A Foreign Language

There is one thing that is more neglected than my poor blog, and that of course is Language of the Small Folk.

I remember exactly where I left off. I remember it so well because I probably tried finishing that chapter a dozen times without success.

I had been writing every LotSF post on the spot, usually the same day it was published. It worked pretty well for me; I’d get into the heat of the moment, really feel the emotion of the particular chapter, and just let the story take me wherever it flowed. But for that last chapter I was working on, it really didn’t work.

I think I may have perhaps written myself into a corner.

Oops.

I mean, I know where I planned to go with it, I know how I wanted it to lead into the rest of the story, so it’s not like I couldn’t work with it. I just… lost a bit of the passion, I think, when I started into that scene, and it made it really hard to write it.

So what on earth am I going to do.

Since I’ve been blogging more, I’ve been enjoying the rigors of a schedule to give me a deadline and keep me motivated. I’ve been considering doing the same thing with LotSF–perhaps I will be more reliable and more motivated if I actually have set dates in which each chapter is due.

My idea is to post two chapters a month: one on the 1st, one on the 15th. If those days fall on a Wednesday or Sunday (a regular posting day), I’ll publish the regular post either on the day before or the day after, to keep things a little more spread out.

I mean, once upon a time I would post at least one LotSF post a week (and for a while it was every other day, believe it or not), so this leaves a lot more wiggle room than there used to be. But I think every 2 weeks isn’t so bad, and it will give me plenty of time to work on chapters in between deadlines.

I plan to resume the story with the new posting schedule starting on April 1st (April Fools’, I know, sorry). So hopefully that gives you guys plenty of time to reacquaint with the story and gives me time to get everything ready.

Now of course, I have a feeling it’s been so long since the last update that most of the people who were reading it don’t remember so well what happened last. My own memory is pretty foggy, and I’m the one who wrote the darn thing. So when I do post the next chapter up on April 1st, I’ll be sure to include a brief summary of the story so far, just to get everyone up to speed (and remind myself where exactly I was going with this).

But in the meantime, for those of you who might be new, or maybe just want to read the chapters again (which would be insanely flattering), I’ve compiled the whole first part of the story (named Spring) into a PDF that you can read or download here. Plus, the links for all the chapters for both parts (Spring and Winter) can be found on the main About page for LotSF here.

Thank you for your patience and huge thanks to those who have read every chapter. It means the world to me that you guys enjoy the things I put so much passion into (even if that passion seems to come in fits and bursts).

All the best.

-Alex

Exciting News!

Well. I have some pretty good news.

I got accepted into college!

Yup, for the second time. I liked it so much the first time I just had to go back for more.

It’s so strange to be going through the process a second time. Part of me has this laid-back, “been there, done that” attitude that contrasts so starkly to the anxious and excited high schoolers who have just applied for the first time. The other part of me is just like them–am I gonna get in what if I don’t get in ugggggh when am I going to find out?

But yes, I got accepted, and I could not be happier. I’m so excited I actually wish I could start classes sooner and waiting a whole six months feels like torture.

You might remember that when I was in university last year and the year before, I was doing an animal bio major as a prerequisite for entering the vet college, and that lovely major featured thrilling courses such as biochem, physics, and statistics–three of my absolute favourite subjects, of course. You might also remember that I took this past year off of school because depression is a thing and stress really sucked and trying to do biochem and stats while you’re already feeling crummy is pretty friggin’ hard.

I was really worried about what I was going to do next, because I really wanted to go back to school and keep learning things and pursue veterinary medicine, but I didn’t feel confident that I’d really be able to tackle those difficult courses and keep up with the studying and homework.

However, I found a pretty perfect solution to the problem.

May I present: vet tech college.

A vet tech is basically what a nurse is to a doctor–they do a lot of the same things and have a lot of the same knowledge, but the tech is often more hands-on (running tests, drawing blood, etc) and the vet is often more knowledge based (diagnoses, treatment plans, etc).

This also means that the actual education required for each differs quite a bit; a tech does 2-3 years of college with lots of hands-on work, while the vet does 7-8 years of university with lots of theory work. So instead of taking courses like biochem and statistics for three years before I can even apply to the vet program, I’ll be jumping straight into courses such as medical exercises and animal nursing. Which will not only be slightly easier than memorizing the structures of amino acids, but will also be so much more interesting.

The other amazing thing about this program? They offer it in an alternative format, which means that I can keep working at the vet clinic (and learning/practising a lot of the skills that I’ll be taught in the vet tech program anyways) during the fall and winter semesters while taking a couple online classes, and then when all the other university students are off during the summer and looking for more working hours (therefore able to cover my shifts), I’ll be going to the campus to do the actual hands-on courses.

I’m actually so thrilled that I found out about this program and was accepted into it. I’m excited to be able to learn practical skills in the field that interests me and I’m just really happy that it feels possible for me to go back to school again without worrying about the stress I had before. I think this will be a lot more manageable and make me a lot happier in the long run.

There’s a part of me that feels like I might still want to go back to vet college and get the full doctor’s degree, but why not take this opportunity while I have the chance? I mean, in the grand scheme of things I am ridiculously young, so I’ve got my whole life ahead of me to go out and learn more and do whatever I’d like.

And it’s not like I’m going to be bored. In my time working at the clinic I’ve come to love doing things like lab tests and nursing care–things that the vet often doesn’t have time to do. So heck, maybe this is actually a better fit for me than being a vet. Who knows?

All I know is I am incredibly excited to be embarking on this new adventure and I can’t wait for it to start.

-Alex

POTS and Plots

A friend pointed out to me recently that it’s been quite a while since I last mentioned anything about POTS (y’know, that huge novel I was in the process of editing…), which is a fair observation, because I really haven’t said much about POTS lately. Nor have I really been working on it either…

Sigh. I mean, on the bright side, I have been working a little bit on other stories, mostly short stories or short series, so it’s not like I’ve not been writing anything. I just haven’t been writing the one thing I should be writing.

Ohhhh POTS. What am I to do with you?

I think last time I talked about it I’d just “finished” the third draft, or something like that? I can’t even remember anymore. But I realized when I finished that draft and considered moving on to the next one that I was feeling really discouraged by the whole thing.

It feels like, with that draft, I didn’t do very much to improve the story. It feels like, if anything, I might have strayed farther from what I want it to be.

Which is unbelievably frustrating, but not very surprising, given my track record.

I mean, when I first started editing POTS, I had no clue what I was doing. I naively thought that I would be able to just edit as I went through–that most of my problems, I suppose, would just be scenes that needed tweaking or holes that needed a little bit of filling. But that very quickly proved to be mind-numbingly asinine, because trying to fix the beginning of the novel without addressing the issues at the end of the novel really really reaaaaaally does not work.

But I still didn’t really know how to do that, how to rework the entire plot and keep the big picture in mind while also going scene-by-scene to put things in order. So I just kinda winged it as I went along, hoping I was getting closer to the story I wanted while also kind of realizing I was not doing that.

I have realized through a few NaNoWriMos that I tend to have the brain of a pantser (making up the story by the seat of my pants) but I write a much better story if I approach it like a planner. When I’m actually writing the story, I tend to just get into a flow and go with whatever’s coming to mind, which often results in me writing myself into a wall or writing in scenes that are terrible and completely sidetrack the plot (straight off the road and right into the ditch, woo). Things that seem like a great idea while I’m writing them out are often not as good of an idea when I’m reading them back later. If I plan the story before I start writing though, I tend to have much less of this sidetracking and come out with a much more reasonable story.

So clearly that’s the best thing for me to do, to look at the story as a whole and plan out what I need it to be, what needs to happen, and what I need to change. But it’s been terribly difficult for me to do that, and I’m trying to figure out what exactly is going wrong.

I mean, I know roughly what’s going to happen. Bad thing happens > protagonist is taken to other world > joins group of weary adventurers > travels point A to point B to point C > gets in a fight at point 1 and point 2 and point 3 > reaches the final destination > last big battle of the novel. It’s quite simple, really, like most adventuring stories are, and that of course isn’t the problem. It’s all the Whys and Hows that are the problem.

Why does she get sent to the other world? Why does the bad guy want to do bad things? Why do they need to go to their destination? How is the bad guy going to achieve his evil goals? How is everyone going to get from point A to point C? How is the final battle going to play out?

Why is the protagonist here? How is she going to react to all of this?

And it’s the technical parts where I’m really struggling. I can’t make my plot work, I can’t even figure out what I want my plot to be, and it pretty much feels like a big old soggy mess that I can’t for the life of me sift through.

Sooooo naturally, I’ve been avoiding it.

Which isn’t a permanent solution, I know, but it’s been admittedly nice to write short stories that aren’t as confusing and technical.

But of course, POTS is still my baby, and recently I’ve really missed writing it, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to approach it, to actually make it into the story I believe it can be.

And honestly? I’ve been allowing myself to question everything.

I mean everything.

If you think about it, I’ve been working on POTS for about 6 years now. Some of those years took place in high school, some of them took place in university–arguably a very big transitioning point in one’s life. And if you look back to the very original version of POTS, it’s actually a story I wrote when I was in seventh grade, which was about 8 years ago. Clearly, the story has followed me through some pretty big milestones in my life.

It’s only natural, therefore, that my writing style and ability would have changed in the time since POTS was first created. My ability to write, my ability to craft stories and develop meaningful characters, is a hell of a lot better now than it was back then. And who I am as a person, the things I think are important and the things I’ve learned about the world? Astoundingly different from when I started.

On one hand, it’s really cool to look at this story and see elements of my younger vision mixed with elements of my more mature insight. It’s like a scrapbook showcasing my development as both person and writer, and I think it’s what makes POTS such a special story to me.

On the other hand, it’s pretty clear that the story I wrote 6 years ago isn’t quite going to match up with the story I want to write now. I can see now where I’ve made mistakes, where I’ve lacked depth, where I’ve fallen short of the full potential in a scene or character. I can see now where things can be improved, and I can see new ways of bringing life and spirit to the story.

Which is actually quite possibly where I’m tripping myself up.

I’m trying to weave these two very distinct stories together, the young one and the more mature one, and I’m finding that the original plot that I had just doesn’t really work with my current goals. The message I wanted to convey with the story when I first started writing it was much simpler than the one I want to convey now, and I really can’t convey it well if I’m trying to use the same plot I started out with.

Basically: the reason I’m struggling to figure out the plot is because it’s just not working anymore.

I mean, I don’t think I have to throw the whole thing away, but I think I really need to take it in a new direction. And I think the best way to approach the story is to start from the ground up.

Which is what I’ve been trying to do. I’ve been re-establishing my characters (who are they, what do they want), re-designing my world (what’s the current state of affairs, what’s the biggest challenge), and I’ve been re-working my plot (what kind of story do I want to tell, what’s going to happen to get my message across).

It feels nice, in a way, to be able to look at everything again, to give myself this metaphorical Play Dough that I have the freedom to shape into whatever I’d like. What if this character wanted something different? What if the bad guy actually did this instead? What if the protagonist made this decision here and changed the outcome?

It’s made it easier for me to work on POTS because I don’t have all this pressure to make it better, to make things work. I can just play around with things, scrap things or add them in, and I don’t have to worry if it’s an improvement of what came before it–all that matters is that I’m creating something that feels true, that feels important, and feels reflective of what I wanted when I first started writing this story 6 years ago.

It feels an awful lot like creative freedom, and I’m loving it.

I’m hoping that this story that’s grown up with me over the years will blossom into something beautiful.

And heck, I’m hoping I’ll do the same.

-Alex

Your Story 2015

What time is it?

SUMMERTIME!

Oh yes, I’m from that generation (the nostalgia trip listening to the above song was incredible). Haha but do you realize what month it is? May! Wait, no–I think I forgot to change my calendar (haha you think I’m joking). It’s actually June, which means next month will be July, which means summertime! Yay!

And what does summertime mean? My annual collaborative project, that’s what! I enjoyed the Your Story project last year a heck of a lot, so I’m bringing it back. But this time it’s gonna be even bigger, oh yes.

As before, Your Story is all about telling your story. Sharing a piece of your life in which you have been heroic, inspiring, and brave. This year, however, it’s not just going to be about your true heroic life. It’s also going to be about your creative heroic minds.

This year, I’m splitting Your Story into two parts: Trials and Free World.

Trials is all about you. Your life experiences. Your hardships. The struggles you have had to overcome that made you stronger and molded you into who you are today. In your heroic journey, these trials are your dragons. Beat them and you’ve won the hoard of gold. Whether humorous, tragic, or uplifting, your perseverance and fortitude are so inspiring.

Free World is also about you, but it’s not really about you. While Trials is memoir, Free World is fiction. These stories are ones that you create. The heroes, the dragons, the quests–they’re all from your imagination, but you can bet there will be pieces of your heart and soul slipping through. Through the story that you tell, you are sharing a part of yourself.

Now, truth be told, I am not entirely prepared to launch this project at this present moment. I still have to work out some guidelines and scheduling and whatnot, but I plan to have those things out on the weekend. I just wanted to give you all a sneak peek of what’s to come so you can start thinking about the stories you’d like to tell. You can write something for one or both and how you choose to interpret the theme is up to you.

Like last year, I’ll be sending out emails to fellow bloggers with invites and information, but do feel free to contact me first if this is something that interests you! Emails or comments work just fine :)

Anyways, I think that’s all I have to say for now. But I will be back soon with further details. Happy Friday everyone!

-Alex

LotSF: Snow

 

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If asked, I couldn’t explain exactly what it was that made it feel like the ladder was calling me. I would’ve guessed it was curiosity that encouraged me to reach out and touch the lowest plank, as if I intended to climb it, but it felt like there was something more. I wasn’t the one who’d made the ladder but I wondered if I’d ever climbed this tree. It certainly didn’t look familiar. I couldn’t bring up any memory of this tree in particular, no matter how hard I thought about it, so if I hadn’t climbed it, then why did it feel so important to me?

I ran my thumb along the rough, weathered wood musingly, trying to put a finger on why this tree was special. Was it intuition, or was I just missing something? Did the forest woman have something to do with it? Was this the moment that I was supposed to trust myself? And was I supposed to climb it?

I looked up the tree trunk dubiously. The ladder would make the climbing easier, but it was an awfully old ladder. Some of the planks were split and most of the nails were rust-ridden–if they weren’t missing entirely–and the ladder only went up so far. At a certain point, I’d have to climb onto one of the branches and then I’d be on my own. I’d gotten a lot of practice tree-climbing when I was younger but I hadn’t done so in several years. Too many years. The last thing I needed after everything that had happened was to fall out of this massive tree and break my neck.

But the tugging. This tree, this ladder–they were pulling at my soul, yanking on my bones, driving me forwards until the urge to climb the ladder was almost too much to bear. I put one foot up on the first plank, contemplating the wisdom of going ahead with this. My body was still aching, my shoulder complaining loudly behind my curiosity and my hips and thighs knotted with a quieter pain. Could I even physically get myself up the tree? If my shoulder or legs gave out… I backed away from the tree, firmly decisive. I couldn’t do this. It was insane. I would just get more hurt. And there was no reason for me to climb this tree. I needed to find Faith. Unless she was waiting at the top, perched on one of the branches, climbing the tree wasn’t going to help me. I had to move on. But my feet felt rooted to the spot.

She told you to trust yourself.

I can’t trust myself if I’m dead.

Why are you so afraid? You can fight bearskins but not climb a tree?

I’m not afraid of the tree. But my fight with the bearskins is the very reason why I can’t climb the tree. I’m injured.

You’re strong.

I’m injured. My shoulder is torn up. I can’t climb a tree.

You know you can.

Yeah, well, I know I shouldn’t.

you could.

I’ll regret it.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I ground my teeth and shook my head, turning away from the tree. I didn’t need this indecision. I didn’t need this crossroad. How could I even think about climbing it? My body was too battered. And it had honestly been years since I’d even attempted to climb a tree. I could just imagine the struggle I’d have to go through to haul my butt up there. And not to mention getting down at the end. That would be a disaster.

But…

…it would be kind of fun.

Nooo, it wouldn’t be fun. I shook my head again, scornfully. What part of hurting myself would be fun? Absolutely none of it. But being up in a tree again, high above the ground, pretending I was a bird, one with the wind… that was the part that would be fun. That was the part that my landlocked heart longed for.

I turned back towards the tree, taking a hesitant step. I could at least try… I touched one of the planks, giving it a little tug to see if it would support my weight. It seemed sturdy enough… and my left hip seemed to hurt less than my right, so I could use that leg to pull myself up…

I was so tempted. But my shoulder. It was hurting even more now, as if reminding me how bad an idea this was. I sighed and let go of the plank. There was no way. It was an entertaining idea, and on any other day I wouldn’t have hesitated, but it just wasn’t going to happen. Not today.

Making up my mind once and for all, I turned sharply away, picked up my boots, and started walking in the opposite direction. I cast a yearning look over my shoulder, just one last glimpse of that enticing tree, and as I turned my eyes back to the forest, I caught a flash of white along the edges of my vision. I followed the movement, pausing uncertainly, and saw it again–a dash of white darting between the trees, caught for a second in the moonlight. I watched it with narrowed eyes. What was that? I couldn’t think of anything white that would be running around in this forest, but I supposed that–

–the white flash stopped, frozen in place for just a heartbeat, and my breath caught in my throat.

It turned dark eyes towards me. We stared at one another. It took just a fraction of a second, barely enough time to think, and then the connection was broken as it leapt and sprinted away.

But the image was seared into my mind.

It was a unicorn.

It was Snow.

***

Whaaaaat?! LotSF so soon?! I know, I know, it’s exciting that you don’t have to wait two months for a new chapter. Please, try to contain yourselves.

In all seriousness, though, I actually couldn’t wait to write this one. For a while there, as I was writing the earlier parts of this story, I had veered away from my original vision and inspiration, and I think that may have been a factor to why it was so difficult for me to update frequently. But now I’m getting back to the raw spirit of the story and it’s exciting! Thus the early update, hooray!

And a unicorn too! I have always always always loved unicorns. Still do. But I’ve never really had the opportunity to write about them. (Well, there was this one story I attempted when I was younger, but that was a flop. I’ve never had the opportunity to write dedicatedly about them, we’ll put it that way.) So this is an exciting experience. We shall see where it takes us, yes?

For now, I am going to have to take myself to bed. Toooo tired. I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend. Have any exciting plans?

Good night, friends.

-Alex

LotSF: Childhood Calling

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A sharp twig dug into my heel and I cringed, sidestepping off it quickly before I put my full weight on that foot. I stopped and rubbed my heel unhappily, glad it was my right foot this time and not my left. I’d already made the mistake of stepping on a rough patch of lichen that had pretty well chewed up the sole of my left foot. This early in the spring season, I hadn’t quite built up the leathery toughness I was used to on my feet.

I sighed. But it was nighttime, and I wasn’t supposed to walk with boots in the forest once the sun went down. That was what I’d learned back when I was a kid–you wear boots at night, you get bad luck. And at this point, I needed all the good luck I could get.

Ugh, but what a pain. I’d forgotten how many pointy things there were hiding on the forest floor, under the leaf cover. Twigs, lichen, stones, pinecones–sometimes bones, even. Lots to get hurt on.

“How did I do this as a kid?” I muttered under my breath, pushing a branch aside so I could keep following the path. Seriously, though–how had I managed to survive romping through the forest barefoot and armourless as a kid? How had I not gotten scratched to pieces, or broken any bones falling out of trees? I mean, I had a few scars from scraped knees and cut palms throughout the years, but I couldn’t remember complaining about sore feet back then. And I used to go wild, running and jumping and crawling all over the place.

A wave of nostalgia rolled over me, thick and irresistible, and I felt a twinge of longing for my younger years. The days when I could just climb up any tree, quick as a squirrel, and survey the forest like it was my kingdom. The days when I could fit in those little nest-like nooks that formed at the bases of the trees, where the roots curled and twisted over each other. The days when I didn’t run out of energy and I never felt so angry as I did nowadays.

Heck–I missed the days when I could understand the Small Folk. When I could see them.

It had been so long since I’d  been a part of that world. This winter had been so long and brutal… almost six months of darkness and deafness. Six months without seeing a gypsy sprite, or a trick-it, or a turn-up. Six months feeling like my tongue had forgotten how to speak because I couldn’t remember the language of magic that had brought me such joy.

The Small Folk magic had been a gift. I was blessed at birth with the ability to hear and see their world, to speak their language. I had grown up with it, learned from it, let it shape my life. And now I had lost it. I’d lost it because… of myself? Because of some psychological block in my mind that was preventing me from tapping into it?

The problem was I didn’t know how to get past that. I didn’t know what part of my mind was cutting me off from my magic and it was driving me insane. Long gone were the days of my childhood when I could believe in anything without thinking twice–when belief was a matter of the heart, and not the mind. I didn’t know how to tap into that youthful state of being. I didn’t know how to go back to the old me, the me that could use magic.

And now what was I doing? Wandering a dark forest with the owls and the fireflies, still looking for my horse even though I had no clue where she was. That strange forest women had told me to trust myself and that I would find my heart again, but what was that supposed to mean? Probably something that I wouldn’t be–

I stopped. Blinking and turning in a half-circle, I looked around me. Something about this particular place felt familiar, though I knew I hadn’t been here in a very long time. I searched my memory, searching for an experience that just barely escaped my grasp, and failed to remember why this place was significant to me. But it was, there was no denying that.

I kept walking, slower now, my eyes searching the darkness for any landmark that would remind me what this place was. I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out, but as I came over the crest of a small ridge, I saw something that caught my attention.

A tall, fat, gnarled old tree stood proudly just beyond the ridge. I didn’t recognize the tree exactly, I couldn’t even begin to recall its name or its history, but I knew at once that it was special. Because crawling up its sides, fastened on with rusty nails, was a ladder made of weathered planks. A ladder made by a child.

And it was calling to me.

***

I just got back from camping with my parents for the weekend, so of course I had to write some LotSF.

It was so good, to get into the forest for a little bit–especially since spring is in full swing over here. I actually went for a couple walks in the forest near my house (the one that inspired me at the beginning of LotSF) which was a bit of a nostalgic trip. I can’t believe I started writing this two years ago. Crazy.

Also, some LotSF news for you: I’ve created a Google Doc of part 1, Spring. It’s the same story, with all the pictures included and everything, but it’s put all together in order so that it will hopefully be easier to read for newcomers or for anyone who wants to read it again. It’s a work in progress right now, but I’ll link to it when I have it closer to being done (it’s taking foreveeeeer). I’m thinking of posting it elsewhere too, like maybe Wattpad, for those who don’t like Google Docs all that much (*coughcough*me*coughcough*). But yes, this is the news. You’ll be able to find the link here or on the LotSF about page.

Oh! Whoever’s been reading through all the LotSF chapters these past few days (yes, I can see you in my stats)–I don’t know who you are, but hey, thanks! If you’re new and catching up, welcome! If you’re a regular reader going through it again, well thank you very much. I’m quite honoured that you’re giving my story a read.

And also in my stats–I keep seeing that some of the views from my blog lately are referrals from Twitter. Are you the same person reading LotSF? (Who aaaaare yoooou?!) Anyways, welcome Twitter person! Thanks for clicking through and checking out my stuff. Much appreciation.

All right, all right, that’s enough from me. If you’re in Canada, happy Victoria Day! If you’re not, well, I hope you have a swell Monday. You shall hear from me soon.

Take care.

-Alex

The Company of Coworkers

All right, this is it.

One way or another, I’m going to blog tonight. I don’t have anything prepared but let’s roll with it.

I guess I can talk about life, since life is an adventure and all that. Life has been pretty interesting lately. I feel like I’ve done nothing but work, write, and sleep these past three weeks. It’s been difficult, that’s for sure, dealing with the new job. Some days have been better than others.

But today was quite the rollercoaster ride. It started out rough, with me getting extremely frustrated with myself, and at a certain point I just lost it. I broke down, tears everywhere, which didn’t make me very happy with myself. They had to pull me off the line and send me to the washroom to recover. But when I came back to where I was training, all the guys working around me felt the need to cheer me up. It ended up being the stupidest comment about someone’s bellybutton busting through their shirt that set me off. I ended up laughing so hard, I was crying all over again. And then the rest of the shift was fantastic.

That’s pretty much what it’s been, working there. 50% misery, 50% I honestly can’t handle the absurdity of my coworkers. They’re what’s been keeping me sane these past weeks. There are a lot of kind and goofy people on my line and I’m so grateful for it.

I think that’s why a lot of adventures are done by groups of adventurers, rather than just one lonely hero. I don’t think there are too many people who could handle the adventures they’re given without aid from someone else. Whether because they need someone to save their butts, or just need someone to keep the boredom away, I think companionship is a vital part of any adventure.

(*coughcough*the Fellowship of the Ring*coughcough*)

That’s certainly how I feel, anyways. It’s been touching, how much some of the people there have done to help me. One guy got me two rolls of finger tape because I complained that my fingertips were sore. And when I got put on my first job by myself and was dying of nervousness, he gave me constant reminders throughout the day to breathe, which I honestly really needed. Then another guy, the one who was training me when I started crying today, gave me a much-needed pep talk to get me back on my feet. And yet another guy, one who says the most hilarious things in the most serious of voices, cheered me up the one day by telling me a deadpanned story of this one time he made a wax model of his thumb.

I think that having people with me as I go through hell is keeping me grounded. I was furious with myself for crying today, feeling so embarrassed and frustrated by it, but they just kept going as if I’d never broken down at all. They stopped me from being too serious and got me past the frustration. They helped me regather my strength and face the dragon of the day, and I’m so grateful for it.

If you’d told me two years ago that I’d be working with lots of people all summer, I’d have turned up my nose. “People? Ugh. I don’t like people.” But boy, has that changed. I like these people. These people are good. Even people on the internet who have offered endless support as I give day-by-day updates via Twitter or Tumblr have helped enormously. The incredible companionship in my life right now is keeping me going. Truly.

And speaking of people, hello you lovely people who are honouring my blog with your readership. I’d like to get back into blogging more frequently, keep updated and connected with you guys, and so I may be doing more of these journal-style blog posts. Hopefully I can make something out of them and not just turn them into diary entries. We shall see.

But I propose that something we should all do (me included) this weekend is write out a list of all the people who you know have your back if you need help. All the people who will listen to your hardships, offer advice, do what they can to help you out. Who are the companions in your adventure? Who are the ones keeping you grounded, lending you strength when you are weak, turning your tears of frustration into tears of laughter?

Who is there to fight your dragons with you?

May your list of companions be longer than you think.

-Alex

LotSF: Guidance

 

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“…Find Faith…”

I’d been wandering the forest for a long time. I didn’t know how long exactly, but I had a feeling it had been hours. The sun was starting to set. My body ached much worse than before. But all the anger, all the frustration, had been dulled by my ceaseless wandering to the point where I wasn’t feeling much of anything. I wanted to go home. I wanted to find Faith and Nolan and I wanted to go home.

The shadows of the trees around me were long and twisted in the falling sunlight. I stepped wearily between them, forcing my body to keep moving, afraid that I would just collapse if I stopped walking even for a moment.

I wondered how I was going to find Faith in a forest this big. I didn’t even know which direction she’d gone, and here I was stumbling along in what might be the complete opposite way. I thought briefly of calling out to her, to see if she would come to me. But as much as I wanted to, I felt mute. It felt like my throat was sealed shut. Like my lungs were empty. I couldn’t form her name on my tongue, let alone shout it loud enough for her to hear. And so I kept silent, and kept walking.

It was getting so much darker now. The sunlight was slanting down at a sharper angle, shining into my eyes, streaming like blades between the trees, blinding me as I struggled to guide myself. I squinted and raised a hand to ward off the harsh lighting, but there was little I could do to stop the sun. It was determined to shine as fiercely as it could and there was nothing I could do to dim it.

It was making it harder for me to get my bearings, though. I knew I was in an unfamiliar part of the forest, that much was clear, but my blindness made it impossible to see any paths snaking through the trees. I couldn’t tell where exactly I was going and it was driving me insane. I wanted to see. I didn’t need the headache this light was causing me.

And what was I even doing, wandering like this? Was I stupid? There was no way I was going to find Faith just based on luck. The enormity of the forest, the enormity of my task… it was overwhelming. What was I doing? I wasn’t going to find her. Frustrated and helpless, I growled and snapped a skinny branch off a nearby tree. I then angrily peeled off its bark, stripping it down before snapping it again and dropping it on the ground.

“What am I doing?” I muttered, turning circles as I ran my hand through my hair. This was hopeless. I would starve before I found Faith. But I was too restless to stop. So I kept moving. There was no point, but I needed to walk. I needed to find something.

And after several more long minutes, I did exactly that. I found a river, wide but shallow, lit up like a stream of gold fire in the last of the day’s light. I couldn’t be positive, but it looked a lot like the river that ran by the gypsy sprite encampment. If it was the same one, then I needed only to follow it and I would be back in familiar territory. Where the gypsies–and maybe Faith–would be waiting.

But which way? I could either go upriver or down, but I couldn’t remember which way would bring me to the gypsy camp. And if I went the wrong way, I would be worse off than I was now.

The sunlight thickened, reflecting blindingly bright off the water’s surface. I squinted and turned in a circle, weighing my options, trying to reason out my course of action. If I could only remember

“Alex.”

I spun immediately, my hand reaching for my sword, and then looked down at my hip with stunned disbelief. My sword was missing, something I’d failed to notice on waking after the battle. Heart pounding, I looked up at the source of the voice, ready to fight with my fists if I had to, but soon relaxed my posture when I got a good look at the strange woman. While she certainly looked human, it was clear there was something about her that wasn’t quite so.

“Alex?” the woman said again, this time making it sound like a question. I stared at her, unsure whether I should answer, and she stared back with curiosity vivid in her eyes. She crept forwards on bent legs like a cat stalking prey and I watched with wary interest. The golden light made her skin look like gleaming bronze and lit up her eyes like burning stars, but there was something else beneath the surface that made me think that maybe she was one of them.

One of the Small Folk.

“Why have you forgotten?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper, as she reached one trembling hand out towards me. Her hand seemed to call to me but I shook my head, resisting the urge to take it. I didn’t know this woman. I didn’t know if I could trust her.

Those burning eyes gazed long at me as her hand lingered in the space between us. “You have changed so much, haven’t you? And I do not think you like these changes…” She took another step forwards, shoulders angling towards me. I didn’t know how she knew me, because I didn’t remember her at all. I didn’t remember this wild woman, wearing the colours of the forest, her hair woven through with flowers. Maybe I had forgotten her when I forgot the language of the Small Folk. Maybe she was just another piece of magic no longer within my reach.

But yet… There was her hand. Just a bare two feet away. I could take it. I could join her, go wherever she was offering to take me, maybe even remember what I had lost. No. There was a part of me that knew I couldn’t do that. Whoever she was… I could not join her.

And I think she understood.

“The forest is deep in your bones,” she murmured, blinking slowly, holding me pinned with that steady gaze. “You have gone deaf to its voice, but you have not lost its blood.” She lifted her hand higher and turned it so that the palm was facing upwards, cupping the last of the sun’s flaming light. “Trust yourself. You will find your heart again.”

I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to ask her a thousand questions–about who she was, what I should do–but I sensed there was no time. Because just as the last of the sun’s light began slipping out of the sky, she turned quick as an arrow and darted back into the trees. I shook my head, startled by how fast she had gone. It was like she’d never been there.

Except that the anger that had burned so constantly within me these past weeks had faded.

The darkness, the hopelessness–it was being drowned out, beaten back by a golden light.

I didn’t know who that woman was, or what she had done to me, but I knew that the gift she’d given me was priceless.

She’d given me hope.

***

Yay, another LotSF chapter!

Last week was my first week at work at that stupid factory job. Well, most of it was training, and I haven’t actually done any work yet, but I am officially initiated into the factory workforce. Yippee. There were high points and low points, not gonna lie, but for the most part… it was okay. Survivable, let’s put it that way.

The nice thing–and something I maybe didn’t expect–is that the people are great. I can’t even tell you how many times someone reassured me that the work wasn’t so bad, or how many times someone went out of their way to talk to me/make me laugh. I even have a couple sort-of friends, if you can believe it. So I shall survive. I may not be happy about it, but I will be alive.

And I have to say, writing this chapter was so wonderful. First of all, no anger in this one, so that’s a relief :P And just… writing about the forest, and the sunlight, and imagining what magics lie beneath the surface… it’s so soothing. I was thinking earlier today about how spring is coming, and I’ll be able to start pressing/drying leaves and flowers soon. I am beyond excited. It kept me very busy last year and I can’t wait to do it again :D

I hope you lovely people are doing well. You let me know if you’re not, okay? Cause that’s unacceptable. We gotta make sure you’re all doing okay.

Take care, guys :)

-Alex

The Easter Bunny

Hi everyone, I hope you had a happy Easter and were able to spend it with people you love :)

As promised, I’m here with a special Easter post. This story was not what I originally intended to post today, but I ended up getting a heavy dose of inspiration this morning and couldn’t help but write it out.

The characters I used here are actually from a different short story that I haven’t posted anywhere yet, but they fit this story so well, I had to use them. I’m not sure how significant this story is exactly, since there’s not a whole lot of information about the characters (that’s explored more in the other story), and I feel like there almost isn’t a point to this story. It’s just a story of a pleasant Easter morning, so take from it what you will.

Anyways, I shall speak no more. I hope you had a peaceful weekend and that this week treats you well. Take care :)

***

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The Easter Bunny

“Oh. You’re still awake?”

Hellen stood in the dining room doorway, surprised to see the light was on and her eldest son was working at the table. She came to stand by his chair, leaning over his shoulder to see what he was working on.

“Another commission,” Mason explained distractedly, chewing on his sweater drawstring as he worked. Hellen looked curiously at what he was drawing. It was some sort of punk kid, with dark dyed hair and edgy clothing and several piercings. The character was in a park, standing near a “No Dogs Allowed” sign with a mischievous smirk on his face.

“Is this one yours, or somebody else’s?” she asked as he fiddled with his drawing tablet and pressed a few keys on his laptop.

“Someone else’s,” he answered, spitting out the drawstring. He switched programs, pulling up a window with a reference picture of the other person’s character, and he pointed out some of the description written underneath. “The girl said he’s a demigod, from those Greek myths, and he’s basically like a dog whisperer. So she wanted me to draw him at the park next to the sign right before he summons a bunch of dogs. She said that’s how he meets another demigod, the one he falls in love with, because that demigod is related to Orpheus and can put the dogs to sleep.” He switched back to his drawing program and resumed his work, adding some shading to it. “It sounded cool actually. She said she writes stories. I might check them out when I’m done with her commission.”

Hellen nodded, not quite sure about all this demigod stuff but finding the general story interesting nonetheless. “Well don’t stay up too late,” she told Mason. “I have to hide all the chocolate and you know Sean will be waking you up early tomorrow morning. The Easter Bunny comes tonight, remember?”

He nodded and put the drawstring back in his mouth, foot tapping on his chair as he put all his focus into the drawing. Hellen left a kiss on top of his head and then went into the kitchen pantry, reaching up to the top shelf where she’d hidden the bag of Easter chocolates. She looked inside to make sure Mason hadn’t eaten any, which he fortunately hadn’t, and then set to work scattering them around the house.

She put some in obvious, easy-to-reach spots, like on tables and strewn along the hallway floors, so that Brooklyn and Sean would be able to collect them easily. Then she put others in much more difficult spots, like on top of doorframes or hidden in vases and drawers, so that she could challenge Mason and make him work for his chocolates. She couldn’t help but grin every time she tucked a chocolate egg into an especially tricky spot, one that she knew would take some thorough searching to find. It was amusing, watching her children scurry around all morning. And it was even more amusing teasing Mason when there was a chocolate nearby that she knew he couldn’t find.

Hellen made her way back to the dining room, being careful to hide Mason’s chocolates when he wasn’t looking. He was still working away at his commission, but now he was way zoomed in on it and messing around with some fine details around the face. “Are you working tomorrow?” he asked his mom, voice slightly muffled by the drawstring.

She sighed at his question. “I am. But not till two. So at least I get the morning.” Mason nodded in response and she asked in turn, “What about you?”

He took the drawstring out of his mouth and turned to face her. “Nah, hardware store’s been closed all weekend. D’you want me to take Sean and Brook to nana’s house then?”

Hellen smiled gratefully at him. “That would be much appreciated. She’ll probably have eggs to decorate or Easter cookies to make or something to keep them busy. She always does.”

Mason smirked. “At least then they won’t be bugging me.” He turned back around to keep working and Hellen took a deep, slow breath. Tomorrow wouldn’t be fun for her. It was amazing, really, how many people came to the drug store on Easter Sunday and how irritable they could be. At least her kids would be occupied.

Mason finished up with whatever he was doing and packed up the tablet and laptop for the night. Stretching out his back and shoulders, he gave his mom a small wave. “Night,” he said quietly, then made his way upstairs. Hellen paused to give him a tender smile and then continued with her chocolate distribution, making sure to hide a few extra tricky ones for Mason.

*

Sean squealed as he left his room and saw chocolate eggs scattered all around. The sound effectively woke the remaining members of the household better than any alarm clock ever could. Hellen was already technically awake, anticipating her youngest son’s early morning, and she grinned as she climbed out of bed and stepped out into the hall. Brooklyn was second to emerge from her bedroom, jumping up and down and chanting excitedly as she looked at all the sugar she could consume. Mason was much slower to come out of his bear den, and he was looking a bit groggy as he smoothed down his hair and yawned. Brooklyn and Sean charged downstairs, screaming and pushing each other and kicking chocolate eggs everywhere, and Hellen laughed with Mason as they followed at a more reasonable pace.

“The Easter Bunny came!” Brooklyn shrieked from the living room. She and Sean had found their Easter baskets sitting on the coffee table, stuffed with chocolate bunnies and jelly beans and lots of coloured Easter grass. They dug into them eagerly, Brooklyn howling like a gladiator every time she pulled out a new piece of chocolate, and emptied the candy onto the table so they could then use their baskets to collect the eggs throughout the house. Sean raced back upstairs while Brooklyn hit the main floor, and Mason just crashed on the couch with an amused snort at their excitement.

“Happy Easter,” Hellen said, handing him his own basket. There wasn’t as much in his as in the younger kids’, but she knew he liked the coconut cream eggs from the store downtown and she always got him a hollow chocolate bunny. There were some marshmallow bunnies in there too, covered in all shades of coloured sugar. It amused her how they turned his mouth different colours.

“Thanks mom, Happy Easter,” he said happily, immediately cracking into one of the marshmallow eggs while the pounding of small feet sounded through the house. He always let the kids go first, collecting whatever chocolates they could reach, and then gathered up whatever ones they left behind for him.

“Coffee?” Hellen asked, standing, and Mason nodded. She went to the kitchen to make up a pot and had to dodge Brooklyn’s frantic gathering.

“So much chocolaaaaaate!” Brooklyn screeched, showing her mom how many eggs she’d collected in her basket, and Hellen laughed.

“Looks like the Easter Bunny was good to you this year!” she said. “Santa must have said good things about you!” But Brooklyn wasn’t listening, having already moved onto the next chocolate egg. Hellen grinned with amusement. Their grandmother would be in for quite the sugar rush that afternoon.

She was just putting the grinds in the coffee maker when Sean started wailing. Concerned, she stepped out into the dining room, following the sound, and saw that Sean was standing by the china cabinet, reaching up with both hands towards a chocolate egg perched on top. It was wrapped in gold foil and it was obvious why he wanted this shiny prize.

“That one’s for Mason, honey,” Hellen said, hoping to placate him, “but there are more in the living room. I think there’s even a nice gold one in there for you.”

“But I want it!” Sean whined, standing on his toes to try to get it. He had his heart set on that little gold egg so Hellen shook her head and went over to get it for him

But as she reached out to take it down, he wailed louder. “Nooo! I want it!”

“Well, honey, I’m going to get it for you,” she explained, perplexed, but still he complained.

“Nah, he’s gotta get it himself,” Mason said, coming up behind them from the living room, having heard their debate. “He’s a big kid. He can get it himself.”

Then, like any good brother should, he hoisted Sean up on his shoulders and let him reach out and grab the egg himself. Sean then spotted another egg, on top of the door frame, and kicked his feet against Mason’s chest, pointing eagerly towards it. Mason carried him over, touring the room until Sean had collected all the chocolates in plain sight. Brooklyn saw them then and wanted a turn, so Mason dutifully took her through the living room so she could get the eggs out there.

When both kids were happy, they crashed on the big couch and started breaking into their chocolates, babbling excitedly to one another and trading eggs based on the colours of the foil wrappers. Hellen finished with the coffee as Mason went on a hunt for the more difficult eggs, and then he joined her in the kitchen as she served out two steaming mugs.

“We should start calling you the Easter Bunny,” she teased, getting the milk from the fridge.

Mason smirked. “Nah, I don’t look good with rabbit ears. Besides, that’s your job.”

Hellen stirred her coffee and smiled. “I guess so.” She took a sip, then lowered the mug. “Thanks for your help today,” she said softly, “taking the kids to nana’s and all.”

Mason shrugged. “It’s fine.” He too took a sip and then added a bit more sugar. “Do you want me to pick something up for dinner? For when you get home? I guess you’re working late…”

Hellen shook her head. “It’s appreciated, but not necessary. Knowing nana, she’ll send something home.”

“True.” They both drank some coffee, quiet for a moment.

Then Hellen put a kiss on Mason’s head. “Happy Easter, love,” she whispered, and then ventured out to the living room, where the screaming and laughter was getting just a little bit rowdier.

***

-Alex

The 777 Writing Challenge

Abglehfe.

Hi.

*deep, gathering breath* So. It’s been a while, again. You know the excuse by now–school. Gross. But my last day of classes was on Thursday and I just have to finish up exams this week and then I am a freeee bird.

(I am ridiculously tired. Bear with me.)

I have so so so much to catch up on. You bloggers have been keeping busy, so I have a bazillion posts to read, and that’ll take a few days. And this blog is a disaster (don’t even look in the menu tabs. Just don’t. It’s a war zone in there.) so that’ll need fixing up. And I think I need to sleep. But at this exact moment in time I’m feeling a-okay and rather productive, so here’s a fun little pre-Easter post for you all!

It’s called the 777 Writing Challenge, and the rules of this challenge are as follows:

The 777 challenge requires you go to Page 7 of your work-in-progress, scroll down to Line 7 and share the next 7 lines in a blog post. Once you have done this, you can tag 7 other bloggers to do the same with their work-in-progress.

I was tagged by none other than the wonderful Jennifer K. Marsh, who shared lines from her second book in the Ilimoskus series. Lovely stuff, and I am very excited for this book to come out!

Now, as for my book. Oi. Haha. We are on… fairly decent terms right now, my book and me. It’s feeling a little neglected because I haven’t written in a while, but I wrote some good material yesterday so my characters were made happy again. I’m still not much farther than when I failed my goal of finishing before Christmas, but that’s okay. Because I swear to the heavens above, this draft is getting finished this summer. In May, or June. And I’m not kidding. I’ve spoken to my characters and they agree that extraneous tasks such as eating, sleeping, and socializing should only be done after the draft is finished. So I should theoretically have plenty of time for writing.

(I’m going to die, but at least it’ll be done.)

Now, as for this 777 challenge. I went and looked at the 7th page and the 7th line and I am stunned by how booooring they are. Haha, they honestly are probably the most boring lines in the whole book. I don’t even know if they’ll make the next cut. But hey, here they are regardless:

It was almost 2:30, which meant my mom would be home in a half hour. I remembered my messy room and went upstairs to tidy it up before she got home. I wonder what Hannah’s room looks like right now, I thought, unable to stop myself. Trying to ignore the sick feeling it put in my stomach, I climbed the stairs faster than before.

 My room really did need a good cleaning, I realized when I entered. In the past few weeks, I’d been so busy with homework and projects leading up to exams, as well as helping out with the school play as a prop designer, that I had usually been too tired or rushed to take the time to tidy my room. I hadn’t realized just how badly it had piled up until I took a good look at it now.

 Wow. So fascinating. Her room is yucky. And wow, this Hannah girl, wonder what her room looks like. *sigh* Haha, these lines certainly aren’t selling my novel :P

I guess in context, these lines become much more important. Like this Hannah girl–she just fell ill with a violent and incurable disease, right in front of the protagonist’s nose. So my protagonist can’t help but think of her, and think of what her room looks like, and realize that her room is probably a normal looking room because anybody can get this disease. And that scares her a hell of a lot.

The fact that my protag’s room is messy is also much more significant in context, acting as a physical representation of a mental state of being. She has had so much worry piling up on her, it’s like her mind is becoming more and more cluttered until she can’t see the metaphorical floor. And just outside this snippet, we see that she fails to clean her room, finding it too overwhelming a task.

Then there’s how busy she is, with homework and exams and helping out with the play. She (like myself) sucks at juggling so many things without becoming stressed out. She wants to get good grades and do good work, and she wants to help out others and lend a hand where she can, but it quickly becomes too much for her. And that’s a significant character “flaw” later on in the novel.

This scene itself is probably going to get changed in the next round of editing, I’m not gonna lie. But I do suppose it is important. It’s interesting to me, actually, to look at the first five chapters of the book, because they’re all mostly like this–my character going through daily life even though daily life is quickly falling apart. I have this forced normalcy vibe going on that really reflects the stuff going on in my protag’s head.

I find it fascinating, all these subtle things that influence my characters in a non-obvious way, and that’s probably the only reason I actually put up with editing :P But anyways, hope my snippet wasn’t too boring ;)

As for the people I’m gonna tag, how about… Olivia, TJ, Emerald, and Airlia. Something fun you can do if it interests ya :)

(I was supposed to tag 7 people but I couldn’t think of anyone else…)

I shall be back tomorrow to write something for Easter, but till then, have a good night everyone. Try to rest up. Take care :)

Alex