Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Fifteen

First off, this:

Also this:

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way: Hi. How are you? Are you having a good day? (I’m going to assume yes after those two videos.)

I’ve been sick(ish) for the past week or so, but I’m almost over it now and I just finished reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue and my plans for the evening involve revising and a meeting with a couple amazing Ch1Con team members, so I’m well. (Also: HOLY CRAP NANOWRIMO BEGINS IN THREE DAYS SOMEBODY HOLD ME.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin. As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Also, heads up that this is the last chapter of TEWIB I’m posting. This is less because I plan to actually do anything with it (because it was always just a practice novel anyway), but because I kind of, sort of definitely have not written anything on it since the end of last year’s NaNo and that 53k ends in the middle of Part II. And this is the last chapter of Part I. So this is really the onlyhalfway decent stopping place.

Thanks for keeping up with this over the past year! It’s been fun.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

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Chapter Fifteen
The blast of searing air knocks me off my feet. I fly down the hall. I land on my back, and my skull knocks against tile, and everything is a thousand colors, temperatures, swirling sensations. Chunks of concrete and twisted metal rain down upon me.
I hurt everywhere—no longer just in my jaw or my elbow, but everywhere—and it’s a wonder as I found myself on my feet, limping away from the explosion, with a scream in my throat but no way to hear it.
All I hear is a high-pitched buzz in my ears. Rich, black smoke chases me down the hall. I don’t know where the recruiting officers are, or anyone else, but I know the Second Origin must have set off this explosion, they must have, and I have to keep moving.
If I stop moving, they will get me. Again.
The smoke fills my lungs, clogs my throat. I lean against a wall and cough, retch, have to keep walking.
I don’t know where I am. This entire hallway looks the same—just one long expanse of blank walls and doors, and now it is torn to pieces, I can hardly see anything, why is no one else down here?
The tears burn down my cheeks, but I am not crying, and finally I spot the other end of the hall. A second stairwell. A way out of this madness.
I wrap my swollen fingers around the knob, clumsy, and push. It won’t open.
It won’t open, it won’t open, why won’t it open.
I shove my shoulder against the door, the entire side of my screaming body—my ribs are on fire, my leg is weak and covered in blood—and it moves just enough, just enough for me to slip through—and I trip over the thing on the other side of the door.
I still can’t hear my screams, but I’m aware that they must echo around this compact, concrete room, and Dr. Reede is on the floor before me with blood all around her head and a hole in her face and someone is saying my name. I don’t even notice it until I realize I can hear.
I spin. Dr. O’Brien lies on the floor behind me, only the hole in him is in his chest, and it’s not just one hole but several, and the vomit is in my throat but it won’t come the rest of the way out. My head is spinning, I want to lie down on the floor beside them but also run, run as far as I can, and the light is flickering, flickering, about to go out overhead.
Dr. O’Brien’s lips twitch ever so slightly. “You have to go, Miss Dylan. You have to go now. I’m sorry. We wanted to give you time. But you have to go.” He takes a breath, thick with liquid. His eyelids flutter, but he forces them to stay open. “Fifteenth floor. Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.” He gasps again. It’s the sound of a fish without water, only of course he has too much liquid instead, and in the wrong places, and now I am crying, but I do not know why, because I barely know him anyway.
His last words are: “Don’t let them succeed.”

I don’t know how I find my way to the top of the staircase, but when I crawl through the door to the lobby, it is into a world of screaming sirens and flashing green lights and a bomb went off here too, so everyone is dead.
I pull myself up against the wall, but before I can move a step towards the elevator bank, the vomit finally works its way past my teeth, and I retch across the glossy black marble floor, now dull with blood, and the acid is not nearly as hot as it should be against my raw throat, because the explosion was so much hotter.
Faintly, faintly, beneath the alarms, people are screaming. I slide my feet across the floor, shoulder braced against the wall. The elevators are so close.
I press the up button and a sob breaks free as it lights up in response, because thank God, the elevators are still working, I cannot climb fifteen flights of stairs right now, and I don’t have the time.
I sag against the wall. I close my eyes. I don’t want to see the people. All of the Clinic’s extravagance torn apart, coated in dust and blood, the terrorists are real and I am truly leaving.
The doors slide open with a ding.
I step inside.
Someone shouts, “Help! Help me!”
I don’t want to look, I don’t want to see which poor soul on the floor is yet to stop breathing, but I look anyway. It’s not one of the blast-victims. It’s a woman covered head-to-toe in black striding towards me through the smoke, perfectly whole. Even her face is covered. She levels a gun at my head.
A member of the Second Origin.
“Alexa.” My name does not make sense on her lips. It sounds like a foreign word.
My heart is in my throat. I am no longer in pain, but numb. I don’t feel the button to close the doors beneath my finger, but when I look down I have pressed it.
“Alexa!”
I slam my fist against the button for the fifteen floor. I crumple against the marble.
The elevator lurches upward and I vomit again. All that is left is acid. It burns in my nostrils, sends fresh tears to my eyes.
I rock back and forth.
Dr. O’Brien did not tell me which room to go to on the fifteenth floor. I do not know how I will find it.
The doors ding open. Finding the room is not a problem. The fifteenth floor is a single, carved-out space with no windows, everything covered in the same black metal as the door to Ramsey’s cell was made out of.
So close. I am so close. I can see the control panel that must house the green button from here, in the direct center of the room. A low black thing.
I stumble out of the elevator and my forehead cracks against an invisible wall.
No, no—not invisible. Transparent. Of course. Glass. A glass wall, keeping me out of the room I need to get to.
“Let me in.” My voice is hoarse, lower than it should be. “Let me in, I have to get in, I have to go!”
They’re going to kill my family. They’re going to kill Daddy and Calvin and Amelia if I do not go. I don’t care if other versions of them exist in the other realities, these are my version, and I want them, I want them so badly. I don’t want to go, but I need to. I need to go to save them.
“My name is Alexa!” I scream. “I am Alexa Dylan!”
The glass wall shifts, separates. It comes apart before me and I fall to the floor with a hollow bang. It is hollow beneath the metal.
I crawl forward. I am so close to the control panel. I need to press the button before the Second Origin figures out where to go—before they come to stop me.
Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.
Press the green button. Prick your finger. Say your name.
I reach the control panel. I am sobbing, blind. My cries echo throughout the vast, empty room so loudly it feels as if the entire reality is crying along with me.
I drag myself upright. The control panel contains two buttons.
The one is green. The other is the same color as my Identiband keeps flashing.
The elevator doors chirp open behind me. I spin.
“Leave me alone!” I scream. I know it will do no good, but I don’t know what else to do, but no one barrels out of the elevator at me. It is empty.
I don’t know what’s happening.
I turn back to the control panel and press the green button. A needle presses into my palm, but the pain is so miniscule compared to everything else that I barely feel it.
I sag against the panel. “My name is Alexa Dylan.” The lights in the room flash—go out. I am filled with a ticklish, upside down, sick feeling, the way I used to feel when my dad carried me with my legs over his shoulder, arms parallel with the ground. Laughing and kicking and screaming.
Only now I am crying. I cry as the Fifth Reality disappears from around me. I cry as they all disappear, and I never got to say goodbye.

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Happy early Halloween! TALK TO YOU NOVEMBER FIRST.

~Julia

Posting Every Day in November!

It’s October 28th, which means it’s almost that time of year again.

That’s right.

NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH 2014.

And after all the fun posting every day of November was last year, I’m doing it again! (Don’t you groan at me.)

Lots of other exciting things will also be happening during November this year, so stay tuned for those announcements too. (Some possibly coming next week?) (Not that you heard it from me.) (Shhhh, WHO TOLD YOU THAT.)

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, I want to be your buddy so we can complain together cheer each other on! My profile: www.nanowrimo.org/participants/cavyheart

Also, you should watch our November Ch1Con Chat discussing NaNo! Info here.

And yeah. Talk to you tomorrow for this week’s Wordy Wednesday, then November (and posting every day) begins Saturday!

~Julia

YA Author Panel

Just got back from attending a YA author panel!

It was at a Barnes & Noble and six authors participated. They were all brilliant and lovely: David James (Between the Stars and Sky), Andrea Hannah (Of Scars and Stardust), Kate Bassett (Words and Their Meanings), Rebekah L. Purdy (The Winter People), Bethany Neal (My Last Kiss) and M.G. Buehrlen (The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare).

I’m yet to read any of their books, but I’ve been dying to get my hands on a couple of these, so the panel tonight was the perfect excuse. (And after hearing the authors speak, I can guarantee they ALL sound amazing!)

Highlights:

Bethany Neal has a room dedicated to writing, which she calls her “writertorium.”

When asked to describe their books in five words, all six authors included “kissing.” (Gotta love YA.)

Rebekah L. Purdy mentioned how The Winter People came from a short story she wrote for creative writing class in high school. She got an A- on it and NOW IT’S A BOOK.

There was some major Maggie Stiefvater love going on, especially from David James. (I won a signed copy of Between the Stars and Sky for knowing the title of the third installment in the Raven Boys cycle, which came out this past week. My reaction: HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THE TITLE OF THE THIRD INSTALLMENT IN THE RAVEN BOYS CYCLE, WHICH CAME OUT THIS PAST WEEK?)

And finally: I went with Mel, who I hadn’t seen in forever. And she always makes things more fun. (Thanks again for holding my obnoxious B&N bag while I got my books signed!)

Oh, and bonus highlight: Three out of six YA authors agree I was ROCKING my red beanie tonight.

WIN_20141025_222321

#Swag

Been to any cool author events lately? Let me know in the comments!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: How to Not Go Insane While Revising

Whoa. Look at that. It’s Wednesday again. (Funny how that happens.)

Midterm season has drawn to an end, which of course means it’s not even Halloween yet and already my professors are yelling at me to get term paper drafts done and it’s suddenly cold enough to warrant a coat on the way to class.

Also: internship apps, and NaNoWriMo prep, and did I mention that November’s bringing lots of big announcements? Like I’ve been working on a lot that I haven’t been able to share with you BUT NOVEMBER IS THE MONTH. (Don’t get too excited. This in no way involves an agent or book deal or trip to Mars or anything. But still: Exciting Stuff.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post.

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I’m currently in the midst of doing the line edits round of revisions on one of my novels and, as expected, it’s basically torture.

Most of revising I don’t have a problem with. I actually really enjoy pulling the novel apart, switching things around, adding and getting rid of stuff, then putting it back together again. But line edits involve sitting down and reading the entire thing straight through in order to ensure it all works. And by “it all,” I mean not only the changes I made earlier in revising, but also checking flow, and fixing awkward sentences, and nailing down phrasing and character development and SO MUCH MORE.

It takes a ton of energy and attention, and because of this can be really difficult to get through.

But I’ve got a few tricks to getting it done.

Revise by Scene

I used to revise by chapter instead of scene. (Meaning: I’d take a break and give myself a pat on the back when I finished a chapter.) But then sometimes I’d be in the middle of a scene at the end of a chapter, so I’d come back after a break and have no idea where I was supposed to be tonally, and of course some of the details wouldn’t be as clear in my head anymore, and yeah. Now I don’t let myself stop until I’ve reached the end of the scene I’m on, instead, and it really helps to keep things focused.

Procrastinate by Revising

A couple weeks back, I got about a week ahead on my homework with the idea that doing so would leave my weekend free to revise. It had been difficult juggling schoolwork with bashing-my-head-against-a-wall-over-line-edits. However, the instant I no longer had something I wanted to do even less than revising (like reading about WWII propaganda films for my film history class), suddenly I had no interest in revising either. So I ended up spending the weekend binging on Gilmore Girls.

Moral of the story: If revising isn’t your favorite activity ever, it’s possibly actually good to be dividing your time between it and another activity you like even less. It’s amazing how productive you can be when you’re using that activity to procrastinate from another one. (Also: I clearly make good life choices.)

Set Short Term AND Long Term Goals

Setting goals while revising should be obvious, but it’s a step I forget about sometimes. And you not only want to have goals like “finish Long Action Sequence #1 by midnight,” but also “finish first third of manuscript by Friday” and “send draft to critique partners by end of month.” It’s these layers of goals that help keep you on track and motivated.

And on that note:

Use a Reward System

Goals don’t mean much if you don’t get something for reaching them. Maybe if you meet your revising goal for the day, you get to have a bowl of ice cream. Or you can go to the movies with your friends.

And for larger goals, you should also have larger rewards. I generally let myself buy something semi-expensive off ModCloth or purchase concert tickets or (wow, I really need to stop using spending money as rewards).

Make Time to Relax

This is the biggest thing, for me. If you burn yourself out trying to get your revisions done super fast, they aren’t going to turn out well and you ultimately are just going to make more work for yourself. So take time to sit back and watch an episode (or three) of Gilmore Girls. Hang out with your friends. Read a good book. It’s okay to take a day off here and there, as long as you don’t lose momentum.

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Thanks for reading!

 

~Julia

Nostalgia = Motivator

I’ve been having trouble working lately.

A lot of people I know have been getting good news, which of course makes me SUPER EXCITED for them. But also kind of depressed for myself.

And that’s stupid, I know. But hearing about book deals, and internships, and contests while I’m just sitting here, trying to get through my homework, is, you know, depressing. (Or, less depressing as much as an anti-motivator. Like, “Why even bother when everyone else is clearly So Much More Talented and Hardworking Than Me?”)

Then this afternoon a writing friend linked to an old post from these writing forums we used to use, and we ended up spending the next three hours just going through the posts and laughing at how stupid we were (are) and being nostalgic.

And for the first time in a while, I not only want to work on all the projects I’m in the middle of because I know I need to, but because I actually, truly want to.

Looking at those old stories, and life updates, and post after post of inside jokes reminded me why I’ve kept at the writing thing for so long anyway. It’s fun, it’s an escape from real life, and I’ve gotten to know some really awesome friends because of it.

I’d forgotten what this feels like: wanting to work. Too much energy in my hands and stomach, and not being able to hold back a smile, and wanting nothing more than to curl up with my laptop and write.

It feels nice.

 

~Julia

PS. I’ve drawn and contacted the winner of the Falling into Place giveaway! Thanks for entering. I wish I could give copies to all of you!

Wordy Wednesday: The End Where I Begin, Chapter Fourteen

This weekend was fall break for my university, so Hannah, a friend from Oxford, and I just got back from being outdoorsy up north for a couple days.

We went horseback riding on trails surrounded by trees showing off their orange and red (with a guide who potentially was a murderous gang member hiding out in northern Michigan based on his teardrop tattoo, BUT WE’RE STILL ALIVE SO WE’RE GOOD), hiked to a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, and made s’mores over a camp fire that lasted approximately two minutes before rain drowned it.

We watched many movies, and played Jenga, and sang through Spotify’s Disney station like four thousand and one times.

We made blueberry bread, and drank lots of apple cider, and spent the entire trip in crewnecks and sweatpants/leggings.

So, all in all, a really nice break.

But now we’re back home and I’ve got a midterm in a few hours that I’m terrified for and yeah. (Don’t’cha love school?)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a chapter from my 2013 NaNoWriMo project, The End Where I Begin. As always, a reminder that this has seen little to no editing and I’m still in the process of writing the novel, so there will be mistakes and inconsistencies and all that fun stuff throughout.

Read previous chapters:

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

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Chapter Fourteen
“I don’t understand. Collapse? Collapse of the reality?”
Dr. O’Brien nods. He uses his lab coat to pat the sweat gathered on his brow.
Dr. Reede’s voice is uncharacteristically thick and she concentrates on a spot above my head. “Not just the Fourth Reality, either. The actions of the Second Origin have led to the collapse of every reality before ours within the Quantum. The fact that the Fourth Reality version of Miss Carp has essentially hijacked the Fifth Reality version of her is just the first of the atrocities the Second Origin is likely to cause now that they are here.” She focuses her gaze right on me. “One of the reasons we brought you here today is because we need your help.”
Dr. O’Brien nods. “It is difficult to hear, we know, but we have no way of stopping the Second Origin from within the Fifth Reality, because they are already here. It is too late for us.”
I look between them. “What do you mean ‘too late’?” My voice raises an octave. “They’ve caused the collapse of the realities before ours. The major events that happen in one reality bleed into the next, and somehow that’s led to the Second Origin existing within our reality—which means we’re doomed? The Fifth Reality is going to collapse the way the Fourth did?”
“Not necessarily.” Dr. O’Brien says the words slowly, like this is a point he has been hoping to reach. “We do have a chance to save the Fifth Reality, and stop the Second Origin all together before they spread like a plague throughout the rest of the Quantum. That’s why we need your help.”
“Help?” I scoff. “How can I help?” The hopelessness is building inside me—a hollowness in my stomach; my heart pounding too hard against my ribcage.
“The Fourth Reality attempted to warn us about the threat of the Second Origin by messaging us. Evidently that did not work.” The barest of grins flickers across his lips. “We plan to send a person to the Sixth Reality, instead.”
“A person. To another reality.” My mouth falls open. “That’s possible?”
“More than possible.” Dr. O’Brien’s grin widens. “It’s been done before.”
“Why? How?”
Dr. Reede interrupts. “That is not relevant to the task at hand.”
I fall back in my chair. My Identiband flashes back and forth, back and forth, but I ignore it. “I’m sorry. Right.” I shake my head, but my pulse is no longer pounding out of fear. Adrenaline shoots through me, and I want to move—excited. The Fifth Reality does not need to collapse. “You want to send me? Why?”
“You are young, and although you did not choose to be, you are connected to the activities of the Second Origin, because of Miss Carp. This combination of factors makes you the most practical candidate.”
A smile finds its way onto my face. The idea of traveling to the Sixth Reality is daunting, but I will do it no questions asked if it means saving my dad and Calvin, Amelia and Eric. “What will I have to do once there?”
Dr. Reede returns my smile, although hers does not appear natural. “Do not worry about that now. We will provide further directions when you arrive.”
Dr. O’Brien clears his throat and we turn to him. Dr. Reede’s lips twitch, but she does not speak.
“We must let you know,” Dr. O’Brien says, “once you leave the Fifth Reality, because of the linear nature of the Quantum, you will have no way to return. You can only travel between realities in one direction. But know that you will be saving countless lives by leaving.”
“I realize that.” I feel as if I am standing at the top of a building, about to fall. “I’ll do it.”
“Thank you.” They stand and walk for the door. With shaking legs, I get to my feet.
Their backs are to me as I ask, “When?”
Dr. Reede does not look back as she opens the door. “This evening. Before things have a chance of getting any more out of hand. We had hoped to give you more time, but the actions of the Second Origin yesterday, by kidnapping you, have proven that we must do this as soon as possible.” She exits.
Dr. O’Brien turns to me, one foot in the conference room and the other in the hall. “You have an hour to say your goodbyes. We will meet you in the building lobby at 1600.”
“Okay.”
He dips his head, then is gone.

 

 

I don’t leave the conference room at first. Its elegance is far less intimidating now that I am alone. Or maybe it’s just that I am preoccupied by the enormity of what I have agreed to do.
I don’t want to lose Daddy and Calvin. I can’t imagine a life without Amelia and Eric and even the other students at New Capital High who I dislike or do not know as well. Even Ramsey.
But they will all die—I will die—if I do not do it. So that is why I said I would.
The actual act of doing it, however, will be more difficult than the initial decision, and I don’t know how I am supposed to say goodbye to the only people I have ever known. I don’t even know what the Sixth Reality is like.
Is it as healthy as the Fifth Reality? As clean, with our bicycles and electric trains? Our nice, structured neighborhoods and yearly Recruitment Assemblies?
We have had our problems—the wars from when I was little prove that—but we are strong. How could a single terrorist cell pull us apart? How have they destroyed so many realities already? The realities in the Quantum are held together by the Thread of Reality. As long as that Thread exists within a reality, it is connected to the rest of us. It cannot be destroyed.
The Quantum is in a state of constant expansion. To destroy a part of it is like dividing by zero—it shouldn’t be possible.
Yet the Second Origin has found a way to do it.
Heat spreads through me. Anger. I step towards the door, and my knees no longer tremble beneath my weight.
I glance at my Identiband. Moisture has gathered beneath it and it slips, loose, around my wrist. I don’t want to have to worry about whatever’s happening with my eyes right now, not when so much more is at stake, but the bracelet is fine. Just a brilliant, bright, solid green.
I leave the conference room and the door automatically slides shut behind me.
Just under an hour. I have just under one hour to say goodbye—forever.
I open the door to the stairwell and a low, sharp click echoes off the walls. Then the entire thing explodes.

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Thanks for reading!

 

~Julia

Lazy Foodie Recipe: Black Bean Nachos

So, something I’ve never really discussed on the blog before is the fact that I really like to cook.

I know. Totally unexpected based on how a) lazy and b) busy I am. But I generally make at least a little time for it each day and the rhythm of chopping and mixing and stirring can be a great de-stressor.

Because I’m in an apartment this year, I’ve been cooking a lot more for myself than I did the first couple years of college. Fortunately, this is really fun. Unfortunately, the “a little time” I can make for it each day isn’t a ton. So I’ve taken to making a few meals that use the same core ingredients most days, with a little more variety on the days I’m less busy.

One of my favorite things to make for dinner is black bean nachos. The black beans taste good and pack a lot of protein, while the red bell pepper adds a little sweetness which the baby arugula leaves counter with their peppery flavor. Also: it involves cheese. (Need I say more?)

Black bean nachos are a super easy and fairly cheap dish (yay). Let’s get started.

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What You’ll Need

  • One can of black beans
  • One red bell pepper
  • One thing of baby arugula leaves
  • Tortilla chips (I looove these black bean ones)
  • Shredded “Mexican” cheese mix
  • Olive oil
  • Seasoned salt
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Spatula
  • Sauce pan
  • Frying pan (and something to keep the grease from attacking your kitchen)
  • Microwave-safe plate
  • Stove
  • Microwave
  • Sink
  • Water
  • Electricity
  • Hands
  • A love for all things edible

The Road to El Deliciousness

1. Pour about a quarter of the can of black beans in your sauce pan (making sure the beans have enough of their black bean sauce stuff with them in the pan to cover them) and put on the stove, medium temperature. Once this reaches a low boil, set to the side.

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2. This is where the sink comes in: wash your red bell pepper and about a handful of baby arugula leaves. (I know. Craziness.) Once that nifty step is done, chop up about a third of the red bell pepper so the pieces are about the size of your pinky nail. (Cooking with Julia is an exact science.) Either cut or tear off the stems of your baby arugula, then cut or tear the leaves in half.

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3. Prepare your frying pan by pouring in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Put on the stove at high temperature. Add the red bell pepper and place the arugula in a layer atop it. Add seasoned salt as desired. Cover the pan with your grease catcher thingy until the olive oil begins to pop and snap. Then, add your black beans (making sure not to bring much of the black bean sauce stuff with them) and stir with the spatula. Turn down the burner to medium temperature and, stirring occasionally, let this all fry together with the grease catcher on top until the black beans start to look slightly shriveled. (But not burned! DO NOT BURN THE BLACK BEANS, WHATEVER YOU DO. YOU WILL HATE YOURSELF FOR ALL ETERNITY IF YOU DO.) While this is frying, place a layer of the tortilla chips on your microwave-safe plate.

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4. Pour your frying pan mixture over the tortilla chips. Be careful not to add the olive oil. Cover the black beans and veggies and tortilla chips with a thick layer of the shredded cheese mix, so that you can barely see what’s below it.

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5. Pop this in the microwave on high for approximately one minute. (If you can hear the cheese sizzling, you are doing your job right. But also make sure not to burn it. Of the three microwaves I’ve regularly made nachos with over the course of the past few years, they’ve all required different amounts of time for the cheese to melt, so this’ll probably take a little experimentation.) Let the nachos sit in the microwave for a minute or two more, for maximum cheese meltage, then:

6. Enjoy those delicious black bean nachos!

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(Protip: usually when I make these, I eat them with a bowl of green grapes and a glass of water.)

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~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Lullaby

It’s currently 2:15 PM on Wednesday and–WAIT. LOOK AT THAT. IT’S ACTUALLY WEDNESDAY. (I think I deserve an award.)

Things are crazy right now, but what else is new? I’m kind of in love with this semester. It’s hard keeping up with everything, and it’s about to get harder, but “everything” consists of really awesome classes, and projects I’m super excited about, and people I love, so it’s worth it, you know? (Now if only I had time to sleep for more than six hours a night.)

Things that have happened since last week:

The first Ch1Con Chat!

Members of the Chapter One Young Writers Conference team and our friends got together to talk about writing and books for our first ever Ch1Con Chat. We’re going to be doing a Ch1Con Chat the first Thursday of every month at 8:00 PM eastern. Want to help us choose the topic for the next chat? Vote here! And you can watch this month’s chat below. [Beware the numerous technical difficulties.]

Hannah and Julia’s Vlog is back!

Check it out! Hannah and I talk about what we did this summer.

I’m giving away a copy of Amy Zhang’s Falling into Place!

You read that right. I’m giving away a copy of Amy Zhang’s debut YA contemporary novel Falling into Place. You can learn about the book and giveaway here and enter to win here. (It’ll run until October 17th, so you’ve got about a week left to try to get your hands on this amazing book!)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a lullaby-ish-thing I wrote last week. I felt like playing guitar, but I was really tired and the sun was all warm, so I basically ended up putting myself to sleep.
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VERSE1
Turn the lights down low
Lay your head down now
It’s okay to sleep
When the rain is coming down

Tell me all your dreams
They’ll be less scary
Once you set them free
Feel free to talk to me

TRANSITION
This is all a fever dream
It’s so much less than it seems
You’re falling, but it’s only to sleep
Tell me, are you counting sheep today

CHORUS
This is all going to disappear
When you wake up from here
Close your eyes and you will see the sunrise,
what’s left of me
I’m just a whisper in your ear
You’ll wake up far away from here

VERSE2
You will dream of the sea
On a warm summer day
With the water so blue
Flowers blooming like in May

And you will dance in the sand
Holding my hand
Don’t you look at me
Or I’ll be sea glass beneath your feet

TRANSITION
This is all a fever dream
Faster than it seems
You’re flying, but it’s only towards
A door opening to a better day

[Repeat CHORUS]

BRIDGE
I know today is hard
Like burning out the stars
But there’s always more,
I promise

You will find your way
Just not today
So close your eyes and sleep
These dreams are yours to keep

[Repeat CHORUS]

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Thanks for reading! Let me know what you’ve been up to, in the comments!

 

~Julia

Giveaway: FALLING INTO PLACE by Amy Zhang!

So I’ve been promising to do a giveaway for approximately forever, but as I’m sure we’ve already established a thousand times, I am the laziest human being alive. Sorry about how long it’s taken to get this up. (I ran out of ways to procrastinate today. It’s a sad life.)

Anyway: Amy Zhang was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Chapter One Young Writers Conference, and we absolutely loved having her! Amy is hilarious and smart and seriously so talented oh my gosh. (I want to be her when I grow up.) Her debut novel, a YA contemporary called Falling into Place, came out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in September and is just as incredible as you’d expect.

From GoodReads:

On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

Sounds great, right? Well, now it’s your chance to win a copy of Falling into Place!

You have two weeks to enter using one or more of the options in the Rafflecopter giveaway linked below. The giveaway will end at midnight Friday, October 17.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER ALL YOU COOL READERS!

Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: The Unreliable Narrator in Young Adult Fiction

I swear, someday I’ll begin posting Wordy Wednesdays before midnight again. (In my defense this week, I spent the entire day either in class or doing homework, then tonight friends came over and we all watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and ate funfetti cake Hannah had made in honor of the occasion, so I was kind of busy.)

Anyway. The past week’s been pretty uneventful. I walked a 5K Sunday with my parents, then spent Monday barely being able to move because I am actually SO OUT OF SHAPE that walking three miles in a row destroyed my muscles. (You don’t need to make fun of me. I did enough of it myself between winces as I walked to class.) Monday night, I turned in my final research paper for Oxford and very melodramatically drank Sainsbury’s peppermint tea out of my Magdalen mug while missing England.

Long story short: I’ve gone to a ton of classes and done a ton of homework and eaten a ton of cookies.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post that takes form in an essay I turned in for my YA lit class recently, discussing the idea of the unreliable narrator. [Update: I got a very deserving B on this, primarily for a flawed representation of the unreliable narrator, due to not expounding enough on my argument, and the multitude of typos that occur when you finish a paper fifteen minutes before it's due. So. Keep that in mind while you read. Hopefully I can do a post actually discussing the unreliable narrator from a writing perspective at some point, to clear up the issues posed by this essay. But in the meantime, enjoy!]

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The unreliable narrator is a trope that pops up again and again in fiction. It involves, most commonly, a protagonist written from a first person perspective that asserts one idea to be true when this idea is actually false. The idea directly relates to the narrator in some way, to the point of defining him or her. However, all narrators are unreliable to an extent, due to their age, position in the world, personal ideology, etc. Hazel in John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars tells her story after the fact, which means readers will never know for sure who Augustus Waters was as a person, because what they only know him through Hazel’s eyes. What arguably makes a protagonist not just commonly unreliable, but definable as an unreliable narrator, is the fact that it is possible for him or her to understand, with effort, his or her idea to be false. Maybe he or she knew the truth at a time but chose to believe it wasn’t true or forget it, or has known the truth the entire time and simply chosen to knowingly lie. Which is to say, what makes a protagonist an unreliable narrator is his or her decision, whether conscious or not, to lie. Within fiction, a category the unreliable narrator is especially prevalent in is young adult. From the way teenagers often relate more easily to the unreliable narrator than other age groups do, to the way stories utilizing this type of perspective are more likely to be twisty and fast-paced, the unreliable narrator trope finds its home in young adult fiction.

The teenage years, as presented in young adult fiction, are generally spent sneaking around with boyfriends and pulling one over on authority figures. In E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, the title character spends the majority of her story lying to her friends and playing elaborate pranks on the administration of her elite boarding school. Even if teens don’t personally take part in these types of activities, they’re fun to read and demonstrate sentiments teens are likely to relate with: hating how adults and peers underestimate them; wanting to be special but feel normal at the same time; needing a wild adventure to stay sane amidst of midterms and soccer practice. While a story with a straightforward narration style and normal characters can accomplish these things, like in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, an unreliable narrator pulls them one step further. In the S.E. Hinton classic The Outsiders, narrator Ponyboy is an accessory to a murder, but after the friend who actually commits it dies, he can’t stand the idea of remembering his friend this way—as a murderer—so he chooses to believe he is the one who murdered, instead, so that at least in his mind, Johnny might still be alive. He knew “Johnny was dead [and knew] it all the time … [but] just thought that maybe if [he] played like Johnny wasn’t dead it wouldn’t hurt so much” (Hinton 177). This adds another layer to Ponyboy’s story and actions. Perhaps one of the reasons the unreliable narrator appears more frequently in young adult fiction than other categories is because teenagers connect more with the narrator who chooses to believe one thing when another might be true. After all, they’re figuring out what they believe and don’t believe too; sometimes they lie about things happening in order to make life easier to live too. Maybe for a teen reader the distraction is a lie about the state of her geometry grade, rather than about whether or not her friend is dead. But details don’t resonate as loudly as overall actions. As unreliable narrators allow themselves to grow and admit their truth, so do their readers about their own.

On top of this, the unreliable narrator automatically adds another layer to how interesting the story is and involves the reader more. Not only must the reader try to figure out what’s going to happen, but also how much of what has already and is currently happening to believe. Also, unreliable narrators lend themselves to the sorts of stories in which it would be more logical to have a character who cannot handle what’s going on around them. While The Fault in Our Stars’s Hazel can choose to direct the reader’s opinion in one way or another, the fairly ordinary circumstances of her life would make it difficult for to be believable as an unreliable narrator. Ponyboy, on the other hand, lives with the constant threat of getting “jumped by the Socs” (Hinton 2) or the authorities tearing his family apart. His best friend dies from injuries incurred in a fire after murdering a boy who attacked Ponyboy. These extreme circumstances merit the mind shutting the truth out. Stories like these, with an abundance of plot twists and action, tend to be shorter and snappier, which keep readers on the edges of their seats and are more likely to keep teens turning pages, rather than putting the book down to check Facebook. With the way young adult fiction itself generally runs shorter and more to the point that other categories of fiction, it has a reciprocal relationship with the unreliable narrator: the unreliable narrator helps the novel move along, and the novel has no choice but to move in such a way that backs the interest created by the unreliable narrator.

From the way teens are more likely to be able to relate to a story featuring an unreliable narrator, due to the circumstances of the period of life they’re in, to how the unreliable narrator supports the form of the young adult novel and leads to stories with more inherent interest in them, this literary trope finds its home in young adult fiction. Together, as Ponyboy’s friend Johnny would say, they “[s]tay gold” (Hinton 148).

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Thanks for reading! (Now: Off to sleep. SO TIRED.)

 

~Julia