Liebster Award?!

FIRST OFF: Thanks so much for 112 followers! I’ve had so much fun with this blog and hope to connect with more people in the future.

Thanks so much to Remants of Wit this award! Please check out her blog–it lives up to its name. I especially recommend her if you like reading/writing (which you probably do, if you’re a blogger!).

RULES:

1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.

2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.

3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.

4. Nominate 11 blogs (with under 200 followers).

5. Notify these blogs of the nomination.

6. Give them 11 questions to answer. 
WHOOP WHOOP, HUR WEH GERRRR

11 Random Facts About Me!!

1. I’m a dog person.

2. I had nightmares about dead pet fish for several years.

3. I wrote a newspaper about pretzels in elementary. I thought it was hilarious.

4. I used to like York peppermint patties, but ever since I heard someone comment that they taste like toothpaste, I can’t quite recover.

5. I eat way too much pasta.

6. Sometimes I point out where Genoa is on a map to my seven-year-old brother so I can feel smart.

7. I am recently obsessed with the musical Hamilton.

8. (Whispers) I’m aro-ace. Which makes it dang hard to enjoy a good romance novel.

9. Rapunzel is my favorite Disney princess.

10. My favorite color is turquoise.

11. My ultimate life goal is to become a meme.
11 Questions from Remnants of Wit!!

Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck?

1. I hate waterfowl. Loathe waterfowl. I’d take 100 duck-sized horses in a heartbeat. 

What is the last book you read that made you cry?

2. Like, ugly-cry? The Book Thief. I’m still dying inside from that book.

What is an achievement you’re proud of?

3. Not giving up writing. I believe I have mentioned before that I am a smol, fragile little egg, and comments like “this manuscript isn’t worth my time” from a crappy critique partner stick with me. I’m so, so glad that I pushed through the bad years, and I allow myself to be at least a little proud that I made it.

Cake or pie?

4. Depends. Cakes can be dry, pies can be suspicious. If given the choice, I’d probably play it safe and choose cake.

What’s your favorite pizza topping?

5. Pepperoni, or barbeque chicken and (cue evil laughter) PINEAPPLE

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

6. One thing? XD I’d really like to drop the social anxiety. I feel like I missed out on sooooo many good friendships. Although… I’ve always wanted to be a ninja… or a pirate… I love pirates so much…

If you could ride any dinosaur (and it wouldn’t try to eat you), what dinosaur would you choose?

7. PTERODACTYL. Tbh, I’m still in the Magic Tree House fandom, and Jack and Annie got to ride a Pterodactyl… dude, I missed out on so many great childhood experiences.

Tell us about something you did that was really dumb.

8. (Delirious laughter) Okay. Okay. Um… So there was this time in fourth grade when I signed up to sing a solo for a class play. We practiced with the CD during all the rehearsals except for the last two, during which we used piano (at a different tempo), and—WHY, GOOD MORNING, SOCIAL ANXIETY—I kid you not. I sang well enough with the CD, but when we switched to piano, something in my brain just went NOPE, and after I sang the first word, I froze. And stared. And died. Prepubescent panic attack. I cried after every rehearsal. Why didn’t the teachers take me from the part? No frikkin’ idea, because the same thing happened at the play. In front of all the elementary plus some parents, which to a fourth-grader, was the entire world. Yay school.

Why did you start your blog?

9. Partially because I need one—ya know, emerging writing junk. Partially because I love talking to people online. I don’t get to talk to many people in real life.

Do you consider yourself to be organized?

10. Erm. Tough question. I want to be organized, but then anxiety is like, “Dude, you can’t handle that. If you get organized, you’ll realize how much you have to do, and then you’ll panic.” You can imagine how that works out.

Do you tend to overthink things?

11. Sometimes I do, and then sometimes I go SYSTEM ERROR. BRAIN OVERLOAD. SHUTTING DOWN IN 3…2…1… my, my, quite unfortunate that I missed the deadline for my term paper, isn’t it, old chap? Care for a spot of tea?
My nominations!!!

Unboxed Minds

Summer Teel

Miles of Pages

The Bipolar Architect

Sylvia Jo

Blog of a College Writer

Thoughts explored 

The moon

Elizabeth Doherty

Walt’s Writings

Nature Art

And my questions for you:

1. What’s an interesting place you’ve been?

2. Strange childhood obsession?

3. Favorite book genre?

4. If given the chance to be immortal, would you take it?

5. Can you whistle?

6. Was there ever a time you preferred the movie to the book?

7. Do you have any pets?

8. If you could have another ability, what would it be?

9. What place do you want to live the most (real or fictional)?

10. Favorite Disney movie?

11. What is the best thing ever, in your opinion?

“Galaxies” (A Poem)

“Galaxies”

She wonders if they see beyond her crooked teeth and neon rubber bands. 

Perchance. 

Today, they hurl chalk across the classroom. The pieces pop against the blackboard and drop to the floor, leaving behind white specks. Unnoticed specks. 

She digs her fingernail into an eraser. What would they say if a piece of chalk hit her instead of the blackboard, if she flinched, if she looked up and meet their plastic gazes? 

Galaxies, they would say. She has galaxies in her eyes. 

They would burn her at the stake like a witch. The rubber bands would sizzle and pop as the angry mob cried out against potential explosives in the universe. Burn ‘er up, pop pop pop! Keep galaxies where they belong! People with crooked teeth and mottled skin are not allowed to keep galaxies in their heads. 

Too dangerous, they would say.

She’ll read a story she wrote aloud in class, spewing stardust. She won’t mean to, but she’ll sneeze, and her rubber bands will pop. She’ll drop a solar system. They’ll stare.

You have something in your eye, they’ll say. The teacher will ask if she needs a nurse’s pass.

She’ll hesitate. Clear her throat into her sleeve. No, she’s fine, thank you, if she could sit down for a moment. Sorry. 

Would she want to finish her story? 

No, she’ll say. No, it’s okay. 

They throw chalk. Specks on the blackboard like stars. 

She bites a pink rubber band in half and wonders if she is a star. And do stars shine when no one is there to see them? 

Do galaxies?

Galaxies, they would scream. She has galaxies in her eyes. Burn ‘er up, pop sizzle! 

Her head spins. Her flesh melts. Her mind explodes, sprouting black holes of color inside millions of supernovas.

Copyright 2017 Lilly Hunt

Writing Madness

I’M BAAAACK!

Wow, it’s been a busy month! I’m excited to get back to writing and reading blogs. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

I finished self-editing my novel 😀

I’m now desperately scrambling for beta and sensitivity readers so I can have my novel to my (hopefully! She’s promised a contract!) agent by the end of August.

I hit the freakin’ Motherload

Honestly still in a daze. Check this out:

Not gonna lie, I freaked out. Squirrel-on-drugs type freaking out.

And then a week later…!!

This is for One Teen Story, which has been my dream publication for about two years now (it has a circulation of almost 15,000). It’s also going to be my first print publication for a short story…!!

Both of those contests together awarded $1,000, which is the honestly the most money I’ve seen since I had to pay for my braces. I’m going to the awards ceremony at Ole Miss tomorrow for the Eudora Welty Creative Writing Contest.

Moral of the story: don’t let all the rejections discourage you!!

I’m doing an online mentorship with the fantastically amazing Adroit Journal

…Which has also been a dream publication for a while. They haven’t accepted any of my stories, but they did accept me for a free mentorship, and the advice I’ve gotten has been invaluable. Speaking of which, I have a short story due Thursday that I haven’t started on… ouch…

-I attended a writing workshop in Jackson, Mississippi 

Just got back Friday, actually. I’m really proud of myself for going after having struggled with severe social anxiety this past year, getting therapy, etc. I forced myself to speak with some of the professors and actually didn’t regret it. One of them said he’d be willing to write recommendation letters/be an advanced reader for my novel :DDD (I freak out over everything, if you haven’t noticed. No chill.)

Here are some signed books I got:

Aren’t the covers gorgeous?!

Several of you have given me blogger awards (for which I am eternally grateful!!), and I’m going to get to those asap. 

See you in the comments 😀

-Lilly

Writer Quirks

We all have our quirks, but writers especially reserve the right to be a little eccentric. Here’s a few of my quirks when it comes to writing.

  • I write action scenes with shoes on.
  • Chocolate. All day. Every day.
  • For emotional scenes, I write in bed.
  • I write conversational scenes and plot in the chair in my room or on the living room couch.
  • I can’t write outside.
  • I can’t write longhand. 
  • Can’t write in public, either. Coffee shop would never work for me. I usually have to be at home.
  • If I’m having writer’s block and am frustrated, I have one of the main characters eat a poisoned Snickers bar and die (yes, in 16th century Europe).
  • I write my best when I have three tests that I really should be studying for. I’m not even kidding. I must be cursed. Writer’s high hit me exam week this year and it was the worst thing ever.
  • I also write really well between 11 pm and 2 am. 
  • Stuffed animals.
  • I have to be holding something when I write. I usually end up with a handful of clothes hangers.
  • I generally write better when I’m listening to music with lyrics than when I’m listening to instrumentals. I like listening to instrumentals when I have the mental freedom to concentrate on the music (I love me some Beethoven and Tchaikovsky!).
  • Cereal. Sweet cereal. Frosted flakes.
  • Also milk. But not in the cereal. Soggy cereal is the worst.
  • I don’t actually get any writing done when the previous two bullet points are involved. Pretty sure it’s just an excuse to eat on the couch.
  • I can’t edit unless I’m at least a little tired. If I try, it usually ends like this:

*opens laptop*

Me: LOL look at what this loser wrote. Such crap. Hahahahaha.

*closes laptop*

Or like this.

*opens laptop*

*delirious laughter*

*deletes entire book*

*defenestrates laptop*

So what are some of your writer quirks? Tell me in the comments!

-L

1st Person Present POV–Should It Be Used?

The use of first person and present tense together has been a strongly debated topic in the writing world. Some writers/readers are strongly against it, and others prefer it over all other POVs and tenses.

It seems that the main argument for first present is that it’s intense. First person keeps the readers close while present keeps them on their toes. The combination of the two makes for a unique experience for the reader.

One downside of this intensity–it can mentally exhaust readers, especially those who aren’t accustomed to first present. I’ve started several books and not finished them simply because the first person POV and present tense was taking my attention off the story, and I had to work to get back into it.

Another complaint against first present is how narcissistic it can seem. It can begin to feel like the narrator is showing you around his or her house while narrating every. Single. Thing. They. Do.

“I pick up my brush and run it through my long brown hair. I put the brush down and go into the kitchen. I make myself a sandwich and eat it. I am reminded of how my father used to make sandwiches for me.”

That’s not to say that first person present shouldn’t ever be used. Like most things, there’s a time and place. Here’s my take on when and how it should be used–

First vs. Third Person

This is widely a matter of preference. I prefer to have my suspense novels in first person and my thrillers in third. The close, on-your-toes, I’m-not-really-sure-what’s-going-on nature of first person adds suspense to the novel. 

In thrillers, however, the emphasis is weighed more heavily on the action side rather than on the suspense. There’s probably not going to be as many elements of mystery as there is in suspense novels because thrillers are so fast-paced. The reader needs to know exactly what’s going on; there’s no time to slow down and speculate as to who the killer is. The limited point of view could hurt the story.

As to the problem of seeming narcissistic, that can be fixed by focusing less on your main character and focusing more on his or her surroundings. Try to take out as many “I” pronouns as you can. I know that sounds like you’re making the voice passive, but in reality, you’re getting deeper into the character’s head to see things from his or her POV. That’s good.

Let’s rearrange the example I used above.

“My hair frizzes when the brush touches it, popping with static. I put the brush down and go into the kitchen to make a sandwich. The first bite is a tangy mixture of pickles and peanut butter. Dad used to make me sandwiches like this when I was five.”

See how taking out several of the “I” pronouns makes it seem less narcissistic? Magic.

Present vs. Past Tense

Here’s my opinion.

Present is for poetry. Past is for stories.

Okay, but I’ve read many good books in present tense where I actually liked it in present tense. What made the difference?

These books focused heavily on themes, symbolism, and other elements that are also elements of poetry. Several were allegories. A book that focuses heavily on plot and more on entertainment than on enlightening the human race (like adventure/action novels) might do better in past tense. It’s just more natural for stories. 
Again, point of view and tense are both largely matters of preference. However, I do believe that there are circumstances in which one story would do better than another with a certain POV and tense. Don’t just pick a POV and tense because it’s popular. Make sure it fits your genre and story. 

I’ve also read a few stories that didn’t follow the rules I set up here and were better off for it. Very few, admittedly, but they exist. The authors took command of the POV and tense and made the POV and tense add to their stories rather than distract from them.

That said, if you think first person present fits your story, go for it! I’ll be rooting for you louder than anyone else.

-L

Book Review: I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Markus Zusak is probably best know for his #1 NYT bestseller, The Book Thief, which I thoroughly enjoyed (despite the tears and the massive headache which may or may not have been brought on by too much fangirling). I decided to venture into some of his earlier works. The first one I encountered was I Am the Messenger (alternatively titled The Messenger).

I Am the Messenger is “the story of down-and-out teenage cab driver Ed, who receives cryptic messages via playing cards that direct him to help strangers in need.” (Chicago Public Library) The novel starts off in a bank in Australia, where a gunman is keeping Ed and his friend Marvin hostage as he attempts to rob the place–

The gunman is useless. 

I know it. 

He knows it. 

The whole bank knows it. 

Even my best mate, Marvin, knows it, and he’s more useless than the gunman. 

The worst part about the whole thing is that Marv’s car is standing outside in a fifteen-minute parking zone. We’re all facedown on the floor, and the car’s only got a few minutes left on it. (Zusak 1)
The thing that struck me as soon as I began reading it was how different it was from The Book Thief. I opened it expecting sickness and death. What I got was Ed.

According to pretty much everybody (including himself), Ed is worthless past, present, and future. He’s illegally driving a taxi. The one girl who cares about him has stuffed him into the dreaded friend zone. His father died an alcoholic, and he’s stuck delivering coffee tables to his not-so-lovely mother. Depressing, I know, but I still found myself laughing and nodding along with Ed. 

Ed is hilarious in the self-depreciating sort of way that many millennials are. Through all the humor, I did sense the underlying theme of depression, which was remarkably well-done and touched me deeply. Zusak’s voice and style are incredible.

There was a bit of an info dump at the beginning, but it wasn’t too much of a sore thumb. The book was fast-paced, and it would’ve been hard to give out information and background about the characters as the plot progressed and quickened. So, forgivable.

Clichè? Perhaps a little. There was a little bit of the “chosen one” trope lingering among the pages, but I think Zusak may have done that on purpose–we realize as the book progresses that there isn’t anything special about Ed. Ed’s never really been on a journey to save others, anyway… he’s on a journey to save himself.
As to the target audience, I wouldn’t recommend it to elementary kids because of references to sexual abuse and, you know, “doing the do” in general. Also language. It’s not erotica, though, so it should be a safe and comfortable book to discuss in an older teen or adult book club, for example.

The story has elements of action, adventure, suspense, romance, and humor. It’s sweet, bitter, sad, happy, angry, and deep… something for everybody. It’ll take your emotions on a roller coaster ride, but it’s so worth it. If you’re looking for a page-turner that makes you both laugh and cry, I highly recommend I Am the Messenger. 4.5 stars out of 5 from me.

Until next time.

-L
Sources:

www.chipublin.org/markus-zusak-biography/
Zusak, Markus. I Am the Messenger. Knopf, 2006. Print. (ISBN: 978-0-375-83099-0)

Mystery Blogger Award!!

A huge thank you to Shatter the Fourth Wall nominating me for the mystery blogger award!! Please do check out her blog. She has something against pineapple on pizza, but she is rather witty and her posts are as deep as they are a pleasure to read.

Okoto Enigma created this award. Check out her blog as well 🙂

So I’m supposed to tell three things about myself (chugs three Dr. Peppers and crushes the aluminum cans in my iron grip). HERE WE GO.

1. Hello. My name is Lilly. Two l’s in the middle. I am seventeen years old and very pale. I’m from Mississippi, USA, a state which continually makes the list for both the poorest and the fattest place in America. Go figure.

2. I own a 15-string Renaissance lute but no television. I can do overtones (sing more than one note at a time), but I can’t whistle. I recieved the class award for Latin I, Latin II, and Spanish I, and I studied French, Italian, Cherokee, and American Sign Language on my own for fun, but I still only know English. I have a sword and a dagger and have read the A-Z of Punishment and Torture (great read, btw) but am scared of needles. I want to study abroad and travel the world, but I have two types of anxiety that make me want to projectile vomit when someone asks if I want to hang out. I can hula-hoop, jump on a pogo stick, spin a basketball on my finger, and do some freakin’ insane tricks with a yo-yo, yet I still remain in the top five least athletic people in my class.

Yay me.

3. I can obsess/fangirl over anything. I also stalk fandoms. I have the rare ability to remain undetected within a fandom even if I’ve never read the book or watched the show.

So now for the questions!! Are you ready? Because I’m not. I’m never ready.

1. What made you start your first blog?

Well, I didn’t want to start a blog. I dislike talking and I obsess over everything I say. Unfortunately, a blog is something that a writer must have if he or she wishes to… idk. Platform stuff. Blog. Yay.

Not gonna lie, though… it’s actually been pretty fun. Y’all are terrific.

Y’all. Why does that word exist. Sounds like an obscure type of pasta.

2. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Ah… I would say thin air, but there isn’t much of that to go around in the Deep South. My novel idea came from a dream I had where there was lots of running and fires and dead people and I was like, dude. This is kinda cool. So I wrote 300 pages.

That’s thin air.

I also think it’s intriguing how much suffering a human being can take. Physical, mental, emotional, whatever, until they either break or heal. I like exploring that. Seeing how these characters I create react to it. How they lift each other up even when their own suffering is incredible.

The human experience is fantastic. Not saying that in a good or bad way. It’s just fantastic, and if I can’t experience everything myself, I’m going to write about it so I can experience it through someone else’s eyes.

3. Do you trust anyone with your life–who and why?

I guess my parents. I feel like this question could go deeper–who would I trust with my emotional life, etc.–but I’ll leave it at that 🙂 I’ve had too much Honors English this year.

4. What/who is something you deem underrated–this can be an object, artist, experiences, etc.

Unequivocally Maximilien Robespierre. He deserves a place with the greatest evil masterminds of history. Instead, he’s stuck sitting beside his heap of guillotined heads and de-Christianized calenders, gazing up at what could’ve been while high school students write papers about Hitler and John Wilkes Booth.

Bitter.

5. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

“You are so unashamedly you.

It’s not even true most of the time. The truth is that I’m weird, and sometimes I let that slip XD But I’m glad I came across as genuine to somebody. Hit me right in the heart that I may or may not have.
And now… with great pleasure, I nominate the following for the mystery blogger award!

betheredragons.wordpress.com

waltswritingsonlife.wordpress.com

jillmillwardartwork.com

adultingwithcoffee.com

flash-365.com

shivashishspeaks.wordpress.com

makeitultrapsychology.wordpress.com

doodlewash.com

HERE ARE THE RULES FOR THIS AWARD:

  • Put the award logo on your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and link to their blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award (Okoto Enigma) and provide a link as well.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Nominate roughly 10 – 20 people for this award.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blogs.
  • Ask your nominees five questions.

HERE ARE MY FIVE QUESTIONS FOR YOU:

  • What do you love more than anything else?
  • Have you ever done something that you thought you would regret but didn’t/vice-versa?
  • What is your opinion on ladybugs?
  • Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
  • Is there something you wished you liked but don’t? E.g., you wish you enjoyed eating new foods, but you don’t.

Thanks again for the nomination! Also for the feedback I’ve been getting on my blog. It’s fun to sit behind a screen and pretend that I have something to say.

Until next time!

-L

Humor: The Origin of Politics

In a literary sense, this is not my best piece, but it was extremely fun to (try to) research and write. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

The Grand Convention–Origin of Politics

Napoleon Bonaparte had picked an extremely inopportune date for the Grand Convention of World Leaders. Rain poured down in waterfalls from every elevated point in the small medieval city and washed over my shoes in great brown rivers. I clutched the sketchbook hidden under my shirt and glared at the back of person’s head who stood in front of me. The line didn’t seem to be moving at all.

I’d been looking forward to this convention since I was a little boy. It was a hush-hush sort of thing, and only people with potential were invited. That was too pleasant of an adjective to describe those unqualified people who were invited to the convention. The convention was to take place in medieval England this year, and I’d thought that the organizers of the event would invite me. Surely they could see past that fact that I wasn’t much more than an artist looking for a little action.

They couldn’t, apparently. Shallow of them. I know.

I had to come, though, even if I was forced to beg for a spot in the convention. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one with that idea. The line to the door of the castle stretched nearly a mile.

The person behind me tapped my shoulder. “Excuse me.”

I ignored him. Probably another miscreant wanting to take my place in line so he could get a chance to see what the convention was all about. They’d been bothering me all morning.

Excuse me,” he said, louder. His voice still had a couple prepubescent cracks hidden in it. “Are you deaf?”

I turned to face a short boy in his late teens, wearing a cap that hid only half the smallpox scars on his forehead. A large book peeked out from underneath his worn jacket. “What do you want?” I snapped.

He sniffed and scratched his nose. “This is the Grand Convention, isn’t it? Am I at the right place?”

“It’s the convention,” I said. “I take it you’re not a major world leader?”

He cast a glance at the long line ahead of us, and his lips turned down in a tight frown. “Well… no. But I am at the top of my class. Headed to theology school on scholarship. My mother thought it would be a great opportunity for me to attend this convention on the premise that I—”

“Good for you.” I wrapped my arms more tightly around my sketchbook. “But unless you’re a major world leader, you’re not getting in any time soon. The guards are checking everyone for the plague.”

His eyes grew wide. He had odd eyes—irises like black pits with the whites tapering into yellow spider webs. “Guards?”

“Yes. There should be hundreds at this event. Rumor has it that someone’s planning an assassination of Julius Caesar.”

He turned pale. Sniffed. “Really?”

“And Guy Fawkes may be in the city.”

Derr’mo.” The boy cast a glance toward the medieval castle looming far in front of us, and he knitted his eyebrows together. “The castle doesn’t have a basement, does it? Please tell me there’s no basement.”

“There’s no basement.”

“Ah! Praise be to God.”

“There is a dungeon, though,” I said. “Along with murder holes and all those nice things that come along with fourteenth-century Europe. Not to scare you.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but a knight dressed in chain mail and a feathered helmet whacked him hard on the back. “Move along! We haven’t got room for the lot of you.”

There were a few shuffles, but no one left. The boy folded his arms across his chest and sniffed defiantly.

“I said we haven’t got room, you plague-sores!” The knight moved along the line, trying to disperse the crowd. He stopped when he saw the boy behind me. “Hold a moment. Do I know you?”

The boy’s face lit up. “Joseph. From the Young Dictators’ Workshop.”

“Ah, yes! Joseph from the Young Dictators’ Workshop. You worked in the cafeteria. Right good service that was.”

Joseph looked at me and gave a nervous laugh, his fingers tightening around his book.

“You want a place?” The knight clapped Joseph on the back again, and Joseph winced. “You’ve got a place. Come along with me. The rest of you get out of here!”

No.

No. I had to get into the convention.

I motioned to Joseph, who looked confused for a few moments before he shook his head and started after the knight.

“It’s not going to hurt you to help me out,” I shouted after him. “Do you even know how long I’ve been waiting for this?”

Joseph sighed and motioned for me to follow him.

On the way in, I introduced myself. Joseph proceeded to relate his long family history. I stopped listening after the part about his father being a shoemaker and focused my attention on trying not to breathe the foul air that seemed to soak the entire city.

Shouts drifted into the castle’s hallway long before I saw the room in which the Convention was to take place. When the double doors opened for us to reveal the room, I took a step back. Amazement washed over me.

Huge torches lined the entirety of the dark, musty-smelling space, casting flickers of light on all the strange faces. People of all nationalities, wearing everything from suits to furs to loincloths, stood around the room as well as on top of the chairs and tables. Most of them were screaming at the top of their lungs. I pointed out the closest man to Joseph. “Who’s that?”

“You mean the man with the wig? That’s Maximilien Robespierre. I remember him from the workshop.” He waved and shouted, “Bonjour, Max!”

Robespierre spun on his heels, nearly losing his balance on the table. He pointed a bony finger straight at Joseph. “You’re next, you enemy of the Rebellion! The guillotine is wet with… red… body fluids of death!”

“He’s too squeamish to say the word ‘blood,’” Joseph said, laughing as he waved goodbye to Robespierre and started walking. “You want to take a bench in the back?”

I took off my hat and mopped my face with it as we walked. The room had a musty feeling that created a surreal, albeit uncomfortable, atmosphere. “The side will do. I like to get a look at faces so I can draw them.”

Joseph raised an eyebrow. “You’re an artist?”

I withdrew my sketchbook from under my shirt and waved it at him. “I am. Sending out my résumé next week to an art college, actually.”

He smiled—a nice smile that surprised me. “Congratulations. I hope you get in.”

I hoped I did, too, but I didn’t say so. I sat down and directed my attention to the woman mounting the makeshift stage at the far side of the room. She set a bowl of grapes on the lectern and tapped the microphone twice before lifting it to her lips. “Hello, hello,” she said, tucking her raven-black hair behind her ear and smiling. “May I graciously ask for everyone’s attention?”

The shouting continued.

The woman’s smile faded. She drew in a breath and let out a bloody scream into the microphone.

The noise decreased, and then stopped altogether. Robespierre pinched his chin and shot the woman a look before climbing down from the table.

“I just wanted to thank everybody for attending,” said the woman. “My name is Cleopatra. Many, if not all of you, already know me, but just in case, I’m going to list all of my accomplishments.”

“You mean affairs,” shouted a man from the back.

Cleopatra’s face flushed. “Shut up, Henry. You’re the one with six wives.”

“One at a time,” he yelled back. “Did you want to arrange something?”

The room erupted with accusations and insults. I leaned over to Joseph. “Do you think things could get violent?”

He looked up from his encyclopedia and shrugged. “Donald Trump is here. If things get too bad, he’ll build a wall.”

I looked around for someone interesting to sketch. From where I sat, the only people I recognized were Richard the Lionheart and Prince Jon. The latter had borrowed a match from Winston Churchill and was lighting the Magna Carta on fire.

“Anyway,” Cleopatra shouted over the uproar. “Does anyone want to remind me of the purpose of this convention? I attended a wonderful dinner party hosted by Marc Antony last night, and my mind seems to be going in and out today.”

“To discover our purpose,” said a man. “World leaders seem to have no real reason for being alive.”

“Thank you.” Cleopatra clapped, her long nails clicking against the head of the microphone. “There’s a reason why you’re called Alexander the Great. Any comments on that brilliant thesis?”

A woman wearing a huge dress with hair piled half her height raised her hand.

“Yes? Marie Antoinette, isn’t it? I’ve read about your execution.”

Marie’s voice was small and sweet. “Ah—execution, Madame?”

“Reign, execution, whatever. Continue, please.”

Marie smiled and lowered her hand. “I believe everyone has a purpose, whether they be good or evil.”

“Bad grammar!” shouted Robespierre. “Guillotine her!”

I hoped he stayed in that position—waistcoat flayed open, index finger extended. It was a nice position to draw. I made a few marks on my paper.

Joseph inspected my work for a long moment. “You ever thought about drawing political cartoons?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“Don’t.” He sniffed and tightened his tie. “It’s dangerous unless you’re doing propaganda for the government.”

The conversation of the world leaders didn’t vary much from the original topic after that. Attila the Hun spoke, and then George the first and second and third and fourth and most of the Henrys and Charleses and Williams. Some poet from Japan said something, but none of the leaders were very poetic, so they just sat in silence until he finished and then started arguing again.

Cleopatra popped a grape into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed. “Is everyone done?” she asked.

The room went silent.

“Great,” she said. “So we’ve concluded that the only purpose of world leaders is to wreak havoc. Am I correct?”

Most people in the crowd nodded or murmured their assent.

“And what should we call this? Somebody throw out something ridiculous.”

“Poly-ticks,” said Erik the Red in his deep, throaty voice. “Means ‘many bloodsucking creatures.’ Just thinking about it makes me want to kill a couple monks.”

Cleopatra pinched her chin and shrugged. “Don’t you think we ought to have something less obvious? I wouldn’t want our species to die off too quickly. How about ‘politics,’ after the Latin word ‘polis?’”

“What does that mean?” Erik asked.

“City.”

“Bah! Nothing exciting about that.”

Cleopatra laughed. She started pacing the stage. “Exactly! We disguise it as the dullest subject possible. So boring that when adults discuss it, children start picking their nose. So devoid of life that high school students will repeat junior year just so they don’t have to take Government. So seemingly pointless that uninformed college students will weep over history books.” Reaching the lectern again, she leaned onto it and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Weep.”

The room went silent. A feeling of utter awe swept over me, and I was sure that the world leaders felt it too. This was genius. Beautiful, even.

Politics.

Cleopatra straightened. “All in favor?”

The room exploded with cheers. Robespierre stood on the table and did an awkward little dance, unheeded by the rest of the celebrating world leaders. Marcus Brutus throwing Olympic wreaths everywhere, Genghis Khan spouting some rubbish about invading Russia in the winter, Winston Churchill smoking so happily that he almost wasn’t frowning.

“At this time, I’d like to invite our host to give closing remarks,” Cleopatra said, rapping on the lectern to gather the crowd’s attention. “Napoleon Bonaparte?”

No one moved. Finally, Andrew Jackson spoke up. “I think he was banished to the Isle of Elba.”

She sighed. “I didn’t want to listen to a speech, anyway. Go forth and wreak havoc, everybody! Be sure to thank any non-plague-infested medieval citizens for allowing us use of their castle.”

After about half the world leaders had filed out, I closed my sketchbook and stood. “Good to meet you,” I told Joseph, extending my hand.

He transferred the encyclopedia to his other arm and shook my hand, his yellowish eyes meeting mine. His grip was surprisingly strong for such a short person. “What did you say your name was again?” he asked.

“Adolf,” I said. “Adolf Hitler.”

He grinned. “Joseph Stalin. Maybe we’ll meet again.”

“Sure.” I held open the door for him as we walked out. “Good luck in the priesthood, by the way.”

“Many thanks! And you in your art.”

“No worries.” I held up the sketchbook. “I’m going to conquer the world. You watch.”

Joseph laughed. “Oh. I’ll be watching.”

Historical Fiction: The Struggle

I don’t consider myself an expert on historical fiction, but I have learned a few things in the five years I’ve spent writing a novel set in sixteenth-century Europe. 

That’s a lie. I’m still confused. This will probably end up as more of a rant than advice. Here goes–

A Good Percentage of People Don’t Know What a Baldric Is

Gawwsshh. Don’t you people spend hours of your weekend sitting at home researching obscure accessories?! Have you never read The Three Musketeers? Ugh. Peasants.

My Character Is Covered in Dirt and Blood but He Can’t Take a Bath Because That Would Be Historically Inaccurate

This is the point where I go stand in the shower and cry for all the beautiful people who lived under layers of dirt and grime because bathing regularly was un-Catholic.

Just… just take this bar of soap… from me to you…

My Character Doesn’t Feel Well. Shall We Visit a Doctor?

*Holds off storm of leeches, saws, opium, and other abstract medical instruments and medicines* NO. How about let’s just… pour a little balsam on that severed arm. It’ll feel better in a few days. No need to get “professional” help.

Glass Cost So Much That Rich People Took Their Windows with Them on Trips

This. This is one of the perks of historical fiction. I just want to hug this fact and have a chapter in my book dedicated solely to rich people taking their windows out and giving dirty looks to anyone who so much as looked at their precious glass.

World Building

Oh, come on. This is a thriller. You really expect me to pause and talk about the poor people who used oiled paper as windows?

Wait. No. That’s the glass thing again. I’m okay with talking about that. *Gives haughty look to all the peasants who don’t have glass*

The Frustration of Not Being Able to Quote Shakespeare

If I’d just set the novel thirty years later… 

But Still Stealing Shakespearean Insults

You egg.

*Exit, pusued by a bear*

Putting Off Writing a Scene Because You Still Don’t Know When Doorknobs Were Invented

Why. Why did I struggle so much with this. Doorknobs and locks and roofs and architecture and I don’t know anything–

Ya know what? Let’s just take that door away. Nobody needs to know about my doorknob struggle.

Being Angry That People Didn’t Wear Coats

But then realizing that cloaks are ten billion times hotter. Seriously. Cloaks and capes.

Still Loving Your Time Period Despite All Its Shortcomings

Because if it’s good enough for your characters, it’s good enough for you. I love you, 1521 Anno Domini.

Although you still quite literally stink.

–L