Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Books I Read This Month - December 2010

Hello friends! Welcome back! I got a new layout. What do you think?

How were your holiday breaks? If you got one, that is.

Due to some what of an epiphany I had during my nice little week off, I think I will be moving to Monday, Wednesday, Friday, if any of my twenty-five followers care. Starting in the new year, that is. Call it a resolution. I have decided to really get my writing habits down, since I've been slacking over the past few months and blaming it on writer's block, which is a condition that is totally made up. Making time to write everyday is a difficult task, but writing is my favorite thing to do in the whole world (besides reading maybe) and I get really frustrated with my life when I don't do it. So there. I am making a big shift away from wannabe writer to professional writer. But not "professional" per se. Because I probably won't make any money off of it for many years. But you know what I mean.

I suppose this means Story Saturday is discontinued. That's okay; I didn't really think that was a great idea anyway. But if I write something I think is worth sharing, I will definitely post it for you wonderful people to read!

Alright. Enough about that.

My friend Aleeza wrote a great blog post last week about being a Pakistani-American. You should head over and read it if you have the time. It is very insightful.

Now for the real post.

I've decided to start this new thing. On the last post day of every month, I will discuss the books I read that month. Pretty simple and pretty fun. Maybe you guys will learn about some new books and find something up your alley to read. Yup. Here goes.

P.S. I read a lot.

The Forgotten Man - Robert Crais
I had to write a report on this for that detective fiction class I told you all about. It was pretty good, very suspenseful and a quick read. The writing wasn't that great though. There were some spots that seemed like the editor might have missed, but overall, it was an okay book. Enjoyable for a fun read but not for its literary value.

The White Cheyenne - Max Brand
A western, not something you see around very much these days. It was published in the 1930s, and I have to say it was pretty entertaining, though the plot was slightly difficult to follow. That could be because I was ready it kind of quickly and not very thoroughly...

Finnegan's Wake - James Joyce
I really I have no idea what to say about this one.

K-Pax - Gene Brewer
I saw the movie for this first, and I have to say, it followed the book pretty well. The book is probably better though because the acting in the movie was not very good, except for Kevin Spacey, who was absolutely brilliant, as always. This book and the movie are very entertaining and intriguing. It goes in depth in pondering the way the human mind works. I would recommend this book, as well as the movie, to all of you. It's definitely not on my top ten favorites, but it's still really good. I think the author might be a little nuts though. This is a fiction novel, and he used his own name for the name of the main character, a psychiatrist. It's creative, and maybe he based the character off himself, but it seems like kind of an iffy thing to do. It's like a Kurt Vonnegut type of thing, only the author is the main character instead of an observer. Not sure what that says about this guy's mental health... But I guess it's reasonable; lots of writers are kind of crazy.

The Boat - Nam Le
This book is a collection of short stories. The author was born in Vietnam and raised in Australia. The diversity of the stories is amazing. Two took place in Vietnam, one in Australia, another in Tehran, one in the U.S. and the last one took place on a boat in the middle of the ocean. I would recommend this book to you guys. The writing is beautiful!

The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
This book, as you know, is really famous. Hemingway received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954 (I think). I've also read For Whom The Bell Tolls, and I have to say I liked that one better than this book. Still really good, though, obviously.

Watership Down - Richard Adams
Sorry, talking bunnies just aren't my cup of tea.

The Identity Man - Andrew Klavan
This book was a nice change of pace compared to others in the genre of crime thriller fiction. The writing was spectacular, very different from other quickly-written, fast-paced page-turners. I could tell that the author spent a great deal of time sorting through his writing, forming the prose so the syntax reflected the tone and the theme of the novel. The theme was another very interesting thing about this book. "Identity like stain." Places and the characters' races are never stated out right, but through the writing, the reader can just tell who, what, and where. There was a scene where the main character was watching some black and white movies, and the author did not give the titles of the movies, but by the description, I could tell what they were and why the author chose to use them. The whole book was like that. I would definitely recommend this book to you guys. The author, Andrew Klavan, had one of his novels turned into a movie and directed by Clint Eastwood, so you know he's good.

Freedom - Joseph Franzen
There is a lot of hype about this book. It just came out this year. And I can see why everyone liked it. First of all, it was the first book the author published in a long time. And secondly, the writing and the plot and the characters were great. Franzen has a similar writing style as David Foster Wallace, who was awesome. Have any of you guys read this new book? Do you think it deserves all the hype it got?

I'll see you all next Monday on my new schedule!

Peace, Aimee

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What I Learned From NaNoWriMo

This was my first year participating in National Novel Writing Month, and all around I was completely unsuccessful. I think I went a good four days writing 2000 words a day, then got a week behind a decided to quit. I don't have any good excuses really, except I was kind of busy, though I'm sure there are more people who succeeded, yet were much busier than I was. I am going to spend December and January, and probably much of February writing the first draft of my new novel, which has a completed outline and about 4000 words. It's an idea that's been bouncing around in my head for about a year, and it's sort of a science fiction romance type of thing, a genre that is WAY outside my comfort zone.

So there's my little update. Here, I have complied a list of the top ten things I learned from participating (or not) in NaNoWriMo, some of which I already knew.

1. Writing is hard. It takes a lot of discipline to get to your word count in only 30 days, while simultaneously battling your inner editor.

2. Having so many people around participating in the same thing is very encouraging and makes it so much easier, plus it's fun to have competition.

3. When you don't meet your goals, it's very discouraging, yet it makes you more determined to do better next time.

4. After giving up and taking the rest of November off from writing is very cleansing. Stepping back from writing and just doing the regular day to day things gives a new perspective on writing and what it means to you. You should try it sometime.

5. Sometimes outlines bog you down rather than help you. I think that is part of the reason why I quit part way through. I think I'll give the seat-of-your-pants thing a try after I'm finished with the first draft of my next novel.

6. When faced with the decision to quit or keep going on something that gives no rewards whatsoever, it is actually much more difficult than you'd think. Even though you're not losing anything, you still feel disappointed.

7. If you are given a deadline, your writing usually sucks. This is another reason why I quit. It was probably a mistake for me to read through what I had written so far because I suddenly got writer's block and couldn't finish since what I wrote sucked so badly. Just writing the first draft then going back and reading later is the best way to go, unless your plot is ridiculously complex and you can't risk making continuity errors. This is what I did with the last novel I write. I got the whole first draft down without reading it because I knew I would get nervous and stop if I did. Unfortunately, I have not had the change to read it yet, as I took November off from my writing. I'm definitely going to get to editing that, probably when I've finished this new novel.

8. Not every word you write counts. Though each word takes you closer to your goal, not every word is going to stay where it is once you've finished. Odds are that when November is over and you decide to edit this short, sucky novel you've written, you're going to rewrite most of it. This is something I should have realized earlier on. Maybe then I wouldn't have given up. It's not like you're obligated to publish the thing right after you've written it.

9. When put under pressure like this, you learn a lot about yourself and your writing. In the four days that I participated in NaNoWriMo, I thought I could definitely do it, but then the weekend came with lots of distractions, so I got behind. But when I was on a roll, I really had faith in myself. I did learn, though, that when I write very fast like that, my plot sucks. It's something that's fixable though. And the story I chose to write in November was an idea that I'd had for a while but hadn't gotten around to writing. I thought it was great and clever, but once I started writing, I realized it wasn't, which is probably good for future reference.

10. Writing is fun! But I knew this already. That's why I do it, of course!

Peace, Aimee

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Battle Between Light and Dark

Here it is, as promised, the essay I wrote last year about the book The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and how it compares to the television show LOST. On Saturday, I will be sharing the first part of a short children's fairy tale I wrote, and I will be posting the second part next Saturday, so after that I will do two regular posts in a row on the Saturdays, since this is a lot of my writing all at once. I'm writing this little introduction very quickly, so pardon me if it is not phrased very, um, coherently. So yeah. Here is that essay. I hope it makes you want to, if you have not already, read the book and watch the show, and I also hope that you understand my insights about corruption of power, the strength of love, and privilege of choice.


The Battle Between Light and Dark


In Joseph Conrad's novella, The Heart of Darkness, a man, Charles Marlow, embarks on a journey to a company's Inner Station in Congo. As he travels down the Congo River, he meets many of his shipmates — natives, savages, cannibals, pilgrims alike — who all admire the ambiguous Mr. Kurtz, leader of the Inner Station. Marlow's sole mission is to reach this mysterious man. All the while he must interpret rumors, avoid arrow attacks, and discover the truth of light and dark, good and evil. This story appears to have influenced the television series LOST, which follows the exploits of a group of survivors of a plane crash on a mysterious island. There, they — including a man, John Locke, who has been healed from paralysis by the island’s extraordinary powers — meet strange people who are keeping dangerous secrets, especially the truth behind the omniscient leader and protector of the island, Jacob, and the Smoke Monster, which shreds people who it deems useless in the game of fate. In LOST, Locke desires to discern the significance of fate versus free will, which is akin to good versus evil and light versus dark. The omnipresent battle between light and dark is symbolic in both LOST and The Heart of Darkness, taking precedence over the many other uncanny similarities.

Both Marlow and Locke have a different world view than their accompaniments. The pilgrims, as Marlow calls them, only have one motivation: to collect ivory for money in their own self-interest, whereas the plane crash survivors just want to live. However, Locke and Marlow are wise and understand that there is more to their situation than it seems. Since he is healed after the crash, Locke concludes that it is their fate to be stranded on the mysterious place. He is driven to understand how he was healed. When the natives of the island, which the survivors call the Others — akin to the restrained cannibals and savage natives in The Heart of Darkness — reveal that Locke is meant to be the new leader, he seeks out Jacob with the sole purpose of discovering the truth. Locke's search is quite similar to Marlow's search for the truth from Kurtz. As the pilgrims around him continue to hoard ivory, Marlow discerns that he must speak to Kurtz. When he finally reaches the man, after the boat sinks and native attack him with arrows — events which also occurred on LOST — he learns that Kurtz is dying of a terrible illness and that the natives blindly follow him. Eventually his illness, both of his disease and of his corruption, consumes him. He dies repeating the words: “The horror! The horror!” His last words signify that he realized his corruption of power as he looked into his heart of darkness. Jacob too is faced with an immense darkness. After Locke reaches his hideout, Jacob is brutally murdered by the Smoke Monster’s influence, leaving no one there to protect the light at the heart of the island from its wrath. In both of the leaders’ deaths, though caused by dark forces, a light is shed on the truth. However, the truth is only revealed to Marlow and Locke who fully understand and appreciate its importance.

Not only are Marlow and Locke similar, but many other characters from LOST resemble those from The Heart of Darkness as well. The Smoke Monster only becomes a monster once he attains power. Before he was corrupted, he was only a man, known as the Man in Black. He, both as the monster and the man, has a similar demeanor to Kurtz. They both desire the powerful light and both suffer a horrifying fate. The Man in Black is dehumanized, transforming into the Smoke Monster. Kurtz dies in vain, realizing that his efforts had destroyed the lives of dozens of people. The "advisor" Richard Alpert bears a striking resemblance to the Russian, who respects and follows Kurtz's orders. The Russian states, “I am not so young as I look,” and Richard does not age, which is a gift from the powerful Jacob. Both men, loyal to their leaders, after making certain Marlow and Locke meet them, escape the dangers of the treacherous jungle: Richard from the Man in Black and the Russian from the manager. This selfish, intimidating man, the manager of the Central Station, and the bug-eyed manipulative leader of the Others, Benjamin Linus, both have control over their subjects and resent those above them. Just as the manager plots against Kurtz, Ben, under the influence of the Man in Black, stabs and kills Jacob, unaware that he is the evil Smoke Monster. Their devilish and sly yet pitiful character, not solely their actions, defines their similarities. Yet another striking pair is the fireman and Desmond Hume. Underground, Desmond pushes a button every 108 minutes for three years because he is told and he believes that it prevents the end of the world — actually it prevents the light from being released into the world — just as the fireman is instructed to watch “should the water in that transparent thing disappear, the evil spirit inside the boiler would get angry through the greatness of his thirst, and take a terrible vengeance” (Conrad 61). These characters, in addition to Marlow and Locke, tie the television series and Conrad’s novella together all the more clearly and contribute greatly to the theme which resonates throughout both: good versus evil.

At the heart of the island, there is a bright, warm light, which Jacob explains is inside every person. He and the Man In Black have conflicting views about peoples' reaction to it, just as Marlow and Kurtz disagree about the corruption of power. Furthermore, the seventeenth century philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke argued about human nature in the same way. The LOST character's namesake, John Locke believed that people are naturally good and will fight for the good of all people, whereas his opponent Thomas Hobbes argued that that people are selfish. Joseph Conrad took this age-old argument and materialized it into Marlow's story. Kurtz attains this power, this "light," and becomes corrupt, greedily attempting to gain more control. In his death, he realizes this "horror" of how people selfishly scavenge for power, just as Hobbes asserted. However, when Marlow is enlightened, he is humbled, taking Locke's approach and protecting people from the truth. The Locke of LOST looks into "the heart of the island" and sees that "it is beautiful," believing that he and the other survivors are there for a reason: to protect this beautiful and powerful light. And he is right. Guarding it is Jacob's job. He and the Man in Black had argued for decades over whether the truth really needed protecting. Furious at the Man in Black's attempts to free this light from the island, Jacob throws him into the heart of darkness, where he suffers "a fate worse than death." This fate is the same as Kurtz's. Once he obtains this light from the heart of the island, the Man in Black becomes the Smoke Monster, destroying all those who come between him and his desire to leave the island. LOST, The Heart of Darkness, and the philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke are all connected by their symbolism of darkness as the desire to control one's own fate and the fate of others, and light as the truth that this obsession, which ironically makes people out of control, must be prevented. The battle between fate and free will, which is omnipresent in the television series, does not necessarily have a winner. Each person has a little bit of free will, a little bit of control inside of them, and they always want more. Jacob, Marlow, and Locke understand this, while Kurtz and the Man in Black spiral out of control once they obtain this power.

Jacob loses his battle with the Man in Black just as Kurtz loses his battle to his illness of corruption. John Locke and Charles Marlow both find the light that shines somewhere in the heart of darkness, and they try to protect it. Their companions aid them and hinder them, even those who appear for only a few pages or episodes. The coincidences are overwhelming, but one thing is for certain; the self-knowledge that Marlow and Locke receive at the end of their long journey is exactly what they need in order to fight the evil forces that appear to have overridden the good ones.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From Sea to Shining Sea

The ocean, or really any large body of water, is usually a symbol for freedom. I'm not an expert on this or anything, but in The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Edna Pontellier committed suicide by drowning herself in the ocean, therefore being freed from her ennui in her gender role as a woman in the 19th century. In the television show LOST (shut up) the characters were trapped on an island, the ocean being the main thing separating them from the rest of the world. In my novel (which I am editing) Nighttime in an Unfamiliar Place, the Trinity River in Texas symbolizes the characters letting go of the things that have held them back; for example, one character dumps his dead father's ashes into the river. In my other novel (a work in progress) Fate's Advocate, the main character is a lifeguard, who tries to commit suicide in the ocean. I'm sure there are dozens and dozens of other examples I could give, but I think that's enough.

The vastness of the ocean, and the currents that just drag you along, gives it a don't-worry-be-happy type of feel to it. You can't see the end of the ocean, nor the bottom of it. Floating out to sea, you are in isolation, so you are forced to let go of all your problems and just go along for the ride. Suicide by drowning, while probably extremely painful, is symbolic in that the person is being freed from their world and their body, letting nature do its thing, and floating out alone into the largest, most unexplored part of the earth.

I chose the title "From Sea to Shining Sea" because the United States was founded upon the idea of freedom, and this phrase, a lyric in a patriotic song, reveals the symbolism.

Can you guys think of any other examples of the symbolism of the ocean as freedom or any other reasons why this may be so? Or do you think it represents something else?

Peace, Aimee

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Poem: Redemption

I kind of lied to you, and to myself, when I said in my LOST post that I was getting all of my obsession out there and would try not to post about LOST again, to avoid boring you (even though it's not boring) or making you think I'm a crazy obsessed fan in denial that the show is no longer on the air (even though I am). I also said on Wednesday that I was going to talk about The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad eventually, and I wrote a really great essay about it for an English class, comparing it to LOST, and I am planning on sharing that with you probably next Saturday and somewhat of a transition between stories and posts (more for me than for you) as it is something I've written before; so that proves to you even more that I lied about never posting about LOST again. Sorry. And to sum up this tangent and to tell you what the heck it was all about, the poem I am sharing with you today, titled Redemption (formerly Jack's Redemption) is, again, about LOST. But it makes complete sense to those who have not seen the show, which is the reason why I shortened the title. The allusion to Jack was kind of confusing to people who read it.

Okay. Sorry about that little tangent there. Here it is. Enjoy.

P.S. I love the rhyme scheme of this. Just wanted to point it out to you, just in case you didn't notice how cool it is. But I'm not going to bore you with an explanation of syntax and why I chose it (it's all about cycles and light vs. dark and okay I'll shut up now). Once again, enjoy.

Peace, Aimee


Redemption


He spread his wings though it wasn't his intent
The ground below looked ominous and dark
He held his breath and began his descent

Those who came before him had left their mark
And it was hard for him to see that he was not there alone
Their whispers from the trees gave him a quest to embark

He was given a chance his mistakes to atone
He fought through it all, avoiding their lament
He found the light in the darkness and he uncovered the unknown

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Yesterday Was Voting Day

I am going to talk about politics today. When someone talks about politics, most people just stop listening because they either a) refuse to sway from their own opinions or b) don't care. I sort of fit into both categories. In other words, I refuse to sway from not caring. No, that's not right. I care. I care a lot. It's just that I happen to be an anarchist.

Please don't freak out on me. I will try to explain myself as intelligently and as humbly as I can.

When John Lennon's song Imagine came out, everyone thought it was a communist song, but it's not; it's an anarchist song. Communism means that the government owns everything and has control of everything, but in anarchism, the people own everything, or share everything for that matter, and there is no government whatsoever. For some reason, there is this big stigma that anarchy is violent. But that's not what I believe. In fact, I think it is the opposite. The more laws there are, the more criminals there are. I know, I know; they have no laws to break, but it's more than that. America was founded upon freedom, though back then they had a different definition of it. It was more of a religious thing. The freedom I believe in encompasses more than that. It's freedom to do whatever you want.

We already have so much we can't control (genetics, laws of nature, other people... unless you're a politician or a parent but let's not get into that today) and let's be honest here: each person has this one life to live and we never know when it's going to end, so we should be able to enjoy while we can because once we're dead will it really ever matter what political party we were or what religion or race? I don't mean to be a cynic here, because I am definitely not. I have so much faith in the human race, it's ridiculous. If I were a cynic, I wouldn't think anarchy would work. I would think that everyone would just kill everyone and that would be the end of it.

But no. If there was no government, there would be no borders, no countries. Obviously this wouldn't work if only one country adopted it; it would have to be a worldwide thing. Love and peace and all that jazz. It's really that simple. Just respect that everyone has different opinions, religions, then we wouldn't need laws or a government at all.

I know there are people that say that there will always be someone who gets angry or is slightly racist or something like that, and it drives me insane knowing that that is true. There is a part of us, in our brain, I guess, that is violent. It's an animal thing: defend what is ours. And there are too many people in this world to teach them about equality in order for them to understand that they can control that (except in mental illness, but I can't talk about that now). So obviously peace cannot be achieved in this decade or this generation, but if we keep it up, maybe it can in this century.

Read some Ayn Rand and some Henry David Thoreau and The Life of Pi by Yann Martel and The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. My two favorite books, by the way. Side note: I'm planning on posting something about one or both of those books soon. I wrote this great essay about... Okay, no tangents...

I hope all of this made sense. And I did vote, by the way, but that does not make me a hypocrite, going against what I believe. If I didn't vote, then most people would vote for more regulations and stuff, while I voted against all that stuff. I know I'm only one person and it probably doesn't make a difference, but let's not go on another tangent here.

All differences aside, we're really all the same. You may argue that this is all a Catch-22, but I think it more of a yin and yang thing. But that's a discussion for another day.

Peace, Aimee

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To Be Or Not To Be

As a writer and a college student, I feel that writing is my hobby while my schoolwork is leading up to a degree (in chemistry) which will lead to a job. Everyone always says that writers should not give up their day jobs, which is why I am in college, hoping to get a degree and a job, instead of sitting at home writing 24/7, which is what I would be doing if I had the money.

I've been having that little debate with myself pretty much entire life. "What do want to be when you grow up?" Five year old me, ten year old me, and even fifteen year old me, all said that I wanted to be a writer. Upon hearing this, my family members cringed. First of all, I would never make any money, and second of all I am "too smart not to be a doctor," or something along those lines. My chemistry teacher in lab told me that I have a surgeon's hands, and then it was me that cringed. Personally, I don't feel as smart as people tell me I am. But hey! I still have to use my brain when I write! Do they really think it's that easy to write a novel?

So I am in college with a major in chemistry, hoping to get a measly job as a pharmacy technician at a hospital or most likely Walgreens, but I still have that nagging voice in my head telling me to be an English major. But then I look around and do research and talk to people about it, and a lot of people with a Masters in English don't find it worth mentioning. My high school math teacher had a Masters in English and a Masters in Mathematics, yet he ended up as a math teacher. If I double major in Chemistry and English, chances are I'll still end up as a pharmacy tech. Of course I'm still taking English classes just for fun, but they're not really amounting to anything.

So my questions to you nice folks out there on the interwebs are: What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you follow your dreams? If not, what changed your mind? And to my writer friends, is writing to you a job or a hobby? Is it beneficial to study English in college?

That was a lot of questions, sorry. :) Also I was talking about myself a lot in this post. Let's just say I was using myself as an example.

Peace, Aimee

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Setting Goals But Never Reaching Them

Stephen King says he writes 2000 words a day, no less, no more, no matter what. Walter B. Gibson in the 1930s and 40s wrote 15,000 words a day for The Shadow pulp magazine. Setting goals in writing is a great way to get things done.

I have tried many different methods of writing: simple outlining, in depth outlining, seat of your pants writing, and so on. But I never really got much writing done. In writing forums online and in writing books almost everyone says that the best way to write is just that: write. By writing every single day, lets say 2000 words each day, you can finish the first draft of an entire novel in about three months. Using my I-don't-feel-like-it-today-but-the-next-day-I-write-like-5000-words method, I have never finished an entire first draft. After a year I get stuck at 40,000, which is the farthest I've ever gotten, though it's technically finished; it has a beginning, middle, and end, fully developed characters, and all those other things you need in order to have a completed novel. No matter what I do, I always end up with a novella-length draft that's just the bare bones of a novel, and then I get sick of spending so much time on it and move onto something new.

This happened to me three times before I decided to do something about it. Starting with my most recent project, I decided to write 2000 words every day, and I would finish the entire first draft by the end of October. So far, it hasn't really worked because I keep falling back into my old pattern, which wasn't really a pattern at all. Now I have two chapters left, and it's only 40K. Well there are still 11 days left in October.

I wanted to finish by the end of October because in November, I am planning on participating in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I've never written a novel 50,000 words long, let alone in only one month, so this is bound to be a challenge. I am going to take this challenge and try my hardest to do it the best I can. I have the time and I have the inspiration, but I'm not sure I have the will.

Setting goals in writing is the best way to write. If you have to goal (word count or time frame) in mind, then you'll probably never finish. However, you must also have the perseverance, the thing that I presently do not have, and reach your goal. Hopefully I will finish my first draft by the end of October, though it definitely will not be 72K, which was my goal. It will probably only be 50,000, but I can always edit later, after November. Wish me luck, and good luck to you, my writing friends!

NaNoWriMo website

Peace, Aimee

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jack Shephard and the Creature from the Black Lagoon: The Catch-22 of Life

Unfortunately, genius and insanity go hand in hand. Therefore ignorance is bliss. But it's all just a paradox anyway. Confucius said that to know the extent of one's ignorance is true knowledge. This is very similar to Buddhist principle and Taoism. Here in this blog post, I will talk about something which I am completely and utterly obsessed with, so I will get it all out now and refrain from talking about it in the future, so you won't have to hear about it all the time from me. This is something that has greatly influenced my writing, as well as, or should I say especially, my view of life. This thing my seem ridiculous to you, and I may be insane, but at least I am aware of it. This little thing is the television show LOST.

It has been off the air since May, after six long, complex seasons, and it ended perfectly, though you could ask a hundred different people and get a hundred different opinions about the ending. But I loved it. I will not bore you with the plot (but it's not boring at all; I should say "confuse" instead of "bore") but I will go into some detail about the theme before giving the reasons behind this whole rant, and how it applies to writing.

There were many themes to LOST: fate vs. free will, good vs. evil, destiny, choice. But they can really all be combined into one overall theme. Love and let go. But each of the things that I listed are all parts of it. In every single day of your life, you are faced with temptations and evil and just bad stuff, and though sometimes it doesn't seem like it, you always have a choice. You have free will, and you do not have a "destiny" or "fate." However, your choices affect other people and other peoples' choices affect you, so they may all add up to some inevitable outcome, which may seem like destiny or fate. There is no such thing as fate, but there is no such thing as coincidence or luck. The characters of LOST were all wound up in this mess on a mysterious island where an evil monster was killing everyone who was a candidate to take over as the new protector of the heart of the island, which symbolized everything good. I am simplifying this big time; there were about forty characters on the show, and I am only going to talk about one: Jack. I would talk about Desmond and Locke too, but they could take up a whole post to themselves, so I'm not going to get into that. This post is going to be long enough already.

Jack crashed on the island in a plane crash. He was a spinal surgeon with Daddy issues who wanted to fix everything all the time. He was just about the most stubborn character on the show. Actually, the whole thing was pretty much about him. I could give a dozen examples, but instead I'll just cut right to the chase. In the end of the show, Jack fixed everything by killing the evil monster and saving the girl he loved. In the "afterlife" (don't freak out now) Jack's father came to him and told him to "let go." You see, he'd been telling him this his whole life, every time he tried to fix something that was impossible to fix, and he sounded like a big jerk right up until now. Now Jack's dad seems wise. So Jack lets go of his stubbornness and is able to move on to whatever is after that "afterlife." His dad’s name, by the way, was Christian Shephard, if that tells you anything.

The show ended with the characters all being whisked away into this bright white light, and it did not show what was in it or where the characters were going, which really pissed off a lot of viewers. I thought it was brilliant, though, because the characters were letting go of all their bad qualities, realizing that they had all lived their lives, now knowing what their lives were really all about, and now they could move on. The viewers, too, were able to move on and let go, since it was the end of the show, and there were a billion plot holes that the writers didn't have time to fill in.

Now this all relates to my life and my writing too. I try not to leave so many plot holes like the writers of LOST did, but I use the themes in my writing almost religiously, mostly because I use them in my every day life. I will now tie this back up to what I said in the beginning. Genius, or just knowledge, when you know everything or are determined to find out what the heck is going on, causes chaos. You are so busy trying to figure everything out and fix everything you see wrong that you pretty much go insane because there’s so much out there that needs fixing and not enough time to do it all. Obviously, you can't know everything about the universe, or even yourself for that matter. When you let go of all the stress of not knowing, then you'll just be happy with what you have. Love and let go.

This is how I look at life every day, and this is the driving force behind my peace activism and my writing. The truth is, no one knows what happens after we die, so all the people who are violent because they are trying to force others to believe in their religion or are manipulated into destroying people of other religions are being just plain ridiculous. Everyone has their own opinions, so they should all learn to let go of the differences and love the things we have in common. Same goes for race, sexual orientation, gender, shape, size, you name it.

I hope I haven't been too preachy or ranty in this post. I didn't really mean to be, but I couldn't think of a way to go about writing this without bringing religion into the picture. I also didn't really go into detail about how I bring this into my story writing, but I feel like that speaks for itself. And if you haven't seen LOST, go buy it or rent it and watch it! You'll love it, even though it's ridiculously complex and confusing.

Peace, Aimee

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tumble

Here's a little story I wrote a few years ago. I hope you like it.


Tumble


All I remember is that it was raining. All I know is that my sister is safe.

At six o’ clock that rainy Saturday night, my parents left to visit my great grandmother in the hospital and then go on a date. I told them that it was weird to comfort a dying woman before going out to celebrate their anniversary. It was ironic, morbid, and rude.

My great grandmother Anne, my mother’s mother’s mother, had been cooking her famous jambalaya on her stove, against the doctor’s orders. She had been suffering from early stages of lung cancer after smoking a pack a day for over fifty years, and had been told to stay in bed. She was being treated with chemotherapy and radiation, which were working surprisingly well, but she was old and tired and needed rest. However, she was craving jambalaya, and decided the doctor’s word wasn’t important for just one hour. But as she was standing at the stove, she dropped a slice of sausage. When she leaned over to pick it up, she fell, bringing the pan of boiling water down with her and setting fire to her tiny kitchen. A neighbor had heard the fire alarm and called it in, but my great grandmother had already received burns over 15% of her body. She had now been in the hospital for about a week, and my parents decided that as soon as she was released, they would toss her into assisted living. As an eighty-four year old woman, my great grandmother should have already been in a nursing home, but she was full of spirit and did not have any other health issues besides lung cancer and old age, so everyone found it unnecessary. But my great grandmother, the rebel that she was, had disobeyed her doctor, and would soon find herself unable to get out of bed without a slew of nurses at her side. She didn’t deserve that torture. My parents knew that.

But they decided that it was “for the best”, as they put it, their faces sagging, their eyes wet. And that rainy Saturday night, they went to visit her to tell her what they were planning to do.

They left me and my older sister Michaela home because it would be an emotional visit, and we didn’t deserve torture either.

Michaela was not that much older than me. We were what you would call Irish twins. I was born roughly nine months after her. She was seventeen and I was sixteen. But sometimes it seemed like I was older. She was immature, always choosing the wrong boyfriends, going out to parties and not coming home until two. But she was also very mature when it came to school. When she wasn’t partying, she was doing homework. She was two grades ahead of me because she skipped fourth grade. School was the only thing she did correctly. She led a dangerous life for a seventeen year old girl. She drank a lot. She smoked, just like my great grandmother. She would race her car in the streets in the middle of the night with her druggie friends. One of them actually died the year before in a race, but they still continued, despite their awareness of the danger.

Our parents knew about all these terrifying things she did, and they did everything they could do to help her. They took any cigarettes they ever found with her, but every time we went to see great grandmother Anne, she would just steal some from her. They removed her bedroom door so she couldn’t lock herself in with a boy, but every time our parents went out, she invited one over, and threatened that if I told on her, she would do something terrible to me. I didn’t know what she could possibly do to me, but I didn’t want her to be angry with me, so I never told. Our parents dumped all the alcohol in our house, but she had a fake ID, and bought some. They took away her driver’s license, but she just drove without it. They took away her keys, but she had a friend show her how to wire the car. No matter what they did, she always found a way around them.

Michaela’s current boyfriend, Tom, was the worst, or as Michaela put it, “the best.” He was almost always over when my parents were gone. He was even there that rainy Saturday night.

It was hardly fifteen minutes after my parents left that Tom showed up with weed. He told me to go into my room and turn up my music really loud. Not wanting to listen to what he and my sister were doing, I obeyed. I laid on my bed, reading a book, but I couldn’t concentrate. I was too busy thinking. Tom, though gorgeous as an actor, with his brilliant blue eyes, his sleek brown hair, and his perfect athletic body, was a complete jerk. Michaela deserved better. Or maybe she didn’t.
Only twenty minutes went by, when I heard, over the top of my music, Michaela calling me.

“Nathalie! Nathalie!” She sounded distressed, so I had no choice but to go. Her bedroom door was wide open, and she was sitting on the floor, her legs crossed, with her head in her hands. Tom was gone.

“Michaela?” I stood in her doorway.

“Oh, Nathalie.” She looked up at me. Her beautiful face was streaked with tears.

“He… he hit me!”

I stepped into her room, and kneeled down beside her. How could somebody do this to my sister, even if she was an idiot? “Tell me what happened.” I whispered sympathetically.

“I was trying to break up with him, but he wouldn’t let me. And he hit me!” She was bawling now, and I placed my hand on her back to comfort her. It took me five minutes to calm her down, and then she told me something that I honestly did not want to hear. “It’s not the first time.” She gulped. “He’s done it before. He does it all the time. But this time was the worst.” And she was right. A large purple bruise was forming on her right cheek. “He’s so possessive.” She almost relapsed into a crying fit, but she held her breath. “I know this is a harmful relationship. I felt unsafe, so I tried to break it off. But…”

“It’s alright, Michaela.” I coughed, tears caught just underneath my eyelids. “He’s not here. At least he left the house.”

“He said he was coming back. He said he was going to hurt me.” She laid her head back into her hands, her strawberry blonde waves falling back over her bruised face. “I don’t know what to do,” she sniffled. “I don’t know what to do.”
I stood up. “Where are you going?” she asked, looking up at me.

“Hang on. I’ll be right back.” I ran throughout the house, locking all the doors that led outside, and all the windows too, just to be safe. I didn’t want Tom coming in. And I didn’t want Michaela going out.

I went into the kitchen and micro-waved a bag of popcorn, Michaela’s comfort food. I sprinkled it with salt and drizzled it with extra butter. When I went back into her room, she was standing, wiping her face, not sad now, but her face looked more determined.

“He won’t do it again.” She said. “I’m sure of it. He’s probably just worried about losing me and threatened to hurt me if I leave him. So he won’t do it if I just stay with him. He loves me.”

“No, Michaela.” She didn’t deserve this torture. My eyebrows knitted together, and I handed her the bag of popcorn. She refused it. “No, Michaela.” I repeated. “He’s going to hurt you if you stay with him, so you will be scared to leave.”

Michaela laughed once. “I’m not scared!” But her moist eyes told me otherwise. She pulled a pack of great grandmother Anne’s cigarettes and a lighter out of her pocket. She stuck one in her mouth and lit it.

I rolled my eyes. “Michaela, you can’t do this. It’s unhealthy.”

“What? Smoking?”

“Well, yeah. But I mean staying with Tom. He’s dangerous.”

“No he’s not. And I can do whatever I want.” But then we heard a window break. Michaela fell to her knees, clutching me. Her eyes grew large. “Nathalie!” Apparently locking everything did not stop someone from getting in.

Then Tom appeared at Michaela’s bedroom door, soaked from the rain, and holding a baseball bat. She screamed. I did to.

It must have been right about then that I blacked out because I don’t remember anything I did from then until I came back into consciousness.

It was dark. I was outside, soaked from the rain. I recognized the setting as our neighborhood park. I stood on the wet grass near a large tree, but next to me, the ground had been overturned. It was just a grassless area of land, the dirt dark and dry, despite the weather. I looked down at myself and panicked. My hands and shirt were covered in blood.

Holding in my breath, I glanced around. There was no one to be seen. I stumbled backwards, but managed to keep myself standing upright. I saw in the grass, a trail. The grass was pressed down to the dirt, and covered in more blood, as if something had been dragged. I felt my heart pounding in my chest. Reluctantly, I followed the trail. After walking for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only about five minutes, I arrived at the open back door of my house, which was now unlocked. The blood trail continued. I slowly entered and let the trail lead me to the bottom of the staircase, where an enormous puddle of crimson sat threateningly. I glanced up to see the stairs clean. Someone had taken a tumble.

I heard a whimper.

“Michaela!” I managed to yelp. Ignoring the pool of blood, I stumbled up the stairs as fast I could. At the top was a baseball bat. It was clean, no blood smeared on it. The whimpering became a frightened cry. I ran to the source of the crying, Michaela’s room. It was dark.

“Michaela?” I cried, flicking on the lights. Cowering in the corner of Michaela’s room was the rain-soaked Tom. He glanced up at me, his eyes bulging with fear.

All I remember is that it was raining. All I know is that my sister is safe.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

All The Best Cowboys Have Daddy Issues

The ever popular “they” say that setting is a very important part of a story. It affects character definitely, and usually plot. The world that your characters develop in is a fairly significant aspect of a novel. For instance, in my current work in progress takes place in the area surrounding Dallas, Texas. It is hot and dry most of the time. All of the characters in this story (except one, but he’s dead so it doesn’t matter that much) grew up there and know the area well, though I have been there myself. It’s in the southern part of America, so my characters have accents, though I never explicitly say so, nor do I write the dialogue with the accent. It’s implied because I do say the area in which they live. The whole Texas culture lends itself to the characters and the story. Most of the story takes place in present day, so the racism and stuff like that is not included. I try to avoid that kind of stuff anyway. However, part of the story takes place in the 1970’s, so that was a little trickier to write. I do know a few people who used to live there, and I have done my research, so I’m sure I got all the eccentricities right.

There’s more to setting than time and place, though. Even specific things, like the characters’ homes defines them. A few of my characters, for example, the main one, Otis, are not very wealthy. Otis is a man of about 25. He’s somewhat of a contractor, so he lives job by job and doesn’t have a great salary. Therefore, he shares a ratty apartment with two of his friends. This setting is grimy and small; the apartment defines Otis, but Otis defines the apartment as well. His income prevents him from decorating it very well. Marge and Al, however, are married, in their sixties, and very wealthy. They live in practically a mansion. Their setting defines them just as much, but I won’t get into the details.

Even more specific of a setting is the character’s situation, the things in their life they can’t control. Another one of my characters, Richard, grew up in foster care in the 1970’s in Texas. This situation defined who he is as a person in that he was surrounded by children who did not have a stable family, and in some cases, didn’t have a family at all. However, Richard was adopted and had great parents. Since he himself was raised wonderfully, he turned out fine, but since he witnessed the abuse of other children, he grew up wanting to help them. That is just an example of how situational setting develops character.

So there you have it, writer friends. Setting has a much bigger job than just serving as a backdrop for your characters to live in front of. It defines the characters’ ambitions, opinions, and opportunities, and shouldn’t be forgotten.

Peace, Aimee

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Package

I would like to share with you a piece that I wrote in a creative writing class last year. Each sentence begins with a letter of the alphabet, in alphabetical order, so, obviously, it has twenty-six sentences. Enjoy!


The Package


After his face off with Lowry, James was rattled and believed that it was entirely his fault. But even before the incident, he knew that something sinister was looming.

Cruising around in his Camaro, the cliche wind blowing through his cliche surfer hair, curious James, both his hands still firmly on the wheel, snuck a glance into the leather bag on the passenger seat. Daisies sprouting along the side of the road glared at him, warning him not to let his curiosity grip him any more than it already had. Even the puffy white clouds in the sky, cheerful and innocent, stared him down, less naive than that inquisitive young man. Feeling the hot rays of the sun on his back, James ripped his eyes away from the package and forced them to watch the road. Gravely, his curiosity ate away at him. His eyes darted back and forth between the bag and road. Inside that bag, he imagined, could be anything: money, a secret message, a bomb. James shuttered at the thought. Kicking himself for accepting the mission, James began to sweat. Lowry was definitely the type of man who would want to transport bombs. Men of his stature always had sinister plots churning away in their minds. Never would James have taken this mysterious package from Lowry, at least not before the tricky man had blackmailed him.

On the dirt road now, James wished he had driven his truck. Pelting rocks, he worried as dust swarmed his nose, could ruin the new red coat of paint on his Camaro. Quickly, the road narrowed into a bumpy track, like a twisting hiking trail through a dark forest. Red and orange flowers and possibly poisonous berries engulfed his car, and the towering trees loomed over him. Swallowing the nervous glob that had formed in his throat, James gave up. The curiosity had killed the cat, and he killed the engine, stopping in the middle of the unpaved road. Unbuckling his seat belt, he leaned over and peeked inside the bag. Venomous shock overtook him, and he tucked the malicious object back into the bag and slammed the accelerator, hoping to finish this chore quickly and quietly so he would never have to deal with Lowry again.

When he saw Lowry standing on the side of the road, where he said he would be, James was overcome with fear.

X-ray eyes that Lowry character had.

"You opened it, didn't you? Zero chance you're getting out of this one unscathed."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hey There!

So this blog had gone into hibernation for the past, oh, I don't know, two years. But it's up now, and I'm starting from square one. Here's a little about me, which I hope you will find interesting, or at least interesting enough to become a follower or leave a nice comment just saying hi.

My name is Aimee. I am a college student (cough, cough, community college) in the United States, who is simultaneously looking for a job (somewhere, anywhere!) and working on writing a novel. I've wanted to be a writer since I knew how to write. It's my dream. I've written many short stories and submitted things to some contests, but so far I haven't had any luck. It's a tough business. I finished my first novel a few months ago and am in the revising process, which is progressing very slowly. I am also working on my second novel, which is progressing much faster than the first. Besides writing, I spend my "free" time playing the guitar, studying chemistry, reading, and just hanging out with friends. Side note: I am studying chemistry because I am working toward becoming a pharmacy technician; writing doesn't pay much when you first start out, and to be brutally honest, it never pays much, unless you're Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Okay, end side note. I am also somewhat of a peace activist. I am part of a peace club at my college, and I have been strongly supporting the International Day of Peace, 21 September, for the past few years, though mostly by word of mouth. Since Peace Day pretty much came and went for me this year (as it is also my sister's birthday) I am planning on spending the entirety of this next year spreading the word and organizing an event for Peace Day 2011. I will be posting on this blog, all about my efforts in peace and writing, so please follow me and enjoy the ride.

Phew. Okay, I think we're off to a great start. Now, why don't you tell me a little about yourself?

Peace, Aimee