Monday, 19 November 2018

Friday, 16 November 2018

#fridayflash: more #nanowrimo excerpt from the WIP



Josh stood frozen. Was this the way? Was this how they’d finally be able to return to Maha? They’d get Michael back to Maha—it was impossible to bring Samuel under these conditions—and when they were there, they’d be able to drum up the revolution, be able to amass an army to fight back, find a way to win back their city. He could subvert Lady’s Dell’s orders. Somehow. He had to talk to his father, see how they could use this to their advantage. Maybe they could actually leave without too much bloodshed.

The blow that landed on his cheek stunned him.

“Bastard. You’re planning to take it, aren’t you?” Michael growled. “You’d take my throne from me and laugh as I grovel at your feet. You want to break me like Dell has done my father?”

“Michael—”

“The throne of Maha will not be taken by infidels. It will not be occupied by Bayangans. The world will end before God allows that to happen!”

“Michael!” Josh grabbed at his prince’s flailing arms. “That is not what I intend to do! Listen to me, Michael,” he whispered fiercely, forcing the mad prince down on his knees. “You will be restored to your throne. But for now you must stop this. Stop it before you endanger everything.”

But Michael wouldn’t stop. He was in a frenzy, driven by fear, anger, and bitterness. Josh wrangled him into a chokehold, then manoeuvred his body, pressing him face-down into the floor. Reaching out, he snagged the ever-present chains and snapped them on the bands around Michael’s wrists and ankles. Michael continued wriggling on the ground.

“I don’t know how to talk sense into you, Michael, but you have to snap out of this. I can’t return a throne to a madman.” Josh kept his voice low, hoping that no one was listening at the door. “I’m going to meet my father tonight. I didn’t plan on bringing you along, but I’m going to need to. You need to listen to everything we have to say and understand Michael that everything we’ve been doing is intended to return your throne to you. You’re going to have to make decisions tonight. And you’re going to have to trust us.”

Michael stopped struggling.

“Can I let you up now?”

Michael nodded and Josh lifted the pressure from the back of Michael’s head and neck.

“Do you really mean all you said?” Michael asked, still wild-eyed, mouth full of carpet dust.

Josh nodded. “I do.”

“Why have you never told me all this before?”

“I told you right in the beginning, but you refused to believe me. And then it got too risky.”

“Then why tell me now?”

“Because if Dell intends to return us to Maha, this speeds up our timeline. This is an unexpected development that I hope will turn out for good. I don’t know how exactly we can subvert it to our purposes, but if we can, it means that you now need to know what we plan and how to react when we stage our coup.”

Michael lay silent. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. Then he opened it as he exhaled. “I’m sorry. Could you let me go now?”

Josh dug in his pockets for the keys and released the chains. His jaw hurt and he stretched it.

“That’s going to bruise really badly,” Michael said, dropping his eyes habitually.

“Yeah, thanks.”

They sat in silence.

“You know what?” Josh finally said. “You really pack a punch. This was the hardest time it ever took for me to subdue you. And even then, I felt as if you let me.”

Michael lay on his back and stared up at the ceiling. “Something’s changed. Something clicked in me and I felt a surge of power. Not like anything I’ve ever felt before. It shocked me so much that I stopped. I was only flailing about half-heartedly to throw you off.”

Their eyes met. Josh’s eyes widened.

“Your Berserker powers,” he gushed in a quiet whisper.

“No…” but Michael’s eyes widened too.

---

I was thinking of developing this week's homework into something for next year's Commonwealth Short Story prize so I decided not to post it up. :)

Anyway, did a 10K day yesterday, wouldjalookitdat!


The story is probably 80% waffle right now, but that's okay, because most of that waffle is helping me figure out what the characters want :p

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

#bookreview: Reading Like a Writer | Francine Prose

Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write ThemReading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up because it was on the supplementary reading list and I was feeling lost about how all these people with literary backgrounds were giving deep opinions on the books we're reading in class and I was just like... it's a book, I liked it or I didn't like it, or it bored me to death. (I don't do very well in verbal discussions. I would just like to send them all my Goodreads reviews lol).

Prose talks about the things she looks out for when reading, which is sometimes helpful, sometimes uh, where did that come from? But on the whole, it's covered a lot of things we've also been doing in class. I do like her end conclusion, though, which does say just read for the sake of enjoying the language, not because you want to dissect the story or argue about your opinion of what the author intended when he said such-and-such. (Will Self also said that in yesterday's lecture: read, read, read, read.)

I do read a lot. But what I need to get better at is close reading. This book gave some pointers on how to start doing that.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

#guestpost: the Diverse World of the Island of Myste | Randall Allen Dunn

Diversity in stories is a very popular theme today. However, I was planning to write characters with diversity long before it became a trend, because many other writers were doing the same thing before me.

I saw strong examples of diversity in fiction when I was a kid. Television series like Star Trek and Mission: Impossible had very diverse casts that showed various races working together as teammates and equals, who rarely acknowledged the difference in their races. Several other television series highlighted individual races, such as Diff’rent Strokes, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and 21 Jump Street. I also saw cartoons that featured other races, like Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan, and animated portrayals of The Harlem Globetrotters and The Jackson 5.

Diversity in fiction is not really a new concept. It’s simply identified and spotlighted more heavily these days when it occurs. Those shows that portrayed diversity well have inspired me to create stories that present diverse groups in believable and positive ways. Even in high school, I wondered why the lead protagonists in American fiction stories were always white. I determined to write some stories with non-white heroes.

My latest story, The Island of Myste, is a fantasy adventure for middle grade readers, about an adoptive family that is also a mixed family, something which has not been done very often in fiction. We have many stories about heroes who have been adopted, from Superman to Harry Potter, but they typically share or resemble their adoptive parents’ race. The nine-year-old hero of this story, Yumiko Corr, is a Japanese girl who has been adopted by an African-American couple. This causes her some stress because she clearly doesn’t look like her new parents, which gives her an innate sense that she doesn’t truly belong.

My wife and I are white, and we have two African-American children that we have adopted. One of the most heartbreaking things I experienced as an adoptive father was when our one-year-old daughter was comparing her brown-skinned arm to my wife’s, and asked when her skin would start to turn pink. My wife explained to her that we had different skin colors and it would not change, and did not need to change, because she was perfect the way she was.

But I have come to believe that sharing the same race within your family provides a deeper sense of belonging, especially for kids. We all know it shouldn’t feel that way, but children in a mixed family can feel disconnected, even though they know they are fully loved, simply because they look different. In The Island of Myste, Yumiko and her adoptive parents travel to Tokyo to search for her birth mother, so Yumiko can feel a sense of identity, once she knows where she came from. But a freak storm transports them to another dimension, where nothing exists but an enormous island, on which strange creatures called the Nephilim have been trapped for centuries. Like Yumiko, the various individual Nephilim feel disconnected from one another, even though they are all one tribe, created with different roles and abilities. The Centauri (Centaurs) are outstanding archers and woodworkers, while the Taurusors (minotaurs) are overly aggressive iron workers, and the Meral (mermaids) nurture others and help them to see beauty in life.

Unfortunately, the Nephilim were all banished to this dimension for failing to lead and protect mankind, as they were created to do. They were divided even farther when a spoiled human boy, Rodney, recently took over the island, using stolen magic to enslave everyone. Yumiko soon discovers that she’s destined to rescue the Nephilim from Rodney and return them to her own world.

But to do that, she’ll have to teach the Nephilim to work together and have hope again, that they can be restored to their former roles of honor. Just as we need to maintain hope that we can overcome prejudices and stand together as one race.

I’m really looking forward to introducing readers to all the Nephilim tribes, many of which will surprise them but, I hope, will satisfy their expectations for what they have always imagined creatures like centaurs, mermaids, gargoyles, and other fantasy figures to be. Some are introduced in the first book, and more are revealed in Book 2.

There’s a sneak preview at the end of this book for the sequel, Terror on the Island of Myste, which comes out in December. That story introduces some new central characters and Yumiko makes a bold decision that changes everything for the Nephilim. Book 3: Escape from the Island of Myste releases in January, when the Nephilim attempt to escape from King Rodney and the island. There’s also a contest that people can enter, to be named as a Nephilim in the final book. To enter, people can link to my website to learn how to create their own Nephilim name, here: http://www.randallallendunn.com/2018/10/17/learn-your-nephilim-name-for-the-escape-from-the-island-of-myste-contest/

All you have to do is choose which Nephilim you want to be, then follow the naming pattern to turn your own name into a Nephilim name. You can become a fairy, gargoyle, minotaur, or whatever you want.

Once you have your name, just email it to me at Randall@RandallAllenDunn.com, with a contact address for you or your parents. If you have trouble creating your name, email me your name and I can send you your Nephilim name in 2-3 days.

Then I’ll add your Nephilim name to a page where you can ask people to vote for your Nephilim name. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Q4Uq0xkqx6es95DhDwJkuqdKgdQKoJVJf_MBxCOR9Bg/viewform?edit_requested=true

The top 3 voted names by midnight of December 31st, 2018, will be published in Escape from the Island of Myste!

Meanwhile, Book 1: The Island of Myste, is now available for pre-order and will launch this Friday, November 16th!

###

Despite 900 years of Jedi training, Randall Allen Dunn was rejected as Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts. He later used his Lunar gifts to become a volunteer Watcher guiding future writers and Vampire Slayers, until the Sorting Hat placed him in the YA ThrillerWriter faction. He now writes action thrillers that read like blockbuster movies, packed with action, adventure, and infinite possibility.

You can contact him by using the Force or by email:
Randall@RandallAllenDunn.com


Monday, 12 November 2018

#musicmonday: In Over My Head | Bethel Music



---

I have come to this place in my life
I’m full but I’ve not satisfied
This longing to have more of You
And I can feel it my heart is convinced
I’m thirsty my soul can’t be quenched
You already know this but still
Come and do whatever You want to

I’m standing knee deep but I’m out where never been
And I feel You coming and I hear Your voice on the wind

Would you come and tear down the boxes that I have tried to put You in
Let love come teach me who You are again
Would You take me back to the place where my heart was only about You
And all I wanted was just to be with You
Come and do whatever You want to

And further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours
And further and further my heart moves away from the shore
Whatever it looks like, whatever may come I am Yours

Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
And You crash over me, and that's where You want me to be
I’m going under, I’m in over my head

Whether I sink, whether I swim
Oh, it makes no difference when
I’m beautifully in over my head
And whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when
I’m beautifully in over my head
And I am beautifully in over my head
Beautifully in over my head

---

You hold the world together
Stop me unravelling

Friday, 9 November 2018

#fridayflash: excerpt from the #nanowrimo WIP

A knock on the door alerted King Samuel that it was time for the scry. He reluctantly kept the bottle back in its place, stood and smoothed down his shirt, then shrugged on his royal robes. He would appear in this kangaroo court in all his regality so they’d remember who he was and what he represented.

The council was already seated when he entered the Council Room. They made to rise, but he gestured at them, signalling them to keep their seats. He took his own seat at the head of the table and nodded at the priest in charge to open the scry.

The High Priest from Suci appeared in the mirror and, to his surprise, the Secretkeeper from Impian. What was she doing there? Where they conspiring against him? He narrowed his eyes at them. Well, if it was going to be a firing squad, at least Tun Ali from Impian wasn’t there. Moments later, King Samuel winced when Tun Ali appeared in a second mirror. Ali looked bored.

“You too?” Samuel said with a snort.

Ali shrugged. “I was summoned, so I here I am.”

“Well, let’s get this over with, shall we?” Samuel said, looking at the High Priest.

“This is no joking manner, young man,” the High Priest said sternly.

“As I have said over and over again, this is the best course for Terang—it is the only way to see lasting peace in the kingdom, instead of always having to worry about impending war from Bayangan.”

“You would ally with the enemies of God!” the High Priest protested.

“Well, if God were against them, he can strike them dead and we wouldn’t be in this fix of always being on the brink of war. Don’t you want peace, High Priest? Don’t you think the people deserve that chance for peace?”

“Young man, your heart is in the right place, but your actions are wrong. This treaty might offer peace for the short term, but it will only end in disaster,” the Secretkeeper said.

“I’ve prayed about this,” Samuel said obstinately, “and since God hasn’t struck me dead, I can only assume that I’m not doing anything wrong.”

“He has sent his word to the priests both in Maha and in Suci but you have ignored their advice! You only listen to your own council.”

“The Temple itself says that each man can approach God on his own and that God speaks to their hearts. My heart says that this is what is right for me and for Terang. Dare you go against your own teachings?” Samuel mocked. He pushed aside the remnants of his worry that he might be headed in the wrong direction. This was right, he told himself again. “Besides, the council of seven in Maha are in agreement.”

The seven other men around the table nodded. They hadn’t all been in agreement at first, but Samuel had worn them down, pleading his case and reworking the treaty to satisfy their worries until they had reluctantly agreed. The only thing he refused to budge on was the fact that he was going to marry Dell.

The High Priest and the Secretkeeper seemed to be having a hurried whispered conversation.

Samuel preened. He’d managed to throw them off, at least a little.

“My visions only see dark things if you take this route,” the Secretkeeper finally said. Her face was downcast, her tone low, but Samuel knew it was all an act. 

Get him to pity the woman and maybe his heart would be moved. No. He’d made his decision and he would stick to it. “Ramalan, I do not profess to understand the workings of your visions. But I have seen things with my own two eyes and they tell me that this is the best way forward. The people of our city are crying out for help. This treaty will bring jobs, trade, money. It will help everyone from the poor to the rich.”

“Must you marry the girl?” Ramalan asked.

Samuel’s face pinched. “Is that what this is all about? Despite all that I do for the kingdom, all the things I sacrifice, you would deny me the right to marry a young woman who is willing?”

“We do not deny you the right to marry anyone, King Samuel,” the High Priest replied. “Just not her. Not her, who is our ancient enemy.”

Samuel shook his head. “I don’t understand you. For all your talk of forgiveness and repentance, you cannot accept when one who was our enemy has repented and is now seeking to be our friend.”

“Fellow rulers,” Tun Ali finally spoke up, “Far be it from me to impose on any of you, being the youngest of all, but it is Samuel’s right to marry whom he wishes.”

Samuel shot him a grateful smile. “Thank you, Ali.”

The two scrying from Suci looked frustrated. “God says—”

“If I may remind you, High Priest, there are many Bayangans in Maha. All of them follow God and the teachings of the Temple. How can you be prejudiced against them when you preach love towards all? Princess Dell may yet come to know and follow God as we do.”

“And has she shown any interest in following our religion?” the Secretkeeper asked sharply. “Or does she merely delay you and tell you it may come to pass one day in the distant future?”

“In fact, Dell has visited the Temple in Maha when she was here,” Samuel said. He’d almost had to coerce her to go, and it was just a tour of the premises and not during services, but he didn’t say that. “I would say that she is quite open to listening about God. Belief and faith will come in time.”

A long silence permeated the room. 

“Do you have anything else to say?” King Samuel said when a long enough time had passed.

“It looks like we cannot convince you otherwise.”

“No, you can’t. I have quite made up my mind, and it is within my rights as the King of Maha and Sovereign of the tri-city states of Terang to do so, especially when the Council of Seven are in agreement.”

“One last thing then,” the High Priest said.

“What would that be?”

“Will you release my priests? The Temple in Maha has informed me that you have unlawfully imprisoned the Chief Priest Francis and two other high ranking priests over the last three months. What offence have they made against you?”

Samuel grimaced. “I will release them on the condition that they return to Suci and replaced with new priests who respect the authority of the King. These priests have spoken out publicly against My Royal Person in the middle of Temple services in an astoundingly rude manner. This is both disruptive and against the rule of law. If they wish to admonish me or impart their ‘words of wisdom’, I would advise them to do it in a more courteous manner instead of inciting insurrection.”

“Noted. We will discipline them as necessary,” the High Priest said.

“Now, if that is all…?”

Samuel waited for those in the scrying mirrors to assent before he signalled for the attending priest to break the link.

“Well, that’s that then,” he leaned back in his seat with a big smile.

---

So this is the last bit I wrote yesterday during my write-in at the Uxbridge Library. I'm kind of liking it at the moment, and unfortunately liking my "bad people" with more glee than the actual intended protagonists of this story.

If you notice, this takes place in the whole Absolution universe ha. It's supposed to happen way before Secretkeeper and Absolution, so yes, the Secretkeeper is Nek Ramalan, though I suppose she's not old enough to be "Nek" yet. Hmmmmmm. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

#bookreview: More from the MA reading list (which I surprisingly liked) #AnnasMA

White is for WitchingWhite is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Told mostly by Miranda's twin, Eliot, White is For Witching explores the tragic tale of Miranda Silvers, the girl with pica, who is slowly fading away after the death of her mother, Lily. I say mostly, because parts of the novel are also told in a general narrator type POV, by the house (hah) as well as Miranda's friend, Ore. But mostly, it's Eliot's voice who dominates, Eliot who is both friend and enemy to his twin.

Oyeyemi keeps you off balance throughout the book through POV changes, stylistic formatting changes, shifts and revelations within the text that sometimes blindside you. She starts with Miranda's disappearance, heads back to the past where it all began and then ends up back where she started: where is Miranda?

This week's theme is on Place, so I'm guessing this book is significant because it uses place (the house on 29 Barton Road) as a character, as a persona that holds secrets and affects everything in Miranda's life. (Is Miranda truly crazy, mentally ill? Or is it the house or whatever spirit that lives in it the one that is doing things to her; this living house that claims all Silver women as hers? Who are the shadowy beings only Ore can see besides Miranda?)

Dover seems like a small, white town, with a burgeoning immigration population. Is the racism seen (four immigrant boys slashed, killed; the house's rejection of Ore) something inherent in the house/its spirit or is it a projection of Miranda's subconscious? It's never settled who killed the boys, or why Tijana thinks it's Miranda, other than the fact that the last one, her cousin Agim, sees a slight resemblance between Miranda and his attacker.

Cambridge is nothing more than a place where Miranda escapes to and meets Ore, where she separates herself from the house, where she slowly fades. But Miranda also seems to feed off Ore, in the same strange way Lily might have fed off Luc, though it's never clear, never explained. (Is it the soucouyant? What is Sade trying to ward off?)

Nothing is clear. The narrators are unreliable, the main protagonist dead or missing, only seen through the eyes of those around her.

A haunting, unsettling read.

---

Perfidious AlbionPerfidious Albion by Sam Byers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perfidious Albion is very much a story of our times, for all that it's set in a future post-Brexit era.

Byers touches on all the current hot-button topics: racism and equality; Internet privacy, doxing, and rape threats; unsolicited dick pics; feminism, misogyny, and the fragile white male; efficiency, microtasking, and freelance culture. Within just Robert & Jess's relationship, Byers lays bare the stark differences in approach and understanding of similar events between a male and a female of similar standing and class (attacks on males are professional, attacks on females are personal). With Trina and Darkins, you see a vast difference in how the world treats a black female and a white male. Innocuous words are twisted into sinister intent for political gain.

There's no specific place to this, for all that it's set in Edmunsbury, a small town in eastern England. The events both seem local and global, a microcosm that holds true for the world. Everything is out there on the internet--Jess wars against Robert's online persona through a fake person of her own whilst maintaining cordial relationship at home; Robert changes his tone and beliefs (while pretending he's holding true to his principles) according to what his editor wants and what they think the readers want; Trina's life rapidly spirals just because of one ill-advised tweet latched onto by Bennington and opined on by Robert. A shady group of masked men disrupt events by asking "What don't you want to share?"

A lot, it seems.

Everyone has things to hide. And it's mob justice, beginning with social justice warriors on the net, that seems to prevail.

The Internet is a place on its own--a world that lives and breathes by its own rules, where nothing ever seems to die, or can be revived at will with just the right (or wrong) word, just one misstep.

Perfidious Albion feels like a cautionary word to readers: be careful of what you do and say online. Anything can be twisted if the situation is ripe.

---

The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Found this absolutely hilarious. Well, turning into an insect isn't exactly hilarious but... the story.

The ending though...

At any rate, this is pretty deep third person POV (I think?) primarily from Gregor, but it shifts to a general omniscient narrator at the end. It... actually brings to mind those stupid essays we used to write in school, imagining your a pen or a book or some other inanimate object. It's like someone asked Kafka, "Well, what would happen if you were an insect?" and then he wrote this.

View all my reviews