Short Stories That Moved Me

I’m always amazed when I read a good short story especially since I know that they’re not easy to write. Despite their difficulty, short stories aren’t talked about as much as novels (or maybe I’m wrong?). So, let’s talk about them!

Whether they had me crying or cringing in fear, I’m going to share with you four short stories that moved me this year.

What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

31522415In Arimah’s story, global warming crippled today’s political giants causing them to flee to Africa for safety. It’s here where our gifted main character, Nneoma, lives. She’s a rare mathematician that uses a special formula to extract emotional pain from her subjects—for a price! Like most in her profession, she’s wealthy and only caters to the highest bidder. But there’s an unforeseen price for taking in all those horrible emotions.

While the world building, overall story concept, and Nneoma’s unlikable personality were interesting, what moved me was the people Nneoma encountered. She wanted to avoid a young girl, for example, because she could see the child’s pain–and it was a doozy: her family died in a flood, she was abused in refugee camps, and was hated because she wasn’t a full African citizen.

Heartbreaking, right? Nneoma came to tears when she extracted the girl’s pain into herself and, honestly, I almost did too.

Kin by Bruce McAllister

3149899Since Earth is overpopulated, a young boy’s unborn sister must be aborted by government decree. He reaches out to an Antolouian assassin, an alien from a complex culture, to kill the man who signed the order. As the story moves on, an unforgettable friendship form between the desperate boy and lonely alien assassin.

Their relationship starts off professional, but, as we learn more about the alien’s culture and that it’s an exile, the two begin to respect each other.

What makes this relationship moving is that everyone is afraid of the alien and for good reason. It’s kinda creepy:

Closing his eyes, the boy could see the black synthetic skin the alien wore as protection against alien atmospheres. Under that suit ropes of muscles and tendons coiled and uncoiled, rippling even when the alien was still. In the doorway the long neck had not been extended, but he knew what it could do. When it telescoped forward—as it could instantly—the head tipped up in reflex and the jaws opened.

But the boy shocks the alien when he ignores his fears and treats it like a person. Turns out the alien only wanted to be…well, wanted and treated with decency.

Don’t we all?

The Shadow in the Rose Garden by D.H. Lawrence

22587315We follow a not so happy couple on their anniversary: the wife is manipulative, the husband (Frank) is possessive, and both are emotionally withdrawn from each other. The wife decides to take a stroll in a local garden where she’s reunited with her long lost lover, Archie, who supposedly died in a war. Only he’s not the same because…well, he’s bat shit crazy. She runs home distraught and demands to be alone. Frank, however, has had enough of her disassociated behavior. The two argue and both walk away broken hearted.

The difference in how the couple communicated in the beginning (withholding their emotions) versus how they communicated in the end (explosive emotional argument!) is what grabbed my attention. Plus, Lawrence’s writing made me drool. His characters purposely try to hurt each other and the descriptions between their dialogue speaks volumes:

He shrank, and became white, impersonal. There was a long, paralysed silence. He seemed to have gone small.

“You never thought to tell me all this before I married you,” he said, with bitter irony, at last.

To Room Nineteen by Doris Lessing

1290402Susan Rawlings has a marriage that would make anyone green with envy (at least, that’s how her peers felt). Only it’s not so great. Her husband cheated on her and being a stay-at-home mom isn’t fulfilling. She decides to separate herself from her family by renting a motel room where, after discovering her husband cheated on her a second time, she commits suicide.

I thought it was sad how Susan felt so unsatisfied with her life. She couldn’t get the things she craved (like returning to her creative career at the advertising firm) because others depended on her for their happiness. To make matters worse, she was too prideful to express her inner troubles and this unwillingness to be vulnerable is what leads to her downfall.

 

There you have it: four moving short stories you should make time in your life to read.

Has a short story ever moved you in some way?

Advertisements

Coffee Share: In which I’m trying to be more creative

I think I know how vampires feel…um, the running from the sun part not the weird blood craving thing. Daytime highs around here are always in the upper 90s and sometimes kiss 110! I’ve spent most of my Summer trying to hide from the big, bright jerk in the sky. So, if we were having coffee, we’d have it later in the day when it’s cooler. Then, I’d tell you…

I completed my Creativity Challenge (aka I’m a Camp NaNoWriMo “Winner”)

Camp-2017-Winner-Profile-PhotoI learned something about myself this year: if I’m not being creative, I’m filled with anxiety and am very cranky. After going through this for six months, I decided to do something about it.

So, I used Camp NaNoWriMo as an excuse to be creative for at least 90 minutes everyday (2790 minutes total).

And…I performed better than I thought I would: I’ve written a total of 69 pieces of flash fiction, short stories, micro poetry, and micro fiction; spent twenty hours outlining Knight and then completed a 15,800 word first draft; and brush lettered for six hours.

Today, I feel rejuvenated and ready to have more fun with my creativity. So, yeah, mission accomplished!

I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming

In my opinion, this was the best Spider-Man movie EVER. It totally bypassed the origin story and just got to the point. Thank you, Marvel!

I’m renovating my blog with an emphasis on creativity

I’ve blogged here since 2014 and it’s been great! I’ve met awesome readers/writers, gushed about reading, shared my writing life and discussed the technical side of writing.

But…it’s missing my creative side—and that’s the side of me that wanted to start this blog in the first place.

I’ve been renovating my blog in between writing sessions so that it better represents me as a fiction writer. This meant fixing my homepage, rewriting my About page, and making my WIP page more dynamic. I’m also thinking about posting some flash fiction or creative nonfiction just to spice my posting schedule up (after I, you know, get over the fear of sharing them).

 

So that’s my coffee share! What’ve you been up to?

Fiction, Life, and the Suffering Writer (Virginia Woolf)

For fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground, as science may be; fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. Often the attachment is scarcely perceptible; Shakespeare’s plays, for instance, seem to hang there complete by themselves. But when the web is pulled askew, hooked up at the edge, torn in the middle, one remembers that these webs are not spun in mid-air by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Self-Ownership (John Stuart Mill)

The only part of conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part, which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Staying Motivated through Camp NaNo and Beyond

For this year’s Camp NaNo, I decided to challenge myself to be creative. My goal is to write a piece of flashfiction (maybe post some and submit others), work on my neglected WIP(s), and brush letter for a 1hr and 30mins every day.

Now I made up this goal on a coffee high, so I wasn’t in my right mind. A whole month? Everyday? Do I have the motivation for that?

Then I started thinking: July is just another month on the calendar. I’m going to face the same troubles as I would any other month: writer’s block, imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and etc.

So I decided to write this post as a preemptive measure whenever I’m not feeling motivated to write. Maybe my words of wisdom will also help you during your NaNo-ing adventures and beyond.

Whenever you’re not feeling motivated, remember to…

Employ good ole’ fashioned grit

Honestly, this is going to be your default all through your writing life. Just shut up, sit down, and start working.

A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper

E.B. White

Expect “good ole’ fashioned grit” to fail you

Grit, like most of the tips in this post, will only take you so far. You have to keep in mind why you decided to start writing in the first place.

Plan the day out

Before you go to bed, sit down and plan out what you want to do the following day. Don’t set yourself up for failure with unrealistic goals (ex. “Outline the whole novel in a day” isn’t realistic).

Expect your plans to fall apart

SOMETHING will always get in the way of writing time. The trick is knowing how to be flexible. Plan for interruptions by creating make-up days or lightly scheduling your week.

Get up early

It’s ten times easier to write when the majority of the household is asleep. No one will interrupt you, meaning you can finish your work early and go about your day guilt free.

Expect to miss the alarm

Morning GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I know, sometimes the pillow is more comfortable than sitting in an office chair. Just crawl out of bed when you can and find a quiet place somewhere. There’s always a quiet place.

Know your bad habits, and prevent them

Pull yourself away from things that’ll distract. If you have to hide your devices in the sock drawer or unplug the internet modem just to stay off social media, do it!

Expect relapses

It happens. Just dust yourself off, get something done before bed (no matter how small), and plan to do better tomorrow.

Good luck wrimoes!

 

How do you keep yourself motivated to write?

A Writer’s Job is to Provoke Questions (Doris Lessing)

I think a writer’s job is to provoke questions. I like to think that if someone’s read a book of mine, they’ve had–I don’t know what–the literary equivalent of a shower. Something that would start them thinking in a slightly different way, perhaps. That’s what I think writers are for.

Doris Lessing

Cinder by Marrissa Meyer (book review)

Remember all the hype Cinder had when it first out? It was the book that book bloggers and bookworms on twitter gushed about (the ones I follow at least). I remember thinking, It’s probably not that good!

I was wrong.

With awesome characterizations, a gripping plot, and an authentic story world, Cinder always kept me up passed my bedtime.

Quick synopsis

Cyborg and mechanic Linh Cinder was just trying to survive her miserable life with her step mother when Prince Kai appeared at her shop with a malfunctioning android. Little does she know that the secrets locked within the android’s mainframe, her favorite sister’s sudden illness, and her developing affection for Kai will propel her into the center of an intergalactic conflict.

What I Loved

The amazing characters

There’s something to love about all the characters in Cinder, but there’s only a handful that made an impression on me.

Cinder was my favorite. Whether it meant bashing in android heads or sassing bad guys, she never played the victim. She wasn’t passive and actively tried to solve her problems. And…well, she’s a cyborg!

Prince Kai wasn’t just the snarky, yet charming, love interest whose sole purpose was to sweep Cinder (and, let’s be honest, the reader) off her feet. He had his own story and faced his own conflicts.

Then there was Queen Levana. She’s a sadistic control freak that’ll make anyone do anything with just a thought (or she murdered them). Surely, a villain I loved to hate!

The beautiful world building

Marissa Meyer did an awesome job with the setting. The way she fused traditional China with sci-fi elements gave the story an authentic feel.

Some scholars believe that the earliest Cinderella tale came from 9th-century China. Additionally, some believe that the iconic glass slipper (which was gold in the Grimm version) came to us from China’s tradition of foot-binding and a culture in which women were praised for tiny feet. So having Cinder set in China was my way of paying homage to the story’s roots.

It also seemed more interesting than setting another book in America!

Marissa Meyer

There was also a ton of nifty gadgets and androids! Cinder had an augment that could tell her when people were lying. Plus, she could download information to her brain from the Internet! Cool, right?

…Or would that be painful?

The light romance

I like to think of myself as an open minded reader, but the one thing I just CANNOT tolerate in books is a love-struck protagonist who never stops  gushing about the object of their affection. I’ve had to put down a couple of books because of this.

Romantic moments between Cinder and Prince Kai were gingerly sprinkled throughout the prose, making them more memorable.

Oh no, a cliffhanger!

I wouldn’t have finished Cinder if I thought it was horrible, but I have one problem with it: the ending.

(Spoiler Warning: There’s spoilers galore from here to the end of this post. Continue at your own risk.)

After getting thrown in jail, Dr. Erland convinces Cinder to escape and gives her the tools to do so. She commits to the idea and mentally accepts her new life as a fugitive, but that’s it! The story ends. I wanted to see her sneak out of prison Mission: Impossible style (or fight more androids!) at least.

I mean why? Why a cliffhanger?!

Cinder’s life lessons

Stories can teach us things. They can give us a new perception of the world around us or even teach us something about ourselves. With that said, here’s two things Cinder taught me.

Don’t loose yourself

Prince Kai’s carefree life ends the moment his father dies. A ton of responsibilities are tossed on his shoulder before he has time to grieve: prepare for his coronation, conduct official meetings with Earth’s leaders, negotiate with an evil moon witch (and possibly marry her)–Kai had it rough!

He had to change the way he behaved just to fit the mold of Emperor. Sure, he fought to hold onto who he was, but he slowly gave into what other’s wanted him to be.

He chaffed under social pressure, but we don’t have to. Everyone will always have expectations for us or try to force us into cookie cutter molds, but we’re the ones who have to live with ourselves. It’s our lives and our decisions and we should stay true to who we are.

Don’t like your situation? Do something about it.

Whether it was Cinder’s decision to leave her verbally abusive family or Kai’s mission to find the heir, both characters sought solutions to their problems.

No matter how bad a situation is, there’s always a way to make things better if we’re willing to look.

 

Overall, I enjoyed this book and if it sounds like something you might like, consider following the links below to learn more about it.

Goodreads Page

Marissa Meyer’s author website

Did you read Cinder, but have a different experience than me? Did Cinder teach you anything? Is there something you’d like to add?  Tell me about it in the comments section below.

How Music Fosters Creativity

With my imagination roaring and cup of jo at my side, I sat at my desk determined to rewrite a scene in Warrior’s Ruin involving axes, gore, and a fair bit of necromancy. Then, as usual, It happened.

It has many names (writers block, impostor syndrome, self-doubt, etc.), but lets just call it resistance and I armed myself with one of my favorite weapons when I felt it take root: music.

Listening to music while writing has always worked for me, but  I never thought about why it worked. So, after I finished my writing session, I did some research on the subject. Turns out there’s scientific research supporting the claim that listening to music can potentially help you be creative.

How? Well…

Continue reading “How Music Fosters Creativity”