Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Update 90 Day Novel Challenge: DAY 18

By now you know that I have converted the 90 day novel challenge, where I was trying to complete my novel in a straight 90 days, to the 90 days I actually work on the novel. 

Today is day 18 and, it's working. At first I struggled with writing this way, but I'm loving what I'm writing. Even my critique group is on board. I took a scene I wrote, without re-writing, or even looking at it again to my SCBWI critique group and it got a great review.

I'm still not sure where this scene will take place, and that still bugs me a bit, but I'm getting over it. I'm getting over my old ways, and allowing this new way of writing to blossom.

Below is the scene:

My bare feet touch the cold, hard ground. On this side of the gate there are no fallen leaves, bushes, rocks, snails or as far as I can tell, any life at all. It’s like the earth is dead, one big void. I don’t like it. I want to run, but Uncle won’t stop pestering me to learn, learn, listen, know everything and anything about my ancient past until I do this one thing. He promised, after this, after I confront my spirit guide in the woods, if I still wanted to ignore my bloodline, then he’d leave me be.

Since I don’t believe in spirit guides. It’s a bunch of ghost stories from Indians who were probably high as a kite on some strong tobacco or harder stuff. I agreed to this stupid test of his. I’m sure he’ll be sorry in the end when I see nothing, but this is his fault. He’ll be the one who has to grow and learn, and hopefully let go of this ridiculous obsession with his Indian ancestors. I mean, really, who cares?

Uncle closes the gate behind me and I like this place even less. I feel like a bird in a cage, cut wings and all.


Of course. That’s all I’ve been doing since my parents died, following him around. If I was 18 I’d be gone by now, but that’s not for another 3 years, 5 months, 2 days and a few hours from now. Until then, I’m stuck, here, with him, and my wanna be Indian half-breeds. Ugh.

We walk on through this dead place. The fog thickens, and chills me to my bones. I can’t stop shaking. My teeth chatter. I’ll probably get hypothermia and die out here, but at least that’d be it. And I’d get to see mom and dad again, hopefully. I rub my arms, and hop up and down, trying everything I know to get warm. Nothing works.

Uncle slaps his hands together hard, rubs them three times, and then lays them on my shoulders. A jolt of heat sears me, and then travels like the speed of an eagle diving through my whole body. It feels like I have the heat of the sun inside. I can breathe.

“Hurry.” His hands pull back, but the heat stays within me. Now if I could learn that trick, I’d be all set. I’d go out into these creepy woods all the time. Not. But at least I’d be warm when I was shopping in the mall.

I keep up his pace this time, because I don’t have to worry about squashing a snail, or stepping on thorns and rocks. We come to a dip in the ground, and it looks man made. It’s a curve, and probably makes a whole circle, but I can’t see past three feet on either side of me.

Uncle kneels, says something in a strange language and then steps down. I don’t stop, but follow him deeper into the middle of this odd circle, filled with tall, telephone pole structures.

He stops in what’s probably the dead center. The pole here is three times the others, and has carvings of strange birds, faces, and symbols all over it. It’s one of the totems he’s always going on and on about. He thinks they have magic powers, or something. I wish they did, so I could ask them to get rid of the fog so I could see. I stand there waiting a long time while he stares at this piece of wood.

“They are happy you have come.” Uncle touches the totem like he’s petting a dog.

“Great,” I say. “Can we get on with it though, it’s getting dark.”

“This is a day you will remember. The day you come face to face with your guide. Do not be afraid. Do not fear whatever it is that comes to greet you. Within this circle you are protected.”


The heat inside me is starting to fade. I rub my arms again, but Uncle ignores me this time. Instead, he pulls out a small pipe, dumps some stringy looking brown leaves in the end and lights. Again, he says some strange words, then passes the pipe to me. I want to giggle. I mean, I’ve seen this type of thing in cowboy and Indian movies, but never in person.

I take the pipe and hold it. I’ve never smoked anything before. Some of my friends tried a cigarette once, and all they did was cough and cough and cough. Gross. Plus it gives you cancer, and it’s crazy expensive. Why anyone would want to start is beyond me.

I hold it out back to him. “Tobacco is not my thing.”

“Smoke.” He stands with his arms to his sides, like he’s showing me how big his chest can be.

“I’m really not happy with this. Mom says you can get cancer from one suck.” I put the end to my lips. It’s warm, and a little wet. God. I suck. The fat end reddens and crackles as air is pulled through it. The warm smoke enters my mouth and for a second I want to hurl. But then it finds my lungs and fills them. I feel weird. Strange. I feel different, but in a not so different way. I don’t know how to explain it, but I don’t like it.

I push the pipe back toward Uncle. He does not take it because he’s not there. He’s gone. “Uncle!” I know he’s probably like five feet in front of me, but in this fog I can’t see anything. I’m holding a burning pipe of tobacco, in the middle of a totem circle, in the middle of the woods in my bare feet, and he’s playing hide and seek. “Uncle! I’m serious. What do you want me to do with this?” I hold the pipe out again, but he does not answer.

“Uncle Alakska, I mean Alakshak. Come on. I want to go.” Nothing. What the hay? Fine, if he thinks this is funny, maybe he’ll think this is hilarious. I take a small knife out of my back pocket. Now, I know I wasn’t supposed to bring anything from my world to this one, but I wasn’t about to go into the woods with my crazy Uncle without some protection. I toss his stupid pipe down. Some of the red embers come out, but die quickly in the wet fog.

I open my knife, touch the tip, it’s sharp and hold it up over the totem. “Come out now, or the wood gets it.” Nothing. “I mean it, I’m going to carve my name into this thing.” Still nothing. “Fine! Have it your way.”

I stab the knife deep into the wood. It goes in farther than I wanted, probably because this wood is like a million years old. I pull out. “I did it. There’s a hole.” Still Uncle says nothing. If he left me here, he’s going to regret it big time. I start my carving. Cutting my S is harder than it looks. I’ve seen initials all over big trees, and covered bridges out here. It must take practice, that’s all I’m saying, because mine looks like a lopsided 9.

I try again, a little lower, and it’s easier to hold the knife. My S starts to take form, and it’s pretty good. I’m a fast learner. I get the whole S done and move onto my A. This letter is much easier since it’s only straight lines.

“I’m almost done! I think your totem looks like it’s in this century now.” This isn’t funny. If he really did leave, I’ll be stuck out here forever. I should have never trusted him. Crazy wanna be Indian!

I dig deeper. My A’s almost done, only the small middle part is needed to bridge the upside-down V. I stick the tip in and lean, but the knife doesn’t go in too deep. I push harder, with all my body weight. Still, the tip barely disappears. This sucks. I don’t want to start over. I pull the tip out, and slam it hard this time. It ricochet’s of something harder than the wood. Strange.

“Uncle! Are you coming back or not?”

Guess not. Fine. I’m going to find out what’s in the middle of this so-called wooden totem. This whole totem graveyard is probably fake. It’s probably like Disney, built from concrete, or steal, then painted to look old. I smash the tip of my blade over and over again into my A, which now looks splintered to death. It’s hard work. I’m hot, and sweaty, even in this freaking cold fog. Strange how it just hangs out in here, not moving at all. I keep going. Finally a huge chunk of totem breaks off. I can see behind it, and it’s something golden.

I bet this is some sort of prize for me going along with this crazy trek into forest hell. I dig faster. Maybe it’s real gold, I mean if this is a really old totem, maybe they hid gold inside them. I think how much a new laptop might be, and how much it would be to have electricity run from the road back to camp. It’d be so worth every penny.  

Finally I have a hole big enough to fit my fingers in and grab the gold piece. It’s cold, like metal should be, and heavy too. I think it’s real. It’s thick and round, like if you took five 50 cent pieces and smashed them together. On one side is a girl, with what looks like wings. She’s holding both ends of her wings up, so she looks like she might take off. On the other side there are small symbols; a fat cross, a beetle-like bug, a snake, an eagle, an eyeball, and some odd drawing like a tube with four lines drawn through the top. 

I hold it tight, trying to guess its weight. I’d say probably as heavy as a stapler, an all metal one, not cheap plastic. This is so cool. I just found a real gold coin, and it’s probably worth a ton because it’s got old Indian carvings on it. Strange too, because I never knew Indians used money. I thought they traded in beads, and pottery, and handmade stuff.

I hear something out and to the left of me. “Uncle! I have to sho—“ I stop because he won’t let me keep it. No way. He’ll say it’s some artifact and it belongs to his people. Which include me, but I won’t get to sell it. I stuff it into my pocket, along with my knife.

The shuffling continues so I step toward it, knowing any minute he’s going to jump out at me and scare the heck out of me. “Uncle, nothing came for me. Can we go now? I told you I don’t believe in this stuff. Anyway, being 1/8 of anything is really nothing.” I keep talking because I’m getting the creeps big time. “Uncle, can you please answer me now?”

The fog is even more dense, and I’m starting to get angry. This isn’t funny anymore, and I want to go back. “Uncle! I said I want to go back. Now!”

The claws come out of the fog, like a bad dream. I dodge to the right, barely missing them. The bear stands on hind legs, and lets out a scary growl. My body reacts before I have to think. I am running. I am running hard and faster than I’ve ever ran before. The bear is chasing me. I can feel its eyes on the back of my head. I am breathing heavy, and running. I hit the gate at a crazy speed. It bounces me off, back toward the bear. It growls.

The gate’s locked. Uncle locked me in here with a crazy wild bear. I climb. My feet fit too easily between the metal grates, and I slip down six inches for every foot I gain. The gate is tall, taller than the totems. Why? It’s over kill. I keep going. I am crying, and grunting, and screaming, and sweating.

The bear jumps below me, swatting. I slip. It’s claws dig into my jeans, ripping through to my skin. The pain is like fire, hot and burning. I lose my grip. I am falling. I am falling toward a huge bear. I’m dead.   


Writing like this is strange for me, not knowing what chapter this is, not knowing what happened before here, or what's going to happen after, but I think it's working.

The next steps the book has me working on are creating remaining scenes. I had to come up with scenes for ACT 1, ACT 2, and ACT 3.

That's the beginning, middle, and end of the book. I liked this part, brainstorming scenes. I bullet pointed them and tried to get them close to linear.

The next step is to actually write out the scenes, or at least a few of them to test if they are actually worthy of being in the book. 

I like the way the author keeps me interested by changing up the assignments. One day I'm brainstorming first lines, the next I'm writing out a scene, the next I'm coming up with flashbacks, and then brainstorming end lines. In this way, I am never bored, and I want to keep reading, and writing.

I found out that during one of the brainstorming sessions on first lines, that I could only come up with ten. I thought, and thought. I even did some yoga to help me work it out, but 10 was my limit. 

I decided to read some first lines from the books I have scattered throughout my office. I started to play with them on my screen, replacing some of their words with words of my own. Of course these won't be my first line, but they helped me brainstorm more and keep going. 

Below are the list of my first lines:

1)   I always hated riding in the seaplane. It’s bumpy and makes your belly feel filled with tickly caterpillars.

2)   I don’t want to move to Alaska, but my parents died in their stupid seaplane, so now I have to move in with my wanna be Indian, Uncle Blue Bead. Yeah, that’s what he calls himself.

3)   Everything changed when the police knocked on my door.

4)   Uncle Blue Bead thinks he’s an Indian even though he’s got ¼ Indian blood in him. He’s nuts and he wants me to join him.

5)   When the cop said those horrible words, “your parents died in their seaplane,” it sounded like a movie. It wasn’t real.

6)   I’m 1/8th Alaskan Indian, big whoop, but my Uncle thinks I’m the next chief of his wanna be clan…not.

7)   When they tell you your parents are dead, that’s one thing, but when they tell you have to move in with your crazy wanna be Indian Uncle, you wish you were in the crash too.

8)   The minute I walked into camp I knew my life wasn’t my life anymore. It smelled like fire and burnt fish.

9)   My mom washed my clothes in lavender, and now everything smells like burnt salmon. I hate it here.

10)  My Uncle washed my pillow, and it was the last thing that smelled like home. I hate him.

11)  I grabbed my pillow and sniffed, nothing. Uncle washed my Mother out of it. It no longer smelled like her, like lavender, it no longer smelled like home.

12)  There’s no electricity here. They don’t even have a washing machine. Everything is washed in the ocean. I smell like fish.

13)  You never want the knock in the middle of the night, a cop standing there, looking sad for you, and you know in the pit of your stomach what he’s about to say but you won’t allow yourself to believe it.

14)  The week before I left the only life I ever knew, and unpacked my small allowance of outside things into the tiniest three drawered battered chest, in a desolate part of Alaska, my Father and Mother insisted I start flying lessons. I hated that seaplane of theirs, and I hated flying.

15)  My father used to threaten to take away my laptop, my smart phone, and my car if I didn’t ace a test, or get high marks at the recital when he sat patiently with a straight back, pushing up his circular glasses every ten seconds, tapping the ballet on the painted black concrete floor. I would hear those taps, and somehow through the coughing, sneezing, and throat clearing staring room, it made me stronger.

16)  “Where is he?” I hopped onto the dirty wooden porch, it squeaked with my weight. The other wanna bes gathered in the center of camp, their dirty faces gawking at me the way zoo goers look at the animals, curious, yet afraid.

17)  A full moon lit the camp from broken down roof to dying fire. The silence was broken only by my cowboy boots clomping on random stones and branches.
“Too many!” Uncle shouted, and grabbed my suit cases.       “What?” I said, trying to snatch them back.
“Too much stuff. That’s what. You can’t keep all this. You’ll have to go through it.” He dumped my things, my personal, private things all over a small child sized bed.

18)  It was the year I turned fourteen, on a cold summer’s night, when wind whipped through the trees outside, making the chimneys sigh, and chilling me to the bone. Bad news was coming.

19)  In Uncle’s wanna be Indian camp, the air always smelled of salmon and smoke.

20)  The third time I tried to runaway I used moss. I tied moss to the bottoms of my cowboy boots to make the clomping less loud, but crazy Uncle heard me anyhow. Damn.

21)  Hiking to school, through the trees so I wouldn’t get caught, I had no reason to think I’d have a bad day. It was like before. No one at camp knew I was faking my job to go to a real school, and no one at school thought I shouldn’t be there.

22)  Things really began to spin out of control when I saw the bear.

23)  Indians have their own folklore: stories of spirit guides, and the anger of the moon and stars, the sadness of nature. I never believed in any of that stuff you see in movies, not until now.

24)  I might have grown up to be the doctor father wanted me to be if my parents had lived, or my crazy wanna be Indian Uncle didn’t lock me in a totem pole graveyard with a bear, or I didn’t dig out a golden coin from the oldest totem. 

25)  When I was thirteen we moved to a house surrounded by woods because of my crazy dreams, and the fact that I caused a seven car pile up following an eagle.

26)  I stood dazed, in a dreamlike state. All around me adults were talking, shuffling papers, shifting their eyes away from mine, hugging me, kissing me, but all I could do was stare at the two coffins. My parents died in a seaplane accident and this was the last goodbye, but it didn’t seem real.

27)  “This is dumb,” I said, following my crazy Uncle, barefooted into the darkening woods toward the totem graveyard. “How far is it and how long do I have to stay?” He marched ahead, without even acknowledging my words. God.

28)  My name is Seit Alakshaw, and I bet right now you don’t care that my parents died, or that my crazy wanna be Indian uncle made me move to Alaska, or even that I have Indian and Egyptian blood in me. But if I told you I could raise the dead, talk to spirits, and bring back magic to Egypt, you’d probably have some interest. But if I told you my half-brother was planning on stealing my powers and conquering the world, putting you and your family in chains, you’d care. I think.

29)  When I jump awake from another night terror, I’m cold. The fires gone out and there’s no more wood stacked next to it. Uncle’s missing too. This is the day he’s taking me to the totem graveyard to meet my spirit guide. I almost can’t say it without laughing out loud. It’s ridiculous.

Well, I hope your are still writing your 90 day novel with me. Actually, I hope you have finished your 90 days! Let me know how it's going so far for you.


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