Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fight Song Chapter Two

Last time in Fight Song, Callie met a potential ally, but the Death Song called her away before she could get as much information as she wanted. This week, we see her in action as she puts other aspects of her power to good use.
 
Things researched in editing this chapter: what kind of flooring you find in subway stations and what do subway stations look like anyway (because my ten-year-old memory probably isn't a good thing to rely on), are high notes or low notes easier to sing, what happens in a mugging, and how to wear a headscarf/headwrap. If you have comments on any of these things or thoughts on how I can improve this chapter, please let me know! Enjoy the story!


Chapter Two: Subway Trouble

            Still clutching my coffee, I dashed for the door. The crowd on the street outside had thinned, thank God. I broke into a run down the block. By now I’d learned that the Death Song didn’t always mean someone was guaranteed to die; it just meant someone was in the process of doing so.And depending on how they were going about it, I might have as much as ten or fifteen minutes, maybe even more, to interfere.

A few people yelled at me as I ran past, telling me to watch where I was going, usually with colorful language for emphasis. I ignored them, focused on the songs— the Death Song most of all, but the others as well. A strain of the peoples’ melody whispered past my ear, and I was almost tempted to grab it, hum it, and firmly suggest that everyone nearby get out of my way.

But that was forbidden, and I’d reached the corner anyway. I rounded it, my sneakers pounding the pavement, and then had to slow to keep from falling head over heels as the anti-song led me down corrugated-metal stairs into a subway station. As I rushed down, I pulled the trailing end of my scarf across my lower face, around my head, and tucked it into the main knot. The effect was somewhere between pirate and cowboy and probably looked ridiculous, but if it would keep my identity hidden . . .

I reached the bottom and glanced around. The station was a small one, and mostly empty. I sprinted across the tiled floor, still following the Song. Mixed with it, I could hear other sounds: pained, shocked gasping; a few people yelling; a second set of running feet besides my own.

The turnstiles came into view ahead. Another person, a guy in a grey hoodie, sprinted towards them from the other side, clutching a wallet in one hand and a girl’s leather backpack in the other. Mugging gone wrong, then. I skidded to a stop. The notes of the Death Song softened; someone else must’ve seen whatever happened and gone to help the victim, slowing death’s onset. And that meant I could stop the person responsible.

The guy vaulted the turnstiles and kept running. Have to act fast- I took a breath, opened my mouth, and sang, trying to match the notes of the air song. No good. The melodies were too high and too quick; my voice squeaked and then turned into gasps. But the mugger had slowed slightly in confusion; that much was good.

I switched, now copying the low, solid tune of the tile and concrete beneath our feet. The ground trembled as if from an earthquake, and the mugger stumbled. “What the—”

The ground continued to shake in response to my song. But rather than falling, he regained his footing and took off again at his original pace. Darn it. I could probably catch him if I tried now; he had to pass right by me to get to the stairs. But I couldn’t easily run and sing at the same time. And without the power of the songs behind me, I was neither tall nor strong enough to tackle him. I’d have to do something more . . . unusual.

As he passed me, I shifted the tempo of the song, slowing it still more. The mugger’s next steps squished into the tile as if into mud. He didn’t stop this time, just kept running even though his feet sank and stuck with every step. I turned, keeping him in view, waiting for the right moment . . . Now!
I changed tempo once again, speeding the song back up. The tile around his feet hardened, trapping him in place just a dozen steps from the stairs.

The mugger pitched forward, cursing colorfully, but the tile held him fast. He twisted to look at me, his eyes bright with panic and anger under his hood. "You Capes!" he spat, along with several strong adjectives. "Think you all that just because your mother sold herself to some mad scientist?"

I flushed under my makeshift mask. "Leave my momma out of this, unless you want me to start singing again. I could-- could have the ground just swallow you if I liked. So just keep your mouth shut and drop the bag and the wallet, got it?"

The mugger ignored my first order, making several more unpleasant comments on my character and parents. Most of it I'd heard before, though not all in one place. However, he did let go of the backpack and the wallet. The backpack clunked on the ground, and I hoped I hadn't just ruined someone's laptop.

I managed to keep my voice steady enough to sing a brief verse of air, just strong enough to push the goods towards me. I didn't want to risk getting too close to the mugger; if he had a knife and caught me off-guard, it wouldn't matter a bit that his feet were stuck. One hit in the right place and I'd be on the ground.

Above, I heard ambulance sirens. That was good. The Death Song was quiet, still present but weak enough for me to feel sure that the doctors could save whoever had been hurt. But the sirens also meant I needed to get the stolen goods back to the victim and get out quickly.

I grabbed the backpack and wallet in one hand, my coffee in the other. Then I jogged over to the crowd by the tracks, vaulting the turnstiles like the mugger had. A few people turned to look​ as I approached. "What the-- Who're you?" one, a middle-aged man in a tech store polo shirt, asked.

"No one important. Everyone here ok?" I held up the bag and wallet. "These belong to any of you?"

"Most of us are fine," the man who'd spoken earlier replied. The crowd parted to let me in, and the man turned to a younger guy, on his knees beside a girl about my age. "This young woman has your things."

The young man looked up. "What?"

I gladly handed him the wallet and set the backpack beside him. "Here. What happened?"

"A guy came up and demanded our stuff-- He had a knife-- We were handing it over, didn't want to get hurt, but I did something stupid and he panicked and stabbed Hannah—" As the guy spoke, he'd been looking through the wallet and backpack. "It's all still here— Thank you— How can I repay you?"

"Don't worry about it." I shoved my hands in my jacket pockets and glanced at the girl— Hannah. She lay, evidently unconscious, on the ground, her brown hair splayed in a halo around her head. The edges of a reddish stain showed on her lacy top around the edges of a wad of also-stained cloth held over the wound in her side. "I'll be praying for you two. Hope she gets better."

The clatter of shoes on the metal stairs and the voices calling that emergency services were here told me that it was time I wasn't. I turned away. "I gotta go."

"But— wait—" I didn't listen, jogging off down the edge of the track. Surprised exclamations told me that the EMTs had found the mugger. Good. That meant I didn't have to call someone to deal with him.

As far down the station as I could go, I hopped back over the turnstiles and circled back to the stairs, untucking my bandanna-mask. I slipped up the stairs, past the EMTs and arriving police, and headed back down the street. I thought about checking the coffeeshop to see if Jonathan was still there, but decided against it. He'd probably be gone. If not, oh well. He'd wait, and maybe I could get some extra sleep after all.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Fight Song Chapter One

Last time in our story, we met our heroine, heard a mind-clawingly creepy non-song, and probably witnessed a murder. This week, we jump ahead several years to see what our heroine has done about it and meet a potential ally in the process. 

As always, comments and critiques are welcome. Enjoy the story! 

 Chapter One: Two Years Later

 A thousand melodies flowed round me as I wove my way down the crowded street: sharp notes of iron and steel, heavy-but-irregular beats of concrete and asphalt, the soft harmonies of air, and the tangled, ever-changing song of the passing people. I tuned them all out, by now so used to them that I didn’t bother to wonder at how, all together, they, together with the normal city noises, so narrowly walked the line between beauty and discord. Another night, maybe, I could sit and enjoy them. But tonight . . . tonight wasn’t an option.

            I could’ve been celebrating, I know. Should’ve been celebrating, even. I had reason enough. I’d taken my last final of sophomore year that day, and somehow after two years of college I was still sane and not in crippling debt. Even better, Dad had finally given up asking if I was absolutely sure I didn’t regret switching my major to music midway through freshman year, instead of keeping on in math— though I’d guess the fact that my younger sister had decided for sure that she wanted to major in biology when she started college next fall helped. And to top it all off, I’d managed to land my first official gig, thanks to a local cafĂ© that wanted to support aspiring musicians.

            So, yeah, I had reason to celebrate. And it wasn’t like I didn’t have an opportunity; my roommate and a half-dozen of my other friends had invited me to join them for dinner out and a night spent either partying or goofing off, depending who I said yes to. But I had to say no to all of them. Not because I wanted to catch up on sleep, as I told most of them, not untruthfully. Not because I wanted time to myself, as I told my roommate. No, tonight, I had work to do.

            I paused at a crosswalk and glanced up and down the street, getting my bearings. After two years of exploring, two years of spending every spare moment on the hunt for proof of a murder, I knew my way around Foundry City well enough, but sometimes the tangle of streets, all at angles to one another, left me wondering if I’d missed a turn. But no, I hadn’t; there was the Starbucks down to my right, just a few shops away.

            I sped up slightly as I headed towards it. I knew I shouldn’t have my hopes so high for this meeting. After all, if two years’ search had produced nothing but circumstantial hints, no more conclusive than a blurry photo of the Loch Ness Monster, why should tonight be any different? But the day was going so well already . . . maybe tonight would be the night.

            Starbucks seemed to be even more crowded than the street had been, if that was possible. I joined the long line at the counter, glancing around the shop. I didn’t have much of a description for the person I was supposed to meet, of course. That’s safer for him and me. But he said he’d be wearing a red scarf— plenty noticeable, this time of year; who wears scarves in May?— and Clark Kent glasses, and that he’d try to sit by a window.

            Even with that description, I didn’t spot him until only three people separated me from the counter. He’d claimed a small table wedged between the window and the wall, a table which he’d covered with a clutter of laptop, phone, notebooks, and empty coffee cups. A brown jacket seemed about to fall off the back of his chair. Besides the scarf and glasses, he wore a white button-up shirt, jeans, and black suspenders, and his brown hair looked like it had been neat at one point but someone had run their hands through it several times since. I guessed he was only a year or two older than I was— thank God! More than once before, I’d ended up meeting with creepy old guys, conspiracy theorists with no real information and way too much, well, creepy. This guy . . . well, he might be pretentious, judging from the suspenders, but he definitely didn’t look sleazy.

            I reached the counter and, glancing quickly at the menu, ordered a caramel-cinnamon mocha with two shots of espresso. Normally I’d just get plain coffee; that has more caffeine. But the mocha and espresso would be enough to get by, and, hey, I might as well do something special for tonight.

            A little more than five minutes later, my coffee in hand, I walked over to my contact. He didn’t look up until I’d stood for another five minutes and then cleared my throat. Only then did he look up- first at my face, then at the blue bandana-style headwrap over my hair, then down at my sturdy sneakers, then finally back to my face. “Can I help you?”

            For a moment, I wondered if I’d found the wrong guy. He seemed to have no idea who I was— not that I’d given him much more description than he gave me, but I’d mentioned the headwrap and my jean jacket; that should’ve given him a clue. “Maybe. I think we agreed to meet here? If you’re—” I pause, recalling his screenname— “Davies ninety-three?”

            His puzzlement lasted another minute before recognition burst forth. “Right. Er, you’re . . . Ava?”

            He referred to my own screen name, the one I invented as a cover for my search, the same name on my coffeecup. “Right. That’s me. You said you knew something about what I’m looking for?”

            “Right. Sit down- here.” He pushed aside his laptop and grabbed several of his papers and empty cups, clearing a space for me to set my own cup. “I’m Jonathan Davis, by the way. Journalist for the Foundry City Herald.”

            Well, you’re free with your information, aren’t you . . . “Pleasure to meet you, Jonathan.” I sat down and sipped my coffee. “So, you said you had information you think I’m looking for?”

            “Right, yes.” He clicked once, twice, thrice on his computer. “You’re looking for a man, correct? A businessman? Who happens to be a murderer?”

            “That’s right, yes.” I tilted my head slightly, trying to read one of the open notebooks without him noticing, but it was upside down and written in some kind of illegible shorthand.

            “Just making sure. I’m investigating along similar lines— for the paper, obviously. You mentioned online you’ve actually seen this man? Is this him?”

            Jonathan double-clicked, then turned the laptop so I could see the screen- and there was the murderer. The suit was different, true. But the picture showed him at enough of an angle that the nose and chin looked right. And there on the man’s right hand, there was the ring, big and black and gleaming mockingly.

            I could hardly breathe. Two years. Two years I’d searched. Two years I’d half-wondered if I’d imagined that whole night. Two years I’d hungered for evidence that I wasn’t crazy. And in that picture, I’d found the first taste of what I was looking for.

            I looked up from the screen. “That’s him. You have proof?”

            “A little. It’s circumstantial at the moment. But I know where to get more.” Jonathan reached for a notebook and a minirecorder. “You said you had information on him too?”

            “Yes. But I want yours first.” I’d learned already: be careful what I tell people; be careful who I tell it to.

            “Right. That’s fair.” Jonathan minimized the picture, revealing a computer desktop as cluttered as the table, filled with folders labeled things like “D. Welsh Research” and “Obit.” and “Police Rep.” and other things more cryptic, with names broken into dots midway through. He clicked a few more files, bringing up documents and news articles too fast for me to get a good look at any of them. “His name is Damian Welsh, CEO of a software and big data company. He stays in the background, but he has ties to some fairly large players. For the most part, he keeps his hands clean, or at least does a good job of hiding the blood . . . except for the fact that he’s most likely a murderer.”

            Jonathan clicked to another window, a spreadsheet of names and dates and addresses and notes like “suicide” and “OD” and “unknown.” “These are all the deaths that I suspect he might have been responsible for. In each case, he left the town or city close to the time the person died- two, three, at most four days previously. As a result, most people don’t notice the connection, and the deaths are attributed to more mundane causes.”

            I nodded. That was what happened to Lacey. They’d called it suicide, said she’d downed too many sleeping pills, and put her in the ground. A few of those who knew her well quietly wondered if her dad hadn’t driven her to it; several uppity old ones who knew more about Lacey than they had right to suggested that it was just as well; that she’d have come to a bad end anyway, with how she and her boyfriend carried on. Both groups had either ignored me or called me crazy when I suggested otherwise. “You’d think they’d see the pattern. At least they should wonder if it was something other than suicide. It’s not like no one knows there’s people with strange powers out there.”

            “Well, for one thing, Welsh, assuming he was the murderer, was smart about who and where he killed. He usually picked out targets who were old, or who were already isolated, or at the very least whose deaths could be explained some other way. And look—” Jonathan gestured with a pen at two side-by-side columns, one full of dates, the other full of town and city names. “He almost never killed twice in the same town, or even in nearby towns. Often he went to an entirely different state. Unless you deliberately searched out this information, you’d never have enough data to form a pattern.

            “And there’s another element as well, a theory at the office about supers in general.” By now, excited focus had replaced all the flustered energy Jonathan had displayed when I greeted him. “People think of supers in terms of masked heroes and cloaked and shadowed Big Bads. If they consider supers in disguise, they say, ‘Wouldn’t it be exciting if the girl who handed me my coffee just now was secretly Starlight,’ or ‘How many superheroes passed me on the street without my noticing today?’ They think of the heroes, not the Big Bads.” He shrugged. “You can’t blame them, can you? A superhero behind you in line is exciting. A villain next to you on the bus is terrifying.”

            He had a point, I had to admit. I wondered what he’d say if he knew about my ability? If he knew the girl sitting across from him was a super herself, though not a hero? “Fair enough. Curious question: how’d you think to look into all this? Seeing as, like you said, most people wouldn’t think to look for a pattern?”

            “I’m a journalist. We investigate things. I investigate this.” Or, in other words: “None of your business. Jonathan turned his computer back towards himself and picked up his minirecorder again. “And now I think it’s your turn to share.”

            “I guess it is.” So I told him my story, or at least, all the bits of it that he needed to know. No reason to mention the Death Song, for one thing, when I can just tell him that I heard odd noises and a scream— which was true, if not the whole truth. I told him about the ring, though, even the not-glow. I didn’t always mention that, even when I shared the rest of the story, but in this case I decided it was worth it.

            Jonathan listened closely, maybe too closely, but what else could you expect from a reporter? I finished with a warning that, if he put any of this in the paper and identified me as the source before Welsh was caught, I’d deny everything. Not that I didn’t want people to know the truth, but I didn’t like the idea of a supervillain coming after me in my sleep. Better for me to be the one coming after him.

            Jonathan laughed a little at my threat, but then he put on a ridiculously solemn face, placed his hand on his heart, and said, in a voice as serious as his expression, “I promise on my honor as a journalist that I will make nothing public that will endanger your safety.”

            Teasing, probably. But it seemed like a sincere sort of teasing, and for some reason, I trusted him. So I grinned back and replied, “Momma always said journalists were too nosy to have any honor.”

            “This journalist is the exception, however, and his mother taught him to take his promises seriously.” Jonathan turned off the minirecorder. “Anyway, I won’t be able to take this public for a while, not until I build up a stronger case. I have a few other leads that may give me solid testimonies like yours— which is the best anyone’s given me the entire time I’ve been searching, by the way. One question, though— forgot to ask it earlier. Why didn’t you look up the man’s name in the hotel records? If you were working the reception desk, I think you would’ve had access to them.”

            “Honestly? I was too scared to think of it that night. And by the time I did—” Which took longer than I’d like to admit— “some kind of bug had gotten into the system and scrambled all our records from that week, just before we would’ve made backups. And, anyway, I think there was some kind of conference or meeting in town that week—” actually, I know there was a conference; Dad had been one of the presenters, and had stayed late at work all week because if it, but no need to share that information— “because we had a couple dozen businessmen and scientists staying with us that night, and without seeing him, I couldn’t know which he was.”

            “It would’ve been better than nothing.” Jonathan’s attention drifted back to his computer screen, and I heard him clicking rapidly. “Though I guess nothing is what you had . . . aha!”

            I took another sip of coffee, waiting for him to tell me what he’d found. But before he could say anything, a familiar series of discordant notes pierced through the ever-present swirl of song, softened only slightly by their distant source. The Death Song. 

            The anti-song no longer made me freeze or turn and run like it did years ago, though. Instead, I jerked to my feet. “I need to go.”

            Jonathan looked up, brows drawn together in confusion. “What’s happened? I thought you’d want to stay; I have more information and an offer you might be interested in.”

            “Maybe later. It’s an emergency.” I couldn’t tell him that someone’s in danger, going to die soon. If I did, he’d want to know how I knew, and it would end up a mess. “We’ll meet again later, ok? You can tell me about your offer then.” I couldn’t wait for his answer. “Sorry, thanks, bye!”

Friday, May 5, 2017

Fight Song Prologue

Hello, everyone! As you read this, I've finished my last final- huzzah!- and I'm hopefully on my way home! In celebration of that, I'm finally posting the prologue of Fight Song. After today, I'll update once a week or as chapters are finished, depending on how things go.

As a note: Fight Song takes place in the world of the Teenage Superhero Society. Any characters not my own from that story are used by permission of the authors.

Comments and critiques are welcome. I hope you enjoy the story!

Slightly better cover coming at . . . some point.

Prologue: A Song in the Night

It was three minutes past twelve when I heard the Death Song.

            A moment before, I’d been wondering if I could get away with dozing on duty. There were no new rooms reserved at the hotel tonight, and the odds of anyone showing up seemed slim. Then the discordant notes— no, not notes exactly, but what notes would sound like if turned inside-out— jolted me into alertness. I’d heard that song once before, coming from Gramma’s room the night when her sleep ended at the Pearly Gates rather than back here. The music then had sent me scurrying away to get Momma and Dad, never mind that I was thirteen and too old to be scared of noises in the night. The anti-song was worse now, jagged-edged and merciless, quite literally painful to listen to, with none of the hints of peace I’d heard that other night. I wanted to run away again, but the song left me paralyzed.

            Lucky me, being the only one who got to hear it.

            I realized that I’d somehow ended up underneath the receptionist’s desk, curled into a fetal position. Apparently I hadn’t been as paralyzed as I thought. Maybe I should stay here. Plug my ears and hope that if there was a murderer about, he didn’t come looking for me here.

            But my parents didn’t raise their kids to be cowards. So instead I crawled out and reached up for the phone— then paused. If I could hear the song, didn’t that mean whoever was dying was too far along to be saved? That’s how Gramma had been. But someone could try, anyway, so I picked up the receiver and punched in 911.

            “911.” The operator sounded as tired as I’d been a moment ago, so far as I could tell with the Death Song filling my ears and clawing at my brain. “What’s your emergency?”

            “Someone’s dying. Being killed, I think.” I wasn’t sure how I know, but the song sounded too violent to be any kind of peaceful death. “At the Holiday Inn, 1251 West Main Street. Send- send police. Ambulance too.”

            “They’ll be on their way soon.” The operator sounded too calm; I knew she was supposed to be calm, but it felt so wrong, juxtaposed with the jagged notes and my death-grip on the phone and my back pressed against the thin wood of the desk. “What’s your name?”

            “Callie. Callie Heartwood.” I hoped that the murderer wasn’t near enough to hear. If he got away tonight, I didn’t want him coming after me as a witness.

            “All right, Callie. Are you safe?”

            Was I? “I think so.”

“Good. Can you tell me exactly what’s happening?”

            “I— I don’t know. I heard—” Heard what? A creepy song in the middle of the night? No chance she’d believe that, even with stories popping up every week about exploits of superheroes in the big cities. More likely she’d think I’m crazy. “I heard screams. And yelling.” What other sounds do people make when they’re being murdered? “And— please just send help, ma’am.”

            “I have police and ambulance on the way, Callie.” Well, at least she believed me a little. “I need you to stay calm and on the line. Where are these sounds coming from?”

            “Um. Down the hall a ways?” The Death Song built towards a crescendo. If someone was going to help, they had to do it now. And that meant that “someone” had to be me. “Ma’am, I’m sorry, I gotta go.”

            I didn’t hang up the phone. Maybe if things went wrong, she’d hear me screaming and tell police to hurry up. Grabbing the heavy-duty flashlight from under the desk, I stood and glanced out the glass doors. I saw nothing just outside, but I couldn’t get a good view of the road to tell if police were close or not. Definitely not close enough; my city wasn’t big by any means, but the police station was on the other side of town. So, I crept across the lobby and down a darkened hallway, following the Death Song.

            The anti-song led me past a long line of locked rooms, past the hall that led to the exercise room, and down to the nook containing the soda machines and the perpetually broken ice dispenser, the one that constantly hisses and grinds, that shakes as if it might explode whenever you try to use it. No matter how we cleaned down this way, a faint, irritating, slightly smoky odor always remained. No one came down here if they could help it— unless they wanted to be absolutely certain they wouldn’t be disturbed.

            As I got closer, I could hear other sounds beneath the Death Song and the growls of the ice machine. Pain-filled whimpering, for one, occasionally climbing towards a scream but always turning into choked gasps before it could burst forth. And a voice: masculine, big-city smooth, dark as Daddy’s extra-strong coffee, speaking too low for me to hear words. The voice fit with the anti-song in a way that I couldn’t describe, but which left me no doubt that it belonged to the murderer.

            Clutching the flashlight in both hands, my shoulder pressed to the wall, I peered around the corner into the nook. One of the people, I recognized: Lacey, one of the housekeeping staff, a girl only a year or two older than me. She was no surprise; I’d found her here more than once, sometimes kissing her boyfriend when she should’ve been working, sometimes crying because she was too scared to go home to her dad. She was the one whimpering, on her knees on the ground, shoulders and head bent forward.

            The other person, the murderer, was unfamiliar: broad-shouldered, dressed in a white shirt and not-quite-black pants, like he’d been wearing a suit and taken off the jacket and tie. I couldn’t see his face; he stood partially in shadow and looked down at Lacey, but I caught a hint of strong nose and squared-off jaw. What caught my attention was his hand, gripping the back of Lacey’s neck— well, more specifically, his ring. Big, like a class ring, with a great black diamond on it. The diamond seemed to glow, or, rather, to not glow in the same way that the Death Song wasn’t truly a song. The two seemed connected; as the Death Song strengthened, so did the not-glow.

            Lacey’s whimpers finally broke into a full-fledged scream as the Death Song hit its climax. The man’s free hand immediately clamped over her mouth, but the song went on. I barely kept from dropping the flashlight; barely kept from throwing up as the not-notes scraped across my mind.

            Then I heard the sirens. I guessed the murderer heard them too, from the way his hand clenched on Lacey’s neck. He started to look up, and I ducked back behind the corner before he could spot me. I should do something, should make sure he doesn’t get away . . .

            But I didn’t. Instead I crept back down the hall to the lobby, to meet the police as they pulled in with lights flashing, to tell the four officers that I heard the screams from down that hall, to wait as one officer starts in the direction I said and two others go back outside to cover other potential exits. One stayed with me, allegedly for protection; I’d guess to keep an eye on me as well. No way they could know I was the one who’d called and not the murderer myself, after all.

            The Death Song died away minutes after the officers scattered. I curled up on my chair behind my reception desk and wondered what the one officer would find when he reached the ice machine nook. The murderer would’ve gotten away, I guessed. Would Lacey be bleeding out on the tile, or just laying there, unmarked and unmoving? Or would whatever happened have left her- I don’t know, withered to a husk or crumbled to dust, like in a movie?

The ambulance arrived while I was still wondering, and a group of EMTs crowded into the lobby as well. One approached me, asking if I was hurt, and then retreated when I assured him I was fine. I wondered if there was any way I could tell them that there was no need for them anymore, that the victim was already dead, without having to explain what I’d seen and heard. I couldn’t, and so I waited; they’d find out plenty soon as things stood.

            The clock read 12:31 when the officer who’d gone searching came back— but not alone, not with the murderer in cuffs either. No, he led Lacey by the arm— Lacey, dazed, with tear-reddened eyes, but alive. “No sign of a murder,” he said. “No one down there at all except a few guests who said they hadn’t heard any screams— and this girl.”

            “I thought I heard something,” I mumble weakly. “I know I heard something. Is she all right?” She should be dead; the anti-song ended . . . was the murderer some kind of alien-thing that absorbed the form of its victims after killing them? No, that was nonsense; I needed to stop letting my cousin talk me into watching all those sci-fi movies with him . . .

            “We’ll find out.” The police officer handed her over to an EMT. “My partners are searching the rest of the hotel for any sign of murder. In the meantime, tell me what you heard . . .”

            I told him- told him about screams; told him no, they couldn’t have come from upstairs;told him that I’d snuck down the hall and seen an unfamiliar man with Lacey but had been too scared to do anything. While I talked, the EMTs checked Lacey’s condition and questioned her about what had happened. I caught snatches of their conversation: that she’d gone back by the ice machine because she was upset and wanted privacy; that a man had come to get a soda and asked if she was all right but hadn’t tried to hurt her; that she’d taken allergy medicine earlier and she guessed that was why she was acting out of it. Eventually, they and the police all gave up and left, some telling me and Lacey to let them know if any new developments showed up, a few commenting that next time I called 911, I should make sure I hadn’t just dreamed up whatever I heard. I bit my tongue in response to the latter, but since Lacey was still alive, I couldn’t help but wonder— had my tired brain imagined the Death Song, the man’s glowing ring and his hand on Lacey’s neck?

            By the next morning, I’d almost convinced myself that the whole experience really had been half my imagination— almost. One thing and one thing only kept me from relegating it to a tired half-dream: the next afternoon, when I said hello to Lacey on the way in, I thought I caught a whisper of the Death Song still hanging in the air around her. I heard it again the next day, and the day after that.

            And so I was the only one not completely surprised when, on the third day after the maybe-murder, in the middle of her work, Lacey just toppled to the ground, dead as the tile on which she lay.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 2017 Doings!

What. How is April over already? That seems really fast, guys. Where did the time go? It was a super busy month, though, so I guess that explains it. Hopefully I'll be less busy sometime in the future . . . That said, as a friend of mine pointed out, at least the busyness means I'm actually doing things.

Writing!

  • I won Camp NaNoWriMo! I hit my goal of 10K words edited on Friday (the 28th), ending the day with 10,054 words.
  • The month started out a bit slow. I did get 650-odd words on the first . . . but then I spent the rest of that day, plus all of the next two, writing an immense paper on New Zealand. Which, I will admit, was quite interesting, but it was also quite exhausting.
  • Thankfully, after I finished that, I didn't really have many other major projects, save my final speech, so I was able to keep a steady pace for the rest of the month. It helped that, the week before Easter break, my Psych professor had to go out of town, so I had an extra hour to write Monday and Wednesday, plus my awesome hour on Tuesday and Thursday.
  • Easter break was also more productive than I expected. I worried that I wouldn't really get anything done, since I'd be spending time with friends and I did need to draft my speech at that point. However, I discovered that I could edit on my phone in the car by using Google Drive, and so I ended up getting an average of 600-odd words every day and it made me immensely happy.
  • Despite this, I didn't go quite as far over my goal as I hoped to, mostly because I had to slow down some once I got back to college, and also once I ran into some more difficult scenes. I'm still ok with how I did, though.
  • Hopefully I'll start posting chapters sometime very soon. Within-the-next-week-or-two soon. We'll see if that works out or not.

Reading!

  • Perhaps because I spent so much time writing (and, as you'll see, watching, and going to events), April was a pretty slow reading month. I finished up the Echoes from the Edge series and meant to buy the new versions right after, but that . . . didn't happen. At this point, I think I'm just going to wait until after finals and get the books then.
  • After that, I wanted . . . well, I wanted something light, and I wanted Diana Wynne Jones, and what I thought I wanted was Charmed Life. Except all the library had in the Chrestomanci series was The Pinhoe Egg, so I settled for that . . . and then discovered that it was really what I'd wanted all along.
  • I still wanted more Chrestomanci, but unfortunately that wasn't an option, so I went on a general Diana Wynne Jones kick and reread Howl's Moving Castle over Easter break and House of Many Ways when I got back. I'm still on the kick now, as I'm finally reading Hexwood, partially because I have the book anyway and partially because Deborah O'Carroll did a fabulous review of it that made me curious.
  • Oh, and I reread Dealing With Dragons, mostly on a whim. Well, I got it out on a whim. Then I reread it because I had it out and I felt obligated. It's a problem. Not really, actually, not in this case. But sometimes.
  • And I just now realized that the only new thing I read all month was Hexwood. What is this madness?

 Watching!

  • I actually watched a ton of stuff this month. Most of it, naturally, was over Easter break.
  • Most of the month, naturally, was taken up by watching Merlin, mostly because Alana and I had to get through three seasons in a little over a month in order to finish before we both go home for the semester. At the moment, we're a little over halfway through Season 5, so we should be able to get to the end in time.
  • Because we've moved so fast through the seasons, I can't really post all my thoughts on them. But, in general:
    • Gwen and Arthur are quite adorable. Also, Gwen is a surprisingly ruthless queen. I approve. Except not right now because that's not the right people to be ruthless at; Gwen what are you doing? But at the beginning of the season, I approved.
    • Why does no one run background checks on servants? Or visiting nobles? Or anyone? I know it's medieval era, but they should be able to do something more than whatever they're currently doing, and I'm pretty sure that would prevent at least 50% of their problems right there.
    • So, my roomie's favorite characters are Gwain and Percival, and I very much understand why. They're quite awesome, especially Gwain. Gwain is fun. If he's not in my top five, he's at least close to there. That said, my favorites of the knights are Lancelot and Elyan. I'm not sure if they're my favorite characters overall, because I love Gwen and I quite like Merlin and usually Arthur. But those are my favorite of the knights for sure.
    • But Lancelot. Whyyyyyyy. It's not ok.
    • Seriously not ok.
    • And then there was that one episode and I thought it was going to be ok for an hour or so? But then Morgana did that and it was even less ok. Whyyyyy.
    • And then Elyan too. Whyyyyyy. Morgana needs to stop messing with my favorite characters.
    • Also, I understand that characters need to make bad life choices sometimes in order for them to be relatable and all, but certain recent life choices by certain characters, particularly in a certain episode which I watched this past week are just stupid. Why.
  • All that said: Merlin wasn't the only thing I watched this month! And none of the other things I watched were half as feels-heavy!
  • I am one step closer to catching up on the Marvel universe! Over Easter break, I saw Doctor Strange. As I expected, there was a bit of spiritual weirdness. That aside, I really enjoyed the movie. The character development was really good, and there were some great scenes, both in the funny sense and the serious sense . . . but honestly, one of my favorite bits was the superpowers. The whole reality-warping bit is something I've tried to do with one of my villains and it didn't work so well because I didn't have a good idea of what it would look like, but now that I've seen someone else do it, I'm kind of excited to revisit that story and make it better. Also, time-related powers! Yes! Thank you!
  • Also over Easter break, I finally watched Despicable Me. Yes, I know, it's been out for ages. Yes, I know, I've seen Despicable Me 2 at least a half-dozen times. I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy it- I like the second one, but worried that the first one would make me cringe more than laugh- but I quite liked it!
  • Finally, I got to watch two episodes of Hogan's Heroes, which is basically my favorite old-time TV show. And while I was waiting for that to come on, I ended up watching an episode of MacGyver for the first time, so now I have a slightly less vague idea about what it is. It was pretty good overall, but I still prefer Hogan's Heroes. That said, MacGyver is on Prime, so I may give it another try later on if I have time.
  • (You know, between trying to knock some books off my TBR list and catching up on Marvel and finishing the Back to the Future trilogy and watching Indiana Jones because my family watched that without me too . . . Of course I'm not bitter at all. And all the other stuff I want to do this summer.)

Musings!

  • Different people have different perspectives of God, right? Some people tend to focus more on certain aspects of His character and others focus more on other aspects. And I think a part of how people see God relates really strongly to the things they're passionate about. For example, I'm a writer and a bookworm, so I tend to see God in the context of the Great Author of history. My Western Lit prof last year was excited about gardening and cooking (in addition to the obvious, books), and she often compared God to a gardener, and once she commented on how the Bible has the world's oldest recipe for beef stock. And a scientist, like the Enlightenment rationalists, might see God more in terms of the Cosmic Designer. And that can be bad in some respects because it's really easy to get fixated on just those aspects of God that fit with your passions. But it can also be good, and it's a major reason why we need to have community with other Christians who have diverse interests, because different people will have different insights, and will understand some concepts better than others, and by sharing those insights, each person in the community can learn a little more about who God is and spiritual life in general.
  • It's scary how little is required to turn an OK day into an awful one. One bad class and I can end up frustrated and stressed the rest of the day. One announcement from the prof or realization that something is coming up sooner than I thought and I can easily end up in a panic. One event- sometimes, that's all it takes to determine what color the rest of my day will take. It seems stupid in some respects, that I get so worked up about relatively little things at times. And in other respects, it's terrifying, because I can't be the only one who does this, and how many people's days have I unintentionally ruined through a thoughtless statement or action?
  • Even an introvert is not meant to be always alone. We get lonely sometimes. I don't want to constantly be around people, but there are times when I really want people. One of those times is at meals. Food is best if it's enjoyed with someone else. I don't mind eating alone when necessary, but I am convinced that eating alone is one of the loneliest things in life, particularly if you thought you would eat with someone else. Eating alone when you knew you'd be eating alone is one thing. It can almost be enjoyable, and if you end up running into a friend who'll join you, it's a pleasant surprise. But eating alone when you thought you'd have a friend with you is just sad.

Life!

  • As you can see, I decided this month to run off and go visit an old German village. It was amazing! So beautiful! So many photography opportunities! My two years of high school German totally came in handy!
  • Just kidding. I did actually leave campus this month, which is a bit of a rarity, but I definitely did not go to Germany.
  • The picture which is not in a German village is actually my roommate's home library. Yes, it is magnificent. Another girl from our hall and I went home with her for Easter break, and on Monday we went to visit the library because my roommate kept telling me about how amazing it is. She wasn't exaggerating at all; it's like a castle.
  • Also over Easter break, we went to the outlet mall, which was surprisingly fun. I needed new dress shoes, so we were looking for that, but it was nice to just sort of wander and look around. Usually when my family goes to any mall, we have fairly specific stores we need to go to and there isn't really any wandering.
  • In addition, I got to have dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with my aunt and her family! Catching up with them was nice, and the cousins were cute. Plus, I hadn't actually been to the Cheesecake Factory before, so that was exciting. Also, I now understand this meme:
  • And then we celebrated actual Easter with my roommate's grandparents, who are quite wonderful people, and there was much delicious homemade food both there and at the roommate's actual house. I don't think I realized quite how blessed I was at home to have Mommy's homemade cooking every day until I had to eat dining hall food every day for so long. I mean, Chuck's is good. As dining halls good, we have one of the best in the country. But by this point . . . well, it's getting old.
  • Of course, Easter break was only one small weekend!
  • Backing up: the weekend before Easter break, my roommate, another friend, and I went to see our college's spring play, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged] [Revised]. It was . . . interesting. I don't think I caught all the references because I only really know a half-dozen of Shakespeare's plays. I still enjoyed it, though.
  • That same weekend, my roommate and I went down into town and spent the morning at a coffeeshop, like we did last month. We visited a different coffeeshop this time, though. I think I like the first one better for overall writer-y atmosphere, but this one served more breakfasty foods. That said, we've discovered that the best place to get breakfast in cedarville is the Corner Bakery, which has delicious quiches and equally delicious scones. And if you happen to want dessert, not breakfast, their maple-walnut bars and lemon bars are also pretty amazing.
  • Anyway. Sort-of-continuing the topic of food: remember how I mentioned last month that I had fancy-ish end-of-year things coming up? One of those things was the PWID Awards Banquet, which took place the day after I got back from Easter break. It was nice. Good food (I haven't had chicken breast in ages, and the chocolate cake was spot-on), and less intimidating than I expected, even if I did end up seated with a complete stranger, without another student for backup . . . And then the banquet ran late, so I had to run across campus in fancy shoes to get to a finals study group meeting.
  • Rather more exciting thing that also happened that day: TDK Assassins began! For those who are currently freaking out because SARAH, I THOUGHT YOU WENT TO A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL (or who are just curious): assassins is sort of an elaborate game of tag. Everyone who signs up receives two things: a plastic spoon and the name of one of the other participant. This other participant is your target; your goal is to tap or lightly stab them with the plastic spoon. Once you do this, they're "dead" and you receive the name of their target as your next target. I managed to get first "kill" (a fact that I tried to keep quiet in order to not be considered a threat, though somehow it leaked out), and I also survived until day three, of which I'm rather proud. I would've gotten my second target too, except she slept through both chapel and her first class . . . I think it's going to become an annual thing (the game, not this particular person oversleeping), so I'm quite excited for next year. Hopefully I'll do even better then.
  • Also I attended three concerts this week! Which meant I spent a few days feeling quite fancy and cultured and all that sort of thing.
    • The first was a farewell concert by one of the music profs, the former head of the music department actually. It was also the world premier of a set of pieces by another music prof. Those two factors meant that literally everyone was there: the university president and other officials, all the professor's former and current students, the head of the honors program (who also happens to teach the philosophy part of Honors and is my favorite professor ever) . . . I got there fifteen minutes earlier and still ended up sitting in the very back. Because it was such a Big Deal, this concert also included a fancy reception with cake and little tarts and macarons. You know something's fancy when there are macarons there. The tarts and macarons were delicious; I can't speak for the cake. Also, I managed to meet the philosophy prof's wife, so that was fun.
    • The second concert was the symphonic band concert. I realized in hindsight that I have several friends in said band, so I could've said I was there because they were playing or something. Actually, I only went because I happened to have time after the Communications Department end-of-year celebration (more good food- barbeque, macaroni and cheese, fruit, and desserts, including peanut butter cookies with Reese's Cups in the middle) and the posters said the band was playing something called the "Steampunk Suite." It wasn't quite as amazing as I hoped, but I still enjoyed it.
    • Finally, I went to the jazz band concert, partially because I have a friend in jazz band, and partially because I discovered last semester that I actually enjoy some jazz. (For context: I spent most of my life thinking that I heartily disliked jazz; then the jazz band provided music for chapel one day and I realized, "Oh my pumpernickel, this is so fun!") By the end of the concert, I'd realized that I don't understand jazz any better than I understand any other type of music, but I did enjoy it very much. I also had "Jericho" stuck in my head for a few hours afterwards, but there are worse songs to have stuck in your head . . .
  • To finish out the month: tonight is the end-of-year celebration for the Honors Org. We're having a formal soiree, and I'm not quite sure what that means? But the invitation says "food, fellowship, and jollification," and the people running it have mentioned games, so it should be all good. Feel free to ask me in comments how it went, if you're curious.

May Plans!

  • I'm going home! There's less than a week left until summer break! Huzzah!
  • Except before that, I have to survive finals. I have three, and only one is cumulative, so it should've terrible. Prayers would be nice anyway, if you don't mind, especially since I got the date of one of the finals mixed up and so didn't start studying as soon as I perhaps should've.
  • But after that- home! freedom! family! homemade food!
  • Yes, I think about food a lot. How very observant of you to notice. I'm pretty sure that's a common trait of college students, though.
  • I am a little sad about the semester ending, since it means I have to say goodbye to my roommate and my friend and everyone, and some of them either are not or might not be coming back. I don't think I realized until I came here how much I'd missed having people my own age around while I was in New York. But I'm still looking forward to seeing my family and having more time for creative stuff and all that.
  • I need to keep editing Fight Song, obviously, particularly if I'm going to start posting soon. Plus I'd like to get back to work on Destinies and Decisions at some point in the near future. And I think I might have some photos I need to edit from last summer? I could be wrong about that, though.
  • Also I have, like, two or three seasons' worth of book releases to catch up on, so that's going to be fun.
  • And I want to do some movie-watching, namely the rest of the Back to the Time trilogy and more Marvel. And hopefully Indiana Jones as well. I don't think I'll get in all of that during May, though; it'll have to be spread over the summer.
  • Also, there will be photography. Some of the people from our photo club in Virginia are running a photography tour of an abandoned factory/steel mill, or at least what's left of it, and we're going and I'm very excited.
  • I'm also hoping to join in on Nadine Brandes' #Walk30Days Challenge. With luck, that'll be enough to keep me moving once I get home, because I definitely need to exercise . . . I kind of slacked off over the winter, because it was cold outside and I didn't want to leave the dorm more than necessary. Also, I was busy. Obviously. But, yeah, we'll see if that actually happens or if my motivation peters out halfway through the month because books/editing/movies/whatever seem more interesting.
  • Other than that . . . there may be some travel, but I don't know exactly what the plans for that look like yet. We'll see. The month overall should be pretty chill- it has to be; I won't have classes or homework to deal with!
How's your April been? Have any big plans for May? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade) 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Character Encounters April 2017

http://knittedbygodsplan.blogspot.com
Hello, everyone! Character Encounters is back! This month, we're meeting our characters under a bridge- which actually is pretty easy, since we have at least two bridges here on campus. And under one of them happened to be a character from my current WIP, Fight Song, . . . well, you'll see which one in a minute.
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I noticed the hammock as I pushed open the second set of SSC doors and emerged into the brilliant sunshine. Now, hammocks are hardly an odd sight on campus. On a day like this, the strange thing would be to not see at least one student happily hammocking. However, two things about this particular hammock caught my attention as I headed towards Tyler for my next class. First of all: the location. For some reason, the owner of the hammock had hung it under the bridge between the HSC and the ENS. This still wasn't unheard-of, even if it was unusual; unless the lake was especially high, that bridge only crossed a concrete slab. Anyone could walk on it and set up a hammock if they wanted to. 

The second unusual thing about the hammock, I didn't realize until  I had almost reached the bridge. At that point, the person occupying the hammock poked her head out, grinned, and called out, "Oh, hello!" Even that wasn't particularly unusual, though- except for the identity of the person. 

"Uhjin!" I immediately scrambled down the grassy bank towards the edge of Cedar Lake. "What are you doing here?"

Uhjin pushed her black curls away from her face. "I'm enjoying myself. You don't need me for another six chapters at least, since Callie and Jonathan are doing all the work right now, and it's a beautiful day; I might as well make the most of it. Join me? There's room for a second hammock down here."

"Sorry, no. I have a class in . . ." I checked my phone. "Half an hour. Also, I don't have a hammock."

"You're an author." Uhjin twisted so she lay on her stomach, which set the hammock rocking so much I thought she'd fall out. "Can't you just poof one into existence?"

"Sorry, reality-warping abilities only apply in storyworlds." I hooked my fingers around my backpack straps. "So why are you under the bridge?" 

"Because I wanted to be, of course. It's something different." Uhjin looked out at the lake. "This is nice. We should get one at Foundry City College."

"Good luck with that." I laughed. "You're in the middle of a city, not a cornfield like here-- which I think is why you went in the first place- and I don't see the college trustees or whoever runs the place putting in an artificial lake."

"You could put in a lake." Uhjin gave me a sweet smile, the same one that convinced Callie to set aside work and practice in favor of campus on more than one occasion and won Uhjin all her many boyfriends to date. "You're the author."

However effective Uhjin's smile might be, I have enough experience with my younger sister to not be swayed. "Nice try, but no."

"Oh well." Uhjin slid back into her hammock so she was basically hidden. "Worth a try."

"No, it really wasn't." I checked my phone again. "I need to get going. Will you be here later?"

"Probably." Uhjin sat back up to wave. "See you around."

I headed back up to the sidewalk. "See you- if not here, then in the story." 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Secondhand Fandom Syndrome

Hello, everyone. My name is Sarah. And I have Secondhand Fandom Syndrome.

Secondhand Fandom Syndrome (SFS), simply put, is a curious phenomenon in which someone who has never read or watched the focus of a particular fandom nevertheless displays signs of being in that fandom. Sometimes it's a mild condition; sometimes it's so extreme that the person is actually mistaken for a fandom member. And today, bouncing off Top Ten Tuesdays' fandom theme for this week, I'm going to detail five symptoms to help you recognize Secondhand Fandom Syndrome in yourself or your loved ones.

Friday 5s: Secondhand Fandom Syndrome Symptoms

  1. A significant number of the person's friends are in that particular fandom. This is both cause and symptom of SFS. One develops Secondhand Fandom Syndrome through constant exposure to a particular fandom. Then, once one becomes a Secondhand Fan, one tends to seek out true fans of the series (or other Secondhand Fans) as friends, which intensifies the syndrome, creating a cycle. The only ways to break this cycle? If the Secondhand Fan looses interest in the fandom or if they officially become a part of that fandom by reading the book, watching the movie or TV show, or playing the game.
  2. The person easily recognizes even not-immediately-obvious references to the fandom. There is an important distinction here. If someone knows that a Weeping Angel is from Doctor Who or that "girl on fire" means Hunger Games, that just means they have some awareness of popular/geek culture. On the other hand, if the person gets why someone else has tally marks on their arm (and denies knowledge of why the marks are there) or if they know why a dam snack bar is hilarious . . . they're probably a Secondhand Fan (if not a full-on fan). 
  3. The person attempts to make references to the fandom. This might be to appeal to their fandom friends, or to make other people think that they themselves are legitimately in the fandom. Unfortunately, these references tend to fall flat because the person making them doesn't quite understand everything behind the reference. And even if the reference was done well, others still might not get it, since they don't associate that person with the fandom in question. Such is the unfortunate plight of the overly enthusiastic Secondhand Fan.
  4. The person reads, and may actively seek out, fanfiction or fanart for the fandom of which they're a Secondhand Fan. Like the friends in the fandom, this may be both cause and symptom, particularly in the case of fanfiction. The person encounters a piece of fanfiction and reads it, possibly without realizing that it is fanfiction. They enjoy it, so when they see another piece, they read that as well. Often, they may read the fanfics simply because the stories are written by friends whose writing styles they enjoy. Eventually, the person will become a Secondhand Fan, which means they will be even more likely to enjoy fanfiction and fanart for the series. (On a sidenote: this is super effective; it's basically what got me into the PJO fandom, and why I'm a Secondhand Fan of HP.)
  5. The person actively ships or otherwise has strong feelings regarding particular characters in that fandom. This represents a very extreme form of SFS. In most cases, although the Secondhand Fan enjoys the fandom, they do not have strong feelings about it. If one's SFS progresses to this stage, one should probably just join the fandom already if at all possible; it'll be easier all 'round.
The question, of course, remains: why do those with Secondhand Fandom Syndrome stay Secondhand Fans instead of fully joining the fandom? Well, parental permissions may be a factor, but the most common reason is that we all only have so much time to read, watch, and otherwise engage with the fandom, and that means that sometimes, the series or show will just have to wait.

Are you a Secondhand Fan? If so, of what fandoms? Do you know of any symptoms I missed? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)     

Friday, March 31, 2017

March 2017 Doings!

Hey'a, everyone! How's everyone doing? For me, March on the whole was pretty busy. However, it was also pretty awesome for a variety of reasons, not least of which was that I got to go home! But more on that later; let's start with the writing, as usual.

Writing!

  • Overall, I had a pretty decent writing and editing month: roughly 4.4K words edited and 1.6K words written. I'd hoped for more, what with spring break, but I'm still pretty satisfied.
  • Also, I'd forgotten how much work writing a fight scene can be . . . also how much research it can take, because I'm pretty sure I spent half the time googling some variation on "What happens if you're stabbed in X location?" or "Will a sword pierce chain maille?" (For those curious: the answer to the latter question is no. Chain maille is actually pretty effective, as long as it's well-made. Also, for cosplaying purposes, you can make chain maille out of soda can tabs. Just throwing that out there.)
  • All that was for editing. Writing-wise, most of the 1.6K was in an attempted short story inspired by psych class and Pinterest, which kind of fizzled out after the first scene- oh well. Next month will be better, hopefully.
  • One exciting thing: I fulfilled a writer stereotype by writing at a coffeeshop for the first time ever! My roommate and I have been thinking of spending a morning in town- hanging out for an hour or so at one of the little coffeeshops, stopping at the thrift store (in search of costume pieces for me and random stuff for her), and getting treats at the bakery- for a while, and we finally managed to do it last weekend. I was productive, which made me happy, and the coffeeshop we chose had an old-time feel to it that was super inspiring. We're definitely going to do this more often.

Reading!

  • Wait, I only read five books last month? I could've sworn-
  • Oh, WAIT. One of them was a Wheel of Time book. That explains everything.
  • Backing up: I quite enjoyed East, which I finished a few days into the month. I feel like the ending could've been better; though all the plot threads tied up nicely, it felt . . . I don't know. Mildly distant. Otherwise, I very much enjoyed it. And it made me want to work on Monster in the Castle again, but that certainly wasn't happening . . .
  • Then I returned to The Fires of Heaven, which lasted me all of spring break. Overall, my thoughts on it were roughly the same as my thoughts on almost every other Wheel of Time book: a bit of a slow beginning (made worse by the fact that I didn't remember who half the names belonged to), a middle that alternated between interesting and aggravating (depending how stubborn the characters were being), several false climaxes, and a real climax and ending featuring much impressive magic-slinging and plot twisting. (One of the plot twists- regarding the death of a Certain Character who I expected to live to the end of the series- did leave me rather in shock for a while, and I'm still hovering on the edge of "We didn't see a body!" denial.) Oh, and also as usual, Mat was awesome and probably one of the best parts of the book. Can we have a whole book of just Mat and Lan and Nynaeve with occasional scenes of Rand being dramatic and the Aes Sedai scheming rather than the other way 'round?
  • Then I got back to the college and reading time went out the window for a while except for research. The next two books on my list- Toxic Charity and Compassion, Justice, and the Christian Life were both for a speech on the impoverished in America. They were fairly interesting. Not amazing, but interesting and eye-opening.
  • And, finishing out the month, we have a reread of the Echoes from the Edge! I finished Beyond the Reflection's Edge on Monday, and currently I'm working on Eternity's Edge, which I think was my least favorite in the trilogy. I'm not entirely sure why. Overall, I'm enjoying the books, though not as much as I did the first time I read them. It's very clear that these were written early in Mr. Davis's career, given how heavy-handed certain themes come off. Once I finish the series, I'm going to buy the rewritten version and see how the two compare.

Watching!

  • Over spring break, I finally watched the first Back to the Future after discovering that my mom and sister had watched them without me in February-ish. Obviously I can't let my sister watch such an iconic movie and not experience it myself, so we got the whole trilogy out from the library and a few days into break, my sister and I settled in to enjoy the first one. I enjoyed it, though it was different than I expected- it's one of the movies that I've heard a ton about, and I knew most of the major plot twists before I watched it, but I didn't know how those twists were going to happen. I had hoped to watch the other two on break as well, but I didn't have time.
  • However, my family also watched (or, in my case, re-watched) the first two Night at the Museum movies. I'd forgotten how funny they are- and the second one is especially fun, since I'm pretty familiar with D.C. and the Smithsonian museums. Also, Kahmunrah is a pretty fabulous villain. Just saying.
  • In other news: still working on Merlin. My roommate and I finally finished Season Two, and we're one episode into Season Three. Hopefully we'll get to watch more this weekend, because the last episode ended in a cliffhanger. I'm still upset over "The Last Dragonlord," though. Why can't Merlin be happy for once? Why does he have to keep losing people? It's not fair.
  • (Also, thing I'm mildly confused about- what's the proper way to signify an episode name? Does it go in quotation marks like a short story? Or should it go in italics? Anyone know?)

Musings!

  • I am continually bewildered by the differences between who I am, how I see myself, and how others see me. One friend who knows me only online expresses surprise that I'm far more quiet in appearance than I am in online personality. Another friend, an offline one this time, says "You don't seem like the type to romanticize," and I think "Oh, if you could just see inside my head, you'd never say that, not in a million years!" It's just strange how even people with whom you know you're genuine can have such different views of you, and it makes me wonder how the way I see people differs from how they see themselves.
  • How much difference would changing history really make? One thinks that it would make all the difference. Yet for many of us, unless you prevented some development, not some event, everyday life would still probably look about the same.

Life!

  • Spring break! I got to go home! I hadn't been home since January, y'all. Getting to go back for a week was absolutely awesome.
  • Besides the movie-watching that I already mentioned, I worked ahead a bit in schoolwork, did some editing and writing, a bit of crafting, went to youth group, and generally had a lovely time. (Except for the afternoon I spent trying to do taxes- well, doing them wasn't that hard, but submitting them went rather less well. But otherwise it was good.)
  • Then I had to come back and immediately started low-key panicking because oh my goodness our advocacy speech is in two weeks roommate we need to get WORKING! That's more or less what I said too; my roomie will confirm. We did get in done in time, though, gave it a week ago, and did really well!
  • The week of the speech, basically all my free time was spent following Kendra E. Ardnek's Indie e-Con. For those of you who weren't aware of its existence: Indie e-Con was a virtual gathering of indie authors featuring posts on writing, marketing, editing, and other aspects of writing and publishing; games; Q&A posts; critique opportunities; and more. It was fun, though kind of overwhelming. If you're disappointed you missed it, you can still go back and read the posts. Plus, there's going to be another e-Con next year, and you can join the mailing list to get more information!
  • More or less as soon as I finished researching the speech (though not before we gave the speech), I launched into my next major class project: research for a Cultural Anthropology paper (which I'm writing about the culture of New Zealand). At this point, I'm basically done with that, after spending part of almost every afternoon in the library for two weeks. I just have to wait for the interview responses to come in (yay for having friends in the country!) and then actually write the thing. 
  • As I mentioned earlier, my roommate and I went in town last Saturday, which was super fun. It was also a nice break after a pretty stressful week, since I got to do basically nothing school-related all morning.
  • Oh, and I'm officially registered for classes, so huzzah for that. I'm going to be taking mostly major classes next semester, which I'm pretty excited for- so far, I've only had one major class, and that one's online only, so it hardly counts.

April Plans!

  • I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo! No, I'm not crazy; as soon as I get the anthropology paper written, I'll be done with just about everything major except finals. And I'm only going for about 10K, and I'm editing, so it should be all good. Right?
  • Also, if anyone wants to join my cabin, let me know. I've still got room, thanks to NaNo increasing the cabin size. (We've got about ten people at the moment, mostly female, all Christian speculative fiction writers at the moment. If that matters.) I'd love to have you; the more the merrier!
  • Most of April should be pretty chill, or as chill as a Camp NaNo month can be, anyway. Looking at my calendar, the first half of April has next to nothing on it. I'm hoping to get as much done on writing and such as I can during that time, since things will get busier after Easter break.
  • For those curious: I'm not going home for Easter. NY is waaaaay too far away to make the drive just for a weekend.
  • After Easter, I suspect that finals prep will start up. Also, there'll be end of year celebrations . . . which make me a bit nervous, honestly. I mean, I enjoy a social event now and then? And I know that one will be really small and the other will be larger, but still cool. But both of them are formal things? And I'm not really used to formal? And I'm mildly freaking out even though I'm excited? So yeah, that's happening.
  • The roommate and I need to watch Merlin. Specifically, we need to be done with at least the season by the end of the month. We'll probably have time over Easter break, though . . . fingers crossed that it works out!
  • I feel like there's something else happening in April, but I have no idea what it is. Hopefully I remember sometime soon. Oh well.
How's your March been? Do you have any exciting plans for April? Or even unexciting ones? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah (Leilani Sunblade)     

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Character Encounters March 2017: Indie e-Con

Hey'a, everyone! First things first: I'm doing Camp NaNoWriMo next month (yes, I'm slightly crazy; I should have most of my big projects done by then, though . . .) and I'm looking for cabin mates. So if anyone here is doing it as well, or thinking of doing it, and you need a cabin, let me know! So far, we only have five members, so there's plenty of room!

Second off, some of you may know that Kendra E. Ardnek has, this past week, hosted a virtual convention called Indie e-Con, where over a dozen indie authors came together to share advice on different aspects of writing and publishing, critique writing, answer questions, play games, and generally have a grand old time. It's been pretty awesome. Hard to keep up with, since I've had an exhausting week preparing for a speech and trying to figure out next semester's schedule and starting research for a paper and all that, but still awesome. And as part of the e-Con, Kendra's revived Character Encounters! This month, we're meeting our characters at- where else?- Indie e-Con, only we're pretending that we've got a big convention center in Dallas so we can actually, y'know, meet them. Anyway, enjoy!


The hubbub of excited voices, cheerful conversation, and dramatic book quotes flows around me as I push my way through the crowd of authors, readers, and costumed fans. I weave my way around a trio of girls dressed- very convincingly- like Petra, Sarah, and Amber and wave to C.B. Cook, who's currently at her booth. Actually getting to meet her in person might've been the best part of this convention so far. Not only is she a fabulous author, but she's a good friend.

But as amazing as the convention is, I'm exhausted from trying to take in everything and still keep up with my classwork- deadlines wait for no man, after all- and overheating, since even March in Texas is far hotter than it is at college. So I soon collapse onto a bench in a less-crowded hallway off the main convention area. I can hear voices from down the hallway, and it sounds like someone's started playing Celtic music over the loudspeaker, but despite these things, it's peaceful. I lean back and shut my eyes. All I need now is a cool breeze and I'd be set . . .

A voice- male, edged with teasing sarcasm- interrupts my solitude. "What's this, Taleweaver? I thought you didn't nap."
"What the-" My eyes shoot open and I stare at the person in front of me. He's tall and wiry, with dark, somewhat shaggy hair and a faint smile that suggests he sees all the absurdity of life and finds it quite amusing. He's also in medieval-ish garb: dark green doublet with a lighter green tunic underneath, a brown cloak, and a belt with a long, narrow sword hanging from it. Quite honestly, he looks like a character from my imagination come to life, and ordinarily I'd complement him on his realistic costume. Only problem: there's no way in the nine worlds that anyone would cosplay as this particular character. After all, he's from my books- one that isn't even out of the first edit, let alone published! 

"I don't nap," I finally say, unable to come up with something more intelligent. "And I wasn't napping. I was thinking. Who are- Are you-"

"Jarek Gilleth, at your service." Jarek raises an eyebrow. "I thought you'd done this before, Taleweaver."  

"Yeah, but not in ages." I sit up straight. "How are you even here? There are no portals leading directly from Aralan to this Earth, or from that version of Earth to this one!"

"Not quite sure about that yet." Jarek's tone only hints at his displeasure with this fact. "A couple of the characters of the girl running this place managed it- Laura, and one of the ones who looks like the author-in-charge. I'm going to corner her later and find out, though." 

Whether "her" refers to Laura, Amber- it has to be Amber; and now thinking back to the trio I saw earlier, I can't help but wonder- or Kendra, I'm not certain. And Jarek doesn't give me time to figure it out, instead grabbing my arm and pulling me to my feet. "But right now, the kitten's going to turn shadow and kill me if I don't find you and bring you back so the two of you can have a chat and then probably wander around being strange together. Come on. There'll be pie involved."

"You could've just asked." I pull my arm free and follow him as he leads the way back into the crowd. "I would've come. Even if you didn't bribe me with pie." Now that I'm looking, I think I spot other people whose costumes seem too realistic to be just costumes- there's Reuben, or possibly Robert, conferring with one of his brothers, and I'm fairly certain that the girl in the green dress over there is Caitlyn from Blood Ties

I realize I've slowed in order to try to spot book characters when Jarek calls back to me, "Are you coming, Taleweaver, or do I have to come back and drag you again?"

"I'm coming!" I speed up my steps with a grin. Awesome as Indie e-Con already was, it just got a whole lot better.