Thursday, June 30, 2011

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day.  Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel.  None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch.  And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones.  And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.
-Elizabeth Bishop

If there's one thing I know how to do, it's leave.
I'm not saying I do it well; there are always strings left untied and stories left untold.  Someone is always missed in the goodbyes, because no matter what, there's never enough time.  It's not gotten easier, even though I've had practice.  My childhood was a process of moving between parents, leading up to my eventual self-dismissal to (artsy) boarding school eight hours away.  I left there, too, when I graduated and moved to college.  Not once, but four times (yes, four colleges in five years).  I haven't spent more than a single year in one place since sophomore year of high school, eight years ago.  Two continents, multiple sets of friends, and multiple people I thought I couldn't live without.  Two months from now, I do it again.

So tonight, briefly, I want to talk about change.  We've all gone through it.  We've all lost friends or continents, have all practiced the "One Art," as Elizabeth Bishop so wisely states.  But like all arts, it's one that requires practice, dedication.  We must be willing to lose the parts of our self that don't work.  We must strive to find "beauty in the breakdown" (thank you Imogen Heap).  Because it seems, to me, that things are their most vibrant when we're about to lose them.  The sun sets, and moments before it fades, everything is blazing with life and glory.  We are illuminated by the beauty of something's passing.  Change let's us embrace the beauty for what it is; otherwise, we just get bored.

That's not say changing or losing or leaving is fun.  It's not easy.  Hell, it's terrifying.
So what do we do about it?

We can, of course, hold on to everything.  We can grip the grass beneath our feet and swear we'll never move.  And we won't.  We'll stay where we are.  We won't change even as the seasons pull and the world spins and the stars scream promises above our heads.  We'll be the same person we were when we first opened our eyes.
We'll have learned nothing.

Or, we can embrace the descent, become the artists of our own loss.  We can jump into the void, willingly, arms spread wide.  Who knows? we might fall flat on our face.
Or--even more terrifying--we might just find the wings we forgot we had all along.  Letting go could be taking hold of everything.

So, my questions:
What are the things in your life you want to change?  What are the changes you'll make?
What do you fear will never change?
What will you do when it does?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Teaser : Martyr, opening pages

I know, I know, this is horribly out of character.
But for the past 24 hours, I've taken a break.

I mean, I've still gone to work and answered phones and helped paint a wall.  But I took a break from literary work.  No writing!  No thinking about agents!  I watched a movie with Ryan Reynolds ('nuff said)!
Because of that, I feel like a mild failure.  (the not-writing, not Ryan)  SO!  My answer to the dilemma is simple: post something I've done and see if you guys think I'm going in the right direction.  Cuz I redid the first few pages and need input.  In fact, I need input on the whole damn thing.

No joke, I'm thinking of giving out a few copies for critiques.  If you're interested...

Anyway, I'm going to go write a few snippets of book two.  And watch Black Butler.
Yes, this is how I spend my Friday nights.
Don't judge.

Teaser after the break:

And with our greed, a great sin was born unto this world
and like Eve to the apple
that sin shall consume us.”
    - Caius 8:22
    2 P.R. (Post Resurrection)


Humans are losing.
Those aren't exactly the words anyone wants to hear, and thinking them doesn't feel any better. In some ways, saying we're on the brink of destruction is a good thing; it means we aren't gone yet, we're still fighting back. The demons we created seven years ago haven't swallowed us whole. But they're trying. And they're winning. And we Hunters the only ones holding them back. Days like this, and it's hard to understand why we're even trying.
The lakeside town swept out below my dangling feet, a twisted mass of empty streets and shadowed buildings. Everything was grey, from the roiling sky above to the rain-slicked sidewalks; even the wind was tinted with the metallic mist curling off the lake. It was stupid, sitting on the edge of the high-rise apartment, but the risk felt nice. At some point in the next twenty-four hours, my chances of dying were going to skyrocket. This, at least, was a risk I could control.
I leaned over, felt my heart leap into my chest as vertigo snaked its way up my throat. I could jump. The words drifted through my thoughts like fog, obscuring everything just for a second. I could imagine it, could almost feel it: the momentary weightlessness at the height of my leap, the sudden connection with gravity. I could see the beauty of my blood diffusing into the puddles, slowly seeping out into the surf...
I shook my head and leaned back. My pulse calmed down just a little bit. I was supposed to be on the lookout. Suicide wasn't an option right now, even if it was much less messy than the other ways I'd most likely die. Guys like me didn't really have a life-expectancy.
Closing my eyes, I visualized the Spheres just like I'd been taught ages ago. They pulsed along my spine, five points of whirling energy we used to call Chakras, before we learned how to tap them. My first instinct was to reach for Water—the first Sphere I'd been Attuned to—but that was dangerous. Water was the Sphere of healing, but also of emotions, of regret. And that's a loaded gun when you're sitting on the edge in more ways than one.
I reached deeper, past Water to the Sphere of Earth. It curled in the pit of my pelvis, green and brown and growing. The moment I reached for it, it reached back, twining and blossoming through my body. It pulled me down, down through the steel girders and concrete and asbestos of this twelve-story complex, down into the feral soil far below, grounding me like a root. In that instant, I could feel everything within a mile of the building, was connected to the dust on the decaying sofas below and the rust on the cars piled up just off the interstate. I could feel it all, was a part of it all. My skin hummed with the melody of Earth. It felt like peace.
But there was another, more pressing reason to be open to Earth. Like I said, I was on the lookout. Earth would let me feel the footsteps of the vampyre army lurking somewhere out there. In theory, at least. Nothing was moving. Nothing save the rest of my troop a few blocks away.
If I wanted to, I could do more than just sense things. I could push through Earth, use it to manipulate the very fabric of the world. Years ago, about a year before the vamps were created, we learned how to Attune ourselves to the Spheres. In doing so, we learned how to wield magic. In doing so, we damned ourselves to this: a near-empty world ravaged by vampyres and human stupidity.
Vampyres were magic's bastard offspring. The Spheres were like batteries in the body, fueling our basic needs, giving us life. When you used them to manipulate the outside world—to do magic—it used up the Sphere. And when it drained completely, it imploded. Then it would stop being a battery and would become more like a leech, sucking the body dry of that Sphere's element and leaving an insatiable hunger in its place. It wasn't like death. With the other Spheres working overtime, your body adapted, grew strong in new ways. A half-life of hunger and pain, each Sphere creating a completely unique type of vamp. Each had its own strengths, its own cravings. Each was mad with torment. No one would willingly do that to themselves, save for the cult that rose up the same time as the vamps: Necromancers. They were magic-users, the masterminds. They herded vamps around like private armies. But even the Necromancers were nothing compared to the Ancients...
“Lost in thought, Tenn?”
I yelped and jerked around. The movement was too fast. I slipped off the oily ledge, felt that piercing shock of adrenaline as my connection to Earth shattered and gravity kicked in. The streets below opened like a maw.
I barely had a moment to re-imagine falling to my death before Jarrett's hand latched onto my arm, pulling me off the ledge and onto the concrete roof in one swift motion. Pain shot through me. Welcome pain: the scrape of bared skin on concrete. Much better than the potential crash of a hundred-foot drop.
“Careful,” he said.
He hovered above me, the Sphere of Air glowing blue in his throat. It wasn't the first time he'd snuck up on me like that. Fuck Air mages and their ability to fly.
“It would have been your fault,” I said. I looked down at my forearms, to where my black coat had pulled back to expose now-bloodied skin. “You know I don't like it when you do that.”
I opened to Earth and forced my skin to stitch itself back together, ignoring the pain of a thousand burning needles that accompanied the act. Healing hurt, no matter what anyone said to the contrary. That done, I pushed down my sleeves, hiding the black sun tattoo twining around my right forearm.
He just chuckled. He wore the same clothes as all of us, the black jeans and overcoat of a Hunter. The hilt of his sword peeked up over his left shoulder, and another dagger was belted at his waist. His blond hair was matted down from the rain, barely hiding the scars that crossed his face like pale lines on a vellum map. He was grinning, and that made his blue eyes shine. He really was proud of himself for nearly killing me. No, he's just happy cuz it means he won this round. Small gusts of wind whipped around him, making his coat flutter out like wings. Then the Sphere in his throat winked out and he landed lightly on the roof.
“Sorry if I scared you,” he said. He took a few steps forward and helped me to my feet. “But you have to be ready at all times.”
I sighed and looked off to the right, staring blankly at the rooftops.
“Don't do that,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
“Make that face. That I'm pissed at you face. You know I didn't mean it.”
Then, before I could say anything, he took a half-step closer and wrapped his arms around me. I tensed, wanted to push him away. But habit got the better of me; I squeezed him tight and buried my face in his neck, breathing his scent like cologne.
“Whatever,” I mumbled.
He kissed my neck. “Don't be mad at me.”
“I'm not,” I replied. I couldn't be if I tried.
“Good,” he said. He leaned back slightly, forcing me to look into his eyes—just for a moment—before he leaned in and kissed my lips.
I chuckled. Not exactly romantic.
“I'm on the lookout,” I said against his lips.
“And I'm your commander,” he mumbled. “Obey.”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Silver Linings

Friday, I received a rejection letter from one of the agents reading my full.  It highlighted everything that was wrong in the manuscript and thanked me for sending it along.
In the same email-checking-session, I received an offer of placement for the MLitt in Creative Writing at Glasgow University.  (IE Scotland)

I was, admittedly, not prepared for the rush of emotions.  What to feel first?  Scotland is a place near and dear to my heart.  I think everyone has that idealized image of home.  Scotland is mine.  And after spending nine assorted months there studying and working in the past, the notice that I could, finally, return home was perhaps more than my system could handle.  Because it also means leaving again.  This time, for a hell of a lot longer than before.
And the rejection letter?  Well, it was an agent I had high hopes for, and I definitely fell a few rungs in confidence.

Enter my two personalities.

Part of me wanted to break down.  It wants to say, "see--you'll never be an author.  Agents don't want you. You need to just stay in school and keep busying yourself with other projects so you'll stop trying to publish." That part is quiet, disgustingly friendly and deceiving.  It sounds so rational.  After all, I keep getting rejections.  It's time to give up, right?  How does one deal with thinking, "I'm good at this, but I'm not succeeding, and yet there's a bunch of people who write crap and make it to the top" ?

Thankfully, there's always another part.
This part adheres to the belief that when you're walking the road you need to walk, life doesn't get easier.  Life gets really hard.  Life throws curveballs and makes you run twenty laps on your hands.  Life tests you, because you're getting close, and Life wants to make sure you're worth getting what you asked for.

The part of me that believes that--believes it because the alternative is so, well, depressing--has taken over.  It's the part of me that takes the rejections and extracts what various agents felt was wrong with the manuscript, prints the whole damn thing out and stands there with a few purple pens (red is so angry.  PURPLE SOOTHES) waiting to tear through it.  That part already kept me up with ideas of how to change the plot in big ways and up the ante and prove he's a genius.
It also says that Glasgow is precisely what I need, precisely what I asked for.  And that's the scary part--because I worked hard enough to get this.
What will happen when I've worked hard enough to get published?

Which leads me to my question:
How do you deal with disappointment?  How do you deal with joy?
What are you working toward, and what will you do once you get it?
Because, let's face it, you're going to get it.  Someday.

And, because I promised a long time ago, this is one of the bajillion things I've done

and this is me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Joys of Waiting

or, What I've Been Doing Lately.

With Cassandra away on tour, Holly and I have been manning the office.  We've painted a quasi-magnetic chalkboard, rearranged the furniture, and plowed through stacks of fanmail in the constant battle to "get ahead."   Of course, this involved many discussions about the business and the mess I'm getting myself into life I want to live.

Because, no matter what I've done this past week, the majority of my time has been spent waiting.
Oh, that's not to say I haven't been busy.  I've been away to visit friends' graduations, have spent hours designing a logo for my circus company, and somehow managed to get booked for a weekend photoshoot in Detroit.  I've also sent out nearly two-dozen queries, received five manuscript requests, started the next book in my series, and decided to apply to grad school.  I like keeping my plate full.  My acupuncturist likes it as well.

Even with a life that doesn't seem to stop running on all cylinders (no joke, my favorite quote is from a boss: "Vacation is like work, but boring"), I still feel like I'm standing still.  And this, apparently, is the joy of being a writer.

Writers wait.

We wait to hear back from our critique group or friends brave enough to read our manuscripts.
We wait for responses to queries.  And, if we hear back positively, we double or triple our waiting time to hear back on the manuscript.  (Let's not forget: the literary world doesn't keep business hours.  Responses can--and have--come in at 4am on Tuesday or 8pm Sunday night)

And during this, we try not to second-guess ourselves.  It's perfectly fine that the agent who requested your book ASAP hasn't responded in three weeks.  In fact, it can actually be a good thing, because there's a chance it means they're taking their time to read it all the way through.  We don't need to gut the entire manuscript and apologize to every agent we spoke to because we suddenly realized we should just stop pretending and find another career.  Our writing isn't crap, even though waiting it out feels like it's spelling the opposite.

According to Holly, the waiting is the only constant in a writer's--even a successful, published author's--life.

That said, you can bet I'll overjoyed when this particular wait is over.