Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Don't Throw It Away

So I was digging through some old files and came across some of the earliest words I ever wrote for a novel. I'm not going to share that one, because...reasons. But I am going to share with you the opening of the second novel I ever finished (At sixteen). Because I rewrote this one recently. That's write, I dug out a decades old novel and rewrote it. And I'm pretty happy I did. So, without further ado, one of the earliest examples of my writing.

Version One

It was dark by the time she came home. She snuck in through her bedroom window. Her feet had just touched the floor when the lights came on. Bringing her face to face with her angry mother. She looked around for an escape route but the only way out was through her window, and she doubted she could get out and down, before she was pulled back in. "Hi mom. Been up long?"

"Don't 'Hi mom' me! Where have you been? I've been up all night worrying! You are in so much trouble! This goes beyond grounding. I can’t believe you! Every night this week! I thought that you would have known better than this! First, you've been expelled from every school I've ever put you in. You spend most of your time away doing who knows what. Then you dare to break curfew. This is exactly why I'm sending you to private school.” Gwen eyes bugged out as she tried to make sense of what she had just heard.

"What!? I can't go to private school! They brainwash you and make you into little robots that act all snobby and not only that but, I'll look stupid. They'll make me wear a uniform and...eww."

"Not just any school. Darkcastle Boarding School for Troubled Youth. Besides you should have thought about that before you blew up the gym."

"I didn't blow up the gym. The moron, who decided to explain how dynamite works set up right next to my display about fire, blew up the gym."

"Yes but you lit the fuse."

"Not on purpose. I thought it was my candle! I was only expelled because the principal hated me so much!” she said trying to recover the upper hand. “ Anyway isn't Darkcastle in Europe?"

"Yes. But that's not important. They've accepted you on the reasoning that your uncle went there."

"Which one?"

"You have to ask?” she rolled her eyes in exasperation. “It was your uncle Eric." Ah yes the good for nothing uncle Eric who lived in Europe and apparently had no job.* At least he got away from my psycho mother she thought bitterly.* Her mother plowed ahead, ignoring her daughter’s look of chagrin." Besides, since he lives over there you can live with him while on break or you can stay at the school that is up to you. You'll come home for the summer, of course, but I can't afford for you to come back during the holidays this year, so I'll just send you your gifts."* I can't believe this. She's planning the rest of my school career for me she thought angrily.*

"Don't I get a say in this!?"

"No. You have a day to pack. Meaning tomorrow. Then the next day you leave."

"You couldn't have told me earlier? I won't have time!"

"Oh don't worry. Anyway, I didn’t want you running off. You just have to pack clothes and a few personal items. They provide everything else. Food, uniforms, soap. The essentials. Don't worry about it." *Oh my God. She was really gonna send me away she thought.* "The travel buddy I got for you has your ticket so you can't tear it to pieces or whatever. Now get some sleep. You have a big day tomorrow." She left the room and turned off the light, leaving the girl in the dark. Gwen flopped onto the bed and fell asleep.

_____________________________________________________________ can see that I hadn't quite grasped "craft" at this stage. But that's okay, I was sixteen. I didn't have anyone who could provide feedback on my work. I didn't want to show it to my parents, or my teachers and at that particular moment I wasn't speaking to my friends so...yeah.

But, I kept coming back to the ideas I presented in the book. Because some of them were good. There were, as they say, good bones. So I tore it apart and came back at it once in college, and then again more recently. And that scene above? It's still in the book actually. Sort of. It's no longer chapter one, it's not the opening and my craft has been refined to some degree. So for comparison's sake, the newest version of that scene.

Chapter Three: Run


The lawn was damp with morning dew before the sun had risen. I could feel the cold of it against the flesh of my bare feet as I made my way back to the house. It was sandwiched between two other homes; to which it was indistinguishably different. A cookie cutter home in a bushel of cookie cutter homes. A testament to the ingenuity of the American city planner. I crept across the dampened lawn like a thief, silent as I could be. The second story’s left hand window was still cracked ever-so slightly, just as I had left it. My hands met the twining greenery of the ivy trellis as I pulled my way up the side and towards the window.

My legs were already protesting as I had made my way across the lawn, and now they screamed at me. I could feel one of the muscles coil and tighten beneath my flesh, cramping. I gasped, letting a little hiss of air escape as I tried not to make too much noise and wake my guardian. I reached down and massaged the leg as best I could and pulled myself up the rest of the way to the window. Fingers slid under the metal pushing the window up far enough to enter.

My fingers were followed by my hands and arms as I pulled myself into the room beyond the window. “Ow.” I muttered, head slamming into the floor at my miscalculation of the drop from window to beige carpeted floor. As hand went to head the lights over my head flickered on and panic set in as I glanced around for the intruder. “Oh hi, Silvia.” I forced a smile and scrambled to my feet, waving at her with the hand not currently clasping my head.

"Don't 'Hi Silvia' me! Where have you been? I've been up all night worrying!” she shouted, waving her arms about in an effort to make her point of just how exasperated she was. I wasn’t really in the mood for theatrics.

“I took a walk.” Now was not the time to explain my midnight excursions into the forest. I didn’t want to worry her.

“You took a walk.” She turned away from me, arms wrapped around her chest. “I...” She turned back, face pale and eyebrows drawn down sharply. “You and I will discuss this over breakfast. Go to bed.”

She shook her head and marched out of the room, slamming my door closed behind her. I glanced down at the floor for a moment, marveling at the way the carpet sucked away the damp from my feet before I turned and closed the window. I took a quick shower and rubbed some ointment into my leg. I turned the light off with a sweep of my hand as I hobbled over to my bed, collapsing into its soft, warm embrace.

“She worries too much.” I whispered into my pillow, burrowing into the feathered puff and into a dreamland I could only hope would be friendlier than that which had driven me out into the woods.


So that's different, right? It's amazing what a decade, writing classes, critique partners and betas and a whole host of amazing writers can do. My point is, we all start somewhere. We all have those terrible first drafts buried in our hard drives and in battered Composition notebooks. It's okay.  And if you find one of those novels and see something in it worth saving, you should trust your instincts. Your younger writer self may not have been fully-baked yet, but all that creativity you have now was present then, and you might just find yourself with a real diamond in the rough.

Happy hunting!

Sunday, January 15, 2017


I've been writing down stories since I learned how to write and telling them came before writing them. Making up strange creatures that lived in other lands, vast back stories for the Lego people my brother and I played with. I'm from a family of storytellers. We're loud and talkative and every conversation is usually five people all talking with multiple threads of conversation going at once where each person is expected to jump from one to the other, to follow those threads without losing track.

It's a daunting sort of thing to grow up into. I certainly have friends who've told me they're not quite sure how to join in these conversations that are half spoken, half remembered and entirely within the language of the family. It's English, but it's our English. Three of us are writers of the fictional variety, but everyone has dabbled at least a bit in storytelling.

My brother writes music and my dad likes to build viciously intricate campaigns for table-top gaming. It seemed only natural then, eventually, that I would wind my way back to storytelling. (At least, in retrospect). This past year I think I've found my way back to the initial story threads I first created. The ones that say more about me than I ever expected them to. This year showed me my weaknesses as a writer, and my strengths.

And more than anything, it made me feel like I'd progressed forward. For a long time I'd sort of felt like the apprentice aspiring higher than my skill level but now... I feel like I took a master level course in writing last year. I was pushed and prodded further than I have been in a long time and more than that--I feel as though I actually made it out with a greater understanding of my voice.

Grief over the death of my grandmother prompted a month long writing binge the likes of which I've never experienced. I wrote 5-6K words a day, clocking out the month with over 160K words. I didn't know what to make of the accomplishment, beyond that by the time I had finished the stories I was working on, I did feel a hell of lot better than I had before.

I'm not totally happy with everything I wrote in 2016. I wish I'd finished more of my WIPs. I wish I'd gotten a little further in my career. But what I did accomplish? Well, it's a hell of a lot more than I did in the year before.

I'm proud that I beta-read, I'm proud of my critique partners. I'm boggled by the number of people I've met and the writers that I'm now friends with. It's hard for me to believe some times that the little girl that wrote about a magical island with a unicorn living on it has become the woman who writes about...everything. I hope six-year-old me would be impressed.

I haven't quite mastered my craft yet, but I know that I'm getting closer. (As close as one can get to mastering the written word) With every story I tell, every word I force onto the page, I'm click-clacking closer to it.

I can't wait to see what words I write this year. I can't wait to see what my friends write this year.

In that, at least, I am looking forward.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We Rise

A thousand small cruelties
A thousand thorns in our skin
Like arrows in a giant’s hide
Bleeding sluggish, dragging

Painful pricks


A thousand small cruelties
A thousand words over time
Breaking and beating
Stealing our breath



A thousand small cruelties
A thousand and one
It’s just not done

And still

And still

We rise

- Ash K. Alexander

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017 Goals

I don't like the word "resolution" because it infers I have some sort of control over every aspect of the year. And I know better.

Instead, these are my goals, lofty at times, for the upcoming year.

Read: Read all off the books on my nightstand. There are like 30 of them and if I don't start reading them I'm almost positive the tower will topple, killing me in my sleep. It's practically my entire TBR list, honestly, plus some new books. I just...I didn't get a lot of reading done.

Write: I have a few unfinished projects that are too near completion to ignore and I'm going to finish them, dammit.

1: The Measure of  a Lady - Basically a gender-swapped, steampunk, Count of Monte Cristo with necromancy, ghosts and shenanigans - Currently sitting at 39K words, I believe I can wrap up the draft in 20-30K words.

2: A Caper in Crete - MG Steampunk - Currently sitting at 26K words, I believe I can wrap up it up in 10-15K words

3: Rule of Steel - YA steampunk, third book in a trilogy I've been working on with spies, an Irish empire, fairies inspired by Twelfth Night. Is at 46K words, should be able to finish it in 20-30K words.

4: Cyril : Sort of secret project. Currently just in beginning stages because of things. Need to finish ASAP.

5: Children of the Mountain: Adult fantasy, sitting at 17K words, an overhaul of a previous novel and sequel to another adult fantasy. Should be able to finish in 40-60K words

6:Are You Happy Now? - YA paranormal mystery - Started this end of December, I think it'll wrap up in 60K words or so, currently at 6K. Relatively hopeful.

7: The Merlin Cipher - Adult contemporary fantasy - Merlin's grand-daughter takes on Mordred. Basically. I needs to be finished. It's over the halfway point. 


The only project I know I'll be editing majorly is Scout's Honor my Nanowrimo project from 2016. I've got a beta reader for the project and once feedback is in I'll start overhauling in preparation for possible submission.

Rule of Sword: Got the comments back from the lovely Chelsea, who beta-read this for me after the holidays, and once I've got a feel for where it needs help, I'll start on it. Not as exhaustive an edit as the other project, that's for sure.

Art: I need to get back into the habit of drawing or painting at least every week if not every day. We'll see how that goes.

The Truly Lofty Goal

Get an agent.

Well, that's it for work-related goals. I'm also hoping to finish some fanfics I have out there, meet at least one author in person for the first time and perhaps travel outside of the state. Fingers crossed.