Time Goes By

I never understood what grown-ups meant when they said, “It seems like [insert event here] was only yesterday… Time goes by so fast, doesn’t it?” I was in elementary school; for me, time lingered, whether I was in class reading a book under my desk or out playing in the dirt and the forest at my best friend’s house, making up characters and games and stories. Time couldn’t go by fast. Too many different things happened, and when things are different from second to second, the moments can’t blend together in your mind. Each one stands out, unique, and makes a day last a lifetime.

Things were different this year.

Eleven months and one day ago, I was in Germany. Exactly eleven months ago, I was not. Somehow, that eleven months and one day seems more recent than a great many things that have happened since. Since I came back to the States and especially since I started school, everything has been incredibly similar. As the moments passed, they dragged; every one was so like the last that they couldn’t do anything else in my mind. But that same similarity has warped my memories of the past year. A few things stand out, but for the most part, it all blurs together and, now that I look back, it all seems to have gone by so fast. Suddenly it was the end of the year, and nothing seemed to have had time to change. There’s absolutely no way a whole season at my old theatre could possibly be over; there wasn’t enough time to do all those shows since I left. But it is over, and even though my memories of the place and the shows I did are so sharp that if I close my eyes, I can be there again, it has been a full year – five shows – since I was there, and now there’s a list of a second season which I will not be able to see. It’s completely impossible, but there you have it. Time passes very differently when the days lose adventure.

I’m a teenager, nearly an adult (as my driver’s license so kindly reminds me with its “under 18 until” label whose date ends with this year), but I am not grown up in the slightest. I am not ready to go out and face a world where every day is the same, where one day I will stop and look back and go, “God, was that production of Romeo and Juliet really ten years ago?” or “It’s been fifteen years since I graduated college – where did the time go?” Just thinking about living that kind of life terrifies me. It’s so bad that I can’t even write this post all at once – I have to keep getting up and walking away for a minute so I don’t get overwhelmed. I have always wanted an adventure. I want to travel the world, help solve crimes, or maybe just keep writing, because if I’m doing those things, the day can never lose its adventure. Nothing will ever be the same. It will be impossible for the minutes to blend and fade into the nothingness I’m so frightened of. I’ll be able to really live.

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Evolution of a Writer’s Baby

The two things I say most about my book are “I’ve read it so many times that I an hardly stand to look at it anymore” and “It’s my baby.” I think I’m justified in saying both those things. I started this book in my freshman year of high school and had the first draft finished by the time I was a sophomore. Now I’m done with my junior year, and believe me, this was not dead time for Peace in Paradise. I am my own worst critic; every time I looked at it there was something new to fix, a sentence to tweak so it flowed better, a weak verb to root out; I rewrote huge chunks of my first and last chapters to the point where Chapter Twelve had to become Chapters Twelve and Thirteen. I haven’t reread it quite as many times as I have the Harry Potter series, but it’s close. Very close. And being my critic, I’ve gotten pretty sick of looking at the damn thing.

But I also love it. It’s the first full-length book I ever finished (okay, let’s face it, it’s the only full-length book I’ve ever finished), and I’ve devoted a huge part of my life to it. I have concept art galore, chapter panels that for the sake of my poor bank account couldn’t fit into the book, little manga scenes sketched absentmindedly in class and pencil sketches of random scenes. I have little offshoot stories in my mind – alternate endings, what-could-have-beens, even a half-thought-out prequel that explains how a particular character ended up the way she did. I get a little obsessive when I have a project, and this was no exception.

And now I’m sending my baby out into the world. I covered my panic in another post, so I won’t go into that. What I want to explore today is how Peace in Paradise came to be.

I won’t lie: a lot of my original inspiration came from playing too much Pokemon Ranger. My first idea was that my main characters, once they graduated from the Academy, would go to the beautiful tropical island chain and have to deal with a group of people stealing powerful magical artifacts from around the islands. That was it. My writing process is pretty much to get an idea and run with it for as long as possible. I’ll let you in on a little secret: that’s exactly what I’m doing right now.

But it changed, like stories do. The group of people faded away, but the magic stayed. The magic grew stronger and actually ended up as the dominant element in the book. Some new characters that I hadn’t counted on bloomed into being. One of them, a young boy named Nico, I lifted straight from a bizarre dream I had one night. Fishing pole, eye-contact avoidance, and even the reason he shows up the first time – to warn that something big was coming – all came from that dream, although like everyone else he changed over time. He almost changed in a big way. I remember in my first semester of freshman year I had gotten obsessed with a manga called Bleach, and as I was working on the passage where my mainies first got an idea of the villain they’d be dealing with, I read the part of the manga where a character whom I rather liked and trusted turned out tot be someone very different than who I thought he was. It put the idea in my head, and I spent ten or twenty minutes of Biology scribbling about whether or not I could have one of my characters do the same thing. But every time I considered it, my mind rejected the idea with so much force that I knew I couldn’t do it. I would love to know how that would have turned out, but when I looked at the characters I was considering, I knew that they weren’t ones to be in league with the villain. Not that villain, at least. Even Nico, as much as he would love to get rid of his ability, wouldn’t go that far. But it’s interesting to think about what might have been.

I have three pages in my notebook from freshman year that record my struggles with possible paths I could have taken – the relationship dynamics of my main ship, the way my main character Lillia’s various abilities fit with her past and the abilities of two others (which also changed the dynamics of some relationships in what I think is a very good way), my who-should-be-a-bad-guy debate, and one that allowed me to finish when I got stuck on my biggest passage near the end of the book. I remember a fourth mental debate on President’s Day weekend, written on a napkin in a hotel restaurant in Garmisch-Partenkirchen while my father participated in a hockey tournament, but I no longer have that napkin. I rather wish I did, because honestly, I don’t really remember what I wrote on there anymore. I think it was something about how to destroy the villain, but I’m not sure. All I remember was that it was enough, because later that weekend, I used my craptastic school-issue laptop to type out the final words of the story. All the different paths I could have taken, every unforeseen turn in the story, every decision I made during those frantic writer’s block scribble sessions, led to something that even now, after all my editing, I don’t think could have been done any other way. I don’t think any of the other paths I was considering would have led to a finished book. Somehow, everything came together and turned into something that seems miraculous even to me who doesn’t trust in miracles. But I do trust in magic. Seventeen years old and a published author, but my trust in magic hasn’t dimmed since fairy tales and Harry Potter and the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s because I read and write, I think. There’s something in the way that words on paper can translate emotions and people and lives between minds that is inherently magical. And where there is magic, there can be miracles.

Peace in Paradise hasn’t really changed since I typed end on the final page that day in Garmisch. In spite of my editing and revisions, it’s kept its original soul and magic; revising just brought it more into the limelight, like polish on dull metal that takes it from a glimmer to a gleam. And though I say I can’t stand to look at it anymore, I know I’ll read it again. Maybe even twice or three – okay, dozens of times more. Every time, I’ll think of something I could change, but that’s okay. Now that it’s published, it’ll stay as it is. I’ll learn from what I want to change and apply it in my next story, and the one after that. It’ll always hold a special place in my heart, but now I need to say goodbye. My baby has gone out into the world; it can take care of itself now. I have other children that I need to raise.

Lillia, Reubyn, Aiene, Nikiani, Nico, Manialua, Vrenchard, Kaiko, Iemalu, Pegu, Maunei, even you, Harimako: I love you all. Go out. Tell your story. Live in our minds and hearts.

Some Random Prose

So this bit of story comes from the fifth chapter of mine, right after my story gets to the main setting. This is the part where it really starts to connect to the big conflict. I hope you enjoy it!

“Once they were out of earshot of the others, Nikiani stopped and turned to Nico. “Okay,” she said. “What is it?”

Nico didn’t look her in the eye, but that didn’t surprise her. He never looked anyone in the eye.

He had a peculiar ability. He could see about people – their past, their likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams, who they were, and sometimes even who they were going to be. It was something that he said he hated. When he saw people he got too close for his liking. He understood too much. And, he said, it was a violation of privacy.

“Something’s happening,” he said in Fankaloa. Everyone resorted to the native language to discuss island matters. “You can feel it, can’t you?”

Nikiani hesitated, biting her lip. “Yeah,” she said, replying in the same language. “I can. But I don’t know what it is – it’s too weak for me to sense completely. All I can tell is that it’s not good. And it’s getting stronger.”

She shivered. The rising sense of unease carried with it a sort of chill. It wasn’t a physical one; this chill made her spirit feel cold. She had a bad feeling about it all.

“Can any of the others sense it yet?” asked Nico.

Nikiani shook her head. “But they will soon. Whatever it is, it’s getting stronger, and with that it’ll be easier to sense. Right now all I can feel is a little prickle. I’ve got a feeling that when it’s stronger it’s going to make me feel a lot worse. You can sense it too, then?”

“I don’t have to look darkness in the eye to tell what it wants,” Nico said, shaking his head. “And I can’t reign in my abilities entirely. I can feel the dark coming.”

Nikiani grimaced. “You’re encouraging,” she said, trying to sound dry. It didn’t come out that way. Of course, the shiver that went through her then didn’t help.

“I’m sorry,” Nico said. He pulled his blanket off his shoulders and held it out. “If it’ll help,” he said, “you can use this.”

With effort, Nikiani shook her head. “It won’t,” she said. “But I appreciate the offer. How’re you holding up?”

“Well enough,” Nico said shortly. He pulled the blanket around his shoulders like he was suddenly cold. “There are plenty of fish and the land’s doing well. As of yet, the darkness is too weak to affect the natural world.”

“Just the supernatural and freaky,” Nikiani said, trying to joke.

It worked, a little bit. The corners of Nico’s mouth twitched in a partial smile. He changed the subject then: “What do you think of the new Peacekeepers?”

Nikiani sensed an edge beneath his casual tone. She looked at him suspiciously but said, “They seem all right. They’re nice, at least, and they seem to love the islands. I don’t know how they’ll handle trouble, but it’s not like they’ll have to deal with much here. Why?”

Nico looked over towards the nama’ea, where Nikiani’s parents, Aiene, and the two new Peacekeepers still stood. Then, without looking back to Nikiani, he said, “It’s not an accident that they’re here now, when the darkness is rising.”

Nikiani bit her lip and looked over at the nama’ea, too. “Are you sure?” she asked. “I mean, Dad was the only Peacekeeper in this entire province. And the others are peaceful enough now that the Confederacy could spare a couple for us out here. It might just be a coincidence.”

“It’s not, Nikiani,” Nico said. He rolled his eyes. “You’re aliakeanu – you of all people should know that nothing is a coincidence, especially here. They’re here for a reason. We all are. And I’ve got a feeling that the reason is closely twined with the darkness. Too close for my liking.”

Nikiani shivered again. “The next meeting at Aliakeanu Kea is tomorrow night,” she said. “Do you think I ought to bring it up?”

“I don’t think so,” Nico replied. “Not unless one of the others says something. If darkness is coming, everyone’s going to need all the peace they can get before it arrives.”

“Ugh,” Nikiani said.

Nico nodded.

“I guess there’s nothing we can do for now, then,” Nikiani said with a sigh. “We’ll just have to keep watch and pray that nothing bad comes of this.”

“I’ll keep my eyes open,” Nico said. His mouth twisted ever so slightly. “Who knows, this ability could come in handy for once.”

Nikiani looked at him sympathetically. “Nico,” she said, laying a hand on his shoulder, “I’m sorry. If I could help, I would.”

“Please don’t touch me,” Nico said in a voice much huskier than his usual early adolescent timbre. He looked away. “I don’t need anybody else’s emotions right now. You’d better get back to the nama’ea,” he said, shifting tone abruptly. “They’re waiting on you to leave.”

For a second, Nikiani stood there, hand pulled back. Nico didn’t notice her gaze. He stared out over the ocean, arms folded under the blanket, fishing pole leaning up against him. Then Nikiani whispered, “I’m sorry,” and turned away.

She did her best to bring her usual cheer back to her face.

Her family and friends were waiting for her.”