“Up in Flames” Short Story

This one, I feel like I genuinely wrote forever ago. I mean, this was from the time before I called myself a writer, so you know it’s old. Really, it’s not great. It was sometime midway through high school, so forever ago, pulled from my files and cleaned up a bit, but it’s essentially the same as I wrote it then. As I feel is necessary with all works of fiction, take from this what you will. If art can’t be open to interpretation, what is? I included a trigger warning, but I expect many people will read it with a different perspective. I also apologize for the slightly morbid feel of the story. I’d say high school was a dark and scary place, but really I just think I’m such a sucker for symbolism that I got inspired by the smallest thing and rolled with it.

Hopefully by the end of this week I’ll have another DC related post up. I’ve been trying, but with the amount of work expected of us, it’s hard to maintain a weekly blog. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this short.

Trigger Warning for Suicide, kind of sort of in a way. But I’d rather be safe than sorry, right?


He had kept everything. At the time, there had been no reason in being rid of it. Now he’d found his reason: if he didn’t get rid of it, he would never be able to escape the ties. In order to have anything new, anything different, he had to destroy the old. Things had changed now.

With his spare hand, he twisted the knob, and the door of the shed opened with a creak. The hinges were rusted, a sign of the time they had endured. Everything was here. Not a single item was out of place. The light cast from outside caused shadows to spring in horror from their hiding places; their stretching forms made everything seem larger than life. Hesitantly, he stepped into the room. Shelves lined the walls, a cabinet stood in the corner, and the there was not an inch of empty space between them. In the center of the room, was a small, simple table that stood as high as his waist. On it sat a bronzed key, weathered by time, just as the hinges had been.

First, he lay the flower down next to the key. It was small and white and tied with several ribbons. He set it down gently, as if the soft petals could shatter like glass or a broken heart. Next, he placed the candle upright on the table and used the third item, a box of matches, to light it. As the tiny flame danced, the shadows joined in the jubilation, dancing to celebrate the symbolism of his actions.

For the memory of it, he took a short stroll around the room. There were items everywhere: small books full of words, little trinkets that represented something or another. They were moments. Each and every one of them stood for a precious moment. The cabinet was nearly overflowing with papers, each one documented and categorized conversations on a cornucopia of topics. Behind every item, barely visible on the wall, were scribbled thoughts and quotes in no logical order. The black ink had faded since they had been written, but he scanned them still:

“It can’t be easy.”

“Don’t be like that.”

“I know and it makes all the difference.”

“No matter what happens.”

Everything in this room was a part of him. Memories and moments that spanned the time he’d lost so that now the mere sight of them was only painful. It would be tragic to see them go, but he knew they had to. This room was full of the past. And the past ought to stay in the past. There were new things to discover now: new people, new places, new things. New moments and memories.

He turned his back to the piles of papers, the seemingly random objects that had run out of relevance, and the writing on the wall. Then he lifted the flower again, trying to ignore the key at the edge of his vision. He would miss that key – seeing it, being part of it. Begrudgingly, he tore his eyes away, knowing this had to be quick and clean, like a band-aid over an old wound. If not now, it would be never. With one final glance around the little shed, he tipped the candle over.

THE END


Once outside, he knelt down with his back to the shed. With his bare hands, he scraped the dirt up in front of him. Handfuls of the soil cleared away to make a small hole. He ceremoniously placed the little white flower inside and pushed the dirt back around it. Heat began to warm his back as he stared at its fragile petals. The flower had no roots, and so no hope of growing, yet he placed it there anyway. What life it had left would ebb away into the soil in a few days, but by then he wouldn’t be around to see it.

When he was satisfied with his work, he pushed himself to his feet and wiped his soiled hands on his faded jeans. A crackling nose had started behind him and he could feel the warmth. He was tempted to look over his shoulder, to watch his old things going up in smoke. He knew he shouldn’t, but he did. And he was doomed by that glance.

Flames devoured the wooden walls with a ravenous red hunger. They licked up the sides with destruction and rage, swallowing the shed whole. Fire was killing his past – killing it. His mind went straight to the key. What would he do without that little key? Nevermind that. How would he remember the quotes, the stories, or all the precious moments without the objects in that room?

He looked down at the flower, then back up to see his treasures burning. This was his fault. He had started the destruction of his own most prized possessions. Again he looked down and it clicked. Something snapped into place in his mind. Why was he willing to let everything burn for the sake of something that wouldn’t live to see tomorrow? Where were his priorities? What was more important?

It was impulse, really, that caused him to act. It was impulse, but a moment of truth nonetheless. Perhaps he would have regretted it, or acted differently if given a second chance. As it was, he couldn’t take it back.

He jumped into the flames to join his past.

And he burned.

THE REAL (but slightly more morbid) END

“A Reaper Reminisces” Short Story

I meant to write a full short story for Halloween in honor of a few friends here. Then I fell very sick this week and haven’t felt like doing anything more than staring at a wall. The story won’t be nearly as effective coming later in the year, but I still intend to finish it. I needed to share a creative piece in the midst of everything else going on. I’m devastated that I’ve been falling woefully behind on posts this month, but I still hope to progress on this blog before my time in DC is up! Who knows, maybe I’ll finish that short story sooner rather than later. Though I’m doubtful, knowing that November is NaNoWriMo. So I pulled a story I wrote ages ago for your reading pleasure (I hope).

I can’t remember when I began writing this, or why. Probably a time when I was quite heartbroken for reasons forgotten to me now. But I pulled it from the depths of my drive to share for this Halloween. Yes, maybe it’s more about the idea of love than an immortal reaper of souls, but I felt it could still be fitting.

On that note, happy Halloween!


I do not claim to have felt love, nor do I understand the justification of such a feeling. I have only witnessed the pain it has caused. Love gives up, gives out, and ends lives. It is a wonder to me why so many put their hearts at risk, especially when the risk is so clearly unworthy of them. Humanity would be much more formidable if not for the presence of love. Humanity would live much longer.

Love is not weakness, as some believe. No, love is very strong indeed. However, to love is to die. To survive, one simply must not love.

To my knowledge, there is no emotion that has demanded more death than love. Since my knowledge is considerable, you should assume that as truth. Hatred is fearsome, but it simmers from a fiery base in love, whether of self or others. Tragedy sits heavily on the minds of many, but none is so gripping as the grief of lost love. Anger, exhilaration, sadness, fear… They pale in comparison to the loves I have seen.

I remember the same loves that humanity holds in history. Tristan and Isolde, Samson and Delilah, Orpheus and Eurydice, and Antony and Cleopatra all spun fantastic tales to be told over and over through the ages. I was there to witness them all. I bore witness to the true pain that no modern mind could comprehend, no matter how they imagine. Only I know the true tragedy, and only I wonder how different the situations may have been with the extrication of love from the equation.

I will not deny the beauty of love. It is stunning and commanding in it’s awesome power. It is the basis for belief and hope, among all the negative inspirations it also spawns. To be fair, I have seen many good born of love in my years. Those same years when loved ones were gripped by tragedy, love united them. Love creates a bond between people that cannot be broken, however much it is beaten or twisted. Humanity is not all bad. Love draws humanity to save itself with moves of service and compassion. It is as if humanity could not exist without an all-powerful love.

No, I cannot claim to explain love. I cannot ever understand it.

But I agree that humanity would fundamentally be different without love.

Without love, humanity could not be humanity.

Perhaps that is justification enough.

Informational Interview 1/3: Kitty Burroughs

THE POSTERCHILDREN: ORIGINS
by Kitty Burroughs, aka quipquipquip
Kitty’s Website
Kitty’s Patreon
TPC on Gumroad
TPC on Storenvy

The Posterchildren: Origins, or TPC for short, is one of my personal favorites in my bookshelf collection. Written by Kitty Burroughs, the series features super-powered teens working their way through public hero boarding school. It’s available on Storenvy, Smashwords, and Gumroad for e-book purchase. Storenvy also has merch and hard copy books.

Kitty also releases Timely Tales, monthly short stories that delve further into the universe, including character history and minor chracters. These are available in e-book form, but we be collected into series of 6 in hard-copy form soon.

There is also a much anticipated sequel: Retcons.

Kitty works very hard to make sure minorities are included, featured, and natural in The Posterchildren. Our world is heavily sprinkled with variety, but media often struggles to represent that properly, if at all. Kitty is very humble and makes no assumption of authority, but she cares about demographics that are rarely included in literature and aims to give them a voice. From a personal bias, I think she is very successful, as Kitty’s work includes some of the best character development and world-building I have ever read. I follow her work regularly, getting the monthly updates straight to my email and helping sponsor her Patreon for the reasons above. Needless to say, I’m a fan.

Two weeks ago, my friend, Cassidy aka ambientmagic, and I had the thrilling opportunity to interview Kitty about her writing and her process. Thrilling. To the point where I may have squealed, danced, and screamed afterward. Since the transcript of this interview is very lengthy, I only included the answers to the questions I specifically asked Kitty, which were more from a creative writer standpoint. However, Cassidy posted the complete transcript on her media representation blog, Representation Matters. If any of her questions interest you, hop on over to her blog to read them. Or hop on over to her blog anyway to read more about the importance of representation in modern media.

The interview (or as I call it, “Best School Project Ever”) follows.


Okay, first question. What drove you to become a writer?
Writing, just in general, or as a vocation? (Both.) I started writing when I was in fourth grade, and I didn’t really see it as a serious thing, because this was before fanfiction had really evolved on the internet, and really before we had internet in our home. I was sixteen or seventeen before we had internet in our home, so I had no connection to fandom at that time, but I was still writing fanfiction for myself. In the fourth grade, Sailor Moon was my first fanfiction. I was just writing for myself, because I had these stories that would entertain me, and I have terrible short term memory, so it was a way of preserving the stories for me to go over later on. I started sharing my fanfiction when I got into my Harry Potter phase in sixth or seventh grade. That’s when I started reading fanfiction online and participating in fandom in that way. I got to the point where I never saw myself as doing anything but writing. I kept doing it, it made me happy, I get weird and irritable when I don’t write (laugh), so it was one of those things I always knew.
I didn’t see it as something I could make a career out of until I was sixteen and one of my short stories won an award for promising young writers. I got a small scholarship for it, and I got to attend a four-day writing conference for professional authors in Portland. That was the moment when I realized this was a serious thing that I could probably do for a career. If I could get into this business, it could possibly, maybe support me. That conference was definitely an opportunity. I got to talk with both editors and agents, I got to practice my pitch, and really see what that part of the industry looked like. My family wasn’t supportive, because it is so difficult to get into the industry, and how much luck and opportunity is involved. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I was like, okay. Maybe I can do this.

What inspired you to write The Posterchildren, specifically? (See Representation Matters blog.)

When you wrote TPC, did you consider going through a publisher, and what made you decide to self-publish? (See Representation Matters blog.)

Which is easier to publish, print or digital books? (See Representation Matters blog.)

You release new material regularly. How difficult is it to write to that deadline? And how do you hold yourself to that deadline?
It’s cute that you think I do. (laugh) I really try to keep things on a regular schedule, because if you don’t keep to some kind of deadline, you don’t do anything. You’ll keep pushing it further and further out, even if you’re not a procrastinator. It’s difficult for me to write to a deadline currently, because I just got a new job that takes up much more of my time than I expected. Since that has taken the reins, it’s not always easy to release content on schedule. The nice thing about TPC being a fairly small project is most readers realize that I am human, and it’s a one-person show here. I try to hold myself to it, but I also try not to beat myself up if bad things happen.

On that note, how do you balance writing with “the real world”? (See Representation Matters blog.)

Is there anything you would have done differently with your first book, Origins, that you can apply to the sequel, Retcons? (See Representation Matters blog.)

How do you research the religions, cultures, and sexualities that you put in your novels?
Well, I am white and a part of that majority, so I do my best to do as much research as possible. Most of my characters have had a very different background than mine, so their experiences are very different from mine. I try to read a lot of first person accounts, and search out voices from that minority, because it’s them I’m representing, and it’s their voice I want to prioritize. I talk to as many people as I can, and read as much material as possible.

Tell us why representation in your work is so important to you. (See Representation Matters blog.)

To switch topics, how did indiegogo and social media help you get your book out to the public?(See Representation Matters blog.)

What is your writing process like? Do you write chronologically, scene-by-scene…?
Well, I have ADD, and my writing process definitely reflects that. I have what I call my “slush pile” document, so whenever I think of something, I immediately write it down and dump it into that document. So everything, everything is in that document. When I want to find something in there, I Ctrl+F and hope I can remember some of the words I used that day. So my organization and writing process is just–a mess. (laugh) But it’s a semi-organized chaos that seems to work for me. I don’t write chronologically, but I do have bullet points and block out everything before I go into a story so I have an idea of the direction I’m headed and then let my ADD go in every direction, then piece it together at the end.

How many other people edit your works before they’re published? And how secretive are you about your plots before they’re released?
I only have one dedicated editor, who is my girlfriend, Arden, tumblr user mindgoggling who is awesome and has been with me on TPC from the beginning. She’s my sounding board, my editor, and also a resource because she’s Muslim, so that’s where I get a lot of details for Mal and his family. As far as secretiveness goes, I’m terrible. (laugh) It still hasn’t clicked for me that people want to hear about my original characters! I’m still a fanfiction writer at heart and I’m afraid I’m bothering people. I have a bad problem of telling people spoilers when I know they’re not going to tell the internet at large. There are some people I’ve spoiled by accident because I thought I’d already told them something. I use those people as a sound board to ask, does this sound dumb? Is it a good idea? Am I going too far over the line? Oops, I almost told a joke that was nothing but spoilers… Since this is my first interview, if you want to hear things, I’ll give you three free spoilers.
THE NEXT SEVERAL MINUTES OF THIS INTERVIEW HAVE BEEN REDACTED
Oh my God.
Oh my God.

Okay. One thing I struggle with is placing clues at the right point. How do you decide when to release bits of secrets?
It’s funny because there’s so many hints you’ll see now that you know REDACTED, because to me, a good twist is one that people get two sentences before it’s revealed, and it all comes together for the reader on their own before it gets confirmed, rather than blindsiding them. As a reader myself, it almost feels rude when something is just dropped on you out of nowhere. It’s really fun and enjoyable when you’re going through something and there’s this underlying mystery and you can feel yourself build it up and explore it. It seems more interactive to me. That’s what I enjoy doing, is leaving those Easter eggs for readers. You have to take into account the pacing as well. Some arcs continue into the third book, and others are only for one chapter.

What strategies do you use to world-build and explore your characters?
There’s nothing worse than all your characters being the same, so I try to make them as different from each other as possible. My goal always, is to make the character’s voice obvious with dialogue tags, but without using obvious clues like catchphrases. Every character is a person; they have words they tend to use and overuse, they have a background that influences their word choices, and that is one of the most important parts of character building to me. As for the world-building, people assumed that since the series is so diversity heavy it would take place in an idealized version of the world without the prejudices we have here. I try to keep in mind, what is different about this world from the world as it is today? How would the existence of these groups of people influence history? That’s where I start to get my structure, and how to put the existence of posthumans into the world itself in a semi-realistic way.

Okay, this is the last question on our list. What advice do you have for people who want to start writing?
Do it. Write. To me, everyone has about a million terrible words in them. Your first couple of stories are not going to be any good. They’re going to be terrible and that’s just the way it is. It’s like any other craft, any other skill; you have to keep working at it. It’s something you acquire over time with practice, by putting in the hours, and it’s not waiting for the moment of pure brilliance and inspiration to strike. You have to work on it every day, and stick to it.

Snapshot Stories Pt. 2/?

I can’t say how many of these there will be. These three snapshots compose the second post in a series I can’t put a number to. The first can be read here. Thankfully, these didn’t manage to be as depressing as the first set, with #6 perhaps being the exception. These, more for me maybe than anyone else, have been a blessing. They give me a small writing project as I travel to and from work. They allow me to hone my craft in the little ways. They keep me immersed in writing, even when it’s not a big project. Plus, they’re a ton of fun.

In honor of the snapshots in the hall.

#4

The sign screamed, “DANGER” but he didn’t hear it.  Instead, he leaned casually against the edifice, pulling his tie tightly into a knot. The sheer walls of smoothly cut stone rose sharply around him, but they didn’t intimidate him. Even the dark hole marked with danger didn’t intimidate him. This was his territory. He was comfortable in it. If he’d wanted to, he could have dusted the stains of his pants and boots. If he’d wanted to, he could have had a suit to pair with his tie. But he didn’t want to. He was proud of the stains and his clothing. Every stone, every pipe, every rail had passed through his crafting palms, and that gave him power.

#5

She despised nothing so much as country roads. The car’s thin wheels carved its own rivers in the road, but the second the infernal machine crossed another set of tracks, the car jumped, and her teeth set to rattling. The only thing keeping her hat on her head was a ribbon that only ended up choking her. The driver argued that the view was beautiful, as if that could persuade her. Dust aggressively rained into her eyes. How could she see any view in conditions like this? Much less enjoy it. Besides, the views hid behind pitiful fences of basic wood and wire. She’d have to look past the eyesores just to appreciate the mountains. No, she despised the whole endeavor: the hot sun, the bumpy roads, and she resented the dust hiding in the creases of her favorite dress.

#6

Hell was smoky – the heavy kind of smoky that accompanied the acrid smell of burning wood. Hell was carpeted with thick, grimy dirt and prickly, broken branches. Hell had no sun. Hell had no sky. And hell heard only the cries of fallen men and echoing gunshots. He didn’t count the soldiers next to him as signs of life. Either they were dead men walking, or they’d long since given up on being anything else. The trees, destroyed and splintered, still reached for the unseen sky in a wicked parody of fingers. His own fingers twitched in reflex as he peered through the scope and waited for the illusion of a pause to end. In hell, there was no peace. And every time peace settled in his bones, he reminded himself that it was a lie. This was hell. This was war.

Just a reminder that these are not historical and include no basis for fact. They are only the musings of an overly-inspired writer trying to glimpse into a moment of time. Still, I hope you enjoy them.

“That of the Moon” Short Story

So this has nothing to do with D.C. except in that I wrote it on the plane ride here. It is inspired by and dedicated to my good friend, Nick Koontz. Much love goes to him from up here, and I’ll be so glad to see him again in December. While I had said half-jokingly that I was going to write him a short story, it ended up being such a fun writing exercise so I’m glad I did it. Though I hope the piteous amount of sleep I got before the flight doesn’t affect the quality of the piece. Anyway, I hope you enjoy, and feel free to leave a review!


The silver of his hair was that of the moon. Though the silver disk never dropped below the surface of the ocean, he’d long stared at it and admired it’s might. The ocean obeyed the moon, and so did he. There was an awesome power the moon possessed that moved the waves toward shore and churned the currents in the depths of the sea. Every night he glimpsed it, he reached out his hand to touch the hanging medallion, but it always eluded his fingertips.

Air stung harshly against his gills, even on the peaceful nights like these. His trips to the surface were few, far between, and only to witness the glory of the night sky. The sounds were different up here too. Instead of muffled noises of an underwater world, this side of the sea was stark and clear. Waves danced against each other with quiet splashes of delight, making him long to join them. Once, he’d even heard the tremendous crash of thunder on a stormy night. Though, admittedly, it had terrified him then, he reveled in the memory now.

The world above held little appeal for him. Water was his comfort; when it enveloped him, he felt at home. He put up with the stinging air, but he hated it. He admired the sounds, but no more than the familiar song he heard under the sea. No, the only reason he visited the sky at all was to see the glorious moon.

With his face upturned, he offered a short prayer. His hopes were not grand, but that didn’t matter. The moon would listen, and that alone was enough. Webbed fingers brushed his lips and raised the kiss in farewell to the sky, the waves, and his moon. With a last forced breath, he combed his hand back through his silver hair and dove again beneath the black.


Love you, Nick! Hope you liked it! Stay genuine!

The Wretched Redemption of Writing

Writing has incredible healing properties.

And it can tear you apart limb from limb.

At least my broken hearts can be put to paper, my tears turned to words. At least chaos can turn inspiration, dreams can spin a story. I am happy with being a writer. I love finding creativity everywhere I look as I walk through my day.

But there must always be a shadowed side to balance the good.

I can use my pain to provoke a plot, but very rarely do I allow myself relive the experience entirely. Change the names, create the scenes, sprinkle in the symbolism, add some drama, make it fiction. Sometimes, even though the scenarios have evolved so drastically from an original occurance, the events hit too close to home.

A fictional character struggling with cancer can feel like an IRL family member fighting to live in the hospital.

A fictional suicide can be reminiscent of an IRL friend who could have easily succumbed to the depression and been lost.

And – my greatest problem right now – a fictional sacrificial killing (that I’m supposed to be covering in the next chapter of my novel) only makes me think of my beautiful cat that was brutally murdered this weekend.

I love writing. It is my escape, my gift, my passion. But every time I think of the fictional scene, reality invades in a fury. I don’t much like to skip around in this process but the scene is simply impossible for me to write right now.

And any tragic event is difficult enough to write into a novel already. I cry every time I kill off a character. I mourn every time a relationship ends. And I struggle to write fatal illnesses, miscarriages, and depression.

“Write what you know,” they say.

But if everyone followed that advice, we’d have no fiction to read because writing what you know is painful. Every fiction story we hold dear would simply be a conglomeration of non-fiction events. Nothing would provide our escape from reality anymore. Reading things I relate to is hard enough. Writing close to what I know borders on unbearable. There is a fine line between writing the real and writing real life. Crossing that line can be hugely detrimental to the writer (and sometimes the reader, but that’s our evil master plan anyway).

So the larger challenges we face: how do we write a real story without putting reality on paper? And how do we heal ourselves by writing through the pain?

Of Dragons and Men

At night, my blanket is tucked under my legs, the air on full blast. My weapon is in my hands and I find myself fighting dragons.

All of my imaginary friends are dragons. I suppose they represent different things. This sounds so silly if you don’t appreciate the metaphor. As a writer, I live in a fictional world. I see the little things around me as inexplicably magical. It’s like my imaginary world is imposed on the reality around me. My problems appear as fearsome dragons. And currently, my dragon is writer’s block.

Every time I face the beast, I end up getting burned. I’m exceedingly disappointed in myself for failing every attempt. I can make no progress in my quest — writing a novel — until the serpent is slain and I can proudly stride over it’s hollow carcass.

Okay, I think my metaphor may be getting a bit frightening.

In the process of editing my novel, I keep encountering these obstacles that protect the rest of the story, but don’t allow me to reach it. I have a readership group that is waiting on me to finish another few chapters so they can read and give me feedback. And here I stand, just staring up at a scaled dragon. And I’m so prepared: I’ve got my wooden sword in one hand and my tin-foil shield in the other. Wow, writer’s block can make you feel helpless.

So I finally got past the particular instance of writer’s block that was really getting to me. I aimed high. I wanted to be able to complete the novel by Halloween. Now it’s looking more like it will be Christmas. (But that’s with NaNo sandwiched in there too.)

Really quickly though, I’m not addressing ways to get around writer’s block. There are tons of suggestions out there and everyone differs on which tactic is best for them. No, my encouragement of the day is more along the lines of: just because you feel helpless, doesn’t mean you are. I felt so useless up against this block. It wasn’t coming to me. Even the characters, who have lives of their own, weren’t helping. But I’m the freaking author! I control this world. I can make it happen. I can put them through hell or I can get them out of it. I have the power to say yes or no. The writer manipulates the story and the world.

My wooden sword became a sharpened blade, my tin foil a refined shield (maybe with a little inkwell crest on the front). And I can slay the dragon.