Friday Flash: Moon Ritual

This is my first Friday flash in a long, long time. I don’t really like how some   of it came out so if you see a way to improve it, let me know! It’s just a little over 600 words.

Once upon a time, there was a princess happily married.

Then came the fourth day after the full moon in the eighth month of the year.

Hunger gnawed at her. The smell of cooking onions pricked her stomach. Her throat was parched. She prayed for the moon to come up, so she might drink.

She looked at the living room window. Stars sparkled in the sky, nearly as bright as her finery, but the moon was no where in sight.

This was for her husband, she reminded herself. If she was dizzy, if her head felt lighter than a leaf, it was for the greater good.

Gold bangles jangled as she walked back to the sofa. Sitting felt good; she felt as if hunger had taken her legs from her.

Her younger brother watched her with worried eyes. “You should eat, sister.”

”The ritual isn’t complete yet,” she said.

He shook his head, frowning. Her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law strolled in, followed by the maid. She carried a tray of savory fritters and sweets for the men and single girls.

Her brother pushed the maid away and rose to his feet. “Excuse me.”

“Come.” Her mother-in-law clapped her hands. “The moon will he up soon. Lets prepare our prayer trays.”

Obediently, she polished hers until it was as bright as a mirror. Her red veil looked good on her, she thought. Her husband would like it.

Her brothers, all seven of them, came back in. “The moon is up, sister,” the youngest sang out.

She rushed to the window to look. A bright, yellow light glowed in the distance.

She snatched up her prayer tray, but paused when none of her sister-in-laws prepared to come outside with her. “Aren’t you coming?”

”Oh,” said the oldest, a vision in green silk and delicate gold embroidery. “This moon is for you only.”

She frowned, puzzled. But the maid walked in and set a tray on a table. Her stomach rumbled at the smell of sugar and butter.

She ran out, prayer tray in hand. She flicked and poured water, murmured words over her offering.

Dinner was wonderful, fried bread and cheese, and her favorite, stuffed okra.

Than the maid walked in and announced: ”Your husband, the king, is ill.”

She rushed to his side, fell to her knees and cried out.

Her younger brother, shame-faced, told her what her sisters-in-law already knew: they had built a large bonfire on top of the next hill so she would think the moon was up and eat.

The princess begged the goddess forgiveness for her mistake.

Hundreds of needles pierced his skin. Slowly, laboriously, she pulled them out. Night and day, she knelt at his side and pulled needles. The pile grew to the thickness of her thumb, than her wrist and after months of labor, twice as big as her husband’s chest. Finally, only a few needles were left in her husband’s body.

The fourth day after the full moon in the eighth month of the year came again.

She left the maid pulling needles while she prepared her prayer tray.

She poured and flicked water to complete the ritual.

When she came back to her husband’s side, he was smiling and holding the maid’s hands.

She thought her heart would stop. She prayed to the goddess. Years passed.

She murmured words over next year’s prayer tray. “The queen becomes the maid and the maid becomes queen. The queen becomes the maid and the maid becomes queen. The queen becomes the maid and the maid becomes queen.”

One day, the king, curious, asked why kept the repeating the same words. She told him the story. He made her queen once more.

And that is why you don’t end the ritual before the moon rises.

Gotham Pilot

Gotham Pilot: Warning: Spoilers Ahead

I watched Gotham’s pilot. It’s about Gotham before Batman was a part of the city, when Gordan was a young detective.

So . . . I thought Bruce would be a little older. Unless this show goes on for years and years, he’s not ever going to active in the main mystery. At most, he’ll be part of the subplot. Little disappointed.

But! Lots of villains show up in the pilot – Penguin, Catwoman, Riddler, maybe the Joker and maybe Poison Ivy (she’s supposed to have rich parents, yeah? She doesn’t in this one. So maybe it’s an evil trick and I’ve fallen for it.) Also, they might keep people guessing who the Joker is, too. Just have a different a comedian on each week.

There might be too many villains for a single episode. But it is the pilot . . .

The second half of the episode felt a little rushed anyway. It turned from a simple, too-easy to solve murder mystery into a conspiracy to provide a fake murderer so the citizens feel safe in their homes. Gordan, the one good cop in a sea of bad cops, is upset.

He goes to confront and promptly gets into trouble. The mob boss has to come in and rescues the cops. Which is a little funny. Also, it contributed to the too-busy, rushed feeling. Made me go: WTH?

Surprising items:

  • Gordan’s fiancée, Barbara, is either lesbian or bisexual, and has previously carried on an affair with someone who thinks Gordan is dirty.
  • Fish: I enjoyed this character.

Favorite moment: Gordan’s interview with Bruce Wayne. This was a very touching scene.

Setting: Gotham is beautiful. I can’t decide if it’s supposed to be the city from the 80’s, or something from the cartoon, but it mixes the two and adds something from the present (cell phones!). It’s dark and edgy and very nice.

I am not sure how all the supervillains will mesh with a police procedural. Maybe a pre-Batman hero will show up? I don’t know. But I’ll be watching.

Middle Book Blues

I haven’t written a word in nearly two weeks. The book is half done. 

I have heard that the middle of the book is the hardest bit to write, the most common place to get stuck. How do I get out of it?

I have some idea what the next biggest scene will be. I even have some idea what my character needs to do – he has a to do list! And he’s sorely behind in the list of the things he needs to do. (He was derailed by the plot bunny!) Poor guy.

But I don’t know the next immediate step. I don’t know how he gets from here to the next biggest scene and he can’t just skip from here to there. I don’t even know how he gets from here to the next thing on his to do list.

I’m stuck and it’s unpleasant. Very, very unpleasant.

 

Banned Books Week 2014

Banned books week starts September 21−27, 2014, about a month from now.

I’ll read something from the top ten list of last year’s challenged books to celebrate. I should something about the sorts of books that are getting people all riled up anyway.

The list, from the American Library Association:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group 
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

Before now, I’d heard of only seven of these books: Captain Underpants, The Bluest Eye, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Hunger Games, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Bone. Looking for Alaska, too, if only because it also appeared on last year’s list.

The only one I’ve read is The Hunger Games, but I’m not really sure how anyone could challenge it over Religious Viewpoints. It has hardly any religious viewpoints.  I almost get how people can challenge it over Unsuited to Age Group – it is very violent. If the movie had been nearly as violent, it would not have gotten the PG13 rating. But I think teenagers can handle it. Older teenagers especially. Younger kids? Maybe not. Or maybe they could. Probably depends on the child.

Books In the Top Ten Challenged List of Both 2013 and 2012: Captain Underpants, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Fifty Shades of Grey, Looking for Alaska.

Fifty Shades of Grey was challenged for new reasons this past year: nudity, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group. If nudity was a reason to challenge a book, you could challenge the whole romance genre. Most of urban fantasy, too. And a good chunk of science fiction/fantasy as well.

As for unsuited to age group – really? Really? The book is meant for adults. How can anything be unsuited to age group for adults? I don’t get it. It’s baffling.

I am going to read one of these books to celebrate. I don’t know which one yet. Maybe Fifty Shades of Grey, if only to discover how anyone could think adults are not old enough to read it.

Who else is reading a challenged book? Tell me!

How did you know you want to be a writer?

I saw this article on BuzzFeed: 24 Signs You’re A Writer.  It’s  fun.

And than I saw this Opera article entitled: How to Know If You’re Really a Writer.

It basically lists how several people knew they were writers. They are:

1) Look inward to discover your issues.

2) Dictate stories.

3) Discovered “Just the Kind of Book” you want to write.

4) Someone tells you you’re a writer.

5) Job trains you in how to tell a story.

Um . . .  I’ve never been through any of these.

I knew I want to be writer because I want to tell stories. In Writing. That doesn’t feel as lofty as those reasons listed above. ;) It sounds almost pedantic.

How did you know you want to be a writer?

 

Forgotten Baby: Things that Bother me in Books

So, a couple weeks ago, I was reading a book. A fantasy. Not an epic fantasy, not urban fantasy, more sword and sorcery.

There was a guy; he used magic to sort of nudge a girl to like him. She does, they got together, and in due time, she gets pregnant.

The guy, the hero? He panics and wants out. A normal enough reaction in a boy, I suppose. He is all: I never promised her I would marry her.

So, okay, he didn’t. She thought otherwise, but he never said the words. In this community, the action is sort of a promise, but he never got that.

So than he gets into the trouble for questionable use of magic and gets thrown out of his community and into some other community.

The girl’s pregnancy is the catalyst for a bunch of actions, for the story taking off. She and her baby are never mentioned again. He falls in love with someone else, spends a lot to send letters to her, and never thinks about the unborn child he left behind. He never gives the child another thought.

Okay, yes, so it’s probably a little awkward to ask the girl you’re presently in love about the ex-girlfriend who you left pregnant. Still.

I am still a little bothered by how easily he can forget he left a child behind. I mean, he’s the hero of the book and all. He does a lot of good things, goes through a lot, he grows up. But this one thing? I can’t get over it. I finished the whole book weeks ago and it still bothers me.

I kept waiting for him to think about it. He never does. Not even when the girl he loves gets pregnant, too. It’s like the whole thing never happened.

What about the unborn child he left behind? What about the girl he got pregnant? It was a plot point and nothing more. It doesn’t have to be more – he’s that kind of guy, clearly.

But it bothers me. It really does. Do things like that bother you?

 

Dragons in Old Art

So I got a hankering to see how dragons have been painted/drawn/sculpted in the past. I thought I might get some ideas for a new way to portray dragons, an idea for a new story.

I didn’t get one, but I found a lot more dragon art than I imagined existed.

I went to the MET website, did a search, and pages and pages showed up. It’s kind of amazing.

This one is from France, 1633, by Nicolas Poussin, and I think the dragon looks small, but fierce. Those Romans look real, don’t they?

Romans and a dragon! Title: The Companions of Rinaldo

 

This one is from Italy, 1390, from the Workshop of Agnolo Gaddi. I have to say, the lady looks very calm for being swallowed alive by a dragon. This is the type of dragon head I usually picture when I picture dragons.

Title: Saint Margaret and the Dragon

 

This one! This one is really, really good. Maybe I should have started with this one first. It’s from Japan, 19th century, by Kawanabe Kyōsai. I love the yoga-ish pose, how the dragon is breathing fire, and the guy looks almost like he’s praying. The dragon? It looks almost like a pet. It’s hard to say.

Title: Shaka and the Dragon

 

This one is from Iran, third quarter 16th century, and no artist is listed. For an ink and water-color drawing from so long ago, this is really well-preserved. I like the details, how the dragon is wrapped around the mountain and most of the animals are running away. Except for a rabbit and two – deer? Are those deer? I can’t quite tell.

Title: Hero and Dragon

 

It’s from China, 12th–14th century, Southern Song, and it is made of jade. This is a brush washer. Um, are you supposed to wash writing brushes in this? I think it is far too pretty to use to wash anything.

Brush washer in the shape of lotus leaf with feline dragons

 

This is from China, 14th–15th century, Yuan or early Ming dynasty and the artist is not listed.  It’s my favorite. I can’t say why, I just love the trees and the dragons and how it’s eyes rolled off to the side.

Title: Dragons and Landscape

 

 

My Writing Process

Loril Maclaughlin tagged me in a writing blog hop. I am supposed to describe my writing process. I am also supposed to nominate three other people, but that feels like too much effort right now. So I am skipping that part.

One scene to the next . . .

This is difficult for me, because I don’t have much of a writing process. There are probably only two similarities for every story I’ve ever written.

1)      I am a panster.

2)      I need to have some idea of what the ending will be, at least for anything over 500 words.

I know from past experience I have difficulty writing stories when I don’t know the ending. They have a tendency to meander.

So . . . My Writing Process

I usually start with the idea for a setting or a character. Plot comes third, if it comes at all. Sometimes I will know

For novel length or almost novel length fiction, I do prewriting first. For me, prewriting consists of short scenes or stories. This lets me get to know the character, explore the world and maybe figure out major events in the story itself. It fills in background, lets me know what sort of childhood antics my character got up to.

I prewrite until I have idea what the ending will be and until I feel I know the character well enough to pants my way through the whole book. I cannot begin to emphasize how important that is, because I usually have no idea what the plot is.

I have tried outlining and I’ve blogged out about it before. But my outline is basically a timeline of events, and if I don’t know what the events are, well, they don’t exist on the outline. Which makes it less than useful. I mean, it is a good way to keep track of events. I thought it was working, but eventually, I found that writing from the outline does not work for me.

So back to how I write. Sometimes, usually, most often I will know some of the main events. I write to those. I write from scene to scene, aiming to end up in the nearest main even.

Lots of times I stop mid-scene when I reach the end of my word count for the day. I have never done it on purpose, but I am thinking about it. It hasn’t hurt me any. And I think maybe ending like that makes it easier to pick up the next day.

So that’s it. I write from one scene to the next until the reach the end I had in mind before I begin.

Mind, this doesn’t include chapters. In the first draft I don’t know where one chapter ends and the other begins. That’s something to figure out after I finish. Is that strange? Maybe it is. From what I’ve read of other people’s processes, a lot of other people have chapters from the get go.

If I don’t know what the character is doing next, I go back and reread, and find a missing thread or take another look at the character’s motivation. You know, look for where I went wrong.

This is how I write.

e-Reader Dying Out?

I feel like this is me on a sunny day.

I just read an article on Mashable and on Slate that e-Reader sales are down. They might go down until ALL companies stops selling them, just like that trendy device no one remembers from a decade ago, like the Mac Cube.

Barns and Nobel are already separating themselves from the Nook; Amazon has a new phone; Sony has long since gotten out of the American market.

Both Mashable and Slate say it’s because e-Readers are a single-purpose device, a purpose that can easily be performed on any tablet and smartphone. That’s, true, yes, you can read anything on a tablet or a smartphone.

Mind, this category of the dedicated e-Reader does not include e-Readers such as the Nook Color and Kindle Fire. Those are tablets, but they are usually marketed as e-Readers. The dedicated e-Reader is an e-ink reader.

Mashable says the smartphone is killing the single-purpose e-Reader. I disagree; if anything is killing it, it’s the tablet. The smaller tablets and most e-Readers have a similar size.

Me, I got a dedicated e-Reader, a tablet and a smartphone. I do have an e-reader app on my tablet and my smartphone and even some books, but the bulk of my reading is done on the e-Reader. It’s just a lot more comfy for hours and hours of reading. A lot more comfy.

But if you don’t read as much as I do, maybe a tablet or a smartphone would be a better idea. It means fewer devices and less expense. You can get and read books on either one easily. So a part of me thinks, yes, there will come a day when dedicated e-Readers are no longer sold.

What do you think? Do you think the single-purpose e-Reader is on it’s way out? If you wanted to be able to read ebooks today, would you get a tablet or a dedicated e-Reader? Neither and just stick with your trust smartphone?