Sunday, September 30, 2018

Swimming in the dark. (dream)


I'm in a warehouse by myself. The floors are concrete. I'm barefoot. There's glass on the floor, but I can push myself off and float above it. The walls and corridors recede so far back, they look like black holes. A guppy swims up to my foot. I avoid sinking back down to the ground. The tiny fish is amazing and I don't want to crush it. An entire school of guppies comes swimming down from the open air overhead. Their flowing, leopard-printed tails are orange and yellow. It's not sunny, but daylight pours over a huge table full of tomato plant seedlings.

I flow further down the warehouse and admire the new plants the vendors have put on display. There's plenty of jewelry for sale, too. Jewelry and the occasional item of clothing seem to be the only things keeping the place from being a greenhouse.

My biological parents come around the corner. I feel separate from them, but dependent. That's it- I feel like a child. But I have the experiences and actual age of an adult. I just accept it.

They preoccupy each other. My mom rests her arm in my father's. They duck into the vendors' small stands now and then.

I've been wandering around over concrete and dirt flooring alike. I see a beautiful piece of faux moonstone jewelry on the ground. No one seems to be claiming it. I pick it up and put it in my pocket.

We go home. Soon, the police are knocking at our door. I wonder if they're here for the jewelry I took from the warehouse. I go upstairs and wait. But they never go upstairs or ask to see me. They eventually drive away.

I go back downstairs and go back to the warehouse. I stand in line, waiting, when a man comes up behind me and slits my throat with a small switchblade. He might be why the police came to our door. They might have been trying to warn us. I choke, bleed out and die on the dirt floor, but I'm glad to go, even if it's violent and unexpected. I was ready. There wasn't much left that I wanted to see or do.


I've been swimming at night in an outdoor pool for the past several weeks. I lose my concentration and determination after a certain hour, so at night, I figure I might as well do something that doesn't require much of either from me. I'll look down and halfway see my legs kicking at the water in the dark, and it will seem like flying.

The sky starts out as cloudy daylight, then within the span of a few minutes, goes from navy blue to pitch black. The stars become crisp, white points. When it's that dark, something swoops down into the water, splashes in and then flies away. For months, I didn't know what it was. I had assumed it was moths or dragonflies, but tonight, I saw that it's tiny, brown birds.

The pool is surrounded by houses, but only one bedroom light is on every single night at that time. I always wonder if anyone is in there, and if someone is, whether they notice me splashing around. What might they think of me? I try to peek inside as I shower outside, the three lights attached to the roof of the shower forming a rainbow halo on the concrete around me while the hot water runs down my head into the drain.

I wonder about the slit throat in the dream. I think it goes back to a conversation I had with a friend who was just diagnosed with inoperable cancer. I really want him to want to fight to live. We had a fairly lengthy conversation about life and giving up or not giving up. He felt that life was a gift, in spite of everything else. I'm relieved to hear that he feels this way. I know it's not the only way to feel about life and death.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The book of romantic Severus Snape fanfiction. (dream)


I wake up. I'm in the lower part of my orange-painted, orange-blanketed, metal bunk bed. Someone close to me, but still an acquaintance, is at the computer to my left. I'm in the Harry Potter universe, although I don't acknowledge it as such. The wizarding world is simply reality. But Harry Potter and Harry Potter's books do still exist.

Right now, I'm thinking about Professor Snape and the romantic short stories I'm writing about him. They're almost done. I even have some black and white illustrations done in the style of the original books. Will my stories ever be published? Will I ever meet Professor Snape? Wouldn't that be amazing? He might be downstairs in the lower computer room. But first, I have to get out of bed- no easy task.

I do it, then I turn the corner to our heavy, wooden entertainment center. I look inside and I'm bummed. I see some activity that's related to some non-famous wizards I'll have to meet and write about before I get to Snape. They don't see him as a great tragic, romantic figure. They see him as sort of a weird side character. I play with these people for a while anyway. Figures act on the screen inside the entertainment center. I wonder if I'll ever be able to go look for the star of my fiction.


My favorite Harry Potter character is, without a doubt, Severus Snape. His story arc turned him into one of the great tragic/romantic characters of the 21st century. But the character's dialogue was written completely differently in the film version, and although the books are overall a richer experience than the films, I much prefer the film version of Snape.

There are many differences between the film version of Snape, and the book version. For example, in the book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, under the Whomping Willow, Snape is rendered unconscious and carried along very roughly by some vines back to Hogwarts, bumping his head against the ceiling all the while in a pantomime of a child's righteous vengeance against a big, mean adult in authority. But in the film, Snape wakes up after being rendered unconscious and attempts to shield the children from Lupin after Lupin transforms into a werewolf. That's a much nobler act, and it makes more sense. The film Snape is impulsively angry at Harry for reminding him so much of his romantic rival, James Potter, but we eventually come to know that he's secretly devoted to Harry's protection. So when the stakes are at their highest (life and death), we see what he really values in the film version.

Also in that movie, Snape's dialogue is toned down quite a bit. Fewer words are spoken, and the almost cartoonish vitriol in the book is erased and replaced with a more jaunty, delightfully sarcastic dialogue. Here's an example of some dialogue from the books that was cut:


(Snape) "SILENCE! I WILL NOT BE SPOKEN TO LIKE THAT!... Like father, like son, Potter! I have just saved your neck; you should be thanking me on bended knee! You would have been well served if he'd killed you! You'd have died like your father, too arrogant to believe you might be mistaken in Black- now get out of the way, or I will make you."

In the film, Snape isn't nearly as defensive or resentful. The film also cut out much of Snape's single-minded desire to get Sirus's soul sucked out in that particular book. For the most part, in the film, he's simply clever, focused and disciplined, and wants Potter to be prepared for what he knows is coming. But in the books, he is also verbally or emotionally abusing these children. He's one-dimensional. All his other dimensions come out in one giant (amazing) heap at the end.

We don't get to read about Snape's thoughts, so we're not missing much in going from the page to the screen. In the films, he still doesn't listen to the kids (or perhaps he listens, but doesn't necessarily trust, since he did know what Harry was talking about when Harry was being interrogated by Umbridge under the threat of a truth-telling potion, and Snape successfully put off Umbridge while alerting the Order of the Phoenix about the danger in the vault of fortunes Harry was secretly warning him about in the film version of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), but he negates what they're thinking and does nearly everything else in a comedic way (the way he hits the kids' heads with books for talking, his reaction to having his shoes vomited on in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the way he tells Umbridge that he applied to the Defense Against the Dark Arts position and obviously didn't get the job in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), and he tends to be too calm and reserved to be sadistic, except in short outbursts against Harry's father, who bullied him in school. He doesn't go on cruel, self-adulating rants the way the he does in the books. We almost get more information about him in the films at times. The soft, silky, cadence of Alan Rickman's Snape isn't in the books the way we get clues as to what Hagrid, Ron, or Hermione sound like.

The film also put some spine-tingling last words in Severus's mouth compared to the book: "You have your mother's eyes." When he says that, it feels as though all the other characters spent the entire series saying it just so we can hear it one last time from Snape. It's more poetic, although perhaps less realistic than Snape's final words in the book: "Look... at... me..." (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, p. 658)

There's a lot I could say about Snape. I love that character. I aspire to make characters that complex and nuanced. And I thought about making fanfiction after having this dream, but there are no incentives to do so. I did read some fanfiction, and it's interesting how all the stories I looked at revolved around how dedicated a friend or lover he is, how sensitive but guarded he is, and how relentless the hostility of the world outside of that relationship is.

Rather than encouraging me to write either fanfiction or romance, I think this dream is more about how I wish I could churn out massive quantities of polished work. I don't do that much work as a writer, and I wonder if I will ever be able to publish anything I think is worthwhile. In the dream, I am distracted by other obligations and entertainment on a screen. That's certainly me these days, and I do have a difficult time getting out of bed and motivating myself to do anything, like in the dream.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Too personal to share? Author interview for Lost Atlantis 1 and 2. (rants)

Before I die, I want to have built up some body of work that expressed some of what it was like to have lived my life. But for about a year or two now, I have been going through things that are too personal to talk about to people I don't know for certain I can trust (thus ruling out the general public). I never would have thought there would be things that I just couldn't express to anyone because they were too intimate or too strategically unsound, but here we are. It's a sad feeling. It feels like little shavings of my life being scraped off, never to return. But there came a point at which writing was burdensome. The need for discipline overcame the joy of expression, and I just didn't have the energy to keep going.

I've managed to crank out another Lost Atlantis book after about five or six years, so before I release the book, I thought I'd write a little bit about the series. It doesn't feel as though it's been that long. That's probably because all I have are tiny snapshots of moments as memories, and can never re-experience the day-by-day tick that makes time feel so slow sometimes. I can still remember the excitement six years ago of sitting at a two-story cafe, looking down at the passersby on the street, preparing to give myself a birthday present by self-publishing whatever I had at the same age Stephen King published Carrie. It was important to me that I made that deadline... probably because I am creature living in a society that places so much emphasis on age, dividing so many life-events by it. It is what it is. (Depressing.)

Since I'm so close to self-publishing the second book in the six-part series, I've been trying to think of questions or statements about the books or series that might interest a reader. If you have any questions for me, please ask!

Book I
I've had this story in my head since I was 11 years old, and have made several versions of it. The first version was a comic book, and the heroine was a superhero from outer space. Half of the comic book took place in outer space, and half took place in what I imagined New York City to be. Having the story take place in the Lost City of Atlantis at about age 16 was an effort to make the storyline more "realistic." That version took place in what I imagined living in LA could be like, especially in its effects on people. At that point, I had never been there, but had visited other large cities.

I've always been a big fan of kung fu films, and this particular version (the novel) was based off of a screenplay for a kung fu movie that I wrote while I was bored at work. In particular, I see the influence of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury in it. I also listened to a steady electronic soundtrack while imagining this story.

There are a lot of things I'd like to change about the first book, but I feel as though it's been written, and that there's no point in going back when there's so much to do in such a short time-frame going forward.

Book II
Spoiler: the heroine lives. This upcoming book is about her training and refinement as a martial artist, and how she has to figure out how to balance her love of people like her mentor, Bone Shield, with her disappointments in them. I tried to explore group dynamics and tried to figure out how it might feel okay for a group of people to form conspiracies to kill. I also wanted to see what she might think afterwards about her acts of violence and murder, or if she'd bother to think of them at all. She experiences life very much so "in the moment," but she's very introspective at the same time, so I wondered if she could live her life the way she has to if she stopped too long to think about it. There are a couple silly moments, but again, I'm to the point that I don't see why I should keep going back and changing something so far in the past.


I grabbed these ten questions from Queer Sci-fi

Do you write more on the romance side, or the speculative fiction side? Or both? And why?
For the third through the fifth books, I hope to write more about sex and romance. I don't plan to write much about the mechanics of the fantasy world until the sixth book. It's implied more than it's described. I decided to weight romance and speculative fiction this way because I felt that it was more relevant to appeal to a fiction reader's emotions than to his or her mind in fiction. Emotions happen before thoughts, in my opinion.

Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?
A character. I try to imagine a fully-fleshed out person and then put myself into his or her positions.

If you had the opportunity to live one year of your life over again, which year would you choose?
I would be 19 again. I didn't have to worry about school, work, or the religion that had dominated most of my life. I drew one picture a day and offered it for sale online, and spent the rest of the time taking walks in nature, photographing it with a friend's borrowed camera. It was probably the happiest year of my life.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
It's very difficult to be honest with yourself about a lot of things, like how you feel each line is affecting you and what it could mean about who you are, who other people are, and what things and events really mean to you, even when you're writing about fictional people and events.

Of your writing, who is your favorite character/favorite book?
My favorite character is without a doubt White Sand. I feel that she is the reason I write and she gives me a sense of structure in a life that otherwise feels uncomfortably without purpose.

What are you reading?
Among other things, Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight.

What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in writing your books?
I was surprised at how aggressive I was when I was being honest. Through writing, I've come to embrace much more of my dark side and my natural impulses, and often enjoy them now. I feel as though I see life more realistically because of it, and can anticipate future events more accurately.

What’s one moment specifically that inspired you, which you can remember vividly?
I remember drawing Paul McCartney and changing his features around enough to become exactly what I wanted for White Sand's romantic interest.

Where do you like to write?
I prefer to read and write in cafes. 

What do you like to write about the most?
I'm not sure if it's what I like, but I tend to write about what a character is thinking or feeling in a given moment.

What are you working on now, and when can we expect it?
I'm "working" on a story (thinking about revising one) in which a cat and a woman have a bond true enough for her to be let in on the highly contemplative world of the cat. I've created a first draft, but I'm not sure if or when I'll really flesh it out.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

"Learn Swedish with Beginner Stories: Interlinear Swedish to English" (book review)

Click to see this book on!

Title: "Learn Swedish with Beginner Stories: Interlinear Swedish to English (Learn Swedish with Interlinear Stories for Beginners and Advanced Readers)" 
Author: Kees Van den End
Genre: Fairy Tales (language)
Length:  149 pages
Naja's MPAA rating: (G)
Publishing Date: February 3, 2017

I've heard so much about the health benefits of being bilingual that I'm trying to learn new languages on Duolingo. My dad went to school in Sweden and left behind Swedish poetry he was translating in his estate. I also found out that I am a little bit Swedish. So I settled on learning this language for those reasons and also because there's a preponderance of excellent, inexpensive resources for understanding this language. (I also dreamed about swearing in Swedish after watching PewDiePie's "how to swear" videos. It was a sign!)

When my copy arrived, it had that velvety matte feel to the cover that Amazon's print-on-demand books have (indie!). I really appreciated the format of this book. There's a string of larger Swedish words at the top of each line of text, and lighter-colored English text underneath those words.

The stories are short and simple but fun. This beginner's book featured fairy tales. There was one folktale about why a mountain in the Netherlands looks the way it does, a Swedish version of Rumpelstiltskin and Hansel and Gretel, plenty of trolls and plenty of brave young boys outsmarting them.

It's also nice that there's a kind of sequel to this book: a more intermediate Swedish text, which translates this guy, Hasse Zetterström's, stories from the 1800's.

I think it's good to use a variety of resources and to practice under a variety of circumstances, so I purchased the paperback copy of this book. There's also a cheaper Kindle ebook version, but I preferred having a physical copy in this case. It's refreshing to go to a café, get a nice, cold coffee, turn off all technology, and immerse oneself in a book like this without having to break out the phone or the laptop to look up meanings. The only things I did end up looking up now and then were pronunciations. But in addition to programs like Duolingo, you can watch subtitled movies in other languages. I've enjoyed laughing at or watching jokes that I've never heard before and wouldn't have expected to be humorous, just because of where I was born.

My first concern about this book was whether or not the author was a native speaker, because this author has published over twenty books in this format, but in different languages. It wouldn't be impossible for one person to speak so many languages fluently (less than twenty, since there a multiple books for a single pair of languages and different combinations of languages, but it's still a lot). But it sounds like a risk to me as a buyer. Maybe this guy's friends speak a lot of languages and helped out with the books. I don't know. But I wouldn't want to accidentally pick up bad habits in a language, and I would like to pick up idioms, slang and other unique cultural details that a native speaker would have better access to (at least that was my assumption). By the end, I did feel that the book did help the reader to learn a few cultural tidbits, but "Kees Van den End" seems to me to be a Dutch name. However, most of what I've read online suggests that if you understand either Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish or Finnish, it's pretty easy to pick up on the other three countries' languages. So I feel pretty safe reading this book. I had some questions, but there's a lot of help online.

If I were to make a suggestion though, it would be to choose titles for this book series that were a little more different from each other, and a bit more fanciful in their descriptions of the stories. I didn't know what interlinear text was until I looked inside the book.

Unfortunately, the book is fairly short (only about 150 pages). But as a beginner, I was very slow and did have to go back and reread a lot, (I didn't understand all of the story while trying to pronounce words in my head, and I didn't notice the Swedish while I was reading the English) so it's also nice not to feel overwhelmed by a bulky book. The English grammar suffers a bit in the translation, but that's to be expected. Words aren't arranged the same way in different languages. It was good to see how differently the words combined.

So if you're interested in learning a new language, these books might be a good tool to use in conjunction with some audio-based instruction, like Duolingo or Rosetta Stone!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Mass shooters aren’t going away anytime soon. (rant)

I think that we don’t understand mass shooters because we don’t want to. It's not as much fun as shaking your head with your tribe and playing a game of "Ain't It Awful," but when has playing head games with people and acquiring gossip resulted in better relationships? Look at people like Philip DeFranco (who I like, but he's a good example). Guys like Phil love to judge and generalize without digging into why after a certain point of disgust occurs. But until Americans push beyond our feelings of disgust about shocking events, and until there’s love and a sense of healing and redemption for everyone, mass shooters will keep developing. I sometimes think this is why Christianity is so popular here. There needed to be an outlet to acquire these traits, so one developed. But especially with the advent of the internet, it’s become very easy to become self-taught and more strategic in almost anything, regardless of what that thing is or your motivation for learning it.

My biggest concern and plea for my fellow Americans is to not overestimate our own goodness and in doing so to avoid thinking about why mass shootings might happen. It might stretch some of us (a lot of us) to accurately put ourselves into someone else’s shoes, but those two things are part of what you should want from life: a challenge and being able to consider human nature as it is. We accept cats' and dogs' nature to hunt, and in considering this, we've become able to take steps to humanely replace those behaviors that are destructive to local wildlife. The fact that we have so many mass shooters suggests that we still have an incredibly deep inability to comprehend others' experiences. I think that we've gotten to this maladaptive place through a simplistic belief in good and evil.

So think back to a time that an adult insulted you. You might have done something to trigger them, but was about them, wasn’t it? For whatever reason, you triggered one of their fears. The more and more you think about what they say and why, the more those thoughts they’re abusing you with seems to go back to them and their experiences, and where they’re at in life. It so rarely has anything to do with your own life. They can’t make the empathetic leap in that condition, because anger snuffs out empathy and blinds one to all but a narrow, self-interested focus. For as long as people are fearful, they will attack, and they will always fear, since fear is an excellent motivator and survival tool that’s built into us.

Mass shootings might be thought of as coping mechanisms, some sort of way to embrace and overcome a fear- maybe a fear that humanity and the possibility of love is doomed. That’s why I just don’t see this problem with mass shooters in America going away. There are a few organizations that try, but in general, Americans don’t have a culture that attempts to repair, redeem and restore connectedness to other people. We have a culture that judges, blames, is self-absorbed, contemptuous and dismissive. I feel as though I’ve written about this many times before, but I have always felt that it only takes one pissed off person with nothing to lose to really do an increasingly massive amount of damage- far more than just fifty-something people, especially if there have been a lot of random people pissing them off. If they’re random, and a person is lonely, or isolated, it’s easy, especially as an adult, to come to believe that the whole world is truly, deeply fucked up.

For one thing, people die after learning their lessons from about 80 years of life, and then a brand new generation of people who haven’t learned their lessons repeats the most common mistakes. It’s the legal system that keeps generational errors from happening to another generation. In the chaotic system's self-regulating way, death also keeps serious errors from going on and on in perpetuity on our planet.

Do I know what the answer is? No, but I think it starts with a sincere attempt to understand what motivates this behavior, not just tabloid sadism as I like to call it, followed by some thought about how our culture, and perhaps our legal system, must change in order to steer people away from this kind of behavior. I don’t think there are any innocent people in this world. Just people without the knowledge to solve their problems effectively, and I think that includes everyone in the culture.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Five more questions about "Megachurch Versus Tattoo Studio" answered!

Someone recently asked me some questions about my new novel, and I thought answering them might make an interesting video! I love feedback, so if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, please let me know.

P.S. Here is a link to "The Phantom," which I must have rented while reading the book since it's from 1996:  It was a poorly-rated film, and somehow that made it all the more interesting to read.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Three author questions answered! "Megachurch Versus Tattoo Studio"

Hello, there! Today is the last day to enter the Goodreads giveaway for my new novel! I jumped out of the shower and thought I'd do a quick author Q&A. Please let me know if you like videos and stuff like this!