Why Do I Choose Fiction?

ReadinginBetween_Why Fiction?

Clearly, I’m trying to post more often right now because our reading bundles will be launched this Saturday (see you there?). But this whole thing is also forcing me to contemplate why I wanted to be a fictionist in the first place.

ReadinginBetween_Why Fiction?

It’s not like it’s particularly lucrative—sure, some writers are amazing enough to do nothing else but write fiction; but it just so happens that I know, deep down in my heart, that I’m not one of them. Like most other writers out there, I’m the sort who needs to fight for every damn phrase and still ends up with an “ok” (not a “must-read”) piece of work. I’m the sort whose writing isn’t necessarily for everyone; I won’t be writing blockbusters a la Neil Gaiman or Jim Butcher.

I’m the sort who needs a day job to eat properly.

Of course, as many of us know, the appeal of fiction has little to do with revenue and more to do with the strange sense of wonder it generates. I want to write fiction because it makes sense even when little of it is real. I want to write fiction because, when I read other people’s work, I find balance in the truth and non-truths.

I want to write fiction because damn if it doesn’t become the best, most reliable friend you’ll ever have, in your darkest of days.

Am I alone? Am I being too escapist here? Because I honestly don’t understand why non-fiction is considered more lucrative/sensible by a whole bunch of people when it’s fiction that makes me feel so damn alive.

Take, for example, this short passage from Anne Plaza’s “Bloodline Maharlika”:

ReadinginBetween_Bloodline Maharlika Quote

I mean, come on! How vivid is that? That terrifying creature clearly doesn’t exist (anymore) but she described it so well that I can see it when I close my eyes. I can see it coming for me and, if I were close enough to sleep, I can smell it.

And sometimes it’s not just the descriptions—the characters themselves can suck you right in. For example, we have C from Alveel Kaith C’s “As the Night Ends”:

ReadinginBetween_As the Night Ends Quote

…who happens to have sass in spades. I’m not talking about those dinky little rose gardening spades, by the way. I’m talking about those spades that you use to bury dead bodies, which I think is appropriate in this case because OMG I’m dying from laughter right now. C’s so awesome.

So why wouldn’t I want to read and write fiction? Fiction is awesome. It makes you feel wonder, and it makes you wonder, too. It’s the best way to explore the “what ifs” of the world.

Isn’t that worth experiencing?

PS: Both excerpts referenced are part of the #IncredibleTruths bundle, which you can win for free via the raffle I’m running. Yes, I’m aware that I’ve been blogging about nothing but StrangeLit lately—but can you blame me? There are so many stories there and I haven’t even finished reading ALL of them. That’s how much value you can get out of these.

Visit – A Short Story of Small Suspensions

The streets were beginning to smell of barbecue by the time I got out. It is the familiar smell of coal-cooked everything I associated with the markets of my home, and I held on to its comforts. I need all the comfort I can get.
It was not particularly hard to get a trike at this point, although I was hard-pressed to find one that will take me to the precise place I had specified. In the end I chose a more palatable corner to get off at, a spot that wouldn’t be hard to walk from.

This place smelled of spoiled spillage and hopeless dogs, with some sulfur thrown in. I grit my teeth and pressed on; I had no choice.

The house is patchwork-tall, with scrapyard wood holding up stolen concrete blocks – I can tell because they are broken and mis-matched.

The door—if you can call it that – is made of cardboard and curtain. I nevertheless knocked.

She answered the door. We studied each other’s necks, unwilling to face each other.

“Mama,” I began.

She cut me off. “If you start with pleasantries, Isyang, I will slap you as hard as I done when you were fifteen.” Without another word, she retreated further into the house. It was the way she always used to invite me in. I stepped over a short wall that protected her home from flooding, sidestepping Sandwich the dog’s enthusiastic welcome. It wouldn’t do me any good to be distracted by the sweet little Chihuahua mix mongrel.

There’s no avoiding it now. I took a deep breath.

“Mama, come live with me. Stay with me, where it’s safe.”

My mother said nothing for a long time. She busied herself with pouring water and opening a packet of soda crackers. She slapped at deflated throwpillows on the hard wooden bench that served as her couch. She made me wait while she changed into less sweaty clothes. Then she responded as I had expected her to. “No.”

I clenched my fists at the hem of my shirt. “There’s no need to stay here! I have a job and an apartment in a decent neighborhood. You don’t need to worry about rats like your so-called landlord, and you can have food you like! I don’t understand…” I choked. “Why can’t I take care of you?”

Her mouth pressed into a hard, unforgiving line. “Because you pity me, Isyang.”

I said nothing.

She finally looked straight into my eyes. “If there is nothing else…”

“I have to go,” I responded.

She nodded and finished her glass of water. As I was stepping out, she stopped me. Wordlessly, she handed Sandwich over.

When I got back to my street, the dog and I shared barbecued intestines and crispy-fried chicken skin.

I held him close as I walked through my own door, painted a pale blue and modest white, into my spartan apartment.
I still smell the sulfur. I gave Sandwich a bath and instantly felt better.

Writing 101: Point of View – Triangles

I’m actually writing this on the day before it will be posted (because I expect to do other things that will be putting me off a writing mood by the time Friday comes around for me). Thankfully, Rurouni Kenshin reinvigorated my brain enough to make this possible-ish.

Not stellar, but better this than nothing.

The Daily Post Challenge I’ll be tackling today involves writing different points of view. They’ve suggested a scene with it, but I’m not quite sure how to make it work for me at the moment. So I’m doing another scene instead.

Here’s hoping this post won’t make you want to throw up.

Triangles

Jules folded the triangular flaglets with his full concentration. He’d rather not think of anything other than the task at hand, because to pay attention to anything else means that there will be an ERROR. There is nothing more terrible than mismatched flaglets for a fiesta; they may come in different colors, but they need to be the exact same size and shape – otherwise, they can detract from the entire joyous experience.

Instead of enjoying the punch or savoring the food, they will keep looking at the decor and say “Hey, doesn’t that flaglet look lopsided to you?” and everything will be ruined.

He can’t let that happen. He puts the ruler on the thick paper, marking out precise measurements with a very sharp pencil.

***

Carradine tries to fold the paper one-handed; the other hand is devoted to smoking. He tries to not curse at Jules for dragging him into this, and mainly succeeds. His only revenge is the complete lack of devotion he puts into the entire task.

He’s only here because he owed the guy a favor. He never thought that the favor would involve stupid paper folding and cutting. He simply assumed that Jules would cash it in for something more dramatic, like beating up someone for him, or stealing some Mountain Dew from the office cafeteria. Instead, he was asked to help decorate for the department’s Christmas party. Christ.

He glanced at his other companion, Sylvia. Well. At least company hottie Sylvia is stuck with them, too. It doesn’t seem so bad.

***

Sylvia watches Jules surreptitiously, trying to copy exactly what he’s doing without being obvious. This was never her strong point, crafts, but she’s already volunteered – albeit accidentally – and there’s no point in doing something if she’s going to screw it up, especially if it means that she loses to HIM.

Of course, anything she does can’t possibly be as bad as what Carradine is working on – the asshole isn’t even trying. But that’s still no excuse to not make an effort. Her career depends on doing well here (HR had told her the last time they passed her over that she has no teamwork skills, making her unqualified for a promotion). So she’s going to fold and cut perfect fucking triangles, if it’s the last thing she’ll do.

She showed her work to Jules, pitching her voice in a way that made her sound friendly. He ignored her.

Bastard.

Writing 101 – A Meeting

Oh, The Daily Post just posted a character building challenge! One of the more interesting challenges to be sure, but I can’t guarantee that this will turn out great for me (after all, I still feel like I screwed up the “place” post; why should this be any different?). Doesn’t mean that I won’t try, though.

Going for fiction again this time (because I’m a hermit and I don’t meet too many new people that I feel comfortable writing about). Hope you enjoy it!

Lessons

She found herself watching his hands, which were wrinkled at the back like old, well-read newspapers; they made her wonder how many times he would fold and unfold them in a day in an act of study. He was folding and unfolding them now, fingers flicking at the sides of a deck of cards as he moves to misdirect her gaze so he can palm the one she chose. His palms, she notes, are rough – but not by any means aged; they were hands that belonged to craft – the devotion carved out in webbed lines stretching and widening with every gesture.

He makes a joke, a very old joke that her grandfather once made, and she looks away from his hands to his face. She couldn’t quite believe that it came from that face – slightly round and porcelain-smooth, lips formed in a perpetual smirk, dark eyes full of wonder and secrets, dimples folding inward like the hidden pockets his vest most definitely has. He wiggles his dark eyebrows at her, and they bobbed up into his forehead like dramatic puffs of stage magic smoke. The one on the right has a piercing she never noticed before, hanging like a silver crescent moon.

“And now you are not paying attention,” he points out in his strange, Eastern-European accent. It had a hint of either impatience or amusement, which she never could tell apart where he was concerned. He takes her hand firmly, as if she were one of the many tools of his trade, and presses the cards onto her palm.

Without his prompting, she begins to shuffle the cards. She watches him as he watches her, his eyes darkened with focus and the pulse on his neck steady. When her fingers slip and a card flips, she watches the pulse stutter and his eyes flicker.

“Again,” he says, this time standing and turning away to pace in front of her, his shoes silent even on the marble floor. His back is straight, but his gait is not – it has an unbalanced grace to it that she did not expect. She feels him keeping an eye on her as she goes through her false shuffles and passes, and sees him nod as she lays out four cards on the ground in front of her. He approaches them, turns them over, and barks out a laugh at the four Queens.

“Finally, someone with potential!” He snaps his fingers, brings his hands together in a prayer position, and opens them like a book. On his palms lay a new, unopened, deck of cards. Heart beating, she takes it with the reverence she felt it was due.

“I would be honored to teach you, little girl,” he says. “Come back tomorrow, and we will see what else you can become.”

Clutching the deck, she smiles and runs out of the theater – glad that she had followed the man from the bay.

Writing 101 – Lost Challenge – Bloodsmith Vignette 1

Woot, second post for the day (so now I’m sort of caught up)!

This one is for the “serially lost” challenge on the Daily Post. I’m not sure if I really want to write a series of posts discussing the theme of loss (much besides, I think I already wrote about loss before), but I do think it’s worth a shot.

So instead of personal stuff, I think I’ll try my hand at fiction again. I hope it doesn’t turn out too bad (I’m free-writing this).

Please tell me what you think!

Family Matters

When Sage was a 5-year-old Poynte and not a 25-year-old Keye, she had an older brother. He was a giant, as far as she could tell, and he would often carry her on one broad shoulder so she could see over crowds. “You’re better at describing things, G,” he used to say, his gray eyes glowing with warmth. “Might as well let you watch and tell Papa all about it.”

She couldn’t remember what age he had been at the time, but she remembered that his name was Harbinger and that she worshiped him. He was the type of boy who would have been a king to his peers – the benevolent kind, not the tyrannical kind – and never seemed to realize it. Harry was smart and strong and nice to everyone he meets, and no one seemed to be jealous of him because everyone agreed that he is the best at everything; there was simply no point in competing.

But when Sage turned 6, he disappeared. Her father refused to speak about it, sometimes denying that he ever had a son. He pleaded with her to let it go, and after a year, she stopped asking him about it. The mystery in her mind, however, crouched like a feral cat waiting to pounce at any prey of a clue that it may find. There are days when she would think of nothing else, causing her to turn in less-than-stellar work at the Academy. Looking back, she marveled that she had even passed with honors.

It wasn’t until she was 22 that she realized what had happened to Harry.

-0-

She was working as a teacher’s assistant, escorting a lab class in a field trip to The Forge. The place was massive and sweltering and smelled of dissolved metal and steam. It’s where the Blood Ore Weapons – which can only be used by Bloodsmith – are decommissioned and re-purposed once their owners are taken out of action. It was her first time in there, she was exhilarated.

They had just completed the tour of the soldering floor when the shouting started. She saw four people crowding around a serious-looking man hurriedly pushing a cart, pulling up pieces of metal with their gloved hands. At first, she thought they were simply dealing with a full set of armor.

Until she saw flesh.

It was a Bloodsmith who had been taken out of action.

She snapped at the students to head back to the bus and wait for her. There was a fair bit of grumbling and complaining over how things were JUST starting to get interesting, but they nonetheless obeyed. Once they were gone, Sage straightened her blouse and jogged over to the growing crowd of D-com personnel. She wanted to see the Bloodsmith, give him proper respect for his heroism.

She walked on her toes – she had gotten quite tall herself – to try and get a look at him over the worker’s shoulders. She couldn’t get a glimpse of him until a croak broke through the commotion.

“G?”

The D-com boys stopped looked over their shoulders at her, giving her a better view of the Bloodsmith as a result. Her own blood chilled.

“Harry?” she asked in a small voice. She couldn’t move; she could only stare at those warm gray eyes.

“It’s Serval Rook now,” the man responded with a grin that turned into a wince. “But I’m still Harbinger Poynte too. Didn’t think you’d remember me. You were so little.”

And Sage thought he looked so old. “Of course I remember you,” she said shakily. “You were my mountain and my king.”

He laughed, then coughed. The man who had been pushing the trolley knelt next to him, unfastening a chest plate in an attempt to help him breathe. Harry – no, it’s Serval now – gave him a grateful smile before turning back to her. “I missed your descriptions, G.”

Suddenly, she could move. She ran to him unsteadily, legs shaking from shock. She managed to stop herself from trying to climb his shoulders, but couldn’t stop her arms from wrapping around him. “Papa said you didn’t exist,” she said before she burst into tears. “He was telling the truth, wasn’t he?”

Harry began to stroke her hair – he was ruining it, but she didn’t care. “It’s the way things are, little sis. Bloodsmith born outside of the Clans have to either stop using the ability or leave their lives behind to be adopted by a Clan.”

She knew that, should have thought of it; and the knowledge made things hurt even more. “You could have chosen to stay,” she said as she looked up at him.

He closed his eyes. “Yes. But I wouldn’t have been able to protect you with everything I had if I did.”

The D-com man who helped her brother touched her shoulder. “We need to move him now, miss. I’m sorry.”

Harry – he’ll always be Harry to her – held her hand, squeezed it, and let go. “I’m glad I saw you today, G,” he said. “I’m glad to know that I kept you safe.”

It was the last time she saw him. Just a few hours later, she got a message from the man who pushed the trolley. Her brother had died bleeding in the hospital.

-0-

When Sage Keye went into labor, she almost suffocated from terror. The Clans had, over the last few years, developed a means of discovering new Bloodsmith upon birth. Having had a brother who showed talent, she could feel their eyes on her and her progeny.

Of course, she could refuse to hand over her child and simply register him as a latent smith. As long as she raises him to be a normal child, keep him away from anything that would make him even WANT to be a Bloodsmith, he will be safe. He will live to be 88 years old and have at least 40 great-grandchildren. She’s sure she can do it.

Except…she couldn’t take the choice away from her son. Could she?

She felt her husband’s hand on hers, and she looked up. His lips quirked up at the corners, out of place on his rather serious face. “I will support you, no matter what you choose to do.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she tried to say nonchalantly through a contraction. “And stop smiling, love, it’s creepy.”

It earned her a grin, and she learned how to breathe again.

Several hours later, her son – her first child – was born. He was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. She didn’t want to watch as the doctor pricked him, but forced herself to do it. She needed to know, too.

The results were inconclusive – the test couldn’t show if the boy was Bloodsmith or not. Sage didn’t know what to feel.

But she knew what to do.

-0-

Harbinger Keye was 5 years old when he picked up an old piece of Blood Ore that his father had kept as a souvenir from his old job in the city, from before he became a blacksmith in the country. It shone bright and hardened in his little palm.

His mother had just come back from getting the hammers fixed, and he beamed proudly at this newfound talent. Unsmiling, she ruffled his stringy hair, and took the metal from him. It dulled in her hand. “You know that you shouldn’t touch Papa’s stuff.”

He never saw Papa’s blood ore again.