When We Surrendered Gladness

Hot breath on collarbones and
cotton sheets between my toes
is all I really need to know
when questioning contentment.

See, there’s no feeling quite like
fingers lingering lax in hair or
misplacing last night’s underwear
when waking braced with bliss.

Your hands, they never told me no,
and I, how I, forgot to go
when your room leaked with shadows
and we surrendered gladness.

Morning never tasted sweet
before I met it from your sheets
while listening to your soft heartbeat —
in the arms of satisfaction.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

Godspeed and Gunfire

Bang.

“Godspeed and gunfire, my friend,” he says, wiping his wet hands down the front of his shirt. “Or is it…hellfire? Hell, does it matter? There’s no hope for us now, so if the devil smites us so be it.”

He gives you a sideways look, his hooded eyes bright and provoking. “You don’t honestly believe in that crap, do you? In hell? The devil?” His eyebrows lift as he tucks the pistol into his suspenders. “Oh, look at your face. You do. God damn, then this must be awkward. Sorry — gosh damn.

You think of something to say. You can’t. Everything’s still fuzzy.

Shit.” He only now seems to realize the mess on the front of his shirt. “This is a new shirt. Freshly pressed, too. Think this can come out? Always heard cold salt water did the trick. Anyway — I wouldn’t worry about all that eternal damnation stuff if I were you. You know what they say: hell’s a party.”

You don’t know who says that.

He’s rambling now, in that off-center, manic way of his. “Hell’s one hell of a time. It’s where all the fun people are at. And if not, hell is empty and all the devils are here. So it can’t be too bad.” He shakes his leg out, like a dog, and turns away, away from you, away from the mess. “Godspeed and gunfire,” he whispers, moving a hand through his unkempt hair. “Bang, bang, bang.”

You reach after him. He can’t be like this. Not now.

He twists on his heels, and you are suddenly reminded of just how tall he is, how impressive and sharp-edged and outlined by shadows. “What? You’re not going cold on me, are you? Remember, you wanted this too. This isn’t all on me. If I’m going, I’m dragging you down into hell with me. Godspeed my fucking foot. You signed off on that pipe dream the second you came to me, eyes bleary, acting all broken and shit. Oh, help me. God, help me. It needs to end. Make it end. Well, Hallelujah, you got what you wanted. It ended at the end of my pistol, and now all I’ve got is a stained shirt to show for it.”

This isn’t what you wanted. This isn’t what you agreed to. This is ugly and wrong.

His eyeteeth glisten when he smiles. “If you think about it, I’m kind of like your guardian angel. What’s the prayer? Ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Well, here I am. At your side. To light — ” His suspenders snap against his chest as he extracts his gun. “– and guard –” He lifts the pistol, index finger rubbing the trigger, teasing it. He laughs. “To rule –” The gun is now in front of him, pointing at his own face. “– and guide.”

He turns the pistol directly on you.

“Godspeed and gunfire, my friend. I hear hell’s a party.”

Bang.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

 

Writing Kindling #8

Writer’s block may seem like a terminal illness, but sometimes the smallest of sparks can “kindle” your craft. Today I bring you a list of ten 1-2 sentence writing prompts that will help build up your white blood cells and give writer’s block a good kick in the pants. Copy them, tweak them, consider them, leave them. It’s up to you!


  1. The audience gasps as one.
  2. I stir the tea leaves furiously.
  3. My old house looks haunted tonight.
  4. That night, I slept under the dead tree.
  5. The steamboat’s engine shuddered to a halt.
  6. My voice rings against the ceiling beams of the church.
  7. I don’t remember the impact, but I remember the pain. And then I remember the black.
  8. He planted a light kiss on the urn, and hid it away under his bed.
  9. “Hail Gary, full of paste,” the little boy prayed fervently into his steepled hands.
  10. I squished the spider in the bathtub with my shampoo bottle, and I’m quite proud of myself.

I’d love to hear what you come up with. Feel free to share your writing in the comments!

Happy writing!:)

We Must Be Like Song Writers

I’m a bit of an instrumental music junkie, but as a writer, I can’t help but admire a song with really well written lyrics.

There’s more to writing than simply finding the right words for the right context. A well crafted paragraph must contain fluidity, musicality, melody. The sound a word makes must be taken into account when judging how it will flow in your sentence; the syllables and consonance and assonance are subconsciously noted when listening to a beautiful word. I’ve heard it said that the most aesthetically pleasing phrase in the English language is not “love” or “compassion” or “mother” — it’s “cellar door.”

Say it out loud now, without attaching any context or meaning to it. Cellar door.

Of course, we can’t disregard connotation when writing a piece of fiction or non-fiction, so we must be like song writers  — deliberate in our meaning, yet fluent in our presentation.

I’ll throw to the wind an old favorite of mine.

Like faithful oxen through the chalk,
With dragging tails of history walk.
We soon confuse the compass and the cross.
Carefully and cursively we fill our traveling diaries with loss.

The above are lyrics from “History Book,” a song by the (now broken up) band Dry the River. It’s a song about young lovers growing up and carrying the past with them.

Let’s take it apart, shall we?

The Technical: The very first line — Like faithful oxen through the chalk — is iambic tetrameter with consonance on the repeated th– and f- sounds. The second line — With dragging tails of history walk. — follows near suit. We soon confuse the compass and the cross. Carefully and cursively we fill our traveling diaries with loss. — these lines are ripe with alliteration, repeated s- and c- consonants, careful stressing of syllables, and all around listening pleasure. Seriously. Listen to the lead singer open with these lines, and your ears will melt down your neck.

The Connotation: The image of oxen dragging tails through chalk as they migrate for days upon days is a powerful one. Like faithful oxen, the lead singer croons, because he and his lover are akin to those ancient, nomadic beasts. They have travelled far; they have learned much in the ways of love and individuality and life. They have gone on so long, that they can’t tell the difference between the compass and the cross. What is guiding them anymore? Religion or their own intuitions?

I’m not saying you have to make everything a symbol (please don’t do that) or fling alliteration about all willy-nilly (the absolute worst), but writing and thinking like a song writer can help you feel present in your work. By weighing sound and subject, you can tell a story while setting a melody.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

Uncertain

Drown me in curtains;
call me uncertain —
but when will we be left in peace

to sit in stillness,
free from our illness?
Then maybe the rocking will cease

when we toss our anchor,
with hearts free from rancor —
we’ll lull on the surface so sweet.

But here there’s no current,
and they said we weren’t
worth the dock under their feet.

So drown me in curtains;
I’ll say I’m uncertain —
the sand on the shore is too hot

to maroon our stories.
I won’t capsize our glory —
let’s bob out here with the rope taut.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

Music Mondays: Part XVII

Today’s theme: surrealism across genres!

A piece of writing is surreal when it is disorienting and dreamlike — kind of like a fantastic hallucination that feels strangely familiar yet undeniably alien. It transports you to a place that you can picture, but can never in your wildest fantasies imagine existing.

When I think of surreal literature, I think of classic writers like Edgar Allan Poe and modern authors such as Neil Gaiman and Haruki Murakami. Each of these writers practices his crafts in very different genres — from poetry and dark fantasy to science fiction and magical realism.

The following two playlists follow different moods, different tones, different genres. But both are rooted in the surreal, the otherworldly not-quite-thereness that captivates so many readers and writers.



Happy writing!:)

On My Hiatus and the Relief of Writing

To my fellow Scribes:

I know there are not many of you, and I know that what I post on this blog is not always top priority. Still, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you — for reading and being there and caring.

I’ve been on hiatus from blogging for the past few weeks for a couple of reasons. One: I had to take finals and graduate high school and the general amount of things to do and goodbyes to say became a tad overwhelming. Two: I really needed to take some time to get my head straight. My personal life is in a bit of an upheaval, and the stressful transition has not been gracious to my mental health. I’m sure many of you can understand.

The summer before my senior year of high school, I attended the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio, which is a writing camp that draws teenagers from all over the world. For my senior project, I wrote an essay about what I took away from that summer. Today, I would like to share an excerpt with you.



When my parents greeted me at the airport after IYWS, they wanted to know how I felt about the experience.

How I felt? How could I possibly explain to them how I felt? What I did? Who I met? I struggle writing this paper now because a part of me fears forgetting. I don’t want to forget what happened in Iowa, and writing about it cements the knowledge that it is over, and runs the risk that I will miss a detail that at the time, felt so important, so crucial. I want to do my experience justice.

I suppose how I feel is…relieved.

I am relieved that I am not the only one who prioritizes writing over sleep and social interactions. I am relieved that I now have a network of friends and teachers who will help me, honestly and often brutally, improve. I am relieved that there is a place where saying that you want to pursue a writing career is not given leery looks and paired with questions like, “Ok, but what are you going to do to, you know, make a living?” I am relieved that there are writers out there who can make a living and enjoy their craft for what it intrinsically is — and maybe they don’t make a lot of money, but they’re happy where they are. I am relieved that writing isn’t an unrealistic dream.

It might not seem like much, but learning and writing and reading with aspiring writers and established authors has helped restore a bit of faith in myself. I think that before Iowa, people had me convinced that writing is a creative hobby, but it is not a livelihood. It is not something worth studying or pursuing professionally. You do it in your down time, and don’t expect anything from it. A lot of people, people who I considered friends, told me that they admired my work, but didn’t understand why I would want to fork over college tuition to study literature and composition. My friends at home wanted to be physicists and doctors and engineers, professions that, in their words, “paid off.”

Now, I am going to expect everything from my writing. My pay off will be my own satisfaction. 

Attending the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio was a great, immeasurable relief.



Thank you, fellow Scribes. I am pleased to announce that my hiatus is over, and I have an entire summer’s worth of writing tips, poetry, and prompts ready to share with you. 🙂

The Drunken Soldier — an excerpt from my novel

Ta-da. Yet another hopelessly unedited, entirely out-of-context excerpt from my 100k word novel without a name! Starting next week I am going to dive into my second draft, so I thought I’d go on an excerpt spree for sentimentality’s sake. More likely I’m going to end up cringing at this later.


The drunken soldier’s voice wriggled like a worm unwelcome into Aleron’s ear. His fingers twitched around the handle of his tankard as he willed himself against bouncing to his feet and causing a scene right there in the middle of the tavern. But each word that dripped off the drunkard’s lips set his teeth grinding, and not even the bard’s thunderous lute strumming could muffle the blathering. The man in question, who sat spilling out of his jerkin onto a table behind Aleron, was surrounded by three other poxy-faced soldiers. Their viscous laughter trailed after his every word, and Aleron wouldn’t have been so bothered if it were not for the nature of their ‘conversation.’

“Bleated like a sheep, he did!” the soldier garbled. “Wept for his dear ol’ mum breaths before I sep’rated his body from his head! Thought he was some Titan, but I’ve never seen a Titan bleed so redly before!” This earned him a hearty round of guffaws from his comrades. “I dare any imp to run me through! I stood before the hoards of them, and I roared, Do me your worst! But their skinny swords cracked clean like glass against my blade. I tell yez, all them Armaxese and Syonseeri are no better than the dirt I piss on. Craven louts, ev’ry one of them.”

Aleron stared fiercely into his mug. Don’t get involved. Don’t get involved, he thought. Keep your stupid head low.

All at once, he pushed back from the table, the legs of his chair skidding along the floor. He stood, rolled his sleeves to his elbows, and turned to face the dribbling entourage.

“Them slate-skins and imp-eyes…they’re the real leeches o’ the realm. Eatin’ our food and buildin’ their huts on our soil! They call themselves Titans — harmph! Why, just the sight o’ one of them makes me want to —”

“Gouge their imp eyes out? Rip their leech tongues from their mouths and force them to chew on their own taste buds?”

The soldier’s bottom lip hung like a dead slug, his voice suddenly lost as he beheld Aleron. Clad in dirty riding clothes with nothing but a stocky blade holstered to his belt, seventeen year old Aleron Aardale was not the most menacing of sights. He was all shoulder blades and grasshopper limbs, with dark skin that smoldered under the velvet light of the fire and tight-sprung hair that cast coiled shadows over his forehead. While not intimidating, he was dramatic: a faded white scar etched over his brow and across his right eye, and he had lips that seemed to be created for the sole purpose of smirking.

“Oh, please don’t stop on my account,” he said. “I find it ever so fascinating, how many ways a man can squash a rat. May I offer any suggestions? I find it’s very effective to cut their toes off one by one before you cave in their brains. Adds for a striking dimension to torture.”

Get out. Get out before you make the big man with the sword angry. Yes, that would be the rational thing to do. But for all his supposed sense, Aleron’s boots remained sealed to the floor, and his eyes held the soldier’s, searching, digging, reaching for any reaction.

At first he thought it was fury that roiled in the soldier’s eyes, but then the man’s whiskered chin shook, and he burst forth in a raucous fit of laughter. His companions joined in, their guffaws taking turns slapping Aleron across the face. He could feel his ears smoking, burning off the fumes of his fury, and he was about to open his mouth when the soldier spoke.

“Well the lowest of the louts has come to play t’night! Isn’t this a pretty twist, boys?”

His friends nodded, their eyes laced with drink.

“Pretty as a garden sparrow.”

“Bleed me dry it if I don’t cry!”

“Cut off their toes before crackin’ their skulls, you say?” the soldier continued. “Must say I quite like that one. Let’s try it out on you, shall we?” A shadow darkened his eyes, and a grin slithered across his lips as his hand itched for the longsword at his hip.

“Hold there, good sir!” Aleron said quickly as he took a step back into the table. “There’s no need to resort to such base acts. I’m only trying to help you, after all. You see, friend, we’re on the same side!”

The soldier snorted, and his fingers found the hilt of his blade. “Friend? All I see before me is a cowardly slate-skin, some Syonseeri spy tryin’ to reap me of secrets.”

“I assure you, if I were hunting down Edylarion strategies than you would be the last sorry sod I went to.” 

The soldier’s jaw clenched in iron, and he stormed to his feet, swaying a bit as the mead overtook him. The other men stood beside him, and suddenly all of their hands were at their swords, as if daring Aleron to breathe another word.

He nearly knocked over a bench as he took another step back. You bloody fool. You should’ve left while you could. “The Hawk of Highfeather!” he blurted out as his heart leapt into his mouth. His eyes shifted among the reddened men. “Surely you’ve heard of him?”

They paused, if ever so slightly, and the soldier curled his upper lip. “What’re you playin’ at?”

“I’m offended! Don’t you recognize me?” 

Aleron found delight in watching the slow trudge of understanding across their thick brows. 

The man on the right was the first to voice it. “You’re…the Hawk of Highfeather?”

A smirk traipsed along Aleron’s lips. “The Hawk of Highfeather. Wielder of Words. Black Breath. I go by many names; call me what you like. But in the end I am the same man. A man of Madric’s army. A man whom you should think twice of before calling a slate-skinned lout.”

He held onto the thread of hope that it wasn’t disgust, but consideration that crossed their eyes. Perhaps they would erupt in laughter again and go back to their drinks, slurring on about their great conquests against the rats of the East. Maybe…just maybe telling them that he was the Hawk of Highfeather would earn him a strand of respect. 

But, as the case often was, Aleron should’ve listened to the prying voice in his head telling him to shut his damn mouth.

“You’re telling me,” the soldier said slowly, his words seeping together, “that the great Hawk of Highfeather, the messenger of the Rosewater War, the breather of a thousand fates…is a soot-faced, Syonseeri boy?”

Ouch. Aleron offered up a feeble grin. “In the flesh.”

With that, the men quaked in wet, sopping laughter, and for the briefest echo of a second, Aleron prayed that it was all in good jest. His voice melded into theirs with a nervous chuckle, and all the while he inched away from the table towards the door at the other end of the tavern.

But blackness bled into their laughs, and the silver sound of four swords being unsheathed at once grated against Aleron’s ears. The bard’s playing dropped off on a sour note, and a procession of drink-addled gasps traveled through the room. Everything was still, and the soldier’s gray eyes glinted in an unspoken dare.

Aleron turned on his heels so quickly that the wooden boards beneath his feet squealed in protest, and with a flap of his cloak he shoved past the other tavern-goers, tripping over benches and kicking aside empty flagons on his break to the door. He heard the clamber of chair legs behind him, but didn’t dare turn back his gaze as he clipped a barmaid on the shoulder. “Sorry,” he mumbled before leaping over the legs of a plastered man on the floor.

A series of muddled shouts spilled after him, but he was already at the door, kicking it open and disappearing into the night.


© 2016 Stellular Scribe

How To Avoid Being A Jealous Writer

Artistic envy is easier than ever in this digital age. As writers, we naturally gravitate towards other creatives online to follow their work. At first it’s all good and inspiring, but after a few book promotions here, a blog blast there, it doesn’t take much to feel jealous.

I’ve experienced it myself: feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, that I’m never doing enough, that I can never compete. The world is filled with brilliant writers who have worked hard and found tremendous luck, and sometimes I wonder why I can’t just slip into success like them.

The problem is magnified when the object of envy is a close friend. You love them. You want to support them. But you feel sick to your stomach after reading the tenth Facebook post about their good fortune. You want to simultaneously congratulate them and shrink into a hole when they write something spectacular.

I’m not perfect. I still find myself thinking, “Why do you even try?” But I’ve managed to lessen the bite of the green-eyed monster by taking the following steps:

  1. Accept that we’re all brutal on the inside. To ourselves. To others. And it’s ok to feel crummy. It’s ok to admit it to yourself. Because if you acknowledge your jealousy, you acknowledge that everyone has feelings of self-doubt and resentment sometimes. Chances are, that exact person who you’re envious of is just as insecure as you.
  2. *slaps you upside the head* Now pull yourself together! Jealousy won’t get you any further than a blank page and a case of qualms! Life is too short and your creativity too expansive to keep wondering “what if?” and “why try?” *pats you on the shoulder* There, now. Sorry I had to get curt there. Shall we go on?
  3. Recognize your accomplishments. Maybe that’s writing a few sentences a day; maybe it’s getting published in a magazine. Rejoice in yourself and what you have done, because dang it, you’ve worked hard and you should love yourself and your passions first and foremost.
  4. Realize that the object of your jealousy got there for a reason. More often than not, it’s because they worked hard and put in the time and learned the business. Sometimes people get lucky; I get that. It’s an unpredictable industry. But if you accept that they deserve their success, then it’ll be much easier for you to congratulate them and figure out the steps you can take to achieve your own goals.
  5. Set goals for yourself. Maybe you want to query at least one agent a week or write one thousand words a day. Small or large, giving yourself something to look forward to will help keep your mind off feelings of uncertainty and inferiority. It’ll give you something to feel proud of!
  6. Think about why you’re jealous and put it into perspective. Is it because someone you know got a big-name, six figure book deal? There’s a difference between working for an art and throwing your art to the wind and hoping it lands on a publisher who is in a good mood. It is in no way an indication of your talent or worth if you do not have those same opportunities. What it really comes down to is what makes you happy: making art or raking in the profit?
  7. If need be, remove yourself. Hide someone’s feed on Facebook. Take a break from their blog for a week. If you like them and you’re jealous, take a break. If you don’t like them and you’re jealous, remove them entirely. Blocking someone is never the best solution, but it can help if feelings of personal inadequacy are impossible to shake off.
  8. Wish other writers well. This is the hardest part, but it’s arguably the most important. Without each other, our art goes nowhere. It speaks to no one. Think about a time someone complimented your work and how you felt. Think about how you would feel if you accomplished something that you cared about and poured your heart into, and were only received with jealous eyes. Support other writers, because one day they may be the ones wishing you well.

Happy writing!

© 2016 Stellular Scribe

Image: “Writer’s Block” by Drew Coffman