I'm still learning ASL, and watching legendary people do song covers is so much fun! Here's another one! Happy Monday!
Running. Dark ruined streets. Black, grey, dingy and smoky everywhere she looked. Even the people, dark, shadowy, hooded. Some turned to stare at her as she ran by. She didn’t know if her pursuers were still behind her, or if she’s lost them.
She hurried down a quieter street. A residential neighborhood, at least, what remained of one. Now… Were these houses abandoned? They looked so old. Smashed windows, peeling paint… Even the paint was dark and grey. Who would decide to do that?
There seemed to be no one around, so she let herself slow to a walk. There were piles of trash and rubble in one of the yards ahead, and she decided to hide among a stack of ruined furniture. She nestled down into a broken armchair, uncomfortable, but safely hidden. Maybe she should stay here for a while, but how long? How long had she been here? She couldn’t tell what time it was. The sky was so dark, even in the middle of the day. Looking up, she tried to locate the sun, but there was nothing above her but smoke. How is that possible?
A sound snapped her out of her questions. Someone was crying. Her instincts brought her out of hiding, and forced her legs to move toward the sound. Only when she began to think did she slow down. This could be another trap. She didn’t know who those shadowy things were, or what they wanted with her, but they’d chased after her every time they saw her, and it was terrifying. But she didn’t remember hearing them speak in an ordinary human way, or even make ordinary human sounds. And this sound was normal and human. It was so human and so familiar, it could have been one of her own sons. Where they here, lost in this nightmare with her?
She saw him. A boy, no more than ten, hiding behind a trash can a few houses away from her own hiding spot. He wore an orange T-shirt and blue jeans, far more colorful than anyone else she’d seen. She checked her own clothes, realizing she had no idea what she was wearing. Odd, considering how much thought she put into her outfits every morning. Hm. Long black hair. A little too dark for this strange realm, but normal in her everyday life. A pink shirt to make up for it, check. But was this a shirt she actually owned? It seemed like a combination of several of them. Still, normal enough. Practical shoes for running errands, and ill-fitting mom-jeans. Perfect. So, why was everything else so bonkers?
“Are you okay, young man?”
He jumped. “Who’s there?”
“It’s okay,” she said. His eyes were ordinary, and when they met hers, she saw the same relief on his face. Neither of them had seem anything but shadows for as long as they’d been there. Hm. How long exactly was that?
“I’m not going to hurt you,” she said. “My name’s Josephina. What’s yours?”
“Benny,” he said.
“Very good to meet you, Benny,” Josephina said. “Are you alright?”
“Fine,” he said, blushing a little as he wiped away the rest of his tears. “I just think I’m lost or something. Do you know where we are?”
“I’m afraid not. I don’t remember how I got here, or how long I’ve been here, and you’re the only other human I’ve come across. I keep thinking this is some kind of dream, but if you’re sharing it, that is particularly odd.”
A ringing sound made them both jump. “It’s my phone!” Benny cried. He quickly answered it. “Hello? Hello? Mom? Mom! You have to come find me, I’m… I don’t know where, I… I’m sorry, Mom! Please come find me! Mom?” He was quiet for several moments, lowering the phone from his ear. The phone disintegrated, and the dust blew away.
“I don’t even have a phone! This has to be a dream! Why can’t I wake up! I wanna wake up!”
“Me too, honey. I’m afraid I don’t know what’s happening either, but look, Benny. Look at me. We’re in this together now. We can look after each other. I could use a strong young man beside me, and I’m sure you’ll find some use for a silly old woman. You’re not alone.”
Keep rhythm with the other strange figures. Keep your face still, void of emotion. Eyes down. Move with slow, fluid motions… Raven tried to keep all those thoughts in her mind as she walked down the street, blending in with the other strange figures. Now she was thankful for her gothic look, which many people had told her was a phase that never should have followed her beyond high school. Ever since arriving wherever she was, she’d been either hiding, or blending in. She’d had to run for her a life a few times, but seemed to be getting the hang of this. Yet she still had no idea where she was, how she got here, or when she got here.
There were shops down this street, and some of the strange figures would go inside. She followed a shadowy man into a dusty book store. Here, folks sat or stood reading books like perfect statues. The books might have some answers. She picked one up, and made her way slowly to a chair nearest the door. A quick getaway was always a safer bet.
She opened the book, and tried to keep still while staring at the pages. None of the words were clear, and the more she tried to make them out, the blurrier they became. They swirled into black and white images, herself as a younger person, reading a book on some silly but fun new age ritual. She was lighting a candle. Her mother stormed into the room, blew it out, and threw the book across the room. Both her parents now, staring at her through the pages, “wherever you are, don’t come back,” her father said. Then her mother, “You’ve got yourself in real trouble, Raven. We tried to tell you! Witchcraft can only lead to trouble! We tried to tell you! Wherever you are, don’t come back! Wherever you are, don’t come back!”
The voices may have started inside her head, but they grew louder and louder. By the time Raven looked up, everyone in the bookstore was staring at her. Their eyes were all glowing viciously. Their mouths opened in long, stretchy ovals, and they cried out in a horrifying chorus. Raven sprang to her feet and bolted for the door, the nightmare figures chasing after her, still making that awful sound. Others on the street caught on, and chased after her as well.
Someone emerged from an alley a few blocks away, glancing around as though she didn’t know what was happening. Raven thought she’d imagined it. She hadn’t seen another human face here. But as she crossed the next block, someone grabbed her arm and pulled her hard.
“No time,” she said, “Just follow me.”
There was a tiny door at the end of the street, just hidden behind a dumpster. The other girl crouched down to pull the door open, and crawled inside. “Hurry!” she said, and Raven didn’t hesitate. Such bright eyes on this girl! She hadn’t seen such light since… Hm. She couldn’t even remember.
The narrow hallways ahead of them had a low ceiling, so at first, they had to crawl. Slowly the ceiling lifted, and the girls could stand up. Inside was a comfortable living room, a kitchen, and what looked like a few bedrooms down another hall. Raven gasped at the sight of the kitchen. There was a shadowy woman standing by the stove, slowly stirring a pot of something.
“It’s okay,” the other girl said. “She never moves. Sometimes she’ll talk, but she’s not dangerous.”
Raven was still apprehensive. Beyond the creepy woman was a wide window, covering almost the entire wall. Beyond that window, all was dark, but a few shadowy faces floated in the distance.
“She’ll tell us if they can see us,” the girl said.
“Well, that’s reassuring,” Raven said.
“Trust me, you’re safer here than anywhere else. I’m Bonnie, what’s your name?”
“Raven,” she said, turning away from the window. Bonnie was a much nicer sight than those terrible faces. Her eyes were large and brown, and her thick hair a cloud of soft curls. She was dressed colorfully, and even had some sparkles of jewelry. “I don’t remember the last time I saw something actually pretty. I mean… Crap, I don’t mean to…”
“It’s okay,” Bonnie blushed. She looked even sweeter with the extra color in her cheeks. “You’re the prettiest thing I’ve seen lately too. It’s really good to meet you, Raven, though I’m sorry your stuck here like me. Do you have any idea how this happened?”
Raven was about to answer when the shadowy woman in the kitchen suddenly snapped alert. Her head turned too sharply toward them, her mouth fell open but didn’t move, and words came pouring out:
“Two more await your discovery. A child missing his parents, and a parent missing her children. Your best chance to survive is together.”
“Where are we?” Raven asked. “How did we get here? What do you best chance to survive? What kind of sick game is this?” She was shouting at that stupid, eerily still woman, who didn’t seem to have any idea she was there. Raven wanted to shake her, but was still too afraid to make contact. Before she could give the idea any more thought, Bonnie pulled her away.
“It’s no use,” she said. “She only talks when she wants too, never answers any of my questions. I guess it’s better than nothing, though, right? I mean, there are two more people out there.”
“‘A child missing his parents, and a parent missing her children,’” Raven muttered. “Ugh. Does this mean we have to go rescue them?”
“Look on the bright side,” Bonnie said. “Once we do, our chances will be even better.”
“So says the creepy lady,” Raven said to herself. But she knew they had no other choice.
One thing we as writers can struggle with, especially when it's time to think of publishing, is perfectionism. Suddenly we want to remove every slight cliche, every metaphor we used to love now looks stupid, and that poetic, colorful description sounds amateur. Now, there's certainly an appropriate time to look at our work with hypercritical eyes, but this can also get in our way. How do we break the perfectionism induced paralysis?
NaNoWriMo was an incredibly freeing experience for me. I'd been in editing mode for a long time, and NaNoWriMo provided me with the space to take risks and play around freely, because all I had to do was finish a story. But once the end of the month came, and the story was finished, I wasn't sure how to apply this to my other works.
Then, a few years later, I wrote "The Wishing Star" on a whim. I saw a contest for short, Christmas related stories, and I decided to write one. "The Wishing Star" turned out to be waaaaay too long to enter in that particular contest, but I'm glad I wrote it anyway. It gave me a great space to take risks. Now I'm writing a "spooky" story, "Josephina's Guide to Magic for Kids," which is giving me the same kind of freedom.
So, what I've found to help me with perfectionism, and that sense of blank-page paralysis:
When you find an outlet for experimentation, be patient with yourself, and don't expect immediate results. This is for fun first. The space to take risks will create a lot of useless material. But in that pile of trash, you'll also discover real gold, beautiful work you wouldn't have come up with otherwise.
I remember my legendary dance teacher telling the class once that if you don't like something, you probably haven't had the best version of that thing. Like, if you don't like a certain food, you just haven't had it cooked right. I don't necessarily think this is always true, but Postmodern Jukebox is a great example of when it is!
Keep your eyes bright
Keep your heart light
Turn your thoughts to the good and right
Think of me on your darkest days
Remember all the things I used to say
Though the fires keep burning high
Look to me, I’ll be your sky
When you feel like you could scream
Ask me if this is just a dream
It will be but a memory
When morning’s light shines merrily
So keep your eyes bright
Keep you heart light
Trust me, it will be all right
Little one, there’s no need to cry
Look to me, it’s just a dream
I will be your sky
Josephina, a mother of three children, wakes up in a ruined city, with no idea how she arrived, how long she's been there, or where she is. The streets are dark, the sky is smokey, and shadowy figures wander everywhere. Here, she finds Benny, a troubled ten-year-old, moved from school to school, incident after incident.
The mother missing her children helps the child missing his mother, and begins to discover common links tying them together. Josephina begins to keep record everything she discovers--in between running from monsters and soulless shadows reaching out to steal the color and joy from the world.
Meanwhile, Raven wanders the same streets. With her dark, gothic look, she finds it easier to blend in, and stay unnoticed by the wandering shadows. She has no memory either, of how she ended up here, or how much time has passed. But unlike Josephina and Benny, she has nothing to go back home to.
Raven's world becomes less of a nightmare when she meets Bonnie, a kind and colorful woman running from the same shadows. She shows Raven that maybe they aren't as trapped as they think. Even if they can't escape their surroundings, maybe they can alter then. After all, everything around them seems like a bad dream, and even the worst nightmares don't seem so scary once you're lucid. Bonnie is the only other human face she's seen, but is she too good to be real?
The four of them come together, trying to learn what threads tie them all together, and how much they can change their situation. Josephina organizes everything they've learned in a book, and with her care and guidance, things begin to look up.
But Raven isn't sure she can trust this apparent turn for the better. While she used to fear being locked in this dream dimension forever, she begins to fear waking. Would she wake up safe but alone again, her three friends only an invention of her unconscious? Or is something far more sinister going on?
Josephina's Guide to Magic for Kids begins next Wednesday!
This week is one of those not-writing-tips, just something silly and brief for life in general. Remember this awkward feeling?
It got me thinking, I'd be sitting there feeling so anxious, and thinking so hard about what I was about to say, I literally can't remember anything any other person in the class said. So, it's likely no one heard what I said either. Every person was so focused on themselves, no one even realized we were all feeling the same way.
Remember this when you feel insecure. If you're in a situation where you're uncomfortable, it's likely those around you are uncomfortable too. You're all sitting in the same class, with the same teacher thinking this is a great idea. Be a little kinder to yourself, and to the other people around you. Maybe that's the point of this silly, seemingly meaningless exercise.
I thought I'd heard this song too many times to love it again, but this cover is amazing. I've loved every Postmodern Jukebox song, and this one has to be in my top five favorites.
Jenna Marbles is my hero and role model. So, inspired by her "Things I Thought As A Kid" video(s), here's a silly little list of things I thought as a kid:
One thing I've always found challenging about writing is the fine line between making sure I'm getting my point across, but not overdoing it. There's no need to explain every little detail, but it's so easy to get carried away.
Assuming the intelligence of the reader is like telling a joke into a void. It's very tempting to yell "did you get it?" minutes later, because we don't get any response back. At least, not until we get reviews.
I came across this, and found it helpful.
The best way I can think to do this is to remember, "always leave them wanting more." Think about your favorite books, movies, TV shows, and the moments you so badly wanted to see, but they never gave you. What happened? You filled them in inside your head. This is where a whole lot of fanfiction comes from.
How do we know we can trust our readers? Well, remember that these people are readers. Sometimes, when I'm out in the world, I don't exactly have a whole lot of faith in people's intelligence (I work retail). But people who read books for fun tend to be on a higher level than those who don't. They will get it.
When in doubt (and especially when you're 100% confident), always find someone willing to read your work, and get their opinion.
So, I've been trying to teach myself American Sign Language, and falling into internet vortexes while I do so. ASL song covers are a lot of fun, and this woman is AMAZING. Her name is Sarah Tubert, and she's LEGENDARY.