Welcome To Fake Paradise!

This is the personal writing blog for Joana Hill, creative writing major extraordinaire! Here you'll find the random ramblings and occasional writings of a girl obsessed with gay romance and the yaoi manga FAKE. You've been warned.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fortissimo Drabbles

I've actually been posting these over on my Tumblr (which can be found here, but I thought, since this is my writing blog, I should post them here, too :) Since I already have a few out, I'm going to put them all in one post and then any others I write will have their own. These are just drabbles (VERY short stories) centering around my NaNoWriMo 2010 novel Fortissimo, and so far I've been using them to explain some background things for it :) Enjoy.

Fortissimo drabble

A spoon never seemed so heavy. I hated, hate, liquid medicine but I was sick and that was all we had in the house. Mom had to work for the first time in a month, so she said she’d come back after work with some liquid capsules or something.

“Riiiiiin!” That sing-song voice could only be Noelle, already in the house without even knocking on the door. I heard more footsteps than hers, though, and so I chugged the medicine and grabbed some paper towels I could gag into in case any of it came back up.

I managed to not throw up, though, which was good considering Noelle was bringing in two people I didn’t know, and it would’ve been kind of bad if they thought I was throwing up at their mere presence.

One was a girl with long blond hair and blue eyes. It was summer, so she was wearing the least-modest thing she probably thought she could get away with, meaning really short cut-off jeans and a belly-baring tank. She was dragging along the second person I didn’t know, but I didn’t get a good look at him before Noelle descended on me not unlike a vulture.

“I brought ice cream!” she said with a huge smile on her face, holding up a grocery store bag. I could barely make out the label on the tub. It was just plain old boring vanilla, but just the thought of trying to eat at all, ever made me queasy. I ended up running to the bathroom and making it just in time to hurl into the toilet.

Well, there went my medicine.

As I sat back from the toilet, I sighed and unbuttoned my pajama top. Even though I was a guy, I had always felt the need to be fully clothed even when it came to my night clothes. I was way too hot and sweaty to care about that, though.

“You gonna be okay?”

I jumped in surprise and looked to see Mystery Guy was there in the doorway, leaning in and looking concerned. I glanced around, but Noelle and her other friend were nowhere to be found.

“Yeah I… I guess I just have a stomach virus or something.” I tried to stand up, but the sudden rush made me dizzy and I started falling back. Mystery Guy caught my hand, and I ended up awkwardly leaning there in midair.

“I’m Keith, by the way. Keith Bowers. You may know my father.”

“The optometrist, right? We’ve met.” Understatement, considering I’d had horrible vision for years. I let Keith pull me to my feet, but I still felt dizzy so I didn’t protest when he steadied me by putting an arm around my waist. “I’m Rin, but I’m sure Noelle already told you that.”

Keith smiled, but before he could answer, Noelle was upon us. “Rin, you should go lay down! I’ll put in a movie.” She glanced between us and seemed to find Keith’s handling of the situation fine, because she went on her way.

“What movie did she get?” I asked.

“I dunno, but it has a giant pair of lips on the cover.”

Yeah, that figured.

Fortissimo drabble 2

My birthday is on August seventh. I used to hate the fact that my birthday was in the summer, because in elementary school, they always gave out candy to kids on their birthday. Once I hit junior high, though, I figured out it was better this way. There was a bitch of a teacher who liked to patrol the lunchroom and she’d single you out and make everyone sing happy birthday to you. As if I needed another reason for people to stare at me.

This particular birthday, I was turning sixteen. Both my parent had to work, but they promised they’d come home with a cake and let me have my presents. I had found them a week ago, but I wasn’t going to tell them that.

Noelle was otherwise occupied, so I was mostly just sitting in the kitchen, blasting my mother’s boom box and singing along because nobody could hear me. I’d been in choir all my life and was pretty much used to singing in a crowd, but I’d never gone for solos. I just… got nervous when someone listened to me sing on my own, even though the choir director, Mr. Kais, swears I had an awesome voice. I kind of think he’s required to say that, though.

It was in the middle of All Star that I heard the mail dropping to the floor through the slot.

“Greeeeat, more junk mail,” I muttered as I shut the boom box off and headed over. There were the usual credit card
applications and store flyers, but the one actual piece of mail… seemed to be for me.

I got the envelope opener out of a drawer in the kitchen and sliced it open on top. There was a small note inside, written on a lime-green sticky note. It said, “Happy birthday.”

No return address, no name, nothing. There was something else, though: a silver necklace chain with a charm shaped like a bass clef on it. I eyed the thing as I took it out of the envelope and hung it in front of my face.

The phone suddenly rang, and I piled the necklace in my hand and went over to answer it. “Young residence, this is Rin.”

“Riiiiiiin.” Noelle, of course. “Me, Aurora and Keith are right outside your house. If you aren’t proper get that way so we can go out!”

I glanced out the window, and sure enough, Noelle, Aurora and Keith were standing there. Noelle had her cell phone to her ear and was waving her free arm in the air frantically until she saw me looking. I was already dressed, of course. Without thinking, I put the necklace on and headed out.

Fortissimo drabble 3

Our high school wasn’t big, but I was still amazed at how crowded it seemed in the choir room as Aurora led me in. At the last GSA meeting, she had insisted I go to the Spring choir concert since I had missed the winter one.

I had never even thought about choir before; it was one of those things I knew existed, but I never really thought it was for me. Aurora kept telling me it was awesome, though, and that evening came down to either going to the choir concert or ordering pizza and a movie with my little sister. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with that, but she was less likely to guilt-trip me for missing a session of Disney princess movies.

Aurora was waving to everyone like they were all the best of friends, but she stopped at one group in particular. One girl and two guys, with the girl sitting on the taller guy’s lap.

“Keith! This is Noelle, Rin, and Gus,” she introduced. Rin was the one with the occupied lap, but he was also the one that was staring behind us. When Noelle noticed this, she turned to look.

Rin had been staring at a man standing up front with a little girl in his arms. He was talking to another man, who Aurora had pointed out earlier as the choir director Mr. Kais. The first man looked young, probably not very far out of high school. Then again, if the girl was his daughter, I suppose looks can be deceiving.

Before I could say anything, Aurora was tugging me along to meet more people. “Is Noelle Rin’s girlfriend?” I found myself asking.

Aurora stopped for a moment and looked like she was considering this. “Nah, they’ve been friends forever. I can’t imagine either of them would make it out alive if they tried to form something romantic.” She smiled. “Seriously, since elementary school. I remember Noelle beat up this one guy for making fun of Rin on the playground. I’ve only become friends with them recently, though.”

Aurora had stopped to talk to more people, though she kept a firm grip on my arm so I couldn’t get away. That didn’t mean I couldn’t turn, though, and so I looked back at Rin. He was still staring at that man, and if I knew anything, I knew what that look meant.

“You’re joining choir next year, right?” Aurora nudged me, trying to make me take part in the conversation.

Rin finally turned away from the man and pushed Noelle off his lap. I smiled. “Yeah,” I said. “Could be fun.”

Writing Compelling Characters

Because I like to follow the cool crowd, I've decided to take part in The Great Blogging Experiment in which people post on one topic and we all see what different contributions everyone has :) As the title suggests, the topic is Writing Compelling Characters.

So. Characters. Personally, they're my favorite part of a book. Some people will read something and say they're a fan of it, but then go on to say how they hate everyone and their mother as far as the characters goes. Maybe this works for some people, but I don't get it!

I need to like characters to like a book. What's the point of sitting down and reading about their adventures if you can't root for them, after all? And for me, they don't necessarily need to be anything special. Me liking a character can be as simple as liking their characterization. If they start out as a Mean Girl and progress throughout the novel into a more sympathetic character, such as in Before I Fall, then I'm golden. I don't see the point of main characters that remain static throughout the book, I suppose. What's the point of the conflict if it doesn't change them for the better, at least a little bit?

Another thing I enjoy is quirkiness. To take another example, there's Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. In it, Cass, the older sister of the main character, Caitlin, runs off with her boyfriend and ends up working on a Jerry Springer-esque talk show as stage crew. One day, Caitlin watches a bit of the show and sees Cass by the side of the stage in one shot. She tells her mother, who becomes obsessed: every day she watches the show, hoping for a glimpse of Cass. It's this kind of small add-on to a story and its characters that makes me go, "Oh, cool!" and only wish I were that creative in my own storytelling.

I suppose that's it for my ramblings! Anyone out there care to add their own opinion?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My LGBT Bookshelf

I actually posted this earlier as a note on FaceBook, but I figured I’d put it on my blog as well, and maybe people who follow me would want to comment on it :P It’s just a list of all the LGBT books I have right now.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Love is never easy.  Especially if you're Paul.  He's a sophomore at a high school like no other--and these are his friends:

Infinite Darlene, the homecoming queen and star quarterback.

Joni, Paul's best friend who may not be his best friend anymore.

Tony, his other best friend who can't leave the house unless his parents think he's going on a date... with a girl.

Kyle, the ex-boyfriend who won't go away.

Rip, the school bookie, who sets the odds...

And Noah. The Boy.  The one who changes everything.

Love meets love.

Confusion meets clarity.

Boy meets boy.

Tale of Two Summers by Brian Sloan

A ten-year best friendship is put to the test when Chuck and Hal spend their first summer apart falling for two questionable mates: a sexy Saudi songstress and a smokin' hot French punk.  As Chuck heads off to summer theater camp and Hal stays in their hometown, learning how to drive, they keep in touch via blogging, reporting to each other about their suddenly separate lives and often ridiculous romantic entanglements.  As both their relationships take some unexpected turns, Hal and Chuck struggle to come to terms with their growing differences while trying to keep their friendship alive.

A Really Nice Prom Mess by Brian Sloan

Cameron doesn't want to go to prom. Not with his boyfriend, Shane, and definitely not with his fake date, Virginia. Sure, it's senior prom, it's the end of high school, and Virginia's drop-dead gorgeous. But none of that matters to Cam, who's never liked any high school dance. Ever.

Then an unexpected kiss changes everything, and Cam needs to make a quick exit. After teaming up with a waiter who's been dealing drugs in the bathroom, Cam leaves the prom. But his night is far from over. From a high-speed car chase, to a stop at the after-prom party, to a bar with a wild dance contest...Cam's night finally ends in the most unlikely of romances.

Peter by Kate Walker

Pressured by his peers and society to conform to the stereotyped macho image, fifteen-year-old Peter feels both confused and repelled. His confusion and his horror increase when he finds himself attracted to his brother’s best friend, David, who is gay. Here is a daring, exceptionally honest novel about sexuality and the need to be true to oneself. Peter shares his every muddle and perception with us, and his candor just might help us find our own way.

Hero by Perry Moore

The last thing in the world Thom Creed wants is to add to his father’s pain, so he keeps secrets. Like that he has special powers. And that he’s been asked to join the League - the very organization of superheroes that spurned his dad. But the most painful secret of all is one Thom can barely face himself: he’s gay.

But becoming a member of the League opens up a new world to Thom. There, he connects with a misfit group of aspiring heroes, including Scarlett, who can control fire but not her anger; Typhoid Larry, who can make anyone sick with his touch; and Ruth, a wise old broad who can see the future. Like Thom, these heroes have things to hide; but they will have to learn to trust one another when they uncover a deadly conspiracy within the League.

To survive, Thom will face challenges he never imagined. To find happiness, he’ll have to come to terms with his father’s past and discover the kind of hero he really wants to be.

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson

What happens when your two best friends fall in love...with each other?

"Their friendship went so far back, it bordered on the Biblical -- in the beginning, there was Nina and Avery and Mel." So says high school senior Nina Bermudez about herself and her two best friends, nicknamed "The Bermudez Triangle" by a jealous wannabe back on Nina's eleventh birthday. But the threesome faces their first separation when Nina goes away the summer before their senior year. And in ten short weeks, everything changes.

Nina returns home bursting with stories about Steve, the quirky yet adorable eco-warrior she fell for hard while away. But when she asks her best friends about their summer romances, an awkward silence follows.

Nina soon learns the shocking truth when she sees Mel and Avery...kissing. Their friendship is rocked by what feels like the ultimate challenge. But it's only the beginning of a sometimes painful, sometimes funny, always gripping journey as three girls discover who they are and what they really want.

Is He Or Isn't He? by John Hall

In the glittering world of New York City's richest and most famous prep school, best friends Paige and Anthony become equally entranced by the enigmatic, ever–so–cute new guy Max, but in order to snag him, they must first use their charms and wit to discover the truth–is he or isn't he?

David Inside Out by Lee Bantle

David Dahlgren, a high-school senior, finds solace in running with the track team; he’s a fast runner, and he enjoys the camaraderie. But team events become a source of tension when he develops a crush on one of his teammates, Sean. Scared to admit his feelings, David does everything he can to suppress them: he dates a girl, keeps his distance from his best friend who has become openly gay, and snaps a rubber band on his wrist every time he has “inappropriate” urges. Before long, Sean expresses the thoughts David has been trying to hide, and everything changes for the better. Or so it seems.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speak Loudly

It started early this morning; my Twitter feed, which I have open by default since I use a browser plug-in for Google Chrome instead of the site itself, started having messages from my writer friends, agents I follow etc about the same thing: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, a book about a young woman who was raped and refuses to speak out about it, was being equated with soft-core porn because of the two rape scenes in it. You can find details on the incident, along with a comprehensive list of other blog posts about it, here.

Rape is not pornography.  The brutal, sexual assault of a minor is not sexually arousing and the person that sees it as such is, as far as I’m concerned, a very sick individual.  Besides that fact, there are many, MANY books categorized as young adult that DO contain sex scenes, scenes between a boy and a girl, or a boy and a boy, or a girl and a girl, where they express their love.  Should those count as soft-core porn and be thrown in the banned-books bin because religious fanatics say so?

That, however, is neither here nor there.  The point of my post is that Speak, and other books about serious issues such as 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (a book that deals with suicide) or Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (a book that deals with physical abuse) would be banned, and those who could seek solace in books that let them know they’re not alone would never get that chance.

And that is why banning books sucks.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010!

So I've decided on what I'm doing for National Novel Writing Month this year! And I thought I'd just use this blog instead of making a separate novel blog like I did for AL. I already wrote out a pretty good character description list in a topic on the NaNo forums, so I thought I'd post it here as kind of a preview for my upcoming novel, Fortissimo.

Rin Young- the POV character. He's been in choir all his life and is gay, but has only ever come out to one person because he thinks he's socially awkward enough. He is a pretty awkward person, and the fact that he's somewhat tall and really gangly doesn't help his self-esteem. However, he is extremely comfortable around his friends; it's just strangers that make him like that. He's a junior.
Keith Bowers- the love interest. Wears Hawaiian-print shirts in choir to catch Rin's attention (Rin doesn't know that's the reason) even though Keith doesn't know he's gay. His father is an optometrist, which is the excuse Keith uses to meet up with Rin sometimes (Dr. Bowers is Rin's optometrist). Is somewhat friends with Aurora at first because he attended GSA meetings the previous year. Also a junior.
Benjamin Kais- He's the choir director, a man in his mid-thirties that has been working at the school for ten years. After school he co-manages a music store with his younger sister. He also founded the school's chapter of Gay-Straight Alliance, though he doesn't seem to date so his own sexuality is a mystery (to most people).
Catalina Kais- Mr. Kais' younger sister, working on her doctorate in creative writing. She co-manages the music store with her older brother, though thinks it's a shame that he gave up being the supervisor for the GSA just so he could work there. A bit eccentric.

And the rest don't have last names yet...

Noelle- She's been Rin's best friend for years, helped by the fact that she lives across the street from him and would often spend the night when she was younger and her father worked late. She's the only one that knows Rin's gay at the start of the story. She's also a senior and hoping to get into Juilliard for vocals, despite the fact that she gets homesick just thinking about it.
Aurora- She's more Noelle's friend, but she warms up to the rest, particularly to Rin when she finds out he's gay because she's an active member of their high school's Gay-Straight Alliance. She also likes to paint his nails during the study hall they share every other day. Also a senior.
Gus- A sophomore in the tenor section who immediately latched onto Rin's group of friends the previous year. Despite his broken home life (his parents are divorced and his mother either ignores him or doesn't know how to deal with him) he's usually in quite high spirits and has been known to launch himself through the air instead of walking.
Ritchie- The piano player for the choir and fresh out of college. He's the current staff supervisor for the GSA and is known to be gay, despite the fact that he has a young daughter. His relationship with Mr. Kais is the subject of a lot of gossip (mostly between female students). Rin had a crush on him ever since they met the previous spring, though Ritchie ends up shooting him down because he apparently "likes older men."
Lydia- Ritchie's four-year-old daughter. He is her daughter by blood, though all Ritchie will say of her was that "college was a crazy time." Her mother left her under Ritchie's care at a very young age, though she doesn't seem to mind.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Meanwhile… back at the ranch…

Sent out to a few more agents, but only heard back from (aka been rejected by) one of them, so I’m still waiting on two right now. I’ll probably send out to a few more in the next couple days whether or not I get my responses.

Mostly I haven’t posted here in a few days because I’m back in college :) Well I only got back here on Tuesday, but I’m here. I had my first two classes (Recent American Poetry and Elementary Spanish I) on Wednesday, and I feel like it’ll be a good year :)

In other news, I plan to do some EXTREME WRITING with my long weekend so I can get my newest project past the 10k mark and see if it’s really worth it to continue. It’s one of those “humorous” stories I’ve been wanting to write for so long. The Young Adult genre needs more laughs, especially as far as the LGBT section is concerned. As Joker would say “Why so serious?”

I suppose that’s all for now. So, in closing, any lit nerds reading this can have a good laugh: