One Word

Why is it that one word from even a complete stranger has the power to ruin your whole day?

I participated in #SFFpit. For those of you who don’t know what it is: it’s a Twitter event where wannabe authors can pitch their novel to agents. It’s a little bit of a desperate shout into the void, but it can be fun at the same time. All you do is type up a tweet length pitch of your sci-fi/fantasy manuscript, tweet it with the hashtag SFFpit, and hope for the best. You can tweet once every hour for each project. The goal is to gain likes from agents or publishers. If they like your post, that means they want you to query them and you have a shot of getting represented or published. It’s preferred that only agents and publishers like posts. Otherwise, you get the author’s hopes up. If you want to show support for a pitch, retweet or comment, but don’t like.

Why do I bring this up? Well, reading through the instructions of #SFFpit, it sounds easy enough, but it isn’t. You can’t fit a lot into a tweet, so you REALLY have to simplify your work in a way that sounds appealing to everyone. When you have so much packed into a novel like I do, it’s REALLY hard to do (and all the authors say “Amen!”). It took me a while, but I came up with a pitch that I was actually pretty proud of. This is it:

A son of an alchemist is hand-picked as the apprentice to the kingdom’s only mage and is given no reason as to why. When Darkness threatens the land, he must find an ancient artifact to save his loved ones from evil’s corruption.

That was the simplest way I could describe my book without dumbing it down to any cliché. I thought it sounded mysterious. I thought it did a good job hinting at the fact that my book has more too it than those two sentences portrayed. So, with high hopes, I shared that tweet all over Twitter and quite a few people supported me by retweeting and one guy retweeted that it sounded mysterious! That sounded like a victory to me!

Then, came the one word from one random stranger. I scrolled through my notifications, hoping to see a like by agents, but instead, I see someone’s comment on my pitch. One word that has got to be one of my top least favorite words:

Weak

Talk about a shot to the heart. I was appalled, taken aback, shocked, astounded, and every other word in the thesaurus. I lost focus on what I was supposed to be doing that day. You see, all my experiences on Twitter had been encouraging because the writing community is awesome. Then, that stranger comes in and criticizes my work in the worst possible way. Just one word. Nothing else. I worked hard to come up with that pitch! I wanted to get angry. I stalked the guy’s profile and I honestly wasn’t impressed. He didn’t look like a guy that should be taken seriously. I almost responded with a snarky (rude) comment, but I quickly remembered that agents would be seeing this stuff too and that made me panic. What would an agent think if they saw someone commenting “weak” on my post? Would it make them change their minds about liking it? I tried to delete it, but all I could do was hide the comment and I’m not even sure if that hides it from everybody. Then, I made the spiteful and childish decision to block the dude. I hope you understand: this guy’s “weak” comment was the first bad feedback I’ve ever gotten when it comes to promoting my novel on Twitter. I like to think I handled it well enough?

Yet, blocking the dude and hiding his comment didn’t get that word out of my head. The damage was done. I started fretting that maybe the dude was right? Maybe my post is weak? Looking back at it now, it…sadly is. I mean, it’s a trope, right? Common kid is chosen for greatness and has to save the world. Welcome to nearly every YA story out there. You’re probably thinking of three of them right now as you read this or maybe you’re thinking of your own story? My point: a lot of stories follow the same plot line. It’s how we mix it up that makes them special and that’s what I didn’t include in my pitch.

So, I started rewriting it. In query letters, I’ve been told you focus on your main character, get the agent attached to your main character. So, I tried that approach and ended up with this:

The unwanted son of a commoner dreams of proving himself and he gets his shot when Darkness finds an ancient artifact that could destroy the kingdom. If he can steal it, he’d be a hero, but his mistakes place it right in enemy hands. All he loves will perish if he can’t correct his error.

Better, right? Well, I didn’t like it. Still don’t like. Yeah, it kinda ups the stakes more. A poor kid wants to be noticed and his attempt to get noticed ends up putting the entire world in peril. It’s still kind of a common trope if you think about it. Yet, what I don’t like about it is that it doesn’t sound like my story. That doesn’t sound like my main character to me. He’s not a thief. He doesn’t break rules. Yeah, he’s desperate to prove himself, but he wants to do it the right way. I posted that little pitch on Twitter and I didn’t receive any likes from agents, so I decided to reword it again. I decided that my main character might be a little too trope-y for a Twitter pitch so, let’s focus on what the title of my novel aims directly at: the artifact.

A lot of stories have artifacts in them: Lord of the Rings, King Arthur, Sword of Shannara, even the Never-Ending Story has one. Point is: lots of great stories have a “find the artifact and save the world” vibe or even “destroy the artifact and save the world” vibe. Yet, what makes these stories unique is how different the artifacts are from each other or the world these artifacts are placed in. You could have two artifacts that are the exact same in two different stories, but the characters and settings are complete different which allows both stories to be one of a kind.

So, what makes my artifact special and how do I pitch it without spoiling the story? Well, I know how special my artifact is. I don’t think there’s a story out there that has anything like it. I’ve reread the scenes in my novel its involved in so many times because of how much I love it. The tricky part is pitching it. So, that same #SFFpit day, I came up with this:

An ancient artifact forgotten by history holds the fate of the world. When evil finds it, a commoner turned mage must retrieve it. If he can’t control his power and the power of the artifact, this whole world could be swallowed by Darkness.

That sounds pretty cool, right? Forgotten by history means that no one knows this artifact exists and suddenly it’s in the hands of evil. Now, this poor commoner turned mage has to go get it and he has no idea what he’s up against. No idea what this artifact can do, but the fate of the world depends on him getting it back. I’m pretty proud of this new pitch. I plan on using it in future pitch events. I’d love to tell you that this new pitch got a couple agent likes, but…I can’t say if it would’ve or not. You see, I typed this up, posted it on Twitter for the last two hours of the event and it was after the event that a kind gentleman–with pity probably typing his every word–informs me that I used the wrong hashtag. Instead of #SFFpit, I typed #SSFpit. So, agents following the event hashtag would not have been able to see my post…

Long story short: my first #SFFpit did not meet my expectations.

BUT! There was still a victory in the day. “Weak” comment guy forced me to take a good, hard look at my pitch and instead of pouting and crying over a bad review, I’m proud to say I rose above it. Made my pitch better. I mean, if you think about it. One word from a random stranger can only ruin your day if you let it. You can turn it into the building blocks for improvement. You just have to remember to never give up. Especially when you want something as badly as I do.

Moving forward, I used my new pitch in the Twitter #mockpit event. It’s an event where you can post your pitch and other writers will give you feedback on it and you’re encouraged to give feedback on other pitches as well. I got some decent feedback and some good advice. I was warned that my summary–though interesting–was pretty vague and I was encouraged to use my main character’s name. Honestly, that’s hard for me. I’m SUPER protective of my story and my characters so just throwing their names out there is scary. I haven’t even included their names on this website. Yet, when you think about it, there are a thousands of people trying to get published and we’re all throwing our character’s names out there. Some people have super unique names that I would be worried about anyone copying or stealing, but my main character? His name isn’t very unique. It’s actually a bit common if you think about it, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Since it’s common, do I really have to worry about someone stealing it? I mean, there’s a lot of people with this name and a lot of people have the same name in real life, so what does it matter?

Now, this new advice told me to focus back on my main character, describe this evil a little more and why my main character has to struggle to control his own power. In giving me this advice, the person made assumptions on my book (and that’s a rant for another day), and she wasn’t right in those assumptions, so I tweeked my pitch again the best I could. This is what I came up with:

Justin is a commoner chosen as the apprentice to the land’s only mage. It’s great, until monsters find an artifact lost to history. To prove himself, Justin disobeys orders & pursues the artifact…only to send it to a Dark being who wants to control the world.

Now, #Mockpit allows you to post three revisions of your pitch. So, I posted this one on Twitter. However, because there are so many people trying to get recognition by others and not a lot of people providing feedback, my pitch was overlooked. I only received a single like from someone. But that’s better than nothing.

Thinking over it all, it’s funny how one word can lead to so much growth. I’m happy with where my pitch is at and I plan on using it in future events. As for you, whatever you face, whatever words get thrown your way, I hope you use them to your advantage. Words have a lot of power to them, but you get to decide what kind of power.

Writing Prompt: Future Diary

Write a diary entry, dated ten years into the future.

2/09/2031

I had a great day. I did a book signing for the third trilogy in my series. There were so many people who showed up, I almost cried. Mom couldn’t make it this time, she didn’t want to fly all the way to New York, but she’ll be there when we get closer to home. You won’t believe who showed up today, though. An old roleplay buddy! We met for the first time today though we’ve known each other for over twenty years! I didn’t even know it was her. She said she recognized certain things in my novel that reminded her of our old roleplay. She’s the first one to recognize that stuff and I can’t believe we finally met. I took her out to lunch after the signing. I’m so glad she’s doing good. We have plans to meet up again.

I almost can’t believe I have three trilogies out with my series. It’s hard to believe that ten years ago I never thought this would be possible. I had only one novel completed and was struggling to just get representation for it! Now, look at me. I’m a published author, my series is a hit, and I have plenty more stories to tell. I praise God for this. I know I wouldn’t have been able to make it here without him. I remember all those nights I cried for this and now here I am. Guess I should’ve trusted his plan more. It’s funny, if you think about it. All this started because I got upset when my favorite character died in a novel I read in high school. I still haven’t finished that book. It’s hard to find, but I am grateful for it. I’d much rather be sharing my stories, my daydreams to the world than working at…well, working at a vet clinic. I do love animals, but my mind needs to be able to fly and it can’t do that if I’m worrying about medicines all the time.

I should head to bed. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow and I have to get up early to squeeze in some writing time. I made it.

2/09/2021
If you’re going to dream, dream big.

Writing Prompt: The Middle

Writing about the middle of something, anything!

Have you read the middle of my book? Probably not, but–not to toot my own horn–it’s pretty good!

A journey begins after a crimson dawn. One young man itching for a shot to prove himself, to make up for his by-standing. He faces his first real challenged and…well…isn’t very helpful. He gets credit for trying though, right? He’s trying SO hard to prove he’s not useless, to prove that the people’s faith isn’t in vain. I mean, he’s been told all his life to get out of the house. Go be someone else’s problem. Get away before you make a mess. You’re not wanted here. So, when he’s given the shot to be someone, he’s gonna take it! But he keeps making mistakes. Every shot to prove himself winds up slipping through his grasp. All he did was stand by, this other person saved the day first, and he couldn’t even stop them from taking what he needed.

Everything on this journey will be new to him and he’ll never admit that he’s scared to do it alone. At every mistake, he gets back up. He keeps trying again and again. Not because his pride is on the line (or perhaps he’s just too stubborn to stay down), but because his loved ones need him to succeed. So, the middle is the start and he heads off at full gallop.

Skeletons in the Closet

A lot of people out there have hobbies of collecting things. Maybe its some sort of card? Pokemon cards, baseball cards, Magic cards? Maybe you collect bottle caps? Bobbleheads? Snow globes? Hats? Or something else. Some collections, society wouldn’t define as weird like some of the things I’ve already listed. Other things we might keep in the dark so that no one judges us for it. We hide them in the closet and only pull them out when no one is around to waggle their fingers at us. Well, allow me to go out on a limb and share my skeleton in the closet. And I literally mean skeleton. My weird collecting habit is that I collect skulls and bones.

Relax. They all belong to animals.

This might be a surprise to some of you. “What? The animal lover collects animal skulls?!” You can blame my anatomy classes. Skulls and bones in general are just fascinating. They’re the foundation of an animal’s features–a person’s features–or maybe I’ve just seen the TV show BONES one too many times. I know there are places out there where you can purchase animal bones, but that’s not what makes the collecting fun to me. I collect skulls that I find–which means I don’t have a lot, but that’s okay.

My first skull was given to me by a friend of my mom’s. I was little and they told me it was a cow skull because they knew it would upset me if they told me what it really was. Fast forward to high school and I realized it was a deer skull. My mom’s friends didn’t have the heart to tell me they shot poor Bambi, but they gave me his skull anyway…I still have it.

I found my second skull in college. It was laying by the manure pit at the dairy unit I worked at. It’s a sad little story because the skull belonged to a cat, a ginger one to be more specific. I found its bones scattered in one area, a coyote must have gotten to it. I gathered up most of the bones I could, but decided to just keep the skull. Now, I knew it was a ginger cat because the skull was still half covered in dried ginger fur. Yes. I tore the fur off. I soaked the skull in Ajax and bleach for a couple days before it ended up on my shelf. We actually use it for Halloween decoration when that time of year comes around.

My next skull was found when I worked at the zoo. One of the keepers gave me a tour of the abandoned exhibits and in one of the old keeper areas, I found a skeleton with a skull still intact. It had been down there a long time. There was nothing left of it but bones and the teeth were even falling out. I believe it belongs to a opossum. I didn’t want to look like this weird collector of skulls in front of my coworker, so I was reluctant in taking it. When she reassured me that she has a couple bones at her place, I scooped up the skull, we disinfected it back at one of the main buildings and when I got home, I glued the teeth back inside it. I didn’t do the best of jobs, but it’s still holding together.

Next skull is actually from a whole skeleton. My brother found a petrified mouse in our walls when he was redoing the basement. He saved it for me. He didn’t know if I wanted to keep the whole mouse or just the head and since the whole thing was still intact, I kept all of it. We disinfected it and I found a fixative to keep it together. He’s still kinda cute.

When my brothers were redoing my mom’s back deck, they discovered a tiny set of bones in the siding of the house. At first, we thought it belonged to a baby bird. We thought that bird built a nest in the wall, but then it got sealed up. The bones are so fragile and thin that your breath can move the skull across a table. Taking a closer look at them, though, they belong to a rodent. The skull isn’t in the best of the shape, but the spinal cord they found with it still has all the ribs attached. I keep them in a small cup to keep them protected.

One of my more recent skulls I found in my own backyard. A squirrel died under our shed and after a while of stinking up the place, something finally dragged it out. Being the only person not bothered by dead animals in my household, I was sent to clean it up. It was halfway decomposed and the skull was still intact. I couldn’t help it. I took the skull off, finished skinning it, and bleached it for a couple days. He’s not in the best of shape, but he still looks good.

My most recent find sadly didn’t come with a skull. Some animal must have bit the head off, but the skull isn’t actually the main feature of this animal. I found a dead turtle–still decomposing. It still has some flesh that needs cleaned off of it, but I can’t wait to see the bones underneath and the shell already looks really cool.

If you haven’t stopped reading by now, you’re probably thinking that I’m so weird or troubled in some way for collecting the bones of animals I’ve found dead. I don’t collect all of them. At my family’s Lake Condo, I found a dead deer along a trail–ribs, pelvis, legs, the like. I first spotted the ribs and when you’re alone on a woodsy trail and you’ve seen too many crime shows, your first thought is that you just found a human body. After the initial start, I slowed down to actually determine what these bones belonged too. The pelvis indicated an animal of sort and then I spotted the legs. Hooves. Fur. Yeah. It was a deer. I was down there for a while investigating it. I wanted to know how it died. I wanted to know what all was still intact. It was picked pretty clean by animals and yes, the skull was still intact, but I was not about to explain to my family why I was coming back to the condo with the dirty skull of a dead deer. I took pictures instead and the only member of my family that would even look at them was my brother. So, I don’t collected ALL the skulls I find.

Now, reading through this, you might be thinking of your weird collection or fascination. Its okay to be fascinated by the weird. That just means you’re seeing beauty in something that no one else does. I see beauty in the bones I collect. There’s craftsmanship in each one of them. Complexity and uniqueness. It’s one a way to appreciate life. And just think. These are just animal bones. Imagine the craftsmanship put into your bones. The complexity, the uniqueness. You’re alive with your own body that has its own quirks and features. You used to be two cells becoming one–no skeleton, no organs, just a one-of-a-kind cell multiplying to grow. Now, who knows how many cells you have. You have a skeleton, organs, and a chance to experience the world. So, a lesson from skeletons in the closet: life is just fascinating.

Tion

Did you hear that sudden motion?
A loud screech and scratch at the door?
It’s the monster that hungers for flesh.
Who’s face is hideous and fangs are huge.
All who faced him met extinction.

Did you see the lightning flash black?
The dark auras that rim his hands?
His eyes are deathly red.
His horns short and low.
The blood wall keeps you from coming back.

Did you know of the beam of light?
The bright flash that lit the valley?
They say a boy faced that monster.
Fought for justice alongside his partner.
Everyone should know the tale of that night

Did you remember the battle’s ending cry?
The names of the children that did survive?
Through the storm they fought the beast
That flash of light finally brought peace.
Now sleep once more under the starry sky
And remember that legends allow us to fly.

Written Fall 2013

Did You Miss It?

Did you see the daisies turn their heads to the sunlight this morning?
Watch the blue birds sore across the morning sky?
Did you kiss a child good morning?
Or war against the world with your bad mood?

Is your early fight for the coffee? Are you a zombie, groaning and slugging on, without it?
Do you rush off to work ignoring the hearts around you? Are you the center of the universe?
Did you acknowledge the old man frosted and begging on the street corner?
Could he be an angel in disguise?

How do you work in your workplace?
Are you the top notch or the lowest on the totem pole?
Do you greet everyone kindly or rush by clinging to that coffee coldly?
Have you ever helped those who needed it or only focused on your own work?

How do you treat the end of the day, as the sun sinks below the horizon?
Do you pass out on the couch or get busier again by cleaning?
Do you greet your family happily or have you no family to return to?
Is it all about what you want to do now that you’re not paid?

What time do you go to bed? What do you do before you go?
Do you watch the negative news? Sit out on your deck under stars?
Do you kiss the world goodnight? Look forward to another day?
Or do you grumble and groan on what tomorrow may bring?

Hidden beauty lies in front of our eyes,
Of the world and all it holds,
What was your focus throughout the day?
Did you miss it?

End of January

Honestly, I can’t believe it’s already the end of January. First month of 2021 is wrapping up tomorrow. Now, if you’re anything like me, the end of January can be a bit disappointing. I mean, at the start of the month, we celebrated a new year. We made new year resolutions (which some of us might have already given up on). We hope that this year will be a different year. A better year. Yet, when the first month goes by with more craziness than dreams come true, its hard to believe the rest of the year could be better. There’s 11 months left, so let me remind you that a lot could still happen and hopefully what happens is all good things.

Why do I find the end of January to be so disappointing if we still have 11 months to turn things around for 2021? The answer’s simple: I’m impatient. I’m sure I’m not the only one. We make our resolutions and we want to see results right away. My resolution was to write everyday–it doesn’t matter what I write, as long as I write something, but I haven’t been keeping up to that. Low motivation would hit or exhaustion or just downright busyness keeping me occupied. I want to write every day so that I could reach my goal of completing the sequel to my novel this year, and start the third book. Considering I have to rewrite three chapters, I’m not making a lot of progress, and that can add to the low motivation, the “I’ll never figure it out” doubt that keeps someone from writing, but the scenes deserve to be written right. Sometimes, you just gotta force yourself to sit down and write. I mean, I’ll never complete my sequel this year if I don’t write it. There’s still 11 months left, so it’s still possible.

Now, I know I’m not the only in this next endeavor. One of my top goals, hopes, and dreams for this year is to finally get an agent on board in representing my book. I’ve queried quite a few agents so far this year and as of the time I’m typing up this post (1/25/2021), I’ve only heard back from one, and it was a rejection. If that’s not a blow to the high hopes we all have at the start of the year, I don’t know what is. Yet, there’s still 11 months left, so its still possible.

We all think that a new year means a new start. We’re going to see changes like there’s some kind of magic that happens when the calendar year goes up by one. Then, the end of January comes around and not much is different from last year. Well, there’s still 11 months left, so it’s still possible.

Whatever the dream, the resolution, the goal, there’s still time to complete it. Allow me to encourage you to not give up! There’s still 11 months left to finish that book, or query an agent, or lose the weight you want to lose, or learn that skill you’ve always wanted to know. Whatever it is, keep at it. It may be the end of January, but there’s still a whole lot of year left. Keep going.

To Fly Free

Watch the bird soar through the air
So graceful, calm, and free
It need not worry of predators below
It’s high in the sky, in flight and free

So graceful, calm, and free
Could a ground’s prisoner ever achieve?
That high in the sky, in flight, and free?
To feel the wind rushing past you?

Could a ground’s prisoner ever achieve,
Real freedom from the world below?
To feel the wind rushing past you,
As you and you alone take flight.

Real freedom from the world below,
It must be possible to succeed
As you and you alone take flight,
The clouds are your terrain and you to fly free.

The Anxiety in the Query

It’s all typed up. You’ve gone through this a least a hundred times before. The query letter, the pitch, similar books, your bio. By now you’ve got them all saved on a word document, so it’s just a quick copy and paste with a few edits here and there to personalize it for every agent. You look it all over to make sure it’s correct. No typos, no grammar issues, or spelling errors. You triple check you have the right agent’s name. Quadruple check that they’re actually someone you want to query too and now all you gotta do is hit submit. You hover your mouse over the button. One easy click and it’s on its way, but then you wonder what’s the point?

You’ve lost count of how many “no’s” you’ve gotten. Of how many agents that didn’t even bother to respond. There’s a log in your journal of every query and every rejection, every alpha and beta reader, and a crossed out list of those who’ve…stopped reading or didn’t even start. Maybe you’re doing it all wrong, you wonder. Maybe there’s something that’s just not clicking? Is the hook not strong enough? Is Chapter 1 too lame? Is the word count too intimidating? Are you even selecting the right agents to query too? Is the story not as good as you thought? A heavy sigh escapes your lungs and you move your hand away from your mouse. All you have to do is click submit, but the anxiety is constricting your lungs and your heart is breaking. What’s the point of hitting send, when you’ll just receive another no?

You close your eyes and envision your characters, every single one of them, and you think of all the blood, sweat, and tears all of you have gone through to make this story happen. A handful of them gave their lives and another gave everything but his life (though you know he would, if you let him). Your main character walks over to you and looks over your shoulder at the computer screen.

“I’ll do my best to sound appealing. They seem like a good choice.”

“You always do your best,” you tell him. You try to smile to lift his spirits, but it’s clear he’s as discouraged as you are. All you do is hit submit. He’s the one who has to catch an agent’s interest. “It’ll be alright.” He gives you a look of doubt and you know what he’s thinking. Alright doesn’t sell your book.

“You should let me go!”

You turn around to see one of your other characters striding right up. Her hands are on her hips and her chin’s up in the air. A fire sparks in her eyes when you look at her. “I’ll get those agents in our corner!”

An unstoppable laugh breaks from your lips. “You?! If I send your sassy pants out there, we’ll never get published.” You look back at the computer screen and read over your query letter once again. “Likely, you’ll say something that’ll insult every single one of them.”

“Well, it’s not my fault they’re–”

“Don’t even finish that sentence.” You cut her off with a stern glare. “It’s up to him to hook the agents.”

When you motion to your main character, Miss. Sassy Pants rolls her eyes. “Right, because he’s so freaking special.” Before you have a chance to reply, she storms off.

“She’ll get over it.” Your main character watches her go, but when he looks back at you, he shrugs. “Eventually.”

“I know.” A defeated sigh slips from your lips and you stare once again at your computer screen. “She’s just frustrated. We all are. We’ve put so much into this and we haven’t even gotten a nibble.”

“Maybe this time will be different?”

You know he means well with the question, but you both share the same doubt. The effort to give an encouraging smile is too much of a strain. You lean back in your chair and find that you can’t even look at him. “It probably won’t be.”

“Then we’ll just try again!”

The loudness of the voice causes you to start. You and your main character turn around to find one of your oldest characters walking up. He plants his hands on his hips and gives a smile that might as well have its own light. It warms your heart when you see him, but you know exactly what’s coming.

“Try again?” Your main character attempts to argue for you. “We keep trying. We’ve been trying! Eventually, we’re going to run out of agents to query too!”

The smile on your older character’s face only widens. “Then we’ll query all the agents again!”

You shrug and refuse to look at either of your characters. “We’ve started doing that. It’s not working either.”

Your older character gives you an amused look and you begin to wonder why you made him so freaking optimistic. “What are those people on that blue bird…” He motions to your computer, not knowing what it is. “…thing…always telling you? Stay positive. Stay productive. Share your wins even if they’re small. If something isn’t working, revise, like you did with that letter there.” He points to your query letter, which you’ve improved thanks to those people on that blue bird thing. “We’ve still got a shot.”

“Yeah, but–”

“I’m going to stop you right there.” He cuts both you and your main character off and that twinkle in his eyes you love so much melts your heart. “You’ve wanted this for as long as I’ve known you and I, frankly, would like something to come out of everything you put me through! I don’t care how high the hurdles are. You know nothing is impossible. You know our novel is in good hands. You just need to be patient in hope.” He glances at your main character and nods to himself. “I’ve seen with my own eyes how patience can persuade kings and how the outcome of the waiting is often grander than we ever hope for. We’ll get there eventually, we just can’t give up.”

You know he’s right. You know you’re bound to get a yes one of these years, but you can’t shake the feeling that it’ll never come. “I just don’t know how many more rejections I can take.”

“Take them all.”

Those three words out of your older character’s mouth actually surprise you. “Excuse me?”

“Take. Them. All.” Now his face is beaming. “The more you have, the more proof you have of growth and overcoming. With every rejection, the sweeter the joy of an acceptance will be. As long as you keep improving and growing after every rejection, you’re still making progress.” He points at your computer screen, right at the submit button. “Just keep trying.”

“He’s got a point.” Your main character takes a deep breath and the look on his face tells you he was mildly kicking himself. “I mean, what we going to do? If we stop trying, we’ll just be stuck on your dusty bookshelf forever and not everyone’s dusty bookshelves forever.”

“Alright.” You manage a smile as you finally cave in and once again you’re grateful for every single one of your characters–even Miss. Sassy Pants. You put your hand back on your mouse and find the submit button once again. When anxiety presses against your chest, you take a deep breath to fight it back. Hesitation lingers in your fingers as the whispers of rejection weave through your ears once again. Yet, your characters lay their hands on yours and their encouraging smiles chase the whispers away. You nod to them and steel yourself. “No matter the outcome, we’ll keep trying.”

Writing Prompt: An Alien Disguised Among Humans

Include the following in your story: Aurora Borealis, paint brush, corn field, cluster, lineup, overlook, suspect, bridge, dome, dash.

“Dongion to Mothership. Repeat. Dongion to Mothership.”

“This is Mothership. You are due for a report Dongion.”

A thin smile curled upon Dongion’s lips when the voice of his superior came across the communicator in his hands. He glanced up and down to the alley to make sure he was still alone.

“Dongion? Report.”

“I have found the perfect location.” Donigon paced slowly up and down the alley to tame the giddiness that buzzed in his gut. Yet, he couldn’t hide the delight from his tone. “I have lived among this curious cluster of humans for a week now. They have much potential, but I dare say, they are disappointing.” He paused to scowl at some graffiti on the wall. Such toxic chemicals in that scribble they called art.

“You think you found a suitable planet? Our instruments can’t get any readings off that heap of rock.”

“That is because Earth has an atmosphere far different than our own.” Dongion’s grin widened and he took a deep breath. “It is delightful. They have these things called trees that clean the air and this refreshing…” He struggled to find the word. “…wet substance they call water. It is such a beautiful planet and dare I suggest, we could take it with the stroke of a paint brush.”

“A paint brush?”

“Pardon,” Dongion chuckled. “It is a saying they use down here. Humans do have an intriguing side.” He cleared his throat, realizing that this was not what his superior wanted to know. He glanced up and down the alley again. “However, we must act quickly if we are going to occupy this planet. The humans are killing it.”

“What?!”

“I shared your surprise as well.” Dongion nodded, his face fell graver with every word he spoke. “The humans are knowingly and willingly killing this beautiful planet. Their filth and stench pollute it further and further by the day. If we do not act quickly, it will even become too inhospitable for us.”

“Then these humans are undeserving of this planet. What kind of resistance can we expect?”

“Not much.” Dongion shrugged. “The humans barely notice each other. They will not notice us.” He lost count of how many times he watched humans pass starving humans on the side of the street or how they were too focused in their devices to even listen to each other. It disgusted him. “They do not even know that life lives beyond their planet. If done correctly, the takeover will be swift and easy.”

“I assume you have a plan already?”

“Indeed.” Dongion grinned once more. “We could even preserve some of the history of this planet and shame the humans as well. It would be much more satisfying than to just exterminate all of them.” He cleared his throat. “If the humans spot our ships in their sky, they will scramble and some will resist. Now, there are a handful of humans out in space currently–working on satellites and exploring–but a Tabaxian dome around them would cut off their communications and keep them from warning the humans on Earth. As for the humans on Earth, we should not offer a surrender. They have too many tales of resistances. Those that surrender could be feigning it to gain our trust and then stab us in the backs.” Dongion paused when someone passed by the end of his alleyway. “Other humans will try to dash for glory, but they can easily be incinerated by our blasters. There are those of weak will down here that will lineup for enslavement. If we offer food, housing, and protection to those who are starving, lonely, and forgotten, they will repay us with servitude. What good is freedom if you are dying in it, after all?”

“Well done, Dongion. I am impressed with your research.”

Dongion swelled. “I have prepared a full report for the Queen and I am eager to return. As a collective, we could take victory over the humans and make this dying planet healthy again.”

“You will personally make your report to the Queen. Is your pod still intact?”

HE would make his report to the Queen?! Dongion almost jumped for joy! What an honor! He had to take a moment to calm himself, so his childish giddy wouldn’t seep through his voice. “My pod is intact under a nearby bridge.” The underside of the bridge was chalk full of trash, so his pod went overlooked by the humans. He wanted to lay his pod down in a corn field, but someone else was occupying it. He would’ve liked the corn field, it wouldn’t have been as stinky as the underside of the bridge.

“Take your pod to the Aurora Borealis. We will pick you up there. Mothership out.”

The communicator fell silent, but Dongion held it like he were holding a trophy. He had finally done it. He had finally done something for the good of the collective! “We will thrive if we’re able to save this planet.” Donigon turned his gaze up toward the hazy blue sky. A smog of pollutants was blurring the beauty of the clouds drifting overhead. He’d go back, report to the Queen, and the takeover would begin. The humans wouldn not suspect a thing.