Petrol Stations at Four in the Morning and their Resident Vampires

Not feeling particularly inspired today – stilled bogged down with annoying novel formatting.  Worse, had a bit of a blow to the old writing confidence, as well.  All shall be good, though.  Shall keep on trudging, as do we all.

In roughly five hours, along with Mum and Dad, I shall be departing Brisbane in an overloaded Picasso Citroen on an arduous, two-day car ride south – we’re visiting sister Erin in Melbourne.  I’m not sure how regular blogging shall be over the next few days, may not have time at all.  If that’s the case, shall be back on Doll Thermometer next Tuesday evening, hopefully.

Always loved long car rides like this.  We used to do quite a lot of them.  Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide – we drove to them all.  Tomorrow we’re leaving at three, but it was usually around one or two in the morning that we’d leave, I think.  The early departures were to ensure we’d reach our destination with time to do a little something while it was still light.  I suppose.  Or so, as young kids, we’d spent a good chunk of the travel time asleep, and therefore sufficiently occupied.

In doing long car rides with family, particularly when we were quite young, frequent petrol station stops were a must.  Petrol was usually not the priority in making these stops – no car requires that much fuel.  These stops were generally bladder and snack related.  I remember climbing back into my designated car seat while it was cool and still black in the early morning, leaving the car park – don’t remember which trip, it’s probably an amalgamation of many.  Had a freshly bought lemonade in hand – it was always so special, having soft drink before eating breakfast – and swore to myself I’d stay awake for the sunrise as I sipped.  Lost my bottle cap a few times in the dark.  Usually couldn’t reach it if I spotted it.  Not if I wanted to keep my seat belt on.

A long car trip,  more specifically a stop at a petrol station in the early morning, will make an appearance in a far-distant novel.  It’s a vampire story, and I shall say in self defense that it was conceived in 2004, before the vampire/twilight mania that still unfortunately engulfs us exploded.  This ongoing mania means I’ll have to wait until ten years after it’s settled down to get this story out.

The opening chapter is set at a remote petrol station at about four a.m., and Annie wanders out behind the petrol pumps and darkened playground while her family’s in the shop, entranced by the massive freight trucks, their blinding lights and the low rushing hum as the bulky vehicles trundle back out onto the empty highway.  There’s a shed down behind where a few of these trucks are parked.  Guess whose shadow Annie spots hidden behind said shed in the sudden glare of headlights, sapped of strength and in general not doing so well.  And guess what he collects from her in a discarded Coke bottle.

I do like my vampires.  Generally refer to them as the Funky-Hatted Vampires, as no vampire should ever be without a funky hat.  All vampires are musicians, too.  Did you know that?  And guess what, here’s the best part – not one of them sparkles.  Stick them in sunlight, and they’ll definitely scorch.  I guarantee it.


O! Happy the narwhal be – Sonnet #1

Take cover, be swift!  The sonnets are here!

Formatting, editing, and poor internet provision have dictated my existence of late.  Now is the time to rebel.  But not, I say, by injecting colour and life in anything potentially future providing, oh no.  Now is the time for random, pointless creation.  It is the hour for yet more remedial nonsense, though this time a woolen horned sea creature shall replace the action of spinning.

In order to shape this fresh dose of therapeutic nonsense, I employ not only a loose interpretation of iambic pentameter and a Shakespearean rhyming scheme, but what I see before me when I look from my screen, leaning back to ponder and dream.

And do not fear unnecessarily, #1 is employed only to make the title grand.  It does not herald the penning of further sonnets possessing questionable quality.  More need not follow, though I dare not predict fate when life tangles with poetic form so volatile.

I’ll stop rambling on like an eedjit now.  Let’s get to the narwhal.

O! Happy the narwhal be, sweet fins fair

Above, sunset globe hangs past somber lips

And dust clings to string that suspends in air

From chiming song  and fuchsia limb eclipse

To rest beneath such spectacle, I see

How narwhal’s gladness expands to delight

More, stitched with soul and true dexterity

The maker’s pride within lights black eyes bright

And that smile – so jolly!  Heart known by thread

Such joy, sadly, narwhal’s friend cannot show

Though both alight on melodies near dead

Less lips, knotted feline we cannot know

And lo! Higher even than butterfly

Wood-drawn rabbits by patchwork adorn sky

And if you too consider this narwhal’s sweet fins to be fair, have a look at ShanaLogic.  He was a gift from sister Erin, and I believe was purchased from this site.  While he doesn’t seem to be on sale right now, they have many other lovely, narwhal-related items that are.

Names Of Fame, Fiction, And Hidden Significance

Our names are amazing things.  In a single, almost nonsensical string of words, we can be defined in total.  Sometimes even just one word comprising one, two, three, or four (or a few more) syllables is enough to get the job done so astonishingly well that nothing else is needed – our given names.  For example, all that I am sums to me, and I am Beth.

These all-encompassing definitions are precious gifts, given to us (for the most part) by our mothers and fathers.  The reasoning and stories behind these gifts may be many and varied.  They may be personal, such as being named in honour of a dear friend of family member.  Our parents may be sculpting our future success, naming us for those with famous faces in hope that our namesakes’ good looks and talent rub off on us.  We may be named for a certain time, maters and paters scouring lists of the most popular Bible, Victorian, or 60s names for our perfect definition. Our identities may come from nature, like Autumn, Dawn, and Daisy, or virtues, such as Patience and Charity, or we may be bestowed with a name of certain meaning.  Names may simply come from parents liking the sound of it – my grandfather wished to call his eldest daughter Barbara Ursula Madden for the same reason any good father would.  We may even be named for fiction – I’m guessing numbers of Harrys, Hermiones, Edwards, and Bellas are on the steady rise.

Names are important, and this applies to our characters as well.  A character’s name comes to define them as much as our names define us.  So we have to give them the right ones.

Upfront, I’ll say I’m not a fan of putting excessive research behind character names, searching for names that reflect the personality and story that I’ve built for them – the names Malfoy (bad blood) and Katniss (belonging to an arrow) come to mind.  Perhaps for some authors, naming in this way creates a special link between them and their characters, as well as another layer of intrigue for readers to research, another way for them to get involved with the stories they love.  While uncovering these links can be interesting, I find such naming to be a little unrealistic.

Another method I’m not fond of, especially when it comes to writing fantasy, is making names up from nothing.  I really enjoyed all the Shannara books, but usually it was easy to tell (apologies to Terry Brooks if this isn’t the case) when a name had been pulled out of thin air.  Even if I like a character, if their name is hollow, if it feels like it’s not a real, I can only grow so close to them.  I’m not innocent of making up names – used to put any sounds I pleased together to do it, in fact.  Now I try to follow some kind of structure, and give characters from similar parts names that sound like they derive from the same language and culture – right now what I usually do is make names based on the Japanese alphabet but aren’t necessarily Japanese names, for example, Kero, Hari, and Narani.

When it comes to giving characters from our time and our world names, I’m not entirely sure how I go about it.  At least, not with the Western names.  A few minor characters I’ve named after friends, family, other fiction characters, and even after judges as a bribe during a choir talent competition.  For major characters, so far as I recall, I’ve chosen names that occurred to me while writing very basic plans.  Names that I like, and suit the bare bones of the character being shaped.  I should have been more careful, kept a log of my thoughts or something to that effect.  Not recalling the very basic origins of my characters in detail may be something I regret later in life.  But, as I said, in general this only applies to Western names.  My Japanese characters are an entirely different kettle of fish.

Every one of my Japanese characters has been named after someone, be it school student, teacher, friend, or anime character.  A protagonist called Miho was named for my sister Frannie’s host sister from the year I began work on her story.  Miho’s sister was named for the second Japanese student we hosted here in Australia, Anri.  Miho and Anri’s mother was named for Misato Katsuragi, the legendary Captain/Major from Shinseki (Neon Genesis) Evangelion.

I’d had all of these Japanese names for a while when one day during Speak Salon (Japanese class) my teachers began helping me choose the Kanji characters for each name.  I now have a long list of every single Japanese name in the story written in English, Romaji, and Kanji, which I hope to print in the back of the book should it be published.

For each name, my teachers gave me several options of Kanji, explaining the meanings behind each and how commonly they were used.  Near the end of this choosing process, we came across one of the loveliest little coincidence I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience.  If it weren’t in truth a total coincidence, I probably wouldn’t have stood for it, given my little spiel before about unrealistic naming.  But this isn’t unrealistic at all.  I don’t think.  Not in real life.

Remember I mentioned a Miho?  Her Kanji look something like this:

Her sister Anri’s Kanji look like this:

And their mother Misato’s Kanji look like this:

Do you see?  Do you see even though my command of the paintbrush in Paint is abysmal?

Even though the pronunciation of one of the characters is different, one character from Misato’s name is used in each of her daughter’s.  The two have been unintentionally named for their mother.  This is actually a common practice in Japan, I believe – parents using their own Kanji in their children’s names.

I really liked that even though their names came from totally different sources, this special link between the three was created by accident through their Kanji characters, making them even more like a family.  This is probably the closest I will ever come to giving extra meaning to a character’s name.

Behind Glass (section eighteen)

Fen gave Pan’s shoulder a final pat, ever mindful of the garment, and then stepped aside, letting the tailors return to work.  Straight away they swarmed around the shoulder Fen had touched, investigating the stiff structure closely and ensuring he hadn’t knocked it off-kilter.

‘Jacyntha shouldn’t be much of a challenge, according to her previous Masters,’ Fen got on with describing their first assignment.  ‘A lovely girl, undemanding and quick to smile.  They say she likes to be treated as a friend, so accommodate for that without dropping protocol, please.  As you know, she’s participating in the sporting fiesta this week; athletes from most of the major sports will be taken off the Shelves tomorrow morning – badminton, gymnastics, archery, fencing, equestrian, and athletics.  There are so many, I’m surprised Master Grange and Darien haven’t been given an assignment.  But I suppose they have been busy, lately.  Merrick is escorting the equestrian champion from last year, and Mal a preeminent fencer – she’s expected to make the finals.  What about your friend Jarred, he has an assignment, doesn’t he?’
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Behind Glass (section seventeen)

He had to talk to Fen.  Darien.  His physician.  Anyone who would not condemn him.

This had gone too far.  He couldn’t keep thinking like this!  Even if it was true … even if it was, the Shelves were still necessary.  They would be extinct but for their creation, and the sacrifice of their dear women.  Women were noble, altruistic.  They weren’t trifles to be gawked at, not at all!  They loved their women!  Respected them.  Revered them.  Honoured them.  Didn’t they?  Didn’t he?
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Behind Glass (section sixteen)

A perfect time, every time?  A failed woman?  Pan couldn’t think of a woman more failed than one chained, screaming to be set free.  Rose Burns had hardly been having a perfect time.

Though he’d witnessed no such disturbances since, Pan couldn’t forget what he’d seen that morning, Rose being forced back onto her Shelf by soldiers.  And Master Gray.  And Merrick.  Though Pan in no way felt him responsible for her plight, Merrick often triggered thoughts of Rose, and Rose in turn elicited Pan’s unintentional consideration of the entire situation.
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Behind Glass (section fifteen)

‘I’d like you to speak with your physician this week,’ Fen said as Pan filled a silvered teapot from the whistling kettle, and poured strong black tea into their cups. Pan was spared responding immediately, as there was a knock at the door. He went to accept their breakfast tray, busying himself slicing pears and filling bowls with thick, milky porridge. Feeling Fen’s eyes on him, Pan kept his head down, focusing on his knife.  But he tried to give a reasonable response.

‘But … next … not … until …’
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