Writing Prompt: Star-Crossed Lovers

The admin in one of my Facebook groups recently posted a writing prompt on star-crossed lovers. I’m not always big on prompts because if it doesn’t speak to me I don’t want to force it. But this prompt just so happened to come on the day that I revisited Tahoe’s Moon, which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

I read through the last few pages before I picked up where I’d left off, and realized that my main characters fit the star-crossed lovers mold better than I’d previously considered. I’ve never been much of a fan of that phrase, because it reminds me of Romeo and Juliet. I hate Romeo and Juliet.

But I guess I wrote some star-crossed lovers into my novel anyway. Go figure.

Of course, the book is about much more than romance. But for the sake of this writing prompt, I’ve decided to share an excerpt that will give a glimpse of the difficulties Tahoe and Jonathan face in their relationship.

 

 

Once everyone’s plates were empty, I figured there was no longer a reason to wait. “Can I open my present now?” I asked.

They all agreed that it was a fine time, and I pulled the gift bag out. I ripped out the tissue paper and reached inside to pull out… a tee-shirt? I unfolded it and saw the words “Nevada Wolf Pack” across the back of the shirt. It was an oddly average present, especially after the thoughtfulness he put into the last gift he gave me.

I looked up at Jonathan, confused, and saw my parents’ expressions across the table. Bapuji looked shocked, and Biji had her quiet rage face on. What could have possibly caused them to look that way? I turned to Jonathan for explanation, but he was staring at my parents, fear creeping into his eyes.

Although Biji was looking at Jonathan, Bapuji had his eyes on the tee-shirt I was still holding. I turned it around so I could see the front… and my stomach dropped. That’s why my parents looked so upset.

On the front of the tee-shirt was the fierce-looking wolf that was on most UNR paraphernalia. But that was not the problem. The problem was the words circling the image: “Raised by wolves.”

Shit.

“Tahoe,” Biji said quietly, “would you care to explain?”

“Well, see, Jonathan and I are UNR students, and that’s where we met, and UNR’s mascot is the Wolf Pack, so—”

“Tahoe.” This time, Biji used her Mukhiya voice. It was no use trying to laugh this off.

“I told him.”

How could you?” Biji switched the conversation over to Hindi so that Jonathan could not understand what we said.

I’m sorry,” I responded, in Hindi as well. “I didn’t think you’d understand. I had to be honest with him. And he took it really well, like I knew he would.” Not exactly true. I’d hoped he would take it well, but I had not known what to expect.

If you had come to me first, if I had met him first, I could have given you permission to bring the matter before the Jhund.”

You know how they are. It would have been mob mentality. They would not have trusted him.

It should have been the decision of the entire Jhund, not one young girl. And clearly, they would have been right not to trust him. Look, already he would have you wear your secret on your chest for all to see.” Biji gestured at Jonathan as she said this, and he flinched.

Up until now, he’d been silently watching the exchange like a tennis match. His head turned back and forth rapidly, eyes wide.

“I’m sorry,” he said, noticing the pause in our argument. “I just thought it was funny. I didn’t mean to cause a problem. Tahoe, I just wanted you to know that it doesn’t bother me that you turn into a wolf.”

“Doesn’t bother you?” Biji was outraged. “Why should it bother you? It is a gift. You should love Tahoe because she is Santaan Raksha, not despite of it.”

Jonathan looked terrified now. “That’s not what I meant. I do love her because of who she is. I just— She was worried— When she showed me, she was worried that I’d—”

“You showed him?” Biji stood up out of her chair.

“He would’ve thought I was crazy otherwise…”

Do the traditions of the Jhund mean nothing to you?” Biji had switched back to Hindi.

“Rajnisha,” Bapuji said. “May I?”

Biji turned to him, as though surprised to find him sitting next to her. She gave a tight nod, her lips pursed thin.

“Jonathan,” Bapuji addressed my boyfriend softly from across the table, “I remember being in your place, years ago. It is scary at first.”

 “Harshad.” Biji turned her anger to Bapuji.

“It is, Nisha. I thought I was going to pass out the first time I saw you Change.”

“It is not scary. It is a gift.”

I nodded.

“It is a gift,” Bapuji said. “But to someone who has never seen such a gift before, it is terrifying.” He turned to Jonathan again. “I understand. But Tahoe and Rajnisha don’t. This is all they’ve ever known. When Tahoe started school, we had to teach her that her wolf form was a secret. She did not realize that other little girls could not turn into wolves.”

I smiled. I remembered my parents breaking that news to me. I’d felt so sorry for all the other little girls who would never know what it was to run through the trees under Shashi’s light.

“So I understand,” Bapuji continued, “that your present for Tahoe was well-meant. But we need you to try to see this from our perspective too. Like I said, this is all Tahoe and Rajnisha have ever known. Just like seeing Tahoe Change was scary for you, seeing our way of life threatened scares Rajnisha.”

“Bapuji,” I said, “you know what it was like to see the Change for the first time when it was the entire Jhund Changing at once. I just wanted to ease Jonathan into it.”

“If the you believe the tradition is flawed, you should have spoken to your biji about it. You should have spoken to your Mukhiya about it.”

Biji added, “You had no right to go behind our backs.”

“I’m sorry. I was just trying to make the news easier for him to swallow.”

“As for the shirt,” Biji went on, “I suppose Harshad is right – it seems to have been well-meant.” Her voice had a grudging tone. “But you cannot wear it, Tahoe. We cannot risk our secret getting out.”

Biji, no one’s going to think of it that way. Lots of UNR students wear shirts like these. Anyone outside of the Jhund who sees it… the last thing they’ll think is that I was literally raised by wolves. No one in their right mind would jump to a conclusion like that.”

“It doesn’t matter what the likelihood is. Any possibility of exposing the Jhund is out of the question.”

End of discussion.

Unite to Move Forward

Not all Trump voters use vulgar speech to objectify, belittle, or humiliate women. Not all Trump voters are members of the KKK. Not all Trump voters are violent, and many even follow a God whose highest commandment (after loving Him) is to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Let’s remember that we’re in this together – we have to be if we want to rise above the fear that is holding us down as a country.

unite

Thank you to rickkarasaki.blogspot.com for this beautiful Hawaiian proverb.

 

I understand that you voted the way you did because you felt it was the right decision. But I need you to meet me halfway. I need you to understand something too.

Violence against minorities has skyrocketed. This is not your fault, because you’re not violent or xenophobic or misogynistic. But it is your responsibility to inform your fellow Trump supporters that their violent actions are unacceptable. Because it is every human being’s responsibility to stand up against violence, wherever they see it.

People are afraid. Not just about losing their health insurance or their ability to feed their family. Not just about whether their marriage will be torn apart or their children carted off to foster care because of who their parents love.

No, people are afraid for their very lives.

And with good reason. Since the election results came in, hateful people have become emboldened to follow the lead of their president-elect. Minorities across the country are being attacked.

Your fellow Americans – your own family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, people you know and love and see every day – are afraid that they will be next. And the way things are going, they might be.

Look around at the people in your life. How many of them are women, Muslim, immigrants, LGBTQ, differently abled, or otherwise marginalized? Now imagine someone attacked them because of this.

Are you willing to protect the people you love?

Do what your president-elect has failed to do: Take a stand against discrimination and hate crimes.

be-an-ally

Thank you to Meredith Nudo (writer) and Isaiah Brousard (artist) for this helpful how-to comic. Originally posted on draw-the-line.ca

Be an ally. Attend rallies and protests. If you see someone being attacked – physically or verbally – step in. And even before it comes to that, stand with those of us who are in danger, and vow to protect us from the extremists who threaten us and our loved ones. Offer to walk with someone to a safe place. Make conversation with the scared person sitting next to you on the bus. Call or write your legislators and demand action against hate crimes.

islamophobic-harassment

Thank you to the Middle Eastern Feminist for this wonderful description of a successful technique used in psychology.

Educate yourselves as well as your friends and family. Read books about and written by people  of various backgrounds, and teach your kids that differences are to be celebrated not feared. Actively seek out ways to help, rather than waiting for someone to ask you for help – because until they know you, they might be afraid of you.

Here’s the thing. A lot of us “bleeding heart liberals” feel betrayed by you. You may not have voted the way you did because your candidate uses hateful speech and actions against women, Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, differently abled people, etc. But the hatred he spewed was not enough for you to look at his name on the ballot and say to yourself, “Oh hell no.” You were willing to look the other way when we were threatened.

It’s time to stop looking the other way.

You cannot change your vote, but you can take accountability and start to heal the betrayal that more than half the country is feeling.

I’m not asking you to support same-sex marriage. I’m not asking you to be pro-choice. I’m not asking you to welcome immigrants or provide them a reasonable route to citizenship.

All I’m asking is that you defend human beings’ right to live, and live with dignity.

against-hate-again-1

Please share on social media to let your loved ones know that you have pledged to protect them from hateful attacks both verbal and physical.

What is this “free time” of which you speak?

You’d think that being unemployed would come with oodles of free time.

But I’m finding that having more time at home does not mean having more time to do with as I please. In fact, it means having less time. Because now I’m spending eight hours every day taking care of my toddler, and what used to be my “free” time, when I could write and do laundry and maybe squeeze in a shower, has now become my apply-for-jobs-online time.

And that’s on the good days. You know, the days when there are any new jobs at all for me to send applications to.

Anyway. I just wanted to check in and let my readers know that I have not fallen off the face of the Earth.

I’m hoping to summon the time and energy to write an actual post in the near(ish) future. Thanks for bearing with me.

“Tahoe’s Moon” Synopsis

In the weeks leading up to NaNoWriMo 2014, I did a lot of research and pre-writing. But one thing I did not do was write a synopsis, despite the fact that I am aware of how beneficial it can be to write a novel’s synopsis before writing the novel itself.

Well, I’m still not quite done with Tahoe’s Moon, so I’m going to write its synopsis now, before the finished novel has too many details rattling around in my brain. Better late than never, right?

 

Tahoe Shailaja Kapoor is not a werewolf.

strength of the pack
Okay yeah, she and her family do change into wolves fairly frequently. And no, they never spend a night under the Full Moon without running through the woods on four furry legs. But they are not werewolves. Tahoe and her family are Santaan Raksha – the descendants of Mukta, who was adopted by wolves in India centuries ago. And Tahoe loves nothing more than the freedom she feels when racing through the mountain forest in her true form as a wolf.

Unfortunately, Tahoe’s boyfriend Jonathan fails to see the beauty of being Santaan, and her parents don’t exactly appreciate the fact that Tahoe revealed their secret without the approval of the Bherdiyon ka Jhund, the wolf pack. Tahoe finds herself torn not just between her boyfriend and her parents, but between the two conflicting sides of her own identity: human and wolf.

But making amends is the least of her worries when a student is found dead on Tahoe’s college campus, and her best friend starts to show the same mysterious symptoms the other student had before being killed. It turns out, Mukta left some unfinished business with a tiger who believed himself to be king of the jungle.Jungle Book

Now he’s returned to take revenge on Mukta’s descendants, and he’s leaving a trail of dead bodies on his way to them. 

 

 

 
 

Even though I’ve only written maybe three-quarters of the novel so far, I already have a few too many details distracting me from writing an overarching synopsis. But I think this is a good place to start. I’ll probably edit it plenty from here on!

In the meantime, what do you think?

If you’re a reader (as everyone should be), does the story sound intriguing? Original? Entertaining? What kinds of expectations would you have for this novel? And, most importantly, do you want to read it?

If you’re a writer, what difficulties have you come across when writing a synopsis? Do you tend to write a synopsis before or after writing a novel?

From “Mom of the Group” to Real-Life Mom

Everything changes when you have a baby.

People have been telling me this for years, and for the most part I believed them. But I also thought, I know who I am. In a way, I have always been a mother. My friends used to call me “the mom of the group,” because I’m the kind of person who put a blanket over my friend when I found her sleeping on her couch. I’m the kind of person who tells my friends to call me if they need a sober ride, even in the middle of the night. I’m the kind of person who cried when I dropped off my sisters at elementary school shortly after getting my driver’s license. Even though I knew my mom had been dropping them off for years, and they were more than capable of walking twenty feet by themselves to get into the school.

Still, being “the mom of the group” is different from being a mom.

No matter how focused you used to be on the needs of the people around you, it cannot compare to the focus you have on the needs of your child. You know your child’s needs before they do – literally, because a baby does not yet have the cognitive ability to recognize or understand when they need something.

You have an invisible tether to your child, so that no matter how far away you may be, you feel their presence. You know when your child wakes up from their nap, even before there’s an audible noise on the baby monitor.

Your entire perspective of the world shifts. You see the world through your child’s eyes. Birds and squirrels used to just be part of the scenery, but now they are magical creatures whose graceful movements cause you to smile.

Your own mother becomes more human. This is what she went through? These are the kinds of thoughts that went through her head? The way I feel about my baby – this unbreakable, inexplicable bond – this is how she felt about me?

(Here’s a little insight to my main character in Finding ‘Ohana: Cinnamin is figuring out motherhood. Is she a mother, even though she did not give birth to her son? How can she be a mother without a role model, without her own mother in her life? How could Cinnamin’s mother abandon her, if she felt the same way for Cinnamin as Cinnamin feels for her son?)

When I was a kid, people told me, “You’ll understand when you have kids.” Well, I’m an empathetic person. I thought I already understood.

I was so wrong.

Because no matter how you try, you cannot put motherhood into words. Some things just have to be experienced.

1.2

Why I am Shaving my Head

When I was in second grade, my best friend and I used to spend every Saturday at an indoor ice skating rink. Her mom bought us hot chocolate and let us play the crane game that promised a winner every time, and we skated in circles around and around and around the ice for hours.

One Saturday, I arrived with my hair in a braid, so that I could skate without my long, looong hair getting in my face.

fan art by RadissonClaire on DeviantArt

fan art by RadissonClaire on DeviantArt

(How hipster is that? I braided my hair to go ice skating about twenty years before Elsa made it cool!)

My friend said that when we got separated on the ice, she always found me quickly by looking for my mane of wavy hair – and she demanded that I undo the braid immediately.

Fast forward a decade or so. I’m sitting for a caricature and the artist asks me to turn my head so he can see my hair in its ponytail. He makes an involuntary exclamation when I turn and he sees just how long my hair extends from the hair tie.

My tennis coach used to call me “Muppet Head” because I went through a phase when I let my hair go free and it flew around my face as I ran across the court.

People knew me by my long hair.

But the weekend before my high school graduation, I cut off twelve inches to donate.

It was terrifying. (How could I hide my fat face if I didn’t have long hair?) And liberating – because my face did not look as grotesquely fat as I’d been worried it would.

I’ve donated my hair a few times since then, alternating between looong hair and short bobs for years. But next week, I’m going to do something even more extreme.

I’m going to shave my head.

As can probably be expected, people’s reactions of finding this out have been exaggerated versions of their same reactions to me telling them when I was going to cut twelve inches of my hair. They are shocked, appalled even, and they want to know why.

So here I am, telling you why I am shaving my head.

1) To raise awareness of and funds for researching and curing childhood cancers.

This is the big reason. I’m shaving my head as a virtual St. Baldrick’s event. Part of this is asking for donations and pledges on my bald head that will go toward researching and curing childhood cancers. Every three minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer, yet childhood cancers often do not receive the funding needed for research. This is why organizations like St. Baldrick’s exist – to conquer childhood cancers once and for all.

FB event

I can’t imagine what I would do if my child were diagnosed with cancer. That’s something no parent should have to face.

2) To support and stand in solidarity with kids who have cancer.

We live in a society where it is extremely difficult to not have hair. And it’s especially hard to be different when you’re a kid. It’s a natural part of development to separate things into categories, and that leads to certain categories being more stigmatized than others. But the more of us who challenge our society’s beauty norms, the easier it will be for the kids who have no choice but to challenge those norms.

3) To donate my hair so more kids who choose to can wear wigs.

Part of the reason I’m shaving my head is similar to the reason why I donate blood whenever I can. As young (broke) parents, my husband and I don’t have a lot of time or money to donate. My hair is something I can give. I’m donating to Locks of Love, which makes wigs for children who face hair loss for a number of reasons. Because kids are still growing, they need new wigs more frequently than adults. So there is always a need for kid-sized wigs. I like to think my hair will help some little kid regain a confidence they might have lost.

4) For me.

Okay, full disclosure: I’m not shaving my head as a purely selfless act for the sake of the children.

It first occurred to me to shave my head when my son reached that phase when all he wanted to do was yank my hair right out. And being bald has the added bonus of keeping cool, which is important when you live in a desert.

But more than that, I’m actually going bald because of, not despite, the way it looks.

Gender norms in our society are rigid. Men can rock a shaved head, but not a dress. Women can wear pants, but heaven forbid they should leave the house without makeup on.

Gender is fluid, so that’s how we should view it. Some days I’ll have makeup and giant earrings to balance out my bald head, but some days I won’t. And I’ll still be beautiful. Just like you are beautiful, regardless of your clothes, hair and makeup and jewelry or lack thereof, manicured or chewed-to-nubs nails, or style preference in general.

I have written here about my difficulty with depression and I’ve written short stories about my battle with body image. The two are not always linked, but in my case they often are. There have been dark times in my life when my hair was the only part of my appearance that I appreciated. In fact, there were years when I hated my body (and by extension, myself) and tried to hide behind my hair.

Shaving my head is my way of showing myself that I am beautiful, even if that beauty is not within the “conventional” definition of the term. And it’s my way of showing myself that, no matter what I look like, I am worthy of self love.

So even though it’s scary, and even though people keep telling me I’ll regret it, I am going to shave my head. And I’m going to love myself while doing it.

Selling Your Skills (writing skills, that is – nothing illegal)

If you’re a writer, Authors Publish is a helpful resource. If you “like” their Facebook page, subscribe to their free magazine, or just poke around on their website when the mood suits you, you’ll find writing advice and reviews of publishing companies, among other things related to writing and publishing.

One of my favorite articles I’ve found through the Authors Publish Facebook page is a list of three ways to promote your writing by Emily Harstone. It begins with a quote by John Green: “Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”

This is exactly why marketing can be so difficult for writers, myself included. We tend to not be the kinds of people who enjoy putting ourselves out there.

But self-marketing is necessary, especially now in the digital age. Publishers are not likely to spend much money (if any at all) on marketing a new author, so they need to know they’re signing a writer who can build their own reader fanbase.

Harstone’s first two suggestions for writers to market themselves is via a blog and a Facebook page. I’ve got those two down! (Well, at least I’ve got them. And I’m determined to do better about posting frequently.)

The third is to have a business card. This is an idea I’ve toyed with in the past, but haven’t gotten around to actually following through with yet. That’s about to change!

I went to a writer’s convention last summer and met a few authors who were passing out business cards and – drum roll, please – bookmarks. What a genius idea for a writer to have a “business card” that is actually a bookmark! It’s functional, and therefore less likely to be thrown away. It ensures that the writer’s info is going out to someone who does in fact enjoy reading, and it keeps the writer fresh in the reader’s mind.

However, one particular author (who shall remain nameless) should have thought his through a bit more. One side of this author’s bookmark includes a synopsis of the book and how to purchase it, while the other side gives a short bio on the author. Here’s the synopsis:

“When a research scientist is found dead at the Lab, the head of security begins to investigate. Dr. [character name] of [fictional company name] has many secrets that could jeopardize his relationship with government benefactors he desperately needs.”

Is Dr. [character name] the dead research scientist? If so, why does it matter if his relationship with government benefactors is jeopardized? He’s dead. I don’t think he cares much about the state of his relationships.

Or is the character the head of security? If this is the case, why is he a “Dr”?

Could the “secrets” possibly be even a little more intriguing?

Could the desperation possibly be even a little more specific?

Basically, this synopsis is just too vague and confusing to be interesting.

Here’s the author bio:

“[Author] has been writing stories since he was thirteen years old. He grew up, watching television…”

I’m going to stop my critique right here, because this is where I decided that I truly did not care one bit to find this author online and read his work.

Why do people seem to think punctuation is unimportant? I mean, when I see a misplaced comma in a text message, it’s a pet peeve. But when I see it on a bookmark that is supposed to be convincing me that someone is a good writer? No. There’s no reason this should not have been caught and fixed before all those bookmarks were printed out.

That comma should not be there. As it is, the fragment “he grew up” should be able to stand alone as its own sentence. And I think it’s safe to say that we all know that this person grew up, as he includes a photo of himself in which he has graying hair.

The moral of my story is this: proofread! You are selling your writing skills, so you’d better be certain your writing skills are at their best on any marketing material you produce.

That said, can you spot any errors on my bookmark? Please let me know now, before I print a whole bunch of them!

author bio on the front of my bookmark/business card

author bio & web addresses on the front of my bookmark/business card

"Finding 'Ohana" excerpt on the back of my bookmark/business card

excerpt from the first chapter of Finding ‘Ohana on the back of my bookmark/business card