Everything Behind You

Everything Behind You

You drive your truck, a rusty, blue F-150 that looks about fifty years old, through a desert night. It is alien, void of human life. You think that the desert abhors life. That is why only creatures too stubborn to care what nature thinks of them can dwell in the arid habitat.

Maybe the desert cares about us. Maybe it knows weak, fleshy humans cannot survive in its moistless environment.

Or perhaps the desert does not care about us, you think, just as its inhabitants care about nothing, and that thought scares you.

But regardless of what the desert you are driving through thinks of you and your old, blue truck, you continue driving. Scrubby bushes and plants with an extraterrestrial appearance pass through the zone of yellow presented by your one working headlight.

Part of you is bothered that only one headlight works. Your field of vision is now uneven, and should something happen to your right, you would be unaware of it. But part of you is too tired to care. You know you cannot replace it yourself at this moment, as you did not think to pack a spare headlight, and dwelling on the single headlight only bothers you more.

To distract yourself from the lopsided illumination, you look up. Past your bug-speckled and grime-streaked windshield, you can see the vast, vacant sky hovering above this desert that is alien, void of human life.

And while the sky is vast and vacant, it appears to be filled with a dusting of stars. But you know that it is only the vast, occupied universe behind it that holds these stars. The sky is quite empty, save, perhaps, for a feeling of… something.

You do not have a name for this feeling. You are too tired to search for one. So you drop your eyes from the vast, vacant sky and its backdrop of a vast, occupied universe to look once again at the single beam from your single headlight.

But you do not have to bear the peculiar, uneven illumination much longer. The pale asphalt before you lightens further as you approach the dim streetlamps of a singular desert town.

A faded sign proclaims the fun travel destination that is Yucca Springs, although the spray paint disfiguring a happily painted family causes you to suspect the message is no longer as truthful as it could have once been. Secretly, you wonder if Yucca Springs had ever been a fun travel destination.

You do not drive the truck past the sign. Instead, you stop and park the car, stepping on the emergency brake because you are close to a ditch. You do not know if the emergency brake could actually prevent falling into a ditch, but you see no reason why it would cause it either.

All around you is darkness. Not the blackness of an unlit desert, and especially not the pale dim of a wasteland lit only by a moon. But true darkness, the sort that hides in shafts of yellow light and creeps in the minuscule shadows of scrubby plants, and the darkness that you hear because it muffles and sharpens all the wrong noises.

There is nothing in front of you. But there is everything behind you. Every once in a while, you turn to see what is there. But suddenly, the behind-you is now the in-front-of-you, and everything has moved to the new behind you. The darkness makes the shuffle of your shoes on gritty sand piercingly loud, but the sounds of everything behind you are still maddeningly muffled.

Then, you hear a new sharp sound. It is not the sound of tires rolling over asphalt, or even through the gritty sand. It is footsteps–just footsteps–crunching through the scrubby plants towards you.

You turn to face to noise, and instead you face a face.

“Welcome,” says the face.

You do not say anything back, because you do not need to welcome them, nor do you feel very thankful for their welcome.

The face has a body between it and the source of the footsteps, and that body has hands. The hands hold out a photograph. Your hands take it.

The photograph is old. Or perhaps, it is new, and has simply been abused. It is faded in a bright sort of way that looks very dim in the darkness. But where the photograph fails to send an image to your mind, your mind imposes an image on the photograph, and to your eyes it looks just as you remember.

It is a photograph of you, in a place you once lived, with a person you once loved, with an expression you once wore often. You try to replicate the expression, but it has been too long, and you only frown.

“It’s the same one,” says the face with a body between it and the source of the footsteps.

You nod, because it wasn’t a question and therefor didn’t need an answer.

“How long have you been looking for it?”

You shrug, because you do not remember.

The face with a body between it and the source of the footsteps turns and walks away, the footsteps now sounding muffled.

Suddenly, the darkness changes the way it sounds. Even your foosteps do not sound sharp. But the sounds that once were muffled are piercing and loud. They are the sounds of things behind you that you will never see, like memories and things that hunt you.

Something feels like it is growing between your nails and the nailbeds. It makes you cringe to consider, but you cannot shake the feeling any more than you can shake the Everything behind you.

So you clutch the photograph and walk back to your truck, footsteps muffled, and step inside. You release the emergency brake and put it into drive. Then you drive through Yucca Springs. Between the street lamps, you can see that only one headlight still works.

You drive out of Yucca Springs. There is no goodbye sign. You wonder if the town could not afford a second sign. But you decide you do not care, even though you do, because you care even more about the Everything that is behind you.

You go into the desert. The desert abhors life. That is why only creatures to stubborn too care what nature thinks of them can dwell in the arid habitat.

Maybe the desert cares about you. Maybe the desert does not care about you. Maybe it wants to protect you, and maybe it does not think of you at all.

You wonder which is more alive. You, or the Everything behind you. Which one will the desert kill first?

 

Challenger Deep

My family and I recently took a little trip to L.A. While the intent of the visit was Universal Studios (which was very cool), we also stopped at some watch shops, quilt shops… and book shops.

They were independently owned book stores that my mom researched before going, like Book Soup or The Last Bookstore. At Book Soup, I picked up a book called Challenger Deep. And I believe it could very well be one of my favorite stand-alone books I’ve ever read.

 

ChallengerDeep-final-cover-hi-rez.jpg

 

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Basic Summary- Caden Bosch is on a ship that’s headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship’s artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

 

My Thoughts- That’s the summary that the book came with, and I really liked it. A summary that gives a little more away is that Caden has a mess of mental illnesses, most prominently schizophrenia.  Neal Shusterman did a masterful job of showing a thought process eerily similar to my own in a way that is both poetic, but also deeply connects you to the character. Neal managed to make me feel like Caden, which is a connection that the neurodivergent community desperately needs.

What Can Authors Learn From This Book?

Tackle the Big Stuff

I’m not going to lie to you. Challenger Deep goes deep. Mental illness is not a joke, and while this book has its humorous lines, it knows that. They cover topics as simple as wanting your family to understand you, to the issue of suicide. This is a difficult book to read from that standpoint.

But it proves an important point. These are the things that people need to be reading. Whether it’s to know that they are understood by the world, or to show someone how to understand another person, these are topics that have been ignored by far too long for the majority of the world.

Schizophrenia is a joke, depression is misunderstood, bipolar is taboo. This book tears that all down and proves that it doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be that way. Those are the kinds of strong, world-changing points that I wish every piece of writing to make.

I Understand Nothing

 

On a less deep note, this book makes zero sense about 90% of the time. As a reader, you have to just sort of accept the fact that it will make sense eventually. And when it does, it’s both mind-blowing and poignant. But my complete lack of understanding–while overdone for most books–urged me to keep reading.

Mystery, mystery, mystery. It’s not an action scene that makes someone keep reading; it’s the wondering if the character will survive it. It isn’t the romance that keeps a person involved in the story; it’s the burning desire to know if it works out in the end. Mystery is one of your most valuable tools. Learn how to wield it wisely.

 

Overall

 

This book was amazing. It could be a struggle for some readers, either from the dark tones or the sometimes confusing plot. (Or the slightly slow beginning, I’ll admit.) But it’s a thrilling ride that opened my eyes in many ways, and proves that no one is beyond being understood, and everyone is capable of being saved from drowning.

The Images of Writing – Part II

This time I come not just with maps, but with character concepts too! (I have maps too, of course, but if you’ve been keeping up with my Tumblr you’ll see that they’re a little different.)

Tale

I’m so happy with how the ref for Belle went. I know that I want Terian to have a Hungarian/Romani culture (which means some name changes for Belle and the kingdom) so I wanted to reflect that in her clothing. It’s brightly colored with designs that are reminiscent of calico. (Note to self- Look up the history of calico.)

tumblr_okd591hnad1w46dplo1_540

And here is a promised map! In case you were thinking, “Geeze. Her mapmaking skills are way better than in that last image post,” put yourself at ease. I didn’t art this myself. I used an amazing tool called Inkarnate. It’s abilities are rather stunning, although there are a few suggestions that I made.

map-1

Beast

These two are the lovely Tilverune and Kryiol. (As you can tell, I only have a female base right now. Male characters are put on hold.)

Tilverune has a lot of Inuit influence, both in her culture and fashion. Which is really, really fun.

tumblr_inline_ok9kxegjof1uexck8_540

Kryiol, on the other hand, is a mutt. A little Romani, a little Grecian, a little Super-Futuristic. Inspiration for Kryiol came almost entirely from my friend TRG.

 

tumblr_inline_ok9kywqodf1uexck8_540

And finally, a map for KISA! This one is a lot more basic, as I was getting frustrated with how large the mountains and trees were. (You can only scale it down so far, which is one of my software suggestions.) So I stuck to icons and rivers, although I now wish that I had kept the land a parchment color rather than showing the ice/greenery/desert. But oh well.

tumblr_okb70gjk2r1w46dplo1_540

(Please take time to notice the beautiful little Skelside and dragon off to the right, folks.)

So there’s my images of art update! I’m currently working on concept art for Ella of Tale (Polynesian/Samoan influence), and will get to work on Snow’s armor as soon as I’ve gone over Slavic fashion with TRG! You can expect a research post pretty soon about what I’ve been finding out, because it’s actually pretty cool.

Speaking of expecting things, this is as good a time as any to relay my Devious Plan™. I’ll be posting Book Blab reviews on Fridays/Saturdays, and anything else comes out on Tuesdays/Wednesdays. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t give myself leeway like that, but we’ll see how the scheduling works itself out.

 

If you enjoy my writing, please hit the follow button or fill in your email for updates. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, or you can email me at j.a.apricity@gmail.com. Thank you for reading! 

 

 

 

My Forever Library

My Forever Library

My dad joined the military when I was six years old, and we’ve been moving from base to base ever since. This might horrify a lot of people, but staying in one place for the rest of my life is equally horrifying to me. I can’t imagine being stuck in a single town, in a single state, and in a single country for the rest of your life.

But there are plenty of people who disagree. At one base, we met a family who talked about a “forever home.” It was the house that they were building that they would live in after he retired from the military.

Naturally, I wrote it off as a “Never Home” in my case. If I can’t move again in three years, no thank you. But my mother, as she always does, found a practical application for my life. A Forever Library.

I loved the idea and started right away.

It’s a meager thing now. A couple books sitting along the top of my desk.

imgp4219

And each one has a story behind the book itself or how I got it.

The Giver helped me learn to see things from a different point of view. From something as simple as the miracle of color or as complex as the possibility of authority figures being wrong.

Percy Jackson and The Lighting Thief was the first book I read that really made me go, “Oh my goodness books and reading are the bestest to ever best.” I used to be a little upset that I didn’t have the series with the lovely covers featuring Percy’s New York skyline, but now I’m glad to have the covers that I grew up with.

That tattered Pilgrim’s Progress was a gift from one of my oldest friends and mentors, Chaplain Gilbert. He gave it to my dad, and my dad gave it to me in turn. He used to read it out loud to us at night.

The Jane Austen compilation was picked up by my parents at–of all places–a Costco. I’d been a fan of Pride and Prejudice, but I really wanted to read Sense and Sensibility. I loved Emma as well, although I still need to read Northinger Abbey. It awaits me in the Forever Library.

Then I have a Reader’s Digest with The Scarlet Pimpernel (one of my favorite classics), Tom Sawyer (one I believe I’m required to like as a Southern Person™), The Good Earth (as suggested by my mother) and Robin Hood (who doesn’t love Robin Hood?)

Next is the obligatory Tolkien tribute. A beautifull illustrated Atlas, an equally beautifull illustrated The Hobbit, and a lovely faux-leather bound LOTR.

Last are two little known books. One is The Secret of Ms. Snickle’s Class, and the other is Zoo School. While considerably younger than my other books, these two helped cement my love of reading. And I so, so wanted to attend a zoo school myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a messy reader. I turn down corners, I read while eating, I turn around the covers of paperbacks to hold more easily when I’m in public. I can hear some of you screaming in agony right now, and I apologize for my horrible treatment of books.

But I do love a nice set of books. And that’s what my Forever Library is for: the immortalization of some of my favorite books.

So what books would you like to have in your Forever Library? Do you already have one? Let me know in the comments, or email me at j.a.apricity@gmail.com!

Book Blab – Ink & Bone

Book Blab – Ink & Bone

I’ve had this book on my wishlist for quite some time. What book lover wouldn’t adore it? The title is riveting, and the cover alone could give me shivers of ecstasy.

 

20643052

 

Ink & Bone by Rachel Caine

 

Basic Summary- The Great Library (*more happy shivers*) controls everything in this world. It is forbidden to own books. In fact, everything is centered around books, which are gathered up and taken care of by Scholars. Jess, the loveable MC, comes from a family of book smugglers. They sell books to anyone with enough money, from Inklickers (who eat books to prove they own them) to Burners (who burn books to prove the Great Library is evil and that human lives matter more than books.) Jess is chosen to become a worker of the Great Library, but learns that there is much more to his world–and his heart–than smuggling books.

 

My Thoughts- That summary, of course, does nothing to really capture this book. It’s a stunning work, and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel. (Paper & Fire, another fantastic title.) Caine writes quite unlike anyone else I’ve read before, which made reading Ink & Bone an experience not just for the riveting characters, world-building, and story arcs, but for the writing itself.

 

What Can Authors Learn From This Book?

 

Don’t Stress So Much About Your MC… But Do Stress About the Minors 

Jess is nearly perfect MC. Not because the person himself is perfect. He has plenty of faults, all of which work perfectly in the story. But he doesn’t have a show-stealing personality or center-of-the-attention-all-the-time actions.

Minor characters had a major role in Ink & Bone. Each of them was distinct and unique, and had as much say in how the plot progressed as Jess himself. That’s not to say that Jess was replaceable. He was very much the main character, and not just a narrator. (I’m looking at you, Nick of The Great Gatsby.)

But likewise, the minor characters weren’t replaceable. This is an aspect of writing that is much glossed over. I’m so happy with Rachel Caine’s portrayal of all her characters.

 

Pacing? What Pacing? 

Caine’s pacing was unlike anything I’ve seen before. At first, it irritated me about. She flew by what felt like weeks of important world building as Jess and the other Postulants studied. Then I realized that it was irrelevant to her true plot, which then blew me away.

Caine spat in the face of most pacing I’ve seen, and did so pretty eloquently. I stand in awe. I’m still struggling to see how I can apply this to my own writing (and horrible pacing) but I believe that the ultimate lesson is play around. Don’t stick to a strict formula. You might find something amazing.

 

Overall

This is bloody fantastic. I loved every word, and tried to savor it as long as I could. (A struggle for a speed-reader. And a reader who has the tendency to fly by multiple pages without comprehending a word when the plot thickens.) I absolutely loved Ink & Bone and look forward to the sequel.

 

Have a favorite book you’ve received this Christmas? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

 

 

A Few Thoughts on Typewriters

A Few Thoughts on Typewriters

Most authors adore typewriters.

Even if it’s just a cool aesthetic, typewriters are the trademark of our work. They’re hipster, they’re trendy, they scream “I’m cool, I swear!”

They’re also a pain in my cuticles.

I was blessed with a typewriter of my very own a year ago. It’s a 1960 portable mint-green Swiss Hermes Rocket. It’s small and doesn’t weigh a ton, and is banged up enough that not all of it closes up properly, which I didn’t mind in the least. Which is good, since closing it all up would just mean yanking it all apart again in order to untangle my ribbon.

Which isn’t the last of my woes.

Sometimes, when I start a new line, it will ride up and continue typing while caught halfway through the old line and the new. It has a tendency to crumple one sheet of paper after the other, and even the ones that come out unspoilt are usually crooked. My margins rarely work, and my fingers usually slip between the keys and are torn to shreds when I instinctively yank the precious tools-of-my-trade back up to safety.

Oh how I unconditionally love my little mint-green monster.

For all the drawbacks as compared to a keyboard or pencil and paper, I’ve completely become a typewriter snob. I can’t think properly on other machines now. Queen has been entirely written on my Hermes Rocket, and the majority of Beast before it. And both Curse and The Highwayman will follow suit.

Writing’s a fickle thing. Inspiration is hard to come by, so most successful authors live by the rule “Butt in chair.” But there’s no denying that it’s easier when one is inspired. So on with the treacherous ribbons, traiterous mechanics, and carnivorous keys. There’s a reason most authors adore typewriters.

Christmas Books

I write, therefore I read. 

I think this should be posted somewhere. Granted, it isn’t always true, but I struggle to think of a situation in which a writer is excused from all forms of reading ever.

Regardless, I adore reading. So it comes as no surprise that books made up the majority of my “Christmas Haul” this year.

 

How To Train Your Dragon (Book 12)

I read the first one just after watching the movie for the first time, but I often forget that I saw the movie first. I adore the book world even more, and the scope of the story is so much more endearing and epic.

And plus, tiny dragons.

And really, really huge dragons.

 

100 Deadly Skills

Of a SEAL Operative, no less.

 

Krav Maga

I happen to like the idea of being able to defend myself.

 

Igraine the Brave (In German)

I’m by no means fluent, but I thought perhaps a kid’s book would help. I have a German picture book, and a German version of Lord of the Rings. One I’d mastered and one… well, reading it in English can be a challenge.

 

Space Case

I loved Spy School and the subsequent novels, and space is so darn cool. I had to give this a try.

 

Ink and Bone

I have no idea what this book is about, but that title is irresistible.

 

Wheel of Time (Book 1)

I feel like such a bad book person for taking so long to read Wheel of Time. I had it on my Amazon wish list for forever, but no one seemed interested in buying it for me, and I could never find book one anywhere. I finally stumbled across it at a thrift store. So it technically wasn’t a Christmas gift, but I’ll throw it in just to celebrate finally getting it.

 

Now to make sure I’m not a bad book person for neglecting my own! I’ve been picking up steam with writing again, although I have yet to touch Queen. For some reason, it now feels daunting. (Probably because I left off right before the very important bit of the final building stages of the climax.) But it will be tackled tonight! Wish me luck, and let’s put on the kettle.

-J.A.