Portal Fantasy Scenario

Again for my Fantasy Lit course, we were given a creative writing assignment. This one was to write our own portal fantasy scenario after having read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and other short portal fantasy narratives. This was my take, inspired by my sister Becca and her love of bubble baths (my nickname for her is Beverly, since my iPhone always wants to autocorrect her name to this for some reason). Like my previous post, this short scene doesn’t have a title yet, but perhaps I’ll continue it when I get a chance.

 

It happened on an ordinary day.

Beverly got home from school, cursing the cold as she walked up the long snowy driveway. She kicked off her boots at the door and let her backpack slip from her arm and plop down in the middle of the floor, just like always. Her coat she threw over the back of the couch. And she went straight into the bathroom, like any other day.

Beverly had the habit of taking extraordinarily long bubble baths every day after school. When she was home alone, no one could complain about her using up all the hot water or staying in there for too long. She could do as she pleased.

This time, like all the times before, she adjusted the tub faucet until steaming hot water poured out, then reached for her bottle of bubble bath on the shelf above the toilet—only to come up empty handed and recall that she’d finished it off the day before. That was okay, though; she had some more in her room.

The new bottle, still in a sparkly green gift bag, had been a Christmas gift from her older sister Wren. Beverly smiled at the gift tag, where Wren had drawn a little cartoon beaver in the To field and a small songbird after From. The bubble bath itself was in a glass container the shape of a chemistry flask, sealed and stoppered with a cork. The label revealed that it was from Andromeda’s Apothecary—probably some weird hippie shop in Wren’s college town—and that the scent was Perpetual Pear, which it went on to describe as “a crisp yet smooth blend of nashi pear and honey with a just hint of lotus.”

Beverly saw for the first time a note in Wren’s writing at the bottom of the gift bag—she hadn’t noticed it on Christmas morning. It read:

 

Dear Bev,

To the Ancient Chinese, pears were a symbol of immortality. Honey, throughout the ages, has been valued for its sweetness. The lotus flower, in various cultures (i.e. Buddhism, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, etc.), symbolizes purity and rebirth.

So, if you use this scent in your baths, maybe Mom will stop complaining that you’re growing up too fast and wondering what happened to her sweet and innocent little Bevvie Bear. Also, it smells pretty.

Merry Christmas,

Wren

 

Beverly laughed out loud at this—it was really a thoughtful gift. And then she remembered the tub was still running and rushed to the bathroom, bottle of bubble bath in hand. Luckily, it wasn’t too full, and she still had time to uncork the soap and add it.

Minutes later, Beverly had music playing through the portable speaker—it was her bath-time playlist—tea-lights lit and spaced evenly along the edge of the tub, and fluffy pink towels hung on the rack on the wall. She stripped off her last bit of clothing and toed her way into the warm water.

She sank down into the bubbles, letting the water line reach her shoulders, then leaned her head back against the edge of the tub opposite the faucet. These bubble baths were the best part of Beverly’s day, a time when she could finally be completely relaxed and calm. And Wren was right—the Perpetual Pear did smell nice.

After a couple songs, beads of sweat coated Beverly’s forehead and upper lip—she could taste the saltiness. She shimmied down and let herself slip completely underwater, submerging her entire being in the soapy warm cleanliness.

But when she came back up into the cool air, something seemed off.

She sat up and wiped the water from her eyes, and then Beverly realized that everything was all wrong.

It wasn’t just cool; it was cold, like the window had been left wide open and the heat shut off. And it was dark. At first she thought her candles must’ve been blown out or splashed on or knocked over, but then she realized they were no longer there at all. The afternoon light that should’ve filtered through the blinds of the bathroom window had been replaced with inky blackness. And it was silent—no sign of the speaker or her phone that had been bluetoothing music to it.

Once her eyes had a chance to adjust to the sudden darkness, Beverly came to the conclusion that she was no longer in her bathroom at all. Nothing was the same except herself and the smell of the bubble bath.

She quickly got out of the tub and dried off with a thin, white towel she found hanging on a wrought iron hook in the dark wood-paneled wall—this was nothing like the slim silver bar fastened to the painted white wall of her bathroom.

But as she examined everything more closely, she realized it still resembled her bathroom in layout—it was just the furnishings and décor that differed… and the vibe. This bathroom wasn’t cozy and welcoming like hers; it was eerie. Still, the toilet was where it should be, though not as it should be, and the sink was to the toilet’s left, but instead of a basin resting in a marble countertop, it was a stone pedestal sink.

Where her dirty clothes had lain in a pile on the floor before, there was now a neat stack of dark folded fabric: simple but sturdy clothing, which Beverly quickly put on. She twisted her wet hair into a bun using the hairband on her wrist, which for some reason hadn’t disappeared or changed—perhaps because it was directly on her.

At this point, she’d come up with an explanation for everything: she was dreaming. She’d fallen asleep in the tub, and being in the water was making her have a really strange dream. But even as she thought it, she knew it couldn’t be true. She’d never before been aware of dreaming, and she’d never had a dream that felt like this.

It was all too real.

She decided she might as well go check things out.

She stepped over to the bathroom door, which, like the walls, was now of dark wood instead of painted white. The plain silver knob had been replaced by an antique-looking bronze handle that curved and had elegant embellishments, but nevertheless, Beverly turned it and opened the door.

Flash Fiction: The Fox

This semester, one of the classes I’m taking is Fantasy Literature. One of our short writing assignments was to – rather than comment on a passage from our reading (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, by the way) – come up with our own piece of animal fantasy. We were to either summarize what would happen in our story or write out the beginning of it, and I chose to do the latter. Since I haven’t posted in a while, I figured why not share it here? It doesn’t really have a title, and it’s just a short scene – but I enjoyed writing it.

 

As the forest grew darker, Meredith’s sense of unease grew greater. It had been two hours since she’d run away, climbing noiselessly through her bedroom window and escaping into the woods behind her house. After another torturous dinner with her mother and Richard—neither of them listening to a word she’d said or even acknowledging her existence—she’d gone to her room under the guise of fatigue and locked the door behind her. She knew they wouldn’t disturb her for the rest of the night, and then who knew how long it would be before they noticed her disappearance?

As she walked on, the long, black shadows of the trees seemed to be reaching out for her, trying to grab her and pull her back home. Meredith quickened her pace, and her backpack bounced lightly against her shoulder blades. She hadn’t brought much with her—just some warmer clothing, a water bottle, protein bars, and her journal. She never went anywhere without her black Moleskine, for she was constantly jotting down the extraordinary ideas and images that seemed to spring forth from out of nowhere in her mind.

In fact, just up ahead to the left she saw a flash of color that she couldn’t be certain wasn’t part of her imagination. It had looked like a trail of fire, appearing as if by the stroke of a paintbrush between two dark trees and vanishing just as quickly. Surely it was just in her head. This happened all the time—her imagination conjuring fantastical details and apparitions that could not actually exist—and habit made her pause to unzip her bag and withdraw her journal…

But there it was again: a red-orange blur. And it looked so real—it didn’t have that weird hazy quality and texture by which she’d learned to identify her mind’s projections and distinguish them from reality. She slowly approached the spot ahead where she thought she’d seen the thing, whatever it was.

The forest seemed to go still, and an unnatural hush fell. Meredith was hyperaware of the sound of her breathing and the crunch of leaves beneath her feet. She paused. The silence was broken by a whispery sound, though there was no wind, and she could’ve sworn she heard her name: Meredith.

She spun around abruptly.

Not ten yards away, in the misty darkness of the woods, stood a fox.

Meredith expected the creature to flee, but it watched her, unmoving. She waited, and a sort of stare-off began to take place.

Finally, after a full minute had passed, Meredith took a step forward. The fox tilted its head to the side, pawed the ground, and took off at a sprint.

Meredith let out the breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding. She watched the animal go, its bright orange fur blazing through the gloomy forest. Just when it would’ve disappeared from sight, it stopped and turned back to her. Waiting.

She hesitated, then took a step in its direction. When it still hadn’t moved after several seconds, she continued toward it. The fox dipped its head, almost as if to say, Yes, that’s it. Come with me.

When she had nearly closed the distance between them, the fox took off running yet again. And this time, Meredith ran after it.

French kiss.

Below is a brief scene I wrote last year. I’m not sure if I planned on going somewhere with it or simply letting it stand alone as a snippet of a character’s personality, but I decided to post it as is.

 

“You know French?!” she exclaimed, eyes lighting up. He, who would have otherwise been out of her notice, had sparked her interest. She amused herself with the idea of a new conquest.

“Yeah,” he answered, “I took six years of it.”

“I’m so jealous. I’m only in my second semester of French. But,” she gave an alluring smile, “I am studying abroad in France this summer.”

“Wow, really? That’s amazing! I’d love to go to France.”

“You’ll have to come visit me while I’m there then.” She smirked.

* * * * *

“So,” she began pointedly, “say something to me in French. I’m sure yours is far superior to mine.”

“Um,” he paused to think. “Okay… Je voudrais dormir.”

“You want to go to bed?!” she scoffed and playfully slapped his arm with the back of her hand.

“It was the first thing that came to mind!” He laughed and pulled the blanket tighter around himself. “And, it is really late.”

“You’re so lame.” She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms in feigned offense. After an exaggerated sigh, she leaned in a little and ran a hand through her hair. “How about… tu veux m’embrasser instead?”

His eyebrows raised instinctively at this, and in an amused voice, he responded, “Peut-être.”

She smiled and held his gaze for a moment. “I’m going to go get us some more drinks,” she suddenly declared, pushing the blanket off herself and moving to stand.

 

 

Book Reviews: Frost & Thorns by Kate Avery Ellison

I know I haven’t posted in an eternity, but I’ve been extremely busy. While I would’ve liked to write and complete something worthy of posting over the summer, I did not have the chance. For the first half, I was studying abroad in France. I did get around to some writing during the second half, but this was after giving myself a month to relax and do nothing whatsoever. Then, shortly after I had started a new piece, fall semester arrived again. This term, like most, has had me completely busy with class and homework, but I have a job now as well. So, sadly, I’ve had to neglect my writing.

But I have been reading a lot still, and while this won’t be an original piece, I wanted to share my thoughts on two young adult novels I recently read: Frost and Thorns, the first and second books of The Frost Chronicles series by Kate Avery Ellison. Check out her blog here (where she was nice enough to respond to a comment of mine).

Below are the reviews I wrote awhile ago for LibraryThing. While the first is a full-fledged review, the second is a shorter bit of thoughts.

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Frost.

Oh boy. I completely devoured this book in two days (which is fast considering my busy schedule!). And I loved every moment of it.

In Frost, Kate Avery Ellison has constructed a world quite different than our own, but not so much so as to be unimaginable. The perfect balance between description and action, this young adult novel has a plot that moves at just the right pace. I became completely invested in the narrator, Lia Weaver, and the lives of those around her.

At first, I couldn’t help but think the novel had a Hunger Games feel to it – the quota, rations, and general life of the people in the village in addition to the kind of responsibility that’s put on Lia made it impossible not to compare her to Katniss. But Ellison’s novel and narrator are something else entirely. Responsible, worried, caring, strong, in tune with her feelings despite being a little closed off, fearful yet brave – all this and more make Lia the likable protagonist she is.

She and the other town villagers have one major threat: the Watchers. These mysterious and dangerous creatures are monsters that stalk the woods at night. Are they animal or are they something else, something mechanical? I’m not quite sure yet. Another young adult fiction novel came to mind for me here: James Dashner’s The Maze Runner and its creatures called Grievers. In both novels, the creatures are a mysterious and lurking threat that keep those they stalk inside at night. I don’t know enough about the Watchers yet, but they are more important than they initially seem. And they are only a tiny part of Frost’s plot.

Lia, after helping her sister rescue a young man dying in the woods, is torn between fear of the stranger Gabe and interest in him. She discovers secrets that make her question how well she knew her dead parents. Corrupt political powers and a secret conspiratorial group in revolt emerge, and the plot thickens. The novel has a lot going on… in a good way. As the intriguing conflicts build up, the mystery of it all becomes all the more appealing.

I found myself completely sucked into this story – I stayed up later than I should’ve and even snuck in a few pages at work and in class when I could. Frost is a great start to the series, and I will definitely be picking up the next book.

Thorns.

Thorns is a great followup to Frost and does not disappoint. This time around we get to know some of the other characters a little better, and new enemies are introduced. The strain on the villagers is greater than ever, and someone needs to do something. Lia and Adam take action, working as Thorns operatives, and their relationship begins to grow. The Brewer boy turns out to be a very intriguing and likable character, and Lia establishes herself a little more. Her siblings also break somewhat free from their ‘children stuck at home’ roles.

While I could see some things coming, it was never far ahead of the narrator herself discovering them, and this novel definitely had moments that left me shocked. I can’t wait to read the third in the series… just patiently waiting for it to be released on Smashwords so I can read it on iBooks. :)

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I have yet to read Weavers, Bluewing, or Aeralis, the final three novels of the series, because I am waiting on a particular format to be released, but I definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys young adult / dystopian fiction and doesn’t take reading too seriously – after all, it doesn’t always have to be academic; reading for fun is important, too. Here are the links to all five novels on Amazon:
Frost
Thorns
Weavers
Bluewing
Aeralis

Whitman’s “Beginning My Studies”

While reading a PDF selection titled “How to Read a Poem” for my English 340 / Studies in Poetry course, I came across something that caused me to have an epiphany of sorts.

Walt Whitman’s poem “Beginning My Studies” was one of twenty-six he wrote to introduce his major work, a single book he had been working on his whole life.

The feeling he describes in this poem, the feeling of loving the idea of just starting out so much that he does not want to move forward, is exactly how I feel when I start working on a new story. Perhaps this is why I have difficulty completing what I hope would become novels. When inspiration strikes, I absolutely love sitting down with my laptop to begin typing out a new idea. It’s moving past that beginning I have trouble with, and this must be because I “linger with pleasure over the ecstatic beginning.”

Short Story: The Haze

Writing “The Haze”

“The Haze” is one of those stories that turned out completely different than I expected or had initially planned. When I first started writing this story, I was dealing with a potential plot far too large to rein in for the acceptable length of a short story. I had plenty of ideas; I just didn’t have enough time or space to utilize them. With that in mind, I’d like to think of the final product as almost a ‘Part One’ to the story. I left the ending almost open-ended intentionally; while the story does have a conclusion that can be left as is, I could very well see myself coming back to this world and these characters to continue telling about their journey.

This story changed a lot throughout the writing and editing process. I had multiple scenes in my mind that I planned on using, but as I wrote, the story went in another direction. I even came up with a subplot involving the narrator’s father, but short stories just aren’t long enough to have that much going on. As for the scenes that only ever played out in my head and never made it to the page: when I wrote, I didn’t always know what was going to happen next in my story; I sort of just let my characters do what they wanted and behave how I thought they would. Everything ended up coming together pretty well in the end, and I’m happy with how it turned out.

It’s crazy how much of a writer’s own life unintentionally seeps into her writing. As “The Haze” developed further, I realized a lot of it was quite similar to my life, especially the familial relationships. I certainly didn’t set out to do this intentionally other than using a female college student for a narrator. I specifically gave the narrator a younger brother instead of a sister to differentiate the story from my own life a little, but still, resemblances abound.

Of course, in my actual life, there isn’t a harmful new virus running rampant. Being a huge fan of science fiction, the supernatural, the magical, the “weird,” and anything post-apocalyptic, I wanted my short story to exist in a world different from the norm. Indeed, my characters could exist in a normal world – their own world starts out just like ours before the spread of the virus – and none of them have any supernatural abilities, but my story still includes an element similar to those of the previously mentioned genres. Around the time I started “The Haze,” I had just started watching AMC’s The Walking Dead, if that provides any insight to my creative state of mind. Though I was inspired by this show and other popular stories, I didn’t want to write something completely typical of the genre.

I really enjoyed developing my characters, Jenessa and Isaac especially, and had fun coming up with the plot overall. Writing puts me in the same state of mind as reading a really good book does – it’s not necessarily a “high,” but when I take a break, I experience the feeling of another life lingering in my mind, a little bit like waking up from a very vivid dream. Perhaps I will write a ‘Part Two’ to “The Haze” this summer.

And here is the finished product:
THE HAZE

Repurposed Art: The Gardener and the Pianist


For my repurposed art project, I chose to translate a piece of artwork I did in high school into a piece of flash fiction. This piece, which can also be seen on my artwork page, is made entirely of white charcoal pencil on black paper. So the process of creating this was completely opposite to that of a normal charcoal; instead of shading and adding pigment, I had to work by taking away darkness. In writing this short piece of fiction, I simply used the room from my drawing as inspiration for part of the setting and let my creativity run wild. It is meant to be a portion of the room Mirabelle – and eventually Elijah – occupies.
The actual content of the drawing doesn’t so much have to do with the story I’ve come up with, but it was my source of inspiration. Also, if this is of any interest to anyone, I listened to Evanescence while I wrote (i.e. the dark melodies of the piano).
My flash fiction piece, The Gardener and the Pianist, can be viewed on my repurposed art page. I hope you enjoy it! :)

Rachel.