Regine Allison Claire: Author of YA Fiction

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Journeys with Flash Fiction: Whoosh, There They Go

Booyeah.

4 flash fiction stories down, each significantly different from the next and all within the 1,000 to 2,500 word count. Boom, baby!

So let’s back it on up. In May, I wrote about diving into writing flash fiction despite not having done it for 14 years or so. Kind of intimidating but I was willing to meet the challenge. I suppose it’s like getting back on that bike, once you get the wibbly-wobbly part out of the way and the body goes, “Oh, yeah, THAT.”

Out of the five anthologies presented to our group of authors, I thought I’d whip up a little something for four – the more YA-friendly themes. Almost immediately, the ideas began to flow which was great. Even better, they seemed like small ideas that could be expressed in a teensy space. Two ideas came more easily than the rest; the other two eventually came around after some deep thought and random bits of fluff in the middle of the night.

The first week of June was a bit of a bust on the writing front, unfortunately. Something about not getting much sleep and feeling tapped. There’s a good reason but that’s a different story and a completely different pen name.

On the other hand, the next week was kinder and allowed me to catch up. I finished them on a Saturday night. I spent the following Sunday night and Monday morning taking the ever unkind and never sorry “red pen” to the pages. Choppity chop chop. Submitted by Monday 10am then I threw the red pen out the window and dragged my zombie-brained body off to bed. Oddly exciting even if overly tiring. And that’s not the craziest thing writers do. Oh, no.

(And if any fellow writers have crazier stories, feel free to share! We’re all in the same boat.)

Now that I’ve had sleep and some recovery time from the intense focus, I thought I’d share a tiny little bit about each since I love talking about what I’ve been working on. But no spoilers! 😀

 

Shift
This was the first one to be written, mostly because it was the first, fully-formed concept that came to me thanks to musical inspiration. Most of the story was written to 2 versions of the same song by Conjure One, “Center of the Sun”: the album version and Solarstone’s Chilled Out Remix from the compilation album, “Relax Music”.

I gushed in the previous post about how brilliant I think the song is, so I won’t this time. Let’s just say that it helped immensely, keeping everything on track. Not just because of the delicious, dark sound but the lyrics tipped me off to the original concept: the idea of being in a dark market where the girl is poorly treated and there’s a boy who cares about her.

So how did that translate?  Almost literally, actually. There’s a dark market, catering to the needs of the thirsty patrons of the paranormal world, and a human teenage girl who needs rescuing. There’s the shifter boy who loves her, desperate to free her by the means available to him as a teenager. And then there’s the man standing between them: the Head of Human Resources … except not the type of HR we’re used to.

One of my favourite things about this story is the title, which I had a bit of a time with until the word “shift” got stuck in my head. I wasn’t sure about it but grabbed my paperback dictionary and did some looking. Jackpot. Almost every definition works. Double-checked with The Free Dictionary (my favourite go-to site for wordsmithing!) and made up my mind. It feels so awesome when a story has a title.

 

Burden
This one I’m equally happy with and it’s a bit creepy, at least in my head. Hey, it says “dark” in the anthology theme so I went there. It’s thanks to a matter of timing, really. In the previous post, I talked about the boy locked up in a bedroom for up to 2 years. That’s pretty dark stuff. I was taken with the story – which isn’t the first, by all means, nor the last, sadly – and was intrigued with the concept that this couple would allow their daughter freedom and not their nephew. My inspiration was pulled to it.

Except I wanted to explore a little more than that, leaning into a bit of further darkness. I can’t get into it without spoilers but I took it into a new direction from the real, live story. It revolves around Keldie, a young girl in high school who has a family secret she’s too scared to keep. The story is about her struggle to do the right thing … even though the result is far from what she expects.

My thanks to Conjure One and Poe, again, though there were two other songs which provided great inspiration for what ended up on “paper”: Florence + the Machine’s “Heavy In Your Arms” and Within Temptation’s “Dog Days“. Without these, the feel wouldn’t have been quite the same. Rawr.

 

The Flying Dead
This story took a while to come around. I had originally kicked around a more somber idea, catering to the serious side of Samhain as the Celtic celebration of our dead.

Yeah, no. Wrote that idea off. Instead, I wanted to write something fun. And funny. Shift and Burden are dark so I wanted something amusing!

The idea came around when I was trying to get back to sleep one morning: the concept of the Ouija board. I’ve been around one once and we had an interesting experience for the rest of the day, so I’ve got something personal to work from and not just TV shows like Charmed. Except I wanted it to be about something more than that.

Enter fantasy; my love, my sanity.

There always has to be something that happens in the story which the main character has to resolve. I dipped into the fantastical world for this one to give it some spunk. The protagonist is Kurt and his family is different: they’re pledged to protect the dead. Samhain is a huge to-do for them with all the dead who cross the Veil and this Samhain isn’t any exception.

I also gave Kurt a bit of something special to make him even more amazing: he’s a transgender youth. He knows who he is and has courage, throwing off the mantle of “Katie” to be himself. This is important to me, not just because I love diversity of all sorts, but because it’s real and something worth putting out there in a way that isn’t derogatory or unkind. There are a lot of kids (not just adults, like those I know and love) who go through this and aren’t as supported as he is, but they need it. I believe gender shouldn’t determine whether you’re a hero or not, just like it doesn’t determine whether you’re a good person or maybe need some help in that department.

It’s not a long, in-depth story but this one’s for all of you. You know who you are. ♥

 

Words Needed
And the fourth flash fic. Arg. This one gave me a right good run around. To tell the truth, I don’t find as much inspiration in writing “real world” stuff, unless it’s urban something-or-other where magic, other dimensions, or something spices it up. (I’m so completely about speculative fiction!) But this one had to stay real.

Best remedy? Personal life.

I was thinking about one thing, which led to another, and then another. Finally, I gave into the concept of a girl discovering paganism very much in the same way I did. Some of the details changed but the essence remains the same. So you’d think it was easy, right, writing from precisely what I know because I lived it?

Nope. Not even close.

This was the most difficult of the four to write! The editing went a bit more smoothly. Still, laying it down … not as easy as I thought. I couldn’t even get the soundtrack right for it – and that’s strange, considering I always manage to find something to play over and over. It’s also the shortest of the bunch. I tried not to ramble. We’ll see how it fares.

 

And that’s how my journey into flash fiction has fared. Right now, they’re in queue for consideration and I’m busy doing some other things. It’s been a thrill, though. I’ll have to try this again sometime.  New worlds to explore and all.

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Writer’s Resource: Giants, Monsters, and Dragons (Carol Rose)

 

Encyclopedia of monsters2

Giants, Monsters, and Dragons:
an encyclopedia of folklore, legend, and myth

Carol Rose (2000)

Buy @ Amazon

 

What lay within the bounds of human knowledge and was relatively familiar could be reasonably and comfortably accommodated, no matter what its size. But that which lay outside the bounds of human knowledge was monstrous and awesome. Explanations for the chaotic, precreation nature of the world and the universe, the vast fissures, the threatening geographical features of the earth, the unexplored regions, and the disappearance or transformation of those who ventured into the unknown were accommodated in the concepts of the monstrous. Those beings that existed beyond the human realms of order were the constant threat that challenged the human world and had to be appeased, controlled, banished, or defeated.

– Carol Rose, “Giants, Monsters, and Dragons” (2000), pg xxv

 

I can’t remember when exactly I got this book, or from where, but it’s been sitting on my shelf for a few years. My partner says I received it as part of my Children’s Literature class when I was in university, which isn’t impossible since I received a huge box of books for that one class alone!

In any event, I finally pulled it out to consult it. Originally, I was looking to get some ideas for one of the flash fiction stories I’m working on, Shift. The intention was to obtain a little extra information on werewolves. While I found it, there was more. I came out with the idea to explore the ideas of a were-bear in another flash fiction story, Burden.

And then I couldn’t stop looking. It’s been hanging around my desk while I’ve been working on these short stories and every couple of days, I can’t help but pick it up and skim over it.

I love this book.

Other than discovering that “were-bears” are a thing (despite the fact that I giggle because it’s way too close to sounding like Care Bears), this book is packed with useful information, names, geographical references, and other info. In the introduction, Rose reveals that material was drawn from a variety of sources: encyclopedias, dictionaries (of mythology), ancient and medieval texts, classic literature, folktales and folklore, chronicles and annals of historic events, fables, chapbooks, nursery rhymes, and surveys (genealogical, heraldic, anthropological, topographical). Way cool. It makes me want to have been there writing it with her. Then again, I’m a sucker for research projects … especially any that include ancient texts. YAY!

Reading it reminds me of watching the TV show, Charmed, or Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (the Robert Tapert/Sam Raimi version with Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hirst Hurst) – which is cool because I enjoy those shows. And there’s gorgeous artwork included, taken from a variety of sources, just to give your eyes a break from the text. It’s also easy-to-read and accessible, good for everyone.

It’s a big book and offers a little on everything, including monsters like Champ, a cryptid who is said to live in Lake Champlain between Québec, Canada and Vermont, USA. (A fun little tidbit for me, since I live in the province next door.) And I’m happy to see the likes of Grendel (and Grendel’s Mother) from the ancient tale Beowulf  included. Tolkien‘s Ents and Shelob are in it, too, along with Lewis Carroll‘s Jabberwocky!

In the back are a “Selected Bibliography” for further reference and Appendixes categorizing the beings, including “Beings associated with weather”, “Beings from literature”, “Heraldic beasts”, “Beings by country, realm, or people”, and a long list of others. Useful.

Though I think my favourite thing is how it touches on so many different areas of interest and subjects. History, anthropology, linguistics, geography, religion, spirituality, mythology, literature … it’s a little bit of a lot of things rolled up in one nice, pretty, neatly bound volume that fits well on any shelf without feeling like a brick. It has an international feel, taking the reader on a journey to peek inside all of the different human cultures. This book is one that ties us all together; for as different as we may seem, our monsters aren’t all that different. Dragons, giants, shifters, and similar creatures are everywhere! They might have different names but they share a lot in common. It’s a gentle reminder that while we fight each other and believe we’re completely different, we’re actually very much the same.

Now, I might be terribly biased because I fell in love with cryptozoology as a teenager, but I’d recommend this book to anyone – everyone – in the speculative fiction world who writes about creatures and beings, whether you pen fantasy, horror, paranormal, science fiction … whatever. You know, just in case you need a little help or inspiration. Or if you just like looking at the pictures and awesome names.