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.