Finish that Thought- judgement passed

Last week I entered a story into the Finish That Thought contest (a flash fiction contest that challenges you to write a story of 500 words or less using a set first line). I won the challenge for the week with my story “Prophet

As winner I got to set the first line and special challenge items for this week’s contest.  The prompts were as follows:

Your first sentence for FINISH THAT THOUGHT #2-19 is:
How did you get in [there]?

Your SPECIAL CHALLENGE from the judge is:
Include a strange addiction AND the names of at least two games (but not as games).

I got 7 amazing entries, which can be found in the comments below the contest post.

Coming up with the challenge was relatively easy. Deciding the winners, less so. But all the entrants rose to the challenge, and I has a great variation of stories to choose from. Last night, I read and re-read, and finally came up with my winners. Check out the results of the contest here.

Fiction: Letter to Lady Vincent

Shades of Milk and Honey - Glamourist Histories book 1

Shades of Milk and Honey – Glamourist Histories book 1

 

I very much enjoy the Glamourist History series by Mary Robinette Kowal. So when Mary offered to answer letters, in character, that were written to either of the two main characters in the historical fantasy world, with the stipulation that you need to adhere to the time where the characters were, and that’s when you’d get replies from (currently 1817), I knew I had to write to Jane.

Below is a copy of the first draft of the letter – it was edited slightly for grammar, spelling, consistency and whim as I wrote it out long-hand. I had beautiful hand-stamped stationary a friend had given me, and even have sealing wax and a stamp with my first initial which I used to adorn the envelope (then tapped down so it didn’t break and fall away completely in transit).

I sent this out, and am looking forward to the reply. It was nice to be able to immerse myself into the Glamourist universe for a time, and write as though I lived there – a great way to feel even more involved in a story that I love.

Dear Lady Vincent,

I hope you do not find me too forward in writing to you. My Aunt on my father’s side had the pleasure of meeting the Misses Cornell on her most recent travels to the continent. They were quite taken with you and your husband, and fairly pressed an article about the Carlton House Glamour into her hands, all atwitter about the two signatures laid there. Despite what the article said, the Misses Cornell told her, you did half of the Glamour in that beautiful undersea Glamour. My Aunt has relayed this story to me on numerous visits, and I have come to regard you as a kind and generous lady who would not look unkindly on a letter from a stranger – though it may odd the illusion of familiarity the retelling of such a story would breed in me towards a Lady. Yet truly, I do feel comfortable writing you.

Regrettably, I have not had the pleasure of a trip to London, though my Aunt (the same who met the Misses Cornell) has visited the Carlton House, and has, on past occasion, been party to see other works created by your husband prior to his attachment to you. Her opinion is that his work is improved for the extra set of skilled hands and a keen eye for design.

I am writing to you on a matter that I hope is not too far removed from the art of Glamour as to make you uncomfortable, as that is what you are known for publically. I am fascinated with Glamour, but a weakness of the heart prevents me from studying it in earnest. Instead, I turn my time and creative attentions in setting pen to page, and trying to elicit images from the written word where others paint can paint it in the air.

On a recent morning constitutional, I began to see there are certain parallels that can be drawn between the craft of writing and that of Glamour; at least I hope there are. I was wondering, when you and Lord Vincent are designing the larger Glamours, such as the one at Carlton House, do you start work with merely an idea of the finished work, and embellish as you go, or do you design out all the elements before starting? When crafting a story I find I have an idea of the ending in mind, but that my initial plans may change as I create the work, and was wondering if the same is true for Glamour.

Also, I am curious about the division of labour in creating glamours with a partner. How much of the design is yours, and how much is Lord Vincent’s? How do you determine who manages which portions of the glamour once the design is set? I am hesitant to take on a partner in writing, in part because I am ashamed that my lack of ability to perform glamour is my reason for taking up this art, however I have a niece who has expressed an interest in creating a story jointly with me, but I am unsure how to proceed with a partnership, or even if it is something I am comfortable doing.

Oh, I fear I have rambled on further than I meant to. I thank you for your kind regards, and I know you will be ever as gracious as my Aunt has proclaimed a Lady should be.

Sincerely, and with greatest admiration,
Mrs. S_
P.S. My maiden name is Christine M_, and the Aunt in question is of that family, in case you were wondering, or may have met her in your travels. My own life has kept me snuggly in our homestead, and I do not have great exposure to wider circles, and thus do not expect my name to be recognizable of its own merit. At least until such time as my written works make it out into the world (which my husband enthusiastically encourages me to do, though my modesty holds me back.)

Reading, Read, Writing (or not writing, as the case may be)

I am at one of those weird places where I am simultaneously reading 3 books, and don’t know what I want to read. I am also feeling unsure about my writing.

About the books I am reading:

  • The Name Of The Wind  by Patrick Rothfuss- audiobook. I started this one on my drive up to Chattanooga for the Writing the Other retreat and workshop. Interested in finishing it, but got some books from the library I needed to get through first.
  • Partials by Dan Wells- a reread of this books so I have the background to read the second book in the series, Fragments. is my nightstand book
  • The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker – audiobook – checked out from library, based on in-podcast recommendation from Howard Taylor of Writing Excuses

Books I just finished:

  • Shaman Rising –C.E. Murphy – last in the series of The Walker Papers – author did a great job wrapping up the story, and bringing characters back from earlier books to get resolution
  • The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennett– by Bernie Su and, Kate Rorick – See my blog post

Seeking Book to Read

bookshelf-closetAudiobooks have their place – car rides and housecleaning. My nightstand book is a book I leave to read before bed. I usually also carry around a book in my backpack /purse / grubby-little-hands to read when opportunity arises. Having finished Shaman Rising and the Lizzie Bennet book, I stopped by my bookcase this morning to try to pick my next read. (Yes, with the exception of top shelf, they are all two deep. And yes, that used to be a closet – my husband is quite handy 🙂 )

I skimmed the shelves of books I’ve read and books I’ve not yet read, and I nothing struck my fancy. I know myself well enough that if something doesn’t jump out at me as “ooh, I want to read that,” and instead I go with “I guess I could read this”, I either read the first 3 pages and put the book down, or carry it around for several days without cracking the spine (so to speak), or reading a word.

And this morning I began to wonder if my feeling antsy and uncertain about what I want to read is in any way tied in to how I am feeling antsy and uncertain about my writing.

What I am Writing, or What I am Creatively Procrastinating from Writing

My current work in progress is a retelling of a fairy tale in a modern setting.. I had a very specific end goal, and I had trouble starting the story. I gave myself permission to start the draft with “Once Upon a Time”, and was able to go from there. And get stuck again. And again. I finally got a 7 point plot outline I mentioned, and thought I was good to go.

Nope. While I had identified main plot points, I still wasn’t making time to write my story. I took two very productive walks while visiting my in-laws this weekend that let me think through some of the issues, and resolve some character stuff.  I emailed a reference librarian with questions about how local governments worked.Yesterday, I sat down with the 7 point outline, and made a new outline of all the events that need to happen to get from the beginning of the story to the end. I ended up calling my sister part of the way through the 30 minutes I set for myself to write (the minimum “butt-in-chair” time I was aiming for), and in a 10 minute conversation worked through the antagonist actions that my protagonist is actually having to fight against (I knew *why* the villain was working against her, I just didn’t know *how*).

And will all those things done, and my shiny new outline, I called it a night. And wondered what to read.

And today I wonder if my being unable to find something to read is the subconscious part of my brain not wanting to take in more, because doing so will somehow spoil the work I’ve been doing on my own story. I wonder if my mind is percolating on all the elements, and tonight when I down for my writing date with fellow writer at the library, I should expect brilliance.

And I know that is not fair to myself. I should never expect brilliance, because getting the words down on the page is enough – I can clean them up later. And I wonder if that is what is holding me back. That I’ve been expecting brilliance from myself, comparing myself somehow to the books I’ve been reading – you know, the ones authors have spend time writing, re-writing, editing and agonizing over. And I am somehow expecting myself to create something I feel is on par with that – in a first draft.

So even if it is not my subconscious trying to tell me anything, my sitting down to analyze this had taught me something – well reminded me. Tonight, when I sit down to write, the only thing I need to expect of myself is that I will write. The brilliance can be worked in later.

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

[cryout-column width=”1/3″]SecretDiaryOfLizzieBennet[/cryout-column] [cryout-column width=”2/3″] [/cryout-column]    As a treat to myself last week, I bought the Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet – it is a companion work to the YouTube series, The  Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It is, for those of you not versed in the Austen-verse, a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, where the main character, one Elizabeth (Lizzie) Bennet, is a grad student in mass communications, and the video series which end up documenting a year of her life, capturing the trials and tribulations of her own life, as well as her two sisters Jane and Lydia, and her best friend, one Charlotte Lu, as well as her infuriating and confusing interactions with Mr. Bing Lee, his sister Caroline, and his taciturn friend, William Darcy.

I was introduced to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries well after they were complete, and I don’t know if that was unfortunate (I didn’t get the joy of watching the story unfold “real time”), or a blessing (I got to watch the whole story over the course of one week). And I am not ashamed to admit they bring me great joy to watch. (Why yes, I have read and listened to Pride and Prejudice at least a half-dozen times, and own the 6-hour BBC mini-series starring Colin Firth – why do you ask?) I do love the story, and this retelling is fun, and brilliant, so once I knew the companion book was available, it was a no-brainer for me.

It should also be unsurprising that I read the book in a little more than 24 hours (if I hadn’t been visiting family, be assured it would have been consumed much more quickly). I think what the authors of the work did was brilliant – what you are reading is, supposedly, the actual journal that Lizzie keeps. The dates follow along with the posted videos, and I think it enhances the video experience with some behind-the-scenes stuff (extra information about relationships that were too private to post on the videos), and some more insight into the main character.

My first reading was just that, a reading, but I am looking forward to going back to the playlist of videos, and watching them in conjunction with the book. One experience I will not get is reading the book first, or alone, and then watching or discovering the videos. These works, the video series and the book, I feel are both stand-alone pieces that compliment each other (the entries for the days after the two most squee-inducing videos are straight-up transcripts of the videos – a brilliant move on the authors’ part), and if you are an Austen fan (or a fan of cool transmedia experiences), I would recommend this to you in a heartbeat.

Now to get myself a red moleskine of my own…