Flash Fiction Friday – Azure

Rewrites for Blood Promise DONE! I’m kind of in a limbo state now, querying agents while planning how to tackle Neverland all over again.

So in an attempt to get back into the Neverland groove, this week’s short story is inspired by Peter Pan,

This pretty merman artwork: 

And, okay, this:

Is he rocking that blue hair or what! And on a sidenote, SUPER JUNIOR IS BACK WITH THEIR 7TH ALBUM!!!

*leaves to fangirl*

*gross sobbing*

*supersonic screeching*

*incessant self-fanning*

*spazzing*

*more spazzing*

*swooning*

*more swooning*

*faints*

Ahem.

Okay I’m done.

And now, here is this week’s flash fiction.

 

*

 
 

Azure

 

She had seen the boy with blue hair from somewhere.

At first, she thought she was dreaming. Or a hallucination. It had been a straight week of interrupted sleep and groggy eye-rubbing. People saw worse things when they ran on too little sleep.

But the boy seemed real enough. His features were fine, like they were painted the strong planes of his face with clean brush strokes. Bowed lips, arched brows, a narrow slope of the nose.

Definitely her imagination.

She could reach out and run a finger down, since he was just lying there with his eyes closed (asleep?), is azure hair fanning out from beneath his head. But she curled her fingers into her palm and whispered instead, “Are you really asleep?”

“If I were asleep, what would you have done?” His eyelids slid open and he sat up. Every movement he made was deliberate and fluid.

His eyes, clear, wide pools the soft fawn colour of a jay’s wing, revealed nothing of his age. They were boy and man, dreams and laughter, wistful and playful, sad and bright all at once. She found herself staring and took a step back.

“How old are you?” she asked.

“Old enough.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means growing up is over-rated. We are all as young as we want to be.”

“So how old are you?” she huffed.

“You seem very preoccupied about age.”

“I just want to know how old is old enough.”

“Old for what?”

“Old enough to stop caring.”

He fell very silent. Ran a hand through his rippling, azure hair. She wanted to do the same, wondered if it smelled of the sea.

“There is a place,” he said at length, “where the caring stops for a while.”

He told her about lands too far away for her to imagine, about feisty girls who fought pirates and wore feathers in their hair. He told her about the men with smiles as bright as the knives they carried and voices as smooth as their coats. He told her about the mermaids with their flashy tails and fairies with their glittery wings. He told her about the castaway ship and the secret cave next to the lagoon.

“But those are just stories,” she said when he was through.

“Some stories are real, though. You lived in them once.”

So she did know him from somewhere. She knew him from the tales she had heard and the ones he told, from the ones he had taken her to. She knew him way back when he was just a boy no older than twelve, standing at her bedroom window. He told her he knew a place they could go where they didn’t have to worry about snipped shadows or growing up.

And back then, she had believed him. Back then, she was wrong. But that was the thing about the blue-haired boy. You wanted so badly to believe him, to believe in him.

She believed him then and she believed him now. She was sure she always would.

He smiled. Because he knew. There were children who never grew up, and those were the only ones he trusted.

 
 

Monday moodlifters (apart from that rejection letter)!

So I was video-surfing on YouTube yesterday and chanced upon this lovely artiste: Laurel.

That’s it. Laurel. I have no idea who she is – Google doesn’t even know her by her mononym yet. She is that new.

But a deeper search provided some answers: Laurel Arnell-Cullen, a 19-year-old British girl who’s been writing songs since she was 12. This instills a deep sense of shame in me. What was I doing when I was 19 – or 12, for that matter – instead of writing gorgeous songs like hers?

But I’ll stop talking now and let her music speak for itself.

This one’s called Fire Breather. It was used in episode 16 of The Vampire Diaries season 5. I haven’t watched it yet, but apparently it was used for some Delena scene (meh, whatevs).

That voice! That beat! Excuse me while I punch the crap out of the Replay button.

This one is called To the Hills:

Oh. My. Gosh. I DIE. Can we just pause whatever we’re doing and LISTEN to her?

Those words! Those imagery! Can’t you just imagine a scene already? SO dramatic. I filled 6 pages of my notebook just listening to her – wrote a short story too, although that could be attributed to re-reading Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor.

I NEED MORE!

Her songs are like a delicious mix of Lorde and Lana Del Rey, perfect for writing some sweeping fantasy story – which, I admit, is an idea I’m kind of toying with. I PROMISE I’ll come back to Neverland … someday. For now, I don’t want to pin myself to a story that’s not working and restrict myself from working on anything else.

Speaking of a story that’s not working, I just received my first non-form rejection letter – i.e. a personal rejection letter, which is what you get after a literary agent decides to look at your manuscript – for Until Morning.

A form rejection letter goes like this:

Dear author, I apologise for the impersonal nature of this letter, but after careful consideration I have decided to pass on your manuscript blabbity blah blah more depressing blah. 

So a personal rejection letter is a tiny step up – still depressing because it’s like having your crush lead you on before telling you he’s not into you after all.

Wait, where did THAT analogy come from?

Anyway, here’s the first heartbreak for Until Morning:

Dear Joyce,


Thank you so much for allowing us to read the first 50 pages of UNTIL MORNING. Catherine and I were very drawn in by your expert use of lyrical language and cleverly imagined scenes. Unfortunately, I think we will have to pass on the project, as it’s just not quite right for us. The work is of such high quality that it deserves an agent who will be able to grant it his or her full attention. 

I do regret that we have to pass on this, but I am confident that you will find an excited agent soon. I wish you the best of luck in your continuing search for representation and publication.

All best,

Andrew

Office of Catherine Drayton

 

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Sigh. So close. So damn close.

Happy things? Much needed.

I’m weirdly obsessed with deer art these days:

by AnnyaKaiArt on Etsy
Deer cookies
by CirqueDeArt on Etsy

And this boy:

And adorable babies:

Speaking of babies, isn’t this picture of Prince George so darn adorable?

Image from Elle.com

Awwww! Those cheeks!

Also, in a bout of Harry Potter nostalgia, I found an article listing out 6 possible spinoffs and oh yes please to all of them!

I’ve been going on for ages about a Marauders spinoff (more James Potter and Sirius Black bromance; more James Potter, period):

The Marauders Art Print by sevillaseas on society6.com

but a Founders spinoff and Auror spinoff sound intriguing too. See what happens when you write a richly imagined series? SO much room for potential spinoffs!

Also, if you haven’t already seen this, you should. Gorgeous photography by Katerina Plotnikova. So many story ideas zinging around. I mean, look!

Okay, a little too many antlers for this post.

Peter Pan quote

Have a great week, everyone! :0)

5 places to find inspiration when writing a Peter Pan retelling

So Epic Reads was pretty awesome in doing this:

Click on the image to see it in full-size!

Speaking of fairy-tale retellings, now that I’m writing a contemporary YA novel that’s inspired by Peter Pan, I’m starting to appreciate this genre more.

I’m still partway through Fathomless by Jackson Pearce –

Let’s take another minute to admire this gorgeous cover again.

And dammit now I need to own this lovely book. It’s not so mind-blowing or insanely gorgeous that I want to put it in a shrine the way I want to for Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

or the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

Shrine-worthy covers, no?

Fathomless may not induce this reaction:

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But it’s original and riveting, and contains the magic of the original fairy tale with its own tinge of darkness and drama.

Dark and dramatic, with romance and high stakes, terrible beauty and the threat of losing one’s humanity – just the way I like my YA fantasy novels! If – when – I write Indigo Tides, that is all I can hope for it to be.

But* a mermaid story is a novel for another time (Indigo Tides, wait for me!). Right now, Peter Pan is taking centre stage, so I’m looking for books that were inspired by the boy who wouldn’t grow up. Scouring through Goodreads, I came up with 5 books to sink my teeth into while working on No Room in Neverland.

*That is one too many buts.

When someone mentions Peter Pan, you’d probably think of this:

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(Ah, Jeremy Sumpter. I had the hugest crush on him because of this movie!)

Or you might think of this:

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Or, in my case, you’d think of this:

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(That’s my Thomas – from No Room in Neverland – by the way.)

And this:

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But I always thought Peter Pan was quite a sad story, not least because Peter and the Lost Boys were, well, lost. They might seem wild and carefree in Neverland, little kings and princes of their isolated domain, but they’ve never really known love, or had parents to guide them – they’re just sort of cosseted in their insular world until the Darlings come along.

(That’s definitely what I’m tapping on in my novel, only, as in most character-driven romance novels, both the main characters end up transforming each other, for better or worse.)

These modern retellings of the classic story are not just sad, but also pretty dark – YUM:

1. The Child Thief, by Brom

How gloriously dark and sinister does this look! A devilish version of the Disney classic where Peter Pan comes with a dark past of being raised by wolves and shuttles between the realms of faerie and man, where Peter leads a “savage tribe of lost and stolen children” and recruits a human boy to save Neverland from turning into a wasteland? Three words: sign me up.

2. Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson

I read Peaches back in 2005.

It was a sweet and – dare I say it – forgettable contemporary YA summer romance. But Tiger Lily looks a lot less run-of-the-mill, largely because it has an unexpected narrator: Tinkerbell!

(Except she’s not called Tinkerbell here, but Tiger Lily.)

I’ve always viewed Tink as the antagonist, because she showed me that fairies weren’t always nice (just like mermaids – those bitches in Peter Pan belonged in Mean Girls!) and were ruthless when it came to protecting the boy they loved.

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But I guess that might be why Anderson chose to write from her POV.

3. The Lost Girls, by Laurie Fox

I think this book might have been the cause of my Peter Pan obsession. I read it when I was in university, and have been searching EVERYWHERE for it in bookstores. I borrowed it from the library then, but it’s not there anymore.

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(Ugh, don’t you just hate when you can’t find your favourite books in the library anymore?)

The Lost Girls is actually adult fiction, about three generations of Darling girls who continually fall for Peter Pan’s charm. It’s all family drama, secrets, estranged mothers and girls coming of age in a dysfunctional family – the sort of adult fiction I love. (Amazon provides a better description of the story than Goodreads, so go here to learn more!)

4. Finding Neverland (2004)

It’s about J.M. Barrie’s friendship with a family who inspired him to write the iconic novel. So good research, I suppose?

5. Peter Pan, acoustic cover by Silv3rT3ar

Ah, this song. I loved it the first time I heard the original version in Korean, and even more when I heard this version.

And then there’s this:

Which is on Replay while I write Neverland. No kidding.

Yes, I believe I’ve got Peter Pan on the brain

too many books, too little time

With so many fantasy and urban fantasy series in the market these days, sometimes you just DESPERATELY crave for some good old contemporary fiction. With real characters you want to root for and real problems you can relate to and real insights you can apply to your own life and real lessons to live by.

So I scoured Goodreads (despite the flak on author-bullying the site has gotten recently, I still love it for its user-friendly layout, enthusiastic reader community and comprehensive info on the books) for some contemporary young adult fiction.

And those literary agents, book editors and publishers weren’t kidding when they said contemporary fiction is on the rise again. I found SO many enticing contemporary YA books I’m seriously wondering if I can ever finish them.

Here’s a list of the top 10 books I’m dying to read.

Contemporary YA books to read (click on the links to read the blurbs):

1. Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell

I’ve read only great things about this breakout author (she’s the 2013 Goodreads Choice Award winner for Best YA Fiction!) and after browsing her books in Kinokuniya last weekend I was SO tempted to buy all her books. The mood of the story and narrator voice kind of remind me of 500 Days of Summer – whimsical and light-hearted with a dash of poignancy.

Plus, FANGIRL. Hello, what better character to relate to?

Ahem.

Anyway, I have high hopes for this book.

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2. Where the Stars Still Shine, by Trish Doller

Gotta love a good coming-of-age story about a girl coming into herself despite the adverse conditions she was brought up in.

3. Love Letters to the Dead, by Ava Dellaira

I’m starting to get into epistolary fiction. Letters are a great plot device for moving the story along and revealing insights about a character. In fact, my novel Until Morning wouldn’t be the same – or complete – without the letters Lexi writes to Night, or Sam writes to Lexi. There is just so much about a character you can reveal from the intimate letters he writes to someone special.

4. What I Thought Was True, by Huntley Fitzpatrick

I read her debut novel, My Life Next Door, and really appreciated her effortless writing style, genuine character voice, and the circumstances in the story that didn’t seem contrived or melodramatic. Some people say it’s too fluffy, and gets draggy towards the end, but I think it’s a sweet and refreshing voice. So, next book – on my To Read list!

5. Night of Cake and Puppets, by Laini Taylor

Okay, this is cutting it close, since it’s a spin-off novella from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which is pretty much high fantasy as far as I know. Still, Zuzana and Mik’s love story should be monster-free, since they, unlike Karou, are completely human and don’t have a secret past (no spoilers here! This is a spoiler-free zone).

6. The Last Forever, by Deb Caletti

I mean, come on. It’s Deb Caletti. I’ve read pretty much every book she has ever written (aside from her latest, He’s Gone, which is adult fiction), and she has never disappointed. Sure, I have my favourites, and some that I love more than others. But Caletti’s prose is unpretentious, and her characters are so painfully real, their relationships at times so delicate and at times so explosive, they make the stories incredibly compelling. Wild Roses will always have a special place in my heart, but I’m definitely looking forward to this upcoming one.

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7. Wild Awake, by Hilary T. Smith

I think this excerpt is reason enough to read the book:

“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.”

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I’M IN LOOOOOVE!

Also, mental illness, tonnes of imagery, coming-of-age story about a girl coping with her sister’s disappearance? I NEED THIS BOOK NOW!

So many books, so little time. Where to begin? Still, if you have any good books to recommend I ain’t saying no to them, because

Also, I’ve moved on to Act 2 for No Room in Neverland! Wheeee! The plot thickens and I can’t seem to stop cackling while doing the happy writer dance.

Okay, I’ll explain. Unlike what I’ve done for my previous novels, where I just plunged into the novel after drawing up a plan for the entire novel and plotted chapters all the way to the middle of the story, this time I decided to write the first draft in script form before rewriting it in prose form. For one, it saves time, since crafting prose takes me more time and effort than writing a script  – I can’t stop obsessing over each single word. For another, writing the first draft in script form allows me to visualise the entire story before I get down to it proper – it’s sort of like a testing ground for me to get to know my characters and the world they live in before writing their story.

I’m trying this method because of my experience with Until Morning. As you know, it started out as a script for my play-writing class. I wrote the first few scenes and then decided to turn it into a novel, and those chapters for which I had the pre-written scenes flowed much easily – I pounded out 10 pages (about 2500 words) in 3 hours.

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So hopefully writing Neverland will be a less angsty process than writing the others. At least I can tackle the mid-story goblin without worrying about prose. And goodness knows that sneaky little bastard is creeping up on me now.

Good times back in Act 1 Scene 11:

Still, I keep telling myself to dig deep. Gouge out everything inside your characters and serve them on a plate, innards and all, and then play with it. (Why yes, I’m PG-13 that way. Why do you ask?)

On a more family-friendly note:

If I had to sum up my main character, Gemma, in one quote, this would be it.