Nika Says : Write On!

NEW Wordplay about… Exposition!

Learn valuable backstory, express moments of historical interest and have a great time writing your own  plot! Come on down!

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Echo, a mythological story written for Wordplay.

Read along: http://nikaharper.tumblr.com/post/95615409565/echo

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Echo

If you could hear the words of mine, you would love me then.
I can ensnare with hushed whispers and beguile with long tales. I am music, from my throat I bring beauty and wonder. I have stood before gods and proven them entertained.
You would be, if you could listen.

These noises around us yearn for my sound, they reach out and rustle for me to regale them with stories of their creation, of the blue sky and why it sits so jealously looking at you the same way I do. Even the sky loves you. But I am the only one who can tell it why.

I fear for you. Those who are good, and beautiful and wondrous are swept away at the fancies of others, our worlds taken from us so easily merely because we have talent. My skills were stolen and emptiness remains, I swallow the words given to me in sheer thirst of my own. I breathe them out with pain that they are not mine. I borrow from you and seek a poet, but your poetry is in your face.
Your art baked into you like clay, your eyes like enchanted glass that see all but itself. The world must be easy for you, for now. Even the river rushes to your very feet.

Oh speak to me in words that I may reflect, with my aching voice to coat them. Share your thoughts on the clouds this day, of the vastness of your heart and mind so I may speak of it for you.  It is only fickle time until you are noticed and lost to me, until you are punished for your strengths that were never chosen, only given, only to be taken away once more.
You. Hear me. I am here.

I did not speak too much.
I did not misguide or betray, but I created wonder. I wove words, my skill lain plain at the foot of critics who thought me deceptive as to assuage their own insecurity. I was blamed for creating loveliness in a world where they could see none. And they stole my voice from me, to forever repeat. I may only make music from others’ notes. I may only spin the tales you tell me first.
And oh… the tales you must have.

What have you always wanted to hear?
Tell me and I will create rapture. I will match your dreams to the stars, I will please your mind just how you please my eyes. I am a mirror to you. Give yourself to me and fall in love with what I see.
What do you want?
Say it.
Say anything.
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A story written for my creative writing show Wordplay on the subjects of “fear of rejection,” “a conflict of spiritual and physical self,” and “pride that comes from failure.” Watch the episode for tips on exposition in writing!

Please listen to the reading, share if you like it, and support my work on Patreon!

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100 Lions

When he slept, he dreamt of one hundred lions.

All different shapes and looks, some docile and scared, some with eyes of fiery opal. He always had his gun, and some were better prey than others.

He remembered the worried ones, he saw their whiskers wilt and vowed not to point his barrels that direction again. Sometimes he saw it every night, the same blood splatter and torn holes in a creature that whispered when it should have roared.

He thought about those the most. Him, always looking down the gun even when the memories didn’t have him holding it at all. In his dreams it was always him, the gun became a mile long and he would struggle against it and see the eyes look back again, or look away with hope. He only imagined they prayed. The paws curled in like that, it was just a reflex. It couldn’t have been pain. It couldn’t have been prayer.

He warmed himself with pelts of the fallen, many aggressive and threatening, their shed skin now a part of him. Lion hides were not particularly valuable where he traveled, not until he found a way to transport them back if that was even an option. So they made his bed for him and the dreams came with it.

The gun lay safely close by, in case of guilt or danger. His team slept, exhaling their thoughts to swim in the tent around him. His dreams smelled of grass and bodies and blood, the same as his life.

There was never a place for hesitation in this world of teeth and gunpowder. Rather be unsure and shoot thrice than fail to shoot once when it really meant something. One hundred lions, and it wasn’t that many truly, but it felt like it at times. He knew it was getting close.

How many times was he right?

That smell of iron and dirt, and every memory came back. The cloud of spent powder and adrenaline, and the eyes all looked the same for a moment. Different shapes, colors, souls. But they all looked at him from beneath the barrels.

It was just guilt and it was dreams, just a simple fear that was healthy to stretch, to keep grasp on humanity, the last thing separating us from the beasts that lay under our feet. The guilt is that we are not that different. The reality is that it’s us or them. Teeth or steel.

His teeth were never as sharp, but he sharpened his senses against theirs.

Hides, pelts and stacks. Values, cash and quality. They organized accordingly, what was rarest or desired, what could they get for it, which ones they had to hide. Hide the hides, never destroy them. Desecration is a personal crime, wastefulness is a worse shame than paying a fine having killed in self defense. If they sell, better for it. Better to have killed for a reason than senseless slaying.

But he still worried at night, in ways he didn’t tell anyone, in ways he breathed out from his bunk covered in the valueless lions whose eyes once shone like gems, their souls all priceless in contrast to their pelts which meant nothing. He slept on them, and to him they meant warmth. They meant, perhaps, adventure. If he knew what adventure was anymore.

Sometimes in the dreams he saw their faces change to things he remembered better. Snarls, curled lips, fury in the place of fear. The bloodshot eyes reflecting the fire inside them, the veins working overtime and fit to burst with the force of a bullet.

That was hunting. That was the prowl, the predator, the perfection of a hunt. A creature of might and madness falling to the strength of one greater. That had no guilt. That was pride.

But deep in his mind as the count ticked one, one more, one again, all towards the number of one hundred, he began to see one pair of eyes more than the rest. They threatened to undo him. They growled that his quarry was not equal and not worthy.

He looked past the desperate eyes of a victim and into the eyes of a demon, through the whispered pleas and into a chant.

You are our prey now.

You are ours.

He woke in a cold sweat, with his gun lying as close as the memories.

Too close.

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Inspiration comes from interesting places… like oddly-named slot machines in Las Vegas.

If you liked this story, help me make more!

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1 2 3 4

It seemed like days since the diner that morning, the food had gone sour in her stomach and it rumbled, confused whether it was angry or hungry again. She worried whether anyone would hear the noise and find her, but it was a baseless fear. Her tiny tummy rumbled against a wall of sound and bounced right off, nobody could be listening close enough to hear. They’d have to be her. She worried if her breath was audible over the gunshots.

“Crystal May,” he told her that morning, “We’ll be okay.” There was something lyrical in it, though the worn tone of his voice didn’t match the smiles of the diner songs. Music she had never heard before, that sounded like pancakes and black coffee, black as her dad’s round nose, black as his eyes as they looked out the window staring at nothing she could see. Staring at memories maybe. The pancakes were good, even though she was worried, and she swung her feet to the music. She noticed the songs sounded happy but didn’t always talk about happy things, either.

“She was afraid to come out of the locker…”

The car never worked. It was an old truck with blistering paint, it looked older than her parents. It had always stayed in the driveway like a fixture or decoration, she grew up seeing other houses that had the same thing, but theirs moved. She found their purpose was not to occupy space but to deliver people to other places. Maybe that would have been helpful in this moment, to get away, but she remembered she couldn’t drive. Her feet were too short to touch the pedals, there were times she had climbed in and pretended to crank levers and spin wheels and dials. Times when she picked the door lock to jump inside, playing pretend she was underwater or a pirate. The cannonfire in her imagination didn’t sound this loud. Songs played in her head to combat the combat.

“She was afraid that somebody would see….”

They’d walked home. She didn’t want that to be one of her clearest memories, but there it was. Itchy cut grass. Noon creeping in with a sneer. Locusts buzzing like the broken TV. They didn’t say much, it was hot, but it was clear. She walked alongside him and when she dawdled or tried to get a look at the toys in the yards they passed, he yelled at her, “Keep up.” Then she did. She had enough change in her pocket to take the bus, but dad’s eyes were everywhere else, and she let him look. That means she could look too.
But not all the time.
“Keep up.”
Her plastic sandals slapped at the soles of her feet.

One two three four, keep up with your daddy more.

It didn’t look like nighttime. There were lights everywhere, fake colored ones spinning all over the place. Shouts and lights in the sky. She slunk further back, her heel resting against the tire and feeling a little safer. Feeling something stable other than the ground. Bits of pavement left marks on her elbows and legs, but she only saw it when she she shifted and the lights flashed, and she avoided both. Nothing could hear her, the shoes on the sidewalk didn’t have ears.

She was afraid of the sirens and screaming…

She knew there was a cold going around and people were upset about it, mama was sick and couldn’t get out of bed but she stayed quiet for once and for the past few days there wasn’t yelling or holes in the walls. Daddy told her not to see mama ‘cause she might get sick too. She saw her in there coughing, dad brought her ice cream. She took more vitamins. Daddy said they should get breakfast, it used to happen more often when mama’s face didn’t need so much makeup and they could afford the extra blueberries in the pancakes. But it happened today.
They finally got home and her knees were itchy, dad went in to check on mama and came back out. She knew he had told a lie, that they wouldn’t be okay. He walked like things weren’t okay at all. “Stay where you are,” he told her and checked the other sprawling rooms and closets, all closed off to keep the cool in. It was already so warm that day, she could see it on his forehead when he came back. His mouth was open and she could count his teeth. He stood in the kitchen, but he looked lost.
Something scraped at the door to the backyard, at the same time they heard yelling in the street. Maybe another mean dog got loose. She barely noticed the sirens in the neighborhood anymore.

One two three four, look and see what’s out the door…

It must have been hours, but she knew she didn’t trust anything. Maybe she could sneak away for a pillow and some cereal, but the darkness and the noise settled deeper and louder in tandem. The shiny shoes stepped in her father’s blood and left smudges on the driveway, other shoes ran by faster than she could see who they were. The world smelled different with his blood on it. She tried to listen for a telephone ring in the kitchen but the windows weren’t open, maybe nobody was calling anyway. The wind blew grass under the truck to itch at her ankles and neck. She shouldn’t be up this late, but daddy was dead and there were no rules for going to bed during sirens. It was all like fireworks out there.

It was a ratatatting clatter clacking sound of guns and loud attacking
That she heard for the first time, today….
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In times of civil unrest, sometimes the art gets tinged with the paint of the world.

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A Reply to: Masks

I put on my face every day.
It takes time.
I check every crease and dry patch. I rub at my eyes and smooth down my cheeks. I look for the parts that are different so I may paint over them better.

Today I am tall and broad, a building that moves the sidewalk where it steps. Tarnished metals and great greys, sharp impersonal angles that speak for me. It says I am an obstacle, I am to be equally respected and forgotten. There are no smiles here today. The doors are closed.

I can be a photograph, a walking piece of nostalgia that traveled through time to take the last seat on the bus. Even purposeless feels important, red lips lining my words as I tell people to have a great day. They believe it, because I traveled through time to tell them. People believe red lipstick. They believe painted eyeliner when it wishes them good luck.

I can bury myself in words,let the book reflect my face where people look to the page creases to see my reaction. My eyes look past my glasses at talking bookmarks, environmental commas and paragraph pauses. If you needed something, ask the book. I’ve lost myself in it, you can read it across my face.

I look in the mirror at the face of the invisible man, the malleable topography of a person. The master of disguise. Thick paint to obscure the beating heart, because it is tender and whipped by the sun and strangers’ eyes. Every morning my face holds its breath as I place on the armor coat by coat, evening the smudges, painting a person I need to be.

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Proud.

My grandfather is a retired LAPD officer. His badge is heavy, I’ve held it in my child hands.

He lives in Downey CA, which if you don’t know, stopped being such a nice place as the 70’s era houses suggest. About 15 years ago, he heard someone stealing his car from the driveway.
It was an Oldsmobile Toronado, old thing, boat-like car that we laughed at. Ash trays in the arm rests, remember those? This car was all of it. It was a joyride waiting to happen.

My grandpa gets his gun and goes outside, to see the car backing up into the road. Unfortunately, the driver went the wrong way towards a cul-de-sac, and had to double back. My grandpa, pistol in hand, walks into the street and points the gun at the car as it comes back down the street.

The car was not going to stop. He jumped out of the way.

We asked him, “You caught someone stealing your car, why didn’t you shoot?”
He replied, “I didn’t keep my badge for 30 years by shooting people.”

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tarotofgdc:

Nika Harper is the Queen of Wands.
Nika is an excellent writer, and at GDC she gave a terrific Indie Soapbox speech about creativity - shortly after, I met her, and she drew the Queen of Wands. Note that Nika has a prominent tattoo of a wand…
The Queen of Wands is typically associated with qualities of exuberance, warmth, vibrancy, and determination - anyone who watches her Geek & Sundry YouTube videos knows that these are qualities Nika possess in spades (or perhaps I should say “in clubs”). And though my interaction with Nika was brief, the presence of a black cat at the bottom the Queen’s card - implying a fierce independent streak behind the warm exterior - seems appropriate as well.
The tarot has spoken.

tarotofgdc:

Nika Harper is the Queen of Wands.

Nika is an excellent writer, and at GDC she gave a terrific Indie Soapbox speech about creativity - shortly after, I met her, and she drew the Queen of Wands. Note that Nika has a prominent tattoo of a wand…

The Queen of Wands is typically associated with qualities of exuberance, warmth, vibrancy, and determination - anyone who watches her Geek & Sundry YouTube videos knows that these are qualities Nika possess in spades (or perhaps I should say “in clubs”). And though my interaction with Nika was brief, the presence of a black cat at the bottom the Queen’s card - implying a fierce independent streak behind the warm exterior - seems appropriate as well.

The tarot has spoken.

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Of The Heavens

They said it would be a cold day in hell.

Nobody mentioned New York yet. The city was white and bitter, in opposition to its normal multicolored bitterness. It looked like the weather was cleaning a house by painting over the imperfections in thick white paint. It was a good day to be inside, but a bad day to be him.

The city was stuck indoors today, the frosty fallout whipping through the streets and dissuading pedestrians. If work could be done with coffee from an armchair, that was a day for it. There was no expectation otherwise, it had been the talk of the townies. Businesses reluctantly opened their doors and kept them as tightly closed as possible, the chill still sneaking in amongst their empty tables and cutlery, settling on their cigarette packs and wizened produce. The city goes on, but leaner.

Stuck. It was nothing new for him. The window overlooking the city couldn’t keep out the penetrating chill, double panes of glass trying with all their might. He heard restless footsteps in the other rooms around his, travelers kept indoors or scrambled to make custom plans. The snow was a deep inconvenience for them, a reason to not go outside or inability to return home, he had seen it many times and failed to care. Traveling. What a relief it would be.
Imagine every flight being cancelled. Imagine always being on the “standby” list and never getting called.
His domain was tidy and neat, the hotel room that time forgot. It was easy to forget him, a quiet and patient sort. He thought after the second year, they might notice him, try to recall his name. Ask him which kind of cookies he likes best when they delivered to his room. It was like clockwork, every day was new and wound-back, and it was never quite time to check out. Time marches on, but it looked resolutely past the wounded on the edges.
He didn’t consider himself wounded, exactly, but he wondered if everyone else did. If hotel service maids couldn’t remember his face, would his associates feel the same? The problem with having direct orders is that there wasn’t an option of disobeying. He couldn’t leave. He physically, and metaphysically, could not leave.
What if he started a blog? Sampled the drinks and food all around the city. Stealthily added ghost pepper oil to diners dishes while waiters did not look. Raised childrens-mischief hell. Discovered a knack for arson.
Just anything.
His instructions were to wait, and he was good at it. He was dressed cleanly at all hours, ready at a moment’s notice to see the hat and coat and distinctive shabbiness of the master. It was unmistakable, from another time and plane, and he never felt excited or hopeful as he walked the streets. The meeting would not be something he might avoid noticing. It would find him. If anyone remembered him at all.

So he waited, and avoided trouble or new skills. He searched out associates and considered adopting their skillsets, to keep fit in the field. They were a disorganized bunch with little true hierarchy, so no information was passed around. It was every creature for himself, every order on its own. The dogs sometimes knew things but were reticent to tell too much, the taste of punishment forever staining their mouths. He wondered if it would be nice to be a dog, perhaps. He wondered if people thought the life he was living, of aimless, cost-less existence in a bustling world, was worthy of envy. He wondered a lot of things, and kept his suits very clean.
Snow was blasting past the windows, troubling the shop owners, cancelling every plan. The flakes were wide and unrelenting, clumps of grim whiteness that matched his clenched knuckles. Merely an inconvenience for the world, but he knew it was something different.
It came from everywhere, hitting his window with a gentle hiss and dripping down, mingling clear blood with poured sweat. He watched them trickle and settle on the glass, holding his hand out the window to remember how it felt. The cold, sharp taste of angel tears and ruin. It must be them up there, it must be his kind and from the look of it, they were winning. The war was on, and he was forgotten, forbidden from joining anything at all. He was trapped in a city, only able to see the hints of success, knowing he contributed nothing.
The day passed by with sounds of sirens, creaking walls, the blast of a heating unit. The door remained closed and he stayed alone, his dark eyes watching the snow pour down and looking for anything new. His tie was perfectly straight.
Snow fell in feather flurries from the heavens. His lips tasted of devil tears now, too.
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Please support this and other writing on my Patreon page, it means so much.
I’ve missed this world, glad to write in it again.

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If you love Wordplay, please share it around or support on Patreon!

It’s my passion project, but I want it to be my job. I love inspiring others (and myself!) to be adventurous and learn, to be curious about the infinite world of writing.

No help is too small. It all means the world to me.

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