Journal

Writing:

Can I scream for joy? Because YES this story is working now. Ideas have been bubbling out of my brain and fleshing out the bare scaffolding of the first draft. The setting choice seems to be working, and it brings in layers of complexity that were missing from the first science fictional version. Maybe I guess, I just enjoy monster stories? It’s a bit further down the horror scale than I’d normally write for YA fiction, but I’m having so much fun. It’s Gothic,  creepy, haunted, and at it’s heart is a lonely monster that wants a friend. The story is still rough, and I’m just fixing the major structural issues involved, but I know where I want this to be headed.

Unfortunately, my December work schedule is going to be a mess, and that means my writing schedule will be too. I’m not sure how much I can get done before the new year, but fingers crossed that I can tackle a bit more of this revision.

Reassessing:

Writing was the biggest bright spot this month. I know 2017 has been a terrible year for just about everyone, and despite living on Canada we’re no exception. We lost another uncle this November. That makes it three deaths in the family this year. How do you explain death to a 2 year old? I don’t think she quite gets it, which is both relief and heartbreaking. She’ll still talk about uncle is as if he’s coming back.

I’ve been reassessing what I consider a good day lately. The joys are are smaller: quiet moments cuddling a child that still fits in my lap, seeing the full moon in a clear sky and being able to pick out constellations. Good hair days. Ill advised sewing plans that come together on a wish. Sitting on the beach with my toes in the sand and hot coffee in my hands. That feeling of relief when the child actually goes down for a nap. The occasional non-embarrassing photo. Those brilliant moments where a new idea for a story brings a world to life. Books.

Most days are bad and good in broken bits and pieces. It’s sometimes hard to find the good bits, but noticing them helps make everything a little less overwhelming. But oh, I hope there to will be some brilliant, shining, blazing, good ones for us all soon.

Reading:

  • Monstress Vol 2 by Marjorie Liu
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee

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Journal

Writing:

Novel break. Full stop. I wrote one piece of flash fiction written on my regular Monday night writer’s meet up, but other than that I resisted the itch to write. I know myself by now, and I know that I need to build up more of that itchiness until I can’t stand it anymore. That’s the momentum and excitement I need behind my sails before I can begin again. I need rest. I need boredom.

Writers don’t often say how much of a motivation boredom is, but it’s a huge one for me. My brain starts building up avenues for escape, with stories as scaffolding. Sometimes I think that boredom is the main reason I start to write all.

Also, I only really started thinking deeply about colonization when I started writing fantasy. Maybe it’s because it involves deconstructing and rebuilding worlds. It has me thinking about what culture is mine, and where the edges get blurry. I have a bunch of hazy thoughts that require a full post to explore better in the future.

Season’s Turning:

This time of year brings back thoughts of Ireland, and huddling in the passage tomb at Newgrange trying to imagine what it looked like when the sun hit it just right at solstice. The turning of the year from darkness to lighter days. This far North, you get it. You wake up in the dark, and go home in the dark. The days compresses down into slivers of what they were until you can barely stand it.

It didn’t hit me until then, standing in the tomb with my back pressed to those ancient stones, that the pre-historic people who built it could not have known that the sun would come back – not for sure. They may have observed the stars traveling through the sky, but could not have imagined the inevitability of the physics that hurls our little ball of rock around the sun. To them, there were no guarantees the winter would never end. Perhaps if you did not appease the Gods correctly, winter would stay forever and the days would continue to dwindle into nothing. How terrifying that must have been.

There’s comfort in knowing that the sun will return. That summer WILL come, no matter what we do. The world keeps on turning, oblivious to what we might do.

Bad days pass, and there will be good days again, even though the winter seems dark and endless.

PS Since it’s the season, if you’re interested in some creepy stories here are a few I’ve posted to Twitter:
My Old House & an Irish Haunting.
Lolo’s Ghost.

Reading:

  • The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye
  • City of Heavenly Fire (book 6) by Cassandra Clare
  • Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao
  • Want by Cindy Pon
  • The Changeling by Victor LaValle

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Journal

Where I was 7, I acquired a small handmade booklet of Filipino myths and legends bound with a stapler. It felt like a secret passed from palm to palm. In the book were stories how the first humans sprung out of bamboo, how the pineapple was a once a lazy girl, why the Filipino is brown, stories about the gods and goddesses that the people believed in before the Spanish came.

And hungry for more. I asked my mom what stories her nannies used to tell her when she was a child. “Oh you know, about princesses and princes,” she answered as if it wasn’t interesting at all. And it wasn’t to her, but it was to me, with my imagination overflowing and in need of  more. I left disappointed. While the Cinderellas and Sleeping Beauties, knights and kings, were the stories that made up my childhood, I already knew there were more, and those stories were supposed to belong to someone like me, not just the golden haired and fair skinned.

My dad supplied just a dribble more. He told us about the aswang (vampires) with their long tongues that would stick down through the nipa hut roof and drink your blood, and the dwende (dwarves) who would cause trouble in your homes, how you always had to beg pardon when passing a certain tree so that you don’t anger the spirits. I wanted more, but the stories stopped there. They weren’t as much stories as warnings.

When I was older, I was hungry still, I gravitated to the library shelves of world mythologies. I devoured them all. I could come back from the library with an armful of Irish myths, but all I had of my own remained that slim little booklet.

When I was 14, on a trip to the Philippines, the katulong (house helper) at my uncle’s house killed a beautiful orange lizard and I was upset. “It brings the lightning,” he explained to us. I heard my aunties whisper that whatever business opened in the corner store kept failing because of multo (ghosts). These things were a matter of fact, not just superstition.

When I was older yet, I learned stories peripherally through dance. Dances acting out planting the fields and praying to the gods for blessing, or hunting magical birds, and lovers turned into volcanoes. But these were tiny things, scraps of stories sanitized and stylized for consumption, reproduced from vague bits of information, that were felt rather than known. But it was a small glimpse of something more, that left me with questions. Stories with holes like sieves. Context lost.

From my friends I learned ghost stories that kept me up at night. We shivered at stories of the white lady, and the footsteps heard in empty rooms, dwende shaking beds and causing trouble in our homes. I never thought of these as folktales, because to us they weren’t stories, just life.

A few months ago, I found another book of folktales, just twice as fat as my palm sized booklet, and barely half as tall. It was entirely a different thing. This was a book of folktales written after Spanish colonization had taken hold. Instead of magic, there were miracles. Instead of selfish girls turned into plants, pious old women saved their villages. Local spirits became engkanto (fairies). Goddesses turned into lonely women who wandered the mountains.

I think about how much was lost and what echoes are left behind. What does it do to you when your ancestors stories are stripped away and all you’re left with are monsters?

P.S. If you haven’t read this, I highly recommend it: After a Revolution “We are tinder. Stories are the spark.”

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