I discovered shorthand writing when looking up ways to hasten up my handwriting. At first, I was resistant to it because I felt it would’ve involved too much work. But boy, was I wrong. It didn’t take a very long time to learn. In fact, it almost became a default habit.

I started out with writing the alphabet in shorthand. Then I wrote short phrases such as “I love you” and “happy birthday”. After that, I moved onto short songs that don’t repeat phrases and that I knew by heart. Although it was no longer holiday season, I translated the lyrics to “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” into shorthand. Hey—no one was going to see it, anyway. Nor would anybody know what the sentences said. I also translated a couple showtunes into shorthand. Finally, I did entire first pages of books, such as “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”.

Due to other things happening, I haven’t used shorthand writing in a long time. However, I will come back to it. It’s good to keep up with something that can expedite your handwriting, as long as you don’t have to share the works with other people.

art

Mini Art Show: Squid Piñata

In my senior year of college, I took a sculpture class. For our first assignment, we had to make piñatas. Our professor discouraged the traditional donkey piñata and filling it with candy. He wanted us to be more creative.

I intended to make an octopus piñata. But it ended up looking like a squid. So I made it a squid. Although squids are often pinkish gray, I made mine orange.

We were supposed to start off with smaller models. But my practice one was kind of big. So I got to turn it into my final project.

It was no joke that this project involved a ton of work. From putting the cardboards together, pasting paper onto it, and filling it, I would spend hours at night working on it.

Because squids have ink, I chose to fill my piñata with pens. And not just regular ones—colored pens. You know why—to make more artsy.

We hung up our piñatas at an event. Sadly, it rained later. But I did hear that someone got to hit my piñata and get the pens out.

Originally, I wanted to give the piñata a hat. But due to the work involved and the tight deadline, I had to abandon that plan. I do love putting humor in art, though. Nevertheless, I got a good grade.

Writing

Unintentional Symbolism and Messages I’ve Made in My Writing

Image from Pixabay

Have any of you wrote something and didn’t realize anything significant about your work until long after? I have. They are symbols and messages I didn’t discover until a lengthy time after writing the projects.

For instance, in my first book, “The Frights of Fiji” (formerly, “From Frights to Flaws”), there are mermaid-like women, but with dolphin tails, who sing certain songs as a way of informing others of their presences. Those songs ended up relating to the situations they were encountering or leaving.

In my second book, “The Uncontrollable Curse” (formerly “Wizardry Goes Wild”), my MC wants her dog to attack the antagonist, who is a skeleton. At the time I wrote the story, I tied that dog vs. skeleton situation with historical context—not because of the “dog-eating-bones” stereotype.

Another unintentional message I ended up making in that installment was about history repeating itself. I’m not going to spoil anything, of course (“The Uncontrollable Curse” hasn’t even come out yet), but the book does tie a lot of Puritan and Salem Witch Trials content. My MC is cursed with involuntary magic. When she does it, others misunderstand and become afraid of her. This ties to how people during Pilgrim and witch hunt times were miscomprehended and feared when they were just different. While people who were found guilty of witchcraft were hanged and/or burned, the “witch” (my MC) is penalized for her sorcery by getting detention at school, suspended, excluded from activities, and more (I won’t give away anything else).

I have yet to discover any accidental messages or symbols in my third book. But hey—it might happen.

Writing

Characters: When All of Their Flaws Are Too Hard to Apply

Image from Pixabay

Ah, characters: you’ve got to love or hate them—or have some opinion on them. They also shouldn’t be perfect. The hero should do wrong things and get disliked at times and the villain should get liked at times.

However, this is super-difficult—at least for me it is. I have a tendency to protect my main character in my novels. I like her a lot. I feel sorry for her. And because of those, I tend to make her hardly flawed. At most, she may do a few wrong things and at milder levels. The worst she has done in my book series was unauthorized filming and lying about not doing it. That’s actually a serious offense.

Anyway, I’m probably not the only writer who has trouble making certain characters flawed. Of course, there are characters who are unfriendly, but not evil. And obviously, there is conflict in my stories. But I think I know why I have difficulty getting my protagonist to misbehave.

One: it wasn’t until the plot of my first book’s first edition was nearly complete when I found out that protagonists should behave badly or do wrong things. When rewriting my first book after removing it from the market, I couldn’t make my main character more flawed as the major elements had already been established. Two: I have recently become very uncomfortable around conflict. Not just in real life, but also in fiction. Yes, I have stopped certain books and movies because I loathed how the characters were being treated. Now while writing my third book, I have no plans to make my MC do really bad things. Yes, she won’t be perfect. In fact, she will have trouble controlling her emotions. But I will stop there on that.

Writers fall in love with their heroes. They become attached to them. So they may have trouble making them behave badly. However, someone told me that the best books have characters who misbehave a lot.

Now if you’re creating children’s stories, there are limits to how badly the characters can act. Of course, it would be acceptable (and would probably engage readers) if the protagonists started food fights at school, got sent to the principals’ offices, and were punished by their parents. However, you could not have them do something that would be inappropriate. Not just drugs or drinking, but also activities that could lead to death or serious injuries. Otherwise, parents won’t want their kids reading your books.

Do you notice that lack of perfectly behaved characters in fiction? Most likely. And that’s because people want flawed characters. In fact, sometimes that’s essential to the storylines.

I’ll give a few examples from Disney movies. In The Lion King, when Simba talks to Scar about that shadowed area that his father forbade him to go, Scar says that only the bravest lions would enter. “Brave” is the big, main keyword. That was what encouraged Simba to check it out, and, of course, that led to conflict crucial for the plot. If Scar had said that only the dumbest lions would go there, Simba might not have gone because he wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’m dumb.” He was in too good of a mood to say such a thing. And then, there would have been a lot less conflict. And without enough conflict, the story would’ve been dull, and the film would’ve drastically failed—or maybe not have even been green-lit.

In Beauty and the Beast, after the beast releases Belle from the dungeon tower, he leads her up to her new room and says that she can go anywhere, except the forbidden west wing. Later Belle is curious about the west wing and enters it, discovering the enchanted rose and the portrait of the beast when he was a person. The beast catches her and forces her out.

Spoiler:

At the end, when the beast transforms back into a human, Belle recognizes him from the painting. Then they live happily ever after.

If Belle had listened to the beast, or the beast had not prohibited her from going to the west wing, then the ending might’ve resulted in the prince re-explaining how he’d become a beast. Or—he might not have changed into a better character. Therefore, Belle wouldn’t loved him, and he would’ve failed to break the spell he and the servants had gone under.

So there you have it. Notice the pattern in both examples? Let that help you.

Writing

The Dialogue… It’s so Incredibly Difficult!

Image from Pixabay

Why is it so hard? Because it needs to be relevant to the storyline, not offensive, and sound natural to the person speaking it, taking their age, time, where they live, and other demographics in mind. You need to listen to how people speak.

Yet, many people, especially those the ages of middle grade characters, have said little to nothing in my presence. Yup—people watching is tougher than you think, excluding the risk of those folks thinking that you’re stalking them. You could watch movies too, but that doesn’t really help, either. Another option is to read books and see how other authors write their characters’ dialogue.

But the hardest challenge with dialogue, overall, is having characters react believably to extreme situations, especially in fantasy. I write fantasy and I cannot stress enough how difficult it is to make characters react naturally to high levels of danger. No matter how hard I try, readers have said that the characters’ reactions were muted, unnatural, and too accepting. It’s so frustrating!

However, I found a solution, besides receiving help from editors. I print out the story and read the dialogue out loud. I was surprised to discover how unnatural some lines were—just by reading them out loud. So I changed the words.

Observing others is fine up to a certain extent. Also, a lot of people are quiet in public. Many even put on faces in public and might behave differently in their homes. Reading other books could work, as well. But I find reading the dialogue out loud helps the most.

Writing

On Writing my Third “Magical Missions” Novel

This process has been SUPER difficult for me. I meant that. For two years, I couldn’t finish a single darn draft. Then, last year, I discovered that I needed to start shorter and sloppier. I realized that my progress differed from other writers. I needed to simplify things drastically. While others write 100,000 words and have to cut, I will have to write 10,000 words and then expand. But that’s another post.

Anyway, the first installment “The Frights of Fiji” is available on Amazon here. The second installment, “The Uncontrollable Curse” can be pre-ordered right here. The third novel is currently titled “Enchanted for Eternity” (which might change) and still has a ways to go. I am writing a synopsis for the current draft. I’m hoping that plot can work for the final draft. Really—I just want this project to be done. About 3.25 years of this WIP have passed and I cannot tell you how many times I wanted to quit.

Yeah—finding an exciting plot was sooo hard. Even recently, long after I completed a full first draft from January to February last year (2018), I have gotten bored with some of my plots. However, the one I’m working on actually sounds pretty exciting, even though I’m not done with the synopsis.

But the idea has stayed the same. My main character, Alyssa, is cursed with magic that she needs to learn to control and keep permanently. I’ll release more information once the story’s pretty much done and nearing publication, which might be early fall, as of now.

art

Colored Pencils Plus Photoshop Smudging Equals a Beautiful Image

I am not kidding or exaggerating one bit. I tried this technique and discovered how it would’ve resulted. And guess what? It succeeded.

I didn’t even realize that mixing different colors of the colored pencils would add more dimension and tones to my image below. The most amateurish part is the marks.

This is the photo I took with my phone. Now see the Photo-shopped image below.

Look at the difference. It’s as if a professional illustrated this.

You can see the different colors of the hair, skin, and shirt. Why did I choose blue for the background, you may ask? I felt it would contrast more and would represent positivity and happiness.

Smudging in Photoshop does wonders. I probably will keep up with coloring in colored pencils and smudging the hues in Photoshop.

It’s not that I will give up coloring digitally or painting traditionally. This will just be an additional technique.

You color with different colors in the same hue. You remain mindful of tints and tones based on where the area of light and shadows are. Then you take a picture and upload it digitally. Or you can scan it. Whatever works for you. Then you open it in Photoshop, click the smudge tool, and smudge away. That’s how you get dimension and not just flat colors.

You can make any subject you’d like. You could even do abstract drawings. Anything will work as long as you have fun.

fiction

The Deal: A Flash Fiction Piece

I had received a D on my science test. My teacher, Mrs. Wellington, had given me extra help prior. But for some reason, biology ended up a weakness of mine.

            I considered it strange since I had enjoyed studying animals growing up. I would read about them, talk about them, and beg my parents to take me to zoos and aquariums.

            I entered my house. My mom got off the phone.

            “Jade, we need to have a talk.”

            I sat with my mom.

            “You promised me straight A’s for all of ninth grade.”

            “I’m sorry,” I said.

            “I think I’m going to have to make you miss your class trip to Ocean Life Park.”

            “No!”

            “You want to have fun, you need to maintain good grades.”

            I covered my head.

            “All right, if you really want to go, here’s the deal. You get A’s in all your classes for a week. Plus, you do every chore exactly as I ask. No mistakes. If you do everything right, I will let you go on that trip. If not, you are going to miss the trip.”

            I gazed at my mom. “Deal.”

            “Good. Now can you wash the dishes, please?”

            “Yes.” I stood up and rinsed each one. My shirt got soaked along with my hair. Nevertheless, I continued.

            After drying the dishes, I went to my room and did my homework. My mom knocked on the door.

            “Yes?”

            She opened it. “Jade, you forgot a knife in the sink.”

            I gasped. “No, I… I couldn’t have.”

            “Come see for yourself.”

            Gulping, I followed my mom downstairs. We entered the kitchen and approached the sink. Yup—one butter knife remained.

            “I guess you’re going to miss that trip goodbye.”

            “Mom, I’m sorry. I-I didn’t see it.”

            “We made a deal. We’re not going to break it.”

            The phone rang. My mom answered it. I stared and breathed. It couldn’t be my dad on the other line.

            “The trip is cancelled?” my mother asked.

            “No,” I said.

            My mother remained on the line.

            “Oh, okay.” She hung up. “Jade, your school trip to that ocean place has been canceled.”

“I knew it.”

“The deal is broken.”

“I sighed.”

“But we can consider going there as a family… for dad’s birthday.”

I grinned.

fiction

Friends for a Party: A Flash Fiction Piece

I looked forward to my eighteenth birthday party. It would happen in two weeks. We would host a movie night at my house.

            I’d sent out the invitations yesterday via snail mail. Why? Because I didn’t want anyone to see who else had been invited.

            Now that might sound harsh. However, my best friends, Sophie and Danielle, had fought last week. Danielle had done something to Sophie that had led to Sophie blocking Danielle in every form of communication. Sophie had messaged me on Facebook saying that she never wanted to talk to Danielle again.

            I had said nothing. I mean—I was about to come of age. Why should an adult have to put up with that drama?

            I received a phone call from Sophie. Sighing, I answered.

            “Hey, Candace, I got your invitation to your party.”

            “Okay.”

            “You didn’t invite Danielle Josephson, did you?”

            I said nothing. I could not think of any answer that would keep Sophie from getting upset.

            “Candace, are you there?”

            “Yeah, I’m still here.”

            “So aren’t you going to answer my question?”

            “I… I…”

            “You invited her?”

            “Well, I’m friends with her too.”

            “Are you kidding me? She was driving me crazy.”

            “I’m sorry. But that’s not my problem.”

 “Candace, how could you?”

            “Well, I can’t un-invite her.”

            “Whatever. I’m busy that day, anyway.” Sophie hung up.

            I looked down. I should never have to choose between friends. I shared an equal level of friendships with both Sophie and Danielle.

            I received more messages. My other guests responded. Most said that they could come. A few said they were unsure.

            At least I had friends who cared about me as well as each other. Because this was the last time I could celebrate my birthday with them. Then we’d all go off to college.

            I focused on the others and suppressed Sophie and Danielle’s situation in my mind. If neither could come, that didn’t matter. Those who were willing to celebrate with me mattered more.