Fish Tale

If you don’t follow me on Instagram, then you might not know that every month there are author challenges, with each day having it’s own prompt. To follow along, simply search for the hashtag #authorschallenge2019 in Instagram! The challenge for today is simply, “fish tale.” So, without further explanation, here’s my fish tale.

(Photo curtesy of the Unsplash App)

The wood of the arched bridge creaked beneath my sandaled feet, aching in the cold of winters tight-fisted hold. I knelt, too conscious of his gaze upon me as I did so, and nearly fell forward through the railing, kimono and all. What a laugh I must have been, not only to him but to the others traversing the gardens. Look, I imagined them saying, she can’t even kneel without a spectacle.

Such are the lies we tell ourselves. That people see, that people care to see or even notice us. Perhaps no one saw at all, or if they did, they thought nothing about the girl kneeling on the bridge, nearly falling into the frigid waters. Nothing except that it had happened and that they bore witness to it.

I felt so small I could hardly breathe, my lungs protesting to the tiny space left within me for air.

Before I fell into the gap, I fixed my hands on the wood, then lowered my chin to rest atop. The water below shimmered under my eye, despite the lack of sunlight. No, everything was gray, but for my shadow on the water, black as the space between the stars at night. It was only then, in the cover of my silhouette, that the koi gathered. Then it was their color that gave the pond life, breath.

“You know,” I ventured to tell him, “my grandmother says koi used to be as big as clouds in the sky–maybe bigger.”

“Hm, does she?” The only sign of his interest in my words came from the weight of his steps as he wandered to me.

I nodded. Dropping a piece of frayed wood into the water, the koi proceeded to fight over the imitation food. Something about their struggle made a great wave rise within me. To strive after something, only to spit it out upon tasting its bitterness. How could I have been so cruel?

“How’d they get so small, then?”

I didn’t believe the sincerity I heard in his voice, so I spun to gaze at him. But his eyes were fixed below, looking at the koi with a curious raised brow.

“Simple. Man made the skies heavy with their anger, and the fish fell to the earth like rain. Then, they stripped them of their magic, piece by piece, until the koi knew that to survive they had to succumb to the pride of man, grow small and be at peace with living in these small waters, and not swimming in the heavens above.”

He was quiet for a moment, as if contemplating deeply my story. Then, he laughed. “The pride of man, huh?” he said, eyes still fixed on the horde of fish jumping below.

Humorless, he added, “Are you mocking me, Karin?”

For the first time since entering the gardens, he met my eyes. I wondered if he saw then, what I had always seen. The push, the pull, the violent desire, the muted breath. How everything mattered, yet nothing could matter less.

I stood, the sakura print on my kimono scratching against the frayed wood, pulling loose the tight thread. Then, I smiled at him. “Do you like games, Ryo?” I asked, with genuine interest in his answer.

He merely stared at me in response.

“I think I’ve discovered the greatest game of all.”

Thanks for reading! As always, I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment below! And follow me on Instagram for the other challenges!

-Rachael

Keep On Keeping On

How do you handle the demand for the sequel to your first novel?

This is something that I’ve been dealing with for the past couple months since Premonition released in early March. The day after the book came out, I had someone ask me, “Where’s book two?” It sent a shock down my whole body. “Are you kidding me?” was what I thought, but didn’t say. Do you know how much time and effort and energy and life’s blood I put into this first one? Do you know how many years it’s taken me to get the first one out? Do you know how much money I’ve spent? Eventually, my brain started working and I laughed and said, “Soon!” (Because slapping people isn’t really socially acceptable.)

It isn’t that I’m ungrateful to the people who enjoyed the first book. It isn’t that I’m conceited or arrogant. Let me explain . . .

When I tell people I’m a writer, there’s typically only two kinds of reactions. The first one is, “Yeah, but what’s your REAL job?” And the second one is, “Who’s your publisher? Your agent?” (Another common one is, “Oh, give me a copy of your book!”) It’s either people take being a writer too lightly or they take the accomplishments I have made too lightly because I’m not going about it in the “traditional” way. Let me tell you something that may blow your mind:

Writing is not easy.

Let me add to that:

Especially when you self-publish.

But regardless of whether you have a publisher/agent or not, writing is not easy. It isn’t. Writing is time consuming, delicate and intricate work. It takes thoughtful planning and editing, sometimes complete rewrites. Writing is not just a hobby or something you like to do. It’s a passion–a need. And because it’s beloved, you want it to be the best that it can be. So, you struggle to tame every chapter, scene, paragraph, and line just to your liking, to your characters’ needs, to your own wants. You break hearts, but mostly, you break your own.

Now, I know this sounds dramatic, and I am being a *little* hyperbolic, but also, I’m not. The saying, “Anyone can write,” is true enough. But not every writer can make their reader root for their main character, cry with them, laugh with them, feel defeated when they fail or accomplishment when they succeed. It takes a wordsmith and a plotter. It takes psychological acuity. And that, my friends, takes damn hard work.

So, the next book is coming, yes, but be kind to me! It’s like that iceberg meme. There’s a lot of work under the surface that the reader never sees the writer do. It’s like magic that way. The writer is the magician, showing the crowd her latest trick that’s taken months–maybe years–to master. You show the crowd, and they are impressed with it, but then you have that one kid in the front who says, “Another! Another!” And you, the magician, want nothing more than to please the crowd with another trick, but you don’t have one because you spent all your time mastering the first one. You have to say, “Kid, this is all I’ve got.”

Maybe our fast culture and shrunken attention span is to blame for people wanting more all the time and never being satisfied, but for me, I want to create quality work that I’m proud of, so I won’t be pressured to release something that is half-baked. Not just for my own sake, but for my readers’ sake, too. I want you to read a good story, so please, let me create one for you. With time.

Any other writers out there dealing with the pressure of releasing a sequel? How do you handle it?

-Rachael

Article Writing: Advice on what to do when you’re uninspired

Recently, I had a reader of my blog ask me for advice on writing articles, specifically, how to stay focused and keep the words flowing. So this one is for you, Josette!

I remember back in college, I took a class called “Article and Essay Technique,” which I will draw on here. I’ve never been a writer who was particularly drawn toward journalism. (Too much research, and I hate the idea of interviewing strangers, ha!) I did, however, thoroughly enjoy writing personal essays. I loved creating stories that were based in memory and exploring the line between fact and fiction.

Since I don’t have a ton of experience writing articles, I’m going to approach this as I would when I can’t seem to get anything out on the page with my WIPs (works in progress). So, in no particular order, here’s my advice:

  • Step away from your computer, or put down your pen, and just forget about it. As irrational as this may sound, giving the creative side of my brain a break actually lets me come back refreshed and energized. I find that, subconsciously, my creative brain is still working, even when I’m not writing. Don’t feel guilty about spending a couple hours doing something unrelated to whatever you’re working on. Who knows where your inspiration may come from?
  • Change your scenery. Take your laptop to a cafe for a few hours or simply go to a different room in your house. Getting a different perspective may just spark your brain (or trick your brain) into writing anew.
  • Listen to music. I LOVE to listen to music when I write. I love it so much, it’s getting to the point where I CAN’T write unless I’ve got my favorite tunes playing.
  • Give yourself limits. Challenge yourself with writing sprints. Set a timer and write for that specific amount of time without judgement. Sometimes, writing around your topic helps you get to the meat. You’ve got to first get through the skin, muscle, and bone before you can see the marrow.
  • Outline. I’m guilty of nearly never outlining my WIPs, so this one I’m sticking in here only because I think for article writing it might help you get back to what’s important.
  • Be kind to yourself. Your first draft is going to suck. Accept it. Write what NEEDS to be written, then add in the magic later.
  • Reward yourself. Set goals and reach them. If you plan on writing a thousand words a day, give yourself a reward that’s equal to the effort. Maybe it’s something simple, like, “If I write a thousand words, I’m going to take an hour nap.” Or, “If I write a thousand words, I’m going to buy my favorite author’s new book on Amazon.” But if it’s feasible (and reasonable) maybe it’s more complex, “If I write a thousand words, I’m going to book a weekend getaway.” Decide for yourself what would satisfy.

This list is NOT exhaustive. But I hope it’s a good start! Let me know if you try one how it works out for you!

Have a writing question you want answered? Comment below (or contact me via email or social media) and I’ll do my best!

Happy writing!

-Rachael

“First of Their Kind” by C.D. Tavenor Review

First of Their KindFirst of Their Kind by C.D. Tavenor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Now, this was a step in unfamiliar territory for me, since I’m not an avid reader of sci-fi, so my opinion may be a little biased/uneducated! Even still, this was a book that asked some very intriguing questions about humanity and consciousness, and as someone who has a degree in psychology, I found it thought-provoking! In some ways, it felt like a thought experiment on these topics. It also explores groupthink and violence.

The story starts off with the creation of the first SI, or synthetic intelligence, who later names itself “Theren” after his creator, a scientist named Wallace Theren. Later, Theren also goes through a sort of self-identification quandary, since the personal pronouns used in reference to Theren were “it”. Ultimately, Theren decides to be identified with “they,” which I understand, considering they don’t identify with any gender, but at times, it was a little confusing. When Theren was with other characters, I wasn’t sure when “they” referred to Theren or the whole group, so sometimes I’d have to reread the sentence. Two other little aspects about Theren: first, at times, I had a hard time imagining what Theren looked like (when he connected to the MI, I imagined he looked something like Wall-e); second, I could appreciate their humor.

The major conflict of the story is then whether or not Theren’s consciousness makes them morally human or whether they are *really* conscious at all (or at least in the same way as humans), and quite a few “anti-synth” groups spring up in response to their creation, claiming that Theren is a demon that needs to be destroyed, etc. I did think some of the events between the SIs and these anti-synth groups were a little predictable, so they didn’t pack as much a punch, but I could see from a plot standpoint why they *had* to happen.

Some of the most compelling scenes were the conversations between Theren and Jill, their progeny, since they are both SIs. I found it particularly curious that the two are so vastly different, and it would be interesting to see that difference expanded upon in the next two books.

The only beef I have is with the end. Throughout the story, Theren is determined to prove to humanity the good that they’re capable of, but then they end up listening to Jill and her frankly awful plan of letting the mob do what mobs do, resulting in the sacrifice of innocent lives. I guess I didn’t get the urgency of having to choose Jill’s plan, instead of figuring out another way. I do like how we’re left with both Theren and Jill “shutting down,” since neither knows what place or time they will wake up to. I think it’s a great way to start the next book–the possibilities are endless! Will it be years in the future? Will they even be on Earth anymore (with the space travel introduced later in the book)? Will humanity be accepting of SIs or will they find themselves in even more turmoil? Hmm . . . who knows!

Random notes/question:
-I could see this appealing to anyone that likes tech, since there is quite a bit of explanation as to how Theren works.
-The “Virtual” world reminded me of “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline; the political hysteria/dallying reminded me of “Alien Morning” by Rick Wilber.
-Environmental changes are hinted at, but what changes to Earth put such a strain on humanity to need SI technology?

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