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?

 

Figgy Idol

Figgy Idol

I’ve moved on to Round Two of Figgy Idol! And not only that, but I made Top Writer of Round One with my story A Real Fighter.

But Round Two is giving me serious difficulties.

When summed up, the prompt told us to create a plot driven story in which there is a death neither at the beginning or the end that will affect the reader with the strength of the writing. The issue is that we only have 6000 words total, which means at the most 4k words with which to attach the readers firmly to the characters we kill off and leave to deal with the aftermath. And then we have to sew up the plot completely afterwards!

If that wasn’t hard enough, I’ve selected a crime story as my genre. Crime, mystery, detectives… I read very little of this as compared to other genres growing up (I didn’t have the patience) so it’s far from my forte.

Which is exactly what Figgy Idol is supposed to do; it’s there to push you out of your comfort zone and force you to grow. But geeze, I sure can pick ’em.

Anyways, here’s the summary of Haint. Although I’m considering changing it to A Real Witch to match my other stories.

Haint Blue paint is said to keep away evil spirits. But practical Sheriff Lance knows that no amount of Appalachian superstition will keep away the bad guys found in his line of work. When a girl obsessed with the occult goes missing, however, Lance will have to rely on the local “Granny Witch”–a young woman named Nona–to help him with the case.

Where his mind fails him, hers works wonders, and when her herbs can’t save a life, his bullets just may.

As to other writing, I’m extremely close to finishing Queen. That makes me so excited! It’s considerably longer than Beast already, coming in at around 80k. Whereas Beast is a mere little 30k in need of lots of editing. After some discussion with a few writing (and reading!) friends, I’ve decided to not expand as much as I’d planned and leave a little more up to the publishers. I’ll just be adding in the second part for introductions to Snow for Book Two, and a little more setup for some sub-plots of Beast and overarching plots of the trilogy as a whole. Overall, I’m really excited about how this is turning out!

In non-writing news, my family is still awaiting military orders on where to move next. We hope to know by the end of this week! It sure would make planning a lot easier if we knew what side of the world we’d be on.

Those are all the updates for now! Keep your eyes peeled for a Book Blab later on this week!

Blessings,

J.A.

Figgy Idol Round One – A Short Story

Figgy Idol Round One – A Short Story

So on the amazing website of Figment, some users are holding Season 4 of Figgy Idol. Figgy Idol is a writing competition that mirrors American Idol and similar competitions.

I’m lucky enough to join for the fourth season, and things are booming. My audition story–A Real Fighter–served well enough to get me into Round One. Today was the deadline for the first real part of the competition however.

The prompt was simple, but also infuriating. The focus was creativity, and the goal was to create a legendary character, much in the same style as Greek and Roman mythology.

Please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments! Even though I’ve turned in my submission already, I would still love to expand my abilities.

A brief explanation of my strange schedule lately: My family just took a vacation, so I missed two updates. I apologize for that! I also decided to put off my Book Blab until next Monday, where I’ll be reviewing Challenger Deep.

So, with that aside, I’m proud to present A Real Hero!

 

Continue reading “Figgy Idol Round One – A Short Story”

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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(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! 

 

 

 

Query Shark

Query Shark

I’ve always been one to put the cart before the horse. Planning things is just so much fun. And sometimes I forget to actually do the things I planned about.

In any case, this week’s Procrastination Tool is Query Shark. I skimmed literary agent Janet Ried’s blog a year or two back, but this time I did the full dive into the shark tank. I read every single query, all of her comments, and read (and reread) her rules for submission. I don’t know if she plans on taking any in 2017, but I plan on giving it a shot.

Obviously Beast needs a ton of editing, and I wouldn’t dream of sending in a query to The Shark before Beast is as polished up as possible. But here’s what I’m thinking so far:

 

Dear Query Shark, 

Belle never planned to love the monster who took her as payment for saving her kingdom. The Assassin never planned for anyone to love him again in spite of his bloody past and shattered mind. 

And his curse never planned on Belle’s true-love kiss causing her to take it upon herself. 

Belle runs before the curse forces her to massacre a kingdom. The Assassin makes a deal with a former employer: if she helps him track down Belle and the curse, he’ll help her take down an evil queen. 

As they play games with hearts and magic, someone else is playing games with their minds and monsters. 

BEAST is a 72,000 word fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Its sequel, QUEEN, will soon be complete at 80,000 words and continues the story of the curse through a Snow White retelling. Thank you for your time and consideration. 

Sincerely, 

Jane Apricity

 

Paring down the plot and trying to make it as enticing as possible has also helped my writing not just for the query’s sake, but for editing Beast as well. I’m getting back to the basics of the plot, the feel, the tone and underlying themes that are important to me.

In essence, I’m going back to good old fashioned storytelling. Which, in the end, is exactly what I’m trying to do as an author.