Monday, September 27, 2010

The Last Stop

The world is a strange, frightening, exhilarating place. It is a wild rollercoaster, the sole ride in the amusement park of life. There are great wonders, deep sorrows, amazing discoveries, and wrenching consignments, all interlaced with intermittent contentment or indifference.

This week someone I loved but didn't know well passed away. That's the politically-correct phrase: "passed away". Just a few months ago I saw him laughing, talking about the future, speaking of his interests. The day after tomorrow, I will be attending his funeral where I will stand over the still vessel that was his for more than fifty years. It's eerie and romantic at the same time, knowing that a body can never move on its own, but can be filled with such life and intelligence for such a long time. How can one not believe that what made that body move, speak, breath, and feel would live on in another form? And how can one not be confronted with the awesome wonder that is emotion and intellect when facing what follows mortality?

I learned a long time ago that when I shed tears for a lost loved one, that I am moved by the sorrow of those who survive them or by my own selfish need of them. I never really cry for those who've moved on. I don't know where they go. I don't know how they get there or if they keep a piece of this life with them. I only know they're gone, and we are left here without them. I mourn the separation, the finality of the cosmic decision. I can't bring myself to mourn death beyond the rending of bonds and ending of journeys. My heart accepted long ago that this is only one stop on the journey of a spirit, and everything dies.

I will break down, as I always do in the face of my dearest family's tears. I will weep, hold them near, think about the man that left so many loving souls behind, and try to be strong. I will fail... for a day. But when I come home, my eyes will be dry and I will still know in my heart that he lives on. Not only in the memories and hearts of those he's touched, not only in the legacies he's left behind, but in a mysterious and undeniable continuation of his spirit into the next phase of his journey.

I don't know if I am callous, or enlightened. But I do know that I loved him, will miss him, and will lament with my family, sharing in their pain.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

1 Month Prep, 3 Days Surrender

I waited far too long to write a reflection of my experience with the International 3-Day Novel Contest. This year was my first attempt at the staggering goal of writing a novel in just 72 hours, and I have to say it was nigh on life-changing. I discovered the I3DNC when leafing through my shiny new copy of the Writer's Market, given to me by my loving and supportive mother as a very early birthday present, and toyed with the idea for a few days. The more I thought about the event, the more excited I became to try it. Think of it: give myself over and obsess entirely on a single piece of fiction for three days and nights?

It was just a really exciting fancy at first, since I lacked the funds for the submission fee. Still, I couldn't stop toying with the idea. I started imagining what I would write about, what genre I would choose. I had been trying to find a good way to combine fantasy and modern fiction without succumbing to the easy clich├ęs. It all boiled down to whether or not I could get the $50 by the deadline, and if I could come up with an idea that inspired me enough to own me for three days. By this time, I had made my decision. I wanted to compete. I wanted to

I like to make a habit of noticing when coincidences present themselves as something more. After a few weeks of vexing myself about what to write about, I had an awesome dream. It was incredibly vivid, complex, and exceptionally long. It provided the solution of what to write. In fact, in the dream, I thought to myself "I should write my 3-day novel about this". And when I woke, I knew instantly that my subconscious had delivered the answer I had been seeking for the previous two weeks. One problem solved. Mirriam, Daveth, Gerome, and Alertan were born and their story more than inspired me to fuel a month-long interest on through the contest.

Two days later, my other obstacle was solved by a kind birthday gift from my sister and brother in law. A series of happy coincidences broke down all of the road blocks preventing me from trying my newfound obsession. I immediately registered for the contest and started my planning. I spent the next three weeks making character sheets, drawing a map, and laying out the back story.

It didn't take me long to realize that what I had started was bigger than one novel. After organizing the governments of the world of Corante, I created a blog for the series The Divine Guardian Chronicles. My attempt for 2010's I3DNC would be the first book: Voices in the Dark.

I refused to create a timeline for the novel, knowing that when I was sleepless, overexerted, and highly caffeinated I would undoubtedly deviate. So, instead, I knew how it started, how it ended, and had a few 2-3 line scene concepts scribbled onto 3x5 note-cards. Armed with a very detailed world, an exciting concept, and characters I was already very attached to, I was ready to take on the marathon.

I had originally planned on spending the weekend writing at a Kroger 5min from my house, since they had a deli with Wi-Fi and 24hr espresso. I knew that it would be a very distracting location, but my house was too open and I had no other viable options. At the midnight hour, however, my sister again pulled through for me. Her study had been cluttered with boxes, books, and supplies since she'd moved in over half a year ago, but she cleaned it out and set up her desk just for me. Suddenly, I had a place to work in peace free of distractions.

The three days I spent on the I3DNC were intense and very rewarding, but that is a story for another time. I will say that from the very first night, I was very sick. I spent 4-6 hours writing just to have to sleep again for the duration of the weekend. Everyone was very supportive and I survived. Thought I'd started the weekend with a 50K-work goal, I completed a manuscript that was 35,565 words. The average submission was 100 pages, I'd produced 168. I was exhausted, ill, and so very proud. I sent in Voices in the Dark, and with it went my prayers that the world of Corante was every bit as alive for the judges as it was for me.

I will do a follow up for this entry a little later with more details on my 3-Day experience. Right now I am trying to get together a group of people to do a 3-Day challenge every quarter, and the book I'm going to write in December's first weekend is my new project.

~Kimber Grey

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