Original Works

Circus In The Clouds [Music Meets Story]

“They’re here! They’re here!”

Every five years, I would hear the shouts of the children as they lifted their gazes into the sky. Their irrepressible excitement would echo deafeningly through the cobbled streets—a shrill of enthusiasm that broke all torpor and humdrum of the dreary city. For what then could be more exciting than the visitors from afar? The very thespians who promised a magical evening with sparkling silver hot air balloons, ascending into the ember dusk for a spectacle of phantasmagoria—the Circus In The Clouds.

‘Forget the clowns, the lions, and the freaks. Oh, what boring shows and unimaginative tricks. It is time to behold a mesmerising parade of wonder and awe. Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for more?

‘Feast your eyes on the unbelievable. Stir your soul with the mystical. Unleash your imagination with the stars as we whisk you away on a journey of a lifetime. Oh, you will not be disappointed, boys and girls!

‘So look right up, all citizens of the ground! For the circus… is in the clouds!’

I was merely three years of age when I first learned about the circus—too young to yearn for the great adventure that lay beyond. But when I turned eight, I discovered true envy. Oh, how I wished to own a Golden Ticket—if only every candle blown during each uneventful birthday would make this one dream come true. Alas, I soon learned that if I truly wanted to witness a display of amazing, daring, and death-defying acts, I would have to achieve it on my own. For some of us weren’t meant for just this—some of us were meant for more.

“Oh dear, the Golden Ticket isn’t for everyone,” my mother said—the same exact words, on repeat, whenever I coveted for a world beyond my reach. “Some of us simply have to live with what we’ve got.”

“But father might win a ticket this year,” I stated.

My poor father’s reward, for toiling for his master, was his name in the Golden Ticket raffle—a lucky draw with minimal odds of winning a prize every drudge could only dream about.

“And I’m sure he will let you have it… should he be lucky enough,” my mother said with a thin smile.

Alas, that wasn’t the answer that I wanted—after ten years of waiting, I couldn’t place my future in the hands of Lady Luck. Surely, there was another way.

“I’m going to check on the balloons,” I said.

“Don’t do anything silly,” my mother replied.

Was finding a way to truly live silly? Was choosing to broaden my horizons unwise?

“I’ll be back in the evening,” I assured her. “I’ve never done anything silly, mother.”

As the sun now settled in the clear blue morning sky, I shuffled up the deck and toward the stream of glistening hot air balloons. Their silver envelope reflected the shimmer of day as the shuttle crew ran their routine checks—for at the arrival of dusk, these baskets would brim with peppy children and their blue-blood parents. Oh, the wealthy below would soon have their minds bewildered while the penniless above… descend without his Golden Ticket.

‘Embrace the magic of night. Bask in great celestial delight. Be enchanted by our dauntless souls as they grande jeté with the spellbinding darkness. And if you wonder….

‘What truly is the Circus In The Clouds? Oh, it is a world without words, a place no man can ever describe. For all who have gone before has had their minds mystified—their only syllable now… is ‘go’!

‘So don’t miss our spectral stage. From North to South and East to West, bid us farewell now and you may never see us again.’

“That balloon! It’s slipping away!” I shouted as the rally for ticket sales boomed over the massive speakers. “Somebody, help!”

As promised to my mother, I had put all silliness aside. All it took was cleverness—a few loose knots and a smirk—before all heads turned to the rogue vessel. And within moments… I didn’t need to pay for my way down.

Slipping past the shuttle crew in their frenzy, I hopped into the nearest balloon, hastily set the knots free, and pushed against the starboard beam. I had learned how to navigate the silver vehicle from my father—a ferryman for the circus—and before anyone could stop me, I began my descent.

“Don’t worry, mother,” I muttered under my breath. I knew I couldn’t truly escape this life. But at the very least, I tried. “I’ll be home before the show even begins. Oh, the magical Circus In The Clouds.” I scoffed.


This story was inspired by the original composition, Highlands by Hans Magnus.

Music Meets Story © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

Into The Sky [Music Meets Story]

“Have you decided?”

“I think so,” I said. It wasn’t a difficult decision—I had always wanted to fly. The great rush of the wind against my skin, in the embrace of the peaceful amber skies, had always been a dream.

“Well, no matter what you choose, know that I’ll support you… fully,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. I had never once disappointed her. In fact, I often believed I made her proud. My only fear then was making the wrong decision—despite it being an easy one. Alas, one could never be certain if easy was good, nor if hard was any nobler than easy.

“Goodnight then,” she said with a gentle smile.

As she left my wooden tent, I pushed myself seated. Turning to the window above my bed, I heaved a sigh. There were five days, three hours, and sixteen minutes left—the remaining time to reach a decision. Perhaps, I should stick with my first choice—to spread my wings and escape the never-ending battles and the haunting smell of blood that reigned over my reality. If I could close my eyes and wish it all away—taking to the sky with my glorious snowy-feathered wings—wasn’t that the hope of every being in a hopeless world?

With the stars twinkling in the distance as the cloudless night presented the full moon, I wondered why—when my brother made his choice, it was to run fast and furious across the golden sand dunes. And when my sister made hers, it was to brace the wrathful waves of mighty storms. Yet, just when I thought they could flee from the raging turmoil that plagued our land, they stayed.

Still, five days, three hours, and sixteen minutes later, I chose to fly.

“Have you decided?” I asked.

“I think so,” he said. It wasn’t a difficult decision—I always knew he wanted to fly, too.

“Good. You have my support, you know that, right?” I replied.

“Yes. But can I ask you something?” he said with a frown. Therein lay the same hesitation in his mien. The same hesitation that was once mine—if my choice was selfish and cowardly.

“It’s alright if you want to run,” I stated. “Everyone secretly wants to. I did, too.”

“Then why did you stay?”

I chuckled. Indeed, why did I? The night after I received my gift—to own the body of a magnificent bird of prey—I could have bid farewell. I could have left everything behind to start anew. I could choose the adventures I wished to embark on—ones that weren’t marked by death and destruction. But just as the battle horns blew at the arrival of yet another challenger, seeking the very ancient art that granted me my gift, I rose from my bed ready to protect what was mine.

“The same reason you might,” I told him.

“I don’t understand,” he said. Alas, neither did I in his state. “But it’s not wrong if I leave, right?” he prompted.

“No one is stopping you,” I replied with a smile. “And no one will judge you either. The gift is yours to use, however you wish to use it.”

He nodded. He had made up his mind—he was going to fly. And yet, I knew, he would stay. Just like every single one before him, the allure of the great beyond could never snatch us away from home—more than the magic we fought for was the family that fought alongside us.

At the next blow of the battle horns, we would be the vigilant eyes in the sky. Our brothers would rumble the earth with their spirited roars. Our sisters would wield the elements of the sea with righteous anger. This… had been the ways of our ancestors—to unleash the primeval beast within, to defeat the teeth-baring demons that were hungry for our souls, and to grasp onto hope with our fragile hearts… even when there seemed to be none.

“Goodnight then,” I said.

Five days, three hours, and sixteen minutes later, he chose to fly. And as quickly as an enemy arose, he was by my side—not on a quest to resign from life but to be bold, passionate, and determined… to fight for it.


This story was inspired by the original composition, Everything Will Be Alright by Niklas Ahlstedt.

Music Meets Story © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Original Works

Stone Blind Eyes [Music Meets Story]

“If you believe it, you can see it,” she said.

“I can’t. I wish I could,” I told her as I bit my lower lip. Alas, I wasn’t an imaginative child—the other children often said so.

In their bouts of play pretend, I often failed to conjure the monstrous fire-breathing dragon, the majestic crystal castle in the sky, or the magical ruby that could make me fly. I would hear my friends squeal and laugh as they went on great adventures in the glade—taking a back seat with reality as my ordinary world remained as lackluster as it always was. Oh how I wished, that just for a moment, I could step into a realm of wonder and awe.

“Do you believe?” she asked.

“I want to,” I said. “I’ve tried. But… I just can’t see it.”

She reached for my hand with a beaming smile—a smile my mind often drew across her small face—and replied, “Just listen, do you hear them?”

I strained my ears. “What am I listening for?”

“Just listen,” she stated.

The autumn leaves rustled in the afternoon breeze, the shouts of my friends filled the air as they beckoned each other to defeat the army of villainous fairies, and the gentle whisper that was her voice.

“Now,” she added. “Feel them.”

I titled my face toward the sky. The warmth of the sun settled on my skin, the breath of wind brushed through my hair, and the comforting touch of her hand upon mine—for a moment, I didn’t feel alone.

“Do I smell next?” I guessed—it seemed to be some sort of a game, and I didn’t mind it.

“Yes. Do you smell the roses?” she asked with excitement in her voice.

I chuckled and shook my head. “We don’t have roses here.”

The orphanage was sequestered in the embrace of nature. And though the caretakers had a garden of wild vegetables and flowering plants, there were no roses as they were delicate and difficult to grow.

“I smell them,” she stated. “Do you smell them?”

“I…” It took me a second before I played along. “How do they smell?”

“It doesn’t matter how they smell. Just smell them,” she said as a matter of fact-ly.

“All right,” I replied—a hint of sweetness like a jar of candy, a bit of orange peel after an orange has been peeled, and a little perfume like that of a fresh bar of soap. “Okay, I smell them. But I’m not sure if I’m right. I’ve never smelled roses before.”

“Do they smell good?” she asked.

“They smell…” I laughed. “They smell strange, but in a good way.” I nodded my head.

“My roses smell like peppermint and a new book,” she stated confidently, as though that was the scent of real roses.

“Mine smells like soap and candy,” I said with a shrug.

“Your roses smell good,” she replied. “Now…”

“What’s next?” I prompted, wondering where our little game was headed.

“Now… open your eyes.”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

She knew, just like everyone else, that I couldn’t open my eyes. And even if I could, I would see nothing—I had lost my sight at a young age, and my only perspective of the world was that of a six-year-old’s memory.

“Just like the roses, silly,” she said. “Open your eyes!”

Ah, so that was what she meant. “All right,” I said. “But what am I supposed to see?”

“You tell me—what does today look like?”

That day was a good day. “The sun is bright and round, it’s not hot as usual with the cool breeze, and you’re here… telling me to open my eyes.” I chuckled.

“What colour is the sky? How big are the trees?” she prompted.

“The sky is a bit of blue, a bit of purple, and a bit of pink,” I said. “The trees are big and small—some as small as my toes and some as big as… a troll.”

“A troll,” she said with a gasps. “Guys, there’s a troll!” she shouted to our friends.

I heard my friends running toward us—questions of where the troll was and if it was sent by the maleficent fairy queen intruded our little moment. But before she said a word, she tugged me to my feet.

“Tell them,” she prompted. “Tell them about the troll.”

The world beyond quieted as my friends eagerly waited on me. “The troll…” I hesitated.

Did I really see one? Was it among the trees? There was a colossal tree that looked particularly odd—the thick branches were like giant arms and the stump was like a massive eight-toed foot.

“There!” I pointed ahead. I didn’t know if there was the neighbouring forest, but I saw it… there. “It’s hiding in the trees. But it only has one foot, so all we need is a little magic.”

“We have magic!” one of my friends exclaimed.

And just like that, I felt her hand pull me forward into a run. “You see,” she shouted as we headed toward the troll. “All you needed to do… was believe.”


This story was inspired by the original composition, Euphoria by Mechanical Might

Music Meets Story © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Writing Journey

Imagination Is A Superpower [#TRUESTORY]

JG Cover

This story begins in 1999. You might be wondering if I got the year right, and chances are, I might be a year off. But let’s just assume it was indeed 1999.

At that age, I had a classmate who was a great storyteller. Her tales were so unbelievably far-fetched, yet oddly I bought every one of them. And because she often sparked my imagination—like how she attained a publishing deal as a nine-year-old—I started creating stories of my own. It began with the haunted Barbie doll that sat on a black dustbin near the library. God knows how many tall tales I concocted about the doll—a doll which strangely no teacher seemed to care enough to get rid of. There was also that haunted storeroom, in the classroom at the end of the top most hallway, with existing horror stories that I added to. Random question: why is everything haunted as a child?

10 points to Gryffindor if you can spot me!

In 2001, I moved to a different city and enrolled in a new school. This was when I took my storytelling up a notch with a group of friends. It was during that season that Charmed became my obsession—what can I say, magic has always been a fascination of mine. So during recess, my friends and I role-played as the Charmed Ones. I was Piper. I had a Leo. My friend who was Phoebe had a Cole. All these names would sound foreign if you have never seen the original Charmed series. But if you know what I’m talking about, you can safely assume we were big fans for having our own Book of Shadows.

A couple of years later, I started secondary school. Role-playing had moved from play-pretend to internet forums. It was in secondary school that I had access to the Harry Potter books, and thus began the sleepless nights and eager evenings to continue a story I was writing with five other Potterheads. And because role-playing was no longer expressed physically, I didn’t just write stories online, I started concocting tales before bed too. In the privacy of my bedroom, I imagined going on adventures with Harry and the gang. I even vocalised the dialogue. It sounds insane but trust me, writing my own stories make me seem more insane—this was just the tip of the iceberg.

However, as I aged up, I gradually stopped with the crazy imaginations… because honestly, it felt crazy to me too. So instead of feeding my imagination before bed, I turned to writing. I wasn’t very good. And people knew that—they were aware I wasn’t the best at stringing words together. I didn’t win a single writing contest. And on two accounts, someone close to me said I wasn’t going to make it—that I should quit because I wasn’t going to be good enough and that I was talent-less. If you’ve had someone close to you put fire to your dreams, you probably know how it felt. Did I believe them? No. Did their words hurt? Yes, so very much. But I was determined to succeed. And so I chose to use my imagination instead.

Born an imagineer, always an imagineer.

Imagination is a superpower. And with great power comes great responsibility. Just like any other superpower, you can use it for both good and evil. You can choose to imagine the worst, where you feed your doubts and crush your dreams. Or… you can choose to imagine an epic adventure where you ultimately become the hero of your story. When such a power is in your hands, the choice on what to do with it is entirely yours. And, I chose to keep my dream alive.

These days, I don’t use my imagination in the same way as I did growing up. As an adult, I channel my flights of fantasy into novels and the positive what if’s into reality. I imagine what could be with a dash of hope in the impossible. Of course, I am not completely free from the monsters of my imagination. But just like in any story, no matter how many times a villain rears its ugly head, it never wins. So if you’re an imagineer like me, start using your imagination in a way that will propel you on your own journey. And if you think you don’t have this gift of imagination, take a look at your childhood—screen through those years where you were free from reality. I honestly believe that the spark is still there, and all it needs is for you to reignite it… again.

Writing Journey

Mapping My Universe ft. John Robin

One of the most enjoyable phases, during the production of The Slave Prince, was having two maps cartograph-ed by my author friend, John Robin. Now, if you’re an author, having your fictional world realised on paper is an amazing feeling. It takes the publishing experience to a whole new, fantastical level. It makes your work feel legit, as though it’s ready to play with the big boys! So truly, I am very grateful for the work John has done. And today, I’m giving him the spotlight.

Having worked with him, I believe John can give great insight on world building from a writer/cartographer standpoint. As a writer himself – authoring A Thousand Roads – he is able to approach this facet of ‘creation’ from a unique perspective. So whether you’re a writer, an artist, both, or neither, what he has to say will certainly make an interesting read. But… before we get to the Q&A, let’s take a look at what he has done for the realm of The Slave Prince.

FROM DOODLE TO ART
*Click image to enlarge*

CHATTING WITH JOHN ROBIN

Me: So John, let’s start with how you begin mapping a universe?

John: This is actually the hardest part for me. I always need a starting point. Usually, when it is my own world, I will begin one map by expanding another, or drawing beyond the boundaries of others where I have been curious about what lay beyond them. I just need a starting point, then my pen tells me where to go.

I find it much easier to draw someone else’s fantasy universe because I can always ask for a sketch. In your case, with The Slave Prince, the two sketches you provided me were excellent because I was able to begin translating your vision into something produced by my own hand.

Me: Do you incorporate your own imagination into the maps?

John: Absolutely. Most of the flourishes that end up in the final map are discoveries that happen in the process of doing. For instance, the forest south of Alpenwhist on the kingdom map wasn’t in the plan, but our work developing the world map beforehand reminded me there are woods south of Alpenwhist. So, I drew the woods. I didn’t expect there to be so many details in the forest, but the process of drawing revealed surprises, as it always does for me when trees are involved.

I cannot explain how this happens. It’s a bit like writing a book I suppose: one might see many plot points, but there are the surprises that come a few paragraphs from when you write them, and they radically change the story. Aragorn in Lord of the Rings was a character like this, apparently – just walked into the story, but what an important player to the whole trilogy! This is much like how I’d describe my imagination at play when I draw a map. Be it my universe or someone else’s, the map is a drawing and it has a life and a story, much like a book. The lines are the storytellers, and I am their obedient scribe.

Me: What do you find challenging in each project?

John: The hardest part for me is usually the final touches, especially the labeling. I prefer to write my own labels in a styled script by hand, but as I learned in our work together, these don’t translate well in a smaller map on page. I learned a lot about incorporating fonts and spaces in Photoshop after the drawing was complete. However, I do want to develop my own fonts based on my handwritten letters for future. It was liberating working on the second map (Alpenwhist kingdom map) knowing I could draw it without placing any labels. In the case of the world map, which I drew first, I wrote in all the labels by hand, then had to meticulously erase every one to replace them with a font. The advantage of this was that the space for the label was created. What this taught me was to leave space for labels on future maps, and hopefully begin my own carefully crafted letters for future use.

Me: What do you enjoy about cartography?

John: Drawing a map tells me the story of a world. Seeing how mountains span, rivers bend, forests arise, coast lines bend and shape, lakes appear on empty page, islands dot the seas – all these things tell me a story. Not just in the shapes. Often I will see a stand of trees and know it has an important history or should have a name. Or, I will label a territory and the story behind it comes to mind just in how the name sounds once I write it down. Drawing maps is what, for me, makes a fantasy world feel truly alive. In fact, when I go to the fantasy section and look for new fantasy books, it’s the maps that I turn to right away and tell me whether I want to enter this new world or not. It was, after all, the map of Wilderland in The Hobbit, on my grandmother’s bookshelf, that I would flip to many nights before I knew how to read, that eventually pulled me to fantasy and my own map-making.

Me: Does cartography help you in your own writing endeavours?

John: Yes! There is a storytelling that augments the narrative form I experience when writing. It sharpens world-building in ways that listing details alone would not do. In a way, drawing a map is a third level of engaging with a fantasy world beyond writing and world-building. A bit like M.C. Escher’s drawing hands, one feeds the other, and the other feeds it, and it circles on and on into deeper levels of imagination.

… 

What did I say – it takes someone who can channel both of his amazing gifts to be able to build worlds from a unique perspective. I’ve found myself trusting John in the decisions he has made for my world and I have no regrets. Thanks again John, for playing such an important role in the production of The Slave Prince! You the man!

I hope this post has given you some insight on cartography and how it can build a fantasy world. I’ve learned a lot from working with John, and I’ve learned some more just from this ‘interview’. If you’d like to know more about John and his works, take a peek below! I’ve included some extras for those who’d like to give this man and his talent a chance.

__________________________________________________________________________


MORE ON JOHN ROBIN

John runs a blog at TheEpicFantasyWriter. He’s also the senior editor of Story Perfect Editing Services and founder of Dreamscape Cover DesignsIf you’d like to get in-touch with John on social media, he’s on Twitter and Facebook!

A Thousand Roads 

Release Date: October 31, 2018 (eBook) / January 19, 2019 (Paperback)
Genre: Dark epic fantasy

Disclaimer: this novel is intended for adult readers. It contains sex, violence, coarse language, and dark subject matter.

Azzadul, the god-king, the Lord of Light revered by many. When the darkness corrupted him, he became the Dark Lord, feared the world over. His magic, once a gateway to immortality for his people, delved instead into horrors as he sought ever deeper levels of mastery. Children were stolen from their beds, coveted for his blood-rites. When he vanished, it all ended, and the people of the world tried to forget, to move on…

Jak Fuller has always wanted a home. An orphan born ten years after Azzadul’s disappearance, he has wandered far and wide, trying to forget the memory of a burning woman. When he comes to Fort Lasthall, on the outskirts of the Dark Lord’s former kingdom, he hopes to finally settle into a peaceful life. Instead, he finds himself unnaturally compelled by a dark, terrible voice, a voice that knows him, calls to him. A sense of destiny that fills him with fear.

New powers are rising in the dark places of the world. A master of fire-rites called Talamus the Red, arch-foe of Azzadul, seeks to enslave the world with a magic he has been developing for the many centuries of his life. Ready at last, there is only one weakness in his plan, an obstacle he is determined to destroy: a boy, bound to an old magic that just might resurrect the power of Azzadul.

The very power bound to Jak, before he was even born…

PRE-ORDER JOHN’S DEBUT NOVEL NOW!

Writing Journey

Imagination: A Key To Staying Motivated

Motivation is something we need to get by. We need it in all of our decisions – to get up in the morning, to keep pursuing our dreams, to hold a conversation, to even take a shower. Yet, it is one of the hardest things to come by. Unlike inspiration, motivation doesn’t fall from the sky. It doesn’t pop up at random hours of the night. And to an extent, motivation is intentional. So, where do you find motivation? How do you become motivated?

I often blog about the importance of having a ‘reason’ – believing it as a great motivation to keep our goals in sight. I often say that without ‘reason’, it’s hard to keep a dream alive. But I also know that many people don’t have a ‘reason’. And it’s not because they don’t want to have a ‘reason’, it’s because they cannot find a ‘reason’. No matter how hard they try, there’s no reason to leave the bed, to try something new, or to care about anything or anyone. There simply isn’t an answer to the ‘why’s’ in life. And it’s not their fault – it’s not your fault if you don’t have a reason. In fact, it’s okay to not know the reason for your existence. It’s okay to not know ‘why’ this and ‘why’ that. Heck, you’re struggling as it is – to live this seemingly empty life – finding a reason feels like an added burden. However, you shouldn’t stop looking for motivation. Because even without reason, you can stay motivated… with imagination.

Imagination is a powerful source of magic. I say it’s magic because it isn’t bounded by science. Science cannot dictate the extent of imagination, unless you allow it to. You can think up the craziest situations – involving winged cows and one-legged frogs – and nobody can refute because they’re your imaginations. Who is to say they’re wrong? This makes imagination magical – it makes imagination powerful. And though the odds of a wild imagination coming to past may be low, I believe it’s enough – when it comes to magic, a little goes a long way. But, a question still remains: how do you use imagination?

Imagine with me… when you leave the house today, you’ll meet your favourite celebrity who incidentally needs your help to fix a punctured tire. Imagine with me… when you share your short story, a publisher stumbles upon it and says, ‘hey, this person has talent. I should contact them.’ Imagine with me… when you buy yourself a meal, you’ll walk into a tall and handsome man who happens to be a prince from a faraway land. If you just imagine – as crazy as your imaginations may be – your day might be a little less dull. And as an added bonus, you’re now in a world of countless possibilities.

More often than not, imaginations are as impossible as fiction. But when imagination drives you toward something, it opens doors of possibilities. It creates opportunities you never knew existed – it can make things happen. So, if you’re in a spot where all else has failed – when nothing can motivate you – start harnessing the power of imagination. Use the gift you were born with to slay your dragons. Learn to wield its instrumental nature, and you’ll be the warrior you’ve always imagined you could be.

Writing Journey

The 5 Quirks Of A Creative

First and foremost, I’m not claiming these are the 5 general quirks all creative people have. By a creative I mean this creative; me. And I’m sure, even if you have a more analytical mind, you probably share some of these quirks too. I just thought, ‘hey, why not show people how weird I am, and find others who’re like me. I can’t be the only one talking to myself, right?’

If you have any of these quirks, do shout it out in the comment section. Let’s make – what is sometimes considered – weird, normal.

#1 Audible Monologuing

“This pillow smells nice. I’ll put this here, and this here, and this here. Mhmmm, cake. I like cake. No, you cannot eat that. But why? Ugh, I want it so badly. Ah, the moon is round tonight. What am I doing? I shouldn’t close the curtains, it’s not the weekend. Now, for the eggs. Wait, where’s the vanilla extract? Gotta have it ready.”

I talk to myself. I talk to myself aloud. I talk to myself aloud a lot. I’ve talked to myself to a point where I question if I’ve subconsciously vocalised my internal thoughts in public like a mad person. Once, my brother walked past my bedroom and back-paddled to ask, “Are you talking to yourself?” I’ve never scrambled for a reason so desperately before. But I think he knows now – his sister talks to herself.

#2 Thoughtless Shading

There are times where I’m required to be creative, but my brain is full of grey matter. So, I’d grab a piece of paper and a pencil and start shading. I would draw shapes and shade them. I’ll sometimes write random Korean words because they’re shape-y. If I have a colouring book nearby, I might do some colouring. But only using a single colour pencil – adding more than one colour requires creativity, which I have little to spare.

My thoughtless shading is almost a figurative act, of dumping my dull ideas onto paper to make space for livelier ones.

#3 Midnight Role-playing

You know how you’d occasionally have an awesome dream you wish didn’t end? I have those too! Who doesn’t, right? But because I sometimes don’t want these dreams to end – when I’m awakened for no apparent reason – I’d continue them in my head. I wouldn’t return to sleep. I would play out the rest of the story. This isn’t lucid dreaming, guys. This is midnight role-playing, which results in regret – experiencing lethargy for the rest of my day.

#4 Imagining What Will Never Be

I like playing pretend. I may act like an adult, but inside I’m a child. Some days, I pretend I’m a YouTuber. I pretend to be vlogging about my life. I pretend to be live streaming a game. I pretend to be shooting a cooking video, while actually baking a cake. I can do all these in real life. But nope, I’d rather pretend. It’s fun with no real work required.

Then there are days I pretend I’m friends with that famous actor. I pretend we hang out, go to the gym, and… fall in love. I pretend to be stuck in a burning building, only to have him rescue me. I know, it sounds silly. Merely typing this paragraph is embarrassing itself. So if you’re reading this paragraph, know it has required some courage on my end not to delete it.

I like imagining what will never be. It’s an escape from reality, and a form of priceless entertainment. You do it too – don’t lie.

#5 Imagining What Could Have Been

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, I like to imagine what could’ve been. It’s one of the reasons why I love visiting historical sites. The storyteller in me wants to imagine what life could’ve been years ago. I may not know what happened, but I can imagine what could’ve happened. I may not know who was present, but I can imagine who could’ve been present. Still in the past, I like to imagine what my own life could’ve been too.

I don’t regret my life. Given the opportunity, I wouldn’t change the past. However, the could haves make a good story. And as a writer, a good story cannot go untold – at least to myself.

Yes, to some of you I’m weird. But I know, some of you find my quirks relate-able. There are many of us in this world – people of creative and analytical nature – and we’re all unique in our own way. But we do share many similarities. We have common oddities. And it is through this mix and match that we connect – a mix and match that brings us together while being different in nature. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?

So the next time someone calls you weird, know you’re not alone. To someone out there, you’re pretty normal. But if normal sounds boring to you, know there’s someone who thinks you’re weird (they just haven’t mentioned it yet). That’s the irony of being uniquely you – you’re both weird and normal at the same time.

Writing Journey

Travel & Write

I love traveling – most of my friends, and even some of you, know that. I actually make it a priority to travel at least once a year. And because I’m not living in luxury – despite few assuming so, due to my escapades – I save as much as I can every month to make travel possible. It has become a ‘need’ in my life. But why?

There is, of course, the reason of ‘taking a break and seeing the world’. That’s the best reason anyone can give. It’s also a very legit one. But aside from that, I’ve found another reason to travel: inspiration. Traveling has inspired my writing. In fact, it has made me a better writer. Flights of fantasy frame a tale, but an experience gives it life. I endeavour to travel because I believe it gives my stories life – it makes them real. But how so, you ask?

#1 Cultural Understanding

Whenever I hop on a plane, I subject myself to a culture unlike my own. There’s a whole new way of doing things in a foreign land – a new mindset, upbringing, and belief. This unfamiliarity is the perfect opportunity to broaden my perception of the world. It corrects my former notions, and opens my mind to different possibilities. This understanding helps in my writing, especially when trying to break from a mold.

Often times, we box our characters in an ideal world – a world with a common set of cultures and beliefs. We do so because it’s safe – it’s what we know. But by experiencing other cultures in the real world, we gain a new understanding. Through the diversity, we’re able to sculpt a story from a fresh perspective. And by infusing the variety of life, we make our stories relate-able. Such stories live beyond the final page.

#2 Sight Beyond The Picture

There’s a difference between seeing a picture of an icy mountain peak and actually seeing it in person. There’s a set of emotions that come from sight beyond a picture. When you stand before a colossal work of nature, you’ll find yourself lost for words – awed at its magnificence. But when you look at a picture, you only feel a pinch of that emotion. You cannot grasps its magnitude and beauty, and your imagination will have to fill in those gaps.

When you’ve seen something in reality, your capacity to describe becomes far greater. The hustle and bustle, of a crowded street, is easier written when you’ve been jostled by the swarm of bodies. Compare that to a snapshot of Shibuya crossing, you can only imagine being sardined. Writing through an experience will leave a sense of reality with your reader. But to paint a real picture for them, you have to see its reality for yourself.

#3 Play Of Emotions

How important are emotions? Very. A writer needs to feel, before a reader can do so. But how can you feel anxious, overjoyed, fearful, and excited in writing, if you’ve not felt it in reality? There are many emotions aside from the common, everyday Inside Out posse. To know what it feels to be truly lost, is to be truly lost. To know what it feels to be wonder-struck, is to be truly wonder-struck. To know what it feels to be… you get my drift.

Traveling gives you the opportunity to experience and play with emotions you normally don’t. It helps you grasps the true meaning of a word. It helps you explain it in words, drawing from your very own encounters. Invoking emotion in a reader requires an author who knows that emotion inside out. And the only way to know an emotion is to feel it.

I know I’ve sold traveling as if it’s the best thing a writer can do. I also know that traveling may not be a luxury for some, while it may not be a priority to others. Whatever it is, I want to encourage you to see the world. You don’t have to board a plane to do so – you just need to try something new. Explore a part of your city you’ve not traversed. Try exotic dishes at a foreign restaurant. Befriend somebody from another country. Go out and experience the world first hand. Trust me, it’ll make a whole lot of difference in your writing – this, coming from a wanderlusting author.

Writing Journey

I’m Not Done Yet! Or am I?


Am I done with this novel? Is it good enough? When can I say I’m truly done?

As a writer, I always ask myself these questions. But the fact is, one can never say a novel is truly done. There’s no benchmark. There’s no checklist. There’s just me… and my novel. I’m the judge of when it’s complete. And yet, I cannot judge. I wonder if the extra rounds of editing would make my book worse. I oscillate between editing again or leaving it as it is. I don’t know what to do! Help! The uncertainty drives me crazy. But recently, I’ve come to a realisation.

Whenever I edit my novels, I mostly dislike what I read. I’m rarely happy with the text before me. I always think my story sucks – that I’m not a good writer – and I know I’m not alone. But in the midst of that, there’ll be a moment in time – a second of contentment – that hits me like an unforeseen kiss. It’s rare. It doesn’t happen as frequently as I hope it would. And it only transpires after I’ve grown tired with my work. This emotion comes after my self-loathing is replaced with fatigue.

Have you ever felt worn out from all the editing? Have you told yourself, “I’m done. I’m not touching this again. I’ve done all I can”? This brief moment of unexpected tranquility is how I know I’m done. Because… it only sweeps past me after my final round of editing. And by ‘final’, I mean I decided it would be the ‘final round’ before even starting work. How convenient, right?

You see, subconsciously, we know when we’re done. We can sense it. It’s an innate ability. Like how animals can sense an earthquake, it’s a gut feeling we writers have. But the two things holding us back – driving us to spend years on a single book – are doubt and fear. We doubt we have what it takes. We fear we’re not good enough. So we keep at it, on the same piece of writing, not realising that by working on the same thing over and over again, we’re not growing. We’ve boxed ourselves. We’re unable to learn by exploring other stories within us. We squeeze our creativity, then question why we’re not good enough. And when that moment of contentment hits – when we’ve come to believe we’ve given our all – we quickly brush it aside. We disregard the prompt that’s telling us to stop. And we repeat the vicious cycle of wondering, questioning, and not knowing when it’s done.

I, personally, don’t believe we should work on a single piece of work for years. I know I say this with The Slave Prince being a novel I worked on for 3 years, but I wrote plenty of other work during those 3 years too. And by honing my craft, I’m able to better The Slave Prince as I find my own style and voice. Am I done with The Slave Prince now? Yes. Very done. I’ve given my all. And there’s only so much I can do where I am, right now.

Moving forward, I’m ready to dive into new worlds. I’m ready to challenge my creativity and imagination. And I know I cannot do that if I’m stuck on the same book. Don’t let the question of ‘done’ stop you from moving forward. Because in reality, we’re never done. We will always grow, and we need to let ourselves grow.

So take it from me. The next time a wave of surprising satisfaction washes up your shore, after your ‘final round’ of editing, ask yourself these:

Am I done with this novel? Yes. Is it good enough? No. When can I say I’m truly done? Never.

You don’t have to publish your novel tomorrow. But you most certainly need to start writing something new. Only then can you free yourself from a curse, so cruel, it robs you of your much needed ‘happily ever after’.

The End.

Original Works

Ballerina

ballerina

I dance.

There is something special about me when I dance. The princess of this beautiful kingdom saw it in me. So I dance… I dance for her.

No, I don’t dance when there’s a festival or a cheerful kingdom carnival. I don’t even dance for the royal ball or when the princess needs to be entertained. I only dance when darkness falls.

Every once in a while, the kingdom will be cloaked with a dark presence. And when that dark presence swallows the kingdom whole, life ceases to exist. Every soul would shut their doors and lock their windows, every flower eager to bloom would wither away, and the warm sun and fluffy white clouds would be absent from sight. What was once a lively gathering of laughter and cheers now becomes a grim manifestation of death.

Before my arrival, the kingdom fallen into this dark hole would suffer for weeks before light would reappear. It is said that the princess had tried many ways to rid her kingdom of the darkness, but all her efforts had failed. She was very ready to give up, but when she saw me, a spark of hope twinkled in her eyes. “You’re special,” she said, so certain and so happy to have me by her side.

The princess was convinced that I would be able to chase the darkness away, and despite my own lack of confidence, I decided to try and help her. So, on one dark and scary evening, I danced my first dance.

I was never taught on how to dance, I just know. It is something my body does so naturally and effortlessly, I don’t even need to think about my next move. But when I was sent to the dark streets for the first time, I was too terrified to make a move.

The buildings around me towered above my head, seemingly leaning in as though about to collapse on my fragile state. The vines that wrapped around the mouldy brick walls twisted to form hideous faces that looked down on me menacingly. The air was cold and heavy, clutching onto my bones like a skin to my body. And the dead silence… the dead silence gave room for strange and terrifying thoughts to fill up my mind.

I stood on that street for a very long time, not daring to move a muscle. The little light that came from the candles behind the closed windows was not enough to guide my path. I was scared and I found the task too daunting. I was tempted to run away and hide, but the princess stopped me with her pleas.

“Help me, Ballerina. Help me chase the darkness away,” the princess said. Her voice was so sad and desperate; a voice that should not be heard from an innocent child.

Knowing how much it would mean to her, I gathered the little courage I had and took my first step. One step forward, a shallow bow, another step forward with a gentle hop. It did not get any easier, so I shut my eyes and listened to the melody inside my head. The soft melody that was drowning in the sea of horrifying words was hard to focus on, but as I kept on moving, the soothing sound that drifted in my head swept everything away.

I found it easier to dance as my imagination guided my every move. I imagined the prickling vines to shrivel up, the brick buildings to be coated in red again, the flowers to breathe in new life and bloom with bright colours, the butterflies to flutter along my side, the dark sky to flee at the sight of the sun, and the warmth of day to melt the coldness away. I imagined the doors and windows to swing open as people entered the streets with smiles on their faces, the children to run with their friends and their yappy dogs, and the marble fountain in the courtyard to burst with fresh and clear water.

Everything I imagined I saw so clearly in my head, it felt so real but I dared not stop. I kept moving until I heard the princess’ voice again.

“Thank you, Ballerina,” the princess said. Her voice was no longer coated with fear and she sounded happy; a voice every child should have.

You’re welcome, I said silently, as the melody and my feet stopped moving.

When I opened my eyes, I saw the princess staring at me with a big smile on her face. She held the music box I called home in her hands, and hesitated to close me in. I knew she was tempted to wind me up again and watch me dance, but the princess wanted to save my magic. So after what seemed like a very long time, she whispered another thank you and gently shut my box.

I danced, and I’ll dance for her again.

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Chasing the big things in life is what all of us have our hearts set on. We want to reach for the stars, climb the mountains, and sail mighty ships. Our focus is always on the ‘big’ that we tend to overlook or push aside the ‘small’. But small does not mean less significant, in fact, some small actions go a long way. As we strive to achieve greatness, let’s not forget to do the small things too; lend an ear to a friend, give a child a hug, or feed a stray dog. Our small actions can make a difference, just like the small ballerina in her music box.

Most of my stories are up for interpretation, so I hope this one speaks a special message to you too. And as always, let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

© 2014 Jeyna Grace

(For more short stories, click HERE)