Draft Entry #1: Mid-draft Blues

So, what’s with all these distractions? I swear that every time I hit that gold mine within my novel draft some sort of gold-hungry horde comes and takes it away. That sudden euphoria I felt when I finally figured out what’s going to happen in the entire novel? Good riddance. Nowhere to be seen. Like a man-whore disappearing when he finds out his girl is pregnant. Seriously, though, right now I’m stuck in such a rut I can’t even see where the hell my novel might even go to next. The sucking of my motivation can happen in a myriad of forms, really.

Oh, what’s that? The novel I’m currently reading has sword fighting and dragons eating people? Now I’m in the mood for sword fighting and dragons eating people. Did I stumble across a plot hole in my draft, and perhaps try to calmly fix it via brainstorming and silent thinking?  Nope. I panic. I try to make it work the way it already is written instead of, you know… Writing it a different way?

But anyways, I guess that speaks more of me than whether the ideas are any good or not. I bring this up because most of the time the euphoria I feel arrives because of a kickass idea I suddenly get (or what I thought was a kickass idea at the time). The kicker is, though, that executing an idea is a lot more complicated than actually coming up with it. I can’t get my sense of fulfillment from that kickass idea because the euphoria will eventually die away. It’s up to me to actually force myself through the mire and actually stick with this (shitty?) idea till the end.

I might’ve dropped out of this draft, like I’ve done with every other draft I’ve started to write, ever. But I made myself a challenge. By the end of this year, I’m going to finish that draft. Yup. From beginning to end, until I’m sick of this idea I’ve created. I’m starting this blog just so I can push myself to actually finish this draft. Not send it in for publication, not have it looked at by an editor, but just finish it. No matter how bad and awful it is I just want to finish my first draft. At least so I could say that I’ve written something to its completion in my life.

This sets up one simple rule from the get-go: I’ve basically got two months and a half to finish it. The due date is December 31st by default, I guess? What I’m going to do with this draft, I have no idea. But I’m going to finish it!

So, current state of the draft? I’ve got the skeleton of the novel, basically. But what happens in between those bones is “the problem”. I know what will happen from point A to Z, but don’t know what points B, C, D, etc. are going to be. The last idea I had that would maybe give the novel a kick start is the addition of an antagonist that’s following the MCs (I’ll always address my main characters this way) to all the places they go. It could add a sense of tension or something… I don’t know. Maybe I should just add swords and people-eating dragons and call it a day.

To any writer out there that feels the same way, you’re not alone! I’ve never finished a draft in my life, but damn it, I will not die before finishing one! Feel free to comment about any current draft you’re writing or how you deal with the mid-draft blues. Join me on this journey for the cure of mid-draft blues.

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Chuck Wendig Challenge: Non-Fiction Short Story

This was due two days ago, but here it is. It’s loosely based on my grandmother’s passing this summer and I hope you guys enjoy it!

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Funerals

            The morning was oddly chilly even though the sky was cloudless and the Sun was bright. Walking across the parking lot and across the lobby, my Dad and I went into the elevator. There was a wall of silence between us that I was sure I could feel if I waved my hands in the air. We had received news from my mother the day before that my grandmother had been in pain throughout all of the night. I wished that suffering upon no one, except the cancer itself. One of her lungs had collapsed and she was receiving chemotherapy even through all of her pain. It was a sorry sight, her frail body with needles sticking out of her arms.

We had reached the hallway towards her room and I could see my little cousin sitting at the end in front of her room. My heart ached at the thought of Al. He had lost his father about six months before, and now he had to face this. He was such a good kid, a boy of 14 with the heart of a generous 9 year old. And yet, life backhanded him so mercilessly.

“Hey…” Al said as he stood up to greet us. We stood there in silence.

“How is she?” my Dad asked.

“Not that good, Aunt Illian said she was moaning all through the night,” Al said, Illian is my Mom, “She’s having trouble breathing, too.”

My Dad and I went into the room with Al following behind. My Mom was over my grandmother as she looked up. She smiled at us and went to hug us.

“Hi, Mom… Any news?” I asked.

“No… She’s the same as yesterday. They talked about resuming the chemo, but giving her chemo now would be killing her.”

I agreed and still agree. Chemo is very expensive poison, basically, and if I had to choose between living my last few days dehydrating in a futon or dehydrating in a futon with hair loss and poison in my veins that costs about a hundred thousand dollars, I’d like to choose the one with least financial repercussions.

“What are they giving her?” Dad asked pointing at the IV bag hanging next to my grandmother’s bed.

“It’s to nourish her… Her pulse is slow, but it’s because of the anesthesia.” My mom’s mouth started to quiver and I knew she was about to cry.

I looked down at my Grandma. Frail, weak and thin… Yes, this is what life eventually leads up to. Before I asked myself the question, I already knew the answer. I knew and I know it still. We all know it. Maybe life after death isn’t certain, but death after life is one of the surest things in this fucked up world. My dad put his arms around my mom and put her head on his shoulders as she cried silently.

I walked outside and Al joined me. We sat down next to the room’s door. After a long moment of silence, he spoke.

“Granny can’t die, you know?” Al said in a shaky voice without looking at me, “She’s… She’s been taking care of me ever since I can remember. If she goes…” He gave a nervous chuckle and shook his head. I am not good with words and I am not good dealing with emotions, so to avoid any stupid thing to say, I thought about my elaborate response.

“Yeah… I don’t want her to go, either.”  It was all I could manage. My thoughts were a million, but my words were too few. If I spoke everything I was thinking at the time, I would’ve been called a blasphemer and a heartless asshole, but they were my thoughts. I cleared my throat.

“Remember when we used to fill up the pool in Grandma’s garage?” I asked Al. He smiled, still not looking at me.

“Yeah…” He knew where I was going.

“And remember when we used to dare each other to see who could run farthest from the pool in our underwear?” I continued, “And one time Grandma’s neighbor came up…”

“Yeah, and you almost ran into her,” He was laughing now, “She screamed and got us in trouble!”

We were laughing too loud, nervous laughter that was built up inside of us. I hadn’t cracked a smile since I had woken up that morning and it felt great. I don’t know why I remembered those specific memories then, but I feel like our minds always find happiness in the weirdest things. It was odd that right in the room next to us our Grandma was dying and there we were, laughing at our half-naked past selves. A nurse walked up towards the door and greeted us. Then she went into Grandma’s room. Our laugh was wavering.

“Oh, man… Those summers were the best.” I said. Al nodded, still smiling. A long silence again. “She used to buy us any junk food we wanted…”

“Then she got mad because we wouldn’t eat any of it… Remember when—”

The nurse walked out the door in what seemed like a hurry. We looked after her going down the hallway and then my Dad was over us. His face was grim.

“Dad, what—” I started.

“Grandma… She’s… gone.”

I didn’t see it, but immediately I could feel Al’s reaction coming. It felt hot against my cheek, as if his impending burst of tears sent a heat wave my way. It was weird; I felt this hot pain against my chest and throat, but I also felt relieved. I felt guilty feeling relieved, but what’s the point of living your last moments on this crappy Earth with hot radiation pulsing through your veins? I couldn’t even imagine going through it myself. I could hear my mom crying from the room.

“What…” I began to ask.

“She was… gone hours ago, but your mom thought it was the anesthesia slowing her pulse…” He frowned and sat down next to a crying Al, his arm around him.

And in the next few days, I knew what would come. Sweet words of comfort about how she was in the arms of Jesus and God and how much happier and younger she was up there in Heaven. They’re words of comfort, sure… But where’s the comfort in something that you can’t quite see? If the magic goes away when we stop believing in Santa Claus, why do people expect the magic to stay still in every other aspect of your life? Or maybe the magic doesn’t go away, but we just choose to stop acknowledging it. I can’t explain well what’s on my mind, just as I can’t explain why we were even born on this Earth or why we die… Things clear away and eventually we realize someday we’re gonna bite the dust. I can’t change that. History repeats itself, and death is history.

But… Why had I laughed a few moments ago, then? If in the back of my mind, in my heart of hearts, I know everything ends, why do I smile? Maybe it’s that curiosity of why I even laugh in such a crazy place like Earth in the first place that’s keeping me sane. I may be choking back tears now, but I know that I’ll be laughing at some stupid thing the next morning, or hell, that same afternoon. Happy that I can feel the cool bed sheets in the morning… Happy that I can talk to Al about being in our underwear.

So I started to cry… Not because Grandma was gone, but because I got to be happy with her. I couldn’t tell you if I was crying from joy or sadness or both… But I could tell you I was crying. My heart floated in my body, and as I cried I couldn’t help but laugh, too. I looked like a goddamn lunatic, sitting curled up in a hospital hallway like a mental patient. I cried and cried and it felt great. If Grandma’s up there in Heaven, I hope she remembers those summers, too.

Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: ‘The Gospel According to Saint Cuervo’

Last week, Chuck Wendig instructed us through his awesome blog to choose a random title from the comments and write a flash fiction story in a week using that title for inspiration. I chose this one because it immediately sparked some weird part in my brain (I’ve got a lot of weird parts) and it just kept going.

It’s a bit longer than I had planned and I still wanted to write more, but rules are rules. I was planning on maybe writing more of the story on Wattpad, so check it out there if you want: Wattpad Story

Anyways, hope you enjoy it!

Also, ‘cuervo’ is ‘crow’ in Spanish. Maybe it’s common knowledge, I don’t know, but just in case there’s some head-scratching going on.

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The Gospel According to Saint Cuervo

            When Rotell was caught, he knew it wouldn’t be a quick and painless death. He had seen what the Crows had done to the city. How even on sunny days, the world seemed like a dark place. The Crows were all a ruthless bunch, at least the ones that had arrived in their city. Rotell had heard of a lot of rumors from the South about how the Crows were slowly taking over the surrounding towns and poisoning the innocent grounds on which they thread upon. It was only a matter of time, he supposed, before they reached them and now, funnily enough, he had chains around his wrists and ankles.

“What, are ya crippled? Move faster!” Rotell felt something hard as stone smack the back of his head, urging him to move faster. The crowguard was much bigger than him, almost reaching the ceiling of the stone hallway. The guard to his right laughed in an odd clicking way with a scratchy croak. They all sounded scratchy.

They had reached the spiral staircase with two other guards on either side of the entrance. The one on Rotell’s left suddenly gave a squawk and spread its black, leathery wings abruptly, almost reaching either side of the hallway they were on. Black feathers flew randomly as Rotell jumped back instinctively and with a yell, tripped on his ankle chains. All of the guards started laughing their scratchy laugh. The one that had pushed Rotell lifted him up by the front of his robes with his hard, onyx beak and put him roughly on his feet, making him almost fall over again. They laughed heartily again at his loss of balance.

“Careful, you might end up without a few select limbs before you even reach Cuervo!” said the crow that had spread his wings, “You fall again, we’ll make sure you got no legs to fall on!”

Rotell knew better than to yell a retort; he knew that those weren’t empty threats. He had witnessed himself some of The Feasts, the days when the crows chose select villagers to satisfy their hunger. It had not been a pretty sight and all hope in him that the Crows might have an inch of remorse were destroyed long ago. But he felt his fear for Saint Cuervo overwhelmed him even more than the prospect of losing his legs. They had said he was the worst of them all, the one who had started all of this. The one who had started the empire.  He was pulled away from his thoughts when he was roughly pushed forward, making him almost fall over for the second time.

“Move, monkey!”

Rotell moved towards the staircase with an apathy that had plagued him since he was kept in the prison chamber. He hadn’t had anything to eat (the food they had given him was suspiciously familiar to the food present in The Feasts), he had drunk nothing but dirty water and he could think of nothing more than his family. It was odd how even with his life on the line he could only think of his daughter and wife inevitably being the next ones, and not of his own safety. It made him feel empty that he couldn’t even be there to attempt to protect them. It took away all motivation in him for an escape. He had cried all that he could have on the first night in the dungeon and he was not going to give the Crows now the pleasure of his grief.

The stairway was tight and cramped, but mostly because the two crowguards were crowding the space in front and back of him. Now and then the crow in the back pushed Rotell harder and harder each time. When they reached the end of the stairs, the crow had pushed him so hard Rotell fell face first on the ground. He immediately heard a room full of that scratchy laughter. The room sounded spacy and felt drafty. He could stay like that for the rest of his life, face-down on the dirty floor. The crow behind him grabbed the back of his robes and pulled him up again. He felt a sharp stab on his back as the crowguard pecked him and he walked forward. There were crows all around the room, all staring intently at Rotell and tilting their heads in apparent curiosity. He noticed why it had felt breezy and it was because there were windows the size of the Crows along the left walls, all overlooking a grey, silent ocean.

At the end of the room, there was a faded marble throne that was scratched and had cracks over its surface. In the throne sat who Rotell could only assume was Saint Cuervo. He felt a knot in his throat. He felt that he could weep like a baby. He could feel his eyes burn from anger and fear. Anyone – or anything – capable of the cruelties that were happening to all of these villages, towns and cities was not to be taken lightly. Saint Cuervo didn’t look much different from the others of his kind, but he seemed like a stronger Crow. His feathers were a lot shinier than the other Crows’ and his form was a lot more defined, like his feathers were part of his skin and not ruffled about his body. Rotell assumed it was because he got the best portions of food from the villagers, as the Crows raided his village every now and then, all in the name of Saint Cuervo. On top of Cuervo’s head was a golden helmet with a dark purple horn protruding forward. It was the same as the head of the idols they had put up in his village.

They had savagely destroyed a fountain in the village plaza that had been sacred to their people and put up the golden statue of Saint Cuervo, its purple beak gleaming like a starless night and his golden wings spread across either side of it. The three crows that had put up the statue proceeded to get some rope and hung three random villagers by their wrists: one on the left wing, the right wing and on the beak. They had kept the villagers alive for a week, each day eating part of their bodies. When a villager had had the audacity to free the victims, Saint Cuervo issued the first Feast (which a lot of the villagers had called The Night of Blood) for soiling the statue of its holiness. They had apparently done this all over the city, issuing idols all over historical and sacred places to the citizens.

The sight of the helmet made Rotell’s stomach lurch uneasily, and a wail of despair threatened to come out of him. Now he stood in front of Cuervo, his knees weak and trembling. Cuervo had the same purple eyes as all of his kind, but his right eye seemed to be scratched. After what seemed like five minutes, Cuervo finally spoke.

“Kneel.”

In another state of mind, Rotell might have had an ounce of defiance in him, but now, faced with this monster… he kneeled shakily. After a few seconds of reverence, he was about to get up.

“Did I tell you to get up?” Rotell noticed that Cuervo’s voice was a lot smoother than the other Crows. Quick as lightning, Rotell felt a white hot sting on his right shoulder.

“GAH!” Rotell, for the third time in this miserable hour, fell to the ground, but he managed to stop his fall with his left hand in time. He felt a warm gush of blood coming from his stinging shoulder. “What the—” He looked and a piece of his flesh was missing. He looked back and saw the shoving crow gobbling something up. The hole was bleeding profusely.

“So!” Rotell looked at Saint Cuervo, he could swear Cuervo was smiling through his beak as he spoke, “They tell me none of your offerings were received in the past week? And that you have been building a blasphemous group of rebels that worship a dead god?”

The offerings part was true. His animals were not well-fed and they were dying, the few scraps that remained he had eaten them with his family to avoid starvation. Him starting a rebellion, however, wasn’t even close. He had been gathering with a few villagers to discuss how to resist and put up a fight, but he was not single-handedly starting a rebellion. They got together with more fear in their hearts than bravery, often asking for prayers to whatever was left of their god. They weren’t planning to push but to pull back. It was going well until a villager who was a follower of the Gospel told on them.

“Have you not read the Gospel? That all who resides in the land of Saint Cuervo is to present Me their best offerings?” Saint Cuervo asked, rather unnecessarily, since the Gospel is spoken of day and night by the Crows.

Rotell wanted to fight back. He really did. But what was he to do? Even if he fought back and was killed, the fact that he had resisted wasn’t going to be spread out towards the city, no one would know what he had died for. If he escaped, the Crows would drag him back by his tongue and do the worst they could possibly do.

“Yes… I have read the Gospel.” Rotell muttered.

“My Lord.” croaked the crow that had pushed him and eaten part of his shoulder.

Rotell swallowed, “My Lord…”

Cuervo watched him intently and his eyes narrowed. He got up from his throne. He walked towards Rotell, his claws scratching the stone floor and he cocked his head, like all the Crows did. He walked to and fro, the scratching becoming unbearable.

“Yes, I know you know…” Saint Cuervo said in a whisper that travelled through all of the room, “I make sure you don’t forget.” Rotell began to sweat.

“So then, why have you hurt me? You know I’m jealous of my monkeys’ loyalty…” Saint Cuervo hissed. “Why did you choose to worship your other fake, useless god? I am your God now, you should know that. You know that that is too against the Gospel. Don’t I provide you with enough, monkey? ”

Rotell in his outrage almost forgot to bite his tongue. Provide? Enough? He wanted to punch Cuervo right through his beady eyes, but he controlled himself. He breathed deeply, “Yes…”

“Then WHY?!” In a split second, Cuervo was eye to eye with Rotell, the smell of rotten flesh issuing from his beak. Somehow, Rotell didn’t flinch. “Why did you betray me?! I care for you useless monkeys and this is how—”

“You care for no one but yourself, you stupid bird!” Rotell couldn’t believe what had left his mouth. In a flurry of squawks of outrage, the other crows started pecking at him and scratching him with their claws. ‘Bird’ was the worst form of degradation towards the Crows, Rotell knew. A man had once been decapitated instantly for using such a slur to address one of the crows in their village.

“STOP!” Saint Cuervo bellowed. The crows stopped attacking instantly. Rotell was a bloody heap on the floor. “Get up.”

As Rotell got feebly to his feet, he noticed the shackles had been broken off of his ankles. A rogue crow had scratched deeply at Rotell’s ear, and he was sure that half of his ear was somewhere on the floor.

“Eat him alive!”

“Tear his limbs one by one, Lord!”

“Silence.” Cuervo looked at Rotell, then over his bleeding shoulder, “Do you remember where you got him from?”

Rotell couldn’t see, but he was sure the crow that Cuervo had addressed nodded.

“Good,” Saint Cuervo’s eyes glinted, “Bring me the family.”

No. Anything but that. Anything. This time, Rotell couldn’t stop the tears in his eyes.

“No… NO!” Rotell screamed, his feet glued to the floor even though his bonds had been broken.

The crowguard that had eaten part of him glided towards on one of the windows while the rest of the crows squawked in approval and fluttered their wings excitedly. The crowguard looked back and said, “I’ve been hungry fer a bit more than shoulder lately…” He spread his wings and flew away from the throne room, Rotell’s wails echoing across the grey sea.