Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter Five”)

I’M DOOONE. I’M DONE, I’M DONE, I’M DONE.

Snapshot_20131211

Yesterday I had all of my last classes, took my one and only exam, and turned in my last two term papers–which means that fall semester 2013 is OVER for me! Including Spanish. It was bittersweet leaving the classroom yesterday, as all of us who have been stuck in Spanish for a thousand hours a week together for the past year and a half realized that it was over. The torture’s ended. We’re done. But it was also pretty fantastico, porque no puedo hacer más Español ahora. Es demasiado dificil para mí.

I don’t know what my grades will be like for this semester yet, but I’m pretty sure I at least passed all my classes (distribution requirements are hard, dude), and my creative writing prof has promised me an A, so that’s always good.

I registered for my winter semester classes a couple days ago, and unfortunately a couple of the ones I wanted were already full, so I am now on the wait list for one of those and hoping to take the other one sometime next year instead. In the meantime, because of not being able to get into that class, I’m now starting my literature classes this coming semester instead of over the summer or next fall like I’d planned. And the lit class I chose fulfills the hardest requirement for my major, so it’s not going to exactly be a fun one. Aaand it also happens to be a 400 level, and I have never taken a 400 level ANYTHING before, so please wish me luck, because I am terrified. (My goal remains to get all of the crappy classes out of the way now so I can take the ones I want to later, which means putting myself through torture all this year. But oh well.)

Anyway. This week’s Wordy Wednesday is Chapter Five of my NaNo this year, 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

I push myself into a sitting position so quickly the person hovering over me doesn’t have a chance to get out of the way, and my forehead smacks against his.

“Goodness, Alexa. Might want to warn someone before you do that.” Calvin rubs his temples and rocks back on his heels. He turns his head towards the doorway. “Dad, she’s awake!”

I look beyond him. I’m in my room. Scrubbed white walls and lilac curtains with a scuffed pine floor that leaves splinters in bare feet. My sheets cling to my bare arms, stuck with dried sweat. The lamp on my dresser reflects off the dark window—it must be night.

It’s difficult to move my jaw. I brush two fingers over it and wince as pain blossoms across the right side of my face. “Calvin?” The word is harsh against my sandpaper throat. “What time is it?”

“Just after twenty one hundred.” He leans against the open door and crosses his arms. The light turns his dark brown hair black.

“My jaw took a hit.” The swelling in my jaw slurs my words, makes them painful. I keep going anyway. “I should have only been out for a few minutes, not the better part of the day.”

Calvin offers a sympathetic smile. “After Ramsey knocked you out, she ran. They had us give you sedatives so you’d stay out until they’d caught her—wanted to minimalize the emotional trauma for you. The Clinic is holding her in a detention facility now until they can figure out why she attacked you, and why then.”

I laugh. The sound is like a bark. “I know why she attacked me. Ask anyone at New Capital High and they can tell you why she attacked me. The Ram is insane and hates me for breaking off our friendship.”

The words burn my tongue. I normally only call Ramsey “the Ram” around other students, because that’s the nickname everyone at NCH has called her since Ramsey got into her first spat with Amelia, back when Amelia’s family had first moved to North America year nine in order for her mom to act as the European representative at the Clinic, which is based here in New Capital.

But Calvin graduated before then—he’s a senior at the university now—so he still calls Ramsey by her real name.

He furrows his brow as he absorbs my words. “You realize Ramsey used to be your friend, Alexa. One of your only friends.”

“Yes.” I level my eyes at him. “Back before she went bonkers.”

My stomach twists, but I ignore it. Ramsey deserves what she gets, and it’s good she’s in a detention facility. She used to be calm and nice and, sure, a bit of a sarcastic twit sometimes, especially during our doubles tennis matches. But she had never hurt a soul before our argument four months ago, the day I left her behind to befriend Amelia. And now she attacks anyone who comes in her path.

The Ramsey who exists now is not the same Ramsey as the one who used to be my best friend. The Ramsey who exists now deserves whatever the Clinic does to her for hitting me during the Recruitment Assembly.

Head spinning, I fall back against my pillow. Calvin eyes me with dissipating distain.

I ask, “What all occurred after Ramsey knocked me out?”

“Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much drama.” He shrugs. “The recruiting officers from the Clinic want to talk to you, though. What’s that about?”

“I’m not even sure.” I rub the back of my hand over my eyes. When I open them, it’s to the sight of my Identiband flickering again to the non-color—still lit up, but a bizarre shade it should not be. I stare at it. “The Clinic offered to recruit me, which was strange since I’m only year eleven, you know? I should have another year still before that’s even an option.”

I turn the Identiband around my wrist and it flashes the other color for just a second longer. It reminds me of apples for some reason. “Plus, why would they pick me? It’s not like I’m a science nerd. I do all right in my classes. I play tennis and run cross country. That’s it.”

I let my arm drop back to rest on my bed and bite my lip. I look at Calvin. “I was confused, and I meant to say no—I don’t want to work for them—but yes slipped out instead. What do you think they’ll do? Can I back out?”

“I don’t know.” Calvin glances out the door, then back to me. “I think you’ll have to explain the situation to them and see. Generally, when people say yes, they mean it.”

“How’s my Alexa?” Dad’s deep voice booms from the hallway. His footsteps squeak against the old hardwood as he nears.

Calvin rolls his eyes and calls back, “As petulant as ever. Did you hear she’s messing with the Clinic now as well?”

“Playing with the big guns, are we, little girl?” Dad sweeps past Calvin to kiss my forehead. The whiskers above his upper lip tickle as he whispers a blessing into my skin, and I giggle, batting him away.

Daddy.”

He grins and sits down on the edge of the bed. My father is tall and stocky, with skin much tanner than mine, even tanner than Calvin’s, and very little hair left on top of his head. “So you think you’re ready to play with the big guns?” He raises a bushy eyebrow.

I glare. “They made me. What do you think? Will they let me back out after saying yes? I don’t actually want to work for them. I don’t know what came over me. I was so nervous.”

My father sweeps my frizzy, sweated-out bangs off my forehead and smiles down at me. “I’m sure they will, little girl. Now, are you hungry? Would you like me to bring something up to you?”

“No, that’s okay.” I sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed. The skirt of Sierra’s dress is bunched around my waist. Cheeks warming, I pull it down and stand. “I think I can get food on my own. You get back to work.”

Dad is an architect. He’s helping develop a new branch of our subdivision right now. Sometimes I wish Mom could see how successful he’s become—while our current house is certainly in need of renovations, it’s on a good street. Amelia’s family lives just around the block. Our old house, the one near both Ramsey and Eric, was in the area known as Portsmouth. Half the buildings were overcrowded, the other half abandoned. On the walk home from New Capital Elementary, our shoes crunched over broken glass and we picked dandelions from between the shards of concrete—all that was left of the roads.

Dad worked hard to bring us to the Riverhorn subdivision after Mom passed.

I tiptoe with my bare feet across the splintery floor and slip on my school shoes, which someone has left by the door.

Calvin smiles as I pass. “Want me to make you pancakes, just like old times?”

I smile, am about to reply that he’s only offering because he wants pancakes himself, when my Identiband beeps. I have an incoming message.

I expect it to be Amelia, ready to arm me with all the latest news about how the Recruitment Assembly ended. Or Eric, making sure I’m okay.

I click the button on the side of the bracelet and it projects the message in the air above my wrist, angled perfectly for me to be able to read it and no one else—a feature just added to the Identibands this generation. It is not one of my friends.

TO: Alexa Dylan, year eleven

FROM: Macy Pen, Secretary of Recruitment Affairs—the Clinic, New Capital division

MESSAGE: Miss Dylan, we must speak with you about what transpired at the New Capital High Recruitment Assembly today. Come to the Clinic tomorrow at 0800, office suite 4581. Thank you for your cooperation.

As I reread the message, my Identiband flickers again, and for half an instant, before I remember that the assumption is not right, I think it is the color of blood.

**********

69

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter Four”)

Well, I am now in the midst of all the end-of-fall-semester finals stuff, and I am ready for all of it to be over. This time next week I’ll hopefully be done (it depends on how quickly I get my term papers written). In the meantime I am majorly stressing out.

At the moment, I’ve finished and presented my final Spanish project and finished my genetics term paper (although I still need to edit and turn that one in). Later this week I have to present said-genetics term paper for class. Then next Tuesday I’m taking my one and only final exam, in my social science class, and hopefully turning in my other two term papers. THEN I AM DOOONE.

Amidst all of this finals stuff, I’ve also been going crazy getting applications and contest entries finished and turned in, which I’m luckily about to be finished with (passing the last one off to the people running that writing competition this afternoon–phew).

It’s always that last stretch before the semester’s over that’s the hardest. If you’re struggling through all this junk along with me right now: Good luck. I believe in you. Let’s do this thang.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is Chapter Four of my NaNo this year, 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

I’ve never been a big fan of the Recruitment Assembly. Then again, who is?

It happens once a year, the last Tuesday in September. Every school in every reality of the Quantum hosts one, and students years zero through twelve are required to attend.

The students in the elementary and middle schools only have to listen to a speech by their assigned recruiting officers about why we have the Clinic and how it functions. Students in their last years of schooling however, years nine through twelve, must also sit through the actual recruitment process—how the assembly got its name in the first place.

The lights overhead cut back until they’re barely even embers in the ceiling high above us, and harsh fluorescents burst to life above the stage. Principal Scully stands at attention in the corner, eyes focused on some point above our heads. The teachers all stand behind us in a row at the back of the auditorium, hands folded behind their backs and jaws locked.

The same as every year.

Only, this year, maybe not everything will go as planned. Maybe Ramsey will follow through.

I wipe the sweat from my palms on my dress and force my eyes to focus on the two recruiting officers as they enter the stage. They walk with military precision, right foot to right foot, left foot to left. Their arms swing in unison.

They stop beside the microphones, a man and a woman, both with their shapeless uniforms pressed in a way that looks uncomfortable and scalps shaved close. The woman’s ears stick out—she’d look better with hair. The baggy but practical dark brown bodysuits barely allow the glow of their Identibands to shine through.

“Good afternoon, New Capital High.” The man’s voice is gravelly and low. He isn’t the male recruiting officer we’ve had the past few years—I know, because the last one’s voice was rich, and higher—but they change out for no reason sometimes. The speech is always the same anyway. “Welcome to this year’s Recruitment Assembly. We are recruiting officers from the Clinic, as mandated by the high government of the Quantum, here today to talk to you about changes within the Quantum over the course of the past year, the opportunities of working for the Clinic, and to lend an invitation to a select few of you to join our enterprises.”

The woman steps up to the shorter of the two microphone stands and clears her throat. It’s so obviously rehearsed you have to wonder if practicing for the Recruitment Assembly is the only thing they do the other three hundred and sixty four days of the year. “Since the Recruitment Assembly last year, the Quantum has continued to expand, adding a new Eleventh Reality in our linear chain. Some of you may have felt the effects of this expansion in lightheadedness, dizziness, and a rapid heartbeat.” I didn’t, but Amelia did—she threw up for a week straight in May. “As you know, you should not worry about this, as Quantum expansion is a natural and right process and, as always, the Clinic monitors the stability of the Fifth Reality in order to prevent possible collapse.”

The woman’s lips lift in a thin smile as she continues. My stomach gurgles from skipping lunch and Amelia shoots me a smirk. The sweat has begun to collect on my palms too quickly for me to keep them dry against the dress. “Monitoring and maintaining the stability of the realities within the Quantum is just one of the many responsibilities of the Clinic. Our engineers also preserve the inter-reality time stream—making sure that none of the realities fall behind or ahead in the pacing of our time—and our doctors and scientists work to uphold the sanctity and safety of our reality. Recruiting officers like the two of us,” she indicates to herself and her male counterpart, “hope to keep all of you, the citizens of the Fifth Reality, informed about what occurs within the Quantum and how you may also join the Clinic in order to maintain this peace and order.”

The man nods, then opens his mouth to speak. The woman steps away from the microphone and concentrates her gaze on him. “You all know us because we all know you. As you know, every human being within the Quantum, at birth, receives their first Identiband, which we change out for larger and more advanced models as the child grows. As high school students, you all have now received what will be one of your final Identibands—the ones you have now will remain with you until we have constructed a better version with our ever advancing technology.”

I stare at my Identiband and spin it around my wrist. The green glow pulses in time with my racing heart.

The speech is almost done. If Ramsey’s going to attack, it has to be soon.

The man’s smile looks forced, painful. “The Identibands function to allow us to keep track of your thoughts and actions in relation to the thoughts and actions of the versions of you in the other realities, in order to maintain your safety. Our goal is to keep every member of the Fifth Reality as safe, happy, and prosperous as possible, so that the Fifth Reality might be the very best reality for all of you to live in.”

The woman nods to his words like she’s never heard them before, even though she has been the New Capital High female recruiting officer since my brother went here.

In unison they say, “Thank you.”

The woman steps forward in order to better speak into her microphone again. “The Clinic has been monitoring all of you over the course of the past three hundred and sixty five days in order to find who might best fit our program for new recruits. As always, we have selected the ten most qualified students. I will now read the list of names.”

It’s supposed to be a big honor, the Clinic inviting you to join their team, but hardly anyone ever accepts the offer. It’s difficult work and you’re isolated a lot from the rest of society.

The man reads the first name. “Connor Brynn.” A year twelve boy I recognize from the baseball team stands near the front row. He holds his arms close to his sides and tilts his chin up at the officers. “The Clinic has selected you to become an officer of the Fifth Reality. Do you accept this responsibility and honor?”

“No, sir. I’m sorry, sir.”

“Very well.” The male recruiting officer doesn’t even bother to look in Connor’s direction. “You may return to your seat.”

The female recruiting officer says the name of a girl also in year twelve, the girl rejects the offer, and so the Recruitment Assembly continues.

I’m year eleven, at sixteen years old, and they never choose anyone from below year twelve, so I don’t pay attention as the names continue. My mouth is dry and pulse racing faster and faster as I glance around the auditorium for Ramsey. She’s nowhere in sight. I squeeze my thigh with one hand.

It’s okay, Alexa. It’s going to be okay. Ramsey wouldn’t attack you here, now. It’s probably just a rumor anyway. It’s—

“Alexa Dylan.”

I don’t know who’s said my name at first. I don’t even realize it came from the crackling speaker system rather than one of the students sitting around me until I feel the eyes of every person in the auditorium fall upon me.

“What?” My voice is quiet in my own ears.

“They called your name.” Amelia prods me in the shoulder. “Get up, you numbbrain. Stand up and tell them your decision.”

“But we’re only year eleven.”

“Doesn’t matter. Get up.”

The female recruiting officer clears her throat into the mic, just as practiced a sound as before. I can’t remember the last time someone didn’t stand and state their intent right away.

My knees shake beneath my weight as I push myself to my feet.

“The Clinic has selected you to become an officer of the Fifth Reality.” The woman has to squint to see me from beneath the harsh lights onstage. “Do you accept this responsibility and honor?”

The word, “No,” is on my lips. The tip of my tongue taps the roof of my mouth, ready to pronounce the N. But then the word that slips out instead is, “Yes.” Full of breath, but loud enough to hear. The kids around me shift away, turn to stare. My Identiband is pinching my wrist.

It’s strange, because I don’t want to work for the Clinic. I’ve never wanted anything to do with them, and I prefer the way I only baseline understand the way the Quantum works—it’s so vast and complicated and frightening. I don’t want to know more.

But the word comes out anyway, nearly of its own accord.

Maybe it’s good, then, that Amelia shouts, “Oh my goodness!” and someone else screams, “It’s the Ram!”

I think Eric says something too, but everyone seems very far away, including myself.

I think the light on my Identiband flickers, green to something else—a color I don’t have a name for—but I don’t know, I don’t know, because it’s still pinching the soft skin at the base of my hand and the reason I haven’t been able to spot Ramsey up until this point is because she has been sitting directly behind me.

And she chooses this moment to grab my wrist, spin me to face her, and punch me in the jaw.

She mouths something as I fall, but I can’t make it out

I’m aware of screaming, and falling. Then darkness, dark, dar—

**********

68

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter Three”)

I’m hooooome!

Sammyyyyyyy

I barely got through my classes yesterday because I was just so excited to get home. This was the longest and most disconnected I’ve ever been from my family before, because if I do get to study abroad this summer, it’s going to be for over a month on a different continent and I wanted to see if I could actually do that if I tried. I’m usually that student who goes home every other weekend and sees her dog more often than she sees half her college friends, but evidently I did manage it, so five points to me (and now I’m going to spend my entire Thanksgiving break hugging the living daylights out of Sammy).

I didn’t get any writing done yesterday because it was so busy (class all day, plus packing, then the long drive home and having a family dinner, and we watched The Hunger Games to prep for them seeing Catching Fire today, and WE HAD SO MUCH TO CATCH UP ABOUT BECAUSE I HAVEN’T TALKED TO MY FAMILY IN AGES AND I MISSED THEM GAH). So I’m not sure what that means for NaNo and getting everything done on time, now. It’s only 4.5k more, but I really need to work on my homework (especially my two genetics projects, because I’m struggling to pass that class right now). But we’ll see what happens.

Anyway. This week’s Wordy Wednesday is the third chapter of my NaNo 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.

Read Chapter One here. And/or Chapter Two here.

**********

Chapter Three

I fidget in the worn, straight-backed theater chair the teachers usher me into in the auditorium. We just finished getting ready fifteen minutes ago, but the shoes I borrowed from Amelia are one size too small, so already my heels are hot and chaffed and my toes ache from squishing into the end. My dress, on the other hand, is two sizes too big—I borrowed it from my brother Calvin’s girlfriend and the fabric, a paler version of the Identiband green, repeatedly dips off my shoulder no matter how many times I pull it back to where it should rest against my collarbone.

Amelia nods her approval as she slides into the seat beside me, like she can’t tell how nervous I am. “Love the heels.”

“I don’t think you’re allowed to say that.”

The shoes are navy blue, the color of a river at dawn, and just tall enough to make it look like my legs are an acceptable length without making me trip all over myself.

“Pshhh. Obviously I can say that, seeing as I had to love them enough to spend stamps on them in the first place.”

“You still sound self-absorbed.”

A crackle and chirp comes from the stage. The rows and rows of students already seated in the auditorium turn. Principal Scully stands center stage before the taller of the two microphone stands set up for the recruiting officers. Amelia leans back in her seat and crosses her arms. She raises an eyebrow—a dare for the principal to speak.

“Hello, New Capital High.” Principal Scully’s voice comes through garbled as the tech team works to adjust the old sound system. “This is a reminder that the Recruitment Assembly will begin promptly in five minutes and you must remain in your seats through the event, or suffer penalization by the Clinic. As always, you must not speak unless told to once the recruiting officers enter the premises. Thank you.”

“He should really try writing a new speech one of these years,” Amelia says.

I bump her shoulder. “No, half the students would have a heart attack. I’ve had this one memorized since year two.”

Amelia is just turning to me to retort when someone beats her to it: “What’s this about having a heart attack? Has someone fallen in love with me again?” Eric slips into the seat on the other side of Amelia and winks in my direction. His pale skin and messy auburn hair draws looks from the other students around us, but he doesn’t bat an eye.

Eric’s been getting those looks for longer than I can remember. He told me once that they bothered him—how everyone here thinks he’s odd since his hair is such an unusual color, a genetic anomaly—but since we became friends with Amelia, he just jokes about the stares.

With all the looks I’ve been getting today, I think I understand why. It’s easier.

I give him a wry smile. “The only reason someone would have a heart attack over you is if you tried making a move on them.”

His hand flies to his heart. “Oh. Miss Alexa Dylan. I’m hurt.”

“Like you don’t already know how I feel about you.” I bat my eyelashes, then pretend to gag myself with my pointer finger.

“You two are so cute.” Amelia throws her arms around us and squeezes. “You’re like an old married couple, minus the old and married and couple parts.”

I push her away. “Disgusting.”

“Oh, you talking about yourself now?” Eric raises his thick eyebrows. “You’d better be, after making me watch your vegetarian food for so long.” He says “vegetarian” like it is something unholy. “What’s happening anyway? Why have you two been so gossipy today?”

“It’s a bit of a long story,” Amelia says, feigning disinterest.

“The recruiting officers aren’t here yet. We’ve got time.” He leans back in his chair and runs a hand through his unruly hair. Eric is wearing khakis and a light blue button-down, but he doesn’t let the nice clothes keep him from resting his loafers on the armrest of the chair in front of him.

The year nine boys sitting on either side of it turn to us, scowls already slipping across their faces, but don’t make a move when they spot Amelia. She smiles at them and waves them away. There’s a reason everyone in Amelia’s family is in politics.

Eric meets my eye. “So?”

“It’s not actually a long story.” I shrug. “It’s just that the Ram apparently has been spreading a rumor that she wants to attack me during the assembly.”

“You mean your pretty face is going to be all messed up by the end of this?” He reaches over Amelia to gingerly pat my head, a melodramatic pout on his lips. I glower and it transforms into a grin. I swat him away.

Amelia slaps her hands over our mouths. “Shhh.” The house lights dim. “It’s starting.”

**********

67

day 27I apologize for the little bit of messiness. Since I’m not at school, I had to edit the numbers using Paint instead of an actual dry erase marker.

In other news, I currently have half a contact lens stuck in my left eye (it ripped in half last night and I was only able to find and pull out one part–I cannot, for the life of me, find the other half, although I can feel it stuck in there) (I know, I’m sorry people who have phobias of eye problems–*cough* Hannah), but yeah. I’m going to go try to figure out what to do about that now. Then work on NaNo until my guilt and panic win out over doing homework.

~Julia

NaNo Day 21: Excuses, Excuses

This day last year, I won NaNoWriMo 2012. I was way ahead of schedule, the writing was easy, and it honestly didn’t affect my life that much.

I’ve done fifty thousand words in the month of November twice before. The first time it was a challenge because, well, it was the first time. The second time was a challenge because it was freshman year of college and people had warned me not to compete in NaNoWriMo because November’s such a nasty month for college students (and never tell me I can’t do something, because then I need to do it).

Maybe I read and slept a little less, and sure I wrote in class a lot more (I still don’t know how I managed to four-point fall semester 2012), but all in all, NaNoWriMo was easy.

Enter this year: Third year in a row doing fifty thousand words. Same number of credit hours as last year, and a whole lot less pressure to perform well in my classes. I only have class three. days. a week. Yet NaNoWriMo is insanely difficult this year.

Maybe it’s because this year is a “been there, done that” situation. I’ve proven that I can do NaNo in college already, so I’m not as motivated. That happened junior year of high school too–I just barely made it to my goal of 25k by the end of the month.

Maybe it’s because Thanksgiving is so late this year, so I haven’t had my chance to write my brains out over the break from school yet, and I probably won’t even get to do that once the break does come around next week, because I have to do a project and write my genetics term paper during it (my prof assigned both a major project and our freaking term paper to be due the day we get back from break–not cool, genetics prof, not cool).

Maybe it’s because my homework level has exploded. I’m barreling my way through internship and study abroad applications; figuring out whether or not to double major or do a minor or find a part-time job on top of writing and critiquing and conference planning. I’m writing and editing short story after short story in order to be ready for my college’s winter writing competitions and lit mag submissions that are all due in a couple weeks.

Or maybe it’s because of everything I’ve been through in the past year. While I guess you can say this is true every year, I’m a much different person, now, as a sophomore, than I was as a freshman. And that’s primarily because of writing. I basically sprinted through writing from NaNoWriMo senior year of high school through September of this year. During that time I wrote two novels, lots of short stories and songs and poems, won contests, got published in anthologies and lit mags, and from February of this year through September, I spent countless hours revising Cadence.

That novel basically became the meaning of my life this summer–during July and August, I worked on it ten or twelve hours a day, six days a week, sometimes more. Then in September I was done and I didn’t know what to do with myself anymore.

I have been so in the mode of Cadence for so long that it’s strange to suddenly be completely out of that universe and the heads of those characters, and thrust into new ones. And as much as I love The End Where I Begin, it’s taking some getting used to.

So: NaNoWriMo is hard this year. A lot harder than usual. But you know what else? My very first year doing NaNoWriMo, I competed in the Young Writers Program, which meant that I could choose my own word count to shoot for during the month. I chose 25,000 words, and I didn’t begin writing that novel at all until the evening of November 21st. And I still finished on time despite that obstacle.

I have won NaNoWriMo every year since freshman year of high school. This is my sixth year competing.

Sure, things are a little harder than usual this year. And maybe (probably) I won’t finish on the schedule I set up for myself. But I’m not giving up–I’m going to keep pushing through.

And I will have 50,000 words written by the end of November.

day 21Thanks for the smiley of encouragement, Hannah.

~Julia

PS. LESS THAN TWELVE HOURS UNTIL CATCHING FIRE!!!!! AHHHHHHHH! MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR!!!

PPS. Happy day-after-your-birthday to one of my best friends in the world, Tatiana! She is brilliant and the snarkiest of snark monkeys. She hasn’t posted in a while, but you should check out her blog here anyway.

PPPS. BUT SERIOUSLY OHMYGOSH CATCHING FIREEEEE! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S FINALLY HEREEEE! WAHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter Two”)

School is just absolutely nuts this month, because of finals coming up and everything. I only had time to write a little over 1k yesterday because I had to spend so much time on homework and figuring out my schedule for the next few semesters (I’m thinking of adding a minor, which means restructuring when I take other classes to make room for the new ones). I was up until almost 2:00 AM doing that, then so far today all I’ve done is work on more Spanish homework. And I’m still not done with it.

Hopefully I’ll get a couple hours to write today. And hopefully my weekend doesn’t turn out nearly as busy as it looks like it’s going to be, because I am falling seriously behind on my schedule for NaNo.

In the meantime: The winning option for this week’s Wordy Wednesday is an excerpt from the novel I’m writing this month. Reminder that this is really rough and hasn’t seen any real editing yet.

Read Chapter One here.

**********

Chapter Two

The Recruitment Assembly doesn’t take place until after lunch, but the bathroom is already flooded with girls unbuttoning their uniforms and helping each other zip themselves into nice dresses by the time I excuse myself from the table. I try to slip past them to a stall, but the moment Stephanie Jones meets my eye in the mirror, they all stop. The rustle of fabric and happy chatter cuts off like someone has pressed pause in a movie scene. I ignore them and hurry into a stall. I lock the door.

“I heard it’s her fault the Ram got so hostile.”

“Didn’t they used to be friends?”

“Who cares. Nobody even knew who either of them were before Amelia got involved, and thank God for that, because the Ram is crazy.”

I lean my forehead against the door and let the cool metal leach the heat from my skin. My body feels like it’s turned into one of those vintage Easy Bake Ovens at the Cultural Museum in downtown. The curator let Ramsey and me try to make cupcakes in one once, on a fieldtrip when we were ten. They came out mush.

The memory does not help.

My stomach flips, and it’s nice to know I have a toilet within reach should the three bites of salad I managed to swallow in the cafeteria reappear. I don’t know what’s making me more nervous—not knowing whether or not Ramsey will actually follow through with the threat, or the fact that the entire school seems invested in if she does.

The girls in the bathroom go unnaturally quiet again. Footsteps clack against tile, approaching the stalls.

What if Ramsey’s come for me early?

I step back from the door and my calves slap against the toilet. I can’t move. Someone knocks. My heart slams against my ribcage.

“Alexa, are you in there?”

I exhale and close my eyes. “Goodness, Amelia, you nearly gave me a heart attack.”

I should not have to be this on edge in my own school.

“Oh, come on, even the Ram isn’t heartless enough to attack someone while they’re peeing.” I can practically see her roll her eyes from the other side of the stall door. “Eric wants to know if he should continue to keep an eye on your—and I quote, ‘nasty lunch of evil’—or feed it to the trash can.” The door creaks as she leans against it on the other side.

“What time is it?”

“Thirteen oh five. We should probably get ready for the Recruitment Assembly in ten, so up to you on if you want to eat any more between now and then.”

“I’m not sure I could keep much more down right now.”

“I’m sorry.” Her words are nonchalant but sincere. “I understand that. I’d be pretty nauseous if I were you. Let’s not forget how Brad Jennings puked his guts out that time she hit him in the stomach with a tennis racket.” Amelia forces a laugh, like just the sound could lighten the mood, although it doesn’t. The rest of the bathroom is still quiet, listening in. “Honestly, I’d like a little bit of a bully scare of my own, right now. I could stand to lose a couple pounds.”

I nudge the door with my shoulder. It shifts just enough to let her know I think she’s an idiot.

“You know the Ram’s going to go after you one of these days, too. And you will not be nearly as accepting of the situation when that happens.”

“Honey, I created the Ram.” Amelia’s vowels are rounder than mine, more polished. Not nearly as European as her accent was when her family first came to North America for her mother’s job, but enough that she sounds like she knows exactly what she is talking about, even though right now, I know she’s just trying to keep my mind off what will happen once I leave this stall. “She’s just a bully—a big coward. She’d never dare threaten me.”

“You positive about that?”

“Shush.” Amelia nudges the door back at me.

“I’m just saying, you seem to think rather highly of your—”

“She’s not going to hurt you at the Recruitment Assembly.” My best friend’s vowels go even rounder, like she’s losing some control of the way she speaks. Her words are quiet, and harder than usual. “I promise. Nobody will touch you.”

I unlock the door. She stumbles as it swings inward under her pressure.

Amelia is only two inches taller than me, but half a world more confident. The fact that, as I absorb her words, her lips tug down at the corners and she looks away, smooths her blouse, scares me.

“Do you know something I don’t?” I tilt my head and raise an eyebrow. “It’s just the Ram. Sure she has a penchant for turning everyday objects into weapons, but it’s not like she’s going to kill me.”

“You never know with her.” She straightens and her ponytail swings back and forth like a pendulum.

The bathroom is so quiet the voices of other students passing in the hallway are audible. I turn an exasperated gaze on the other girls all standing there, watching us, and they blush, look away, but don’t apologize. They return to applying lipstick and bobby pins.

To Amelia I say, “I’m just worried the Ram might give me a black eye for Homecoming. But you sound worried about more than covering a bruise for pictures. What’s bothering you?”

“Just the same.” Amelia shrugs. “Of course. Now, should we let Eric dump your salad before it becomes sentient, or what?”

**********

66

day 20

Off to go attempt not to drown under my mountains of homework!

~Julia

PS. ONE. DAY. TO. CATCHING FIRE. AHHHHHH!

Wordy Wednesday (“The End Where I Begin, Chapter One”)

First off: The Divergent trailer premiered today. React accordingly. (I’ve watched it five times already. It’s not my favorite trailer ever, and I’m worried how much people who haven’t read the book will be able to get out of it, but it’s got me excited nonetheless.)

Second: I’m currently in the midst of my final re-read of Catching Fire before the movie comes out next week, and OHMYGOSH I am both terrified and overwhelmingly excited to see this on the big screen. I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself next Thursday.

Third: This week’s Wordy Wednesday is an excerpt from my NaNo, The End Where I Begin. (Note: Gillian’s name has been changed to Amelia since I posted the plot blurb I just linked to with the title.) (Also note: I know this is really rough and probably more than a bit cliche, so keep in mind that this is just a first draft, please. I’m sure it’ll get better with revisions.) (Also also note: I realize some of the names, like Mrs. Prudent, are ridiculous. Please bear with me until I find better ones.) (Also also also note: The number of these asides right now is getting even more ridiculous than the names. Sorry ’bout that.)

**********

Chapter One

            The stares begin in English class, the day of the Recruitment Assembly. The most important day of the year for students in the Fifth Reality. My desk is situated in the second to last row of the low, wide room, two from the left, in the perfect position to simultaneously take notes on Mrs. Prudent’s lesson about Thoreau and share exasperated looks with Amelia.

She sits to my right, with her legs crossed and pencil tapping against the edge of her desk, black hair held back in a long, straight ponytail that sways in time with the beat. She glances at me out the corner of her eye, then glues her gaze to the black board again. I frown, but she doesn’t answer the question the look shoots at her.

“Excuse me, class, give me just one moment.” Mrs. Prudent teeters to her desk and yanks a tissue from the box. As she blows her nose, twenty two pairs of eyes turn to take me in. The girls shiver; the boys snicker. I swear despite their reactions, we are not five years old.

Amelia’s pencil stops tapping and she leans over the aisle in a manner that would appear cautiously conspiratorial if it weren’t for the onlookers.

 “What’s this about the Ram coming for you during the Recruitment Assembly this afternoon?” Her voice quivers a little, whether from excitement or disgust I can’t tell. Her European accent turns the sentence down at the end, even more dramatic than her scowl.

I roll my eyes at the students waiting with bated breath to hear my reply and lean towards Amelia as well. “I don’t know.” Her brown eyes widen, accentuated by the thick streaks of black crayon around them. “All I’ve heard is that she’s planning to beat the snot out of me. No idea if it’s true or not. But do you truly think even the Ram would be gutsy enough to go after someone at the Recruitment Assembly of all places?”

“I don’t know, it’s not like she’s exactly—”

Mrs. Prudent clears her throat at the front of the room, a long, low sound like a cat hacking up a hairball. “Miss Anderson, Miss Dylan? Do you have something you would like to share with the rest of us?”

The rest of the students already know what we were talking about—the entire student body of New Capital High has probably heard the rumor by now. But my classmates have all turned back to the chalk board, backs straight, eyes barely even flicking to take in my paled cheeks and the way my fingers have clenched into a death grip around my pencil, so I don’t say a word.

Amelia composes herself enough to flash Mrs. Prudent one of her infamous, daughter-of-a-representative smiles. “No, ma’am. We were just discussing how especially interesting the lesson has been today.”

Mrs. Prudent doesn’t fall for the words, but the smile thaws her scowl. “All right. Just don’t make a habit of speaking out of turn in my class, or I’ll have to report you to Principal Scully.”

A few of the students around us—the ones who like the safe distance from learning the back of the room provides—hide snorts behind their hands. Mrs. Prudent has said the same thing to Amelia at least once a week since the semester began. Thank God that girl always has a way of getting us out of trouble.

Amelia doesn’t smile like she’s pleased with herself, the way she normally would. Instead she turns back to me with her lower lip sucked into her mouth, thin eyebrows so low her mascaraed eyelashes brush against them. She lifts her shoulders in a question. I nod.

I’m fine, the action says. I’m not worried about Ramsey.

But Amelia knows me, which means that she knows why the pounding of my heart is visible straight through my uniform and my knuckles are white around my pencil.

Ramsey Carp has been suspended probably more times than the rest of New Capital High combined, just since this semester began. Ramsey Carp has a history of landing her victims in the hospital with bruised kidneys and shattered wrists. Ramsey Carp hates me more than anyone else in the Fifth Reality—and today, my name and hers have begun passing lips in the same breath for the first time since last school year.

Chalk squeaks across the black board as Mrs. Prudent writes quotes from our text book, and pencils whisper across paper in reaction. Amelia doesn’t take her eyes off me as I spin my Identiband around my left wrist once, twice, three times. A nervous habit.

Out the corner of my eye, I make sure the bracelet is still lit the same green as an old-fashioned traffic light, as it always is. It’s stupid, because that’s the only color an Identiband can be, but sometimes I still check. It’s been a nervous habit since my first confrontation with Ramsey. All she did was twist my wrist, then, leaving her fingerprints as bruises. I’m sure, if she does attack me during the Recruitment Assembly, she’ll give me much worse now.

I spin the thick wristband two more times, then lace my fingers and place my hands on my desk. I nod to Amelia to say, I’m okay. I swear.

I wish it were true. I wish I were the sort of person who didn’t have to worry about my old best friend giving me a black eye in front of the recruiting officers from the Clinic. But I stopped being that girl four months ago.

**********

65

day 13

~Julia

NaNo Day 8: The End Where I Begin

Sorry today’s blog post is coming so late! I had to study all morning for my social science midterm and then, you know, actually take it (pretty sure I did all right, though, so that’s always good). Afterward, Hannah and I watched some Doctor Who (I’m finally all caught up!) and kind of just hung out on her futon for a while. Then suddenly it was 5:30 and neither of us had actually done anything all day, and it was kind of bad but also really nice since I’ve been running so much this week.

I think all the scifi stuff I’ve been watching and reading lately has been influencing my writing, because my NaNo this year is a YA science fiction novel, and I rarely write anything that’s not based in the contemporary USA. World-building is SO MUCH WORK, and the amount I’ve had to attempt to sneak into the opening of The End Where I Begin is throwing me for a massive loop. It’s going to take a ton of effort to clean it all up in revising, but right now it’s NaNoWriMo, which means that I’m just writing and hoping for the best.

Here’s the kind-of-really-crappy blurb I’ve been using to describe The End Where I Begin on the NaNo website:

**********

Sixteen-year-old Alexa Dylan has spent her entire life in the Fifth Reality, one of many versions of reality existing linearly of one another in the Quantum. She lives in New Capital with her father and brother, busy with school and hanging out with her best friends Gillian and Eric, altogether a normal girl.

But then one day a person she previously counted as a friend attacks her for no reason, in front of the entire school. Then the Clinic tells her the Fifth Reality has begun to collapse, and they have chosen her to travel to the Sixth Reality in order to prevent the collapse of the rest of the Quantum. And then Alexa leaves everything she’s ever known behind to save a world neither her friends nor family will ever have a chance to know.

**********

Trust me, I will write a better one once November is over.

day 8

Off to write!

 

~Julia

NaNo Day 3: Writing to Music

Sunday! I managed to get the requisite amount of work done on my genetics homework yesterday at around 8:00 PM, which meant that I then had time to actually relax with dinner and HGTV for an hour, then I joined Hannah in one of the dorm lounges to write for the rest of the evening. I stayed until 1:00 AM and managed to catch up to my goal for Saturday, despite being so behind from day one on Friday. So I wrote around 4,000 words yesterday.

Throughout the entire day, I had my November Splurge Movie Score playing on loop.

Every November, in honor of NaNo, I let myself buy one new movie score to write/do homework/live life to. This year’s Splurge is the score from Ender’s Game, composed by Steve Jablonsky. (I mentioned I really liked the music, right?)

I love how it’s got all of the louder, more in-your-face sounds of your usual scifi/action movie score, but also the softer, more contemplative cello weaving throughout it all to tie everything together. It fits my NaNo this year very well. I’m glad Ender’s Game came out at such a perfect time for me to get my hands on this for writing this November.

Here’s a preview of the score:

I write a lot to movie scores, since they’re good for not only helping get me in the mood I need for writing particular scenes (sad scene equals sad music, etc) but also for blocking out the rest of the world around me. Because I live in a college dorm, I always have neighbors and hallmates and friends going about, living their lives all around me. And that can be really distracting when I’m trying to focus on something. So: movie scores.

As a novel progresses, I find that I always end up getting attached to listening to one particular score–sometimes even just one song from it, on repeat–while writing. It’s funny because the movie that score is from could have absolutely nothing to do with my actual project, but the sound just makes the words flow somehow.

Here’s a list of the movie scores I’ve listened to for various novels. I definitely suggest checking them out, because they’re all beautiful.

**********

1. Petra’s Driving School + Inception

I’ve mentioned before that my incomplete novel Petra’s Driving School was the precursor to Cadence. I absolutely COULD NOT work on that project without Inception (composed by the one and only Hans Zimmer) playing in the background. The story very much had a sort of desperate, mind-twisty feel to it, so I think that’s why I latched onto Inception so much with it. (Also, I’d just like to mention: Inception is one of my favorite scores EVER. It’s such beautiful, complicated music.) (Inception is also my favorite movie, so that might also have something to do with it.)

*****

2. [title redacted for cultural appropriation] + Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II

You’d think my dream novel, which actually has something in common with Inception (dreams), would flow well with that score. Nope. I wrote most of this novel to the tune of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II by Alexandre Desplat.

*****

3. Cadence + Titanic

Yeah, I really don’t know. I mean–Titanic (by James Horner) is a gorgeous, brilliant score. Another one of my favorites. But the music has Irish influences and incorporates the sounds of a ship (one of my favorite moments in the song above begins at around 6:03–when I listen to the violins in that part, it sounds exactly like what I think an icy cold shiver would). Cadence takes place almost entirely on land, no boats or icebergs in sight. But I guess just something about the starcrossed love story and the desperation imposed by feeling restricted by your lot in life appeals to me. Cadence has a teeny, tiny bit of those themes woven throughout it as well.

*****

4. The End Where I Begin (first attempt) + Man of Steel

I really only ever listened to “Sent Here For a Reason” from Man of Steel (composed by Hans Zimmer) while working on the last version of my current NaNo novel, The End Where I Begin, during Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I’m not a big fan of the rest of the score, but that one song has such an inspiring, get-your-butt-to-work feel to it, so I’d play it on loop for hours at a time. It fit perfectly with the story I was trying to tell then. (Unfortunately, TEWIB just wasn’t working that way, so I had to abandon a lot of what I was doing with it in July and restart from scratch with the novel this month. It’s a much different story now. Hence Ender’s Game.)

**********

So, those are some of the scores I’ve noveled to in the past. Other favorites include the scores from The Hunger Games, the Chronicles of Narnia movies, The Dark Knight trilogy, The Amazing Spider-Man (whenever I got tired of Titanic with Cadence, I’d switch over to this one since it’s similar but just enough different to, you know, be different), Star Trek (2009), the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tron Legacy, the song “Aurora” by Hans Zimmer (I do homework a lot to this one–I know, I’m a terrible person), the cover of “Bring Him Home” from Les Mis by ThePianoGuys (that was another major dream novel song), and more recently the score from season one of Once Upon a Time.

Do you like to write to music? If so, what kinds? Do you like listening to score music? What are some of your favorites?

day 3

Off to work on the Spanish essay due this week. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it with enough time to actually write for a bit today!

 

~Julia