still alive and writing

In case you were wondering, I haven’t been slacking all this time I’ve been MIA. Sure, the day job’s got me like

boo tired stoned

And some days like

lauren conrad crying mascara.gif

But I’ve been slowly but surely pulling myself out of that previous funk, and now every spare minute that I have outside of the day job is spent working on NEVERLAND or plotting LAND or WORLD or writing a new short story. When your time is in short supply, your productivity skyrockets.

Speaking of short stories, the Muses and I may have scaled down on the frequency of our posts (because life) but we have more head-space to work on our stories now.

The most recent one, Love in Free Verse, has just been posted, and I had so much fun with it. I’ve been back in my Eminem phase for the past week because of this clip from The Defiant Ones, a docu-series airing on HBO:

#LEGEND

Eminem’s life story is so inspiring. He not only went through the worst shit getting bullied as a kid (had no idea he had been so badly injured), going through the loss of a loved one, he also faced so many obstacles to make it as a rapper. But he stuck to his guns and persisted, sought opportunities everywhere, pushed for his dream, and was so hungry for it. It makes me ashamed of how I’m just sitting on my ass when he had tried that hard to earn his big break.

And he’s a brilliant lyricist; he’s got the whole rhythm and poetry genre nailed. I’ve been a fan of his since I was 14, when I first heard Mockingbird on the radio and proceeded to buy his album, Curtain Call, and I just can’t rave enough about how wildly talented he is. He can pack so many expressions, metaphors, alliterations, imagery, allegories, allusions and other literary devices into his songs he rarely ever repeats his lines (except for choruses).

Fun fact: did you know that he reads the dictionary so that he has all these words at his disposal when he write his rhymes?

This is how intimate he is with his art, how dedicated he is to his craft.

This is why he can rap freestyle off the top of his head and think up rhymes in seconds and set the world record for the most number of words in a song.

This is why Rolling Stone named him one of the Greatest of All Time, why Sir Elton John himself called him “a true poet of his time”, why even horror writer Stephen King and Barack Obama (as well as celebrities from Justin Timberlake to Rihanna to 50 Cent and Drake) are his fans.

Okay, I’ll stop now. But if you want to hear me rave some more, here’s an article I wrote on Eminem.

So tl;dr, inspired by the Rap God, I tried my hand at writing rap lyrics in this month’s short story. Amateur attempt, so please forgive the clumsy rhythm and perhaps cringe-worthy lyrics.

And in case you want more, here are some other stories I’ve written for the blog:

Worlds Apart

Leaving Neverland

We Were Meant to Save the World

Death Died of a Broken Heart

The Story Thieves

If you can, check out what the other Muses have written too! They continually blow me away with how creative and imaginative they are with their stories, and keep challenging me to bring my A game to the table. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I’m lucky to have found all of them.

If you’d like to share your stories on our blog, please feel free to get in touch with any one of us or drop us a note here! We would love to hear from you.

Till then, muse-chasers. I’ll be working on my dreams because Slim Shady inspired me to. ♥

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Quote: Eminem

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Short Story – You Who Stole the Thunder

Prompt 567

There weren’t a lot of things worth stealing, you once told me. But the best things to steal are those that people take for granted. There’s something immensely satisfying about stealing something people have come to expect to be there.

And thunder – who would miss it? It was just noise, white noise, the growl and roar of the gods that dissolved in rain. You would capture it with nothing but a glass jar, and no one would be the wiser. It was the perfect crime, and you were so gleeful about it, counting your chickens before they were hatched.

Two days later, the storm came. You ran home sopping wet in your mud-stained sneakers. Your mother chided you for being out in the rain, but you only came over and pounded on my door, wearing that triumphant grin that made me just as foolishly happy about your spoils.

“You do know the thunder thieves will be coming for you now, don’t you?” I told him, as we huddled under the blanket fort we set up. It was getting harder to fit in there, but on a rainy night like this the proximity was something we clung to.

“Let them come,” you said. Your voice wore the unevenness of a boy transitioning to a man. “They’re just bummed they were too slow.”

We sat the jar of thunder between us and shone our torchlight at it. In it, a dense black cloud swirled and swirled, a tempest in a glass prison. No wonder it looked pissed. I would want to be free too.

But I wanted more to see the look on your face, see the corners of your eyes lift, when you heard the storm’s music.

I wanted to experience the world knocked askew because of the absence of thunder, or at least feel a dent in this giant tin heart we lived in.

I wanted to know that people had sat up in their beds, straining their ears for the cry from the skies that wouldn’t come, wondering what was amiss, and know that we were the ones who had shaken their world.

But who knew if thunder would be missed? There were far louder cries that went unheard.

The thunder thieves – no, thugs they were – came around midnight, before we could open the jar. They were an unapologetic bunch, and I could tell you hated the racket they made. Don’t wake my mother, dammit! was probably what you meant to yell at them, but for the need to conceal ourselves.

We pressed closer together under the covers, torchlight off the jar hugged tightly between us. But it was only a matter of time before the thieves found us. Their dark hulking shadows cut brazenly across the room. In seconds, they would corner us. In seconds, they would rob us.

You took my hand, squeezed once, and I knew what you intended to do.

Breathless, we tore out of the blanket fort, out through the emergency exit next to your room, down the narrow flight of stairs and into the restless night. We could barely hear the thieves over the rumble of the skies’ muted fury.

It was still pouring, perhaps even heavier than before, as though the gods were unleashing their outrage at your heist. All the while, you had your arms wrapped protectively – possessively, as if it were rightfully yours – around the jar of thunder.

The air threatened to snap us in two. Winds thrashed and lashed, ready to rip the world apart. The glass jar rattled and flashed. In it, a restless beast demanded to be set free.

I hated to say it, really I did, but I said it anyway. “We need to let it go. We have to.”

You sent a silent plea with your eyes. “This may be the last time I hear thunder.” There it was, laid out bare. A plaintive statement made matter-of-fact in your measured, even voice.

Like always, I responded with stony silence, letting the storm take over our conversation. None of my responses – it’s not ours for the taking, you’re not going to die, you will hear the thunder again – seemed particularly convincing.

Eventually, we settled on flinging the jar as hard as we could across the field. It disappeared into the wall of trees blackened by night.

There was no crash of glass, like the rain had swallowed the jar before it could land. We stood there for a long time, soaked to our bones, waiting, counting – one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi – the time it took for the thunder to return.

The storm died with a satisfied murmur.

You were right, though. That was the last thunderstorm you and I ran through, the last time you heard thunder and held it in your hands.

I knew you wanted to leave your mark on the world, and you thought robbing the heavens of its voice would be the way to do that.

But I could have told you that the marks you left, though invisible, were indelible. Really I could, but I didn’t.

(Belated) Friday Five: 5-Sentence Story Openings

Prompt 864

The stag head loomed over her, mounted on the door like the beast had decided to peer out just seconds before it met its doom. Its glassy marble gaze reflected her tensed body, ready to lash out in a crackle of energy at the slightest sign of trouble.

She tried not to list out the ways this meeting could go wrong, but Althen’s voice played out in a loop, almost becoming a mantra that braced her for her first meeting with Death.

Avoiding the stag’s gaze, she pushed the heavy mahogany doors open. It couldn’t be an omen – the stag’s fate was not going to be hers.

Prompt 862

She watched the last of the parachutists drift towards the beach, where a crowd was cheering and clapping even though the team was one short. Maybe no one had noticed yet. It wasn’t the first time the explorers had returned incomplete.

The sun was still hovering above the horizon, as though holding out for the last survivor. There was still time – one could hope.

Prompt 794

He found the journal on the train, a black battered leather-bound volume stashed between the seat and the window. Whether it was meant for him to find, he didn’t know. But he worked it out of its hiding place and gingerly cracked it open. His grandfather had told him to stay out of other people’s thoughts. But then erring on the side of caution had landed him in the enemy’s hands anyway, so there was no reason to heed his advice.

Prompt 823

Red was the colour of her hair, the flush in her cheeks when she laughed.

Red was her dress at the ball she had never wanted to attend – she preferred to wander in the forest with me instead. But I made her go, watching her from the shadowed bushes far from the bright lights of the palace.

Red was the bloodstained marble when she plunged to earth like a dying star, the pawn in a ruthless game of power and betrayal.

Red was the colour of the sky when she breathed her last in my arms.

Prompt 816

The town of In Between hadn’t had a visitor for as long any of its inhabitants could remember. It wasn’t a proper place, after all, just an afterthought squeezed between two warring colonies. But the town was blessed with an abundance of rainfall and a roaring underground trade – two unrelated reasons the visitor cited for settling down. That was the year the town of In Between broke the rules by taking him in. They were no longer invisible, not with a rain thief in their midst, and everything changed soon after.

(Images taken from Pinterest and Tumblr – none of them are mine.)

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Feel free to create your own story openings! Have a fruitful weekend :0)

Short Story Saturday – Vertigo

http://vmficrecs.tumblr.com/post/101493531235/november-veronica-mars-fic-prompts

It was a steep drop. A long, long way down. Further than she had ever dared to try.

But she had nothing to lose by falling. All she would end up with were a few shattered bones and torn skin, and these didn’t even last. She healed, sooner than she would have liked. She wanted something that would leave its mark, just so she wouldn’t have to feel the constant ache from the ugly, jagged stumps on her back where her wings used to be.

The brackish waters crashed and foamed beneath her, unnecessarily dramatic. She lifted a foot. They were ungainly things, nothing like wings that bore her aloft in an intimate dance with the wind. She hardly ever shifted if she could help it. But now, with her wings ripped off, legs were all she had.

She tipped her head to the sky and raised her arms, ready to leap off the rocky edge of the cliff –

“Suicide, Megonea? How very melodramatic of you.”

She froze. The voice had the power to do that to her every time. She had weathered every element there was, but Finnesias continued to flay her to the bone.

“This is none of your business, Finne,” she called over her shoulder, but her arms fell back to her sides in defeat.

“On the contrary, I have a vested interest in your welfare. A soldier who deserts rank in the name of love might prove our most valuable asset.”

She whirled around and spat. “I am an asset to no one.”

“Oh, come now. Have some faith in yourself.”

He took a step closer. Megonea forced herself to remain where she was. She would retain what was left of her dignity in front of the pompous leader of the Rebellion. To think they used to train together when they were recruits; they could not be more different now. Finne with his lazy smile and cunning in his eyes (though he would rather use the word shrewdness), he never had and never would belong to the Empire Army.

“Why are you here, Finne.”

“Rescuing you from a terrible, terrible decision.”

“You are hardly qualified to save me.”

“Yet, here I am, succeeding in stalling for time.”

She turned back to face the sea. Part of her wanted to hide her ruined wings from his sight, but then she reminded herself that she no longer cared. This fate she had chosen for herself was far kinder than what lay in wait for her in the sky palace.

Suddenly, he was right behind her, his breath dangerously warm against her skin. His fingers brushed the left stump on her back. She flinched, felt the muscles in her neck tighten but also a tingle in her skin where his breath landed.

“Let’s make a deal,” he murmured. “If the Rebellion fails, I’ll jump with you. For now, we’re sticking together. Just like old times, eh?”

Megonea wasn’t sure what Finne meant by old times, because not once in their shared history had they ever stuck together. Before she could recall a time where they weren’t on opposite sides, Finne had given her a hard shove in the back.

He would, Megonea thought. Of course he would. She was a fool to have thought otherwise. With her dead, he had one less Empirion to deal with.

She was footloose, tumbling down with none of the grace she held when she was sparring. Air rushed past her with the ferocity of a Black Kite’s wings and a shriek ripped its way out of her.

It was a much further drop than she anticipated.

Fiction Friday – Night Siege

Prompt 513

That evening, we knew something was wrong when the night birds didn’t fly our way.

It was the third full moon of the year, so Kayla and I joined the older girls in sneaking out to see the night birds, the way we had been doing for three springs now. Parents knew about their girls stealing up to shore to watch the silent beasts sail across the skies, and did all they could to deter us.

“Don’t trust anything with wings,” was what our father told us. They were thieves, every one of them. They stole your trust, and then your magic. Finally, they stole you.

Still, the horror stories they told us about the winged creatures couldn’t kill their allure.

Besides, the birds – a motley assortment of jays, eagles, hawks, and albatrosses – had never once tried to harm us. Even when they landed on the shore and shook out their wings and transformed into tall, strapping young men with eyes that flashed like lightning under the moonlight.

The older girls would whisper and giggle over the one with the strong jaw, or the one with the dimpled smile, while Kayla and I shared a glance that contained all the words the older girls were saying. At fourteen and sixteen, we still blushed at the sight of the men.

I knew my sister’s gaze lingered on one of them in particular: the tawny eagle with driftwood-brown feathers. She would watch it fold its wings around itself before, in a ripple of stardust and moonshine, turning into a young man just slightly older than Kayla.

The first person I noticed, though, was the boy. He was barely a man yet the first time I saw him, a wiry stranger significantly younger than the rest. The boy – Eylar was his name – stood out from the rest with his sleek, downy feathers the colour of sun-bleached bones. The sea eagle. Each year, he filled out more and more, body taking on harder, leaner lines. His gaze became keener, as did the planes of his face, and his shock of coppery-red hair darkened into a deep russet tone. But there was wonder in his eyes, and laughter in his voice that made me think of milky skies and jewel waters.

They were soldiers from the north, I gathered, who stopped by the deserted beach on their way to the sea-ravaged eastern islands, which were inhospitable at best and perilous at worst. None of us knew what they did there. They went deep into the dark heart of the forest with their crude metal weaponry (that Father always scoffed at) and disappeared for several moonrises until they took to their wings again and headed back north.

Once, Kayla and I decided to follow them. We stole away from the other girls and tailed the soldiers into the forest, pushing through the wall of trees blackened by night.

They kept a brisk pace, navigating their way through the tangled undergrowth with practiced ease, while Kayla and I stumbled along in their wake, waking the forest with our ungainly steps. But we had gone mostly unheard and ignored.

We traipsed for what seemed like an entire moon cycle, finally coming to a stop in a clearing. There, the soldiers gathered around a pile of rocks as tall as them. Light glowed from the spaces in the rubble like a trapped sun.

It took me a longer time than Kayla to understand what they were doing.

“Thieves,” Kayla hissed, sounding very much like Great-Aunt Basil, who had lost her husband in the last border war. “They’ve been coming here all this time to steal earth magic.”

I wanted to tell her that magic didn’t belong to anyone, not to the earth creatures or to us, the sea children. But the last time I suggested that to Father, he had laughed in a way that made me feel like I was five years old again.

We never told our parents what we saw in that clearing.

*

Tonight, the birds didn’t come. The sky was bruised and barren with wanting.

The girls and I held out out for a break in the clouds, a ripple in the air from their silent wingbeats. When it became increasingly certain that the birds weren’t coming, the older girls got bored and slunk back into the inky water, making a grudging splash with their tails.

Kayla tugged on my hand. “Come on, Amber. They’re not coming.”

I stayed where I was, half-hidden by a rock on the warm sand. With the other girls gone, the water became black glass again. Water lapped at us, eager to take us home, but all I could think of was that pure white plumage.

Kayla gave my hand another tug, and I almost let her. But as Kayla disappeared beneath the surface with a soft splash, a solitary shadow loomed overhead. It cut through the clouds, a blot in the sky, its wings reflecting the pearly moonlight.

I couldn’t move even if I tried.

He was half-human by the time he landed on the beach, his feet slipping onto the sand as though he weighed nothing. He folded his wings behind his back, and I recognised that shock of russet-brown hair.

He was alone tonight. Without the rest, he seemed out of place this close to the sea, like an errant sky creature breaking rank. Maybe he was.

Kayla voice at my ear made me jump. “Why’s he the only one here?”

Before I could tell her to hide, Eylar had spotted us. Maybe he had already found us from afar. But the time he closed the distance between us, he had shifted to human form completely. There was a newfound, inhuman grace that now sat within him. He was no longer the sinewy boy I had first caught sight of among the armoured men, but a man himself.

A chill snaked down my back, and I didn’t think it was due to the night breeze. I tried to focus on his gaze, not on the firm set of his shoulders.

“They are coming for you. All of you.” His first words to us were as cold as the steel of his eyes.

“We should go,” Kayla said. She had on that look when we stumbled into old crone Helgina’s shipwreck house, like we were better off keeping a wide berth from it.

“Yes, go. Take everyone dear to you and leave while you still can.”

The end is coming sooner than you think, Helgina had intoned. No one had believed her – Father had almost driven her out of the border in a pique – but after her public proclamation I’d had recurring dreams of giant hook-beaked birds swooping towards the water, their talons grasping for us.

“Is it true?” I said Eylar now. There was no lie in his eyes, but no warmth either, so different from the wide-eyed boy learning how to wield a sword on the beach.

“Come on, Amber.” Kayla gave me a sharp tug. “Let’s go home.”

“Your home is not safe,” Eylar said. “Go to dry land, deep into the forest, another island.”

“We will perish there,” Kayla snapped. I squeezed her hand.

“Your magic can certainly keep you alive.” His voice didn’t contain the usual bitterness that the sky people had when they spoke of us, the sea children.

Kayla stuck out her chin. “Well, then. Let them come. The sky children are no match for us.”

“They are with the Inferno.”

“Fire,” Kayla scoffed. The sea was our protection, away from the reaches of earthly elements.

“The Inferno,” Eylar corrected. “It is far from your regular fire. It can plunge into the depths of the sea and devastate everything in its path in less time than it takes for a sea storm to brew.”

“We have no reason to believe a word you say.”

“You don’t,” he agreed. “But every second you stand here doubting me, the Indigo Army bears closer.”

There were many ways I had envisioned my first encounter with Eylar, but none of them turned out like this. I wished I had never come up to shore tonight.

“Why are you helping us?” I managed to ask.

“This war has nothing to do with you. Besides, there is no glory in winning a dirty fight.”

A shriek rent the still air, cutting off Kayla’s response. From the south, a firestorm rolled towards us. Unlike Eylar’s crew, the incoming flock was a uniform army of brown-grey hawks whose wings were alight with immortal flames.

Father had been right. The winged thieves were always going to be our enemies. They would not stop until they had stolen all our magic.

“Go,” Eylar roared, shaking me out of my thoughts. “I can stave them off with the fire” – he gestured at the pile of burning rocks behind him – “but only for so long.”

Kayla squeezed my hand. We tore down the beach, but there was only flames burning infernal all around us. Sky beasts tore through the skin of the sea, screaming murder.

Book Review: A Little Wanting Song

So after the magic that was Graffiti Moon, I reached for another Cath Crowley book, A Little Wanting Song.

It was everything I hoped it would be – sweet, funny, poignant, with beautiful, heart-breaking prose, characters you fall in love with and find a bit of yourself in, and music (pun intended) woven between the lines.

Graffiti Moon, which I raved about a while back, is a quiet, funny, and bittersweet contemporary novel about two people trying to find a place for themselves and their art. It inspired me to write Until Morning, and now I’m a die-hard Cath Crowley fan. I’d read ANYTHING she writes, including those strange, beautiful prose and poems on her blog.

The premise for A Little Wanting Song is music instead. It’s about how shy Charlie Duskin, who lost her mother seven years ago and is still reeling in the aftermath of her loss, relies on her music to get her through life with her emotionally distant father.

Love and loss are themes done to death before, and by so many fantastic authors like Sarah Dessen and Christie Hodgen, but the thing about Cath Crowley’s writing is that she leaves a lot of things unsaid. So it seems like a very simple YA story told from a teenage narrator’s POV, but there are so many emotions and layers you can get to if you know where to look.

Her prose just DOES THINGS TO ME I CAN’T EVEN EXPLAIN IT.

*insert incoherent babbling and flapping here*

I want to do that too, with my writing. I want to reduce my readers to a sobbing, laughing puddle of emotions and incoherent thoughts.

 photo mishaincoherentfangirling_zps1198f4ab.gif

I’m convinced there’s something in that Australian soil that produces writers like Cath Crowley, Vikki Wakefield, Karen Foxlee, Lucy Christopher and Melina Marchetta. How can I ever write like thaaaaaat.

*

Okay, I set out partly to talk about that beautiful book, and also to complain this writing rut I’m in (NOT writer’s block – I refuse to fall back on that excuse), about how I can’t find anything that makes me want to write and lose myself in the magic of words again. But then I headed over to Laini Taylor’s blog, like I always do when I need something reassuring and uplifting, and it’s helped LOADS.

Seriously, just reading one of her blog posts (she updates less regularly now, alas!) puts me in the happy, hopeful mood. And it makes me want to write! HOW is that possible?! It’s not even a post about writing, but about a friend, Kiersten White’s book (which, by the way, now I’m DYING to read).

But yes, the problem still stands. I still don’t believe in No Room in Neverland enough to write it. And I’m afraid to work all the way to 289 pages before I realise it’s not working again. Okay, time to re-read THIS POST!

Also, this little pep talk from best-selling author, and writer of this hysterically funny and on-point post, couldn’t be more timely. I SPURTED OUT MY TEA READING THIS, CHUCK WENDIG, THANKS FOR THAT.

Have a lovely weekend! :0)

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.

 

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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.