Tag Archives: reading

[A Story & A Song] House of Seasons

Song and a story-house of seasons

Dedicated to all of you who keep pushing forward.

There’s a house I like to visit. It sits at the end of the road. There’s nothing fancy about the place, itself.  It’s a standard ranch home, one floor, a garage, two doors – front and back – but it’s still my favorite place to be. I like to call it the “House of Seasons” because it constantly changes. Everyone else on the block, their lawn is evergreen. The bushes never bloom, but they never wilt, either. The trees never lose their leaves, no matter how cold it gets or how hard the wind blows. The porch lights are never on when kids are trick or treating, and the Christmas decorations are there one day and gone the next.

The House of Seasons though…sometimes the yard is the brightest green you’ve ever seen. Sometimes it has dead spots. Sometimes the bushes are abloom with bright red and yellow flowers, sometimes they’re nothing but twigs. I’ve seen the trees go from tall and strong, branches reaching for the sky, to almost rotted completely through in the space of a single hour. Sometimes the entire house looks like it’s been attacked by spiders, cobwebs wrapped around it so tight, there’s no way of telling if the bushes decided to bloom that day or not. Sometimes the entire yard is dead, and there are holes in the sides of the house. The wind makes an eerie sound when it blows through the neighborhood on those days.

But there is something interesting about that house. No matter how many dead spots in the lawn, or holes in the walls; no matter how dangerously those dying trees creak and sway in the wind, the front door? Is always open. On Halloween, the porch light is on. Christmas lights go up the day after Thanksgiving, and don’t go down until after the New Year has come and gone. Every year, the owner throws out all the stops. Sometimes the cobwebs hide the decorations, sometimes only half of the lights work, but anyone passing by can still see that a lot of care has gone into the work.

I think that’s why no one else in the block likes to talk about the house. Because they can tell that work does go into the house. You see, everyone else is so concerned with keeping up appearances, and go to such great lengths to hide any imperfections, they don’t stop to think about the people who are able to peek over fences.

I’ve seen the backyards of my neighbors. Festering cesspools fill half of them. The other half are either overgrown with weeds, empty, or so full of dead spots, no amount of fresh grass seed will ever fix it.

I’ve seen the backyard of the House of Seasons. I have seen a garden that would put Paradise to shame.

Read more

Don’t Feed the Trolls – Chapter 04

Don't Feed the Trolls (cover)Just when she thought everything was finally settling down, Shelly is once again thrown into the fray. Her friends are stuck on the other side of the Mississippi River, with no weapons, no food, and no chance of survival without her help. Throw in the complete collapse of civilization, extremely limited technology, and hordes of zombies that are becoming more and more sentient every day…

Hey, no one said it was going to be easy, but where there’s a will, there’s a way, and Shelly made sure to update hers just before she left.

Please note: this work contains language and themes that may not be appropriate for young readers.


Read more

World building: Putting It Together.

And now for some more advice on building your world. Last time, I talked about things you would need to help you keep your information organized. This week, it’s a bit more general advice. Ways to help you think yourself through issues/ideas you may be confused or unsure about.

Remember, this isn’t something that is 100% going to work for you. Everyone is different, so your mileage may vary – quite a bit, at that.

  1. Talk it out.
    cooperate-2924261_1920If you can’t decide on one idea or another, open up a blank document and “talk” it out with yourself. Or, better yet, with a friend or collaborator (I recommend Google Docs for this).

    Some people like to argue with themselves about which way they want a story to go, or the pros and cons of using one idea or another. If that’s you, hey, that’s fine! It’s wonderful, even. It helps sometimes, believe me, I know. The problem is: sometimes you get so caught up with chasing this idea or that idea, that you forget where you were going with it. Have it written down helps you 1. Stay on track, 2. remember all the ideas you come up with, and why you discarded them, or kept them, and 3. Oftentimes, you will come across an entirely different idea that completely blows all the others out of the water.

    Just remember, when/if you use this method: do not delete anything. No thinking, “oh this sounds stupid” and hitting backspace. Type it out: “This is stupid, what was I even thinking? ARG! Next idea, please? Brain?”

    When you are entirely done discussing whatever issue you’re trying to work out, and you have a final decision on what you are going to do, then go back and delete all the extra crap.

    Bullet point the information you want to keep (remember: keep it organized). You may even want to bullet point the ideas you rejected and why they didn’t make the final cut. That can help prevent the wishy-washy “Why didn’t I do this instead?” question that likes to rear its ugly head halfway through the damn book. You’ll be able to go “Oh yeah, that’s why!” and move on much quicker.

  2. Diversity is good.
    Think about it. Look around you. Chances are, unless you live in a backwoods small town, you’re going to see people of all colors and beliefs. There’s going to be families with mostly blondes in it. Another with mostly brunettes. There may even be a couple redheads in your community.

    Now look at the world you created. Is everyone exactly the same? If they are, you might want to make sure you have a really good reason why. I’m not saying you need the “token black guy” or the “nerdy Asian” stereotypes. You just need to have more than busty blondes and chisel-jawed heroes. Spice it up. Why can’t the hero be the Average Joe or Jane? Why can’t the guy with the sculpted muscles be the spunky sidekick?

    And don’t get me started on the sexualities. Just, seriously, spice. Spice is good. Spice is wonderful.

  3. Pointed diversity is insulting.
    This goes back to the “token black guy” thing. If you are just including a character of color/sexuality/gender to be “inclusive” – DON’T.

    It’s an insult to the people you’re “trying” to include, your story, and yourself. 
  4. Do your research
    This is where it can get fun, believe it or not. You just have to make sure you don’t fall into the Wikipedia abyss. This actually also ties into a major pet peeve of mine regarding research vs. creative license. I understand that sometimes it’s tempting to just write whatever you want, and claim creative license – research can be tedious, believe me, I know – but when you do your research, it shows and it really helps to make things so much better. It feels more authentic. Plus, a person who reads a lot of that particular genre will be able to tell that you’ve put in the work, and will appreciate your story all the more.

    There’s also the chance you’ll get a new idea to play with, which is always a bonus.
    And now for one that is slightly off topic, but still important:
  5. SAVE YOUR SOURCES.
    This one probably sounds insulting at first (“Psh, like I don’t know how to bookmark a site!”), but trust me: sometimes that’s not enough. When I say “save your sources” I mean save them. If the site won’t allow you to download the page, screenshot or copy and paste the important information into a word file and save it (as well as the site address and/or authors of the article). Writing a book can take a long time; you don’t want to do what I did, and lose one of your sources when the person running the site loses interest and lets their domain expire. The internet WayBack Machine can only do so much. 

    On that same note, however, make sure your information is up to date. Don’t use information from the 1950s to write a book in 2018 (unless your story is actually set in 1950s, in which case, your characters can/should only act on the information available in their own time…).This bit of advice is mostly aimed at those of you who are working with ideas that aren’t very well known, or societies that a lot isn’t known about (ie: Sumer, FreeMasons, certain types of cults, religions, etc.). Whether it’s because people lose interest over time, or other reasons – in the case of cults, societies, and religions, anyway – a lot of the sites with somewhat useful information tend to disappear.

    I know some/most of us probably use Wikipedia for our sources, but even those pages change sometimes, so the point remains. Save your information.

 

Keep in mind: I am not here to tell you how to write. We all have different styles, and let’s be honest, there is no real expert on writing. There are professionals in a field, but that does not make them “experts” and what works for them might not work for you.

The suggestions I’ve made here are not rules. These are simply ideas and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way – ones that I wish I had heard about/figured out long before I did. I hope you find them at least somewhat useful.

#DarkLightChallenge – Kids and Killing

He laughed. They screamed. He played. They died.

 


She pressed her cheek against the trunk – whip thin and dead fast – whispering, “No more killing, dear one. We’re safe now.” Flowers bloomed at her feet in answer.

 


He would’ve offered Kathy a drink of it, too, but the hole in her throat and vacant eyes told him she wouldn’t be able to appreciate it anyway.

 


Later came his favorite part though: an ice cream cone from the corner shop. Other kids had the tooth fairy – he had a double scoop strawberry and chocolate.

REVIEW: “Seven” by Sarah Krenicki

SFF Reviews

Review of Sarah Krenicki, “Seven”, Syntax and Salt 4, 2017: Read Online. Reviewed by Tiffany Crystal.

I cannot express just how much I love this story. It has magic, and children, and growing up, and fireflies, and magic. Sarah Krenicki takes us for a short trip into a world where children gain magic on their seventh birthday, and lose it the day after they turn eight. It’s a rite of passage all kids go through to become “big kids.”

All kids except for little Katy. She turns seven, gets her magic…and never loses it, even when she turns eight, then ten and twelve. In this, Katy is almost a Peter Pan figure, with her older sister (or so I assume) playing the part of Hook. Or perhaps it would be better to say that Katy is Peter, her magic is Wendy, and her sister is the jealous…

View original post 21 more words

Review of “One Last Time”

Lorena Torres Loaiza will break your heart with this story from Syntax and Salt, but you’ll love it, anyway.

Centered around a man who just lost his wife, “One Last Time” is…well, okay, it’s an old concept. Wife dies. Husband doesn’t want to let her go, so he uses a time machine to go back and – no, he doesn’t prevent her death, it’s not that old concept. No, he just goes back to when he first met her. He sits right next to his old teenage self, watches her come sauntering up. Sees himself see her for the first time.

And sees himself. Over and over again.

Confused? Go read it. Trust me, you’ll see what I mean, and I really don’t think you’ll regret it. My only complaint is that it ended…and that it set off the nerd side of me that adores The Chaos Theory. Replacing that many people has to have some sort of effect on the world…

The things we realize…

It’s interesting how a random thought can turn into a realization about your entire childhood. A couple weeks ago, someone on Facebook posted about how they liked horseradish, and it got me thinking about my grandfather.

In the entire time that I knew him, and I’ll grant you, it wasn’t very long, but in that time, he never asked me to bring him anything. He would ask my cousins, or my aunts and uncles, but never me, and I think I finally figured out why.

To borrow the good ol’ sports analogy, I was born with two strikes against me. Let me explain…

First, my mother.

My mother is easily the most kind hearted person I know. Sometime early in my parent’s relationship, my mom was helping make sandwiches for lunch. My grandfather asked for horseradish on his. Mom, never having horseradish before, proceeded to slather it on to the bread like it was mayonnaise, and gave it to him. Grandpa took one bite, and spat it back out, yelling, “You trying to kill me, woman?!”

That was strike one.

Then, my sister.

My brother and sister are both 9+ years older than I am, and grew up when my family was especially church orientated. When I say “church orientated”, I mean, my father was a deacon, and my mother was a Sunday School teacher. So it was church every Wednesday, twice on Sunday, and every single day during Revival. This might not seem relevant, but bear with me.

Now, my grandfather liked to drink beer. He also liked to sit in his comfy chair, which left him with a problem: how to get a nice cold beer from the fridge…without getting out of his comfy chair. His solution was to ask my sister to bring him a beer.

Remember the thing about the church? Here is where it comes into play, because, you see, the church taught two major things: respecting your elders…and alcohol is bad. So, grandpa’s solution…became my sister’s problem. Alcohol was bad, but so was refusing to do what he asked her to. Fortunately, my sister has always been smart and came up with a solution to grandpa’s “solution.” She brought him a beer from the fridge, alright. But first, she gave it a good shake.

He made it through the unexpected beer shower the first time. And the second. And maybe even the third, I don’t remember how many times she did this to him before his cogs started turning, but eventually, he stopped asking her, and turned to my brother instead.

I love my sister, let me just get that out of the way now. She is the usually the sweetest little thing. However, she has her moments. And when grandpa asked our brother to bring him a beer? Well, she had a moment. She got our brother, three years younger than her, in on Operation Respect Our Elders/Beer is Bad. It eventually got to the point where grandpa would look around, realize that they were the only two there…and get up out of his chair to go get his beer, rather than risk another shower.

That was strike two.

By the time I came around, grandpa decided it was better to change sports than to worry about any curve balls I might’ve thrown him, and – just to be safe – he also wrote my name on all of the benches…with permanent marker. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, of course, I’m surprised he didn’t take a knife and carve my name into the wood.

At any rate, it’s a childhood mystery solved.

Review of “Disprosopus”

Today’s review will be of Christina Dalcher’s “Disprosopus.”

This short story from Syntax and Salt was a bit more to my liking than The Alabaster Man was, but not by much. It was interesting, I will give it that, and the writing wasn’t bad. I kinda expected what I think was supposed to be the “twist” (I imagine it helped that I looked up the meaning of the title first) and I have to give all kinds of credit to the father in the story for coming up with the creative revenge of his daughter’s death, but I have so many questions that need to be answered.

Naflah says her job is to distract the sheikh while Aneesa does her work, and it is implied that Aneesa bites off…um…*cough* something. But how does a man not notice that? Even with a good distraction, they’re gonna feel it. Unless she had poison in her teeth, and all she had to do was get a good nip in, but that isn’t what is implied at all. Also, how does she hold him down so he doesn’t struggle against the bite? I mean, again, there is only so much distraction can do.

If you can suspend your belief past those little problems, however, it’s not a bad little story. I might be willing to give the author another look, at least.

“The Alabaster Man”

Have you ever wanted to like a story so much that it was almost painful when you couldn’t? I recently joined a group of reviewers, and while looking through the magazine I would be reviewing, I kindasortamaybe fell in love with it. Most of the stories are amazing, and are a genuine joy to read, so I decided to go all the way back to the beginning of the issues and start reading there.

Boy, am I glad I didn’t do that at the beginning. The first work, a short story titled “The Alabaster Man” by Jennifer Todhunter is…well, it’s okay. I liked the idea. It was actually similar to something a friend of mine had written before, but I just couldn’t enjoy Jennifer’s take on it. It didn’t strike my fancy, I guess you could say. Maybe it was all the “and he was like”, “and I was like” but I found it almost annoying to read. It definitely was not a story I will be reading again.

Feel free to check it out yourselves here. These things are always a matter of taste. Maybe your literary palate will enjoy it more than mine did.

Eye see what you did there…

Sorry for the lack of update yesterday. The past two days have been very busy for me.

So, went in for my appointment with the doctor on Wednesday to discuss the MRI results. That was fun. I got to harass Mr. Villian Voice, and watch a standoff between a patient and one of the nurses.

Apparently he thought he was there for surgery, but it was just a checkup. He made the mistake of getting beligerant with the head nurse. She shut him down quick. “I am the RN team leader here, and you need to speak to me with respect.”

He left in a huff, but that’s what you get for being pissy with a nurse.

Anyway, they called me in, we all looked at the MRI. I saw my brain on a screen and completely geeked out on the poor doctor. He was laughing at me, but I don’t care. I told him “it looks all wrinkly.”
him: No, it looks normal.
me: I’m pretty sure that’s the only time that word has ever been used to describe my brain.

Entertained the nurse who was trying to take a picture of my eye. The camera was on, but she wasn’t looking at me, so I started dancing around. She happened to look up at the screen, “are you playing with my camera?” Busted~ She walked by me about an hour later, just shaking her head. “Girl, you crazy.” That woman has no idea, rofl.

So, onto the tumor:

So far, everything looks somewhat good. The main doctor said that he think it’s either one certain kind of tumor, or another (there’s a bunch of different kinds).  One is really really bad, the other is somewhat okay. Because there is a distinct lack of pain, he believes the tumor to be the “okay” one.

That doesn’t mean that I am safe, but it’s still good news.

Surgery has been scheduled for Wednesday, but I won’t know what time until the day before. I’ve been told to expect the whole thing to take about 6 hours, but depending on how it goes, I might end up staying overnight. I’ve had to arrange for time off from work and school both, since I’ll be out of it on pain meds for the first couple days, and my eye will be swollen shut. It wouldn’t be so bad, but since I’m functionally blind in my right eye, and this surgery is being done on my left eye….yeah. Ugh.

I spent just about all day yesterday on the phone with school, financial aid services for the surgery (I was approved, yay!), and the hospital in general (all while doing homework assignments that were due THAT DAY. Fun times. Just….So. Much. Fun.). I had an appointment today for the pre-op anaesthetic testing. I thought there was going to be a bunch of tests, but it was just an interview.

My family should be heading out this way on Tuesday, so they’ll be here for the surgery. I guess they’re going to try and help out with the kids while I’m recovering. The manager at the gas station job told me that I am not allowed to come back to work until the doctor says it’s okay. The doctor said I’ll need about 10 days, and warned me that I’ll be bruised from forehead down to my neck/chest area, so if I didn’t want people to see me all messed up, I would need to make arrangements. I don’t care if people see. If they have a problem with the way I look, that’s their problem. The hell if I’m letting them try to make it mine.

All that being said, I will update “Say ‘No’ to Zombies” on Monday, but I’m not sure about the following week. It will depend on how the surgery goes. Some of the risks of the surgery include double vision or loss of vision for the rest of my life and/or the eye, itself. The doctor said he hasn’t had anyone lose an eye yet, and he believes that I won’t have any issues, but he had to tell me about them, for just in case.

Fingers crossed, people. If I lose the ability to read, I will lose my fucking mind.

« Older Entries