Tag Archives: Gabby

Timelines and Continuity, Redux

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Timelines and Continuity. It had a lot to do with rearranging chapters during revisions, due to my nonlinear writing process (note: Professor Ron Block of Rowan University says all writing is linear, even when it’s not, because you have to write it and read it in a linear fashion across the page). As an example, I said I usually write, say, 6 chapters from Gabby’s POV, then 7 from Tock’s, then back to Gabby, and so on. But during revisions, I need to weave these chapters together to flow more fluidly back and forth between each character. The result can throw off some details that need to be fixed in revisions (such as if a character refers to something that happened “yesterday” but due to rearranging the order of events, it now happened “this morning,” or it won’t happen until tomorrow).

So why am I revisiting this topic? Well, my #NaNoWriMo novel, Arcana Revived Volume Six, is requiring me to look at chapter order in a very different way than in my previous first drafts. As an example, here’s the chapter order (before any revisions) for Volume Four, Mutation.

Mutation_Chapter_OrderAs you can see, I wrote 16 chapters in a row of Gabby, just because that was where my Muse was taking me. I kept writing on Gabby until I reached a point where I wasn’t quite sure what to do with her next. Then, to avoid getting log-jammed by writer’s block, I switched to Tock and Mae. I wrote with them for a while, then switched back.

Once I get to revisions, these chapters are more likely to go Gabby/Tock/Gabby/Tock/Gabby/Mae/Gabby/Tock or something like that. But when I was writing them, I just went with where my flow was taking me, in order to get all the words down as smoothly and quickly as possible. And it didn’t really hurt the narrative or the continuity at all, since Gabby and Tock weren’t directly interacting with each other in those early chapters. They’re in different places, going through different (but parallel and directly linked) events. Which was all building up to a point, close to the end, where their individual halves of the story merge and they end up in the same place at the same time.

This is the method I’ve really used with every book I’ve written so far, from Manifestation to Contamination (which is currently on Draft Two) to the next three books (which are all first drafts). It’s worked well each time. But the sixth book, which I’m currently writing for NaNoWriMo, is turning out to be an entirely different process. I’m handling continuity and the order I write the chapters in a completely different way.

Book_Six_Chapter_OrderAs you can see in the chapter orders for Volume Six, I’m alternating a lot more between the characters from chapter to chapter. Really, this is what the above chapter order will look like after revisions. I’m just doing it during the first draft this time, spending no more than a few chapters in one character’s POV before I move to the next. This is because the stories are more directly interwoven than before. As a result, I have mostly fallen into a pattern where I write Gabby/Indra/Jaden/Gabby/Indra/Jaden in order. I have to do this because it’s not just a question of “which event happens first.” It’s a situation where all the characters are having a very direct impact on each other’s actions, so I can’t continue to write the next character’s chapter before I finish the first.

Here’s an example of two scenarios, one from Mutation and one from the new book, that demonstrate what I mean in a more concrete way.

During Mutation, there’s a point where the characters are battling a variety of giant mythological creatures that have come back to life because of the revival of magic. At one point, some of the characters are split up, so that Gabby is battling one Beast of Legend, Tock another, Mae a third, and Callia a fourth. The individual battles don’t impact each other, but they all impact the overall plot and together the battles determine whether everyone will be safe or if the Beasts will crush entire cities and kill thousands of people. So, after each battle has been decided, the characters can reunite and we can see the aftermath, but during each battle, each character is on their own (or “the character plus the miscellaneous supporting characters helping them fight”).

What makes the new book different is that for the majority of it, the characters are coordinating their efforts in the same struggle, instead of battling separate (but related) foes. For example, right now, Gabby is lying in ambush, waiting for a signal from Jaden that a certain task has been completed before it’ll be time to strike. But Jaden can’t do what she needs to until she gets crucial information from Indra and her cousin Vijay. So while I’m alternating between characters from one chapter to the next, they’re working together on a common goal, and their actions directly impact things. Gabby literally can’t proceed from her current position before I’ve written Jaden’s next chapter (unless she wants the entire mission to fail), and Jaden literally can’t accomplish her goal without the key information she’s waiting to receive. It requires me to look at the book differently than the previous volumes.

That’s not to say that either method, “nonlinear” chapter order or direct alternation between POVs, is better or worse than the other. It just means that the revision process for this volume will require less rearranging (in theory), since the chapters are already in more-or-less the order they’re going to stay in.

Hopefully things continue to flow well throughout the rest of NaNoWriMo. And if you’re also writing a novel this month, good luck, and may the continuity be ever in your favor.


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Character “Speed Dating” with Gabby Palladino

“Character Speed Dating”? What’s that?

Well for starters, Cairn “Pile of Rocks” Rodrigues posted a speed-dating profile on her blog, discussing her character “Awnyx Tiell, Captain of the Fist.” (If you find this character interesting, you should check out Pile of Rocks’s book, The Last Prospector, on Amazon). Then, she tagged Alicia “I can’t remember what the K stands for” Anderson, who introduced her own character, Rolfgar of Two Lands a.k.a “The Nightmage.” A.K. then tagged me, asking me to give an introduction of one of my own characters. So, to keep this blog hop “hopping,” as A.K. put it, I’m going to introduce you to Gabby Palladino, main protagonist of my debut novel, Manifestation.

Gabby with bow and arcana eyes 4

Gabby Palladino is a teenage girl from the city of San Lorien, a metropolis in the fictional world I developed for the Arcana Revived series. She’s sometimes called “Boost” (for reasons that will become clear during the course of the novel), and she gains a number of other nicknames and titles as the series go on, but those will be revealed in the future when the sequels are released.

mani_promoThe story is set in the world of the Arcana Revived series, a modern-day world where magic and supernatural abilities are returning for the first time in centuries. Most of the people in this world don’t believe that magic exists, and that any stories about it are nothing more than ancient myths and fairy tales. They’re therefore completely unprepared for the consequences when magic starts to return and nobody knows how to control it or how to stop it.

There are a few important details about Gabby that are a key part of who she is. She’s the youngest of four children. She’s a high school senior. She’s very religious. She’s a lesbian. And she most definitely believes in magic. This belief is a big part of what sets her apart from others when the supernatural changes start coming to her home.

The central conflict of Gabby’s story is her attempts to survive when chaos erupts as supernatural powers begin manifesting all around her. She’s lost, alone, scared, and confused, and she seems to be the only one who realizes that there’s more going on than meets the eye. But how does a teenage girl do anything about the rebirth of supernatural forces that are beyond comprehension, especially when those same forces are bringing death and destruction all around her?

Her first goal is survival. But more than that, Gabby seeks understanding. She’s driven to figure out what is going on around her, and to understand why she is somehow caught in the middle of it.

If you’re interested in reading more about Gabby Palladino and the strange events that start cropping up all around her, you can read the first six sample chapters of Manifestation here on my blog, starting with Chapter 1: Magic. You can then follow the links below if you want to read the rest of the book and find out what Gabby’s ultimate fate will be.

And lastly, a big thanks to A.K. Anderson for tagging me and giving me the chance to share Gabby with you.


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Stress

mani_promoClick here to read Chapter 1: Magic, here to read Chapter 2: Manifestation, here to read Chapter 3: Distraction, here to read Chapter 4: Staring, or here to read Chapter 5: Therapy. Here you can read the sixth sample chapter of my debut novel, Manifestation, an urban fantasy adventure that explores the revival of magic and mystery in a world that is unprepared for the changes arcane powers will bring. Available in paperback and ebook.

 

Chapter 6: Stress

 

 

It was another quiet drive home. Gabby sat in the car and stared out the window at nothing. Mom tried to get her to say something by asking how the session had gone, but she quickly gave up when it became clear Gabby wasn’t going to talk.

As soon as they pulled into the driveway at home Mom said, “Straight up to your room.” Gabby huffed, not bothering to acknowledge her mother. She knew she was still grounded and didn’t need Mom telling her every day. She got out of the car and slammed the door, then stalked up to the house.

The house was quiet. Gabby let out a sigh of relief. The relief was short lived, though, since the little monster started bawling as soon as she came inside. She growled and rubbed at her temples as the pressure in her skull built up again. She wasn’t in the mood for Dante’s noise.

Gabby stalked into the living room. Adrianna was there, leaning over the bassinet to check on Dante. “Can’t you make him stop crying?” Gabby snapped at her sister.

Adrianna shot her a dirty look and picked Dante up. She rocked him in her arms and whispered soothing noises. Mom stepped past Gabby into the living room and went over to check on him. Adrianna shook her head and in a confused tone said, “He’s been fine all day . . .”

“And what about you?” Mom asked her. Adrianna had a look of pain on her face again, hinting at another migraine starting up.

Gabby turned and went back down the hall towards the stairs. As she stalked up the stairs to her room, she heard her sister say, “It’s nothing. It’s already going away.”

Cut off from TV, her phone, and her computer, Gabby sat in her room most of the night, feeling sorry for herself and listing in her mind all the things wrong with her life. Her sister and nephew were high on the list. She couldn’t even relax while she was grounded, since when Adrianna brought Dante upstairs for his nap, he started crying again and wouldn’t go to sleep or shut up for the next hour. She tried to tune him out, then tried to spend some time putting her thoughts down in her diary, but she couldn’t concentrate with the constant wailing coming from down the hall.

When she couldn’t take any more, she stepped out into the hall and shouted into Adrianna’s room, “God, just shut him up! Can’t you make him shut up?”

Her sister glared at her and snapped, “You know, you yelling all the time isn’t helping.” She got up and stalked over to Gabby, but she swayed in her steps. She paused to lean against her dresser. She looked dizzy, her eyes glazed and unfocused. She pressed the heels of her palms to the sides of her head. Tears welled in her eyes from the pain of the migraine setting in. Gabby frowned and stepped closer, her anger fading into worry at how sick her sister looked. As she stepped closer, Adrianna whimpered in pain, and looked about ready to collapse.

She looked up at Gabby, her eyes distant, and muttered in a confused tone, “Why are you leaving?”

Gabby frowned at the odd words, then screamed, “Mom!” as Adrianna collapsed to the floor.

* * *

An ambulance took Adrianna to the hospital and Gabby, Mom, and Dante followed in the car. They called Dad on the way, and he met them at the hospital shortly after Adrianna was taken into the ER. They sat in the waiting room and Mom tried to comfort Dante, but he was crying so much that they asked if a doctor could look at him too. The baby was taken to the pediatric ward for tests, and the rest of the family was left waiting.

Gabby was silent while they sat and waited to hear back on the results. She felt guilty for yelling at her sister, even though she knew that couldn’t have had anything to do with her collapse. Still, if something bad happened, she didn’t want an argument to be the last words she shared with Adrianna.

After hours of waiting, the doctor came out to talk to them. “They’re both doing fine,” he said. “The pain faded almost as soon as you brought her in and she hasn’t had any more symptoms during the tests. We didn’t find anything physically wrong with her. It’s possible the episode was brought on by stress.”

Gabby shrank back as her mother shot her a look. A tightness welled up in her gut and the pressure in her head swelled up. She looked away, staring at the wall. Mom turned to the doctor and asked, “Can we see her?”

He nodded and said, “We’d like to keep both her and her son overnight for observation. But you can go in for a few minutes.”

Gabby waited out in the hall while Mom went in to talk to Adrianna. She felt like this was somehow her fault. She knew she’d been lashing out lately. The pressure in her head got worse whenever Dante was crying and sometimes she felt like she was holding back a dam that was about to burst. She felt horrible for snapping, but she didn’t know what else to do. She thought about asking if one of the doctors could look at her head while they were there, but that would mean dragging up the suicide attempt again. She couldn’t deal with that.

She was sitting on the ground, knees hugged against her chest, when her mother returned from Adrianna’s room. Mom stood over Gabby, looked down at her, and said, “I want you to go in there and apologize to your sister.”

Gabby looked off to the side and brushed a tear from her eye. All she could see of Mom out of the corner of her eye were her legs and her hands at her waist, fists clenched tightly around her purse. She glanced up, peering through the thin veil of her brown hair hanging in front of her face. Mom’s eyes were red and strained. She looked sick. Down the hall, Gabby saw Dad exiting Adrianna’s room. He took a few slow, aching steps, then leaned against the wall. He rubbed his hand across his face and let out a long, slow breath. He stood there with his shoulders slumped, staring at nothing.

She wondered if they’d looked like that when she was in the hospital a month before, unconscious, having her stomach pumped. If they’d cared that much. It hadn’t been sympathy she’d awoken to. It had been her mother asking, What is wrong with you?

She slowly rose and under her mother’s stern gaze she marched down the hall to her sister’s room. Dad tried to force a smile as she walked by, though he did a poor job of it. When she walked into the room, she saw Adrianna lying there in pain with tears welling in her eyes. Her hair looked stringy from sweat, and she had wires and sensors stuck to her head and chest.

She was giving Gabby a strange look as she entered. She looked confused. Distant. Staring more through her than at her. After a moment she closed her eyes and shook her head, then she leaned back in the hospital bed. Her movements were slow and weak. She looked exhausted and the pain was clearly etched on her face.

Gabby felt her mother’s eyes on her back and she quickly whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Adrianna slowly forced her eyes open and gave her a weak smile. “So am I,” she said. She gave Gabby another strange look, as if she didn’t recognize her. Gabby stepped back and shifted her feet. Adrianna kept staring at her like she was studying her, while Gabby stood there fidgeting under her sister’s gaze.

She was about to turn to leave, uncertain what else to say, when Adrianna said, “Hey . . .” Gabby turned back to her sister but kept her head lowered, unable to meet her eyes. “None of it’s your fault, you know.” Gabby looked up at Adrianna for a moment and stared, then lowered her eyes in shame. “You didn’t start this,” Adrianna whispered.

Gabby glanced back up at her sister. Adrianna’s eyes were glazed over. Gabby’s chest felt tight. Her head pounded. Adrianna winced and covered her face with a hand, whimpering in pain. Gabby turned and hurried from the room, unable to see her sister in such pain.


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Staring

mani_promoClick here to read Chapter 1: Magic, or here to read Chapter 2: Manifestation, or here to read Chapter 3: Distraction. Here you can read the fourth sample chapter of my debut novel, Manifestation, an urban fantasy adventure that explores the revival of magic and mystery in a world that is unprepared for the changes arcane powers will bring. Available in paperback and ebook.

 

Chapter 4: Staring

 

 

Gabby woke up in the hospital with a hard knot of pain in her stomach and a pounding headache. The room was dark but the light coming in from the hallway through the open door burned Gabby’s eyes and made her wince. Her mom sat in a chair across the room. When Gabby shifted in the bed and tried to sit up, her mom got up and crossed over to her. She stood at the side of the bed and stared down at Gabby with her lips pressed together. Gabby stared back, and the look on her mom’s face made her wish that she hadn’t woken up.

Gabby didn’t say anything at first. She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t have any explanation for what she’d done. She hadn’t even thought it through. Though maybe, she thought, her mom would listen now. She lay there in the bed and waited for her mom to ask her if she was okay, or what had happened to push her to such an act.

Her mom shook her head, her eyes wet with tears. “What is wrong with you?” she asked.

“Mom?”

“How could you do something like this?” Mom asked. She waved her hands at the plastic tubes and wires Gabby was hooked up to. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done to your family? How scared we were? Your father and Anthony both had to leave work and Frankie is missing class right now because we’re all down here worried about you! How could you do this to us? To your family?”

Gabby stared at her mom, mute. She clenched her teeth together. She wanted to yell, to ask her mom why she should care about what she’d done to them when no one had asked what happened to her. But she didn’t. She turned away from her mom, shifting in the bed as best as she could with tubes up her nose and an IV stuck in her arm.

“Just leave me alone,” she said.

* * *

The baby was crying.

The baby was always crying.

Gabby went about her morning routine, getting dressed in silence, except for the sound of the baby’s cries drifting up from downstairs. In the weeks since he’d been born, the weeks since Gabby came home from having her stomach pumped, it seemed like the baby never stopped crying and her headache never went away.

She clenched her teeth and rubbed at her temples. Dante wailed even louder. She responded to the wails by throwing her hairbrush against the vanity so hard she nearly cracked the mirror. She was sick of the constant noise, and sometimes really wished the little brat was just gone.

“Five minutes, Gabriella,” her mother called out as she passed by her door. “And don’t forget, you’re coming straight home after school. You have an appointment with Dr. Caldwell at five.” Gabby didn’t bother to answer. There was no reason to. It would be her third appointment with the psychiatrist, and she expected it to be as much of a waste of time as the first two had been. She sat and tied her shoes with harsh, tight yanks of the laces. “Gabriella?” Mom snapped, stepping back and peering through the door at her. Gabby stood up and checked herself in the mirror, fixing her hair. She didn’t even glance at her mom. After a moment, her mother sighed and gave up, then turned away and headed downstairs, leaving her daughter alone with her own reflection.

She stared at her mirror image for a long moment. She’d buttoned her blouse wrong. She huffed and started redoing the buttons. She kept messing up the simplest tasks lately. Not only was Dante’s crying interfering with her concentration, but her head felt like it was being crushed under a mountain of stone. Ever since she got back from the hospital, she’d been feeling pressure in her skull. The weight she felt pressing against her head nearly drove her to tears. It got worse with the constant wailing coming from down the hall.

She dried her eyes before the tears started to fall, then headed downstairs. As she stomped down the steps the baby cried louder. “Can’t you make him stop crying?” she snapped at Adrianna. Her sister glared at her, rocking little Dante in one arm and rubbing her head with the opposite hand. Adrianna had been experiencing frequent dizzy spells and migraines ever since Dante had been born, and they’d been growing steadily worse. The medication her doctor had prescribed didn’t seem to be helping any. Gabby didn’t have anything to take for her own headaches; she hadn’t told her parents about the pressure on her skull, since doing so would mean bringing up what she had tried to do to herself.

She’d tried more than once to tell them what happened, but her mother’s attitude about the whole situation made talking to her impossible. The constant badgering and demands for answers had made it too difficult for Gabby to explain what had really happened. Instead of telling her parents the truth, she ended up yelling and arguing with them, and accusing them of not being there when she needed them. Her dad had told her that if she couldn’t talk to them, she should tell the psychiatrist instead. But Gabby didn’t know if she could trust Dr. Caldwell, either.

Gabby headed out the door without another word to anyone in her family. She’d given up on talking to them. All the yelling and attempts to grab attention hadn’t gotten her anything except for being grounded ever since she’d gotten out of the hospital. Knowing that she was being punished for being a victim made it that much harder for her to open up to her parents. Her protests hadn’t gotten the grounding lifted, nor had they gotten her out of the weekly appointments with the psychiatrist. Appointments which usually involved her sitting there and staring at the wall while the doctor tried to get her to talk.

She rode the bus to school without saying a word to anyone. She had no friends left in school since Callia had graduated the year before. Plus now that Callia had moved away for her internship, Gabby never saw her. Her school day was boring, as always. Gabby spent more time writing in her diary than paying attention to the lessons. Math, science, and history bored her to tears, and she had no interest whatsoever in social studies or current events. Her literature class was about the only one that held any interest for her, and even that didn’t seem to draw much motivation from her anymore. As if that weren’t bad enough, she spent the whole day feeling like there was a chain wrapped around her head. The pressure on her skull never seemed to go away, and it drove her to constant distraction.

During gym class that day, as soon as she finished changing in the locker room, Gabby hurried off to find peace and quiet. She skipped running track, and instead hid herself under the bleachers. She leaned against the metal supports and closed her eyes, taking a deep, shuddering breath. She despised gym class. She was no good at running, she hated the uniform sweats and t-shirts they had to wear, and she hated getting changed in the locker room. Not that she had that much reason to be ashamed of her own body; she had nice curves and was very well-developed. She’d blossomed quite early in life, just like her sister. But she thought she needed to lose weight and she couldn’t help comparing her chubby body to the skinny girls with perfect legs and no flab.

She slid down to the ground and buried her face in her hands. It was quiet under the shadows of the bleachers. She had solitude, which she both loved and hated. She didn’t want to be around anyone else anymore, and she didn’t have any friends. Not since Callia left. But being alone with her thoughts brought bad memories back. Memories of things she hadn’t shared with anyone. She had never told her parents why she took all the pills that day. She hadn’t told them how she’d felt wrong ever since. Most days her head throbbed like it was caught in a vice, though it wasn’t a painful throbbing. Just a weight. Pressure.

“Palladino!” a voice called out to her. She moaned and rubbed her hands over her eyes, trying to push past the pressure she felt mounting on her skull. She’d started crying again without even realizing it. “Get your sorry ass out here and run some laps.” Gabby got up, bloodshot blue eyes staring at the gym teacher, wishing she had the nerve to tell her off. She sighed and headed onto the track, then jogged along until she started to run out of breath. It didn’t take long at all before she had to stop from fatigue.

As she came around to the far side of the track, she found her classmate Erica and her boyfriend Charlie hiding behind the second set of bleachers. Her footsteps slowed as she watched them making out. Charlie’s hands roamed over the teen girl’s body, and Gabby wondered what that would be like . . .

“What are you staring at?” Erica snapped when she saw her. “Get lost!” Charlie turned to look at her, a dangerous look in his dark eyes. He was on the football team and built like a tank. Gabby thought he was on steroids or something; every time she saw him, he seemed to be sweating, angry, and aggressive. He stared her down with a vein throbbing in his forehead, and Gabby backed away. Her head pounded and the pressure in her skull built up. The more the pressure built up in her head, the tighter Charlie’s grip on his girlfriend seemed to get.

She watched Charlie for a long moment as she backed away, until Erica smacked his arm and yelped, “Ow! You’re hurting me.” He turned back to his girlfriend and stepped back, letting go.

“Sorry,” he muttered, “I didn’t mean to.” He looked her over with apparent confusion, then glanced at Gabby as if it were somehow her fault. Erica rubbed her waist where he’d been holding her a little too tight. Charlie mumbled another apology, then glared at Gabby again, as if she were doing something wrong by just standing there watching.

Gabby hurried along. She didn’t want to be involved in anything going on between them. When she glanced back, she saw Charlie’s eyes were still fixed on her.

When class was over and she was back in the locker room, she kept her head down and quickly got changed back into her regular clothes. She didn’t like spending much time changing; being in the locker room always made her uncomfortable. She glanced down the aisle between the lockers at Erica and a group of the more popular girls she was friends with. They were all tall and nicely figured, and few of them were cheerleaders. Most of them had perfect, tanned skin, unlike Gabby with her pale skin and freckles. They were all much skinnier than Gabby, who had a more developed chest, more curves, and more flab around her hips and waist. She tried to keep her eyes to herself as she pulled on her shirt and jeans, then leaned over to tie her sneakers.

She glanced back down at the other girls again. She stared for a long moment when one blonde girl, still in her underwear, bent over to pick something up. The girl’s panties were riding up a little, revealing a glimpse of soft flesh. Gabby felt warm. One of the girls pointed at her and laughed, and the others joined in. She tried not to hear their taunts as she quickly pulled her shoes on, grabbed her backpack, and fled.

She ran around the back of the gym, and almost ran headfirst into a group of rough-looking students. There were about half a dozen of them, all dressed in black and smoking cigarettes. One of the oldest, a tall, mean-looking boy named Rick, was playing with a cigarette lighter, passing the flame under his palm as if to prove how tough he was.

Gabby skidded to a halt and they looked up at her, then started snickering at the tears falling from her eyes. Gabby’s heart pounded and her face reddened. The laughter grew louder and Gabby’s head started to spin. The laughter from the girls in the locker room rang in her ears, echoed by the laughter of the boys outside. It made her feel dizzy with shame. The pressure around her skull built up. She turned to run away, but then Rick shouted, “What the . . . holy shit!”

Gabby looked up and saw the grass between her and the boys had caught on fire. Several of the boys dropped their cigarettes and the flames spread. Rick stomped at the flames, then looked up at Gabby with his face scrunched up in pain. Her heart pounded and her face went pale. The flames rose and spread into the shrubs alongside the building. Gabby squealed and backed away. She’d never seen a fire move so fast before.

Shouts came from around the corner. Rick turned to flee with the other boys. Gabby stood there in shock, staring at the flames as they rose up the side of the building. Then a teacher came around the corner with a fire extinguisher, and Gabby fled the scene, hoping she wouldn’t be blamed for the fire the boys had started.

The fire alarm was pulled, the students were evacuated out to the football field. The fire hadn’t spread much farther after Gabby fled the scene, but it had gotten out of control enough that the fire department had to come put it out. The students were led away to make sure no one was hurt. Most of the kids were enjoying the break from classes, mingling in small groups of friends. Eventually the principal announced that everyone would be sent home early for the day and most of the kids cheered. The school buses lined up near the football field and the students were slowly herded in that direction.

Gabby kept her head down as she walked to her bus. Most of them ignored her, anyway. She walked by students chatting with their friends, boys and girls embracing in corners and under the bleachers, and others making plans for after school. She didn’t have anything fun or social to do after school; she’d been forced to quit the school play as part of her punishment, and she wasn’t involved in anything else.

She bumped into someone on her way past, and he yelled and shoved her away. “Ow! Watch it,” he yelled. He clutched at his stomach and glared at her. His face paled and he let out a groan as he rubbed his stomach where she’d bumped him, though she’d barely touched him. “Stupid dyke.”

Gabby stared at him. Her eyes started to burn, and she breathed in sharply through her nose. Why did he have to call her that? She didn’t even know him. He was a transfer student, Jacob-something. He was a goth kid in a leather jacket and with a weird haircut. He held his stomach as if he was sick. He stared at her, sweating. She glanced around and saw everyone else was staring at her too. Her face reddened. Jacob turned and walked away, holding his stomach as though he was about to throw up.

She heard a voice from the side mutter, “Such a freak . . . I swear, she’s always staring at me in the locker room.”

Gabby blushed and lowered her head. Rick and a few of the other seniors were pointing at her and laughing. Some of the other students shook their heads and turned away. The only one who didn’t seem to be laughing was the foreign exchange student, Minori. She gave Gabby a kind smile, but that made her feel worse. She’d never shown Minori any kindness in return. Minori had grown up attending a mission in Tsuchan, and the other students teased her for being a religious freak. Gabby had always been very strong in her religious beliefs as well. She thought maybe she and Minori could have been friends.

Minori gave Gabby a shy little wave. Gabby turned away, afraid to return the friendly gesture and risk being mocked even more for hanging around the exchange student. She hurried in the opposite direction, trying to avoid any more attention.

She made her way around the football team’s equipment building and ran across Erica and Charlie again. They were pressed up against the side of the building, kissing, while the athlete’s hands slid up his girlfriend’s skirt. Gabby stood off a short distance away, trying not to stare, but wondering what it would be like to touch a girl like that. She wasn’t paying much attention to anything going on around her. That is, until she heard Charlie’s voice snap, “What the hell are you staring at?”

“I wasn’t—!” she said, then cut off when she saw he wasn’t even looking at her. He was glaring at the new kid, Jacob. Jacob was staring at Erica, and not even trying to hide it. Gabby looked up at Erica and frowned. There was an odd look on the blonde girl’s face.

“Hey,” Charlie shouted, stepping over towards the new kid. “I asked you a question, freak!” A crowd started to gather around as Charlie advanced on Jacob. A few kids cheered and hollered in anticipation of a fight.

“Fuck off,” the new kid snapped. Gabby held still and watched with a growing sense of dread. The crowd pushed her forward, while many of the students shouted and egged the two boys on. When she got closer she saw a vein in Charlie’s neck bulging and his face turning red. She stared and held her breath. He didn’t just look angry. He looked like he was about to explode. His fists were clenched and he gritted his teeth so hard she thought they might crack.

“What’d you say to me?” Charlie screamed.

The new kid stepped closer. His face was pale, and his eyes had the unfocused, bloodshot look of someone who was high. He would have to be to mouth off to someone twice his size. “I said fuck off. He kept looking past Charlie’s shoulder, over at Erica, who was still leaning against the wall. She hadn’t moved from that spot. Her eyes were locked right on Jacob’s, unblinking. Jacob’s eyes traced over her body and she squirmed under his gaze.

The crowd pressed in closer. Some of the students chanted, “Hit him, hit him!” Gabby looked around, wondering how long it would take a teacher to realize what was going on. Even if one came, it didn’t seem like they would get there in time to break up the inevitable fight.

Before anyone could stop it, the pounding started. Fists flew, and Gabby thought she saw the new kid pull a knife, though it was hard to be sure with all the confusion and the cheering that went on around her. Her heart pounded, and bodies pressed against her from all sides. Her head ached, the pressure building up, and she felt closed in from all sides by the mass of flesh all around her. She screamed and tried to push herself back. She felt trapped, and surrounded without control. She pushed against the students around her, but they all shoved inward, and her small voice was lost among the cheering and chanting.

When the teachers finally showed up to pull the students apart, both Charlie and Jacob were on the ground, unconscious. Erica stood off to the side. Her face was blank and her eyes dull with shock as she watched the teachers attend to her boyfriend who lay on the ground. She rubbed at her temples and leaned against the building as though she was dizzy.

Someone pulled out a phone to call for help. One of the teachers knelt next to the boys to check on them. Jacob was bloody and bruised, but Charlie didn’t seem to have a mark on him. Gabby stepped closer, and the pressure around her skull tightened. She had trouble focusing her vision. She looked down at Charlie as the teacher searched him for injuries, but found none. The only strange thing about him was the way the veins in his neck and forehead bulged and throbbed. Gabby’s heart pounded, and she could have sworn that the throbbing in Charlie’s veins matched the rhythm of her own pulse.

Chapter 5: Therapy


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Manifestation: Arcana Revived Volume One

mani_promo

Gabby Palladino believes in magic.

Her parents always tell her that magic is nothing more than foolish superstition. But she grew up reading ancient fairy tales known as the Fables of Arcana, which filled her mind with wonder and mystery. When those myths and legends start to come true, Gabby learns that real magic is far more dangerous than the bedtime stories she always believed in.

When people begin manifesting the powers of arcana, Gabby finds herself surrounded by dangers on all sides. She encounters people who can melt steel with their minds, create earthquakes, and summon flames from their bare hands. She must struggle to survive in a city gripped by chaos and destruction, while trying to discover why people are manifesting abilities that have been lost since ancient times.

What she learns will make her question everything she believes in, about the world, her family, and even her own self.

Manifestation, the first book in the Arcana Revived series is now available for sale.

You can buy Manifestation in paperback format from CreateSpace and Amazon. Ebook formats are available through Amazon and B&N Nook.

And if you like Manifestation and want to see a little more of the world of the Arcana Revived series without waiting for the second novel to come out, you should also check out Radiance, a short story that takes places immediately after Manifestation and gives a glimpse of the things to come.

Editing and Depression

Editing is a lot like depression.

Explaining depression to people who haven’t experienced it isn’t easy. Mostly because half the time I don’t even understand it myself. The last therapist I spoke to told me my depression was episodic, that it would wax and wane like any other mood. Except this is a lot deeper. I could say it’s like imagining a bad day that goes on for so long that it’s no longer definable as “bad.” It’s just the way it is.

There’s a website with a good explanation that I found tells the story of depression better than I can express. Though it’s related to what I said awhile back about the Midnight Disease. There’s times when I’m so obsessed about and focused on a piece of writing that I barely sleep, that I ignore other responsibilities, and I put everything else on hold until I finish what I’m working on. Then, when it’s finished and the focal point of my life is over, I’m left lost and adrift. I sink back into the depression again and I have no energy or motivation to do . . . anything.

Tuesday I finished the first draft of the fifth book of Arcana Revived. I was in such a rush at the end that I wrote about 10,000 words each two days in a row, cramming the last 20k of the novel in a mad rush at the end. It’s been four days since then, and this blog post is one of the first things I’ve written during all that time. Four days straight without writing is rare for me, and I know it’s because I’ve burned through whatever energy I had.

My next goal is to continue the edits on Manifestation. I’ve been working on them for the last couple of months while continuing my writing at the same time, but now I’ve fallen behind. Trying to get the motivation to start editing is hard when I’m suffering through a bout of depression. Part of it is because dealing with editing can be a lot like the listlessness that comes with depression.

(I bet you were wondering when I was going to start linking the two things together.)

If writing a first draft is like the mad rush and excitement of a new beginning, editing can be a tedious, day-by-day continuation of the same thing for a long period of time. It’s the “hard work” part of writing, where you need to go through everything with a fine-toothed comb. There comes a point where you’ve re-read the same passage so many times that it starts to feel a little bland. It’s like the imagination and excitement are gone.

If you read the page on depression I linked to, you might see the connection here to what the article says about losing the joy in playing with your toys. There’s times where it feels like you’re just going through the motions.

I’m not sure what the solution or cure is, or if there even is one. My current plan is to just keep pushing onward, day after day. But it reminds me of something I wrote for a grad class last year. How sometimes “even hopelessness falls by the wayside when boredom takes over, and you realize that it’s time to get back up and brush yourself off. Not because you want to. Not because you’ve recovered. But because what else is there to do? Nothing, except to keep walking. Sometimes there’s no other choice but to push through and come out stronger on the other side.”

So I’m going to keep on walking, or editing, as the case may be. Because the alternative is to give up and let depression win, and if I did that, Manifestation would never be finished. And that’s not an option. So I’ll keep editing.

In the meantime, here’s the full piece that quote came from. It’s a meta-analytic story called “Gabby & I”:

Gabby & I

Gabby is the poet. I am the author.

Her life is the one I write about. She lives it; I put it on the page. Every tragedy, every tear, every first kiss in a fresh draft seems so new to her. Yet I have seen them each again and again with every revision. Part of me is in her, but it is her that is in the story.

Yet there are times in the story where she is the one who picks up the pen. She is a poet, a creator of her own words. She writes, and the words on the page change from she to I. Her voice comes out, and mine is suppressed. The narrator flees as the words become her diary, her escape from the tragedy of her life, and she pours her heart onto the page. I no longer recognize myself in those words. It’s as if I’m no longer there. She has been released into the page, set free to express her deepest secrets, desires, doubts, and fears:

I thought I might find peace today
But it seems I’ve lost my chance
I wonder if I ever will
Find peace, or hope that lasts?

No, I won’t find peace today
Not ever, not a chance
And even if that peace was offered
I think I’d let it pass

Her poems carry emotions that are not mine. Yet those emotions are so real. People tell me her poems make them cry, and they ask what inspired them. All I can answer is, “Her life.” She uses her writing to express the pain that my writing has brought into the story of her life. Her experiences give her inspiration I cannot claim as my own. When I read her poems, her words bring tears to my eyes. I feel the loss that I have written into her life. I see her loneliness and know that my pen is to blame. I see her cries for help, and know I cannot give her the release that she wishes for. I feel guilt reading her poems, knowing the pain that inspired these words:

Oh, dearest Lord, I beg you please
To you I pray, here on my knees
Forgive my sins, and my mistake
Forgive the life I had to take

Forgive my heart, forgive my soul
And know it never was my goal
To take a life with my own hand
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be damned

I feel shame, knowing that people will read her poems as mine. I know they will look on me with sympathy. They will think I am the one who lived through such loss. They have even thought that it was I, not her, who considered ending it all. That her cries for help were my own.

Maybe they were.

Looking back on those poems, I see a darkness. One that might bring concern, and make others question the writer’s safety. Just as they did when she wrote “I may just do it anyway.” I see poems that speak of blood soaking the ground. The devil’s grin. The emptiness of a soul torn away as hands grasped in the air, trying not to let it go. Someone lost, dropping to their knees, perhaps in surrender, perhaps in prayer. Masks of shadow worn for an entire whole lifetime, torn away until you must face what was hidden underneath. Unmasked, shoulders slumped in defeat, letting the chance for peace slip away. I see a writer left worn raw, exposed to the cruel elements after that mask was torn away. I see a writer lost, with nothing but her words to guide her. I wonder if these will guide me:

So many things are gone today
So much taken from me
So what is left, except to pray?
Whatever can it be?

My words, forever shall they stay
With them I’m always free
The one thing they can’t take away
Because they’re part of me

There can be no darkness without light, and there can be no fall without a rise. Sometimes it just depends which comes first. These poems show the fall. More than anything the fall. Down deep into the dark ravine in a shrouded forest, where Gabby ran and hid. Just as I once had, a child fleeing into the woods to hide from those who didn’t understand me. I came back home each night, hiding no longer than it took for the sun to fall and my stomach to grumble. She had no such luxury; her home was lost and her family slain by her own mistakes. Her path continued onward into the darkness. She fell to her knees in the mud at the bottom of that ravine. It was a place I knew well. A place where I fell to the ground and gave up. A place where she was left with nothing but tears, cold, and the empty stars above. A place with no strength to continue on. Some might say that climbing back out of that place takes courage, or determination. But sometimes all it takes is the fact that you have nothing else to do. Kneeling there, in a wet ditch, without hope, we realized that staying there was pointless and boring. Even hopelessness falls by the wayside when boredom takes over, and you realize that it’s time to get back up and brush yourself off. Not because you want to. Not because you’ve recovered. But because what else is there to do? Nothing, except to keep walking. Sometimes there’s no other choice but to push through and come out stronger on the other side.

I went home. She kept moving onward:

And then I slowly closed my eyes
And cried myself to sleep
My shadow held me like a prize
That she would always keep

But when I woke, the night had come
My shadow was no more
My body shivered, I was numb
Rain had begun to pour

The rain began to fall. She let it wash her clean. This was her turning point, when the words in her poems became stronger. “Bravery is just a word,” she writes through my pen. Just a lie you wear to tell yourself that you can do this, that you can continue on. A cloak you wear to dress up in a warrior’s clothes and pretend you’re something more than a lost writer, searching for purpose. The thing is, though, that cloak starts to feel pretty comfortable after awhile. That armor starts to feel right. It starts to feel real. And so her poem says, “Hold nothing back.” She strides forward. She finds that the bravery she wore, first as a lie, really settles in around her shoulders once she stops holding back. It grows comfortable there and decides to stay for awhile. Lie to yourself long enough, and you start to forget what the truth is. Sometimes I start to forget which one of us found the truth: me or her? Author or poet? Which one of us took off the mask? Which one of us put on the cloak? She wrote that poem, she declared “I’ll keep moving forward,” wielding her bravery like a sword. My pen just set her on her path. She’s the lie I make of myself, giving her bravery and hope and a path so that I can pretend. After awhile, it wasn’t pretending for her anymore. Maybe it won’t be for me either:

Now I can move forward
No burdens on my back
With this axe and this sword
I’ll slay fear in its tracks

This brave soul runs towards
The future, and I’ll act
My burdens are ignored
No, they won’t hold me back

She remains the writer until I write, “She puts down the pen.” Then I am the writer once more, writing about her life. Maybe she’s the cloak I wear, her poems the lie I tell until I start to believe them. The scared little girl who started fighting back, and taught me to hold nothing back.

I think I can live with that.

On Staring at the Wall

You’ve been there. You know that feeling. When you have no energy. No focus. You just sit there. Your eyes zone in on something in the distance. You’re not really seeing it, though. You’re not really seeing anything. You’re just sitting there, staring at the wall.

I’ve been diagnosed with depression. According to the therapist I spoke to (disclaimer: several people have told me he offered the worst advice they’ve ever heard), I have episodic bouts of depression. It comes and goes; I’ll be weighed down and listless for a few days or weeks, then come back with huge bursts of energy. Staring at the wall is one of the things I do when I’m having an episode of depression.

(Side note: the outbursts of anger bordering on volatile rage lead me to believe I may also be bipolar, but the therapist said otherwise.)

I do some of my best staring at the wall at home, between the hours of 6:00-10:00 pm. This is when I’m usually at my least productive, usually because I’ve spent the previous five hours working, writing, or running errands. I’ll always end up with a surge of energy later at night, because that’s just how I am. I especially find that I get more energy when the sun goes down. Sunlight saps my strength, and I prefer to avoid it whenever possible. It leaves me irritable, exhausted, and drained. Also, I burn easily.

I’m not quite sure what the cure for staring is. Sometimes I try caffeine. Other times I go on Twitter and tell people about how I’m staring, and they try to snap me out of it. Today, I’m writing this blog post while in the middle of a bout of staring. I’m actually spending a good length of the time I’m writing staring off at a point in space, not looking at either the screen or the keyboard. This is actually a pretty common thing. It’s almost refreshing; it’s a state of mind where everything is blank. It’s a way to avoid being self-critical, judgmental, or worried about how I sound. This is the type of frame of mind many writers suggest getting into during a first draft, where you need to “turn off the internal editor.” While I doubt they recommend getting into a staring contest with inanimate objects as part of the process, it still seems like it works.

Hopefully, after finishing this post, I’ll stop staring. Then I can focus more, concentrate, and get back to work. I have a lot of work to do–a novel to publish, a sequel to revise, some short stories to polish up (I have one short story currently being read by about 6 different people, so hopefully they’ll provide some good feedback soon). I’ve also got to find a job. Speaking of which, if you know of any freelance and/or long term writing or editing work, I’d appreciate you sending it my way. I’ll try not to stare too much during the interview.

And in honor of staring, I decided it would be fitting for this post to include a poem by my main protagonist, Gabriella Palladino. Of course, in her case, she’s worried about a different kind of staring…

Staring”

I’m staring
But why do we stare?
If she catches my eye
Then why do they care?
It’s not like it means
There’s anything there
It’s no more than a glance
To judge it’s not fair
Yet staring
Snags me in a snare
As I look at a girl
With golden blonde hair
I don’t mean to look
I just shouldn’t care
But I just want to cry
When caught in a stare . . .

Photoshop Experiments: Gabby Palladino

Gabby Palladino is the main protagonist of the Arcana Revived series. Her inspiration comes from Anna Popplewell, most known for her role as Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia. I’m experimenting a bit with how to use photoshop to give Gabby shining eyes glowing with arcana:

Gabby Palladino with Arcana Eyes
Gabby Palladino with Arcana Eyes