When the air smell likes ice

Following on from my self-set challenge, here is the third in a series of seasonal flash-fiction. Again, I’m not going to tell what the season is, but I really hope that you can guess.

I love it when the air smells like ice. Dark green pine sways between barren branches and then mountains rise behind. Cars crunch salt, engines purring. It’s an experience, negotiating ice in six-inch heels; challenge accepted.  Coffee cup clutched tight to my chest. The bitter taste of rising steam is mellowed with double cream. Hat pulled low on burning ears and sunglasses paint the sky in gentler hues; lines of pink and gold across frozen blue. There’s another flurry on the horizon. Feet slip without warning. The ground is harder than it looks and less forgiving. Must buy boots.

Part One and Two can be found respectively.

Once part four is thrown up here then I’ll compile them together into a post. I’ll probably even tell you what seasons I was originally aiming for. Fingers-crossed that I’ve managed to avoid my natural inclination to the abstract. I have a tendency to think flash-fiction and then jump across to poetry. So you may have noticed some rhymes sneaking in.  The only problem is, that my abstract is often too abstract for most people to make any sense of it.  So what I’ve been learning is to write simply. Or rather…more simply. If I have an image in mind then just say what I see without trying (and usually failing) to be clever.

Looking Beyond

Today’s daily prompt was:  Blindly

It’s nudged me into a few different thoughts. Yes, it would perfectly fit into a ninty-nine word flash fiction for a certain season and I’ll see what I can do with that…

However, it’s made me think about the way that we edit. Blindly. Honestly you’re writing away and you do a few sweeps of editing and then you celebrate because the project is done!

A few weeks later, you look at the print out, or open up the file and there it is. A blatant error staring you in the face. A missing word, a missing letter… for me it evokes a visceral sense of fear. The – oh my goodness, if there’s one error there must thousands! (My mind races at this point) Maybe this is simply an entire manuscript of errors, there will never be an end to the editing, where do all the missing words go!?!

After some careful scrolling I tend to calm down, breath, and set myself a few targets.

What might be worse than the occasional missing word (because they’re easier to spot) are the sneaky phrases that just slip into the text.

I’ve written a previous post about editing here:

My current sneaky words however are as follows.

A little – this is a continuation of my earlier frustrations with this phrase. Why do I feel the need to modify every emotion, or image with ‘a little’. She was angry vs she was a little angry. She threw herself against the glass until it gave a little vs she threw herself against the glass – where do you come from ‘a little?!’ why are you in my work like a constant tiny plague of self-doubt! Commit to the image! Commit!

Though – like a little, this pesky devil is sneaking in. She was tired though. Why the though? Why can’t she just be tired? Again, I feel it’s a rebellion against the responsibility of writing, the sentences are self-moderated to have less impact.  Why?

Just – similar to the others…another sneaky word that just…

She – now this is an interesting word. It’s very useful. For projects with female protagonists the tag of, she is inevitable. However, I can’t help but feel I over use it, despite my attempts to change it up with other phrases such as, the young woman or the solider – depending on whose point of view I’m writing from.

So how do I find these pesky little slips?

I suppose the easy way to combat editing blindness is as described above (with less panic.) Give the project, novel, poetic collection time to breathe. Then return to it with fresher eyes and fresher mind. Find all the devious inflections and then do a ctrl-f to find them in all their triviality. Then work through them, see where they’re needed and where they add nothing but doubt- remove them.

Be ruthless.

 

Unexpected

I’ve set myself a challenge to create a series of flash-fiction. Just four pieces of 99 words each and representing the seasons. Here is the second piece, aptly named, number two. I’m really hoping that you can work out which season is which!

Seasonal Flash-Fiction: Two

Spires of bright fuchsia sway. Scattered bursts of buttercup, daisies and dandelions dance on the meadow. Waves of long grass whisper and break on the fence line. The thump and trundle of an antique tractor approaches, rumbling over hard-baked earth. The driver bounces from window to window over the dips and furrows of the ancient field. A blast of Heart FM twists across the boundary. Bare toes wriggle on the fresh-clipped lawn. Wide-eyes fixed on cracked blue paint. Pigtails and tiny fingers stick in fresh varnish. The metallic beast makes a slow spin, grumbling, puffing, ready for the next charge.

I’ve been finding these pieces harder than I expected! For only ninety-nine words they’re taking me far longer than it would take to write 500. When I start writing a new chapter I like to set a scene. With the seasonal flash-fiction I’m trying not to be overly direct and say ‘this is spring!’ etc and the idea of flash-fiction is maybe to do more than just my usual flowery openings that then develop into a story. The flash-fiction is a mini story in itself and I don’t really have the time, or the words, to provide an expansive introduction and explore a character.

So I start with a few opening lines and then as I struggle to piece those together I’m searching for the twist or just the question that the fiction can raise. So far, two down, two to go and I’m satisfied I’ve been able to full-fill my own criteria. I hope that you enjoy them.

The first piece can be found here:

Seasonal Flash-Fiction: One 

If anyone wants to join in the challenge, I’d love to read your pieces. Just 99 words of flash-fiction inspired by a season. Drop me a comment or e-mail me at fibijeeves@gmail.com.

Responding to the Daily Prompt Outlier. I hope that I’ve been able to challenge a few expectations in the fiction and provide something unexpected.

Denying Winter

I’ve had twenty years of winter and no it’s nothing to do with GOT, sorry! Twenty years is roughly how long I’ve been dreaming up Burning Embers, writing the universe, drawing the characters, scrapping it all and starting again, and again and then going into fine-tuning and comma placements – before scrapping all of that! It’s been a big project and definitely one of those that’s taken on a life of its own and one day, very soon, I’m going to share it with you.

In the meantime, Burning Embers is set on the cusp of deep winter. It’s a harsh, cold and unforgiving environment and I purposely studied in Canada for a year, so that I could really understand snow. Having been born and raised in Middle-England and the modernish equivalent of Hobbiton, fields, gentle hills, farmlands, small streams, traditional pubs, more fields, snow wasn’t something I experienced much of. Rain on the other hand, is a different story. I’ve grown up feeling like a rain expert and that’s probably something to do with the wide vocabulary that the British have developed to describe water falling from the sky, or sideways – because sometimes the rain is sideways.

Still, working on Burning Embers for such a pro-longed period of time, has meant that mentally, I’m in Narnia. It’s always winter and never Christmas. Descriptions are of frost-covered trees and the crunch of deep snow. So when I decided that I was going to start a new project, it perhaps isn’t a surprise that it’s set in summer. There will be blue skies and butterflies! There will be warm weather! It’s been refreshing to explore a new season and so I thought that I’d combine that thought with my current attempts at flash-fiction.

This has been a very long introduction for a short project, so I hope I’ve kept your attention so far. I want to try a series of flash fiction for the changing seasons.  I’ve given myself exactly 99 words for each. A different season is going to be posted up in the next four blog posts.

I hope that you’ll be able to work out which season is which, because I’m not going to label them, let me know in the comments!

So here they are, my escape from winter, followed by the inevitable return.

Seasonal Flash-Fiction – One

The sky is a tapestry of falling rain and threads of smoke. Leaves drift in slow spirals between heavy drops. Grey puddles spill off the path and into sodden grass, tramped with muddy boots and wellingtons. Water gurgles in the roadside drains and steals away with sycamore seeds. Conker shells burst, shining chestnut nestled between layers of bronze, amber and fading green. Interwoven clouds in faded lines and jagged blue tears. Pale sunlight peers through the cracks and paints the tarmac gold. The umbrella snaps to attention, stolen from a desperate grasp, whipped up, away, lost to the tapestry.

 

Tied into the Daily Prompt Denial

A prize for everyone!

A timely response to today’s prompt Champion

When you’ve been working on a project for so long, you can be accused of developing tunnel vision. Your project is a culmination of coffee, late nights, long hours staring at a blank page, longer hours editing the same words over and over, more coffee… you get the picture. You dream of releasing it out into the world and watching it fly…and then comes all the waiting.

So I decided that I needed to write something new, something fresh – and I’m so glad that I did.

I’ve returned to the wonderful lists of Christopher Fielden and I picked out a few competitions. I’m not much of a poet (and doesn’t everyone know it – ba dum tish) but I’ve had reasonable success with flash-fiction. Something short, something snappy I thought? I can do flash-fiction!

So I submitted a piece to Christopher’s Writing Challenges. The gratification of knowing I’d done something of a good deed – submitting fiction to raise money for charity, was only seconded by the happy glow of seeing my work published on someone’s website. Wheee!

So I submitted to Third-Word as well!

I won!

I am so excited you would not believe, I’m even using far too many explanation marks!!!

Alongside a nifty prize, I still get that lovely glow of  achievement and I’m delighted that again, the Eighty-One words will be put to a good cause. Third word are going to compile an anthology to help homelessness. Triple win!

It’s been an exciting few weeks and I’ve set Burning Embers decidedly to one side, for now. I’m even working on a new Novel – tentatively titled: Initiate

Oooo…I hear you say.

More details will be forthcoming in other posts.

Aesthetic – Strip it away

 

I like to write about things that are important to me.

I saw today’s prompt and I was excited. So excited that I’ve raced home in order to try and express my response in a slightly more logical, accurate and researched method than my usual ad-hoc ramblings.

Woman in fantasy writing, who are they and how are they represented? As a child I fell in love with Dragonlance. A mouldy paperback of the Dragon’s of Autumn Twilight by Margerat Weiss and Tracey Hickman was what sealed my love for Fantasy. I’d already explored Narnia (thoroughly), Hobbitton and the Hundred Acre wood and Harry Potter hadn’t arrived yet. So here was this book, for adults with all the things I loved about the computer games I immersed myself into: Daggerfall featuring most prominently.

However, as a young woman the main heroine of the saga is Lauralanthalassa. Now, not to discredit this character who grew into the Golden General, Dragon-Flying, Army-Leading incredible powerhouse – but for the entire first book of the initial series she is defined by her beauty. I love the writing of Laurana’s introduction, but it’s all aesthetic. She’d an elf, she achieves an untouchable ideal of beauty by her very race. Not only that, but Laurana is the epitome of womanhood, no trace of age is upon her. Even the mage who see’s decay, looks upon the elf-maiden and sees beauty for the first time.

Now I fell in love with Laurana – but I really wanted a sword. Before she becomes the general she needs to be rescued and protected – a lot. She’s a fairy-tale princess, although not necessarily passive. After all, she decides to follow her true-love instead of waiting for him to come back; and it is this decision that propels her into adventure.

But after I fell in love with Dragonlance, it felt like I spent years searching for a heroine that I could aspire to be. I could never reach the ideal beauty of Laurana and I really really wanted a sword. I wanted to be a knight if I’m honest, and I couldn’t find that story in any of the books I was reading.

I was seventeen when I picked up a copy of ‘First Test’ – By Tamora Pierce in the library. I read it, sat between the stacks whilst my parents did the weekly shop in the supermarket over the road. I still remember shivering with excitement, barely able to read as I was pulled into this amazing world and this story that I had wanted, so badly, for so long, to read. It was like when you watch Peter Pan, then spend all day jumping off the sofa trying to fly – hasn’t worked so far, but I might keep trying. I checked out the entire series and within a day had finished it off. I had to go back to the library over the weekend and took out as many of Pierce’s book as I could. Here were heroines who go to be girls, and be knights. To speak to animals and yet…they could still be girls.

Natalie Babbitt calls fantasy “the most wrenching, depth-provoking kind of fiction available to our children’.”[1]

My desperation was to find a strong, female role-model that I could identify with, and that’s what I want to write.  As study was conducted by Laura Solomon, who analysed 45 fantasy novels for children and young adults. This is one of the results:

Statistically in the books studied: “In Alternate World/History fantasy, beauty is a defining trait for 25% of females.”[2]

That’s it. For a quarter of heroine’s beauty is their defining trait. They don’t get to be brave, intelligent, they don’t have hobbies, talents or skills – they’re pretty.  What’s worse, is if you’re not pretty in the story then you fall at the other end of the spectrum and you’re a hag. In stories, how much emphasis is placed on appearance? It’s something hard to avoid when writing, because you want the reader to be able to visualise your protagonist. However it feels as though there is something deeply harmful in only allowing our young woman to be either an epitome of beauty, or a hag.

“Certainly most children will not describe themselves as ugly, making those at this end of the spectrum unlikely candidates for close reader relationships. Females noted mostly for or only for their appearance fall at the other end and, while some readers may relate to them (and many girls wish to be them), these types of depictions only strengthen society’s message that beauty is all-important.”[3]

I want my characters, male and female to be defined by more than their appearance. I want my readers to engage with role-models that offer ways to deal with a complex and changing world and to come away with a sense of hope; that no matter how crazy this place gets – it’ll be alright.

Here is a brilliant article about writing strong female protagonist and how we’re loosing them. When an inevitable aesthetic is stripped away, I want it to be clear to my reader that their heroine could never be replaced by a floor lamp.

I also agree that being a strong, female protagonist doesn’t mean that you can’t like pretty dresses and make-up. Readers, especially our young adult readers, should be able to engage with characters that they feel represent them or they can identify with, no matter what race, gender identity, sexuality or disability. There’s another amazing series of articles here if this is something you want to carry on reading about.

[1] AUTHOR Solomon, Laura

TITLE Images of Women in High Fantasy for Children and Adults:  Comparative Analysis.

PUB DATE1998-10-00

Solomon, Laura. “Images of Women in High Fantasy for Children and Adults: A Comparative Analysis.” (1998). – Page 6

[2] Ibid., Page 15

[3] Ibid., Page 16

My Response to the Daily Prompt: –Aesthetic

Invitation to Digress – Songs with Story

Response to a Daily Prompt: Invitation

I was planning a blog post about Songs With Story and I will circle around to my intention shortly, however I thought I’d check the daily prompt to see if it tied in with my thoughts today. It doesn’t lend itself to the words I had in mind, however I’m currently working on a very exciting project – wedding invitations! Today’s inspiration came as I’ve been hand tracing a monogram onto invitations. The groundwork is done, tomorrow embossing powder!

Aside from my other creative interests I wanted to talk about music. There are reasons that when I’m writing, I struggle to concentrate when there’s music or radio playing in the background. I’m aware there are some creative bods out there who can’t be without a background melody and it helps them keep going. I can’t, which is a shame; because I love music.

If there’s music whilst I’m working or writing I find it impossible to work around and distracting. However, when drawing, painting, embossing or anything else then I take the opportunity to blast something from an eclectic range. I may well have the worst taste in music, ever. Or it might just be the best. I thought I’d share a few of the current playlist with you.

The theme, as I’m sure you’ve worked out by now, is songs with a story. The best thing about writing, is that you get to weave and create a story. I don’t think that it’s any surprise that some of my favorite songs are lyrical expressions of a tale. They’re more of a poetic exploration and set to melody’s I can only dream of reaching, but they’re beautifully written.

Here they are, three from the collection today:

LionHeart – I love the folk tale feeling to this. It also never fails to remind me of Alanna from Tamora Pierces’s ‘Song of the Lioness’

Fairytale – This song always makes me smile. An alternative to a traditional fairytale. A different outcome for the feminine hero of a classic.

Scars – A  new discovery with heartfelt depth and some gorgeous sweeping lyrics – poetry!

I’d love to what you listen to for inspiration! Leave me a message.

Fibi