Thursday, December 25, 2014

Sick Weekend and Holiday Special Recommendation

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Hey all, just recovering from a mild virus here, but thrilled to have reached the end of finals. I did my best and studied my hardest, so that this month is going to be "professional writer" month. At least, it will be once I kick this block.

The virus isn't terrible, but I definitely am glad to be getting better. Lesson learned from classes: try not to inhale secondhand smoke. It will mess with your health for the next couple of days. I fortunately had a round of antibiotics and have been taking strong probiotics to compensate and recover, as well as several cups of herbal tea a day.

Never underestimate the power of a good yogurt
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Now, since tonight is Christmas Eve, I want to recommend one particular movie that keeps us happy during the holidays. My brother and I know the lyrics to most of the songs, and when I got it one year we sang along.

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 The Muppet Christmas Carol was the first actual version of A Christmas Carol that I saw, and it remains the best in my mind. The Muppets treat Ebeneezer Scrooge like the miserly sourpuss he is, blending genuine contempt with typical, wry humor. Despite such humor, the film stays faithful to the story and its meaning about how you can affect the people around you for good or evil.

"Even the vegetables don't like him"
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I also encountered Michael Caine for the first time in this role, playing the grumpy miser that earns our sympathy. Scrooge dislikes Christmas, for various reasons, and has witty remarks to make on those who demand to spread the cheer. (I can't help but feel sympathy for you there, Scrooge.) Caine plays him with enough charisma so that we don't dislike Scrooge; we follow him to his draft home, where he encounters the Christmas spirits that may or may not save his soul. The music from the Marleys, as well as the Muppet spirits, draw us in with their humor and tragedy. Christmas Past shows us what brought Scrooge's spirits down on Christmas, especially his workaholic ways driving away his fiancee. Christmas Present offers hope that the man can change, while Christmas Yet to Come shows what will happen if Scrooge remains a bitter miser.

Seriously, we watch this film mainly for the Michael Caine dance here. It's awkward and adorable at the same time
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Caine not only displays the ability to play Scrooge with wit and sympathy; he also shows an old man wanting to change, and to be happy, but facing the consequences of his callousness. Even better, the movie takes care to humanize him, to show that the danger of becoming connected with people is that they can hurt you, but if you give them a chance you can make their lives better, and improve your own as a positive consequence. Scrooge's stakes don't involve him burning in hell for his crimes, but to see how he's missing out on life. 

To be honest, I think that Charles Dickens told A Christmas Carol best because he wrote it first; most of the adaptations and parodies exaggerate Scrooge's miserliness and Bob Cratchett's good nature. The second adaptation I saw was a Disney one, Mickey's Christmas Carol, which put Scrooge McDuck in the (predictable) role of Scrooge and Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchett. Unlike the Muppets, they kept emphasizing that Scrooge was a miser and robbing the poor to feed himself, making Bob Cratchett do his laundry, and pretty much scared Scrooge into becoming a better person.

They cast Goofy as Jacob Marley. That should be a pretty big hint of how messed up this special was.
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In other words, this adaptation showed no respect for the original material's delicate approach to Scrooge, or for the Disney characters that they used to portray Dickens's timeless personas. They borrowed animals from The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, to put characters in the background. Duck Tales and the original Donald Duck comics had Scrooge McDuck toeing the line between greed and care for his nephews, while pursuing adventure. And don't get me started on some of the Disney television shows that went for the Christmas Carol adaptations for their characters, ranging from the tongue in cheek to the melodramatic.

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The Muppet Christmas Carol represents not just respect for characters, both belonging to Dickens and to Jim Henson (who passed away before this film was made), but also respect for the original meaning, without beating us over the head. It also represents a calmer time in my life, when the Muppets could fix any emotional upset.

Have a merry Christmas, and take care of the people in your life! 2015 is only a few days away.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Month in the Nano

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Written last year in 2013:

This month, for the first time, I signed up for Nanowrimo, to write up several short stories as part of a collection, to support my friend Corissa Glasheen.

I normally don't do Nano because November happens to be the month before finals, in both high school and college.

Written this year:

The text above was from a blog post intended for December. Obviously I never finished that, for various reasons. Some days the words just don't flow.

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I did Nanowrimo this year again, or tried to. Despite having time pressure, and knowing that the writing would require at least several hours a day, I made an attempt after seeing more of my friends take a stab at it. My goal was smaller, being in graduate school and having less time in the day to do a huge novel, but I thought I could do 25,000 words. Simple, right?


Things had changed greatly in a year, both on the outside and on the inside. For one, I was fighting a lot of inner doubts due to the amount of schoolwork that was piling up, not to mention an internal battle about what I prioritized. In my senior undergraduate year, I had a relatively less rigorous curriculum, having fulfilled most of my requirements, and I had achieved minor success by publishing several short stories. This year I had a novella and several short stories published, but the academic course load was much higher for my MBA, and my stories weren't gelling together as well as they used to.

This kept going on through my head every time I started a story

For another, the words weren't coming as easily as they had come the year before. As mentioned in an earlier post, the home obligations and responsibilities increased tenfold, and when things are dramatic, I have trouble writing.
When I finally did have time to write, little as it was, I kept asking myself what needed the highest priority. My plan was to write a small collection of short stories, some fanfiction and some of it original. One of the fanfiction pieces actually got finished, but most of the other stories were incomplete or had extremely rough endings. Over the winter holidays I'm probably going to return to them, including a character sketch based on a former opera singer I encountered while doing group projects.

With that said, I managed to elucidate to my classmates that I had written a book, thanks to Public Speaking class. We had an assignment to pitch any product, so I pitched Carousel as a potential film for Laika Animation Studios for roughly five minutes.The professor later commented that I finished each sentence as if it were a question, and that my body language could use some work, but at least five classmates asked where they could buy the book. One even bought a hard copy that I had on me.

Do I regret taking on the extra project, though, and missing my personal goal? No, because the main reason I signed up was to support friends who were doing Nanowrimo, who had the time and the energy to write 50,000 words in thirty days. Those friends actually did make the goal, and I had the privilege of reading their preliminary material. Reading that material was a November highlight.
Add a cat sitting on her lap, and this would be my friend in question. She and her cat are awesome together.
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The experience also taught me an important writing lesson: have a focus. Finish a story after starting it, before moving on to the next one, even if the story is terrible. Find an outlet for the stress going on, even a writing outlet. And always talk it out with someone to find out why the words aren't gelling.

I'm going to sign off and buckle down for finals this week, after which I will spend the month of December writing, learning from what happened in November. Forget November being National Novel Writing month; December is Daily Writing Fiction Month for this writer. I am going to be more productive and take advantage of the month's vacation from school.

Happy Holidays, and congratulations to everyone that made their Nanowrimo goal.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Research in Films: When We Cannot Suspend Our Disbelief

My older brother and I have become discerning with films that he receives from his Netflix subscription. If the film doesn't survive fifteen to twenty minutes of viewing time, then we turn it off and return it. We usually find this happening when our disbelief gets slammed into our faces instead of suspended.

The film Rio was one such example. For those who don't know, Rio is a film about a domesticated parrot who must learn to mate with the last female of his kind, and learn to live in the Amazon jungle while evading poaches. By "domesticated" I mean that this bird brushes his teeth with his book-loving owner, won't leave his warm home for the cold winter outside, and drinks hot chocolate with cookies.

That is one suicidal bird.
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If you're going to write about birds, know this: birds cannot eat chocolate! Like most animals, they will find the substance toxic except in small amounts, and you have to account for weight. Also, why would you give your pet something that could kill them in large dosages? How did this cartoon parrot survive with such an owner?

This scene, along with the creepy scientist who shows up, killed the film for me and my brother. We turned it off and returned it via Netflix. It reminded me of a lesson that I had absorbed from reading about animated film and books: when writing fiction about real elements: do your research

Yes, I'm looking at you, chocolate-poisoned Blu.
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Stories rely on suspense of disbelief, especially those that have elements of real life within the fictional narrative.When you have story elements that contradict with facts that the audience knows, the audience loses that suspense and thus cannot get invested in the audience. We have less excuse to ignore facts than we did before, what with the Internet having various free information, as well as experts only too happy to provide their knowledge. 

That said, we cannot conform completely to what we know about real life, because real life does not always lend easily to fiction. 

Pixar learned this the hard way when they released the film A Bug's Life. They ignored physics of ants being able to survive great falls and take large heights, anatomy in regards to choke holds working on the insects, and most egregiously  . . .

"I'm lost!" So are we, four-legs.
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Ants have six legs. Anyone who has seen an ant knows that, whether they're praying on stray bread crumbs in the park or sneaking through cracks in your walls. How can we plausibly accept these four-legged characters as the same insects we have known before? Dreamworks releasing Antz around the same time didn't help, especially when it depicted more anatomically correct ants that conformed to typical ant society, which is essentially absolute monarchy.   

Pixar learned from its mistake, however, in time for the next animal film Finding Nemo. If they were going to suspend disbelief, they  They consulted several marine biologists, learned to animate water so well that they had to make the water less realistic, and visited the Australian oceans. They also found what facts that they could discard, like the fact that when a female clownfish dies, her male partner changes genders, because it would have been too jarring for the tale they wanted to tell. The fact that they got the rest of the details right, apart from giving the fish cartoon eyes. 

Meet your new mom, Nemo

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Why was ignoring clown fish biology and fish eyes acceptable, while four-legged ants weren't? Because the realistic details, from scuba diving to the Sydney harbor, helped create a believable world. We know that male clown fish aren't overprotective of their children, but after meeting Marlin we can believe that he is an overprotective dad that happens to be a clown fish. 

As a result, Finding Nemo was a critical and financial success for Pixar, allowing them to pave the way for various, believable worlds, like Paris restaurants for their film Ratatouille. They even found a way to make ratatouille look like a fancy dish; having tried to make said dish, which at its simplest level is eggplant soup, I can say that making thick soup look fancy is hard.

Having tried to cook ratatouille, I can say that it's a dense eggplant stew.

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 We can learn from Pixar that it's best to do the research, and then to pick and choose what aspects of truth to use, what facts to merge with fiction. Pixar has certainly learned, and they have integrated that research quite well. With luck, they'll keep that blend in the future, as animated films become more competitive and audiences become more demanding. 

Keep up the good work.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reasons for My Hiatus: Slump

Hi all,

I know it's been a while since my last post, and I apologize for that. A great amount of events occurred, including the start of business school (long story), family drama, and writer's block. Plenty of writer's block. 

So, the first order of business is that I have a book out! Carousel has been released, in ebook and print format! Over a year ago, I posted a blog on writing the initial draft for the novella, but my baby is finally out into the world and getting read!

Best for those who like fantasy and music

Several of my other tales have come out; Aurora Wolf released "Forgiveness," one of my moodier short stories, and Eggplant Publications came out with the ebook of Spindles, which includes my short story "The Brahman and the Onion". So definitely I've been productive, submitting stories and brainstorming creative responses for anthologies.

There's not all good news, however; I had to put my webcomic A La Mode on hiatus because business school ended up demanding more of my time than anticipated. My older brother also had to move out this year, to pursue his fellowship in ophthalmology, and the house has been quieter without his constant presence. He still visits at least once a month, but there has been a marked difference in our lives without him. Namely I've had to be more of an adult than I was before, taking on more responsibilities. This has left me feeling like I want to withdraw into an acorn shell, and hide from the world.


Something I've learned about myself: it's hard to write well when I'm stressed. More importantly, it's hard to write depressing material when I'm stressed, namely horror stories. That's why at the moment I'm working on lighter material, doing Nanowrimo at a much slower pace than last year. I'm also working to learn how to meditate, and find healthier outlets. My new goal is to blog at least once a week, and I have a few ideas in the queue. I hope that you can all hang on till the ideas surface, including my impression on research and on Disney. Signing out:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Selling Your Soul: Thoughts After Watching Saving Mr. Banks

"Of course a movie shouldn't try to follow a novel exactly — they're different arts, very different forms of narrative. There may have to be massive changes. But it is reasonable to expect some fidelity to the characters and general story in a film named for and said to be based on books that have been in print for 40 years." Ursula K LeGuin
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Happy belated Fourth of July, everyone! Hope that no one got burned by fireworks, or rained out. It was quite a wet weekend, and I spent that Friday relaxing. Then I got the most wonderful news via the Alban Lake newsletter; my novella "Carousel" has been accepted! It will be published in the fall, and I will inform you of further details when I receive them.

My birthday happens to be tomorrow, but we celebrated over the weekend, my family and I, by watching a Disney biopic I've been dying to see: Saving Mr. Banks. The reason was twofold: I have a passion for stories about authors getting their books published or turned into film, and because Mary Poppins is the best Disney live-action film, period. The story, which isn't accurate with actual details, is about how Walt Disney cajoles, bargains and eventually convinces Mrs. P.L. Travers to sell the book rights to him, so that he can make a film for his two daughters. Parallel to that, we see Mrs. Travers's childhood told in flashback, about her loving relationship with her alcoholic dad, who can't keep down any banking job he acquires. Because of the reality that inspired the Mary Poppins books, Mrs. Travers doesn't want to sell the rights, and goes to Los Angeles purely to refuse the offer. Disney won't give up, however, and he will do what he can to convince her, while sneaking cartoons into the finished product and having Mary Poppins sing.

If Disney bought me champagne, hired a limo driver and paid for my two week stay at a nice hotel, I'd be much more convinced to give him the rights to me work.
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The film portrays two real human beings in somewhat sympathetic light: Walt Disney does business with his animation and is not afraid to lie, while Mrs. Travers doesn't want her creation to be tarnished. Yet we can see that Disney has love for the books, seeing that he fought for twenty years to obtain the rights and allows the author to approve the script, a right that most authors don't have nowadays. And the reason? To keep a promise to his two daughters. He could have chosen another story with a dead author or a more agreeable one, like he did with Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, but he pursued Mary Poppins for twenty years.

My personal preference for the film and bias comes from watching it a dozen times as a child, learning most of the songs by heart. Julie Andrews brings the right balance of sweet nature and stern front to the role, so that Mary Poppins is charming but by no means saccharine, and David Tomlinson provides perfect foil as the stiff Mr. Banks who finds his life turned awry by this strange nanny.You have the most powerful music in the dramatic arrangements of "Feed the Birds" and a story that acknowledges that parents have it harder than their children do, as well as the dramatic side to growing up.
Mrs. Travers didn't like "Feed the Birds," the best song in the movie. Just . . . what

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I had trouble seeing Mrs. Travers's point of view for several reasons: she is a sour puss about the whole endeavor and disrespects every part of the film process, she takes for granted the red carpet treatment that Disney bestows on her, and Mary Poppins makes a better movie because of the changes from the books.  All these points I believe are important, since the treatment she received is unheard of most days.

These days a writer would have to be J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, or Cressida Cowell to receive such treatment, since the rights are usually negotiated between a publishing company and literary agent. Ursula K. LeGuin has also pointed out that most writers don't get to approve the script; she didn't get such privilege for both adaptations of her Earthsea novels. The only thing you can do is blog about if you liked the movie or not, and in addition, Walt Disney's films at least had quality animation during the time period and original, legendary music. In the twenty-first century, quite a few authors have had Disney mangle their books at times, or create a faithful adaptation that cannot sell the story. Meg Cabot can assert to the former regarding Avalon High, though she remains diplomatic and optimistic about reaching new fans.

This film is a travesty for people who read the books, or for those who appreciate good storytelling
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After thinking about Saving Mr. Banks for a day, however, I wondered what it would be like to have one of my works adapted, and dramatically different from what I envisioned. "Carousel" came to mind, a story that features orchestra and modern classical music prominently; the modern music pays homage to "The Rite of Spring" with its chaotic, dissonant chords while providing conflict for when Renee's orchestra can't play their new piece. If a director and screenwriter came to the project with no knowledge of modern classical music or how an orchestra works, I'd be concerned. If they deliberately changed the novella to be a horror movie knockoff or changed the plot to promtoe a feminist agenda, I'd express disapproval. That would be all I could do, under the circumstances.

But would I, if they gave me the same treatment as they gave P.L. Travers? Would I betray my integrity for Disney dolls, the limo rides, and champagne? Would I allow a lousy story to happen, if I had the script approval rights that she bargained for in Saving Mr. Banks? If the story wasn't lousy, but went in a different direction from the tale, would I like it?

I'd like to think "No" in response to the latter question, because I'm someone who grew up on good movies that were vastly different from their source material, usually for the better, but then again that opportunity is not likely to come my way, unless I am extremely lucky. It's a question that each writer has to ask herself: how much is one's soul worth? There is no one right answer, and we often don't have the liberty to answer it in the modern world.

Would I sell my work for this kind of room? Totally! I call dibs on the Pooh Bear doll
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Saving Mr. Banks was a good film. It asked the right questions about personal integrity, kindness contrasting with sincerity, and what it means to have a good movie versus a completely faith adaptation. Also, Mary Poppins sings. No one can convince me otherwise, not even the author herself. Denying her that denies the power that makes her memorable.

If Walt Disney were alive and seduced me with a limo and paid flight to Los Angeles, a day in Disneyland with him and the classic rides, I would give in because I'm a fan. He may have been manipulative and ruthless as a businessman, but he did produce some of the best animation of the time period. If I were a fan of other directors, and I happen to like Henry Selick and Joss Whedon's work, then I would probably enjoy their changes for the sheer fact that I get to be a fangirl, and to work with people I admire. That would be the price of my soul.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Soul Prompts Book Launch:

Morgan Dragonwillow has been helping me with writing under times of stress, with her recent blog series on Writing for the Soul. I have been going through most of the entries attempting to dance freestyle through the music and to answer honestly. One thing I've learned: years of doing rigid dance routines in elementary school and yoga do not make for smooth freestyle, but it's getting easier each time.

Morgan is a master poet, a survivor who uses her experience to create powerful verse, and a wonderful soul writer. Thus, I was pleased to see that her newest book Soul Prompts was getting a book launch and had to participate. Without further ado . . .
I am pleased to reveal the cover for Soul Prompts: Finding and Hearing Your Inner Voice.
Soul Prompts Book Cover2d

Soul Prompts is a spiritual writing experience that gives you a direct line to the source of inspiration.
If you could communicate with your soul would you?
If you could hear what your soul's plan is for this life, would you want to hear it?

What if learning to communicate with your soul could help you get your words on the page?

Soul Prompts will help you connect to that voice within whether you want to have a deeper spiritual life, a better understanding of your purpose, discover which path to take next or to help you get your stories written.

Are you open to the possibilities?

It's time to have a conversation with your soul.

This book is for you if you want to:
  1. Take your writing to a deeper level.
  2. Explore your connection to your soul.
  3. Live a more spiritual life.
  4. Have a better understanding of your writing journey.
  5. Figure out your next step.
  6. Discover where your words come from.
  7. Learn why your soul chose this life.
And so much more.

Soul Prompts: Finding and Hearing Your Inner Voice - Paperback and ebook - coming out this October!

This beautiful cover was created by the artistic and wonderful Andrea Moore! Working with her was a pleasure and she was very patient with my questions and suggestions until we were both happy with the results! If you are working on a book and don't have a cover yet, I highly recommend you have a chat with her!

Andrea Moore a

Cover Artist

Andrea Moore grew up in a town so small, on top of a marsh, that the mosquito was considered the city bird. She uses her degree in computer graphics and her artistic abilities to sprinkle joy throughout local consignment shops and EtsyEtsy. Andrea is now breaking out of the box further as she explores the adventures of book cover creating.

Fun Trivia Game

What's a party without a game? In this game you will hop from one blog to the next, finding the clues and when you think you have the answer, go back to Morgan Dragonwillow's post, Soul Prompts Book Cover Reveal Party, and put the answer in the comments. The first person with the correct answer will win a signed copy of Soul Prompts and a $10 Amazon gift card. Have fun!

Where in the world is one of my favorite places to sit or walk and connect with the source of creation and to remember we are all one?

CLUE: There are some of the largest trees there and it is in Humboldt County. And the next link to be Poetry, Prose, Art, & Creativity

Good luck but most of all have a great time!

Me aAuthor

Morgan Dragonwillow is a poet, survivor, lover of all things magical, dancing with words, recovering perfectionist, and indie author that (mostly) doesn't let her fears get in the way of her passion for writing and creating. She is team leader at @StoryDam and creatrix of #OctPoWriMo. She lives in Marietta, Ga. with her loving and patient partner, their dog that thinks she's a princess, and the cat that reminds her that she isn't.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bloggers Pseudonymous: Iron Galleon Beach

 Hi, everyone! Hope you had a good weekend. Below is a little deviation from the norm, a multi-blog serial called "Iron Galleon Beach." Matt Anderson, Corissa Glasheen, Philip McCall I, Rebecca Curtis and Kathryn Phillips are going to . As Matt has described this project to the five of us:
"This is a group of talented, young writers - and bloggers - and the goal is simple. Together, we will write a story, with each participating individual writing one chapter of approx. 3,000 words.
 I agreed to write the first part of the story, and then another blogger will take up the challenge. Without further ado, let me introduce "Iron Galleon Beach."

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Iron Galleon Beach, Part One

Summer vacation should not involve mermen. At least, that was Raffi's opinion as he stared at the secluded sandbar in front of them, fangs seething under their protective gums. Nor should it involve bleeding mermen and men with sharp weapons standing over them.
When he and his friends had chosen to visit Iron Galleon Beach for Memorial Day, several things had stood out to Raffi: they did not need visas to arrive to the island, a good thing since Raffi as a vampire could not appear on film. Their beach house had cheap rent despite having three rooms and two bathrooms; and there was no civil wars or coup d'etats going on nearby.  Most importantly, they needed the seclusion in case one of them had an episode, like if Nadia needed to do her werebear transformation, or if Fiona had to whip up some plant magic. The butcher in town didn't ask questions about the large steaks that Raffi had to buy for his health, or that his eyes flickered when facing the blood. It was the perfect vacation spot for four motley monsters.
They had not expected to find poachers here any more than they had expected to find merfolk. That was because Iron Galleon Beach relied on tourism with white people, and thus needed a good public image. A nearby island, Barbados, had received flak for letting the Pirates of the Caribbean people kill dozens of sea turtles while filming. Iron Galleon Beach couldn't afford similar bad press. If Nadia hadn't suggested a morning stroll to explore the island then the four might never have encountered this hidden beach, or the poacher. That was because the beach was hidden by thick mangroves and sawgrass, so that only a keen-eyed girl like Nadia would spot the path. It didn’t have a nice view either, like the other, more popular beaches on the island.
It made Raffi want to swoop down and smack that man silly with his guitar, then chomp down on his neck. Only he had left his guitar at their house. Turning to look at the three people next to him he saw that his friend Nadia wanted to do the same. The hair on her arms had already started to thicken. Alex was turning a shade of dark grey that indicated cold, icy fury. Fiona’s eyes had gone dark green, the color of cool jade.
The man in question had tanned skin, an ugly orange and pink swimsuit that tightened around his crotch too much, and a tight tank top with the same horrid colors. He wore cheap blue sunglasses, but his weapons spoke of expense; he had the merman trapped in a barbed metal net, with a hook wedged into its neck. A large brown satchel was strapped to his back, rattling with other weapons. The merman was struggling to breathe on the beach sand, not able to speak due to its gills not having water. Judging by the coloring and clothes - sheets of red and green kelp knotted around its waist - Raffi had deemed it female. At least until Alex spoke up.
"He's dying," Alex said. "No creature can survive with that amount of blood loss."
Raffi grimaced. It wasn't that he minded the sight of blood; he was a vampire, and on a normal day, he'd be guzzling a pint down with each raw meal to satiate his hunger. He minded the fact that someone was inflicting pain on a magical person like himself and his four friends, and that the person seemed to be enjoying running a large hook through a helpless merman.
The man looked up from his handiwork. He noticed four college graduates staring at him, one that was translucent white, another with dark sunglasses and covered in clothing from head to toe, a girl with plant tattoos swirling over her arms and legs, and another girl slowly growing fur and fangs. He didn't seem phased.
"Seems I have company," he said in a clear American accent. Not a native then, and not one of the locals who catered to the tourists.
"Let the fish go," Alex said, swooping forward. Raffi reached out an arm to stop him, but then realized that Alex was probably the best person to charge. Nothing could harm a ghost, after all, that could harm a living being. Unfortunately, ghosts were not able to harm living beings either, except to possess them and compel them to do strange behavior.
This poacher seemed to know that last bit of knowledge about ghosts because he dropped the net and the hook and sidestepped Alex. Then he whipped a small jar out from his satchel, opened the lid, and held it out. Within a few minutes, all of Alex’s essence ended up inside the jar, trapped. The poacher closed the lid and tucked the jar into his satchel.
Nadia gave a frustrated grunt. Fiona the nymph slapped a delicate palm to her forehead. It sounded like a wooden stick hitting a beech tree. Then she and Nadia moved to get between the poacher and the trapped merman, cutting him off. Her bare feet touched the water and made small ripples.
Raffi ignored Alex's gaffe, leveled eyes with the hunter, revealing his fangs. The sunglasses made him look intimidating, but he wished he were wearing a trench coat instead of a bright green Seminole shirt. Trench coats were too hot for the summer, however, and Raffi try as he might would never appear as an intimidating Edward Cullen or Angel. He also lacked their physical strength and combat skills. Contrary to public myth, vampires did not always possess the power to punch a demon in the face or even crush a human skill. They sometimes had to bluff.
"We don't want to hurt you." Raffi gave a wide grin, showing his fangs. "But it seems you know too much about us. And about . . . them."
He indicated the flopping merman and Alex’s protests from the satchel. The man didn't seem surprised that Raffi was a vampire. He eyed Nadia and Fiona with more appreciate astonishment.
"A vampire. And an idiot ghost. With lady friends."
"Hey!" Alex called from the jar, voice still muffled. "I'm a National Merit Scholar!"
"Alex, let us handle this," Raffi said. He cleared his throat, fangs extended to their full length. "But the 'idiot ghost' is right; let the merman and him go, or we'll tear you to pieces."
"You and what army?" The poacher asked. "It's not like you can call the police."
There was a beat of silence, as the four of them registered this insolence. The poacher's response showed a remarkable level of intelligence for someone who didn't realize he was in trouble.
"You have a point," Raffi admitted. "Given the police are more likely to send us in for dissection and permanent confinement than getting you in the clinker. But that means we're outside the law, which means we can do anything we like to you. And we’re all an army."
"Unless your girlfriends can do more than toss cellphones, then you're really screwed," the poacher snarked. He reached for the satchel strapped to his back; Raffi braced himself.
He almost didn't see the wooden stake coming, the poacher seemed to keep small ones strapped to his Speedo. Raffi dodged the stake but more weapons kept coming. The poacher took the opportunity to land on top of him, straddled his fallen form, and hold a stake to his heart. The wooden tip pricked Raffi’s green shirt.
“Make one move, and I turn your boyfriend into ash,” he told the girls.
The girls had managed to get the hook out of the merman’s neck and had lowered him into the water so that he could breathe. Fiona was busy trying to implement the first aid she had learned in preparation for medical school. Nadia had her hands curled, however. From where he was pinned on the sand, Raffi could see her claws erupting.
“Get your legs off me,” Raffi grunted. “I’m not your type.”
"Everyone's my type," the poacher responded, leaning on him. "And you'll be the type for my latest bidders. They were hoping for seafood, but a live vampire is rare these days. Most of you sunspots burn up the minute wood touches your heart-"
He stopped as the stake pushed away from Raffi's chest. The stake started to wriggle like a serpent and sprout leaves. Then it turned on the poacher, to had to toss it aside.
Fiona's tattoos were writhing like the vines sprouting from the stakes, which had now turned on the poacher; her eyes had turned dark green. Green meant danger, for a nymph's wrath was worse than any fatal stab wound or hook to the neck. The poacher seemed to recognize this bit as well because he tried to back away.
"Let's see here, ladies," he said, reaching into his bag for some other repulsive weapon, "we can surely settle this dispute-"
Raffi took the opportunity to punch the poacher in the groin. It wasn't that much different from punching a piece of rotten fruit, and it had a similar, satisfying squish. The poacher hadn't thought to wear a cup and he yelped as Raffi pushed him off and managed another punch to the larger man's chest. Both scrambled away, and surveyed each other.
Fiona returned her attention to the merman when it gasped and flapped; Nadia then made her move. Her claws were like tiny daggers as she pounced on the poacher and managed to tear off part of his tank top. She had abandoned speech in favor of growling. If the guy hadn't used a satchel to block her, he would've had his chest torn out. He managed to flip away and reach into his duffel, but not before she had morphed into a small brown bear, large enough to tackle him to the ground.
"A foursome?" he cried in surprise and admiration, pulling out a large rifle. "I happened to stumble upon FOUR magical beings now? Is this my lucky or unlucky day?"
"Unlucky," Raffi and Fiona responded. Alex managed to answer as his transparent legs wriggled in the sand. Raffi had balled his hands into fists, but he was unable to charge in and throw a punch while Nadia-bear was trying to tear the guy apart. She was having trouble; If Nadia didn't get a good strike in, the poacher would be lodging a bullet through one of her furry arms.
"Fiona, I need ammo," Raffi said. He dug into his pockets and came out with a tiny bottle of sunscreen, the keys to their beach house, and his wallet. He had learned from a self-defense seminar that women could use keys to defend themselves from violent men, but he wasn't sure if they would be useful when attacking a violent poacher that apparently armed himself with stakes and guns. Sunscreen also wouldn't be useful because it was the stick variant, that you rubbed all over yourself; he should’ve sprung for the spray version, which burned the eyes.
Fortunately, the nymph listened while working their limited knowledge of first aid to try and save the beached mermaid. Small blooms of kelp had sprouted in the shallow water and Fiona used them to clot the blood spurting from the unfortunate fish-boy's neck. She spoke to him calmly, but he was thrashing and not used to this treatment from any human. As she talked and reverted to the language of plants, the vines and roots crept from the nearby dunes. The poacher and Nadia-bear didn't notice while attempting to grapple with each other. Raffi took care to not touch any of the vines, though he saw seed pods on one and slashed his house key against it. Large yellow spores shot at the man, hitting his legs. The poacher swore, giving Nadia an opportunity to push him down. The problem was that she didn't take it because he was still holding that stupid rifle. She merely swiped at him, hesitating for that primal fear.
Raffi decided to step in. He took a chance and grabbed a fistful of the seeds. It made the skin on his palm itch, but he didn't care. Nadia was doing a great deal, but she wasn't doing enough to stop this guy. A vampire sometimes had to pull his weight when fighting a common enemy.
The spores made a better, bigger impact when they hit the poacher's arms. It messed up his concentration and made him drop the rifle. Nadia-bear took the opportunity to kick away the rifle, making sure its firing end got buried deeply in the sand, and to scratch at his pack. Several items fell out, including the jar containing Alex.
"Nadia!" Raffi called. "Forget the firearms. He's trying to escape!"
Indeed, the poacher had realized that despite all possible weapons that he was perhaps out of his league and he was making a quiet getaway. Raffi remembered the time he had accompanied Nadia to that self-defense seminar, the one with the key slashing, and made to body-slam the guy, breaking the poacher's sense of gravity. That was the theory, at least; part of it worked when Raffi managed to knock the guy off-balance and grab his shirt to punch him some more. The problem was that the poacher was apparently used to having vampires body slam him because he stood tall and firm, like a wicked yew tree. Raffi bounced off him, feeling the tank top tear in his arms. His sunglasses cracked.
“It seems you have friends in high places,” the man said as he reached for small grey balls, including Nadia-bear who was rearing for another charge. “You win for now, but I’m not leaving this island empty-handed, and certainly not with an idiot ghost.”
Nadia-bear yelped when the poacher released the balls; they produced tiny explosions and blinding light. Raffi shielded his eyes. Alex couldn’t feel the explosions due to being a ghost and trapped in a jar, but the sand vibrated from the impact. Fiona wasn’t paying attention because she was attempting to apply CPR to the unfortunate merman. By the time everyone recovered, the poacher had vanished.
"You know," Raffi said to the sky, "we didn’t come here to fight. We came to relax."
His left hand was still clutching the poacher's shirt. It smelled like rotten fish, salt, and ash. Nadia-bear couldn’t change herself back into a human for a couple of hours, but she could regain her human thoughts. She crouched down and bit on a stake. Within a few minutes, Raffi was free. He sat up, stroked the scratch on his black lenses, and moved to help Fiona. So did the others.
“What did I miss?” Alex asked as he struggled out of jar and onto the sand. When they all gave him a funny look, even Nadia with her large black bear eyes, he said, “How was I supposed to know that the dude knew about ghosts? Most of them freak out when they see me going white!”
“You need to work on your scare tactics,” Raffi said grimly, rubbing his arms where the stakes had pinned him to the sand. “Now I think that dude wants us all in a cage, since we cost him his fish boy.”
"Don't speak ill of the dying," Fiona said sharply; she never snapped, so they all turned to look at her. Nadia-bear shuffled over and sniffed the bleeding merman; it shied away and started to panic. Fiona ordered Nadia-bear to stand at a distance, so as not to panic her patient.
They forgot about the poacher and the fact that he had gotten away; what mattered was saving one of their brethren. Fiona did what she could to staunch the blood, but it kept coming. The poacher’s hook seemed to have severed an artery, so that no bandages could stop the unwanted gush of red. Fiona’s hands and clothes became coated in blood but she kept trying to save him.
Raffi knew nothing about first aid, The others all did what they could to help. Nadia-bear was purring to the merman while supporting his head. Bears could purr like cats, and Raffi had learned that the sound was calming to most animals. This didn't seem to help the merman though, because he was still thrashing about. Perhaps he thought Nadia-bear wanted to eat him. Alex started to hum a low chant, probably one meant for easing pain. That seemed to go better, though the chant made everyone quiet and sober.
Raffi stared at where the poacher had vanished. His hands were still aching from where they had clutched Fiona’s seed pods and he was still clutching the poacher’s torn shirt.
"He got away," he said. "That jerk got away. He knows we have a vampire in the group and other unusual creatures."
Oddly enough, Raffi wasn’t that worried about being put on the market and sold as a living vampire. That fear was an abstraction, a cautionary tale used after Twilight had made vampires a popular commodity for wealthy women. He was more worried about his friends, and about being outed, since that had happened before.
The dude knows we’re on the island. It’s a small town, and he might find out where we live. He could plan to catch us off guard, so as not to leave “empty-handed”.
Raffi used a much worse word than "jerk," when the merman lay still and stopped breathing, head lying in the water. The smell of blood and salt made him feel queasy, even for vampire standards.
Fiona took a moment, still tightening the knots on the makeshift bandage for the merman. Nadia-bear growled, sniffing the air. Then she shuffled over and sniffed the torn cloth in Raffi’s hands. Before he could stop her, the were-bear gave a great snort and started trundling off, running off into the mangroves. Raffi groaned and Alex soared after Nadia-bear.
Why did our summer vacation have to involve mermen?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Liebster Award Answers

Hi everyone! Good to see all of you. Matt Anderson nominated me for a Liebster award, after he got nominated for one. To get the award, I am going to answer eleven questions that he has posed, provide eleven random facts about myself, and then nominate five bloggers who each have less than two hundred followers, asking them eleven questions.

1. Who are You? [the Who]

I am Priya Sridhar, an American with Asian heritage from the country of India. I am completely Americanized however and do not speak a word of Hindi or Tamil; my languages are English and Spanish, with a smattering of Japanese.

2. Are you Happy Now? [Michelle Branch]

I'm always happy when I write, unless I'm venting. At the moment I'm not venting so I'm pretty happy, especially since I got an acceptance in a week of rejections.

3.Who Do You Want to Be? [Oingo Boingo]

I want to be J.K. Rowling, William Joyce or Scott Westerfeld. But since I can't be any of them, I'd rather be myself at the moment. 

4. Will You Be Ready? [Imogen Heap ft. Murdock]

No. I will never be ready. But I will prepare to the best of my ability for whatever comes.

5. Where's Your Head At? [Basement Jaxx]

Somewhere in the book that I was reading, a Maya Angelou biography. 

6. What is Love? [Haddaway

Not answering this one because the song annoys me to death. 

7. Turn Down For What? [DJ Snake & Lil Jon]

I've mainly been turned down for internships and jobs. Still, eventually the rejections stop coming.

8. What's your Flava? [Craig David]

No comment, except that my favorite flavor of dessert is chocolate.

9. Do you Believe in Magic? [The Lovin' Spoonful]

No, except in the magic of words and in artwork. The supernatural is beyond me. 

10. (is there) Life on Mars? [David Bowie]

There was, billions of years ago.  Now, probably not.

11. Any Advice? [Nonpoint]

Just this: no matter what anyone tells you, don't be afraid to make mistakes. Just remember to learn from them, without losing your head.  

So the eleven facts . .  .

1. I used to have an intense phobia of snakes and drowning, and no the two were not related to each other.

2. I am an obsessed HTTYD fan. When I was a kid and teenager, the obsession was Harry Potter. Harry Potter still rocks.

3. On principle I will not watch the movie Maleficent, good as it may be. For more information, see my Tumblr post about my reasons.

4. I do not like iguanas. At all.

5. My story "The Fish With Legs" came out today. Hope you get the chance to read it and comment.

6. I am a member of Toastmasters, a public speaking seminar.

7. Favorite holiday is Halloween

8. Favorite webcomic at the moment is Love and Capes, closely followed by Albert and Serenity.

9. I love chocolate.

10. I also love cute animal videos; they're my weakness, especially ducklings.

11. I do not know how to use an Ames guide for lettering comics.

Now, for the five bloggers I will nominated several of my writer and editor friends: Corissa Glasheen, Morgan Dragonwillow, Philip Tolhurst, Terrie Leigh Relf, and Kathryn Phillips. Here are my questions for you four lovelies:

1. Why do you write?

2. What do you fear the most when reading a new book?

3. Dragons, vampires, or mermaids?

4. What do you love the most when reading a new book?

5. Do you listen to background music while writing?

6. Stephen King believes writing about scary things means they'll never happen in real life. Diana Wynne Jones had events from her books happening to her after she wrote them. Do you think writing about an event stops or causes it from happening?

7. Favorite genre?

8. Least-favorite genre?

9. Ideal vacation?

10. How powerful can books be, in the right or wrong hands?

11.  What book will you read over and over again?

Happy answering! Hope you all enjoy these tidbits, answers and questions