Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Monthly Showcase - January 2017

So I've decided that, for future posterity (and for my own reasons), I would create a post at the end of each month to compile every work I've done for that month with some personal reflection about them and a bit of an explanation of how they came to be (with handy links to the work for convenience). Or, in the event that I don't post any original work for the month, a reason why I didn't have anything to post. It will also likely include one of my other interests that I may feel like sharing. This compilation will exclude any journals or personal rants, or anything else of that nature.

So, onward!

The Dog Who Pooped Like a Cat:
I actually had three ideas for my children's picture book experiment: one that involved a bad-smelling flower that mimicked a little girl's nasty attitude, one that involved some weird Filipino superstition about getting lost in the woods because of dwarfs and inside-out shirts, and one that was based around a dog and a litter box.

As you can see, I chose the third option. Not because I thought it was a fun idea, but because it was one that I could easily write a beginning, middle, and end. In other words, it was the easy-to-develop idea that was perfect for the short amount of time I had. I don't like it, particularly, but it is what it is, eh?

Surprisingly enough, the dog in that story did exist at some point. I used to have a dog named Lucky, and he pooped in a litter box. Yes, you read that correctly. Everything else is just fictional. Especially the friends part. Lucky had no friends.

The Island of Sülkoras:
For a while now, I've had this inkling of an idea of a place where it felt like it was constantly affected by two forces, and that these were given physical form in some way. Like the effects of the sun and the moon, the living and the dead, the old and the new, the young and the experienced. While it's not an exact creation of what it was originally, the island still retains a bit of the idea of the duality of life and its delicate balance. Now, I write this making it sound like there's going to be some amazing story to tell being set in a place like this... But you know what they say about good intentions and pavement – if I got the saying right, of course.

This island is filled with words that I made up being composed of the "language" I created. It has some basis on how Esperanto words are formed (base + root/roots, no exceptions), and is even why the letter "j" sounds closer in pronunciation to the letter "y" in English. Of course, when it comes to actual names, like city names and people, it's just random mumbling sounds that I think sounds like a name. Or just me trying to re-say English words by butchering them to near-unfamiliarity. Like "Avamir" is butchering the word "admire", and "Gavallande" is butchering the word "galavant."

Chapter 1 Prototype - "Cold Hospitality:"
So this is my first real foray into writing a story set in the world that Sülkoras exists in. It was written rather hastily and with little planning, its main purposes was to fulfill the experiment requirement and for me to get a feel for how I want the story told. I accomplished the former, at least. The latter? Well, I'm still deciding. Decision-making was never my strongest trait.

In Medias Res Experiment - "Dead End:"
Because this one was written so off-the-cuff (it was the product of less than an hour of typing), I had to fall back to what I felt was a bit more familiar with me when it comes to writing, which is writing about fear. I'd rather have any other emotion that was easier for me to write about; but as it is in life, sometimes you just have to work with what you got.

Oubliette:
This was the most frustrating to write out of all the works I've posted so far on this blog this month. I am not a poet by any means, and there are quite a few attempts that I've made at trying to write a poem. Any kind of poem. While I have quite a lot to say about my other attempts at creating poetry, this one in particular is a bit... meh. At least some people will have fun with looking up what an "oubliette" is, right?

Oubliette

My dreams, they sing
a song that brings
the world imagined to life

The tune – it goes,
and ebbs and flows;
a dance that lifts and delights

It haunts me well
enough to tell
the song will not live again

For my dream dies
when sleep-filled eyes
open to greet the morning

But night, it seems,
will bring new dreams
for me to forget once more

One of my many attempts at trying to write a poem. One down, three more to go.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

In Medias Res Experiment - "Dead End"

He knew making that left turn was a mistake. It was a dead end.

It doomed him. Oh hell, did it doom him.

Doom them.

Never before in his life had a dead end been so revoltingly appropriate in name.

“Shh,” he murmured to the wailing bundle in his arms between breaths, his legs aching from the effort of sprinting. “It’s okay, it’s okay. Daddy’s here.” He held the infant’s face closer to his chest, hoping her cries would absorb themselves into his clothes. He rocked her with a gentle fervency, internally begging his daughter to calm down.

Hiding in the closet was a mistake. He had no doubt any sound from him or his daughter was being carried out through the hallway. They had to move again. If only that didn’t mean he had to move toward the danger to do so.

He hoped against all hope that they would just pass them by. That they would somehow be totally deaf to his child’s sobs.

What he was asking for was a miracle.

But he knew a miracle wouldn’t happen that day.

“Please sweetie,” he begged. “I know you want Mommy. But you’ve got me, right? And I know you’re scared, and that bad people want to get us, but we’ll be alright. We won’t let Mommy’s friends hurt us.”

He knew his daughter was much too young to understand what he was saying. If anything, he was only trying to encourage himself in the situation. He half-wished he was as innocent as the baby in his arms: not knowing that they wouldn’t make it; not knowing that all his stupid, thoughtless decisions in their escape attempt would be the end of them. He wished he was simply scared.

He wished he wasn’t still seeing his wife’s head exploding whenever he blinked.

Wishes rarely – if ever – came true.

His breath caught in his throat when he heard the hollow staccato of footsteps click closer, closer down their dead end of a hiding place. He held his crying child even closer to his chest, squeezing his own eyes shut as he laid his forehead to meet hers, the footsteps halting just outside the door to their closet.

His own sobs joined in disjointed harmony with his daughter’s.

He dared not open his eyes. Not when the door splintered into pieces, the fragments brushing against his face. Not when the clamor of footsteps grew sickeningly close to where he was huddled with his child.

He would rather relive the moment of his wife’s death behind his lids than see his daughter yanked unceremoniously out of his grip.

His eyes were clamped shut when the heavy-handed assailant crushed his throat as he whimpered helplessly, his daughter’s cries turning into terrified shrieks. When the acrid breath of his attacker tingled against his ears, telling him he made a mistake and that he was going to die.

With the last gasp of air still in his chest, he croaked his final words.

“I know.”

***

Typed this out really quickly, unsure if my previous post fulfilled the "medias res" requirement for the experiment. So yeah, this is just in case. Unless both meet the requirement. If that's the case, then I'll just flip a coin and see which I might end up sharing.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Chapter 1 Prototype - "Cold Hospitality"

The chill in the room bit into my lungs and escaped in puffs of valuable heat, dissipating to greet the winter air into oblivion. While the candles in their sconces along the wall drove away the darkness of the evening, they did very little to quell the frigid temperature. The collar of my coat rose higher against the nape of my neck as I tugged it to prevent myself from shivering in front of the town’s equivalent to a king. Not from intimidation, of course. It was just too cold.

Okay, maybe intimidation was a bit of a factor.

I thought it was a simple request: gather some samples of the blight from the other side of the mountain, send it off to be analyzed back in the city, possibly start on a solution to fix the land.

But as I continued to explain my intentions for making my proposal, it grew harder to keep my voice from cracking and wavering as the Duke of Gavallande's visage contorted into one of frustration. My words were barely above a whisper by the time I was finished.

"Get out!" the gaunt-faced man ordered, slamming his palms against the desk in front of him as he shot up from his chair. "All of you!"

"If I may, Your Excellency–" I managed to squeak before being interrupted by the man.

"No, I've heard enough of your request."

He gestured to a uniformed guard that stood at attention at a wall before the nobleman disappeared behind a set of curtains behind his desk.

The guard approached me, a slight frown pulling his hardened features and an eyebrow quirked upward, silently urging me to comply with the leader's demands. I sighed and shuffled out of the room, following behind the other exiting occupants, shivering as freely as I wanted. There was no need to keep up appearances anymore.

"You're an idiot," the guard said bluntly.

"I know," I said, defeated.

"You're still stranded up here until the day thaws the lake."

"I know."

"Just stay warm and stay out of the way of the duke, and you should survive the winter."

"I know."

The guard grunted, unimpressed with my responses. "You know a lot, but you don't know something obvious: your request is able to destroy the island."

I grew indignant at this, forgetting the cold that nipped at my cheeks as I whirled around to hurl at the uniformed man's face, "It's not going to destroy anything! Why can't anyone just open their eyes and see what good this will do?"

"Things are different here compared to the city, and with good reason. Don't cause any trouble."

"Or what?"

"We reduce your daily allowances."

"My..." I trailed off, thinking of the limited freedom I would have should that happen. I gasped and pulled my hands to my chest like a child holding a prized possession, fearful of what could be taken from me. "That's inhumane! Magic is in my blood as much as it is in yours."

"But it's better served for a law-abiding citizen than a trouble-maker, hm? Best to not waste such a valuable resource when its access is limited this time of the year."

"Wouldn't your criminals go mad, then?"

"Some do." The guard shoved me outside of the duke's mansion into the unabated winter. He looked me up and down as he lingered in the open doorway, the frown still etched onto flesh-toned marble.

"Stay a moment," he instructed me as he clicked the front door to the estate shut.

My eyebrows furrowed as I continued to shiver violently from where I stood in the snow-covered world.

How could people even want to live in a place like this?

Before I could properly curse my situation under my breath, the door opened once again, the same guard returning. He held a folded bundle out, which I took with trembling fingers. I unfurled it to see that it was a cloak.

"I forgot that you're a horticulturist," he explained. "While it's not ideal, hopefully it will make up for your lack of a means to stay warm. Good night."

With another click, the door swung shut and the muffled scrape of the bolt sliding into place was my cue to leave.

And so went my first day up the mountain town of Gavallande.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday "Progress Report" - 25 January 2017

As a blogging requirement of the Creative Writing class, one post of the following is required every Wednesday. Knowing how I am, I love answering questions about my progress on my writing (or the lack thereof), so of course I'm doing this ASAP.


What am I working on?

For my Creative Writing class, I’m trying to work on the poems that are due near the end of the semester, but those are going as well as expected: terribly. Instead, I’ve been preoccupying my time just fiddling around with my blog and typing just for the sake of typing with the intention of posting them. Maybe. I’m still trying to get over the shyness I have over sharing any kind of work I do creatively. The “journaling” part of the blog, I have no issue with.

As for my personal projects, I’m working on the sequel to a “book” I have written that’s the closest to a retelling of the myth of the Grim Reaper, in my own setting and twist and... Okay, so I have no idea what to categorize it as, but it's the longest work I've ever created at a little over 100,000 words. However, it is terrible, and that’s okay because it’s online for the whole world to see it. I’m just an anonymous person on the site it's on. No one needs to know it's me.

Unless you're one of those people who knows how to connect the dots, then I guess my secret identity has been revealed. If you ever find it, it's bad. You know it's bad.

I’m also trying to work on getting a story put together that’s set in the place I’ve depicted in my world-building map thing I posted earlier (found here). So far, I’ve gotten a very intriguing suggestion from one of my fellow writing classmates, and I’m seeing how I can explore the idea. It’s definitely in a brainstorming state right now.


How do I feel about the process?

For the things I’m doing for my class, I’m pretty pleased at how easily I can come up with something in such a short amount of time and with very little planning.

Okay, so that’s a bit of a lie, since I didn’t do the songwriting experiment, and the map-making one I’ve had floating in my head for a long time. But the fact that these never made their debut in the world outside of my own thoughts in a coherent (or somewhat coherent) structure for everyone else to see is something I never thought myself capable of before.

For the personal projects, that’s where I have more of my struggles. I constantly doubt my creativity as a writer, and when it comes to the longer projects I fear imperfection. Short stories are simpler for me to edit since they are, well, short. If there’s issue, I don’t have to go all the way back to find and fix something that I realized is too cheesy, or needs a plot hole filled, and whatnot. For the longer works, I know there will be mistakes, but the only way for me to catch a good portion of them is to have someone else read them. And I’m in a constant state of asking myself “Would anyone want to read what I’ve written?”


What am I reading now?

Aside from the many online articles on how to use punctuation marks (since I constantly forget), I haven’t done as much reading as I should have.

However, I do have a list of things I’ve made some progress in:

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, since I neglected reading it when it was assigned in high school. I think it’s an amazing and beautiful story so far. But a super long read (in my opinion), and I sadly don't find enough time to read it.

I’m constantly rereading my Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales anthology, so I guess that’s also on my list. Don't read any of his stories unless you want some popular Disney movies ruined for you. (I'm looking at you The Little Mermaid and Frozen. The latter one especially.)

Then there’s the book that my church’s college-age youth is going over together called The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. It’s actually the book that gave me the oomph to enroll in the Creative Writing class, believe it or not. If you're a Christian (as I am, though I'm a bit afraid to say that I am in this day and age) I highly suggest reading it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Island of Sülkoras

Gaze upon my horrid drawing skills.
It also strangely resembles something familiar, but I can't quite recall what the shape reminds me of.
Because it would probably take forever to put in all the detail I thought up for this island I brain-vomited into existence, here are some notable features of the island and labeled areas:

The Island of Sülkoras:
  • Name means "the power of fate" in my weird, made-up language
  • Cut into two by a mountain range (as depicted by map)
  • Part of an island chain, but is the largest and only one inhabited by people
  • A large portion of the island is uninhabitable ("the blight of Lojin")
  • Strong, unpredictable currents surround the island, making it unsafe for boats to land (except in the Bay of Sülas)

Now, for the natural landmarks:

The Bay of Sülas:
  • Name means "fate/destiny" in my weird, made-up language
  • Only place along the coasts where boats can land from and leave to the mainland
  • Outcropping of four rocks in the water that align with the sun to the first of each season
  • Home to the capital and largest city in the kingdom of Avamir, as well as the island in general

The Stellases River:
  • Name means "the stars" in my weird, made-up language
  • Flows from the mountain range of the same name
  • Main source of drinking water for the island's inhabitants, so people are often found living alongside it
  • Land around it filled with farmland and fishing villages and is very green
  • Connection between city of Gavallande and Avamir
  • Filled with boats for transport of goods and people between the two cities
  • Has many branches into streams, also surrounded by farmland

Marshes of Koras:
  • Name means "power" in my weird, made-up language
  • About 25%-30% of the entire island consists of the marshes
  • The percentage increases during a full or new moon
  • Filled with wildlife
  • Unpopulated with people, but a section of it is where hunters like to hunt
  • Smells like rotten eggs (you can look up why by searching salt marshes on Google)

Lojin:
  • Also known as "the blight"
  • Name means "ours/together" in my weird, made-up language
  • Filled with ruins since people used to live here
  • land is unsuitable for living or agriculture
  • Many dead plants and foliage, while other places are long stretches of salt-saturated soil

Next, a bit about the civilization of the island:

The Kingdom of Avamir:
  • Mainly filled with fishing villages and farmland, though the exception is the city of Avamir (its capital) which is heavily focused on trade and commerce with the mainland.
  • Real-world time setting reference would be closest to mid to late 1800s in terms of technology, but not quite. (This world the island is found on doesn't exist, remember?)
  • Covers the land to the west of the mountains, as well as a few villages in the mountains themselves
  • Temperate climate flips between the land away from the mountains and up the mountains themselves: hot and humid during the summer in the city of Avamir, temperate and pleasant up in Gavallande; breezy and temperate during the winter in Avamir, cold and harsh in Gavallande (for an example).

City of Avamir
  • The Stellases River cuts into the heart of the city, though this portion is undrinkable due to the amount of people who live nearby and toss refuse into it.
  • Largest city on the island
  • Spans around the whole crescent of land around the bay
  • Many small docks for ships in the city
  • Trade schools, colleges, law buildings, etc.

Town of Gavallande
  • Outside of the city of Avamir and its surrounding towns, one of the only places with a considerable amount of citizens.
  • Nestled in a valley in the mountains
  • Near a large lake that signals the start of the Stellases River.
  • Almost a miniaturized version of Avamir with its docks and how its buildings surround the body of water
  • Instead of trade, emphasis more on fishing
  • Population shifts greatly as the seasons change, especially for newcomers to the island not expecting winters to be difficult
Wasn't sure if I was supposed to compose this as paragraphs describing the places on the map instead of a list, but I got lazy and I was pretty sure I wouldn't have time to finish this by next class meeting if I were to do so.

(P.S. I know this whole island sounds super cheesy and cliché in places. Oh well.)

Friday, January 20, 2017

You're a Rad Tech major, why're you in a Creative Writing class?

A question I've been plagued with ever since I've made that fateful decision to take the leap of faith and pursue something less... technical and scientific and procedural that is Radiology Technology related.

Well, to be quite honest, the asker of that question would be myself more often than not.

I guess the answer will need a little bit (read: lengthy) of explaining. So buckle up, people! We're going to brave the depths of horror and terror that is the psyche of one Jodee Ann Conui.

It all started when I was in first grade. My mother gave me a notebook, some glittery rainbow-colored gel pens, and the instruction to just write about my day. Of course, being the obedient little child I was, I did so. It didn't take long for me to realize that I liked the act of writing, even if my teacher didn't assign it as homework! And better yet, the realization that I could write stories just like the ones read to me by my teacher sealed my fate.

So it wasn't long before I finished that tiny palm-sized notebook with horribly-written plots and non-descriptive recounts of my day. I know this because I still have that first notebook. (Thanks, mom, for letting me relive the horror whenever I feel like it.)

I'd write with such a fervor, I'd even ask my parents for a notebook for my birthday, Christmas, whenever we went to Target, etc. What kind of crazy child would ask for a stack of paper instead of a toy? I was that child, apparently. At least they weren't expensive, to my parent's relief.

And then, that fateful day when I was in fifth grade: I wanted to be an author.

Not just any author, mind you. A published author. One that kids would write letters to just like in Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, a book my fifth grade teacher read to us one day. I thought it was the coolest thing, and so I went to tell my parents.

Well... long story short, I was dissuaded. So I told them I was going to be a doctor instead, and they didn't argue after that.

Hey, I know what you might be thinking; but no, I didn't stop writing. I just kept it more to myself, and didn't really have any intentions of being serious about it in the future. I've written creatively as assignments for classes before, but they were so full of guidelines and instructions that there wasn't much room for creativity. Also, failing two semesters of high school English bolstered the fact that I'm not cut out for pursuing writing in a serious capacity.

It was only relatively recently, after having episodes of intense disgust at what I was getting myself into (I can't be a doctor! I can't! I don't want to be a doctor! I'm only going to be miserable! I hate all these classes I'm taking!) and the death of someone close to me after instructing me to pursue my dreams despite all the setbacks and roadblocks in my way...

After expressing my distaste for pursuing the idea of going into medical school, I was then faced with the dreaded question: "Well, if you don't want to be a doctor, then what do you want to be?"

As I said before, I consciously dropped the notion of being an author completely out of my mind, so I felt trapped and defeated, and responded with, "I don't know."

"Then become a doctor," was the response my parents more-or-less said. "It's what you've wanted since you were a child."

Ha. Hahaha, no.

I didn't laugh at them, of course, but it felt so futile to explain what felt so wrong about dedicating my whole life into something I felt no drive nor desire for if I didn't have any proof that my feelings weren't a case of "the ever-changing desires of an inexperienced youth."

So I felt like I ambled through life, feeling like I was missing something. That nagging feeling that I was getting myself into a situation I would later come to regret for the rest of my life.

Then it hit me, in my internet search history habits: "how to publish a book," "how to find a book agent," "how to self-publish," etc.; things that I would read just for fun. And it certainly popped up more than searches for "how to become a doctor" and "list of medical schools" and whatnot.

In that, I was reminded of the little girl told that it wasn't a good idea to be an author.

Well, I've never felt more fulfilled and happy in my life after acknowledging that I still want to be an author, and that I don't have to give up absolutely everything to pursue it makes it even better.

Another long story short: I came to a compromise with my parents, and they're okay with me just being a technician instead of a doctor.

So, to answer the question as to why I'm in a Creative Writing class despite already fulfilling my English course credits and all my prerequisites in general: I'm in it as a first real step into following my dream. This time, it's my choice, not someone else's. It's not someone else's plan for my success but my own.

And that's saying something, because in general, I have no backbone.

Whether or not I will get what I need out of the course is yet to be seen, but I hope that I can learn more about my strengths and weaknesses as an author, and to figure out how to utilize them or fix them, respectively.

One thing is for certain: though I may stray from my dream like I have in the past, I know that nothing would be able to change it.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Dog Who Pooped Like A Cat

This is the story of a dog named Lucky.

Lucky was a lucky dog. He had a whole backyard to himself. He chased all the squirrels and birds he wanted. His owners gave him treats a lot because Lucky was a good dog.

He liked to play. He liked to sleep. He liked to eat. His owners liked to put sweaters on him when it got cold outside, but he didn't like to wear those. He did like to get those sweaters messy however. Lucky was a lot like other dogs.

There was one thing silly about Lucky: he liked to poop in a litter box.

A litter box? Yes, a litter box! If you asked Lucky, he would say that it was cleaner than pooping anywhere he wanted in the yard.

Because of this, he had more room to play instead of stepping on all his mess.

The other dogs didn't seem to like this.

"Lucky, why do you like pooping in a litter box?" one of his dog friends asked. "That's what cats do, and we don't like cats!"

"It is cleaner!" Lucky explained. "And I have the whole backyard to run around in instead of jumping over my mess."

"But it is weird," another friend said. "I don't think the cats would like this."

And that friend was right.

Lucky was visited by a group of neighbor cats one day when they heard there was a dog that liked to poop in a litter box. They wanted to see if this was true.

"Lucky," the leader of the neighborhood cats said. "Do you want to be a cat?"

"No, I'm happy being a dog," Lucky replied. "And as a dog, I don't like cats."

"Good, because you'll never be good enough to be a cat!" the mean cat said.

The group of cats left him alone, laughing at the weird dog and his litter box.

Because of the dogs' and cats' hurtful words, Lucky was sad. Was he weird? He was like the other dogs, and he thought he was normal.

The only thing different about him was that he pooped like a cat. So Lucky decided to try pooping like a dog.

He left his mess all over his yard, but Lucky found that this made him miserable. He had to watch where his paws landed when he ran. He had to find a spot where he didn't leave a mess.

It was different than he was used to, and he didn't like it.

He looked to his owners, and they didn't like it too.

Instead of his owners stooping down once to clean up his litter box, they had to do it many times because his mess was everywhere.

Because of this, their backs started hurting, and didn't like cleaning up after him anymore. Not only was Lucky sad about pooping like a normal dog, but his owners were, too!

"My owners are hurting because I don't poop in my litter box anymore," Lucky said to himself. "The other dogs call me weird, and the cats make fun of me. But they don't see that pooping like a cat makes life easier for my family and it makes me happy."

And so, Lucky returned to pooping like a cat. He was happy, and his owners were happy.

An idea for a children's book, and the best I could come up with is one about pooping. If this isn't indicative of how my creativity will fare in my creative writing class, well... I just hope I don't resort to more stories of defecation.