Saturday, July 28, 2012

Writing Excerpt - Girl of Glass (actually it's a poem)

This week, instead of an excerpt from a longer story, I'm going to post a poem I just finished. When I was younger I felt slightly ashamed of my deep love of poetry because so many people these days don't really understand the purpose of it and think you're some kind of wanky so-and-so if you write it. I can understand, the modern idea of poetry is not really my thing either, I can't slam to save my life. Also you won't catch me in a darkened club earnestly rhyming with candles...rhyming isn't my forte either.

However, I still love poetry. And I think a lot of people don't know how perfectly and viscerally it can express something you otherwise can't. This outlet became essential for me when I was recovering from my eating disorder, and has continued to be one of the most effective ways for me to combat my Brain Goblins and tendency to self-loathe. I can get ugly in a poem in a way I just can't seem to in a story, and sometimes you really need to let that ugly out.

Girl of Glass

Each night I peel

Strip and shed

my shrieking skin

Beneath that

Crawling meat

Sit bones of glass

stained brittle bright

made slick & bloody

with shards of spite

I sip my strange

My shallow shadow

starved

and swear

All sweetness soured

all silence screamed

So I eat

Down to the bone

To taste and shred

My self un-whole

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Story Exceprt: Darker Shade of Light

So here's part of a weird little tale I'm still not entirely sure of where it's going. It starts off with one tone, shifts to another, and just gets weirder. It's a short story, that much I do know, and it's nearly finished. I work on it when it feels right so it's taken longer than most other short pieces I do. Anyway! Here's a bit of it.

Darker Shade of Light


1

She lived in the light. The rest of the worlds had their days and nights, their darkness followed by suns. They could measure time by the sky, by hours, minutes, or seasons. They could feel time in the way things inevitably changed.

Time still happened to her, of course. But in the light, time stretched. Lengthened. Moved by infinitesimal degrees. Time passed like an eternal morning in the spring, blooming and vibrant and bright, never shifting into the afternoon.

The years passed, became decades, became centuries. She walked on gleaming floors, through radiant halls, into vast rooms that held on to the light in glass globes, lanterns, and lamps. They flashed, glittered, and glowed in soft shades of white blue, pink, and yellow. She made sure they never went out.

Her favorite room was The Pool. It went on nearly forever, under arched domes of ice. These dripped into the pool, which was a smooth and lapping whiteness, dappled slightly with silver, though never dark. Did the light reach all the way to the roots of the pool? It seemed fathomless. She would wade into the shallows, first to bathe, then to fill the enormous glass jars she used to fill the lamps, lanterns, and globes. She would pour that watery light into them and watch them ignite to a fiercer un-light, before fading back to the simple brightness of eternal day. This was her task, she did it without fail.

On the outside, she looked little different than the day she had arrived, until you looked into her eyes, deep and dark, the only things with any shadow or shade. Her eyes glittered with a sharp sanity, with a depth from which shown a terrible, piercing, perception. She saw through time, into space, and past the Void. She knew what came before and what would happen after. She understood.  She comprehended. She struggled to accept.

The rest of her was bleached to a whiter shade of pale, her hair the color of snow when early morning sunlight shatters and sparkles its way across the crust, like frozen diamond dust.

She thought of it now as her place, though it had existed well before she arrived, and would likely exist long after she was…replaced. She had come willingly, believing she understood why she must guard it. She had been very young then, full of conviction and the somewhat stupid certainty of inexperience.

These incandescent halls had not been touched by even the palest dusk since she had come to live here. It was a space of brightness, of glows. It was beyond beautiful, perfection in form, wondrous in majesty, profound in ecstatic loveliness.

Basically, she thought, it was really fucking boring.


2

Her name was Myra. Or at least, it had been. No one had called her that in close to a millennium. Maybe even two. In fact, no one had spoken a word to her since she had come here because she was alone. That had been what had attracted her to it in the first place. She had mistakenly believed that not liking people very much meant she would enjoy total isolation. As it turned out, there were a lot of things she genuinely missed about socializing that she’d taken for granted. Like laughter. Or those late night conversations she’d had as a youth, about nothing, yet felt so incredibly important. And, of course, there was sex.

Yes, it was beautiful looking here. Perfect, even. Flawless. And that, ultimately, was the problem. Nothing changed, nothing grew, nothing cracked or broke. It was like living in a mirror with an infinitely static reflection, or close enough as made no difference.

Myra had learned that “forever” and “infinity” were just other words for “a really long damn time” when you’ve lived for far longer than you could have conceived of before. They were abstracts and, ultimately, meaningless.

Sometimes she wondered if she wasn’t maybe getting a bit touched in the head. It would make sense. Living by your self, even under normal circumstances, could make anyone strange. But here, in this palace of light? Knowing what she knew, doing what she did? If there was such a thing as being beyond sanity, of being so sane you were, in fact, mad…but what was the point? This was her life, this was her task, there was no one else to do it. If there had been, they would’ve shown up by now. And yes, the job was important. Vital, even. But it was also tedious. She longed for something, anything, to be different.

Of course, she knew what it would mean if that ever happened.

So, she did what she always did. She collected the light, she hung the lanterns, she bathed in the pool. She wandered the halls and walked the floors and continued the work. She watched. She waited. She understood.

Still. As the years crept on, as the centuries grew thin and the millennia began to feel somehow…stale…she wondered:

Just what the hell had been the point of all this?

At the end of the day, Myra reflected, what did it really all mean?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gray Blink

in the gray blink
under strange and
over breath
a distance slips
between swollen
parted lips and
an ache builds toward
your heart
from mine
there is a thread here
a story root
a blossom leaning
for the sun
i reach for
your face and
love the lines
creasing ever
that fair soft skin
blink, sigh, wither
we all fade
rot and turn to stone
in a gray blink
i will lose you
and my self will
fade to gone

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Scarlet F for Feminist

The summer after I turned thirteen, a little over six months since my grandfather died, I spent July and August on the coast of Maine with my family. We stayed in the house my other grandparents owned, a small pre-Civil War affair in a tiny, perfect little New England town, nestled in a small cove on Penobscot Bay. We spent part of most summers there, in a kind of other world, with a rotary phone and black and white TV we never watched.

It had been a tough year. My mother's father (I called him Poppy), had been diagnosed with colon cancer. It spread quickly to his liver and killed him in about four months. It was the first death of someone I loved (not counting a beloved cat), and it changed everything in my immediate family and my own perspective drastically. That same year I got my first period and, due to the grieving process and hormones, became socially isolated and depressed. I watched my mother struggle with the loss of her father and become an alcoholic. I watched my father manipulate and exploit the situation, instead of comforting and consoling. I understood, even in my young and inexperienced way, that life was unfair and that loss was inevitable. It hurt, I hurt, and the people around me hurt. I did my best to hold things together, but I was so young. It took me 20 years, I think, to forgive how deeply that year messed me up inside, to forgive myself for still being a child and not knowing exactly how to parse it all out. For not knowing how to fix something that was already beyond repair.

During that summer I spent a lot of time by myself, wandering around the rocky beaches, struggling with dark and adult things that I wasn't quite able to articulate for myself, and could not express to anyone else. With my introduction to being a "woman", I had gained weight, a body I didn't really understand, soft and rounded, no longer slim and gangly. That year at school I had been vaguely aware that I was disliked, and being targeted by certain people for being "different". Some of it was body related, I knew that people thought I was "fat" or "ugly". I was also nicknamed "death" and considered morbid, although I didn't ever discuss my grandfather's death, not even with friends. I half-heartedly tried to fit in, but, was really too distracted to think about it that much. I had more important things on my mind.

On one of my summer wanderings I came across one of those New Age-y, hippieish, shops, with crystals and political bumper stickers alongside tie-dyed shirts and touristy odds and ends. I had this jean jacket that I loved and had begun collecting buttons to put on it. I don't know where the desire came from, I just remember suddenly wanting to cover it with quips and (I thought at the time), clever little statements about the world. While wandering around this shop I came across their homemade pin section. I remember it being political, though I really can't remember what any of them said...except one. There was one large, pink, and simple pin that read "I Believe Anita".

It was, of course, referring to the testimony of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court vetting process. She testified about how he had sexually harassed her, something that seemed pertinent to know about prospective member of SCOTUS, who would be responsible for deciding policy that related to all kinds of people, including women. That particular situation had happened in the same year my grandfather got sick and eventually died. I had followed it with curiosity and mounting frustration, confused as to why people said such terrible things about her, just for speaking out about a humiliating and, to my mind, deeply problematic situation. Although I didn't understand even half of what I do now about feminism or politics, I knew something was very wrong in the way she was treated, and I knew that something that should have been taken seriously was dismissed and belittled. Obviously there are many more complicated issues involved, but, I still believe an unfortunate precedent was set in regards to undermining women who speak out about sexual harassment.

I looked at the pin for awhile and for the first time in months, felt something that wasn't sadness. I bought it and pinned it on, and felt like I was declaring something, even in such a small way, that was fierce and righteous and a little bit scary. I wore it all summer, head held high.

When I returned to school in the fall I wore that jacket and that pin. I didn't think most of my classmates would recognize it, and I was so used to it being there that I didn't really give it much thought. Of all the pins I wore on that thing, it's still the one I'm most proud of. Because it wasn't just some snarky, Spencer's Gifts bit of manufactured, counter-culture snark. It was something I truly believed and had given thought to, and understood was important and meaningful.

It was also the thing that gave me my first real taste of concentrated misogyny and anti-feminist backlash.

I grew up in a small town on the Hudson River, about 45 minutes outside of NYC. My parents were ex-city artists, pseudo-hippies, who honestly believed that you should treat people how you wanted to be treated, and that kindness, empathy and decency were worthy traits everyone was taught. They were (and are) socially and politically liberal, and I grew up a kind of agnostic-Buddhist, having no issues with religion per se, but without a belief in god myself, and no need for spiritual structure beyond my mom occasionally trying to get us to meditate. This was, as it turned out, exceptionally unusual where I grew up, and caused me no end of grief as I got older and it became more evident that I was kind of weird and unusual. We won't even get into how being a geeky/nerdy girl added to that problem, suffice to say it made it that much more painful and ostracizing.

Most of the kids I grew up with had vaguely conservative parents, some kind of religious upbringing, and rather old-fashioned views on what boys and girls "should" be. To put it simply: girls should be pretty, thin, and agree with whatever the boys said. We could be "good" at things like English, but not too good, and we were never to question or disagree with the boys. I want to stress that this attitude did NOT come from most of my teachers, but most definitely came from my peers.

So it was kind of like a mini-nuclear explosion when I wore that pin to school. I was immediately confronted by one of the most popular boys in schools, a boy who would go on to harrass me nearly every day of that subsequent school year. His friends, thrilled to have a target, joined in. And I spent the next year being subjected to all sorts of threats, sexual and otherwise, and a constant break down of how horrible, hideous, fat, and disgusting I was. It was absolutely misogyny, although at the time I didn't quite know what that was. It was only later that I understood that my transgression had been rather simple: I did not do what girls were "supposed" to do, and was therefore to be silenced and shamed. That included rape threats, encouragement to kill myself, being physically threatened, spit on, called names...all tinged with the spectre of misogyny, that I was a girl who had crossed a line.

It was a hard year. You can't really go through that and not have it eat away are your self-worth. Combine that with lingering depression and grief, and you have a really fascinating cocktail of awful. But I got through it. I didn't really have any friends by the end of it, I mostly believe what they called me, and I developed a very problematic relationship with my body...but I got through it. And I did not, not for one day, take off that pin.

These days I'm an outspoken and unapologetic feminist. I understand what happened when I was young, and though I can't forget it, I can forgive what was a childish reaction to difference, while still acknowledging how wrong it was and insidious that kind of sexism is in people so young.

I'll never get used to or de-sensitized to misosgyny, or the way certain kinds of people will try to silence dissent or critique with threats. What I will do is talk about it, openly, and support those who do the same. One of the first steps towards change is awareness. I was silent for many years, and it's just not acceptable to me anymore. I'll never back down to trolls, I will never accept that the status quo should go unchallenged, and I will always, always...believe Anita.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Night Train


Wrote this today in response to some very cool concept art by Ryan Mauskopf, over at io9.com: http://io9.com/5924135/concept-art-writing-prompt-the-monstrous-passengers-of-the-night-train


At precisely 2:15 am, the Night Train pulled into the station, sleekly gray, with a trailing blue fog in an otherwise clear, cool night. The only sound it made was a low, cat-like hiss as the brakes brought it to a full stop at the very top of the mostly empty platform. There were only 4 cars and the single listed destination on the display read: Outer Town. The doors opened silently, spilling dim green pools of light.

From out of those same doors shuffle...The Shapes. Some hulk, some stoop, others undulate or crawl. The glint of a long tooth, the shimmer of scales, the sheen of fur or spike, flash occasionally in the subtle gloom. The trains’ blue fog obscures most other identifiers, and The Shapes file quickly away to their homes, lairs, or lakes.

As the train empties, only two figures patiently wait to enter. They are both dressed as for a day at the office, one in a jolly, dotted tie, the other a long scarf an slim suit. The former has a cheerful, sunny smile upon his fuzzy face, and carries a briefcase in his formidable looking claws. The other, more fussy, wears old fashioned gloves, and his head gives off a warm and glowing flame. They nod to one another, nightly commute companions, but not friends,

The car they choose is mostly empty, but as they glimpse the solitary figure across from them, they choose a seat together and cast wary eyes in the direction of what appears to be...a girl. Possibly human, though neither wants to assume. They sit in amiable silence as the Night Train’s doors close and smoothly resumes its course.

Just as the two travellers begin to relax, the girl suddenly stands up and moves swiftly toward them, moving gracefully in spite of several lurches of the train. She holds a cup of coffee in her hand, and holds on to the overhead pole on tip toes.

"Hi!" she says cheerfully, wide-eyed and bouncy toned. "This is my first time on the Night Train. I’m Emmy!" before the other two can say a word she plops herself down between them and playfully swings her short legs. She does not seem in the least put out by their stares or lack of response. Or the fact that her seatmates are both clearly inhuman.

"I’m going to visit someone in Outer Town. I thought I’d get some coffee to stay awake, though I think it’s made me a little jumpy. I was excited about the trip any way, it must be wonderful! I’ve heard soooo many fantastic things! Do you both live there?" this all came out in a rush, with no real place for either of her seat companions to respond. So the fuzzy creature on her right merely grunted, keeping his smile carefully on his face. The other simply nodded, a bit of ash falling off his head. He flicked it carefully away with one gloved hand.

"Well! I’m very glad to have the company. Long trips go so much better when you have other people to chat with. As I said, I’m Emmy. I’m originally from the city, not this one, but, another. You’d think a city would be full of things to do, but no, it was dreadfully dull. Wrong sort of people, I suppose. This one is better, but, still, not quite to my tastes. That’s why I’m going to Outer Town. It sounds perfect!" She drank some more of her coffee, bopping gently in her seat. Over her head the two monsters glanced at one another, sharing a moment of resigned irritation.

For the next hour or so, Emmy continued to chatter contentedly at her two travelling companions. Occasionally they would offer a nod or a grunt of approval, though it was hard to tell. It all seemed to mean the same to her. Sometimes she would lean closer to one or the other, smiling, with a friendly pat on the shoulder or claw. She remarked several times on how convenient it was to actually be your own source of light, and how she should be very glad of fur like that in winter-time. Her voice was bubbly but not unpleasant, and though both monsters would have preferred a silent ride after their long work nights, it was not altogether a bad ride.

As they drew closer to Outer Town, with its twinkling lights and oddly shaped towers, the two monsters made ready to depart. As the train slowed down Emmy got excitedly to her feet and stood by the door, hopping on one foot, then the other. As it came to a full stop and the brakes hissed in their cat-like way, she turned towards her two companions with a smile that made them both gasp and step back.

The furry one clutched his briefcase to his chest, while the flaming head took his arm and stepped slightly in back of him, like a shield. Emmy continued to grin, though now they both knew that their chatty train companion had most decidedly NOT been "just a girl".

"Thank you both for letting me talk your ears off. It was awfully kind of you. You see…" and here that impossibly wide grin cracked and gaped further, unhinging her jaw and showing off rows upon rows of impressively needle sharp teeth, "I had thought I might have a lite snack on the journey. But, you two were so obliging, I decided to wait til we got to town. "

The two companions nodded, not knowing what else to do. Her long, red, and forked tongue flicked out and licked her lips. The door behind her slid open and, in that dim green light, she winked a pink and hungry eye at them both.

"See you around!" she said with a wave, and stepped out and swiftly away. The two monsters stood still for awhile, until they were mostly sure she was really gone. Then they carefully made their way to the nearest bar and drank to forget the chatty not-just-a- girl on The Night Train, and what she was eating in Outer Town that night.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Writing in Progress: "Effie's Dragon"

Along with some other writers, I'm taking up the challenge of posting a weekly excerpt of a sotry I'm working on so that I will A. stop being so precious about it B. get used to putting my work out there C. finish the darn things. Sometimes it will be prose, other times comics, possibly even a poem or two. What they'll all have in common is that they will be just a bit of something longer.

The first excerpt is from a children's story, "Effie's Dragon". If you're familiar with my comics work at all this will be a nice change. Especially since it's A. for kids B. has no vampires and C. is prose. I've wanted to write a dragon story for little girls for awhile now because they've always been my favorite magic creature. This story takes place by the sea because I love the ocean and spent most of my childhood summers either on the rocky coast of Maine, or the beach at Rockaway.

So, here's a bit of: "Effie's Dragon"

Effie Rosemary Crumb was very fond of tea parties, toast with jam, and scaly sea serpents with long swirly tails.

Effie loved swimming and swords, dresses with bows and the color blue. She loved stories and plays, running until she couldn’t breathe, and building sand castles with curly bits on every tower.

Every summer, Effie was sent to her grandmothers’ house on the coast, where she spent every day on a rocky beach, searching and swimming and sailing handmade paper ships. This summer was particularly special as Effie had a new little sister, and although she loved her, she often needed to slip off to get some time to herself, because babies don’t do very much but sleep and cry and eat.

One afternoon, as she walked along the gray beach, having escaped from another fancy lunch with friends who were wishing her parents well, Effie cut her toe on a sharp sea shell and stuck her foot in the salty water to take away the sting. The water was cold and still, and Effie watched the blood from her toe make small swirls.

Suddenly, she heard a splash and a spluttering and a gurgle. And when she looked up…

There. She. Was.

“Oh, you’re BEAUTIFUL!” said Effie.

Where once had be still, steely water, now swam a slim and elegant sea dragon. She smiled at Effie, preening her scales proudly.

“Thank you.” She said. “I think you’re pretty, too.”

“I’ve never seen a sea dragon before.” said Effie.” You’re so much sparklier than I imagined!”

“I try.” Said the sea dragon.

“How old are you?” asked Effie.”

“Oh, young still. Only seven hundred and seventy six.” said the dragon.

“Wow. I’m only seven.” said Effie, who thought seven hundred and seventy six sounded quite impossibly old.

“That’s an excellent age to be,” replied the dragon.

“Do dragons live forever?”

“I don’t think so. But perhaps we get close enough.”

“Oh. Well. I’m Effie.”

“I’m Sahhafffhhhsnnnahs in dragon. But you can call me Sarah. I’ve always liked that name.”

“Why are you at the beach today? I’ve never seen you here before, and I’ve been keeping an eye out for dragons. Especially sparkly sea ones.”

“Maybe you weren’t looking hard enough.”

“Oh, but I always am!”

“Well, I don’t usually get so close to shore. But I saw this shell and then your little pink toe.”

“I hurt it a little,” said Effie. “But I didn’t cry. Well, not much.”

“Here, let me help.” Sarah the sea dragon craned her long lovely neck and gently touched Effie’s injured foot with the scales on her nose.

“Oh, it tingles!” said Effie.

“It should be better now.”

Effie marveled are her now healed and perfect toe.

“Thank you! But…” she looked worried. “What can I do for you? Oh, I know!”

Effie held out her hand. In the palm lay a perfect snail shell. It was pink and blue, pearly and swirly and shimmery bright.

“You’re so sweet. Where should I wear it?” asked Sarah.

Effie carefully looked over Sarah from head to tail. “Maybe there, on your neck?”

“Could you put it on for me?” asked Sarah. “I can’t reach, for I haven’t hands and arms like you.”

“Promise you won’t bite?”

“Of course not! That would be rude. Also, I only eat seaweed. Good for the scales.” said Sarah, a little offended.

“Sorry, I should have known.” Effie apologized. “I think I’ll need to climb up to reach.”

“Certainly.”

So Sarah swam as close to the shore as she could. Then, she extended her neck so that, should she have wanted, she could have touched Effie’s nose with her own. For her part, Effie marveled at the intricate scales of the dragon, made of shells and stone, in so many different shades of blue and green and violety purple pearl, that she did not think she could properly name them all.

It was, however, the sea dragon’s eyes that were the most strange and beautiful color, as deep a blue gray as the ocean at night during a storm. They were wise and playful, odd but comforting, and Effie was sure they held the secret to everything she had ever, or would ever, wonder.




End of Excerpt

Copyright MonsterTeaTime 2012







"Effie's Dragon"