Rogue

Erika Davenport had been trekking along an unmarked logging road for miles now. The hills between the valley and the coast had a deeply reverent place in her heart, hopelessly and gloriously tangled. The deep green and mossy brown of the flora, the misty hush that cradled every centimeter of the cold, soft soil.

So soon after her mother’s passing, more than ever, she needed this place to be her refuge. But to learn the government’s rumored gestating ground for human weaponry research lived here too, her grief twisted into a sharp black knot in her chest and she couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Empetrum. 44º15’01” N 123º49’28”W

The name and coordinates were all the Conxence knew so far. Unfortunately, it was all the information the head and second-in-command were content with for the time being.

“Your energies are better spent here,” the former had said. Rann wasn’t a mean person, but his directness was often frustrating. He had everything mapped out. When he looked at her, she felt he were looking into her brain and trying to map her out too. “There are probably dozens of similar labs hidden around. No sense stomping off into the woods after one federal stain with so little information. ”

“The facility’s gotta be highly secure,” the second-in-command added, in that soft and earnest way of his. Kepler was a young man but an old soul, who had succeeded to his mother’s position in their ragtag resistance movement upon her abduction by the state. “It’s too much of a risk. We should wait a bit, concentrate on more pressing concerns until we have more information.”

Erika couldn’t be the only one that cared about this. In that moment, she couldn’t help but look at the common scar both men bore: A large hole cut into the cartilage of the right ear. Rann’s was gnarled and partially closed. Kepler had refined the edges of his with an open silver tunnel gauge. The brand of troublemakers, bestowed by law enforcement to anyone arrested under political circumstances.

“Drop it,” Rann said. “You’re not even combat trained yet.”

“Please,” Kepler said, trying to smooth it over. He was always trying to smooth everything over. “I know this is important to you, but just give it time. I’m sure it will show up again, and we’ll be better prepared to deal with it.”

Rann was a control freak and Kepler was a worrywart. With pressure tightening, no one was sure what they were up against, what was festering under the surface. Any new development could be too late. The sheer possibility that human weaponry was becoming a variable was outrageous. But she believed it, and they couldn’t deny the government would keep its secrets unless someone dug them up.

Erika stepped around a large mud puddle in the road. The frogs were out, chirping in the misty stillness. The air smelled so good here. She double checked her GPS. She was on track, moving closer. Soon she would have to take it much slower, leave the path and skirt a circle around the spot, moving slowly forward until she caught a glimpse.

At the very least, Erika needed to see what this abomination of a facility looked like.

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A/N: I realized I haven’t posted any fiction in a while! Been hard at work on the comics train, developing my work, getting ready to graduate and whatnot.

This is an excerpt from The Bioroboticist, which I’m currently working on in prose and comics form. If all goes well, I’ll launch it as a webcomic later this year.

Click here for more information!

Burnout

A little girl is staring up at me. Her eyes are big and blue. She has heavy brown bangs and buckteeth.

She’s clutching 40 pages of a story she wrote and typed out herself.

That girl looks back at me when I catch my reflection in the mirror. I feel her waiting. The depths of that naive, full-throttle eagerness, throbbing in my head.

Somewhere deep, now.

As I sit at my desk, terrified, trying to convince myself I’m all right and on track, I feel the tug at my sleeve.

“Why are you stopping?” she asks. “Are you going to give up? Is that what happens to our story, in the end?”

She thought she’d grow up to be tough and brave. Hoping for something like a downright prodigy, a blazing success story.

But right now, she just has me. Trying. Choking on an intoxicating mix of burnout and intimidation.

It’s windy on the cliff’s edge, even if it’s somewhere I desperately want to be.

I’ve curled up into a ball. It’s not time to jump yet, with every possibility of turning back. And 8-year-old me is not understanding.

She’s angry and scared that I’ve even thought of turning back.

How dare you be finite, she screams. How dare you be weak and fragile.

Why are you like this? Why are you weaker than I was before? Why are you so old and tired within so few years? Why does your breath stick in your throat and your hands tremble when faced with everything you’ve ever wanted? It’s so close now. It’s yours to reach out and take hold of. So why do you sit there, useless and blank?

I thought you wanted this.

Could I have been wrong?

Could we have been wrong…

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A/N: I’m leaving for San Francisco in a few days. Burnout is still in full swing. I’m as overwhelmed by the prospect of picking back up as I was weeks ago, but now I must be busy and keep my appointments.

 

 

The Prolific Writer Type

It didn’t take me long to learn that there are many types of writers. The prolific, the not-so-prolific, those that are good at beginning things, good at ending things, good at short stories, good at long stories, those that write all the time, those that struggle to feel motivated to write hardly at all. The list continues.

I am one of the prolific writers. Perhaps infuriatingly prolific writers. Who churns out pages and pages of content seemingly without significant obstruction.

Because, quite frankly, I am obsessed with it. Not that other writers aren’t obsessed. Writing is hard. We all have to be obsessed with it at least a little to make it a part of our lives.

For me, if I do not write almost constantly, I get heartsick. I tense up, I get restless and unstable and lose my ability to concentrate on anything else. The longer I put it off in favor of homework or other obligations, the worse it gets.

Usually, I take an afternoon/evening Friday sabbath and an all-day Saturday sabbath each week. Friday is to do whatever the heck I want to do as far as wandering around outside, going out to have coffee with friends, watching movies, that sort of stuff. Saturday is writing day. A time to satiate this fundamental, burning need. I’ll spend all day writing, editing, storyplanning (and drawing, because when I say “writing,” storytelling may be a little more accurate).

If you want a better chance of getting me out and about, talk to me on Friday.

Because Saturday is writing day.

Saturday is writing day.

But when my schedule consistently does not permit this? I hate it, for one. Absolutely despise it. It’s cruel and unfair and I cannot get myself to accept such a state. If anything, other things adjust to make room so that writing may remain constant. Other needs suffer in the long run, not writing.

Because there is always a point where it will not be denied anymore. It just takes over.

Like clockwork, this day ends up being Sunday, when I actually need to be working on all the homework I’ve been neglecting. But I can’t do anything until the weight is off my shoulders, out of my lungs, my heart, my brain. I am literally tied up until I have devoted at least a good 2 to 3 hours to some form of storytelling. (Usually through writing/doodling) But even then it’s not enough. Sure, it’s enough to put it off for a little bit, but I can still feel the need, slowly welling back up, constricting my throat, cutting off my ability to think or look at anything as more than a waste of time and energy–even when I value those other pursuits.

(In fact, this blog post is probably a prime example of the manifestation of this writing need taking over when I should be devoting my attention elsewhere, even after I spent a good two hours writing this afternoon.)

I am very seldom at a point where I can purely focus on homework. When I have nothing else needing to be drawn or written. I do homework to get it done. Sometimes I enjoy it. And I hope I learn as much as possible from it. But when it starts obstructing my ability to write, by either sucking up too much time or too much energy, it has severely overstepped its boundaries and needs to learn its place or I will kill it. (I’m at that point right now, actually.)

If anybody has ever envied my writer type, know that it’s a stressful existence. There are few other desires. All time is time to write. That is all I ever want to be doing. It interferes with schoolwork, with taking in new stories through reading/watching things, it dictates my social energy levels and interest. It’s a factor in pretty much everything I do. I cannot relax unless I have time to write. I write because I can’t not.

I can’t function without it. It is breathing. If anything interferes, it is suffocating, draining, panic-inducing.

Perhaps this is why I’m trying to make telling stories–writing, drawing–my career. So I can sustain myself financially the same way I sustain myself emotionally and psychologically.

And 8 weeks remain of my undergraduate degree. 8 busy, writing-choking weeks.

So far, the prevailing phrases in my vernacular are “I can’t be bothered to [fill in the blank].” and “I quit.”

I guess we’ll see what happens. Graduation is going to have to take place at the end of this semester–I will literally not stay here any longer than I have to.

Because I have stuff to write, dangit.

Work

I came here to work, so why am I not working? This has been repeating in my head for a good two days at least.

Seniors are told to “finish the year strong.”—a phrase that feels more and more thwarting every time it dances saccharinely through my recollection. It brings me more restlessness than motivation. A threat that perhaps I’m not doing as well as I should be.

Luckily, no one has seriously said it to me, but I think it every now and again as the countdown to graduation begins. I look at the next three months: book writing, art school application, finishing my first book and seeking publication, planning a month trip to Costa Rica, professional preparation, preparing to move to a different state after graduation….

…Classes…?

Finish strong.

Can’t I wheeze by? Doesn’t that count?

For most of my classes—formatted to small, intimate groups of people studying a subject in depth—wheezing by will make me the obvious weak link. The one who isn’t willing to work anymore and therefore sabotages the experience for everyone.

And I’m familiar enough with myself that I know I’m far too proud for that.

But is it really that I’ve lost all desire to work? I’m entering life, for crying out loud. How can I lose all desire to work now?

I’ll have to start structuring my life again, time managing and discipline and the like—which I get a little dark, whiny feeling inside just writing that down. Resorting to the life survival tool of time management feels like admitting defeat for some reason. Like I’m not really in control and can only try to organize the storm. That classes this semester are going to take over my life so I have to start putting up walls, making priorities, taking sides.

Like: Do I want to sleep or complete my novel? Or: Do I really have time to doodle babies right now…?

JHSbabies   I understand I’ll be better off if I buckle down and work now, but why does it have to be so hard?

Why am I so incredibly unmotivated to the point where I’d rather go to bed early than do even what I love to do? Where things are feeling so repetitive and tedious that I simply can’t be bothered to care anymore? These days I feel like only my underlying perfectionism, this drive to excel and succeed and finish what I started, drags me along like dead weight on a string.

I blame stress. It usually freezes me up. Also, burnout. The undergraduate life is wearing on me.

In light of all this grumbling and muffled whining noises, I have spent the day organizing things, washing dishes, cleaning my room, doing laundry…things I have been putting off that have been slowly stripping my wires over the past week. I learned the three colors of acrylic ink I purchased are compatible with my dip pen. I also made pancakes and eggs and drank coffee from a mug with a map of Middle Earth on it. So that was cool.

All that to say I’m figuring out how to reconcile pride with necessity and find some kind of enjoyment in the middle ground.

Because I can’t stop here.

The Question

“What’s your book about?”

I appreciate this question. It shows me an individual is interested in my work, and I have the chance to share a bit of my heart with them.

Except, most times, I can’t bring myself to do it.

I come up with an excuse, or, after a long, uncomfortable hesitation, I say, “Well…essentially, it’s about mad science and stuff.”

And I’m hyper aware that that says absolutely nothing.

If I’m pressed for details, I’ll eventually open up. A few have drawn the full description out of me, but the majority have been polite enough not to pry further. They’ll find out when I publish it, I suppose.

I still haven’t quite figured out how to verbally give a synopsis of the book in everyday conversation. And it tends to come up a lot—as people ask me what I’ve been up to and I often answer truthfully: “Editing.” But when they ask for details, I shy away from taking up their time talking purely about my work and the world and characters I quite frankly think about all the time.

And for some reason, I don’t feel like I’m important enough to be claiming that time? When they themselves asked the question. It’s weird and backwards and insecure, but perhaps that’s why I’m writing about it.

Maybe I hesitate because it’s so incredibly personal. Yes, I’m going to be publishing the book and I want people to read it. My name’s going to be on it. Currently, if people ask to read it, I will gladly send a tidbit or the entirety of the latest draft, depending on how close I am to the individual.

But being asked to describe my book is like being asked to explain in depth what I think are my greatest qualities. Not that I think my book is my greatest quality, but like anything about me, I’d rather they experience it and see for themselves—pick out the meaning and let it resonate with them as it will. I’m terrified that whatever paltry synopsis I offer will turn them away from it, or make it sound odd and indulgent. Because anyone can write a book. And perhaps too many people are very self important about the pursuit.

For me, strangely enough, writing a book doesn’t feel like too onerous a task. Sure, it takes a great deal of effort and time, but I’ve been obsessed with the activity since I was a kid. No matter how busy I am, I’m always writing, always creating. If I don’t, my heart begins to suffocate. To stay healthy and sane, I must create characters and tell their stories.

So I’m at a point in my life where I’ve finished a book and I’m working on getting it perfected for publication. It’s a source of frustration at times, but it’s what I do to unwind and recover from everything else. It feels very much normal for me. Writing lengthy fiction is what I’ve always done. And sometimes I realize it isn’t a common reality for most people. So then I feel like I’m bragging, and I shy away from being in the spotlight.

Normally, I’ll enjoy occasional moments of attention, taking part in a conversation, letting my presence have bearing. But finding someone suddenly preparing to give me their full attention as I explain the workings of my heart and mind…It’s terrifying.

I freeze up.

I deliberate.

I war between wanting to be honest and brave, but being so excruciatingly uncertain of how my exposition will be received.

So I end up lamely brushing off their request. And that bothers me a bit. I feel like I’ve denied them the answer to a very innocent, well-meaning question—like I don’t trust them enough to be even slightly open with them.

But it’s my heart. Even if I know they’ll be gentle with it, I am afraid to show it. I’m afraid to be completely forthright about what it entails. What it has created, what connections it has sought to foster, what efforts it has made to benefit the world.

I easily open up with people about pretty much everything else—my struggles, desires, fears and insecurities. I’ll often end up steering one-on-one conversations toward deeper matters if given enough time and attention, because I feel like knowing what other people struggle with helps us find support in each other. It helps us humanize each other.

So ask me about what I’m insecure about, and I’ll tell you with little reservation.

But ask me what my book is about—and you may be handed something disappointingly vague.

I’m not dead, I promise.

While I’m making adequate progress on editing what I hope will become my debut novel, as well as trekking through writing another book, one would think I’d be able to write just as avidly about other stuff.

But blogging is hard for me. Pathetically hard, in fact.

I forget about this blog for excruciatingly long stretches of time and only remember when I want to rant. And I don’t want a ranting blog, so I don’t post what I write. And then I get squashed under an overwhelming lack of anything meaningful to say, or I feel like I’m saying the same things over and over again…Especially when much of anything non-fiction I write tends to wax optimistic every single time, or have some kind of hopeful message that, after a while, feels dishonest or overly positive. It even happens when I’m generally feeling hopeless–whether it’s purely from habit, or it’s an attempt to soften the angst in my life, or insecurity about fully expressing said angst, or feelings that my life isn’t interesting enough for anyone to be truly interested……and I could continue muttering about possible reasons until the rise and fall of the zombie apocalypse…

I’m inclined to say I’ll do my best to do better. Maybe when school starts up. Maybe when I publish my book. Maybe when I figure out my life. But to be honest, I’ve determined to be better many times, with little actual progress to show for it. And I’m still fed up with pressuring myself to do anything.

But I still want to keep trying. Because, like everyone else in the world, my voice matters–and I’m still trying to convince myself of that.

So while this blog has had a fitful update schedule of late (meaning mostly no activity whatsoever), I haven’t given up yet.

To those who have stuck around: Thanks. :)

Rejection Letter

I never check my mail, but the other day, my friend convinced me to take the five extra minutes to descend to the depths of Beebe Hall to see how many graded quizzes had been bestowed upon me.

I wasn’t disappointed in my expectation of returned literature quizzes. However, I didn’t expect the envelope from an unfamiliar address, bearing my address written in my own handwriting.

I was a bit confused for a moment. Perhaps I was sending mail to myself from the future!

But then I realized it was probably the result of a publication submission I had made in Magazine and Feature Writing last semester.

I didn’t get my hopes up, because I didn’t feel good about really anything I wrote for that class. When I ripped open the envelope, I found the first page of my manuscript accompanied by a message from the magazine editors.

My article had been rejected.

“I knew it!” I laughed, almost triumphant.

I smiled at my rejection letter, happy to have at least received a reply. The editor’s letter mentioned they don’t respond to everyone’s submissions, increasing my appreciation for the yellow slip of paper.

Even though my work didn’t make it into the specific magazine I had pitched to, they had acknowledged me, however slightly–which made me feel like a writer. A legitimate writer, who still doesn’t like freelance, but who might try my hand at it again. A writer, who is currently editing the 492-page manuscript of her debut novel.

I was rejected, but maybe I really do have a chance.

[In other news, my only excuse for my absence is: “How does time pass so quickly?” I can’t believe the semester is already almost over. So much is happening, with even more to come. Sorry about that. I’ll be working to remedy my noncommittal blogging habits.]

Onward

I felt somewhat displaced New Year’s Day–like an empty-nester, my friend observed.Jbioroboticist

Normally, 2013 ends quietly with me sitting on the couch with whichever members of my family are awake, watching the ball drop in New York City. Afterward, I step out the front door to see if any of the surrounding neighbors’ fireworks are visible, and then return to whatever I usually do after midnight.

This New Year’s Eve looked about the same, except that it was far different than my previous December 31sts. Earlier that afternoon, on the last day of 2013, I finished the first rough draft of my book (synopsis can be found here). It is the longest work I have ever completed. I have been seriously pursuing this story for about a year and a half, and finally, phase one has been attained.

I’m attempting to leave the draft alone for a week, an endeavor I’ve already failed once. I worry I didn’t accomplish what I had been aiming for, that I didn’t stay true to characters, didn’t make them compelling enough, made certain plot points too convenient, littered the work with painfully unnecessary scenes…and the fretting continues. I want to go back immediately and seek to remedy everything I’ve potentially overlooked or messed up, but I need to wait for it to cool off before picking it back up again.

So, now it’s 2014, and I’m overloading with excitement to see what the next 12 months will entail.

With the pursuit of publishing my debut novel, a three-week trip abroad to Hong Kong, Vietnam, and South Korea in the spring, summer research in Arizona, upcoming search for art schools, and the development of my next book, this year is shaping up to be unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.

And I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Ridiculously overwhelmed.

It will be terrifying and challenging, but most definitely one to remember.

Praise God. The glory is His.

As Reality Sets in…

Of all the classes I took fall semester, I classify Magazine and Feature Writing as the hardest of them.

The class itself was very enjoyable and laid back, with reasonably spaced assignments. The pain in it was the frequent requirement of submitting my work to publications–As if I was entirely confident in my ability to write professionally, as if I could take rejection without a heavy heart and pick myself back up from the depths of my embarrassment, as if I had the audacity to extend my work forward into the mix of submissions from much more skillful writers.

Freelance is stinkin’ terrifying, and I didn’t realize this until I took that class. In the beginning, I was shocked into wanting to hide in a corner with my scribblings and never give them out to be read over, thought about, ignored, rejected. Now I feel a little better about it.

I have wanted to write professionally since I was eight years old. I made a goal to publish my stories, because I don’t want to keep my inspiration to myself. So I will take the risk. I will pursue this goal even as reality leans in.

I wrote on my novel this afternoon, and after finishing this blog post, I intend to keep working on it. I am nearing the end of it, and then I will be launched onto the next step–unprovoked submission to a writing market, probably to be rejected several times before I find a place.

As I am nearing this phase, I am again faced with that deep, troubling question: Why does my voice matter?

Why should anyone care about what I have to say? Do I have what it takes to make my voice heard?

At this point, I hold firmly to the belief that everyone’s voice matters, and that, by definition, so does mine. I can expect rejection and frustration in this journey, but I know God has me.

A passion so longstanding is worth fighting for, after all, and I intend to see it through.