Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Angels Proclaim It Again and Again

My story "The Angels Proclaim It Again and Again" won the twenty-fifth Finish That Thought contest.  Here it is, with my original typo (I typed "race" instead of "grace" at one point) fixed:

“Who invited Uncle Jasper to Christmas dinner?”
I looked down to see who had spoken, tugging on my skirt as he did.  “Now Timothy, that’s no way to speak of your uncle.”
Timothy shoved one of his thumbs in his mouth and proceeded to talk around it, “My mommy says Uncle Jasper is a nuisance who needs to stop playing around and join the progressives.”
My eyes widened.  “My, those are very big words, for you and your mother both.  Your uncle is a very nice man.  He celebrates the true spirit of Christmas.”
Dinner bells rang out from the dining room, tinkling lightly.  Then pealed the bells more loud and deep.  “Dinnertime” said Cousin Martha.
I led Timothy to his mother at one end of the table and sat down at the other.  My mouth watered at the scent of the gorgeous ham at the center of the table.  My brother, James, passed me each dish of food in turn.  I took a bit of everything—ham, potatoes, green beans, duck, buttered rolls—before passing it along to my sister, Gloria.  A smile forced its way to my lips.
“Jasper, I believe you said you wanted to do the blessing this year?” said Cousin Martha.
Uncle Jasper smoothed his thin mustache and stood.  “Joy to the world!  The lord is come.  It is Christmas yet again.  Thank you Lord for that first Christmas, so many years ago.  Behold him come, offspring of a Virgin’s womb.  Veiled in flesh the Godhead see.  Hail the incarnate Deity, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel. 
“Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay, close by me for ever and love me, I pray.  Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care and take us to Heaven to live with Thee there.”
I heard Timothy’s mother try to hide a scoff under her breath.
Uncle Jasper seemed to respond in turn, beginning to sing his blessing.  “Peace on earth, goodwill to men, from heaven’s all-gracious King.  He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness, and wonders of his love.  And wonders of his love.  Son of God, love’s pure light.  Radiant beams from thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord at thy birth.”
Uncle Jasper’s words went solemn.  “Now we all know what happened to your son, oh Lord.  And we know that some today don’t care about his great sacrifice.  But I have one more carol for you, Lord.  God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.  We may be forgetting what Christmas is all about, but the angels proclaim it again and again: peace on earth, goodwill to men.  Amen.”  He sat down and began to eat, without another word.
Timothy’s mother was burying her face in her hands, sobbing.  I saw her through my own tears.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Magic: An Analysis of My Favorite Novel Quotes (Part 1)

On the wall to the right of my desk there are seven sticky notes, each holding one of my favorite novel quotes.  Today, I will analyze the only quote of the MG age group, which also happens to be the only quote of the literary genre.

"'Hattie,' he says at last, looking thoughtful, 'I believe you are one of the people who can lift the corners of our universe.'" - Adam in A Corner of the Universe

I reviewed A Corner of the Universe back in January.  This quote really struck me while reading the book for the second time.  For one, it inspired the book's title, and I really like witty titles.  This piece of dialogue, at its surface, means almost nothing at all.  "Lift the corners of our universe"?  What's that supposed to mean?

If you haven't read the book, you almost can't possibly understand.  Only through reading the book to that point can you get a true understanding of Adam, the speaker.  To Adam, his words meant something.  To Adam, they meant a heck of a lot.  After seeing Adam's arc in its entirety, this quote is even more magical.  It's simple, yet utterly complex.

The book goes right ahead to state that Adam was "looking thoughtful" as he said it, which may seem like a "tell" that should be fleshed out more.  It isn't.  Anything more and the line would have lost its luster.

The syntax here is beautiful.  "Hattie" the quote begins.  Adam addresses the person he's speaking to.  You know what follows must be serious.  Then comes the tag.  It implies a lot in six words.  Adam stands there for a while, thinking, searching for the words for what he wants to say.  But there aren't words.  At least not words that make any "real sense."  Yet they mean exactly what he wants them to.  Hattie is special.  Hattie "can lift the corners of our universe."  Hattie can defy the laws of the world as we know it.

What makes it even more wonderful is that Hattie is Adam's niece, although they're only about ten years apart in age, so far as I can remember.  This isn't some empty, pseudo-romantic quote that means nothing.  It's a magical quote between two people bonded first with blood, second with utter admiration, that means everything.  It's magic, transformed into words, drawn in ink, forged on paper.

I aspire to find this sort of magic, magic that only a writer can find, magic that takes cunning and expertise by the ton, where plot, setting, and character collide in a proving display of the power of words.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Poem for the Season

Rather than criticizing a work of fiction today, I would like to give praise to a poem I read recently.  It was written by author Peggy Eddleman some years ago, posted on her blog just yesterday.  You can read it here.

I think Ms. Eddleman does a splendid job representing the spirit of the Christmas season.  Her word choice is beautiful.  She makes very good use of the medium, utilizing its full potential.  I highly respect her pious sentiments.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Oncifer Fought a Frosty Foe (Vlog)

video

This post replaces yesterday's post.  I decided (not at all because I didn't realize that there was actually another Sunday in December...) to push my vlog up a week in celebration of Christmas.  Here's the link to this story in its comment form.

Merry Christmas, all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Misreporting Is Wrong

I have never been one to use my blog as a way of conveying politics, religion, etc. and I'm not going to start today.  I will, however, be walking a lot closer to the line today.

Many news sources have posted negative articles on an interview/article involving Phil Robertson and his subsequent ban from the hit television program Duck Dynasty.  I am here to try to clear some of this backlash.  I will not be doing this by way of opinion.  I will be doing this by way of showing people how poorly these news sources have been reporting.

First off, you really must read the GQ interview/article to understand the situation.  Read all three pages, please.  If you don't you'll miss a heck of a lot.

Now read any of the various negative reporting.  There's Huffington Post (under the Gay Voices section, I may add), LA Times, TV Guide, and a few more.

These news sources are quoting the pieces of the GQ article that they want to quote in order to express their viewpoint.  This is blatant misreporting.  Do we not all agree that misreporting is wrong?

News sources have decided that it isn't important to quote the question that prompted one of Mr. Robertson's most challenged statements.  GQ asked, "What, in your mind, is sinful?"

They have somehow decided that this quote is unimportant: “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”  This is important, don't you agree?

Tone, while important in fiction, should, in almost all schools of learning, be kept as neutral as possible in an article/interview of the kind published by GQ.  This is clearly not the case in this situation.  The word choice is nearly libelous.

Misreporting, especially hand-picking quotes and then mixing them with heavily-biased wording, is wrong.  Who dares challenge this statement?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Elantris

I will never doubt Brandon Sanderson again.  At the beginning of Elantris I was thinking, "This is pretty rough.  How did he debut with something this long and average?"  Then I hit the midpoint of the story.  Let's just say the last three hundred pages are some of the best I've ever read, each one taken individually.  I'm going to be a punk and go with a horrid pun: Elantris is epic.

There are three main POV characters in Elantris, for the most part rotating one chapter apiece.  It was a cool approach.  At first it was a little annoying, but by the magic (yes, another horrid pun) midpoint the pacing adjusted to fix the problem.  All three characters are dynamic, unique, relatable, and complex.  What more can you ask for?  Hrathen's parts were my least favorite.

The plot in Elantris has many facets.  Each line is related, albeit varied.  The two main lines exist in Elantris and outside of Elantris.  I loved the former.  The latter was somewhat less great, yet still good.  Subplots really boosted the characters' appeals.  The pacing ramped up in the second half, which in combination with some of the best foreshadowing I've ever encountered, led to sheer awesomeness.

Elantris is never given a full description; it doesn't need one to be cool.  There's a lot of flesh to this story's world, full of interesting cultures at the edge of sight and religious tension you can almost feel.  I've seen more unique settings, although I never felt like setting held the story back in any way.

Elantris is probably tied for my favorite book.  The first half could have had a massive overhaul, but you can't argue with the second.  It was powerful.  Bloody powerful.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

New Scar

There's a scar on my arm.  I could swear it wasn't there a second ago.  My heart flutters.
Blinking lights?  No, there couldn't have been.  And what could've been making gurgling noises?
I look down at my feet and freeze.  The grass is scorched.  It was a brilliant green just a moment ago.
What is going on?
Another image burrows into my mind.  A tall, paper-thin figure, bearing only the faintest humanoid resemblance, looms over me.  Its chest is coated in what appears to be brain tissue.  Blood drips from a razor-like instrument in one of its four hands.
I scream, despite the peaceful meadow surrounding me.
The vision pans out inside my head.  It feels like a dream.  I know it’s a memory.
I’m in a shining white room.  A metal disk floats beside me, holding dozens of tools.  Black lines in haphazard patterns cover every wall.  The lighting is dimmer than expected for a surgery.  Or, more likely, an experiment.
I see my house at the top of the next hill.  My legs can hardly move fast enough.  As I arrive on my doorstep, huffing and puffing for air, an orange strobe light zooms away on the horizon.
My face is still cold from the monster’s frigid breath.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brandon Sanderson's Laws of Magic

It's Forensics season again and I just got back from a meet, so my head isn't very clear right now.  (I managed 2nd out of 5 competitors in extemporaneous.)

Anyway, today I'm simply linking to Brandon Sanderson's Laws of Magic, along with my extrapolations of the Laws as posted over the last few months.

First Law---Magical Resolutions

Second Law---"Illegal" Magic Systems

Third Law---Expansion Versus Addition

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Several Comments of Friendly Criticism

Instead of my typical five-paragraph literary criticism, I'll be directing you to a few several-sentence comments I left on the stories I'm competing against in the Finish That Thought #23 contest.  I tried to make them honest, but friendly.  Hopefully I won't be taken as harsh...Anyway, you can see them, read my competitors lovely stories, and check out mine, a light romance story titled "I Love It," here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Her Eyes

Head on over to Microhorror.com to check out my entry in this year's Halloween Contest, "Her Eyes."

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Guest Story Editing Part 7 Explanation

This will be my last explanation post, as I've run out of editing posts to explain.  You can find this last part here.

The first paragraph of this part is a giant tell, same as usual.  I did my best to show the details through a more intimate, tighter, more visible viewpoint.  The story was meant to be light-hearted, so I tried to make it innocent and serene.  I think I did pretty well.

I chose to change the ending of this story, as the original felt very abrupt and cheesy.  The themes (don't think too much of it, I'm not much of a "theme" kind of guy) of forgiveness and friendship was too perfect to pass up on.  My last bit is still a little cheesy, but in a sweeter, less slap-stick way, in my opinion.

What d'ya think?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

IWSG---My Life Is Taking Over My Life


This is my fifth post for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group.  From Mr. Cavanaugh's blog: "Purpose: To share and encourage.  Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak.  Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance.  It's a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

As this post's title suggests, my life is taking over my life.  I was so exhausted from working on school projects yesterday that I had to make the deliberate decision to delay my Tuesday literary criticism a day.  There are a thousand things to do and even without football taking up eleven or so hours a week I'm continuing to fall behind in my reading and writing.  In the last ten days (give or take) I've read a minuscule two flash fiction pieces, one short story, and about twenty pages of Elantris.  I want to be a writer and editor.  But where's the time?

My head is spinning, so I'm going to cut this short.  I still have some makeup work to do for French class.

Worldbuilding

"Worldbuilding," written by Alex Shvartsman, really disappointed me.  From the first rocky sentence to the last I couldn't help but wonder why Daily Science Fiction bought it.  The idea wasn't horrible, I'll concede, but the wording could have been many shades better.

There are two characters in this story: Bob and Peter.  The characterization wasn't done too bad.  They're meant to be hilariously misrepresented stereotypes, which I can handle.  However, the characters came off more as annoying than funny.  I didn't care about the conflict because I didn't care about Bob.  Part of it is his name.  No offense to anyone named Bob, it's just not an excellent character name.  Oh, and according to the second paragraph he can vocalize words by nodding.  How did that slip through editing?  Am I missing something there?

The only plot in "Worldbuilding" is the unraveling of a very predictable conversation.  It was about a four out of ten on my inner "coolometer."  I was very close to abandoning this story midway and doing my criticism on something else.  There's a twist at the end, sure to be appreciated by some; I was not overly amused.

Up until the penultimate paragraph, the setting was almost irrelevant.  The twist gave it a massive boost, albeit not one large enough to make up for everything.

My advice this week is the same as it was last week: only read this story to analyze the writer's mistakes.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Delay

Today's post has been delayed until tomorrow due to a history project.  "See you" then.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Delicious But Deadly

(Note: This story was my entry in this contest.  I'm going short and sweet today.)

“Is cranberry sauce supposed to taste like this?” asked Zuri.  Her nostrils flared.
“You act as if this is your first Thanksgiving.  Yes, of course.  Sweet and tangy, isn’t it?” Zander replied.  He licked the red film from his incisors.
“I’ve never had cranberry sauce with my Thanksgiving feast.  In San Diego the food was quite average on Thanksgiving.”  Zuri took another turn eating from the can.  “How did you manage to get this anyway?”
“The zookeeper had it in his pocket for some reason.  I think she said something about giving her mother-in-law a nice sur—”
Both of the zebras fell to the dirt, writhing.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving.  I'm watching football.  Therefore, this will be a thanks-giving post.

Thanks to everyone who follows my blog, writes posts I enjoy, and/or stops by to read my posts from time to time.

Thanks to everyone who has personally helped me out with my writing.

Thanks to all the professional writers who have offered advice through podcasts, books, blogs, Twitter, etc.

And, most importantly, thanks to the Lord for giving me the talents required to do what I do.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Those Little Slices of Death

"Those Little Slices of Death" is an intriguing title for a flash fiction piece.  It left me with high expectations.  The story ended up disappointing me.

There are three "main" characters in this story.  Only two of the three are given much consideration.  While the characters' quality is somewhat redeemed at the end, they really weren't well done.  The protagonist is dull, annoying, and wishy-washy.  One character does nothing at all.  The third character is just plain strange.  That's three strikes from three pitches.

Recounting past events isn't much of a plot.  It could've been done exceptionally, I suppose, but it wasn't.  Because the character motivation made little sense, so did the plot.  There seemed to be an attempt at a  theme, which was a nice sentiment; however, it was poorly executed.

The setting was probably the coolest element of this story: near-future with drastically different society, having just enough familiar to balance out the strange.  Was it realistic?  Borderline, although it was never clearly stated that the setting is Earth, so a lot can be forgiven.

This story is dystopian sci-fi at its rockiest.  I recommend that you read it only to comprehend the writer's mistakes.

Monday, November 25, 2013

No Squire in the Kingdom (Vlog)

video

This is my first time video blogging (or vlogging).  Check it out.  It took a lot of time to figure out how to do it.

As promised, here is the link to the edition of the newspaper this story appeared in.  (I misspoke in the video.  It was actually the October edition.)  Scroll down to the "article" titled "Fiction."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Guest Post Editing Part 6 Explanation

Please follow along with Guest Post Editing Part 6.

I entirety of this part's original was awkward.  Most of my rewrite was still a little awkward.  I'll try to fix that.

The first four paragraphs in the original got a boost in word count and an extra paragraph.  It was pretty bare bones, so I bulked it up to help the pacing.  My wording could have been a lot better.  How about:

"Wiggles wafted through his living room.  The fire in his fireplace was almost dead, so he tossed a piece of rugged pine into its ashy waste.  He jumped when he saw the empty taffy bowl on the mantle.

'Mom, have you eaten any of our taffy lately?' Wiggles asked.

'Not in the last few weeks.'  His mother knit her eyebrows.  'Why do you ask?'

'Just wondering.  It needs refilling, for the first time that I can remember.'  He stayed long enough for his mother to nod before retreating to his room."

The remainder of the story is a long trail of thoughts in bad form.  I summed everything up in a manner more common in prose.  My final two paragraphs are far better than my first five, for sure.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Artist's Retrospective

Artist's Retrospective, written by David D. Levine, is very strange.  It disoriented me toward the beginning, before I had a good guess of the plot.  Odd enough, it never threw me out of the story.

There is only one character in this story, the artist.  He narrates the story from the 1st-person.  You never get a great sense of his character, but you don't really need to.  Only a few of the artist's qualities are important to the story.  Those were were done well enough.

The plot is difficult to grasp during the first couple hundred words.  It was clearly intentional.  By the time I finished reading I understood.  The concept was clever, although hardly revolutionary.

My typical decider for science-fiction is the setting.  This setting is simple.  As with character, setting wasn't overly important to the story.  Plot and atmosphere complemented the single controlling attribute of the setting.

Overall, Artist's Retrospective gets a 77/100.  There could've been more flesh in places, even for flash, but the story worked anyway.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Bloodshot Biologist (Two-Minute Version)

(Note: I originally posted this story in three parts.  This is the heavily edited two-minute version.)

      Our story begins in a small cottage in a rather emerald-hued section roughly mid-way into a forest.  This was the cottage of a man, a solitary, intelligent man.  The local people called him “Tim”.
     Tim was a studying man.  He spent his days on his porch, watching little woodland creatures.  He was fond of the animals.  He even gave them each a name.  One rabbit he called “Fluffy”.  A red fox he called “Auburn”.  He found that name particularly creative.
     Tim studied the animals for hours a day, for so long that his eyes were quite bloodshot.  This earned him his nickname, “The Bloodshot Biologist”.  Needless to say, he preferred that over Tim.
     One day, Tim had a thought.  He thought something like, and now for something completely different.  So, he went inside and brewed himself his first cup of coffee.  While doing so, Tim had another thought.  “I’m getting tired of the animals in my yard.  I think I will make myself a new one.”
     He decided to make a trek the next morning to the shop of the local blacksmithing wizard.  He planned to have the wizard make him a magical tool that would help him create new animals.
#
     Tim set off the next dawn.
     The forest floor crunched lightly beneath his boots.  Or oozed grotesquely when he stepped on…never mind.
     Suddenly, a brown-haired man stepped in front of Tim’s path.  His beard seemed to glow in the limited light.  In a gruff voice he declared, “I challenge thee.  En garde!”  The man exploded forward, curved hand above his head.
     Luckily, Tim was a master of forearm-warfare.  He crouched slightly and waited.  As soon as the man dropped his hand to strike, Tim shifted to the left.   He swiped at…
     Long story short, Tim dodged the man’s roundhouse kick and prevailed with a blow to his chin.
     Tim continued his stroll, triumph evident in his gait.
     At last he came upon a sturdy wooden door.  “Blacksmith” was spelled out in iron letters above the frame.   Pink twine fastened a piece of paper to the lion’s-head doorknocker.  It read: “Out on party business; do not wait for me.”
     And so Tim fell to his knees and wept.  The End.

The Tag You're It Blog Hop

Mr. Jeff O'Handley from The Doubting Writer tagged me yesterday for The Tag You're It Blog Hop.  I shall answer the following four questions and tag three other bloggers.

1.  What are you working on now?

I have two novels on hold right now.  The first is a part heroic/part epic fantasy currently titled The Lost Mountains.  It features a band of virtuous knights who battle creatures of pure vice in a secondary world.  The magic system involves deities, light, and prisms.  It'll be really cool once I get to writing it...The second is a YA fantasy.  I consider it a hybrid of Hayao Miyazaki's films and the Fire Emblem video games, only in book form.

I also have a YA fantasy novelette partially complete.  It has an herb-and-blood-based magic system.

2.  How [do they] differ from other works in [their genres]?

I try to keep my magic systems unique.  The cast of characters in The Lost Mountains starts off with a large cast, rather than building up to it.  The other novel has a rare approach, introducing a new character or characters in almost every chapter (in the same formula as the Fire Emblem video games).

3.  Why do you write?

I write for three main reasons. First, to practice the process for when I become an editor in the future.  Second, for the enjoyment of writing something well and entertaining others.  Third, with the hope of making money some day soon.

4.  How does your writing process work?

I'm a discovery writer.  When I get an idea I try to combine it with other ideas and go wild.  I have a tendency for extremely tight ideas, so unless I decide to write something longer, I default to flash fiction.  I edit as I go, which leaves me clean first drafts, but after long spans of time.

Who to tag?  Let's see...
Anne Schlueter of AM Station
Bonnee Crawford of  The Blogging of an Aspiring Writer
Brandon Ax of Writer's Storm


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Guest Story Editing Part 5 Explanation

Guest Story Editing Part 5 featured a single paragraph in both unedited and edited forms.  Check it out.

I tried a more poetic approach in the edit, although I went a little overboard.  "As the sun descended" should read "as the day wore on."  The third sentence would sound better as "Fluffy went back to Wiggles' house every day for a week, each time taking a single piece of taffy."  I like the mock-seriousness of my concluding sentence.

Can you think of a better version of this paragraph?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rapid Fire

This is the multi-novel, low-word version of literary criticism Tuesday.

Kill Alex CrossHorrible title, but decent book. I give it a 77/100.


The Sister of the SouthThe Sister of the South was a great end to a grand adventure spanning three middle-grade fantasy series. It was the second-best novel set in the Deltora world behind Return to Del.


Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: 3/5


To Kill a Mockingbird: 4/5


The Hobbit: 5/5

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Still a Bard Mid-Song

Gerz threw open the door of what appeared to be the only tavern in town.  The bard sitting in the corner stopped playing his lyre long enough to study him.  He grimaced before returning to his song.  
The mail shirt beneath Gerz’s tunic clattered as he sat down at the empty table nearest the musician.  He tossed a copper at the musician’s feet and nodded.
            A wench, her eyes plastered to the ground, broke away from the trio of women across the room.  “What to drink?” she asked Gerz’s boots.
“Dark brew,” he said, peering into her steely irises.  The words came out just above a grunt, level and hard.  He laid two silver coins down on the table.
The wench left without picking them up, hustling toward a tapped barrel near the other women.  She set a foaming tankard down on the table and swiped up the silver.
“Thank you,” Gerz said as the wench spun around to leave.
            She turned, looking him in the face this time.  “You’re welcome,” she said, barely loud enough for Gerz to hear.
            “Maiden,” said Gerz, his tone relaxed.  “Would you per chance know of anyone in this town in need of a swordsman?”
            “I’m afraid I do not, but I will ask the local patrons if you are in need of work.”
            “That would be much appreciated.  I’ll be staying at The Flapping Pelican down the lane for a few days.  If you hear of anything, ask after Gerz.” 
            “I will,” she replied, a smile beginning at the corner of her lips.
            Gerz felt the tension in the room lessen.  The bard, who must have paused in his playing, strummed a major chord.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Guest Story Editing Part 4 Explanation

Here is an explanation of an old post showing unedited and edited parts of a story my cousin wrote for her seventh grade English class.

The first paragraph was a pretty bad "tell."  It was simple enough to fix.

The second paragraph felt a little too abrupt, so I put the dialogue tag at the beginning and beefed it up.

I combined the third and fourth paragraphs.  They needed a style boost, so I went with a more character-driven approach.

The last two paragraphs were bare bones.  I could have left them, but decided to add some words to the dialogue for realism and change/omit the tags.

I'm not quite sure why I decided to add an extra paragraph at the end.  I suppose it gives the story a nicer sense of finality and builds upon Wiggles' character.

All in all, my edits made the story better, in my opinion.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

IWSG---Anyone Can Do It


This is my fourth post for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group.  From Mr. Cavanaugh's blog: "Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

Why not be encouraging today?

You can do it!  In spite of what you may read in Stephen King's On Writing, anyone can become a great writer with the proper drive and adequate practice.  Sure, some people are predisposed to creativity, but to say that without being naturally creative you cannot come up with decent ideas is folly.

Let me give you some advice.  Try out multiple genres.  You may love writing romance, or fantasy, or westerns; that's great.  If you never other genres you may very well miss out of something you're really good at.  Perhaps you take a break from alternate history and decide to write a horror story.  The worst outcome is crummy manuscript.  At least you'll have written something.  If it turns out well, all the better!  You may have discovered something you excel at.

Anyone can write.  It's a hard job, yet extremely rewarding.  Don't give up on it if you're stuck in narrow straits.  Maybe you're writing the wrong type of story.  Maybe you just need more practice.  You'll never know unless you try.

So try.

I'll even give you a writing prompt, although I hardly expect anyone to actually take the time to write to it...

Incorporate rustling leaves into three flash stories (100-300 words?  Feel free to write more.): one fantasy or sci-fi story, one (clean) romance story or thriller, and one literary or mainstream story.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pavlov's Final Research

The first line of "Pavlov's Final Research" jarred me a little.  "The front doorbell jingled."  It jingled?  I guess it's accurate, but it felt strange to me and threw me out of the story for a moment.  The next sentence failed to pull me back in, attempting to utilize "reflexively" to build character quickly, yet falling flat.  After that the sailing was much smoother.

The characters in this story are real.  They feel fairly real in the context of the story as well.  One line of dialogue bothered me.  However, it was forgivable.  Character was very important to this story; I think it was done with adequate expertise.

This story has a strange plot.  It caters to the characters in a way that thrusts dialogue to the foreground.  The whole of it lasts just a few minutes.  There's really only one event.  For me, the plot wasn't large or emotional enough.

Setting played little part in this story.  The doorbell jingling is a setting detail, I suppose, so setting is probably the worst of the three main story attributes.  I can't really blame the writer a whole lot.

I've read worse.  I've read better.  This story is middling.  I'd still give it a read, my dear virtuous followers.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ebb and Flow

I write mostly flash fiction, so it makes sense that I should do some literary criticisms of flash.  Since I'm really behind on my Daily Science Fiction stories, I'm using their September 11th story, "Ebb and Flow" by LaShawn M. Wanak as my subject today.

There are two main characters in "Ebb and Flow," Megan and her husband, the first-person narrator.  Neither character is developed very well.  They do things, but the things they do hardly define them.  I wouldn't say they are terrible characters; I'm sure I've read worse.  The characters are simply flat, even for flash fiction.

The story doesn't really have a plot.  A little bit of time passes, but the only thing that happens is thought.

It's a sci-fi setting, done well enough.  Setting is the strongest element of the story, in my opinion.

I'm not going to give a percentage, because something tells me I really didn't understand the story as well as I should have.  The writer and editor are partly to blame, yet not 100%.  Read the story for yourself if you want an accurate score.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Guest Story Editing Part 3 Explanation

Because it's Halloween, I'm going to be horrifyingly brief.

I only made a few real changes in Part 3.  I love playing with dialogue tags, so I went to town, trying to hone the story through them.  The dialogue needed a little more style, so I provided it.  It was as simple as that.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Switcheroo

Instead of reading a literary criticism today, stop by the blog of Alissa Leonard and read my flash story "Escaped from the Labyrinth," my entry in her 17th Finish That Thought Contest.  I will post my normal Tuesday post on Sunday instead.

(Note: My story ended up "Special Challenge Champion")

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Chosen

Edmund stroked the edge of the key.  The tarnished metal was so cold he shivered.
His grandmother's special box sat in front of him on the bed.  Intricate grooves adorned the top of the miniature chest, yet the sides looked plain and warped, almost as if it had never been finished.  One edge was stained red, another charred black.
Edmund slid the key into its hole.  Took a deep breath.  Twisted.  Lifted the lid.  Gasped.
There lay a single sheet of paper, folded up in thirds.  Edmund pulled it out, his once-shaking body still as a stone.
He read the elegant script aloud, “If you are reading this, I have gone.  Fled, but not perished.  I cannot die.
“You were chosen from among my grandchildren to be the next in our ancient line to learn the Hidden Ways.  Go to London and find a man who goes by the name of Merlin.  He claims not to be the wizard of lore, yet I would not be surprised if he was.  He will tell you what to do and how to find me and your other ancestors, hidden away.  Waiting.  Tell no one you are leaving.  Give your grandfather a hug for me before you go.  With love, Grandmother.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Guest Story Editing Part 2 Explanation

Again, this is an explanation of an old post showing unedited and edited parts of a story my cousin wrote for her seventh grade English class.  Read along with "Guest Story Editing Part 2."

The first sentence/paragraph of Part 2 was in need of some rephrasing.  It was too abrupt and indefinite.  I gave it direction by stating that "the situation changed for the worse."

Dialogue pushed the plot forward in the next sentence.  Wiggles' mother called him away to the kitchen.  I cut the speech down a few words to improve the narrative rhythm.  The nickname in the original served little purpose, so I removed it.

Paragraph three needed only tweaks, the most important of which was changing a "tell" to a "show."

The final paragraph turned into three.  A sentence of description became a paragraph to add literary appeal, expand the setting, and slow the pacing.  You could argue that there was some character development there too.  The second of my created paragraphs did pretty much the same thing.  My wording could have been a little better.  The edited version of the story left off much the same as the unedited version, albeit with a few more words.  I could have told less.  It's not bad enough to worry about, in my opinion.

Any other suggestions or comments?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Children of the Mind (Ending Note)

Children of the Mind gained a lot of traction in the second half.  Orson Scott Card really stepped up, as I expected.

The largest section of each character arc arrived in half two.  They were very cool.  I didn't exactly foresee them, but they were properly foreshadowed.

Plot-wise, tons of stuff happened.  The events were tense, contemplative, and satisfying all at once.  Card is a master of his craft in this regard.

The setting comment from the midpoint analysis stands.

Children of the Mind earned an A- overall.  There were some problems, but nothing unforgivable.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Bloodshot Biologist (Part 3 of 3)

(Note: This humor is extremely deliberate.  It's supposed to sound awful.)

     A light-brown-haired man stepped in front of Tim’s path several yards ahead of him.  His beard seemed to glow in the limited light.  In a gruff voice he declared, “I challenge thee to a martial arts bout.  En garde!”  The man exploded forward, curved hand above his head.
     Luckily, Tim was also a master of forearm-warfare.  He crouched slightly and waited.  As soon as the man dropped his hand to strike, Tim shifted to the left.   He swiped out at the back of the man’s calf, nearly throwing him off balance.  The man whipped around with a high kick.  Tim brought up his arm and slipped it even higher, bringing the man to the ground.
     With a look of satisfaction, Tim crouched down beside the man.  “I believe I’ve…” he began, but was cut off by a jab to the face.  “That’s how you’d like to play?” he asked while ramming his elbow into the man’s sternum.
     The man leapt to his feet with a grin.  “It’ll take a lot more than that to take me down, and yes,” he said.  He made a taunting gesture.  The provocation was met by a hard swing at the thigh, deflected with ease.  Another thrust of the forearm landed across his abdominals a moment later.
     “You are quite an admirable opponent,” he said with a sneer.  “I guess I’ll have to use my secret weapon”.  The man bent down slightly, leapt into the air, and spun, right leg stretched in from of him.  The air seemed to pop with the sheer wickedness.  Tim jumped out of the way, body clearing the kick by only a few inches.
     “It’s time to end this,” Tim declared.  He charged forward and faked a blow to the shin, causing the man to back up a step and defend his legs.  Tim took the moment of weakness to lunge forward and pound his arm into the man’s chin.  The man’s eyes widened.  He teetered for a moment, and then stated, “You have discovered my weakness.   My honor is shattered.  I must depart.”  A fierce gait moved him away from the battlefield, a single tear marring his rugged cheek.
      Satisfaction spread across Tim’s face.  He continued his stroll, triumph evident in his walk.  The stream narrowed slightly as the trees thinned.
     Tim came upon a sturdy wooden door.  “Blacksmith” was spelled out in iron letters above the frame.   Pink twine fastened a piece of paper to the lion’s-head doorknocker.  It read: “Out on party business; do not wait for me.”
     And so Tim fell to his knees and wept.  The End.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Guest Story Editing Part 1 Explanation

A long, long time ago I took a story my cousin (her name is Maren Shenal) had written for her seventh grade English class and posted it one segment at a time on my blog along with revised versions of the segments.  I want to talk about editing more often on my blog, as for the past nineteen months I've focused mostly on drafting.  My next few writing posts are going to explain why I changed the things that I did when I revised my guest story (and perhaps refer to some things I would have done differently had I been writing those posts "today").

I will start with Part 1, which can be found here.  It's best that you follow along.  (If anyone is even reading this...)

The first sentence in the original felt too abrupt and showed too much for my taste.  Its implied style seemed a little too first grade for the rest of the story.  I turned that sentence into five.  The final two sentences could have been done better, for sure.  I now prefer something like, "Don't get me wrong, they had their fair share of hardships, but they were often small and almost always funny, and the case of Fluffy and Wiggles it was both."  "But" in the preceding sentence would therefore be changed to "albeit."

I retained the next sentence more-or-less.  It felt like the story needed some more description to balance out the opening dialogue, so I added some.  My revision was a little shaky.  I would have ended better with, "...yet his sharp teeth broke the pleasant image.  Fluffy caught a glimpse of his coat of dense purple fur on the very brink of squealing.  She held back a laugh."

The third sentence needed the same treatment as the second and some cutting.  I told more than I should have.  I could have shown with just a few extra words.  "Wiggles stared at Fluffy's long, horse-like body, his eyes shifting only to gaze upon the large black horn emerging from her skull.  In the corner of his view, Fluffy's hair sparkled in every hue of a rainbow.  The knot in Wiggles' stomach softened.  He smiled."  That's much better, in my opinion.  I took the purpose of the nickname and amplified it by changing it to description through the opposite character's eyes.

Sentence four was fine after a trim and a dialogue tag (although the tag could have been omitted).

I decided to maintain the narrative nature of the final sentence in Part 1 and only change the wording.  It does well enough as a transition in this genre.

Is there anything else anyone thinks should be changed?  General comments?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Revisiting Ender's Game

Since Ender's Game hits theaters soon and I have PSAT testing tomorrow morning, I figure it's in my best interest to repost my criticisms for Ender's Game and call it a night (right after I finish my Pre-Calc homework).

Midpoint Analysis

Ending Note

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Bloodshot Biologist (Part 2 of 3)

     Tim woke at a leisurely hour.  He massaged his neck and shoulders before rising with a yawn.  “It will be a long journey to the forge,” he thought aloud.  He strode over to a corner where he kept his travel-sack and bundle-stick.  The feel of burlap meant great adventure to Tim, as he was far from well-travelled.
     From his dresser Tim retrieved a fresh set of garments.  A forest-green tunic above a linen shirt and cloth leggings made up his clothes for travel.  Tim fished a fistful of copper coins, a few artichokes from his pitiful garden, and a waterskin.  He placed them in his sack and tied them to his stick, setting it aside so that he could perform further preparations.
     Food was limited in the forest.  Tim nibbled at some wild pears that managed to grow on a feral tree not far from his dwelling.  The excitement of his quest began to gnaw at him.  With a toss of his fruit to his friends, Tim entered his boots, mounted his luggage on his shoulder, and set out into the wood.
     The floor of the forest produced a soft crunch.  Or a grotesque ooze when he stepped on…  Nonetheless, Tim trudged forward at a brisk pace.  The rounded to the east down a gentle slope.  The downgrade was flanked by maples, the same trees he used to make syrup for the squirrels.  He didn’t eat it himself, that would be folly.  The squirrels don’t take kindly to people who eat their syrup.
     The faint pathway out of the wood edged to the right along a spindly stream.  The minor waterway was the main source of water in Tim’s part of the forest.  It doubled as a marking system to grant the easiest exit from the forest.  Tim followed it for about a mile with little excitement.  That all changed.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Writing a Movie Review

I had to write a review of the movie Gravity for my local newspaper's Thursday High School Highlights section.  The format I used was very similar to the one I developed for my literary criticisms.

As with most nonfiction essays, the review began with an introduction.  Of course, the language must be just a little lofty with plenty of buzzwords.  The basic position (favorable or unfavorable) should probably be stated upfront.

My literary criticisms typically have three body paragraphs, one each detailing plot, setting, and characters.  For a review I added two paragraphs.  The first, linked to characters, critiqued the film's acting.  The second, linked to setting, critiqued the film's visuals/effects.

Feel free to use this format if you ever write a movie review.  Or don't.  I don't really care.  As long as it's well-written.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Children of the Mind (Midpoint Analysis)

So far the final book of the Ender Quartet is decent.  It isn't mind-blowing, but it certainly isn't bad.  Xenocide, the preceding book, started out slow as well.

There has only been one pair of characters I don't like introduced.  Their dialogue is simply annoying.  I'm not sure yet if that was done intentionally.  Otherwise, the characters are great as usual.

The plot is very complex for the halfway point of a novel, yet it isn't confusing.  I like it.  There are multiple threads and several POVs (kind of, as I consider it to be omniscient).  After years of reading YA, it's nice to read those sorts of novels.

The settings are cool as usual.  They aren't as flamboyant as those found in space opera, (I consider this to be under the "soft" subgenre) although they suit the book.  It's all good.

Keeping things brief, this gets an 86% so far.  Hopefully it will improve by the end.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Bloodshot Biologist (Part 1 of 3)

(Note: this is very deliberate humor.)

     It was deep in the forest that it happened.  The forest was rather deep.  It was a rather deep, rather green forest.  The local people even ventured to call it “The Rather Deep and Green Forest”.  In this forest a great and mystical thing happened.  Actually, it was two progressive mystical happenings.  They were so mystical that some called them “The Mystical Occurrences from the Rather Deep and Green Forest.”
     The mystical occurrences from the deep, green forest began one day in a small cottage in a rather emerald-hued section roughly mid-way into the forest.  This was the cottage of a man.  He was a solitary, intelligent man.  The local people called him “Tim”.
     Tim was a man apt to study.  He spent his days on his porch with a mug of tea, peering out into his vast yard watching little woodland creatures.  He was fond of the animals.  The animals were each given a name, although their true titles were known by Tim.  One grey rabbit he called “Fluffy”.  A red fox he called “Auburn”.  The names go on and on.
     Tim studied the animals for hours a day, for so long that his eyes were quite bloodshot.  It was this behavior that earned Tim his nickname “The Bloodshot Biologist”.  Needless to say, he preferred that over Tim.
     After years of watching the various species of creatures in his little nook, Tim had a thought.  He thought something like, “and now for something completely different.”  Thus, he went inside and brewed himself his first cup of coffee.  Whilst doing so, Tim had another thought.  “I’m getting tired of the animals in my yard,” he pondered, sighing audibly.  “I think I will make myself a new one.”
     This posed a problem.  How would Tim create a new animal?  A tool!  A special tool would be needed for an animal to be created.  Tim made a plan.  He decided to make a trek the next morning to the home of the local blacksmith.  The blacksmith lived in the far-off “Rather Shallow and Plain Forest”.  After so much productive thinking, Tim got into his cot and drifted to sleep, dreaming of different animals he could make once he had a tool made by the blacksmith.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Link...Because I Have Homework To Do

I posted yesterday for IWSG and have a lot of homework to complete, so instead of a writing post you're getting an excellent link that's been floating around for a while.

The Gateway to Brandon Sanderson's Creative Writing Lectures Out of Brigham Young University

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

IWSG---A Brief Encouragement


This is my third post for Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group.  From Mr. Cavanaugh's blog: "Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!"

Today I'd like to offer a brief encouragement.  I received an email today saying that my latest submission to MicroHorror had been accepted and was already up on the site.  If I can get a publishing credit (however insignificant) any of you can.  Most of you have more schooling and life experience, seeing as how I'm a 16-year-old high school Junior.  So, go for it!

You can find my horror flash piece here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Emperor's Soul

The Emperor's Soul won a Hugo.  After reading it, I understand why.  Admittedly, I haven't read much of Brandon Sanderson's work yet, but compared to others in the genre he's in the highest of classes.  I'll give my score upfront: 97%.

Shai is clever.  She's good at what she does.  She thinks ahead.  She's proactive.  She's almost everything you could possibly want in a protagonist.  The cast of secondary characters have progressively lower strength based upon how important they are.  It's not a fault in the writing.  In fact, it may have been done on purpose.  The more the character was focused upon within Shai's POV, the more we were able to learn about them, leading to an increase in how strong they seemed as characters.  Everything worked splendidly.

I don't want to give too much away about the setting.  I have no complaints.  The story's set in a faraway part of the world from Elantris.  The setting is more anthropomorphic than most.

I had concerns with the plot coming in.  I worried for nothing.  Everything flowed.  Nothing felt too extraneous.  There were some cool little subplots that had both aesthetic effects on the setting and tweaks on characters.  They were nice to read.  The main plot held me.  I can't say anything more without giving things away.

Sanderson did pretty much everything right.  The only things I can really complain about are the switching of viewpoints for tiny periods of time at the end, although those are forgiven, and the oddity of the chapter titles.  They made practical sense, yet were slightly awkward to read.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ninety Minutes: A Graphic Depiction of War

(Note: This was written as a descriptive essay with strong narrative elements.  It's somewhat experimental.)

            For an hour and a half the world was a living Inferno.  There were no survivors.  Few corpses escaped complete mutilation.
            Smoke blanketed the field.  The grass, emerald green before the battle began, turned gray with ash within minutes.  The strongest-eyed sentinels lost vision beyond a few paces.  Men fired in random directions, unable to discern friend from foe.
            One party made the best of the fog of war.  The Dasoni mages improved their sight with incantations.  Red jets of flame and blue arcs of static cut down the Verox in their wake.  Veteran soldiers cried out at the sight of them, their green vestments dripping gore, eyes too white to be natural.  The mages limped through streams of flowing blood.  Spasms racked their bodies after each conjuring.
            Lord Kenneth, Captain of the Verox cavalry, alighted from his horse.  It collapsed in a heap on the ground.  Two of its legs bore slashes to the sinew, a third with multiple bullet wounds.  The Lord pulled his saber from its scabbard.  The equine perished after a single merciful thrust.  He shook his head at the loss of such a noble mount.
            A musketeer lay groaning at the base of an oak tree.  Leaves fluttered down upon his head, sticking to his sweat-damp hair.  He clutched his ankle, bone jutting from pale skin, with one hand.  The other hung limp at his side, wrapped in a makeshift bandage.  It pulsated, a cruelly rhythmic throb.  He murmured a prayer, looking skyward.
            Howitzer fire eclipsed all other noise at the Dasoni rear.  Burly men loaded iron balls and black powder into the gun barrels.  Their hands flew to cover their ears at the sight of each spark.  The projectiles disappeared in the smokescreen.  Who or what they struck was of no consequence to them.
            The Dasoni mages fell in waves.  Their muscles failed in near-unison.  Survivors from the Verox front paused in their flight.  They leered through the smoke, searching.  The mages succumbed to knife wounds in turn, or in some cases blows from Verox boots.
            Lord Kenneth pointed his saber forward, charging against a pocket of enemy infantry.  He danced with his foes, whipping his saber in complex arcs, parrying numerous blows.  A sharp pain erupted in his ribcage.  Cold fluid soaked through his overcoat.  He switched his saber to the other hand and continued to fight.  The throng of swords bent upon biting him further rose to a crescendo.  It was too much for the Lord.  A slash to his calf brought him to a knee.  His neck gave little resistance against multiple blades.
            Feeling slowly abandoned the musketeer.  His eyes rolled in a face devoid of any trace of color besides white flesh and dark ash.  He sighed, all pain evaporated.  The brown of his irises shrouded beneath drooping eyelids.  He stilled.
            The smoke began to clear.  Some of the artillerymen cheered, tired of chronic coughing.  They loaded another round of ammunition with little regard to their flank.  It proved to be an utter mistake.  Stragglers from the Dasoni cavalry surged toward the side of the battery.  By the time the horse’s hooves overtook the howitzer fire’s volume, it was too late. 
            When the last traces of smoke dispersed, the horror of the scene came to fruition.  Bodies were strewn out for acres.  Nothing stirred, save a few stray carrion birds.  Thousands lay lifeless on a frankly mundane plain.
            Only ninety minutes had passed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Expansion Versus Addition: Brandon Sanderson's Third Law of Magic

Brandon Sanderson's Third Law of Magic states "expand what you already have before you add something new".  This refers, at its heart, to the complexity of magic systems, but the principle drips down into many areas.

A novel can only support a finite amount of elements.  There isn't a specific number.  It simply has bounds, somewhere.  Readers have further limitations to their patience.  If you throw a million different magic systems, five million characters, ten million important settings, and twenty million subplots into the same book, you'll have two major problems: the book will be dreadfully long and ninety-nine percent of readers will get confused and frustrated by chapter eight (or six or twenty).

Making a few attributes of your world-building elaborate will not only cut reader anxiety to shreds, it leads to wittier, more satisfying prose as well.  If there are half a dozen magic systems you want to incorporate into a novella, you'll probably want to combine and subtract powers until you're down to one or two well-developed systems.  Brandon suggests doing so by finding the commonalities among your magic systems (or whatever it is you're combining) and linking from there.  If two systems heavily involve nature, merge them into one system with a strong controlling purpose.

Don't forget that everything you write affects everything you've written and shall write in the future.  Magic sculpts economies, politics, medicine, etc.  You can start at any place in your world-building, yet your first decisions cascade everywhere else.  If you want a very war-intensive magic system, the culture of the people who use it must be influenced by it, most likely becoming violent and fierce.  The people may barter in the blood they stripped from their enemies.  They may worship a god who uses a blacksmith's hammer.  Some type of tree, the best for a light-weight shield, may be sacred.  A few seeds planted into your world will spring up into a full-fledged harvest.  The soil can't support too many plants.  They will choke each other out and deplete all the available nourishment.  I won't even start analyzing metaphorical crop rotation...

The basic lesson here is to not throw a pinch of every spice on your rack into your stew just because you want to give to more flavor.  Everything about it is bound to be terrible.  Choose a few key spices, chosen with the foods in your stew in mind, and drop them in to compliment the dish.  If something doesn't taste quite right, don't toss something new in, tweak the ingredients you already have.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An Analysis of Five Lesser-Known First Lines

1.   "It began with President Coyle's children, Ethan and Zoe, both high-profile personalities since they had arrived in Washington, and probably even before that." - James Patterson's Kill Alex Cross

It's a fairytale-like opening, but executed well.  It gives you a lot of information from the get-go.  It's pretty solid.

2.   "In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three." - Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle

You kind of have to read the book to fully appreciate this.  It's pretty brilliant.

3.   "If someone had asked Jared Grace what jobs his brother and sister would have when they grew up, he would have had no trouble replying." - Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black's The Field Guide

There's character setup and a tinge of "man v. self" conflict presented.  It's not incredible, but it's definitely good.

4.   "Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, former Baron of Gorlan in the Kingdom of Araluen, looked out over his bleak, rainswept domain and, for perhaps the thousandth time, cursed." - John Flanagan's The Ruins of Gorlan

Epic.  Perhaps too epic.  It's vivid, I'll give it that.  Plenty of world-building.  Tough one.

5.   "Last summer, the summer I turned twelve, was the summer Adam came." - Ann M. Martin's A Corner of the Universe

It sets things up adequately.  You have to read the rest of the paragraph to get the real kick, but I think the opener gets you to read at least that far, so no harm done.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lucy and the Water Sprite (Part 3 of 3)

          Lucy’s eyes were dampening as well.  “I’m going to see if I can find out where the oil’s coming from.  I’ll meet you at our usual spot later.”
          “Good idea,” said Maratha.  Then she sped off in the murk.
          Lucy blew her nose in a handkerchief she kept for emergencies.  This was definitely an emergency.  “Oh, dear,” she whispered.
          Not much farther on, Lucy spotted the neighbors’ mill.  The creek was dug wider here.  A big water wheel turned slowly.
          The last thing Lucy took in as she hurried toward the building was a motorcar parked very close to the creek.  “Wow!” she exclaimed.
          It wasn’t until she was right up against it that she noticed anything wrong.  A pool of black fluid lay beneath the front wheels.  It was flowing into the water.
          Lucy charged further up the hill to her neighbor’s small wooden farmhouse and knocked on the door.  Mrs. Burroughs peered out with a smile.  She looked around about Lucy’s head as if looking for someone else.  “Where are your—” she began.
          “Your motorcar is leaking oil into the creek.  It’s horrible,” cried Lucy.
          “Oh,” said Mrs. Burroughs.  “Let me get John.”  She walked through the house to the back porch.
          A burly man with a graying beard strolled up to the front door.  “Hello, missy.  What’s the problem?”
          “You’re new motorcar is leaking oil into the creek.”
          Mr. Burroughs frowned.  “I’ll have to hire a mechanic.  There can’t be too much spilled.  I’ll grab a bucket.”
          Lucy walked with Mr. Burroughs over to the shed and picked up the smallest bucket.  Mr. Burroughs showed her how to slick the very top of the water off and pour it in a hole his dog had dug in his yard.  The water began to clear.
          Lucy wiped sweat off her forehead.  She knew it would take a long time to clean everything up, but it would be worth it.
          Luckily, Maratha returned.  She brought her father with her this time.  When Mr. Burroughs turned his back to dump another bucket, Maratha’s father waved his hand and the oil was cleared!
          Maratha and Lucy shared a wide grin.  Mr. Burroughs looked bewildered at first when he saw the water.  Then he muttered, “Creek nymphs,” bid Lucy a good day, and went back inside.
          The creek was saved.